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Quote for the Day : Little Lives

“…And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered…”

— Nicholas Sparks

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Simple Stamped Snowmen

This is a quick and easy card idea that would be fun to do with kids (or adults!) and produces some lovely, quirky little characters.  I made a whole stack of these in one evening – perfect for when you are time poor and need to make a lot of cards in one go.

There’s lots of examples of stamped snowmen on various websites, using potatoes or sponges cut to shape.  I didn’t have any potatoes (my cupboards were a bit bare this week) so I carved a little roughly-circular-ovalish shape from a leftover piece of rubber from my printing class earlier in the year. I dabbed the stamp into a moistened sponge that had white paint on it and stamped onto some mini brown card stock.  It doesn’t matter if the stamped image doesn’t come out completely perfect – it adds to the design and makes it a bit more rustic and handmade.  But you can fix it up with some more paint if you want to.  The extra details were cut out of coloured card stock and drawn on with a Pigma Micron pen (they’re my go-to for doodling and adding details to things, especially when I don’t want any bleeding of ink or smudges).

I stamped a Christmas greeting on each card to finish, and voila!  So simple and quick!  They’re really cute and you can make each snowman quite individual, just by adding different details.  Try a scarf, or some holly on his hat, or no hat at all.  I also added a bit of glitter to them to help the white shine (you can’t see it in the photo…) but you can do anything you like to make them your own.

Hope your festive season is shaping up to be happy and heart-warming 🙂

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Oven-Baked Risotto

Oven-Baked Risotto

Sometimes you just want something easy for dinner.  Something comforting and simple.  Something you can just shovel in while you digest the day’s proceedings.  Risotto fits the bill.  I actually enjoy making “proper” risotto – standing there stirring and adding stock, it’s cathartic and relaxing.  But there are also times when I just want to chuck it all in the oven and let it sort itself out.  Which is what you can do with this “cheat’s” recipe.  Plus you can just add in whatever you have lying around the place or in the fridge.  That’s what I do anyway.

Oven-Baked Risotto

You will need:

5 cups Arborio rice
2 cups stock
2 TBs butter or margarine
½ large onion, diced

Now that’s the “basic” ingredients.  To them, you can add whatever you feel like.  I usually bung in some diced celery, baby peas, some chopped fake bacon, a few sundried tomatoes and some chopped mushrooms, grated cheese and chopped herbs.  It’s all just meant to be spontaneous so don’t worry too much.  It will taste yummy whatever you put in it.  I’ve made one with just celery and peas, with some grated parmesan and it was delicious.

Mix it all together in a large oven-proof dish (usually a shallow oblong or rectangle one – maybe a 6-8 cup capacity…) and cover it with foil.  It doesn’t have to be a tight cover, it’s just to stop the top burning and the ingredients from drying out.  Be careful while putting it in the oven – don’t spill it or drop half of it all over your slippers like I did last night.  Gross!  The oven should be on a fairly high temp  – around 200 C.  Bake for about 30 mins – you can check on it after about 15 mins and give it a stir if you like but I don’t always, it usually takes care of itself – risotto is done when all the rice is tender.  Sometimes might take up to 45 minutes – it’s not an exact science but I usually find 30-35 minutess is enough.  Serve with a nice grating of parmesan or whatever cheese you like.  Voila!

A good dish to make if you don’t like cooking but you somehow managed to invite someone over for dinner.    This recipe is enough for about 6 people or 4 piggies.

Enjoy!

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It’s Friday night and all I can say is TGIF!!!  It’s been a long, exhausting week.  I’ve been in horrible pain with my back and neck and I just want to strap heat packs and hot water bottles to every muscle in my body and lie down for two days straight.  Will have to make do with just a couple of hours probably.

Hope your weekend is shaping up to be something awesome 🙂

Rustic Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tarts

Rustic Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tarts

I’m at home today.  I’ve been struggling all week with a number of ailments (sore neck, sore back, tummy aches etc) and just woke up this morning with a serious case of the “I don’t wanna go” syndrome.  So I called in sick.  Which I hardly ever do so I think I’m entitled.  Still feel horribly guilty though.

My neck and back are very painful so although I would dearly love to make some cards or sew or something, I’m not seeing that happening today.  I do, however, have to make some food to take to my cousin’s hubby’s 40th birthday party tomorrow afternoon.  My cousin asked me to make my Caramelised Onion Tart for the vegos in the family (that’s about 5 of us currently).  I know from past experience that vegetarian food generally gets picked on but then eaten by all the people who are actually meat-eaters so, to be on the safe side, I will make a double batch to make sure everyone gets some.

Now I am cheating somewhat and using ready-made pastry.  I don’t have the “oomph” to make pastry today but you go right ahead and made your own if you so wish.  I’m using the regular frozen puff pastry (I use Borg’s).

The ingredients listed below are approximate.  I don’t have a proper recipe – I just made this up years ago and it always works.  Good for people who don’t like really eggy quiches and tarts.  There is only one egg in the tart, just to bind.

Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tart

Puff Pastry (2 sheets should be enough for the quantities below)

1 Red Onion, chopped roughly but into fairly small pieces

1/2 cup Smooth Ricotta

1 Egg

Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (for sprinkling on top)

Nutmeg

Chopped herbs (I used sage ’cause I have it growing in my sad little garden but choose your own as you like)

Method

Preheat oven to about 180 C / 350 F

Spray a patty-cake or small muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Take pastry out of freezer (duh!) and let it thaw while you are working on the onions.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out rounds to fit the holes in the cake/muffin tin.  Prick the bases of the pastry with a fork.

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In a frying pan, gently fry onions until they are caramelised and sweet (a pinch of salt added to the onion helps to release its natural juices and sweetness, also helps it not stick to the pan!)Image

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Take the pan off the heat and let cool a while.  In the meantime, mix the egg into the ricotta in a bowl.  Add chopped herbs and mix in with a little grated parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg.  Now transfer the cooled onions to the ricotta mixture and stir in until just combined.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Spoon into the prepared pastry bases.

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Bake for about 20 mins or until pastry is golden and filling cooked.  As there is no flour in the ricotta mixture, it doesn’t rise up much, but the small amount of egg makes it just “pouffy” enough!  I have used small pastry cases this time but often use the same recipe to make one large tart, suitable for serving up at a dinner.

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Serve hot or cold – either way is good.  🙂

Enjoy!  And keep the meat-eaters away from it!  They have their own food!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…in November

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…in November

I am still terribly sad about my little Roderick but I have been reading a book called “The Loss of a Pet” by Wallace Sife and it has helped a lot.  I think just knowing that the things I’m feeling are normal and that other people have experienced the same kind of grief made it easier for me to process my emotions and not “get over it” exactly, but begin to heal a little bit and stop moping about.  I would recommend the book if you’re going through a similar situation and need a little help in dealing with it.

The week of his passing was horrible to say the least.  Not only did I lose him, but my Mother-in-law lost a dear friend, my brother-in-law’s dogs were bitten by a snake and had to have emergency treatment, and a close friend of mine was left by her husband.  I figure the stars were really out of whack that week.

I have been trying to keep busy and not “think” about things.  I’ve done a lot of crying.  But I’ve also had to keep up with my usual responsibilities and go to work, make things for the design team and help my Mum with packing and sorting out the house (we finally found her a new house – yay!).  While my creative brain was not working to full capacity, I struggled to make anything awe-inspiring for the shop as part of my design team responsibilities.  The pack I was given included the Melissa Frances Christmas range and I thought I would be able to make a few things easily.  But with deceased guinea pigs on the brain and a painful neck brought on by stress, I only managed a few cards.  I’m hoping inspiration will strike me before I have to hand in my finished items but it’s not looking good …. Here’s what I have made so far:

Nothing amazing but at least it’s something.  I really struggled with that red and white striped chevron paper – it made me go cross-eyed just looking at it.

Today I had to go into the city and buy hubby some birthday presents.  He’s into all the dungeons and dragons/board game/role playing stuff.  He doesn’t dress up like a wizard or anything but he does have regular “games days” with some friends.  So I had to venture into unfamiliar terrain today – ie comic book stores and a fantasy/sci fi gaming store.  Luckily he had given me a list so I knew what to look for.  Otherwise I may have bought him, well, God knows what, really

Whilst in town I window shopped in all the stores, looking at all the lovely Christmas  decorations and supplies.  I hate that they do it so early (this stuff has been up since October – ugh!) but still, I like to look.  And dream that one day I will have a proper house with a proper Christmas tree and lots of lovely things to put on it.  I do balk at some of the prices of things though.  I tend to walk around thinking “Pfft!  I could make that for less!”  which is probably true but the end result would most likely look pretty crappy and would cost me more in time and hair-pulling as I tried to figure out how to actually make things myself.  Myers always has a beautiful display of decorations and trims.  I took photos of a few things:

Love these dress forms.  Actually, I love anything related to dress forms.  I have a papier mache one at home waiting to be decorated.  Might have to try…

This table centrepiece was gorgeous (with a price tag to match) but you could make it with a bit of patience and a stack of little mirrors!

Really liked these wooden pears and apples.  So rustic and shabby!

This little guy made me smile.  He looks so cosy in his wooly scarf.

A cute and simple idea for a different kind of Advent calendar. Even I could probably manage this one.

These button picks were really nice.  They also had button garlands which would look great strung around a festive room.  I think I just like anything with buttons…

These wooden and felt layered decorations would be easy enough to replicate at home.  Might have to rummage around in my fabric drawer for some felt scraps…

I liked these simple cone Christmas trees but didn’t like their price.  I like the folksy details and simplicity.  Another one I might have to try.

So lots to look at and distract me from sadness today.  I can’t believe Christmas is already almost upon us and I am not even remotely organised this year.  Better stop window shopping and do some actual shopping soon…gee, what a shame!  Are you ready for the festive season (if you celebrate it)?  Do you have an favourite traditions or decorations that you have to have every year?  Let  me know!