Saturday, 31 December 2011

A toast to 2011

I can't believe all that has happened in 2011, not least the last few weeks since moving to California. It feels like a bit of a dream really. In fact, the beginning of a dream, is what I called my first post on my new blog about our US adventures.

Here is is reproduced for you (originally posted 17 November):

It was October last year when we made the decision to try to move to the USA. We’d both long harboured the dream to live abroad and the time felt right to go for it. And the time also felt completely right to start our family. I should probably mention the setting for these life-changing decisions: the restaurant in Glasswells (a furniture store in Ipswich). What a place to set in motion a complete change in our lives!

So we started telling people our decision – the moving to the US one that is, we kept the baby-making to ourselves – and we were met with pretty positive reactions but I guess they felt like us. It wouldn’t seem real until it actually happened. Well in August we were thrilled to discover that both of our hopes had come true. On an ordinary summer Friday, Ben found out that, after 11 interviews, he’d been successful in securing a job based in San Jose near San Francisco in California. So we went out for a fabulous celebratory meal at our favourite restaurant – accompanied by a glass of bubbly of course. And that was my last alcoholic drink as three days later, having gone home from work early feeling sick, I got those magic two pink lines on a home pregnancy test.

We had a couple of weeks for things to sink in before flying to San Jose to meet Ben’s new boss and have a good look around the area. We also had to tell his boss that I was 6 weeks pregnant and that we’d have to move fairly swiftly so we could be out in California by December! He was the first person we’d told about the baby. Things were slowly beginning to feel real.

And now here we are. As I write these words, out of the corner of my eye, I can see the photo from today’s 20 week scan. At the top of my screen I have a tab open where I’d been looking at Virgin flights. I’m arranging shipping, we have a tenant for our house and I have piles of clothes on the bedroom floor after sorting through my very cluttered wardrobe. And if I think too much about the fact that in just three weeks we’ll be saying goodbye to all our friends and families the tears start to form. I don’t know about back in August but I tell you something, it’s feeling pretty damn real now.

You can keep up with our ups and downs, fun and frustrations over on Letters Home and I'll try to post stuff here too.

In the meantime, let's raise a toast to 2011 and welcome 2012 with open arms. It's going to be an adventure!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Summing it all up

It's a Thursday evening in November and tonight's warming dinner of chicken with coriander, chilli, garlic and ginger is happily bubbling away on the hob while Florence and the Machine plays in the background (via Spotify, she's not in my living room). So it seems like a good time to pause, reflect, and write about everything that's been going on lately.

Today started with an 8am alarm, an 8.15 rise, a hot shower with an almost-delicious shower gel that smelt of white chocolate and eucalyptus (a strange combination and not one to be transferred to the kitchen any time soon) and a decision to make on what to wear. I opted for skinny jeans, an almost-still-white long sleeved top, green flowery tunic dress and cosy chocolate-brown cardigan. Nothing overly unusual so far until I tell you I spent the night in bed with a pillow behind me, one between my knees and one under my tummy. Which I had to move every time I needed to get up to the loo (three times in total). And that the skinny jeans are elasticated to fit over-the-bump. Oh yes, there's a little someone planning to join our family next April.

Black and white baby bump mosaic
The top left photo is the most recent at 18 weeks. Earliest is bottom right, 13 weeks.
I know this won't be news if you follow 52 crafts, where I've also been pretty absent of late.

As I write, little one is kicking me gently. I've only been feeling more noticeable movements for the last few days but the flutters have been present since 15 weeks and they're pretty amazing. At week 19 all seems well so far with no morning sickness, quite a lot of tiredness and some back niggles that are under control thanks to the aforementioned military placing of pillows.

So that's one bit of news. Oh yes, there's more.

I left my job as a communications manager, at a place I'd worked for 11 years, exactly two weeks ago. Two weeks that have flown by at an unbelievable pace. As despite not "working" I have been busy on a pretty damn big project to move me, my husband, Toby the dog and baby bump to California. All being well, and there are a few official things to sort out still, we'll be living state-side by Christmas.

