Friday 30 December 2022

Happy New Plant

We went out for a walk the other day and in B&Q (DIY supplier) they had some rather nice hellebores.  I already have a collection of these plants both in pots and in the 'woodland' border.  However, this one caught my eye as it is flowering now, so I had to bring it home with me.  It is Helleborus ericsmithii Winter Sunshine and yes, the name appealed to me as well.
The leaves have slightly spiky looking edges and red veining, while the buds have red/pink and cream colours  and open to green, judging by the open flower. I am hoping it will do well for me.

As we move towards 2023, I wish you a Happy New Year. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Merry Christmas


Camellia vernalis 'Yuletide' flowering at Yuletide - photo taken this morning

As has become my Christmas tradition, I quote from one of my favourite Christmas carols, "It came upon the midnight clear", written by Edmund Sears in 1849.

"Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long

Beneath the angel-strain has rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not 

The love song which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing."

 To end on a positive, I again quote from Desiderata (a 1927 prose poem by Max Ehrmann):

"...And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be cheerful, Strive to be happy."

To all my readers and commenters who celebrate, may I wish you a Happy festive season.

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Wanderlust 2022 - weeks forty-three to fifty - Papers and Fabrics

Wanderlust 2022 has finished and I really enjoyed the final theme of Papers and Fabrics.  Week forty-three was about exploring different papers and substrates and then make a patchwork page, joining the pieces together with sewing.  I used walnut ink and paints, archival ink, stamping, stencilling, mark making and texture paste and I loved every minute.  I love the end result too, which is always a bonus.
Eco dyeing was the next focus and I used blueberries and coffee (not together).  The blueberry dye was a lovely purple, but when I added bicarbonate of soda, it turned a teal blue, which was unexpected but lovely.
Week forty-five was using Tyvek paper, which is a plastic paper which melts when you apply heat and can also create bubbly effects, which is what we were aiming for. I did melt a hole initially but tried again and got the bubbly texture.  This was used to make a Humanimal - a mix of human and animal. 
Week forty-six was time consuming but enjoyable and quite meditative.  After creating our own stencilled papers, we then had to tear them into small pieces to make a collage.  Adding stencilling over a block colour background helped to show the collage off.
Portraits in charcoal, ink and stitching was week forty-seven's task.  My portraits are improving and I found I enjoyed using the charcoal with water to create some shadows.  Continuous line portraits were also included and we then collaged together some of the different images we created.
Week forty-eight was a layered piece and I used a favourite illustration from The Secret Garden as my focal point, which also dictated the muted colour scheme.  This was a really enjoyable piece to create.
The final week of the theme was more collage but also including stitching into images for added texture.  Another very enjoyable piece to create, with similar muted watercolours to the previous week.  The squirrel was sent to Chris in happy mail and worked so well as a counterpoint to the bird.
The final lesson was about binding pages into a journal and decorating the cover.  
My journal was held together with binder rings, so all I needed to do was to decorate the cover and I chose to collage lots of bits that had been left over from weekly projects throughout the year.  
So now its the end of this year's course, what have I learnt?  
  • I am now likely to say 'I'll try that' rather than 'I can't do that'.  
  • My portraits have really improved and using a tracing to get the correct proportions is a good thing to start with.
  • I really enjoy using watercolours.
  • Serendipity often adds something special to a page.
I am looking forward to starting the new course in January 2023. The first theme is pastels - not one of my favourite supplies - but I am looking forward to learning and experimenting more with them.

