Category Archives: Oak

Forests that Claim your Heart

‘It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts,
as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.’

Robert Louis Stevenson

Forests that claim your Heart - The Last KrystallosForests are inspiring, especially to writers. Imagine Tolkien without Fangorn Forest and the Ents, or Lothlórien, or Mirkwood. And Walter De La Mare’s The Listeners would be nothing without its haunting forest’s ferny floor. Even Shakespeare’s Macbeth awaiting Birnam Wood… We have been inspired by trees and forests since the beginning of time, and I can’t see the fascination ending.

I recently read these two articles, the first on Brechfa Forest and the second a list of Twenty of the Best British Forests, and it made me reflect on my local woods and forests. Having a dog means exploring forests becomes a way of life and I have my favourites.

Roxy - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

Roxy – Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods, just outside Carmarthen on the road to Llansteffan, was one of Roxy’s best places. She loved to lope through the trees and the bluebells, sniffing, wading through mud and/or leaves, and enjoying the fresh outdoors. Bluebells are always a major reason for visiting Green Castle – they’re my favourite flower and have influenced my writing – and they bring me peace. Bluebells and white wood anemone with fairy wings blanket the woods in spring and leaves of bronze, gold, and brown colour autumn.

Bluebells - anemone - Roxy - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

Bluebells at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

The circular walk ends, either in 30 minutes or an hour, at the old oak. This tree has captivated me for years. When I first saw it, standing alone, I thought it was dead, especially as it was midwinter and bare, but as spring dawned I noticed new growth and my own excitement burgeoned just like its leaf buds! It spread gnarled branches, and foliage erupted and beauty ensued. It quickly became the most beautiful and unusual tree I know.

Four seasons - Old Oak - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

The Old Oak at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

This oak is not much more than ten feet tall, and hollow. I know nature withstands a great deal, and the fact that it is fully alive amazes me seeing as it’s almost completely hollow. It stands alone in the middle of a reclaimed meadow in Green Castle Woods, and reminds me that even when I’m spent I can still flourish.

Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Kira – Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Kira is a different dog altogether, so our forest of choice for walking is the much quieter Brechfa Forest. Sixteen and a half acres of forest spread across Northern Carmarthenshire allows you to find your own paths, and due to Kira’s fear reactivity to both people and dogs it’s an ideal place to walk her when we’re not training. It gives her freedom and though, unlike Roxy, she remains on a long retractable lead she enjoys the liberty and opportunity to explore.

Brechfa moss - Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Brechfa is magical, like the description in the linked The Independent piece, and it always feels enchanting and ancient. Green is the predominant colour throughout the year, olive, peridot, and emerald. Swathes of moss hang from the spruce and pine, and lichen and moss spread across the grassy forest floor. Reindeer moss hangs in trees like chandelier jewels and like snow on the ground. In autumn toadstools and mushrooms decorate the stumps and fog moves through the trees like ghostly spirits.

Toadstools mushrooms - fog - reindeer moss - oxalis - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Trees offer balm for my soul, wisdom, and pure natural beauty. I could spend all day winding my paths beneath them. Having a dog is a bonus, giving me even more opportunity to walk and share the peaceful gratitude of the forests.    

Do you have a favourite woodland or forest?

Finding Myself Beneath… Surviving Hope

Following last year’s release all three Surviving Hope novels are now available,
and I just got my own physical copies featuring their new covers.
I love them and it made me muse on an old post from three years ago.
What have you discovered beneath?

Surviving Hope Novels - Lisa Shambrook.

Writing teaches you a great deal about life, it purges, inspires, enthrals, and opens your mind, and you learn things about yourself. This series – Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star – saw much of myself come to the fore as I wrote about the lives of three girls and the events that permeated their souls and families. What have I discovered?

Dreams - Beneath the Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the RainbowThe first book in the series follows Freya after a tragic accident and her desire to achieve her dreams. How important are your dreams? J R R Tolkien said A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities. I concur. Your dreams and what you do with them will define you.

Imagine a life without wishes and goals and the desire to achieve? I’d feel as if I’d lost my very soul if I had no dreams to chase. Old Thomas has a dream that appears pointless and unachievable, but Freya longs to help him and he quips “It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.”

