Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Outing to Seale-Hayne

Yesterday afternoon my hubby and I went to Seale-Hayne outside Newton Abbot. This beautiful place used to be an agricultural college but is now the home of Dame Hannah Rogers’ school for disabled children, now known simply as Hannah’s. We have visited several times in the past. They host a lot of art in various forms, with small workshops and studios available for local artists, and a gallery. Unfortunately they were in the process of installing a new exhibition so all the gallery had to offer was a collection of workmen and a lot of pieces of MDF and dust!

From the front entrance archway, you enter a large open courtyard. It was extremely hot in there as there wasn’t a breath of wind!

In one corner of the courtyard was an amazing sculpture of a kind of robot, made from all sorts of agricultural and industrial scrap. The man in the shop said it had been made by a blacksmith who has a studio on the estate, with the help of some of the students.

It looks like something out of War of the Worlds! Amazing what you can make with stuff that most people would think of as rubbish.

They have a very nice gift shop.

I loved these little hanging ornaments. The heart-shaped ones reminded me of the heart embellishment I made for my hubby’s anniversary card recently.

I think I must make some more of these. I love the little birds.

I remember this long corridor from previous visits. The lampshades are just gorgeous – almost Zentangle.

I love this beautiful Celtic calendar.

Back in the courtyard again. Along one wall are several large painted posters on wood.

Round the back I found a place called The Green Room which has been converted into a sort of common room, club and music studio for the older children and young adults.

A gorgeous old door. Love the handle!

In the corner of the courtyard. This tree sculpture could have lots more things hanging from it. It just has some rather uninspiring leaves!

View of the main building again.

In another wing we found a long paper pasted to the wall, with lots of little frames drawn on it. Apparently this is for the children to draw their portraits in.

Also in that corridor, some beautiful glass hanging plaques in the window,

and a framed piece of weaving.

A lovely afternoon out. It was disappointing that there was less to see on this occasion, but no doubt we’ll go back sometime soon, and in the meantime we’ll keep an eye on the website to see what exhibitions are coming up.


Nothing much on my desk this week because I’ve been pretty busy with other things.

Before we went out the other day, I cleaned my blue shoes with some liquid polish in a bottle with a sponge applicator on the top. They said to wash the applicator after use, so I did this, and then I wiped it with some kitchen paper. The colour on the paper was gorgeous. I had to wipe up some that I’d spilt, and the water made the colour run into the paper. I decided to dry it and keep it to use in projects! I love the patterns it’s made, and I thought I could put some gold paper behind the piece with the hole in it. Not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, but can never waste anything I think might be turned into art!

I managed to complete the card and its box, and the present, for the lady whose 100th birthday party we attended on Saturday. You can see it here and here. Here is a picture.

The party was amazing and we all had a good time. Now it’s all over and I’ve finished the projects for it, I’ve been trying to catch up with my endless computer backups. There are still external hard drives and cables all over the sitting room floor… I’ve got another 4TB drive on order and I hope to get rid of the small ones once I’ve rationalised everything. It’s going to make life a lot easier once I get it all sorted out.

We’ve had a couple of afternoon outings this week, which you can scroll down and read about if you want. We are trying to take advantage of the summer weather while we’ve got it.



Now for your weekly Lily and Ruby fix.

They’ve found a couple of new places to sleep. I will never understand kitties. Neither of these places is particularly comfortable! They go through phases, and use a particular place to the exclusion of everywhere else, and then suddenly get fed up with it and choose somewhere else!

Here’s where I found them a couple of days ago.

They look like a cat with two heads! Lily is always underneath, with Ruby resting on top. I don’t blame Ruby – Lily is so deliciously soft, like a feather duvet.

Last night I found them here.

Here’s a fun video of them going for a ride. I think they might get used to this, and expect me to ferry them around all the time…

Here’s another one of them playing with my hubby in the garden with the birdie toy.

Have a great week, everyone.

