Book Spine Poetry

Sometimes when you’re feeling tired or uninspired and you need to
find your creativity, you can find it in unexpected places…

A few years ago I discovered Book Spine Poetry and had a go. This week, after meltdowns and shutdowns I needed to recover my imagination and found it on my bookshelves!

Poems can be long or short – whatever you choose – just grab a few titles and see what you can conjure up.

Bookspine poetry - An Inspector Calls - Love in the Present Tense - Reasons to Stay Alive - The Last Krystallos

An inspector calls love in the present tense,
reasons to stay alive.

(J.B. Priestley, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Matt Haig)

Bookspine poetry - Across the Wall - I Capture the Castle - The Castle of Adventure - The Last Krystallos

Across the wall – I capture the castle,
the castle of adventure.

(Garth Nix, Dodie Smith, Enid Blyton)

Bookspine Poetry - How to Stop Time - Just One Look - Second Star - Hat Full Sky - Slow Regard Silent - Linger - Hold Tight

How to stop time, 
just one look, second star to the right, 
and a Hatfull of Sky.
The slow regard of silent things, linger…
Hold tight.

(Matt Haig, Harlan Coben, Deborah Hautzig, Terry Pratchett, Patrick Rothfuss, Maggie Stiefvater, Harlan Coben)

Bookspine Poetry - Snow Sisters - Linger - Before I Die - The Last Krystallos

Snow sisters linger, before I die…

(Carol Lovekin, Maggie Stiefvater, Jenny Downham)

Bookspine Poetry - The Ice Dragon - Catching Fire - Falling - Across the Wall - Looking for Alaska - The Last Krystallos

The ice dragon,
catching fire,

falling across the wall,
looking for Alaska…

(G.R.R. Martin, Suzanne Collins, Sharon Dogar, Garth Nix, John Green)

Bookspine Poetry - If I Stay - Tell No One - The Last Krystallos

If I stay…
Tell no one.

(Gayle Forman, Harlan Coben)

0000. Divider

Tell me what’s on your bookshelves and make poetry…

Give it a go.

 

Plastic-Free and Eco-Friendly – From Liquids to Bars and Solids – Should You Switch?

Switching from liquid, aerosol, and plastic-packaged products
has never been easier as we move into new markets for soaps,
shampoos, and deodorants. What do you use?

Plastic-free and Eco-Friendly - From Liquids to Bars and Solids – Should You Switch - The Last Krystallos

We live in a society of excess plastic, and packaging is a huge problem these days as we try to be more environmentally conscious. The books I’m currently writing are set well into a future that has abandoned plastic, and along with the vast amount of scientific evidence revealing the damage we’re doing to our planet right now, it’s inspired me to change my ways.  Reducing the use of plastic has become a big motivation to change many of the products I use.

There is no Planet B - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I talk about plastic, its origins, and its future in my blog post Plastic – Polluting our Oceans – and we need to change. I also, touched on several ways to become more environmentally friendly in our lives in How to be Greener – and Save our Planet. We can all do something, even if it’s something small, and the most important thing is to recognise we need to change and begin.

Earth Conscious Grapefruit and Lemon Natural Deodorant - The Last Krystallos

Earth Conscious Grapefruit and Lemon Natural Deodorant © Lisa Shambrook

One of the things I was determined to change was my use of antiperspirant. I’ve used Dove’s solid antiperspirant for years and didn’t want to change – I struggle with change – but I wanted to be rid of the plastic container. Natural alternatives are deodorant, not antiperspirant, so it requires a change that can take time for your body to get used to.

I discovered creams in tins and solid deodorants in cardboard push up packaging. Due to sensory issues I chose the cardboard push up option, and bought Grapefruit and Lemon Natural Deodorant from Earth Conscious, a small business based on the Isle of Wight. I loved it, and it smelled heavenly. On the expensive side, £7 plus postage, rather than around £3 for my usual supermarket Dove, but prices are more likely drop when products become more mainstream. It worked well, but needed reapplying on hot sweaty days, which was to be expected, as deodorants work differently to antiperspirants.

The thing you need to be aware of when switching to a natural deodorant is that it takes time for your body chemistry to change. The two products antiperspirant and deodorant work in different ways and your body may react to a new product within a few weeks. After three weeks of easy use I got a slight red underarm rash, I stopped using the deodorant letting the rash clear up, and within another three weeks, I could use it again with no problems. Don’t go back to your old product, but let your body adjust. I read two great blog posts from Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve which explained the whole process and made the transition to natural deodorant easy to understand – Transitioning to Natural Deodorant Part I and Part 2. You will also find you need to use less than you think, and the smaller weights will actually last much longer.       

