Category Archives: Hobbies

Blessings

First of all, a belated happy Fourth of July to our U.S. readers. I hope you were able to enjoy a safe and sane day/evening.

This shelter-in-place has been both a struggle and a blessing. Staying home so much has been hard, being someone who likes to travel. We are not going through what some people are, and we’ve tried to help where we could. I know we’re lucky to be able to wait out this virus until they have a way to prevent it. But that doesn’t mean my head and heart aren’t a little screwed up. I have dips into depression that I have to claw my way out of. This hasn’t been easy for any of us and I’ve been trying to journal the process for me, as well as what I see happening in the world.

On the flip side, one of the ways I’ve tried to keep myself positive is finishing things on my to-do list. I wrote about the 30 year crocheted baby blanket a couple months ago. I’ve also designed and made birthday cards for the rest of 2020. I finished an art project – monthly door signs. I’ve been digitizing all our family movies that are on VHS tapes. Sorting through things in closets. Paring down.

I’ve also been completing some series. In books, I finally finished the 20 book Virgin River series by Robyn Carr. (That’s a HIGH recommend from me for any romance readers.) And, more recently, I finished the 22 movies in the Avengers series, from Iron Man (2008) through Endgame (2019). (And yes, I cried.)

I think I’ve had more contact with friends and family than ever before through video chats.

And I’ve learned that I don’t have to be go, go, going all day long. It’s okay to take a break and read for a while. To slow down on my daily walk and “smell the roses,” so to speak.

To laugh with my husband.

So there are a lot of blessings in my life. And if I can’t travel right now, so be it. What I can do is pray for the world. So I’m praying and counting my blessings.

I hope there are many blessings in your life.

Stay safe, stay healthy!

 

For more information about Laurie Ryan:
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Pushing A Little Harder

So here we are, another month zooming by and we’re halfway through the year already with Midsummer’s Day upon us this weekend. And what a strange year so far it’s been but at least we are slowly returning to normality, or should I say most of the world is. For Dave and me, life has gone on pretty much the same as normal and we’ve enjoyed ourselves. Both in the garden enjoying the glorious weather the UK has experienced the last few months, and indoors, with the TV turned off most times as we’ve listened to music, played computer games, chatted, shopped a lot online, and generally doing not a lot. The planned editing and rewriting work necessary on my latest novel has come to a standstill. Not for any particular reason but I think most of us have during these peculiar times, lost the impetus and mojo. Mine’s slowly returning. Slowly being the operative word.

Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and pushing myself out of my comfort zone with my art. For my birthday back in April, Dave treated me to some watercolour pencils. I don’t do watercolours, so this was a big step away from the normal. I’m still practising with them and as yet do not have anything I’m willing to show anyone but one day…

Spring brought forth such beautiful flowers this year and as you know, I love flowers, so I thought I’d paint something different from the usual bluebell scenes, painting lilacs instead after having picked a few sprigs whilst out walking and seeing many photos in magazines and online.

For this work, I painted a different way, one I’d only tried once before, that is painting in most part with cottonbuds instead of a brush. It’s a simple technique – use 1 or more cottonbuds secured together with an elastic band and dab on the canvas. I think it worked well and will certainly be using them again. Apparently, it’s a great fun way for children to paint too.

With my next painting, I pushed myself even further. I am not good at painting or drawing people but often felt my landscapes would benefit from the inclusion of figures. But oh dear! This has often led to the ruination of good work. Then last week, I saw a few photos of the new little lady in our family – little George’s (who’s not so little now) new sister enjoying a day out with her mother at one of the UK’s lovely horticultural gardens.

One photo in particular caught my eye, and because you couldn’t see Daisy’s face, I thought it a good starting point. Also, as she wasn’t fully in the frame, I had to work at drawing the missing part of her figure. I’ve included the original photograph as well as the result of my efforts and hope I have captured her as best I could for the moment.

It worked out well, although the freehand drawing of her I did as practice before committing to canvas was actually better than the one put down using the grid method. Perhaps I’m not so bad as I think! Regardless, I still need to practice my people painting skills, perhaps one day even venturing as far as doing a portrait. Watch this space… but don’t hold your breath.

