Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 in review: all about the hair

2016 was the year for regaining a sense of self, and with this in mind I tried to make my hair a gorgeous green, documenting my attempts through Instagram, using several different dyes and different colour combinations. Mostly it was various stages of not-quite-right with this being the best I achieved (it would doubtless have been better with bleaching):

A photo posted by Cara McKee (@caralmckee) on

That was done with Crazy Colours dye, which went everywhere, and I didn't use again.

The best dye I found was Directions (a mixture of Alpine and Apple Greens): 

But even that was only at it's best when augmented with a bit of filtering (hello Nashville, you were my best friend, and you too, Snapchat Pretty).

I was a little bit worried about my green hair looking like some kind of mid-life crisis, although actually, I think that trying to look normal for a while there had been more of a crisis, it's not me at all!

Anyway, the green was getting annoying, it was taking over my thoughts, it was what I looked at when I passed a mirror! And green has to die down sometime, right? As Autumn arrived I thought it might be fun to go red (I guess I'm pretty leafy when it comes to colours). Obviously going straight to red from green results in a muddy mess, so I went brown first.

I loved it! I could see me again in the mirror (I wrote a poem about it: Mirror Games), and started playing with makeup and clothes again. I started to feel pretty again which is always lovely.

But I still chose to go redder, although not the rubine red I'd thought of, but a reddish, brown instead.

A photo posted by Cara McKee (@caralmckee) on

It's a colour I can play with, something I can augment with crowns like the one above (which I won from the marvellous Crown and Glory, and which everyone needs in their lives), or with roving dreads which I made ages ago with roving given to me from my lovely mother in law, but hadn't managed to wear until recently. Even my father in law thought they looked great :-)

So where will my hair be going in 2016? I've got some black-red hair dye waiting to go in the bathroom, and I'm loving playing with makeup, so I think I'll be staying reddish for a while. Nothing last forever though eh? I'm loving crimping at the moment, and embracing a bit of Christmassy sparkle, but no doubt things will change when the seasons do.

What about you? How has your style changed in 2016?

Friday, 16 December 2016

2016 in pictures

I'm early with my wish to review the year this year, but I am quite happy to see the end of 2016, it's brought the death of both celebrities and of friends. It's brought impending Brexit and Donald Trump (which means that my children are now calling their farts Donald, tee hee). We have terrible situations around the world, and it's easy to worry about what's going to happen.

Victoria of Verily Victoria Vocalises recently took folks to task for whining about 2016, pointing out that there were good things too, here. She has a point. Reviewing the year helps to focus on the good stuff, so maybe that's why I'm drawn to it at the moment.

Anyway, I'm a massive fan of Instagram, for all the gorgeous pics I get to enjoy, and the positive communication that goes on there. Instagram feels like a very inviting coffee shop where you're guaranteed to meet a friend, I could spend all day there. 

If you go here you can get your best nine Instagram pictures of 2016, the 'best' in this case being the most liked, rather than any artistic assessment. Here are mine.

Top left: leaves in the park in Ilkley while I was there (by myself, it was glorious) for Ilkley Literature Festival. I used this picture for the title image of my poem Red.

Top middle: Miss 6 with the neighbour's cat. This cat kept trying to get into the house while Katsuma was still with us, and would stress him out totally, which was not much fun for a cat in the late stages of heart disease, so I was totally OK with Miss 6 bugging him (obviously not hurting though) in the hopes that he'd stay away. It didn't work, and now he, and another neighbour's cat come around to check out the kittens, while Loki does his best Scrappy Doo impression through the window.

Top right: It's me! Standing in front of a bookcase because that looks writerly. 

Middle left: Me again, gothing it up for a friend's birthday party. Gosh it was great to go for the goth thing again. I've been feeling lots more confident about my looks lately, and enjoying dressing again. I know some people try to hide in black and big clothes, but I love to be wafty and dark.

Middle: We get the best sunsets on the West Coast.

Middle right: I don't like cut roses very much, but am just a little bit obsessed with the flowers. I love the way roses are used in fairy tales, and have written a whole book currently called The Rarest Rose (working on getting it published).

Bottom left: this is the road ten minutes walk or so from my house. I can't drive it because you have to reverse lots and I suck at that in my great big annoying car, but I love walking it, up into the hills.

Bottom middle: Yellow Easter bunny rabbit. I love it, and so do you it seems.

