A Harry Potter midnight party

It’ll come as no surprise that I adore Harry Potter – books, magic and friendship are three of my favourite things after all, and I grew up with Harry and his friends – Philosopher’s Stone came out the year I started secondary school, Order of the Phoenix in the middle of sixth form, and Deathly Hallows as I returned to university for my final year.

The downside of being just a few years below Harry at Hogwarts is that for the most part, I’ve been too young to go to the midnight release parties for most of the books – and either working or without local likeminded friends when I was old enough.

But trekking to London for a release party, and trying to find my way back at 1am, didn’t appeal either – so I was muchly excited when I discovered that Colchester Waterstones was having a celebratory party for pre-orders, with books collected at midnight!

This time, Maddy, Sarah and Sophie were also enthusiastic enough to dress up, go for dinner first (there’s a fab Brazilian BBQ restaurant just opened in Colchester, we tried it and it was amazing), sit in the pub in our robes & hats playing HP Trivial Pursuit, and then head off to the party to play silly games and collect our books.

HP cursed child-2

And I might’ve bought a few other bits and pieces too, because a lock in in a bookshop is far preferable to a lock in in a pub, for me!

(more…)

Rediscovering campus

My day job is at the University of Essex, on a beautiful and quite big campus made up of parkland, woodland and buildings. The buildings are quite 60s, concrete and brutal… but the grounds are spectacular, and we even have two lakes, a country house hotel and a campus “farm” (large allotment, really).

When I first came here, following working close by the Barbican in London (equally brutal but less scenery, more people, and my actual office was the least inspiring building ever), I was captivated. That I could go for walks every day, spend time in woodland and by water, and all without bunking off work or going more than ten minutes from my house, seemed like a dream.

DSCF6953 DSCF6982 DSCF6959 DSCF6977 DSCF6985 DSCF6952 DSCF6990 DSCF6983

Somehow, in the last three and a half years, I’d forgotten to be entranced by the gorgeous surroundings I work in. Reading back through my five year diary for a podcast I’m doing soon, I realised how much I longed for green space and water when I couldn’t have it.

I have now firmly told myself off for taking it for granted, and am trying to spend more time outdoors – especially now the weather is behaving itself!

Goodbye 2015, you were epic

A whole year has passed, and this one so full of enormous and life changing events I don’t even know where to start.

The first and most obvious was buying my house – after endless viewings of places that were either too big, too small, too expensive or in the wrong place, the truth leapt out at me that the house I was renting was the place I loved most in the world. It was home for my kitties and me, and it was just right for the three of us, if in need of a bit of modernising.

So I asked my lovely landlord if buying this house was a possibility, and a few months later, we completed the sale. Then the most whirlwind few months of my life began – with the help of my parents and some bloody brilliant trades, I took down trees, changed the entire inside layout of the house, stripped and redid the wiring and plumbing, had a new kitchen, most of a new bathroom (I put a new bath panel in but left the bath & tiling – it’s already pale blue from my hair dye so figured there was no point buying a shiny new white one to dye that blue too…!), carpets, furniture, a sofa, a new mattress, a new base because I bought a heavy mattress… you name it, I think I’ve done it in the last four months.

In that time, I also moved back in with my parents for five weeks (I can cope without heating or internet but not without either), lost and found (but didn’t really lose, she’s just good at hiding) Clover-kitty, laughed, cried, rediscovered how much I love DIY and my overalls, found out I hate painting after the novelty has worn off, and got rid of a good 50% of what I owned.

Luna, Clover and I moved back in on October 10th, and though at that point I didn’t have flooring, a sofa or a proper bed, it was wonderful to be home. Now everything is more or less finished and it’s just the last lot of unpacking and the garden & studio to go, I am overcome every morning that this is my home, my permanent home, my kitties’ forever home – that it’s so beautiful, and it’s ours, and we get to stay.

There’s a profound change in mindset when you go from renting to owning, and it seems more pronounced for me here as it’s the same house I’ve lived in for a few years. It’s funny how protective I suddenly am of my carpet now I know I’ve paid for it and will have to replace it if anything happens! It’s been the biggest creative project I’ve ever undertaken, and in a weird way it’s also only just started – having sorted out the basics, I can now focus on decor, furnishings, fabrics, art and really putting my stamp on it. Eeeee!

So it’s also been the year I’ve put down roots – I have amazing friends locally for the first time since I left uni, and they are a wonderful addition to my far-flung friends, who I think now span every corner of the world!

alan-jackson-2

The undisputed highlight of this year was the trip to Texas to see Alan Jackson play live. I still can’t believe we got tickets, and such good tickets – we were right at the front, he was no further away than the length of my living room. I’ve rarely been so emotional, and it really was the trip and the gig of a lifetime – and a dream come true. I never thought I’d get to see him play live, and I’m so very glad to have been able to do it with both Mum & Dad with me.

