Chinese New Year

Chinese Inspired Bracelet

Chinese New Year’s Day 2015 has come and gone, leaving people to continue arguing about which animal really represents it. Is it a sheep, a goat or a ram?

Well, according to the Indian edition of International Business times last week, it could easily be any of them.

One thing seems certain, it is a horned animal of some sort. Confusion about exactly which horned animal it is appears to come from the Chinese character, Yang. It means sheep. But apparently it is also used for goat and ram as well. So while many people claim this Chinese New Year is the Year of the Sheep, others claim it is the ram or goat.

My daughter-in-law is Chinese and she most definitely says it is the Year of the Goat. So I have made my mind up based on that.

Meanwhile, I had been making a bracelet to give her as a present to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It doesn’t have any horned animals on it because I was so confused. Instead, I used Chinese coin symbols in the design because the New Year is a time when ‘lucky money’ is given. I also attached some little Chinese coin charms on it to represent ‘lucky money’.

And then I couldn’t wait to give it to her – so impatient! So she got it for her birthday in January instead. But that’s ok; lucky money is given at other times of celebration too – such as birthdays and weddings.

New Bracelet Template Design For Chinese New Year and beyond

In the run up to Chinese New Year, I worked on another Chinese themed design for people who would like to make their own ‘lucky money’ Chinese bracelets for the New Year or for any celebration.

Red and gold are used a lot during Chinese New Year. This is because Red traditionally represents good fortune and joy in the Chinese culture while gold (yellow), represents beauty, neutrality and good luck.

So I designed another paper bead template very similar to the one I designed to make the bracelet at the top of the page.

This is the bracelet I made:

Chinese New Year

Red for Good Fortune – Gold For Beauty and Good Luck

The two designs are similar but for the second one, I made the coin symbols smaller and put three on each bead strip. On the first template, I only used one symbol per bead strip.

Three is considered to be a lucky number in the Chinese culture. I also added three Chinese coin charms of varying sizes and attached them with one split ring to the bracelet.

If you want to get the template and have a go at making one yourself, my designs are available to buy and download instantly at my Etsy Shop. You can find very easy to follow, step by step instructions on how to use the templates on my instructables page.

Have fun with them, hope you had a great Chinese New Year – that is sheep, goat or ram. But I am going with ram!

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Valentine Day

Even Cupid Pulls a Sickie Now and Then

Valentine Day – like it or loathe it – is almost here once again. While I have been busy not doing housework, I have been busy thinking of things to make for Valentine Day.

Valentine Day

Warning – Mushy Day is Coming !

I know what you are thinking, she could easily do that with a vacuum cleaner in her hand but you’d be wrong.

The noise of the vacuum stops me thinking. It destroys my creativity. Well at least that is what I told my husband. He’s happy enough, he knows I will go dust- chasing when we can’t see the floor any more. Anyway, who said it was my job?

Valentine Day – What is It?

So, Valentine Day – what actually is it apart from being  a day when I wait in for the postman. I like to yell at him as he goes past my house and say things like, ‘Hey you – what have you done with all my cards, again, you thief!’

I looked at good old Wikipedia to get info about Valentine Day because believe it or not, despite the tons and tons of cards I have had in my lifetime (four), I don’t really have a clue what it’s about. Anyway, Wikipedia says it’s a feast.There is some sort of persecution situation involved as well. One story says St. Valentine of Rome was put in prison for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He also ministered to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. That must have been a big no-no because it led to his execution. Are you like me in that you are  having a little bit of trouble seeing where the romance comes in?

Ok, well there was some, believe it or not. While this dreadful ‘criminal’ was in prison waiting to be executed for actually marrying people, he healed the jailer’s daughter. Sorry, doesn’t say what she had but anyway, she was cured. And when poor old St. Valentine of Rome was about to executed, so the story goes, he sent her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’. Ahhh. Sweet.

Valentine Day

Watch out – Cupid’s About

Somehow, St Valentine Day became some sort of official feast for the churches. Various denominations celebrate it on various days – not just on February 14th. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates St. Valentine’s Day in July – twice for some reason according to Wikipedia. And in Brazil, it is June 12th.

 

However, it did not become a romantic lovey-dovey  thing until the 18th century when Geoffrey Chaucer’s circle had a lot of ‘courtly love’ going on (so that’s what they called it). And then of course there was Hallmark  and Interflora, not to mention Thornton’s Chocolates who saw the sense in ‘making a day of it’. Here is the link if you want a sensible explanation wiki Valentine info . I like the bit under ‘Observances’ where it says, ‘sending greeting cards’ like it’s the law or something.

