Friday, December 23, 2011

Tout simplement…Merry Christmas

Wishing you all
Some good humour
(Bruce, the French snow man)

simple pleasures

and a splash of colour

This festive season. 

Joyeux Noël
See you after a good deal of food I don't really need :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joy to the World!

If you wander around La Rivière with me, 
you are likely to find tiny glimpses of 

 hidden in the most unlikely places. 
I find them peeking out at me when I least expect it!
I wandered through the door last week to find that Chickpea,
my darling eldest daughter,
had thoughtfully tidied my wooden letterpress blocks for me

Sometimes it's great to be a messmonster myself.
I wouldn't have thought to put them away like that ;-)
Then Pokemon, 
came to the conclusion that the letters that spell

also mean FLY (VOLE) in French.
(I take that as meaning let your heart fly)

And Libellule has been busy documenting our family efforts to
'make' this Christmas

a 'hands on' team affair.
Full of laughter and surprises to discover.

Since the successful and surprisingly joyful passage of
the Inspecteur de l'Education Nationale
during which I was deemed fit to continue educating my 3 messmonsters
(Luckily they attended school long enough before hand to learn to answer questions politely ;-)
we have been celebrating.
I have all but abandoned my own artistic endeavours in favour of joining the messies to
bake shortbread, make candles

in favourite fleamarket finds...

and help Pokemon string pinecone garlands

So my brushes are down until the New Year
YUp! I'm letting it all hang out (literally with the food I keep ingurgitating)
 and getting in some real world, messy, Family Joy like this:

Candle making (pink pot) in the middle of getting a roast chook in the oven 
One still needs to feed the starving elves as they are busy at work...

(Yes it does still have its head - Welcome to France)

 If you forget your skewers, use what you can to keep your wick up ;-)

More joy - thy perfect house and garden shall be reserved for 2012. Having the studio is a godsend, but I admit to missing the creative mayhem reserved for a household that tries to do everything, and too much, at once.  If you don't mind a little mess as you drink your champagne, you are welcome to drop by, stand at the bench and get your hands grubby with us.
We hereby guarantee:
Loudly sung Christmas carols,
 at least one glass bottle of sparkly liquid 
the comforting aroma of Christmas goodies as they waft through the house
Not one square centimetre of anything that remotely resembles tidy
here at La Rivière.
Until the night before Christmas ...
Joy to you all
My Mama arrives from Aussie on Monday.
Goodness knows when you may next hear from me then ;-)

Love to all 
PS: Saw this and it made me ponder.  

"I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness."
- Julia Peterkin
A Plantation Christmas
Pokemon believes with all his heart in Santa - which doesn't stop him being the most mischievious of imps at times… I like him believing in Santa. The day he doesn't - which will most likely be next year, we will be recycling cheer and good will into a year long affair, terminating in a huge treasure hunt for the most 'special' but inconsequential gifts on Christmas Day
My soul would wither if there weren't a little fantasy and magic in every Christmas
Your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Playing (with) the right cards… A Christmas tutorial of sorts guaranteed to appease even the most upset MiL

Once upon a time my messmonsters were given a lovely pack of 7 Families that had belonged to my Mother in Law when she was a child.  Unfortunately, the cards had been placed under an evil curse that would force some of them to be separated from the pack; lost forever in the great Bermuda Triangle formed between MiL's House, the Car Ride and Our House. To this day they have never been seen again.

The spoilt Messmonsters, of course, were completely unperturbed by the disappearance of several of their dearest grandmother's beloved cards. Yours truly however, was horrified! An evil curse? At La Rivière? What was to become of our reputation of being 'La Maison du Bonheur?'

I searched for ages for those lost cards. Crying in vain against the din of noisy messmonsters,  I delved repeatedly into all the nooks and crannies I usually reserve in desperation for socks that have gone AWOL. To no avail. I had to admit that the evil curse had vanquished our household and that my next Christmas dinner was likely to be little more than stale bread with raw garlic and water as the others revelled in Sauternes and Foie Gras. 

