It Could Be Worse

I still have Valentine's on the brain. I have quite the extensive 50s/60s kitsch Valentine's card collection, which originally I'd hoped to cover a bedroom wall in.

Most of my cards came as job lots, but the one I've adapted in this drawing I had to buy as a single card, because, well... look at it. Originally it bore the legend "Need-le Valentine? SEW be mine", but I just wasn't going to let a pun that diabolical stand, so I've paired the imagery with a phrase I've been trying to find adequate imagery for for a while. I'm not entirely sure it works, but I'm going to plough this furrow for a while and make more altered Valentine's images.

Oh, and does the little lady look familiar? I just couldn't resist getting the chance to stab a heart with my needle...

Heart Shaped Foodstuff Day

Pip and I really got into the spirit of things this Valentine's Day. Traditionally, we make some variety of heart-shaped food. This year, we made two varieties. It's sweet that Pip seemed even more excited about this prospect this time around than I did. My love of schmaltz is clearly infectious!

I dressed for the occasion, all in red.



My embroidered 1960s shift dress is a hand me down from my friend, fellow artist and vintage aficionado Kat.

My cherry bomb pom pom earrings (which are quite the conversation piece!) are from Frilly Pops.

My red suede and white off-white saddle shoes are reproduction 40s/50s from Morello's.

Our main course was a heart shaped spinach, halloumi, feta and pine nut pie.



Rustic Greek Pie Recipe

Ingredients

200g fresh spinach

1 block of readymade shortcrust pastry (terrible, I know)

3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

150g halloumi, roughly chopped in small chunks

120g feta, crumbled in chunks

60ml cream

2 eggs

A good few handfuls of pine nuts

A good pinch of fresh or dried oregano (or mixed herbs)

Black pepper to season

Lemon wedges to serve

Method

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°C.

Put a few glugs of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heart. Add the garlic, and cook for a few minutes. Add all the spinach gradually, mixing with the garlic until it has all wilted down. Wipe the oil from the frying pan and add the pine nuts. Toast them for a few minutes until browned. (We forgot to do this and had to add them to the dish un-toasted!)

In a jug, whisk the eggs and add the cream.

Roll your shop bought (or made from scratch if you're not lazy cheats like us!) pastry block into a large thin oval shape. Use your hands to sculpt it into a heart. Transfer it to a baking tray and roll the sides up so that they are a good 4cm higher than the rest of the pastry, while still retaining the heart shape.

Using a spoon, spread the spinach and garlic mixture all over the inside of the pastry.

Scatter the crumbled halloumi and feta on top of the spinach and garlic mixture.

Pour the cream and egg mixture over the spinach and cheese. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the pastry and cheese has become golden brown.

Cut yourselves half a heart each and serve with a wedge of lemon.


We also baked red velvet cheesecake brownies, a gloriously American dessert that we ate the majority of fresh, hot and squidgy straight from the oven! Unfortunately ours didn't turn out very red; possibly we used too much cocoa powder.


Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies Recipe

Ingredients

For the brownie layer:

115g butter

220g brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red food colouring

1 teaspoon white vinegar

120g cocoa powder (we used Green & Black's, which is Fairtrade and organic! Yay!)

2 eggs, whisked

120g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the cheesecake layer:

230g cream cheese

55g brown sugar

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°C.

Grease a small baking tray and line with baking paper.

Brownie Layer

In a small glass bowl suspended over a saucepan of boiling water, melt the butter for the brownies. When melted, tip into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, food colouring and vinegar, mixing between additions and making sure to add each ingredient in that order. Mix in the two whisked eggs. Sieve in the flour and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into the baking tray, keeping back a little to dollop on top once you have added the cheesecake layer.

Cheesecake Layer

In a bowl, blend together the cream cheese, sugar, whisked egg and vanilla extract until softened and slightly runny. Spread the cream cheese mixture in a layer over the layer of brownie mixture. Dollop the brownie mixture you kept back on top of the cream cheese layer, leaving plenty of room between each dollop.

Drag the tip of a knife between the cream cheese layer and the dollops of brownie mixture to create a flat, swirled surface. 

