Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sea Pennies

The Postie brought me an exciting delivery yesterday...

New Wool!!!

I could hardly wait for my Small Person to go to bed so I could get stuck in to my newest project.  Remember, a few posts ago I had the idea for a summer shawl?  And I was mightily inspired by those ocean colours of aqua, turquoise and deep greeny blues?

Well, I went wool shopping online last week, prompted by your hearty enthusiasm for this new idea.  I thought about all the different colours you see in the ocean, from crystal clear to that lovely royal blue you get on a really bright day.  I had a great time choosing colours, and the wool that I'm using is Rico Creative Cotton.  It's only £1.50 a ball at First 4 Yarns, so it's going to be more of a thrifty make rather than a luxury one - but saying that, this wool is incredibly soft, and the colours are marvellous.

I discovered this wool thanks to Lucy (at Attic 24) - that lady is very good at sniffing out quality yarn it has to be said, so thanks to Lucy for sharing the link.

Can you see those little circles peeping out from underneath the wool?  The Summer Shawl has started in earnest, and a handful of tiny Sea Pennies have been crocheted and joined.  

I'm going beside myself just looking at it, itching to get busy with it again this evening when if all goes to plan I can grab a couple of hours hooky time with no interruptions!

As the shawl grows, the edges will become less straight - the Pennies will vary in size and the look I've got in mind is one with a wavy edge, that can be edged in aqua and white, reminiscent of foam tipped waves...can you see where I'm coming from? Does that make sense??!

It's actually been quite a creative week here in my little house, sketching, starting a new painting, writing the first E-Letter of 2011 and creating prints which are off to lovely new homes...

You may be wondering what happened to my decluttering-and-trying-to-live-in-a-tider-house malarky.

It's still going on, in between the creativity.  Didn't I just fill two bin liners full of old unworn clothes for the charity shop?  Yes I did, oh the relief to clear that stuff out!
The other thing I'm doing is putting all my files into this:

Dropbox is an online back up system for files and photographs that we normally just keep on our computers or laptops.  If you are anything like me, you will have learnt the hard way and lost tremendously special pictures and documents when your laptop crashed and broke.
Dropbox is good - you can access your documents, photoshare with friends etc from anywhere in the world. It's safe and secure and reliable, and you will heave a veritable sigh of relief if your computer ever expires with all your precious stuff on it, because you will have got a back-up on Dropbox to retrieve it all!!  That calls for a double WoOt!  

Go get yourself a Dropbox. It's free.

And on that note, I'm off - my daughter is having her booster injection shortly - you may hear the screams if you live within the vicinity of South Yorkshire...

Have a sunny, happy weekend, thanks for visiting me!
Love Julia x x x

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Spring is Coming

I've started painting a new canvas...

At the moment I am trying to choose between a couple of names for it and I can't decide.  I'm going to wait until it's finished, sometimes a painting just names itself.

This work is very Spring themed, as I for one have had more than enough of winter - however, I have been inspired by tiny sightings of buds and little green shoots in the dark earth - and that is what originally inspired this particular piece - that and the odd longing to hang washing outdoors and to dry it with the fragrance of a fresh, cool breeze (or is that just me?? Ten years ago, that would never have been something to get excited about, must be a sign of heading towards 40 heehee!!).

Anyway, I can say at this stage in the proceedings that the painting isn't even half way there yet ~ I still need to add my clothes line full of billowing laundry, my wee lady hanging it out, and things happening in the garden allotment there...yes, that odd pale blue shape surrounded by those peaty brown shades will eventually be a greenhouse, perhaps with a bench, some tools and other gardening type paraphanalia.
There are plans for sheep beyond the cottage walls, maybe even some hens dotted about - it's going to be awash with snowdrops and crocus too...

Can you see it in your minds eye?

At the weekend, we had a little pootle over to Buxton.