Seanik Shampoo Bar Lush Tin - The Last Krystallos

Seanik Shampoo Bar from Lush © Lisa Shambrook

I’ve been using a shampoo barno plastic bottle, no parabens, silicones, and additives – for many years now, and my preferred bar is Seanik from Lush. My hair is thin and bottled shampoos were heavy leaving my hair limp and dull from additives. Using a natural bar has lifted my hair, encouraged less frequent washing, and is the best for my hair. I’m currently going grey and embracing my silver, and a shampoo bar still works beautifully. Shampoo bars are well known for lasting much longer than a bottle of shampoo, and are easily kept in a tin or soap dish by your bath.

Bio2You Lemon Soap Bar - The Last Krystallos

Bio2You Lemon Soap Bar © Lisa Shambrook

We’ve also recently switched from bottles of liquid soap to old-fashioned soap bars. It took a while for me to embrace this change, concerned about pH values and sensitive skin. I found a great article from Lisa Bronner Skin Health, pH, and Dr. Bronner’s Soap. She does the science and even water alters the pH balance when you wash your hands. We tested out soaps in bar form and it hasn’t affected eczema or dried out our skin. My current favourite is a lemon soap from Bio2You, which I bought at discount from TKMaxx. It smells delicious!

So what else can you switch? Try moisturising Bars – instead of hand creams etc in plastic dispenser bottles – try Lush or Etsy or local handmade bars mine is Turkish Delight from Naked Sister. I recently bought Lush’s Each Peach (and two’s a pair) massage bar and its citrus scent is beautifully invigorating! I’ve also used Soft Coeur too, which is lovely.

Moisturising Bar, Massage Bar, Lip Salve, Solid Perfume

Moisturising Bar, Massage Bar, Lip Salve, Solid Perfume © Lisa Shambrook

Lip balms are often packed into tins these days, Nivea Lip Butter is my favourite with Vanilla and Macadamia, and Blueberry Blush, but several other brands also do this.

I’ve been using The Body Shop’s Love Etc solid perfume for years too, but I haven’t seen any new ones lately, and I don’t think it’s still available, which is something I believe they should rethink. Solid perfumes are great to carry in tins, just like lip salves.

Lush Seanick Shampoo Bar, Naked Sister Moisturising Bar, Nivea Lip Salve, The Body Shop Solid Perfume, Earth Conscious Natural Deodorant - The Last Krystallos

Nivea Lip Salve, Lush Seanick Shampoo Bar, Naked Sister Moisturising Bar, The Body Shop Solid Perfume, Earth Conscious Natural Deodorant © Lisa Shambrook

It’s important to also add that there are myriad recipes online for botanic and natural soaps, salves, shampoos, deodorants, perfumes etc… you don’t have to buy brands. You can try to make your own, or buy from experts on Etsy or at your local craft fair. Give it a try.

It’s difficult to radically change our lives, so working on one thing at a time is better than ignoring the peril our planet is in. Generations in our future are depending on us to eradicate excess plastic; they will already need to deal with the fallout from the amount of plastic already here, but we should be trying not to add to it.

Most of us are working on becoming better people – more aware environmentally, socially, and consciously. Becoming environmentally aware and active is a process and every single change for the better is a step in the right direction.

What have you been able to do?

What products have you switched to and can recommend?

Magical Colours of Summer

Though Summer may not be my favourite season, it is still full of magic,
I just have to look for it harder than I do in Autumn and Winter.
In the spirit of embracing Summer, I’m discovering its charm…

Magical Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos

Summer’s colours are bright and bold, though the ones that enchant me are its blues and softer tones. For me the colour of summer is blue, linked intrinsically to water and clear skies. The sea sparkles with jewel tones. Two years ago we stayed on the north coast of Scotland and visited the most beautiful beach we’ve ever found, and I described the ocean with gem colours: White sand ran from the dunes to the sparkling water, and what water! It merged from every green to every blue you could imagine…from crystal white Quartz froth, to pale Amazonite, and Adventurine, then to Turquoise, and rich Apatite blue, before darkening to the tone of Sodalite. An ocean of jewels!

The sea changes from moment to moment and from seafoam green, to teal blue, to slate grey and myriad more colours. These are my summer tones.

I love how Brighton and Hove’s ocean switches from green to blue by the West Pier. Swgd Eira’s tumultuous waterfall crashes amid diamonds of water and light. Teal-green sea rolls in at Penbryn beach. You can find every blue and green in the sea froth at Staffa. Coldbackie’s jewelled colours spread across the tide. Green is the colour beneath the loch in the Kyle of Lochalsh and in the Isle of Skye’s Fairy Pools. I love the pebbles at Applecross and the blues and greens of Bosherston beach.

Magical Colours of Summer - water - blues - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature and light pick up summer vibes. Early evening sunlight shimmering through cow parsley is pure magic. Summer light sinking through the pines in Brechfa forest creates enchantment within the trees and across the moss. The sun beams from behind the clouds, glistening light can touch on unicorns and shine on daisies. Water sparkles, and late evening castle reflections at Eileen Donan Castle bewitch you. The slate-blue loch at Kylerhea is surrounded by summer’s lush green.

