Tuesday, 22 August 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Jacaranda hampers in the India Jane sale 
A taste of luxury to launch August's Treat Yourself roundup! If you didn't blow every penny on your holidays, take advantage of discounts of up to 75% in the India Jane sale. This London homewares retailer specialises in decorative and functional items including an amazing range of photograph frames and gorgeous fabric cushions. I love this pair of Jacaranda storage hampers. They are handmade in Indonesia using the traditional method of interweaving cane and hand-tied leather hinges provide durability. The hampers are currently reduced from £149 to just £59, but be quick. At the time of writing there were only twenty pairs left!

Over at Emma Bridgewater, we can get 50% off their entire seasonal Summer Cherries range. There are mugs, bowls, plates, a large teapot and even a tea towel to fill our kitchens with summer colour all year round! The 1/2 pint mug pictured below is reduced from £19.95 to £9.95. I am tempted to snap up a couple of the French bowls to replace our ancient porridge bowls.

50% off Summer Cherries at Emma Bridgewater 

Celtic Serape less than 1/2 price
at Museum Selection 
I know it's August and allegedly still the height of summer, but there's been a distinct autumnal feel here in Torquay recently. Fortunately I can wrap warm up courtesy of the Museum Selection sale which has up to 65% off gorgeous clothing including a rich red Elizabethan style cardigan - perfect for Philippa Gregory fans! My favourite of the historically themed range is this teal Celtic Knotwork Serape. The striking design is inspired by Celtic illumination and stone carvings. The intertwined patterns of never-ending lines appealed to the Celts, symbolising their ideas of eternal life. The serape is now reduced to £29.99 from £69.99.

I love Bluebell Creations' delicate papercut art and think the small framed quotes would make perfect gifts, especially because we can get 10% off across the store until the end of August. Simply use the discount code SUMMER17 at checkout. This lovely friend frame reads 'Friends Forever' and the wording has been hand cut from cream hammered paper using a scalpel. The papercut then floats over a pink feathery patterned background, creating little shadows when the light hits it. The papercut then has two pink sparkly hearts next to it, to give it that extra bit of girly sparkle.

10% off papercut art at Bluebell Creations 
Staying with paper for my fifth and final treat, I love the vibrant colours in these word art greetings cards by Josie Gledhill Design. Each card is available individually or Josie offers the multipack pictured below with one each of her Hello, Good Luck, Thank You, and Happy Birthday cards. I thought these were already very reasonably priced at £5 for the set, but we can get an extra 20% off across the Josie Gledhill Design shop by using the discount code YAYSALE17. Best hurry before everything sells out!

20% off stationery at Josie Gledhill Design 

Happy bargain hunting!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Introducing Artisan Rainbow!

You must all know by now that I love handmade and artisan crafted items and I am sure that many of you do too because my Top Five Etsy Finds posts are always amongst my most popular!

I will keep posting those monthly Top Fives, but wanted a space to showcase a wider variety of items more frequently. I decided on another blog and Artisan Rainbow is the result!

There I will blog handmade and artisan crafted items of all colours of the rainbow including homewares, jewellery, clothing and art. The only prerequisite is that everything must be an item I would love to purchase myself (if only I had the figure / budget / space!)

I hope you love discovering these beautiful items as much as I will love showing them to you!

Here is Artisan Rainbow's first week:







Sunday (preview!) 

And if you spot something you think I should feature on Artisan Rainbow, drop me the link in the Comments!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous recipe

Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous 
Since discovering the quick lunch wonder that is Cauliflower Steaks I have also been searching out a delicious way to use up the rest of a cauliflower. I think I've now found the answer with cauliflower couscous. It's still amazing to me that a take-it-or-leave-it vegetable for me, one that I always used to consider pretty bland unless it was doused in a rich cheese sauce, is actually delicious when it is cooked in any way other than boiling it!

This Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous recipe is vaguely based around the Turkey Tagine recipe I blogged years ago (I think my photography has improved!). This version is vegan and doesn't actually use a tagine. The ingredients below made enough for two generous portions.

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/3 ish of a cauliflower
Pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp piri piri
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Salt and black pepper
400g tin of chickpeas, drained (reserve the liquid!)
20 green olives, halved
100ml water
Lemon juice
1/2 tsp bajan spice

First I diced the onion and garlic and set them to cook until softened in a largish saucepan with the rapeseed oil.

