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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Wednesday 30 November 2011

Tutorial: Snow Scene candle holders

I’m not the kind of person that goes on about the weather, but it’s so strange to think that this time last year the UK was covered under a thick blanket of snow to the point that schools were shut, flights were cancelled and people were pretty much staying in doors; while this year it’s still fairly sunny and at times a little warm.
My local supermarket carpark...or is it?
I love the light created by snow; how all of a sudden your ordinary drab grey street is suddenly a huge reflective mass. It creates the most incredible scenery.
Heidi should be around here somewhere...
One of my sisters lives in Switzerland where in winter the landscape lives up to the stereotypes typical on winter themed Christmas cards; snowcapped mountains, people skating on frozen lakes and wooden chalets covered in twinkling fairy lights.

Thinking about this made me remember the bottle of Glamour Dust I bought a few months back to help with my glitter book. It’s an ultrafine grade of glitter with an extreme iridescent quality (I bought it in Hobbycraft). It’s mainly used for cardmaking but can also be ironed on to fabric, making it one of the most versatile glitters I’ve come across.
Pondering this idea of snow and light I decided to make some snowy nightlight holders – though any glass containers will do. I had two plain votive holders at home but washed and cleaned jam jars work just as well, and rather than nightlights, can hold larger candles inside.

Have a go yourself!
You’ll need:
Glass jar
PVA glue
Glamour Dust (in 'crystal')
Fine Tip Applicator (or other container with a fine nozzle that helps you apply glue in very fine lines)
Fill the applicator with PVA glue and freehand draw designs on your glass container. If you’re not happy doing this then draw your designs on paper first, place them inside the glass and then apply the glue on top, the paper will act as a template, guiding you.

As the lines are so fine, they will dry quickly so hold the jar above some paper and sprinkle Glamour Dust all over, ensuring all the glue is covered.  Leave it to dry and pour the Dust back inside the bottle by folding your paper in half to create a channel in the centre, allowing the Dust to fall in. 
 When dry, rub a soft cloth or tissue over your glass jar to remove excess Dust and then place your candles or nightlights inside, and watch the warming glow, while daydreaming about far away snowy lands…until it finally lands on these shores!
 (Apologies the images aren't very good, it's hard to shoot white glitter on glass in poor light after midnight...but I can assure you they look impressive in real life AND create patterned shadows!)

Sunday 27 November 2011

Craftacular fever hits London

I read that Rob Ryan wrapping paper would be on sale at Bust Magazine’s annual Christmas Craftacular in London but I had no idea the man in question, the man…he, the legend, the most incredible paper crafter ever, would be there in person, signing hand screen printed ‘wrapping paper’ that clearly no one will ever use to wrap a gift, but will in fact frame, and admire forever. And here he is….with me!!! I was in so much shock…in fact, I am still in shock. The man is a genius. I am in love with every papercut he has ever done, his desk calendar sits on my table, his teatowels are in my kitchen drawers, his skirt hangs in my wardrobe, his books adorn my shelf, his blog is a must read of mine and his Ryan Town shop is one of my favourite museums… and there I was. In his presence, getting his autograph. I felt soooo honoured.  (All I need now is someone to buy me this rather incredible Tatty Devine necklace, followed by me saving up all my pennies to one day own one of his original pieces of art work….that’s two dreams to be getting on with …)

In the mean time here’s a round up of my trip to this most spectacular of craft fairs. Lots of the regular craftastic stalls were there, the super stylish Janine Basil and her Batastic fascinators, the ever gorgeous Heart Zeena (revealing her new woven shawls), and plenty of other folk I recognised from Renegade a few weeks back and the Thames Festival in the Autumn.

Rob Ryan was selling three colours of ‘wrapping paper’. Miraculously I was the last person in the queue to get my hands on a blue one…and I was suitably chuffed : ) I bought it as a gift and am keeping a red one for myself. It was one hour (spent queuing) well worth it, and I wasn’t the only satisfied customer.

