Category Archives: Hobbies

August Musings

Here we are already in the middle of August. It seems unbelievable to think in a few weeks’ time we will be in the ’ember months of the year. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us again. It has already arrived in some of the stores here in the UK, and the children haven’t even returned to school yet from their summer break. But enough of that.

I missed posting last month; my apologies – major meltdown due to extreme heat! Heat that has only today started to climb back down the thermometer, and we have rain. Not a lot, admittedly. We do need plenty here as, like many countries, we are in a drought situation. Keeping the flowers and plants alive in the back garden has been hard work, but we’ve made the most of our grey water from the kitchen, about the only real exercise I’ve had, backwards and forwards several times a day. The vegetable garden and annual flowerbed at the front has, I’m sad to say, been a failure because of lack of rain; we have avoided using the hosepipe. As a consequence, we’ve written this year off on the gardening front and back, because the back garden will be given another make over.

The reason being, we have demolished our large koi pond and intend turning the area into another flowerbed. Whilst we both had a lot of pleasure from the fish, which had grown huge, it was becoming increasingly hard work for Dave to keep it going despite so-say modern filters and UV lamps and fitting a new pump each year – not cheap. We were plagued with pond weed, the water never clear. The fish loved it; we didn’t. We agreed back last October that we would run the pond down as each winter we invariably lost a fish or two. Needless to say, this past winter they all survived.

One of the koi (28lbs)

We gave the fish, some as long as 2-3 ft and weighing many lbs, to a local koi keeper so we know they would be going to a good home. Catching them was another matter. All three of us got soaked! Then
began the fun part, demolition of the pond walls. The pond was/is over 8ft deep, with half of it above ground, so we were hoping the bricks and blocks would fill that below ground level. Miscalculation. We now have to dispose of a lot of rubble. This Dave will do in the autumn when the weather is a lot cooler.

Before
After
Demolition begins

The extreme heat here has meant I have not done a lot of art. A special request for a contemporary flower painting was completed and I began working up one for my students to copy at my next workshop at the end of September. They had requested a waterfall, so waterfalls I did. Several of them. It became clear to me that each one was a little too adventurous for some of my group, but I finally came up with a much simpler version that hopefully will stretch them without any duress.

“Pastel Pastures”
“Autumn Waterfall”

Other than these efforts, I have to admit nothing has been done. Hardly any writing because my office was too hot even with a fan running. No housework other than the basics – no point with all the doors and windows open; little laundry to wash – thank goodness for kaftans to lounge about it in all day. On the plus side, we’ve spent most days and long into the evenings in the garden. Our patio is in shade from midday so it has been comfortable, and I have been able to enjoy uninterrupted reading, getting through 5 books, unusual for me in a short space of time.

We treated the month as a long holiday, being exceedingly lazy and relaxed. It was fun while it lasted; now it’s back to normality. I hope your month has been good too.

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

What A Show!

The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy but in a delightful way leading up to my art group’s 26th annual art exhibition. First came the conundrum of deciding which paintings to put in, then the pricing (always a problem). Because of the current economic crisis, one didn’t want to set them too high as people might think twice about a frivolous purchase when they have worries over fuel and food bills. Our exhibitions have always proved popular but the usual concerns as to whether anyone would come let alone buy anything are constantly there. Then came the hassle of obtaining frames and mounts etc, not normally an issue but stores here supplying these, like many outlets, are struggling to obtain stocks or have limited choice. Finally having everything I needed, I set to work preparing my paintings for hanging, only to discover one had a damaged frame, necessitating another trawl of the art suppliers locally.

My 7 paintings duly delivered. I hoped they would be grouped together particularly as 4 of them were on the same topic: water. I wasn’t disappointed. They had a wall all to themselves right by the entrance. I was a happy bunny, which reminds me, I must paint one of those before long; I love bunnies.

Kit’s wall of paintings, and some of our many guests on preview night

The standard of work on display from everyone was exceptionally high, leading to an exhibition that surpassed previous years. From the moment the preview evening’s doors opened the room was packed, and to my complete surprise, one of mine sold within half-an-hour. The purchaser was even more delighted to be introduced to me. A second joy came when another couple sought me out to chat about one of my works they had purchased in late 2021. It is lovely meeting and talking with people who love your work, often more so than the satisfaction that comes from selling one. I was thrilled, and if nothing else of mine sold over the weekend I did not care. There were many smiling faces as we locked up that night because 9 other paintings also sold.

Some of the many works on show

Arriving for my stewarding duty on the Saturday afternoon, I was greeted with news that 2 more of my paintings had sold that morning. Wow! I never expected that. With a total of 22 paintings sold that day, the club was close to breaking last year’s record of 27 sales.