This is St Ann's Well, where you will often see the local people filling up bottles with spring water.  The water comes from an underground spring and is geothermal - the water pouring out is very warm (which was a bit of a surprise) and a kind local chappie explained that it is heated deep down underground and forced upwards through layers of rock - or at least, something like that.  It also tastes very good, my Little Person told me this herself.

If you ever get a chance to visit Buxton, I can highly recommend the beautiful Pavillion Gardens and a couple of smashing little shops - The Pavillion Gift Boutique and Atticus Boo.

The drive home is pretty good too...

Mamtor - love how the land has been bleached by the cold, and that watery grey/blue sky above.

Driving through Winnat's Pass

Looking back across to Winn Hill and a beautiful sunset that suddenly appeared.

Before I go today, I would like to thank all of you for the generous and kind comments that you left me on my last post, about Home.  I've just been adding it as a print for sale in my online gallery shop, and for those of you who are signed up to my Mailing List, and may be interested in this, I will let you in on a little secret:  there is a special offer on open edition prints for my dear subscribers, so keep a look out later today for it arriving in your inbox (or junk.  I hear that sometimes the mail inadvertently ends up in junk check yours if you haven't had it, as it will be winging it's way out to you shortly).

If you are not already signed up to receive my E-Letter and would like to be, just click the link above, or the one in the sidebar with the blue envelope.

Right - that's me done for now, thanks very much for coming by - always lovely to see you here - I'll be back soon, got something Woolly and Marvellous to share with you.

Sending love, arm~loads of narcissi and cups of sweet, chamomile tea to you

Julia x

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Paint, Crochet and Cake


Today is Ta-Dah day, of the painty kind.  I don't know if you will remember as far back as November, but I began a painting which I was going to call Heading for Home and it didn't see the light of day again because life became very busy because of Christmas and all things related.

Today, after a long, long absence I retrieved it from it's unplanned hibernation, stuck Jack Johnson on the stereo, made a nice cup of green lemon tea and slowly...oh so slowly, sank back into that happy place of mine that I haven't been to in a long while.
It felt very, very good to pick up the paintbrushes again, to daub them in soft acrylic paint, to layer and draw into the have a random idea which finalised the whole thing...and then hear the new name of the painting from somewhere very quiet deep inside emerge:  And it was 'Home'.  Just that.  Plain and simple.

I am very contented with how this one has turned out.  I like the warm, peaceful ambience of it, and the colours (which are quite a departure from my usual colourful palette).  I like the migrating birds, you can almost hear them calling in that far off way that you occasionally hear - it's lonely and wonderful all at once.
I know this is an Autumnal scene, and at the moment I am feeling the first optimistic sensations of Spring being around the I hope you don't mind me sharing it with you if you are also looking very much forward rather than back.

(getting there...pausing for a very necessary tea break at this point)

This painting will soon be available to buy on my website - and as a print too, and I will keep you posted as and when.

Well...since my last post I have been doing a bit more hooky stuff of an evening, working on my long standing Rainbow Ripple blanket.  And I've also been busy ordering some new wool for a New Project...I wonder if you can guess what that might be?  Aha!! You ought to, you are responsible for it coming about if I'm honest - I noticed that quite a few of you who kindly posted comments left very encouraging messages about my Summer Shawl idea.  It doesn't take much persuading to get me started on something exciting and woolly, so for now let me say, it is most definately on the cards and something I will be sharing with you soon.

In the meantime, here is a picture of the Small Blanket I did, and silly old me forgot to post this pic on the last post!  OOooops!

Just look at that yummy stripy lovliness people!! Isn't it zingy?  Just looking at it makes me feel like getting hooky again, right now, right this minute!
But I have more pressing matters to attend to.

I need to go and eat one of these:

Me and the Little One baked these scrumptious chocolate brownies a couple of days ago.  Now I must admit, no, they are not strictly part of the GL way of eating as they contain flour and sugar etc; but I do think that one of life's pleasures is allowing ourselves a good treat here and there.

For the most part, my diet is very good - better now than it has been in years, but I cannot turn my nose up at organic chocolate brownies, made from good ingredients in our own little home.

