Thursday, 1 December 2016


Well, it's here. And December is definitely chilly. Although that could also be because, as I'm typing, the joiner is in and out of the house sawing and lugging bits of wood about. The back door's been wide open for the past three hours.

And the dust. The. Dust.

I'm having a desk and shelves built into the tiny, awkwardly-shaped workroom. It'll all need painting next. 

This week has been pretty tough. I accompanied my brother to the inquest for his partner's death and it affected me deeply. The verdict was that it could have been avoided had she received the correct medical care. I haven't slept for two nights - last night was spent on the sofa (so as not to wake Jay). My mind's been jumping from one thought to the next.

Sleep will come. But usually this pattern takes several days to dissipate.

On a brighter note (there are many), Joe is delighting us with his rather odd renditions of Christmas carols. He's going to be a shepherd in the school Nativity. I'm attending two showings: one with Jay, the other with my stepdad.

And to add to the dust: glitter. This was the best card. The other trees resemble pylons. I'm just happy he's holding a pen properly...

I've been very busy with work, sending out commissions and printmaking in readiness for the Christmas gift fair next week. After that I'll be able to slow down a bit. And maybe do the grouting in the kitchen.

There's a trip to Hebden Bridge coming up with some of my fellow creative business ladies. We thought it might make a nice change from eating cake around each other's kitchen tables (although that's nice too).

And I've got a few exciting things coming up writing-wise, too, including an interview about my artwork and creative process. More on that in a future post.

The joiner's just clearing up. I'm going to thaw out with a bowl of soup then tackle the cleaning. Damp cloths and the hoover nozzle are the way to go. I hate mess and tried not to show my dismay just now when I noticed a dustsheet had slithered off my bookshelf and everything underneath is now a pale gingery colour. And my recently-fitted carpet looks suspiciously frayed at the edges. A bit like me.

I'll feel better once everything's back where it should be and the dust has been banished.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dull November...

...brings the blast;
Then the leaves are swirling fast.

I always loved that poem (by R. L. Stevenson) and it perfectly describes what's going on outside my window right now.

Autumn and winter are my favourite seasons, but it's always sad to see the leaves being whipped from the trees. All those bright colours giving way to bare branches.

But there are good things to come. And for all those people who are determined not to mention the 'C' word just yet: look away now.

You see, when you're a maker of one kind or another, Christmas is something which must be prepared for early. There are fairs to attend where you (hopefully) sell your wares. It's no good leaving it until December, unless you enjoy a bit of panic. So I've been printing cards and doing line drawings of pine cones and mistletoe.

Of course, I'm not in favour of the shops playing carols in October. Or the endless TV adverts aimed at children. In fact, Joe's pretty confused by it all. He's convinced Christmas is going to be upon us within the next 24 hours.

School is a whirlwind of activity: non-uniform days, PTA fundraisers, birthday parties (sometimes two in a single day), numerous performances and services and early bird sessions.

Busy, busy, busy.

One thing I've realised, though - stress is not good for you. In fact, I've been reading about it. I'm tired of succumbing to each and every infection/virus/bug that comes my way. Of lying awake in the early hours while my mind jumps from one thing to another. Of worrying about things that are far beyond my control.

I've always been an anxious person, ever since childhood. It's usually pretty manageable, if unpleasant. I envy those people who are laid-back and able to just let life wash over them.

Accepting I'll never be one of them is important. So is getting a handle on things. 

I know that the concept of 'Hygge' is all the rage. But there's something to be said for it, even if it's just my interpretation. Like taking pleasure from little things. Being warm indoors. Seeing friends. Reading books.

I've made a conscious effort, these past few weeks, to relax more and worry less. To try and feel physically well too and not be so susceptible to illness. Here's what I've been doing:

Curbing the social media (it's full of negativity and sensationalism) and just looking at the things I find enjoyable (mostly pretty pictures on Pinterest).

Organising my time better. I now have a 'day off' during the week to catch up with friends and deal with chores, or to batch cook meals.

Keeping lists and staying on top of potential causes of worry (finances, appointments etc.)

Eating better. Avoiding caffeine, cutting down on sugar and processed carbohydrates.

Accepting that my business is new, that I have a lot to learn, and that things take time.

Avoiding comparing myself to others, and 'how well' they're doing.

Going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Enjoying small treats: a magazine, a scented candle, a film.

Removing myself from situations where I feel helpless or taken advantage of, and instead prioritising Joe, Jay and myself.

Learning not to feel guilty.

Fighting perfectionism (not easy!) and realising I can't be all things to all people, that there are only so many hours in a day, and 'multi-tasking' really isn't the be all and end all.

So, dull November. I did say it was a time of introspection, of evaluation, this winter of ours. I know it isn't here just yet but it's cold and dark and wet. Time to make plans and hibernate and enjoy what's closest to us: hearth, home, family, friends.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


I've just checked. It's going on for three weeks since my last post.

