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!

Roses, roses all the way!

It’s roses, roses all the way in today’s quick inspiration blog that uses our Climbing Rose die SD526 which have been die cut in both pink and green card to save any colouring. The papers come from the Jane Shasky ‘From the Heart of the Garden’ CD and the circle and scalloped circle can be any nesting dies that you happen to have.

The edges of the backing paper have been antiqued a little with some Tim Holtz distress ink (Mowed Lawn) but this is just a little extra touch that you could skip, it just adds a little depth to the papers.

To make the tying of the bow easier – the ribbon is stretched around the strip and secured at the back and then a pre-tied bow glued on – much easier I always think!

The final touch, of course, are the sparkly bits in the corners, these could easily have been pearls or whatever you have in stock!

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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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Dad’s garden!

Many fathers love gardening so this dad’s garden design is great for Father’s Day or as a dad’s birthday card. But, as plenty of Mums enjoy gardening too, it’s a really versatile and unisex card that you can change to suit!

The main image comes – as many of my favourite cards do – from the Jane Shasky ‘From the heart of the Garden’ CD.

Ingredients:

Quick ‘how to’:

  1. Trim some kraft card to slightly less than the main card and attach to the card blank. Cut some green spotty paper or card (or any other backing paper you have) to about 7½” square and diecut some trellis corners into it.
  2. Attach that to the main card and then cut out a large flower shaped piece of beige spotty card – or draw round a circle to get a piece that will fit without covering the corners.
  3. Layer the main image from the Jane Shasky CD (in the decoupage section) onto green card and add to card. Cut out and build the decoupaged layers.
  4. Finally embellish with a couple of ivy corners diecut in green and the ladybirds and letters – the great thing about this design is that you can tweak it to suit whoever you like using whatever you have and that’s always an easy solution!

 

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Golden peacock – it’s one stylish bird!

This gorgeous golden peacock card is really elegant and not too hard to achieve – it’s one stylish bird!

How to:

The centrepiece is obviously the peacock – from our Signature Die SD344 – easy peasy! Die cut it in black or dark navy and then rub a little gilding wax across it. The borders are Mosaic Heart edger die cuts (SD359) – simples (as the meerkat says). Oh, and the buckle is SD316 – hurray for Signature dies – I do love making things that are fast, professional looking and easy!

Start with a black, or very dark, blank card about 7” square. Now wind some gold satin ribbon around the left-hand side – it helps to put a dot or two of glue holding the band inside the card while you fiddle with the front fixing. Thread the ribbon through the die cut buckle and then overlap, and make the ‘V’ notch in both ends, as per the picture.

Now cut some antique gold card to around 6” square and fix to the right-hand side (as shown). Cut some dark card about ¼” smaller and die cut along one edge, I will own up – I would be tempted to cut and edge a larger piece of card and then trim to the required 5 ¾” square… just easier sometimes and I love my little guillotine!

Cut another heart border in gold and attach that to the left. To decorate the blanker side of the die cut, snip a little strip of dark card and rub some gilding wax on – so much easier than using fabric ribbon.

Now cut a piece of gold card slightly larger than the peacock die and two dark card die cuts of the peacock. Attach the first die cut to the gold card and fix them to the main card. Now snip out just the peacock from its border and rub with gilding wax – place this on top of the dark peacock already fixed to the card to give height and – voila – you have an amazing card!

 

 

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Landmarks on journeys – are we there yet?

 

Whether consciously or not, I think we all have a certain view, or signpost, or possibly even scent that tells us that our journey home is almost complete. It is a rather lovely and comforting sensation and one that brings a sigh of contentment. Of course, it doesn’t have to be reaching home – it could be arriving at a favourite holiday destination or a close friend’s house. Landmarks on journeys lodge in our brains and can bring back waves of nostalgia years later when we come across one by chance.

As a child, the vaguest scent of the sea (often imagined!) would start me wheedling “Are we there yet?” from the backseat of the car. One friend, who had to commute up and down to London from Devon three times a week told me he always gave a cheer when he drove past the ‘Devon’ county boundary sign on the M5.

Cookworthy Knapp – the ‘coming home’ trees. Photo copyright: ALAMY

My partner in crime writing, Julia, was amazed to see a photo on the BBC website this week of a much-loved copse of beech that she always says ‘Hello’ to as she goes on holiday to Cornwall and crosses over the Devon/Cornwall

border. Apparently, it is an incredibly popular landmark with lots of people! The beech trees, which stand on a hill south of the A30, tell weary Cornwall-bound travellers that their journey is nearly over.

Now, says the BBC, people have been taking to social media to share their love for the Cookworthy Knapp trees, which were planted around 1900 and have become known as the ‘coming home trees’.

I thought this was rather lovely and set me thinking about what are my ‘coming home landmarks’. I have two – the lovely sweeping view of the Teign estuary as we drive over the road bridge on the last 10 miles of our journey home… and the dear little fingerpost on the Torquay Road that says, very small, ‘Stokeinteignhead’!

And so… I’d like to hear from you – what are your ‘coming home’ landmarks? Are they distinctive hills, or trees, or signs, or something more quirky? Let’s hear it! Smiles, Joanna.

The Teign estuary… I’m almost home! And, just to be sure, the little fingerpost confirms it’s only half a mile.

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