RSS Feed

  1. It’s nice when we get compliments for something we’ve made and our Chili Rings always draw plenty of lovely comments at events. These colourful decorations look great in any kitchen but making them can be quite a task.


    Chillies are hot (and dried ones also produce chilli dust) so preparation and care during production are essential. This is how I do it:-

    chilli ring manufacture

     First of all dress up like a nuclear physicist in the lab - thank you David for modelling this. Put on latex gloves, a face mask and preferably goggles too!!  All bare flesh should be covered and it is preferable for hair to be covered as well – chilli dust can get everywhere!

    • WARNING! Do not rub your eyes during production or you’ll regret it for the rest of the day
    • Having a box of tissues handy is also useful as you will start to sneeze and stream if any chilli dust gets through your defences.
    • Once suitably dressed, sort out some good dried chillies and allow for extras (say another 10%) as chillies can be brittle and may split during the process.
    • You will also need something to thread them on to - I use a florist’s wire ring for rigidity but you can use strong flexible wire if preferred.  You will also need some raffia, a pair of pliers, and a sharp instrument for carefully making holes - I use a tailor's awl.
    • Grade the chillies according to the size of ring.  My personal choice is to put slightly longer ones at the bottom and middle of the ring and the smaller ones near the top where the join will be.
    • Before threading I cut off the stalks to within about a quarter of an inch of the chilli. You can leave these on if you wish but I find this leaves an untidy final product and the stalks keep catching on things.
    • Using the awl carefully make a small hole in each chilli and thread them on to the ring, positioning the stalk ends differently each time so they give a spiral effect.
    • Pack the chillies fairly tightly together but be careful as rough treatment may break them.  Continue until the ring is almost full, leaving no more than an inch of wire exposed either side of the opening. Using the pliers, make a small loop at one end of the ring and then the other end of the ring is passed through this loop to form another loop, which is then closed to complete the ring.
    • Cover the bare wire and loops with raffia and attach a hanging loop.
    • Make and attach a raffia or ribbon bow to finish
    • Remove the protective clothing, blow your nose and wash your face and hands before touching anything else!!

    The finished chilli ring should be handled gently to prevent damage to the chillies but if they have been packed tightly on the wire this problem is minimised.  Once hung in place the ring will be an attractive decoration in your home for years to come. 



  2. We've just returned from a few days in Morroco during which we visited a few souks to have a look around. We picked up some tips about selling by observing Morrrocan Souk shop holders and thought we'd share them.

    To start with when setting up your stall never put a price on anything and make sure everything is close together so the customer cannot see your products easily.

    When a 'customer' gets near your stall/shop approach them and start a conversation. This conversation must include an enquiry about the customers nationality and location of where they live as it is inevitable that you, the stallholder (or wife) will have a mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, camel, goat or sheep which lives or has visited or comes from the customers town.

    When the customer reaches your stall step out into their path and block their progress. If they hesitate and look at you or your products this is a sure sign they want to buy so greet them warmly with a shake of the hand. It is important at this moment not to let go as you can then guide them into your 'shop' using your free hand around the shoulders if extra persuasion is necessary.

    Once the customer is inside the shop your previously unseen assistant must then stand across the entrance - this will allow you to release the customers hand and pass several products to the customer even if they haven't asked for them and remember......
    If its too big - it will shrink in the wash, 
    if its too small - it will stretch in the wash or with wear
    If its the wrong colour - it doesn't matter as the colour available suits the customer

    If the customer says no - they don't mean it and are only playing hard to get

    As a last resort don't forget to mention your sick mother/wife/children

    If the customer does get away without buying don't forget you can follow them down the souk until the next shopowner takes over.

    As a last resort if you fancy the customers wife never offer more than 4 camels - that is the absolute top price to pay for another wife.

    Whilst the above is written tongue in cheek and not all Souk stall holders are rogues each of the above incidents happened to my wife, son and I in the last few days whilst visiting Agadir and Marrakech. Having visited several parts of the world we are not unused to the 'bargaining' nature of shopping but I must admit our recent experiences in Morroco were certainly more intimadatory and aggressive than we have previously experienced.

    Looking forward to this years first event in a couple of weeks ........... I wonder.............

  3. Palm Leaf Plates – the natural choice for your summer barbeque or picnic.

    We're very excited to launch this range of eco-friendly plates and bowls on our website and hope to be widening the range over the coming months.  Made from nothing but fallen palm leaves and water, they are non-toxic, biodegradable, compostable, durable, lightweight, convenient and stylish. In the whole manufacuring process no trees are felled and no chemicals, resins, gums, lacquers or stabilisers are used. It’s just an eco-friendly, inspired use of a natural waste material!

