Egged on!

Whenever I am thinking about writing a blog, certain topics leap into my mind because they interest me (new craft ideas, gardens, cakes etc.) while others occur just because I’ve written about them before and found them so interesting I have to revisit them! Tea is one such topic, as are chickens and eggs.

Whenever I write about chickens or eggs, the blogs are always popular. Sadly, since she moved house, my partner in crime writing Julia no longer keeps hens, but I do love eggs and manage to buy lovely free range eggs locally. We eat more than 12 billion eggs a year in this country (amazing!), but when you look at how versatile eggs are, I suppose it’s not that surprising.

An egg is just such a wonderful thing – nature at her most clever it seems to me. The design of an egg is so perfect – their asymmetric tapered oval shape means that if you nudge them, they’ll come back to you. They’ll sweep out in a circle around the pointed end, and come to a stop with the pointed end facing uphill – pretty essential if you nest on a cliff edge! In fact, the eggs of birds that have their nests in precarious places are more oval than the eggs of birds that nest on the ground.

Another reason for eggs to be egg-shaped is that they fit together snugly in the nest, with only small air spaces between them so they help keep each other warm. And let’s not forget another reason that eggs are tapered – so that they can get pushed out of the hen more easily – ouch!

An egg contains every vitamin, except C, as well as calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium, plus lots of other micronutrients. As you may know, all of the fat is in the yolk, but so is most of the goodness. Some terribly serious diet gurus want us to feast(!) on whipped egg white omelettes and, while I’m sure that’s terribly healthy… it’s also rather dull to my mind.

Eggs are so versatile, just think of all the things you can make with them… cakes (now why did that come into my mind first?!), omelettes, meringues and mayonnaise. They can be boiled and used in sandwiches, on picnics and for soldiers at breakfast. Great for glazing baked items and for thickening and lovely when scrambled and served with smoked salmon as a treat! And then, of course, the shells themselves – lovely to decorate, perfect for growing seedlings in and the best packaging ever for a ‘ready meal’!

However, the poor old egg has been through some crises in this country. There was the big salmonella scare in the late 1980s when everyone seemed terrified of eating them. Then we were told their cholesterol content is bad for your heart – it’s not. The egg is also often stated as a cause of constipation but that again, isn’t true, it’s just that they have absolutely no dietary fibre, so you shouldn’t fill up on eggs instead of high-fibre foods. How different from my childhood when I can remember those funny TV adverts with comedians Tony Hancock and Patricia Hayes telling us to ‘Go to work on an egg’ as they were supposed to be so good for you!

 

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More seaside memories

As the last blog featured lost ice creams, I thought we should continue the theme of seaside memories but instead of cards, here are a couple of 3D projects that you can make using the Signature dies.

There are lots of inexpensive frames you can buy that are deep 3D designs. This beach scene would look lovely in a child’s bedroom or perhaps just the thing for a bathroom. Just like making a card, you build up the picture and I use Pinflair glue gel for attaching the die cuts as you can add height with larger blobs of glue. We have quite a few beach related designs in our section ‘On the Beach’, so you could chop and change the ingredients to suit you. Perhaps a set of three pictures featuring different beachy scenes would look nice?

Likewise, this wooden plaque makes a pretty ornament. How about hanging it from the door knob or drawer front? It’s an MDF base with the string stapled to the back. You can then add whatever ingredients you fancy. I love the ice cream image, so many happy memories!

Before I redecorated, I had a completely beach-inspired theme for one of my bathrooms. Red and white life belts as towel rings (ok they were bought not made!), a lighthouse lamp in one corner and baskets of beautiful shells! I have collected pretty shells for years and have oodles of them. My towels were striped red and white and blue and white, and the bath mat was cork so looked vaguely beachy! Now I have a much more traditional lavender and roses theme – rather predictable, but I love the big arrangement I created using dried roses and bunches of lavender for the windowsill and pretty towels embroidered with lavender.

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Creative chaos or just a mess?

As we all know on this blog, crafters are all pretty wonderful people! Of course, we are all different in what we like and don’t like and how we approach things. In our work, some of us are tidy and some of us messy. Does it matter if you have everything neatly stored and colour coordinated… or your desk (like mine!) is an eruption of colours and bits and pieces? The general view always seems to be that tidy is best. Well, hang on, there’s some good news for those of us on the messy end of the scale – I’ve just read that there is growing evidence that being tidy can actually hamper your creativity!

My desk, just now!

Being messy has its plus points. Messy can be read as ‘interesting’. If you stick to a strict regimen, you may well get lots done, but is what you produce any good, or original? A horrible term ‘thinking outside the box’ is, I think, meant to encourage you to look at things from a different, perhaps quirky angle. In a recent blog, I wrote about making the most of your dies and using them in different ways from how they were originally intended. It seems obvious, but sometimes, you just have to stand back a bit and let your mind wander… yes, I know, mine wanders a lot!

