As part of Mike’s farewell gift, I gave him a personalised art piece which I created using names of places that he has visited. I ordered a frame from eFrame who create customised frames at reasonable prices. Once the frame arrived and I could check the internal measurements, I cut a mount for the artwork.

1. To cut a mount you need mount board, a metal ruler, a cutting mat, pencil, scalpel and most importantly, a mount cutter. A mount cutter cuts the board at 45° angle so you get a professional finish.

Items required for cutting a mount

Equipment required

2. Measure and draw a line on the back of the mount board where you will be cutting. Remember to keep margins generous.


Draw lines in pencil

3. Using the mount cutter cut along the line with a metal ruler. Don’t try to cut the entire depth of board in one go, rather do lots of gentle cuts slowly increasing the pressure. Ensure you are using a cutting mat unless you wish to gouge your table!

Cutting with a mount cutter

Cutting with a mount cutter

4. Once the mount board is cut you will see the 45° degree angle.

The 45 degree cut exposes the white core to give a professional finish.

The 45 degree cut exposes the white core to give a professional finish.

5. Position your artwork carefully to the back of the mount board with a strip of masking tape, turn it the correct way and check it is straight. Once you are satisfied use masking tape to attach the artwork to the back of the mount board. Masking tape is gentler to artworks than sellotape.

The artwork attached to the mount board with masking tape.

The artwork attached to the mount board with masking tape.

6. Place the mounted artwork in the frame and your work is done.

I have created a number of personalised artworks for clients, and if you would like to discuss a commission, please contact me.

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I was recently involved in arranging a farewell party for our pastor who was retiring. With approximately 100 guests, a school hall to decorate and a shoe string budget, I had to be very creative and innovative. But challenges like this are fun and it is amazing what can be achieved.

It is always easier to create an atmosphere if you hang it on a theme so I decided to choose red as it is a warm cheerful colour on a cold day. Mike likes France and speaks excellent  French so it was to be a Red French Café. The fact that I could borrow loads of red checked table cloths sealed it!

We decorated the hall with bunting and red balloons. The décor on the table was glass bottles from my collection with sticks, red tulips, fairy lights and hundreds of tea lights. Message tags were hung from the sticks so friends could write a message or a memory for Mike and Liz. We had red napkins and the cutlery was placed in silver tins. French café music played in the background and everyone was asked to wear a touch of red in their clothing whether it was a tie, a rose, shoes, handbag, hat or even a waistcoat.

As Mike has travelled far and wide during his time in ministry, we decided to give him a hamper of ‘Food from Around the World’. Everyone chose one of the 20 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe and brought an item for the hamper.

Laughter, memories and a few tears were shed as we celebrated Mike’s retirement and sent him and Liz on their way. What an inspiring couple they are and it is a privilege to have them as part of our lives.

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My countryside photo shoot this month was a walk to the beach. I spent an Easter week in Cornwall in a rambling country farmhouse five minutes from Millook beach and felt refreshed wandering in the wild wind, enjoying salty air and wide horizons. The clunk of seaside pebbles and gleam of daffodils and primroses makes Cornwall a very special place.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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We had snow in February which transformed the countryside; the familiar is viewed afresh and everything becomes monochromatic. This is a view from my bedroom window which has become quite poignant as we have recently moved away from this home after 10 very happy years. I have memories of walking down the road with my son aged two who would stop to throw pebbles down the grates, snail-paced walks with baby girls to visit the ducks at the stream, cycling to school in all weathers and more recently walking up the hill in the dark to meet my son’s school bus.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month for 2015

The bleak midwinter is the season for Seville oranges and there is nothing more satisfying on an icy day than working in a steamy kitchen making marmalade to be eaten on hot buttered toast. My sister has a blog which she ‘overshares’ her cooking tips so I thought I’d take leaf from her book and overshare how to make marmalade which I’m tempted to say is fool-proof.

Seville orange marmalade: makes about 2kgs (or 8 jars)

1 kg Seville oranges
1 lemon
2 litres water
2 kg preserving sugar
200 g dark muscovado sugar
75 ml whisky


Removing the mebranes and juices.


If you feel lazy, cut the peels coarsely (but it doesn’t taste as good).

