Seashore inspiration…

It’s been so warm this past week I was determined to set foot on the beach at least once! I adore beachcombing – it’s relaxing, therapeutic, invigorating and just plain old fun!

Finding pretty shells is an obvious attraction, but some of the plant life is fascinating. Sea holly, beloved of many flower arrangers, looks stunning in its natural setting, alongside grasses and samphire and other weird and wonderful looking things that I don’t even know the name of.

Thrift is another favourite – such a cheerful little plant – I really look forward to seeing it every year – but goodness knows how it manages to grow in such barren rocky areas.

I love the colour palette of the seashore, and I’ve used it for inspiration when decorating – restful and cool blues and greeny-greys alongside pale blonde sand. But there can be vibrancy too, as in the thrift and in startling yellow/orange lichens. We are blessed with turquoise blue seas down here and that is a wonderful colour to use as a starting point for any water-themed project.

On my recent beachcomb, I picked up a spider crab shell. The detail in both colour and texture is extraordinary. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll store it away for future use!

 

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Elderflower Sparkler

The flavour of elderflower has become popular once again. Historically, the cordial has a strong Victorian heritage, however versions of an elderflower cordial recipe can be traced back as far as Roman times.

Elderflower is just starting to come out now and the flowerheads are best collected fresh and new when the tiny buds have just opened and come to bloom before the fragrance is tainted with bitterness. Make sure you shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects before you use them!

This recipe produces one of the most delicious drinks ever concocted. Many people prefer it to French champagne because of its light and refreshing taste. Lovely for a warm summer’s evening…

To make about 5 litres, or 8.5 pints

You will need:

750g/1¾ lb caster sugar

475ml/16fl oz hot water

4 large fresh elderflower heads

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Juice and pared rind of a lemon

4 litres/7 pints water

1.            Mix the sugar with the hot water. Pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic container. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well, cover and leave for about 5 days.

2.            Strain off the liquid into sterilized screw-top bottles (glass or plastic). Leave for a further week or so. Serve very cold with slivers of lemon rind.

 

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Dandelion – weed or wonderful plant?

What do most of us think when we see a dandelion? WEED!!! But wait – this is such a negative view of what is actually a very versatile and edible plant. If we can train ourselves to see it as such, just think how much more relaxed we will be as gardeners!

As we all know, dandelions grow very well in the UK for pretty much most of the year. The dandelion is used by the French and Italians in their cuisine and is even cultivated. Did you know almost all of the plant can be eaten?

The leaves: The leaves of the dandelion plant are best eaten young. The dandelion has a bitter taste similar to chicory that grows stronger with age and leaf colour. Pick the young and tender leaves and you can include them in salads. You can mix them in with other greens such as spinach or cabbage or even use them in a stir-fry.

The roots: The roots are also edible and can be washed (not peeled) roasted and ground to make a caffeine-free coffee alternative. Large roots can also be roasted like small thin parsnips – delicious, but you will need a lot to make it worthwhile. They cook very quickly, so keep your eye on them!

The flower: The flower is really very attractive – I know, hard to see it in this way – but it is! Pull off the petals and scatter them in salad – it looks lovely. Or, you can use the whole flower head as a garnish or dip it in a light batter and deep-fry the flower heads as a snack or starter – they go really well with a hot chilli sauce.

If picking now, make sure you go for the smallest, newest plants. Do be careful not to pick ones have been chemically sprayed. Also avoid picking dandelions by the roadside as they will have absorbed petrol fumes. But if, like me, you have a garden full of them – pick away!

Here’s a simple little dandelion idea for you to try:

Dandelion tea

Most warm herbal teas have a comforting effect. Dandelions are a diuretic and can help to reduce water retention and bloated feelings. Many people find this tea a useful treatment for rheumatism too. The tea also acts as a mild laxative, so don’t drink too much at once!

You will need:

  • 5-6 dandelion leaves
  • Boiling water
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  1. Remove any stems from the leaves. Break them into strips and put in the bottom of a mug. Pour on enough boiling water to fill the mug and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain, discard most of the dandelion leaves and drink. If you prefer a sweeter brew, add a small teaspoonful of honey.

PS. And don’t forget, guinea pigs and rabbits adore dandelion leaves too!!

Smiles, Joanna

 

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Turning ‘nothing’ into ‘something’

Whether you refer to it as Folk Art, Barge Art, Canalboat Art – or even the modern version One Stroke or Fusion Painting – they all cover roughly the same territory. The artwork is bold and simplistic and once tutored, even a relative beginner can produce some really fun pieces of artwork.

Many moons ago my mother and I signed up for barge art evening classes and for ages, we plagued the entire family with decorated gifts for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries – you get the drift! But joking aside, it is a fun way to decorate the most inexpensive household bits and pieces.

These enamel items are all painted using glossy paint (small pots of Humbrol) but you could use other mediums on cards or canvas. I think it’s a great way to pretty something up and it encourages me horribly to hoard more dilapidated bits and pieces ‘for when I have time…’!

We’ve decorated wonderful flat irons, horseshoes, hat boxes, coal scuttles, washing up brush containers, bottles, trays, jars… the list is endless, and many of these bits and pieces we managed to collect for nothing.

One of the joys of crafting I guess… turning nothing into something and creating a really pretty thing that takes pride of place in your home!

Smiles, Joanna

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Lovely lavender…

Lavender is one of my favourite plants – to grow, to dry, to use in pot pourri and to cook with (truly lavender cookies are yummy!). I wrote a whole little book about Lavender many years ago and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful addition to any garden.

This card mixes a lavender backing sheet and image from our Jane Shasky CD and some parchment stamped with our AMAZING lace stamps. If you haven’t played with them yet, I think they prove just how accurately and beautifully a rubber stamp can be made.

The way to get the best from the stamps is to stamp on parchment using Versamark and then some detail white embossing powder. I choose to heat from behind when embossing with the heat gun as I can keep a really sharp eye on when the powder starts to turn and whip the heat away so that I use the least heat possible and so slim down my chances of spoiling the parchment with too much heat.

Nothing brings a smile to a girl’s face like lavender and lace and maybe even a fragranced card – why not keep the card in a drawer with some lavender or some cotton wool with drops of lavender oil dotted on it – just don’t let the oil touch the card!



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