I often ask women to share their stories on my blog. I think this one is one of the most unusual. I take from it that we should all be more like children in responding to life’s challenges and that if women use their heads, the world can change for the better. See what you think and let’s celebrate art wherever we find it.

“I’m Kitt. I live in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. I’m a mum of two super little humans (Finn and Ada, 6 and 3) and an artist. I guess this story combines these two aspects of my life in a roundabout, but quite lovely way.

Art

 

The last three years have been a very stressful time for our family and in January last year my hair stared to fall out. I went to the GP and by April was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata (patchy baldness). I was sad, but definitely felt there were things I would be much sadder and more inconvenienced by losing. The evening after my diagnosis, I had a little cry and shaved my hair. That night my husband and our children decorated my head with sticky jewels to cheer me up. I posted a photo on Facebook and was met with some beautiful, hopeful and unexpected responses.

Art

People with experiences of Alopecia (their own / friends / family) got in touch to share information and to tell me what it was like for them. I felt privileged that people were comfortable to share their stores with me, but shocked by how awful some experiences had been- most people had in common a huge loss of self-confidence and, alongside that, many had to deal with reactions from other people that ranged from confused to cruel. Relationships often suffered or even broke down and their general health (mental and physical) frequently declined.

The majority of people who shared their stories with me where women. Some told me that they felt their hair was a huge part of their identity as a women and when it was gone they didn’t know who they were any more. Others said that they felt ugly, and even that people had told them they were ugly, without their hair, their “crowning glory”.  The more I thought about it the clearer it became- these effects are not due to the condition itslef, but come from negative reactions to a head that is bald, wigged or unusual. These effects can be completely eliminated, not by medical science, but by human kindness. People being kind to one another and to themselves. I wanted to do something to raise awareness of this element of the condition. And I wanted it to be fun and positive- an opportunity to celebrate different approaches to beauty, to gender, to heads!!

Being an artist, my automatic response was wanting to make some art. But where would I display it in order to reach people outside of my local art community / alopecia support groups? Then I thought about the children decorating my head with jewels and it all fell into place- I would create artworks on my bald head and wherever I went- on the bus, to the swimming pool, dropping the children at school, nights out- people would see them and I could have informal conversations about what I was doing and why. I started straight away, documenting the different pieces on social media, and very quickly people were offering to make artworks / head pieces / hats for me. One of my friends Michaela Wetherell (who is a curator) suggested creating a formal(ish) call out so people could submit art work to my head “gallery”. Then we developed the name (the “Plenty Up Top Gallery”) and put all the info, plus photos of previous work, on my artist website.

While all this had been happening Michaela and I, with another artist friend Aly Smith, had been setting up a local Nasty Women group (Nasty Women North East). Nasty Women is a global art and activism movement focussed on protecting women’s rights. It was started by an American artist, Roxanne Jackson, shortly after Donald Trump was elected as president of the USA and was named after his slur to Hilary Clinton during the presidential debates. The members of the movement organise art events to raise money for women’s and LGBTQ+ charities. Our group ran the first Nasty Women exhibition in the UK and went on to organise the first Nasty Women conference in the world. At the conference we met Roxanne and other Nasty Women from all over Europe and the UK. In January this year members of the movement started to discuss the possibility of setting up an Art prize to celebrate and support the artists who had donated work to fundraising exhibitions during 2017. Because the movement aims to fundraise for other organisations we prefer to run our own events as cost effectively as possible. So it was suggested that we use my head as the venue for the art prize as it’s free! (With the added bonus of dealing with ideas of gender in a pretty unusual way).

Now, three months later, the Nasty Women International Art Prize is in full swing. There is a judging panel of artists, gallery owners and journalists from around the world including Danielle Krysa, (Artist, and Writer behind the contemporary art site, The Jealous Curator, Canada), Miranda Larbi, Feminist writer and senior reporter at Metro UK , Betsy Greer, Writer, Maker and the “godmother of craftivism” (USA) and Airco Caravan (Artist and Nasty Women Amsterdam founder).

