Monday, 16 May 2016

Handpainted Fauxdori Traveller's Notebook: Starry Night

Do you ever have those ideas? The ones that kick around in your head for ages. The ones that keep circling back around to tickle your brain every so often. Bouncing around in your creative noggin like a pin ball?

For what feels like an age (months certainly, maybe more than a year), this idea has occasionally tripped its way across my creative mindscape. Sometimes quiet, like a field mouse. Other times as stompy as a herd of cranky elephants.

Inspired by the beautiful work of Monique Vanmeulebrouk over at Morgan le Fae's Trinkets I wanted to paint one of my blank Fauxdori notebooks with a custom painting.

The painting that really spoke to me is one of my favourite works of art. Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night".

There's just something about this painting that draws me in. I love the colour, the swooping lines, the moody tone. Just everything about it makes me smile. It was a no-brainer as a choice.

So, that was the big idea: A Van Gogh inspired "Starry Night" fauxdori cover.

The problem was, I don't have much confidence in my painting abilities. As much as I love messing about with paints and pastels and coloured pencils and collage, I don't really think I'm much of an artist. This challenge seemed much too "arty" for me to even attempt. So, as often happens when we let our pesky practical brains get in the way of our creative spirit, I didn't do it.

Why? I guess fear, mostly. Fear that the end product wouldn't match up with what my brain imagined. Fear I couldn't do it made me not even begin to try. How crazy is that?

Well, the idea wouldn't sit still and it once again reared it's troublesome head during the week. This time though, I was ready for it. Instead of thinking about how I couldn't possibly do it, I starting thinking about how I might be able to do it. A couple of YouTube videos (on how to copy art work) later and I had a plan.

I had a spare block of time on  Sunday so I just dragged out the art supplies and dove right in.

First, I printed a copy of the painting off the internet (at a similar size to the Fauxdori cover I'd made). Once I had that printed I divided it up into 16 equal rectangles (with some judicious paper folding) then marked out the lines with a black pen. This gave me a starting point for reference of what went where.

Once I'd done that I marked an identical grid on the leather with some brown pastel then drew in the main elements of the painting. At this point I hadn't intended blogging about it so didn't take any photos. Then I decided maybe I would so I took a couple of photos along the process.

When I'd finished marking out the design. I began painting. First with the background colours (blues ranging from dark to light):

Once I'd done the background blues I moved on the foreground features, the dark elements (are these trees? I'm never certain), the fields and houses, the moon and stars:

From there is was just a case of building the layers of paint up, trying to mirror the colours, without being too pernickety about the exact placement of the brush strokes (Van Gogh I am not!).  It really seemed to be starting to come together at this point - maybe there was hope for the idea yet?

Finally came the black outlines and details. This is where I actually began to think this could be something I'd be proud to take out of the house.

And then...voila! All finished. I had to stop myself from adding more to it because I think I could have plodded on forever making tiny adjustments. There comes a point where you have to call it done, I suppose.

An agonising wait for the paint to dry overnight meant I didn't get elastics into it until this morning. I'm happy to say it's all finished how though and is gracing my current collection of moleskine cahiers as my planner/journal this morning.

Every time I look at this notebook it makes me happy. It makes me happy because it's a representation of what I can do if I let go of the fear of messing up and just enjoy the process. It makes me happy because it's a little patch of colourful/swirly goodness that cheers my heart. It makes me happy because, well, it's a traveller's notebook, and they pretty much always make me happy.

Lesson of the weekend - sometimes you just have to be brave and dive right it.

What have you been putting off? What idea is stomping through your creative subconscious? Why not give it some air time, you might surprise yourself. I did.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Our Whole30 Journey

Was it really January when I last posted here? Eek! My bad. I was going to be all regularly bloggery this year. I guess that was an epic fail. Ah well.

Here we are in April then (although you might not think Spring had sprung looking at the UK weather last week). April saw a brave decision at Casa de Cookie, which was for Kendo and I to embark on the Whole30 programme.

If you're not familiar with the Whole30 movement you can check out details on the programme on their website, here. In a nutshell, the whole30 is a super clean eating, elimination diet designed to cut out food groups that most commonly cause food allergies/reactions and systemic inflammation in the boy. You eat "whole" foods for 30 days to reset your body (specifically your digestive and hormonal systems) and then begin a programme of reintroduction to try to weed out any adverse reactions you may have to certain foods.

The programme outline is pretty simple.