So as you can imagine, we have a lot to plan, pack and decisions to make: do we ship the table? how about 20 cookery and craft books (yes, clearly)? where do we want to live? house or apartment with a pool? how do we find a doctor? You don't want to see my project plan!

It's all very exciting though and we feel very lucky to have been given such an amazing opportunity. And we couldn't be more happy to be starting our much-wanted family.

We are lucky, happy, a bit scared, excited and growing rapidly (me and baby, not Ben). I think that just about sums it up.

Monday, 25 July 2011

101 in 1001 update

With less than a year to go it's time to check in with my 101 in 1001 list. I still have a way to go!

Start date: 30 August 2009
Finish date: 27 May 2012

1. Research family tree
2. After doing family history, visit some of the places my family lived
3. Make my first quilt
4. Build a website from scratch
5. Get married!
6. Have a go at geocaching
7. Write a book
8. Write menu plans- seasonal and cheap- every week for a month (0/4)
9. Grow potatoes
10. Join a screenprinting class - I haven't done this as such but I did teach myself screenprinting as part of 52 crafts so I think I'll cross this one off.
11. Go on safari
12. Read a book in a day
13. Do something creative every day for a week (7/7)
14. Take a book (maybe the one in no.12) to a coffee shop and spend the afternoon there on my own
15. Record a craft video tutorial Yes! Did you see my potato printing video?
16. Eat 5 things I've never tried before (5/5) I tried Haggis in Scotland and bloomin' lovely it was too!
17. Cook 5 things I've never cooked before (4/5)
18. Make a photo book with my favourite photos 
19. Get a piece of freelance writing published - and get paid for it
20. Make a scrapbook of a big event (eg wedding, holiday etc.)
21. Try waxing (at a salon, not eyebrows)
22. Write a routine for cleaning/house management
23. Go to opera for the first time
24. Go to the ballet again
25. Donate blood
26. Go to a cookery school for the day
27. Make & write thank you cards for Amanda & Kate
28. Perform 20 random acts of kindness (1/20)
29. Read 10 books that I haven't already from this list (3/10)
30. Participate in a craft fair
31. Blog daily for a week (7/7)
32. Blog daily for a month (30/30)
33. Finish my Emily Peacock cushion kit
34. Make a zine
35. Learn to make clip frame purses
36. Learn to knit
37. Learn to crochet granny squares
38. Organise and tidy craft room
39. Go to an auction
40. Find the perfect trousers
41. Get a promotion
42. Climb Snowdonia
43. Have another horse riding lesson
44. Select and take part in a “big” charity event like the Moonwalk
45. Take part in a beach cleaning event
46. Get up at 7am every day for a week (7/7)
47. Complete Edinburgh MoonWalk in less than 8 hours I did it in 7 hours :)
48. Learn another craft I haven't already done
49. Set up a craft night/afternoon
50. Set up a water butt
51. And a compost bin
52. Make my own duvet cover and matching pillow cases
53. Visit a farmers' market or farm shop once a month-
54. Continue to run the Christmas giving tree at work every year (2/2)
55. Visit an art gallery
56. Go to pilates once a week for a month (4/4)
57. Make lunch to take to work every day for a week (5/5)
58. Visit an outdoor market in London
59. Have a pedicure
60. Cook a ten-course meal (I have no idea what would be in a ten-course meal but why not?!)
61. Go on a picnic
62. Buy an original piece of art
63. Update my blog template
64. Make a skirt
65. Make a dress
66. Go to a classical music concert
67. Do a furniture makeover (find a piece of old furniture, make it over and document it)
68. Buy a Diane von Furstenberg dress
69. Buy a vintage dress
70. Donate something to freecycle, or a charity shop, once a month, on average
71. Make sourdough bread
72. Make some reusable shopping bags to fit in my handbag I screenprinted some bags a couple of weeks ago
73. Visit five countries (4/5) - USA, South Africa, Mauritius and Dubai
74. Write a letter to myself to be opened on my 35th birthday 
75. Find a photo of myself that I like and frame it
76. Make a cake for Ben's 36th birthday
77. Have a session with a personal shopper I did this a few weeks ago and great fun it was too.
78. Learn about a historical period
79. Read 10 biographies/non-fiction books (1/10)
80. Have a boudoir photo session
81. Make something from each of my craft books- donate to charity any books I don't make anything from
82. Finish working through the book, “ The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are”
83. At least once a month, go to sleep without reading first
84. Buy new glasses
85. Go to New York again (with Ben)
86. Re-stock etsy shop
87. Write 10 letters to loved ones
88. Get my hair cut every 8 weeks
89. Meet an internet friend in real life
90. Eat a piece of fruit every day for a month (0/30)
91. Learn to make something in my new tagine pot
92. Make something and give it to a friend for no reason
93. Make 50 handmade presents (14/50)
94. Plant a tree
95. Have a spa day
96. Give snowboarding another try
97. Watch 20 of the Times top 100 films (1/20)
98. Read a newspaper every day for a week (0/7)
99. Learn how to use my mac (I really need to learn the shortcuts I'm so used to with Windows!)
100. Start an art journal
101. Sleep outside

