Snow Everywhere

I live in the UK.  In a big valley in the North West.  This means the mountains to the North and South get the snow and we get the shelter.  And lots of rain. 

If it snows, it falls lightly, and melts as soon as it hits the ground.  Occasionally in February we get a flurry that sticks for a day or two.

But tonight something magical happened.


Our Christmas tree



My Significant Other and I have spent the evening with his two beautiful daughters.  Every Christmas we get together and have a special Christmas.  We eat too much party food, exchange presents, and watch a Christmas film.  I totally love it.  This year (and last year, because we love it so much) we watched "It's a Wonderful Life". 

Tonight, just as James Stewart was standing under the Christmas tree at the end of the film and the Christmas ornament jingled as Clarence Oddbody AS2 gots his wings, it started to snow.  Not in the film, but outside the window.  We had the curtains open and we could see the huge flakes as they floated in sheets.  It was beautiful.  And very special.



I love red hearts



In order to make the journey home, the car needed to be pushed up the hill by four kind men, who just happened to be passing, as my Significant Other steered.

The car slipped and slid, bumped and rolled its way home.  I thought it was due to the snow and ice on the road.



Harrison loves Christmas




It was only when the car was parked up that I saw it had a totally flat rear tyre.


So two Christmas miracles happened in my neck of the woods today. 





It snowed tonight.  

And the car made it home safely through a snow storm with a totally flat rear tyre.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. 

I'll be back in a couple of days with pictures of the presents I have made for everyone.  It's causing me great difficulty not to be able to splash them all over a post right now, but I don't want to ruin anyone's surprise in case some of my family and friends are misguided enough to read this blog...


Grab My Button!

Earlier this week, I decided it was time to throw myself, with gay abandon, into the magical, mysterious world of computer technical stuff.  Being fairly computer illiterate I felt this was going to be something of a challenge.  But I also felt the pay-off was going to be worth the squinting, fevered swearing, and lip chewing. 

I had decided I wanted a blog button.  One of those little gems of computer wizardry that can transport you, with a click, to a new and previously unexplored destination in the blogosphere.  

I have been collecting pretty blog buttons since I began blogging way back in the distant past of August this year. 

It's a little like collecting jewellery.  Go with me on this one. 

Each button is small, pretty and decorative.  And when you have a few clustered together they look stunning.  See.  I was going somewhere with the analogy...

I sat down at my computer and had a think.  What did I need?  

I needed a photo that represented Mimi and Tilly, The Blog.  I picked a picture that I use as my profile picture here.  I took it in Prague.  The first year that my Significant Other and I spent together.  He took me to Prague for Christmas.  The picture was taken in a shop there that stocked vintage style dresses, jewellery and fripperies.  It was a complete boudoir of loveliness.

Then I realised I needed to know how to vandalise this gorgeous image with words slashed across it. 

I had a think.  Nope no idea. 

It was time to bring in the big guns.

So I emailed my long time friend L, who is a Computer Programmer.  I think.  I'm not sure of her exact job title, but she works doing lots of technical things with computers and has travelled the world to do those things with computers, so I'm going with Computer Programmer until she tells me otherwise.

L was a complete star.  By the end of the day she had emailed me back with two lists of fantastically clear instructions that she had taken the time to write for me.  First, a list giving details of how to vandalise my picture with text.  Secondly a list of how to turn this vandalised picture into a blog button.

I sat down and followed her instructions to the letter.

Four pots of tea, and several hours of serious squinting and lip chewing later, here it is:




From Mimi and Tilly




My blog button.
 
 I am a proud woman.

You can grab this button by cutting and pasting the following html into your blog:


<a href="http://
mimiandtilly.blogspot.com
//"><img src="http://
lh4.ggpht.com/_aeRqNpsf-Ak/
Syf5JLtoUpI/AAAAAAAAApg/
On1DLa80TOg/s144/clearbutton.
JPG" /></a>



So, a huge, heartfelt thank you to L.  You can find L's blog at Thoughts On Stuff.   L, and her partner D, write a fab blog about their lives and their travels. 

On a completely different note, I am currently drying a whopping amount of sliced oranges over my radiators to make Christmas decorations.  The house smells fab.  I'm hoping it won't take too long as I am currently building up quite a sweat.  

Here It Is In Silver

Here is my seed pod inspired ring in silver!

You can see the copper model for this in the post Here's One I Made Earlier.   This ring turned out to be more difficult to make in silver than in copper,  I think because I was copying something I had already made, rather than just playing with wire.  And also because I got a fit of the vapours.  Mistakes with silver tend to make me shed a tear.

