Monday, 20 May 2013

A Trip to Shanghai

I recently returned from a trip to Shanghai to visit my daughter. I spent many days just walking around the city taking photographs and exploring areas I hadn't seen before. Its a huge city, full of incredible images!

The city viewed from the Oriental pearl tower.

There are some amazing buildings in the city which range in style from these ........... these!

I like to walk around the old parts of the city and to visit local markets which are full of colour, 

......and less so

Hidden away down a back street is the Indigo Textile museum. The lengths of dyed fabric are left to dry on lines in the garden. The silk and cotton is dyed using Batik and Tie dye techniques.

Washing is left to dry all over the city, on lines and bamboo poles. I love this bed spread which has been appliqued with traditional characters.

Bicycles are used to carry anything and everything!

The Shanghai museum has a beautiful collection of old coins and seals . I love the shapes and patterns made by the traditional characters

And the modern shapes and colours of the night life!

Shanghai is a great city to walk around. Full of extraordinary contrasts. 
Its very safe and very friendly.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Lovely things I saw in Venice

Happy April 1st! Not sure what happened to March but to be honest I'm quite glad it's gone.  Most of it was grey, wet and very cold and that includes a trip I made to Italy!
Rain in Italy is only fractionally better than UK rain.
I was away for a week but managed to get to various places including Venice, Turin and Genova, with a day trip to Portofino.
Despite the grey rain I saw some lovely things ...........

Colour pigments in a shop in Calle delle Boteghe, Venice

The ceiling of the Accademia, Venice

 A Venetian wall

Enormous pans used for cooking fish for the whole village during festival, near Genova

Lovely facades in Portofino

Amazing colour on a wet day in Venice

Washing in Portofino

and of course those beautiful shapes in Venice

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Beach finds

Over the years I have collected pocketloads of stones from beaches here and abroad. I've brought kilos of pebbles through customs,  throwing out shampoo and flip flops in order to get those finds within the baggage allowance. Some of them have moved house many times over decades but they still stay with me.

This sad little face came from  the Greek island of Paxos. I found it on a beach but because it weighed so much (1.5kg) I decided to leave it. For the rest of the day I regretted that decision. Next day I went back to the same place and it was still there so it was meant to be!!

This 'sheep's head' also came from Paxos a few years later. In the 'eye socket' is trapped a tiny shell which moves when you lift the head and looks just like and eye opening and closing. I spent the rest of the holiday trying to find a suitable body but to no avail!

This friendly monster came to live with us years ago from Hartland Point in Devon.

I have plates and bowls full of others which are just lovely shapes or colours. I'm always on the look out for the perfect heart but haven't quite got there yet. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

January print

A new year starts with a new print.

I have been working on a series of prints over the past few months which focus on domestic subjects that have strong memories for me. The most recent is based around an old singer sewing machine which was my mother's and now belongs to me. My mom taught me to sew on this machine and it is very precious to me. It has its own sturdy, wooden storage box so it has been kept in almost perfect condition. When I take it out of the box the smell of the machine takes me back to being 5 again!

Cutting the lino/vinyl is a job that I still absolutely love. It can take hours of concentrated work but I get totally absorbed in it. 

The first print out of the press is very exciting as I'm never sure its going to be as I want it. The press has recently had a good service and is working very well producing beautifully crisp prints.

The first proofs are OK but the block needs a bit more work on it so i'll put them to dry while I do a bit more cutting!

After several more cuts and proofs I finally I get the print I want! 

'A Stitch in time'

Winter Warmer

One of my favourite dishes to cook when its cold and grey outside is Melanzane alla parmigiana. It takes a while to put together but it's well worth the effort. The recipe I use I've just developed over the years till it suits me. When I've eaten this dish out it can sometimes be very oily if the Aubergines are fried in too much oil, so I have made a 'lighter' version.

This serves six as a main meal.

Olive oil (spray)
4 Tins of quality chopped tomatoes
4 Aubergines
1 Red onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
fresh basil (a good bunch, torn up)
3 mozzarella cheeses (cut into little cubes)
Parmesan cheese 

First make the tomato sauce (sugo) by frying the onion and the garlic in olive oil until the onion is soft. Add all of the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper. Cook this over a low heat for about 15mins and then stir into it the basil and leave to one side.

While the sauce is cooking start to prepare the aubergines (this is the bit that takes the longest) by cutting the top and bottom off them and then slicing each one thinly with a sharp knife. Using a non-stick frying pan and a spray of oil, dry fry the slices until they are quite soft and slightly coloured. This takes a while as you can only get a few in the pan at one time!

When the aubergines are all cooked most of the work is done and then it's just a case of putting everything together! 
Use a good sized oven-proof baking dish (about 10"x12") and spoon a couple of tablespoons of the sauce over the bottom. Now place a layer of the cooked aubergine to cover the base of the dish and on top of that sprinkle about a quarter of the chopped mozzarella.

