Welcome to the Ex-Official Blog of Writer, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain which stopped being active on 31st August 2016.

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Monday, 27 February 2012

Tutorial: How to make a Mexican Chilli Bangle

Too hot to handle!
For me, chilli's are the most iconic motif of Mexican & Latino culture. Not just because they feature in the cuisine (one of my fave holiday memories is eating fresh mango sprinkled with chilli powder on the street markets of Mexico) but because they have so much personality. I love their graphic shape, the bold, bright colours they come in, and the way they embody fire and passion. I designed this chilli bangle project to celebrate Crafty Chica's National Craft Month celebrating 30 days of Latino inspired crafts. Here's my contribution - check out her blog for more HOT inspiration from other designers who love Latino flavoured crafts, every day this March.
To make a chilli bangle, you will need:
Shopping list
Sheet of red neoprene (craft foam)
Red glitter
Green glitter
PVA/white craft glue
Plain paper
End roll of sticky tape
Strong glue or glue gun
Sticky situation
1. Start off by making Glitter Foam. Paint a layer of PVA glue over the whole of your foam sheet, ensuring every bit is covered and that it's even and not too lumpy. Lift it up and place it on a clean paper surface.
Shake it!
2.  Pour red glitter over the glue, shake it off and pour the glitter that falls off, back into the jar. When dry, you can use glitter foam in any number of craft projects not just to make sparkling chillis!
That's a wrap
3. While the glitter foam is drying, prepare you bangle. Use the card roll that is left over from sticky tape as the bangle base, or a plain wooden or plastic bangle if you have one. Cut off a long piece of yarn, tie it to the bangle and then wrap it around until you reach the end. Tie another knot and feed the end into the bangle so it's hidden and secure.
4. Draw a chili shape onto paper to create a template and cut it out. Lay it on the back of your foam and draw around it several times, enough to cover the bangle. Then cut them out.
Chillis to go
5. Paint the tops of each chilli with PVA glue, then pour on green gitter to ensure each chilli has a green stalk.
6. When completely dry, glue the glittered chillis along the bangle using a strong glue. 
Hot stuff

See more Latin crafts on Crafty Chica's blog.  I guarantee you will get hooked!
Spice girl
Now then...who fancies a burrito??

Monday, 20 February 2012

10 Reasons Why I Love Greenwich

Welcome to Royal Greenwich!

Earlier this month Greenwich became a 'Royal Borough'. A gift from the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. It reminded me of why I'm so lucky to live here. Greenwich felt like home the day I moved here. It's hard to find a sense of 'home', it's not just about having a physical roof over your head, but being in a place you feel comfortable in that you look forward to coming back to. These are some of the reasons I love this special part of South East London so much:
1. Greenwich Park
The Capital is home to many beautiful parks, but nothing beats the view of when you reach the top of the hills at Greenwich Park. There's a small wall where you can sit and take it all in. I never get bored of it. It's where I go to clear my head.
2. Free activities
Though council tax in Greenwich is high, they do put a lot of money back in to community events. One of my favourites is Charlton House's Horn Fair which has a brilliant dog show. We used to have a Car Free Day in September too when the town centre was pedestrianised for street parties - I'm not sure what happened to that?
3. Sporting events
My favourite day of the year is when the London Marathon takes place. 40,000 people run past my flat and each year I stand outside it with a mug of tea and a giant Barney the dinosaur cheering them on. Various 1/2 marathons come past here too and the Tour De France was another highlight.
4. Art&craft market
Greenwich has The Clock Tower market, which is an outdoor market that although has shrunk in size, still houses some great antiques and quirky memorabilia, but the market most people associate Greenwich with is the covered art and craft market. On Thursdays it specialises in antiques and at the weekend visitors flock there to sample international cuisine, but homemade crafts are its biggest draw. Here is the stall I used to have. Although trekking on a bus laden down with two huge suitcases to set it up was stressful, having the stall was very satisfying and made me smile, even on freezing December mornings! I stopped the stall because in the end it wasn't cost effective. Around the market are some fabulous independent shops too - I recommend visiting Libby Rose's handmade clothes and haberdashery and the antique toy shop where you can play a game of Carom. 
5. Landmarks
I was a  fan of The 02 (The Dome) ever since Pierce Brosnan fell down it, in the opening credits to The World is Not Enough. What was an iconic symbol of the new millenium for James Bond has since become a fantastic venue for live music and events. It's also a pleasure to see the incredible Cutty Sark ship (seen in the marathon photo above) unveiled again too, after it's fire - the landscape wasn't the same without it - but another place I like wondering down to is the Thames Barrier which is the amazing feat of technology that stops London from flooding. Once a year they close it for maintenance and on one side, the The River Thames becomes as flat as a pancake for a few hours. On this day thousands of birds flock there (I think it's because it's easier to catch fish?), it's an incredible phenomenon to witness.
6. Greenwich & Docklands Festival
I have so many memories of unusual and imaginative things I've seen as part of the annual Greenwich & Docklands Festival. The programmes are packed and the biggest difficultly is not missing a particular show. Last year I attended on three consecutive days and it felt just like a proper music and art festival, switching between stages, picnic in tow. And it's all free!
7. Boating on the Thames
When I used to commute into work, every Monday morning as a treat I would travel by boat. It's the most civilised way to get around London. You're guaranteed a seat, a free paper and there's a bar to buy tea. It's the complete opposite of the packed like sardines experience you get on the tubes in rush hour. Now I only get the boat if I can get a 2 for 1 voucher or on very special occasions like my birthday! The Greenwich Yacht Club pictured in the rear of this photo is also a lovely place to visit - it's members only but there are some days when non-members can go in and use the bar which I highly recommend.
8. Local initiatives
As a journalist I've always had an appreciation for local rags and I can confidently say that the local newspapers in Greenwich are better than a lot I've read. They tend to be community focused rather than sensationalist which is welcomed. There is the local council run (Royal) Greenwich Time which once had a writing competition to mark the year The Tour De France went through Greenwich. I won the adult competition and was awarded with this bike, which I happily posed on, but I never quite mastered learning to ride properly : ( 
9. Institutions
Sadly some of Greenwich's most famous signature places are now just pieces of history to reminisce over. There used to be an incredible Old Bottle Shop in The Clock Tower market which sold retro randomness, Flying Duck Enterprises, an incredibly kitsch gift shop specialising in retro goodies and The Observatory, a remarkable vintage clothes shop. The most missed place however is Goddards Pie Shop, every day of the week it had queues of people, outside, waiting to go in and eat the cheapest most satisfying grub in town (excellent veggie options too.) The day it closed was tragic BUT while they no longer have their two floor cafe, they do have a van parked beside the Clock Tower market where you can still eat their classic British cuisine on weekends, only you're outdoors rather than inside! It costs less than £3 for a pie and mash with peas or beans served with liquor or gravy. Cherry pie with thick creamy custard is a must for dessert and costs around £2. For afternoon tea head to Royal Tea cafe or The Fan Museum.
10. Community
Before I joined The Arches Leisure Centre I was one of those statistics that had a gym membership and never used it. But now you'll find me at The Arches on most days. It's a pretty simple gym with an uninviting swimming pool and changing rooms that are always leaking but the atmosphere is very inclusive. I've managed to get fit not just by turning up, but by the motivation of the other locals that go there. They give me the will power to keep going back - the people are lovely! As are the folk at my local knitting group at The Pelton Arm pub and the friendly people who run The East Greenwich Pleasaunce park..basically.... I've never met any miserable, mean people in Greenwich, touch wood they are all nice  : )
There are so many other things I could say to sing Greenwich's praises (like The National Maritime Museum, The Observatory, meridian line, the fact we are also an Olympic borough)...but Top 10s are made for being selective. If you ever get a chance to visit here, then I hope you enjoy your trip and if you decide to move here after reading my blog then let me know, you can buy me a tea while I fill you in on more must-see/must do activities.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Valentines Day spa craft tutorial: How to make soaps

