Friday, 21 August 2015

Slurp slurp! Iced Chai Tea Latte

(firstly, apologies for lack of images in this word heavy post...I am currently having image loading issue and will add some as soon as possible...Ange x)

My first experience of Iced Tea Latte was surprisingly, for someone in the 40s, not that long ago...and I remember it well. I've never really been interested in milky drinks, let alone cold milky tea...from childhood I hated the taste of milk on it's own. Hated it on breakfast cereals...I actually eat cereals dry (yep I'm a bit weird like that) Milkshakes were fine if flavoured well, but milky tea...yuck! My tea was always hot, strong with the emphasis on the flavour of the tea leaves...and in some cases drunk black with no milk at all. I would drink an iced black tea....but a latte version? never really caught my fancy...

...so it was only a couple of years ago that I found myself wandering around one of our many local food fairs - there was music playing, lots to see and do, lots of food to sample, it was an unusually hot beautiful day...and I was feeling parched. My bottle of water I tend to carry around in my bag was long drained and I needed fluids....fast! I had the usual choice of going into a store and buying an overpriced bottle of water (errr no thank you!), or treating myself to a tipple from one of the food stalls. They had the usual number of 'brand' coffee shop stalls such as Costa and Starbucks, some bars selling alcoholic drinks and a lovely collection of independent coffee houses and bakeries...all offering beverages in an overwhelming choice of flavours and varieties. Alcohol was not really a fancy...a bit to early in the day for me and too hot, Starbucks and Costa a no from the start (I do not buy from Starbucks full stop - I have reasons many to do with UK tax evasion practices...but hey that's my choice, I know so many of you out there love them so that's fine, I accept that, but I personally will not give them my money). So, that left the independents....all I had to do was decide what to have.

Hot drinks didn't do it for me on such a hot day....smoothies milkshakes and all their cool icecreaminess were tempting but a tad boring on the flavour varieties available and I was after something cool refreshing, unusual and maybe a bit more grown up! An independent Birmingham bakery store came to my rescue!

I noticed at this stall a small selection of iced teas and lattes and although I've baulked at drinking this kind of thing in thepast, the flavours they offered were intriguing from mango with green tea to coconut, real vanilla, earlgreys and their 'special spiced'. Seeing my dilemma, a helpful member of their staff offered me a small sample of the 'special'. A wee dram was poured over a single ice cube in a tiny cup and handed over with an expectant smile...'it really is quite special' she said...

...I warned her I was not really into milky drinks but went for it and raised it to my lips....the first thing that hit me was the smell....my nostrils were filled with warming hints of cinnamon and clove...and other spices I couldn't quite place....and then on taste I was quite blown away...silky smooth creamy with a good tea flavour coming through...but the addition of the spices were amazing...it was like drinking liquid Christmas! The only thing that spoiled it for me was an slightly overpowering taste of ginger.....I'm actually quite sensitive and bit intolerant to ginger so it kind of took over all my taste buds in a not so pleasing way. Other than that it was really surprisingly tasty! I stated to think maybe I got this wrong after all....maybe latte are worthy of being hooked on!

"People say it's as good as...if not better, than a certain well known coffee shop drink" she said, discreetly gesturing towards that 'certain well known coffee shop' stall...the one with the weird green n white mermaid type wavy haired lady in their logo. "Chai inspired....but not quite Chai!" she went on...so I replied explaining that I'd never and will never buy from that 'certain well known coffee shop' so I didn't really know and couldn't compare...but this Bakery's one was certainly lovely (just maybe not the ginger bit). I coyly asked if she could tell me the spices used...I could identify some...but not all...but she happily (a bit too happily in my opinion) informed me it was a secret blend of theirs, not to be divulged. Such a shame...but understandable...it was worth a try.

To cut a long story shorter, I ended up purchasing one of their plain black tea iced latte which I found wonderfully refreshing, and quite delicious....but just couldn't get the spiced one out of my head...it had been a taste revelation to me and I was determined to go home, do a bit of internet research to find out the ingredients myself...and make my own...surely it would be quite easy to do. I suddenly realised there and then that I was hooked lined and sinkered....I not only liked iced tea latte....I rather LOVED iced tea latte....

