Sunday, June 30, 2013

His & Hers

Sketching outdoors is incredibly intimidating. It's really hard to choose my subject, to place things on the paper, to get the proportions and perspective correct. I am working on it - taking my little sketchbook out and trying to do a few sneaky sketches when people aren't looking. It's quite tricky to avoid people looking at your work. I'm told I do a good 'stern face' though, so that will come in handy. In the meantime, I am working on drawing from life in the safety of my own home.

Chris and I have desks which are opposite each other, so we can work on our many hobbies while still being a little bit sociable. This is his side. Mine will be slightly harder to sketch because I will have to stand in the kitchen doorway to do it. It's a small house, but it's home.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A few of my favourite things

Polka dots. Watercolour. Handwriting. Glitter and sparkle. Scenic walks with my love. These things make me very happy indeed. I have stacks of photos waiting to be scrapped, and that makes me happy too.
I seem to get every bug going lately, most recently a kidney infection which has left me lying on the sofa again. I get very frustrated and cross when I am unwell, I think because it reminds me how flippin' fragile I am. I hate being weak and unable to do things. I hate relying on other people. Ugh. All the lessons I have learned over the last three and a half years are forgotten as I wallow in feeling sorry for myself. Maybe it's just a reminder that it is ok to lean on other people. Time still feels like the most precious thing, and I have to remind myself that I don't have to spend every minute in crazy activity. Rest. Relax. It is ok. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tranquility - an evening walk

I haven't done a walk post in a little while. We often go for a stroll, some longer than others, and I take loads of photos. Some of them make it into scrapbook pages, and I might post one or two on Instagram. I think it's nice, though, to have all the photos in one place so that when I look back I can remember where we went and what it was like. There is a scrapbooking podcast that I  listen to (Paperclipping Roundtable) and their most recent discussion is with a woman who suffered amnesia and lost eight years of memories. Wow. I can't imagine. Without even listening to it I have started reflecting on life and how I record it. I haven't kept a paper journal for a long time, but I am considering how I can make sure I am keeping my memories safe. The idea of being 'caught-up' with scrapbooking isn't something that appeals to me as I like to craft when the mood takes me. But what about those important stories that I just haven't got round to scrapbooking yet? I need to think about that. 
Yesterday evening, we picked up some chips and a pineapple fritter (to share, I couldn't possibly eat a whole one) and drove to Gurnard seafront. We sat in the car and ate our food...why do chips always taste better outside? Then we walked slowly along the front, past the kids bringing their boats in after sailing club. Just after the boathouse, there was a turning to go up the hill and into a small wood, and a most beautiful sunset behind us.
This is where the photos start to get a bit grainy, because I only had my phone and the light was fading. Even so...the path looked so inviting, rising through lush greenery with the last of the evening sun glinting through the trees. The wood was quite dense and silent, a proper hobbit-wood and we half expected to see Frodo and Pippin sheltering in one of the secluded corners. There was lots of evidence of animal activity, but they all kept out of our way as we walked through.
Apart from this little chap! As we came out of the wood and onto the road again, Chris suddenly stopped and pointed. Whenever he does this I know it means he's seen something, and if I want to see it too then I have to keep quiet, move slowly, and try and see along his line of sight. Just how he spotted this little guy in the hedge, I have no idea. We moved so, so slowly to try and get a better view, and I really didn't think that the mouse would stay there if I took my phone out to try and take a picture. But he did. We moved closer and closer, snapping a shot with every step in the hope that one of them would come out well enough to see. By the time I got close enough to take the shot above (and there's no zoom on that, it's as it comes from the camera), I was holding my breath to try not to disturb him. I had my arm out holding the phone, and my other hand trying to fend off the branches and random insects that were doing their best to put me off. Mr Mouse, though, wasn't in the least bit bothered. He waited until we were up close and looked right at us, before turning and making his way slowly back into the depths of the hedge. Magic.
That moment is going to be a hard one to beat. I am so glad that there is that photo there to remind me, and I am so glad I've written down just how magical it was. Walking back to the car we could smell a beautiful floral scent from one of the gardens nearby, and could see the mist rolling in from the West. Beautiful.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Scrapbook catchup

I always, always write on my pages. Well, almost. There are one or two where I think 'that's pretty' and that's enough, but otherwise there is always a story. As a child I can remember that when I was asked to write a story it would go on for pages and pages without ending. With my scrapbook pages, I make a conscious effort to write something that at least finishes. Sometimes there is more of a twisted tale, sometimes a page is simply a record of something we've done. Either way, it makes my scrapbooks a wonderful place full of memories. And pages without much writing are easy. I usually do them either as a warm-up if I haven't been scrapping for a while, or I will do one quickly at the end of a craft session. Bish bash bosh. 