The rest of the trip was incredible too – it was utterly lovely to catch up with all our friends over there. And I’ve found somewhere else in Texas that I could happily call home. I’ll always love Fort Worth, but the island of Galveston, with sea, sand and shops called The Witchery and The Naked Mermaid stole a little piece of my heart. I’ll go back one day…

My businesses have been a bit quieter in the second half of the year – partly because of the house, and partly because I finally got out of my own way and allowed myself to explore the possibility of making photography part of my business model. It’s my first love, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t constantly accompanied by a camera. As part of that shift and commitment, I have joined Shining Lights, an ongoing mentoring programme for creatives that started out specifically for female photographers. I joined in November this year and it has been transformative already. I’ve also booked a one to one day with my favourite photographer, Kerrie Mitchell – it’s in March and I’m already overexcited! I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Unfurling Your Wings was officially born this year after 18 months of dreaming, writing and rewriting.  22 brave ladies worked through the first ever live course, sharing insights and connection, and generally humbling me with the way they handled some quite big life shifts. I’m now making tweaks following their brilliant feedback, and will be launching properly later next year. This year, as I’m blatantly not going to get round to publishing this post till after midnight!

I have a new venture (well, several actually – when don’t I have new projects on the go?!) and the stock from the shop here will shortly be moving over to the Unicornery, which will launch in Spring/Summer 2016 with unicorns, mermaids and mythical, magical goodness galore!

I did manage a three day business retreat with the gorgeous Louise Rose Couture, down in Wincanton for the weekend that Hogswatch would have been.  We’re agreed that it was one of the best things we’ve ever done for our businesses – getting away from real life and all the endless things that need to be done when you’re in your own home, escaping to where nobody knew us, and spending three whole days working on our directions, our ideas, our thoughts and dreams and hopes. With a healthy dose of common sense from the other, because both of us can get carried away on occasion!

Out of that I found myself ditching some domains and blogs I no longer use (goodbye, Letters from my Twenties, Girl Meets Van and the Website Beautician), and simplifying and clarifying what I do have, so they fit with my new direction. Which is awesome.

Ink Drops continues to thrive, selling out two to three months in advance, as I write. Turns out there are a lot of stationery addicts like us out there! I love it so much, and I’m so excited to grow our little company in 2016.

I’m feeling more fired up about my businesses than I have been for ages, and I am determined that 2016 is the year I make some really big steps forward!

Kitteny cats and other pets.

a pile of kittens (Luna and Clover)

Oh, my beloved kitteny cats. June saw their 2nd birthday, and November the two year anniversary of when they came home to live with me forever. I am still slightly bemused that I spent so much of my life thinking I wasn’t a cat person – I am SO A CAT PERSON!! They make me laugh every day, they’re snuggly and silly and loving and ridiculous by turns, and I can’t imagine life without them nor remember what life was like before them.

We’ve had our share of frights this year – in February Clovie gave me quite a lot more grey hairs, by falling over and lying sadly on the floor, then spending the whole of the following day at the vet on a drip. She came home that night with a bandage around her leg and generally milked it for all she was worth – bounding around on three legs and demanding to be hand fed chunks of tuna, as they had fed her at the surgery. I believe I have a diva on my hands. Anyway, she was fine in the end, and to my very great relief it wasn’t the antifreeze poisoning we had initially suspected and feared.

The day before I moved out of my house for the main works to start, and just a few hours before they were due to go on their initial holiday to Hilltop, Clover failed to come home after lunch. Though she’s the treat monster of the house, even rattling her favourites failed to bring her home, and by 7pm I was a snivelling mess, wandering the streets with treats in hand, calling brokenly for my lost kitty. Just as I was about to give up and lose the plot entirely, my lovely neighbour turned up looking a bit sheepish and with a rather large scratch – he’d accidentally shut her in his garage in the pouring rain at 8.30am, and when he’d opened it in the evening she’d been spitting mad and starving hungry (she’s always hungry, lol). I definitely could have reacted better to that particular incident, but I was already so rattled by my house being all over the place and moving out, I wasn’t in the greatest of mental places.

While at my parents, Clover (again!) managed to scare the life out of all of us by finding the smallest, darkest, most hidden place in the whole flat and curl up for a nice long sleep. For four hours, she snoozed undiscovered while we assumed she’d escaped out of the sash windows and fallen to her death. We cried, shouted at each other, printed lost posters (to distribute to all the flats we were trying not to alert to the cats’ presence in the first place, as they’re not really allowed there), and generally experienced heartbreak on a scale I hadn’t even imagined. I had no idea how much it would hurt, to believe my kitty truly lost to me, and possibly dead.

So when, after all that heartache, Dad discovered her inches from him, hidden in the tiniest possible space under the printer, I could happily have smacked her furry little bottom (!) and I have a lot more sympathy for parents who shout from pure relief when they think their children are lost and then they come back. And of course I’d never hurt my kitties. Instead I showered her with love, with which she was distinctly unimpressed, shut all the windows, retrieved Luna from where she’d retreated into the bottom of the cupboard to escape her mad sobbing human, and proceeded to take both of them to bed. Where they both refused to sleep in their usual places on my head and my feet. But I had them both back safely. Worst day ever with the best possible ending.

