Even Stranger Times

Here we are at the other end of summer and on the verge of another national lockdown. The world is definitely not having a good 2020. I’m still working from home which makes me feel safe and secure. My husband works in a Covid secure environment so I don’t worry about that (too much) and I know I will be staying here at home for the foreseeable future. Luckily my company hasn’t tried to make us go back into the office and with the Government U-turn (what, another one!) it looks unlikely that will happen this year.

So what exciting things have I been doing over the summer, I hear you ask. Well, surprisingly enough, not a lot. Not in comparison to other years it’s been a very quiet summer. No gigs, no eating out, no visiting friends, no festivals, no holidays, no day trips. That’s a lot of no’s. I have been enjoying my garden (more on that later), lots of cooking and baking, more reading than usual, a little less crafting than usual due to all the gardening, less “work” work than usual too.

That’s a strange one because I thought working from home permanently would make it hard for me to stop at the end of the “working” day but being at home has made me more conscious of “me” time. I stop working when I’m supposed to and I don’t find myself sneaking back online to check data or reports every time I walk past my computer. Being at home has made me very aware that I need to have definition between my working life and the rest of my life and I like it.

I’ve had issues with the tendons in my left hand this summer, I was in excruciating pain for weeks before I decided to deal with the issue. I spoke to an amazing OHT that I have access to at work and she has been helping me sort out the issues. I woke up one day in a lot of pain and for a little while was convinced I was having a reoccurrence of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that plagued me 10 years ago. Thankfully it looks like this time it was caused by very uncomfortable sleeping patterns that stretched the tendons in my hand. With lots of daily exercises and the use of a night brace I’m nearly out the other side of this. I’m learning to take more breaks and stop when it hurts. Now that sounds obvious doesn’t it, but it’s not. I need to consciously tell myself to stop.

Sunflower from July
Glorious sunflower from July

So onto the gardening news. Despite the shit the world is going through this year I have had a good summer. A productive summer. A joyful summer. How? My garden. I have poured every ounce of time, creativity and hard work into that space outside my living room window and the rewards have been immense. We started back in April with a few out of date seeds packs and a lot of time on our hands. Now we have this amazing space that is starting, very slowly, to feed us. We’ve had strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, coriander, spinach, lettuce, rocket. All in tiny quantities and barely enough for a whole meal apart from the spinach which threatened to overwhelm us but we grew it ourselves. We watched it growing, we watered it, we weeded it, we nurtured it.

It has been a huge positive impact on both our lives and something we are both so grateful for. Not only have we had a few tasty morsels we have had an abundance of colour and fragrance. A beautiful place to sit and share with the hundreds of garden birds that visit us every day. Well maybe not hundreds, it just feels like that when they all descend on the feeders.

So obsessed have we become that we now have three raised vegetable beds. Our summer bed still has the remnants of beans and spinach in it. The other two new beds are for over wintering our strawberry runner plants and some tender stem broccoli and onions. Hopefully these will be ready by Christmas. Then we put a cage up to the stop the pigeons and I tied little bits of tin foil to the netting to scare them off. Not sure this works but I like the way it sounds in the wind.

So in order to keep track of our garden adventures I’m going to add a new page to this blog and document month by month what we’ve done this year and then each month update it with our progress. It will act both as an incentive for me to keep this blog updated (I came back in less than 6 months this time – an all time record!) and also as an online calendar/journal of our garden so we can look back on what we planted, what successes we had, what we want more of etc etc. Basically I’m going to blog about my utter joy at growing even the tiniest thing because at this point it’s worth sharing every little tiny bit of positivity we have with the world.

Strange times

We are living in very strange times. 2020 is not turning out how any of us thought it would. We are all, mostly, staying at home, working from home, existing from home. I am finding the adjustment to being in my home 24/7 very easy. I believe I am in a minority with this feeling. I have always been the kind of person that needs to gear herself up to go and socialise. Consequently I don’t have a huge circle of friends and I rarely go out just for the sake of it socially. I go out to hear live music, sometimes to eat, to go to work, to visit family, to exercise.

The current state of the world means I can’t do any of those things. But I’m adjusting. I watch live streams of music from my favourite bands from the comfort of my living room. And you know what – no-one is talking over the band! I watch cookery shows and cook from scratch – I’ve perfected tarka daal. I was able to work from home although I’m currently on furlough leave (that’s the hardest thing to adjust to). I text family and friends or hang out on video chats for my British Sign Language course. I do yoga in my room. I have overcome the limitations put upon me by this world event and my own health issues. I am adjusting.

