Art journals

16.11.11 - 22:29
Hello there. You may notice I have a new obsession up on the top left. Unless you happen to be viewing this in your reader. In which case you won't see ... so I'll just tell you. I've swapped my 'Wedding' obsession for 'Art Journal'. Mainly because I got married (yay) and now we are back from our honeymoon (boo) I've been quite into scrapbooking.

Well maybe. More like scrapbooking in the old fashioned way. I've kept sketchbooks for a long time. They are like notebooks where I keep my ideas and lists. Sometimes I stick tickets and things in them. Sometimes I draw. I've been following a group on flickr for a while where people add their sketchbook pages and more recently I've found similar on Pinterest (isn't Pinterest great?). Its very inspiring to see other people's work.

I started looking for more examples of sketchbooks with bits of things taped in but with a less rigid feel than modern scrapbooking. Somewhere between keeping a sketchbook, journaling and scrapbooking I found 'art journals'. The journals which appealed to me most were ones where people made them without a book as a basis. They just start collecting pages together and it takes shape by itself. This reminded me of the way I used to work in college. I'd keep all my notes and bind them up at the end of a project. You have less to carry and aren't restrained by one size or kind of paper.

December Daily 28
by ChiekoY on Flickr

from the Hufford House blog
These are also less formal and because it is more of a journal than an album there is less pressure to get everything 'right'. My pages are still taking form, but I might share a few once I really get going. In the mean time, if you like these, I've collected a few more of my favourites on a Pinterest board. I love Pinterest. Did I mention that already?



Happy Halloween

31.10.11 - 21:05
Trick ... or Treat?

Halloween has actually been going on for a week at our house as last weekend we went to see 'Halloween' at the cinema. It was an original film print with all the lines and crackles - very 70's!

Last night I dressed up as a zombie nurse for a 'Shaun of the Dead' party at an awesome bar near where we live. (For those who've seen it, there were Cornettos and everything ;) Marc 'dressed up' as Rob Zombie for the occasion.

Tonight though, we are staying in waiting to see the kids all dressed up, followed closely by the digitally remastered 'Halloween' on TV.

Happy Halloween everyone!



A trip to the country

11.9.11 - 10:00
I went for a little get away with some of my lady friends recently. We don't get to see each other very often so we hired a place out in the coutryside and drank wine and chatted for hours.

The place where we stayed was beautiful and even kept chickens and alpacas. The alpacas were lovely. They came over to investigate us, but I think they were dissapointed that we didn't have any food for them.

are you ready for your close-up?

 We also visited the town of Ludlow. Some parts of the castle there date back to the 13th century. The whole town is beautiful though, very old-fashioned and full of little independant shops and cafes. I got some really tasty Mango Ketchup from the market.



My awesome birthday and cake

8.9.11 - 10:00

Its been a while since my birthday. A few months actually, but I really wanted to write about it because everyone made it such a special occasion for me!

Let me give you a little back story. I had a big birthday this year. Okay, I was 30. As you know we are getting married this year so I didn't want to make a big thing about it as all my family would be coming over later in the year the wedding anyway. My folks however, got together with Marc and arranged a surprise party for me. Yep, a real surprise birthday party. I had no idea. I nearly cried when I saw everyone there, I didn't know what to say.

Marc also made me a cake. Remember some of the cakes I've made for him? Turns out he has a talent for baking, himself! Check out his awesome and huge 'cupcake'. I've seen people use this mould before online, but he even used chocolate to make a cupcake 'case'. There was cake inside it too. Very impressive for someone who has never made a cake beyond rice crispy buns.

So I'd like to say another big thank you to all my friends and family for making my birthday amazing.



Caramalised onion and sun-dried tomato palmiers

5.9.11 - 10:00

These pastry based savouries are perfect for a picnic. They are only two bites big but huge on flavour and use only three main ingredients. Okay it is a bit of a cheat as one of the ingredients is ready made pastry. And I cheated even more by using ready-rolled pastry ... but who's counting?

I think the impressiveness to difficulty ratio is pretty good. They are a bit fiddly, but also very forgiving because of their 'rustic' look.


