This Sunday is Burns Night, celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. But it also tends to celebrate all things Scottish, including another famous Scottish export: uisge beatha…the water of life…whisky! The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson has taught us that there is so much more to this golden liquid than a dram of Famous Grouse. So in celebration of the Scottish poet, this extract helpfully explains the difference between the different categories of Scotch. And check back to the blog tomorrow, when we’ll have a recipe so that everyone can have a bit of a Burns’ supper this weekend! But for now, over to Tristan…
The term Scotch Whisky by itself is a bit useless, since any given product must reside in one of the sub-categories listed below. But broadly speaking, Scotch whisky must abide by the following rules (according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009: it must be made in Scotland from water, cereal and yeast only, whereby sugars are obtained through malt enzymes (diastase). Mashing, fermentation and distillation must take place in the distillery and it must be distilled to less than 94.8% ABV. It must then be aged in oak casks no bigger than 700 litres/739 quarts, for a minimum of three years. Before the three years are up, it is known simply as ‘British New-Make Spirit’. Plain caramel colouring may be added.
SCOTCH SINGLE MALT WHISKY
Single Malt Whisky must be made from 100% malted barley, but the barley can be grown and malted anywhere in the world. It must be distilled a minimum of two times in a copper pot still; you can distill three times (like Auchentoshan), or even more, but it’s not all that common. As with all Scotch Whisky, the maximum permitted distillate strength is 94.8% ABV, but most Single Malt Whiskies run off at 65–75% ABV.
Ageing must take place in Scotland, but not necessarily on the site of the distillery. Obviously most bottlings are much older than the required three years, but it is possible to get young whiskies that exhibit a lot more distillery character than the 12-year+ drams most of us are familiar with. During the period in which the whisky is kept in barrels, it’s stored in a government-bonded warehouse.
As with all types of Scotch, the age statement on the bottle must refer to the youngest whisky in the bottle. Vintage Single Malt Whisky poses another challenge, as it can be a little confusing when deciphering its age. These whiskies are permitted to list only one year on the label, and it can be either the ‘distilled on’, or ‘bottled on’ date, accompanied by an age statement. As of 2009, all Single Malt Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.
SCOTCH BLENDED MALT WHISKY
As the name eloquently suggests, this type of whisky is a blend of two or more single Malt Whiskies. In the past, Blended Malt has gone by the title ‘Vatted Malt’ and ‘Pure Malt’, but 2009 legislation put a stop to that. This type of whisky is usually big, bold and not all that often seen, since most people would rather drink a Blended Scotch or a Single Malt rather than something inbetween.
As is the norm, the age statement on a Blended Malt refers to the youngest whisky. Johnnie Walker Green Label is a great example of a smoky Blended Malt (partly down to the inclusion of both Talisker and Caol Isla in the blend), and I also love Compass Box’s Spice Tree, which controversially spent a brief spell out of production over a dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association.
SINGLE GRAIN SCOTCH WHISKY
Like Single Malt, Single Grain must be the product of one single distillery, but it can be made from any combination of malted barley and other unmalted cereals (but not other malted cereals). It is typically produced in a column still, which produces a much lighter spirit than a pot still. Single Grain Whisky is seldom bottled for consumption on its own, and almost all of the Single Grain Whisky in Scotland is used in blends.
If you are in the market for a bottle, check out Cameron Brig, which makes up the backbone of many famous blends.
BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY
Despite the growing demand for Single Malt in the past 20 years, blended Scotch makes up over 90% of the global Scotch Whisky sales today. It must be made from at least one Single Malt and one Single Grain Whisky. As far as I am aware, there are no blends that contain more than one Single Grain Whisky, but many contain over 30 Single Malts.
The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson is available here.
If whisky straight up makes you a little nervous, you can get your Burns Supper off to a great start with this whisky cocktail recipe. Enjoy!