So this week, as the vacuum cleaner sat in the corner glaring at me, I was sitting at my desk thinking up some projects for inexpensive alternatives to Valentine Day cards.

Valentine Day Surprises without Spending Loads of Money

I made this out of scrap food packets:
Valentine Day

Make Someone Happy!

I have to warn you, once the person has lifted the tag and thought ‘wow – I wonder who is that from’, it isn’t really that useful. However, if you use the right sort of card, i.e. very shiny and metallic, it does spin some nice reflections around the room  when you hang it up. It is rigid and feels like it’s made of very light wood. I had fun making it, not least because someone rang in the middle of it and my hand got stuck to the phone. I love PVA glue.

I also made this Valentine Day gift wrap from plain brown paper:

Valentine Day

Surprise Your Valentine With Homemade Gift Wrap

Brown paper is one of my favourite craft materials. The more you screw it up, the better it gets. You can’t say that about many things in life.

Then I made this cute little Valentine Day key-ring. Can’t wait to see if my husband actually uses it. I’m going to tell him I made it especially for his locker key at work – I’m sure the others guys will love it. No of course they wont tease him. Heavens, they aren’t children.

Valentine Day

Of COURSE he’ll love it!

And lastly, I made a Valentine Day card from craft stuff I had lying around:

Valentine Day Card

Who Get’s This?

As my husband is getting the key-chain and I don’t want to spoil him too much, I may just sign this from George Clooney and stick through some random person’s door.

If you want to have a go at any of these projects, they are all listed on Guide Central – see below links:

The Gift Wrap – Guide Central

The Valentine Day card – Guide Central

The Guess Who ‘wooden’ tag – Guide Central and instructables

The key-ring – Guide Central

And if you want to see the 1inch circle designs I have in my Etsy shop (electronic downloads) click here Etsy.

Come back soon – I have a great project for the Chinese New Year on February 19th – if  I can get it done in time.

 

 

chia seeds

Chia Seeds - What's the Big Deal?

Chia seeds seem to have become the latest 'super food'. When I typed in chia seeds as an internet search, it came up with 5,240,000 results.

There are many bold claims being made about the properties of Chia seeds including claims about weight loss and heart disease prevention.

Now I don't know about you but whenever I see any product that claims to aid weigh loss, the alarm bells ring.

There are many bold claims being made about the properties of Chia seeds - but are they true? Click To Tweet

Continue reading

Paper jewelry can be made from practically any paper, especially scrap.

To prove this, I set out to make two bracelets from paper that would normally get thrown away.

The paper jewellery you see here was not designed in the way I create many of my other pieces.

paper jewelry
paper jewelry

Instead of spending time to find special materials for my paper jewelry like I usually do, I simply used what I had to hand to see what I could make.

The orange and green bracelet was created from a very small and flimsy paper bag. It came from a card shop where I bought a birthday card for a friend. As I left the shop with the card in the paper bag you see below, I wondered if I could create a birthday present from the bag.

I'm not mean - I just felt like setting myself the challenge of making some pretty paper jewelry from the most basic paper materials.

So I came home, printed off a template and away I went with my project. The darker bracelet was created by using the left-over template strips.

That is what I love about the printed templates - they are a fantastic time-saving tool. However, once they have been chopped up with whatever you are cutting, the resulting strips become a brilliant, cheap craft resource.

(Click here for another post about an inexpensive paper source.)

paper jewelry

 

paper jewlery

When I first got into creating paper jewelry many, many years ago now, I made my paper strips the hard way.

I used to mark out the strips and draw lines for every single bracelet or new set of beads. That was tedious! However, I soon discovered that using ready-made templates made life easier. Click here to find a very reasonable priced template to get you started.

For the bracelet I created from the paper bag, I used a one inch tapered template. First I carefully opened the bag out...

...then I lightly stuck the printed template to the plain side using Stick It re-positionable glue tape - (see right).

Next, I used a metal ruler and craft knife to cut along the template lines.

With careful cutting along the template lines, you soon have neatly cut paper bead strips.

Much easier than drawing lines each time!

 

paper jewelry
Paper jewelry

And I ended up with these - the building blocks of paper jewellery...

...a set of strips from the paper bag and a set of strips from the template.

Once my strips were all cut, I used the technique outlined here on instructables.com  to create my paper bag beads...

