The Magic of a Fairytale Forest – Brechfa Forest

The beauty of Brechfa forest captivates me offering magic and enchantment and a place to give respite to my weary soul. Gnarled trees clothed in moss and lichen. Tall, spindly spruce, pine, and larch decorated with cones and needles, interspersed with oak and beech, and hedgerows of bracken and fern. Jewel greens all year round finished with autumn copper then silver winter frost.

The Magic of Fairytale Forests – Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

January brings snowfall, frost, and fog with wispy cloud dropping into the tall pines creating an ethereal landscape. Walking through the glare of light from the low sun makes it bright and crisp and magical as it shimmers across the frost and moss. You might even see the copper winter coat of a fox as it dashes across the forest floor.

Images of January Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

February is another month of mist and magic, sparkling through branches clothed with the soft froth of reindeer moss. Reindeer moss swathes the trees like jewels on a chandelier in a soft seafoam green. Bright peridot greens contrast beautifully with the sharp burnt-orange and browns of dead bracken, ferns, mulch and leaves.

Images of February Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

In March, and its preceding months, stormy gales whistle and rustle through the spires. Rain and wind are common in Wales and wet, windy winters add to the streams and puddles and saturated land. Pine and spruce are known to have shallow root systems and sometimes you’ll come across fallen trees. Brechfa is looked after by the Forestry Commission and fallen trees across the roads are cleared quickly, but sometimes you’ll need to hop over or circumnavigate fallen logs on the tracks.

Images of March Brechfa Forest trees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

April brings lighter showers and the moss swathing the forest floor act like sponges, holding many times their own weight in water aiding the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. New growth becomes evident as bright green sprouts from branches and spring flowers like bluebells and toadflax intermingle with moss over the forest banks.

Images of April Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

May spring growth spread across the branches, and the past seasons’ dead leaves are covered with grass, lichen, and golden-green moss. Green tinged cones are pushing upright on spruce trees like decorative candelabras.

Images of May Brechfa Forest trees and a dog

© Lisa Shambrook

June is predominantly green, autumn colours are gone, and peridot-green is back in charge. Moss swathes the forest floor, trees, and rocks and is sumptuously soft and yielding. There are over one thousand species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people will only ever notice two or three varieties. Get right down on the woodland floor and you’ll see the intricate ecosystem living right there amongst the moss and lichen.

Images of June Brechfa Forest tees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

July sees the forest thickening up with moss, leaves, and foliage, and the additional colour of pink threads through Brechfa. Thistles become homes to the bees, and it’s a real treat to wander through the forest on a warm summer evening and come across purple thistles bending under the weight of sleeping bees! Foxgloves grow tall and said bees also adore their pink bells nodding in the breeze.

Images of July Brechfa Forest trees and Foxglove

© Lisa Shambrook

August and springy moss carpets the forest floor and drapes like swags of feathery curtains from the fir trees. The woods are thick with green and if you look carefully you could swear the fae are hiding in the undergrowth. Magic emanates from every branch.

Images of August Brechfa Forest trees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

September’s autumn sunshine glistens on the gossamer webs that suddenly fill the boughs and you could be lost in Mirkwood. Find the wider tracks to walk if you’re keen to avoid the spiders! Toadstools and mushrooms emerge amongst the moss and mulch, and enjoy the colours as the leaves begin to turn on the oaks and beech trees, and the sunset touches bracken and fern with gold.

Images of September Brechfa Forest webs and mushroom

© Lisa Shambrook

October and autumn is here. Leaves have been painted with brass and copper, mosses are tinged with gold as they sport thready stems ready to spore, and larch needles turn golden-yellow before they drop. Cones adorn the firs, and acorns, beechnuts, and hazelnut shells are strewn underfoot, crunching beneath your feet. There’s magic in the air as the cool breeze wafts through the forest.

Images of October Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

November brings frost and the pines are dark and foreboding, but the rest of the forest glistens with winter sun and crisp coppers and burnt-orange as the bracken dies and autumn leaves fall. The colours dance in the late sunshine and the birds twitter with warnings of weather and cold.

Images of November Brechfa Forest autumn trees

© Lisa Shambrook

December and the forest opens up again, with winter light glaring across bare boughs and weaving through the mist. It’s quiet and expectant and maybe snow will fall, coating the trees and drifting over the roads like icing sugar.

