Sunday, 4 June 2017

Crazy, busy May

Oh Lordy, it's been a busy May this year!!!  Actually, it started straight after Easter with a school disco on the first day back.  I believe I actually blogged that one!

The following week was ANZAC Day, essentially the Australian version of Memorial Day, for my American friends.  We had a fairly quiet day at home, because I knew it would be my last quiet day for a while.

We had a P&C (parents and citizens) meeting  on the Wednesday, then all hands were on deck in for our local May Day Fair.  May Day is a big deal in our town, which has a very strong set of unions.  The unions put together a big fair, providing free rides, plenty of food and drink, a car and bike show, and market stalls.  All the local not-for-profit groups take up the market stalls (and make a bit of a killing, to be honest!), and there is a rodeo and fireworks throughout the weekend.

Our school's P&C had the opportunity to purchase a donut fryer and dispenser and a slushie machine.  I am SO glad we had so many volunteer parents and teachers throughout the day because it was mayhem!  One of the new teachers at the school is a face painter, so she set up at one end of the tent and couldn't quite believe how busy it was (I think she finally got a quick break around 2pm).




We completely sold out of our slushie mix and donuts, and people even waited up to half an hour for the donuts!  They're a massive hit and were the talk of the town.

In the evening we sold glow products before the fireworks and sold out of those as well!

It was a massive day for the committee members, who were there from 6:30am to 8pm.  And none of us could look at a donut for a day or two after!

The Big Fellas and I went and saw our doctor the following week to arrange for vaccinations for our cruise in July!!!  We're getting very excited now and have finally received our check in details and been able to collect our tickets!

My parents came up for a bit of a flying visit that week, too!  It was SO good to have them here!  I took the three days off work to hang out with them and give them a bit of a tour.

The first day was a bit overcast and cool, so we mostly sat inside and talked and played a word game on mum's phone.  It was perfect for a bunch of introverts :)

We balanced our introversion by having our good friends over for dinner and trialed the new wood-fired oven!


Yes, that IS the largest skewer you'll probably ever see!

We still need to do the paving properly, and we're going to fill in the gaps with stones (probably a bit safer than wood chip!), but it's basically done and it's VERY good!!!!  Here's a closer view of the "art" the Big Fella and I did together:


It catches the light differently throughout the day and ask you look at it from different angles.

The next day Mum, Dad and I did a bit of a walking tour, going to the local coal centre for morning tea and checking out the coal museum and Japanese garden.  Mum and Dad grew up in a coal area in Victoria, so it was really interesting going through the museum with them and hearing a few stories, while they learned a few things about the process of coal mining that they hadn't known.

On our last full day, we drove to the closest large town and out to the dam on the other side.  We had a picnic lunch and did some rock-hopping (the Little Big Fella got the day off school and LOVED jumping around the rocks with Grandad!).


We all took photos (I've got some cool ideas - an abstract and a mini masterpiece) and the weather was beautiful.  We stopped for a coffee and poke around the shops before heading home.

The Big Fella and his mate left on a deer hunting trip that morning so we made sure to get a photo of all of us before they left.


Mum and Dad flew home on the Saturday, then the Little Big Fella and I went to the skate park in that town before KFC for lunch, a quick stop at the shops (and a quick hello to our Principal and her kids) before heading home.

I'm pretty sure I sat on the couch, reading for most of that evening and Sunday.

The following weekend the donuts made a reappearance at a Family Fun Day held by one of the pubs.  It wasn't overly busy, which was pretty lucky because there were only two of us running it (as opposed to a minimum of 4 or 5 at a time during May Day Fair).  Again we sold out and turned people away!

The next day was a clean up day and meeting of our Art Society.  I got to work outside with one of our oldest members, and she is an absolute crack up!  She kind of reminds me of my Grandma before she had her stroke - she's quick witted and spritely and willing to help everyone.  And, oh my Lord, she is funny!

Speaking of art, the week was full of it!  The local high school runs an art show each year and it's quite a big deal in the area.  I got two of my pieces framed and I was so happy with how they came out!!!



I also submitted two other pieces, but they were really to support the high school, rather than because I was overly happy with them.

I got SO sick on the Tuesday!!!  I woke up fine and went to work, then during the morning my nose started running and by lunch my body was aching and I was sneezing all over the place.  I packed up and took all my germs home with me, then spent the next 36-odd hours fighting a fever.  I finally woke up on Thursday feeling normal temperature and it was such a relief.  I was fully exhausted, though, so ended up staying home Thursday and Friday.

