Changes

When I first started this blog in 2012, I had just published my first novel and my intention was to post about things related to my books and writing. But, as happens with life, my focus over time has changed. Over the years, my blog has become more centred around my love of gardening, and art and crafts, (which do both feature strongly in my novels!) As such, I have decided to keep this blog for occasional posts about book and writing updates, and I am starting a new blog, Foxgloves and Bumblebees, focusing on my love of nature where I can share my garden, nature walks, and nature inspired art and crafts.

My new blog will be under my real name of Christine. Many people have asked me why I chose to publish my novels under the pen name of Kristah Price instead of using my own name. The simple answer is that when I published my first novel there was already an author with the same name as mine, so I decided to publish my books under a name that was unique. Since then, I have married and changed my name, and will publish my next book under my own name.

I hope you will visit me at Foxgloves and Bumblebees.com for lots of nature inspired loveliness!

Our Summer Garden

We are having a very hot summer with temperatures often in the 30s. Hosing restrictions have started, but thankfully today we are having some lovely rain, which the trees and plants will be thankful for.

The tomatoes are growing well and we have started picking cherry tomatoes. Also picking zucchinis, beetroot, spring onions, lettuces, kale, chard, carrots, cucumbers, and strawberries.

Believe it or not, there are lots of veggies in there amongst all the flowers we grow for the bees. The potatoes should be ready to dig up soon.

Echinaceas are flowering amongst the lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm.

I was given this beautiful hibiscus for Christmas and have left it in its pot outside the studio for now until I decide where to plant it.

I have been bottling beetroot from the garden, to last us through the winter months, and making raspberry jam with raspberries from the local berry farm.

My husband gave me this lovely gardening journal for Christmas. It has the most beautiful nature illustrations by Hannah Dale, as well as seasonal recipes, and lots of room to record garden plans, notes and sketches. I’m looking forward to filling it up over the year ahead.

That’s it from our garden for now. I’m off to make some zucchini muffins, while watching the lovely rain through the kitchen window.

 

Vintage Cards and Christmas Shortbread

This art journal page evolved over a couple of happy hours crafting in my studio, listening to Christmas songs. The focal point is a Christmas card from my vintage card collection. The card was sent from a father in Italy to his daughter in New Zealand during the Second World War. During a time that was so fraught with heartbreak, with many families being separated from their loved ones, it must have been so special for that little girl to receive a Christmas card from her father from all those miles away across the ocean, and to know that he was all right. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by all my family at Christmas time.

To make the page, I painted and stencilled a background, then layered the card with Christmas sheet music, festive papers, fabric, lace and ribbon, finally adding a few little embellishments.

I love doing Christmas baking – homemade mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas cookies are enjoyed by all at this time of the year. This is my great-grandmother’s shortbread recipe. I add spices, orange zest, and cranberries at Christmas time to give it a festive touch.

Christmas Cranberry Shortbread

225g butter or non-dairy spread
125g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
½ cup cranberries
375g flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream the butter and icing sugar.  Stir in the orange zest and cranberries. Add sifted flour, cornflour, and spice and mix. Knead well. Roll out the dough ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Prick with a fork to stop the dough from rising. (I forgot to do this, but they still turned out nice.) Bake at 160° C for 30 minutes. (I cook on fan bake so that the bottoms of the shortbread don’t burn.) Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

From our place to yours, Merry Christmas!

 

 

Growing Wild

For this collaged journal page I painted and stencilled the background, then added photos of my garden, images and words cut from magazines, washi tapes, and pressed flowers.

I love to cut words from magazines and junk mail and save them to use in art projects. I look for words that speak to me. Sometimes I will add one or two words to a journal page, other times I will arrange random words into a poem.

I have had a plain wooden box sitting in my studio for ages, and decided it would be perfect for storing my words. I painted it and then chose some of the words to create a poem on the lid.

I love how a few random words, some scrappy images, and a little imagination can bring nature to life on the page.

 

October garden journal

I love the month of October, before the season gets too hot, when the garden looks fresh and green and bursting with colour. I find that tending the garden, or just spending time in it relaxing and being amongst Mother Nature, feeds the soul, relaxes the body and stills the mind, allowing room for daydreams, imaginings, and creativeness to wander in.

This month has brought lots of lovely sunshine, warm days, and a little rain. Birds are nesting in the trees and the garden is full of life. Beside our front porch, the wisteria is dripping with cascading white blooms, its delicate fragrant scent welcoming visitors to the front door.

