Is it too Early for Thoughts of Valentines Day?

I’m sure that I’m actually a lot later than the majority of card designers but nevertheless, I think that now is a good time for me to be thinking about possible Valentine’s designs. I’ll be working on a new idea this coming week but for now, have been looking at using some older designs but in a new way:

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Over the next week or so, I’ll be looking at some other ideas and will hopefully find a few designs that could work well as cards.

Art Deco …

As I explore different media and different styles of artwork, I become increasingly amazed by the vast  amount of talent and inspiration that surrounds us. One style that I’m currently exploring is art deco, the style, the colours and the artists who both influenced it and who were influenced by it are fascinating. The picture I did today using watercolour, brush pens and ink was taken from a sketchbook of stained glass designs:

I love the idea of ‘weaving’ flowers in to her hair, especially as they appear to be tulips 🌷

 

Final Flourishes for Fishfest …

It’s that time of year again, time for Fishfest 2013. I’m really excited to have a stall at the Arts and Crafts Market again and today, I put the finishing touches to the layout of my stall:

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I know Fishfest won’t be in the dark on saturday but I couldn’t resist taking the final picture. Hopefully we will all be really busy, it should be the best Fishfest yet !

A Week of Sunshine …

It’s been a long time coming but the sunshine is finally here, I’m not sure how long it will last but am determined to make the most of it. We’ve been eating outside (food tastes so much better outdoors for some reason), I’ve planted some more seeds in a (very) mini greenhouse and when we had friends over for lunch yesterday, we spent the whole day in the garden, chatting away the hours.

The painting that I’ve been doing over the past three days has turned in to a bit of an abstract. I’ve been inspired by the flowers and foliage that seems to have had a sudden growth spurt over the past week or so, I was also inspired by thoughts of the seaside, sailing boats and crashing waves. All of these thoughts somehow ended up in one painting:

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The best use of a tea towel (or two), ever I think:
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I found these two beauties last weekend and decided they were too lovely to be used for drying dishes, they look much better handing on the doors of our ‘shudio’!
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The start of summer heralds altogether much fresher and tastier food.

Here we have a very simple pasta dish, served with smoky lardons, goats cheese, red onions and a chipotle chilli sauce. The smokiness of the lardons was very much enhanced by that of the chipotle sauce:flare-iphoto-export-389547292 I’m not sure what to call this next dish, it’s a kind of a curry (cumin, ginger, turmeric and coriander were all used) but it’s also a broth. We normally have coconut milk in our prawn curries but as we had none, I had to improvise. Cooking the noodles in a vegetable stock and then ladling this into the bowls, on top of the prawns meant that we had a very fresh tasting, zingy meal:flare-iphoto-export-389547629 I took this photo, simply because it was a gorgeously lazy sunday morning and whilst everyone else was still asleep, I treated myself to a ‘full-on’ freshly ground cup of coffee with vanilla syrup, frothy milk and cocoa sprinkles:flare-iphoto-export-389547832 Lunch yesterday was a quiche lorraine, green salad, foccacia and a beetroot salad. The quiche recipe did however come from Heston Blumenthal’s ‘At home with Heston’ book and it took forever to make. Not only did the pastry have to be refrigerated once and frozen twice (I know!), the filling had to reach 63℃ on the hob and then 70℃ once it was in its pastry case in the oven. The onions had to cook for an hour too – this was definitely a recipe to make ahead. I was hopeful that all the effort would be worth it and the proof of the quiche is in the eating:flare-iphoto-export-389548116 I have to say that it was completely delicious, never before have I tasted a quiche with such a depth of flavour, it was amazing.