Blitzed cauliflower 
I struggle to wait long enough for onion to soften properly - impatient, me?! - but hate crunchy onion when it shouldn't be so have found that giving myself other things to do in the meantime is a good idea. For this meal, I tore the cauliflower florets into small enough pieces to blitz in my Mini Chopper (new toy, love it!). It needed two batches and the resulting raw cauliflower did look surprising like a pale cooked couscous.

Setting the cauliflower aside, I also opened the chickpeas tin and drained its liquid into a jar for later. I've recently learned that chickpea water is called aquafaba and is supposed to be an amazing egg substitute in baking. I'll let you know .... !

Back to the now-softened onion, I added a good pinch of saffron, the piri piri, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt pepper and stirred them all in. I went easy on the salt at this stage because I didn't know how much would come from the olives during cooking. I cooked this mix for a minute or so, then added the chickpeas, olives, water and lemon juice.

Stirring again to thoroughly mix, I brought the liquid up to a simmer then put a lid on the saucepan, turned the heat right down and left it all to gently bubble away for about 15 minutes. In hindsight 10 minutes would have been enough! The chickpeas were now soft, but fortunately not disintegrating!

I added the cauliflower, stirring thoroughly again, turned the heat off and replaced the lid, and left the cauliflower couscous to cook in the steam and juice of everything else for about 20-25 minutes.

Tasting just before serving I added a little more salt and a 1/2 tsp of Bajan spice blend for warmth of flavour. I served my Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous onto a warmed plate and enjoyed eating every mouthful!

Although I was very pleased with how this dish turned out, I would make a couple of changes when I cook it again. I think cinnamon would be better than ginger in the spice mix, or I might add ginger and cinnamon early on and dispense with the Bajan spice at the end. I would also add more colour alongside the olives as, while the meal was tasty, it doesn't look exciting. I do like colourful food! Perhaps a handful of peas or chopped red pepper would jazz it up? Suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Receiving a Brilliant Boyfriend bakerdays cake + #Giveaway!

brilliant boyfriend bakerdays cake 
A dismal Torquay summer day was brightened up for us last week by the welcome arrival of a bakerdays letterbox cake!

If you haven't heard about these before, it's a real cake, fully iced, yet slim enough to fit though a standard UK letterbox.

The perfect surprise gift?

Well, when bakerdays offered me the chance to find out, I was more than happy to accept!

The toughest part of the bakerdays experience is choosing which cake to send! Firstly did I want traditional sponge, lovely lemon drizzle, half chocolate half sponge, or rich chocolate chip? I chose the lovely lemon drizzle. Then I spent ages debating designs. I knew the cake would be on its way but Dave didn't so I wanted artwork that would fun for him. I think there are hundreds of options available plus, to add even more choices, I could have uploaded my own photographs! Eventually I settle on the Brilliant Boyfriend design because it sums up pretty much what I wanted to say.

Our cake's arrival was a great success!

Brought in our regular post delivery by a rained-upon postman, it was packed in an unassuming brown cardboard box. I loved the contrast when we opened that to reveal the bright cake, complete with a little card and a mini celebration bag including candles, balloons and a party blower! Dave's face lit up and I was delighted too!

So, how was the cake itself? Well, it didn't last long so that's always a good sign! It arrived in perfect condition and, had I not known it was posted, I never would have guessed. The icing cleverly holds the cake fast to a board and the outer box is sturdy so absolutely no dents which I had been a little concerned about. The icing was bright white with sharply defined, boldly coloured printing which looked good enough to eat! The sponge was moist and tasted freshly baked with a light lemon flavour. Perhaps the texture was less sticky than I would expect from a lemon drizzle cake, but then they aren't usually swathed in royal icing so that made up for it! We got eight little portions from our cake.

Impatient fingers poised for more cake! 

I was impressed with bakerdays packaging. As already mentioned, the cardboard box is sturdy and also recyclable. The cake board, card and enclosed paperwork are, of course, also recyclable and the packaging peanuts are the cornstarch ones which dissolve completely in water. I will pass the celebration bag on so all we were left with for landfill was a small perforated plastic bag that had enclosed the cake. Well done bakerdays!

If you want to try out a bakerdays letterbox cake for yourself, enter the Giveaway below for a chance to win one!

