A basket of flowers…

I thought it was about time I had a look at a card design – and I’ve chosen a really lovely one for you! The artist behind this series of 3D-decoupage is T.C.Chui and I just love all the flowery interior scenes we have chosen in this pack – such pretty pictures. The sheets are available from my website.

A basket of flowers on a card can be just the thing for so many different occasions and gives you the chance to add some pretty paper or silk flowers as embellishments.

The decoupage is made up using silicone glue or Pinflair glue gel – or alternatively you can use little foam pads. Then mat and layer on some pretty pink card and place on a seven or eight inch square base card with a fairly neutral backing paper. The fun can then begin with floral or die cut embellishments and ribbons!

With Valentine’s, Mother’s day and Easter looming, you can have great fun creating something really lovely and personal for those special people in your life.

2 Comments

A very special celebration

A Baby’s Birth Date

Whether it’s your own baby or that of a friend or relative, it is lovely to commemorate the new celebration dayby surrounding the baby’s name and birth date with pressed flowers. The result is a unique gift that can be hung in the nursery. You could also add more details such as the baby’s weight and length. This would make a really super gift to bring when you visit a new baby and mum once they are home from hospital!

What you will need:

  • 25cm x 20cm (10in x 8in) frame with glass cut to fit and a hardboard back.
  • Cream or pale-coloured card, to fit the frame, with the baby’s name and date of birth either in calligraphy or printed from your computer.
  • A selection of pressed leaves and flowers
  • Latex adhesive – or any glue that starts white and dries clear

1. Start by positioning your chosen leaves to frame the wording, leaves with silver colouring were used in this project, but you could use any pressed leaf or even a paper diecut instead of real leaves.

2. Next, add dainty touches of gypsophila and heuchera or diecut flourishes. Follow these with larger flowers, in this case roses but whatever you choose would be fine.

3. To finish, add some more flowers – pink larkspur and hydrangea florets, the latter with potentilla centres forming the middles. When you are happy with the design, secure each item with adhesive, applying it with a large needle or cocktail stick. Cover the finished picture with clean glass and then fix it in the frame.

10 Comments

Herbal Pleasures

Happy New Year!

I thought we’d kick off 2012 with some personal pampering – I’m sure we’ve earned it after all our hard work over the festive season.

I love natural products and making your own beauty treatments is so much more rewarding than opening jars and sachets and fighting with fancy packaging… and you can feel extra virtuous as you’ll be saving yourself a fortune as well! So here are two of my favourites, simple – but lovely… 

Chamomile and Honey Mask

Although this mask makes you look a bit strange while it’s on your face (best not to answer the front door!) it’s worth it as it smooths and softens skin beautifully. Chamomile flowers are usually easy to find in health food shops as they are often used for making chamomile tea.

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers
  • 175ml (6fl oz) boiling water
  • 2 tbsp of bran
  • 1 tsp of clear honey, warmed

1. Pour the boiling water over the chamomile flowers and allow them to stand for 30 minutes. Then strain the infusion and discard the chamomile flowers.

2. Mix 3 tbsp of the liquid with the bran and honey and rub this mixture all over your face. It may be a little stiff at first, but will smooth out over the skin. Leave the mixture on your skin for at least 10 minutes then rinse off with warm water.

Herbal Bath Bags

These are much more fun than putting commercial bubble bath into the water. Tie them over the taps and make sure the hot running water is going through them – this will release lovely herbal scents that will relax and comfort you.

You will need: 

  • 3 x 25cm (9in) diameter circles of muslin
  • 6 tbsp bran
  • 1 tbsp lavender flowers
  • 1 tbsp chamomile flowers
  • 1 tbsp rosemary tips
  • 3 small rubber bands
  • 3m (3yds) narrow ribbon or twine

1. Place 2 tbsp of bran in the centre of each circle of muslin. Add the lavender to one bag, the chamomile to a second and the rosemary to the third.

2. Gather each circle of material up and close with a rubber band. Then tie a reasonable length of ribbon or twine around each bag to make a loop so that the bag can be hung from the hot tap in the stream of water.

4 Comments

Herbs on the Christmas Tree

Wood smoke, pine, roasting turkey – these are just some of the lovely smells that say ‘Christmas’! Dried herbs blend in very well with more traditional Christmas decorations such as pine cones, nuts and cinnamon sticks and of course they add beautifully to the overall aroma.

Herbs on the Christmas Tree

There’s always room on the Christmas tree to tuck in a herbal arrangement or tiny wreaths of herbal flowers and foliage to add to the natural pine scent of the tree. Decorated pine cones with clusters of herbs and ribbons to hang on the tree, and miniature baskets of dried herbs tied with a festive gold cord, add an unusual touch and fragrance. As there are so many family gatherings at this time of year, why not make some decorations for the tree as a family present?

Miniature sacks

A miniature sack of herbs can be made from a piece of hessian 15×5 cm (6×2 inches) fold it in half along the longer edge and stitch together the two side seams. Turn it right sides out, fill with strong smelling dried herbs and tie with an elastic band. Then decorate the sack with a red or green ribbon, miniature pine cones and some holly.

Stockings filled with herbs

Small socks or stockings can be cut from any cotton material with a festive colour scheme or pattern. Cut out two identical pieces and sew round the edges, leaving the top open. If you sew with a contrasting thread – say holly green on red material – it doesn’t matter if the stitches show as they can be part of the design. Alternatively, you can place the two pieces of material with right sides together and sew with a matching cotton, then very carefully turn the stocking inside out. This is more fiddly, but looks neater. Then fill the stocking with scented dried herbs and stitch across the top. The stocking can then be decorated with festive bits and pieces, such as gold sprayed miniature cones and holly berries.

