Monday, 24 June 2013

Home Girl

These last few weeks have been strangely tiring.  I'm not quite sure why...just in that 'everything feels like too much effort' sort of tiring.  I think it is possibly a culmination of things, of a rather intense workload, of commissions, housework, general family life and what have you.  Keeping all the balls in the air is sometimes a huge job, and I think these last few days, I've definitely dropped one or two.
I felt the need to stop, to just potter about at home, nap, dream, wander....I know better than to argue with these feelings and find these days it's best just to succumb and let go.
So this Saturday, there was just me and the little one at home, and seeing as how Summer had forgotten to set its alarm, and wild rain and winds randomly battered the windows, we decided to hunker down indoors for the day with not much planned at all, and see what unfolded.
There was some catching up to do on the chores front - oh my, being busy with some painting commissions and generally feeling rather drained has left me with little or no inclination to tidy up at all, and I'm afraid my house is rather topsy turvy because of it.  Ironing languishes in a pile at the top of the stairs, a feature I have been walking past and choosing clothes from these last few days with no plan to do anything about.  There are slightly dusty surfaces, and washing in the machine that needs hanging on the airer (too wet and cold to go outdoors, more's the pity).  Yet on Saturday morning, the one thing that had been niggling me most, was suddenly dealt with.  The toy corner.
Living in a very small house means that we don't have the luxury of a toy room as such, so there is a stash of toys that has seemingly grown out of all proportion behind the armchair.  On Saturday, we both sifted through this mess, and created a pretty satisfying pile of stuff that would be off to the charity shop, and also one that was destined for the bin.  I am now on the look out for a nice second hand cupboard to paint up so that the child has somewhere pretty to keep some of her smaller toys and games.
So, after the general effort of tidying was over, we set to baking some biscuits, and then I sneaked onto the sofa whilst she played with her Lego.  I found myself nodding off here and there, in between reading this book:
I haven't baked anything from it yet, but the recipes are very enticing.  Using lots of fruit and other seasonal produce (as well as chocolate, which is a year round staple), there is a tempting array of tasty, but healthier bakes and goodies to satisfy my sweet tooth without an attack of the guilties for indulging. 
On Sunday morning I nipped out briefly to bring in some groceries, and some summery blooms.  It's been a while since I had to buy flowers....
Before investing in these, I had been nipping down the garden, following the little path down the side of the river and disappearing into a fairy glade of frothy grasses and pretty wild flowers, and once there I would snip a few with my scissors and pop into my little Greengate jug. 
Ox-eye daisies, cornflowers, red campion, cow parsley and knapweed all grow in profusion down there, along with buttercups and forget-me-nots.  It really is pretty as a picture, but when I ventured down there this morning, the rain had made the whole place overgrown and inaccessible.  It had turned into the Wild Interior almost overnight, and my little path to the waters edge was a tangle of nettles and grasses which had somehow weaved themselves together to form a nasty, and painful passage.  So I gave up and came home again.
Still, a little bunch of cheap flowers from the supermarket are just as nice, and on the subject of splurges, I've also been in raptures with my newest little gift for our house.  I'm afraid I couldn't help myself, and I'm rather glad I couldn't because I bought a Real Painting from a very brilliant artist and I absolutely can't stop looking at it and smiling when I do.  I don't know if you are familiar with the art of Sarah Summers, but please do take a look - she is a most talented and inspiring illustrator, and I'm now the delighted owner of one of her original paintings:
See it?  That little square canvas on the right, sitting happily next to my print from Caroline Rose?  The colours really are wonderful, and I think the two pieces of art together are just glorious!  I get giddy just looking at them, I absolutely LOVE colour in my home, it really lifts the spirits and makes me feel good.
I actually have a Plan for this wall, I have a plan to adorn it with all kinds of colourful art and trinkets.  I'm very excited about it, because I do like to have little Home Projects on the go and I can already see in my minds eye how it will look when it's all finished.
So, this weekend, I have been soaking in the colour and the cosiness of my little nest.  Feeling happy not to have to do anything too pressing - apart from go to the Arena in Sheffield to see Rod Stewart on Sunday evening which was just a little bit brilliant.  Aside from that, I've been enjoying the quiet bits, just sitting and thinking...because I sometimes do that, when life feels a bit too much, when the tiredness takes a hold and I can't shake it off.  I sit and think what I might be able to do about it, to put it right again, to find my balance and what not.
Time in my little nest is very healing, it involves gentle pottering, deep baths and good reading books to take to an early bed.  I scour my recipe books for healthy, energy building meals, and go out into the sunshine to soak up some vitamin D when the clouds take it upon themselves to part.
I enjoy being at home, amongst my bits and bobs, with my little girl playing on the carpet, piles of old magazines to lazily browse through, and a stack of colourful cushions to doze on.
I have some exciting work on the cards at the minute too, I'm designing some lovely new work for Janet Bell's gallery on the island of Anglesey in Wales.  I shall keep you posted about this, but here's a little peek of the kind of thing I'm going to be working on:
Thanks so much for coming to see me today, it's always lovely that you do.
J x

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Bits In Between

Life has been higgledy piggledy of late, there has been much to achieve in a short space of time, and seemingly not enough hours in the day to achieve it in.
There have been briefs to meet, deadlines to make, emails to send, and this is as well as all the day to day stuff that tumbles together to make a family life.
I know I have neglected my blog, I have had the briefest of moments to hop onto Facebook and Twitter to share little snippets of where I'm at.  Bedtime has become a gleaming jewel on a faraway horizon most days, and I'm glad to tumble into it's warm folds and read novels about moving to France before drifting into a deep slumber, woven with strange and telling dreams.