Even if I say so myself, I think it is a little bit gorge.

My sister doesn't know it yet, but it's for her.  For Christmas.

 






My sister's fingers are narrower than mine
 so I had to model the ring on my little finger
which wasn't quite long enough!





I'm making another one of these seed pod inspired rings for myself.  I'm also working on the silver version of my seed pod collar/necklace.  Soldering silver is a bit of a challenge. I feel like I'm abusing the silver by having at it with a huge blow torch.
Silver also melts fairly quickly, so it's much easier to make a mistake.  You'll be pleased to know I'm rising to the challenge.



My Art Journal

I have a thing for stationery.  Paper, pens, cards, notebooks.  I've been like this ever since I was a child.  If truth be told, I'm a stationery nerd.

When I was little, if I was given a new pen, I would spend the afternoon writing.  Or re-organising my pencil case.


Photo courtesy of Gaeten Lee at flickr.com



I remember being given sheets of pale pink paper.  I was about 7 years old.  It was the 1970's.  Pink paper was a big deal.

 
I took out my favourite pen and wrote a mini newspaper.  With stories of people I made up.  I remember I wrote about a guy who wore long johns for some reason.  He was also tall.  I called him Long John.  Which at the time I found hysterical.


Check out the origins of this pink paper.  They didn't have this is the 1970's.
Available from Whipsnade Zoo.  Photo Courtesy of http://www.zls.org/


This stationery nerdiness has never left me. 

If you take me anywhere near a stationery shop, I have to go in. 


When my Significant Other was studying at University a couple of years ago, I was thrilled.  I went with him to visit his university campus.  Having seen his lecture rooms, the restaurant with mounds of lovely food, and the student bar, I found the student stationery shop.


It was like coming home. 


Piles of notebooks in every colour of the rainbow.  Mini packets of mini highlighters.  Pencils, erasers.  Pads shaped like lips.  And oodles and oodles of art illustrated greetings cards.  And all at lovely I'm a very poor student so can't spend lots of money on stationery prices.

I bought a pack of mini highlighters and went back into the student bar where my Significant Other and our friends were.  I extolled the virtues of my new purchase.  Hand bag sized.  Easily accessible if I wanted to colour code something in my diary in a hurry.  Pretty.  Teeny tiny.  And they came in a neat little case.  You could hear the tumble weeds blowing gently across the bar floor.  

Whilst my friends hit the bottle, I hit the highlighters.  I re-organised my week in colour, while enjoying a nice glass of gin and a bag of crisps.  Oh, Happy Day!  Stationery, alcohol, and crisps. It just doesn't get any better.

A couple of years ago my significant Other did a wonderful thing.  He took me out to buy me a present because it was Wednesday.  We went to Staples.  He bought us both matching mini chocolate brown filofaxes.  Great for his pocket, great for my hand bag. We were the Howard and Hilda of stationery.  It was fantastic.  For two reasons.  Firstly, my partner isn't big on stationery but he's an In For A Penny In For A Pound kind of guy so I totally appreciated the gesture.  Secondly, we got to whip them out in unison when people asked us if we were free on certain days.  Awesome.


I started collecting handmade paper when I was in Japan in the 90's.  I went to Asakusa Shrine during my first weeks in Tokyo and found a small shop that sold nothing but sheets and sheets of hand-block printed washi paper.  There were layers of it hanging from the ceiling so that you could run your hands over the edges.  And walls and walls of colour.  Purples, reds, golds and pinks.  And the smell of paper everywhere.

   


I don't think I'd be overstating the case if I told you it was a happy day for me...




I brought sheets of paper back with me from Japan, and have acquired more over the years.  I have kept all of this paper lovingly wrapped up, in my cupboards.


Until this week.





When I went out on purpose and bought an art journal.  As a means of spurring me on to actually do some more creative art work on paper.  (Take a look at Creative Irony to see my first attempts at art work after a very long time!)




It was time to crack out the big guns.  Time to tear into the stored stash of Japanese washi paper.  Which had, up until this point, only been lovingly stroked.  It was time to be kind to the paper and let it fulfil its papery destiny.

So, I had at it with scissors and glue.




Here are some of the results.


A general mood board of seed pod inspiration.
With seed pod painting.



A quick pencil drawing of seed pods



A painting of sycamore seeds, using ink washes.



My collage of sycamore seeds.  Lots of rich velvets in this one.



Etching in metal and printing on velvets.



Hot wax and inks.



It felt good.  I'm glad I did it.  There are still sheets of washi paper left to use another day.