I think most of us would own up to having too much ‘stuff’ in our lives and can spend a lot of time trying to ‘de-clutter’. Just have a look at top-selling books on Amazon and you’ll see there’s a whole industry in it! But if you go too far the other way, that empty minimalist way of living can be too restricting. There’s nothing less inspiring than an empty wall.

Some really creative and clever people had chaotic desks. Asked to name a brainy person and many of us would come up with Einstein. I am pleased to report he had a fantastically messy desk! So too, apparently, does the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, so there’s hope for us all.

The theory seems to be that a messy and chaotic approach to work and creativity often leads to a fresh way of thinking. There’s been lots of research done that proves that messy=creative. How many artists’ studios have you ever seen that are tidy?

Unfortunately, the idea that ‘messy is bad’ is taught to us from a very early age. But surely, being allowed to make a mess has to be a good thing if that is how you prefer to live or work. Trying to force yourself to be tidy cannot be a good way to live – how are you going to express yourself? And let’s face it; most children are happiest when they are allowed to make a mess!

Life is a messy business. So much of my ‘clutter’ is actually my ‘happy memory’ bank – photos of my parents, my granddaughter’s artworks, a shell I picked up on a far way beach… and so it goes on. As a fellow crafter, I am sure you know just what I mean. Enjoy your mess! Smiles, Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

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Making a Christmas Wreath

wreathmontage

What a lovely day out! From the tutor, to the lunch to the finished article!

Alright, I admit it was a bit of a busman’s holiday, but my goodness I did enjoy myself on Wednesday! I went to a lunchtime course on making a Christmas wreath, held by Karen of 2020 Flowers who lives in Stokeinteignhead, near me. The course itself was held in a dear little café in Shaldon on the seafront, which was fun to go to in itself, and the food they served for lunch was amazing! Honey pumpkin soup and home made bread… it was just perfect.

Anyway, back to the wreath making! I know it all through and through, but it’s sometimes lovely to have a few hours to yourself where the phone won’t ring and the emails can’t get you! Karen is a serene, calm teacher and had all her ingredients so beautifully organised it was such fun to just play.

Using an Oasis ring, which you can get at some garden centres and obviously florist wholesalers, it is so, so simple to make a wreath yourself. A great tip from Karen was to not only soak the oasis in water (knew that) but to add flower food to the water (didn’t know that!) and I can see what a great idea it is.

I’d brought a whole selection of greenery from home as I felt the wreath would mean more to me if it was created using my own greenery and in the end, as I was a touch speedy, (sorry Karen!) I ended up making two wreaths – so my daughter Pippa is thrilled to bits to have a wreath Mummy made!

Another useful tip is that you can use unwanted pieces of Christmas tree – sometimes you trim some away from the base – or maybe you have a Leylandii hedge in the garden that could be carefully snipped at. I used ivy, Leylandii, rosemary and anything else that looked quite tough and long lasting.

wreath2

…and this was the second wreath I managed to squeeze in!

To decorate your wreath once the greenery is all pushed in (small lengths only, all the way round) you can use Christmas tree baubles, shells, berries, artificial or real flowers and, obviously, ribbons. As the Oasis is easy to push things in it’s fairly plain sailing until you get to baubles and shells, those are best hot glued onto pieces of bamboo skewer or just hot glued straight on the wreath.

It does make you feel good to have a decoration that you made yourself – I hope my family enjoy mine as much as I enjoyed the course!

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An Ocean Birthday

Seahorrse

This was a sample made for my July TV show by Sylvie which I feel didn’t get enough airing – I just love it and the ideas used here are really worth showing you.

Start with an 8 x 8” white card blank and then layer some of the beautiful blue marble paper from our Joanna Sheen Backing Papers Volume One onto silver mirri.

Cut several pieces of the Louisa embellishment (Louisa Lace Border Signature Die). Try the 300gsm Elegance satin card on our website – it works brilliantly. Cut another piece of white card to about 5” square and colour it with distress inks. To get that wonderful bubble effect – flick tiny amounts of water at it once you have coloured it. Then draw round the splodge with a white gel pen to create bubbles.

Now cut several Ocean corner pieces (Signature Ocean Corner die) and 3 or 4 Sammy Seahorses (I chose that name – makes me smile every time!). Colour them all with Promarkers and assemble the seahorses one on top of the other and then apply a layer of crystal lacquer.

Now assemble the card. Add a layer of dark blue net/tulle between the middle panel and the back of the card and add the Louisa pieces to the back of your middle panel before you stick it down rather than trying to glue it afterwards. Add all the corners and then the seahorse and fish.

Add a final row of Louisa bits and a die cut Happy Birthday to finish the card.

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