So apparently these are the best nine images on my Instagram account for 2016. I guess that’s one way of looking back on the year.
To be perfectly honest though, I’m glad to see the back of 2016. There are so many things that can’t be shared via a pretty picture (or that we choose not to share!). What stands out for me when I look back is an overactive mind frustrated by an ‘under active’ body. Much of my focus this year went to dealing with severe adrenal fatigue and related complications. A major requirement was to relax more and reduce stress. For someone who has always thrived on being busy with many different things, this is challenging!
And yet there where still so many good things in this past year! God carried us all through another year. I am deeply thankful that He gave me a husband who encouraged me through the tough times and helped me to do the things that were good for me. He was patient through all the frustrating moments, as he experienced me fighting against the challenges placed on my path. I was also blessed with many very dear friends who helped to carry me through this year – putting up with my frustrations, providing listening ears and encouraging me along the way.
As far as my artmaking goes, highlights from this year include making botanically inspired art quilts with my daughter Hannah’s class, the annual Armadale Hills Arts Trail, participating in the Illustrating Children’s Books workshop, and creating a very special custom childhood textile portrait.
I have no idea what 2017 will hold. If God allows it, I plan to teach at the Quilt Symposium in Christchurch in October (more details will follow in a separate post. Other than that, I hope that there will be faith and health and quality family time and faith-building relationships and of course, drawing and stitching and creating in between it all! And I especially hope and pray that it can all be done to God’s glory!
Thank you so much to all of you who have shared in my journey here over the past year. The fact that you take the time to read, comment and enjoy means so much to me. May God bless you richly in 2017!
And for the cost of a simple but absolutely delicious lunch at The Beer Farm, the kids spent a couple of happy hours on this water slide! Simple fun!
Now to ease back into home life… Well, after the last pile of holiday washing is done.
I'm currently spending a lot of time thinking about which way I want to go with my artwork (subjects, style, size, price range, exhibitions or publications and much more). I've also spent a lot of time de cluttering my studi and my art-related computer files.
As part of all this, I put together an image document of all my completed art quilts in roughly chronological order (and very roughly to scale). It's helpful for me to see how my work has developed, as well as to think about which artworks and which elements I am happiest with. And visitors to my studio and exhibitions are very often interested in how my work has progressed through the years, so I thought I'd share the images here too. The first two quilts shown here were made in 2006.
While I'm not done with 'analysis and future planning' (doesn't that sound official?!), this exercise has already confirmed a few things for me. I still love using the cotton-linen blend fabric that features in the background of many of my newer artworks. I also still absolutely love the quilts that simply feature leaves. Although they are not as challenging to construct as the childhood pieces, I always love how they turn out. However, I think it might be time to tackle some eucalyptus blossoms again (you all love them so much!).
The childhood artworks don't sell as well as the botanical pieces, but I love the joy and challenge of creating those, so they'll be here for a while still, and hey, I need to make the most of the busy little models that live here while they are still little!
Creating the larger artworks is so much fun, because I can tell a much fuller and more complex 'story' with those, but I also realise that the large pieces are out of most people's price and space range. When I look at the artworks that remain in my studio, compared to those that have gone to new homes, I still have a lot of the larger childhood pieces left, so maybe I need to restrain myself a little when it comes to those. Or maybe I will just say 'who cares, let's just have fun making them anyway!'. Oh, the decisions and dilemmas, but, oh, the possibilities!
I am grateful that my dear friend had the courage to refer me to the fit2b website when she learnt of it. Anyone who knows me in real life will know that I always have a 'mummy tummy' ( in other words, I always look five months pregnant even when I'm not). For many, many years I have been asked at least once a week 'when are you due'.
I have known all that time that something wasn't right w.r.t. my tummy, but the only response I ever got from midwives and doctors was 'well, you've had a baby/two babies/three babies/etc'. So I pushed on with life, and exercised hard, including running. I tried to research tummy support for running, because I knew that, although my pelvic floor is strong, my tummy wasn't 'holding itself' as well as it should.
Discovering fit2b and the Tummy Team has filled in the empty spaces that have been there for so long. I finally have a good understanding of how my core works. Although a mummy tummy is often due to a large diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles), my DR was not too big. My muscles are simply weak. I now also know how to build up these muscles all day long, and avoid activities which damage them.
Being pregnant again, I am particularly concerned with how weak my core is. Towards the end of my last pregnancy, I could hardly walk. There were muscles which simply wouldn't work anymore. I found out about fit2b about a week before I found out that I was pregnant – and I am so glad I did. My bump is already quite large heavy, and I am nervous about having to carry the baby for another four months, but having my new knowledge (and people to go to for help if new issues arise) is a huge comfort.
The two companies work together. Fit2b is an online fitness company. Taking out a monthly membership gives you access to 70 or so online video workouts that are all tummy-safe (none of them include exercises that damage your core. Starting with very basic workouts that teach you how to engage your core, the workouts cover all levels of fitness.
