Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pocket Watch

Here's a simple card I made using some Hunkydory products that I won in one of their competitions. As the focal point is a pocket watch, I'm joining in with Cards 4 Guys challenge 16 - Time

It's such a simple card I can't really think of anything else to say about it!

Proud as a peacock

The peacock feather papers I have used here have been in my craft stash for many years. I think they date back to when Artylicious used to have a club and sent out monthly paper packs. I knew I'd get round to using them one day! The domed topper is a peel-off sticker coloured in with gel pens, and the double ended feather panel was stamped with Versamark then brushed with pigment powders. Originally it was going to be on a purple background but the feathers didn't show up very well.

I'm playing along with the Alphabet Challenge, F is for Feathers.

Bear and a bike

This week's image at Pinspirational challenges is this pretty bicycle and flowers photo

I have used this cute "Pickles and Podge" decoupage from the CD "The best of La Pashe 2012"  along with lots of bits and pieces from my "too small to be much use but too nice to throw away" box (we DO all have one of those boxes, don't we?)

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A stitch in time

Here is a card for a crafty friend who prefers stitching and sewing to stamping and sticking (how could she???). Apart from the doyley, all the embellishments are from the Crafter's Companion CD "Die'sire Embossalicious resources" and the knitting embossing folder is from the same range.

This week at CD Sundays the theme is "For someone special" and I'm playing along.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dragonflies again

I love to craft with all kinds of designs and motifs, but my favourite of all is the dragonfly. I must have a couple of dozen different dragonfly stamps, in different shapes and sizes. It's a motif I keep coming back to over and over again.

To make this card, I masked off the two outer thirds of the card and sponged all the colours from a Kaleidacolour "Caribbean sea" separately into the unmasked area. Then I spritzed it with water to blend the colours and create a slightly grungy, textured watery looking background.

When it was dry I removed the masking and stamped three small dragonflies in the central panel with  a small sentiment at the bottom

I'm joining in with Casual Fridays CFC 131 - Three Thirds
and Addicted to CAS #37 - Grunge

Simple but sparkly

This week's challenge at Less Is More is this sketch

I used die cut circles in silver and white, embossing the white on with Swiss Dots. and added two gorgeous parchment flowers that were part of a challenge prize from CD Sundays. The greeting is a simple peel off, saying "Happy Anniversary" - if I was making this for a particular anniversary I'd add the number in silver die cuts on the central circle.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Wheels in motion

At Cards 4 Guys, challenge #15 is Wheel Fun and this is the card I have made for the challenge. The toppers and the patterned background card are Kanban ones I've had for some time - I think they were part of a Create and Craft freebie. I decided to make this style of card - I think it's called a shutter card - because men tend not to be impressed with lots of embellishments but give them a card with a bit of engineering to it and they will spend hours opening and closing, folding and refolding it to try to work out how it was done.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


A few days ago, I  was delving around some old posts on one of my favourite blogs, Hope and Chances,  and spotted the gorgeous tag in this post. I thought what a lovely layout that would make for all kinds of cards, and decided to try making a clean and simple card based on the same general idea - I even used some of the same dies.

I'm entering this into

CAS on Sunday - a Birthday to Die For
CASology - week 92 Garden

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A little distressing

The current challenge at Make My Monday is Distress It!
Now I don't do an awful lot of distressing, because when I do, instead of looking artistically messy things have a habit of coming out just looking a mess! So I thought I'd start off with some elements that already had a vintage feel to them to blend in with my distressing attempts. I printed out the backing paper and all the elements from the docrafts Chronology digikit, then sanded the edges of  the background paper and postcard image, and tore the edges of the sentiment, then inked them with Antique Linen and Tea Dye Distress Inks. I inked the edges of the background card to match.

Monday, 21 April 2014

I could have danced all night.....

