Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Colour Collaborative: November: Wood

There were lots of potential angles for this post. I have wooden jewellery, Polish trinket boxes in carved and painted wood, all manner of furniture (including my much-loved, shabby old dresser). Joe's room is filled with wooden train sets and cars and musical instruments. Some of my most precious things are made of wood, like the little red Dala horse and a set of Matryoshka dolls.

I'm partial to a bit of peeling paint on an old front door or garden gate. Or the way cedar fades, as it weathers, from bright chestnut to soft silver.

I also (at the moment) am suffering from serious wood fatigue. Buying and renovating this old house has been a big undertaking. All those beams and doors (crafted to fit the tiny doorways, so replacing them wasn't really an option). All varnished a dark, treacly black. Much as we'd have liked to sandblast those beams back to pale, virgin oak we had neither the time nor the budget. So all that wood has been sanded, filled and painted. Some of it took many coats. Some of it's still on the 'yet to be completed' list.

Don't even get me started on skirting boards, ballustrades, spindles and bannisters. Or the dust which seems to keep appearing despite endless hoovering and wiping.

As I said, wood fatigue.

So instead I'm thinking about wood of the wild kind. Wood you find outdoors.

Wood is never 'just' brown. I do like a birch tree with papery bark, black markings scarring the creamy trunks. Or the stump of a recently-felled tree with concentric rings running through the clean, damp timber.

And all those mosses and funghi which make wood their home (and host). Shades of verdigris and emerald green. Burnt orange and sulphur yellow. And the surprising splashes of colour you sometimes find on decaying wood, like the bright red Scarlet Elf Cup or beautifully striped 'turkey tail'.

I can never resist photographing a logpile. Textures, shades, form... and the thought of a fire burning merrily in a little house somewhere.

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.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


How long has it been? A few weeks? Something like that.

We moved house. 

It took three days of to-ing and fro-ing in that awful weather last weekend. Abigail, was it? Howling gales, torrential rain. It was not fun.

But we're here and despite our joiner-related woes and the lovely fresh paint being scuffed and marked and the chimney needing repointing (we have the damp patches to prove it) - this little cottage is now our home. Yes, things are in a state of chaos. And yes, every single piece of furniture suddenly leaning a little bit takes some getting used to.

It's a very warm house though. Just as well, really. This morning - finally - we woke to blue skies. No rain. But snow (secret 'Hurrah!'). I did a little walk behind the house and it is extremely cold outdoors. And perilously icy underfoot. I trod carefully and marvelled at how pretty everything had become. It almost makes up for those winds tearing the lovely autumnal leaves from the trees.

No, that's not our house. It's one I admire though.

There's an Instagram hashtag, #cornersofmyhome. I'm not trying to be cryptic or anything - the fact is, it's quite dark and gloomy (the days seem to be getting very short very quickly). So no photos of the house. I tried, but low ceilings and beams and small windows, coupled with the poor light levels, resulted in some rubbish grainy photos.

The farmer next door built his house very close to ours so it casts a lot of shadow down the gable end. I doesn't bother me too much, but like I said - not great for photos at this time of year. 

I will try again, but in the meantime I've taken a few pictures of little details. And a horse.

Thank you for being patient. I'm slowly making my way back to Instagram and blogging. Moving house really does turn everything upside down, quite literally, and on top of that I have a craft fair in a week and a half so am flat out trying to get plenty of stock together.

There will be more house-related posts coming up. And I will be reading other blogs too. Things will settle down - in fact, by mid December we're stopping. No more decorating or tip runs or any of that stuff. Just a few weeks of festive relaxation.

Hope you're having a great weekend (and keeping warm).

Thursday, 5 November 2015


Yes, another one of those posts. Lots of pictures, lots of scrappy bits of this and that. 

Firstly: a big thank you for all your lovely comments. Despite me not replying recently, I do read and appreciate each and every one of them. Secondly: I'm getting around to responding to my emails. Apologies for the delay. And lastly: for those who've ordered personalised paintings - it's all in hand and I'll be in touch very soon to work out the details with you.

Phew! And now: goings-on chez Mitenska. 

The new house is taking shape despite several hiccups (the joiner has suddenly decided he's starting another job next week so some things won't get done. I'm very annoyed with him but we're only paying him for what he's finished). Things we've had delivered have been the wrong size/missing a component etc. None of the paints we've chosen look anything like they did on the colour cards. Yes, we should have bought tester pots. Yes, it's too late to do anything about it. But the bathroom needs repainting at some point as the colour's just all wrong.

We move in on Friday the 13th (I know). It's a week away. We're spending any spare - i.e. Joe-free time - painting and sanding and filling. Jay's up there every night after work. We're worn out. I suspect December will be spent relaxing and taking a well-earned breather.

I have actually slept a bit better lately. Strange, considering all this panic. But I've realised that making time for the little things is so important. A walk through the trees, a cup of tea and a biscuit (dark chocolate-covered ginger, my favourite), a flick through a magazine.

