Monday 30 December 2019

No Man’s Land

How was your Christmas? All good I hope.
Ours was merry and bright with various family members visiting and staying at different times all week culminating with twelve here for lunch on Friday, although by then I think everyone was a little tired. So a good time was had but then it was all over in the blink of an eye. I'm resisting taking down the Christmas decorations! I usually relish this quiet no man's land between Christmas and New Year as a time to potter about and recharge my batteries but I have felt a bit restless and low in mood. I'm not sure why, and it will pass as all things do. The answer has been to stay busy and partake in activities that are good for the soul...

I have started some new knitting - a lovely pair of fairisle mitts from Lucy Locketland. I don't need more mitts and I have another knitting project half finished but I couldn't resist starting something new! And these are very portable which my other project isn't... that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I have been reading, both fiction and non fiction. I heard Dave Goulson speak earlier in the year and I'm thoroughly enjoying his book, whilst dreaming of turning my garden into a haven for wildlife. The painting book was a Christmas present which I hope will encourage me to keep painting into the new year... that's my resolution anyway.

The latest book from Barbara Kingsolver is every bit as good as I anticipated... I don't want to put it down but also don't want it to finish. I just love everything she writes.

We have also been blessed with some beautiful weather over the past couple of days - cold, crisp and sunny which is perfect for walking. If I'm honest I could take it even crisper as it is still muddy underfoot. We seem to be constantly be cleaning muddy paws!

I've also managed to do a bit of cutting back and clearing in my potential wildlife haven... although not too much clearing so not to disturb any hibernating creepy crawlies! Plus the blackbirds are rather fond of the berries.

And in doing so I have discovered absolutely dozens of little snowdrops emerging. One of the joys of owning a new garden is discovering all the hidden gems.

The previous owners seem to have had a thing about hellebores too as they are everywhere, not that I'm complaining. So pretty to have flowers at this time of year.

The biggest highlight of my Christmas week however has been being responsible for winding the church clock. Every morning I have climbed the narrow spiral staircase in the clocktower to wind up this amazing clockwork mechanism, something that has been done pretty much every day for the past 267 years. It's wonderful to think of all the different people who have done this before me and is definitely something to be counted in my 100 x 100 list!

So that has been my week and here we are about to enter a new year. We've no special plans to celebrate and for the first time since we met we are not going out or spending new year's eve with friends, which does feel a little odd. I guess we might crack open a bottle of fizz but there's a good chance we'll be fast asleep by midnight!

Whatever your plans... Happy New Year!

Friday 20 December 2019

More Advent Windows

Before I disappear under piles of wrapping paper in a mince pie induced stupor, I thought you might like to see some more of the advent windows that have popped up in our village over the past week or so. I have managed to get out at 5 pm to the lighting up of most of them, despite some very wet and windy weather. Quite often the few hardy souls who venture out have been rewarded with some very welcome refreshments. Mulled wine, mulled cider and hot chocolate have all been sampled along with mince pies, Lebkuchen, stollen, cookies, flapjacks and panetonne... although not all at once I might add. I quite miss my 5pm treat on the nights I have not managed to get out! Anyway, the windows in the order that my photos loaded...

John and Lesley did a simple but very effective silhouette, lit beautifully with a star of fairy lights which hasn't photographed at all well. Taking photos in the dark has been quite a challenge. There is a touch of humour in this one with the Star Wars TIE fighter... did you spot it? It reminded me of my brother who aged about seven drew a lovely picture in his school book of Harold at the battle of Hastings removing the arrow from his eye, complete with a fleet of fighter jets whizzing overhead.

Tonight we were treated to this stunning tree from Peter and Christine. The warm mulled wine was very welcome as we stood in the freezing rain!

I didn't actually get to see the window above on lighting up night but isn't it beautiful with all the doves flying around. However I did get to see Jane and Alan's window below, which must have taken ages to put together. Although I have loved seeing every single one I think their rendition of a bookshop window is just perfect and probably my favourite. It is full of Christmas themed books that Jane has collected. Just peering in feels like entering another world. I think I would like to curl up in a corner with one or two of those books!

The stained glass effect angel was simple in design but very effective and quite poignant. Gilly made it in memory of her sister, with the angel wearing her sister's favourite colour dress. The sunshine was a reminder to keep sunshine in our lives despite difficult circumstances.

My photo doesn't really capture Anne and Peter's window very well but the beautiful traditional crib scene is made from a bamboo set that Anne collected when she lived in Hong Kong. But the piece de resistance is the coloured star which moves across the night sky in an arc down behind the stable, driven by Peter's childhood meccano set!

The window below is another feat of construction, again not really shown up in my photos but each of the little buildings is beautifully made from Lego.

This gorgeous snowy scene is just a few doors along from us so we didn't have to venture far but I think the children of the household had a part in making the snowflakes and pompoms etc. They were very excited by their lights being turned on and the people turning up to watch.

The window below is a beautiful parade of nutcrackers.

And Sarah and Colin's window is another fabulous stained glass effect, although Sarah did admit she had outsourced the work to her Mum!