You might have noticed a bit of a healthier living trend on the blog recently, and not for nothing! Some of us in the office are embarking on a #TeamPaleo challenge next week, and we’re very much looking forward to enjoying some of the delicious and nutritious recipes in our new book Plant-Based Paleo. So we’re thrilled to have its author, Jenna Zoe, here on the blog answering some of our questions about her new book and the ideas behind it. She even has a few tips for us! And definitely keep an eye on the blog next week to hear all about our experiences, see some photos and try some recipes yourself!
Paleo is a bit of a nutrition buzz-word at the moment. Could you explain the ideas behind it and how they work?
The word 'paleo' is short for Paleolithic, which is an era when humankind lived in the wild and survived on what nature provided. A paleo diet therefore, is simply eating the way our ancestors ate: focusing on fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds with very little processed food and no dairy or grains. My concept of 'Plant Based Paleo' is a bit more flexible - it's the idea that some people thrive off a meat-based diet, where some people digest dairy very well and others need grains in their life. So my guiding principle is, make fruits and vegetables the cornerstone of your diet and add whatever else it is that suits your body.
Of course, there are some die-hard paleo fans who follow the diet to the letter, but for me, good health is about eating these unprocessed food about 80% of the time - total restriction from modern delicious foods that surround us is near-on impossible, so it's important to be realistic about our consumption. If we expect total abstinence we will always feel like failures.
Where do you get your recipe inspiration?
I get inspired by all the flavour combinations from our favourite foods. So for example, I used to love Terry's Chocolate Orange as a child, so I tried to translate that into a healthier dessert and got the Raw Chocolate-Orange Pie. Essentially - I get inspired by my own junk food cravings!
What is your favourite part of putting together a book?
I love all of it, but my favourite part is conceptualising a recipe and then challenging myself to see if I can make it a reality. It's always so rewarding to see that idea in your mind come to life.
Who are your foodie heroes?
The foodies I admire most are those super busy people who still somehow prioritise eating well and being healthy. I am in awe of them! Hearing stories of single mothers who get up an hour early to prep food for their kids or working women who devote their sundays to making lunches for the week - it doesn't get more inspiring than that for me.
What three things are never out of stock in your kitchen?
I always keep avocados on hand because they're my favourite fatty food and eating enough fats ensures you stay satisfied. To me, preventing that feeling of being deprived is key to sticking with a healthy path.
The other thing I love to have on hand is fresh herbs which help to add flavour without the need for salt. Red onions, spring onions, garlic and powdered spice mixes are great for this too.
Lastly, dark chocolate. I have at least a little bit each day after lunch which again stops me from feeling deprived.
What would your one desert island foodie item be?
Probably cold smoothies with raw cacao in them, topped with lots of almond butter. I could live on those. My current favourite combination is coconut water, protein powder, ice, spirulina and raw cacao powder.
What is your favourite Plant-Based Paleo recipe?
I have lots of favourites but the one I use (and eat) most often is the Tahini Caramels. They always satisfy my 3pm sweet craving but are actually sugar free, plus they're filled with protein and fat so they're satiating. The Asian Kale salad is also a staple for me, as are the Green-a-colada smoothie and the Snickers Cups. I mostly like easy things that don't take a lot of time to make, but deliver a ton of flavour. The whole idea of the recipes though, is that they're blueprints for people to play around with - if you want to add berries, or sub quinoa for some salmon, or you don't like avocado - you can't really go wrong with experimenting.
Do you have any top tips for those of us in the office embarking on a plant-based paleo diet next week?!
Yes! If you can, try to 'warm up' to eating a fully pant-based paleo diet a few days before by easing into it. Physiologically speaking, when we go cold turkey overnight it can be tough for our bodies to adapt. You'll feel a lot better if you start building up to it by say, having smoothies for breakfast the week prior and making lots of healthy treats to have on hand. Also, drinking water during any dietary change is essential because your body will start to release stored toxins. I make hydration a little more fun for myself by brewing big pots of ginger tea and adding lemon juice to it, or doing a chilled peppermint tea with some stevia in there for sweetness.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember about embarking on positive changes is to remember your initial motivation and excitement! Often we sabotage ourselves hallway through any kind of self-improvement because we don't see instantaneous change. We start to doubt ourselves. We get bored. We start to question the process. Before you start, get clear on your desires and hold them close to your heart all the way through. Put post-its on your bathroom wall, doodle it in your notebook, set reminders on your phone - whatever it is that will help you remember the big picture.
