Friday, 5 June 2020

The last normal photo on my phone

I really enjoyed reading this article on the BBC the other week - The last 'normal' photo on your phone - and so I thought I'd share mine!

This photo was taken on Saturday 14th March at Goring Beach. Ram was very ill from mid February onwards (with all the Covid-19 signs and symptoms, although unable to be tested as he hadn't been to China!) and so we hadn't been out as a family for a while. As the number of cases increased in the UK he stayed at home as much as he could. He is higher risk with asthma and as he was still recovering we wanted to keep him as safe as possible.

Children on Goring Beach, Worthing

The beach was busy that afternoon, but people were starting to become aware of keeping their distance. This was our last visit to the beach for a long time! We walked to a closer stretch once during lockdown for our daily exercise, but it was a long way and the children complained. It's only been over the last week or so that we've been returning to the beach in the car. Even then we only go during the evening as we don't want to face the crowds during the day.

That evening I went to the theatre to watch Jane Eyre. It was a strange performance because one of the actresses was ill (we were told not to worry, it was unrelated to the virus!) and was replaced by a last minute stand in. She did a brilliant job, reading from a script on stage. But looking back I wonder if the company were desperate to give what became on of their last performances. It was becoming clear that theatres would be closing very soon and that their tour (which should currently be in China) would be forced to stop.

We received an e-mail a couple of days before reassuring us that the theatre was safe to visit, and there were signs to remind us to wash our hands. With Ram's health in mind I did feel anxious sitting down in such close proximity to others. There was definitely a hushed atmosphere on the night, but when I came out of the auditorium I didn't see anyone else using the provided hand sanitiser.

I went to the theatre with a friend that I normally meet every week for a hot drink and cake. I dropped her home at the the end of the evening, and I told her that I couldn't meet that week as we'd decided as a family not to go out for a little while unless it was necessary. I honestly only believed it would be for a few weeks, and that seemed long enough. In the end it was well over two months before I saw her again, sitting on a picnic blanket at the beach and keeping 2 metres apart! I can't imagine when we'll be able to meet in a cafe again.

Looking back, it's hard to believe how quickly everything shut down. The signs of impending doom were there for a few weeks (I have photos on my phone prior to this one showing empty shelves in the supermarket) but I think even at this point we were in total denial about how long this was really going to go on for. I definitely thought that the children would be back in school and back to normal after the Easter holidays, and now I can't believe how naive I was!

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

My completed diamond painting - Starry Night by Van Gogh

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

As a crafting challenge for 2020, I decided that each month I would aim to complete one of my unfinished projects. So far so good, and I present my finished craft project for May - my diamond painting of Starry Night by Van Gogh.

I bought this kit last year while we were on holiday in Florida. I'd been wanting to try a larger diamond painting for a while, and when I spotted this one on special offer I couldn't resist. I've always loved the painting, the blues and purples along with the contrasting yellows and oranges really appeal to me. The kit is available over here on Amazon and at Hobbycraft (see the link at the bottom of this post).

It's a fairly large diamond painting piece, the final design measures about 50 x 40 cm, and it's full drill which means that the entire area is covered with the sparkly plastic pieces. Diamond painting is very simple, all you need to do is place tiny pieces of coloured plastic into the correct place on a pre-printed, adhesive canvas. It's a great craft to do if you are looking for something relaxing that doesn't require too much concentration.

Diamond painting - Van Gogh Starry Night design completed

I must admit that this project wasn't on my list of planned projects for the year. I wasn't even anticipating starting it until next year, once I'd cleared my backlog of projects. But with the lockdown leaving me with some extra time for crafting, especially a simple craft that can be worked on around the needs of the family, I decided to make a start. It didn't take too long to complete and I enjoyed every minute!

I've ordered a frame which should be here in a week or two, then I just need to decide where to hang it.

Now I have an even larger collection of leftover diamond dotz, and I need to find a crafty way to use them up! Mia and I came up with this simple craft for using leftover diamond painting drills, I'm thinking that I might try something similar for myself.