Images of December Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul
– John Muir             

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Being kind is a choice, and it says much about people
whether they choose to be cruel or to be kind. Choose to be kind.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind - the last krystallos

I was going to post a different blog today – I’ve decided to post only once a month due to writing and family commitments – but today’s subject is too important to miss, especially after the weekend’s events.

Friday brought us Valentine’s Day, an annual celebration of love, compounded by a recoupling in the evening’s episode of Love Island, the TV show offering young singles a chance to find love. Love was in the air, and both love and compassion should be in the air every day, not just Valentine’s. I mention the day and the show because the very next day Caroline Flack would take her own life. Caroline was very much weaved into the tenets of Love Island, being the former host and a romantic herself, and was described as someone who loved being in love.

Her death is complicated and none of us can know the reasoning behind her decision, and the discussion surrounding her loss is made more complex by an impending trial for domestic abuse. None of us are here to debate her wrongs or failings, we all have those, and not one of us is in a position to throw stones. But no one can fail to see the relevance of both tabloid and social media as a likely contributory factor in her loss.

happiness-and-melancholy-

© Lisa Shambrook

The weeks following her arrest offered an onslaught of media attention and endless stories in the tabloids. I heard a quote that over four hundred stories about her appeared within four weeks or so, not to mention the amount of tweets, opinions, and comment they gave life to. How could any one of us deal with kind of scrutiny and vilification? I certainly couldn’t.

I suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues, and not even a hundredth of what she was laid bare to would have left me okay. One single negative tweet can have me contemplating my place in this world, and I understand that, so I am careful what I say online. So, if someone like me who has attempted suicide, regularly self-harm, and live with constant anxiety can’t deal with that kind of attention, why do we think celebrities, personalities, and even royals are stronger? Celebrities have emotional and mental health conditions, they have lives as complicated as ours, they struggle, and they try to live the best they can. They have faults and flaws just like we do, but when they make a mistake they do it inside the glare of the spectator.

Mental Health Foundation - Stress - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine making your mistakes in the limelight and scrutiny of the public, and being tried and convicted by uninformed armchair judges.

It’s easy to sit anonymously behind a screen and damn everyone we disagree with. We’ve seen it with Brexit, Trump, Johnson, Meghan and Harry, even coronavirus, and much more, but it’s not healthy when debate is uninformed or judgemental. We’ve seen a big move to fact check information online, especially when politics is involved. How often do we check our facts before posting our opinion, or sharing that meme that’s doing the rounds? We should. We must.

And this leads to the bigger issues. Our media is very much controlled by a few select outlets: tabloids and big media personalities, and I’d currently consider government too. When our media is owned by huge corporations including the media mogul Rupert Murdoch we often only hear the things they want us to hear. Personalities, like Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins etc, also tend to gain traction with loud and widespread controversial voices. These voices have a responsibility to be just and respectful, and not incite hate or bullying.

Both Light and Dark - J. K. Rowling - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Journalism does need to report what’s happening, but what happens when those reports become judgemental, mean-spirited, bullying, and downright persecution? Both bullying and sensationalising within the media has become endemic.

We are becoming a nation, a world, enslaved to bad news. We need more good news, we need more love, more kindness, and more good things all round. We need to be careful with what we say, not because we’re walking on ice around people not to offend, but because we are good-hearted genuine people who don’t want to hurt those around us.

Life is hard and we often have no idea what truly goes on in the lives of our friends let alone people outside of our circles. We’re all fighting battles no one can see.

Kind words are easy to speak - Mother Theresa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s important we are there for each other, and that spreads further than just our own back yard. If we interact globally, our circles widen and our influence grows.  We need to reassess our ethics and priorities. Our words can either harm or comfort, it’s up to us which we choose. We can help others reach their potential, help them to succeed, and support those who need it. We can work together, and kindness and compassion are paramount to achieving that.

Kindness is a base response, it’s automatic, it’s a default we should all have.

Gottman, a german researcher who worked with couples at The Gottman Institute, declared that: Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart, and Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together.

Let’s take contempt, hate, dislike, animosity, disrespect, all those things that contribute to bullying, away and replace them with kindness, love, compassion, empathy, validity and everything that will cement a community together in this wild, difficult, uncertain thing called life and become a stronger more supportive society.

Kindness has a beautiful way of reaching down... unknown

© Lisa Shambrook

Kindness isn’t hard, it’s a natural setting that all children have until prejudices and differences become apparent. Let’s reclaim it in our social media environment and in our personal lives until it becomes our default.

Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch.
It is anything that lifts another person.
(C. Neil Strait)

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Unexpected Kindness - Bob Kerrey

© Lisa Shambrook

Last – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week144Photo Alfonso Leon SurrealThere was nothing more to say. I stood in the gutter, rain slipping down my face with the tears I couldn’t stop. The last plane had gone and I wasn’t on it.

The streets were quiet. In the distance I could still hear the whine of jet engines. I could still smell the gasoline and kerosene, the fumes, and her fragrance.

Now, my tears ran more freely.

I paced, my eyes flitting from tenement to tenement, my movements twitchy, glitching as I tripped over my feet and sprawled across the tarmac. A guttural moan moved up my throat but I was reluctant to release it. I froze and gazed about me, terrified I might have woken one of the waiting demons hiding in the shadows.

I had no idea what to do.

It was too late to convene at one of the final terminals – the exodus had finished – and I had no one to run back to. I’d be able to hunker down in the apartment for a few more weeks, but after that? And on my own, without her, how would I even cross the threshold into our home again?

I pushed my hair out of my eyes and got to my feet, snapping out of my stupor to hurry on down the street. The eerie silence compounded my fears and my footfall echoed between the tall buildings. As I ran down the centre of the road, I slowed and stopped. There didn’t seem much point in running anymore. For a moment, in the unearthly quiet, I grinned and let a small laugh escape my lips. It wouldn’t be long before lunacy slipped into my mind. What was I running from when there was nothing left to run to?

My breath lightened in my chest, and a feeling like helium invaded my head, and I dropped to the floor. The damp road seeped through my jeans, but I didn’t care, and as my head spun for once the cold asphalt beneath my fingers was the only thing that felt real.

There was nothing left in this world for me. My last foolish mission had seen me trapped for too long, and I’d known even before I escaped that she’d have gone. Our pact determined our actions and I’d been the one to ruin it. I stared up at the sky, grey and overcast without even a chem trail to follow. I knew she’d be angry, furious even, but maybe one day she’d remember me with sadness rather than ire, and recall our love with passion and reverence, but I wouldn’t blame her if it wasn’t for a very long time.

She’d start again in another country with the rest of our refugees, with everyone who’d escaped. Woozy with emotion and despair, I pulled my knees up to my chest and sat there in the road. In the periphery of my sight I knew they were coming. I didn’t care.

Unwilling to watch the gloomy shadows vacate the cover of the tenements, I buried my face against my knees, my fingers threaded over my head. I didn’t want to see what was coming for me.

Scratchy sounds dragged themselves across concrete and I tried to think of her, tried to imagine her soft arms holding me close. Groans echoed in the still air and my own moan mingled with theirs.

Then the sound of metal unsheathed whirred about my head and I cowered into my shell, as it sliced through rotten flesh and meat thudded to the ground.

“Get on your fucking feet!” she screamed, and I sprang from the ground, my head spinning.

She was here, beside me, her wakizashi swinging through the air and severing an infected head from its shoulders. I yanked my katana from its sheath and joined her, suddenly invigorated. Together we fought, until the bloody mass at our feet stopped writhing.

“I waited!” she spat at me.

“I can see that…” I replied as she threw herself at me. Relief flooded my system making my legs go weak. She kissed me, violently and fiercely, then extricated herself and stared at me.

“You prick!” She slapped me, hard across my cheek, and it blazed with fire. “Don’t you ever give up.”

“The plane?” I began.

“There won’t be another. We’re on our own,” she said, as I nodded. “Just us, that’s it.”

“That’s enough.” She grabbed my hand and we ran, flames now flowing through my body with the intense desire to live. “That’s enough.”

 

0000. Divider

Really enjoying getting stuck into some more short fiction for Mid-Week Flash Challenge, which you can find on Miranda’s blog. This week’s photo prompt is Surreal by Alfonso Leon and drew me right in…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

A Doorway to Nowhere – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week143Photo Cornelia KonradsThe light was definitely different. It was warmer, brighter, and at odds with the spot where Eva sat.

Eva squinted and leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands and her elbows on her knees. The light on her side glanced off her spectacles, flaring against the lenses, and she adjusted her position. She stared at the opening made of weaved twigs and sculpted into a doorway, and let her mind stray.

