Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sweetheart Porridge

Have you heard about the Great British Porridge Challenge? You can read more about it on my other blog, Competition Grape Vine and submit your entry on their website or Facebook page. Your porridge recipe could win a gourmet experience at Simon Rimmer's restaurant, Earle. The closing date is March 6th.

And you can win a hamper of Mornflake goodies in a separate competition, over on the Grape Vine blog.

Here is a recipe from The Porridge Lady to give you some inspiration for your own entry.

Sweetheart Porridge     
This recipe uses the natural sweetness of berries topped with the sweet treat of white chocolate.

Serves: Two
Cooking & preparation time: 6 mins


15g white chocolate
80g Mornflake jumbo oats
200ml milk
200ml cold water
80g frozen berries
1 dessertspoon runny British honey


Coarsely grate the white chocolate and set aside.  
Into a deep saucepan place the oats, water and milk.
Then put the saucepan over a high heat and cook for 2 mins stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the oats for a further 2-3 mins or until you have a nice creamy Porridge.
Pour the Porridge into two bowls.
Swirl the frozen berries into the Porridge (they will be like little frozen fruit pops!).
Top with a swirl of honey.
Finally garnish with the grated chocolate and serve hot to your sweetheart for breakfast. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

More metal

I wasn't very happy with the card I made for this week's Less is More metal challenge. Fortunately I had one more scrap of sheet metal in my bits box, this time gold coloured, so I decided to play around with die cutting it before embossing. I'm rather pleased with the butterfly that resulted - it's very crisp and bold, and I think it goes well with the textured black card I mounted it on.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Meal Planning Monday February 24th

It's just dawned on me that I've planned and shopped for about twice as many meals as we can possibly fit in to one week! That's what a trip to the Farmer's Market does.... Anyway, some of the food has been popped in the freezer and the less perishable stuff left for later in the week and early next week, and this is the plan that's resulted. But first, a little look at some of the highlights of last week:

Actually the gnocchi was a definite LOWlight, but the egg curry more than made up for it - I wrote about them here.  And the scrumptious chicken and rice dish was one of Mark's creations - he's put the recipe on his blog.

This week's menu is

Monday Wild boar sausages with mash and onion  gravy and Brussels sprouts

Tuesday  Armenian Lamb with Pilaff (an old favourite from the 1970s Cordon Bleu Monthly magazines)

Wednesday Rack of lamb with gratin dauphinoise and green salad

Thursday Onion tart because it (as I predicted) got squeezed out by the egg curry last week

Friday Lasagne

Saturday and Sunday Mark will cook one night, the other we'll have a baked Tunworth cheese. Unless he wants to do the Tunworth, in which case I'll do a steamed steak pudding.

Why not share your meal plan for the week using the linky at At Home With Mrs M ?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Not what I expected.....

Do you ever make something and find that the finished item bears absolutely NO resemblance to the image you had in your head before you started? Most of the time, my makes aren't *exactly* like my mental picture, and often I chop and change and rearrange things as I go along.

But I planned this one from start to finish before I started to make it, and stuck to the plan, and it's still turned out to be completely different!

This week's challenge at Less is More is a recipe; we are asked to use something made of metal. I had a scrap of bright green sheet metal that's been in the "too good to throw away" box for years, so I embossed it with a butterfly folder, framed it with a slide mount covered with fabric-textured paper and mounted it, with some ribbon, onto textured white card.

The flash reflecting off the metal has obscured the texture of the white card, and overall I'm not at all happy with this card. If I get chance to do one I like better, I'll be back later in the week.

Mum's the Word

It'll soon be time to start thinking about Mother's Day - it's on March 30th this year (at least, it is in the UK - I've never known an event to be celebrated on so many different dates!) so that's what I've been thinking about for this week's CD Sunday challenge, which is Quotations.

I typed this Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation into Word, played about with the size and font until I was happy with it, then printed it out and die cut it. A background paper from the CD The Best of La Pashe 2012 and a bit of matting and layering makes a very simple looking card:

Then I turned to the inside. I used a sheet printed from the CD, but it can also be bought as a Double Decoupage sheet from La Pashe. To make the main image glossy to help it stand out from the background, I printed the sheet twice, once on glossy card and once on matte, but you could save paper and ink by using images all from one sheet. I know I'll use the remainder of each sheet so it wasn't that wasteful!

