How to wear your cats on your ears

Some time ago, the wonderful Laura Sparling created a limited edition run of custom cat lampwork beads – you could choose all the options and they would look, more or less, like your cats.

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

LOOK AT THEM…. they even have the right colour eyes!! 

Obviously I thought this was the best thing ever, and proceeded to buy lampwork portraits of Luna and Clover.

And then I bought a house and everything went to hell in a handcart for eighteen months while I rebuilt it.

This morning, I had a pet portrait shoot booked that sadly had to be rescheduled due to miserable weather, so instead I decided to have a mini artist date – and turn these cats into earrings! (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…)

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

It wasn’t a complicated make – extra ingredients were sterling silver ear wires and 3mm jump rings. I removed the lobster clasps from the cats and added the extra jump ring and the wire – the extra ring makes them hang the right way more easily.

And here are the finished earrings:

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Plus of course the close up at the top.

It was lovely to make something for me – and even lovelier to now be able to take my idiot felines with me wherever I go!

Happy moments: January 2017

I’ve been busy filling my happy jars this month and it’s been a gorgeous experience!

In no particular order, here are lovely little snippets of January:

These coaching videos shared by my friend Darren

best compliments ever from Rhi and Janine, including a comparison to a photographer I love

Lizzie being fully booked for work and Rhiannon’s first month of self employment being a runaway success

booking a very exciting photography workshop

epic kitten cuddles (pic of Luna. Clover likes to cuddle me while I’m on the loo, so I’ll spare you all photos of that)

teeny tiny pug puppies! I was at the vet and a box of tiny, wriggling, three week old puppies came in <3

happy post from Em, Cally, Sarah, Janine, Judy and Annastasia (and NEOM organics)

lens shopping for my photography businesses and impromptu cake with Sarah

giving an inspiring talk to the Cake and Revolution W.I. in Ipswich ~ “I had goosebumps listening to you talk – thank you”

planning cake & celebration for the finishing of the first draft of a friend’s novel

crafting Saturdays at Sarah’s

snow! and getting home safely in some mad flurries of snow. and kittens in the snow (first time they’ve ever seen it):

(The Silly Kittens – first time snow from Carla Louise on Vimeo.)

brunch with Mum & Dad at Chiquito’s

lovely, happy lunches with Ally, Sarah A, Darren, Janine, Emma, Sarah S

making unicorn bark

a security guard letting me through a building even though it was locked, to save me a long walk around to the car park

feeling like I have my creative mojo back

Maddy’s Careershifters feature

Dad’s blue badge approval – which should make it easier for him to get out and about

studio time and homemade lasagne, which Past Carla had been sensible enough to make and then freeze – it was SO nice to have proper food after getting carried away making!

Kittens in paper bags

lucky rainbow scarf day

friends’ business and coaching and singing plans

Lost property lady being utterly lovely about my lost fountain pen

Buying a replacement fountain pen from ebay – it’s not the same enough, but the slip that came with it said that my money is going towards a fund a teenager is setting up to help rural communities in Peru, building classrooms, greenhouses, better sanitation and environmental projects. He is going to volunteer there in the summer following his GCSEs, in 2018. This was such a lovely surprise!

meeting a lovely lecturer at work who was delighted to meet a professional mermaid

sending a surprise parcel to a young lady who’s going to meet a real mermaid, and be one herself for the day, in March – she came to my attention via the Rays of Sunshine charity, and while I couldn’t accommodate her request as my mermaiding is only insured for grown ups, I couldn’t resist parcelling up some mermaid delights for her <3 I had a gorgeous email from her mum to say Lucy loved her parcel!

planning & reviewing time – this has been so good for me in previous years, and I can do it with friends this year!

Karen bringing me a surprise Kinder egg

My day is now approximately 800% better thanks to Karen 😍 #excellentcolleagues #workfriends #chocolate

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

 

Reading about basic income – something I’d like to learn more about

transferring Mum’s phone successfully to giffgaff

two no spend days in a row

booking all my Mondays off work to use up holiday

lovely new PA in our faculty team

hotel chocolat order (woo for end of season sales!)

glitter jar for the office

coaching!

brunch:

Brunch! (For the second time this weekend 😍)

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

new dreamboard:

Last night's #artistdate – new dreamboard for 2017!

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

exciting photography developments

coworking

Things I love and want to remember about myself postcard I made for the WI

invitation to Silke’s Professorial Inaugural Lecture

booked onto the circus day the girls got me for my 30th (eeek!)

salted caramel hot chocolate

long chat with Lou

my nephew Willoughby turned 1

time with Dad putting the world to rights

time with Mum ironing shelves (!) and putting the world to rights

getting all the photos of my house project all in one place

facetime with Claire and her lovely doglet Bailey

 

Phew! For a long, cold, dull month which also had its share of sadness and anxiety, I feel like that’s one amazing list!

2017 has such a different vibe so far – I am absolutely loving feeling more like myself again, and having creative oomph… long may it last!

Happy Jars

I’ve written before about having a jar to track how much you actually get done even while you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.

My jars have come out of storage (finally!) and this year I’ve decided to use them as happy jars.

Partly because I now have my bullet journal for everyday tracking, but mostly because there is enough shit going on that reminders of the happy are always very welcome <3

So here are my two for home (the big one lives on the bureau in my living room, the smaller on my studio desk):

Happy jars | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

I’ve found a new home for the straws!

There’s a smaller version on my day job desk, and the plan is to empty all three at the end of each month, and record the happy things either in a journal or on the blog. I’m hoping it will work as well as my gratitude journal has in previous years, to boost my mood and recognise the good things regardless of what crap is going on around me.