It's also a while since I managed to get any work done. That's because Joe was ill with croup and an ear infection for a week so was off school. The following week I started with a sinus infection. And the week after that the sinus infection developed into a chest infection, just in time for half term.

But now we're on the mend and I've finished a course of the dreaded antibiotics. Life can begin again. Although to be honest, it never really stopped. Or even paused.

You just have to get on with it when children are part of - or the whole of - the equation. So we did. And we actually had a pretty great week, illnesses aside.

It's amazing how three weeks can see such changes. We've gone from mild sunshine to temperatures well below freezing. The woollen blankets are out, the lamps are lit and the soup pan is regularly bubbling away.

We've had some lovely adventures. Picnics in the woods near the house, family walks around the reservoir. And a trip to the Yorkshire Dales (bitterly cold, but breathtaking scenery and some very welcome bacon sandwiches in a little cafe in Malham).

We've been to Halloween parties and Joe went trick-or-treating. 

He also suddenly stopped being scared of fireworks and decided that they're possibly the most exciting thing ever. The bonfire was a small affair with mulled wine and ginger cake. The photo further up this post actually shows his old preschool's piano being devoured by the flames. That's quite a sad thought, actually. I'm surprised we couldn't hear ghostly songs from days gone by, escaping as it burned.

School started again today (I'm assuming yesterday was a training day). I had mixed emotions - we've had a really nice half term. But I also have commissions to work on, and a Christmas fair isn't too far off.

It's interesting when you're unable to get on with creative endeavours, work-related or otherwise. You have lots of ideas and sometimes it's useful to utilise these enforced breaks - to rethink, to plan. I'd really love to take Mitenska in a different direction; to write considered posts about things which are important to me. Sometimes maybe just some ponderings. Occasionally a catch-up like this one.

Anyway - winter approaches. It's in the air. A season of introspection. I like that.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Stops and starts

We had a great weekend, heading out to see the Flying Scotsman and taking plenty of walks. Better still, coming home to cheese and onion pie and other warming comfort eats.

A visit to the local animal sanctuary to see Wallace the goat and buy snacks in the cafe, too - followed by a bit of trampolining in the little park nearby.

I have to say: I was pleasantly surprised by the cafe. It's very basic and utilitarian but the cakes (obviously baked by kindly volunteers) looked fantastic. Home-made Bakewell tart, lemon and lime drizzle, coffee and walnut. A return visit is most definitely on the cards.

Joe started with a cough too, and it's not improving. On Monday he woke up early and was very upset because of a painful ear. Some ibuprofen seemed to mend things but I was called into school at lunchtime to collect him. He has an ear infection, 'probably viral', so it's all about ice lollies at the moment.

He's even been snoozing on the couch in the afternoons. That tells me he is indeed poorly. That and him being off his food. Everyone who knows him will be aware of that legendary appetite. I still made chicken noodle soup for him though, hoping that its restorative and healing properties will help a bit. 

He's back in school today. The reception class are taking an 'I spy' walk around the village and posting letters to themselves. They just walked past the house in their little high-visibility vests and puddle suits, with Joe leading the way and pointing at our house.

We're back at the surgery later to check out his cough. But we're taking the bus as a special treat.

Any work plans I had for Monday and Tuesday went out of the window... And school have just called again. He needs collecting.

Got to go!

I'll be back - sometime.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


I don't just mean the creeping progression of autumn. 

On the work front, I finally faced two of my least favourite things: product photography and wrangling with setting up an online shop. The latter was actually quite simple; it was the PayPal bit that had me flummoxed.

Luckily, the ever-patient and rational Jay came to the rescue.

So now I'm open for business, with a grand total of five products as yet in stock. There will be more.

I've put a link to my Frond & Feather site and shop at the top of this blog. Please feel free to visit and browse. It won't take long ;)

Of course, all this stuff requires a lot of input on the social media front. I'm not too skilled at that kind of thing but need to be. It would be nice to do a giveaway or two.

Other changes: Joe's being at school has brought a whole new slew of diary dates. Parties, assemblies, church services, plays, events, pantomimes, homework and reading diaries, school photographer, things to bring in. I'm suddenly P.A. to a four-year-old. Good job he's worth it.

The growing-out of my dyed hair continues. I won't pretend I haven't wavered a few times but I'm managing to keep my resolve. The palest silver bits are my favourites: nature's highlights. There will be photos soon.

The get-togethers with my fellow creatives are proving to be really valuable. We're coming up with all kind of ideas, and it's also nice to pass on my (limited) blogging knowledge to others. The blogging community really is a great one. Competitiveness isn't much of a Thing. In my experience, people are always happy to help and are very friendly and inclusive. 

Which means paying it forward is always a pleasure.

Bloggers are a great example of kindness making the world a better place. Sounds silly maybe, but little things make a difference - the value of being part of a network is a great thing.

