Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Winter scrapbook

Well, it seems like I was never going to write this post. Joe's been off preschool with some vomiting bug or other, which I've picked up but it's (thankfully) only a mild version. He's fine again now and the famously voracious appetite has returned.

Of course, a picture-heavy post means I always go a bit lighter on the words. Probably because I try to write the kind of blog I myself like reading. So lots of photos and a few little updates. I'm planning a wordier post for later in the week. Or perhaps the weekend.

It's bright here today. At last. The seemingly endless grey skies and rain can make you wonder if this is possibly the most depressing winter ever. Looking back through the camera though, I can recapture a little of the frost and snow-induced cheeriness.

The Flying Scotsman has now left these parts, but we saw it plenty.

It's still flipping cold. Not as much as a few weeks ago, but my fingers are a bit numb typing this.

I've booked in to do the Crafty Vintage handmade markets for 2016, held here and here. So I've been busy Making Art. Still much to do. And an eye-catching stand to design and build.

I just finished reading 'The Remains of the Day'. I loved it - it has now become one of my favourite novels ever. Jay treated me to the DVD so that's Saturday night sorted. I suspect I might cry.

Speaking of Jay (and I know he reads this): he's been baking a lot recently. Experimental stuff. Last weekend we had rhubarb and custard muffins and very tasty they were too. I also know he goes and bakes to escape to the kitchen when Joe is being a nuisance. I know this because I do it too.

I'm longing to get out into the garden. We need to do some heavy stuff first; a big pile of earth has to be moved to make way for a shed. Maybe a bit of poking and pottering first, just to ease us in. We have snowdrops and miniature daffs and hellebores. 

At the risk of sounding a bit odd, I really want to scrub the trunk on the birch tree.

Joe and I have joined another local library. I found a great book on printmaking, and we borrowed lots of train books for him. We did a story session ('I don't want to join in' - him, 'I'll give you a YoYo if you do' - me, 'Alright then' - him). The craft bit afterwards was more of a success. 

He's really enjoying the new preschool and sings as we walk there. But it's still a little bit heartbreaking to see his old one up for sale and all the little tables and climbing frames and things being sold on Facebook.

We did a walk on a very frosty day last month. Thick ice everywhere. But still evidence of the Boxing Day floods - even dry stone walls are scattered across the fields in some places.

The snow was short-lived but we made the most of it. Two snowmen, a snow bear and a three-year-old who refused to wear gloves. 

It was great to let Joe loose in the field behind the house and watch him run around. Much better than the ice - he insists on slithering across frozen puddles and I wait for him to slip and crack his head. Hence the woolly hat.

We've had a trip or two out - in late January we went to Cumbria and saw Furness Abbey and visited the South Lakes Zoo.

 A cockatoo fell in love with Jay. 

And although there were acrobatic monkeys making car-alarm noises, and wolves and tigers, and a kangaroo with a baby in its pouch, we all agreed on our favourite bits: the bird enclosure with parrots flying overhead, and the cafe with a woodburning stove. Because it was a bitterly, bitterly cold day.

We managed to get to the beach too. 

And although it looks like he's having a wonderful time in the pictures here, Joe's absolute favourite part of it: doing a wee outdoors for the first time ever. Standing up. Apparently that's what a three-year-old really enjoys about a day out.

I'll leave you with that delightful thought. Sorry.

I hope you're finding some brightness in these gloomy months. Speaking of which, I'm really thinking of repainting the downstairs of the house in white. Low ceilings and beams and small windows make cottages cute and cosy but also very dark in winter. I know Jay wants nothing to do with it, having just decorated. I totally understand. But come spring I'm happy to chip away at it myself. You know, with all the free time I have ;)

Have a good rest-of-the-week.

P.S. I've also discovered Aldi chocolate. Dark, with hazelnuts in. It's actually rather posh-looking and tasting. No this isn't a sponsored post - just passing on a tip to help keep the cold out.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Colour Collaborative: January: Warm

When I first thought about this month's CC post, I wasn't sure which angle to take. What signifies 'Warm' for me when considering colour? The reds and oranges of a crackling fire? Snowy sheepskins, grey wool blankets? The little cottage whose window I sometimes glance through on a winter's afternoon, with its deep raspberry pink walls and rich framed tapestries?

And then I remembered. My  - what? Snood? Muffler? Scarf-with-no-ends? Whatever, it's the one thing I always grab when heading out the door on a cold day.

Some of you may recognise it from a long-distant post. I'm no knitter, trust me, but a few years ago I saw the wool and had to buy it. 

(Incidentally, for all you colour lovers out there: a wander around a well-stocked wool shop is a delight like no other. It's always interesting to see which hues attract you and draw you in).