The Giveaway is open to UK entrants ONLY. It opened at 8am on the 15th August and closes at midnight on the 28th August. I will email the winner on the 29th and they have 48 hours to reply with their details which I will pass on to bakerdays.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - International Left Handers Day

Left handed wristwatch
by YourWatchDesign
International Left Hander's Day started 25 years ago in 1992. Its founders, the Left-Handers Club, began "an annual event when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality (left-handedness) and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed." So to join in the celebrations today, my Top Five Etsy Finds for August are ingenious items whose designs have been tweaked to make them perfect for left handed people. I learned that 10-12% of people are left handers - including my sister!

Small design changes can make a huge difference to an item's ease of use for a left handed person and this Left Handed Wristwatch by YourWatchDesign in Bridgnorth is a prime example. The crown placement is on the opposite side of the watch face. The watch also features a humorous saying on the white dial.

The Left Handed Wristwatch is for sale at £22.99 with free worldwide shipping.

Filofax Diagonally Ruled
Notepaper Inserts by OddsLikeMe
Penelope Winter, of Gartmore, is the creative mind behind OddsLikeMe. Her shop was born out of an urge to get back to pen and paper, although her computer does sometimes play a vital supporting role as is the case with these Filofax Diagonally Ruled Notepaper Inserts. The diagonal ruling makes the paper great for lefties or indeed anyone whose handwriting naturally slopes up. The design is sent digitally by pdf enabling the buyer to print as many sheets as they need, whenever they need to.

The Filofax Diagonally Ruled Notepaper Inserts are for sale at £4.20 with, of course, no shipping cost.

Left Handed Coffee Mug
by CaractacusPots
CaractacusPots is a brilliant name for a ceramics shop and I love the variety of items created by obsessive potter Susan Frankel in her Uxbridge studio. The colours she achieves are especially vibrant. My eye was caught by this Left Handed Coffee Mug finished in mottled blue and chocolate brown. Its generous 430ml size means it's big enough to cope with a serious volume of breakfast coffee and the handle is particularly comfortable to be held with the left hand. Susan threw this cup on her pottery wheel, then cut out and formed the handle from the body of the mug. She says it can be used by right-handers as well, but isn't as comfortable!

The Left Handed Coffee Mug is for sale at £14.99 plus shipping.

Left Handed Bath Board
by IansChicOrUnique
After a long day, indulgent pampering is in order and made easier with this Left Handed Bath Board. Made from reclaimed wood at IansChicOrUnique in Manchester, the board was cleaned, sanded and shaped, then treated with linseed oil and simply varnished because the wood was stunning once sanded. Its shaping was thought out with left handers in mind - the wine glass is nearest your hand and the candle furthest from being a singe hazard!

The Left Handed Bath Board is for sale at £20 plus shipping.

My fifth and final choice is this stunning image print of famous left handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix playing his flipped right-handed guitar. Created by ShaunMcMuldroch in Leeds, the image relies on eye-catching use of white space as much as the distinctive shapes that make up Jimi's portrait. It is A5 size and inkjet printed onto 200gsm paper.

The Jimi Hendrix Print is for sale at £4.45 plus shipping.

Jimi Hendrix Print by ShaunMcMuldroch 

Happy International Left Handers Day!

Friday, 11 August 2017

New handmade Greetings Cards! (dare I mention Christmas?)

Flower greetings cards 
I've had a busy morning putting the finishing touches to a small batch of greetings cards. I'm delighted with how they have turned out and am excited to reveal them to you all! Click any of the text links or the photographs to buy!

This flower trio I thought would be perfect for birthdays, anniversaries or simply for 'just because' occasions. They measure 6x4 inches and feature hand cut circles of vintage paper, the centre one of which is embellished with one of my crocheted flower motifs. Two cards have white flowers, one card has a sparkly sand coloured flower. As with all my greetings cards, these are blank inside and have a matching plain envelope. At the moment I am still shipping my cards in cellophane sleeves, but once my current stock is used up I will be switching to a plastic-free alternative!
These cards are £7.50 for the three with free UK postage on eBay.

Flower and mice cards 
I used three sparkly sand flowers to adorn one of this any occasion card pair. Its partner sports recycled black yarn crocheted mice heads which I think are fun. These cards are also 6x4 inches, blank inside and will be shipped with plain envelopes.
These cards are £5 for the two with free UK postage on eBay.