Iced tea latte...where have you been all my life!

Yes, yes I know...all you Starbuck people out there thinking 'she's only JUST discovered tea latte?!!!!...that's sooooo last year!'

I know...I know....I'm a bit of a latte novice...I'm a bit late into the game...and I don't even like and drink coffee either....she said, currently now searching for the most palatable coffee laced frappe...gawd help you when I discover that...you'll never hear the last of it LOL!

anyhoos....back to the tea latte...

I found perhaps maybe TOO many recipes for Chai Tea Latte that I did get a little confused and bewildered....most claiming to be THE ONE they use for Starbucks...but nearly all with slight variations...and to be quite honest I have no clue what theirs tastes like, not really bothered either....I just wanted to get one to taste close to that bakery's one... and one that I like the flavour of.....and most importantly one with out the need for the ginger spice! I found plenty of the recipes using ready made chai tea bags, cutting out the need for using all the individual spices and I found some using premade shop bought concentrates but most of those were considered to be too sweet and I found some blogs and websites I read advised making the Chai concentrate from scratch so you can tailor the spices to suit the palate...plus control the sweetness with your own additions of sugars and/or honey. That certainly suited me and help in my need to remove the ginger.

I found this little posting helpful on how to make your basic tea latte - www.samovartea.com and then finally settled on taking inspiration from this blog recipe here from Ali on www.gimmesomeoven.com

...and then I did some tweaking of my own (as per usual).

I felt Ali's recipe the most suitable to try because it was one of the very few that includes Star Anise and Allspice...and now on reflection and having tasted my own drink I made I think I can honestly say it was possibly these two spices that made the bakery chai inspired latte so nice...the ones I couldn't quite place at the time...they certainly add that special something to it all.

I also halved the recipe - Ali's recipe yields 4 cups (approx. 1000ml) of concentrate which was too much for me as I'm the only one drinking this stuff around here so it was halved and mine, with perhaps a little more reducing than was probably necessary, yielded a good 350ml...enough to fill one small plastic pop bottle that I then sealed and stored in the fridge. They advise it is stored a maximum 1 week so this is perfect for me to last just that and I can easily whip up another fresh batch in no time.

I felt her recipe was perhaps too heavy on the cardamom (uses 12 pods) for my liking....I know Chai is predominantly all about the cardamom but you have to be careful with this spice as it can lend to be a little on the medicinal tasting side of things. I reduced my recipe to just 3 pods, and also reduced the peppercorns and cloves to 3 each too....this was just to try out the flavouring and I can tweak this again with a fresh batch...but found this perfectly fine and tasty at this level. I also removed the ginger...obviously for my personal intolerance reasons, but it's optional and would say if you don't have an issue with it, then add it for sure as I think that warm hit would lend and extra something to the drink.

One last piece of advise is that you should ideally be using whole spices NOT ground powders as the powders are concentrated in themselves, vary greatly in quality and quantity and will upset the balance of the Chai mix. If you do need to use ground powdered spices then please refer to product label for amount substitutions. To sieve the whole spices you will need a normal metal or plastic sieve that will help remove the large spice pieces but still allow the vanilla seeds to pass through.
CHAI TEA CONCENTRATE

yields approx. 400ml of concentrate for use in iced and hot Chai Tea and Chai Tea Latte

takes approx. 25-30 minutes prep and cooking time plus extra to cool before use.

Stores for maximum 1 week in fridge

For best results use whole spices....not really advisable to use dried ground blends due to concentration variations (refer to product labelling for amount substitutions)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-6 whole crushed cardamom pods
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
  • 1 vanilla pod, split down the length (do not remove the seeds)
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups (500ml) water
  • 2 black leaf tea bags (I use Clipper fairtrade breakfast tea) 
Keeping aside the tea bags, add all the remaining ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Add tea bags, turn off the heat and allow to steep (brew) for a further 5 minutes. Squeeze out the teabags then strain off the spice pieces. Reserve the liquid and allow to cool at room temperature before storing in a sealed bottle or jar in the fridge (for up to one week).

