Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Fox box and cushion

It is our friend Rachael's birthday at the end of the month and as she is very busy then, she came over last week.  I had got myself organised and made her presents in good time, so it all worked out well.  She likes foxes, so I bought some rather gorgeous fox material in colours I knew she would like and made a fox box.  I enjoy making these fabric boxes, as they are quick to make and are useful.
I also used my screen printing set to print the fox panel for this cushion.  It is a lovely print and printed out really well.  I mixed the shade of grey ink I wanted too.  I made the cushion cover with the fox fabric and was pleased at the way it turned out.
I made an envelope back, which is a really simple way of finishing the cover.  Rachael really liked the box and cushion, which I was delighted about.  I have a cat screen print too and some cat material so I would really like to make a cushion for myself now.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

I was asked to post the vegan chocolate cake recipe, so here it is:

220g/7oz plain flour
200g/7oz caster sugar (I use granulated and it works fine)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half a teaspoon of salt

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
250ml/8 fl oz water

1.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas 4.
2.  Lightly grease a 13 x 23 cm loaf tin or 20 cm round tin (I line my tin with baking parchment).
3.  Sieve together the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
4.  Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water.
5.  Mix together until smooth.
6.  Pour into cake tin and bake for 45 minutes (until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean). (I usually have to leave my cake in, covered in foil to prevent burning, for an extra few minutes).
7.  Remove from oven and leave to cool.

100g/4 oz icing sugar (You can make more, depending how much icing you would like in the middle of the cake - the proportion is half spread to icing sugar)
50g/ 2oz vegan spread
2 - 3 teaspoons cocoa powder (depending how chocolatey you would like the icing)
a tiny drop of vanilla extract

1.  Mix the spread in a bowl to soften it.
2.  Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl.
3.  Mix together until smooth. 
4.  Add the vanilla extract to taste.

Split the cake if you are having icing in the middle and spread half of the icing.  Place the top half of the cake onto the base and spread the remaining icing on the top.  Slice and enjoy! 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Recently I have been...

 ...making a vegan chocolate cake for a colleague's birthday...
...spending an afternoon making cards using paper piecing (using some of my ever growing card making stash), where I die cut the same shape in different colours and types of card and then pieced them back together in different combinations. 
...finally getting my MDF 12 x 12 storage unit (bought as a kit and put together by Chris and me - it was a two person job!) painted and decorated to organise my 12 x 12 papers more efficiently.
 I used the same paint as the other units - Orpington Duck Egg - and the same or similar papers too. (the other projects are here and here)
 I did include a different one for the back.
 I particularly like the Chinoiserie look of this one
 This unit is now full of my papers and makes me feel happy!  If only I could organise my other stashes - jewellery making equipment, sewing, polymer clay, art materials...a never ending list!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A rather snowy week

 I am rather pleased that this week is over. While I can appreciate the beauty of the snow, after a day or two of the disruption it always causes in the UK, I am heartily thankful to see the back of it. I think we have so much difficulty when it does snow because we are just not ready for it every year.   Last year, there was only a bit and this year, up to this week, a light dusting occasionally.  So when it descends on us in any quantity, everything grinds to a halt. Countries who get the snow every year are much better prepared for it precisely because they expect it and are ready.
 My Magnolia Fairy Blush did look very pretty with the frozen water droplets on its leaves.
 I hope it has survived the cold snap.
 This was Tuesday - not too bad, although cold, but the snow melted quickly.
 This was Wednesday.  Yes, very pretty and I love the way that snow muffles all the sounds.  We walked to work but were sent home at 12.30.  Having an extra day or two off work was a really welcome bonus!
 I did take pity on my box bushes and removed the snow as it was pressing the branches down.
 My poor plants!  However, the dustbin and compost bags look better with their snow hat.
 Impressive icicles on next door's guttering.
Some more impressive icicles on our guttering (this was yesterday).
Even the pots at the front door had icicles of their own.  I am pleased to say that the snow has melted now.  I am not sure how much damage it has done as I haven't insulated as many pots in the back garden as in previous years, but I hope plants have survived. We shall see.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Snowdrops at Doddington Hall