 

...then, I used a technique (that I will outline in another blog post eventually) to decorate and color the 'scrap' strips from the template and then, I created these beads.

The paper I print my templates on is just ordinary A4 copy paper. They are made very strong with the coats of glazing I give the beads and, they are splash proof.

 

Paper Jewelry from Very Inexpensive Resources!

And here are the results of the challenge I set myself to make a wearable and pretty birthday present from the bag my friend's birthday card came in.

And I made not one but TWO bracelets because I used the template strips too.

Remember, all it took was just one small paper bag, one sheet of plain A4 copy paper, some 1mm black elastic and a few gold beads, charms and split rings from my craft cupboard.

paper jewelry

The result was some paper jewellery that was perfectly worthy of accompanying the birthday card that came in the paper bag.

Who needs expensive craft papers to make pretty paper jewelry!

Making your own artsy jewelry is easier than you think!

So how do you get this...
...from this?
artsy jewelry
artsy jewelry

Paper beading is probably one of the least expensive crafts to get into and, it is the fastest way to produce artsy jewelry.

Paper beading is also probably one of the most addictive crafts I know of. When I talk to people about 'paper beads', they often look at me as if I am mad.

However, when I show them the beads, the usual response is, wow, you made them from paper?

artsy jewelry

The other thing about making artsy jewelry from paper beads is they way it makes you fall in love with junk mail and supermarket magazines.

It also helps you stop hitting the postman for trying to put rubbish through your front door. You will no longer want to fling the front door open and shower the postie with all the junk he just put through your letter box.

Making paper beads also  gives you a whole new perspective on the racks of seemingly useless leaflets and free magazines in supermarkets.

You will no longer just walk past them  muttering about wasted trees like a grumpy old hippy. You'll probably do what I do and hover around the customer services desks trying not to look as if you are about to pinch their entire supply of the current in-house magazines.

artsy jewelry

Recently, I became so absorbed in feeling all the leaflets in the racks by customer services that at first, I didn't notice a security guard staring at me. I must have looked very odd standing there rubbing leaflets between my fingers as I checked the paper quality and thickness.

The thing is though, you can't really get into trouble for taking something that is free can you? I think the security guard was more bewildered than suspicious. He's probably never seen anyone spend so much time touching leaflets for over 50s health insurance and flu jabs. I expect most people read them rather than feel them.

artsy jewelry

Paper beads have turned me into a waste paper junkie!

I have begun to raid the recycling bins of my friends and family and beg them for the newspaper color supplements that most people moan about as they fall out of the newspaper by the ton. Not me - I can't get enough now that I want to turn them into jewellery.

Paper Beads and even crafting in general makes me love waste paper, card and bags!

Once word got round in my family that I wanted everyone's junk paper etc, I got so much of it that I had to dedicate a corner of my studio/workshop to storing it. I think I now have more color supplements than most newsagents.

I probably don't have enough productive years of life left to use it all but at least it will give my kids something to do when I pop my clogs. I can hear them now at my funeral after-party saying, come on, I suppose we'd better go and hire a 10 ton truck to shift mother's 'craft supplies'.

But what is so brilliant about paper beads? Well, I think it's the fact that you can take a mundane sheet of A4 paper and turn it into a very pretty bracelet.

And, you don't need to be a crafting expert to produce some really beautiful pieces. With a little practice and some imagination, you can make some really cool stuff very quickly.


artsy jewelry

It's amazing how quickly paper beads mount up when you get into it. Before long, you will have thousands of them!

And your annoyance at the postman for dumping rubbish through your door will change to gratitude for the lovely free craft resources brings you!

It made me smile to think that a national pizza chain was spending good money on full colour printing to supply me with free paper beading material. Every time another full color flyer, magazine or leaflet drops onto my mat, I feel love for marketing departments all over the UK as they keep me supplied with lovely paper.

When I first got into making paper beads many years ago, I found the process quite drawn out.

There was lots of measuring and drawing lines. Each bead is made from a strip of paper. The shape, length and thickness of the strip is what determines the size and shape of the bead. So I created my own templates to use.

I also used the templates in my workshop with my students and they loved them.

Eventually I designed sets of templates that anyone could buy, even if they hadn't been to one of my workshops and they are available here in my Etsy shop.

Although I love using junk mail and scrap paper to make my beads, I also love using my own paintings to create wearable art.