A portal, a gateway into another world, maybe the threshold of adventure … so many ideas spun through her brain and she let a smile spread across her lips. The leaves on the other side whispered, then the trees around her fluttered and so did her heart. It was all she could do to stay put on her small portable stool, but she did. Eva softened her grin and leaned down to pick up her book. The day was yet young.

About thirty minutes later Eva had read and reread the same page multiple times and she finally dropped the book. It rested in the moss at her feet and her gaze returned to the doorway.

Her sigh reflected the breeze and she knew the sun was different on the other side of the track. She repositioned her body again to her previous studious arrangement and watched the opening.

Eva’s eyes began to blur and her eyelids closed, just briefly as her elbow slipped off her knee, and then a bark cut through her reverie. The bark echoed bouncing off the trees and she looked up to see a golden flurry of fur flying at her through the portal. The dog, an excited retriever, bounded up and wound itself about her legs, snuffling at her feet. Unable to resist, Eva’s hands buried themselves in the dog’s fur, fluffing and stroking the animal as it pushed against her like a cat demanding attention.

“And who are you?” she asked. “Where have you come from? Somewhere exciting?” Her voice lifted and the dog licked her hands. “Another world? No wonder you want attention! What’s it like in your world?”

The dog stared at her with big brown eyes mesmerising Eva. When the dog finally strayed from her touch, snuffling back towards the portal following its own trail back through the leaf mulch, Eva followed. She didn’t even pause when the dog hurried back through the doorway, and she stepped right through.

The light shone brighter, glaring through the canopy, and Eva shielded her eyes as she tried to follow the dog, but it loped away too fast vanishing into the trees surrounding the meadow. Eva looked back through her portal. Her stool now lay on its side beside her book, dull in the lesser light, and she turned back to the meadow searching for the dog.

The sun tingled against her skin and Eva shivered with anticipation. Leaves rustled and the dog bounded back out of the trees followed by a young man. He paused when he saw Eva and called his dog to heel. Eva stood with the doorway behind her as the dog waited impatiently at the man’s side. She stepped forward and the dog leaped across the grass to welcome her.

Eva grinned as the dog eagerly jumped and the man issued a quick reprimand. “Fenrir!”

“It’s okay!” she replied, laughing.

The man hurried over with apologies slipping from his mouth and a smile in his eyes, but Eva smiled widely.

“He likes you!” the man said. “I’m Jake.”

“Eva, nice to meet you, and you too, Fenrir.”

“Are you local?” asked Jake, looking behind her at the gap in the trees framed by sculpted twigs. “I’m from the next village …” He indicated behind him with a sweeping hand. “We don’t usually walk this far, and I’ve never walked beyond the tree gate, but Fenrir got spooked and ran away – finding you, as it happens.”

Eva turned to gaze back at the sculpted trees. “Yes, a few miles back that way,” she said, smiling, and she knew her long-awaited adventure had begun. “Maybe you’d like to walk even further along the path today? With me?”

0000. Divider

I only wrote three Mid-Week Flash Challenge pieces last year, which you can find on Miranda’s blog, and I’d like to do better this year! So, the prompt photo of an art installation by German artist Cornelia Konrads caught me. When have I ever been able to resist trees?

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Embracing Change Makes Life Better

After years of saying I don’t like change, I’m changing.
I’m learning that change is not only inevitable, but essential
and I need to embrace it.

Embracing Change Makes Life Better - The Last Krystallos

I struggle with change, but now I’m seeing it differently. I used to explain my lack of enthusiasm for something new as disliking change, but what I meant was a loathing of a change in routine, or an aversion to altering my view. I admit I’m not keen on things changing unless it’s something I initiate. That’s a selfish, but very human place to be. It’s not easy to alter your point of view, or adjust to something new, it’s hard to revise your opinion, but it is essential.

Many things in my life have changed, both good and bad, but changes are necessary. Growth comes from change, and only you can decide to grow. We don’t always have control over changes that happen to us, and sometimes we will need outside help to counter trauma, finance, situation, or mental, physical, and emotional health issues. In general, though, how you react to change will be your choice. Will you initiate it, love it, embrace it, or fight and challenge it?

My life has been one of quiet acceptance and of not rocking the boat, from a childhood of muted introversion and acquiescence, while inside I screamed for control of my own until I finally broke free about fifteen years ago.