Simple craft to use up leftover diamond painting dotz and drills

For my June project I'm thinking ahead to Christmas again with some little felt Christmas kits that have been sitting around for far too long!

Friday, 29 May 2020

Lockdown things that didn't go so well

Last week I wrote a rather smug post all about my lockdown successes and achievements, so now here is the follow up post that I promised about all the things that haven't gone quite so well!

Like most parents across the country I started off with very good intentions when it came to keeping the children fit and healthy during lockdown. 9am on the first morning we were there in front of the TV in our exercise gear ready to work out with Joe Wicks. I enjoyed the workout myself, but the children made such a fuss about it (to be fair, they were about to come down with the dreaded temperature and cough) that I couldn't bear trying it again. So I compromised and counted their exercise as playing in the garden, occasional strolls around the block and longer family walks at weekends.

I've become far too relaxed about screen time. They do their schoolwork on their iPads, and they are very good about separating work time from playing time. But the amount of playing time has crept up and up, especially since they found they could play Minecraft online with school friends. They are so happy to have contact with their friends that I hate to stop them, but they really do spend far too much time on their tablets.

Children playing Minecraft on a screen

Bedtime is another thing that has gone out the window. I've always had quite a strict routine for bedtime, with them tucked up and reading nice and early in the evening. But both children are having trouble getting to sleep. Harry stays up far too late at the weekends, and we take him out in the garden to watch the ISS or satellites go over. Mia needs more sleep than he does, but she gets jealous if she thinks that he is still up. Neither of them want us to go to sleep before they do, and if we shut our bedroom door while they are still awake they'll come and find us.

Flapjack tray with melted chocolate

At least I'm managing to keep the children on a fairly healthy diet, but my own diet is terrible. It's possible that I'm at the heaviest I've ever been apart from when I was pregnant. I went on a diet for our holiday at Easter, but when that was cancelled along with the reasonable chance of our summer holiday I gave up. Easter came with bags and bags of reduced Easter eggs, and I've been indulging in far too much lockdown baking.

Pile of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies

My blogging pretty much stopped for a couple of months. I'm hoping to ramp it up a bit now that things are starting to look more positive and my anxiety isn't quite as bad as it was, but it's a lot harder to find the time, when I'm trying to keep up with school work and am surrounded by demanding people all day.

Along with the blog went the chance of doing any other kind of work. I managed a little bit of transcription work when it was available, but it's very hard to work during the day as my husband works long hours from home and all the childcare and other household duties fall to me.

A few days before lockdown was announced I filled up the car with petrol, in case there were shortages and we needed to visit family or friends in an emergency. It went round the corner to Asda about twice, then two months later when the lease on the car ended we had to return it with a full tank.

I put my cucumber plants out in the vegetable patch too early as I was taken in by the warmer weather, and they died.

Despite having fairly well stocked store cupboards, I had hardly any yeast for making pizza dough as we don't normally make it over the winter.

And most disappointingly, after my excellent start to the year in breaking up with my phone, as soon as the situation became critical I couldn't be parted from it. I'm constantly checking for news updates and scrolling through Twitter, even though I know that it's bad for my mental health.
As the coronavirus stats continue to improve and restrictions slowly begin to be lifted, I'm hopeful that I can call some of these things a blip, and start to get moving again in the right direction!

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

My 100 day project - halfway through

This blog post contains affiliate links.

I can't believe that I'm halfway through my 100 day project already! My intention was to fill a page in my sketchbook each day with either a drawing or watercolour painting. I'm really pleased that I've kept it going, and I've definitely seen my skill and confidence improve.

I found that I've been working a lot with blue over the last few weeks, so much so that a few days ago I published a blog post featuring some of my favourite blue watercolour paintings! So here I'll share some of the other pages from my sketchbook as I reach day 50.

First here are some of my tulips. I like drawing these tulips, they are really quick and simple and I like trying out different colour combinations.