Anemones have continued to bloom, as well as poppies and dianthus, and the beautiful crimson Sweet William that we planted last year.

The trusty cinerarias return with their cheerful blooms year after year. They thrive in shady spots beneath trees, and pop up throughout the veggie garden, too. I love the wonderful variety of shades they come in – especially the blues and purples.

In the backyard, our orange tree is laden with blossom, filling the garden with its divine scent and attracting the bees in droves.

We continue to pick oranges, as well as lemons, chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, carrots, rhubarb, and herbs. Our little apple tree has its first leaves. In the veggie garden this month I planted tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, spring onions, beetroot, and more carrot seed as not many of the last ones grew (I think they must have been eaten).

Calendulas have self-seeded throughout the veggie garden and I have been picking the flowers and infusing them in oil to make lip balm and body lotion.

I have picked and pressed flowers throughout the month to use in art projects. It is always exciting to open the pages of a book after a few weeks and see how the flowers have held their colour. Pansies, in particular, always seem to produce a lovely result.

This is my seventh year of keeping a garden journal. I love looking back at my garden through the pages, month by month, season by season. Seeing all the loveliness of nature fills my heart with joy.

Hello from Finn!

Written in the Stars

I have always had an interest in astrology; not in reading generic horoscopes in papers or magazines, but in the scientific aspect of mapping the planets and stars in the sky at the exact time we are born into this life. I love the idea that the position of the planets might have an influence on shaping our personality and our life path – our personal star map to help guide us through our life journey, while allowing our own free will and self-awareness to help us make choices along the way.

A couple of years ago, I saw that one of my favourite mixed-media artists, Suzi Blu, and her friend Courtney were offering astrological birth chart readings. I had always been aware that my personality was vastly different to that typical of my star sign and, curious to learn more about it, I signed up for a reading. I provided my exact time, date, and place of birth, and a couple of weeks later I received a PDF chart and a recorded in-depth explanation of the signs and personal interpretation of how it all related to my life. So much of it made perfect sense. Without knowing me, they were able to pinpoint my personality exactly and I was able to make sense of that which had always puzzled me. They also validated that I was on the right path with what I had chosen to do with my life, but suggested that my soul’s purpose was to delve deeper into my emotions, talk about uncomfortable things, and to write deeply things that are meaningful to me.

I am very fortunate to have had a good life with wonderful family and friends, a happy upbringing, and a happy marriage. The one thing I have struggled with over the years is social anxiety, which at times has led to crippling panic attacks, and in the past made school and work situations unhappy places to be.

After the reading I thought about what Suzi and Courtney had said and, soon after, I began writing ‘The Air that I Breathe.’ Although written as a fictional novel, this was a story with which I had a deep personal connection and could write from a heartfelt place of experience and emotion, a story that touched on my own personal experiences with social anxiety and panic attacks. But rather than dwell on the negative aspects, I wanted it to be a story of how we can create our own life path by choosing to live an authentic life and build a life around the things that allow us to feel happy and fulfilled. We shouldn’t be defined by our fears, our weaknesses and imperfections, but rather we should choose to shine a light on all that is good in our lives, on our strengths, our talents and capabilities, and on all that we have to offer others.

Available from Amazon

Social anxiety is only a small part of my life now. I have created a life around the things and the people who make me happy, a life that is full and rewarding. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time. I know the triggers, I do my best to avoid those situations, and knowing I can choose to avoid them makes all the difference in the world to my personal wellbeing.

If it were not for that birth chart reading, ‘The Air that I Breathe’ would probably never have been written. I guess you could say that its creation was ‘written in the stars.’

This art journal page depicts my star sign, Aries. I had a lot of fun painting it, with bursts of colour denoting moments of creation in the universe. Actually, they were blobs of paint that I peeled from my pallete paper the next day and stuck to the page. I thought they added a unique element to the painting.

Poppies and Bumblebees

A beautiful symbol of spring, there are poppies in gardens everywhere around here at the moment. This painting was inspired by photos of poppies taken in our garden a couple of years ago. I created layers on the canvas with tissue paper, scrapbook papers, acrylic paints, inks, and a honeycomb stencil, then painted the poppies, seed heads, and bumblebees with acrylic paints. The bumblebees were fun to paint. I think they help to add movement and life to the painting.

In the language of flowers, the poppy is associated with faith, remembrance, and consolation. The red poppy has come to symbolize the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives during the two world wars. According to folklore, if you sniff a poppy three times a day it will bring you luck. I have yet to test this!

