Time to Breathe… and Paint… and Read

Cobweb illustration, spiral spun
Spiral Spun – Watercolour on Paper

Each season brings its own wonders, and there is much to enjoy at this time of year. The weather has been changeable here, but often warm enough to work in the garden or just sit with a cup of tea and enjoy the peonies and celandines that are flowering right now.

Today is my daughter’s 15th birthday, so we had a special breakfast of warm bagels, frothy coffee and cloudy apple juice while she opened her presents this morning. She received a lot of books as she reads almost as much as I do, and I have planned a trip to Brighton this summer – our first time away for several years.

Then my youngest son’s birthday is on Saturday and he will be 18! I can barely believe that I will have 2 adult children. (I’m still struggling to be a grown up myself).

I am relieved to have finished my last assignment of this school year. Apart from an exam in a couple of weeks (best not think about that), there are no more essays until October. I do, strangely perhaps, enjoy writing essays. But at the same time, they do tend to take over your life, so I am glad of the break. I will have more time to paint and do other non-course related things for a few months.

Has anyone watched the new Netflix series ‘Anne with an E’? Emily and I have finished all the episodes and thought it was absolutely wonderful – the cast and writing is superb and the opening credit sequence is one of my most favourite ever. I do wish there were more uplifting films and shows like this available. As evident in the unspeakable events in Manchester last night, there is enough horrific violence and heartache in the world without being constantly bombarded with it in our entertainment.

I just wanted to say thank you, dear readers, for continuing to stop by here and for your kind comments. My posting has been erratic lately due to many obligations, but I hope to settle into a better rhythm over the summer months and I do appreciate every single word from you. Have a lovely week x

Nature’s Art

Watercolour Leaves

Years ago when I first started blogging, I did so because I had started to learn to draw and paint and I wanted to share my attempts as a way to encourage myself to keep going as well as sharing some of the beauty of nature as much as my beginning efforts allowed.

I’ve kind of veered away from making art over the last year, and I’ve noticed my life is the lesser for it. I miss collecting small treasures of leaves, acorns and stones from the garden or while walking and trying to present what I see with paper, line, shape, colour. Lately I’ve been returning to the practice. I have some beautiful books on botanical and natural history illustration by Rosie Martin that I am working through. It takes continual effort to not get frustrated with my lack of skill and to focus on the process, but I’m getting there.

I intend to return to sharing more of my drawings and paintings here, along with a few words in the form of a nature journal or a poem or short story. I’d like to keep notes on the weather, wildlife, flora, and other aspects of the natural world. There is so much happening that we miss if we don’t pay attention. And life’s too short not to pay attention.

Winter Project ~ December

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It is that time of year, when cosying up on the sofa with yarn and needles is the perfect activity for increasingly frosty days. The cream-coloured socks were a request from Emily, and will be added to her Christmas stocking in a few weeks. I can’t believe that time is creeping up already! I thought I would still be knitting them at the last minute, but because they’re made of a thicker wool they were a lot quicker to knit up than I anticipated.

I do enjoy knitting socks. I like using the double-pointed needles. I like that you can watch them forming completely before your eyes as you knit, with no fussy making-up to do afterwards. I’ve already started on this bright multi-coloured self-striping pair… this time for myself.

I am linking this post with Jenny from Thistlebear, who is hosting a Winter Project Link Party. Do pop along to her blog to see her beautiful rainbow  of crochet butterflies, and maybe join in too.

x

Thistlebear

Knitting in the Garden

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A few hours spent knitting in the garden. Is there any better way to while away an afternoon? I’ve been making a pair of grey wrist-warmers. I used the exact same pattern last year in a pair for Emily which I gave to her for Christmas. I knew I’d have to make a pair for myself eventually.

The pattern is based on the Wrist Warmers with Picot Edge by Drops Design although I made them slightly longer and left a gap in the side for the thumb. I used Annell Rapido acrylic yarn, which is lovely and soft and doesn’t have that slightly plastic feel of some acrylics.

So, I’m all set for the chillier days, or maybe I could do with a scarf as well? I have just got started on some knee-length socks – a request from Emily. But I would also like to crochet a blanket this winter. Decisions decisions – but the nicest possible kind.

A Crochet Cushion and Bedroom Makeover

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While Emily was away at camp in the summer, I re-decorated her room as a surprise for her. Her walls have been candyfloss pink for several years, and her tastes have matured so I decided to go with a clean white… with a little inspiration from her Pinterest boards. It was hard work, but at the same time, I enjoyed dropping everything else and focusing on just this one thing.

