Reasons to be greatful: a morning of rain

It’s been so hot this week and it turns out that it’s quite difficult to cool down our flat when the sun is out. I really struggle in warm weather as I get light headed a lot and find it difficult to concentrate. I have not done much art this week, but I have done lots of extra sleeping.

This morning when I woke up I could hear the rain against our windows and the air was significantly cooler. Our cats have been having a nice time this morning looking out of the windows into the rain.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Reasons to be grateful #5 – walking in the woods with my best one

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One of the things I’ve been doing with this blog over that last few months is trying to keep track of some of the things I am grateful for, following this post about gratitude. I thought it would be fun to build up a little collection of doodles to capture these. Finding the time to do this has been a bit challenging, but I have enjoyed thinking about what to draw.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had some unpredictable weather here in the UK, swinging rapidly between spring sunshine and flurries of winter snow. We’ve been lucky enough to have time to go for 2 really nice walks in the woods, in between the snow showers and rain. I find being in the woods particularly relaxing and refreshing, and love the curving unruly forms of nature. A few weekends ago we came across some beautiful mosses, which were intricate in form and all kinds of vivid greens.

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My fiancé (still getting used to calling him that) frequently have our best, most thoughtful conversations while out walking and not distracted by other things. It is often in the woods where we discuss what we would like to do together in the future, or scheme to create a joint project. So I am grateful to have that time and space with him whenever possible. I also find that when I am walking I have some of my best ideas. I think there is something about the rhythm of walking that may make different connections in my brain in comparison to just sitting in front of a screen or with some materials. So I am grateful for that different kind of ‘head space’ too.

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Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Sunday Doodle

We’ve just got back from spending the weekend in Brighton (UK). It’s one of my favourite places. I like that the city has a visible artistic community. I like the Victorian heritage visible in the architecture of the beautiful train station and the many of the features on the beachfront. This time we also took advantage of a number of the vegetarian and vegan restaurants and ate some really yummy food.

This week we’ve not been doing very well with the vegan food. I’m actually glad that we’ve slipped up as much as we have because I’ve been able to track how different I feel when I’m eating more meat and drinking more. I’ve certainly felt a lot worse this week, and have also felt a lot more anxiety this week too. Some of that was work related, but it’s a good reminder of how the mind and the body are not separate, isolated entities. After a number of delicious vegan meals out in Brighton this weekend, I feel like we’re getting back on track for healthier eating this week.

Veganuary: the story so far

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Regular readers (hello!) will know that we’ve been giving veganuary a try over here at the Magpie Nest. I don’t have any plans to become a food blogger, my main interest here is exploring creativity and wellbeing, and other things related to that. I did, however, want to offer up a few thoughts about the things I’ve learned so far about eating vegan.

There are a whole range of different approaches out there to vegan diets – we’ve been eating a wide range of things, both raw and cooked, including lots of different beans, grains, fruits, vegetables. Pretty much the least restrictive version of ‘vegan’ you can get. We have, however, avoided eating processed or ready made vegan meals, and have been trying to keep the ‘refined sugar’ down to a minimum. This is mostly because we wanted to use the time to experiment with different forms of cooking, not because we feel strongly about ‘ready meals’. We are also on dry January at the moment, so no booze. We’ve been doing research on nutrition to make sure we get enough of the things (there are lots of things). I particularly like this book by Jack Norris and Virgina Messina, who use scientific evidence to back up their advice (its American so UK readers will need to do a bit of research to translate the serving size suggestions). So, by following the above type of diet I have found:

I can eat all day. Seriously, I’m steadily loosing weight and I can pretty much chomp down on what I want at the moment, including lots of nuts and avocados. This suits me really well as I’m a bit of a grazer, but I can see that for some people this would not be ideal situation. It’s also likely to be related, in part, to not drinking this month, so I’ll see how that changes in February.

My sense of taste has changed. I’ve been cutting out refined sugar for a while now as I have quite bad sugar crashes. Now I find a whole range of foods, from red peppers to dark chocolate, taste much sweeter to me now. In fact I used to find dark (70% + cocoa) quite bitter, but now I can’t get enough of it. Which is good for my brain (well that’s my story anyway).

Vegan cooking is pretty yummy. We’ve been trying out all sorts of things in our efforts to make sure we get enough protein. So far this has been really enjoyable, and it has pushed us to be more creative and experimental. This in itself is a mental health plus for me. I particularly like sprinkling toasted nuts and seeds on soups, stews, curries and pasta which adds an extra crunch to the texture of what ever it is we’ve been eating.

My wallet is a little heavier. We’ve definitely spent less on food. I should add that we’ve not been eating out at all because of the dry January thing, which helps, but we are still spending less. We’ve stocked up on dried beans (which are cheap) and fresh veggies, and aren’t spending what we normally would on meat products (which is significantly less cheap).

There is a strange satisfaction in soaking dried beans over night. A while ago I blogged about how some aspects of my arts practice forced me to slow down, and this can be a helpful mental health thing. Shifting our cooking from things that can be thrown in a hot pan and served 30 minutes later to things that need to be soaked over night, washed, cooked and cooked some more has made us think more carefully about what we put in our bodies. This point resonates for me with this really nice post by Rumpy Dog on food and self care. Go read that.

I feel better. Physically and mentally I do feel better. Not perfect, unlimited energy better, but noticeably better. This could be due to the novelty of it all. We are supplementing things like B12, and eating lots of dark chocolate, which is high in tryptophan. Both of these things are important things for a healthy nervous system. So it could be due to that too. I’ve definitely been feeling less nervous, which is good.

Vegan doodles are fun. Expect more.

New project in progress: Poor Boyfriend


My boyfriend and I have had this quite long running joke now that he should start a blog called ‘poor boyfriend’ because he does a lot of things that free up time and space for me to be creative, like chunks of the house work. I’m probably a bit challenging to live with, given the old artistic temperament and my love of indulging in childish and playful things at times that aren’t always that well chosen. He’s also super tidy and I’m…. not. The concept was a kind of diary from the point of view of a rather put upon boyfriend living with a ‘creative’. I really like the idea and think it could be turned in a little series of animations, which would also give me a reason to get familiar with another aspect of the creative softwear I am paying a subscription fee for and totally underusing at the moment. I’m thinking a little series on Vimeo or YouTube could work.

Here’s a little ‘poor boyfriend’ sketch for now. I’ve chosen a super simple style to make it easy to play around with the idea for a while before I settle on things like style, tone and mood.