Hello from Sunday night, and, we have a winner!

Hello, hello post Valentine’s! :D

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I do hope your Valentine’s Day was a special and a lovely one.
As you probably know, I didn’t have Robert here this year, but we spoke for hours and exchanged cards and love greetings from across the great, big pond. Some years are like that, and, while we’re determined to spend every Christmas together, Valentine’s Day is a bit hit and miss.

But I did wear my red shoes!

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And went for a lovely walk with my mom on the beach.

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I tell you what; the rain let up, but the fog rolled in and stayed over Vancouver. I was looking out toward Vancouver Island thinking of my new friend The Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, and her sunny walk, and thinking, “Typical! And I chose to live under these bloody mountains!”

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But then Kerstie sent me Valentine’s photos of our precious three, Binky, Bunny and Ziggy, and it didn’t really matter if the sun wasn’t out, there was a smile on my face a mile wide. Thank you my baby.That was the loveliest surprise.

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Valentine’s eve was a special time for C and for me. We had a simple supper of great, big artichokes. Nothing so good as that for us.

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Then, what a difference the night makes!

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From gloomy, leaden sky, to morning sun!
I must admit I took a photo and stuck it up on my Instagram with the caption of something like, “What the hell is that bright light!!!”

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Things are just so much better with the sun, aren’t they? For days now I’ve been living vicariously thru my friend Daryl in New York and her sunny, blue skies!

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But now I have a bit of blue skies of my own!

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Oh my gosh it makes such a difference to my seasonal affect disorder brain!

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And to the garden…and to the hummingbird who zips around scolding my cats and trying to get sips of this spirea.

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And I’m able to take stock of the garden. (that’s a lot of garlic)

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And pick a posy of tiny, sweet violets for my bedside table.

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Even though it’s Sunday, I still had a bunch of work to do.

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And so did C, but really, who cares on a day like today where the sun is streaming in thru every window.

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We all get to luxuriate in the sun for a day or two now, and we’ll all take full advantage of that. :D

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And now for that random generator thingie:

Congratulations Julie, from Forest Poppy.

random number Congratulations Julie! Everyone, if you have a minute, drop by Julie’s. She the most amazing knitter, quilter, all round super girl, mom to four, including the cutest forest baby, (who she’s always taking photos of running away down some forest path), living in the highlands of Scotland.

Such wonderful people as we are, should really know each other. :D

Sharing with Judith and the mosaic bunch

Some gardening books I love, and a little giveaway

Well, back to the rain!

This afternoon I made myself a cup of tea and brought Merry Hall back down to the library and decided to stay a while.

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I feel so lucky to have this beautiful room full of my most favourite books. Robert and I built this library/TV room. When I bought this house, there was a broken pipe behind a wall, and R and I had to take down the wall, fix the pipe and replace the plaster…etc. Then, we took all the Ikea Billy shelves I had and bought a couple more, then, we cut some down, screwed the rest together, built a ledge under the window, and that’s how we constructed this beautiful, bespoke library.

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So, I turned on my “happiness lamp”.

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And, on this cold, dreary, winter day, I thought about picking up my long neglected needlepoint, but, you know how it is, once you read one brilliant gardening book, you want to read more!

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In this room, one entire book case is dedicated to R’s books: Alexander Kent, Robin Hobb, Terry Brooks, Michael Moorcock, Peter Cheyney. One entire case is dedicated to a joint love of Terry Pratchett, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse.

But one whole case is full of my gardening books, and those are my loves.

I suppose I have all the books I’ll ever need about gardening. I’ve got Gertrude Jekyll, RBG Kew books, Rachel de Thames, Monty Don and the books from almost all the other Gardeners World presenters, I’ve got all the wonderful books which I needed to study for and get my Master Gardener degree, and I’ve got an addiction to collecting vintage gardening books; there are plenty of those. But there are some books which I love so much, that I come back to them time and again. These books are so loved, that I wouldn’t want to be without them. I bet you know exactly what I mean.

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I pulled out some of my favourites…it was so hard to choose…but I wanted to share them with you.

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My first love, and the book I told you about before, is Elisabeth de Lestrieux The Art of Gardening in Pots. Oh my gosh, this is garden porn to the max!

