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Peas, please!

Peas – those round, sweet, green things – even people who don’t much like veggies seem to approve of peas. It’s the perfect instant veg, to be whipped out of the freezer and cooked at a moment’s notice, but let me assure you they are even better when picked and eaten fresh.

Lots of people think growing peas is a bit of a waste of time and space… but they have probably never picked them and eaten them straight from the pod. They are so sweet and so delicious! I pick a few at a time, as they mature on the plant, and steam them for a couple of minutes, then run them under cold water and add to my salad alongside my home-grown leaves and broad beans creating a garden salad ­– delicious.

Peas are one of those things that we think of as essentially ‘British’. Fish, chips and mushy peas, pie and peas, pea soup… but as is so often the case when you look into it, they are a relatively recent arrival on our shores and originate from north-west Asia!

But our climate suits them perfectly and they thrive here. As a nation we certainly love them – we eat far more than any other country in Europe, chomping around 9,000 each per year. That’s a lot of peas! Fortunately, they are good for us combining fibre and protein with vitamins and minerals and must be the most popular of the ‘5-a-day’… or is it ‘10-a-day’ now? I can’t keep up!

They are relatively easy to grow either from seed, or you can buy them as small plants. The only real problem is with pigeons… they love them! Having lost an entire crop in one day a few years ago, I now cover them with netting. Even then, they still get a bit nibbled. But to me, the sweetness, the vivid colour and that pleasing ‘pop’ of the pod makes them all worthwhile

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Birthday wishes with a safari theme!

Our Safari themed dies are so much fun to play with – how lucky am I playing for a job! The easiest way is using them in monochrome, so there’s no colouring and they do look so effective.

The zebra card makes me think of the Madagascar film (a big family favourite) where they wonder whether Marty the zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes. This card illustrates it perfectly – this example has a black underneath with the white stripes over the top – oh or are the black bits the stripes – hey it doesn’t matter you can use them whichever way round you like!

The landscape border looks wonderful just diecut in black (or brown if you are doing a different colour theme). Simple cards are fun to make and very impressive.

The lion panel again looks good in a single colour – in this case, black but we have used it in shades of brown too. So quick and so effective. The little lion embellishment comes from a snippet of backing paper on the Jayne Netley Mayhew CD – and apologies, it is out of stock now but I’m sure some of you will have it. Alternatively, you can use any animal related snippet that you have.

 

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Happy Birthday Chickens from Marjolein Bastin

This lovely image of chickens is painted by Marjolein Bastin, an artist whose works I really admire. So many of her designs that we have licensed are just brilliant. This particular image comes from her ‘Spring’ collection pad. Excuse me if I have a slight snigger at the rather weak joke of a ‘Spring Chicken’ card for a friend who possibly isn’t one anymore!

You can use so many different embossing folders with this style of card and although the ‘Best Wishes’ words are using the All Occasion (147) die – you could use any you have handy. The useful thing about our paper pad collections is that pretty much everything you need is on the page and, in this case, the fun spotty border with the hen is from the same page as the main image.

 

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Elderflower and strawberry jam

Making your own preserves is a very satisfying thing to do. Those pretty rows of little jars full of homemade goodness make me feel very pleased with myself! It’s always good to try and ring the changes and, although strawberry jam is a huge family favourite, I thought the addition of elderflower sounded fun.

Ingredients:

  • 2kg (4lbs) strawberries
  • 2kg (4lbs) preserving sugar
  • Juice from three lemons
  • 8 large elderflower heads

Method:

Prepare some sterilised jam jars, either in the oven, or in a dishwasher, or you can microwave a jar (leave slightly damp) for about 45 seconds. I always buy new lids and greaseproof covers as that way I am sure they are bacteria free. Also, put an ordinary saucer in the freezer so that it’s ready to use for jam testing later in the cooking process.

Prepare some sterilised jam jars, either in the oven, or in a dishwasher, or you can microwave a jar (leave slightly damp) for about 45 seconds. I always buy new lids and greaseproof covers as that way I am sure they are bacteria free. Also, put an ordinary saucer in the freezer so that it’s ready to use for jam testing later in the cooking process.

To intensify the strawberry flavour, prepare the berries and put them in your preserving pan (or large saucepan) add the sugar and lemon juice and leave (covered) overnight.

Now start to heat them slowly and add the elderflowers. This should be done by first shaking the flowers (adding creepy crawlies to jam really isn’t a good thing) and then picking off the flowers and add to the strawberry mix.

Stir well and bring to the boil for about 5 minutes. Skim off the scum that may form on the surface.

If you have a sugar thermometer then boil until it reaches 105ºC and then test a small spoonful on the cold saucer. Place the test spoonful and saucer in the fridge and within 5 minutes it should have formed a skin that wrinkles when you push it. If this doesn’t happen then boil again for another couple of minutes and try again.

Once you are happy that it has reaching the setting point, allow it to cool for about 10 minutes and fill the sterilised jars.

This is particularly nice with scones and Devon clotted cream – me biased, not a chance!

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With Love from Japan

I have a mass of beautiful and happy memories of visiting Japan, and of my friends over there, that are all part of the Joanna Sheen Pressed Flower School. I went over every year for about ten years back in the 1990s and it is a truly amazing country to see. The temples, the cherry blossom, the artworks, the happy people and the very beautiful flowers – in fact, all things ‘flowery’ that I discovered while over there – combine to create a fabulous store of memories for me.

I am always happy to use anything oriental in a card and when I discovered the artwork of Haruyo Morita, I was spellbound – such gorgeous feminine images! Have a quick flip through the pages on the website to see what I mean.

This card is a simple use of one page of the pad (got to love our pads!). You could use any die cut border you have in stock, some pastel backing paper (which you need to antique a little with a Distress pad perhaps?) a little scrap of ribbon and yes, the Haruyo Morita paper pad.

I have included some photos here of a class I was teaching back in the 90s – and a picture I made with orchids – in truth the orchids weren’t from Japan, but a bouquet sent to me by my brother when he lived in Singapore. In those days any flowers bought for me were doomed to instant preservation and were snipped to pieces and pressed within a few hours of arriving!

And can I just say – no rude comments please about my mop of unruly dark curly hair – I thought it looked the bee’s knees in those days – ahh how tastes change in 25 years!

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