social spark Aisling Beatha: April 2012


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


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This page started in my art journal, but there came a point at which I knew that rather than making a page in honour of a friend and letting them have a photo of it, I needed to actually give them the page.  So, I cut it out of my art journal.  Thankfully it is a journal with perforated pages, so I had a line that I knew I could cut down, which made things easier.

The page began with a ripped up map, which I glued down with matt gel medium.

I scribbled over this with three shades of green Neocolor II. Which I then worked in using gesso rather than water.

I knew from the start what I wanted to be the main feature of this page.  I went online and found the Arabic word for Hope.  I printed it out as large as I could get it, and then traced that onto the page.

I outlined it using a pitt pen.

I then filled it in using a black paint pen.  My paint pen got a bit clogged at times and when I pushed down on it to get paint flowing again it made puddles of the colour.  So I grabbed a small brush and used that to further move that paint around.

Then I wrote around the outside and across the bottom.  I think my friends who I gave it to, liked it.

If you read the first sentence of the writing around the outside, you will understand the reason I used a ripped up map for the background.  I love using my creative skills to make gifts that will bless people.  Recently I made a decorated tin of encouraging cards for a friend who was struggling.  You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrating Your Influence

Another day, another Life Book page for you.  This is the full lesson from week 10 of Life Book.  I shared my page from week 11 yesterday, because I had worked these lessons out of order.

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This page had a much more scrapbook feel to it than our normal Life Book pages.  We started by sticking two pages of watercolour paper together with sticky tape.  This turned out to be a mistake for me, as you will soon see if you read on, but it was what was suggested in the lesson, so I went with it.  I cut 1 inch off the long side of one of the pages and then covered both sides with a base coat of gesso following up with with watercolour crayons and gesso.

I chose the paler one to be the front and the brighter one to be the back.

When working the watercolour over the sticky tape, some of the base coat of gesso came up, peeling up as if it was masking fluid being rubbed off.  Working over that with gesso and acrylics, helped, but it got worse later when I needed to alter something.

This lesson was all about celebrating our influence on others (you could do their influence on you if you preferred, but I wanted to go with this), so I chose some photos and worked out a layout I liked.

I glued a piece of ribbon across the page and made pencil marks where I wanted the pictures to go.  I did not think this out carefully enough and did not consider what would happen to any photos put over the fold in the page.

I then did some stamping around the areas where the photos would go.

I worked on altering some of the photos.  I used sandpaper around the edges and then wet certain parts of the photo and scratched into it.

That's an old photo of my husband from when we were dating.

I mounted all the photos and glued them down.  This is where things really started to go wrong and I realised the problems I was going to have with folding the page.  The top photo wasn't too bad because there was was quite a bit of photo either side of the fold, but the bottom one was a different matter.  The part to the left of the fold just would not stay glued down, no matter what I tried.  In the end I cut the left hand edge of that photo and it's mounting paper.  But that pulled up all colour that was laid down over the sticky tape used at the start.

I used some acrylic paint and smudged it over that area with my finger.

I also added text to the page and began embellishing the page with other scrap booking goodies.

I really didn't like the text in the top left, so cut out a piece of card to fit that area, and stamped and embossed part of the title while writing the other part.

But that left the page feeling off balanced with that blank space at the bottom right, so I used a tag shaped peel off on the same card used at the top left, cut it out and glued it down.

Take a look at some of the details:

The back of the flap was made into a list of the people who I have had the privilege of being a positive influence in their lives.  To store the page and later make it into a page in the book, I needed to use a paper clip, to keep it folded.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Silver Haired Lady

This is my page from Week 11 of Life Book.  I sometimes do lessons out of order, either because I need to get some supplies or because I need to print something out in order to do the lesson and so on.  I did week 10 after this page and will share that soon. This was one of the mini, infill lessons and focussed on stencilling to cover most of the page.

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I started with pencilling in the face.

I really struggled with the lips, trying over and over again and I still didn't get them right.  Oh well, keep trying and keep learning, that's what lessons are all about.

If you checked out my last Life book Page you will know that was in honour of getting my hair cut short to benefit two charities.  This page, I decided to do with short hair in honour of my newly short hair.

Next I coloured in the face using watercolour crayons, and a graphite pencil.

Two of the Life Book teachers had supplied stencil templates for you to make your own stencils, but I had enough of my own.  I don't have any purchased spray inks, so have to make my own and they don't always work as well as the purchased ones.  Particularly when flipping over the stencil to put the negative image down somewhere else on the page.  It tends to just splodge!  I like that word, SPLODGE!

