Welcome to my blog!!

Welcome to the official blog of Journalist, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Help Me Fund My Next Craft Book!

I recently started a Crowd Funding Campaign on website Kickstarter to publish my next craft book and now have just until the end of the month to raise £3.5k to help me do this project.
Buy why do I need to ask people to donate money? Well, I'm going to try and explain more...

Back in 2012 my book 101+ Things To Do With Glitter was published by Vivays. After I handed it in and was awaiting for it to be printed I started on the follow up, a title about ribbon. But sadly the publishing company went into liquidation which promptly stopped production and distribution of the glitter book and stopped my ribbon book (which by that time has been all written and the projects made), from progressing. 

I dedicated over a year to the book, unpaid, so couldn't bear to see the work remain just as a file on my computer. I then waited a further two years for legal decisions to be made and for the old publishing company to be bought by  a new one - this eventually happened but they no longer wanted my book. 

I looked into various options as to how I could publish it myself and eventually digital publishing made the most sense. My plan is to create a digital craft book for Ipad and tablet but one that's also available to purchase as downloadable pdf.

The most important part of the book is that is showcases the work of independent UK Maker/Designers, who have designed the projects that feature in the book. This isn't a vanity project to help me publish another book with my name on...I have long been a supporter of creative talent in the UK. I used to edit a Craftzine as I strongly believe in giving people platforms to showcase their work, especially as otherwise they wouldn't get a chance. This is my way to help them.
Papercrafts section: Notebook by Carole King
The projects in the book fit into four categories: fashion, interiors, gifts and papercrafts and here are some examples of the types of projects in the book...
Fashion section: Ballet socks by Nadia Kamil

Woven cushion by Agnis Smallwood

The £3.5k I am trying to raise will go towards design and photography and turning the book into a digital format to make it available, as well as extras like sending projects back to the designers, photoshoot travel etc. 

Crowd funding is a method that allows you to raise money for your own projects but it's an all or nothing approach so if I raise £3.5k it means I can make the book, if I raise less than that then I won't get any of the money that has been pledged..

Currently I am spreading the word through social media and emailing friends but at the moment still feeling nervous about whether or not I will reach the target (current count is £726).

I have joined up with graphic designer Kara-Jessica Mallet to help me on this project and together we are trying to do as much as we can to raise awareness and get the book made.

All the details about our campaign are on our Kickstarter page which you can see here. 

If you're reading my blog and like what I do, I hope you can spare a few pounds to help me on this mission of mine, every penny can make a difference in reaching our target. 

Thanks so much!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Underwater Love: Design Features At Atlantis, The Palm Dubai (and my wee visit to the hotel!)

Me, blending in like a piece of the furniture at The Atlantis Palm Dubai
I love a good theme and I love water so a water themed hotel is bound to be my kind of place right? Atlantis, The Palm Hotel in Dubai is indeed that 'water themed' hotel but I had no idea it would also be such a creative destination. There are crafty touches in the design and décor everywhere you look, starting with this exquisite glass centrepiece in the entrance (made by Dale Chihuly the same artist who created the jaw-dropping Rotunda Chandelier the V&A Museum in London.) It consists of 3,000 handblown pieces of glass and measures 9.75m in height. The good news is you don't need to stay at the hotel to enjoy the art, so if you're ever in Dubai it's worth popping in just to admire the views...
Dome ceiling in the lobby with top view of the sculpture

Underwater themed painted ceiling in the hotel
Another painted ceiling in the hotel
And another one!
Sea urchin lampshade
So that's a taste of when you look up....when you look down, the floors are works of art too...
Then there are the giant prawns in the corners ...
and random features around the place like shell vases...

That's just some of the water themed décor touches, but what about water itself? Well there is no escaping 'The Element' and the 65,000 sea creatures that live within it at the hotel...
From my room (I was lucky enough to spend three nights at the hotel earlier this month) I could look down onto sting ray from my balcony, while around the hotel there is no escaping the sharks and giant leopard print sting rays swimming passed thanks to The Lost Chambers Aquarium that stretches throughout the hotel...
She's in fashion
If that's not enough, you can also dine next to fish at Ossiano underwater restaurant (I should point out it's a seafood restaurant so it's a bit strange eating fish while they are looking at you!)

