Sunday, 26 October 2014

The exciting and the downright mundane: an update

Hi!  I went MIA for a while there, right?  I've been SO busy.  Last time I blogged it was warm and sunny.  It's now cold and grey, and we've put the clocks back!  Sheesh.  I so hope I still have some blog friends who might read my ramblings.  I've been popping by reading everyone else's but just never have the time to comment (or, let's be honest, the inclination to… It's always a right faff commenting via blogger on my iPad).

So much has happened and I promise to blog more regularly again so that I can keep my posts relatively short.  This, however, will be epic.

Brace yourself.

Cosy kitchen.  Still working up the strength to chop up the world's largest butternut squash. 
Ellie, my new little niece, continues to be a delight and I am pleased to report that her Auntie Nicki was the first to make her properly giggle.  Seems she likes the cha cha.  Her mum, sister and grandmother have all tried their hardest to get a similar explosion of giggles from her but have failed miserably.  This makes me feel very smug.  Particularly as I have always been terrified around babies.  Izzie (my eldest niece) was not a cuddly baby and this did not help my phobia.  Ellie makes me almost broody.  She is a smiling, quiet and content little baby and she likes nothing more than a cuddle.  She also likes my singing (I know!), which makes me love her even more.  (I am currently singing, on repeat, 'Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green'… thanks to niece's harvest festival.  Too cool, I know.)

I had the day off work on Friday to take Izzie swimming.  There's a fun children's pool at my local Virgin Active and I knew she'd like it there.   We only spent an hour in the pool and I felt like I'd been through the wringer.  She was constantly splashing me, chasing me, racing me and once even (accidentally, I hope) gave me a sharp knee in the jawbone as she over-exuberantly practiced her backstroke legs.  By the time my sister left at 4pm I was exhausted.  How do parents do it, each and every day? It baffles me.  Big respect.  That said, days spent with Izzie are amongst my favourite.  She's funny, loving and so very bright.  I had to stop myself sniggering when she told me at the pool that it was 'a thrill, Auntie Nicki'.

Scissor fob pattern from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery.
I've been crafting my little fingers off with every spare moment and have made myself a lush little selection of spooky sewing notions.  Stitching witches, monsters and pumpkin faces on these long dark evenings has given me much joy!  I have also been working on a few bags and home accessories for a new venture with my lovely friend Claire.  We hope to launch the shop at homebird and belle later in November, just in time to sell a few Christmas decorations.  We will also sell a few bits and bobs that fellow crafters might like.  We are starting very small as we both have full-time jobs but it's a way to justify our fabric purchases and share our favourite things so we're happy right now.  We're blogging fairly regularly too and have already uploaded the first of some delicious recipes so please do stop by!

Speaking of full-time jobs, I start a new one at the beginning of December.  Still with the same organisation but I'll be working in a different department.  It's a step up for me and I expect it to be challenging and verrrrry busy!  I'm looking forward to a change.  Thankfully, I will still be in contact with my current line manager.  He has been my favourite boss of all (albeit the most demanding and challenging; he has such high standards!).  And I'm not just saying that because he might stumble across my blog!  I've worked for him for six years and learnt such a lot, I feel well prepared to move into another role.  Exciting times.

In other [less exciting but no less important] news, I have had my ear syringed, blitzed my bathroom cupboards (unearthing 4 brand news pots of my fave L'Occitane body cream - yay!) and developed an unhealthy obsession with hazelnut lattes.  I have also bought four new winter dresses, fallen in love with my mother-in-law's new Westie pup and sliced my thumb open on a plastic tub of fresh pasta sauce (serve me right for taking the lazy option).

You're all up to date!  ;)

I'll be back soon - thanks for reading.  Have a super lovely week.




Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bath, bed and stories all round

I did the bath, bed and story routine with Izzie this evening.  Whenever I get the chance I like to finish work at 5pm on the dot and get straight across to my sister's in time for stories.  I was there in good time this evening, plus bedtime is a little later due to the school holidays, so Izzie and I also managed a quick game of Bus Stop whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy.  For the last couple of years I have always been sure to visit Izzie with a bag or basket full of fun stuff.  Usually I take stickers, colouring books and craft kits but just lately I've popped an Orchard Toys board game in my bag and Izzie loves them.  They are simple enough for her to learn but challenging enough to hold her attention.  Izzie beats me every single time and I swear it's not because I let her!  We like Shopping List and Pop to the Shops best.  Funny that the shopping ones would appeal to me most… Ha. 

After her bath, from which I got soaked from head to toe messing about with plastic colanders, Izzie picked out a book for us to read.  She chose, I'm sure, the thickest book in her collection.  We read a page each and it took us nearly half an hour.  It is fair to say that I am not a fan of the Buffin Street Gang.

