Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A New Chapter

It's two months now since I lost Graham and at the beginning of November, according to his wishes, I "scattered" his ashes in the spot he had chosen within the Model Village - a place where he had worked in the past, spent many happy hours there over the years and dearly loved.  Two weeks ago Max also moved out - it had been on the cards for months, but finally happened when he and the lads he's sharing with found a suitable house to rent.  It's not too far away, a few minutes in a car and close enough to walk to, but suddenly the house has become much quieter - no Graham, no Max, just Mia and I rattling around together and getting used (if that's possible) to being on our own - I've been busy clearing out rubbish, saving all those items that are meaningful, rearranging bits and pieces and generally trying to get on with living - Graham wouldn't have wanted me to mope about, that's for sure.

I certainly haven't felt very creative, though I have found some calm and relaxation in a bit of knitting.  On Sunday I pulled out all the Christmas decos and began to decorate the tree - it's the first time I've had to sort out the fairy lights by myself and although I got in a bit of a tangle wrapping them round the tree, I did manage it and the finished tree does look lovely as ever - it adds a cheery sparkle to the place (I played some carols and burnt a spicy candle at the same time to enhance the mood and I must admit I did feel calm and peaceful by the end).  Graham was a bit of a "bah humbug" man, but he usually mellowed down into the Christmas spirit by Christmas Day!  Mia of course is doing her usual slinking around "I'm scared of the tinsel!" trick at the moment but she'll get over it, I'm sure! 

So ....... Christmas this year will have a very different feel to it - Lindsay and I will be spending it together at my house and Max is joining us for Christmas dinner - that's a definite, he won't miss that, though he's working the rest of the holidays.  And then, who knows what the New Year will bring?  Whatever I feel, the ups and downs inside myself, a new chapter in my life will begin and I'm determined to remain positive for the future.  In the meantime, I wish you all the very best for a peaceful and happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Yesterday ......

..... we celebrated the life of my sweetheart Graham with tears and laughter with many of his friends and family.  Graham was a great lover of nature, loved solitude and to sit alone in the park feeding the birds and squirrels, so I wanted the flowers for his funeral to reflect that love with a "woodland" theme and I was not disappointed - they were beautiful.  Here are pictures of the flower heart and pillow from myself and Max (including one of Mia deciding to investigate - and pull out - some of the twiggy bits from the flower pillow)!

Both myself and Lindsay spoke during the service - I chose to finish with a reading of the poem:-

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room,
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there, I have not left.

(Mzry Elizabeth Frye)

The other quote we chose, by Hunter S Thompson, an American author, was read by Lindsay and would have been totally approved of by Graham:-

"Life should not be a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely
in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming
'Wow! What a Ride!' "

The piece of music we chose for the middle of the service was "Don't Cry Alone" - Robin Gibb's Titanic Requiem - which you can hear if you click on this link.

It was a big day yesterday and today I'm spending it quietly at home, with my own thoughts and memories of the 35 years Graham and I shared together.

(I still have the dress I wore on our wedding day but I'm afraid it doesn't fit me anymore)!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Time to Say Goodbye

Thank you to everyone who has sent words of comfort and condolence to me - so much appreciated.

Graham's funeral will take place at 1.30 pm next Tuesday, 22nd October, in the beautiful church of St Chad's in the heart of the village of Poulton-le-Fylde.  All are welcome.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Goodnight My Love

No more suffering for my soul mate and the love of my life - Graham passed away swiftly and in my arms, at home, at 3.30 this morning.  

25.4.50 - 8.10.13

At last the pain is all gone, my love - no more nightmares, only sweet dreams - 
will love and miss you always and forever.

Friday, 30 August 2013

A Messy Old Time !

I just got back last night from a two-day trip to Coventry where I was one of those lucky enough to be on one of Tim Holtz's "Journeys of the Past" workshop.  Lindsay was already down there as part of the Personal Impressions team, joining in on the retail workshop, so we met up in the Windmill Village Hotel where the event was being held and shared a room for the night.

It was a highly enjoyable workshop - Tim is an excellent teacher with a clear way of explaining things and an easy-to-listen-to voice.  We got really messy with inks and stencils, making backgrounds for tags, adding stamping and other embellishments, with the aim of creating a gorgeous tag book - to my relief, I did manage to keep up to speed with everything we did but have to complete it with more bits and pieces and fasten it together (as soon as I've a bit of spare time)!  Here are some pics from the event:-

 Lindsay took this photo of Tim and I

Tim giving us all instructions in his clear and humorous way - I was sat at the table just in front of the screen in the upper pic
Lindsay helping out in the "shop", taking her role very seriously!
Here's Chris (a fellow crafter and lovely lady) and I, obviously enjoying ourselves
Ali (a very talented artist-crafter) and her Aunt Mima - I know them both from an internet ATC group, but it was the first time we'd ever met, so that was lovely
Getting messy!
The workshop in progress with everyone very busy, heads down!