Oi! Is that my cousin you're munching into?
Or if you have £8k spare you can sleep with sealife in one of the hotel's two dreamlike under water suites....
I don't mind if I do...
But if that's too overwhelming you could simply stick with visiting the aquarium and just watch the fish swim by for hours.
Who needs a telly? 
I spent one afternoon doing just that and spent my other two afternoons hopping from flume to flume at the hotel's Aquaventure Waterpark (which included going down one of the longest and scariest flumes in the world!)
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Splash!
As well as a dip in the 'fake sea' that Dubai is known for
 I also had a dip in the pool...
This is the life!
...fed some stingray, and most exciting of all, got to hang out and swim with a dolphin called Tina at the hotel's Dolphin Bay. 
Holding on!
Could a hotel got more water themed? I think not! I went with little expectations (other than I hoped the flumes would be good and thankfully they were!) so it was a real pleasure to discover that I would love staying in the hotel so much. 
Should you visit Atlantis, The Palm Dubai? If you get a chance to then yes. If you can stay overnight then even better - there's just so much to enjoy and take in, from the surroundings to the little details, and so many people to talk to - staff are everywhere (especially around the waterpark) and they always at the ready to strike up a conversation.
This trip is going down as #funtimes : )
With my fellow travelling companions
Oh go on then! 
Here are some snaps of what I ate while I was there (I took so many photos that it would be a crime not to share them...be prepared you may get hungry!)

Delicious Chinese lunch with bubble tea at Yuan
Teatime at Plato's Tea and Coffee Lounge (over 120 teas to choose from!)

A mere snapshot of the 100 desserts on offer at Saffron buffet restaurant
Yummy global breakfast

Sipping a mocktail at Nasimi Beach Bar

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

East Shopping Centre: Europe's 1st Asian Shopping Mall

London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Glasgow...all the major cities in the UK have got their Asian shopping hot spots but last weekend saw the official opening of the first ever Asian Shopping mall, not just in the UK, but the first of its kind in Europe. An Asian shopping mall I hear you cry, what's that? Well, literally it's an in-door shopping area that specialises in shops and facilities that cater to the South Asian audience - primarily this means Asian fashion stores but within the modest mall there's also a food court, souk style market, beauty parlour and wedding decor company. 
The centre officially opened to the public (after an initial soft opening), at 12pm on Saturday 14th March with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the local MP Lyn Brown followed by a stampede of eager shoppers.

East Shopping Centre is based in Green Street, east London which is already a major shopping hub for South Asian food and fashion. The centre is an addition to the existing area which at the moment consists of one long street. I've always been a fan of Green Street and wondered how the often characterless nature of a shopping mall could retain the vibrant, cultured flavour of the area, but thankfully a couple of hours spent smooching around to sample the shops and services and I can confidently say the centre has its appeal. Here's a peek at what's inside...


Green Street is a hub of asian clothes and fabric shops but the ones who have chosen to be part of the centre are in the more 'upmarket' end of the scale category. Stores are very boutiquey with some seriously shimmering outfits from well-known names such as Raishma (images above), Memsaab, Zarkan of London and Asian Bridal who have all gone to town with delightful shop front decor and mannequins kitted out in finery. 

There's also a souk area made up of market style shops though it's very much on the intimate side!


In the food court there's a coffee shop, mocktail and dessert bar and several eateries where you can pick up hot global cuisine. I had a chance to taste dishes from all the restaurants and for fast food I was very impressed with the choice and flavours and the fact the brands here are different to those found in mainstream shopping centres.
There are seats and tables but the space is small, a couple of extended families could easily fill it up. The Food Court will no doubt be successful but perhaps too much so I hope there's room for expansion!
Is it worth a trip to East Shopping Centre? I think it will attract new shoppers to Green Street, the rustic nature of the place doesn't appeal to everyone but an indoor centre is likely to make the area more accessible. For any non-Asians looking to buy Asian fashion I think they will feel more comfortable shopping here than having to try and navigate the high street, though hopefully once they've been inside they'll feel more inclined to explore further afield.

