Saturday, 20 August 2016

Late summer

Here we are, heading towards the end of August. The fields behind the house have been mown. Blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows. And Joe starts school in a few weeks.

He turns four on the bank holiday Monday. A day out on his birthday, then the following weekend a little tent picnic in the back garden for his friends. I'm still devising some kind of treasure hunt.

The school uniform's bought. He'll do just mornings for the first week, afternoons the second then it's full days after that. On the one hand it'll be good to get some work done. On the other, I'm trying not to think about that first day at the school gates. Actually I'm dreading it. The end of this phase of his little life.

We've been busy during the holidays. Paddling and going for walks, eating ice cream in the village cafe and reading stories.

We looked after my friend's little boy last weekend. The day went well - outdoor adventuring followed by fish and chips - but by the end of it they were brawling. Tiredness played a part. We were exhausted too.

You can see summer's on the wane. The weather's been mixed: hot, sunny days and dark, rainy ones.

We've almost finished repainting the downstairs in white. It makes a huge difference to the light levels and I wish we'd done it at the very beginning. I'll share some pictures once the weather decides to brighten up again.

I'm really enjoying the slow transition to autumn. I bought Victoria plums and Bramley apples at the market this morning. I'm eating an awful lot of parsley still. I must have some kind of deficiency going on. I eat it as a salad leaf with tomatoes and cucumber, and a dressing made with tahini and lemon juice.

It's not all virtuous though. As you'll find out.

We went to the garden centre today. The hanging baskets on either side of the front door are looking a bit tired, so I bought some ivy and white heather and Solanum (Christmas cherry) plants. I like the idea of moving on and changing things to reflect the season.

We also bought some turnip seeds for Joe to plant. I borrowed a paper pot maker from the school polytunnel. I've spent time there clearing the raised beds but I've never seen as many slugs and snails in my life. They're everywhere, whole colonies of them. Nemotodes may be the answer.

So, as I was saying: virtuous eating.

Joe likes to bake. He's a greedy little boy and would eat until he exploded given half a chance. Marks and Spencer Food (or 'Mark Spencer' as he refers to it) has recently opened about two miles down the road. 

So it's all too easy to call in there for cocoa powder (chocolate buns) or treacle (gingerbread). And whilst we're there, we pick up big bags of tortilla chips (two for one pound eighty! Why wouldn't you? etc.) and... well, you get the picture.

Moving swiftly on. I've recently discovered new footpaths right here at the edge of the village I thought I knew like the back of my hand. I like finding new things.

I also like writing this blog, which is why I'm thinking that having two (the other being Frond & Feather) is absolutely do-able. Why not?

Yes, time's very tight right now whilst I'm taking care of Joe all day through the week. But that'll change very soon. So I'll have Mitenska for my family stuff, my thoughts and general musings. And Frond & Feather will be my creative place where I can write about my artwork and what inspires me.

Which is why I'm trying to stick with the landscape-orientated images now. Less time spent resizing and collaging means I can spend more time doing the good stuff: writing, printmaking, drawing.

Hope you're having a good summer.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Difficult Art of the Selfie

Or, Grey Hair Don't Care.

So after all that contemplation about blogging and what to blog about where, I thought I'd write something that falls firmly within the Mitenska remit: my hair.

I did post a while ago about the decision to stop colouring my hair. Faff, chemicals and not feeling the need to dye in order to look 'young' (whatever that is).

Well, it's getting greyer. And I'm really liking it.

One thing I've found is that I'm disliking the remaining stuff that's still coloured.

You see, the natural hair that's coming through isn't all silver. A good amount of it is a very dark brown - my natural colour. And the hair that's growing out has a reddish tinge to it. Because years of dyeing mean I'd forgotten what colour my hair actually is. I was just guessing and approximating.

And I was pretty wide of the mark.

The silver is much more obvious in daylight, as opposed to my pitiful attempts at selfie-taking in the bathroom mirror. And I do love the shade. I can't wait for more to appear.

Back in May I was approached by Alex to do a little Q&A for her blog, Grey and Proud. You're welcome to have a read.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm making such a big deal about my hair colour. The thing is, I'm not. I don't want to be defined by my appearance any more than I would by my car (slightly battered) or my job (part-time artist and full-time mother).

But I think we're a community here and we often cheer each other on. The fact is, I'm actually enjoying this process and only wish I'd binned the dye sooner.

Apologies for the bad selfies. I did warn you. I'm pretty camera shy and would rather faff around in the bathroom mirror than have someone take my picture.

I'll maybe do another update in a few months - it'll be interesting to compare the photos and track my progress. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Top of the Mountain

We seem to have reached a bit of a crossroads, Mitenska and me. But that's not really how I view it. A crossroads suggests I have to pick just the one road.

In reality it feels more like I'm standing at the top of a mountain, looking down at a vast and varied landscape. Lots to explore.

As you know, I've been working on Frond and Feather. I'm currently running two Instagram accounts, a Facebook page which needs sorting out, two blogs, a rather neglected Twitter account and a few Pinterest accounts too.

