Sunday 21 October 2012

Challenge Accepted

The challenge set was that my Mum and I would both choose a piece of patterned paper that we'd purchased long ago and coveted and loved....and forgotten about and never used.  The background sheet here is m piece of paper.  It's by Basic Grey from their Urban Couture line which I'm sure disappeared some time ago and while thought (and still think) this paper is beautiful, it doesn't lend itself to my way of scrapbooking.

And so it never got used.  I hauled it out a couple of weeks ago when Mum and I set the challenge and got to work.  

In the end, I decided to let the pattern do most of the work for this page.  I used my Jungle-themed picture and story and the leafy fronds and tangling vines in their variegated hues of greens and yellows tied the whole thing together.  The background is overwhelming, so instead of fighting it, I let it overwhelm, confining it ever sol slightly with a white border to add definition.  And I enjoyed it!

I don't think I would, or indeed could, do every page like this.  But in this instance, with the right photos, I like how it turned out. 

Journalling reads:

The Armenians shrieked and pointed at me and said that I was the jungle lady.  Confused, much?  But they taped me into a ground sheet and also stuck on weeds and flowers and a scarf (?).  I protested vociferously as they unflinchingly mauled me about, smushing charcoal onto my face and grass in my hair.  And they gave me a log to hold and I had to dance.  The indignity!  But I won the prize :D

Kisses xxx

P.S. I intended to do the podcast today but I have little to no voice being currently possessed of a cold.  Yeulch.  I'm drinking ever so many cups of tea which doesn't really seem to be helping but does make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Swings and roundabouts really :D

Thursday 18 October 2012

The Secrets of the Perfect Hot Chocolate

It's autumn which I love most of the time.  I took the photo above when I got up very early one morning and couldn't resist hauling the camera through the damp, dew-soaked grass to look at the sun pouring through the branches.  It was cold and my breath misted and I love it.

But sometimes, autumn can feel a bit snivelly.  A big shout out to all my fellow cold-sufferers!  The usual round of autumn snuffles are going around and I have succumbed.  So I need reminding that autumn isn't all about dark nights, darker mornings and noses.

And that's where the hot chocolate comes it.  It's my own recipe that I made over and over again in my first year teaching when I would totter in, exhausted after a long day and curl up for half an hour to myself with a teacup full of delicious chocolate silk.  Yum!  I made it so many times that I perfected it to my own taste and I made it today for the first time this autumn.  I felt the need.

If you'd care to join me in a cup, here's the recipe.  The quantities are not exact but I think making really lovely hot chocolate is about catering to your own indulgence as much as anything.  And this isn't the quick, instant, whack-in-the-microwave kind of chocolate, but it is the baby-it's-cold-outside kind.  I hope you like it :D

You will need...
1 tsp cocoa powder (the real stuff for proper flavour)
A  couple of squares of Chocolate
Vanilla Extract
1 tsp cornflour
Marshmallows of the mini variety (absolutely not optional)
White Chocolate (ditto)
Glitter.  Of the edible variety.  If you absolutely have to, you can miss this out.

I always make mine in a teacup because this stuff is thick and filling and wondrously sweet and believe me, you won't want a whole mugful.  I fill the teacup about three quarters full of milk and then tip a little of it into a small pan.  I whisk the cocoa powder into this to form a paste and then tip in most of the remaining milk.  Whisk it together and let it warm gently on the hob over a low heat.  

Meanwhile, stir the cornflour into the last dribble of milk until it forms a paste.

Once the milky cocoa mixture is hot, chuck in the chocolate and take it off the heat.  The heat of the milk will melt the chocolate and after a couple of minutes, give it a stir to make sure all the chocolate is combined.  The smaller your squares of chocolate, the quicker this will be.

Add a pinch of ground cinnamon and a drop of vanilla to flavour and then stir in the cornflour paste.  Return the whole lot to the hob and heat gently, stirring occasionally.  The cornflour will cause the hot chocolate to thicken as it starts to boil.  Keep stirring to avoid it all sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When it's piping hot and thickened up a bit, it's ready.  Now for the important bit.

Put the marshmallows in the bottom of your cup and pour the steaming hot chocolate over them.  That way, they melt properly, going all gooey on the inside, and each one will develop a little halo of lovely smooth meltyness.  They will bob to the top and then I sprinkle on little chunks of white chocolate and top with edible glitter.

You'll need a spoon.  I'm just saying.

Kissses xxx

P.S. Make someone else do the washing up.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Pinspiration: As Neat as 10 Pins

Welcome to my Ten on the Tenth, courtesy of the fabulous Shimelle.  My ten things are all inspired by, and indeed sourced through, Pinterest.  I love Pinterest; I find it addictive and could happily spend collecting and collating the most beautiful photography.

