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!

My favourite Thomas Kinkade cards

We make gadzillions of cards through the year. Some are destined to be samples or demos for Create and Craft, some are just for family and friends. But these two cards are among my favourites and I have kept them carefully for months now. You know what it’s like when you have cards that should go somewhere or be for a particular someone and you think, no, I’ll keep those for now… and then never give them away!

Thomas Kinkade images are easy to use as the cottages are gentle and rural, pretty and easy to match colour-wise. The die used here is our Signature die Wild Rose (completely biased now) – and it is one of our best sellers of all time. I just LOVE it.

My personal choice is to die cut in white and then colour with Promarkers, or you can use any colouring medium that you prefer. You can add pearls, or not add pearls, ring the changes and it makes any card look fabulous with very limited effort!

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Tom Mielko – for romantics everywhere!

One of my favourite artists over the years that we have been licensing is Tom Mielko. Based in Santa Barbara, California, his work is mainly coastal images especially of Nantucket on the Eastern Coast. I just love the romance in all the pictures we licensed – there’s a Tom Mielko project book on the website if this is your sort of style!

Here we have an anniversary card – just plain and not too sophisticated to copy, it shows (I think) a very subtle but romantic idea of a couple cycling together. I’m not sure if Richard would think it was romantic if I joined him on his frequent cycle rides, but then he is thinking more about keep fit than sightseeing!

I think this card demonstrates that if you have a beautiful image, there’s a wide range of occasions you can use it for – this could work for a man’s birthday, anniversary as we have used it here, female birthday or anytime card and so the list goes on!

Happy cycling – err I mean cardmaking! Smiles, Joanna

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‘Pop’ goes Prosecco!

It’s fun, it’s fizzy and just about everyone seems to be drinking it – Prosecco has taken the country by storm! This Italian sparkler has made celebrating a whole lot more affordable, so much so that now, you don’t even need an excuse to raise a glass a glass of fizz! People head off for ‘Fizz on Fridays’ in their local wine bars and pubs and, opening a bottle at your BBQ is no longer seen as decadent.

I’m not entirely sure why Champagne was always seen as the ultimate celebratory drink, perhaps it is nothing more than a kind of snob value – as the top brands are expensive it must, therefore, be ‘good’. A wine merchant friend told me years ago that a good bottle of Cava (the Spanish equivalent of Prosecco), was really just as good as Champagne – and how right she was!

For some reason, Prosecco has become the most popular fizz out there (perhaps the name sounds more fun than Cava?) and now, we can’t get enough of it. It’s relatively cheap and, served chilled, it slips down very easily.

In the 1960s, Asti Spumante was the popular Italian sparkling wine but that was sweet, a bit like the dreaded Babycham, the blight of many a teenage party! Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the high-quality dry Prosecco we enjoy today.

The most exciting development I have come across is the arrival of – wait for it – Skinny Prosecco! Yes, seriously folks! I recently came across this description on a pub’s wine list:

“A low calorie, vegan, organic, delicious wine that captures all the taste of normal Prosecco but with around half the sugar content. At about 65 calories per glass – less than a normal sized apple – this could be a cheeky alternative to one of your five a day!”

I confess I do love Prosecco as a very cold summer drink, the bubbles are somehow uplifting! It also works well in a Bellini cocktail and, of course, mixed with orange juice can make a very acceptable Bucks Fizz. Oh hang on, if you add orange juice, does that make it TWO of your five a day? It’s getting better all the time – cheers!

 

 

 

 

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It’s always time for tea!

This beautiful box of teatime goodies was made by Suzanne Saltwell – it is really intended to be an advent calendar, but it occurred to me that it’s always time for tea and it would make the greatest birthday present any time of year!

Many people now are drinking fruit or speciality teas instead of the usual builder’s best cuppa, myself included. I had never been a fan of ordinary tea but nowadays I am often seen with a mug of peppermint tea in hand as I wander round the garden checking on what’s doing what.

There’s a lot to be said for growing a few herbs in the garden so you can make your own fresh teas – some flowers also, I have yet to try chrysanthemum tea or any of the other more exotic ideas, but mint sprigs grabbed from the garden and dunked unceremoniously in boiling water – yummy! I also have dried mint that I harvested last year and stored. The one thing you can be sure of is that mint will flourish and spread – hence advice always to keep it in a pot even when it’s in a flower bed.

So back to the tea box, here you can see the mug, tea bags and coasters that came inside the box, it’s such a lovely idea, perhaps there are some other themes we could create? Does coffee come in little packets? Has anyone got other ideas we could fill boxes with, for advent or any time of year? Do let me know!

Here’s the link to a downloadable PDF file that Suzanne has prepared so you can work out how it is made. Have fun!

 

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Bikes and Balloons!

I initially thought these bikes and balloons were more male orientated cards than female ones, but come on Joanna – loads of women ride motorbikes, so I shouldn’t be so biased! Just because I am frightened silly of them, I am sure there are many people out there much braver than me!

The Hot Air Balloon card has a lovely gentle colour scheme and apart from using our very popular Hot Air Balloon die, it also uses the very handy Picket Fence die. Add to that some papers – in this case from the Thomas Kinkade triple CD – and you are away!

The motorbike card also uses the map backing paper from the Thomas Kinkade CD – a couple of nesting oval dies, any make you have, and then the Signature Motorbike die, which has been paper pieces to give the different colours and a bit of height/texture. Obviously, you could just die cut in white and colour if you prefer. The borders have been produced using the SD448 Decorative Dividers – a very handy pack as you get two designs that are endlessly useful for £5.99

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