Thursday, January 19

Illustration fun: my personal coat of arms

I'm currently in the process of putting together an art portfolio which means looking through all my pieces, so I thought I'd share the odd one with you. This piece may or may not make the cut! It's a final piece from a short illustration project I did on an evening course last autumn.

The brief was to create an A1 black ink illustration of your 'personal coat of arms' including specific things like your hometown, your motto, etc. It was really good fun and I can see why illustration is such a popular degree choice!

On the central crest of my coat of arms I drew an image of fields and the Irish flag which represent my heritage/parents (my mum grew up on a farm in Devon and my dad is Irish). Then there's a camera, because I like photography, and lots of umbrellas which symbolise my rainy hometown of London. The crest is shaped like a house because I'm quite homely.

We had to pick what animal we would be. I went for a cat: curious, occasionally affectionate and enjoys napping in the sun. There are lots of leaves and twisting vines - my love for nature and being outdoors - intercepted by the odd cake or Granny Smith apple. At the top are two hands holding a pencil and a wooden spoon.

My motto (sewn into a thick woolly scarf!) is 'Bright Side' because a) I'm an optimist and b) my all time favourite song is Mr Brightside by The Killers.

Although my final piece was by no means perfect (we did only have two classes to complete it in), this project felt like all fun and no work! What would you put on your coat of arms?

Friday, January 13

Perfectly simple bread rolls

Mmm, bread. There's nothing nicer than the smell of warm, freshly baked bread drifting through the house. Cutting the first slice, crusty exterior, soft springy dough inside, still steaming slightly.

Add a knob of butter, let it begin to melt a little, take a bite, and you're in heaven.

Bread is made in our breadmaker every other day, but sometimes it's nice to do it by hand. My younger brother found the best basic bread roll recipe which is now our stand-by. It never fails to produce bread so tasty you can eat it plain.

A lot of people are daunted by the thought of making their own bread and imagine it to be some vastly complicated process - it's not. It's really simple and tastes so so much better than processed cardboard bread. And it's much cheaper too!

You will need

1 oz butter
8oz brown/wholemeal/granary strong bread flour
8 oz white strong bread flour
1 sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp salt (although it's just as nice without these, if you want to be healthy)
275ml warm water
1 beaten egg
Seeds, for topping (optional)

to do this:

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the water in.
Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes to a dough, then form into a ball with your hands.
On a well floured surface, knead the dough (Youtube/google this if you aren't sure of the technique). Knead for about 6-8 minutes, then form into a ball and divide into 12 even sized pieces.
Roll these pieces into balls then place onto a greased tray. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place (airing cupboard is good) for about 40 minutes, until they have doubled in size.
Brush the rolls with the beaten egg, then if you like, sprinkle with seeds of your choice (poppy, sesame, etc).
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

For sweet buns, you could mix in some spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc), orange zest or dried fruit, when you're adding the water. Glaze the buns with marmalade when they're warm out of the oven (that's a tip stolen from Nigel Slater!).

These are some of the first photos taken with my new camera, which I'm slowly (sort of) getting to grips with.


Winter has finally arrived and I woke up to a really stunning frost today. I wish I lived in the countryside during weather like this - Jack Frost is a bit lost on surburban houses and cars. I'd go out tramping through the ice with camera in hand. Neverthless, cold icy mornings call for a bowl of gingerbread porridge and my warmest jumper.

I've got a boring weekend ahead full of work and portfolio preparation but am motoring on through! Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what you're aiming for, especially when it seems so far away. This line of poetry keeps going through my head, from 'Going Places' by Lemn Sissay:

I think I'll paint roads
on my front room walls
to convince myself
that I'm going places.

Anyway, must get back to work. I hope your weekends look more exciting than mine!