Friday, 31 May 2013

Lino Printing Fun...

Time for a crafty post!

Anyone who knows me well will know I'm pretty arty & love to learn a new craft. I tend to flit between lots of different disciplines - knitting, drawing, sewing, card making, cake decorating, inking, painting, jewellery making, photography...you name it, I've probably tried it. One thing I've been meaning to try for a really long time is lino printing - so I jumped at the chance when I saw my local (and favourite!) cake shop Fancy was holding an intro into lino printing workshop last night.

Run by local artist Scarlett Rebecca Tierney, the workshop was a chance to learn the basics of lino printing, and come away with a lino tile adorned with a design of your own, and some printed wooden brooches. It cost £25 for the course which ran from 7pm-10pm, and I had an absolute blast. It was really exciting to challenge myself to a completely new craft - and I found the whole printing process really addictive.

The process of course began with tea and cake (I defy anyone who can enter Fancy and be able to resist a giant slice of their amazing cake range!) And last night I opted for a slice of neapolitan cake...

Yum- the best artistic fuel known to man! :-)

Scarlett had asked us to come prepared with some sketches/ideas and so our first (and perhaps the hardest) job was to decide on a final design to print. Luckily, being on half term from work meant that I'd had a few hours in the day to sit down and sketch some ideas - my creative juices were flowing & I made my decision quite quickly. 

My final design was a sketch of an apron - apt due to my love of baking and my giant collection of pretty aprons...

my final design

I then traced the design on tracing paper, and transferred it to the lino rectangle by the tried and tested method of turning the tracing paper lead side down, and rubbing all over the back with the pencil :-)

This transferred my design on to the lino tile...

transferred to the lino tile and ready to cut! 

I then used a lino cutting tool to dig out my design - I had a practice on some old lino scraps to get a feel for it, but in essence you cut away whatever part you don't want to catch ink - for me that was the outline of my design. 

Once I was relatively happy with my design I rolled water-based ink over my lino, flipped it onto some paper, and used a heavy spoon to rub the print to ensure an even coating of ink on the paper. 

My first couple of prints to paper. 

I then used these prints to work out where my tile needed improving - more cutting away/a better shape etc. This enabled me to get a stronger final image to print onto my wooden brooch. 

a much neater final image print :-)

Lastly, I inked up my lino and this time printed directly onto a wooden disc - once dry I attached a brooch clip using super glue to the back and Ta dah...my brooch was born. 

I then repeated the process this time using the Twitter bird logo as my inspiration - and made a second brooch and sets of prints. Not bad for under three hours work. All credit goes to good teaching from Scarlett and a lovely atmosphere at Fancy!

Have you tried a new craft recently?

Mrs B 

xxx

For more information on Scarlett's workshops please visit her website or follow her on Twitter @scarlettrebecca 



Thursday, 30 May 2013

UPDATE POST: 27 Things To Do in The Year I Turn 27.


Hi all! 
I just thought I'd write a little update post on my '27 Things To Do In The Year I Turn 27' goals...I'm getting there, and have completed over half in 5 months, so not too bad. 

1. Make Scotch eggs from scratch - made, and devoured! 
2. Go to an authentic American Brunch - All done, and it was scrummy! 
3. Have an afternoon shopping session at St Pancras Int - all done, and no doubt I'll find the time to shop there some more this year. Sorry bank balance!
4. See Wicked the musical again  - all done, and its still fun and fab. 
5. Visit Cornwall  - we had a lovely weeks holiday in Looe, Cornwall back in the Easter Holidays...