Lauren O’Farrel of Stitch London and Crafty Crafty fame was the one who tipped me off about it!
What an arm!
Unfortunately queuing meant I was unable to get to the Craftivists workshops.

Sarah the heroine behind the Craftivist Collective led one of their popular sessions on making poignant ‘mini protest banners.’

Kits to make your own banners can be bought online at Folksy if you fancy having a go and check out their website for more details about their inspiring work, that quite frankly we should all be a part of.
He's 'X'y
Luckily I still got crafty, thanks to the fine stitchy specimen that is Mr X Stitch. He may be a craft celebrity (look out for him on Kirsty’s Chrismas Special over the festive season)…but does that mean he knows how to teach?
I can reveal that the answer is yes! Having done zero cross stitch since I was seven years old (I have a cushion full of mistakes to show for it), he opened my mind up to a whole new crafty world. Starting with how to sew without knotting your thread…something I never knew, despite my own efforts to be a crafty expert who specialises in textiles.
Fellow crafty Twitterati friends joined me – most of who were more successful that me. I didn’t manage to complete my Christmas sampler, just the letter ‘o’!
But hey ho, it’s a start and I learn't heaps!

'O' dear...
Mr X Stitch was a splendid workshop host; inspiring, motivating and even patted me on the back when I was feeling stressed about the ridiculous mistakes I kept making. If only all teachers were like him. 
Get your sugar hit!

I didn’t get a chance to meet the legendary Jazz Domino Holly who was running the next session, as I had to hotstep it to catch a Bollywood movie across town, but I’m happy to report I did track down a lovely girl with amazing hair, who co-runs a brilliant craftzine called Sugar Paper
 It’s the best craftzine I’ve ever seen (even better than my old craftzine Fete!
I met her at Craftacular two years ago when I bought an amazing bag she made with the words ‘You make me want to crochet’. It’s one of my fave bags and it was great to see she’s still doing what she loves.
Love and passion is pretty much what sums up Craftacular. The stalls are run people who all love making stuff and the shoppers are crazy about what they see. The atmosphere is one of shiny, happy, smiley people and lots of like-minded peeps to make friends with, such as the ever lovely Shoreditch Sister girls. For a run down of the crafty goodies that were on sale, check out the brilliant photo gallery on Crafty Crafty.
I most definitely recommend a trip here next year (there may be a summer Craftacular too?). The only disappointment was the Tatty Devine tombola. It cost £2 to enter and all I got was one chocolate celebration…i.e a Bounty bar that measures 3cm. 
The good thing about the stall though was that the lovely lady working there was wearing this most spectacular of lobster necklaces. Another accessory I need to get saving for.

In fact that’s one thing this craft fair taught me. There is so much lovely arty/crafty stuff out there I want to own, I just need to pull my stockings up and get more work, to pay for it ; )


Wednesday 23 November 2011

Tutorial: How to make Bollywood Baubles

I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t posted any tutorials in a while. Every excuse I can think of is weak, so I won’t bother listing them. Instead I’m making it my ‘End of Year’ resolution to design more blog makes …starting off with some fab festive filmi fun: Bollywood Baubles.
 You will need:
 Plain Christmas baubles (I bought a box in the £1 shop)
 A Bollywood magazine (cut out images of your favourite stars – small ones that will fit on your baubles)

 Bling and things…
Like…Glitter glue tubes
Loose glitter
Sequin trim
 Assorted collage papers
PVA glue
Paintbrush or fine tip applicator (a container with a fine nozzle to make gluing details easier)

Get crafting: 
 1. Chop collage paper into shapes, try small triangles, squares and strips.
2. Glue these randomly on your baubles, by pasting PVA glue on the back using your brush. Ensure every corner is glued down, and smooth them out around the curves of the bauble so there are no lumps and bumps. 
3. Glue your Bollywood star in the centre, again, ensuring the image is fully glued down. Don’t worry if glue spreads out from underneath as it dries clear.Outline the edge of each star with a line of glitter glue.
4. Sit your bauble in an eggcup so they are easier to handle and get decorating. It may take a couple of hours to complete, as you will need to wait for them to dry before you can turn around to decorate the bottom section.

