Sunday, 11 November 2012

Waiting for Baby

There's a reason I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been working on something else, a special project...

Ok, so it’s not taken much ‘work’ as such. Just lots of eating, sleeping and lounging around, but suffice to say it’s felt like hard work. But, after 21 long weeks I’m starting to feel a bit more myself (except for the odd bout of sickness – anyone who says it stops after 12 weeks is LYING. Also, anyone who thinks it’s just in the morning, is LYING!).

However, there’s no rest for the wicked because everything is changing. And I mean everything. We’re relocating and downsizing. Which means packing up the house, sorting out storage options, selling our stuff, Mr. D has to find a new job, I’ll be dashing between locations for a couple of weeks before starting maternity leave and that’s before we’ve even thought about Christmas!

Add into the mix enjoying London while we still can, making sure we see all our friends Just. One. Last. Time, and getting my hands into baby crafts, autumnal cooking and becoming a grown up, I think life’s going to be pretty full on over the next few months! Until January. When everything stops. And I’ll be left twiddling my thumbs, waiting impatiently for baby.


In light of this exciting news I thought it was cause for a celebration! so, this week and this week only, you can get 20% off at the Millie's Emporium shop. Just quote baby20 at the checkout. So go on, stock up on those crafty supplies! Offer ends 5pm, Sunday 18th November 2012. Visit

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Why I Love the Queen: The Nation's Grandma

There are not many of us that can say that we would stick at a job for 60 years. There are not many of us who would continue working well into our eighties. And there are certainly not many of us who would do it with dignity, respect and class. And this is why, this week, we celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 year reign – and it doesn’t look like she’s giving up yet! 

I know that not everyone is in favour of the monarchy, but whatever your political view or opinion, there is still an immense amount of respect due to our Queen and to her family. People seem to believe that the Royal family costs the British taxpayer a preposterous amount for doing very little. We imagine the life of a royal involves living it up at the palace, wearing priceless jewels, eating caviar, drinking champagne and going out for the occasional shoot or fox hunt. 

It’s a life foreign to us poor commoners living on the breadline, struggling to make it with our poor standards of education and healthcare. But the reality is, the royal family costs each UK citizen a mere 66p each per year and for that we have a monarchy respected throughout the world, boosting international relations, bringing in a ridiculous amount of money through tourism and providing political balance and stability. The fact is, that because of our monarchy, we could never be taken over by a dictator – The Queen provides a constitutional balance that prevents this from happening - and the Queen attends over 400 events every year, that's hard work for an 86 year old, whatever way you look at it!

All of this aside, the Queen is somewhat of a constant in British life. She has been there throughout many of our lives, we know no different and can not imagine life without her. We’d have to change all the money and our stamps for a start! She took on a huge responsibility at a young age and has reigned through a period of great change both in her nation and throughout the Commonwealth. She has reigned through times of great pain in her own family – circumstances that no family would wish to go through nor know how to handle – all whilst being under the watchful and critical eye of the world.

In the last few years her family have grown up, they have sorted themselves out and appear to be a very happy unit. Kate and Will have boosted the royal family’s profile and very much bought royalty back to the people, and the people love it! There have been street parties, flags have been flying and millions attempted to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty along the Thames yesterday (myself included!).

I love The Queen because she’s real to our generation. If Will and Kate feel like the nation’s best friends, then Her Majesty feels like the nation’s Grandma. It has been beautiful over the past few days to watch her as she enjoys her own momentous occasion whilst spending time with her family. When her cute little face breaks into a smile, she looks like every other dear granny!

Lastly, The Queen is a woman of bold faith, and in a country that has become so multi-cultural and pressured with political correctness, it was inspiring to hear her last Christmas as she proclaimed Jesus Christ to the world. She said in her Christmas speech 2011:

"Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: 
'Fear not', they urged, 'we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 'For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.'

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer:
'O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.' 
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord."
So, Happy Jubilee Queenie! You deserve all the pomp and ceremony. May you continue another decade, and if you don’t, I hope old Charlie will do half as good a job as you have over the years!