Have you ever had a happy jar, or a collection of happy things?

In My Postbox: January 2017

Considering we live in a heavily digital world, I still get an amazing amount of parcels through my actual letterbox – and this makes me happy. So I thought I’d restart my “postbox” series, with things that arrive, mainly unexpectedly.

January’s been a fabulous month for this, with:

A “dreams happen” notebook from Sarah and glorious crafty bits from Janine (ok, technically not post, in-person gifts, but still very happy making!)

Dreams happen notebook and craft ingredients | carlalouise.com

A gorgeous unicorn notebook and happy note from my lovely auntie (who also gave me the pink “crazy cat lady” mug I am drinking from as I write this – she knows me well!):

Postbox - Unicorn notebook and Because Cats card | carlalouise.com

Unicorn poop scrub and a book hangover candle from the gorgeous Annastasia:

geeky clean candle and scrub | carlalouise.com

NEOM energising hand balm courtesy of Naomi – this stuff smells incredible – they’re expensive but oh-so-worth-it (and they don’t even pay me to say that!) :

NEOM hand balm | carlalouise.com

and a wonderful surprise delivery of threads from Judy!

threads | carlalouise.com

There have also been some stunning Urban Decay lipsticks and some amazing decorative patches from Em, but I haven’t had a chance to photograph them yet!

It’s only three weeks in – I feel that 2017 is doing a good job on the happy post front, so far!

Making rainbow unicorn bark

rainbow Unicorn bark | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Having recently rediscovered artist dates (I’m actually reading the Artist’s Way now, along with two friends, and it is so far both wonderful and a bit uncomfortable), and with the studio now finished enough to work in, I’ve been collecting ideas of what I can do with precious alone time.

Carla Louise's artist date Pinterest board screenshot | carlalouise.com

There’s lots on there from the general list of things I want to do in 2017, but the one that caught my eye this afternoon when I returned home from spending Sunday with my parents was UNICORN BARK.

Chocolate bark is quite an American thing, I think, but chocolate is chocolate whichever side of the ocean you’re on, and when you can make it swirly, sparkly and pastel coloured, I’m definitely in.

It’s also easy and quick, which given everything I should be doing other than making chocolate, is a good thing!

rainbow Unicorn bark | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Ingredients

Good quality white chocolate (I used Menier, and made a mini 100g bar of bark for this first run)

Food colouring in the colours of your choice (I went for purple, pink and blue. Online opinion says you should have oil based candy colouring. I couldn’t find this in a hurry, so went for Dr Oetker gel colours which worked fine!)

Greaseproof/waxed paper (I used foil/parchment which I believe was from Aldi)

Hundreds and thousands, glitter, sparkly sugar bits (all optional – mine were bronze sugar pieces from Waitrose which I had lurking in my cupboard)

That’s it!

Method

Line a shallow container with your waxed paper.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of water on the hob. If you’re using the microwave, do it in 15 or 20 second bursts, or you’ll do what I did with the first bar, burn the bottom and end up with inedible crispy chunks in your chocolate. And wasted chocolate is practically a crime!

When smooth and stirrable, split between three or more bowls – one for each colour.

Working fairly quickly, mix your food colouring into each bowl. I used about five drops of the gel colour to get this strength, which I’d say is strong pastel – you can adjust as you fancy.

Dollop the coloured chocolate randomly into the waxed paper tray, swirl around a bit with a fork.

Sprinkle with your choice of toppings, then leave to cool (not in the fridge as this can do weird things to the chocolate’s finish).

When it’s properly cool,  break into pieces.

And voila… unicorn bark!

2016 in review: the roundup

The last of my yearly review posts, this one is all the things that have happened this year.

2016 was hard… in so many ways, for so many people. So I’m focusing mainly (though not exclusively) on the good here, because those are the things I’d like to remember.

Friendship was a major theme of the year for me – making new ones, consolidating new-ish ones, refreshing old ones, and letting go of some entirely. Also, right at the end of the year, making friends with a kindred spirit in the cat food aisle of Tesco. Yes, really. #officiallyacrazycatlady. My friends have put up with a lot this year, and have endlessly soothed and comforted me during the bad times, and also shared in and multiplied the good ones. I am unbelievably blessed!

Kittens have had an interesting year – Luna got hit by a car at least once and lost all her claws on one foot (they’re just now starting to grow back). She came home three more times with mashed claws, and we had two more emergency vet visits, at which point I bought a curfew cat flap, which they are not that excited about, but which is soothing my frazzled nerves during the winter days when it is full dark before I come home. They’ve had a whole string of things wrong with them, including an operation Luna needed on her mouth earlier in the year, and I am now on first name terms with the entire staff of Colne Valley practice. Who have been amazing throughout. They are, however, as glorious as ever, and while I’ve had some WTF moments, I am very glad they are in my life and that they’ve survived the building of the house, the garden and then the studio!

The build is finished! I’m writing this from my garden studio, and I got all my keys back from various trades on 22 December. Which felt momentous, after sixteen months of disruption. It has been exciting and stressful in equal parts, though now the dust is (literally) starting to settle, I am enormously grateful to have created my perfect home almost from scratch. Now I just have to pay for it…! The studio feels particularly momentous, as I need to kickstart all my business activities again, and having a dedicated home for that is quite magical – it’s true that you don’t know you’ll miss something until it’s gone! It’s also very restful to have my living room back and not have trailing cables all over the place…

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