Plant-Based Paleo by Jenna Zoe is available here.
This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Interviews, Interviews, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with january, vegan, detox, Jenna Zoe, working lunch, mid-week chat, 2015, paleo, healthy
Cold isn’t it! It certainly got a little nippier over the weekend, and suddenly that snow we were promised during last week’s balmier weather doesn’t seem so far-fetched! Pairing this with a broken heater in the offices and we’re considering hibernation for the rest of the winter. Before we take such drastic steps, we thought perhaps our books might have some cosy inspiration! Beanies and Bobble Hats by Fiona Goble is just the thing we need during this cold snap, so we thought we’d share this classic bobble hat pattern with you – this quick knit will warm you right up! Now…is it Spring yet?
THREE-COLOR BOBBLE HAT
Sometimes, only something classically simple will fit the bill. So here is a traditional bobble hat that you can customize to your own style. Knit it in two colors and add a bobble in another color—just like I have. Knit it totally plain. Or knit it in stripes. I’ve chosen a lovely cotton-rich yarn for this hat, so you can keep it to hand to ward off any cool spring breezes. And it’s chunky, so it will knit up in just an evening or two.
Rowan All Seasons Chunky (60% cotton, 40% acrylic) chunky yarn
1 x 3½ oz (100g) ball (93yd/85m) in shade 609 Jetsam (A)
1 x 3½ oz (100g) ball (93yd/85m) in shade 603 Drift (B)
1 x 3½ oz (100g) ball (93yd/85m) in shade 611 Samphire (C)
Needles and equipment
US 10½ (6.5mm) knitting needles
Yarn sewing needle
A pompom maker to make 2¾ in (7cm) pompoms, or two cardboard circles each measuring 2¾ in (7cm) in diameter with a 1¼ in (3cm) diameter hole in the center.
14 sts and 16 rows in stockinette (stocking) stitch to a 4-in (10-cm) square on US 10½ (6.5mm) needles.
The finished hat measures approx. 10½ in (50cm) circumference and 8¼ in (21cm) high excluding the pompom.
For the hat
Cast on 60 sts in A.
Row 1: [K2, p2] to end.
Rep row 1, 5 times more.
Break A and join in B.
Work 20 rows in st st beg with a k row.
Row 27: K4, [k2tog, k8] 5 times, k2tog, k4. (54 sts)
Row 28: Purl.
Row 29: K3, [sl2, k1, p2sso, k6] 5 times, sl2, k1, p2sso, k3.
Row 30: Purl.
Row 31: K2, [sl2, k1, p2sso, k4] 5 times, sl2, k1, p2sso, k2.
Row 32: Purl.
Row 33: K1, [sl2, k1, p2sso, k2] 5 times, sl2, k1, p2sso, k1.
Row 34: Purl.
Row 35: [Sl2, k1, p2sso] 6 times.
Break yarn, thread it through rem sts, and pull up securely.
To make up
Sew the back seam using mattress stitch.
Using the pompom maker or cardboard circles, make a pompom using C. Trim the pompom and use the tails of yarn to sew it to the top of the hat.
Weave in all loose ends.
Beanies and Bobble Hats by Fiona Goble is available here.
Happy knitting and stay cosy!
New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but sometimes after a long week, the thought of snacking on a carrot stick dipped in houmous isn’t all THAT appealing and something sweet is the only thing that will cut it. Or perhaps you’ve got a mid-January dinner party planned but don’t want to fall off the wagon quite that early? We’ve got just the thing. Sugar-Free Snacks and Treats is packed with delicious recipes that are free from refined sugars, so you can enjoy a treat like this show-stopping chocolate tart and still feel virtuous. Plus, it’s so tasty that we’d wager even the most sweet-toothed of friends will love it!
