Thursday, 28 January 2016

St David's Day Greeting Cards and Gifts

St David's Day (March 1st) is less widely celebrated than St Patrick's Day, but even so, it is celebrated by the Welsh community in Patagonia as well as in Los Angelesamongst others, some of them listed here!

Unfortunately, although the devolved Welsh Assembly in Cardiff wants to respond to the wishes of the people of Wales, who would like their national Saint's Day to be a public holiday, the Westminster government refuses to agree to it. Nevertheless, a great many Welsh people find ways to celebrate St David's Day with eisteddfod's, male voice choral concerts, flying the Welsh Flag, wearing Daffodil or Leek hats or parades in Welsh traditional costume!

What could be more typical of Wales than a girl in the traditional Welsh costume, with its tall black hat, red cape, black skirt and lots of white lace? This is just a small selection of the St David's Day greeting cards and Welsh Girl gifts in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru Zazzle store, many of them ready for you to customize.

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Girl' collection - 

So who was St David, the Patron Saint of Wales? 
You can read what little is known about him hereBut in spite of knowing so little about him, the people of Wales are very enthusiastic about celebrating St David's Day - Wales is, after all, a Celtic nation and they have a tendency to be pretty passionate about everything they do. It seems to be in the DNA - and, by the way, that's probably why I wholeheartedly support the Welsh Rugby team, in spite of being English - even when Wales play against England. It's infectious!

A few years ago, I designed and printed St David's Day greeting cards with collage Red Dragons and they flew off the display stand in local shops!

More recently, I've designed more Red Dragons - like many artists, I find them irresistible to draw! Curious about how the Dragon comes to be a symbol of Wales - a sheep might be more appropriate, as there are more sheep than people in Wales! - I did a bit of internet searching. This is what I found - Red Dragon - The Red Dragon of Wales. 

However, picturesque though the dragon is, I think the choice of a dragon for the main Welsh national emblem is purely symbolic. When I was researching St Carannog for another of my illustrations for the Lost Angeles celebrations, I discovered that in many myths and legends it was customary to represent any wicked, bloodthirsty warlord as a dragon.
Not that my most recent dragons are in any way wicked or even fierce-looking!

Here are just a few of my Greeting Cards and Gifts with a Red Dragon, one of the best-known symbols of Wales. You can find many more greeting cards and gifts with a Welsh flavour in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store. 

Click on the image to see the full 'Red Dragon' Collection -

I mentioned that some Welsh people wear 'daffodil' hats, not only on St David's Day, but there are many to be seen in the crowds at the famous 'Six Nations' rugby tournament in the springtime, whenever Wales are playing. There are often giant leeks to be seen as well, another of the traditional Welsh emblems! Why daffodils? And even more puzzling, why leeks? 

Well, I was intrigued by this - Wales seems to have so many special symbols, surely the humble leek isn't necessary? So I did some googling and what I discovered is included in this earlier blog post - it's quite a tale!!!

Daffodils are one of the national emblems of Wales, along with the Leek, the Harp and the Red Dragon. So one of these 'Daffodils' St David's Day cards might make a welcome change from the usual Red Dragons! Also the 'Daffodils' gifts would be welcome at any time of year and there are plenty more to choose from in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store on Zazzle.

Click on the image to see the full 'Daffodils' collection -

A couple of years ago, I decided to open a specifically 'Welsh' store, Posh'n'Painterly Cymru, on the Zazzle platform. 
And the wide choice of Welsh symbols set me off designing more greeting cards and gifts that incorporated them, including this one that features them all -

Here's the blog post in which I launched them and you might be interested to read some of my observations about Wales, having only moved here from England quite late in life. 

So here are just some of the many Greeting Cards and Gifts with the traditional Welsh Symbols in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store:

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Emblems' Collection -

Living in Wales seems to provide me with a multitude of inspirational images that I can draw on for my greeting card and gift designs! 

There are, of course, the traditional Welsh Tapestry designs - 

Click on the image to see the full Black and White Welsh Tapestry collection -

Lots more, in different colours, in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store!