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Can you handle another candle?

Is it just me or do birthdays seem to come around quicker when you're older? When I was small I remember it feeling like it was forever until the long winter and spring months turned into July and I could look forward to another candle on my birthday cake.

This year's birthday can be summed up by: David Tennant, Shakespeare, BBQ, rain (lots of), Pimm's, streamers, flowers, good friends, family, pepper salad, cards, love and fun.

And another candle. Can I handle it? Yes I think I can. 

PS - can you handle another candle? is courtesy of one of my birthday cards.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A year of achievements

Guess what? I've completed my 52 crafts in 52 weeks project - I can’t quite believe it. I came up with the idea whilst recovering from back surgery last June and I’m so proud to have completed a craft a week for a whole magnificent year.

 Another crazy idea I had a year ago was to take part in the Edinburgh Moonwalk. So I’m writing this post whilst resting my incredibly sore feet. I walked 26.2 miles through the night for breast cancer and completed it in a very respectable 7 hours. Something else to be proud of I think. I hope all this pride doesn’t result in a fall. As I can hardly walk that’s very possible.

Important crafting note: I decorated my bra with fabulous sequin fabric and tassels. The theme was Moulin Rouge so I totally had to add feathers to my hat too. Where would we crafters be without glue guns?

What has made you proud lately?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I was in a post-anaesthetic morphine-induced haze after surgery to fix a bulging disc and relieve the pressure on my sciatic nerve. I'm so glad I had the operation - thanks to that, a healthy diet and exercise, I've never felt better. Long may it continue.

I took this photo just over a year ago - I now have a scar just under my tattoo, the only reminder of my surgery.
What were you doing a year ago?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Blogging every day in May on 52 crafts in 52 weeks

I've joined a challenge called Blogathon 2011 to blog every day throughout May. Instead of using this blog I thought it would be more of a challenge to do it on 52 crafts in 52 weeks as I only usually post once a week. Wish me luck!

I hope you're having a lovely Bank Holiday weekend - I'm hoping to get out into the garden. It's full of these beauties...

Happy Monday x

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Wedding love

I love a good wedding, don't you? And oh how I loved the Royal Wedding. I cried (quite a lot, and I'm not ashamed to admit it), wore a tiara (seriously) and drank tea whilst soaking up every minute of it. I watched it again today - much to my husband's puzzlement but I wanted to see all my favourite bits again. And it was more poignant when you (possibly) know what they were saying to each other (loved it when William told Kate she looked beautiful). The dress was amazing, Prince William dashing, the bridesmaids and page boys adorable and the whole day flawless.

The Duchess of Cambridge

What was your favourite part of the big day?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sketching up a storm

I'm really loving sketching right now, and the early mornings have been particularly successful in getting lots of sketches down. The sunny bank holiday weekend helped too.

