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

Monday 30 April 2012

April showers? Whatever......

 1. Flew a kite in Maidstone
Determined not to let the incessant April showers get me down any longer I decided to spend the weekend enjoying the elements. Over three days I experienced about an hour of sunshine - the rest was bleak, grey, wet & windy....
 2. Chased a windfarm
I tried to get as close as I could to Little Cheyne Court windfarm but a local farmer was having none of it so I had to settle with watching the hypnotising and beautiful windmills from a distance.
 3. Visited a nuclear power station
Well from the outside. I drove right up to it for a close inspection then got blown down the seafront in Dungeness, which is apparently one of the most treacherous stretches in the UK.
4. Boarded world's smallest public railway
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway looks like a model train. It's tiny!!!!! It's the first steam train I've ever been on...it was like riding on Thomas the Tank Engine.
5. Counted seagulls 
In Cambersands. A peaceful stretch of beach and sand dunes.

6. Got up close & personal with a peacock
In the grounds of Leeds Castle. It was too expensive to go inside but the peacocks roam in the entrance and the park is open for picnics. 
7. Discovered the joy of keyrings
Thousands of key rings cover the celings at The Dungeness Inn. Individually keyrings look like tack but together they are a work of art!
8. Saw a whale's tail
Made of rocks in Folkestone.
9. Investigated Flotsome & Jetsome
Though I knew the names, I had no idea what flotsome & jetsome were until I came across a whole host of sculptures made from the things that get washed up on shore...talk about finding treasure!
10. Battled the elements in Dymchurch
Just as the sun looked like coming out, it decided to stay indoors. Ahh well. It may have been miserable but spending time alfresco on the days when you'd rather be having a duvet day & watching DVDs can be strangely satisfying - it makes you feel so much more proud of yourself. I wish that the sun would come back & brighten up the UK but until it does, I vow not to sit inside grumbling anymore....after all, what were wellies and thermals made for if not to enjoy on the beach?

Monday 23 April 2012

My favourite photograph

This is a photo of me and my mum taken in 1981 when I was less than a year old. I love this photograph so much, it's one of my favourite photos ever. I'm sharing it today because it marks the date my mum passed away nine years ago. I remember everything about that most horrible of days so clearly infact too clearly that I don't want to talk or write about it. This image is my voice instead. Miss you umma. 

Friday 20 April 2012

How to get a new skirt: the cheat's way!

It was love at first sight the I moment I spied this gorgeous floral print cotton fabric in my local haberdashery Roll & Rems. I knew it had to be worn to be celebrated properly, but at the moment I don't have time to make new clothes from scratch. Customising on the other hand is the perfect alternative...
I found a black mini skirt lurking at the back of my wardrobe. I had originally purchased it in a charity shop but have never worn it. I rarely wear black, but I bought it as it was cheap and just incase I ever need a black skirt...(yes that old chestnut!)
I laid the skirt on to the fabric, unzipped the back and tucked the edge over the top hems.
Once this was pinned in place, I folded the fabric in at each side and lined the edges up at either side of the zip so that they would't get caught allowing the zip to still work. 
TOP TIP: Don't pull the fabric across the back too tightly, otherwise you may prevent some of the natural movement of the garment, making it a tighter fit. It's worth trying it on at this stage to check.
I also trimmed off the excess that I didn't need.
Finally, I stitched the fabric in place on my sewing machine. Firstly across the top hem, removing the pins as I went. Then one side of the zip, and then the second, overlapping where both sides met at the bottom, under the zip, so that there was complete coverage  and no black skirt peeping through.

Voila! A completely new skirt in less than 30 minutes. So now I have a gorgeous floral skirt and I still have lots of lovely fabric left...question is, what do I do with the rest of it? Hmmmmm...