See you next month, when I hope to bring you an update with news on how little George is progressing. Meanwhile, stay safe, stay happy and enjoy life.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Orchid Love

For as long as I can recall, my man has regularly bought me flowers or a flowering plant for indoors, and still does. Then, about 10 years ago, he would often buy me an orchid. Beautiful flowers, wonderful colours, long-lasting – the blooms would last about 4 months with me looking after them as I thought best: watering only with rainwater, keeping out of full sunlight and, despite many saying to mist regularly, I didn’t because, well, spraying water is messy. The flowers would eventually fade and drop, leaves shrivel and out they would go, consigned to the compost bin.

A few years ago I decided to try to encourage one back into a second flowering, letting it rest, giving it a drink occasionally and kept in a cool place indoors away from any sun. Zilch. Nothing, not a sign of growth. So tried with another, and another. At one stage we must have had 5 or 6 plants the shelf in the lounge doing nothing.

It was at this point we decided it was time to revamp the lounge, so the plants were moved onto the kitchen window sill (north-facing).  They looked healthy but still no signs of regrowth. Then, by sheer chance, I caught a TV show where an orchid grower was being interviewed. It was like a light going on. A beacon. She explained how to look after orchids and keep them going. Nothing complicated. Nothing expensive. Hey Presto! Her advice works. We now have a house full of orchids in flower and one or two waiting in the wings for their next flush.

The rules: Every 7-10 days, plunge the pot for 30-60 seconds or until bubbles stop, up to its neck in rainwater (orchids hate tap water) to which has been added a few drops of plant feed. Expensive, especially for orchids food is not necessary, use any plant food. I use Baby Bio. The roots of the plant (they always come in clear plastic pots) will look white when the plant is thirsty, turning green when they have had their fill. Also wash off any dust from the leaves with the rainwater. Leave it to drain and enjoy some daylight for about an hour, before placing back in its potholder, if used. I perform this routine en masse in the kitchen sink, leaving them on the draining board. I admit there have been a few times I’ve had no rainwater, so will use either tap water that has been boiled a couple of times and cooled or distilled water I use in the iron, but only very rarely. And always give them a good drink with rainwater as soon as I have some.

That’s it! It’s that simple. I keep the plants on the kitchen window sill until ready to burst into flower before moving them around the house where we can enjoy them, mainly in the lounge, with one always by the south-facing window.

Several live permanently on the windowsill, including Triff, short for Triffid (below), because it has never stopped flowering on its original two stems for 2 years. It’s a little top-heavy as the blooms are large, but it keeps on going and growing. I suppose I really ought to cut it down so it can start afresh but don’t have the heart to. More, I’m frightened if I do, it will not reflower.

The real star of the show is this one on the left. Incredibly, this is its third time in flower in less than a year, on a new stem each time, each having more and more flowers. Last October there were 18 heads, currently 22, with more buds coming.

Those pictured here are just a few of many we have currently in flower. Each one is well-worth that little bit of time and care for its reward. We love them, they lift our heart and spirit every time we look at them.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Gallery

Life in the Slow Lane

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Well, that was a slow month! And not because of lockdown either. Strange times, but the restrictions in place haven’t impacted on us as much as it might on others. For Dave and me this is our usual way of … Continue reading

Gallery

Crafting, Anyone?

This gallery contains 6 photos.

It’s been a busy month for me, promoting Rudy’s Heart, my newest romance. It’s also been a crafty month, and I’ve found that a lot of crafts require group effort. At the very least, it’s more fun with a group, … Continue reading

Paint and Snow

Apologies for being a little late with this month’s post. I blame Word 2010. It’s been playing up, crashing for no reason, changing fonts without my blessing and goodness knows what other mischief. It seems I’m not the only one either, from what I’ve gleaned on the internet. I was just about to load my post when it crashed again, so I gave up. Never mind. I’m here now.

What a busy month January turned out for me. If someone had told me a little over 12 years ago when I began painting that I would find myself being an art tutor, I would never have believed them. Likewise, when I accepted the opportunity to teach acrylic painting to a group in my art club, I never expected how much of my time it would take. Who would have thought teaching for 2 hours every Friday afternoon for 4 weeks would take over my life entirely.

