Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tell-Tale Toast

In my house all four of us have distinct preferences as to how we prepare and serve toast for ourselves.

And, apparently, the way you take your toast in the morning can reveal more about you than you think. The simple act of spreading a knife across toast can indicate if your breakfast companion has the potential to be a long-term match, or not.

Senior Psychology Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Sandi Mann led a project which analysed possible subconscious motives which can prompt the simplest of decisions and choices we make. 

Dr Mann and her team arrived at fifteen well-recognized personality traits; and from that has further identified the potential of a love match, or mismatch, when comparing. She said: How we eat our toast and marmalade might seem intuitive but the fact is, we each individually make a series of choices at breakfast – based on learnt preferences, innate behaviour and conditioned learning ...”

So do you like your bread thick or thin for toasting? What's your favourite spread? Are you a double dipper (do you use the same knife in the butter as you do the jam)?

Well known baker brand Robert's Bakery, and jam and spread makers Duerr's have put together a fun quiz to put you and your partner's toast eating habits to the test.



If you enjoyed doing the quiz, Please share your results!

Thursday, 11 September 2014


It has been a while since I came across a craft product that has so many uses and so much versatility that it has spurred me to blog about it. And would you believe it is an old DIY essential to which I am referring.  One that has been selling for years in home improvements stores, known as Duct Tape, or under brands names Shurtape, Frog Tape or Duck Tape, recognized for being high performing and reliable in function for a decorator or a fixer. You could never describe these tapes as exciting  though –  but take a look at all these tapes with funky designs and bright colours and they have a multiple of uses not just decorating, but for being decorative in their own right. 

On the face of it, not the most environmentally friendly product, and although it does the job of securing a package perfectly well perhaps it is best to use something less 'substantial'. Nevertheless I'm thinking to fix a handle (or to make one) for a bag, or (mainly because its weatherproof and protective) revamping a skateboard, or for simply covering a project book, it is all good, because the material is

strong enough to reinforce, and when something contributes toward strengthening and repair, and so giving rise to the upcycling of an existing item; then it has potential to be low impacting on the environment; if you're happy to view it that way.

Patterned tapes like these have been selling exclusively in the US for a long time, but three new designs join a colourful range that are now retailing in the UK at Hobbycraft, Asda, Amazon and online at http://www.colouredducktape.co.uk/click-here-for-printed-designs-11-c.asp the range includes paint splat, a couple of leopard print designs, and the cute Scottie dog design called 'walkies' see above.

With Halloween in a few weeks, these tapes are a perfect material for covering pointed hats, treat bowls or buckets, and for making Halloween props, especially those things that you can make up from using paper, flimsy card, or paper mache - good for many crafts ideas really, where performance and the resulting visual affect can be improved by either the subtle inclusion of the tape, or by completely overhauling something with the stuff. There is a tape with a skull design available, but also many plain options in bright colours including plain green, plain orange and plain black, and you can make some great Halloween Pinatas (although it'd take an age to break through it!). 

For more Halloween craft inspiration on Pinterest click on the link under the Pumpkin bag below.

Adheres good enough to paper and cardboard, but sticks even better to cloth, leather, metal, and laminates and often provides a better finish than paint, no white bits!

browse for more 'Ductivities' here 

and for my US readers only - there is a chance to put forward your own design and a chance to win a prize. More details on the website

Thursday, 7 August 2014

How to take better Holiday Photographs - An Infographic

How to take better holiday photographs
How to take better holiday photographs Infographic by Sykes Cottages

Thursday, 31 July 2014

School Holiday Book Giveaway

It's school holiday time and I've partnered once again with Bloomsbury in the organizing of a book Giveaway.

The prize is a pair of books released today, 31st July 2014

The prize pack is a pair of books:

How to Write a Story by Simon Cheshire - an illustrated activity book where you can pen your own words directly onto the pages!

The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Things to Do by Andy Seed - with quizzes, fun facts, mind challenges  and much more!

Entrants must be over 18 - 

How to enter: in a few words say why it is that your child/children won't be bored this summer - leave your entry as a comment on this post. 

Note: I'm running giveaways of further pairs of these books on other online outlets. T&Cs will differ according to the platform in which the competition appears.