Monday, 7 May 2012

20 Things About Me

I saw on Twitter today that everyone is tweeting '20 things about me' and, in a moment of wanting to blog but not knowing what to write, I thought I could have a go on here.

20 Things About Me

1. When I was nine years old I decided to be a journalist after watching Lois Lane go on many an adventure with Superman. I launched my own newspaper using a Word template and Clip Art on our first PC. It was called Boom!

2. I hate coffee but love lattes and for this reason, and this reason alone, bought myself a coffee machine.

3. When I was 19 I met and fell in love with my best friend. I knew after our first kiss that I would marry him... and I did.

4. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being 17 at college. They weren't necessarily the best days, but they were the most care-free days of my life and I had some amazing friends, which I didn't appreciate until we all went our separate ways.

5. I make my husband do the washing up every day... and then nag him when he leaves traces of sauce on the plates.

6. Throughout school, college and university I never revised for exams but always got good grades... I now fear that one day everyone will find out I actually don't know anything after all.

7. I've always had an independent, make it on my own streak. I left home at 17 and thought I was a grown up. Totally wasn't.

8. I still feel like I'm play-acting at being a grown up.

9. I love God and His Son, Jesus. Always have, always will (this should be number 1 on the list really).

10. I find it hard to trust God and have a habit of doing everything in my own strength. Then Bam! He does it all himself and saves the day. I am an idiot.

11. I feign an interest in football for the sake of my marriage, can hold a relatively intelligent conversation about it by just throwing in a few facts, nodding and smiling... but really I don't care.

12. I love weddings, totally think that my own was the best wedding ever and would do it again (to the same man!) given the chance.

13. I look at this wedding photo and am amazed at how young, innocent and child-like I looked. Full of hopes, dreams and anticipation for a perfect future. (Ha!). (I'm also amazed that it was nearly 5 years ago!)

14. I'm allergic to dairy products but crave cheese all the time. Yes, ALL the time!

15. My favourite meal is bangers and mash, but it has to be dished up a certain way - a bed of mash, at least 4 sausages stuck in the middle and then baked beans poured over the top.

16. I am a writer with constant writer's block. I haven't done any creative writing since I was 19 and do wonder whether I still can.

17. I have a tendency towards addictive behaviour - whether it be diet coke, starbucks, flowers or magazines - these are all things I feel like I have to buy even when I don't need, want or can't afford them.

18. Although I can be chatty and funny and confident, deep down I am an introvert. I prefer my own company, get overwhelmed by big social occasions or too many social occasions in a short space of time and frequently turn my phone off to shut the world out. Everyone feels sorry for me because my husband works on weekends, but it actually gives me head space so I don't mind it at all. These articles helped me to understand that I wasn't weird and that it's ok.

19. I am a control freak who needs to know what the plan is - not just for the next few weeks. I'm talking years! 

20. I have a lot of dreams and ambitions but no idea how to make them happen or how they fit in with each other.

There! There are loads more but maybe I'll do another one another time.
What are your 20 things? Why not blog about them and leave the link in the comments, would love to see!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The button lady

Every month at the church hall behind my house there is a vintage / antique / craft fair that takes place. I always try to pop along on a quiet Saturday just to see what treasures I might find! There's a nice lady who always has a stall, I have nicknamed her the button lady. She has a table full of vintage buttons, brooches and sewing memorabilia and there are always sweet gems to be had. She says her kitchen is full of buttons that she can't move! I like that thought.

This week I went along with my husband and his parents. It turns out my mother in law also has an eye for a good button. She is a counsellor and apparently they are very useful during her sessions with clients. She asks them to pick out a button that represents a certain person or emotion - it could be the colour, texture, size or feel that relates to them. Interesting fact!

So we went along and these were the buttons that caught my eye. The first set are so lovely and vintagey while these ones just had a lovely colour to them. I'm not sure what I'll do with them but it was nice to come home with a treat. There was also another lady who sells handmade chutneys, cooking sauces and jams. We picked out an amazing sweet potato chutney but we've eaten it all so I can't show you! All the more reason to take a trip back next time!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Celebrating Stationery!