Baby Ellie has spent all of my visits fast asleep so far and tonight was no exception.  We did get a good long snuggle together after her feed and Ellie snuffled into my shoulder, hiccuping softly (after the loudest, rudest, burp you ever heard).  She is almost enough to make me broody, that girl.  Everyone adores her.  It is a joy to see my sister so relaxed and happy with her second baby.  

I've been home for an hour, scoffed a posh fish finger sandwich and I think I'm off to bed now.  I am reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady and loving it.  It makes me laugh out loud; the unspoken competition she has with Lady B about 'the bulbs' has tickled me a lot.  Like an old-fashioned, married, Bridget Jones - I can definitely recommend it.

SO nearly the weekend.  Bring it on! 



Monday, 4 August 2014

A new baby in the family

Sewing [kitchen] trolley from Ikea.
Some pre-cut fabrics and FQ bundles in my sewing trolley :)
Fabric basket.  Lined with stiff interfacing to maintain shape.

My favourite quilting thread:  YLI.  Very strong, good colour selection and on pretty wooden spools.
I went to see my baby niece as soon as was feasibly possible: late afternoon last Monday.  She was 44 hours old as I held her in my arms.  She slept the entire time and I couldn't stop staring at her, she's perfect.

Izzie is 5 and totally enchanted by her little sister.  When I arrived at their house, she came running out of the front door to greet me, a giant smile stretching across her face.  She said breathlessly, "Auntie Nicki, the baby has popped out of mummy's tummy and I've got a sister - come and see!"  Ha! They'd just got back from the doctor's for Ellie's 48 hour check-up and Ellie was still in her car seat.  She is so small!  Izzie cannot leave her alone.  She plants big, wet kisses all over Ellie's face and - "look at her tiny little fingers and nails, Auntie Nicki" - pulls the sleep suit roughly up over Ellie's hands to marvel at the perfection of her baby sister.

My sister, though obviously still uncomfortable and sore, is blissful.  She and Ellie bonded immediately and Sarah seems content, relaxed and unbelievably happy.  She has always wanted children - lots of them preferably - and her doctor warned her it would be difficult to conceive due to her PCOS.  Her husband is looking after her well and they are the loveliest family.  I'm so happy for them.

The joy a baby brings to a family, right?!  Mum, Sarah and I group-message daily on Viber and it so nice to receive regular snaps of Izzie and Ellie; hear their news.

The sun continues to shine but it is definitely a little cooler, which is so welcome and makes me look forward to Autumn (I know, too soon).  The heat was starting to make me ratty.  I was fed up of feeling sweaty and unable to sleep at night-time.  I also have really bad hay fever this year - what's all that about?  I didn't get a whiff of hay fever until about four years ago and it seems to get worse each year.  Bizarre.  It's clearly a slippery slope to old age.  Ha.

I'm on a mission at the moment to organise and prettify my workroom.  I bought the [kitchen] trolley from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and it needed to be separated into compartments to help me properly sort my sewing bits.  I wasn't happy with the baskets available in Ikea and decided to make some fabric buckets on my return home.  I'm really pleased with the ones I made.  They were made purely by trial and error (they started off as just the one, quite shallow basket which didn't stand stiffly enough or fit into the trays) and I'm delighted with them now.  I used a Tilda charm pack and lined with pale pink tiny polka dot fabric (also by Tilda).  I am a huge Tilda fan.  I am planning a couple of Tilda quilts for myself, together with mother/baby hares and a mouse with a crown on.  The make-up bags, beach mat and sewing accessories are also on my 'to do' list.

Have a lovely week, friends.



Sunday, 27 July 2014

Slow summer days

Rustic heart on our front door
Our back yard; the pots are starting to look really pretty.

Current WIP.  These are hexies that I printed ever so slightly too small, by accident.  Not sure what they will become.
Pretty Tilda fabric.
Lizzie photobombing.  Again.
I am having a quiet summer and loving it.  The days are long and hot.  I am working, sewing, watching a little TV, reading and swimming.

Man, I *love* going off for a swim when it's hot outside.  I have started to meet an old friend at the pool on a Friday evening and I'm really enjoying our dates.  We meet straight after work and swim half a mile alongside each other then have a good gossip in the spa before we each head home.  K is getting married in September and it is so nice to hear her wedding news.  I didn't enjoy planning my wedding at all and wish, now, that we'd gone for a smaller affair.  Don't get me wrong, my wedding day was the happiest day of my life, but I did not enjoy being the centre of attention.  I've changed since we got married.  I care less about what I ought to do and more about what I want to do.  I think if we got married again I'd hold a bunch of wildflowers in the local church with just my close family and friends.  I'd wear a pale pink dress and we'd all spend the rest of the day squashed into in the garden at home with lots of fairy lights and amazing food.  Anyhoo.