On Sunday, arriving to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea and cake from the refreshment table before the raffle was pulled and the event closed, I didn’t notice at first a fourth painting of mine had gone. Double WOW!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable, and successful show for everyone involved, if tiring. I do not have the total figures yet but the club surpassed its record with 40, yes 40! paintings sold, not including those from the mounted tables (7+). A quick calculation put the total at well over £1,500.00 (another record). A percentage of sales plus money from donations, the raffle, admission fees, and the refreshments table will be donated to our chosen charity, this year being the Ukrainian Red Cross. Many members who sold have also donated their full sales to the charity, including myself, as has one member who ran a table in the foyer selling her bespoke, hand-crafted and beautiful individual greeting cards.

What a weekend!

My Sold Paintings

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Coming Out of the Closet

Not a lot of people know this, but I am a closet keyboard player, and despite my electric keyboard being stored away in a cupboard for the past few years, this week I took the decision to bring it back out of hiding and start playing again.

It all started way back when as a child I wanted to play the piano. My grandparents had an upright in their lounge. My uncles played a little and my father could bash out a fair rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 in B minor, but us grandchildren were never allowed to touch it. It was always kept locked, although we would lie underneath it and hit the strings till Nan appeared and we’d all run like hell into the garden, each blaming each other. Happy days.

Still the urge to play gnawed at me but my parents could not afford for me to have lessons, let alone buy a piano. To them, my weekly dance classes (ballroom and Latin American) were enough. A friend from infant and junior school, Peter, had a grand piano in the lounge at his house, I was always envious of such a highly-polished and large instrument. A few years ago, Peter and I found each other through Facebook. He has gone on to greater things with music – he’s Organist and Director of Music of the Royal Memorial Chapel, at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in England as well as an accomplished accompanist, arranger, composer, conductor, and opera singer, with works performed on stage and radio. Oh, what I might have achieved too had I been able to play.

Over the years the urge never left me. In the 1980s, at home full time through long-term illness, I was determined to learn to play so purchased an old wreck of an upright from a dealer. It sat in our dining room, often out of tune but good enough for practice. I found a piano teacher and began to learn, this was necessary as I couldn’t even read music. She doubted I would be able to master the instrument as I have small hands and hand span but I managed. I wasn’t keen on the type of music she taught, after all who wants to play The Merry Widow all day long? Soon she thought I was ready to take my Grade 1 exam. For this she wanted me to sing. Why, I have no idea but that was a big no no. I cannot sing. Never could, never can and no one will ever be able to teach me. After that, I never went back.

A short while after, I overheard a conversation with a lady I knew vaguely talking about an electric piano she had bought. We chatted, and invited me to see it. I was hooked. I wanted one, and she offered to help me play. After several months, I went out and bought my own. Not an electric piano, I couldn’t afford that, but a six octave electric, all singing, all dancing (well not quite), multi instrument and tempo keyboard. And thank goodness for headphones. I could now play at my heart’s content without disturbing Dave or the neighbours. I was never brilliant at it, had no intention of playing for anyone but I enjoyed it, which was and is the main thing.

So now it is sitting back in the office/art studio/Kit’s cave/spare room where it belongs and I am starting over learning again by going back to basics with the help of online lessons on YouTube. Just need to buy some new headphones now. Who knows, I could be playing at a venue near you some day. No, I doubt it either.

Sewing Memories

So, with spring in the air and the clocks going forward an hour here in the UK, we decided to start clearing/decluttering our home from the top down.

The attic was first on the list. It didn’t take long as we tend to shove everything we don’t need into the garage keeping the loft relatively free, but there were several discoveries. Mostly it was old suitcases of holiday clothes (a bikini, size 12 if you please! – was that really once mine?) and equipment like snorkels, waterproof footwear for pebbly beaches, old beach mats and towels, and broken tennis and squash rackets.

The best discovery was a small case containing a real blast from the past. Loads of dressmaking patterns! I was once a very keen sewer and loved making my own clothes. I loved choosing a pattern, then the fabric, matching the thread precisely to the material – often, if I liked the style, I’d make the outfit in different fabrics. I couldn’t get enough of dressmaking back in the day and got a real buzz from it.

Pre-marriage we were keen ballroom dancers and went every week for classes (AJ loves to remind me that he once was given an award for student with the fanciest footwork!) Every Saturday we attended the dance school’s social where we could practice what we’d learned that week as well as learn a new group dance. Heck, it was fun! During the week, I’d often make a new dress specifically to wear to the Saturday dance. Yes, I was a make-a-dress-in-a-week girl. If only I could say the same about my life as a writer – imagine being a create-a-book-in a-week author!