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Visit to Cockington

Yesterday afternoon my hubby and I went to Cockington, a beautiful village near where we live. Unfortunately we didn’t have very much time but we did manage to see a good bit. In the village there are some workshops for artists and craftsmen and you can wander around and look, and it’s all in such a beautiful setting. At the moment they’ve got a sculpture trail and I photographed a few of the pieces.

There is a beautiful rose garden, full of white roses, in an enclosed slightly sunken area.

Interesting little archways and pathways.

Another sculpture.

I loved this sign outside one of the workshops. Unfortunately I managed to get my hand over the camera lens on my phone! The sun was very bright and it was almost impossible to see the screen so I didn’t notice, and also I haven’t had the phone very long, and I keep forgetting where the lens is and spoiling my photos!

Anyway, I loved the idea of the slats of wood with the worn paint and the letters painted on them. I’ve got some bits from an old garden border fence about 18 inches long and was wondering what to do with them and I’m sure I could do something like this…

This is the walkway into the rose garden.

The rose garden.

In the glass workshop, I was intrigued by this strip of wood along the front of the counter. We weren’t allowed to take photos of her work, unfortunately.

Not many photos this time, but I’m hoping to go back fairly soon when we’ve got a bit more time. It was a nice little outing for a Sunday afternoon, though. It’s a pity we didn’t set off earlier but we had rather a late lunch.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

More Sourdough Bread, and a Very Determined Kitty

Last night I baked my second lot of sourdough bread, having started the levain yesterday. It does take much longer to rise than normal bread but it’s well worth the wait, and the work in between the long proving periods is minimal.

It was ready in time for supper again, and this time, I rationed it because I said to my hubby that it’s no good us getting through a whole loaf in one sitting! I know that sourdough bread is extremely good for you and much less likely to put on the weight that normal bread does, but even so…

I made a double quantity this time. The second loaf will go in the freezer.

I love the texture with the holes, and the amazing crust you get on it. It’s quite hard work on the jaws to eat – really substantial, unlike the cotton wool and polystyrene bread you buy in the supermarket! And as for the flavour… This is bread that really packs a punch. I saw a programme on TV recently about carbohydrates and how Western society is suffering all sorts of health problems (in particular a positive epidemic of Type II Diabetes) because the wrong sort of carbs are too readily available. Sourdough provides resistant carbs that “feed your gut bacteria, not you” – in other words, it passes through to the colon without being absorbed and converted into sugar, and then (if you don’t burn it off), stored as fat. A healthy gut microbiome is the secret to good overall health. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about this recently and it’s a quite fascinating study. (I just wish there was more information on people without a colon but this is a very new area of research.)

Since coming out of hospital I’ve been drinking home-made kefir daily, and now eating sourdough bread, in addition to my normal daily intake of home-made live natural yoghurt. I have now got the correct spice to start making kimchee (a type of spiced sauerkraut from Korea) which, like all fermented foods, is extremely good for you as it encourages a healthy gut microbiome.

Since I am now going to be making sourdough bread regularly, I decided to order some bannetons from Ebay – two medium round ones and two medium ovals. These are the traditional rattan baskets used to prove the sourdough, and which leave the distinctive ridges on the sides of the bread. When I went on the bread baking day a few months ago, I saw these for the first time and witnessed the other person on the course using them as she was doing sourdough. The ones I have ordered come with nice fabric liners that can be removed and washed – you are not supposed to wash the bannetons themselves, and a build-up of flour could result in an infestation of flour weevils.

I have seen some photos online of beautiful designs on sourdough loaves – it is traditional to slash the top with a very sharp blade, which makes the dough inside the crust burst out and get lovely and crispy on top. Some people make small slashes in decorative designs and the bread comes out looking so lovely! As the bread rises in the oven and expands, the slashes spread apart and the darker interior is shown in contrast with the floured surface of the crust. This is something I definitely want to try. Have a look at this!

A very determined kitty…

Our two kitties are so loving being in the garden. They come in in time for supper and we have to keep them in after that as we don’t want them out all night. Contrary to what I thought, my hubby said today that he thinks he saw a fox in the garden once – I was surprised since we are in the town, but foxes do get very bold these days, and I wouldn’t want to risk our kitties with a fox.