So in the mornings and afternoons I painted walls, ceiling and trim with several coats of white, I put up new shelving for her growing book collection and painted those – (the shelves not the books, of course!). I painted her mirror, and bought a new lamp and a lightshade made of grey-white shell, put up extra hooks to hang schoolbags and clothes on and new voile curtains. And in the evenings I crocheted! You can see her favourite bedcover above has a geometric triangle design in white, greys and coral and I thought I would try to match that with a cushion to go in the corner.

I was pleased to find a pattern for just what I wanted to make on this website: Solstrikke. It  took me almost the entire week to finish this pillow and I couldn’t get the final row of overlapping crab stitch around the outside to look quite right so I left that out in the end. But overall I’m pleased with it. I learnt to crochet just last year, and this is the first time I have followed an actual ‘proper’ pattern. After that I got a bit carried away with the crochet and made a freehand new cover for her desk chair.

To finish it off, I strung a row of white fairy lights from bookshelf to window and voila – all finished! A very tired, but happy girl when she got back from camp, and a self-satisfied mum who needed a week to rest from all the exertion!

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What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Blogging

unnamedMy last post was my 200th on this blog, and here I am still at it. In this post I wanted to write about a few of the things I’ve learned since beginning blogging three years ago. Three years and 200 posts isn’t all that long and I am certainly no expert, but this list may help those who are just starting out. All these are still things I need to be reminded of when I feel unsure and stuck, which still happens a whole lot.

Commenting with grace on other people’s blogs: This is how you build reciprocal relationships and find common interests. It is a wonderful way to find inspiration for your own posts. Only write positive comments. I say this because it is so easy to be misunderstood. Without the benefit of tone and facial features, comments can be taken to be more hostile than you intended. It is entirely possible to put across your differing point of view in a positive way without being rude and stirring up conflict. I admit to having been guilty of this in the past – we do so like to be right – don’t we?

Commenting with grace on your own blog: If someone came up to you in every day life and praised your latest piece of writing, would you turn away and ignore them? Would you just smile and walk off? If you have a busy blog, it may not be possible to respond to every comment, but your readers will want to see that you have at least tried to make the effort. If you have few commenters, it would be wise to reply to them all. On the other hand, if someone makes a comment that upsets you or is downright rude, have no qualms about deleting it. If it is a comment that is merely annoying then feel free to ignore it. Responding in the heat of the moment can often leave you regretting your words… I speak from sore experience. Take a grace period and think about how best to deal with it.

Ignore your follower numbers: Just that!

Keep posting and confidence and topics will come easier with time: Over the years I have struggled to find that elusive ‘focus’ for my blog and have posted about all kinds of things. Maybe I will eventually settle onto just one topic, maybe not. What matters is to be brave and keep posting. Let your interests guide your way, and the way will become clearer as you progress.

Don’t spread yourself too thin: You don’t need every social media account to have a worthwhile blog. What matters is creating worthwhile content and interacting with your readers, so put those first. The more time you give to your life away from the Internet, the easier it will be for you to write interesting stuff on it.

Find your own way: There are a billion posts giving advice about blogging (just as this one is); take what you need and ignore the rest. Your unique approach to life and writing is what readers want to read. Don’t compromise this for popularity. I’ve seen too many blogs change from personal and unique, to popular carbon copies of a thousand others. Yes, the blogs that write template posts with perfectly pin-able images will get more followers – but take a closer look at their comments section – is there real human interaction or a whole lot of attention seeking and advertising? What kind of interaction do you want on your blog?

Set a schedule: It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but a regular schedule of posting will help you immeasurably. If you make an intention to post once, twice, three times or more every week, and build it into a habit, you will find that your brain works unconsciously to find material to post about.

Don’t make blogging harder or more important than it is: RELAX! (ha, need to tell myself this every day) Life is full of uncertainty. I am most wary of those blogs where everything seems to be worked out, where the writer is an ‘expert’. We all know that life is not like that. Life changes direction in an instant, some days we are wobbly and unsure, some days we think we are on top of it all. Both are valid. So my favourite blogs are full of both… a little wisdom, a little uncertainty, a little imagination, a lot of real.

It is not necessary to criticise the way other people do things: Whether that be the way they live or what they write, even if you strongly disagree. This is a personal preference. I want to read blogs where we help each other not tear each other down.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates.

We all have our flaws; a single ill-thought comment could destroy a person’s confidence forever.