I even found some fabric in that case in the loft so maybe one of these days I’ll turn my hand to dressmaking again – maybe a simple strappy summer shift dress? Oh, if you look closely at the bottom of the photo you’ll see the pattern I used for my wedding dress. I can only dream of the size pattern I used for it back then *sigh*

Spring Has Sprung

It is the middle of March, and spring has definitely arrived in the UK. That was my feeling yesterday when the day dawned bright and clear and sunny, if a little cold but once the sun had risen high enough and chased away the thin covering of frost, we turned off the central heating, changed into t-shirts and jeans, and disappeared into the garden. There is much to do here, Dave busy in his veg plot tilling and raking and planting out potatoes and leeks, me in the back garden picking up bucket-loads of brown and wizened oak leaves. Considering we do not have any trees in the garden, let alone oaks, these were the result of gale-force winds last autumn which blew in masses of leaves from a stand of trees several streets away. All good for the compost though, and I had purposely left them to help protect the garden from winter.

The next task was erecting a new obelisk I had recently purchased to house a rampant, beautifully-perfumed honeysuckle rather than let it scramble through the flowerbed as it has in other years. The morning turned decidedly warm, so once this job was complete, we enjoyed sitting around the patio table enjoying our mid-morning coffee. Such bliss after being trapped indoors for so long. It gave me time to look around the flowerbeds, appreciate the spring displays, and plan my attack for the next few weeks.

Everything is growing and shooting well and over the past few months we have been treated to a fabulous display of crocus and snowdrops on the front lawn, as have all the neighbours and local children on their way to and from the school at the bottom of our road. Now the delights there are hyacinths in full bloom along the forsythia hedge, also coming into flower, and the tulips in full bud waiting their turn. The perfume from the hyacinths is intoxicating as you walk around. We love them. Grown indoors each Christmas to so scent the house, they are then planted outside where they thrive.

What I am most thrilled with this year is the clumps of miniature daffodils scattered around the back garden. I buy several pots of them from the supermarket each year, let them flower indoors and then plant them outside. The past few years the show has not been good as they have succumbed to being eaten by tiny slugs. This year we were prepared and the critters didn’t stand a chance, the displays of them scattered around are so bright and cheerful it was worth the effort.

The wall baskets and a few pots are looking good too. I love this time of year, as it heralds the end of winter with so much to look forward to and enjoy.

I said at the beginning that spring had finally arrived here. Today it is returned to winter in some respects. The day dawned grey and shrouded in heavy mist which has now turned into incessant rain. Good for the garden but not for those outside in it, so we are staying indoors, the heating is on and I am back in a thick sweater. Tomorrow is promised to be warmer and drier, with a good week forecast. Hooray!

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Freedom February

Mid February, and it’s beginning to feel a lot like freedom here in merry England. The majority of Covid restrictions have been lifted, the remainder set to be removed next week, ie mask-wearing on public transport and in shops. There is a relaxed atmosphere creeping back in and my diary is slowing but surely filling up again.

February has so far been far busier for me than anticipated, a whirlwind two weeks that seems set to continue. It started with a portrait painting demo by a visiting professional artist at my art club, followed by him giving an all-day workshop a week later. The majority of us were disappointed in what he presented, the 2 hour-demo more talking than painting, and his workshop for various reasons was cancelled. As the club had already booked and paid for the room hire, the club secretary asked if I would step in and run an acrylic workshop instead, to which I agreed.

Not having run an all-day course before and at such short notice, I had little prepared, no notes or handouts ready, nor any idea what subject matter to cover (nothing like diving in at the deep end!). As I don’t paint people or portraits, and not knowing the capabilities or skills of most of the attendees, I asked them what they would like me to do. Trees or a woodland scene or bluebells or snowdrops came several replies. Sorted! Confident and comfortable with bluebells woods, I quickly painted this lttle scene to use. I would demonstrate a section, they paint it, I do another part, they paint it etc – you get the gist.

“Blooming Bluebells”

Despite my inadequacies painting whilst standing at an easel with 14 pairs of enthusiastic and eager-to-learn eyes watching every move, I managed to enjoy the day, as did they. The workshop was fun and lively, exhausting but worth it, and some good work produced. Even I learned a few things. When we’d finished everyone asked if I were doing any more workshops, all ending with a heart-pleading “please”. I’d obviously got something right. And thus, the next workshop has already been booked for late March, with all my attendees saying yes within a few hours of my notifying them of the date (except one who will be on holiday).

