Some Happy Times

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Half term has been and gone, and I took the opportunity to lay down the paint brushes and have some heavenly time out.  Above is a mosaic, capturing some snapshots of that delicious week.  First off, a trip the seaside with my sister and her family; we went to the Norfolk coast and took a long walk on the sea front breathing in the deep gulps of tangy salted air.  The sea was like a mill pond, as calm as you like and dark silhouettes were framed on the shore line as folks walked their dogs, stark against the milky blue sea.

In the park, the aconites were a bright carpet of yellow and a cheery sight for a winter weary soul…there was also time indoors, leisurely breakfasts, time spent baking with my little girl and the acquisition of some new, shiny tins to put our freshly iced fairy buns in.  There were lots of sofa moments too where we just collapsed in front of the telly, where I crocheted or sipped hot, frothy coffee in my pyjamas.

I think we all need time out like this, time away from the computer, from work, from our commitments.  It’s a chance to recharge, reflect and relax.  It was bliss.

Back to work though this week – paintings for the exhibition continue to emerge and I’m on with this one at the moment:

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And I’m also on with some of these…

PicMonkey Collage

These Easter hearts have been a nice little diversion for me, and I continue to sneak the odd one in here and there between my more Serious Paintings.  I am currently offering these through my Facebook Page, so if you are interested in acquiring one for yourself, you are welcome to message me although I must hasten to add that they are very Limited Edition due to time constraints and so only a very small number will be made.

I have some extra time on my hands today, my little girl is at an after school craft club so I’m away now to take advantage of this extra hour, and get busy with my paint brushes again.

See you soon x

Gently Does It…

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I’m easing myself gently back into my work this week after that lovely Christmas holiday.  My daughter has gone back to school and the house seems ominously quiet, so yesterday I busied myself with a spot of de-cluttering, starting with my bedroom which was anything but a peaceful sanctuary for sleep and more like a dumping ground for Homeless Objects and outgrown baby toys.

I unearthed quite a few half finished paintings which I sent for recycling (sometimes you just know they’re never going to be anything else other than half finished), and discovered a stack of canvases and mounts I’d forgotten all about.  I also found a new home for my fabric stash, which up to now has been stored rather untidily in a pile of carrier bags but is now folded into neat piles in a drawer.

I must confess, I was rather ruthless in my de-cluttering.  There was a heck of a lot of stuff that got thrown out or put in the recycling bin and I was shocked at the amount of junk I’d managed to accumulate.  There’s a huge pile of books and clothes for the charity shop, and a local childcare centre will be the new home for some of the baby toys which we’d hung on to.  Once I’d finished the hard graft, I burned some delicious essential oils to bless the room if you like, and it really did feel very fresh and new again.  Last night I had the best nights sleep I’d had in ages, uninterrupted and full of lovely dreams.  Waking up to see a little jug of flowers sitting on a vintage embroidered mat was heaven I can tell you.

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I find the helpful advice of the Flylady to be superb in all things to do with keeping house, so if you’re feeling the itch to Spring clean, check out her website.  Another great resource if you don’t naturally lean towards chores and the like is this book, Housework Blues by Danielle Raine.

Having a gentle week pottering and decluttering (which is such a marvellous thing to do as opposed to throwing yourself head first back into normality) has found me digging through my paintings and sketch books, and a painting I started work on way back last year is now resurfacing.  It’s called The Apple Pickers (the picture at the top of this post) and I’m really pleased with how it’s coming along.  You can just about make out the figures if you look carefully, as well as a veggie patch and a greenhouse.  This painting is an acrylic on paper and will be part of my solo exhibition at the Studio 61 Gallery in May this year.  I’ve also got a lovely idea for a box canvas, which I’m going to start work on next – again it’s a coastal themed piece but I’m going to be introducing an element of collage to it.

Something I’ve been longing to do for a while now, but never made the time for previously is the creation of an online art workshop.  I’ve finally got around to ordering myself a nice tripod for my camcorder, so that I can start making some tutorials.  I’m also planning a fully illustrated e-book to accompany the course, and am hoping to release this in the next few months.  I’ll keep you posted on this as things progress.