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world - Brene Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I have changed in so many ways. My mental and emotional health has been forefront and my take on life has altered hugely. My personal ethics, beliefs, and thoughts on the world are so different to how I grew up, and I’ve grown up too. I’m a very different person with different beliefs and views on life, and I’m much happier with a less rigid and more altruistic life.

I’ve had to learn to adapt to change. Living on the spectrum, for me, means anything out of the ordinary or off routine is anxiety ridden and often scary, but getting older and a necessity to find my own ways to combat mental health issues has given me strength to make changes.

Acceptance has been a big part of knowing who I am, and who I strive to be has allowed me to open up to new things. I’ve spent over a year embracing myself and letting my hair go grey. When society advocates a certain beauty standard it’s difficult to break away from that with confidence, but I’ve loved the process of turning silver and letting natural changes happen.

She understood that the hardest times in life... – Sarah Addison Allen - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I now find it easier to break away from things that are toxic, things that don’t create positivity in my life, and from ties that used to bind me. Learning that I don’t need to be the product of my childhood and upbringing, allowed me to take control and taking control means embracing change.

I cannot now imagine being tied to things that limit us. I crave a world where people embrace equality, compassion, and love, where the climate and our planet takes precedence over capitalism, political corruption, and ease, where the whole world is one without boundaries.

When our general election loomed last month my take on voting was: ‘Think of the most vulnerable person you know and vote in their best interests.’ I couldn’t, in all that’s good, let this country move on as it was without using my vote to try and make someone else’s world better.

I want to change and embrace change, especially changes that help the world and its inhabitants. It’s sad to see climate change deniers, and odd to see people deride Greta Thunberg, but listen to Sir David Attenboroughthink about that – two people saying the same thing, but peoples’ prejudices limit them from taking action, because they don’t want to be advised by a young girl. I want to make changes because it’s for the greater good.

I want to embrace equality, in a world where it doesn’t matter what race or gender or sexuality you are, and where your beliefs or political allegiance don’t make you a bigot or a hypocrite. I want to live in a world which loves everyone no matter whether they are poor, homeless, or a migrant. A world where the wealthy want to pay higher taxes to support those who’ve never had their birth-right or opportunities, a society that wants to preserve good and fair over climbing the ladder of success without regard for who they step on. I want change, I welcome it.

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining who we are - Max Depree - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Change is vital for our species to grow. I was once told ‘God doesn’t change’ but I struggle with this. We all change, and I suppose if I believe in a higher being I want them to continue to grow, develop, and become better too. I want a hereafter where we move forward, and eternity, as a concept, is continual, which demonstrates something that moves on, develops, changes, and grows.

As Steven Hawking said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

Change is growth, growth is learning, learning is education, and education leads to knowledge. Knowledge brings improvement, and improvement leads to both betterment of society and ourselves.

I used to love the prayer of serenity, but life is not serene, it’s not easy, and it’s not about sitting on the side-lines. There will always be things we cannot change, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Angela Davies said: ‘I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.’

Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.

© Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes change will surprise you. Eleven years ago, we brought home a puppy. I was not a dog person and for the first few weeks I struggled with this little brown-eyed dog that gazed up at me with adoration. But I fell in love and Roxy became an integral much-loved part of our family. We lost her ten years later, but she’d enriched my life on so many levels, so much so, that two months later I saw a plea for a home for another dog and I fought for her. Those sad eyes gazed out at me from my Twitter feed and I knew she needed us. It’s now a year since that tweet and almost a year since she joined our family. Kira has a past infused with neglect and loneliness and small snippets of happiness, but now she’s home with a family who are her everything. It’s a small change, just one dog, but it means everything to us and to her.

Let change glide into your life, welcome it and embrace it,
and see who you can become.

If we don’t change, we don’t grow.
If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living – Gail Sheehy

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living – Gail Sheehy

© Lisa Shambrook

 

Northern Lights and Polar Bears Christmas Cake – 2019

When you’re re-reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
and watching it on BBC, it cannot fail to inspire you…
and so my Christmas Cake this year became a tribute to
Northern Lights, the panserbjørn, and Iorek Byrnison.

Northern Lights and Polar Bears Christmas Cake 2019 - The Last Krystallsos

No armoured bears on my cake, purely because my fondant work isn’t up to scratch enough to do their armour justice, but I softened the polar bears and gave them a snowball fight instead.

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I had fun with this one. Sketching out plans and then beginning always makes me think I’ve bitten off too much, but thankfully, so far, most of my cakes have worked, and I was really pleased with this one!

