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James Wong – what a great writer!

James Wong – what a great writer! Just occasionally I come across a writer or a new book that really grabs me and this was the case with James.

The first book I bought was ‘How to Eat Better’ which I saw mentioned in Good Food magazine. It’s really fascinating and has masses of facts that made me exclaim out loud as I read through… possibly a little annoying for Richard! Did you know smaller (and therefore cheaper) blueberries are better for you than the big ones – green asparagus is much better for you than white? Lazy people rejoice as apparently the vac packed and cooked beetroot has as many good things going for it than boiling and peeling your own… and so the list went on.

I felt sorry for Richard listening to my reading out paragraphs aloud and so bought him (and his brother) a copy of James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ which has so many tips and tricks that help in the garden. For example – watering tomatoes with seawater gives them a much better taste – giving hard to germinate seeds like parsley a quick dose of soluble aspirin helps them along – and yes you guessed, Richard is now reading out bits to me from his book!

Finally, having been so interested in his other books I treated both myself and my sister (I love giving books) to ‘Grow your own Drugs‘ – Kate was a little worried as it had to get through the mail and therefore the Jersey Customs department but, so far it all seems to have gone swimmingly! As I have a summer cold at the moment I was very taken with the recipe intended to help colds and flu – Echinacea Ice Lollies. This contains 80ml of vodka and that alone has to cheer things up! But there are plenty of other ingredients that should ease the throat. Disappointingly, the vodka is to soak the Echinacea root and doesn’t actually make an appearance in the finished lolly – hmm, sad.

Just thought I would share these titles with you – I love books with useful hints and tips and James is certainly an author I will look out for him in future programmes – he has shared a TV series with another person I admire – Dr Michael Moseley and has covered the Chelsea Flower show with the BBC team … I will be keeping an eye out!

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Bring a ‘Get well soon’ smile!

Never underestimate the power of friendly or loving messages when someone is under the weather, be they seriously ill or just down with a nasty old sniffle! If you are feeling sorry for yourself, it’s amazingly cheering to know that someone cares enough to not only send you a card but to have made it especially for you too. Because we are all so ‘into’ card making, I think it’s easy to forget how impressive a handmade card can be.

I recently gave a ‘Good luck in your new house’ card to someone I only know a little –and they were amazed. I guess I take cardmaking for granted. So use your skills and share them to make someone’s day!

This card shows yet again how very handy dies can be. There are so many ways of using them and you can always rely on the finish looking professional.

You only need lilac/mauve cardstock and cream/white card to make this, which is always a bonus. Obviously, you can use any colour you have in stock. It’s a bit like reading a recipe and thinking ‘oh good I’ve got all those ingredients’, the limited colour palette makes it much easier to use as inspiration!

Ingredients:

Cut some Grace Borders in cream, and the Get Well die in your second colour, obviously lilac here. Cut some lilac card smaller than the card blank leaving a reasonable sized margin. Then a layer of cream card a tiny bit smaller and a further layer of lilac.

Attach the Grace lace along each edge (I use a quickie glue pen or glossy accents) and trim neatly. Now place the oval shape on the centre of the card using foam pads or glue gel. Stick on the Get Well Soon (using same glues as I have already mentioned) and decorate the sentiment with a few flat backed pearls. Finally, add the chiffon bow at the top. Hey presto!

 

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As the wedding season approaches…

I always think of engagements and wedding announcements as Spring approaches. I’m not quite sure why as I expect people get married all year round – my own was in December – but somehow blossom and weddings… well here is the first of many wedding cards I will need this year no doubt.

The Signature die range has quite a few wedding ideas and this cake is one of them – although of course, you could also use it as a birthday, christening, golden wedding or any celebration cake. I have used just the base very successfully as a Christmas cake design with embellishments of holly etc.

The words are from foil printed sets that are easily available, I have a drawer full of oddments from many years ago that often come in handy, though of course, wedding related words are also available as dies from All Occasion or Britannia dies.

So the components on this card are the Signature dies wedding cake (SD405), the Signature dies wedding horseshoe (SD038) and very importantly the Signature Sabrina Lace Border (SD407) – this is a very useful decorative border that I have used masses of times, it always looks lovely.

