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Archive for the ‘eco-friendly’ Category

Allotment update

In about me, eco-friendly, garden, gardening, good life, сад, organic on December 12, 2013 at 12:35

Hopefully it is ready for the winter. I am not very experienced gardener but I love to experiment.  Lucerne and Alexanders are sown as green manure,  soil is covered by autumn leaves. 

Young broccoli and cauliflower plants plus salad leaves are covered by glass jars,  soda plastic bottles and some bubble wrap on top. As people say it in Russia, “голь на выдумки хитра” / “poor are inventive”.

My autumn sown Scorzonera is doing well. Apparently its young leaves make tasty salad and it is slug proof!

Some recent upcycled textiles

In art, color, crafts, eco-friendly, folk art, gypsy mermaid, jewellery, jewelry, mixed media, my artworks, textile, textile art on June 21, 2013 at 12:23



Back at the market table

In about me, art, car-free living, children, crafts, folk art, freedom, garden, gardening, good life, jewellery, jewelry, kids, mixed media, my artworks, painting, photography, relationship, sales, shopping, sketch, textile art, Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 at 09:46

So I did it again: for the third financial year I am loosing money (something like 67-350-250 £ a year). This is despite parting with a number of paintings,  cards and prints.


I am grateful to the people who bought the artwork from me but please be aware that it was local council,  public transport companies,  insurance companies, post offices and art supplies who really got your money: I had to pay them too.

Number of customers at the Market is falling. I only managed to cover my rent for December. The local library sent me a letter saying I have to pay 45 pounds if I dare to put prices on my paintings at my annual exhibition. I had it here for 2 years and earned 20 – 40 pounds each time…

I should admit that the thought of a big bonfire made of the paintings and sketches regulary burns in my mind. But I am not sure I ever can give up. All the money I have to spend on art are the leftovers from buying food and clothes for my family for which my husband gives me some money. I could’ve spent more money on him and kids. Perhaps I should have spent more time on them too.

All the housekeeping: washing, cooking, gardening, tidying and almost all shopping are my responsibilities which I have been partly ignoring for last few years in order to “be an artist”. And I am not even good at it. My conscience is not allowing me to charge sky-high for my artworks and anyway local people wouldn’t be able to pay any more. We haven’t got many millionaires in Newtown. I love doing art but the stress of trying to sell it and to please everyone is getting at me.

So I probably will only have a table on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Newtown Market, I also will exhibit some artworks at Galleries Live in Telford and Shrewsbury. I also will possibly participate in an evening art club at Pen Dinas Community Garden if it won’t eat too much time. But I really would like to claim at least some of my life back as my home, me, the family and the garden are not well attended at the moment. I used to read, write, exercise, do plein air trips and I want to try to go back to this.

Sorry for a bit of whining but I feel I should explain what’s going on – mostly for people who (I think) expect me to be something I am not.

Some thoughts on small towns’ centers decline

In 1990s, city, eco-friendly, good life, politics, powys, russian, shopping, traditions on March 24, 2013 at 08:52

About a year ago I went  to Norfolk and lost my gloves. It was bitterly cold, my hands always get cracked in these conditions so I went to several shops trying to buy new gloves or mittens. They look at me as they never heard about items of clothing like that.  Apparently they wouldn’t sell them till next winter…

Yesterday (deep wet show on the ground) I desperately needed new snow boots and, again, to my surprise, met the very surprised look. Fortunately for me a kind lady working in the shop went to storage and fetched some boots for me. Why there is attitude like that? It is often cold and still could snow in March and April, so why are they not interested in making money and helping people? I often feel that the economic trouble in this country is to some extent to do with apathy.

Many are worried about decline of Newtown  now. People don’t want to buy anything apart from bare necessities. Some blame supermarkets. But I am looking at my neighbours at the market and in the area – small business owners – and supermarkets have nothing to do with their struggle. Tesco don’t sell craft supplies, vine making supplies, handmade arts and crafts, etc. The lady who sells bread and eggs here always has customers despite all supermarkets sell similar food too. Supermarkets help people – me and the family, we wouldn’t survive without their cheep food, home deliveries and large variety of items. So don’t blame them, please. Don’t blame charity shops either – they actually help people on both ends. I lived through a crisis in Moscow in 90s without any charity shops and it was tough.

Because of insecurity people are very carefull about their shopping. And lots of shops are getting closed. But, think about that: who really needed 10 clothes shops in a little town? And mostly selling very similar items too. It is boom which was crazy – not bust. It is getting back to some normality now, in my opinion. People used to buy new items when the old ones were still perfectly OK and that was wrong. It is not realistic to hope for this situation to go on forever. It is not sustainable.