And what did I learn? That, during the lead-up to the next workshop I need to be totally prepared and organized and, more to the point, practice painting stood at the easel, something I am not used, I always sit when painting. I also discovered I enjoy teaching it, and like painting, never knew I had it in me until now. It comes down to confidence, something I never had even as a child. But unless I’m careful, the art could easily take over my life. I must pace and organize myself in order that my writing, my real passion, doesn’t get left on the shelf. I have a novel to get out, others to write, so have planned my schedule: Work on my novel early mornings (I’m usually up at 5am) until 7-ish. Breakfast, housework etc until 10:30, 11am latest. More writing until lunch. Afternoons devoted to art (and the occasional nap) plus work on the website I’m creating for the art group. Evenings: back to the novel, sprints more important than ever! So far, I am keeping to that regime, then again it has only been 3 days.

I mentioned my March diary filling up: Several medical appointments; meeting friends for coffee one morning; hairdresser appointment; kitchen hunting–yes we are back on that trail as was put on hold because of you-know-what; garden needing attention, which also means several garden centre visits; the workshop to run; a girlie weekend celebrating mother’s 96th birthday. And, hopefully, one or two long lunches with writing friends I have so missed to pencil in.

Yes, life in Blighty is slowly but surely and with care returning to normal. Thank goodness.

Surfing George

Today’s post is a little different as I want to bring you an update on my great-nephew George’s progress, as many have asked how he is doing. Whilst he grows into a strong, always cheerful teenager who adores his younger sister, his favourite thing in life, apart from eating fish and chips, is surfing. You might wonder how this is possible with his physical disability but I hope the following video will tell all how marvellous and generous in both time and money people at the Wave Project are in order to help lots of people in a similar position to George, children and adults, enjoy a more fulfilling life.

The video forms part of an informative advertisement by the Wave Project in the UK where George and his family live and feature in this film. George is featured right at the start and in several places throughout, and my nephew’s wife, Nicky, at 5.22 and 13.22. mins in sharing how the team at the Wave Project helped her and George achieve this.

I hope the video link works and that you enjoy watching it in its entirety.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Late Autumn in England

Burnham Beeches

It is hard to believe here in the UK it is the middle of November due to the mild weather we are experiencing. Autumn began early, at the start of September but because of the warm weather and little wind, the Fall colour change and leaf drop has been slow and thus protracted, much to people’s enjoyment. And it goes without saying the garden has been in flower for longer, with many plants throwing up still more blooms. This has caused us one or two dilemmas in that most of the borders, pots and tubs should have been put to bed last month but it hurts my heart to do so when they are still giving us a good display.

As an example of how mild it has been, this Sunday Dave and I were called for our booster vacs at our doctor’s surgery. The morning dawned bright, the sky blue with no breeze or chilly wind, a bonus for us as we are about 800 feet above sea level here and close to the Bristol Channel where the Atlantic winds blow strong; rarely are there such calm, quiet days. We decided to walk to our appointment, about half a mile away. More to the point, no coats were needed!

This late mild weather is something we’ve experienced before. Some 30 years ago on mid-summer’s day we had the central heating on, but come Christmas, the boiler was turned off, the windows and patio doors opened, and we had clematis in bloom in the garden, sprigs of which decorated our Christmas table! And if my memory serves me right, back in 1962, it was a mild autumn but, come Boxing Day (26th Dec), heavy snow fell heralding the Big Freeze of 62/63 when the country did not thaw out until March! I’m only hoping this warm weather is not a portent for a freezing, snowed-in winter. Back to the present…

I’ve learned to enjoy the autumn colours far more than I ever did, this coming from taking up painting when I now see things through different eyes. There is a tree we pass every week on our way to do our weekly grocery shop. During the summer little notice is taken of it but in autumn, it comes into its full glory. I don’t know what kind of tree, only that is is large. Each year, more and more people are taking note of it, many stopping to take photographs. Its colour and shape make this a magnificent specimen, and I simply must include it in a painting soon. I say that every year I see. One day…

Talking of paintings, I have at last finished the large (30 x 20 inch) floral piece I have been working on for several months and it is now proudly hanging on our lounge wall. It is a representation of a collection of flowers we had growing in tubs and pots along our patio fence, a small snapshot of the summer display we had. The hardest part has been thinking of a suitable title. After long deliberation and discussion one came to mind. So I can now unveil “Flowers of Summer”. I hope you like it.

Flowers of Summer

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Sorting Things

You would think with all the time we had on our hands during lockdown I would have found the inspiration to do a job that has been waiting for some considerable time: that of sorting out my study, my kitchen cupboards, my wardrobes, and several large storage boxes full of notes/manuscripts/photographs/junk. But no. Although there was ample time to do it all, during lockdown there did not seem much point.

