Sunday, 30 March 2014

CD Sunday - Sketch

This week at CD Sunday it's a sketch challenge. Here is the sketch

And here is my interpretation of it

The image, greetings and the border which I've topped the central punched border with are all from one sheet from the Debbie Moore Art Deco Rome CD. The punched border itself looks black, but is actually a very highly metallic gold.

Postcard from the Ocean

On this card I've used one of my favourite sets of stamps, a set of old travel poster designs from the late Tamba stamps. I combined them with other stamps to create a postcard - using a bit of artistic license as a real postcard would be flat so as not to get caught up in the Post Office sorting machinery, but I've raised the poster images to give them some dimension. The background paper, also cruise themed, has been in my stash for years. I can't remember where it came from - maybe a RAK or a craft club freebie?

I've got lots of cruise-moving friends and this would make the ideal card for one of them.

This is my second entry to the current Craft Room Challenge of Transport  and because I'm in Britain where the word "holiday" means what most other people call "vacation", I'm also entering the Holiday challenge at Addicted to Stamps and More. Finally, because I've not joined in for ages and this week it's an Anything Goes week, I'm also joining in with Pinspirational Challenges.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

.... round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus go round and round, all day long.

If you are a parent or grandparent of an under-five, I suspect that song will be lodged in your brain for the rest of the day now. (Sorry!)

I used the lovely Routemaster bus die out of the Docrafts London Skyline die set to cut a bus to illustrate the song, and printed the lyrics out from the computer, to make this simple, fun card. I've kept it very simple and free of embellishments, to make it safe for small hands as well as striking in its simplicity.

I'm playing along with:

Less is More Lucky Dip week 165 - Round and Round
Craft Room Challenge - Transport
Addicted to CAS #35 - Wheels  
Alphabet Challenge - D for Diecuts

Friday, 28 March 2014

The streets of London

I love the London skyline die set from Docrafts - I wish they would make them for other famous cities! This time I've made them into a pop-out card - it folds flat for posting but all the layers are hinged to each other to make it stand up. It took me a while to get the engineering right!

However I was just lucky with the angle of the light falling on it - it's made it look as if I've hidden a light source between the layers. And maybe next time I'll try to work out a way of doing exactly that (maybe a mini torch? Or a light from a construction kit? )

I'm joining in with d for Diecuts at the Alphabet Challenge blog

Mercimek koftesi (red lentil balls)

A few years ago, I won a holiday to the beautiful hotel Bordubet in Turkey.

I went with a friend, and enjoyed it so much that I've been back with my husband, twice. One aspect we love is the food, especially some of the local specialities they serve. I enjoyed one particular dish, a kids of cold lentil pattie, so much that I asked for the recipe,  but the language barrier meant I couldn't understand it when I got it!

So I was delighted to find the recipe on the Tesco Real Food website - Red Lentil Balls or Mercimek Koftesi. I bookmarked it months ago and finally got around to making them yesterday. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly easy they are to make - the reason I'd left it so long was that I thought I'd have to set aside a whole afternoon for them  - and the second was how cheap they are too. I made half the quantity given,   and I reckon it cost around £1 in total, which made a generous helping for 3 or a starter for 4-6. You may find it costs you a little more if you don't buy spices and lentils in bulk and have fresh parsley in the garden, as I do.

And the third thing I noticed? That they were absolutely delicious! Not quite as smooth textured as those I'd had in Turkey, but I presume that's because our bulghur is a coarser texture than was used in the originals, but apart from that I reckon this recipe absolutely nails it!

I'm joining in with Bookmarked Recipes over at tinned Tomatoes  and Credit Crunch Munch at Fab Food 4 All  and Fuss Free Flavours

Credit Crunch Munch  recipes is a blog hop - you can join in and see the other entries here

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Flower rings

This week's challenge at Less is More is week 164 - Recipe : THREE

so I've used THREE colours
THREE rings
THREE flowers

I cut a slit in the rings in order to interlace them, and made sure the joins sat behind overlaps or flowers. The rings were cut with nested Nesties. You can't see it, but I've added a writing space inside the card, made from layers of the three colours of card.

Monday, 24 March 2014

k1 s1 psso.....