What I am missing is photography. So I went out into the garden (the only place I’m allowed to go right now as I’m on this pesky vulnerable person list) and pushed myself out of my comfort zone using a 50mm fixed lens. I don’t like it. I never have. I find it restricting and I don’t fully understand how it reacts to light and stuff so I rarely use it. I had a little bit of success with it today, in full manual mode and I do like how light and easy it is to hold. I just get frustrated having to keep moving around with it. I’m too reliant on my zoom lens’ and that’s something I need to work on.

My Instagram account has become limited to my garden. This isn’t a bad thing but it means there will be a very detailed account of how my garden grew this year. Normally I take pictures on my morning commute to Liverpool City Centre. My commute is now about 30 feet to the end of my garden so I’m expecting to have to get very creative with those pictures.

I planted some out of date seed packets – sunflowers, chillis, sweet peas. I left them pinned to my noticeboard and they stayed there. I never have enough time, the weather is never right, I forgot to buy compost. A million reasons to not plant them. This time out we’ve been given means I have no excuses. So I planted them all. Wow, sunflowers grow fast!!

Hopefully more time to write will see me update my blog more than once every 3 years. Hopefully. Depends on that To Be Read pile of books I can see out of the corner of my eye.

Scrapping Again….

Not sure why but I always seem to have a rush of creativity at this time of year. Maybe as the nights get lighter and the days get longer I want to do more than just curl up and watch tv.

So I’ve been scrapbooking like a demon for the last few weeks. It’s been nice going through my stash and finding things I’d forgotten I had.

I’ve also indulged in a few new bits – mostly from Shimelle’s American Craft ranges. I also found a box full of Basic Grey – I must have sorted them all into one pile last year when I had my big craft room make over.

Lots of music layouts have emerged over the last few months too…. music and photography and scrapbooking – my holy trinity!

So on to the layouts…

Let’s start with the music ones. I’ve been to some great gigs this year. I think I’ve a couple of layouts from gigs I went to last year too that I just got round to scrapping.

The first two layouts are from a gig at the Cavern in Liverpool a few weeks ago – it was part of the Under The Apple Tree tour put together by Radio Two’s Bob Harris. Robert Vincent is a major talent I’m proud to call a friend and it’s so gratifying to see him getting the recognition he so richly deserves and it was a thrill to see him again at the Cavern with his own band and also supporting Nashville legend Kimmie Rhodes.

First up on the bill with Rob was our very own songbird Eleanor Nelly. She is such a wonderful singer and I love taking pictures of her. She’s off to Nashville this weekend – I know she’s going to be a major star in the not too distant future.

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Next up was Catherine McGrath, an Irish singer who is certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with. Her easy, country inspired songs are infectious and have you tapping your feet every time you hear them. My personal favourite is Hell Would Have To Freeze Over. How I wish I’d had this song in my teenage break up arsenal 😉

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This layout features photos from last summer, before Daniel and members of the band headed off on an adventure around the Far East. He’s back in the UK now and I can’t wait to hear some new material from him. I think the next time we see him will almost be a year to the day since these photos were taken at one of my favourite venues – Thornton Hough.

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What can I say about Frank? His music has become the soundtrack to part two of my life. I rebooted my entire existence in 2012 and discovered his music that same year. We saw him at the Palm House in Liverpool’s Sefton Park last year. It was a thrill to see him at such a small venue – he was awesome and despite standing at the back and not seeing much it was one of the best gigs of last year. Paul Dunbar supported Frank and as he’s one of the rising stars in Liverpool it was a perfect night.

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Another layout of Eleanor. These photos were taken the same night as the Rosenblume photos above. Eleanor was the support act and she blew the roof off the place – first time I’ve seen a support act do an encore.

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Mr Mike Peters. The title of the layout says it all really. Another amazing Gathering this year – it’s an annual pilgrimage we make to Llandudno, made even better this year by the inclusion of Ian McNabb as the support act on the Saturday night. I’ve cited that combination as my “dream” line up for many years and this year I finally got to see it. Perfection.

Hero - MP - 1

So onto the non music layouts.

Over Easter we went to Gauntlet Bird of Prey centre in Cheshire. We had a brilliant afternoon, despite the rain. Pete had an up close and personal encounter with a Harris Hawk that seems to have taken exception to his Pink Floyd t-shirt LOL. The flying display was stunning – so many birds circling and just enjoying themselves. The sight of a group of red kites playing in the thermals is one of life’s great joys.

Final layout is from a trip to Martin Mere a few weeks ago – we were lucky to go on a beautiful bright day as the daffodils were in full bloom. There have been lots of changes over the winter – MM is one of our favourite places, even just for an hour it’s always worth the trip.

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That’s enough for now. More to come in the following weeks I think.

Black and White Photo

I love gig photography – it’s a massive passion of mine – I’m rarely happier than listening to one of my favourite musicians and snapping away while they perform.