And then there are my Silly Sheep!

Click on the image to see the full 'Silly Sheep' collection -

One of these cosy Throw Blankets would make a wonderful winter gift!

Click on the image to see the full 'Throw Blanket' collection -

And then, of course, there are the Coffee Mugs, some with the text in Welsh!

Click on the image to see the full Welsh Coffee Mugs collection -

Not forgetting my special collection of Welsh 'Gifts for Him'!

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Gifts for Him' collection -

And taking off my 'Designer's' hat in favour of my 'Painter's' hat, here are some prints and posters from my original soft pastel paintings of Wales -

Click on the image to see the full collection of 'Fine Art Images of Wales' -

I hope you've enjoyed this 'taster' from my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store. 

And I wish you a very Happy St David's Day, wherever you are and however you spend it!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Primroses and Violets for a February Birthday

Finding a different birthday card for a friend or relative, year after year, can be a challenge, especially if we're looking for something that will be special to that person.

I've just been ordering birthday cards for my friends and trying to remember which ones I sent them last year! 

Of course it helps that so many of the cards we can buy online can be personalized. It's not difficult to do and yet it can make a big difference because the recipient will know that we didn't just rush out to the nearest store and pick up the first card we found!

A 'photo card' is another option - slightly more complicated to create but not too daunting, especially once you've done it a few times.

And here's another idea - take advantage of the 'Birth Month Flowers'! Each month has at least one well-known flower designated to it. You can read about them on this website. Some of the suggested flowers seem completely out of season for me, here in the UK.

But both of the February Birth Month Flowers, the Violet and the Primrose, are very familiar to me and relate to the right time of year - more or less!

I have plenty of wild violets in my front garden! When I first moved into my house, I tried to get rid of them to make room for the flowers I wanted to plant. But because a quite rapidly growing Magnolia Tree spreads its roots throughout the garden, it was a losing battle. So I gave up and allowed my front garden to become a 'woodland' area with the only plants that enjoy the shade and the poor soil - mainly bulbs, lilies of the valley and the violets! The lilies of the valley are gradually spreading from one side and the violets from the other and they almost meet in the middle and I'm wondering which will win when they eventually meet!

Here's a webpage about 'How to Grow Wild Violets'  - not that mine have needed any help from me; they manage pretty well all by themselves. But I didn't know that they are edible until I read this article.

As I wrote in this earlier blog post, these little Wild Violets don't add a lot of colour to a garden, especially where they are often almost hidden amongst the fallen leaves. It was only on closer inspection for the purposes of painting them, that I 'got to know them' and began to appreciate them. They certainly live up to their description of 'Shrinking Violets', another of my earlier blog posts!

A Birthday Card or Gift with a 'Sweet Violets' pattern would certainly be special, especially as many of the cards and gifts in my 'Sweet Violets' collection are ready for you to personalize! So go ahead and choose from dozens of 'Sweet Violets' gifts and make it even more personal with your own customization. There's even a choice of 'Sweet Violets' wrapping papers, tissue giftwrap and gift bags to add the finishing touch - and don't forget that if you see a design you'd like on a different product, you can contact me through my store and I'll create what you need, at no extra charge, usually well within a couple of days.

Just click on the image below to see the full collection -

February does seem a little early to be seeing the other February Birth Month Flower - the Primrose. I associate them with springtime, but here in the UK they are usually at their best around Easter Time.

Here's my earlier blogpost about how I used to enjoy going out to the woods to pick them as a child. There is some confusion about whether we are allowed to pick wild flowers - understandably because some are becoming rare in the wild now. But this article from the Wild Flower Society - Wild Flowers and the Law - clarifies the situation and, although the wholesale digging up of wild flower plants certainly doesn't help our countryside to flourish, it's fine to pick a posy of primroses, just as it was when I was a child.