So it’s going to be a fun few months for me and my head! As director of the venue for the prize / wearer of the art I am chairing the panel, which is a huge, exciting, and slightly terrifying (in a good way!) honour. There are two exhibitions planned as part of the judging process the first is on June the 21st and will take place in various venues across the world, including my hometown Newcastle. The second and final exhibition will be Oct 4th-7th at the Creative Debuts, Anti Art Fair in London, a very fitting event for both the prize and for the “Plenty Up Top Gallery” as it celebrates artists who are traditionally underrepresented in the commercial art world- which includes female artists, artists of colour and artists from the LGBTQ+ community. During the Anti Art Fair I will “wear” artworks made by the three finalists and “crown” the winner of the Nasty Women International Art Prize, 2018. It’s funny and very lovely to think it all started almost exactly a year ago with my children trying to cheer me up by bling-ing my newly bald head.

The Nasty Women International Art Prize is open to anyone over 16- no need to be an artist or a woman! We welcome submissions from crafters, makers, yarn bombers, community groups…. The possibilities are endless. The submission deadline is April 30th 11pm GMT 2018, please see the website for further info: http://nastywomenexhibition.org/

Art

Sharing so openly takes a huge amount of courage so please do consider sharing this post by clicking one or more of the buttons below.

If you would like to share your story on this blog please get in touch.

 

Winnettes

Exotic foods are that little bit different and definitely a very good reason to travel overseas to try something new and unusual.

We are a family of foodies. My Dad always encouraged me to eat local food when we were on holiday. His theory was that you could not possibly know what you liked if you did not try things. Also if you do not give things a go, you just might miss out on something very tasty indeed. His adventurous nature came from his years with the Navy I think where he visited Greece, Libya, Malta, Egypt and so many other far-flung shores

My mum was a cook by trade so had a natural interest in food too and would try to replicate things we had tasted on holiday when we returned home. She brought both my brothers up to be really good amateur chefs and both of them have turned to the preparation of food to make money in one way or another over the years.

So as a family we are pretty well-travelled but the one thing I would love to try are the exotic foods from Barbados having heard about them from an old college friend who hailed from that particular Caribbean island. I love rum and I would like to learn how to pair it with foods.

Barbados is exciting when it comes to cuisine as there are African, Asian, Indian and European influences. Food might be cooked using a wok, a grill or the wood stone oven.

There are a diverse selection  of cafes and restaurants and you may be surprised to know that Bajan food can be quite different to that on other Caribbean islands .

Bajan seasoning sounds wonderful with its notes of thyme, marjoram, green onions and parsley.

The national dish is Cou Cou and Flying Fish which is certainly a name to capture the imagination. Cou Cou consists of cornmeal and okra mixed with salt, peppers and Bajan hot sauce.

Inevitably fish is huge in Barbados and I would love to try fish balls often sold from the side of the road. There is nothing better than eating in the great outdoors.  It’s not just about the Flying Fish either so I would love to experiment with different tropical fish dishes including one that combines macaroni and cheese with fish. I would never think of that combination so would definitely give this one a try.

I love sweet potatoes already but the idea of covering them in sugar and serving with pineapples and cherries really intrigues me.

I am more convinced of the merits of plantains fried and topped with cinnamon but as I say travel broadens the taste-buds so bring on the culinary Bajan delights.

Now I just need to check out the other events and things to do in Barbados so am off to check out the luxury all-inclusive holidays from Destination 2 and then start saving up.

Where would you like to travel next to try some exotic foods?

 

My Random Musings

If you are looking for a good read for children aged 3 to 8 years, check out the utterly delightful Granny Butterfly books.

Granny Butterfly

Firstly, the books are a treat for the eyes with colourful illustrations throughout.

Secondly, children will learn about nature and butterflies in particular as they read.

