Checking In & Recommending Things

Hey there. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Too long really, if I’m going to be honest. Things have been happening in life, a lot of art thing actually. Well, other life things too, but they’re boring to me so they’ll be boring to you too 😉

What art things you ask? Well, my love affair with oil pastels continues. I’ve been posting process videos on my YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpMnJphAt4SXm-mTQDySPAA to hopefully inspire others to give oil pastels a go. Perhaps you’ll follow along with a video or two? If you do share what you make with me, I love seeing your art.

Photography continues to be a constant in my life, and I’m exploring different ways to express myself in the medium. I’m a member of Girls With Cameras, an online photography community for women which among other things offers daily creative prompts to inspire & challenge. If you’re a female photographer & keen to learn more, I can highly recommend the community https://linktr.ee/girlswithcamerasetc

Breaking Things That I Should Keep, inspired by a song lyric

My email inbox has been ruthlessly edited over the past months. I unsubscribed from a lot of email subscriptions that were no longer serving me. What remains is both more manageable in terms of reading time & by providing me with content I actually want. It can be daunting, especially if you have a lot of subscriptions hitting your inbox each day, but its worth taking the time to edit. Set aside a block of time to dedicate to tidying your inbox, either dealing with it in one hit, or if you’ve got too much to deal with, by allocating 10 minutes a day until it’s more manageable. I promise you’ll thank me once you’re done 🙂

Perhaps you’d enjoy reading some of the things I do? After all if you read my posts then we are in some way like minded. If digital art is your thing, specifically in this case iPad art, then check out Art With Flo https://artwithflo.com/flos-treasure-chest-full-of-procreate-freebies/ She offers free tutorials on YouTube, a weekly newsletter full of tips, brushes & creative inspiration, plus she is on Patreon too.

As a Murderino receiving weekly missives from My Favorite Murder are a joy to receive. Karen & Georgia’s rapport is a delight & watching two strong women rising above the cacophony of old white men who take up a lot of the podcast space is pure joy. Under the banner of Exactly Right Media they’re building a community of podcasts that have something for everyone. https://www.exactlyrightmedia.com/

Lastly for now is a recent find, Literary Hub. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but Lit Hub is full of books. Book recommendations critiques, essays on the craft & subject & a whole lot more. https://lithub.com/

I hope you find something here to pique your interest.

Till next time, stay creative


An Abstract For Every Mood

Recently I was chatting with a friend about my newly discovered love of making art with oil pastels. It has taken me by surprise. Never before have I found myself wanting to create as often as I am, with any other art supply. I’m particularly struck at my urge to create abstracts. I’ve always loved them, but haven’t made many in the past. Currently I’ve got two of mine hanging in my art room plus at least 10 more in my sketch pad.

Jane (the aforementioned friend) summed up abstracts perfectly. They’re a way to make mood based art, using colours to represent my mood at the time. I love the idea so much, I wish it was mine 😉

I’ve done enough research into colour theory to know that colours can and do effect mood. I know myself well enough to know that when I’m incredibly angry I feel the best thing to create is from pouring black paint onto a canvas & going from there. But I also know I like to challenge myself, using colours that I don’t normally think of using. The second image above I made with those particular colours because I rarely use such muted tones. I challenged myself to see if I could make something I was happy with, with those colours. To not make it dull, I deliberately used pale blue as a contrast. I’m really happy with the result.

****

I’ve come to realise these abstracts are a good way to ease my anxiety. For the hour or so it takes to make one, my mind is focused on the art only. Even if I’m recording my work to share on my YouTube (check it out here, if you’re interested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nmC8Y68CsQ ) I’m not aware of my phone recording, sitting on a tripod beside me (even though it’s a weird thing for me to have accompany me as I create) or anything else for that matter. It’s just me, the oil pastels & paper. There have been times when I’ve finished an abstract & have fought the urge to make another immediately. That’s how much I love them 🙂

Indoor Plants & Mental Health

My love affair with indoor plants began slowly, about two years ago. The small space we were living in at the time was utilitarian out of necessity but its drabness was driving me a little batty. I wanted something pretty & decided a couple of house plants would be perfect. I bought a Dracena Marginata and another plant that had no nursery label. I thought it was a Philodendron; I recently discovered its actually a Syngonium Podophyllum or Syngonium White Butterfly. Within weeks my White Butterfly had exploded in growth, going from a small plant with only a few leaves to a plant double in size. Some days it felt like she was growing whilst I watched her, so quick was her growth. Her stunning leaves resemble an elongated heart shape with pale green or white veins which I guess is where the name White Butterfly comes from. 