IMG_6711

And just this morning, I heard an ominous thump, then found Luna crouched on the floor rather than sprinting away. When I picked her up and put her down again, she sort of crouch-limped across the conservatory floor, nearly giving me a heart attack, so I rang the vet and made an emergency appointment. Of course, ten minutes later I caught her bounding across the house at full speed, with nothing at all wrong with her. Cats!! Took her in anyway so that I could relax today, and it turns out she has one, possibly two, dislocating knees that she’s had since birth. They don’t cause her pain, but they do sometimes pop out which will cause her to shake her leg around until they pop back in. Le sigh!

But those incidents aside, they’re beautiful and gorgeous and snuggly and wonderful, and I’m immensely grateful to have had another year with them. And so glad we get to stay in the home they’ve known since they were six months old, and that they are so happy in.

harriet and me

In sad animal news, this year we lost my beloved Harriet, who got me through so much pain and heartache when I first moved to Essex. I credit her with keeping me sane and alive on my worst days, and though she isn’t my own dog, she’s left a border collie shaped hole in my heart that no animal will ever be able to fill. I’m immensely grateful for a random series of events in September which meant that I got to spend an hour or so snuggled with her on the forbidden sofa for belly rubs before the rest of the household woke up, and which turned out to be the last time I ever saw my gorgeous girl.

My lovely friend Lizzie also lost her wonderful cat Mr M in December – he was one of my favourite ever cats and he is very much missed. <3

2015 has been gloriously full of fantasy and fun.

I had a steampunk and fae alter ego shoot with the fabulous Grace Hill earlier in the year, and introduced my steampunk gypsy alter ego, Petronella ‘Nell’ Blythe Merriman, to the world; there were unicorns aplenty, including an incredible cross stitched one by Sarah; and I finally got my longed for mermaid tail. I’m taking it for a spin on Monday – and I hope to add mermaiding to my income streams as well as keep it as a hobby.

I tried (and loved, despite the bruises) hula hooping with Anna the Hulagan, returned to line dancing, and I took up regular burlesque again as the Jems brought a class to Colchester, yay! I’ve cross stitched and coloured in, tried my hand at NaNoWriMo (I’m still shit at writing fiction but I really enjoy the challenge) and our Crafty Coffee group has grown. I met up and shot with the Colchester photographers’ group, and 2016 holds a writers’ meetup and a photography group at work, too.

2015 has been the year I have properly embraced single-at-heart. I didn’t actually know it was a thing until relatively recently, but oh, god, the relief of finding hundreds of other people in the world who just aren’t that bothered about finding love – like me, they’re too busy with their lives and business and animals and friends. And the concept of your primary relationship being with yourself, always – I can’t begin to describe how much that resonated. Though I’m sure I’ll waffle about it on here at times. I love my life, and I especially love my freedom. It can take some explaining, as people tend to assume that if you’re single, you’re looking for a man, even when you assure them you’re not – but it’s lovely to have found a niche at last.

Perhaps that’s part of being nearly 30… I feel like I’ve spent the last decade searching for where I fit and belong, and where I proudly stand out, and what I really want out of life. If that’s the case, I’m extra excited for my thirties!!

DSCF6886

Family and friends – this year would have been completely impossible if not for my incredible parents. My house is a monument of their love for me – from them being there every day to project manage, to diving in and doing the DIY despite their health issues, to housing me and the kitties for far longer than they expected without a murmur of protest, they have made my dream life leap closer and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put my gratitude into words. (Though I’ve tried, with a Spotify subscription, C2C tickets for March and a yet-to-be-chosen treat for Mum, plus lots of Christmas presents).

christmas at home 2015 (1)

We also had Christmas at my house this year which was really lovely – though we escaped to my favourite pub for actual lunch, it was so good to host in the house we’d worked so hard on!

2015-07-03 16.36.05

I’ve not seen as much of Gran as I normally do because the house took up every waking moment, but I’m looking forward to seeing her more regularly next year. Here we are in the summer – she takes a great selfie!

I am now the proud cousin of 43 and one on the way – and my eldest odd-daughter (we’re not religious and we prefer odd-daughter and odd-parent to goddaughter and godparent) and her other half have acquired an adorable puppy called Dexter. He’s a puggle. He is ridiculous and glorious. My middle odd-daughter is starting to visit universities and my youngest is halfway through GCSEs. I suddenly feel almost like a grown up- albeit one who swims like a mermaid, wears wings and fervently believes in unicorns. The rest of my extended family is as fabulous as ever, though my aunt and I have been hilariously successfully booking and cancelling lunch with each other for months as life conspires against us… perhaps 2016 will be our year?!

My gorgeous friends. The old and the new, the geographically distant and the ones just up the road. I’d be lost without you and I love you all. There have definitely been some shifts in my friendships over the last few years, as we’ve all grown into ourselves and started building our lives – hopefully the lives we dreamed of. There have been some drifts and some unexpected reunions, some people I get on far better with now than I did growing up, and some whose lives are so different now that though we love each other, we don’t have a lot in common any more.

