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!

Seasonal musings, winter solstice and glitter jars

As Christmas Eve eve draws to a close, I am once again completely bemused by how fast the year has gone (I’m sure there is a conspiracy) and how much good stuff there has been in what feels, overall, like a very bad year indeed.

I celebrated the winter solstice with friends on Wednesday, with cooking (which turned out amazingly) and glitter jar making, which was a lovely way to start winter and end my build.

Glitter jars by Carla Louise | carlalouise.com

I got my keys back from my builder the day after the solstice, and oh, this studio space – it already feels like the most peaceful, productive space I’ve ever had. I am full of gratitude and excitement… and my home feels like home again, which is wonderful.

After Luna’s fourth incident, a couple of weeks ago, of arriving home with split, mashed claws (this time accompanied by a fat lip and heavy, terrified breathing for longer than is healthy, so yet another emergency vet visit), I gave in and bought a curfew cat flap. It’s made by Sureflap, who made the microchip flap I already had, and still does selective entry using microchips so that only my two furry idiots can come in. It also has a function where it locks itself at a certain time in the day, which I have set for half past three in the afternoon, so the cats still get eight hours a day of outdoor access but are safely in by the time it gets dark, and away from the school run and people rushing home from work. And away from the asshole tabby cat who seems to come out at night, and who I am fairly sure is part of the reason Luna keeps coming home hurt – the first incident was almost definitely a car accident, but there is no way she has been hit four times in four months when we live in a cul de sac!

Programming the cats in was hilarious – they recommend installing it and getting your cats to walk through, but with my luck this year I decided it’d be infinitely better to catch each cat, put the flap into learn mode and put it over their head before I installed it into the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but I wish I’d filmed it – by the time I’d managed to get both cats programmed in, I was helpless with laughter, we’d got through an obscene amount of treats, and they sulked for the rest of the evening!

The proper year review post will come, once I’ve done my planning for 2017. This year I got an accountant (the lovely Kylie) who has successfully managed to get me to submit my accounts, and has done my tax return, so for the first time in years I am clear to spend NYE planning and relaxing, rather than doing my sodding business accounts in a panic. This is a Very Good Thing.

But today, I really just wanted to say Happy Christmas / Yule / insert whatever you celebrate here, mark the end of my day job year, and give heartfelt thanks for the studio where I am sitting and typing this to you.

I’m looking forward to Christmas and have mostly managed my shopping this year – though am behind with cards and have struggled to fit in all my responsibilities with all the things I love and want to do. For lots of reasons, I would like this to be the last year that I work full time at a day job – one of my big 2017 goals is to drop some hours so there is more balance in my life. And more consistent blog posts as I enter my thirteenth (!) year of blogging – if you are reading this and you’ve stuck around during this rather random year, I am delighted – thank you!

So after that wonderfully rambly post with no real point (I love having this blog back as a non businessy one), here are some more pics of the glitter jars. The turquoise represents the sea, the pink & gold is sunrise/sunset and the deep blue is the night sky.

Merry Christmas, happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2017!!

And so this is Boxmas…

… and I won’t subject you to any more of my enthusiastic but distinctly off-key singing!

clover-xmas-fish

It’s been a beautiful Christmas, one of the best I can remember. After a 2.30am wakeup call from Clover kitty with a shiny fish she really wanted me to have, for the first time ever, Mum & Dad and I had Christmas day to ourselves, and they came to me – the first time I’ve hosted! Naturally, we went to one of my favourite pubs in the village for actual lunch rather than risk my cooking… but we had our traditional breakfast at mine, and it was so lovely.

Being here really brought the house together – knowing I was hosting made me do all the last minute things I would otherwise have let slide for ages.  And oh, how lovely it was to wake up and snuggle with kitties and not have to rush across the county to get anywhere! I think all three of us needed a break, and the relaxing day it ended up being. And lunch out was perfect – atmosphere while also enabling proper conversation.

I’m not religious, but I do love the ceremony of Christmas, and the opportunity to dress up and feast with family – it always feels special and a little bit decadent. Something about it calls to my pagan side, too – banishing the darkness with fairy lights and spending time and breaking bread with our nearest and dearest.  This year’s dress was a dark blue chiffon with little silver and white bauble beads sewn all over the bodice – very me, very pretty, and very accommodating of Christmas dinner with an elasticated back!!

