Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sketchbook | Emil

Sketch of Emil, winter afternoon sunlight

Some time ago on this blog I started and then quickly abandoned a regular series called 'Daily Drawings', in which I was going to post one or several of my daily drawings (or paintings) once a week - it was never going to be an actual 'daily' thing... Then my posting became sporadic.

It is easy to make announcements of fresh starts, especially at this time of the year. I am sitting here with a new diary and a new notebook, hundreds of blank pages with the promise of plans put into being, ideas realised and wishes fulfilled. My 2015 diary and its pages of densely written appointments and events (an estimated 10%), deadlines (20%) and random notes to self (70%) are in the recycling - not the fire this time.

I am hoping to post more regularly again, and this series shall be under the plain and more open and realistic title 'Sketchbook', though I have high hopes that I will sketch and paint every day. There will be some housekeeping going on here for the next few days (or weeks).

This is a drawing of my four-month-old nephew. More and more I feel the need to draw and paint people and things from my life. And I am encouraged by the feedback from others, including strangers. In the August exhibition the painting people commented on most was of my sister and her cat, the most personal piece in a lot of ways.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Attempts at serenity - there is only love

While Christmas and being at home for long enough to be at home is always a lovely time (if tinged with absence for the past 14 years), inevitably tension and everything that is unresolved creep in, in a more condensed form than when I am geographically removed from the past and the network of family and friends here.  

So I send those whose actions, inactions or words hurt people close to me and me (and ultimately themselves, of course) love, because they may not know better. It sounds trite and too easy, but there is some truth in that paradigm that "everyone is doing the best they can".  

I used to spend so much time and energy worrying about and overanalysing situations and people, and while the worrying remains, I am able to apply the knowledge that we cannot change others; we can only change ourselves and our attitude. But our attitude and action/reaction are different, if overlapping, concepts, and at times I feel helpless; it can be hard to know what to do or not to do, whether to speak up or remain silent. Stepping away and creating space can feel like distancing myself (which may be the right route to take) or denial. 

I can see myself slipping into old patterns here in my childhood home, composing letters in my head, wanting to mediate and create harmony. And I am not saying this from some superior position of great insight and righteousness  – all of this is compounded by guilty feelings; I am hardest on myself, as usual, revisiting my early twenties and other phases or events of my life I am not particulary proud of. The situations that cause upset at the moment get tangled up with just about everything else I can fret over, from the minutiae of my own world to global issues. So I try to detangle it and help where I can help, act where it is appropriate, do my best in the present moment, and practise to let things go.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Getting back into a routine

Moving house has thrown a lot of my routines. At the beginning I didn't know where half of my things were, because I had packed haphazardly, as everything was so chaotic just before I moved out. We are still living out of boxes to some extent, and I have existed in a state of constant (excited and happy, of course) frazzledness. A large proportion of my thinking has been in the shape of to-do-lists. Between work and the house and attempting a new-to-me kind of domesticity, some things have inevitably fallen by the wayside.

Routines are extremely important to me (and the opposite is true as well - I can get stuck in a rut and need to do things differently - Gretchen Rubin talks a lot about these paradoxes) and one of the best ways to calm an anxious mind. But I easily get sidetracked and prioritise work or chores, which are ritualistic in their own right. Now I am making a conscious effort to dig out (metaphorically and literally) all the things that used to make up my daily/weekly/twice-weekly routines.

One of them is yoga. For a few weeks my yoga mat was only used by John for the exercises he has to do after hurting his back gardening (and we were extolling the health benefits!) and by our neighbours' dog, who loves wriggling on it belly up. But now I am back to doing yoga with the visual help of this luscious book, which is perfect when I just need a sequence I can follow without having to learn anything new or read up on things and when I want quiet and don't want to be guided by a video.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Four senses | December 2015

Taste  |  Aphrodite Nerve and Energy Tea by Solaris. I used to drink this all the time, then other teas took over and I kind of forgot about it, even though it was one of my favourite teas - it's strange how that can happen. This is a blend of rose, lavender, lemon balm, lime flowers and red clover and lovely in the afternoon or evening.

Smell  |  Christmas baking. Jars with almonds, vanilla sugar and other ingredients are lined up on the kitchen counter, and I got a set of star-shaped cookie cutters. This year I really wanted to mark the seasons more (the extent of my Christmas decoration used to be one bauble and three other ornaments, because I always go home for Christmas, but I'd still always have at least three weeks in December in my place), so the German tradition of baking Pl├Ątzchen (cookies) is a big part of it.

Hear  |  Podcasts. During the last class of this year yesterday we had Christmas music on in the background, but I have mostly been listening to podcasts, usually while doing housework or painting. One thing I want to do over the next few weeks is to get some new music. I haven't really listened to many new releases or discovered new-to-me older material.

See  |  Books - Reading and deciding what to read next. I loved Michael Harding's Staring at Lakes, and I finally got his new memoir, Hanging with the Elephant. I wanted to save it for my flight home, but I couldn't wait. His weekly newspaper column is such honest beautiful writing from the heart, and I would like to read his fiction, too. Too much of my reading has been online, so in 2016 I am hoping to read at least two books a week again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New home | kitchen work-in-progress

 old chairs, painted

a still quite bare kitchen work-in-progress

 hot press corner, very much a work-in-progress

Work on the house (or Operation 'Add Charm to a Bungalow') is progressing very slowly. Winter doesn't seem to be the best time to get things done. Apart from painting furniture and moving things around from one temporary location to another we haven't done much. I did one paint job late at night and was rewarded with a streaky-looking lacquer coat the following day (see third photo above).

Because chalk paint has a very low VOC content and doesn't require much preparation work, I have been painting almost everything that needed painting with chalk paint. We are doing a lot of make-do-and-mend, and painting things can make such a big difference. We are keeping the kitchen that came with the house for now (but will take off all the hanging cupboards and put up a shelf or two instead) and painted it with Annie Sloan chalk paint, mixing 'Old Ochre' and 'Original' 50/50. The handles I painted a colour we got as a test pot in a DIY store, a pale lilac. There were also a couple of old chairs in the house, and a friend gave us another two. I painted them grey and pink, this time with chalk paint from Woodie's DIY, which was cheaper than the Annie Sloan and almost as good. Their range of colours is completely different, so I will probably buy from both brands again. Having said that, a small amount of chalk paint goes a long way, so I might not have to buy any more anytime soon.

For the black mosaic tile backsplash I got magenta tile paint, though we are also thinking of collecting larger ornamental tiles and creating a new backsplash at some stage.

The hot press is built into the kitchen wall and had the finish that is still visible around the doors in the last photo above. I painted the doors a light grey and took off the handles to make it look more like panelling and less like an inbuilt cupboard. For the frame we want a contrasting colour, but since we haven't decided what colour the wall will be eventually, we are going to wait.

Meanwhile this corner has become our favourite place to read and talk and drink wine. When we have visitors we pull up a small table and more chairs. We really depend on the stoves now that it has got colder. The sitting room (where the other stove is) heats up much faster, but a lot of life happens in the kitchen, which doubles as our office/studio at the moment. This is one reason we are going to knock down part of the wall between the two rooms. Large open-plan style wouldn't necessarily be my favourite (I quite like the cosiness of individual rooms, and open plan often feels cold, especially in Ireland!), but some sort of in-between makes sense.

*As always when I mention brands here, I do not receive anything in exchange for recommending or linking to things.