Monday, 5 November 2012

MUFFIN MONDAY! Spiced apple, Gingerbread muffins...and a few Welsh Cakes thrown in.

It's MUFFIN MONDAY!  I haven't done one of these for a while...mainly due to all the work going into finishing off the studio which I'm delighted to say I moved back into last week and started work for proper...although there are still a few tweaks and things to tidy off before it's all completed but it's finally a workable space again and I'm loving it...

...anyways, back to the muffins! Today is the annual Macmillan Cake Sale fund raiser event at Clive's work so I was asked to contribute...and of course muffins were the way to go. So, I did the usual batch of always popular spiced apple a flavour I've never baked before - Gingerbread! Oh and I also had a little extra time to make some Welsh Cakes...and those are what I'll share the recipe with you today.
LEFT (back) - Gingerbread muffins with sweet iced topping. RIGHT (back) - Spiced apple muffins with crispy walnut topping. FRONT - Welsh Cakes with mixed fruits.

I have to say, the gingerbread ones were a first for me and the making of them was quite unusual because the inclusion of sticky black treacle makes the mix look and feel quite strange. Although the final baked form is more cake-like, the putting together is done in the way of making a traditional muffin (ie dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients mixed together in another bowl, then the whole lot combined in one go) but the mix is much wetter and smoother and slightly thinner....and I don't actually like ginger (I have a strange allergic type reaction when I've eaten it...worse when it's fresh ginger) so I was a little worried whether they'd turned out fine. Luckily Clive was on hand to do a test taste for me and the verdict was good, with a nice subtle ginger flavour and a good dark hit of treacle...PHEW!

Another new one for the Macmillan event, was Welsh Cakes. I haven't made these for a while but had some dried fruit left over from a fruit cake I'd recently made so it was a perfect time to use up those left over bits and pieces.

Here's the recipe, which I've been assured (by Welsh friends) is a good traditional one...and which uses just currants. For the ones I made today, I used mixed dried fruits instead because Clive likes the hit of citrus from the dried peel pieces and the additional moistness from the larger plump raisins helps prevent them drying out too quick.

WELSH CAKES - (makes approx 20)

8oz Plain Flour sifted*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder*
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice*
pinch of salt*
4oz Butter (room temperature and cut into small cubes)
3oz Caster Sugar
2-3oz Currants
1 Egg
a little milk on standby
extra caster sugar for coating

