Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magazines and Memory books

I'm the first to admit that i'm a magazine junkie. Interiors and Travel are my thing. I pile them up around the house and re-read and page through and then eventually I sit down and go through all of them and tear out the pages I want to keep.

Recipes. Inspiration pages for art and paintings. Inspiration ideas for interiors. Articles on places I want to travel to.

When I was a little girl my grandfather used to pass on all his old magazines to me and I spent hours cutting out pictures of movie stars and Royalty to glue into my special scrapbook. Not much has changed - I am still cutting and gluing but it's a way of relaxing, being recharged and inspired by images and something new. I like being organized about what I keep and where it goes so it's there when I need it.

There is the huge yellow recipe book with rough handmade paper full of handwritten family and inherited recipes but also all the pages I tear from magazines, so everything is to hand - a collage of food written and glued in and anything goes.

I have had flip files for years with pages of interiors - images of Spanish tiles and dappled entrance halls. Adobe walls and aloe gardens. Over the years some pages have stayed, others have been replaced when they got outdated. The files are ever evolving but always full. I love paging through them on a quiet evening, glass of wine in hand ... they take me to faraway places in my head and remind me that my dream house can take many forms.

I have a folder for travel too - one day when I get to go to Bali or Italy or Morocco, or to the out-of-the-way hidden gems I have been collecting, I'll have all the info I need to hand. Not to take away from the adventure of discovering for myself but just to know which way to head.

And then there are my sketchbooks where I draw and stick and keep all the little gems I find along the way - ideas for colors and faces and the work of other artists i aspire to.

I love Pinterest because it's the same idea - just online - a wonderful way to collect and be inspired and share. I don't get enough time online but maybe it's just as well otherwise I'd be on there all day !

With all this paper collecting and keeping, how could I not do the same with our family photos. Nowadays it's all online - we have our photos in iphoto or somewhere on our computers or maybe we upload them to Facebook or Flickr but it's not quite the same as sitting with a photo album on your lap. When we were small my mom made us each our own album - just one - with photos from when we were babies all the way through school. Sometimes our class photo from school was the only photo for a year, or maybe some from a birthday party, but it's a wonderful way to preserve time passing. I loved that we each had our own, all 5 children of us. 

I started a memory book for both my kids when they were born. I have a small cardboard box for each child and throughout the year I throw in bits and pieces to use for the memory book when the time comes. A year's worth of anecdotes and birthday cards, scraps of drawings or tickets from the zoo. I just throw them in as I get them and throw out the ones I don't end up using. 

I buy a 12 x 12" scrapbook but don't do conventional scrapbooking inside. I print out my favorite photos from the year, usually by month as that's the easiest and make sense for the kids when they go through them later. I print them out (yes, the old fashioned way) - usually in a batch of folders for the whole year, on a CD and at my local pharmacy. Then the fun begins. I allocate pages for the year, some months where lots happened get two or three, others just one. I have fun choosing background papers and stickers and really just make collages with all of it. It's a messy fun collage format which takes a lot of pressure off making perfect pages, and also allows me to add all the bits and pieces which hold memories too. I like the fact that it's one book for a whole year - it makes me choose only the best images and stops me keeping too much. It's also really quick and easy, I can do a whole memory book in a few hours. So for once a year, that's not bad going and the memories will hopefully last them a lifetime.

My kids love them. LOVE them. I cannot tell you how many times they have pulled out one of their books and begged us to sit with them and talk through the photos and memories with them. Or the times I come into the room and find them paging through together. When my son is sad he sometimes sits for an hour and remembers friends and good times we have had, and then it's all OK again. 

I said all along that the scrapbook format books were only till after the first year of Kindergarten, after that it's online books, which is what I use for our family albums as well - again, just one a year. Shutterfly has some fantastic formats to choose from - you can use their templates or make your own. I love that you can work on an album online for weeks at a time, at your own pace, and only have to order it for print when you're ready. It can take a month or six, no matter. They have some really great ways to customize books for your own layouts and design ideas. 

And one of the best ideas I have seen on their site is a large scrapbook layout for kids artwork (Photo books, kids section, Mini Masterpieces). It's hard keeping all those gorgeous masterpieces in a big folder, or having to throw them all out over time. Even if you take photos of all the drawings and craft projects and paintings, what do you do with those ? This is a great idea - you can upload all those images and make them into one beautiful book with none of the clutter and bits of glitter falling off (although of course there's something to be said for the originals too.) I have been keeping a huge folder of artwork but now with the move I think I am going to make an online book and will just choose a few of my favorite pieces to frame for their rooms, or create a kids art gallery down a passage somewhere.

Right ... off to start choosing the photos for my 2011 memory books just in case my computer gets a wobbly on the long road to Texas and something gets erased or lost ...

Happy memory making and have a lovely weekend.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Red Shoes and new beginnings

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes which you haven't quite been able to let go of ? Maybe they're the high heels you wore to your high school dance ... the shoes you danced in on your wedding day ... a pair of hiking boots or favorite flip-flops.

I have a pair of red Doc Martins ... not the heavy black lace-up types I always wanted in my post-student days and maybe not the coolest ... but they have been with me through some of the major adventures of my life and they're still in my cupboard, sometimes still worn ... still my most comfortable shoes for days walking the sidewalks of Manhattan or going sight seeing in the winter.

These shoes walked the pathways of Rhodes University, down from the art school on the hill and into town to the digs I shared - crazy Thompson street with all its memories of candlelit nights in the garden, long chats under the moonlight and gold sparkly dresses ... paintings and cooking in the tiny kitchen and two of my best friends as housemates. The same shoes trekked all over town during the Grahamstown Festival when our house overflowed with friends and strangers, makeshift beds sprung up in the living room and every inch of spare space claimed ... gl├╝hwein and long evenings ... plays and exhibitions and deep discussions over beers in the cold night air ... a cat followed my cousin home and stayed for a few months, leaving treasures he had caught for me in the very same shoes.