I am a huge stationery fan. Remember back in school, at the beginning of term when you got to buy a new pencil case? I was the one carting around the matching binder, pen, pencils, eraser and stickers! Then, when I started taking exams I so enjoyed creating colour coded revision cards, revision timetables and mind maps... whether I ever did any revision is a different matter!

Anyway, it has come to my attention that today is National Stationery Day, so I thought I'd do a quick round-up of my favourite paper goods on the web. And because I like to shop locally, they're all from amazing artists and crafters in my home town on London! Ready? Let's Go!

**WARNING: Reading beyond this point may cause damage to your bank balance!**

Cherry Notelets from Marby & Elm
The meaning of my family name is 'Cherry' in German so I've always liked cherry motifs (don't like real cherries though - yuk!). I like the idea of sending cherry notes!

Ideas Notebook from Typescale
Everyone needs a little notebook to jot down their creative ideas, and this one will do nicely! Love the yellow (does yellow encourage creativity?)

Printable Thank You Note Cards from lfhstudio

I'm not normally a fan of printables - I don't have a decent printer and am not that savvy when it comes to resizing etc etc so what should be really simple and quick seems like quite a stressful and daunting process! But for these designs I could be tempted! Lilac was the colour of my wedding and I would have loved to have sent these to our guests had I have seen them five years ago - although the advantage of printables is that you can choose your colours!

Sweet Tulips from Valeasc
These are a little bit retro but I love the precision and simplicity of them. Makes me want to write some nice little notes to my friends for no reason!

Typewriter Greeting Card from I Love Paper Heart
And because I'm a writer I love retro typewriters. This is a card that I not only would love to send, but I'd love to receive as well! Just wish I had a real one!

Know of any other amazing stationery designers out there? Would love to see!

Friday, 20 April 2012

How to... Make the Perfect Latte at Home

My Starbucks addiction habit has been going for about 10 years. It started when I was in college - not quite old enough to go to the pub (legally), but a bit too old for hanging out at McDonalds. It was also a pretty good place to bunk off a 9am English class when I bumped into a friend on my way there! Now, I'm a bit of a contradiction because I'm not a big coffee drinker, so I began with hot chocolates. Then about 6 years ago my friend introduced me to the wonders of the Chai Tea Latte, and that's when the habit kicked in - there have been periods when I would buy one on the way to work every day and at £3.35 a time, that's not cheap!

In the last year I ventured into the world of coffee (one day, my local Starbucks ran out of Chai!) and now my special order is a Grande Half Shot Soya Vanilla Latte. Bliss.

Anyway... my Starbucks habit was getting expensive. Over the last 10 years I have probably given near on £7000 to that big corporation and so we decided last week that enough was enough! If I can't live without lattes, then we'll make them cheaper at home. Now it did require a bit of initial outlay, but in the long run I'm hoping to save millions. :)

So, off we went to John Lewis and we bought a DeLonghi ECO310.R Icona Espresso Coffee Machine in Red. (I'm in love with the red, it matches my red cupboards.)

And because I know you're all dying to know how it works, I'm going to show you how to make the perfect latte!

1. Once you've filled up the water tank at the back, switch the machine on and place your pretty mug on the mug warmer at the top (Mine's from Anthropologie). Apparently it's important to warm your mug first and I'm happy to oblige because I think it helps!

2. I'm a big vanilla fan, so I popped down to my local Starbucks and got some of their lovely syrup.

Funny story: We recently moved house within East London which meant I changed my local Starbucks. After about four months, I went in and a barista from my old Starbucks had started working shifts at my new Starbucks... she remembered me and my order! That gives you an idea of how much of a regular I was. I wonder if when I bought the syrup they realised they were losing one of their best customers!

Anyway, I find that you don't need a lot of syrup, (you know in Starbucks they do two pumps?) just pour a little bit in, enough to cover the bottom of your mug.

3. Scoop ground coffee into the filter. Don't overfill it, but make sure it's filled level to the top. On the side of the machine there's a disc that you can press it against to pack the coffee down. Again, don't pack it too tightly. Too tight and the water won't be able to get through, too loose and it will pour through without filtering through the coffee.