Saturday 14 April 2012

Book review: Please God, Find Me a Husband! by Simone Lia

I have been looking forward to the launch of Simone Lia's new book since I picked up a mini sample of it at the Comica Festival last year. It was one of those teasing frustrating things where by you read a few pages then suddenly it stops and you're left wanting more (like at the end of a TV series where you're left on a cliff-hanger and you have to wait patiently to see what happens next...Sherlock being the obvious example : (
Simone is a graphic novelist best known for writing & illustrating Fluffy; a tale of a man and his rabbit Fluffy (who assumes he's not a rabbit but is actually human like his 'dad'). I'm very fussy with books, if my attention isn't held by page two I normally give up. Fluffy on the other hand is the only book that has ever made me cancel all my plans. After reading the first page I sat down and read the whole book in one go. I can't explain the feeling other than reading it just felt so much more important than anything else I could possibly do.
Equally I bunked off my boxing class on Tuesday as I just had to be there at the launch day because I was so desperate to know what would become of the heroine! The event took place at Gosh! Comics in Soho, Central London.
When I arrived just after 6.30 the signing was in full swing - I could just about make out Simone in the corner already seated and drawing away.
I joined the queue, it looked ok...but after 45 minutes I was still at the bottom of the staircase and was beginning to feel very faint so I decided to go home and read the book instead. (Hopefully Simone can sign it another time!)
So, what exactly is Please God, Find Me a Husband! about? Well the title hits the spot perfectly, it's the tale of a 30 something year old single girl, an autobiographical account of Simone, who suddenly realises she doesn't want to be alone any more. She talks abit more about it in this video, filmed by Gosh!

The story involves adventure (going on a Thelma & Louise style trip)...
romance...(finding her own Brad Pitt)
tragedy...(a dear friend being diagnosed with cancer)
and comedy...(Jesus playing a game of Operation!)

It took me two days to read and my overall reaction is that I am in complete awe of Simone. It takes an incredibly brave person to share their personal life in such an honest way. She captures some really poignant observations that completely normal, ordinary people think, and go through. Life isn't always exciting, sometimes we get down and other times super enthusiastic about things. Often our focus is directed on completely the wrong thing but we all need to discover that in our way. 

One of the most likeable things about graphic novels is the fact you can talk about any subject you want. In Simone's case choosing religion as a key theme is also brave (I sometimes feel like mentioning the 'R' word in this country is completely taboo) and in that respect it's a refreshing and important publication that is well worth exploring. It's also brilliantly illustrated, thoughtful and inspiring. My advice is check it out, next time you're in a bookshop, and be prepared to get hooked : )

Please God, Find Me a Husband! by Simone Lia is published by Jonathan Cape Graphic Novels and is on sale now and costs £14.99.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Wanted! Contributors for a new Craft book

This Autumn sees the launch of my new book (pictured above) and I'm really excited to be starting on my next publication, scheduled for release Autumn 2013 now! It's a follow up to the forthcoming 'Glitter' book published by Vivays Publishing, but this time it will be '101+ Things to do with' a different material.
There are four categories inside the book:
  • Fashion & Accessories
  • Home & Interiors
  • Cards & Papercrafts
  • Food & Gifts 
And once again I'm on the hunt for exciting, unusual, original crafts projects designed by craft makers & designers from all over the world to feature in it.

If you are interested in finding out more, or would like to submit an idea that falls into one of the above categories, please email me at glittercrafts@ymail.com. You'll then be asked to submit a proposal describing what you would make for the book. If selected, you will need to make that project, and then send it to me, along with instructions for how you made it.
Proposals must reach me by April 30th however before submission you'll need to know what 'special' material your project should include, so email me first and I’ll let you know what it is...

I look forward to hearing from you!

Momtaz x


Tuesday 3 April 2012

Review: Byron Burgers arrives in Greenwich

'I'll have a gherkin with that..'
I have long thought that the humble burger is the most aesthetically beautiful of foods. The alluring rounded bap top, bulging filling of fresh green lettuce, shiny red slice of tomato and a juicy brown burger is just so tempting...and that's coming from a vegetarian! I have a burger obsession. Maybe it stems from the fact my favourite book as a child was Alexander McCall Smith's The Perfect Hamburger.
(I'm proud of this photo!)
When I heard Byron Burgers was coming to Greenwich I was intrigued as many a meat loving friend has told me how good their burgers are...trouble is, if I'm out and about with a burger eating pal I need to know that I won't go hungry too. Ever since Gourmet Burger stopped making their giant portabello mushroom, things have got tricky, their attempt at falafel is truly dreadful, so would Byron fare any better for the non-meat eaters?