The 'Primroses' image I've used to make the repeating pattern below began as a print I made in a screenprinting class almost 30 years ago! I was living in the centre of Norwich at the time, with not many opportunities to get out into the woodland to see the little pale yellow primroses growing in the wild. But I did - and still do! - often buy the larger cultivated primroses in a variety of bold colours to brighten up my front porch in winter. I've even grown them from seed in the past, which works out a lot cheaper! Sometimes you can plant these cultivated primroses out in the garden once they've finished flowering and if they thrive there, they provide a bright spot when there's very little colour around in the gardens.

And it was from a group like these that I drew my 'Primroses' motifs for the screen print and luckily I kept the original drawing so I was able to paint them in gouache to make the repeating patterns that have become popular!

Here are just a few ideas to make someone with a February Birthday feel really special! The primrose is one of the earliest flowers to bloom but you may not know that it happens to be one of the February Birth Month Flowers. So why not celebrate a February Birthday with a special 'Primroses' Birthday Card and a gift with this pretty Primrose pattern? There's also a range of 'Primroses' gift-wrapping papers, gift bags and even matching gift tags! And you'll find an even greater selection of 'Primroses' cards and gifts if you visit the 'Painterly Florals' section of my Posh & Painterly Zazzle store.

Just click on the image below to see the full collection -

Primroses for a February Birthday
Primroses for a February Birthday  

So, whether you choose Violets or Primroses you can be sure that the Birthday Girl, whatever her age, will appreciate your Birthday Card and Gift choice!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Valentine's Greeting Cards and Gifts

Love it or hate it, it's hard to escape the fact that Valentine's Day follows quite quickly on the heels of the Christmas and New Year holidays!

And the Welsh version - St Dwynwen's Day - arrives even sooner, on January 25th, as even Derek Brockway, the well-known BBC Wales weather forecaster, never fails to remind us.

St Dwynwen is the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers
and her feast day is celebrated on 25 January. So here's a selection of Greeting Cards for St Dwynwen's Day, all of them ready for you to personalize. (You can find out more about her in this archived blog post.)

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

But back to St Valentine's Day - I've written several blog posts about this somewhat controversial 'holiday' in years gone by so there's no need for me to go into detail the origins of St Valentine's Day. But if you want to read one of the most likely-sounding theories about St Valentine and why he has been adopted worldwide as the Patron Saint of Lovers (except, maybe, in Wales), here's an article that claims to be the real story.

Whatever the truth of the origin of this special season, it's true that, on February 14th each year, millions of girlfriends, wives and miscellaneous sweethearts hope to receive some special token of their lover's undying affections. And they are likely to be extremely displeased if nothing suitable is forthcoming!

This can even cause a major hiccup in a relationship! And if young girls - or older ones, for that matter! - foolishly measure their worth by the quantity and quality of the Valentine's cards and gifts they receive, it can become a major problem.

In truth, though, St Valentine's Day is more of a challenge for the men and the boys, unless they happen to be one of the more romantically inclined males, who are rather few and far between.

For a start, a great many men do not even like going into greeting cards stores at the best of times. So venturing into a card store at a time of year when it's particularly full of red hearts and roses and 'mushy' verses, takes a lot of nerve!

And as for coming up with an original idea for a Valentine's gift, year after year, that, surely, is too much to ask!

Of course there are always the traditional bouquets of red roses - that's a pretty safe bet. And a romantic dinner for two in a favourite restaurant will probably always be well received. Cute, cuddly teddy bears may be the answer for some, but they're certainly not every woman's dream!

So what if you want to do something different, something a little bit more original? Where do you go for ideas?

Well, here are a few to start you off! And they don't even involve you in that dreaded business of going into a store because you can shop online. What's more, many of them are ready for you to personalize and that's sure to make a really good impression.

All ready for St Valentine's Day! 
A collection of Valentines cards and gifts with bright pink and blue hearts, made from a hand-painted paper collage, ready to personalize. 
The same hearts, together with paper collage pink flowers on a magenta background make for a chic pattern on romantic gifts for the one you love!

