Wednesday, 25 February 2015

DIY Embellishments - 3D Die Cut Flowers

After spending hours lately looking at Pinterest and discovering ideas, tips, tricks and tutorials and saying ohhhh and ahhhhh I thought I'd give some of them a go. The first thing I tried was to combine two techniques to make flowers that I found via Pinterest Julie's Inkspot Blog and on the Verity Cards blog.

I have an Xcut Petal Posy die that cuts 6 different sizes of petal shapes and an assortment of circular centres (not used here). So to combine the two ideas I cut 3 petal pieces out in varying sizes and folded each of the petals in towards the entre, glueing the base of the largest one and putting the next size in on top of it, then the next one until you have all your pieces in place.

The next step is to use a hot glue gun and place a large blob of glue in the centre of the flower and fill it with seed beads to form the centre of the flower. It all went pear shaped here because I couldn't find the seed bead box grrrr! So instead for the purpose of taking a photo I used larger beads from a tub on the desk, although they are too large and I don't have enough of them, you can see the effect. When I find the seed beads I can complete the project, properly and when they're done they'll look brilliant with some die cut leaf shapes (I have a die cut for leaves to) and make superb floral embellishments for decorating cards.

After not being able to find the seed beads, I decided to try another idea I saw on Pinterest, this time for making your own glitter tape over at Damask Love, the idea is sound and as you can see from the first photo it works, BUT the lady writing the blog didn't mention the fact that it would be almost impossible to use the tape. The only way I can see the technique working is to lay the tape on the card in situ, glitter it and voila! The idea is brilliant and it will save me a fortune on the Border Glitteration ribbon strips I got from Anita's. So its back to the drawing board on the DIY glitter tape, but I will crack it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Embossing Like A Boss!

I've been a little quiet on the crafty front for a few weeks, I've been working on the book I'm writing so not had as much crafting time, but I began getting withdrawal symptoms so last weekend I got my craft on. After seeing an article in issue 140 of 'Cardmaking & Papercraft' magazine I was inspired to want to have a go at making my own 3D rose toppers, so I ordered the moulds and WOW Melt it that I needed over the weekend and went out to 'The Range' and bought a heat gun and a few embossing powders to tide me over until my new goodies arrived.

I've been embossing card with my Sizzix Big Shot and my Xcut Xpress Die Cutting machine's for a while now, examples of the sort of effects you can achieve can be seen on one of my previous posts here. I'd not done any heat embossing before, mainly because I didn't have the heat gun, plus my previous attempts at rubber stamping had gone a tad pear shaped. The results were so rubbish I abandoned the ink pads and stamps in favour of more easily obtainable results like machine embossing and die-cutting and using pre-made toppers and die cuts, whilst secretly wishing I could make use of some of the wonderful stamps that I've been getting with my craft magazine subscriptions.

Realising that I wouldn't be able to have a go at making the rose embellishments until the goodies I'd ordered had arrived, I was itching to get started, the only course of action was to beat my fear of stamping and have a go. I'd picked up an embossing clear ink pad when I bought my heat gun, so I had no excuse. I chose a small sentiment stamp from out of my stamp drawer, yes I have a drawer of stamps, some I've ought but most of them have come with craft magazines and stored because "maybe one day..." Well this weekend that one day came and I decided to emboss like a boss!

I picked the "Happy Mother's Day" stamp because it was small and looked fairly easy to work with, not because mother's day is coming up, my mum passed away 12 years ago so I don't have a reason to send MD cards any more, although I do know some people I know that have fur babies who I think would appreciate a surprise Mother's Day card ;) I inked up the stamp with the clear embossing ink, pressed on to the card, applied the embossing powder and shook off the excess, all easy so far, all the stamped bits were covered. Now to heat it... and OMG you'd have thought I'd found buried treasure of had been targeted for my skills by the Ministry of Magic!