Simple watercolour tulip paintings in pink and blue

I began trying out different ways of painting a background before going over with the tulips. I've done lots of dabbing on with various colours wet paint and then splattering on top. I think that the way I draw the tulips has improved too with practice.

Watercolour pink tulips with speckled background

I always intended to take my sketchbook down the beach, which unfortunately hasn't been possible yet due to the lockdown restrictions and the restrictions imposed by needing to take small children with me wherever I go. So I worked on this one from a photograph of Goring beach. I particularly like the way that I painted the waves crashing along the shore, although unfortunately I wasn't able to replicate it when I tried it on my other versions!

Sketchbook page - Goring beach scene

Then I tried a quick painting of my vegetable patch . I know that neither of these paintings are particularly skilled works and there's plenty of room for improvement, but I like to think that they capture a moment, which is what I was always aiming for. 

Sketchbook page - watercolour vegetable patch

Then finally this week I pulled out a favourite book which I've had for years -The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn. I was also pleased to discover that there was a sequel - The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn - and I currently have an eagerly anticipated second hand copy winging its way to me.

I've loved looking through this book over the years and seeing examples of some beautiful illustrated journal pages. I've always longed to start an illustrated journal, but I got stuck because I never knew what to write about. But then it hit me that we are currently living through such strange times that I would like to keep a record of, and this would be a great way to do it.

So I found a small sketchbook that was lying empty, and I intend to make it my illustrated journal of this coronavirus crisis. I've made lots of notes, and I intend to continue my daily pages in this book for the time being. My first page which marked day 50 - a record of this very project which has been filling my lockdown time, along with miniature versions of some of my favourite pages!

Illustrated journal page and watercolours

Friday, 22 May 2020

My lockdown successes and achievements

I can't believe that it has been over two months since the children were sent home from school, followed by the lockdown a few days later. Those two months seem to have gone so quickly and there is a scientific explanation for this, it's to do with the fact that when every day is the same you aren't creating new memories, so when you look back you feel as though time really has flown (you can read more about the science here!)

However despite my anxiety being pretty high for most of that period, and finding it difficult to concentrate and get on with anything, I have actually been quite productive within my home and garden boundaries. So I thought I'd share a few of my lockdown successes and achievements!

Rainbow in the window of a house

* I have kept us all fed. I plan meals and can now keep us going easily on one weekly shop instead of popping to Asda every few days. I generally do keep our food cupboards quite well stocked, and we bulk buy when the food that we eat is on special offer, so luckily I was quite prepared when the initial food shortages happened. The lack of flour and yeast did catch me out though!

* I have upped my exercise. My husband was already working from home when the schools closed, so we had got into the habit of going for a daily run together. We have continued this over the weeks, and have recently been going out on our bikes which had been gathering dust in the garage.

* As well as this exercise, as a family we have explored the local area, going for walks on the golf course nearby, to the beach (only once, it turned out to be 40 minutes walk away), up the nearby hill and out into the fields around our village. 

* I have set up the vegetable patch and garden by myself, as my parents haven't been able to come down and help me with it. I've grown vegetables and other plants from seed as the garden centres were shut.

Seedlings in pot on windowsill

* With the lovely weather we have all spent lots of time in the garden, playing, keeping the weeds under control and enjoying pizza from the pizza oven, barbecues, and our fire pit. 

* I have been homeschooling the children. Some days go better than others but thanks to a comprehensive programme of work from the school I don't think we are doing too badly.

* I have been reading a lot. I've turned to comfort reading, I've worked my way through both the Anne of Green Gables and the Little House on the Prairie series of books!

* I started a 100 day project of drawing and painting and I'm enjoying setting aside half an hour a day or so to paint with watercolours and create some pretty pictures.

Watercolour flowers in sketch book

* I've also made some excellent progress with my other craft projects, including a large diamond painting of Starry Night by Van Gogh which is almost complete.

* I've managed to keep up with the housework. In fact having a housework plan has helped me with my weekly routine, as I know that certain chores need to be done on certain days!