Ideas: Use a brush or fine tip applicator to add dots on the surface to stick on sequins, draw shapes and spots straight on with glitter glue, define edges, stick on sections of loose glitter and cut strips of sequin trim. There are no rules, bling it up as you wish! The paper shapes underneath will also create sections which will influence the design.

5. When dry, thread string through the top and hang them up somewhere in your home…they don't need to be on a Christmas tree, or displayed just for Christmas….I hang up some of my Christmas decorations all year round!  
And here they are closer up (click on the links to check out the stars in action!):

Do you love Bollywood? Check out Bollywood Deewana’s incredible Bolly Blog and listen to Love Bollywood on BBC Asian Network with Raj & Pablo. And if you want make more Christmas decorations, I'll be posting another make soon, or come along to the All That Glitters workshop I'm running at The Geffrye Museum in London, on December 3rd. It costs £30, lasts the full day and all materials are included. 

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Gig review: Fingersnap at The Jazz Café, Sun 20th November 2011

When you go to see a band called Fingersnap the expectations are high. I mean you can’t call yourself that unless you truly make music that inspires your listeners to nod their head, tap their feet and click their fingers to the beat. Thankfully the venue Fingersnap chose was promising. After all, Sunday nights at The Jazz Café were made to be spent undertaking finger-snapping action, it’s the nearest we Londoners can get to the feeling of going to a late-night Southern blues bar, without the airfare. And tonight’s main attraction? One Mr David McAlmont. Formerly known under many guises as one half of numerous duos and as an individual, solo icon, in his own right. His rich, harmonious, hypnotising vocals, poetic lyrics and flamboyant stage presence have long made him one of Britain’s finest performance artists, though for some reason, he is one of the most underrated. 

Last year I had the pleasure of witnessing three extraordinary McAlmont gigs, accompanied by his musical partner Guy Davies – the two of whom have now formed Fingersnap. While David opens up his heart and soul as a writer, Guy creates the music that turns the words in David’s notebooks into masterpieces. 
This was their inaugural London gig; the first live opportunity to showcase the material they have devoted the last year to writing. There was no gentle introduction; the band (David and Guy had a backing trio of a guitarist, drummer and double-bass player), started full swing, straight into Mama Please Don’t Cry, an upbeat, jingly, jangly, catchy, pop song that had David beaming and yes…snapping his fingers. And it was infectious. 

Dressed in a gold and magnolia kaftan with a giant Christmas star tied around his neck, David seemed relaxed, confident and with a fresh zest for life. Yes he’s been away, but this isn’t any old come back; it’s progress.
The second of their offerings was the melodic Some Kind of Nice Beast that Guy led into on the piano, while David clapped to the rhythm. A poignant duet, it made me feel comforted that next year’s album is going to be simply divine. I could already picture myself listening to it in certain scenarios. Is it true about Detroit?, (a blues tinged foot tapping, finger-snapping speciality) is the perfect driving tune, but would sound just as motivational for completing housework to.
The duo also played a series of cover versions, some of which celebrated David’s discography, this time with new arrangements. The vocals in Lose My Faith were shorter, sharper, jazzier and more understated. Similarly Yes was far less operatic vocally, and far more epic on the piano.