Oh Cruel Fate.
Oh endless shivering in my boots. 
Unless ...

All this getting up for some peace at 5.30am has finally paid off.

I had, what could only be called, for a Blond, a BRAINWAVE!

What if those gorgeous vintage cards were 'repurposed' or 'upcycled' (love that word) into an assortment of garlands to colour the Messmonsters' rooms. Would that get me at least a sip of Sauternes at my MiL's table this Christmas Eve? 

I'll let you know in the New Year. In the mean time, I spent all last Thursday evening punching holes into every cursed pack of cards I could find, including MiL's childhood favourites. A trusty hole punch for a side kick and some Divine Twine or other thin cord and you're off and running with a splash of colour for your Christmas tree, your kids' rooms… your garden shed…

This has invariably led on to a string of other 'garland' ideas for the bits and pieces of children's toys I find lying about the house arranged  in interesting places but can't bear to throw away… Did someone say de-clutter?

It gets worse! This month has been Pinterest month for us. Having spent an inordinate amount of time collecting photos of amazing and tempting tutorials, we have set out to actually create one item per day. I never actually got around to finishing my own Advent calendar, but the Messies made theirs, along with candle recipes in old cups, snowflake cut outs, moss painting and home made decorations. The adventure continues and seeing as I've been organised enough to take photos for once, you'll be getting a bit of an update as to how each tutorial has worked out for us over the coming weeks.

Happy Christmas preparations possums. 
Looking forward to catching up over the next couple of weeks :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Soulful Stillness

Stillness is our most intense mode of action. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion and drive which we eventually  honour with the name of action. In stillness every human being is great; he is free from the experience of hostility; he is a poet and most like an Angel.

Leonard Bernstein

I was contemplaing the idea of stillness this morning after I overslept. Beaker and I sat up chatting late into the evening last night which, as you can imagine, was not conducive to an early rise. A precious moment for me that I'm becoming tentatively accustomed to and growing to cherish.

I know I touched on this in my last post, but having that opportunity to lose the calm has served to confirm the rule and brought up some deeper reflections on the subject.

Without that moment of quiet in my day, 
I am definitely NOT like an Angel!!

I realised I become vague, inefficient, hazy and lethargic (Even without a glass of wine over lunch!!!) I hesitate over which of my tasks I should do next, not being able to decide until necessity decides for me. Necessity may be the mother of invention for most, but in my state, all I get done are the basics: breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family, the resulting cleaning up afterwards and the schooling just.

That's barely half of what I achieve if I get up before the birds, start with some breathing and meditation exercises, roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. That sounds obvious doesn't it. We all get more done if we start earlier - although the job may expand to fit the time available. Last week I said that I saw my own, personal path more clearly when I take that 'me' time early morn, before the first chirp, while the rest of France is still asleep.

It's taken me a week to experience that it has more far reaching implications than I'd first thought. (I'm hoping that at the rate of one Eureka moment per week I may reach Buddha hood by my 90th birthday ;-)

Seriously though, it's the snowball effect on efficiency during the day that most takes me by surprise each time. My whole day becomes more organised AND fun if I get my 'stillness' time. Taking the early morning hours to define and work at my personal project gives me the extra energy to move mountains for everybody else and still find time for my calligraphy in the afternoon, almost effortlessly.

Whether this is pure imagination, due to my happy perception of the world which makes me more patient and open to what arises during the day, or whether everyone actually does cooperate and things slot into place naturally, I'm still unsure. It's maybe a mix of both. Often I wonder how much of my frazzled nerves mental state my messmonsters absorb and express in their own way.

What do you think?
How much time do you spend in contemplative stillness?
Do you yearn for it?
Do you allow yourself the luxury? How often?

