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A Daffodil for a Dreary Day

So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. The next we heard some other bad news which upset us both. And this morning,… click to read more

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Painting Outside My Comfort Zone

100_6752As you probably are aware, I like to paint. It’s a wonderful hobby and given me a lot of fulfilment, but also a lot frustration. This is apparent when a painting doesn’t work out quite as envisaged. Or when my husband, my harshest critic, doesn’t like something I’ve created. His opinion of art is that a painting should be photographic in its image, especially when observed up close. Read more Over the Backyard Fence:  http://wp.me/11di9

Making a Comeback

SURPRISE! Have you missed me? Where has the time gone? Actually, it’s gone so blooming quickly I can’t believe my last blog post was September 2013. So much has happened and gone on it’s difficult to know where to begin. I won’t bother you too much with details, suffice to say if you really want to catch up with what’s been happening in my world these past months, you are more than welcome to pop your head Over The Backyard Fence and read my monthly missives there.

It’s been a chaotic and difficult time, I have to admit, a few health issues, a major project that I’ve been working on and keeping under wraps, as well as a few problems and incidents plus a major, milestone birthday earlier this year, all of which left me feeling very depleted and down. I’m not by nature a person to succumb to depression but I did hit a low point, only to bounce slowly back. The warm weather now has certainly helped, and as I sit in the garden typing this, I can honestly say, “I’m back!”

Pink FlowersIt’s not been all doom and gloom – my life’s not like that. On the plus side, I’ve sold several paintings and, fingers and paint brushes crossed, hopefully secured a coCreek Cottagemmission for a large landscape, so watch this space. I’ve created a new blog/website for my art, due to go live in the next few weeks, and meanwhile have been working hard finishing a novel or two –  “Finishing”, being the operative word. The past few months have been a time for reflection, evaluation and redefining the path my life is taking and I am now at the point where I am moving forward, taking a different route, and getting back to enjoying life to the full.

You might have noticed I’ve dropped off the radar on Twitter too. I think I got bored with it, plus it takes up sooo much time and nothing achieved or gained. I mean, doesn’t anyone “talk” on Twitter any more? All I see is a constant bombardment of “Buy my book”, or words to that effect. What’s happened to all the jokes and fun and light hearted banter that used to go on? – which was why I joined in the first place. Okay, I’m a writer too and a book person, but I don’t want books, books, books 24/7. The same with Facebook. Okay, most of the changes there are FB’s own doing. They keep changing it, moving things around and, well, ruining what was a good thing. Not much I can do about that.

So, what do I have planned for my blog? A promise (to myself) to blog more often, to get back to writing about the things that are important to me and articles on any subject which I hope will be of interest to my readers. I’ve some recipes to put up, gardening features and, well, back to what it was when I first began.

100_6381I mentioned I’m in my garden. It’s had a bit of sorting out year, with many shrubs pulled out, plants divided and moved and it’s beginning to come into its summer glory thanks to a packet of wild flower seeds costing £1 from Lidl, and scattered all around the garden. I think every seed has come up and with a promise of much more to come. Will certainly buy that again. I haven’t done as much to it as I’d planned though – lousy weather and lousy joints have put 100_6380paid to a lot of that, and the cost of shrubs in the garden centres – extortionate this year! Still, there’s always next and I already have a lot mapped out for spring 2015. I’ve also got a new bird feeder which the birds are loving and I love because it brings them much closer to the patio and means in winter I won’t have to venture across muddy, wet, frozen grass to get to.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Hope you all come back soon.

I Hate Winter!

Garden snow small

January 2013

It’s official. I hate winter. Always have. Always will. I hate always being cold – but I’m that during the summer too, even my husband will tell you I’m the only one he knows who can be  under a tropical sun on a beach in Barbados and still have goosebumps! I hate wearing layers and layers of clothes which, in turn, means there’s far more washing in the winter, and how the hell are you supposed to get it all dry? Thank goodness for the tumble drier. No, I much prefer to feel the sun on my skin, only happy when I can wander about all day in a floaty cotton kaftan, when I’m not hungry all the time, and when don’t have to rush to the loo every five minutes to spend a penny.

Winter Wonderland

Here’s one I did earlier

And pretty as it might look, I absolutely hate snow. We’ve had our fill here yet more is forecast this weekend. The only good thing about snow is that it makes for some nice landscapes to paint.

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By the gate 1 February 2013

So, thank goodness January is over, always the worst month of the year, and we are now into February. On the first of this month, the snow had melted, the sun was out and it was mild, so I took a walk around the country estate garden, to see what  was happening. And joy of joys, the snowdrops were out, as were some crocus. Last year, these were in flower on New Year’s Day, so they are only one month late.