For cooking the cakes the traditional tool to use is a Planc or Welsh Bakestone but I've not got one and have found a frying pan just as good - a good non stick heavy based one or even a griddle (flat one NOT the one with ridges) will do the trick without the need for greasing....but remember that a small pan will only allow you to cook a small batch at a be prepared for a long baking session! You'll also need a round fluted tartlett/cookie cutter and I used a 2.5 inch one which made 20 cakes. These cakes, in name, are a little deceiving...and are actually more like a flat scone and not a sponge...the technique is very much like scone and some pastry/biscuit making where you 'breadcrumb' the dry and butter ingredients before adding the wet to form a soft dough and rolling out. DO NOT, however, allow the dough to rest or place in a fridge - this will make the mix too short and crumbly. Use straight away like with a scone mix.
  1. Sift together the dry ingredients (marked with a *)
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mix to a fine breadcrumb consistency
  3. Stir in the sugar and currants and combine well to make sure there is an even spread of the fruits.
  4. Add the egg and combine to form a soft dough ball. If it looks a little dry or is not forming a dough, add a scant amount of milk but take care not to make it too wet.
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead VERY gently just a couple of times - take care not to overwork or the dough will become too tough.
  6. Flatten and roll out evenly to approx 8mm thick (see notes below)
  7. Using the round fluted cutter, start cutting out rounds, placing on a tray lined with baking parchment (so they don't stick) ready for cooking.
  8. Preheat up the griddle/frying pan and gently transfer a small batch of the dough rounds to it. Use a flat palette knife or fish slice etc so the round shapes do not get distorted.
  9. Gently cook until the base has a nice golden colour then flip over and gently cook the other side (see notes below)
  10. Transfer cooked cakes to a wire cooling rack and immediately dredge both sides with caster sugar.
  • Use the dough immediately - DO NOT allow to rest or place in the fridge because the mix will toughen up and 'shorten' - altering the texture of the cake. It needs to be soft like a traditional English sweet scone.
  • likewise, DO NOT over knead or be too heavy handed rolling out the dough...this will activate the glutens in the flour which will toughen up the mix.
  • Due to the inclusion of Baking Powder, these cakes will rise very slightly during cooking so it's important not to roll out and cut out too think a round or else they will not cook through into the centre. I tend to roll out to the thickness of about a digestive biscuit.
  • These are very simple to make...but do need a little care and thought in the cooking. Do not heat up the pan too hot or else you'll end up burning the outside before the inside is done. A moderate heat and gentle cooking on both sides until you get a good golden to dark colour on them. You can judge when it's cooked by keeping an eye on the can see the raw dough changing colour and if you still have a raw line in the centre....chances are its uncooked in the centre. I sometimes cook just one piece to start off with, then tear in half to check the inside so I can get a good idea of the level of heat I'm using and how long they take to do each side...before cooking the rest of the batch.
  • The cakes are best served warm and fresh baked. They are nice eaten cold and will keep for a day or so but tend to dry out and go stale quick. If this does happen you can warm up for a few seconds in the microwave and a little spreading of butter on the top adds moisture back into them.
  • I'm on the understanding that the traditional fruit ingredients are currants only...but there's nothing to stop you from creating variations to suite your own tastes - using mixed fruits...even chopped up dried tropical fruits or a few nuts. I personally do not like dried fruit and have on occasion made plain ones using the spices only, although they can be a little dry due to the omission of the fruits (which add extra moisture and sweetness) so are best served fresh baked, warm with a little smearing of butter on the top. Some people even spread jam on theirs!

Friday, 3 August 2012


The Olympics in London are in full swing - if you weren't aware of that...where have you been? It's hard not to know about this event...whether you are a sports fan or not...especially if you are in the UK where it's been held this time around. Well, anyways, the track and field athletics kick started off today and we have a fair bit of UK interest competing and excellent tv coverage. I rather enjoy watching this stuff so quite frankly work has gone out of the window. I had the tv on in the background as I tried to busy myself in the studio....but it proved distracting and I kept downing tools and running up to the screen to watch. So I've given up and decided today might just have to be a day of computer work instead - got the lap top and I'm sitting in the lounge infront of the big screen so I can just enjoy the athletics...and doing updates, blog stuff and research on the 'puter.

Studio decorating and redesign is nearing completion...YAY! I've been holding off from posting about it and uploading photos here as I wanted to wait until it was all done so I could do a complete start to finish blog post. However, as promised, here's one project I've been doing as part of the studio overhaul. Decided to post a little earlier seeings as I'm computer working today -

Up until now, most of my jewellery tools and findings, beads and what not have been stored in various boxes, bags and baskets of all shapes and sizes...including one mahoosive plastic diy tool box (a nightmare to cart around, held together with duct tape, but made a great step to stand on to reach stuff on high shelves!). Nothing 'gelled', nothing matched...not even closely...and certainly not in any chic quirky or eclectic fact non of my storage for art, craft etc worked, so as part of the studio overhaul, new storage was on the agenda.

For some time now I've had one lonesome IKEA Moppe storage unit that I've kept art pens in - a nice useful 6 drawer cabinet in a plain unfinished birch plywood ('cuz IKEA like their naked wood...and also they like you to be creative and decorate and finish them off to your own tastes). Up until now, it remained untouched...basically because I knew I wanted to do something to it...but not what I wanted to do to it...

...until now.

So I decided that as part of the jewellery storage side of things I'd us this box and then get some more (to make up four units) so I could do them up to look similar and then have the ability to stack them all together to create a bigger unit. This idea sort of harks back to my days in the jewellery business and a little metal cabinet I had in my repairs office - a little thing with lots of mini compartments but something I didn't really take much notice was just a piece of office furniture doing a job, storing stuff, a little battered, a little rusty, not much value then...but now, ironically, the sort of thing you see on Achica and other trendy re-purposed furniture sites or highly sort after and vastly overpriced on ebay etc. I often wonder what happened to that metal cabinet - the place was closed down, sold off and gutted out and I heard lots of things went in a skip (I'd left the company way before it shut down)...if that's the case, some people out there are probably kicking themselves now for trashing that piece..and others that had character, charm......and some were even antiques...