I’ve found bright indirect light suits her most, although I’ve seen suggestions that she will also cope with lower light situations. Wikipedia advises that the White Butterfly is a native to semi-tropical countries such as Brazil, Ecuador & Mexico. I wonder if her growth would be even faster if she was placed in a bathroom? Perhaps I should put one of my propagations in my ensuite, to compare with growth in a non humid space? Oh yes, I’m propagating my White Butterfly. Her growth is so much that I’ve found propagation is a nice way to control it. Propagation is very easy, simply cut off growth near a node, place it in water & wait a while for roots to grow. The growth will depend on the temperature; I took cuttings from my mother plant a week & a half ago & they’re already developing roots. Pretty soon I’ll have another five plants to add to my collection.

So Kim, I hear you saying, what exactly does this have to do with helping your mental health? And more importantly how can owning plants help my mental health? Well, it’s simple really. My plants make me happy. In a world that currently feels like its gone crazy I’ll take simple happiness whenever I can get it. I check my plants every day. I check them to see if they need a water, to make sure that there hasn’t been an influx of bugs since I last looked at the plant but also to check plant growth. It’s so exciting to watch a new leaf push its way out of a plant, going from a tiny green thing to a fully formed pale coloured leaf, eventually becoming a hardened fully grown leaf. Sometimes I grab my camera to photograph a leaf but mostly I just watch them in awe. Plant life is a little bit magical & I love having that in my life. A couple of times when I’ve been anxious I’ve gone looking at my plants, because I know doing that will ease the anxiety a little. 

I haven’t yet dived into the psychology behind the actual scientific studies that look at the mental health benefits of plant ownership, but I will. And if it’s ok with you I’ll share it in a future post. For now, trust me when I say plants will help improve your mental health. If you don’t already own house plants, treat yourself to one or two. And you’re allowed to blame me if you find yourself addicted 🙂

So I Made A Zine

The idea came to me this past Saturday evening to put together a mini zine containing short quotes about anxiety. I woke up Sunday morning & started working on it.

I made the decision to make several copies by hand & I’ll photocopy the best one to make several more copies. Towards the end of the day I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into, bored as I was with the repetitiveness of writing out the same thing eight times. If I make a second issue I won’t create it this way; instead I’ll make one version & make mutiliple copies of it.

But for the sake of the exercise, of wanting to create a zine & have more than one copy of it, making eight individual copies by hand was the way to go.

Initially I thought I would make it full of drawings to go alongside the words but as I began I didn’t feel like that would suit this project. Instead as you can see from the photos, I’ve kept this zine word heavy with only a sprinkle of hearts & weird scribbled flower that I love to draw as a doodle.

Why quotes about anxiety? Well, the subject felt right to me. You know I’m living with it. Loved ones have it. And I want to talk about anxiety as much as possible to help reduce the stigma of anxiety. I hope this little zine will contribute to this, in its’ own small way.

If you’d like to buy a copy, I am selling it for $5 plus postage. Send me an email expressing your interest & we can go from there.

Food, Glorious Food

I am a passionate believer in making & eating quality food. I think good food is one of life’s most important things.

One of my favourite things in life is to prepare & serve food to share with others. It could be something as simple as a couple of homemade biscuits & coffee or an elaborate meal that requires hours of preparation; it matters little to me what it is because I love it all.

When it comes to the preparation of food I am both a follower of recipes & a creator of them. Well, I suppose I’m technically not creating recipes because I’m not taking note of measurements but I’m certainly using combinations of foods that I know work together & that I like together & repeating a particular dish multiple times.

