Wisteria tunnel

WisteriaThanksWisteria looks amazing however it appears in your garden – but one of the most beautiful displays I have ever seen was a tunnel of wisteria, grown over metal arches. This card reflects the same feel.

You need a set of nesting dies – there are many that would work, it just needs one of the ends to be curved. You could use any arch window die – or as Sylvie did when she made this particular card as a sample for my July TV show – a Spellbinders labels 10 die and then hand cut the straight pieces with a good craft knife.

Thomas Kinkade is an excellent choice for the cottage at the end of the tunnel but there are images in our Sung Kim pads too – or even a stamped image if you prefer. Build the tunnel as you go along, place the first layer and then add some wisteria onto that (I like Glossy Accents and a cocktail stick). I find the easiest way with our flower dies is to cut loads out of good white card – I use Elegance Satin 300gsm from our website, and then use pens (Promarkers work brilliantly on Elegance Satin) to tint the flowers to the shade you want.

Gradually build the layers adding wisteria as you go along, remembering that the bottom has to remain level. Finally, add a little sentiment at the top.


Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all!

widecombemare“Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all!”

…so goes the well-known Devon folk song about a man called Tom Pearce, whose poor old horse dies after someone borrows it to travel to the fair in Widecombe with his many, many friends. Although not at all funny for the grey mare, it is a humorous song and often performed by rowdy crowds (all NINE verses of it!) that have enjoyed a little too much cider! It’s such a well-known song that the term ‘Uncle Tom Cobley’ has come to be used as a colloquialism meaning “anyone and everyone”.

widecombehistoryPossibly because of the song both Widecombe and its Fair are famous throughout the country. Widecombe-in-the-Moor, to use its full name, is a picturesque village in the middle of Dartmoor, with a magnificent church (the interestingly named Church of Saint Pancras!), visible from all the surrounding hills and tors and known as ‘the cathedral of the moor’.


Widecombe Fair takes place annually on the second Tuesday in September, attracting thousands of visitors to the tiny Dartmoor village. It is still a traditional event full of farmers and local craftsmen and as popular with locals as visitors and well worth a visit. My partner in crime writing, Julia, went along this year to take some photos and soak up the rural tranquillity and a way of life that has gone on for centuries in the Dartmoor valleys.


There were sheep shearing competitions, cattle, sheep and pony classes, vintage cars and agricultural machinery and some stompingly good live folk music in the beer tent from morning through to midnight! The obligatory produce tent, crammed with huge vegetables, jams and flower arrangements (and you wonder where we get our inspiration for the Swaddlecombe books?!) is always worth a visit. There was also an interesting area dedicated to ‘Living History’, complete with thatchers and other traditional craftsmen demonstrating their skills. Add to this ferret and terrier racing and the intoxicating smell of steam engines and you have the perfect rural day out!


Left to right: Was the Reverend Ruminant present at the Fair? Certainly looks like his car! Adam Henson and his BBC film crew… and a traditional bit of ferret racing!

Such is Wideombe Fair’s fame, Julia spotted Adam Henson, the farmer presented from BBC1’s ‘Countryfile’ programme, busy filming at the fair… so, if you keep your eyes peeled you might get to see it on TV!






Patchwork and Roses

FloralThatchThe idea for this card came from the saying “roses around the door”. I was trying to get the feel of a country cottage with patchwork and roses growing around the door. We used to have roses climbing up the front of our cottage but sadly the ivy got the better of them and now we just have ivy round the door, which really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Thomas Kinkade is always a good ‘go to’ product for cottage designs and this is from the Thomas Kinkade Card Collection Volume One. The backing papers are from the Joanna Sheen Backing Paper pads Volume 3.

This is a very simple card to assemble – just use a Spellbinders oval nesting die to create the aperture and then get to work on the roses.

The Wild Rose Signature Die is a pleasure to use, the diecuts fall out of the die beautifully so no scrabbling about and there are various different ways you could colour the flowers. You can just cut them from assorted pink/lilac/pastel coloured card. Or, alternatively, you can cut them from white card (our Elegance Satin 300gsm) and work on them with Promarkers. It really is easier than you may think. Just scribble across all the edges using the chisel end of the pen (don’t panic or try and colour it all completely) and then take a lighter colour and again using the chisel end, cover the entire flower, focussing especially on the joins between dark and light. Then if you want to blur the joins even more, take the blender pen and use that in circular motions to mix it all together.