Here is a photo of my Mum (sorry it's such a bad photo, I took it on my old phone) - she will be 88 years old very soon and is disabled and housebound. Her two great loves, that she can still enjoy, are cats and  knitting (don't tell her the penguins already have enough jumpers, she's so happy knitting them I haven't the heart to stop her!)

I found the perfect image for her on the new CD from La Pashe, Flippin' Families. In the first picture, the old lady is happily knitting  away, cats playing contentedly by her feet. But in the second, chaos has broken out as the cats have discovered the yarn and are playing with it. I just love the realistic cabled knitting on the background paper I've used with the first image.

I used the "Stackables" from the CD for the circular images, but on the second one  I didn't actually stack it, just used the base image to enable the card to close properly. As well  as the images, the patterned papers and the sentiment are all from the CD.

I'm playing along with
The CD Sunday challenge - Going around in circles
The Cupboard trilogy #20 - Mothers
Make My Monday - For Mums
This will also be my DT card for the blog at La Pashe later on this week.  

Bunny and Bunting

Having a rummage through my stash over the weekend (I really ought to get rid of some - but how could I ever part with it?) I came across a Craftwork Cards goody bag that I bought several years ago and hadn't used at all. There were all sorts of exciting things in it, including some very pretty die cut bunting - perfect for the current challenge at Oldie But A Goodie which is Bunting.

Apart from the base card, everything I used came out of the goody bag.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Oh deer!

If I had to choose just two CDs to craft with for the rest of my life, one would be The Best of La Pashe 2012 and the other would be the Design House CD Meadow's Edge. I do have other Design House CDs but Meadow's Edge is the one I come back to time and time again.

I love this design from it, called "Day Care", of a mother deer with her young faun. The layered medallion is from the CD,  as is the border and the two backing papers that I've used on the inside and outside of the card.

I'm playing along with the CD Sunday Challenge Mother, Mum, Mummy and the Cupboard Trilogy challenge #20 Mothers

Dancing dragonflies

This week's theme at Less is More is #163 Masking or stencilling. Now that is a REAL challenge for me, as I have no masks and only one stencil - one I've had for several years and never used. And with a rather busy dragonfly design, it doesn't really lend itself to being used in a Clean And Simple way.

However I've managed to keep it relatively uncluttered by sticking to just two colours, green and blue.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Eating Cheep-ly - five days, no waste

I must start by apologising for the lack of photos in this post – that’s because everything was eaten before I stopped and thought it might actually be interesting to blog about it!

Inspired by the Guardian’s Live Better Food Waste Challenge and the monthly No Waste Food Challenge from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, which this month is hosted by Cooking Around the World, I decided to see just how little food I could waste over the course of a working week.


I started off by checking the fridge and cupboards – no use replenishing things that are already there and ending up with so much that some of it goes off – to make sure I had the basics that I consider essential:

herbs (mostly fresh from the garden)
spices – I keep a good selection because of my love of curries
dried fruit of some kind
tinned tomatoes (these are getting expensive now, so I always stock up when there’s a BOGOF offer)
tinned chickpeas or other pulses
baked beans
tomato purée and/or ketchup
soy sauce
plain flour
onions – have you noticed that some supermarkets now have them in sacks at a fraction of the price of loose ones? I keep a sack in the cool, dark garage where they last for weeks, bringing a few into the kitchen as I need them
rice (long grain and risotto)
red lentils
bread or flour and yeast
butter and/or oil
cheese suitable for grating or cooking
ready made mayonnaise
If I didn’t keep “ice cubes” of home made pesto in the freezer, I’d probably add a jar of pesto to this list too.

Actually if you have all of the above, you can cobble together a meal without even visiting the shops: a risotto, pasta with tomato sauce, herb omelette or macaroni cheese, for example. I make sure I have everything on the list and if anything is running low, add it to the shopping list straight away. Things that aren’t immediately perishable can be  bought when on offer and stored to use later.

Now on to my shopping list for the week’s meals. I planned the meals so that leftovers from one meal would form the basis for others later in the week. As well as the above basics, which I already had,  I bought (for two people)

1 small chicken
a 400g pack of sausage meat
a 99p pack of leeks (5 leeks)
500g carrots
a 99p punnet of mushrooms (300g)
a 99p pack of dwarf beans (250g)
a pack of ready-rolled puff pastry
a bag of potatoes (I had to buy a large bag as it was all they had but will use them up next week)

Here are the meals – I’ve only planned for 5 days on the assumption that most of us are less disciplined at the weekend but stay on track during the week!