This week's CD Sunday challenge is Deco Drama, which I'm sure to many of us immediately says "Debbie Moore" whose Art Deco CDs are perennial favourites. I used the Story Boxes CD from the Glitter and Glitz Art Deco range for the pyramage, background, ribbon and sentiment, using the triple stepper card template from the sister CD, Art Deco Magical Christmas. Actually I wish I'd measured and cut my own stepper card, as the front and back of the side steps using the template aren't quite aligned - only a couple of mm but it makes it hard for the card to lie flat.

I'm also joining in with
Craft Room Challenge - Dance
Daring Cardmakers - Another Dimension

This makes me smile....

.. .because frankly, if it didn't make me smile it would make me cry! It would be lovely to have a clean, tidy home with everything in its place and lots of  elegant empty space. But when you love crafting, there are paper scraps, ribbon and glitter everywhere,  nothing is ever thrown away in case it comes in useful and simplifying things simply isn't possible. (I'm saying nothing about my addictions to kitchen gadgets, spices and books....)

So every time I see this message, it makes me smile! I think the embossed "knitting" background gives a subtle hint  that it's craft stull I'm referring to!

The stamp I used for the message is an ancient one, bought from the US company Raindrops on Roses in the days when buying stamps meant getting hold of a catalogue printed on real paper, working out a way of paying in a foreign country then ordering by post. Most of you are probably too young to remember that!

I'm playing along with:

Less is More #168 - Makes me smile
Addicted to Stamps and More - Challenge 91 - Anything Goes
Crafty Creation Challenges - white plus one other colour

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lurking in the fridge

You  may have seen my quick post, What can I cook with these? on Monday. Well, when I started pulling the odds and ends out of my fridge yesterday, it was worse than I feared..... as well as everything shown below, there were 4 rashers of streaky bacon and a stub of cucumber. The bacon got used in my cookathon, the cucumber will be added to a tuna sandwich for my lunch today.

The green goop in the bowl is homemade wild garlic pesto, by the way. The tiny Tupperware contains an egg white. And I have  all the usual supplies - flour, butter, oils, onions, potatoes and rice, as well as lots of lovely fresh herbs in the garden.

So here's what I made with them

Potato salad - the new potatoes, diced and mixed with mayonnaise, a little of the juice from the lemon and some chopped chives.

Chinese leaf and carrot salad -  using two of the carrots, dressed with the rest of the lemon juice, beaten together with olive oil, seasoning and finely chopped parsley

Mixed savoury soda bread scones - using the pesto, sundried tomato paste and Kalamata paste - recipe at the bottom of this post.

Risotto - using the bacon, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and Philadelphia. I don't think I'll use Philly in a risotto again, it made it too rich and rather sickly. The Philly would have been better on toasted slices of the home made spiced fruit loaf that's lurking in my bread bin.

Gardeners pie - the rest of the veg - carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and beans, cooked up and mixed with parsley sauce. Potatoes boiled and mashed then mixed with the grated Cheddar and the dregs of the Elmlea cream-like-substance (milk, cream or sour cream would work just as well). It will be baked until brown and crispy on top, probably helped along with a bit of butter, for dinner tonight. I'm not giving a detailed recipe as the whole point of this is that it's a "use what you have " dish. Just about any veg would work here, and any cheese you have for the mash. Failing cheese, some mustard and/or herbs would liven it up, but in that case the dish wouldn't contain any significant protein. A couple of hard boiled eggs cut into wedges and places on top of the veg before topping with the potato would sort out that problem nicely!

So, two main means, two sides and a box of snacks, all from odds and ends that were in danger of being thrown away! Hence,  I'm joining in with the No Waste Food Challenge at JibberJabberUK and Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

And with all those veg, especially in the Gardeners Pie, I'm also joining in with Extra Veg at  Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy

Right, on we go with the recipe for those scones, if I haven't lost you by now!

300g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 carton of buttermilk (I used about 280ml)
any or all of sundried tomato paste, kalamata olive paste, pesto

Heat the oven to 230C (210C fan)/ 450F/ gas 8

Line 2 baking trays with non stick paper

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, mixing well, then stir in the buttermilk. Start by adding about two thirds of it - the amount you will need can vary according to the temperature and humidity in your kitchen.  Keep in adding it until the mixture forms a light, soft dough.

