Tuesday, 8 April 2014

double sketchbooks


We did it.
A drawing a day until the sketchbooks were full.

day 1-6 day 7-12 day 13-18 day 19-24 day 25-30 day 31-36 day 37-42 day 43-48

It's very satisfying to see all the images laid out together like that.

There were a few wobbly/slapdash/drawing under the influence pictures (a couple were drawn on an aeroplane in near darkness), but I think we did pretty well to manage one every day. It has definitely made me want to keep drawing more often, and Ben has already started a second book.

Maybe he'll let me share some more pictures?

Here's a flickr set of slightly larger images if you'd like a closer look.

Monday, 31 March 2014

let's cook: shortcrust pastry pies

let's cook: pies

This round of our cooks challenge is dedicated to shortcrust pastry pies.

Sweet or savoury, the only requirements were that the pastry had to be made from scratch and that we had to make an effort to decorate the pies.

My mum made an apple pie decorated with cute cat shapes, and I went for a Stargazy pie, decorated with fish heads and tails (and some stars!). Not very pretty, but traditional.

If you're not familiar with a Stargazy pie, here's a nice illustrated story and simple recipe I found a while ago.

My mum and dad were both in charge of judging this time round as they got to sample both pies.

The results: My mum scored 7/10, with points deducted for a soggy bottom, and I got 9/10. Not at all bad!

stargazy pie

I couldn't find one complete recipe for the pie that I wanted to work with, so I ended up combining a few different suggestions. Here are the details if you want to try it out:

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Stargazy pie
(enough to feed 3 hungry mouths)

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry:
250g plain flour
A pinch of salt
110g butter (cubed)
60-90ml cold water
+ 1 egg for glazing

For the filling:
4 pilchards, sardines or small herrings (I used herrings!) - Ask the fishmonger to gut and bone the fish, but make sure you keep the heads and tails!
2 rashers streaky bacon
½ an onion
2 hardboiled eggs
1½ tbsp fresh parsley
½ tbsp flour
175ml fish stock
150ml double cream
1 ½ tbsp white wine

stargazy ingredients

Instructions

Make the pastry
Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
Put the flour and salt in a bowl.
Add the butter and rub with your fingertips until it has a breadcrumb texture.
Add the water slowly, until the mixture binds together.
Wrap and chill for 15 minutes.

Once the pasty has cooled, roll out half of it to line the bottom and sides of your pie dish.
Add baking beads and blind bake for 20 minutes.


Make the sauce
Heat the butter in medium saucepan.
Cook the onions and bacon on a medium heat until soft.
While stirring add ½ tbsp flour, the wine and fish stock.
Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the cream, bring back to the boil, and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.
Remove from the heat, add in the parsley and chopped egg, season and leave to cool.


Assembly
I layered some of the fish fillets on the bottom of my blind-baked pastry case.
Then I added half the sauce, some more fish, and a final layer of sauce.

Roll out the rest of your pastry to cover the top of the pie.
Position some of the fish heads on top of the pie pointing upwards.
Carefully lay the pastry over the top, the make small slits to allow the herring heads to show their faces.
I made extra slits and slotted the tails in after the pastry was in place.

Use a pastry brush to apply egg around the rim in order to join the lid of the pastry to the base, pressing down lightly as you go.
Glaze the top of the pie with egg, along with any pastry decorations you have chosen to add (I suggest some stars, and the moon!)


Baking
Put the finished pie in the oven for half an hour at 200ºC, or until the top is a nice golden brown colour.
Serve with nice fresh vegetables.

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Yum!

Next time we will be making cheesecakes. I'm looking forward to this one.
heads and tails

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Amsterdam

amsterdam

I'm off to Amsterdam for a few days tomorrow - an incredibly wonderful birthday present from Ben.

I'm looking forward to it very much!

The desk calendar above was a nice gift from Simon, made by the Rifle Paper Co. It is my goal to visit all of the cities illustrated in it. I'm almost halfway - after this week, my tally will be five.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

buttons

new buttons

It's nice to have some time to get some long overdue tasks completed.

Today I had a wander around some charity shops in the sunshine, and then sewed some new buttons onto my old green coat.

Good as new.

Friday, 14 March 2014

new year trip


reykjavik

In January we packed all our thermals and headed off to Iceland for a few days - a perfect way to start the year!

Everywhere you go in Iceland is a treat for the eyes. I wanted to take pictures of absolutely everything. The colours and the landscape are so different from anywhere I've ever been before.

And I'd love to live in one of their sweet houses with a colourful roof. Cosy and calm.

When can I go again?

iceland outside the blue lagoon icelandic mountains geyser iceland9 iceland - geyser hunting reykjavik houses by the frozen lake

Monday, 24 February 2014

a year in the making

socks

These socks are finally finished.
I'm not convinced crochet is the best option for socks as they aren't very stretchy, but my toes are nice and snug.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

digitalis

digitalis

I've been spending a lot of time thinking back about nice trips recently.

Exactly one year ago tonight I landed in Melbourne for 3 week dream holiday - it doesn't seem that long ago at all.

