Summer Report, Part A

It's surprising how hard it is to let go. I mean on the one hand, I can just move on from some things without so much as a wince. For example, I can tear through this house with a charity bag in hand like a pro. Dithering over belongings has never been my thing. I can almost deal with never making the baby book that I planned for Little One. That pair of curtains that I was going to knock up last weekend? Yeah..... I can let go of some ideas. 

Getting to know the colours of home

Getting to know the colours of home

However, when it comes to just easing into life and going with the flow? It's not easy. I guess I'm just one of life's busy people and in order to make room for my creativity to return and to regain some control in my life after burn out, I deliberately underbooked childcare this summer. I've even taken to calling it 'The Season of Us' in an attempt to make it seem like a project I can achieve. See? I just can't give in without a little sense of purpose. I don't need a reason to spend time with my daughter of course, I love that. However, time with myself right now? Hmmmm. I've been finding that hard which is confusing to me as one of life's natural solo artists. 

Still, despite this awkwardness, my creativity is finally flowing and so is my making. Craft has found it's way back into my every day and some evenings have even found me tucked up with some knitting or reading a recipe book (or three). I've wandered with my camera, a lot. It's a habit I've missed the most I think and am the most encouraged by seeing it return. I even managed to score an old mirror I plan to paint and hang in the bathroom. It's a healing kind of busy and one I am very grateful for. 

I finished about 4 knit projects so far and with the intense fog we've been enjoying some days here by the sea, I'm going to be glad of them this Autumn. I've written a little about this over at Crafts From The Cwtch if you fancy a read (Yes! I'm writing! Check it out!). My favourite finished project is definitely this cute little hat with some scrap yarn for the pompom. 

Did I mention how much I've been enjoying just practicing photography? I've been working on portraits for a change and I'll be sharing some of those on here soon. It feels good to be stepping forward into new territory with my much loved Nikon. I even had a little creative play at movie making thanks to the Make Films course I've been taking with Xanthe. I did Xanthe's Mini Time Capsules over a year ago and this course is helping me kick it up a notch. I've created two movies so far and I'm eager to work on the next project already. It's fun to be a beginner at something and make my first, quite shaky, steps into film making with more than my iphone. I've started popping a little selection of film work I've done so far both for my own personal creativity but also for professional commissions over on my Youtube channel. I've been a bit shy about it but I think it's nice to have a place to document how my work is evolving. 

I've been adding a few of the movies I've made over on my Youtube Channel. You can subscribe here

Predictably, there's been a lot of just taking the camera out for a walk to document the best of the season. Harvest is upon us and I'm delighted. 

Harvest

With all this abundance and a little more time on my hands at last, I dived into some new recipes books. Never let it be said I'm a recipe book fiend. I can stop anytime I want. I swear.

All the cookbooks!

It's meant a wave of new things to try and if there is one area of my culinary skills that has taken an enormous leap forward, it has to be preserving. Jam has featured heavily with Little One declaring Rhubarb and Ginger her new favourite. Mine is the Strawberry and Pimms from The Modern Preserver. I interviewed Kylee, the author, last season of the podcast and she is to blame entirely for the Craft Beer Pickles, Samphire and Compotes currently pouring from my kitchen. I'm entirely ok with this situation too.  

Strawberry and Pimms jam

So what about your making? Do you need a creative purge every now and then to recharge? How do you make time for your crafts?

Botanical Style & WipsandBlooms

If you caught the last Season's podcast, you'll know making a home has been a pretty big theme for me. Having just moved, I've now got a blank canvas to explore and decorate. I have a new garden and am surrounded by beautiful scenery that I'm delighting in getting to know each season. 

I wanted to be able to reflect the Nature Baby in me that rejoices with the changing weather, no matter what the season. I seek out new flora and fauna and I'm almost always called out on saying "those are my absolute favourite" to each new bloom. I love the way Magnolia heralds the entrance of Spring and thick blossom promises Summer just round the corner. It wasn't until I discovered Selina Lake's book, 'Botanical Style', that I realised I could bring all this joy into my home. 

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

'Botanical Style' is a celebration of nature, plants and florals in the home. The book explores Selina's love for botanicals and includes styling and decorating tips for your home. I love how rich in photography the book is, meaning I could leaf through, deciding options that felt more like "me" and my home when the world of interior design felt new and unfamiliar. The book is also helpfully divided into different style sections such as 'Boho Botanicals' or 'Vintage Botanicals'. 

It's meant that once the furniture started going into place, the next thing I turned my mind to was fabrics, plants and little details that brought that happy feeling I get outside, into my home. Things started creeping in...

And then some more things crept in....

