Totoro appliqué skirt – with mini freezer paper stencil tutorial

I am so excited today! I have finally finished the Totoro skirt that my daughter has been asking for. We looove both Totoro and Ponyo, such lovely movies, we end up watching them over and over, we’ll probably check out other Studio Ghibli ones too soon.

My neighbor Totoro poster

Back to the skirt! I was actually planning on doing a stitched on appliqué (would have loved to make it with super soft minky!) but then I realised that doing the little details, eyes, nose, patches on the belly, would have made it quite tricky and potentially end up with me continuously swearing at the sewing machine until finally giving up. Not a good plan.


I made the skirt a couple of weeks ago, and the little lady was ever so pleased when I let her help me trace the pattern on the fabric. She seems to be quickly turning into a fabric addict like mummy, I won’t go into details about the love affair she had with some organza I bought to  make her a birthday dress – they literally became friends for a few days.

Today, while agonising again over the thought of stitching tiny things onto that skirt, I had a lightbulb moment and remembered it would have been much easier and quicker to use fabric paint and freezer paper stencils instead!


With Aida being at nursery and Max having a nap, I got to work and printed out an easy image that I liked on normal paper, then traced it on the freezer paper (it’s slightly see through so easy to do), remember to keep the waxy side down!

Then starts a very tedious job: cutting the shapes out. I use a paper craft knife but if your design is not full of little details you could have a go at just using normal scissors. Remember to keep any bits you might need – for example, I had to keep eyes, nose, mouth and the big belly part. Done? Great, stick it to your chosen fabric by putting it on waxy side down (in contact with the fabric) then passing a hot iron on it.


The hard part is over now! All  you need is some fabric paint (I used Dylon Fabric Paint in metallic silver), dab it only gently, ideally with a foam brush, making sure not to overwet the paper thus making it peel off. When I finish I like to wait a few minutes and then carefully peel off the paper, using tweezers to remove the little details inside – once I tried letting the paint dry completely before removing the paper and it was a bit of a disaster as it had created a film which stuck to both the fabric and paper! Learn from my mistakes.

Eek, I forgot the details in the mouth! Quick fix with a matchstick…

IMG_20140128_115825  IMG_20140128_115924

Now, patience my friend. Wait until it’s fully dry, the put a cloth on it and iron it over to set the paint. Done! That was easy, wasn’t it? I hope to get pictures of the the little girl modelling it very soon, she’s very pleased with it – and so am I.



Tomato risotto with a twist!

Today has been feeling a bit of a slow day, I think I’m still recovering from doing my longest ever run yesterday (13.5k, and I ran all the way, no walking or stopping!) and being kicked out of bed at 6am didn’t help either.

Soon to be breakfast smoothie!To give me a good kick start I had a huge morning smoothie as usual, that’s my only breakfast nowadays and I love it, it gives me a lot more energy and keeps me fuller longer than many other breakfasts, even things like porridge. I always change it a bit but the base is always a few bananas and a small handful of dates, it’s delicious just like that but I can add berries, pineapple (like today), spinach, green lettuce, mango… you get the idea. I’ve never added yogurt or other dairy, I just don’t feel the need for it. Also, I will need a total separate post on why I’m happy to eat so much fruit and not only I don’t believe it to be bad but I find it hugely beneficial.

Moving on! I had already today’s lunch planned (I’m trying to be good and make weekly menus to spend and waste less) so no last minute weird combination, instead we had a lovely tomato risotto, with a twist! My mum gave me this recipe when, not long ago, while on the phone to her I told her how it was almost dinner time, I had no idea what to make and an ’empty’ fridge.. she asked me what I had and I told her I pretty much only had pesto so it would have probably ended up in a fairly unexciting pasta with pesto. How wrong was I! This risotto is amazing and far from unexciting.

Now, yes, risotto does need you to stir and add stock almost continuously, but I’m often on my feet doing 10 things at once around the kids anyway so stopping for a quick stir every few minutes really isn’t that daunting to me, and the result is certainly worth it. It usually takes me about half an hour or less from start to finish.

Tomato risotto


80-90g arborio (risotto) rice per person – I normally make 200g and that’s enough for me and 2 kids.
1 onion
1lt of sock
a tin of chopped tomatoes, or small bottle of passata
zest of one orange
2 tbsp pesto
olive oil/butter


Chop up the onion really finely and cook on a very low heat in a large pan with some olive oil (or butter) until they soften – not brown or burn! Easy does it. Put the stock in a separate saucepan on a low heat to keep it warm, if you use cold stock it will stop the rice from cooking properly.