TO MAKE UP

ICED BLACK CHAI TEA - mix equal quantities of concentrate and water (or to taste) and serve in glass over ice. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

HOT BLACK CHAI TEA - mix equal quantities of concentrate and water in a pan, over heat bring to a boil, serve in a heatproof mug, add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

ICED CHAI TEA LATTE - mix equal quantities of concentrate and cold milk together, use a hand blender (or something like an Aerolatte hand whisk) for extra froth and silkiness. Serve in glass over ice. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

HOT CHAI TEA LATTE - mix equal quantities of concentrate and milk together in a pan, warm until hot, serve in a heatproof mug. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

ENJOY!

PS - would just like to add that while brewing your concentrate you'll find the most amazing aromas filling your kitchen just reminding you of Christmas and spiced cookies or when you prep your apple pies for the oven...totally delicious!.....AND I kept the sieved the whole spices to dry out before consigning to the compost bin and it was just like keeping a little bowl of pot-pourri in the room. We had eaten a curry the night before and these spice aromas helped keep all the nasty niffs at bay...no need for incense sticks or chemical laden room freshener sprays.

Also...what ever you do, do NOT throw out the vanilla pod once retrieved from the liquid....these precious spices are too costly to just throw away and can actually be reused for flavouring sugars. Just dry out, break into a couple of pieces and place in a sealed jar of sugar for bakery use. It will impregnate the sugar and help make delicate flavoured tasty sponges and cookies...just remove from the sugar as you weigh it out and put the pod bits back into the jar. Top up the empty jar or as sugar levels go down and the pods can be reuses time and time again for ages.

XXX Ange XXX

Disclaimer - I am not affiliated with Starbucks, Costa or Clipper in any way, nor with the websites I have linked to and have not received any free products to advertise or use in this recipe. All ingredients are from my own store cupboards and can be purchased at any good food stores and online.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Spellbinders Flower - Crafty Flower Four TUTORIAL

After sharing my recent paper flower tutorial using the Spellbinders Crafty Flower One die set , and mentioning I'd be doing more tuts from this range, I was recently contacted by blog follower Margaret to ask if I'd go straight into looking at the Number Four set.

I was going to do them in numerical order, but to be honest, it doesn't really matter what order they come in, and I'm more than happy to answer calls for help....and, as I had decided to make a flower using these dies for a small project anyway, I thought why not combine it with a tutorial right now.
As I explained in my first tutorial, these die sets, designed by 'Scrappy Cat' for Spellbinders, are fun to use and are more a fantasy design flower rather than trying to emulate any real flower varieties. They do not come with any specific instructions....just an example card on the front to help inspire you. I think the whole point is that they want YOU to look at the individual pieces and make up your own mind what flowers you can make with them....AND what's great about them is that if you have more than one set, you can mix and match the dies to create your own truly unique flowers...the varieties and designs are endless and only limited by your own imagination.
The front of the package showing card example......and also, example here on the Spellbinders website shows flowers made using elements from Crafty Flower sets THREE and FOUR - Romantic Blooms Wrist Corsage.

There's so much you can do with these dies...but I also appreciate with so many elements to hand, people can also feel a little overwhelmed and at a loss as to where to start. So my tutorial is just a basic example of what you can do...it's not the only way you can use them...it's just one of many ideas and a guide to inspire you...remember, there are no hard set rules regarding their use. To start off , all my tuts will cover creating each flower using dies from each specific set only...then at a later date I'll show ideas on combining the sets and mixing up the dies.

As for Crafty Flower Four set, What I do think probably throws some people is in regards to the smaller petal dies. They have slits in them, and due to lack of information on the packet, I guess it's a bit confusing what exactly these slits are for. So, I've looked at that first and given my own opinion on it (my own opinions and findings and may not technically be correct), and then I share with you my project and tutorial on how to put together and complete a flower.