Convincing people that food, especially desserts, made without sugar can actually taste good, let alone delicious, is an almost impossible task. After tasting this chocolate tart, however, even the greatest cynics will beg you for the recipe, as well as another slice!
100 g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
For the base
10 pitted dates
150 g pecans, lightly roasted
125 g Scottish oat cakes
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
a pinch of sea salt
For the filling
3 avocados, not too firm
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons agave syrup
1 tablespoon carob powder
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons date syrup
4 tablespoons coconut oil
20-cm/8-in. springform pan, base-lined with parchment paper
food processor or blender
To make the base, blitz the dates in a food processor, then add the rest of the ingredients and a pinch of salt and blitz until everything comes together into a sticky ball.
Press into the baking pan so that you have an even and smooth base for the tart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes until set.
To make the filling, cut the avocados in half, remove the stones and scoop the flesh into a food processor. Add the salt, the remaining ingredients apart from the coconut oil, and blitz until smooth.
Melt the coconut oil in a pan over the lowest heat possible – this will only take a few moments. Turn on the food processor and pour the coconut oil into the mixture through the funnel. Once combined, pour the mixture onto the set tart base and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or if you want it to set quickly, freeze it.
When you are ready to serve, warm the chocolate to just above room temperature to make it easier to grate. I find leaving it beside the oven when you are cooking for about 10 minutes does the trick. You want the chocolate to be just beginning to soften – not in any way gooey or melting, just not rock solid, so it grates easily in long strips.
Pop the tart out of the baking pan and transfer to a plate. Liberally grate the chocolate over, so it piles up high. The tart should be served fridge-cold so that it stays reasonably firm. It keeps wonderfully well and can easily be made a day in advance.
Sugar-Free Snacks and Treats is available here.
Have a great weekend folks!
This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Recipes, Recipes, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with january, Jordan Bourke, baking, chocolate, recipe for the weekend, sweet, 2015, sugar-free, avocado
Today we have some skateboard-style entertainment for you, in case you’re twiddling your thumbs at work or just love to skate! We start at the miniature end of the skating spectrum with a project from Build your own Fingerboard Skatepark. All you’ll need is a box, a pair of scissors and some tape, and you can be a tiny Tony Hawks or Nyjah Hustons, soaring through your own diminutive dreams in no time!
We then have a hilarious characterisation of that mythical guy from the skatepark… You know, the one that everyone talks about because he does the most insane tricks, but hasn’t actually been seen for months… Head down towards the bottom of the blog post to have a read!
How to build a very simple quarter pipe using just a box, scissors & tape
This lesson is the simplest in the book, but in many ways it is also the coolest, because you can have a ton of fun with this little ramp, and anyone can make it in minutes. Once you have the basic idea down you’ll see that there are a lot of potential variations on this ramp, and using this system you can set up a sweet little bunch of chained ramps very quickly.
You will need:
Tape (packing tape or duct tape is best, scotch tape could work)
Extra stuff that helps:
Maybe a pen or marker
Maybe a ruler if you want to be fancy
1. Find a big empty cereal box and remove all of its contents, either by eating or simply by putting the cereal somewhere else. The bigger the box, the bigger the ramp. With the box open, remove the extra flaps (the stuff that is used to open and close the box) on the open side only. While not completely necessary, I prefer the ramp not to have this extra stuff. Make sure you keep the pre-sealed “bottom” sealed.
2. Lay the box down flat. It doesn’t matter whether the front or back is showing, but if you like the idea of a big cereal logo on your ramp, use the front. We’ll call whichever one you’ve chosen the ramp face. Measure 13/4in. (4.5cm) down from the closed end of the box at the fold and mark it (see diagram). Repeat this step on the other side. You can experiment with this measurement, but you’ll see after you’ve made one that this measurement affects the size of the flat and how sloped the ramp is. Take your scissors and cut down each side up to the mark.
3. Now push the loose ramp face in, forming a curve. Put a strip of tape along the bottom, and a strip along either side. You can shape the flat more if you want to, adding a harder fold there for little slides and plants, or you can keep the curve to have a more fluid slope to ride. It’s all up to you, ramp-builder!