I have missed a few and there are of course still four more to go. On Christmas eve the window will be unveiled at the chapel following a carol service so I expect we will wander along for that. From Monday through to Friday next week we have various family members turning up at different times culminating with twelve here for lunch on Friday, although Christmas day itself will be quiet with just the two of us and my Mum. 

So that's it from me for a while. The jury is still out as to whether I will continue to blog into the new year, as I've not been around much lately. We shall see... I won't disappear without saying farewell!
It really just remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas whatever you might be doing... I hope it's a good one!

Monday 16 December 2019

Decking the Halls

When you have lived somewhere for almost thirty years the Christmas decorations evolve to fit the house, so moving somewhere new feels like starting all over again. When we packed up after Christmas last year I did get rid of quite a bit, such as my stair garland, as I knew it was unlikely to fit a new home. To be honest I was glad to see the back of it as each year it seemed a little balder and dustier than before! Most of the other bits and pieces have been accommodated into our cottage with only a few being relegated back into the box, having tried them and decided they don't really fit.

Despite downsizing we have gone from a single fire place to having three so that has required a major rethink as I don't really want to go out buying new stuff... being on a year of not buying new stuff where possible. The big open hearth with it's solid wood mantel proved a challenge but over the weekend I went foraging for greenery and pine cones and came home laden. One reel of florist's wire later plus a few silk poinsettias from our old stair garland and I have a beautifully decorated hearth in our living/dining/kitchen area.

 I feel quite pleased with my efforts!


In our small front room I have put together more pine cones and poinsettias together with ornaments that used to adorn our piano and have decorated the mantel there.

And the fireplace in our hallway has inherited the garland that used to decorate the one and only fireplace in our old house.

So together with a wonderful 8' tree, grown in the village and carried home on Saturday I think the house feels just about ready for Christmas

If only everything else was so organised... I've barely even thought about gifts or food etc! And we might just have to go without a Christmas cake, although it wouldn't be the only year I make one with less than a week to go! But I'm not stressing because none of it really matters.
Are you ready for Christmas yet?

Saturday 7 December 2019

Advent Windows

It's not often that I'm sitting doing nothing much on a Saturday afternoon but after several weeks of non stop activity plus a bout of seasonal insomnia (always happens this time of year - too much going on adds up to a busy head that won't let me sleep) has led to my body screaming "Stop and put your feet up woman". So that is what I am doing. However I'm not one for daytime snoozing so I thought I would pop by here for a quick update while I recline on the sofa.

Within just a few weeks of moving to the village I was asked if I would like to participate in an advent windows event called "Light the Night". Throughout December different households light up a window each evening until there are twenty four different illuminated windows throughout the village. It sounded such a lovely idea and back in July, December was still a long way off so of course I agreed to take part. Fast forward several months and I have been frantically gluing and grouting broken china and mosaic tiles to wooden angel shaped bases. There were a few technical issues i.e the stick on hooks kept falling off the window frames and until I actually switched it all on I wasn't sure how illuminated it would be but come lighting up time on 2nd December I was thrilled with the resulting window.

I have fifteen mosaic angels plus a bauble with a number two (because we were 2nd December) hanging from each glass panel amid lots of fairy lights and twinkly bits.

We had quite a crowd turn up for lighting up time who were treated to a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie or two.

It has felt lovely to be part of such a festive tradition and although I'm sure we won't make every lighting up time until 24th, we have managed to be there at 5pm every evening so far.

The event was started last Sunday on the 1st December at the village pub where ten windows were revealed one at a time while the landlady read the story of The Nutcracker to the gathered crowd.

On 3rd my friend Vicky revealed her windows, which depicted the Three Little Pigs. Her beautiful straw thatched cottage used to be a piggery and then subsequently it was a pub called The Pig and Whistle. Her thatch also has straw pigs along the roofline so you'll understand why she chose her beautiful scene. The colours are glorious.

On the 4th we were treated to a Bethlehem scene lit up by a beautiful star

And on 5th, the school revealed their window of the Three Kings bearing gifts, created by the pupils and staff.

Last night we were treated to a traditional nativity scene with beautiful carved wooden figures from Africa.

We'll be taking another little wander up the road this evening to see what is in store for the seventh window as it is such a wonderful way to count down the days until Christmas. Although to be fair we have got a chocolate calander too!

Sunday 24 November 2019

So This is November!

Oh dear.... nearly a month since I last blogged and November almost came and went without a word but I've snuck in briefly to say hello. I'm not even that sure what I have been up to but the days have been full and whizzing by as ever. Just a taste of what has happened since I last dropped by...

I've been doing lots more painting, including ripping things up, reassembling and then stitching into them. And I sold the one above which was based on my trip to the Lakes at the beginning of October.

I think I said in my last post that I had been doing a fabulous on line painting course with Louise Fletcher called Find Your Joy. I pretty much decided not to continue to the second course but then changed my mind. I've not regretted it and continue to churn out paintings.

