Saturday, 30 April 2011

In Love :D

Well I couldn't let an opportunity pass to indulge in a deliciously romantic moment. My political oppinions I tend to keep firmly to myself and I wasn't sure if I would watch the Wedding at all. But I was suddenly struck by a deep patriotic spasm and rushed to the television with a pot of tea and yells to the younglings to attend! The Moomin obliged, but son grumbled something ogreish and stayed in his pit.

Well, what can I say. I was moved and loved every bit of it all, the beautiful and the hideous frocks and hats (you know who I mean!) and the stunningly gorgeous Kate. She had such dignity and grace and Wills looked so handsome. Oh dear, I'm having a major slushy moment :D
The eternal optimist in me wishes them great joy and long lasting happiness :D

Don't you just adore that little bridesmaids face, what a poppet :D

Of course, I have a little love story all of my own although a tad less exciting! A short while ago Moomin and I discovered some very magical and strange woods. I returned a couple of days ago with the dog and had quite an adventure.

Manchee loves to stick his nose into everything and was so absorbed that thankfully he missed our visitor. Standing still to take the photos I could hear something moving through the leaves. Sometimes squirrels and small birds can make enough noise to fool you that there's a huge beast bearing down on you, but this was quite a gentle rustle and the deer that stepped into the clearing moved with stealth. She gave me a long look and continued on her way, leaving me breathless with wonder. I was worried that Manchee might give chase, but he stayed beside me, thankfully.

Unlike most woodlands I've been to, these have vast unmanaged areas where trees fall and are left, wildlife walk bodly through and you can easily become very lost indeed. Which is what happened to us. I did feel a brief moment of fear, but that dog is an amazing path finder and I was shocked when at length we found our original trail.


These logs were enormous and brought to mind Bilbo's adventures with the Trolls!


The woodland changed from deciduous to Scots Pine and it was here that we got lost. The pines were silent and spooky and I was glad to return to the noisy crow filled oaks and beech.


As we approached this rise from under the beeches, I realised I was being watched. A little red face was peeping from between the ferns and a small female fox looked boldly at me as I looked at her. I was sure she was heavy with young as she walked a little way into the undergrowth and turned to watch me again. Manchee was off on a squirrel hunt so missed our visitor and again I was grateful for that.

He did pick up her scent after she'd gone, but willingly came back when I called him. He's such a good dog.

I stood beneath this beautiful oak and listened to the crows having a very loud party above, the ivy so thick that we couldn't see each other and they carried on totally unaware of my precence.


I truly felt that I'd stepped into another world and came home so full of ideas and pictures that I can't wait to get painting again. For years I've been writing a series of novels, but after my beautiful horse Oliver died, the writing dried up. For the first time, under these magical trees, I feel like writing again :D

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Dandelion wine.

I have to admit to a certain fondness for making something from nothing, so when a brewing forum advertised 'wine for free' I was instantly curious. Well, to be fair the wine isn't totally free especially when you take into account the rising cost of sugar, plus the time it took to pick all the dandelions, but you know, it's nearly there, so I thought I'd give it a go. Being a bit of a greedy whatsit, I doubled the ingredients, especially as our field is over run with dandelions at the moment. The weather seems to be perfect for them,as I've seen fields yellow with their flowers around here. I have no idea how this wine will turn out, but I love to experiment. I've made some divinely delcious wines and some gut-clenchingly awful ones, but that's half the fun :D

So here is my brewing bin filled with beautiful yellow, fragrant flowers. Nearly 7 pints worth!



Recipe:
3/4 pints of dandelion heads
1.2 kg sugar
1 gallon of water
5 grams wine yeast
3 oranges

Some of the dandelions I washed, but so much of the colour and pollen came out, that I worried I was losing flavour, so the rest I left.

1. Boil the water in a large pan and pour onto the flowers in the brewing bin.
2. Leave to steep for 48 hours, no longer.
3. Pour back into the pan and bring to the boil.
4. Add the zest of the 3 oranges.
5. Strain through muslin back into the fermenting bin, add the juice from the oranges and add the sugar.
6. When cool, add yeast and pour into the demijohn and add an airlock.
7. Ferment until the bubbles have finished.
8. Rack off until wine clears.
9. Pour into sterilised bottles and leave for around 6months or longer.

There are some very good on line suppliers of wine kit and ingredients but I've managed quite well with what I can pick up from Wilkinsons and Ebay. After the initial outlay, the cost is absorbed by the money you save overall. Plus, I think it's a fun hobby and takes me back to the days of watching The Good Life and their adventures in Home Brewing. Pea Pod Burgundy anyone? :D

Friday, 22 April 2011

Banner and escape.