Well, would you?

It's all about balance - and just before I go, I want to try and answer a question a few people have asked me since my last post.  It's the one about time, and creating more of it for yourself in a busy, full life.

A simple answer to this is to think carefully about how you spend your time.  Count up how many hours you veg out in front of the TV in an evening, how many hours you spend online, how many hours you devote to doing activities that don't really fulfill you etc.  Then make the necessary changes: Par down your TV and internet time (seriously, get an alarm or something to remind you to turn it off), cancel things you don't enjoy, stop going running if you hate it, and use that same time to do something you do enjoy!  It sounds ridiculously simple and that's because it is.  We each of us have 24 hours a day to play with - and it really is up to us how we do that :)

I hope your day is a blue sky one, full of sunshine ~ thanks for popping in.

See you soon,
Julia x

Monday, 17 January 2011

Happy Monday

Happy Monday to you!

On the weekend I was commissioned to make a Small Blanket for a certain person's new doll.  It's been a while since I did any crochet - and oh I did enjoy it!  Whenever there has been a long absence in between hooky times, I often ask the question "Why?"  I mean, it's relaxing, it's exciting, it's inspiring...and addictive - so how come I forget to do it of an evening?

Well, seeing as how I'm on a roll to free up my time (and oh people, it's actually working!!!) I reckon I can let another hour of dull TV go in order to be more productive.  I've got an idea for a summer shawl - and I'm wondering if I can construct one of my own design using 100's of circles...
I'm thinking along the lines of these sorts of colours, which are hugely inspiring at any time of year for little old me, but never more so than in the depths of a gloomy, cold January:

Can you imagine it?  Lots of varying shades, lots of little circles, or different sized ones come to that - Oh I can see it in my mind, it's so very lovely.

But will I get the chance I wonder?  Because I want to paint more too and there are only 24 hours in each day after all (and one must be realistic).  Even if I don't get round to the shawl, I'm delighted that the ideas are flowing again!

Anyway, I must tell you that the de-cluttering lark is going very well so far.  Not wanting to blow the proverbial trumpet too much, I must confess it's mostly down to the very good guidance of dear Tsh who I wrote about it my last post.

Her book is very good.

Today, about three years worth of old papers were shredded and the sideboard cupboards emptied and ruthlessly sorted.  Oh the relief!  I actually know where things are now!!
I am terrified I'm sounding like the most untidy creature to all of you.  The thing is with me, whilst my little abode is pretty neat all things considered, it consists of lots of neat piles of Unnecessary Things.  Clutter that we don't need, use or even see anymore come to think of it.

I squirrel things away...Just In Case.

But not any more.  We are sorting ourselves out!  The hard work is obviously in the sorting and the organising parts, but it's so worth it - it can feel daunting when you think of tackling an entire house, yes - but with a bit of planning and enthusiasm anything is possible.

And whilst I'm on the subject of organising, another fabulous thing I've discovered online is this:

For people like me, who like to make lists, and have bits of floaty paper here and there with Important Things written on (and that get lost more often than not), this is just fantastic.
It's like a little online notebook/journal thing, you can write information down, and even clip inspiring web pages to a note to look at later.  Perfect for a decorating project, or an online Inspiration Book me thinks!

It's free, and you can get yours here.

Before I go today, I just want to take the opportunity to say Hello to some new Followers - I do hope you're enjoying your visits here.

And last but not least, my little website has had a bit of a new years makeover.  It has a nice fresh new look that I'm most happy about, not to mention a lovely new portfolio page with click to enlarge photographs of most of my work.  You are very welcome to visit by clicking the link in the sidebar, or here.  To compliment the new look, I'm also going to be adding some new prints within the next couple of weeks - so exciting!  I hope you like the new design, do let me know your thoughts!

Have a sparkling day, thanks for visiting me,
Love Julia x x x

Friday, 14 January 2011

How to Find Time for the Good Stuff

I'm so glad to see you today, it's lovely that you stopped by!

