Saturday, 29 September 2012


Photo via John Lewis

This week I am in love with this Leonhard Pfeifer sideboard from John Lewis.  And if my numbers come up on the lottery, this beautiful arts and crafts mansion house, in need of plenty of tlc, will be my perfect project, and I'll buy a whole wall of these sideboards for my supersized craft room.

Photo courtesy of Rettie, Edinburgh

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Flashback: 2002

I'm borrowing another great blogging idea from Marceline, which is particularly timely as I have just had to rearrange my collection of photos from the extension to the store craft room to keep them safe from sticky toddler fingers.

Marceline talked about what she was doing ten years ago, so I thought I'd join in, as 2002 was a pretty big year for me.  In October of this year, I bought this flat, my first home purchase.  We just sold it last month after two and a half years on the market, and at a considerable loss, so reflecting on the good times, and the excitement and buzz of having somewhere to call my own is a good thing to do right now.   Although I can't resist a quick whinge about that brand new (albeit basic) kitchen and bathroom that we installed to try to entice a buyer and never recouped the money for...

Me in the lounge/dining room of my flat in Parkhead
The flat purchase was a bit of a spur of the moment thing (I found it, I could afford it, I could even walk all the way to work at the Dental Hospital in Glasgow if I felt like it), and I had already booked a 3 week holiday to New York for the month after I moved in.  Ouch!  Luckily at that time the flat didn't need anything major doing to it, so I managed.  I had changed career that year, taking a huge drop in salary, but was still living a little bit like I was managing a supermarket with a multimillion pound budget instead of organising training schemes in the NHS, pre-Agenda for Change.

Niagara Falls - spot the folk in yellow ponchos enjoying the spray
As part of the trip to NY I also went to Niagara Falls for the first time, which was just enough tacky and just enough awe-inspiring to make me happy.  The hotel room had a jacuzzi with a falls view and was super-cheap back in the day thanks to the exchange rate £1 = $2 US = $3 CAN, which meant it worked out about about £58 a night.
The Horseshoe Falls, taken with my old manual camera
My cousin was away for Thanksgiving for some of the time I was over, so I was able to borrow his apartment in Queens for a few days.  I also had a rowdy night out in the East Village with my pal Colin and ended up crashing at his girlfriend's place overlooking Tompkins Square Park.  Happy days.  The rest of the time I stayed in my favourite hotel, which I've been staying at since I was a kid, The Pennsylvania, which still owns its original 65000 phone number.  Since I can't afford the Four Seasons or the Pierre, I tend to use the Pennsylvania because it's clean, central, takes a very hard line on security and it's definitely good value for money.  If I can get a deal on, I'll stay at the Millennium UN Plaza, which is very very nice indeed.

2002's parade theme was Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, photo taken between the DMV and ESB, looking up towards TSQ
The most striking thing about that visit was the absence of the WTC, which I hadn't realised I used constantly as a landmark in Lower Manhattan.  Being lost in the heart of Chinatown and not able to look up and instantly know how to get to South Street Seaport, for example, or being at the wrong end of Wall and trying to get to Century 21 was not the same any more.  The site was still being cleared at the time so there was no way I was going to go and be a looky loo, but there was a lovely memorial outside my old apartment building (the towers were the main view from our dining room window in the flat I shared with 5 other interns).

Atlas Sculpture, rescued from WTC Plaza and relocated to Battery Park
While I was in New York, I caught the Strokes on the last night of their first ever full US tour, at the Roseland Ballroom.  I hadn't heard who the support band was going to be but it turned out to be a guy from Saturday Night Live, called Jimmy Fallon.  He sang some funny cover versions, which everyone around us found a lot more hilarious than we did.  UNTIL... it was time for the encore, the auditorium went quiet, and a small, dark haired guy walked out on stage.  The opening bars of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' played out across the venue, and the spotlight went on to the sound of the whole, sold out, audience saying 'Oh my God, it's Jack Black'.  Who then went on to sing every line of the Band Aid song in a perfect impersonation of the original.  Not the Stock Aitken Waterman one.  That would have been funnier, mind you.

