Sunday, 13 August 2017

Birds of a feather...

A few bird photos... a rare sighting of a bullfinch making the most of the rowan berries - on a rare sunny morning. And since the buses are all arriving early these days with school still off, I'd missed one bus and knew I had plenty of time to get the camera out.




Just the day before we had seen such a fat and red-breasted chaffinch on the niger seed feeder ( a first to see one there, they're normally ground-feeders) that we spent a long time looking at him to make sure he was a chaffinch.


We went for a walk in St. Catherine's Park on Friday afternoon for some time out, and spotted these little ducklings still growing into their adult plumage. I thought their tails looked so funny too, all fanned out. They swam over to us obviously hoping for some treats, but we had nothing to give them.



And lastly a very scruffy moulting robin I spotted this evening; he looked a little piratical with that black patch under his eye.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

July Favourites

Where did July go?  I have a few favourite cards, but it was a really busy month so I didn't have a lot of stamping time.  First up are a couple I made for the Dare To Get Dirty challenge currently running on Splitcoaststampers.




I used stamping with bubble-wrap as the technique challenge last week and ended up with a lot of backgrounds using various mediums - some still waiting to be turned into cards. Here I used paint, and the ladybird one is Brusho powders.




And for a challenge to use heat - my first card has Tyvek painted with acrylic medium and Perfect Pearls, and the second also uses Perfect Pearls for the "heated pearls" technique.



I had very few photos from last August in my files, but I did find several of a little bluetit perching on one of the feeders.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Recipe Time

...and a card.
Last week's mixed media challenge on Splitcoast required us to choose three different types of tutorial from the resources section, bingo-style. I was short on time so selected scraps from my scrap box which covered various tutorials and put them together to create a little scene - and searching for a sentiment to finish it off with, this one from Art Neko seemed to work well.

The embossing-folder-stamped background was originally intended for a sea scene, that's one of the folders you gave me, Lorraine!



Blue birds on my card, and here a couple of photos not of the baby bluetits still very much in evidence in the garden but of a young robin, moulting into his adult plumage. I always feel they almost look as if they had some sort of disease at this stage!



And I promised a recipe. I had some sweet potatoes sitting in the cupboard since before we went away, and it was high time to use them. I often make soup, but wanted some different today, so I looked online for some recipes and found several which I bookmarked into my Recipes folder.

The one I tried came from the BBC Good Food website, Moroccan chicken with sweet potato mash.

I chose this recipe because I always have ras-el-hanout in my cupboard, and was able to take chicken out of the freezer so it was a meal I didn't need to go shopping for. I have been buying my ras-el-hanout from Seasoned Pioneers for about twenty years now, going back to the days of dial-up internet and long before it was trendy. In fact, I first read of it back in the days when I used to buy the BBC Good Food magazine.

Moroccan chicken with sweet potato mash: serves 4

1kg sweet potatoes, cubed
2 tsp ras-el-hanout, or a mix of ground cinnamon and cumin
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
200ml chicken stock
2 tsp clear honey
juice ½ lemon
handful green olives, pitted or whole
20g pack coriander (cilantro) leaves chopped.

Cook the potatoes for about fifteen minutes, till tender.
Meanwhile rub the seasoning into the chicken breast fillets and fry them for about 3 minutes a side, till browned, in 1 tblsp of the olive oil. Remove the chicken, lower the heat and cook the onions and garlic till soft.
Add the stock, honey, lemon juice and olives, return the chicken to the pan and cook till the sauce is reduced and thick, and the chicken done. Stir in the coriander.

Mash the potatoes, season, add a spoonful of olive oil or butter. Slice the chicken breasts into thick slices, and serve on top of a bed of sweet potato mash with the sauce poured over.

I left out the olives, as C is not a fan of them and they are not something I tend to keep in the house. I did mean to substitute dates, but forgot - I've made a note on the recipe to include them next time. Because we both enjoyed it, there will definitely be a next time - perhaps with couscous rather than the mash.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Birds...

I had a piece of faux leather background left after making my card for the Art Neko blog last week - so I used it to make a card to share here this week. This sweet bird and nest are from the Flowers and Whimsy sheet of stamps. Next up will  be a card using that lovely birdhouse image, I think.

This one is stamped on watercolour paper and coloured with distress inks. My first background, whatever brand of masking tape I used curled when I heated it, so I had to gently heat it, take it all off and start again with a different brand. Hmm, I think most of what I have left is the one that curled.




A couple of garden birds - a very wet and presumably very hungry goldfinch this morning, and a little baby blue. We seem to have a lot of birds around since we came back from holidays - maybe because all the feeders are topped up again.



We got to see a lot of birds while we were away, first of all visiting the ornithological park in the Marais Poitevin - walking distance from the campsite, and then going back to the bird park in the Camargue. We weren't lucky enough to see bee eaters this year, but did get to see avocets and were also highly entertained by these bareback riders....






Monday, 3 July 2017

June Favourites

...are thin on the ground as we spent three weeks in France, camping, and some of what I made before we left were Christmas cards. Holiday photos to follow - still dealing with piles of washing and a tent which needs to be re-waterproofed before putting it away.




This month's header is a photo of some old dead flower heads from a bunch of flowers I had last July - I can't even remember what they were, but as the fell on the windowsill I thought they looked so pretty.

I'll leave you with a very short video of white peacocks. We were so fortunate to be walking along the river bank just at the right moment - I mostly took photos - and just watched them -  but snatched a short video:




Thursday, 1 June 2017

May Favourites

May didn't feel like a very productive month on the card-making front, and I've already shared a couple of my favourites, such as the London scene inspired by Margery Allingham.

