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.

Sunday 11 October 2015

The Worry Cure

Maybe not so much a cure as an approach. I know we're all different and find our own coping strategies when times get tough, but here are mine:

1. Count your blessings. Sounds obvious and perhaps a bit Pollyanna but it's true. The print samples finally came back and look good. The new house - after blitzing everything with white undercoat - is suddenly transformed from a gloomy, depressing little place into somewhere lighter and brighter and altogether more happy-feeling. My friends and family have been wonderful, helping out with Joe and letting me get my work ready to deliver to my customer on time.

2. Make soup. I always seem to find solace in peeling, chopping, frying, seasoning and stirring. When times are rough, I head for the kitchen. Cooking something with simple, inexpensive ingredients which will nourish people gives me a great sense of comfort somehow.

3. Notice the seasonal details all around. Colours, shapes, textures, smells. Damp earth and crisp leaves. Woodsmoke and berries. Cobwebs and conkers.

4. Take a bit of time out. There's a new cafe opened in the village and it's lovely inside. Cheap as chips, too. A catch-up with a friend last week over cups of tea was perfect. There's much to be said for grown-up conversation and a break from the normal routine.

5. Walk. Joe and I have been to 'Windy Castle' and picked blackberries. And of course he had to step into a (runny, stinky) cowpat to see what happened. Reeking wellies (and car) aside, fresh air and open space always slow me down and help me stay in the moment as opposed to all those niggling 'What if?' thoughts running riot.

6. Be alone. As in, a hot bath or a bit of time to read. A temporary escape from constant demands and running to everyone else's schedules. I find this necessary to avoid getting irritated and annoyed each time someone changes their plans last-minute or lets me down in some way.

7. Be creative. I'm probably the most self-effacing person I know, but the fact is I've worked incredibly hard these past few months to try and establish myself career-wise. I set myself a tough challenge and learned some hard lessons along the way but the fact is, I still love drawing and painting and writing. These are the things I lose myself in and even when there's a tight deadline looming, making art never feels like a chore.

8. Take a step back to get my priorities in order. Once my work's handed in next week, I'll be spending a lot of time at the new house decorating. We're going to be moving in fairly soon and there's a lot to do. And I actually enjoy painting walls and woodwork; I go into my own little world and time seems to just slip away.

I've also decided to cancel doing the craft fair at the end of the month. Something had to give. There'll be others and they'll be at a time when things aren't quite so hectic.

 9. Go to the doctor. I'm not ashamed to say it. There's a stigma attached to these things and there shouldn't be. I've always been prone to anxiety, ever since childhood, and there are times when it gets more difficult to manage than it should. To me, taking care of your mental wellbeing is no different to looking after yourself physically.

Thank you for all your lovely comments lately. Things have calmed down a bit around here over the past week, and so have I. Finding a balance between getting things done and taking time to smell the roses is always tricky but I'm getting there.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Weekend notes

This was the week I decided to slow things down. Not in a 'That would be nice' kind of way, but in a 'This is entirely necessary' realisation.

I haven't slept for ages. I fall asleep easily enough but a few hours later I'm wide awake again, mind (and heart) racing. By the time I get up the following day I'm completely exhausted. Family commitments, house renovations, starting a business, running a home, grieving, taking care of the little one... It's a lot. And for some reason I just keep taking on more and more. Saying 'No' a bit more would be a good thing.

The printers let me down spectacularly on Thursday. After much to-ing and fro-ing, my prints came back and the quality was really very poor. Nothing like the samples I'd received previously. They tried suggesting the quality would always have been compromised and it was 'a risk you take'. Quite the opposite to all the promises they made initially.

I have learned a very important lesson: never pay up front. My customer has asked that I get the prints to him, framed and ready to display, within two weeks. The printers have my original watercolours. They're either going to produce the quality I paid for or give me a refund. I'm feeling the pressure.

So this weekend we've tried to take things a little easier. Walking, eating, relaxing. Jay felt so bad about the printing debacle that he sneaked off and bought me the new Nigel Slater book to cheer me up.

We had pancakes yesterday, and prosecco (me) and some fancy beer (him) last night. I watched a truly dreadful - as in a so bad it was almost good - film.

Yesterday was bitterly cold. There was a weather warning because of all the fog, and this morning was foggy too. We went for a walk around the reservoir. It's somewhere I don't go that often but it was very quiet; the landscape there is quite desolate (even more so now they've been managing the woodland by felling lots of trees). It was all faded heather and pine stumps and crows circling ahead.

I made rice pudding when we got home. It's a Paul Hollywood recipe. Not that I'm a fan particularly, but it was the first one I found which didn't require double cream (we don't have any). The smell coming from the oven is lovely. Milk and sugar and nutmeg.

Joe's discovered Himalayan balsam. Or at least, the joys to be had from their exploding seed pods. They're now part of his to-see list each time we're out, along with ducks and steam trains and water.

So a re-evaluation and an attempt to slow things down a bit. It's probably a good time to do it, just before we hibernate for the winter. Good food, good books ('Housekeeping' is turning out to be a page-turner), family, friends, keeping warm... I just need to keep reminding myself of the important stuff. 

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