Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Melting in the Heat

How does that happen? Blink your eye and two weeks go by. I certainly never intended to stay away so long but somehow writing seems to be elusive. Occasional thoughts of blog posts have drifted by, come and gone again so that I forgot what I was ever going to write about and I wonder if my blogging days are coming to an end. Meanwhile life goes on, busy as ever. I have taken on another little income stream... at least I'm hoping it will be an income stream as other sorces of income seem to be dripping rather than streaming at the moment.

I have become an ambassador for Tropic skincare. Selling doesn't sit easily on my shoulders but I really do love these products - totally natural skin care - so I'm hoping my enthusiasm sell will rub off and I can make a success of it. I don't for one minute believe I will sell much on line but should you be interested I do have an online shop here.

My daily 15 minute drawings seem to have turned into weekly efforts as I still struggle with motivation. I was encouraged last week when I did a quick copy of a Japanese plate design featuring three pots. I was inspired to interpret it into a little collage using some previously printed papers and I tentitively hoped it might be a spark of something. But I haven't opened the sketchbook since... so much for that!

I'm finding time to read, mostly slowly and have finished these three books over the past couple of months. I quite enjoyed His Bloody Project despite its guesome triple murder, enjoying how well it conjured up life in a rural Scottish community in the 19th century. Bill Bryson's Little Dribbling was a light but entertaining read that made me laugh out loud and I have thoroughly enjoyed Olive Kitterage which is a collection of inter related short stories that all somehow involve the afore mentioned Olive, a somewhat prickly retired school teacher from Maine.

Tomorrow we have our monthly bookclub meeting and the choice this month is Vermeer's Hat, a collection of essays that examine the objects in six of Vermeer's paintings and relate them to trade at the time. I received it as a Christmas present a couple of years ago and never got past page 14. I did try again this month and actually completed the first chapter before I decided life is too short. I love the paintings and think I'm quite intetrested in history but I realise I have absolutely no interest in 17th century trade whatsoever.

Instead I picked up this Jo Nesbo from the charity bookshelf in our post office after clocking the name here and read it in three days. I don't often read crime drama but when I do I can't put them down. It felt like being on holiday, sitting outside in the evening heat reading for hours. I have a hunger for more Harry Hole especially having started with the seventh book in the series, but no doubt the current heatwave will end and I'll put down my books and pick up my knitting in front of the TV instead.

Of course there have been cakes too and I've managed to turn out all these in the past couple of weeks. I seem to know lots of people with birthdays  in June! The chocolate one in the middle melted in the heat yesterday and slipped off its board onto the kitchen counter but fortunately that one was for us not a customer! It was scooped up and rescued and put in the fridge.

This was yesterday's haul... a week's supply for the coffee shop carefully avoiding anything chocolate that might melt.

And this was today's... ten Victoria sponges! That's it for this week which is a relief as it really is too hot for baking. At this rate I'm likely to melt onto the kitchen counter

Too hot for very much at all really... except perhaps for a slice of this gin and tonic cheesecake which is utterly divine, even if I do say so myself. Healthy eating habits have gone clean out the window and frankly my dear I don't give a damn!

And so that's it ... pretty much everything I've been up to over the past couple of weeks. I hope to be back again before too long but I'm making no promises!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Creative Challenge

Back in September 2014 I started a creative challenge to do a drawing everyday. For two weeks I made daily observations of things around me and it became a sort of visual diary. Among others, there was a pencil drawing of ivy seed heads...

A quick sketch of my lunch...

 And a drawing of a Goldfinch, because I happened to be reading "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt. Some were quick sketches and others were more carefully drawn observations.

Then on the 12th - 13th September I spent a weekend away with The Textile Study Group, a weekend spent drawing, with a view to joining them. My entry in my little visual diary that weekend was as follows: "... the weekend ended with me not being accepted by the group. My work lacks variety and depth apparently. It's a huge knockback and I'm struggling to see the point of carrying on with any sort of art".

It was a huge blow and I wrote about it here and here, but always one to bounce back it wasn't long before I was immersed in whatever was happening in my life at the time... my Mum's 80th birthday party I believe! But three years on I realise that my art practice has virtually stopped. Teaching has gradually been cut back (not always my choice) and I am no longer a member of an exhibiting group - I couldn't afford the membership and hanging fees to stay with Prism. When I wrote and explained why I wouldn't be renewing my membership I didn't even get an acknowledgement which made me feel undervalued once again. And I realise that I've stopped making art. So when someone posted about a 30 day instagram project to make a 15 minute drawing every day in June I decided to join in.

For the first couple of days I managed a few quick doodles... no judgements, no worries about being good enough, just the act of creating a daily drawing.