Bottom right: The girls decorating gingerbread with edible glitter. Getting on a chair and taking a photo of them is standard behaviour, right?

So that's my most liked photos of the year, but I also wanted to share with you some of my favourite Instagram feeds, because there is so much that is just gorgeous. Here are just a few of those I love:
  • qtndv (no more information) lots of gorgeous textured pics around London.
  • hidden_egg fabulous images from artist and illustrator Hazel Vellacott.
  • tree_magic I'm a little bit obsessed with trees, so what's not to love? 
  • el2dvz more trees! Foggy trees. Honestly, something for everyone (that loves foggy trees).
  • thesmyth It's Em of Terrible Tumbles blog, my go to British blog for clothes.
  • allison_sadler_ runs The People Shop which is happily nowhere near me, because her style and grace are just amazing, and I would leave that shop penniless. You can shop online, but that's more resistable... just.
  • ourfinland I love looking at Finland. More than I'd love being cold I suspect. So I also follow...
  • merjainen a photographer in Finland.
  • 1dogwoof Chi Wei is an amazing crochet designer. We made her gorgeous octopi (I know it's wrong but I have to) for the kids teachers last year. Awesome. Her website is here. She's also learning to knit, so if that's your bag, check her out.

Do you have any instagram recommendations? Share them in the comments.

Friday, 9 December 2016

2016 in poems - my top ten!

I wanted to say thank you to all you lovely people who have read my blog over this last year. Since I've made it focus on the poetry my readership has really grown, so I thought I'd take a virtual leaf out of the blogging book of Carol at Virtually All Sorts and do a top ten of my poems from the year (according to my blog stats, because you've got to use something, right?). I'll link to all the poems, in case you missed one, and repost my favourite here. Hopefully your favourite is here too, let me know in the comments.

At number 10 is Mirror Games, a sonnet about looking into the mirror with my daughter, written at a time when it seemed I thought in iambic pentameter!

At 9 is May Sun in Scotland, a poem about that wonderful, tenuous moment when the warmth comes back, and how incredibly precious it feels.

Pig headed, my post Brexit whingeing poem is at number 8. I've gone right off this since then. There's still a (big) part of me hoping Brexit never actually manages to happen, but I guess there are a lot of desperate people looking for change, and no doubt a shakeup will be interesting. 

At number 7 is Painting Past Peppa. Another one I've gone right off since I wrote it. This uses imaginary Peppa Pig wallpaper as an allegory for passing time. Ugh. Still, it's popular, no doubt because of Peppa Pig. She's great, don't get me wrong, but we've moved on. We're all about Legends of Korra now (and there's no wallpaper).

Next up, at number 6, is Children Came a short Spenserian Stanza poem about the huge impact having children has on your life, turning it upside down in a way you probably wouldn't sign up for, but which makes it marvellous anyway. I love the Spenserian Stanza, it's just complicated enough and beautifully flexible, but I'm not sure I could write a whole book in it (should I try? I'm kinda tempted - Edward Spenser wrote his book, The Faerie Queene in it).

At number 5 is the poem I wrote in memory of my friend Rose, who sadly was one of those who joined the great rock n roll party in the sky this year. Your Thread considered the roles of the Fates or Moirai in spinning the thread of our lives and in cutting it, hopefully after squeezing every last stitch out. I love this poem. Rose inspired and encouraged my poetry and I owe her success.

Incredibly excitingly, I'm able to announce that the poem in at number 4, has been shortlisted for this year's Great British Write Off! The winners will be announced in January. It's Clematis Dance, another Spenserian Stanza poem, which is now also coming out in the Great British Write Off book, Whispering Words, but you read it here first.

In at number 3 is the tale of what Macbeth's witches did on their day off, a simple little poem called Trick or Treat.

My poem, Return, is about birth, breastfeeding, and the rest of the physicality of mothering, and it's about my youngest, who pushes me the hardest, and hasn't broken me yet.

Finally, at Number 1 this year is my Villanelle written in memory of David Bowie, Gone. This is also coming out in a Forward Poetry anthology at some point (in the new year I think). Again, you saw it here first. Loads of you read that one, and it's great that you stop by.

Anyway, I said that I was going to share my favourite of this top ten with you, so here it is (for Rose):

Your thread

Long and longer still has Clotho spun your yarn of life. 
Lachesis chose the rich colours for your brilliant tapestry, 
embroidered with tales, and interwoven with others'. 
You were well loved. Your life has been well crafted.