Through Fingersnap, David celebrates the complexity and flexibility of his voice. We know he can reach the high notes of Diamonds are Forever and has the charisma to belt out theatrical showbiz numbers, but this was more about improvisation. His vocals were playful and exploratory representing ‘him in the present’, rather than a ‘stage character’. That’s not to say he’s lost any of his charm…he will no doubt always possess stylish diva qualities; it’s just he’s matured.
David covered Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry On Their Own and dedicated it to her; a singer for whom he shared a great love for, which you can read more about on David’s blog
Then the band moved on to their ‘Fingersnap love song’, which I predict will soon be snapped up by an American movie producer due to it’s soundtracky feeling, which for me, evoked the image of a dancing ballerina inside a snow globe. The Jazz Café’s fairylight backdrop added to the magicalness. The set list also contained the feel-good Kids in the Caribbean, and a multi-genre tune (track 12, I didn’t catch the title!) peppered with influences of rock and disco.
So this was Fingersnap at their very beginning. I’m soo looking forward to seeing how they develop next year. Personally I’d like to hear a few more vocals from Guy as I thought he had an angelic voice, that blended beautifully with David’s. Together may they inject a much needed fresh new spirit into Britain’s currently rather stake, music industry.

Fingersnap’s Smokehouse EP is out now.

Friday 18 November 2011

Extracts from my diary 1: 26th December 1992 (aged 12)

So I’ve decided to publish extracts from my diaries. I started keeping a dairy at the age of 7 but it became more regular between the ages of 11 to 21 when I wrote most days. Then I took a break and started keeping one again a couple of years ago. When I first began I thought I would die if anyone ever read them and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready to share them publicly, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit sad that this person I once was, is now hidden away and forgotten about inside various notebooks. I’m not going to publish them completely, just random passages. I’m also not yet sure if I’ll explain or contextualise them by saying who I’m talking about, I’ll have to see what happens. Not naming any names either. It's not fair on them So for now:

Extract 1: 26th December 1992 (aged 12)

Quarter to 12

I hate the whole world. I hate my life. I hate my school. I hate my family. I hate my teachers. I hate the stupid girls in my class. I hate myself.
3’o’clock pm
Stuff what I said earlier on today…I just attempted to cut my fringe. It turned out such a disaster. It’s all different lengths. So I have to wear a stupid Alice Band in my hair now. G went mad when I told her. She was shouting at me for ages. I just stood there crying. I think that’s about it for now. Bye.

Monday 14 November 2011

My 'mum' experiment

Part of me feels slightly embarrassed about writing this post. Some of my readers may be wondering why I’m making such an issue of scenarios they experience on a daily basis.  And for this, I apologise. But motherhood is new to me…I mean I’m not a mum. I only became one last week, for 9 hours. But this was no ordinary babysitting assignment. I approached it with complete conviction; going about my every day life with a baby in tow. Which involved manoeuvring London buses, tubes and trains, meeting friends for lunch, attempting to do some writing, going for my regular beautician appointment, getting the shopping done… and all this while having the responsibility of a 9 month old.

The cutey pie in question is little Ada who normally resides in the US but was holidaying in Londinium, home of her birth, for a couple of weeks. I literally jumped at the opportunity to look after her while Real Mum went to work. I’d never done anything like it before. I’ve looked after my nieces and nephews at home for a few hours but that was ages ago and they are no longer carted around in push chairs.
We arranged to meet at London Bridge at 8.30am. Ada didn’t suspect a thing as we switched hands on the buggy and I took over from Real Mummy. First task: getting her up the escalator. Luckily it was a short one. Going up escalators proved to be fine, but I didn’t risk going down any. 
When we boarded the train I turned Ada around to face me. I had been warned she would burst into tears and scream for 10 minutes but she simply looked at me very calmy and luckily, didn’t seem too traumatised that her mum had literally vanished and morphed into me.
 First stop: Lewisham. It’s a hive of pigeon activity and being in London is was only fair Ada bonded with the city’s least respected residents.

 We didn’t have any bread to feed them but she seemed interested enough.


One thing I learn't from my nieces and nephews is toys are unnecessary; household objects are far more desirable and this pack of cable ties kept Ada intrigued for the majority of the day. She briefly held an elephant and book, but the cable ties had greater appeal. 
I ticking off my to-do list including getting my eyebrows tweeked (sorry Real Mum and Dad if I’ve exposed your child to vanity at such a young age.) As I lay back and got plucked, a gaggle of beauticians watched over her.