We came away with lots of goodies - the remains of our class kits which we'd been using (ink, paint, stencil, tissue tape, embellishments, etc, etc) plus we each received a big messenger-type bag, a Tim Holtz apron and a signed copy of Tim's book, "A Compendium of Curiosities Volume II" - very thrilled with all that. A "shop" had also been set up, with an amazing selection of products to tempt us all, so of course I had to have a spend (didn't feel too guilty as I had some birthday money to use courtesy of my son and husband!). Thank goodness for the messenger bag though - it held all the extra stuff I'd acquired for the trip back home on the train, don't know how I'd've managed otherwise)!

Here are all the bits and bobs, plus the part-completed tags, from the class kit

Messenger Bag, Apron and Book

..... and my "birthday" purchases

I can't finish without showing you a couple of photos of gifts I received from Lindsay for my birthday too ....

A beautiful necklace (which I wore for the Tim Holtz trip) and this lovely wall hanging, love the bright colours and dangly charms - its now hanging on my living room wall.  Of course, both made by Lindsay herself.  So I've been a very lucky girl this week!

Although I only had a couple of days' break it was really good to have a complete change of scene, recharge my batteries and come home again refreshed and inspired to start "being inky and painty" again.  

Sunday, 4 August 2013

My First Sunflower!

The nasturtiums and pansies in the tub of plants and bulbs that Lindsay gave us some while back have been flourishing gloriously for weeks now and have added a real splash of colour in our back yard.

The sunflower plants have been growing steadfastly upwards and I've been waiting patiently for the flowers themselves to arrive - finally I've been rewarded with the first happy sunflower - not your common or garden yellow, mind you (LOL) but this rich chocolatey-orange beauty ..... there are more flower heads starting to appear now and the other smaller "teddy bear" (I think they are) varieties are slowly starting to peek out too.  I do love sunflowers - they are such happy-looking plants with their faces ever-turned toward the sun.

This week Graham has to go into hospital for a couple of days for a biopsy test and procedure, it doesn't sound particularly pleasant, but has to be done in order to find out exactly what we're dealing with and what treatments if any can be given.  He's been suffering a lot more in the recent hot weather, so hopefully he'll feel a little better, breathe more easily, after this has been done.  Fingers crossed anyway! 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Three Little Birdies !

A few posts back I recommended the "Art Journal Freedom" book by Dina Wakley - it's full of good stuff about mixing colours and composition with lots of suggestions for journal page design, challenges and techniques. I was taken especially with one particular technique for an "artsy bird" design, so decided to have a go. This is the result and I tentatively gave it to Lindsay for her birthday last Friday - she seemed to like it a lot and has hung it on her wall anyway, so I guess it's okay - it's so hard to judge your own stuff objectively! - but I did enjoy making it and that's what counts.

I used an 8" x 8" canvas, gessoed and then painted with acrylic paints.  The trio of birds were a copyright-free image from The Graphics Fairy, traced onto the canvas, then outlined again with a Stabilo All black pencil, some of the lines wet-brushed over and painted.  Various stencils added with Dylusions Ink Sprays.  A little quote written onto the bird bodies - "Wherever There are Birds There is Hope" - and embellishments added to the top left-hand corner.

"Life is the Flower for which Love is the Honey"

Feeling ambitious - hmm - I had a go at another smaller 5" x 7" canvas using the same technique.  I'd been really drawn to this vintage bee image, again on The Graphics Fairy website, and knew I wanted to use it.  I used a flower stencil in the background, then rather overdid adding painty details to them, so I'm not very happy with the result.  But I may well  use the bee image again on another canvas.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Mystery Moth?

We've just had a whole lot of well overgrown ivy chopped down - it was beginning to creep in round my son, Max's bedroom window which he's not been too happy about considering he hates spiders and is convinced they all come rampaging into his room purely to frighten him.  Graham isn't keen on them either.  Why is it that it's mostly men who are scared of spiders?  I've had to be the spider-catcher in our household for years!

