Tuesday, 18 December 2012

'Ableness' to draw

I was just thinking about the fact that the amount of people I know who draw is kind of a small amount. A really sadly small amount. So if I wanted to chat to someone about drawing, or do some sketching with someone, the chances are I'm gona be a pencillish geek on my own. 

But why is this? Why do people not draw more? Why do people think they can't draw? 

It seems to me that people must be wrong. 

All kids draw. Whether they are gifted at it or not. Small kids are not afraid to draw and they are always pleased with their results. 

Bigger kids are sometimes slightly scared to draw and often disappointed with their results, if it doesn't seem as good as their friends' pictures. 

Adults only draw if they know they are truly, deeply good at it. 

But somewhere in there there's room for exploration. Like, why would we assume that just because we're not making masterpieces at 11yrs old that we cannot draw? Or that it wouldn't require some effort to get better at it? I bet a whole heap of adults would actually get something out of sketching and scribbling but they are too scared. And even if they had a go they might stop again if the first thing they drew wasn't great. But scribbling is fun. It's even more fun if you completely let go of any expectations; most of all your own. Don't expect anything. Be surprised. Take chances. Screw up the drawings you don't like and throw them in the bin. 

Don't expect your work to look like other people's. It won't. Just like your fingerprint, the marks you make on paper are completely individual. 

Pencils are cheap and you can carry one round in a handbag with a small pad of paper and sketch wherever you get a chance.  And come over and have a cuppa and talk to me about it!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Simple Steps to a less complicated Christmas

I blogged recently about what I want to get out of Christmas. 

Basically, Christmas had a become a bit much for me with it's commercialism and excesses. 

I felt I was doing certain things just because I always have, or because other people do, or because it's expected. But not any more. Our Christmas is tailored to us as a family and is led by what we truly want or appreciate or feel to be right. 

The major obvious change I have made to my Christmasses, a few years ago, is dispensing with a huge Roast Turkey dinner on Christmas day. This might set your nerves jangling and I completely understand that for many people this meal IS what it's all about and that's fine. It's just important that whatever you choose to do, you do it because it's right for you. For us, the first break with tradition was that we cooked roast turkey on Christmas Eve, eating it hot that evening, and then having no cooking to do the following day. It meant we could enjoy a simple but delicious treat on Christmas day - cold meats and chutneys. For me, I actually prefer a turkey, ham and butter sandwich than a roast dinner anyway. I've often considered other options such as a big cosy casserole or just a big pile of sausage and mash. But this year we are going to enjoy a beautiful Indian curry, filled with wonderful spices and delicious aromas. What could be more festive? Even more shockingly, we're not even cooking it. We're going to buy it in advance from our very favourite Indian takeaway, one that makes our hearts sing with glee, and freeze it. Then, on Christmas day all we have to do is boil some rice, heat some Naan and lay the table.  I really can't wait. I'm not suggesting you all go and have a curry, by any means, but I do encourage you to look at what you usually do and ask yourself- "Do I love it? Does it stress me out?" And act accordingly. 

The other thing I try to avoid around Christmas is too much travelling and moving from one house to another. For me, Christmas is one of the few times in the year when I am away from work for more than just a couple of days, and I don't like to spend it stuck in a car, carting things all over the place day after day. I like to be in one place for at least a day or two and make the most of it, and then see other people as and when it fits in. Of course it's lovely to see as much of family as possible but all your siblings and in-laws are never all going to be in one place at the same time and you can feel a bit overstretched trying to fit everyone in to the Christmas period.  Some people have a three year rota, (for example, Christmas day with your parents one year, your in-laws the next and stay at home on your own the third year,) and feel this is the only way to make it fair. But sometimes it's good to just take each year as it comes and see who's going to where and whether you fit in with it or not. Wherever you happen to be, BE there. Make the most of who you are with. You may not see them for some time to come. 

Presents. There are so many ways you can shake up the present giving regime at Christmas. Sometimes we've set challenges and price limits - £5 or £10 per person, with the aim being to only buy second hand gifts or to make them yourself. Sometimes, there are just so many expectations around what people should get at Christmas. However you choose to do Christmas presents, remember never to act just upon other people's expectations but what you feel to be appropriate. It may change each year. It may be that  one person gets something a bit more expensive while you find an amazing bargain for someone else. It's OK. Trying to be fair will exhaust you.