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1 February 2013

The daffodils by the hedge stood a foot high and buds showing that first tinge of yellow. The hellebores were nodding their pretty mauve, red, white and two-tone heads and the primroses were out. The hyacinths were up, as were the first leaves of the bluebells.

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My favourite hellebore in flower 1Feb 2013

In few weeks the forsythia hedge will be blossoming, and I see as I look through the gap between the houses opposite to the wood, the trees are showing hints of green. Yes, spring is definitely edging in. Yippee. And in a few more weeks’ time, hopefully, I can enjoy breakfast and morning coffee in the garden again. Bring it on, I say!

Looking Back at 2012

Well, here we are again, another full year at home since being made redundant two years ago. And what a difference a year has made.

That first year I achieved exceedingly little, spending most of my time feeling guilty and unsettled, uncertain and unsure what to do with my life, knowing I was too old to find a good job again and, thanks to the Government, my pension pushed back even further to when I’m 65, which I’m not, not yet, I’m still in my fifties, all be it late.

So what has happened during 2012? Lots. Mega lots. The year started with my husband having his hip replaced, a long 14-week recovery at home with me wearing my matron’s hat. He’s made a complete and full recovery – a new man! Then there was the birth of another great niece, little Evie, such a cheerful, cute little soul and an absolute delight to her parents and grandparents.

I suppose the biggest change has been that I have set up a small business, working from home dealing with books, editing and publishing and creating book covers. It keeps me busy, and although I’m not showing any profit yet, that will hopefully come in time. I don’t want it too big anyway; my days as the dynamic business woman are long gone – I’ve been down that route before in a past life and much prefer to keep things small. At least for the moment.

What didn’t help was the dreadful, bad blip, when we were defrauded out of almost £10,000 in a car buying scam. Oh, the police and fraud squad were very helpful and supportive but I will never get my money back, the fraud squad deeming it was too little a sum to warrant them spending further resources on. Still, once bitten… and we have moved on from it, can even laugh about it now, at how my husband had been so gullible, and at how I should have done all the checks I normally do before handing over money. What it did mean was that I couldn’t invest more in my new business, unable to do all the advertising I’d intended, but hey ho, that will rectify itself as the business progresses and grows, which it is doing. And more to the point, I’m loving every moment of it.

April saw the publication of my novel, Every Step of the Way, both in paperback and on Kindle, and a booksigning in our local Waterstones. Not sure I would do it again, though. I plan to see at least another published this year, if not two. They are written, complete, it’s now a matter of finding time to work on them, what with the business.

The Bridge (1)In June, I took part in the Loveahappyending.com Summer Audience held in Tetbury, where I hosted two writing workshops and held my first “public” art exhibition, selling two paintings (surprise!). Everyone who came enjoyed the day and hopefully another will be planned. I’ve not done a lot of paintings this year, time is in short supply but I’ve managed a few, including this one, completed over the Christmas break.

view from villaAugust saw me take my last villa holiday with my sisters and our mum, going to Corfu. Mum has decided she won’t come away again due to her age (87 coming up) and the fact that both my sisters have retired (well, one has, the other twin finishes in this July), so our finances will no longer stretch to the expense of hiring a private villa abroad, although us three sisters do hope we will get away again sometime, whether to a hotel or descend upon my brother and sister-in-law in Spain. Who knows? Of course, if we win the lottery, then it’s a different matter … (Hope, Pray, Beg). Of course, nothing can match the beautiful view we had from the villa this year at Kassiopi. Pure Bliss

The King (1)Of course, there was one thing that virtually dominated all of last year­ – that was the massive George’s First Steps campaign to raise funds to send my great nephew to America for a lifechanging operation to treat his cerebral palsy to get him walking. We succeeded, and some, the £55,000 needed surpassed to the sum of £80,000, enough to look after his needs for many years and to allow his parents time now to enjoy life doing normal things a family does now the worry and pressure has gone. The operation was sucessful and George is progressing daily. One highlight this Christmas was George being a king in his school’s nativity play. He loved every moment!

So, all in all, it’s been a good year. A wet one, yes, but a good one nonetheless. Quite how 2013 will pan out is anyone’s guess but I think it’s safe to say I have moved on from the woman I was back at the beginning of 2011.

The Hippy Hippy Shake

So, here we are into February already. A full 12 months of not having to the do the 9-to-5, and loving it. But what has 2012 brought already? Well, apart from the cold setting in now, quite a bit to the Domino household.

