Dreaming of Thomas Kinkade summer cottages in the snow!

I am sitting warm and cosy, at my desk in deepest Devon, while outside there are quite a few inches of snow! It’s very unusual for us to have snow at all never mind this deep as we’re not far from the sea, which seems to keep things warmer. But not this winter… although is March still classed as winter?

So I thought a warm comforting selection of pictures would do us all good! Here you can see Thomas Kinkade at his best. Gorgeous summery cottages, flowers and peaceful fields and a pony or three that looks very content. Not so my daughter’s horse at the moment, I digress I know, but poor Bobby the grey horse is a very grumpy chap this morning. He has four blanket things on (can you tell I’m not horsey?) and has been given a warm breakfast and is still giving any human nearby the evil eye, assuming I guess that it could be any one of us that has caused the drop in temperature! Last night when tucking him into bed (believe me if they did 4 poster beds for horses she would buy him one) the temperature outside the stable was -6 degrees C …. I wouldn’t like to be out in that it has to be said, I have an electric blanket …. Result!

Anyway back to Thomas. These pictures are from our latest Thomas Kinkade pads, volume 5 and volume 6 and they are some of the best yet. I have tweaked the design slightly so you get co-ordinating backing papers contained within the pad and that seems to have hit a chord with many of you. For example that lovely red brick gate post has a matching red brick wallpaper in the pad, then there are frames and sentiments as well as the usual decoupage and borders. Lovely pads and very, very popular everywhere in the world that we sell to.

So all these three cards have main images and backing papers from the pads, have a look at our website and see if you fancy making a happy summery card today!

PS Apologies to those of you reading in other countries that are either hot and sunny currently, or like my friend Cheryl in Michigan, totally unimpressed by a measly inch or six of snow!


You knead to know about massage!

As physical work goes, sitting in front of a computer in a nice warm house is not exactly high on the list of tough jobs, but it does do awful things to your neck, shoulders and arms. Similarly, if you spend too long hunched over your craft table, you’ll get the same knotted shoulders and stiff neck. I am sure we all dream of a relaxing massage, but unless you have an obliging partner, such a thing is hard to come by and can be a bit of an expensive luxury in a spa or salon. But it is possible to give yourself a massage…

Like so many things, just stopping and giving yourself a little ‘me’ time can make all the difference. A DIY massage is a great way to unwind and ease away those aches. I get a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and if I just remind myself to stop and do a few simple exercises, it can help. Some simple stretches can really help relieve tension – why not write yourself a little list, pin it up somewhere obvious and then set a time to spend 10 minutes doing them. Perhaps at 11am coffee time, or if you stop for an afternoon cuppa?

Stretch & relax

Sit with your back straight (you have a nice comfy crafting chair, don’t you?!) and drop your chin to your chest. Roll your head in a circle one way, right around nice and slowly. Yes, you may well here crunching sounds, but don’t worry, it’s not about to drop off! Then do the same thing in the other direction.Next raise your head up – as if someone is pulling your hair up by the crown – and then scrunch your shoulders up to your ears, hold and then drop them down like an enormous shrug. I love that exercise, I can instantly feel my shoulder muscles saying ‘yikes’! Do that three times.

DIY massage

Sitting up straight, reach one arm across in front of you onto the opposite shoulder and squeeze and knead the muscle along the top of your shoulder. It’s a big muscle and you can be quite firm with it, use your fingers and thumb. Knead all the way along and up to the base of your skull. Then return to the shoulder and lift and squeeze the muscle again, like a pinching movement. The do all that again on the other side.

If you have ‘neat hair’ you might want to perform your DIY massage first thing in the morning or last thing at night, as this next bit could wreck your coiffure! Gently, but firmly, use both hands to massage your scalp, as if you are shampooing your hair. Make sure you work on the temple areas and the base of your skull.

And finally, treat your ears to a little love too. Rubbing your ears between thumb and forefinger is a really comforting movement. Start at the front and work your way right round to the lobe and, again, don’t rush…

There! I enjoyed that, as I performed all the actions as I wrote this – LOL! I am now thoroughly relaxed, even if I do look like I’ve been through a hedge backwards. Enjoy!






Barbara Anderson flowers to bring a smile!

There’s nothing like a beautiful bunch of flowers to bring a smile to my face! Having said that, there are plenty of times when physical flowers are not an option. I know you can send flowers anywhere these days, but it does involve quite a bit of money and, sometimes, all you want to do is cheer someone up, or say ‘thank you’, or a million other reasons.

These cards can deliver beautiful flowers for you, although only 2D, not 3D, they are still gorgeous! The artist is Barbara Anderson. Barb is American and uses vintage floral images which she tweaks and twists and adds original little extras as varied as birds to calligraphy or teacups to wheelbarrows!

I only discovered Barb last year and I have really enjoyed working with her designs. We have two pads available, Collection One and Collection Two, and both pads give you 24 sheets to make cards, and almost everything you need is on that sheet. Just add blank cards, some of your time and a dab of glue!

I love using anything vintage – I define vintage as anything older than me – it makes me feel better! You can see here on the centre card I have added pearly buttons from my button box, which has inhabitants that have been there for generations. It was my grandmother’s box first, then my mother took it on and now I have it in my craft room. I must admit I rarely use the buttons on clothing – I add them to other craft projects because I think they are just so pretty.

