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!

Birthday in Paris

 

I absolutely love this birthday in Paris card – it’s a simple process but doesn’t it look amazing. The spots/dots on the base card are made using a Japanese screw punch – just press it around wherever you want a hole – fabulous gadgets!

Ingredients:

  • Plain cream 8” square card blank
  • Pink cardstock and cream card
  • Circular dies (or draw around a plate/saucer?)
  • Selection of alcohol inks
  • Signature dies Paris SD537 and Classica Word set (Multibuy is best bargain)
  • Ribbon and glues etc

How to:

  1. Start by punching a load of holes in the cover of the card blank – don’t worry too much about the middle as obviously this will be covered by the image. Now wrap some ribbon around the left-hand side of the card, and secure inside. Then add a 7½” piece of pink card onto the back of the front cover, hiding where the ribbon was secured and making the pink dots appear!
  2. Cut out some circles – the pink one measure 6½” and then a cream one a little smaller. If you have a circular die that size – that’s perfect …. if not then you can draw around something circular like a saucer that’s conveniently the right size!
  3. Die cut the Paris die twice. Use one die upside and pat some alcohol inks around and across it. Allow it to dry and then attach the nice clean die cut with some glue gel or foam pads.
  4. Finally, tie a bow and attach that to the left-hand side of the card.
  5. The little handbag is made from a template found on the internet, decorated with some paper scrabble style letters and a die cut coloured brown.
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Eurovision – love it or hate it!

Copyright: https://eurovision.tv/story/ukraine-is-ready-to-celebrate-diversity-in-2017

There will be much excitement in our household this Saturday as it is Eurovision party night – woo-hoo! Rather like Marmite, Eurovision does tend to divide people into ‘love’ and ‘hate’ camps. I love it!

Yes, most of the music is awful and the costumes bizarre but it is so wonderfully naff and eccentric, I think it is a joy. Terry Wogan was, of course, the master of Eurovision but I have to say that Graham Norton makes a very good job of it too. Must be something about the Irish sense of humour.

The days of other countries voting for the UK seem to be long gone, but the spectacle of it all is still worth watching, not least because so many countries take it so very, very seriously. We Brits, with our ironic sense of humour, are able to take our ‘nul points’ with good grace. However, this year’s UK entrant, Lucie Jones is, apparently ‘one of the favourites’… we shall see!

This year is the 62nd edition (wow!) and it is being held in Kiev in the Ukraine. One of the great things about the show is seeing all the participants backstage laughing and having a wonderful time together with no sign of any divisions or political argument, which has to be a good thing, surely?

And so, we will be getting together with family and any friends potty enough to join us, and cheering and booing and doing our own scoring of the 42 countries taking part… if we can stay awake that long! I have such fond memories of previous Eurovision parties organised by my wonderful Mother. One year, we all dressed up as our designated country (I’m sure someone came as the Eiffel Tower!) while Granny always concentrated on wearing the colours of the French or Italian flags. Ah, such happy memories…

Why not host your own Eurovision party? It’s a great opportunity for silly hats and themed food! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Pizza! Perfect Eurovision fare!

    In tribute to France – garlic bread

  2. For Italy – pizza
  3. German sausage
  4. Some Danish bacon
  5. A few Belgian chocolates to round everything off!

But let’s remember one very important thing – if it wasn’t for this crazy annual music fest, we might never have discovered Abba!! Need I say more?

Five fun Eurovision facts:

  1. Fifty-two countries have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest since it started in 1956. Of these, 25 have won the contest.
  2. The “Euro” in “Eurovision” has no direct connection with the European Union! Several countries outside the boundaries of Europe have competed: Israel, Cyprus and Armenia, in Western Asia, Morocco, in North Africa and Australia making a debut in the 2015 contest! How did that happen?
  3. Ireland has won a record 7 times, Luxembourg, while France and the United Kingdom have won 5 times. Sweden and the Netherlands won 4 times.
  4. Poor old Norway has ended last 9 times! They came last in 1963, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1990, 1997 and 2001.
  5. In 1981 the UK act Bucks Fizz stunned viewers with their Velcro rip-away skirts and within 48 hours, Velcro had sold out across the country. Fabulous!
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Homemade bread

I have been making my own soup for years and we have long been thinking we might try making homemade bread to go with the soup – instant homemade lunches!