•    Wash and dry the fruit, and cut in halves or quarters.
•    Set a sieve over a bowl and line it with muslin. Over the sieve, juice the fruit, scouring the peels as you go, and dropping the pips, squeezed flesh and membranes into the cloth. Use a teaspoon to pick up a strip of membrane large enough to grip,then tear out the rest with your fingers.
•    Reserve the juice squeezed from the fruit.
•    Tie all the residue into a loose bag and put it into the preserving pan with the water.
•    Shred the skin as finely as you like and add the peel to the pan.


I chop in the evening and can then continue the next day once it has soaked overnight.

•    Leave it to soak overnight.


You can see how much liquid has evaporated.

•    Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the peel is tender and the liquid has reduced by half – about 2 hours. Cover the pan if too much evaporation is occurring before the peel is tender. If you need to stop at this stage, you can let the liquid cool down completely and continue much later in the day.
•    Remove the bag of pips and squeeze the liquid out and into the pan. Discard the residue.


Lots of sugar!


You can see the granules of sugar on the side – every single one needs to melt.

•    Add the sugar to the pan, plus the reserved juice.


The sugar has finally all melted which takes about 20 minutes of continual stirring on a low heat.

•    Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely.


It should boil hard for 10 minutes before testing for setting point.

•   Raise the heat and boil hard until setting point is reached.


Whisky is not an essential ingredient – but gives it a fabulous flavour.

•    Skim off any froth, allow it to cool and thicken a little, then stir to redistribute the peel, before potting.
•    Add the whisky just before potting to increase the flavour but don’t worry about consuming spirits at breakfast time – the heat of the marmalade evaporates the alcohol, leaving the flavour.


Pot up once it has cooled a little.

A bit of technique
•    When the sugar goes in, stir the mixture over a low heat until every grain has melted before turning up the heat. Take your time – undissolved sugar means crystallizing marmalade.
•    If you don’t have a preserving pan, use a very big, deep saucepan instead.
•    NEVER leave the pan once you have added the sugar especially if you have children – hot sticky jam is lethal.


This batch needed an extra 6 minutes after its initial 10 minutes.

•    Judging setting point takes attention and skill so don’t hurry. Chill a stack of plates in the freezer and heat a tray of scrupulously clean jars in a low oven. Bring the marmalade to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Let it boil for about 10 minutes then take the pan off the heat and drop a teaspoon of the marmalade on a chilled plate. Leave it for a minute then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles, it will set. If it stays runny, return the pan to the boil for another two minutes then test again. It should not be more than 20 minutes in total.


Only add lids once the jam is completely cold.

•    Ladle the cooled marmalade into the warm jars and cover with wax paper discs. Add lids only once completely cold to avoid condensation which encourages mould to form.
•    Enjoy your marmalade for the year and bask in compliments!

Recipe originally from Country Living, February 2009

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It is slightly late to review last year, but it is still January. My creative goals for 2014 were to increase my freelance graphic design business, to use my camera more often and to do a refresher camera course. I also aimed to visit an art gallery or ‘creative place’ once a month.

I had a bumper freelance design job with Landmark and also moved jobs to a different design agency. These were both excellent developments but it did affect how much time I had for photography – not a lot – however I managed a refresher camera course in February. It was sometimes challenging to ensure I visited a gallery on a monthly basis but it was so inspiring, especially seeing Cézanne in March, David in August, the light exhibition in December and few other surprise treasures in between.

This year I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month – and learn to crochet. I hope to continue doing freelance design as well as working as a senior designer. Crochet – well why not? Everyone says it is much easier than knitting, so we will see.

This month’s photos were taken on a bitter cold January morning very near my home when the fields and trees are stripped of all peripherals.

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Feel like you would love to declutter your house? My first item would be the half-a-bird in the photo above. A glittery decoration which lost its other half somewhere over Christmas. Here is a fab way to detox your home that I heard about from a friend. On the first day of the month, you throw away one item, on the second day you throw away two items, on the third day you throw away three items so on the last day you will throw away thirty items. By the end of the month you will have thrown away about 400 items! They can be recycled, given to charity shops, sold on eBay or chucked. You may choose to sort out a shed, a sock drawer, a stationery box or a nightmare cupboard in the kitchen.

There is also the 20 – 20 rule which you use to decide about an item. If you haven’t used the item for about 6 months and don’t know if you ever use it again, and it costs under £20 and can be bought in under 20 minutes then throw it out.

