Friday 29 November 2013

Putting the brakes on

...Or not.

Last night I set out to my art class and bumped my car before I'd even left our road. No damage - just sheer absent-mindedness. Except that's the second time it's happened in a week. 

Prior to setting off I'd crammed into an hour cleaning, dinner, a rush-job on last week's homework and wrapping some empty boxes for the shop window display we're working on this evening. I'd rushed out of the house with a half-packed bag and realised I'd forgotten my apron. I was running late despite promising myself I'd set off earlier this week.

This little scenario was typical of how my life is at the moment. And the only person placing all these demands on me is me.

Halfway there (cursing the traffic) I just pulled over. I couldn't face it. I wanted to turn around and come home. So I did.

We all have different thresholds when it comes to stress, anxiety, burnout. I think I'd reached my limit. I haven't slept properly for weeks. I tell myself that people see being a stay-at-home mum is an easy option to take. Or that I only have one child and other people have two, three, four and cope.

But the fact is that I've been looking after Joe - who is, incidentally, a delight and no trouble (and Jay is beyond supportive) - and trying to cram in far too many other things. Setting myself unrealistic targets. Being silly, basically.

The volunteering is fun but has of late been spilling into my other time. Extra hours, making things for the displays (like the book sculptures in the photos). I've got things to make to order too. And Christmas presents. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry. Dealing with financial stuff. Making sure everyone gets to see Joe on a regular basis. Being a perfectionist.

So last night I just decided to stop. Stop trying to multi-task, spin plates, however you want to describe it. I've had something arranged for every day of the past week and the weekend coming. I'm working tonight but once that's over I'm coming home to mulled wine and a hot bath. Tomorrow morning's activity: cancelled. 

This weekend is about tying up a few loose ends, getting my priorities straight and looking forward to December. I refuse to spend the run-up to Christmas trying to juggle endless projects and getting nothing finished. I love this time of year and want to savour it. We're off to a farmer's market on Sunday and that's as strenuous as it's going to get. Sometimes it's OK to admit you're not superwoman. 

This little sentiment makes sense to me right now:

Image courtesy of Tumblr

Have a relaxing weekend and thanks for reading x

Thursday 28 November 2013


Yesterday we went out looking for some treasures to bring back indoors for Nature in the Home. There's not much about at the moment. But I did manage to collect some red and green dogwood stems and a few pieces of fir/spruce.

This week's contribution has been a challenge. I couldn't find my secateurs so took a florist's knife. Not only did I slice through the dogwood stems, I also sliced into my thumb. Then stood there in the trees panicking as the blood went everywhere - what if I need it stitching? I can't. I've got Joe to look after! etc. etc.

Anyway, I came home and cleaned myself up (the house then reeked of TCP) and put a plaster over it as tightly as I possibly could. Fingers thumbs crossed it'll be OK.

My apologies for the grainy images. The light levels in this house are so low at the moment it's as though the sky's made of a big grey woollen blanket.

So I've done a bit of editing and actually quite like the effect. It's like some old family photos I have.

I also like the simplicity of the evergreen branches. My Christmas mantelpiece is slowly forming in my mind.

And here's Joe. Unedited but sadly unwell. He's full of a cold and has a nasty cough so we're out a lot trying to get plenty of fresh air. (His hand looks huge here but that's the mitten - he's currently between sizes) :)

Monday 25 November 2013

Tiptoeing in...

December's not here quite yet. And every year I promise myself not to get tangled up in Christmas until December - preferably mid December - but it's creeping in. Creeping into my thoughts (Christmas songs providing a quiet soundtrack). Creeping into my plans (where we're going, who we'll be seeing, what we'll be eating). And most definitely creeping into my free time.

I'm doing handmade presents as much as I can but obviously can't share much about that. Classified information. But we're also planning the window displays at the shop. And yesterday I made our cards.

I started off by cutting a simple shape from a rubber and experimenting a bit on an old piece of card.

I only had red and black inks. In fact I bought a rather nice pale green-blue too but when I came home and tried it out it didn't actually show up on the card at all. It was from a craft superstore (their own brand). I've got the receipt. My advice: go for the better quality (more expensive) version.

So red and black it was. And once I got stamping I had them all made in no time. Yes, they look home-made but that's the point I suppose. They didn't cost much and it was fun.

Despite Christmas tiptoeing into our house, I'm not writing my cards out yet. That really is a December activity. Well, ritual really. Proper Christmas music - as in the old ones I love, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin. Mulled wine. Candlelight.

I give in - I'm excited!

Sunday 24 November 2013

Nature in the Home

They arrived! My Narcissus Paperwhite bulbs. I came home one afternoon last week and they were on the doorstep in a little parcel. 

I planted them in the vase/dish from the car boot sale we went to last month. They now reside on the living room windowsill. I'm keep my fingers crossed we have beautiful scented flowers in time for Christmas.

I had to make do with compost too as they'd sold out of bulb fibre when we went to buy some. Everyone must be planting theirs too. I'd like to get some hyacinths on the go as well...

I haven't killed the cyclamen yet. In fact it seems (whisper it) quite happy.

In other plant news: I'm drying out bunches of thyme and dill which we brought back from the market. I know they freeze too but I do like dried herbs. The yellow ticket in the background is from a craft fair we attended last weekend at the village hall. We didn't win anything. But I did have my first glass of mulled wine this year. And Joe tried his first mince pie. It met with his approval.

My spider plant has been re-homed. I spotted this plant pot in a charity shop and liked the look of it. I have a weakness for chunky ceramics and stoneware, particularly in shades of greens, blues and browns. One day I'll have shelves built into a kitchen alcove where I can display my collection. One day.