- 1 pack of ready-made puff pastry (if it's not ready rolled roll it out into a big rectangle about 5mm thick)
- 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- about half a jar of caramelised onion chutney/sweet onion jam
- an egg mixed with a little milk for egg washing
- salt and pepper for seasoning and maybe some herbs (I used a bit of dried thyme)


- Drain and chop up nearly a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes (my jar was about 280g)
- spread some onion over the whole surface of the pastry
- distribute the tomatoes over the top of that and season with a bit of salt, pepper and thyme
- roll both sides of the pastry into the middle (the long sides) and stick together with a little egg
- pop the roll into the fridge for about half and hour (you'll really want to do this or pop it in the freezer for a bit so that it hardens up some)
- start to slice 1cm pieces off the roll with a sharp knife
- lay them on a baking sheet, cover the top in egg wash
- bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180c

I actually made these to take to a social at my work with what I think is called a 'potluck' meal in the US but we sometimes call it a 'fuddle'. However I ended up being poorly and not being able to go, so I can't let you know how they went down. Marc seemed to like them!



Wedding plans

2.9.11 - 10:00
Well hello! I've not been around as much as usual lately as I've been kinda busy with wedding stuff. It seems to take up a lot of my time. Actually thats not -technically- true. It takes up a lot of the time I would normally be blogging or making disasterous recipes.

Some of it has been a lot of fun - I've been making things. Lots of things. Some of them are really easy to do and look cool - like these hearts. I found the tutorial for them over here. I think they make nice decorations even if you're not getting married. I've got a couple strung up in our bedroom which are very pretty.

Some of the other things have been really difficult or taken ages. Mainly is because I had to multiply them by the number guests we have invited!

I'll show you some more after the event, I want everything to be a surprise for people on the day,



Biscuiteers - the real thing

15.8.11 - 22:28

Remember a while a go I was all excited about the Biscuiteers book? Well recently I had occasion to actually order some biscuits from them.

The service was awesome - I ordered a tin of biscuits online on thursday morning, I chose express delivery as I had left it a bit late ... but they were waiting for me when I arrived at my work. They were there by 9am the next morning! They were well packaged and inside the tin the biscuits were secured to the different layers with a drop of icing so they didn't move around.

The quality was beautiful. We nearly didn't want to eat them, but I'm glad we did. They tasted lovely. Not too hard, not too soft and very chocolatey.

They were expensive. Even with £5 off. But I would recommend them if you want to send someone a lovely treat. Especially if they are the kind of person who would appreciate the craftsmanship.



Experiments in pasta: Fregola

13.7.11 - 23:36
Fregola. Fregola? Have you heard of it?

I hadn't seen it before today. I just happened to be watching a programme about Italian cooking and saw them making it. It's a pasta made from semolina. Kinda like cous cous but a bit bigger and weirder. I've never had much success making actual pasta but this turned out really well.

You make it by laying out semolina on a tray and then sprinkling it with water. You swirl it with your finger tips and tiny pasta rubble appears. I think you are supposed to dry it out after that in the Italian sun, which we are supremely lacking ... so I baked it in the oven for a bit.

You cook it in boiling water like any dried pasta for 8-10 minutes. It's very filling. I made it with tomato sauce but it's meant to be good in soup and stuff too. Apparently they save the smaller bits for soup, but I currently do not have a sieve so a colander had to do. You get the picture.

Frankly, I still can't believe it worked ...

Ah, I found the program, it was Lidia's Italy. She explains it way better here: http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/1029

I am rather interested in Italian recipes (and wines) at the moment as we have booked to go to Italy on our honeymoon. Whoop! Very exciting :)



Photography: urban exploration & post processing

12.6.11 - 17:16
This week the weather has been really changeable. Sunny one minute, raining the next, not great for taking photos. So I ended up bypassing my Saturday morning lie in to take some pictures before the rain started. For a while now I've been planning to investigate a row of houses which have had some of their walls removed leaving them with an odd inside/outside effect. Some demolition work was done after a there was a fire a few weeks ago but I think the houses might have been empty before that.

I've also been playing more with Pinik, the online photo editing software. One of my current favourite features is the 'cross process filter'. It's a bit like the ones you get on those iphone apps which take 'vintage' photos.

Here are a few of the pictures I took and processed. There are more natural looking ones on my flickr if you'd like to see the originals.



Do you think it's cheating to use these kind of filters? I really like the effects but part of me feels you should have to use the appropriate film camera to get them.



Home made granola bars recipe

11.5.11 - 21:50

Did I mention I'm trying to cut back on my baking? Well, not so much the baking as the eating of the baked goods. These are a bit of an in-between. I'm not sure they can honestly be called 'healthy'. They have about the same calories as a Mars bar, but they do have way more nutritional value. Pretty easy to make too, and very tasty.