Sketching and braiding in the garden
My work desk in the springtime sun

Sketchbook pages
Experimenting with my tools

Sketchbook pages
More experimenting

Sketchbook pages
Playing with crayons and charcoal

Sketchbook pages
Pens and pencils

Poppy seed head in pencil and pen

Sketching poppy heads
And watercolour

My excitement in sketching is all down to the fabulous Sketchbook Delight class by Alisa Burke. I highly recommend it.
Happy sketching x

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A day of sketching and crafting in the sun

Happy Easter Saturday. It's a completely spectacular weekend here in the UK - I have never known it to be this hot in April. Mainly because apparently we haven't seen temperatures like this at Easter since records begun.

So today I've been enjoying the unseasonable weather - I've been sketching, eating, reading and crafting in the sun.

Sketch of a tulip

Crafting in the sun
I don't know what's going on with my skirt here

Despite the glorious weather I have been online quite a bit (okay, a lot). Here are a few links from around the internet that have caught my eye this week...

- This print - "An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail"
- Baked oatmeal - I have porridge with blueberries and bananas every day. This looks like an indulgent alternative.
- The Sketchbook Project 2012 is live - which theme will you choose?
- My friend Lu has got the cutest mugs.

Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend x

Friday, 22 April 2011

Life is good

I hope you're all enjoying the lovely long weekend. The weather is beautiful. Today a couple of friends came over for lunch - I made the Very Full Tart from Plenty.

It was so delicious and the girls loved it too. Here's the recipe:

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper
About 100ml olive oil
1 aubergine, cut into 4cm dice
Salt and black pepper
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
1 small courgette, cut into 3cm dice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
300g shortcrust pastry
8 thyme sprigs, picked
120g each ricotta and feta
7 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium free-range eggs
200ml double cream

Heat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8.

Cut around the pepper stalks, then lift out and discard, along with all the seeds. Put the peppers in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with oil and put on the top shelf of the oven.

Mix the aubergine with four tablespoons of oil and season. Tip into a big baking tin and place on the shelf below the peppers. After 12 minutes, add the sweet potato, stir and roast for 12 minutes more. Now add the courgette, stir and roast for a further 10–12 minutes. By now, the peppers should be brown and the vegetables cooked. Remove everything from the oven and turn the heat to 160C/gas mark 2½. Cover the peppers with foil and leave to cool; once cool, peel and tear into strips.
Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Sauté the onions with the bay leaves and some salt for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown, soft and sweet. Discard the bay and set aside.

Grease a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Roll the pastry to a 3mm-thick circle large enough to line the tin with some overhang. Press it into the edges. Line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 30 minutes, lift out the paper and beans, and bake for 10–15 minutes more, until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool a little.

Spread the onions over the bottom, then top with roasted veg. Scatter over half the thyme, dot first with small chunks of both cheeses and then the tomato halves, cut-side up.

Whisk the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper, and pour into the tart; the tomatoes and cheese should remain exposed. Scatter the remaining thyme on top. Bake for 35–45 minutes, until the filling sets and turns golden. Rest for at least 10 minutes, then trim off the excess pastry, remove the tart from its tin and serve.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Decor inspiration via pinterest

I'm planning a little bank holiday redecoration spree. Well redecoration is over stating it a little - there'll be no new paint work or major renovations. Just some sprucing and switching up of details.

Our living room is mainly cream and brown with some metallic thrown in and I think it needs a little colour adding to the party. So I turned to pinterest for some inspiration and green seems to have featured heavily in my pins...

I think by adding some splashes of green I can brighten up my living room for Spring.

Are you planning any decoration projects over the long weekends we have coming up (two 4 day weekends in a row - I can't wait)?

Friday, 15 April 2011

Writing from the heart

I write a lot - I write all day in my job as a communications manager. I write this blog, guest columns and 52 crafts in 52 weeks. I write tweets and Facebook updates.

I always try to be true to my heart and personality when I write (well at work I have to write according to the corporate personality) but I don't very often write my most innermost thoughts and experiences. For that, I have my journal.

I go through phases of writing in it. I do it when I feel I need to get a multitude of thoughts and worries out of my head. So for that reason I often write just before bed and just lately I've added a new section: today I'm grateful for...

Every day I jot down a few things that I'm grateful for on that day. It helps me reflect on the day and remember that even if I've had a bad day and there have been tears, there were good things too.