Day 1

Roast chicken, leeks, carrots,  roast potatoes, gravy, using about half of each of the leeks and carrots. Keep the leek trimmings, carrot peel and onion trimmings and skin (from the sausage nuggets) for tomorrow’s stock.

And sausage nuggets:

take a third of the pack of sausage meat and mix in a bowl with a couple of tablespoonfuls of  chopped dried fruit (I used apricots). Finely chop a very small onion and fry until soft in a little oil. Allow to cool then mix into the sausage meat mixture. Season – you can add fresh herbs or spices at this point too – mix together well and form into balls about the size of a walnut in its shell. Pop round the chicken for the last 30 minutes of roasting.

After eating, save the rest of the chicken plus the carcase, skin and bones, any left over gravy and any left over veg (in the unlikely event of there being any sausage nuggets left, they are great cold on sandwiches)

 Day 2

 Make stock – remove  the meat from the chicken carcase and set aside, then chuck the skin and bones into a pan with the leftover gravy, any left over veg (except potatoes, save them for day 3), yesterday’s veg trimmings and any or all of the following, depending on what you have: a few peppercorns, cloves, mace, thyme, parsley or bay leaves. Cover with water, simmer for a couple of hours and strain. Keep this stock for later in the week.

Dinner today is chicken and mushroom pie.

Preheat the oven to the temperature suggested on your pasty pack. Cut up the left over chicken into bite sized pieces. Cut a piece of the puff pastry sheet to fit the top of your pie dish. Wrap the remaining pastry tightly so it doesn’t dry out, you’ll need it tomorrow! Slice a third of the mushrooms and fry gently in butter until tender and the water has evaporated. Dust in about a tablespoon of plain flour and stir in enough milk to produce a thick sauce. Season and allow to bubble for a minute then stir  in the chicken and tip the mixture into your pie dish. Cover with the pastry, crimp the edges, cut a steam hole in the centre and brush with beaten egg, saving any left over egg for tomorrow.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and well browned. Serve with boiled potatoes (cook one or two extra if there were no roast ones left from yesterday) and two thirds of the pack of green beans. Keep any left over veg.

Day 3

Sausage rolls

Roll out the left over pastry thinly into a rectangle, and place the remaining sausage meat along one edge of the rectangle. brush the free edge with beaten egg, roll up and cut into sausage rolls. Brush the tops with beaten egg then bake, giving them 20 minutes in a hot oven then 20 minutes in a moderate one. You may need to cover them with foil or greaseproof paper to stop them over browning.

Serve with braised mixed vegetables – trim the rest of the dwarf beans into matchstick lengths, cut an equal quantity of carrots into batons, and slice half the remaining mushrooms. Put them all in a pan with a tight fitting lid, along with a knob of butter and any fresh herbs you have to hand – chopped thyme is delicious – place the pan on a very low heat and cook for about 20 minutes until the veg are tender. Don’t remove the lid until you’re ready to check they are cooked – shake the pan every few minutes so nothing sticks and burns.

Dice  the potatoes you’ve saved over the last couple of days and mix with mayonnaise for a quick potato salad to go with the sausage rolls and veg. If you have some chives to add to the mayo, so much the better.  Keep any left over veg.

Day 4

Vegetable risotto.

Put 75-100g of rice per person in a measuring jug and make a note of the volume. For the rice, ideally use risotto rice. If it seems too expensive, pudding rice is a good substitute, although you will find some broken grains, otherwise use long grain rice but watch out for it going mushy rather than creamy like a proper risotto.

Measure double the volume of rice out of your home made chicken stock into a saucepan, bring to the boil and keep just below simmering point.

Chop the last of your bag of leeks finely and cook in oil or butter in a non-stick pan until tender. Slice the remaining mushrooms and add them to the pan. Cook for another minute or two then stir in the rice and mix it well. Pour in about a third of the stock and allow to bubble gently until absorbed. Repeat with the next third and the final one. If the rice is still not tender, cover the pan and leave it for a few minutes over the lowest possible heat. Season well and serve. There is no real protein in this dish (well, mushrooms have a bit, but you might want to add more) so if you like you can stir in a handful of grated cheese before serving. It adds to the creaminess of the risotto too.

