social spark Aisling Beatha


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Art Journal to Book Study

When I decided that I wanted to do something in my art journal to record my thoughts on all the reading I am doing over the summer (see list later in the post), my mind immediately went to a journal I made earlier in the year as part of Soul Food.  You have seen a glimpse of it in one of my highlights of soul food posts.  And then earlier today you might have seen the post of the making of the journal.  As I said in that journal, alternate pages were watercolour paper then just artist paper so that made adding colour interesting, but I managed in the end.

First of all I got all sorts of stuff out and just added colour to the pages.  I used ink sprays and stencils, neocolour II crayons, inktense blocks, a grater, spray water, acrylic paints, scrapers, brushes, a home made geli plate, tissue paper, book pages (OLD German books too, awesome!) all sorts of stuff and I made sure there was something on every single page.

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

Summer Reading Art Journal

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It was all about making it so that I will not need to worry about the dreaded "FEAR OF THE BLANK PAGE", and I will have something to start from whenever I open the journal up to begin.

There are loads more pages I haven't shown you and one or two that didn't go according to plan.  For instance the gesso through a stencil.  Welllll, it worked ok on the one page but on the other the whole spine area has stuck together, there's a good centimetre or more of each page on that spread now unuseable and it opens weird, ooops . . . .

Summer Reading Art Journal

While I had the home made gel plate and acrylics out I made lots of prints on other sheets of paper.  I cut those up, drew borders onto them all and stamped journaling lines onto about half of them.  These I tucked into the pockets inside the front and back covers.  You can also see here, the stamp I made to make the journaling lines.

Summer Reading Art Journal

Finally, one last prepared page and a question for you.  What do you see here?

Summer Reading Art Journal

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Hand Made Art Journal from the Soul Food Class 2014

Summer Reading Art Journal

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Remember Soul Food?  Yeah, I fell off the wagon a bit with that one.  Various reasons, none of them important now.  I tidied up in the studio last week because I wanted to get some stuff done and one of those things was to use the journal that I made right at the beginning of Soul Food.  I realised that I had not shown you the making of the journal and so here we are:

It was a Gracie Howes class and I have to say I love all her work, so I was excited to get started.  First we prepped a large sheet of heavyweight watercolour paper.

Soul Food Lesson 4 - Grace Howes

Soul Food Lesson 4 - Grace Howes

Soul Food Lesson 4 - Grace Howes

Then there were layers of paint over the top of all that and finally I cut it in a particular way that would make pockets and flaps later on.  I won't give you all the details because this was a paid for class and that would not be fair.  Then I cut the pages.  In order to use a sheet of paper I already had for the cover I had to make the pages a slightly different size to usual.  They are almost as tall as a sheet of A4, but not as wide.  I alternated in each signature with a sheet of watercolour paper, a sheet of artist paper then another sheet of watercolour paper.  I made 5 signatures and bound them with a long stitch but through a central grommet, which you may have seen on a previous post about soul food.

Soul Food Lesson 4 - Grace Howes

You can see the finished cover at the top of this post.
Inside the front cover there is a flap and if you swing that out, you get this, with a similar pocket on the inside of the back cover:

Soul Food Lesson 4 - Grace Howes

As I said I'm going to finally be using it over the summer (or what is left of it anyway).  What would you use it for if you had a journal like this?

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Me - the artist

If you are here at my blog for Live Below the Line Posts please excuse this brief artistic intrusion.

I used to be part of loads and loads of art journaling (and other creative) ning sites, but a while back I cut that down to just a couplf. The one I am on most frequently is Community Thrive. Last month I was honoured to be featured as artist of the month. Now the month is over I am copying my interview over here so that all my friends who are not part of community thrive can see it. So here you are:

This month I'm excited to welcome Zoe Gregg! The comments are open, so leave her some love at the bottom!
You can find Zoe at her:
Blog – Aisling Beatha
YouTube Channel – Art etc videos
YouTube Channel – Spoken Word etc videos
Etsy– There is very little in my shop at the moment, but you can find it here
Facebook– I don’t have a “page” but you can find me here