There are always the people who, no matter how long it’s been since we last talked, even if that’s counted in years rather than months, always feel like I saw them yesterday, and we pick up just where we left off. And then there are my new friends, who have all solidified from acquaintances this year. As always, when I click with new people, I rapidly can’t imagine life without them. I’ve not managed to scare any of them off (yet)! And all of them, old and new, feel like blessings.

bridesmaid lou

Two of my best friends got married this year – one in May, one in March. I was bridesmaid at one and photographer and witness at the other, and oh, it was so wonderful to see two of the girls I love the most formalise their relationships with their frankly awesome men. I’m proud to have them both as honorary brothers in law.

One of my gorgeous uni girls had a baby in November, a seismic shift but a good one for our university group. More or less everyone my age is getting engaged or married, including my first love – we must be getting old! I am delighted for them all but a bit nervous about how I fit eight weddings in next year and possibly more in 2017. My sister-by-choice is pregnant and due in January – I’m unbelievably excited but also apprehensive, as though nothing could ever hurt our friendship, children do change things.

There has been a rash of house buying too – we must be at that age, all of a sudden. But I’m very much looking forward to a 2016 full of weekends away, at weddings, at hen gatherings and at people’s new homes.

Work wise, I passed the three year mark at the university – I have never in my life stayed in a job more than 21 months at the outside, so this was a major milestone.  Having panicked a bit and then realised my panicking was just habit, I’ve come to the conclusion that because I have an incredible amount of freedom on campus, to work how and where best suits me, I’m not finding it as restraining and draining as my previous jobs have been.

I think I’ve also started feeling differently about my day job since I agreed the sale of the house – suddenly regular income has a lot more appeal than it used to! And the people at work are amazing… it never ceases to astound me how lovely it is to find likeminded people who get me, who think like me and who accept me heart and soul for who I am. Mermaiding obsessions and all!

The day job highlights have to be the day the Comms office called me to say they’d saved some newspaper clippings of me in my knickers (promoting the new burlesque classes) and the sheer enthusiasm that followed the stunned silence when I told my team I was phoning our leisure centre to get permission to swim in my mermaid tail. I can’t begin to express how much it means that I work with people who understand how important everything out of work is!

There has been so much more to this year, and intriguingly this isn’t the post I thought I was going to write – but it’s an apt summary of one of the most rollercoaster years I’ve had. I hope that 2016 is just as epic but a little calmer – I’d like to have some time to breathe without worrying about what I’ve missed, not done or am getting behind on.

freedom

As a final note, my words for 2015 were Freedom, Magic and Simplicity. I think I’ve achieved them all in spades – and they all helped in all sorts of unexpected ways. Simplicity especially, as in January I had no intention of buying a house, but by August I had – and in packing everything up so I could renovate, keeping a focus on the simplicity I craved but had never mastered made it much easier to get rid of stuff. It’s also making it easier to unpack and be very selective about what makes it back into my house from the garage.

There is always magic in my life, but far more so now I have my own house. And I think more than a little magic is in my mermaid tail and my friendships, my family and my kitties being safe and sound despite their tendency to get into mischief. I’ve found the magic of belonging and of finding my place in the world – the home I want to live in for a long time to come, and also greater clarity in my businesses and projects than I’ve ever had before. The confidence I’ve found in my photography after a decade of fear is also nothing short of pure magic. (or PFM, as my Dad would say).

Freedom… has come to me in an unexpected way. I don’t have the full self employed freedom I always thought I wanted, and do still eventually want. What I have instead is a steady income with an amazing manager who understands that I work best when I’m not cooped up – so I can work wherever and whenever is best for me as long as I’m on campus during the working day. Which is fine by me. I suddenly have freedom from renting and the security that comes from making payments towards your own place – sounds odd I know, but it makes such a difference to how I feel. And for the first time in my life I have better control over my money and no debt except for the house – which is giving me unprecedented creative freedom, as I stop wasting energy worrying about my overdraft and instead pour it into my imagination.

And on that note, I’m off to work through Unravelling and Leonie’s planners, and get my bullet journal sorted for next year… and think about what words I want to fuel my 2016.

Happy new year, my loves – congratulations if you read this far, and thank you, always, for reading at all. I can’t imagine my life without blogging and while I’d do it anyway, you guys are the best reason to keep showing up and waffling into my keyboard.

With love, unicorns and narwhals,

Carla xx

Big Magic and belonging

Last week I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert talk about her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and met up beforehand with old and new friends from the Free Range Humans movement (i.e. people like me who want to get the hell out of 9-5 work and create a life that works for them).

Unusually for me, although I know I want/need/have to write about it, to get such an incredible experience down on paper and screen before the details escape me, I also don’t know what to write. I don’t know how to encapsulate everything that the evening was to me.

DSCF6836edit2

Firstly, I’d forgotten the excitement, constant inspiration and sense of total belonging that I have with these guys. We are the most random group of people ever, from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ages and at all sorts of stages in our journeys. Every single one of them feels like an old and true friend, even though some of them I only met in person for the first time last night (Vaska, Lisa, Issy, Marianne, Jenny, Becs – I’m looking at you!!).

