Sunday, 16 May 2010

Starry Bluebells

As a small child, in the primary school playground and at birthday parties, I used to play a ring game with my friends called "In and Out the Starry Bluebells". My surname then was "Starkey", so needless to say the words were usually changed to "In and Out the Starkey Bluebells"!
In those days I had never seen bluebells en masse, but now I am fortunate enough to live in a village where there is an ancient wood which is full of bluebells in Spring. They are finally in flower, a good fortnight later then last year. Sadly my photos don't do them justice, but I wanted to try to capture something of the loveliness of the blue carpet they make...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Inspired to sew again... this book, which I borrowed from the library this week:

I know the book has been out for some time, but I had not looked at it until now. The lovely photos, projects and the clear way techiques are described has re-enthused me about dressmaking-type sewing, which I haven't done for many a long year ( apart from my recent enforced school-play-costume-making). I even got as far as pinning and cutting out one of the patterns I'd bought recently, although I found that our dining-room table was far from ideal for this.
I used to love dressmaking - I'm going back to my teenage, post-exams, long summers years here - and have many happy memories of the rattle of the sewing machine , the lovely smell of the steamed fabric when pressing seams, and the joy of immersing myself for hour upon hour in a project. I'm hoping to recapture some of that joy, although I fear that it may be a little more elusive now with family, work, house and garden all clamouring for my time...

A sad footnote to my "missing hen" post - I found a small pile of speckled grey feathers at athe end of our garden this morning - proof positive that our local Mr or Mrs Fox has taken Beryl. This is the first hen we have lost to a fox in nearly 6 years, though, so I suppose we have been lucky up to now.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Apple blossom time

One of the first things we did when we moved here 6 years ago was to plant some apple, pear and plum trees in a roughly triangular area beyond our pond which we now (laughingly) call "The Orchard". Yes, I'm still dreaming of floating around my Sissinghurst-like garden in a long frock and taking tea on the terrace...
But today, even in the real world of my rather scruffy, weedy and overgrown garden, the sight of this apple tree in full blossom is uplifting to the spirits. I'm not sure what variety it is as we managed to mix up the labels after planting our fruit trees  - I think it might be Jonagold. This is the most blossom it has had so far so I'm hoping for a really good crop of apples this Autumn. We had our first real crop last year, which was the 5th season since planting.
Elsewhere in our village, the bluebells are finally out in The Ancient Wood - I walked back from school that way with my friend L. and saw (and smelt!) the gorgeous carpet of blue. There were a lot of orchids too - seems like this Spring is a really good one for all kinds of flowers. I'll take my camera with me down to the wood either this afternoon or tomorrow to try to capture a picture of the bluebells.
I hope you are all enjoying your own display of blossoms and blooms in the gardens, streets, woods etc of your own  neighbourhoods..

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A day in the big city

Sorry to have been absent this week - somehow too much has been going on with teaching work, family ( and the General Election!) to make it on to here.
One highlight of last week for me, though, was that this little country mouse went down to London to meet up with a friend who I hardly ever see nowadays. It was great fun for me as it's such a change from my usual life. As another, local, friend said to me, even sitting on the train reading the newspaper or a magazine for an hour and forty minutes was a blissful break from my real life!
I met C., my friend, in Oxford Street and we spent the next 4 hours or so talking, having coffee, talking, having lunch, talking and window-shopping and in all that time didn't stray more than a couple of hundred yards from where we met up.
As you can see we did make it as far as Selfridges - and what is in the bag?

This gorgeous Guzzini mug which C. bought me as a  early birthday present and which is perfect for drinking my daily Cappucino out of. Thank you so much, C.!

With the busy-ness in my life this past week, crafting has unfortunately been rather pushed out, but I did manage to make my Sister-in-Law a card for her 50th Birthday:

Monday, 3 May 2010

Bye bye Beryl?