CRAFTY FLOWER FOUR - WHAT YOU GET -
In your set you'll have three parts that die cut four flower pieces - two petal pieces are joined together which I find a bit annoying as I like them to be all separate so I can cut as many as I want without waste...but that's just my own personal gripe. There is one large 5 petal flower and three individual petals and all components can be further embossed if desired (something I will look at in a later tutorial). Note - There are no leaf shapes with this set.
The large full flower die is pretty straightforward, can be used as a base, cut in multiples and layered or used on it's own with a central embellishment to create an instant flower.
The three smaller individual petals however have some rather intriguing slits in them....and I think from my own experimenting, they are there to help with shaping and forming to create dimensional flowers.
Firstly, lets look at the two petals that have a short slit at the base end.....here they are freshly die cut and flat.
But, if you take the two points at this end created by the slit....and cross them over each other...it slightly curves the petal up into a more dimensional piece. You can glue these ends in place to hold this shape...and even enhance it further by using a ball end embossing tool to deepen the curve.
This piece (pictured above, fresh die cut and flat) however has slits from both top and bottom, not quite meeting together near the centre. If you take the bottom slit and cross the ends over (as in the previous petals), not only does the petal curve, but the top split allows the shape to fan out into almost two petals...
The petal fans out into two, but is still attached by the uncut part in the middle. (note - take care and only shape this piece gently as it can tear and pull apart quite easily).

So why bother? Well, personally I think the bottom slits do help shape the petals more easily. I have often cut slits into other die cut petal shapes just like this as I feel it helps lessen the stress and tension of the paper fibres....especially when using thicker card or very thin papers where they are prone to crease and tear if you put too much pressure on them with a ball end embossing tool. The crossed over points also provide a nice base to which you can apply glue when layering up and the petals 'sit up' nicely.

As for the slit at the top? Well, you could say why bother, you could glue two separate petals together and get the same effect...but maybe Scrappy Cat and Spellbinders just wanted to make something a little different from the norm?...something that makes us get our creative thinking caps on? I have no issues with that at all and its nice to have dies a little different from the rest....but, I might actually try contacting them and asking, just to see. If I get an answer back I'll certainly update and put the info on here.

So, that's my take on how to use the petals...now onto my project.

Crafty Flower Four - TUTORIAL

The following paper craft flower was inspired by the example on the die package but is not an exact copy.

TOOLS REQUIRED - Spellbinders Crafty Flower Four die set (no. S2-171), Die Cutting Machine plus relevant cutting mats and shims, Thin card stock in your choice of colours and patterns - I opted for a burnt orange and dusky blue card with a slightly distressed effect, Inks of your choice for further distressing (optional) - I used Tim Holtz Distress Inks in Rusty Hinge and Faded Jeans. Scissors, tweezers, and various sized ball end embossing tools. Glues - I use Anitas Tacky glue, and Pinflair Glue Gel.
For my flower I used 2 x large 5petal flower, 8 x small individual petal, 5x heart shape petal in the burnt orange card, and 10 x largest individual petal in the dusky blue card.
I inked up the edges using distress inks just to add a bit more depth in colour.
And then curved and shaped the pieces using ball end embossing tools.....
I first shaped the petal top edge by flipping over the piece, working from the back and running the ball end tool across the edge. The card creased a little which was the distressed type look I was going for....
...then I flipped it back over, right side up, crossed over the split ends (as explained in the first part of the blog post), then gently pressed the embossing tool into the area above the split and working in a small circular movement, deepened the curve. The split end points were then secured with a tiny dab of glue.

Once all the petals were shaped, I then set about assembling the flower.
Small dabs of glue were applied to the centre of one of the full 5petal flower pieces and the second piece layered on top, slightly offset so all the petals are visible.
I then started layering and gluing in the heart shaped petal pieces (in the same colour), making sure they were overlapped but not too neatly....I am looking for a shabby feel to this flower.
Next I added layers of the blue petals - 6 for the first layer, 4 for the next. All that is left to do is add the centre pieces using the smallest petals....
 I took four of the smallest petals and curled them up and glued together....like the centre of a rose bud, and this was set aside to dry...