More changes: Jay's old workhorse of a car is going to the scrapyard next week. It's going to be sad to say goodbye to it. We've travelled many miles (and eaten many picnics) in that now juddery, tired Santa Fe. But the noises it emits are starting to be quite alarming. Each week there seems to be another. I call it The Orchestra of Potential Expense.

In totally unrelated news: I've been alerted to a printmaking course which begins in January. I'm sorely tempted. It's one morning a week, with extra access to the studio and equipment. It also costs £1200. If it wasn't for the big fee I'd probably sign up.

It's also in Salford, which would probably take around 45 minutes to get to. So another potential negative.

But it's the equivalent to the first year of a Fine Art degree in print. And the hours would fit in with Joe's being at school. Hmm. Perhaps I should just stay home and try different techniques using YouTube and the like. But... I'd REALLY love to do that course!

As it is, I'm trying a few different approaches to my artwork. The printmaking has been put to one side for a while as I make simple sketches - line drawings in ink - of the bits and pieces I bring home from our walks.

I've signed up to do the Christmas fair at Joe's school. Which means putting some things together which I think will sell. Usually that means smaller items - cards and little prints - as people want to buy something for a few pounds. 

So no lugging heavy boxes into the school hall and back home again. 

Work aside, I've been doing a lot of reading lately. A quick visit to the library last week (I'm always at the mercy of that imaginary tick, tick, tick in my head) resulted in my picking up two novels by Margaret Forster. I'm almost at the end of The Forgotten Bridesmaid and I've really enjoyed it. 

Even better: there was a good selection of her other books on the shelf too. This is the kind of thing I find comforting.

Today is Jay's birthday. He's insisted he doesn't really care, that he only enjoys other people's (i.e. Joe's and my) birthdays. But there will still be cards and presents and a few surprises waiting for him when he gets home from work. I won't divulge any more as he's usually one of the first to read the blog as soon as I post...

Have a great week. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


I do love October. The weather so far has been kind, too - although it's definitely getting a bit of a bite to it. 

We've been doing lots of outdoorsy things lately. Walking and exploring and gathering. Stepping on crunchy leaves. Cutting sunflowers from the garden (there are loads). 

I've been and bought a block of lard today. I thought it would be nice to make some bird feeders when Joe gets home from school. We'll just mix it with some seed and put it in the fridge (in old yogurt pots) to firm up.

Jay's away with work until tomorrow night. So I've been a lone parent since the (very) early hours of Monday. It's not easy - constant demands and endless multitasking. Single parents who do this every day of the week have my utmost respect.

Of course, Joe thinks it's perfectly reasonable to have me make strawberry jelly whilst in the middle of cleaning the windows. Or play shops as I'm dishing out our tea. Yesterday evening, once he was finally packed off to bed, I collapsed with a cup of tea and dreamed about taking a holiday. 

I attended the school Harvest thanksgiving service on Friday morning. The Reception class all sat nicely throughout the whole thing (Joe on his teacher's knee, finger lodged up his nose). I took a seat up in the galleried bit. It's a very old church and after 90 minutes of sitting still I'd lost all sensation in my extremities. Still, I did feel like Jane Austen as I descended the stairs later on. All that austere white plaster and wooden steps and arched windows with wobbly glass, looking out over the headstones and trees.

A little group of us have joined together to form a sort of creatives' network. Other mums - some I know through preschool, others since Joe started school in the village. Three of us are starting out in business (portrait photography, crochet and handicrafts, and me: printmaker and artist type). One is more established as a graphic designer. It's great that we can help each other out with all kinds of things: photography, blogging, finances.

Oh, and we take it in turns to host and provide cake.

I'm still hooked on Downton Abbey. I have that feeling of reassurance that there are still several series (and therefore tons of episodes) left to watch.

As for autumn reading lists: nothing. I think a library visit's in order. Minus Joe. I happily take him along to choose his own books, but I don't really get a look-in when it's time to peruse the grown-up's shelves. He disappears from view or pesters to go in the lift or head home.

Still, we're rubbing along together quite nicely, just him and me. His grandad's coming for tea tomorrow and I'm making a cottage pie. Perhaps we'll bake some biscuits too whilst the oven's switched on.

I've already satisfied my yearly craving for treacle toffee. Next on the agenda: pumpkins. To carve, not eat. I just can't get into them as a foodstuff. We've already been invited to three Halloween parties (I suspect there may be an overlap somewhere). Plus we've got a fifth birthday party on Sunday, Jay's birthday on Tuesday and it would have been my mum's birthday on Saturday.

I might take a little walk alone then to think about her. It does become easier but I still miss her terribly and I don't think that will ever change. I don't want it to. But I have so many good memories - enough to last a lifetime - and that helps. If you can think about someone you've lost and still smile then that's a good thing.

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