Day 5

Lentil and vegetable soup

You will need 50g of red lentils per head, any left over cooked veg you have saved, any left over fresh veg, 1 medium onion, oil or butter and the rest of your home made chicken stock. For two people you’ll need about 750 ml of stock – if you don’t  have this much left, dilute it with water, or milk if you prefer a creamier soup.

Chop the onion and fry in oil or butter until lender. Chop any left over fresh veg and add them to the pan with the lentils. Fry for a minute or two, then add the lentils, stock and left over cooked veg, roughly chopped, then stir in the stock. Don’t season yet or the lentils will go tough! Simmer until the veg are tender and the lentils disintegrating. This will take between 20 and 35 minutes depending on how old your lentils are. Then either whizz in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth, season, reheat and serve.



Monday, 10 March 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes

Do you ever experience that feeling where everybody else is going crazy about something and you can't see what the fuss is about? One of the things I feel  that way about is David Beckham. Another is pulled pork.

I've not made pulled pork before. I've bought it ready made and not enjoyed it - but then, I very rarely do enjoy bought foods. I've had it in a restaurant and not enjoyed it - but then, it was a miserable day, I was soaked and in a bad mood and the restaurant was packed and noisy. No wonder I didn't enjoy it!

After two disappointments, though, I wasn't that keen to try cooking it myself. Yet everywhere I looked, people were enthusing about how great it is, especially when finished with a barbecue sauce. Served this way, it's even referred to simply as "Epic". I had to try it. Especially as pork shoulder joints were on half price offer in the supermarket last week.

I'd been pointed in the direction of this recipe for epic pork, a wonderfully wittily written recipe from Mudpies and Fries. What a pity her blog is no longer updated, I'd love to be able to read it regularly! So that's the recipe I followed, almost to the letter.

My slow cooker was being a bit sulky and took a long time to get going, but eventually it agreed to play and after 8 hours cooking with just a little water, the skin and fat slipped off and the pork was simple to shred with two forks.

Then I made the barbecue sauce, with tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Sweet freedom syrup, blackcurrant balsamic vinegar, garlic, smoked paprika and chilli, and added in the pork to heat through. It looked and smelled divine!
To serve with it, I made some onion flowers as described by Belleau Kitchen, replacing the spices with a barbecue chipotle spice mix to work better with the barbecue sauce.
I served it with baked potatoes and green salad - and I wish I'd put the salad on the plates before this photo (I didn't want the heat to wilt it though) as it all looks rather brown.
So why "The Emperor's New Clothes"?  Well, it just served to confirm my opinion that I don't like pulled pork at all! I don't like the way the fat and sinew melt to coat the meat and give it a slippery feel in my mouth, and I don't like the stringiness of the shredded meat.

Oh well, I tried - and just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't! After all, everybody else seems to love it.

I'm joining in with the Slow Cooker Challenge at Farmersgirl Kitchen

Simply Red

The theme for this week's challenge at CD Sundays is "Simply Red" so I've made this simple-to-make easel card from a very old CD, Sharon Duncan's "Beautiful Butterflies". There was very little to do apart from cutting out the backgrounds, layering on to the card and adding the decoupage, although I did brush the large image with Opal Dust which with hindsight was a bit of a mistake as it made the ink bleed  and change colour a bit.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Simply Crocuses

The crocuses in our garden have been beautiful this year - glorious splashes of purple and yellow round the base of each tree and in pots on the patio.

They are almost over now, but I've preserved the feeling of them in a card. When I was rummaging through a box of unmounted stamps I found a crocus stamp,  that must be about 15 years old yet still uninked - I'd not even trimmed away the waste rubber! I used masking to stamp it in a row across the card, coloured then in and finished it with a stamped border.

This week at Less is More it is a one layer challenge with the theme "Spring Flowers" so I'm joining in there. And since the stamp was so very old, I'm also joining in again with "Spring has Sprung" at Oldie But Goodie

Friday, 7 March 2014

Baked Tunworth Cheese with Caramelised Pears, Shallots and Thyme

I bookmarked this recipe a few months ago - I can't remember whether I saw it on another blog, spotted a pin on Pinterest or just stumbled on it while looking for something else, but the thought of scooping out a loaf and filling it with brie and a gloriously delicious combination of pears, shallots, thyme and white wine then baking it in the oven sounded perfect.