Which suggests I need to simplify things somewhat.

It would make sense to just move everything to Frond and Feather. For the most part that's what I intend to do. But what about Mitenska? Do I just archive everything and move on? I'm not sure. It's different from Frond and Feather. More personal. Little stories of my life. Family memories, photographs. Thoughts and small celebrations, but also times of sadness and worry. Travels, what we eat, walks in the woods.

I don't think I want to let it go just yet. I think it'll stay here and I'll post maybe every few weeks. I want to keep this record going so I will.

The whole 'choices' thing applies to my work, too. I keep questioning what I should actually do (and do well). Printmaking? Illustration? Photography maybe?

Truth is, I really love all of them so I'll keep doing them all. Everything is inspired by nature so there is a thread running through all of my work. And if I want to try new things (current obsession: hand lettering and watercolour wreaths) then that's fine too. Surely it's a healthy thing to want to learn, to explore and experiment.

Joe finished preschool yesterday. I was surprisingly OK with it (alright, I did have a little cry afterwards picturing him having one last cuddle with one of the staff. She's usually very businesslike but shed a few tears as they said goodbye).

There was a teddy bear's picnic and treasure hunt through the village, then all the little leavers were presented with their files and a gift.

And now we have the whole summer ahead of us. I'm torn between panic (six weeks of entertaining him) and sadness that he's growing up. We already have most of his school uniform ready for September. He doesn't turn four until late August. He's still so little! 

Cue all kinds of misgivings despite much reassurance from friends, family and teachers.

We have so much to do. My work's going to drop way down the list while I've got Joe full time. But we're painting downstairs white (partially done), I want to repaint some furniture before autumn arrives and I do need to keep things ticking over on the work front.

But, to use that overused phrase, it is what it is.

I'm fortunate enough to be with Joe for the summer holidays, the last time he's a preschooler. I intend to spend as much time outside with him as possible. We have a key to the school grounds so we can go in and maintain the raised beds. It's somewhere safe for him to practice riding his bike.

On wet days - this is England, after all - we can walk in the woods. I suspect there will be many picnic lunches eaten at the little railway station, too.

We can get together with friends and play in gardens or go for ice cream. Or visit Wallace the goat up at the animal sanctuary.

Jay has booked us a night in Edinburgh in a few weeks. Just us two (while Joe stays with family). The thought of that is quite exciting - because much as I love my little one, there's something extremely freeing about time off. 

We're still hoping to move to Scotland next year. The plan is to put the house up for sale in the spring and to see what happens.

But right now we're going to enjoy what we have here: lots of friends, a happy house, village life. 

So, quite a view from the top of that mountain. I'm enjoying it.

And I'll continue to blog here (how regularly during the holidays remains to be seen) but at least I've made one decision: I don't want to leave Mitenska behind. It may change a little but it won't be mothballed any time soon.

Have a great weekend. We're just heading out for a picnic (as the clouds roll in)...

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Head on over...

Yesterday I headed up to the North East, to Manor Garden Flowers, for a very special event. If you'd like to know more about it (and see far too many photographs), please head on over to my new site here.

P.S. This isn't the end of Mitenska - but I will be posting different things on different blogs. And Gather. Harvest. Feast. most definitely fits into the Frond & Feather kind of post.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Looking back: June

I've been through so many photographs from June. And for this post I decided to stick with more from our holiday on Skye.

It seems fitting because the Colour Collaborative has now run its course. So as a final post it made sense to celebrate June in glorious Technicolour.

Ice-cream coloured houses at Portree harbour.

Sumptuous Liberty fabrics inside Dunvegan Castle.

Seaside colours at Waternish.

Skye was an island of blue and green in June.

The Fairy Pools were a strange shade of pale turquoise - almost other-worldly.

And there was bright colour in the castle gardens.

Joe played in the Fairy Pools wearing an appropriately-hued T shirt.

Red and sea-green: one of my favourite combinations.

Abandoned cottages hidden in the greenery...

More green and blue: water reflecting the sky, bluebells still in flower...

 I've also got this photograph in black and white. But I do like the subdued shades here.

The browns of the deep, silent pine forests, punctuated with verdant emerald ferns.

Acid green seaweed...

Gaily-painted boats and raspberry sauce-drizzled ice creams.

Soft moorland shades dotted with fluffy white cotton grass...

Khaki-coloured seaweed against graphite rocks.

And bright violet orchids growing by the shore.

The gorse was out in all its glory, smothering the hillsides in bright yellow.

And more turquoise: lobster cages washed up and tangled in the grass.

More muted colours: faded red paintwork, greying walls and creamy fleece.

Again at Waternish, an arty little settlement with a beautiful gallery: sun-bleached colours on the Inn sign.

That gorse again. It reminds me of last year's trip across to Bute. Very pretty but lethal if you go near it.

So, Skye in June. I'd love to go back in every season to capture it in photographs.

And farewell to the Colour Collaborative. I enjoyed being a part of it.

Have a wonderful July.

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