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I got this book before Amazon, and it wasn’t available in Canada. I sent my parents, and more to the point, a British relative, on a wild goose chase to find a copy for me. They came thru with a 1990 copy from the British Antique Collector’s Club. I love it today as much as I loved it then.
(PS. My hoya doesn’t look anything as stylish as this one snaking around this amazing window…also, I don’t have an amazing window like this one!)

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My second best love is good old Martha Stewart Gardening. Oh come on, you know you loved her then. I have a strong bond with this book because, 20+yrs ago, I was expecting Chloe and in danger of losing her, and confined to bed for the last trimester of a high risk pregnancy. I sort of believe that this book, the hope of gardening in the future with a happy, healthy, fat and cherubic baby in Moses basket sleeping beside me while roses and irises bloom away, I believe that it saved my sanity.

Admit it, we all loved Martha of the old Turkey Farm years, before the Martha Inc.

But damn Martha anyway. The price of ironstone, hobnail and jadeite has absolutely gone thru the roof thanks to her.

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One vintage book I would never want to be without is Roy E. Biles The Complete Book of Garden Magic. I searched and searched for this book for a few years, even looking in the vintage book shops in London, (only to be told that…well…it’s American…isn’t it…and a little too…er…new for the London shops), but I finally found a copy. (pre Amazon, remember?) Then I found a second, newer version, and, I’m afraid it may be like my Agatha Christies. Must save every copy of Garden Magic I find!

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It’s full of the most wonderful advice…some I’ve never heard of but have followed with the best of success. One caution though, vintage gardening books are big on pesticides and herbicides. Guess they didn’t know any better back then…even the pesticide spray pumps were called “widow makers” for a reason…but then, we’re much more enlightened these days, aren’t we?

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I have a thing for “Veronicas”, and read In Veronica’s Garden when my garden architect friend Adrian lent it to me, and then decided I needed to own it. This Veronica was Veronica Milner. She was born and raised at Glin Castle, Ireland, and she gardened right here on the West Coast. She was a friend of the queen and hosted some members of the royal family there, even Charles and Diana. She offered them a quiet respite from the paparazzi flashbulbs while they were visiting the Vancouver Expo on 1986. She is gone now, and her garden is safe in the hands of the University of Victoria, and people can come visit and experience the peace that is there.

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Two absolutely fun books, which I read over and over are, The Gin and Tonic Gardener, by Janice Wells, and Tottering in my Garden, by Midge, Ellis Keebler.

The Gin and Tonic Gardener is a brilliantly written bunch of anecdotes by the witty columnist Janice Wells. Robert bought me this book for Christmas one year, and then he bought me her second book Another Splash of the Gin and Tonic Gardener. With a title like that, you know it’s going to be funny.

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Tottering in my Garden, is the memoir of an East Coast Canadian gardeners, Midge Ellis Keeble. It’s one of the most rewarding, loving, heart-warming books I’ve ever read. It is in this book, where a young mother, who knows next to nothing and goes on to build one of the most beautiful gardens where her daughters got married in, that I first discovered Roy E Biles and his Garden Magic wisdom.

So there you go. Some of my favourite gardening books. And this post is long enough and I haven’t even scratched the surface of my collection, but perhaps that’s best left for another time.

In the meantime, I have a second copy of Tottering in my Garden here in my library. It’s practically brand new and I’d love to send it off to someone. I’d love to also include a little journal and maybe some art cards and maybe some other little surprises. So just leave me a quick message in the comments and I’ll do the random draw thingie this next Sunday.

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Happy gardening friends. I’m sure the rain/snow/frost will end soon and spring will be greening and popping and springing up all over the place. :D

Swoon, Tammie’s drawing challenge

I signed up rather late this week. On Wednesday I thought, “Oh, yeah, drawing challenge!” And it turns out, our host is my friend Tammie, with the word “swoon”.

Oh my gosh, does anyone swoon any more?

I sat in my bedroom Thursday morning and thought about swooning, and kept having images of Edwardian ladies in tight corsets. They used to swoon, didn’t they?

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So I went thru a bunch of supplies and pulled out an old Toile de Jouy curtain panel. You know that material? With the bucolic images of lovely Edwardian life.

So I studied it and saw a couple hurrying across a bridge and wondered what they were hurrying away from.

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Oh! So that’s it! Will you just look at the state of the apple pickers. The youth these days…eh?

And, does she have a nose ring? And flaming red hair? Is she smoking a cigarette and wearing a pointy Madonna corset?