We’ve got so excited about the idea that we have a ‘detox box’ with items ready to throw away from the 1st February. The half-a-bird will be rehomed to a tree on our route to school so we can still wave hello to it. Let me know if you plan to declutter with me this February.

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The final word

It was with great excitement that a parcel arrived at my door containing the printed Landmark Trust handbook and I could page through it. They are now for sale through Landmark if you wish to buy one whether it is to plan a holiday or to learn a little more about historical and quirky buildings, go to www.landmarktrust.org.uk to place your order which also includes a free calendar.

The cherry on the top was the email from Dr Anna Keay, Director of The Landmark Trust: “The new handbook looks absolutely wonderful, huge congratulations to Helen, Tessa and all who worked with you on such a terrific achievement. I defy anyone not to love it. Bravo! Anna.

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Which would YOU choose?
Poring over images and descriptions of so many properties set me daydreaming about perfect holiday locations. There are stately homes which would be ideal for a family event, there is Fox Hall with bright orange walls and gilt galore and there is Astley Castle, an award-winning building for combining an ancient castle with modern architecture. There is even a train station, a grammar school, a hospital, a banqueting hall and a lock cottage on a canal.

One that captures my imagination is ‘The Bath House’. Built in the 1700s, it has an upper room dripping with shells which holds the bedroom and a tiny kitchen whilst downstairs is a beautiful icy pool with rough stone walls almost like a cave. If I holidayed there, I would dive in each morning to enjoy the benefits of a deeply refreshing cold bath which are limitless according to the medical opinions of the 18th century. The Handbook calls it, “The poshest bedsit in Warwickshire” and I couldn’t agree more.

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Maps, snags and then off to print we go
I take my hat off to Paul, another member of the team who created maps for the Landmark Trust Handbook. There is a highly detailed map of the UK at the front of the book as well as maps of each section of the country and individual maps for each property with much attention to detail.

Once maps, text, images and plans were finalised, we needed to ensure there were no inconsistencies such as checking that quotation marks, hyphens and dashes were used appropriately. (Hyphens are longer than dashes and I’m sure a poet could make up a poem about the dash that wishes to grow at speed…)

Finally, each page and each section was approved and signed off and I created high-resolution PDFs. The handbook was off to the printers and Helen and I reunited in Wales to see it on press and to ensure we were happy. We were satisfied with it, kissed the handbook goodnight and I caught the train home, crawled into bed to sleep.

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Photography and Images:
Landmark commissioned 30 of their UK properties to be photographed so we had new and up-to-date images in the handbook. With properties stretching from Cornwall to the outer regions of Scotland, that is no easy task. Fortunately Paul Grundy and Jill Tate both architectural photographers were up to the task and took about 15 – 30 photos of each property. Some of the images showed a building in all its grandeur and others depicted intimate and beautiful details. My difficulty was that there was only space for two images of each property! It was a pleasure sifting through the images but so hard to choose only two photos. Fortunately some pages were double page spreads and Helen and I had ways and means to sneak in extra photos such as on the insides of the covers or in the introduction section. You can see examples of the photography above or have a peek at Paul’s website: www.paulgrundy.com and Jill’s website: www.jilltate.com.

Another aspect of dealing with images was to improve on some of the existing photography and in some cases, ‘paint’ the odd door or two which was now a different colour. I used Photoshop but also worked with another colleague, Meghan, who waved her magic wand – have a look at the examples of her work below – ‘now you see it, now you don’t’!

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The Project:
For just over 4 months of last year I was working flat-out on a fascinating and all-consuming design job. I had the opportunity to update the 300-page Landmark Trust Handbook and it’s been one of my biggest freelance jobs to date.

Landmark Trust is a building-conservation charity and for the last 50 years they have bought buildings that are of historic interest whether grand or humble and restored them before they fall into irreparable decay. Once restored, the buildings are let for holidays to generate income and to earn their keep. They vary from follies to castles to towers and even a classically inspired pigsty (for humans to inhabit now)!

In April 2014 I was approached by a friend and colleague, Helen, who worked in marketing for Landmark and asked if I would quote to update their special 50th edition of the handbook. I was delighted to be awarded the job and then the hard work began.