A random draw (UK based participants only) - T&Cs apply

If you would like to view the T&Cs email getsmartthroughart@gmail.com - putting requesting T&Cs at Not Compulsory in the subject line.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Let's Talk About...Music

and this is a case of a me (the reviewer) reviewing the work of another reviewer, Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson is Slate's Music Critic and the author of the new, standalone edition from the Let's Talk About Love series by Bloomsbury 

In  the book Wilson considers both the world-wide popularity, and, on the flip-side, the mockery that has surrounded Canadian Mega Star/Pop Star, Celine Dion, but the book is really a case study of what we deem to be cool or uncool, and what is good music taste, and what is bad. Even more, it is a blueprint about reviewing music and music culture with a professional eye. Recommended.
I ask what is it that makes a reputed reviewer. I'm sure Wilson would agree with me that the answer, in short, is that it is down to being as objective as you can and not being swayed by populist opinion, and then being a stickler for those principles over time. You should have some knowledge of your subject; not just prior knowledge, but academic knowledge (on a level). Being insightful is useful, and, in a peculiar sense, be non judgmental - it helps.

®Manuel Harlan

I have been a theatre critic for seven years now. Reviewing stage, as with reviewing anything professionally, means you have to be discerning, but when it comes to reviewing music, well you still have to be discerning, but it is a little more complicated than that.

There is a pull, in youth music culture, to be part of the ‘in crowd’, and, then, as time passes, snobbery sets in because music that is more lasting, eventually achieves critical acclaim as a matter of course, largely because of the ‘in crowd’ loyalty surrounding it.

Growing up with two Metal loving brothers meant my love of Glam Rock and Disco was often ridiculed, whereas my aversion was to Country music. I’m still not a fan but I have learned to appreciate it (I’m expressing my sensibility with this comment), but, yes, it is funny how tastes shift.

Take the music of Burt Bacharach for example, if his songs were ever riding o’er the airways or performed on TV it would be enough to send teenage me in to a state of sustained boredom while it played. Yet, I hear only this week, on the radio, that Burt is touring the UK this summer. They play a couple of sound bites…“Walk on By” and “The Look of Love” and I’m suddenly two feet deep in awe. I look up the main man's back catalogue and can do nothing but admire the genius.
Photograph of Burt Bacharach Source: The Dusty Springfield Network

Yet, I’ve never learned to love Opera, nor Deacon Blue or the Manics as it happens, and I’m not, on any account, being anti elitist, anti-Scottish or anti-Welsh when I say that. 

 Hell is other people’s music” is the first line of the book I mention above by Carl Wilson entitled ‘LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE Why Other People have such bad taste’ arguably, no truer words have ever been spoken! 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Haberdashery Heaven (this way)

Specially for those Born Again Knitters (like myself) and for those who sew, incessantly, (unlike myself), I thought I would put together a selection of Haberdashery Items appearing on other things i.e. buttons, scissors and threads illustrated on other formats. Great gift ideas for the crafting enthusiast girlie, young or old.

1. Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzle (1000 pcs) called Haberdashery Heaven (available at Amazon UK)
2. Mug called Vintage Sewing by Poppy & Red - selling online at Society 6
3. 'Sewing Pattern' Baby Doll Dress -  Bonne Chance Collections
4.' Cute as a Button' Nail Polish by Essie available at Liberty London
5. Donna Wilson for John Lewis - Pins and Needles Tote Bag
6. Sewing Kit Journal by Paperchase

See more on Pinterest - just click on the jigsaw!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Fussels' Fine Food Recipes


A simple yet sophisticated way to serve smoked salmon.Serves 4

175g smoked salmon slices
4 teaspoons baby capers, drained
2 small shallots, peeled, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons celery leaves or dill chopped
10 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil
lemon, cut into wedges for squeezing 
  1. Arrange the smoked salmon slices onto 4 serving plates in a single layer
  2. Mix together the capers, shallots, celery leaves or dill, rapeseed oil and season with freshly ground black pepper
  3. Just before serving, spoon the relish over the salmon
  4. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side for squeezing and rustic granary bread and butter