...I back to IKEA...

...which is what I did in order to get more Moppe units. I was a little bit concerned as to whether I'd actually be able to get matching storage - IKEA do have a tendency to tweak some designs a little over time, and it had been some time ago I'd purchased the original piece. But, thankfully, they did have some left (and yes they have also introduced some other slight variations of the Moppe) but for some reason they don't list the design I have on their website (maybe they are going to discontinue it) anyways, I got my three extra units and I was happy.

While there, I noticed that had a small display of Moppes that the staff had give shoppers some inspiration as to the versatility of these storage units. Mostly painted up in lots of mixed up vivid paints...a bit crude but fun and cheerful....but not my style. However, one piece did catch my attention. They had attached wooden drawer knobs to the compartments (nice design feature on Moppe is the ability to turn the drawer sections around - one end has a finger notch, the other end has plain wood that you can stick handles, labels, pulls etc). These knobs were all the same but decorated differently - a very eclectic mix of colours...some with patterns drawn on them, some decoupaged with patterned papers...and this got me thinking. I'd initially had the idea of fitting name plates to mine so I could label each with their contents, but was having trouble finding some to fit. Seeing IKEAs efforts made me change my mind and decide that knobs were the way to go...but not their sort of knob...I wanted different things...different shapes, sizes and materials... the hunt for the ideal drawer knobs began...

...and in the meanwhile I started prepping the actual wooden units -                               
I stupidly forgot to photography the units in their original 'naked' state (I got too excited and eager to get decorating them). Here, above is one of the newer designs from the IKEA WEBSITE . Mine however are made up of six compartments - just imagine another two drawer sections on top.
They got a coating of wood stain first (same colour as the rest of my wood furniture in the studio).
Then I painted them. I wanted to keep some unity to the look and used the same emulsion paint I'd put on my one 'feature wall' (a nice chalky pale sage green). This was sparingly dry brushed on and no real care they were going to get sanded and distressed and aged. You can see one of the units where I've turned the compartment drawers around and painted them...the other hasn't been completed and still shows the drawers with the 'finger notch' side.
Then, they got sanded - this was done outside (thankfully had one of those rare sunny and dry days) - paint and wood dust ain't fun to breath in...and you certainly don't want to coat the inside of your house with it! The object was to achieve a distressed and aged look so I concentrated on areas that would naturally show signs of wear and patination ie around edges, corners and around where the knobs would be attached....taking it back in some areas to the bare wood and where you could see the dark woodstain base. I also did a bit of scratching to the surface to make them look even more ragged and used.

Next stage was where the 'faux' ageing really began...using stains and inks applied in similar areas to the sanding to dirty up, enhance the paint, create false splits and cracks in the wood and so on.
Cabinet drawer front 'pre' inking up...
...and after adding more colour. Now, it doesn't look much...but I had to bear in mind the units were going to be waxed and polished, which deepens the best to go easy - you can always add more later on...but you can't always take it away. Best to be safe than sorry! The other thing I was taking into account was natural wear and tear and ageing. I could have easily gone much further and really knocked these pieces around but I also wanted to give them the chance to do part of that process themselves.....I just gave them a gentle kick start! Had I gone the whole hog and really distressed them up...then later down the line, along with this natural ageing process quite frankly they would go past that point of being trendy shabby chic...and just look plain knackered and tatty! If you want a quick fix, immediate look, and the pieces are only for a short term use, then doing the 'full monty' on them would be ok...but these are hopefully going to be with me a I now want them to settle in and settle down and age gracefully in their own time...along with the rest of the studio...and me lol!
Here are some of the full units, mid treatment. I used a mixture of wood stains, Stazon inks and even Distress inks...which yes, are water based but a blast from a heat gun sort of semi sets them and the wax goes over it pretty good...but after all I wasn't after perfection so the odd smear just added to the charm of them.
Once all were colour treated, it was time to wax and polish them. They actually look very nice left at the above stage and had a lovely chalky dull appearance...but I wanted to give them an added protective coating, a bit of wood nourishment and a sheen to enhance the wood grain. I use clear Briwax a natural, toulene free, beeswax on most of my wood projects and furniture in the house, rather than varnish which can often yellow (and is often full of weird nasty smelly chemical things). Wax brings wood to life...
...which I hope you can see above, in the same piece after treatment. I rubbed in a thin even coating of wax using a lint free cloth, allowed to set and dry then gently buffed up with a clean soft cloth.