If you have a larger diastasis recti, or a very weak core, fit2b will refer you to the Tummy Team for core rehab. I am currently completing a 6week prenatal core rehab program (online) with the Tummy Team. I have learnt so much about how our core was created, and how to heal it and care for it. I wish I'd known all this years ago.
Both fit2b and the Tummy Team credit God as the Creator of our amazing bodies, and stress the importance of our core as our God-given girdle, and how we were designed to be able heal. (Many women have been able to heal their core with these companies, where the doctor's only suggested solution was surgery.)
I could go on all day about the things I have learnt so far, but will spare you that here. I just really wanted to share, on the chance that this might be a great help to someone who reads this. Do go and visit the two companies online. There is so much good information there! I'm not sure how different this pregnancy will be compared to previous times, and I don't expect to have a flat tummy after six babies, but I am confident of gaining new strength in my core – strength to help me in all the tasks that go with the territory of being mum for many years to come. I'm super grateful for what fit2b and the Tummy Team have provided for myself and so many others around the world,
The sewing machine is humming along. The kids are all playing happy so there's no interruptions. And if you can go for just a little bit longer, you'll get that bit finished.
Then you happen to glance at the clock and realise you should have started cooking dinner an hour ago. Or better still, you hear the garage door open and realise that hubby's home and it's dinner time already.
Please say that happens at your house too!? Here are five of my favourite family-friendly recipes for pulling together at times like this.
Grilled chicken, tortillas, yoghurt dip, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber (or whatever veggies you have available).
The chicken tenderloins are grilled on the BBQ (with a shop-bought spice mix sprinkled on top) while the dinner plates are arranged with a little bowl of Greek yoghurt, a dollop of fruit chutney and the cut veggies. The tortilla chips are made by placing the tortillas on an oven rack, spraying with a little olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and then baking until they start turning brown. When they've cooled off a little, I rip or snap the tortillas into wedges, perfect for dipping.
Hamburgers. I always have rolls and patties in the freezer, and patties are cooked in no time on our Weber. The whole meal rolls we use, along with the veggies we include, make this a reasonably healthy meal.
Mince, kale, cabbage, curry (pictured above) – in tortillas with Greek yoghurt, or fried with rice. (Or this version, which doesn't require meat). (I always have a pack of tortillas in the pantry, and usually have leftover cooked rice in the freezer too).
To make this, I shred the kale and cabbage (with my beloved monstrous chef knife!). I fry the mince till it's brown and crumbly, add some curry powder and the veggies. Try to cook until the veggies are just a bit crunchy still, but not soggy.
Pizza (we usually make our own base, but I always have a couple of pre-made bases in the freezer to pull out at the last minute if necessary. The kids love theirs with tomato paste, Italian herbs, mushrooms, bacon, pineapple and cheese, but we also have pizza with whatever leftover veggies we can find in the fridge. We've used leftover roast veggies, or some of the mince and kale mix from above, or sliced leek with leftover satay chicken. Yummo! If I have spinach leaves in the fridge I always sneak some of them in under the other pizza toppings.
Rice with butter and sugar (brown or white) – seriously! My kids love it. It doesn't happen often and usually only if Phil is not home for dinner, but I figure that it can't be worse for them than the average takeaway meal!
What's your favourite meal for pulling together at the last minute?
A new year… I usually like to approach it with plans, goals, projects and schedules, with a bit of an idea of how I would ideally like the year to pan out. Often I map out everything I would like to enter/apply for in the calendar year, how many artworks I would like to make every month, and the sizes I would like them to be… A bit obsessive perhaps… Last year I set a list of personal and art-related goals which I referred to regularly. It was a great motivator, and I achieved all of those goals (scraped in this week with the 5kg weight loss goal – woohoo!)
This year, though, I have no major new projects on the horizon and no clear plan for where I'd like to go with my artwork. The problem with the way I worked last year is that it is so easy to get caught up in feeling the need to make artwork to suit everyone else. Some want more blossoms, some want it more abstract, some want it more realistic, some want it more colourful, everyone wants it more affordable… and if I pay too much attention to all of that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and not sure where to go next.
To put things back in perspective I remind myself that my primary goal as far as my artwork goes is to make beautiful artwork to God's glory, and to share it with others. I want to keep that at the front of my mind this year, and spend time enjoying and absorbing the beauty of this world, and capturing what I can with my limited ability. I'm not sure how what that will exactly look like – more sketching, less sketching, more photography, larger quilts, smaller quilts? – but I'm looking forward to finding out! I hope you'll join me and share your feedback along the way!
So I think that my big challenge for 2014 is going to be about stepping down the pace a little and enjoying the journey a little bit more. That's not going to be easy for me – feel free to hold me to it down the track if I get a little carried away with projects and plans!
What about you – do you like to plan for the year ahead? Whether you do or don't, I wish you all the best for this new year!