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos.

© Lisa Shambrook

Blue fondant pool, covered by a layer of white fondant icing, melted Foxes Glacier Mints (170C for 10 – 15 mins on greaseproof paper) to make ice (I haven’t been able to stop it bubbling, but I quite like it anyway), then sculpted polar bears in white fondant, with snow balls, royal icing snow drifts, sugar silver and pearl balls, and sugar snowflakes.

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos..

© Lisa Shambrook

It was also a bit of a reminder to me as ten years ago when I decorated my first cake with more than rough royal icing and plastic holly, it was with polar bears. So I’ve come full circle in a decade.

2009 - 2019 ten years of Christmas Cakes - the last krystallos

Ten years of Christmas Cakes – 2009 – 2019 © Lisa Shambrook

It’s been a bit of a bleak year, politically, and so I’m throwing myself into the few days before Christmas and enjoying my family and the Christmas spirit.

Have fun and enjoy the holidays – remember the important things:
love, compassion, and good will towards all.  

 

Amaranth Alchemy – Beautiful Gifts from Broken Books

If you love art, jewellery, craft, and books you will appreciate the
time, energy, love, and passion that goes into creating something magical.
This is how you can pay it back and forward…

Amaranth Alchemy – Beautiful Gifts from Broken Books

Matching in with my Reviews post – support local and creative businesses this year.
The sales creatives make during November and December make all the difference.
Take a look at crafters, jewellers, artists, and authors…

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces, book page bookmarks, book spine bookmarks, tie bars and frames.

Amaranth Alchemy gifts

It’s difficult to sustain a craft business all year round, so we often concentrate on Spring and Winter seasons, and make probably the lion’s share of our sales in lead up to Christmas. To be honest, it makes sense, I do most of my year’s buying in October and November too.

Think about spending your hard earned money locally, ethically, and with small independent businesses. Large conglomerates will usually keep going without your purchase, but we, small crafters, totally depend on your trade. Our winter sales will keep us going, encourage us, and make us deliriously happy.

Ocean Dreams and Neptune's Night-tide Potion Bottles by Amaranth Alchemy

Amaranth Alchemy Potion Bottles

My own Etsy store, Amaranth Alchemy is restocked each September, but this year has seen many of us with the least amount of disposable cash ever and sales have been poor. Watching large stores like Mothercare, and in previous years BHS etc, go to the wall worry the little fish in the ocean like me, is there still space for us? I say, yes, because we offer something the big stores don’t – a personal touch and originality.

I’m also working to be ethically and environmentally sound, reusing packaging and envelopes, and crafting with items that would have gone to landfill if they hadn’t been rescued.

Photos of parcels in brown paper and recycled packaging from Amaranth Alchemy

Parcels from Amaranth Alchemy

I make gifts using old, damaged, lost and ruined books, breathing new life into old pages. I make bookmarks from books that have lost pages, been torn, and ripped apart. I rescue spines and pages to make classic bookmarks and wall hanging plaques, I have peg magnets – perfect for keeping those notes and lists on your fridge or freezer, necklaces with dictionary words, and potion bottle necklaces with names from a forsaken and broken poetry book.

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces, book page bookmarks, book spine bookmarks, tie bars and frames.

Amaranth Alchemy gifts

Gems caught up with faery song in a tiny glass vial, enchanting sand from Neptune’s night tide, and precious lightning crystals. Keep them safe as you wear them about your neck.

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces - Lightning crystals with glass crystals, A Faery's Song with peridot gems, Amethyst Dreams with purple glitter, Ocean Dreams and Neptune's NIght-tide with sand, Winter Forests with moss and leaves.

Potion Bottle necklaces

As an added bonus you’ll find all my books in my shop too, signed copies at a cheaper price than bookstores.

A Symphony of Dragons, Human 76, Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa Shambrook

My Books

The postage time has passed for many overseas sales, but if you’re in the UK, see what I and many others on Etsy and their own websites have to offer. Find your one-of-a-kind gift and support buying small and local this year.

