Time for tea?

There are times when I just love playing with the pretty decorations that I have in my house – well I think they’re lovely anyway! Dating back to the times when I was helping style all the non fiction flower arranging and cookery books that I wrote in the 80s and 90s, I have always liked arranging pretty things.

Some might call my house cluttered (Richard does for one) but I just can’t resist lovely bits of vintage lace, shells, pretty flowers, semi precious rocks, old china – you name it and I squirrel it away pretending it might come in for a photo shoot sometime, somewhere!

Well these lovely flowers arrived today and I thought they were too nice not to share with the world. The blue hydrangea is high on my list of favourite flowers as Richard knows and the fabulous bouquet of tulips and herbs was part of my Christmas present also from Richard – a bouquet of flowers every month for six months – how lucky am I?

So I got playing and before you accuse me of eating way too many cakes, these are fake cakes intended for use in photography or window displays and I just think they look lovely sitting on the dresser base I have in that room. I have had to explain to little Grace several times now that they are Granny’s toy cakes like the bits in her toy kitchen and not for eating – you can see her narrowing her eyes and deciding whether to believe me or not!


Happy memories…

Guest blog from Julia Wherrell

We have all been feeling immensely sad for the past couple of weeks after the loss of both Joanna’s Mother, Diana, and step-father, John, in such quick succession.

I was fortunate enough to know both Diana and John for about 45 years and have shared many Christmasses and birthday celebrations with them after we all ended up living near each other in Devon. They were very kind and inclusive, there was always a wonderful sense of warmth and the comfortable feeling of things being done ‘just so’.

As a child, I was always awe-struck by Diana as I thought she looked like a film star – always elegantly dressed and coiffured. John had the most beautiful speaking voice and what people call ‘a military bearing’, and they made a fine couple.

I always associate Diana with two things –­ flower arranging and baking. She excelled at both and always had flowers in her house and delicious smells coming from the oven. Up until a couple of years ago, she was still entering flower arrangements in the local flower show and I can remember helping to carry them to the car in readiness for John to deliver them to the judging tent in good time. She invariably won!

About three years ago, when my own Father was visiting me, we were invited to tea with Diana and John. I had assumed with would be a cup of tea and a biscuit… but no! Diana wheeled in a tea trolley laden with freshly-baked scones, home made jam, fresh strawberries and clotted cream! It was a magnificent feast and my Father, well known for his healthy appetite, tucked in very happily.

Diana’s favourite flowers were violets and I know these were foremost in Joanna’s mind when we wrote our second novel ‘A Violet Death’. I was hunting round for violets to photograph for the front cover when I received a call from Diana telling me that she had plenty in bloom in her garden if I wanted to drive over and snap them… so I did.

They will be hugely missed by their family and friends.




Happy Christmas!

Joanna, right, with her sister Kate, left with Father Christmas.Can I wish each and every one of you the happiest of Christmas Days – happy times around the festive period and just plain happy times!

Memories are precious jewels to be collected and treasured. Then they can be brought out to look at and remember fondly when you need them most. I have had a tough year with all my family, and I’ve no doubt they would agree that the family has been tested in 2015. However the upside of this is that my brothers and sister and I are closer than we were a year ago, and that is something to celebrate.

It’s hard when sad times overwrite the happy memories of the past, and I think it’s really important to try and get past the sad memories and hang on to all the happiness that has been around you over the years.

I am planning a super happy day today with my much loved daughters and little two year old Grace who has a collection of Play-doh coming her way and a cuddly Winnie-the-Pooh so maybe we can make some Play-doh food for the bear – who knows. That’s the fun of being two – anything can happen and her innocence and naiveté sum up what matters about the Christmas message. Love, happiness and trust in the future.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas Wreath

I love making Christmas decorations from bits and pieces found in the garden, but it’s not always possible to rely completely on home grown. Having a stock of nice ribbons always helps as that adds a nice focal point and, excuse me you are all crafters too, I bet you have loads of ribbon!

I start collecting things earlier in the year – as you can see from the photo there are hydrangea heads, which I pick from the garden around October. Just keep an eye on them and when they look as though they are green and burgundy and turning then grab them and tie them in little bunches with an elastic band. Hang them upside down in a warm place and they’ll be dry and ready to use within a few weeks.

Pine cones you can scavenge when you go for walks or save them from last Christmas. When I dismantle the Christmas decorations I always save the more interesting bits and pieces to reuse next year.

I like using a hot glue gun to attach bits and pieces, it’s very quick and easy. However the more traditional method of wiring can make a good strong base – try your local garden centre for florist’s wires.

You can use artificial flowers as focal points (as well as that special ribbon!) or you could use dried flowers or, as in this picture, you can use really long lasting fresh flowers like orchid heads, these can be wired or even hot glue gunned onto the wreath. I find sticking a wire through them is the best answer. Add a few pieces of long lasting evergreen foliage from the garden and hey presto!

Happy Christmas decorating!


Christmas traditions – part two!

I have found it quite fascinating looking into what we think of as the ‘traditions’ of Christmas, so here’s a second helping for you.


The wreath has always been used as a symbol of power and strength. In Rome and Greece, kings and emperors often wore laurel wreathes as crowns. Harvest wreathes – the predecessors to our modern decorations – were used in rituals for good harvests, and predate written history. Ancient Europeans often used evergreen in their wreathes to symbolise strength and fortitude as an evergreen will live through even the harshest of winters. Wreaths have been used as a decorative sign of Christmas for hundreds of years. The wreath has significant meaning for the season with its circular shape representing eternity as it has no beginning and no end. From a Christian perspective, it represents an unending circle of life.


Christmas carols grew out of the first Christmas hymns, which developed in fourth century Rome. While these Latin hymns were sung in church for generations, the first true carols developed in France, Germany, and Italy in the 13th century. These carols, written in the language of the area where they were composed, were enthusiastically sung at community events and festivals. They were not composed specifically as Christmas carols, but rather as holiday songs that were sung at many separate festivals and celebrations. Later on, the songs would become associated primarily with Christmas. The modern practice of going door-to-door carolling probably has something to do with the root word for carol, “carole” or “carula” which mean a circular dance, so going ‘round the houses’!


Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that perches on a tree branch and absorbs nutrients from the trunk – hardly one of the most romantic forms of life! Celtic legend says the plant can bring good luck, heal wounds, increase fertility and ward off evil spirits. While it’s hard to say what (if any) truth lies in these legends of yore, at the very least, it provides an excuse to sidle up and kiss someone! The tradition of smooching underneath the mistletoe began (of course!) in the Victorian era and was once believed to inevitably lead to marriage. But it seems to have lost a little of that power. Now, when someone kisses you it might just mean they’ve had a few too many sips of holiday punch!

What ever your thoughts on carols or mistletoe, I hope you have a fabulous Christmas!