I'm aiming for big skies and light open spaces. Maybe these will be ripped up and reassembled too!

I'm trying really hard to like my Aga but it's really not winning me over. Admittedly it's rather nice to have it constantly throwing out heat now it's cold out but I don't enjoy cooking on it. There is so much moving things from oven to oven, the heat drops during the day and the more it is used and I just don't find it precise enough. Someone suggested that it is wonderful for doing a roast and yes, I have made an excellent roast dinner but no better than I could do in my old conventional oven and it took twice as long by the time everything was moved around the various ovens. What a faff!

Baking is a bit hit and miss too... good when it works but I've had a couple of disasters with previously reliable recipes. It seems too much hassle to get the thing removed so I'm just resigned to no longer enjoying cooking like I did. More time for painting I guess!

I'm currently doing two classes a week in machine embroidery and book making. Current projects are Christmas Crackers... not the first time I've blogged about them.

and these little album style books. Full instructions for both are available as downloads from my Etsy shop... just in case you are interested!

I've been making lots of mosaics, mostly for a special project that will be revealed at the beginning of next month. Can't spoil the surprise and tell you what it is so maybe I'll be tempted back to the blog to tell you all about it before another four weeks have passed. Don't hold your breath!

I've also been decorating a tree for a Christmas tree festival in the church in our old village... and we have chosen our own locally grown tree from this village that will be dug next month. I've been catching up with friends and family over lunches and dinners, as well as meeting new friends over coffee. Books have been read, meetings attended and I have a new studio in the garden that is almost ready to move into... can't wait to finally get rid of all the boxes and stuff that have been cluttering up the house. And I have survived another month of no new clothes, which really hasn't been a hardship. And that has been November. I'm sure there has been lots more going on too but I can't recall exactly what else has been keeping me busy and away from the blog. Maybe see you again before too long if you are not bored silly with my ramblings!

Monday 28 October 2019

Blogging, Life and Art

I never intended being away so long but somehow blogging no longer feels like it is up there at the top of my list of priorities. I still enjoy writing but there is always so much else to do and life just feels busier than ever. I know I have felt this way before and yet have never quite been able to give it up. I have been writing this now for over twelve years and have seen many old blogging friends come and go, but I have carried on because it felt like something I needed to do, but it no longer has that same pull. And of course, the longer between posts the more there is to write about and the longer it all takes. There has been so much going on since my last post for instance...

I have come to the end of the ten week painting course I was taking and can't quite believe how much new work I have made... and so different to anything I have ever painted before. I really am loving it and want to do lots more, so it was tempting to take the six week follow up course but I was finding it really hard to keep up with the modules (and I haven't finished them all) so thought it was best to concentrate on finishing and trying more of what I have already been doing. These are just two of my recent pieces on paper.

I spent a day at the knitting and stitching show as an Artist in Action for Art Van Go. I had a lovely day working with Maria Boyle and Jenny O'Leary.

Whilst there I took some of the paintings I had been working on and deconstructed (i.e. tore up) and stitched into them, something I would quite like to explore further. I also managed to spill hot wax everywhere because I am so clumsy but that's another story!

I constructed some of the stitched pieces into little folding books.

I finished knitting a scarf from some variegated sock wool and took about fifty selfies trying to get a decent photo for Instagram. I always end up pulling ridiculous faces so I've cropped my face off this one. You really don't need to see me pulling a funny face. I think I'm the wrong generation for a selfie... no plumped up lips and painted on eyebrows for a start! I like the scarf and it matches lots of my tops but I wouldn't recommend the pattern as it's a very peculiar shape. It is the only new thing I've had this month and made from yarn I already had so I'm still on track for no new clothes for a year... ten more months to go!

I spent a brilliant day learning how to carve a spoon and was actually allowed to use an axe which was rather exciting given how clumsy I am.

I also got to use a very sharp knife for the final whittling and managed to get away with just a few small nicks in my hand. I was more upset that I was getting blood on the spoon than about anything else.

It doesn't bear close scrutiny but for my first time ever working with wood I was quite pleased. I've started a list of 100 new things to do before I'm 100 and this was one of those things. I'm tagging the posts with them in but not necessarily writing them all down in a list like my sixty by sixty. I have an axe and a whittling knife on my Christmas list now!

Did I mention I have been in a play too? Eight weeks of rehearsing and learning lines so I guess it's little wonder I've not had time for blogging. The performances were last week and it seemed to be quite well received. It was all a bit ridiculous being a typical farce and I think really I just like dressing up. I loved the pink boots... and  I dyed my hair pink to match! It was lots of fun but it's also quite nice that it's over.

So you can probably see why there has been no time for blogging, although I'm on Instagram most days. A post on Instagram takes just minutes and can be done on my phone. You can find me at gina_ferrari_art although it's not all art...

But then if all life is art I suppose it is. There are paintings but also stitching, knitting, food, walks... and even the occasional dodgy selfie.

I'm not saying I will stop blogging altogether... not just yet because it's hard to stop something you have done for twelve years... but you are more likely to find me on Instagram!