Friday Diary: A week of being 34 by daintydora

After the excitement of last week; birthday week, a Thursday birthday and a weekend spent in spaaaa bliss, everything else feels a bit...flat. Sometimes it's hard to re-motivate after a crescendo of activity and planning and chatter and fun. But life is about finding joy in the everyday, in the little things. Being mindful. Seeking out happiness.

Three days and nights of enforced relaxation is a bit strange though with everyone (me) glued to technology and social media and keeping up with keeping up. But I enjoyed the time away from my computer, from home, from housework and from 'normal life' because it creates the space to decompress and just be.

Airth Castle Spa Hotel

Husband and I stayed in a lovely four-poster room at Airth Castle Spa Hotel in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and battened down the hatches against the cold and rain and wind and snow. There were also many moments of beautiful sunshine, as seen above.

We had robes and slippers and we made full use of them in the spa. I swam and sat in the Jacuzzi pool and closed my eyes in the sauna to fully immerse in the beautiful, aromatic scent of wood and heat. And then I took a cold shower because it got so hot!

Airth Castle Spa Hotel View

Drinking in the afternoon and cocktails before dinner and candle-lit dinners were the order of the day.

Breakfasts consisted of watermelon and continental cheeses and croissants and pots of tea. One snoozy afternoon I succumbed to two enormous hot chocolates bubbling over with marshmallows. After dinner on the first night I enjoyed the divine art of a Calypso coffee.

I had two spa treatments in the Elemis spa followed by green tea with lemon and then reading by the pool.

I saw my collage chosen to be featured on the Brown Paper Mag site alongside a colourful array of other entries, all in response to the theme of 'New Landscapes'.

New Landscapes Collage

I read magazines in the daytime that I hadn't had time for before. It felt super-indulgent. On Sunday, after all that relaxation, I got into bed with my clothes on for a nap and it felt amazing.

Crisp white hotel sheets and the decadence of a daytime nap.

I slept for hours - all part of the detoxing and unwinding process.

And then (this would never happen at home), we put the TV on and the afternoon film was about to start -  James Bond 'View to a Kill' - so we lay and watched it, wrapped up in a time-warp away from the world of 'things to do'.  I enjoyed watching Grace Jones whip about as one of the villains with her strong outfits and chiseled angles. And then I was tired again. We skipped dinner and I fell asleep between 7 and 8pm. What? This is unheard of. I must have needed it.

Fairy Lights at Airth Castle Airth Castle Spa Hotel by night

I'd set my alarm clock for early the next morning so we could have a swim and a last blast in the sauna and the steam room before breakfast and check-out. We had the spa area to ourselves and the water temperature in the pool was perfect. I savoured another solo trip to the sauna and thought of Helsinki.

By 9am the snow was swirling down and it made the fact we were in a castle even more romantic and exciting. A castle in Scotland in the snow!

We were home in no time, but it was exhausting being out of the spa environment. I call this a 'spa hangover'. A 'spa-over'.

I gave into it and continued reading, not stopping until I'd finished my book (Jo Nesbo page-turning Scandi-noir). It felt like I'd tricked time somehow because I would never normally do anything so decadent on a Monday afternoon (though it did feel like a Sunday.)

On Tuesday I got back to normal and posted up my latest photography experiments. But then I was so sad to hear from family in Cape Town about the fires sweeping through the southern peninsula. Some of the images looked so surreal they could almost be described as beautiful if it weren't for the damage they spoke of. I think the worst is over but the devastation is still to be quantified.

Reading the names of the places involved took me right back to the stories that my Nana used to tell me of growing up there; of Muizenberg and Kalk Bay and Hout Bay. I must write that story.

On Wednesday I was ready for another adventure and ended up out for lunch and dinner and a welcome trip to the Kadampa meditation centre for midweek meditation. I always leave feeling so relaxed.

Breathe in glorious, positive bright white light, breathe out thoughts and worries in the form of black smoke.

So simple yet so powerful.

On Thursday I couldn't believe it had been a week since my birthday.

I worked on my book (#amwriting) and did some knitting and scrapbooking and thought about Spring coming, now, on its way. New life sprouting up in the garden. Daffodils and tulips and greenery getting greener. Nature quietly working away.


Today, well today I'm feeling a bit like a jellyfish again. All discombobulated from strange, intricate dreams and perhaps too much sleep and time is sliding quietly sideways.

And in many respects my first week of being 34 has been just a normal week. Boring, almost. No love letter left for a stranger, no influx of birthday messages. But then that's the ebb and flow of life. And it's often the small things, the tiny, insignificant details of life that make it into something significant.

A vast experience of little moments that add up to much more than the sum of their parts. Thoughts and feelings and emotions that boil up together into an exotic brew like George's marvellous medicine for everyday with pockets of surprise and serendipity and magic.

What's going to happen next? Who knows, but I plan to enjoy every second.

Happy Friday!


Thursday Birthday! by daintydora

I love the day Thursday. I was born on a Thursday, which makes it extra-super-special to have my birthday on a Thursday. Thursday Birthday Banner

I'll be drawing my breakfast (for TinkerSketch), wearing my favourite perfume (Chanel Coco Noir), eating cake, smiling brightly, feeling spritely and spirited and birthday-special the way only a birthday can make you feel. I'll chatter ten to the dozen and feel alive.

Because it's my BIRTHDAY and I'm in my prime and feel so lucky in life. There's magic everywhere and on this day nothing can take that away from me.

(And then I'm hoping for oysters and chips for dinner with maybe a glass of champagne...)

Did I mention I was going on a spa weekend break?

Happy Birthday to me, and everyone else who's special birthday-day is today, Thursday, 26th February x

Midweek Peak: Taking Stock by daintydora

What have you been up to lately? Sometimes it's good to get it all down and out there. Written. Typed. A snapshot with some accountability.

That's what's so great about Taking Stock; first introduced to me by the delightful Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mikes.