We used to have regularish meetups and then somehow life got in the way and they tailed off – but I am determined to resurrect that regularity, I hadn’t realised how much I missed the boost they give me and the indescribable feeling of my worldview and plans fitting in so perfectly with theirs.

I’m also really hopeful that I’ll click with the Shining Lights girls in the same way, when I eventually get to meet them in person <3

And then after taking over Wagamama’s for a few hours, we wandered up to the Emmanuel Centre and settled to watch and hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about Big Magic.

The two hours shot past in a blur, I had chills and tears and giggles sometimes all at once. It’s uncanny how much of what she talks about stirs recognition deep within – though she admits there’s no scientific evidence to back it up, every one of us in that room and hundreds of thousands more who have read the book identify on a deep level with what’s in it.

I won’t spoil the book, but I will leave you with my favourite scribbled notes from the four pages I took in my newly-beloved bullet journal:

    • Having one foot in the real world, and one with the faeries – this is something you sort of must do, to live a full creative life. (Validation, right there!)

 

    • On criticism: Does the critic have your best interests at heart? Do they know what you were trying to do? Can they offer criticism in a kind way? If not, fuck them – you don’t have to listen.

 

    • “Honesty without kindness is not a virtue.”

 

    • “I am willing to take the risk of being insulted, in order to be heard.” – this one really resonated – I am so lucky to be alive in a time where I’m allowed to say and do what I want, that I need to ditch my fear of criticism.

 

    • It is far, far better to be alone than with someone who’s not supporting or lifting you, or making your life better, easier or happier. If none of that is happening, what is the point? This was so good to hear, it’s my general philosophy on relationships but always good to know I’m not the only one who thinks this way!

 

    • There is a shit sandwich with everything. You have to work out what you love so much, and get so much out of, that you’re willing to eat the shit sandwiches. (I have a love-hate relationship with this analogy, something about it makes me uncomfortable – probably the fact that I don’t want to face the fact that everything I love has a flipside!)

 

    • Being creative is like having a border collie – if you don’t keep it occupied it’ll find something destructive to do.

 

    • You’re not obliged to use your creativity to save mankind, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing what lights you up.

 

    • Don’t be an art martyr, and try or feel you have to do everything by yourself.

 

The quote that stood out the most, for me?

The ultimate act of creativity is to turn your own life into a work of art.

I am printing this to stick on my desk, my wall, by my bed, in my bathroom. That is what I want from this life, whatever form it takes – mermaiding, photographing, writing, dancing, having blue hair and a unicorn horn… all of the things that make me me.

And Elizabeth’s parting thought was this:

What are you willing to give up or say no to, in order to have the life you say you want?

Big Magic indeed.

With love and unicorns,
Carla xxx

PS Have you read Big Magic, or seen Elizabeth Gilbert speak? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
PPS I know the picture isn’t great, but I was too busy listening to take a proper one!

Fairytales and Living Boldly – Brooke Shaden’s London meetup

It’s always a weird mix of lovely and scary to meet people you admire. To unexpectedly have the chance to meet, talk to, learn from and shoot with one of the photographers whose work you most admire is a bit overwhelming… but in a good way!

IMG_5793

Fine art photographer & artist Brooke Shaden comes over to the UK and does a meetup in London once a year. I’d never been before, but spotted this one just a few weeks before it happened, so signed up on the spot. I arranged to meet Louise there, took half a day off work, and made my merry way into London on the 2nd of September.

IMG_5815

As soon as I got there my fear disappeared, because it was obvious that we were surrounded by likeminded creative types. Brooke’s talk centered on fairytales and living boldly, creating your own fairytale – and if you’ve been reading this blog for even a short time you’ll see how much that chimes with my own take on life.

IMG_5802bw

To add delight to the evening, the lovely Virginia (who I’ve known online for a long time, but who I’d never met) came and said hello – she’d recognised me from across the room which was a wonderful surprise!

We all swapped fears, and the ones I received were surprisingly similar to my own… fear of not being good enough, fear of never making self employment work. It’s unbelievably comforting to know that other people (whose work I admire) suffer the same fears and worries and doubts that I do.

Brooke set up some shots for us to see how she works, explaining her thought processes as she went.

IMG_5801

And then we were free to wander, roam, and play!

Here are my raw shots….

IMG_5793 IMG_5831 IMG_5842 IMG_5872 IMG_5884 IMG_5911 IMG_5919

One quick edit…

tumbling v2

and countless others lurking, waiting for me to turn them into the art that was in my head when I pressed the shutter….

I’m definitely having a photography moment in the second half of this year and it’s making me ridiculously happy returning to my first love! And it was a massive confidence boost to have models and costumes to play with, without the pressure of creating anything specific.

This event also ticks off 2, 36 and 52 on my daydreams to do list!

Just like magic! (house renovating and hen parties)

It’s been an utterly frenetic couple of weeks, and this happened…

Before:

now you see them

and after…

now you don't

Just like magic! It’s endeared me to about five of my new-not-new neighbours, all of whom were finding the trees at least as oppressive as I was, and who can now actually sit out in their garden and enjoy the sun.