Ingredients makes 12 bars

100g butter/marg
200g porridge oats
50g sunflower seeds
50g chopped walnuts
3 tbsp honey
100g light brown sugar
100g dried fruits (I used apricots)


- Put the oven on 160c or the equivalent
- Put the oats, nuts and seeds on a baking tray and toast for 5-10 minutes in the oven
- Melt the butter, sugar and honey together in a pan
- Mix the oats, nuts, seeds and fruits in with the butter mixture
- Tip it out on to a baking tray (25cm x 18ish) which is either greased or lined with baking paper
- Lightly press the mix into the tray so that it will hold together
- Bake for around 30mins
- I suggest cutting it before it cools as it gets quite solid once it has set
- Enjoy for breakfast or as a tasty snack :)



New project: wedding bolero prototype

8.5.11 - 14:10

Yes, a new sewing project! Wow it's been a long time. I suppose I've had less reason to sew recently but with the wedding planning getting going again I was inspired to start something new.

It's quite exciting actually. I've chosen my wedding dress, I can't show you because it's a surprise, but it's very cool. I did originally think that I might make my own dress, but I'm glad I changed my mind. It's much less stressful to know I can leave that up to someone else.

I do want to make some things though. It seems silly not to use my skills and also it adds a more personal element, knowing you've put work into creating something. Since we are getting married in October I thought a jacket might be in order in case it's chilly. You never know with the weather in this country, it might be a bright autumn day or a dark winter one.

So here it is - a prototype for a wedding bolero/shrug type thing. I started off with New Look pattern 6507. I changed the shape of the front quite a lot and made it shorter. I also thought about maybe making the top of the sleeves a bit puffier? I've been very good and transferred my changes back to my paper pattern for when I make the real thing.

The final one will probably be a different colour so I'll need to find some more lace or create a ruffle for the edge. It's a shame really as that one works nicely!

What do you think?



Easter baking

27.4.11 - 21:44

I hope you had a nice Easter if that's your kind of thing. We had a lovely long weekend off work and the weather was absolutely beautiful on Friday.

Marc was working on his latest comic creation on Saturday afternoon, and I did some baking. First off I made some cookies with 'caramel cubes' in them. I found a new range of baking bits at our local cake decorating shop. It's a range called 'divine deli's decorate!' I can't find a lot about them online, but they are very tasty and everything comes in cute little jars.

We were invited to have dinner with my family on Sunday and I volunteered to bring dessert. Since it was Easter I thought we might be a bit chocolate-d out, so I went for a spiced apple cake. I'd not made it before but everyone seemed to enjoy it. It had chunks of apple in the cake as well as the slices on the top. The 'spice' was mostly just a big spoonful of cinnamon but it balanced out the sugar nicely. Great with custard too. (I can post up the recipe if anyone is interested.)

Now there is just one more day of work and then we'll be having another long weekend! I'm hoping to start a new sewing project, its been so long since I've sewn anything. However, if it's nice outside, that might all go out the window ...



Now with added Twitter

14.4.11 - 14:59
Hello there. I am now on Twitter. Actually I was on Twitter before, but now I am tweeting about the things I am interested in on a more regular basis.

That means thoughts about, and links to, other amusements like lomography, photography, baking, cooking, sewing, craftiness and weddings.

So if you fancy following me just click on the button up there on the left. See you there!



Cherry Pie macarons

3.4.11 - 20:57
As you may know if you've visited here before, I've got a thing pour les macarons. I am now going to have to admit something kind of embarrassing. I also love Warrant's Cherry Pie. It's a classic (though somewhat sleazy) rock tune. So yes, I made sweet cherry pie flavoured macarons and guess what? They taste so good make a grown man cry. Oh yeah.




26.3.11 - 15:13
Have you ever seen the Biscuiteers website? They make these fantastic iced biscuits that you can send through the post, kinda like sending flowers but more tasty. Their designs are pretty cool and even cooler, at the end of last year, they brought out a really nice book. It's called 'The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits'.

Its got lots of beautiful photos, recipes for biscuit dough and icing, useful tips and templates you can trace if you don't have any cutters!

So I chose it as part of my prize from the video competition.