I am keeping a low profile socially.  I'm lucky to have a lot of really lovely friends but I went through a phase of over-booking my social diary then cancelling and letting people down, which would ultimately make them (and me) feel bad.  So I've scrubbed the diary clear and I'm letting things happen spontaneously where possible, which makes me feel much more calm and, oddly, in control.

My book stash is severely depleted; I am tearing through it.  Really enjoyed Tracey Chevalier 'The Last Runaway' and followed it up with 'Falling Angels' which I also liked.  I've then read the latest Peter James' 'Want You Dead' (another excellent read) and have this afternoon finished Mo Hayder's 'Wolf' (which is a decent read but a bit slow and not as scary as I'd hoped).

J has been with us this weekend.  I fetched him on Friday afternoon and we spent a lovely hour or so on the swing seat in the shade, catching up.  His school prom was a couple of weeks ago and he showed me the photos of him and his friends.  He seems to have a really cool group of friends; fun and cheeky but with enough nouse to work hard at school and get good grades.

We went into London last night to have dinner and see Derren Brown live.  It was stifling in the theatre but it was such a good show.  Made a change to do something different and it was really nice wandering through the busy streets of London on a hot summer night, sipping cold drinks and discussing the show.

But I've kept my best news 'til last.  My sister gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl last night.  She went into hospital at 6:30pm and the baby had been born by 9:30pm.  She did it all with just gas and air, lost a lot of blood and I understand it was *quite* painful, but they came home this afternoon and all is well.  I am going to see them after work tomorrow.  I cannot wait.  I adore my niece and to be given another… well, I couldn't have had better news this weekend.  Happy days!

Have a good week, lovely people.



Let's finish with a little grumble, since I'm constantly hot and therefore a little bit ratty:
  • My make-up is flatly refusing to stay put in this weather.  My eyebrows melt off my face within an hour and hayfever gives me leaky eyes, ruining my eyeliner.  I look, frankly, rank.
  • Every day is a bad hair day.  My locks are well overdue a cut and colour so I am spending the summer resembling an aging rock star with long, greasy, dark roots and dry ends. 
  • I am still smarting from my doctor telling me that he will no longer prescribe the contraceptive pill for me after Christmas.  Feels like it is only a matter of time before he suggests a hip replacement and heart pills.  I am NOT old dammit! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Weekend Edition: Iced Chai, Blueberry Muffins and Susie Watson

When it's warm out, I like to have the back door wide open the whole time I'm in the kitchen.  I especially like to prop the door open if it's warm and rainy - I find it relaxing listening to the rain.  As soon as the door is open, Lizzie makes a beeline for her watchpoint at the gate.  She spends most of her time outside right in that spot.  Standing or sitting.  Sometimes barking but mostly just sitting quietly, watching the world go by. Andrew had gone out to pick up coffees for us this morning and she was waiting patiently for him to come home.  

Whilst Andrew was running errands, I set to work making a batch of giant blueberry muffins.  I have been craving them (with a hot, strong, coffee) all week long.  I tuned into Steve Wright's Love Songs on Radio Two and warbled along to Whitney and ELO as I sieved, whisked and stirred.  I used the recipe from The Grand Central Baking Book and it was good!  I added a little more sugar to the mix just because I like sweet muffins - they were delish.  The house smelled amazing as they baked and Andrew arrived with our coffee just as they hit the perfect eating temperature.  We sat on the swing seat in the yard together, with Lizzie at our feet, chatting about nothing in particular and enjoying the sunshine.  (Ok, that last bit was a lie.  I was chatting and Andrew was semi-listening.  As usual.)

We went to Marlow yesterday.  Late to the party, I know, but I have become obsessed with Susie Watson pottery and textiles.  Obsessed.  I had read that the shop in Marlow was kitted out like a traditional house and I fancied a looksee.  Not only that, Andrew and I both like to go out at the weekends on mini road trips wherever possible, exploring different towns or countryside and trying out new eateries.  We set off super-early and picked up a Starbucks for the journey.  I felt kind of swanky in my new long white cotton dress but within seconds of being handed my chai latte, it was in my lap.  The barista (stupid word) hadn't put the lid on properly.  Thank gawd the drink was cold because although the ice cubes were a bit of a shock, a hot drink would have been a whole other kettle of soldiers.  I was calm about the frock (now see-through and a kind of dip-dyed pale beige) but we raced home for me to change, threw the dress *straight* into the washing machine (oh hello, Postie, don't mind me here in the kitchen in my control pants and granny shoes) and I couldn't bring myself to leave the house until I was certain the dress was OK.  (It was.)  We finally got to Marlow for lunchtime, headed for the cafe that had been recommended and promptly found ourselves eating mediocre quiche in a mediocre cafe which served unattractively large slices of cucumber and plastic sachets of salad cream.  

