Good Luck!

We all have friends and family that could really do with a good luck wish at some point. Whether it’s a driving test, moving into a new home, passing an exam or starting a new job – good luck cards and wishes are always welcome. Sometimes I think we don’t realise just how daunted people are by the project in front of them and a pretty card with some supportive words lets them know you are thinking of them and can make all the difference!

This card is made from some artwork by Barbara Mock and is on our One Summer’s Day CD – there are lots of lovely things to work with on that one. This is a simple but effective card that won’t take you too long to make.

The three toppers are all on the sheet you print out and if you mat and layer them onto cream and then black it gives them a smart little frame. The card blank measures 210mm x 140mm and some more cream card then backing paper and then black card are layered up as per the picture to create the base.

Add all the toppers with some foam tape or glue gel and embellish the corners with a little self adhesive pearl and you’re away!

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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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Owls are fun!

Owls are very trendy right now – in fact I would say owls have always been popular but as images in artwork, design, household foods etc they seem to absolutely everywhere at the moment!

This little chap comes from pad one in the Jane Shasky cardmaking collection. You get all the images you need to make a card on just one sheet and then you can add other things to taste (that’s making it sound like a recipe!)

The die used for that beautiful ivy corner comes from my Signature die range – it’s called Ivy Corner (now look we take a long time choosing names!) and has proved so very useful in many of my recent designs. Here the backing paper is very textured but you could just as easily use a flatter dark soft green to resemble ivy colouration.

If you don’t have an ivy die to decorate the corner, there are pretty little butterflies (or are they moths?) along the right hand border perching on the tree trunk, you could always use a butterfly die and embellish the corner with some butterflies instead!

 

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Blooming good ideas – floral top tips from the trade!

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time working with flowers. As some of you may know, in a ‘previous’ life I worked exclusively with pressed and dried flowers. I’ve also trained with Constance Spry (many years ago!) so I’ve picked up all sorts of tricks of the trade for fresh flowers, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you…

  • Florists use the juvenile foliage of eucalyptus which is more rounded and attractive than that found on mature plants. Grow your eucalyptus as a coppiced plant, pruning hard each year to encourage a constant supply of immature stems for cutting.
  • Although they may come into flower at the same time, never be tempted to mix tulips in a vase with daffodils. Narcissus species exude a substance that prevents your tulips (and other cut flowers) from taking up water.
  • It’s important to cut sweet peas regularly to encourage more blooms. Cut the flowers just as the lowest bloom is opening and put them in water immediately for a longer vase life. 
  • To avoid problematic pollen stains on clothes and furniture, try gently removing the stamens from lilies as they open. When cutting lily stems from the garden it’s important to leave a third of the stem intact in order to feed the bulb for the following year.
  • When growing gladiolus specifically for cutting, plant them in rows in the vegetable patch. This makes them much easier to harvest. 
  • When growing roses as cut flowers, be ruthless and remove any poorly placed flower buds that are unlikely to make good cut flowers to direct energy into the best blooms.
  • Avoid standing carnation arrangements in direct light as they will quickly fade.
  • Sunflowers are best cut with sharp secateurs early in the morning or late in the evening while temperatures are cool.
  • Gladiolus flowers will generally all reach maturity at about the same time, but if you want to prolong the cutting season then try to stagger planting at two-week intervals so that they mature at different times.
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Julia’s Wild Garlic Soup

When I wrote about wild garlic last year (or it may have been the year before!) it aroused a lot of interest. Well, it’s that time of year again and, depending where you are in the country wild garlic should already be out, or emerging any day… 

It is such a pretty flower (a member of the allium family of course!) and gives off such a gentle garlicy scent – it’s quite magical. It seems to be a very good year for it and pathways through woodland here are lined thickly with it. I have lots of wild garlic growing on the banks of the stream in our garden too. It’s not as strong as cultivated garlic but it’s edible and free and adds a lovely soft ‘oniony’ tone to salads. Unlike common cultivated garlic, it’s the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. The taste is more delicate too, similar to the flavour of chives.

My foraging pal Julia Horton-Powdrill, who really knows her onions (and garlic – ha ha ha!), has a lovely recipe for wild garlic soup that you might like to try.

Serves four

Ingredients 

  • Knob of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled & chopped
  • 750mls chicken stock
  • 500g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 100ml double cream
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Melt the butter and add the onion and cook until soft but not browned.
  2. Add potatoes and seasoning and stir, and then add the chicken stock.
  3. Simmer until potatoes are almost cooked.
  4. Add the wild garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes more.
  5. Blitz the soup to blend, add the cream and reheat gently
  6. Serve with warmed sourdough bread.

Serve with warmed sourdough bread, plus a little swirl of cream or creme fresh on the top as the finishing touch!

WILD GARLIC (Allium ursinum)

Leaves can be used in sauces and soups

Flowers and leaves can be used in salads

And never fear, my loyal readers… it is also supposed to ward off vampires!

And finally – I would advise caution in the garden. Wild garlic spreads by the production of underground bulbs and can become a problem. It will also carry on growing quite happily in your compost heap, so beware!

Find out about Julia’s foraging courses here.

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