East Shopping Centre is light and airy, has ample toilet and refreshment facilities, good accessibility (walking distance from Upton Park tube station), has late opening and even has environment credentials including a flow restrictors to save water and solar panels. 

I'll definately be back, especially for another beautician appointment. It's incredibly hard to find decent beauticians and my usual has recently disappeared. I was on the look out for a new one and Karma London ticks the boxes - a wax followed by a bubble tea to curb the pain...I could get used to that!
Find out more about East Shopping Centre: www.eastshoppingcentre.com

Sunday, 22 February 2015

How To Host A Crafternoon

Although I'm a crafter, most of my friends aren't! Some have never been to my craft night or have no interest in being creative. They don't understand what I'm talking about when I say I'm running a craft workshop or working at a craft event...so for once, rather than bringing crafts to strangers at the public workshops I run, I decided to introduce 'making' to my friends by holding a Crafternoon around mine. Here's what happened...
I couldn't entertain without laying on a spread. Cooking for others is a good excuse to try dishes that I can't normally make for myself (i.e. an entire cheesecake) so I took it as an opportunity to make food I wanted to eat! Although I'm vegetarian, I lean mainly to vegan food so I took the high risk decision to cook a vegan starters and main for friends who are all meat eaters. As I prefer my food to have a healthy edge I tend to cook with lots of herbs and spices...but no salt. I don't add salt to anything so I'm used to the taste but I'm fully aware that most people do, so I was slightly nervous about whether my guests would be able to eat what I gave them. Thankfully there was nothing to worry about. Although shocked to discover there was no salt, there were lots of comments about how good the flavour was...phew!
I served individual Aloo Chaats for starters... 
...followed by a Root Veg Kitchuri with roasted fennel and butternut squash with a beetroot and soya bean salad.
Dessert was a delicious Spiced Mandarin Cheesecake (a recipe of Dipna Anand). 
 This contained dairy - the Philadephia cream cheese filling was fused with ground cardamom and star anise which gave the cheesecake a lovely fragrant and warming flavour. 

My idea of fun anyway! I opted for an easy and effective makeover project, one I recently ran at The Damn Good Curry Supper Club to decorate candle holders...
Guests all took the task seriously, there was some proper concentration going on but it was also a good way to meet each other.

The making took place on arrival before starters arrived and was then finished off after the dessert - in between there was lots of girlie banter. 
Deciding on a guestlist was hard, I wrote down a huge list of people I hadn't seen in ages - should I focus on besties, should I invite boys and if so, which ones, but in the end I realised what I actually wanted to do was spend time with 'recent' friends I've made and get to know them better, so I only invited girls who I met over the last few months up to around two years. 
After lunch I took them on a trip to my local area. Greenwich is one of the most beautiful places in London but it is a trek to get there so I didn't want them to leave without showing them why I love where I live so much. Despite the chilly weather I insisted they all wrap up warm and then we wondered through Greenwich park to see the river views before a quick tour of The Queen's Gallery and a hot chocolate stop to warm up again.

It took me two days to do the washing up afterwards (I loathe washing up!) but it was worth it. Sunday Crafternoon was a success, one of my guests even blogged about it herself which you can check out here

I suspect it will be a few months (if not a year!) before I have a chance to do any more entertaining again so I was pleased to have some nice pics to remember the occasion.

Thinking of hosting a crafternoon around yours?
Here are my tips:

This was my timing:
12pm-1pm Arrive & get crafting
1pm-3pm Lunch, chatter & finish crafting
3pm-5pm Sunday stroll and hot chocolate stop off
  • Keep the project simple (stay away from special techniques that not everyone will know)
  • Plan out a menu and do as much prep as you can the night before
  • Make it easy by sticking with a manageble number of guests
  • Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish if you can't prepare everything yourself
  • Don't worry too much about how clean and tidy your home is, the truth is most guests won't notice as they will be too busy enjoying themselves
  • Prep as much of the food ahead of time so you're not hiding away in the kitchen, but can be there to help with the making
  • Don't stress - just enjoy it, even when things aren't going to plan it's fine, no one will notice! Just keep cool and craft!