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!

Tuesday
Sep302014

Good Luck!

We all have friends and family that could really do with a good luck wish at some point. Whether it’s a driving test, moving into a new home, passing an exam or starting a new job – good luck cards and wishes are always welcome. Sometimes I think we don’t realise just how daunted people are by the project in front of them and a pretty card with some supportive words lets them know you are thinking of them and can make all the difference!

This card is made from some artwork by Barbara Mock and is on our One Summer’s Day CD – there are lots of lovely things to work with on that one. This is a simple but effective card that won’t take you too long to make.

The three toppers are all on the sheet you print out and if you mat and layer them onto cream and then black it gives them a smart little frame. The card blank measures 210mm x 140mm and some more cream card then backing paper and then black card are layered up as per the picture to create the base.

Add all the toppers with some foam tape or glue gel and embellish the corners with a little self adhesive pearl and you’re away!

Friday
Sep262014

Fabulous day getting messy!

I have just come back from the most amazing day using Autentico paints at a gorgeous little shop in Exeter called Pepper White Vintage. Anyone who lives locally – what a brilliant place and I hugely recommend the course.

I have dozens of projects waiting at home for paint upgrades and now, after this course, I have remembered how to do it! I have tackled a mass of paint finishes, and even written a book on stencilling, so I am far from a beginner – but embarrassingly that was in the late 80s and early 90s, wow where did that time go – that’s over 20 years ago... help!

So, I decided to go on a 'refresher course' as the kind of paints made by Autentico are all new to me and they give the most delicious flat chalk finish and can then be waxed or varnished or whatever you like.

Partner in crime writing, Julia, came with me and we have lots of plans for before and after shots for this blog. We also plan to have the occasional day out together at some local auctions and household clearance places to ferret out bits of old furniture for further projects. That sounds fun in itself, but to be able to play with the paints will be an added bonus!

I have a stencil range due out very shortly (next week hopefully) but this course gave me tons of ideas that could translate to cardmaking or indeed furniture painting. Just as decoupage (the 3D version) is an everyday thing for us paper crafters, so the flat decoupage looks amazing on cupboard knobs, frames and trays. There are so many techniques that cross over the two worlds or help them meet in the middle!

I had to take a photo of this desk, displayed in the shop, that has a wonderful raised handwriting effect on the cupboard and drawers – isn’t it just gorgeous! Watch this space for my next few projects….

You can follow Vintage Pepper White on Facebook or visit their website for more information.

 

 

Tuesday
Sep232014

Apple blackberry crumble cupcakes

This is a lovely way to use up the massive glut of both apples and blackberries in my garden and surrounding area just at the moment – I do love living in the country! And, of course, it is so much better for you! By making crumble cup cakes, the portion is smaller with way less calories, so we feel less guilty… and so eat more! I’m sorry, I am such a bad influence!

Ingredients:

  • 100g (4oz) self raising flour
  • 100g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 100g (4oz) butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large Bramley apple
  • 100g (4 oz) blackberries

 Crumble topping

  • 100g (4oz) self raising flour
  • 50g (2oz) butter
  • 50g (2oz) brown sugar

How to make the cakes

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour in a food processor or mixer until smooth.

Spoon the mix into cupcake cases set in a muffin/cupcake tin. Now level the tops with a spoon and put a little sliced apple and blackberry on top.

Make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour till it looks a bit like breadcrumbs and then stir in the sugar. Sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake in a preheated oven 180C/350F Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean and the crumble is golden brown.

Friday
Sep192014

Plant now for blooms at Christmas

It’s always lovely to have flowers in the house, but during wintertime it’s not always easy. For flowers at Christmas, we all tend to think of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and, while they are lovely, they can be tricky to keep happy. A couple of times I have been left with a completely bald plant as all the leaves drop off on Christmas Eve… minimalist – yes, but not quite the festive look I was aiming for!

The huge trumpet-like blooms of amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are a stunning sight that's all the more welcome in the depths of winter and early spring. They're easy to grow, and take between six to eight weeks to flower. If you planted them now (mid to late September), they should be in flower for Christmas.

My favourite for Christmas is definitely 'Red Dragon' (red), but you could also try 'Apple Blossom' (pink) or 'Mont Blanc' (white).

Amaryllis like to be snug in their pot with about 2.5cm (1in) between the bulb and the sides. If you're planting just one bulb, use a 15-20cm (6-8in) diameter container that's nearly twice that in depth. For three or five, the pot should be BIG!

What to do…

  1. Soak the amaryllis bulbs in tepid water for a few hours to help rehydrate roots and speed up the growth process.
  2. Amaryllis bulbs are huge and have a tendency to rot, so put a good handful of crocks in your pot to help with drainage and then mix together equal parts of peat-free multipurpose compost and horticultural grit or perlite. The shoulder of the bulb should sit one-third above the surface of the compost when you plant.
  3. Top up with compost and water in. Leave in a warm, dark place for a couple of weeks and don't water further.
  4. When a shoot emerges, bring inside to a warm, light spot and water regularly. Expect flowers in six to eight weeks.
  5. To make them look good straight away, poke some small silver birch or hazel branches between the bulbs. The twigs give the amaryllis support as they grow and this twiggy nest makes a fantastic table centre even before the flowers emerge.
  6. As soon as the flowers start to open, move the plant to a cooler place, as light as possible, to prolong their life.

 

Tuesday
Sep162014

Holly Lady

OK, OK, I know... it’s not Christmas yet... but surely you have vaguely thought about it? My mother was asking when I could get her cards finished as she wanted to start writing the letters that go inside them, so yes, I seriously do have to start planning Christmas!

This pretty lady reminds me of my Mum about 70 years ago when she was young, we have a wonderful picture of her in the cloakroom as part of a family gallery – it’s a great way to use up the masses of sepia and black and white pictures I have.

This card relies quite heavily on Signature dies for its embellishments and if you haven’t had a browse through that section of our website yet, there are certainly plenty to see!

The lady herself is from our Victorian Christmas Triple CD which usefully is on offer at half price just at the moment, so might be a worthwhile investment. The torn strip of parchment across the card adds a lovely snowy type feel doesn’t it? So come on have you started your cards yet?