But now Atropos stands with shears in hand. 
The yarn is diminishing in quality.
It will run out.

So Clotho spins her thread with careful fingers, 
making it fine, finer still, 
and Lachesis treats it with gentle delicacy.
Looping lace on the layers of your life.

Atropos sets down the shears and takes the delicate thread
of your life left in her fingers, aching like yours.
'Fine work' she says, and she pulls the thread taut, testing it.
Her sisters pause in their labour, their breath bated.

The thread holds.
Atropos smiles.
Her sisters sigh, 
resume their work.

They do not know that Atropos tugs again,
not until the tapestry falls.

The thread lies broken.

© Cara L McKee 8/4/16

Thank you folks, for a fun year of poetry, even if other stuff has been a little off. Do feel free to buy my pamphlet on Etsy, or make a donation for me to get a coffee (I'm a massive fan of a honeycomb latte), and do keep coming back and spread the word. I'm planning to keep doing this stuff, if you'll keep coming back.

Prose for Thought

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Fear of heights: a poetry post

Way back in 2013 I wrote a blog post about how all the time I lived in Moffat I never managed to get up Grey Mare's Tail (very long waterfall) to the loch at the top of the very big hill. I tried, I really did, but the path was very steep, and the way down was very far, and I have a huge problem with heights. The time I got up the farthest my husband called our mission off because I was holding on to the ground, and passing people was becoming a huge problem.

Since I went to Ilkley Literature Festival this year I've been inspired to try out different poetic forms, like list poems, and pantoums. I know that formal poetry and rhyming are not currently fashionable, but I love to work with those restrictions. Occasionally something will burst out and become free verse, but I love the interesting things that can come out of pattern.

So, today I'm sharing a pantoum. This is one of my current favourite things, and involves repetition, although I'm not quite repeating, so I'm not sure that it is a proper pantoum, but I love the rhythm that the repetition brings, and the depth of meaning. This is how I think. Is this how everyone thinks?

Anyway, I'm taking a walk everyday to combat my usual Winter depression which tends to set in about now, and today I went up a very steep hill (I mean it looked steep, but I figured it would level out in a minute... it was a lot of minutes). The path went up the side of the hill and the drop to the valley below kept getting bigger. Happily for me there was a big pile of manky looking earth at the side of the recently widened path, and gorse bushes below that. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't choose to fall in a gorse bush (I know, I've tried), but better that than air.

So, up I went, and then I took pictures. Mostly to prove how high up I was, with only minor palpitations!

I should really have taken a picture down the hillside, but I couldn't. Sorry!

Anyway, after this I decided to try a pantoum(ish) about fear of heights. Here it is.

Fear of Heights

Held back by fear
(which limits me)
I can't go near
(fear cowers me).

It limits me
(I feel the fright)
it cowers me
when at a height.

I feel the fright
when I'm high up.
A dizzy height
(and I should jump).

When I'm high up
I get the thought
that I should jump
(and not be caught).

I get the thought
that I will fall
and not be caught
(so end it all).

I mustn't fall
(I can't go near),
I'll end it all.
I'm stopped by fear.

© Cara L McKee 30/11/16

Now, I'm figuring that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and as that's the prompt this week from Sara at Mum Turned Mom, I'm going to include this in her linky. I'm also linking up with Victoria at Verily Victoria Vocalises (click on picture below). Hi!

In addition, I'm linking up to Maddy's What I'm Writing linky (click on the picture below to see more). To be honest, I've not been writing a lot since the end of November. NaNoWriMo felt like an all consuming drag by the end of it, and I've been catching up on the mundanities of cleaning, and on Christmas preparations as well as going for walks. However, I have been submitting poems to places, and look, I'm blogging! More hours are required I think.

I am thrilled to have received my gorgeous copy of the first issue of 404 Ink magazine, which I've got a poem in (p53, thrillseekers), if you've not got a copy yet, you can buy one here (and get the print one if you can because it's a lovely thing). I've also got a poem in this quarter's Allegro Poetry online magazine (called Barcelona), so those things are helping me to feel better about the book rejections I keep getting.

So many book rejections that I've decided to change tack and try to find a smaller, Scottish publisher. Wish me luck! Or breaking legs, or something!

I'm planning to go up a hill again tomorrow, but hopefully it won't be quite so steep!

Prose for ThoughtmumturnedmomWriting Bubble