So that was that...the units were all done and awaiting the drawer knobs!

The drawer knobs at first posed a bit of a problem...for try as I might I couldn't find anything that fitted (general furniture drawer knobs are too big and looked awkward and cumbersome attached to the small Moppe pieces) and I felt totally uninspired by the designs available at the DIY stores. I wanted an eclectic mix...but at the same time something that all pulled together, had some sort of tie, and fitted in well with the theme and colour scheme of the studio...(and weren't going to break the bank!). I found one small set of brass ball shaped knobs that were perfect, so got those, but basically came to a dead end in my hunt. My plan was to have six sets of four handles - some identical sets, some different designs but with a connection, some made of same material...preferably metal and some wood...I was being picky and awkward but I knew what I wanted and I didn't want to settle for second best... basically I concluded that there was only one way I could do that...

...make the rest myself!
I'd recently had a delivery of polymer and air dry clays (intended for making jewellery beads and sculptures) and these seemed a perfect material to use. I did a bit of research on the Internet to see how people went about making polymer clay handles/knobs and the like and made the decision that the easiest thing to do was form the clay around a premade base (saved on polymer clay and also easier to bake). This obviously had to be something heat/fireproof as the polymer is cooked in an oven to cure and harden and it suddenly struck me that I had the very thing in my box of 'bits for altering and assemblage'. Tiny wooden knobs that on their own were mainly too small to use on the Moppe units as they were...but perfect to build up the clay over and being wood meant they could have pilot holes drilled into them so the finished handles could be screwed into place.
The first set I made were all going to be different designs but united by colour, to tie in with the odd splashes of red I have in the studio decor. I modelled the polymer clay around the wooden knob bases...using a blob of clay at the base to stabilise the piece as I sculpted and freeing up both hands.
I made two flower inspired designs, a rounded piece with quarter segments and a twisted rope spiral design. Apart from colour, all had another common design element - a small brass brad in their centres. The photos above show the pieces after firing and I didn't sand or highly polish them (one piece was textured using fine grit sand paper) as that would have taken away some of the detailing...instead they were gently buffed but I also added a dark oil paint to stain and age them. I don't have a photo of that stage, but you can see the finished pieces at the end of the blog post.
The next two sets were also made of polymer clay - and comprise of identical designs....four knobbly pieces made with antique gold coloured polymer which were inspired by the shape of the studios brass curtain pole finials...and four jade/agate style round beads formed using a green clay to match the painted wall, mixed with translucent polymer and metal gilding flakes to highlight the brass fittings and features in the room. These pieces were also left buffed but not sanded to high polish but on reflection I now think the green ones would look better with a gloss will do that at a later stage.
The final polymer set were made to look like a faux bone...each one a different shape and made in white (mixed with a little translucent) then scuffed up and stained (using oil paints) and buffed with denim to give a very gentle soft sheen. The white works well in the sets of knobs as the colour really pops out and gives a bit of life to the units... but the staining and distressing stops them looking too stark and out of place.

So that was all the polymer clay knobs done.
The brass premade ones needed no extra work done to them. They were a bit of a gem of a find and aren't strictly speaking cabinet drawer knobs...well actually the company who sold them to me dealt with antique furniture restoration  etc and said they were supposed to be ball feet for a small table or trinket box but they fitted the bill perfectly...and a nice discovery was that the engraved patterning on them was very similar to the materials on the Balinese wood puppets which are the main inspiration for the studio decor (wait for my blog post on the studio for that info and all will become more clearer). These brass knobs weren't cheap but seeings as I was saving money on the rest of the pieces I decided to treat myself.

