Sweet peas are fabulous flowers!

 

I think sweet peas are fabulous flowers, wonderful to grow in your garden and brilliant to have as cut flowers in your house, full of such beautiful scent. If it had been practical I would have loved to have sweet peas everywhere for our wedding, they look so romantic and pretty – but umm, a December wedding? I don’t think so!

This card uses a couple of very popular Signature dies, Victoria Lace (SD308) and Sweet Pea (SD466) with a few other bits and bobs and produces the prettiest of birthday cards (or anytime card).

Ingredients:

  • 6” square white card blank
  • Signature dies, Victoria Lace and Sweet Pea
  • Some pale backing paper we chose green
  • Cardstock in white and pink and pale green
  • Photocorners or a photo corner die
  • Decorative oval dies (like Spellbinders or similar)
  • Preprinted sentiment, scrap of pink gingham and some pearls

Quick ‘how to’:

  1. Trim some backing paper slightly smaller than the card blank. Die cut a scalloped oval in white, the Victoria Lace in white and the photo corners if you are using a die.
  2. Die cut a decorative oval in strong pink and create the “V” shaped pieces by hand with sharp scissors.
  3. Now assemble the card by sticking the backing paper to the card blank (I use double sided tape) then add the pink oval using Pinflair glue gel so it is slightly raised. Once the glue is dry, take a sharp craft knife and make a cut and slide in the small V shaped pieces each side to give the effect that they go right through.
  4. Add the scalloped oval using glue gel again. Die cut the sweet peas in pale green and white and colour the white flowers with alcohol ink pens. Attach the green first and then snip the flowers away from the white die cut, and layer these over the green die cut using glue gel.
  5. Attach the Victoria Lace diecut, use something like a quickie glue pen or glossy accents or cosmic acrylic glue, whatever you have in stock.
  6. Finish the card with the embellishments, the ribbon bow, corners, sentiment and pearls.
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When food gets weird…!

I always find it interesting how dishes and styles of food go in and out of fashion and how, sometimes, food gets weird! The Elizabethans had their sweetmeats while the Victorians used oysters in almost everything. Obviously, recipes reflect the cost and availability of ingredients – oysters used to be cheap, while chicken was a luxury.

I love reading about food and I was chuckling over some funny terms recently…

Fusion
A few years ago, ‘fusion’ cookery was all the rage. This always sounded a bit too much like physics to me, but it was the combination of various forms of cookery, so you might have South Asian and Pacific Rim, or Texan and Mexican (Tex-Mex). This is fine it theory, but chefs do get a bit carried away. I remember reading about curried porridge, spaghetti tacos and Japanese Scotch eggs. Hmmm…

Chocolate soil, copyright www.epicurus.com

Soil
One of the very ‘on-trend’ additions to posh restaurant dishes at the moment is soil. I think our friends on Masterchef are probably responsible for introducing this one! Call me old-fashioned (and people do!) but I instantly think of my flowerbeds, and I’m not sure I want a version of this, no matter how delicious, on my plate. It’s just… odd. Mostly, it is dark chocolate and I’d be a lot happier if we stuck to ‘sprinkles’ or possibly even ‘shavings.’ If you want to have a go at making some chocolate soil, there are recipes online. Here’s one from www.epicurus.com

Hand salad
Yes, I know, weird! Apparently, it’s just a salad you eat with your hands, dipping lettuce and cucumber into dressings. So really, it’s simply an American term for what we used to call crudités – dipping veg into dips and sauces. Here’s a recipe idea for hand salad from www.bonappetit.com

A nice bit of hand salad with buttermilk, grapefruit, and mixed seeds, copyright www.bonappetit.com

There are so many trendy terms out there, I sometimes feel I need a translation app to find out what’s on the menu!

Jus ­– why can’t we call it gravy or sauce any more?

Pithivier of chicken, squash and sage by Sally Abé, copyright www.greatbritishchefs.com

Pithivier – it’s a pie! If you want to make a posh pie, have a look here at www.greatbritishchefs.com

Foam – this isn’t quite as bad as soil, but… Anyway, it applies to things that are full of air bubbles… we used to call them things like whipped cream, meringue or mousse!

Deconstructed – this one makes me smile! All the ingredients of a classic dish, but the chef didn’t want to assemble it!

Big dipper
I had to sneak this one in as it left me speechless! For Easter this year, a certain supermarket was offering ostrich eggs for sale. They recommended 50 mins cooking time to produce a runny yolk, perfect for dipping into, like a large, vegetarian fondue. They even suggested using a baguette as a ‘soldier’ I don’t know why… but that struck me as very peculiar!

 

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Bring a ‘Get well soon’ smile!

Never underestimate the power of friendly or loving messages when someone is under the weather, be they seriously ill or just down with a nasty old sniffle! If you are feeling sorry for yourself, it’s amazingly cheering to know that someone cares enough to not only send you a card but to have made it especially for you too. Because we are all so ‘into’ card making, I think it’s easy to forget how impressive a handmade card can be.