I had no idea of the abilities of those attending, and without this information, I had to structure the sessions to fit all comers.  I found out at the first session at least six had never painted before. Others were already members of the art group, but had either never used acrylics or had tried them without success. What was I going to say? What would we paint? Could I paint a half-decent picture in front of an audience? Did I know enough to fill up 8 hours.

I made copious notes, and wrote my opening dialogue out several times, so it at least sounded as if I knew what I was talking about. I then played it back using TextAloud, to check I didn’t waffle on for too long and to make sure it made sense. I had several sleepless nights pondering on everything. Worrying, not that I couldn’t pull it off, but whether my nerves and my voice would hold out. It goes croaky and quiet if I talk too much.

I need not have worried. I had a full class: 20 people. More than anticipated but I didn’t have time to give as much individual attention as I had planned to. We had laughs, we had questions, we had fun, and they came back the following week, so I must have been doing something right. But again, I spent hours working on my notes and dialogue and order of the day. And I didn’t mess up once. My thanks in all this go to my writing group (the Ivy Writers) who, over the years, have given me the confidence to read my work out aloud. A nervous, shaking wreck the first time I had to read out anything; now I have no problems doing so. It all comes with practice. A bit like painting, as I told my acrylic beginners.

The third week arrived and painting continued, but I realised I had chosen a too ambitious a painting for my class. I should have picked a much simpler piece, for them and for me. It’s not easy standing at an easel because I always sit when I’m painting. I had to paint large too, so those at the back could see, and I had to work almost sideways at the easel. If I stood in front they wouldn’t have seen anything. Another week working on my final notes, closing dialogue etc. It was all I could think about all week.

The fourth and final day dawned, heralded by 5 inches of snow, roads blocked, schools closed, as was the venue we use. Disappointment all round. I had hoped to have a photo of my entire group. Pictures of the paintings they produced, and some feedback on the entire course. At this point in time, I do not know if we can rearrange to this Friday.

I’ve enjoyed it all. Learned a lot myself. Gained confidence. Made new friends in the art group. My notes haven’t gone to waste. The art group has asked me to run the course again later this year. I will know what I’m doing. I won’t have to spend weeks working on my lessons. I have time to find a simple painting for them to work from. I know what to leave out, what to emphasise.  And out of the snow day, a new painting is emerging. Watch this space!

Kit’s Website and BlogKit’s Kitchen,  Kit’s Art  Site

A Summer of Firsts

This summer has certainly been sweltering so far, and I love it. But it has its downside too, for keeping the garden thriving has been a major task. Thankfully we’re not on a water meter or a hosepipe ban so the new flower border is more colourful than ever.

But despite our best efforts our vegetables have been a failure – a first for Dave. The broad beans cropped well but of once shelled were all covered in black spots and consigned to the compost bin. We managed about three meals from the runner beans before they withered. Dave has cut them back in hope they’ll reshoot. The peas were a non-starter and the sweet peas although flowered had stems no longer than 2 inches and soon died in the heat. That said, the onions, carrots and potatoes are cropping, so at least we’re not starving. But therein came another first for us.

We kept finding the onions pulled out and scattered around the vegetable patch, we’re talking here about the whole matured, fully grown and ready to harvest bulbs. Then some of the dahlias were pulled out of the ground. A few mornings on we found tattered and chewed children’s soft toys discarded amongst the veg. Big holes were appearing in the ground, too big to be cats and we have no wild rabbits here. The culprits were seen one evening when I spied them coming into the garden through the adjoining hedge – foxes, a family of 7. Urban foxes have always been around but we’ve never had any damage. They’ve even dug large holes under a neighbours’ new fence.

But there have been some lovely firsts too. We haven’t seen many butterflies here this summer apart from the pesky cabbage whites. One appeared that I hadn’t seen before – a marbled white. Not as troublesome as the cabbage whites.

Marbled White Butterfly

The butterflies might be scare but there have been plenty of moths. One was  a privet hawk moth, with a wingspan of approx 4 inches, these moths are the largest in the UK. I haven’t seen them since moving away from London so a first for my garden. It was also unusual in that there are no privet hedges locally!

