Yesterday’s junk is tomorrow’s collectable!

What makes things go in and out of fashion? Why do we hate lava lamps one decade, and regard them as retro and hip the next? Why did I once decorate a wall with cork floor tiles? And whatever possessed any of us to wear loon pants?! Yesterday’s junk so often becomes tomorrow’s most collectable ‘must have’ and if only we could predict these trends we’d all be very rich!

A current fad, and one that I must admit I rather like, is ‘kitchenalia’ – basically our mothers’ and grandmothers’ kitchen gadgets, crockery and utensils. Who would have thought chipped enamel colanders would be highly prized, or that old pieces of blue and white striped Cornishwear would sell for small fortunes? 

I have found myself in various retro shops recently, all selling things that I binned years ago – and selling them for far more than they originally cost. It’s enough to make you weep! Joking aside, it’s rather lovely seeing such things again as they instantly bring back memories. An old metal flour dredger – my Mother rolling out pastry. A set of pastry forks – afternoon tea at my Grandmother’s. A ‘vintage retro shabby metal baking tray’ – hang on, I’ve still got one of those! If you have a look on ebay, there are some lovely old items, but there are also some hilarious ones where people think they really can sell anything. I have to tell you that at the time of writing this, the ‘vintage retro shabby metal baking tray’ (battered, grubby and not that old!) was on sale for £7.50!

Old-fashioned kitchen scales are rather lovely – they look great and are still perfectly serviceable. Stoneware jars make lovely ornaments, we were lucky enough to find some in our loft when we moved here and I like their colour and solidity, but useful – they are not! I think it will take me a while to come round to wanting a stainless steel tea service, but you never know… You might yet see me in a pair of loon pants again one day!

I wonder what it is that brings things back into fashion, or how old they have to be to become ‘antique’? What do you think? What do you predict will be the next ‘big thing’? What old bits of junk have you got that you are hanging onto in case they become highly-prized?

PS. My latest novel ‘A Violet Death’ features quite a bit of kitchenalia – now there’s a coincidence!

 

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Putting on a bit of a show…

July and August are busy times down here in Devon. Of course, the tourism industry is huge in this area – we are blessed with beautiful countryside and a dramatic coastline – but it’s the strong sense of community and tradition in the countryside that also come to the fore at this time of year.

The rural community is still closely aligned with the farming world and country shows, town carnivals and village fetes are all still important (and popular) events on the social calendar.

Growing giant vegetables, showing your best breeding ram or entering your dog in the agility class are all part of the fun,­ although some people take it very seriously indeed! People go to enormous lengths to build carnival floats, groom and polish their ponies and traps and produce flower arrangements of great ingenuity. It is heartening to see such ‘traditional’ ways of life still carrying on so strongly in this technological age.

My partner in crime writing, Julia Wherrell, took the afternoon off to wander around a show local to her up on Dartmoor, the Chagford Show, and took some fun photos to give you a real feel for what goes on. She spent quite a lot of her afternoon in the produce and craft tents and when not in there, she was admiring the prize sheep and cattle, oh, and chickens of course. She says she most definitely did not go near the beer tent(!), but might have swung by the cream teas!

They always say ‘write about what you know’, so if you happen to be a fan of our Swaddlecome Mysteries series, this sort of rural entertainment will be well known to you! 

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Memories of Mrs Tiggywinkle!

When she created Mrs Tiggywinkle, Beatrix Potter secured a place in our hearts for this funny little prickly creature. For all us children who read about her, the hedgehog will forever be something cute and special.

Just down the road from where I live is a lovely children’s attraction called Prickly Ball Farm – can you guess what that’s all about? Yup, hedgehogs! In fact, they have a hedgehog hospital where you can go and see the fantastic work the staff do to rehabilitate sick and injured hedgehogs to bring them back to health before releasing them back into the wild. They often care for up to 80 of the prickly little beasts at any one time and it takes a lot of time and love to nurse these little creatures.

They are always happy to receive donations of old fleeces, blankets, towels, hot water bottles and food bowls. They also ask for any unwanted newspapers, shredded paper, sawdust or straw to help with the daily clean out of all the hedgehogs. And while you are there, you can learn more about hedgehogs and their habitat from one of their daily hedgehog talks.

Of course, as with all such attractions these days, they have to offer a whole range of interesting things for visitors to see and do and Prickly Ball Farm has grown to become a very popular attraction. They have a wide variety of animals including ferrets, pigs, chickens, ducks, pygmy goats, ponies, donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and even foxes! As well as getting to see all the animals, they run activities throughout the day so visitors can get a real ‘hands on’ experience with everything from pony grooming to walking a ferret and feeding the goats.

Spike’s Farm Shop sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to home made products from the café, local produce plus a range of prickly gifts and souvenirs. And just as the adults are starting to flag, there’s a very nice café with an excellent range of home made cakes! It’s a sweet day out and just a little bit different. Once my granddaughter Grace is old enough to appreciate it, Granny Joanna will be using her as an excuse to visit!

You can follow them on Facebook

 

 

 

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The language of flowers…

I saw a post earlier this month on Facebook about the rose being the birthday flower for June and I thought “Aha!” Time to remind myself which flowers are for which months, as it can make a lovely, apt, birthday present for friends who love their gardens or, like me, just love having flowers in the house. It also reminded me about the ‘language of flowers’…

Sometimes called ‘floriography’, the language of flowers is all about sending messages through the arrangement of flowers. Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years but interest in floriography really took off in Victorian times. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings that could not be spoken aloud in buttoned-up Victorian society! Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small ‘talking bouquets’, called nosegays or tussie-mussies, which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. It’s a rather lovely idea and such a shame that now, most people just text or tweet each other – so unromantic!