So looking at all three cards, you can see that apart from a little extra cardstock and a blank card, these pads really do give you lots to work with and the results are pretty good I reckon.


Light my fire!

This welcoming fire is in a cosy Cornish pub!

I know it hasn’t been that cold this winter, but it’s been so wet and miserable I think we can all do with a bit of treat now and again. Sitting in front of a log fire, or a log burner has to be classed as a real winter treat! While not all of us have real fires, we all seem to love it when we enter an ‘olde worlde’ pub and see logs blazing in the grate. We are lucky here in the Westcountry as there are plenty of such pubs about.

Sadly, I’ve always found that the romantic ideal of putting a match to the kindling and settling back with a book and a glass of wine on the sofa (oh and with Richard of course!) while it blazes away is very far from reality. Lighting a fire is an art… and an art that has so far escaped both of us!

Sofa, wine, fire… perfect!

There is always much debate about what is the best way to light a fire. Should you use firelighters (smelly), or is that cheating? Everyone has their own idea about how best to do it, but after extensive research online and consultation with some friends who are successful firelighters, this is my definitive guide:

  1. Make sure the grate is clean, so sweep away any ash from the hearth if it is an open fire or if a log burner, clean out the tray. You need airflow to get the fire going, flames feed on oxygen.
  2. Scrunch up balls of newspaper and lay them in the grate. Don’t skimp, and make sure the paper is dry. Some people swear by making the newspaper into a tube and then knotting it – I am told this is a lot of faff and makes no difference!
  3. Plenty of kindling and newspaper are essential.

    Place very dry pieces of kindling onto the newspaper. Kindling is small pieces of wood or twigs that are essential to get the fire going. Again, don’t skimp on these, and poke them in amongst the newspaper to ensure a good base.

  4. Place a couple of well-seasoned logs (small to medium-sized, don’t swamp it with a whopper) on top of the pile and then light the newspaper with a match. If you are using a log burner, close the door, and make sure the vents are open to draw in the air.

Ta-da! That should be the perfect recipe for a blazing fire! If it doesn’t work either paper or wood are very probably damp, in which case… cheat, and use a firelighter or go and have a hot bath, or simply snuggle up under the duvet!

PS. Don’t throw your ash away, mix it into your compost!



The chandelier – a touch of glamour in the gloom…

Goodness – I am glad to see the back of January – what a wet and miserable month it has been. February is our shortest month… so before we know it we’ll be in March and spring will be well underway! In an attempt to avoid the gloomy weather, I’ve been distracting myself with some very fanciful ‘window shopping’ although these days, it’s more a case of ‘screen shopping’ as I sit in front of my laptop. I have been cheering myself up rummaging around websites full of lovely bits and pieces for the home. Do I need anything new? Of course not, but it’s fun to look and it’s free!

A snazzy pink number from Next.

One of the areas that seems to have undergone a massive change in the last couple of years is lighting, both indoor and out. Solar powered fairy lights are brilliant and mean we can all light up our gardens without any need for an electrician or any DIY skills at all and they are quite cheap to buy too and cost nothing to run… although it’s true they do need sunshine to charge! For interiors, there are some absolutely stunning lights around and metallic effects seem to be very ‘in’ at the moment and there are some lovely copper lampshades and light fittings to be had. Copper is lovely and warm and would give a soft light for winter.

A dramatic smokey style from B&Q!

But if you want to really ‘go for it’… what about a chandelier? Years ago, a chandelier was the height of opulence and only really wealthy people with large, high ceilinged rooms could have them. But not any more! There are some terrific ones available now from as little as £20 and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Dunelm, B&Q and Next (to name but a few) have an amazing range and most of them just fit onto your light fitting like a normal lampshade. Their twinkling light cannot help but cheer up the dreariest winter day.

Originally, chandeliers were made from expensive materials such as rock crystal and bronze so they were well beyond the means of anyone except royalty. The name ‘chandelier’ comes from the French ‘chandelle’, which means candleholder. It was that modest monarch, Louis XIV of France, who really bought into the chandelier when he filled the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles with them. It must have been the most breath-taking sight in an age (1600s) long before electric light, and when the soft glow of a few candles in a candelabra was normally all you could have of an evening. Louis’ massive crystal chandeliers were themselves lit by candles, but their light was reflected both by the thousands of crystals and the mirrors on the walls so it must have been an absolutely dazzling spectacle – can you imagine!

What an amazing spectacle the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles must have been, lit by hundreds of candles, their light reflected thousands of times.

Murano glass tends to be a very ‘Marmite’ design, either loved or loathed!

During the 18th century, glassblowers developed more elaborate creations with bevels and facets. Then the Venetian glassblowers of Murano got their hands on the chandelier and transformed it, yet again, into a sprouting profusion of flower-festooned stems and leaves. You can still buy this style of chandelier made in Murano, but they will set you back a bit!

After candles came gaslights and then electricity and the chandelier has continued to evolve. The development of plastics and Perspex in any shape and colour today gives us inexpensive chandeliers that are lightweight and just plain fun. And why not? I’d quite like a natty little aqua blue one to hang in the bathroom… but I’m waiting for just the moment to suggest this to Richard!