Friday, 27 December 2013

CHRISTMAS WRAPPED UP

It was a different kind of celebration for us this year.  To start, we were on our own and I don't remember a time when it has just been the two of us. But that was okay as an opportunity to play it down was welcome after living in the fast line for so long and with the run up to Christmas added. I didn't even get round to putting up decorations this year. It felt a bit bah-humbug but we were not expecting visitors and as I have so much around the house I want to achieve I decided the time spent putting decorations up and down could be put to better use.

So holding true to my plan for Christmas day I had a shower and put on my new fluffy fleece robe and slippers.  And I did little else except open presents, relax, and cook dinner for two. We had decided on an alternative to turkey and I chose a recipe from my new Jamie Oliver cookbook 'Save with Jamie'. We love roast pork with it's crisp crackling, and this recipe was a new take on a favourite. It didn't disappoint.



I also indulged in another favourite pastime, relaxing in front of the TV and catching up with films and favourite programmes.  Kirsty's Crafty Christmas was one that I watched and I loved the pom-pom maker that she demonstrated. Sadly I have been online and everywhere is sold out.  That's not surprising but I have made a note to remind myself to look again in a week or so. Obviously other people liked the look of these too!

While watching TV I suddenly heard a robin. He was sitting right outside the window and a big smile crossed my face.  My Dad always joked that he would come back as a robin and at his funeral one of these beautiful birds made its presence very known as we climbed back into the cars, ready to leave. We had already made our visit to the cemetery with wreaths and memories but this robin was another warm reminder of those who are not here to share this festive time.


Boxing Day was also a favourite kind of day, surrounded by family. Summer received the karaoke machine she hoped for and spent much of the time singing. I am always amazed that she knows the words to so many songs, and her just-three year old sister is fast in her shoes.
We were highly entertained and kept amused.

video

In the run up to Christmas we spent a wonderful day at a local RHS garden. They had arranged a barn full of craft activities for children as well as story telling and meeting Father Christmas. Now this was the most wonderful experience of all, and a moment I will always treasure. And so I was devastated afterwards to delete my memory card without downloading the video and photos to my computer! I have never done this before and was so annoyed with myself, it just showed the pressure I was under at the time. Luckily I had saved a couple of my favourite photos onto the Playstation and have since learnt that my daughter also took a video of Father Christmas. So I can make a copy. Phew!! I will save the story of this meeting for another time, meanwhile I hope your own Christmas has been restful, and just as you would have chosen. Sometimes it is important just to be where you need to be, regardless of expectation and time of year.



Summer with one of her cats.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

5 in 5 - December 2013 - MELANIE SOUTH BANK




Those who follow my posts might know that Melanie is my friend who lives in Australia.  She loves photography and enjoys taking part in this monthly challenge.... there is just one problem.  Melanie does not have a blog!  And so each month I post her photos and I love that we have found a way for her to take part. 
This month I have a huge apology to make. Melanie actually sent this to me at the beginning of the month but I have been so crazily busy at work and a home with Christmas looming that I am sadly behind. Sorry Melanie, I have been looking forward to sharing this so over to you:


I am still in the UK for December's 5 in 5 and planned to be in London for my photos.  That is were I was taking the train from Southampton and getting off at Waterloo where I begun a walk along the South Bank.  I just love the South Bank walk and seeing all the familiar sights of London.  How does one choose where to stop for 5mins though? I was stopping all the way along and took loads of photos.  Initially I thought maybe my first shots when I was around the London Eye but finally I have selected as my five minute slot a selection when St. Paul's was in view.  So there you have it.  I am scheduled to fly out on Wednesday so maybe for the January 5 in 5 I will be taking you back to Australia.  It seems one can never be sure about what lies ahead and definitely is not a word which can be applied to future possibilities.


 
 
If this has inspired you to take photos to add to this challenge you have until 25th before the link closes, then we'll be back for more on 5th January!  It's great fun and this post should answer any questions or give any other information that you need.
 
Thank you to Melanie and everyone else who has taken part so far this month. Links for these posts are here. And for those of you who follow this post you may be interested to know that Melanie is now back home with her other family in Australia. After a serious
accident her daughter in the UK is recovering well and life is slowly beginning to get back to normal for them all.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

IT'S STARTING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS....

