Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 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, walking on Dartmoor, 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 share 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!

Phew! It’s a scorcher!

Deckchairs2I am always amused at the British enthusiasm for talking about ‘The Weather’ – it is always either too wet or too dry or too cold or too hot! The trains can’t run for leaves on the line, the wrong kind of snow, or as a few days ago, rails buckled due to the heat! In among all these weather stories online are pages and pages of hints and tips about how to manage this roaring British summer weather… But what is true and what is false? What is fact and what is fiction? We know the common advice for coping with the warm weather – stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, drink plenty of water, use sunscreen when you’re outside. But what about all those other tips?

Wearing white cotton clothing is best

It is true that natural fabrics like linen and cotton absorb sweat and allow it to breathe. They’re much better than man-made fibres like polyester, which can trap the moisture against your skin, leaving you hot and uncomfortable. But when it comes to colour, things are a bit more complicated. White is good if you’re out in direct sunlight a lot – it will reflect the heat better than any other colour. But if you’re spending time in the shade, black is a more effective colour to wear as it radiates out heat into your environment, cooling you down.

ColdWaterDrinking hot drinks actually lowers your body temperature

Staying hydrated is very important. If you don’t drink lots of water and beverages like fruit juice, you can start to become unwell, with symptoms of headache and tiredness. It can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. But can hot drinks help cool you down? I’m afraid we are back to sweat again… The thinking is, drinking a hot drink raises your body temperature, causing you to sweat. Sweating cools you down because as the moisture evaporates it takes away some of the heat of your body. But sweating also means that you are losing liquid from your body, meaning you need to take on more to stay hydrated! Why is life so complicated?!

Keep the curtains closed as they block out the sun

This is another one where there is no straight answer. If you have thick dark curtains then keep them open otherwise, the fabric can keep the heat trapped in the room. However, lighter curtains can help reflect the sun’s rays back out of the room, so keep them closed.


HotDogKeep windows open during summer to circulate the air

Surprisingly, this is another instance where there is no hard and fast rule. If the room you are in is actually cooler than the temperature outside (as in my old farmhouse) then keep the windows closed otherwise, all you are doing is letting hot air in. But if the room is warmer – and this is much more likely to be the case at night – then opening the windows will help cool your home down. Always consider home security and safety when it comes to leaving windows and doors open though.

There’s lots of advice online (some of it very strange) but to be sure you get sound advice, always go to an ‘official’ site. The NHS website has lots of useful advice on how to cope in hot weather. If all else fails, wear a knotted hanky on your head, and stick your feet in a bowl of cold water – always works for me!

 

 

4 Comments

Country style potato salad that’s slimming!

It’s just so hard – having guests and staying true to your diet – but I am gradually cracking it with Slimming World, again! I have tried and failed several times but, this time, it is really working – their plan is suiting me and I have a lovely leader heading the group I have joined. So, maybe it’s true, it’s not what you know it’s who you know!

Most Saturdays see me cooking a family meal and it’s so tempting to take the easy way out and cook high-calorie family favourites. Now it’s up to me to find some healthy family favourites and this potato salad looks like becoming one of them. I barbecued (OK, Richard barbecued) chicken breasts – or you could do steaks, or pork chops or whatever you fancy, and then served this salad with it. Give it a go and see what you think – but kudos to the slimming world site for providing it!

Potato saladCountry-style potato salad

  • 500g waxy new potatoes diced
  • 1½ tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 6 level tbsp. extra light mayo
  • 50g fat-free natural fromage frais
  • 200g very low fat or fat-free natural cottage cheese
  • 1 level tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 4 plum tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 100g gherkins roughly chopped
  • 3 hard boiled eggs roughly chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Boil the diced potatoes in salted water until cooked and then drain. Put them in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar and leave to stand for 10 minutes
  2. Whisk together the mayonnaise, fromage frais and mustard and season well
  3. Add the potatoes and rest of the ingredients and toss well until combined
  4. Cover and chill before serving
3 Comments

Children’s books – expanding imagination!

As an every-so-slightly doting grannie, I was very interested to read a recent BBC radio poll about which books most adults say every child should read. At the moment I read my granddaughter Grace Winnie the Pooh (the original, not the Disney version) and a lot of Spot the Dog books and ‘noisy’ books that have buttons to press that make different noises! She is not yet three, but I am already planning her future reading, so was interested to see what the top picks were in the poll…

… and it’s no surprise really that the poll suggested 26% of British adults think Harry Potter is the book they think every child should read, closely followed by Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Top10BooksThe top ten list looks like this:

  • Harry Potter
  • The BFG
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Famous Five
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • The Gruffalo
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Bible

When people were asked why they chose any particular book, the most common answer was because it ‘expands imagination’, followed by the desire to pass on the pleasure they themselves got from reading it. Couldn’t agree more! Books are so wonderful to lose yourself in, whatever your age.