I finished my seed pod inspired ring in silver and seed pearls today.  I'm wearing it right now. Even if I say so myself, it's a little bit gorge.

I'll take some pictures to share with you in my next post.

I hope you're having a great week.

One Lovely Blog

I woke up yesterday morning and looked out of the window. It was a lovely Saturday morning.  The sun was shining.  I had the whole day stretching ahead of me.  I made a pot of tea, and sat down at my computer.  

I'll have a catch up with my blog, I thought.  I'll start to write my next post.


When I turned on my computer,  I had a message from C who writes the very gorgeous blog Favourite Vintage Finds.  She was letting me know that she had given me the One Lovely Blog Award.


I love that this award features a teacup.


This means that she thinks my blog is Lovely.

It made me smile out loud.  How fantastic is that?

If you have chance, I recommend you visit C's blog, Favourite Vintage Finds.  Not only is it beautiful, it is also chock-full of fab vintage goodies.  Thank you, C, for the award.  It's my first.  And I'm very chuffed.


So now, having received the award, I can choose up to fifteen blogs, I think are lovely, to pass the award on to.


In equal order of loveliness, here are the blogs I have chosen:



Pillow Astronaut


Pupa Art


I have chosen these blogs because they have all inspired me in some way as I've ventured into the blogosphere.  I recommend that you visit each one.  They will make you smile.  They are all Lovely. 

I hope you've had a great weekend.


Creative Modifications

My nephew loves taking things apart and putting them back together.  Once he's taken something apart, he looks at how it's been made and thinks about how he can make it better. 

He's highly creative. 

I went to visit last week.  His room was a mass of electrical wire, metal parts, soldering irons, tool kits, and solder. 

In the midst of it all was an X-Box 360.  Or what previously had been an X-Box 360 before my nephew had systematically taken it apart.

He told me that he thought his X-Box would be better if it were covered in a clear perspex case, and had LED lights inside that would light up and pulse in time to any music that was being played through it, or in time with any games he was playing.  He also thought it would look good if the lights pulsed as if they were "breathing" when the X-Box wasn't being used.

With this in mind he had dismantled his X-Box, looked at the circuitry inside, figured out what he would need to add and take away from the circuitry in order to have his LED dream made a reality, and had ordered the necessary components. 

He had then set about altering the electrical circuitry inside, adding the lights and other bits and pieces, and soldering every connection that needed soldering.  He had added an on-off switch to the new system of lights.  Whilst doing all this he had discovered the polarity within parts of the circuit board needed altering and had altered it accordingly.

Here are some before and after shots.


This is the inside of my nephew's X-Box after he's partly rebuilt it.
The yellow and green tape shows some of the wires he's added.


Another look inside.


My nephew's finished, newly modified X-Box 360.
This is what he sees every time he turns it on.  Brilliant.



I asked my nephew if he thought he was creative.  He told me he didn't really think he was.  He said he just liked taking things apart and figuring out how to make them better.

Oh, I should probably point out that my very creative nephew is 15 years old.
   


P.S.  I've tried very hard not to embarrass my nephew by gushing.  It was very difficult.  I wanted to brag and gush all over the place, because he's so brill.   

Here's One I Made Earlier.

Having suffered from the creative equivalent of Writer's Block, I gave myself a good talking to, had a few cups of tea in preparation, and sat down yesterday and got it together.

Over the past few weeks I've been quietly making various studies of seed pods (have a read of Creative Irony for the full story), I found I liked the fragility and curved movement of the seed pods on a hydrangea seed head I'd been given.

I made a range of different drawings and sketches of the rounded shapes.  And sketched out a ring design.

From these initial seed pod designs, I sat down yesterday and started playing with some copper wire I had shaped into square wire and then annealed (heated, in order to make more malleable).

This seed pod inspired ring appeared.



















This is the model for the final ring which I'll make in silver, with freshwater seed pearls.  

I always make a model in copper.  If I make a mistake it's much cheaper to start all over again.  If I make a mistake using silver, I'm likely to have a wee cry. 

Even though this is the model, I've used freshwater seed pearls, because they looked so lovely against the rich colour of the copper wire.

I've been working on a copper model of a seed pod inspired necklace/collar.  I finally soldered all the model pieces together yesterday.  

To be honest, I'm pretty pleased with the collar.  It's the first thing I 've made using solder.  So far it hasn't fallen apart. 

(Soldering isn't easy.  I kept blowing the pieces of copper away from each other with the flame from the torch.  I also inadvertantly set fire to the bench work top.  But managed to blow it out before any real damage was done.  Comments were made about the smell though.  Ahem.  No harm no foul.)