Every week Julia asks 'What's on Your Workdesk Wednesday?' Well today mine is full of Christmas papers and packages. I have started to make Christmas cards:

 
and to put together my album for JOURNAL YOUR CHRISTMAS. This is a online course run by Shimelle Lane and I have 2 completed albums but I gave last year a miss. I don't want to do that again so this time I am trying to make it more manageable. I have decided on a chunky album because I know I get carried away, and I have made hinges that I will add the pages to as I complete them.
 
 
 
The pages are actually blank cards and more stash that I am using up. I will attach one end to the hinge, leaving a double page that folds back on itself so that each 'page' gives me four sides. I have added a double fold in the centre to give depth as I will also add flaps and pockets.  It will evolve as I make it as I have no firm plan.  I like to allow the element of flexibility and learn as I go.
 
 
I have chosen a selection of papers and chipboard shapes and I am continuing to try and use up what I already have.  Today I hope to put the first 4 pages together including a Manifesto.  My plan is to keep Christmas simple, to make as much as I can, and to spend time with friends and family.   
 
 
And last on my workspace are my new dies. I wrote last week how I had ordered these and this morning they finally arrived. I can now make more cards as I have been eagerly waiting for these to arrive!
 
 
Have fun with your own Christmas preparations and to see what others are up to pop over to Julia's here.

5 in 5 - December 2013 - GRAFTON WATERS


           Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th of

 each month I post 5 photos that I have
taken in 5 minutes. 
 
 


Recently I went to Grafham Waters for a creative retreat.  The weather was dull and overcast most the time and I missed one or two photo opportunities of a rainbow or the sun breaking through the cloud and sending a ray of light on the water. Grafton is an outdoor centre and from our window we looked across a reservoir where sailors were wrapped up warm and bracing the elements.  Not for us... we were cosy inside with good food, company and much laughter.

It is good to get outside though, just to move around. And so I braced myself against the chill and took my camera out for some '5 in 5' photos.  I always try to choose an spot where there is much to see without too much walking because taking as many photos as you can in 5 minutes does not allow for much distance unless the photos are plentiful....

And here are my photos for December.  As the colour was so dull and dreary I have made a quick adjustment to some of them and I like how they are now so bright. It completely changes the mood and atmosphere.

 
I love the bright colour of these ropes.


 
Even the pirates were warm somewhere else....

 
The sailors appreciated the breeze though....

 
And after my five minutes of photo taking I was pleased to run back into this warm room and continue making my Christmas Advent! 
 


There are so many photo opportunities this time of year I may come back with '5 in 5' of my Christmas Decorations. They are still in the loft as I write and  I need to get organised. As always there is so much to do but I am determined to resist pressure and to keep this Christmas simple, fun and time with friends and family. 

And if you fancy bracing the elements or sharing other photos for this months challenge you would be VERY welcome! Here is the plan:

1.  Choose a location.

2.  Have your camera ready.

3.  Set a mobile timer for 5 minutes.

4.  Take as many photos you can until the time is up.

5.  Choose 5 photos to download and share by using the link tool.
   You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos. 
 
If you want to know more there are details here.


And one more thing - when you use the link tool, please click on your post title.  This will show the web address. Please right click, copy and paste this as your link.  This will take readers directly to your '5 in 5' blog page and be easier for them to find.
  
Thank you to those who have taken part so far. I have loved seeing your photos and hope you will be back with more. 



And don't forget, you have until 25th to post your link!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

WOYWW - An Artful Dwelling Christmas Advent

Actually, my work space is empty.  You see I have been on a creative retreat this weekend and my bags are still packed....


I had a glorious time with an amazing group of women. There is nothing like crafting from morning til night, or if I am honest, the early hours.  I found my mojo two weeks ago on my last retreat.  Yes, two retreats in two weeks, how lucky am I?! 

This time I was inspired by a Christmas advent that I'd seen in the latest Craft Stamper magazine. It used Tim Holtz 'Artful Dwellings' die, but I decided I didn't want to buy this as the houses looked simple shapes. So I cut card templates and made my own. 50 of them in 4 different shapes.