Our cat flap is lockable, with two separate cams that can be engaged separately or together, to prevent passage in, or out, or both. My hubby has been locking it, but twice Lily has been found outside again afterwards, which made me wonder if my hubby hadn’t been doing it properly. I have pushed against the locked flap and it is pretty secure. Last night, I watched to see what would happen, and she pushed and pushed really hard against the flap, so that it bent outwards on the side away from the lock, and if I hadn’t prevented her, she would either have bent it far enough to squeeze through (which is what we think has been happening), or she would have broken it! All that nonsense about cats not going through openings that their whiskers won’t fit through is a myth! My hubby brought down a heavy little wooden stool (which we’ve used in the past to block the cat flap in our old house) but even this wasn’t going to stop her – I watched her attacking it from various angles and using quite considerable strength in one so small, and she eventually succeeded in moving it out about an inch, and left to her own devices for any longer, and she’d have succeeded in getting out again! I can’t believe how strong, and how determined she is, and also, how intelligent – you could see her working it out. In the end, we agreed that the only answer was to get them in for supper, and then shut them right through in the house and not allow them into the kitchen until the morning. My hubby said he’d think about how to make the cat flap really secure when we need it to be. Unfortunately we can’t drill into the door because it’s glass.

What a performance. What a naughty girl!

Ruby loves to be outside too, but she isn’t so independently minded as Lily, and not so intelligent. Once back indoors, she’s happy with that.

Yesterday my hubby said he was worried about the kitties because they are so keen on the garden that they are no longer interested in cuddles and coming to him as they used to, and he thought they were turning feral!! I went out later, and as I went up the garden path, one after the other, they both came running to me to say hello and have a stroke, and in the evening I had a big cuddle with Ruby, so I said to him that of course they weren’t turning feral lol! I am sure that eventually the novelty of the garden will wear off, especially when winter comes, and they will want to be snuggled up somewhere nice and warm!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Card for a Centenarian–Box for the Card

Having completed the card yesterday, today I worked on embellishing a box for it, as it is too thick for an envelope.

The box was in my stash, and originally contained some samples of stoma supplies! (Nothing goes to waste chez Shosh…)

I painted the bottom, sides and edges of the top with black acrylic paint.

Inside the box, I sprayed it with some pink shimmer spray that I’ve had from when I started papercrafting, many years ago!

I noticed some had got on the bottom of the box and I really liked the effect of it on black (something I’d never tried before) so I ended up spraying the whole thing with it.

I thought the inside needed something a bit extra, so I painted on a thin layer of soft gloss gel medium diluted with water, and sprinkled on some variegated copper gilding flakes, dabbing them into place with the paintbrush.

I wasn’t really happy with it, so I made up a wash of gold acrylic paint with some iridescent medium and painted that on. It was really shimmery but the brush strokes showed more than I wanted, and this was particularly obvious on the lid, unfortunately.

Here’s a detail of the effect. You don’t really get the shimmer from the photo.

In the end, I covered the inside of the lid with some of the paper left over from making the card, first distressing the edges with Evergreen Bough and then Forest Moss Distress Inks. This improved the look of it.

Here is the card in the box. It will be wrapped in tissue paper.

The front of the box completed. As with the card, I added some stickles to the butterfly’s body, and to the centres of the flowers – Holly, and Magenta. In this photo, they still aren’t dry.

I used scraps of the cards and paper used for the card. The circular die cut was one of several in my stash that a friend sent me ages ago. The flowers were more left over from the Floral Mini-Album, and the butterfly is another die cut from the set I used for the card. I used the same two ribbons, and where the “Congratulations” gold card meets the decorative paper, I added a thin strip of gold card from my stash, trimmed when making some other project in the past.

Here is a detail of the floral embellishment.

As with the butterflies on the card, I lifted the wings of this butterfly and secured them in place with a blob of Pinflair gel glue under each one, to stop them being flattened.

Now that the card is fully dry, I can return to it and show you the finished result. Here are a couple of detail photos showing the topper and embellishments.