Now. It turns out these are a little bit more difficult than your average cookie. Piping icing is not hard to do per se, but piping it neatly so you can tell what it is? That's another story! So here are some pictures of my first attempt at iced biscuits. I've got a long way to go before I'm at Biscuiteer level!



Diana Mini giveaway from Dainty Squid

25.3.11 - 10:28
Kaylah at The Dainty Squid is having a giveaway and the prize is this great limited edition Diana Mini camera. The 'Love is in the Air' camera was brought out earlier this year for Valentine's day. Its so cute!

All you have to do to enter is head over there and leave a comment saying which is your favourite item in the Lomography shop. That's it! And this little cutie could be yours.

You'll need to hurry up though as the contest ends today -25th March!

Good luck.



Mango macaron in the wild

23.3.11 - 23:46
shhh. If you're very lucky you might see a macaron in its natural habitat.

My second attempt at the Italian meringue method of macaron creation went a bit better than the first. I wanted to try something a bit different this time, so I went for pink shells with a mango filling. I made my own recipe for the filling so I was pleased it turn out okay. It's not the greatest colour, but it tastes good.

I made them a bit thinner this time and let them dry properly before baking them. I also only cooked one tray at a time. They are so temperamental!



Super moon

22.3.11 - 18:41
Did you see the Super moon at the weekend? Apparently on Saturday night the moon was closer to the earth than it normally is. I had a go at taking some pictures. These are my first attempts at photographing the moon and the top one got 'Explored' on Flickr. Yay!



Happy Spring!

21.3.11 - 22:38

Today is technically the first day of spring. The weather really made the effort and it felt lovely to be outside.



I heart lomography video

20.3.11 - 13:10
We had a video competition at my work and I won a prize! We had a mini awards ceremony and everything. It was only an internal event but we had several different categories and I won the gold award for the 'Now you Know' section. The idea was to either teach people something or share something you are interested in. So I made this little film about Lomography. What do you think?



Puzzle Box cake

11.3.11 - 23:00
I've been very busy in the kitchen this last week with it being British Pie Week, Pancake Day and Marc's Birthday (That's Mr Fiancé to you).

Now, traditionally I ask him what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, (like the year he asked for Resident Evil cakes) but this year I surprised him with my choice. The Puzzle Box from Hellraiser. I've not actually seen the film with it being an 18 and my having a rather sensitive disposition ... but he is a big fan.

This was my first attempt at a cake with rolled icing (fondant?) so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. However it seems that all those hours watching Food Network challenge were not wasted and it went fine.

The inside is solid, quite dense chocolate cake with a layer of chocolate fudge covered in chocolate flavoured rolled icing.

I got the patterns* 'printed' onto icing with edible ink. Cool no? I cut them out and applied them to the outside, then painted on some of the details with edible gold lustre powder like this one. It says you need a 'Rejuvenator Spirit' to paint with it, but the lady in the shop told me to just mix it with a little clear alcohol, like vodka or gin. (or you might use Disaronno if you don't have anything else in ... )

I'm pleased with how it turned out and Marc seemed pretty impressed so I'd say that's a win.

* I was going to draw them out but actually I borrowed the panels from this great layout put together by Gonchir. Thank you for saving me -a lot- of time.



Spring is on its way. Maybe.

2.3.11 - 22:32
I'm hoping that spring is on its way. It's still really cold here but this week it's been daylight when I've got up for work. Yay for daylight. I always feel better when I get up and it's light outside; getting up in the dark feels a bit wrong, like it's the middle of the night.

I've battled the cold to take a few pictures. They give me a bit of hope that it won't be winter forever.

 These daffodils are already in full bloom in the park!

The very first blossoms are emerging on the tree at the end of our road.

And right outside my house, my herbs are growing again! The sage lasted through the winter but those chives are totally new. Yeah, they are chives not just a clump of grass.



Italian meringue macarons

28.2.11 - 22:49

I finally got time to try a recipe from Pierre Hermé's macaron book. I've been a little daunted by the idea and not just because of the French text. Anything using hot sugar has generally been a recipe for disaster in my kitchen (get it, recipe ... for disaster ... heh) and all the macarons in the book are made with Italian meringue. 