4. Now you should have a cool little ramp! In addition to taping the ramp face in place, I usually tape the whole ramp down to a stable surface, too, so that it doesn’t move around and so that transitions are smooth. You could also push it against a wall to give yourself a little vert wall to play off.
Build your own Fingerboard Skatepark by Marty Allen is available here.
Sasquatch, leprechauns, unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, a world free from kids on scooters... all these things share one glaringly obvious trait: they don’t exist. The Myth is a bit more of a gray area. He is definitely a real person, because your friend’s friend once met him and that friend knows this one thing the Myth did must be true because his friend said so. Make sense? Good.
Every town and every city has one local skateboarder who has achieved mythical status through his skateboarding.
“I heard he did this insane trick at the spot.”
“No way man, I heard he did it switch.”
“I heard he did it after being hit by a car.”
“I heard he did it naked!”
Mixing the Chinese-whisper effect that younger skateboarders create during their junk-food fueled conversations with the murky, beer-fueled memories of the reminiscing older generation easily can create a make-believe memory of a skateboarder, one that can be at least 50 percent fiction. The person may have existed, but exactly what he did or didn’t do may have been somewhat altered.
Usually this mythical beast will have dropped off the scene due to some career-shortening, never-heard-of-before injury, or he simply disappeared into the ether after allegedly doing some mind-bending super stunt. This kind of exit from the skateboard game means this ethereal creature’s spirit is destined to live on in infamy. The drab reality is that this apparition, this distant memory probably just got older and had to join the rat-race and accept the responsibilities of real life. He probably had a kid, got a 9-5, and just ended up skating less.
Regardless of the actual truth behind the stories, the enhancing of the Myth’s abilities, and truth-bending surrounding his stunt work, this guy is probably the most important person to figure in the formation of a young skater’s life. The mysteries and fables only serve to make a kid aspirational about what is possible on a skateboard. Without these fantastical stories, kids might think some things are just not humanly possible, and one of the most amazing things about skateboarding is how it continues to progress beyond what seemed possible in the years preceding it. Without knowing it, the Myth is the person we learn from, the one who teaches us lessons, inspires us, and makes us believe the impossible is possible. The Myth might not know it, but he is.
Next time someone tells you a tale about the time the local legend did such and such, don’t question it and wonder about the validity of the statement; embellish it and relay it to someone else. It’s the only way to ensure things move forward. And it’s fun to mess with people’s heads, too.
So you think you're a skateboarder? by Alex Irvine is available here.
Mid-January already?! Where does the time go? It’ll be Christmas before you know it (just kidding!) So how are those New Year’s resolutions holding up? If you’re anything like us, the intentions are probably there but the motivation might be just a bit lacking. But this week’s Book of the Week is here to help! Up and Running by Julia Jones and Shauna Reid is the newbie runner’s best friend. The 8-week running plan is ideal for beginners or someone who wants to give their workout a bit more of a structure, but there are also loads of hints and ideas about things like where to run and how to look after your feet, as well as advice on what gear you need and runners’ profiles and tips too! So, with those resolutions in mind, we thought we’d share Julia and Shauna’s tips for Getting Out the Door...after all, that’s practically half the battle!
Why does getting out the door for a run feel like a monumental task to you? You push the snooze button one too many times. The phone rings and the conversation (deliberately?) eats up your workout time. You sit on the couch after work for just one moment, only to wake a few hours later and it’s dark outside. You’ll try again tomorrow. Promise!
Despite appearances, even seasoned runners can have a difficult time convincing themselves to lace up their shoes. They’ve just cultivated clever tactics to squash any resistance.
Here’s how to make it easier:
Do your workout in the morning. You’ll have a much better chance of getting your run finished if you head out before anyone else is up, demanding your attention, and before work takes your head to another place. This usually works best if you’re already an early riser, but if you’re not, try a few morning runs—you may be surprised at how good it feels to be out and about while the rest of the world dozes on. Set the scene to make it more enticing: have your coffee ready to percolate or lay the breakfast table for when you return.
