Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Using up the scraps

My plan to reduce the Mountain of Stash has taken a bit of a blow the last few months as my craft-shopping habit has kicked in again, but this week I've been going through my scraps box to see what I could use up. There's a lot of stuff in there - bits left over from projects and kits, odd and ends that are just "too good to thrown away", interesting bits of packaging and advertising material that looked as if they might come in useful - I'd forgotten about half of it until I tipped it all out on to the table.

I selected a handful of co-ordinating pieces, using the colours in the patterned card as a guide

And put them together to create this

But really that hadn't started to make even a dent in the pile of scraps. Then I remembered the "Serendipity" designs that were popular about 15 years ago, and thought I'd see if I can remember how they were done. First I tore up a few toning papers into rough pieces

Then I stuck them down on to a piece of card - I chose a matching colour in case any showed through.  I used a wet adhesive and left it to dry before trimming the edges.

Next I stamped random swirls over with a silver pad and embossed with silver powder. The surface is very uneven at this stage, so you really need to use some kind of abstract design. Letters or a picture won't work as the patchy result would make it unclear. After embossing, I added further streaks and splodges with tow shades of glitter glue. When everything was dry, I left it to flatten overnight, under a pile of heavy books.

Finally I cut it into squares. I find the best way to do this is to mark the squares on the back and cut with heavy scissors or a guillotine. The layers of paper, card and glue make it too thick for a craft knife and a rotary trimmer could drag the torn, uneven paper edges.

I chose to make the squares about 1" (2.5cm) each, but other sizes or even shapes would produce interesting effects.  Once you have your shapes, let your imagination run free! Here are two cards made with mine

Having used up so many scraps, I just had to play along with The Craft Room Challenge,  because the current one is "Use Your Scraps"
And since everything I've used is old - even the technique - I'm also joining in with "Anything goes" at Use It Tuesday.

Monday, 27 May 2013


A few days ago, I ordered myself a new craft CD - planning ahead, I chose a double CD of Christmas designs. However the wrong one turned up - the one I received was "The Wine Buffs" by Katy Sue Designs. As soon as I saw the summary of contents on the back, I knew I had to have it, so I sorted out the payment details with the sender and dived straight in with it.

I've already blogged a couple of things I have made with it, here and here  and this time I have used a cartoon and sentiment that were intended as labels for a bottle shaped card,  trimming away the shaped outline to leave just the design. Many of the designs on the CD are perfect for men's cards - cards that are usually so hard to think up - so this CD is going to get a lot of use.

I'm playing along with:
Creative Craft Challenge #10 - Just Checking
CAS on Sunday #9 - Make it Masculine

Aged to Perfection

I was really pleased that this week's challenge on CD Sundays is "Aged to Perfection"  because the new CD-ROM I bought this week, The Wine Buffs from Katy Sue Designs, includes that exact sentiment, so it gave me the perfect excuse to play with my new toy.

There are some great shaped cards on the CD, and I decided to take a short cut by printing a wine bottle shaped card and then turning the card over to print the backing paper. Unfortunately I put the card back in the printer the wrong way round and ended up with the inside of the card lined with upside-down wine glasses. I rescued it, though, by printing a new backing sheet and bonding it to the card with spray adhesive (making SURE it was the right way up!) before cutting it out.

There are lots of labels to choose from for the front and back of the bottle - I went with two that tied in well with the challenge, and then added a blank label to the inside to write on. A couple of "cork" sentiments  added with 3d foam were all it needed to complete a very unusual card.

Meal Planning Monday - May 27th

Not exactly a plan for the week this week, just for three days. But first, a look back at last week's plan. Well, it DID seem like a good idea at the time - but it made us realise why we don't use packet and pre-prepared ingredients. After three days of food that tasted of nothing but salt, we abandoned the idea, and it was a relief to get back to "proper" food again!

This will be my last meal plan for a while, as the next few weeks sees us doing a lot of travelling and very little eating at home. And when we ARE at home, we'll be trying to use up odds and ends in the fridge so we can leave it empty.

But first, three days of normal routine, and the meals will be

Monday steak, bought from the farmer's market, with new potatoes sautéed with garlic and thyme, and an endive salad.

