The best blooms for saying ‘thank you’!

Dianthus – so pretty and such a gorgeous scent too.Goodness, don’t flowers make us feel good? As you know, I love having cut flowers in the house, and I love giving them as a gift too – just watch someone’s face light up when you hand them a bouquet!

So, I’ve been thinking about what would be my top flowers for creating bouquets and posies – some you can easily grow, others you’d probably go out and buy and then assemble your arrangement. I’ve also included a guide to how long they will last, if well-cared for. I’ve blogged about looking after your cut flowers previously too, so have a look back to make sure you make the most of them!

Sweet pea (Vase life: 3-7 days)

The ultimate ‘cut and come again’ cut flower! There are plenty of colours to choose from, but a good mix of shades makes the prettiest posies. Old fashioned Grandiflora types often have the best scent. If I could have a bunch of these in my house every day of the year – I would! 

Lily (Vase life: 8-10 days)

You only need a few lily stems to make a dramatic and exotic-looking cut flower display. There are lots of different lily species that you can grow as a cut flower, but oriental Lilies are the most popular for their fragrance and glamorous trumpet shaped blooms. 

Sunflower (Vase life: 7-10 days)

Sunflowers make the cheeriest cut flowers and always raise a smile. They’re very easy to grow and won’t Sunflowers – surely the cheeriest flowers?require any special attention – simply sow them directly into the ground where you want them to flower. For cutting it’s best to choose multi-headed varieties to give you lots of blooms.

Tulip (Vase life: Up to 7 days)

Tulips are among the earliest flowers for cutting in the garden. They come in such a range of colours that you’ll be spoiled for choice. Tulips are thirsty cut flowers so you’ll need to keep their water topped up on a daily basis.

Gladiolus (Vase life: 7-10 days)

The flamboyant, tall stems of Gladioli are superb for adding height and drama to flower arrangements. Cut gladiolus flowers just as the lowest two or three florets begin to open, but try to leave as many leaves as possible to feed the bulb for next year.

Dianthus (Vase life: 14-21 days)

Dianthus (including Carnations, Pinks and Sweet Williams) are some of the best known of all cut flowers. And don’t forget the lovely fragrance you get with Pinks, making superb posies.

Eucalyptus (Vase life: More than 21 days)

The silvery-blue foliage of eucalyptus gunnii makes fantastic filler for vases, bouquets and larger flower arrangements. Its attractive rounded leaves provide shape and texture that blends well with both formal and more relaxed displays. Eucalyptus has an amazing vase life, easily lasting more than 3 weeks.

Gypsophila (Vase life: Up to 7 days)

Gypsophila makes particularly useful filler for softening bouquets and adding a frothy haze of tiny flowers to your cut flower arrangements.

 

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Thinking about Easter

It’s not long now until Easter – it must be about as late as it can be this year – with Easter Sunday falling on April 20th. I have so many possibilities for making Easter cards but I think Jayne Netley Mayhew’s animals will be my inspiration for cards this year.  Both of these designs use the decoupage in her spring collection and they make wonderful Easter cards.

The little row of ducklings always makes me smile, the decoupage is quite easy to cut out and you can put a plain card around it or something a little more decorative as we have here. The Grand Nestability die makes a good card shape and with some simple embellishments it’s a simple card to make.

The Easter bunny card is a little more complex but still easy for a beginner. The decoupage is simple and the backing paper has just been pleated which, once you have got into a rhythm, is quite quick and very effective.

These two decoupage designs come with Easter greetings on the sheet if you wish to use them, but there’s plenty more inspiration in the rest of the Spring decoupage pack – you can have a look through them here.

Happy spring cardmaking! 

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An ancient ‘fast food’!

Think of Devon, and you probably think of cream teas. Think of Cornwall and it’s pretty likely you’ll think of a Cornish pasty. Gosh, didn’t we enjoy tucking into them as children on the beach – sadly, my memory is always of pasty with added sand! But this immensely popular dish is a great example of an early packed lunch or convenience food.

There’s lots of historical evidence confirming the existence of the Cornish pasty, the earliest as far back as the 13th century during the reign of Henry III. The pasty became commonplace in the 16th and 17th centuries and, by the 18th century, it was established as a Cornish food eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients such as potatoes, swede and onion. Meat was added later. 

By the end of the 18th century it was the staple diet of working men across Cornwall. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was perfect for their needs. Its size and shape made it easy to carry – its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long, hard working days. 