The day was saved by a very pleasant wander through the park and along the river followed by a little sit-down at a game of cricket as we ate ginormous waffle cones of Mr Whippy with flakes and chocolate sauce.  I came home happy with a big bag full of pastel crockery and linens, a posy of flowers and frizzy hair (it rained).  We will definitely go again.  Marlow is a lovely town. There are other cafes and restaurants I'm keen to try, as well as requiring several visits back to empty Susie Watson of pink polka dot goods.  

I've been sewing today, making little wrist pincushions that Claireybelle and I hope to sell at homebird & belle.  (So exciting.  News on that for another day.)  Lizzie sat in an armchair in my sewing room looking impossibly cute and didn't bat an eyelid at my swearing or the excessive sex grunts from Orange Is The New Black on my Mac as I worked. 

Finally, our perfectly ordinary dinner of breaded chicken with salad and new potatoes was made perfectly extraordinary by the presence of salty, buttery, homegrown, freshly dug potatoes. OMGosh. So delicious.  If there is one thing you do next year, I would so encourage you to grow your own.  We have got all kinds of veg growing in pots outside and they are all coming along superbly, so far.  The pair of us are embarrassingly inept in the garden, too, so if we can do it anyone can! 

Have a great week.



Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mandy Shaw 'Stitch at Home' - Cottage Sewing Case

Mandy Shaw's cottage sewing case has been on my 'to make' list ever since I bought the book (at least 18 months ago) but I never seemed to get round to it, as is so often the case with my craft aspirations.  Lynda made one a few months ago and having seen it last weekend my enthusiasm was renewed to crack on.  I expected it to be complicated because of the fiddly compartments but it was a lovely project, perfect for a warm, rainy, evening indoors.  (Which is a good thing, given the weather here this week!)  It was pretty quick to make.  I started it with Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black on Thursday evening and have been sitting in my craft room at night - after dinner and dog walking - with the windows open and a scented candle on the go, contentedly blanket-stitching.  I did make a small adjustment to the pattern and used an elasticated band for the thread holder rather than the felt one described in the book.  That way, it will still hold a spool of thread as it becomes thinner with use.  

I think I need to make a few more sewing cases so that I can have one per project (I usually have a couple of sewing projects on the go at any one time) and I am inspired to have a go at designing a case myself.  I have also bought a couple of other patterns, including one by Aneela Hoey and one by Lynette Anderson.  I have been using a vintage-style chocolate tin for hexes on the go and the cottage case will make the whole project perfectly portable.  I pop my thimble in the little gingham pocket and I have everything I need.

Jake is with us this weekend.  He finished his GCSEs on Monday and I am delighted for him. He has worked hard, especially over the last few months, and deserves a long relaxing summer.  It has been lovely to see him and we have had a nice quiet weekend.  I made dinner at home on Friday evening with peach bellinis (for the adults, obvs), a selection of cheesy and cool dance music (from my gym iPod  and Harry Potter Cluedo.  Then we nipped into Cambridge for shopping and fish finger sandwiches at Bill's yesterday.  It was pouring with rain and we spent a lot of time puddle-dodging, but Cambridge is still so beautiful, even in foul weather.  We've had a lazy morning today and we're about to cosy up in the living room and watch OITNB before Jake has to go home.  I am going to continue knitting my Princess Margaret scarf as we watch.  Perfection.

Thanks for reading.  Have a happy Sunday! 




Monday, 23 June 2014

'To Do' Lists

I have had a *really* hard day today.  It was my first day back at work after a fortnight away.  SO many emails.  SO much to do.  SO much sun outside and a temporarily misplaced Nintendo DS that I sold last week and needed to post.  Stressful.  I have been writing 'to do' lists all day long.

As a PA, I rely heavily on my to do lists.  I know that most people use them every single day so they are nothing new but, for me, they are sanity-savers.  We have a fancy system at work where we can log them digitally, track their progress and delegate them to other people (and, of course, there are loads of apps available on my iPhone) but I prefer a good old-fashioned paper diary, a notebook and a few pretty pens. 

I use a black Moleskine weekly planner to log my deadlines, meetings, travel plans and reminders.  I then have a regular black Moleskine notebook (with square lined pages - love!) for lists and notes (and doodles when attending lengthy teleconferences - ssshhh).  I run lists in both the back and the front of the book and methodically tick everything off as I complete it.  This, of course, is my favourite part.

