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!

 

 

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.

Finn

We recently celebrated Finn’s third birthday with a trip to one of his favourite river spots, where he loves to run, explore, swim and chase sticks. I made this scrapbook page for his album, which is filling up fast.

Here are some close-ups of the details.

I love to layer papers.

finn4

The burlap gives it a natural feel.

finn6

I used collage elements and did some chalking through stencils.

Washi tape and ribbon co-ordinate with the colour theme of water and nature.

This pretty sticker was from Graphic 45’s Botanical Tea collection.

finn5

 

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.

My Craft and Writing Studio

I have always dreamed of having my own little creative space, a place where I can keep all my art and craft supplies, where I can spread out and work on a project and leave it out at the end of the day, instead of having to tidy it away. A place where I can be messy, a place that is inspiring to write in, a place where I can shut myself away and write and create and forget about everything else for a while.

Now, my dream has come true! Nick and I bought a kitset garden room and together we built it in the garden. Well, Nick was the one who made sense of all the instructions, and did all the heavy lifting and construction, and knew just what to do. I just helped where I could. It was hard work, but well worth the effort. My little studio is just 10 square meters in size, it is made from Scandinavian redwood, and I love it!

The inside is a work in progress as I organize all my art and craft paraphernalia into boxes and drawers. I’ve got fabric to make curtains, and Nick is going to build me a wall of shelves.

Craft and Writing Studio

The planter is covered in netting to stop Finn from jumping in and digging out all the pansy seedlings we planted.

It even has a little verandah and decking out the front where Finn can lie in the sun.

Finn

Life with Finn

 

Our puppy, Finn, is 9 months old now and has become a beloved member of our family. He is very different to our last dog, Cody, who was very gentle and affectionate. Finn is much more strong-willed and demanding, but he has great character and is an awesome, fun-loving little companion. In the last few weeks he seems to have calmed down a little, and sometimes, now, he will even let us sleep later than 6 a.m. in the weekends!

One of my favourite toys!

One of my favourite toys!

In the mornings I take Finn for a walk at a local reserve, beside a creek, where he sometimes meets up with his furry friends, Jess and Sam. They have a wonderful time playing together and it is a good opportunity for him to socialize. Finn is very friendly and loves to play with other dogs, but he hasn’t learned yet that some dogs are old and don’t want to play. He can be a little over-boisterous, so I have to keep him on his lead until I can be sure that other dogs we meet are happy to play with him.

Now that the days are longer, we take Finn to the river when Nick comes home from work, where we can let him off his lead, there is nobody around for him to bother, and he can run and run to his heart’s content. He loves the water and has learned to swim, although he is still a little hesitant about going in out of his depth.

In the weekends we go for long walks in the country, along rivers, or sometimes to the beach. During our explorations, we have found lots of new places to take him.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

 

There's lots of space to run around here!

There’s lots of space to run around here!

We have a beautiful sandy beach about a forty-five minute drive away, and if we go there on a weekday, sometimes we are the only ones there.

Hurry up and throw the stick!

Hurry up and throw the stick!

I wonder if it's safe to go in and get it.

I wonder if it’s safe to go in and get it.

That wasn't so bad!

That wasn’t so bad!

I think I might bury it now.

I think I might bury it now.

We still have a long way to go with training him not to bark at the hose, the vacuum cleaner, or the neighbours, not to jump up on Grandma and Granddad, not to dig holes in the lawn, chase baby birds, steal socks, or chew the edges of rugs, toes, or watering cans.

Yes, he is a handful, and can be challenging at times, but we wouldn’t be without him.

This is a nice sunny spot for relaxing after a hard day's play!

This is a nice sunny spot for relaxing after a hard day’s play!

 

Autumn Journal Page

I love to pick up fallen leaves when we go for walks with Finn. The autumn leaves are such beautiful colours. There is just something about them that I can’t resist, although I am never quite sure what I will do with them once I get them home. More often than not, they will end up being tossed away again. This year, however, I was determined to use some on a journal page.

Although the leaves were already dry when I collected them, I pressed them under a pile of heavy books for a week to flatten them before I used them.

I painted the background of my journal page with watercolour paints, in autumn shades of golds, reds and orange. Then I glued a photo of Finn onto the page and surrounded it with the leaves. I glued the leaves down, then covered them with a layer of mod podge to protect and preserve them. I used scrapbooking letters to spell out the word Autumn.

