Speedboats, soap making and stonemasonry!

I thought it would be fun to share a day of my holiday with you all, I am on a cruise that goes from Venice, around the coast to Croatia, Albania then onto Greece.

Yesterday I visited the island of Brac, pronounced Bratch, in Croatia. This is my first visit to this part of the world and it is quite stunningly beautiful and the people have been so friendly. The tour I chose for the day was much better suited to my crafty interests than the trip Richard chose – visiting Split. This part of Croatia is where they filmed the Game of Thrones and being a super fan, he was so excited to see it all and indeed came back to the boat with loads of pictures and tales to share.

Such stunning stone work… including an outfit! The sculptress who made the the two-piece outfit is Ida Jaksic while the statues were made by her son www.galerijajaksic.com

But back to my trip, first we went on a fabulous speed boat from Split over to the island of Brac… oh I do like fancy boats! Travelling at 30 knots is very exciting. Climbing onto the speedboat helped by two young, topless Mediterranean guys was a nice bonus too!

We travelled first to the home and studios of a family of stonemasons and artists. How wonderful that mother, father, son and daughter can all be so talented and live together too. This limestone outfit (see picture) was just amazing, shown at New York fashion week some years ago, they were also selling some gorgeous carved stone blocks for candles, but I thought it might be asking too much from my luggage allowance!

Onwards then to the highlight of the tour for me. Another family business. The father, Joseph, lost his job but had a family of four children to bring up and get through college, expensive in any country. So he and his wife experimented with traditional family soap recipes and now make over 550 bars of soap every day… wow! The key to the soap is that it is clear and uses only local herbs, oils etc and Joseph himself was oh so interesting. They still operate out of a little room with these pots, barely bigger than you would use in the kitchen. I have so much respect for a family that pulls together like this and the children have now graduated with really impressive degrees.

Quite amazing how they make so much soap in a tiny kitchen!

My fabulous gold soap on the left … and a few of my other soapy purchases! Brac Fini Sapuni www.bracfinisapuni.com

Did I buy anything? Come on, do you need to ask?! They have started manufacturing clear soap with 27 carat gold in it, which is apparently really good for anti-ageing… who cares, it smells gorgeous and is a fab souvenir! It sells for massive amounts all over the world but I managed to buy a bar for 6 euros rather than the 100 it sells for in Scandinavia ! I also got mint, basil, tangerine… oh ok, I bought a lot of soap but hey, it’s my holiday!

A fantastic local meal at Restaurant Ziza completed the day, with red wine, local seafood, fresh figs picked from the tree we sat under and local goat, sheep and ricotta cheeses. I think it was a truly fabulous day. I will try and write more later in the week…

The photo at the top of the page is our delicious lunch at Restaurant Ziza. You cannot beat fresh local produce!

 

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Rebel, rebel!

I hate wasting food. I always fear my grandmother will send a bolt of lightning down if I waste so much as a crust. But I have a slight problem… I am off on holiday and I have way, way too much food in the house, but I do not want to throw it away. Well, I have got braver over the years and despite my grandmother’s dire warnings of what happens if you waste food, I do occasionally give up on things, but not if I can avoid it.

But, argh, you have no idea how badly my food planning has worked out over the past few days. Over the weekend I was expecting to feed a lot more people than it transpired I actually had to. I also reckon I was half asleep when I did my last online Tesco shop. So… I have very little time and an awful lot of food! What to do?

Runner beans:

I’m not taking the blame for the mass I have of these – it’s that time of year and I don’t buy them, they appear magically in my garden! Now I have always thought you had to blanch veggies before freezing, well guess what, seems you don’t! I agree it will probably be at most three months before I use these as we will pounce on them once we return. Maybe the blanching is more important if you are leaving them in the freezer for a year, but I have experimented and they are fine unblanched. So beans… get slicing. One food item down, several to go.

Eggs:

I have talked about freezing eggs before. I often have an omelette for breakfast in my trusty omelette maker that I wrote about here. So I am freezing two lightly beaten eggs and a couple of twists of salt – pink Himalayan salt actually. No, I can’t believe it is any better for you but hey I like pink, it pleases me! So gently mix that lot and pour into a little container. I had 10 eggs left and so have 5 little containers waiting for the next time I plan to have an omelette for breakfast. In the same size containers I froze spring onions that can go with it. That’s another foodstuff ticked off!

Assorted fruit:

What do you do with multiple grapefruit, satsumas, pineapple, and watermelon, oh and not forgetting the butternut squash? (Told you I wasn’t concentrating on my last Tesco shop). Butternut squash, chop into small chunks (ready for roasting or adding to a soup mix) and freeze flat then bag. Pineapple likewise. Grapefruit and satsumas, chop them into small chunks too, trim off any pith and freeze flat, then bag. These are delicious floated in a glass of sparkling water (or still water come to that) and as I drink many bottles of that every week, result!

The final hurdle was the massive watermelon – that wasn’t really my fault either! Sometimes they are quite small but this one could house a couple of small people if you hollowed it out – well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture! Thank you, Mr. Tesco for £2.50! So I got out my trusty Nutribullet (or any other blender will do), removed a few of the pips and then gradually blitzed the lot. Result – several containers of melon juice. This is lovely served cold and is a happy freezer inhabitant!

So now I am wondering about freezing leftover beer and wine – oh, wait! It seems that despite the lack of visitors, there wasn’t any …. (I’m teetotal, so take a guess who’s responsible!)