Friday evening I stocked myself full of cold and flu medications and nasal spray and ventured out to the art show to see what it was all about.

People, I have SO much to learn!!!!  Some of the art there was a-maz-ing!!!!  I was inspired and humbled by the amazing talent shown there!

It was great to see a whole bunch of people from the Art Society, as well as local friends.  I also ended up having a good chat with a guy who contracts to us at work and his wife.  They live about 6 or 7 hours away and he hasn't worked with us for over a year, so it was great to catch up a bit.

It turns out his wife is an artist, who also teaches, and she gave me so much in the time I got to speak with her!  Little tips, comments about why some paintings just didn't quite "work" (apparently their perspective was off so it didn't quite ring true), techniques that she used in her submissions.. it was awesome!

She ended up winning "Best in Show" and "Best Oil/Acrylic" with a painting of two horses that was stunning!  So I guess she had an idea of what she was talking about :)

I didn't win anything, but did get merit awards on both my framed pieces.  And throughout the night people (some I had never met before) complimented my wave painting.  It was quite a surreal experience, to be honest.

I ended up going home before the night was through (the medications started wearing off, I think), but got a text message from my friend - my wave painting sold!!!!

Honestly, I was (and still am) stoked and amazed!  I mean, I really liked it and was proud of it, but I didn't think anyone would really want to buy it at the price I had on it (all pieces in the show had to be for sale, and the school took a 25% commission on all sales, so by the time you include the cost of framing, time and materials, the price I put on it seemed a bit high to me).

So, now I feel like my personal bar has been set higher.  I want to improve, and try new things, and push myself, and read and watch videos and talk to as many artists as I can, and attend workshops and, and, and... paint!

But, ultimately, I'm doing all of this because painting makes me happy!  So, I think I'll keep going for now!

This last week has been a bit crazy with trying to catch up at work after being sick, and I've had a bunch of appointments after work.  But I've had a nice, quiet weekend and feel peaceful this evening.

The coming week will be cool!  The Little Big Fella has a sports carnival on, and because I knew far enough in advance, I've taken the day off to go and watch him.  He is SO excited that I'll be at school with him ALL day!  It makes me a little teary, actually, because this is the first sports event that I'll be able to be there for the whole day, rather than rushing in to watch a little bit on my lunch break.  And seeing how happy my not-so-little boy is about it melts my mummy-heart.

So, hopefully I'll take a few photos and tell you all about it soon :)

Before I finish off, I wanted to show you some of the gorgeousness that's been in my garden lately.  Enjoy!







Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dancing with my baby at the disco

I'm disappointed that I didn't get any photos of tonight.  My son's school had a disco and I got to dance a couple of dances with him.

It was so much fun!

And exhausting!

And hot!

And loud!

And awesome!!!!

I loved the look in his eyes as we danced.  He was having a blast and loved dancing with his mum!

The Little Big Fella turned 8 at the end of last month.  I only have about 10 years left of him living with us.  And he probably won't want me around for a decent part of that time.

So I store the fun, laughter, craziness and love of these moments in my heart.  Because these are the "good old days" that I will want to remember well into my old age.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Work in progress

I joined the local Art Society this year, and while I haven't made it to many gatherings, I've definitely found a group of people that I like to be around!  They're SO encouraging, have great tips and suggestions, and (unlike almost every group I've come across here) not inclined to gossip.

One of the things the Society is doing this year, is having a "project of the month".  Each month a member of the group presents a concept, process or subject for everyone to try throughout the month and present to the group.

It's been really interesting seeing various interpretations of the themes.  For example, the first theme was "apple and cup".

One lady drew two possums, one eating an apple, and one checking out a cup.

One lady painted the view from her kitchen window, incorporating the apple and cup on her bench top.

One lady drew an apple and a cup with her non-dominant hand.

Another filled a page with various references to apples and cups.

The friend who introduced me to the Society did a cartoon-style picture of two Leprechauns brewing apple cider, showing the process all the way from the apple to the cup.

Last month's challenge was "seascape" in any medium.  I was initially inclined to do an abstract painting similar to this:



I think something along that line would be within my perception of my abilities.  And I like the colours :)

However, the resident artist who set this particular challenge didn't say anything but had an expression that I interpreted as disappointment.  So I looked again.  And this photo caught my eye:



Something about the light, the colours, and I guess the impact of it visually really caught my attention.  But it would most certainly be a challenge to do anything like this!!!

I couldn't let go of the idea though, so I bought a canvas and looked at the colours and shapes, probably for a couple of weeks.

Finally I made a start and blocked out the main shapes and colours.


The only problem was, I didn't like it at all!!!  The shapes weren't right, and the colours just weren't encouraging me to keep going.

Luckily, working with acrylics means it's REALLY easy to go over it again!!!



Okay, now the shapes are on the right track.

I decided to start with the sky - a small area that felt less intimidating.



Happy with how it was going, I had the courage to continue, adding colour to the water.



By this point I realised that there was no way this was going to be a photo-realistic painting.  And after my initial disappointment, I let it go and let the painting come out whichever way it would.




And then, I felt like I was done!  I hung it on the wall to look at over the next few days, just to check if I felt the need to adjust anything.



A friend from the Society private messaged me when I put that last photo on Facebook and suggested that the mountains might need a bit of detail, even though the original photo didn't have it.  I've had a few attempts at it, and agree that the detail is needed, but still haven't been able to "finish" it.

I got a parcel in the mail around that time, which I was pretty excited about.  A range of palette knives to play with!!!  So I tried them out with my variation of a painting I have in the cycle of wallpapers on my work computer.



There are several things I don't like about it, but it was a quick, fun play, and I got to try a few different techniques.

Then I decided to do something that I might like to decorate with.  It began like this:



And is now ready for stage two:



As well as painting (and a bit of drawing), the Big Fella has "encouraged" me to walk around town with him five nights a week.  We have two main routes which take 30 to 35 minutes, and we talk as the Little Big Fella rides his scooter up and down the paths.  It's been good to reconnect!

The Big Fella and I also started working on our little backyard garden.  When we first moved in, there was a huge hunk of concrete, a palm tree and several yukkas and spiky plants.  Not our idea of a great garden.

And the weeds!!!  Oh my Lord!!!  The whole area just keeps growing weeds as soon as it's damp!

We have a vision for the patio area, and wanted this garden area to be an extension of it.  But although we'd been tossing up various ideas for the last 14 months, we hadn't reached a joined vision.

I bought a magazine (a rarity for me) with house decoration and design ideas and came across a few features that I thought we might like.

We were discussing this garden area on one walk and suddenly joined a bunch of ideas and it all came together in our heads!  Join this with the change in weather (thank God for cool nights and not-dripping-with-heat days!!!), and the Big Fella was off!!!

I got home from work one day and the palm tree and spiky plants were all gone!



The next day I come home to half the fence missing, an extra piece of framework on top of it, and cinder blocks laid out in a rough design.



The next day I helped paint the back panels and put them up.  I also had the rather fun (and very messy) job of adding the texture coat.



Back to paid work for me, but the Big Fella started construction of "The Gallows".



The next few days didn't appear to get very far, but there was plenty of background and preparation work going on.  Including mixing gravel, sand and cement.  The Little Big Fella got involved here and helped shovel.

It was SO funny to watch and listen!  The Little Big Fella worked SO hard to lift a little bit of gravel on his shovel into the trailer.  Meanwhile the Big Fella shoveled around 15 heavily loaded shovel-fulls!

And the incessant chatter that is always involved when the Little Big Fella is around these days was gold!



So now The Gallows are in, the edge of the garden is back in place, the extra panels on the side are up, and the base is ready and waiting for the main piece to arrive later this week.  The garden bed itself is ready to go up, once the extra bricks arrive.


The Little Big Fella and his mate from next door desperately wanted to go motorbike riding this weekend, but the Big Fella has been working nights.  So this afternoon I helped take them out to an area where locals ride pretty regularly, along with the neighbour's dad.

We have a beautiful sandstone escarpment nearby, and views of it and the green grasslands were SO good for my soul!!!



While the boys rode, I took photos of the interesting textures and shapes around, as well as the escarpment itself.





Then I finished a book I've been reading, and started selecting the colours I'll need for my next Art Society project.

As we packed the bikes up, the sun was starting to set and it was just beautiful!  I felt refreshed and lifted.

When I got home I was hit with the discouraging reality that tomorrow is the last of my four day weekend.

There are things that need doing in preparation for the coming chaos.  Deadlines are about to hit.  Hard.

In that single moment, I crashed from the highs of my renewing afternoon, to the lows of my current reality.

And I saw how much I am a work in progress.  And just how far I still have to go!

My life is not difficult in many ways!  I have a great husband, my son is an entertaining joy, we have the financial stability that dreams are made of!

And yet, I struggle.

I suffer from doubt, insecurities, loneliness, a sense of purposelessness, and periods of depression.

And just when I feel like I'm getting a handle on myself and making progress toward a goal I can't even define, I am slammed into the ground again.

Like the first stages of my wave painting, I'm not happy with how things are shaped.  Like the beginning of our garden, things are messy!

But I spy a little light on the horizon.
A tiny piece of hope.
A sense that all is not lost and I am actually moving toward... something!

So simultaneously alongside a sense of... grief? at the end of my day of "freedom", there lies a sense that good is on the horizon, maybe even great!  And that this particular work in progress has some pretty impressive potential.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A photo catch-up on October 2016



Hello!!!  It's been a while, hasn't it?  I guess sometimes I just don't feel like writing much.

But lately I've been taking a few photos and thought I'd share a few with you.

The Little Big Fella had our next door neighbour and his friend sleep over one night during the school holidays.  We pulled the Queen size guest mattress out, and the Little Big Fella's King Single mattress and made a mattress floor.  Next thing you know, the Big Fella attacks!!!


There was much laughter and little-girl screaming!

Speaking of screaming, we listed our house on the Treat or Treat route in our town this year.  Halloween isn't a big deal in most of Australia, but is in this area.  Some Aussies don't want kids coming to their house begging for treats, so people register their homes as open and giving out treats on a local Facebook page and people only go to those addresses.

I made little pumpkin lolly bags (thanks Pinterest!)
Then I made some Halloween cookies as an on-the-go treat.

The view of our place from the street
  
Here's our front porch while it was still light.
And someone to greet you!
I made a few Halloween luminaries (paint the inside of the jar with watered-down acrylic paint mixed with PVA/Elmer's glue, then draw your design on the outside with a black Sharpie), and put spiders and eyes in jars as well.  I used LED tealights to give the glow.
 
And here's my skeleton, that everyone loved (including me!)
We had about 100 kids come through over about two and a half hours.  It was great fun!

My nephew's and sister's birthdays were in October and, while I'd already found something for my nephew, I couldn't find anything I wanted to give my sister.  While wandering the cheap shop in our shopping centre for ideas, I saw a blank canvas and had an image of something I'd like to paint and give her.

We start with a background

Then I cheated - I love cheating with creative stuff!  I drew the outline of the two girls from a photo I Googled but wasn't completely happy with how it was all working.  I ended up chopping off one girl's head and turning it to face the other way, and I moved the girls closer together to suit my canvas size better.

After drawing the silhouette on the canvas lightly with pencil I filled it in, trying to give light and shade and a bit of human detail.

I wasn't happy with the coverage, so I did another layer of paint, adding a bit more detail to the hair, and increasing the contrast.

I wasn't entirely happy with the shading so I tried again after looking at shading on the original photo and other pictures I Googled.
My sister received it today and likes it, which put a smile on my face and a glow in my tummy for the rest of the day.  I've said this to her, but I am SO glad she's not just my sister, but my friend.  I am exceptionally lucky!

I went to the local art society's show a week or so ago and was amazed by the talent in our local area.  As soon as I have a free Sunday, I'm going to go along and hook up with them and see if I can develop a bit more.

This past weekend, the Big Fellas and I went to a place called Cania Gorge.  It's a lovely little spot with a brilliant family caravan park.  The Little Big Fella was pretty much in heaven!

The view from the Cania Dam lookout

The Little Big Fella discovered vines and moss when we did a bit of a "hike" through the gorge.
The Big Fella tried to get the Little Big Fella to laugh so that he would smile normally.

This is the Overhang - the most famous part of Cania Gorge.
The caravan park does bird feeding each afternoon.  The birds are obviously used to it because they showed no fear, and fought over the birdseed.

For some reason, the birds also thought that our breakfast should be for them!  The Little Big Fella is protecting the last of his bacon and egg roll in his hands.

There were wallabies and kangaroos throughout the park all the time.  They were tame, but not tame enough to pat, which disappointed the Little Big Fella.
We had a lovely weekend away together as a family!  Now to get back into the swing of everything and deal with the chaos that is the lead up to Christmas!!!  Good luck to us all!!!