Bake for 30 minutes. Lift the baking paper with the brownies on top of it on to a wire rack to cool, and once cooled, cut into chunks. Or, in our case, scoff them all straight from the oven!

Our second heart shaped food of the day was a giant heart shaped raspberry jelly. We've got to be the only couple in their mid-twenties to have made a giant heart shaped raspberry jelly for Valentine's Day. To hell with champagne!

We scoured the high street for vegetarian jelly, and finally found some in Holland and Barrett. 


Giant Heart Shaped Raspberry Jelly Recipe

Ingredients

4 packets of vegetarian raspberry jelly crystals

Method

The instructions on the packet said simply to add a pint of boiling water, so we added each sachet to a jug and filled it up to a pint with the kettle, before pouring the mixture into our incredible heart shaped mold, which we got the first Valentine's we were together, and unfortunately is no longer stocked by IKEA!

Lift the mold carefully on to the plate and leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours. We garnished our jelly with Loveheart sweets and ate it with vanilla ice cream. Oh, to be six again!


Pip had roses delivered, which was a lovely surprise. I gave him a 1950s sweets-themed cheesy Valentine's card from my extensive collection, which you can just see peeking out in this Polaroid:













We rounded off our evening watching the wistfully harrowing (or harrowingly wistful?) Never Let Me Go, sipping sloe gin martinis and Leffe.


Sloe Gin Martini Recipe

Shake 3 parts sloe gin with 1 part dry vermouth and 4 dashes angostura bitters with ice. Serve in a chilled martini glass (mine had a red stem to match my outfit and the jelly!)



We spent the next morning at Jesse's Cafe, a gloriously kitsch greasy spoon with pink booths, offering everything from Cypriot sausages to cherry pie. We both opted for a fry up, but will certainly be back to try both. It's a gorgeous cafe (the crockery is so dainty, and emblazoned with "Jesse's Cafe"!) and so, so cheap.




I can't remember the last time I had such a lovely, chilled, delicious weekend. We're really going to have to pull out all the stops next year!





Shrinking Violet





This second page of Milk Thistle deals with the preoccupation with weak and feeble females in 18th and 19th Century literature, and with the tendency of women to be self-effacing and apologetic for taking up space in a patriarchal society.

The text reads:

"I'll twist my ankle attempting to commune with nature and fall deep in the shaded wood, become a shrinking violet, growing smaller and smaller until one day I simply vanish".

The words themselves grow smaller and smaller almost to the point of vanishing. The page's pocket is a Valentine's card from the 50s which proclaims "Don't Be A Shrinking Violet" "Come right out and say it", throwing up the hypocrisy of a world which tells women to keep their mouths shut and then characterises them as weak. Inside is the Victorian beadwork depicting a pair of violets which I stitched way back in April.

This is stitched on to a background fabric of a typical mid-century ditzy print quilting cotton in shades of violet.



The next page will deal with Romantic preoccupations with sickliness.

"Need-le" Valentine?

If you're a loather of Valentine's Day, look away now. Mine and Pip's involved baking, bathing, and braving the wind and rain to do the twist at a Northern Soul night. We really go for it every year and attempt to make at least one example of heart-shaped food.

White chocolate and raspberry (and fluorescent pink!) heart shaped cookies

Pie, the most romantic of Valentine's meals
We also indulged in a sloe gin and rose lemonade or two... and of course, I squeezed in some stitching!

Over the years I've developed a (perhaps slightly worrying) penchant for mid-century Valentine's cards. The crapper the pun, the better. So when I stumbled across a lot of 43 from one of my favourite vintage dress shops on Etsy, I knew that I had to snap them up, whether they were destined for a feature wall in my future 50s kitsch home, or a crafting project. The card below (which incidentally may win the prize for crappest pun of the lot) has sealed the deal; I'm going to create something crafty, and a real departure/new challenge for me out of the cards.





Time permitting around my RSN commitments, I should be sharing the results here in the not-too-distant future. I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day, whether you shared it with a sweetheart or said "Bah, humbug" to the whole thing.