I used the same dark blue card I'd used for matting on the outside to create a liner with a pop up support for the image, then other images from the sheet to make the background. I did consider using the decoupage layers on the sheet, but the card wouldn't have folded properly flat then which would have removed the element of surprise when it is opened.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Competition Grape Vine: COMPETITION: win a pair of tickets to the Country Living Spring Fair

You may not be aware that I have another blog, all about competitions, and at the moment I'm running a competition that you might be interested in if you love food or craft - why not pop over and have a look?

Competition Grape Vine: COMPETITION: win a pair of tickets to the Country Living Spring Fair

Friday, 21 February 2014

Twenties style

I've recently  had a bit of a craze on early 20th century American literature, triggered off by having read  "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler and "The Cult of Nostalgia" by Bruce Bruschi. Both books made me think of this stamp which I bought years ago from Dimension 4th - the dresses are the kind that I imagine the glamorous ladies of the 1920s social scene would wear for elegant afternoon teas. And just look at the prices! 2/- in  old money is 10p now. For a hat! The shoes were 1/- (5p), one dress 2/6 (12.5p) and one of the dresses a whopping 7/6 (37.5p) - and that was for the finished product, not just for a paper pattern.

I used papers from a My Mind's Eye set that had been free with a magazine last year, stamping the image on to two of the papers to use to paper-piece the garments. I'd wanted to make the garments stand out from the background, but looking at it on the screen now I wish I'd done the shoe too, I think I will go back and add it after I've posted this!

Cutting one of the papers with pinking shears, adding buttons, faux stitching and a dressform give a feel of a dressmaker's studio to the card - perhaps the dressmaker was selling her finished creations?

I'm joining in with

Oldie but a Goodie - Buttons

Craft Room Challenge - Colour Challenge

OLLCB - challenge 150 Fashionista

A hit and a miss

There were two meatless meals on my plan for this week, both using recipes I hadn't tried before.

The first was butternut squash gnocchi with sage butter, based on a pumpkin gnocchi recipe I found here. I  halved the recipe, to serve two,  and replaced the pumpkin with butternut squash, thinking they would be identical in texture and cooking properties. I was wrong........ the "dough" was almost liquid when I'd added the eggs and flour, so I had to add more flour, and more, and more.....

I ended up with enough gnocchi to feed a small army.

I open-froze half of it but there was still far too much for two! And when I went to cook it, it had gone sloppy again and developed a gluey texture, probably as a result of overworking when I had to keep adding more and more flour.

It looked quite pretty when it was cooked, and I served it with grated parmesan and some butter that had been melted and infused with sage leaves. It didn't taste too bad either, although most of the flavour came from the sage in the butter. But oh dear, it really wasn't very pleasant to eat. It was heavy, claggy and indigestible. I won't be swapping pumpkin for butternut squash again in a hurry!

Moving on a couple of days, last night I made  South Indian Egg Curry with rice & lentil pilau which is on page 90 of the March 2014 issue of BBC Good Food magazine - I expect the recipe will appear on BBC Good Food soon but at the moment the magazine is still available in the shops.

It was simple enough for a quick dinner on a busy day, dirt cheap to make (my local supermarket has free range eggs at £2 for 15 at the moment, tinned tomatoes at 50p a tin and lentils at 99p for a pack that would make this dish around 12 times!) and yet absolutely delicious. And as you can see, it looks pretty special too!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A waterfall for spring

Water, water everywhere...... Some of the waterfalls here in the UK at present must be looking pretty spectacular. But that's not the kind of waterfall I'm talking about - today I have made a waterfall card  from the beautiful Design House CD "Meadow's Edge".  But I decided to make it a waterfall card with a difference - I've hidden it behind the top flap of a tri-fold card, so that the recipient thinks they have received quite a simple card and gets a surprise when they open it up!

The backgrounds and the waterfall are all from the CD. I added a Craftwork Cards greeting on the outside and stamped the inside with a sentiment I bought from Raindrops on Roses in the USA many years ago. Some tiny dragonfly brads hold the waterfall mechanism in place.

