Treasure The Memories

This is one of my favourite photographs of my grandmother. It would have been taken in the 1930s when she was in her twenties, before she married. I love her dress; I wish I knew what colour it was. Although when I think of my grandmother, I always think of her as old, I can see her in the face of this young woman, gentle and reflective.

For this scrapbook page I used ribbon, lace, paper flowers and butterflies, and beads from a broken vintage necklace. To honour my grandmother’s love of gardening, I added pressed flowers from my garden – alyssum, feverfew and pansy.

 

Book Review: 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home

I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle, conscious of what I put both into and onto my body, and the effect that household products have on us and on the environment. For many years I have used cleaning products that have no nasty chemicals, and body care products that are natural and organic.

Recently I bought a book called 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home by Jan Berry. I have followed Jan’s blog The Nerdy Farm Wife for a while now and was excited when I saw that she had written a book. It is full of projects for making skin and hair care products, household cleaners, health remedies, and pet care products using natural ingredients and common herbs, flowers and oils. The book is perfect for the beginner with easy-to-follow directions and lots of lovely pictures.

101 Homemade Products

So far I have made three projects from the book. The first one I tried was a lip balm. Jan teaches you how to make a basic lip balm, then gives lots of ideas on how to customise it using different herbs and essential oils. The first one I made I used avocado oil infused with lemon balm from my garden, and the next one I used olive oil infused with lavender flowers. It was so easy to make, I will never buy lip balm again!

lavender lip balm

Next I made the calendula lotion, which had a few extra steps and ingredients, but it turned out really nice. I didn’t have any calendulas flowering in my garden, so I bought a packet of dried calendula flowers from a health shop and infused them in organic avocado oil. I’ve planted a load of seeds in my garden so that I will have some on hand for using in creams and lotions when I need them. Now that I know how to make a lotion, I can’t wait to try out some different recipes. There are recipes in the book for face cleansers, face creams, eye creams, body butters, soaps, and much, much more.

Calendula Lotion

I made the orange pine floor cleaner, using pine needles collected on our walks, and oranges from our garden. It cleans the floors well and leaves a lovely refreshing scent.

orange and pine floor cleaner

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making their own herbal products and in living a natural, chemical-free lifestyle.

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

I have been doing patchwork and quilting for a few years now, mostly making quilts and table runners, but I always wanted to have a go at doing crazy quilting. This creative art form was popular in the Victorian era, when fabrics were pieced together in irregular shapes and sizes, then embellished with embroidery, ribbons, laces, cording, beads, buttons, and appliqued motifs. They were like art quilts, often made with beautiful fabrics and luxurious threads.

I decided to start with something small and make a cushion cover. I chose some lovely fabrics from my stash, in my favourite colours of green and purple, with some creams added for contrast. There are several methods for piecing, but I chose to use the traditional hand-pieced Antique method. I embellished my cushion with embroidery, ribbons, lace, buttons, vintage trim, and small pieces cut from vintage doilies.

I bought this vintage floral trim at an antique fair.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any embroidery, so I decided to stick to simple stitches like blanket stitch and French knots.

I found J. Marsha Michler’s book Crazy Quilting, The Complete Guide very useful. It has instructions for piecing, embellishing, and more than 100 embroidery stitches. Being left-handed, I particularly like that she shows how to do the left-handed version of all the stitches. It also has a gallery of beautiful projects. The book is hard-covered and spiral bound, making it easy to have it open on the table while working from it.

I really enjoyed sewing everything by hand. I found it quite therapeutic, stitching while listening to music, and am looking forward to working on another crazy quilting project.

Herbal Moth Repellent Sachets

herbal moth repellent sachets

I just finished making some herbal moth repellent sachets to put in cupboards and drawers. The moth balls that you buy are made from toxic ingredients, so it is much better to make your own. They smell much nicer, too! You can use any strong smelling herbs to repel moths, so I used what I had in my garden – rosemary, lavender, mint, and thyme. I hung up bunches of the herbs in my studio and left them for a couple of weeks to dry, then stripped off the flowers and leaves and mixed them all up together in a tin. I also added some whole cloves for an extra strong aroma.

