Monday, 31 August 2015

Sampling Annie Sloan

I've read and heard so much about the joys of Annie Sloan's chalk paints that when I inherited a slightly tatty egg stand, I felt it was really time I joined in and had a go myself. I picked up a few sample pots of chalk paint as well as a sample pot of clear wax in a cute little shop in Falmouth- Sweet pea and Betty.
This is what I started with

The real selling point of these paints is that there is basically no prep work involved. The paint adheses to the wood regardless of its finish. You can buy special brushes to apply it, but for my starter project I was keeping things low cost.

I applied one coat of Louis Blue to the stand;

Once dry, I went over it with a coat of the clear wax. To begin with I was a bit worried about the finish as it seemed tacky but giving it a bit of a buff with some dry kitchen roll finished it off nicely. The wax does seem to do a great job protecting the paint so I would definitely recommend using it. 

And that's basically all there is to it! If like me you have been wondering about the merits of these paints, I thoroughly recommend picking up a sample pot or two and seeing for yourself. This transformation cost little more than a tenner and there is plenty of paint left over as well as lots more techniques to get creative with!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Feeling plummy - a recipe for spiced plum jam

Just outside my workplace there is the most wonderful plum tree which has been fruiting beautifully for the last few weeks. As I left work the other day I spotted a cheeky squirrel with one of the plums in his chops - it was so large he could barely see over the top of it! I decided it was time for some humans to get the benefit of the bounty and collected up as many as I could.

 Over the last couple of weeks I have managed to gather no less than 8kg of the things! It was time to get my preserving hat on and come up with a recipe - and here it is.

Spiced plum jam

1.8kg plums, halved and stoned
300ml water
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
3 balls of stem ginger, finely chopped
Pinch of ground cloves
1.8kg granulated sugar

Add the prepared plums with the water and spices to a very large pan ( a preserving pan if you have one)

Simmer for 35mins (give or take 5 minutes) Stir occasionally.

Turn the heat right down while you fish out the whole spices (at this point you will realise why I didn't suggest you use whole cloves!)

Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until completely dissolved. (The base of the pan shouldn't feel grainy as you drag a wooden spoon across it)

Raise the temperature and bring to a rapid, rolling boil. At this point you must resist the temptation to stir- it is much better left to do its thing.

Pop a sugar thermometer in and watch closely for when it reaches 105°. It should take around 10 minutes. To be sure of a good set, use 'the saucer test' - see below.

Once you are happy that your jam is set, ladel it in to a jug and pour in to sterilised jars. Seal, then pretty the jard up however you like.

Tips and tricks;

The saucer test; Pop a saucer or two in your freezer before you start. When testing if the jam is set blob a little if the jam on to the saucer and then push with your thumb nail. It should 'wrinkle' a little if it is done.

This recipe uses a lot of plums because that is what I had, however it is easily halved.

The recipe makes around 8standard sized jam jars but I find it is always best to sterilised more jars than you think you'll need, just in case!

Vary the spices according to your taste- if you prefer something less pungent, skip out the cloves. For an extra gingery kick you could add ground or fresh ginger as well as stem ginger.

To sterilised your jars wash them in warm soapy water and then dry out in a low oven. Pop the kids and any seals in a pan of gently simmering water for a few minutes.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Blackberry Bounty

I always eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first blackberries each year. This summer we have skipped ahead a bit as there is a cultivated variety of blackberry growing in the garden which fruits just a little ahead of its wild counterparts. Gathering blackberries (whether wild or cultivated) is one of lifes real simple joys but I often find myself with a lot more blackberries than I know what to do with! To make the most of the first harvest I devised this ice cream recipe below.

Blackberry and black pepper ice cream

You will need;
500g blackberries
75g caster sugar
30ml water
Good grind of black pepper
300ml whipping cream (double will also work)

Stir the blackberries, sugar, black pepper and water together in a pan. Gently simmer for five minutes until it is all looking pulpy.

Tip the mixture in to a sieve held over a bowl. Allow the juices to strain and then press with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much juice and pulp as you can. Allow to cool thoroughly.