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts…
IF you would like more of mine, on wellness, pop over to Simone's gorgeous blog: The Bottom of the Ironing Basket. Simone has spent all of November interviewing women from around the globe on their perceptions of what Wellness means. You can find my contribution by clicking here

See you next Tuesday with an advent calendar 'Signed by Ange' style.  It's a little secret I've been working on for grown ups as a precurser to the inevitable New Year's resolutions list…


PS. This piece is in my Etsy store. 
You can find it if you look on the right hand side bar for the Etsy mini icon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Never give in!

It is 4.45am and I have decided to arise earlier on a regular basis in a desperate bid to improve my efficiency ratio on 'school' days and have some peaceful 'thinking' time before 3 whirlwinds of activity sabotage the calm. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do n'est-ce pas? 
All is dark and chilly, and the only sound is the gentle takakakakakakakakak of the keyboard, if you don't count the occasional curse whispered iolently under my breath as the 'b' and 'v' keys get stuck on the 'Nerd' lollies that the messmonsters have spilt while they play educational games on the Mac.

There's rather a lot going on in the dark around here in fact and one of the reasons I've alighted so early is to gather my thoughts and shed a little light on areas I'm personally unclear about. I guess you could say I'm in the process of redefining my core values and working out a clearer mission statement for my life.  Nothing like a good cuppa and a blog post to help me on my way… ;-)

When I feel like I've lost my footing in the great adventure race of life. I know it's time to stop, reorient my compass and narrow the options for effectively getting to the next point. 

Sort of like the run I went on last night in the forest. In the beginning it was all a bit scary hazy and vague and I had to pick my way forward slowly, placing each step carefully but firmly. After a while the momentum picked up naturally and, even though nothing was bright as daylight, I could  clearly identify the white stones of the right track shining through the darkness. By the time I got back, the dark and I had become familiar friends and the path  felt more like a Yellow Brick Road.
This is my own personal mantra of the moment with which I'm completely enjoying brainwashing myself: 
"My body is a mountain" 
(Note to self: gotta stop the chocolate ;-)

"Never give in!"

Thanks for the emails and comments I've had for the last couple of posts. It's enriching getting some wider points of view on those existential situations we all go through in life :)
 Have a great week all. 
Don't lose your focus :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspire: it's not light we need but fire!

That's exactly what I was thinking this morning at 6.30am when I awoke to find the fire still burning in the hearth. Thank goodness for small mercies! Mind you, a little light also comes in handy at 6.30am in this part of the world, when all is dark and the only sound you can hear are the sounds of mice playing in the pasta packets in the pantry. Nice ;-)

There are projects in the air here at la Rivière. Subtle (and not so subtle) changes are occurring which bring out a hint of the inner fire. And where there's fire - there's colour!

Beaker has suggested a move to further shores. Seeing none of the options include Down Under, I've resolutely declined the offer. Not because I don't love to travel… BOY do I LOVE to travel!

 But because I'm setting up my own BIG art project here with marginalised women in Toulouse. A project I can move across to India afterwards.
Yes, as well as home schooling.
Yes, in case you were wondering, as well as trying to organise my own exhibitions.

Can you find the word 'courage' in the image up there?
I have to keep painting COURAGE in order to keep pulling it from somewhere.
I'm hoping to tap into a bottomless spring of it at some stage in the near future.

 Life here is all about metamorphosis. 
Even this piece rose out of the ashes.
Metaphorically speaking that is.

I just happened to splash a bottle of indigo ink I was having difficulty opening 
all over the bottom of a finished piece of work.
It was originally ONE WORD written on a page dating from 1715.
I nearly cried in frustration. 
Then I started again with what I had, mistakes 'n' all.
Interesting what I ended up with.
Nothing like my original intention.

Does that ever happen to you?

It's not light that we need but fire; 
It's not the gentle shower but thunder; 
We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake

Frederick Douglass 
(Dying to know who he is? Click here to find out.)

Have a great week every one :)
PS:  When I've framed it, like I intend to this week, I'll repost photos and put it up in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I have nothing to declare...