    How they are made:

    • Every palm tree naturally sheds 6 to 7 leaves a year. These extremely strong leaves are pressure washed and then soaked in purified water.
    • They are heated to 180C, which sterilises the plates.
    • A hydraulic press creates the different shapes.
    • The edges are trimmed and compressed air removes dust particles.
    • Finally the plates undergo UV sterilisation to guarantee hygiene.

    A great alternative to paper or plastic plates and they can even be used in the microwave! When you've finished with them, just throw them on the compost heap.

     palm leaf heart shaped dishpalm leaf large plate

  4. Well we are just back from another trip to Wales where we took the opportunity to collect some more driftwood.

    It's amazing what you can find while scouring the beaches of Pembrokeshire - we've found a beacon sent out by an Arts Centre in the Irish Republic, one of hundreds released during a festival. We've also found half a dead cow (no pictures of this!). On the whole though it tends to be a really nice activity in itself and on our last visit we came across a couple of guys who had created a compass style map of GB about the size of half a football pitch, out of brooms. Really was amazing.

    We tend to look for two different thicknesses of driftwood. A smaller size to be about as big as your finger which we use to go around picture frames and mirrors and which we also use to make dangles. We also look for larger or chunkier driftwood pieces, perhaps with a bit more character, which we generally tend to make into tealight or candle holders. We always look for clean driftwood with the smaller pieces well blanched white by the sun and sea. Once collected, all pieces are soaked in clean fresh water, well scrubbed and cleaned then checked for any unsound timber which is removed. The driftwood is then left in open cover for several weeks to dry out naturally. During the drying process I check and turn the driftwood regularly and finally before use it is checked again to ensure it is sound.

    I'll post again soon during my next project to show how I make some of my projects but in the meantime here is a selection of what I've made before.

    Any comments or questions welcome


    driftwood pic frame 1triple tealight 2

  5. If you've been following the blog you'll know we couldn't tell you who the High Street retailer was until Nov 4th. Now we can reveal its M&S!

    Our decorations aren't on sale but they are forming part of the decorations in the foodhalls of 16 stores. Trouble is we don't know where they are so we are running a competition through our Facebook page inviting people who see them to post a photo and there will be a draw with the winner getting a packet of 4 hand made dried fruit tree decorations for christmas. So why not check out our Facebook page (theres a link on our homepage)

    In the meantime we've been busy making stock as we have a load of events coming up and this weekend we are in Stratford upon Avon on Saturday and Rednal by the Lickey Hills on Sunday. Details on our events page.

    See you there.



  6. Well not sure where the last two months went to! We've done a variety of events but perhaps the highlights have been the commercial orders and the pop-up shop.

    We had an unsolicited order for 640 christmas decorations for a major high street retailer who is going to display them as part of its christmas decorations in its food halls in 16 stores. All of the same style we got the order out on time and delivered it to the distribution centre in Thetford a day early. We can't tell you who it was until November 4th, so watch this space or our Facebook page.

    We've also had trade orders for varieties of dried fruit christmas decorations from a local garden centre at Chaddesley Corbett near Kidderminster and a major farm shop on the A435 at Wythall. The products are on display and there have already been some sales so we are excited about this and hopeful of some further orders.

    On top of all this we have opened up a pop-up craft and gift shop in Rubery B45. With 6 other traders under the banner of The Perfect Gift we are open 10-4 Mondays to Saturday. First 4 weeks have gone very well with trade expected to get busier as we get towards Christmas. We've even got more people who want to come in with us if any of the current traders pull out! If you are in the area why not pop in and say hello.

    On top of all this we have a series of events coming up for the busiest time of the year so we are busy making new stock - and we've just launched the Christmas shop on the website. Fortunately our new stock of dries fruit arrived a few days ago so the house is smelling lovely!

    We are next out at Bewdley Pumpkin day on Saturday. This was a fabulous event last year and we'll be by the river on Severnside North in our orange topped gazebo, hoping the rain keeps away.

    Till the next time



  7. Just got back from Upton Festival ....and what a busy few days. Some of the organisation left a bit to be desired but most of the acts were very good.

    We got there on Friday morning and having been told we could get on site at 7am were kept waiting until 7.30 when scurity opened the site. Found ourselves a pitch in the main shopping enclave and had everything erected by 10'sh only to find the public were not allowed into the arena until 5pm. Some traders had been there for 24 hours already so were already a bit dischuffed! Weather was very warm but a bit drizzly but the music played from 6pm till midnight and was very good. Friday night saw David sleeping in the gazebo while Frankie popped home.

    Saturday dawned cooler and a bit breezy, one gazebo near the stage biting the dust, but we were OK with our storm guys in place - more as a precaution than a necessity. The arena opened at 11am this day with the music starting at 12 noon. Again an good line up of 'historic vintage' acts so we know most of the music and could sing along. Daylight was much better today so trading was steady rather than spectacular and ended about 10pm as although we could have stayed open till midnight our gazebo lights weren'y over effective and anyway once the main acts were on stage most punters were watching. Frankie stayed in the gazebo on Saturday night and David went home to the comfort of a proper bed and shower.