Although it is only August, I am already noticing Christmas items appearing in the shops and across Twitter so I thought I might as well get in on this act! It does feel a bit weird because I usually don't like to think about That Season until I have at least celebrated Halloween and preferably Bonfire Night as well. However, for you more efficient souls I have added this new trio to my 'Christmas collection'!

Dickens' A Christmas Carol trio 
The three 5x5 inch cards feature vintage John Leach illustrations upcycled from an old copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You can buy them for
£7.50 for the three including UK postage on eBay and, while you are there, take a look at my other Christmas cards too.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lentil Beanburger recipe with Tomato Salsa

Lentil Beanburgers 
I'm enjoying getting into my cooking at the moment, especially experimenting with new recipes. My Plastic Free July pointer to Not Buy If I Can Bake has seen me create my own wholemeal bread rolls, chickpea tofu, cauliflower couscous and, now, Lentil Beanburgers! I'm soon going to blog about the tofu and couscous, both of which are a great success, but for today here are my first vegan burgers. They were surprisingly delicious!

I read lots of veggie burger recipes online over the past year. I've eaten different varieties in restaurants and even bought them to fry up at home, but was intimidated by the thought of making my own. In hindsight this was ridiculous! They're incredibly easy! My recipe is very much Using Up The Leftovers so some of the quantities are a bit odd. I think the mix will turn out to be adaptable though and I look forward to trying out variations in future.
Here is what I made today:

Using up the leftovers 
4 tbsp green lentils
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 onion, fairly finely diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2/3 tin black eyed peas
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tin tomatoes
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp Kush Cuisine Cocoa Rub spice blend
Salt and black pepper to taste

I started by boiling the lentils in water for about half an hour until they were soft. I then drained them and put them into a large mixing bowl with the drained and rinsed blackeyed peas. I roughly mashed the beans and lentils with a potato masher.

While the lentils were cooking I fairly finely diced the onion and garlic. I put them into a covered small pan, with the oil, and cooked them over a fairly low heat until the onion was softened, stirring it occasionally.

While the onion cooked I blitzed four getting-stale wholemeal bread crusts in my new favourite toy which isn't actually new at all! Previously I would have grated the bread by hand, knuckles and all, but last week spotted a Mini Chopper in a charity shop for just £4. It's small so I had to blitz each bread slice separately. However that's still much faster and the machine is only 120w so economical on electricity. (If your local charity shops don't have any Mini Choppers, there are lots on Amazon here!)

When the onion was soft I added two-thirds of it to the bean-lentils and set that aside. I stirred the diced pepper into the remaining onion and set the pan back on the heat until the pepper softened.

Then I stirred the tomato and mixed herbs in with the peppers, turned the heat up a little, and cooked this salsa sauce until it was thick and glossy.

The beanburger mix 
Back with the bean-lentil-onions, I stirred in the breadcrumbs, salt and black pepper, and Cocoa spice blend. I'm using this Caribbean inspired mix a lot at the moment, but I think any spice blend would work here depending what you have available. A whole tsp did look a lot, but was needed for the flavour and I could probably have added another 1/2 tsp.

When the ingredients were well mixed it looked a bit like cooked burger mince! I then took handfuls at a time and moulded the mix into six small patties. Each one took a minute or so to come together because I had only roughly mashed the beans earlier. I wanted that texture, but could have mashed more or blended to get smoother patties.

Prepared veggie burger patties 
I let the prepped veggie burgers rest in the fridge for about half an hour. Then I shallow fried them in rapeseed oil over a medium-low heat for about five minutes each side, until they were piping hot all the way through. One burger did collapse as I turned it over, but the others stayed complete!

I served myself a generous three veggie burgers with the tomato salsa and new potatoes. The burgers were great with a good texture and a lightly spiced flavour that still allowed me to taste the beans and lentils. They were moist enough on their own, but particularly good with a dab of the tomato salsa. That did just need a shake of salt - I had forgotten how much tomatoes seem to absorb!

I don't think I would want to eat these burgers in a bun as there is already bread in their ingredients. Instead they would be good with varied salad side dishes or, in the case of the collapsed one, scattered as part of a veggie pizza topping.
What do you think?