Meanwhile a friend posted on Facebook, asking if anyone had the die that she could use. I offered her my templates but she managed to buy a die before the weekend, so that made two of us making this calendar. I turned up full of motivation. I have too much Christmas paper so using it up on this project pleased me.  I spent Friday evening cutting out paper to decorate the houses. And I did it again all Saturday morning. And afternoon. What had seemed a simple project turned into something much more complicated. Though perhaps that was just me over thinking things because trying to balance patterns, colours, size and shapes was much more time consuming than I ever imagined.  I was not going to bed before I had finished because I could not face getting up and working on it again! The row of 25 houses were attached with tape and backed with another house shape to give strength and neaten the back. Meanwhile, my friend with the die cut out her houses and papers in a short time. She used just a small selection of co-ordinating papers and the same for the numbers. Hers took a fraction of the time it took me and I learnt several good lessons:

a.  Using up old papers is a good idea in theory
b.  Using different sets of numbers and materials is also good in theory 
c.  Cutting out my own templates is cheaper than buying a die
d.  Cutting out my own templates takes considerably more time than using a die
e.  When you plan a project it is worth thinking about the time involved to prepare materials rather than assume using up your stash is a good idea
f.  You can save much time by using co-ordinating or complimenting papers and embellishments  
g.  Time has a cost.  Enjoyment can give way to frustration!


The day after I got home my friend let me know that Sizzix had the Artful Dwellings die at a great discounted price.  Guess what?  I BOUGHT THE DIE!!!  I also bought 9 others.   Next week these might be on my workspace.    Do pop back and see!

I hope your own creations have been less frustrating than mine, but I'm pleased to say I like the Advent Calendar now it is finished and on display.  What's more, it's a perfect fit. At least I got that right! 

This post is part of Julia's weekly sharing of 'What's On Your Work Desk?' To see what others have been up to why not pop over and see.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

FINDING MY MOJO!

Lately it has been difficult to find time to create. I always know when this is lacking in my life, I feel off balance, not quite complete.  And so it was with huge relief and excitement that I packed my bags and set off for a weekend retreat.  I met these ladies for the first time earlier this year and had one of the best weekends ever!  I have never been made so welcome or laughed so much. 

This time I also took my friend Pauline. Now, this is no grand affair. We sleep in a village hall on lilos, and create/crop in the other half.  Like grown-ups on a Brownie camp! And do you know what? I was so comfortable and relaxed in the company that I shared that on Saturday I did not get dressed!  No - I had a pj day! I never do this at home unless I am unwell but I have had a lot of pressure lately and having a r-e-a-l-l-y chilled day was just what I needed. 
Sometimes it is good to listen to the body and do what feels right,  this felt really liberating and rebellious and it fed my inner child!   

Some of you will know that I am working through The Artists Way book written by Julia Cameron.  Well one of the things I most enjoy and embrace is 'morning pages'.  Much like journaling this is time for me to empty my mind and create space for other ideas and thoughts.  Hopefully useful ones. And this weekend my writing blew me away by what it unearthed.  Earlier this year I started a new Art Journal following an online course 'Passport to Art' run by Bernice.  Well, I started the journal on the last retreat but I could not connect with some of the prompt quotes.  I made several attempts to fill more pages when I got home but I was not excited or inspired. But I wanted to work on this so I took my journal and during my 'morning pages' I had a realisation.  I needed to make the journal more personal. 

AND I WAS AWAY!! 

I made up my own quotes or journal related themes and completed lots of pages. I wondered why I hadn't done this before but I guess when we are overloaded the obvious can be overlooked.  I am grateful to Bernice for the inspiration because I LOVE metaphors and things to do with travel and journey. I LOVE art journaling and getting messy with ink and paint. I LOVE being experimental and doing things just for sheer fun.  And now I LOVE my Atlas-journal!  Here are a couple of my early pages.  I will make a video one day and show more. Other pages are shown on the link above.