To follow, we had Chocolate Fondants. This was the second time I have made them and this time I followed Raymond Blanc’s recipe which is in the current edition of ‘delicious’ magazine. In contrast to the quiche, it was ridiculously easy to make and the timings worked perfectly:flare-iphoto-export-389548417 Here’s the very mini greenhouse that I mentioned earlier, I did say it was very mini:flare-iphoto-export-389548568

Sweet Peas, A Mellow Chilli and Other Yummy Things …

It seems to have rained for much of the time since we built our ‘shudio’, however, I did manage to get an hour or so out there this afternoon. I am attempting to grow some sweet peas, snapdragons, pansies and calendulas from seed. At the funeral of a close friend recently, every mourner was given a small envelope of seeds, I think it is a beautiful way for us to remember our friend – she was a real lover of flowers and all things green and growing. I’m really pleased that the seeds are actually growing as I’m not at all green fingered.

Here’s what my sweet peas will hopefully look like:

These are some of my sweet pea seedlings, I’ll be needing something longer than an old chopstick to support them very soon:

The tiny seedlings to the left in the photo above are my extremely slow growing chilli plants – I was given the seeds at Christmas and am determined to get these 3 survivors to the fruiting stage!

Below, you can see the tiniest Banoffee Pie in the world! They are delicious though and will be perfect on a cake stand with some other miniature desserts, perhaps as part of a celebration:

Patates Bravas is a new dish for me, I used the recipe from ‘What Katie Ate’ by Katie Quinn Davies although I did do a couple of things differently. I had to briefly shallow fry the parma ham as the grill on my oven no longer works (is this enough for me to justify buying a new oven?!) and I poached the eggs instead of frying them  because I’m not a huge fan of fried eggs. The end result was really tasty, a perfect saturday night tea:

Below is a real family favourite – poached salmon. It was wrapped in a parcel with white wine, a small knob of butter, lemon, basil and seasoning. It was then cooked for about 10-12 minutes and was served with basmati rice and carrot crisps.

It’s now obvious to me that I need to catch up a bit – these Hot Cross Buns were made in time for Easter weekend! I think I’ve only made them once before but these were sooo much tastier, being baked as they were, from Paul Hollywood’s book ‘Bake’. He recommended brushing hot apricot jam over the top but I didn’t have any, I did however have some preserving sugar which I melted and brushed over the tops, I then somewhat overdid the ‘sprinkling’ of the sugar!!It has been good fun trying out new recipes recently, the one below being a case in point. My 12 year old loves macaroni cheese (as do I), my husband and 10 year old however, dislike it intensely. When I saw this recipe in ‘What Kate Ate’, I had to give it a go. We had some delicious chorizo in the fridge and this recipe used some of it superbly. This incredibly aromatic meat permeated the whole of the dish, giving it a distinctly warm and earthy taste, the cherry tomatoes kept the dish moist. I have made this recipe since, using bacon instead of chorizo and it too passed the ‘appeals to the whole family test’.Tonight we had Heston Blumenthal’s Chilli, I wanted to see if the extra ingredients (star anise, spiced butter,paprika,tomato ketchup (?!), cumin, half a bottle of red wine) would make a difference. Obviously, it being a Heston recipe, they did. This was an unbelievably mellow chilli, despite the fresh chilli and chilli powder that were included. It took 3 hours to cook but only the first 40 minutes or so required me to be at the stove. It’s definitely a chilli that we will be having again soon:To finish off this week, here’s the view from my new ‘shudio’, the evening before the rains came:I hope to be out here painting much more over the coming weeks, hopefully enjoying some warmer weather at the same time.

Going Round in Circles …

 

 


I’ve been inspired by the ‘Sketchbook Challenge’ by Sue Bleiweiss. I have a watercolour book which will serve as my sketch book as I intend to watercolour my way through her challenges. The first challenge is entitled ‘Circles’ and I decided to begin with some simple flowers made with circles:

Flower CirclesI also had a go at something similar on ‘artboard’ :

circlesWhilst I do prefer the more random nature of the freehand watercolour, I enjoyed using artboard as it enabled me to try a variety of colour palettes  – it was only once I had finished my trial run on artboard that I drew and subsequently painted the watercolour above.