Monday, 28 May 2012

A few designs

The last few weeks have been quite busy really but I've had a chance to finish a few bits and pieces in the past few days.

First of all: the mosaic commission! It's based on the rainbow drinks coasters I make and sell at my craft fairs. I was asked if I could use the same colours but that the actual design was up to me. I decided to make a series of concentric circles with a glass pebble in the middle. It always amazes me how different mosaics look before and after grouting them. Look:

In the process of making the mosaic

Finished mosaic - it's much darker now and has lost the vibrant glare.
Sadly the only photo I remembered to take of this was taken late at night when my camera decided it didn't really like taking photos after all so it's a bit blurry. Sorry! Anyway, do you like it? I'm quite happy with how it eventually turned out.

Secondly, I finally got around to changing a cushion cover. I've had a cushion for years and years and it was beginning to look pretty worse for wear. It was clearly beyond another tumble through the washing machine so I took the plunge, found some old scraps of material and made up a new cushion cover. You might recognise the material from the insane city quilt I made last year. It was actually surprisingly easy to knock together and probably only took about half an hour. In fact I am considering making some other new cushion covers with other scraps of material as I quite like the effect. I have some reds and pinks left over somewhere....

This week I'm going to work on some more small mosaics for the next craft fair I'll be doing (10th June, Keston Lodge, Islington for those who might pop in to say hello.) And I need to make a few more penguins as I'm beginning to run low on stock!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Safari Weekend

.... no I didn't actually go on safari, much as I would like to. Sadly my weekends are too short to go all the way to Africa, but we did the next best thing: Woburn Safari Park! We had a really great time there, all my concerns about keeping wild animals in captivity were qualmed as it was clear the animals had plenty of space to roam around in. I did decide it was probably a little frustrating for the tigers and wolves who could see ibex, giraffes and other tasty looking morsels but couldn't actually get to them, but apart from that I was really impressed with how well the animals are looked after.

Highlights included:

  • PENGUINS! They had big signs on their pen saying 'we molt at this time of year so please excuse our appearance' - they still looked pretty awesome to me. Especially when they decided to act all macho and march off in a line around the edge of their pool. They are such dudes!

  • LEMURS! Who doesn't love lemurs? If you don't, go and watch Madagascar and come back to me once you've seen them. These ones all have names and seem fairly friendly with humans - their ranger certainly got to stroke and cuddle them. And Angel (a red-fronted lemur) was carrying a diddy tiny lemur on her back. Apparently it was nearly a month old, doing brilliantly and fairly large for its age. Looked pretty tiny to me.

  • GIRAFFES - doing the splits! Yup, in order to get some of the grass, the giraffes spread their front legs almost into the splits in order to get closer to the ground. It's a hard life being so tall. I hadn't really figured out quite how tall they are until one decided to walk in front of the car in front - the scale of seeing an animal more than twice the height of a normal car is incredible. 

  • MONKEYS! These guys seemed friendly... and then slightly aggressive. Three of them were definitely not happy monkeys and were fighting each other on top of other people's cars. They seemed fairly determined to do some form of damage and did eventually manage to get a windscreen wiper off one of the cars. Luckily all the monkeys seemed not to like our car so we were able to just watch them happily. There was also a very cute tiny baby monkey being protected by its mother. It was pretty hard getting a shot of it (especially as our windows had to be up at all times) but I got one that was nearly in focus...

  • TIGERS - I'm always astounded at how elegant these creatures are. We only saw one but he came very close to us and walked straight in front of the car to go and drink from the pond on the other side of the road. Beautiful, stunning creature. 

  • LIONS, BEARS, WOLVES & RHINOS - in fact a whole host of other animals. I was quite impressed that the bears and wolves seemed pretty happy hanging out with each other. You could sense the power of them but they were definitely relaxing, not up to much really. 

All in all, we had a fantastic day and I really enjoyed it. I haven't been to a safari park since I was really young so it was quite an experience. I suspect my inner child possibly came out a little too much as I was way too excited - and took far too many photos! 

This morning I woke up with a very safari-themed idea... safari soft toys! So, in honour of my weekend, I designed and made a giraffe toy. I was thinking of making a few different animals and making them into a child's mobile. What do you think?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

How to Make... a lino-print

Lino printing is a good way of producing the same design lots of times - once you have cut your lino design, you can use and re-use your print as often as you like. All you need to do is make sure you wash your lino stamp after every use and get as much of the paint off as you can.

One word of warning about cutting lino though - those blades are sharp, please always cut away from yourself and keep your fingers well out of the way.

1) Draw out your design on some paper in the size you want it to be.

2) Transfer the design onto the lino by cutting around the outside edge and then cutting out each of the different parts

3) Using a fine lino blade, cut around the edges that you need.

4) Now start getting rid of all the excess lino - use one of the wide blades to clear as much as you can. The bits that are cut away will not be part of the design, the raised bits that you leave behind are the design that will end up being printed and transferred.

5) You want to get a difference between levels - the bits that are going to be printed need to be as high as you can and try to get a 90 degree angle on the edges if at all possible. Use you favourite blade to cut away and smooth out the lino.