That left just one set to go....and I was running out of ideas. I really wanted something wooden and struck upon the idea of using cotton reels. I had some small ones in that 'altering and assemblage' box so went to retrieve them....and instead found buried deep inside that box another small bag of wooden drawer knobs...same shape as some of the ones I'd used for the polymer clay pieces....only slightly larger!
This astounded I can't (still to this day) remember when I bought them...and how long I'd had them...but that really didn't matter now....I had enough for a set of four and they were a perfect size. I stained them the dark wood colour and was going to leave them at that...but when I held them up against the cabinets...they sort of looked...well...blah! they looked lost and rather insignificant and needed something to just give them a bit of spark. I drilled the tops with a small hole and inserted a brass brad with a fancy metal star shaped thingy (god knows what they are called) found lurking amongst the craft bits and bobs. They aren't all the same, they have different metal colours and slight differences in shapes...but they still seem to go together and form a nice set.
So, all knobs I just needed to attach them to the cabinet fronts. I opted to drill and screw each one rather than glue as this makes it easier to remove/replace any should they get damaged or if I ever change my mind and re do up the whole thing with new knobs. Some of the pieces needed the wood based sawing and levelling off a bit but the wood bases certainly made them easier to drill and secure. The brass ones already had integrated screws and fitted on like a dream!

Here's a round up of the knobs in situ -
The 'red' set - showing the dark staining patina achieved by rubbing in oil paints and buffing off the excess.
'faux bone', antique gold knobbly knobs, wood with metal detail, and 'green agate type' sets.
Antiqued and engraved solid brass ball knobs.
And finally, here's the whole set of four cabinets stacked together. Each cabinet has one from each set of knobs and are fitted on in a random pattern. The units themselves are being stored on shelving above the jewellery work bench and are being kept separate so that I can lift down and retrieve any one unit as and when required....but should I ever want them displayed stacked together, then I also have that option and they have been made as a matching set and so when put together, they form one nice whole piece of storage furniture.

So I hope you found that post of interest and it'd be nice to have feedback on what you think of the units.... last thing...


Things don't always go to plan...there were a couple of failures along the way and I have two sets of knobs that just didn't make the grade.
The first set of polymer round bead style knobs I made turned out the wrong colour mix - I wanted red and green streaks but over mixed the clay and the alcohol ink coloured gilding metals added into it all didn't help things at all and contributed towards turning the piece a bit orangey brown. They are actually still very nice in appearance and will look even nicer polished up....but didn't quite fit in with the Moppe units. They will come in handy for another project not a total loss.

The other knobs however, were the true disaster of the whole project...everything ran so smoothly in the making of these storage cabinets that I suppose it was only time a real eeekkkk moment turned up! I had envisaged having knobs looking like old Victorian cracked porcelain ones so formed a base of white air dry clay over wooden knobs, let cure and dry and then went about treating with a Crackle Glaze. This all went well, and my intentions were to rub in some ink to age them and highlight the cracks, then coat with varnish to seal and provide a nice shine and glaze...the knobs were fully dry and nicely crackled but as I picked them up to ink, the bits of glaze just started falling off in chunks. I tried inking them all up to see if it was just one bad piece, but no they all were too brittle to use...and funnily enough, although I used the same ink on them, it came out different shades so the whole set looked a complete mess. These ones are consigned to the bin...but I'll salvage the wood bases for polymer use. I've no idea what went wrong - the clay bases were sealed, primed, and given a key for the glaze and this technique has worked in other projects before but I guess I can ponder over that another day. I can learn from this failure...and the upside is that I went on to make the faux bone knobs to replace them...and I think they're maybe it turned out to be a happy accident!


Monday, 14 May 2012

Mega Muffin Monday!

Ok, so I didn't exactly bake these today (otherwise I would have been up since the crack of dawn!) I actually baked them last Thursday...but had I posted about it then...well 'Muffin Thursday' doesn't ring quite as nice as my now traditional Monday title!