Before I go, I have to introduce you to a new resident who’s come to live in our little home.

Muffin

Meet Muffin.

Muffin is a Sheltie guinea pig (one of those with the soft, long hair) and the most adorable little chap you could ever wish to meet.  For the last few months we have been ‘umming and ‘ahhing about having a pet, but finally relented and went to get him on Saturday.  It was a huge surprise for our little girl who had been pleading with us for ages to let her have something furry to care for.  We are all enchanted by him, his little squeaks and bouts of popcorning (the ecstatic leaps into the air, apparently done when extremely happy) have rendered us helpless with delight.  I can’t quite imagine life without him now, he’s definitely part of the family.

I’ll be back soon, with some news about a new crochet project I’ve started.

Thanks for visiting,

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2013 Blueprint – how to make your dreams real in an instant

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Happy 2013 to you.

As a new year dawns and unfolds, it’s a time when people start making resolutions.  A new year is a natural new beginning, and a time to turn inward to look at our deepest dreams, hopes and desires.  And as we begin to feel excited about the future, we begin to make goals.  We begin to dream about what life will be like as we journey through our new year; how things that we have long yearned for will suddenly become a reality…except….except…

…except it very often doesn’t.

The trouble that I’ve had with goals in the past is that they’ve always been so damn far away in that just out of reach future of mine.  And to be perfectly truthful, most of my goals were things that floated around in my head, I never put the energy into making them happen because they felt too huge, too far away and too impossible.

Hmmmm….does this resonate with any of you?

I had a wake up call recently, I realised that although I did what I loved for a living, had a nice home and a smashing family, I was mostly plodding on through my life without making conscious choices to improve it.  One year would meld itself into the next and nothing would change.  I started to feel stuck, bored, slightly depressed and experienced feelings of IS THIS IT???

Disillusioned with far off goals that never seemed to materialise I decided that I had to start working with the small stuff first, the day to day stuff.  I knew I could start to improve all areas of my life and make changes to things that didn’t feel so good anymore.  We’re forever growing and expanding as people, so it stands to reason that at some point we’re going to outgrow certain habits, ways of doing things, ways of being.

I needed a way to get the ball rolling so that I could see instant results (for that feel good factor) and that meant working with smaller goals that I could make actionable immediately.  I decided that each day would be a blueprint of happy inducing things, and that instead of living with one foot in the past and one foot in the future I would try and remain poised in my present and enjoy the 24 hours that I’d been gifted with in the best ways possible.

I can apply my blueprint to all areas of my life ~ family, work, leisure, self study, diet and exercise; and I can choose the best of every option available to me, the options that make me feel good, that will make my day happy and fulfilled and become a blueprint for the future.  By choosing things that feel like the Best Choice for me, I am setting a pattern for the future – and if at any time my blueprint feels out of kilter with what makes me feel good, then I can just tweak it to suit.  My new habits will become a natural way of living in time and as I come to expect the best from each day, life seemingly gets bigger and better.  When we raise our expectations of what we want from life, life will deliver.

Creating a new blueprint for your life need not cost much money – you might decide that you want to just feel happier each day and start keeping a gratitude journal to write about all the stuff that lights you up.  A commitment to eating healthier one day at a time doesn’t have to cost much more than what you spend on your groceries now and the pressure of a diet disappears when you’re living consciously one day at a time.  You won’t need to spend a fortune on a  fancy gym membership that costs the earth to commit to a bit of daily exercise – start walking, get yourself a workout DVD to do at home or find a local class that you can attend, and family time will become much more enriching when you become present and focus upon the time spent together, one day at a time.

Commit to it, and create your blueprint for 2013, one day at a time.

However, a word about Big Goals That Live in the Future…

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I still have plenty of long term goals, they’re sitting on my radar and they give me something to positively aim for alongside being happier and more fulfilled on a daily basis.  I’m going to be having my first solo exhibition this year, at the Studio 61 Gallery in Derbyshire this May.  This is a BIG dream of mine that I’ve had for eons and suddenly the opportunity was presented to me to make it come true.  However, to achieve this dream (because it ain’t gonna manifest on it’s own), I have to invest both energy and action – this comes from integrating the painting time into my daily blueprint, and then taking action to make it happen.

And I think that’s the magic word – action.  Goals and dreams are wonderful things to have and to aim for, but we need to take action to make them real – they very rarely happen as if by magic, there’s generally some input needed from us.  For some, these actions feel insurmountable or nigh on impossible, but by breaking it all down into small and achievable chunks, you can get there.

One day at a time.

Take your dream or your goal, and break it down into chunks.  Ask yourself what you need to do to achieve your goal and then write down how you best can do it.  And while you journey towards your big goal, start creating your daily blueprint and see how things instantly change for the better.

I hope your 2013 shines for you, and becomes your best yet.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I’ve been busy of an evening this last week…

…hugely inspired by Attic 24’s latest creation, I felt a sudden need for a crocheted Christmas wreath of my own.  So the yarn basket was ransacked for suitable colours and once I had a decent pile (variations of DK yarn; acrylic, merino and cashmerino) I got busy making a long stripy rectangle to cover my polystyrene wreath (it’s a flat backed one which I picked up quite cheaply in Hobbycraft).

I wasn’t quite sure how the crocheted rectangle would fit around the wreath, but as Lucy reassured us on her blog; despite it looking like it won’t,  it somehow just does – and it did.

My wreath was going to need some adornments too…and there was a sudden flurry of pom-pom making the other night, and cutting out of holly from felt.  A little jaunt to Homebase resulted in a top find of some Jingle Bells – only £2.99 for a tube of 10, and a chance find of some mini decorative baubles on wires in Paperchase were just too good to ignore.

Once home, I raided the button tin and ribbon stash, and got busy.

I sewed the Jingle Bells on, but the rest of the ribbons, pom-poms and holly leaves are pinned on.  It’s very easy to attach them to the polystyrene using pins, and you can move things about a bit too, if you change your mind.

I think the mini decorative baubles and bells are lovely, they really catch the light.

We decided that it would be nice to have our new wreath hanging on the door which leads into our lounge, where everyone would see it best:

I’m so pleased with how this turned out, and I’m already planning another one for Springtime, full of juicy colours, flowers and lots more pom-poms!

As we huddle indoors of an evening now, and cosy up on the sofa under our crochted blankets, watching telly and reading books by the glow of candles and Christmas lights, we are grateful to be tucked up warm with one another as the weather has turned decidedly cold.

Yesterday morning there was a thick frost which glittered beautifully in the rising sun.  The trees down the valley were gauzy white; the sky was a soft shell pink and the air was very still.  As I made my way down to the little wall to peek at the river, a flock of wintering goosanders that had been swimming downstream suddenly took off into the air, their beating wings a percussion of noise which broke the freezing silence.

So it’s no surprise that we like cosying up in our little home together…

We love hunkering down of a Sunday afternoon to watch Elf and other favourite Christmas films, and we’ve also been enjoying a bit of Festive Makery together too…

This last Sunday saw an industrious bout of paper chain making (these are from Phoenix Cards), which we strung up alongside some of those funky and fabulous retro tissue paper balls.  I’ve seen these featured in a couple of magazines and on the internet but found them way too expensive to justify shelling out on.  Then we discovered some in Wilkinsons for just a pound a piece (the larger ones are still good value at £1.75 for a whopping 30cm sized ball) and we brought home some cheery red and white ones to go with our paper chains.

We think it looks very cool.

So, the house is finally decorated; the order book is closed and I’m winding up the last few hand painted goodies to go out to their new homes.  It’s been a whirlwind these last few weeks and I am now looking forward enormously to relaxing and enjoying the holidays.

I like this time of year, as we head towards the end of December.  It’s a very good time for Creative Percolation, and as I step back from my painting for a while to spend time with family and friends, I usually find new ideas blooming.  These are written down in my planner, for things to come back to in January.  But for now, the games will be brought downstairs and we’ll play Monopoly and Guess Who; we’ll eat too many mince pies and drink a tad too much mulled wine.  We’ll see the little ones sing in the choir at church on Christmas Eve and go to the panto on New Years Eve.  We’ll look forward to driving out to Castleton in Derbyshire to see the little trees lit up, a tradition almost as old as I am (my parents would take me and my sister, and now as we take our own daughter).  I like the gentle traditions of this time of year, and also the new ones that my own family are creating alongside them.