 

Accidental Creativity

Having spent so much time being creative with the way my home looks.  And changing the way I express myself through my appearance, I have begun to wonder if I am procrastinating when it comes to doing any art work. 

Something about sitting down with a "blank slate" and creating a piece of artwork has been scaring the bejeezes out of me.  

I'm not really one to walk away from something.  I tend to take the "if it feels scary then it's probably pretty important that you do it" approach.  Hence the I Think I'll Join The Girls Venture Corps So I Can Fly Planes speech of 1983, and the I've Decided To Move To Japan speech of 1993.  More recently we have the I Think I'd Like To Be More Creative speech of 2009...

But sometimes, before I realise it's important to Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, I find myself being very busy.  With other things I find to do.  When you think about it, it's actually very creative.  I can create quite a number of things that need doing that really don't need doing in a matter of minutes.  

I call it "doing a Monica".  I feel the need to organise.  Cupboards.  Drawers.  To make piles of things I need to sort out.  Washing.  Paperwork.  And then suddenly I'll notice that this is happening and start asking myself, "What in the David Dickenson are you doing?" 

It happened after writing my last blog post.  I had spent lots of time beautifully re-arranging parts of my home.  Everything looked lovely.  There was a new energy in each of the rooms.  It felt great to see the differences I had made.  It was very satisfying.  There was nothing else to do.  Eveywhere was tidy, clean, complete.

So I started to look in the cupboards.  Peeking inside to find things that might need doing.  Maybe this cupboard could do with a sort out.  And that was when I knew I was going over to the dark side.

So I got out my paints and sat down in my creative space.

I had a wee think.

I had a look at my brushes.

I chose which paper I wanted to work with.

I wondered what people called the artistic, crafty equivalent of writer's block.  Painter's smudge?  Knitter's knot? 

I decided if I was going to do this, I was in for a penny, in for a pound.  So I took the lid off the brightest, reddest, most scarlet, tube of paint I could lay my hands on.

And gave it a squeeze.

Nothing. 

No paint oozed from the nozzle.  There was no satisfying dollop of red paint in the pallet. 

I had a close look at the end of the tube of paint.  It all looked fine.

I had another squeeze.  Nothing.

So I gave it a really good, two handed, I mean business, I've finally sat down to paint and won't be thwarted kind of a squeeze.

And a lovely bright red, almost scarlet, arc of painted shot across the room.  In slow motion.

I watched as it passed the lamp.  The desk.  The calendar.  The cat.

Nooooooooo.

And slashed it's way across my beautiful white curtains. 

I was being plagued by Creativity Gremlins again...  (You can read more about Creativity Gremlins here.) 



Here's another one so you get the full effect.




You can imagine my dismay.  A foot and a half of Accidental Creativity.

Then came the fiasco of getting the curtains down.  I managed to make a lovely design on myself actually.

I took my paint-soiled curtains, and my fairly paint-soiled self, into the bathroom and put the curtains in the bath.  I figured if I rinsed out the paint with cold water, maybe everything would be ok.

Watching the red water wash over my curtains, turning them a lovely pink, I felt a momentary flush of panic.  I may have uttered something that sounded a bit like "Jackson Pollocks".

So I took the curtains downstairs, put them in the washing machine and watched the wash turn a beautiful shade of raspberry ripple.

Despair.

But now for the great news. 

I can personally vouch for the cleaning power of Ariel "Brrrrilliant Even At Low Temperatures" washing tablets.  Three cycles and six washing tablets later my curtains are back to their former glory.  Actually, they are in better form than their former glory. 

Because, in all honesty, they could have done with a bit of a wash.
   


P.S.  Have you experienced Accidental Creativity?

Small Differences. Big Changes.


Exploring being creative is a funny thing. 

It has made me look at day-to-day life in a completely different way.  I am beginning to find that creativity is starting to seep into everything I look at, do, and think about.  In a lovely, fluid way.  Not in a scary, obsessive way. 

Firstly, it started with my home.

I had vintage books on a bookcase.  All lined up neatly according to size and colour.  I'm a former teacher.  Organisation might be a bit of a thing with me.  The words "Monica" and "have you got OCD" may have been used near or around me.  Not any more.  My vintage books now sit displayed creatively in different parts of my lounge. 



They're still a little bit lined up according to size and colour, but at least they're off the shelf.



I got the idea of binding the books with ribbon from this lovely blog, here.

