Marvellous Moleskine

I’ve always loved a notebook. I also love a scrapbook and when I had more time and more adventures, I used to religiously record things in scrap / notebooks of all varieties. They weren’t so much the Dear Diary kind but more a visual record of the bits and pieces I’d collected along the way and didn’t want to forget. I have recipe books of the same ilk which are stuffed full of torn out pieces of cooking inspiration. I also have a massive box of torn out pieces of cooking inspiration which have never seen a stick of glue and will probably never make it in to a book. I’m keeping them for a rainy day when I have more time.

Along with my love of what is essentially just collecting and cutting and pasting, comes a love of Moleskine notebooks. I have lots; diaries, sketch books, journals….all sorts. I like their sturdiness and I particularly like the piece of elastic which keeps them all neat and uniform. A stack of Moleskines is a very exciting sight – to me anyway. I don’t buy them nearly as much as I used to but then I stumbled on Urban Cottage Industries which, amongst other things, has a fabulous collection of Moleskines for sale in all kinds of colours AND they personalise them with your own chosen text.

I ordered one as a Valentines experiment for Jay Jay and it’s gone down very well indeed. It’s a perfectly simple present which not only has lots of uses but also offers something bespoke which is special on any occasion.


ps. It’s my birthday on Monday…I think they do next day delivery.

The Quinoa question

I imagine there are quite a few of us determined to radically change our eating and drinking patterns after a season of gluttony. I’m constantly trying to eat better, drink better, think better and generally be better and after reading all kinds of books and blogs, it would seem Quinoa has managed to put itself highest on the list when it comes to general well being.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten the stuff before. I’ve had it in Pret pots and at the occasional lunch or dinner party but it always seems to taste the same…which isn’t of very much at all. And then I had an idea – warning : this is not by any means a new, life changing idea so I apologise now if you’ve all tried it, I could be joining this Quinoa cooking party just as it’s time to leave.

Here’s what happened, I was going to cook brown rice for dinner last night to accompany my Wagamama Salmon Hot Pot which is a bit of a staple in this house and very delicious indeed. When there was no brown rice in the rice box, I spied a bag of lonely looking Quinoa and decided to pretend it was rice and cook it in just the same way. I sautéed some onion and added cumin, turmeric and a few coriander seeds before throwing in a cup of Quinoa grains and mixing them around for a bit. Then I added 1.5 cups of home brewed chicken stock, turned it down to a simmer, covered it with a lid and let it bubble away contently for 20 minutes. When its time was up and all the liquid had disappeared, I turned off the heat, covered the pan with a clean tea towel, put the lid back on and left it until we were ready to eat. It was very good indeed, we all thought so, well my husband did at least, and so we are happily joining the long list of Quinoa converts. Turns out that all it really needs is a bit of love and stock, which is fair enough when you’re battling to change world grain.

Click the picture to read all kinds of fascinating Quinoa facts.


And one last thing….is it pronounced keen-wah or quin-oa ..? You’d imagine it was the latter by the spelling but I just can’t say for sure.

Seed and Stem….new stock and a bit of a SALE

I’m still cutting and pasting and cutting and pasting over here and have added a few more products to the Seed and Stem stationery range.

The Gift Tags are particularly lovely and the Note Cards make the perfect thank you card or simply as a “why not send something pretty through the post”. We all need a little bit of happy, real life post from time to time.


Flower notelets




Gift Tags Herbs and Veg


Gift Tags Flowers



And if you add JAN2014 at checkout, you’ll get FREE SHIPPING for the rest of the month


Avene and Avene and Avene…

I’ve never been terribly good with treatments and pampering, I always thought it was a little self-indulgent and something I’d embrace when I grew up. And then suddenly I realised I was grown up and my skin was screaming for some kind of attention. It’s happening, the wrinkles are starting to show and the irritating patches of dryness and redness are beginning lash out in all their frustrated glory. It’s my face mainly (nothing too noticeable) which apparently hates the Winter along with Christmas, stress, lack of sleep, the list continues and to add to the gripes, it has now decided to reject my moisturiser of choice for the past 15 years.

