Thursday 25 February 2010

Happy, Sweet Days...

It's been a busy day in our little house. Well, for me at least as Ive been drawing for the most of it! New ideas are presenting themselves for paintings left, right and centre. Oh yes, Im having rather a time of it with old Mr Inspiration of late!! Ive also found myself waking up in the wee small hours, only for an idea to burst forth and bring me into the land of Wide Awake - at 4am this is not a good thing, and although it's exciting to have so many ideas to play with, I would be happier with a good nights sleep under my belt and the strike of inspiration at about 10am instead - preferably with a nice cup of tea.

But I don't suppose us creative types can pick and choose. Inspiration visits at random and I am always grateful for it, as it usually leads to something good.

As well as all this sketchy doodly activity, Ive also been busy with line drawings as you can see from my first picture today.
I have thoroughly enjoyed doing them. Here's a couple more for you to see.

Now what could this one be about...? Bedtime story? Homework in PJ's? Saturday morning comics? I'll leave it up to your imagination!
This one could be called 'A blustery afternoon' I think...

So, art wise, things are progressing. Things are also progressing quite nicely with the RR which has become a bit of a late night habit for me, something to settle down with last thing before bed. I don't think this picture does it great justice, we are suffering at the mercy of gloomy days here in Yorkshire and so the lighting is not so good for photographs. But you can get an idea of how its going I think!

Now, Im sure it's not just me, but cold weather and dreary days bring out the baker in me. We have been very busy of late, me and the Tiny Chef, creating all manner of scrumptious delights from Blondies and Brownies to Cupcakes and Sponges. And I have to say when Im not wielding a sketch book, or crochet hook, my mind is very fixed on deciding what treat to make next. And its not going to be much of a problem because yesterday our nice postie brought me this from the wonderful land of Amazon.

Oh people...for those of you who do not have this on your shelf, but who like to indulge now and then in these decadent little mouthfuls, then this is one to get. With things like Coconut Cupcakes with Pink Vanilla Buttercream and Caramel Cupcakes, Im rather overcome to say the least and it wont be long before these are given a whirl in our kitchen. Of course, I'll have to run it by the Tiny Chef first, see which ones she likes the look of best!

For now though, we are munching our way through generous slices of orange cake, the scent of the oranges in the kitchen when we were zesting and juicing was just like being in Seville! Oranges and lemons always remind me of warm sunny climes and are always happy little fruits in my mind. Is it usual to think of fruit in that way? Probably not. But thats me all over - ever so slightly bonkers!

Well, its about that time where I say 'Im off' and it usually entails a nice cup of tea and a bit of something sweet and naughty. But not today, having indulged in two slices of the orange cake already Im keeping away from the cake tin and instead Im going to announce that in the next week or two, I will be doing a little giveaway.


And its going to be a nice one. Im telling you now, so that you can spread the word - more the merrier with these things methinks, so do pop back now and then as it will definately be happening sooooon!

I hope you have weekends full of sunshine and surprises - they're the best kind aren't they?! I'll be visiting your blogs as soon as Ive space for another slice of cake! So, thank you for stopping by today, it's lovely that you did!

Love Julia x

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Pleasures and Treasures

Today, a parcel arrived. A very exciting looking brown box.
A couple of days ago, Rachael from the fabulously lovely 'Made With Love' blog sent me a delightful message to tell me that I was the winner of her giveaway! Woo-hooooo!! Very exciting stuff indeed!! And look at what arrived...the most stunning handmade cushion with a patchwork of vibrant red fabrics shaped into a heart...a gorgeous card and 4 little gifts, each carefully wrapped in pretty pink tissue paper.
Little helping hands were soon at the ready, I think the Little One thought it was Christmas come again!!
The delight of finding what was wrapped in these little parcels was beyond words - exquisite lavender hearts, hand embroidered...
...the most eye catching corsage, which I have the very jacket for it to adorn, and a gorgeous floral vintage keyring (a timely arrival for isn't mine just falling to bits??!)
Here is that stunning cushion, given pride of place in my most comfortable arm chair!

I am absolutely over the moon happy, the generosity of dear Rachael has blown me sidewards in delight - and you do find this in the world of blogging, that there are wonderfully talented people out there prepared to share their makings and doings with us, for no other reason than that its nice to do it, its nice to give - and its that generosity and loving spirit that has filled my soul with happiness this grey and miserable day. Thank you Rachael, very very much.

So, like I was saying, its a cold damp and dreary day here in Yorkshire. The fog occasionally swirls around the garden and we feel grateful when it lifts to reveal the trees on the opposite side of the river.
The Little One who is full of an awful cold declared 'Baking would be a good idea' and I had to agree. What better way to spend a morning stuck indoors amidst tissues and calpol than to bake something scrumptious!

