Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

Hearts of stone…?

I love using aerosol paints and paint finishes – so quick and easy (usually) assuming all goes well! We sell these lovely MDF heart shapes and I thought it would be fun to make them look as though they were made from a totally different material. A spray can of stone effect paint is available at any of the large DIY stores.

I would advise against spraying out in the garden with a dog nearby (can’t think why I would say that!) and take care that you don’t choose a windy day either – but it’s nice and quick to coat the heart on the front – leave it to dry (several hours) and then spray the back too so it looks neat and tidy. It’s really effective and the hearts look as if they should be really weighty.

Once you have a sprayed heart it’s easy to choose something to decorate it with. You could use paper sentiments from a CD or printed card kit that you have. Bits and pieces from some pot-pourri as I have used here, or some rosebuds or lavender, ribbons and other embellishments – or of course, it could be time to go foraging!

Tie some pretty ribbon through the holes to hang your heart – and hey presto you have a unique and pretty little gift!

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Hello to the new puppy!

Seems I am still a long way away from having any grandchildren (well that suits me – I am far too young to be a granny?!) but I do have the most beautiful little Grand-dog… here he is just after he arrived at my daughter’s home over the Jubilee weekend.

His name is Mouse… which is probably taken from the fact that he was definitely the smallest in the litter and even now only weighs about half that of his brothers and sisters. He was part of an enormous litter – 11 puppies in total – 9 girls and 2 boys!

There is also a dog named Mouse in the series of Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher which Richard has just been reading – but we are putting that down to complete co-incidence!

We went to meet Mouse on the Sunday of the Jubilee weekend and he was adorable. We took Welly with us – all part of the socialisation programme! Mouse thought Welly was an excellent toy, bit his ears, his bottom and would have had a try for his nose just to make him play. However Welly, elder statesman that he is at 10, looked at the puppy much as an elderly bachelor would regard a newborn baby, looks of scorn and slight fear!

Well, we adored him and look forward to seeing him grow into a beautiful Golden Retriever just like his mother – a wonderful family dog – we can’t wait to see him again!

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Herby hair tonics

All my herbs are growing like mad now and I hate wasting them, so am always looking for ways of
using them. These two hair treatments are lovely – it’s so nice to produce your own natural products – and they’re really easy to make!

Parsley Hair Tonic

Parsley stimulates the scalp and gets the circulation going, which aids hair growth and adds shine.

You will need:

1 large handful of parsley sprigs

2 tbsp water

1.            Place the parsley springs and water in a food processor

2.            Process until ground to a smooth purée. Apply the green lotion to the scalp, then wrap your head in a warm towel and leave for about an hour before shampooing as normal.

Lemon Verbena Hair Rinse

Add a delicious fragrance to your hair with this rinse. It will also stimulate the pores and circulation. Lemon verbena is worth growing in the Garden, if only so that you can walk past and pick a wonderful scented leaf.

You will need:

I handful of lemon verbena leaves

250ml/8fl oz boiling water

1.            Pour the boiling water over the lemon verbena leaves and leave for at least an hour.

2.            Strain the mixture and discard the leaves. Pour this rinse over your hair after conditioning.

 

 

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Seashore inspiration…

It’s been so warm this past week I was determined to set foot on the beach at least once! I adore beachcombing – it’s relaxing, therapeutic, invigorating and just plain old fun!

Finding pretty shells is an obvious attraction, but some of the plant life is fascinating. Sea holly, beloved of many flower arrangers, looks stunning in its natural setting, alongside grasses and samphire and other weird and wonderful looking things that I don’t even know the name of.

Thrift is another favourite – such a cheerful little plant – I really look forward to seeing it every year – but goodness knows how it manages to grow in such barren rocky areas.

I love the colour palette of the seashore, and I’ve used it for inspiration when decorating – restful and cool blues and greeny-greys alongside pale blonde sand. But there can be vibrancy too, as in the thrift and in startling yellow/orange lichens. We are blessed with turquoise blue seas down here and that is a wonderful colour to use as a starting point for any water-themed project.

On my recent beachcomb, I picked up a spider crab shell. The detail in both colour and texture is extraordinary. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll store it away for future use!

 

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Elderflower Sparkler

The flavour of elderflower has become popular once again. Historically, the cordial has a strong Victorian heritage, however versions of an elderflower cordial recipe can be traced back as far as Roman times.

Elderflower is just starting to come out now and the flowerheads are best collected fresh and new when the tiny buds have just opened and come to bloom before the fragrance is tainted with bitterness. Make sure you shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects before you use them!

This recipe produces one of the most delicious drinks ever concocted. Many people prefer it to French champagne because of its light and refreshing taste. Lovely for a warm summer’s evening…

To make about 5 litres, or 8.5 pints

You will need:

750g/1¾ lb caster sugar

475ml/16fl oz hot water

4 large fresh elderflower heads

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Juice and pared rind of a lemon

4 litres/7 pints water

1.            Mix the sugar with the hot water. Pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic container. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well, cover and leave for about 5 days.

2.            Strain off the liquid into sterilized screw-top bottles (glass or plastic). Leave for a further week or so. Serve very cold with slivers of lemon rind.

 

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