April’s Photo: There is nothing quite like the thrill of red spring tulips in the morning light.

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March’s Photo: I love the form of this succulent (Echeveria Elegans) and the grey green with touches of nipple pink. I especially enjoy the strange flowers that it produces annually that seem to uncurl and then grow upwards. There is definitely something primitive about it. These three succulents are in pots in my sitting room and remind me of our Cornish holidays as well of South Africa.

I found this artwork ‘Memory of a young boy’ at the Ashmolean so inspiring. It is ethereal and as I walk around, it disappears and all I can see are sheets of slippery glass. Each section of the mummy outline is drawn on a separate sheet of perspex and from some angles I can see the whole form but not from all perspectives. It made me think about faith in God and it all depends on what you look at. Sometimes you need to have faith and believe and EVEN when you can see nothing, you have to know He is still there. Just like the artwork – it was still there when I could only see the edges of glass.


What a privilege for my children to go to school in England with world-class museums around the corner – after 20 years in the UK, I am still savouring this fact. My youngest child was studying the Egyptians so off we went to the Ashmolean to go and see the real thing. There is an excellent permanent exhibition of mummies, funeral objects, sculptures and artworks. The stylised shapes and the forms of the crocodile god captures the essences and the cruelty of this reptile with minimal lines. I loved the concentration and interest of my daughter and then enjoying a hot chocolate together in the cafe. There is also the beauty of the Asmolean’s architecture to appreciate.

 

February’s photo: When I lived in Cape Town, this was the hottest month of the year however now it is so cold and bitter that I need to look hard to find beauty. But it is there. The barren sweep of countryside, the frosted teasels and the bare tree silhouettes against a dawn sky. There is always beauty to be found.

January’s photo: It was a nail biting month waiting to hear if my daughter would be offered a place at the school that we believed was the right one. I took the photo on the morning when I had just heard the good news and with much thankfulness in my heart. It certainly felt like a new dawn for a big adventure.

Towards the tail end of last year, I created dinky desk calendars as a gift for friends and family. Sometimes a scene whether intimate or dramatic is worth pausing for and reflecting upon. The photos in this calendar captured images that delighted and pleased me. It has also inspired me to share them on my blog along with their stories.

Private road1My brother says it is just a private road. But actually it is The Private Road. There is a sense of mystery and ominous foreboding as the long linear line of trees overpower with their shadows and their height. But we still dare to use it, openly by foot or bike and if in an emergency skulking along in a car. It feels like such a bygone route running parallel to another ancient route – The Ridgeway.

And I wonder where the path ahead leads as we wait on the eve of a new year. May you travel courageously and safely remembering to enjoy the journey and slow down to appreciate the views. Don’t always let the signs stop you either!

Much love to all, Tessa

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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During November we went to Wales for two long days of walking. And what a fabulous time we had especially as the weather was crisp and clear instead of the forecast of greyness and fog. We were walking above the clouds and the views were nourishing for the soul. Richard had his maps although we laughed as they were over 15 years old and paths had been added and full forests had grown up since he had them – I offered to scratch out and add in but we will most likely invest in a new map next time.

I returned to the fray revived and refreshed and looking at these photos reminds to see all problems and challenges in perspective.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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It was heartening that so many people missed the mini desk calendars that I produce. They are back… so enjoy the 2016 calendar featuring many of the monthly photos I have taken over the year. They make good stocking fillers, thank you gifts for hostesses or to enjoy on your desk depicting the beautiful (mostly) local countryside. They’re also perfect for posting as overseas gifts. The calendars are 95mm square and are within a small perspex box (a bit like a CD box) and you can buy them directly from me for £4.00 (plus p+p). Contact me by email tessa@casebase.co.uk.

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I’m not quite sure what the other school mums thought, but I didn’t care as I was having so much fun bustling around the undergrowth along the village bank taking photos and coming up close and personal with autumn. My treasures were complete when I found Toady. He was completely disguised amongst the leaves and his warty skin creates fabulous texture and just look at those golden eyes. Incidently, to tell the difference between frogs and toads look at their feet as frogs are webbed but toads have dear little toes!