Click on the image to see the whole collection - 

Valentine's Day Cards and Treats! 
Red Roses and Chocolates. Nothing can express your Valentine's Day sentiments better than these - unless, of course, it's a very specially Personalized Box of Chocolates! 
So choose a gift for your loved one from these pretty Valentine's Day designs, all with matching Valentine's Day Cards and Chocolate-dipped Oreo Cookies to customize - and now there are even matching Gift Bags and Favor Boxes to present them in! 
You can guarantee she'll be impressed!

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

Everything you need for St Valentine's Day! 
Chic Greeting Cards, Wrapping Paper, Ribbon and Gift Tags and Lovers' Mugs - all with country-style 'Hearts and Roses'. Plenty more 'Hearts and Roses' Gifts in my Posh & Painterly store -

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

Love Pillows or Cushions!
A collection of romantic pillows or cushions for someone you love, your girlfriend, wife, partner or your mother or grandmother! 
The pillows come in various shapes and sizes, some have hearts or roses while others have the word 'Love' in faux applique. Sure to be a welcome gift for many occasions as well as St Valentine's Day!

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

Romantic smartphone cases with hearts and flowers - the perfect gift for a girlfriend or partner. All Case-Mate cases are available with these designs - choose the one you need from the drop-down menu under Device Type on the product page.

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

Love-themed Postage Stamps -
to add the finishing touch to many occasions: Weddings, Anniversaries, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and many more! (sadly, for use in the USA only.)

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

Here's a selection of Valentine's Day Cards with the greeting in Welsh, along with all sorts of romantic gifts and treats for your loved one, even if they're not Welsh!
And there's even matching Gift-wrapping Paper and Gift Bags to add the finishing touch! (Some silly Welsh Sheep have also found their way into this Collection!)

Click on the image to see the whole collection -

And finally - if you are at all confident in the kitchen, you might want to cook a special meal for your beloved, whether that's a 'him' or a 'her'! What could be a clearer sign of your devotion - as long as you clear up after yourself!

Here's a blog post from a while ago with one of my favourite Valentine's Day recipes - Recipe for a Valentine's Feast!

Alternatively, there are some pretty imaginative Romantic Recipes here, on the BBC website. Good luck with those if you decide to try them - you might want to do a practice run first!

It just remains for me to wish you all a Very Happy (and stress-free!) St Valentine's Day and hope that you won't need this 'Missing You' card for an Absent Valentine!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Shopping for Gifts and Greeting Cards for Men

Last month I touched on the difficulties of buying gifts for men and promised to go into it in a bit more detail this month, hopefully offering some helpful advice as well. 

Whether it's a husband or partner, a father, a son, a grandson or a friend or colleague, choosing the right gift can be quite a headache!

So first we need to understand why it can be so difficult.

I realise I am about to generalise dreadfully but there do seem to be some common threads running through the reasons that it's harder to choose a present for a man than for a woman.

  • Whereas women tend to be thrilled to receive all sorts of totally unnecessary 'accessories' and ornamental bits and pieces, as long as they suit their style, men are more inclined to think in terms of practical, useful gifts. (This, by the way, can lead to some friction when men buy us household items, such as vacuum cleaners - and in my own case, for my first married Christmas gift, a very functional stainless steel ladel!)
  • Related to the above, while most women can go into a gift shop or craft shop and pick out a dozen frivolous little items they'd love to own, men tend to think much bigger. The things they aspire to are more likely to be cars, boats, houses etc - probably not within our budget for birthday gifts but things to be saved up for.
  • Unlike women and girls, men and boys are unlikely to tell us either directly or through dropping hints, what they'd like for their birthday or Christmas.
  • Because the things men would like to own are likely to be useful, easily justified items, they tend to just buy them when they need them - I have this on good authority from my son.

So all these factors together can leave us with a problem but here are a few ways we may be able to make the gift-buying a bit easier:

First -

Have you tried asking him outright what he'd like for his birthday or Christmas present?

He's unlikely to drop hints so that may well be the best course of action. But do choose a time when he won't feel harassed about something that is supposed to be a source of pleasure - don't try to talk about it when he's preoccupied with something else, such as work, a tv programme or a project he's wanting to plan.