And it would save on washing up too - instead of using the brie baker, the bread itself becomes the brie baker - handy to know if you don't possess such a piece of equipment.

I'll not give the recipe here - it would be a breach of copyright as the only changes I made were to substitute a lovely local Tunworth cheese for the brie, Sweet Freedom for the brown sugar and a supermarket crusty cob for the sourdough bread (I've not been lured onto the sourdough bandwagon yet - I don't think we eat enough bread to make cooking it on an ongoing basis viable). Oh, and most importantly, to increase the amount of fresh thyme from half a teaspoon (why bother?) to a couple of tablespoons.

The first task was to fry the pears and shallots together then simmer them with the other ingredients for the caramelised layer

Next the top was removed from the bread, and a deep hollow the diameter of the cheese cut from it - with the removed top and middle set aside for dunking purposes.  The cheese was halved  them layered alternately with the pear mixture, and topped with a layer of slivered almonds.

Then it was all baked until gooey - the recipe said for 45 minutes but after half an hour we couldn't bear to wait any longer, the fragrant thyme and rich cheese smell had lured us both into the kitchen. Maybe with a larger, heavier loaf it would have needed longer, but my flimsy little supermarket bread had allowed plenty heat to penetrate by then!

The verdict? Utterly delicious. A real triumph. The pear layer and the crunch of the almonds gave extra layers of flavour and texture from our usual baked cheese dishes. We scooped up the filling with the removed bread and some crispy Romaine lettuce to help balance the richness.
And when the two of us sat back, replete, having demolished all but a small fragment of the bread shell as well as all the filling, I glanced back at the recipe and read "Serves 8"
I'm joining in with the March link up for Cooking with Herbs at Lavender and Lovage

Curiousity Corner

This month I've had a wonderful win - I won the February monthly competition on the Trimcraft website, an absolutely MASSIVE bundle of goodies from the Dovecraft Curiosity Corner range. The parcel included papers, bows, lace, flowers, wood and felt shapes, two sheets of stamps, brads, gems, twine, washi tape, buttons, doyleys, sentiments and much, much more, and I've spent a very happy few days playing with the goodies - and hardly made a dent in the massive amount of stash! Here are some of my creations



And as the last one has lots of buttons and bows I'm playing along at the Alphabet Challenge, where the current letter is B for Buttons and Bows.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Easter Bunny

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is "Easter Parade". Now I've never been into celebrating Easter at all - maybe a chocolate egg for the youngest members of the family, but that's as far as I go, so I didn't think I'd be playing this week.

However then my copy of Digital Crafting Essentials turned up and one of the design sets on the free CDs is "Hoppy Wishes", so I printed off one of the backing papers onto thin card then on the other side, printed the rabbit box from La Pashe's "Spring  & Summer 3D templates" to make a cute little rabbit box, which I'm sure will be filled with mini-eggs to be enjoyed by the grandchildren.

Some flowers from my stash and some die-cut leaves have brightened up my bunny!

Yellow flag

Our front garden is full of tiny purple irises at the moment, which has set me wondering two things:

1. Why are the tiny ones always purple and never yellow?


2. Why did my grandmother always call yellow irises Yellow Flags, but never call purple ones Purple Flags?

I suppose you'll all tell me that they are completely unrelated species, but they look very much alike to me and I've used this iris stamp, bought from the USA so long ago that I had to write a letter and post it in order to order it, instead of just logging in to a website, to make a Yellow Flag.

I'm playing along with

Less is More #161 - Colour challenge, Yellow and Green
CAS  on Sunday #28 - Colour me Pretty
Crafty Creations Challenges #258 - Happy Birthday
Oldie But Goodie Challenge - Spring Has Spring

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Flippin' Families - a sneak peek

Since joining the La Pashe design team, I've been lucky enough to have a chance to play with some of the design sheets and papers on their newest CD, Flippin' Families which will be launched on the Create and Craft TV channel next Tuesday, March 11th, at 11am and 6pm. You can find Create and Craft on Virgin channel 748, Freeview 36, Sky 671 or Freesat 813, or watch online through their website or app.

Here are some of my own ideas to tempt you....