Sunday, 29 November 2009

Red, Green and Snowmen – Something Completely Different

Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is red, green and snowmen. This really was a challenge, only one snowman card left unmade and it was 'political'. I decided the only thing to do was take things down a slightly surreal direction. The background, a collage inspired by the works of John Brunsdon yet with a sun that looks like it has crept out of the Telly Tubbies and the snowman from the original card from a friend. I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity; this year's charity is wateraid.

Click here for a Spotify playlist to go with this climate warming theme.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Illustration Friday - Entangled

Only time for a very quick post; this N is wrapped in a Taranaki gate of wool. In an old comedy farming book from NZ there was a whole chapter on Taranaki gates and their propensity to wrap themselves around you when taking them down or putting them up. I wish I still had that book.

Friday, 27 November 2009

You too could look like Cheryl Cole – don a bobble hat

There are days when things just come together, a glorious juxtaposition that serendipitously creates a new idea. No sooner had I decided that my little avatar should take on a more wintery appearance, with a bobble hat; than a link from make it and mend it led me to believe that I could look like Cheryl Cole by donning a bobble hat. Time to get the knitting needles out; how do I look?

Spotify playlist for this post (you can always skip the Cheryl Cole bits, what comes later is an interesting mix)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bzz Agent

For those with Spotify – Here is a link to accompany this blog post.

It feels like a very long time ago that I signed up to be a Bzz Agent. The basic idea; you get free samples, vouchers etc for products. As you try the products you talk to people about them (good or bad) and then log the fact that you had a conversation on the Bzz Agent site ~ you always make people aware that you are a Bzz Agent. The more reports you complete, to their expected standard, the higher a level you attain and the better and earlier the campaigns you are offered. Months after I first registered I had some dried fruits, later a razor and then there has been nothing for months until today. Today I received information about Shell 'V'. I don't have a performance car so not the sort of thing I would normally think about. I live 11 miles from the nearest Shell station so it is not likely to be my first choice under normal circumstances. I tend to ride my bike more often than I drive, but when I do drive it is long distances. Today I happened to be near a Shell station and so I fuelled up. Watch this space I'll let you know if my life has been revolutionised.

The whole Bzz Agent thing always reminds me of a book I read called 'Soft' – If you like thrillers, where the interface between marketing and science can go bad, this could be the book for you; I still have a warped sense of the power of orange as a colour and an aversion to orange fizzy drinks as a result of reading Rupert Thomson's book.

For those who have not met it before, the shell in the picture above is 'Scallop' by Maggi Hambling, it has a Marmite effect, people either love it or hate it.

Something Completely Different – Blue, White and Snowflakes

Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is Blue, White and Snowflakes. As I have mentioned before I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity. This year's charity is wateraid. Thank you to my brother and his family, because their's was the only card with white and snowflakes on it, I used a baby blue card back, not something I would normally think of for Christmas and some wool from my Ispeak Melsh giveaway prize - thanks Mel.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Music – Illustration Friday

The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is music; currently my head is a jumble of music. I have been trying to learn the cornet, you should be very grateful at this point that I live in a field a long way from anyone. I have not played any instrument since recorders at primary school, so although I can read the basic notes that is my limit. Also I rediscovered the karaoke machine and we only have a couple of discs to go in it; not sure that Atomic Kitten or the cast of Les Misérables and Chicago would be flattered by my attempts; perhaps this would be more appropriate. I have also become a huge fan of Spotify I love running word searches based on a theme and seeing what tracks come together. Here is a link based on children and need for Children in Need, be aware though, not all tracks are radio edits and there may be some strong language.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Spiced Pickled Pears, or what to do with those fiddly little pears that are hard and never ripen

After my latest tweeted cooking session I had lots of requests for the recipe, so here it is. Basically the recipe is a slight adaptation of the one in Pam Corbin's excellent book Preserves in the River Cottage handbook series – this is a fabulous collection of books and handily fit into a Christmas stocking [hint, hint]. In our garden we planted two espalier pear trees to divide the garden. They both produce pretty flowers but one produces zero fruit, the other produces small, hard pears that never ripen. I have used them when cooking pheasant and then when they all blew off the trees in the gales I decided it was time to do some pickling. So my adapted version goes:

300ml of Sarson's pickling vinegar

150ml Aspall cyder vinegar

600g Billingtons caster sugar

About half a bottle of sushi ginger

1 hefty pinch of chilli flakes

A cinnamon stick

Handful of juniper berries

3 bay leaves

1.5kg small, hard, fiddly little pears

First put everything apart from the pears into a big pan and bring to a gentle heat that allows the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to infuse. Whilst that is happening peel, core and quarter the pears then pop them into the pan. Bring the pan back up to heat and then keep at just below simmering point, leave as long as it takes for the pears to become tender but definitely not mushy, you want them to keep their shape. Once they are cooked transfer to pre sterilised jars. Bring the liquid up to the boil and reduce down slightly ie about 5 minutes boiling; it should have a slightly syrupy quality. Then simply pour the liquid over the pears and seal. Ideally they should be kept for a month or so before eating with cheeses or meats.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Big Squat - Pink Christmas Trees – Something Completely Different

Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is pink with a Christmas tree. As I mentioned before I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity. This year's charity is water aid and they are currently promoting World Toilet Day; part of which is the Big Squat. Only one card had a Pink Christmas Tree on it, so I added a few more using my 1960's cookie cutter set Christmas tree as a template. The pink sparkly tree is from the original card; so Sue if you are reading this you'll know what's coming to you.

Unbalanced – Illustration Friday

The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is unbalanced, so here we have an ewe 'U' and a hen 'N' perfectly balanced (but they wouldn't be).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lemon Squash

A little recipe invented the other evening. First take one butternut squash, wash the exterior, cut into wedges and cut out the seeds but do not peel. Heat a roasting pan to moderately high approx 180c in my oven. Once hot, pour in some olive oil – I used lemon olive oil, toss the squash wedges well to ensure well coated add some ground black pepper. Rinse some preserved ie salted lemon in fresh water and cut into pieces, add to the dish and put into the oven to cook until the squash is nice and soft to the touch and slightly caramelised. If your lemon starts to catch or scorch add some water to the bottom of the dish for the remainder of the cooking time. Eat as an accompaniment to meats or as a main course vegetarian dish, any leftovers are great added to couscous for salad the next day with a little more oil if required.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Speaking Melsh or Something Completely Different - The History of the World according to Twitter

In a previous post called "What has Twitter ever done for you?" I had an opportunity for some thank-yous. Now it is time for some more. Many thanks to @MsClara who by way of a Twitter tipoff said that it was possible to win a copy of a book written by her other half @Mitch Benn and @Jon Holmes. Guess what – I won one; a signed copy of the book The History of the World through Twitter. You can safely add this to your Christmas stocking filler list if you like a quick read where you won't necessarily learn anything new but where you will occasionally laugh out loud. I am very grateful to @carltonbooks for sending the book so swiftly; by the way they currently have U2 books on give away if their follower numbers increase; tell them I sent you.

The second big prize recently was a fantastic collection of crafting stuff from the lovely Mel at I Speak Melsh, follow the link; I really did receive all of that and a bar of chocolate. I should add a thank-you to the hamster at this point. I am not quite sure how it happened but I seem to have crept into the world of arts, crafts and scrap booking. For the last few years I have been recycling Christmas cards by sending people back part of the card they sent me the year before and donating the difference in cost to a charity. This year my charity of choice is Water Aid. Above is the first of the cards, using some of the items in the giveaway. It is also my entry for Something Completely Different. This week they have moved away from inchies and on to Christmas Cards, with the colours Red, Green and Gold and the theme Holly and the Ivy. The little mouse has on his holly pjs. In the background is an attempt to print from an Ivy leaf, it didn't work that well. – Ohh well plenty more to tax me whilst I try to improve my skills.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance – Illustration Friday - Blur

The subject for this week's Illustration Friday is 'Blur' and here in the UK today is Remembrance Sunday, you can find out more about this at the Royal British Legion website. This small illustration is me taking a few minutes to remember all of those impacted by war, whether in the act of conflict or in the preparation and training or in the aftermath, the people themselves and their families and friends.  Created in Brushes on iphone