I still have some of it left. This scarf-thing has had previous lives: a cushion cover, a longer scarf (complete with ends). It's been unravelled and re-knitted. The buttons were found in the local antiques place where they sell little haberdashery odds and ends for a pound or two. It's done in a stretchy rib, one of the few stitches I have in my repertoire. 

The thing is: I love mustard yellow. It catches my eye, makes me want to paint things in it. I also love murky greens and sludgy versions of brighter colours. I'm not really one for pastels either (although the hat in the above picture is another cold weather go-to. My mum bought us one each in a sale and it's fleece lined and comfy: the hat that fits like a glove).

So, 'Warm'. My mustard yellow, re-used, recycled wool scarf thing. 

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below.

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Inspiration, upheaval and a sprinkling of snow

It's been an interesting week. Last Wednesday I went to collect Joe from preschool and they told me they were closing down. A combination of flooding, a bad Ofsted report and staff resignations meant the owner had decided to call it a day. They'd been going for 26 years and despite Ofsted branding them 'Unsatisfactory' (mainly due to issues with administration) I'd always been perfectly happy with Joe attending.

I managed to get him a place, that evening, at another preschool in an even smaller village but just as close to home. It has a great reputation and he started there on Monday. He's taken to it like a duck to water.

We won't go into the amount of crying I did on his last day at 'Janice's'. It's the end of a chapter and the staff were so lovely. 

There are children joining the new preschool from the old one, so he'll have some of his little friends with him. I'm currently collecting lots of splashy paintings at the end of the day. He's definitely inspired by the upheaval.

Speaking of which, I've been making the most of my fifteen hours per week of child-free time. Drawing, painting, attempting to build a new website (although I'm going to have to bite the bullet on that one and phone the Squarespace support team).

I'm also looking into the craft fair calendar for 2016 and am on the brink of signing up to some. Quite a few, actually. Selling direct means I don't have to lose as much in commission. Plus, I get to meet my customers face to face and to speak to other makers.

So right now it's all about jotting down ideas, planning displays and getting lots of stock together.

I'm still thinking about the house. Pictures are slowly making their way onto walls. Rooms are gradually getting a bit of personality. And I've discovered a new aesthetic. 

Anyone who's seen my Pinterest account will know I love all things Nature. And things with a story to tell. Recently I came across this board though - and I'm suddenly into pattern and eclecticism. I've always been a fan of early to mid-20th Century literature and design, but the thought of a truly individual home filled with creativity and books and art holds huge appeal for me.

Joe had a 'settling in' session at his new preschool on Monday. I stayed for a few hours but they then suggested I go off for a few more while he had lunch and played outside. So I did. 

A cream scone, a hot chocolate and a chat with a lovely lady in the tearoom of the local antiques centre was the perfect escape. I had a browse around all the lovely things and admired the William Morris wallpaper, the old fireplaces and the tiny wooden mice carved into the door frames. There's something very relaxing and reassuring about slipping back into the past for a little while. Probably explains my love of Marple and Poirot. Nostalgia fiend.

I then returned to an excitable boy and we went for a walk. All you can hear is water at the moment: the river, the drains, new springs and streams trickling away down the hills and through the trees.

You know I only like to use pretty pictures on the blog, but I thought I'd show you why we can't take one of our usual routes. It's really awful to see things like this at the moment: collapsed bridges, rubbish washed up everywhere, houses with sandbags outside and ruined furniture awaiting collection.

You also know I like to end things on a positive note. It's cooled right down here and last night we had a dusting of snow. The snowdrops are making an appearance in the garden. There's pussy willow on the table and vases of daffodils all over the place. And - gasp - we have a weekend approaching with a forecast of bright sunshine. No plans, no visitors - just us three. I can't wait.

I hope yours is dry (or snowy, whatever you prefer) and cold outdoors, warm within.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New Year

Thank you for all the Happy New Year messages following my previous post. I hope the post-Christmas period hasn't felt like too much of an anti-climax for anyone.

I'm not really a fan of New Year, never have been. But I actually managed to get food poisoning on Christmas Day and spent the night being violently sick. Boxing Day was spent in bed feeling really quite ill. Suffice to say, after a couple of days chocolate made its way back onto the menu.

One thing that has changed though: I've started drinking my tea with lemon instead of milk. I much prefer it.

I'd intended to do the whole Healthy January thing but... well, it's cold and dark and we're still in a state of semi-hibernation. Although I did make some of my own snack bars using the ingredients listed on some very expensive ones. Cashew nuts, cocoa, dates and sultanas, carefully weighed out according to the ratios on the packet. The result: exactly the same flavour for around half the price.

I bought some wool at the weekend and am attempting my first ever jumper. A very simple pattern and already it looks... homespun. Artisan. Yes, let's called it that.

