Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Paper 'Faux FlowerSoft' Floral Embellishments

Hi guys! remember me? ;) !!!!

It's been a while since my last blog post and I apologise, again! BUT I do seem to have more people following me on Facebook and reading my posts on there, than on here :( so I tend to post more there nowadays.....if you want to keep up to date with what I'm up to, then I do suggest you join me on Facebook.

I've been very busy painting and doing commission work that I have not been able to post info about but yesterday I took a day out of that schedule to do some papercrafting....namely making some cards for an upcoming MIL birthday, plus we celebrate Mothers Day here in the UK on Sunday 30th March so I have made my mom a card, plus another one for  my other half's mom.

I've decided to blog a little tutorial that came about while creating the above mentioned birthday card. I posted on facebook about it this morning and mentioned I'd made my own flower embellishments....and people have asked how I did it....

so here it is -

Paper Faux 'Flower Soft' inspired embellishments

This tutorial makes a cluster like a stylised lavender or buddleija head.

Firstly I'd like to point out that I don't think I can claim this technique to be totally my own and unique...I'm sure there's probably someone else out there who's already done this....I just think it is fun and wanted to share with you how I do it.

Now, if you know me well, you'll know I'm not the greatest fan of Flower Soft...I do not have any in my studio because I generally do not make cards in a way that requires it. I think it probably does have a good place in cardmaking...but just not in my style of cardmaking,

(if you have no idea what I'm on about...google flowersoft and you'll find out)

Yesterday, however, I was asked to make a specific style card...pretty and floral, lavender flower themed and in this case I really did feel it needed a floral embellishment of some sort. Die cut shapes didn't work, it needed something much more dimensional and even if I did have flowersoft, it wouldn't have been 'chunky' enough. I wanted something a bit bigger and more stylised so decided to create my own version...a faux flowersoft technique, but using cardstock, cut into micro sized bits so I could have more control over size...and perfectly co-ordinate the colour and card with the rest of the card.

TOOLS REQUIRED -
Scissors use good sharp quality ones, I use small Friskers variety which cut right to the point and are nice and small which is good for fine work and snipping little bits.
Card stock in colour of your choice...a great way to use up the offcut and remnants from the card making.
Pinflair Glue Gel adhesive This is clear, thick, gloppy and perfect for this job. It is slow drying so you have a lovely amount of time to fiddle about shaping your flower cluster.
Paper wrapped floral wire stems most craft shops and flower shops will have this and I always have some in my stash that gets used for all manner of craft and art projects. In this project I'm using 'Hamilworth' # 22 which are 36cm in total length and come in packs of 25. I deliberately stock white paper ones so that I can colour them to perfectly match any projects, but you can get a nice green one if you're only ever going to use it to make floral embellishments. Paper wrapped wire is important because you need a paper base for the glue to key/hold onto....I've tried using just plain wire and the glue can slide and move out of shape.
Cocktail Sticks or similar for moving the glue into shape.
Small container for keeping your paper cuttings in place....like flower soft, this stuff can flick everywhere.
Wire Cutters/ tin snips (not pictured) for cutting your floral wire....do not use scissors or the blades will get nicked and ruined....use the right tools for the purpose!
Square of polystyrene or sponge (not pictured) for sticking your wire stems into to allow the glue to dry.
1)Cut your card - Cutting tiny micro snips of paper is tedious and boring...the only way I can think of making the process faster is to take a small section of card remnant and snip lengthwise like this....not completely going to the end...
...and then snipping crossways to get lots of little bits, or 'cuttings'. I snip at an angle to create rough diamond shapes...the pointy ends seem to stick into the glue better. The bits are around a couple of millimetres long...but I'm not too fussy about perfect regular size and shapes...infact the more uneven the better and you get a nice dimensional and texturised flower head.
you will end up will a nice little pile like this. This is enough to make one small cluster...so if you need to make more...you'll need to cut more card.
Keep these cuttings in a container, with a lid if you're storing it for future use. This stuff, like Flower Soft, flicks and flies everywhere so try to keep it in check! You'll need a container large enough to fit fingers into...you'll need to be able to pick out pinchfulls of the cuttings when covering your glued wire stems.
2)Prepare your wire I use white paper covered stems so that I can colour them exactly to match my project...Ink pads are good to use, paint is a bit fiddly to apply with a brush...and I find a good old colour Sharpie felt tip pen much easier to use to apply the colour. In this project I am keeping the stems white.
3)Cut the wire but keep it a little longer in length than you'll eventually need...so you've got something decent to hold onto while applying the glue and cuttings....and something to poke into the polystyrene while it dries. You can trim to the proper size after the glue has dried. Please use proper wire cutters to trim....use scissors and the wire will blunt the blade, make nicks in them...and ruin them.
3)Apply glue Holding one end of the wire securely, apply blobs of glue until you get the size blob you need. I do not advise you make too big a flower cluster or the glue will take forever to dry and it might also distort under the weight of the glue...and fall off the wire. I swear by using Pinflair Glue Gel...nearly everything and anything can be adhered with this....it's a nice thick gel so holds shape well, is clear so does not interfere with the card colour, plus it's quite slow drying so you even have a little time to play around and ease the final covered piece into shape, gently with your fingers.
use a cocktail stick or similar to gently manoeuvre the glue blob all around the tip of the wire and into roughly the shape you need.
4)Apply the cuttings - hold the glue blobbed wire over the container, take pinchfulls of the cuttings and scatter over the glue, turning the piece and dropping over more and more cuttings until you get a nice even coverage all over. Do not be tempted to dunk the glue into the container of cuttings or the glue blob will get squashed out of shape. You can, at this point then use your fingers to gently press the cuttings into the glue and reshaping the piece. Keep scattering over and pressing in more cuttings until you've achieved the shape and coverage you desire.
5)Leave to dry poke the end of the wire into something like a block of polystyrene or floral sponge and allow to dry. The gel glue is slow drying so it will allow you to go back to it after an hour or so of curing, and be able to press and squeeze the shape further with your fingers. Depending on how thick the layer of glue it, it will take 24 hours to totally cure and set, but won't set entirely hard. Sorry but this isn't an instant make...it will need some time to dry so be patient, and try to plan making these in advance.



6)Your floral clusters are now ready to use - trim wire to size, and add to your card/papercrafting projects as required. You can gently brush over ink or glitters to add more depth in colour and dimension and sparkle, they look lovely set into bunches and tied with ribbon.
I'm in the middle of making this Birthday card, haven't quite decided on the layout yet but as you can see, these stylised lavender clusters look lovely teamed up with the lavender print paper.

Hope you find this tutorial fun and helpful....now go make your own clusters!

Friday, 16 August 2013

NEW BLOG!

I haven't been around here for a bit....mainly because all my news has been posted up on Facebook...but also because I've been busy organizing the launch of my new business, Facebook page and NEW BLOG....

so, here it is folks.....

STUDIO FORTY

I'm still going to run The Six Inch Square Blog....this place is where I do all my verbal 'rambling' and info on my various hobbies. Studio Forty is purely for the details on my artwork and services available to purchase. All new pieces made and ready to buy will be posted on there.

I hope you will take a moment to pop by and start following the new blog....lots of things to come, all variety of artwork will be available to suit many tastes...

...and Tatty Button is BACK and making an appearance again after many months 'resting' - I have some printed cotton shopping bags in stock ready to buy now with four original Tatty Button designs to choose from.

Hope to see you there!

Oh, and you can also check out the new FACEBOOK: STUDIOFORTY-ANGE J LEE PAGE

Please pop by, LIKE and share!

XXXAnge XXX

Sunday, 19 May 2013

HAPPY WORLD BAKING DAY!

Did you know it is World Baking Day today?

We've all been encouraged to step in those kitchens...and step outside the comfort zone and be a little braver with our baking by creating a cake, biscuits, just something sweet and delicious that we've never done or attempted before....

...here's a link to the website that has been set up...and for people a little stuck for ideas, they've teamed up with 100 different chefs, from tv fame, restaurants and home bakers etc to supply recipes....suited for all ages and abilities...PLUS an Ultimate Challenge Cream Puff Cake from Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss fame...gone on...dare you make it!

http://worldbakingday.com/#/en-gb

For all you Facebookers, they also have an FB page for you to join in chat and upload pics in order to share your creations of the day.

So...what have I done?

Well...Baking isn't a hardship for me - give me any excuse to get in the kitchen and get those baking utensils out...and I'm there.....but, deciding what to do has been a little bit tricky. Today I'm a little stretched for time....I have commitments today so much as I was really tempted to try the Buddy Challenge, I sadly cannot, and so I picked a couple of things that could be all completed by mid morning before I head off out (after posting this too, of course). What to do that was 'out of my comfort zone' was also a poser...because aside from cooking something I truly hate (no point in that, if I can't enjoy sampling my creations) I'm not easily fazed by baking and will give anything a go....so what to do...what to do....

On searching the WBD website for inspiration, my OH pointed out this recipe

Barbara Richards - 5 Cup Health Crunchies

http://worldbakingday.com/#/en-gb/recipe/5-cup-health-crunchies

...on the basis that it's a sort of healthy thing...and since basically none of my baking creations come under the 'healthy' label...it would be something different for me to try.

There was one problem, however....it contained coconut!

I HATE coconut!...

almost as much as I hate raisins, currants and sultanas!

"Well, since when has something in a recipe ever stopped you....change it...put in something you DO like"...was his reply!

