Vintage Cards and Christmas Shortbread

This art journal page evolved over a couple of happy hours crafting in my studio, listening to Christmas songs. The focal point is a Christmas card from my vintage card collection. The card was sent from a father in Italy to his daughter in New Zealand during the Second World War. During a time that was so fraught with heartbreak, with many families being separated from their loved ones, it must have been so special for that little girl to receive a Christmas card from her father from all those miles away across the ocean, and to know that he was all right. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by all my family at Christmas time.

To make the page, I painted and stencilled a background, then layered the card with Christmas sheet music, festive papers, fabric, lace and ribbon, finally adding a few little embellishments.

I love doing Christmas baking – homemade mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas cookies are enjoyed by all at this time of the year. This is my great-grandmother’s shortbread recipe. I add spices, orange zest, and cranberries at Christmas time to give it a festive touch.

Christmas Cranberry Shortbread

225g butter or non-dairy spread
125g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
½ cup cranberries
375g flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream the butter and icing sugar.  Stir in the orange zest and cranberries. Add sifted flour, cornflour, and spice and mix. Knead well. Roll out the dough ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Prick with a fork to stop the dough from rising. (I forgot to do this, but they still turned out nice.) Bake at 160° C for 30 minutes. (I cook on fan bake so that the bottoms of the shortbread don’t burn.) Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

From our place to yours, Merry Christmas!

 

 

Growing Wild

For this collaged journal page I painted and stencilled the background, then added photos of my garden, images and words cut from magazines, washi tapes, and pressed flowers.

I love to cut words from magazines and junk mail and save them to use in art projects. I look for words that speak to me. Sometimes I will add one or two words to a journal page, other times I will arrange random words into a poem.

I have had a plain wooden box sitting in my studio for ages, and decided it would be perfect for storing my words. I painted it and then chose some of the words to create a poem on the lid.

I love how a few random words, some scrappy images, and a little imagination can bring nature to life on the page.

 

October garden journal

I love the month of October, before the season gets too hot, when the garden looks fresh and green and bursting with colour. I find that tending the garden, or just spending time in it relaxing and being amongst Mother Nature, feeds the soul, relaxes the body and stills the mind, allowing room for daydreams, imaginings, and creativeness to wander in.

This month has brought lots of lovely sunshine, warm days, and a little rain. Birds are nesting in the trees and the garden is full of life. Beside our front porch, the wisteria is dripping with cascading white blooms, its delicate fragrant scent welcoming visitors to the front door.

Anemones have continued to bloom, as well as poppies and dianthus, and the beautiful crimson Sweet William that we planted last year.

The trusty cinerarias return with their cheerful blooms year after year. They thrive in shady spots beneath trees, and pop up throughout the veggie garden, too. I love the wonderful variety of shades they come in – especially the blues and purples.

In the backyard, our orange tree is laden with blossom, filling the garden with its divine scent and attracting the bees in droves.

We continue to pick oranges, as well as lemons, chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, carrots, rhubarb, and herbs. Our little apple tree has its first leaves. In the veggie garden this month I planted tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, spring onions, beetroot, and more carrot seed as not many of the last ones grew (I think they must have been eaten).

Calendulas have self-seeded throughout the veggie garden and I have been picking the flowers and infusing them in oil to make lip balm and body lotion.

I have picked and pressed flowers throughout the month to use in art projects. It is always exciting to open the pages of a book after a few weeks and see how the flowers have held their colour. Pansies, in particular, always seem to produce a lovely result.

This is my seventh year of keeping a garden journal. I love looking back at my garden through the pages, month by month, season by season. Seeing all the loveliness of nature fills my heart with joy.

Hello from Finn!

Written in the Stars

I have always had an interest in astrology; not in reading generic horoscopes in papers or magazines, but in the scientific aspect of mapping the planets and stars in the sky at the exact time we are born into this life. I love the idea that the position of the planets might have an influence on shaping our personality and our life path – our personal star map to help guide us through our life journey, while allowing our own free will and self-awareness to help us make choices along the way.

A couple of years ago, I saw that one of my favourite mixed-media artists, Suzi Blu, and her friend Courtney were offering astrological birth chart readings. I had always been aware that my personality was vastly different to that typical of my star sign and, curious to learn more about it, I signed up for a reading. I provided my exact time, date, and place of birth, and a couple of weeks later I received a PDF chart and a recorded in-depth explanation of the signs and personal interpretation of how it all related to my life. So much of it made perfect sense. Without knowing me, they were able to pinpoint my personality exactly and I was able to make sense of that which had always puzzled me. They also validated that I was on the right path with what I had chosen to do with my life, but suggested that my soul’s purpose was to delve deeper into my emotions, talk about uncomfortable things, and to write deeply things that are meaningful to me.