You don’t have to share everything: I recently read an article about sharing opinions. Just because you didn’t post about the latest news headline doesn’t mean you don’t care and doesn’t mean you haven’t taken action behind the scenes. Everyone is making a contribution in their own way though it may not be visible online. Lamenting the fact that you are the only person that seems to care about this, that, or the other, is narcissism. You can’t see inside people’s hearts, or know what they do away from their computer screen.

Maybe we can try to think the best of others and still share what we believe and how we like to do things on our blogs. As a caveat, I do think it is important to share at least some personal details, otherwise there is a feeling that the writer is hiding something and we may distrust them. As a reader we can understand a writer not wanting to talk at length about their children or very personal subjects, but a balance is important. We can share just a small portion of our lives here on the Internet and that is okay.

Connecting with the everyday: For a long while I wondered what it is that brings me back to a blog. There are several that I have read for years, and some I have read a little and left and later returned. Asking the question of what most attracts us to a blog will help us find our way to our own blogging style. I read blogs about all kinds of things – nature, gardening, art, craft, writing, knitting, daily life, cooking, books. I love writers who share titbits of their own personal life – their unique perspective of the world shines through their writing. I love to read about bloggers who are making a difference without pretending to be an expert or criticising the failings of others. These people inspire me to live a deeper more creative life and find a small way to make a difference myself. It has nothing to do with ‘niche’ or professional looking photographs. Though the way a blog looks is important, more than anything, it is authenticity that counts.

These are just my personal findings – your experience may be completely different. For me, blogging is a continual process of discovery – of how I understand myself and the world around me. It is an ongoing process, and it is fascinating to look back and see how much you learn and grow over the years. I am sure I will learn so much more in the years to come. I would love to know what you have learned about blogging, and what you personally look for in a blog?

Poppies

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When I look out of my bedroom window, I can see over several gardens and this week my eyes are drawn to the flash of scarlet poppies beside the greenhouse in my neighbour’s garden.

A host of them gathered together, heads bobbing and swaying, graceful petals fluttering in the high winds. I wonder how they stay upright, as their stems do not look strong enough to bear the weight of the bashing they received from the gales.

The rain poured so I stayed inside listening to Chris Evan’s radio show on the Internet and painted three watercolour poppies.

Enjoy your weekend! x

Crochet School Graduation!

 One of my goals for 2015 was to learn to crochet. Although I’ve been knitting for years, crochet is one of those things that I’ve just never been able to get my head around. I searched online and in books to find the best way to learn and discovered an excellent free crochet course on craftyminx’s blog. Dana Beach is the crochet expert extraordinaire who kindly created it.

It really couldn’t be any better. If you click on the picture above, it will take you to the table of contents, and as you can see she leaves no crochet stone unturned. I am in awe of her ability to explain and demonstrate tricky stitches and concepts to total beginners. I went from knowing absolutely nothing about crochet a few weeks ago, to now being able to attempt patterns (while occasionally referring back to her guidelines).

Dana takes you through the most common stitches with videos that clearly show the method. She gives tutorials on the basics, crocheting a round, making a granny square and a lesson which takes you through a pattern to make a pair of wrist warmers.

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As you can see some of my first attempts are a bit wonky, but I’m sure with practice I’ll improve.

If you think crochet might be a craft you’d like to learn, here are a few of my favourite crochet blogs for inspiration.

Cherry Heart

Attic 24

My Rose Valley

According to Matt

Little Woollie

You’ll soon be hooked 😉

Tulips

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The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see—
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

~ A. E. Stallings

I painted some abstract tulips and found this sweet poem by A.E. Stallings to brighten this grey spring day. 🙂

Easter Baking Day and a finished Scarf

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So just as the weather is getting warmer, I have finally finished the lace patterned scarf I started before Christmas. No matter, it will be most welcome when next winter comes.

What are you all up to for Easter, anything exciting? It will be quite quiet here, just the children and me and some good food. For me it is more a celebration of the beginning of spring and a chance to spend more time with my children. We are having a baking day today – Easter nest cakes – we follow this recipe but substitute the cornflakes for shredded  wheat and the golden syrup for maple syrup. (They’ll all be gone by monday no doubt 🙂 ) and I’ll probably make some simple Easter biscuits too.

Saturday, Emily and I are going to see Cinderella at the local cinema. I haven’t been to the cinema for years so I’m looking forward to that. And at the weekend I’m hoping I will be able to get outside and do some serious gardening. I mean serious. I have a tonne of jobs to catch up on out there.

I hope your Easter weekend is peaceful and productive, or not, maybe just put your feet up and relax.

x