    Sunday was a chilly morning but turned into a lovely afternoon and evening. David called in and bought some better quality gazebo lights so got there after the arena opened again at 11am. More well known bands from midday but as the weather got better so more people came into the trading area. Also being the last day we had customers who had been to see us previously coming back and making purchases. The new lights were very effective and made a big difference and in fact we had a few last minute sales when in previous night we would have been closed. Watchedthe fireworks at 9.30 and then closed at 10pm so we could go over and watch Slade (Dave Hill but no Nobby Holder). After a lound and bouncy 30-40 minutes  went back to the gazebo and packed everything so to make it easier to break camp on Monday, David stayed in the gazebo overnight. Can't say slept as the adjoining (larde) stall and the funfair decided to break camp then and leave camp overnight. This was most inconsidrate of them as they didn't finish till after 1.30am and until then were making a loy of noise with HGV engines racing to power up the generators. Finally got to sleep after 2! Got up at 6, broke camp, left about 8 and home before 9.

    Although there were some hiccups with the organisation on the whole we had a great time and some f the acts were outstanding. Particularly impressed with Chesney Hawkes (hence the blog title), The Troggs, Bad Manners and Slade but there wasn't a bad performance that we saw.

    Next weekend we are at Bromsgrove Blue Cross fete on Wildmoor Lane, Catshill and its open from 12-4. This was a very good event last year although as there isn't a craft tent we are in our yellow topped gazebo again. See you there................. 

  8. It's only a few days to go now - The Upton International Music Festival is at the weekend and we have our pitch booked in the main Arena. Slade, Bad Manners, Brotherhood of Man, The Wurzels, The Troggs ......I'm digging my flares out as we speak! Oh yes... and trading goes on until midnight every day/evening. It will be an interesting experience reliving some of our youth and we are sleeping in the gazebo so its just as well that Monday is a Bank Holiday to allow time for recovery!

    Not sure what to take so the answer will be everything. We'll be taking two cars so one of us can come home each night to have a break while the other one will fight it out at the campsite facilities in the morning!

    Look out for the Christmas range as we'll be launching it on the website early next month. We took some to Arbury Hall over the weekend and sold quite a few ...and had a large trade enquiry today so thats exciting as well.

    Don't forget to check out our Facebook page as there are links to the Upton Festival and other attractive sites as well.

    See you soon

  9. A plea from the heart as events are coming thick and fast and we need to make lots more stock!

    Last weekend was everything we hoped for. Redditch Kingfisher was steady all day and it's surprising how the sales accummulate over a 8.5 hour period.  Sunday at Far Forest was a real bonanza as there was a very good turnout to enjoy the pleasing weather. By 1pm apparently 7,000 people had gone through the gate. We were in the Craft marquee and had the benfit of a neighbour not turning up so the organisers invited us to spread our display and take it over. Had a really good response across the whole product range.

    This weekend we are going 'upmarket' a bit and attending the Warwickshire & West Midlands Game Fair and Country show at Arbury Hall near Nuneaton. Its being held over two days on Saturday and Sunday but we have to be there on Friday afternoon to put up our stand. Could be interesting as potentially it's the largest event we've been to (until the Upton pop Festival next week!).

    We'll be taking samples of our Christmas decorations, perhaps a bit early but we might get some trade orders. Anyway we'll keep our posts on Fcebook going so if you want to hear our very latest news why not log on to our page - panachegifts and like us.

    Till the next time


  10. Just looking at the diary for the coming few weeks and as we are now approaching the Christas season we are booked up for most weekends and for some midweek events too.

    Must admit before we started this business always wondered why shops started displaying their wares so early. Now we see it from the other side it's amazing how so many prople spread their Christmas present buying over a period of months. I suppose it makes sense really to spread the cost over a period of time, especially in these austere times, but it's surprised us how many people do it. We will be launching our full Christmas shop range next month on the website although most items are already on our stall at events.

    We've got a double header this weeked. On Saturday Frankie will be in the Redditch Kingfisher shopping centre (9-5.30) at its craft and vintage fair. First time at this event but it's a nice indoor venue. Sunday is a bit different as we'll be in the middle of a field, albeit it in the craft marquee, at the Far Forest Countryside Show just outside Bewdley. Did this show last year and it went well so hopefully the fair weather forecast will hold and we will see the crowds again this year.

    We've also started gathering and drying fir cones for the Christmas pot pourri and we need to get back to Pembrokeshire as the driftwood is selling quicker than we can make it - best check out our Facebook page for this where we've put pictures of our new single T light holders. Why not Like us on Facebook and this will keep you up to date?

    Bye for now