It seems that we have lost Beryl, our Speckledy hen, leaving us with just one hen, Edwina - who is looking rather sad and lonely.
Chickens will always return to their house to roost at dusk, so normally both hens are waiting for me when I go out to give them some corn as dusk approaches. On Thursday Beryl was unusually nowhere to be seen, but after a few minutes of calling and corn-box rattling, she appeared from the next-door garden. But on Friday evening she simply didn't appear at all and has not been seen since.
It is possible she's been taken by a fox - Edwina had an extremely lucky escape from the very jaws of a fox last summer, but I haven't seen any foxes at all this year. It has also occurrred to me that Beryl had not been laying any eggs in the nestbox for a couple of weeks before she disappeared - she may have laid a clutch of eggs under a bush or hedge somewhere and be broodily sitting on them. The problem with this is that they will never hatch and she is quite capable of not coming off the nest to eat or drink. I'm not certain, but I think she could end up dying of thirst or starvation. We've looked everywhere we can think of in our garden and next door, but no sign. So I think it may be "Bye bye Beryl", even though I still hope maybe it's only "Au Revoir"...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tulip Medley

Back in November I posted about planting my tulip bulbs. I have two small beds surrounded by box hedges and with potted holly trees in the centre of each outside the back of the barn. These are my attempt at "formal" beds and the idea originally was to have a show of single colour tulips in Spring followed by a different type of bedding plant each summer. As you can see, such plans have gone awry - I do plant a different species of tulip each Autumn and try to dig up all the bulbs of the previous one, but obviously I have missed quite a few, and after 5 years we now have quite a mix. Not what I intended, but at least it's colourful, I suppose!
This year's Summer bedding is Sweet Williams bought from a very green-fingered and creative acquaintance in the village, which , since they are biennial , have been happily growing in the bed since last summer and should put on a good show this year.

Also, I just wanted to show the layout from the final class I did during the UK Scrappers Cyber Crop at the weekend. The class was by Sarah Youde and involved distressing, sewing and using raffia - good fun. Now the Cyber Crop has finished I feel at a loose end creatively -  not that I haven't got lots of things I could be finishing off - knitting and sewing projects especially, and I need to make a card for my Sister-in-Law's 50th birthday...I think I need to have a play with some of my supplies and try to get inspired.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Up to my ears in paper and card...

Yes it's the Cybercrop weekend on UK Scrappers! For those of you who are not UKS devotees, a cybercrop is a weekend of online classes, challenges and general fun with points and even prizes to be won.
Each CC has a theme - this one is Monopoly with all the classes and the teams monopoly-themed. So far I have managed to do 2 of the classes as well as the pre-crop challenge ( which I did a little sneak preview of in my last post) and the Mystery Kit challenge where you buy a scrapbooking kit from an online shop without knowing what it consists of and then have to make something with just the items in the kit. I love doing this - it is such fun to do and then later see what everyone else has done with the same kit. I'm always inspired by other people's ideas and talents. This time, two of the LOs made involve wonderful 3-d elements - a fruit basket and a 3-d house.

Here's my ( definitely 2-d!) Mystery Kit LO :

And here is the LO I used the Tim Holtz compass mask on:

The first class I did was by the very talented Angie Woolfall, and involved intricate hand-cutting and doodling to make a frame. I normally avoid using a craft knife in favour of scissors or my trimmer so this was a real challenge for me. I persevered, though, and ( some hours later) had made this:

I'm actually really pleased with how this turned out, and may even have a go at this type of hand-cutting again. ( You might recognise the photo from a recent post!)

Then, this afternoon, I spent a very rushed couple of hours making a LO following a class by Gertie. I didn't leave myself enough time for the paint over the masked letters to dry as I had to upload the LO by 4pm to claim my points, so the title doesn't look as good as I'd hoped and I think I could have made a better choice of fonts for the letters. I may have a go at redoing the title some time.

Looking at these LOs now, it would appear that I'm very fond of the colour blue!

I'm hoping to do a couple more classes this evening or tomorrow, if I can take the pace...

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Trying something new

Recently I've been reading tutorials and seeing lots of projects using Glimmer Mists - something I have never tried. While browsing in my local craft department I looked at the price of Glimmer Mist and then, being a bit of a cheapskate, I decided to go for the ( I think) similar and substantially cheaper Cosmic Shimmer:

Knowing my track record with getting messy when using inks, I followed the tip from my friend Nicky to use an empty pizza box as a makeshift spray booth. I still managed to spray part of my wooden tabletop blue!

I decided to try out the Cosmic Shimmer spray with a Tim Holtz mask I. had wanted me to buy when he reluctantly accompanied me on a craft shop excursion during the holidays - he thought it was a cool design.
I've never tried masking before either, so two new things!

This compass design was to use on a LO I've done as part of the run-up to this weekend's Cybercrop on UK Scrappers - a pre-crop challenge. I can't show it yet as the idea is for all the entries to be secret until the CC starts, but I can say it was to be about someone who has had a great influence on your life - I have done mine about my late Dad, and here is a sneak preview, showing the finished compass design:

I do like the effect of the Cosmic Shimmer - in fact I even bought another colour of it today, and maybe in the future I might splash out and invest in some Glimmer Mist too!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Overprotective? Me?