For this article, I used the brown paper fabric I created in my last blog post.

artsy jewelry

You can find the link to that here. You can still recycle scrap paper doing this if you collect the right kind of paper. Just this morning, a parcel arrived from Amazon. It was a replacement liner for the cafetiere I managed to break two days after my husband got it for Christmas.

It was packed in yards and yards of the kind of brown paper that is perfect for turning into painted 'fabric' using the method outlined here last month. So I snaffled that straight away and will be turning it into thousands more paper beads.

Want to Make Your Own Paper Beads?

Many years ago, I developed a paper bead rolling tool for my own use because I was frustrated with using pieces of bamboo and other unsatisfactory methods of rolling.

Over the years, I have developed the tool from the original handle, which was curved, to a straight handle which was cheaper, easier to produce and lighter for posting out to people who wanted to buy them . But as most of my students preferred the old style handle, we have now gone back to using the curvier handles that are easier to grip with the thumb and forefinger when rolling.


 

artsy jewelry

These paper bead tools are the easiest bead rolling tools you will ever use. They take the stress and fumble out of getting the beads off the roller - they come off easily every time because of the stainless steel shaft. You can find my tools in two sizes by clicking here.

artsy jewelry

You will find that when you buy the two tools together, you get my paper bead strip stencil free!

The stencil alone costs £5.99 and can be used to create bead strips in four different sizes. If you want to see my tools and stencils in action, click here to see  the video on my YouTube channel.

If you want to create some artsy jewelry or find out more about paper bead making check out my YouTube channel and my crafting website.

If you explore both of them, you will find out how to use my 5mm tool to make gorgeous European style beads with the pandora look. You will also find out how to use my 3mm tool to make beads with a smaller hole for finer threading materials.

Who knows, you could even start selling your artsy jewelry at craft fairs - so what are you waiting for!

 

 Brown Paper Arty ‘Fabric’

Brown Paper

Amazing Art Creations From Brown Paper

 

Brown paper isn’t that inspiring, right? Wrong! It can be the really inexpensive foundation for your works of art, destined to become one-off journal covers.

Strong brown paper is weird stuff. When you screw it up and open it out over and over again, it goes like fabric. The fibre content seems to break down and it becomes more cloth-like than paper.

It is one of my favorite papers to work with because it is relatively cheap, compared to art papers; one roll will give you hours of creativity. It will also give you a pile of original, one-off designs that make fantastic journal or album covers.

You can even stitch brown paper after you have softened it by the method I use, so there are infinite uses for your works of art.

Get Creative With Brown Paper Today

There are various ways of coloring brown paper from pastels and permanent felt-tips to acrylic paint. I have experimented with many different ways of producing ‘fabric’ from paper, including using high-fibre content artists papers in different weights and textures (and prices!!!!). Now, I have a huge box full of my own designs that could never be repeated due to the randomness of the process and it is a massive advantage to me when I want to add something extra special to an album or journal I am making.

Although lots of different papers work really well, some even better than brown paper, I still prefer using it above other papers because it is cheaper for experimenting on in large quantities.

If you want to see my process, click over to my page on Instructables.com where you will find step by step instructions on how to make beautiful paper ‘fabric’. Click here http://www.instructables.com/id/Brown-Paper-Fabric-Art/

See how you can turn plain old brown paper like this:

Brown Paper

Plain Old Brown Paper

Into something dazzling – like this!

Brown Paper

Dazzling ‘fabric’ like Material From Brown paper

The tutorial on Instructables.com is a basic how-to guide but I will be updating here over the coming months to expand into other brown paper projects that you can try once you have some of you own designs finished.

So do check back now and then to see what you can do with your brown paper creations. Have fun and don’t worry about ‘mistakes’, – there are no such things when dabbling with arty crafty stuff – just new discoveries!

 

Egg box up-cycling is much more fun than dusting window sills and it is a great project to do with children from around seven years old upwards.

Egg box

Egg box transformed into a colorful and useful storage box.

With the Christmas school holidays looming , this is a great little project you can do with any creative children you have in the family. An empty egg box is also a great free material to use, thus saving you money on expensive manufactured craft resources.

It is also a great way for them to learn about making flimsy materials, such as cereal box cardboard, (also used in this egg box project), stronger by building up layers to create small objects out of it.

Fun with an egg box and a pile of comics

As you will know from my last blog-post, I have a ton of comics that I bought in a mad fit of auction bidding. You know the scene? You feel yourself raising your hand yet again while your brain is screaming at you to leave it in your pocket where it can’t spend your money on junk.