Lavender

rosemary and mint

dried herbs

herbal sachet bagsMaking the little fabric bags is a good way to use up scraps of fabric. You can use pretty cottons, muslin, organza, cheesecloth, or really whatever you have on hand. Fill the sachets with the dried herbs, then tie a piece of ribbon or twine around the tops. Hang the sachets in cupboards or place in drawers to keep the moths away from your clothes and linens. Scrunch the sachets once in a while to release the aromas, and once the aroma has faded, empty the bags and replace with some freshly dried herbs.

 

A New Favourite Author

Don’t you love it when you fall in love with a book by an author you haven’t read before, and then find they have written several other books, and you can’t wait to read them?

I discovered Susan Branch while browsing on the Internet for a calendar for 2016. Her Heart of the Home calendars feature recipes, quotes and her charming watercolour illustrations. Then I discovered that she had written a book called A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside. It immediately caught my attention as I have always dreamed of travelling to England and exploring the picturesque country villages. I bought the book and it is just amazing, not only to read, but there is so much to look at, too!

The book is Susan’s account of her and her husband’s trip to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Based on the diaries that Susan kept of the trip, the book is handwritten and tells the story of their voyage from America to England on an ocean liner, and then of the two months they spent exploring the English countryside, visiting historic homes such as Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, and the tea rooms, pubs and antique stores they discovered along the way. The beautiful hardcover book with a red ribbon bookmark is full of photographs, recipes, and Susan’s delightful watercolour illustrations. Her warm, friendly prose makes you feel as though you are right there with them on their journey.

Susan has also written two prequels to A Fine Romance. Memoirs of her life, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreamsare also handwritten, with lots of photographs and watercolour pictures. These beautiful hardcover books recently arrived in my mailbox and are eagerly awaiting to be read and devoured!

Susan is an amazing watercolour artist. As well as her memoirs and calendars, she has a Heart of the Home series of books that celebrate cooking, gardening, homemaking and entertaining, and a range of products that feature her watercolour illustrations including greeting cards, journals and recipe keepers.

You can learn more about Susan, her books, and her life on the beautiful Isle of Martha’s Vineyard at her website www.susanbranch.com.

Wildflower Meadow

I hope all the mums out there had a lovely Mother’s Day on Sunday. It was a beautiful autumn day here, continuing our run of amazing autumn weather.

I made my mum this mixed-media picture using watercolour and inking techniques from Jane Betteridge’s book Watercolours Unleashed. After the background was dry, I added pressed flowers and leaves from my garden, and a few butterflies cut from scrapbook paper.

wildflower meadow

Jane Betteridge does the most beautiful watercolour painting, using nature as her inspiration. I was so pleased to have discovered her book. You can see her lovely work on her website at www.janebetteridge.com.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

This is another recipe I have been making to use some of the walnuts we collected on our walks.

Banana Oatmeal Muffin

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw sugar
½ cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 large or 3 small bananas, mashed
¾ cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 180° C.

Combine oats and milk in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add oil, beaten eggs, and vanilla essence to soaked mixture of oats and milk, and stir. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix in mashed bananas and walnut pieces.

Lightly oil muffin tins and fill with mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Cute Piglets

Cute Piglets

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I love pigs. I even gave one of my characters a pet pig in my novel The House in Wattle Lane. On Tuesday, Nick had the day off work and, as it was a lovely autumn day, we decided to go for a drive out in the country. We found a lovely spot at a river where Finn had a good time exploring.

Driving home, we came across a paddock with a pig and 12 little piglets. They were so cute, of course we had to stop and take some photos.

 

Granddad

Originally posted on my Wattle Lane blog.

