Exciting times…

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Well, another three months have gone by, and brought with them huge changes. I think I ought to change the tag of this blog really, because there’s another ‘new’ to add to the list… A baby! Or at least, if everything goes well, there’ll be a new baby in June 2013. It’s so exciting! And tiring…

I’m just beginning to feel like a human being again, after two and a half months of constant nausea and fatigue. If you’ve never been pregnant, you really can’t appreciate just how exhausted the first trimester makes you feel, nor just how sick. I’ve had stomach bugs, you think, it can’t be any worse than that. Oh yes it can. A stomach bug lasts, what, five days at most? Remove the actual vomiting, and prolong those five days into five, seven, nine weeks, and you get the picture. Food = blearghgh. All of it. Apart from the five minutes you notice you’ve got such bad hunger pangs they’re also making you feel sick. So you eat. And promptly feel sick. But I can happily report that for the past couple of weeks I’ve felt progressively better, so that apart from a bit of fatigue, I only sometimes feel a bit queasy in the evenings before bed. 

The first bit was peculiar, and even more so because I was in China. (It was a good trip, but hampered by the fact I felt so strange!) I felt ok for the first couple of days, but then started feeling decidedly weird – I had a sort of whooshing feeling in my head, and very tingly/sensitive skin. I felt waaaaay more tired than jet lag could account for, and nausea came and went. I put it down to unfamiliar Chinese food, but then started noticing that my sense of smell was in overdrive. Just the smell of Chinese lunch was enough to put me off, and toilets – well, that’s another story! By the time we got back to the UK, I had decided that something was very definitely UP! Discovering I was pregnant was quite a relief in a way, knowing that there was nothing more wrong with me than a bunch of new hormones flooding my system, making me feel quite so strange. 

Fast forward two months, and I had my first scan on Wednesday. It was amazing to see the baby moving and jumping around, it’s definitely busy in there! It also made it more real, and made all the sick-and-tiredness feel more worth it. Which brings me on to care in pregnancy, and the NHS, but I believe there’s a Christmas tree I need to decorate, so I’ll save that post for later. Expect a rant…

It’s Autumn again…

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I’d almost forgotten I’ve got a blog! I shan’t bother with a proper catch up; suffice it to say that the Husband broke his heel in mid June, and I’ve only just returned to normal life from chauffeur duty and general fetcher-and-carrier.

Several exciting things are worth mentioning though:

The builders have *almost* finished turning the cellar into a snug/tv room…

They’re coming back tomorrow to START ON MY STUDIO!!! I’m enORmously excited about this, and have started doing a billion and one projects in my head before they’ve even laid the foundation stone. Well, the foundation piece of timber…

I’m starting an art course tomorrow, in honour of nearly having a studio. I’m so looking forward to doing some structured art work again, and learning new things.

We’re going back to China next month! So I’ll be able to take all the photos I lost again, since we’re going to Hong Kong for a few days first, then on to Guangzhou for the Canton Fair.

I’m now Christmas buyer for the company. The previous one walked out at an inopportune moment in February, so I stepped up to fill the space. Fortunately, I fitted rather well, so have begun to put together the Christmas selection for 2013, and will do lots more of this at the Canton Fair.

I WILL blog again soon, about all those new and exciting things.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos I took last month:

Marguerites in Mum’s garden

Hobbes waiting for the rain to stop

On being vegetarian… or not…

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I was inspired to write this post after reading BreezyK’s post on The Vegetarian’s Dilemma. I saw it on the Freshly Pressed page, and having happily survived vegetarianism for most of my life, I wondered what her dilemma could be. First, a little about my eating habits.

I was vegetarian for the first 22 years of my life. Yes, really! My mum tried her best to get me to eat meat as a child, but I would have none of it, and in the end (when I was about 4) she gave up. She did not however give up encouraging me to eat full stop; I was nagged until I left home about not eating enough, and until I was about 15, doctors also kept telling me to eat more. Trouble was, my appetite was about as big as a sparrow’s, and I liked the wrong things when it came to putting on weight. Fruit, vegetables, or salad, in any shape or form I would happily eat. However, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice – in any shape or form – I would not. I mean, I would eat sandwiches for lunch at school, but would more than happily give them away to deserving friends and eat my apple instead. I should point out here that I’ve never had an eating disorder (anorexia or the like) – I was under no illusions that I was thin; there was never a fat version looking at me from the mirror.