6 ripe, William pears
2tsp cracked black pepper
6tsp caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
5tbsp cider vinegar
2 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil per pear half

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas 6. Peel, half and core the pears and lay in a roasting tray cut side up
  2. Place the pepper, sugar and salt in a small bowl and mix well together. Scatter over the pears
  3. Drizzle over the cider vinegar, add 2 pumps of the rapeseed oil per pear half and spoon over 3tbsp cold water
  4. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove tray from oven and turn the pears over, drizzle over 3tbsp cold water and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes until pears are golden and tender
  5. Serve the pears warm on a platter with goats’ cheese, crumbled feta or air-cured ham

8 pumps Fussels’ rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes in rich tomato juice 
200mls (1/3 pint) tomato passata
Approx. 300mls (1/2 pint) water
1 x 400g black eye beans, drained & rinsed 
4 tablespoons low fat yoghurt or crème fraiche
1 large ripe avocado, stoned, peeled & sliced 
1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped 
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large pan, heat the rapeseed oil. Add the onion and 2 tablespoons water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and gently steam fry for 5/6 minutes until softened. Add the pepper, garlic, chillies and ground coriander and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the sun dried tomato paste.
  2. Stir in the canned tomatoes, Passata and water. Season and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, adding extra water if the soup becomes too thick. Stir in the black eye beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  3. To serve, stir in half the coriander and ladle the soup into large warmed soup bowls. Swirl each soup with a little yoghurt and top with the avocado and remaining coriander. Serve with crusty bread.

450g (1lb) minced turkey
125g (4 ½ oz) ready grated raw carrot (approx. 3 medium carrots,peeled and grated)
4 spring onions, chopped or snipped 
45ml (3tbsp) green or red ready-made pesto
1 large egg, beaten
freshly ground black pepper
10 pumps Fussels’ rapeseed oil approx.
4 ciabatta rolls warm and split
handful rocket leaves
pepper relish to serve
  1. In a large bowl, mix the turkey with the carrot, spring onions and pesto. Add the egg and season with freshly ground black pepper, stir well to combine really well.
  2. Divide the turkey mixture into 4 and shape into large burgers. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, cook burgers for approx. 7-8 minutes each side on a medium heat or until golden and cooked through.
  4. Serve in ciabatta rolls with crisp rocket leaves and a good dollop of the pepper relish
...and the accompanying RED PEPPER RELISH  SERVES 4 
8 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil 
300g (10 1/2oz) frozen sliced mixed peppers
1 red chilli, chopped or a pinch of dried chilli 
1 bay leaf 
1 tablespoon sugar 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed juice 1/2 lemon
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the frozen peppers, chilli, bay leaf, garlic, sugar and lemon juice. Place a piece of wet, crushed greaseproof paper over the peppers and cover with a lid. Gently cook for 35-40 minutes or until the peppers are meltingly soft.Remove the paper from the pan and increase the heat to reduce the liquid for approx. 3-4 minutes. Season. The relish will keep in the fridge for several days.
It has been a while since I had recipes feature on the blog. The fresh and summery offerings detailed above is the result of a partnership between TV Chef, Lesley Waters and Somerset Producer, Andy Fussell and their newly launched Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed oil in a spray bottle.

As well as featuring recipe instruction and photography, I also like to profile the lives of people who have commendable work ethics, and are doing good things educationally and socially be it near to home or that bit further afield. 

Lesley Waters - Lesley is a former tutor at the Leith's School of Food and Wine, and apart from regularly appearing on television shows and running her Cookery School in rural Dorset, Lesley is also an author of many cookery books. She also happens to be a fitness instructor, and a mother of two! Super Woman!   
Andy Fussell - Farmer Andy, started producing rapeseed oil in 2007 when he first set up the Fussels' Fine Foods business. He has adopted a practice where he preserves his rapeseed by cold pressing (just once). The spray oil used in the recipes above is new and there is nothing added to it, but other oils, dressings; sauces and mayonnaise's that Andy has created, with the addition of other locally sourced ingredients, have been quite special and Fussel's Cold Pressed Chilli Rapeseed Oil is award winning. Super Man!The clever pair are featured below in a promotional shot of the Rapeseed Spray Oil