There are plenty of lovely things to make to give as presents. If you knit or crochet, it's great to think about this on and off throughout the year. Talk to people and get recommendations for patterns that work well. Join Ravelry to access free patterns.
Think about what your family and friends would wear, use, or play with. Keep a lookout for wool in charity shops and see if it will work for the projects you want. Think about doing a wool swap with a friend. Remember you won't be able to get it all done in December. It's lovely to have a wooly project on the go to pick up during a television programme, a bus journey, a wait at the dentist. It might not be realistic to try to knit everyone a jumper but there are so many lovely things you could choose, from soft toys, tree hangings, mug warmers, scarves, socks, baby clothes, cushion covers, egg cosies or teapot cosies. Here's where I plug libraries (got to be done.) It's free and very quick to join your local library and every library will have a selection of craft books. You can also order almost any knitting book through the online library catalogue or in the branch with a member of staff.  Have a good browse to find the things that excite you. 

Then there are jams and chutneys. 

Save your jars throughout the year so you don't have a panic to scrabble around when there's a glut of apples or plums. People love recieving homemade yummy things, especially if you add a pretty fabric or paper lid and a bit of ribbon and nicely written label. Chat to people you know to get tips, and download free recipes. People with a big harvest of fruit or veg are often desperate to give some away to avoid wasting it. 

One of my favourite ideas borrowed from my lovely friend Jodie of The Yummy Mummy Manual blog is to have a "favourite sweets" discussion with your friends and find out what they love so that you can fill a pretty jam jar with stripy humbugs or jelly babies, or the dreaded sherbet Flying Saucers!  It's very inexpensive and it's a good use of any lidless jars you may have, just put a bit of pretty paper over the top and a cute tag.  

Whatever you do, don't stress about it. Don't worry. Find your own traditions, and be prepared to abandon them in years to come. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

All I want for Christmas is ...?

No doubt, at this time of year, people will be asking you whether you've done all your Christmas shopping yet? This is a question that will be much repeated throughout the rest of December, and it seems to be the most important question relating to the Christmas season. It is certainly the most frequently discussed topic. 

But it occurred to me a few years ago that it's really not all about the shopping and the presents. I started to feel quite sick about Christmas and felt increasingly uncomfortable about people's expectations, and in particular, my expectations. What do I expect to happen at Christmas? What do I hope to get out of it?

I have to confess I have always loved presents.

They are such a beautiful mystery; papered huddles of them under the tree, little packages peeping out of stockings. I can't deny that for many years my attention has been very focussed on receiving and opening presents. Despite this, I have also always loved finding and giving presents. I love drawing up lists of what I'm going to give to everyone. I love folding in neat ends of gift wrap and curling ribbon. 

But I have realised that I've outgrown my childish ideas of what Christmas is about. I believe in Jesus and everything he means for the world and me, and that Christmas is, for many, a time to celebrate this fact. In theory. But in practice, HOW DO I DO THIS? By over-eating and focussing on my selfish desires for THINGS? I wonder how I could better express and live the message of Peace and Goodwill to all Men. That is ALL HUMANS. Good will. Even the annoying ones. Even the ones that aren't easy to like. 

I know now what I really do want to get out of this . Mostly, I'd like to be a better person. I'd like to be kinder and more thoughtful and more generous. Not necessarily more generous with presents or food or money, but with time and attention. I would like to give my attention more fully to those I am with. To listen better to whatever is of interest to the people I love. To give a hand more often and be the best I can. I'd like for whoever I'm with on any particular day to see the best version of myself, instead of a me that is wishing I could be off doing something else or being with someone else. It's quite a big ask, but it's a request I am confident that Jesus likes to hear, and loves to help with.  Obviously, this isn't just about Christmas, but about all year, for the rest of my life. And it doesn't mean I'm instantly becoming a perfect angel. But every journey is made up of small steps and a desire to push on. 

This has already become a fairly long blog-post so I will leave the more practical suggestions about simpler Christmasses and ways to break with traditions to another day. And don't worry if these ideas aren't in time for you to change your plans this year. January is a cold and dark month, often without much going on. Perfect to sit and think about people and to gather ideas, reassess how you want to do things and how you want to live. Keep a notebook.

Until then, keep warm and toasty Lovely People. xxx