Friday, 30 December 2011

A Very Special Christmas Present

A true free spirit of wise words

Nothing is nicer than a gift which has been made with time and attention, especially for you. My sister commissioned our resident artist (Ty) to do this drawing of Snufkin for me, which they framed and gave to me as a Christmas present.

I love this drawing for many reasons. Firstly I love Snufkin. I completely understand why Little My decides they must date. Were Snufkin a real man I would have ensnared him too-hat and harmonica included. I don't usually feel much for cartoons and I can take or leave the Moomins cartoon as a whole (I struggle with the American accent. I just cannot bear to hear an American accent come out of the mouth of a northern European wanderer. It just doesn't work as I imagine Snufkin-lilting, soft and with a Finnish accent are much more how he speaks in my head). Snufkin is the only cartoon character I've really liked and wished I could suspend disbelief and believe he really existed outside of the television.

Neil asked why I was drawn to Snufkin. In answer to your question, yes it is mainly about the whole adventurous spirit, but also his love of music, his appreciation of nature, his wiseness, celebration of the seasonal differences and lack of material pretensions. And I yes, I guess I do love his hat too!

Here are some of my favourite Snufkin quotes, in case you are not familar with them already

"I own everything I see and everything that pleases me. I own the entire world."

'You aren't by any chance - er - a painter?' asked Moomintroll rather shyly.
'Or perhaps a poet?' suggested Sniff.
'I am everything!' said Snufkin.

"One can never be truly free, if one admires someone else too much."

"Today we must do something very special, for it will be a glorious day."

"I’ll come when it suits me” said Snufkin, “perhaps I shan’t come at all. I just may set off in another direction entirely.”
And I cannot resist sharing something visual too

The second reason why I love this drawing is because it has reminded me how much I want to be able to draw. I've struggled with a belief that I cannot draw so have never bothered to try. Instead I have stood back and admired other people's works and felt sick with envy. Perhaps I will never be able to get down on paper what I see in my head but thus far I have never tried and pushed myself.

In January I signed up for the 365 Day Project. I've had to take a photo every day this year. I've missed about 15 days in total but I'm still a little proud of myself. I won't provide the link for that just yet-although I have been tenacious about taking the photos every day, uploading them has proven to be more difficult. So what will next year's challenge be? Well, inspired by the Snufkin drawing I will be doing this project instead:

I hope I can complete it. I make no promises but that is half the fun of resolutions. Still, paper and pencils are in my possession and I've had a little fire to do something about my drawing skills for quite some time. I will chart my progress (or lack of) here.

I hope everybody has a wonderful New Year and sees it as an excellent opportunity to change things they don't like or be grateful for those they do like xxx

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Crochet Snowflakes and Gingerbread Dragons

Christmas has come and gone. I shall miss crocheting snowflakes and making gingerbread but I am starting to look forward to the New Year, another of my favourite times of the year.

Next year I hope I have time to crochet enough snowflakes to fill the whole tree. I much prefer a tree with every branch covered with individual, special decorations, rather than a neat set of mass-produced lights and baubles. I am definitely not a minimalist when it comes to decorating Christmas trees.

I also indulged in some Origami and made some lotus fold napkins for the Boxing Day table

I set aside a morning to make a gingerbread house but it was still rushed and sadly collapsed for a couple of reasons (thin icing and irregular walls). The garden of the house was to be filled with dragonsand I asked our resident artist (Ty) to draw a simple dragon outline on paper for me to use as a gingerbread stencil.

 (The dragons were out of the house at the time of the collapse and survived)

I'm not sure why it hasn't occured to me to make my own stencils in paper before. I'm glad I did work it out though and I have sooo many ideas for biscuits shapes. Next year I will try to do a gingerbread house again and hope it remains upright this time.

Now I'm thinking about all the things I want to do next year and making lists. I also hope for snowfall in the New Year, which always happened when I was a child. I'm not a huge fan of snow but a light dusting on the branches and berries always lifts the spirit a little at this time of year.

The snow shower which settled on the hydrangea for a mere couple of hours earlier this month

I hope everybody had a lovely Christmas and here's to a great New Year too!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Many Mobile Covers as Christmas Gifts!

A little Christmas present for my Mum

I've had quite a few requests for crocheted phone covers since making one for my iPhone. Christmas gave me an excellent chance to make a few and give them away as presents. I've started to experiment with different styles and stitches which is always fun for a novice crocheter.

Here are a few I made for friends this year:

Green double crochet for Paige

Purple stripes for Cat

Pink for Rosie

'Bobbled' texture for extra protection!
(and I like how it feels, even though it takes longer to do!)

A loop rather than a flap.

I have a few more still to complete and I have plans to try some new stitches and even some embellishments if I'm feeling brave.

I hope I have saved at least one smart phone from the ever-popular cracked screen!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Trip to London

Covent Garden

One of my favourite Christmas traditions (schedule allowing!) is my shopping trip to London. I've already done much of my shopping, I must be getting more organised as I get older, however I still love the trips for the atmosphere, the mulled wine and Covent Garden market.