Taking Stock: A view of the clouds

Here's a look at my now:

Making: waves (everywhere, always!) Cooking: chorizo, butterbean & kale stew. Was a lovely winter warmer. Drinking: apple & cinnamon tea. I'm trying new teas. The Sweet Rhubarb I bought a few weeks ago was even better. Reading: magazines that I've had in my stash for a loooong time. Rediscovering some great articles, images and inspiration. Wanting: to live a more minimalist life. Looking: forward to my BIRTHDAY next week :) Playing: along with the daily Tinkersketch challenge. Deciding: I can't do every single craft or creative thing. Must. Practice. Single. Focus. Wishing: time wouldn't slip away so fast... Enjoying: the bright, crisp days of February and the nights getting a smidge lighter. Wondering: what I'll be able to grow this year in the garden? Loving: my morning swimming routine. Pondering: if I should get my hair cut soon. It's been a while. Considering: giving up alcohol (again) because it's such an evil toxin and I can't handle hangovers anymore. Watching: inspirational TED talks from amazing peeps. Hoping: I'm on the right path. Creatively and in life. *Big profound hope*. Marvelling: at the power of the mind. Needing: a massage. Back, neck and shoulders please! Smelling: not so much. I've had a cold. Wearing: as many layers as possible at all times. That includes scarves indoors because I get cold. Did I mention that I feel the cold? Following: lots of new-to-me creatives on Instagram. Noticing: new growth in the garden. Already! Plus next door's washing still on the line. In the rain. Knowing: and connecting with so many lovely, creative people through groups like The Collage Club and Blog with Pip. Thinking: about family far away. Feeling: ready for Spring. Thoughts, sights, fashions, longer days, more inspirations. Admiring: people who reach for their dreams. Sorting: out clutter while *thinking* about this book (if I bought it, I'd only need to get rid of it again...) Buying: a vintage dress in a fabulous geometric print - Magpie FIND! Getting: lost in thought. Bookmarking: poetry competitions. I've been writing a lot of poetry recently and loving the composition of words and sounds and rhythms. Disliking: grumpy & reactive people. There seem to be a lot of them around just now. Opening: up my mind to the process of art journaling. I'm learning lots about myself as well as enjoying the creative expression. Giggling: at captions on cards in Paperchase - "I come, I fox shit up, then I leave" with a smug image of a fox. Maybe you had to be there. Feeling: ambitious and a little ambiguous. Snacking: on the last chilli & chocolate cookies I baked on Valentine's day. Coveting: a large West End bay-windowed abode with a white-wash, minimalist interior. Only sometimes. Helping: women in need through a regular donation to Glasgow Women's Aid.

What about you? Give it a try. See what you come up with.

I love a midweek PEAK!


St Valentine's: The Wedding Day of Birds by daintydora

Hearts, roses, chocolates, clinking champagne glasses, everything pink and red; all a diabolical confection, commercialisation and converging of ideas and influences that make most people want to vomit. I said most.

Yes, it's St Valentine's Day.

And I wasn't going to mention it, at all, but then I heard something on the radio that I thought was worth sharing.

It seems that the origins of the most popular customs associated with 14th February date back to the Middle Ages, stating that Valentine's Day, (halfway through the second month of the year), was the 'wedding day of birds' as this is when they would choose their mates in time for Spring.

Bird Print Postcards

Chaucer is cited in all this, and in particular his poem, 'Parliament of Fowls', the literal meaning of which is 'Meeting of Birds'.

The poem was apparently penned to honor the grand wedding of Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, regarded as one of the most successful and loving royal marriages of the Middle Ages.

Other (bird-related) symbolism and superstitions:

It was once believed that if a woman noticed a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor.
If the woman saw a sparrow, the would marry a poor man, but be very happy.
If she spied a goldfinch, it was said that her husband would be a man of great wealth.
Lovebirds are so named because they tend to sit closely together in pairs.
Doves, with their distinctive 'cooing' call, symbolize loyalty, fidelity and love since they mate for life. The dove was a bird sacred to Venus and other cultural love deities.

I do adore birds so Happy Wedding Day to all the beautiful birds of the world. May their plumage conjure love!

*This post was originally posted last year, but seeing as it is so topical, I wanted to share it again*


Friday Diary: The things we save, unopened, unused by daintydora

I often think about the things I have that I haven't used yet, unseen and unopened. It's not that I have loads of abandoned things, but sometimes I'll find a little packet of something tucked away, like a pack of tights 'too special' to wear yet, or an unworn but coveted item of clothing that I don't want to 'spoil'. I don't think I do it consciously. It's more an understanding with myself: not yet, not yet, the time hasn't come yet.

This week I discovered four sets of earrings that my husband bought for me in 2012. I remember it was 2012 because he was working away for a few months. In London. And it was winter. And I missed him.

Unopened packets of earrings from the V&A

We saw each other every few weeks, but it's not the same. It feels different. I think you act different somehow. You get used to someone being there, or not. And when you're used to it just being you again, living alone, it takes a few days to readjust to someone else again. And then the visit is over.

One weekend I visited him in London, and of course I wanted to make the most of all the city has to offer (creative-inspiration overwhelm!)

We went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Of course. It was the exhibition about British Design (1948-2012).

We arrived late having dawdled through the day and got lost on the Tube. The exhibition was going to close in less than an hour.

We wangled a student entry because it was so late in the day, despite not being students. We ran to the exhibition and began power-reading the signs that described the displays and absorbing all the innovation in double-quick time. We giggled. It was fun. We felt like students, young, younger, silly, carefree. I don't think we would have felt quite the same if we'd been going to an exhibition at home. Everything felt amplified and different, caught in a bubble, stretched and kaleidoscopic with colour.

Of course we had to visit the shop. I think it was open later than the exhibition? I bought a 'Betty' rain hat in vivid pink that I now feel a bit embarrassed to wear.

And then I saw the earrings. I loved them. They were so fun. My husband bought me these four designs. It was silly. They weren't so expensive. But he wanted to get me them to make me happy and because it felt like we were on holiday and they were in funky colours and shapes. We were at the V&A! In London!

And I really don't know why I didn't just take a pair out of its packet right there and wear them straight away. Wear them home. Out to dinner. On the flight home.

Earrings in their little packets, savored, fingered, unopened. Pretty cellophane that holds inside everything that I felt on that day, so far away from home and from my life, but my life was there right with me; me and my husband and all our memories ,together, living, happy.

Just seeing the packets of earrings this week transported me back there again, feeling the same things, the same emotions. Holding hands, skipping round exhibitions, feeling free, loose and free and like there was nothing else in the world. Just him and me where I picked these earrings in sweetie colours, plastic fantastic.

Unopened packet of earrings from the V&A

And I've still never worn them. They've taken on new meaning.