Churn the cool puree for ten minutes in an ice cream maker until it's starting to look thick. Carefully pour in the whipping cream and continue churning until the ice cream is scoopable.

Skip out the black pepper if you're not feeling so adventurous- you will still have a delicious blackberry ice cream. 

If you don't have an ice cream maker, whip the cream before you add it to the mix. You can then freeze the mix for a few hours, removing it from the freezer every hour or two to mash the ice cream with a fork. The result may not be as smooth but it will still be just as tasty!

P.s. Hiding in the photo here is some chocolate ice cream that I made (recipe another day!) as well as some lemon ice cream from a Devon dairy. Yum!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Veg box challenge - tapas tonight!

It was only a few months back now that my hubby and I subscribed to a local veg box scheme. There was a certain scepticism (particularly from my OH) about whether it would be worth it, but I can safely say we'll never look back. But more on that another day.

In our box this week we had 'padron peppers' which I had never cooked with before. There was a suggestion that you might want to play 'pepper roulette' with them as some are hot and some are not. So I got thinking about that and decided to add some cream cheese to the mix in case of any scorchers. We also had a few of our home grown spuds to use up and a little left over chorizo so that got turned in to patatas bravas. Recipe can be found here;

Suddenly we were having tapas so I filled out the rest of the dinner with the following ultra easy additions;

Prawns fried in lemon, chilli and garlic
Sundried tomato rice (from a pouch!)
Tomato bread
Chicken fried in piri piri marinade
Dips, olives and a mixed meat selection

For the padron peppers I simply fried them in hot oil til the skins blistered and served them with the cream cheese.

All told I reckon I served up dinner in about half an hour, and was quite chuffed with the results! :)

Friday, 14 August 2015

A simple seaside card for a rainy day

So today I had a go at making this little card, which is most likely destined for my Dad on his birthday. It's always tricky to think up ideas for men's cards but I reckon beach scenes are pretty generic, and well received by all.
Here's how to do it;
Start by flat stamping your scene. I used three little stamps to do this but I'm afraid for the life of me I can't remember whose make they are :/

Once done, colour your images. At this point it is a good idea to select the background papers that you are going to use so that you can match up the colours you choose for your stamped image. I like using pro markers as I think they have a nice finish, but really anything will do.

Now for one of my favourite parts - colouring the background. I do this by dipping a dry baby wipe (yep, no expense spared here!) in to my chosen ink pad and then gently applying it by rubbing it on to the card in small circular movements starting at the edges of the card. You might find it helpful to have some scrap paper on hand to dab off excess ink and test the strength of the color before you apply it to the card.
I used versa mark inkpads in canary, sand beige, mountain lake, smoke blue and atlantic.

Now layer up your papers on to a square card. Play around with the arrangements until you are happy. I've used papers from 'do crafts ahoy there' set.

Finally stick it all down with a bit of double sided tape and add your finishing touches. I finished of by adding drops of liquid pearls in bisque, some little tiny shells picked up in Tavistock arts market and some 'bedazzled' sprinkles. Last but not least, stamp on your message. Presto!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Here goes then, my first blog!
Before anything else I will start with a confession. Technically, I'm not actually a country girl. I spent the first 26 years of my life living in Brighton, but have always had a lust for rural life. Indeed at the age of seven I recall being asked to create a holiday poster at school. Whilst friends around me created adverts for Spain or Butlins, I advertised a cottage in the Kent countryside, where you could go for walks in the woods and find the most amazing mushrooms! The countryside longing never left me and so about this time last year, my hubby and I upped sticks and set off in to the unknown (actually most people call it Devon).

Leaving much behind us and coming to a new home, in a new county, with new jobs, was quite the adventure. Now, a year on, it is time for me to start another adventure, this time, in to Blogging.

What I hope to share through this blog is some of the creative pass times that I enjoy as a rural citizen. Expect to see recipes, crafts, sewing projects and dedication to simple joys like star gazing or gathering blackberries from the hedgerow.

I start with what seems the most fitting photo, a beautiful view of Devon with our cat exploring the garden in the very early days of our move here.