 

September garden journal

Now that spring has arrived with sunshine, warmth, and longer days, there is lots to do in the garden. This month has been busy with planning, browsing catalogues and ordering seeds, composting, and planting. Carrots and potatoes have been planted in their garden beds, while trays of vegetable seeds, and seeds saved from last year’s flowers, are starting their growth under cover of the greenhouse, protected from late frosts and inclement weather.

The vegetable garden continues to provide us with a steady supply of greens – chard, spinach, kale and lettuces, as well as parsley, which has flourished alongside, and which I add to many dishes as it is highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Our rosemary is in full bloom and the bees are loving it! We often enjoy potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary.

The anemone bulbs we planted last autumn have produced these beautiful purple blooms.

Forget-me-nots and primulas self-seeded and sprung up throughout the garden.

I have been neglecting my garden journal over the winter months, but am back into it again with the new season, beginning with a garden plan of what will be planted over the next month.

Finn is loving the warmer weather and sunshine.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen

 

Woven wall hanging

I recently bought a small weaving loom from Spotlight, a local craft and homeware store. It is light and portable and a perfect size for making small projects. When I began this project, I didn’t have an exact plan in mind other than to make a wall hanging using materials I had on hand. After deciding on a natural, earthy colour scheme, I gathered together everything I had in my stash that I thought I could use – ribbons, fibers, lace, trim, yarn, fabric scraps, and even a hemp bracelet with little bells on.

 

The process was very therapeutic. While sitting, weaving the pieces over and under, adding the pieces randomly, I watched a pattern slowly begin to form. I left the ends hanging out to give it a raw, organic feel. Then, when it was finished, I cut the bottom threads from the loom and threaded beads through, knotting them underneath to hold them on. Finally, I lifted the top threads from the loom, slid a piece of driftwood through, and attached a piece of recycled silk yarn for hanging.

Book Release – The Air that I Breathe

I am delighted to announce the release of my new novel, The Air that I Breathe. It is available as a paperback and an ebook from Amazon.com.

This is a book close to my heart as it deals with social anxiety and panic attacks, emotions I have struggled with over the years. Although Zoe and her story are fictional, I have drawn on my own experiences in writing this novel, and hope it will be a story that others who have gone through, or are going through, similar experiences can relate to.

You can read the book description below.

The_Air_that_I_Breat_Cover_for_Kindle

Available from Amazon.com

Zoe Marche is afraid of the outside world. She has created a sanctuary for herself in her little bungalow on the hill, tending her beloved garden and creating magical pieces of art. But an invitation and the arrival of a stranger throw her world off-balance and cause her to question whether there might be more to life than the sheltered existence she has chosen.

Zoe must make a choice. Is she ready to face her fears and live her life the way that others expect of her? Or is she already living the life she was meant to live?

The Air that I Breathe is a story of choices, of possibilities, and of chasing dreams.

Tiny tea bag book of nature

 

Lately I have seen a lot of wonderful art on the Internet using tea bags. As an avid tea drinker, I decided to start saving my used tea bags to make my own little book. Although mostly I use loose leaf tea, I do use some tea bags and got some interesting effects from black tea, green tea, and nettle tea, while some I left unstained.

I decided on a nature theme for my little book. I stitched down the center of the tea bags to bind them together, then added cardstock and vellum to the front and back covers. To embellish the tea bag pages I used stamped images, stickers, stamps, tiny pictures, pressed flowers and leaves, and washi tape.

Here are a few of the pages.

 

Finally I glued coloured hemp and recycled silk fibers to the spine.

This teeny tiny book is as light as a feather and fits into the palm of my hand.

Something of the marvelous

I created this scrapbook page using paper from the  Kaisercraft Fairy Dust Collection. It is such a pretty paper that I wanted to find a photo that was as magical as the illustration and this pretty pansy captured in my garden seemed perfect. I added some pressed violas, washi tape, a metal butterfly embellishment, an applique dragonfly, some hand stitching, and some rhinestone embellishments.

I agree with this quote by Aristotle one hundred percent. Everywhere you look in nature there is something marvelous to be found, something to fill your heart with joy.

I love that pansies continue to bloom throughout  the cold weather, adding colour to the winter garden. Each winter I grow them in pots and tubs outside my studio where it is lovely and sunny. They provide a cheerful welcome to visitors coming through the gate.

I am joining in the Add a Quote challenge over at Try it on Tuesday.