Egg box

So many comics – so little time

So anyway, I ended up with a box of comics that I am gradually sticking over anything that stays still long enough to get a coat of glue. It’s called decoupage. I also have another habit of collecting beads (in case the several thousand I already have run out) and so I came up with the idea of using an egg box as a bead storage container. It looks nicer than a plain old shop-bought plastic tray.

As I wasn’t that sure whether an egg box was going to be easy or quick to work with, I decided to use a six egg box. However, if I did this again, I would use a 12 or 24 egg box because I do have rather a lot of beads.

If you do this project with a child, it makes a great little home-made Christmas gift for anyone in their family who does beading or sewing. I chose to make a bead box but you could just as easily make this into a sewing box if you made up some small pincushions and stuck them in a couple of the compartments. A child could even make one of these for a male relative to keep nails, screws, washers etc in. Not that I am saying men don’t sew or bead of course…

Actually you could keep just about anything in this box and lets face it, if you get one of these from your granddaughter this Christmas, you are going to have to keep something in it aren’t you? Trust me, you will. Children never forget stuff they once made and proudly presented to you, as I found out when my grown-up son once asked me where the book- ends were that he made in wood-tech. Oh dear. I am sure they are in the loft somewhere though.

If you want to see the step by step instructions for how to make this little egg box bead holder click on this link to go to my Instructables page – http://www.instructables.com/id/Funky-Egg-Box-Bead-Storage/

Egg box

Functional knob and little feet to match – what more could you want?

I hope you have fun making one – if you do, be sure to post a picture of it on my Instructables page. I had fun making mine, I was peeling glue off my hands for days. However, I did find out that peeling transparent glue off your hands in public is a really good way to freak people out.

So go grab an egg box and go for it!

decoupage using comics

 

 Decoupage Using Comics

decoupage using comics

Keep Me Away From Auctions!

Decoupage using comics came to me as a flash of inspiration after I bought a box of old comics at auction. I have a terrible habit of buying stuff like that with only a vague idea of what I might do with them. After I had been tripping over the box in my studio for several weeks, I decided it was time to up-cycle, recycle or re-purpose them, whatever the current trendy name for saving the planet is.

decoupage using comics

Hours of Fun

So I decided to so some decoupage using comics. I was astounded that making four mirrors and several notebooks made no difference to the pile of comics and the planet still seems to be in trouble.

However, I did have fun and would recommend decoupage using comics as a way to get lost in crafts for a few hours. It does give your brain a break from worrying about whatever impending disasters await mankind according to World News.

Decoupage Using Comics is Easy and Inexpensive

It is really easy to do decoupage using comics. It is also inexpensive compared to other hobbies such as skiing which usually involves finding some snow in another country.

There is really no limit to what you can jazz up with bits of comic book pages. I have created notebooks from recycled paper, up-cycled comics and re-purposed cereal boxes – it made me feel like the Mother Teresa of unwanted things.

Those trees didn’t die in vain, I thought as my grandsons drew in their fully up-cycled Bart Simpson notebooks (with recycled paper of course).

decoupage using comics

Bart Simpson comic pages re-purposed

Seriously, hippydom to one side, decoupage using comics is a great way to do some craft projects on the cheap. You can use any printed matter really which means you don’t have to go out and spend cash on the prettied up, soulless expensive craft papers that everyone else is using. Your projects will look unique if you make use of any discarded, colorful printed matter.

You can create truly personalized presents for children using their favorite comic characters on mirrors or picture frames for their rooms. You can even adding their names if you feel really artistic.

Use Charity Shop Frames and Mirrors to Decoupage Using Comics

So far, I have decoupaged cheap picture frames that I have bought in charity shops for next to nothing and mirrors bought cheaply from places such as Wilkinson’s and The Range (in the UK) and sometimes, charity shops.

decoupage using comics

Minnie The Minx Mirror

I have done decoupage using comics on recycled cardboard from food packaging that I have strengthened and conditioned with a layer of decoupage glue first. I have then created notebooks for myself and the children in the family which I stitch with wax thread using the Coptic binding method.

Awesome Decoupaged Comic Shoes!

It wasn’t until I came across the mother of all decoupage with comics ideas on the Instructables website that I realized my projects, while charming in their own way, don’t have the edge of the decoupaged high-heeled Iron Man shoes made by Scooter76. This picture shows them in all their awesomeness.

decoupage using comics

Truly Original Shoes by Scooter76

I was very tempted to have a go myself but as I forgot how to walk in high heels round about 1987, I didn’t see the point (or want to balance on one). I did have a go a my son’s wedding a few years back as boots don’t go too well with dressy dresses. However, I fell off them during the official pictures.

