Behind the scenes

Hedgerow_grasses
Hedgerow grasses

Our house is like many others, children going here, going there. Me taxi, boot polisher, roadie, and a few other titles too. School holidays officially started today, sadly we have only six short weeks of a loose schedule and no clock watching for going to meet the bus. I'll still be working but we have a family visit to California coming up and we'll be squeezing in day visits to other places too. Right now though we're taking a little breather and enjoying the warm weather we've been having for the last several weeks.

I've been working out how to fit this blog into our new life and make it more relevant to where we are now. It remains a good personal archive of what we've done and where we've gone as a family and also how enormously our lives have changed, which is natural. 

I considered leaving Typepad, wishing they'd catch up with competing platforms and offer more contemporary design solutions and better security. You may notice closed comments on old posts and monitoring of new ones – all down to outrageous amounts of spam. When I voiced my concerns and thoughts on leaving Typepad to their support staff they offered me a free upgrade which I appreciated, this will give me the option of using HTML and CSS to personalize it more.

Sweet_pattern
Trying out a sweet pattern

So for time and financial reasons, I won't be migrating to another platform, I'll be giving Typepad another year, hoping they up their game. The site I'm developing for my work is on WordPress.org which is more important for investing time and money in. I've also designed sites on Squarespace for clients and have been really impressed with it. Importantly, their customer service is outstanding, great for small businesses who are a bit tech-shy and won't want to handle upgrades themselves down the road.

For the longest time I couldn't decide what to do, stay or go. So I thought I'd voice my reasoning here in case others are contemplating the same jump. I know Sonia did and moved over to Squarespace with beautiful results. She incorporated her Big Cartel shop in the new design really nicely too. Abby from While She Naps recently moved from Typepad to a WordPress.org site and has some great blog posts about her experiences; here's her latest which discusses going from Blogger to WordPress. Abby's new site is a real triumph, clearly worth the time and financial investment.

Finding_shade
Finding shade on a hot day

Though I intend on getting back to this space more regularly, I can be found on Instagram almost daily. I will be back here very soon to show my results with a sweet pattern I recently purchased, you'll want to try it out too.

I hope you're loving summer as much as we are. 

Jx


Dawn

Morning

I love morning. I go to bed at night excited to get up in the morning. As soon as it becomes the slightest bit light out I'm up, in winter I get up in the dark. I begin to make coffee in my French Press, put away any clean dishes from last nights dinner, organise my day and my thoughts.
 
While coffee brews I stretch, and calm my mind, usually the mind calming part is harder than I like. My favourite part of the morning is when the sun just peeks over the barn next door and floods my face. I realise then that there's still at least an hour before I wake the children which means 3,600 seconds are still all mine.
 
Morning is the time of day when I function best. I usually get two hours of work done, good and productive work. Never the same thing. Sometimes letter writing, copywriting or sketching ideas - I save boring, administrative stuff for the afternoon when I'm less alert. 
 
I find my days are now highly scheduled, little time for relaxed blog browsing and catching up with friends online, maybe one day that will change, but it won't be soon. Now, my mornings are my refuge, even on days when the sun doesn't come out and peek over the barn.
 
Since I was last here we've moved house, the children have grown a whole lot in just these few months and we've been getting accustomed to new routines. We are really well and hope you are too.
 
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A few things I've enjoyed recently and you might too:
 
Today's Desert Island Discs with Alison Moyet. I love hearing an artist's own perspective, she's fascinating and her music choices are great too.
 
The Story of Women and Art  So much food for thought in this series, amazing, wonderful and desperate all at once. 
 
Painting with gouache. I haven't used it much since art school but have found it my medium of choice when I steal away minutes for painting. If you follow me on Instagram, the quick little studies I've done of birds in our new garden are with gouache.
 
Today I'm sending off my French Knot pieces and doily drawings for this project by Lisa Solomon. It's easy to take part, if you have a moment take a look, she's still taking contributions.
 
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Have a lovely weekend.
 
Jx

Fabric gift box or bag, tutorial – in time for Christmas!

Fabric gift box
Fabric box/bag with unfinished edges

I made a necklace for a friend recently and had no spare box or bag to package it in so I thought it was a good time to try out making a gift box I'd been mulling over in my mind for a while. I used buckram to support this box, which really has more of a bag look to it.

Inside gift box
Inside the box is lined

I'd bought buckram to use for making fairy hats for Gracie when she was younger and somewhat girlier and I massively over bought the stuff. The type of buckram I bought is used for making roll-up shades; it's white, thin and foldable (not sure that word exists). I've thought of many uses for it since then but haven't followed through on any ideas yet apart from this one. I know it exists in heavier, more hessian style weights and I'm sure that would be a great support material for larger jobs.

This box is just a few inches tall. I sandwiched the buckram between two layers of fabric using fusible webbing and I left the edges unfinished. I've created a quick template in the actual size I used but it could easily be scaled up or down. As I uploaded these images the box has reminded me of fabric lunchbags so there are probably similar templates around. If you'd like this one here is the Fabric Box Template and tutorial in a PDF file to download.