You can eat:
Meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds (limited), good fats (e.g olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, clarified butter/ghee)

You can't eat:

  • Added Sugar or artificial sweeteners - including sugar, agave, honey,  even those pesky chemically sugars hidden by food manufactures.

  • Alcohol - even for cooking.

  • Grains - wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes any flours made from these grains.

  • Legumes - including any kind of beans or peas*, peanuts (technically a legume and not a nut), or any kind of soy.

*you can have snow peas, sugar snap peas and green beans as they are mostly pod.

  • Dairy - including cow, goat, sheep milk or cheese or butter (other than clarified butter/ghee which has no milk proteins), also any kind of cream or yoghurt.

  • Carrageenan, MSG or sulphites- mean and nasty things that food manufacturers shove into food as thickeners or preservatives. Nitrates are okay.

You're also not supposed to eat any "compliant" (that's what they call foods that fit the W30 profile) junk foods - so no sneakily making chips or "paleo" brownies.

In addition to the elimination of potentially problematic food groups, Whole30 challenges you to really think about your relationship with food, your cravings (why and when you crave the things you do), your eating habits (do you habitually eat even when you're not hungry?), your food choices (do you pick up things that are bad for you but quick and easy?).

We made the decision to embark on the Whole30 programme on 14th April. By the 17th we'd purged the cupboards of all things tempting, chowed down the last of the salt and vinegar crisps and were all set to go on Monday 18th April with a fridge full of meat, fruit and vegetables.

That was then. Now we're almost 3 weeks in (day 19 today) and things are going pretty smoothly for the most part. I have learnt some important lessons along the way (which I think might be useful for people thinking about starting out on the programme):

Menu planning has been hugely important for us (me) to make the programme successful. I couldn't have gotten through three weeks without having a set idea of what I was going to eat for each meal. Yes, it can feel a little restrictive. Yes, it's harder work in the first instance, but the ease it brings in terms of shopping, food prep and managing waste far outweighs any of that. I set up a two week menu plan and we're repeating it for weeks 3 and 4 which has worked great (more on that in a later post).

2. It's not about the scales
Prior to embarking on the Whole30 I had once again jumped aboard the Slimming World wagon. I've had some success with that programme in the past but (like many people) I tend to get hung up on the number on the scales (weekly weigh in will do that to you). Part of the Whole30 ethos is that it is focused on health improvement, not on weight loss (although most people find that as an added benefit). You're not supposed to weigh yourself for the duration of the programme and to be honest I haven't been tempted to. I'm instead focusing on "Non-Scale Victories" (NSVs) which have so far included - better skin, no IBS symptoms, more energy, less aches and pains, less food cravings and no hunger pangs. I've definitely noticed a change in my body shape so I know I have lost some pounds. What's interesting though is that I've found I'm losing off the important bits (like around my mid section where I carry most of me spare weight). Given this is the worst place to be carrying weight (being a contributing factor to a huge number of health concerns) that's a real bonus.

3. Whole food is actually pretty delicious
In all seriousness, who doesn't love junk food? It's designed to make us love it! It's manufactured with the express purpose of making us food coma happy and making us want more and more of it. Having not eaten any of it for 3 weeks I can happily say that I haven't missed it, not one bit! Not having processed foods in my diet has forced me to widen my horizons in terms of what whole food I am eating. A much wider array of fruits and veggies has passed my lips this last 3 weeks than have the last 3 years. I ate KALE for goodness sake (and truth be told I actually enjoyed it! Shhhhhhhh!).

4. It is possible to exist without cheese
Who knew? I really, really thought this would be a massive stumbling block for me. I love cheese. I eat (ate!) a lot of cheese. It is the one thing on the programme so far I have genuinely missed, but it is possible to exist without it. Trust me.

5. Sugar is in everything. EVERY. DAMN. THING.
I cannot get over the number of foods that manufacturer put added sugar in. The Whole30 turns you into something of a label reading maniac and once you start, well, the amount of added sugar in things is a real eye opener. Ham for example.....why does ham need sugar? can that possible require sugar? Not to mention the fact that they sneak it in things under a whole raft of names other than sugar (pesky little blighters!). Dextrose, glucose, maltose. Argghhhh! There's a whole list of sneaky sugars on the Whole30 website.

I'm hoping to share my menu plans and some of the meals that have been a winner for us over the next few weeks. I'll also be sharing my thoughts on reintroduction and the impact that has on us when we get to that point.

Hopefully if you're thinking about the Whole30 this has given you some (whole) food for thought.