Amaranth Alchemy products

Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy © Lisa Shambrook

Many thanks for all the sales I’ve had over the years. I love buying from real people who put their heart and soul into their work, and most of my Christmas shopping has been via Etsy and other small businesses. It’s a pleasure to support them, and in so doing I want to support another friend with her own Etsy store… Take a look at Aureliola’s jewellery and see if she’s made something you or a loved one would adore too.

photos of Aureliola's jewellery on Etsy: Mermaid, polar bear, fairy, fairy wings, mermaid, flowers

Aureliola – winter collection

We work hard to try and make original and different gifts
and every sale makes us smile and lifts our heart! 

Support those who create the art that allows you to escape into adventures
and other worlds, and those who give you beauty to enrich your lives.

 

Rusty, Misty, and Raven…

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul,
there is no such thing as separation – Rumi.

Rusty - ginger cat, Misty - grey cat, and Raven - black cat

Twenty-eight years ago, just after Vince and I got married, we rescued Rusty, a skinny five-month-old kitten, living wild under my in-laws’ garden shed. We took him home and discovered he was literally a week or so away from death. He had skinned pads on his paws, half a tail, and was severely malnourished. We loved him for twelve years. Four months after losing Rusty, we took our children to pick up Misty, a five-week-old grey kitten. At the farm, the farmer (inundated with cats and kittens) shrewdly placed the tiniest black kitten, Raven, of the same litter in my ten-year-old daughter’s hands. We went home with two cats. Last month and this month, after fifteen-and-a-half years, we said goodbye to both cats with heavy hearts.

We have been extremely blessed by all three cats, and as Charles Dickens said – What greater gift than the love of a cat. Cats love because they want to and when you have the love of a cat you truly have a gift.

I want to remember my cats and how their little paws have stamped themselves right into my heart.

four photos of Rusty ginger cat. ONe on bricks, one asleep on bed, one in a tree, one in snow.

Rusty © Lisa Shambrook

Rusty stole my heart, my little orange tiger, and my shadow. Wherever I went Rusty followed. He’d accompany me in the garden, sunning himself amongst the catmint while I gardened, he’d sit beside me as I wrote on my laptop pushing his head under my arm, and when my lap was empty he’d cuddle up on it.

Rusty was adorable, had the softest snow white and golden ginger fur, and the brightest amber and green eyes. He was the sweetest cat in the world, loving unconditionally like a puppy!

Rusty was also the clumsiest cat I’ve ever known, missing half his tail seemed to affect his balance and spacial awareness, making him a cat who’d jump up onto a table and knock everything off it in the process! He even got lost when we moved to Wales getting shut in a neighbour’s garage overnight. Then another time he disappeared and failed to come when he was called. We found him around the corner mewing piteously at a neighbour’s identical front door. He was my world when we had no other pets and a young family. He was gentle and playful and all the children adored him. He passed away at twelve-years-old after kidney failure from an infected cat bite.

It was April 2004, and I missed Rusty so bad that we decided to find another cat, and Vince knew a friend with a farm full of cats, and we went to collect Misty. The farmer was canny and when Raven was placed in Bekah’s hands there was no going back and one cat became two.

Though sisters, Misty and Raven were so different. Misty was grey and white like the early morning mist, and she purred quietly, was gentle, loved her food, and didn’t stray far from the house. Raven, as black and sleek as midnight, purred like a motorbike, was fierce, adventurous, and a true explorer. Misty loved bathing in the sun close to the house, probably so she could easily hear food being put out… and Raven would disappear for hours and hours, traipsing through the forests and coming back whenever she fancied.

four photos of Misty grey cat - one stretching on bed, one in a box, one with a daisy, one with pumpkin

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Misty and Raven spent their whole lives ignoring each other, as siblings often do – you never found them together, they wouldn’t sleep on the same bed during the day, and up until their last year they hissed at each other whenever they met in the house! However, if one was in distress, they joined forces and fought for each other.

Raven got into trouble, a lot. She was tiny, skinny, and passionate, but she attracted trouble like a magnet, costing us hundreds in vet visits to treat the wounds she sustained from other neighbourhood cats. Misty would sit on our flat extension roof and when other cats came by with threats Raven would rock up and rescue her. As they got older though, more cats appeared in the locality and they found it harder to hold their own against the younger cats. A few years ago, a family of six cats showed up and ours found it hard. When Raven went missing for three days, and finally turned up stressed and perturbed, we decided to make them house cats. Misty accepted it easily, having never gone far from home, Raven though found it much harder, but it worked out and they became happy indoor cats.

four photos of Raven black cat - one curled up, one looking stately, one with a daisy, one with pumpkins

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Misty slept with Cait, and Raven cuddled up to Bekah every night, enjoying the convenience of our beds and ignoring any cat beds we ever provided. When Bekah moved out Raven chose my bed, and stalked in every night after being fed. She’d sit on my pillow while Vince and I hugged, then she’d mew when she decided it was bed time, and push between us to claim the centre of the bed!

