Featured Slider

Any Port in a storm...

Everyone has, or knows someone who has, a Sloe Gin recipe. I have discovered it is the sign of someone who loves gin - pimping it with fruit. But, especially with the stone-laden sloes, what do you do with the fruit AFTER gin.

Port, thats what.

Last season I even added in the Elderberries from a small batch of elderberry vodka I made. Still lovely but a very different taste. Either way it is lovely stuff. And it is so incredibly easy it feels awkward writing a whole post on it,

How many bottles of gin did you make? Well, simply add your drained fruit from your rum/gin/whatever to the same amount of wine and 100g of sugar per bottle.

Leave for 3 months then drain and add 100ml of brandy to make it a bit more punchy. Works out about 15-20 percent. And very very dangerous delicious. 

Best bit.. its all recycling! Two bottles of lovely liquor from one batch of sloes, and I'm told you can even add the sloes to chocolate at this stage and make chocolate. I've not done this though as I know me.., I'd forget they have stones and break my teeth in the process of trying to shovel it in at breakneck speed. Or Mr O would, he inhales his food.

an epiphany...

Yeah, its been a while, but lets not dwell on that.

In fact, lets just keep moving. That's the theme of the moment in this place, forget whats been, own the mistakes pick yourself up and JUST GO FOR IT. If you follow me on social media you'll see I've been working more on my Etsy, and in that sense all creative forces I had were going that way.

Not that there was much creativity to start with. Life's been a total asshole, my two towers of strength that were keeping me in some semblance of sanity during the day to day were no longer part of my day to day. Life moves on, and you have to move with it. Problem was I was pretty stagnant.

Mental health in the toilet, no creative spark in my brain but trying really hard wasn't working. So step back. Be lazy. Watch all seven seasons of Pretty Little Liars in 3 weeks. Slowly start composing stuff in your head again. Feel a bit better. More ideas grow in your brain, but then you're back to square one. Everyone talks about a work life balance, but there is also a creative balance. So I did my math, cut back on the day job. Took a while to get the new, shorter hours, but already the weight was off. The mischief was brewing. And I had an epiphany...

I am enough, and I have the power to be who I want. I just have to take that leap.

I've been so damn nervous for so long about stuffing up and ending up in the horrible places I've ended up before, I've failed to realize that I can actually risk this and be OK. Hell, its not really much of a risk. I talk to people all the time who wax lyrical about how fabulous creative they are but that DO NOTHING WITH IT. I mention that if they wanted I can give then 40 free listings on Etsy, a no harm no foul way to see if they can sell their art. They wave me off. They talk the big talk but they don't take the leap. That is where I have the advantage. I risk, I try, and I am not weak if I should fail because I have taken the chance. Mental health be damned, I can still do this.

I read a lot during mental health awareness month about "imposter syndrome" and I realised it applied to me. I often find myself feeling I do not deserve to be in the room, that I shouldn't be part of whatever group I am part of. Then I read this story about two guys called Neil, both of whom would make me feel like a speck on the wall in comparison. Hell, when I met Neil Gaiman I DID feel like a speck on the wall, I went totally non-verbal fangirl despite the fact about 5 minutes previously I'd been joking with his wife!. That aside, as he says, if the first man on the moon feels that way there is hope for us all.

Do I believe I've got this all the time? No chance in hell. Do I feel like I got this at least once a day? Yes, and right now that's enough. It's been enough to see me take that leap.

I feel that everyone reading this has that kind of bravery inside them, the self-belief. Why? Well for one you are the kind of person who is reading this. Most likely someone who is creative, or blogs themselves or has in some way put themselves out there. Because the people I have met who don't fit in that category are WAY TOO SELF ABSORBED to have gotten this far in my ranting.

My people are the ones who aren't afraid to try for the dream, then realise its the wrong dream.

My people are the ones who will take that step off the path and take that leap.

My people are the ones who don't feel they can, but try anyway.

And guys... I love you all, you keep me going..

...and we got this.

What I Learned from Habit Tracking.

As part of my mad "better get my shit together" journey I've been on I decided I needed to start habit tracking. I made a cute little habit tracker, filled it with aspiration things I thought wouldn't be too hard to keep to that I would be able to manage no problem and just went full steam ahead into it.