Tuesday evening
I've been thinking tonight, while doing the dishes(!) about the worry involved in being a parent - a topic I'm sure most of you are extremely familiar with
When you first have a child, and while that child is a baby and toddler, parenting is an anxious time. You worry about what they eat (or won't eat), their development, whether they just have a bug or a serious illness, whether you're a good enough parent... We've all been there.
My experience now as a parent of two teenagers and a 9 yr old is that as they get older you don't really worry less - it just changes. I remember my mum telling me that she used to worry about me driving to work round the M25 - and I was 26 then!
This evening, my middle one, E., who is 15, is out for a meal at a pub with the cast of the pantomime she was in last week. One of the older boys (18) is going to give her a lift home - it's only about a mile and half away, but still... And in the summer she is off for over 2 weeks holiday abroad with a friend and her family.
Meanwhile, her older sister, L. at 17 is within 18 months of going off to college and officially entering the big, wide world.
I know it's important to let them go gradually, and I do try, and i'm fortunate that both girls are growing into lovely and sensible young women, but it's difficult to sit back and watch them becoimg independent.
So all I can do is cheer them on, hope that all goes well for them....and worry!

Postscript - ( this morning) - E. got back safely by 11pm last night so all is fine ... until the next time!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sunny Afternoon

Hello again! It's nice to be back blogging after a few days away. The children are now back at school and we are left with some lovely memories of a great Easter holidays: plenty of sunshine;
having family and close friends to visit and stay; a trip to London and meeting up with my mum; E. starring in our village pantomime.
On Saturday we went with my sister and her two children to a beautiful, tranquil garden on the edge of the Norfolk Broads - Fairhaven Water Gardens which has wonderful spring flowers and it's own private Broad ( lake) which we had a boat trip on. The cousins thought it was a magical place - "like something out of a fairytale"- and it certainly seemed so that afternoon as we walked along paths speckled with sunlight and leaf-shadows and looked out over the shimmering water.
Of course, for I. the most magical thing was the presence of my sister's Border Terrier, Findlay...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Beautiful bookmarks and a family visit.

These are the lovely bookmarks that I received back today in the bookmark swap with my team mates on UK Scrappers. Now I will never have to hunt round for a scrap of paper to hold my place in a book again!
We are having family arriving to stay this evening until Sunday - my sister, her husband and the two cousins - I. is eagerly awaiting the arrival of 13yr old T. - his favourite cousin, When the boys get together they never stop talking for about 3 days! I don't think I'll be able to post on here while they are staying, so I look forward to returning here in a few days.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sending out today...and an award!

Went to the Post Office this morning and got these sent on their way.
First the card for my niece who will become a teenager tomorrow, made using the lovely dress-form stamp from The Girls' Paperie and resist stamping technique:

Next is the decorated box of stash for Amanda in the Community Chest stash swap which is part of the run-up to the Cyber Crop on UKS. I cheated a bit here as the box, which had contained some toiletries from Boots was already decorated on the sides, so I just used patterned paper on the front and back and attached some ribbon and a flower. Inside is a collection of small items from my stash such as buttons, brads, chipboard shapes, journalling spots, gems, pins, charms. I really hope she likes it:

And last, but by no means least, I have received my first blog award - from the talented Winnie - thankyou!

I understand that I now need to list 7 crafty things about myself and then pass on the award.
So here are 7 crafty things I do/have done:
1) I make all my own cards for birthdays and other occasions, including all my Christmas cards for the past two years.
2) I knit, having learned to do so as a child, but have only recently mastered the art of circular needles.
3) Since taking up scrapbooking in Feb 2008, I have made more than 100 scrapbook layouts, of which 8 have been published in magazines.
4) When I was a teenager I made lots of my own clothes and got a sewing-machine for my 18th birthday. ( more than 30 years ago!)
5) I recently got a new sewing machine and have enjoyed getting back into sewing.
6) When my children were young I made and decorated all their birthday cakes ( does this count as crafty?)
7) In the past I have also done lots of drawing, painting, cross-stitch and even pottery.
I'm passing this award on to 3 other creative bloggers : Nicky C, Sandie and Claire.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Through my Kitchen Window

