Hello friends! And a warm socially distanced embrace to all my new subscribers. I send you heartfelt greetings from London and am humbled you’ve decided to join me each month in this life-giving community. Here we are seekers of beauty, those who choose to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, we are ‘beagles for beauty’. We hunt for it, sniff it out, create and curate. You are welcome here.
Just as April winds have whisked and whirled through the blossom-heavy branches of spring, so life has continued to unfold in a fusion of beauty with a little battering. We’re emerging further from our lockdown burrows here in the UK, I’ve been so very grateful to enjoy a couple of day trips, one to the Cotswolds (first time!) the other to the south coast. What a tonic it is to see friends and scenes of life beyond the walls of home, escaping to the country or seaside is a privilege I don’t take for granted. I’ve shared some photos towards the end from the Cotswolds and you can spot the cheeky south coast seagulls in my Enchanted April quote. I have the funnest story of how I ended up with a 100+ year old antique in the boot on the way home!
I was thrilled to find a local cut flower grower this month, Where Inspiration Blooms. The lovely Caroline hand selected the perfect blooms for this month’s project and I’m looking forward to a long term relationship for future artworks. I have more info about Caroline and her company towards the end of the newsletter, they have some wonderful workshops coming up.
And now to present this month’s still life -
The Voiceless Break into Song: Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower— Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and colour. Isaiah 25:1-2
My projects seem to show me who they are as I embark on them, it’s a wild, exciting dance of discovery as flowers come together and themes emerge. Having sourced a localish cut flower grower I knew this would be my first attempt at the kind of Dutch master still life I’ve always envisioned. The words from Isaiah perfectly encapsulates this composition, the flowers sing, celebrate and burst into blossom, a symphony of song and colour! The wilderness of lockdown is being carpeted with new life and the wastelands whether social, emotional, mental or spiritual are hopefully now receiving a refreshing rain. A fruitfulness must surely come forth. This piece presents a mixture of subjects; the florals, cultivated and wild, foliage, a handmade bird’s nest with eggs, a snail, butterfly, bird, bee (even a stowaway greenfly if you can spot it!) and fruit. It’s abundant and rich, overflowing with life. Spring, newness, a breaking forth into song after the silence of winter!
Flowers used were: Daffodils, double daffodils, tulips, honesty, fritillaries, forget-me-not, hyacinth, apple blossom, hellebores, anemone, Spanish bluebell - phew! I hope I got them all.
It’s been almost a year since I picked up my camera following a five year hiatus. What began with a humble bunch of tulips given by a neighbour (pic below) during hubby's Covid battle has now evolved into the work of love you see above. I’ve dreamed of this but I’ve learned over the years that you can't just have a dream, you need a plan. Plan to shoot, plan to invest into the areas you wish to see grow, plan to spend time feeding the dream with inspirations and mentors, plan time, equipment, resources, relationship connections.
Dream often, plan always.
It’s very encouraging to see my progress the past 12 months, a ray of sunshine into the valley of shadow. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen my posts featuring the giant Genie Magnolias which I boldly acquired from a neighbouring village. These dinner plate sized rarities caught my attention when driving through the area and so emboldened by the motto ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’, I dropped a pleadingly sweet note through their door asking if I could take a few blooms. Here is the lovely composition I created. They obviously said yes, I didn’t resort to covert nighttime operations.
I’ve also always wanted to use my art in practical helpful ways and soon I will be offering bespoke custom framed prints of Flourish, the proceeds of which will be donated towards a very worthy cause, more to come at the time. These will be beautiful limited edition works of fine art for your special space so keep a watch out here, I will only be creating a small number for purchase.
In the goody bag this month
Music: Once again an eclectic playlist for this month. Stand outs have been the beautiful Reverie by Claude Debussy. Flying by Cody Fry, wait till the end. Ready Now from Dodie, gosh this is sweet. Via con me by Paulo Conte, such a fun happy bop, I have no idea what he’s saying but I’m sure it must be nice? (I hope so!) I discovered some new-to-me worship this month, lots, but Jireh by Elevation Worship is roof liltingly good. Here’s the whole list, enjoy. Here’s the whole list, enjoy.
Poetry: Author S.D Smith is best known for his best-selling children’s books The Green Ember Series but did you know he is also a wonderful poet. Sam’s words always stir my heart, usually making me halt, fight tears only to lose. Soul-filling and deeply moving this one in particular touched my parental soft spot. Go check out Sam’s insta page for the full collection, he’s also very funny and a good photographer.
Be small in a big world, Little girl. Run free and fast and happy, While you have the strength, And stamina, And the painless ease, Of good knees. Run, With the wide stride of an athlete, Competing with the last joy, A lithe, gliding repeat, Of the same song you just sang, in a new key, With a new beat, A familiar innovation, And a singalong chorus. Enjoy your smallness, Before your head blocks the sitters, In the pew behind you, Before your shadow – cast in innocence, Is an old friend’s new darkness. Guard your heart, And make art, Before you know, How far it might go, And stay small in your heart, Though the ambition, it itches, Don’t get too big for your britches, And be as glad and grateful, As you can. If you can, This too, it’s from the hand, Of God.