4. When the green light shows, press the button. The machine might grumble a bit but the coffee should come out. When you've got the desired amount, press the button again to make it stop.

5. Now's the fun part - frothing the milk. You'll need a stainless steel milk frothing jug for the best effect (I don't know the exact science behind it but it just doesn't work as well in a ceramic or plastic jug - plus it gets pretty hot as the steamer heats the milk as well.) You don't need a lot of milk, it triples in volume as it froths so don't fill up the jug to the top! 

A barista friend recommended for perfect latte milk, stick the nozzle right down to the bottom, as it froths up bang the jug on the sideboard - this pops the bigger bubbles and makes more room. Gradually move the jug up and down to make sure the froth gets heated too. When the jug is just a little bit too hot to touch (probably takes about 30 - 40 seconds) then the milk should be hot enough for your latte.

6. Pour the the frothed milk into your mug about two thirds of the way up. Then pour in your coffee and top up the drink with any leftover frothed milk.

7. Curl up on the sofa with a good book and your perfect latte!

The cost of a perfect latte:
Tesco Colombian Roast and Ground Coffee 227g £2.99 (lasts about 3 weeks)
Alpro Soya Milk £1.19 (lasts about 1 week)
Starbucks Vanilla Syrup £3.75 (lasts about 4 weeks)
Total: £138.04
(obviously once you've bought the machine it's pennies per latte!)

So, say I have to replace the machine once every 5 years (is that optimistic?), over 10 years I will spend:
Alpro Soya Milk £618.80
Starbucks Vanilla Syrup £450
Total: £1853.73
(Assuming the cost of milk doesn't drastically increase!)

Which makes a daily latte about 50p a time!
So over the course of 10 years I save... £5146.27

Cost of the early morning coffee spent with the husband... priceless.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

I'll bring you flowers...

It was recently my birthday and I received four (yes four!) lovely flower bouquets. It made me want to have flowers in my house at all times...

... So I am! My husband has been lovely and allowed me to buy flowers for our lounge.

My favourite flowers are roses - even when they're on their way out, they still look lovely all opened up like this. My other favourite flower is the tulip, but is it me or are they really expensive this year? Is there a tulip crisis in the world?

If you also like tulips, or pictures of any type of flower, check out Jane Brocket's blog. She has the most amazing photography and lovely crafty, yarny, quilty goodness. When I first happened upon her blog a few years ago, I read the whole archive in one sitting... yes, it's that lovely! 

Friday, 13 April 2012

How to... Dye a Klippan Sofa Cover (without failing miserably!)

When we moved into our flat in December it was unfurnished, and well, we had nothing. We've always lived in furnished places, and not necessarily nice furnished places either so we were looking forward to putting our own stamp on things. However, like most people, we can't afford to go out and purchase our dream furniture all in one go, so when a friend offered to sell us her old Ikea Klippan sofa for £40, we were very thankful.

However, our friend has young kids so by the time this sofa reached us it had had its fair share of mess and dirt, and being cream, it was grubby to say the least! We didn't mind though, cover it with a few quilts and you're good to go. But this Easter we started making a few home purchases and I wondered whether dying the sofa would be a viable option. After a quick google, I found that other people had done the same thing here and here, but I couldn't find much UK based advice, except for this useful thread.

To be honest, I still embarked on my experiment with a fair amount of trepidation! It seemed like everyone was asking the same questions and some people were experiencing great success whilst others were failing miserably. And of course there's so many variables! Is my washing machine big enough? How much does my fabric really weigh? What colour is the safest option? Will the stains dye the same as the clean(ish) bits?

I figure at the end of the day, you just have to jump right in. I will say, you probably won't get absolutely perfect results, but you'll be able to brighten up your home and save a few quid rather than forking out on a new cover (which is almost as much as a new sofa!).

So, without further ado, let's get started! Here's how my sofa began its colour change journey. You can't really see it in the photo but it was pretty grubby.

