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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Momtaz's NEW BLOG is www.craftandtravel.com

Sunday 28 February 2010

Hmmmm, teatime!

When my friend Johnathan invited me around for 'Sunday Lunch on a Saturday' I was determined to keep up with his culinary expertise and produce something equally as stunning for dessert. It gave me a chance to finally try out the recipe in the Hummingbird Cookbook that has been taunting me for a year. The Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie looks amazing in the pictures but the trouble is I hate recipes. I just can't follow them. But I tried my absolute best and something amazing was created - although true to form, I didn't stick to the recipe, there were a few strays....

What you need:

200g melted plain chocolate (1 whole bar)
200g melted unsalted butter
500g icing sugar (1 whole box!)
5 eggs
110g plain flour
400g cream cheese (2 pots)
teaspoon of vanilla extract
300ml whipping cream (2 pots)
2 punnets of raspberries

Start by mixing and whisking up 1/2 box of sugar and the butter until it's lovely and smooth. I found melting the butter in advance which the book didn't suggest a much easier option.

Next beat in 3 eggs, add one at a time. This was my first mishap, I added all 5 eggs at once : (

Then melt the chocolate by breaking into pieces and placing in a heatproof container over a pan of boiling water. Add it to the mixture and stir well. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then pour the mixture on top.

Next make the cheesecake layer. Beat the cheesecake mixture with 2 eggs (this meant my dessert ended up with 7 eggs in total!!) Mix in 150g sugar, again I didn't notice this and added the remaining 1/2 box by mistake.......

Pour it ontop of the brownie and bake at 150 degrees or gas mark 3 for 40 minutes until set.
Allow to cool and then put in fridge overnight.

In the morning whisk 1 punnet of raspberries into the cream until it's lovely and thick. The recipe suggested adding 100g of sugar here but as i'd already added it to the cheese I left it out, the sharpness of the raspberries went well with the sweeter base. Then place it in fridge until it's needed and top with raspberries to decorate. It produced over 20 slices!

The verdict???????? Well only one person asked for a second slice but then again we also had a lovely lemon drizzle cake and the main was so good there wasn't much space for pud. But I was proud...if you look closely below you can see the coloured layers.

This morning I had some leftovers, they were quite stodgy but still very tasty and I feel less mystified about the whole following a recipe malarky.

On another notes I LOVED the Blacksmiths episode of Mastercrafts, it was my favourite to date, the gates they produced were really impressive, they were all worthy winners : )

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Mastercrafts Episode 2 and articles

This lesser spotted glum expression of me warp winding is sadly a good summary of my time on Mastercrafts!! To hear a little more about it, here's an article I wrote for Creative Choices.
(Photo taken from the Mastercrafts book.

And I also forgot to mention this lovely write up on my fave craft website, Crafty Crafty.

Last Friday's episode featured three trainees mastering the craft of thatching. I enjoyed it more than Greenwood purely because there was far more focus on the trainees. Once again the scenery was spectacular making it pleasant to watch. I'm still not sure about the timing, I know it's Monty's 'Gardener's World' slot but it's such a 'slow' paced programme, Sunday evenings would have been far better suited to it.

Big question.....could I have done it? I applied to be a trainee thatcher and ended up being a weaver. To be brutally honest if I was one of the the trainees I would have found it a bit boring. They only spent a few days working on an actual roof, I liked the idea of spending 6 weeks in the great outdoors. Most tasks were indoors on a mini roof.....not the same thing really. I wouldn't have enjoyed getting injuries on my hand or getting my nailvarnish chipped either but I still maintain that I would have liked to have given it a go.

I admired the trainees passion, they all seemed very enthusiastic about their chosen craft, bring on this week's metalwork!

Monday 22 February 2010

Easy peasy fabric printing

Why can't adults have 1/2 term, holidays? It makes so much sense to stop working every few weeks and rejuvenate. Last week was 1/2 term for many of the UK's school children. I remember my 1/2 term hols very clearly I would be bored for 4 days and then on the 5th day I would think of a huge to do list, most of it crafty and be sad I'd left it so late.

Here's a super easy project I tried out last week at a children's half term workshop, perfect for doing at home on a rainy day (and oh my, how it is raining at the minute!):

You will need:
  • Cotton fabric (in this case an apron)
  • Funky foam/neoprene
  • Card (from a cereal box)
  • PVA
  • Paper
  • Fabric paints
To make:

1. Create a template of the shape you want to print and cut it out of paper.
2. Draw around the paper shape on neoprene, cut out and glue to card.

3. Lay newspaper under your cotton to protect surface. Apply paint all over the neoprene shape careful not to get any on the card. Cover the whole foam otherwise you may get gaps.

4. Press it into position on the fabric, lift up and reveal your first print. Carry on printing until your composition is finished. You will need to apply fresh paint to the foam for each print you do.

5, Follow the instructions on the paint, when dry you normally iron the motifs to fix them so your fabric can be washed.

What a super easy method! Cheap, quick and easy...give it a go! Remember you can mix colours, print on top of shapes and go all out as wild as you wish!