Privet Hawk Moth

Another morning I noticed a strange-looking black and white butterfly sitting on one of my flowers. A closer inspection showed it was a moth. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo. As I did, it opened its wings and took flight revealing the most beautiful orange wings as it fluttered over the fence into another garden. Research told me it was a tiger moth, and that the unknown hairy caterpillars I kept finding on a rose bush were in fact tiger moth caterpillars. More firsts. As always, I’m too slow with the camera so I’ve had to obtain these 3 ref photos.

Tiger Moth

Last Wednesday as Dave and I were enjoying a coffee on the patio, he noticed a very fat, long (at least 3 inches!) green caterpillar making its way across the slabs. It looked rather like those stuffed draft excluders we all had years ago to keep the wind from blowing under the doors. He took a photo and ran inside to look it up on the internet as neither of us recognized it. Whilst he was gone, I spied another happily munching away on a fuchsia bush. They turned out to be elephant hawk moth caterpillars – I never knew they also came in green, I’d only ever seen the brown ones. We found out that they start off green and over the course of a few days slowly turn brown.  Two days later, trundling along the patio heading for the undergrowth along came a brown one. At least they shuffle along slowly so I was able to capture them on camera. (As I’m writing this post, Dave has just come upstairs to show me another green one he’s found chomping on a plant!)

Another first is a sunflower growing in the new border. In all the 40 years I’ve been gardening here, I’ve never grown one. I’d popped a few sunflowers seeds from the birdfeed into the ground out of curiosity to see if they would grow. Two of them I must have pulled out when weeding but one has grown into a beauty, almost 6 feet tall with lots of buds coming out.

But the best first of all wasn’t a moth, butterfly or caterpillar or a flower. It was a pair of goldfinches settling on the birdfeeder to enjoy a feast of nyger seeds. I knew goldfinches were in the area, I’d seen and heard them about them since last winter, so I’d put out the nyger seeds in the hope they would come into the garden. They did, and a few days later two youngsters joined them. Now we often have 7 or 8 around the feeders. They take no notice of Dave or me or of the resident sparrows.

Talking of sparrows… Billy One Mate still pops into the garden for a feed on the ground but he’s now with a small flock of his fellow starlings. I know it’s him as he has a white flash down his chest. He’s thriving, bless him, after such a shaky start.

And with summer still not over, who knows what other firsts might appear.

Follow Your Dream

I wonder if we all have dreams but some of us never realise them for one reason or another, a bit like bucket lists.  My husband Peter’s dream is to complete the challenge of cycling the whole length of England and Scotland alone, a challenge known by several names but he calls it LeJog.  Land’s End to John O’Groats, an approx 950 mile journey.  There are several routes but Peter is in the process of finalising his preferred route, it all comes down to stamina and strength of will to achieve this dream.  I will be logistics support in my small Skoda car!  An important responsible role but at least I am not on a bike!! I find the idea exciting but challenging and think lots of humour, as well as providing refreshments and a comfortable night’s sleep, to be part of my role.  The whole thing depends on an all clear for me in August from the Breast Clinic at my two-yearly check up. Peter also must be sure his health is up to the task too. On 4th September Peter will celebrate his 70th Birthday so this trip will be his personal fulfilment of a dream.  Many people undertake the journey but often in groups with lots of support.  My husband has always been a loner so why change the habit of many years.

Our recent trip to Cornwall was part of our research into the enterprise.  We checked out Land’s End (the start) but from a distance as it was £6 to go into the area around the famous signpost – more of that if we manage the trip.  Land’s End seems to be a theme park now but remains the iconic starting point for many such challenges.  My role is to book suitable overnight stays, meet up regularly to refresh Peter and be a general factotum.  I hope to use the time in between meetings to explore some of the areas we pass through.  I am not familiar with Scotland so am looking forward to new places, albeit fleeting visits.  I hope to update you all with our plans plus possibly raise money for a charity.  What I don’t want to do is put extra pressure on Peter.  I anticipate other challenges to be the weather, possible injuries and bike repairs so my little car will be a hub for all eventualities.  Communications may be a trial at times but we will overcome as the song says. Now Peter does daily training rides when he finishes work, usually 25 miles plus 80 mile rides most Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally I persuade him to take a day off to recharge his batteries!  We have a family nickname OMIL for him (Old Man in Lycra!) based on a term MAMILS (Middle Aged Men in Lycra).  His outfits are quite distinctive but a necessary extra safety measure.