Or at least that was the plan

The thing is, as realistic as my goals were the first month, they didn't exactly revolutionize my togetherness. Ok yes, my anxiety was better and I was definitely in possession of a lot more get up and go than I had been but I didn't seem to be getting more done. Those "do more with your life" aspirations that I had just were not working out. I wasn't reading every day, I wasn't doing the making and self care I meticulously scheduled. The things I needed to do were now daily tasks like they should be, that was good, but nothing new was happening. If my life was in the sewing machine lets just say, the stitches were neat, but there was no more sewing going on!

So the next month I changed tactics a bit, added a few more small challenges, A few more oblique ones and another try at the daily reading and self care and "skill practice".  Instagram daily went ok, so I thought I'd add in a few other social media channels, as well as a few more organizing ones. Still, at the end of month two a few things came in to sharp focus. Thanks to my MH stuff, my concentration is still shot, and the reality is I was just asking too much. On top of all these things I technically had time for, I was also working, or sick or just wanting to go out and do something other than "work", Looking at my mood tracker it was obvious the planning and sorting was ok, mainly because I find it almost comforting when I'm stressed as hell . When it came to the other stuff however, well yeah it didn't quite work. That is the true beauty of habit tracking - it isn't just about making things into habits as much as finding out what you can tweek to make your life what you want it to be.

In my mind, I am super productive, I get up and I'm ready to rock at 9am, I get all my stuff done, and still have time to cook from scratch. On work days I manage to do all my social media on my commute (oh and some reading) and handle 8 hours of retail without going mad, I come home, learn some of the things I have in my "goal list" do blog maintenance and then chill & do my nails or whatever before bed. On days off instead of 8 hours of work in the shop I make stuff for etsy, write blog posts, schedule stuff and then hopefully fit in some socialising and a bit more learning. Written in a habit list it doesn't seem much, but when you  actually look at it I must think I'm superman,

In reality I really would just like to be able to sit down and think "I can go do something totally random tomorrow" and not be ignoring my to do list. I can be on top of everything, not feel like anything is slipping totally under the rug. Of course that doesn't happen overnight,

I have the keeping the house clean sorted, and the little tasks work for me, but this month I've been a bit more reasonable with time. Instead of pamper and read I have self care time. Instead of all the different social media platforms I have just to post (spontaneously) on one, and schedule at least one other post a day. I've also added in to be a bit more social, and then the more cerebral "3 new ideas" . Be it posts, flat-lays, crafts or recipes, I want to try and think of three new fun things a day. That one was inspired by my Doctor asking me for 3 good things about my week after every appointment, which I find a great thing to re-balance me.

Will it work this month? Will I achieve my goal of being productive and social and the me I want to be? Who knows, but I'm getting closer. Habit tracking has helped me see my strengths and weaknesses in getting stuff done and now I'm working with them to be my own type of "together".

Have you tried habit tracking? How did it work for you??

Procrastination for experts

I started writing this in a fit of manic typing, which has followed something of an extreme procrastination effort on my behalf. Seriously I have managed to do pretty much everything imaginable to put off admitting to myself that I just can't stand to look at the screen and struggle to write, that I just don't have the will to be productive right now.. well I say that. Productive in the way I should be is probably a better description, as opposed to the stuff I have been doing.

Procrastination for Experts

We're talking a month or two later I find that paragraph in my drafts file and well, yes, procrastination is still my friend . Call it creative block, call it lazy, but there have been many ways I have avoided sitting down in front of this keyboard and actually doing the thing. Indeed, while the average procrastinator will just put things off, some things take true skill. So, how can you too avoid work like an expert... well, let me tell you.