I thought I’d share with you today links to some of the recipes that I return to. Note that many of these are sweet treats, cause that’s the mood I’m in as I write this post 🙂

First up is a link to make soda bread. This is incredibly easy to make & is really tasty. I treat myself to freshly baked soda bread as a delicious lunch. Usually I’ll bake it on a Saturday, have more either for breakfast or lunch on Sunday then freeze the remaining bread. I like the flexibility of this recipe. You can use whatever dried fruits & nuts that you’ve got in the pantry. I don’t use store bought buttermilk. Instead I add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to the milk at least ten minutes prior to needing it. Purists will probably be horrified but if I was to buy buttermilk I wouldn’t be baking soda bread as often as I do 🙂

Slices of freshly cut soda bread

As we are a family of two, a lot of recipes I return to frequently are small batch. This saves excess food going to waste & has the added benefit of us not eating the same biscuits or sweets day in & day out 🙂

My most small batch visted website is Dessert For Two. A food blog by Christina Lane, it’s full of fabulous food. Over time Christine has added to her repertoire, expanding from desserts to covering main meals, gluten free options & more. Every recipe I’ve made is delicious; I don’t think you could go wrong with any of Christine’s recipes. Her raspberry brownie recipe is a must, although I’ll confess to only using raspberries once when making it. I usually use strawberries, blueberries or if I have none then I omit the fruit completely.

I love chocolate chip biscuits so I’m often making them. I’ve yet to find the perfect recipe, although I’ve found a couple that come close. One of them is by Sally of Sally’s Baking Addition. This particular recipe makes one giant chocolate chip biscuit (or cookie, as Sally calls it. Because she’s American, & American’s cookies are us Australian’s biscuits) however I usually prefer to make it as three smaller biscuits. Two for my husband & I to enjoy whilst they are still warm & the third to be eaten by me the next day.

I like brownies a lot, so here’s another recipe for them. This one isn’t a small batch recipe, but thats ok. Sometimes its ok to eat brownie every day for a week 🙂 Or to make & share with loved ones. This recipe, by Broma Bakery uses red wine. This sounds indulgent, & it is. If you like brownies, give them a try. If. you like red wine, then you must try these. Enjoy them with coffee or red wine if you dare.

Turning away from desserts, another love of mine is risotto. I make beetroot risotto a lot when beetroot is in season. The recipe I use was pulled from the pages of a magazine many years ago so I’m not sure how I’d go about sharing it here. Sometime last year, after buying more pumpkin than needed I searched online for a pumpkin risotto recipe. I found this one by ReceipeTin Eats. It has entered my list of recipes to return to. It’s easy to make & is delicious is I’m absolutely recommending it to you.

My list of go to recipes is quite large, so I think I’ll write another post about this in the near future. In the meantime, let me know if you make any of these recipes & how they go for you. I love hearing your thoughts.

Art Journal Fun

I’ve been fascinated by art journals for a while. They show up in my social media feed & some of the artists I’ve interviewed for Art Supply Posse keep them or specialise in them. But I was hesitant to start my own. My style of art isn’t the same as that of the artists I admire & the quality of my work isn’t as good as others. I was comparing myself to these artists & I was convinced that my perceived shortfalls was a good reason to not keep an art journal.

My art journal, awaiting the addition of an origami crane

Thank goodness I came to my senses! I finally woke up to the nonsense I was telling myself & realised that I could make an art journal be exactly what I need it to be.

I had been using a Midori Travellers Notebook as a daily todo list & calendar hybrid. It suited me for a couple of years but by the end of 2019 I’d become bored by this setup. I like the size, the feel of the stunning paper & it’s portability. Enough reasons to turn this daily boring thing into an art journal that only a few weeks in I can say I’m already proud of.

To make it work best for me I utilise two pages at a time, which are given over to a week. Instead of listing out days & dates, as I had been doing, I’m now writing the start date & end date of the week followed by the particular month. Year isn’t included as it’s noted when a new notebook is started.

Because I love fountain pen ink (& also as a convenient excuse to buy/try more ink) I’m washing ink over the pages as a background. I’ve created about 20 backgrounds so far, allowing each double set of pages to dry completely before moving to the next set. Thats the only criteria I’ve set myself for the journals’ contents, although I recognise this might change in the future. From there I am adding art to the pages as I see fit.

