Thursday, 31 December 2015

FAREWELL 2015

Sometimes things just don't work out as you plan and over the last few months lots of intended posts have been put on hold because of continued problems with my computer. I have often been unable to access photos that I need, and even the simplist of task has taken considerable time or been achieved in alternative ways.  I didn't appreciate  how much I use or rely on my computer until the problems started.

Thank goodness for my laptop!

I used to make lots of typos because the keyboard is different but with so much practice I have improved. It doesn't feel so much of a challenge now. But it is a compromise because it isn't set up like my computer. And right now the laptop is also out of use. My son has removed the computer hard drive and is using the laptop to back everything up. Which means I am resorting to my husbands tablet to write this.  I'm not complaining. I am grateful that I have access to these. However frustrated I might feel.  Over the past months my son has tried to repair the computer. Parts have been replaced but problems return. He's working on it again as I write. A new computer has been ordered. One way or another I am hopeful that 2015 will see the end to my technical problems.

I hope it will also be the start of new things.  I decided to step down as a Design Team member for That Craft Place.  I enjoyed my 18 month term and decided that I have other things I want to give my time to in the coming year.  I have also decided not to continue with my monthly Tree Following post. Again, it was enjoyable while it lasted but there are other things I want to do. One of my goals is to do less so that I can do more. 

My look back on 2015 will have to wait.  But we can't halt time and what won't wait is the new year, fast approaching. So however you plan to celebrate, or see it in, I hope it is a year that will bring good health, much love and joy, and peace.

Thank you for visiting, commenting, or being one of my followers. I really appreciate your company and how so many friends and connections are made through blogging. Even when it feels like I am walking through treacle backwards!



Wednesday, 30 December 2015

PHOTO PAIRS - LOOK UP! LOOK UP!

Often when I am out with my camera I am looking for photo opportunities, such as pairs to share  on Helena's weekly meme over at Helena's Creative Maven.  The problem is I download them and then get involved in other things or don't get round to posting. Which is a shame as I love photo challenges and taking part with others. I must find a way round this....

But for now I do have a pair to share, taken on a walk the other day when I visited a local garden. I took a path I do not often venture down and stopped in my tracks to admire the bark on this tree: 



And while I looked up I noticed something on the tree next to it.


A pair of Koala's!  I had to add this pair too! 

What was interesting is that as I looked up, other people passed and were tempted to do the same. This created conversation about the importance of looking up and amusement at seeing the unexpected. It also made me think of my friend Melanie in Australia. And how much pleasure I can get from a simple photo challenge. Thanks Helena. I really will post more and not just take photos to leave them in my downloads!

Thanks for popping by and if you missed my last post you can see more photos taken on my walk including daffodils in December. And for more photo pairs, just click on the link at the beginning.

Monday, 28 December 2015

DAFFODILS IN DECEMBER

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, doing what you enjoy most. Ours was a nice mix of relaxing and time with family, and after all the pre-Christmas rush and preparations I was in need of some quiet time. So today I visited a local garden and took my camera.  

I wasn't sure what to expect because in the weeks running up to Christmas I watched daffodils in my sister's garden shoot, bud, then flower. It is hard to imagine daffodils in December, but there they were, in their full glory.

Meanwhile in other parts of the country and the world there have been extreme weather conditions. One friend has been unable to return to her Yorkshire home after spending Chirstmas with her family. Severe flooding means her home is inaccessible and she doesn't know what to expect when she finally makes the journey. I feel a mix of guilt and gratitude, because here in the south we have experienced mild weather for the time of year, and some days of blue skies. Yes, we've had rain and a bit of wind, but many days have been so warm that we've not bothered to put the heating on.
 
So as I set off to the garden, I wondered. Would I see dafodils? Plants in bud perhaps, a few winter flowers? 

No. I saw a spring garden in all it's glory!  Let me show the photos and try to imagine, if you can, the incredible scents of mimosa, daphne, jasmine and mahonnia....



Even the fish in the pond were putting on a show, usually they keep to the bottom at this time of year.















What surprised me even more was the number of bees flying in and out the flowers. And not just these little bees, but large bumble bees too. Unfortuantly my attempts to photograph these was less successful but they were a joy to watch.
 



And yes. I saw daffodils too!