I also thought they'd be easy to make for wedding favours, they could be dressed up or down with lace or flowers, buttons, rubber stamps...

Grace car driver

Yesterday was spent on some belated birthday present activity, as you can see, Gracie is way beyond the fairy hat making stage, now she prefers being a "Gracecar" driver ;)

Children went back to school today after half-term break, time to catch up.

Have a great week.

Jx


A fun macro lens to play with

Seedpod
Seed pods with an Easy-Macro Lens

I've coveted a nice macro lens for my DSLR for years but I haven't been able to splurge. When I read about the Easy-Macro lens for camera phones I thought at $15 that's an investment rather easy to risk should it turn out to be rubbish - wish I wasn't so slow to the party, it's been out since 2011.

I was so surprised at what this tiny lens on a rubber band could achieve. While there's not much depth of field and you have to get very close to the subject to focus it, I found it really fun to use. It takes a little practice and it's important to be quite still but I managed to snap some pretty good shots with it anyway. In the process I even discovered tiny, unwelcome creatures living on one of my stalks of dried seed pods – they've since since been released to the wild.

The spider wasn't easy to shoot because I kept getting jumpy every time I got close enough to snap him (you must almost touch the subject to use this lens) but again, not too bad a shot. The snail was very accommodating though and even posed for me.

The Easy-Macro doesn't have the crisp, high definition of a £1500 macro, but at £15 (plus £5 shipping) I've already enjoyed more that my money's worth with it. I've also discovered one of the best things about it is that it's one of those tools the kids can really explore with too. Not only is it easy for children to attach the lens, it's also a great learning tool.

I noticed a Kickstarter campaign was launched to help finance the next version of the lens, unsurprisingly they've reached their goal with time to spare. If you need a budget lens that you can slip in your pocket when you run out the door, give it a try.

Happy Monday!

Unknown seed pod
Snail shell
Snail friend
Spider macro
Dandelion


the magic of mist

One misty morning
View from a misty morning walk

Autumn is drawing in and mornings are becoming cooler and the mist heavier. Last week I snapped a few pictures of magic the mist brings by showing off another sign of the season, web building (the arachnid variety).

The day before, these webs would have been invisible to passerbys. But this misty morning they were visible every step of the way. Here are a few varieties of constructions I saw, oddly, most of the builders were hiding at the time.

Crystal web

Ground webs

Delicate web

Fishing line web

Fine web

Diamond web

Spider flats

This last one is taken of a holly section of hedgerow and looks like a block of flats to me.

I long for the day when I have time to remember to take along a decent camera and stop relying on my phone for images. Having said that, my DSLR is in need of a serious upgrade so until then I'll enjoy what I have to hand and keep in mind it's better than no visual reminders at all.

Speaking of visuals, I took really subpar video of Tristan's performance at the art week that kicked off this weekend, I really must find a better way to record. He was asked to perform a whole set and in spite of the base player getting cold feet at the last moment, he and the drummer still took to the stage and gave a rousing performance, including one of his own compositions this time.

Tris was also interviewed and performed live on local radio which I'll link to as soon as I can sort out the audio file – I'm not sure how, but I'm quite sure I held my breath through the whole thing!

Hope you had a fantastic weekend too, what did you get up to?

x


Last tooth & tooth fairy pouch tutorial revisit

The last tooth

Gracie has lost her last primary tooth (wisdom teeth aside). She may not be so sorry to see them go as they were enamel deficient and her adult teeth are not, but it can make a mother a bit sad to be leaving the early years behind.

Tomorrow is also the end of primary school as she embarks on her next stage, the start of secondary school. Butterflies have been gathering in the tummy and we've already had restless nights, but I know she'll be okay. It may take a while to feel settled but I know it will happen – besides, she has that younger sibling advantage of having a brother who will be there for her.
Tooth pouch dual
Tooth pouch tutorial

It's hard to believe I created this tooth fairy pouch pattern and tutorial when Gracie lost her very first tooth, it was also the topic of my very first blog post.
Like lots of parents I'm excited for the children to start a new year but already lamenting the loss of varied routines and kicked off shoes. Tomorrow it's back to packed lunches and early rises, the upside being no "I'm starving!" interruptions followed by the lengthly "your quite capable of making your own lunch" discussions. Really, I miss them already.
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Next Sunday is the Wiveliscombe Street Fair as part of the 10 parishes festival. We're really excited about Tris performing a whole set on one of the stages – he's also one of the acts that will be broadcast on the local radio station. So if you're in the Wiveliscombe area next Sunday drop by – it's a great day with loads of food stalls, local ales and cider and music all day. Did I mention the ales? 
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Also, I've been trying out the Easy Macro lens for my iPhone. It's such an easy and inexpensive solution to trying to get close up shots with a phone camera. I'll update this space with samples from this new little toy soon. At only $15 plus $5 shipping from the States it's already proving to be well worth the investment. And speaking of investment, I noticed the Macro lens people have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of their next lens – I hope they do well.
Time to get dinner on and have an early night, school tomorrow!
x

PS - Am I the only one Typepad no long gives paragraph breaks to? Sometimes they happen, more often than not, they don't :(

home

Spider tent
Nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis

We've just returned from three glorious weeks with family and friends in California. Whenever we visit I get the usual question regarding where is home now for me. After being in the UK for 16 years the answer is a tough one. I adore my family and extended family so much that it's great being back in their protective, nurturing environment. But I love our life in the UK too, it's been good to me and our UK family and friends have too. 