Dragonfly art journal page

I created the background of this journal page with gesso, acrylic paints, inks, and tissue paper to add some texture. I stamped on the dragonfly and coloured it with pens, then added some scraps of trim and tiny jewels to the page. I had fun cutting words out of an old book to create a found poem. I was amazed that the book I was using, one that I had put aside ages ago to use for cutting up, had lots of words that related to my journal page.

I love dragonflies and I look out my kitchen window every day onto this one that lives on the wall of my studio.

I am playing along with the Things with Wings challenge at Try it on Tuesday.

Journal of Inspiration

I love looking through magazines for inspiration. Some of my favourites are Somerset Studio, Somerset Art Journaling, Sew Somerset, and Daphne’s Diary. I also love reading gardening magazines and the Australian Country Craft magazines. I am very lucky to have a wonderful mum who also loves to read magazines and passes them on to me after she has finished with them. Once I have read the magazines (often several times), I pull out pages with crafts or recipes that I would like to try, home decor, botanical art, poems, or pictures that make me feel happy. I also take out pages and cut out words that I can use in my collage. After that, what is left goes in the recycling.

Recently I decided to take the folder of inspirational pages I had pulled from the magazines and make them into a big journal of things that I love. To make the journal I took one of my magazines and removed all the pages from it that I didn’t want to keep, leaving a half inch border along the spine of each page. Then I took my stash of inspirational pages and glued them onto the half-inch tabs, while others I attached with my favourite washi tapes.

Some pages I glued back to back, covering up the sides I didn’t want to keep. On other pages I made mini collages, or used paint and washi tape to cover up parts I didn’t want.

I made a pocket on one of the pages to hold some of my vintage greeting cards.

I decorated the cover using gesso, acrylic paints, inks, paint pens, and washi tapes, and I added some fibers and beads down the side.

My journal is a big book of inspiration that I can take out and look through when I want to relax. And the good thing is I can keep adding pages to the journal – the bulkier the better!

Freedom art journal page

I recently discovered the poetry of Erin Hanson after coming across this inspirational quote on the internet and searching to find out who wrote it. I bought one of Erin’s books, The Poetic Underground Reverie, and just love her charming poems, which are emotive, relatable, and often hold a touch of whimsy. She has an amazing way with words and an incredibly deep and sensitive insight into human emotions.

The Poetic Undergound

I knew when I began this journal page that I wanted it to be bright and colourful, and for the wings to be made from pressed flowers.I gathered together a selection of papers, paints, and inks in my chosen colour palette and began planning the page.I added pieces of old lace, raffia, and washi tape, and typed the poem on my vintage style typewriter that Nick gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. After spending so much time on the computer typing my novels, it is fun to use the typewriter for crafty things and to have my studio as a technology-free space where I can relax and unwind.Lastly, I sorted through my stash of pressed flowers and chose some ferns and feverfew and dried heather buds for the wings, and to embellish the pages.

This page reminds me that it is okay to take chances and that you never know where that leap of faith might take you.

Larkspur art journal page

I love purple and blue flowers, and larkspurs are one of my favourites. In the language of flowers, larkspurs signify lightness and levity. They also have magical connections to health and protection.

Larkspur

For the journal page I used paints and inks, washi tape, corrugated cardboard, a stencil, cutout butterflies, a pressed larkspur flower, larkspur seeds, rust-dyed fabrics, a white pen, and impasto gel medium.

Larkspurs self-seed in our garden and come up every spring in myriad colours of blues, purples and pinks. Their soft, feathery foliage is pretty, too.

At the moment, with the end of summer and herbs starting to die off, my studio has become a drying room with bunches of bergamot, lemon balm, and basil hanging from the rafters to dry for use in the winter.

Dawn – a mixed media painting

Dawn is one of my favourite times of the day, waking to the sounds of birdsong, watching the sun rise to light the morning sky in vibrant bursts of colour as the world shifts slowly from darkness to light.

At the beginning of the day, anything is possible.

I found this piece of music in an old music book, and it made me think of a dawn chorus, of birds awakening and greeting the new day with joy and optimism.

For the background I used the page from the old book of piano music, paint, and stencils. Then I added images from scrapbook papers, dried flora, and fibers. Lastly, I painted the three birds onto  paper, cut them out, and glued them onto the painting. I wasn’t brave enough to paint the birds directly onto the canvas in case I ruined it. Painting them onto paper first meant that I could start over if I wasn’t happy with them.

A kingfisher, a heron, and a tomtit, ready to embrace the new day.

