Thursday, 11 January 2018

Doodle a Day

 I think I may have mentioned in my last post that I have been taking part in a Doodle a Day for January following creative prompts on Instagram. I know I have done things like this before... like last summer... and have usually not got further than about a week but I'm trying to stick with it... despite waning enthusiasm over the past day or two... because it has had some knock on effect on other creative endeavours, plus it is a chance to try different techniques and different styles.

The prompts for the first nine days were: Happy New Year, Cocktail, Sleep, Penguin, Fringe, Sailor,  Building, Bath and Cloud.... I'm hoping you can work out which is which! That fringe was my Mum's handiwork... it's from an old school photo from when I was about six! Day eight was "Bath" and when I got home at lunchtime that day I discovered Jacob had given Hector a bath. Once I got over the water and hair everywhere I could see the funny side especially as Hector was not very impressed so he became the subject of my drawing that day.

I really enjoyed drawing the little penguins and they have become the subject of an applique with free machine embroidery that I consequently turned into a zipped pouch. I always imagined making zipped bags would be really tricky but they are simple when you know how... so suddenly everything has become a zipped bag! I struck lucky with the lining for this one.

Yesterday's prompt was "Houseplant" which reesulted in two drawings... a little water colour of a Monstera plant...

And some little cactii...

Which also got turned into an applique that will be a bag very soon.

And not content to stop there I made a pencil case sized bag from these appliqued owls.

I still feel as though I am working a little haphazardly, jumping from one thing to the next but I might just amass a little collection of bags for my Etsy shop at this rate.

Meanwhile if you want to see my daily doodles you can follow me on Instagram at

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Two Down...

Well that was a good creative start for the first week in January and if I achieve nothing else all year I have at least finished off two projects that have been sitting on my sewing table for the best part of last year.

If I'm honest this one might have been lurking about nearly eighteen months. I made some little stitched portraits back in 2016 ready for my open studio in July. Stewart named them my "Dead Singers"... very tasteful! So continuing the theme I started on Freddie Mercury. But then Open Studios ended and there wasn't very much interest in the ones I had already done so Freddie got cast aside for other things. But in my quest to finish things in 2018 I found him again and now he is complete and mounted in his little frame.

Of course, having finished him I now want to make some more which rather defeats the object of getting stuff finished and out of the way in the first place. Not that it has stopped me... I have Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix drawn up ready to stitch!

Another project that has languished on my table for most of last year was this little book cover, started as a sample in one of my classes... ridiculous really as it only took an hour or so to complete.

I can take no credit for the design as it was made to cover the little notebook I carry around in my handbag so I took inspiration from the original cover. As you can see the notebook is rather dogearred and the cover has been taped back on so this little book jacket was desperately needed. I can't imagine why I didn't finish it sooner really.

So that's two projects finished... and another two started. Maybe I'm not doing as well as I thought!
I've also been taking part in an art challenge on Instagram to draw a doodle a day following daily creative prompts. I've not always liked the prompts but so far I've been doing it every day and it has already inspired me to do some other things... but I'll save that for another day because my supper is ready.

I hope your weekend has been a good one too!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Good Times

We've had a good start to the year. No sooner than I had rattled off that last post than I was off  putting on a posh frock ready for our New Years Eve celebrations. It started as an idea to celebrate over a meal with our friends Alison and Steve, but it soon morphed into a buffet supper for sixteen of our mutual friends. Alison and I planned it together and shared all the cooking and preparation which made the whole evening seem effortless. We started at Alison and Steve's for cocktails and canapes and then everyone headed up the road to us for the main meal.

All our main course dishes came from Ottolenghi cookbooks so it was a feast of middle eastern inspired dishes, full of flavour and fragrant spices.

It is a wonder we had room for puddings but with roasted figs, sticky baklava, fruit tarts and chocolate cake it was hard to resist.

When midnight came we were all suitably feasted and ready to raise our glasses to toast in the new year.

It was such a lovely relaxed evening with good friends, good food and good conversation... a perfect start to 2018. Even the clearing up seemed effortless sharing it with friends. New Year's day was taken at a leisurely pace with a lovely dog walk in the afternoon, timed to miss the showers.

Since then Christmas has been packed away in boxes in the loft, the house feels back to normal and finally I feel almost back to normal too. It has been a good Christmas and a good holiday but there has also been uncertainty hanging over us for the past couple of weeks.

