Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I have joined the legions of people Keeping Calm!

Do you know the story of Keep Calm and Carry On? Here is a charming video all about it:

and now that I've done such a British thing as an illustration of a cuppa with a biccie on the side ready for dunking (part of the logo I created for Carrington Lane Bakery's Etsy shop - Anne the baker did in fact bake that exact Milano I used for the illustration) why aren't I joining the legions who also are keeping calm and not necessarily carrying on but perhaps having themselves a nice hot cuppa and putting their feet up for a bit?

So here's the poster on a nice calm blue background and a poppy red frame from my Society6 shop - the design is also available on iPod 4 (and other generations) cases:

as well as iPhone cases and laptop skins - and hoodies:

plus t - shirts - and greetings cards:
and here's a pink version at my Etsy Shop

....and pink and aqua versions on a few different items at my CafePress shop:

This week I also approved a printed swatch of the teacup and biccie for a textile repeat in my 
Spoonflower shop . Here is the artwork - 
and a picture of the first and second swatches of the print - on the left is the approved swatch on the right the first go around - as you can see the red came out quite orange first time - reds are hard to do in print and harder still is the fact that the colour looks right on your screen/monitor - different when you print - different on other people's screens and their printers and yet again very different on the type of textile printer Spoonflower uses. So I adjusted my file in what I thought was the right direction and yea! it turned out to be so and now it is available for sale HERE

Off for a cuppa!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An empty nest, burgeoning green and lupines!!

Does this constitute dappled?
Maine is an amazing place in more ways than one but one of the most amazing things is how winter lasts forever, spring is barely recognizable as such, nothing is growing, nothing is growing, no leaves are out, there's just a hint of a bud here and there, it's cold and dreary and then BAM it's wildly green, the grass is a foot high and the world is blindingly GREEN - chartreuse, glowing vivid bright green!! Today was the day IT happened and today was the day our little robins flew the nest and started on their new adventure - our nest is empty - bye bye little guys - safe travels - all four of them took flight and we wish them well - so sad looking out the kitchen window and not seeing them there but maybe they'll be back next year?

Awwww - it's empty!!

 Is this green enough? SOOO many ballerina poppies to come - just one is showing a little of her tutu right now - when will we see the other layers - I LOVE these poppies and am so glad to be on the side of looking forward to them once again - yea!!!
I've never really paid mind to these Bachelor's Buttons before but today their colour just glowed against the humming greens - what a splendid pallette above - I should do a textile design in these colours - now that would stand out but I don't know how I would create that ultraviolet!
 How elegant - it looks like a thistle!
And the lupines yes the lupines - they grow wild everywhere - hello friends!!


And last but NOT least the poor maligned dandelion - how can you not like the flowers which give us these wonderful dandelion clocks! You tell the time by how many puffs of breath it takes to send the little parachutes on their merry way!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blue Rhapsody - my latest submission to a Spoonflower competition

This is the allover repeat textile pattern I just submitted to the latest competition at Spooflower - a competition called "Hand Drawn" - at first I wasn't sure if my design was eligible as I think of hand drawn as drawn with pencils or pen and ink so I clarified with Spoonflower and indeed hand painted was more than OK to enter the competition.
Would you please consider voting for my design HERE - there are quite a few pages of designs to scroll through but it does go quite quickly and the designs get constantly shuffled so I can't tell you which page my design will be on - you can vote for as many fabrics as you like, there's some very nice ones in there. My thanks in advance for voting for me!!
Below is the original design which I hand painted in watercolour on paper. I scanned the design and reworked it into the design above which is a pattern in repeat available for purchase as soon as I approve a sample swatch now on order from Spoonflower - a print on demand textile company based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I have already created other items in this pattern at CafePress - I decided to do those on a white ground or the colour ground as provided by the item itself - as in the iPhone cover.
A Kindle cover available HERE

A laptop skin available HERE oddly enough I sold the first laptop skin in this design the same day I uploaded the design to the Spoonflower competition - interesting......
An iPhone cover available HERE
Below are two items I have added to my Envelop store (they have not been approved yet but should be up in the next couple of days) - a print on demand company based in Antwerp, Belgium who provide lovely home textiles and have free shipping worldwide BUT for my US customers I caution that custom duties may apply for items coming into the US.
Before I started the design for this competition I made myself commit to doing it by asking on my Facebook page which of the 3 following designs my audience thought I should create into an allover print. As the deadline rapidly drew near I realized I was being too ambitious with any of these 3 and decided to enter "Blue Rhapsody" as I had almost finished the repeat a few months ago and more than half the work was already done. I shall however be working on the Strawberries and Cream design soon ready for summer, the grapes I will do in time for Autumn and I think the Gilding the Lily design might be more appropriate for a Winter debut.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rhubarb Crumble Cake - this one's a keeper!

Just recently not one but two people over here in the States have told me they have never had rhubarb! As a Brit this amazes me - rhubarb is part and parcel of the English culinary tradition and, in the UK, would almost be like saying you've never had an apple. I just love rhubarb's unique astringent tartness ameliorated by all that lovely sugar. Rhubarb is an intriguing plant - most people think of it as a fruit because it is nearly always used as a fruit but it is in fact a vegetable which originated in the damp and cold of Siberia - making it a perfect candidate to be grown in Yorkshire - a place where its production became so huge that there is an area of Yorkshire designated as the Rhubarb Triangle - for more interesting info on this and other rhubarb facts, like it being harvested by candlelight - yes I am serious!! - follow this LINK

 So here is this year's recipe for my own rhubarb - not harvested by candlelight but definitely grown in cold and damp Maine!
A three layered cake - spongey cake on the bottom - rhubarb toffee sauce in the middle - crumble topping above.
First - always read the recipe from start to finish to know what to expect and in what order to do things..