My granddad was a special person in my life. Although, while I was growing up, we lived quite a distance from my grandparents, we would have a family holiday with them once a year, and I have some very fond memories of those holidays. Eventually we moved closer to them and, for the last few years of my grandfather’s life, he lived just around the corner from us.

I remember him as a kind, gentle man with a great sense of humour and, what we thought at the time, some crazy ideas, always trying to come up with new inventions and ways of making his fortune.

To me, he was an inspiration. He could play the piano by ear, never having learnt music, a skill I always envied. He took up painting later in life, creating many lovely works of art. I often wonder if I inherited my creative genes from his side of the family. His sister, my great-aunt, was also an accomplished pianist, as well as dabbling in many different crafts. My mother sewed all our clothes when we were young, taught me how to knit and to do tapestry and cross-stitch, wrote pieces for magazines, and has encouraged me in all my creative endeavours.

Creating this scrapbook page of my grandfather when he was young seemed like the perfect opportunity to use these tiny playing cards that I have had for a while.

I have always loved this photograph of Granddad taken during the years of the Second World War. The music-themed background paper seemed perfect for celebrating his love of piano music.The background paper with the poem and the bird was a free artist paper from the Somerset Studio magazine. I added the green ribbons and stitching to add a pop of colour to the layout.

I have many more photos of my grandfather taken over the years with his family, which I am looking forward to putting into scrapbook layouts to document his life and to remember the wonderful man who I was fortunate to have called my granddad.

Look For The Magic

This art journal page reminds me to look for the magic in the everyday (or night). A full moon surrounded by swirls of violet cloud, a garden bathed in moonglow, the brilliant light from a distant star, the changing colours of the seasons as trees shed their leaves and plants lie dormant, then a new cycle of growth begins all over again. The feelings of comfort and belonging inspired by a little cottage; a sense of home, of occupying my own little place in the universe.

Look for the Magic

In My Studio

Craft Studio

I have been doing Danielle Donaldson’s online art workshop, All Creatures Lovely and Small, learning to draw and watercolour whimsical creatures and create mixed-media story blocks. Good fun!

He’s not quite finished yet. I still have to add some embellishing around the pup.

Lavender, rosemary and peppermint picked fresh from the garden bring the aromatic scent of herbs into the studio.

Finn keeps me company while he has his chew.

Once the echinaceas have finished flowering outside, their seed heads make an interesting arrangement indoors.

echinacea seed heads

Beach Wall Hanging

This little wall hanging was inspired by a recent visit to Waimarama Beach. I rummaged around in my stash of fabrics for blues and golds to accent the colours in the photograph. I sewed them onto a burlap background with wavy lines of stitching, then sewed on strips of ribbon and trim, and added some buttons and some driftwood and shells from the beach. Hanging from the bottom are vintage tassels I found at a recent antiques fair.

beach wall hanging

Finn had a wonderful time chasing his toy, then burying it in the sand. He even found a playmate. Although he loves to swim in the river, he has always been a little hesitant about going into the ocean. But on this day he was happy to follow Nick into the water, and to retrieve his toy from the shallow waves.

Pressed Flower Journal

flower journal

I love collecting flowers from our garden, and wildflowers from our walks, to press and use in craft projects. It is always interesting to see, after they have been pressed between the pages of a book for a few weeks, what they will turn out like. Some hold their colour much better than others. I find that blue and purple ones seem to hold their colour well, while red and pink often seem to fade quickly.

I bought this lovely journal a couple of years ago and have been saving it for a special project. When I thought about keeping a record of the pressed flowers, the journal seemed like a perfect place to keep them. I simply attached a few of each of the flowers to the pages with washi tape, and wrote the names below on a strip of masking tape. These are a few of the flowers that I have pressed over the last two or three months.

pansies

wildflowers2

larkspur

white clover

violas

radish flowers

cornflowers

lobelia

lavender

feverfew

daisies

wildflowers

pansies

alyssum

I’m looking forward to filling up the rest of the pages as different plants come into flower over the seasons.