Boxing Day was spent over at my aunt & uncle’s with large numbers of my extended family, which was also perfect – though I think for the first time I’m slipping into the adult group rather than naturally into the kids. There are a few of my cousins at weird kidult transition ages – 15, 17, 20… and I managed to freak out one of my older ones by announcing my joint 30th & housewarming party in February. He still thinks I’m about 8, so it was something of a surprise to him that I’m nearly 30…

Unsurprisingly, despite the 15 degree weather, I didn’t pack my mermaid tail for the celebrations, and so sadly missed an opportunity to swim in it on Boxing Day, but there’s the whole of 2016 to mermaid to my heart’s content. That’s definitely a real verb, too…

Now, after all the celebrations, I’m curled up on my beautiful patchwork sofa, under my Secret Pillow blanket, one of my glorious Christmas presents from Caroline. Each Secret Pillow helps to empower women in India, who go through a series of workshops to improve their skills, make and sell the Secret Pillows, and develop a sustainable business to support themselves and their families. I’d not heard of it till I unwrapped mine on Christmas Day, but it’s one of my favourite presents – I love it!

noel-boxmas-organising

In between munching Christmas chocolate, and feeling a bit like I’ve been hit by a freight train (that’ll be the quantities of Dad’s amazing mulled cider I’ve consumed in the past 48 hours, then), I’ve started the process of rejigging all my websites again. Here’s how everything currently stands:

Carla Watkins Photographer is getting a proper front page, a way to get emails and updates, and once I’ve sorted out my photos and a couple of test shoots, it’ll have a gallery and an actual page where you can engage my services, you know, like a proper photography business! (#getoutofmyownway seems an appropriate hashtag here…) I’ll shortly be setting up a friendly group for solopreneurs to share the rollercoaster of self employment, too.  If you’re a solopreneur or portfolio careerist who fancies connecting with likeminded peeps, and you don’t mind the occasional f bomb, get yourself on this list!

I’m ridonkulously excited to work with more likeminded people, and also to geek out on the blog about all the business related goodness I’ve been absorbing and waffling about for years. Yay!

Alongside that, Unfurling Your Wings is getting a mini overhaul, with some tweaks to the course and a launch of the course & kit later in 2016. I’m adding boudoir and portrait sessions to the offerings over there, and I’m also planning some experience days – fancy a day at mermaid school, or running away to the circus? Watch this space

Something I’ve noticed over the last few months (and it’s no coincidence that all this clarity and action follows having a beautiful new, uncluttered space at home) is how much I miss blogging for its own sake. All my sites have a business slant to them, which is gorgeous and exactly as it should be, but I miss having somewhere that’s essentially my online living room.

The shop here, while full of gorgeous things, doesn’t feel right to have here any more. So most of my remaining stock will wander over to my new venture The Unicornery over the next few months, and this will revert back to its original purpose as a lifestyle blog, and record of my life and interests and multipod tendencies.

I never did get round to the planned sale, due to a severe lack of laptop (hilariously, as a result of the dead laptop, we had a count up of our technology. Once Mum’s new laptop arrives, we will have three decent laptops and one old spare, one desktop, four tablets, three printers, four cameras  and five phones between three of us in two houses. Getting a tiny bit ridiculous, no?!). Anyway, sale – perhaps I’ll have one to celebrate the opening of the Unicornery!

Hmm, and having promised myself an early night and a proper sleep routine, it’s now nearly 1am. Oops. That whole being-an-owl and hating mornings thing is definitely a big motivator behind the drive for full time self employment!

I hope you’ve all had a glorious Christmas, if that’s what you celebrate, and I’ll be back in the new year (or possibly even before, if I get organised).

With love, unicorns and narwhals,

Carla xxx

 

 

 

 

Why being interested in ALL THE THINGS is actually a good thing

Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.

If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.

Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.

I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.

Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)

boots-puddle

Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.

My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life –  work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.

stop

Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.

(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)

Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.

An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.

I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.

buttons

So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.

And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.

When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.

Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).

The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].

And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).

I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.

And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.

It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.

Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.

moodboard

To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.

Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.

Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.

I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.

I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.

So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.

With love and unicorns,

signature

 

 

Baking is apparently in my genes

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than about five minutes, you’ll notice I bake intermittently, but often. (As I live alone, I don’t dare have a regular baking day or I’d eat all the results practically before they came out of the oven.)

Last weekend, my parents were over helping me to build (ok, ok, Dad was building) a shelter for my soon-to-arrive barbecue, and during a coffee break, Mum casually dropped into conversation that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother ran a bakery of their own from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Why this particular morsel of information has never come up before, I don’t know – but it would appear that Fred’s Bakery was the family business until it was sold sometime in the fifties.

This, to me, provides a perfect explanation for why I bake when I’m sad, and why my baking usually turns out relatively well; why it’s perfectly normal for me to have memorised several recipes which I can bake at a moment’s notice, even in a kitchen I’ve never used before; and why I’m so fiercely determined to work for myself – my family have had their own businesses for nearly a hundred years!

