Thursday, 3 December 2009

a country mouse gets lucky

Country mouse got oh so lucky in the charity shop the other day. I could hardly squeak for excitement.
I spotted this little house on a high shelf as soon as I walked in. It's a tissue box cover - see the chimney? Every home should have a hand stitched tissue box cover made out of plastic aida. Then I spotted the cushion cover (behind it in the photo above). There were 5 of these cushion covers, all hand made, plus a set of lined curtains, also hand made, all for £4.50. The house was £3, so coming close to breaking the budget, but I just had to have them. With my heart rate climbing and my arms full of swag, I noticed one of my favourite things - an old fashioned craft book (below).
There really are no words to describe the contents so here is a photo of the crocheted swimming costumes to give you the general idea. The little boy's face says it all.
Home for some minestrone soup. As you know, I'm a recovering vegetarian and a fussy one at that, so am only ok with eating certain kinds of meat - organic, high welfare, expensive. My local butcher has some delicious bacon that fits all these criteria and as I had a savoy cabbage from the farmers' market looking at me reproachfully every time I opened the fridge door, minestrone was the answer. It was very quick to make, once the chopping was done. I find it quite soothing to chop vegetables anyway, especially if there's something decent on radio 4 and Little R is happily drawing at the table. I'd like to freeze frame happy afternoons like that. I suppose that's what I'm doing with this blog. It's so nice to look back at previous posts and read about the little events of our lives that I'd probably have forgotten otherwise, or which would at least have melded into a general memory of "cooking" or "walks."
But back to the soup. You heat 2 tbsps of olive oil and add a finely chopped onion, carrot and celery stick. Soften for 8-10 mins, then add 70g pancetta (I used the bacon), 1 clove crushed garlic and 2 tbsps chopped thyme and fry for 2-3 mins. Then pour in 1 litre hot chicken stock, 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes and half of a 400g tin of borlotti beans. Mash the remaining beans, stir into the soup then simmer for 30 mins. Add 125g minestrone pasta (macaroni in my case) and 175g shredded savoy cabbage 10 mins before the end of the cooking time. Add a spoonful of ready made pesto to serve.
This recipe is from a booklet I got inside a Good Housekeeping magazine a few months ago, called 50 Suppers For Under £5. It's really good and I can see myself making a lot from it. The very next night I used the leftover bacon and cabbage to make spicy bacon pasta sauce from the next page in the booklet and it worked out really well too, even though I poured the recommended glass of dry white wine into me rather than into the pot (naturally).
Finally, with a four year old in the house, Christmas starts on the 1st of December. This is her own little tree with a fairy on the top. We'll get the proper tree in a couple of weeks. There is a big country estate not far from here where you can go into the woods and choose your own tree, put a tag on it, then come back for it when you're ready. They give you a hacksaw and you have to cut down the tree then drag it back through the woods to be put through the shrink-wrapping machine (that green net stuff) before trying to fit it into the car without too much injury to self and family. They have carol singers in the courtyard and a craft market in the stables and also a Santa to visit, although as I write this I remember getting a nasty shock last year when we took Little R to meet their Santa and found that he was about 25 years old.


  1. That crochet swimming costume is hilarious, can you imagine trying to get the kids into one of those? Loving the tissue box cover and agree every home should have one.
    Take care

  2. I love the tissue box cover, but an you imagine, clinbing out of a swimming pool, with a wet, heavy woolen swimsuit? That is the stuff of nightmares. Maybe it was a punishment.

  3. Just found you through UKFBA and so glad I came to visit.

    I love the tissue box. I am envious :D
    You have to smile at those crochet swimsuits. Cute!

    I will sure be back!

  4. The tissue box cover is rather cute, the swimsuits are rather hideous! I do quite like the apple motif on them though.

    "I suppose that's what I'm doing with this blog. It's so nice to look back at previous posts and read about the little events of our lives that I'd probably have forgotten otherwise, or which would at least have melded into a general memory of "cooking" or "walks.""
    - I agree completely!


  5. I love this post - it's the thought of freeze-framing happy memories, so lovely

  6. Oh! I love the tissue box cover and those cushions. You really can't beat charity shops for the quirkiest of goodies. Would it be possible to chat to you further, I have a proposition for you (and I'm not trying to sell you anything, you'll actually benefit). Would you drop me an email?

    Jess x

  7. I could do with that soup right now! Love the way you get your xmas tree!

  8. The tree bit sounds like fun - and you know you're getting old when Santa looks young - that's even worse than policemen!

    Pomona x

  9. Hi Louise

    Congratulations ~ you are indeed one of the winners of my Bloggy Birthday giveaway. Please could you e mail me on with your posting details and I will try my very best to get your little present off to you before Christmas. Jackie :O) xx

  10. I love a good charity shop bargain - and isn't it funny how you can often find nothing, and then three or four things at once? :)

  11. Those swimsuits are priceless! Hilarious.

    Love the look of that soup - that's right up my street.

  12. Charity shops finds are wonderful and you got some great ones. Can you imagine what would happen to those swimming costumes if you actually went in the water.

  13. Oh, that crocheted swimsuit was... horrible?? I can just see it all wet and soppy, and hanging down. What a disaster! Your soup looks wonderful, love the little's one Christmas tree and so glad you noticed (and are capturing) those precious, perfect moments of being at home with your child. These are the times you will remember when they are grown and gone and you have your time to yourself.