Isn't life (and love) strange?

Druid Animal Oracle Cards - a reading by daintydora

I've never before explored druidry or the occult or tarot. I like to read my horoscope sometimes but I wouldn't say I was a dabbler in the 'dark arts' or drawing deeper meanings into things. But in my 'Create your shining year' workbook that I mentioned in my New Year post, there was a section for taking an Oracle reading for the year. And I remembered I'd been given this Druid Animal Oracle Card Deck as a gift, so it seemed like the perfect time to experiment.

Druid Animal Oracle Cards

You turn half the cards upside down, and shuffle them into the mix. It gives double the 'readings' by doing this because if you choose an upside down card, the interpretation is different from if it was the right way up - darker; in shadow, perhaps a hidden or secret aspect of that animal's inherent traits.

The pack is beautifully illustrated, and it's hard not to be drawn to just identifying with a particular image of an animal, like the magnificent wise old Owl or the majesty of the Wolf. And I didn't want a Snake for instance, or a Sow.

The cards have quite a lot of information on them, so it's like a lesson in animal history, symbolism and biology too. My first card was the Crane. My second was the Swan.

Druid Animal Oracle Cards

I had an upside-down Salmon, an Earth Dragon, the 'goddess' the Horse and the Great Bear. It was really interesting and insightful, and it will be particularly interesting to look back over this prediction at the end of the year and see if any  of the animal symbols and meanings accurately described the situations I found myself in during 2015.

'Wren' Animal Druid Animal Oracle Card 'Horse' Animal Druid Animal Oracle Card 'Earth Dragon' Animal Druid Animal Oracle Card

One of the most important things to do before choosing the cards of course was to ask a very specific question, but of that, I'm channelling the 'secret knowledge' of the Crane for January and not telling!

I'll finish with the description for the Horse, which was one of my favourites:

The spirit of Each (the druid name for 'horse') calls us to journey, to travel. This may manifest itself as a desire to travel in the physical world, or we may be drawn to voyaging in the inner realms. She brings us energy and speed and connects us to the power of both the land and the sun. The Horse Goddess is patroness of the complete life cycle of birth, death, the afterlife and rebirth. By working with the spirit of Each, we will grow to feel comfortable with every aspect of the life cycle, knowing that the Goddess protects and guides us through each of its stages.

Although the horse appeared in my reading for November, I'd like to keep this spirit of travel and energy in my mind for the year, and specifically as the Chinese Year of the Horse comes to an end.

What will the Sheep/Goat year bring


Snow Scenes from Scotland by daintydora

In a scene reminiscent of Avril Paton's iconic 'Windows in the West', I have been mesmerized this morning by the first flurries of snow. Just short blizzards, but snow possesses an alluring magical quality for me.

It's nostalgic, romantic, exciting and dangerous all at the same time. Though it's just frozen water. Crystals. Diamonds.

Snow on the rooftops!

Snow Street

These images were taken when I lived in Glasgow's west end myself, not far from the tenements that inspired Avril Paton's striking art works.

Over the years I've racked up an archive of snow scenes from Scotland and beyond. I always want to capture the ethereal beauty of the world around me, whatever the season.

I love to see footprints in the snow, or patterns of tyre tracks or animal tracks. Moulded ice footsteps cement themselves to pavements and snowflakes flutter into eyelashes, cold and wonderful. Luckily I have a fetching collection of Cossack hats to keep me warm!

Footprints in the snowAnimal tracks in the snow

Snow holds happy connotations for me: days off school, snowmen, picture-postcards, sledging, snowballing, Christmas snow, New Year snow, romantic walks in the snow, Narnia-esque forests in the snow, birthday snow, and wrapping up warm. But I know that it isn't all fun and games.

Driving home last Christmas over Drumochter after a stay in the Scottish Highlands became an arduous 8-hour journey (that usually takes only 3.) Snow blocks roads and causes problems. It grounds planes and stops trains too. I know that. I've experienced that.

Driving in the snow Driving in the snowSnow covered trees, ScotlandDriving in the snow

But I still can't help but admire its beauty, especially when it's tinged blue as the light fades from the afternoon, or appears on the hills overnight, silent and majestic.

Driving in the snow

What are your thoughts on snow?

New Year Resolutions & Goals by daintydora

There's a lot of talk about New Year's Resolutions each January. But this year I'm going to set goals instead of resolutions, plus a set of guiding principles to live by. Fish swimming in new directions

I'm not going to write them all down here, but one of them will be to write everyday.

I'm going to write everyday, in whatever form that takes: blogging (here and on my new 'inspiration' blog - Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium), poetry, or working towards my novel, my big work of fiction that is my most important goal of all.

I'm going to practice single focus rather than attempt to multi-task all the time.

I'm going to finish one project before I start another (though I count blogging as an ongoing pursuit).

I'm going to aim for the stars. I owe it to myself.

My 12 fortune cookie mantras and sayings for the year ahead will be my guiding principles.

What about you? Do you resolve to do or not do something?

Gretchen Rubin discusses her insights into different personality types (which she terms 'the four tendencies') and it's really interesting to try to identify your own 'tendency'. She also has some useful insights on resolutions.

Meanwhile, I spotted this great post on World of Wanderlust - 29 Small Reminders - brilliant. My favourites are 'keep a journal' (obviously) and 'escape into a film'. Two great 'reminders' - one for reflection and one for distraction/escapism. I also love 'live in a new place'...

Happy January!


12 Fortune Cookie Mantras & Sayings for 2015 by daintydora

In the book 642 things to write about, one of the prompts is 'write 10 sayings for fortune cookies'.

Being super-creative and inspirational however, myself and my blog buddy Karen (in the sunny southern hemisphere), decided it would be a great idea to kick off the New Year by writing 12 fortune cookie sayings - one for each month of the year ahead.

Diamond in the rough

It's quite difficult to do really, when you get down to it, and so I've cheated a bit and decided to morph mine into 12 'mantras' instead, as a kind of resolution list and also as a goal-setting exercise.

One of things I received this year in my Christmas stocking was Leonie Dawson's Create Your Shining Year Workbook, and in it one of the first things she discusses is that without thinking about and setting goals, there is little chance of achieving much. And I think she has a point.