I’ve become a Great Auntie again. My niece, whose baby shower I attended at the beginning of the year, gave birth to a beautiful little girl – Evie Faith. I am so looking forward to my first cuddle.

Talking of the cold, New Year’s Day was greeted by the first of this year’s crocus in bloom on the front lawn. A few days later, several clumps of snowdrops appeared and now all along my drive is a sea of flowers which, with the sun on them, open out brightening the day and putting smiles on passers-by faces. The hellebores are about to open too, only today after last night’s heavy frost, they are hanging limp and forlorn. But they will pick up again. I hope.

I’ve managed to complete a few paintings over the weekends  For one, I tried something different to landscapes this time. I think Pink Flowers it came out rather well. 



I’m close to completing the final edits of one of my novels, ready to be published soon. It is actually quite scary after all this time to be on the brink again. Like being on the edge of a precipice – will I fly or will I fall? But then, that’s me … always nervous, always shy.

There has been one other major event in my household in January. On the 12th, my husband underwent a hip replacement operation. He’s doing okay now, but we did have a few “difficult” days whilst he was in hospital and shortly after he eventually came home. I won’t bore you with all the details as I don’t want this to be a moan, suffice to say one ward care assistant is no longer employed at our local hospital thanks to her lack of due diligence and neglect of care.

Today he managed to walk to our doctors and back on his own with the aid of only one walking stick instead of two, and yesterday was able to make us both a coffee and carry it through to me. He still needs a lot of help with washing and dressing and getting into bed, and still eating a lot of painkillers, but it is early days. Thankfully, he has been fitted with a ceramic hip joint, not a metal one like there’s been all the fuss about lately; you may have heard.  This because he is still relatively young, still working and very fit. (Time now to look away if you are squeamish!)

He did rather grin widely when he saw on the medical form he collected today what our GP had written beside Likely Date Fit For Work Again: June 2012. The smile soon fell away when I reminded him he doesn’t get sick leave pay from his company, only SSP. Apart from which, I know him only too well. Come March he will be itching to get out and do some gardening, and by then he will also be missing his job and friends at work. I’ll give it until April. You can’t keep a good man down for long!

Click here for my latest batch of household hints and tips.

END OF A YEAR

So, here we are at the end of another year. It’s gone too quick. It doesn’t seem real that I have been home from work for almost 12 months following redundancy, and what have I achieved in that time? Nothing and yet lots. A big family wedding, a successful Walk for George and George making great progress, and following in artistic footsteps, two lovely trips abroad, read some great books, editing and proofing work coming in.

Yet, as an author, it’s scary to think I haven’t written one word of a novel although I have spent many hours editing and checking several works. Back last January I started writing a new novel with plans to do a lot of research and visiting the places I use in the book, but none of that has happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but last Christmas after my husband’s car let us down very badly on Christmas Eve, leaving us stuck in the perishing cold and snow on the M4, we decided to trade both his and mine in for another as we don’t need two cars now I am at home all day.

But my time home hasn’t been idle. I began blogging. If nothing else it has kept me writing and now I am ready to pick up the novels again and ensure that 2012 is the year hopefully I am published and in print.

I also met the lovely Linn B Halton, and helped her get loveahappyending.com up and running and editing Kit’s Corner and through the group, have made lots of new friends and colleagues who share the same passion for writing and books.

And for the first time in eight years I was able to host the writing group I belong to (the Ivy Writers) at my home. We meet one evening a month in one another’s home. Whilst I was working and with my husband working late shifts it was impossible for me to host this. Instead of meeting of an evening, we were able to meet of an afternoon.

I had planned to paint more pictures with so much free time, but that hasn’t materialised either. But I have been able to sell several, one before the paint even had time to dry! I had been offered a place at an exhibition but had to decline as I could not get to the venue on the required dates to deliver and collect.

So, what will 2012 bring? A hard, difficult few months ahead, that’s for sure. In a fortnight’s time my husband goes into hospital for a hip replacement, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds as he has a spinal problem. The equipment needed at home to help in his rehabilitation and recuperation has been installed: the toilet seat has been raised and a frame around it so he can lower and raise himself properly.  I have to use this too and feel like a little schoolgirl again as my feet don’t touch the floor when sitting on this. His armchair has been raised on blocks, the walking sticks and knicker-puller-on tool, his gadget for pulling on his socks and a very long shoe horn delivered.  He won’t be able to drive for at least 8 weeks and it will be probably 3 months before he will be able to return to work.  So all in all, a good thing I am at home all day to help him. We will have lots of laughs and no doubt a few frayed tempers and tears, his and mine. But we will manage. And hopefully, once he is back in his workboots, out of pain and fit again, we will see our garden blossom even if it is me having to do all the backbreaking planting.