However, Max discovered this large moth in our bathroom last night - he was fascinated by the size of it and I was called into action to help rescue it.  It was too large for Max to comfortably hold it in his hands without fear of damaging its wings, but he used a spider-catching contraption (a gift from an ex-girlfriend I believe!) to capture it and we let it happily fly out through the window.  Pretty sure it must've been living/resting amongst all the ivy and flown first into Max's room through the window then followed the lights on the landing into the bathroom.  Graham spotted a similar one (guessing not the actual same one) this morning when the remainder of the ivy was being cut down.

I've tried "googling" to see if I can spot what moth it is but without much success.  It was very dark looking, almost black really, but the flash of the camera on the photos I hurriedly took (this was at 2 in the morning I might add!) make it appear much lighter than it was but at the same time clearly show its markings.  I would estimate its resting wingspan was around 5-6 cm and its colouring mostly dark brown.  It's probably a very common moth but I'd love to know which one.

Any ideas?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Trio of Faces

I've completed three new faces in my little book this week .....


 "Worn Out"


I've used mixtures of acrylic paints, pencils both black and coloured and Neocolor II wax pastels to create the pages.  When I start drawing I'm never sure where I'm going to end up so the results can be quite scary sometimes!  I was a little over-zealous with the Sunshine page and over-wetted an area around her nose particularly, so that the paper scuffed up badly - WHOOPS! - more patience needed I think!

Monday, 8 July 2013

After 77 Years ......

......... Yes, at last, we have a British Wimbledon Men's Final Winner ! - Well done, Andy! - he said he tried to do his best - beating the No 1 Player in three straight sets in temperatures that at times reached 50 degrees centigrade counts as "doing your best" in my book !!!

Lindsay and I settled down to a fantastic afternoon of tennis, complete with an array of nibbles to keep us going, including the obligatory Robinsons Barley Water, Lambrini and a Strawberry/Lime flavoured Cider (as a nod to the strawberries and cream of Wimbledon fame - no real strawberries to be had anywhere *LOL*), and accompanied by much shouting, groaning, cheering and raised arms as Andy and Novak battled it out for the Title.

What a great match it was and what a well-deserved win it was too!


Saturday, 6 July 2013


Here's my latest face drawing effort, which I've entitled "Contemplation".  

I began by colouring the background with a swoosh of Neocolour II Water Soluble Wax Pastels in Salmon, Yellow and Malachite Green, spritzing with water to blend a little. I used a soft black pencil to sketch out the face using the shapes made by the blended pastels as a guide for placement.  I kept everything soft by colouring in the face and flowers with Derwent Artists Colour Pencils.  She's a bit sterner looking than I'd've liked, but never mind - it's all practise!

Yesterday was a very exciting day at Wimbledon - first, the incredible exhausting semi-final between Djokowitz and Del Potro, then followed by the Murray match against Janowitz - again, another "nailbiter" as Murray lost the first set then - despite the break for the roof to be closed - went on to win in grand style. Tomorrow I'll be over at Lindsay's so we can watch the Murray v Djokowitz Final - no doubt there'll be much shouting and shrieking going on if the matches yesterday are anything to go by!

Good Luck, Andy !!!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Let's Face It .....

..... They're not brilliant (it's ages since I've done any real drawing or sketching figures, so yes ..... practise, practise and more practise is definitely the way to go), but I do intend making faces of one sort or another as regularly as I can, time permitting, in my little journal book (which I measured and is actually nearer 6" x 8"). Here are my two latest offerings:-

"Flower Child"
(Drawn with a black permanent ink pen and coloured with Promarkers and Marvy Le Plumes)

"Simply Zentangled"
(Used several black ink pens with different thicknesses - it's quite tricky to come up with fresh ideas for zentangle patterns and I need to loosen up - ended up with achey fingers from gripping my pen too tightly)!

I aim to try out a variety of techniques for creating my faces, some will work better than others and hopefully my dabblings will improve as I go along.  Meanwhile, I still keep on adding snippets to my "Smash" journal - little reminders (ticket stubs, receipts, business cards, photos, jottings) of my everyday goings-on and trips out - the latest being to a regularly held Handcraft and Vintage Fair at the Winter Gardens in town, which Lindsay and I went to at the weekend.  Had a good browse, saw one or two items we fancied but ultimately didn't buy, then had a pleasant lunch at the local Noodle Bar.

Friday afternoon I'll be sat in front of the telly to watch Andy Murray's semi-final match -I believe his opponent is 6' 8" with a very powerful serve, so it looks like being another "edge of your seat" affair - Lindsay and I were exhausted after watching Andy's previous 5-set thriller on Wednesday (it was good to watch though)!  Let's believe he'll make it to the Final again and come out on top this year!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I recommend ........

......... a couple of good books I've acquired recently.  The first is "Stash and Smash: Art Journal Ideas" by Cindy Shepard.  It's only a small book, about 42 pages, but packed with over 120 ideas for using your stash and recycling everyday stuff into your journals. It's had mixed reviews on Amazon, so it's one of those you either love or hate.  Doesn't matter whether you're a beginner or an expert, I personally have found it a really useful source of inspiration for my journalling with lots of tips and good ideas.

The second book I'd like to recommend is "Art Journal Freedom" by Dina Wakley which is all about using colour and composition in your journals - love the artwork in this book and lots of techniques/page exercises to try.

Sites worth checking out are Dina's own blog and her website. Also, through reading her book I have discovered a couple of excellent sites - Create Mixed Media (which has loads of arty ideas/videos/links on it) and The Graphics Fairy which is a wonderful site full of thousands of vintage copyright-free images which you can download and use in your own work.

Whilst I was browsing these sites I came across mention of a project/idea to create 100 faces, plus Traci Bautista, in another book I possess (Doodles Unleashed), recommends practise, practise and more practise in making faces. I have a small plain journal book (about 5" x 7" - ish?) that I picked up from Asda some while back, so I've decided to fill it with my own face experiments - here's the first one that I did yesterday.  It's not titled "Feeling Blue" because I was feeling sad, but simply because I'd covered the page with a wash of some leftover blue acrylic paint from another project. I sketched the face first with a Stabilo All Black Pencil, then overdrew with a fine black pen. Coloured in with a mix of Promarkers and Marvy le Plumes.  On the facing page I've jotted a few notes as to what I did and what I used. I used to love sketching figures and portraits in my schooldays, so thought it would be fun to get back into it again.

Not being much of a gardener myself and Lindsay having discovered a big love of gardening in recent months, she decided to make up a lovely big pot of mixed blooms for Graham and I to brighten up our backyard - there's all sorts in it, sunflowers (I love them), nasturtiums, oh and a number of other plants I can't remember the name of now (got a list of them jotted down on my noticeboard though) - told you I was a rubbish gardener!  The tallest sunflower is now tied to a bamboo stake and growing well, but no sign of a flower yet - but this lovely yellow nasturtium flower appeared the other day and since taking this photo, more have appeared plus some gorgeous orange ones too.  I noticed this morning that something purplish was also  starting to peek out too - it remains to be seen what it will turn out to be!

Finally, the results of the test Graham had were inconclusive so he has to have a more invasive test to find out exactly the extent of his illness. In the meantime he has been given an inhaler which is helping with his breathlessness and is on a course of tablets which are definitely increasing his appetite and giving him more (mental) energy, so things are feeling quite stable at the moment.  

Consequently, I have been convinced by Lindsay and Graham to have a treat so - yes - I AM booked on one of Tim Holtz's workshops when he's teaching them in Coventry next month. Lindsay will be there also the day before, in her capacity as a P.I. designer, but we're both stopping over in the hotel that night and will be travelling back home together after the workshop ends. I've never attended any of T.H.'s workshops before so am really looking forward to this one and the tag book we'll be making looks fabulous !

Monday, 24 June 2013

"Keep It In Balance"

I have so much stuff stashed away in the craft (erm ..... spare) room and I've been trying to de-clutter for a while now, as a result of which I keep coming upon items and snippings that I'd forgotten I even had.  One such was a browning sheet of typed paper headed "Keep It In Balance" and containing a note on stress by an 87-year old lady called Nadine Stair from Louisville (Springboard Women's Development Workbook).  I forget how I came by this but I do know it was a good 10 or 15 years ago, so I imagine Nadine may no longer be with us - however, her words do strike a chord with me, so I decided I wanted to add them to a page in my Smash Journal.  

Here's what I did .......

"I'd Pick More Daisies"

I selected a blank lined page and sprayed it with Ranger Dylusions Ink Sprays in Pure Sunshine and Fresh Lime (the only Dylusions inks I had at the time but nice bright colours that I wanted anyhow - I've since acquired several more shades and am looking forward to using them too).  Spritzed with water, heat dried, then sprayed a little Glimmer Mist (Key Lime Pie) over the top.  Heat dried again.

Next I stamped one of Lindsay's "Do Lally Pip" girls onto a piece of white paper with Black Archival Ink, colouring in details with Promarkers, then adhered her to the page.  I then copied out Nadine's words using the black pen supplied with the Smash journal and an orange Marvy Le Plume pen for the heading, outlined with a white pen.  I drew and cut flower shapes out of old dictionary pages and glued them to the page over doodled green stalks and leaves.