Lay out your clothes in advance. You can waste a lot of time making sartorial decisions or searching for the perfect pair of running shorts. If your running clothes are set out ahead of time, there’s no scope for procrastination. Once you’re dressed and ready to run, you’ve won half the mental battle.
Avoid electronic distractions. No checking your e-mail or announcing your run to your online friends—you’ll inevitably disappear down the Internet rabbit hole. Leave social media until after your workout and post a triumphant sweaty selfie.
Connect with a positive feeling. What do you love most about running? Maybe it’s after the workout is done and you’re taking a hot, steamy shower; or that moment while you’re running and realize, “Hey, I’m doing this!” Tap into what gets you excited about running and let it carry you out the door.
Make a running date with a friend. You may let yourself down but we bet you’d never dream of doing that to a friend; especially if you’re meeting in a park at the crack of dawn.
Do not ask questions. While you’re driving home from work don’t ask yourself if you feel like running. Be robot-like: put on those running clothes and get out the door. We guarantee that after the first 10 minutes, you’ll start to feel better, energized and in the mood to move. You may even get one of those running smirks on your face, too.
Up and Running by Julia Jones and Shauna Reid is available here.
Good luck with those resolutions and happy running!
This post was posted in Featured, Featured, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with january, New Year, resolutions, 2014, eat clean, Book of the Week, running, healthy, tips, Motivation Monday
We’re slowly drifting further into January; work feels like a familiar routine again, relaxed afternoons filled with books and chocolate are now a distant memory, and as always, a few of those healthy eating resolutions are starting to wear a bit thin! If you’re struggling to stick to your lettuce leaf lunch or breakfast in a bottle then we’ve got a deliciously healthy recipe for you today that will keep you on track, because here at RPS and CICO Books Towers, we believe that healthy eating should still mean tasty eating!
Taken from the flavour-filled new book, Out of the Pod, this recipe will make you reconsider the humble salad (and lovely lentils!) and will have you reaching for the herbs to freshen up your dull diet dishes. We hope you enjoy it and good luck with your resolutions!
salad of puy lentils with roasted beetroot
The habit of serving lentils with beet(root) goes back to Roman times. Writing in 2nd-century Rome, the physician and philosopher Galen recommended this health-giving combination in his treatise On the Power of Foods, dressing the salad with a sweet and salty fish sauce. If a fishy taste appeals, add some fish sauce to the dressing instead of salt. Serve the salad on its own, or strewn with crumbled salty cheese, such as feta, or slices of grilled halloumi cheese.
500 g/1 lb. beet(root), peeled and cut into wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
200 g/1 cup dried Puy or French green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
salt and ground black pepper
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF) Gas 4.
Place the beet(root) in a small roasting pan, and toss in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil together with 3 tablespoons of water, 2 of the bay leaves and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper, cover with aluminium foil and roast in the preheated oven until they are soft – about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, boil the lentils in a saucepan of water, together with the whole garlic cloves and the remaining bay leaf and olive oil, for about 30 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.
Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.
Drain the lentils and stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the dressing and the chopped fresh herbs. Arrange the chunks of cooked beet(root) over, drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve at room temperature.
Out of the Pod by Vicky Jones is available here.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy healthy eating!
This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Recipes, Recipes, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with lentils, olive oil, beetroot, parsley, savoury, thyme, recipe for the weekend, vegetarian, 2014, balsamic, healthy, Out of the Pod
One thing that we look forward to at the start of each new year in the RPS and CICO office, is getting started on a whole load of exciting new crafts! If you follow us on Instagram then you can check out our office crafternoons and lovely lunchtime makes – it’s so hard to resist when we’re surrounded by so many super craft books! And one book that we reckon will keep popping up throughout 2015 is A Year in Crafts by Clare Youngs. Full of seasonal projects and multi-media makes, there’s something in this book for every month and occasion!
So, to kick start the new year, we’ve picked a project from the January collection. These printed clipboards are simple to make and the perfect craft to get you organised!