I was amazed, the first (pink) sentiment I embossed worked perfectly, okay maybe the ink wasn't added evenly but for a first attempt it was pretty good for me :) The second attempt (lilac) wasn't so good, I slipped with stamp when I pressed to the card and it left a smeared effect. I used an xcut die cut to shape the sentiment, then as you can see in the first image, I edged it with a Spectrum Noir Alcohol Markers I got for my birthday (thanks Dad!)

I embossed a piece of pink card with a floral design from the Sheena Douglas called 'Fabulous Florals' which came free with "Crafters Companion Crafter's Inspiration Issue 4 Spring Edition" and used a double sided floral and dotty paper from the A4 "All My Love" pad that I picked up cheap from Crafter's Companion in the January Sales. Finished with pink organza ribbon from my stash, which I think came from 'The Works' and a few pink stick-on jewel gems. I was thrilled with my efforts. I can't describe the thrill I got from creating that card using the first thing I ever embossed, I was certain that it was going to go wrong and was amazed when it didn't :) Yes I know its not perfect, but its perfect to me!

I'm now waiting for orders of embossing powders, fairy shaped die-cuts, toppers, distressing inks, stamps, embossing folders, coloured card, silicon moulds and an assortment of other embossing and card creating goodies to arrive for new projects I want to try. I learnt this weekend that buying stuff and not using it (something I'm guilty of in the past for fear of wasting materials or seeing a project fail), is just as wasteful as using it and it going wrong, you learn by experience, the more you do it, the better you get, so from now on I'll be embossing like a boss and using the results to make cards and tags. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Gluten and Dairy Free Cookery Books

Changing what we eat has meant rethinking lots of things, so I started to look at books that could help, the problem was its looking like the hubby needs to avoid dairy and I need to avoid wheat, there are plenty of gluten free cookery books out there but they use dairy products, yes I can substitute dairy free milk, fats and cheese but its hard enough juggling with new flours that work in a wholly different way than I'm used to. They do have some lovely recipes in though and I will be trying but I figured it would be a lot easier if I could find some books that dealt with gluten and dairy free in one go.

I've picked up three, I'll blog about each of them over the next couple of weeks and any recipes we try. The first book is written by Pippa Kendrick and is called 'Free-From Food For Family & Friends' the recipes are all free from gluten, dairy and eggs. Tonight we cooked our first of many recipes from it that we have ear marked to try, the hubby even tackled making dairy free pesto and did a rather damn fine job if I do say so. The first recipe we selected was Salmon, New Potato & Pea Salad with Mint Pesto Dressing, I was a tad suspicious of this recipe because there was no parmesan for the pesto and I've never made pesto with mint before, but it came out really rather well. The hubby is now hooked on using the pestle and mortar so we're going to have a go at making basil pesto with some yeast flakes to add a cheesy twist and have it with gluten free pasta and chicken.

The photo doesn't do it justice, it was really tasty, I admit to doing a few things differently to the recipe, Kendrick's calls for putting the peas in boiling water for a few minutes, I cooked mine in a pan. Also the original recipe called for hot smoked salmon, not something easy to find near me so I cooked a couple of salmon fillets in the oven having first dusted them with some smoked paprika, best I could do. I also only added 2 tablespoons of olive oil and not the 4 the recipe called for, 2 was plenty. The recipe was to serve 4 for a light meal or 2 for a main meal and there was plenty to fill us up nicely, but not too full, left room for the dairy free lemon curd sponge that the hubby helped make yesterday, yum!

The book has a good selection of baked goodies, in fact after breakfast suggestions, come suggestions for elevenses and that section has recipes for Brown Sugar Oat Biscuits, Chocolate Banana Bread, Lemon Shortbread and Strawberry Cream Cupcakes all on our list to try over the next few weeks. I can't wait to have a go at making the Garlic & Herb Cashew Cream Cheese, because I have a feeling that can become a replacement for crème fraîche for my Tarte flambée :)

This week we're planning on trying the Chilli Con Carne recipe from the book accompanied by corn bread, the Creamy Chicken Curry and the Sweet Potato & Onion Bhaji Bites are on the menu for our friday night curry night, and we're also going to try the Fish Pie recipe, and that's just for starters. The good thing about this book is its written by a UK based cook, who actually has allergies and most ingredients can be easily found in the UK. I also like the fact that she defined fresh herbs, when a recipe calls for a small bunch of say mint you need about 7g and when it calls for a large bunch it needs about 15g. So far I'm impressed and I'm looking forward to trying more of her recipes, if the first was anything to go by it'll be easy and delicious, although I suspect things will still get tweaked and ingredients swapped, increased or reduced, its the way I roll in my kitchen lol!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ditching Dairy - I Can Have Pizza!!!