I used to make tea in the mug.  I now enjoy baking biscuits,  to eat with the tea I make in a china tea pot.  All served on a pretty tray with napkins and doilies.  Take a wee glimpse at Just My Cup of Tea.  

I used to avoid my kitchen.  Now I spend happy times there skidding on dropped eggs and baking.  I have even hung fairy lights from my plate rack.

Ooh, Pretty!


I have arranged everything in my kitchen so that the things I love to look at are displayed where I can see them while I'm knocking up a rude amount of shortcake.


My cocktail shaker and vintage icing sugar shaker,
for shaking things up in the kitchen.


I used to keep notes of things that came to mind in a journal.  It was completely miserable.  I now share my thoughts with you here on my blog.  Not so miserable.   

Being creative has started to seep into all areas of my life.  I've even started to change my appearance.  I've gone from my natural brunette, to a zingier, richer, copper chestnut.  I've stopped saving my "best" clothes for best and have started wearing things that make me smile and feel creative. 

I went out on Friday wearing a hairband with a big, floppy, black, satin bow attached to it.  It squeezed my head a lttle bit, but hey. 

I was carrying a vintage 1950's umbrella I recently found at my favourite reclamation shop.  I bought the umbrella to sit in my porch and look pretty.  As I came to leave the house it started to rain.  I picked up my vintage umbrella.  And got told that evening that I looked a bit like Mary Poppins carrying it.  Apparently the bow looked a bit Minny Mouse-ish.  

I even bumped into the man who runs my favourite reclamation shop.  He looked me up and down and told me I scrubbed up well.  I'm taking that as a compliment. I wondered what he was suggesting about the days he normally sees me in his shop.  I'm not pulling at that string.

I've been out shopping for the perfect shade of red lipstick to match my new hair.  I love red lipstick, and a lick of black eyeliner.

 

I'm having heaps of fun being creative me.  A little bit of vintage.  A lot of smiling. 

Being creative has really surprised me.  It's all about self-expression.  I kind of knew that already.  But knowing something, and really knowing it, are two different things. 

The surprise for me has been how limitless the possibilities are for creative self-expression.  Absolutely anything can be seen as creative.  Depending on your frame of mind. How you see it. 

I had books on a shelf.  Now they are beautiful items to look at.  They're still books.  I've just changed the way I see them.

I am self-expressing all over the place in my home and with my personal appearance.  I have been moving items around my home.  Lovingly displaying them.

Fairy lights around the mirror.

In an earlier post, My Creative Space, I wrote about how I converted my computer room into a "creative space".  Here is the old 1950's typewriter I had sitting up in the loft, now sitting on the desk, in my creative room reminding me how much I love to write.



I've reorganised my bedroom with vintage pictures and blousey flowers so there are pretty things to look at. 

Vintage photo frames, lace and pearls on the bedside table.


I've changed cushions, throws and lighting in my lounge, so that it's cosy, warm and welcoming to relax in.


 

I am, frankly, self-expressing all over the place. 

I've hung flowers and plants in the front garden, so that it looks colourful and inviting when I come home.  And it's so much fun.

The one thing that confuses me is that, so far, creativity, for me, hasn't been very much about making any jewellery, or painting any pictures, or exploring new mediums of self expression art-wise.  The canvas so far seems to be mainly my home and me.    

Over the past two months I have instinctively and systematically altered the appearance of each room in my home.  Slowly, thoughtfully and steadily.  I've tweaked here.  Moved an item there.  It has just felt like the right thing to do.  Not big changes physically.  But a shift in how I see things.  

And it feels more me.

And I've found myself dressing much more creatively.  A little bit of vintage.  A little bit of red.  A lot of smiling.

And this seems to be making a difference.  Something seems to be happening.

I find myself chatting to strangers more.  People smile at me a lot lately.  Friends have been telling me I look "different".  "Great".  I have random conversations with people I come across each day.  Warm chats.  About whether they prefer tea or coffee.  The weather.  The weekend.  Their health.  How they're doing.  

People seem to be warmer towards me.  Or maybe I'm warmer towards them.

Life feels easier somehow.



Even the cat is more relaxed.

I know these are small differences in my home.  Small differences in my appearance.  But it feels like a bigger difference in my thinking and way of looking at things.

My days feel fuller and more rewarding.

Is it because I'm having more fun being creative?

Is it because I'm wearing a big, floppy bow.  And people think I'm a little bit daft?  

Am I happier because I enjoy each day much more because I'm thinking about how to be creative?  

Is being creative really that powerful just two months in?

I'll keep you posted.

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