So first of all, we peruse the recipie books...
Inspired by Kate Shirazi's Cupcake Magic book, work begins in earnest:

I don't get a look in with licking the spoon these days, no, that is a job reserved for the Head Chef. However, once they were cooked and cooled and a messy ten minutes of spooning jam into the middles had ensued, Head Icing Chef took over to finish these glorious little vanilla cupcakes with a swirl of rich buttercream...well, nothing else will suffice really when it comes down to it!
And here they are, in all their vanilla-jammy-creamy glory!

They taste pretty damn good too, even if we do say so ourselves!!

And so, on the Character Illustration front, you will be pleased to see that they are finally finished. She looks a bit different to the girl on my last post doesn't she!! I had a niggling feeling that something wasn't quite right with the face I'd done, and this is what its all about you see - to keep recreating the work until it feels right, until suddenley its a little person that has a character, and also, most importantly that you believe in it.

So at last, these little girls will be heading south. Im pleased to have completed them as it means I can set to work on a new painting now! I love that delicious feeling that settles upon me when a new idea takes hold. I like doodling in my sketch book until the idea ripens, and then the journey from sketchbook to canvas/paper is an adventure in itself, sometimes its an easy ride and other times its fraught with trouble and a great dose of perseverence is necessary.

So my next post will probably be about my next new artwork, an unfolding of the ripple blanket, which is rippling marvellously at the moment and providing a nice half hour of escapism here and there for me. It might be about the next baking project, or something completely different. And I hope you'll come by again, its lovely of you to visit me today and its lovely to have your company here - all of your comments make me smile and its a real gift to be getting to know so many nice people and discovering a world of hidden talent on your individual blogs.

And with that, its time to go! You know the routine by now don't you...its at about this time that the kettle goes on and a nice bit of sweet something is popped on a plate to be eaten slowly with a steaming cup of hot tea...simple pleasures...

They're the best ones.

With love
Julia x x x

Thursday 11 February 2010

Rainbow Days

Hello :)

There is rather an exciting 'something' happening in my crochet bag. My gorgeous new wool supply is rapidly becoming a gorgeous Rainbow Ripple blanket (henceforth known as RR). Ive even splurged on a couple of extra colours, a lighter shade of green to balance out the darker olive shade (I wasn't too happy with it sitting on its own in such a dark manner!), and a bright blue. These will be added to the ripply layers that follow.

Oh my goodness, its so nice to crochet ripples though, after many moons of creating grannies that needed 4 colours or more its a pleasure to glide up and down these little ripply hills with no need for changing wool shade every few minutes. Which makes it quite a fast thing to do, and ulitmately very relaxing (although you must stay on the ball with your counting, several times Ive cocked up and had to undo a whole row!!)

We are really feeling spring here in fits and starts now - starting to notice that the evenings are lighter for just a little longer which is heaven, and then there is an occasional 'feel' in the air when the sun shines that makes you suddenley very happy and heart skippy. The irises in my green pot outside the back door have produced their first beautiful flower, and Im called to filling jam jars and the like with outrageously bright tulips!

I can't choose a favourite flower as I like so many, but these do bring a much needed shot of colour into the house after such a long, cold and dreary winter. Just the tonic I think!

Another necessary tonic in our home is of course, chocolate. Its a staple food here as much as bread and potatoes are!! And how tempting are the shops right now with their shimmering pink and red foil wrapped delights, all dolled up for Valentine's Day! I couldn't help myself, two little bags of caramel hearts found their way home with me the other day, I was completely seduced by them!!
I think with the days getting gradually longer, and a chat with a friend yesterday about holidays it was only a matter of time before I got seriously thinking about where we might take ourselves this year. Serendipitously, my copy of Coast magazine appeared with the post (a timely visual treat) and a visit to the library to return the Little One's book stash resulted in me finding the Time Out book of the Seaside, now thats a nice book to get your hands on - its crammed full of all the best beaches in the UK and the pictures and descriptions are fantastic! Needless to say I am now spoilt for choice, the South West beckons, yet so does the Norfolk coast, the Gower and Northumberland...Scotland looks as wild and as beautiful as the Caribbean in some photographs and the Isle of Wight conjures up some wonderful nostalgia from the time we lived there for a couple of months one hot and splendid summer...

Anyway, as I was flicking through Coast, my eye caught sight of this the crocheted granny blanket in the corner! I love this little room, leading out onto a tiny garden!
Meanwhile, on the art front...

Oh goodness, time is slipping away from me at the speed of sound these days. I am making slow progress at the moment with my painting, although the character is ready in all her guises in my sketchbook. Ive done a couple of paintings of naughty Mo so far, this one is almost finished and the minx is clearly running away from some grave misdeed judging by the crafty look on her face! I just need to tweak a few bits, add a bit more depth and detail here and there and the background needs playing about with too. But you can get the gist of her now I think.