Tuesday 16 February 2010

"Mastercrafts The Book"

The postman woke me up in the early hours with two very exciting pieces of post, the book 'Mastercrafts' to accompany the new BBC Series that I am soon to be on and a picture drawn by my 4 year old niece depicting all my favourite things (Note the cupcakes and pretty dress!)

Published by the brilliant David & Charles (brilliant because they publish lots of wonderful
crafty titles) the book is celebration of the six crafts that feature in the series - stonework, thatching, woodwork, glass, metalwork and weaving. A beautiful 256 page hard back book, its a bit like an encyclopedia of the crafts in question.

The book is written by Tom Quinn, a writer and historian who knows a lot about the countryside. However this is where I started to get a bit frustrated. The book is about re-discovering British Craftmanship of which I am a passionate advocate, and despite how informative and interesting the content, the cover is atrocious. I honestly think it's one of the worst craft book covers I've ever seen (and having been the editor of a crafts magazine I have seen a lot of craft books). It panders to every stereotype you could possibly think of to do with country crafts making it extremely unappealing, if it doesn't sell well, I wouldn't be surprised if the cover is to blame. Hence this is why I have covered it up with my niece's drawing.

But of course, never judge a book by it's cover, give it a chance.......
Each chapter begins with the history of the craft exploring the origination of raw materials, how the craft has developed, going into alot of detail which makes it the ideal book for college libraries to help with research - there is information here that is impossible to find in other places.

The book also includes some photos of the trainees who took part in the TV series and interviews with the 'mastercraft' tutors. Can you spot me? Sadly from the aforementioned 256 there are just two photos of me in it (and three photos of my hands!). The day the book photographer came I was working on my own outside for 12 hours, the two shots that are in the book were 'test shots' taken in doors. But the most disappointing aspect of the whole book is the fact NONE of the trainees have their names mentioned.

In the way the that I can't understand why they chose the hideous cover, I can't understand why they haven't mentioned our names, even a simple 'thank you' in the back would have been nice. They have thanked the production company, the tutors, and Monty the presenter but not the 18 people who gave up their lives for 6 weeks to take part in the show. It's not like they didn't know our names, we all signed release forms. It's just plain mean.

And on that note my final verdict of this book is that it's an excellent resource for people who want to know more about the specific crafts in question and may be considering taking it up themselves and students who are studying crafts but with it's uninspiring cover I don't think it will appeal to today's new breed of modern hip crafter which is a real shame : (

Monday 15 February 2010

Mastercrafts Review: Episode 1

Charles Hooper, one of the trainees who didn't quite 'Master' the craft

It seemed quite surreal that Mastercrafts was finally on our screens. Being part of the show (I'm appearing on the Weaving show in Week 6, 19 March), I was keen to see how they squeezed our 6-7 week journey's into a mere few minutes. It's therefore hard to be objective as I feel as though I should defend the show as much as possible, but then again, I was also a viewer and in that respect this is what I truly thought. (And as hard as it's going to be I'm not going to reference my experience just yet, you'll have to wait until that episode has been aired!)

To begin with, like most viewers, I was totally captivated by the woodland location, it seemed like a real fairyland, so calm and peaceful and idealistic, the soundtrack seemed to help here too!

Sarah, Charles and Tom were the three trainees who under the tuition of Greenwood Expert Guy Mallinson undertook an apprenticeship in Green Wood. I was a bit surprised that two of the trainees were already 'wood workers' one being a wood work tutor and one being a woodwork student. Not starting from an even level of knowledge made the 'competitive' element of the show a bit unfair.

The most fascinating part of the show was seeing the wood being steamed (who knew this was possible) and witnessing the process of joining the chairs they were asked to make without using any 'fixings' such as nails or glue. It was pretty amazing to see what is achievable with limited resources.

I wasn't particularly keen on seeing a fish being battered to death with the spears they made, seeing the blood and watching them eat it. Secondly I was quite upset that they cut down a tree as part of their final task. We're always being told to save trees, or plant more, it just didn't look sustainable and if it was, they didn't explain how. It would have made more sense to look at recycling existing wood - I know that goes against the tradition and freshness of greenwood, but if greenwood is all about chopping down trees then maybe it's a craft that shouldn't be revived?

Certainly the manor they went about chopping it down was also a bit strange, they tried to be traditional again using a horse and cart to move the log but in reality they sawed the tree down with an electric saw - surely they didn't exist back in the day and if they truly were doing this traditionally, than the three of them should have chopped it down themselves.

Of course I have no intention of dampening anyone's mood, I do think it was a really good show but perhaps too ambitious, trying to cram in too much. Monty's stories about the greenwood industry were interesting but they seemed like enough content for a different show. I loved the piece on the little boats but at the same time it meant less focus on the trainees. As a result their stories were quite limited. I don't think we saw enough of the learning process, a few times we were told they were struggling but then all of a sudden they accomplished tasks. It just wasn't very believable and yet I know how hard they worked, its a shame the general viewing public couldn't make this connection. Still, I am looking forward to this week's thatching show. It's the episode I applied to be in but they turned me down and said I should do the weaving instead! I'm keen to see exactly what I missed out on : )

Here's what other's have said about the show:

In the crafty blog world, Lupin of Bugs and Fishes was pleased to see people making things on TV but didn't quite understand the competitive element.