Sometimes I’m making art directly onto the page, other times I’m making art elsewhere & pasting it in. It really depends on what I feel like doing when I decide to art. My daily breakfast art practice continues so some mornings whatever I make will end up in the journal. Other times I’ll fold an origami crane or make a small piece of fountain pen ink art, pasting it into the journal afterwards. It all depends on my mood.

I’m glad I had this change in mindset. I do deserve to have an art journal. And so do you. If you’ve ever wanted to give one a try, I say go for it. Consider this me giving you permission to keep one. If you do, let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Yes, I Celebrate My Dogs Birthdays

Zena, as captured on her birthday

Yesterday was Zena’s 11th birthday. Zena is the eldest of my two dogs. It almost feels impossible that she is already 11 years old. I remember vividly the day we met her, as if it happened only moments ago. Even then as a small eight week old puppy she was full of sass. We took with us our dog Zeus to meet her because we wanted to make sure that the two of them would get along. Meeting a fully grown adult male Rottweilor did not phase Zena. She ran to him at full pace, her chest out and tail up, daring him not to be impressed by her tiny presence. There was no fear; instead she was curious and determined to follow him everywhere. She was already aware of her place in the world & expected everyone – animal or human – to be impressed by her.

In the ensuring years Zena has become a crucial part of my life. In recent years she has become incredibly in tune with my mental state; it was because of her actions that I realised I needed to seek help for my anxiety. I became aware that Zena was anxious every time I was anxious; or actually she would become anxious before my anxiety hit. She was aware that I was becoming anxious before I was & at the time I wasn’t aware that she was trying to calm me but I wasn’t recognising her cues. As she became more anxious as my daily anxiety grew I decided I had to do something about my mental health, in the hope that improving my mental health would improve hers. Thankfully as my anxiety treatments began to work my improvements were reflected in Zena. She hasn’t lost her ability to recognise an anxiety or panic attack before I do however now I recognise her cues and act on them. I allow her to calm me if needed or simply to shadow me as she makes sure that I’m going to be ok.

Despite the positive impact Zena has in my life (and also Cadel, my second, younger dog) I have always felt uncomfortable publicly recognising the importance of my dogs. I’ve often felt ashamed that I am the owner of dogs, or to put it in popular parlance, a dog mum. Almost everyone I know, particularly those of my age or older, are mothers or fathers of children. You know, humans. They’ve done what society expects and what people have done for millennia which, at its core is to reproduce in order to maintain the existence of humans on Earth. For reasons I’m not yet ready to share here, having children was not and is not for me. But having pets, especially dogs? Well of course I had to. My life would be bereft without them.

So now, I’m willing to own my reality. I am a dog owner. No I’m not going to call myself a dog mother. I honestly hate the description although I’m happy for others to refer to themselves as that if it truely makes them happy. And in that owning of reality I will happily confess to celebrating my dogs birthdays. I haven’t actually made a birthday cake or cupcake for either Zena or Cadel yet, but its on my to do list for a future birthday. Instead I give them some kind of food treat (which they both get because you can’t spoil one dog without spoiling the other!). For Zena’s birthday I shared my souvlaki with them. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it all so Zena & Cadel got to enjoy my leftovers. They were thrilled to eat something different and tasty and I was thrilled not to throw away food.

So this is me, stating to the world that I’m a proud dog owner and I’m never going to not bring it up. Its a major part of my life and I’m happy with this fact.

Oh, one more thing. I’m also a dog owner who runs an Instagram account for her dogs. Yep, I’m one of those! If you’d like to check it out search zenacadel on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll enjoy their page.

Those Small Moments Of Beauty

Svenja looking through her makeup

Photographing small moments of beauty has – over the past few months – become incredibly important to me. When I am anxious I find myself unable to see the world properly. Effort is needed, either medical or physical – often both – to pull my mind out of anxiety. For some time afterwards I feel as though I’m teetering between two realities: the anxious & the non-anxious me. It’s a weird feeling but I have become accustomed to it. During the time of afterwards it helps me if I can distract my mind to help ensure it doesn’t become anxious again.

The easiest distraction can be found by cuddling my dogs. I swear that they are therapeutic! They sit with me, lick away any tears that may be lingering & do their damnedest to keep me calm.