I'm playing along with

CD Sundays- all about Spring

PINspirational challenges 95 - anything goes

Monday, 17 February 2014

Meal Planning Monday 17th Feb

I'm back! After a couple of weeks of mot being able to plan ahead for various reasons, I'm beck and planning again. And here's this week's plan:

Monday - chicken (left over from last night's roast) and mushrooms in cheese sauce with rice and baked tomatoes

Tuesday - Butternut gnocchi - a variation  on this recipe

Wednesday - we'll both be in late so a very easy meal, braised red cabbage (from the freezer) with smoked sausage.

Thursday - still undecided between onion flan, which was the original plan, or South Indian Egg Curry with Rice and Lentil Pilau from the March issue of Good Food. I think the egg curry will win as Mark is wanting empty egg boxes for chitting potatoes.

Friday - chicken laksa

Saturday/Sunday - Mark will cook one day, I'll do steak and chips the other.

You'll find more meal plans and  inspiration in the linky at At Home With Mrs M

Sunday, 16 February 2014

One for the boys

This week there are two challenges that are both looking for masculine cards, and both have to be clean and simple. First up is Less is More - #159 Masculine  and then CAS on Sunday Challenge #27 - Masculine

Now when I think of masculine cards, I think about what my husband would like. Cards for men tend to have very blokey themes - football, cars, motorbikes, beer, fishing, rock music, gadgets ...... none of the things that interest my husband. He likes the countryside, the coast, good food and wine and his vegetable garden. So I decided a landscape was far more appropriate.

I made a background with chalks, stamped the V of flying geese over it, then made the hills and water by tearing Core-dinations cardstock and framing it with a die cut frame. Unfortunately  the goose stamp wasn't cleanly cut and the edge of it made a mark that I couldn't hide

So I had to start again, and this time I made a circular frame which I think works better.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Muffin Topped Winter Beef Stew

As you may know, I've had some tummy problems recently that have meant I've not felt much like cooking or eating, so the blog seems to have been all onions and no paper for some time. However  the lovely Claire at has come to my rescue so here is her guest post for Muffin Topped Winter Beef Stew.

Muffin-topped winter beef stew

For the stew
500g braising steaks, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with pepper and a little salt
2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
450 g carrots cut into chunks
2 large parsnips cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
2tbsp sun dried or regular tomato paste.
450ml vegetable stock
For the topping
225g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
140g cheddar , coarsely grated
2tbsp olive oil
150ml milk

Method Heat oven to 150 C/fan 130C/gas 2. Toss the beef in seasoned flour. Heat oil in a large flame proof casserole. Fry the beef over a high heat until browned all over- it's easiest to do this in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp water and the onion to the pan , stir well over a medium heat, scraping up the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and fry gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened.
Tip in the carrots, parsnips and bay leaf, then fry for 2 minutes more. Return the beef to the pan , stir in the tomato paste, wine if using, and stock, then bring to the boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 3/4-2hrs until the meat is tender. Can be made up to 2 days ahead or frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost thoroughly in the fridge before topping and baking. Take out of the oven and increase the temperature to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
To make the topping, sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add half the cheese. Mix olive oil and milk, then stir into the flour to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add more milk, if necessary. Spoon the dough over the meat and vegetables, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and cooked through.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Masked Moments

This week it's the dreaded  One Layer Challenge at Less is More, with an "anything goes" theme, so I decided to have a go at creating the illusion of depth  and dimension using masking. It's a technique I tend to forget to use, and yet the results can be very effective.

My first La Pashe design team post

You can find it here: Mobility Love

Friday, 7 February 2014

Milk carton style gift box

I've had a change from making cards today. I made a milk carton style gift box instead.

I started with an A4 sheet of white card, and gathered together a selection of foliage stamps and a mixture of dye and Distress ink pads in shades of green and brown.

Then I chose the largest, most open stamps and stamped them at random over the card in various colours.

Next I used smaller, bolder stamps and darker shades to stamp over the background, building up a random pattern all over.

