Sunday, 19 April 2015

let's cook: dips and dippers


Cooking challenge time again! This time we decided to venture into dips.

The aim was to produce two different dips, as well as something to dip into them. I was a bit tardy on this one (the house move got in the way a bit) and my mum made hers ages ago but I finally got round to it yesterday. It was nice to spend sometime baking in our new kitchen.

My mum chose to make a black olive tapenade and some houmous, accompanied by cheese straws, as pictured below.

dips by mother

She had never had tapenade before, and wasn't sure what it was meant to look or taste like so I think she did pretty well. The cheese straws look tasty too!

I also chose a black olive tapenade as one of my dips. Luckily, I found this perfect tapenade recipe on the Guardian website so I think I was onto a winner from the beginning.

black olive tapenade

It came out really well. Super strong flavours!

I also made this artichoke and lemon dip from a recipe found on BBC goodfood.

artichoke and lemon dip

I think this one was my favourite. It's full of winners: artichoke hearts, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic. Mmmm....

It was good for the challenge element that we decided to make dippers I think, as dips do not really require that much effort. Just a bit of blending. I decided to try and make some grissini as an accompaniment.

dough twists

I found a recipe here which I used as a base, but wanted to try some different things out, so experimented with adding rosemary from the garden to some of the batch, and salt and black pepper to others.

I also tried out some different sizes, and tried twisting some into spirals. I think they came out fairly well. I had to bake them in about 4 different batches (due to limited baking tray space) so there is some inconsistency in colour and texture - they are all a bit wonky when you see them together. Or should I say rustic?


I think this was one of my favourite cooking challenges to date though, and it was timed just right for a nice spring evening snack.

cooks challenge: dips

Now to the scoring...

Unfortunately my mum only had my fussy dad as a judge, who refused to try the houmous or the tapenade as he "doesn't like dips" so she had to do her own judging. She gave the houmous 9/10, and the olive tapenade a 6/10 as it wasn't as smooth as she had hoped.

My dad helped scoff the cheese straws though and he gave them 9/10. The only negative was that they were possibly slightly on the crumbly side for dipping.

Ben was very kind and gave my dips and dippers full marks. Emily and Beth tried them today too and they agreed. Thanks guys!

I would maybe knock a mark off for garlic overload, but I'd definitely make them again.

artichoke dip

Next time we will be attempting Tart Tatin. I'm excited about this one!
Hopefully my mum can find a better judge...

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Postcard club

Oxalis Triangularis - postcard club

I recently joined in over at the Postcard Club. Here's my first swap with Ed Cheverton.

He sent me a collage play card, and I sent him a paper collage illustration of my favourite houseplant.

If anyone else wants to do a swap with me then do let me know - I really love sending and receiving nice things in the post!

Sunday, 12 April 2015



Some more drawing practice.

Ben and I have been watching the new Planet of the Apes films and I've fallen in love with Maurice the orangutan.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

secret seed swap

seed swap packets

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lyndsey let me sign up as a late entry to the What You Sow secret seed swap last month. I haven't done a swap for a while so I was really pleased to be taking part, especially as I have a new garden to get growing in.

I really enjoyed preparing my package to send out. I picked out radish, rocket and aubergine seeds (some of my favourite vegetables) and added in some Limnanthes seeds too, as it's nice to have some flowers in the garden.

I illustrated each of my packets with paper collage pictures of the plants, and typed out some labels for the back.

seed packet labels
rocket • radish

I hadn't heard of Limnanthes before, but it is nicknamed the 'poached egg' plant because of the appearance of the flowers, which won me over immediately.

limnanthes • aubergine

I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Nice and colourful!

And I received an equally colourful package in return from my fellow secret seed swapper. Just look how cute they are! Thank you Gabriella.

lovely seed swap package

Beautiful packets, and a great selection of edibles, a lot of them themed around Puglia in Italy.
I've since found out that Gabriella has a great blog called Mangia Bene - filled with 'edible stories from a British Italian kitchen', hence the Italy connection.

Cicoria are bitter greens used in Puglia's national dish, and Gabriella described the Cima di Rapa as Puglia's equivalent to purple sprouting. She also included Carosello Mello Lungo which is an Italian cucumber, and some nasturtiums which are pretty and edible too - perfect!

I had a day off work yesterday so I decided to sow a few of the seeds (some nasturtiums and some of the cucumber seeds). Nice to do some gardening on such a lovely warm day.

sowing seeds
pots in the greenhouse

And here they all are, sitting in our mini greenhouse alongside the runner beans (which are beginning to sprout!)

Thanks once again to Lyndsey for organising such a great swap. I'm looking forward to taking part again next year.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

llovely llamas


I hope you all had a lovely long Easter weekend.

It was perfect spring weather on Monday so we went on a drive to the Ashdown Forest and popped into the Llama park while we were there.

pack of alpacas profile llamas

It's definitely worth a visit - the llamas and alpacas are so cute! And really friendly too (particularly if you have some food).

Just look how fluffy they are!

fluff fluff

Their necks are super woolly when you stroke them.