If asking him a straight question doesn't provide you with a useful answer - and often it won't! - try approaching it from a different angle. 

Does he have a hobby that could be enhanced by a gift related to it? Even if it's not a strictly practical hobby-related gift, maybe a coffee mug or t-shirt that acknowledges the importance of his hobby in his life would go down well?

It may even be that it's up to us women to know best what a man needs before he knows it himself! After all, we're supposed to be good at putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, aren't we! So maybe you can visualise how pleased he would be to receive something with his monogram or name on? A Travel Accessories Bag, for instance, or maybe a sleeve for his tablet or laptop?

You may need to do some detective work - notice if there are particular book reviews in the newspapers that seem to interest him; where does he linger in the DIY store? Does he buy a specific magazine or journal regularly? Maybe a subscription to that magazine would go down well? Is he a wine buff? There are plenty of wine-related accessories on offer, though his preference will probably a bottle of really good wine! If you have serious money to spend, maybe an 'experience', such as a hot air balloon trip, would be a gift he'd remember with pleasure.

If all else fails - and I'm resorting to this increasingly with my teenage grandsons - there are plenty of gift vouchers on offer, either for hobby-related gifts, such as gaming, for treats such as a therapeutic massage or for more general stores. 

Still stuck?

Here are some of my Zazzle Collections where you might find inspiration. I realize that my Zazzle stores may well seem to be full of floral designs - I love my garden! - but I try to make sure that I balance the pretty and feminine with designs more suitable for gifts for men. So take a few minutes to browse - you might find exactly what you need!

Looking for a smartphone case as a gift for a man? Look no further - here you will find a selection of Case-Mate and Savvy cases for the iPhone 5 and 6 as well as Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The ethnic and tribal patterns in subtle colours are from my 'Jungle Drums' collection and many of them are ready for you to personalize. All can be easily customized by changing the scale or direction of the pattern for a truly personal touch. (Don't forget that these designs can be adjusted to fit any of the Case-mate cases - just choose your model from the drop-down menu immediately below 'Device Type' on the product page.)

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Great gift for the fashion-conscious younger man, trending plaid patterns on canvas High-top Shoes and Panel-front T-shirts - great choice of colorways!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Here's a selection of gifts and greeting cards for anyone who loves the sea, the seaside and sailing! All these coastal designs are from hand-painted paper collages and include a lighthouse, beach huts, a fishing port and a seaside vista. Although this selection of greeting cards and gifts are for anyone at all, some of them might well solve the difficulty of finding something suitable for a man!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Here's a wonderful selection of Gifts and Birthday Cards for anyone born in the Chinese Year of the Horse! But these 'Horse' gifts would be just as popular with anyone who loves horses - there are 'Horse' Fashion Accessories, 'Horse' Device Cases and Sleeves and 'Horse' Gifts for the Home. Have fun scrolling down to see the whole collection of 'Golden Horses'!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Love stripes? Then add a splash of color your home with some of these modern Striped Pillows or Cushions! There's something here to complement any colour scheme and the Pillows come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and you can choose either cotton or polyester fabrics. Excellent as a gift or treat your own home to an instant makeover!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Pillows with Colorful Stripes
Pillows with Colorful Stripes  