 

It's hard to believe this is the end of December. But I'm not complacent. I'm aware that the worse of the weather is probably to come and I wonder what will happen to the bees and flowers that have been lulled into early life. Time will tell, and while I enjoy the unexpected flowers and mild winter in these parts, my heart goes out to those who are struggling with floods, fires and droughts. I hope you have not been adversley affected by the strange weather we are experiencing and that these flowers make you smile as much as they did me. Thanks for popping by.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

CHRISTMAS WISHES TO YOU!

Gosh, where did this month go?!  I had such plans, but technical problems and commitments mean few of these were achieved. I hope your own run up to Christmas has been more organised and enjoyable! 

The posts I planned to write are on hold and I really hope the new year gets off to a quieter start. But that apart, I am counting my blessings because I have much to be grateful for. And it doesn't matter if our home lacks decorations and sparkle because I am looking forward to spending time with family and friends and that is what counts.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas, and I look forward to being more present in the new year and to visiting blogs and catching up.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

TREE FOLLOWING - December 2015

Another month has passed and it is time for my final Tree Following post this year:

THE LONDON PLANE:

The leaves have now all fallen,


and just seeds dangle like Christmas baubles.


The ivy has had a growth spurt. Popular at Christmas time, I wonder if it feels invigorated.


Looking down there is more signs of life with fungi nestled around the base....

violets spreading ....


and first signs of flowers peeping through. 

What a wonderful way to end my year of visiting this tree.

 THE OLD OAK

 
This tree has just a few leave left hanging.
 

And buds. Lots of them....

There's not much sign of new life around the roots of this tree.  Though you never know, some of the acorns that fell may find some where to root themselves and grow. I hope so.

 
During these dull winter days the oak might not have violets to add a splash of colour but it does have lichen.   Bright green  with tiny mustard coloured cups.  It hugs these old gnarled branches and adds character and appeal. 
 
And so my year ends.

12 visits and 12 posts. More photos and memories than I have shared here. 
 
This started as a photography project that I hoped would motivate me to be more active and walk more; to take pleasure in simple things and be more observant. I achieved that. And I enjoyed the unexpected too, such as:

Discovering wild violets grow during the cold winter months. I never knew that!

Being invited inside an old property that is undergoing major redevelopment. I learned this centuries old building was originally built using old beams from barns and that during the war a bomb fell in the field causing structural damage to the roof. If this building could talk it would have many stories and I love that someone else appreciates old buildings because rather than knock it down when it's timbers became tired and it had stood empty for a couple of years they have beautifully restored the building and given it new life. I have enjoyed watching this.

I discovered that alpaca's live in a nearby field. The leaves on the trees provide cover and they are not easily seen, but walking pass rather than driving allowed glimpses through the branches during winter. I saw them again yesterday and it bought a smile.

I enjoyed seeing the project through and wondering each month what changes I might see. At the moment I am not sure if I will continue this project into a second year. I need time for reflection. But what ever happens I will continue my walks and visits to the London Plane and the Old Oak, because I have grown fond of these two trees.
If I could decorate these them they would be sparkling with fairy lights and tinsel in way of celebration! Thank you to everyone who has followed with me. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

5 in 5 - MELANIE - December 2015

Melanie is my friend who lives in Australia and she loves photography. Every month Melanie has taken part in this monthly meme and we managed to find a way round
 her not having  a blog  by posting here.
I love that we have found a way for her to take part! 
So, over to you Melanie:

"December already here and Christmas just around the corner means that there are several Christmas events happening.  One such one I went to on Sunday which coincided with the 5th.  So here are my photos taken during pre-lunch drinks at Primo winery in McLaren Vale.  It was a pizza lunch on a very hot (40C) day.  I was glad not to be doing the cooking. 

McLaren Vale is a South Australian wine region south of Adelaide and just a half hour drive from where I live.  It is an easy drive down the Southern Express way.  I will take this opportunity to thank those who check out my 5 in 5 photos and wish you all a very happy Christmas".
 

Hopefully I'll be back with more photos from Melanie next month, I hope you will join us.  
            
If this has inspired you to pick up your camera and take part in
 this challenge you have until 25th before this months link closes. It's great fun and you can see more 5in5 posts and link up here.  
And if you want to know more this post should answer any
questions and give other information that you need.
 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

5 in 5 - December 2015 - 5 BOOKS FROM MY SHELF

                                         Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th of
each month I post 5 photos that I have
taken in 5 minutes. 