Rather than trying to compete with supermarkets and Internet, I think the town centers should become something completely different to survive. Shops and cafes should be truly unique. Rents should be lower. The council should also partly sponsor all sorts of local groups and clubs to have outlets here – making town centers the places where people came to socialize, not just shop. Benches to sit (protected from the rain) and more playgrounds would help too. More security against vandals, drunks and hooligans. After living in Moscow it surprised me how early everything shut down here – apart from pubs. Because of this town centers are not very nice place to be in the evenings. I don’t think this is right. Longer shop opening hours and the town not being completely dead on Sundays would bring more life on the streets. I think, it could be done, unless we all are just drowned in apathy…


I am CAR free and proud

In car-free living, drawing, print on March 17, 2012 at 17:32


In car-free living, eco-friendly, good life, nature, people, pets and domestic animals, wild nature on December 31, 2011 at 16:41

Once when me and kids went to school, other kids told us that a little girl, the sister of one of the pupils, just has been hit by a landrower. At the same time there was this story on the news: “Boy killed as car mounts pavement. An 11-year-old boy has died after a car mounted a pavement and crashed into a group of pedestrians in Bristol. The female driver of the white Ford Focus left the scene of the incident in Eastfield Road, Westbury-on-Trym, leaving the boy trapped underneath. A man was treated for minor injuries, while three other children at the scene were not injured.”

I’m sure there are lots of stories like this, with the double horror of families loosing their loved ones and somebody accidentally becoming a murderer. Kids do behave silly and even experienced driver can loose the control sometime.

Once we’ve all been waiting on a bus stop when suddenly a puppy ran into the road and has been hit by a car.

One day an artists gave me a lift to a workshop along a small countryside road. All the road was covered by killed rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes. I didn’t really felt like admiring “scenic road” she has chosen for me.


I should admit, I do often dream how great it would be if I could afford a car and we all could go to exiting places and never fly again. A good friend of mine once told me that she was really happy that she had started driving: it gives such freedom! Yes, but at what price?

Deep in the Forest

In car-free living, children, kids, my artworks, pencil on March 10, 2010 at 16:53

Two kids found a little house in the woods. I like making artworks which look like pictures out of a lost book or movie. And its up to you to imagine the story!

Deep in the Forest: a fairytale by Alexandra Cook
Deep in the Forest: a fairytale by Alexandra Cook

Big freeze…

In about me, car-free living, good life, kids, photography, shopping, traditions, winter on January 8, 2010 at 07:23

We have got a bit of Moscow winter this year. It was about -12 C last night. Heating and gas are still OK, but poor boiler works as hard as it can. We are only partly double glazed, big windows & thin brick walls, but this wasn’t a problem before, and hopefully won’t be again for the next 30 years… Iceland food delivery is frozen to death but fortunately I’ve stock up enough supplies just before the New Year.

I am really enjoying the weather but a bit worried about my subtropical plants in the garden. I covered what I could with juniper branches and snow. It is cold but sunny at the moment but I haven’t uploaded the latest photos yet. Maybe I even venture sketching till the snow melts.

Happy kids went sledging after school first time in their life (!) a couple of days ago – I used to do it almost every day in winter as a child. Other kids came to us asking how to slide down properly. I Moscow we either used our fur coats, or pieces of cardboard boxes, water-soaked and then frozen. In my mom’s time, kids froze a layer of water in a bucket, took it out and slide on top of this.

Here is a collage of kids in the garden. We are such a dynamic family that its impossible to have everybody in the picture at the same time!

I found very annoying that it is difficult to find proper warm clothes (socks, tall snow boots, a coat) for my son. Girls are OK, there is a great choice of stuff. Warm trekking socks of kids sizes ALL have something pink on them… Why couldn’t it be green??? And what about the size 3 boots? Its scares me to see lots of man and boys wearing wellington boots in the weather like this instead of proper cosy winter boots like women. Its just not fair!

Post office blues

In about me, art, car-free living, kids on November 24, 2009 at 09:28

I do unfortunately depend on the nearest post office. And now there is only one in town.

It wasn’t always like this: there used to be a little one near the swimming pool. It was inconvenient for me to go here so I never did, till one day an elderly lady knocked on my door and said that they collect signatures against the proposed closure of the little post office. Of course I signed and also decided that next time I will go here – thinking that having one more regular customer will probably help. It happened that next time I had quite a lot of parcels with me, including horrible pictures and curtains which the previous owners left in the house. I’ve sold them on Ebay for 5 quid + postage, then being clumsy as I am I broke the glass and had to pay 5 quid to a framer for its replacement (I am a great business woman, I know!) I also had a large life drawing I’ve sold for about the same price to America. It was done on thick card so at first I send it as it was at my regular post office. It came back (to my enormous surprise) with note that it’s too large for the Airmail. Now I’ve been sending paintings and drawings of this size for years and never had a problem with that. I went to the main post office and they (a bit unfriendly for my taste) told me that the rule always was here… Surprise again. And its my fault that because I pay the postage online. I managed to roll the drawing and was ready to pay the postage price for it again.