I have five separate lists on the go at any one time: 
  • Urgent things to do (by the end of the day):  Today, for example includes: Complete my Health & Safety training online, rearrange a straight-talking session with our General Manager and carry out a Business Continuity test for our super-busy Payments team.  
  • Things to discuss with my boss:  I support my manager remotely for most of the week as he travels across the UK for his role.  I catch up with him formally once a day over the phone (we text/email in-between where necessary) and then we work together at a local office once a week so that we can chat face to face (and eat chocolate tiffin).   I'm seeing him tomorrow and I have a few things I need to ask him about including some recruitment issues and a forthcoming Glasgow trip.  As issues arise during the day I scribble them down ready for our catch-ups.  He's busy so I have to make sure I am prepared and concise when we speak.
  • Non-urgent but important things to do:  This includes a lot of forward-planning, such as the meetings I'm planning for the next few months, agenda items that I need to remember and HR deadlines that loom towards the end of the financial year.
  • Regular Admin:  I provide admin support to other members of the broader team and so today I've listed reminders for things such as the invoices I need to pay and the two telephone headsets I need to order for our Asset Finance team in Leeds.
  • Personal Admin: The obvious stuff is on my list at the moment like transferring funds from one account to another, booking an eyebrow appt, ordering a repeat prescription and returning two pairs of ill-fitting dungarees.
I put in a good day's work and, even though I haven't finished everything I need to, my head is clear on what I must prioritise.

But I feel flat tonight.  And a little bit teary.  It's the Monday and post-holiday blues combined.  Killer.

After dinner, Andrew and I walked Lizzie through the fields.  We chatty idly about our respective days.  I talked to him about everything that's on my mind. Bemoaned the enormity of my to do lists.  He asked me what would cheer me up (I think he was hoping for something naughty…. I told him I fancied a shower and a film).  

I don't feel as though I am getting the balance right with my personal life.  I spend too much time on social media sites and not enough time actually doing the things I love.  After a lot of chatting and daydreaming, it occurred to me that a fun to do list might be just what I need to get my mind focused on the things I really enjoy.  Ensure that I get the happy stuff done too. 

Love dressmaking.  This is a comfy linen dress in my fave C&R print, Catherine Rose.
Lynda and I were talking about diaries/stationery when we met on Saturday.  Lynda uses the same type of planner that I do but has one for work and one for - get this - craft stuff.  She clearly planted a seed in my mind.  I've been online and bought a large 'Peanuts' Moleskine planner.  When it arrives I will enjoy filling it in with my social engagements.  I will use it for lists of the books I want to read, the films I want to see and the things I want to make.  I will use it for blog post ideas, my writing goals and the fairs that I will be doing with Claireybelle for homebird & belle*.  

Love walks, road trips, mini breaks and holidays with my man. I'm going to fit more of those into my spare time.  
I am also going to schedule 'social media' time so that I steer well away during the time when I need to be most productive, whether that's at work or at home.  I feel much better for using my work skills to my advantage for fun stuff, and I feel better knowing that I will be formalising my personal goals.  I am certain that will make them more likely to happen.  

Thanks for reading. If you've got any top tips you could impart regarding 
self-organisation and self-motivation I would love to hear them. 

Have a fantastic week! 




*more on homebird & belle later, but I'm very excited to be doing something I love with someone who has the ability to make me belly laugh on a daily basis.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Midsummer sun

Hello hello!  This is an English blog so I'll jump right in with it:  hasn't the weather been gorgeous this weekend? Beautiful and sunny. We got back from our holiday in Spain on Thursday and I had the day off on Friday so it has been the most perfect long weekend.  I am pleased to report that the husband's crops faired our absence well and his beans are flowering*.

My mum and sister decided to come and visit me on Friday so we had a day of sewing together.  (Well, until 3pm when they had to go and fetch my niece from art club.)  As usual, we spent most of the day gossiping (my sister is 35 weeks pregnant!  Arrrgggh, the excitement!!)  but I did start another lovely Japanese dress which I finished early on Friday evening.  I love that about sewing, I can make a whole item of clothing in an afternoon.  Instant gratification, perfect for impatient souls like me.

Dress C from "Sweet Dress Book" by Yoshiko Tsukiori; slubby linen with Liberty trim
I am building up quite the handmade wardrobe.  So far I've made three Lily linen dresses by Tessuti (one sleeveless), a Merchant & Mills shirt dress, M&M Factory dress, a freestyled tunic, a couple of artisan apron tunics and this.  Am feeling a real sense of achievement!  Meanwhile, crochet projects I started 2 years ago languish, untouched, in baskets around my craft room.  Oops.