Run out of ideas for a gift for a man who plays golf? Here are some useful gifts with a fun golfing cartoon, from a hand-drawn, whimsical illustration! And some of them are ready for you to personalize. Just one Birthday Card is shown but many more are available in my Zazzle store! Also, this design can easily be transferred to any Case-Mate case by clicking on 'Device Type', just below 'Style Options'.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A collection of distinctive Gifts for Men with a Chocolate Brown and Silvery Grey Faux Snakeskin pattern. Most of these stylish gifts are ready for you to personalize with a Monogram, Initials or Name. The collection includes Fashion Accessories and Drinkware as well as Cases, Pouches and Sleeves for Electronic Devices.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Finding suitable birthday cards for men can be a challenge but my popular, fun illustrations of older men will often bring a smile to the face of the recipient. Just a few examples are shown here, along with matching gifts, but cards and mugs for different ages are available in my Flutterby Designs store. If you can't find the age you're looking for, please contact me through my store and I'll be happy to create the one you want at no extra charge.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Here you'll find more than eighty trendy coffee mugs, specially designed to appeal to men. Coffee mugs with stripes, chevrons and plaid patterns (amongst others!), many of them ready to personalize with your name. Excellent, modestly priced gift for the man who has everything - except his own, personalized coffee mug!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A selection of brightly coloured iPhone 6 cases, with chevrons, stripes, polka dots and Islamic geometric patterns. Please contact me through my Posh and Painterly store if you would like one of these patterns on a different case.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A selection of Neck-ties, unisex Tank Tops and panel-front T-shirts with trending plaid patterns.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A collection of Gifts with Paisley Elephants and coordinating Plaid patterns offers plenty of ideas for Gifts for Him. For more of my Elephant gifts and greeting cards, see my 'Heffalumps' Collection in my Posh and Painterly Zazzle store.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A selection of gifts for anyone, men included, with trendy black and white chevrons. Some are ready to be personalized with a name or monogram and many others can be adjusted to be ready for personalization by contacting me through my store.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A collection of gifts with Egyptian patterns, featuring lotus flowers, papyrus, tribal shields, arrows and traditional egyptian basket-weave patterns. The colour palette is rusty red, golden yellow, soft green and black. 

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Check Ginghams, Madras Checks, Plaids and Tartans never really go out of style but at the moment they are particularly popular! There are Pillows or Cushions here to complement any colour scheme and the Pillows come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and you can choose either cotton or polyester fabrics. Most welcome as a gift or to brighten up your own home - and don't forget that you can customize many of them by changing the scale and direction of the pattern!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

It can be tricky to find the right gift for a man. But these stylish black and gold-effect traditional Islamic mosaic patterns have an understated touch of class that will appeal to men of all ages. If you would like the design on a different product, please contact me through my store and I will create it for you, usually in a couple of days at most, free of charge.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

This collection offers a choice of ways to protect your iPad, from Folio cases to Rickshaw Sleeves. All are shown with a choice of four different 'tribal' patterns from my 'Jungle Drums' collection, making them equally suitable as a gift for a man or for anyone. You can easily add your personal touch by customizing the patterns - rotate the pattern or change the scale to create a totally different look!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A selection of stylish gifts, mostly for men, with traditional Welsh Tapestry patterns in Black on White. These gifts are all ready for you to personalize with your Monogram - alternatively, you can remove the Monogram if you prefer the just the pattern. 

The faux Welsh Tapestry itself is ready for you to customize by changing the background colour or re-sizing or rotating the pattern for a totally different look! 

Choose from the matching Gift-wrapping Paper, Tissue Paper or Gift Bags to give your gift the finishing touch! If you don't see the product you'd like in this collection, just contact me through my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store and I will be pleased to create the product you want, entirely free of charge.

Click on the image below to see the full collection

Greeting cards for gardeners, coffee mugs for gardeners, gardening notebooks, gardening aprons, fridge magnets and bookmarks with gardening quotes and much, much more! And it's not just about flower gardens - there are gifts with tomatoes and cards with a vegetable patch. You're sure to find something here for someone who enjoys their garden!

Click on the image below to see the full collection

A Collection of colourful iPad cases with bright and bold chevron patterns in a variety of colour combinations to suit all tastes -

 Click on the image below to see the full collection

I very much hope that you've found some useful ideas amongst my Collections of Gifts and Greeting Cards with men in mind. 

But do remember that, although I haven't featured floral designs, it's simply not true that you can't give a man a floral Greeting Card, as I pointed out in this earlier BLOG POST - and it's not just Greeting Cards! Men's ties and shirts are often floral, as I pointed out in last week's blog post - Shopping for January Birthday Gifts - Snowdrops! - where I featured my collection of Floral Ties. 

You can also find plenty of ties with stripes, polka dots, checks etc in my Zazzle stores and I shall hope to have made them into collections to add to future blog posts, along with more Gifts for Men!