Shining Year Workbook

I've always loved writing lists and recording achievements, but I've never considered for example writing down how much money I hoped planned to earn each month. Very interesting. I'm all for putting the 'fortune' in fortune cookies.

So although I've poached some of these mantras, I think they would be a fine set of goals and resolutions to keep in mind, to come back to, to focus on, and to live by in 2015:


  1. Be like the squirrel girl, be like the squirrel. (from Little Acorns by The White Stripes)
  2. "Buy less, choose well" (Vivienne Westwood)
  3. Practice mindfulness. Everyday. Beauty surrounds you.
  4. Be the lighthouse of joy and gratitude.
  5. It's not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves. (Sir Edmund Hillary)
  6. You're a diamond in the rough. Keep on shining.
  7. "You can do ANYthing, but not EVERYthing" (David Allen)
  8. Trust the timing of your life.
  9. Be unstoppable. Be brave. Be bold. But most of all, BE YOURSELF!
  10. Be the lion in a group of foxes. Roar!
  11. Take chances and opportunities, delighting in the unlit path.
  12. She who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten.


And when I think about this list - a few of them famous/well-known quotes - I think of my own experiences of good fortune and how each of us create and manifest our fortune, good or bad.

It's hard to reign in thoughts of wonder, equally thoughts of sadness, but I often find myself unable to sleep for the thoughts that crowd my mind, so this quote by CS Lewis from Alice in Wonderland is particularly apt:

The little girl just could not sleep

because her thoughts were way too deep

her mind had gone out for a stroll

and fallen down a rabbit hole.

Find out what Karen's 12 fortune cookies have in store for 2015, over on her blog Leaf and Petal. Happy New Year!

PS. I couldn't resist 3 extra bonus mantras:

Just keep swimming.

Freedom is a state of mind. 

Never stop dreaming.


Midweek Moment: when thoughts crowd in by daintydora

I love this image that I snapped quickly, and to be honest, without much thought. I like the angles and the shapes. Not perfect. Not meticulous. But striking. View through the window

What appeals to me most is the stark cut-out shapes of bunting dangling from the window frame; cascading, caught in the bare branches of foraged dead wood from the garden.

These branches in turn point themselves like fingers into the frame, making the image seem more sinister than it really is - just an overcast winter's day.

The sky is washed out, busy processing clouds. This is not a black and white image, but in fact there is little colour so it looks that way.

It makes me think of Matisse - not for its lack of colour, but because each element looks to be cut out in paper - 'drawn with scissors' - then layered together to create this illusion of a crooked window with a tangled dark garden beyond. But there is light in the sky, slipping through gaps in the cloud. Light is always hope.

I like how the branches in the foreground intersect the trees in the background; the dimensions proving playful.

There is a simplicity too. Muted, focused priorities become clear. And that's what I need this week.

Thoughts come into my head, crowding in, more, more, more, and I need to make them line up like birds on a wire, the birds that sit on my washing line, observing the pecking order and waiting their turn. It happens in nature as a matter of life and death.

Know your place. Prioritise. Wait. Be patient.

So much can be learnt from the creatures around us. And windows are always synonymous with perspective.

Look through your window. Take a moment. Stop and pause. What can you see? Can you see the wood for the trees?

Find something beautiful and seek out the light.


Taking Stock: December 2014 by daintydora

'Taking Stock' is such a lovely thing to do to get things straight in your head, mark a point in time and reflect on things past, present and future. It was started by the wonderful Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mikes, and as we approach the end of 2014, it feels like a great time to 'take stock'.

Sunday is the perfect day too!

Festive Flowers


Making: Irish Soda Bread. Yum. I love that it's so quick, easy, and best of all - yeast and sugar free Cooking: up Christmas plans Drinking: Japanese matcha tea (antioxidants abound) Reading: 'The Mammoth book of Shark Attacks'. I'll never swim in the sea again! Wanting: peace & love on earth for all Looking: forward to relaxing over Christmas Listening: to Christmas choir music. 'Gaudete' has me enthralled although I have no idea what the words mean Deciding: that I'd like to meditate everyday Wishing: on a star Enjoying: the wonders of winter Waiting: for my Collage Scrap Exchange 'scraps' to arrive Liking: the Christmas wreath I made from birch wood yesterday (not the best photo, and I need trim those ends, but you get the idea)

Birch Wood WreathWondering: if it will be a 'white Christmas' this year? Loving: cosy nights in Pondering: big nights out Considering: my plans and focus for 2015 Watching: Game of Thrones Hoping: for days that are merry and bright Marvelling: at this amazing Christmas tree, carved from a tiny piece of wood Needing: a big hug Smelling: uplifting scents of Rosemary and Cypress essential oils Wearing: big, cosy Lowie socks Following: loads of poetry and literary journals on Twitter Noticing: how fast time is passing these days... Knowing: I've done my best Thinking: about a huge declutter in January Admiring:  the achievements and *fabulousness* of my fellow Blog with Pip 'Pipsters' Sorting: through papers and magazines and photographs Buying: Christmas presents, but not too many Getting: excited about the holidays Bookmarking: projects and writing competitions for 2015 Disliking: the commercialisation of Christmas Opening: my mind to new things Giggling: over this video for Grantown 250 (the town where I went to school and a celebration of its 250 year anniversary in 2015)

Feeling: a little bit melancholy. Maybe it's that Sunday night feeling? (or maybe I should watch that video again?!) Snacking: on M&S Florentines. Thanks Mum! Coveting: a cashmere dressing gown Helping: the birds to survive this winter with tasty snacks of nuts, seeds, fat balls and cheese (I realised only recently that you're not supposed to feed them bread) Hearing: next door's music - at least it's cheery and festive!

So many good things here and so much to look forward to and be grateful for as Christmas and New Year approach.

Copy this list to 'Take Stock' too.


Heirloom Christmas Baubles by daintydora

I spoke on Friday about the commercialisation of Christmas, and how repulsive it has become. But when Christmas is enjoyed as a simple time of 'comfort and joy', I really love the build up to the main event. Fairy lights glow in people's windows, and there's so much going on to distract from the cold of winter (if you're in the Northern Hemisphere).

I've been watching the Liberty of London 'behind the scenes' series, marveling at their Christmas shop and all the beautiful decorations, baubles, angels, stars, and over-sized woodland creatures they cram to the rafters.