We had a lovely escape to the beach yesterday, which was well deserved by the children as they've been so patient with my obsessive work load lately. This was the first time Manchee had seen waves and he was really very scared. My lovely son showed him there was nothing to fear


and pretty soon Manchee was speeding over the water like a jet-ski! He was everywhere at once and made us laugh so much with his antics.


Let me tell you, the water was not warm. It's very early in the season for much more than paddling but after laying on the stones, listening to the roll and roar of the waves I suddenly realised that I needed to be fully in the water. After this picture with the Moomin, I threw off my shorts and t-shirt and went for a swim. I was wearing a swimsuit, I must add, haha! It was lovely to be pushed and pulled by the waves, it's a feeling that you just don't get in a swimming pool and I've rediscovered my love of the sea.


Back home and back to work. Rather than buy an expensive banner for the fairs this year, I decided to make one and I'm so glad I did.


It's worked out far better than I'd hoped and I've found so much joy in just picking up a paintbrush and sploshing it around on a piece of canvas :D


While it sits drying, I'll make a start on the Gazeebo, have a good day all :D

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen.

The beautiful and talented Elisabeth Sladen sadly passed away yesterday after a battle with Cancer. For many people my age, especially women, she'll be remembered as one of the first strong female television characters. She was a fantastic role model for me growing up as a child and now some 30 years later, she has been an inspiration for my daughter's generation.


The fact that I shared my tears with the Moomin is testimony to this wonderful womans ability to reach out to her audience. She had style and class and will be so sadly missed :(

Design.

I've been playing with the design of the website and am slowly pulling it into shape, do please take a look and let me know what you think. I think there are a few things needed and I hope to add the shop this week, so that could be interesting, it's at http://oakmoonstudio.com

I've also been playing with the look of the blog, but think the header will be changing again soon. It's fun to have a play and see what does and doesn't work. More paintings have come and gone from the easel and today I'm printing out copies for the Hampshire Green Fair on the 8th of May. If any of you are in the area of the Sustainability Center in Hampshire, please pop along and say hi. It promises to be a fantastic family day out, with music, beer tents, organic food and of course trade stands. You can find out more on their website http://www.sustainability-centre.org

Now I must get back to decorating the gazeebo. I'll post some photos later, so that you know what to look for should you get to the fair. Oooh, I'm so excited :D

Friday, 15 April 2011

Work and play.

We had such a lovely family day out with my sweet Nan. She's well into her 90's and as much fun now as when she was younger and she gets on so well with the Moomin :D



A lovely lunch was followed by a walk in the Rock Gardens, a very traditional Victorian style garden. It felt so much smaller than when I was a child and would find hiding places behind the rocks and in the trees.


The waterfall is still so beautiful, even if it is in a busy town and I sat on an ants nest at the top when I was 9!!!


On our way home, we took a detour to pick up two new members of our family.
My lovely son and his kitten Cottonmouth (named after a movie character). She's every bit as classy and lethal as her namesake!


This is Piper who is for Moomin and I to share :D



Already Piper has decided that long hair makes a good nest.


And little Cotton knows where she's happy.


Manchee is madly in love with them both, but can't understand how his size intimidates them.






A long walk in my favourite woods took some of the edge off Manchee's energy and gave me the time to wind down after the day in the City. I do find it hard to be among so many people and buildings now and here is where I escape.


Work continues for the Fair, although this one is causing a few minor issues.


I love working with watercolour, but I don't feel I'm quite as easy with it as I am the acrylics. Do you recognise the subject?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Trying week.

It's been a very up and down week this week and it's had some pretty good days balanced by some totally wiped out ones. However I try not to dwell on things and am happy to move on. It's tough though taking such a leap of faith and investing so much time and effort in a fragile business environment. When the economy is in such constant flux, it's hard to believe that my art will carry me through. I have to believe it for now or I'd not pick up a brush ever again, instead always relying on the guaranteed paycheck. I'll know how the land lies after my show in May and so for now, faith is carrying me onwards.

I've been photographing trees for a new painting. I think the actual tree that will emerge will be one from within me and these will just be used for reference.
The Oak King's daughter, at our field.


The Apple Tree Man, with my last two chickens (it's been a tough Winter for us all.)


And this wonderful spot. A disued chalk quarry that is now a nature reserve. From some of the tyre tracks, it appears that part of it is used by bikers, whether motorcross or mountain bike, I couldn't decide.


It was wonderfully deserted when I explored it with the dog, who ran up and down sheer quarry walls like they were a gentle slope! We will definitely be returning and hopefully avoid the owners of the bikes!


It's also been a trying week for this little trio. A painting in a more traditional style, but one that has been such a struggle. I don't know if it's because this is a much smaller canvas or simply because this style doesn't flow so well for me. This is only halfway finished and I can see some glaring mistakes from this photo that aren't always noticeable when the canvas is on the easel.


A new week and new challenges begin tomorrow, but I hope it's a good one for us all :D