I am very fortunate to have had a good life with wonderful family and friends, a happy upbringing, and a happy marriage. The one thing I have struggled with over the years is social anxiety, which at times has led to crippling panic attacks, and in the past made school and work situations unhappy places to be.

After the reading I thought about what Suzi and Courtney had said and, soon after, I began writing ‘The Air that I Breathe.’ Although written as a fictional novel, this was a story with which I had a deep personal connection and could write from a heartfelt place of experience and emotion, a story that touched on my own personal experiences with social anxiety and panic attacks. But rather than dwell on the negative aspects, I wanted it to be a story of how we can create our own life path by choosing to live an authentic life and build a life around the things that allow us to feel happy and fulfilled. We shouldn’t be defined by our fears, our weaknesses and imperfections, but rather we should choose to shine a light on all that is good in our lives, on our strengths, our talents and capabilities, and on all that we have to offer others.

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Social anxiety is only a small part of my life now. I have created a life around the things and the people who make me happy, a life that is full and rewarding. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time. I know the triggers, I do my best to avoid those situations, and knowing I can choose to avoid them makes all the difference in the world to my personal wellbeing.

If it were not for that birth chart reading, ‘The Air that I Breathe’ would probably never have been written. I guess you could say that its creation was ‘written in the stars.’

This art journal page depicts my star sign, Aries. I had a lot of fun painting it, with bursts of colour denoting moments of creation in the universe. Actually, they were blobs of paint that I peeled from my pallete paper the next day and stuck to the page. I thought they added a unique element to the painting.

Poppies and Bumblebees

A beautiful symbol of spring, there are poppies in gardens everywhere around here at the moment. This painting was inspired by photos of poppies taken in our garden a couple of years ago. I created layers on the canvas with tissue paper, scrapbook papers, acrylic paints, inks, and a honeycomb stencil, then painted the poppies, seed heads, and bumblebees with acrylic paints. The bumblebees were fun to paint. I think they help to add movement and life to the painting.

In the language of flowers, the poppy is associated with faith, remembrance, and consolation. The red poppy has come to symbolize the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives during the two world wars. According to folklore, if you sniff a poppy three times a day it will bring you luck. I have yet to test this!

 

September garden journal

Now that spring has arrived with sunshine, warmth, and longer days, there is lots to do in the garden. This month has been busy with planning, browsing catalogues and ordering seeds, composting, and planting. Carrots and potatoes have been planted in their garden beds, while trays of vegetable seeds, and seeds saved from last year’s flowers, are starting their growth under cover of the greenhouse, protected from late frosts and inclement weather.

The vegetable garden continues to provide us with a steady supply of greens – chard, spinach, kale and lettuces, as well as parsley, which has flourished alongside, and which I add to many dishes as it is highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Our rosemary is in full bloom and the bees are loving it! We often enjoy potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary.

The anemone bulbs we planted last autumn have produced these beautiful purple blooms.

Forget-me-nots and primulas self-seeded and sprung up throughout the garden.

I have been neglecting my garden journal over the winter months, but am back into it again with the new season, beginning with a garden plan of what will be planted over the next month.

Finn is loving the warmer weather and sunshine.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen

 

Woven wall hanging

I recently bought a small weaving loom from Spotlight, a local craft and homeware store. It is light and portable and a perfect size for making small projects. When I began this project, I didn’t have an exact plan in mind other than to make a wall hanging using materials I had on hand. After deciding on a natural, earthy colour scheme, I gathered together everything I had in my stash that I thought I could use – ribbons, fibers, lace, trim, yarn, fabric scraps, and even a hemp bracelet with little bells on.

 

The process was very therapeutic. While sitting, weaving the pieces over and under, adding the pieces randomly, I watched a pattern slowly begin to form. I left the ends hanging out to give it a raw, organic feel. Then, when it was finished, I cut the bottom threads from the loom and threaded beads through, knotting them underneath to hold them on. Finally, I lifted the top threads from the loom, slid a piece of driftwood through, and attached a piece of recycled silk yarn for hanging.