First up is a French one using the Paris stamp from the same set as the London one. We couldn't decide whether to colour it or not. It looked quite nice when I coloured all the little trees green, and I'll definitely try colouring it next time I use it, but the typical Paris stonework is a pale yellow-cream colour anyway, so apart from the rooftops, not much colouring would be very authentic. The Sacré Coeur is very white, and I couldn't remember if the Panthéon dome was copper or white (it was swaddled in scaffolding and protective sheeting the last photos I took of it), but in fact it too is white.









Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Hot Off the Needles

...and a recipe recap.

A friend asked me if I would knit something for her to give her niece, expecting a first child. I gave her a book (Vogue Knitting on the Go) of baby blankets, and a few loose patterns, and was very happy when she chose this sweet blanket with a flock of sheep on it. It's self-edged with a moss-stitch border, and has a flock of blackberry stitch sheep on reverse stocking stitch. The book is old and I couldn't get the same wool, but was able to find an alpaca/acrylic mix which was a pretty close match. The idea was to find something machine washable. Since I hear that blankets I have made are still kept (one travelled to Africa 27 years ago and is still safely stored away), I hope that this too will be a keepsake once it's no longer in use. The tag has care instructions on the back.




Do you ever find that leftovers generate leftovers? Last week we had risotto, and I had a surfeit of basil, so I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to make a ratatouille on Saturday. I've shared the recipe before, you'll find it HERE. These are photos from this time - I was using the FOOD setting on my new camera, but didn't get the colour balance right on the first one - evidently. As Saturday was grey and non-stop rain, it was a very nice dish to have for lunch. With it, we had some gougère, made to use up the Gruyere left from a cheese soufflé. Originally we were just going to have the gougère for lunch and something else for dinner, but the two combined together very well to make a substantial midday meal. I like ratatouille hot, warm or cold so it will be my lunch most days this week.



The first photo shows the tomato sauce simmering away, and the onions, courgettes and aubergines frying. The second is after cooking, with basil and tomatoes all ready to stir in for the last few minutes of cooking time. And now I know how to work the easy colour-balance settings on the camera!!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Sunshine on a rainy day...

This feels a little like making jams and jellies and storing up autumn harvest for the winter: I've spent this week working on a summer sampler to send to a friend who has already received winter and spring ones. We've had a mini heatwave this week, it felt like being abroad last night when we walked out of a shop at 8.30 last night and it was still warm and balmy outside. Today, however, has been raining ever since I got up, and is an unrelenting grey through the windows.






B loves pink and flowers and birds, so I hope this will please her, It's much sunnier and brighter than the one I made for myself last year so I am almost tempted to make another - but mine is more reflective of a typical Irish summer!!





Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Irises

Last Saturday wasn't a gloriously blue-sky sunny day, but it was nice enough for us to take a short trip to the Botanic Gardens - and we got back to the car park just as the rain started.

Here are some of the irises. They're a flower I love, we used have the big tall ones in the garden when I was a child, and for quite a number of years I had a tub full of small orchid irises  I had grown from seed - but in the end they stopped flowering and their pot cracked in the frost last winter so I threw them out and will start again some time.







So for my Art Neko card this week, no surprise that I chose to feature an iris, using a stamp from the Set of 9 Flowered ATCs.
I stamped and embossed it on watercolour paper and coloured it with Inktense pencils and distress re-inkers for the background. The layer behind it was done with watercolour pencils sanded over some watercolour paper which had a stencil laid over it and then I misted a small section at a time and sanded the pencils over it. I had thought a while back of giving away my older cheap watercolour pencils, but this is a technique I like for the soft granular textured look it gives, so I held onto them. The base was just coloured with distress ink and misted, then scored around the edges. Since the ATC image has a heavy black outline, I added black edges to my sanded watercolour panel and the base layer. Oh - and because I liked the look of the paper where there had been no stencil and it just caught all the sanded pencil, I used a strip of that along the bottom, just for fun.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Inspired by...

I am currently re-reading all my Margery Allingham books, and when I read the opening paragraph of The Tiger in The Smoke, I knew straight away that I wanted to make a card based on it.

The paragraph is describing London (probably in the 1920s as it's a post-war setting) in a fog: The fog was like a saffron blanket soaked in ice-water. It had hung over London all day and at last was beginning to descend. The sky was yellow as a duster and the rest was a granular black, overprinted in grey, and lightened by occasional slivers of bright fish colour as a policeman turned in his wet cape.

I had bought the Stampers Anonymous Cityscape stamps with a birthday gift - mostly, it has to be said, for the Paris one. But the London one was perfect for this, even though it has a distinctly more modern feel to it with the Gherkin and the London Eye.

The background is a combination of sponging distress inks for that "duster" yellow, and grey Brusho powders.  Two photos, because I used splashes of pewter Twinkling H2Os for the slivers of fish colour, and trying to capture both the shine from that and the embossed cityscape was a challenging task.





Friday, 12 May 2017

Dreaming...

The Thursday challenge on Splitcoaststampers this week was "Kids and Pets", and this sweet "We're Off To See The Wizard" stamp from Art Neko seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I coloured it with pencils (and a hint of Stickles on Dorothy's shoes) and set it on a yellow brick road, adding some emeralds...and other bling. I'm not very good at knowing when to stop, and I think I overdid the Stickles. The sentiment comes from the Bookmarks and Sentiments plate.


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Bath Time

I do love watching the gulls bathing, they always seem to enjoy themselves so much. I was working at odd times last week, and unsure of which buses would get me in on time. Erring on the side of caution, I had time to go down to Heuston Station, and since it was low tide, it was prime bathing time.