I remember my Mum taking me into town as Christmas approached, and letting me choose a tiny wooden angel decoration each time (or it seemed like each time). They were hand-painted with dainty faces, and I had my own tiny gold tinsel tree to hang them on. I loved those angels, and I had about ten of them, but somewhere along the line, after various house moves, they were lost.

But I've never lost that joy of choosing something special to keep and treasure, building up my own collection of 'heirloom' decorations each year. And by 'heirloom', I don't mean 'expensive'.

Recently I've been drawn to the more, rustic, 'woodland' ranges that echo Scandinavian forests and woodcutters living in gingerbread houses...

But then last year I went to Liberty.

I bought this beautiful emerald, diamond-shaped bauble.

Geometric Green Liberty Bauble

It appealed as it was so strikingly different to the type I'd seen so much of before, and I loved the geometric, Cubist detail, which took me right back to the Cubist Museum I once visited in Prague, in the House of the Black Madonna.

Sometimes I buy second-hand vintage baubles from charity shops or hand-made designs from local craft markets. I like glass baubles with scenes in them, and wooden robins and coloured bells. And I still have a blue satin bauble that I got as a gift from my primary school teacher when I was six years old.

My Mum wouldn't let me put it on our tree because it didn't fit her colour scheme, but in my house, any colour goes. In fact, I like to dress my Christmas tree up like, well, a Christmas tree!

Do you have 'heirloom' decorations? Or do you make your own? Do people really change their colour scheme each year to keep up with some strange Christmas fashion-fad? For me it's heirloom baubles all the way, old and new, vintage finds mixed with hand-crafted versions, all displayed and treasured from year to year, with love.


Labradorite - the talismanic gem of winter by daintydora

Recently I've read quite a few articles about how important it is to have a suitable work space or creative space in which to make, create, write, draw, focus, whatever. It makes sense of course, and I've always tried to keep the space where I work tidy and organised and filled with just the tools that I need with a few inspiring bits and bobs too. I have a white desk with adjustable legs and an orange lumbar support chair. I have a laptop and a sewing machine. I have a tiny vase for pens (and scissors, a nail file, a little hand-held looking glass...) featuring a Japanese lady in red. I have some lip balm.

And then I have my Smokey Quartz crystal.

Smokey Quartz crystal

Smokey Quartz is a protective and grounding stone, and a bit like 'Dumbo and the feather', it's comforting, reassuring and inspiring simply by its presence.

Yesterday I was attracted to a new crystal. A beautiful light blue Labradorite. It's striations; so perfect and parallel, vibrate inside it like magic. A photograph cannot do it justice. I think the way it reflects the light is referred to in the industry (or at least in the jewellery industry) as 'chatoyancy'.

Labradorite crystal

I read before I bought it that Labradorite is a good crystal to 'cushion and protect the aura'.

After searching some more online, I've also found that Labradorite is:

the stone of the Northern Lights and the matriarch of the subconscious mind

associated with the Career and Life Path area, its flowing energy assuring a balance of energy as your life unfolds and flows

considered in ancient lore to be a talismanic gem of winter

It feels like it was meant to be that I would find this powerful and beautiful stone to add to my creative work space. And I love the links with winter and the Northern Lights as we head into the coldest season here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Crystals are so unique, beautiful and inexpensive. Does anyone else use crystals in their work space or in their day-to-day? I feel that all the ills in the world could surely be cured/solved through the collective power and wisdom of crystals. Maybe one day.



Friday Diary: Afterglow & a fiery autumn sunset by daintydora

I couldn't resist heading out with my camera this afternoon as the sun sank low in the sky, creating that beautiful orange glow that you only seem to get on cold autumn afternoons. I loved the interplay of light and colour and the silhouette of the barren tree branches and few last leaves, against the light.

Sunset through treesSunset through leavesSunset from the motorway bridge Autumn Sunset

The colour was so rich as the mist began to descend and layer itself along the horizon of hills and houses.

It reminded me of a painting I studied in Art at school - Joseph Farquarson's 'Afterglow'. I've always been drawn to images of snow and woodlands, and Afterglow depicts a snowy woodland scene with the sun just setting, casting its orange fire far and wide. The only thing missing here is the snow, but I'm sure it's not too far away.

Here's to the weekend and to sunsets and memories and Afterglow.


Stamp Collecting by daintydora

For the last year or so I've been collecting everyday stamps, some to send to the Bransby Home of Rest for Horses (because charities like this can make money from used stamps), and other, more special or limited edition stamps for their beautiful designs and for future creative projects (like COLLAGE!) Yesterday I spied a Stanley Gibbons 'Gay Venture' Stamp Album for sale at a car boot sale. It was very old and quite tattered inside and smelling distinctly 'vintage', but it was jam-packed with stamps from all over the world.

Gay Venture Stamp Album

The colours and shapes and designs were so impressive, from exotic animals, birds of paradise, butterflies, mushrooms and toadstools to the typography and colours and franking marks of long ago.

When I enquired how much the album was, it was a little more than I was willing to pay. I thought it was definitely worth that price, but that I didn't want to pay that much. The old man who was selling it asked if I was a stamp collector. I replied that no, I wasn't really, and it was more about the designs and nostalgia to me than the monetary value of a particular stamp.

I placed the album back down on his table and said I would leave it for someone who was a 'real' stamp collector to discover, and be able to add to their own collection. I genuinely meant that and it wasn't any kind of bluff.
But then a wonderful thing happened and the man said that seeing as I was 'a nice wee girl', he would half the price he had originally quoted. I really did want the album and so I agreed.

It felt like it was meant to be mine, and that within its old, old pages, I would find immeasurable inspiration for creativity in my projects. And because he had been so kind, I met him in the middle and offered more than half price. Win-win! Good deeds all round, and a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness and belief in kindness and humanity ensued. I couldn't wait to pore over my new, 'old' stamp album properly.

Italian Stamps

Polish Stamps Stamp Collection

I particularly love these William Caxton special edition stamps, as I studied the first printing press designed by him while I was at university. It felt like history and education coming back to find me through the creativity and design in my life now, and it took me right back to my discoveries about that time.

William Caxton Special Edition Stamps

Often you never get to revisit the things that you learnt at school, college or university as they are no longer relevant to you or purely academic with no bearing on modern life (hello algebra...), but this coincidental find was a little chord of connection.