Irina talking about false eyelashes

My habit of taking my camera along to my pole fitness classes has provided me with countless opportunities to capture small moments of beauty. These photos are my favourite to take although I’m finding it difficult to articulate why. This is my fourth attempt at this post; I can’t find the right words to express how I feel when I take the photos of these women moving in beautiful & athletic ways, nor afterwards when I look back at them. The closest word I have to describe taking the photos is joy because as I look at the movements through my camera thats often what I see, but that’s not really right. Delight probably best describes my feelings when I look back at my photos but it isn’t really that either. Why is it so damn hard to describe these feelings? I suppose for you, the reader, my feelings don’t make much difference to my photographic results. Except I think actually they do. If I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was taking photos then I don’t think I would push myself out of my creative comfort zone. I wouldn’t be looking to improve my technique or try different things; I’d simply be happy phoning it in. Or not even bothering to try in the first place. Yet because I love what I am doing I keep striving to improve, to notice even smaller moments of beauty & try to capture them.

Vee applying makeup to Becky

The photos that accompany this post were taken as we were getting ready for Aerial Showcase 2019. Yes, I took part & yes I had my camera. I couldn’t resist bringing it because I knew there would be moments to cherish later on. I found myself having to put my camera away, lest I be late getting myself ready but I’m glad I had it with me. The photos (I’ll be sharing more in a portfolio here) make me smile. What I’d like to do with them next is to have them printed. I think it will be nice to be able see the photos hanging on a wall, reminding me that yes indeed there is beauty everywhere if you look for it.

Finding Joy In A Public Library

Jensen enjoying a library book

Recently I’ve rediscovered the joy of using a public library. This has happened for a number of reasons. My list of books to read is large & grows faster than I can read. And I don’t really need to own all these books. I feel a little guilty admitting this because I assume that authors earn more royalties from books purchased than they do from books borrowed from libraries. However if I purchased every book that I want to read I’d pretty soon run out of room to store them. Buying digital copies of them doesn’t always work for me either. I buy them occasionally but still struggle to enjoy the process of reading a digital book. They just don’t feel right to me.

Borrowing books instead of buying them also saves me money which is something I’ll never complain about. Most important however is sharing the library with my nephew Jensen. He is four years old & loves everything about being at the library.

Together we return books using the return chute located on the library’s entrance. A metal opening in the wall is unlocked by the presence of a book placed in front of a scanner. This is very exciting! A beeping sound is made when the chute is ready to accept another book & it shines a green or red light depending on what stage of accepting books it is in.

Once our books are returned we enter the library, and Jensen excitedly runs over to the children’s section. I don’t remember being allowed to run in the public library when I was a child. I remember the library as a place to move slowly, almost reverently & to ensure browsing was done as quietly as possible. The building that housed the library was old & dark & it did not feel welcoming to children. It was a stark contrast to the building that houses the public library today. This building is large, open & full of natural & artificial light. Chairs & tables are placed strategically to encourage visitors to linger.

Jensen isn’t discouraged by the librarians when they see him run. They don’t shush us to be quiet; they accept that this is the behaviour of kids having fun in a place they like to be. What a blessing this acceptance is.

A beautiful children’s book I recently borrowed from the library, titled Where is the Frog?

The children’s section is full of bright colours & encouraging words about the wonders of reading. Sometimes we first pick books to sit & read, other times we play with the blocks before selecting books to borrow. I love watching Jensen as he decides what books to borrow. I honestly have no idea what his criteria is. About all I can say with any assurance is the the cover needs to catch his eye. He studies the covers quickly, in stark contrast to how I select a book; I take time to assess the cover then read the blurb on the back. For Jensen however if the cover image catches his eye with something fun or features an animal that he likes then it will be borrowed.

Once the books are chosen we go to the hold area so I can collect the books that I’ve reserved for myself. The excitement then kicks up a notch again as we go through the process of checking out the books. Jensen places my card on the computer bench so it can scan my library card. We then take it in turn scanning books & putting them in our library bag. Once done we collect the borrowing receipt that the computer spits out & then we make our way to the cafe. Because you can’t visit the library without enjoying a chocolate milkshake & something to eat!

One day I’d like to take Jensen & his brother Eli to the library, to read a book that I’ve written & had published. They have sparked my interest in writing for children & it would be a perfect day if we could read together a book that I have written.