One of my major gripes is the lighting at gigs – whoever told venue owners that rotating red, blue and green lights is in any way complimentary never took a photo. My solution to this issue is to shoot in black and white. I often don’t even take a colour photo at a gig.

This set of photographs was taken under the other gig conditions that are troublesome for photographers – low light with no way of adding your own light to the scenario. Again shooting in black and white comes to the rescue.

The subject of the photos is a singer called Thom Morecroft, originally from Shropshire, he currently lives in Liverpool and is a stalwart of the local music scene, as a performer and also running a very popular open mic night. Thom is a great guy – kind and generous and a very talented singer and musician.

The EP that was launched the night these photos were taken can be bought here.

ThomMorecroft - 1

Another weekend, another layout

So following on from last weekend’s crafting craziness I am back at my desk this morning and being inspired by Shimelle again. This time it’s a sketch – three photos on one page. I do quite often use three photos but I don’t think I’ve ever used them in this configuration before. I like it! I can see this being something I do again. So here’s the brief and the sketch if you want to try this yourself. 

I also did something this week that I haven’t done for years – I ordered something from an online scrapbook shop. Wow – it felt strange going through the pages and pages of stuff I haven’t seen for such a long time. I was very good though and only order consumable stuff (glue and a craft sheet because mine has gone AWOL in the move). I need to have a big tidy up of my supplies before I start buying fancy stuff again as I’m sure anything I see online I have a variation of it somewhere in this room.

Clutter and untidiness is not a reason to shop! <she says, sitting on her hands and trying to forget her paypal password>

Sunday Challenge Three – An Adventurous Colour Story

I really enjoyed this one. Great colour scheme to use and I get to scrap holiday photos! Perfect.

I’ve been re-discovering my stash – good grief I have a lot of half finished projects! Not sure what any of this stash was bought for originally but it was all together in a bag so I didn’t even really have to think about the colours too much – they just worked perfectly for the challenge.

The photos are from our first holiday together in 2012. We’d had a stressful 6 months to get to that point and so the holiday was a major de-stressing exercise. I’d visited Barbados a few years before on a working holiday and I was very keen to return. Pete had never been there. It was a fabulous holiday – just the right balance of adventure (jeep safaris and the wild east coast beaches) and relaxing by the pool.

See the challenge on Shimelle’s website.

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Sunday Challenge Two – Circles

This didn’t turn out the way I thought it would – I’m not thrilled with it and I’m hoping it looks better when it’s dry. I used a sepia glaze on the circles, trying to echo the glaze on the background paper (Tim Holtz) but it just looks a bit weird. I may just top them with butterflies if it still looks strange when it’s dry. Or glitter. You can fix anything with glitter 😉

Challenge from Shimelle’s site here.

I have fixed this now – corrected layout is first – disappointing layout below. I realised it was mainly because it was an even number of circles that I hated.

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Sunday Challenge One – Frames

I love the inspiration for this challenge. I take a lot of photos but I very rarely put them on the walls. This challenge was inspired by a wall of photos in frames and I love it. I really must try harder to put my favourite photos up on the walls around my home.

So here is my frame inspired layout. I used my Cricut to cut the frames and the letters and the brads are My Mind’s Eye. Still loving discovering things in my stash I’d completely forgotten about. I may never go out again 😉

Elizabeth is a wonderful singer/musician that I have become friends with here in Liverpool. Her husband, Gary, is also a very talented musician. I will be taking photos for Elizabeth at her monthly folk music night in Formby – Bow’s Folk.

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Challenge Four – Monochrome and an older photograph

So I groaned when I saw this title. I just threw away hundreds of old photos that I felt I would never scrap. I have a new life and I’ve scrapped that old part of my life already and I have no desire to keep revisiting it. So out they all went (I did keep the digital versions on a hard drive – I’m not completely heartless, I just don’t need them taking up physical space).

So the oldest photos I have printed are from January 2012. So that’s my “old”. My monochrome colour for this one is blue. I have no idea where the paper came from and I’m enjoying discovering my paper supplies again. The waves were apt because the photos were taken down by Liverpool’s waterfront and the scraps of material were near the top of my sewing box and caught my eye.

The journalling talks about how I love having a willing model – Pete will stand in front of anything so I can take a photo!

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Challenge Three – Colour Blocking

So I wasn’t really sure what this was but I think this layout meets the brief. It feels like a lot of my layouts – maybe I’ve been channeling early Creative Memories techniques without realising it!

The photos are of three of my favourite Liverpool based singers. Paul Dunbar, Robert Vincent and Gary Edward Jones. All three are amazingly talented and you can’t go wrong seeing any of them perform. Check them out if you’re in Liverpool. ShimelleWeekend - 1 (2)

Shimelle’s challenge is here.