Monthly Archives: January 2012

National Libraries Day

I love our local library. It’s the heart of the community in our little town.

Nothing like the libraries of yesteryear where hush was expected, it’s buzzing with lively children (including my own), hosts local groups, promotes local events and has sing-a-longs for little ones.

A local artist can often be found
sketching from local history books
and working on his watercolours.

I have also recently discovered the convenience of the library online. It’s a fantastic resource, where you can renew books – invaluable for those whose children adore their reading books so much they can’t bear to take them back (and maybe their Mummy may forget!!); search the catalogue; reserve books and order the latest releases.

On Saturday libraries across the UK will be celebrating National Libraries Day with a range of events for library users to enjoy. The day is a celebration of the work done in school, college and public libraries to promote learning, literacy and the enjoyment of reading to all.

Library users new and old are being encouraged to go along to their local library and find out about the great services on offer – from book loans and homework clubs to advice on starting a business and how to get online.

Watercolour Painting Tips

As I am often inspired by the local artist in my library I thought I would share some tips on watercolour painting from the Dairy Diary.

If you have a few spare hours on Sunday, give it a try, it’s incredibly rewarding (and don’t forget to pop along to your local library on Saturday too!)

Take your first steps in watercolour painting

Experimenting with colours and techniques is part of the fun of painting with watercolours.

In this project, spattering, lifting-out and blotting are used to create the effect of light dancing on moving water and waves breaking on the shoreline.

You will need

  • A 300gsm (140lb) sheet of NOT paper
  • 2B pencil
  • Paints: ultramarine blue; cerulean blue; yellow ochre; sap green; burnt umber; burnt sienna; Payne’s grey
  • Brushes: Nos.12, 6, 4 and 3 round-headed; 19mm (¾in) and 7mm (¼in) flat-headed
  • Gum arabic
  • Natural sponge
  • Stiff card
  • 2 jars of water
  • Palette
  • Tissues
  • Cotton buds

Painting is a wonderfully rewarding
hobby, and anyone can do it.

Watercolour paints are readily available and easy to use and with a few brushes and a little imagination you can set about creating your own masterpieces. Slightly textured paper (known as NOT paper) is the most commonly used, and acid-free papers don’t go so yellow with age. Thickness is indicated by weight, and paper under 300gsm (140lb) is liable to bubble or warp unless previously stretched.

You’ll probably find watercolour to be much more attainable than you thought. One way to discover various tried and tested techniques is to follow a step-by-step project. The one described here takes a beach photograph for inspiration (above). The artist also made a sketch of the scene while on location (below). The basic painting is set out in layered washes. The water, foam and shingle are developed by working into the layers – blotting, scraping, re-wetting and spattering. Wet washes can be dabbed with a sponge or scraped with card to achieve the desired effect.

Dry washes can be lightened using stripes of clean water. The paint dissolves into the water and the pigment migrates to the edges of the newly wet areas, creating bands of lighter colour. The striped effect is enhanced if you blot the wet stripes. Spatter a dry wash with water for a speckled effect.

Capture the mood To create an image that is more than a copy of the scene, start by simplifying the forms, looking for interesting shapes and patterns. As the painting evolves, pay less attention to the photograph and use the marks you have already made. As you move away from the original subject, the painting becomes less literal, more personal and more creative. Here the artist has experimented to find a way of achieving a particular effect.

The hint of fields and hedges on the headland, and the two figures and dog on the beach, give a sense of scale and recession, and create a focus.


1 Using the 2B pencil, make a basic outline drawing to plot the main elements of the landscape.

2 Mix ultramarine blue and cerulean blue, and, using the No.12 brush, lay the wash for the sky, leaving the white of the paper to stand for the clouds. Add more water and take the wash down over the headland. Add yellow ochre to the mix and apply this colour over the water, using the same brush. Dab the edge of the cloud with damp sponge to soften it. Sweep a damp brush across the lower sky and headland to thin the wash, leaving a pale film of colour.

3 Cut a piece of stiff card about 3cm (1¼in) wide to make a blunt spatula. While the wash is still wet, pull the card vertically down the paper to remove parallel wavy strips of wash. These lighter bands suggest the waves surging on to the shoreline. Work into the edge of the cloud with a moist brush to soften it even more.