But there… for those of us that still have a bit of romance, or poetry in our souls, here’s a list of birthday plants for each month, plus their significance. This isn’t definitive and you’ll find some differences, but you’ll get the general idea!

January: Carnation
The flower is said to symbolise love, fascination and distinction. Carnations come in every shade and each colour can symbolise a sentiment or emotion. Pink means affection, a white carnation mean good luck, whereas a yellow carnation denotes disappointment or exclusion.

A Victorian tussie-mussie.February: Violet
Although this month is associated with St. Valentine’s Day and red roses, the flower for the month is violet. The flower symbolises faithfulness, humility and chastity. Giving violets in the Victorian era conveyed the message ‘I’ll always be true’.

March: Daffodil
This month is synonymous with the onset of spring and accordingly the flower associated with this month is the daffodil also known as jonquil or narcissus. A gift of these flowers conveys the hidden meaning of friendship and happiness.

April: Sweet pea
The sweet pea is said to symbolise pleasure or good-bye. In the Victorian era, these flowers formed a part of the bouquet that was sent to someone to convey gratefulness.

May: Lily of the valley
The flower conveys sweetness and humility. In the Victorian era, they conveyed the romantic message ‘You have made my life complete’.

June: Rose
Roses are available in many colours and each has its own special meanings, but the underlying message the flowers convey is that of love and passion.

Pink larkspur for contrariness!July: Larkspur
With its simple form, feelings of open heart and ardent attachment are attributed to it. Again, there are different meanings for each colour. Pink denotes contrariness, white expresses a happy nature, and a first love is usually symbolized by purple.

August: Gladiolus
It stands for sincerity and symbolises strength of character.

September: Aster
The name of the flower – which looks like a star – is derived from the Greek word for star and, in the language of flowers, it symbolises love, faith and wisdom.

October: Marigold or Calendula
The marigold stands for sorrow and sympathy.

November: Chrysanthemum
Compassion, friendship and joy. Chrysanthemums have different meanings. Red is for love, white means innocence, and yellow denotes unrequited love.

December: Narcissus
The narcissus symbolises sweetness.

 

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Meet Ellen Jareckie – the talented artist behind House Mouse!

Ellen Jareckie at work in her studio.You’ll know their names and their wonderful designs, but what do you know about their backgrounds and sources of inspiration? Joanna has been chatting to some of the top artists whose original and stunning artwork is transformed into craft products and featured on her website.

In this blog Joanna talks to Ellen Jareckie, the talented artist behind the House Mouse designs. 

1. Ellen, where do you get your ideas from – what inspires you?

I’ve always loved mice, ever since I was a little kid. I find them fascinating because of their small size. I had a pet mouse, named Tiny, who was the inspiration behind the line of mouse characters.

2. What do you enjoy most about your career?

I enjoy many things about my career, and I feel very lucky to be able to do something fun as a career. I work at home, which is very relaxing, and I also take in Just one example of Ellen’s many lovely designs that we featue on the website.orphaned mice occasionally, so I spend the day creating the artwork as well as tending to any orphans. I really enjoy making a needy creature feel warm, safe and well fed, and I love creating new images too.

3. What do you like the least?

What I like least is doing any kind of bookkeeping, but I make myself do that, since it’s necessary to keep good records.

4. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I’m definitely a night owl. I get up a bit later in the morning than many people do, and work until late at night. But if I’m tending to a critically ill orphan, I have to get up in the middle of the night as well as early in the morning because it’s so important to be vigilant with an orphan that arrives seriously ill or starved.

Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet, that Ellen hand raised.5. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in time, the only thing I would do differently is start riding a motorcycle earlier in life than I did. I started riding at age 48, I think. Other than that, I would not do anything differently. And Barry and Nicole are my agents, and I would keep them, too. They are great people, and I could not do what I do without their hard work. Barry’s marketing skills over the past years were what really helped launch the designs. 

6. What is your favourite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory… there are lots of them, mostly very funny ones, so it’s hard to choose. I think that Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet I hand raised, was my favorite memory. She was at a pig farm, dying of starvation (too many babies in the litter) and I asked the farmer if I could buy her. He said, “She’s going to die anyway, so I’ll sell her to you for a dollar”. Since I was only 14, that was an affordable price for me. I brought her home and bottle-fed her and she lived on our property. I love pigs! They are sweet, intelligent, and have a great sense of humor. 

Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back.7. If you had to choose just one of your designs as your absolute favourite, what would it be?

It’s hard to choose a favorite design, but maybe that would be the picture of Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil in a garden while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back. This was years ago and the design was featured in the 1999 calendar!

8. Who do you think has had the most influence on you?

In the book, “Charlotte’s Web”, there are some incredibly endearing illustrations by Garth Williams. It is those illustrations that inspired me the most. There’s a picture of Fern (the girl), holding Wilbur (the piglet) in her arms. Also, a hilarious picture of Templeton, the rat, after he’s eaten too much garbage at the circus – I love that illustration, and that character

9. What was the last gift you gave someone?

The last gift I gave was to a friend of mine who just had a birthday yesterday. I gave her a box of fresh tarts from the bakery along with some hand soap that smells like freesia flowers, and other fun items.

10. Do you have any future plans you’d like to share with us?

In the near future I plan to do a little more animal rescue work, and I also plan to expand on some of the Wee Poppet, Gruffies and Happy Hopper images too. I also hope to get over to the UK to see your beautiful country, and if I do, I hope to be able to visit with some of you. To all of you who are viewing the blog, thanks for all your interest, support and enthusiasm for the designs. And thanks to Joanna Sheen, and to everyone who works with Joanna. You are all fantastic! Thank you!

Thank you Ellen! We are sure you don’t need telling, but you can find lots of House Mouse products in our craft shop on our website. We’ll be featuring more of our wonderful artists in future blogs!

 

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