You will need:
Dylon Fabric Dye - Machine Use
I was a bit scared of filling my bath with dye and the washing machine kind seemed like the easier option at the time. I chose Antique Grey because firstly, if I were buying a sofa new, I would choose a grey one, and secondly, I thought a darker colour would be more likely to cover up the grubbiness.
According to the Ikea website, my sofa cover weighed 2.2kg. For 2kg of fabric, Dylon recommends four boxes of dye. As I was particularly nervous about it coming out patchy, I went for five to be on the safe side.

You only need 500g of salt, however much dye you're using. Don't buy over a kg of salt because you think you need 500g per box of dye (like I did!).
I didn't bother with this because my sofa was cream, but if you're dying fabric that's already a darker colour, you'll need this to first dye it to a more neutral shade.

Things to think about:
Normal colour mixing rules apply, so if you have red fabric and you dye it blue, you'll end up with purple.

And then the process is simple:
1. Wash your sofa cover first to get rid of any existing dirt. I put mine on a 60 degree wash in the hope that it would get as much out as possible!
2. Take it out the machine. I would recommend you give it a good shake out. I didn't do this and the creases ended up being dyed into the cover!
3. Empty the dye (it's powder) into the bottom of the drum and layer the salt over the top. Put the cover back in the machine (still damp) and set the machine to a 40 degree cycle. Don't add any detergent and make sure the machine isn't set to an economy cycle.
4. Once finished, add detergent to the machine and wash it again.
5. Hang it up to dry.

I was a bit scared because it came out looking really black when I wanted grey, but it wasn't patchy so I couldn't complain. However, once it dried it was of course a shade lighter.

Because it's quite heavy fabric it took a good three days to totally dry.

6. Give it a good iron. This is hard work because it's so big and heavy, but once you've got the majority of it done, put it on the sofa, tuck it all in and then iron it on.

7. Buy some nice colourful cushions and stand back to admire your handiwork!

Now, don't get me wrong, if you look closely the results aren't perfect. As I said, the creases are dyed in and there are some tiny bits which are either a bit greenish or tiny smudges of cream, luckily they're not in obvious places.

Overall though, I'm pleased with the results. It looks much better than it did and it fits in better with the colour scheme I'm aiming for.

Ikea Klippan Sofa - £40 (Secondhand)
Dylon Machine Wash Dye, Antique Grey - £24.95 (£4.99 per box, Wilkinsons)
Salt - 79p (Sainsburys)
Cushions - £10 (BARGAIN: 2 for £10, Wilkinsons)
Total: £75.74

I think that's pretty good considering the sofa is included in that budget!

Have you ever dyed anything big? Did you use the hand dye method or washing machine? What worked? What didn't?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I'm learning...

I haven't been here for a while, you won't have seen me on Twitter either. Sometimes real life takes priority over virtual life and you have to drop everything that you thought was important just to make sure you get through each day - which is, well, more important.

The past few months have been a real learning curve for me and I'm not at the end yet. I don't normally post personal things, but sometimes as a writer, you just have to write, and release it into the world and see what happens. So this is what I'm learning:

I'm learning that sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it to, the way you think it should,or the way you think is fair. That sometimes bad things happen to good people, and that good things happen to not-so-good people.

It doesn't even work out the way you had planned. That timeline that you had in your head? Not. Gonna. Happen. There will be twists, turns, diversions, bumps in the road, but it's the hope that you might just get there eventually that keeps you moving, because you know you can't stay where you are.

I'm learning that even when you do everything right, it can all go so very wrong.

I'm learning that there are questions that will remain unanswered, and however much you, or anyone else with the best of intentions, tries to explain things away, all that will remain is the gaping sense that you don't know. You can't see the bigger picture as much as you try and as much as you wish you could.

I'm learning that time isn't a healer, it doesn't magic the past away and it doesn't hurt any less, you just, if you're lucky, learn to cope with it better.

I'm learning that grief catches up with you eventually and that thing that you thought was grief at the time? It wasn't. Maybe it was shock, maybe it was survival or just sadness, or just ignorant bliss. But eventually grief arrives, suddenly, without warning, gripping you intensely and unearthing all those feelings, emotions and fears that you thought you had dealt with.