Magical Colours of Summer - light - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Summer then speaks of roses, figuratively and literally, and the pinks of watermelon and bronze sunsets. I’ve sat on Brighton beach watching the sun sink down beneath the horizon, and got up early to witness the sunrise on Dartmoor, and walked the dog through late evening scarlet dusks. Roses bloom with scents and colour: Rhapsody in Blue, and Audrey Wilcox’s blush pink. Purple foxgloves fill the forests, and Sarah Bernhardt peonies, their petals the colour of strawberry milkshakes, flourish.

Magical Colours of Summer - pink - rose - sunset - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wear different bracelets in each season; this one representing winter to summer looks great in the hottest season – keeping me cool with its frosty white beads, dark night indigoes, leading to summer sunshine with lemon amber. Strawberries are always a summer favourite, and the flowers that bloom in June and July – lavender, the arum lily, and nigellalove-in-a-mist fill my yard tubs. Butterflies and dragonflies flutter by and my favourite is the peacock butterflyWaterfalls and messing about in rivers will cool you, and rainbows light up the sky in summer showers.

Magical Colours of Summer - summer colours - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I usually spend summer berating the heat and counting the days ‘til autumn,
but I’m trying to embrace the warmth of the summer sun…

What are your favourite things about Summer?

Summer Flowers To Make You Smile

Just living is not enough…
one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower

– Hans Christian Anderson

Summer Flowers to make you smile - The Last Krystallos

Summer flowers bloom to brighten our lives, to fill the air with scent, and colour, and passion. It’s been a hot summer so far, and my little garden yard has filled me with delight.

Garden flowers June 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve got containers of irises, nemesia, purple campanula, dianthus of many shades and fragrances, scabious, gorgeous red-hot primula vialii, and always lavender.

Hydrangea - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then I discovered the blues and lilacs of hydrangea swathing Dad’s pathway. I’m not a fan of the hyndrangea, but these blues, and in particular the electric-blue and white stripe, quite enchanted me.

I love roses and these three are peach up at my Dad’s, a Charles De Mills which I have at home, and a bunch of beautiful white roses climbing up the hospital wall across the road from me.

Summer Flowers 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I went to the The National Botanic Gardens of Wales last month and loved the paeonies growing in their wild meadows, Bowl of Beauty being one such spectacular bloom. Also found fields of scarlet poppies, blue nigella, and lots of irises.

My own lavender have done well this year along with one of my favourites the arum lily, being enjoyed here by a fall of rain and a happy snail.

Kira and my yard garden 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How has your garden done so far this year?

What flowers are you enjoying most?

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye

Two years ago we stayed on the northern coast of Scotland and fell in love
with the Highlands, this time we went west, staying just below the Isle of Skye.
The epic western isles, vast mountains, and sweeping lochs will capture your soul.

Visiting Scotland - What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

We decided to drive the whole way, all ten-and-a-half hours, in one day so it was an early start. Bekah and her partner, Dave, followed, and with regular breaks we reached Scotland. We recalled the drive up and were excited to see the mountains again and just after Loch Lomond we weren’t disappointed. The Bridge of Orchy introduces you to the giants and the A82 though Glen Coe will make you stop and stare – do stop, you’ll need photos! We stopped for photos at Buachaille Etive Mor, or the Skyrim mountain as my family call it, a volcano of a peak! Up through Fort William and Ben Nevis and finally we arrived at the Five Sisters mountain range, nestling the road at their feet, and they welcomed us to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Buachaille Etive Mor in cloud - The Last Krystallos

Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

The Lochs, Cluanie and Duich, were smooth and reflective and throughout our stay we passed Eilean Donan castle several times. We visited the castle on our last trip, but it provided the perfect silhouette reflected against the mouth of Loch Alsh on our final night.

Eilean Donan Castle on Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Eilean Donan Castle © Lisa Shambrook

One of the reasons we’d chosen to stay on the western coast was that I’ve always wanted to visit Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, and travelling across Scotland takes time. We booked a Three Island Tour through Staffa Tours which meant our day began early. We caught a ferry across from Oban to the Isle of Mull, it was crowded and I struggled with the amount of people on deck to see us leave Oban. On the Isle of Mull we joined a double decker coach provided by West Coast Tours and through sheer luck got the front upstairs seats. The coach driver was great providing commentary on the history of Mull, whilst simultaneously navigating a single track road with passing points and tourist cars who don’t realise the size of a coach!

Basalt Columns - Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Basalt Columns – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

The roads across Scotland in general are worth a mention. Many around the coast are single track and all have regular, signed passing points. The rule is to pull in and let faster vehicles pass, and to pull in where necessary to let oncoming traffic through. It works brilliantly, and is inherently better than the Welsh country roads with few passing points we’re used to at home! Btw, if you see a coach coming towards you, back up or pull in and give plenty of space, you’d be surprised how many people seem to be unable to reverse concisely!

