Monday, October 9, 2017

Filtered water, no plastic

Years ago a friend gave me a small piece of charcoal for purifying water. She was using this centuries-old Japanese technique and got her charcoal from her Japanese friend. I was excited to try it out with a small bottle and research it, but then I never got around to actually getting started on a bigger scale and buying more.

This summer I visited her and saw that she had taken it to another level by having two 5-litre Kilner dispensers of water with charcoal on the windowsill above her sink, which provide enough water for herself and her two children each day. She had me do a blind taste test comparing purified water with water straight from the tap, and the former tasted so much better. I told John about it, and he promptly bought one of these dispensers, even though he was sceptical, but he likes a project and unlike me, he is a doer.

I then ordered binchotan charcoal from this website, and we said good riddance to our plastic Brita jug with its wasteful and expensive filters - the jug was relocated to the potting table in the shed to use for watering plants. Each night we pour any water we haven't used into a glass jug and refill the dispenser with fresh water, so it is purified by the next morning. After three months you reactivate the charcoal by boiling it in water for ten minutes, and after a further three months you recycle it (there are various uses for old charcoal, from deodorising to gardening), so the sticks last for six months. We use three sticks (each approximately 12 cm and long and 2cm thick) in 4.5 litres of water.

Apart from all the above benefits, it is aesthetically pleasing - I never liked the look of the plastic jug sitting on the counter.


Two new-to-me songs I added to my playlist this summer:
"Going home (Mythical Kings and Iguanas)", a strangely haunting song by Dory Previn, which was another late-night-radio-while-driving discovery

"A Rose for Emily" by The Zombies - I found this via the podcast S-Town, which I binge-listened to while painting rooms

Friday, September 29, 2017

Two cats

Last month, through sad circumstances, we became guardians of a 13-year-old, semi-blind, semi-deaf cat, for an unknown duration. We quickly fell in love with her. She teaches us mindfulness, as John puts it, since she moves in such a slow and considered manner, and it is lovely to have an animal sharing our home.

The day we were asked whether we would look after her we were hanging out with the cat in the second picture, whose portrait I posted to the cat-parents this afternoon  - a precarious walk along the prom to the post office in a gale that turned the parcel into a wing and lifted my dress (after all this time I still have not learned to dress for the weather). I got drenched - the parcel was waterproof, thankfully - but by the time I reached home, the wind had dried most of my clothes.

Usually I do not post pictures of commissions online before they have reached the recipient, but I am pretty sure that in this case they have no idea this blog exists; I never tell people about it.

This cat lives above a beautiful historic cemetery in London that includes the graves of William Blake and Daniel Defoe, so I had to use it as the background.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


 Three feet



1|  Pink shoes you can walk in for miles (because they are Ecco), to the pub and back, for example

2|  Alternating cooking and eating apples from the garden in this apple frangipane tart

3|  I have photographed the view from the kitchen window in this house and in my old place so many times, always with grand plans to paint the particular colour combination of sky-land-sea, and I have done the latter four times in all those years. Sometimes we are in the car on the way to work or home, and the bay is sublime, and I make a mental note to get the morning or evening light down on paper or canvas or snap a hasty photo. One day soon those scribbled lines of 'fuzzy strip of indigo above pale blue water, flat sky' will be translated into paint.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mapping time

When we were in Germany in June, John found this 1952 map of the Kattegat in the basement of my mom's house. It belonged to my dad, who died fifty years after this map was printed. He loved the sea and spent a good chunk of his life on the water. My mother was more than happy for us to give this map a new life, and we got it framed for our hallway.

I joined Spiddal library a few months ago and have been reading a lot of good books lately, from said library, from our own bookshelves, as well as new purchases, and quite a few of them about art. How to be Both was a gift from John, and it was such an immersive and affecting pleasure reading it. I loved Smith's reimagining of Francesco Del Cossa, whose disembodied voice narrates the first or second half of the book, depending on which version you have, the form of the book mirroring the exploration and reversal of the binary forces at play in the novel.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bubbles, chickens, cider

Blowing bubbles - sketch of my nephews

A summer holiday visiting our family tends to come with good weather and thus involves a lot of outdoor pursuits for my nephews, including playgrounds, the inflatable pool and swing in my mom's garden, blowing bubbles, listening to the church bells (much more active than it may seem) and visiting chickens.

We are thinking of getting chickens, so we were interested to see how my mom's neighbours keep theirs, and how they deter rats (supervised feeding of small quantities. There are more elaborate methods, for example a self-service pedal-operated feeder). We got a box of fresh eggs, a cucumber and a fennel bulb from the garden, and my nephew was given a sunflower for my sister.

This year my mom is successfully growing tomatoes out in the open, whereas our plants didn't take off, despite our polytunnel. But the potato yield has been high, and we regularly have meals with three or four different types of produce we have grown ourselves, which is immensely satisfying, though I cannot take much credit for it. Last year we contributed a few boxes of apples towards a local cider-making project, and this summer a few bottles of the result appeared on our doorstep.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On the easel | Three starts


1 |  A mini painting in preparation for a larger painting I want to do of Furbo beach

2 & 3 |  Hydrangeas (work-in-progress) for my mother-in-law, who is a wonderful gardener and was tempted by a print of pink hydrangeas a while ago, so I decided to paint some from our garden for her

4 |  A Full Table (John at the Kitchen Window), work-in-progress, though I quite like it sketchy like that

I got a commission framed this week that I cannot show yet, as it will be a gift, and while putting the finishing touches to it, I started the kitchen scene above. This is how I want to spend my time, and in these August weeks I am doing at least a little of what I thought would be my summer. Instead there were other commitments and a stream of (very welcome, I hasten to add) visitors, and together with housework, gardening and general day-to-day happenings, my time in the studio dwindled to windows of an hour or so snatched here and there.

It is so freeing to paint with no agenda, whatever takes my fancy. With all the space we have in this house, I have been thinking of going bigger and perhaps bolder. In a lovely act of synchronicity, a woman in my class gave me several large canvases she has no use for, which was so kind and generous of her. They are leaning against a wall in my studio, beckoning.

Friday, August 11, 2017


1|  The view south - a new neighbour and blooming agapanthus in our garden

2|  We combined a long weekend in London with a trip down to Lewes to visit Charleston, which was wonderful - more on this soon. I came away with Angelica Garnett's memoir and this card with the dog Duncan Grant painted below the window of what was originally Vanessa Bell's bedroom, to protect her at night (above the window he painted a cockerel to greet her in the morning).

3|  Roger, a dog made by my talented sister for John. He is tartan on the reverse and lives in John's reading chair.