Tuesday, 27 April 2010

My New Blog

After a few days trouble trying to find a suitable name for my new blog which hadn't already been taken (a big thank you to Sybille on Magpie Magic for coming up with the goods after I failed miserably!), it is finally up and running. It is called Ups About Downs and is planned to be a friendly source of information on bringing up a child with Down's Syndrome from the view of a parent. It is going to be very much a continuing WIP as there are only so many hours in the day and it takes me time to write coherently!

It's a bit scary - the more I think about it, the bigger project it seems to be. I am very committed to the idea however, and hope it will prove helpful, even if it is to just one person.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


After being on show at the local Art Society exhibition, these three paintings have been sold.

I am surprised that both the jellyfish paintings sold quickly - I thought they might be a bit 'left-field'. Perhaps I should do more of this kind of work!

The three paintings that did not sell will now go in to my Etsy shop - perhaps they will find a home soon too!

I have been working on a private commission lately, but that is nearing completion - another couple of days should do it. After which, I shall be free for further commissions or to get on with my own choice of subject. If you are interested in commissioning a painting at any time, please do get in touch via the e-mail address at the top of the screen.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Little Grey Rabbit Purse

I've taken a short break from knitting this week and sewn the above little rabbit purse. It is based on a Japanese pattern using dark grey felt for the body. The legs are thread jointed, so can be posed. She is wearing a red polka-dot dress, with back-stitch embroidered around the edges. On the dress she has a hand-stitched felt daisy, complete with bead ladybird. She has a red satin bow under one ear - just out of sight in the photo.

From behind you can see the zippered opening to the purse, which has been lined with red and white starry cotton fabric. You can just see her little white tail poking out under the dress. The dress is designed so that it allows full access to the zip, and although it has a button at the neck, I'm afraid it has been sewn on so you can't take it off!

The whole thing has been hand-stitched - I'm basically just too lazy to get the sewing machine out when I could be sat in front of the television in comfort while sewing! She will be in my Etsy shop very shortly.

Today sees the start of the Fleet Art Society exhibition being held at the Harlington Centre in Fleet. I have four framed paintings on show as well as three in the folios. If you are in the area, come and have a look - the standard of work in these exhibitons is generally quite high and worth a visit. Various artists will be painting on site throughout the weekend (myself included on Sunday) which is always interesting.

On a more serious note, I am in the throes of planning another blog, this time about Down's Syndrome. Some of you already know that my own daughter has Downs and over the past 22 years I have had to learn a lot about dealing with the condition. I am also a learning assistant in an infant school to a small boy with Downs and have been doing this job for 6 years, with more to come as I take on a new child in September. As a result, I feel that I would like to share some of the information with other parents - most of the time you are not informed of half the things you are entitled to, both in and out of school. Also, 'experts' know the text-book side of things, but it's a whole different kettle of fish dealing with your child at home on a day-to-day basis. I would like to share tips and strategies I have learned and used successfully and give other parents a chance to share what they have learned too. It may take a while to get off the ground, being a very personal subject which will mean a bit of soul-baring along the way - it's certainly not been plain sailing, particularly the early years. But I feel compelled to get it up and running soon - wish me luck!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A Shawl in Four Evenings....

Compared to the last shawl I knitted, this one was a dream. Completed in four evenings knitted on sensible 3.5 needles rather than glorified cocktail sticks, using a wonderful dappled green yarn from Fyberspates. That's all I know about the yarn - it was in the bumper bargain bag I bought at the Unravel show, so had no label on it other than 'Fyberspates'. It is soft, has a slight fuzz about it, and is definitely of a sheepy origin judging by the distinctive warm scent of it before washing.

The pattern, although it looks complicated, was a succession of soothing repeats which grew quickly and made for easy corrections.

This will be in my Etsy shop shortly.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

St.Lucia....Some Paintings Hidden In My Portfolio

I really must get around to photographing some of the lonely paintings from my portfolio with a view to putting them on Etsy - here are three of St. Lucia, painted after an amazing week's holiday a few years ago.

This is the view across Rodney Bay from the top of Pigeon Island. I just loved the bright orange flowers against the turquoise sea. This is an acrylic painting.

Pigeon Island used to be home to the British Army in Victorian days and a lot of the fortifications are still there but ruined and overtaken by jungly plants - a wonderfully interesting mix! This is a watercolour.

We spent a day trip going into the rainforest in the centre of the island - a day my children and I remember so well after all the years. I painted this in watercolours using only a three colour palette if I remember correctly. The river ran through the forest and we ended up at a waterfall - my trainers got soaked while crossing the river and I never washed them afterwards as I could always think they were saturated in the waters of St. Lucia.....sentimental or what! I would love to return there one day but the holiday deal I discovered at the time on Teletext has never been repeated, so unless we win the lottery I doubt we'll get back there again.