I've realised that despite having an influx of cute and fluffy things in to the house this year, my photos and scrapbook pages have been disproportionately degu-related. How could I forget the chinchilla?! The answer to that is that he keeps biting me, and also that he is semi-nocturnal and quite difficult to get a good picture of in daylight. More on both of those things to come, don't worry. But Pep is Chris' lil' dude, and it would be remiss of me not to tell the story of how he came to live here.

Writing, writing, writing. Much less about the photo and more about the story. This was not a quick page - it took me a while to figure out how I was going to include such a lengthy story. And then rather than writing it out first, or even typing it and sticking it on, I just went for it. Straight on the page. I think it turned out rather well :) 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Busy little bees

Things have gone quiet here on the blog front lately, and as usual it isn't for the lack of anything to write about, but because life has suddenly become so busy that there hasn't been time to sit down and put some words + photos together.

When I first met Chris and he told me he kept bees, I didn't really have any concept of what it meant. He became known as 'bee-man' when I talked about him to my friends, and it was one of those things that sounded interesting in a vague sort of way. Mostly I loved his enthusiasm for it, the way that he made bees sound so engaging and his plans for a bee empire. I helped with the honey collection at the end of last summer, but didn't really get involved apart from that. 

Bee-keeping season rolled around in the spring, and it was time to start inspecting hives again. Chris decided to do it at the weekend and invited me along to watch (with my camera, of course). I borrowed a bee suit and away we went. 
Bees are amazing. They are surprisingly calm when you lift the lid and start having a look, and many of them will just carry on with their work while you do yours. I watched Chris doing his inspections and took lots of photos.
Chris pointed things out to me (can you see the queen in the picture below?) and after a while I stopped taking so many photos and started to hold a frame, or help by using the smoker. I started to pick up the terminology, and understand what we were looking for. It was a very proud moment when Chris asked me to lift out a frame by myself and check it, before carefully lowering it back in. These bees are his babies, and I was honoured to be trusted with them.
Since those early inspections, it has been a steep learning curve as our original four hives started showing signs of wanting to expand, so Chris carried out some 'artificial swarms'. This left a queen egg in the old hive, and took the old queen and half of the bees into a new hive. Four became seven, and all was looking promising. Then the swarms began! And this is what has kept us so busy over the last few weeks:
Sometimes bees decide to swarm by themselves, and they will cluster on a tree or post while they look for a new home. When this happens - and someone spots it - Chris gets a phonecall and we drop everything and rock into action. The theory behind swarm collection is simple - the bees follow the scent of the queen, so get as many as you can into your basket and hopefully if the queen is in there, all the other bees will go in too. In practice we rarely seem to get the queen first time, and not all of them have been in such convenient locations as this tree. 'All of them', you ask? Our original four hives, with artificial swarms and 'incomers', are now a total of 17. Not all of them will produce honey this year, and we are braced for one or two to do less well, but even so - I keep having to pinch myself. 17 hives?!
I confirmed my status as bee-keeper rather than bee-photographer last weekend. Chris got a call for a swarm, and he couldn't go. The only way for us to get it was for me to go by myself - so I did. With a bit of help from Chris' mum (also a bee-keeper) who kept a close eye on me, I did it! These bees (above) are now safely in their new home. Their queen isn't laying yet, but there is still time and we are hopeful that they will do well.

In the midst of all this excitement, I totally missed that June 6th was the third anniversary of my most major surgery. As we sat on the Downs earlier, enjoying a picnic lunch after a morning of bee-inspecting, I couldn't help but reflect on how far I have come and how much my life has changed. Even this time last year, if you had told me how I would be spending my time and how good I would be feeling, I would have thought you were being ridiculous. I count my blessings every day, and there are many.