So of course it has poured with rain ever since…!

I’ve also seen inside my garage for the first time (it wasn’t part of the let)…

garage

Somewhere for me to indulge my petrolheadedness… squee!

Also got measured for my bridesmaid’s dress and had a lovely weekend away in Brighton for Louise’s hen party – with some incredible rockabilly hair later in the evening, lots of yummy food, and a very vintage theme from the lindy hop class to the 30s bar in the evening. Was also surprisingly lovely to catch up with old school friends who I mostly haven’t seen in years – some bonds don’t ever break, just stretch – just like magic!

DSCF5495

DSCF5494 DSCF5497

I’ve decided hen parties are actually a nice way to get to know people before the wedding – though I proved again that I am a super-lightweight when it comes to drinking. And now it’s the countdown to the wedding… squeak!

Over the weekend, kitties dealt incredibly well with the stress of the tree removal… after one morning spent quivering under the bed (Clover) and watching impatiently from the window closest to the machinery (Luna), the following day I left them with lots of cuddles, yummy food and treats, under Mum & Dad’s supervision, and got this by text about mid-morning:

cats

Furry con artists. (Love them really!) As I type this Luna is happily shredding the paper I bought to wrap breakables in, and shouting for me to wave her favourite toy (a paperclip on a string – no, really) around for her to chase.

I’m still in the middle of the Great Declutter, and am getting rid of an insane amount of stuff, though I still appear to have an insane amount left. But that’s ok.

I have packed up a whole box of blank notebooks so will be looking for some kind of notebook based projects when the building works are over. Ideas on a postcard welcome!

If you’re interested in watching the story of the house unfold, there’s an album over on Flickr, and I’ll probably be Instagramming some of it on @duckingfabulous as well as blogging updates (though it seems that just getting it done takes all my time & energy – I am perpetually surprised by it being bedtime each evening at the moment!)

And nudged by Mimi, I’ve updated my Daydreams to Do list, and will probably be adding to it over the next few weeks and months, as I keep finding lists I’ve made in previous years, which are spooky for their accuracy about my life now. More on that in a separate post, I think!

Finally and easily on a par with the house for excitingness, I am approaching the halfway mark in the first, beta test of the Unfurling Your Wings course. Accompanied by twenty fabulous ladies, we’re in a whirlwind adventure of finding who we really are and how we want to show up in the world. Terrifying as it’s a very personal project, but also glorious. (and probably terribly timed, given the house, but it is making me do everything on schedule, which is brilliant). It’s wonderful watching the magic unfold.

That’s probably enough for one evening – back to a proper blogging schedule soon, I hope!

With love and unicorns,
Carla xx

A staycation and a surprise decision (well, two)

Excitingly and a little unexpectedly, I think it’s now safe to announce I’m nearing the end of the process of buying my house! SQUEEEEE! I’m delighted not to be moving, and I love this house and the life I’ve built around it, so I’m very happy to be staying.

More on what promises to be the biggest and best creative project of my life so far when all the legalities are completed and it’s actually mine 🙂

2015-06-27 08.11.32

However, this decision indirectly ended up leading to one of the best holidays I’ve had in ages – my staycation! A word introduced to me by an American friend of mine, it describes the time-off-work-but-not-going-away type of holiday rather nicely, I think.

I’d booked the week off thinking I’d head up to the Lake District for a photography holiday, or possibly across to France for a jewellery making holiday (both high on my wishlist at the moment!). But with the hottest week of the year predicted and house completion looming, instead I stayed at home, saw friends, pottered in my garden and started packing boxes up ready for renovating the downstairs part of the house – and I had a wonderful time!

2015-07-03 07.50.48

As any of you who have emailed me recently will know, I’ve barely been near my computer all week – and oh, how wonderful that’s been.

Spending time in my business – making the flurry of custom bracelet orders, packing delights from the shop up for people all over the world, reviewing the first draft of Unfurling Your Wings ready for the beta round in August.

2015-07-09 16.03.00

Spending time on my business – sorting out my filofax, arranging a day to go through my accounts with my VA, rejigging my plans and goals and directions, and brainstorming new things with wonderful likeminded solopreneurs. And trying and failing (again) to implement an editorial calendar. I really do prefer writing and posting when the mood takes me 🙂

2015-07-09 15.53.59

Spending time in my life (which I am trying to do far more often) – having breakfast in the garden (and eating cake for breakfast), drinking Prosecco in a secret garden in London, a burlesque workshop and a festival, playing with costumes, reading three books in a day before I consent to getting out of bed, cups of tea and putting the world to rights with my Gran… all of the things I love but so rarely seem to have time for in my life lately.