6) If you have large areas at the side of your lino block that are not part of the design, it's a good idea to trim these edges off - that way you won't accidentally get paint on them which might smudge onto your design.
7) Once you have finished cutting your lino, you are ready to print! All you do is cover the raised parts of your lino block with paint (Acrylic is probably best. If you are printing onto fabric then mix it with a fabric medium)

8) Turn your design over and place it carefully onto your object to be printed. Press down hard and make sure you press over all the different parts evenly or else it will come out fuzzy around the edges.

9) Carefully remove your lino block from the print and... wow that looks awesome!

Now that you've made your lino print, you can print the same design again and again and again and a-  ... you get the picture!

Friday, 18 May 2012

That Friday Feeling...Ninjas!

 Argh, there hasn't been a Friday Feeling post for a few weeks - I am so sorry! Not sure quite why I have failed so miserably in my mission to bring my favourite Etsy finds of the week to you, please forgive me! Anyway, some of you will have noticed that this week I am slightly obsessed with ninjas... so this week is of course dedicated to the ninjas. Of the cute variety...

Squeee! Love these polymer clay ninjas by Lilley

The Surprise Ninja makes an appearance on this cute badge by TheHappyWhale

And this ninja is lurking on a card ready to strike with his shuriken by CompassionCardCo

YAY! I love these little guys! So I guess I should find some interesting facts about ninjas for you...

  • Ninjas have been around since about the 14th Century. The art of Ninjutsu means the art of stealth and ninjas were traditionally spies, saboteurs and assassins.
  • Ninjas aren't called ninjas at all - they were called Shinobi meaning 'to steal away'. Apparently the name ninja only came about after the Second World War when Westerners couldn't pronounce shinobi so started calling them ninjas.
  • Ninjas and Samurai are totally different - the Samurai were mostly of the nobility, while Ninjas came from mountain villages. Samurai fought in the open while Ninjas were more covert in their operations.
  • The traditional ninja uniform was not black. It's kind of conspicuous when you are a hired assassin to go around mountain villages wearing black so they would have worn whatever anyone else was wearing to blend in. They may have worn dark colours in the dark to help with concealment but that's about as far as it gets. 
  • While searching for interesting facts about ninjas I came across all sorts of websites stating wonderful things about ninjas, from 'Ninjas don't sweat' to 'Ninjas can predict the next tune on their iPod shuffle'. Obviously most of them are not true... or are they? 
  • OK so Kung-Fu and Ninja are not related but hey... when else will I have an opportunity to have Kung Fu Fighting as the song of the week here? Sorry for being totally incorrect (and in the wrong country) here, but I couldn't resist:

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ninjabread men!

I had a fun Sunday last weekend. Having been on a ridiculously long walk mostly up hills on Saturday, we had definitely earned a more relaxing day on Sunday so, instead of doing something super active or cultural, we decided to make gingerbread men. Sorry, not gingerbread but NINJABREAD! How awesome is that for an idea? It was more of a mission than I originally suspected as some of the icing was kind of fiddly, and gingerbread has a bit of a tendency to misbehave when you cut it. But... what do you think? How cool are these little guys?

Hai-Ja! Ninjas are on the loose...
We even made some ghost ninjas!
On Monday I showed the kids in my class some of the photos we'd taken of the ninjabread. Obviously they were clearly impressed, cries of 'Yaaaaarrrr, sick Miss!' came from all sides. My class have been doing their SATS tests this week (that is something different in the UK to what it is in the US by the way) and have been working flat out. So today I decided to give them a treat... I stayed up till ridiculously late last night making ninjabread shapes and took in lots of bits to decorate them with. The results were awesome! Clearly children are way more imaginative than us adults - there were all sorts of varieties and I thought they all looked brilliant. What do you think? 

I have just discovered that gingerbread is remarkably easy to make - there are loads of recipes on the internet but here's the one that I have been using. 


350g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g butter
175g soft, light brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons golden syrup

What to do: 

1) Preheat your oven to 190°C / Gas mark 5 and line some baking trays with baking paper (baking parchment)
2) Sift the flour, ginger and bicarbonate into a large bowl. 
3)Rub in the butter with your fingertips.
4) Add the sugar, then stir in the syrup and the egg until it makes a firm dough.
5) Roll out your ninja dough onto a floured surface - beware it likes to stick so it needs to be very well floured! Roll to about 5mm thick and then use your cookie cutters to cut your shapes.
6) Carefully lift your gingerbread and place them onto your baking trays - leave big spaces between them as they do spread a bit.
7) Bake them for about 10 - 15 minutes or until golden. Leave them on the tray for about 10 minutes till they firm up and then transfer to a wire rack.
8) When they are cool, you can accessorise your ninjas as you see fit... a more traditional headband and belt or something a bit more wacky...

Monday, 14 May 2012

A Bag Commission (or Ten...)

Those of you who follow Creating Trouble on Facebook or Twitter will know that recently I've had a commission on for some beach bags. Some of you may even have seen a picture or two. But I thought I'd do a post on them this week and reveal them properly.