Do you know Lynda from Hookin With Laalaa?  She had the loveliest craft blog and was one of my favourites.  Lynda no longer blogs but we have kept in touch via text and Instagram and finally got together yesterday for chatting and crafting.  I had such a lovely day, we have known each other via the internet for at least three years now so it was such a treat to finally meet.  We, obviously, did lots of chatting with a little bit of knitting/sewing thrown in.  We had such a fab time that Laalaa missed her train home by six hours and it was dark by the time she left.  A perfect way to spend the longest day of the year.  

As if it wasn't enough of a treat that she came to see me, Laalaa brought lots of gorgeous gifts! 

I adore Lynda's handmade stuff and I am so chuffed with this tapestry scissor fob.  I am crazy for sewing notions and trinkets, which Lynda knows, and the scissors she bought for me are cute (and sharp) too.  I am looking forward to trying the chocolate tea (one of my favourite combos**) and I am impressed with myself for still having some of the pink champagne chocs left, 12 hours later!  Laalaa also brought two packets of my favourite Toffee Crisp biscuits (in the fridge/my tummy/hidden from husb)  and a gorgeous Cath Kidston spatula (in the utensil pot).  I am a lucky girl indeed.

So, today we are chilling out at home for a bit and then off to my parents' house for a barbecue with the rest of the family.  I am considering taking some peanut butter cookies that I read about recently.  They have just three ingredients and sound delicious.  My dad loves peanut butter so the two of us will love them at least.

Have a lovely Sunday, whatever you're up to.  Thanks for stopping by. 




*not prison slang

**I have become obsessed with pondering my favourite combos lately.  Let's discuss sometime soon.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Bring on June!

I am having some quality time with my computer tonight.  I'm making playlists, sorting photos and [obviously] writing my blog.  After work today I gave my craft room a blooming good tidy, clean and hover, so it's delightful in here now.  I am up in the eaves and there are two skylights.  Both are open, letting in lots of fresh air on this beautiful spring evening.  

If I can get away with it in here, I like to just switch on lots of lamps rather than the overhead light.  I'm sitting by lamplight, burning one of my favourite Bath & Body Works candles (Frosted Cupcake) and listening to the Haim album as I type.  Husband is downstairs in the living room (also compiling playlists, I think) and watching the footy.  This, to me, is what Friday nights are all about. 

Anyone who chats with me on Instagram will know that I have been complaining of a headache today.  I got lots of lovely sympathy from my fellow IGers.  In all honesty, and without being a martyr, I am used to having headaches.  I seem to be susceptible to them.  I was diagnosed with cluster headaches as a teen (I had to have lots of scary tests) and whilst I have those horrid headaches less than I used to, the weather/hormones can trigger them.  I carry on through them and dose myself up with painkillers.  But I just feel sluggish and a bit miserable.  

Today's headache was my own fault.  I'm not getting enough sleep - I'm too excited!!  I go to bed at night and cannot clear my mind.  I can't stop thinking about everything I want to make and do.  Also, June is set to be an epic month.  I break up from work for a couple of weeks next Thursday and have lots planned.  I am off to the Cabbages and Roses sale with my mum next weekend, then I have a workshop with Jessie Chorley at Hope & Elvis followed by a date with Laalaaland Lynda.  Andrew and I are squeezing in a little sunshine holiday, too.  It is all happening.  Can't wait.  

It's just the husband and I again for the next few weekends.  We aren't seeing so much of Jake (Andrew's son) lately as he is sitting his GCSEs and revising lots.  He says he can't study at our house because it's too much fun, which I take as a compliment, but we do miss him.  When he came over last weekend I spent as much time with him as possible just hanging out and watching [lots of studenty] TV.  We went for a little walk with the dog around the village, too.  

Jake and Drew often take a frisbee/ball when we go out for walks (not often now Jake is a teenager!) and it was great to see Jake getting some fresh air and running around a bit (well, quite a lot because his dad's aim with a frisbee is appalling).  Gosh, that makes me feel old saying that.  I've noticed lately that there are lots of things I do/say that make me realise just how old I am.*  Gah! 


This weekend Andrew and I are going to potter around at home, having a nice quiet weekend.  I think Andrew wants to see the new Tom Cruise film at the cinema, too.  Sometimes I really *really* wish they'd let you take your knitting in with you.  Maybe they do, I've never tried, but I expect it might annoy fellow movie-goers.  I'd love to sit and knit, drinking Starbucks and watching a film on the big screen.  

Have a great weekend, whatever you're up to, and thanks for stopping by.