Have just listed several original paintings on my Etsy shop - go check them out!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Blue Skies, Nothing But Blue Skies.......

I really feel for all those poor people stranded at airports the past few days, but just look at the sky!

Can you remember a time when the sky was empty of anything except birds? Not even a cloud today - take time to look up, it's amazing.....

Thursday, 15 April 2010

April Showers Shawl

Thank goodness this is finally finished! Although the title is current, I actually started this way back at the beginning of March thinking that as the main part was in stocking stitch, it would be a quick knit. Hmmmm........how wrong I was!

It is knitted in a very, very fine cotton and cashmere mix yarn which is actually supposed to be used for machine knitting - now I know why! Although it may look at a distance like this has been knitted by a machine, I can personally vouch for the fact that every single stitch has been made by hand. In amongst the stocking stitch are randomly placed slightly iridescent clear glass seed beads, the idea being that they look like rain droplets.

The delicate lace edging was knitted afterwards, being joined to the main shawl as it progressed. there are seed beads scattered here too, as well as larger crystal-like beads at about four inch intervals along the very edge.

This is so light and delicate and very, very pretty - I am feeling quite smug that it turned out this way - it's my own combination of ideas and could have gone terribly wrong!

This will be for sale on Etsy in about five minutes......

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Out and About

We were supposed to go and see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy in London today....but we didn't! Things did not bode well when the website said to expect three hour queues to get in, but I thought we'd pop by and check just in case. As you can see from the photo above, it was a tad crowded - all those people are in a queue outside the gallery. However, on the walk up to Piccadilly, we went into the National Portrait Gallery instead and checked out their Indian Portrait exhibit which was fascinating, and also saw the work of the Singh twins who I had never heard of but am so glad to have discovered.

Someone got ideas above their station and insisted on going into Fortnum & Mason's and spending her mother's hard-earned cash on maple syrup. Seeing her being served by a gentleman in a morning suit who called her 'madam' was worth it though!

Just down the road from the Royal Academy is this wonderful shop that sells Japanese cakes and sweets. Look at those bunny boxes!

We called in at the new Japanese Centre off Piccadilly - sushi for tea tonight.

And these apple & cinnamon pancakes, if anyone can bear to cut into them!

Leaving Piccadilly Circus, we walk past my favourite statue/fountain in the whole of London.

It is jammed into a corner (which is why I couldn't photograph it all without getting run over!) but the four horses are so magnificent it deserves to have been put somewhere far more central. My back garden for instance.....

Yesterday we visited an antiques centre - full of more than antiques though. I couldn't resist this...

...now it just needs to be put in the right spot in the garden.

I rather liked this too - strangely I always seem to have a lot of new soaps that need a container, so that was a good excuse to make the purchase.

I am still painting/crafting, not just gadding about! By tomorrow I should have finished a very intricate shawl that has been taking up my time the past few weeks - watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Fun With Shells!

On Sunday, Midge from Soggibottom gave us a bag of shells she had collected from the beach in Devon - she was very self-deprecating about it and I don't think she realised just how much we love shells in our house and what a cool present it really was! Stacie and I had great fun this morning making a wind-chime out of them by hanging them on twine. Because the shells are so large, they make a really deep, rich clinking sound which is very musical. They won't be going outside though, just in case they get thrown about by the wind and broken.

While we were at it, we also re-created a shell hanging ornament that we had seen and liked in the local garden centre. I already had a load of white cockle shells, so I drilled holes in them and we strung them on lengths of twine which we then tied together to make a satisfying bundle.
Now we just have to find where we are going to hang our new treasures!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

When Two Blogs Collide.....

It's always fun to make new friends through blogging, but the acid test is when you actually meet them in person and still get on like a house on fire. Today we were visited by Midge from Soggibottom, along with Tony and Amie soto blossom, all the way from Devon. Midge won the giveaway of my 101st potato painting and decided she wanted to combine a visit to her family in a nearby town with picking up her prize in person.

We had a lovely visit but it was far too short. The most exciting part of the afternoon for me was seeing my dog meet Amie in his own house.........and do nothing. Clovis is a lovely fellow but he does (did!) have one quite worrying fault and that was his unpredictability when faced with other dogs, especially new ones. In the past I have had to resort to all sorts of ruses to avoid confrontations - changing my planned walk if I saw another dog on the horizon, crossing the road while my dog growled and struggled to get at another dog, and if all else failed, getting an apology ready in case the worst happened. Trips to the vet were a nightmare if there happened to be another dog in the waiting room, and the more it happened the more worried I got - therefore making the problem even worse as Clovis sensed my anxiety.

