A personal ‘spring clean’

After all the dreadful rain we’ve recently had some days of gorgeous winter sunshine and, although I know I am a bit early, I am already looking forward to spring! As well as spring cleaning the house and tackling the jobs in the garden, I have also been thinking about little old me – how can I give myself a bit of a ‘pep up’ and a spring clean?

As you will know, I’ve always been keen on natural health and beauty remedies, so I’ve had a look through my files and come up with some easy and effective natural beauty ideas for you.

Leftover Rice Mask
Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but stay with me… This mask feeds the skin and leaves it really soft and satiny.

  • 2 tablespoons of cooked rice
  • 15ml (I tablespoon) sunflower oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) runny honey
  • 4ml (1 scant teaspoon) lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients together and apply to your face – this looks pretty fearsome, so you might want to pre-warn your loved ones! Leave on for 15 minutes while you relax, a quick snooze, a bath or perhaps read a chapter or two of my novel! Wash off well with warm water.

Citrus Neck Oil
It is impossible to ignore your face as you are constantly confronted by it in the mirror, but what about your neck? It’s probably been hidden with scarves and high collars all winter and, as we ladies know, it is often the part of you that ages fastest, so give your neck some TLC.

  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) avocado oil
  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) grapeseed oil
  • 6 drops geranium essential oil
  • 3 drops lemon essential oil
  • 3 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 drops clary sage essential oil

Mix the ingredients well and massage a small amount into your neck at night. If you feel you’ve overdone it, just blot off the excess with tissue.


New Year Card

It’s sometimes useful to create a few New Year cards to make up for any Christmas cards you forgot! Or perhaps you just prefer New Year to Christmas. This image from Thomas Kincade is just perfect for that – it’s in the Cardmaking Collection Pad Two. This idea was made for us by Suzanne Saltwell.


  • 8” x 8” card blank in gold cardstock (This one is made using an A3 sheet and folding but you could use a standard white one)
  • Backing paper of skies from Thomas Kincade CD (or use any other pretty paper you have)
  • Purple and silver/white pearlised cardstock
  • Key embellishments with string
  • Sheet from Number Two pad

Cut out the clock faces, rectangular embellishment, main image and decoupage piece from the cardmaking pad.

Cut some silver card slightly smaller than main card blank and layer some backing paper, attach to card with double sided tape. Cut purple card to 7” x 5½” then layer some silver card and then more backing paper onto it and attach to the card using foam pads or tape.

Cut more purple card to 4½” x 3½” fix onto the card at an angle, then add the image layered onto silver card and fix that on top but not at the jaunty angle this time!

Decoupage with the single layer using glue gel. Finally embellish with the tied pair of keys, clock face and rectangles etc as in the photo.

Happy New Year!



Cranberry Vodka

It’s always useful to have a stock of ideas for home made birthday or Christmas presents and this vodka could be made all year round. Although this recipe uses cranberries to be festive, you could choose blackberries or raspberries or all sorts of berries instead!

  • 70cl bottle of vodka
  • 300g of cranberries
  • Peel from one orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 large sterilised jars

To start with, prick all the cranberries with a darning needle or any sharp pokey tool you have. Now divide all the solid ingredients between the two jars and pour half the bottle of vodka into each jar.

Now put the jars somewhere safe and leave for about three weeks, shaking them each day.

Then strain the liquid out of the jars into a jug and bottle up into suitable gift containers and label  and it looks lovely. Easy!




My top five festive reads

One day, I will have more time in my life to read. But at the moment my hectic lifestyle means that there is rarely time for me to sit down and get immersed in a book – despite it being one of my greatest loves! However, this Christmas, Richard and I are having a relatively quiet time, so I am optimistic that I will get a chance to get my nose in a book… but it’s just as likely that book might be the second novel I am busy writing with my partner in crime Julia!

But anyway, let’s suppose I do get a chance to read – here are my top five recommended reads for this festive season:

Recipe for Life – Mary Berry

Gosh, I do admire Mary Berry! She built a successful career and raised a family at a time when it was still a very unusual thing for a woman to do. She’s suffered tragedy and ill-health and come through it all with the support of her husband and family. Now, aged 78, when most people are putting their feet up, she’s possibly more famous than ever through her part in the ‘Great British Bake Off’! I’m really looking forward to reading all about her

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling!)

Like many people, I hadn’t heard of this book until it emerged that the author was J K Rowling, so I decided to give it a go – and very good it was! Rowling is a wonderfully talented author and, although this is a million miles away from Harry Potter, all her dash, style and storytelling skills are in evidence. It’s quite gritty, a bit quirky but the lead characters are endearing. As a bit of a detective fiction fan, I hope she writes more novels featuring Cormoran Strike… which, surely is a bit of a Potterish-name for a character!

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells – Sebastian Faulks

I have always been a Bertie Wooster fan (I adored the TV series with Fry & Laurie too!) and I just love the gentle and utterly ‘silly’ old-fashioned humour. So I was somewhat shocked when I read that Sebastian Faulks had been commissioned to write a ‘new’ Jeeves and Wooster story. But the reviews of this book have all been so positive that I have hinted (unsubtly – how unlike me!) to Richard that I would really like a copy for Christmas! 

Preserves: River Cottage Handbook no. 2 – Pam Corbin

As you know, I love preserving and I really liked this little book. It has a lovely ‘feel to it’ (yes I know I like Kindles, but there is something very tactile about books!) and the recipes are straightforward and delicious. There’s also lots of really useful practical advice like sterilising, filling and sealing tables. If you’ve never preserved anything before – this book will give you an excellent grounding. Pam Corbin is a friend of Julia’s and used to run a jam company. Hmmm… jam company now I wonder why that sounds familiar…?

A Sticky End – Joanna Sheen & Julia Wherrell

Oh come on! You didn’t really think I would leave my own novel off the list, did you? It’s the perfect Christmas read, light and funny and, we have been told, hard to put down! The reviews on Kindle, and the lovely emails and letters we have received from readers of the paperback have been truly heartening. If you haven’t already bought a copy… go on!

It’s available on Kindle or through the website.

Happy reading!

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Festive decorations

I don’t have many decorations around the house – the main focus is always my huge Christmas tree. I have an eight-foot high Nordic spruce and we love covering it with happy family memories and decorations made by both the girls over the past 30-plus years. This year there’s going to be a small angel on the top with ‘Grace’ embroidered on her skirt – thank you John Lewis website!

The other items I concentrate on are a lovely wreath for the front door and, lastly, a table centre for the big meal itself. This year I decided I wanted a combination of the lovely country look of oranges and cinnamon with the elegance of orchids and roses – and it looks amazing! I am not blowing my own trumpet – this year my wreath has been made by Karen at 2020 Flowers who is an outstanding florist based here in the village. She delivered the wreath this morning and it really is fantastic. It must have been hard to incorporate everything I asked for and to get it just right, not that I am a demanding customer or anything!

I hang a wreath outside on my front door as I am lucky enough to live in rural Devon where the crime rate is pretty minimal, so I never worry about people stealing it from the door, which I realise might not be the case in a more urban setting. There are good things and bad things about having a wreath outside. It’s great because the cool air keeps it fresher longer and, as it is made on an oasis ring, it’s really easy to water. However, if we are unlucky enough to have a frost over the next couple of weeks, the orchids will get more than a little grumpy. Being near the coast, we often escape really bad frosts and it has worked pretty well most years – but then of course I haven’t had orchids most years!

I’ll keep you posted on how well it’s lasting!