Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 20 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, while taking our dog Welly for a walk, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could start sharing with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!


The origin of sayings…

Have you ever thought about the expressions people use on a daily basis and wonder how they became such an accepted part of the English language? I often stop and think – now where on earth did THAT come from?! I have had a quick Google to see if I can get to the bottom of some of them…

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Meaning: Don’t throw valuable things out by mistake!
History: During the 1500s, most people bathed once a year – ugh! Even when they did bathe, the entire family used the same tub of water. The man of the house bathed first, followed by other males, then females, and finally the babies. You can imagine how thick and cloudy the water became by that time, so the infants’ mothers had to take care not to throw them out with the bathwater when they emptied the tub.

Eating humble pie
Meaning: Making an apology and suffering humiliation along with it.
History: During the Middle Ages, the lord of a manor would hold a feast after hunting. He would receive the finest cut of meat at the feast, but those of a lower standing were served a pie filled with the entrails and innards, known as ‘umbles’. So, if you were given ‘umble pie’ it was humiliating as it informed others in attendance of the guest’s lower status.

Too many to shake a stick at?More than you can shake a stick at
I love the history of this one!
Meaning: Having more of something than you need.
History: Farmers controlled their sheep by shaking their staffs to indicate where the animals should go. When farmers had more sheep than they could control, it was said they had ‘more than you can shake a stick at’ and chaos ensued!

Given the cold shoulder
This is an interesting one, as its meaning has actually reversed!
Meaning: A rude way of telling someone they aren't welcome.
History: Although giving someone the cold shoulder today is considered rude, it was actually regarded as a polite gesture in medieval England. After a feast, the host would let his guests know it was time to leave by giving them a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of beef, mutton, or pork.

A selection of cold shoulders!Rule of thumb
Like so many old sayings, this is one with an awful origin.
Meaning: A common benchmark
History: Legend has it that 17th century English Judge Sir Francis Buller ruled it was permissible for a husband to beat his wife with a stick, given that the stick was no wider than his thumb. Must make sure this is a saying I avoid in future!

Sleep tight
Meaning: Sleep well.
History: During Shakespeare’s time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. In order to make the bed firmer, one had to pull the ropes to tighten the mattress.


Gardener's Notice board

Isn't this pretty? I think this is a lovely idea and it’s easy to create and would make a great present for a keen gardener!



  • Paint the plaque with the blackboard paint. Leave it to dry.
  • Cut out, shape and layer up the decoupage that you need for the project using glue gel to layer up. Put to one side to dry.
  • Glue string around the edge of the plaque – in a slightly wavy pattern. 
  • Position the decoupage on the plaque and stick into place.
  • Arrange the letters at the top edge of the plaque.
  • Finally add string to hang the plaque.



Wonderful gifts of time, care and creativity...

Today’s post is a lovely picture of a birthday gift to me – our bookkeeping genius, cake maker and all round wonderful member of staff Jo Bridgeman made me this most stunning cake.

I love the concept that it’s a giant cupcake and the hours of work that went into making the chocolate shell as the case for the cupcake and the wonderful layers of chocolate cake inside just made my day! I have added the link to the recipe she used, below. Knowing how many hours of work it was, it may not be something most of us will want to try, but if you are interested – then help yourself!

The main thing I wanted to say is that all through this week that has included my birthday I have had wonderful ‘gifts’ of time, care and creativity. Home made cards are so special, home made cakes are always lovely and all of my favourite things have been from friends (and family) who have sat and thought about me and given me something that I really love – just a phone call or a message means so much when someone has thought about you and wished you well.

The link for details of how to make the cake is here

Have a lovely weekend!


Fruity mice!

I am limbering up and planning a few extra fun things for my granddaughter’s second birthday party... they have to be appealing to small people but healthy enough to get past very scary 20 and 30 something mums!

I thought these little strawberry mice would be fun, so very simple to make – just slice a tiny bit off the bottom to allow them to sit flat. Then use flaked almonds for ears and whatever you may have handy for eyes. You could pipe chocolate drops... you could carefully cut a pumpkin seed in half... or you could use a flake of oat or cereal, all these things could be used.

The other idea I am planning is to copy some little pear mice (mouse theme obviously it seems!) that we saw in Frankfurt when we went to a Christmas fair there quite a few years ago. Basically all you need is some melted chocolate, almonds for ears and some pairs of tiny sunglasses. I kept the three pairs from the pears we bought at the time (Richard, Emily and one for me!) but I will search for a few more, hooray for Ebay! In the photo you can see quite a bit of the yummy looking window display!


Happy anniversary WI!

It seems to be a good year for anniversaries. Not only has the Queen just become our longest reigning monarch and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ celebrated 150 years since publication… but the Women’s Institute is 100 years old this week!

There’s been a great deal of publicity for this institution’s centenary – and yet for many years, it was seen as distinctly fuddy-duddy and very much for the ‘older’ woman. Today it is riding high, gaining new members and is regarded as pretty trendy. I can’t help but think a lot of this resurgence is due to those clever ladies of Rylstone Women's Institute who came up with the ‘2000 Alternative WI Calendar’ of slightly risqué photos of nude ladies tastefully hidden by cakes and flowers. It was, of course, made into the film ‘Calendar Girls’ with the calendar itself going on to raise over £3 million for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. What a wonderful achievement. 

And what a far cry from the beginnings of the WI! The first WI meeting in the UK was held in Llanfairpwll on Anglesey, Wales, on 16 September 1915. Since then, the organisation has grown to become the largest women's voluntary organisation in the UK with over 212,000 members in 6,600 WIs.

The WI was originally established to educate rural women and to encourage countrywomen to get involved in growing and preserving food to help to increase the supply of food to a war-torn nation. Education and the sharing of skills have always been at the heart of the organisation, and they still are. 

While the meeting venues might have changed from the local village hall to the local café, the ethos of the WI remains the same, and women join now to meet new friends, learn new skills and make a difference on matters that are important to them now, just as fellow members did back in 1915.

There has been a resurgence of interest in baking (The Great British Bake Off) and in traditional pursuits such as knitting and quilting, making the WI even more relevant today. Look at their website and you’ll be amazed at what they offer – and what their members get up to!

Here’s what they have to say about craft: “Craft has always been treasured within the WI. The making of a crafted artefact tells and records stories; protecting heritage and traditional skills. Making can have a positive impact on our lives. It can create space to socialise, and allow for the learning of new skills and sharing of ideas. Craft brings together communities, generations and cultures. It can also be the perfect medium to discuss issues that affect women. However, the most inspiring thing about craft is its democracy; everyone can make something no matter if you are a beginner of a more experienced maker. Craft can change lives!”

I thought that was rather profound! Well done the Women’s Institute and congratulations on your 100 years, may you enjoy many more!

Are you a WI member? If so, what do you enjoy about it?