Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rhubarb Crumble and gardening

It's been a bit cooler here this week, but my spring cleaning is still underway. Mr Laundrybasketcase was in the mood for a Rhubarb crumble and I found a delicious recipe by Gordon Ramsay which I highly recommend. Rhubarb is of course in season now in the UK, so it's perfect timing, and you should be able to find some delicious fresh rhubarb from a farmer's market now. My gardening skills are not quite good enough to grow my own, but I'm hoping to try it next year. In the meantime try out this recipe - it's got a couple of tweaks from the original.

Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

  • 500g rhubarb, trimmed
  • 2-3 inch piece of ginger
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Splash of Calvados
For the crumble
  • 50g oats
  • 100g plain flour
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 45g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • Clotted cream or ice cream, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas 6.

2. Cut the rhubarb into 2 inch pieces and halve lengthways if the stems are thick. Peel the ginger.

3. Gently heat the sugar in a pan until dissolved and beginning to caramelise. Add the rhubarb and grate in the ginger. Toss to coat. Gradually add the butter and shake the pan to combine. Allow the rhubarb to caramelise evenly, turning if necessary. Add a splash of dark rum and stand back as the alcohol may flambé. Cook for a further minute until the sauce is thick and syrupy and rhubarb is breaking down.

4. To make the crumble topping place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until evenly combined (if you want to make your crumble mixture a little stickier also add a splash of water at this stage). Transfer the mixture to a bowl until ready to use.

5. Spoon the caramelised rhubarb into the bottom of 4 small individual serving dishes. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

6. Remove from the oven and serve with a spoonful of clotted cream.

Mmmm... it really is tasty, and I think the reason this recipe is so great is because of the caramelised sugar, yum!

As I mentioned before, I'm a bit of a novice to gardening, but I'm keen to learn. Our back garden has allot of work that needs doing, so I started last year with the front garden. This is what the front looked like when we first moved in.

And this is how it looks now. My next plan is to replace the front path with some stepping stones.

I've also bought a propagator and I'm attempting to grow some verbenas. I've only just planted them last weekend, so I'll keep you posted as they are growing.

Are you any good at gardening? And how's your spring cleaning coming along?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Freshen up!

I'm back from my trip to South Africa... as well as having some lovely moments with my family, some sunshine and excellent food I've come back very relaxed and too
embarrassed to post because my housework has been so behind. But never mind because in the northern hemisphere Spring is officially here! In the UK we have had some lovely sunny days for the past week, as a matter of fact it feels like I'm still in South Africa some days. With spring in full swing there's no hiding from the fact that's it's time to thoroughly clean the house.

So have any of you started the Spring clean routine? I have started a bit today, I say a bit because I was distracted yet again by the gorgeous sunshine and ended up doing this for half the day....

What's better than a good book in a hammock under the sun? Not much I tell ya!

So as the title of this post says, spring time is time to
'freshen up' the house. It's a time to open all the windows so that air can circulate, hang the laundry outside again, and get rid of clutter. This really is the one time of year when the days are getting longer and our energy levels increase, so there really is no better time to de-clutter than in the spring. And what a great time to clean those places you don't get to clean regularly. But just starting to spring clean without a plan is like trying to do grocery shopping without a planned menu... it could work, but you might not get through everything or have everything that's needed to get you through. So if you haven't got a plan just yet, then here are some ideas to get you started (and me of course because I need to get off my backside and do this properly before Spring is over).

  • Make a list of things that really bother you around the house (that Tupperware cupboard, or under the stairs for instance?) Prioritise, and decide which tasks are achievable for a spring clean. Start with these tasks.
  • Shake any rugs outside and sweep or vacuum underneath them.
  • Move all the furniture, cleaning behind and under it - doing room by room.
  • Dust and wash walls removing marks and stains.
  • Thoroughly vacuum upholstery
  • Go through items in the wardrobes and throw out items that have not been worn in the past season and store away any winter clothing if you need the extra space.
  • And my favourite task: hang all quilts, pillows, cushions and blankets (without their covers) in the bright sunshine - it gets rid of those nasty dust mites and brings the smell of the sun back into the house.
There are of course lots of other tasks that can be done for spring cleaning, but it can be daunting if you decide to tackle your entire house at once. Because I work full-time, I have decided to dedicate two evenings a week to spring cleaning. And some tasks that I don't feel are urgent I am writing on a list to do in the autumn (washing curtains and re-organising our house filing drawers are just a couple of examples).

What have you done for your spring clean so far?
I hope you have all been well, it's good to be back! I've got lost of post lined up for this season... some more recipes to share, as well as a post about using herbs around the house, a post about South African home keeping and a post about scrubbing floors the old fashioned way - sometimes it just has to be done.