I was updating images, text, plans and maps and correcting 101 changes from the previous edition. The handbook was paginated into areas of the country rather than being produced alphabetically and the first 40 pages which formed the introduction were totally redesigned. Some properties were ‘out’, then ‘in’ then ‘out’ again and there were ‘new kids on the block’ such as Belmont in Lyme Regis. It hadn’t even be photographed properly yet as it was still being restored which is always a challenge for a designer. The handbook had to be perfect as Landmark Friends like detail and are excellent at spotting errors in historical information or on maps! Even the floor plans of the 196 properties were changed if sofas were moved to other parts of the house and fireplaces were enlarged. I worked very closely with Helen and her team checking amends and between us deciding on images and how to approach the trickier pages.

What impressed me was that as a team we were all working remotely and yet were so connected by commitment and technology (including many PDFs). The whole team kept their sense of humour and even in stressful situations remained calm. Landmark Trust is an excellent client to work for with a product that is interesting and taught me much. I felt quite bereft in September when the handbook went off to production and my part in the process was complete.

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My final challenge for this year which was visiting an exhibition each month. I have recently returned from Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire and viewing Winter Light by Bruce Munro. With his contemporary light exhibition, he has transformed the gardens with seven pieces along a Light Trail. One of my favourites was ‘Eden Blooms’ which was huge spheres similar to massive globe thistles hung from trees. They slowly changed colour with three being the same colour and the fourth a contrasting colour. ‘Harvest Moon’ was also inspiring and appeared as orbs shimmering on the ground and it was one of my children who pointed out that they were moons. Munro often works with familiar objects and in this case 20 hay bales were covered in plastic and lit by projectors depicting the moon. With the lights and darks they appear as three-dimensional spheres. The name refers to the traditional time of harvest which was on a full moon to lengthen the working day and his visual pun of hay bales yields a bumper crop of moons. ‘Field of Light’ was hundreds of optical cables and frosted glass balls on slender stems that gently change colour from bright white to soft white to red. It was placed amongst the circular rose garden to represent a poppy and commemorates World War One.

I was delighted to finally see Munro’s work as I tried to go last year but missed it by a day – we only realised when we got there that it had finished. Ahhh! Wrap up warm, wait until dark and enjoy. The exhibition is on until 4 January 2015 and open until 7.00pm. It is free to enter Waddesdon gardens and the exhibition if you are a National Trust member. Check this link for details.

The garden's sculptures are covered to protect them from frost and appear as eerie mysterious shrouded figures.

The garden’s sculptures are covered to protect them from frost and appear as eerie mysterious shrouded figures.

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography
March – The Ashmolean: Cézanne and the modern

April – The Jam Factory
May – Art in Ardington
June – On Form exhibition
July – Crossing Borders
August – David in Florence
September – The Vale & Downland museum
October – The Art of the Brick
November – Outlines


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Wishing you a very merry Christmas and may next year be a creative and fruitful year. Thank you for your support and for following my blog over the past years.

With best wishes Tessa

2014 was the year that…

R:   We had pizza at the Vatican and enjoyed stunning architecture around every corner in Rome.

T:   I moved jobs, had a fabulous freelance job designing the Landmark Trust handbook and walked up Vesuvius which surpassed my expectations.

N:  I will always remember my first day at secondary school.

I:    I played in the water fountains in Rome.

H: I turned six and got penguin toys for my birthday.

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Linoprint Angels by Harriet

Swedish Ginger Biscuits Recipe

Nothing beats the evocative smell of ginger biscuits. The recipe below is Swedish and makes the best biscuits I have come across. After baking and allowing them to cool, we have a family decorating session with plenty of icing and silver balls while Christmas carols are belted out. Later I use a needle to thread a loop on them and we hang them on the Christmas tree as they keep for weeks – that is if the children (mice?) don’t nibble them!

300g butter
450 castor sugar
6 tbsps. golden syrup
2 tbsps. cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsps. cardamom
200ml water
900g plain flour

Cream the butter, sugar and syrup and beat in the flavouring – cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger, cardamom and bicarbonate of soda. Add the water and work in the flour, kneading well on a lightly floured surface. Place the dough into the fridge and allow it to rest for 24 hours. Roll out the dough and cut out shapes using biscuit cutters and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 200°C – 225°C for 4 – 5 minutes.
(I tend to halve the ingredients as it make a lot of dough. If too sticky, add extra flour.)