So although the last two months do feel a little bit like an empty space with nothing to fill it, when I look back I am actually not doing too badly!

Victoria sponge cake with chocolate buttons on top

And in case this blog post sounds just a little bit too smug, look out for my post in a few days where I'll be sharing all my lockdown failures!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

My latest watercolour paintings - I'm going through my Blue Period

I am taking part in a 100 day challenge to draw and/or paint a page in my sketchbook every day for 100 days. I'm up to day 45 now, and I'm really enjoying taking a few minutes every day to play with watercolour paints and water. I like to think that I'm improving too! For the last week or so my paintings have been following a bit of a theme and so I thought I'd share some of them here. I'm definitely going through a Blue Period!

Blue watercolour tulips against a purple wash

Blue watercolour background with white splatters

Three blue watercolour tulips

Four blue watercolour tulips with grassy base

Black silhouette head against blue and purple watercolour background

I've been experimenting with various different ways of using the paints - dry on wet, wet on wet, wet on dry. I've been using washes, splattering, painting with different sized brushes, working quickly while the paper is wet and working slowly with different areas drying in between.

I've always been drawn to blues and purples, I'm not sure why. I don't think that it's a reflection of my current state of mind! I'm so glad that I decided to start this challenge, it's definitely given me something to focus on during this strange time, and my confidence at drawing and painting has really increased. I'll enjoy looking back through the pages in my sketchbook in the future and it will definitely act as a reminder for this period in my life.

My blue tulips are heavily influenced by a print by Scott Olson that we have on our bedroom wall. We bought it from Ikea years ago when we were first setting up home, and I'm sure that it has since been displayed on walls across the country!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

My 100 day project - a quarter of the way through

One of my goals for 2020 was to take part in a 100 day challenge. This is an official challenge, but I always intended to pick my own time of year to take part. I've been put off in the past because we are often away at regular intervals and I didn't want my challenge to be interrupted. So with one holiday cancelled and the next very likely to be, lockdown seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a go!

I decided that I wanted to do drawing and painting and complete a page in my sketchbook each day. More specifically I wanted to try watercolours. I have a box of good quality watercolours which were bought while I was doing my Art A-Level a long time ago, and they are still in excellent condition.

It took me quite a while though to find the direction that I wanted to take. I was very inspired by this lady's sketches of her daily life during lockdown, but after attempting to draw my own children I realised that I wasn't at all pleased with my results.

So I moved on to trying to do some realistic drawings of the things around me. I was quite pleased with my paintings of the colourful leaves that fall on our driveway, and the blossom from a beautiful tree which overhangs our garden.

First nature watercolour paintings

Then I spotted these lovely illustrations by Penny Neville-Lee on Twitter. The brightly coloured, abstract flowers in the final drawing really struck a chord with me, and for a couple of days I had a go at my own versions.

Watercolour abstract flowers

I decided that painting more abstract flowers was something that I wanted to continue, and so I turned to Pinterest for some watercolour flower tutorials. I found this tutorial for painting wild flowers with wet watercolours, and I used the technique to make first my own copy of the painting and the next day my own version with different colours. I was really happy with these paintings, I like the scribbled style of the drawing even though it doesn't really fit in with my own, neater style. I also enjoyed trying the splattering over the top of a painting with wet paint, I really like the effect.

Watercolour doodled flowers

So for the last few days I've been trying out some different ways of painting my own style of flower, and that's something I'm going to be continuing for a bit. I find it easier to just paint from my own head, and I'm experimenting with different colours, different styles of flower, and different layouts. I'm trying not to get too hung up on perfection and just treat it all as a learning process.

It's really interesting to see how much my style has changed over just 25 days! I find the painting really relaxing and it's nice to set aside a bit of time for myself everyday to work on it. Mia has also been enjoying painting with me, it's so nice to sit down together and paint. I'll update on my progress when I'm halfway through!

In the meantime, here is some colourful painting inspiration from my new Pinterest board:

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