I thought I'd drag myself away from chocolate, well almost. These are caramel with dark chocolate ganache filling. They tasted pretty good, unfortunately they don't look all that great. The sugar syrup makes the meringue more stable and it was actually easier to get the right consistency but I think I made them a bit thick so they didn't dry out enough. Hence no feet and some cracked shells :(

I also made it way more difficult for myself by making a rather small quantity. I ended up trying to weigh out 14g of egg white! Luckily I now have an electronic scale, but still, I'll not be doing that again. Plus you don't get enough to scoff and they are so tasty! 




Beef Wellington

30.1.11 - 16:41
We had a bit of a family celebration at the weekend. To avoid too much work in the kitchen we decided to allocate each course of the meal to a different person and I promised to cook something a bit special for the main course.

I looked at a couple of different things, but decided to have a go at beef wellington. Which I've never made before ... or even eaten before.

A lot of the recipes I found suggested that it wasn't a difficult dish to make - just a little time consuming. Which pretty much covers it. This is my recipe which I kind of mushed together from all the ones I read online. There's loads of steps and plenty of waiting for things to cool so it's not something you can do in an hour - but it's worth making if you want something impressive looking. Went down a storm with my family :)

I made roasted baby carrots and potatoes to go with it as they take about the same time to cook.

Ingredients (4-6 people)

600g Fillet beef - from the middle of the fillet
1 pack of ready made puff pastry (I'm lazy I used ready rolled)
250g Mushrooms
150g Shallots
2 Cloves garlic
75g Pâté
6 Slices of ham (or parma ham or some pancakes)
Butter/oil for frying
Flour for dusting
1 Egg for egg washing
Salt and pepper

Red wine sauce/jus

Half a bottle of red wine
1 litre of beef stock
25-50g butter
Dried/fresh thyme


- Trim any fatty or membrane-y bits from your meat and put it in the fridge to keep cool
- Chop up your mushrooms and shallots and garlic really small. Use a food processor if you have one, or plenty of patience to get everything teeny.
- Heat up some oil and/or butter in a frying pan add the chopped up ingredients and cook gently without browning the shallots. Keep cooking until all the water has boiled away from the mushrooms. I should look like a sort of brown paste. Add some salt and pepper. This is called mushroom duxelles.
- Put the'duxelles' into a bowl and leave to cool.
- In the mean time deglaze the pan with a splash of wine and reserve the liquid.
- Wipe out the pan and return to heat.
- Remove your meat from the fridge and pat some salt and pepper all around it. Massage a bit of oil all over it.
- Sear the meat on all sides including the end. Then set it aside to cool again.
- Whilst it cools, deglaze the pan again and add to the mushroom liquid.
- Put the cooled beef back in the fridge.
- When the duxelles (mushroom paste) is cool, mix it with the pâté and put it back in the fridge.
- There is a recurring theme here, everything has to be cool or it will melt the pastry! So before the next step I popped the meat, duxelles and ham in the freezer for 5-10 mins.
- Next put down some food safe cling film. Lay out your slices of ham (or pancakes? some recipes use pancakes for this bit instead) so that they over lap. These will be wrapped around your meat so make sure there is enough.
- Take the meat out of the fridge again and pat it dry with kitchen roll. Add any juices from the meat to the liquid collection.
- Spread some mushrooms/pâté mix in the middle and place the meat on top. Spread the rest all around the beef including a bit on the ends.
- Wrap the ham around the meat and then wrap the cling film around it to hold everything in place. Then back in the fridge to cool again.
- Next roll out your pastry on a floured surface.
- Whisk an egg with a little milk or water and brush it on the pastry.
- Unwrap the meat parcel, make sure its dry, and place it gently in the centre of the pastry.
- Fold the pastry around it making sure that it is well stuck down and sealed with egg wash. Also make sure that there is only two layers of pastry where it joins up or the pastry won't cook through.
- Turn the pastry encased meat onto a preheated baking sheet so that the seam is underneath.
- Egg wash the top and then score several lines lines across the top. Egg wash again and make two slits that go through the pastry, ham and pâté.
- Pop it back in the fridge again, for at least 15 minutes so that the pastry can relax.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes on gas mark 7/220c
- When the pastry is golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- To serve, first slice off the pastry at one end then cut 1inch slices. It should be quite pink in the middle.

For the sauce/jus

- Put all the reserved juices/liquids into a pan with half a bottle of red wine and simmer it to reduce it by about 2 thirds.
- Put the beef stock in a pan and reduce by half - add the reduced red wine and some thyme.
- Just before serving add a good blob of butter and mix in.
- Sieve to remove any bits and pour a little over each slice of wellington.