It was with great misery that I realised that one of my favourite foods in the whole world would be a thing of the past now we've gone dairy free, so much so that I admit to having a wibbly bottom lip. I started to make a list of all the things I couldn't have any more that I liked pizza, tart flambee which needs fromage frais and some form of cheese on the top, I could no longer have a cheese and pickle sandwich, no more cheese on pasta... You get the idea.

I remembered vegan cheese from the 80's when I was a vegetarian, rubberised odd tasting slabs of stuff that wouldn't melt, didn't taste very nice and made you decide that no cheese at all was better than soya cheese. My heart was heavy, sure I could get along without it, but I didn't want to. I did a little research and heard about a vegan cheese that has been formulated just for pizza?! Had I died and gone to heaven... So yesterday we embarked on a journey to find a health food shop that stocked what we were after and found it in Nottingham at a place called The Natural Food Company its a small little shop but we found an assortment of things we can't get locally and a fridge full of vegan cheese. I had seen this cheese on the Goodness direct website, but you have to buy a minimum of 6 items for chilled/frozen deliveries and they still charge you £9.00 for delivery which was a tad steep for me. If you buy non-chilled items postage is free over £35!

I bought several bags of the Veganic Pizza Cheese, its 100% Vegan, 100% Lactose Free, 100% GMO-Free, 100% Gluten Free and 100% Cholesterol Free, it smells like cheese, it tastes like a very mild cheddar and in its 'raw' state it has the texture of grated mild cheddar, a tad waxy but not unpleasant. So today it was game on for creating a dairy free and gluten free pizza, the pizza base was made using Doves Farm Gluten Free Bread Flour using their recipe for Tomato & Courgette Pizza. Although I always add garlic granules, basil and oregano to my pizza dough, I also make my own tomato sauce using passata, herbs, garlic granules, salt and pepper, its very tasty. Instead of the courgette I topped our pizza with finely chopped onion, smoked ham and pepperoni and of course the veganic pizza cheese.
The end result as you can see above was a pizza that was edible, however despite having a mildly cheesy taste, the cheese didn't melt very well, parts of it were crispy, so it loses points in the meltability stakes. It was still edible mind and went very well with a nice crisp green salad and a few homemade wedges. Until we can find something better it ticks the pizza box and I don't feel deprived! I also added it to the top of a veggie chilli topped baked potato on Saturday evening and it was rather nice.

I've heard about another cheese that has a better meltability so that will be the next vegan cheese to try, its called MozzaRisella and is made by an Italian company, its supposed to be according to the Veganoo website "an excellent pizza cheese, which melts and doesn't re-solidify too quickly. It isn't starchy or sticky or cloying, just creamy. It doesn't run, or split or burn, just melts." The Veganoo website recently did a 'Meltdown Taste Test' on vegan cheeses, which for someone new to dairy free cheese is really rather useful.

Our other cheesy triumph this weekend was Violife Cheese Slices which come in several flavours, we tried the 'Original' flavour first and in taste its very mild, creamy, it smells like cheese, the texture is like a cross between processed cheese slices and gouda cheese. It made a lovely dairy free cheese and pickle sandwich for supper :) Next time I'll try the 'cheddar' flavour and the 'with herbs', but it gets a thumbs up from me. I also found a website that sells nothing but vegan cheese and is funnily enough called Vegan Cheese, there have been some amazing developments in the vegan cheese market since the 80's when I last ate it, so I'm looking forward to trying more, and after this weekend I'm no longer troubled that cheesy delights are a thing of the past now we're going dairy free and it means I can still have pizza yippee!