My OH's workplace are moving premises this month and their official 'leaving' party was last Friday so I was asked to provide some muffins, plus a little celebration cake (actually, they just asked for a rich fruit cake but I couldn't resist adding a bit of icing decoration to it) last Thursday was a Mega Muffin day!

Among the flavours I created some Lemon Drizzle Muffins and after mentioning it to a few Facebook friends, I was asked to hand over the here it is.

Muffin Monday - Lemon Drizzle
I kid you not, these are tooth achingly sweet and tangy...not a chunk of chocolate in sight but still calorific with a double whammy of sugar...but heck, we all need a sugar hit treat now and again!

(makes 9-11 standard sized muffins)
9oz plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz caster sugar
1 egg
9floz milk
3floz vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 teaspoons fine grated lemon rind

Drizzle topping:
4oz caster sugar
juice of 1 large lemon
zested lemon peel
granulated sugar to sprinkle (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 190-200oC (375-400oF)
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. In another bowl combine together the egg, milk, oil, vanilla extract and lemon rind.
  4. Pour all of the wet ingredients into the dry mix and stir until just combined. The batter will look lumpy but no dry flour should be visible.
  5. Spoon into prepared muffin cups and bake 20-25mins until lightly browned.
  6. Once baked and removed from the oven, gently slash the tops of the muffins with a knife (or spear with a skewer) and prepare the drizzle topping -
  7. Place the sugar and lemon juice into a pan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Spoon half of the mixture over the muffins, making sure the liquid soaks into the slashes you've made.
  8. Allow the remaining drizzle mix to thicken slightly and then spread this over the  muffin tops - the sugar will have begun to crystallise and set so it forms a nice crusty layer.
  9. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and extra granulated sugar (if required).
  10. EAT!

Oh...and here's the little celebration cake I made for the party - couldn't resist adding a little 'safety hard hat' to the top!

HSE - 'Leaving Hagley Road (2002-2012) Party' celebration cake

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Last week I was having a little bit of a play with paper flowers, the intention being to add to my Floral Fancies website (yes I know, it's looking a bit neglected...but I'm actually having issues with uploading images on there, so please be patient). I was testing out different size and shaped flower rubber stamps images, two of which happen to be from the Tatty Button range, and I ended up using them to create a fun little costume jewellery it only seemed right to blog post it here.

No. 5 - Paper Flower Ring
For this flower I used two stamp images which can be found on the  Tatty's Flowers plate TB16 
The techniques is one you will have seen on the blog before - my shabby chic paper flower using a wet technique found HERE

Other materials used -
Black stazon ink
Good quality double sided printed card/paper approx 220gsm
mini metal split pin (paper brad)
silver plated ring shank with flat base
Pinflair gel glue
water in a fine mister
The images were stamped out as follows - three of the flower with the circle centre detail and four of the plain image...and all layered up with all the plain ones on the bottom, and the button flowers on the top. A mini metal brad/split pin was fixed through the centre to attach and secure them all together and the flower was then formed as per the above technique - by dampening with water, carefully scrunching up, opening out and allowing to dry to harden up and set in the desired shape.
Once completely dried (the process can be speeded up with a heat gun) I trimmed the excess metal off the ends of the split pin using jewellers metal snips and adhered the flower to the ring shank. The ring shank used was quite thin and delicate and the split pin ends slightly stuck out too far each side so were trimmed to neaten it up and prevent any sharp edges protruding out. This may not be necessary on larger ring shanks, so it pays to just line up the flower onto the ring first to check, before cutting and glueing.
If you're wondering why I used two different flower images...well, I actually had three attempts at this flower...checking to see how each stamp shape reacted to the wet technique. If you study the original technique you will notice the best flower shape achieved uses flower shapes of differing and graduating sizes (largest at the bottom, smallest to the top). Using just the plain flower image gave an ok flower...but not a brilliant flower - too bulky to use on the ring. The top/inner segments proved too difficult to wet and manipulate into a tight centre but the outer segments were very pleasing and held their shape really well. A flower made out of purely the 'center detail' flower image was too delicate to take the water and fell apart during the scrunching up process....this was because the petals of each shape were just too narrow and once wet, ripped easily at the base during manipulation and were too small to form a decent sized outer petal. However, a combination of them both resulted in a very nice little flower..the button image used for the inner segments were small enough to scrunch up tightly and the plain image shape strong and big enough to create a full shape and support as the outer petals.
So, there you go...a simple and fun little novelty ring....I shall enjoy wearing this! One thing to bear in mind however is that this, after all is still paper and quite delicate and will damage easily, so only really intended as an occasional wear costume jewellery piece...certainly not one for wearing while weeding the flower beds! I have actually considered strengthening the flower and prolonging wearability by dipping in glaze/UTEE - this will also alter the look and create a glossy finish. One experiment to try another day methinks!