I'm learning that that moment when you think you're ok, is just prior to you realising that you're really not.

I'm learning that just when you think you cried all the tears that there were to cry, another dam breaks and more come gushing forth.

I'm learning that sometimes it's good to be selfish, because you're doing the world, your world, a favour if you look after yourself and try to get back on track, for you.

I'm learning that the world doesn't understand. It carries on spinning with all its inhabitants happily on the merry-go-round. It forgets so quickly and ceases to ask how you're doing. Ceases to offer its support or offer its advice... not that it was any good anyway.

I'm learning that empathy will always be better than sympathy and that no one else has walked my particular journey, neither can they nor will they.

But I'm also learning that there are a few precious angels who are always there, always understand, never judge and are ever-patient.

I'm learning that you're stronger than you think you are.

I'm learning that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and that even when you think you might just collapse and die, you don't. You wake up to another day, you go to work, you smile and you keep on, keeping on and on and on and that maybe the rest of the world is doing exactly the same.

I'm learning that when you're at your end, and you've no more words to utter, that God knows, He hears and He cares and that Jesus intercedes on our behalf.

And I'm hoping that 'God does cause everything, even this, to work together for the good of those who love Him' (Romans 8:28) because right now it doesn't feel good, but maybe one day, with hindsight we'll see the purpose.

I do know that despite all of this, God is good and he does good things, which means He didn't cause this set of circumstances, but that he will use it to His glory.

I'm learning to trust, to hope and to dream. To get up and try again. That, maybe it's true that 'It will all be ok in the end, and if it's not ok, it's not the end'.

I'm learning to stay on the path.

"Stay on the path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy" ~ Deuteronomy 5:33

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Gift of Giving

I love to give gifts. 

Come Christmas, or birthdays, or any occasion I can, I want to give a gift that is thoughtful, where the recipient really knows that they're loved and that I thought about what they personally would like. We've all received disaster gifts I'm sure, but I never want anyone to look back and think about my gifts 'Really?! Did she really think that I would like that?!

And, as a side note, I hate when people graciously accept a gift and then pop it into their bag and say 'Thanks so much, I'll open it later with my other gifts!' No! I spent hours picking out that gift! At least give me the pleasure of watching your reaction when you open it!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to celebrate with one of my most beautiful friends her 30th birthday. I had previously asked her what she would like for her birthday, to which her reply was 'a hug from you, you are enough'. Right... which begs the question, what do you get a girl who wants for nothing?

Well, I went shopping for the perfect gift. In a way, I prefer this type of shopping, where you have free reign. The person doesn't need anything at all, which means you can be frivolous and get them something that is merely beautiful for beautiful's sake.

Here's what I got my beautiful friend...

Box and ribbon from here

Can you tell I'm all about beautiful gift wrapping as well?

I got my beautiful friend this card:
Card also from here
I don't know if you can tell, but her favourite colour is aqua. I didn't officially know this until she opened her gift and told me, but I guess sometimes you just know what people's colours are!

Also, on a side note, I adore papercut designs. Rob Ryan is my current hero. Anyone know how I can learn this incredible art?

And inside the box was...
Portmeirion Dawn Chorus Teacup & Saucer from here
I wanted to get my friend something that represented everything that she is - beautiful, feminine, ladylike and elegant.

And you know what? She loved it!

What do you do to make your friends feel loved and valued? What about guys? What do you buy for them?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A State of Craft

Crafting has, for a long time, been something that we do. Maybe a side-line hobby or a past time for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's often associated with the slightly more mature of us, and people think that it's not something us young'uns would ever want to be involved in. But in recent years, possibly over the past decade or so, creative types have emerged from their closets and craft is cool once again - but you knew that didn't you?!

Finally though, someone has captured the notion of crafting, not being something we just do, but something we are and so we welcome the book launch of State of Craft (edited by Victoria Woodcock). Creative types are constantly in a state of creativity - or craft - and this book celebrates that fact.

