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!


Happy House-Mouse smiles!

The one thing I can rely on sending with every House-Mouse card I make, is a smile. I think every image we have available from Ellen’s talented hand makes me smile and this bathing in the sink picture is no exception.

I think this would make a great new baby card as well as a birthday card, mother’s day or just a cheer up card! The image is from the cardmaking pad entitled Celebration and the sheet includes all the pieces needed for the decoupage.

Collecting the CDs we have produced and some cardmaking pads gives you a wide range of smiley ideas to send for any occasion!


Chicken dinners

From the top: One and two – Edith and Dahlia having a go at the cabbage. Three – Dahlia and Lavender making sure they don't waste any bits! Four – the ladies gather for a photo, minus Iris. Five – thinking about taking afternoon tea in their chalet.I know you all like hearing about chickens, so I’m handing over today’s blog to my partner in crime writing, Julia.

I haven’t rambled on about my hens for a while, so Joanna said I could give you an update this week. I introduced five new hens back in October and you can never be sure how they will settle down and whether there will be bullying. I always think a flock of hens is very like a group of people – sit and watch for half an hour and you will see many human traits you’ll recognise (mostly bad!) and will soon understand where the phrases ‘hen pecked’ and ‘pecking order’ come from.

The three buff orpingtons, Dahlia, Iris and Lavender, and the two cream legbars, Edith and Bunty (all named after characters in our novels!), have settled in very well. Far from being overwhelmed as I’d feared, my two old hens, less romantically named Dino and Specky, who had looked ancient (Specky is 6 and Dino an amazing 9!) have both rallied. Chickens tend to moult in Autumn and both the old ones were looking moth eaten, but the arrival of their new companions has galvanised them into action and they both have beautiful new feathers and are even acting ‘young’ again. Just like us humans – nothing like a bit of competition to make you go and get your hair done or nip to the gym!

My previous flock had a bully in its midst and I’m afraid it made life hell for some of the others. The bully died last year and I was determined that when I introduced new hens it would all be harmonious. Several hen keepers I’d chatted to online had told me how to deal with any future bullies. And no, it doesn’t involve a cooking pot! You isolate the bully, keep them out of sight of the others for about a week. The main flock will then settle down and a pecking order re-established. You then reintroduce the bully who will very probably find herself at the bottom of the heap – and she will then behave herself! Can’t we all think of instances when it would be handy to do this in real life?! 

This time of year it is all rather muddy and the hens can get bored with no grass to peck at or insects to chase. The lovely people I bought the cream legbars from, rather cleverly hung cabbages on string from trees. The chickens can then peck away at it and, as it moves about it, gives them a bit of a challenge and keeps them interested. I had a hilarious 10 minutes recently, watching Dahlia and Lavender standing either side of a suspended Savoy cabbage. One would peck, the cabbage then swung toward the other hen, and she’d lunge to peck it, and back it swung – I swear it looked as if they were playing ‘swing ball’ with great enthusiasm! 

The buffs are very gentle natured, but they are big birds and they do like their food! The cream legbars, Bunty and Edith, are faintly hysterical (they remind me of that character Mavis in Coronation Street!) and paranoid, so they will only approach the cabbage once the buffs have had their fill. They manage a few pecks but are, of course, frightened by the swinging vegetable as it is clearly ‘out to get them’ and they tend to run off screaming.

When we introduced the cream legbars, they were younger than the others and needed to be kept separate and given different food, so we searched eBay and managed to buy a second–hand coop for very little money. It is rather twee and looks a bit like an alpine chalet! Bunty and Edith liked it and would fuss around inside like two old maids bickering over the housework.

Now, the hens all live together in the main coop, but the chalet is still there inside their run. We have noticed that most afternoons, the five new hens go Gossiping inside the willow structure before going in for a WI meeting in the chalet.and stand in it, apparently for no good reason other than to have a bit of a gossip. You can hear them making contented ‘pock pock’ noises like a load of old gossips at the WI. It’s interesting that the older birds don’t seem to be invited, so perhaps there’s a little bit of girl power in action but fortunately, it seems to be no more than idle gossip! Let’s hope it stays that way!




Especially for you...

I think poppies must be amongst the most popular flowers apart, perhaps, from roses. I often look at the top five popular flowers listed on internet sites. One recent suggestion I saw was Narcissus, Poinsettia, Lilies, Tulips and Chrysanthemums – and although I love all those flowers I can’t say they would be my top five... but I suspect a lot of us would include poppies!

This 8” x 8” card uses an image from the Daphne Brissonet cardmaking pad 1 on our website and has been mixed with an x-cut embossing folder (Delicate flourish) and a Tonic die set (Floral frames).

I can’t recommend Daphne Brissonet’s work too highly, I have loved creating with it!


The last witches…

A photographer friend of mine posted a picture on his Facebook page of a commemorative plaque (right) that he had spotted in Exeter. When I saw it, I felt a mixture of shock, anger and great sadness. The plaque says: 

The Devon witches
In memory of Temperance Lloyd
Susannah Edwards
Mary Trembles
of Bideford died 1682
Alice Molland
died 1685
The last people in England to be executed for witchcraft
Tried here & hanged at Heavitree
In the hope of an end to persecution & intolerance

I had no idea that this country still hanged people (almost exclusively women) for the trumped-up charge of witchcraft as late as the end of the 17th century. And I had never heard of these poor, unfortunate women – the so-called ‘witches’ – being the last to be so killed, and in Devon, of all places. I decided to get Googling and see what I could discover…

Known as the ‘Bideford witch trial’, Temperance, Mary and Susannah were tried in 1682 in the town of Bideford on the north Devon coast. I wasn’t surprised to read that much of the evidence against them was hearsay. They were labelled ‘the last witches’ but in fact there were other, less well-documented cases after this. It is sometimes said that Alice Molland was really the last person to be hanged for witchcraft but again, it isn’t clear and there is no evidence that the sentence was carried out but it is most likely she was hanged.

An illustration of a 'typical' witch trial of the era.All this happened over 300 years ago and the reporting of the time is unclear and, to our modern eyes, quite ridiculous. The three unfortunate women were accused, by their neighbours, of casting spells. On Saturday, July 1682, Thomas Eastchurch, a Bideford shopkeeper, complained to some of the town’s constables that Temperance Lloyd had been practising witchcraft. The charges were: ‘Suspicion of having used some magical art, sorcery or witchcraft upon the body of Grace Thomas and to have had discourse or familiarity with the devil’. Grace Thomas thought that Temperance Lloyd was responsible for her illness, because the previous September, Lloyd had wept with joy and expressed pleasure in seeing that Thomas had regained her health. Hmmm, certainly doesn’t spell ‘witchcraft’ to me!

Reports by Thomas Eastchurch and other accusers include stories of magpies flying in at bedroom windows (a sure sign of witchcraft) and a tabby cat, believed to be the devil, walking into Thomas’s shop.

Reading the reports now it comes across as nothing more than bigotry, ignorance and probably fear. But of course back then such accusations had terrible consequences compared to what a bit of mud slinging would have today. The ‘witches’ were defenceless women, probably poor, possibly disabled in some way (there are gory descriptions of physical defects) and quite possibly with mental health problems – outcasts and oddballs and easy targets for blame.

As the commemorative plaque so eloquently says ‘In the hope of an end to persecution & intolerance’. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case in 2014? Yes, we have achieved a lot, particularly for womankind, but we still have a very long way to go…


Thomas Kinkade – again!

Ok I’m sorry I do use Thomas Kinkade’s work a lot don’t I? But I do find so many people love being sent cards with his images on them. This is just a birthday card but it has lovely decoupage details on and even one of the little Signature shapes that we sell – love that little heart.

The backing paper is from One Summer’s Day – which features artwork from an American artist called Barbara Mock. This is another handy CD to have as there’s so much on it, it really contributes to your image and backing paper library!

I love the way Thomas Kinkade’s cottage all look as though there’s a light on inside and on this particular painting I like the way the far distance is all misty – magical artwork! The image is from the Thomas Kinkade Everyday cardmaking pad together with loads of other that will create beautiful cards.