Archive for December, 2011

Diligent housewife, potterer or procrastinator with a butterfly mind…hmmm

I had a list of things I wanted to achieve today, things like  the ironing, some art work, a bit of reading maybe, well definitely I would say. The writing bug has come back after a long and lonely break. I skimmed through the draft of my novel yesterday with intentions of resurrecting it and to give me some information for solid frameworks and plots etc. I scoured my bookshelves for a book, you know not to guide me but to give me fresh ideas. I found a load of books on writing short stories, writing ideas, nano writing, you name it, – I have it, so why is it that they are never quite what you are looking for. I got up from my reading, showered, fed and fussed one of my cats and picked up the books I had selected. An hour and a cold cup of coffee later I was still none the wiser. Then somehow things took a totally different pathway.

I washed up my cup and a  couple of other bits left over from last night’s supper, emptied the dishwasher that had been waiting since the day before and that was where I think other forces came into being. As I began to put stuff away in the cupboards I had the urge to tidy things a bit, accelerated by the fact that being hit on the head with flying objects as one opens the door above the eye-level oven is not much fun. Then my mind took over. My inner voice told me it is  New Year’s Eve tomorrow, I always take my decorations down on NYD, you know, new year, fresh start. I fought starting them today despite arguing with myself instead I settled for ‘ I will just tidy this’…. and on it goes. I moved to the utility room to put a casserole dish away, well its a sort of conservatory lean-to outside my back door, typical of little terraced houses and it has my washing machine and drier along with some kitchen units along one wall. Enough to keep all my cherished gadgets that have over spilled from  my tiny kitchen. ‘Hmm a bit dusty’ thought I and gets a cloth and some cleaning spray. ‘Actually, these cupboards are a bit cluttered, I could reorganise the shelf and get rid of all the junk I don’t need but keep in case. Now I wonder what I have in that bottom cupboard, it needs tidying anyway… washing up liquid – new, laundry whitener, spray polish, hand washing powder and what’s this? A new can of spray carpet shampoo!! Why do I listen to it?

I finished the cupboards and cleaned everything, organised my empty jars for pickle and jam making in the summer, put things that should be together in the same place and … the carpet shampoo just sat there in front of me. I walked in to the lounge, I had already made a mental note that it needed a vacuum today –  and I had been talking about cleaning the carpet since before Christmas. We have a big brute of an upright shampooer, amazing machine, but it did take a couple of days to dry last time and as it was winter I decided that little can of foam would do the trick. Voila – one shampooed carpet.

I make light of these labours but I have to do everything in short bursts of about half an hour otherwise the pain gets too much and I get nothing finished. But I cracked it! thank goodness no-one was watching me. I sprayed my little lounge, square by 3′ square then sat on a chair with a long handled brush to work the foam in for each little on patch thereby resting as I worked. Sorted!

Two major jobs completed. It took longer than most people would take but it got done, that’s the main thing. Enthused by my achievements I looked at the row of demijohns containing the home-made wine I started at the end of last summer. I have been putting off and putting off racking them. I mean it’s a long laborious job. Thanks to a kitchen stool and an ingenious balancing of pipes, I was able to sit and eat lunch while syphoning from one jar to another without too many spills. By cleaning up and sterilising the other things I needed as I went along, I was able to carry on for longer than I would normally, standing for a while to do one job and sitting when I needed to. Job done! I was shattered my knee hurt, my back was sore but once I had cleaned dried and packed everything away I looked at the floor. Sticking to it sort of gave the game away and of course the two hours drying for the lounge carpet was up so that needed vacuuming too, might as well do all in one sweep. Five hours from when I first sat down determined to write today I had vaccuumed all downstairs, cleaned my utility room, sorted the cupboards, shampooed the carpet, racked three demijohns of home-made wine and sterilised everything before I put it away. Now it is time to think about Harry’s evening meal..

How easy it is for me to potter, drifting from one thing to another, ignoring all my plans. I have the ironing to do but I still have enough tops to last me a couple more days so maybe tomorrow will do. I suppose while I was doing all this stuff , which has given me a totally satisfied  feeling I must add – you know what I mean? That tidy house, tidy mind sort of feeling, not that I am always neat and tidy despite my kids diagnosing OCD because my home is usually neat and clean – haha – I don’t have small people at home like they do – just me and Harry unless afore mentioned gorgeous little nuclear bombs visit leaving devastation in their wake, so it is going to stay tidy and I do get a lot of satisfaction from its tidiness.. hmm maybe I do have OCD… Now, where was I? Ah yes, I was running through some ideas for writing at the same time – talking about starting to write again … wow! Would you look at that! nearly a thousand words and I haven’t said a single thing that I was going to write about.. All those thoughts I had in my head just fluttered away… Tomorrow, I will start writing, tomorrow I promise, ok? I mean after today I won’t be fit to do much else anyway and the ironing will keep, what a perfect excuse to sit and practice how not to procrastinate or maybe to capture the lovely ideas my butterfly mind gives before they disappear completely like they have today..