In 2012 I have the opportunity to exhibit art at two venues and, with many fingers crossed, will see my novel Every Step of the Way finally published. There’s a new birth imminent in the family which will bring much joy to all of us, a summer holiday already booked and no doubt a trip to Spain to visit my brother and his wife. And one or two other irons in the fire that need a bit of prodding to mould into what I know will be a great, happy and successful year. One I am looking forward to as I raise a glass to the midnight chimes and fireworks and say:

“HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS                                                AND WISH YOU ALL A SUCCESSFUL YEAR TOO!”

The Writer Also Paints

“What made you decide to paint?” A question I am often asked. “Quite by chance”, I reply. I came to painting through being a writer. Curiouser and Curiouser.

Wearing my writer’s hat (the one with the feathery quill), I have over the years attended many seminars, workshops, conferences, talks and parties, a favourite being the marvellous Summer Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon College organised by energetic Anne and Gerry Hobbs. When they put on the first Winter Writers’ Holiday at the Fishguard Bay Hotel, Pembrokeshire, I couldn’t get there fast enough. Enjoying unseasonably warm weather for February, delightful company, great workshops, good food and a room commanding wonderful views across the bay, I booked then and there for the following year.

The Bay Hotel, Fishguard

A close friend, novelist Avis Randall, accompanied me the second time. (Avis and her books will be introduced in a later blog.) On arriving we found, to our disappointment, the tutor booked to run our chosen workshop had been forced to cancel, another established writer stepping in, someone whom Avis and I were not enamoured with. Perchance, Gerry had the foresight to introduce, from the outset of these winter gatherings, art sessions run by artist Andrew Arney from the University of Wales. Gerry kindly obliged when we requested switching to Andrew’s class. I had studied art at school but never produced anything worthy, dabbled a bit in watercolours in intervening years but everything had gone into the rubbish bin. I was, quite frankly, crap!

Andrew Arney was an inspiration. A calm, quiet man, he started with the basics: drawing, perspectives and colour wheels, providing everything necessary and every medium except oils, helping and instructing us novices create on paper the beautiful seascape we looked out upon. I tried watercolours, pastels, charcoal. To no avail. All were a messy splodge fit only for being sunk without trace beneath the cold, salty water below the hotel. On the final day, he suggested I try acrylics. The first stroke of the loaded brush was like a light turning on. An epiphany. Acrylics and I were made for each other. The resultant painting, although only postcard size, was good. I was pleased, Andrew highly appraising. Consequently, I came away elated. I had found my painter’s voice and a new hat to wear.

During the ensuing months I purchased paints and brushes, countless how-to-paint books, watched a never-ending stream of art lesson programmes on TV, and stocked up on scrap hardboard which my husband willingly cut into smaller pieces as practice canvas. But the primed board in front of me remained blank. It wasn’t a case of painter’s block, more a stark fear of making a right muck up of it. Eventually I plucked up courage and plunged into the cobalt blues and cadmium yellows congealing on my homemade stay-wet palette. A bluebell scene emerged. “You never painted that, did you?” hubby asked, more surprised than me at the finished result.

My First: “A Brush With Bluebells”

Leaving for the third Writers at Fishguard, Avis persuaded me to take some of my paintings along to seek Andrew’s professional opinion. He studied each one carefully, pointed out where I showed a particular skill, where and how I could improve but all, he told me, were very saleable. Later, I created a gallery of the paintings on my website, and was thrilled when contacted by a lady in Germany who had fallen in love with my first bluebell picture. Could she buy it? Reluctant to let it go, after all it was my first “proper” unaided piece, in the end I gave in. Sold! I am glad I did. She commissioned three further pieces: two more bluebells and a winter scene.

So now I wear two hats. (Excuse me a moment whilst I find my beret. Arrh, here it is.) The pictures keep coming: landscapes and floral fields, winter scenes and lots and lots of bluebells. Many have sold. One painting, a large winter scene, was purchased by a couple in Spain through an auction, raising funds to help pay for treatment for my nephew’s young son who has cerebral palsy, as in my previous blog. Earlier this year I was invited to show two paintings at Yarm Originals, an art gallery based in the north of England. A public exhibition of my work is planned for hopefully the not-to-distant future. Perhaps one day I will write a book about my paintings. Who knows where the paths in the landscapes will lead.

Meanwhile, my work can be seen on my website: https://kitdominoart.com/

 

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