*For instance, I like to wear a full-length slip under my dresses sometimes and I can't have a drink before bed as I'll wake up at 4am needing a wee.  Dear oh dear.

Friday, 9 May 2014

10/10 Happy

What do we really need in order to be happy?  I have been thinking about it a lot lately and have been pondering my dreams and aspirations.

Over the last couple of years quite a few people have asked me how happy I am.  When I've told them the truth - 10/10 - they have all been genuinely surprised.  No one seems to believe that ordinary people with ordinary problems can be 10/10 happy.  When I've asked those people, in response, how happy they are, I've been shocked at their answers too.  The lowest answers were 5 and 6 out of 10.  The average has been around 8 out of 10.  Every one of the people I've chatted to has, in my eyes, a really lovely life and a lot to be thankful for.  How, then, can they only be 6/10 happy?

I am convinced that we are slowly being brainwashed into thinking that we need 'more' of everything in order to be happy.  More money, more sleep, more spare time, more friends, more holidays…. And so it goes on.  I think that the media is largely responsible for people's concept of happiness.  It also occurs to me that people just interpret the question 'how happy are you?' in different ways.

To  me, happiness is a spiritual thing.  It has very little to do with anything that I own and is not materially affected by my problems or the anxiety that I occasionally suffer with.  When I'm asked how happy I am my answer is always consistent because I don't consider how happy I am that particular day, I answer with my gut feeling of how happy I am, in general, with my life.  And that's 10/10.

So, I thought I'd share just a few of the things that make me feel happy.  Ten things that make me feel 10/10 happy.

1.  Breathing in fresh air.  Noticing how warm or cool it feels on my skin, whether it smells of dairy farms or car exhausts, and allowing my lungs to fill.

2.  Sunlight.  Whether it's blinding sunshine on a hot summer day or a small patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor, it never fails to lift my heart.

3.  The way my dog's mouth relaxes when she sleeps to reveal a row of tiny white front teeth.  She looks like she's smiling in her dreams.

4.  The taste of my first coffee of the day. Always brought to my bedside by my husband (wearing pants and socks - sexy!) every single day.

5.  Peace and quiet.  I make sure that I have a few minutes alone every day just to be quiet and calm. Sometimes I use that time to knit or sew.  Other times I just sit.  It is vitally important to my wellbeing.

6.  Flowers.  Wild flowers, spectacular blooms, supermarket bouquets or weeds… I love them all and always have a jug of something in the kitchen.  It is an extra special treat for me to have a posy of flowers by the bed.

7.  Laughing.  I have a proper big laugh every single day.  I find Andrew hilarious, my stepson is funny and I seem to have chosen my friends on their ability to make me laugh.  I often laugh at myself even if I'm crying or sulking.  I have a close family and we have always laughed together; mum and dad still do.

8.  Nature and wildlife.  I love animals but am especially fascinated by wildlife and pondlife.  I love watching the birds from our conservatory.  I love to see rabbits, hedgehogs, foxes and game on my walks around the fields with Andrew and Lizzie.  I am a huge fan of Chris Packham and Bill Oddie; they would be on my fantasy dinner guest list.

9.  Stretching.  I love a good stretch and used to practice yoga for an hour every day.  I've let it slip in the past few years and I'm just getting back into it now, using free videos online from Do Yoga With Me (thanks for the recommendation from A Beach Cottage).

10.   Hugging.  I am a really tactile person and often feel compelled to hug even strangers.  I realise that a lot of people don't like their personal space to be invaded so I manage to keep control of it but, man, I hug the life out of Andrew and my family - especially my gorgeous little niece.

I know that my list might sound trite but these are genuinely the things that give me most joy in life.  I acknowledge that I am a very accomplished shopper and collector of random things, which obviously gives me pleasure too, but this is a compilation of the stuff that makes my soul properly happy.

Now, with all that said, I've got to press on because Cabbages and Roses are releasing a couple of new dresses tonight and I cannot miss it!  Ha! #iloveshallowstufftoo

Have a great weekend. 




PS The photos throughout this post are from our visit to Coton Manor in Northamptonshire last weekend.  If you live anywhere nearby I would definitely recommend a visit.  It incorporates so many of my favourite, happy, things and is stunning at this time of year.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Guest Post: How to make your house a home

Your home is your haven, or at least it should be. If your house doesn’t quite feel like a home, there are a few things you can do to make it feel a little more inviting.

The key is to inject a little of your personality into each room. We are all unique individuals and our homes should really reflect this.

The good news is the changes you make don’t have to be huge. Even if you only have a small budget, there are still things you can do to make your house a little more homely.