the view from our appartment

the lovely fishing village, Polperro

 Wonderful Looe

The Eden Project 

Gorgeous Cornishware miniature cup and saucer for Baby Bishop, bought from Daisy's Cafe, Looe, Cornwall. 
6. Hold a Superbowl Gathering/Party - all done, was great fun! 
7. Learn to Crotchet - I am still yet to master this skill...I have 7 months left to have a go! :-)
8. Finish off knitting and sewing projects  - I have managed to finish a pair of cushions, a tote bag, and a knitted baby blanket - and have nearly finished two knitting projects for BedYarn (the Bedfordshire Yarn Bombing event), my final two projects to finish are my reversible changing mat, and my Wonky Wilma soft toy. I hope to complete the mat tomorrow, while eating cake and drinking tea with my fellow-sewer friend Clare!
9. Join the Clandestine Cake Club & go to various events  - I am now a regular attendee of CCC meets, and loving it! 
10. Visit drinkshopdo  - all done and I LOVED it! 
11.  Join in with Bedford’s ‘Cash Mob’  - all done. 
12. Go to Claridges for afternoon tea - I'm still hoping to do this for my birthday in October. 
13. Visit St Helena’s in Elstow for our First Wedding Anniversary 
14. Visit Harry Potter Experience in Watford - Need to book a date for this! 
15. Go to Cadbury’s World - tickets booked for 29th June - I can't wait! :-)
16. Make a hand raised pork pie - 7 months left to complete this task...
17. Read ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo - Still haven't had the chance to read this yet, I'm so busy reading baby/pregnancy books. 
18. Arrange a Picnic in the Park event with Liz - this may well have to wait until next summer as time is flying by and I know I'm going to be busy and ever-expanding this summer. 
19. Go to Calzone & Co in Bedford - all done. 
20. Visit and support local independent shops more frequently - I am trying to do this as much as possible and plan to continue for the rest of the year and beyond. 
21. Redecorate the small spare room in preparation for our new arrival.  - All finished, and I LOVE it! 











22. Partake in some Random Acts of Kindness - now we have a car up and running I will be able to do some more Random Acts of Kindness, although I have managed a few this year, including taking home baked goods to friends houses. 
23. Hand make/ hand bake gifts - I have been doing loads of this for friends and families birthdays, and plan to carry on throughout the year.
24. Lose my post baby weight - obviously can't do this until after the baby has arrived. 
25. Make swimming part of my weekly routine - This one is waiting until I can actually fit into a swimsuit! Lol. 
26. Develop some art work and branding for my blog - all done. 
27. Eat an original Bedfordshire Clanger  - a Clanger is a historical pasty style pastry that originates from Bedford – it combines sweet and savoury by having a meat filling in one end, and a fruit one in the other. Gunns Bakery in the town centre is one of the last places in Bedfordshire that still make and sell these little beauties. 

I have finally completed this task today! :-) After living in Bedford for 8 years I have finally eaten a Clanger. 

While awaiting a bus home after a long and boring hospital appointment, I decided today would be the day I'd try my first ever Bedfordshire Clanger for lunch. My bus stop sits right outside Gunns Bakery in Bedford (the home of the Clanger), and usually the time I travel means that the bakery is closed. However, because its half term, and I'm not at work, it was open, and the smell wafting out of the door was enough to tempt me. 

Gunns Bakery

The Clanger in all its glory

meat side - gammon

fruit side - apple

I very much enjoyed the Clanger, it was a lovely lunchtime treat. The pastry is a rich suet based pastry, and the fillings are lovely - a salty savoury gammon and onion filling in one side, and a sweet apple filling in the other side. Now, my husband needs to try one!

So, theres the update! A few more left to complete and some works-in-progress. Seven months left to get cracking. 

Have you set yourself goals for this year? 
How are you getting on with ticking things off of your list?

Bye for now

Mrs B

xxxx

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Come Dine With Me...starring my cousin!!

On Friday 24th May my lovely cousin Michelle Catacos competed in an episode of Come Dine With Me, set in the town of Reigate, Surrey (where I grew up). I was so excited to see her on the TV, and see the final cut of the show that I'd heard so much about. I'm a huge, huge fan of CDWM, and I especially love the humour of the sharp-tongued narrator Dave Lamb - he is hilarious! Mind you, when someone you love dearly is about to be subjected to his quick wit you start to feel a little shaky!

Liam and I attended a mass viewing of the show on Friday night at a Surrey golf club, along with other family members and friends. It was so fun to watch the show altogether and she did incredibly well. 

The other competitors included; American Interior designer Carol Chalmers, businessman Robin Lewis, and the hilariously eccentric semi-retired Dr Lady Anna Brocklebank. All four competitors made for a great hours viewing - some hilarious moments including my cousin realising she was sat in the 'death room' and her talk of Cannibal Lecter! 