Autumn Journal Page

Beneath the Bilobas

One of the parks where we walk Finn has a row of Ginkgo Biloba trees. The soft fruit-like seeds that fall on the ground are very smelly, but the fan-shaped leaves, which turn bright yellow in autumn, are quite beautiful.

Finn

 

 

Ginkgo Biloba leaves

Ginkgo is one of the longest-living tree species in the world and can live for more than a thousand years. Ginkgo extract, usually made from the leaves, has long been used to improve memory and cognition. In recent years there have been several studies carried out on its effectiveness in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with conflicting results.

Ginkgo Biloba trees

On a cold winter’s day, it is cheering to see the lovely golden carpet of leaves on the ground.

 

Fun at the Beach

We have had amazing weather this autumn. There has been very little rain, and until a couple of days ago, the temperatures have been up in the twenties most days. Last weekend we took Finn to one of our local beaches. He had a wonderful time chasing sticks, digging in the sand, and investigating all the different smells and debris that had washed up onto the beach. He was a little wary of the water, but I’m sure it won’t be too long until he ventures into it.

 

 

 

Finn5

Westshore Beach

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Peanut butter dog biscuits

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

As someone who loves food and enjoys cooking, I like to know that what I am eating is healthy and is made from good ingredients. I also want the same for our dog. Our puppy, Finn, absolutely loves his food and I want to make sure that he has a good diet that is nutritional, as well as tasty.

I have been trying out different dog food recipes for dog loaf, dog stew, and biscuits, which I have found on the internet and in books. After playing around with several dog biscuit recipes, I have adapted them to come up with one that Finn really loves, and which includes lots of healthy ingredients for him.

This recipe makes about 40 small biscuits. I keep them in the freezer so that they stay fresh, and take out a few each day for his lunch.

1 beaten egg
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
3 Tablespoons peanut butter with no added salt
½ cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls and place on greased or paper-lined oven tray. Flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes at 150ºC.

All gone

More please!

More please!

Meet Finn

We have a new puppy! His name is Finn and he is 10 weeks old. He is a Jack Russell/Foxy cross and he is very adorable (except for when he’s hanging onto me with his needle-sharp teeth!) He loves to curl up on my lap while I’m working at the computer, and he loves to play with cardboard boxes. We’re all looking forward to when he’s had his final vaccinations so we can start taking him out for walks to run off some of his boundless energy. He starts puppy pre-school tonight. Hopefully he won’t be too naughty!

Finn

Finn

Garden Journal – May

Cody

May has been a sad month for us with the death of our beloved dog, Cody. After having her in our lives for fifteen happy years, her passing has left a big gap in our hearts and our home. I miss having her with me when I work in the garden. She used to lie in the sun and watch me while I weeded and planted, and sometimes she would come and help me dig. For many years, she loved to play ball in the backyard, or lie beneath the orange tree and chew her bone. She still enjoyed her daily walks right up until the end, but for the last few months, when she was home, she just enjoyed basking in the sun, with a token attempt at chasing a ball. We’re going to make a special place in the garden for Cody. Her presence will be felt in our home and garden for a long time, but I know that she is out there somewhere, free from her pain, running and having fun like she loved to do.

I haven’t done very much in the garden this month apart from weeding and pruning, and planting some more lettuces to replace the ones that got eaten by snails.

The delphiniums that I planted from seed last spring began flowering early in the month. The beautiful blue blooms have added some colour to the autumn garden.

Garden journal-May

Silverbeet, or Swiss chard, is a good staple to have in the veggie garden. It is a rich source of minerals and vitamins, including potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, E and K. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, and the mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked in vegetable dishes. Hunza Pie is one of my favourite ways to use silverbeet.

Hunza Pie

Pastry

2 cups wholemeal flour
140g butter or non-dairy spread
cold water to mix (about ¼ cup)

Filling

3 cups cooked brown rice
1 bunch silverbeet (6-8 stalks)
2 cups grated cheese
2 eggs
½ tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

To make Pastry: Rub butter into flour. Add water and mix to form dough. Line pie plate with pastry and bake for 15 minutes at 160ºC.

To make filling: Lightly steam or sauté silverbeet until just wilted. Squeeze out moisture and roughly chop leaves and stalks. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add cooked rice, silverbeet, cheese and seasonings. Mix to combine. Spread in pastry shell and cook at 180ºC for 45 minutes.

Hunza Pie

Hunza Pie2