Isn’t history glorious?

 

Baking is apparently in my genes…

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than about five minutes, you’ll notice I bake intermittently, but often. (As I live alone, I don’t dare have a regular baking day or I’d eat all the results practically before they came out of the oven.)

Last weekend, my parents were over helping me to build (ok, ok, Dad was building) a shelter for my soon-to-arrive barbecue, and during a coffee break, Mum casually dropped into conversation that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother ran a bakery of their own from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Why this particular morsel of information has never come up before, I don’t know – but it would appear that Fred’s Bakery was the family business until it was sold sometime in the fifties.

This, to me, provides a perfect explanation for why I bake when I’m sad, and why my baking usually turns out relatively well; why it’s perfectly normal for me to have memorised several recipes which I can bake at a moment’s notice, even in a kitchen I’ve never used before; and why I’m so fiercely determined to work for myself – my family have had their own businesses for nearly a hundred years!

Chicken, tarragon & nutmeg pie, with added sweetcorn*

Getting better at this cooking from scratch thing – but don't think I'll ever make a pastry chef!

A post shared by Carla Louise (@duckingfabulous) on

Ingredients:

Leftover roast chicken from one accidental “chuck it and chance it” lunch (approx 1/2 chicken, but you can adapt to your own preferences)

Most of a pot of Elmlea single – you can use actual single cream, I just didn’t have any

Salt & pepper

a glug of olive oil

A random amount of sweetcorn – I like lots in mine, so it was at least equal to the chicken, but is up to you

Pastry, preferably readymade as it’s quicker. I use shortcrust, but this also works well as individual small pies with puff pastry lids

A couple of tablespoons of dried tarragon, or, much preferable, a decent handful of fresh, chopped

Two teaspoons of nutmeg

1 cup of cider. or wine. or apple juice if you’d prefer no alcohol

Method

Pull all the chicken off the carcass and shred into small pieces. If using raw chicken, chop into small pieces.

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, and add the chicken. Cook till no longer pink in the middle (if using raw pierces) or heated through (if using cooked chicken)

Pour in the cream, closely followed by the cider or apple juice.

Add the tarragon, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, and stir well.

Chuck in the sweetcorn, and when it’s all heated through, take off the heat and spoon into pie dish(es). I completely forgot to blind bake the bottom of the pie and it actually turned out ok!

Add the pastry lid and any decorations – I’m going with “rustic charm” rather than “slightly wonky heart”… you can brush with beaten egg or milk, whichever is closest, for a shine.

Bake for half an hour or so at 180 degrees ish – till it’s all nicely golden brown.

When it’s finished, serve with chips or mash, and peas… or just on its own as a rather lovely work lunch.

*my apologies for the single photo – it was all eaten before I had a chance to photograph a slice!!

How to make a fabulously odd-coloured cake

Put on your Rocky and Balls apron… (a housewarming present from Hannah – isn’t it fabulous?!)

cake (2)

Mix cake as normal (175g of everything, 3 eggs, chuck in some baking powder and vanilla essence. Never fails). Stir in proper gel colouring and marvel at the vivid hues. cake (4) cake (6) cake (5)

Attempt to layer different colours into cake tins without throwing at each other, the table or the giant rubber duck which was trying to be involved.cake (3) cake (7) cake (8)

Bake for 15-20 minutes,turn out and let cool. cake (9)

Ice with white buttercream, honeycomb pieces and as much edible glitter as you fancy. Marvel again at the pretty colours – and enjoy! cake (1)

The colouring I’m using by Wilton, and now I’ve finally got my hands on some, I’ll never go back to liquid colouring! This would also be great for icing as it won’t dilute the icing to get a richer colour.

Can see these being great fun at Halloween… or for a patriotic cake!

How to make a fabulously odd-coloured cake

Put on your Rocky and Balls apron… (a housewarming present from Hannah – isn’t it fabulous?!)

cake (2)

Mix cake as normal (175g of everything, 3 eggs, chuck in some baking powder and vanilla essence. Never fails). Stir in proper gel colouring and marvel at the vivid hues. cake (4) cake (6) cake (5)

Attempt to layer different colours into cake tins without throwing at each other, the table or the giant rubber duck which was trying to be involved.cake (3) cake (7) cake (8)

Bake for 15-20 minutes,turn out and let cool. cake (9)

Ice with white buttercream, honeycomb pieces and as much edible glitter as you fancy. Marvel again at the pretty colours – and enjoy! cake (1)

The colouring I’m using by Wilton, and now I’ve finally got my hands on some, I’ll never go back to liquid colouring! This would also be great for icing as it won’t dilute the icing to get a richer colour.

Can see these being great fun at Halloween… or for a patriotic cake!

