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!

Corks galore!

This cork mat was made by a friend’s son for me many moons ago but I have always planned to make some more like it and so the collecting of corks began!

If you are thinking: “Wow, I enjoy wine but not THAT much!” – then there are lots of ways to get corks. Try asking nicely at your local pub, restaurant, club or boozy friend’s house!

The basic frame here is made from recycled wood but you could just buy a plain wood photo frame and frame a piece of hardboard and then distress it. The fun part comes with laying the corks onto the hardboard and gluing.

It’s important to use strong glue. I used Pinflair Glue Gel when I made a teapot stand to match but it did use quite a lot and I felt it might be too expensive to recommend for this job. We now sell a glue called “Yes” which is all purpose glue and would work well. But any strong glue would be fine.

Take care when you are attaching the corks – to me this is the fun part – choose the prettier, more decorated sides of the cork (if they have some) to be visible and mix and match different varieties if possible. You can find some really pretty ones and the overall effect is very rustic and French and rather effective I think.

To finish your mat/stand – add some baize to the underneath or you can buy little pads to stick on as feet. This is important to ensure that no tables get scratched when it is in use!

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Gorgeous granola!

This week, I’ve got a guest blog from Sharon Davies who runs a super business making THE most delicious granola up on Dartmoor, a neighbour of my Hen Pal! 

“My Granola business sort of grew by accident really. I was a trained florist and had my own flower shop for years. Eventually I decided to have a change and ran a B&B business in my home. While I was doing this, I started making my own granola from an American recipe that I’d been given… and my guests raved about it! They wanted to take it home with them so I started making batches and selling it – and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I adore living in the country and have horses, chickens and three Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs and somehow still find time to run the business with my husband Brian.

“I’m a keen forager and fruit and veg grower and am always experimenting with recipes and ideas for new products. We sell a range of granolas and our customers (a very loyal bunch!) often email me with recipe ideas, or product suggestions.

“I’ve recently produced a couple of recipe cards for different ways to use granola and I often go to country shows and farm shops giving demonstrations and the recipes are very popular – it’s great fun and I love meeting people who enjoy my products.

“Granola is very versatile ­– mix it with freshly picked berries, or sprinkle it on porridge in the winter or ice cream in the summer. It makes a fantastic crumble topping or, as here, a great filling in an easy and delicious dessert. Enjoy!

Midfields Granola Strudel

Ingredients

Serves 3-4

  • 1packet filo pastry (you will need 4 sheets to make one strudel)
  • 1 large cooking apple or 2 eating apples
  • Approx 30g granola
  • 30g brown sugar
  • 30g butter for brushing pastry
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Baking tray

Method:

Preheat oven to 200ºc (180ºc if fan assisted), Gas mark 6

Take filo pastry out of fridge 20 mins before using, keep covered with damp tea towel to it drying out.

Peel and slice apple thinly, place in bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice to stop apple browning.

Melt butter gently in saucepan. Take one layer of filo pastry and place on baking tray, brush with melted butter using a pastry brush. Take the next sheet, place on top of the first, and repeat the process until you have used 4 sheets of filo pastry.

Place sliced apples in centre of buttered sheets, followed by sugar and Granola. Keep mixture about 2 inches from edge. Fold the sheets of filo over the top of the filling, firming gently with you fingers. Use one or two more sheets of filo crumpled on top of strudel and brush with melted butter.

Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 mins. When cool dust with icing sugar

Serve warm or cold with custard, cream or yoghurt – delicious!

You can find out all about Sharon’s business, Midfields Granola, on her website: www.midfieldsgranola.co.uk

You’ll find a link there to her Facebook page too.

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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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