I began life as a contemplative dreamer… a quiet, shy child with an imagination that spanned so many ideas. It took until I was thirty to turn those gossamer dreams into concrete goals, but I did, and now I’m working hard to keep those dreams-turned-goals alive!

There is a difference between dreams and goals. Putting something in writing or into action changes the aspect of a dream into something solid.

Choose to put your dreams into action, choose to make them happen. Dreams are messages from your heart to chase and work towards to help you grow and become who you’re meant to be.

Oak - Beneath the Old Oak - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old OakIn the second book Meg has grown up with an erratic mother and her life begins to fall apart as her mother unravels. She seeks solace beneath the wide arcing branches of an ancient oak. I’ve learned that nature is my first port of call to help my mental and emotional health. I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order said John Burroughs.

Trees are my solace, from providing my grounding stim – acorn cups – to allowing me time to rearrange my head when I’m overwhelmed. Both oak trees and willows speak to me and both appear in my books. Trees stand as sentinels, strength emanating from their trunks and boughs, and life – a constant rotation with the seasons – in their blossom and leaves.

How can you not be inspired by trees? I’ve visited Sherwood Forest several times and I’m always emotionally affected by the Major Oak. It’s thought to be between 800 and 1,000 years old and is a sight to behold. It’s so large its boughs and branches are held up with supports, and you cannot walk about its 10m (33ft) girth because its aged root system is so fragile and constant footsteps would damage the ground.

The other oak that serves as my muse lives in Green Castle Woods, close to my home, and is small and broken, but every year it overcomes its hollow trunk and flourishes with leaves and acorns. Trees like this fill me with awe as I wonder at all the history they’ve seen. It makes perfect sense to me that Meg could find answers beneath her old oak.

Stars - Beneath the Distant Star - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Distant Starthe final book in the trilogy finds Jasmine fighting to become herself as she battles the ghost of a sister she no longer remembers. The stars stimulate my mind with both wonder and ideas. If I need to remind myself of miracles, and marvels, and the need to dream I just have to look at the stars.

My favourite constellation will always be Orion, the Hunter. It’s the first formation my dad ever taught me and the one I always look for. You’ll recognise names of Orion’s stars, his shoulders are made up Betelgeuse (one of the largest stars known to us) and Bellatrix, right and left respectively. The Orion Nebula – a mass of dust, hydrogen, helium, and other ionized gases – is a stunning cluster and makes up the middle star in his sword which hangs from his belt made up of the nebula and two stars. The Orion Nebula is 1,600 light-years from earth, and seen through a telescope is astoundingly beautiful. Finally, Rigel, the Hunter’s left knee is a blue supergiant and the brightest star in the constellation.

When Jasmine stares up at the stars she tries to harness their light and pull hope into the darkness of her world.

The stars spread across the inky night sky give me hope and something to reach for. Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the nightSarah Williams’ quote lives right in my heart. I live for reaching, for compassion, for uniting the world, a bit like the Star Trek Federation. I have never seen our world as individual countries; as places to build walls and to live separately. I believe in unity and harmony, and the stars give me hope that maybe one day that’s how we’ll all live – together.

The Surviving Hope Novels - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

So, these three books have inspired hope both with the grounding nature of trees and the celestial shooting stars of reaching for hopes and dreams.

Find out what Freya discovered Beneath the Rainbow,
What Meg found Beneath the Old Oak,
And what Jasmine searched for Beneath the Distant Star…

What will you find?

Surviving Hope Novels - Lisa Shambrook

Find all buy links for paperbacks and eBooks at lisashambrook.com or BHCPress.com

An Ode to November in Silver and Gold

Loosely using the word ode, but I want to celebrate November.
It’s a month that often gets lost between the beginning of autumn
September, October, and the festivities of December.
So, let’s love November…

An Ode to November in Silver and Gold - The Last Krystallos

I set my latest manuscript in the first week of November, and while writing during August, September, and October I worried I’d got it wrong. But November and the dates I was describing came around and it was perfect!

Silver Lining November - The Last Krystallos

Silver Lining November © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite month is October, which is full of moss and lichen, leaves turning, late warmth, and Halloween. Then comes November, and we usually hurry through it complaining about the cold and rushing about organising Christmas!