Working quickly and lightly, divide this into as many portions as you have toppings, then roll the dough out into rectangles about 7mm thick, spread with the your chosen toppings, roll up swiss roll style and cut into slices, Place well apart  on the baking trays. At this point, I brushed them with lightly beaten egg white but I don't think it added anything to them - it did make me feel I'd used the egg white though!

Bake in the preheated oven. We like our baked goods very well done so I cooked them for 15 minutes, but start checking them after 12 if you like things less well done.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Something old, something new

Doesn't it bug you when you have an idea for a card clear in your head and when you make it, it turns out to be nothing like your mental picture? That's what happened with this one - in my mind's eye, the butterfly motif was smaller, and sat more neatly over the doyley, the shades of green matched more exactly and the whole thing looked more elegant and pulled together. I guess that's what you get for lying awake planning cards in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping!

The theme at CD Sundays this week is Something old, Something new  and I've used some of my very oldest and newest items of stash in it. First the CD the butterfly and dragonfly came from is Carol Ann's Studio CD-17, Dragonflies, which was one of the first CDs I ever bought. The lilac pearlescent card I've used for the card blank is about 10 years old, the darker purple card I used for matting is from a box I bought last week, and the yellow card mottled with pink and peach streaks (which don't show up clearly in the photo) was from some I bought on the day before my father's funeral (it's funny the things we remember about times like that!) 15 years ago. But the embossing folder I used to add the script to it with is so new I hadn't even opened the packet! The dragonfly brad is several years old but the doyley and buttons are both very new. And after sticking the buttons to the card, I noticed that the pink one has the word "FAT" on it. Charming!

What can I cook with these?

I try hard to plan ahead so that everything gets used up, but the odds and ends are starting to accumulate after the weekend.

So in the interest of eliminating food waste, what can I make with an egg white, the juice of a lemon (the rind's gone), a stub of Parmesan rind, 10 cherry tomatoes, half a tub of Philadelphia light  and some Kalamata paste? As well as the usual fridge and cupboard basics, I have buttermilk, low fat crème fraiche and lots of carrots. Oh, and the tail end of a head of Chinese leaves.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Going for an Indian

I bet you are expecting a curry recipe now, aren't you?

But actually here is a card inspired by the Indian flag. The current Daring Cardmakers challenge is Flag it up - to make a card inspired by a national flag. I chose the Indian flag, mostly because of the flower circle in the middle which I thought would work well on a card.

I used swooshes of watercolour to represent the orange and green bands, picking out the colour with matching Candi. The flower and circle are cut with Spellbinders dies.

At a snail's pace

When you're travelling at a snail's pace, it takes a long time to go a short distance, so to a snail, just the other side of the garden must seem very far away. I wonder if, when a snail gets to the far side, the other snails at the first side miss them?

This is my entry to ATCAS #36 - Far Away

In the shadows

I've been experimenting with shadow stamping, inspired by the latest challenge at Less Is More, which is Shadow Stamping

To create the shadow, I stamped the fern in Versamark ink and then chalked over the image in green chalk, first with the applicator tool from the chalk palette and then to even it out and blend away the edges, with a cotton wool ball. Then I overstamped the image in black Memento ink.

On the first card I made, I picked out the colours of the image with Candi embellishments.

Then I remembered that this week it is a one layer challenge - slapped wrist - so I had to make another card. As the image is quite strong and masculine, I thought this was a good opportunity to adapt it to the current Time Out challenge, too - Happy Birthday with a masculine twist

So here is my finished card - although I have to confess that I really prefer my original Candi-embellished version!

Going Buggy: Calibrating a Scan N Cut - and a GIVEAWAY

Just a quick post to let you know about a great giveaway at Going Buggy. And it's open worldwide, although the prize will vary according to where you live.