The sentiment on the inside of the card.

Finally, a photo of the box, the card and the embroidered piece, all for a remarkable lady whose 100th birthday we shall be celebrating with her at her party tomorrow.

I can’t believe I’ve completed this lot in under a week! The trouble is, apart from making bread, that’s all I’ve done this week, and everything else has been neglected!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Card and Present for a Centenarian

On Saturday we are going to a party to celebrate a friend’s 100th birthday. She is a truly remarkable lady and you’d never guess she was this old! She gets out and about and joins in everything, and is a real character. I really wanted to make her something special for her birthday but didn’t have much time to do it, so this week I’ve pulled out all the stops and really cracked on, and at last I’ve finished, bar a few finishing touches.

The Card

In February I went to the Craft4Crafters craft show in Exeter, and bought some lovely dies by Die’sire (Crafters’ Companion) – these are supposed to be to create easel cards but I thought this lady might not know how to work them, so I decided on doing a straightforward card for her, using most of the elements. I chose the gorgeous butterfly card set.

Here is the topper in the early stages. I forgot to photograph every stage, but I chose some paper and card from a wonderful collection that a friend gave me for my birthday – she was so delighted that I was already starting to use them. The base layer is a dull gold card with bright gold text, “Congratulations” all over it. I chose a piece of green and white floral card for the next mat layer, and on top of this, a decorative paper with pink roses on a green and white background. These two mat layers were cut with the two frame dies from the set, and I distressed the edges of the top layer with distress inks and a bit of water spattering.

Here’s a more detailed shot. Originally I was going to use one or both of the wide ribbons in the previous photo but on further consideration, thought they were a bit too wide, so I chose a narrow pink organza ribbon, and a slightly narrower green satin one with a picot edge instead. I also selected a few flowers left over from the Floral Mini-Album project, which would tone in nicely with this card.

I selected some sentiment pieces from my stash, which I had cut some time ago on Sheba, my Cougar cutting machine. I coloured the text pieces with Worn Lipstick Distress Stain, and the shadow pieces I first coloured with Dried Marigold Distress Stain to give a nice rich base colour, and then added Treasure Gold gilding wax.

I layered the pieces, sticking them together with spray adhesive. Behind, you can see my home made spraying booth.

Turning to the inside of the card, I coloured it very lightly, using Inkylicious Ink Dusters and Distress Inks, first working in from the edge with Evergreen Bough, and then covering the whole of the middle with Antique Linen. After this, I stamped a selection of butterflies with Versamark and heat-embossed them with clear embossing powder. I then continued to colour the paper, first with Old Paper Distress Ink, and then a little Spun Sugar, concentrating on the areas where the embossed butterflies were. I rubbed these with very slightly damp kitchen paper to remove any ink from the embossing, and added some water spatters which I allowed to sit for a minute or two before blotting them off. The final touch was to add a bit more distressing around the edges, this time with Bundled Sage Distress Ink and a home-made ink blender.

The result is quite subtle, I think, and the embossed butterflies echo the theme of the card.

Here is a mock-up of the front of the card with all the elements laid in place.

The two little leaves were from my stash. Every now and then I cut a whole sheet of different elements on Sheba, from white card, and store them away, ready for when I need them, and I can colour them individually according to the project. This time I used Bundled Sage Distress Stain.

To add a bit of interest, I daubed a little Forest Moss Distress Stain onto my craft sheet and with a very fine wet brush, added a deeper colour to pick out the veins of the leaves. I spritzed them lightly with water and blotted them to soften the effect a little, and then dried the leaves with my heat gun. They were stuck down with Scotch Quick Dry adhesive.

Here is the finished card with the final elements added. I left it out overnight to allow the glue etc. to dry.

Before attaching the topper to the base, I attached the two layers of ribbon, fixing them on the back of the gold “Congratulations” card with double sided tape, and attaching a small piece of each, folded over to form two tails, with glue dots. The top of this was covered with the paper flowers, which were attached with hot glue. The leaves were stuck down with Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive.