I don't believe that stamp-collecting is really a thing of the past, or something just for 'older' generations, (though I am looking forward to comparing notes with my Dad who used to collect stamps as a boy, and has a very similar kind of stamp album).

But how many other stamp collectors are out there, and has that number increased with the surge in art journalling and scrap-booking, collage and other paper-crafts?

Stamps can be so personal and beautiful and I love the idea of receiving a handwritten letter in the post, glancing at the stamp to get a clue as to who sent it, (in fact, that very thing happened to me this week. Thanks lovely Tracey!), and experiencing the excitement and anticipation of what might be waiting inside.

Letters and postcards were a lifeline before email and the internet and text messaging. I just wonder how many people have received love letters and happy news and sad news with the stamps from this album?


So I googled my name...Rebecca Johnstone by daintydora

I know. How vain. What an egotist. But this is part of a monthly writing link up with my Blog-Buddy Karen Lynch who blogs at Leaf and Petal, and this is a writing prompt from the book '642 things to write about'.

Google search your own name. Write about the search result that is closest to your name but isn’t you.

See, not so egotistical. It's about a quarter of the way through the book, but I don't know what page it's on or what number it is, because there are no numbers or page numbers, just the prompts. Interesting in itself. Cut to the chase of the inspiration.

So I opened up a new tab on the internets, and typed in my name. I was presented with 1,160,000 results in 0.37 seconds. It always amazes me what comes up in a Google search.

And it turns out I'm not so unique after all. There are oodles of Rebecca Johnstone's all over the place. What has pleased me is that in the main they are high-achieving creative types. It's all in the name.

And I remember when a friend told me about the first episode of Zooey Deschanel's show New Girl.

I hadn't seen it myself at the time, but I had to watch it when I heard about this:

Cece: What's your stripper name? Jess: Uh, Rebecca Johnson. Cece: Your stripper name is Rebecca Johnson? Jess: Boobies Johnson - Two Boobs Johnson.

Johnson/Johnstone - whatever. But no, no, no. My name is not a stripper (or porn) name!

Isn't a porn name meant to be the name of your first pet and your mother's maiden name? Something along the lines of 'Trixie D'Honey' perhaps, or 'Smokey MacKenzie'?

This is where I mention that 'Johnstone' is my married name. Not my real name. My name is not a porn name!

I digress.

So the first Rebecca Johnstone who is not me (and is not just a LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile), is a trainee solicitor. I'm pleased with that. I feel an affinity. Whilst studying law she volunteered at the National Centre for Domestic Violence and was involved with the charity for her second and third year. I'm cheering and clapping. I am also very passionate about charities that help and support women experiencing domestic violence/abuse. I feel even more affinity.

And she graduated with distinction.

Other Rebecca Johnstone's who are not me include:

A textile artist/designer: Rebecca Johnstone has developed carpets and rugs for many bespoke interiors, both for public and private spaces. Her studio practice delves into the articulation of the intangible, alongside a love of the natural world.

Another kindred spirit.

Then there's the Rebecca Johnstone who runs a fashion agency:

The Dolls House N-Quarter IS OPEN A Unique Fashion Agency Featuring Independent Fashion, Make To Measure, Styling Service,' Ciate' Caviar Nail Bar & HD Brows

Interesting fashion connection. She likes fashion icons, style icons, and VOGUE magazine. And I like the name 'The Dolls House'.

There is another Rebecca Johnstone who has a Twitter profile stating she is a full-time athlete and runner. Err. Not me. Nothing like me.

But I suppose this is the voyeuristic, creepy version of the Dave Gorman thing, because I've not told any of these 'others' that I am doing this. I don't know them. I wonder if they have ever googled their/our name, and found me? Have you ever tried this?

Go on. It's fun. But first read Karen's experience of googling her name.

This is such a 21st century phenomenon.


Alasdair Gray @ Kelvingrove Art Gallery by daintydora

This week I visited the Alasdair Gray exhibition running at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Alasdair Gray Ticket & Postcards

'Pictures and stories were the closest I could get to the magic that might make me powerful and loved.'

Such an insightful quote from Alasdair Gray, describing his emerging interest in art and writing as a young boy.

His mother taught him that 'the gaps between people could be bridged with words and music'. I love that idea, because of course it then makes me think about 'the gaps'. Social gaps. Status gaps. Emotional gaps. The gaps between people.

I found Gray's art varied so much as the chronology of his works unfolded. Some seemed unfinished - the brown paper that Alasdair used 'because it was freely available and because it was cheap', was often left uncoloured, or as the skin tone for faces, hands and limbs. Many of the paintings are unfinished, or have been reworked/remastered, often with notes and dates of the reworking, like a diary entry (his handwriting is so neat and beautiful and art deco, in itself).

In some ways the unfinished aspect only adds to the vibrancy of his work; the art, real and brimming with the life that he so clearly immersed himself in and wanted to portray. Ordinary people in ordinary settings. Seventies prints. Detailed and fussy carpets, curtains, furnishings and backgrounds. Rooms festooned with the accumulation of life. Plants and vases and cushions and clocks.

In one particular work there is a girl at a piano and it is noted in the description text that Alasdair couldn't bring himself to paint all the detail of each of the piano keys, and yet, he'd done intricate work on the wallpaper, on the carpet, denoting the carvings on the wood of the piano, and on a painted dish. Painstaking repetitions. The fact that only the piano keys being played by the girl in situ have been marked out actually make their image all the more striking, as if the sound of their chords will be audible any second.

Many images held such detail that they invited commentary and discussion on what might be going on within them. The murals were particularly engaging with their industrial undertones (or overtones) of smoking towers and pylons and dark clouds.

The women had very masculine faces, and in the nudes, large protruding nipples. I particularly loved their hair, outlined in undulating waves and curlicues, and each face so full with emotion it drew you into the scene completely.

The image in the postcard above of the girl, haughty in her leotard [Two Views of Katie Mitchell, 1980], really resonated.

Marion Oag and the Birth of the Northern VenusThe sadness emanating from the girl above, [Marion Oag and the Birth of the Northern Venus, 1977], the patent boots and her patterned tights so well captured, made me feel empathy with her and her lost dreams or sorrow, of which I could only guess at. But the painting made me want to guess.