I've been busy in my sketchbook this week, the ideas are starting to come back - and what a relief it is to feel the flow again!  I must thank each of you who shared your own theories on how to restore a weary/missing mojo - I think I will be trying a few of those out myself next time I have a quiet spell.

So, this week I've been squeezing in a few drawings of seabirds, harbour window ledges, boats, pebbles and the like but I keep coming back to a garden with washing billowing about in a spring breeze.  I wonder if you can make out the sketch above?  I'm thinking of drifts of snowdrops, blossom laden trees - that kind of thing; an optimistic, bright little picture.

And I cannot wait to get this onto canvas...but here I discover another problem:  Time.

Which is why I'm reading this book.

The author of this book is Tsh Oxenreider, and she is an ordinary Mum with an ordinary family yet she has a canny ability to make life in general much more simple so that there is more time to enjoy the fun stuff.  Brilliant plan!
She also writes a great blog called Simple Mom which is worth a visit.

To say that my life and home are cluttered at the moment is an understatement.
So I have started to tackle almost four years worth of accumulated Stuff.  I cleared out a few drawers and bagged up some old clothes for the charity shop - we also have lots of baby toys that we are putting on one side for a car boot sale in the Spring.  I'm feeling much lighter, releasing old stuff is a Good Feeling!

I am also becoming more concious of how I choose to spend my time.  I watch tv and surf the net, and then complain I haven't time to paint! What??! Yes, it would appear I haven't been making the best choices when I think about it.  Not that there's anything wrong with either of those activities, it's just that both of them can swallow up lots of time without you even realising it.

But hey ho, I can make some changes, and a big one Im looking at right now is this:

I have to change my (somewhat expensive) habit of buying 3-4 glossy mags each month.  I am planning on donating my current piles to the local doctors and dentists waiting rooms.
I save them because there is usually an article or picture in there that I want to keep...but as the months float by I forget all about the article, or even which magazine it's in and then I don't have the time to look for it and these small magazine mountains sprout up around my house.

So my solution is to stop buying so many, maybe just one now and again as a treat - and I promise to cut out the article I want to save when Ive read it, and stick it in my Inspiration Book for safe keeping.

And just before you start thinking, oh listen to Mrs Virtuous here with her tidy house and her nice diet plan...oh please - let me tell you that the other night I demolished half a packet of Oreo cookies topped with generous dollops of dulce de leche...that's right, and my lounge looks like a branch of Toys R Us has exploded all over it.  That's how it goes, I'm only human after all and am fabulous at being messy and falling off the healthy eating wagon :D

But it's good to tidy up and climb back on right? :D

I hope you all have the brightest of weekends - will you share your decluttering secrets here? I'm on a roll at the mo and would love to hear your tips and suggestions please!

Sending love
'til next time...

Julia x

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Great Escape

On Saturday, I escaped.

I went up to Cumbria, to the Lake District for the day with my other half who had a job to do in Kendal.  It seemed terribly frivolous, leaving the Little One to stay with her Grandparents, abandoning the daily routine, laundry, chores (all the normal stuff), to head off to the great hills and peaks.  It took a good hour or so before I could begin to enjoy the journey becaue it's not very often that I take off without planning or warning you see, I'm a gal who likes to be organised! But on Saturday I discovered that deep down I'm still a gal who loves spontaneity and adventure!

So we journeyed up country, and as you get further north leaving the industrial towns and cities behind you - something magical happens to the landscape.

It starts to undulate, become rounded, greener, richer looking (yes, even in the winter).  The sky was bright blue, the sun rose higher and in the distance, unmistakable in their timeless majesty stood the snowy peaks of the Lakeland hills.  It was breathtaking, so very beautiful - unspoilt, untouched.

Once we arrived at Kendal, I found the station and took a little train to Windermere...there is something very exciting about jumping on a train I think, it signifies escape and adventurous happenings.