We don't have a dishwasher - our previous one "died" just before we moved here 6 years ago and we've not yet replaced it. So I spend a lot of time standing at the sink looking out of this window while I do the washing-up. One of the first things we did in the garden was to make a flowerbed outside the window so I would have something interesting to look at, and I really appreciate it every day. So far this year I've enjoyed hazel catkins, witch-hazel, cornus, snowdrops, daphne flowers and now hellebores and aubretia.
And I get to spot quite a few animals and birds while I wash up - pheasants, partridges, moorhens, blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, great tits and blue-tits, various finches and once a woodpecker. I watch rabbits and hares - once a young hare even took up residence in the flowerbed for a while, and occasionally Mr ( or is it Mrs?) Fox - a magnificent creature, but not a welcome sight when you're a henkeeper...
This morning it was a tortoiseshell butterfly and some fat bumblebees working over the Aubretia flowers.
Maybe one day we'll get a dishwasher: but if we do I think I will miss my washing-up sessions too much...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Resist Stamping revisited

Hmmm - I re-read the resist stamping tutorial and found that Christi had sprayed the colourwash onto her cloth - if I'd read it properly the first time it could have prevented my pink fingers!
I treated myself to this lovely stamp set today from The Girls Paperie:

- I'm going to have a go at using the dressform stamp for my niece's card, but I'm sure I will also get great use out of the other stamps.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Getting Inky

It being the school Easter holidays, not much crafting is getting done at Hands and Heart, but I did steal a few minutes this afternoon and had fun getting messy. More messy than I intended as I accidentally stained my hands shocking pink (Adirondack Cranberry colourwash) when I tipped out rather more than I meant to...
I have wanted to have a go at resist stamping since I read a great tutorial about it by Christi Snow in issue 12 of Creative Cardmaking. Her technique is to stamp the image with Versamark, emboss in white and then apply the ink/colourwash over the image with a cloth for a vibrant effect.
Through my experimentation I found that using plain smooth cardstock and gently rubbing over the colour gave the best effect. I want to make a birthday card for my about-to-be-a-teenager niece so I'm going to continue playing with this technique with other stamps.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Cherry Blossom Morning

A good side -effect of keeping hens is that I need to go outside first thing each morning to let them out of their house and feed them. This is a great way to get myself fully awake each morning and connect with what the weather is doing and the beauty ( or otherwise!) of the morning.

Today is definitely a day for beauty - the sky here is a deep clear blue and the sun has a real warmth to it. As I went about my tasks with the hens there was birdsong, bees and butterflies. But best of all was that the flowering cherry trees in the hen pen, whose fat pink buds I've been eyeing up for the past week, have burst into blossom.
We planted these trees two years ago to help prettify this rather ugly area with the compost bins and the oil-tank - you can see these in the picture below, disguised a bit by the blossom, along with our two hens - Edwina and Beryl.

I need to make my morning coffeee now and sit out on the deck to soak up some more of the lovely morning. I hope your morning is as promising as mine.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Scrapbooking Kit swap

One of the many things I love about being involved in UK Scrappers is the opportunity to join in swaps of all kinds - various types of stash, made items such as bookmarks (see my post below), altered objects etc.

The current one I'm in, organised by my UKS teamie, Claire, is a scrapbooking kit swap - the idea being to send your swappee a co-ordinated kit including cardstock, patterned paper and various embellisments, enough to make several LOs. As we were all to send items from our excisting stash, this didn't cost us a penny, and just look at what a wonderful kit arrived for me this morning:

Thanks so much to the very generous Ann who sent it!

And this is what I sent to Claire:

She later posted a pic of a LO she had made with some of the stash I had sent her and it was really interesting and inspiring to see what someone else had done with "your" stash.
I think swaps are a brilliant idea - even if I don't always like everything I receive (although I did in this case), it is great to get some free and different items to experiment with and stimulate my creativity.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Gardens

Happy Easter!
Well, the Easter Hare paid his regular visit here very early this morning and left a trail of chocolate eggs in the garden for the children to find. He also always leaves a treat and often a little something else in their Easter gardens - this year it was a little chocolate rabbit and a butterfly ( made by yours truly) -see close-up below.
These Easter gardens have been part of our traditions since the girls were young - originally the idea came from the Steiner kindergarten that L. went to and the girls used to make little caterpillars out of plasticene which would miraculously change into buttterflies overnight.
They no longer do this, but we still enjoy the ritual of visiting the garden centre in the run up to Easter and choosing some plants and cress seed to sow. We also use grass seed but never get round to doing the gardens early enough so that the grass has had time to germinate before Easter Day!