If you follow my blog you will know that making handmade books is a passion; and that I have book shelves and boxes bursting with books. I know I am not the only one, and that many of you love books as much as I do.  So for this months photo challenge I thought I would share some books that I have enjoyed reading or plan to read. In the spirit of 5in5 I gathered five together and set my timer....
The first three I collected from my bedside table:
I read this book and spoke briefly in a previous post about how the KonMari method has helped me. I plan to put the ideas into proper practice in the new year but meantime I can still feel the change. I no longer pile my shopping trolley with bargains or things I fancy but instead stop to think when or how I will use things not on my 'to buy list'.  I look forward to reading it again and decluttering in earnest. Every journey starts with small steps....
My next choice is another book I have read and will come back to. Liz Gilbert  writes honestly about her own journey and experience as a writer, and not only do I love her style of writing but her words are reassuring and resonate with me as a fellow creative.
And now for something completely different

After thoroughly enjoying 'Miss Peregrine's home for Peculiar Children' I couldn't wait for the sequel, Hollow City. It is just as gripping and surreal and a great book to snuggle up with in bed. This book is not a 'light' read, but one I can't put down and don't want to end. 

My final book choices are ones I have not yet read.  I bought 'US' in a charity shop, and it has good reviews:

'An uncanny ability to make us laugh out loud, but also care passionately about his characters'  Daily Telegraph


I look forward to reading this next. When you have a good book to look forward to it makes the ending of another easier.


And finally, 'The Tao of Pooh & The Te of Piglet'. I bought this book for my daughter on her 21st birthday. The inscription inside the cover tells me so. It's one of the books she never took with her when she moved into her own home and one I have dipped into but not read cover to cover.

But I plan to. 

I love quotes and philosophical approaches to life, and sometimes it is important to slow down and breathe gently. It's interesting that the book cover shows Pooh holding on to the end of a kite, gently flying in the air. At an NLP meeting recently I was asked to visualise an image that would help me deal with something I found challenging, and I saw myself holding the string of a kite and letting it go.  I hope this book will help me to keep light hearted and playful, but unlike Pooh, I hope it will also keep me grounded!

One of my aims is to read books I already have rather than keep buying more so these here are a good start. I'd love to know what books you are reading or have lined up.

This is my last 5in5 for 2015. It's a time for reflection as well as celebration and I will be carrying on with this photo challenge into the New Year. Thank you to Eileen, Maggie, Helena and Melanie for joining in last month, and to everyone else who has done so during the year. 

And I'd love for you to join in too! So if you have time to pick up your camera for 5 minutes this is what you do:
 
  1.  Choose a location.

2.  Have your camera ready.

3.  Set a timer for 5 minutes (I use my mobile phone).

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 below. 


   Please note: 

You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos to the link
and you can take  your photos any time. They do not have to be taken or posted on 5th!
If you'd like more details please go here.








Friday, 4 December 2015

KNIT AND NATTER - GAY DOGS AND CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Among the vintage patterns I was recently given were some that triggered memories such as the knitted swimsuits, and thoughts of knitted tea cosies, fashion trends, and socks.    

But this pattern made me chuckle and think of my blog friend Julie Kirk at notesonpaper. Not because she has a gay dog, or any dog for that matter (she is more into zebra's!) but because she has a great sense of humour and I'm sure this pattern would have made her smile. 


And it also made me think of about how the use of words has changed because in a former life I was Brown Owl and one of the Brownies favourite songs was about a kokaburra.  Do you know it?
This was the version in our song book:

Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Sing Kookaburra, sing Kookaburra 
Gay your life must be. 

I've sometimes wondered whether the words have been changed now that 'gay' has taken on new meaning. I thought I would check on Google. I found an Australian version of the song and discovered this has a different last line: 'sing your song for me'. I wonder if this is the original or when change happened?  What ever the case if you watch the video be warned, it is a catchy tune and might have you singing along or it playing in your head all day!