The First Annual Christmas Cookie (Craft) Swap

January 6th saw the very first of our annual craft swaps (though I’m not sure we can wait a whole year for the next one) – organised by Mimi, the idea was that all nine of us would make enough of whatever we chose for each participant to go home with one.  It ended up in January by accident, but we think we’ll keep it there as it’s so lovely to have something to look forward to after Christmas!

2013 craft swap | duckingfabulous.com

The edible things were long gone before I had a chance to photograph them, teehee – wonderful alcohol-infused vegan chocs from Annastasia at Midorigreen, and yummy chocolate fridge cake from Helen. The button magnets (genius!!) from Mimi also escaped my photo shoot as they’re adorning my filing cabinet/noticeboard in the studio!

My contribution? Kilner jars decoupaged with pin up ladies (Elvgren paintings, as he’s my favourite pin up artist) and filled with cutters, a tiny pot of ginger, my favourite gingerbread recipe and glitter. Of course 🙂

kilner jars decoupaged with pin up girls | duckingfabulous.com

It was a wonderful afternoon, full of tea and giggles and happiness, and we all went home sparkling with the joy of friendship and sharing things we’d made… a rare achievement for a grey day in January, I don’t usually sparkle much straight after Christmas!

I loved seeing how everyone interpreted “make something” differently – we had no duplicates, and I was amazed all over again at the talent within this group of women I’m so proud to be part of!

I can’t for the life of me find the PDF of the gingerbread recipe – will put it up if I locate it!

Discovering you can be excited for Monday morning…

As a completely fabulous, proper weekend draws to a close, I’m once again pensive. In a good way. For the first time in I genuinely can’t remember how long, I am excited for Monday. The first week of the new job mostly involved meeting people, familiarising myself with the uni’s website and eating cake. But I am looking forward to being there, to the challenge of the first tasks I have, of getting to know my (perfectly lovely!) new colleagues, of discovering the campus and the surrounding areas, of spending the evenings of this week eating good food and making stock for fairs and the fabulous Tea & Sympathy boutique.

This weekend has comprised seeing the Ruby Slippers at the V&A, eating a ridiculous amount of food, catching up with fabulous friends, catching up with fabulous family and walking around in a state of wonder that I can be this happy in normal, everyday life. Read on for more…

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This week’s happy things

Bit of a mish mash, wordy, linky post, as I’m having one of the busiest weeks ever and am running around like an entire flock of headless chickens. And then some. So here goes, stuff that has made me happy this week…

–        Discovering all over again that I actually have the best friends a girl could ever possibly wish for. I am very, very lucky.

–        Fluffy white bread for the first time in ages and Ben’s cookies from a colleague at work

–        Emily coming round and cooking for me – this was the most luxurious thing ever, quite aside from the loveliness of seeing her

–        Exciting snippets of other people’s news – new chapters all over the shop

–        That feeling you get when opening a brand new document in InDesign and knowing you can create almost anything you want

–        Planning outfits, shoes and accessories for the boudoir shoot next weekend

–        Discovering a Bauhaus exhibition, which we hope to go to tomorrow, to assist the lovely Lou with her research for an application she’s doing

–        Business course with Startup Saturday tomorrow, WordPress course on Wednesday for work and plans for my future

–        Making lists and feeling a bit more in control of my workload, finances and life

–        Plans for blogger meetups with Annastasia, a PPU store (more of that later) and expansion of Ducking Fabulous (more of that later too), among other things

–        Unexpected commissions – and selling a necklace to my director, which was a very weird but very nice feeling! Unfortunately I neglected to photograph it, but will recreate it for the shop soon 🙂

–        Val telling me that she saw an advert for a burlesque show and immediately thought of me, “just like when I see horses and ducks”. It’s becoming a part of me in a way I never expected, but I love it!

–        Reading proper chick lit again – I’ve read nothing but non fiction for a couple of months and it was very good to lose myself in a couple of Fiona Gibsons novels (go and read them if you haven’t already, they’re funny, poignant and I identify with the characters so much – even the ones I’m not yet!)

–        Planning the 100 day challenge, or a version of it, to get a bit of stability back into my finances (thanks to Sophia at Tattooed Tealady for the inspiration)

–        Boutique Baking and Jamie’s Great Britain– I am so looking forward to choosing things to make and bake from these books

–        Deciding, after last Sunday’s #bbloggers chat, that my blog is a place for me to indulge my many passions and hobbies and loves – it might get more readers if it was more focused, but I prefer it to be a true reflection of my character and personality – chaotic but lovely!

Tomorrow I’m with Lou in London, planning for the future, and Sunday hopefully collecting my new bike (squeee) so more posts to come!