Leaves and Hot Chocolate November - The Last Krystallos

Leaves and Hot Chocolate November © Lisa Shambrook

November is beautiful. I think I might be Elsa, as the cold doesn’t bother me anyway, but this month it’s been warm and the chill of winter has only just begun to bite. I love the clocks going back, I love the drawn in nights, the cosy darkness cuddling into the sofa with a hot chocolate and furry blanket.

Silver and Gold November - The Last Krystallos

Silver and Gold November © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t mind turning the heating on. I am Scrooge with it, but the heating helps me check my privilege. I have it, some don’t, and sometimes we all need to be reminded of what we have versus what we don’t.

Misty November - The Last Krystallos

Misty November © Lisa Shambrook

I love the mist and fog, the ethereal beauty of the end of autumn. The silver mist and the gold leaf of forests full of copper, bronze, and gold. My manuscript contains forests of beech and oak and November is the month they gild our countryside.

Gold Leaf November - The Last Krystallos

Gold Leaf November © Lisa Shambrook

We’re about to enter the glitz and bling of Winter – but I think autumn
with its earthy colours and metallic sheen is my most favourite.

What about you?

 

Beneath the Old Oak – A tale of Courage and Growth

Beneath the Old Oak is a story that brings forth a young girl’s courage
and helps her grow through tragedy like a tiny acorn turns into a majestic oak.

Beneath the Old Oak by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

Meg’s mother is having a breakdown, and Meg can’t cope.
Seeking to escape bullies and overwhelming anxiety,
she discovers an old oak tree whose revelations begin to change her life.

Beneath the Old Oak is released through BHC Press on 16th October and is a novel that will completely captivate you.

Beneath the Old Oak by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

“A brave book that tackles serious issues for a younger audience in a mature and sensitive way.” —LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Beneath the Old Oak by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

“I was awake until about 1am reading this one. I could have put it down anytime, just didn’t want to.
This story leans heavily to the subject of depression. There are many of those on the kindle, few quite as believable, even less as credible. The family with a single child are wonderfully developed as they are deeply troubled.  A father who goes to work and his involvement limited in their troubled life, a mother slowly slipping away from all of them, and a young girl with too much weight on her shoulders left to clean up the mess.
…the oak tree becomes symbolic of the escape from harsh reality for both mother and child when there are so many issues that should be confronted, so many secrets that should be out in the open.
This is the kind of book I recommend people read regardless of what kind of genre you prefer. It’s one for everybody. Just read it.” —
Mr D. on Amazon

Beneath the Old Oak is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:
Amazon UK, Amazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and other online outlets.

Beneath the Old Oak by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak is the second book in the Surviving Hope novels, following Beneath the Rainbow already available, and once you’ve been charmed by Beneath the Old Oak you’ll be excited to read Beneath the Distant Star which releases on 11th December – and my publisher has offered a number of ARC copies of Beneath the Distant Star through LibraryThing. In exchange for an honest review you can read a prepublication copy of Beneath the Distant Star. Pop over, scroll down and request your copy now.

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The First Breath of Spring…

Spring is the breath of new beginnings, of fresh green growth,
and the jewels of Mother Earth lifting their heads to nod in the breeze.

The First Breath of Spring - The Last Krystallos

The first colours of spring appear to be green and white with splashes of blue, yellow, lilac, and pink.

Snowdrops are the first of Mother Nature’s little ones who peep through the frosty mornings to offer us the hope of spring. Hellebores, Christmas roses, throw out their very best with simple flowers and fancy doubles. They’re quickly followed by tiny crocuses and narcissus and then full blown, blousy daffodils.

Christmas Tree - Oak - Daffodils - Primroses - Cowslip - Abies Koreana new growth

Christmas Tree – Oak – Daffodils – Primroses – Cowslip – Abies Koreana new growth © Lisa Shambrook

Fresh growth on trees as they begin to dress with buds of lime-coloured leaves and blushes of blossom. Magnolia will be one of the first to robe its trees with a flush of ivory or pink, and cherry blossom won’t be long to follow. Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn is one of the first clusters of pink to flower on shrubby twigs with a scent to linger beside.