Sending love and peace to you and yours, wherever you are in the world.

Simple Lovely Things

It’s been a month of Simple Lovely Things.

From the first bite of a Russet apple, to warming ourselves around a glowing orange bonfire and watching jewel coloured fireworks bloom and glitter against a dark night sky.

I’ve loved seeing the leaves turn colour; the woods suddenly awash with a rainbow of colour, and in contrast, the sketch like silhouettes of seed heads against an afternoon sky soaked with the promise of a wind whipped squall.

Something else special happened this month.  I went to London to meet a group of women I had never met in person before (apart from one)…but let me start from the beginning and put you in the picture.

Many moons ago, a few of us arty crafty sorts began chatting on Facebook; we had connected through our Pages and over the weeks and months that followed began to chat on a daily basis, each providing a bit of conversation in an often quiet and solitary lifestyle (as it is for the folks who work from home alone), help and suggestions for business related things, a space to have a moan and a groan, all interspersed with huge doses of laughter.  I have to confess, and I know it may sound strange, but these women have reduced me to tears of hysterical laughter many times as I sat at my laptop working.

It came to pass that we decided to meet up.  There would be seven of us altogether, travelling from all corners of  the UK to meet in London on that damp, rain drenched morning at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, for the Country Living Christmas Fair.

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting six kindred spirits?  Six people who all instantly connect with one another?  Have you ever had a day with six strangers, who in the space of a few hours become Very Special Friends?

from L ~ R: Sarah (Kate’s lovely sister), Kate from Kate Creates, Andrea from Polka, Helen from Kindred Rose (who features in the December edition of Country Living magazine), Me, Marna from Little A Designs and Roslyn from Roslyn Mitchell Designs.

From that morning, til we left in the fairy-light sprinkled night, we talked and laughed constantly, and then laughed some more.  Around each corner was another discovery to OOhhHH and AaahHHH at; Christmassy food and drink to be sampled, decorations to be bought, and gifts to be taken home.

Crafty Chums

The Christmas Table by Susie Watson Designs

The bustle of the Fair

Later that afternoon, we went for a meal at an Italian restaurant.  Resting our weary feet and sipping a welcoming glass of wine I mentioned that the famous wool shop, Loop, was in Islington somewhere, and wondered whether I’d have time to find it before my train left.  It didn’t take long to discover where it was; literally just across the road and down Camden Passage as it turned out!  There were murmers of excitement, and we all agreed to go.

We finished our meal and crossed the busy high street, crammed with big red buses, stores and restaurants and then disappeared down a quiet little lane.  We were suddenly in another world, quieter, and lit by twinkling fairy light stars that were strung up above between the quaint buildings.  Tiny shop windows beckoned, full of beautiful things which seemed suffused with a warm golden light.  There were candle lanterns on the pavement, the scent of delicious food and hot coffee, the air felt full of magic and glamours and suddenly nobody wanted to go home.

And then we found Loop.  I think it might be easy to walk past it if you weren’t looking for it.

A peek through the window of Loop

Loop, for those of you who don’t have a wool infatuation, is a treasure trove of a shop, full to bursting with delicious yarns from all around the globe; those hard to come by brands, those softer than a feather skeins, those rainbow infused balls that sat in plump stacks of colour co-ordinated lovely-ness.  There was a Sophie Digard scarf hanging up by the counter too, and I gazed in awe at the tiny stitches, the beautiful detail, the inspiring colours.

I confess to buying not a single thing, but I drank it all in and next time I go to London, I shall take myself there with some spending money and treat myself to something special.

All too soon it seemed, it was time to go and catch our various buses and trains.  At the tube station we said our goodbyes, all of us slightly teary eyed and sad to be leaving.  Many hugs later we were on our way, each of us a little bit richer from that day, with the wealth of  new friendships still warm in our pockets.

I feel very lucky to have the pleasure of having those six fabulous ladies in my life, and already we have plans to meet again.  I can’t wait 🙂

Meanwhile…

I’ve been busy making a new range of decorations…

And they’re proving rather popular – so much so, I haven’t had a chance to get them on my website yet as the ones Ive had, have sold!