This weekend Ive got a few hours grace to work on these properly, so the images will be all packaged up and heading South in a few days. It's the Bologna Book Fair in March too, so Ive also got to make a mini portfolio of my illustrations to send to the Agency so they can take some examples of my work with them when they go. I wish I could make myself small enough to travel with them!! :D

Anyway, Im off to visit a few of your blogs now - cup of tea on the table and a nice chocolate brownie baked by me and the Little Miss! Thank you to all of you who have stopped by, its always lovely to see you! Do leave me a little note if you like and I'll make sure I pop by your blog to say hello!

Have a magical weekend, filled with sparkling surprises and love!

Julia x

Thursday 4 February 2010

When a blanket became a cushion and other stories


It feels like a bit of a Ta-Dah moment here - although its also confession time. The next BB is now officially a cushion cover and its the most Juicy and delicious cushion cover in our entire house.
I think I have mentioned before that Im a total harlot when it comes to crochet and Im easily tempted and seduced by new projects and new wool.
Anyway, I got to the last white round on the glorious summer grannies (yes, Attic24 ones if anyone was curious) and I thought to myself...hmmmm, yes. This is definately cushion fodder. It had absolutely
nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I had been sent delirious by ripple blankets Id seen on various flickr sites, no, it was suddenly just very cushiony looking and so it now sits awaiting its back which Im hoping to make this weekend.

Ive also been working on some characters, that is to say, when I haven't been looking after the Little Person who has the most croaky voice and bad cold - its making her extremely crabby but the little nap she has taken today has given me a couple of hours grace to get the paints out again. So, below is an example of a character that Im in the middle of creating. Im still not too happy with some of the facial features, hence the back view! But Im going at it with determination, I wont be sending them in until Im 1000% happy. This is a sketch/painting and the character is a naughty mischievous little girl Im calling Mo.
I even think her hair looks like it belongs to someone naughty...!

Anyway, at the weekend I finally went into our overgrown jungle of a garden, armed with secateurs and some serious intentions to clear up. The whole place had been taken over by crawling nasturtium creepers which had turned squishy and yellow from all the snow. I spent two hours cutting back dead things and raking up old fallen leaves and other such rubbish and I began to uncover the tiniest green buds in the hard soil - after that freezing winter snap we all had it was like manna from heaven seeing these early signs of spring coming through. A broken pot found languishing in a corner revealed a pleasant surprise:

...and as by this point spring was most definately in my bones, I picked up this cheerful little primrose at the garden centre (it was only 65pence!!) and it now glows radiantly on our kitchen windowledge, cheering me up everytime I look out of the window into a fog drenched back garden that is now covered with yet another layer of snow.
So...back to blankets. As I was saying before, I had a yearning to make a ripple blanket and I think that I just really fancied a change from doing lots of little squares, which although pleasurable and fun are sometimes a bit of a faff. I think I was hankering after something a bit different, and when the Little Person in our house peered over my shoulder at the ripplesome lovliness that is Lucy's blanket (at Attic24) and said 'will you make one like that next Mummy?' then who am I to say no!?!

I looked for some scrumptious colours that I could use to create a fabulous rainbow of a blanket with - and I discovered a tremendously beautiful colour palette from this wool, Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK and found this website which has a fantastic selection and picked a few out.

Yes, this blanket will take along time, yes it will cost me alot of money (but I dont mind, its going to last a lifetime and be handed down through the generations) and if I buy the wool in batches then it doesn't cost lots and lots all at once...does it. :D

Im looking forward to getting started on my new ripple blanket, the wool arrived today...
Im having to sit on my hands until I can start it later! The photograph doesn't do the colours justice, they are rich and sumptuous with glorious names for colours like Nest Egg, Shortbread and Periwinkle...oh I just have to keep scooping them up, they are so very soft and Im going delirious again just writing about it!!

Other things that have been happening here this last week is that Ive started to practise yoga. Oh goodness me, how long has it been since I subjected my little bod to anything more energetic than a gentle walk? Ive stretched muscles I didn't realise I had, but Im feeling rather nice and Ive treated myself to a couple of good DVD's to do at home as there is no decent yoga class close enough to us in this far flung country backwater!! It's certainly a nice antidote to the general mayhem that is life in our house! Also, the niggling pain at the base of my spine that Ive had these last few weeks has seemingly (after just 3 sessions of this wonder exercise) disappeared! Hurrah!!

I hope you all have scrumptious weekends, Im hoping mine has lots of little pockets to crochet in, and also if the weather brightens and the Little One is better, we hope to go to the garden centre to get our seed compost! Oh yes, already our little propagator is waiting to be filled with seeds, which we sent for from the fabulous Sarah Raven the other week, picking interesting things like Crystal Lemons (little round cucumbers) and Munchkin Pumpkins (teeny tiny ones) to grow. Can't wait!!

See you all again soon, thank you for stopping by my blog, its a pleasure to see you here!

Much love
Julia x
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