Now spread a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the aubergine and mozzarella layers. Spread the sauce out evenly so that when it's cooking it will all mix together.

Now continue to layer the ingredients in the same order until they are all used up. Top off with a very generous scattering of grated parmesan cheese.

To this stage it can all be done well in advance (even the day before and kept in the fridge). When you are ready to cook the dish, pre-heat the oven to 190C /375F/ gas 5. Cook for about 45 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to settle for five minutes before serving.

I serve this with a green salad and some good bread. I especially like Sun-dried tomato soda bread (a basic soda bread with some chopped up sun-dried tomatoes added along with 2 teaspoons of red pesto!) The bread is useful to mop up the delicious juices. 

Oh and don't forget a good red wine!!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy New Year

I know it's a bit late but Happy New Year all the same.
Over the Christmas holiday I was at home in Shropshire. It was a great break and lovely to catch up with family and friends. As I was away from the studio for two weeks I had to make do with other creative outlets! I'm useless at doing nothing!

Mostly the weather was pants but when it did stop raining we managed to get some walking done in the Shropshire hills. My favourite walk is from 'Ashes Hollow' in Little Stretton and takes you for a good 3 hours over the Long Mynd. It's so beautiful up there and we rarely see more than a handful of people.

Fantastic tree forms on the way up.

On top of the Long Mynd looking north

Starting the descent looking east

When we got back we had lots of hot soup and cheese scones. These scones are a basic scone recipe to which I add about 100g of strong, grated cheese. When I've rolled the dough I cut out circles using a large round cutter then in the middle of each one I cut out a second, small hole (so they look like ring doughnuts!) If you then twist them they look really nice when they are baked. I also brush them with milk and scatter more grated cheese on top, then bake them.

Spicy cauliflower soup with Cheese scones. Yum!

I also did quite a lot of knitting while I was on holiday. I love knitting baby stuff so a friend's new grandchild gave me a good excuse!

This Kimono jacket is a free pattern from  Ravelry
Its so easy and knitted all in one piece so there isn't loads of sewing up to do!

This is a lovely 'Baby surprise jacket'
by Elizabeth Zimmermann. Again it's knitted all in one so no seams.

The last thing I started but still have to finish is a scarf designed by Martina Behm and is available on 
I'm knitting it in Rowen Summerspun shade 113 which is lovely wool/cotton in a gorgeous colour.

Over Christmas I started eating Soda bread and have been looking for good recipes to make my own. The best I've found so far is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Classic Soda Bread. 

It's so easy to make - takes half an hour from start to finish! I Love it!!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Sweet Treats

The last few weeks have been such a rush. Lots of orders for prints and textiles which were my priority but I also wanted to get treats made for Christmas gifts.
 Every year I am on the look out for new recipes that I can make in advance to give out when people visit at Christmas. I have some traditional favorites that I make every year such as Cantuccini but I love to try something new.


This recipe for Cantuccini Biscotti is really easy and they always come out well. It makes about 50 biscuits.

500g plain Flour
250g Caster sugar
50g whole, unpeeled, untoasted almonds
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp of quality vanilla paste
Pinch of salt
3 medium eggs
2 egg yolks ( 1 white reserved)

Pre heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4
Mix all the dry ingredients together then make a well in the middle and add the 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks. The dough should be soft. Transfer to a lightly-floured surface and divide into 4 equal parts. Roll out each portion into a long log about 4 cm wide.
Transfer the logs to a parchment-lined baking tray. Separate them by about 4 cm. Mix the reserved egg white with a tbsp of caster sugar and brush all over the top and side of the logs.
Bake for 40 mins, turning the oven down to 170C/Gas Mark 3 after 20 mins.
Slice the cooled logs diagonally into individual biscuits about 1.5cm wide then place them onto a baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until hard and toasted. Remove and cool.
The biscotti keep in sealed cellophane gift bags for several weeks. Enjoy them best dipped in a good desert wine!

                                                             Stem Ginger Macaroons

These make fab gifts and again keep well so you can make them in advance. The recipe came from Dan Lepard in The Guardian

They are so easy to make but taste delicious and look great in a gift bag.

                                                           Chocolate and ginger tiffin

Here is a new recipe for me this year and it comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Three Good Things. I added some chopped hazelnuts as well as the stem ginger and then when the mixture had been in the fridge for several hours I cut it into small 'bite-size' pieces and tossed them in icing sugar so that they don't stick together. These are really good and i've already eaten too many of them!

I designed a label for them and packaged them in packs of eight as they are very rich. Again they make lovely treats to give as gifts.

So the house is a tip and the tree is still to be decorated but we have plenty of yummy gifts at the ready!