Going Buggy: Calibrating a Scan N Cut - and a GIVEAWAY

I'll be back later with a card or two to share  if I ever get my crafting mojo into gear today!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Lasagne - a classic comfort food

Forget chicken tikka masala, surely lasagne is now the most popular meal in Britain? It always seems to top the ready-meal sales lists, but I find bought lasagnes either taste watery, or feel gritty, or have stodgy pasta, or tiny portion sizes, or even all of the above. So I like to make my own - it does take quite a long time, but you don't actually spend much of that time in the kitchen. I use quite a few shortcuts compared to a traditional recipe, but the result is delicious, unctuous and satisfying, perfect comfort food. I'm not making any claims to authenticity, but I AM claiming that we all love it and it's been a family favourite for years. In their student days, my daughters used to look forward to this as their "welcome home for the holidays" dish.

This would serve 4, when served with salad and ciabatta or garlic bread.

for the beef layer

400-450g pack minced beef (ideally the lower fat range)
6 rashers thin cut smoked streaky bacon, cut into thin strips, or a small pack of lardons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tin (450g) chopped tomatoes
100 ml red wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100 g mushrooms, chopped
2 tbs pesto
2 tbs tomato purée
black pepper

for the sauce layer

1 small (1pt/568ml) bottle semi skimmed milk
1 rounded tablespoon soft margarine
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

to finish

pack of no-need-to-pre-cook dried lasagne (you will use around 12 sheets, depending on the size of your dish)
75g finely grated Cheddar cheese
25g finely grated Parmesan

I use a deep rectangular ovenproof dish to make this - the number of layers you will make depends on the size of your dish.

First of all, make the meat sauce

Pre-heat the oven to 140C (120 fan).

Put the minced beef, bacon, carrots and onions into a non-stick casserole dish suitable for oven or hob cooking and place over a medium heat until the fat starts to run out of the meat. Then increase the heat to high and stir until the vegetables are softened and the meat browned.

Reduce the heat to very low and stir in the flour, chilli flakes, stock cube and oregano. Tip in the tinned tomatoes, then fill the empty tomato tin with water and add that to the pan, swirling it around to get the last of the tomatoes out of the tin at the same time. Stir then add the wine, pesto, garlic, tomato purée, mushrooms and pepper (you probably won't need salt as the bacon and stock cube will provide enough, but taste it once everything is mixed up just to check).

Bring to the boil, stirring, then cover and place in the oven. An hour will do if you are pushed for time, but anything up to 3 hours is better - it will make the meat a lot less gritty, important if you are using supermarket meat, especially the bargain pack stuff! Stir  it regularly and add a little water if it starts to look dry - the no-precook lasagne sheets need quite wet sauces to help them cook.

A few minutes before you take the meat sauce out of the oven, make the white sauce. Just tip the milk, soft margarine and flour into a saucepan and whisk together over medium to high heat until boiling and thickened then remove from the heat. There's no need to cook out the raw flour flavour - that will happen when you are baking the finished dish - and no need to season as the meat sauce will have all the seasoning in it, but if you really can't bear to have your sauce so plain you could add a hint of grated nutmeg.

Now remove the meat sauce from the oven and increase the temperature to 160C (140C fan). You are ready to assemble your lasagne.

My dish is deep and about 20cm by 30cm, which takes 4 layers. Put a quarter of the meat sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread it out evenly. Then cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Spread a quarter of the white sauce over this. Then repeat these three layers until the sauces are used up, finishing with a white sauce layer.

Mix the two cheeses together and scatter them over the top. If you have time to leave it to stand for a while so the heat and liquid from the sauces can start to soften the lasagne sheets, so much the better (in which case you can turn the oven off and turn it back on later of course). I try to assemble it about an hour before  the final cooking, which gives me time to get all the washing up done so I feel almost as if I've not been cooking.

Finally, bake the lasagne in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, turning the heat up high for the last 10 minutes if it doesn't look browned enough.