Unfortunately high heels don’t seem to be like bicycles which apparently you can get straight back on and ride after a fall. So now I stick to boots with a two-inch cuban heel max and I find I can move at 200 miles an hour in them as opposed to laying immobile on the ground in high heels with my knickers on show.

Step By Step Instructions

Anyhow, back to Scooter76’s shoes. You could do this with practically any comic or magazine and a bit of practice. Click on here to go straight to his step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Going back to my own projects, you can find step-by-step instructions for the Bart Simpson note-book by clicking here and for  the comic mirror or picture frame here.

decoupage using comics

Minnie The Minx Picture Frame

If you want to try the Deco Mache glue that I use in my Instructables tutorial, you can get it here on Amazon.


Happy glueing! I would be interested to hear about the most unusual thing you have successfully decoupaged and please don’t say it was your mother-in-law because that is just cruel.

#MidLifeLuv Linky

The Apprentice is back on our screens and already I am in despair over the glaring discrepancy between the candidates’ ludicrous self-puffery and their actual abilities.

The Apprentice

My weekly dose of Sugar

If you want to see what the trend for over-praising children has done to the rising generations, watch The Apprentice closely and see what empty adults over-indulged children make.

And parents of tiny children take note, if you insist on telling little Oscar how clever he is every single time he does the most mundane things, he will grow up to be like the most annoying candidates on The Apprentice. I am talking about the ones who believe they can get by in life simply by banging on about how great they are at everything without actually being obviously great at anything outside their own world of experience.

The Apprentice is, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining but disturbing shows on TV today. Every year we see a bunch of youngsters bigging themselves up to bursting point. They all say the same stuff – “I’m passionate, I’m the best there is, I could sell ice to Eskimos, I’m like a young Lord Sugar” etc etc etc.

However, once the action starts, we see there is no real substance behind many of the bold claims and I really do blame the parents and teachers of what I call the “Wow! Well done!” generation.

I saw a lot of this kind of empty praise going on in schools when I worked with under-achieving children in mainstream education. The idea was to praise, praise, praise to break through low self-esteem barriers but it doesn’t work, it just creates young adults who think they don’t have to do much to get high praise. Then they discover the real world where actual results matter and empty claims get found out very quickly.

Encourage your child or pupil by all means. Be supportive but don’t throw praise around like cheap confetti. Save the ‘wow well dones’ for genuine achievements to help them learn the difference between mediocrity and excellence and to give them something to aspire to.

If your mother jumps up and down and says “good boy! Clever boy! Look Daddy, Oscar made a dot on the paper! Clever boy!”, then you aren’t going to develop your mark-making skills beyond the dot because the dot you did was obviously the best thing ever. That is where the self-delusion begins, unless you have sensible parents or teachers who save the really lavish praise for achievements of substance.

Quite how the producers of The Apprentice go about choosing the candidates I do not know, but I feel sure there must be an element of picking people for their potential entertainment value rather than any true hope that they could be Lord Sugar’s next business partner.

I mean, did anyone look at former PA Sarah Dales and seriously think for one minute that her child-like petulance and obsession with getting business through wearing shorts skirts and make-up would be a good match for Lord Sugar? Did anyone really think handing her £250,000 of his money would be a good idea?

Anyone with Victoria Beckham as a role model would have rung alarm bells for me. Not because I don’t like Victoria Beckham – I don’t know her, but because I don’t think that is an intelligent thing to say when you want to get into business with Lord Sugar.

There are so many female entrepreneurs that have got where they are today without pouting moodily from the pages of Hello magazine, that she could have picked someone more known for business balls than for tits and teeth or being a footballer’s wife.

It is hard to believe that whoever selects the candidates is not on the ball enough to pick up on people who are, in my opinion, whiny, spoilt and emotionally immature. I mean who has stand up petty arguments on the street, in front of potential customers? Who struts around saying “I’m the project manager” every two seconds instead of actually project managing? Great TV though.

If the producers also look for entertaining no-hopers to pad out the show as well as genuine potential business partners, then they have done a sterling job this year.

Otherwise, it would be scary to think that this lot genuinely are the best the UK has to offer in the year 2014 and I would dread to think what the rejects were like.