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Food, Glorious Food!

No, not from the film Oliver although I can’t help thinking that reading the book or watching the film would have been a much more beneficial pastime than eating after the shock I got at my slimming group last evening. I mean, how on earth does anyone put ON four and a half pounds over a two day holiday?!! Well, ok so it extended past the two days – both sides of it –  but part of the preparation does involve tasting, especially when you are cooking for other people. It was a  great time though and the food was good. Traditional Turkey and Gammon on Christmas day with a vegetarian option, and a special supper on Boxing day. My son in law is Spanish, or is it Portuguese maybe a bit of both, anyway I decided it would be a nice change from the same old stuff if I cooked a Spanish meal for him, and my daughter and the oldest of their daughters of course.

I love cooking, I love experimenting and trying out new recipes and as much as I like trying them I love to entertain and see other people enjoy eating them too. As most people will know, I have arthritis  and find it difficult to stand for too long so all preparation is spread from my little kitchen to the dining room table where I  can sit and chop etc until that becomes painful and I have to stand again. I write all this to remind myself later in the year that it is possible to prepare elaborate meals if I pace things out. I managed very well, it took a lot longer than it should and stuffing cherry tomatoes with anchovies, olives and eggs was crippling but never the less, I achieved a fine Tapas meal.

Bless Harry, I can’t explain to him the satisfaction I get from creating a wonderful feast. I mean his idea of getting a jar and pre-prepared stuff defeats the whole object of being a creative cook, doesn’t it? I like to cook international dishes too and the thought of a curry coming from a jar is horrifying to me. Part of the joy of Indian food cooking is the wonderful aroma that hovers round the house from the natural spices. I always feel that if you can walk into a house and smell something delicious cooking, it is a warm welcome. Well, maybe not fish dishes so much. It is hard to explain to him that firstly, I don’t want to give in to the easy way and secondly, I can’t possibly be proud of a meal that was prepared by a food factory. I know he is thinking of me and wants to make life easier but if I don’t keep doing the things I really  love, what else is there?

This extends to my writing too, I find it painful to sit and type for any length of time and I gave up my blogging, but I love writing! I missed writing it.  So little by little I am taking steps to starting over. I love blog writing as much as I love the more serious stuff.  I have re-read the novel I have written previously and just want to throw it away and start again. I think I have a great storyline but how on earth do get all the words to go in the right place in order to make it a great story. Then when the pain starts and I have to do something different, I lose the plot… maybe I need to borrow Harry’s dictaphone to record the ideas. One way or another I am determined to rewrite my novel to make it move faster. Time to read up on plot and frameworking methinks.

Of course, I have so many hobbies that I have many different things I can do, sitting, standing, while watching tv – not that I enjoy the idiot box much – so even if I am in pain I can just change what I do and pick something that involves a different postition. Very frustrating when I have a deadline set. Still all these things do keep me away from the kitchen and so from the temptation of trying the food. Maybe I should get in the habit of asking someone else to taste it? Nah, I don’t think I could, not that I have a good sense of taste any more but I know what it should be like. Harry has a sweet tooth and so do most members of my family so it just wouldn’t work for me, besides, my task this week is to let Harry down gently. Having indulged in a lot of rich food and having to make up for it, a salad doesn’t quite hit the spot for him. I’ve been looking up low fat, low sugar recipes especially for Harry… I don’t like to use artificial flavourings or sweeteners so being creative is essential.

Ah well, I have given away most of the food now, all apart from the cake … a gorgeous recipe for 12th night cake, because no-one likes rich fruit cake, marzipanned and iced and decorated with hand made marzipan penguins on request from my grand daughter.. now that really is too nice not to eat. Good job I have just eaten a huge salad… I might just be tempted.

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Goodbye 2011, welcome 2012

What a wonderful year 2011 was! Ok, not terribly successful on the writing front but absolutely brilliant for my art. It’s funny, I always visualised myself to being a writer, I mean that was why I went to University and took English,  literature and creative writing, wasn’t it? It is still dear to my heart and I still feel I have a novel or two inside me. I have been reading a lot these last few months, over thirty books actually, with the idea of grasping what framework successful authors use when they write series of books. It is so simple and yet it still escapes me, my brain fails to assimilate it into my understanding. I have one novel almost finished and another written in note form but when I read them they lack the something that makes them ‘live’.

