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Simple pleasures…

As we get older, I think we become more aware of ‘simple’ pleasures’, well I know I do! The smell of coffee brewing, freshly cut grass or hearing an owl hoot – all simple things that give immense pleasure.

I read the other day that Vita Sackville-West (she of Sissinghurst Garden fame, amongst other things…) used the term ‘through leaves’ to describe simple pleasures enjoyed by her family. She coined the phrase after “the small but intense pleasure of kicking through leaves while out walking”, which I thought was rather lovely.

Another classic, that I expect almost all of us know, are the lyrics to the song ‘My favourite things’ from the Sound of Music, including whiskers on kittens, warm woollen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string.

It’s so easy to think that pleasures have to be big and expensive, like holidays, or fancy clothes… but I think we start to appreciate the simple things the more we experience life. You often hear people who have survived cancer, or cheated death in an accident or natural disaster, say how they appreciate every day, every moment, and are more aware of what’s around them.

I had a think about my ‘through leaves’ moments, and came up with the following list:

  • The smell of baking bread (thanks to Richard and his bread maker!)
  • Little Grace running towards me with her arms open
  • A beautiful sunset (or dawn, but that’s rare!)
  • Hearing my daughters say a casual I love you
  • Finishing a card and sitting back and thinking – that’s a keeper!

My co-author Julia was here (we were busy having a book signing session!) and I asked her, for her ‘Through leaves’ moments and she said:

  • Standing in the middle of her runner bean arch(!)
  • Being greeted by her dog, Moss, in the morning
  • Watching beech leaves unfurl in spring
  • Walks on frosty mornings
  • Birdsong

So what are your ‘through leaves’ moments? Do let me know… smiles, Joanna

 

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A murmuration…

If you have ever been lucky enough to see a murmuration of starlings – where the birds swoop and swirl in amazing aerial ballet creating patterns in the sky – it’s not something you are likely to forget. But have you ever wondered why it is called a ‘murmuration’?

You were probably too enchanted by the magical sight to notice the ongoing background murmur – or murmuration – as caused by the beating of 10,000 pairs of wings at once. And that’s where the term comes from. Most of the collective nouns we use date back to the mid-15th century. But the origins of most collective bird and animal nouns are not always as straightforward as they first appear.

Some are named after specific habits, such as ‘a descent of woodpeckers’, possibly due to their penchant for dropping down from great heights onto ants or ‘a leap of leopards’ or ‘a busyness of ferrets’ while others focus on a personality trait that we believe them to possess.

For instance, the number of sinister sounding nouns for crows, such as murder, mob and horde, probably come from medieval peasants’ fears that the mean-looking birds had been sent by the Devil or were witches in disguise.

Similarly, ‘an unkindness of ravens’ could stem from an old misguided belief that the birds were not caring parents, sometimes expelling their young from their nests before they were ready.

Many bird species have more than one collective noun. As with crows, there are many terms to describe finches (charm, trembling and trimming) and geese, depending on whether they’re flying (skein, wedge, nide) or gathered on water (plump) or land (gaggle).

A book by Chloe Rhodes An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns is fascinating. In it she explains that, unlike proverbs, rhymes or homilies, many of these delightful names endure because they were recorded and published in ‘Books of Courtesy’ – handbooks designed to educate the nobility. So an early sort of ‘one upmanship’ to ensure you made it plain you belonged to the ‘right’ set, something like the Sloane Ranger speak of the 1980s perhaps!

Here are some of my favourite bird terms:

  • A wake of buzzards
  • A commotion of coots
  • A murder of crows
  • An asylum of cuckoos
  • A swatting of flycatchers
  • A prayer of godwits
  • A conspiracy of ravens
  • A parliament of rooks
  • An exultation of skylarks
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A chime of wrens
  • A booby of nuthatches
  • A quilt of eiders
  • A mischief of magpies
  • A wisdom of owls
  • A committee of terns
  • A descent of woodpeckers
  • A scold of jays
  • A charm of goldfinches
  • A fall of woodcock
  • A deceit of lapwings
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Congratulations!

This, I thought, would make a great congratulations card for a clever youngster that has managed to get some GCSEs, or A levels, a place at university or an apprenticeship, just a happy card with a wise old owl saying well done!

All levels of achievement with exams are fantastic and I think it helps a child’s self-esteem a lot, if random aunts and family members send some congratulations when the results are announced.

The ingredients in this card are as follows:

Signature dies, Beautiful Owl

Signature Dies, Rose Leaves

Then a Lisa Audit pad 1 or 2 – if you haven’t had a look through her images, do have a wander through… She is such a talented lady and the cards you make will be just a little bit different which is always fun!

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Owls under the wisteria

OwlsWisteriaI think this card is adorable (go on Joanna, just praise your own card!) but you know what I mean, sometimes you make a card and you go ‘Ah, like that one!’

The image comes from the Marjolein Bastin’s new Autumn pad that launches on Create and Craft on the 25th July and I think they are a very cute owl family. Shame about the field mouse but hey, she has to feed her babies.

I started, as I often do with an 8 x 8” white card blank, 300gsm so it’s nice and firm. Then I chose some soft dark mauve cardstock and trimmed that slightly smaller and layered some hessian style paper from my Volume 3 backing papers.

The image itself was cut out and layered onto some purple backing paper again from Volume 3 of my backing papers and attached to the card on the bottom half.

The die is a Signature Dies Wisteria and I love, love, love it. I chose a pale lilac and a soft green – try not to go too fierce on the green as it does overshadow the flower if you have an ‘in your face’ emerald green for leaves. I die cut it several times and then arranged first the leaf sprays and glued them down using little blobs of glossy accents (applied with the ever present cocktail stick). Then, gradually add the flowers and make sure you tuck them between the leaves to cover the tops of the sprays.

For me, the card made me think of a country barn with the owl family sheltering under the eaves… just saying!

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