To Fingal's Cave - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

To Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Back to Mull, a quick ferry across to explore the small island of Iona for two hours before we took a short boat trip to the isle of Staffa. As Staffa gets closer you are stunned by the tall basalt rock formations that give the island its name – staffa old Norse for staff, stave, or pillar like the columnar rocks. The boat pulls alongside Fingal’s Cave for a spectacular view, though don’t expect photos without people in them at this point. You might berate the tourists clambering over the rocks in front of the cave, but in a few minutes you’ll be one of them!

 

Am Buachallie - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

Am Buachallie – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Fingal's Cave Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Fingal’s Cave – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

You get an hour on Staffa, it’s not enough – I could stay all day – but it’s all you’ll get. We walked across the hexagonal volcanic rocks, well, I hurried – I’m a child at heart, to the cave. Currently you can’t get down into the cave since it was damaged by fierce storms, but you can appreciate the force of the ocean as it crashes over the stone and glistens in the sun. Greens and blues mingle at the shore offset by white seafoam and black rock.

Staffa Puffins - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

Dan reminded me the island had more to offer and after a ten minute walk we discovered the island’s other wonder. On the cliffs are a plethora of puffins, nesting on the island from May to mid-August. The miracle is that they’re as fascinated by you as you are by them! We sat on the grassy cliff tops watching the birds as they perched, wandered, flew, and watched us back. I couldn’t believe we could sit literally a foot away from them and they barely batted an eyelid. Fingal’s Cave and the puffins were the highlight of my holiday.

Puffins on Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

The next day we went hunting for more wildlife. Dunvegan castle and gardens sit in a bay on the north-west coast of the Isle of Skye. The castle’s history is Viking/Scottish and it’s a well-looked after example of a lived-in castle. Our main reason for visiting was to go on one of their seal trips, but you can only book a seal tour if you’re inside the castle grounds, so you’ll be paying for castle entry and then just under ten pounds per person for the boat trip.

Dunvegan Seals - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan seals © Lisa Shambrook

The seals were adorable. A small boat and guide took the six of us out just in the bay close to the castle to their local seal colony, and the seals were out basking in the sun and dipping in and out of the sea. The middle of July meant pups were lively and bobbing close to the boat, despite their mothers’ barks to be careful! Our guide gave us lots of seal facts and legend, and told us about the castle’s history. We were lucky with great weather, glittering indigo water, and plenty of selkies, though I wish the trip had been longer.

Dunvegan Castle and Seal Colony - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan Castle and seal colony © Lisa Shambrook

The Fairy Pools down at Glenbrittle on the Isle of Skye was our next destination. There’s a car park with an attendant, but when we arrived at 5.30ish in the afternoon there was no attendant to be seen, so we left the car. Also, the waterfalls are a huge tourist attraction and the car park could be very busy – there is an overflow car park at the end, but overlooked if you don’t know it’s there. When I said busy, I meant it. There’s a constant stream of people on the hike, you won’t be exploring alone. It’s recommended to go early or late to avoid the crowds and find the best light, and getting those perfect pictures will mean trying to dodge many people, climbing carefully, and missing out on some because people are bathing in the pools. It can be frustrating, but shouldn’t be missed.

Fairy Pools Glenbrittle - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

The pools and waterfalls are beautiful, and caught in the right light they’ll shimmer green, teal, and cobalt blue – truly magical.

Fairy Pools - Isle of Sky - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

Wildlife continued with a trip to the Highland Wildlife Park just south of Inverness. You’ll be entering the edge of the Cairngorms, so if you’re making a day of it maybe travel a bit further and see the mountains too. The wildlife park has a small but very basic self-drive safari, but the main attractions are walking round the animal enclosures seeing polar bears, snow monkeys, an arctic fox and her cub, red panda, deer, wolves and lots more. We went to see the wolves for Cait. Pups frolicked and played and completely enchanted us.

Highlands Wildlife Park - snow leopard, polar bear, red panda, wolves, deer, arctic fox cub - The Last Krystallos

Highland Wildlife Park © Lisa Shambrook

Thursday saw us go out in the Kyle of Lochalsh on Seaprobe Atlantis from the port in Kyleakin, a glass-bottomed boat to see seals and underwater creatures. Plenty of seals, but not so much underwater. Lots of jellyfish floating about, a couple of pipe fish, and lots of hypnotising bootlace seaweed!

Portree, Kyleakin, Underwater and seals in Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Portree Seagull, Kyleakin, Kyle of Lochalsh underwater and seals © Lisa Shambrook

I wanted to find dinosaur footprints at Staffin on Skye, but we had trouble finding access to the beach. We’d timed the tide, but it was difficult to work out how to find them. There was a stream we couldn’t cross and we couldn’t work out which side of the beach the prints were supposed to be, so we gave up. If you do want to find them, there are online articles which will point you in the right direction.