In The Guardian, Sam Wollaston was fascinated by the whole concept of bodging. (I have to admit, I had not heard of it before apart from in the concept of Bodger and Badger.)

The Observer's Phil Hogan was surprised that the trainees could suddenly jump from making a spear to a chair.

Mastercrafts is currently showing in BBC 2 and BBC 2 HD at 9pm on Fridays.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Edwardian Bling

On Saturday, The Geffrye Museum held a Love Day that included some Valentines Crafting. I was asked to run a workshop for teenagers inspired by this beautiful Edwardian picture frame. It is absolutely stunning, the photo doesn't do it justice. It's totally sparkly and seems to be resin coated with gorgeous pearly shells and gold dust. I highly recommend visiting the museum to see it in person.

I came up with this concept to make your own version - participants made 'heart shaped' versions to keep with the Valentines theme but I stuck to having my own leaf frame just because I'm so in love with the original.

To make one, you will need:

  • Stiff Card
  • Black poster paint
  • PVA glue
  • Thick gold and pearly glitter (looks more like shreds rather than ordinary glitter)
  • Mirror card
1. Draw the shape of frame you want to make on the card and cut it out. You will need to use a combination of a craft knife, scissors and possibly tearing by hand to get through thick card.

2. Then cut a rectangle of card so you have two pieces of card in total.
On this smaller piece draw a window in the centre, either a square or oval like mine, large enough to fit your photo in and cut the centre piece out.

3. Draw an edge around the main frame and along the edge of the centre frame and paint these black.

4. Time to get messy. Work on the two pieces separately, coat them in thick glue and then pour on the glitter - get a full coverage by pressing the glitter into place with your fingers.

5. Cut out some shapes from mirror cards and stick these on randomly.

6. Finish with some more detail in black paint.

Voila, your own antique Edwardian frame, perfect gift for a Valentines gift, maybe for someone in your family. My frame has a very old family photo in it!

Sunday 7 February 2010

Sundays were made for afternoon tea

For my birthday last year my sister promised to treat me to an afternoon tea in a posh hotel, so today we donned on our glad rags and headed to the Athenaeum in Mayfair. It was a tough choice but I settled for 'Bingo Blueberry' as my tea of choice for the afternoon.

Of course the highlight of the experience was the cake trolley!

Knowing where to start was the problem......

Rather interestingly, it was a very crafty hotel, intricate papercrafts were on display throughout including this paper dress once worn by Kate Moss

I guess this is what happens to the broken teacups, they end up in mosaics

There was a fabulous array of mirrors on display too, I wanted to take this one home

My sister preferred the mirror edges with London buses

But in the end she also had her eye on my favourite one

We started with a selection of finger sandwiches, followed by scones with homemade preserves, moved onto the cakes and finished with crumpets and teacakes. Highly recommended, though next time I will be putting on my own tea party. Anyone fancy coming to mine?

Friday 5 February 2010

My Valentines Wishlist!

Hmmmm, with just over a week to go until Valentines Day I thought I would do a spot of online window shopping. These are the lovely homemade goodies I would like to receive if anyone out there fancies getting me a present!

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I love collecting hamburger memorabilia. Last year I received a 'Ham Bag' for Valentines - a hamburger shaped handbag, this year, I quite fancy a matching hat.

My most favourite Super Hero in the world is Batman, I have a fantastic Batgirl dress made of yellow PVC it's a clubbing staple although I get very hot in it! This would be the perfect accessory to go with it!

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I'm vowing to follow more recipes this year, I'm much more of a bung in a little bit of this and a little bit of that type person, I hate the restrictions of instructions. If I had a gorgeous apron like this to cook in though maybe things would be different? It's fully reversible too - amazing!

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Thursday 4 February 2010

Community crafting

It's strange to think that when blogs were invented they were about writing and now the emphasis is on how visual they are. For this reason I've not been able to blog for sometime and don't know when I can blog again as I don't have a camera! It's really frustrating as over the last couple of weeks I've been involved in lots of inspiring crafty projects and of course have been making plenty of my own crafty things.

Luckily I'm able to do this entry as someone else is letting me use their photos.

So these images are all taken from a workshop I ran for Northwood Community Arts Group last Saturday. Three artists including myself did a short presentation about our practice and then had two sessions to work with participants.

It was an over 50's group. To date I've only worked with women (apart from when I've taught children) so it was a really nice surprise to see such a high turn out of male crafters who all got stuck into sewing felt brooches.

For some of them like this gentleman above, sewing skills came flooding back to them as soon as they had the needle and thread in hand - you can just about see the lovely sparkly blue flower sequins he used to create a brooch for himself.

This man was younger than 50 and made a floral brooch as a valentines present. Another participant made one to take to his wife's grave.

I felt really proud to be able to get these men sewing again, even though some of them found it quite tough because they had eye sight trouble and less nimble fingers. There were no complaints, just quiet and creative working. I wish all my students were like this!