Nope these aren't the finished product... they've only just been printed!
A friend of mine was organising the hen party for a friend of hers and, needing a small token gift for each of the hens, called me for a design meeting. As they were going to be down on at the seaside, we came up with a beach themed lino design involving beach huts and then decided to personalise each of them by writing the name of the recipient and the event on each bag. She chose an aquamarine-type blue - the colour hasn't really come out properly in the photos - they are slightly more greenish than the pictures imply.

Still not done, but there's some writing on them now...
The bags are all lined inside and I made salt dough decorations in a matching colour to go with each bag. Finally I wrapped them in tissue paper to match before delivering them last week. I know the organisers of the hen party loved them... just hope the bride-to-be did too! 

One of the completed bags
Still needs to be ironed, but a full length view
Detail with the salt dough decorations that I made to match the bags 
10 bags all folded ready to be packed up...
The Bride-To-Be's bag
All packed up and ready to go! 
So, what do you think? Having just made the first proper custom order,  I'm quite excited about another commission if you are organising a hen party or some other event that might need a small gift, then bear these in mind!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Reading a Little... May

I haven't given any reading recommendations for months! I am so sorry, although there is a very good reason for it: I have no intention of recommending books that I really disliked or struggled to get through. And so far this year I have struggled with a number of books. I spent nearly 3 months determined to finish Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell but just found absolutely any excuse I could not to read it. As a result, I actually haven't read many books at all this year. I'm clearly slacking! I will endeavour to get back to my monthly recommendations really soon, but for now, here are the only two books I have read this year that I would actually tell other people were worth reading.

Game of Thrones - G.R.R. Martin

OK so most of us have now jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, but for once I actually think it is well-justified. I saw the TV series before I started reading the books which means that all the characters are the actors who play them for me but I don't think that detracts at all. I really enjoy Martin's writing style and, despite the fact that you have 8 different narrators and perspectives, this comes together really well. The characters grow up and develop and the different perspectives mean that you get a broader picture of the events. I found it easy to read but difficult to put down and have moved on immediately to Clash of Kings, the second book in the series. The plot twists and turns and it is clear that it won't be resolved in the course of a single book - some of that characters aren't even in the same continent let alone the same city, but that actually just makes it a refreshing read - you get very involved with what is happening in the North but then head down to King's Landing and get caught up in court intrigue, or skip over the sea to see how Danaerys is dealing with Khal Drogo and her brother. It's a fantastic mix of political intrigue, violence, sex, relationships, honour and deception. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it is the most enjoyable one I've read this year so far.

The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

This took me a while to get into, and as I really wanted to start reading Game of Thrones, I think I probably missed vitally important bits. But I did enjoy it. The Moonstone is a diamond with a cursed history and, after being bequeathed to Rachel Verinder, mysteriously disappears. A detective is brought in to solve the case but sadly cannot and so Franklin Blake, a relative and potential match for Rachel, tries to piece together the mystery with the help of various eye-witness accounts. It is a romance as much as it is a detective novel and gives a taste of upper-class society and attitudes as well as being a lively and intricate story. I have to say I did not foresee a lot of the plot twists - Collins takes you on a merry dance around various inconsequential plotlines as well as brushing over some of the more important aspects. A well-written and intriguing story.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Chicken Spinach Feta Meatballs Recipe

I wrote a post ages ago about my new discovery of Pinterest (original post here). By now, it's not a new thing and everyone I know seems to be on it. But I do keep discovering bits and pieces and things that I love. You're welcome to go and browse over my pins and see what's what, and go look at some of the people I follow as well as they all have amazing pins as well.

One of the things I have recently discovered on Pinterest is this recipe for chicken-spinach-feta meatballs. Oh My, they are deeeeeeelicious! Seriously, I have been making them loads since I discovered them a few weeks ago. I've adapted the recipe slightly as I didn't have the correct ingredients the first few times I made them and I quite like the way they turned out. They are super duper easy and are ready with hardly any fuss. Thought I'd better share the recipe with you...

Chicken Spinach Feta Meatballs


500g chicken mince (I use turkey mince and it's fine)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp finely chopped spinach
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (I use less but that's because I don't much like salty food and feta is quite salty)
1/4 tsp ground pepper (I use more...)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 cup feta cheese

All of the above measurements are to taste - more, less, whatever tickles your fancy! The original recipe (here) used fennel seeds and cayenne pepper and I'm sure is even more delicious, but I'm happy with my version.


1) Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl. I find it is much easier if you get your (clean) hands in there for your mixing.
2) I use about a tablespoon's worth of the mixture for each ball, but again, you can be the judge. Take a small portion and roll it into a nice spherical shape. Put it on the side and do the next one.
3) Once you have all the mixture rolled into balls, swirl some oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan but not so much as to immerse them. (ie about a tablespoon)
4) When the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in batches until they are golden all over and cooked through. Drain them on kitchen roll and cook the next batch.
5) Eat them. Yes, they are that simple!

Seriously easy, seriously tasty and I am a little addicted... Go over to ItsyBitsyFoodies website for some more amazing tasting recipes - I have my eye on quite a few of them!


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