Now this page irritates me.  The spacing is wrong and I want to redo it. But I am learning to live with imperfection and I challenge myself to let go and walk away. To acept that sometimes it is 'good enough'. So it is almost fitting that this page came together in this way. My cabin is too full for me to use right now. Another reason my creativity is stifled. There is no room for play!  I find it hard to throw things that might have another use, you see. I love upcycling, making things from old. And it was interesting that the words on this page just flowed, there was no practice run or pre-contemplation. With the recent loss of a dear friend and other things going on, this page is very much where I am right now. I did have a good day in the cabin and I can find the floor and table top again. There is still much to be done but this weekend I am off on another retreat. I am super excited! I'll share more about this another time, and what I made this first weekend because day 2 of my 'morning pages' was also liberating and productive.

So glad that my mojo is back!

Monday, 11 November 2013

5 in 5 - MELANIE November 2013




Those who follow my posts might know that Melanie is my friend who lives in Australia.  She loves photography and enjoys taking part in this monthly challenge.... there is just one problem.  Melanie does not have a blog!  And so each month I post her photos and I love that we have found a way for her to take part. 

Thanks Melanie, over to you:



" November '5 in 5' -  I had a plan but it failed on two counts.

The first failure was the date.  I planned to go on November 5th and do my 5 in 5 in the New Forest.  Well my daughter was worried November 5th was expected to be a day of showers (as it turns out this expectation has come true)  but November 4th was expected to be blue skies and sun shine .  Since to get to the New forest I had a ferry ride then a 3 mile walk which wouldn't be much fun in rain I decided November 4th was the better bet.  This as it turned out was the perfect day to go.

The second failure was my reasoning for going to the New forest which was I wanted pictures of ponies.  When I visited the same spot earlier in the year there had been heaps of ponies there.  Not so yesterday the only sign that ponies frequented the spot was lots of hoof prints so as you can see no ponies in my 5 photos.  However plenty of water as the ground was very wet from the abundance of rain and the five shots although different require no further explanations".

 

 
I love the reflection in these photos and there seems to be a watery theme going on this month!  If this has inspired you to take photos  to add to this challenge you have until 25th before the link closes! It's great fun and this post should answer any questions or give any other information that you need.
 
Thank you to Melanie and everyone else who has taken part so far this month. Links for these posts are here. I'll be back next month and hopefully with more photos from Melanie.  Will they be taken in UK or Australia I wonder?  
 
******************
 
Recently Melanie's daughter had a serious car accident while in Namibia.  She was flown back to UK where she lives and Melanie flew over to provide the high level of support that her daughter needed. I'm pleased to say she is making a good recovery and the cage she wears to support her neck and head will be removed in the next 2 weeks. Melanie plans to return to Australia at the beginning of December and with all this going on I so appreciate that she finds time to do this challenge. 
 

Monday, 4 November 2013

5 in 5 -RIVER WALK -November 2013

Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th of
 each month I post 5 photos that I have
taken in 5 minutes. 
 
 
 
There is a river near my home where I love to go.  The sky feels immense and the clouds always catch my attention whatever the weather. On this day, if you looked up the river rain clouds were starting to form.  Turn around and the sky was more blue. This is a place of contrast and constant change. A place where I can unwind and appreciate the ever changing scene.
 
 
This gate had a beautiful rusty hinge with a cobweb attached.
Which photo to include? Sometimes being restricted to 5 photos is difficult as I want to add more! The gate leads to a path that winds along the river, from here it starts to narrow and the landscape becomes quite remote. Sheep graze on the marshland.
 
 
 There were a lot of birds around that day.  Many come to our local coastal water and marshland to overwinter. Usually there are lots of swans on this part of the river too and it was lovely to see a pair with their five cygnets. They were too spread out to get a good photo of them together but I liked this pair with the breeze ruffling their feathers.  
 

  Although I love blue sky, clouds always hold a fascination for  
me. Did you know I am a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society? 

 

This is the sort of house I would love to live in, with steps going down into the water and somewhere I could sit with my camera or a book.  How wonderful it would be to watch life pass at a slow relaxed pace, and the comings and goings of the tides and seasons.  I would love to have my own boat. But meanwhile I am blessed with having this favourite spot to visit when ever I choose.