Today we jumped into the deep end and headed straight to Piccadilly Circus. We spent some time in Waterstone's and HMV which are also two places on the top of 'to visit for Christmas Shopping List'.

Regent Street lights

We braved Oxford Street and its crowds before heading to Covent Garden Market. There are some lovely things on sale there. They can be a little pricey but many of the items are handmade so if you're for supporting artists and crafts people then there are many wonderful things for sale which would make a unique gift.


Handmade soaps, including some carrot-shaped ones

Lots and lots of beads-and more fairies!

No trip to Christmas trip to London is complete without mulled wine and roasted chestnuts

I discovered a Moomins shop in Convent Garden, which made me rather excited. Moomins themselves I can take or leave...but Snufkin is my favourite cartoon character so this shop will be a 'Must Visit' next time I'm in central London.

Snufkin plates, unfortunately seen after my Christmas list was written :(

We saw a crocheted moomin and my friend suggested the idea of a crocheted Snufkin. I think it would be quite a challenge...but an idea has been planted anyway. We'll see if it takes root.

We ended the day in an Unitalian-named Italian restaurant called Pasta Brown. It was one of the best Italian meals I've eaten and I'd recommend it to anybody (but go after the pre-theatre crowd as it's very busy and noisy otherwise!).

I felt especially festive when I got home and started my wrapping marathon.

Christmas is here, I hope everybody is having lots of  Christmassy fun!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Photographer's Block

The first Sony Alpha photo I have (25/08/09)

My camera's lifeless battery has not been charged for 9 days.

My starburst filter is dusty and forgotten.

My polaroid filter is...actually, I don't even know where it is.

A few weeks ago a member of the Sony Dynax Forum sent me a message asking me if I was ok as I hadn't been seen on the Sony DSLR forum for months. (I replied with the age old "I've been busy" excuse; "of course, we understand, come and go as freely as time allows you")

Once upon a time I lived to take photographs. My DSLR was taken everywhere and I got an unparallelled joy from photographing everything around me...buildings, leaves, flowers, birds, people, my possessions. I'd wish the day away so I could sit in front of my laptop the same evening and look through my photographs. The photos would all be cropped and straightened, rearranged and sorted into folders and, if they made the final cut, uploaded.. If I took a photograph I really liked or was secretly proud of, then my day was complete and had been worthwhile, whatever else had transpired.

My love of travelling and love of photographing have always been interconnected. A little under three months ago I went to Iceland. I really liked Iceland, and it is very beautiful in its own unique way, but the photographs I took failed to stir me. People have asked me "where are you Iceland photographs?" and I reply, half honestly, that I've been busy and haven't had a chance to sort through them yet. I went to Iceland weeks and weeks ago. Of course I've had time to upload them if I really wanted to. And I think that's the whole point-I've not really wanted to. What was once one of my favourite ways to spend an evening has now become a chore. Admittedly I don't think my Iceland photographs are that good (in case anyone is wondering). The perpetual rain, stark landscape and poor light are not ideal photographing conditions and my camera was certainly exposed for what it really is-the cheapest DSLR on the market. I felt betrayed by my camera. Sometimes I saw a scene in my head which my camera simply wasn't good enough to get. By the end of the trip I'd almost given up trying to get good photos. I snapped away as usual because old habits die hard but I had no real expectations.

I don't know where that passion has gone but gone it definitely has. All summer I looked forward to photographing the autumn. When it arrived I felt bored. More leaves, more hazy days, skeletal trees and leaden skies... I tried to take some photos but they all looked the same as previous years' photos. I haven't even bothered to upload them to Facebook for fear of boring people with the same old subject matter. Even more shockingly our beautiful Christmas tree, this year a riot of colour and glitz has failed to inspire me to charge my camera. And Toby, my lovely new nephew? Perhaps he should be glad he's not the subject of my ditched Paparazzi ways.

I feel as if I simply have nothing new to bring to the table. My photographs look the same to me. In fact, they bore me. If I uploaded 100 photographs to Facebook I don't think I would even bother to go through them and I certainly don't expect anyone else to. My Minolta colours have lost their novelty. I know I have a good camera and that I am lucky to have got hold of an excellent example of a Minolta 70-210 'Beercan' (again, thank you to Simon Springtide on the Sony forums) but...what now?

Initially, I blamed by loss of independence brought about by my Fiat's untimely demise. I can no longer get to the places that inspire me the most-the castles, the countryside, the churches and villages of Kent. On closer inspection however, I think this started some time ago. Switching to Auto mode when I was initally a completely manual camera user was a big mistake. Eons ago I could choose the correct aperture, shutter speed, white balance and ISO and nail a scene perfectly on the first try. Now I would fumble with dials. My connection to the light has weakened and I'd struggle to juggle my shutter and lens priorities. I also feel I've outgrown my camera. The sky blows out, it is useless in lowlight (last weekend I went to a dim pub. I ended up using my iPhone which took superior low light photos; my camera hung like a millstone around my neck all evening).I need a camera that is far better than me so I can learn again and be inspired. I dream of a new camera and a faint 'lens lust' lingers but my car and teeth are obstacles to overcome and I see no new camera until the end of next year. That is assuming I will even feel the desire to part with hundreds, possibly even thousand, of pounds at that point.

