OK, I admit it, I am old enough (just!) to remember steam trains. I am also now of an age to get nostalgic about pretty much anything from my childhood.
We are lucky to have a couple of steam railways near us down here in Devon. One skirts the coast and goes from Paignton to Kingswear – just across the water from the lovely harbour town of Dartmouth. The other, the South Devon Railway, runs beside the river Dart between Ashburton and the town of Totnes. When the river is high, roaring over rocks and surging under bridges it is quite an exciting ride!
When I went on it recently, the smell of the steam engine and the leather of the upholstery transported me instantly back to my childhood in Buckinghamshire and the steam trains that puffed back and forth along the Thames Valley. Steam trains also make those wonderful rhythmical sounds, clanks and bangs and little snorts that all add up to make them seem friendly, almost human, with characters of their own, something the poor old diesel trains never had a hope of achieving.
But thinking about the lovely smell of the steam (I suppose it’s the soot really!), it set me thinking about how evocative smells can be. A particular scent can instantly recall long-forgotten memories as if it were only yesterday. Mostly, the memories are happy but some, often floral, remind me of someone I’ve lost and while it is sad, it’s also good to pause every now and then in our hectic lives, and remember them, and smile.
And so, here are some of the other smells that ‘set me off’:
- Freshly mown grass – school sports days, ugh!
- Two-stroke petrol engines – an early boyfriend!
- Geranium leaves – fresh, earthiness in a damp garden.
- Gunpowder – Guy Fawkes night and the joy of childhood…
What about you? What smells bring memories surging back? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Meanwhile… happy Easter and don’t eat too many eggs!
We all need a bit of a treat when we have to stand up for about four days at the NEC Hobbycraft exhibition – so we thought maybe chocolate brownies would be the answer… and it certainly seemed to go down well with everyone that tried them!
One tip – by trying to save time and melting the chocolate in the microwave on batch two, I would say it definitely did not improve the mix. So I’d suggest staying with the slow but sure method of melting the chocolate over hot water!
The only thing I can’t vouch for is the healthiness of this recipe – I think it comes under the naughty but nice category!
And one other hint – I used foil roasting tins from Tesco – means you can fold them up and throw them away rather than washing up after you have finished. Also, the thin tinfoil keeps the brownies cooking evenly rather than getting a burnt outside and too gooey inside – these were just divine all the way through!
- 150g dark chocolate (I used 79%),100g of milk chocolate
- 300g golden caster sugar, 3 large eggs, 250g of butter
- 120g plain flour, 60g cocoa powder (I used Green and Black’s)
- ½ teaspoon of baking powder, pinch of ground sea salt
- Icing sugar to dust after baking
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line the tinfoil roasting tray with greaseproof paper and butter the paper slightly. It makes the brownies easy to get out once they are cooked.
- Melt the butter, dark and milk chocolate in a large bowl over simmering water.
- Beat the eggs in a cup and in another separate bowl sift the flour.
- Add the sugar to the warm chocolate mix and stir thoroughly. Add the eggs and mix. Finally add all the other ingredients and fold and mix everything until you have a good consistency.
- Pour the mixture into the tray, bake in the oven for about 20/25 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so keep checking. Use a skewer or knife and stick it in the middle of the brownie, it should come out a tiny bit sticky which means they are done. Cool in the tray for about an hour so they are 100% set. Then dust with icing sugar.
This fabulous card has been made using our cameo stamps, which never fail to please me when I plan a design with them. The frame is lovely and there are several heads to choose from.
There are corners that I just love – these are just so detailed and stamp out perfectly whether you choose to use a flat ink like Memento or something raised using a heat embossing technique. This example shows off the use of embossing folders and assorted dies really well. When a design works it reminds me how much scope we have nowadays with all the new inventions that have come into paper craft in the last few years.
I think this particular cameo stamp has a real ‘Jane Austen’ feel to it. This year it’s the bicentenary of the publication of her most famous novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and has been made into numerous film and television adaptations. Who could forget Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy emerging from the lake in the famous BBC adaptation… not me!! The Jane Austen’s appeal is as strong today as it’s always been.
A local company based up in Chagford on Dartmoor, Right Note Stationery, produce a lovely range of products, all hand drawn by the wonderful Richard Sawers, a designer and illustrator of the old school.
He has a lovely range of stationery for Jane Austen fans including a Lady’s Journal and Lady’s Address Book. They also stock Jane Austen bookplates – absolutely vital to ensure everyone knows it’s YOUR copy of Pride and Prejudice!
You can have a look at Right Note’s lovely range of products on his website.
There are several ideas here for you to use with your children or grandchildren if they are visiting at Easter. Crafting can never start too early I reckon! It’s best to get everything prepared so that you can get straight into the ‘interesting’ bits with them rather than boring old getting things ready!
There are dozens of free basket/small box templates on the internet if you do a Google search. Just choose a pretty basic one, you could try this one.
You’ll need coloured card, a butterfly punch or similar and some pretty ribbon. Use the punch all round your basket once it is made up and keep the butterfly pieces for decoration.
We used PVA glue to stick it together and while it’s drying, hold together with a large paper clip or a clothes peg to stop it slipping. We then cut a length of card and glued on a handle then added more butterfly decorations.
These polystyrene eggs are a lovely way to craft with children and use up all sorts of odds and ends that you have in your craft room.
You can paint the eggs, decorate them with scraps of ribbon or self adhesive gems and pearls (as the blue one at the front of the picture).
Try wrapping them in tissue paper, decorating with punched out butterflies and snowflakes or maybe just draw a funny face on them!
Pipe Cleaner Pets
These easy projects need pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes and some coloured card.
Twist the pipe cleaner around your finger (or two children’s fingers as they are so much smaller) and then take another pipe cleaner to make wings for chicks or ears for the rabbits. Attach them to the back of the first spiral by twisting them on. Glue on the pompoms and googly eyes using PVA glue. Then cut small pieces of card for the mouth and the feet.
What a lot of wobbly fun!
House-Mouse cards are fun at any time of year but there are lots of suitable Easter designs and so they always seem to come out at this time of year. Everyone in the family enjoys the drawings anyway so I know my cards are going to be well received!
Whether rubber stamped, decoupaged or just printed from a CD, there’s something for everyone in this range and we thought they went rather well with these funny little chicks!
To make the chicks you just need yellow pompoms in various sizes, orange card and pipe cleaners and some googly eyes and perhaps some feathers.
Cut some feet and beak shapes from the orange card then glue the pompoms to the feet and add the eyes and beak and finally feathers for wings.
We’ve got some more Easter crafts for kids for you in next week’s blog!