In a box: Cold smoking for beginners on a budget

Wood chips smoking

A few years back, myself and Mr Other Half ventured on a novel, for us, food adventure. One windy weekend we found ourselves in a scenic part of Cumbria to learn about hot and cold smoked food on a course run by Smoky Jo’s. (It was a throughly great time with fishing, sausage making and smoking instruction aplenty included. I do recommend their courses if you have a chance to go on one)

My most favourite part of the weekend, apart from eating lots of absolutely delicious food, was learning about cold smoking.

At that point it was still quite often viewed as being a specialist technique in the U.K, something that companies rather than individuals did, compared to the wide variety of home-smoked recipes that can be found throughout regions of the U.S or Canada, right alongside barbecuing. That doesn’t put off some D.I.Y inventiveness for home-smoked food fans here though! (Check out Smoky Jo’s DIY Gallery to see how people have made their own)

Now home smoking, of the hot and cold variety, has become more prominent through recipes used by chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal, as well as the move towards being more aware about where food comes from and how to cook and preserve foods in a home environment.

Unfortunately, our good intentions of getting around to doing cold smoking at home got put to one side and never followed through. Until coming across this marvel; the Pro-Q Eco Smoker. This link is for Amazon UK and is for the Eco Smoker kit bundled with Smoky Jo’s own book on all things hot and cold smoking.

Pro-Q smoker

The Pro-Q Eco Smoker assembled

It may look a simple cardboard box from my photo, but I can testify to the fact that there is nothing basic about the flavours you can create. It comprises of an inner and outer cardboard box, two metal shelves, a metal tray, smoke generator and a range of wood chips (maple, oak, cherry and beech). It is self-assembly but not difficult to put together so that you’re ready to get on and start smoking. One of the best things about this kit is that it is a simple matter of folding up the cardboard for recycling when it can no long be used, so no cumbersome equipment wastage. The metal items can be cleaned many times over for use in cold smoking.

Smoked cheese and steak

Food placed for cold smoking

So far we’ve smoked a hard and semi-soft cheese (Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette), garlic bulbs and sirloin steaks that had a coffee marinade applied first and were then fried. They all turned out well, especially the steak, with a cherry wood smoke. We fully intend on getting more creative with curing ham, nuts, more types of cheese, vegetables and even our own tea smoked salmon in the style of Heston Blumenthal.

Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette

Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette

As Christmas is coming this struck me as an ideal gift to give to a foodie fan or home cooking enthusiast who is a beginner to cold smoking. It’s economical for the amount of times it can be used and it means you can try out this type of food flavouring and preservation without needing to invest considerably more time or money in permanent equipment, if unsure that it is something that you will like beforehand.

Cold smoking does take a bit of time and patience with preparation and you will need to cook some of your produce afterwards, but once you get a taste for it, which is very easy to do, you’ll be wondering why you never thought of trying it before.

An insight on back door advertising in beauty blogging


Update Edit: 22/10/14

I am glad to say that the issue of nail and beauty bloggers receiving unsolicited e-mails from Reflect Digital trying to push new product links into existing review content has now, hopefully, been resolved. Thanks to commendable attentiveness by B Public Relations, acting on Ciaté’s behalf, I received a personal apology and an assurance that Reflect Digital have been told to cease their web link, ‘advert’, management activities.

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A kind of comic book life: Gary Spencer Millidge on the return of Strangehaven


Way back in December last year I posted a snippet of news that one of my all-time favourite comics, Strangehaven, was due to make a comeback in May 2014 in the pages of ‘Meanwhile…’ a comics anthology published by Soaring Penguin Press.

Although that original date slipped; the official date for its appearance in comic book shops (for the U.K and the rest of mainland Europe) is 17th October.

I’m delighted that Gary Spencer Millidge generously agreed to return to Imagination is spicy to answer a few questions I put to him on this long-awaited continuation of the series.

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Embroidery, fan art and Tumblr

Hand embroidery of Warlock insignia from Bungie's Destiny

Hand embroidery of Warlock insignia from Bungie’s Destiny

As featured back in July; I started up a Tumblr blog, Imagination is sewing, for posts on embroidery that don’t really need long-form posts on this blog.

I wanted to write something longer on why, if you are an arts and crafts interested person, using Tumblr can be both a thoroughly encouraging experience but also one where it’s good to be aware of some of the limitations and issues that it has (especially if you’re considering using it without having previous experience of the platform).

One of the things about my enjoyment of, and passion for, goldwork, embroidery and various textile arts is just how adaptable and expressive they can be for creating works of fan art. I’ve recently completed one project and started on two others that have been inspired by my love for computer and console games. In a similar vein, there are the Part One and Part Two posts on this blog of how I came to create a goldwork piece from a symbol used in Gary Spencer Millidge’s comic Strangehaven.

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Writer’s Wibble

Writer's Wibble

If anyone were to ask; “Do you consider yourself a writer?” I’d say no. Not that it’s a question which happens all that much.