I was quite pleased with the result - now all I have to do is take notice of Nadine's advice and try to live a less stressful, more relaxed life - not an easy ask at the moment for sure!  Though the very act of playing about in a journal and messing with inks and paints has a calming effect and engages both the mind and soul.

Thanks for looking and I'll be back to share more "art" with you soon.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Bit More Graffiti

I did manage to get into town for a couple of hours at the weekend to take a second look at the Urban Art Festival and see some of the graffiti artists at work - luckily, it was a gloriously sunny afternoon so everything looked at its best.  Here are a few pics .........

These paintings were done on the wall at the back of the Winter Gardens - the large poster areas had been whitewashed in readiness; apparently they date back 100 years and are Grade II listed surprisingly! 

I'd only been gone for a couple of hours but when I returned home discovered Graham was suffering with breathlessness due to the fact that our "thoughtful"  neighbours had set a bonfire in their back yard and were burning all sorts of rubbish - despite having all the windows closed (just what you want on a warm sunny day) the smoke had seeped in throughout the house.  He'd been round to ask them to damp it down, but they hadn't done a very good job and it was still burning away merrily, so I had to go round too and insist that it be put out properly due to Graham's health issues - which it was thankfully (with a final big swoosh of billowing smoke everywhere) - but he suffered for it the remainder of the day.  Still waiting on the test results, but next week he'll be attending a clinic at the doctor's surgery, so maybe we'll know more then.  In the meantime, life goes on as usual for the most part, but in a strange kind of limbo - it feels a bit like when you're on a car journey, you're neither in one place or another, but in a sort of suspended state from reality.  Does that make sense?  I know what I mean anyway!

Have been adding bits and pieces to my Smash journal mostly over the past few days when I've had any free time and I've been gathering all sorts to put in it - I'll share some of what I've done another time.  Tomorrow Lindsay is spending a few hours with me and I'm hoping she'll help me get to grips with the little sewing machine that my son bought me (at my request) for Christmas some long while back, but which I've still not plucked up enough courage to even thread the needle - what a wuss!  My idea was/is to use it to add stitching to some of my journal pages, etc.  Don't know why I've had such a mental block about it though - I have had a sewing machine in the distant past - in fact I managed to make myself a few skirts with it that were presentable enough to wear, though I must admit sewing/making clothes is not something I'm comfortable with!  So .... anyway ..... we'll see how we get on tomorrow.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Look What I Found .....

After showing you all the photograph of our old cat, Chummy's, pawprints in the cement in my previous post I decided to search around amongst some of the many, many old photos I have and sure enough, I came across this one (had to take a picture of it with my digi camera, but it turned out okay).  Not sure when it was taken exactly, but it was after we had moved out of the "yellow" house and into a larger guesthouse.  So here we all are ........

I'm on the left (absolutely HATING the curly hairstyle!) and little Lindsay is on the right (we wore matching dresses made by our mum, the talented dressmaker - they were corduroy and either red or green, can't remember which).  Sat between us is our gorgeous Chummy.  If I picked him up he'd wrap his paws around my neck and I could walk around with him like that for ages.  He had been a rescue kitten - some horrible boys had apparently tied paper to his paws and set fire to it - thankfully, he recovered without any lasting damage either physically or mentally.

Well, I just thought I'd share this photo with you - too late to post any more tonight now but I'll be back soon.  

Childhood Revisited .....

Whilst Lindsay and I were in town the other day, we decided to take a stroll to view the house where we lived when we were growing up.  I was born in Manchester but our family moved to Blackpool when I was two to run a small boarding house just round the corner from our grandparents' larger hotel and quite close to the centre of town.  Essentially, the house from the outside hasn't changed except it was never this bright yellow colour when we lived there and the street itself is much smaller than we remember - isn't everything though, when you revisit?

Lindsay was born in this house - when my dad came into my bedroom in the morning to say there was a surprise for me, the first thing I asked was "is it  snowing"???  In the middle of July - LOL !  Oh well, I had to make do with a little sister instead !  :o)

 Here is the alleyway alongside the house, down which we played .....
 ...... and here, would you believe, are still the pawprints embedded in the alley concrete, belonging to our lovely tortoiseshell cat Chummy, after all these (cough, cough - how many? - I forget) years!
 We had to laugh when we saw this sign posted in the window of a nearby hotel - very strange !

We spotted these tall-heeled glitzy pink shoes in TK Maxx and Lindsay just couldn't resist trying them on - had to laugh at the sight of her tottering around, hanging on to my arm so that she didn't fall over!  She was still smaller than me, even in these heels, though she was having none of it!