Badges and Zine by John Blain Hunt, National Pop League

Anyway, aside from all that, I wasn't really doing anything crafty or creative.  I was still really into music but hadn't done any music journalism or writing at all, really, for a while.  I was more focused on getting out and enjoying being young in a city I'd only moved to the previous summer, and spent a lot of time at a club called the National Pop League, enjoying the free monthly zine but never so much thinking 'oh I could do that'.  I don't even think I was knitting at that time, I gave it up for about an 8 year period when people were telling me how uncool it was, and unfortunately, I was listening.  I was still customising my clothes, though, a habit I picked up at university where every black top was made instantly more interesting with the addition of black fake fur around the cuffs, so I guess I was being a bit creative.

From 2001 to 2003 I visited Munich, Paris, New York, the Canadian Border, Amsterdam, Dublin and lots of UK cities, mainly London, so I guess travelling was my thing at the time.  It certainly was the golden age of cheap airfare, and I'm glad I took advantage.

Anish Kapoor's Installation at the Tate Modern, Nov 2002

The most striking thing about this little jaunt down memory land?  I still have the same hairstyle (although it's changed a bit inbetween!)

Taken in West Ealing, December 2002

Monday, 10 September 2012

Day in the Life - 10 September 2012

Well, would you look at that.  After a day of blogging yesterday out of the blue, I also checked up on some of my favourite blogs for the first time in ages and found out that today had been nominated for Day in the Life by Marceline.  So as I was working from home today, I thought it would be worth joining in.

5.50am Unusually, the child is awake.  A quick shush over the baby monitor (she's two, but sleeps on the floor above us) doesn't work, so I bring her down for a sleep in our bed.  That doesn't work either so we pop the TV on and watch cartoons.  Hooray, Mondays.

7.45am I hop in the car to head to the childminders, and enjoy the view on the way - I have to drive down into a valley and along the base of a range of hills to make the drop off and I love every minute of the drive there and back - all six to twelve of them, depending on traffic.  I'm listening to Chris Moyles wistfully, it's his last week of doing the breakfast show and many many years ago I had a bit of a thing going on with him over email.  Usually it's Radio 4 all the way, of course.

8am and as we ran out of porridge this morning I decide an impromptu stop at the drive thru is in order, especially because it's rare for me and the husband to eat breakfast together.  I'm usually on the train by now and don't tend to feel hungry until I've been up for a couple of hours so I tend to just have a banana on the run, or a yogurt once I get to my desk.

8.30am and I log on for work.  Everything I do now is between me and my employer, until lunch time.

9.30am and I relocate to the craft room.  The cat has been in my face for a full hour and is driving me to distraction.  When I gently encouraged him to get off the desk in our office, he jumped back up and reclined not very gracefully on the keyboard. It is now broken.  A ping on my mobile lets me know I have an order on Etsy so I package it up and pop it straight into the post box right outside my house.  Handy.

Luckily the cat follows me outside so that problem is solved.  Unfortunately the other one runs in just before I close the door, but he is less of a pain than Clyde so I leave him to it.

9.40am and I'm back to work.

12.30pm and it's lunch time.  I throw myself an omelette together - 3 eggs, one slice of jarlsberg - and try to ignore the black cat staring balefully through the patio doors while I eat it.  I get slightly distracted while I'm downstairs and start to organise the makings of some thank you cards for sending out with orders, my stash has run out and I just dropped a note on the back of a business card earlier.  I also pop on a load of washing before heading back upstairs to work.

2.30pm and I take a break because I've had a brainwave.  A bad photo amnesty, so I can make more photographic gift tags.  Later on I reflect and think I should have been a bit more organised about it, but I have already posted details on my facebook page and if it ever stops raining I will take a far better product photo and post about it on here too.

2.35pm back to work

4.45pm and I decide to call it a day.  I head downstairs to make a coffee, but swerve the kettle as I remember the running out of porridge thing and make a quick dash to Asda for some new stuff.  I also pick up some Moshi Monster figurines for a bribe/reward for Amelia should I need them, she absolutely loves them and I found a set with her favourite character (Priscilla) and my husband's favourite (Mr Snoodle).  We are all big fans of the Ponies song.

5.45pm and I'm back from the shops, and there's a quick turnaroud to the childminder.  I hop back in the car after tidying most of my craft implements out of the kitchen and do that lovely drive again.