  1. Binge Watching an entire multi-season series. The West Wing has waited 10 years it can wait no longer 
  2. Sort your bookshelves by colour. Very important for when you do start being productive, looks good in instagram pics.
  3. Look through all the photos you have picking new ones to get printed for your frames. Extra points if you order the prints and then forget to pick them up and actually put them in frames.
  4. Sort through your wardrobe and decide what to keep, sell on depop, refashion and donate. Donate items and then order up all the materials needed to refashion. Then do none of these things.
  5. Make your desk area look beautiful in an effort to inspire you.
  6. Deep tidy and spruce up for living space, in an effort to make a cosy place for chilling after all the hard work you are going to do.
  7. Sort out the massive pile of beauty products in your bathroom.
  8. Decide to take a long bath to relax before working, to get those creative juices going. It looks so inviting after all. 
  9. Play with the cat. Cat then pins you down for petting. Cat is obviously lonely and needs a good few hours of love. 
  10. You've not left the house in ages so you go into town. Bonus points if you end up buying stuff to be creative with or write about, which is now in the pile in the corner.
  11. Decide a bullet journal will help you order your thoughts. Start, then give up on bullet journalling as you have no clue what to write other than a calender.
  12. Get lost in a youtube tunnel... all the videos
  13. Feel sleepy, take a nap
  14. Decide to change your hair, spend the next week looking up and picking different styles and colours to basically decide on the first thing you liked.
  15. Look up stuff for holidays. Despite the fact you've booked your holiday hotel already, look at all the reviews on trip adviser. Then look at the area on google streetview. End up navigating the whole city. Plan exactly what you will see, eat and do. Don't bother write it down you wont actually do it and thats too easy to make into a blog post.
  16. Spend at least an hour looking for new people to follow on Instagram.
  17. Decide random items in your house need upcycling. Spend at least 2 hours looking for ideas on pinterest before giving up on that plan.
  18. Start writing a to do list. Realise you need more paper, this sucker has gotten LONG.
  19. Decide if you're going to have to do lists you should have a planner. Buy planner. Spend the next week making it looks instagram worthy and beautifully colourful and all those things.
  20. Make some goals for the next year. Make gorgeous goal pages for your planner.
  21. Chill out and Read books/watch movies. This is just so you can do more colouring in on the beautiful watch/readlist's you've made for your planner.
  22. Make planner porn boards on pinterest. 
  23. Decide to meal plan. Find the perfect mealplan printable on pinterest. Plan meals for the next month on lovelingly printed and laminated wipe clean menus. Decide that night you want Dominos Pizza instead of the planned home made Thai curry as it's too much effort. 
  24. Decide to make a cake. Look in every recipe book to decide what cake to make, check pinterest for ideas. Make the same lemon cake or banana bread you always make, and have already blogged about. 
  25. Make a CV for your pet. Bonus points if you actually send it to your employer like I did.
  26. Shred old paperwork. Decide that maybe it is time to change energy suppliers/bank etc. Research the best ones. Think its best to "sleep on it" before doing something. Never do anything.
  27. Make huge Amazon/Etsy wish lists. 
  28. Read Wikipedia's Featured Article of the day. Click an interesting link. Keep going until your laptop or phone battery dies. Charge it and start over.
  29. Make more lists.. like this one.

    And finally...
  30. Write down all the ways you have procrastinated into a blog post, then put off finding an image for it for at least 3 days. 
What is your go-to when procrastinating?

Why I won't stand for Retro Politics..

This is my mum - pretty much as northern European as you can look, almost Scandinavian. Grandpa was from Kent and Grandma is decended from Missionaries that went out to the West Indies. Real world explorer types, and because Grandpa worked for the UN mum was born in East Africa. On a trip home from boarding school to Mozambique where my grandparents were living and working my grandma arranged a stop over in South Africa. Just a day, said my Jamacian born Grandmother, but you can get out and see the city and have a bit of an explore. She hadn't realised they wouldn't let my mother out of the airport.

You see her British passport listed her place of birth as Tanzania, East Africa.

This is me and my parents in around about 1988, That year I was four and in March that year there was a incident involving the IRA in Gibraltar, near where my grandparents lived. We used to fly into Gibraltar when visiting them, all of us British passport holders - except my Dad. A dual citizen thanks to being born in Brixton he held an Irish Passport. On our way home at the end of the summer he was pulled out of the car as we crossed the Spanish Boarder on our way to our flight home. The British Army Officers with their loaded guns, and with me and my brother in the car, trained their weapons on my Dad. Not happy that he dare cross the boarder they at first tried to refuse to allow him to cross. When he fought his corner as we had tickets and they had no legal right, they said he had one hour to get off "the rock".

He wrote to the Prime Minster when he got home - they send him a formal apology and accepted it should never have happened. It was a letter he kept pretty much until he died.