I have sensitive skin, always have, and so to find a facial routine which doesn’t leave me spotty and sad has taken me a very long time indeed. I went for Kiehls and it worked. Well it did. And then suddenly, around the 20th December I think it was, my skin started to revolt, literally. Dry patches and redness which worsened as the day went on accompanied by the odd blemish here and there. I googled, I questioned, I almost cried, I slathered my face in the children’s excema emollients and then I discovered a small, sealed canister at the back of my bathroom cabinet. I’ve had it for an age and never opened it, Eau Thermal Avene Water Spray. I held down the nozzle and a fine, gentle, reinvigorating mist covered my face. And now…15 days on….my skin is happy again. With my thermal mist (whatever that is) and accompanying Eau Thermale Avene Hydrance Optimale Rich moisturiser – for sensitive and atopic skin – the patches have gone and the dryness is no more.The wrinkles are being a little more stubborn but if anything can, Avene can.


Seed and Stem Greeting Cards

To say I’ve been slack in posting recently would be an understatement. I’ve been darn right lazy. Don’t think I haven’t been busy though, I have, I promise, been really very busy with all manner of things. Movember somewhat takes over around this time of year – it’s the busiest time in the Lucky Seven Caps calendar and therefore the busiest time in my own work / home / life calendar. It’s all worth it though, every single second and I’m very proud of all that we’ve achieved at this point in the Movember month. If you have no idea what on earth I’m talking about you can take a look around the STORE or watch the VIDEO. Enjoy.

I have managed to sneak in a bit of creative cutting and pasting though when no one’s looking. I’ve started making my own little greeting cards using my treasured collection of vintage French seed packets which I’ve had for years and have desperately wanted to put to good use. So, I bought some A6 Kraft cards and envelopes and a few postcards too and started sticking, packing and uploading and the result is enormously satisfying and so I thought it time to share.

Each and every card is handmade and most are completely unique so once they’ve gone, they’ve gone. They make the prettiest greeting card and the postcards make the loveliest note cards. The ideal thank you for all those Christmas presents perhaps…..just an idea. Feel free to share. I’m in danger of getting far too attached to them and I don’t know nearly enough people to send them all to.

You can see the current range on the Seed and Stem Store. It’s ever changing and ever growing so keep checking back. There are big plans ahead….


carotte rouge longue saint


reine marguerite folded card


radis national


soleil double




group of 4


Clever Zara

I’m aware that this isn’t exactly breaking news but I ventured in to Zara at the weekend and if you haven’t been recently then you MUST GO. Immediately. You’ll never want for another coat, knit, skirt, dress, trouser….the collections are incredible and with price tags to match. I was in a smartening up kind of mood so went for the kind of things I wish I wore every day but know I’ll probably only get to wear once a month.

I didn’t get everything I wanted, that would have been both ridiculous and bad for my marriage, but I did get a couple of things which will be worn the moment the temperatures drop and I have somewhere deserving to dress up for. Clever Zara.






check dress zara


Jelly and Jam

Apparently making your own jam or jelly is quite a rite of passage. It’s similar to shopping for fresh Sage in Waitrose on Christmas Eve, so I’m told. I’ve never made jam or jelly before, I have all the books and the all the jars and even some vintage jam jar labels but until a couple of weeks ago, I was never brave enough to try it myself. I’m also not a massive fan of jam / jelly on anything really but I AM a massive fan of peanut butter and jam / jelly sandwiches and it was this that inspired me. I could potentially be about to knock Goober Grape out of the market all together….although I haven’t actually attempted those stripes in a jar yet. So it was this, along with the glut of blackberries growing at the end of our garden, that made me give jelly making a go. We also have a rather wonderful fallen apple tree in our garden which, despite lying horizontally across the lawn, where it has been for over a year, still manages to yield the most beautiful branches of blossom and a very impressive harvest of apples.

I found my recipe, the shortest and easiest version I could, I dug out one of the children’s muslins from the just-in-case baby box, tied on my favourite apron (any excuse) and got started. It was easier than a blackberry and apple pie and far more satisfying. I thought the “leave the syrup to drip overnight” would put me off seeing as I’m a hugely impatient cook, but it actually had quite the opposite effect. I found this part the most enjoyable of all. Waking to find that I had created a perfectly glossy fruity syrup by simply leaving some apple and blackberry mush to work its way through a well used (but clean) muslin was very exciting indeed.




So here’s the recipe I followed from The River Cottage Handbook, Preserves by Pam Corbin. I’m certain you could find similar formula online as it seems to be the most straight forward and can be adapted to all manner of fruit.


jelly recipe



And here are my jars. I’ve given a few away already and am about to gather the last of the blackberries and make another round for Christmas presents. This could be a cottage industry in the making…..or it may just be added to the long list of other home spun enterprises which never quite get off the ground.


jelly jars