State of Craft gives us a snapshot of creative types everywhere. It's not a project book - though it has projects - it's not a biography collection - though it has biographies. It's not an instruction manual, but it does contain instructions. No, State of Craft is mix of all three, celebrating artisans and craftsman of all different crafts, showing us how we can pick up a few skills, and telling us their inspiring stories so that we too can dream that one day our quirky little creations might capture the imaginations of the public and maybe we'll be able to give up our day jobs to become full-time crafters (well, we can dream can't we!).

The book doesn't focus on one particular craft, but gives attention to many different skills, from knitting to screen-printing, to crochet and jewellery making. So if you're a bit of a jack of all trades (and a master of none? Ahem!) then you'll enjoy State of Craft. Some of the crafts are a bit alternative or indie but they strike a balance with the more every day and pretty so there really is something for everyone, whatever your craft and style.

And the crafter profiles are both entertaining and inspiring, making a great read in between the fun projects!

Best Bits:

  • The knitting and crochet illustrations are amongst the easiest to understand that I've ever come across
  • I'm determined to make some of Helen Rawlinson's Mini Storage Buckets and love Sam Wingate's screenprinted designs. Also worth a mention is Jess Fawcett's super-cute clutch bags, Catherine Miller's Dotty Doily Garland and Raye McKown's Button Rings.
  • It draws attention to so many fabulous London crafters as we do have such a great crafty scene here in The big Smoke! 
State of Craft (edited by Victoria Woodcock and published by Cicada) can be purchased here.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Slouchy Knitted Hat - A Proud Achievement

I'm a slow knitter - well, I'm not slow at knitting, if it's a simple pattern then I can whizz right through it! But what I mean is that I will go through a phase of knitting like a mad woman and then put the project down for a few days and come back to it a year later. I have a basket next to my sofa full of WIPs which are all in various stages of un-finishedness. 

So it may surprise you that my Made By You Monday post is, first of all a knitted item (gasp!), and secondly a knitted item that took me two years to make - despite the simplicity of the pattern!

Awkward self-posing picture alert!

Basically, my friend gave me the yarn and we didn't know what kind of yarn it was. I knitted and purled like a crazy lady... until I got to the shaping at the end. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to make it a bit longer and slouchier than the pattern dictated, and if I did - did I have enough of my mystery yarn?!

And so the project laid dormant for about 23 months (I kid you not!). Until at the end of last year I decided to take the plunge and finish it as the pattern stated. Better to have a hat that's slightly less slouchy than you'd like than a piece of knitting clogging up your only circular needles right? So in November I finally finished it. And then this week.... I finally sewed the ends in! (Told you I was slow!).

The pattern is free and can be found here and unfortunately I can't tell you the yarn, as lovely as it is!

PS - you know I said I had many, many WIPs? That's true. What I didn't tell you was that this hat is my first ever FO! (oops!). Don't tell my husband - he'll stop me from buying all my lovely yarn!

Today I'm linking up with the following:

Todays Creative Blog

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Thoughts for 2012

I don't know if you've noticed, but for some reason, more than any other year, it seems there's an intense optimism the world over about the year 2012. You know, apart from those people who think the world is going to end - I guess that's as pessimistic as you can get in 2012 - but for the rest of us, everyone's loving 2012.

Maybe it's got something to do with the intense summer that we're about to have here in London.

The Queen is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee...

...The Olympics are about to take place and everyone is gearing up for that...

... Euro 2012 is happening - and you know how optimistic us English people get about our football!

The joy! (yep, Euro'96 was the last time there was any) {via}

... and the pain (of which there is lots!) via

... and well, 2012 is a cool number, don't you think?

But it does seem that everyone I speak to is expectant of great things this year, and so am I. I've written them down, I've started strategising. I spent the afternoon in a coffee shop dreaming with Mr D. about what the year might hold for us personally, for us as a family and for us in our careers.