Sunday 11 December 2022

Winter frosts

Having been thoroughly spoiled by having such a lovely mild Autumn, the sudden return to more season appropriate weather has caught us by surprise.  While it isn't that cold in the UK compared to other countries (such as Canada), it certainly feels cold to me.  We have had our first frosts of the winter and the cold weather looks set to continue for the next week.  Above are a salvia and a palm.
I was slow with my pot insulating this year, lulled into a false sense of security.  Last week saw some frantic activity to get the most sensitive plants protected.  Above is a rose bush.
Another rose bush, this time in the border.  The frost does make everything look that little bit more magical.
Another rose bush.
We have been having some work done on our roof and guttering - "Who told you about guttering?"(for my friend Rachael and any other Victoria Wood fans out there) and I have had to move the plants that are usually by the back door onto the patio.  They are not sheltered so much there and I am not sure some of them will come out of the temporary move unscathed. Above is Magnolia Fairy Blush, one of those plants.  I hope they will all be OK until they can be moved back...

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Latest cards and cakes

There were a few birthdays to make for during November. Above is the card for a colleague at work.  This stamp set (from Aall & Create) has a cat back and front with three different faces, so is really versatile.
Here's the inside...
...and the back.
Here is the 'Russian Roulette Revels Cake' with chocolate fudge icing, which we took round to her. She always looks forward to this cake.  
This is the card for my sister-in-law, using a distress ink technique I had seen demonstrated recently.
This is the cake for Chris, whose birthday was also in November. The cake is the same as above but with chocolate butter cream icing rather than the chocolate fudge. (It was delicious!)
Chris asked for a Snarky Cat card, so that's what he got!
Here's the other grumpy cat on the back.  
Finally, here is the birthday card for my Mum, whose favourite colours are turquoise and orange.  I really enjoy making these backgrounds with watercolour, stencilling and stamping.

Saturday 26 November 2022

The garden at the end of November

The garden is starting to settle down after the unusual heat of the last summer and then the copious amounts of rain over the last month or so.  The Fatsia japonica is in flower again - seemingly too late for insects and probably going to be frosted soon too.
Camellia SasanquaYoimachi is in flower too. It is supposed to flower from now onwards, but last year it didn't flower until Spring.  It has such delicate colours in the flowers and provides a splash of brightness at the rather dark bottom of the garden.
The buds are beautiful too.
Salvia microphylla Cerro Potosi has been an absolute star this year, with its small bright fuchsia flowers. It started to flower in July and has continued until now.  I have two plants in pots and they are a little straggly, but I don't mind that when they are such good flowerers.  I am debating whether I can squeeze one into the border...  They are hardy down to about minus 10 degrees C, so I am hoping they will survive the winter.
It is always nice to welcome a drop of sunshine into the garden at the approaching darkest time of year, in the form of winter flowering jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum.  Another straggly looking shrub in habit but I love it nonetheless.  (Note to self - if I occasionally pruned it, it might look less straggly!)  

Bulbs are starting to be seen and the winter flowering honeysuckle is already putting out buds, which is a little unusual, but I think that is down to the weather patterns this year.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

A new visitor

No, we haven't got another cat.  Over the years, Ginny, Gonga and Scruffy have all appeared on this blog. They all adopted us and now it seems another one might have done the same.  This one used to follow Scruffy about and did come into the house, hoovering up any food Scruffy had eaten.  He followed Scruffy up to the bedroom one night too.  We did 'encourage' him not to stay, because we had Scruffy, but he was quite persistent.  Even though Scruffy is no longer with us, this cat continued to come to us, because we made the mistake of feeding him - he always seemed hungry.  Then he came in and started spending time in the house.
He has decided that my chair is his favourite place to be.  He also likes the red toy mouse.  He has certainly made himself at home.  We know that he belongs to someone in the next street and we have seen him out on the street on quite a few occasions.
We have called him Slinky Malinki (after the cat in the Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd) because he has such long legs and is a thin and slinky-looking cat.  Currently he often spends the mornings with us and then is back overnight.  We are trying not to get too attached to him because he isn't ours (Chris is finding this quite challenging!)!  He is not a particularly affectionate cat, he doesn't meeow very often and has a very quiet purr. We are trying to keep him restricted to the sitting room but if the door is accidentally left open, he goes upstairs and has a good look round. I think he may be looking for Scruffy. How long he will keep visiting us is anyone's guess!