 
 
Someone else who took photos of water was Helena. She used the idea of '5 in 5' and shared some amazing abstract photos on her blog, taken of reflections. Unfortunately Helena was too late to add to last months link, but they are too good to not mention and I am inspired to take another trip to the river and to use Helena's idea! It is exciting each month to see how everyone uses different approaches to this challenge, sometimes a theme, a place, or an interesting idea. And if you like to take part this month you would be VERY welcome! Here is the plan:

1.  Choose a location.

2.  Have your camera ready.

3.  Set a mobile timer for 5 minutes.

4.  Take as many photos you can until the time is up.

5.  Choose 5 photos to download and share by using the link tool.
   You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos. 
 
If you want to know more there are details here.

And one more thing - when you use the link tool, please click on your post title.  This will show the web address. Please right click, copy and paste this as your link.  This will take readers directly to your '5 in 5' blog page and be easier for them to find.
  
Thank you to those who have taken part so far. I have loved seeing your photos and hope you will be back with more. 


And don't forget, you have until 25th to post your link!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

SIMPLY A MOMENT - October 2013

Life has been busy here and I like taking part in Alexa's monthly neme 'Simply a Moment'.  This is a chance to reflect and take stock, and I have not had time to join in lately.  There are other 'moments' that I could share, but the one I have chosen has stayed with me.  I have been meaning to post about it so this seems a good time, even though it is not recent. 
At the time I posted about it on Facebook, as I felt a need to share my experience when it happened.  So the details are accurate and I can cunjure the feelings easily. I was grateful to friends and family who shared my surprise.   For more 'Simply a Moment' stories head over to Alexa, and I hope to be back next month with another of my own.

SETTING:

23rd August 10:35am

I had been working hard indoors and it was brunch time. The sun was shining and it was warm so I decided to make a sandwich and cup of tea and sit outside.  We built a new pond this summer. Just a small one, and I hoped to attract frogs and newts back into our garden.  So I thought I would take a chair next to the pond and if I couldn't see any wildlife there was always the reflection of tress and sky in the water to enjoy......
 

THE MOMENT:
The pond is against the fence with a tall weeping birch to one side.  I love this tree. It is graceful and it softens the newness of the pond.  I have planted around the edges and they are getting established. I have also planted water mint and 'parrot feather' in the pond.  

I settle onto my chair and balance the plate on my lap.  The sun is warm and there is stillness in the air.  I look at the surface of the pond.  The water plants have spread and covered much of the water and I think how healthy they look.  Then suddenly I become aware of lots of movement.  It surprises me and I wonder what can be causing it.  I rise from the chair and put my plate on the seat.  Looking more closely into the pond I see lots of disturbance, then a fleeting glimpse of something large moving around.  There are no fish in this pond. We have left it for wildlife, and thoughts race through my mind.  What is this?  Then suddenly I see more movement, scales, and I realise it is a snake. A large snake judging by the size of the disturbance.  I feel excited.  I become completely absorbed in watching as a tip of its tail appears and 'feels' for the edge of the pond. 


The snake works it way onto a small ledge backwards, folding its length back and forth taking up the available space.  This feels surreal.  Snakes are not frequently seen in our garden. I am not afraid and identify it.  A harmless grass snake, not an adder, my mind is trying to take all this in and to make sense of what I am seeing.  It is unexpected and I feel glued to the spot, watching.
Then the snakes lifts the last of its body out of the water and I see a frog in its mouth.  I know now why there was so much disturbance in the pond.  All this happens within a seconds, although it feels like time has slowed. My excitement turns to unease.  At first I think the frog must be dead but then I see the back leg move occasionally. I feel uncomfortable at what I see. I am oblivious to everything else. The snake is trying to make a secure footing, I want to watch but I don't want to see. It is disturbing, and yet I am fascinated.  

I dash indoors for my camera. It is on the kitchen worktop so I am quick. I switch the camera on and I feel even more uncomfortable as I zoom in and focus to take photos.  But I know I would regret not having this recorded. I feel privileged to be here, to witness
nature in its raw.  This is not like watching a TV documentary or a picture in a book.  This is causing dilemma. I want to watch. I want to wash these imagines and thoughts from my mind. I want to rescue the frog....

Photo: I thought I'd sit by my new wildlife pond to have lunch and was surprised to see lots of movement among the water plants. Then I saw a huge snake - it must be about 2 ft in length stretched out. I was quite excited, and it started to manoeuvre itself backwards out of the pond and found a edge where it could rest. 