I like adding self-adhesive pearls in the centres but you could just have, say, some yellow card behind them or leave it as it is. I use Pinflair glue gel to attach them to the card, then they will be movable for a little while.


No longer the ‘has bean’!

beansAh the joys of growing your own vegetables… you stare at your courgette, runner bean or tomato plants for weeks and weeks and nothing happens. And then suddenly – whoosh – they all ripen at the same time!

We are currently awash with courgettes and runner beans and trying all sorts of different recipes and playing ‘swapsies’ with other veg growers. But it is all great fun and tremendously satisfying to eat what you have grown.

I love runner beans (luckily!) but coming up with different ways of preparing them can be a challenge. The beans have to be trimmed before cooking, so they need top and tailing and the fibrous strings on each side need to come off as they can be tough and difficult to digest. An old farmer friend who used to grow masses of runner beans every year recommended this nifty bean slicing device (pictured). It is brilliant at producing beautifully cut beans quickly and easily. I can buy the bean slicer in my local Devon ‘sells everything’ shop, but if you can’t find one, try online. It really is a fab kitchen gadget!

beanslicerThe key to good runner beans is to pick them before they get too big and woody and not to cook them for too long, otherwise they become tough and grey and they lose flavour and nutrients. The poor old runner bean does get a bit of a bad press as so often we just boil them and stick them on the side of the plate next to sausages or Sunday roast. But they are great in their own right and versatile and you can do much more with them.

Quite often it is just a case of combining the cooked beans into a salad. I always steam mine, retaining the colour and texture and often add them to salads. As soon as you have streamed them, run them under cold water, shake dry and mix in with whatever salad takes your fancy. For a quick and healthy lunch, I love mixing them with feta cheese, spring onion and a sweet homegrown tomato or two finished with a drizzle of salad dressing. If you like fruity salads, why not try grilled nectarine and parma ham with a runner bean salad – it’s the perfect summer salad, chock-full of seasonal flavours. If you look online you will find thousands of recipe ideas for how to deal with your runner bean glut.

beansfriedHow you cut your beans will dictate what you can do with them. Thinly cut with my magic bean slicer and they are great in salads… but if you want to cook them in a dish, such as a curry or a stir fry, top and tail them and then cut into angled chunks. They are then quite robust and won’t fall apart. For an interesting hot dish, you could try sautéed runner beans with onion and garlic. Simply crush a clove of garlic and fry with some chopped red onion in olive oil until the onions are soft and golden– make sure you don’t burn the garlic or it will be bitter. Add in the beans (top and tailed, raw and cut into chunky slices) and sauté until they are crisps and also tender. Sea salt and fresh ground pepper are the finishing touch, although a splash of really good balsamic vinegar added at the end of cooking lends a sweet and pleasantly tang. Delicious!




The perfect hanging basket!

HydrangeaBasketI love hanging baskets and every year I promise we will have really splendid ones as you see in commercial places like pubs and shopping centres. I have discovered my problem – they all rely on an automated watering system, hence the beautiful and prolific blooms. I, however, have to rely on a Richard watering system, which although wonderful, amazingly hard working and… (what else should I say?) – just doesn’t seem to want to water the hanging baskets many, many times a day and do you blame him? He did try suggesting we had plastic flowers in the baskets this year – and I said I felt my Mother would send down a bolt of lightning onto him if he did that!

This card shows one of many ways to use our brilliant Signature hanging basket die, together with the Signature Busy Lizzie die and the Signature Sabrina Lace Border. The embossing folder is called Tied Together and must, I am sure, have been one of the best-selling embossing folders of all time.

Layer some embossed white card over a gentle mustard or mid-green card. Layer a smaller panel of white card with the same green and some pink. Assemble the card with the embossed layer, then some Sabrina Lace, then the smaller panel. Now put the hanging basket in place with the filling/soil made by cutting out some beige card or white card coloured with pens.

Now cut lots of the Busy Lizzy flowers and colour those with pens too, you could cut them out of pastel card if you hate using pens. Attach the hanging basket to the smaller panel using glue gel to raise the basket slightly. Now arrange your flowers and leaves as shown.

As an important embellishment, there is a self-adhesive pearl on every visible junction of the embossed card and a little dot of glitter in the centre of the flowers. Add the chains from the die and a ribbon bow and you’re all set!