Hello everyone, my name is Zoe, but you might find me as Aisling Beatha in certain places online. The name Aisling Beatha comes from a time when I was going to help at a publicity event for a local anti trafficking charity. Because the guys that are involved in trafficking are known to frequent these type of events (Yes, they are that brazen about it) it was suggested that we all come up with an alternative name for our name badges. In the end we made the decision to not wear name badges at all, but I had already done some research to find something and I wanted something that meant something to me. Zoe is a Greek word for Life, Beatha means the same, and that was where I started. Aisling means “a vision of” or “a dream of” so Aisling Beatha is “a vision or dream of life”!
I’m a born and bred English woman, married since I was 23. I have 2 grown up sons who are 22 and 19. The eldest graduates from university this summer and the youngest goes to University in September. So, if the eldest finds a job more or less straight away and doesn’t come home, I shall have an empty nest before the end of the year.
I have my own art studio at home, but it is still the eldest’s bedroom when he is home from university.
I am a Christian, and taught, then led, Sunday school for over 20 years, before stepping back last year. I also go into local primary schools giving assembly talks, where I get to practice one of my other passions, which is storytelling.
I grew up believing I was useless at art. I WAS creative but I saw a clear difference between that and art. Through the years I have done all sorts of crafts; sewing, jewellery making, cross stitch, papercrafts, storytelling and so on, but always my primary creative outlet was writing, I had never got involved in anything I would have called art. My mom had taught me to sew and although she didn’t do art very often, every year when our family owned a store, she would hand make the displays for the windows, painting them onto card. So there is definitely a creative gene running through me.
A few years ago I went to visit a charity in Romania working with poor Roma families, where I taught some of the women and girls some sewing projects that they could use as inspiration for making things to sell.
Back in 2010 I was talking to a friend (That would be you TAM if you are reading this) about written journaling and she showed me some pages in her journal where she had done some collage as part of the page and I uttered the fateful words “OH I could NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT!” I laugh about that now because I began art journaling within a few months of that statement, around the summer of 2010.
How has your art changed over time?
It’s been less than 4 years since I started thinking maybe I could do some art so it’s not been a particularly long time to see change in. At first I just enjoyed playing with paints, papers etc and just having fun on the page, learning about layers and being able to hide stuff on the page where only I would know it was there.
That was one of the big draws for me in art journaling at the start, being able to process stuff on a page. Here is one example where that processing was not hidden but a part of the whole page.
But even with all this I would still have told you “I can do art but I can’t draw”, and then that lie started getting stripped away as well, as I began through various online classes to learn to draw as well, not perfectly, but I am learning.
I still process stuff through my art, but now I can enjoy creating a beautiful piece of work just for the sake of it as well.
How do you get inspired?
Sometimes I find a quote I want to use, other times I know I want to work on a particular theme or make something for a friend. My Christian faith is a big part of my art, that is one thing that has been consistent right from the start of art journaling and always was a part of my writing before that. A lot of my work flows from that relationship with God.
Sometimes I get inspiration from song lyrics, such as this one from Casting Crowns.
How do you decide what to create? Where do your ideas come from?
A lot of the ideas I use come from online classes such as Soul Food, or other places on the web like Pinterest, although usually when working in my art journal, if it’s not for a class, I will just grab some supplies and go for it and often the ideas for the finished page will come as I am working, for instance the picture further up, about not bring silenced. I started painting the face, got it as far as it is and realised I wanted to leave it without a mouth. Then, in wondering why that was, I realised the stuff about not being silenced.
Also, when using art for making gifts, I use what I know about that person and what they are dealing with at the moment for inspiration. This piece that I made for a friend is an example of that. The lettering in the middle is the Arabic for the word Hope.
Have you ever felt like quitting? How did you work through that?
I don’t think I am ever consciously aware of feeling like that, but there have been times when I have withdrawn from creativity. Usually this is the same times I am withdrawing from God because I’m struggling with something. Because my art and my faith are so intertwined, it’s difficult to create if I’m subconsciously trying to avoid God.
I don’t think I have a particular way of working through that, although sometimes I have signed up for an online class just to force me back into creating.
What advice do you have for new artists?
Hang in there. Don’t give up if your work doesn’t look the way you want it to, the more you do this the more you will improve.
Here’s an example to prove just that. One of my first attempts at a face after getting into art journaling, next to the most recent face I did. You’ll get the idea quite clearly! This is the difference that less than 4 years and some practice makes:
The other thing is that not everyone learns in the same way. If one style of art lesson isn’t working for you, look for other classes, there is so much on offer these days that you are bound to find something that works for you.
At what point did you become comfortable calling yourself an artist?
I read these questions out to my husband when I received them and he said “errrrmmm, DO you feel comfortable calling yourself an artist?”
He’s almost right. I am starting to get used to the idea. I am starting to call my craft room, my studio. But no, I’m not completely comfortable with it yet. I struggle with comparing my work to that of people who have been doing this for years, and that makes calling myself an artist difficult.
How have the “rough spots” in life affected your art?
Usually the rough spots get incorporated into my art, in some way, even if it’s a layer of scribbling it all out, underneath the other layers on an art journal page.
One particular rough spot though, has apparently made a positive difference in my art. I didn’t notice it at the time, it’s only now, looking back that I can see it. My father died in April last year after a really tough 2 years, spending the last 6 months in hospice care. On one of my visits to see him in the hospice I had taken my art journal and showed him some of my work. After I had gone, he told my sister “I don’t know what that stuff Zoe does is, but it’s NOT ART!”
That hit me hard. I have always struggled with feeling that nothing I did would be quite good enough for him, and when he passed away it was as if something negative that had a hold over my art broke and I have felt much more freedom and willingness to try new stuff, since then.
How do you define success, and what keeps you going?
Success? Discovering that I can do something that either I had never tried before or I had tried and I had struggled with.
I’m not sure what keeps me going, I enjoy this, it is part of who I am now. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t doing something creative, if I ever stop doing art, I will be doing something else instead.
Additional thoughts:
Recently I have started leading a small group of creative people at the church I attend. There are 7 of us, and we are a mixture of musicians, writers, artists, dancers, actors and cake decorators. Our church is moving to a different building before the summer and I have been talking to the church leader about having a display wall where we display people’s art, but only for a set period of time, probably 3 months, so that people are encouraged to keep creating. If there are pieces that we feel are particularly significant and we want to keep them, we will then move them to another part of the building.
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So, there you have it.  That's me and my art work.
You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