Little balls of herbs

Small polystyrene spheres 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter, can be made into really cute herbal Christmas tree decorations. Cover them in a solution of latex adhesive, watered down slightly so it’s easier to apply. Then, dip the balls into dried lavender or stick herbal flower heads, such as oregano or marjoram, all over the balls and trim with tiny ribbons. A set of balls in shades of misty lavender and greeny-grey, trimmed with narrow pale pink ribbons looks very dainty and unusual.

Christmas swags and garlands

I was just finishing off this blog and I thought – I just can’t resist adding an extra idea – swags! A swag of dried herbs and flowers hung across a mantelpiece or round a doorway is a lovely way of welcoming your guests. Placing unusual herbal foliage or flowers in a festive garland provides extra points of interest.

Cones and berries are a must for a traditional look, whether left ‘au naturel’ or gilded. Small kumquats could be included as they are daintier than oranges. Tartan ribbons and bunches of lavender, bay, holly, rosemary and sage are complemented by sprays of brilliant red roses, cream peonies and pink carnations. Dried flowers can look just as lovely as fresh arrangements and last far longer.

Take care if you fix your swag across a mantelpiece as open fires and dried flowers don’t mix!

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Joanna x

4 Comments

Country Christmas Celebrations

As Christmas is one of the happiest and busiest times of year for me, I thought now would be the ideal time to start my new blog – no pressure then!

Christmas is always a real family occasion, and we are lucky enough to be a happy family that thoroughly enjoys a large get-together where the ages range from nine to 90.

Although Christmas is often more focussed on children it doesn’t take much effort to make it a happy time for adults too. Quite apart from the food and drink, seeing friends and phoning people you’ve not seen for ages can make the festive season very special!

I’ve come up with a few ideas for you, which I hope you’ll find fun to make in the run up to the big day.

Mulled Wine – Victoria Farm style

Serves 8 non-drivers

The aroma of this mulled wine sums up Christmas for me. It is quite strong, so ideal for prim and proper relatives or friends who need to relax a bit before they can join in the fun – oops, did I really write that?

You will need:

  • 75cl (1 bottle) claret
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) unsweetened orange juice
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) water
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) port
  • 50g (2oz) brown sugar
  • 7g (1 heaped tsp) mixed spice
  • 2 large juicy oranges, each cut into 8 pieces.
  • 8 cinnamon sticks

Put all the ingredients, except the cinnamon sticks, in a saucepan and place on a very low heat. Gently warm or ‘mull’ the mixture for an hour or so. If you want to prepare it in advance, warm it for an hour, leave it to cool and then reheat it when needed.

Serve in chunky glasses or mugs, with the cinnamon sticks as stirrers. Don’t include any of the orange pieces as they have an embarrassing habit of falling onto your nose as you drink the wine – not a good look!

Filo waterlilies with figgy mincemeat

Serves about 8

If you fancy a change from the traditional mince pie, why not try these pretty, tasty and light alternatives? I personally prefer filo to shortcrust pasty – try them and let me know what you think!

You will need:

For the mincemeat

  • 225g (8oz) dried figs
  • 75g (3oz) pecan nuts
  • 350g (12oz) cooking apples (preferably Bramleys)
  • 75ml (3fl oz) Calvados
  • 50g (2oz) stem ginger in syrup
  • 675g (11/2lb) mixed dried fruit
  • 25g (1oz) unsalted butter
  • 5g (1 tsp) ground allspice
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon

For the pastry waterlillies

  • Approx 20n sheets of filo pastry
  • 225g (8oz) melted butter

To make the mincemeat, pour the mixed dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the Calvados, then leave to soak in a warm place for several hours. Peel, core and chop the apples, and mince or process them together with the stem ginger, pecan nuts and figs. If using a food processor you may need to add more Calvados to moisten the mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir really well to make sure they are well combined. Put into clear jars and seal. Do not keep too long (chance would be a fine thing in this house!). I expect you’ll use it all before Christmas but if not, don’t exceed 6-8 weeks in the refrigerator.

Using good kitchen scissors, cut the filo pastry into 5 – 5.75cm (2-21/2 inch) squares. Cut a stack at once, don’t do them one at a time or you really will be there until Christmas! Keep the pastry covered with a clean damp cloth as much as possible to avoid it drying out. Butter a nine-hole bun tin and place a square of pastry over the hole. Brush the top of the pastry with melted butter and cover with another square of pastry, placing the second square at an angle. Continue to layer about 5 sheets of pastry, buttering in between and rotating each square a little each time to give a petalled edge effect – see diagram. Fill each pastry case with between 10 – 15g (1dsp to 1tbs) of mincemeat and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160ºC (325ºF), gas mark 3 for 45 minutes.

And for your table…

Can’t resist passing on one of my favourite and easiest Christmas table decorations! Have a rummage in your garden, or keep your eyes peeled on a winter stroll and see if you can find some Old Man’s Beard (Clematis Vitalba). These pale silky fronds make a stunning and effective table decoration especially if you add some glitter spray, or sparkle, or interweave some spangled gold threads. Magical!

Next week:

Herbs on the Christmas tree!

38 Comments