In My Garden

Our garden is thriving beneath the hot summer sun for my last garden post for the year.

The sweet peas self-seeded in the garden where we planted them last year. They make a lovely show and are great for picking to put in a vase. The more you pick them, the more they flower. Our orange tree is laden with fruit that is just ready to start picking. We use the rosemary on baked potato wedges, and for adding to food on the barbecue.

Our front porch.

The hydrangea in our front garden is such a beautiful shade of blue.

I bought a punnet of this pretty little plant from the garden center and planted it in pots. It is called sisyrinchium.

The veggie garden is thriving. We have been picking broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spring onions, kale, spinach and lettuces, as well as lots of herbs. We planted potatoes for the first time this year and I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I also planted tomatoes, beans, beetroot, carrots, basil, cucumbers and pumpkin.

Calendulas self-seeded throughout the veggie garden. Although the flowers are edible and can be added to salads, I have never tried eating them. I do dry the flowers, though, to make infused oils for use in hand creams and body lotions and lip balms.

I bought a chocolate mint to plant in a pot. Amazingly the leaves taste exactly like peppermint chocolate and are great for adding a chocolate mint flavour to biscuits.

I love berry season. Our strawberries have done really well this year. This strawberry shortcake is one of my favourite desserts. It is delicious served warm with ice cream, or served cold for afternoon tea with a cup of coffee or tea.

Strawberry Shortcake

3 cups strawberries
250g butter or non-dairy substitute
200g sugar
2 eggs
400g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a deep-sided baking dish with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the creamed mixture. Mix until a soft dough forms.

Spoon half the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Press down to evenly spread out the dough. Halve or quarter the strawberries (depending on their size) and spread them over the dough. Spoon over the remaining dough and press lightly with the back of a spoon to spread it evenly.

Bake for half an hour until golden brown on top. Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar.

~ ~ ~

We hung fairy lights across the front of the garden studio to give it a festive feel.

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Little Book of Ancestors

I recently took Laly Mille’s online class, Little Book of Whispers, a beautiful class in which she teaches you how to make a mixed media artist book connecting to the whispers of your soul. I chose to make my book into a little book of ancestors.

I embellished the pages with scraps of vintage lace and doilies, ribbons, buttons, and sewing ephemera, many of which belonged to my ancestors. I also used vintage greeting cards from my collection, Victorian decoupage scraps, pressed flowers from my garden, pages from old music books, fabric, and pieces of broken jewellery.

Between the covers of this little book lie the whispers of my ancestors.

To learn more about Laly Mille’s class, Little Book of Whispers, click here. The class is only available to join at certain times of the year, but you can get on the wait list to learn when the next class is open for registration. I urge you to take a look at her website www.lalymille.com where you will find lots of beautiful mixed media art and inspiration.

The House in Wattle Lane, the second book in my Wattle Lane series, also delves into ancestry and connecting to whispers of the past.

When 29-year-old Neave Hamlin is made redundant from her job in the city, she decides to return to the small town of Kerrigan to consider her future and to reconnect with her estranged father and half-siblings. However, she soon learns that being part of a family is not always easy as she struggles to cope with the emotional dramas of her 14-year-old, half-sister, Lily, who insists that the old family home is haunted, and a less than welcoming stepmother.

After attending a heritage scrapbooking class, Neave is inspired to learn more about the lives of her ancestors. While searching for the truth behind a dark family secret, she discovers that sometimes unearthing the past can shine a light on the future.

The House in Wattle Lane includes recipes.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Scrappy Cupcake Angels, book one in the Wattle Lane novels, introduces you to some of the other characters who live in the small New Zealand town of Kerrigan, several of whom also make an appearance in The House in Wattle Lane.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

 

Pretty As A Pansy

Pansies are one of my favourite flowers. Their sweet faces brighten up the winter garden, and I especially love them in shades of purple and blue. When I saw this pansy fabric on Grandmother’s Garden Patchwork & Quilting website, I immediately began planning what I could do with it.

I made a patchwork table runner to cover my art table when I’m not using it.

Then with the leftover fabrics, and strips cut from the coordinating picture panel, I made a small wall hanging. I added some buttons, lace, and stitching, then I found two sticks in the garden – one from which to hang it, and one from which to dangle beads at the bottom.

Finn kept an eye on what I was doing.

This sweet pansy is called Matrix Denim.

In the language of flowers, pansy means friendly thoughts or think of me. These pansy cards are from my collection of vintage greeting cards.

With friendly thoughts from me to you, wherever you are in the world.