By the time this post is published I will be over half way through the 5 days of Live below the Line.
In latest news I used most of the 8 p I had left yesterday to buy a tiny chocolate from my son.  He had been given a box at work and we worked out that if he had bought them each chocolate would have been 7p.  So I bought one from him and thoroughly enjoyed it even if it was over rather quickly.

If you're still not sure what live below The Line is all about, here's the blurb from their official website:
Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an education and campaigning organisation whose mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is our innovative campaign which challenges thousands of individuals across the world to live on £1 a day for 5 days, to deepen understanding of the challenges faced by individuals living in extreme poverty, and to raise vital funds for crucial anti-poverty initiatives.

We run Live Below the Line because we believe that to really fight poverty, we've got to better understand it. We're passionate about equipping people to make a real difference in fighting poverty, and so we focus on connecting people up to the organisations and issues that have the biggest impact.

We've teamed up with some of the best charities in the country whose work is vital in both making sure we fight extreme poverty through our actions in the UK, and that we support people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty in some of the world's poorest countries. In 2014, Live Below the Line is running in the UK, the USA and Canada simultaneously, with thousands of people spending 5 days living below the line in order to raise money for our partner organisations.

Across the world, thousands of people will join the movement to tackle extreme poverty - join us. - 

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If you would like to you can sponsor me, but even if you don't plan to do that, please check back later in the week to see how I get on.

Today's Menu

Breakfast - Budget range Lemon Curd on toast made from a budget range loaf.

Lunch - Rice with budget range Bolognese Sauce and budget range Grated Cheese
This is actually a Nigella Lawson recipe only she uses basmati rice, good quality sauce and parmesan for the cheese.  The trick is to keep an eye on it stirring it frequently and add more water whenever it starts to stick, until the rice is really well cooked.

Dinner - Home Made Mushroom Pizzas
I was really pleased with how the pizza base turned out.  It's not too warm here today so I boiled a cup of water in the microwave, then shoved it to the corner of the microwave and put the bowl of dough in there to rise.  It worked really well.  Hubby really liked this oven too.  If I was going to make it again though, I would use a thicker sauce and more cheese.

All in all it wasn't a bad day, but I have been feeling hungry on and off.  Tomorrow is the first time I have to be out of the house for anything.  25 minutes on the bus each way, and about 1 1/2 hours there talking to a bunch of kids in an after school club about Live Below the Line and getting them to price up what they think is ESSENTIAL and comparing it to this figure.