In July we went and stayed in an old romany caravan surrounded by poppies and foxgloves in a very sweet garden in Cornwall. It was a perfect summer weekend.

Although we could have done with a tiny bit more leg room.

poppies sandy feet caravan

I do love to holiday.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

a drawing a day

visual diaries

Ben & I started some sketchbooks on Friday to practice our drawing.
50 sheets of paper each. 50 days. 100 drawings.
Let's see how it goes...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

seed bombs for cats



seed bombs for cats


Towards the end of last year my friend Lyndsey, who runs lovely online shop What you sow, asked me to illustrate a label for the packaging of the new product she was launching: Seed bombs for cats.

I jumped at the chance to help out (especially as it gave me an excuse to spend some time drawing cats).


[Photo above courtesy of Lyndsey]

The seed bomb packages are a collaboration between Lyndsey and Josie Jeffery of Seedfreedom and contain 6 seed bombs packed with catnip seeds, peat free compost and clay, 2 seed markers (varied colours) to remember where you’ve sown them, a water sprinkler (varied colours) to convert your water bottle into a watering can and full instructions on how to use your seed bombs.

You can buy them here. A lovely gift for any cat lover (and cat!).

Saturday, 8 February 2014

covert crochet

a blanket for Ben

I made this blanket for Ben for Christmas. It was 6 months in the making but I managed to keep it under the radar - I think he was quite surprised on Christmas day.

I was quite surprised myself, as for a short while it was touch and go as to whether I would finish it in time - I was still crocheting the border on the evening of the 23rd.

All done though! And it has kept us both cosy through these cold January nights. Can you believe that he didn't own a blanket before this one? (I have about 5 - I can't get enough!)

Snug.

blanket in progress

Monday, 3 February 2014

let's cook: soufflés

gooey

The cooking challenge is back!

This time we chose to make soufflés. The flavour was optional so we've ended up in a sweet vs. savoury situation, which is quite nice.

My mum went for a GIANT cheese soufflé:

Mum's cheese souffle

While I made mini chocolate soufflé pots:

chocolate souffle
[Note: The zoom on these photos may be misleading]

I made mine to accompany a delicious meal made by Mark. They went down a storm - they rose well and were nice and gooey. We have since had them again at home (courtesy of Mark) so that's a positive seal of approval.

My dad gave my mum 5 out of 5. Top marks! Although he said he wouldn't want to eat it again. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it did look quite a substantial feast.

A good result all round. And in the process I discovered that making a soufflé is far less complex than I first thought. I thought it was all egg whites and whisking, but my recipe involved none of that kerfuffle (maybe I cheated?).

Here's the recipe though, so you can judge for yourselves:

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Mini chocolate soufflés
(enough to fill 8 ramekins)


Ingredients
200g dark chocolate
150 butter (plus a little extra for the ramekins)
6 eggs
175g sugar
125g plain flour


Instructions
Heat the oven to 180ºC and butter the ramekins.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water.

Beat the eggs with the sugar until they are very fluffy and light and then fold in the flour, followed by the chocolate and butter mixture.

Divide between ramekins (you can put some in the fridge at this stage if you want to eat them later).

Bake in the over for 8-10 minutes. They should rise slightly and have firm outsides whilst still being nice and gooey in the middle.

Dust with icing sugar and serve hot.

I would recommend vanilla ice cream and honeycomb as a great accompaniment.

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Enjoy!!!

souffle pot

Next time we will be cooking decorative shortcrust pastry pies. Just in time for British Pie Week.

Friday, 17 January 2014

toe up socks

Work in progress. Can you guess what it is yet?

I found this part-finished crochet project in my room this week.
I think I started it when I flew to Australia last year, and then promptly forgot about it on my return.

It'll make a nice project to start the year though, especially as these old favourites now have big holes in them.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

advent

advent

Ben and I both made surprise advent calendars for each other this year.
I enjoyed both the making and the opening very much.
A nice build up to Christmas.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2014

card

Happy new year!

2013 was my favourite year to date - I hope this year lives up to it!
I'm off to Iceland on Friday which seems like a good way to kick things off.

Above is one of the Christmas cards that Ben and I made this year. Can you guess which robin was done by who?

And some more photos of our production line...

card making

Monday, 9 September 2013

eotr

end of the road

I went to End of the Road a couple of weekends ago. A lovely time as always!

Highlights included: David Byrne and St Vincent, Teleman, East India Youth, Belle & Sebastian, Jens Lekman and Tigercats. Oh, and Breakfast with the Inkspots. An early morning treat.

I guess that means autumn is drawing in now. I've already noticed leaves on the ground, and mince pies in the shops!

Good thing I've still got a summer holiday to look forward to.

sea shells and butterflies

butterfly coral shells butterfly

Well, August slipped by in a flash. Not sure what happened there.

At the beginning of the month I took a trip to Oxford to listen to some nice music in a bedouin tent. While I was there I also paid a visit to the Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum.

I've been meaning to go on a trip there since I did my MA so it was nice to finally have a look at the collection. I found the mummified animals most interesting.

Monday, 29 July 2013

around the house

pineapplesheetrose

Paper pineapple // New sheets to start the week // A rose from the garden