We now have our beds back to ourselves, and that’s probably when I miss them the most. It’s nice to cuddle my husband without interruption, but I used to love going to sleep with a warm furry body curled up against my shoulder.

When you needed a hug Misty and Raven would be there, snuggling close, pushing their head against you, purring and loving. After fifteen years their health mirrored each other and they slipped downhill with old age and common cat issues. Misty developed hyperthyroidism and then kidney failure, and Raven was thwarted by liver tumours, and they passed away within a month of each other.

Rusty - ginger cat, Misty - grey cat, and Raven - black cat

Rusty, Misty, Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Like I said, echoing Dickens, what greater gift than the love of a cat.
We had one of the greatest gifts, three times over.

To Rusty, Misty, and Raven…

Colours to Inspire – Metallic – What’s Your Favourite?

I’ve blogged about my favourite jewel colours and neutrals,
so today I’m looking metals…

Collage of photos depicting silver, gold, brass and copper photos for Colours to Inspire - Metallics, for The Last Krystallos blog

Metallic colours are striking, bright, crisp, and shiny. Any colour can be metallic, but I’m sticking with traditional colours of metals – silver, gold, brass, and copper. Bronze and brass are both alloys of copper, brass is copper and zinc and has a more yellow colour, and bronze is primarily copper with stronger reddish tones. I have a love of antiqued jewellery, or silver with a patina, and I love how these colours are rich and diverse, and as accessible in the natural world as they are in sleek modernity.

Silver photos: the moon, fog, silver spoon, silver topaz jewellery, frost heart, grey cat, frost, dragon tail necklace, silver fairy, for the last krystallos blog

Sterling Silver © Lisa Shambrook

Silver is my colour of choice for metals, and not just because I’m embracing going grey!
I love silver jewellery, and enjoy wearing greys, pewter, slate, and silver colours.
Silver is enchanting, magical, mystical, and sophisticated…

gold photos: gold herkimer diamond jewellery, yellow forest, fireworks, yellow rose, gold wall with Love quote, fairy lights, lemon amber bead, daffodil, citrine stone for The Last Krystallos blog

Glowing Gold © Lisa Shambrook

Gold is the colour of warmth, not one I wear often,
but it embraces the sun and everything that glitters and reminds me of heat and wealth.
Gold is regal, expensive, prosperous, and successful…

brass photos - yellow leaves, fairy lights, brass necklace, yellow leaf, steampunk bumblebee, russet apple, oak leaf, fairy lights in bottle, river bed in sunlight, for The Last Krystallos blog

Beautiful Brass © Lisa Shambrook

Brass, strangely, for a metal, brass feels soft to me, warm and soft.
The colour of dropping autumn leaves and sculptures.
Brass is warm, welcoming, autumnal, and happy…

copper photos - copper metal bookmark, sunset, copper red leaves, High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, leaves, squirrel necklace, copper leaves, red squirrel, leaves, for The Last Krystallos blog

Crisp Copper © Lisa Shambrook

Copper always brings images of red squirrels, butterflies, and pipes,
not the smoking ones, but plumbing ones.
Another metal that is autumnal and warm.
Copper is fun, bright, friendly, and down-to-earth…  

What’s your favourite metallic colour and what does it mean to you?

Amaranth Alchemy 20% Off Everything SALE

I’m having a 20% off everything sale in my Etsy shop – Amaranth Alchemy

20 off Everything at Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy Christmas 2019

I specialise in bookpage gifts created from damaged and ruined books. I only use books that have been lost and abandoned and broken – breathing new life into old books.

You can find Bookpage Bookmarks, Book Spine Bookmarks, Quote Art, Christmas Gifts, Necklaces, Tie Pins, and my new range of Magical Potion Bottle Necklaces. My Books are also on sale, you can buy Signed Paperbacks at a great price!

Come and have a look and see what might be perfect for the Bookworm in your life!

Or treat yourself.

** Great items for stocking fillers and it’s only 7 weeks til Christmas **

20% off everything from 4th to 18th November 2019

Amaranth Alchemy