They went with me back to Durban and took me out to dark nightclubs and the lighter trendier ones. Walked me to work every day in the winter. Held me up when my heart got broken (again) and I thought I could not take even one more step. Took me to Joburg for the interview with the British Embassy and the terror and joy of my first international flight, alone, to London. Just one suitcase and a whole new life beginning.

They wore tracks in the pavements between Notting Hill Station and Portobello Road .. early mornings and after work ... past the funky boutiques and antique furniture shops ... rows of colored houses with their bright front doors. Outside the shop at our market stall on Saturdays, meeting tourists and travellers and seeing a whole new world unfold before my eyes. Long days spent taking orders and working with  gorgeous artwork, seeing it transformed behind a frame. Smoke-breaks outside the back doors, in the mews ... so much laughter and living. They moved with me from Bakerloo to Wembley and down to Fulham to the house with the movie-poster kitchen and my room just big enough to fit a bed. But what a view and the pulse of London. Big cups of tea after work and drifting down the road for dinners and nights out. Day trips and weekends away.

I owned the same shoes when I met the man I was to marry. He called them beetle-crushers and the name still sticks. They stood in after my favorite black high-heeled boots got worn out on a early morning walk home from an Oxford Street jazz club all the way to Fulham. Great company and lots of laughter and we just never saw a night bus and so we kept on walking. Until my heel broke and it was almost sunrise. Red Doc Martins to the rescue. All the way through the days of new romance and moving in together, our first flat in Earlsfield and new adventures.

Being married and moving out of London. Setting up home and figuring out what i wanted to do when i grew up. Moving again and starting a new career. All through the same shoes in my closet. Buying our first home. Falling pregnant and becoming a mother. My feet grew a size after that but my shoes they still fit. A little like the magical travelling pants.

And then a move across the ocean again to New York. My first winter here the shoes took me apple picking and we carried pumpkins home to decorate for Halloween. They crunched fall leaves and walked in the snow. They figured life out on a new continent. They went to classes with Hayden and playdates. They were there when I made new friends. Gingerly and slowly, but so gratefully. They explored the sidewalks of Manhattan. No pavements here. They stood in awe in the Museum of Modern Art. They wandered around Central Park. I wore them when I fell pregnant with Lexi and when my feet grew another size again, they still fit. They drove me down to Philadelphia for my first ever art course and painting that day with Flora made something wake up inside again. Now they are decorated with green splashes of paint. Kind of how they should be, being my shoes.

These babies are not glamorous high-heeled strutting-their-stuff kind of shoes. They are solid and comfortable and have stood the test of time. They are probably not really what women my age should wear - not sophisticated or elegant and certainly not feminine. But I love them. Love the fact that with all the changes in my life, of all the things to have carried with me it is these shoes. Oh the miles they have walked. The stories they can tell.

Now they are off on a new adventure ... the reason for my blogging silence of late. I couldn't write about anything else when there was so much going on in my head over the past few weeks ... such big decisions and so many backwards and forwards and yes and no and maybe and absolutely not. And then a yes. 

In the next few weeks my shoes will be packed in a box and shipped off to my new home in Texas in July, for we are moving. Another state. From what everyone says, it may as well be another country. Apparently some would like it to be. It was a heart renching decision - to move again now that we are so settled here, we have our friends and the kids are settled and happy. But it's about so many things - a new opportunity, a better balance between work and play. About hope. More sunshine and longer summers, and we love the heat a bit more than the cold. Well, mostly. Am I nervous ? Yes. But also a little excited. A new adventure. And my shoes, they just love the challenge of the unknown. New sidewalks, new roads, new paintings, new stores and new playgrounds. Maybe they'll be in semi-retirement because it's warmer and flip-flops will be the first thing I grab. But on the colder days of winter you will find me walking walking walking in a flash of red. I'll keep you posted on our adventures as we go.

Here's to the adventurous spirit in all of us ... and to new beginnings and old red friends.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rainbows and rain storms

Sometimes things felt really jumbled and black inside and it was hard to figure out which way to go.

She tried to make sense of it all and find her way forward, tried to make brave choices and not take the safe path. But sometimes it was SO hard and she didn't know if she could do it.

One day she was driving and told the universe that she REALLY needed a rainbow right now. They had always been signs made just for her and when she saw them she felt encouraged and lifted, a secret message from God. In all the years of living in this city she had never seen a rainbow so she knew it was a lot to ask but the rain had just lifted and the sky had that purple glow and if ever there was a rainbow needed, or possible, it was now. She drove some more and no rainbow. In a huff she got to the grocery store and stomped around the peas and grapes, storming inside. Fine. No sign. Nothing positive at all. Maybe she should buy some chocolate. 

And then she walked out the door and there right in front of her it was, stretched right across the sky. A beautiful rainbow.

All the questions were not answered and she still had to be brave and keep her chin up and facing forward, but that rainbow made all the difference. It made her feel that everything was going to be OK.
And suddenly the jumbled black feeling inside went quiet and turned all peaceful and yellow. The rain was gone and she went walking in a rainy forest, able to see the light sparkling on the wet leaves again.

There is much to tell but today i need to go off on a little adventure, all on my own with my suitcase packed. It is hard to go but there are things to be done and I'll be writing again soon soon with more stories to tell. New buds are blossoming and the feeling inside is a little on the side of pink.

Wishing you a weekend filled with yellows and bright rainbow colors.


All drawings courtesy of Lexi and Hayden - thanks guys (not that they had a choice) !