If you missed the show you can view it here on Channel 4OD (Series 29, Episode 11)

The Food

Most importantly I wanted to blog about Michelle's amazing food. 

She is a fabulous self-taught cook who is incredibly passionate about fresh food, and strong flavour. We quite often compare and share recipes and tips, and I know she regularly reads my blog (thanks Mich!) so I thought it would be nice to pay homage to her culinary skills here on the blog. 

I share Michelle's love of Greek food (she lived in Greece for 5 years, and is now married to a lovely Greek man!) and so I was especially excited when she said she would be cooking a Greek-inspired menu for CDWM. I was even more excited when she invited Liam and I over to her house for a trial run of her menu a few weeks before the show. Lucky us! 

The Menu

Starter

Baked Feta with Spinach Cigars and homemade Olive Bread

Main

Beef Stifado, Pork Souvlaki and Lamb Keftedes

Dessert

Ekmek Kataifi

The meal was absolutely delicious - especially the spinach cigars which were my favourite! Everything was presented beautifully, with amazing flavours that took me straight back to holidays I've had in Greece. The portions were generous, and the table looked so beautiful with all Michelle's sparkle and glitz. 

Here are some photos from our trial run night at Michelle's house....

baked feta, spinach cigars and homemade olive bread with Tsatziki dip

find the recipe here


Beef Stifado, Pork Souvlaki and Lamb Keftedes with crushed potatoes, and Greek flatbreads
 recipe here


Greek salad - my favourite!!

Ekmek Kataifi - 
 a Greek shredded pastry with syrup, topped off with luxurious lemon semolina custard,  and fresh whipped cream topped with nut brittle. 
recipe here

What a stunning meal - we felt so lucky to have been able to taste everything, and it was a weird feeling to watch the show and for the first time ever really know what the food tasted like. 

It was no surprise to us that Michelle's Come Dine With Me night went down so well, and we were all so proud of her. 

Here are some quotes from her dinner guests on the night:

"Really well done, beautifully presented, and the food was pretty-good" Robin

"...her presentation, her style, her panache could not be faulted!" Anna

"The starter was wonderful, she did a great job, you can't fault her" Carol

"Amazing table presentation" Robin

"Usually I would have only eaten a third of what was given to me, but I ate the lot! Need I say any more?" Anna

Definitely tune in on 4OD if you haven't had the chance yet, and I'd definitely recommend you giving her recipes a whirl! 

Well done again Michelle - A Greek Goddess in the Kitchen. 

Mrs B

xxx

If you'd like to meet Michelle in person why not book into her nail salon The Nail Boutique, Lesbourne Road, Reigate, Surrey for a pampering session while you pick her brains on her culinary skills! 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Homemade Gifts, Knitting Club & GIANT Fondant Fancy Cake

One of my "27 Things To Do In The Year I Turn 27" is to partly home-make or bake some of the presents I give throughout the year. I think something home made, home baked or personalised has a much more special feel to it, and really helps to show the recipient of the gift how much you care. A little thought goes a long way.

With this in mind, I have been trying to plan in advance of birthdays - shopping ahead of time, planning bakes and makes to ensure I have time to complete the home made items for friends and loved ones.

May 23rd is my lovely Mum's birthday - and this year I thought she needed some extra spoiling (...just because!) so I planned an advance make, and bake, and did a little shopping for her too!

The Make

Every fortnight I attend the Monster Yarns Knitting Club at Pensieri, Bedford. Run by the lovely Judit, the group allows for yarn crafters to meet, share their passion for knitting/crochet and indulge in some (very necessary) tea & cake. Judit is always on hand with inspiration, advice, she can trouble shoot any projects we're working on, and she also brings along her gorgeous selection of yarns, needles, ribbons and knitting kits for purchase.