Ragged Robin - Blossom - Mallow - Valerian - Aquilegia - Hellebore - Tulip - Virbunum Bodnantense Dawn

Ragged Robin – Blossom – Mallow – Valerian – Aquilegia – Hellebore – Tulip – Virbunum Bodnantense Dawn © Lisa Shambrook

Primroses and cowslips adorn the meadows and gardens with tiny sunshine flowers, and white wild anemones unfurl their fairy wings in woodlands, right before bluebells carpet the forest floor. Vinca (periwinkle), and forget-me-nots begin the blue, with chinodoxa and primula.

Crocus - Primula Denticulata - Chinodoxa - Forget-me-nots - Vinca - Wild Violet - Bluebells - Aquilegia

Crocus – Primula Denticulata – Chinodoxa – Forget-me-nots – Vinca – Wild Violet – Bluebells – Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Wild oxalis, garlic, violets, and campion spread through the countryside, and ragged robin nods its shaggy head in the warmth of spring. Valerian pushes through wherever it can, determined and strong, and mallow and aquilegia begin to clothe our gardens. Belle Etoile (philadelphus – mock orange) fragrances the air with beauty and heaven, and lastly, spring tulips will open as the sun dances – and heralds the hope of summer.

Snowdrops - Belle Etoile - Wild Anemone - White Campion - Magnolia - Hellebore - Oxalis - Wild Garlic

Snowdrops – Belle Etoile – Wild Anemone – White Campion – Magnolia – Hellebore – Oxalis – Wild Garlic © Lisa Shambrook

What is Spring to you?
Which flower do you look forward to most?  

Forest Fox – Christmas Cake 2017

Padding softly through the snowy woodland
the Forest Fox searches for somewhere safe and cosy to sleep…
and he becomes this year’s Christmas cake theme.

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook - title

I decorated my cake with some of my favourite things: woodland animals, acorns, snow, autumn/winter leaves, and trees.

Forest Fox Sleepy Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I relate to the aloneness of foxes (not loneliness), so right now it is the most appropriate creature to decorate my cake. I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.’ ― Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose.

 

Forest Fox Trio - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

I covered the cake with smooth fondant icing, concealing a mound that my fox can find shelter beneath. I made chocolate fondant logs (sadly, the chocolate fondant I found is not vegan, so is the only bit Bekah won’t be able to eat!) and a tree trunk, and filled it with fondant snowballs, sugar snowflakes, and silver and pearl sugar balls. He sleeps on a bed of winter fallen oak leaves. Acorns and holly leaves are strewn across the den and paw prints show you how he got there!

Forest Fox Acorns Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned in my last post that the cake is vegan. I used dairy-free margarine/butter (vegetable or sunflower oil based spread) and instead of eggs I used chickpea water. This worked really well. The chickpea water (aquafaba – bean water) has a strong smell of beans, so I added a few drops of vanilla essence as I whisked it. 3 tablespoons of chickpea water replaces one egg, and needs to be whisked for a few minutes until foamy then added as you would each egg. The resultant cake is lovely. The smell of beans fades with baking and the cake is firm and looks no different to an ordinary Christmas cake. Smells gorgeous while baking and tastes no different!

Next time I make a sponge cake for my vegan daughter, I will definitely be using chickpea water.

Forest Fox Woodland Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

CaptureSo, when it came to guessing how I’d decorate my cake many people looked back at my love of dragons and thought a variety of dragons could adorn my cake for a second year, but not so. Nobody except almost my husband guessed this one. If he’d switched his guess of squirrel with fox he’d have got it outright! My daughter, Cait, did guess woodland animals… But without a correct answer online I put all the names of those who’ve made a guess into a Random Name Selector and Julia came up as the winner! Julia, you’ll be getting a signed copy of A Symphony of Dragons!

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is only a few days away – and I wish you all the joy it can bring!

Enjoy your Christmas Cake!

Be Part Of Autumn – Let Your Senses Sing

Do you feel part of nature? Does it resonate in your very soul?
If you know me, you’ll know it does.
Nature – ocean, animals, trees, mountains, lakes, forests, ice,
flowers, and Mother Earth are all an intrinsic part of my life –
ingrained in me, my writing, my pictures, and in my soul.