Once the onions are soft, pour in the rice and let it toast for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes and a ladle of stock, stir well and cover. Keep on stirring it every few minutes and add stock ladle by ladle when needed, waiting until it’s completely absorbed until you add more. That’s it!

Season (though you may not need to as it’s been cooked with stock), then serve with a nice sprinkle of orange zest on top and a little pesto in the middle, and add some parmesan too if you like it. Done! It’s a great hit around here and so good for when I have no fresh ingredients in.

Tomato risotto


Did  you try it? Was it good? Was it horrible? Let me know! Any feedback is helpful 🙂


No refined sugar flapjacks

A long overdue post! I’m sure I did say I’m terrible at sticking to things, but nevermind, here I am again.

I have  little recipe for some yummy and healthy flapjacks today, I made them modifying a version of no added sugar flapjacks I’ve found on another blog and thought I’d share it! I had been looking for a while for the perfect recipe as my kids love the Goodies oat bars but they can be expensive to buy regularly and anyway I prefer to have homemade food, I think it’s good for them too to not get too used to eating things that come in fancy packaging.

Making flapjacks    Making flapjacks

My daughter loves giving a hand to make them and we all love eating them, in fact they rarely last more than a day in this house.

Without further ado, here’s how to make them!

150g stoned dates, chopped
5 tbsp apple juice or fresh orange juice
150g unsalted butter (I may try them with coconut oil to make them vegan soon)
100g sultanas
200g porridge oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice


Preheat the oven to 170C (fan) slightly higher for non fan assisted.

Put the apple juice and the dates in a blender and blend, it will become a bit of a paste and may not be fully blended but that’s ok! Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat.


Put the oats and spices in a large bowl, then add the sultanas, apple and dates mix and melted butter and mix well. Turn the mix into a lined deep square or rectangular baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top.  Cut into 16 squares and leave until fully cooled in the dish (they break apart otherwise, as you can see from my picture!).

I also like to make them a little naughty every now and then and add a little bit of dark chocolate, chopped in little chips. I use about 1/3 of a bar and that seems enough for us 🙂



Sorry about the poor picture, I will try to take better ones next time! They were a great snack to pack up and take with us at the kids’ first time playing bowling.

Playing bowling


On Monday I had the very crazy idea of deactivating my Facebook account. This may not sound like much but if you know me you know how much of a Fb addict I am, and the first afternoon it was all I could think about – what are people talking about? What important things am I missing out on? And above all, will anybody notice I’m missing?!

A few days on and things are better; switching off has definitely had a good influence, I’ve been a lot more present in my daily life (and, as someone who’s starting to meditate regularly, this is quite a big thing) and more focused, not having the constant distraction of wanting to check what’s new. I’ve connected with people in other ways – texts, emails, whatsapp, real life! – and have more meaningful conversations. I’ve been reminded that the people that I interact with the most on Fb aren’t necessarily the most important ones in my life, in fact some of the people who noticed my absence almost immediately are ones that I don’t interact with every day, others seem to have just disappeared from my radar.

The most obvious side is that I’ve had more time for other things, namely reading (at last I’m tackling my never ending reading list!), housework (alas, that never ends either), meditation and yoga. I know, the last two make me sound like a right crazy person but believe me, I’ve also had a fair amount of screen time, mostly watching Dexter episodes back to back.

I don’t know when, or if, I will join the “third largest country” in the world again. When I switched off I didn’t give myself any time limit so we’ll see where the wind takes me, I may be back on tomorrow or never again. In the mean time, if you really wonder how I am and how my life is going, send me a message via the old ways 😉

Here’s what we’ve been up to this week in pictures:

At the museum

At the museum

Headline of the week from The Argus

Headline of the week from The Argus

Sometimes, all you need is a nap

Sometimes, all you need is a nap



Toddler swingset skirt (Oliver + S pattern)

Another skirt! As you can tell, I’m going through a skirt phase. My little boy has been spared so far but his luck may run out soon.

Today’s skirt is made with a Oliver + S pattern. I’m quickly falling in love with these patterns, they caught my eye a while ago and while I didn’t think much of them there was something that just kept on taking me back to them, so I started looking for photos of finished projects and I finally saw just how beautiful they are. They’re simple designs, not complicated and difficult to make like some other big brands, easy to make yet have those little details that make them just great.