In the midst of all these things, we have had a new front roof put on, our old one having become something akin to a colander.  The rains from the last couple of years had proved too much for this 130 year old house to bear any longer.  Balloons of water in the bedroom ceiling meant that the Urgent Big Expensive Job needed to be attended to, before we woke up in a cold and unpleasant puddle one day.
This was not without it's hiccups.  A letter plopped onto the door mat to tell us that we had not applied for permission for this new roof, that certain applications needed to be made.  Oh what a letter, and crappity crap I thought as my heart began to race in slight panic at being in Serious Trouble.
Quite a few phone calls later, and a new friend in the council offices was made, all was solved, the drama was over but oh boy, did I feel drained after all that.
Do you ever reach the stage where you know that you are doing too much, moving too fast, and the warning signs of a burnout are fast approaching?
The first of these warning signs came in the form of an unpleasant virus which laid me low for a few days and needed a course of antibiotics to shift.  As I sat doing my accounts and feeling utterly lousy, I realised that I was fast heading out of balance, that it was my body's way of telling me to slow down, calm down and breathe.
So, I find myself back in this space again, of starting from the beginning again.  A time of gentleness, early nights and healthy food, fresh water and green tea, deep lavender and orange blossom baths, crocheting on the sofa, reading a book in the sun.
I plan my work load for the next few weeks to make it feel easier, I say No to things that aren't achievable or which feel like too much.  I sort out what my priorities are and make a list.  Lists are good.  What happened to my lists? I seemed to have stopped making them, no wonder life was messy and tiring.
I wander in the garden, slowly pottering, pulling up weeds, watching the river ripple and bubble along the stones past yellow iris and wild flowers.  I see and hear small birds and look for flowers to put into a jam jar by my bed.  I see the sunlight, playing light and shadow on the blue shed.  I feel that calm stillness returning.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and make time for the bits in between, the bits we miss out or forget to do in the tangled, busy, messy lives we lead.  These bits in between, they're not expensive or overly glorious, but they sing to a tired soul and heal the sore parts.  They revive our spirits and help us gently back onto our path.
I'm feeling better from writing this, from being able to ask people for more time, for people being kind enough to say YES to those requests.  I'm feeling better for saying NO to some things, for making a space in my days for myself.  I feel better for asking for support, instead of believing I have to do everything by myself.  I don't.  I'd forgotten that.
What are your bits in between, the bits that make you glow, feel grounded and happy?  What are the bits in between that help you to come home to yourself?
J x

A selection of my work is now available as prints at The Whistlefish Galleries


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Simple Pleasures and Coming Home

Oh for home!  Oh for a warm backyard, crocheted blankets, bright cushions, iced lemon water and the comforting hug of home!
Last week was spent in Wales, we went down to empty my partner's childhood home.  Since his Mum passed away last Autumn, and his Dad was moved to a nursing home up country near to us, the last thing remaining to do was to sell the house, and now the new owners are ready to move in so we went down to tackle the Big Job of emptying it. 
It was a strange old week, one which was draining and yet not without it's blessings.  In the face of loss we realise the true gifts we have in one another and how precious and fragile this life of ours is.  Walking through those rooms that have sat in silence since October, we felt the energy stir again and scents and stories from the past greeted us as we wandered through the house, taking stock of what needed to be done.  It was a bigger job than any of us could have imagined and I think we all underestimated the amount of stuff we would have to shift.  By the end of the week we were ready for some salty sea air to cleanse our tired bodies and weary minds.  We woke up on Thursday to beautiful blue skies, and set off in the car for the Gower.
Oxwich Bay greeted us like a postcard, a crescent moon of a bay stretching all the way around to Three Cliffs with a backdrop of cerulean blue sky and white clouds.  We found a sandy spot on the beach and breathed in the tangy sea air, deep gulps that refreshed those dusty corners of our souls.
I'm very happy sitting by the sea, watching the world go by.  I also like walking in the shallows looking for shells and pebbles which I'll collect and take back for my daughter to adorn sandcastles and sand pies with.  I like solitary strolls, watching the boats and feeling at peace with the world.  I like to take time out to empty my mind and dream.
We travelled home on Friday, and opening the door to my little house was one of the most pleasing things...have you ever sighed out loud with happiness to be home?  I did.
I looked around with complete satisfaction at my colourful room, noticing how bright everything looked.  We decided to have a weekend of hunkering down doing pretty much nothing at all, except for a spot of planting (some rocket and Italian salad), napping and eating.  Such weekends are a tonic, and necessary for replenishing ourselves now and then.  Deep baths and pyjama's also featured, as well as deep healing sleeps and gratitude for all that we have.
I forgot to tell you about the wild garlic on the way to Oxwich.  As we drove down country lanes towards the sea, the scent of this gorgeous wild plant filled the car and we gasped at the huge banks and drifts of starry white flowers in the cool shade of emerald green glades and woodland. 
I think this time of year is such a beautiful one.  May seems to froth over with succulence and abundance wherever you look, so rich and lush is our countryside and coast with colour and greenery.  I'm grateful for small moments such as this one, and I smile now as I recall winding the car window down and sticking my head out, the wind rushing into my face and filling it with the heady aroma of that delicious herb.  There was a deep blue sky above, my little girl singing in the back of the car, a deep breath taken....and all was well with the world once more.
Simple things.
J x

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