You know how when you go to public loos they have posters up saying ‘Do you plan your shopping trips around going to the toilet..this is not normal - you may have bladder weakness?’ Well those are aimed at me, not because of bladder weakness, I just need to know where the nearest loo is at all times. Yet on this occasion I found myself all eyes on the look out for ‘baby changing’….of which you realise there are far fewer than you expect. Then I remembered that Lewisham Library has the most spacious baby changing I’ve ever seen, so I took Ada there for a nappy swap. The room is part of the children’s library which sits adjacent to people working away on their laptops so I had to be really conscious of screaming….not that she cried, there were just a few whimpers. After which Ada was set loose around the library to crawl to her hearts content. It struck me then that a baby’s life is split into hours. Every hour is a new challenge and that’s how the rest of our day spanned out. One activity per hour.

Thankfully she wasn't swallowed up by The Gruffalo.

We caught the bus home. Luckily there were no other buggies to contend with, in time for lunch, where she unexpectedly drank two bottles of milk and had some pureed veg. After that, she showed me how to send an email.

Nap time on the tube

Normally I munch my way through breakfast and elevenses but with my all time consumed by ensuring she was still alive, not a morsel hit my lips until we got to Noodle King in Bethnal Green at 1.30 where some of my friends were celebrating a birthday lunch. 

Ada chilled with baby Mia while the rest of us feasted on dumplings and tofu. There wasn’t a peep out of Ada, just a constant huge smile and frequent cheeky giggles that captivated all the waitresses. 
While Mia tucked into nibbles, Ada calmy drank her milk. 

I assumed it was time for a nappy change and with the Museum of Childhood only a short walk away, I decided to take her there to 'proper' baby changing facilities, rather than the floor of a take-away loo.
Underneath the innocent face (which fooled me as there wasn’t any bad smells) was a huge poohey mess (probably because I hadn’t put her nappy on properly after her morning wee.) The leak had spread up her tummy, through her jump suit and her jeans and as I attempted to undress her, it spread to her back and neck too…oh dear. Naked baby on my hands and NO CLOTHES to dress her in. She came with a spare set but I managed to spill an entire bottle of water inside the bag they were in, so they were soaked through. I spent five minutes in a stunned silence. Ada looked at me, I looked at her….at least one of us was smiling. It seems nothing can get this girl down. I eventually got a grip. Put her in a fresh nappy and wrapped her in my jacket. It was a cold and darkening November afternoon in an area I didn’t know, but thankfully, after a short walk up the high street, saviour came in the form of a charity shop. And there in amidst the abandoned children’s clothing was a bright orange PJ suit, size 6-9 months, price £1.50. 

By now it was rush hour so we headed back to London Bridge where Real Mummy joined us at the spot we first parted, bemused by her new outfit.

I’m yet to experience the urge to want children but some how I seemed to cope fine with a baby. Perhaps if she’d had a screaming fit in public things would have been different, but then again, I did feel like the worst mother in the world taking her out naked with nothing but my coat.
I’m committed to trying new things and that’s why I put my hand up and said I’d babysit. I wanted to experience what life might be like if I did have a baby. All day I had a strange sensation that I was a mum, and certainly any one who saw me out and about wouldn’t have thought otherwise. Do 16 year old school girls still get given fake babies to take home and look after as practise? Because adult women should be given the chance to do what I did. Real mums say that you loose your selfishness when you have a child and having an insight into that was pretty special. So non-mums, (and non-dads) next time an opportunity arises to babysit, I say embrace it; there’s nothing else like it. And as for if I would do it again…yes ...only this time I’d show her the Docklands Light Railway and take her on a Thames Clipper boat trip too, so she could properly experience getting out and about in the Big Smoke.