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  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