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
May242016

Pots of flowers!

I am a real flower addict as you know, and I have enjoyed playing with our flower themed dies so much. Today’s card uses the flowerpot die (SD025) and make sure you run it through the machine a couple of times for each pot as cutting off the top rim and decoupaging it makes such a difference to the 3D effect on the card. It helps to add a bit of distressing to the sides of the pots too, but not essential.

The brick backing paper comes from one of our popular sets of backing papers – in this case volume 2, which has lots of flowery/nature/outdoor related papers. The beige backing piece is cut out by hand with a bit of distressing added to 'rough' it up a bit!

The stars of the show though are the delphiniums and the lavender – SD282 and SD286. Here the delphiniums are pale blue but you could mix in a darker blue and likewise with the lavender, we went for a pastel shade here but you could go much for a darker purple if you prefer.

The great thing about ‘pots’ of flowers is that, given the basic flowerpot diecuts, you can ‘plant’ anything you like in them and then you have a great start to a card design!

Friday
May202016

Posh rhubarb!

It’s rhubarb time! It seems to be a good year for it and you can spot the massive leaves lurking in people’s gardens all over the place. Partner in crime writing, Julia, grows rhubarb and has been giving it away to friend and neighbours as she can’t keep up with this year’s crop! Fortunately, she also enjoys drinking prosecco, or cava (she isn’t fussy!) so I’ll leave her to tell you her latest rhubarb discovery...

“I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so you won’t find me turning out rhubarb crumble or pie, I simply stew it, keeping it quite sharp and eat it with yogurt for breakfast… but you can only eat so much of it and can only get so many tubs in the freezer! 

In desperation, I began looking online for other uses for rhubarb… and came up with a very easy idea for putting a zing into your summer drink selection!"

How to make a rhubarb prosecco cocktail:

First, make a rhubarb syrup:

Makes about 250ml

  • 450g/1 pound fresh rhubarb cut into disks
  • 100g/3.5oz cup sugar
  • 125ml/4.2fl oz cup water

Method

Put all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the fruit is very soft. Turn the heat off and cool in the pan.

Strain through a fine sieve into a measuring jug. Leave the fruit to drain for a few hours and then use a funnel transfer to a bottle or other suitable container. Keeps in the fridge for up to four weeks!

Next, add the alcohol!

Put 1tbsp of the luscious pink syrup in a glass

Top up with prosecco, cava or, if you are splashing out, Champagne

The rhubarb syrup will keep for up to a month in the fridge so why not make a big batch and invite all your neighbours round!

If a cocktail isn’t your thing, it's also delicious as a porridge topping or drizzled on ice-cream!

 

Tuesday
May172016

Kingfishers

Only a few times in my life have I been lucky enough to spot a kingfisher – they are such beautiful things. They are shy spend most of their time hiding away from us loud and scary humans! I believe they are mainly spotted in southern England and, as we have such beautiful, wild rivers in this particular part of the world, your chances of seeing one in Devon better than most.

This lovely painting of a kingfisher comes from our Shirley Barber project book – it has lots of beautiful pictures for you to download and print and, of course, several ideas for cards. This particular card doesn’t have instructions though as the kingfisher panel (SD345) is so new it wasn’t available when we wrote the project book!

This stepper card is a more complex way of using the pictures and the die cut, you could of course use a far simpler route. That’s the thing I like best about having printed out sheets of toppers and accessories – there are so many ways you can choose to use them and put you individual stamp on them.

Here are some instructions from our project page on a stepper card to remind you how this particular card fold can work. 

 

Friday
May132016

Never mind Eastenders, this is Dartmoor Soap!

I enjoy watching Countryfile on BBC One, it is always full of interesting stories and last week’s was no exception. One item focussed on South Devon where we are based and I was particularly taken with the lady making her own soap – the main ingredients of which were beeswax, goat’s milk and vegetable oil! What started as a cottage industry has suddenly take off in a big way and, since being featured on Countryfile, I think they have been somewhat swamped…

The Dartmoor Soap Company operates out of the tiny and picturesque village of Belstone, high up on Dartmoor. When Sophie Goodwin-Hughes’ son was born four years ago, he suffered from eczema, so she decided to create a completely pure bar of soap from the most natural oils. The results were almost immediate and within days his eczema had disappeared.

Sophie says: “This discovery got us thinking about our own skins and how they were affected by the products we use on them. We researched the debate surrounding the use of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) in skin products, familiarised ourselves with the role of parabens and became obsessed with reading labels, much to the annoyance of many a shop-owner!”

She embarked on a mission to put her soap-making skills to the test and created a range of beautifully scented, yet 100% natural soaps and The Dartmoor Soap Company was born.

The soap is handmade using natural ingredients which, wherever possible, are sustainably sourced and harvested on Dartmoor. The soaps are free from chemical irritants such as Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, parabens, petrolatum and artificial colours and made without the dreaded palm oil.

In a mission to support and raise awareness about Dartmoor’s natural environment, 5p from each bar sold is donated to Butterfly Conservation, a registered UK charity that is working to protect butterflies, moths and the environment. Among other projects nationwide, the charity is working hard to combat declining numbers of the Fritillary butterfly on the moors.

The range of soaps Sophie makes is wonderful and I have to say, my absolute favourite is her Dartmoor Gardener’s Soap – a hard-working soap with olive oil and pumice. It is great at removing dirt and leaves your skin beautifully soft. An absolute winner! There are lots of other products to choose from and they would make gorgeous gifts

Goodness knows how she finds the time, but Sophie also runs soap-making courses… I think I might just have to take a drive across the moor to Belstone before too long!

PS. You can follow them on Facebook too.

Tuesday
May102016

Who doesn't love poppies?

I think poppies must be one of the nation's favourite flowers. Whenever we bring out a new design or artwork in any form - if it includes poppies there will always be lots of lovely comments.

Obviously there are the Remembrance Day links but apart from that I think it's because poppies make one think of summer, sunny days and all sorts of good things.

This Get Well Soon card would, I hope, make the recipient think of happy things and so help them on the way to recovery. Never underestimate the power of sending a card to show you care when someone is down or unwell.

The combination here of our lace effect paper (found in our 8 x 8 paper collection pad volume 1), that lovely soft Kraft colour for the trellis Signature die SD142 and lace embellished strip down the middle adds great contrast and the card has an overall gentle feel to it. The poppy die is Signature die SD335 - I do love flowery dies!