After a week or so where I felt I had run out of steam, and felt utterly devoid of New Ideas, my friend Helen told me to take some time out away from work things.  As it happened, my sister was visiting and it was the school holidays so I made merry for a few days and forgot about everything.

And that’s when the magic happens, when you’ve forgotten about everything, left the stress behind and chosen to enjoy life for a bit.  The ideas creep in quietly and then suddenly, there you have it!

Little wooden heart decorations, hand painted and signed, some stamped with a vintage style typewriter stamping set text, varnished and given a pretty cord ribbon to hang up with.  I couldn’t be more thrilled with the response these have had, and if you’re interested, I’m currently taking orders through my Facebook Page for them.  Just drop me a message if you’d like to get on my list (my order book is currently still open) 🙂

So, Id best be away and get back to work – I’ve got some Christmas music playing (I know, I know it’s only November but it really does help to get me in the mood when Im painting those cheery little robins!!) and there’s a big mug of hot tea waiting for me.  Thanks for dropping by to see me today – oh, and one more thing – if you haven’t signed up already to receive my Art Ezine which I send out each month, there’s still time to do so for this months issue…there’s a very special preview of another brand new Christmas product that Im launching, so get your hands on your copy here!  **Please do add me to your contacts list so you receive my mails please!**
Right, Im off.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again soon.

Autumn’s Pleasures

It’s the time of year when I get the urge to nestle and make my house cosy.  I want to make a new blind for my window and tie backs for my curtains…I have a desire to sort through my fabric stash, and fold it into neat piles whilst dreaming of things I can make with it.  I discover enticing projects in magazines and on Pinterest that I suddenly need to be making.  I want to be cooking delicious, seasonal soups and soul warming food; like French toast on a Sunday morning, gently scorched golden and crisp, and generously dressed with a spoon of my favourite Berries and Cherries jam.

Such simple things like making my home cosy for the colder months, and preparing good food makes me feel very contented.

I also like the colours of this time of year – if ever there were a siren from nature that Summer was up and Autumn was in it’s the glorious rainbow leaves that adorn our trees so briefly, before the high winds have them spiralling and spinning to the ground.  Green melts quietly into the palest of yellow and deepest of ochres; and then the dramatic russets and golds, tarnished with bronze and amber illuminate the stark branches against vivid blue or wildly dark grey skies.  I see firey reds, scarlet and purple ~ the city is ablaze with colour and it’s beautiful.

Out shopping the other day I stumbled upon a bunch of sunflowers, very reasonably priced in my little supermarket I might add,  that were just begging me to take them home.  I put them in a crochet covered jam jar and enjoyed seeing their happy yellow faces enormously.

The simple things…

…like winding crochet cotton onto wooden pegs and planning a little project with those faded, vintage colours on a tiny little hook…something to brighten up my little house…

… and making a warming chicken and vegetable soup to eat whilst escaping amongst the pages of Country Living magazine…

It was whilst I was enjoying this very bowl of soup that the Postie brought me something rather exciting.  I’d been waiting for this particular parcel for some time, with a mixture of trepidation and expectation.  You see, I’d made the decision to have a collection of my art work printed professionally as greetings cards and had sent my images off to a lovely printing company to be turned into proofs.  I was over the moon with how they have turned out, what do you think?

From the Christmas Collection:

From the Coastal Collection:

I’m going to be busy placing an order for these now, and they’ll be available in my Gallery Shop very soon.

There is much to do on the art front; I’m making plans for the work I’ll be taking to the Christmas Fair in December, as well as keeping busy with several commission pieces.  In the midst of all this, I would love to make space to create a brand new Christmas card design – I suppose I’m rather late with this compared to some, but I’m sure I can make it materialise in time if I try!

I wish you all a beautiful weekend, wherever you are in the world.

Psssst!!! Have you subscribed to my monthly Art E-zine yet? I can promise you some wonderful seasonal discounts to come in the next couple of months on my art!  Just complete the box up in the side bar and look forward to it plopping into your inbox x