A few weeks ago at knitting club Judit showed me her knittable-ribbon, and I instantly loved it. She inspired me to use this new product for a lovely gift for mum.
The ribbon makes what's called a 'tutu scarf' - which is a light, spring time, frilly, dressy scarf - a perfect accessory to any spring/summer outfit. You can purchase the ribbon in a variety of patterns/prints here from Monster Yarns. When I saw a finished scarf I just had to make one myself, and knew that my mum would not only appreciate the skill involved in making one, but would also love its quirkiness. I chose a navy blue & white polka dot pattern for Mum's scarf as I thought it was a very 'classic' look.

It was so fun to make - and was very quick to pick up - Judit taught me in a few minutes and I was away (only stopping to munch on cake, of course!) ... in fact, the whole ribbon-knitting process was so addictive that I had finished the scarf in just a few days!

I'm so pleased with the results...and hope my Mum will be too.

So addicted to the process of ribbon-knitting I was doing it on my commute

close-up of  the tutu scarf

the wonderful cake that fuelled my tutu scarf knitting at Pensieri :-)

Ta'dah! 
The finished scarf! 
Hope you like it Mumsy! 

The Bake

The other element of my Mum's birthday gift was a cake. 

You can't have a birthday without a cake, after all. 

I really wanted to challenge myself with this bake, and make her something special, so out came all of my cook books and during my search I found the perfect cake to make her... a GIANT Fondant Fancy! 

The little Fondant Fancies (French Fancies) are my Mum's favourite cakes from her childhood, and when I saw this recipe in the Clandestine Cake Club cookbook I just HAD to make it. 

The sponge is lemon flavoured, with a lemony butter-cream dome, layer of lemon curd, then finally layers of marzipan and yellow fondant icing, followed by a drizzle of white glacee icing to decorate! 

You can find the full recipe here.

the lemon curd covered lemon sponge

buttercream dome and marzipan layer

icing layer on


the start of the decoration

the finished cake


the finished cake 

Ta'dah! 
GIANT Lemon Fondant Fancy

I'm so pleased with the final outcome, and can't wait to see my Mum's face when she see's it. It was well worth the effort to make it, as I think it looks pretty impressive (even if I do say so myself!) and I'm hoping it will taste scrummy! 

Have you baked a show-stopper recently?

Do you hand make/bake gifts? Or are you a serial-shopper? 

I think a mixture of hand made, home baked and purchased gifts makes for the perfect balance - it is drastically unrealistic to think you can make/bake every single part of every gift you give, but when you can fit it in it is totally worth the effort. 

Bye for now

Mrs B

xxx

Monday, 13 May 2013

Baby Bishop's Blanket

One of my goals for before Baby Bishop's arrival in August was to hand make some items for him/his nursery. I love to do many different crafts, and tend to be a jack of all crafts, master of none. This year I wanted to concentrate on key crafts I really enjoy and develop my skills in these areas. I also wanted to challenge myself by completing a sewing course (machine sewing), which took me far out of my comfort zone. 

Having completed the sewing course back in March making a set of lovely cushions for the nursery & a new bag for myself, my next task was to complete a knitted item for Baby Bishop. 


My set of cushions for the nursery 

I decided on a knitted striped pram blanket in colours that would match the pushchair/pram we've chosen. I used wool from the wonderful MonsterYarns . I chose a soft bulky yarn in shades of yellow, teal and forest green. Attending a fortnightly Monster-Yarns knitting club really helped me to stay focused and on-track with the project, and my wonderful friend & knitting coach Judit (from Monster Yarns) kindly finished off my blanket by crocheting the edge for me (I am yet to master crochet). 

I am really pleased with my final blanket and glad I have completed some hand made items for our little man when he comes along. There is something so satisfying about making rather than purchasing for a baby. I'm also pleased that I've gotten the cushions and blanket done in good time, so as I'm not rushing to finish them. 


 The finished blanket :-) 

I have also been working on hand making some birthday presents for friends and family this year, as one of my goals for the year is to hand make as many presents/gifts as possible. More on that in another blog post... 

Now it's back to Monday & the grim reality of work! Boooo! 

Mrs B 

Xxx

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Twin Comes to Stay.... :-)

What a lovely weekend! 