I don't intend to share all of those thoughts with you but I thought I could share a few of my gratitudes on an occassional basis. I'd love to know what you're grateful for today too - let me know in the comments. x

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I love Spring

I love the flowers...

I love spring

and I particularly love the rhubarb.

Fresh from the garden

I made a gorgeous rhubarb crumble that I really should've taken a photo of for you but you'll just have to imagine it as it got gobbled up far too quickly. Here's the recipe if you want to try making it yourself.

Rhubarb crumble

5 rhubarb stalks - cut into chunks
1tbsp sugar

3oz butter
3oz golden caster sugar
3oz wholemeal flour
3oz oats

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Put the rhubarb, sugar and some water in a saucepan and heat gently.

Meanwhile mix the butter, sugar and flour together in a food processor (or rub it together by hand). You still want it to be lumpy so don't over process it - you don't want breadcrumbs. Then mix in the oats.

Once the rhubarb has cooked down, check the taste and add more sugar if you need it. Then pour it into an ovenproof dish and cover it with the crumble mixture. Bung it in the oven for about 25-30 mins or until the top is golden brown.

I serve mine with 0% fat Greek yoghurt but custard, cream or ice cream would be just lovely.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Decorate by Holly Becker reviewed

If, like me, you feel you need a little help and advice to get your home just how you want it to be, who better than decor8's Holly Becker to guide you? Her blog is the one I go to first when catching up on my internet reading so as soon as I heard she was writing a book I couldn't wait to place the Amazon order.


I certainly wasn't disappointed. It's so so much more than a pretty book to lay on your coffee table. It is literally crammed with inspiring homes and I love the little anecdotes and wise words from designers, stylists and writers spread throughout the book. Here is one that particularly resonated with me: "The true beauty of a room can be found in its details. Layering up a room with the items you love elevates your space."

My favourite section of the book is 'Setting your style'. I think it's too easy to lose sight of what your own style is when you're bombarded by magazines, blogs and websites from all directions so this is the chapter I'll be studying the most. The 'be your own client' advice is particularly useful.

I will also be playing close attention to 'Creative spaces' as my study desperately needs some help. It's also our spare room so it needs to work twice as hard. So I can't wait to get started on the re-design with Decorate as my guide.

If you love design, your home and want a sneaky peek into beautiful abodes from all over the world, pick up a copy of Decorate and be inspired.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Finding inspiration

I recently wrote about motivation and inspiration on Indie Fixx - pop over and have a little read if you've got a few minutes spare.

And I love this video by Alisa Burke on the subject of inspiration. I'm following her Sketchbook Delight class and it's a really fabulous online workshop. Comprehensive, interesting and full of Alisa's beautiful work.

Isn't it brilliant? Where do you find inspiration?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Do you know the way?

I just realised I didn't blog my trip to San Jose. Well mainly it rained but I did see some snippets of blue sky. And I did lots of shopping. And a little crafting. It was just lovely to have a break from work and relax.

New scarf
We went to San Francisco for the day... it rained
We enjoyed visiting the sealions
There were some blue skies

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

101 in 1001 update

I've had this post sat in my drafts for ages in the hope that I'd manage to complete a few more before I updated you. Well, I managed a couple so it's not all bad I guess. You may remember that I'm focussing on completing a smaller version of the list before my 32nd birthday so here's that list:

12. Read a book in a day
14. Take a book (maybe the one in no.12) to a coffee shop and spend the afternoon there on my own 15. Record a craft video tutorial
16. Eat 5 things I've never tried before (4/5) - I only need to eat one more new thing
17. Cook 5 things I've never cooked before (4/5) - again, I only need to cook one more
39. Go to an auction
47. Complete Edinburgh MoonWalk in less than 8 hours - it's in June (please sponsor me if you can spare a few pounds)
52. Make my own duvet cover and matching pillow cases
55. Visit an art gallery
59. Have a pedicure - yes! Had one yesterday at a spa in San Jose
60. Cook a ten-course meal - I'm thinking maybe for my birthday
66. Go to a classical music concert
69. Buy a vintage dress
71. Make sourdough bread
95. Have a spa day - yes! had a lovely time at Burke Williams spa.
100. Start an art journal

It's just as well I waited huh as the two I crossed off, I only completed yesterday. I'm really going to have to focus on the rest of them in the next few months.