All of that was simply because he was from the same place as "bad people",

I'm sure I don't have to point out how crazy it is that my parents were "profiled" like that by immigration control. We sadly now live in a world where it is the norm, and its wrong. Where as before I had fear travelling solo as a woman, I now have fear as a human being with a conscience. Am I going to be stopped because I stand up for the Muslims, for those who is worse crime is wrong place wrong time - like my Mum and Dad. Am I going to be branded a sympathizer, and disallowed visa's because I dare write things like this or tweet that President Cheeto is a jerk. When China has enough of the rhetoric, am I going to be held for questioning thanks to my visit to China at request of the state police? Will the fact I have the wrong visa on page 13 of my passport mean I will be held? I mean I was there to collect my father's remains but subtleties like that - like you are a refugee or you are a five year old US citizen means nothing when you are considered a security threat.

We've all seen the quotes and retweeted and shared the "first they came.."'s and the "good men do nothing". We've all done it so much that, frankly it has lost its meaning. We need to stand up against them PHYSICALLY. They can invite him on a state visit but we don't have to let the world think it is in our name. They can detain people but we can let them know they are not alone in that place.

I am so sad that the world is turning into this place again. As a child we were taught by our elders to not think like that and to be better people. We came out of post war revelations and the Eichmann trial with compassion and shame for the suffering inflicted in the name of hate. We fought apartheid and started the fight against LGBT stigma. The past was not yet forgotten, and such emphasis was put on the idea that we should not repeat the past. But we are, we are repeating the cycles of old. I just hope we get out again this time, and before billions suffer because of bigotry and a megalomaniac lust for power and control.

Decoupage Photo Tray DIY

Trips to Ikea generally end in a painful bank balance for me, then again don't they for everyone?  I am obsessed with bargain corner, and have to have a good rummage in when I go in. A few years ago I managed to find some trays from the dining hall that were stained and a bit worse for wear. At 10p each they were begging for some love, so, smelling an idea.. so picked up a couple

After a poor first attempt at decoupage over the entire tray, I decided to be a bit more subtle with my second tray. The design, I decided, should be a sprinkling of polaroid photos (home printed of course). The only issue was picking the photos to use! I found a polaroid frame vector on google to get the full polaroid look.

 Then it was as simple as spray painting the tray to a plain background colour - I went for black. Then, using waterproof decoupage glue I spread a rough square of glue directly onto the tray where I wanted, and smoothed a photo into place where needed. Do this one by one, letting the glue dry before adding the next photo I did this so the overlap wouldn't bubble and wrinkle, but you could risk it without it if you wanted. Once they are all in place and dry, spray a layer of varnish, let dry, then add a final layer of varnish for luck.

Not too hard at all and a lovely way to use some family photos. Do you have some interesting ways that you have used photographs at home??

Telling Tales - Why Instastories just isn't for me

Eagle-eyed followers of my Instagram may have noticed my face up at the top of their instagram feed on Saturday. Yes, I decided that seeing as I had a day off I would try this stories thing. I do occassionally binge others stories but to be honest it isn't really my thing - for pretty much the same reasons it turns out that it doesn't work for me as a platform. If you watched my story Saturday you'll have no doubt wondered what the hell was going on.. well so did I to be honest.

So here is it - why telling stories on Instagram just won't work for me. Plainly, because I'm not a video person I just don't see the point. I don't make vlogs because I much prefer to write, and I'm not really a watcher of them either as I prefer to read. Instagram already allows us to use video moments and of course there's the photos, so I honestly don't see the point of another place to pop these up. If I see something I want to photograph, I photograph it and post it. If its something I want to video I do it and pop it up. If I want to add text there are enough apps out there to help me do it. If there is something longer I want to share that is what these pages are for. I guess its a way to beat the algorithm and make sure that everyone gets to see all your posts, but that is what going to look at their profile is for right?

Maybe I'm missing the point, and maybe I'm not using social media the right way, but for me instagram and twitter are as much about sharing those random little moments over the day especially instagram. It's a platform that makes it awkward to share a photo not taken on your phone (thank god for dropbox) and yet we need some added functionality in the app for capturing the fleeting beautiful moments. Am I missing something? Snapchat was originally for sharing this stuff privately before it became celebrity-filled, and now instagram has jumped on the bandwagon. Its a bandwagon that wasn't needed if you ask me. So no, I'm not a instastories girl, maybe I'm just too simple in my social media needs. I don't mind thou, that's how I like it.

What platforms or functions do you just not "get" or do you have any wise words for me on that I'm missing?