2015-07-04 11.15.52

2015-07-03 16.36.05

And spending time on my life – reviewing my dreams, directions, goals, and working out how best to move in those directions. Writing, photographing, musing and walking. Playing with my Wild Unknown deck, musing over the meanings of the cards I’ve drawn. And, because I’m the list queen, making checklists so I actually do the things that are important to me each day, week and month.
2015-07-04 13.18.42

2015-07-09 15.53.15

The biggest and most concrete realisation of this pottering, journalling, meditating and generally giving myself room to breathe has been that I want to keep this day job as part of my portfolio for much longer than I had initially planned. Yes, I was surprised too.

The grand plan was to do two years and then shift gracefully into working for myself full time.

And then I adopted my beloved kittens, bought a house and maybe most significantly, made real friends through work. And now I find I’m reluctant to leave the place where I see those people each day, where the work is varied and interesting and I have lots of autonomy and flexibility, while still being able to switch off when I leave the office.

Though I still hate the concept of the 9-5 and the insistence of organisations that employees be in a specific place at specific times, rather than assigning work and letting us get on with it whenever and wherever is best for us, I think I’d be very sad to leave this particular day job (or at least, the people in it) behind just yet.

Longer term I definitely still want total control over where and when I work – yet I’m reluctant to plan more specifically than a general direction to move in, because who knows where I will be and what I’ll be doing in a year’s time, never mind in five or ten years?!

So the biggest result of my staycation (brain-cation?!) is that now my short and mid-term plans involve growing my businesses in a slightly different way, so they’re entirely flexible, and then when I reach the point where it’s financially possible, I can shift the balance.

Part time instead of full time at the day job, and at least half of my time spent on my own ventures and projects. I can see the balance I want very clearly…

Likeminded people, and a beautiful campus, and a flexible but challenging job. Structure, and an office to go into when I need or want to, and watercooler moments with lovely colleagues.

A thriving business which helps women step into their own power and live the lives they’ve dreamed of. Another thriving business which connects stationery lovers and their longing for a simpler, slower, more organised life (and just happens to supply beautiful stationery as well).

And plenty of time for new projects and classes, for making and experimenting and reading and learning new skills. For spending with my friends and family. For entertaining in the house and garden of my dreams, and for relaxing there in my own personal sanctuary. For movement to be built into my life and for stillness and quiet to be as present as noise and being busy.

Not at all what I expected or planned when I quit London for a portfolio career – but intriguingly, it feels exactly right for where I am and what I want right now.

Who knew?

With love and unicorns,

signature

52 Project, week 10: indescribable

Week 10 of 2015. In which I embarked on an epic road trip through my soul home of Texas (hopping over into Louisiana the following week), and fulfilled one of my longest-held dreams –  to see Alan Jackson live in concert. I haven’t finished editing the 3000 photos I took over the fortnight, so here are a few tasters:

alan-jackson-1

alan-jackson-2

alan-jackson-4
alan-jackson-mum-dad-me

alan-jackson-portrait

alan-jackson-seated

(fuzzy because we were only allowed mobiles, not proper cameras)

The gig was the main reason for our visit, and oh, how utterly glorious it was. I cried most of the way through it with sheer emotion at being there after more than 20 years of waiting to see him on stage. AND he played all my favourites from the early days.

I also found time to…

Have the traditional breakfast-with-beer at the airport:

mum-dad-airport

Drive my fellow passengers mad by taking photos of the pretty clouds on the plane:

plane-clouds

Wake up on Wednesday morning to four inches of snow. In Texas.

snow-footprints

Fall in love with Jon Pardi, who was supporting Alan Jackson (and he’s currently single. Reckon he’d fall for that accent all American men seem to inexplicably find super cute?! Though is it just me whose speech becomes half pure Southern belle and half female Hugh Grant the moment I set foot over the border into the States?)

jon-pardi

Eat ridiculous amounts of the best fried chicken, mash and creamed corn in the world at Babe’s in Roanoake, TX:

babes

Try a DQ Blizzard on our drive to Fredericksburg:dairy-queen-blizzard

Make a pilgrimage to my Dad’s spiritual home in Luckenbach, Texas and added a charm to my talisman necklace while playing at practising for being a cowgirl:luckenback-cowgirl

Have a makeover before the gig, which was lovely and pampering:

mirror-selfie

to be continued…

London in November

I took my Mum to London a couple of times late last year for hospital appointments. We decided both times to make a day of it as the appointments were over by 11.30am. She suggested a walk by Tower Bridge. It’s not somewhere I go often, and I was struck by the architecture both old and new.

abstract-building-london

A glimpse of the poppies at the Tower – only a glimpse as the crowds were beyond belief.

poppies

poppies-wall

(more…)

Popping my (Hogswatch) cherry

The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.

IMG_6824

(for the uninitiated: Hogswatch is Discworld’s equivalent to Christmas. Discworld is Terry Pratchett’s alternate universe. Wincanton (a real town in England) is twinned with Ankh-Morporkh (a fictional city in a fantasy universe) and every November, a bunch of, in Terry’s words, bloody loonies descend upon Wincanton to celebrate Hogswatch. Clear as mud?!)

Though some of my friends go regularly, I’d not made it last year as it was my parents’ 40th anniversary. This year I was nervous but exc;ited – and hadn’t put a whole lot of planning into my costumes. I knew I was performing twice, and one of those involved chip packets.