Food for friends
The restaurant itself overlooks the River Thames, on the brand spanking new pier. A contentious issue amongst many Greenwich folk. We used to have a beautiful, simple, traditional pier and now it looks more like a fairground. To be fair though I have always thought central Greenwich lacks in places to eat. The fact they have squeezed in several new chain eateries is actually quite impressive.
Airport runway?
There are two floors at Byron. I opted for upstairs and the best seat in the house; the one that overlooks the centre of the pier, out to the Thames and directly facing the towering lights of Canary Wharf. By night is was spectacular, by day it's going to be the most popular seat in Greenwich,with ample opportunity to people watch.
The Perfect Veggie Burger?
Hopefully this shot puts it into perspective, you can see all the boats arriving - infact it's the first thing travellers see when they disembark from the boat. I was sitting there thinking wow, Byron have the primest location; their burger joint is the first thing you lay eyes on when you get off the boat - the best publicity ever... no need to write a blog post about it!
Sign shortage
And yet there was no signage outside facing the pier...maybe it's coming later? 
(The chap standing in the window upstairs is where I was sitting.)
Slice of life (the plant variety)
Ok, back to the burger! I was promised a chargrilled portabello mushroom, with goats cheese, red peppers, spinach and tomato and was very pleased it turned up in one of their signature squidgy buns.
Thrice bitten
Having watched the video on their website that afternoon I was determined to eat the burger properly - after all their slogan is 'proper burgers'

Burger eating the posh way
But alas, I was defeated, After three bites I couldn't do it and proceeded to eat with a knife and fork! 
Salted by not shaken
I didn't regret my decision. It made my side dish of courgette fries taste better. I could appreciate the individual flavours more like noticing the garlic mayonnaise which previously had been masked by the heavy layer of goats cheese. All in all the veggie burger was alright. I did feel their was way too much cheese - goats cheese is so overpowering you could barely notice the mushroom which is insignificant in comparison. The fries were a nice concept but were drowning in salt - I think they should stick with the KP Salt & Shake crisp theory and let you season them yourself. The other sides sounded appealing too, I'd be well up for coming back and sampling the macaroni cheese.
The Byron Bill
The bill arrived with a badge and a sweet, perfect to eradicate the aforementioned garlic mayo.
Washroom wonderful
The loos were very impressive; the square sinks and mosaic tiles had a holiday charm about them. Though the yellow & blue colour scheme is a bit bizarre, it's very seaside like even though the establishment is on a river.

So, to round up. Byron Burgers opens to the public today at midday (I managed to test it out the night before!).  Although the building itself is a little clinical (I'm not sure about the wooden panelling and the staircases feel nothing like an eaterie), it has an outstanding location. There is also a roof garden - and there's not alot of those around in this area. The opening has been delayed by two weeks since work on the Cutty Sark is behind. The pedestrian access to the area is still restricted and their neighbours aren't yet functioning but come summer, I'm sure it will be heaving with locals and tourists alike. 

I can't comment on the meat, but I live in hope that one day burger joints will realise that veggies don't just eat veg, as nice as the mushroom was, we'd much rather have a filling soya burger for a more authentic experience. But hey ho, the concept is about the all-American hamburger and in that respect, Byron seem to be doing the right thing.

 Byron Burgers, East Pavilion, Greenwich Promenade, London, SE10 9HT
Open 3rd April 2012, midday to late seven days a week.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Take a Chill Pill: London's BEST Poetry Night