Be Part of Autumn - Let Your Senses Sing - The Last Krystallos

It’s October, my favourite month and season, and this month offers some of my favourite things. The turning leaves on oak trees, acorns and acorn cups scattered across the forest floor, horse chestnuts and conkers, and kicking through rustling autumn leaves. Squirrels scamper up the trees, and gaze down at me with beady black eyes as I collect rogue acorns.

Let’s appreciate the beauty of the season and the little gifts it gives.

Squirrels - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

“I held a blue flower in my hand, probably a wild aster,
wondering what its name was,
and then thought that human names for natural things are superfluous.
Nature herself does not name them.
The important thing is to know this flower, look at its color
until the blends becomes as real as a keynote of music.
Look at the exquisite yellow flowerettes at the center,
become very small with them.
Be the flower, be the trees, the blowing grasses.
Fly with the birds, jump with a squirrel!”
– Sally Carrighar

Acorns and Oak Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, be part of autumn. Scamper with squirrels, follow the fox, kick fallen leaves, stamp in seasonal puddles, wander through forests as leaves turn red, orange, brown, bronze, and gold, and don your gloves to climb mountains and inhale clean air. 

Look down to investigate toadstools, gaze at tiny autumn flowers, and look up to the sky above and watch buzzards soar. Feel the breeze caress your neck, shiver and wrap a warm scarf about your neck, and let the sun kiss your cheeks. Touch silky petals, crumble used up leaves between your fingers, and stroke rough bark and soft moss. Let the fragrance of autumn fill your senses, the musty earthy scent of forests, and the crisp freshness of ocean air. Listen to the crunch as you stomp through the woods, and hear the whispering wind, and listen for the scamper of tiny woodland feet.

Horse Chestnuts - Conkers - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Let autumn embrace you with all it has to offer.

“Nature is our friend – trees, squirrels, grass, fields, meadows, oceans – without people.
Hike. Walk. Stroll. Bike. Swim. Be in a still place and feel eternity.
Have a great time. Just feel it.”
– Frederick Lenz

Autumn Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do your senses love autumn?

Loving Autumn…

Autumn is the season that inspires me a season of falling autumn leaves, woollies, hats and gloves, boots, hot chocolate and autumn tone jewellery, cosy cats, apples, acorns, conkers, Halloween and pumpkins, candles, toadstools, and autumn colours of bronze, brown, red, amber, yellow, silver, and gold. 

Loving Autumn - The Last Krystallos

What do you love about Autumn?

Loving Autumn - Yellow Leaves Acorns - The Last Krystallos

Yellow Leaves – Oak and Acorn and Acer © Lisa Shambrook

The leaves fall patiently, Nothing remembers or grieves,
the river takes to the sea, the yellow drift of leaves.
– Sara Teasdale

Loving Autumn - Winter Woollies Boots - The Last Krystallos

Woollies and Sweaters and Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Fallen leaves are autumn’s equivalent to snow – they bring out the child in you. 
– Anon

Loving Autumn - Hot Chocolate Jewellery - The Last Krystallos

Hot Chocolate and Autumn Jewels © Lisa Shambrook

The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown;
the berry’s cheek is plumper, the rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned, I’ll put a trinket on.
– Emily Dickinson (Nature 27 – Autumn)

Loving Autumn - Cosy Cats - The Last Krystallos

Cosy Cats © Lisa Shambrook

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
– George Eliot

Loving Autumn - Fruits Acorns Conkers Apples - The Last Krystallos

Apples – Acorns – Conkers © Lisa Shambrook

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.
– Eric Sloan

Loving Autumn - Halloween Candles Colours - The Last Krystallos

Halloween – Candles – Autumn Colours © Lisa Shambrook

Colors burst in wild explosions, fiery, flaming shades of fall.
All in accord with my pounding heart, behold the autumn-weaver,
in bronze and yellow dying. Colors unfold into dreams,
in hordes of a thousand and one.
The bleeding, unwearing their masks to the last notes of summer.
Their flutes and horns in nightly swarming. Colors burst within.
Spare me those unending fires, bestowed upon the flaming shades of fall…
– Dark Tranquility (With the Flaming Shades of Fall)

Loving - Autumn Toadstools - The Last Krystallos

Toadstools © Lisa Shambrook

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

What are you loving this autumn?

