Monday Meditation: Making the Most of Autumn Leaves

29936192_UnknownIf it weren’t for the cold gusting winds, autumn would be my favourite season. We went for a walk in Lilleshall* again the other afternoon on a very blustery day, the wind so strong at times it almost blew us along. I didn’t take any photos because I’ve written often about Lilleshall and will be posting again soon (this picture is from a few weeks ago). The colours of the trees and the carpets of leaves were breathtaking and when the wind gusted, a shower of pale yellow silver birch leaves swirled about us, it was like walking through autumnal confetti. I just wanted to take it all in and not spend all my time framing shots with my camera. Sometimes I feel like I only have the experience secondhand through my photos afterwards rather than in the moment. This once, I wanted to take my time and drink it all up, really feel the wind in my hair, absorb the colours, take in the sounds of the trees, the ducks (all 13 of them) and the birds.

I’ve had a break from online activity recently and have not only been painting Christmas rocks, but also cards using various leaves as templates. It’s a relaxing, peaceful activity and takes no skill, just poster paint or thinned acrylic paint and a paintbrush. Children love to do leaf prints, many of the younger ones do them at school and I remember doing them with my young children.

IMG_4208One of the leaves I used is from the cherry tree I had planted for my dad and brother in our local cemetery – pictured here on a beautifully sunny autumn day a few weeks ago, I tried to catch the squirrel at the bottom of the tree but it ran off as I focused the camera.  I made cards from this leaf for upcoming family birthdays. It’s the top left in the photo below.

Here are some of my efforts:

30201488_UnknownWash and dry the leaves and flatten them between paper under a heavy object to smooth them out.

With fairly thin but not too runny paint, cover the front of the leaf, working the paint into all the veins.

Turn it over and gently position onto your paper or card, pressing down all over, especially the edges, trying not to smudge it.

Gently ease the leaf from the paper and if there are any gaps in the images, you can touch up with a thin brush.

I added some glitter glue to the holly ones when they were dried as I’m going to use them as Christmas cards. If you enlarge the picture below, you should be able to see the glitter.

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No two are ever the same, which makes them all individual and special to those who receive them.

My craft room is getting a little crowded what with all the rocks and cards, my collection of leaves and conkers, my paints and pens, but it is a quiet, calming and light space that overlooks the garden and is warmed by the sun. Virginia Woolf famously said that every woman should have ‘A room of one’s own’, I have waited years to have this space, but finally after all its many previous incarnations, I now have mine.

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PS The smoothie is Pomegranate Chia Pudding. Yum!

*Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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This Valentine’s Day Scrooge is Spreading the Love!

It’s Valentine’s Day next week and it’s a day we usually avoid like the plague. I am a Valentine’s Day scrooge!

As an adult I see the prices of flowers inflate as the day approache; as a teenager I remember the anxiety of wondering if anyone would like me enough to send me a card and the agony of going to school to hear endless screeches and laughter at the often rude sometimes soppy cards my friends had received – often not just one but two or three – while I just mumbled that the post hadn’t arrived before I left for school.

But a post by Pioneering the Simple Life about Home-made Valentines past got me rethinking my stance. All our birthday, Christmas, anniversary, condolence, congratulations cards are home-made when possible, but we always give Valentine’s Day a miss.

However, love isn’t just the romantic kind. So, this year on St Valentine’s Day, why not spread some family love? It would be fun to ferret out the felt, the card, the glue and scissors and spend some time playing. It’s been a while.

So I did.

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I drew, cut out and glued foam hearts on sticks leftover from making children’s mobiles and arranged them in a glass jug. I made vanilla and almond raw chocolate hearts, stars and chunks.* (I’m calling it Vanutte! See my Raw Treats – Recipes).

Cards were also made to send to the other family members who wouldn’t be visiting. It was great fun and took my mind off aches and pains, worries and weather!

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You can use all sorts of everyday household materials – have a look at Pioneering the Simple Life and Scribbleartie for ideas. For the cards I used some felt I bought for a previous project some time ago, but you can use card, foil, shapes made from leftover wrapping paper, string and ribbon – I save everything for moments like this!

Give it a go, find your inner child – or just borrow a real one! – and get sticking and colouring and baking and making. Share your love with those close to you, whether family, partner, friend or someone who just needs to know they are not alone and forgotten.

Love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day! Make it personal any time of the year.

Everyone benefits.

In the words of Jason Mraz: ‘When you love someone, it all comes back to you.’

With lots of love,

Chris x

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*Basic recipe on the back of  The Raw Chocolate Company Raw Cacao Powder and Coconut Palm Sugar packs.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Mother’s Day: A Tribute to My Children

imageTo all our mums, grandmas, aunts, daughters and neighbours caring for families, partners, relatives and friends. We couldn’t manage without you!

(This is the card I made for my mum, I thought I would share it with you all.)

