Sunday, 6 January 2013

Things you can make with edible paper (guest post)

Many of the same crafts done in real paper can be created in edible paper to decorate cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other desserts. Edible paper is a thin sheet of icing that can be cut, stamped, embossed, quilled or even printed on to create a wide variety of decorations. Unlike many other cake decorating techniques, working with edible paper is time saving and easy enough for most people to do without any prior cake decorating experience. Here are just a few ways you can use it:
  1. Create a book cake, as shown in the photo. The pages are printed using edible ink cartridges (filled with food color). They are then applied to the fondant by applying a light coat of piping gel to the back of the icing sheet.
  2. Punching designs: You can buy a wide variety of punches at your local craft store. You can punch out single decorations to place around a cake, top a cupcake or lay on top of a cookie. You can also find longer punch designs that make really decorative borders.
  3. Create funky flowers: A wide variety of designs can be printed on the icing sheets. To make your flowers, roll out the gum paste to 1/8” thick. Apply piping gel to the back of the printed icing sheet. Lay the icing sheet on top of the gum paste. Cut out flowers using a 5 petal cutter. Create a center for the flower by adding a ball of gum paste in the center, attaching it with gum glue. You can make the center yellow or just add a complimentary color. Allow the flowers to dry at least overnight. Attach the flowers to your cake with piping gel or place one on top of each cupcake before the frosting sets.
  4. Print out photos on the icing sheets and use them to create a photo gallery on a cake. You can layer photos printed out in different shapes and sizes to create a collage.
  5. Completely cover a cake in a printed design.  Trace the cake pan on to the plastic backing of the edible paper and cut out with scissors. Apply to the top of the cake with a light coat of piping gel. Wrap the print around the cake by matching the print up from end to end and trimming the excess.
Edible paper comes in white, chocolate and a variety of solid colors. White is best for printing designs and images. Any color can be cut either by hand or by using an electronic cutting machine, which can create a wide variety of designs or cut out complete messages in print, script or other font types.  The only skills you really need to work with icing sheets are cutting and a good imagination. You can create works of art with very little effort.
Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned 
Theresa Happe from Icing Images.

Learn from the greats, writing tips from R.R.Martin (guest post)