Thirdly, the stories are great and with life lessons to be learned along the way.

I recently read the Granny’s birthday one where you can savour the bluebell woods and get to know some interesting butterfly characters set on having an adventure come what may.

Bertrum a clouded yellow butterfly takes his friend Boris off limits for a fun time. They escape Granny’s eyes aboard a bus which takes them to the village fair and a fair amount of mayhem. This includes sticky candyfloss, chaotic donkey rides, crashing eggs and a disappointing tug of war.

Although Bertrum has learned from a previous adventure, Boris is new to adventuring and gets himself into trouble. Initially this annoys Bertrum but later he is just pleased that his friend has a great time.

In fact, although great for children, the books are an escape to a magical and safe world and we all need more of that in our lives.

Jean French, the author, comments:

“My goal from the outset has been to write something that will engage children with the wonderful world of nature that surrounds them everyday, and empower them to explore with open minds,” explains Jean. “They’ll hopefully read the books, and then head out into their garden, or out into the countryside with their parents, to put their newfound knowledge and appreciation into practice.”

Continuing, “Our cast of butterflies is extremely diverse – from Betsy who is very sweet and tiny, all the way to Bertie who is very bossy and has a thing or two to learn about manners! In all, the characters represent the cross-section of people children will encounter throughout life. It’s an extremely humbling read for all.”

Granny Butterfly’ – http://amzn.to/2FSMzik

‘Granny Butterfly’s Birthday’ – http://amzn.to/2HwA2hW

For more information and resources, visit the series’ official website: http://www.grannybutterfly.co.uk.

Hot Pink Wellingtons
Post Comment Love

Pocolo

Read With Me

I truly believe that although things are nice, and there’s nothing wrong with having them, it is much better to collect moments and experiences. Those of you who like to travel will go exactly what I mean by that. There’s nothing quite like experiencing new cultures and seeing new sights to show you what life should really be about – long after that Macbook has died on you and those killer shoes have worn, you will have those amazing memories of that Caribbean cruise or the time you went swimming with dolphins, and it will mean so much more to you than that stuff ever did.

Travel Idea

Image source

So, experiences are important, but where do you find them? You can find amazing experiences everywhere, including on your own doorstep, but there are some travel experiences that are just that bit more special – the kind of things that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list – here are some of them:

Diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and some people would argue that it is the most beautiful of those wonders. Whether you agree with that or not, there is no denying that the world’s biggest coral reef is a colorful cornucopia or delightful marine life. You’ll see whales, dolphins, some 1,500 species of fish, not to mention numerous kinds of coral and you will be blown away.

Marvel at the Northern Lights

Travel-Idea

Image source

The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis to give it its proper name, is a natural phenomenon whereby the sky is lit up in beautiful shades of blue, green, purple and pink. It’s nature’s greatest air show, and it is something that you need to see at least once in your life because you will not be disappointed. You can see the lights in numerous places from Alaska to Iceland and although it can be difficult to predict exactly when they will appear, you should probably try to the Northern Lights in Autumn when they are not going to be blocked out by the summer sun and when the skies are generally clearer than they are in the winter. That being said, some people spend weeks, even months chasing the lights, so more than one trip may be required.

Helicopter Over the Grand Canyon in the United States

The Grand Canyon is another marvel of nature spanning some 277 miles and measuring one mile deep. Although you can get up close and personal with the Grand Canyon on foot, perhaps the most spectacular way to see just how amazingly beautiful it is is during a helicopter ride that will allow you to see its vast expanse. You can of course, always explore on foot once the trip is over, too!

Be Wowed by Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in Japan

Travel Idea

Image source

Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion is just one of seventeen sites that make up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Although they are all beautiful World Heritage sites, the Golden Pavilion, which is an amazing golden temple worshipping the Buddha is arguably the best thanks to its awe-inspiring style, and it’s immaculately maintained Japanese gardens.