(Colour co-ordinating with the flier is optional)
Action. Drama. Romance. Comedy: The key ingredients I seek when I'm reviewing a Bollywood Blockbuster. Little did I know I could get the same filmi fix from a poetry night. Chill Pill is the best showcase of poetry and spoken word in London...(if not the UK?) I know, I know...there are infinite poetry nights nationwide, all with captivating hosts, brilliant headliners and rising stars of the future on the Open Mic...but add in a passionate and intelligent group of curators, a full masala of themes, a magic rug and a friendly intimate crowd, and you get 'Best' with a capital B.
Simon Says...
The monthly night switches between The Arcola, Soho and Albany theatres on the last Thursday of the month. It's the kind of night that will break every single preconception you ever had about poetry. Take me. Apart from my obsession with Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg when I was at junior school, I hated poetry (or at least didn't understand it.) Throughout my teens and my 20s I didn't read a single poem. My 30s have so far been an education in the art of rhyme. I've heard it all; from cringeworthingly bad performance poetry to some of the finest words of wisdom ever announced by mankind...I'm awarding this latter title to the genius that is Simon Mole. His observations, anecdotes and stories are filled with wit, intelligence and universal appeal.
Each month one of the Chill Pill crew write a 'Headline Poem' summarising the days events. This month (March 29th) Simon treated us to a sharp and succinct analogy of the petrol drought and pastygate. I wish he could round up the news for me everyday. 
No Shame about Ray here...
The delightful Raymond Antrobus is one of ChillPill's hugely talented founders. He's recently returned from a trip to South Africa and his anecdotal accounts which include the towns he visited to being back at home and checking in on his gran, have a warmth and sensitivity that engages you completely. He was accompanied by music which made his delivery even more mesmerising.
Dee's the one that I want!
If I ever got stuck somewhere, like in a lift or a tube carriage or maybe even down a hole, then Deanna Roger would be my first choice of companion. She radiates extreme optimism, even when she's zoned out into deep tales of love or politics. On stage she gives physically and vocally. It's hard to master both without putting your audience off, but Deanna manages it effortlessly.
Gee-Wizz-ard of music
Mr Gee the fourth member of the CP clan has a gift for sourcing the perfect soundtrack. The younger me was afraid (very afraid) of poetry nights because I assumed they consisted of listening and clapping and awkward silences in between. Mr Gee on the other hand provides theme tunes and intros that will get you groovin' in your seat : ) This month he also revealed the answer to The Classic Corner, where a poem is projected on the wall during the interval, and the audience have to guess when it was written. (I wasn't even close!)
No ordinary rug
And here lies the magic rug...it's essential to every Chill Pill night and is the main reason the event is so successful. (It's nice to see Craft playing a role here...a quality bit of weaving if I do say so!)
In the Limelight (Rachel's tights were cool too!)
I was dreading writing about the two headline acts: Storyteller Rachel Reid Rose performing with the Roundhouse Experimental Choir and Happy Rapper Mystro, because I was worried I'd be listing ridiculous words like Wow, Amazing, Outstanding...which clearly mean nothing unless you were there. The trouble is they really were sooooooooooooooooooooo good that I'm forced to use over 20 'o's in the hope that if you've yet to check them out, you will do so immediately. 
I have never seen anything like the Roundhouse Choir - they refer to themselves as Avant- Garde but I don't even think that captures their vision and brilliance well enough. As Rachel took us through a 25 minute journey called London Stone, the choir added vocals, sound effects, played characters and created atmosphere. To say the entire room was transfixed was an understatement. If I had higher powers, I would interfere with all the TV's in the UK, interrupt the transmission of The Voice and Britain's Got Talent and show the nation what Talent and Skill is actually all about...
Music. Mystro.
...and after Rachel, next to be transmitted would be Mystro the Happy Rapper. I don't even think he actually is known as the Happy Rapper but I fell in love with his charm, charisma (he came on stage to the James Bond theme) and huge giant smile. What a man and so, so Happy! Both his performances (and farewell song) were delivered with and consisted of utter perfection. It makes you feel there is such injustice when he does not have his own TV show: I'd watch him over any current comedian any day. Watch his UK Rap Up 2011 and then imagine seeing him live...Amazing!
Reminiscing Richard
Four folk took to the floor for the Open Mic segment starting with the wonderful Richard Purnell. His touching and powerful poem entitled The Iron Lady, a portrait of his late grandmother was delivered with eloquence and soul. (A quick plug for Richard, he hosts an Open Mic music and spoken word night at the Hackney Attic - check it out too!)
Nat's Chat
Natalie Wormsley's detailed account of sexual frustration that she warned us would be 'rude' was apparently her first ever poem. With those two facts in mind, it could have gone horribly wrong and yet she had us stunned from beginning to end with her honest, humorous tale of trying, and failing miserably to satisfy her desires. If Natalie represents the emerging voices of UK poetry (hopefully she's planning to pen more), then I don't think they'll be any more under 30s who will hate poetry ever again. 
Chill in the air
I'm the kind of Londoner that makes sure I get every pennies worth from my travelcard so I  get around to as many different types of Londium nights as possible - from 'craft ins' to clown shows, Japanese rock to contemporary theatre- combining all these recent experiences I can honestly say, none of them have topped my night at Chill Pill. I'm not just gushing like some crazy fan..there really is something about the energy from the moment you step into the room, to saying goodbye at the end of the evening that lifts your spirits no matter what kind of day you've had - it's an antidote to every day stress - they certainly got it spot on when they chose the name. (Nice one Deanna!)

Intrigued? Check out their next show. www.chill-pill.co.uk