So after a 3.30am alarm, staggering out of the house (watched by some very confused cats) at 4.20am and a 3 and a half hour drive, I arrived in Wincanton. Threw myself at my Travelodge room and slept and slept and slept.

At 10am, I found myself at the Memorial hall with Annastasia, surrounded by fellow loonies in outfits and costumes  varying from mild to extreme, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

IMG_6782

We taught a burlesque workshop to seven brave ladies and one extremely brave gent. Our chosen music, to match the theme of Going Postal, was… no, not Return to Sender, or any of the usual suspects. We went for Postman Pat.

Then I could wander to my heart’s content (and also packed in meeting Anna’s parents, the Boggises (who have long been heavily involved with Discworld and Hogswatch), long chats with new friends and some shopping, as well as a sneaky nap after lunch.

Come 5pm, I was in the green room, taking fuzzy but excited pictures of myself:

IMG_6822

And then we got up on stage and danced. And oh, I had forgotten how much I enjoy performing. 2014 has been so busy and so manic (pfft, so much for my word of the year of “balance”) that I haven’t had much of a chance to dance at all, and it is still an unmatchable feeling to come off stage to appreciative applause (and sniggers, in this case).

Also got to sing the Twelve Days of Hogswatch (harder than you’d imagine, when you’re standing at the front holding up the words but you can’t actually read them yourself… it goes something like “On the FIRST day of Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, a mumble mumble blah blah blah. On the SECOND day of Christ-Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, TWO something mumble…” And that’s entirely sober!

Then the traditional sausage supper at the Bear, and on to the Pink Pussycat Club. Where we danced another number… dedicated to Rincewind the wizard, it involved a red pointy hat with stars on, three kimonos, doing some suggestive things with a potato masher and having a fight over some crisps. And the final reveal was…

10733917_10152843482690199_5533111157280694487_o

(photo credit: Paul Heyes via FB)

(if you don’t get it, don’t worry… it’s a long story. If you want to get it, read Interesting Times.)

Here’s another pic of us during Postman Pat…

postman pat burlesque on stage hogswatch

(photo credit: Tatyana Arbuzova via FB)

As cheesy as I know it sounds, the whole weekend felt like coming home. I didn’t feel like a newcomer (apart from when Nanny Ogg/Renta made me have a Hogswatch Virgin badge…), and as I’ve often found with my more niche hobbies (most notably model horsing – this felt a lot like that), there’s an instant sense of kinship. I even found some more stationery fiends (and friends) during our letter writing salon (an Ink Drops venture) on Sunday.

We were all letting our real selves out to play – our alter egos, but the ones we wish we could take back to everyday life with us. As so often recently, Lotta and I were perfectly in tune. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Having made so many new friends and felt so at home so quickly, coming back to the round world (not the Disc), and the prospect of the day job and doing housework were less than appealing.

I put this off by popping in on the way home to see my ex-headmaster and his family – which I know sounds weird, but my primary school was muchly special. Totally failed to get any photos of us all, but he did keep the sign when the school was demolished to make way for flats…

IMG_6835

And it was so lovely to catch up after more than a decade.

So I drove home to my silly kittens through the night, arrived at 10pm, fell into bed to dream of the Disc, and woke up still half there today. I spent this morning waving photos at anyone who would look, and am now settling down to the important work of planning next year’s costumes and skits.

Big thanks to Annastasia for giving me the chance to attend – it’s now an immovable fixture in my calendar.

Happy Hogswatch… I hope you’ve been naughty AND nice!

signature

PS for any non-Pratchett fans, normal service will resume shortly. If you’ve read him and don’t like it, fine. If you’ve never read him then for goodness’ sake go and borrow a book from your library and try one. You’ll never know if you don’t try…!

PPS You don’t actually have to be a fan to come to Hogswatch. I would love, love, love to see some of you there next year! Or at any of the various cons I hope to now attend in 2015 🙂

PPPS If you fancy creating your own alter ego, hop over and have a look at Unfurling Your Wings. It’ll launch a little later than planned due to some mad new VAT laws, but on the plus side, it’s now going to be a much more immersive experience, with goodies coming to you in the REAL ACTUAL POST.

A little slice of vintage heaven

A jaunt to Greenwich with my parents for Dad’s birthday, led us to stumbling across two amazing shops side by side. Retrobates Vintage and Casbah Records share frontage, and all three of us were drawn to the windows.

On venturing in, Dad turned left to the records, and was soon engrossed in conversation with the owner about 60s music and his own collection. Mum wandered through the arch and found kindred spirits in the girl with 60s hair, selling a green minidress she wore when she very first knew Dad.

While they chatted, I mooched with my camera…

record-dad

counter-mum

back-wall

 

green-minidress

rail
record-side

Note the wallpaper, and the leopard print faux fur ceiling. I didn’t think they made shops like this any more – I’ve not been into even a vintage shop with so much personality for a long time – and with both records and clothing reasonably priced (especially for London), I shall be back… probably with Louise Contrariety Rose in tow!