Creating personal space

We all need a little “me” time every now and again. This is especially true if you aren’t living by yourself. Do you have a room where you can go to just to spend time on your own? It is easy to create your room to make it as relaxing as possible. Plants, photos and things that make you feel good should all be included in the room. You don’t have to spend hours in there. Even just 15 minutes in your own personal space can rejuvenate the spirit and relax the mind.

Eliminate clutter

One tip that everyone should follow is to eliminate clutter from your life. Take a look around the house and see whether there’s anything you don’t really need. Throw away all of the stuff that is simply taking up space, then you can organise the rest of the clutter. You can invest in various storage solutions for the home such as shelves or units that will help to keep it looking tidier. A tidy home encourages a happy mind.

Pay attention to the little things

The little details in a home do tend to make the biggest difference. Even just updating your windows can help to make it feel more homely.

Upgrading your sash window parts for example, could really help to make the home feel cosier. Adding small ornaments and photos around a room can also encourage a positive, healthy emotional response.

The goal of turning a house into a home is to make sure it reflects your personality. Take a look around and see whether there’s anything you don’t really like and get rid of anything that attracts negative energy.  Adding your favourite colours, a few plants and even homemade crafts can really help to make a big difference.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stockpiling Sock Yarn and other stories

Saturday, and what a lovely one it is too.  It's dry and bright here in South Northants.  I was awake super early for a weekend (5am to be precise) and had done a food shop and made bacon sandwiches by 7am.

I love getting up early at the weekend.  I have a mega busy job, which I enjoy, and work full-time.  It doesn't leave much free time in the week to do the things I really love, like stitching, sewing, knitting, crocheting, baking, cooking and tidying.  Not to mention just hanging out with Andrew, watching TV and smooching on the sofa.

Ceramic decorative heart by Greengate
I had a horrible looonnnng dental treatment on Wednesday.  I keep going on about it, but it was traumatic!  I was sedated (as per) and having replacement fillings and a gum deep-clean (yuck).  It was supposed to be a 90 minute appointment but as I was practically knocked out, the dentist decided to do 80% of the job in one fell swoop.  4 hours (yes 4 HOURS!) and £800 later I was still very dopey with an entirely numb mouth, dribbling all over the place and unable to speak.  It was like fast forwarding my life 30 years and seeing myself as a batty old lady. (I am convinced I will be as mad as a box of frogs in my old age.  I've suffered too much with mental illness over the years to escape it in my twilight years.)  Don't get me wrong, my dentist is fantastic.  It's just that I am perhaps a bit of a hypochondriac and have a tendency to 'go on a bit' (husband's words) when I'm under the weather.  Thanks for listening, friends! :)

So anyway, after the unpleasant day I had on Wednesday and the subsequent 48 hours of feeling rough as a badger's bum, I started to feel a whole lot better yesterday afternoon and planned an epic weekend.  I have made ZERO plans.  I'm in various offices next week so a weekend at home is just what the doctor ordered.  My main objective is to start knitting a pair of socks.

In anticipation, I have quizzed various cyber buddies (Ali and Ally I'm looking at YOU), watched endless youtube videos and bought myself a book.  I also appear to be stockpiling sock yarn.

Madeleine Tosh Sock Yarn (Toshsock)
Ali should be blamed entirely for my sock yarn obsession.  Well, Ms Pork Chop is also culpable.  The pair of them post gorgeous photos of hand-knitted socks on instagram (here and here) on a regular basis and I've caught the bug. Trouble is, I can't quite get my head around knitting in the round.  (How do you remember which bit's the front and which is the back?)

Trailing Clouds self-striping sock yarn.  Yes, oooooh.

I tend to summon confidence by (optimistically) telling myself 'if 'she' can do it, I can do it' based on the fact that I, too, have a brain and two hands. The fact that these things also involve a huge dose of natural talent that I do not possess doesn't seem to occur to me until I have a giant basket full of expensive yarn.  All the gear and no idea; that's me.

I'm tenacious if nothing else so I will spend the weekend with a furrowed brow, scrapping with a ball of yarn.  I'm also going to squeeze in some stitching, pretty patchwork and a few episodes of Breaking Bad (newly found favourite programme to knit to with husband).

I have also bought a few supplies from overseas lately and they are starting to arrive at the house in dribs and drabs.   I'm so excited to start stitching these Rosalie Quinlan kits, with gorgeous Cosmo embroidery floss.

Stichery Pokery
The Cottage Garden Threads, are simply beautiful.  I've joined a little club where I pay about £12 a month for a stitchery pattern and four CGT threads with which to stitch it.  Such fun!  I'd love to join a sock yarn club if anyone knows of one.  Preferably a cool US brand which ships to the UK.  Suggestions most welcome.

Have a lovely weekend.