Botanicals in my home

It seemed perfect then that this month, Katie and I will be hosting a giveaway for our #wipsandblooms monthly join in on Instagram, giving away a copy of the book. To date, this is my largest Work In Progress: an entire home, decorated to make me feel a sense of joy and security. I'm using a lot of Selina's tips and styling ideas as I turn my attention to places I can put a little texture and tone that reminds me of times spent outside, enjoying the best of the season. 

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

For your chance to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is post an image on Instagram that shows your current making and include a favourite bloom (or plant- keep it truly botanical style!). It can be big or small, styled or natural. It really is all about the process. Add the hashtags #wipsandblooms and if you like, tag Katie (@Ceramicmagpie) and myself (@aplayfulday). You can even let people know it's for a giveaway because that's just a nice thing to do, right? At the end of the month we will pick a lucky winner!

Happy Making x

My copy of Botanical Style was kindly provided by Ryland Peters, Selina's publishers. Views expressed here are my own. To find out more please visit the following link:

Holding Still

I don't really remember the point at which I started to lose my voice. It came on gradually, a sort of sinking sensation that built in momentum till I felt like I was dragging round a concrete block all the time. The effort of carrying this metaphorical breeze block took over my ability to communicate and for months I struggled to step away from this desperate need for silence. I didn't want to share pictures, words or thoughts. I put off meeting people or going online for anything more than a 30 second update drop and out. 

holding still

In the face of too many deadlines, a double house move and evolving family dynamics, I'd crumpled and I simply didn't want to play anymore. Old feelings of inadequacy began to creep in and I felt numb about everything. I realise now that I had entirely burnt out and spent months wanting to be entirely swallowed whole by the deadening weight of it. 

Somewhere in this void though someone said something that cut right through it all and spoke directly to me. Sat in an auditorium, comforted by the dark invisibility of being part of an audience, I sat up sharp.

"I realised that most of my fear was based on my own shame, not actually how others see me".

The speaker was Lisa Congdon and she was describing her path back from burn out. In doing so, she unwittingly begun to map out mine too. Lisa talked about the vulnerability that comes with sharing your creative life, about not feeling like enough and about how losing your own curiosity at the world begins to make your creativity shrink. It was at this point I nearly stood up and asked "Can you see me?" Yes, I wanted to speak and what's more, I wanted out of No Man's land. 

Selfcare and I don't enjoy a particularly healthy a relationship. In fact I like to think of us as bickering siblings that enjoy gentle moments of harmony in between the mini battles and scuffles to be free of one another. Most of the time, I'm trying to be a half decent Mother (and Father) while juggling a freelance career. When I looked up from burn out I saw gaping holes in my personal and professional life. I saw my own health, both physical and mental, was in dire need of some tlc. I no longer wanted to bury every bad emotion I felt along with the good ones. I wanted to heal. 

cooking

I started slow. Really slow. I finished up deadlines and didn't rush to replace them. I hung out with a few friends. I started cooking again. I bought some new cookbooks. Then I bought some more cookbooks. (If I'm honest, I'm a little out of control on the cookbook front). I made a list of life admin that can no longer be ignored and I felt ok about addressing it all at last.  I let in things that scared me only once I'd stopped feeling scared. I even called my Mum. 

getting to know the garden

So my plans for this Summer are now simple: make friends with my garden, do a little DIY. I plan to watch my daughter throw herself on a Bodyboard for an entire afternoon and not be making a single list in my head while she does it. I'm going to read a book. Maybe two. If I'm feeling extra crazy, I'll draft some articles I've been longing to pitch.

It means the podcast will be quiet for the whole of Summer while I focus on time with my daughter and myself. I'm sharing the season finale this week and I'm really excited about signing off and dreaming up the final details of the next bunch of episodes. Giving myself the space to dig in to those thoughts and ideas while off a publishing cycle feels pretty good now I've made the decision.

It's time to hold still. 

Holding still doesn't have to mean lack of progress. I've come to realise that sometimes the greatest gift we can bestow on ourselves is time. I'm looking forward to giving us some. 

With thanks to the supremely talented Laura Williams whose post, My Home, reassured me that this slow is a good healing slow. Thank you for your beautiful words Laura. 

 

// End note:

If you've been feeling the kind of overwhelm or numbness that impact your ability to work or create, I would like to once again highlight Mind whose resources and support are vital to those of us battling every day demons xx

 

Be The Lorelai You Want to See In the World

I realised I had a Gilmore Girls problem when the 8th person at the school gates commented that I was perky the other morning. I'm never perky at the school gates. Ever. I smile. I hold doors open for others. If forced, I can cope with polite conversation. However, if it's 8.49 am you can usually count on my looking slightly fraught and muttering curses about lack of coffee as I run screaming with my child towards the gate. It's kind of my *thing*. 

So the comments about being perky made me pull up short. I was snappy in conversations suddenly, rambly when given a free rein and the random cheering for nothing in particular was just distressing to all involved I suspect. I knew the root of the problem: Lorelai Gilmore. 