I made the swingset skirt (the pattern comes as a set with a tunic, which I may make soon since it looks like it’d look good even over a long sleeved top in winter). It’s a pretty simple skirt, I think the way the waist is made, it has elastic – drawstring – elastic, really gives it an edge and makes it fall beautifully. It is fully lined, which I was a bit unsure about at first but it actually works very well.

Without further ado, here’s the skirt!

Oliver + S swingset skirtOliver + S swingset skirt  Oliver + S swingset skirt Oliver + S swingset skirt

It’s great. I love the way it hangs and how it flows, and also how it looks feminine but without restricting her movements at all, so she can get on with what really matters!

Oliver + S swingset skirt

Vegan millet cakes

Recipe time! I’ve been slacking in the cooking department over the past week or so. Don’t get me wrong, I still cook, but nothing exciting or worth blogging about, I’ve just been quite lazy and uninspired. Hopefully I’m back on track now!

MilletI’ve been wanting to make millet cakes for as long as I can remember. My mum used to make them when I was little and I really loved them, I keep on asking her for the recipe but always forget to write it down. The other issue is that I’m trying to only add vegan recipes to my repertoire as I’m trying to cut down on the animal produce I consume (for ethical as well as health issues). My mum’s recipe called for an egg as a binding ingredient but after reading it seemed that adding more water when cooking the millet would make it creamier and stickier, so I gave it a go. It worked!


Ingredients (makes around 12 cakes):

– 1 cup uncooked millet
– 2 carrots
– 1 onion
– 1 courgette
– olive or coconut oil
– spices (I used mild chili powder, cumin and turmeric)

First of all, cook the millet. Let it toast for a few minutes in a dry pan (toast, not burn, keep an eye on it!) then add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pan, bring to the boil, cover and let it simmer on a medium heat, occasionally stirring to avoid it sticking to the pan.

Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables, I went for a shortcut and whizzed them in the blender. Cook in a pan with a little oil until they’ve softened up, the time will depend a lot on how big your pieces are.

When both the millet and veggies are cooked let them cool a little then combine together well, add salt and spices if you wish then shape into cakes – it helps if you wet your hands to stop the mixture from sticking to them.

Place under the grill and cook until crispy, or until they look appealing to you! They taste great both hot and cold, and go amazingly well with some Worcestershire sauce. I loved these, I think they’d be great to make when I have time during the day and just pop in the oven when it’s time to eat. I wonder if they freeze well, I will try that and report back! Enjoy 🙂

Vegan millet cakes, served with broccoli and leftover risotto

On a separate note, you can tell when daddy comes to the playground. Happy Sunday!

Shark attack!


Friday night skirt – for me!

Over the past couple of years I’ve made (both knitted and sewn) so many clothes and little things for my children that I totally neglected myself. This was due to a number of reasons, children’s clothes are cuter (that’s a fact), they take less time and fabric to make, there are less lumps and bumps to accommodate and last but not least my shape has changed so much between pregnancy – postpartum body – pregnancy again that I knew it wasn’t really worth making something that would fit me only for a couple of months or so.

Simplicity 2451

I lost almost a stone in the past couple of months and my wardrobe desperately needs an update, so it seemed like the right time to get going again – and for once I don’t fear having to measure myself to pick the right size! I have quite a few projects in mind but I must remember that I only have limited spare time (and funds to buy pretty fabrics) so I’d best not get too excited.

First proper project, a linen skirt! I’d like to wear skirts more often so I guess the first thing to do would be to have a few. I used the Simplicity 2451 pattern, I wanted something fairly simple and this seemed to do the trick although I was very tempted by the Simplicity 1717 pattern, I think I may try that too soon.

The fabric is a pale blue linen I picked up from Ditto Fabrics, their shop is quite close to my house so I pass by there quite often, how tempting!

Pale blue linen fabric

Simplicity 2451 D

I don’t really have any complaints about the pattern. I did the view D, it was only a few pieces so quite quick to cut, instructions were ok – a bit confusing as there was a bit of back and forth between the steps for the different views – and it only took me an evening to sew up (ok, I still have to hem it, but that doesn’t really count!).

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s a tad short but not too much, the only thing that needs working on is the zip as it sticks out a bit at the base but I think it’s one of those things that is only glaringly noticeable to me. I may get round it by putting it on the side rather than the back next time!  I will also need to give up on it not having crinkles, I forgot how evil linen can be.

Simplicity 2451 D

I will make it again, very soon in fact. I had one of my babywearing wraps shortened last month and I have enough leftover fabric to make a skrit with it! I’m debating using this pattern or the other skirt pattern I mentioned above, either way I’m really looking forward to it!

Lenny Lamb Cherry Lace