I scored the card into 7cm squares, which leaves a 1.5 cm (approx. - A4 isn't a stamdard metric measurement) at one end, then used an ink pad to define all the score lines.

Then I cut through the vertical score lines in the top and bottom panels, and cut away the narrow end strip of the top and bottom panels. I brought the narrow flap of the central panel around to sit underneath the opposite end, and glued it in place,  then glued the bottom four panels over each other one at a time to give a firm base. At the top, I folded two opposite panels down to form the lid then scored 1cm from the top of the other two panels and punched holes for ribbon to tie it closed.

I finished it with an embellishment stamped with one of the leaves I used in the design.

The stamp I used for the embellishment was one of the first stamps I ever bought, about 15 years ago (if you've read my previous post today you'll know I'm having a bit of a nostalgia fest) and has been my most loved, most useful and most used stamp ever since. The writing has worn off the label but I think it was a Personal impressions one.

I'm joining in with:

Addicted to Stamps and More #81 - Anything Goes

Make My Monday - Anything But A Card

Floral Fantasies 5th Bloggaversary Celebration where there is great candy on offer for sharing a project made with your favourite crafting item (see the photo in my sidebar for what's on offer)

Do you remember....

..... about 15 years ago, when no hand made card was complete without a layer of Mulberry paper? I haven't used any for years, but when I was sorting through some of my stash this week I found a bundle of untouched A5 sheets of it. How old-fashioned, I thought!

Then I saw this week's photo for {PIN}spirational challenges....

.... a row of old-fashioned books. So my theme for this card is old-fashioned. An old-fashioned style of card using old-fashioned Mulberry paper with a greeting in an old-fashioned script. I've taken the colour scheme and the gold embossing from the photo.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Cats and Dogs

If, like me, you live in the south of England, you'll know it's been raining cats and dogs for weeks. Homes have been flooded and left without power, whole communities cut off, roads and railways closed, and there seems to be no end in sight. I'm lucky in that I live at the very top of a small hill, so I'm not in any danger, but like everybody I'm getting heartily fed up with the rain!

So when I saw that this week's challenge at CASology was "AND" the first thing that sprang to mind was Cats and Dogs - at first rain and then that thought led me on to the animals. I didn't think I would have anything suitable for making a CAS card with, then I remembered these stamps that were free on a magazine cover and have never seen ink before. I think the expression on the cat's face looks as if somebody needs to talk to him about his catnip habit!

A rainbow of butterflies

Sorry if I'm a bit quiet at the moment, this week I've been having hospital tests  which have left me feeling a bit weak and groggy, and next week I'm going away to visit my Mum, so I'm not doing very much cooking or crafting at the moment.

I'm still finding it hard to stop playing with the Grande Calibur I got for Christmas. Today I've been die cutting lots of tiny butterflies. The sketchy swirl stamp was designed by Linda Luckin a few years ago - I don't know whether she still makes stamps as her artistic interests have moved on, but I have some lovely and very useful stamps from her stamping days!

I'm playing along with:

Less is More who are celebrating their 3rd birthday this week with a colour challenge - Rainbow
Crafting Musketeers challenge 10 - Butterflies
Addicted to Stamps and More challenge 81 - Anything Goes

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Very Exciting News!

I'm absolutely delighted to be able to tell you that I recently applied for a place on the La Pashe design team and heard this week that I've been accepted. I heard a few days ago, and shared my news on Facebook, but I really wanted to announce it on the blog on an entry for CD Sundays, because it is by joining in with this challenge since my blog started that I've learned that CDs and decoupage can be used for so very, very much more than the "print a background and a design, layer design up and stick on background" that I'd thought of them as being useful for before.

So thank you to the CD Sundays design team and participants for your ideas, inspiration support and comments.

OK, Oscar speech over, time to get on with this week's challenge  Ribbons and Bows. And it won't surprise you that I've celebrated by using a La Pashe CD, The very Best of La Pashe 2012. I wanted to do something that would be suitable for Valentine's Day, and the "Mobility Love" design from the Decoupage Plus section looked ideal.

But being stubborn, I wanted to make it Pretty rather than Witty, so I've prettied it up with ribbons and a lace doyley.