I need coffee

A few weeks ago, Netflix announced that the comback season of Gilmore Girls was due for release and added the entire back catalogue. Overnight, my timelines transformed to rejoicing about buckets of ice cream (that don't exist in the UK), crushing on Luke and quoting those epic put downs. Except this time round, most of us are mothers, holding down jobs and running a household. Whereas last time I felt solidarity for Rory and her college angst, this time I looking at Lorelai like my last hope in single parentdom. 

It got about 4 episodes in when I muttered to myself "See? Lorelai would *get* me" and really that's when I should have known it was going down a slippery slope. You see, I don't get to feel that cool as a Mum. Very few of us do really. It's a lot of bodily fluids (mostly theirs) and tears (let's not dwell on whose) and carrying of THINGS. In Gilmore Girls we jump right in at the less angsty teen part to a girl ready to be the change she wants to see in the world and her Mum with a pretty impressive wardrobe. They eat ice cream together and bond over the male species. They have a better friendship that I have with most of my girl chums quite frankly and they do it all as daughter and Mum. If I had to pick a future relationship with my daughter when I'm flying solo, I'd take that one because it feels like a team when you watch it. They are each others emotional reserve and when you're single parenting it's the thing that can often tire you out the most in my experience. 

Now I'm not saying it's all believable. It's not. I've yet to see either perfectly formed Gilmore Girl take exercise and they've devoured more burgers, fries, ice creams and full fat coffees than I have in a life time and I'm still only on Season One. You know what though? If I'm finally going to sit down and rest after months of moving and stressing, I'd rather get entirely lost in fantasising about being a cool single mum. Why? Because right now there's some terrifying things happening in politics with women who seem to have birthed from Mordor itself. The media has lost its mind over women who do or do not have babies and paint in their eyebrows when the economy appears to be in free fall. I'm not ok with that. 

Lorelai

So I'll take a Lorelai right now because I'm fairly sure she'd hand me a giant coffee at the school gates and tell me if there was toothpaste down my top. 

Return to the Wild

When you're tired out from moving house and feeling creatively low, driving 4 hours might not seem that appealing at first glance. This was me on Friday morning, breaking down the last of the cardboard boxes and journey planning for a getaway with friends. As I typed the postcode into Google, I let out a small groan and started to reconsider the icebox of local sausages, cheese and gin already stowed in my boot. 

What if I told you though, that at the end of that long drive would be a long track......

farm track to The Damson Cabin.jpg

.... that led you through an orchard where sheep left their wool on their favourite scratching post....

Wool on the scratching post

... and tucked into a meadow was the most beautiful cabin?

The Damson Cabin

I've just returned from a magical time away with friends this weekend at The Damson Cabin, a beautiful cabin located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. When a group of us wished for a weekend away to celebrate a birthday, we all agreed it needed to be inspiring, soothing and if at all possible, remote. The answer came courtesy of Canopy and Stars, a company who specialise in properties with a little more.... character

What I love about Canopy and Stars is their commitment to helping travelers reconnect with nature and experience a holiday that's a little wilder than your average hotel stay. The choices of accommodation are pretty varied, meaning you can find a slice of adventure that suits you or your family's needs pretty easily. The cabin was typical of the sort of thing you might expect to find from a Canopy and Stars property, with a wood burning stove, fairylights to accompany evenings on the porch and eco features such as solar power. 

We spent our time treating one another to delicious meals, using lanterns to light our suppers and blankets to warm our legs as we sipped morning coffees on the porch. When we fancied stretching our legs we found easy walks through woods, orchards and meadows that gave way to stunning views across the Worcestershire hills. 

meadow walks
Worcestershire hills

Ambling back through the farm on which the cabin is located, we stopped to make friends with some of the local characters and all sighed happily at the roses in full bloom, the textures and above all, the quiet. 

farm friends

Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from the world and let in just a few brilliant, bright and warm women who make your heart sing. When I recall moments from this weekend I think of smiles, time to indulge our crafts and the endless supply of favourite bakes we shared, gladly. Gatherings in which every participant wishes for the greatest of happiness for their fellow travelers are extremely nourishing for the soul. 

As are the oatmeal cookies and cream teas. 

Oatmeal cookies and scones

What's more, somewhere, in the midst of all this celebration of our friendship, creativity and the beautiful surroundings, I even found time to learn something new....

Learning to crochet

 

//// ~ Notes from a blog post:

Pattern- Tenbury Hats & Mittens, Kat Goldin for The Crochet Project

Yarn- The Plucky Knitter Primo in Classic Rock & Bottle Blonde

Damson Cabin via Canopy and Stars, booked and paid for by all guests. Loved and adored by all.