...the remaining four small petal pieces were layered and glued into the flower.
A blob of Pinflair Glue Gel was placed into the centre (using a cocktail stick) before sticking the curled centre piece in. Glue gel is good for this as it's thick and holds the piece in place better....but will take some time to set.
 
So, here it is...my completed flower. Please note there are no leaf shapes with this set. If you wish to incorporate leaves, you will need to use dies from another set. This particular flower that I made looks a bit rose like so if I wanted to add leaves, I'd probably go for a rose shaped one....but, to honest it's a fantasy flower...so anything goes!
 
and this is what I used it on -
I used the flower to embellish a little cushion shaped gift box. The card and colours used to make the flower was chosen on purpose to co-ordinate with the card I used to make the box....
The gift box was made using an X cut die.....
....and finished of with some black satin ribbon. Once I'd tied the bow I decided not to add any leaves or a tag as I felt it would have looked too fussy.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it interesting and useful!
 
XXX Ange XXX


Thursday, 11 June 2015

BIG SHOT PLUS Part2

In my last post on my new die cutting machine Big Shot Plus I talked about the features of the machine and why I bought it, what you get, plus how to assemble for use (if you haven't seen it, here's the link - Big Shot Plus Part1 )

In this post I'm showing you my initial experiences with it and how it has compared to using my other two manual machines (Grand Calibur and Cuttlebug).

The biggest frustration I have had with my Grand Calibur (apart from being unable to use steel rule dies in it) has been it's 'dead spot' in the middle of the rollers...and area of less pressure and evenness which resulted in an inability to completely cut through some larger dies without having to rotate and move the dies and paper about numerous times....and in the case of large embossing folders a patch in the centre with no clear patterning. For a small number of my dies rotating them has not been possible because in order to place the dies (and embossing plates) in an area to reach the uncut/un-embossed sections, I would have to rotate a 'one quarter turn' (ie 90degrees), and the width of the opening of the machine just doesn't allow the die or folder to fit through. Even adding paper shims to the process didn't really help and I was too worried at adding too many, putting too much pressure on the machine and damaging the mechanism. These dies and folders became my 'nemesis' pieces...rendering me frustrated and giving up....rendering them pretty unusable. The following photos probably explain this a bit better.

Firstly I'd just like to make it clear that I am not running down Spellbinders (their dies are fabulous) or saying the Grand Calibur is rubbish...because it's not...it has served me reasonably well. After trying a couple of other GC machines I am led to believe that each machine has dead spots of varying degrees...it's seemingly common...and is found on most machines, NOT just with Spellbinders...even the new TODO machine has weak spots! The other Grand Caliburs I tried seemed pretty good and better than mine so I seem to have an unusually bad one. I'm told this is due to the machines being hand assembled and no rollers are placed the same, so there can be minor discrepancies in settings. There are also some pretty poor quality dies out there too so throw those into the mix and I was onto a loser from the word go. Anyway, there ARE some niggles with the original machine that Spellbinders did take into account and they have slightly tweaked and improved on the mechanisms and brought out an updated model....namely they have removed the white plastic tray in the opening which had 'wigs/lips' at each side that limited the width to 8 1/4 inches. The newer model has an opening of 8 1/2 inch...slightly better and many people love using their GCs...but sadly it still doesn't fulfil all my requirements.

So, on to the new Big Shot Plus machine. As I talked about in the previous post...it has a 9 inch wide opening. Ok, so not that much bigger than the upgraded Grand C...but enough to make a difference...and yes, still not wide enough to rotate some of my dies 90 degrees BUT the difference is in the powerful metal mechanism with much more even pressured rollers that meant I found I was rotating and moving the dies about less...and in some cases eliminating the process altogether. ALL my 'nemesis' dies are now once again useable.