Family Selfie - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead we drove around the top of the island taking in the Old Man of Storr, Mealt waterfall and Kilt Rock. We got fish and chips at Portree and headed back to the south of Skye to Kylerhea and an otter hide. The road over the mountain to Kylerhea was gorgeous, narrow and wild, so pretty. There’s a small car park with an RSPB hide, and a short walk to the otter hide overlooking the bay. You can watch the small car ferry from the bay and spy on sea life and birds. We didn’t see any otters, it’s a long way down to the sea and though there was a small telescope, it was hard to pin point creatures. We did see a seal, gulls, an oyster-catcher, and a heron!

It was late in the day so we missed the last ferry at six, but the Kylerhea scenery was stunning – the green moss, ferns, and trees contrasting with stormy clouds over the slate-blue water.

Kylerhea - The Last Krystallos

Kylerhea © Lisa Shambrook

Our last day saw us take advantage of Plockton and Calum’s Seal Tours, he advertised the tour for free if you didn’t see any seals… Calum Mackenzie was fun and informative and he got paid as there were plenty of seals! If you’re lucky you could also see dolphins and sea eagles.

Applecross Bay - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Bay © Lisa Shambrook

Then we drove right around Loch Carron and crossed the mountain road to Applecross Bay. One of the highest passes, and reminded me of Snowdonia mountain roads, but single track. That evening, we explored a few of the local Inverinate roads, where we were staying and caught the sunset. Nothing better.

Applecross Pass - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Pass © Lisa Shambrook

On our way home we stopped in Stirling to see the Wallace Monument. 246 steps to climb, but a great history lesson.

Wallace Monument - The Last Krystallos

The Wallace Monument © Lisa Shambrook

We had a stunning week, fulfilling dreams, and discovering the West coast of Scotland. If you’ve enjoyed this, you can read more about our North coast Scottish adventure two years ago. It’s pretty much a guarantee we’ll be back!

Fingal's Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, fairy pools, Kylerhea, Eilean Donan, Buachaille Etive Mor - TLK

Fingal’s Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, Fairy Pools, Kylerhea, Kyle of Lochalsh, Eilean Donan Castle, Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

This land is a magical land of rainbows, diamonds on the ocean, moss, towering mountains, tumbling waterfalls, mystic lochs, and enchanted landscapes. Just avoid the early morning and late night midges!

One day we hope to return and to stay…

What are your favourite places in Scotland?

Turning Silver and Going Grey – Embracing your Hair…

Going grey, turning silver – whether you’re aging gracefully or disgracefully –
at some point your hair colour is going to change. How will you embrace it?

Turning Silver and Going Grey - Embracing your Hair - The Last Krystallos

I’m forty-seven, and eleven months into growing out my coloured hair and turning silver… and I thought I’d share my process with you.

July to July Going Silver 2018-19 - The Last Krystallos

July to July – Going silver © Lisa Shambrook

There’s a huge amount of pressure on women these days to always look good, and as I’ve got older the media’s view on aging can be intimidating.

The average woman will begin to notice grey hairs from the age of thirty-five and by fifty most women will have at least 50% grey coverage. Men grey a few years earlier than women, but it seems more acceptable in men, just look at George Clooney (58)! I realised that most women my age on screen don’t have any discernible silver in their locks. Many popular presenters, Davina McCall (51) and Holly Willoughby (38) for example, are actively advertising hair dye products. And, tell me, have you seen many female news readers sporting grey hair recently? Fiona Bruce (55) still has glorious dark hair. I don’t have a problem with this, I’m all for being whoever we want to be, but for women who are going grey or who choose to transition from colour to grey it can be difficult. In the end you have to do what fits you, and if you prefer to dye then all power to you, but if you want to switch having some role models can help.

The positive, though, is that firstly, grey hair has become a fashion statement, with many young women choosing to dye their hair silver or grey and looking amazing, and secondly, I have noticed a few more women in the media in their forties and fifties with highlights mixed into what could be their natural grey growth. I saw Joely Richardson (54) on television this week, with beautiful golden-blonde and white highlights.