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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If you are anywhere near Wantage in Oxford, do pop in to the Vale & Downland museum to see the Rope Of Words & Dance exhibition from 20 – 31 October. These two beautiful artistic books are produced by Lin Kerr, Megan Kerr and Christopher Ellott and all 14 illustrations from Rope of Words can be viewed. This exhibition will coincide with the Betjeman (not just) literary festival. Lin will also be giving a lighthearted workshop titled Scones and Scissors. Megan and Lin will also be giving a joint mother and daughter talk titled: Collaboration: Rope of Words and Megan is giving a writers’ workshop titled: Creative Writing Workshop on Magical Realism. So it’s all happening!

My mother interviewed my daughter about her recent business enterprise which draws out principles that are relevant to any small business, and I so enjoyed reading it on her blog, I thought I would share it here:

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My grandchildren have just started a business, and the complete business plan is in place. I interviewed Isabel who is 9½. I was inspired by her lovely packaging.

Decide on your product
Lin: I saw a box of eggs that Grampy bought and it had your and Nick’s names on it. How long have you been an egg farmer.
Isabel: Ummm we’ve had the chickens for two and a half months but they have only been laying for about a month.

Work out the details of your product
Lin: Tell me about your chickens.
Isabel:We have four chickens and their names are Willow, Maple, Tulip and Lime and they are Neros.

Start-up Costs – outlay
Lin: How much were they and how much money did you have to put into the business?
Isabel: They were £12.50 each and Nick and I each put £25.00 into the business.

Estimate running costs
Lin: How much do they cost to feed. How many eggs do they lay per week. How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: They cost Nick and I £6 every three weeks to feed them. Well, Mummy has three chickens and we have four, but we each pay half for the food.

Insurance
Lin: Are there any other costs?
Isabel: Daddy said he would insure them for the first year. Dad insurance works like this: We had to each pay £1.00 (a one-off payment) and then if they die in the first year, he’ll replace the chicken.
Lin: What about the hen-house?
Isabel: Mummy said the chickens can share her hen-house, so we don’t have to pay rent.

Estimate production
Lin: How many eggs do the chickens lay?
Isabel: They lay about one egg a day, sometimes we get three eggs and sometimes five eggs a day.

Estimate selling price based on recouping outlay and making a profit
Lin: How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: £1.40 for 6 eggs.
Lin: What about packaging costs?
Isabel: Our egg boxes are donated and I make the labels.
Lin: Have you got your outlay back yet?
Isabel: Yes and now we are making a profit.

Estimate labour time
Lin: What work is involved?
Isabel: I collect the eggs and feed the chickens on weekdays. Nick does it on weekends and cleans the hen-house every second weekend. Mummy cleans it every other weekend.

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Who is the target market? Building a customer base
Lin: Who do you sell your eggs to?
Isabel: We have three regular customers: You, and two of our friend’s mothers.
Lin: How do you promote your eggs?
Isabel: We have an honesty box with the eggs outside our house (passing trade) and we told our friends, and Mummy told her friends. (word of mouth)

Contingency Plan
Lin: What will you do if any of your chickens stop laying?
Isabel: Get rid of it. (Country children are rather matter-of-fact!)

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Well Done Isabel. I wish you and Nick lots of success.

And as you can see, these are the same issues we have to address ourselves…

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My youngest daughter loved her owl top and was despondent when she outgrew it. I squirreled it away and then on her birthday it reappeared as a cushion much to her delight. To ‘upcycle’ the top, I stabilised the appliqué with Bondaweb which is an adhesive that fuses to fabric when heat is applied so that it doesn’t fray. I then carefully cut out the owl design and sewed it onto a square of pre-washed denim fabric. (Always pre-wash fabric to reduce further shrinkage). I sewed the front and back of the cushion together and popped it over a pillow pad. All done!

This birthday had a bit of a theme as I also made my daughter a Union Jack pillow. It looks complicated but it made from strips of fabric sewn onto a large 60cm square of fabric including recycling old pairs of jeans. The possibilities are endless… my other two children have their own Union Jack pillows. Thanks Ali for all your inspiration – what a great friend. Titanium the cat is not a pillow, he is just so lazy he wouldn’t move while I bustled around taking photos!

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