I started eating meat at the age of 22. Having known my body without the effects of meat, I can say with certainty that being a vegetarian is what kept me slim, never mind about the lack of carbohydrate. Aged about 16 I decided I wanted the womanly curves my friends had achieved, and went through phases of trying to gain weight. They mostly failed, but I did get more used to bread and pasta. Not so much potatoes or rice – they’re still my least favourites today. I made it up to 7 stone by the age of 22, and was encouraged by the boyfriend I was living with at the time, to start eating meat to put on weight. I was going to the gym regularly, but found it very hard to gain muscle. So I started with roast chicken and decided it was edible, as long as there were no strange brown bits. I tried bacon, and didn’t like it. Hard to believe for you carnivores out there, but having never eaten it before, I wasn’t impressed. It was chewy, and the rind was slimy or gristly. Eventually, I discovered that I do like bacon, but only if it’s grilled almost to a crisp. (Sacrilege! I hear you cry. I know, I know…)

I also now eat ham, and occasionally pork. I have tried steak, roast beef, mince, and veal, and don’t like any of them. The flavour does absolutely nothing for me, and as for the texture… yuck. Mince ruins a good bolognese sauce, and Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes don’t need slices of pink/brown chewy stuff to make a hearty Sunday lunch. One meat I really won’t have anything to do with, is lamb. It smells. Simple as that. And not in a good way. I object so vehemently to the smell of lamb cooking, that I’ve no idea if the taste, once cooked, is worse or better than the smell, because I can’t bring myself to try it.

So, you’ve probably deduced that I don’t eat much meat even now, and that I don’t eat red meat at all. I quite enjoy roast chicken on Sunday, and a bacon and avocado sandwich for lunch occasionally. But tell me I could never eat meat again, and I wouldn’t be too perturbed. I much prefer lentils, beans, nuts, and grains as sources of protein anyway. If I lived alone, I would undoubtedly be vegetarian again. I only eat meat because the husband and stepdaughter would complain if I didn’t cook it for them!

As for my weight, well, after starting to eat meat aged 22, I gained weight quite rapidly (for me!) and reached 8 stone. It probably also had something to do with my metabolism slowing down as I got older. According to the medical world, I’m still underweight for my height, but now aged 28 I’m quite happy with being 8 stone, and would definitely feel fat if I was the recommended 9 stone!

In response to BreezyK’s post about the travesty of meat substitutes, I have to say I sit on the fence. I quite like tofu, but appreciate it for its own flavour and texture and don’t think of it as a replacement for meat. Quorn I find a bit dry, but I don’t mind the texture, particularly because I know that each forkful will be the same: there won’t be any gristly bits or veins or anything else unsavoury to contend with. I think the trouble with many carnivores suddenly becoming vegetarian is that they expect there to be something to replace the meat in each meal. They’d actually be far better off just cutting meat out of their diets for a couple of days a week, than to try doing it permanently. In reality (or at least, in my reality), a meal does not need to contain meat to be tasty or satisfying. And most people’s bodies don’t need half the meat they get fed. I think we’d all be a bit healthier if we spent a few minutes thinking about our diets, and for a couple of days a week, leaving out what we know deep down that we eat too much of. For some people, that would be meat. For others, bread, or processed carbohydrates. For me, it’s sweet things. It’s hard to begin with, but not nearly as hard as telling myself I could never eat another home made cake would be!

Spring starts here!

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After a very busy January and exhausting (but successful) early February, here I am with more time and better weather. I spent a week getting frostbite in Hall 9 of the NEC in Birmingham, setting up for the International Spring Fair. This year we had a particularly big stand to build and dress, and managed to lose three members of staff due to man-‘flu, broken arms, and overdue resignation. Still, we survived, despite husband and I getting home through the snow at midnight the night before the show opened. We dragged our bleary selves back to Birmingham after 5 hours’ sleep, and so commenced 5 days of smiling and selling. I think I’ve just about recovered, and yesterday embarked on the monumental task of clearing and digging the allotment ready for planting. Ok, not that monumental, but still, hard work!

I’ve already sown some vegetable seeds in trays, and hope that the little plastic greenhouse is warm enough for them to germinate. We’ve started planning our garden in earnest now too. There’s so much to do though, it’s hard to know where to start. I really want to be at the stage where everything is cleared, ready to be dug over and planted up; except I fear that stage may never materialise. I think I may have to content myself with doing a bit at a time, and clearing one little bit and planting that before moving on to the next job. The major things that need doing first include: demolishing the old lily pond to make space for my studio, (building my studio), building some new steps, removing the old pond filter, digging a very large hole to install a new one, and making a shallow pond/rill for the filtered water to flow over. Not to mention lifting a huge amount of decking before we can even think about digging the herbaceous border!

One step at a time though, and this afternoon we’re going to do some more digging in the allotment. I planted onions and shallots yesterday, and emptied out the composts bin. I knew I’d neglected it, but was rather disappointed to discover that nothing had actually composted. So I’ll re-fill it in layers this time, adding a generous dose of activator on top of each.

In other news, my mum’s garden is bursting with spring bulbs all beginning to sprout – here are a few recent pictures:

Iris reticulata

Crocuses and snowdrops under the viburnum

And last summer’s teasels are still looking architectural in the winter sun… until they meet my secateurs next week!

