The Nativity scene… seen differently

We are really enjoying making things with our Signature die range and it’s fun to have some different ideas and inspirations. To get some new and fresh input, we have ask some of our design team to produce some cards to make a stunning display of samples for the NEC exhibition at the beginning of November.

There’s no better way to demonstrate what wonderful designs you can create with the dies than to display a board full of pretty cards! I will be demonstrating too but we can’t demonstrate everything, so the boards are a really useful backup.

Here are a couple of ideas using the Nativity set. This is a limited edition set of dies for 2013. These cards don’t use the whole collection but give you some design ideas.

The background for the wise men with the palm trees can be achieved with some Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pads and an Inkylicious brush or two. Alternatively, you can use some ink blending foam. As you can see it’s a pretty simple card but, oh so effective!

I loved the nativity card for the unusual white on black colouring rather than black on white. The construction, again, is fairly simple but this really eye-catching effect is very pleasing!

 

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The Forager’s Kitchen

Hedgerows are always a source of fascination, they are so full of flora and fauna. At the moment, they are dotted with glossy blackberries, and I can never resist picking them as I pass. My mother, the queen of preserves in our family, is already making jam and there has been talk of a blackberry and apple crumble coming our way too…!

My level of hedgerow foraging is fairly basic, but there is lots of ‘free’ food out there if you only know what to look for. My friend Julia Horton-Powdrill is a great forager and it was through her excellent Facebook page that I came across ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’ a truly fascinating cookery book that contains over 100 easy recipes from savoury to sweet, written by a Scots lady called Fiona Bird.

Don’t be put off by the title – this book is absolutely fascinating just to sit and read even if you have no intention of going and collecting any of the ingredients yourself. Not only does Fiona provide lovely (and easy) recipes, she gives lots of additional information about wildflowers, herbs, fruits and berries and more. Should you feel inspired, she also tells you how to forage, essential ground rules (how to avoid misidentification!) and a range of lovely little ‘wild notes’ with really useful hints and tips.

The book is divided up into sections – Flowers & Blossom, Woodland & Hedgerow, Fruits & Berries, Herbs and Sea & Shore. There’s a huge range of recipes – from Christmas Tree Cookies (using Douglas fir needs) through Carrot & Clover Cake to the most gorgeous looking Violet Macarons with Primrose Cream. Fiona writes very well and, whether you live in a city, the countryside or by the coast, if you follow her advice, you will find more ingredients growing in the wild than you could imagine!

Our ancestors knew what to pick and I do think it’s a shame that most people today are so ‘disconnected’ from the countryside and, indeed, wary of it. There is so much beauty in nature and such bounty out there if we only know what to do with it.

Fiona Bird is a mother of six children. She is a self-taught cook and past Masterchef finalist who has always had a passion for cooking and her approach to food is based on her knowledge of tight budgets and limited time. You can follow Fiona on her Facebook page. 

 

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Old-fashioned Christmas

“Christmas?” I hear you cry, “Has the woman lost the plot?” No, honestly, I haven’t! I just wanted to show you a couple of samples from the Victorian Christmas Card CD, in case any of you were planning to make lots of cards for charity or for general sale and needed to start early.

One section of this CD I would particularly like to point out to you is the Shaped Cards section on CD3. Here, you have a lovely selection of cards that are not the usual rectangular or square shape, but have little cutaways and other pretty devices to make small but stunning cards. With the cost of postage going up all the time I know there are many that want to make sure their Christmas cards are compact and the postage element is as inexpensive as possible.

These two cards are examples of the designs on the CDs. There are hundreds of pages to mooch through and, as we all know, deciding what to use is always a tough decision! Every topper has a backing paper and multiple inserts and stationery to match so there’s no excuse not to be totally co-ordinated this year!

The reason I like the more vintage designs is, I suppose, because I love remembering the Christmasses of my childhood when everything was just perfect! Of course it wasn’t, but my memories always tend to be viewed through rose tinted spectacles and perhaps that’s the best way for things to be!

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Blue and White for Christmas

This was my favourite of all the samples I had for the Christmas Patchwork Stamps when I launched them on Create and Craft last week. The great thing is you only need one ink pad – a nice denim blue. You could try Faded Jeans from the Tim Holtz distress inks but there are dozens of others.

The white base card is just under 8”square or 203mm. The first lot of stamping is done on a 6 ½” sq (165mm) piece of white card and to get the stamps nicely lined up, it is much easier to use the patchwork grid that we have put on the tuition section of our website for you to download free of charge. Follow the pattern and when that part is complete, edge it with some dashes to look like stitching, done with a fine liner pen.

Then create the next piece of card which is 4 ½” square (115mm) – again follow the pattern in the picture and edge it with faux stitching as above. Fix the two pieces onto the base card and then embellish with the central squares and some flowers.

This could look just as nice in red or green if you prefer more traditional Christmas colours.

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A picturesque landscape…

As we drive out of our village towards the motorway for another of our trips to TV land, we get a lovely view of the high tors of Dartmoor in the distance. For quite a few weeks in January, the tors were covered in snow, as was much of the moorland area and the communities within it.

One of the many attractions of this beautiful area are the Dartmoor ponies that roam the moorland alongside grazing cattle and sheep. They are incredibly sweet and you will often see young foals by the road, barely able to stand on their ludicrously long legs, with their hugely round mothers watching protectively nearby.

They are hardy animals and, unless snow cover is very deep and prolonged, they manage to forage quite well. Contrary to what most people think, the ponies on Dartmoor are not truly wild animals. They are all owned by farmers, who let them out on to the commons to graze for most of the year and this is where most visitors to Dartmoor come across them.

They are an integral part of the moorland landscape and are a part of the area’s cultural heritage and important for conservation grazing.

Dartmoor National Park is home to the native breed Dartmoor Pony. But not all the ponies on Dartmoor look the same. Importing other breeds has created various colours and shapes and some of them are absolutely gorgeous – I’ve seen a spotted one, just like a Dalmation!

The ponies live out on the moor all year round. They spend most of the time in small herds of mares with one adult stallion and young ponies. Local farmers who keep ponies get together to clear ponies off their particular common. These round ups are called ‘drifts’ and are held in late September and early October. Once, driving across the moor to Tavistock, we came across a drift, and stopped to watch. What a magical sight it was as all these ponies streamed down across the hillside, crossing the road in front of us, and then down to the collecting pens.

Once in the pens, ponies are separated into groups according to ownership. The health of all the animals is checked, and treatment is given where appropriate. After the drifts pony keepers decide which ponies to sell. The rest are returned to the moor until the following year. And so the cycle continues…

 

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