This is my going grey story – part one (there’ll be a part two, probably in another year or so when I’m fully silver)

Ages 19, 29, 39, and 47 - The Last Krystallos

Ages 19, 29, 39, and 47 © Lisa Shambrook

When I was young, I never thought about getting old. I was one of those teens who looked young and benefitted from family genes, and though my hair was always thin, I loved its colour. Certainly, the thought of going grey had never crossed my mind until my late thirties. As we age our bodies produce less melanin, the colour pigment, so instead of coloured hair, our locks grow in grey or white. Genetics play a big part in when this happens. My mother had dark hair all her life, and only a few grey hairs well into her sixties, but my dad went grey much earlier – guess whose hair I have? My dad’s! I’ve also found that my silver hair is stronger, less greasy (I used to wash it every day, now I can go three days at least before it needs washing), and much thicker (a true blessing for a girl like me with limp and thin hair!).

lisa 45, going grey first white stripe... The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I often dyed my own dark brunette hair, and mahogany, plum, ruby, and copper were my go to colours, enhancing my natural red tones. Then, about eleven years ago, white roots began to show through, mainly at the front hairline, and my dye game stepped up. I moved to dark and warm browns and auburns, until I felt they were getting too dark for my skin. You’ll notice as you age that your skin tone changes too. A few years ago I decided to follow my natural lighter colour and moved to light brown and ash colours which worked with my skin and root growth much better. I dyed every eight weeks and felt I looked older whenever white roots showed.

An element of fear kept me holding onto brunette, but now, as I age, I want to be me – my authentic self. I got bored of dyeing and discovered Grombre an inspirational Instagram page which celebrates women turning silver, and I knew I wanted the freedom of embracing the evolving real me. It’s been a time of change, becoming peri-menopausal, my altering beliefs and ethics, and I wanted to be my natural self without apology!

age 45 - 47 from this to this - the process of going grey - The Last Krystallos

From brown to silver in a year © Lisa Shambrook

My local hair salon are award-winning colourist experts and when I asked how best to go grey, they advised ditching the colour, avoiding highlights (matching to grey growth can be very hit and miss), and just going for it. So I did. A few years ago I moved from long hair to a short bob and this definitely helped with the grey process. It seems my hair grows about 2cm a month, so this was my root growth progress and also what I asked my stylist to trim every two months. This meant my hair colour change was obvious and I love it! The bronze tips of my hair are now just fading colour from years and years of dye, and like autumn leaves they’ll soon be gone.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never colour again (as a dark-haired girl no colours but black, brown, and red ever took to my hair), and after my fading copper tips are gone I’m looking forward to playing with pink or purple or blue!

Going Grey 8 months bronze, copper, grey and white - The Last Krystallos

Ombre © Lisa Shambrook

The weirdest thing in this process for me is acknowledging that brunette is no longer my natural colour!

The shimmering shades of silver, white, and steel grey in my hair suit me and I’m fascinated by the process. I thought I’d go completely and suddenly white but the salt and pepper effect is lovely, steel grey at the back moving through shades of silver to white framing my face. My fear of looking old was quashed fast as I realised my ombre of silver and bronze didn’t negatively affect how I saw myself. I used to look in the mirror when my white roots shone through and believed I looked ten years older – but it’s a matter of attitude. I look the same but have a sparkle of silver gilt.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s all natural and like an emerging butterfly I’m ready to embrace my wings!

It’s been almost one year, and by this time next year I expect to be completely colour free.

I’m ready to let my silver spirit soar with freedom and abandon.

Are you thinking of transitioning from colour to grey, or have you gone grey naturally?
What were your ups and downs, and how do you love your new look?

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

Be like the Wildflowers of Spring…

I hope you are blessed with a heart like a wildflower
strong enough to rise again after being trampled upon,
tough enough to weather the worst of the summer storms,
and able to grow and flourish even in the most broken places
(Nikita Gill)

Be like the Wildflowers of Spring... The Last Krystallos

As an author I notice detail, lots of it, and nature provides so much! My favourite few months for flora fall in April, May, and June. The ground wakes up and releases a prolific field of colour – predominantly pink, blue, purple, yellow, and white.

Ragged Robin - Red Valerian - Red Campion - Cranesbill - Rhododendron - Aquilegia - Herb Robert - London's Pride

Ragged Robin – Red Valerian – Red Campion – Cranesbill – Rhododendron – Aquilegia – Herb Robert – London’s Pride © Lisa Shambrook

Let’s start with the pinks, from the deep pink of the shaggy but beautiful Ragged Robin to the palest shade of London’s Pride. Hot pink Rhododendron join the usual purple varieties swathing the countryside with huge flowers covering their waxy, dark-green fingered leaves.

Red Valerian remind me of walking home from school, I used to pick bunches from the railway sidings to take home along with bluebells (I know you can’t pick wildflowers now, but I was about ten many years ago!)

Aquilegia, also known as Granny’s Bonnet and columbine, are favourites.

Geranium Robertianum was used for medicinal purposes, but now Herb Robert is commonly a weed, easy to seed and grow, and a relation of the vast geranium family.

Garlic Mustard - Wild Garlic - Cow Parsley - White Campion - Cuckoo Flower - Elderflower - Wild Carrot - Columbine

Garlic Mustard – Wild Garlic – Cow Parsley – White Campion – Cuckoo Flower – Elderflower – Wild Carrot – Convolvulous © Lisa Shambrook

Looking at edible wildflowers takes us to the Garlic family, both pictured above easy to find, pick and use. Elderflower is also becoming more and more popular in cuisine.