Lets have a look at my 'nemesis' dies and how they faired with my Big Shot Plus -

In order to conduct a fair experiment I used the same type of paper with all the dies...and decided to give the machine a good testing by using my personally hated craft construction paper -
This paper is a low quality paper, with soft loose fibre construction, cheap and excellent for sketching on, using to cut and make proto type models etc but not quality enough to use on cards and is a nightmare to use with intricate patterned dies because it does not readily release and tears so easily.

Nemesis die number 1 - Tattered Lace 'Bella'
 I LOVE this die...such a pretty delicate design, yes small enough to rotate BUT it has never cut cleanly in my GC nor Cuttlebug! I've never managed to get a complete and successful cut without at least 4 rotations and runs through the machine and nerve wracking peeling out of the die and trying not to tear the thin intricate sections. I've also tried using wax release paper with limited success. I've never doubted the quality of the Tattered Lace dies...they are top notch, but have held off from buying many as I didn't think my GC coped with them well enough.
VERDICT - I was shocked to find I ran this die through my BSPlus and it came out fully cut FIRST PASS THROUGH...no rotating required what so ever! I couldn't believe it so tried again, placed the die dead centre in the rollers at what I thought would be the dead spot...and again it cut out first time...no problems what so ever. It was still a teeny bit difficult releasing some of the areas out of the die but I put that down to the poor quality paper used.

Nemesis die number 2 - Spellbinders Romantic Rose S5 230.
Another intricate patterned die that I could not get a clean cut around the edge in the middle bits.
VERDICT - This die also cut cleanly first run through and released form the die easily. YAY we were on a roll! (The eagle eyed amongst you might notice a bit missing from the left hand side halfway down.....this happened after cutting. I stacked the die cut pieces together and they got tangled up and a couple ripped as I tried to separate them for photographing...doh!)

Nemesis dies number 3...and 4 - Create & Craft Couture 'Summer Blossoms' and 'Holly Jolly' (largest template dies)
More large intricate dies that wouldn't cut cleanly. Small enough to rotate if you are completely cutting out the pieces for frames...but again needed at least 4 passes through the machine and also presented big problems if trying to cut negative/aperture style directly from the card stock base.
VERDICT - They all cut clean and easily with just two passes (with one rotation) through the Big Shot Plus...and came out even better when tried using a better quality paper.
 
Nemesis die number 5 - Create & Craft Couture Collection 'Deco Boutique' (largest template die)
I found this one a real nasty to cut with my machines, so much so I avoid using it...it's a fantastic design, beautiful patterning but I have only ONCE managed to get a full cut which required so many nervous rotations and passing back and forth through the machine with more pieces of tape holding the paper and die down than I care to talk about. Even after a successful cut I never quite managed to fully release it from the die without tearing a bit...the stems of the flowers are so thin even wax release paper didn't help. Being 7 inches at it's widest point I couldn't rotate it if used to create an aperture in a cardstock base
VERDICY - It cut cleanly with just two passes (and one rotation) BUT the poor quality construction paper was a nightmare to release from the die and tore to bits. So success in cutting, but the paper let me down. I cut again using a better quality paper (smooth printed 200gsm) and it ran through in two passes and one rotation AND released cleanly....
 
Whoop whoop! A great success and I can now use this wonderful die again!
 
Nemesis die number 6 - Xcut frame
Another die that suffered from dead spots and being over 8inch long it was a squeeze to rotate 90 degrees and run through the Grand Calibur. A total no go with the Cuttlebug because it too didn't cut clean and I was not able to rotate at all.
VERDICT - It cut clean and fully in ONE pass through the BSPlus machine...no rotations required! Success!
 