Two weeks before Christmas I went for a routine mammogram. Within four days I had a call back for further tests. After a week of worrying and not sleeping, three days before Christmas I attended a screening clinic for further x rays and an ultrasound resulting in a biopsy on a lump in my left breast. It was all a little surreal... especially sitting in the waiting room with Raiders of the Lost Ark playing in between tests. I was treated well and all credit must go to the NHS who do a fabulous job.The doctor reassured me that she thought that it didn't look serious and the biopsy was just a precaution. I was told to go home, enjoy Christmas and not to worry.

And mostly that is what I have done. We really haven't told anyone else because there seemed no point without any definite news. The worrying has come at strange moments, obvious times like the middle of the night but sometimes in the middle of crowds of friends... silly worries like "How am I going to tell people?", "How can I write my advent blog posts when I don't feel upbeat and jolly?" or "Will I be able to lift my sewing machine if I have to have an operation?" However I am relieved to say that I have been lucky because yesterday I got my test results and I've been given the all clear. I thought I would just feel immense relief... and don't get me wrong, I do, but I'm also feeling lots of other mixed emotions I hadn't expected. There was guilt that I was one of the lucky ones knowing there would be phone calls to other women who wouldn't be getting good news, there was frustration at feeling the way I have for the past two weeks and other feelings that I can't easily verbalise... more of an exhaustion.... I feel exhausted. In many ways it has felt really traumatic yet here I am now as though nothing has happened... just a small scar and some bruising, both of which will go, although the lump remains, so it feels like a fuss over nothing.

So when in my last post I said there  would be no resolutions this year it was mostly because I couldn't think beyond the next couple of days... not that there are any resolutions as such more just gentle plans or ideas. I had already said earlier last year that I wanted to concentrate more on my art and textiles and that is part of my plan for this year. Maybe rethink my social media presence... both my website and blog could do with an update, I'd like to grow my Instagram following and my Etsy shop, maybe send out more newsletters... but they are all vague ideas. Christina has written about all the things she would like to make this year and it made me think not so much about what I would like to make but more about finishing things I have started... this could definitely be a year to finish things or at least get rid of those projects that will never be finished.  Barbara has written about reducing our enviromental impact by cutting down on our use of plastics and that seems to me like that would also be a good aim for the year. Mostly though I shall be grateful for my good health and appreciate good friends, good food and good conversation!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

And Another One Bites the Dust

One the eve of another new year it is always nice to reflect on the year just past, something that blogging makes it easy to do. January as ever started with lots of good intentions and a new healthy eating regime that we have stuck to for most of the time. Well, maybe not this past month but it will soon be January again and time for more good intentions!

In February I realised a long time ambition to direct a production of Charley's Aunt which not only was lots of fun but also resulted in some new friendships made and others cemented.

Another long time ambition has been to complete the London Moonwalk and I did this in May, raising lots of cash for breast cancer charities as well as having brilliant fun... Looking at that photo I can't say it did much for the old bingo wings though!

May also saw a rather fabulous wedding like none I'd ever seen before when my brother celebrated his marriage to Grainne. Steam punk meets Alice in Wonderland and a fabulous excuse for members of my family to dress up. "We're all mad here!"... but then all the best people are!

In July I celebrated my sixtieth birthday with sixty of my women friends from right back to college days. Another excuse to dress up and eat cake!

In September we said au revoir to Joe who was off on another adventure. He has been to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaragua and he is now in Costa Rica where he plans to settle for the forseeable future.

But it wasn't long before we were celebrating the success of his younger brother when Jacob graduated having gained a first class degree. We were all so proud of him.

So 2017 was a year of special memories and it looks like 2018 will bring many more of its own with three family weddings scheduled for next summer. 
I've not made any resolutions or declared any intentions for the coming year other than to carry on living life to the full.... starting with this evening. I'm just taking a quick break before we get together with friends to see in the New Year. 

I've just read this back and it sounds like one of those awful round robin letters people used to send at Christmas and now I'm not sure I want to publish it! It was meant to be a thoughtful reflection on the year just past but in my rush to write it I haven't quite hit the mark.... but I've no time to edit as I really need to start getting ready so all that remains is...
I'd like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

And so that was Christmas

Well that came and went all rather quickly. Our celebrations started on Christmas eve with the arrival of my Mum, two eldest sons and partners plus one of their Mums... nine of us here for dinner which was quite modest compared to some years. There was some last minute present wrapping of some homemade Limoncello which I was happy that I'd made, as DPD managed to mess up on a next day delivery that was due on the 19th... it arrived today!