It was then I saw this poor frog hanging out of it's mouth!  I think this snake has bitten off more than he can chew (excuse the pun!)  I grabbed my camera and watched to see what would happen and the snake was clever enough to find a small exit between the rocks but he can not get the frog through. 

I am feeling disturbed now.  The poor frog is still a live and when the snake released hold to get a better grip the frog made a quick move - it is now caught by the leg.  Urgh!!  I love nature but didn't expect it to be so raw in my garden.  I've had to come inside and I have mixed feelings about going back to see what happened.  Part of me wanted to rescue the frog but I know it will probably die from shock or injury anyway.
 
The snake continues to use its tail to find direction.  It feels a small gap between the rocks and goes into it backwards.  The soil is soft, dug when the pond was built. It is not yet compressed by time and the snake starts to make an exit.  Then it stops.  The frog is too big to go through the gap. I watch wondering what will happen...
 
The snake is opening it mouth, trying to gain a more secure hold.  The frog starts to move now, seeing a window of opportunity for escape. I realise it has more life than I realised. The frog makes a sudden attempt but my heart sinks when the snake reacts fast, catching the frog by its back leg.  It struggles but is held tight. Now I feel even more disturbed. The frog is looking towards me. I  can see its eyes. I go indoors.  The thoughts and vision stay with me. My sandwich remains on the chair and my tea is getting cold.

POSTSCRIPT
Not all 'moments' are heart warming.  This was powerful, and as much as it was distasteful and distressing to watch, I felt privileged to be present.  It is not something I want to experience again and for those who might wonder, my curiosity did get the better of me.  When I eventually mustarded the courage to go back outside the snake was back in the pond.  It had managed to swallow the frog almost completely and I was there to watch it make an alternative exit. Then it moved through the ferns that edge the pond and I was amazed how fast it moved. Gone in the blink of an eye. I wanted a natural pond to encourage wildlife. I never expected to see this.
And probably I never will again. I was in the right place at the right time. Next year I am hoping for tadpoles and newts please!  

 
 

5 in 5 - Château de Pleujouse - October 2013

I have friends who are keen photographers but who do not have blogs. Now I only mention this because Sol was interested in taking part in my monthly photo challenge.  This is where you take 5 photos in 5 minutes and post five of your favourites. So I invited Sol to post her photos here and I am so glad that I did.
 
 
Sol lives in Switzerland and these photos are of
"Château de Pleujouse", near Saint Ursanne. 
 
Over to Sol:
 
 
"It was Sunday. My husband was off work and we didn't feel like being at home or cooking that day.  So we thought about the restaurant existing inside of this little castle but we were not sure if it was still in function.
 
It was closed, but the gates were open to the public and nobody was there, only us.  We started to look around when we found the stairs way up to the round veranda.
 
I thought about the '5 in 5' post on your blog.... !"
 
 
 
 



What amazing views, and I love the colour of the trees.  Those in the background look purple tinged and I am glad that Sol sent these photos to me.  She is planning to start a new blog soon. I will look forward to this as she is an amazing artist and is currently setting up a new studio.  

So thank you Sol, and if you would like to take part in this challenge you would be very welcome.  The link for October posts is open until 25th and more information can be found here

Thank you for popping by!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

THE ARTISTS WAY - LAST CHANCE INVITATION!


A while back I posted about 'The Artist’s Way’, and how I planned to start working through the book again on October 1st.  Well, so much has happened since that first post. First, I have been blown away by the number of people who accepted the invitation to join me. A Facebook group has been set up and our group stretches from Australia to USA, including members in Canada, Switzerland and Spain.
 
I have loved the excited comments as books have arrived from Amazon. Or hearing about what members have done as Artists Dates. We have been inspired by each others ideas and offered encouragement and motivation for writing Morning Pages. And we are only 2 weeks in!
 
The year ahead is going to be great fun!
 
 If you would like to join us you would be very welcome! There is more information in my previous post here and cut off date is 1st November.  So if you want to join in please act fast to save disappointment!

To sign up email me with your full name saying that you would like to take part in The Artist’s Way course and please include your Facebook contact details so that I can add you to our close group page : sandie17@talktalk.net
 Finally, if you have any questions please email or leave a comment.
 
Thank you!
 
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