Finally the sun is beginning to warm up, but it’s still scarf and gloves weather, even if I have abandoned the hat now!

And I do hope to post some photos of our garden soon, but at the moment, there’s not much to see…

Achievements in 2011, aspirations for 2012

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A new year, new start and all that. I haven’t written anything in a while, so thought I’d reflect on 2011, and collect a few aspirations, wishes, and dreams for 2012. Here goes!

2011 achievements (not necessarily in chronological order):

  • Got engaged
  • Got an allotment, and started growing vegetables
  • Graduated from Bangor University with a distinction in my MA Applied Linguistics
  • Bought our house (finally – after starting the process in October 2010!)
  • Renovated our house
  • Got married!
  • Decided I want to be an artist full-time
  • Made plans for extending our new house, and building a studio for me
  • Planned the garden, and started work
  • Enjoyed my new kitchen
  • Started baking more
  • Had our first house guest (Thanks Aunt Jen!)
  • Took lots of photographs
  • Made my first Christmas cake single-handedly!

And my aspirations for 2012:

  • Build my studio
  • Have a pretty garden by summer
  • Get more adventurous with cooking
  • Start painting
  • Draw a picture every day (this is a resolution which I’ve already broken – tut!)
  • Get some art into a gallery by the end of the year
  • Clear out my mum’s garden shed (the rest of her house is fairly presentable now!)
  • Make some money!
  • Grow plants from seed for the allotment
  • Visit the allotment regularly
  • Keep in touch with old friends
  • Make friends in Cheltenham
  • Join a choir
  • Be a nicer person (bit general, but I want to try!)
  • Take (yet) more photographs
  • Bake more
  • Get a dog!
  • Do more exercise (a dog will help!)
  • Do something productive/creative every day

Neither of these are definitive lists, but they’re a start. And I feel more resolved to do these things now that I’ve written them down! I can’t wait to have my studio, and make a mess with paint and charcoal and thread and beads and and and…

Good intentions and Autumn photos

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For all my good intentions of updating this blog regularly, I should just acknowledge that it’s not going to happen. Not at the moment anyway. Time flies far too quickly, and I’ve spent the last few weeks either painting furiously or feeling exhausted. Unfortunately it’s not the creative sort of painting that I’m longing to do, but the painting walls sort. Still, we now have a house full of lovely subtle, warm, and vibrant colours. There’s still a bit left to go (won’t there always be?) but the majority of walls are the right colour.

The allotment has rather been abandoned in the past few weeks, but we did get a lovely end of season crop of potatoes, leeks, and carrots. There was one sizeable pumpkin, but the squash didn’t do quite as well – despite crawling across the whole of our plot and attempting to fruit halfway across next door’s. Lots of people have cleared their allotments now, and spread muck to feed the soil. I think the bare plots look rather sad and barren, though I know we should be doing that with ours too. We acquired several bags of rotted horse manure last weekend, so this weekend we’ll be donning wellies and big jumpers and doing a bit of digging. I’m not looking forward to pulling up all the plants; as a flower gardener at heart, it doesn’t seem right to wrench healthy green things out of the ground. Anyhow, next year should be more prosperous for plot 45b, once the frost has broken up the huge lumps of clay, and the manure has done its stuff.

I must admit, I’m quite enjoying the autumn time (it is my favourite season, after all), with its peaceful grey skies and warm, earthy colours. I took some photos in my mum’s garden the other day and the evening sunlight through the flowers and seed heads was stunning.

Perennial wallflowers in the evening sun

I took an awful lot of photos I’m pleased with, so I’ll just include a selection…

It feels like Autumn…

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The second day of September, and it really feels like Autumn is here. The light was golden yesterday, with a reassuringly warm sun and high wispy clouds in a pale blue sky. I like the early Autumn feeling – surprisingly – of newness; memories of new schools, new classes, and new starts. For me, Autumn feels more like Spring than Spring itself.

We’ve now handed in notice on our little flat, so ready or not, we’re moving into our new house on 30th September – four weeks! Eeeek! The builders are building (mostly), the plumber is absent, and the structural engineer is elusive. We could well be camping under the apple tree at this rate! It might have been a bit pre-emptive to hand in notice so soon, but I think waiting another month would just have been torture. At least if we’re in the new house, I can get on with stripping and sanding wood, and painting walls and window frames. And I’ll be one (very big) step closer to having my own space to paint/draw/write/sew/muse in!

Here’s a couple of photos I took the other day, deep in the Herefordshire countryside while visiting my mum.

Marguerites in the sun

Woody Nightshade berries in all their Autumn glory

These are definitely on my list of things to paint! I love daisy flowers, particularly these big, smiley marguerites  (leucanthemum), and I have long wanted to paint the changing colours of woody nightshade berries. Roll on studio-building…!