 I also wanted to tell you this little anecdote that will stay with me for all of my life:

Many years ago, I came downstairs one Sunday morning. My husband was working, my daughter was sleeping over at her friend’s. The table was set for my breakfast: grapefruit, muesli, toast, orange juice, black coffee, a flower in a vase, and the Sunday paper all set out like they do in a newsagents with all the supplements lined up on top of one another very neatly. My teenage son was sitting on the sofa looking very proud of himself. He got up and switched on the tv, pushed a video in and pressed play (yes, it was that long ago!) It was my favourite film, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. I was overwhelmed and I said ‘Thank you, this is lovely, but what’s it all for?’ He grinned and said ‘Happy Mother’s Day! ‘ I didn’t know what to say. I was so overcome at all the work he’d put in. I smiled and said ‘This is so lovely, but… it’s not Mother’s Day until next week!’

Do you know what? He got up early the next Sunday and did it all again!

We don’t normally make a big deal out of this day in our house. I don’t need a card company telling my children to appreciate me, they do that on a daily basis. And I feel for all those who have lost their mums or their children. But occasionally my children do pull out all the stops and surprise me.

Last year, I was sitting at the table, reading the paper, thinking about when I should phone my mum and the phone rang. It was my daughter. She wished me Happy Mother’s Day and asked me what I was doing. I told her in a long rambling comment about nothing in particular, and when I finally stopped for breath she asked ‘Could you put the kettle on and let me in?!’ She had left her bemused boys with their dad and travelled the hour and a half with her labrador pup to come and spend the day with me! Her boys said, ‘But your our mum and it’s Mother’s Day!’ And she replied, ‘Yes, it is and I’m going to see my mum!’ It was a lovely surprise. We rarely spend time together on our own and I miss her so much. It is very hard to get anything past me, but she did that day!

Thank you, K and R, I love you very much💕

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Creativity is Contagious – Pass It On!*

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Thank you, timelesswheel for nominating me for this award, I am a little taken aback as I am a blogging novice and I feel I am still serving my apprenticeship! It did, however, inspire me to write a post on creativity and health:

Creativity is a basic human instinct, a need. We all need to express ourselves and if we repress this instinct or we are not given the physical or emotional space to do so, we can become withdrawn, resentful, introverted, insular, develop disease or depression, become frustrated and even angry, often hurting those close to us.

If we are not creative how do we progress as a society?

Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be an artistic or writing genius or require other people’s approval for your efforts. Doodling is being creative! Making a meal is being creative. Constructing medieval weapons or a castle out of cardboard for your grandchildren is being creative!

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One blogger, scribbleartie, makes lovely whimsical images out of ink blots and soap bubbles, she is still working on her technique and loves having fun experimenting. She also takes everday items that have been discarded and turns them into works of art.

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My son-in-law gets great pleasure from stacking logs and has recently studied Norwegian methods of creating different shapes out of these stacks from a book he was given for Christmas.

My husband, who was never interested in food, cooking or nutrition, now spends Sunday mornings communing with bread dough.

I like to make cards and paint rocks, you can read how to in these posts: Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting & How To Paint Christmas Card (or any) Rocks & Taking A Break

My first efforts were nothing to write home about at all, but as with anything, the more you do it, the better you get. The benefits to your wellbeing of mindfulness, of being completely in the moment, having fun through being creative, are many and varied, from increased self-esteem to a strengthened immune system and improved mental health.

Watch a child unihibitedly splashing paint on a large sheet of paper: she doesn’t ask what colour she should use or what shape she should make, she doesn’t feel she has to keep within the margins or hold her brush a certain way – heck, she doesn’t always even use a brush, her fingers and toes will do!

Go on, free your mind, let it wander where it will, pick up a pen and write a silly story or poem for your children, or even a letter the old-fashioned way; or grab a pencil and sketch the cat or the dog – it can be a cartoon or as surreal as you like; find a pair of scissors, some images or card and some glue; grow some plants or vegetables; look at the clouds or the embers in the fire and see what shapes are developing, what thoughts and images do they conjure up? Arrange some garden flowers or twigs in a vase. Pick up your camera, go for a walk. Build a bike from recycled parts. Meditate, find your inner creator.

Take a leaf out of timelesswheel’s book, she had no idea why she wanted to write a blog or what she wanted to say. She just started writing and is still finding her voice and her creative eye in her photographs. And we are enjoying watching her do it.

Give it a try. Express yourself. You will be so much happier and healthier for it.😊

Now *I* have to get creative and come up with 5 things about myself:

  1. I have pens, pencils, paper, scissors, glue in every room I or visiting children use
  2. When I can’t sleep, I create new recipes for juices, smoothies or raw treats
  3. I love watching children playing, talking to themselves and being completely focused on what they are doing or being
  4. At school, I was no good at art, sewing or knitting nor did I ever have a cookery lesson, yet these became my main pastimes in adult life.
  5. I think maybe I should buy shares in Caran d’Ache! Their watercolour pencils are so soft and have such depth of colour, I can predict a growth in their future sales!

Here is my list of recommendations for creative blogs that I hope will inspire:

Thethomastimes – encouraging children to be creative

Watching the Daisies

BrewNSpew

http://spiritualfoodie.org

http://katyhadalittlefarm.com

Storyville

http://susanrushton.net – beautiful photography

About

*Albert Einstein

 Copyright: Chris McGowan