Tuesday spag bol with the rest of the endive

Wednesday Cauliflower, butternut and chickpea curry with rice

Despite not being a whole week, I'm linking up to Meal Planning Monday at At Home With Mrs M

Saturday, 25 May 2013

A recipe for humour

I bet you thought this was going to be a food post, didn't you? But actually this week's Less is More challenge is a recipe - and the recipe is Humour, so that's the theme of today's card.

It's very hard to create a CAS card that is humorous, and I didn't have anything suitable among my stamps, but I've just got a new CD-ROM called "The Wine Buffs" and some of the cartoon toppers on it have a simplicity about them, with plenty white space, so I've incorporated one of them into my card, along with a  "wine cork effect" sentiment from the same CD.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Going Green!

This week's CD Sunday challenge is "Going Green" - the colour or the environmental aspect or both. So I thought that as well as using the colour green, I would try to use something I had previously printed out for a different project, saving the paper, ink and power needed to print new papers.

This green brocade paper and the greeting are left over from papers I printed off from Debbie Moore's Glitter and Glitz Art Deco Story Boxes CD. The fan is made using a Keepsake embossing board - I cut two shapes, leaving one without the inner embossed details, and hinged the two together with a folded piece of matching card. The flower and leaf die cuts are from a Kanban set several years old.

Isn't gold card hard to photograph, especially on a gloomy day like today when it isn't possible to switch the flash off and use the natural light streaming in through the window! I'm afraid these photos are the best of a very bad bunch!

Meal planning Monday - the "It seemed like a good idea at the time" edition.

I don't use convenience foods. Not for me the ready meal, the packet sauce mix, the instant noodle. So what am I doing with all these in my cupboards?

Well, in every case, "It seemed like a good idea at the time". A good idea to pick one up after sampling it at a food show, or visiting an ethnic store, or a good idea to enter a competition where it was among the prizes, or pick up a pack in order to enter a competition featuring it.

So rather than plan individual meals this week, I've bought a big pack of chicken breasts and a selection of veg and salads - and also lifted out various tins of Chinese veg and coconut milk that "seemed like good ideas" too. And I've rounded up all the part used bags of rice and pasta in the cupboard. The week's meals are going to be "interesting", created out of what I can think up using these odds and ends. It's going to be rather like "Ready Steady Cook"!  Tonight there will be Malay Chicken curry, Indonesian vegetable curry and rice, and I will set some chicken to marinate for Chicken Tikka tomorrow and have a vegetable fried rice with it. After that - who knows? Maybe chicken in red onion and gorgonzola sauce with pasts and salad, or crispy crumbed chicken with lentils?

The one exception will be Thursday, when I'm going to London for the day to the Chelsea Flower Show, and Mark has a long day working further afield than usual, so on Wednesday I'll make macaroni cheese that can just be hated through when we get in.

Before I go, I'd just like to share that the Malaysian Chicken Curry Paste, Kari Ayam, is imported through their Hong Kong agent, Fok Hing trading limited. I don't know about you, but I'm laughing like a fourteen year old at that!

You'll find lots more meal plans, most of them much more structured than this, at At Home With Mrs M - why not share yours?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dish of the Month - Pork Belly and Beans

I seldom join in Dish of the Month - the challenge run by Farmersgirl Kitchen where we share the Nigel Slater recipes we've cooked - because although I devour every word he writes and every moment he appears on television, I tend to use Nigel's  recipes for ideas and inspiration rather then as formulae to cook from. However I've seen so many positive reports of his Pork Belly and beans, the recipe for which appeared in the Guardian earlier this year and can be found on the Guardian website, that I really had to give it a go.

Unlike some food writers, Nigel Slater isn't didactic about his recipes being followed to the letter, preferring people to use them as starting points for their own dishes, which is as well because for what must be the first time in my life I found there wasn't a cannellini bean in the house. Neither a dried one or a tinned one to be found. But I did have a tin of flageolet beans, and on the quiet I prefer those, so they went in instead.

Then the Cavolo Nero -  well, the recipe was published in February, and if I'd made it then we'd have had a gardenful. But it's all eaten now, and the plants removed to make way for the summer shift (it's like hot desking in our garden). However there was half a Savoy cabbage in the fridge. Let's see now..... looking at the recipe .... 200g to serve 4 people.... halve that to serve 2..... 100g? 100g of Savoy cabbage? One of my favourite vegetables? How about half a cabbage instead? Yep, 350g, that looks about right.

So with the beans changed and the cabbage almost quadrupled, here is my finished dish.

And it was absolutely WONDERFUL. All the things we should NOT be looking for in the middle of May - warming, rich and comforting - that this year's miserable weather leaves us crying out for. I'll be making this a lot more in the future - and I'll carry on piling in the cabbage!

 This month, Dish of the Month is being hosted by A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate -  very appropriate, considering how heavenly this dish was!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Bagels - a Random recipe

This month's  Random Recipe Challenge at Belleau Kitchen is challenge #28 - Bread.

Now I don't seem to have much luck with my random recipes - there were Delia's dry sausages, then there was "solid soup", and most recently the spectacular disaster of the beancurd satay.  So I was starting to think that I was fated to produce a stream of failures.

This month's challenge being bread, I was hoping my random selection (which I did just from among my specific bread books and booklets, or I'd still have been checking books halfway through the next challenge!) would be the crumpets from Paul Hollywood's "Bread" because I'd just bought some rings to cook them in, but instead my random number generator brought me to the new magazine - I think it is a one-off - from the BBC Good Food stable called, surprisingly enough, "Bread". And when opened randomly, it took me to a recipe for bagels, which the magazine had published from "The Pink Whisk Guide to Bread Making" by Ruth Clemens. I've never made bagels before - all I knew about making them is that you have to boil them.

Well, that turned out to be sort-of right, but they are actually just poached for a couple of minutes before baking. They rise quite spectacularly while being poached.

Here they are after proving - the splits in the dough around the circumference had me worried as they hadn't been there when I shaped them.

After just a minute on each side of poaching, the splits had filled out again

Then egg-washed, seeded and baked they looked very tempting indeed

I couldn't resist tasting one while it was still warm. They have a lovely light, even crumb, a soft yet slightly chewy texture and I declare them a 100% success.

And about time too!

The view from my window...

... today is this:

There is a lovely crab apple tree just outside our bedroom window, and I don't think it's ever flowered quite as profusely as this year. It was this that I thought of when I read that this week's challenge at CD Sundays is Ornate Blossom. And I knew just where I would find a suitable design - Joanna Sheen's "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" CD.

For a while now I've been in the mood to make what I think of as an "old fashioned" card, not a fashionable vintage or retro one, but one in a style that was popular when I first took up papercrafting, with lots of peel-off borders and corners, layering and ribbon, and I thought this design set would lend itself well to it. And of course being Joanna Sheen, there's a co-ordinating insert to finish the card off.

Meal Planning Monday - May 13th

I really must get around to using up the various packets and spice blends that I buy on impulse and never use! I'm going to devote a week to it, but it won't be this week, because this week is Fresh Week when Tefal would like us all to cook from scratch - and by pledging to do so we could win a Tefal Fresh Express and a Riverford veg box. Cooking from scratch is no hardship to us, that's the way we always do it, with the exception of staples like tins of tomatoes and chickpeas, but how typical that it should crop up on a week when I'd been thinking of clearing out all the convenience foods cluttering the cupboard. Oh well, it gives me time to make some proper plans to use them next week.

A little feedback on last week -  Wednesday's cottage pie didn't end up with a swede crust because the swede, which looked perfectly sound from the outside, was completely black inside, so it was back to good old spuds instead. The star of the plan was Friday's meal  which would have been a perfect summer meal, if we'd just had some summer to go with it!

Right, cracking on with this week's plan.

Monday we have some gammon left over from last night so I'm going to make it into a sauce for pasta, with mushrooms and tomatoes.
Tuesday the onions in the supermarket last week were really grotty, except for those in huge sacks, so I bought  a sack. They work out a lot cheaper than loose ones - about a third of the price - but of course only if they are all used, so tonight I'm going to make an onion tart
Wednesday I keep threatening to make Nigel Slater's Pork with Cannelini beans but it always gets bumped. This week I reckon it's actually going to get made!
Thursday Baked potatoes with Spicy Dhal - recipe in the June BBC Good Food magazine
Friday Venison steaks with celeriac mash and whatever veg we have left
Saturday I'll be out all day and looking forward to whatever Mark cooks for dinner
Sunday Roast goose breast  - I'll probably make some apple sauce to go with it but haven't decided on the other accompaniments yet.