Soapmaking is a cheap, quick, satisfying craft that is a great gift idea - not just for Valentines, but also for thank you gestures  and house-warming presents. The best thing is that complete novices, any one new to making or lacking in confidence with crafting will get results they'll be proud of within minutes and you don't need much to get started.
You will need: 
*Melt & pour soap base OR any glycerin soap as it melts in the same way
(The soap base in available in craft stores or search online)
*Silicone mould (ones for baking are fine)
*Microwave, microwavable bowl & fork
(Alternatively, melt the soap in a pan on your cooker)
*Optional - food colouring
*Things to suspend (like dried flowers, glitter, ornaments etc)

1. Chop up the base into small pieces and measure out how much you will need in each compartment of the mould. You will need to add double the quantity of how far it fills up, because it will reduce in size when melted.
2. Heat the base in the microwave for 15 seconds, then stir. Keep melting for 15 second intervals until it's completely liquidised. 
3. The base solidifies very quickly. So get ready to put it into the mould as soon as possible. If you are using food colouring add it now. It will lower the temperature of the base making it solidify. If that happens, place it back in the microwave. If you're using glitter, stir it in as well. Now is also the time to add a few drops of scent like a diluted essential oil (they are often too strong on their own.) You can leave the soaps fragrance free but I think they are more fun to use (and more impressive if you are giving them as a gift), if they are scented.
4. Setting takes up to a couple of hours so leave them in a cool place. Then pop them out like ice cubes.
My designs:
1. Hundreds & thousands - I placed plastic initial beads at the bottom of the mould then sprinkled cake decorations on top. 
2. Plain blue soap - I coloured this soap by blending blue food colouring into the melted soap base.
3. Plastic beads - I suspended plastic beads in the mould - as it gets used, the beads fall out and you'll end up with enough to make a bracelet!
4. Sequins - I suspended silver star confetti in the base.
5. Red glitter - I mixed glitter and red food colouring into the melted base.
6. Rose buds - First I poured melted clear base into the mould then placed small rose buds directly on the top surface.

Because the soap base is transparent you can see everything that's suspended in it. The top surface of the rose soap shows off the petals, but when you turn it over, you see the lovely buds underneath.
For more soap making ideas this book will fill you with inspiration. Brimming with colourful photos I've used it in spa crafting workshops before and everyone is amazed by it - the instructions are clear and accessible.

Have fun making your own soaps but be warned: buying a shop bought soap is not the same once you're discovered how easy it is to make your own 'bespoke' ones in a matter of minutes at home!
NB: Tightly wrap cling film around each of your soaps to preserve them.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow in London! My snow hedgehog!

This morning I went to pay my respects to my late pet hedgehog Miss P in East Greenwich Pleasaunce, a small community park, and decided to make her a gift...some company for the day in the form of a snow hedghog. It's located just opposite where she is buried.
Close Up

Twig plaque

Snow in the Pleasaunce
Miss u Miss P!