The top choices of books varied across the generations with Harry Potter (35%) and ‘The BFG’ (31%) the runaway favourites among 18-34-year-olds.

However, ‘The Famous Five’ (26%) and ‘The Wind and the Willows’ (25%) are the most common recommendations for those aged 55 plus – ahem, I think that’s me then! I adored ‘The Famous Five’ series and owned every one, and ‘The Wind and the Willows’ had me enchanted, and I still love it today.

To Kill a Mockingbird was chosen because it provides lessons about the world and because it helps to develop good moral character. It wasn’t a book I particularly enjoyed… but each to their own!

The poll showed that for the most part, choices are evenly split between the genders – however, The Famous Five is a more popular recommendation among women (22%) than men (15%), while The Lord of the Rings is more likely to be recommended by men (20%) than women (9%).

I was also thrilled to see that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was listed. I wrote a blog about it in 2015 when it was the 150th anniversary of its publication and, since it was first published, it has never been out of print. It is the most fascinating story, simple and also complex, however you want to read it and a book that most certainly expands imagination.

What were your favourite childhood reads? And what did you read to your children or grandchildren? I’d love to hear!

10 Comments

With love…

It seems we have had a technical glitch and those of you signed up to the blog may not have received the last 2 or 3 posts. So sorry if this is the case… and apologies if you have already seen them and you think I am repeating myself! Smiles, Joanna.

It’s been a busy week here with cards and samples happening! It’s so exciting to be heading back onto Create and Craft but still a little intimidating after nearly two years away. It’s amazing how quickly you forget everything! So be patient with me on the programme when I look at the wrong camera or slip up (as I used to do so often) and say Sellotape instead of sticky tape or some other brand mention that I shouldn’t do! Also, I suspect the staff are planning a sweepstake on whether I make an ‘Australian’ (upside down) card this time around.WithLoveStencil

I am enjoying playing with our detail dies, these cut into the card and make a design within the card rather than producing something that you stick on top of the card. This design is so pretty and I have made several different cards with the Duchess die.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients

Signature Die – Duchess Detail SD447 and Wild Rose – SD421

With and Love dies from All Occasion

Oval plain and scalloped dies any brand

Cream, pink and terracotta cardstock

Flat backed cream pearls, assorted glues and tape

Technique

Cut some cream card to 5 ¼” square and place a Duchess detail diecut into each corner. Layer this onto some slightly larger terracotta card. Fix onto the main card blank with foam tape or sticky pads.

Cut a plain cream oval and a scalloped terracotta oval (approx 4” high). Add this to the card again with foam pads (or glue gel).

Now diecut the rose die – in both pink and green – add the green leaves to the card as shown. Now if you want to, tinge the centre of the roses a darker pink with an alcohol pen and add five flat backed pearls to the centre. Attach the flowers and bud over the leaves.

Finish the card with flat backed pearls on the oval and in the corners as shown.

 

0 Comments
StawberryBasket

Anyone for tennis and strawberries?

StrawberryWimbledonThink of Wimbledon… and think strawberries! The two things are always linked in my mind from my earliest childhood memories. Amazingly, around 27,000 kilos of strawberries are consumed during Wimbledon plus, I am sure, an equally huge amount of cream and champagne!

The red heart-shaped strawberry crops up in images all over the place, it is just so very pretty! But it’s not just a pretty face – they are also good for us… that’s minus the cream of course!

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as providing a good dose of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. They have been used throughout history in medicinally to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. It’s thought that their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. And did you know their leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea?

3StrawberriesThe vibrant red colour of strawberries is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease. Add to that the fact that a 100g serving of strawberries contains only 32 calories and they really are a bit of a wonder fruit!

Strawberries have a long history and have been enjoyed since the Roman times. Native to many parts of the world, hundreds of varieties of strawberries exist due to crossbreeding techniques Like many other fruits, strawberries make their claim in history as a luxury item enjoyed only by royalty. It has been alleged that newly weds were entitled to strawberries with soured cream as a wedding breakfast, believing them to be an aphrodisiac… I never cease to be amazed by just how many things are supposed to have this effect!

StrawberryTeaWhile British strawberries grown under glass are available from about March to November, the outdoor growing season is short and runs from the end of May through July. To achieve maximum yields during this short season, farmers protect emerging berries from the muddy soil by spreading a layer of straw around each new plant – hence the name strawberry.

Well, It’s been a great Wimbledon this year and I’ve managed to catch the odd glimpse – fingers crossed that Andy Murray can win again. I may be caught nibbling the odd strawberry as I watch the finals over the weekend… enjoy!

0 Comments