Have a lovely week!

PS: Happy Mother's Day to those mum's in the UK (and anywhere else that's celebrating today).

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Sure, there are many moments on life when tasks just don't take priority. But they are not that often, and most of the time, for things to work we need to do certain things even if they are not our idea fun.
I know that I am way too tempted by new exciting creative projects that also make me think 'I'll do that other task later'. So I also have to start off with apologising for not posting as regularly recently - I've actually not been procrastinating with my blog (I love it too much), I've just been pre-occupied with all sorts of other things... probably due to the fact that I procrastinate and leave other things to the last minute - ha ha.

Actually I've become allot better in recent years, for instance only tonight I finished dinner and immediately set out to pack the dishwasher - even before I had my after-dinner cup of tea. But then I've also come to realise that trying to persuade myself I'll do it later only leads to frustration because 'later' becomes 'too late'. My worst moment was only a couple of weekends ago - we had friends coming over for lunch at our house and I wanted to mop our floor after a naught muddy pawed dog had trailed his way through the house. I had the whole Saturday morning to do it, but put it off until 20 minutes before our friends arrived. They of course arrived early and I found myself staring at them through the front door window mop and bucket in hand and they had to walk on a wet floor to come in. Not my best moment.

In the times we live with the hundreds of distractions available to us with a flick of a switch or a click of a button, procrastinating is easier than ever! And procrastination is probably the biggest problem in keeping a home clean and tidy and presentable. So is it possible to overcome procrastination? Well, I'd love to try, so I've been researching this topic a bit and I'd like to share with you what I've found.

Good 'ol Wikipedia says:

Procrastination is a type of behavior which is characterized by deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. [1] Psychology researchers also have three criteria they use to categorize procrastination. For a behavior to be classified as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.[2]

Okay, so I realise that not EVERY task left undone in a house is due to procrastination - but it certainly does play a part. If you know that you put tasks off without a real valid reason, then read on.


Putting tasks off for 'later' happens when we don't have a routine. I've written about routines previously, and mentioned that it takes 21- 30 days to create a new habit. So it's important to turn a routine into a habit ... just part of everyday. That way you will do tasks without having to think about them or give yourself the choice. is great for setting up a home cleaning routine through baby steps.
The trick with a routine is to realise that it's easier to get out of a routine than it is to get into it. Illness and holidays are two real routine breakers. Next time you are ill or on holiday write a to-do list for when you are better or back home. Give yourself a deadline to get back into your routine and stick to it.


This is one big reason many of us procrastinate. We are so adamant to do a task perfectly, that if we don't have ALL the time available to us that we think we'll need to complete a task perfectly, we'll just put it off hoping the time will come. This is where we need to change our mindsets and realise that picking up just that one pair of shoes from under the sofa is better than not picking up any of them. A good way of overcoming the 'perfectionist procrastinator' is to use 5 minutes available to you to do a task regardless of whether you will be able to finish that task. For example, if you have 5 minutes of waiting for a friend to pick you up, start sorting out your book pile next to your bed - you don't have to finish it, but at least you've made a start.


This is the trick I use most often. I know that I procrastinate because I can ALWAYS find something better to do (like reading all your lovely blogs!). So I tell myself that I can have a cup of tea after I pack the dishwasher, or I can surf the net for 1/2 hour after I vacuum the rug in the living room. It works, but don't make it too serious and tell yourself 'I can't have x until I've completed y' - try and stay positive and just tell yourself you are doing this task so that you can relax with your treat.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Another big reason we procrastinate is because a task often seems to big to handle right now. This can also be linked to perfectionism. Have you ever had a pile of laundry at the end of a weekend or holiday that made you think it's just too much to do? And that you'll never have the time to get through all of it? In this case I try and break the task down into smaller tasks. For instance I'll separate the laundry into small piles - one for each day of the week. And then I make sure to put that pile of laundry allocated to that day on first thing in the morning. Even if it takes a couple of weeks, as long as you do the smaller tasks regularly enough it will get done!

Most importantly, try and remember how nice it is to relax after something has been completed, you feel all the better for it!

Do you procrastinate? And what's your favourite distraction?

I sure hope to become better and better at doing things as they present themselves. Do it now, then it's done... I'll keep telling myself that.

Another great resource for overcoming procrastination is:

I'm on holiday! Sort of...

I must just take the time to let you all know that I will be flying to South Africa this week to spend some time with my mum who has suffered from a bad knee and has had two operations on it now. I will also be seeing my brand new niece back home! My next post might only be in a couple of weeks as a result, but I'm hoping to do a post about home keeping in South Africa, and pick up some tips from my mum's home. I hope you all have a lovely two weeks!!!

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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