Sunday, 31 March 2013

My New Year's resolutions - how am I doing?

I finished last year with a post about my New Year's resolutions so with the year now a quarter gone, I thought I'd have a look back to see how I'm getting on with them.

To keep up with the Too Much Stuff Challenge

What can I say? Well in my defence, one of my Christmas presents was a Hobbycraft voucher, another was an electronic die cutting machine that didn't work with my computer set up, so I got a refund and spent it on dies for the good old Cuttlebug, and I've won two bundles  of craft goodies and £250 of vouchers for the Range. Even my tickets for the Make It Show were a competition prize.

So technically I've not actually bought anything have I?

I must be clearing up some of the backlog of unused stuff because today I found I had enough space in a drawer to remove two of the cardboard boxes from the pile on the floor!

To join in with more challenges.

I don't have enough time for every single challenge I would like to join in, but there are now a few I take part in regularly and some more I join in sporadically, so I'm getting there.

To have at least one vegetarian dinner a week.

This is the easiest one - Mark has embraced it wholeheartedly and often cooks vegetarian meals now, and joining in with Meal Planning Monday is helping me to make sure I don't simply forget to have one, so in fact we are eating two or three vegetarian dinners almost every week, and have not yet missed a week.

Did YOU make any New Year's Resolutions? How are you doing?

Addicted to scallops

Oooh, I love scallops. With bacon, with peas, with black pudding or as a ceviche.....

And this post is nothing to do with that kind of scallops!

This week's challenge at Less is More is to use scallops while at Addicted to Stamps it is a colour challenge - Regal Rose, Sahara Sand and Tempting Turquoise.

I've used a Spellbinders die to cut a scalloped square - the card is actually a deep turquoise but my husband and I have both tried in various light conditions and no matter what we do it comes out much more blue than it really is, so you'll need to trust me on that! The pink card, too,is a much closer match to the stamped image in real life. The stamp is from a Docrafts V&A collection sheet that has been sitting in my stash for a couple of years and had never seen a drop of ink before.

I'm playing along at

Less  is More - Lucky Dip :  Use Scallops

Addicted to Stamps and More - #38 Addicted to colours

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Bundle of Joy

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is "Bundle of Joy"

I don't really make much in the way of New Baby cards, so apart from the rubberstamps I bought when my granddaughters came along, I  didn't think I'd find anything suitable. There are a couple of designs on the Best of La Pashe 2012, but I know lots of us have that CD and thought somebody else is bound to use those images - and probably be far more creative than me with them!

Then I remembered my Hot Of The Press CD "5,400 Tags and Art" which has  artwork from lots of their past collections - and yes, it had page after page of baby designs on it. One of them even included the words "Bundle of Joy"!

I'm afraid the photo is rather overexposed - you can always tell when my husband is working away from home, I'm a terrible photographer! And I had a senior moment - having made little envelopes for the proud parents to keep a lock of hair and hospital wristband in, I stuck them down with the flap side facing the card so they can't be opened!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Less is more 112- Use Beads

This week it's a recipe challenge at Less is More,  with the theme "Use beads".

Now I don't have very many beads, apart from a few very old ones that my grandmother gave me to play with as a child, which I still keep in the tin she gave them to me in. The tin originally contained her favourite peppermint creams and must be around 60 years old.

Some of the beads are from her old necklaces, the others from the bead-trimmed milk jug covers that she used to keep the flies off the milk in the larder - the edges had loops around them with heavy beads to weight the cover down and keep it in place. And these are the ones I've used today, because they happened to be a perfect colour to go with my Broken China Distress Inkpad.

The image I have used is a Kanban stamp, which I've stamped with distress ink and then used a water brush to slightly blend the colour of the sea, the sky and the bands of the lighthouse. I threaded the beads onto matching embroidery thread and have held them in place with a dab of glue. They remind me a little of a seaside storm warning signal.

I'm joining in with

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Make your Mark

I've been shopping! My self imposed spending ban, which lasted almost a year, fell to pieces when I recently won £250 worth of vouchers to spend at The Range. Somebody helpfully suggested that since I win the vouchers, spending them doesn't count as breaking the ban - unfortunately  my ban was more of a space saving exercise than a money saving one, and my recent shopping sprees (and I've still not used up all the vouchers) have already filled what little space I'd freed up during the ban. Yes, I know The Range sell things other than craft stuff, but I seem to always get a trolly that has a homing device that leads it straight into the craft department..... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Never mind, I'm having fun! One of my latest purchases is a Fiskars Continuous Stamp Wheel and a couple of stamps for it. It's like a 21st century  version of the Rollagraph, designed to stamp a long, unbroken image, and I had my first play with it today. I found it a bit fiddly to get the stamp on and off the wheel, especially when it is covered in ink, but I've changed my clothes and scrubbed my arms to the elbows now..... apart from that, I'm very pleased with it.

Another purchase was a  set of Docrafts markers in pastel shades. These are to replace my old, dried up Marvys, but the jury's still out on them. Do they not blend  as well as Marvys, or have I used Promarkers so much recently that anything else seems to blend poorly by comparison?

Anyway, here's a quick card I made using my new purchases, and I'm popping into this weeks Addicted to Stamps Challenge #37 which is Make Your Mark.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wonderful Wings

I was delighted to see that this week's challenge at CD Sundays  is "Wonderful wings" as it has given me a good excuse to use my very favourite theme - DRAGONFLIES. I love dragonflies, especially in crafting. I'd hate to have to add up how many dragonfly themed rubberstamps I own!

But I knew I wouldn't be stamping this week, as some of my favourite dragonfly images are on the Design House "Water's Edge" CD. This is a sister CD to the Meadow's Edge one I used a few weeks ago, that a lot of you said you'd never heard of. I think the artwork on them is truly gorgeous!

The photos don't really do it justice (my husband wasn't at work so I couldn't get him to take the photos for me on his super duper camera!) but the topper is an angled pyramid and I've added subtle glitter highlights to the dragonfly wings. Everything used on the card is from the CD.

The First Day of Spring

Today is the equinox, the day when we have exactly the same amount of darkness as light. And it should herald the start of spring - lambs gambolling in the fields, bunnies hopping around the countryside, gentle sunshine warming banks of daffodils and  birds building their nests.

Instead, here in the UK, we have damp, gloomy weather, predictions of snow and bitter cold, and George Osborne delivering what threatens to be an austerity budget. Hardly a day to warm the heart!

However I've decided to bring a breath of spring to my crafting today. The challenge this week at Less Is More is Frame It! while this month's Emergency Crafters challenge is Mad as a March Hare so  I've used a stamp of boxing hare silhouettes  which I think was free on Craft Stamper magazine  and framed it  with a slide mount covered in pretty spring coloured paper.

I'm playing along at

Goodbye Google Reader

2013 seems to be the year of goodbyes. First there was Loquax, at least in its original form (although the forums are now going from strength to strength), then there was Twit Cleaner, and now we are to wave goodbye to Google reader. As from June 1st, it will no longer exist - and that means if you follow any blogs with Google Friends Connect you will no longer be able to read them through Google Reader. I don't know about you, but my morning treat has always been to sit down with a cup of tea and read through the blogs I follow. As there are almost 400 of them, related to my various hobbies and friends, visiting each one separately to see if anything new had been posted would take all day so it was great to have all the new posts collected in one place for me.

Even if you don't read blogs that way, you may be a blogger who has lots of followers through Google Friends Connect and be worried by the news. Do those followers read your blog through Google Reader? Will Google's next step be to discontinue GFC? Will we bloggers lose all our followers and friends?

Not to worry, there ARE alternatives out there. Until quite recently the best known was Networked Blogs. I've always offered the option of following that way, but to be honest I've never personally found following blogs myself with it to be all that satisfactory, I can't find my way around and I seem to see old posts from some blogs and none at all from others. If you are better at handling it than I am, it might be the best alternative for you as it is popular and well established, but I was looking for something I'd be happy to use every day, and Networked Blogs didn't tick my boxes.

Next I looked at Yahoo's RSS feed. To allow people to follow this way, you need to add Blogger's "Subscription Links" gadget (which offers a couple of other options I've never heard of.... maybe I'll research them one day) and then people can read your posts on their Yahoo home page. As a blogger, it's easy to get people to follow you that way, but as a reader it can be quite cumbersome. I follow half a dozen blogs this way and any more would squeeze out all the photos of cute kittens clutter the page up too much.

Finally I took a look at Bloglovin'. I wasn't optimistic - for some reason I thought it was the exclusive territory of beauty bloggers. But I couldn't have been more wrong and oh my goodness it is SOOOOOO easy to use!

First of all you need to register with them, using the link above, then you are given the option of importing all the blogs you follow with Google reader. Just sit back and wait for a few minutes and there they are. What's more, you get the option of having a daily email with all the new posts from the blogs you follow, so you can have your morning browse without ever straying from the comfort of your inbox. How good is that? And they even have an app for iPhone or IPad so you can read them on your way to work.

As a blogger, you can register your blog with them to get people to follow you that way. Register as above, go to the profile button at the top right and choose "My Blog" then click on the blue "Claim Blog" button and paste in the URL of your blog. You will be given a small piece of HTML code to add to your blog and then the job is done, And once you've claimed your blog, you will get a helpful email with tips and ideas.

I moved all the blogs I follow over to Bloglovin' and registered both the blogs I write with it. The whole thing, from starting registration to completing the work on both blogs, took less than 15 minutes.


If you are a blogger I hope my research above has helped you to decide how you are going to let your followers keep on reading your posts.

If you are one of my followers I strongly suggest following me with one of the above methods - or of course by email, so that all my blog posts land in your inbox where you can choose to save the ones that you think you may want to refer back to.

I'm going to post this on both Grape Vine and Onions and Paper in the hope that it may be of help to my friends and followers in both places.

One reader is going to miss Google reader so much he's written a song about it....

A Goodbye Song for Google Reader by Hit Reach

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pear and Cheese Puffs - Random Recipes #26

This month's Random Recipes challenge is to pick at random a clipping from your collection - we all have one, don't we;  pages torn from magazines, scribbled notes after a meal at a friend's house, torn-off pack labels - and cook the recipe on it.

Now I'm organised.  Or at least I WAS. All my clipped out recipes have been carefully cut out and arranged in those photo albums that used to be popular, the ones with a whole peel-back plastic page. It's a great way of storing them, easy to see the recipes and with a wipe clean surface. When they started to get hard to find, I bulk bought a supply of them. However my collection seems to stop abruptly at a point about eight years ago - which coincides with me starting my own business and no longer having time to carefully arrange recipes in albums.  Now my "notes and clippings" are more likely to be bookmarks on my computer.

So anyway, my "pile of clippings" looked a lot like this:

I numbered them all - there were 10 - then got Mark to shout a number from the other room. That album was pulled from the pile and I opened it at random to this page

There didn't seem to be much point making the curry powder as it's the blend I always use when I want a pre-mixed powder and there's a freshly made jar of it in the cupboard. In fact it's probably the reason the album fell open at that page. The Stilton and Mascarpone spaghetti looked lovely but includes fresh asparagus. We need to wait a few weeks before there's any in the garden, so that was no good this time.
That left Pasta with Rosemary Braised Flaegeolet Beans  or Dovedale, Pear and Pecan Puffs. Both looked delicious (of course they did, that's why I kept the recipes innit?) so a coin was tossed and it came up Puffs. I've been meaning to make it for quite a long time - the corner of the page says March 1998 and the typeface makes me think it probably came out of a Good Housekeeping magazine.
The  problem was the Dovedale cheese. According to the oracle that is Google, it is still produced, but I couldn't find it when out shopping. But it's a soft blue cheese so I used  Dolcelatte instead. The cheese, chopped pecans and some fresh thyme are folded into a whisked egg white, with a little cream, and piled on the pastry base, then the pears are sliced and fried with butter and sugar (Sweet Freedom in my case) to caramelise slightly and arranged on top for baking.
The result was excellent - light, delicious and a lovely variety of textures.  It's taken me 15 years to get around to making these tarts - I won't be leaving it 15 years before I make them again!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Chilli Con Carne with Cornbread Topping

Lots of you liked the sound of the Chilli Con Carne with Cornbread Topping that I included in last week's meal plan. It's a very long standing family favourite evolved over the years from a combination of the classic "student chilli" of our long-ago Uni days (oh dear, I've just remembered the first time I made chilli...... I misread "2 tsp chilli seasoning" and used two TABLESPOONS of pure chilli powder....) and a turkey tamale pie that featured in an old Good Housekeeping book. But after years of tweaks and adaptations, I can safely say it's my own.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

Chilli base

400g minced beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 level teaspoon each of dried oregano and ground cumin
chilli powder - between ½ and 2 level teaspoon depending on how hot you like it
2 tablespoons tomato purée
Seasoning, and/or an optional teaspoon of Bovril or beef stock concentrate

Place the mince in a non-stick flameproof casserole and start to heat gently until the fat starts to run out, then add the onion and increase the heat. Fry for a few minutes to brown the mince and slightly soften the onion. Stir in cumin and chilli and cook for a minute, then blend in flour and oregano and mix well. Add the tomatoes plus one empty tomato tin full of cold water, mix everything well and bring to the boil. Add beans, tomato purée and seasoning, then cook gently on the hob or in a slow oven for around 2 hours. (You can, of course, use your own favourite chilli recipe for this but do make sure it is thick or the topping will sink)

After 2 hours, heat the oven to 200 C, Fan 180 (400 F, gas 6) - or turn up the heat if the chilli was cooking in the oven. If you wish, turn the chilli into a different ovenproof dish, one deep  enough for the chilli plus a deep layer of topping.


200g cornmeal (polenta)
50g plain flour
1 level tablespoon (yes, I know it sounds like a lot...... trust me, it works) baking powder
½ level teaspoon salt
200 ml milk
2 eggs
4 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, beat all the wet ingredients together in another bowl, then gently fold the wet into the dry.

Spread over the top of the chilli and place in the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes until risen and browned - test that there is no uncooked batter left by piercing the centre with a skewer or sharp knife. If any wet mixture clings to it, reduce the heat to prevent over browning and cook for a few minutes longer.

Serve with salad, or a green vegetable, or salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Or if you are greedy like us, all of the above!

When I made it last week, I only used half of the chilli but forgot to halve the topping ingredients so the chilli looks a bit swamped in this photo:

Monday, 11 March 2013

Meal NOT planning Monday 11th March

We're off to France for the weekend and I'm trying to clear the fridge before we go, so I'm not really planning this week, it will just be a list of "possible" meals as stocks dwindle!

First of all a bit of feedback on last week.  The Panda Express Orange Chicken was delicious, definitely one to make again in future. Although I'd forgotten just how much further meat goes when it is battered, so I made far too much! We weren't keen on the red goulash, it seemed all too "worthy" and didn't have an appealing flavour or texture.

I completely forgot that I'd planned to do a curry with the squash and made it into a risotto instead, but as that's one of our all time favourites neither of us minded! The Chilli Con Carne with Cornbread Topping is  another old favourite, and I made double quantity of the chilli, so  we're having the rest tonight. I'll blog the recipe for the version with topping later this week (or next week - I'm totally time impoverished at the moment which is why this blog's been a bit quiet)

On Saturday Mark made one of his Ottolenghi-inspired creations  and on Sunday I made  a pear, cheese and pecan tart which is to be my Random Recipe when I get chance to write about it.

So here goes with the meal plan:

 Monday Chilli Con Carne with baked potatoes and broccoli
Tuesday Roast lamb with Dauphinoise of potato and celeriac, roast butternut squash and cavolo nero
Wednesday smoked sausage ring with red cabbage, potato cakes and carrots
Thursday whatever's left in the fridge - probably a cheese omelette with chips and salad

If I manage a meal plan next week it will be on Tuesday, not Monday  - see you then! In the meantime why not pop over to At Home With Mrs M for some more ideas?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Spots and Stripes

Any of my comping friends reading this will immediately think about the series of competitions that Cadbury's ran last year - I'm sorry to disappoint you but these spots and stripes are a very different kind!

The spots and  stripes in question are those on one of my oldest and most loved sets of stamps, a Hero Arts set  that I must have had for ten years or more. And every time I use them the result seems to be fresh and different. Sometimes I colour them in in lots of bright colours, sometimes in one colour, sometimes I leave them white, sometimes I tessellate them all over the page, sometimes I  just use a single one, sometimes I  cut out the hearts and layer them..... they are just so versatile.

This time I just used two shades of green with them. Looking at the photo, I think my next task today is to go and slice the exclamation mark off my "Celebrate!" stamp because it looks a lot like "Celebratel" which makes no sense at all.... in fact my husband has just asked me why I've made a card for Cabletel *sigh*

I'm submitting this to the following challenges:

ATSM - Addicted to CAS
Less is More #110 - One Layer, Spots and Stripes
Crafty Creations #212 - Green

Monday, 4 March 2013


I don't know whether anywhere but the UK uses this term? Here, it is short for "Buy One Get One Free"  and that's how I feel about this card, because after I'd used the papers and toppers I'd printed out for the card I was planning to make, I had enough left for another whole card!

This week's CD Sunday challenge is Butterflies  - a perfect excuse to use the Sharon Duncan "Beautiful Butterflies" CD that I've had for years and never used. Before I started playing along with CD Sundays, I just couldn't think what to do with the images. Seeing all your creations every week has inspired me, but this week I still needed a bit of a push to get me to do something more than just "Print out image - stick to card - finished."

And while mooching around and following links from other blogs, I bumped into this super sketch from Random Acts Of Creativity where it is the theme for Sketchbook Saturday 91.

All the papers and the butterfly toppers and sentiments I used are from the CD. I cut out the shapes and inked the edges to hide my scrappy cutting   give the edges some definition and then assembled the card, pausing only to pick up the 500 tiny brads that I dropped on the floor after opening the box upside down to take one out for the flower centre.

There were so many elements left  that I had enough to make my "freebie", a diagonal easel card. I decided to put the sentiment in a slightly unusual place so that it sits centrally below the image when the card is standing up, otherwise it looks a bit tipsy!

Meal Planning Monday 4th March

Monday Panda Express Orange Chicken On holidays in America over the years we have occasionally spent a day in a big shopping mall, which has meant stopping at the food court for a quick lunch, and have both fallen in love with the Orange Chicken dish served at the Panda Express Chinese food counters. So when I spotted this pin on Pinterest  I just had to follow it to its source to find out more, and I'm going to give it a try today. I'll be serving it with a mixture of Chinese tinned veg that have been cluttering up the cupboard, stir fried with home grown spring onions.

Tuesday Red Goulash with Noodles and salad  - another one I've bookmarked. I'll be making a couple of  changes - I have tinned beans to use (can you see by now that I'm decluttering the storecupboard this week?) and as Mark can't eat red peppers I'll cook mine separately and stir them into my own portion at the last minute.

Wednesday Roast lamb, broccoli, mashed swede and roast potatoes.

Thursday butternut squash and chickpea curry with rice and sambals

Friday Chilli Con Carne with a cornbread topping served with runner beans (still our home grown ones from the freezer)

Saturday Mark will probably be cooking

Sunday We won't be doing anything for Mother's Day - one of my daughters  lives in France and the other will, I hope, be being spoiled by her own little girls, while my Mum lives too far away to visit her for the day, so I've decided today will be the day I cook my entry for this month's Random Recipe challenge. I've not plucked up courage to attack my clippings yet though so I don't know what I'll be making!

I'm playing along with Meal Planning Monday at At Home With Mrs M - why don't you?

A hectic schedule over the next couple of weeks means I won't be planning again until March 25th  - the meals we DO eat at home in the intervening time will be "open the fridge and see what we can throw together" ones, so I expect pasta and omelettes to feature strongly!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Bookmarked recipe - Cheesy Lentil Pie with Cornmeal Pastry

A few weeks ago, I saw the recipe for Cheesy Lentil Pie with Cornmeal Pastry by Emily Leary on A Mummy Too and just KNEW I'd have to try it - cheese, lentils and cornmeal are three of my buzz-words, so a dish containing all three is irresistible to me and it was duly bookmarked.

It's a very inexpensive dish to make, and in fact I felt as if it had cost me almost nothing, as when I was preparing the ingredients I had exactly enough left - to the gramme in every case - in my almost-finished packs of lentils, cheese, cornmeal and flour.

I halved all the quantities as there are only two of us. Even so, served with nothing more than a plain green salad, there was plenty left for lunch the next day.

While I was making it, I was worried that the pastry would be tough, as it was so very easy to handle and had a relatively low proportion of fat. But it turned out beautifully light and crisp and the cornmeal in it gave it a delicious taste. I'll be using that pastry again in other dishes.

When it came out of the oven it looked beautiful

It wasn't quite so pretty on the inside

But what it lacked in appearance it certainly made up for in flavour! A great success, and a dish that I'm sure I'll make many times in the future.

I'm submitting this to Bookmarked Recipes at Tinned Tomatoes  and to
Credit Crunch Munch at Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food  4 All