Loving Winter’s Chill – The Best Bits of Winter

Winter is the season of warmth and chill –
the warmth of sharing and loving and the chill of blizzards.

loving-winters-chill-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

Night Sky and Scented Candles…
I love it when the clocks go back… Night draws in and the stars twinkle with winter diamonds, and this winter Venus has sparkled like a gem in the sky. Inside, I burn scented candles: Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate, Berry Trifle, Honey Clementine, and the sweet aroma of Macaroon, Apple Strudel, and Snowflake Cookie waft down the stairs from my daughters’ rooms…

night-sky-and-scented-candles-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Frosted Leaves and Winter Trees…
I adore the bling that Jack Frost brings, sifting icing sugar across nature.
Leaves fall from trees, leaving them bare, and swathe the ground in glittered jewels.
Moss, the emerald survivor of the season, carpets the forest floor
and adorns the naked trees, clothing them in winter beauty.

frosted-leaves-and-winter-trees-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Warm Boots, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Cosy Blankets…
Don your best boots, wrap a cosy scarf about your neck, pull on a hat, and slip your hands into fleecy gloves – and you’re all set to wander out in the winter wonderland. If that doesn’t entice you, then snuggle down beneath a warm blanket and enjoy the central heating!

winter-boots-hats-gloves-scarves-and-soft-cosy-blankets-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Winter Landscapes…
The skies are a mixture of clear and frosty, rainy and dull, and rolling mist and fog,
enjoy those late sunrises and early sunsets and warm up with a walk.

woodland-walks-and-winter-landscapes-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Hot Chocolate and Winter Baking…
Baking takes centre stage with Christmas on the cards
from cookies, cakes, and pastries to hearty soups and winter cuisine.
Enjoy homemade fayre and settle with a steaming mug of creamy hot chocolate…

hot-chocolate-and-winter-baking-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Flowers…
Delicate fairy-bell snowdrops peep through the snow or push through the soil to bring
new growth to the dormant season, accompanied by the beauty of hellebores.
Let winter flowers bring colour and hope.

winter-flowers-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Ruby Red Berries…
Like flowers, red berries, often associated with Christmas, shine bright like rubies, especially against the frost and snow, and they’re great sustenance for birds coping with the cold.

ruby-red-berries-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas Joys…
My favourite holiday season is Christmas; it’s filled with so much joy and so much meaning. There are a multitude of celebrations during winter, all wrapped in lights, warmth, and love.
I love the Christmas cake, decorations, gifts, giving, food, and family time –
a time for peace and goodwill to all…

christmas-joys-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

All That Glitters…
Glitter everywhere – frost, snow, jewellery, stars, Christmas decorations, lights.
December glistens with Christmas sparkle,
and the rest of winter embraces the shimmer of nature
and the crackle of fire in the hearth.

all-that-glitters-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

A Crystalline Carpet of Snow…
When it snows I hurry to my window to watch the fluffy white stuff then rush outside to let it fall around me! That moment when you wake up and look outside and see a blanket of snow sparkling in the early morning sun is pure magic.

winter-snow-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Winter and what do you love about it most?

loving-winters-chill-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Check out The Best Bits of Autumn

Pottery – Falling in Love with Clay and Time Out for Carers

Those who know me will already know I’ve been attending a pottery class for a couple of months. I’ve learned so much and come to love the medium of clay and sculpting. It’s not only therapeutic but also highly creative and fun.    

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I was really lucky when my friend, Ruth, invited me to a special class, put on by Dorothy Morris of Greenspace Gallery, Carmarthen, to learn pottery. Dorothy received funding for a class for Carers and she also runs a Textile class for Carers on Wednesdays. I’m my father’s main port of call as he suffers from disabling Ataxia and as he cares for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and Cancer, so I qualified, and it’s the best thing that has come out of the heartbreak of elderly parental care.

It’s worth noting that this came at the perfect time for me, having just asked for help to deal with crippling anxiety and depression myself. It came at a time when I was as low as I’ve ever been and unable to cope, and I fought my virulent social anxiety to attend and am so glad I did!