The Convolvulous flowers on neverending vines can hugely frustrate gardeners, but I adore them. Beautiful white trumpets that enchanted me as a child and continue to do so now, have become part of my writing, being enchanced to become huge moonflowers.

I’ve previously posted about Cow Parsley and Hogweed varieties, there are many and I love when they spread through the hedgerows like swaying white lace.

Gorse - Bog Arum Lily - Laburnum - Buttercup - Welsh Poppy - Cowslip - Primrose

Gorse – Bog Arum Lily – Laburnum – Buttercup – Welsh Poppy – Cowslip – Primrose © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t imagine there’s anyone out there who hasn’t held a Buttercup to their chin to see if they like butter… your chin will glow gold to show you do!

Right now, at the beginning of June the Laburnums are flowering all through our Welsh countryside. I hadn’t realised how many there were until I saw the yellow racemes threading through our hedgerows and trees. I used to have a Laburnum in my garden until it fell after heavy storms.

Foxgloves - Campanunla - Thistle and a Gatekeeper butterfly

Foxgloves – Campanunla – Thistle and a Gatekeeper butterfly © Lisa Shambrook

Another flower just about to flower near me is the Foxglove, and our forests are full of them in Wales.

I also love Campanula, and always notice walls covered in this gorgeous mass of purple. They seed and grow with abandon.

And as we move into summer keep a watch for the butterflies. I loved my summer a couple of years back searching out butterflies!

Blackberry - Valerian - Ox-eye Daisy - Snowdrop - Stitchwort - Wood Anemone - May Blossom - Daisy

Blackberry – Valerian – Ox-eye Daisy – Snowdrop – Stitchwort – Wood Anemone – May Blossom – Daisy © Lisa Shambrook

Some of the most beautiful wildflowers are the simple ones. Daisies will always blow me away with sunny faces in whatever condition, and I love the huge Ox-eye Daisies that grow in clusters and often swathe the duel-carriageway roadsides!

One of my favourite things is walking through woods and our local woods are carpeted with Bluebells, Wood Anemones, and Common Stitchwort.

Bluebells - Forget-me-not - Purple Vetch - Vinca - Speedwell - Bugle - Wild Violet - Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Bluebells – Forget-me-not – Purple Vetch – Vinca – Speedwell – Bugle – Wild Violet – Ivy Leaved Toadflax © Lisa Shambrook

Blues and purples fill our spring gardens and countryside with delicate flowers like Forget-me-nots and the deep blue of Speedwell.

Vinca, known as Periwinkle, is another favourite and along with many of these wildflowers are mentioned within my books.

Bluebells, my favourite flower, and bluebell woods have inspired me since childhood with simple bells and pure magic. I’ve blogged about them several times and weaved them into my books, and there’ll be more!

What are your favourite wildflowers?
These are mostly British Wildflowers – what do you get and do you have
the same threading through your native countryside?

 

 

 

For the Love of the Moon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Super Blue Blood Moon over River Towy - Ralph Waldo Emerson quote - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Cara moved slowly down the jetty, enjoying the warm weathered wood beneath her feet. She stretched her fingers by her side, flexing them and releasing pent up anxiety. Air caressed her naked skin and with conviction she pushed her shoulders back, ignoring the twinge of pain, and rotated them in unison, smiling wryly at the cracking sounds her bones made echoing in the humid night air. She drew in a deep sigh then let her breath ride on the breeze that fluttered about her.

The stars twinkled like diamonds studded in blue satin and Cara was exactly where she wanted to be.

Dainty steps took her to the end of the pier and she carefully lowered herself to the broad pontoon, her mouth opening as she smiled at the sway beneath her. Her knees were noisy too as she bent and dropped to the floor, but they would soon be eased.

She sat, her hands flat on the deck beside her, leaning back slightly to gaze up at the sky. The Milky Way stretched across the night and she wondered what it would feel like to float up into the sky.

Cara let her feet dip into the water, toes first, testing the temperature, then her legs up to her calves. She welcomed the flow about her toes as she gently moved her feet.

Water and stars…and my moon, Cara breathed out her words, almost silent thoughts, but a soft whisper took them from her mouth.

She jumped at the hoot of an owl and water splashed about her toes, and she laughed as the bird soared across the lake disappearing into the dark woodland at the shore. Bats also darted, seeking gnats and midges, but Cara felt akin to them and enjoyed their swooping paths.

Cara gazed at the moon. All her life she’d worshipped the deity of the night sky, softly lighting the dark and showing her that even when she wasn’t whole she was still full of depth, and mystery, and power. She smiled at the moon and lifted her hands, cupping them about the orb before her then closing them in a prayer.

Thank you, she whispered.