Baby spids
Spiderlings inside their protective web, mother stands guard outside

Just before we left on our trip we found out our landlord is selling the home we rent so soon we'll be moving yet again. The children are so happy in the village where we live that they were desperately unhappy to come home to a "For Sale" sign on the house. I wish I could spin a silky web around them to gaurd them from unpleasantness and predators like this nursery spider does for her young. But this is another little bump in the road that we will get over and life will roll on and I'm sure benefits will come from it.
Right now we're basking in the afterglow of the fun we had in California, giving our doggie lots of cuddles and catching up on sleep. Luckily there was finally a bit of rain while we were away so things are a little greener than when we left and there's a bumper crop of blackberries waiting to be picked in the back garden.
Hope your summer has been fabulous!
x

Belated wishes

Tris - Gracie 10001

Tris - Gracie 20001

Tris & Gracie 3

Tris - Max

Happy 15th birthday Tristan (for July 30th!)

A belated post due to travels but no less heartfelt for my boy. I thought I would share a few images that show your most endearing quality - you've always been so sweetly affectionate. I recently went through old boxes of pictures and nearly every image of you and your sis shows you hugging her; this last image of you and your second cousin Max from just last weekend shows that the teenage years haven't changed that sweet quality. Don't ever change, we love you.

Happy birthday Tris,

Mama xoxo


Satisfaction!

_68461420_68461416When I saw the Rolling Stones twenty years ago on their Voodoo Lounge tour I thought maybe it would be the last chance to see them live. I thought they're all at least 50 now, how much longer can they possibly go on? 

We weren't lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury but the BBC has had tons of coverage this year so Tris and I stayed up last night to watch the Stones headline set live. We were amazed! All their hits were just as great as ever and Mick's strut hasn't changed a bit. With the exception of being a little more out of breath here and there Mick was outstanding, they all were. (Image from BBC)

The best part was watching it with my rock loving boy. I never in a million years would have imagined this band still at it in 2013, nor that I'd have such a great kid to share it with. We're already working out how to get to Glastonbury next time around.

Last fete
Beautiful day for our last school fete yesterday

We're busy wrapping up end of school year stuff. Gracie is on the home stretch, finishing primary school and heading off to the same school as her brother next year. Both kids are going through outrageous growth spurts; the upside to this being my daughter has outgrown my shoes so I no longer have to search for them all over the house.

Overflowing garden
Our little garden is now bursting

Tris has been asked to play a number of events coming up including a solo performance at a food and music festival which is a big honour for him as he might be the only amateur. And Gracie's rounders team has just made it to the regional playoffs. Like most parents, the children's schedules make life very full, especially this time of year.

Blackberry blossoms

For me, in between work I'm trying to squeeze in making a new bag for summer and I'm loving the outcome so far. It involves tweeking my Forager Bag pattern to include a zipped top close, removing the flap, adding outer pockets, a leather strap... a little more than tweeking then.

Right now I'm:

  • Wishing I could find nice summer sandals in my size, any suggestions for me?
  • Really wishing I could snap these beauties up.
  • Loving the latest issue of this brilliant magazine where I learned there's actually a job titled Head of the Dye room behind the scenes at the National Theatre, how great is that? 
  • Trying to perfect a semi-healthy snack, these are next on my list – and her nail colour really makes me want to paint my nails.

I hope your summer is shaping up well, what are you up to?

x

 

 


Remembering and helping

Fragile
An unexpected absence from my blog and an unexpected return too.
Though I haven't been able to keep my blog up I hope there are still followers who will share a moment of reflection with me in tribute to Kathreen and her family.
As I'm online so little these days I only found out last night about the loss of Kathreen and her husband Rob. I had just received email from her the day before her accident which somehow made the news that much more unbelievable. The feeling of having been punched in the stomach hasn't gone away.
I "met" Kathreen in the early Whip Up days and was lucky to be invited to write tutorials and guest posts on Whip Up and create projects for Action Pack too. She was a major spoke in a mighty wheel that became a huge online creative community. On Whip Up she didn't court controversy nor did she shun it. And her voice always seemed to be her own right from the start, not an idealized version of the self she wanted us to see.
Our children are the same ages and my heart hurts for hers and Rob's. If you can offer support, a fund has been set up for their daughter Otilija and son Orlando, you can find the details here.
Thanks Kathreen for all you've given your readers and the wider community too, we'll miss you.
PS - If you've been under an even bigger rock than me and hadn't yet heard this news you can Google Australian news sites to find out more.