The butterflies in the die set all have the ability to have their wings folded upwards, and whenever I do this, I always add a blob of Pinflair glue gel under each wing to keep them up and stop them getting flattened. This glue dries crystal clear and you really don’t see it. It also doesn’t lose any dimension as it dries, making it ideal for uses such as this. It is a very three-dimensional glue.

I added a few dots of Holly Stickles down the bodies of the butterflies, and in the centre of the smaller pink flower. Both the Pinflair and the Stickles glitter glue need time to dry before they can be handled. Unfortunately the Stickles dry a lot flatter than they appear when first applied, which I think is a shame because I love the 3-D effect you get with them when they are wet.

I stuck down the sentiment on the front of the card and inside, using Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive.

Now all that remains is to cover a box that I’ve got, which will serve as an envelope – the whole thing is rather thick, with the roses and the raised butterflies’ wings.

The Present

A small cross-stitch plaque with the word “Shalom” in Hebrew and English letters. The tall stroke of the Hebrew letter “lamed” extends to become the English “L”. I worked this cross-stitch with two strands of stranded cotton on 22-count Aida fabric, working in the small clip-frame which has a hanger on the top.

Beside it you can see the original one which I made for myself.

When this photo had been taken, I had completed the cross stitch but had not yet done the outlining back stitch in black, using a single strand of stranded cotton. This really helps the design stand out against the background, as you will see if you compare the two plaques.

I created the original design on a programme called EasyCross, several years ago. Unfortunately this software does not work fully with Windows 10. I was able to print out the design (top right in the above photo) but the colours weren’t right, and it was covered with very distracting diagonal dotted lines. I ended up colouring the background with coloured pencils to show me where to change. Before I did this, I found I was making numerous mistakes, and the bottom half of the design had to be fudged a bit but it’s worked out OK. The graduations between the rainbow colours were achieved by mixing threads on the needle – one strand of each colour. In the original, I worked alternate stitches of each colour for the transition, and I can’t decide which I prefer.

I have bought a new cross-stitch designing programme called WinStitch (there is also an Apple version called MacStitch). Unfortunately the old EasyCross files won’t open in this programme but at least I can print out my original designs and copy them into the new programme. This will take a long time but it will be nice to have them available again. I haven’t done any of this for such a long time and now feel I want to take it up again, and I was very pleased to find that an alternative programme exists to replace the now defunct EasyCross. A shame this programme has been discontinued because it was very good indeed.

Here is the completed plaque.

This is the reverse.

To finish off the back, I trimmed back the edges of the embroidery fabric and glued it to the inner ring of the frame with tacky glue, leaving it to dry for a while, held in place by a series of plastic clamps that I’ve got.

I stuck some cream polycotton fabric onto a piece of self-adhesive pelmet Vylene and used the inner ring of the frame as a template to make a paper pattern to cut it out. Unfortunately I had to cut this by hand and it’s a bit shaky round the edges! I think what I need to do is to scan the inner ring, and use this image to create a template in Inkscape, which I can cut on the cutting machine, which would give a much neater result.

To neaten it a bit, I ran some tacky glue around the junction between the two frames and stuck on some gold Lurex crochet thread, finishing it off with a small bow that I made on my bow maker. This was stuck down with a tiny blob of Pinflair gel adhesive, and again, this was left to dry overnight. I have also signed the back and dated it.

I am busy tomorrow morning, but I have every hope that I shall finish off this whole project in the afternoon, and get it wrapped ready for the birthday party the following day.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


Contrary to my expectations, I managed to do a bit at my desk this week. This coming Saturday we are going to a party to celebrate the 100th birthday of a delightful Jewish lady who regularly attends our Christian Friends of Israel meetings. She is truly amazing for her age and you’d never guess she’d reached 100! I didn’t have much time but decided I must make her a card and a present.

On my main desk is her card so far.

The papers I am using were given to me for my birthday by a friend, and she’s delighted that I am putting them to immediate use. I have used the Die’sire butterfly card dies I bought at the craft show in February – at last I am starting to use some of the stuff I got then! I have cut the mat layers from some of the decorative papers I had for my birthday and the base layer is a thicker gold embossed card with the words “Congratulations” all over it. I will cut a “100” from gold card on the cutting machine and will use one or both of the ribbons you can see on the left.