Of course I'd like to be able to continue the title of this post with 'but my genius.' But that would be far too obvious. Worse! It would be plagiarism!

Perish the thought!

But it is a nifty, catchy expression, don't you think?
A hint of daring. A touch of 'up yours!'
'I have nothing to declare but my genius.'

The Irish have the knack for witty, pithy expressions.
They can pull them off really well.
I remain unconvinced that, upon arrival at the  Roissy CDG airport in Paris, in front of the customs officers, it would have the same effect if I said, "Je n'ai rien a déclarer Messieurs, sauf ma génie!" They'd be rummaging through my Louis Vuitton luggage, hunting for a wee leprechaun in a bottle in the blink of an eye ;-) Or hauling me off under a suspecting stare.

They say the French have a certain 'je ne sais quoi.'
I reckon it's the Irish that have it hands down.

In any case, Oscar Wilde definitely did.

This piece is flying out to NZ.
I'm whizzing off to give English lessons to my messmonsters
I would love to start with the analysis of the above phrase, 
but I believe, in the hands of the messies,
it would be my undoing ;-)

 Une fabuleuse semaine à vous tous et toutes mes amis

Monday, October 31, 2011

You got me singing the blues...

Well, not you exactly. Something else. Something a little too touchy at the moment to write here.

For a few weeks there, things were feeling pretty sad here at La Rivière. This thing (read: me) was anyway.

Strangely enough, I've never, EVER associated the colour blue with sadness. It's a colour that fills me with Peace and even Joy. Blue is the colour I paint most. So this calligraphy is a far cry from expressing sadness.

Actually, it was born, so to speak, while I was cheerfully listening to 'Annie's Song' by John Denver. The secret's out. Now you know I was brought up on country and western music. I'm a grown up 41 year old now, so I can stand tall in front of you contemporary melomaniacs and say this at the top of my voice… without flinching. (OMG I just  admitted this in front of all 1609706 people who read this blog: CRINGE, I SAY, CRINGE!).  You may remember from this post then, that I'm a closet John Denver lover. Closet, that is, if you aren't within earshot; which technically spans a 2km radius around my atelier.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. At a loss for inspiration and chortling out YOU FILL UP MY SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENSES LIKE A SLEEPY BLUE OCEAN!!!

Then it hit me. I grabbed an old door; one I had been turning around and around for weeks wondering if we were really destined to work together, ripped out my gesso and pallet knife then started whipping up a storm.

A très blue one.

LIKE A NIGHT IN THE RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN. Yeah! That's it! SPLASH went the Lectoure blue pigment. FLASH went the indigo ink - like drops racing down a window pane.

LIKE THE MOUNTAINS IN SPRIIIIIIIIIIING TIIIIIIIIIIIME. Hmmm - it's nearly Autumn. Bugger it! I'll 'live' a little and make the final touch flame red!! Et TAC ;-)

Now that I've calmed down somewhat. 
I'm curious. About YOU!
How does colour affect your emotions? 
Do certain colours pull you up out of your socks or others sink you down further?
Do you associate certain colours with certain states of being? 

Just asking. 
Sorta wondering if I'm the only  crazy out here…
Love :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A heart of Courage: giveaway

Have you ever noticed that when you finally bite the bullet and do something you've been dying to do but dreading internally, for fear of being out of your league, too big for your boots, or just plain not up to grade, that things just fall into place?

Over at Annie Blogs you can win one of my 'Key to Courage' hearts above if you leave a comment on her blog answering one not so tiny question: 'What does courage mean to you?' 

To me courage means daring to believe you're bigger than you feel inside, and stepping out even if you aren't completely sure you have what it takes to make the jump . It means not asking permission for believing in yourself.

Courage to me means: 
Daring to be the change I want to see in the world!
(thank you Gandhi!)

And you? What's courage to you? Go and tell Annie here then come back and share with me

Sending out some bursts of courage to you all till next time