Probably around the same time we have a kitchen with an alcove. And a Rayburn. And a pantry.

Hope you're having a lovely weekend x

Thursday 21 November 2013

Looking In

We've been out walking a lot (as usual) recently, but with the cold and rain and hail and the problem with the neighbours, sometimes it's just better to focus on what's inside. I've been enjoying keeping snug and planning Christmas (well, thinking about how soon I can justify eating a lot of cheese and pate).

So: woolly blankets and brushed cotton bedding.

And two new additions to my ever-growing notebook collection. I bought these at YSP last week, at the Angie Lewin exhibition. More importantly: I've actually written in one of them!!! Only in pencil, but that's because I like writing in pencil. Rubbing notes out of a notebook would be a step too far, even for me.

Unless I'd written bad things about people. Which I haven't.

Porridge for breakfast. With a pinch of salt and plenty of brown sugar. I know it's traditional to eat it made with water but I just can't. Milk it is. 

I enjoy the limited sunshine which comes in the front of the house in the mornings. By midday our living room's pretty gloomy once more. We're going through a lot of candles because all the bulbs in the lamps seem to have that harsh white light. I need to do some research. Bright lighting's one of my pet hates. Especially in changing rooms!

The only problem with making our bed so warm and inviting is that getting out of it on a cold morning takes a lot of effort. Fortunately we have a fourteen month-old, toddler-shaped alarm clock...

Tuesday 19 November 2013

The Art Nook

A while back I posted about reinstating the sideboard after a brief dabble with a desk. I now sit under the stairs in a little slope-ceilinged nook to blog, edit photos and so on. Not the most comfortable of places but I still like it. My sewing box lives here along with an anglepoise lamp and several portfolio cases with my drawings and prints inside.

I brought these two Mark Hearld birdies back from the Angie Lewin exhibition last week. They're actually greeting cards but I've hung them up on invisible thread. They move about in the breeze (draught). Joe likes them and so do I.

I purchased one or two other things too and will share later this week.

These little push pins are quite cute. I like the grungy font and were from Sainsburys of all places. They're holding all my bits and pieces up on my mood/noticeboard. Apologies for the grainy photos by the way. My Nook doesn't get much daylight, especially at this time of the year when the sun's so low in the sky.

Being super-organised is my Thing. So I got real pleasure from packing my bag on Thursday evening for my art class. Apron, pens, pencils - and a new sketchpad (Sainsburys again). I'm a sucker for stationery, what can I say?

My drawing board lives under the stairs too. And the above drawing... well, where to begin?

We started our course last week by making our own paper. Messy but fun. The we moved onto some drawing. It was at this point that I left my comfort zone well and truly behind.

My style of art, handwriting, even bed-making (it's a standing joke in our house) is very neat, precise and considered. So when our tutor Emily instructed us to draw the person opposite without a) looking down at the paper or b) taking our charcoals/graphite sticks/pens off it I had a moment of mild panic. It's a natural compulsion to look at what you're doing. And I'm continually rubbing out and re-starting my work. It was difficult.

This is the result. The lady opposite was far more attractive (and a couple of decades younger) than this depiction. The whole exercise was about 'letting go'. It may take some more practice - old habits die hard. I'm still looking forward to this week's class though.

And I've discovered a new love for graphite sticks. Must buy some.

Sunday 17 November 2013


Acorns. Still in their cups - most seem to be just strewn across the ground, cupless and squashed underfoot. There's not too much nature to be brought indoors just yet...

I was hoping to photograph some Paperwhite bulbs but they never arrived by post. Apparently the sender will be looking into it with Royal Mail and that'll take 20 days. Maybe that will be too late to plant them, I'm not sure.

I'll keep looking but most garden centres seem to be Christmas crazy and focusing on gifts and sparkly stuff. Still, I enjoy a challenge!

Last weekend we went out walking back home. Here are some photos I took - lots of autumnal sunshine (unlike this weekend). Having said that we'll be off out soon to road test Joe's new wellies....

 Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday 16 November 2013

A rare night out

Last night we braved rush hour on the M62 ('The highest Motorway in England' according to the sign) and went to the Angie Lewin private view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 

It was fun. Prosecco on the door - always a good thing - and so many beautiful things to see. Philistine that I am, I headed straight for the shop (well, almost - and it is on the way into the exhibition). I wanted lots of things. Lots and lots. The whole place was packed with people.

We didn't take the 'big' camera (we were unsure of the rules) so the little Lumix came along. Apologies for the photos. Crowds, low lighting and reflective surfaces conspired against us. But Jay did a sterling job both with the camera and the long drive there and back.

He was taken with the wild boar cufflinks. Not that he's a cufflink wearer.

He also liked the wooden slices of tree which served as display stands. Another project beckons...

It was so nice to see so many of Angie Lewin's prints up close and in real life. And although we couldn't stretch to buying one, you can always dream. I did pick up one or two little goodies which I'll post about in a few days.

I really enjoyed seeing a display case full of her carved wood blocks, inks, sketches, books and outdoor finds - it helped you to understand her creative process and inspiration.

And I loved this set-up (above) with the furniture and fabrics. Like I said, so many beautiful things.

We left promising ourselves to visit the Sculpture Park in daylight. By all accounts it's supposed to be a great place to explore and sounds like a good wintry day out. Then we drove home back across Saddleworth Moor to hot drinks and chocolate biscuits. We're out again tonight (watching a gig in Manchester). It's chilly. But then we'll be home and cosy and have all Sunday to do nothing.

We very rarely go out in the evening so to be out two nights in a row is virtually unheard of. Joe's grandparents have been worth their weight in gold this weekend - we're very lucky indeed.
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