This weekend has been full of lots of wonderful things, and I've now got a major case of Sunday Blues... the horrible 'I don't want this weekend to end' feeling. I love it when I get to the end of the weekend and I know I've not only accomplished little jobs that needed to be done, but that I've also done some lovely things with friends and family. It definitely makes my working week more bearable when I know I have a fab weekend to look forward to. 

FRIDAY

The first majorly exciting part of the weekend was picking up our first ever car on Friday afternoon. My husband passed his driving test a few weeks ago (all ready for Baby Bishop's arrival in August), and we were so excited to pick up the car - it feels amazing to have the freedom of being able to drive wherever we need to go instead of relying on walking and public transport. 

our new baby - Suzuki Liana GTI :-)


Later on Friday night my lovely twin sister Jojo arrived for the weekend. I love having family and friends to stay, and was so excited to see her after having not seen her for about a month. She was excited to see growing bump, and feel him kick! 

SATURDAY

On Saturday we drove over to my favourite cake shop called 'Fancy' for lunch... both hubby and my sister had never been before, and I couldn't wait to show off my favourite cake spot to them. They of course enjoyed it just as much as I thought they would. 


Our cake selections.....chocolate brownie (hubby), lemon drizzle (Jojo) and lime & coconut cake (me) 


Twins!


Lovely hubby - with our very bright smoothies! 


a couple of savoury delights too - cheese scone, and bagel with cream cheese - yum!


although the cakes were amazing - both me and Jojo had eyes that were bigger than our bellies - it pained me to leave even just the smallest amount of cake, but I literally couldn't fit in another morsel. 


We then headed to Mothercare and Halfords for a mooch around - we picked up a few baby bargains in Mothercare, a new air freshener and car windscreen cloth in Halfords. Followed by a nice relaxed afternoon at home just chatting with my sis, drinking tea and sorting out more stuff in Baby Bishop's nursery. 

In the evening we took Jojo to our favourite local restaurant 'The Riverside Grill' which is just off the Embankment. We have been there lots over the years, and never been disappointed - we wanted to share the place with Jojo and it also took the pressure off me having to cook, as I'm feeling blooming knackered at the moment. 

Our Food....
the best starter to share in the world - the mezze platter...lamb kofta, grilled halloumi, flatbread, olives, falafel, stuffed vine leaves, pickled peppers, baba ganoush, aoli and hummus. YUM


Liam & Jojo


Jojo's dinner - chicken, camembert and cranberry burger with double-cooked chips and salad


my dinner - beef burger with pesto & mozzarella, double-cooked chips and salad


Liam's dinner - Thai Green Chicken Curry with rice.


We were so full up after all that scrummy food (and the cake at lunch time!) that we couldn't fit in a dessert or coffee, maybe next time.

SUNDAY

Today, we made use of the new car & drove over to the Cath Kidston Factory shop in St. Neots. Loads of friends had told me how great the shop is, and what bargains you can get and I've been desperate to visit - so now that we have the car this weekend seemed like a great time to go and take a peek. We took my lovely Mother-in-Law, and Jojo (who loves CK just as much as I do) and had a great rummage! We all managed to get some lovely bits and bobs - mostly presents for friends & family's upcoming birthdays, and my Mother-in-Law found some lovely red candle sticks/holders for her newly decorated kitchen/dining room. 

aww just the sign makes me happy! 


CK gloriousness! 


On the way back from shopping we completed another 'first' with our car - visited the McDonalds Drive-Thru for lunch! Hahaha! Had to be done. Not a very healthy weekend, but a very yummy one! 

My sister and I have spent the afternoon wrapping all the gifts we bought at Cath Kidston, chatting and doing some little jobs around the house while hubby watched the Formula 1 race (his favourite) and now we're all sat in the living room together watching Toy Story 3 together before my sister has to leave to get the train back to Surrey. 

A lovely pile of wrapped gifts for friends & family's birthdays..! 


Then, I guess it'll be time to get some tea, and do the lunches ready for work tomorrow. 

Lets hope the weather is nice this week, and the working week goes nice and smoothly. 

Did you all have lovely weekends? 

Do you try to balance your weekend with the right ratio of mundane chores to lovely treats? 

I hope whatever you've done with your down-time it's been good for you. 

:-)

Love 

Mrs B 

xxx