I'm in love.

guinea fowl

There were some other sweet animals too. Some (stinky but cute) piglets, guinea fowl, donkeys, and some super friendly goats. Like this one...



It was great to feel the warmth of the sun too.
I think the spring has finally made a breakthrough this week!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

runner beans


We bought a mini greenhouse for the garden this weekend and decided to plant a little something to put on one of the shelves now that we have it set up.

We started with a tray of runner beans - three different varieties. Just look at them! Such lovely colours.

Hopefully it isn't too cold out there for things to start growing.

I'm lucky because Lyndsey let me sign up as a late entry into her Secret Seed Swap and has set up a mini swap for me and a couple of other latecomers. I sent out my packets yesterday so will share some pictures after they have made their way to their secret recipient.

Such a nice idea. And it means maybe I'll be ready to add some more things to the greenhouse in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

pimp my fridge


I gave our fridge a little makeover this weekend.

We had this tub of coloured letter magnets which we were debating whether to add to the charity shop bag, but I spotted some gold spray paint on a trip to the local DIY shop so thought I'd give them a little uplift...


sprayed gold

stencil shapes

I gave them a couple of coats, and that seemed to do it. I really liked the shapes left behind on the cardboard after spraying.

fridge magnets


Not too shabby!

Monday, 9 March 2015

a bunny for a baby

Here's a little rabbit comforter I made last month for a little one called Saul.
rabbit comforter
It was based on this pattern from Lion Brand yarns, and is hopefully a nice thing for little hands to hold onto.

I just realised I also made a bunny themed present for his big brother a few years ago. I hope they are a family of rabbit lovers!
   bunny & bear

Sunday, 8 March 2015

make the house a home


We have been in our house for just over a week now and it's great. It's been a pretty exhausting couple of weeks what with packing/unpacking/cleaning/etc, but we're starting to get on top of it all now and the place is beginning to feel cosier and more familiar. A nice home.

mini plants

To make it feel a bit more homely while there are still lots of boxes everywhere I've been populating most of the rooms with flowers and houseplants. Just a little touch here and there.

This morning I popped round the corner to the car boot sale and picked up a couple of mini succulents to add to the collection. I planted this super mini one in an enamel espresso cup I picked up from Workshop in Brighton a couple of months ago.


tiny succulents

I also finally got around to planting my little cat Chuppon that I got from What You Sow towards the end of last year.


The little cat drinks through a straw which helps grow the little mint plant that sits in his backpack. It's so cute! I think Lyndsey said they were one of the most popular items in her shop - I'm tempted to grab myself another one next time they are back in stock.

cat chuppon

I hooked the little cat over this little vase that Ben bought for me at Art Junky just before Christmas. Such nice colours!

Oh, and talking of presents, I couldn't not share a photo of the housewarming present my brother Tim brought round for us on Sunday...


He found it in the street on the way to our house (thrown out by a granny no doubt). It's pretty dated but it matched our wall so exactly that we had no choice but to put it up.

And I do like donkeys.

Monday, 23 February 2015


Ben and I are moving on Friday - hooray!

As a result I spent most of the weekend indoors packing, which I quite enjoyed. It's nice to rediscover things you haven't seen for a while and take stock of what you've got.

Here are some things that I was pleased to see again... 

Clockwise from top left: Ben makes lovely cards // the naked bike ride 2009 // wonky pigeon // miscellaneous

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Things I like this February...

1  •  2  •  3  •  4  •  5  •  6  •  7  •  8  •  9  •  10  •  11  •  12  •  13  •  14  •  15

Some more favourite from Pinterest
Green and blue and bears and mountains.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Monday, 16 February 2015

B is for...

B for Ben

We're not hugely into Valentine's day around these parts, but it's nice to do a little something for the one you love, so this year I decided to make some personalised handkerchiefs for Ben.


I got the idea after I borrowed some his other handkerchiefs and misplaced/ruined a couple of them with leaky pens and such, and wanted to replace them with something nice.

This time I'll keep my hands off!

The monograms turned out ok I think - especially as I was free-styling a bit. I like that the hearts are quite wonky. I haven't done much hand embroidery before (can you tell?) but I'd definitely like to try out some more on projects like this.


I hope you all had a nice weekend, whether you were celebrating Valentine's day or not.

We had a pretty quiet one, and went out for a huge roast at the Basketmakers on Sunday. It was delicious!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Paintwork by Ben

As it's Valentine's day I thought I'd share this lovely photo series taken by Ben last Sunday, on a seafront stroll we took along to Hove lagoon. In his words, "Some of the beach huts could do with a lick of paint."

I think they're great! I'm in love with all the colours and textures - especially when you see them together as a set. So pleasing.

You can find Ben on instagram as @benbenbenbenbenbenbenbenben 


watercolour fish

Here's a shoal of watercolour fish I painted the other day.

I've decided I need to make a determined effort to make some more time for drawing and image-making, and as a start I have signed up to the 'Birds of Prey' wildlife drawing session in Brighton next month.

I'm pretty excited about meeting some falcons and hawks.