About Me

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North Somerset, United Kingdom
My parents were worried when I ran around with scissors – now I play with fire and (intentionally) break glass! Based in the beautiful South West of England, close to the sea and often the scene of beautiful sunsets, I am inspired by the countryside around. Working with sea glass collected from remote beaches, soda lime glass from Murano, Italy, Europe, USA and beyond, I create artisan beads, for use in my own jewellery or for you to enjoy in your own creations. But I couldn’t stop there; continuing the theme from round rods to flat sheets, mostly from the USA, I break large sheets of transparent, opaque, multi-coloured and dichroic glass into much smaller pieces to make a kiln-formed range of bright, colourful jewellery and home decoration. Each piece I make is individually designed around the shape, size and beauty of the materials and intended to be unique, wearable, usable and affordable. All my glass work is kiln annealed for strength and durability and designed to give pleasure for years to come.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Skinny beef stifado - an alien invention

Here it is - ignore the state of the pot!  I have smarter, prettier casseroles but this one just squeezes into my top oven.  This is a 2 part cook - I guess you can do in one part, but I like to double cook so the meat melts and falls apart (and you have a quick dinner the next day).

I don't do recipes, not the list kind.  I'm not very good at following instructions or orders.  Ask the endless frustrated list of school teachers, boyfriends, husbands (just the 2 of them) et al who have tried to tame me into something orderly.  I am what my mother called 'a free spirit' and my friends call 'eccentric' or 'just plain weird'.

Believe me this tastes better than it looks, but then you don't eat the pot.

"Other beef stifado recipes are available".  I should know, I've read most of them.

You'll need about a kilo of diced beef to feed 6 people - although it does the 2 of us for about 4 meals (but we are on a diet).  A bag of shallots comes in handy or a load of onions, which I chop into big chunks.  I use about half as much as the weight of the meat.  Garlic to taste - either a long squirt from the horrendously fatty tube stuff (it languishes unloved in my fridge door) or about 4-6 decent sized cloves.  A beef stock cube - I use the little pots of jelly like stock, it looks like it has (but probably hasn't) less additives.  A glass of red wine - but since I don't drink red wine often, a good slug of anything red and boozy - tonight it was Malaga.  A small slug of wine vinegar, whatever you have really, about 2 tablespoons of tomato puree or paste (or a big squirt if in a tube) then fresh or dried cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  I tend to go for a good shake, about a teaspoon I reckon.  If you have some tomatoes you need to use up, add them too - my sister's garden is over run with them so I have a few to be using.

Now I forget anything about a recipe as there's probably something on TV I want to watch live (as against record for 3am) and I like to get on with this as quick as possible.

Heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan oven and 4-5 gas oven.

Brown the meat in a fry pan - NO OIL - it'll do it's own thing, you don't need oil.  Alien doesn't like oil, sunflower or olive.  Add the onions or shallots - or if you pan is titchy like mine and your wok is in the dishwasher with 40 minutes to go - meat into casserole and use the juices in the pan to flavour the onions.  Give the onions about 5 minutes to soften up.  If they've not waved a white flag by then they go in the casserole whether they like it or not.  Add the herbs, flavourings spices etc to the casserole (removing any snails and bugs if fresh from a garden like mine).  Pour in the booze, whatever you have.  Put some boiling water into the fry pan and add the stock cube or jelly thingy and melt in with the meat juices - them's tasty.  Put that in the casserole as well.  Check nothing else left on the worktop that is meant to be in the pot, or could go in the pot.  Season, but don't go heavy on salt as it's bad for you and the stock will probably have enough already unless you've accidentally bought the 'reduced salt' stuff which has little flavour.  Now add a bit more hot water to the casserole as it will reduce down quite a lot.  Don't over do it, you can always check later and add a bit more if it looks a bit dry. I reckon half a pint should do it depending how bit your pot is and how much booze and stock you've already added.  You are aiming to end up with a thick rich sauce at the end, not school gravy.

Put the casserole in the oven for 90 minutes.  Turn off and leave to cool.  Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, check if you need to add more water, reheat the oven, put the casserole back in for another hour.  By now it will be melt in the mouth with a thick rich sauce.

Serve on its own with some bread to mop up the sauce, or with some creamy mash (add milk not butter and it will be creamy).  Celeriac and spud mash is nice for a change, or Swede (turnips to some folks, but the big orange one not the small thing of Baldrick's fixation) and tatties.  Can you tell I like mash?

So there it is.  A thing of beauty.  If you need a proper recipe then I'm not your girl.  If you can chuck things in a pot and make supper then you'll have no problem with this.  Whatever recipe you use, just miss out the 'add a wine glass of extra virgin olive oil' unless you want to meet an alien at 3am.  As I said, this will feed 6 to 8, depending if they are more gourmand than gourmet.  Eke it out with more mash if you aren't sure, but resist frying the leftover mash the next day!  Freezes well if you have to.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

An alien in my rib cage

Alien_clipart : cartoon alien in vector format

I've an alien in my ribcage.  It knows what I eat and when I eat and tells me all about it about an hour after.  It bounces around at about 3am, when I want to be asleep and generally makes a total nuisance of itself.  It's growing.  It used to be a baby alien, kicked my liver a few times then left me alone to get on with my life.  Now it's pretty big, kicks my liver, my stomach, and has the most appalling table manners.  It grumbles like an alien so, in my book, it must be an alien.

