There are certain things that the British, particularly the English, are just better at than their American counterparts. One is chocolate-making. Another is creating humor that perfectly balances bloodless cruelty and deep-seated self-loathing. Nowhere is this more evident that in the comments section of The Guardian’s Making Time crafts blog. Here’s a sampling:
From a post about making fabric versions of Jammie Dodgers (a type of cookie):
“I’m probably going to be accused of being a joyless old hag now, but for less than a quid you could buy a WHOLE PACKET of actual Jammie Dodgers, AND you can eat them. The felt ones don’t even count as toys, really – what sort of game could you play with them? Let’s Pretend to Eat Some Biscuits?”
I have my own comment for that one. In the same way the British call “biscuits” what Americans call “cookies”, “Let’s Pretend to Eat Some Biscuits” is called “Having a Tea Party” in the States. I guess when you live in a place where tea is a significant part of its history, there’s no novelty simply in the act of serving it, so imaginary tea and crumpets ain’t gonna cut it.
From “Making a Scented Doggie Bag” (not that type of doggie bag, but a kind of dog-friendly sachet):
I’ve tried to give one of this WONDERFUL scented bags to my dog and he ungratefully said: ‘Stop giving me all this rubbish made by clever people in order to become rich and give me some steak instead’!
And my current favorite, from “How to Reupholster a Chair”:
Although I admire the attempt, there does seem to be a double whammy of mistakes going on here. Firstly, not only has the ‘thick dark varnish’ been removed, basically the signature colour and style of this type of cheapish chair, thus exposing the poor quality wood grain, but the subtler cream fabric has also been replaced with Dolly Parton’s loo curtains. The result is utter confusion. This chair is basically difficult to look at or accept because we can no longer understand its style.
I stopped reading Making Time for a while because its output decreased from weekly to semi-annually. However, I referenced it recently after my brother and sister-in-law’s big fat Irish wedding. The guest bags included packaged snacks that I hadn’t seen since I lived in Woodlawn, a predominately Irish neighborhood on the border of the Bronx and Yonkers, and I wanted to preserve the amusing packaging of Tayto Cheese and Onion Crisps. A while back, Making Time had a post about making pendants by shrinking potato chip bags in the oven, so I figured this was a good opportunity for that.
Making Time cited the work of hipster jewelry label Tatty Devine as the inspiration for pendants, but they were quickly ripped to shreds in the comments section because this variation on Shrinky Dinks is nothing special. Apparently every schoolchild has made them by placing empty crisps bags on top of the radiator during maths class. Clearly I missed out during my childhood because I’d never heard of this. I only went to one school that even had a radiator, and the only notable thing anyone did with it was pee on it.
Anyway, here’s all you do:
- Place the bag on a piece of brown paper and fold the paper over it. Place on a cookie sheet and stick it in a warm oven. Watch it closely until it shrinks.
- Take it out of the oven and slam it once with a folded dish towel to flatten it.
- Cut the shrunken wrapper into a neat rectangle or other shape. It can be used for a Tatty Devine-style pendant, but I made mine into a refrigerator magnet: just rip off the magnet part from the back of a dollar store refrigerator magnet and super-glue it to the back of the shrunken bag.
It worked nicely enough that I wanted to make more out of other snacks I had in Woodlawn. Unfortunately, Tayto Crisps aren’t regularly found in North Carolina. I did go to the World Market in search of them, but to no avail. What I did find were some English chocolate bars, which were also sold in Woodlawn (as candy knows no international tensions). These included Bounty, Aero and my favorite, Yorkie. I also found Bueno, a German chocolate bar that was a favorite of mine from the vending machines in the Spanish subway.
I bought all of them and shrank the wrappers in the oven much like the Tayto bag, except since the wrappers are plastic, they require more supervision. When I took the shrunken wrappers out of the oven I let them cool, cut them into neat rectangles and stuck them onto adhesive magnetic sheets. Now I have some nifty magnets. Any chip bag or candy bar wrapper would probably work just as well, but with these you get an added bonus: the deliciousity of imported snacks.
There was, however, something missing from the World Market’s Yorkie bar that upset me. That’s a post for another day.