We are only into the third week of The Apprentice and already Nick Hewer and Karen Brady seem to be despairing of some candidates and their antics. Quite how Karen Brady kept her cool over Sarah Dale’s inappropriate instructions for her team to wear short skirts and make-up to get sales I’ll never know.

Nick Hewer’s disgust at candidate decisions and actions always comes across so well during filming without the need for words. He is a master of using his facial muscles to communicate his thoughts to the watching public and Karen seems to have the same talent. They both make great TV and although I hate the term ‘he doesn’t suffer fools gladly’, they certainly don’t and it is very entertaining.

Whilst they seem annoyed and bemused in equal measure by what some of the candidates do, there does also seem to be an underlying desire for them to do well at the tasks and their reactions sometimes seem as if they are genuinely frustrated that some people are not doing better.

There are a few promising candidates in The Apprentice this year though but sadly, one of the best left last night after realising she was totally out of her depth with the load of deluded wannabes she found herself with.

Swimming academy owner Lindsay Booth may be one of the most real and likeable candidates The Apprentice has ever seen. While perhaps not right for the cut-throat world of business at Lord Sugar’s level, I believe she showed herself to be an absolute gem amongst a load of pea shingle.

We hear a lot of talk from youngsters these day about ‘keepin’ it real’ while they are doing anything but – however, Lindsay did just that with an enormous amount of humility which showed her true worth as a grounded human being.

She seemed genuinely bemused at the embarrassing, erratic antics of her fellow candidates when they were trying to sell candles. I don’t think she was incapable of doing it – I just think she was knocked off centre by the noisy din of the empty vessels around her.

It seemed like the first time she had encountered such self-absorbed people with unrealistic ideas about their own talents. I am glad for her that she is out of the pool of sharks because I think she is better off in a pool with the children she teaches to swim. I hope her academy grows and grows – she deserves it.

But what of the rest? Roisin Hogan seems very capable at this point and is one who does not seem full of empty promises. She has poise and humility and is articulate, unlike many of the other candidates who seem to think fast repetition of a word shows managerial skills as in:

“guysguysguysguysguysguysguysguysguys”

or,

“woahwoahwoahwoahwoahwoahwoah” .

We used to do that in primary school to get the attention of the teacher when we knew the right answer as in:

“MissMissMissMissMissMiss!” It didn’t work then either.

Another irritating habit is this modern tendency of showing what an ‘emotionally intelligent’, ‘assertive’ person you are by saying “I’m talking now, be quiet. Will you let me finish?” over and over again while the other person talks over you. Or sometimes, “When I’m finished talking, you can have your turn. That’s called a conversation.” Really?

Oh how mature these people are. And they never seem to learn, you just don’t tell Lord Sugar how much like him you are, especially when you have also said how much like Del Boy you are. Those two comparisons do betray a certain level of confusion about successful men that isn’t likely to impress Lord Sugar.

And then there are the ‘Lord Lickers’ as I call them who utter Lord Sugar’s name every three words as if he is royalty. “Yes Lord Sugar. I really want this Lord Sugar. It won’t happen again Lord Sugar. Just give me a chance Lord Sugar. I’ll show you what I can do Lord Sugar.” Shut the f*@% up!!!! There is enough sugar there to make a bloody cake big enough to feed London for a week!

Don’t get me wrong, I think Lord Sugar is to be respected for the business man he is, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who likes backside lickers who bow and scrape to him while repeating his name every two seconds. It’s so uncomfortable to watch – he is just a successful businessman/celeb, he isn’t God. We are all equal in our humanity, which comes before race, financial status and breeding – so cut it out guys and have some self-respect!

Anyway, the more irritating the candidates on The Apprentice get, the better viewing it is. This looks as if it is shaping up to be one of the best yet and this year’s ‘You’re Fired!’ twist is making it compulsive viewing.

Thank you Lord Sugar. You’re great Lord Sugar. The Apprentice is the best Lord Sugar. Jesus! Much more sugar and we’ll all be sick!!!!! Actually, that is the only complaint I have about The Apprentice, all joking apart, there isn’t enough of Lord Sugar in it – his blunt witticisms and straight-talking are refreshing in this stupidly politically correct world.

Apart from that, I’m happy for the next few weeks as the firings continue…

Visit here for all the official BBC stuff about The Apprentice because this, as you will have guessed, is just the view of a viewer.

Pumpkin Cake

My Own Take On Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin cake - what can I say? It's that time of year when the shops are full of pumpkins, many of which will have been carved into 'scary' faces and left on doorsteps with candles burning inside for Halloween.

