Sunday, 26 January 2014

Burns Night Blackout

Being part Scottish I like to join in the traditional celebration of Robert Burns' birthday on 25th Jan.  But being part English, I won't sit in the same postcode as a haggis which is a bag of meat in a sheep's stomach and therefore not for me...or anyone else when I asked if they'd like to try some. So our Burns Supper was going to be a big old roast chicken with some stuffing left over from christmas,  accompanied by Irn-Bru since the boys are too young for whisky.  It was all ready, the chicken was in the oven, the tartan table cloth and Saltire bunting were standing by.  The weather outside had been pretty wet and wild all day but we were smug and toasty inside...and then the lights went out.
And then the water went off.  And then I remembered how much we still had in the freezer.  So instead of welcoming our guest of honour (Himself's mum) to the Country House, we de-camped to her electricity, heat and water supplied house with the part cooked meal, 10 ft of saltire bunting  and half our freezer.  Just in case.
All foiled up and ready to go....
The meal was gorgeous, everyone had a good time and when we got home late in the evening, all power had been restored.  Even the freezer food we'd had to leave had survived.
It had been a rainy, breezy start to the day, but for a short time the clouds lifted a little and I was able to catch up on what the garden's been doing.  It's been busy out there with buds popping out all over the place.
Time for a little birdbox repair too...
And when the rain returned, it was back indoors with Madeleine Peyroux playing chilled music in the background and some Zentangling practice...

I was unsure of what vocabulary to use when talking about these doodles because the concept of tangling, tiles and naming "doodles" has been trademarked and I didn't agree with that.  How can you trademark a doodle?  But now I've been working through the method and getting more familiar with the concept and understanding how it works, I'll use the "official" (still got a tiny issue with it!) language.  So...the 3 1/2" square of card you draw on is called a tile, the patterns you make are called tangles and the whole thing is a Zentangle.  It is relaxing and you do lose yourself in the repetitive lines but I'm learning more than i expected to about actually drawing.  Bonus!  If you want to know more, try here
Baking is also a big relaxation for me and as the rain lashed against the windows this morning I was just in the mood for a cup of tea and a nice cake.  We didn't have cake or a lot of time to make one but I found a really fast recipe for muffins and threw in a banana and some blueberries to cuddle up together and create - comfort!
From thought to mouth in less than an hour.  Nom nom!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Mud and Doodles

After days of rain, this morning's clear blue sky drew us outside.   I had my to go for my week 3 couch to 5K run anyway and Himself supported by coming along and jogging beside me.  I'll be back up to speed by end of Feb but having not run at all for most of last year I'm building up slowly.  After a quick pause for a breakfasty, lunchy brunchy thing we set off again, boys in tow for long walk.
 It was long (4 miles).  And it was muddy.  And as much as I enjoyed having a blue sky over my head, the mud was a drag and you can tell I wasn't feeling the joy of it.
The countryside is so dormant at this time of year with confused tones, neither fresh nor colourful and the low sun brings long shadows.

And it's still watery!
And during the wet times of the weekend there was time for this sort of thing...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

New Beginnings

After the glitter, food, friendship and cosiness of those dark Christmassy days, January is exciting because it heralds the arrival of new things to learn, bake, eat and share while waiting for the nights to draw out and the frosts (rains!) to pass.

My current New Thing To Learn is Zentangles and here’s my example created last night….

And here’s the official (!) description from the website :

Zentangles are miniature pieces of unplanned, abstract, black and white art created through a very specific Method from an ensemble of simple, structured patterns on a 3.5-inch (89 mm) square paper tile. Zentangles are not only exquisitely beautiful, they are fun and relaxing to create.
The process of creating a Zentangle is a form of “artistic meditation” as one becomes completely engrossed in making each pattern, deliberately focusing on “one stroke at a time”®. The creativity options and pattern combinations are boundless. And anyone can do it!

Those words “artistic meditation” really leap out at me having done little (oh ok, none) of either for too long! It’s worth having a poke around the internet for more images to see just how complex and beautiful this artwork can be and since my job and recent house move (more later..) requires that I live 95% of my time in my left brain, I’m interested in anything which prods my creative right brain into action. A word of warning – do not – no, really don’t – search for Renaissance Zentangles and don’t follow this link because you don’t need to know what gorgeous results can be got from tan coloured card and some red and white pens.

So back to that house move. Finally, after 6 years of only seeing each other at weekends because of our jobs and locations, things changed to enable us to actually move in together. It was enormously difficult to accept that I had to dismantle my lovely, comfortable, crafty Week Day Home and take that leap of faith but leap I did and am now happily nesting with Himself in a little cottage down a little lane in a little village buried deep in the South Gloucestershire hills near to Bath. Himself will have an official blog name at some point, I’ve asked him to think about it. It’s been equally challenging for Himself, who had to plaster walls, build wardrobes into nooks and crannies, endure visits to the big blue and yellow flat pack store, virtually dismantle his kitchen and rebuild a chimney to accommodate me and my ridiculously massive but satisfyingly solid cooker. It’s been a true labour of love for the past 6 months taking up our spare evenings and precious weekends to combine two houses and two lives into one but we’ve done it.
And here are 2 before and 1 after picture which show how much we both had to move not just mentally but physically!

Christmas was therefore spent together with me happily pottering around our newish kitchen enjoying baking and cooking for a bunch of people and experimenting with a whole load of new recipes. Some of which turned out to be real crowd pleasers! The recipes below were all tried and tested, sometimes more than once! (My hips hate me!) There was a wonderful Malted Chocolate Cheesecake which I forgot to photograph and some really light and simple Sea Salt Water Biscuits which I did photograph....

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Although there was no time to make my usual stack of Christmas cards, time had to be found to use some  favourite stamps from waltzing mouse stamps This is my favourite place to go for stamping inspiration. The stamps are beautiful and unusual but all work well together so you can mix and match. This one for example is from the Folk Art Medallion set so it's not a festive one at all.  I hid away from the unpacking and tidying for an afternoon to make a limited collection of these…

And then over the break, once the food had either been eaten or turned into freezer soups and casseroles, I took a little time to do some miniature experiments with a new stamp called I Dreamed of Castles by Lindsay Mason...
So now the dust has settled, the holiday period is over and it’s time to create new routines to match my new life. I’m in a different location for work now with a different and shorter (phew!) commute which is a mix of country lanes and motorway and am discovering new places to go shopping, get fuel, buy chocolate etc. Life is finding a new rhythm and it’s all exciting and it’s only January!!