But enough.  Enough keeping these wonderful pictures locked away on my little corner of the internet.  I solemnly pledge to you, dear reader (sorry, it seemed like a dear-reader moment) that I shall now take inspiration and plough it cheerfully into my own endeavours.  

In less high-flown language, I've decided that at the beginning of each month, I am going to chose an image from Pinterest and use it to inspire a creation of my own for that month.  Just as I have used Marcy Penner's scrapbook page below, to inspire my page above.  Then at the end of the month I will share what I've done. I'll share my image for this month later on, but for now, here's what I've been using for this page...

I used a similar grouping of elements and built up layers of paper in line with a block of text.  I did a spot of inking and framed my picture with paper arrows, cut from a sheet of patterned paper and popped up on foam.

The journalling reads:

We had decent food on camp, and bread with every meal.  Mash was popular as was the coleslaw-with-no-mayo-but-with-coriander-and-oil.  Sometimes we had plain pasta with our bread, or rice, or buckwheat.  Sometimes we had condensed milk (a winner). And sometimes it was bread with bread, and we couldn't manage it all at once so we'd have it later and designate it pudding bread.  Yum!  But whatever works :D

I loved taking inspiration from another scrapbooker I admire and Pinterest is a wonderful way to do that, and provides a great springboard for the imagination.

With this in mine, my ten on the tenth are ten ways I like to take inspiration from Pinterest, with the first being scrapbooking, as above.  However, there are (at least) nine others to follow:

Stunning colour combinations.

Source: via Kirsty on Pinterest

Dreams for home

Things to make from paper

Source: via Kirsty on Pinterest

Inspiration for photography

Sewing themed picures....

And yarn-based delights,

Source: via Kirsty on Pinterest

Not to mention lovely fabric.

There are always things I wish to bake.

And future adventures to have and places to explore.

Source: via Kirsty on Pinterest

I hope you can find as much inspiration there as I have and if you want to join in the challenge one month, let me know - I'd love to see your take on Pinspiration.

Kisses xxx

P.S. Each month on the tenth, lots of us flock to Shimelle's to share ten things on the tenth - why not hop over there to share yours and see what others have been up to?

P.P.S. And I can't leave it there without mentioning the necessity of crediting images.  Remember to credit anyone whose images you use - especially if you love what their doing and it inspires you!

Sunday 7 October 2012

Podcast Episode 3: In With the Old (and Storytelling Sunday)

I thought I'd get out episode 3 of the Journal of Curious Things Podcast a little early in order to tie in with Sian's Storytelling Sunday.  I've got my story in audio format, along with the usual scrapbooking update, a round of Miss Smith Suggests, and some thoughts on baking from the Craft Corner.  You can stream it here or download it from iTunes and listen whenever and wherever you want.  Just search for Journal of Curious Things in the iTunes store.

Show Notes

The surprisingly busy yet beautiful background paper for my latest page, unearthed from stash in a bid to use what I have and learn to love the older items I have hoarded.  See above for my work-in-progress as part of the mother-daughter challenge.

Simple, elegant elements that are neutral enough for any page, but do add a touch of handmade inspiration to any project.  I LOVE them.

Pages that are finished can be seen below with full details here and here.

Pepper and Orange Soup Recipe
See below

Hop over to their site to catch their podcast, or listen to it on iTunes.  Either way, you'll giggle, you'll grin, and you'll play top 5s out loud with them.

Check out her lovely blog, her huge range of inspiring projects and the up-and-coming Bloggers' weekend!

If you want to hear my story, you can either listen to podcast all the way through or you can jump in at 26 minutes and 30 seconds if you just want to hear the Storytelling Sunday bit.  I'm got a school story n audio form today,  Remember to stop by Sian's blog, read her story and those of others, and leave a comment to let people know you had a read!

Pinata Cookies (Fail)
Still trying to get my head around how biscuits with sweets in could be disappointing.

Music: Bed of Cloud by Amanda Duncan, courtesy of Music Alley

The soup recipe goes like this (serves 1)
Halve a red bell pepper, remove the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 200 degrees for 30 mins. Once cooled, peel and chop.

Finely chop an onion and 2 cloves of garlic and fry lightly in olive oil in the bottom of a large pan.  Add 100ml of vegetable stock, 200g of tinned chopped tomatoes and the roasted papers.  Season (I used pepper, paprika, cumin, dried chilli flakes and hot chilli powder), stir and leave to simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 30 mins.