I have also managed to clear a space on my office desk, which is now marginally tidier than it was before – ready to start last month’s accounts once I get time.

I’ve still got a lot of sorting to do as I’ve got far too much junk in there that should be shredded.

I decided to make a little embroidered frame for the 100-year-old’s birthday present.

You can see the original one on the right, which is normally hanging in the bedroom. I started the other one at the weekend and finished the cross stitch last night – been working flat out! – all that remains is to outline it all in black back-stitch and to tidy up the back. I am sure I shall get both this and the card finished in time for Saturday.

The design in an original one that I did several years ago – the Hebrew word “Shalom” in English and Hebrew, the central letter of the Hebrew becoming the “L” in the English, worked in rainbow colours, mixing the threads on the needle to get the graduation of colour. I designed it using a programme called EasyCross, which I have not used for years, and which I have subsequently discovered does not work on Windows 10, and which has been discontinued, and the company has gone out of business. I have purchased another cross-stitch design programme which I have yet to get to grips with. I managed to open the original “Shalom” design and do a screen grab and print it but it was covered with dotted lines and the colours weren’t right – I’ve had to edit it quite a bit with coloured pencils and notes. Eventually I shall redo this design, and my other EasyCross designs, into the new programme.

Ongoing Computer Stuff

The sorting out of my various hard drives and back-ups has had to take a back seat until after the weekend as I’ve got to get this birthday stuff finished first. There are still hard drives and cables all over the sitting room floor! At least I’ve managed to sort out the recovered back-up that I did last week.


On Friday I went to an Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) meal at a friend’s. We had a wonderful evening and I made some new friends. He had done the table most beautifully.

I offered to make the challah (two plaited loaves of enriched egg bread) as he would not have been able to get any locally.

Somewhat lumpy at the ends! Next time I must remember to taper the ends of the long sausages of dough before plaiting them!

This is the challah cover that I made many years ago.

The Hebrew words are the blessing before bread: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

This week I also made my first attempt at making sourdough bread. This is the starter I made, from organic rye flour and kefir whey (I had made some kefir cheese by straining the kefir and reserving the liquid whey which is full of goodness).

The starter takes several days to develop, during which time you feed it daily with more flour and water (or whey).

Here is the resulting sourdough bread that I made yesterday evening – I started it on Monday evening, leaving it to prove overnight, and knocking it back yesterday morning, and leaving it for its second prove all day in the fridge until we got back from our day out – sourdough takes longer to rise than normal bread, and long slow proving improves both the flavour and texture of the bread.

It was so successful that by the time we’d finished our supper, there were only two slices left!!!

This is definitely something I shall be doing regularly. It’s not much trouble to make, but you just have to think ahead a bit and allow extra time for all the proving. You can keep the starter going more or less indefinitely, like kefir.

New Stash

Today, the friend who gave me the lovely papers for my birthday, turned up with a carrier bag absolutely full of craft goodies that she’d bought for me at a coffee morning – it was like Aladdin’s Cave opening it all up!

Lots more papers, cards, stamps, embossing stuff…

Also in the bag was this gorgeous Docrafts folder, absolutely stuffed with clear stamps.

I am overwhelmed – so much stuff to play with, and also with her kindness, thinking of me and buying me such a fabulous present! She said she got it all for an absolute song. What a treat, and what a lovely surprise.


Can’t leave you without a kitty picture. Here are Lily and Ruby watching me intently from outside the kitchen window.

Ruby in particular likes to jump up there, in the hope that I will let her in through the window – which I don’t want to encourage!

They are both still really enjoying being in the garden all day, and doing quite well with the cat flap, but Ruby keeps forgetting how to use it! They are better at going out than coming in, probably because they have more incentive to go out, as they are both little garden addicts these days.

So you can see I’ve been very busy this past week, and this will continue for a while until I can get on top of things again. At least I’m being creative again!

Have a great week, everyone.

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