...and now...a quick add on to the post....
I made a pendant too!
Instead of using a split pin, I used a silver plated head pin (jewellery finding) with a small plastic bead attached. The petals were formed around the bead and the excess wire out of the back formed into a ring (using round nosed pliers) to act as a bail for a chain.
Tatty Ta Ta for now!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012



Today I'm showing you a card showcasing a technique I've been wanting to try out for some time. An image formed using rolls of paper/card placed side by side. I few years ago I was asked to make a piece of paper craft and mixed med jewellery for a was a pendant, utilising pre printed images and made on much smaller scale, but it did inspire me to want to try it out as a card and using a stamped image. I never really got around to it until now. I cannot, however, claim the idea to be mine as I have seen it done a number of times before on jewellery....but not on a card, or shaped in the way I have I guess I put a little bit of my own spin on things.

Seeings as it's February and Valentines Day will soon be on us, my idea was create a  heart shape design card....and the choice of Tatty Button image?...well it was a no brainer. Best Friends is a perfect shaped image to fit inside a heart and the two ponies nuzzling each other makes for a sweet romantic scene too.
                                                      N0. 4 - VALENTINES CARD

A very simple design and layout using just two colours of cardstock and one stamp image in black ink.

Firstly, the image was stamped out in full 9 times onto plain white paper. Each piece was then curled around a wooden dowel to create a roll. Each roll was then placed side by side, lined up in such a way to re-construct the full image again.

It takes a fair bit of patience and working out in order to get the right sections to line up. The idea in itself is easy and simple....but the difficulty is in you having make sure that each roll is exactly the same dimensions (that is why I used a piece of dowel rather than hand rolling each piece freestyle. It also proved a bit difficult shaping the piece as I chose to rip the edges to give a softer look to it, rather than cutting with scissors. A heart may not have been the best of choices to use for my first go at this, but there you go...I like a challenge LOL!

One of the problems I encountered was the rolls themselves were not very stable once the dowel was removed. They got a little out of shape during assembly of the card and this increases the danger of the image distorting. The problem lay in the thinness of the paper and perhaps something with a slightly higher gsm would have been better. Depending on the design, the dowels could also be left inside the rolls for extra support and create more uniformity...but in this case the heart shape made that I live and learn :)  (BTW - I did actually leave supports in the rolls used in the original jewellery piece - it certainly needed to be strong to endure being worn).

The rolled image piece was then attached to a coloured card heart which was run through an embossing folder to add more depth and interest in texture...the shape, being a contrasting colour also reaffirmed the heart shape of the rolled stamped image.

It proved a very interesting technique to try out and I'll definitely be having another certainly has scope to be used in cardmaking in more I need to practise a little bit more and experiment with some other images and colours.

STAMP IMAGE USED -  TB10 Tatty Button 'Best Friends'

Tatty Ta Ta for now!

Friday, 6 January 2012

New links for recipes

There aren't many recipes on my blog...yet! I do intend to add more because I love cooking and baking and love sharing recipes.

One thing that has happened is a number of requests by followers, for direct links to them..which actually I did have set up on the right hand side...but I'm guessing, seeings as they are in the listing for tutorials, they aren't easy to spot... I've given them their own seperate list. It's still on the right hand side....just under the tutorials section.

Hope this helps!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Chocolate Brownies...and it's blowing a gale!