Blitz with a hand blender until smooth and add 60ml of orange juice and a splash of milk.  Heat for 10 minutes and serve with a garnish of freshly chopped coriander or basil, and a crusty bread roll.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I'm at a Guide event all day but rest assured I am looking forward to coming home, making some tea, reading some stories and then curling up with a film and some mac and cheese.  Heaven!

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Notes from Ijevan

I love these papers.  And I love that a bit of paper-piecing action shows them off so well.  These muted tones are my ideal colour scheme and one I must remember to come back to in the future.

I decided on Friday that I wanted to do a pieced background and I made myself a template for the slices out of a sheet of Bazzill Basics cardstock that I knew I wouldn't use otherwise.  I cut up that sheet of Bazzill numbered each slice and cut round them on the patterned paper.  I then assembled the page on a cardstock background, but I've kept the bits of the template.   Numbering them has meant that I can re-assemble them really easily and if I want to do this again (which I do!) I've now got a template ready to go.

This was a great way to feature some gorgeous papers and to use up some stash.  I'm going to make more of an effort in future to use what I have rather than sticking to the newest items in my ever-growing collection.  Paper-piecing is also a lovely technique as, once the template was made, the cutting and sticking was low on brain space and so I caught up on some Downton Abbey while I crafted.

I was also pleased to find that this page didn't need a lot else - the pieced background did all the work!  So I added my journalling and all good to go.  It reads:

In Ijevan, the water options in the shower seemed to be either 'cold' or 'no water'.  And we were introduced to some milipede-esque  creatures with an unnatural number of legs.  They could run decidedly quickly and made no distinction between running on beds, floors, windows, curtains, walls, and worryingly, ceilings.  I performed a spectacular squishing of one insect, but a second nippier specimen and lurked, waiting to scare us at night.  By day we hung out at the theatre waiting for our non-existent trainees to show up, and eating Snickers.  The locals kept offering us fruit so clearly we looked malnourished.  But it was all good fun even if there wasn't much to see and do.

Wishing you all a snuggly, crafty, soup-based Autumn evening.  And a home-made quilt to hide under while you watch the bake-off again.

That last one may be just me :D

Kisses xxx

P.S. More about this page will be coming up on the next podcast which I am going to *fingers crossed* release this weekend,

P.P.S. Saying that I'm going to release it does indeed make me feel like a Hollywood director.

Monday 1 October 2012

Keeping Clean and Red Peppers

It's Autumn!  Love it, and in honour of this lovely season, I am making soup.  I'll let you know how it goes when I've slurped it up but it's simmering at the moment.  

So in the mean time, I shall share a finished scrapbook page.  This is the end product of one of the pages I talked about on the Podcast Episode Two: Against the Clock.   There wasn't actually a lot to add but there were a few tweaks and alterations.

This was how the page looked after I'd timed myself for one hour.  Nothing was stuck down, but it was taking shape.  Well, it now has journalling, everything is inked and stuck down and I even cut the branding strip off the paper.  Classy :D

To finish it off, I also added a little bit of navy to the bottom cluster of embellishments.  The photo and the top cluster had a bit and it seemed like the bottom was missing out.  Sad face.  But, thanks to the smashing October Afternoon, a navy label sticker was soon found and everyone in the castle rejoiced.  Or at least, if I'd notified them, they would have.  But the visual triangle was complete and so was my page.

This is another page for the Armenia album and the journalling reads:

Each morning on camp we'd wake up in the tents to the noise of the sound system.  We'd decide what colour T-shirt to wear, and we don't shower.  We put on the T-shirts, still don't shower, grab a handful of wetwipes and while we wipe ourselves down, we pretend that it's the same as a shower.  Once respectable, we take it in turns with the bite cream.  We were sadly plagued by small biting insects and clearly, we're delicious.  We don't know what they are but they get in our clothes and that's just not cricket.  Although I don't think it was the crickets as they're quite cute and and bounce really far.  After bite cream comes a a dousing in max-jungle-strength insect repellent that the Armenian insects clearly enjoyed, and to finish off, we slather on the suncream.  Lovely, and all good to go!

I love this time of year.  While I could do without the dark creeping into the mornings, I am enjoying the chill in the air, as I can break out with the mittens-and-gloves combo and, once again, crack on with the soup.  It's acceptable to have a hot-water bottle and to snuggle into blankets and, even though you know you shouldn't, you can look at Christmassy things on Pinterest.

I'm going to be sharing more Autumnal thoughts later on, but right now, the soup needs blending so I'm going to hold that thought for another time.

Night Night,

Kisses xxx

P.S. For anyone interested, the lovely Lizzie is hosting a Bloggers' weekend away for scrapping, crafting and general happy times.  I'm so in!  Pop over to her blog to find out more - the more the merrier!!!