4 Use a mix of sap green, burnt umber and Payne’s grey for the headland (No.6 brush). Use yellow ochre mixed with a little burnt umber for the beach area. Darken with more burnt umber and Payne’s grey and apply along the base of the headland. Mix a darker ultramarine/cerulean/yellow ochre wash by adding more of each. Add a drop of gum arabic to increase the paint’s gloss. Apply this colour over the sea (No.6 brush), taking it around the silhouette of the breakwater, and pulling it down the sheet in parallel ribbons, leaving slivers of the base colour showing through. Leave to dry.

5 Darken the sea colour by adding ultramarine and burnt sienna and use this mix to paint the shadow of the headland. Using the small No.3 brush, lay parallel lines to suggest the wavelets on the water’s surface. These should be narrow and close together because they are in the distance. Load the No.12 brush with the same dark wash and take broad strands of this colour down the paper.

6 Wet the No.3 brush and, starting near the horizon, lay narrow, horizontal bands of water. This causes the paint to open up gradually, producing stripes of lighter colour. They should be close together near the horizon. Make broader marks that are wider apart as you move forward to create a sense of recession from the foreground towards the horizon. Change to the No.12 brush near the bottom of the picture. Apply the water freely so it floods and one band runs into another. Lay the bands so the paint gradually opens up to create interesting textures and patterns.

7 Mix a wash of burnt sienna and yellow ochre and use the No.4 brush to lay this on to the beach below the groyne. Use the tip of the brush to dot more colour on to the wash to suggest the shingle. Leave to dry.

8 Load the No.3 brush with water, hold it over the paper and tap it with your forefinger to spatter droplets of water on to the beach. Then spatter wash on to the same area. Use a cotton bud to lift some of the re-wetted wash, creating very light areas to suggest lumps of chalk.

9 Mix raw umber and Payne’s grey and, with the 7mm (¼in) flat brush, paint the uprights and planks of the breakwater. Vary the amount of Payne’s grey in the mix to create a variety of tones. Leave to dry. Then wet the edge of a piece of stiff card, and apply to the breakwater to create a wet line. Re-wet the card and repeat to create parallel wet lines. Blot with tissue to lift the colour.

10 Wet the 19mm (¾in) flat brush and work into the white water breaking over the breakwater, creating flame-like shapes. Use plenty of water to dissolve the washes around the white paper – don’t blot it but allow the dissolved paint to flow into the white area, creating softly graduated tones. If you like, suggest fields on the headland and two figures and a dog on the beach.

Article taken from Dairy Diary 2012.

Chinese New Year Recipes

Chinese New Year recipes

It was a little hectic in the office last week, ensuring that all the final 2013 Dairy Diary proofs were checked and signed off before the start of Chinese New Year (when our factory shuts down for a fortnight).

Thankfully everything is done now, so we can relax and think about the other products, such as the pocket diary, calendar, new letterheads etc. etc.

Several people have asked me how I work on a diary all year round, but with only two of us in the office we get involved in everything and the work is never finished!

I noticed in the diary that it’s the Chinese year of the dragon, which sounds pretty exciting.

I thought I would do a bit of research and find out what that is supposed to represent. According to In 2012, the Dragon is welcomed back after the 2011 year of the Rabbit. Each of these animals are thought to bestow their characteristics to the people born in their year.

While the Year of the Rabbit was characterized by calm and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon will be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The Rabbit imbues people with a sense of cautious optimism, but people respond to the spirit of the Dragon with energy, vitality and unbridled enthusiasm, often throwing all caution to the wind.

So, I am intrigued to find out what animal I am.
I have checked out my birth year and I am a rabbit. Apparently, I am ‘affectionate, co-operative and pleasant, with lots of friends. But can get too sentimental and seem superficial. Ideal careers areas include law, diplomacy or the stage.’ I don’t know if my other half would agree with the co-operative bit!! And I seem to be in the wrong career. After some research, I have decided that I was born in the wrong year. I am definitely a rat, but would prefer to be a monkey! ‘Rats are said to be imaginative, charming and very generous to those they love – although they do have a tendency to be quick-tempered and over-critical. They are supposed to make good writers, critics and publicists.’

‘If you are born in the Year of the Monkey, you are very intelligent, well-liked by everyone, and will have success in any field you choose.”

Have a look at your birth year on

or you could just enjoy Chinese New Year by having a go at one of our delicious, Chinese-inspired recipes:

Sweet & Sour Lamb 
Special Fried Rice 
Lemon & Garlic Chicken 
Duck with Plum Sauce

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Duck with Plum Sauce

Duck with Plum Sauce recipe from Just One Pot

A bed of noodles with rich and succulent duck breasts and fruity sauce.