It also got me thinking about meaning of other words that have changed over time, and at this time of year a phrase you often hear associated with Christmas is:'naughty or nice'. It is the title of a film where Father Christmas (or Santa Claus) keeps a book listing whether the children have been good or bad. Something that has recently been introduced into UK from America is the idea of Elf on the Shelf.  This character moves into the home on 1st December to watch if children are 'naughty or nice' and to report back to Father Christmas. And you can find out which list you are on because I found a list of questions which will give the answer...  don't let on! There is time enough to put things right unless you have been extremely naughty, and you might want to complete it yourself. I did, and apparently my halo is slightly wonky but I am on the nice list. If I tidy my bedroom my halo might straighten!

'Naughty but nice' is also something you might think or hear this time of year. It means something indulgent, that we like but shouldn't have too much of. Christmas pudding or sherry trifle with lashings of cream, for example.  

I started by saying how over time some words have changed meaning. Well, naughty is a word we use to describe something bad. But did you know that once upon a time it meant that you had naught or nothing? 

And nice, a word that we use to describe something we like?  This once meant 'silly, simple or foolish'. Nothing like how we use it today!

I was going to say that the gay dog looks nice in his crocheted jacket, but perhaps I won't. I might go on the naughty list and get naught in my stocking! And if my stocking is knitted it would have started with a clue (or clew) because this word once meant a ball of yarn! If you want to find other words that have changed meaning I found an interesting list and Ted video

But right now, I have nattered enough and it is time to tangle with tinsel and put the wool down. Which reminds me? Did you see Kirsty Alsopp's Handmade Christmas this week on Channel 4? I was pleased to see the winning Christmas tree was decorated by hand crocheted baubles and garlands - beautiful!!
If you want to crochet decorations for your own tree I found some patterns and here is another for a knitted Christmas bauble.

I hope your own Christmas plans are taking shape and would love to hear about your own handmade Christmas, or thoughts on how meanings or words have changed.  Thanks for popping by, see I'll be back tomorrow with this months 5in5.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

WELCOME CHRISTMAS - Design Team Project

I love Christmas, it is a time to decorate the house and bring some light and fun indoors during the wintery months. So I decided to make a row of houses that was inspired by a picture on Pinterest. I asked my husband to cut some shapes out of wood and then I started to play:

First I covered the four sides with pages torn from an old text book using matt medium.

 
Usually I like to use PaperArtsy Fresco chalk paints, but I didn't have colours I had in mind for this project. So I used acrylic paint instead, and roughly brushed the edges with grey to create a distressed effect.  


I then diluted red acrylic paint to create a translucent effect so that the text would show through once it was applied to all sides.

 Next I added some random stamping, using grey Memento ink.


I then got carried away and forgot to take photos of the next stages but the following photos will show how I added an letter to each of the houses. For this I used transfers that have been in my stash for some time as it seemed a good way to use them, but of course you can also stencil or stamp letters to make the words too. Another idea I had was to paint chipboard letters, this would be a great way of using ones up that have the wrong colour or pattern.

Talking of using things up.... I wanted texture on the roof of the houses and found some corrugated card.  I removed the paper off one side, measured and cut strips to fit, and then painted them with grey acrylic. Once glued into position and dry, coat of matt medium helped to seal everything.

Finally I decided the houses needed a sprinkle of sparkle. Working on one area at a time I stamped small dots onto areas of the front and sides of the houses using a glue stamp pad, then sprinkled with fine glitter and let it dry.
 
I decided it needed a bit more, so I painted small wooden stars in dark grey acrylic. Once dry I added patches of silver embossing powder; and did the same on the bottom edge of each house and the roof, to give more lift.

 
And here is the finished result.  The glitter does not show well in the photos but these houses will make a cheerful welcome to Christmas and to our visitors.



I'm lucky that my husband cut these house shapes for me but there are lots of pre-cut MDF projects including stars available from That Craft Place. That's where you can also buy all materials needed to complete this project or others like it. 

Here is what I used:

Wooden house shapes (see note above)
small wooden stars
Acrylic Paint in black, white, red and green
DecoArt Matt Medium
Page of text (from an old book)
Memento ink Grey Flannel
Small frost, scroll and dot stamps
Alpha transfers - but you could use a stencil or pre-cut shapes

Embossing pad
Silver embossing powder

To see more Design Team projects do pop over to TCP Blog and why not enter this months Mixed Media challenge?  You'll find details how to take part and lots more ideas too.  

And if you would like to know any other details about how I made the Welcome houses please leave a comment, I am happy to help where I can. Thank you for popping by and I hope you have lots of fun making your own Christmas projects.
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