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.