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!


Autumnal table centre 

One of the easiest ways to make a table centre is by purchasing an Oasis wreath – they can be used hung up or, as in this case, flat on a surface. Give it a good soak and allow the water to settle – it needs to be nice and wet without water splodging everywhere. Dry the base really carefully.

Choose a candle holder to go in the centre, this can be a hurricane lamp style – or just a large candle on a flat base. In this case it’s a pretty, chunky, glass candle lantern. I keep a look out for useful nonsense like this all year round. Richard says it is hoarding, I think not! It is useful preparation for future arrangements.

Take your soaked Oasis ring and fill it about two thirds full with sprigs of foliage. This can be bought foliage from a florist but by far the best is to use something from either your garden or a prolific bush in the countryside that you won’t damage by a tiny bit of judicious pruning. There are always friends’ and neighbours’ gardens too!

Having placed the foliage, now add something pretty and frilly or frothy – a few stems all the way round to add lightness and daintiness. Finally add in your collection of flowers. As it’s a relatively flat arrangement they don’t need to be very long. I have chosen a selection of pretty autumn colours and filled the lantern with copper waste and a big fat candle.

This can be quick and easy to create and you can use all sorts of bits and pieces from the garden.


What’s on your ‘Must See’ list…?

The aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, is one of many things on my ‘Must see’ list. Other things include more whale watching, taking Richard to see the Niagara Falls and driving round Yellowstone Park (memories of Yogi bear when I was young!).

I have always been fascinated by the Northern Lights. As a child, just the name used to fill me with awe! Nowadays we have all seen TV programmes about it and can watch video clips of the fantastic light displays online, but when I was growing up it had almost mythical status.

At the time of writing this, I have seen online that the aurora borealis was active earlier in the week and experts say that some in the UK may be fortunate enough to get a glimpse over this coming weekend. I suspect we are too far south down here in Devon, but some of you further north might be lucky.

Named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, it is an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. The lights are seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

Auroras that occur in the northern hemisphere are called ‘Aurora Borealis’ or ‘Northern Lights’ and auroras that occur in the southern hemisphere are called ‘Aurora Australis’ or ‘Southern Lights’. This came as news to me as I had not realised there was a southern version too! Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colours. Amazing!

The displays can appear in many vivid colours, although green is the most common. Colours such as red, yellow, green, blue and violet are also seen occasionally. The auroras can appear in many forms, from small patches of light that appear out of nowhere to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an incredible glow.

Well, maybe one day I will get to see it. Everyone says that, once you have, it is a sight never to be forgotten.

Have you seen the Northern (or Southern!) Lights? And what else is on your ‘Must See’ list? Do tell!

PS. AuroraWatch UK allows you to monitor geomagnetic activity in real time, and will let you know when aurora may be visible from the UK.




Sea Otters

These are some of my favourite animals – in the whole world – I just adore the little things. They have to win cute marks from most people and I think this makes a lovely card.

The image is from the Jody Bergsma 8” x 8” cardmaking pad – and the backing paper is from the eternally useful Thomas Kinkade triple CD.

The base card measures  210mm x 150mm. First make the backing paper piece by cutting some kraft card slightly smaller than the card blank. On top of that layer some torn strips of parchment or pearlescent paper to look like surf and then some of the sea backing paper.

Now mat the otter topper on first kraft and then blue card and attach. Mat the little sentiment from the same sheet in the pad on blue and add underneath. Finally add the single layer of decoupage pieces. Embellish with some Signature die leafy flourishes and some shells.


Perfect ‘Tea Time’ cup cakes

When I spotted these gorgeous ‘tea time cupcakes’ on Facebook and re-posted it a few weeks ago – it got a very enthusiastic response from you all! So, I thought I’d follow up on the original post and share the full details with you.

These beautiful tea party toppers are not actually that difficult to make, but you do need to source everything before you start… I have been through it and all the items they mention can be bought online in the UK. You might want to change things a little as some of the items they use (like the fondant impressions mat) are a bit expensive, but there might be cheaper alternatives if you have a look around.

The original project featured vanilla pumpkin spiced cupcakes… but obviously you can choose whatever flavour cup cakes you want. It’s the decoration that we are obviously all mad for!

I take no credit for this gorgeous creation – we have Sweetopia.net to thank for that.

Here is the link to their blog which explains very clearly how you make these stunning tea party toppers.

If you want a challenge – I say, have a go! This will definitely be a labour of love… if you do have a go, please share your thoughts and photos – I would love to see how you get on!

Smiles Joanna


Danger’s Last Resort

 Finally, here it is! Launching in the next week or so, the first of my solo novels entitled ‘Danger’s Last Resort’. I will send out more details as soon as we have the paperbacks here and the Kindle version is listed on Amazon - but I thought you might like to read a sneak preview. You can see the cover finally making it through the printing process here and I can’t wait to be sent the finished book!

I have put my heart and soul into writing this book and it has acted as a wonderful escape from my complicated family life at the moment, so I hope you will all find it as uplifting to read as I did to write.

The story...
Stuck in a junior manager’s job in a dreary English hotel, Rose dreams of exotic travel. Then, astonishingly, that dream comes true when she inherits property right on the beach in tropical Barbados.

It’s not the cosy seashore cottage she expects but a once grandly genteel destination where Princess Margaret used to stay - but it’s now threadbare and overgrown. Still, the hotel oozes charm and possibility. Can Rose see her future here, recreating the dignified, welcoming oasis it used to be?

Then the death threats start and both Rose and her family are in danger. Unsettling things, threatening things. Barbados turns out to be the opposite of paradise. Its gorgeous turquoise waters are infested with particularly treacherous sharks: cutthroat people who want Rose’s beachfront property and will stop at nothing to get it!

Well, I hope that whets your appetites – oh, and there’s a little romance thrown in along the way! Happy reading…