This one is E.'s.

And here are the butterflies I made:
I used a butterfly stamp with charcoal chalk ink on patterned paper and then attached it to a shadow-stamped image of the same butterfly.

Our good friends M. A. and O came over for lunch and we ended up playing charades - I. loved it and has been playing lots more rounds with me since our friends left.
A good day.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Lark Ascending

Yesterday late afternoon I had one of those magical experiences with nature that sometimes happen here.
It had been horrible weather all day, cold, windy and raining, and then towards 6pm it suddenly brightened up. We had been in the house all day so I rounded up R. and I. and we went out for a walk to the wood. As we headed home R. decided to take I. for a quick lemonade at the pub and I headed home across the fields alone.
One of the fields I walked past often has skylarks and as I approached I could hear their song. I stopped to listen and look up to see if I could see any when suddenly one took off from the ground right in front of me and hovered in the sky overhead singing loudly - it was a wonderful moment - so unexpected and with the sun out and the sky now bright blue after such a day.
As I walked back along the "Concrete Path" I saw that the wild primroses are out along the verges and I also spotted some tiny wild violets. It reminded me how much I love the changing seasons here...

On the crafting front, I managed this month for the first time to do all the weekly challenges on UK Scrappers and the monthly House Challenge too.
Here is my week 5 challenge LO, which I'm really quite pleased with as it is the second set of photos I attempted to use for this challenge and after a strugle with the sketch provided I like how this has turned out.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Quick Easter Cards

A quick post to show these quick Easter cards I made for my mum, brother and family and sister and family - the bunny image is clip-art, coloured with my lovely Promarkers and the patterned paper is all magazine freebies. So, very cheap as well!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Cutting back

Now that Spring has at last arrived I am trying to get all the cutting back and tidying up done in the garden that we usually start about a month ago but weren't able to with all the snow and then rain. I'm really racing against Nature's clock here, as traditional wisdom says all pruning and cutting back should be done by the end of March, which is on Wednesday! I've done the fruit trees, the Cornus, some roses and other shrubs and made a start on the Siberian Irises, but there is still a lot to do. Looks like good weather for it today, so after lunch I will be out there again with my trusty gloves, shears and secuteurs...

Friday, 26 March 2010

Promarker Love

After reading a thread about these artists marker pens over on UK Scrappers, I just had to get myself some and try them out. Yes, they are expensive, £1.50 - £1.99 each (though I got a good deal on a set and free postage at Angelcrafts), but the quality is wonderful, the colours beautifully vibrant and there is a huge range of colours available. I can see they are very addictive!
Anyway, when they arrived, I spent an enjoyable couple of evenings doing colouring in - I made a couple of Easter cards and then these bookmarks for a swap in my team on UK Scrappers:



I don't actually have many outline stamps which are good for colouring, so I have been using clipart images - I read on someone's blog that you can change images to black and white and use them like digital stamps. I have found that not all images work when you make them b+w (well not on my computer anyway), but lots do. Apart from the lampshade, which is a stamp, all the other images on the bookmarks are from clipart. I'm really pleased with how these turned out - and they were such fun to do as well!

Also, please check out my very cute Promarker storage tin in the top photo. Again I "borrowed" someone else's idea - on a thread about storage of the pens, someone had said they used a lunch tin from Paperchase. Well, I just happened to find myself in Paperchase on Tuesday and treated my new Promarkers to this lovely tin!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Whew! It feels a little strange to be back blogging after such a long break. I'm not sure quite why I stopped at Christmas time - we were away at New Year and then life seemed to be extra busy after that. My knitting projects have also been sadly neglected although I did use my sewing machine intensively for a while to make DD2 two flapper girl dresses for a production of Bugsy Malone she was in at school

I have been back making things this month and last, though - cards and scrapbook layouts!

I have got back into scrapbooking recentlyalmost to the point of obsession. I 've made 7 LOs in the last 3 weeks and have also made quite a few cards. (I've also spent lots of money on scrapbooking stash, but sshh - don't tell anyone!

Here are a few of the LOs I've made recently:

My DD2:

This is about our silver wedding anniversary:

Another nostalgic one about me and DH:

My three:

And this one I just finished this morning, for the monthly challenge over on Sarah's Cards blog:
(the challenge was to use old stash)