Colour wise, nothing beats white and silver – or you could use white and gold if it was for a golden wedding celebration of course. The other option is to know the bride’s colour scheme and bring that into the card. Hooray for weddings I say – I love them!

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Tree-mendous!

Trees are such a familiar part of our countryside that I think we often take them for granted. Not only are trees ‘the lungs’ of our world they are also incredibly beautiful, varied and inspiring. People write poetry about them, paint them and hug them.

I am lucky in that I live quite a rural life and Devon has a reasonable amount of woodland. However, I was somewhat surprised to read that the UK has one of the lowest tree cover rates in Europe, just 13% compared to a European average of 37%.

The Woodland Trust has launched an ambitious plan to plant 64 million trees by 2025 and they want us all to help. They are offering a free pack of seeds containing rowan, dog rose, alder, buckthorn and holly, and it comes with full planting instructions and care advice. What a great idea! They will also offer help and advice as your seedlings germinate and grow.

The seeds they send you will be kept moist with compost to help them germinate. This means it will be harder to tell the different seeds apart when they arrive. If you would like to try and identify the seeds you’re planting you can wash the compost off but then the seeds must be sown immediately. It will be much easier to identify your seedling once it has germinated. To claim your free seed pack click on the link here.

I think this is an absolutely brilliant scheme and the more of us that get involved the better. I will be claiming my pack today.

If you are lucky enough to already have trees in your garden, have you ever considered collecting seeds from them, propagating the seedlings and then either planting more yourself or perhaps giving them away as gifts?

The top four methods for seed collection used on the UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) are easily remembered through the handy acronym SEED:

Shake tree over a large laid out tarpaulin

Extra-long pole to prune off seeds clusters

Encase branch ends in a cotton fine-meshed bag to collect small wind-dispersed seed

Delicately hand-pick fleshy berries

When collecting seeds it’s best not to collect from the ground, to avoid collecting old seeds from previous years. Never take more than 20% of the seed crop, remember seeds create the next generation of plants and sustain wildlife. There are lots of good reasons to collect seeds and you can read all about it here.

So, the next time you’re out collecting seeds or growing them in your garden, just think of the extraordinary journey their counterparts are on. Heading towards the ultimate goal of ensuring your great-great grandchildren can have the same experience you’re having. The simple yet irreplaceable delights of planting and watching your own seed grow from a tiny speck into a monumental tree.

The Woodland Trust is well worth supporting, and its website is full of interesting facts. Do have a look if you have a moment…

All photos copyright Julia Wherrell. Top illustration – The Woodland Trust.

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I love lavender!

I know I write often about lavender, but it’s a herb that brings me so much pleasure. I love the way it looks in the flower beds in the garden, but I also admire the many different ways it can be used.

Let’s start with drying or preserving it, so simple … the trick I feel is picking it at the right time. I find I get the best results if I pick lavender that is fully out but only just. If I need decorative dried lavender or just lavender flowers for filling sachets etc., then the bigger the better really. If you pick it too early, the flowers are tight and narrow with minimal colour. Pick a reasonable length of stalk and then bundle together with an elastic band and hang up to dry.

The reason for the elastic band is that the stems shrink as they dry and can slip out of string ties – so use an elastic band and it will shrink to fit so to speak!

If you want dried heads for their scent not their looks, then you can strip the flowers and lay them out to dry – I tend to use a metal pizza tray as it has holes in it (meant to crisp the pizza base no doubt!) cover the tray with some kitchen paper and then sprinkle the flowers across and leave to dry out of strong light.

The final tip I would add is that if your particular variety of lavender has long stalks as opposed to a stubby variety, then don’t waste your stalks – they look interesting bundled (maybe 30-40 stems) and tied with a ribbon – or if you are a real fire person, they smell nice chucked onto the fire with logs.

But really this blog is meant to be about the card – it’s using the new Jane Shasky Garden Herbs paper pad, which I love.

Mat some backing paper onto cardstock and add to the card blank. Tape on the border from the paper pad and mat the main image onto card and glue on, then add white die cuts using our Signature die Bubble narrow ledger (SD484). Add an embellishment of some ribbon and other pieces from the paper pad page and there you are! Simple but fun to make. Maybe you could scent the card with some lavender, or include a sachet?

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