2.5oz sugar
1.5oz butter
2 tablespoons cream or half and half or half half and half and half cream – ha ha, sorry I couldn’t resist that :)
9oz rhubarb – cut into small slices/chunks

3oz white unbleached flour
2 oz butter - cold (I always use salted as I like that flavor)
2oz sugar
If you’d like you can add 2oz flaked almonds to the crumble after you’ve made it but I didn’t have any so I didn’t add it in.

All ingredients should be at room temperature to make the going that much easier – the eggs assimilate into the creamed butter and sugar so much better when it’s all at room temperature – and I’m talking about room temperature in say NY as here in Maine it’s still in the upper 50’s lower 60’s – so maybe 68F or so.
4oz butter
4oz sugar
4oz flour plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder sifted together.
3 medium sized eggs whisked together
2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract/essence – I like the latter – almond is a good foil to rhubarb.

Start with the rhubarb sauce which takes a while to make and then cool down.

1. Melt butter, sugar and cream together gently in a heavy bottomed pan and let it bubble a bit but don’t let it catch.

2. Add in the rhubarb and let it coat and cook gently – the juices will flow from the rhubarb but keep cooking and let a lot of the water evaporate until it thickens back up – stir constantly as it gets to a point where it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan – at that point you are probably done – let it cool completely.

Set your oven to 350F

Crumble part:
1. Mix flour and sugar together in a bowl.

2. Cut the butter (which should be cold for this purpose) into it in small pieces and rub into the dry mix either with your hands using your fingertips to rub the butter in or you can do very quickly in a food processor - until you get a nice crumbly mix - here's a video to help if you haven't done this before - thanks Baking Mad!

3. If you are using the almonds add them in after you’d done you’re crumbling.

4. Set aside until needed.

Cake part:
1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

2. Slowly add the eggs bit by bit and beat in between additions – near the end of adding all the eggs this my curdle – that’s OK in this cake.

3. Add the dry ingredients in in three goes and mix well but with a light hand.

Look at how spectacularly yellow my cake batter is from the divine eggs at Farmetta Farm!!

Now we assemble the cake:
1. Put cake batter into the bottom of a cake pan with a removable base that has been buttered and floured – I always us my 6” one because I love small tall cakes but you could also do this in an 8” pan but your baking time might be shorter. Make a bit of a well in the centre and..

2. Pour the nice and thick cold rhubarb toffee sauce atop and spread evenly and not quite to the sides if you can manage that - you can see I couldn't !!

3. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top.

4. Bob into your oven and bake for about 40 – 50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean – although do bear in mind you have sauce in there so if there’s anything sticky and pink that’ll be the rhubarb goo – so clean of yellow batter.

5. Remove from oven when ready and allow to cool in the pan.

6. Remove genteely from the pan.

7. Yuhoo – this is a lovely cake – the cake is spongey – the rhubarb is just right and just enough and the crumble is delicious! You can have it with heavy/double cream whipped or with a nice pouring custard – YUMMMMMMMM!!!!!!

Do be aware so you don't think you haven't cooked your cake properly this is one of those cakes that sinks a little in the middle when it cools!
Here are some more interesting facts about rhubarb - we do all know the leaves are TOXIC right - so no ingesting of those nasty leaves - throw them away where children and pets can't get to them!

 Now here's a picture of the robin I wrote about a couple of weeks ago who has nested right outside our back door under a small roof to keep her eggs nice and dry. Her babies have hatched and are safe and sound - here's Mum feeding the babies their delicious worms - sorry the picture is blurry - I have to take the photo from a distance through a window so as not to scare Mum away!!
Happy Baking - let me know how it goes and feel free to post pics on my Facebook page when you have baked this yummy cake.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Carrington Lane Bakery is open for Business!!

A few short weeks ago my friend Anne got in touch with me and asked me to design a logo for her for her new Etsy online shop "Carrington Lane Bakery" - I was so excited as I have been an ardent admirer of Anne's baked goods since the day I first tasted them about three years ago. Anne wanted a cosy, charming feel for her shop with a bit of European flair as she decided to skew the theme of the shop towards international delights - baked goods from countries near and far made in Maine with wholesome ingredients and as many local ones as possible - sounds just fine to me.
So I got started by creating three different quick sketches to establish a look and colour pallette:

Obviously, as evidenced by the top picture, Anne chose to go with the lower image but decided to go with a red gingham instead of the blue - bless her little cotton socks - she chose one and stuck to it and it was so easy for me to translate her wishes into my happy command, especially so as she plied me with samples of her goods and also baked up some Milanos for me to photograph and illustrate for the 'biscuit' on the saucer. Here is the banner and profile picture for Carrington Lane Bakery on Facebook:
Next I designed a banner for Anne's shop on Etsy:
 ...which co-ordinates and complements her Facebook banner - the Etsy banner is hard to do as it is so shallow and wide - quite the design challenge I'd say!!

 Here are pictures of the first three delicious International Delights Anne is offering from her newly opened store:
Cheerio! Caramelly, oaty Flapjacks from the UK

CIAO!! Delightful Milanos from Italy
Ooh la la - Espresso Hazelnut Macarons from France
As you can see on the cup in the logo I also created a monogram for CLB and I reworked this into a round label for Anne's packages thus:
Best of luck with Carrington Lane Bakery! Friends do visit the shop HERE!