Much of Gray's work features a cat or cats, sleeping and draped about. The postcard top, middle, [Night Street Self Portrait, 1953 & 2006], to me features a cat roaming the streets like the 'black cat of death', omnipotent, prowling; a dark reminder of a fate that comes to us all. It could also be a dog or even a fox. The meaning is in the eye of the beholder. But the light/dark relief of chiaroscuro in the face is menacing and knowing, presiding over the scene as if in a modern-day graphic novel of crime and intrigue. The other colours only add to this sense for me.

I revelled in the details of the night sky and the moon and stars in much of Gray's work. Some of the skies could just as easily have been waves on the sea, and I loved the idea of the tide rolling in to a perfectly arranged West End living room.

Halfway through the exhibition there was a reference to a book called Dancing in the Streets by Cliff Hanley. I had to write down this fantastic quote:

There are prettier cities but few of them that I know have the seething cauldron effect that Glasgow has always had for me. Out of its horrible smoke-bleary streets it keeps throwing up jokes and songs and poetry as well as bloody murder.

And I couldn't agree more. Glasgow has always been an inspiration to me and it sets my imagination on fire everyday for writing, poetry, photographing, living, doing, seeing, drawing, experiencing all that the 'mean streets' have to offer.

'Glasgow is a magnificent city. Why do we hardly ever notice that?', observes a character in Alasdair Gray's first novel, Lanark.
Alasdair Gray TicketAlasdair Gray: From the Personal to the Universal runs until 22nd February 2015 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow


20 autumn inspirations by daintydora

I don't include many lists on this blog, despite writing many in my day-to-day life. But I do love a good list, and couldn't resist sharing my favourite autumn inspirations as we slip towards winter. Enchanted Forest

  1. Gingerbread (I know this is Christmassy too!)
  2. Frosty mornings. Beautiful and frozen in time.
  3. Fingerless gloves. Until it gets too cold.
  4. Crunchy leaves. The colours. The sounds.
  5. Patterned scarves. All about the scarves.
  6. Printed tissues. A treat. A shame to use them?
  7. Leather things. New boots, a satchel?
  8. Seeing your breath stream out in front of you as the temperature drops, though it hasn't really, so far.
  9. Conkers. Shiny. Reminding me of childhood.
  10. Berries.
  11. Making things. Being creative.
  12. Wool, stitches, sewing. The textures and the tangible.
  13. Pom-poms. So tactile.
  14. Books and reading as the nights draw in. Bliss!
  15. Freshly baked bread. The smell. The texture.
  16. Learning something new. Always.
  17. The changing landscape, magical, moving on.
  18. Staying cosy with blankets and slankets and throws.
  19. Candles. Scented or not. Church or twilight.
  20. Burning incense. Evocative.

Cosy Candles

Do you agree with these? What would you add?



Friday Diary: Memories, Gratitude & a Liebster Award! by daintydora

Liebster Award I like to blog, and I like to save and share things, and I have a good memory.

And I feel GRATITUDE, all the time, for the wonderful people in my life; guiding stars, family, friends, my online community.

So when all of these things come together, it makes for a very special day.

Imagine my delight then when I found out last week that my bloggy friend Michelle from That Summer Feeling had nominated me for a Liebster Award, a blogging award passed from one blogger to another, recognising a job well done.
When I read the beautiful words that Michelle had used to describe me, I was truly touched. It was so out of the blue and unexpected.

So now I'm going to answer the questions that Michelle has posed for me when she passed on this award:

1. What was your first job?

From the age of 13, I had a Saturday job cleaning chalets at a timeshare resort near where I lived. It was really hard work sometimes, especially if the people who'd been staying had brought a dog. Eurgh. Dog hair everywhere. Other times it was pretty easy. Each chalet was kitted out with satellite TV and it was like having your own little house for a day.

2. What is your favourite book and why (yes just one)?

Such a tough question. There are so many books that I love, but only a few that have truly touched me. I remember reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang when I was at university. It's a true story that spans three generations of women - grandmother, mother, daughter - during the Cultural Revolution in China. The scene below is so powerful because there was a time in my life when I didn't see my mother for two years, and so it really resonated with me:

My mother walked half an hour with me to the roadside and we sat down in the high grass to wait. The sweep of the landscape undulated with the gentle waves of the thick cogon grass. The sun was already bright and warm.

My mother hugged me, her whole body seeming to say that she did not want to let me go, that she was afraid she would never see me again. At the time, we did not know whether her camp and my commune would ever come to an end.

We had been told we would be there for life. There were hundreds of reasons why we might die before we saw each other again. My mother's sadness infected me, and I thought of my grandmother dying before I was able to get back from Ningnan.

The sun rose higher and higher. There was no trace of my truck. As the large rings of smoke that had been pouring out of the chimney of her camp in the distance thinned down, my mother was seized by regret that she had not been able to give me the New Year's breakfast. She insisted on going back to get some for me.

While she was away the truck came. I looked toward the camp and saw her running toward me, the white-golden grass surging around her blue scarf. In her right hand she carried a big colorful enamel bowl. She was running with the kind of carefulness that told me she did not want the soup with the dumplings to spill. She was still a good way off, and I could see she would not reach me for another twenty minutes or so. I did not feel I could ask the driver to wait that long, as he was already doing me a big favor.

I clambered onto the back of the truck. I could see my mother still running toward me in the distance. But she no longer seemed to be carrying the bowl.

Years later, she told me the bowl had fallen from her hand when she saw me climbing onto the truck. But she still ran to the spot where we had been sitting, just to make sure I had really gone, although it could not have been anyone else getting onto the truck. There was not a single person around in that vast yellow ness For the next few days she walked around the camp as though in a trance, feeling blank and lost.

Sorry that was so sad!

3. What makes your heart sing?

Love, music, bright days, losing myself in 'creative flow', ideas, dreams, big cups of tea!

A cup of tea with me!

4. What do you think is your best quality?

I think it would be empathy. I can empathise to the point of tears. This is developing into a bit of a theme, but I think it's good to be able to recognise, understand and empathise with others and the problems or issues they face. It's a great leveler. It keeps us rooted in reality.

5. If you could meet anyone and ask them one question, who would it be and what would the question be?

I think if I had the chance, I'd ask my Nana (who passed away when I was 13), what it was like for her growing up in South Africa. I'd love to listen to her stories again now, as an adult.