I also completed no 40 from the main list - find the perfect trousers. It turns out the style that suits me is tapered leg (like these) - I must buy more I feel. I also have three new habits with no.56, no.57 and no.90 all ticked off - pilates, packed lunches and fruit. I do pilates at least once a week now, take a packed lunch to work most days and have at least some fruit every day. As an aside, I read a great article you might like on zenhabits about how to ingrain behaviour.

 Instead of clogging up this post with the full list, I've created it a little page all of its very own here

I am at my most beautiful (apparently)

According to a study, women are at their most beautiful at age 31. So I guess I'd better enjoy it for the few months I have left at this beautiful age! (via woo!)

Monday, 21 March 2011

{monday muse} colour

I love colour and I was surrounded by it in the Monterey aquarium yesterday...

I think these photos will be inspiring me this week! Happy Monday x

Saturday, 19 March 2011

This week I loved...

I've been struggling to know what to say about Japan - it's hard to comprehend. But this week I loved (not the right word at all but I hope you know what I mean)...

:: seeing and reading about all the things people are doing to raise money for Japan and the ways in which they're attempting to process the events of a week ago and the aftermath.
:: Laura from Bugs and Fishes is donating money from sales of Cherry Blossoms to the appeal (until 19 March)
:: Joejobi is organising an auction
:: paper and string has a raffle
:: Holly is so much more eloquent than I could hope to be on the subject.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


I love the word wow and I probably use it too much but when I saw this artist's work (via papernstitch) I said: wow.

Michelle Moode is a mixed-media artist (and book maker) from California and she challenged herself last year to start a drawing a day. As you know I'm all about challenges but I'm full of admiration for someone who is committing to do something every day. I think I may have to make a purchase from her lovely shop soon.

PS you can read more about setting your own creativity challenge in my column on Indie Fixx.

Do you need a card quickly? Make these 5 easy cards today

Card making was my first crafty-love when I started making again five or so years ago. Since then I must have made hundreds so I have quite a few ideas for you to make your own quick and simple cards to wow your lucky recipients.

1) Flowers for any occasion
I made these for Mother's Day but you could customise them for birthdays, thank yous or any occasion that warrants a pretty card. You just need gorgeous papers, glue (or a Xyron sticker makerwhich is my tool of choice), sticky foam squares (optional) and an alphabet stamp (I have this one). It's as simple as cutting petal shapes out of the paper and sticking them down in a flower shape. I stamped Happy Mother's Day on scrap white card, cut out the words and then used foam squares to stick them on - you could just use normal glue. Easy peasy.

Handmade Mother's day cards

2) Punch it out
I used a heart punch, white card and foam squares for this simple Valentine's card but you could use any shape - flowers or butterflies would be cute - and add some colour too.
Valentine's day card

3) Fabricate
I use fabric a lot with my cards - I always have lots of scraps laying around so it's no bad thing to use a few up.
This one was another Valentine's card but you could do flowers, bunting or anything else that takes your fancy.
Love card

BONUS: for extra wow-ness you could use your sewing machine to add some fun freehand stitching like I did with these flowers:

4) Roll with it
(brief interlude to sing along to Oasis.)
I love quilling - it's so therapeutic rolling little strips of paper and sticking them down to make a fabulous card. It was my first craft for 52 crafts in 52 weeks and it's great for both men and women - I've made Mum in pinks (below) and Dad in blues.
It requires very few tools – just paper, glue and a quilling tool - so it's a good low-cost craft to get started with. There's a great tutorial on CRAFT to get you going.

Happy Birthday Mum

5) Turn over a new leaf
Next time you go on a walk, gather up some interesting leaves and use them to make easy cards. Full instructions are over on 52 crafts. I think these are nice to use as notelets to send Spring letters to friends and relatives.

Fun with nature

I hope you found this little card round-up useful - let me know in the comments if you try any of them or if you have any other easy card-making ideas.


Related Posts with Thumbnails