We spent Halloween at the village cricket club. Joe went as a spider and went a bit mad on the sweets. He also dragged us onto the dancefloor for 'Bat Out of Hell', which was rather mortifying (we hadn't drank enough). I made some cards with him and we posted them to his grandparents as he's quite keen on posting things.

I took him to a yoga session for preschoolers on Thursday. We lasted five minutes then left. Fortunately my friend and her little girl left too. It seems our little ones aren't serene enough for such touchy-feely pursuits; they were bent on disrupting the whole thing so we headed for a cafe instead. To be honest, drinking coffee and munching on biscotti is a lot more fun than toddler yoga.

Joe's into satsumas at the moment. Although we go to the market for fruit and veg, Aldi currently seem to do the best satsumas. And apparently they've pledged to stock a large range of British-grown produce too. So that's good to know when I can't face shivering under the dripping tarpaulin on a Saturday morning.

I made Lancashire hotpot the other day. It was good. No, I didn't add kidneys. Nobody here likes them; in fact the only way I can cope with offal is when it's in the form of pate. Strange really as I do love black pudding (and we all know what that's made of).

My thoughts are turning to Christmas. There are TV channels dedicated to festive films. People are asking for present ideas for Joe. I keep intending to put a bit of money away each week - this year's going to be a bit no-frills because the house has cost us a lot of money. We're not quite talking lumps of coal and an orange, but extravagance won't be our buzzword. Home-made and simple maybe. We'll be settled in to the new place by then so can spend time just enjoying it. 

Even if the joiner says the plumber told him someone once hung themselves from our stairs.

Not sure I'm buying that. I know the family who inhabited it for the previous forty years or so. And the plumber hasn't been living in the village that long. Sorry if I sound a bit parochial... to be honest, Gary the joiner does love to look on the dark side. He regularly refers to the house as 'the money pit' and sighs that he'll 'never fit one of these kitchens again'.

I was laughing to myself yesterday when I heard him singing along to 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go'. The most upbeat of songs, the most miserable of sods.

We seem to spend a lot of time up at the farm and animal shelter. Joe still loves Wallace the goat and that means a visit at least once a week. It's only up the road, a two minute drive away. On Monday we went along and all the goats were outside but Wallace wasn't there. In a state of mild panic, I said a secret little prayer that he hadn't keeled over and gone to the big enclosure in the sky.

Fortunately that wasn't the case. We found him taking it easy indoors, bedded down in a deep pile of straw. Joe ignored him and started telling me about Jackson, the goat residing in the stall next door. Fickle.

It's set to be a busy November. There's a bonfire party on Saturday evening which we may or may not attend. I really need to get some packing done. The house needs to be as near finished as possible before we move in. And I have several commissions to work on.

At the end of the month I'm going away for a night or two (more on that when I return).

I hope Christmas fever hasn't crept up on you too early, and that you have a great Friday and weekend.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Colour Collaborative: October: Blue

Blue isn't one of my 'favourite' colours; I'm usually attracted to greys or creams with the odd splash of mustard yellow here and there. And yet there's plenty of blue in my wardrobe. Granted, much of that's in the form of denim. But there are navy fisherman's sweaters and a midnight-hued silk dress, a teal ruffle-fronted blouse and an inky sweater with a Scandinavian-style patterned yoke. Oh, and a few failed attempts at Shibori dyeing. Much as I love indigo it seems I'll never recreate some of those lovely scarves I've seen online.

A few rooms in the new house are blue as well. Joe's bedroom is a soft, silvery blue whilst the kitchen's just been painted in a stormy shade (reminiscent of the skies pictured in the top right photo, above). And while I'm on the subject of interiors... I do like blue ceramics and vases. Particularly those in deeper, richer shades.

I went back through some of my archives for this month's Colour Collaborative post. It made me think of 'blue' memories: school uniforms (both primary and secondary); ink-stained fingers and desk lids. The old Ford Fiesta my mum and brother shared (which started out pale metallic blue and was later resprayed a darker colour), then its successor the Vauxhall Nova which was an alarming shade of turquoise but could always be spotted in a busy car park.

My childhood bedding was homemade, blue and white striped cotton with a look of ticking to it. My plump grey pony had blue everything: headcollar and lead rope, grooming kit, blankets. My riding hat was covered in deepest blue velvet which gradually faded to a soft grey. Probably something to do with me chucking it into the bushes once I was out of the stable yard, only to retrieve it on my return from the moors (until the local gossip told my mum she'd seen me out riding bareheaded).

I remember, as a grown up, holiday blues. The incredible cerulean seas of the Greek islands, doorways and domes in the brightest cobalt shades. And that ferry trip on the magically-named 'Flying Cloud' from a dark, storm-battered Boston across the Nantucket Sound, where the clouds suddenly parted to reveal skies a dazzling cornflower colour. 