So, if that's what you've also been doing; if you're hoping that 2012 will be the year that your dreams will come true as well - even if you don't quite know what they are, maybe you feel like you're on the verge of something incredible, something great; that just over the hill is something beyond your wildest imaginations... if that's you, let me encourage you with something I learnt today:

"You {God} crown the year with goodness, and your paths drip with abundance" ~ Psalm 65:11 {NKJV}

The New Living Translation says "You crown the year with a bountiful harvest" - which means that whatever seed you have been sowing in years gone by, this year is crowned with the harvest of that seed. Isn't that brilliant that you can trust God with the year ahead because you know that he's already crowned it, framed it, with his goodness?

And whenever I think about making plans, dreaming or strategising about the future Ephesians 3:20 always springs to mind:

"Now to Him Who, by the power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams!" ~ Ephesians 3:20 {AMP}

Wow! So, if you ask God for your wildest dreams (assuming your wildest dreams line up with His purposes!) then He will do super-abundantly over and above that? That makes me want to ask for the outrageous! Why limit Him? As my Pastor would say: Ask for the moon!!

What are you dreaming about this year? Or if you're a Christian, what are you believing God for this year? Don't limit Him!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

My Perfect Bathroom

Our bathroom is currently my favourite room in the house.

Don't get me wrong, I love our new flat and every room has its merits. And I'm sure in time, I will love every room just as much. But the bathroom is perfect already. Not only does is have underfloor heating, a non-steam mirror and stacks of built in storage, but it's the type of bathroom that you can give an instant lift just by changing up the accessories. (And our old bathroom was disgustingly horrible - nightmare landlord!)

So that's what we did!

Mr D. actually chose this scheme which is really nice because I'm always conscious of going too girly. But I love lime in the bathroom. And it cost next to nothing, just a little trip to H&M and a browse around their great homewares and this was the result.

I just want to pick up some nice new candles and accessories to complete the look. Something like this (All from Heals):

I'm putting together a Lime / Bathroom board on Pinterest. Check it out here!

What colour is your dream bathroom? How do you give yours quick revamp? Any tips?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Word of the year

So, I'm finally recovered from the last two months and it has been manic! We've moved house, I started my new job and then there was Christmas and New Year and a few weeks where I didn't quite know where my head was at! But I've started to settle into a rhythm of life now and so here is my first post of 2012 (if a little late!).

Layla is having a link party about our Words of the Year for 2012 and I thought what better way to kick off my blog! It's not so much a list of resolutions, but more of an ethos, or a concept that will frame everything you do in 2012. So, my word of the year is:

2011 was a bit of a rollercoaster and for the most part we just got swept along with it. We didn't feel like we had a lot of control or purpose and were just getting through each day. So 2012 promises to be a better year! And so my word is Intentional. Everything I do will be framed by intention and purpose - who knows what can be achieved!

I will be intentional...
... in my FINANCES. Not frivolous. I won't buy things that I know will undermine our long term goals.
... in my RELATIONSHIPS. I will make those calls, write those letters, not because I should or have to, but because I want to. I want to build meaningful relationships with the people I care about.
... in my MARRIAGE. I will invest time, energy and money in building a strong marriage. Date nights and mini breaks are not to be underestimated!
... in my WORK. I've started my new job well. I want to make sure I build it into something that I enjoy. I don't want to get bored or bogged down with it.
... in my HOBBIES. Whether it be crafting, writing or blogging. I want to invest time in these things and turn them into skills and achievements that I can be proud of.
... in my CAREER. Whether it be my Etsy shop to gain some pocket money or the beginnings of a proper freelance career, I want to gain skills and influence that will ultimately help me towards a stay-at-home career.

But ultimately, I want to be intentional in my SPIRITUAL LIFE. In my walk with God. I'm inspired by the verse:
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." ~ Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
I've started the year off with a fast (I'm loosely basing mine around this book). Not fasting everyhting, but just sacrificing those every day luxuries that I rely so heavily on (we're talking Starbucks and Diet Coke!). Not only is this forcing me to develop discipline in my life, but it's also making me focus on God a lot more and this past week has been brilliant. I haven't been worrying about the things that would normally freak me out, but I'm remembering to first take them to God and leave them with him. He can handle them!

I'm linking up to Layla's Link Party. Check out what other people's words are here!

The Lettered Cottage