If you look in the picture above, to the top right corner, that's a flipped over stencil, and the bottom right, where it is purple.  Also, some of the colours I have made into spray inks, were too wet and just seeped under the edges of the stencil, such as the pink down the left hand side.  If I had the money I would invest in some spray inks, but I don't.  However, if anyone wants to buy me some arty gifties, I would be more than happy to receive them. GRIN!

I did cheat with the black, and use a sponge to put paint on through the stencil, rather than spray ink.  I like the clarity that gives to the image, the crisp edges.  I looked at it and decided that there were still some areas that needed a little more stencilling and went in with a final layer of blue, again, paint sponged through a stencil.

You might notice I have adjusted the nose very slightly to make it on more of the right angle across the face.  I also painted her hair at this point.  I decided to go for grey hair.

I used a layer of iridescent white all over the hair, then highlighted it with grey and with white.  I struggle with her eye lashes.  On the right hand eye (as you look at the picture) I got them just right, nice and thin with just the right flick that I wanted. But the other eye, they kept coming out thicker.  I tried turning the paper around, but then I couldn't get the flick right because I was working upside down.  So I did what I could and left it at that.

Overall, for a fill in page that was really more about techniques than anything else, I am pleased with it.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Curried Cauliflower Soup

This soup would be excellent with either Scandinavian Rye Bread or German Potato Bread that I have made recently.

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For 2 decent portions you will need:

1/2 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Spray oil
500ml vegetable stock (I use a low sodium brand)
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 lemon (or lime)
salt, to taste

Heat oven to 425f, 215c
Put the cauliflower florets and chopped onion into a bowl and spray well with iol, turning and spraying again to ensure an even coating.

Toss the cauliflower florets with the chopped onion, curry powder, pepper, and cumin.

Spread out on the baking pan and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, turning frequently, until tender.

Put the cauliflower and onion into a saucepan with the stock.

Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until very tender. Blend, either using a standard blender or a stick blender. You can either blend the creme fraiche into the soup or serve it as a drizzle or dollop on top.

When you are blending, add extra boiling water if needed to get the soup to a consistency you prefer.
Add the juice of just 1/2 lemon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley, chopped green onion, or cilantro.  I didn't have any of those so ate it just as it was, mmmmmmmm

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

German Potato Bread

Yes, this is another recipe from the Hairy Bikers Bakeation TV series and the book to go with that.  As they travel around Europe through various countries, they search out the best baking those nations have to offer.

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You will need:

  • 375g/13oz potatoes (preferably Maris Piper), peeled and cut into even chunks (300g/10½oz peeled weight)
  • 1 tsp dried fast-action yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 100g/3½oz strong wholemeal flour
  • 200g/7oz strong white flour
  • 1 tsp onion seeds

You need exactly 300g/10½oz potatoes to make the bread so check the weight once they are peeled. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook for 15–20 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart.

Drain the potatoes in a colander over a bowl and reserve the cooking liquid.

Return the potatoes to the pan and toss over a very low heat for 2-3 minutes until any excess liquid has evaporated.

Pour 75ml/5 tbsp of the warm cooking liquid into a large bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes. When it’s lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast. Stir in the sugar and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until a light foam appears on the surface. If you’re using a mixture of wholemeal and white flour, add an extra tablespoon of the cooking liquor.

Mash the potatoes with the oil in the saucepan until they’re as smooth as possible,

then stir in the yeast mixture and salt.

Mix well with a wooden spoon and gradually add the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring well before adding more.

When the dough becomes too stiff to stir in the flour, turn it out on to the work surface and knead the remaining flour into the dough. I decided to use my stand mixer for the kneading.

Don’t be tempted to add more water or the dough will become too sticky to work with.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes until soft and pliable.

Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 45–60 minutes, or until well-risen and spongy to touch.

Knock back the dough with your knuckles and shape it into a rough ball. Flatten the ball on a floured surface until it is about 2cm thick,

then bring the sides up to the middle to give a rustic surface to the bread. Pinch lightly to seal

and sprinkle on some wholemeal flour, for additional texture, on the outside of the loaf. Place it on a lightly oiled and floured baking sheet, rough-side up, and leave to prove in a warm place for a further 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7. Score the dough with a knife along the pinched join and sprinkle the top with the onion seeds. I did not have any onion seeds, so I used poppy seeds instead.

Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes until well risen and crusty on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Wait until it's cool if you can.  I couldn't resist that long and so cut into it while it was still warm.

And there you have it, German Potato bread, great with just some simple butter, or any other topping you can think of.

I also tried the Scandinavian Rye Bread they made in the first episode as well as various sweet baked goods from Norway, containing cardamom.

If you've been watching the series and have a particular favourite recipe you would like to see me try out, then leave me a comment.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.
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