Dark clouds were accumulating as I made my way down to the lakeside, so that treasure of a view I saw of the bright white peaks against that cerulean blue sky never made it onto camera.
But it still looked impressive non the less, in its brooding winter colour palette of white, grey-blue, russet and charcoal.

Lake District Love (on the side of one of the wooden huts by the waters edge)

Being in or by nature, and away from it all is sometimes a necessary tonic, especially when your Mojo (read inspiration) has taken a hike some place and you have no enthusiasm to create anything.  It could be because it's been a long time since I really painted anything what with Christmas, being busy with orders and a happens sometimes, when life has been full of other things.

Those big views and huge mountain peaks helped something settle inside though, that part of me that had been feeling frustrated about the lost enthusiasm, the missing inspiration.  I knew in a second that when the time was right it would all come back.  Then I was able to relax.

On the train travelling back to Kendal, I found myself taking out my little Moleskine - I found myself writing things down and I smiled.  The Mojo was returning.  All it had needed was a little rest, a little break - just space to breathe and gather itself together again.

And as the train rattled east, the clouds cleared, revealing snow topped peaks against that bright blue can just make them out in the distance if you look.  I suppose it's a metaphor...if we just let things be without the worry and anxiety, it all comes clear again...eventually.

I'm looking forward so much to sharing some new work with you over the next few weeks.  If you've popped by today, thank you so much for reading ~ it's always a pleasure to have your company.

I'd love to hear what you do when your Mojo leaves do you deal with the frustrating bits, when the creative well runs dry and nothing seems to work?

Will you let me know? You know I'd love to hear from you :)

Sending love
Have a great day
Julia x 

Friday, 7 January 2011

Artisan Feature: Meet Jenny Arnott

Hello there!

Today is a bit of a special day in that this little old blog is hosting it's very first Artisan feature! 
I am so pleased to be able to introduce Jenny Arnott to you all, her work really rocks my boat and is both fresh and inspiring.  Take a look...

Jenny Arnott is a designer maker who is based in the beautiful Somerset countryside.  She creates bright and beautiful textile art and accessories ranging from cushions and bags to badges and buttons.

As a child, Jenny loved to create, paint and draw and she went on to study her degree at the Winchester School of Art.  It was during her time there that she discovered her love of textiles and fabrics and developed a great interest in traditional screen printing methods.  A few years ago she began to experiment with embroidery and the stitched line, and this was to become the turning point from which a whole new collection of distinctive accessories were developed.

Beach Hut Cushion

Jenny's work has a charming illustrative quality to it, and features freestyle embroidery and applique work which gives an almost hand drawn effect.  She uses a wide collection of colourful and pretty fabrics, from gingham and florals to polka dots and stripes.  There is a strong attention to detail which is very evident in all her pieces.

'Flowers' Bag

Jenny has recently created some brand new textile gifts, including badges, magnets and lavender bags...

Cupcake Lavender Bags

...and also has a great stationery and print range!

Greetings cards

Like most artists, Jenny finds her inspiration from many sources such as vintage china, the seaside, flowers, fairground rides and old red buses to mention but a few!  With such a diverse subject matter to work with, Jenny's collection is constantly fresh and contemporary.

Garden Button Collection

You can discover more of Jenny's work at both her website and her Not on the High Street shop.


I really hope you have enjoyed this feature as much as I have.  I'm going to be hosting these Artisan Feature slots on my blog from now on (albeit somewhat randomly), and will be constantly on the look out for inspiring people and makes to share.  If you know of anyone you think would make a good feature, or indeed if you feel you would like to showcase your own art or craft business then why not get in touch with me ~ I'd love to hear from you!

'Til next time, have a great weekend.

Julia x

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Eating Good Food All The Time (and losing weight)

Hello there!

I want to chat to you about food.

I don't know about you, but I seem to be in a very positive state of mind at the beginning of a new year.  Right now my body is recovering from a rather heavy dose of rich food ~ which was highly enjoyable but never-the-less, not really what makes it tick.

So I wanted to share a way of eating that me and my little family have been following since the end of October, with great all round results for both health and well being, not to mention weight.

I stumbled upon the low GL (which stands for Glycaemic Load and sounds very sciency but is actually very easy) way of eating after reading about it online, and it sounded good, like something I could'll see why.

The most interesting, and nicest thing about the low GL way of eating is that you get to eat every 2-3 hours...honest. This sounded like Manna From Heaven to someone who has struggled with various diet fads over the years, hating the gaps between meals and feeling like giving up after the first day at it because the hunger pangs were too much to bear.

So, since October I've dropped 11 pounds without really trying.  And I've been eating real butter, good oils, chocolate, desserts and drinking the odd glass of wine.  I kid you not.


Here's the book I've been using - you can find it here.

The best thing is, it's not really a diet, it's just a really simple, good way of eating that suits the whole family.

And simple is what I'm after this year, oh yes - I've taken a real good look at my little world and discovered just how cluttered and messy it is, and I've discovered that cluttering makes me feel heavy - not good.

Here is a simple little Low GL dinner we had last night:  Smoked salmon spaghetti with lemon and peas...

I've adapted this meal from a recipe in the book (as I didn't have all the ingredients) and it's got double cream in it, parmesan and freshly grated lemon zest. Finish up with ground black pepper and some parsley, it's very good.


Now I suppose you might be thinking...hang on, isn't this blog meant to be about art and stuff? What's she waffling on about food for?

Good question.

I've decided to make this blog of mine a little fuller, a little's going to feature all sorts of things, stuff from my little world that I think you might like, things I found that have worked for me that might just work for you, my dear readers.

I'm still going to share peeks of my sketchbook with you, my paintings as they unfold - the ones that work out (and the ones that don't)!
I'm going to write about how I journey through the busyness of being a Mum and an artist with a little I try and make that work, the highs and the lows, the successes and the cock-ups.  

I'm going to share my travels and discoveries here, I'm also going to feature other artists and craftspeople's work whom I think you would like to see.

I do hope you will still enjoy visiting me ~ why not get in touch if you have an idea for a subject you would like to see here?  I love hearing from you, and good ideas are always welcome.

I'll see you soon, have a beautiful day,

Julia x x x

Monday, 3 January 2011

Looking Backwards, and Forwards

Happy New Year to you all.

I've been reflecting on a colourful year...

I'm remembering wintery visits to the coast, followed by Easter baking and Spring flowers...

Discovering Northumberland for the first time in May...

Gathering colourful wool for exciting new crochet projects...

Our first foray into camping...
Completing the Rainbow Bolster...

...and enjoying the fresh home grown salads from the garden...

Summer brought blushing, succulent apricots and delicious home made cream teas and lemon shortbread...

...not forgetting our midsummers eve picnic...

Painting work continued, when and where it could...

...and the garden bloomed...
A September trip back to Northumberland...still wild and beautiful as Autumn approached...


Autumn flowers appeared on the window sill, brightening the shortening days...

...then it was time to carve pumpkins and search for the largest conkers in the forest...

Home baked cookies were a staple as the weather turned cooler...

And in the blink of an eye, Christmas was upon us and we had fun making decorations...

The snow came...and stayed...but it was so very beautiful...

...and a home made mince pie and a steaming mug of tea was most welcome following our winter walk...
I hope you have enjoyed my little wander through 2010.  I like to reflect upon the journey I've had through the four seasons as the old year ends.  It seems it's something that I do quite naturally, and I contemplate how I can make my life happier, I can evolve as a painter and grow as a person and as a Mum.

This new year promises to see some changes as I try to free up more time for family and painting.  Don't worry though, I'll still be blogging (in fact I can't imagine not doing that now, it's such an enjoyable thing to do).  I have some ideas to help this little blog grow into an even more colourful, inspiring place for you all to visit as the year unfurls, so I do hope you will join me on my journey into 2011.

I look forward to seeing you here, thank you for dropping by.

Brightest New Year blessings to each of you ~
Julia x
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