And does he have blue hair and goatee, and gang tattoos and a huge gold chain? I think so.

And is that a longboard?!? And is he handing her a skull?!?!?

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Better hurry along little Edwardian couple. That’s enough to make anyone swoon! :D

Come hop over to my friend Kelly’s lovely blog Soulful Home when you have a chance. Not only is she a fantastic decorator, she has wonderful DIY ideas. She’s started a Soul Sister Series and I’m being featured as her first soul sister, Isn’t that lovely? And I’ve offered a giveaway of one of my original paintings.

And remember to pop over to Tammie’s when you have a chance to check on the rest of the swooning. :D

Summer at home tour

EDIT: Winner of the chickadee/bluetit painting is number 3 Patricia
and Winner of the towhee painting is number 37 Marion

It’s been an exciting few days of trying to figure out exactly what where home for the summer is.

I sat in my studio and started to paint and came up with this image: The impossibility of my West Coast chickadee on the same bird feeder as my British blue titmouse. Both the same species of birds, both hundreds of miles apart. And that best describes my life, my friends, because Canada may be my country, but Europe is my home town.

Most of you know that I was born in Prague and now live between Vancouver Canada and Oxfordshire UK, so this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.

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As far as I can remember life has always been like that…an adventure, and this site is a way for me to communicate that adventure with you.

This is where I live for 7 or so months of the year: a 1920 Craftsman cottage nine streets away from the Pacific ocean. Where I have a studio in the loft, with a rather large green and oak trunk, which holds C’s summer journals.

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Chloe has been keeping summer journals practically since she could write. I looked at the journals yesterday. I flipped thru the pages and remembered us in Geneva, in Vienna, in Prague, in Venice, in Paris and in England. Every summer, ever spring, every school holiday and sometimes when there was no holiday but we said, “Stuff that for a game of soldiers, let’s get out of here!” And we lived there. Really lived there. Rented an apartment, spoke the language, cooked the groceries we bought, entertained the friends we made, hiked the country, rented a car and ended up in Lichtenstein, got on the fast train to Prague and spent the night in Berlin (oops)…really lived.

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I’m so glad we glued C’s photo to the front of each journal as a reference to that year. These journals are put away now, safely, for her future, but each one is a treasure of summer memories.

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Right now I’m about five days away from switching city for country, pavement for meadow.

The quirky 1920’s cottage in Vancouver for an equally quirky 1950’s cottage in Oxfordshire with a name rather than an address, West Cottage, five fields away from the Thames, where my love is at the moment.

Switching my beautiful blue/green ocean…

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for my beautiful blue/green river.

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Where I always stop for tea and dream up new art, new techniques, new media…

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Like enamelled copper, pottery, stone carving and lino cuts.

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Where my vintage mini and land rover wait for me to join Robert’s one-of-a-kind cars and our friends at races and car shows.

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Where I hound car boot sales and come back with way too many treasures to cart back to Vancouver at once.

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But this summer is a special summer. I’ll be going to Prague first. Back to the heart of my home, my spirit, my wandering Bohemian nature. I’m going where the light is pink and my grandparents sleep in the warm earth. Going to visit family and friends, to speak the language, to walk the streets, to touch the city and connect with my home.

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And then, then I’ll fly back to London, and Robert will pick me up and we’ll drive thru Oxford…

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and we’ll go home.

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And we’ll stay at home till the weather turns and the early autumn fogs start rolling over the meadows and all the wildflowers turn to seed…

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…and the wind will change direction and we’ll feel it and see it in the willows, and I will leave my river…

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…and return to my ocean.

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Do you remember a couple of posts back I said I would give away this image (below)? Well, I decided to give away both the chickadee/titmouse and the beginning of this post and this towhee image below, plus a few of my greeting cards, and any other silly and wonderful goodies I can think of, to two random generator numbers, so, if you like, please leave me a comment and I’ll draw the name on Monday morning and post it off PDQ before I leave on Tuesday, (so please leave me a way to get in touch to get your addy). Also, I’m off to visit with my daughter Kerstie and my three granddaughters for the weekend (and this requires hours of driving), so might not have a chance for replies till a bit later, but, since we’re probably all bloggers and you all feel the same thrill, am every so grateful for each and every comment and connection. :D

Also, sending out a great, big, THANK YOU to Kelly who invited me to take part in this lovely blog tour. Please pop over to her site. You’ll love her warm and gentle nature as much as I do.