Make Friends with Elephants in the Jungles of Thailand

Thailand is well-known for its stunningly beautiful beaches and fabulously fragrant food, but all of that pales in comparison to its majestic elephants. You can get up close with them at Khao Sok National Park’s jungle camp which is also home to some wonderful floating tents, or you can visit one of the local elephant sanctuaries where you can help to look after abandoned animals and really get to know them.

Stay at a Texas Ranch

Travel-Idea

Image source

Texas ranches are world famous. They have featured in so many cowboy movies, and TV shows that we all think we know what a traditional Texas ranch is like and many of us would love to experience a little slice of the Wild West for ourselves. Luckily, there are lots of ranches, such as Wildcatter Ranch that are open for guests and allow you to live out your cowboy or girl fantasies in the real world. You’ll have a blast.

Visit Unique Wildlife on the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique places on earth quite simply because they are home to lots of flora and fauna that you would not find anywhere else on earth. From Galapagos Sea lion and giant sea turtles to Frigatebirds and Candelabra Cactus, you will be blown away by these rarest of the rare specimens.

Take the time to explore any of these attractions or see as many of these sights as you can, and you will make those precious memories that truly last forever.

Cuddle Fairy
Tammymum

Working from home is tough. You’re isolated from work colleagues and can only communicate with online friends. It helps, but it’s not the same thing. While you won’t have to deal with many major crises that come up, when a mini-crisis hits, you’re the main gal or guy who’s got to roll up their sleeves and handle it. No one’s coming to your rescue (unless you call someone to help).

Here are a few mini-crises that can hit and how to manage them.

Your PC’s Hard Drive Just Failed!

The hard drive is a critical component of your computer. For PCs – usually 2-3 years and older – the hard drive is one of the first parts to fail. It happens with laptops more often than desktop PC’s because all that movement while traveling around on business can cause damage to a hard drive (solid state drives hold up better).

When you’ve had a main hard drive fail on you or it’s an external hard drive, you’ll need the assistance of Secure Data Recovery. They have vast experience dealing with recovering files and rescuing hard drives that look like they’ve given up the ghost. While the hard drive is being repaired, see if you can borrow a friend’s PC to get work done. If it’s only going to take a few days to fix it, your mobile device at least let’s you communicate with clients even if you have to delay delivery on orders in the short-term.

Your Home Office Phone Line Just Went Down!

Sometimes workers in the area dig up the road for roadworks and take out the local landlines at the same time. You’ve got to love when that happens! It can take several days for phone companies to get out there and resolve the issue. Meanwhile you’ve got no phone service including your office phone line too.

Call up your phone service provider and have them redirect your office line to your cellphone. You could normally set that up yourself, but with the landline down, you probably cannot. It could be possible to do so from your account on their website if the provider is set up to allow customers to do so, otherwise you’ll need to call their customer service. There will likely be a charge per call or per minute (or both) for each redirected call, so plan for the extra costs. Ask if the service provider will credit your account towards the cost. They may say yes.

Your Business Website Is Offline!

You will experience a time when your business website goes offline. The web host has a problem with the web server and it crashes. Or, they have an issue with their internet backbone connection and all their websites are currently offline.

You can check the uptime status by using an uptime verification site rather than having to visit your website periodically. Bear in mind that when loading your own site, you may often get the cached (saved) version of the site which won’t confirm its status. It’s better to check the uptime independently to be sure. Verifying every morning is good practice.

When your site is down, you may get complaint phone calls, or it could reduce the number of contacts that you receive. It depends how your business operates. Adjust your expected income that month to reflect the downtime. Most web hosts have an uptime guarantee. If they’re outside of it, ask about a credit against future web hosting fees to compensate you.

Being prepared for every eventuality is not possible. However, you can take sensible precautions to cover the most damaging things that could happen and have a plan for how you’ll recover should that happen. This will avoid the panic setting in, because you’ve already got it covered.

Confessions of a New Mummy