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My sleeping dragon before and after glaze and firing © Lisa Shambrook

Pottery is, as I mentioned, therapeutic, and I get huge peace from working the clay with my fingers, from considering and thinking of ideas, and from learning techniques and skills. Dorothy has a curriculum and we are learning right from the beginning, which is great as most of us are beginners! We began with pinch pots, moulding a ball of clay and pushing your thumb inside to create a pot shape, then smoothing and shaping into a bowl. The following week we made two pinch pots and sealed them together and created something from our imagination – you know my imagination – I made a sleeping dragon!

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Oak Tiles, Clay biscuit fired work, Tree Trunk Vase and some of our work in class © Lisa Shambrook

I sketched it first and began to mould it and this is where learning works, I began to cut out and shape two separate clay wings, to fix onto the sides of my dragon, but Dorothy showed me how to use the clay to sculpt impressions of wings adding ribbing and ridges to show where the wings lay. This worked so well, and I knew I was going to learn a lot.

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Bust and Bowls and other class members’ work  © Lisa Shambrook

We made busts with two pinch pots and another for shoulders, then we moved onto slab work making tiles and my natural inclination took me to acorns and oaks. A tree trunk vase came next, learning to curve and seal the slab into a cylinder. After that we had time to design our own project using both pinch pots and slabs of clay. I designed bookends. One was an acorn, I have a penchant for them, and the other was a reference to my three books: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, a rainbow, an oak leaf and a star. Sadly, these bookends blew up in the kiln.

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Acorn and Hope Within Bookends in clay © Lisa Shambrook

Accidents will happen, so it’s best to be prepared for them. Any air inside the clay that hasn’t got a hole to escape from will create a bomb inside the kiln – and any piece could have an air bubble, especially as we are all beginners. There’s no blame, as it could have been my own piece or anyone else’s that caused the explosion, we’ll never know. It did serve to help us be more careful with our rolling out and avoiding air bubbles!

Coil work came next. I had no idea that many, many pots, large and small, are first created with coils then smoothed, but it’s a great way to way to make pots without a potter’s wheel and to vary the shape. My coil work was a little suspect, not very tidy, and it rather frustrated me. But I did learn to use it in a later project.

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Castle Turret Box © Lisa Shambrook

Our next brief was to create a box, or at least a lidded item, using slab, pinch pots and coils. I designed a square castle turret using six tile slabs, scored the edges and used slip (clay and water mixture) to seal the sides to each other, and added the pinch pot to the lid, decorated with tiny coils. I wasn’t sure the coils would work, and worried about how they would look, but in the end they actually looked like roses and I loved them! I put battlements around the lid and a smaller square tile to the base of the lid so it would sit on top and not slip off the box. I pushed air holes into the lid beneath the pinch pot – I didn’t want another explosion! A decorative handle, a door and window, and creeping vines finished it.

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Castle Turret Trinket Boxes © Lisa Shambrook

I’m quite an efficient worker, so with my spare time leading up to Christmas, I made two more boxes. These were circular turrets, one in brown clay and one in white. Curiosity, I suppose, to see how the two clays differ. I rolled ‘snakes’ of clay and coiled them into discs that I then smoothed out, and they became my bases and lids for my castle turret boxes.

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Ruth’s work glazed and fired

I love this class. We meet in a small, cabin studio on a Friday afternoon for three hours. There’s no internet or mobile phone connection and I feel so free and at peace for those hours. I get to chat with my friends and work on being creative; it’s a win-win!

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Greenspace gallery and some of our Carers class…

You can find Dorothy Morris at The Greenspace Gallery and enquire about whether you would qualify for this class, there may be a few places left and we’re keeping going through next year too. She is also putting on an evening class for £10 per lesson working with pottery, textiles and art, so take a look if you’re interested.

I’m truly glad I took up my friend’s invitation – pottery has become a favourite outlet, and I’m thinking of playing and working with airdry clay after Christmas (as I don’t have a kiln!). It’s not something I want to give up!

Have you ever tried pottery or are you a potter?

What’s your favourite creative outlet?

Tell me what you’ve made…