Here is the updated blog tour list for everyone to visit these lovely gals.

Wednesday,  June 18th

 On Sutton Place

Stone Gable

My Soulful Home

Thursday,  June 19th

 Country Design Style

Cedar Hill Farmhouse

Lilacs & Longhorns

Friday,  June 20th

 Thistlewood Farms

At The Picket Fence

Jennifer Rizzo 

 

Saturday,  June 21st

Our Southern Home

Southern Hospitality

Debbie Doos

Veronica Roth

Finding Home

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Let the sun shine

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So this is something lovely, the Wet Coast hasn’t been living up to its reputation lately. There’s been some amazing fog and sunshine, and, even if the sun is that cold, blue, low in the sky, wintery sun, it’s most welcome.

Chloe comes home between classes and hangs out in the sunshine in the living room and pretty soon she’s found, (or rather, her lap is found), by one of the cats.

The house plants are starting to think about growing again and it’s lovely to see them reaching for the windows.

By the afternoon the sun swings around to the south side of the house and into the dining room and kitchen. Here it’s illuminating a vintage beaded peacock and my orange lily painting.

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We usually go for a walk or hike these days, (trying to lose those extra pesky pounds) and after we come back Chloe makes us a fruit smoothy. She’s become a fruit smoothy artist these days. She adds good things like spinach and flax seeds and makes it taste delicious. Then she pours it into her camera lens travel mug. The students in her film studies class love that travel mug.

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The last of the light, the evening light, usually shines intense gold and illuminates the lacquer red walls of the front entry. And I love to take advantage of the last of the sunlight with a little ritual of relaxing with a cup of tea and a lovely book. Right now I’m loving this beautiful Annie Leibovitz book called, “Pilgrimage”. I’m dreaming of some sort of a pilgrimage of my own and trying to imagine what that would look like.

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But I’m very excited about, and am starting to prepare for two things. One is a colour trade which is being hosted by my friend Vibeke and the second is the new Grow Your Blog event hosted by the lovely Vicki happening this coming Saturday. I’m planning a give away of some kind. Probably involving art and something vintage…lol.

And sharing with Ivy and Elephants for What’s it Wednesday

Late tea, being left-handed and a little giveaway

Early morning appointment had me clear across town and in mom’s neck of the woods and so mom and I took some time and went to Caffé Artigiano for breakfast.

I love the way the baristas enhance one’s coffee and tea experience with their milky and spicy designs. I mean it’s not necessary, my London Fog would have been just as nice with steamed milk, but the little heart of foam sprinkled with cinnamon was just so lovely. Mom’s latte was amazing too, and I noticed that the barista who made our drinks was left handed.

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Did I ever tell you that I have a fascination with left-handed people? I do! It’s about the first thing I notice when I meet someone. Robert is left handed and I love that about him. I love watching his hand move as he writes or works.

Apparently I was supposed to be left handed. Apparently I favoured my left hand as a baby, but there was some sort of weird stigma associated with left-handedness in Prague and things were taken out of my left hand and placed in my right and I grew up to be right-handed.

This afternoon, while I was waiting for the water to boil, I cleaned up the kitchen sink.

I guess you can see my right-handedness in my sink…lol. The pretties are on the left side. That’s my new Begonia Escargot, (I love that plant), my Buddha, (a prezzy from Kerstie), my father’s radio and a photo of C at about age 9 sipping water form an alpine stream in the French alps. And on the right is the dish soap and a ceramic vase which usually holds brushes which either need to be washed or are drying. I couldn’t imagine switching these around. Things wouldn’t function at all.

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Usually I love to have pots of ivy in those green vases, but each time I go away for months at a time, the ivy has a fit and dies. The other day I decided to replace it and so went to Wal-Mart to “save” a couple plants. I don’t know about you but I think Wal-Mart has absolutely no business selling plants! (Oh, soapbox moment, sorry)

Anyway, the ivy was deader than mine but they did bring in some poor sacrificial African violets and so I decided to break with tradition and save two violets instead.

For my tea I chose this little late summer cup by Royal Standard. I love the little storybook scene of hay stacks on the inside of the cup.