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
Calories per portion 733
Kcal Fat per portion 21g of which saturated 3.9g
Serves 2

For the plum sauce
Red plums 200g (7oz), halved, stoned and quartered
Cinnamon stick 1, halved
Dried red chilli 1, crumbled
Preserving or granulated sugar 75g (3oz) (or to taste)
Red wine vinegar 3 tbsp

For the duck
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Red onion 1, peeled and finely chopped
Root ginger 5cm (2in) piece, peeled and chopped
Skinless, boneless mini duck fillets 225g packet, or larger fillets, sliced
Pak choi 3, trimmed and sliced
Straight-to-wok noodles 300g packet

1 For the plum sauce, cook the plums in a wok with the cinnamon, chilli and sugar over a gentle heat for a minute or so. Then add the vinegar, stir well and simmer for 5–10 minutes or until the plums are tender and the liquid has reduced. The exact time will depend on the ripeness of the plums. Stir often to prevent the mixture from sticking to the wok. Tip into a bowl and remove the cinnamon stick. Rinse the wok.

2 To cook the duck, heat the oil in the wok, add the onion and ginger and stir-fry for a minute or so. Then add the duck and stir-fry for about 6 minutes or until the meat is golden and tender. Add the pak choi and noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

3 Add half the plum sauce, mix well and serve on warm plates with the rest of the plum sauce in a separate bowl.

Cook’s tip 
Oriental food specialists Amoy make great straight-to-wok noodles. After cooking your stir-fry ingredients, you just add to the wok and cook for 1–2 minutes.

Just One Pot  recipe.

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Lemon & Garlic Chicken

Lemon Garlic Chicken from Just One Pot

Sweet and tangy oriental-flavoured chicken with leaves and broccoli.

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 9 minutes
Calories per portion 316 Kcal
Fat per portion 9g of which saturated 1.3g
Serves 2

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts 2, cut into thin strips
Lemon 1, grated zest and juice
Clear honey 2 tsp
Light soy sauce 1 tbsp
Garlic 2 cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Cornflour 4 tsp
Purple sprouting broccoli 8 spears, trimmed
Vegetable oil 1 tbsp
Pak choi 1, trimmed and shredded
Chinese leaves ¼ head, trimmed and shredded
Chives small bunch, snipped

1 Place the chicken strips in a shallow dish. Mix the lemon zest and juice into the chicken along with the honey, soy sauce, garlic and cornflour. Set aside. Cut the broccoli spears into thin, even-sized slices down the length of each piece.

2 Heat the oil in a wok until hot. Drain the chicken, reserving the juices, and add to the wok; stir-fry for 5 minutes, until well sealed. Add the broccoli and continue to stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.

3 Finally, add the shredded pak choi, Chinese leaves and reserved juices and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes until the leaves have just wilted. Serve immediately, sprinkled with snipped chives.

Cook’s tip
Tender young sprouting broccoli spears are ideal for stir-frying, but use small florets of broccoli when they aren’t in season.

Just One Pot recipe.

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Special Fried Rice

Special Fried Rice from the Dairy Diary

A wonderful rice dish that tastes as good as it looks

serves 2
time 40 mins
440 calories per portion
14g fat of which 1.7g is saturated
suitable for vegetarians
suitable for freezing

Sunflower oil 2 tbsp
Red onion 1, peeled and finely sliced
Finely chopped ginger 1-2 tsp
Red pepper 1, halved, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
Corn on the cob 1, kernels removed
Peas 75g (3oz), cooked and drained
Cold, cooked basmati rice 350g (12oz)
Pak choi 2 heads, trimmed, halved and sliced
Soy sauce to serve

1 Heat sunflower oil in a large wok or frying pan, add red onion, ginger and pepper and stir-fry until softened, but not browned.

2 Add corn, stir fry for 2-3 minutes, then add peas, rice and pak choi and continue stirfrying for another 4-5 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through and piping hot.

3 Add soy sauce to taste and serve immediately.

Cook’s tip
This recipe is perfect for using up leftover rice. If precooking rice, put 110g (4oz) basmati rice into a saucepan, add 300ml (1⁄2 pint) water and 1⁄2 tsp of salt. Bring up to boil, cover pan, reduce heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat, and leave until cold.

Dairy Diary recipe.

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