Saturday 12 November 2022

#Printinktober 2022 - week four

The final week of #Printinktober and what an enjoyable challenge it was.  Chris gave me the purple and orange colour scheme for 'Big' above.  It is one of the biggest background stamps I have from Stamps By Me, so worked well for this. 
'Small' was lots of tiny images from Woodware, by Jane Gill, linked together, which reminds me of the TV game show 'Blockbusters'.  People in the UK of a certain age will remember this!
'Pretty' was all these pastels and a stamp set from Altenew called Nature Snippets.
Another Visible Image set for 'Orange' using Erica's Maple.
'Dots' was illustrated by this big stamp from Altenew.  
'Dark' was a bit tricky but as it means absence of light, I went for a clear embossed circle image which would show up when you tipped the page.  The stamp was one from Visible Image again.
'Botanical' was from a couple of sets from Creative Expressions by Sam Poole.  I have used these quite a bit and they have a lovely vintage feel.
'Wood' meant I could dig out my hand carved wooden stamps from Blockwallah.  This one is Birch Tree.  I have collected quite a few of these but they don't get used very often, which is a shame.
'On Black' gave me the chance to use a newish stamp from Indigoblu - William Morris Willow, which was heat embossed with white.
Finally, 'Favourite'. I couldn't really choose a favourite, as I like so many stamps!  However, Tim Holtz's Snarky Cats are one of my favourites.  They have been used quite a bit for my cat loving friends' cards.  I do have one more space to fill so am having a think about what to feature and then these will be bound into a book with a stamped cover, of course!
I will post an update once the book is finished and bound.

Thursday 3 November 2022

Wanderlust 2022 - weeks thirty-six to forty-two - Inks

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Inks in Wanderlust.  We began with Distress inks, making a background and then using tea bags and photos to create linked images, showing elements of our personalities.  I chose to put a photo of my Granny and my Mum in the teabags and a stamped image of a woman to represent me - Granny gave me a love of nature and gardening and Mum gave me a love of music.  
We used acrylic inks for our next piece. We made lots of patterns using inks and blowing through straws. we then tried to bring out something we could see in the pattern.  I eventually decided I could see part of a face, so brought it out using watercolour pencils.  I think it is quite enigmatic!
Acrylic ink painted onto feathers was our next lesson.  I made envelopes and placed some family photos in them - my Mum and Dad on the left and my Granny and her family on the right with a small photo of Dad as a little boy in the middle. I have used these before, but they are great photos.
Another inky background.  This page took a totally different turn from how I thought it would be.  It ended up being a memory of Scruffy, our cat who we lost at the end of August.   I painted Scruffy in acrylic ink using a photo for reference.  The autumnal colours and leaves just seemed to work with the theme.  The two ghostly cats in the corner represent the other two who are buried in the garden, Gonga and Ginny.    
This was about using loose brush strokes, holding the brush right at the end and Acrylic ink. It is vaguely based on a self portrait but doesn't really look like me, although that wasn't the idea anyway.  Not one of my favourites, but an interesting process - letting go of perfectionism!
Much more to my liking was this layered page, using spray inks, stamps, stencils and a magazine focal image.  I like the feeling of movement with the leaves and the woman's hair. This also included a useful lesson on colour theory, so that we wouldn't make 'muddy' colours (unless we wanted to use neutrals, of course).
The last in the inks section was using alcohol inks and stencils.  I used Yupo paper (synthetic paper which doesn't absorb the ink) for the image on the left and glossy card for the one on the right.  I wasn't happy with the tissue paper image on the right as the tissue paper didn't fade into the image as it should have done. Possibly this was to do with the alcohol background.  So, I had another go... 
I kept the original which is now hidden under the flap on the right. This time I used alcohol inks and stencils on my gel plate.  I think this worked much better and the tissue paper faded as it should do.
The last theme for this year is Paper and Fabrics, which should be good.