I’m a blogger, reviewer and sometimes prone to hitting full critique mode but I don’t set out to write stories, be they fiction or non-fiction. However, I do enjoy reading many kinds of writing and about the process of writing itself. Which is by way of introducing a WordPress blog that I want to give a shout out to; Writer’s Wibble by the most excellent sloopjonb. From an ongoing series of essays on historical events and personages, a look at the process of writing (particularly about fantasy writing), reviews, some poetry and even a rather excellent recipe for a chilli. Do drop by!


(Full disclosure: Jon is a personal friend and I enjoy his writing very much indeed. I rather hope lots of other people will too)

Review: Lush – Million Dollar Moisturiser

Lush Million dollar pot

The summer is seemingly rushing past, so it seemed a good time to post up a review of a new (to me) moisturiser with high SPF that I’ve been trying out: Lush’s Million Dollar Moisturiser.

As many people with rosacea know; the summer is usually the hardest time of the year to avoid experiencing flare-ups as exposure to UV light increases. Having some form of sun protection, whether under make-up or not, is very necessary. Depending on skin type this can also be a really tricky balance as sun protection formulas can contain chemicals that react badly on sensitive skin. The other main issue is the level of greasiness that creams and lotions leave behind.

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Imagination is…now on Tumblr

Imagination is sewing

As quite a few of my posts have become sewing-related recently; I’ve started a new Tumblr blog called Imagination is sewing.

I’m not abandoning WordPress! Some of the pieces I work on don’t require full long-form posts but I’d like a place to share my work, so that’s what the new Tumblr blog is for. It also has some really great, vibrant sewing, embroidery and textile arts blogs to view too.

There’s only a couple of pics up but I will be adding more with time. If you’re already on there, please do drop by!

Goldwork brooch kits

Jenny A-C Rose & Button brooches

The idea of working from pre-made kits can sometimes be a bit of divisive thing in sewing; some people enjoy them for learning new techniques or for a way to try out different designs without creating the whole thing from scratch. Others find them restrictive or have tried kits that weren’t really what they hoped they would be in terms of supplies or the completed design.

I fall firmly into the first category; I’ve written previously about how I first tried out some of Carolyn Gayton’s goldwork kits last year and, as a beginner, I’ve found that the ones I have tried have increased my confidence and knowledge of the techniques. They can also prove to be a relaxing project to do after having worked on more intensive designs.

I was fortunate to come across these Millefiore and Rose Brooches available to buy online. Created as kits by Jenny Adin-Christie, a specialist professional embroiderer, I decided to try these as I loved the look of these wearable jewellery pieces.

Having sewn the Millefiore ones first I can say that these make delightful kits for a beginner to working with metal threads and chipwork (the cutting of wires into small 2-3mm pieces which are then stitched down). The equally colourful Rose brooch is probably better for those who have had some experience before, as the central design made from rough purl could be a little fiddly for a first-timer, but for those with previous experience this would be somewhat easier. The instructions and supplies were both well laid out, clearly labelled and presented with quite sufficient materials to complete the designs.

As I really enjoyed making these, I thought I would share the finished brooches. If you’re interested in goldwork or metallic thread hand sewing these are a good place to start and I recommend these as they make lovely gifts too, if you can bear to part with them!

Review: Talika Nail Regenerator Serum

Talika Nail Serum 1

I’ve always had rather weak nails that are ridged and prone to splitting and breakage. Aside from a monthly massage of cuticle oil for a home manicure; their condition is not something that I’ve given any specific treatment to before. After last December’s intensive bout of nail polish application and removal my nails were suffering more than usual and that wasn’t much helped by the winter months either.

I’d been avoiding using polishes but that wasn’t quite enough as my nails were getting more splits than ever. I decided to try out one of the many available nail treatments with Talika’s Nail Regenerator Serum. I’ve been using this since early May, as noted in My nail and hand care basics post.

The serum is composed of three plant oils and the instruction leaflet say that it ‘hydrates, softens cuticles and stimulates growth for brittle, split and uneven nails’.

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Don’t Give Up: One Cat’s Story of Chronic Kidney Disease

CKD cat

We all rely on doctors, nurses and many other medical staff who work in human-based medicine to help care and assist in what are often the most difficult of times. In the same way; we rely on the professional skills of veterinarians for the care of our non-human family. We hope that their expertise is combined with an understanding of the animal they are seeing, compassion towards them and clarity in explaining a diagnosis and treatment.

Unfortunately just like the terrible, shocking stories we read or hear relating to medical care of people that goes tragically wrong, this can also apply to animal medicine.

It doesn’t need to be a case of gross negligence or incompetence or a deliberate malicious act. A certain mindset or attitude that to a distressed, bewildered human trying to make a decision about an ill and highly stressed animal can do the greatest damage of all: the irrevocable decision to euthanise.

This story is about our cat, Bod, a British shorthair who, until a sudden, seemingly trivial urinary infection seemed healthy and happy.

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