There are hundreds of stories about the evolution of the pasty’s shape, with the most popular being that the D-shape enabled tin miners to eat them safely. The crust (the crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then thrown away due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines – ugh! 

The Cornish pasty recipes were handed down from generation to generation, often by word of mouth and rarely written down because they were made almost every day. Young girls were often made to practice crimping techniques using plasticine before being allowed to work with pastry!

You’ll find lots of different recipes online, but here’s a nice simple one to try. I personally think the addition of white pepper helps give it that lovely peppery kick that I remember so clearly from my childhood. Enjoy!

To make 4 Cornish pasties

Ingredients 

  • For the pastry
  • 125g chilled and diced butter
  • 125g lard
  • 500g plain flour, plus extra
  • 1 egg, beaten 

For the filling 

  • 350g beef skirt or chuck steak, chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 175g swedes, peeled, finely diced
  • 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp ground white pepper 

Method

 

  1. Rub the butter and lard into the flour with a pinch of salt using your fingertips or a food processor, then blend in 6 tbsp cold water to make a firm dough. Cut equally into 4, then chill for 20 mins. 
  2. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Mix together the filling ingredients with 1 tsp salt. Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface until large enough to make a round about 23cm across – use a plate to trim it to shape. Firmly pack a quarter of the filling into one half of each round, leaving a margin round the edge. Brush the pastry all the way round the edge with beaten egg then carefully fold the empty half of the pastry across to form a semi-circle, or ‘D’ shape, and pinch the edges together to seal. Lift onto a non-stick baking tray and brush with the remaining egg to glaze.
  3. Bake for 10 mins, then lower oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and cook for 45 mins more until golden. Great served warm for lunch, in a picnic… or on the beach!

 

 

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A load of old cordwainers!

Tools of a cordwainer’s trade.I am always fascinated by words and their origins and coming across old names for things always piques my interest. Partner in crime writing, Julia, recently wrote an article about a woman who made shoes and made the point that she was most definitely NOT a cobbler… she was a cordwainer. What a wonderful term! This, of course, set me off and I began Googling and have found out all sorts of fascinating things…

Old names for trades are really quaint and often highly descriptive, what a shame we no longer use most of them. Here are some examples:

  • Carnifex – butcher
  • Cissor – tailor
  • Flauner – confectioner
  • Huckster – seller of small articles/wares
  • Nedder – needle-maker
  • Puddler – wrought iron worker, mixer of molten pig iron into wrought iron
  • Tipstaff – policeman, bailiff, constable
  • Whitcher – maker of chests

A huckster from the 1860s… long before the advent of the website!Hmmm… perhaps I should promote myself as a ‘Huckster’ as through the website we sell lots of ‘small articles and wares’ – what do you think?

If you are called Cooper or Baxter, you may well know that your ancestors were barrel makers (cooper) and bakers (baxter).  But what if you are a Spicer, Leech or Fuller? Somewhere along the line your ancestors would have been (in order) grocers, doctors and felt or cloth makers.

It’s fascinating to see how our names evolve over the centuries. People’s accents and the listening and spelling capabilities of parish clerks are usually responsible for all the different versions of names we have today. She’s not sure, but Julia thinks ‘Wherrell’ is a corruption of ‘wheeler’. As her family originates from Wiltshire, the accent would make wheeler sound more like “woller’ or ‘worrell’ and eventually, ‘wherrell’.

‘Sheen’ is not an easy name to sort out, but most likely it has Irish origins. The original Gaelic form of the name Sheen is ‘O Siodhachain’, which may derive from ‘siodhach’ which means peaceful, so that’s quite nice!

And the difference between a cobbler and a cordwainer? A cobber mends shoes, a cordwainder makes them. The word is derived from ‘cordwain’, or ‘cordovan’, the fine leather produced in Córdoba, Spain. So now you know!

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Knitting squares for a baby treat!

I am sure most of you have tried knitting squares over the years. My mother decided she would like to try again recently as something to keep her busy during the darker days of winter when she can’t get out into the garden.

I bought some wool and the right needles and she was away. However sadly her Parkinsons just wouldn’t let her knit for long and she became a bit downhearted with it all. So a family member stepped in, Sue Litchfield, and she took over and added even more than we expected.

Sue is a simply brilliant quilter and now I realise she is also a good knitter too! I thought it was a simply fantastic idea to connect the squares with the daisy at the junction of four squares. It adds such a lift to the design. Then, to complete the work of art, she has backed the blanket with some pale cotton, which will make it even nicer to lie on/under if you are a small baby called Grace!

Thank you Sue!

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