Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Colour Collaborative: February - Storm

Storm: A violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightening or snow.

This is Skipton, on the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, last week. It was a blustery day and there were strong, icy gusts of wind and fast moving clouds. The light levels changed constantly throughout the day from oppressively dark to glaringly bright, as the winter sun reflected off the rain covered landscape. Not a storm, exactly, but definitely stormy

**  **  **  **  **  It was a spectrum of greys.  **  **  **  ** ** 

First, the dark, almost purple shade of the oppressive, glowering sky, ready to unleash another torrent of rain over an already soaked landscape. The slate grey of the wet roof tops and buildings are leaden and heavy, absorbing all light.

Now the metallic platinum, silver and pewter of a brightening sky and wet pavements. The rain has eased slightly, it's time to jump in the puddles.

And then the sun comes out. It's incredibly, startlingly bright. I squint and wish I had my sunglasses. Crystal sparkles hang from every tree, balancing, quivering on branches and twigs, luminous and radiant. 

A patch of blue sky emerges from between the clouds. You can almost feel the relief, the lightening of the atmosphere.

Sunlight reflects off a stream in the distance, mist hangs in the valley and the greens of the hills emerge again.

There is something a little bit dangerous about being out in bad weather in the countryside. City life here in Leeds often gives us the illusion of protection from the worst of the elements; buses and trains generally still run, you can walk to the shops - normality returns very quickly and you are never truly cut off from anything. But out in the Dales, when you can see the rain falling on a distant hillside and slowly moving in your direction, and feel the wind picking up, there is that instinct to seek shelter. Of course this was not a storm, not at all, just your typically changeable wet/dry/windy mix of British weather, but it was dramatic, and it was colourful.

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.

If you'd like to read posts by the other Colour Collaborative bloggers, please follow the links below:

Annie at Knitsofacto
Sandra at Cherry Heart

And we have two very talented guest bloggers joining us this month, please do go and say hello!

Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

Monday, 24 February 2014

Zooming Out

Sometimes I like a closely cropped, very controlled image. There are times when I want to share with you something pretty like a ball of yarn or a new dish and I just need that object to stand perfectly alone without distraction.  But today I am feeling mischievous and want to demonstrate that it's not all beautifully lit perfection round here, and I thought it would be fun to show you what it looks like when I zoom out, what is going on around the edges of these photos.

Zooming in: Two gorgeous round balls of alpaca yarn. I wanted to capture the texture of the strands as much as the colour.

Zooming out: Two balls of yarn on a plain white tea towel on the hall floor, because that's just where the light was best that day. The living room was too bright. Good thing no-one knocked at the door.

Zooming in: Three delightfully pretty fairy cakes, complete with girly wrappers and sprinkles. I'm not normally a fan of such feminine colours and patterns but think where fairy cakes are concerned it's acceptable.

Zooming out: That white tea towel is in use again, this time on the one square foot of kitchen worktop that gets any good natural light. Do you see how everything else was, quite literally, pushed out of shot? 

Zooming in: Ah, my utterly fabulous birthday pyrex dish. That coral pink! That repeated floral pattern! I wanted the background to be almost invisible so used an old white sheet.

Zooming out: Angus played around me while I borrowed the toy boxes to create a little area for my backdrop.

Zooming in: Birthday present heaven. Lovely colours and it was fun to play with the composition.

Zooming out: That white sheet again, but in the living room this time. Books and baskets pull the corners tight to stop it wrinkling too much and the bright sunlight meant I had to close the curtains - it's not often that's happened lately! The end of the coffee table is cleared as I stood on it to take the photo.

Zooming in: Four prints - some new, some I've had for a while - in four IKEA frames. I'll hang them soon. For now, I just wanted to group and admire them.

Zooming out: Me, in my pyjamas, standing on a chair so I could lean over them as much as possible (while trying not to fall off). And see the glasses on the edge of the table? I hadn't yet put my contacts in, but find my glasses really annoy me when I'm using the camera. It's like I can't get the viewfinder close enough to my eye. Does that happen to anyone else? 

So that is what it looks like when I zoom out. I am putting together a little post about photography tips (for what it's worth - I am not a professional, clearly!) as a few people have asked in the past. It's not technical, more tips and tricks. Things which are easy. I'm a bit nervous as I'm painfully aware of my lack of technical knowledge, but I'm enjoying writing it and I'll share more on that soon. 

Thank you so much for all your birthday wishes and your messages of good luck for John. Really, thank you. It means a very great deal and I think you are all wonderful. Have a great week. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Because I'm Happy

It's been a lovely week for lots of reasons, but mainly my birthday. I love birthdays! I get the feeling you're not supposed to say that when you're a grown up but it's true, I do. The day started with two overexcited children opening my presents for me while I peeled my eyelids open. John made me a cup of tea. We decided to go to Skipton for the day, a pretty Yorkshire market town on the edge of the Dales about an hour from Leeds. The weather was mixed, to put it mildly. Sunny, showers, sunny, showers. We had a pub lunch then went to the castle and got only a little wet. John had made me a cake! We came home and they all sung happy birthday to me, our little party of four, then John cooked me tarragon chicken and we drank white wine when the kids were in bed. Honestly, I felt spoiled and loved. So far thirty six is good.