The fire has gone. I don't know if it can be reignited. After two years, was photography really another of my passing phases and not the lifelong passions I thought I had finally, finally found?

My question is, if I am no longer a photographer, what am I now???

Another of the first photos, taken on the day I got my memory card.
I drove to the maximum speedlimit, overtaking anything which would cost me a minute of photographing on Bluebell Hill. I could hardly believe the sharpness and Bokeh of the camera.
Love at first snap.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Spring Visit to London Video

If you are bored of London, you are bored of life

I would hate to live in London but it being my birthplace and its proximity to my current residence make a few trips there every year compulsory. And do you know that I love them. I love London as a place-it is vibrant, fascinating, eccentric....even beautiful in parts. I have lived in London or within a 1 hour drive of London my whole life, yet I still discover something new there every time I visit. Living in the country, with 'the world in a city' of London is an ideal location for me.

I was there on 1st April-a trip inspired by a book called Secret London: A Unique Guide. We visited the oldest drinking fountain in the city, a rose garden in a bombed church, church gardens, walked along embankment and stopped for a picnic lunch in my favourite park-Whitehall Gardens. The day ended in Nando's.

HERE is the video I made instead of taking photos (my camera was dead)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Gillingham Ladies Photos

My dream to take photos as part of my living continues. My lack of car means it's more difficult to get away from Suburbia to take my more familar landscape photos. Still as one of the photographers for Gillingham Ladies football club I have a chance to photograph a subject matter I would perhaps never have been involved with otherwise.

Some of my photos are featured in the match gallery

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Love For Radio 4's Shipping Forecast

Lighthouse at Ramsgate

Despite the slightly nasal quality of the reader's voice-I suspect he has a cold-this is still a lovely reading of the British Shipping Forecast.

Hypnotic, falling tones, smooth and calm- when read in certain British accents the Shipping Forecast is an excellent example of how beautiful English can sound if read correctly by the right reader!

Let this send you to sleep as you dream of undulating grey seas:

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Another Handmade Crochet Phone Cover

My friend's old iPhone had a smashed when he got a new phone I thought I'd crochet a cover for him in time for our annual Christmas Meal as a Secret Santa present. It was quite amusing to see his phone sitting in a sock on the table ("I'm scared it'll get scratched") before he realised he had a cover wrapped and waiting in the present bag.

I chose a blue flecked wool mix but did the flap and the contrasting seam (also in double crochet) in black.

The flap is straight-this is just pre-pressing so it's curled slightly.
Next time I will press my work properly!

I really like experimenting with different stitches, colours and edgings. Luckily Christmas has given me the chance to make some more covers as presents :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fumi-Enigmatic Flower Preserving Jeweller

"People always told me I was eccentric, but I don't think so, I just do whatever I want to do at all times" - Fumi

I became a little obsessed with Fumi after reading about her in a book on lesser-known British artisans.

Fumi creates jewellery and wearable sculptures from real flowers. She preserves them using many layers of resin, over time.

Little is known about Fumi. She moved to Britain about 10 years ago and nothing is known of her life before that. A lecturer at her former University in Huddersfield said of her that she is highly secretive and communicates solely through her work. It is said she avoids all socialising and instead spends all her time in her workshop, with her flowers. After preserving the flowers with resin, they are combined with other materials such as metals, crystals and plastic to create her jewellery.

Her work is unique and incredibly beautiful. The flowers retain their delicacy, transparency and beauty in a way I've never seen in dried flowers

Her website is:!portfolio01/vstc6=gallery03

(no idea of prices unfortunately)

I have to say, there's something quite romantic about spending your life in a workshop preserving flowers and I'm now very tempted to purchase some resin!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Craft Monday

The crazy Christmas rota at work has given me a rare Monday off work.  With Christmas looming on the horizon I thought I'd use my unexpected day off to get started on making some Christmas presents and cards.

Here are some clues as to what I have been doing...

At work I was ensnared by some beautiful Cavallini bird gift tags.

 I think they would look beautiful on scrapbooking style cards too. A few close ups as they are so pretty...

 I love all of Cavallini's products, although they are admittedly quite expensive. I got the gift tags from Waterstone's (£7.99) do get 36 tags though so they are actually quite good value.

...and for anybody who is thinking about using gold spray piant this Christmas, let this be a warning to you...


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Yarn Hoard

My Preciousssessss

This eclectic collection of  various yarns (cashmerino, colourful acrylics, mohair mixes, wool and Icelandic sheep wool) will be my tight companions over the next few weeks as I attempt to learn to speed crochet to complete various presents, requests and personal projects before the end of December.

Of the two assigned wools, the baby pink cashmerino wool will eventually become a pair of soft lacy mittens to match my new coat. The dark green will hopefully become a hat (should I ever master hats!).

The rest are unassigned as yet (I'm always seduced by a yarn sale) or presents which cannot yet be revealed but may end upon here at a later date in their metamorphosized state.

Where are my crochet hooks?