2 slices of budget range bread at 3.6 pence per slice = 7.2p
25g budget range lemon curd at 22p per 400g jar = 1.35p
Total for breakfast = 8.55p

75g dry weight budget range long grain white rice = 3p
1/2 jar budge range Pasta Sauce at 39p per jar = 19.5p
20g budget range Grated Cheese at 44.2p per 100g = 8.84p
Total for lunch = 31.34p

(I am making the main meals for my hubby too but the figures here are for my portion only)
1/2 tsp oil = 1.5p
100g Strong bread flour at 53.3p per kilo = 5.3p
2g yeast at 51p per 100g = 1p
20g budget range Grated Cheese at 44.2p per 100g = 8.84p
1/4 jar budget range Pasta Sauce at 39p per jar = 9.75p
1/2 medium onion at 17p each = 8.5p
90g mushrooms at £2.68 per kilo = 24.12p
Total for Dinner = 59.01p

Grand total for the day = 91.71 pence

Tomorrow I am back to cereal for breakfast and baked beans on toast for lunch.  Stir Fry rice for dinner and maybe a snack of something during the day.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


If you don't know what Below the Line is all about check out my post from yesterday.

yesterday I told you that I had chosen to raise funds for the Salvation Army international Development Fund.  So today I will share a little bit about that organisation.

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The Salvation Army is a worldwide Christian church and charity. We put our beliefs into practice through a programme of practical action, serving our communities, supporting those in need and fighting for social justice. The Salvation Army International Development (UK) works to resource, empower and support developing communities to defeat poverty and injustice and enable them to build a better life and future. By Living Below the Line with us you could help a trafficked child to be a child again, or provide someone with clean water for life. You could give a widow the chance to set up her own business and support her family, or help a small farmer grow enough food to stop them going hungry.

On to today's menu and costings:
Today's Menu

Breakfast - Golden balls cereal.
We bought this a few weeks ago on a 3 boxes of cereal for £3 offer, so it actually works for this week.
It's OK although not all that filling, but at least I'm getting a bit of calcium from the milk.

Lunch - Beans on toast. 
1/2 a tin of budget range baked beans on 2 slices of budget range bread.

Dinner - Lentil Shepherd's Pie
I used tinned potatoes to keep the cost down and chopped them up for the topping, hoping that they would crisp up in the oven.  Hmmm, that didn't work.  Otherwise it was an OK meal and one I would happily eat again.

Snack - Rice Pudding with Lemon Curd

I was suffering with a headache this morning and afternoon (presumably caffeine withdrawal) and finally gave in and took painkillers.  If I was doing this for real that is a luxury I wouldn't have!  Otherwise it hasn't been a bad day.  I got busy in the craft room late morning and managed to distract myself from even thinking about lunch until 2:30pm, which then left me with less of a gap until dinner.  Dinner was good, I had the rice pudding for dessert and still have 8 pence left.

Hubby enjoyed tonight's dinner and we both agreed that with an alteration to proper mash, either normal potatoes or sweet potatoes, we would make this part of our regular diet.


30g Golden Balls cereal at £1 for 375g = 8p
125ml Semi Skimmed milk at 44p per litre = 5.5p
Total for breakfast = 13.5p

2 slices budget brand bread at 3.6p per slice = 7.2p
1/2 tin budget brand baked beans at 24p per tin = 12p
Total for lunch = 19.2p

(I am making the main meals for my hubby too but the figures here are for my portion only)
1/4 tin tomatoes at 31p per tin = 7.75p
1/2 tsp salt at 38p per kilo = 1p
1/2 tsp Garam Masala at £1 for 100g = 2.5p
1/2 tin Budget brand potatoes for the topping = 7p
100g budget brand frozen Mixed Vegetables at £1 per 1.3KG = 7.69p
1/2 tsp oil at 3p per tsp = 1.5p
3/8 onion (using the 3/4 of an onion left from yesterday for 2 of us) at 17p each = 6.37p
75g dry weight Brown Lentils (from a big pack we already have) at £2.99 for 2kg = 11.21p
1/2 chicken stock cube (1/2 of it for cooking the lentils, the other 1/2 for in the sauce) at 10p per cube = 5p
Total for Dinner = 50.02p

1/2 tin Value Rice Pudding at 15p per tin = 7.5p
 25g Lemon Curd at 5.4p per 100g = 1.35p
Total for snack = 8.85p

Grand total for the day = 91.57p
Or 1 pence more than yesterday, making the total for the two days so far just over £1.82

If you would like to you can sponsor me, or think about joining in at a later date.  Although most people participate in Live below The Line on the official dates, you can participate at a later date if you need to.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.
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