A Special Day!

I simply love this artwork and this card – wine, cheese and some good company is my idea of a very special day!

This card uses the Anna Browne cardmaking pad and it contains oh so many designs that I really like and have found very useful in the past few months.

One of the things I would like to point out especially on the card is the use of Kraft card to die cut the Signature die ivy corner. Don’t you think it looks really effective in Kraft as a change from green – I was very impressed. 

This is a slightly smaller card than we usually make, it’s about 5 ½” square – and just uses the ingredients on that sheet from the Anna Browne pad and lots of layers in copper, Kraft and one layer is white. It’s a simple card but oh so effective and would be great for a man’s card or a female like me that loves wine and cheese!

Lots of celebrating planned this week for us when the new book comes out on Thursday – definitely wine – we might even get treated to champagne – more news as it breaks!

 

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Hot off the press!

Well, strictly speaking, it’s hot ON the press! My second novel ‘A Violet Death’, co-written with my friend Julia Wherrell, was being printed yesterday. It will be available a week from today – Friday 15th August.

I wasn’t able to go to our printers, Maslands up in Tiverton today, but Julia went along to watch the covers and text coming off the presses. I found it absolutely fascinating when I went last year to see the first book in the series ‘A Sticky End’, being produced. All that whirring machinery is fascinating and watching a cover, then another cover and oh look, there’s another cover whizzing out the end of the machine is great fun!

A Violet Death is the second in our Swaddlecombe series and is set in the summer, following on from A Sticky End, that took place in springtime. Here’s a quick synopsis to whet your appetite:

‘After inheriting a cottage from her aunt, Victoria West is starting to settle into her rural life in Devon.

As Victoria and farmer Albert Moreton’s relationship blossoms, summer heats up and preparations for the Swaddlecombe Show are underway when a ferocious flash flood shakes up the rural idyll and a mysterious death is discovered. 

Meanwhile, as she researches her latest article on Devon violets, Victoria meets the Ansome brothers who, in their very different ways, have a major impact on her future happiness.

Is Victoria and Albert’s romance doomed? Will the vicar ever dry out his cassock and will Moss the pup win his obedience class at the Swaddlecombe Show?’

So there you have it! As ever, it’s got plenty of humour as well as a few unpleasant incidents… and there’s yet more cake to add into the mix!

We do hope you enjoy it!

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Keeping it contained!

Just as I enjoy small and intricate card designs, so I enjoy smaller, creative container gardening. It also makes me feel good as I can be frugal by recycling objects that might otherwise be thrown out, like old wellies, and results in something totally original that appeals to my slightly quirky nature!

Now I know you can be thoroughly green and use cut out milk cartons, plastic bin liners and old tyres, but I think whatever you use for your plant containers needs to fit in with your surroundings and be to your style, otherwise, you won’t be happy with the end result.

My favourite quirky planters include old watering cans, old wellies (the more colourful, the better!) and tin cans. The latter need some care and using tins with ring-pull tops are best as they give you a safer edge, you don’t want to cut yourself, but I do think they look good. Any containers you use will need drainage holes, so you might need to get someone (a man with a drill?!) to help you do this, unless it’s something soft when you can probably punch or cut the holes yourself.

Alternatively, old kitchen utensils such as colanders have built-in drainage holes and you don’t need moss or coir to line them – they make great hanging baskets too! Perhaps this is something Victoria should think about in our second novel ‘A Violet Death’, due out very shortly! Oops – did I just give our next book a plug there? Naughty me!

Have a think about what flowers will be right for the scale of your containers and try and get a nice mix of trailing and taller plants and decide whether you want similar colours, or more vibrant contrast shades. 

One lovely idea is to grow herbs in tin cans or in old kitchen utensils, they look great and it’s so apt too!

Here are a few more tips to help you get the best out of your containers:

  • Always raise your containers off the ground so that they can drain freely, both in summer and especially in winter, when they can freeze.
  • Water plants either first thing in the morning or in the evening – avoid the middle of the day when temperatures are high and so is the rate of evaporation.
  • Always add a barrier layer between the drainage materials and the compost to stop the compost washing down and blocking drainage holes. Use old net curtains, washing-up cloths, pillowcases, capillary matting, sacking or landscape fabric, and use old broken pots to help drainage.
  • Group containers in their final position before planting, especially when moving heavy pots.

 

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Eat your greens!

As the sap rises and the garden blooms, hen pal, and partner in writing crime Julia Wherrell, has been pondering her chickens again…

Last year, we had a bit of a disaster. On a very windy May day, the gate to the chickens’ run blew open and they escaped. There was no road kill or fox massacre, they simply strolled into my veg patch and ate every pea, broad bean and lettuce in sight creating their very own version of carnage. I was not impressed, but the hens were chortling merrily and happily stuffed with greenery. My partner felt sage and onion might have been more appropriate, but I restrained him.

A typical bowl of chicken scraps with rotten bits of fruit, wilted rocket and ends of vegetables.Chickens are omnivores so they’ll eat, or at least try, just about anything and spend much of the day scratch the ground looking for insects and worms. Any large insect, like a butterfly, foolish enough to drift through their run will be hotly pursued with all sorts of acrobatics and excitement and generally not come out alive. They love cheese rind, pasta and they have slices of brown bread every day and yes, they are spoilt.

They are also exceedingly fond of their greens. Any scraps we have – the bits you cut off the end of your vegetables, corn on the cob husks, wilted lettuce – they fight over. For entertainment, my farmer friend Greg will eat an apple and then lob the core into the run and watch the ensuing rubgy match as chicken after chicken grabs the core, runs off chattering happily, puts it down to eat it, whereupon it is instantly stolen by another hen and off they go again… A kindly neighbour regularly gives us the discarded outer leaves and stalk of cauliflowers which, to the hens, is about as exciting as receiving a box of chocolates!

Cauliflower leaves – better than a box of chocs!Of course we give them ‘proper’ chicken feed, including corn and things called ‘layers pellets’ but, just as we do, they love a varied diet. But greenery seems to play an important part in making their yolks rich and yellow. As a result, our hens’ egg yolks are a stunning deep rich orange and taste delicious. I rarely eat eggs anywhere but at home as I find their paleness unappetising. Sponges and quiches all look gorgeous as they have a naturally golden hue and they really do taste wonderful.

Now that my veggies are well advanced, the hens will be getting even more treats. Bolted cabbages, rocket and lettuces disappear down their greedy beaks in seconds. They won’t thank you for an onion or a leek though. And this year, my partner has adapted the door to their run so that it swings shut, even in the strongest gale, so I can be sure the greens they get are the ones I decide to give them and not the ones they steal!

 

 

 

 

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Flowery bookends

These bookends are huge sentimental favourites of mine. I made them as a sample to teach on one of my courses ten or fifteen years ago. Everyone who made them that morning made something slightly different and I bet many are still treasured by their makers!

You need to collect together some wood pieces to make the base – hopefully you might know a handy person with a saw and some screws to make you a plan and simple L-shape. You will also need a small terracotta flowerpot, a micro mini terracotta flowerpot, some dry flower Oasis, some gingham, silk or dried flowers and some tiny embellishments.

Paint effect the basic L shape of wood with crackle finish. Then wrap the terracotta in the gingham and wedge some oasis inside the pot to hold the material fast. Now using a glue gun, stick the large pot onto the L shape, add the embellishments and then finally arrange some flowers in the oasis and voila!

Obviously you can make dozens of variations on this – I did a lovely pair with gold leaf on the terracotta and others with fabric to match the bedroom I intended to put them in. Kept me quiet for hours!

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