Zucchini Muffins

zucchini muffins

It is the hottest month of the year and our garden is flourishing. We have a glut of zucchinis at the moment. I have been making zucchini loaves and bakes, using them in stir-fries and salads, and making muffins. These muffins are good for putting in the freezer and taking out one or two at a time for lunches.

zucchinis

Ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup milk or dairy-free alternative (I used oat milk)
¼ cup oil
2 cups wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 medium unpeeled zucchini
100g grated cheese or dairy-free alternative
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (I used parsley and garlic chives)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Whisk the egg and milk together, then stir in the oil. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir to combine. Grate the zucchini, squeeze out excess moisture, and add to the mixture. Add the cheese, onion, and herbs and mix to combine. Spoon into lightly oiled, 12-hole muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Bake for 35-40 minutes, covering tops after 30 minutes if they start to burn.

zucchini muffins

Patchwork Paper Hearts

I love making patchwork. There is something satisfying about cutting up pieces of fabric or paper and joining them back together to make something new. Patchwork quilts fill me with joy, pretty fabrics joined together to make lovely, functional pieces. Pretty scrapbook papers fill with me with just as much joy, and collaging these paper hearts was a good way of using up some scraps I had left over from other projects.

I began by tearing random shapes from the scrapbook papers. I glued them all onto a sheet of paper with mod podge, then glued little pieces of ribbon and fibres on top.

After the glue had dried, I turned the collaged paper over and drew random shaped hearts on the back.

I cut out the hearts and arranged them on a page in my art journal, on which I had already painted a background with watercolour paints and added a strip of paper lace. I wrote sentiments onto paper, cut out the words, inked the edges and added them to my page.

 

Valentine’s Art Journal Page

Amore

I have had this wonderful vintage postcard in my collection for a while now and thought it would be perfect to use on a Valentine’s Day project. I began by layering and handstitching together pretty fabrics and lace as a frame for the postcard. For the background I did some stenciling, inked around the edges of the page, then added some washi tape, buttons, ribbon and paper hearts. A little tag with a sentiment and a tiny paperclip finished it off.

Character Journal

I love when the back to school sales are on and I can stock up on stationery for my writing. When I saw these Kraft notebooks with dividers advertised in the Whitcoulls flyer I thought they would be perfect for character journals. I bought an A4, an A5 and a set of 4 small tabbed notebooks.

The best part is that they have plain brown covers, perfect for decorating. I decorated the A5 notebook with scrapbook papers and embellishments.

Each section is dedicated to a character in my novel, where I can bring them to life as I record detailed descriptions of their appearances, their homes, their families, their history, their likes and dislikes. I also include pictures of things related to their lives such as  the houses they might live in. I love to browse through real estate guides and choose each character a home according to their personality. For my main character, her garden plays an important part in her story, so in her section I am including stickers and pictures of things she might have in her garden.

When I am writing a novel, I find that taking time out to do crafty things like this helps to make the whole process of novel writing so much more fun, and it helps me really get to know my characters.

Mini Canvas Art

Lately I have been having fun creating mixed-media art on mini canvases that measure just 4 inches square. They have cute little easels to stand them on, too. For this trio, I wanted to create something light and breezy to reflect the beautiful summery weather we are having at the moment. I used watercolour paint, texture paste with a flower stencil, pressed flowers from our garden, butterflies cut from scrapbook paper, plastic mesh, some colourful fibres, and a few sparkly rhinestones for the centers of the stenciled flowers.

 

 

mini canvases1

 

mini canvases2

mini canvases3

Make A Wish

Make a Wish

When I saw this pretty scrapbook paper from Kaisercraft’s Fairydust collection, I knew I had the perfect photo to go with it. It was one that Nick took a few years ago that I have always loved. I added some honeycomb stencilling, ribbons and fibres, vintage lace, chipboard embellishments, and a few splashes of watercolour paint.
I hope this little garden fairy has added some whimsical delight to your day!

Dandelion, puffs away,
Make my wish come true someday.