A couple of weekends ago, my friends Katy, Alison and I went to Doddington Hall, just outside Lincoln, for the start of their snowdrop season.  The weather was reasonably kind but the wind was bitterly cold.  Doddington Hall is a beautiful red brick Elizabethan house and well worth a visit, though on this occasion, it was all about the gardens.
 I was struck by the topiary - like a chess set - which immediately made me think of Alice in Wonderland (apparently, there was an Alice event there last year).
A very kind person had made this very photogenic arrangement with the old pump, a hellebore and some horseshoes.
 The kitchen garden had some amazingly knobbly fruit trees with gnarled branches.
 They almost looked alive.
 In the main garden are some venerable sweet chestnut trees which (the information stated) were 450 years old.  It is amazing to imagine what they have lived through.
 Under the trees we saw snowdrops, cyclamen, crocuses, aconites and the occasional daffodil.  A lovely spring flower carpet.
 Just beautiful.
 There were some lovely vistas with early rhododendrons, and a splash of colour from the witch hazels.
 More snowdrops and crocuses, with some lovely shadows...
 ...twirling shapes created by the sweet chestnut branches.
 More witch hazels, lighting up the scene.
 I particularly liked the smooth trunks of these paper bark maples (I think).  The bark had been peeling away and left a beautifully smooth surface underneath.  I like the way the snowdrops echo the white bark.
 I had a go at this grass maze.
 The wire unicorn sculptures echo the topiary ones at the front of the house.
 Mistletoe was growing on these trees - we assumed they were apple trees.
 Another lovely vista (the wind was really cold at this point - the crocuses are remaining firmly shut here)
 Everywhere we looked, there was another enticing view.
 This clematis seemed very happy on the wall.
A final view of those sweet chestnuts.
Here are the topiary unicorns at the front of the house, standing guard.
It was a lovely visit with lots of beautiful early spring flowers to enjoy.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

An evening with Elly Griffiths

(photo from
Last week, Chris and I went to hear Elly Griffiths talking about her books. I have read the previous nine in the Ruth Galloway series (murder mystery with a forensic archaeologist set in Norfolk) and have been lent one from another series (1950s murder mystery series set in Brighton, I think) too.  She read an excerpt from Dark Angel, the tenth in the Ruth Galloway series and said that she was already working on number eleven in the series, The Stone Circle.
(image from Amazon)
She also spoke about a standalone book, to be published in November 2018, called The Stranger Diaries.
(image from Amazon)
This sounds right up my street - here's the description:
'Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder.  As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year.  Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body.  The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal.  Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary.  Writing that isn't hers...'
Sounds good!
Elly Griffiths told us that she liked Wilkie Collins (a kindred spirit - well, I really like The Woman in White and The Moonstone, although I haven't read any other of his novels) and mentioned the part where Count Fosco writes in Marian's diary in The Woman in White as the inspiration for this part in her story.  She was very entertaining, enthusiastic and erudite, so I would recommend going to see her if she is in your direction.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Cakes, biscuits and cards

 I recently had a birthday (they do creep up rather quickly, I'm finding) and to celebrate, I did some baking to take to work.  One colleague is vegan and one is gluten free, so I had to make sure they were catered for. 
I made gooey, squidgy (extremely unhealthy, but delicious) gluten free chocolate brownies, with ground almonds instead of flour.
 Ginger biscuits with a swirl of icing are my go-to biscuits for my vegan friends. 
There was, of course, a chocolate cake (another go-to recipe) with chocolate buttercream icing and chopped up Twirls on the top.  This got lots of compliments, with one colleague saying it was the best chocolate cake they had ever tasted.  Praise indeed!
Of course, after receiving presents, there are the thank you cards to write.  I have just got a few more to do, but I decided to make them myself this year, so here are the first set.  Simple designs with die cuts and stamped sentiments.  I think the clean and simple (CAS) look suits my cards.