Birthday bounty; pretty gifts in pretty colours, making me think of spring.

John did good; I have him a list of websites and online shops I liked and off he went. He gave me the beautiful anchor print, yellow tree-printed cushion cover and necklace (which will match my mustard Orla Kiely shoes when I wear them both to my sister's wedding in a few weeks - hurrah!).

Other special and really lovely presents which made me grin from ear to ear include this pyrex dish. I admired it in a second hand shop in Bosham over Christmas while we were staying with my parents. My mum went back to buy it, a lovely surprise.

 And my parents also gave me this beautiful, beautiful basket. I dropped heavy hints, I'll be honest. I've had my eye on this for ages. The thing is, I didn't realise quite how big it was! Duh. Still, it's perfect for yarn. And logs, when we get a wood burning stove one day...

My lovely sisters gave me this bowl. Love, love, love. I think I'll keep eggs in it, the colour of the shells will look great with the white and mint.

And there were surprises that came through the post too. Jennifer of Thistlebear sent me this handmade pot holder. Isn't it perfectly lovely? Jennifer and I got to know each other through blogging and now email weekly, chatting away and exchanging news, opinions and ideas. She has become a firm friend. (Even though we've never met.) Thank you Jennifer.

Here's a picture of me hiding behind my phone, taking a photo of a hat my friend Debora made me. I like a hat. Thank you Debora!

But, hands down, award for the best present goes to Bella for this felt-pen drawing of the four of us. She even drew me in a striped top.

The other reason I'm happy is that we finally, finally, have confirmation of a new job for John. He starts in a two weeks. This has been simmering away in the background since November, as he went from first interview to second to third, and jumped through a few hoops too. Oh, they dragged it out. He found out he'd been successful in January but we only just got the details and dates all sorted this week. It's been a long and draining process, but it's behind us now. This will a great opportunity for him with a lot of potential to move onwards and upwards and he is so, so ready to go back to work, chomping at the bit in fact. So this half term has been extra nice as we've felt we can finally stop our strict budgeting. Don't get me wrong, we're not going mad, but it's been wonderful - especially with the wet weather - to take the kids to the cinema, to go to museums and castles, to go out for lunch, without feeling guilty and counting every penny. To just relax.

Today we went to the library and baked fairy cakes.

We put the new sprinkles to good use.

A work of art, I'm sure you'll agree.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Home Days

While John and Bella were at the supermarket, Angus helped me do some chores. I say "help" in the loosest possible sense of the word. He found the camera (which is never far away) and took about seventy photos of his feet and his reflection. They were hilarious. I love going through the camera when the kids' have been using it, seeing things through their eyes. And Angus caught me time-wasting on my phone when I should have been changing the bedding.

It's been a nice few days and I am really enjoying our half term break so far.  We often seem to go away to see family during this holiday and it's really nice to be home, pottering. A refreshing balance of time to myself and time as a family.

We have been to the park in the sunshine!!!  I know, I know. Those are ACTUAL shadows you can see on the ground from the ACTUAL sun. 

What a difference some sunny weather made. Everyone is happy!

John and I sat on the bench in the park and watched the kids and held hands, just because we could. In the sun. It was nice - freezing cold, but nice.

John cooked a pretty spectacular roast chicken (vegetarians - I apologise). He always roasts the meat on a pile of vegetables (a "trivet", I am told). When the meat is cooked and resting, he puts that pan back on the hob, adds flour, then some white wine and chicken stock and stirs it together. He simmers and reduces it then strains it all through a sieve into a jug. It makes the most amazing gravy. 

Ok, not a photogenic dinner but so good. And nothing smells better than a chicken roasting.

There has been quiet play and scenes of quiet activity; reading, colouring, Lego.

And there have been scenes of noisy, messy, jumping-on-beds kind of play.

There has been washing, so much washing. My laundry basket runneth over.

And that essential but largely unacknowledged skill: cushion arranging. Should it go here?

No, here.

On the mantle piece this week: a salt dough heart decoration.

There has been baking. Bella and I made a batch of sesame rolls from here. She was proud of her own roll, just for her, all her own work. No-one else could eat it. We've reached a lovely point now where she is actually helpful in the kitchen - reading out ingredients from recipes to me, using the scales, cracking eggs - without me being on tenterhooks the whole time, waiting for the chaos. My cooking companion.

(I need some new baking trays I think!)

We ate them yesterday with soup for lunch, and I heated one (ok, two) in the oven this morning and ate them covered in butter and strawberry jam for breakfast. 

There has been a little light crochet here and there, in between other things. I have completely fallen back in love with my blanket and am mainly working on that at the moment.

And the best, best thing has been this - milder temperatures and open windows. Blue skies! The promise of spring.