 What are YOU eating this week? Why not pop over to At Home With Mrs M and share a link to your plans?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A rainbow of flowers

This week's code word at ATCAS is Rainbow

So here is my card - a rainbow of die-cut flowers. I don't think it needs any further explanation!

In the pink..... eventually

This week is the dreaded One Layer Challenge at Less is More, and this time we have been tasked to use a coloured card blank, so I couldn't fall back on my usual trick of stamping in black on a white card and then colouring it in! Sneaky, isn't it?

I  started off with a yellow card blank, and embossed a sunflower on it in brown. On my first attempt I smudged the sentiment. On my second attempt I got a brown splodge on the spine of the card - but I had to press on as I had no more yellow card left. The image and sentiment came out well but oh dear, I picked up the wrong pen to start shading the petals with, and as it was so dark I had to carry on, but it made the whole thing look a dark, sinister mess. Just to make matters worse, I managed to brush against the bottom corner of the card with my wrist and bent it up.

That one headed for the bin as soon as I'd snapped it. It actually looks even worse in real life than it does in the photo.

Next I moved on to hot pink card,  which I decided to stamp and emboss in white. Unfortunate3ly as I stamped one of the swirls, I smudged the stamp and my efforts to remove the unwanted ink just made things go from bad to worse

Luckily I still had some pink card left, and managed to complete the card with no further hitches.

I'm playing along with
Less is More #119 - One Layer
Addicted to Stamps and More #44 - Addicted to CAS

Postcard from Cornwall

The current Craft Room Challenge is "Wish you were here" so I couldn't resist digging out a sheet of stamps of old travel posters which I've had for years. I think they were originally from Tanda Stamps. There are several locations on the sheet, but it had to be Cornwall for me as we are going there for a family holiday in the summer.

The stamps have a vintage feel to them, so I used a vintage "Postcard" stamp to add to the feeling, and stuck to brown and sepia tones.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Tabbouleh and more besides

We have a glut of parsley and mint in the garden at the moment, so I decided to make tabbouleh. I long to do it the authentic way,  mostly herbs with just a few flecks of bulgur in it. but however huge the bunch of herbs I start with is, they seem to chop down to almost nothing. Perhaps I should be using more mature, coarser leaves - but never mind, it is delicious as it is!

I decided to showcase the flavour of the herbs by making a very simple version, not bulked out with the tomato, onion and cucumber that it often contains, so here is my super-simple tabbouleh recipe.

60g bulgur wheat
1 tbs lemon infused olive oil (or use ordinary olive oil and a little grated lemon rind)
1 large bunch each of parsley and mint, chopped.
salt to taste

Pour boiling water over the bulgur so it is covered by at least its own depth, and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Then drain in a sieve, pressing down well to remove all the water. Stir in the olive oil and leave to cool completely.

Mix in the herbs, season to taste and serve.

And here's what I served it with -  Greek salad, a melon and feta salad, hummus and pitta breads - the breads being made from a recipe in Paul Hollywood's Bread.

I'm playing along with Herbs on Saturday (well, my tabbouleh is - everything else is just there to make up the rest of the meal) which is being hosted by Délicieux and Lavender and Lovage

Oh, and if you are admiring the dishes it's all served up in, we've always collected interesting pottery and serving bowls on our travels. The scallop shell is Penang Pottery, bought straight from the factory on a holiday there 30 yeas ago, the green and white striped dished  are Gmunden Keramik, bought on two separate holidays to Austria and the blue bowl, well the blue bowl came from Marks and Spencers!  (I had to whisper that last bit)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Victorian Ladies

I've been meaning to make a card along these lines for ages,  inspired by several projects in old craft magazines. I  bought some sheets of toppers at the Make It show in Farnborough ..... not this year but last, and I'd not even opened the package until today. The paper is from a pad that came free with a craft magazine a few months ago and has been nagging me to use it ever since.

However I'm not really that pleased with the overall result. I'm really not all that good at "pretty" and I suppose however much I WANT to enjoy making pretty things, most of the time my heart just isn't in it.

 So I'm submitting this to the Vintage-Nostalgic challenge at OLLCB - not because I'm proud of it, because I'm not,  but because I'd love to hear what YOU do when your hands want to make something outside your comfort zone but your imagination says "No!"