It’s a new year, a fresh start, and time to make those resolutions. I usually make one that involves being more organized. I tend to work on small scraps of paper that pile up or get pushed into the back of a sketchbook. Last year I made clipboards and hung them in a row above my desk and it works! I can now have a board for each project and keep my desk free of loose paper, with more room for making.
Hand-printing is a lovely way to personalize your makes. Once you have cut your printing stamps you can use them on all sorts of projects, from gift wrap, greetings cards, and gift tags to fabric.
You will need
Selection of erasers
Sheets of letter-size (A4) white paper
Sheets of letter-size (A4) heavyweight gray board
Large binder clips
1. To make an oval-shaped pattern, use a rectangular eraser. Draw a leaf shape along the whole length of the eraser using a soft pencil. Using a craft knife, and working on a cutting mat, cut out the leaf shape.
2. With the lino-cutting tool, score lines across the width of the oval shape. Draw some pencil lines to help place the grooves or cut freehand. Make the lines different thicknesses by applying more or less pressure as you cut. Score a few lines that cross over each other to give you a more textured surface.
3. Use the oval stamp to print a repeat pattern on a sheet of white paper. You can achieve lovely effects by overprinting with a second color. I have printed rows of blue ovals and then used the same stamp to overprint slightly to one side using silver.
4. Use a square eraser to make another stamp in the same way, and print a second sheet of white paper with a different pattern. I have rotated my stamp for alternate rows and have overprinted with a simple circle cut from a square eraser.
5. To make a clipboard, stick a sheet of printed paper to the gray board using craft glue.
6. Cut a strip of patterned paper to the same width as a binder clip. Fold the paper around the clip and trim the edges for a neater fit. Stick the paper onto the clip using craft glue.
When it comes to printing, it is a good idea to experiment with different shapes and combinations of colors before committing to a final design. You can keep your experiments as references for future craft projects.
A Year in Crafts by Clare Youngs is available here.
Have a lovely evening all and here's to a great year of crafting!
With Christmas and New Year practically a distant glimmer, there’s lots of talk of detoxing, health kicks and gym memberships in the office. Whilst we are thinking of resolutions for our physical health and wellbeing, we should also take this opportunity to think about our mental wellbeing too, especially in the workplace. Whether your resolution is to boost creativity, alleviate stress or increase focus, Anna Black’s Mindfulness @ Work can help! She simply explains the practice of being mindful, as well as suggesting some straightforward meditations that will improve your working life. You might have seen this post with ideas to help you kick-start your resolutions for 2015, and we’ve got loads more to share with you over the next few weeks, starting with these tips to help you work more mindfully.
Working With Habits
Habits are a learned set of behaviors. They are routine and we do them without awareness. For a set of behaviors to become a habit, the brain shifts control from the top of the head to the bottom, the basal ganglia. This area automatically controls routine activities, without conscious awareness. To reverse a habit, we have to bring it back into our consciousness, become aware of its particular triggers and choose to do something different. We need self-awareness, and this is cultivated through mindfulness practice by regularly bringing our attention to our experience as it unfolds.
Decide on something that has become a habit that you would like to change. It could be checking your e-mails every few minutes, for example.
When you do become aware of the impulse to act in the habitual way—notice it. Where do you feel it in the body? What are you thinking of? What is driving the behavior? Notice any emotions such as boredom, restlessness, or fear.
Remind yourself that you have a choice about what to do next. What alternatives are available to you and what is the wisest option for you to take in the moment?
Remember that to begin with, our awareness often kicks in after or during the event rather than before. This is perfectly normal. Be gentle with yourself and, if it’s possible, stop the unhelpful habit in the very moment you realize you are doing it.
The more we can do something differently, the better able we are to establish newly embedded patterns of behavior. The more you practice checking in with yourself and bringing yourself into the present moment, for example, the more these practices become embedded into the basal ganglia. You will find yourself doing them without consciously initiating them. We do, however want to let go of any automatic behaviors that are not particularly helpful.
Mindfulness @ Work by Anna Black is available here.