6. Have you ever been locked in somewhere, for example-I got locked in a shopping centre toilet. If so where was it and how did you get out?

I was temporarily 'trapped' in the ladies toilet once. It was at Hampden Park Football Stadium. I'd never been before and just wanted to wash my hands, so I hadn't even used the toilet. I didn't realise you came in one door and out from another door, which was on the opposite side of the room. It was quite a big space. I scrabbled for ages at the door I'd come in through, hoping someone else would come in and rescue me. They didn't. Eventually I called for help on my phone and it was all over the tannoy system that I was 'trapped' in the toilet, when in reality, I just needed to walk across to the exit. Not a great experience!

7. Do you have a pet(s). What did you name them and why?

The birds are my pets these days, but when I was younger I kept rabbits and guinea pigs and gerbils, and my Mum had cats. I was very predictable and called my rabbits: snowy, smokey and sooty. They were white, grey and black... My gerbils were called Salt and Pepper. One was white and the other was, peppery... My only excuse is that I got them when I was about 10 years old.

8. Who is your idol?

This is a bit of a cop out, but my idol - my idols - are strong women everywhere, confident, passionate, adventurous women, doing the things that they love and being proud of their achievements.

9. Flake or Twirl?

I want to say Flake, but it's just too...flaky. So it's a Twirl. And remember those 'Secrets' bars? I loved them, but I think it's because they didn't last long so it was a case of wanting something I couldn't have, or perhaps remembering it better than it was?

10. What is your best summer memory?

I like summer, but it isn't my favourite season. I do love the long, light nights, the bright sunsets, the warmth, the abundance of flowers and plants and their scents, and how everything just seems so possible. I think the summer memory that most sticks in my mind is when I moved from a rural village in the Highlands of Scotland to Glasgow, when I was 16. I remember it as an endless summer of sunshine despite all the things that were going on in my life. It was definitely my 'coming of age' summer.

Camellias in the garden

Summer Sunset

Those questions really made me think. Thanks again, Michelle!

I’m going to pay it forward now and nominate the following super-inspiring and unique bloggers for their very own Liebster Award:

Leaf and Petal: Karen is "an artsy crafter, vintage lover, button freak, gardener, reader, writer, chihuahua tamer, kid wrangler and beach dweller". It's such a fabulous description, I couldn't resist stealing it from her site! We have a lot of shared interests, and her blog and her style never fail to inspire me.

Mama Nourish: Lila is a certified food & wellness coach who writes beautiful, insightful articles and recipes on nourishing the body, family and spirit. I'm currently addicted to her A-Z of Happy and Healthy.

One thing at a Time: Tracey is a fellow crafter and multitasker who has recently returned from a 6-month world trip. I just know she will have some amazing stories to tell, and I love the premise of her blog: 'sharing the different creative outlets that are inspiring', and taking it one thing at a time.

Rare Pear Studio: Shani is indeed a 'rare pear'. Her artwork and photography take me to mystical lands. She is a talented painter, artist and creative force who forages, draws, collects, and inspires in abundance.

Sew Crafty Goodness: Deb blogs about crafts, DIY projects, healthy recipes, lifestyle goodness, design inspiration. I love her latest Snail Mail project!

Ladies, here's the questions I'd like you to answer:
  1. What, if anything, do you collect?
  2. What would be your 'auspicious symbol' in life?
  3. What is your favourite bird, and why?
  4. Tea or coffee?
  5. What's your favourite season?
  6. Do you dream in colour or not; do you remember your dreams?
  7. What is your favourite book and why (yes just one)?
  8. What makes your heart sing?
  9. What do you think is your best quality?
  10. Do you believe in synchronicity/fate, and if yes, share your favourite example?

Enjoy your well-deserved Liebster Awards, and I look forward to reading your answers, if you accept the challenge... x



Make do and mend: I saved a tea bag by daintydora

Everyone talks about make do and mend these days, and I think it's great to lovingly restore or upcycle an object, utensil, clothes, fabrics, ornaments, furniture. My husband has restored multiple vintage record players, analogue cameras and a typewriter in the last 18 months alone.

But has anyone ever saved a tea bag?

Tea Pigs Liquorice Tea Bag - sewn right up!

That's my question for the day as I think about all the things that get mended and upcycled and saved, and I think about all the things I personally have made, mended, saved or hoarded, just in case.

Tea Pigs Liquorice Tea Bag - ready to brew

I love tea. Everyone knows that. And I've got my husband into tea-drinking, big-time, with his own set of accoutrements - special mug, favourite tea bags. He adores liquorice and had a box of Tea Pigs liquorice tea bags. He loved them. (I hated them).

But then the second last tea bag literally came apart at the seams, and so, it was left in the bottom of the box. For a while. Neither of us wanted to throw it away. It just sat, taking up space on the shelf in an otherwise empty box.

The other day I fished it out and realised that if I took a moment to sew up the broken seam, he would be able to drink his last cup of liquorice tea, and it wouldn't be wasted, but greatly enjoyed. So I got a needle and thread and did just that, saving a tea bag.

It took less than 5 minutes, and I felt pretty chuffed with myself.

Tea Pigs Liquorice Tea Bag - ready to brew

And at first it might seem like a waste of time, miserly even. It's just a tea bag, after all.

But I think how you approach the small things in life can also reflect how you approach the big things in life. Isn't this a job worth doing? Would our grandparents have done something similar in times of hardship, like during the war? Just because we have abundance, doesn't mean we should abuse that wonderful privilege and waste things that can be fixed and used.

These tea bags are not your average sweepings up either, they are reasonably pricey in tea bag terms. Their pyramid pouches are like silk, and spacious enough to give the tea leaves free reign to roam. I sound like an advert for free range chicken. You get the gist.

And they reminded me of having a similar fancy-tea-bag experience in Prague, on our first wedding anniversary, when we had tea in a place called Cafe Pariz and I was obsessed by the beautiful tea bags. I thought I had a photo of that tea bag. I definitely took a photo. I can't find it right now.

But you can really judge a place by the quality of the tea they sell.

Of course, the new problem then became that having gone to the trouble of sewing up the tea bag, my husband thought it seemed a shame to use it. It sat there still, unused. So I took the decision out of his hands and made him the liquorice tea myself.

Tea Pigs Liquorice Tea Bag - used, enjoyed

In the Man Mug.

The Man Mug

That's love.