The flooding around here has been terrible. Joe's preschool reopened today but they had to replace all the toys. All the houses in the village were a few feet deep in water. Bridges have collapsed. Even a mill, built in the early 1800s, came down.

We're fortunate that we're not close to the river. The garden was pretty waterlogged for a while (we're at the foot of the moors below a sloping field) but it drained away. And *touch wood* the kitchen roof's holding out. 

Joe and I have been out walking whenever we can. There have been picnics in the car and picnics on a rug in the living room too. We've made thankyou cards for those who sent him lovely Christmas presents. We've read books and watched DVDs and done jigsaws.

On the reading front, I gave up on Moll Flanders. I'm now midway through Westwood by Stella Gibbons, and enjoying it very much indeed. That and seasonal poetry are keeping me going of an evening.

The tree and decorations came down on Sunday. I was slightly worried about courting bad luck, especially considering the past year and a bit, but it was time. The needles were dropping - even though we had a living tree - and I decided it could go outside and enjoy the still plentiful rain.

Everything's packed away now. We still have candles but things have been rearranged here and there; some of our pictures are now up on the walls and the holly has been replaced with a bunch of cheery little daffodils. It all looks fresh and promising.

I even cut a piece of muslin into two and hemmed them to make some sheer curtains for the front window. The bobble trim is stitched on too. They look rather nice.

Tomorrow Joe goes back to his two days at preschool which means I can get on with some work. Commissions, getting a new website, booking tables at markets and craft fairs, making more lino-cuts...

I've even booked myself onto a printmaking course up on the Yorkshire coast in March. It's only for a day but I'm going up there with my stepdad and we're thinking we may stay overnight in a B&B. 

Speaking of treats (although the course is actually 'Professional Development', funded by my misleadingly impressive-sounding Business Account) I spent my Christmas money. A new coat. I'd seen it in a local clothes shop for more than I could afford. Then I found it online for 50% less.

It's now mine and I love love love it. Just my colours and old-fashioned enough to satisfy my Housewife, 49 tastes.

Treats like this are very few and far between, but for me personally it means I relish and appreciate them all the more.

Finally: resolutions. I'm not weighing myself down with a list of what I should stop doing, what I need to do more of etc. But having spent the best part of a morning today listening to a social worker (the visit overran by an hour meaning I had to cancel on my friends) and the prospect of more of these seemingly fruitless meetings in the coming weeks, I do need to prioritise. The danger is always that of getting caught up in so many things and feeling as though I'm being pulled downstream by a very strong current.

Family commitments and responsibilities, Joe, a new house, establishing a business: I'm struggling to fit it all in. Time alone to rest, to think, to be inspired, to grieve... It just isn't there. So I need to be firm with others and to safeguard that time. It's very easy to allow yourself to be pulled in all directions and to let others assume you're always at their beck and call. The hard bit is figuring out how to change that.

I'm determined to find a way this year.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Colour Collaborative: December: Berry

And not a picture of holly or mistletoe in sight.

Of course, it's only right that this month's Colour Collaborative theme should be 'Berry'. In a dream Yuletide, snow would be on the ground (and branches). Berries would gleam, jewel-bright, from the trees. And yet this year it's been a wet - for some, disastrously so - and grey December. Not at all Christmassy.

We do have a big vase of holly in the house. It was scrumped 'foraged' one dark afternoon from a nearby lane. It looks very nice. And no doubt we'd have mistletoe too if it was easy to procure. There's a hook on the hallway ceiling which was just made for a sprig or two.

For me personally, I love berries (you only need to look back though my archives of photographs for the proof) not just because they're synonymous with Christmas. I love them because certain ones herald the approach of autumn. My favourite season.

I'd prefer the deeper red of hawthorn berries to the bright scarlet of holly, the blue-black of whinberries and blackberries and elderberries.

And although wild and native-growing trees and shrubs always get my vote, I do like spray of oxblood hypericum berries on the table. Once upon a time when I worked as a florist, I relished adding them to arrangements. 

I always try (and for the most part, fail) to capture the loveliness of 'snowberries' nodding on their bare brown stems. As a child I'd drop them onto the ground and listen for the muted 'pop' as they burst under the lightest tap of my toes.

There's something uniquely appealing about an absence of foliage and clusters of berries, little exclamations of colour in an otherwise grey landscape. It's the same with winter-flowering shrubs like wintersweet and hamamelis.

Spherical starbursts of velvety purple-green berries on fruiting ivy. Startling violet Callicarpa. Even those cultivated edibles: glossy blackcurrants with their evocatively-scented leaves which take me back to childhood summers, or the pinky-red wild raspberries which still grow in those secret places near the old railway line. 

Berries are not just for Christmas.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below.

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

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