I recently gave a ‘Good luck in your new house’ card to someone I only know a little –and they were amazed. I guess I take cardmaking for granted. So use your skills and share them to make someone’s day!

This card shows yet again how very handy dies can be. There are so many ways of using them and you can always rely on the finish looking professional.

You only need lilac/mauve cardstock and cream/white card to make this, which is always a bonus. Obviously, you can use any colour you have in stock. It’s a bit like reading a recipe and thinking ‘oh good I’ve got all those ingredients’, the limited colour palette makes it much easier to use as inspiration!

Ingredients:

Cut some Grace Borders in cream, and the Get Well die in your second colour, obviously lilac here. Cut some lilac card smaller than the card blank leaving a reasonable sized margin. Then a layer of cream card a tiny bit smaller and a further layer of lilac.

Attach the Grace lace along each edge (I use a quickie glue pen or glossy accents) and trim neatly. Now place the oval shape on the centre of the card using foam pads or glue gel. Stick on the Get Well Soon (using same glues as I have already mentioned) and decorate the sentiment with a few flat backed pearls. Finally, add the chiffon bow at the top. Hey presto!

 

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We eat with our eyes…   

Mmm… I instantly think ‘yum’ with this delicious rich coloured dish of risotto, the pretty addition of nuts, mushrooms and herbs scattered on top is the finishing touch.

We eat with our eyes… That may sound bizarre but it is true! I think most of us recognise that a bland plate of something a bit beige or white isn’t very appetising, so we add a garnish of parsley or lettuce and tomato. Today’s chefs are taking ‘decorating’ to new heights – did you see any of the Great British Menu on TV recently – I mean, wow! Theatre as much as dinner!

Well apparently, there is scientific proof that food that looks good tasted better. Really. There is an emerging new science called ‘gastrophysics’ – sound like an area of science I might actually be interested in LOL – and Oxford University has been looking into how the appearance of food affects how we react to it. Not only does a beautifully arranged plate ‘taste better’, we are also likely to be happy to pay more for a dish laid out artistically than one just plonked on the plate.

Even more strangely, where things are on the plate matters too. While turning the plate around to a different angle can’t possibly affect the flavour, it does influence our appreciation of it.

We also like things prettily laid out on a plate. The current foodie trend to lay out a dish on one side of the plate is, so the researchers have found, not popular with diners!

Left: A fun and interestingly presented portion of fish and chips that you can’t wait to bite into… or (right) a pile of mushy stuff plonked on a plate. Which would you choose?

So, you are thinking, what has all this stuff got to do with me and my day to day cooking? Well, the same principles apply to what you produce at home. So if you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to produce something delicious, ensure maximum appreciation from your friends and family by taking a moment to make it look interesting on the plate. Even if you are producing something ‘bog standard’, like spag bol or a simple salad, pause to pretty it up a bit and it will, apparently, go down better with your diners!

If you are cooking a special meal for family and friends, you might want to think about what you serve your food on and eat it with as this also makes a difference. White plates and bowls seem to make people rate dishes as being ‘more tasty’, and using heavy cutlery as opposed to light, plastic handled designs also makes people enjoy their food more. What a funny lot we humans are!

What can I say? Seven artfully placed dots and a white pud on a black plate… all wrong surely? Well, I’d still like to eat it though, especially given all the strawberries!

And having said all that… here’s one design idea that you DON’T need to worry about. When I am planting in the garden, or arranging flowers etc. I always go for odd numbers of things (I’ve written about this before), so a cluster of three, five or seven, and so on, it looks more natural and attractive. So, you would think that three, five or seven strawberries or potatoes or whatever would be best on a plate… but no! Gluttony will out and research shows people simply opt for the plate with the most on it! That made me smile :o)

 

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Vintage Butterfly…

The Jane Shasky Vintage Butterfly Pad has been a constant companion on my desk since we launched it – such a great solution to so many cards!

This is a lovely card that looks much more difficult than it really is. It’s a quick and easy answer if you need a card in a short time!

Ingredients:

Quick ‘how to’:

  1. Either fold some card to about 8 x 6 (this is 210mm x 150mm) or use a card blank you have in stock.
  2. Cut some of the mid brown card you have chosen, about 5mm smaller than the card blank, then add a layer (again a 5mm (1/4”) border) using cream card. Cut out the border from the pad and layer onto some beige cardstock (you only need a scrap for this really).
  3. Now prepare the butterfly topper section of the card. Cut out the image and layer onto mid brown card using a double sided tape. Now layer that onto cream, this time using foam pads and then a final layer at the back of the darkest brown card.
  4. Place this almost square topper in position as shown in the picture – as it juts above the blank, make sure you stick securely NOT allowing any tape or glue on the portion that will jut over the top.
  5. Finally use the bluebell die and colour to suit – these are green and cream. Attach using quickie glue or glossy accents or Cosmic Shimmer acrylic – whatever you have in stock.
  6. Now finish the card with the little squares from the pad sheet, the sentiment again from the pad (layered onto mid brown) and add a final flourish with half a dozen pearls.
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