So I did...

and here's the result

The recipe calls for 5 equal cup measures of ingredients (hence the name of course) but I tweaked it slightly and the coconut was substituted by a third a cup each of chopped hazelnuts and walnuts, plus the oats were increased by one third of a cup too...so still maintaining a 5 cup measure in total. I also used dark brown sugar to give more depth in colour and flavour. The recipe instructions and baking times were all the same.
If I may say so, they are stunningly delicious! We've just sampled some fresh baked and warm from the oven and they're slight soft and gooey, and cakey....but I also think once they've cooled and crisped up a bit, they'll be even more moreish!

I have a feeling these are going to become a regular bake in this household and make a lovely change from flapjacks. They are also ripe for even more adaptation - we think adding dried fruit...and even grated apple would work...and maybe some chocolate to create a slightly more sinful version!

Can't wait to experiment!

There will be no waiting for another World Baking Day to come along though...I think next week is more like it!

Aside from that I also baked bread...

nothing new there...but it was Soda Bread, and made with buttermilk (the proper traditional way) and is a little out of my comfort zone because I'm so used to bread made with yeast and kneaded, left to prove etc - this stuff uses Bicarbonate of Soda for the raising agent...and no kneading or proving required...it's a case of mix it, shape it, cut it, bake it...and 30 mins later you're done!

I used a Paul Hollywood (bread god!) recipe from his book 'How to Bake'.
Now, don't laugh!...but Whoops, this is what happened! It sort of exploded out a little too much. Tradition has it that you shape the dough into a ball, and then deeply slash through in a cross shape before baking....this is to let the bread devil out. Paul, in his book tells you to cut almost to the base, but I didn't...and even so it still expanded and opened out to this extent. I think the Devil...AND all his mates have quite comfortably been let out of this one lol!

Oh well...it might look a little misshapen...but as long as it tastes good I'm happy!

Once more...A Happy World Baking Day to you...

now get in those kitchens...and bake!

XXX

Monday, 1 April 2013

MUFFIN MONDAY - Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate AND Oaty Fruity Muffins

It's Monday....and it's Muffins! I baked up a couple of batches of new recipes to try over the weekend and as promised (to my FB friends), after being sampled and some bits slightly tweaked, the results and ingredients are now here for you to try.

Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate Muffins

I recently found a little book  '1 mix, 50 muffins' with some very interesting variations in, but have really only just got around to trying out some of it's contents. I wanted to make basic chocolate muffins and could have used my normal tried and tested recipes, but found in this book one for a marbled effect - ie the mix is split into half chocolate, half vanilla then randomly spooned into the cases to create a marbled swirled sponge. I decided to give this variation a go...but mainly because the instructions got me a little curious. It called for the whole batter mix to be mixed up as vanilla, then halved into two bowls, and an amount of cocoa powder added to one batch. On reading this I immediately thought...hmmmm surely adding the cocoa to this batch would alter the consistency, compared to the vanilla...

I went ahead with the recipe...and sure enough, the addition of the extra 'dry ingredient' cocoa powder did indeed make the chocolate batch much thicker in consistency to the vanilla half. My concern then, was whether this would affect the baking. I think it did. The batch of muffins came out very uneven and lopsided...and on pulling apart and tasting one, found the chocolate sections much drier and heavier....and maybe even a tad overcooked. The vanilla parts were much nicer in texture....so I wasn't happy...a tweak of the recipe was called for.

Convinced that the dry powder ingredients (ie flour and cocoa) needed to be equal in weights for both batches I took a look at the book again and took the details for a basic vanilla mix and then compared it to the details for a basic chocolate mix. The vanilla one called for 10oz of plain flour, the chocolate one called for 8oz of flour with the remaining 2oz substituted with cocoa powder.....(all the rest of the ingredients were identical) so the obvious thing was to use both of these recipes instead, halve the quantities and just follow the same instructions as to spooning these batches into the cases as before, to create the marble.

The result was a much more evenly baked and risen muffin...and so here is my amended version -

Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate Muffins (makes approx 10-12 standard sized)

for the Vanilla batch -
5oz Plain flour
half tbsp baking powder
quarter tsp salt
2oz caster sugar
1egg
4 1/2 floz milk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla extract

for the Chocolate batch -
4oz Plain flour
1oz Cocoa powder
half tbsp baking powder
quarter tsp salt
2oz caster sugar
1 egg
4 1/2 floz milk
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Pre heat oven to 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6 (if using fan assisted oven, reduce temperature according to manufacturers instructions)

Prepare a muffin tin, grease and line or use paper cases.

Make up each batch in separate bowls in the order as follows - Sift together dry ingredients, mix together wet ingredients in another bowl or jug, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir quickly but gently until just combined (it will look lumpy but no dry flour should be visible).