The municipal recycling/waste site was closed, as were all the secondhand shops, on-street charity collections had ceased, and we simply hadn’t the space to store things no longer wanted. You might say I’m a bit of a hoarder; well, aren’t most of us? I mean, who else has 7 frying pans, 3 saucepans sets and 4 of china, one of which is a 72 piece? A food mixer that hasn’t been used for 5 years? Who else after being 11 years retired has business suits and skirts still hanging in the wardrobe unworn since along with fancy outfits bought for office Christmas parties? Who among us has a separate wardrobe full of clothes and shoes that have never been worn? Who else has a stack of books enough to fill a town library, read once if at all, filling every spare shelf in the house? Okay, perhaps that one doesn’t count – we are all readers and book lovers here.

So, this week, I made the decision something had to be done and soon but which to attack first? A series of small events occured which were fortuitous in setting the clean-up ball rolling. My other half ordered yet another pair of new jeans which, when delivered, transpired he had ordered the wrong size,and didn’t fit. Yes, he could have sent them back, got a refund, but they were inexpensive and the cost and hassle of reposting not worth the effort to him. The next day a charity collection bag came through the letterbox. The day after I picked up a message on social media from a local, newly opened residential care home seeking books in excellent condition for the home’s library. The following day, Dave decided to buy a new television for the lounge, not that it was necessary, he simply wanted a larger screen with a higher-quality picture. Which was fortunate, as the one in my office was playing up and hardly watchable. Bingo!

The charity bag was filled and left out for collection. A large hessian shopping bag filled to the brim with my unwanted books and delivered. A larger pile of unworn/new clothes, including the jeans, appeared on the spare bed, ready for me to take to our local St Peter’s Hospice charity shop. The office was tidied, unwanted items put either in the charity bag, recycling boxes or dustbin in order to make room for the still perfectly good television from downstairs to fit in my office. All in all, productive week which has made me feel virtuous, although the kitchen cupboards and other items will have to wait a week or so. Good job I’m not in any hurry.

Meanwhile, it has been a hard month for us in some respects: lots of memories and anniversaries, good and not so good, to get through but helped by a lovely mild week here despite being mid October. Warm enough for us to enjoy 9:00am coffee outside listening to our resident robin singing amongst plants which are still blooming, a clematis in flower for the third time this year, a thunbergia in flower which it hasn’t done all summer, the dahlias still glorious, and the sweetpeas still not giving up.

Enjoy your month, whatever it brings.

An Exhibitionist

It has been a busy month for me to date, leading up to my art group’s 25th Annual Art Exhibition. I was delighted when the committee asked if they could use one of my paintings (“Sunflowers”) on the advertisement poster, placed in local newsletters, on many sites and pages on the internet, and in local shops and libraries.

For me this year, the hardest part was in deciding which paintings to put on show. I hadn’t painted much these past 18 months and several I had done, I had scrapped – they were not good enough for me, which did not leave me a lot of choice. There were seven I considered, finally whittling it down to five. Two were on stretched canvas so didn’t need to be framed, the remaining three did. My usual supplier did not have a lot in stock but eventually I found three which were perfect.

The exhibition had to be cancelled last year and with Covid restrictions still in place it was a tough call as to whether this one would. One thing was definite: we would not be able to put on refreshments for our visitors, a great shame as this draws people in, makes them stay longer in the relaxed atmosphere, creates conversations and makes friendships. We worried we would not get many visitors. It also meant money raised from teas/coffee/cakes etc would not be made. We charge a minimal entrance fee, run a raffle of professional artists’ work who have demonstrated or taught at our group, exhibitors are charged a small fee for each artwork shown; and take a small percentage of sales. Once fees for the room hire for the weekend are removed, what remains goes to our chosen local charity, this year our hospital’s Long Covid-19 Research Project, a subject close to my heart as one of my nieces, a nurse, caught the virus last year whilst nursing and is still suffering long-term effects.

We were amazed by the number of people who came through the doors over the weekend: 164, mainly on Saturday. Sunday rained and of course the Euro Cup football final was on so this kept visitors away. Also pleasing was the number of paintings were sold, almost £1,000’s worth. Unfortunately, unlike other years, none of mine sold this time although everyone expected the sunflowers and the jaguar to sell, but I am far from not downhearted. It was lovely seeing fellow members’ work selling, especially some who despite having been painting for many years had never sold anything before. Along with the raffle raising nearly £300 it meant once deductions were made the charity will receive a cheque from the club for about £800. We call that a success!

Here’s a few snaps taken by me of my paintings and a bit more of the exhibition.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs