Experiencing Loss

Experiencing Loss

This post is disjointed. It’s not a nicely packaged and smoothly flowing account of loss. That’s just not how it works. Even after 14 years. Nevertheless I want to share. This is not my usual type of sharing, but it’s something I really feel drawn to do right now. I feel a bit vulnerable!

I want to write ‘this is a difficult time of year for me’, but it feels like that’s what I should write knowing tomorrow is the anniversary of my mum’s death, but not what I actually feel compelled to write.

I’m starting to realise that what is in my head isn’t necessarily what is in my heart or in my body. Externally there isn’t much stress in my life right now, however these past few days I’ve felt the anxiety rising. Anxiety in my throat, buzzing in my head. I make the link that it must have something to do with 4 October, but I do that intellectually, not because that feels like natural inner knowing.

I think I’m still at this point of seeing and understanding my losses in an intellectual way, but slowly I’m working my way into the ‘feeling’ way. Which is fucking scary. But also exciting, actually. I get to explore the feelings I couldn’t when I was 15. Thinking about that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time!

Whenever I write my blog posts I want to help people. I want to use my experiences and learnings to connect with others. I like to structure things. Go logically from one point to the next. Draw conclusions. But this subject, I experience it, I have experienced it, but I haven’t got the ability to sum it all up nicely and serve it up to you. So the reason for writing is in the hope that just by sharing it, in its totally imperfect way, it will help at least one of you.

If you’ve been through such a profound loss, know that I know, know that others know. Each person and each loss is unique, but know that there is also a shared experience. And an experience worthy of sharing so we can feel less alone in our pain.

A Glimpse of Where I Live – London Love

London Love | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

While I was walking around my neighbourhood the other day I thought you guys might like to catch a glimpse of where I live! It never fails to excite me that I live in Central London. For the longest time it was my dream and the reality of living in this awesome city is every bit as good as I always thought it would be.

It’s great being able to enjoy the richness of the city, the culture, the sounds, the buildings, all the recognisable tidbits. I admit sometimes it becomes ‘just the place I live’ and I forget the magic, but then I’m on a red bus going over one of the bridges over the Thames with the sun shining over the water and the magic comes back in full force! And this is after living here for over 10 years, go figure!

So let me share with you some views I come across on a daily basis!

London Underground Sign | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Love the London underground. People complain about it, but comparing it to public transport in other places it’s actually amazingly efficient and well priced. I love travelling by tube, it never loses its charm (in large part probably because I no longer have to commute! hah).

Street Sign | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Street signs always remind me how close all the exciting places are! Lots of London landmarks are walking distance from where I live. Regent’s Park is only a 15 minute walk!

London Black Cabs | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
About 75% of the cars around here seem to be black cabs!

London Barclays Bikes | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
These bikes are awesome for easy quick trips. They work with a dongle that automatically charges you, so it’s as quick as just grabbing a bike.

London Red Bus | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Red buses are everywhere as I live near a public transport hub. Jupiter gets very excited about all the buses!

Practising Self Care

Practising Self Care | iris-impressions.com @rrreow

I want it all and I want it now! For years I was an extremely demotivated individual. Then I had a kid (and then another one) and I had some therapy and those things seemed to light something up in me. All of a sudden I wanted to DO stuff. And I have been doing stuff. Piling it on. I love having a busy life, being accomplished in all the things I decide to pursue, feeling alive and energetic!

I was getting away with this whole lifestyle for a few years. However, for about 2 years I think my body (and sometimes my mind) has been dropping some hints. I’ve been getting every minor illness under the sun (colds, stomach bugs, eye infections). First I blamed pregnancy while having a toddler at nursery, then I blamed lack of quality sleep with a newborn, then I blamed winter. Then I ran out of excuses and had to take a look at my life and think about the whole picture.

So I’m having a stern talk with myself and telling myself that it’s time to practise self-care! “Self-care?? What the hell do you need that for, just GO GO GO, you’re not allowed any rest or care! You need to do it all!” my inner voice goes. Through having this little ‘intervention’ with myself I’ve actually realised how hard I am on myself. How much I heap onto my plate and punish myself mentally when I can’t do it all, or can’t enjoy it all or when my body simply says STOP!

So I’m drawing back on all the peripherals. This has included a difficult decision to stop my violin lessons and to stop some volunteering I was doing. I’m really hoping to add these things back into my life when it is the right time. I’m going to be focussing on the three main areas of my life that are most important:

  • my kids/family (because LOVE!)
  • my art (because SANITY/FULFILLMENT!)
  • my business (because MONEY!)

Everything else is going to take a backseat for a while. I’m also going to try and add a lot more vegetables to our diets (when I’m feeling run down making home cooked healthy food is the first thing that suffers, which is obviously the opposite of what my body needs!) and add a daily walk to my routine. I’m also going to try more mental exercises to help my mind relax and be less GOGOGO all the time (that’s gonna be a toughie! I’ll report back on that one *wink*).

PS Interesting thing happened. I wrote this post a few hours ago and I’d been feeling quite down both physically and emotionally for over a week (ever since I got my latest illness, which was a triple whammy of tonsillitis, eye infection and cold) and ever since writing it I’ve felt SO much more positive! Wow!!

A Difference in Attitude

In my day job we’ve just done a small recruitment drive. As I imagine is the case with any creative industries jobs, we receive a lot (hundreds) of applications and therefore have to disappoint a lot of people.

The day after we received a few emails in response to the ‘rejection letter’ and something really interesting happened. We received one angry indignant email, one sarcastic email and one email “thanking [us] for the kind message”. All these people were sent the same email. It made me marvel that the same message could evoke such different feelings, such a difference in attitude between these people!

Then I recently read this recounting of losing her brother by Leonie Dawson. I marvelled at how she talks about ‘the treasures of the tsunami’. Basically the good things that come out of a painful experience. Similar to the first email we received, my reactions to difficult things in my life have always been on the angry indignant side. I had never considered that a different attitude was even possible, especially not with the most painful and difficult things in life.

I’m trying to insert this new attitude into my life. It’s not simply a question of ‘thinking positively’ (that suggestion can actually really piss my off when I’m in the throes of negativity!) but rather trying not to see things in black and white. Sitting with things a while and considering the whole picture, conflicting feelings and all.

It’s so valuable.

Sorry this post is a bit vague! But the thing that happened with the emails made such an impact on me, I was thinking about it for weeks, so I wanted to share this learning and I hope it resonates with you too.

Taking Time & Enjoying Life


Phew, February was a whirlwind of fun! We went on our much anticipated trip to the US. In one word it was AWESOME. Probably up there with the best holidays I’ve ever had. We flew to NYC and picked up our RV


We did a couple of days of the tourist thing in NYC and I met up with two of my highschool friends (bearing in mind we’re all from The Netherlands it was a bit of a coincidence that we were all there at the same time!).


We met up with Andrew’s family in New Jersey and some art supply shopping was done!

Then we drove south straight into a snowstorm (we knew it was coming, mind you).

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The RV was winterized (which means there is antifreeze in the water system, so you can’t use water), but the heating was working and the toilet was fine, so it was actually fairly comfortable in there despite the weather! Not so much so when we ran out of propane gas in the middle of the night and the heating went off though.. =p

After the snow we headed further south and stopped in Savannah, GA. The weather started to get a lot nicer. I really adored Savannah. The architecture is awesome, it’s got a great vibe and did a spot more art shopping!

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We drove down to Florida (which is where we wanted to spend the bulk of the holiday to take advantage of some warm weather!) and of course had to spend a few days in Disney! Call me crazy but I took my 2-year-old on his first rollercoaster.. and he LOVED it. We went on it 4 times (in the evening, no queues!) and he was so disappointed we couldn’t go on it even more times.

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We spent a lot of time in state/national parks. Our experience from our previous US holiday in California was that when you’re camping the campsites in the parks are much much nicer than commercial RV resorts. Pancakes were had several times (as well as s’mores! Of course!) and we saw lots of wildlife including alligators.

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We made a stop to visit a very special town called Jupiter! I don’t think Jupiter (my eldest son) had any idea he was in a place called Jupiter, but I think he’ll appreciate the knowledge and pics once he’s older. The place has an iconic lighthouse that is pretty much the symbol that represents it, so we had to get a picture of Jupiter with his lighthouse. We had lunch at a place called Dune Dog which I’d highly recommend. It’s like a beach shack (not on the beach though) and it has a great vibe.

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On our final day we went to Miami Beach where I had a cocktail the size of my head and we spent some time on the beach. Jupiter was very taken with the quad bikes that the beach police have. He was very shy but kind of grabbed my hand and sidled up to where they were. I mentioned he really liked the bikes and the police guy let him sit on one! No pic of that unfortunately as I didn’t have my phone on me.

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It’s tough going on holiday with two small kids (Jupiter is 2y9mo and Zephyr 8mo), but as long as you don’t expect to have a relaxing holiday it has the potential to be amazing. Having the RV was great for comfort and keeping busy with a lot to do meant we were always entertained and the kids were nice and tired by the end of the day.

I can’t wait to go back! We’re hoping to do Philadelphia/NY/New England/bit of Canada next time, hopefully around October time for the leaves, in a few years time.

So I hope you enjoyed being photo bombed! In art news, I have just updated the gallery with a lot of new pieces, mostly art journal pages I did in January. Or if you prefer you can view these on Pinterest.

2014-03-01-BePresent 2014-01-05-IFellAsleep 2014-01-06-Pages

I am extending the deadline for the giveaway for a bit longer to allow more people to enter. So if you haven’t already go enter the giveaway to win a FREE mixed media painting and tell your friends to enter too.

An Update

If I wait until I have something interesting to say I don’t think I’ll ever write another blog post. I should really set aside some time every week to write something.


He is now about 10.5 months and a real delight! Don’t all parents say that though? I’m not a big fan of other kids (lol I actually feel much more comfortable saying this now than I did in the past) but I absolutely adore Jupiter and could talk about him 24/7.

I’m glad I’m not a full-time mum though (it’s a mixed blessing). Being with a baby all the time is really tough and working full-time (from home though, so I see him a lot, which is great) allows me to have a much better mental balance.

We’re currently introducing a bit more of a routine for him. Mostly focussed around his sleeping at night and napping. He’s really at that point where he needs it (and so do we!).

He’s very chatty, although doesn’t say any specific words yet with any consistency (he may have said ‘dad’ a few times and ‘byebye’). He’s crawling like a trooper, SO FAST. He loves chasing the cat. He’s also pulling himself up to standing along the furniture and ‘cruising’. He can stand by himself for a couple of seconds at a time, so I think he’s well on his way to walking soon!


My violin playing has really gone up a gear. My friends and I had a little performance before Christmas where we played a few pieces we’d been working on and loads of Christmas carols to which the audience sang along. I was very nervous but it was lots of fun!

We’re currently aiming towards another concert during the Easter weekend and we’re playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It’s bloody hard! Having two lessons a week currently, plus trying to get in 30 minutes of practice a day. I’m really excited as I love this piece but also totally feel I don’t have enough time to really get it into shape.

It’s so nice to have a goal to work towards though, it really helps with the motivation.


Taking Jupiter to visit my aunt in Holland in a few weeks. Very excited about this!

Signed up for horse riding lessons again (I had to stop when I got pregnant). I’m on a waiting list though, so I have no clue when I’ll be able to start.

Playing a bit of Star Wars online. The single player aspect of it is very strong and immersive, which is good as I only have about 2-3 hours a week to play so it’s pretty much a single-player experience for me at the moment. I miss grouping up and raiding from back in the day when I played World of Warcraft a lot but I just don’t feel I have the time needed to invest in this, nor the desire to be honest. The biggest thing I miss is the people I used to play with. My WoW subscription expired a month ago or so and I don’t see myself renewing it. *small tear*

I am learning to drive!! Been taking lessons since September. I passed my theory test the other month and have my practical booked in about a month’s time. I’m nervous, but still have quite a few lessons booked to really brush up on everything and practice lots.


My son Jupiter was born on 8 May 2011! I was induced 2 weeks early due to a pregnancy related medical condition. Apart from the induction I had a natural labour & birth which lasted all of 1.5 hours (I know you’re jealous. Or if you’ve never given birth you probably have no idea what this means).

He is absolutely amazing and I am loving it! I know you’re kind of supposed to say that, and sure there are things that aren’t easy (breastfeeding for one) but overall it’s just so enjoyable. I really feel very fulfilled and like I have a new purpose.

Between taking care of Jupiter and working part time and THE LAUNDRY I have very little time, so rather than writing more I will just say it with pictures!

Birthday & Scan

Yesterday was my 26th birthday! I don’t get super excited about birthdays anymore, maybe that’s an indication of getting older hehe. It’s strange, in a way I feel like I never really experienced the ages 24 and 25.. I kind of still feel 23. And in other ways I still feel 15 and 12 (never less than 12 though).

In the morning Andrew gave me a birthday card with the most amazing loving message inside. We left work in the afternoon to go shopping for my birthday present! As an early birthday present I had gotten a place on the 21 Secrets course which is all kinds of awesome. So as the rest of my birthday present I wanted to get art supplies!

We went to Atlantis, which as far as I know is the biggest art supply store in central London. I had a few things in mind that I wanted to look at, but was also quite keen to just browse and see what struck my fancy. I think that’s so great about mixed media art, you never know what tools you’re going to use and you can potentially use anything. It’s very inspirational to just walk around the store to look at stuff and think about how it could be used.

I’m very excited about the things I got! I got:

Desktop Easel
I’ve never had an easel before and I’m really excited to try it out! The one I got folds up into a box which can also be used for storing some supplies. Really handy!

A3 Sketchbook/Journal
I’ve been keen to start working a bit bigger. I like working in a book, rather than loose pages, because of the cohesiveness of having a finished ‘book’ of art once it is full. It’ll be exciting to use this in conjunction with the easel and also try my hand at some abstract stuff (following one of the 21 Secrets classes).

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II
I always get some new colours whenever I shop for art supplies (I already had the tin of 15 and an assortment of skin tones and reds). I went for greens/blues/violets as those were colours I was attracted to and want to start using a bit more.

I got three sturdy brushes of a slightly bigger size than I usually get, to go along with working in the A3 journal.

Palette Knife
I thought this would be fun to have to apply paint/mediums to create different textures than when applying with a brush.

I love the aesthetic of brayering paint on my paintings. I already had one but it’s so big it’s hard to avoid areas I don’t want to touch (like a pretty face), so I went for the smallest size this time.

Acrylic Paints
I wanted to get some heavy body acrylics for Tam’s 21 Secrets class but unfortunately they were out of the colours I wanted (two different type of flesh-tones). So instead I got some regular acrylics in those colours. I’m sure I’ll be able to make them work for the class and they’re handy to have in any case.

Texture Medium
Or something like it, I forget the exact name. Basically an opaque gel medium to create interesting texture.

I think that was it! I’m so excited to start playing with my new toys!!

In other news, this morning Andrew and I went for our third ultrasound scan. Usually you only have 2 scans (that’s standard in the UK anyway), but at my 20 week scan I had a low lying placenta (where the placenta covers (part of) the cervix, which means you would have to have a c-section). It is fairly common for it to be low early on, and usually it will move up, but they need to monitor that to be sure. The scan went well and they told me my placenta has moved up. I am so happy and relieved!! Everything is fine with the baby as well. His measurements are pretty much average, although apparently he has long legs! He weighs approx 2.5kg at the moment.

We’ve got an appointment with my midwife this afternoon to discuss my birth plan. So very happy to be able to discuss a natural birth!

Iris’ Life Update ca Feb 2011

I find it hard to update regularly. Part of it is laziness, part of it is not knowing what to write about, but I think the biggest part is feeling like I don’t have anything interesting to say, or that people won’t be interested in what I have to say. I guess that’s a problem of self-confidence. So what I’ll do is I’ll make this an Iris’ Life Update ca Feb 2011, because that easily solves the problem of not knowing what to write about. The other ones I’ll have to work on solving.


Obviously this is the most dominant feature in my life at the moment. You know how once people get pregnant or have kids that’s the only thing they’ll talk about anymore? Well, it’s true. It completely takes over your life. Especially in the first few months it was all I could think about all day. I would obsessively check how many weeks along I was and how the foetus was developing, not to mention worry about all the things that could go wrong. The obsession is abating a bit now (I am nearly 26 weeks, or 6 months, or roughly two-thirds of the way through) but it gets replaced with more practical concerns like what do we need, how much does it cost, where do we buy it, where do we put it.

So far I would say pregnancy has been a mixed experience. On the positive side, I love being pregnant and knowing that there is a baby growing inside me. I love feeling the baby move, it’s really funny and touching. It’s like I always have company. I also think that because the baby is inside me and moving, I tend to regard it as more mature than an actual baby, it’s kind of hard to explain what I mean. I really like sharing the experience with Andrew and whenever he can feel the baby move it’s so special. I also love it when Andrew talks to my belly! It’s so funny and touching, makes me feel really loved.

The negative aspects of pregnancy are pretty much all physical at this stage and they fluctuate a lot from day to day. In the beginning (first trimester) there was the nausea and the tiredness. They went away around 3 months into the pregnancy and since then until about early January things had been quite comfortable. For the past month or so I’ve been experiencing quite bad back aches and I’m starting to get tired again. The tiredness isn’t so much from the pregnancy itself, but rather because I wake up about every 2 hours during the night, so even if I sleep for a long time, the quality of sleep I’m getting isn’t great. The back aches I’m doing some exercises for and taking paracetamol. The combination of the two seems to help although it fluctuates from day to day. I also asked my midwife to refer me to a physio, for which the waiting list is 6 weeks…. alright then.

From an emotional point of view there are a few things I’ve struggled with. Firstly, my growing belly and weight gain. It’s something I find incredibly hard to reconcile and know how to feel about it. On the one hand it’s awesome and a great source of pride. On the other hand it triggers a lot of negative feelings about my self-image. I’ve always been a fairly slim person (although I had a bit of a pudgy phase when I was a teenager) with stable weight, but at the same time that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about being fat/gaining weight/the way I looked. Although I have never been either anorexic or overweight physically, emotionally weight has always been an issue for me. So gaining weight due to the pregnancy affects the way I feel about myself and I guess I feel less in control. Currently I eat whatever I want and whenever I’m hungry, and my weight gain is about on par with what is normal. That doesn’t stop me worrying about it though =p

Secondly, the sex of the baby. Andrew and I were in agreement from the beginning that we wanted to know the sex and I never made a secret of the fact that I really wanted a girl, no matter how ‘politically incorrect’ that may sound. As an aside: sure you’re supposed to say ‘as long as it’s healthy’, but I find that a bit of a ruse, because it’s not like there is anyone out there actively hoping their baby isn’t healthy. I think it’s much more healthy from an emotional point of view to be honest about what you’re feeling, because whether you announce them to the world or not, the feelings are there and need to be dealt with.

So, I wanted a girl, which made me quite sure that I was going to have a boy (because that is how the universe works n’est-ce pas?). Andrew was really convinced we were having a girl. Turns out I was right =p So we’re having a boy, which is something I have really had to get used to. I still really want a girl, but I don’t wish this baby was a girl. Having a boy is emotionally complicated for me. Girls are much more firmly in my own comfort zone: I am a girl, I was raised by a single mother, I didn’t have a father figure or much exposure to boys/men. On some level I have probably always been intimidated by boys/men, because they were so very other. And I probably also passively got the message that women don’t need men, and that boys don’t need their mother. Having a boy triggers many more feelings of discomfort and insecurity in me. It is funny, but also reassuring, that all my friends who have had babies in the past 1.5 years (or are expecting now) also had boys.

Thirdly, going through this huge life changing experience without my mother. This is a difficult one, because as of yet I don’t actually really feel the impact of this. Of course it sucks in an ongoing way, but what I am most worried about is the labour and that is a big unknown. Although I’m sure the labour isn’t going to be a picnic physically, that is not what I am worried about (ironically, before I got pregnant it always seemed the biggest obstacle, why would anyone willingly push out a baby through their vagina? Insane – whereas now I’m worried about NOT being able to have a natural birth and needing a caesarean). As of yet, and I imagine until I actually go through it, I do not know what my emotional needs are going to be during labour. Of course I will have Andrew, which is hugely important to me, but he is not a woman, nor is he my mother. I have read Hope Edelman’s Motherless Mothers (a few years back I read Motherless Daughters) which has already been hugely helpful and actually made me more aware of the emotional issues that could come up during the birth (and afterwards, but that’s a whole ‘nother chapter for later).


Art has taken a little bit of a backseat the past few months. I think I go through phases, ebbs and flows of inspiration and creativity. It’s something I used to berate myself for, like I wasn’t allowed to feel good about the art I create (or wasn’t allowed to create at all) just because I’m not consistent and do it every day. I’m trying to let go of that feeling and just create when I feel like it, and not when I don’t.

I had the idea for Bird in Cage for a while, I did a quick sketch last year in a notebook, but hadn’t sat down to actually create it until this year. I used bits of greeting cards and letters that family & friends sent to me over the years as the background. Then I went over it with gesso and paint until I got the grungy textured background I was aiming for. The bird itself was done with watersoluble oil pastels. The cage was done with gold embossing powder. I love the effect of embossing, but it’s such a time consuming and fiddly job.

I’m currently working on a whimsy portrait on watercolour paper. I’d like to improve my shading techniques and generally get more comfortable at creating faces. I also recently worked a bit on the digital portrait I started last year, but I paid dearly for it the next day as it made the RSI in my elbow very bad.

I’m also working on a soft toy for the baby. It will be crocheted. The colours I picked are grassy green, bright purple and navy. It’s going to be some type of caterpillar-like animal. The yarn I’m using is quite thin and I’m using a 2.5mm hook, but nevertheless progress is quite quick. I just have to be careful I don’t overdo it with my elbow. I have until May to finish it anyway!


Still enjoying & taking lessons! I meet up with a couple of friends every Wednesday (they come to my place, lucky me!) and we practice together. It’s great, because if we didn’t do that I would probably get very behind. I don’t practice a lot by myself, due to laziness and tiredness. I definitely do want to continue with it though, as far as possible throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born. I think it will be nice (not to mention important) to have a few evenings a week to do stuff just for me. The baby enjoys music too! He tends to move around when I play, or listen to music or when we go to a concert.

World of Warcraft

Ahh the time sink and reason for all my laziness! I’m mostly kidding, I haven’t actually been able to play that much lately, but I have to say I am enjoying the game a lot more again since Cataclysm came out. I first levelled my resto druid who used to be my main during TBC and at the beginning of Wrath. I lost interest in the class during Wrath as the challenge was just gone. It’s slightly more challenging again, but once I hit 85 and was faced with the grind for gear and rep I just didn’t feel like it.

Instead I dusted off my holy priest. Holy priesting is SO MUCH FUN right now! The class really has a lot of abilities to play with. She’s about 20% away from lv85 and I actually look forward to getting geared up for heroics. On the side I’m also playing my prot pally a bit. It’s verrry different from what it was like in Wrath, but nice to have new toys to play with and re-learn things. It keeps things interesting.


Yes that’s mine!! And Andrew’s. We’re so incredibly super excited and happy! I’m currently 13 weeks and 5 days pregnant and my due date is 21 May 2011.

It’s actually starting to get good now. From week 5 to week 10 I was quite nauseous and incredibly tired all the time. Now I feel fine (although still needing slightly more sleep than usual) apart from feeling RAVENOUSLY hungry pretty much all the time! But it’s definitely preferable to not fancying food at all. Other people probably won’t notice yet but I’m starting to get a bit of a belly, my trousers are getting a bit tight. So are my bras, which I am SO not complaining about =p

It was also really nice and special to get a scan. Before my scan I was just so worried and anxious all the time because there wasn’t really any way of knowing whether everything was alright. I’m not sure what it’s like in other countries but when you get pregnant in the UK you get a LOT of information which include a lot of scary statistics. I’m one of those people who prefers knowledge over ignorance, but it’s very hard to keep positive in the face of so many statistics about stuff that can go wrong (especially in the first trimester).

We went on holiday to Holland for two weeks at the end of October to visit family & friends. Everyone was really happy and supportive. We went by car and actually managed to fit my old changing table (which was also my aunt’s changing table and possibly my mum’s) AND playpen in the boot. It’s like family freecycle haha. I love the idea of using the same furniture that my mum used for me when I was a baby.

On a completely different note, one of my art journal pages is featured in this month’s Art Journalling It’s All Good e-zine. I was really surprised and flattered when they asked. Getting a copy is only $5 and it’s filled with useful and interesting articles about art journalling, I really recommend it. Profits from the sales go to a good cause.