My problem is that I am unable to get inside the protagonist’s head, or even to sustain a plausible protagonist that lives to the end of the book. I have read so many crime series, some of which are so simple to follow, and still I struggle. I haven’t given up on the whole novel-writing thing yet so will have another go this year. I guess the best thing for me is when I pick up something I have written and not looked at for a while, so many times I look at what I wrote and cannot believe that is actually my work. Well I like reading it anyway.

2011 saw a door opening for a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of  illustrating thanks to the fantastic writer, Trevor Belshaw. He writes children’s books under the name Trevor Forest and I for one think they are brilliant. It has been an honour to work with him and so encouraging to me. I have never been able to draw people terribly successfully and have been stretched out of my comfort zone of seascapes and the flora of the countryside but I feel I am improving all the time. If you’d like to take a look at Trevor’s children’s writing here’s a link for you , he  also writes some really great adult stories so do check him out. Of course you will see my art work on his books as well. ; )

On the art front and comfort zones, just before Christmas I was asked to paint a picture to give as a gift. Nervously I asked what the subject was and was told a dog…. My brain immediately screamed  at me… DON’T DO IT! I mean there are so many brilliant artists out there and I couldn’t possibly  copy someone’s loved pet. I mean I have never even attempted that sort  of work before. Anyway, because it was someone close to me I said I would have a go with ‘no promises’ as a get out clause.

Now I have always viewed my ability to create a picture something as a precious gift that I really appreciate. I often wonder just how such amazing pictures end up on my canvas or paper. They seem to just want to be painted and somehow they have chosen me to paint them. I sat down with a photograph and a plea for any help I could get to the heavens. Here is the result… I can tell you, I was just so amazed that I could actually produce anything like this, just like with my seascapes, that I feel sure someone is painting it for me.  I am happy to say the person I painted it for was delighted with it.

It is this little painting that has encouraged me to push myself further with my art and that, in turn, tells me that I need to apply that theory to my writing. Who knows, maybe 2012 will be the year I actually get my novel up to publishing standard. I am sure gonna try anyway.

So I am looking back at 2011 with a sort of affection, from all the things that went wrong, I learned important lessons. From all the soul-searching and analysing of things from my past, close and distant, I learned that I don’t have to be perfect; how others perceive me is for them to form an opinion, as long as I am as good as I think I need to be;  as long as I recognise that it is ok to fail sometimes I can learn from everything that happens to me.

I also learned that I am getting older and it is both painful and joyful to watch my children as the competent adults they all are. Painful because my role as a mother is changing, becoming less important. Joyful because I have a new role as a grandmother. It takes some getting used to, stepping back and seeing your children being totally independent of you,  but the feeling of pride is amazing when watch them as parents being totally wonderful having learned from all my mistakes.

Speaking of being a grandmother, we had a new addition on the 1st August.. Matilda Felicity Dawn weighed in at 9 lbs 11 oz and another amazing privilege for me to be one of my daughter’s birth partners. A perfect water birth for her.. and a wonderful day for me. I  am one blessed lady, I can tell you.

2011 also saw me changing myself. As you know from my previous blog entries, I went on a slimming programme.. Many of you have asked how I did.. I can now tell you with pride that in eight months, I have lost 4 stone – 56 lbs for my American friends – I still have a long way to go and apart from a Christmas slip… hmmm… I shall be back on my diet from tonight… the dreaded post-Christmas weigh in…

This leads me to look forward to 2012, New Year resolution time? Hehe, in my experience resolutions never quite work out as I plan. Full of optimism and good intentions I always start well.. the weight losing is of course still a priority… but then life and loved ones seem to take over. Something that I really enjoy, and isn’t an excuse for failure as such, I mean I was thinking just the other day that each moment I spend with my family is precious, all the little things they do and say will never be captured again, a one-off experience. I have missed so much of my older grandchildren due to distance and different countries, that I am really enjoying the younger four that do live close. No doubt I shall be writing about them more, showing the pictures of the things we get up to and …. actually, that’s a good resolution for me, yes!

For 2012 my resolution is to be more organised, to set out specific times for writing and painting and stick to them.. at least that way I will get more done. I also intend to go out more, in the garden – slowly – visiting friends and family and just going out for little walks, as much as I am able,  in the sunshine. That’s it and to enjoy each moment for its own worth… Bearing in mind I have a 60th birthday this year : (.   Meanwhile I wish you all a really HAPPY, HEALTHY and PROSPEROUS 2012 .xxx

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