However, at Christmas I was given Cesar Millan's book (the Dog Whisperer) which was a bit of a revelation. I've also been watching the tv programmes avidly and the more I saw and read, the more I realised that I was probably a major cause of my dog's problem. So to cut a long story short, since our other dog died after Christmas, I have been training Clovis - and myself - intensively. It has been working and this weekend has been incredible - yesterday we managed to walk in the same field as three small dogs (one of which he has had a go at in the past) and my dog just ignored them. Today he allowed a 'strange' dog into his home territory and after a brief sniff, just curled up on the sofa. I think he has definitely been 'rehabilitated' and while I will remain vigilent, I think the worst is over. Thank you Midge so much for allowing the lovely Amie to be part of an experiment!

Midge also brought us some fab presents from Devon - three baby Cornish palms, a pound (a POUND!) of clotted cream and shells fresh from the beach. Stacie and I have already planned to make a windchime thingy from the shells, and I think we'll have to get some scones in tomorrow to help that cream get eaten - yum!

I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of Midge & I together - they are on her camera. I'm sure they will appear on her blog this week - after she has recovered from her excursion into deepest, darkest Hampshire!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Nest Update

There will be no blackbird chicks in the nest. After a protracted battle this morning, magpies ate all the eggs.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

St.George & Potatoes

With the sun shining, the dirt & dust show, so it's been a week of Spring cleaning here. While mucking out my bedroom (a fairly accurate description of the process involved...) I discovered hidden behind a chest of drawers a piece of embroidery I did while I was at school. It was dusty and stained and starting to come apart in places. We had obligatory needlework lessons in my school which I thoroughly enjoyed and managed to stretch working on this piece out for over a year. Even back then I was fascinated with the different stitches and effects that could be achieved with thread and beads.
So I've soaked and washed this very carefully and got the worst of the staining out. Now it needs some TLC repairing the horse and St. George's belt, as well as addressing the hole above his bicep. Then after pressing , I think it deserves to be put behind glass in a frame before it gets any more damage.

Last year when I was painting potatoes, one of my favourites both to paint and to eat was 'Truffles'. The colour was mesmerising and the flavour was the most potato-ey potato I have ever tasted. At the time, I asked the author of the book if he could get hold of some seed potatoes in order for me to grow my own....today I collected them and planted them in my modest pair of potato sacks on the patio, along with some Bonte Desiree.

I still have some left over, so I'm going to have to find a corner to squeeze in another bag. This is the first time I've attempted to grow potatoes - wish me luck! I've also planted some runner beans, one lone strawberry plant, and got some tomato plants growing nicely indoors. The spindly bush on the right is my Goji berry which amazingly survived being buried under eight inches of snow for a fortnight during the winter - perhaps it will even have berries this year.

This time of year I get very impatient with my garden - everything is just on the edge of getting started and I want it all to get going NOW. At the moment all I'm doing is proving that staring at grass seed and blossom buds on a twice daily basis does not make them grow any faster...

Monday, 5 April 2010

A Shady Pair

I finished the above watercolour painting today. It is if a pair of young lions in Namibia, using a reference photograph given to me by a good customer of mine. I love the way their poses mirror each other as they relax in the dappled shade.

As I am too late to enter this in the local exhibition, I am putting it straight onto Etsy for sale. There will be more original paintings in my Etsy shop later in the week - it's a matter of waiting for some sunshine in order to get the best possible photographs.

I'm keeping a watch on the blackbird's nest from a discreet distance. She is still keeping those eggs warm - I'm not too sure how long the incubation period for blackbirds is (must go and check the Book of British Birds) but I am assuming we can expect to wait another couple of weeks before seeing any chicks. All very exciting!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Kalo Pasxa!

...or Happy Easter to those of you who don't speak Greek!
Just finished putting the icing on our Easter cake and am on the verge of a diabetic coma after licking out the bowl (no children around, can't let it go to waste...) and some of those chocolate eggs were definitely mis-shapen and had to be disposed of.......
Yesterday I made a batch of koulourekia (Easter butter cookies) which almost taste like the authentic ones - yum!

Guess who just had to put his nose in and have a whiff of that cake as soon as I left the room? "Who me? No, never, I wouldn't dream of it...."
In the past I have found the icing nibbled carefully off the sides of a cake left out on the side.......he's very delicate in his thievery! But not this time, the cake is unscathed....better go and put it away now!