6.15 - 7pm and it's that hour.  The last chance to feed, clean, tire out and get your little darlings into appropriate bedtime attire.  We chase Amelia around the kitchen with a remote control Mini Cooper and read a few stories.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Hug are current favourites, along with one about a lion and a little girl called Iris, which I can't remember the name of, but I am so not going back in there to check!  We squeeze in a little of What the Ladybird Heard, just because Amelia does the cutest ever bunny noise, and tells us with a very serious face that robbers are naughty.

7.15pm and I head next door to the craft room to update this blog post.  My plans for the rest of the evening are dinner: baked potatoes and spicy mince, to be precise.  Possibly one of the scones we made over the weekend - the Hairy Bikers Maple Syrup ones, but without nuts - very nice and probably on their last day.

I'm going to actually sew up the cards I started making earlier, and if I have time, add some photos to this blog post and publish it.  I've actually really wanted to paint my nails since I took off my last nail polish on Saturday so I might watch last night's X Factor while they dry - I often don't take in what I'm watching on telly because I'm doing something else at the same time, so it would be nice to just have to sit without folding, cutting or writing anything for an hour.  Bliss.  Bedtime will be sometime between 10 and 11, and I'll probably read something on the iPad in bed.  I still miss my trusty red laptop, but nothing beats the iPad for aimless surfing on the sofa/bed/train.

And how was your day?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Chandelier of Lost Earrings

In other news, I heard about this artwork that was dedicated to me (along with all the other patients of St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where I was born).  I don't wear earrings, but if I did, I definitely would have liked to contribute.

Here's an image of the work in progress, courtesy of the summerhouse blog

It's part of the Doors Open Days events taking place across the country this month, and every year in September and is connected to the opening of Victoria Baths, which were saved by the BBC's restoration programme (and no doubt an army of skilled volunteers and craftspeople that we don't hear as much about) a few years ago.  There's more about the restoration process here, and check out the awesome 360 degree photos, too.


So lately, I've found myself stepping back a lot.  I don't have time to Tweet much any more.  My blog is neglected.  I struggle to make it to craft markets.  I can't spare much time for my mafia buddies and have had to take a big step back there, too.  I feel a little out of touch.  My contact lens prescription was filled wrongly recently, and for a while everything felt fuzzy and out of focus.  And  the effect reached beyond just my eyesight.

I recently sold my flat in Glasgow, which had been on the market, untenanted, for two and a half years.  It needed a bit of work prior to selling, so we made a loss, but having chipped a substantial amount off the mortgage when I was single, it wasn't all doom and gloom.  This had been taking up a lot of my time, and energies, so I'm looking at it as another weight off my mind and maybe a little more free time.

Up until I had my daughter, two years ago, I was always a lists person.  Much in the same way that I was always a watch person.  Living to someone else's schedule for a while put paid to that, but maybe it's a habit I need to get back into.  I do love a good list.  I'm also trying my best to declutter, and to focus my efforts when it comes to making.

I still love to knit best of all, but it's a huge investment to spend hours designing a pattern, sourcing lovely yarn that does what I need it to do, structurally as well as aesthetically, knitting it up, waiting an eternity for good light to photograph the results, and getting it out there while the colour, shape and fit is season-appropriate.  Not to mention adjustments to the pattern, quality-checking, making sure no-one out there is doing anything too similar, making the design recognisable as 'mine'.  All these things are hard work, and take time.

And then there are the paper goods.  I was recently informed that my prices are too high for the product I offer.  As much as I love making them, I need to be paid for the time that goes into it all.  I can be competitive on material costs because of the nature of some of the supplies I use as they are often upcycled, but I refuse to pay myself less than UK minimum wage for my time to make paper goods, which need precision, skill, patience and experience to make.  I also don't like to massively undercut my competitors just for the sake of being cheap, it does none of us any favours in the long run.

And now I'm finding that I really love to sew.  But that's more for me, my main challenge is to not let piles of fabric take over my life.

So aside from the business with the flat, where have I been?  Drafting and submitting knitting patterns for a book which may or may not be out soon, working on a new zine, which I must finish this month as it's actually meant to be a wedding present for some friends, and wishing for an end to the daily rain.  I've also been blackberrying, making a few batches of the Hairy Bikers maple syrup scones and composting this year's failed crop of back garden vegetables.  And planning a holiday, we're going away for the first time in three years and I am very excited about that.  Maybe they have better light on the Wales/England border and I'll have some lovely photos to show you later in the year.