George R.R Martin – The Master of Gritty Political Fantasy
At the recent World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, George R.R Martin mentioned reading about a king in Ancient Jerusalem who went mad and began executing courtiers and ordering the hands cut off all the women at court. “Why doesn't the captain of the guard say to the sergeant, ‘This guy is [expletive] nuts’?” Martin pointed out. They should say, “We have swords! Why don't we kill him instead?'”
His fascination with power structures and the shifting sands on which they are built is a theme running strong through his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire and its massively popular HBO adaption Game of Thrones. Martin’s gritty take on fantasy undercuts conventions of the genre, and creates a fictional world embroiled in war and political intrigue, bringing to mind periods from our history such as the civil wars of Ancient Rome, or the War of the Roses.
Martin was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, so it’s no surprise that his novels look at the brutality of war, the powers behind it and its moral ambiguity. He enjoys creating characters who are constantly forced to make a choice when all the choices are bad; who are constantly caught between the requirements of family and clan loyalties, social and political standards and their own personal desires.
He is famous for being unafraid to kill off major characters, as well as for taking a notoriously long time to write. Fans frequently bemoan the long delays between each new installment, only to be reminded by Neil Gaiman that “George R.R Martin is not your b**ch”.
Tips from the Man Himself
The books are beloved, and the TV series has become a cultural phenomenon. George R.R Martin is a big name right now, and he has always been willing to give advice to budding writers hoping to emulate his success.
  • Fans often ask Martin for advice on writing fan fiction, to which his response is that they shouldn't write fan fiction. He believes writers should get used to creating their own characters and worlds. Whether it’s the universe of Game of Thrones, Tolkien or Star Wars, he believes that writers take the lazy option when they copy someone else’s world. The only way to develop literary talent it to exercise “literary muscles”.
  • Don't hoard your silver bullet: Martin gave this advice to his friend Melinda Snodgrass, who was unsure whether to submit her script for a Star Trek episode entitled “Measure of a Man”. The script had the android Data put on trial to determine whether he is man or property, and she felt the subject matter might be too weighty due to its parallels with the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case of 1857. Martin encouraged Melinda to submit the episode, which would become one of the most memorable in Star Trek history (
  • Start small: Martin says he's been approached by fans asking for advice on writing their own epic sagas. To him that's tantamount to someone who's just started rock-climbing requesting advice on climbing Mount Everest. Martin believes new writers should hone their craft by writing short stories first. Something like A Song of Ice and Fire is the product of years of experience and research.
  • Trimming sentences and such can often significantly reduce the length of a work. This is a technique picked up during his years writing for television, where executives would tell him to cut scenes in order to reduce a script's length. Loath to part with important character development or action-sequences, he'd go through the script trimming words off sentences and dialogue instead, to make it appear shorter in length.
  • On writing scenes: Just as writers should have a clear idea of the characters’ goals throughout the story, they should also have a clear idea of their goals within each scene. The intentions of each participant are important to build the dynamic of the scene, and to ensure the reader feels something significant has occurred by the end of it, whether it’s a character change or resolution of some kind. This scene-by-scene approach results in stronger work overall.
  • Read and write a lot: This advice often given to budding writers, but Martin goes further and insists they should experience writing in every genre and on every medium, and should write as much as possible, even if it's just a page or two a day.
George R.R Martin is well known for regularly participating in fan conventions and the like, where he readily interacts with fans eager to seek advice from one of the masters of the fantasy and science fiction genres.
Featured images:
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of House of Publishers, a directory of publishing resources and advice portal for aspiring writers.

The new Ice Drumming Craze, Guest Post by Vida Denning

They’ve been accused of fooling the public with their ice drumming on the oldest lake in the world. The massive frozen waves that cover Lake Baikal have become the latest percussion instruments for a group of Siberian percussionists. The sounds are quite remarkable and so much so that the group have been told that the sounds cannot possibly be natural sounds; but they are.

Drum Drum Druuuuum

Discovered quite by mistake when a woman tripped over a piece of ice and landed with a resounding boom on the ground, the sounds emitted when drumming on the frozen waves of the 25 million year-old lake, are quite haunting and most distinctive. This ice drumming phenomenon has become an internet sensation and been reported about across the globe.
The oldest and deepest lake in the world is now the musical ice drumming studio for a group who enjoy sitting in the -20C weather drumming away on the ice and producing some extraordinary sounds. Natalya Vlasevskaya decided to organise a group of percussionists to see what they could come up on the musical front and their efforts have shown the world that even Mother Nature has some vibe and rhythm left in her.
The lake, which freezes over every winter, is used now to evoke some haunting melodies which have stirred the creativity of many producers thanks to the musical potential on offer. The ice drumming percussionists are still sometimes knocked for a six when they hear the sounds that emanate from their simple drumming skills.
Ice drumming is not anything new as drummers from many international music bands have used their talents on actual drum sets made out of ice, but this ice drumming on the oldest lake in the world brings something different to the equation. The natural drumming comes from the deepest belly of the deepest lake in the world. Each wave emits a different sound that even those with a musical education are baffled at. Different parts of the lake allow for different sounds so no two sounds are ever the same.
The ice drumming group called it the ‘Bakail Ice live sound’ and started drumming in March. Naturally their musical sessions are seasonal and they will have to wait for the next winter to get their next ice drumming session off the ground. Or they could plan their songs and lyrics, and get the planning sessions going. Who knows, we could be looking at an ice drumming record by the Siberian percussionists, for this year’s Christmas presents.
As a prolific freelance writer, Vida Denning enjoys writing on interesting topics. Her most recent research into waterproof overalls brought this topic to her attention.

To listen to the ice drumming, follow this link!