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Keys to the Beach Hut!

Sadly, we don’t all have a fabulous little beach hut, but we do all need to keep keys somewhere! One of the best things about being a crafter is that our stash can be used for so many different things. Cardmaking, home decorations, scrapbooking, gift making and just plain old playtime for us!

This is a lovely example of two of those categories, you could make something like this as a gift or just to decorate your home. We all need somewhere to put those dratted keys (the ones I lose all the time), and hanging them on a pretty little set of hooks like this is very pleasing! I have a lovely big wooden key with hooks along it in my home, that was made for me by my baby brother when he was at school… um, quite upsetting to remember he has long since had his 50th birthday and runs a very successful pub in Crickhowell in Wales (The Kestrel Inn – I highly recommend the food!) but the key holder is still in place, hand made gifts mean a lot.

You can use MDF as a base or thin plywood or even a piece of thicker wood if you have easier access to that. Get drilling first and make some holes for the string – some chunky rough string looks good. Then start your choice of paint effect. This has been crackled with Weathered Wood – but you could do nice straight stripes or just paint it plain white, or blue or whatever you like.

Once the paint is dry, screw in the cup hooks at the bottom and die cut and colour your beach huts. If you want to make them more serviceable, you could add a layer of matt or glossy varnish or laminate them to make them stronger. Now add them to the plaque together with the seagulls using trusty Pinflair. Use a fair sized blob to make sure you have some height.

Thread the string through and knot – and away you go. This same idea could be utilised with so many different dies and designs.

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It’s a tall story…

Spot the difference – there are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations

Whenever I post anything about giraffes, I get great feedback and a feeling that you all just love these amazing creatures. There are so many things about giraffes that are technically wrong – they look like a poor police photo fit, a peculiar job lot of bits and pieces stuck together – and yet so many people adore them.

They are gentle giants, huge herbivores grazing the treetops in Africa, using their 45cm black tongues to bring the food into their mouths. At the end of that ridiculously long neck is one of cutest faces you will find, a head more suited to a small deer than an 18ft ruminant!

As well as its pretty face, the giraffe also has the most amazingly languid slow motion gait. A running giraffe is never hurried and always graceful, its long limbs making it impossible to make quick movements. A giraffe has only two gaits – walking and galloping, but once it is moving, wow can it move! A giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) and can keep going at 50 km/h (31 mph) for several kilometres.

The giraffe’s coat is another thing of beauty. There are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations. From the pale West African giraffe with widely spaced red blotches on a pale background to the reticulated giraffe whose distinctive coat is made up of sharp-edged, reddish brown patches divided by a network of thin white lines looking very much like crazy paving!

Although generally very quiet animals, giraffes have been heard to communicate using sounds. During courtship, males emit loud coughs, not exactly romantic, but hey… Females call their young by bellowing and their calves will emit snorts, bleats, mooing and mewing sounds. Giraffes also snore, hiss, moan, grunt and make flute-like sounds. And if all that wasn’t cute enough, during the night, giraffes appear to hum to each other! I am so smitten with these animals!

They are sociable creatures, but they don’t form herds. Instead, they meet in groups each day and the makeup of a group changes from day to day – how good is that? No fear of getting stuck with the neighbourhood bore! So, basically, if given the chance, I think I’d like to be a giraffe. But having said that… there are drawbacks. Gestation is 400–460 days… that is an awfully long time to be pregnant. And, while the mother gives birth standing up, a new-born giraffe is between 5’6” and 6’6” tall!!

After more than 400 days of pregnancy, the baby giraffe can be up to 6’6″ tall at birth!

The males, or bulls, establish a pecking order by neck-wrestling. If a strange bull wanders into the area, a resident bull will challenge it, and the two will bang their heads together until one of them retreats! I confess I can think of several leading ‘bulls’ in our world today who I would happily encourage to bang their heads together –­ but no Joanna, don’t go there!

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On safari

We have loved playing with all the jungly safari type dies we produced not so long ago. They make fun cards for all ages – my little Grace loves safari type programmes and I hope she gets to see some of them in the wild when she grows up. I haven’t been on a safari, I keep saying “when I retire” but that doesn’t seem to be getting any closer!

We have all seen the main safari animals in a zoo and one of my favourite visits was the Disney Animal Kingdom. If anyone has the chance staying in a hotel where, when you open your curtains in the morning you can stare at a giraffe not that many paces away, I highly recommend it. I am also very fond of Longleat. We took Grace just recently and she was squealing with excitement at the little monkey sitting on the wing mirror two inches from her face, as she sat on my lap in the front of the car. I was quite happy to have the window glass between us and the monkeys, cute they may be, but I bet they bite!

So lions or monkeys make great subjects for cards whether we have seen them in the wild or not. The animal patchwork dies we have in the series are also a huge success when you use them as backing pieces like the card on the left. They come in various animal effects – this one is the tiger – but crocodile, giraffe and zebra work just as well. The background on the right-hand card shows what fun you can have with some of the inks and pads around at the moment. I am very keen on the Tim Holtz pad ranges but Adirondack Alcohol Inks give amazing effects too. True to our craft, half the fun is just playing!

Simple effects, like cutting a circle from a Post-It note and then sponging around it to create the sun, or snipping cloud shapes again from a Post-It and sponging blue around them for clouds in a blue sky – just play and fiddle, inspiration always strikes!

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