I've not managed every day bacause I'm still srtugging with the motivation. But then that is the point of just a 15 minute sketch... it is simply exercising that creative muscle until it becomes second nature to pick up a pencil or paintbrush. For the first time today I actually started to lose myself in the process and liked the outcome so maybe it is working.

You can follow my progress on Instagram... along with lots of photos of cakes of course!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Magical Wedding Day

Imagine if you can a Wonderland... A place where dreams come true and anything is possible. And you have the setting for the most magical mad wedding celebration ever. Along side the Grand Union Canal, in the most beautiful garden full of sunken areas, hidden nooks and crannies, ponds and trees... wonderful things were about to happen.

Greeted by this sign we just knew this was going to be a very special day indeed

The prettiest marquee was decked out with pastel bunting and vintage tea cups... just waiting for the Mad Hatter and Alice to arrive!

There were crazy signs...

And flowers everywhere... the Gerberas even had googly eyes... of course!

Gradually the guests began to arrive...
When the invitation says optional fancy dress my family only consider one option. My eldest son and his girlfriend pranced in like it was the most normal thing in the world to be dressed like flamingos. 

The youngest two and my Mum didn't do too bad either!

We dressed up, not in fancy dress but in matching "Alice in Wonderland" print outfits.

Then all of a sudden the music from " The Pirates of the Caribbean" film came over the loud speakers and sailing down the canal came my brother Tony and his new wife Grainne in true pirate style.

Accompanied by rapturous applause and laughter it was a magical moment.

Once the couple were on land guests were invited to take their seats (flamingos in the back row so not to block anyone's view) and Tony was walked down the aisle by his new step daughter, looking very glamourous...

And Grainne was accompanied by her son, looking very happy and handsome. (Someone else was grappling with her hat which kept falling off!)

Readings were read, vows were made, rings were exchanged and it was all signed and sealed with the drinking of rum, overseen by a humanist celebrant.

Grainne's bouquet was made from paper roses and vintage playing cards adorned with tiny teacups, hats, bottles and other miniature Alice paraphanalia.

This was followed by a scrumptious afternoon tea party in true Mad Hatter style.
There were speeches and laughter and tears (of joy)

And some people even had room for a spot of cake...

Of course it wouldn't be a party without some singing and dancing... the bride and groom setting the tone!


Someone else felt the need to join in (and yes, I was sober!)


So much infectious joy, happiness, laughter, fun and love... the world could do with a lot more of this!


Congratulations Tony and Grainne.
Here's hoping every day of your lives together are as happy as this one xxx

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Mad Hatter

You know me from old... What do I do in probably the most stressful week I've had this year, the week when I am making my brother's three tiered wedding cake? I decide I need a hat to wear to the wedding of course, and if that wasn't last minute enough for me, I decide I need to make it too!

I armed myself with a glue gun, some cardboard and trims plus a £1 charity shop black skirt and set to work. I found a great youtube video (one of those occasions when you just love the internet!) and in no time at all I had the basics. But it needed more and required another outing to a well known hobby shop which was a welcome break from the endless icing sugar and fondant coating my kitchen. An hour and a half later I returned with glitter and feathers. Just what every girls needs (the burlesque dancing has obviously gone to my head!)

And ta-dah... I have a hat!

It is a themed wedding... Alice in Wonderland meets festival all in steam punk style. There will be a Mad Hatter's tea party and dress code is optional fancy dress.

I didn't want to go all out fancy dress but I am dressing up, with the queen of hearts lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. I actually finished my dress a couple of weeks ago (even I couldn't cope with last minute late night sewing). So my hat is a mini topper with sparkly hearts. I like to think it is subtle... but who am I to judge! I'm hoping once I've done my hair (and freshened up the colour with a lilac toner... I can't believe how quickly it has faded) and put on some slap it will look half decent!

I'll be back after tomorrow no doubt with more photos of the party and to show off my dress. And of course there will be the big reveal of the cake, which thankfully is also finished, with a whole day to spare... get me! Do you want a sneak preview...

There is steam punk edible lace and lilac roses... amongst other things.

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miss Gina von Teese*

It probably would never have been on my bucket list but when my soon to be new sister-in-law announced that we would be having a burlesque dancing lesson as part of her hen night, it was another thing I'd never done before that I knew could be added to my sixty by sixty list.

We were told to bring high heels and a feather boa with us. You may be surprised to learn I don't have a feather boa, although I do possess a boa type scarf which I thought would do the trick. And high heels... Well I have them but do I wear them? Certainly not since the incident of the ditch in the night time! But entering the spirit of the event I brought them along anyway...

However, as you can see I was seriously overdressed (yes, I'm the old girl who is completely covered head to toe... actually not true, my toes are peeping)! I consoled myself with the fact that as well as a feather boa I don't own a basque either so my long sleeved top was probably as good as it was going to get and also more appropriate as I had a good twenty years or more on most of the women in the room.