Nemesis die number 7 - Tonic Dies 'Keepsake Cracker'
This die does actually cut out....but the dead spots running down the centre meant the three score lines that enable you to fold and form the main body of the cracker, were not achieved. I've had to try to score by hand and this is time consuming to make sure you can get clean enough lines and sharp edges....careful measuring required...not as easy as you think when you got many to make at Xmas time! The die measures approx. 8 x 9 3/4 inches so you cannot run this through a Cuttlebug...and you cannot rotate it 90 degrees in the Grand Calibur to overcome the dead spots.
The Tonic Keepsake Cracker die...showing the three lines running horizontally through the mid section. These are not cut lines...but score lines and the dead spots on the rollers miss them out and you cannot rotate the die to try to rectify this.
This image shows the die all set up in the plates ready to cut...this is a full sheet of construction paper that is nearly 23 cm wide, larger than A4 size and I haven't had to cut the edges down to fit it through! My Grand Calibur only just manages to take the width of A4 paper, but only if you are precise and accurate and get the paper and plates dead square and lined up exactly or else the paper catches on the sides and wrinkles up. So, that's another 'plus' for the Plus!
VERDICT - With even pressure and power of the rollers this die went through the BSPlus fully cut and fully scored in ONE pass! Hurrah! No need to rotate...which is good as it would fit this machine either!
and even with the cheap quality paper, it cut and folded neatly and precisely to form a 'cracking' cracker!
 
and now on to my most hated die...
 
Nemesis die number 8 - Marianne Designs 'Anja's Squares'
I love Marianne Designs...especially the ones with the fretwork designs, have many of them and use them a lot and I'd never had any problems cutting MD dies...until I got this one. It's barely 10cm square in size so easily to rotate but boy it has NEVER cut cleanly and it has proved difficult to rotate and pass through the machine because it shifts and falls away from the die and double cuts. But it suffers dead spots badly. The outside edge is not a problem...it is the fretwork parts that won't cut properly. It is THE most difficult one to cut out of ALL my die collection (and I have many dies!)
Using construction paper was asking for trouble...and I had lots of masking tape at the ready too...I wasn't very hopeful...
VERDICT - Just TWO passes through with ONE rotation and this was the first time I'd managed success and to see the die cut in all its glory!
what was even more amazing was that the pressure of the BSPlus rollers actually embossed the paper while it cut it...I didn't have to re run the piece through with an embossing mat...something I've never managed to achieve with this die anyway.

and finally.....

Nemesis die number 9 - ALL Border design dies
Not just the Memory Box one pictured...but ALL the border dies in my collection that has one side or more that does not cut out. It was ok if I cut with them on the vertical, so they could be placed under the best parts of the roller avoiding the dead spots...but if I wanted to cut on the horizontal, then I couldn't get a clean cut through the centre and couldn't rotate the card 90 degrees if the card stock itself was too 'wide' to fit through the machine. This card below shows the border die cut on the horizontal. I had to borrow another friends machine to run it through and it still took two passes through their machine to get a clean cut.
The height of the card meant I couldn't rotate it to have the paper placed on it's side and thus die cut on the vertical, or even place the die at an angle which is an in trend thing to do on cards at the moment too. It limited what size and design cards I could make and use these dies on.
VERDICT - I happily found that all my border dies went through my BSPlus with one pass...two at the very most and fitted through comfortably both placed vertical and horizontally. This Memory Box die 'Kensington border' is pictured because it's the most intricate design of my collection of border dies...and it cut and released perfectly in one pass....even with the poor quality construction paper!
 
and finally.....onto embossing folders!
 
I don't own many A4 embossing folders because those I did have didn't run through my Grand Calibur cleanly and I was left with bare patches in the middle...so it put me off buying more. Even some of the smaller folders had dead spots and needed constant rotating and moving about. Those I tried to use I had had to cover up the bare un-embossed sections with mats and flowers and other embellishments...which meant I was limited with what I could design using them.
I'm happy to say ALL my folders emboss perfectly through the Big Shot Plus....all only requiring ONE pass through, not rotations required. The even pressure of the rollers provides a great deep clean embossed image...fantastic!
 
....so I guess that means I can go and buy some more A4 folders! ;)
 
So, that rounds up what I've managed with my 'problem' dies and folders...I'm a very happy gal now and LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Big Shot Plus. 
The grotty bits of masking tape are already accumulating on the machine...which means one thing...it's found it's home...it's here to stay!
 
Next post on my BigShotPlus will cover the various shims and plates required to cut different makes of dies and folders.
 
XXXAngeXXX