Christmas day was quiet as the eldest boys went on to other places leaving just the three of us and Mum here. Jacob and I had Salmon en Croute but I cooked a turkey crown for Stewart and my Mum. We spoke to Joe in Nicaragua who had just had breakfast and was heading off to the beach, and to James in Australia who was setttling down for the evening having had a warm and sunny Christmas too. It was very relaxed and low key and we only ventured out for dog walks. Someone in our village had added twinkly lights and baubles to a tree in the woods... it really is the little things that make lovely memories.

And talking of dogs Hector amused us all by being very excited to have his own present. He ran off to the kitchen with it (just in case it was a big mistake and we changed our minds)...

and then proudly came back with his new bone toy having very cleverly removed and discarded all the packaging. He was very pleased with himself.

On boxing day we were joined by Stewart's daughter and family and it was lovely to spend time with this gorgeous little chap who really could not see the point of wearing silly hats... nor having to eat sprouts!

He entertained us all on the piano!

So now today it is all over and everyone has gone home. "The weather outside is frightful" as they say so there is no desire to venture out. One cold and slushy dog walk was quite enough for me this morning. There is plenty of left over food to keep us going for a few more days and I'm trying very hard to embrace the down time before the New Year celebrations. To be honest I'm a bit fidgety with no definition to my days but I have been keeping myself occupied with some knitting. It was meant to be a Christmas present but didn't quite get finished in time. Navy blue yarn wasn't my idea but I had sent his grandad out to buy it and told him he could choose the colour, so I couldn't really complain... Well I did when I went wrong for about the fifth time because I couldn't see the blasted stitches.

But I think I have cracked it and I'm looking forward to finishing it off whilst watching the second episodes of both Little Women and The Miniaturist this evening.

As yet and as always the Christmas cake remains untouched and I wonder why I bothered to finish it off late on Saturday evening.... but then it wouldn't be Christmas without these traditions would it. All in all it has been a good few days.
I hope you have had a good one too.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Advent 2017 :: Day 24

We have reached the final day of my mini blogging marathon so thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read and/or comment, whether every day or on just the odd occasion. It has been very much appreciated. Thank you all for your friendship and support.

It only remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas whatever you may be doing. I hope it will be peaceful and calm

I have sons and partners arriving today so I'm heading to the kitchen... after all where else would I be spending Christmas! I'll see you on the other side.
Gina xx

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Advent 2017 :: Day 23

Despite all the baking, making and Christmas prep there has also been a lot of reading going on of late... often in the early hours as sleep has been elusive recently. Although I should probably point out that what follows is a couple of months reading not just the past couple of weeks.

The two most recent book club reads were Days Without End, by Sebastian Barry, which I did not enjoy and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which I loved. I could see why Days Without End was well rated, the language was quite poetic at times and there were whole sections that were beautiful to read but I didn't feel I knew the characters and there were long, tedious descriptions of the American Indian and Civil wars that just didn't engage me. It felt like the book without end! But it was not a view shared by the rest of the book club who mostly enjoyed it. Shadow of The Wind however, I found to be an intriguing and compelling read. It's atmospheric setting of post civil war Barcelona, its engaging characters and search for truth pulled me in right to the end.

Wanting something light to read after those two, I chose The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, recommended to me by my sister-in-law. It was a bit of a far fetched story, rather too obviously sentimental and predictable for my liking, but having said that it was a quick and entertaining read.

Next I read The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, which I won in a givewaway from Love Those Cupcakes. This one I really enjoyed - no great intriguing plot but beautifully observed characters carefully crafted observation of human behaviour and misunderstandings as it traces the story of a family and a marriage over three generations. It was a delight, so thank you for sending this my way Liz.

Another delight was The Blackwater Lightship from Colm Toibin. It tells of three generations of a broken family who gather together as their grandson, son and brother faces death from Aids. A painful read at times but so beautifully written and with such wonderfully drawn characters I couldn't put it down. Maybe that's why I don't sleep!

After such an intense book I wanted something less taxing for my brain so picked up a Jo Nesbo from the charity shop. Nemesis is a page turning thriller and I like the character Harry Hole (It was also  Liz that introduced me to the charms or not as the case may be, of Harry Hole) but I'm about 80 pages from the end and it is starting to lose me. Too many plot twists and I think I've worked out "who dunnit". It reminds me why I only occasionally read thrillers, although I quite enjoy them when I do.

There are still plenty more unread books piled up beside my bed so I'm looking forward to plenty more reading time over the holidays. What will you be reading this Christmas?