She shuffled forward on the deck and lowered her body to the water. The little strength in her arms left her and she let herself go, plunging with abandon. She didn’t hear the splash she made, just the bubbles and the oddly comforting gurgle that rumbled in her ears as she slipped down through the water.

For a moment she let the water envelope her, like a cocoon, then she moved her arms downwards and kicked her feet. She broke the surface and swallowed a deep gulp of air, her feet and hands still paddling. It was colder than she’d expected, and it took a moment to adjust her breathing and relax her body, but soon she stopped agitating the water and let it lap at her chin, her hands gently undulating beneath the surface and silver hair spread like a watery spider’s silk.

Her creaking joints quietened, the pressure easing as water supported them and pain lessened as if leaching into the liquid surrounding her. Slowly Cara let her body rise and floated with her head back, half submerged. No sound but the lapping water, and nothing to see but the stars and the moon bathing her in white light.

Still floating, Cara let the moon bless her, its gentle rays soothing away her pain and hurt. Stars shimmered and glitter rained down in spirals like winter snowfall. She smiled, meds kicked in and fatigue faded replaced by lofty intoxication. She was alone in the world, completely and utterly, and when they finally came looking they’d wonder, but they’d never know. Not until she was home.

Cara gazed up at the moon as water closed over her face.

The moon smiled, Selene smiled, waiting for her beloved to return…

0000. Divider

Stars and the moon enthrall me, so loved this prompt picture by James Wheeler – Moonlit Dock for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Bringing Books to Life – Painting Surviving Hope Covers

I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh
I loved creating cover art for the Surviving Hope novels.
Picking up my paint brushes was an inspiration
as much as writing the books themselves.

Bringing Books to Life - Painting Surviving Hope Covers - The Last Krystallos

When the Surviving Hope novels: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, were rereleased, my new publisher BHC Press requested cover art in a similar style to A Symphony of Dragons.

4. A Symphony of Dragons Cover Art Evolution - Lisa Shambrook BHC Press

© Lisa Shambrook

I had to do something I’ve already done within my writing, and that was to find my art voice, my style. When I see an image in my head it’s like a photo, and I had to accept that the realism in my head was not what would end up on the canvas. My style is like my writing, swirly, romantic, and poetic, but mine.

I’d painted my Symphony dragon a year earlier and I set up an art studio on my dining room table and began sketching. The most testing thing was discovering how to paint rainbows. The majority of painted rainbows are bright childlike bows full of block colour and that wasn’t what I wanted. I had to find several tutorials to get an idea, and the trick is to stipple dry white paint across the arc of the bow before you build with colour. Rainbows are faint, translucent, and very difficult to capture! I was using acrylics, and with hindsight, as I’m currently painting in watercolour, a translucent media would have been easier.

Beneath the Rainbow Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My rainbow is not a recreation of anyone else’s… it iridises with chalky pastel light above my bluebells. Bluebells feature within Freya’s story and the hours I spent breathing life into them were very enjoyable.

Beneath the Old Oak Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak’s cover was always going to be an oak with acorns, and was my most confident subject. I’ve painted trees before, and the sturdy oak would protect Meg when life got unbearable. Acorns always represent new life and strength to me and it was comforting to paint them.

Beneath the Distant Star Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then I had to create stars. It became my favourite painting, and after pages of failed dusk skies I finally got one that worked. Jasmine would stare up at the stars, trying to live up to her sister on one hand and battling to vanquish her memory on the other. I’ve stared up at many twinkling indigo skies trying to defeat my demons and harness wonder in much the same way in my own life.

Artists often lack confidence in their work and it wasn’t until I saw the covers, framed and titled, that I loved them. They brought the three books together, weaving the stories of three girls and their lives with the melody of hope.

Painting Seren Stone Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Right now I’m working on The Seren Stone Chronicles, and while the first book has been with beta readers I’ve been painting again. The Seren Stone covers will need to coordinate and follow my branding and I’m loving developing images for them. This time I’ve been working with watercolour instead of acrylics and it’s been beautiful to discover a forgiving and radiant medium to bring my dragons to life.

Surviving Hope and Symphony Paperbacks - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Surviving Hope novels are available in eBook and paperback from most online retailers, all links are found on my website and at BHC Press. You can also buy signed and discounted paperbacks from my own Etsy shop, Amaranth Alchemy, too.

Three girls, three lives, three stories composed with the melody of hope.

Freya’s death sends ripples through many lives as Meg loses her best friend, and Jasmine, her sister. Lost dreams need to be found, hidden family secrets need to be unearthed, and grief must be embraced before ghosts can be laid to rest.

These beautifully composed tales of coming of age, mental health, and the struggles of finding yourself, begin with grief and culminate with hope. As grief is faced, hope becomes the only force to cling to and build upon. Freya, Meg, and Jasmine need to survive with hope.

Surviving Hope Novels - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos