Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gently Does It

This weekend ...

:: I delighted in the sun streaming through the windows into the house this morning. 

Waking to sunshine after days of drizzle and low light levels did me the world of good.

If I was a cat I'd be lying in a sunbeam, purring. But I'm not so I show my appreciation by taking photos of interesting shadows instead.

:: Bella and I spent the darkening afternoon making birthday party invitations. 

We used ribbons, washi tape, card, crafting box went unransacked. She dictates, I do as I'm told. We make a good team. They're meant to be lollipops. Yes, I know, they look more like ping pong bats.

:: I finished joining my blanket. Just the border to do now...

:: I opened a box of personalised Christmas cards. I ordered them from here and used my own pictures. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out on the whole. Sadly, I still have to write them, a task I loathe. By the third card my hand is cramped and my writing a scrawl. I have a huge fear I'll muddle up someone's card and someone else's envelope at some point. However, I persist every year with this tradition as I think it's an important one. It's a nice way to stay in touch with people and I love to receive Christmas cards. A card-free Christmas would be a bleak one, for me anyway.

 :: I spent another slow, cosy afternoon with jam jars, tissue paper and a paint brush making tea light holders. Enormous fun. I'll post more about that soon.

 :: I unpacked the advent calendar bunting.*

:: More importantly, I remembered to put some of these in the calendar for tomorrow morning. Tis the season of chocolate before breakfast.

And in amongst that there was a fun night out last night at the 80s fancy dress party. (I dined with Freddie Mercury, Maverick from Top Gun, George Micheal and three Madonnas. I want to go to another one so I've got an excuse to buy a suit with huge shoulder pads from a vintage shop.) We walked in the woods, ate fish and chips, tackled the supermarket, took small people to swimming lessons, paid library fines, watched fantastic old films and just generally went about our weekend in a gentle and relaxed way. It was just what we needed. I want to store up this feeling. It might see me through the coming weeks. 

* * * * * 

I promised I would held spread the word about this raffle to raise money for Myeloma UK. Money raised is going towards research into the condition as well as helping support those who have it, and their families and friends. It's an excellent cause and a local one, too. 

* It's made by the incredibly talented Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet. I won it in a giveaway but you can buy it here

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday Happies

1. Stollen Bites from Aldi. Christmassy and delicious. 

2. Choosing a new lipstick. I don't much like wearing lipstick or lip gloss, preferring plain old lip balm, but I am going to an 80's themed party tomorrow night and thought a neon pink lipstick would be just the thing. I buy the same old boring make up all the time now, and I'd forgotten how much frivolous fun there is to be had in trying out different testers on the back of my hand. Do you remember doing that? Took me right back to my teenage years, that did.

3. When the shops start selling boxes of clementines.

4. This painting, bought on eBay for a mere £4. It makes me happy every time I look at it. John hates it, I can tell, although he is too nice to say. I'll have to think carefully about where I hang it...

5. Hot chocolate with squirty cream and marshmallows after another soaking wet school run.

It's been a full week, a cosy, domestic, pottering sort of week. Lots of stuff going on either in the house or in school; busy but not manic, not yet. This weekend is the last quiet one we have until Christmas. I'm not complaining, I love the social side of this time of year, the way people get together and catch up, but I am mentally holding my breath, steeling myself for the coming month. 

Have a fantastic weekend, lovelies. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

As I mentioned before, I spent one day last week in Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a good friend of mine. I do relish getting out of Leeds on a school day, driving away from home, school, housework, makes me feel as though I'm bunking off from the Job Of Mum and I find it slightly thrilling, I have to admit. Also, I still find being child free during the day pretty exhilarating. No buggy. No change bag. Just me and my friend with our own agenda, going at our own pace. 

As I drove south down the M1 the weather was appalling; torrential rain, black skies...I did wonder if we'd spend the whole morning in the cafe and gift shop (look, I wont lie, I would not consider that a wasted trip by any means.) But, as I parked, the rain stopped and the sun attempted to shine in a watery, November fashion. It was quite breathtaking and we put on our wellies and set off. 

Henry Moore

One of the many great things about the park is the flexibilty of the space. Long walks, short walks, lakeside walks, woodland walks, picnic spots, views, beautiful's all there. We set off towards the lake and walked for maybe a hour and a half.

The leaves made the most wonderful reflections in the water. 

And everywhere you look, there is the art, the sculpture. So thoughtfully placed that it looks as if it's always been there, that it grew out of the landscape.

Anthony Caro

This lit up horse galloped continually. I was quite mesmerized by it. 

Julian Opie

The piece below is my favourite. I love the way it glowed through the trees.

Peter Liversidge
Close up it was quite spectacular.

Then, after all that grey and black, all that bronze and stone, this triumphant, colourful celebration of the female form was a joy to look at.

Niki De Saint Phalle

We looked at more, but eventually our tummies rumbled and we stopped for lunch. The cafe is really good. I had "Boston Beans" - homemade, smokey baked beans, chorizo, a poached egg and chips, with a cup of tea. It occurred to me that I'd eaten a very middle class, organic, sustainably sourced version of ham, egg, chips and beans. It was good. Then, an hour (yes, a whole hour - no kids!) in the shop, which is really well stocked with some lovely products, well worth a look around. I bought a few Christmas presents and a few bits for me, including this tree*. I have a thing about bare branches in winter and this small and very inexpensive sculpture pleases me greatly. 

All in all a really excellent day out. 

* I can't find a link to it in the YSP shop, but you can see it here.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Saturday Happies

It's time for my weekly round up of the good, simple things which made me happy over the past week.

1. A visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire Sculpture Park with my very good friend Debora. We walked, talked, discussed whether it was the art or the fresh air which made us so happy (it was both), ate lunch, browsed the incredibly well stocked gift shop. I'll write more about it next week, but for now, this is the view that hit me, post rain shower, as I arrived in the car park:

2. I bought these pillowcases from a charity shop ages ago thinking I'd use them for the fabric, rather than on the bed. I decided it was high time they left the fabric drawer and put them on the bed. Some sunshine in a gloomy week. Plus clean sheets make us happy too, we all know that. It's a fact. 

3. Last Sunday morning - a very, very muddy walk in the woods. We were all feeling a bit cooped up and I was craving some fresh air. 

Bella sulked as she was tired from a sleepover the night before and either walked behind or ahead of us. 

Angus jumped in all the puddles and had a whale of a time until he got a welly boot full of muddy water and then he alternately sulked/cried/demanded to be carried back to the car. It's quite possible that only John and I enjoyed the walk.

But it was so, so good to be out in the woods and nothing would dampen my mood. I was irritatingly chirpy.

4. Roast dinner. Autumn and Winter Sundays call for roasts and I almost feel disappointed if it doesn't happen. John roasted a joint of pork and the crackling was phenomenal. It's a rubbish photo but you get the drift. There was apple pie and custard for pudding. Like I said last week, I may gain some weight this winter. A little extra padding to protect me from the cold.

Today is as determinedly foggy as it was this time last week. I feel like we're shrouded in water at the moment. We're off to spend the weekend with some friends in their new house. Enjoy your weekend everyone. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Colour Collaborative: November: Leaf

I do wonder if I sometimes take leaves for granted, only really noticing them fully in the autumn months. But their very absence and presence mark the rhythms of our year; some months are quieter than others, granted, but there is always a beautiful shape to observe, a colour to appreciate. 

I like to look up at the leaves, craning my head as far back as I can towards the treetops and the sky. In the spring there might not be leaves but there are layers of frothy pink blossom.

In the summer we enjoy the shade provided by the lush, dense canopy of leaves in full green splendour. I especially love the dappled effect of sunlight filtering through the leaves and was thrilled to discover that the Japanese have a word for precisely this: komorebi.

Looking upwards in the autumn is just as rewarding. There is less dappling, but more depth, more structure.

And in the winter? No leaves, just the monochrome, arterial look of bare branches reaching towards the sky.

Each full of drama and colour in their own way.

But autumn. Oh, how I love being in the woods in the autumn.

I think it's the smell, and that's down to the rotting vegetation. Whether I'm kicking dry leaves or squelching through wet ones, I don't know when I ever take such a childlike delight in the moment, or feel so fully present in a season.

Almost every sense is catered for; the smell of decay, the feel of the cold air on your face and ground underfoot, the visual delight in the of the leaves, the sounds of birds or the wind in the trees, a rustle in the undergrowth. Ok, maybe not taste. You'll have to take a picnic for that one.

But right now, it's a rowdy display of colour, a rainbow put on by nature. Something to store up in the sensory-memory bank to nourish us in the more subdued months ahead. 

* * * * *

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

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.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How To Make A Feather Garland

As promised, here is a quick guide to making a feather garland. 

You will need feathers, some card in the colours of your choice, some yarn or string, glue, scissors, and cocktail sticks

First, make your feather templates. I roughly copied the outlines of four of the feathers I found, choosing shapes and sizes I liked. I used cheaper, thinner card for this.

Now draw around as many feather templates as you like, on as many different types of card as you like. I aimed for maybe ten altogether, a couple in each colour. 

To create the central fold, I drew a curved line freehand onto the feather with the point on a pair of scissors, then gently pressed the crease into shape with my fingertips.

To help reinforce the quill part of the feather, and to make the tying of string easier, I glued cocktail sticks to the straight ends.

Then, rather than try and attach the feathers directly to the horizontal string on the garland, I tied individual lengths of string to each feather. This meant I could easily move them along and vary the length.

Once the string was knotted, I glued the loose end flat against the cocktail stick to keep it tidy and out of the way.

Then it was a question of sitting in front of the mantel and attaching each dangling feather to the garland. 

The whole process probably took a couple of hours. The more feathers you make, the longer it's going to take. Happy garland making!