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And I was going thru some of my watercolours and I thought that I would really like to send some more out into the world instead of having them stacked in a drawer in the writing desk.

The first one I chose to send out is this little violet painting. I painted it on this note paper because the gentle swaying of the notes reminded me of that sweet violet scent which you catch just a hint of and then can’t help yourself but bury your nose right into the blossoms. You know what I mean?

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Of course I can never just send off a painting, so I’m sending it off with a funky moleskin journal, some of my photography cards and some other bits of ephemera to inspire you with.

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I’m not sure if I can comment back on this post because of that random generator thingie and I don’t want it to select me…lol, but I love your comments and get so excited when that little orange bubble is lit up for me! (WordPress jargon) :)

So just leave me a comment and I’ll do the random thingie on Monday and announce it next Tuesday. (Having said that, all things being relative and hoping I’ll have time for tea next Tuesday…lol)

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Linking with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen and off to visit everyone. :)

Would you like a print? (AKA a tiny little giveaway)

I’m learning how to print and Theo is just not impressed with me. :)

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But me? I’m impressed with myself even if only a little.

Just after Art in Action I decided I’d love to try printing lino cuts, so I gathered some papers, bought a brayer and some sepia printing ink and decided to look up some techniques on YouTube and visit artist’s websites.

It soon became apparent that it was also necessary to have a heavy burnisher for transferring the ink to the paper.

Robert said, “will this piece of brass do?” I said it would be so perfect if only there was no danger of snagging the paper on the rough edge.

Robert said, “There you go, there’s the lathe!”
(Gulp)Are you kidding me?

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Actually, he’s the greatest! He started the process for me, got me to have a go once he had it going so I could say I had a hand in the design of my wonderful new burnisher and finished it for me expertly bevelling all edges. It would win first prize for the smoothest thing in the smooth thing competition.

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So today, this is what my studio table looks like. (Actually it looks much worse, this has been cleaned ever so slightly so you can see there’s a real table under there.)

These printing blocks are Robert’s mother’s wonderful 1950s plates.

I thought they were lino cuts, but underneath the paint, they are solid, probably lead.

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And here is my window sill and radiator. Oh, can’t see them? That’s because I’ve been practising and I won’t stop till I have at least 20 good images that I like.

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It’s actually trickier that I thought. There’s a fine line between too much ink and not enough. There’s a fine line between too vigorous a burnishing and too light.

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And then, some of the plates are very fine lines and some very solid and some have fine and solid lines mixed up. There doesn’t seem to be a one rule fits all here.

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And then I will hurry up and try for different papers before I even know what I’m doing…lol

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So if you’re not like Theo and are a little bit impressed and would like to have a 1950s print or two in sepia ink, then tell me and I will send it out to you. :)

Unless you’re Chloe and then you have to wait till I get back. :)

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My first giveaway! Still feeling the love from yesterday’s post.

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and wanted to put together something special, something which is “me” and also has value.

What I came up with is this little gift package:

A Moleskine journal – because I write, sketch, keep insane little ideas in Moleskine journals.

Ephemera stuffed in the journal —sketches, stamps, old photos, bits of things – because I love to create with ephemera and think you might like to too.

Some of my kaleidoscope cards – because I write to people and so think you might like to too.

A sweet little vintage vase for you to put some flowers in and brighten up your space while you write – because I love vintage and flowers.

And two little bits of vintage lace, one for the vase and one for the cup of tea you will sip – because I love tea.

It all goes into this sweet little house box and gets mailed to anywhere at all – because mail goes everywhere these days.

So here’s the catch: Leave me a comment please :) That’s all.

And, if you like, I have a little favour to ask of you. Lately I’ve been thinking about this site because some people have asked me to type cast it. I hate pigeon holing things and always refuse to, but it does make me think. What kind of site is this? Is it even possible to put it into a bracket…like, say, lifestyle blog? Art, photography, travel, she’s-all-over-the-place-with-this blog? The thing is I just don’t know, so if you have a feeling or anything pops into your mind, like that word association stuff, I’d be ever so grateful if you could please tell me. :)

Apparently people have these things open for a length of time, so shall we say week Sunday? That would give me till Sunday Feb 3 to figure out what a random number generator is. And then this sweet little package will be flying out to you.

(this is a bit of a secret but there are eight more Moleskine journals here so this giveaway may have to be repeated with different goodies)