However this good idea was shelved along with so many others we have, as we got busier and busier. Then whilst at my sister’s house last week we got up one morning to the most amazing smell of bread .. I wondered if she had one of those part-baked loaves in the oven or some frozen croissants, but this really was a very strong scent… enough to raise Richard into an enthusiastic early breakfast!

Kate (my sister) assured us it was real home made bread, courtesy of her bread making machine and it was sitting waiting for us to road test the latest loaf. Cutting a long and delicious story short, it was wonderful and Richard especially, was madly keen as he loves bread and cheese or bread and soup even more than I do.

So courtesy of Amazon we pressed a button and this machine arrived a day or so later. Richard has now taken full control and it is obviously going to be a man thing, a bit like the BBQ. However you will hear no complaints from me – it’s lovely to share the cooking.

We have tried three different recipes this week: a French bread (delicious but a different shape to usual French bread obviously!), a standard white and a 50/50% wholemeal and white and I can honestly say that every crumb has been consumed and little Grace, our granddaughter, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the ‘Grandpa’ bread she ate for lunch today.

We chose the Panasonic SD-2511 as that’s what my sister had – seemed easier than choosing a different one and it not being as good. Then all you really need to keep in the cupboard is strong flour, water, salt, dried yeast and a touch of butter. There are plenty of other things you can add but the basics have worked well so far.

I have bought several books on machine bread making and I think we will be trying loaves with delicious little extras like olives or pecan nuts and maple syrup soon. But for now, I think it is unlikely we will bother to buy much regular bread from the supermarket as we just love having it all set on a timer and having that smell of baking bread first thing in the morning.

 

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Wildflower wonderland

After a pretty fraught day, it was lovely to go for an evening stroll yesterday and to feel the warmth of the sun, listen to the birds singing and enjoy the fabulous wildflowers.

I think we all know Devon is a beautiful county but, in the month of May, it really comes into its own. The hedgerows, banks and woodlands are full of wildflowers – bluebells, red campion, stitchwort, wild garlic… the list is endless.

My own garden is starting to look pretty good, but there is something so magical about the display nature can produce all on her own. Yes, I know you can see tropical blooms and exotic birds in other parts of the world but for me, there is nothing to beat the English countryside in May.

What’s your favourite wildflower?

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Sweet peas are fabulous flowers!

 

I think sweet peas are fabulous flowers, wonderful to grow in your garden and brilliant to have as cut flowers in your house, full of such beautiful scent. If it had been practical I would have loved to have sweet peas everywhere for our wedding, they look so romantic and pretty – but umm, a December wedding? I don’t think so!

This card uses a couple of very popular Signature dies, Victoria Lace (SD308) and Sweet Pea (SD466) with a few other bits and bobs and produces the prettiest of birthday cards (or anytime card).

Ingredients:

  • 6” square white card blank
  • Signature dies, Victoria Lace and Sweet Pea
  • Some pale backing paper we chose green
  • Cardstock in white and pink and pale green
  • Photocorners or a photo corner die
  • Decorative oval dies (like Spellbinders or similar)
  • Preprinted sentiment, scrap of pink gingham and some pearls

Quick ‘how to’:

  1. Trim some backing paper slightly smaller than the card blank. Die cut a scalloped oval in white, the Victoria Lace in white and the photo corners if you are using a die.
  2. Die cut a decorative oval in strong pink and create the “V” shaped pieces by hand with sharp scissors.
  3. Now assemble the card by sticking the backing paper to the card blank (I use double sided tape) then add the pink oval using Pinflair glue gel so it is slightly raised. Once the glue is dry, take a sharp craft knife and make a cut and slide in the small V shaped pieces each side to give the effect that they go right through.
  4. Add the scalloped oval using glue gel again. Die cut the sweet peas in pale green and white and colour the white flowers with alcohol ink pens. Attach the green first and then snip the flowers away from the white die cut, and layer these over the green die cut using glue gel.
  5. Attach the Victoria Lace diecut, use something like a quickie glue pen or glossy accents or cosmic acrylic glue, whatever you have in stock.
  6. Finish the card with the embellishments, the ribbon bow, corners, sentiment and pearls.
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