What else? Eartha Kitt singing Santa Baby, requesting a '54 convertible too, light blue'. My old butcher's apron. Denim jackets. The jeans I wore as a twelve year old (Falmer 'Kitten' or 'Betty') then, as I got older, Levi 501s with a button fly. (It was all about following the crowd). Later still, dyeing my hair the wrong colour then going in to work with it an awful blue-black shade and my boss saying, 'Bloody hell! It's Joan Jett.'

I like kingfisher blue, robin's egg blue, deep dark hues of midnight. Lately I've seen a few front doors painted a rather lovely shade which reminds me of Cornishware pottery. The only blue I have a real aversion to: royal blue. No idea why...

So, a piecemeal approach to this month's theme. Scrapbook collages and random memories, a few likes and dislikes. But with a sapphire, peacock or denim thread running through them all.

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.

Sunday, 25 October 2015


At the moment this blog seems to be simply a scrapbook, a journal in which to collect moments. We're between. 

 Between terms (it's half term next week and Joe's home with me). I'm hoping for dry weather.

Between homes: we move into the new place in three weeks. We have a half-fitted kitchen, an as-yet-to-be fitted bathroom and lots of painting to do. Still.

I'm between projects. The Huge Order is fulfilled but there are commissions to do for Christmas and I need to completely redo my website (I'm thinking Squarespace). Unfortunately any (rare) Joe-free time is spent at the new house, so work is having to wait until we're moved.

There's no denying that thoughts are turning to Christmas. We're enjoying autumn first though - Halloween next weekend and Bonfire Night soon. But is it too early to be eating marzipan and cashew nuts? Because if it is... Oops.

I like Halloween (or, perhaps more appropriately, All Hallows Eve). Not so much the orange plastic everywhere and teenagers pestering at the front door, but the notion of the veil between worlds being lifted. Candlelight and hot chocolate and ghost stories.

Despite writing about the Worry Cure, sleep still evades me. There's a lot going on at the moment and I'm not sure what week of the month it is, let alone day of the week. I lie awake in the small hours thinking about the new house, the fast-disappearing budget, the compromises to be made. 

It will, of course, all work out. And things will slow down. 

Blustery walks and pie-baking and good books are helping keep life sweet right now. Friends, too, and family. And the prospect of being homeowners again: we can put up shelves and pictures! We don't need to be petrified of marking carpets! And we'll save a lot of money each month too...

Have a wonderful week.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

October delights

Time to breathe (see my last post - or, more specifically, some of the very welcome - and wise - comments). 

Time to escape into the woods. To notice those little (to quote an Instagram hashtag) Flashes of Delight.

My work obligations have been met following a mad scramble on Thursday afternoon. Things can now slow down. Well, sort of. We've been painting the new house and despite my initial ideas of taking a Scandinavian approach (all white, to maximise light) we decided to be brave. We've gone for colour. Pictures will follow.

Back to some October delights though. We've been out walking, Joe and I. Collecting the few conkers we can find. Looking for funghi. Paddling in streams. Wandering along, sticks in hand, kicking through the leaves.

Munching on chocolate (him) and yet more treacle toffee (me). To keep the cold out.

Dropping sycamore keys from a height and watching them spin down to the ground. 

We've been eating good, hearty food - the kind that can be left to bubble away in the oven for a couple of hours or longer. Food that welcomes you back into a warm, delicious-smelling kitchen.

There's an almost constant aroma of woodsmoke in the air. I can't get enough of it - one of my favourite things about autumn.

We've been watching the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. Yes, there are bits of pretentiousness here and there. But there's something very relaxing about observing people painting National Trust properties. 

I've recently discovered a few new delights of the alcoholic variety. Firstly (after an evening here): Fitzpatrick's cordials with gin and a splash of lemonade. The Rhubarb and Rosehip was sublime. And at home, alcoholic ginger beer. Yes I drink things that taste like pop. No I'm not sophisticated enough to like wine. Apart from mulled wine - and I'm trying to save that for another few weeks or so yet. Maybe bonfire night.

There are chestnuts and black peas for sale at the Saturday morning market. And pomegranates and English apples.

The hedgerow jelly I made a few weeks ago makes lovely jam tarts. Just imagine that the pastry's a bit thinner and that the edges are suitably fluted...

Now the art work's slowed down again I'm putting in the hours at the new house next week. Friends and family have volunteered to either take Joe or to come and help with the painting. The kitchen's going in, the bathroom the week after. And the new windows have made a huge difference already. The dwindling budget means I'll have to get creative with furnishings but I like the challenge.

On Friday night we have a Halloween party at the cricket club. Just like last year, Joe has no costume yet. Looks like I'll need to get creative with that too.

Lastly: thank you again for your kind words and sage advice regarding the Worry Cure. I hope the comments are useful to others too. Blog Land may be a virtual one but it does offer some real empathy and advice through the people who write and visit blogs.

I hope you have a good week as we hurtle towards the end of October.

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