Serve with the rest of the red wine you opened for making the sauce. (What do you mean, it's all gone?)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Speed Trap

Speeding tickets- they're for boy racers and mid-life-crisis males, aren't they? Not for fiftysomething grans in runabout hatchbacks. Or so I always thought, until one day a couple of years ago I noticed a flash as I was pootling home from the supermarket, glanced down and realised the needle was edging closer to the 40mph line than the 30mph one, and got The Letter in the post a few days later.

So now when I think about numbers, the first thing I think about is that all-important 30, and the much larger numbers that the fine and the subsequent increase in my car insurance cost.

And here are the guys responsible for making sure we stick to the speed limit!

I think this would make a great card for a member of the police force, or for somebody who had just passed their driving test, to remind them who could be around the next corner! The image and background come from the La Pashe CD "Something for Everyone", the speed limit and Average Speed Check signs are cut out from another background on the same CD,  and the "number plate" was lurking in my stash, left over from an old topper sheet.

I'm playing along with Cards 4 Guyz challenge #13 - Numbers

Blue and Yellow

It's a colour challenge this time at Crafty Creations, with the colours Blue and Yellow. It gave me a great opportunity to "shop my stash" - I have so many too-good-to-throw-away bits and pieces and I pulled out a handful of them that co-ordinated, pulled together by a topper made using some of the cover-mount stamps from the latest (and sadly final) issue of Get Stamping magazine.

Friendship is important

For years I've had a little unmounted rubber stamp that says "Friendship is important not only in the shade, but in the sunshine". It's the opposite of what we usually hear, isn't it? "A friend in need is a friend indeed" - it's all too easy to judge friendships by how supportive of each other when times are bad. But if you don't enjoy the good times together, the giggles over a glass of wine, the jokes you share, shopping, cake or whatever else gives you fun together, your friendship may have flagged by the time a bad time comes around for one of you.

Right, philosophical musings over, on with the craft!

I used the  stamped quotation as part of a collage design. The collage background is another old favourite stamp, and I thought I'd highlight the little dragonfly on it  with a touch of glitter. Oh dear, what a mess it looked when the card was finished!

So I stamped a larger dragonfly, water coloured it and attached it with 3D adhesive to hide the boo-boo. You won't tell anyone, will you?

I think it looks better now than if I'd just left the original dragonfly alone in the first place!

The current challenge at The Cupboard Trilogy is Friendship  and I'm playing along.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Cross stitch for a change

I used to be a demon cross stitcher - never without a piece on the go. We have cross stitched pictures all over the house and more in the loft. Then I discovered papercrafts and all my other crafty hobbies were forgotten.

However my husband has just had his 60th birthday. As many of you know, he is very keen on growing chillies and when I spotted a cross stitch chart for a chilli, I absolutely KNEW I had to use it for his card. I made a rather rash decision to make it stand out by stitching it on black fabric. Daring because black is hard to stitch on at the best of times, and I hadn't realised just how much harder my myopic eyes would find it to locate the holes in the fabric than they did when I was stitching crazy, 15 years ago. I ended up holding the fabric up in front of the TV screen so I could see the holes.

I think, though, you'll agree that it was worth it - he certainly does, and is planning to frame it.

I'm joining in with the Daring Cardmakers April Colour Challenge

Monday, 7 April 2014

What a cheek!

This week the theme at CD Sundays is "Something beginning with D" - there's a huge scope there,from dogs to daisies, but I'd been looking for an excuse to play with this super Diving image from the La Pashe "Flippin Families" CD.  I think it's great fun, especially when you open the card and see what's inside! We all like to see a show off get their come-uppance, and these two ladies must have been treated to a VERY good view!


The images and papers are all from the CD - I chose the straight, calm lines for the pool water on the outside of the card and the crazy wavy ones for the post-splash background on the inside.