Wow...we're certainly having a bit of a storm across Britain at the mo. Days of relentless rain and gales is causing damage and havoc for some. We've had a few trees downed in the nature reserve...thankfully not falling near the road, paths or onto cars and last night was a restless one with howls of wind that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and gales tore down the sides of the houses and threw debris up onto our windows and roof....not a peaceful quiet time at all! Thankfully no serious damage done and we do hope we've seen the last of the worst of it and calmer times are on the horizon. It's certainly been a time for staying indoors...well...certainly for me...but if you're venturing out, hang onto that hat, batten down the hatches and stay safe!


Last week I made some Chocolate Brownies and must say I was pretty pleased with the outcome...because to be honest I've always been rubish at baking them, always overcooking and never achieving that perfect balance of scrummy gooey inner and crispy crust outer. This might actually surprise you as I do a fair bit of baking and spent many years creating celebration cakes. It's not for the want of trying...that actual making cannot be any's the baking bit that evades I guess brownies have just always been my nemesis.

Maybe it's because I have gone through three different ovens (both gas and electric) in my house over the years so have never managed to settle and get used to a particular way of baking...maybe it's because I have a particular standard of how I like them to be...maybe it's because I'm Virgo and can be a tad obsessive over perfection...but I have a standard - THE most perfect brownie I ever ate was at the Victoria pub in Beeston, Nottingham during an annual CAMRA General Meeting...heavenly sticky chocolate devine creation that I haven't found equal to since (bought or baked) those have always been the standard (sadly their recipe is a secret one and refused to be parted with) and I've struggled to meet it..

...but this I'm happy to say is the closest I've got to it so far - one kindly given to me by my lovely friend Sarah.

NOTE - please note that oven makes/temps can vary and the times and temp stated in the recipe are standard and may have to be tweaked to suit yours. I used the exact temp but in a small half sized oven (electric but non fan) and had found I had to increase the cooking time by and extra 10 minutes.

  • 250g  Butter
  • 200g  good quality milk chocolate (roughly chopped up)
  • 80g    Cocoa powder (unsweetened variety - NOT drinking chocolate powder)
  • 65g    Plain flour
  • 1tsp   Baking powder
  • 360g  Caster sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
  • 4 eggs
Preheat oven to 180oC, grease and line a 20x20cm (8x8inch) square cake tin.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and sugar into a bowl and set aside. Gently melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (double boiler technique) and allow to cool slightly before mixing in the dry ingredients. Then beat in the eggs until you get a smooth glossy runny batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake 25 mins. Check after this time. The cake will have risen slightly and be crusty on the edges but slightly underdone in the centre. A skewer inserted into the centre WILL NOT come out clean (if it does, the cake is overcooked). If you feel that the cake is still too underdone....return to the oven and bake for a further 5 mins, checking and continuing on in increments of 5 mins until you reach your desired consistency. Taking into account my oven, my brownies took an added 10 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then remove from tin and cut into 16 squares. Dredge the top with icing sugar. Best served warm.

NOTE - Everyone has their own ideas of a perfect brownie...mine has to be crispy crusty on the outside but dense, slightly undercooked and fudgy looking inside. The cake will rise, then sink back down after taking out of the oven and will probably crack on the surface too....this I find very acceptable and adds to the rustic look and crunchy texture. These brownies are delicious eaten still warm, just baked, but I find they improve and become even more dense and fudgy the following day...and warm up a treat in the microwave. They are wonderful eaten as is, with a cuppa, or served warm with cream...or custard.

VARIATIONS - for extra richness you could substitute some of the milk chocolate for plain but I do find the dark cocoa powder more than does for this in the original recipe. I'd suggest you cook it in it's original form first then decide if you wish to tweak the mix to meet your own tastes. For extra crunch, stir some nuts into the mix prior to baking. I have used hazlenuts and pecans and can say both are delicious additions. If you up for a real chocolate hit, you could also throw in some added chocolate drops/chunks (white chocolate works very well)....or cover the baked top with a ganache or fudge frosting.

WARNING - contains many many not to think about just one square, give the rest away to your family who will love you forever...then go for a jog!

...and don't worry, you're not missing out as you'll be asked to make more, very soon not long to wait until your next brownie treat!