Using teaspoons, spoon batter into the muffin tins, alternating the chocolate and vanilla mix.

Bake in oven for approx 20mins until well risen, and tops spring back when touched or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

These muffins look pretty cool with the swirled two tone sponge but as it was Easter, I tarted mine up a little bit more for an extra sweet treat -
The tops were smothered in chocolate frosting and little chocolate mini eggs placed on as decoration...you couldn't see the marbling and only once the case was peeled back and the sponge bitten into, did the multicoloured mix reveal itself!

Oaty & Fruity Breakfast Muffins (makes 10-12 standard size)
This is from a tried and trusted Susan Reimer recipe for Oatmeal and chocolate chip muffins that has been tweaked and the chocolate replaced with dried fruit....for a slightly more healthier version. I call then 'Breakfast' muffins because I use porridge oats.

2oz rolled oats
9 floz milk
8oz plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
half tsp salt
4oz mixed dried fruit
1 egg (beaten)
4oz light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3floz vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas Mark6 (if using fan assisted oven, reduce temperature according to makers instructions)

Prepare muffin tins.

In bowl combine the oats and milk and set aside to soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt...then stir in the dried mixed fruit.

To the oat/milk mixture, stir in the beaten egg, sugar, vanilla extract, and oil...then pour into the dry ingredients and stir quickly but gently until just combined. Do not over mix....it should be a lumpy batter but with no dry flour visible.

Pour into muffin tin/cups (about  three quarters full), bake for 20-25mins until light brown and firm to the touch. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

SIMPLE MOROCCAN BEAN AND VEGETABLE STEW

As, usual....I haven't posted on here for a while. I'm busy with refurbing and redecorating the bathroom, diningroom and kitchen - picking up from where I left off after the professionals came in to fit new suite and kitchen appliances a while back etc (if you follow my blog you'll have seen the photos and such). I'm on the home straight (I think!) and I'll be doing another update and blog post once it's all finished so hang tight...it'll be here soon I hope...

...in the meantime, I'm just posting up a recipe for something I cooked up today. Really enjoyed it...it was a big hit with the OH so I've decided to share on here.

We're in the middle of a snow storm again (it's nearly April for crying out loud...can we please have Spring now...all this white stuff and below freezing temps is becoming a joke!) so we've been hankering after comfort foods. I was watching an old Nigel Slater tv cookery show and he was making a lentil and pancetta stew and that kinda got my mouth watering...

...stew...mmmmmm...stew sounded goooood...

...but I didn't have any lentils (used up my last can a few days ago for a dahl curry) and I didn't have any pancetta....or bacon...or any other meats for that fact...

so a quick scout of the cupboard and armed with an onion, two small leeks, two large carrots, tinned tomatoes and a tin of butterbeans and the herbs and spice cupboard at the ready, I decided to try out moroccan style. I used an old tried and tested combo of spices (normally used for a meat tagine) but the rest was kinda winging it...thankfully it turned out rather good. With the absence of meat it's pretty quick one pot to cook up and serve within the hour...although I daresay, if left over night the flavours would develop even more.

Don't be put off by the long list of herbs and spices...looks a lot, but these really are needed for a good authentic moroccan flavour and are actually in small quantities.

Sorry...but no photos...we were too hungry to stand around prepping and making pretty for piccies!

Simple Moroccan style Bean and Veg stew (serves 4)

couple of tblspns of oil for frying (I used rapseed but olive or veg oil is fine)
1 medium sized onion, peeled and chopped (about 1inch pieces)
1 large leek (or two small), washed and chopped (about 1 inch pieces)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
*1tsp cumin seeds
*half tsp ground cinnamon
*1tsp ground coriander
*half tsp tumeric powder
*half tsp fennel seeds
*1 tsp dried basil
*half tsp sea salt
*small pinch of cayenne
2 garlic cloves (crushed or very fine choped)
1 400g tin Tomatoes in juice
1pt chicken stock (or veg stock if making as a vegetarian meal)
1 400g tin Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
half tblsp grated fresh ginger (optional)
fresh chopped coriander or parsley to serve (optional)

Fry off the onion, leek and carrot in the oil for a couple of minutes, then stir in all the * marked herbs and spices and cook a further 2 mins, Add the garlic, gently cook another min the add in the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer about 25-30mins...stiring occasionaly and keeping an eye that it doesn't dry up...add extra water or more stock if needed (the tomatoes and long simmering will thicken the liquid but it's a stew so there needs to be ample juices). Add the Butterbeans and gently cook a further 10 mins then stir in the grated ginger (if using), turn off the heat, cover and let rest a few minutes.

Serve scattered with the chopped fresh herbs and with plain cous cous or some pitta bread to mop up the juices.

Enjoy!