Because these designs make me laugh, I'm also joining in the Craft Room Challenge, "Is this humour?"  and Cards4Guys Make us laugh

Aga Khan's Lamb - a Random Recipe

The Random Recipes challenge at Belleau Kitchen has teamed up with Alpha Bakes at Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker  - I hope that means we're not expected to bake, because being  diabetic I don't bake sweet foods and keep savoury bakes to a minimum!

This month the challenge is the letter A, and the task is to pick a cookbook at random then a random recipe from the A section of the index. I decided to stick with the letter A for the author too, and my book turned out to be Allegra McEvedy's "Big Table Busy Kitchen" - a book I only got a few weeks ago and hadn't yet cooked from. And  the random number site gave me the exciting result of number 1,  so I was to cook the very first recipe in the index, Aga Khan's Lamb.

everything ready to stick in the oven for 4 hours

The recipe is to serve 6, so I reduced the quantities for the two of us, which meant replacing the shoulder of lamb with a very small butterflied leg instead, but otherwise stuck precisely to the recipe.

It's a kind of pot-roast, with the joint browned then cooked very slowly in a covered pot on a bed of new potatoes, shallots, butternut squash, dried apricots, cinnamon, cumin and rosemary, with just enough stock to stop it burning. Can you imagine what a wonderful smell we had to live with for the four hours of cooking?

Apart from keeping an eye on the liquid, giving an occasional gentle stir (the squash breaks up very easily) and preparing a salad to go with it, there was nothing to do but sit back and inhale. At the end of the cooking time, this emerged from the oven:

The lamb was so tender it could be broken up with a spoon, the rosemary and spices had infused everything, the apricots and squash were melting mouthfuls of sweet gorgeousness and the pan juices were rich and delicious. It really ought to be illegal for something so wonderful to be so little effort!

If you can rec all my previous random recipe entries, you might have noticed what a high failure rate I have with them. And I've realised why that is. In the past, I've almost always found myself cooking from one of my "old faithful" recipe books, ones that have been with me for many years. And when opening the book at "random" I've tried hard not to let it fall open automatically at one of the grease-spattered, spine-broken pages that I turn to time and time again. But if I've had a book for years and still not cooked some of the recipes from it, it's probably a sign that I've looked at them and decided they don't look as if we would like them, or don't look as if they would work. This month I cooked from an untouched, virgin book - and look what a difference it made!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Competition Grape Vine: #GetYourBellyOut for Crohns and Colitis

Nothing to do with food or crafts, but I've posted about an important campaign over on my other blog and I'd really appreciate it if you could all pop over and have a look at it.

Competition Grape Vine: #GetYourBellyOut for Crohns and Colitis

Saturday, 5 April 2014

A stitch in time

Once upon a time, I was practically surgically attached to my sewing machine. For a few years, leading up to 1985, I lived in Hong Kong, where there was the most amazing selection of sewing fabrics to be had. And since I am very tall and the local dress shops catered for Chinese ladies who tend to be a good 20cm shorter than me, dressmaking was a necessity as well as a pleasure.

Back in the UK, I found fabrics harder to find - and much more expensive. And that's got more so over the years. And dress shops for taller people opened, then the ordinary high street stores started to make longer lengths, so my interest in sewing waned.

My daughters both enjoyed dressmaking and machine embroidery in their teens, but they are in their 30s now, and my sewing machine has languished under the stairs ever since.

Then a few weeks ago I had to lift it out to do a repair, and remembered just how much I enjoy using it - yes, even for mending. And it made me think about how much stitching I'd seen in card making recently. So, I've been having a little play..... be kind to me, it's been a long time and I forgot that you need to drop the feed teeth to get a smooth curve, so the butterfly's "trail" is a bit jagged! Nevertheless, I think you'll be seeing a lot more stitching on my cards from now on.

I'm joining in with
Time Out challenges #2 - Home Sweet Home
Less is More week 166 - Turquoise
Addicted to Stamps and More #89 - CAS
CAS on Sunday #30 -stitched