Words and image by S.D Smith
Recipe: This has become a quick and delicious favourite in our home and because I’m sure I have an Italian bone somewhere in my body I can’t get enough of simple Italian recipes with good ingredients. This is taken from Lidia’s Italy In America which was kindly gifted to me years ago. Lidia gives wonderful little histories to each recipe, the photography is honest and warm, there’s not much in here I don’t like. Bucanti with Pancetta, Tomato, and Onion Serves 6 1 tsp sea salt, plus more for pasta pot 450g (1 lb) bucanti pasta 120 g (4 oz) pancetta 1 large onion 2 fresh bay leaves 1/4 tsp of crushed chillies (Peperoncino flakes) 3 x 400g can peeled plum tomatoes (3 x 15oz) good quality, crush by hand 1/2 cup grated Grand Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Slip the bucatini into the water, and cook until it is al dente. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and let the meat render it’s fat until the edges begin to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sliced onion and the bay leaves, cover, and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle in the peperoncino and tomatoes. Slush out the can with one cup pasta cooking water, add it to the sauce, and stir. Season with salt, bring the sauce to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 10 to 12 minutes. When pasta is ready, transfer to the sauce with tongs. Cook and toss the pasta in the sauce until all the pasta is coated. Remove from heat, and toss with the grated cheese. Serve immediately.
I hope you have fun with this, we usually put on themed music when we cook dishes from another country so Paulo Conte works very fittingly this month! Also very fitting is this month’s book recommendation as the characters mention eating bucanti pasta only they call it ‘long macaroni’, it really is like long macaroni! This leads us nicely into… Reading: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I’ve long been a fan of the movie but I'm reading the book for the first time this year with my daughter who’s read it a few times. A beautiful tale of four women, strangers, escaping a rainy English spring for a castle in Italy with the promise of ‘Wisteria and sunshine’. A favourite quote and one which I use in my defence when embarking upon escape..
I just finished All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is written in an unexpected style which hooked me instantly, maybe a little sadder towards the end than I would usually choose (that’s not a spoiler) but such a beautiful story and very deserving of it’s best-seller title. I’m still drinking in Gentle And Lowly by Dane Ortlund. This is a deeply refreshing take on the heart of Jesus and a powerful journey of devotion if you’ve every struggled knowing God’s love for you.
My dear friend Sally Clarkson and me took off for the day this week and headed for The Cotswolds. Our first stop was St.Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-wold. Apparently this door could well have been the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s door to the Mines of Moria in the LOTR trilogy. Flanked by two grand Yew trees this door is known locally as ‘The Yew Tree door’ or ‘The Hobbit door’. How much of this is true? we don’t know but it’s a magical possibility.
Bourton-on-the-water. There are many little stone bridges throughout the village to cross the river.
Burford. The warmth of the stone walls of buildings is intrinsic to the identity and character of the Cotswolds. The colour varies from honey-coloured, gold and pearly white depending on the iron oxide content in the layer or vein the stone has been quarried from.
Me and Sally are planning on taking regular excursions so be sure to follow us on Instagram for further adventures. And now my antique story…So there we were, headed home, me living my secret dream of being a rally driver (jk) when I suddenly spot a treasure by the side of the road. Sally was on a FaceTime with one of her kids while I abruptly brake and pull us over, we reverse back up the road Sally thinking I’ve spotted a duck or a donkey only to see this beautiful wooden high chair going for free! We piled out of the car and proceeded to shoot a little video. The owner Anne was outside weeding and happily gave us the whole back story live from her front garden, it was quite hilarious. It used to belong to her now deceased husband who passed several years ago at the ripe old age of 93, it’s at least 100 years old. Sally is expecting another grandchild shortly so I’m convinced the delightful heirloom will come in handy. Anne gave us a spontaneous demo, you can see how it converts to the cutest little desk and chair. We said our thank you’s and farewell’s, loaded up the boot and left with our loot! :D That’s a good day don't you think?
In closing, a very important belief in life which must be settled if one is to flourish in society; when eating scones, which goes first, the jam or the cream? (answer at the bottom). And a lovely shot of my son as we sat on the beach in Hampshire, I treasure time with my grown children. That’s all from me for this month, blessings to you all friends, may you flourish, make plans and walk in your dreams. Drop me a line anytime, I love to hear from you! Jacqui x
* Scone answer: The jam of course! To be fair there are two opposing camps of thought on this tradition but the Queen agrees with me so I’m sticking with her ;) Where Inspiration Blooms: Link to the flower ordering service. At the moment they are asking people to contact them before ordering, but that will change as the flowers become more abundant! During the summer they are running a few pick your own sessions. Also a grow your own cut flowers workshop in September.