My doctor says it's gallstones.  

Believe me when I say that green and orange thing above is familiar to me (let's not get too graphic here, fellow sufferers will know what I mean).  

My doctor says it's common for life to get colourful when you have gallstones.

So the alien and I are changing the way we live.  

First I invested in a few low fat cook books - Alien likes to make a fuss of fat.  One was an Amazon bargain, I think I paid 1p plus postage!  The other is the Hairy Dieters cook book, because they make me laugh.  And right now I could do with a good laugh from time to time.  I have to be honest and say I wasn't initially sure about the book (sorry guys!) but it's grown on me.  A bit like the alien.  I like the way they've explained why they do something; I can relate to that.  It's sure made me buy a lot of spices and get back in the kitchen.  I am not so much a hairy dieter as a lazy cook.  I'm a good cook, just lazy.  If husband wanders out to cook dinner, who am I to stop him?  He's more inventive in the kitchen than me, especially as we went veggie a year or so ago (again).  But veggies don't eat meat, they eat cheese (well, this one does).  And cheese is ................ you've guessed it, FAT!  So principles aside, I've gone back to meat, just for now.  I'm limiting myself to chicken and beef.  I don't like pork, couldn't bring myself to eat a baby sheep, am seriously allergic to fish.  Streaky bacon is also off the menu, which brings tears to my eyes (yes I know veggies don't eat bacon, I was a baconetarian!) And a bit of goats cheese so that the goats cheese producers don't feel a downturn in their economy.

Fat Lady : fat lady at the balance have to lose weight

My doctor says I need to lose a bit of weight (he's being polite).  We've settled on kilos, he understand them, I don't.  He's fixated with BMI, which I thought was a private health company.  But no fat, no sugar ('you're heading towards type 2 diabetes as well') and very slowly the weight is coming off. And since Tesco decided to put up petrol what seems like 1p a litre per day I now walk more often.  Except to work, that's 14 miles, let's not be silly here.  Or to the petrol station to put petrol in the car for work - even I can see the sense of driving the car to Tesco for that.

Doc did kindly say I could meet a surgeon, and I'm off to meet him next Friday with a view to him making 4 small incisions in my stomach to release the alien - sort of somewhere between Ghost Busters and a nice piece of steak - only without the garlic slithers I presume.  I don't know I am to meet and this is the NHS so it will be like speed dating - come in, sit down, 5 minutes, next please.

Being a slave to my art, I'm hoping Alien and I don't part before my last craft fair of the year on 15 December.  But then, 3am and I'd be happy to get rid of Alien by 3.15am - wonder if there are downloadable instructions for cholecystectomy on the web?  Those kitchen knives I got from Tesco's recent offer are quite sharp although husband isn't too good at DIY. 

Alien and I are enjoying the cook books.  He quite likes cr*p TV at 3am as well; he wakes me up to watch it so the only thing left to do is wander around the lounge placating him with the TV on - I can't rub my side, wince and hold my Kindle all at the same time.  It's a bit like having a grouchy baby - only I've never had a grouchy baby.  Or any baby come to that.  If it can't be tumble dried or wash it's own bottom from day one then we don't have it.  Our 2 cats know my limitations.

So I intend to 'vent my spleen' or should that be gall bladder on my blog and throw in a few recipes along the way.  Applying all I've learnt on this journey.   I've a very nice beef stifado in the oven right now.  I call it skinny beef stifado as I had to dissect a few recipes I found on line to make one Alien liked, throw out all the fat I could and cook it nearly to death as I don't really like the taste of beef unless it's falling to pieces in a thick tasty gravy.

So watch this space.  Pull up your computer chair, settle down the mad ramblings of a gall bladder sufferer and, as the song says, 'let me entertain you'.

Tomorrow ... skinny beef stifado - or 'I've got a bun  casserole in the oven!'

Stew Pot Clip Art : Cartoon Home Kitchen Pot Stock Photo

Monday, 10 September 2012

New work on the block - a busy week!

I have 2 new 
silk scarf kits for you to make
using shibori dyeing techniques
in Mardi Gras (above) and Forest Glen (below)
Both available from my Etsy and Folksy shops
I have also been busy making scarves in the past week ~
these will be available through my Etsy and Folksy shops as well
this is just a taster of what's to come 
it will take me a couple of days to photograph 
and list all the scarves I've made so keep checking to see what's new!

The one above is shibori dyed velvet
in indigo blue and white

and this one is black with silver silk devore velvet 
with the one below being black silk velvet with a gold design
both were fabrics spotted in a gorgeous high quality fabric shop 
- I couldn't resist!

This is stunning satin devore silk which I imported from Thailand.  The manufacturer tells me it is 100% silk.  It really is a special fabric!  I made a few scarves from this a couple of years ago and they sold at the first fair I took them to.  I was so pleased when I spotted more - just enough for 3 scarves! My own scarf in this fabric always attracts flattering comments :)

 Lastly, for now, a couple of silk scarves, 
dyed using the same dyes and techniques as in my kits
one more purple in colour

and one more jade green

Keep an eye in my Etsy and Folksy shops for the new silk devore velvet scarves, created and dyed to my own designs - and each is a one off, as I make them one at a time.

Don't forget there is still free worldwide postage in my Etsy shop
just use the discopunt code BIRTHDAYGIRL in the checkout box
(not applied retrospectively)