But what happens to the flesh that people scrape out of the pumpkin shell?

And are pumpkins useful beyond Halloween?

Well of course they are. Pumpkins are a nutritious fall vegetable and should not be ignored after Halloween.

Are pumpkins useful beyond Halloween? Click To Tweet
Pumpkin Cake

The idea of Pumpkin Cake came to me as I stood in a UK supermarket staring at the enormous pile of pumpkins in front of me before Halloween.

I was marveling at the way big business has now brainwashed the UK into buying pumpkins as if Guy Fawkes night and Christmas don't give people enough to worry about.

When I was a kid in the UK, Halloween had not been turned into a money-spinning event and was still only a way of scaring kids into going to bed early on October 31st.

Am I alone in having believed Halloween was the night when witches, goblins and ghosts would come down the chimney and party round the hearth all night or were my parents especially cruel?

"Better get to sleep before dark!" they would say, "or the ghouls will get you'.

Pumpkin Cake

So that was it for Halloween in our house and, I suspect, in most UK homes at that time.

No sweets or dressing up for us. Just shaking in our beds 'til morning. Great! What fun! I'm not sure that anyone in the UK even knew about 'trick or treating' back then.

I certainly didn't hear about it until I emigrated to North America.

There were lots of US draft dodgers living in my apartment complex.

They had come up from the states many years earlier because of the call up during the Vietnam war and so Halloween was a massive event in our building.

People went to great lengths to create very spooky experiences for kids banging on doors looking for sweets from total strangers ( yup, everything our mother's told us not to do).

Over the years, I came to realise Canadians loved Halloween too and I couldn't help but get into it when my kids were young.

What a shock though when I came back to live in the UK after many years to find the Halloween machine had brought it's money-spinning 'traditions' here too.

As I stared at the massive pile of pumpkins, I wondered what UK people do with the flesh they scoop out when they carve them ready to place on doorsteps to welcome trick or treaters.

Do they use the flesh to make pies and soups they way Americans do? Or do they waste the lovely pumpkin goodness?

So there I was back in October, standing in the supermarket marveling at what a thorough job the marketing men and women have done in making us want to spend a fortune on pumpkins, fake gravestones, flashing skeletons and Dracula masks etc.

skulls-web

Well done guys. Baaaaa! Hey here's an idea, why don't the big stores just have a section (sound proofed and with its own door of course), for the sheep with lots of money to burn, where they can buy Halloween crap, fireworks and Christmas tat all at the same time.

Wouldn't that be great! You could listen to Band Aid, Bing Crosby and the Pogues while choosing your pumpkins, fireworks and Christmas trees.

In fact, you could put fireworks in the pumpkin shells instead of candles and maybe put a witches hat at the top of the Christmas tree instead of an angel.

All the money spinning 'seasons' are gradually blending into one and it would be great if we had a choice as to whether we were subjected to it all.

It all needs its own department store with a notice above that says 'Sheep This way - All Major Credit Cards Accepted'.

But that is a whole other blog post!

So anyway, where was I? Oh yes - Pumpkin Cake.

So what happens to the flesh people scoop out of pumpkins? I know Americans and Canadians make pumpkin pie and soup but I thought I would invent my own pumpkin cake. So yes, I did buy a pumpkin and I did make a cake.

My full recipe (which was trial and error) and the process can be found here at instructables.com I take no responsibility for the outcome. I never claimed to be Mary Berry or Martha Stewart.

Pumpkin Cake

There is no added sugar, fat, oil or wheat and the ingredients are all healthier than actual cake.

So if you love actual cake, I don't think my pumpkin cake will be for you. It came out a bit like bread pudding and I loved it so much, I made it again.

Yes, I bought TWO pumpkins this year and not a scary carved face in sight!

My pumpkin cake is, in my opinion, delicious and healthy and I have been eating it for breakfast. Pumpkin is, apparently, low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. It has no saturated fat or cholesterol but is high in antioxidants and Vitamin A.

For more info on the benefits of pumpkin, have a look at this Huffington Post feature.

My pumpkin cake is, IMO, delicious and healthy. I have been eating it for breakfast. Click To Tweet

I'm off to have my afternoon slice of pumpkin cake.

And by the way, making cakes is not classed as housework. It is close though because it is done in the kitchen. However, as the results of the activity have an enjoyment factor, I don't class it as housework.
Have fun making pumpkin cake and let me know how yours turn out.