I realise I’ve not shared my dream, at the moment I just want him to succeed.  If any of you wish to share your dreams please do so.  I anticipate a couple of interesting months ahead! Watch this space!!

Opening the Back Door

First, apologies for being a day late. What I had intended to write about has been delayed, so at the risk of boring you I will once again open the back door and reveal the back garden. We’ve been working hard and so thankful for the brilliant weather experienced here in the UK lately which has meant we’ve been able to get practically everything done we intended to do. Everything is growing well, and we can at last enjoy sitting on our new patio admiring our efforts as it all slowly grows and flourishes. In the space of a four to five weeks the long border has gone:

And a bird’s eye or rather bedroom view:

There is still the other borders to transform but they are going to have to wait. Two plants are been particularly stunning at the moment: my ever-faithful perennial aquileiga and a new clematis bought for £1.69 from our local Aldi supermarket.

In preparing the groundwork last November, Dave smashed two of the blue bowls on the new water fountain but, bless him, he bought me another and rather than waste the old, transformed it into a new pot feature.

Yesterday, I counted the pots around the rear garden, patio and front garden – there’s 85 of them! And that doesn’t include the old kitchen sink next to the water fountain. Plus he’s planted up and hung 20 wall baskets. So you can understand why we’re so impatient for it all to grow. We’ll have to wait. Let’s hope this marvellous weather continues.

As to what else has been happening… for those who haven’t seen or heard – two weeks ago some of my paintings were in a public exhibition held by my art group. The full story can be read over on my art blog, but I was delighted that one of my works sold. On top of which, I was asked to do a commission, and I won a prize in the exhibition raffle. All in all, a brilliant weekend.

 

On the downside, now the garden is done, we have no excuse not to start on the major living and dining room makeover and that’s going to be a very messy, dusty job. Not looking forward to it and I may have to escape for a few weeks whilst it’s going on.

Have a great June, everyone.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

To Puzzle or not to puzzle. That is the question…

Do you like working jigsaw puzzles? I do. I don’t do it often enough, but when I do, it’s almost always a family or friend affair, which is most often the best part of puzzling. 🙂

So, when I open a new box, I start by sorting out all the edge pieces. (I know people that do those puzzles with no straight edge, but I like the definition of corners and size.) In a 1,000 piece puzzle, that takes some time. My friend’s daughter suggested, when done with a puzzle, putting the edge pieces in their own baggie. Is this cheating? I don’t think so. You’re not leaving them together, you’re just eliminating that initial sort. I like that idea!

The first puzzle was designed back in the 1760’s. John Spilsbury, an Englishman and cartographer, mounted a map on a thin sheet of wood and cut around the county boundaries to form “dissected maps” for educational purposes. But, I read that adult puzzling for entertainment didn’t become a fad until the early 1900s. Wood puzzles were cut manually using a jig saw. Hence the name.

Nowadays, the puzzles are cut with a die. A sharp, metal ribbon bent into the correct formation. It can take 400 hours to shape the die, then the cardboard adhered picture is sent through the die cut press and the die is forced down under high pressure, making the puzzle cut in one pass. The puzzle “sheets” go through a machine that breaks them up and they get packaged.

Of course, the future seems to be moving toward digital puzzles, but I like the tactile feel of physical puzzles. Not just because they help me clear my mind and think (great for problem-solving), but also for the times I work them with family (like at our winter cabin each year) or with a friend.

Speaking of which, this puzzle is one a friend gave to me. She and her husband visited this town, Manarola, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terra in Italy. So, as we got together over the course of a week or two, I got to learn more about their travels and the town and area, along  with the usual discussions about kids and life. These are the life memories I love, spending time on a project like this with someone who’s friendship I treasure.

Manarola. Photo courtesy of Doug Benedetti

So I highly recommend grabbing a big board and a puzzle. Invite a friend or loved one to join you and start sorting. It’s good for the blood pressure, for the brain, for dexterity, and, well, I can’t see a down side to doing jigsaw puzzles at all. Except maybe the time suck. They can become addicting. 🙂

Happy puzzling!