So I entered a small post office smiling to the lady who was behind the counter and putting my numerous parcels in front of her. And then I’ve seen an evil flame in her eyes. Apparently the reason was that I bought half of my postage online. I’ve been doing this for a long time – since living in Long Eaton where extremely nice people at that post office never told me there was any issue with this. I repeat the people were really wonderful and helpful at that place but… unlike in Wales I had a number of parcels which were never received by their recipients.

The lady with evil eyes was refusing to accept my parcels because she didn’t like the idea of online stamps which people print at home. She thought the post offices are closing because of this (forgetting that the people still HAVE to handle their parcels and letters to post office workers). I don’t drive and I just walked to that little place, tired, loaded like a mule with my profitless load – and specially to help her… If she told me “could you please buy you stamps from me next time?” I would certainly said “yes”! Instead she brought me to the brink of bursting into tears by her angry words in front of silent but curious queue. I bet they haven’t been on the side of a strange lady with foreign accent and a horrid word “Ebay” almost written across her forehead. Ebay keeps of mounting hidden fees and treating low-profit sellers like unwanted dogs – and then you also get this looks at the post office. Yes, I know I could just take things to a charity shop, but 1) I have this crazy hope that something we’ve got but don’t need may actually turn to be valuable for somebody else (it actually happened twice with books); 2) kids love to get some pocket money after their old book or toy is sold (they were unlucky with that since Ebay introduced its “free postage” rule), and 3) lot of our stuff is too unusual if not weird for a little town charity shop to handle. Finally the post office lady agreed to take parcels and they all (to my disbelieve) arrived to their destinations OK. Yes, I can’t stand hostility and I know its bad to be so sensitive to it. But that’s the way I am…

I never came back to that little post office. I even wanted to file a complain because I’m sure it was illegal to refuse posting things on that ground. But then few months later, walking to the pool I’ve seen that post office have been closed for good and I couldn’t refuse an evil smile…

Now we only got one post office in the town. They have a strange practise here: a large shopping trolley is put in the middle and, after stamps have been put on parcels, they are thrown across the room to that trolley, including ones with red tape all over and large letters saying “FRAGILE” on them. Recently the glass on one of my paintings I’ve sent by post was broken and I wonder if this was what did it. But what can I do? Putting things in large boxes, going to another town or using alternative postal service would increase the cost of postage a lot, and with my artwork not being too expensive it will just put an end on selling it.

I do mostly sell artwork unframed to avoid high postage cost and broken glass but there is another danger – parcels get bended. Once even a thick framing mount, which I though will protect the drawing sufficiently, got bend in half. Few years ago I’ve accidentally got from my framer a couple of pieces of white corrugated plastic: lightweight and easy to cut with scissors yet very difficult to bend. I’ve been told this is what state agents use for their “for sale” boards. If anybody reading this post know how to buy this (but not in industrial quantities) – I would really appreciate.

Meanwhile I’m stuck with my only post office. As far as I know any alternative postal services are only suitable for businesses with high volumes of mail and SOME profit (maybe I’m wrong?) I can’t really argue with my post office staff for fear – perhaps irrational – that my parcels will be damaged on purpose when I don’t look. Add to this also that I’m horrible at doing things neat and tidy – like good package should be, I’m slow, and I have little accidents with tape and scissors all the time. At home we haven’t got a special table to do packing so I just kneel on the hard floor for an hour 2-3 times a week to get the job done.

Yet I am actually glad that I am where I am. I don’t have to seat in office all the day and I am home when kids are back from school. My artworks find their owners and I get lots of happy emails from people. I’ve even found a first exhibition venue after two years in Newtown, so a couple of my narrative figurative paintings should be at the Hafren Theatr at the moment. Perhaps I should think more about exhibitions (but memories of having to carry by myself about 30 framed artworks to 3 personal shows I had in East Midlands still a bit scary). Anyway it is really great to be a “free artist” and I am sure in any occupation there are difficulties you have to learn to overcome – blame to the imperfection of the world!

Dream House

In about me, eco-friendly, gardening, good life, organic on October 12, 2009 at 11:25

Etsy site is having maintenance at the moment so they put this video for people to watch:

That’s probably the closest thing I’ve ever seen to my imaginary dream house. Being a child I have been daydreaming about 3-4 families of friends living self-sufficiently in a very close tied community (but it looked a bit more Siberian, less Californian!). Even now, when my daughter got Sims3 game and I sometime play it, I desperately try to build a homestead like this. What if I found some like-minded people and we could build something like that near Aberythwyth?… Enough day dreaming, back to work!

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