Before long our instructors from MyBurlesque were taking us through the moves a step at a time until we had built up a whole routine.

Fortunately for you there don't seem to be any photos of me in action (well I did keep myself tucked behind a pillar at the back being a bit of a shrinking violet) but here are some of the others strutting their stuff.. bride to be taking centre stage of course.

And as for these little accessories that were in our goodie bags, I can't see them getting much of an outing round here. Even if I felt so inclined they are unlikely to do me much good. I could have pranced in stark naked in my high heels and feather boa last night and and the best response I could have hoped for would have been "Shouldn't you have a vest on... it's chilly out there you know!" And they say romance is dead!

All joking aside it was actually great fun, very tongue in cheek and lots of laughs.
* Wondering how many hits that title is going to get!

Monday, 15 May 2017

The London Moonwalk 2017

What a brilliant night it was! 

It started on the train to London where I met a couple of the volunteers who were helping marshall the event plus another walker, Jane. As we were too early to actually be admitted to "Moonwalk City" on Clapham Common, Jane invited me to join her and the friends she was meeting up with, for supper at Nando's first. We then all travelled together on the tube arriving to this wonderous sight!

Jane and her friends let me, "Mrs Billy no-mates", hang around with them while we waited for it all to kick off. They even gave me a set of fairy lights to light up my assets! The amosphere was amazing, with thousands of people, men and women, all dressed up in their decorated bras and variety of accessories from feather boas to tutus, and all there for one cause. Many there were people who had battled breast cancer themselves, others were there walking to remember those who had lost that battle. The memory of the man who stood bravely on the stage wearing a bra to say he was doing this for his sister who had died just twelve weeks ago will stay with me for a long time. it wasn't sad... it was a joyous and uplifting evening.

Eventually by 11.30 pm my group of walkers were off. I was separated from Jane and friends by then but there was always someone to have a friendly chat to en route. A couple of miles in I was joined by my stepson James and his wife who live quite near the start. It was lovely to see them and walk a mile in their company. And the chocolate they brought was very much appreciated!

There was a bit of a bottle neck going underneath Westminster bridge but a chance to photograph the Houses of Parliment and Big Ben as it struck 1 am while we waited for the crowd to ease.

There is something magical about the city at night, especially walking along the river with all the twinkling lights. St Paul's Cathedral looked wonderful.

Tower bridge also looking beautiful all lit up too!

By about 2 am we were crossing Tower Bridge which was still full of traffic. I know New York is known as the city that never sleeps but London didn't seem to get quiet all night long either.

A close up as we walked around St Paul's...

And then around Westminster from the other side of the river just as Big Ben struck 3 am.

From there we made our way along to St. James Park, around Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park Corner and then along the Bayswater road all the way to South Kensington... those felt like long miles so it was very welcome when we started to hear the birds singing heralding the approach of the morning. Unfortunately it also welcomed some light drizzle but we were all equiped with plastic capes to keep the rain out. How wonderful it was to see we had walked 24 miles...

But also excrutiating to think we still had to pull another two miles out from somewhere! Shortly after this point James and Elizabeth appeared again (complete with flapjack this time!) and walked the final mile back to Clapham Common with me which once again, was very much appreciated. I crossed the finish line 8 hours and 15 minutes after starting out, which taking into account of the number of stops to cross roads, queue for the loo etc. wasn't too shabby. And despite feeling a little wobbly, a bit damp and very tired I felt fantastic too! Unfortunately I never did see Jane and her friends again so I hope they had a good walk. I think a special mention should be made of all the wonderful volunteers and marshals who not only kept us safe in the never ending London traffic but whose cheers and encouragement kept us going... even the chap who at the 7 mile mark shouted out that we still had miles to go yet! It made me smile.

I managed to stay awake on the way home (well, I might have dozed off a few times but I got off at the right stop!), I went straight to bed and slept for two hours before having a lovely hot bath and didn't feel too bad afterwards.Today I slept until 7.15 which is a lie-in for me and despite some blisters and feeling a little stiff (to be expected really) I'm fine. And would I do it all again... you bet! Although I can't help thinking there are other challenges and obstacles to be overcome that I haven't tried yet! What to do next I wonder?

I know I have given the link to my sponsorship page before but I'll do it one last time as the money raised goes to fund a variety of breast cancer charities ranging from research, treatment, equipment and services, all of which do vital work in battling this disease which will effect 1 in 8 women at some point in their lives, as well as a considerable number of men. And remember, check your breasts, have those mammograms and get walking! Because a daily walk is one of the best things you can do to stay fit and healthy! And if you can spare a couple of quid to sponsor me... then thank you very much!