My silly kittens are 4!

Luna and Clover, unbelievably, turn 4 today.

Luna in the studio on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Clover eating bamboo on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Or at least I think they do – had to pick an arbitrary date for when we thought they were born when I got them, and while the vet registration says 25th, I have always celebrated on 22nd.

They have been properly in the wars recently and it’s been an awful 12 months.  Luna got hit by a car last August, and has come home more than 10 times with mashed, split & blunted claws since then. Vets maintain that is consistent with vehicle trauma, but in the last three days I have witnessed my two yowling & fleeing from the enormous & fearless tabby cat from down the road, and both times poor Luna’s claws have all been completely buggered straight afterwards. So I think I have my answer as to what is causing it. She also has a massive gash and two scabs on her head at the moment, so looks more like a thug than she is – she’s just been defending her territory, her home and her sister!

Clovie has had various bouts of puking and cystitis and hairballs, which is unpleasant for all concerned, and both of them have been having digestive issues since December. The poor little pair have been in and out of the vet so often that the receptionists now know me by my voice when I get on the phone.

I’ve struggled a lot with guilt and anxiety over them in the last year or so – possibly sounds ridiculous given what else I was coping with, but I also think that was part of the reason I fixated on them. I couldn’t make Dad better no matter what I did, but the cats’ health is both my responsibility and sort of within my control – I can at least take them to the vet and do my best to get them fixed when things do happen.

It’s been a bit better recently, though I am very fed up of having to plan every arrangement with the caveat that I may have to cancel when I get home if I need to take the cats to the vet – this cannot possibly be normal, but has become my normal because they seem to damage themselves so frequently!

But despite all that they are happy little cats, and at the moment are giving me purpose to get out of bed in the mornings, and excellent cuddles when it’s not 150 degrees outside.

Luna on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Clover on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Neither of them were feeling particularly photogenically cooperative today – it’s been ridiculously hot (record breakingly so) for the last few days and we are all hot, tired and floppy. But I got a couple of the portraits I like to do on their birthdays, and one each of their silly personalities too. So I’m happy.

And just now I shall head indoors to have dinner and give them theirs, and hopefully it’ll be cool enough to have a game of mouse-on-a-stick!

Clover on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Luna on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

 

Finding home

For the longest time, I thought “home” was a place. Where you live, the house or flat or other dwelling that you return to.

During the days before my beloved Dad passed away, in a tiny hospital room in the acute cardiac unit, I realised that I was wrong.

Home is not just a place, it’s the people you love.

So that little room was home in the truest sense, Dad and Mum and I all together, helping each other through that most final of partings. I’ve never been anywhere more filled with love.

And home is, of course, not just your parents, children or partner.

It’s where you feel you belong. Whether that’s with a group of friends, or in a particular place, or a mixture of the two…

I’m amazingly lucky to have lots of people who feel like home, and several places too (not least my actual house).

Last weekend, I was with my best friends from uni, in a cottage on a lake in the Cotswolds. We went boating on the lake, and I was home, both with them and on the water.

Finding Home - kayaking in the Cotswolds | carlalouise.com

And I’m now much more aware of people, rather than just places, being home.

I also spotted lots of things Dad would love, which I’ve added to my Instagram hashtag… #thingsthatwouldmakedadsmile

Where is home for you? Who are the people who make you feel at home?

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!!

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!

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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.

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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!!

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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!

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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

And so this is Boxmas…

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

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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!

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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

 

 

 

 

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)…

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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!

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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:

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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

What I wore: a secret wedding

Well, originally intended to be secret, and actually a small, intimate and utterly joyful celebration of one of the happiest and best-suited couples I know.

I chose my outfit around the shoes… which is becoming a bit of a habit!

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A London wedding and being unofficial photographer meant long dresses were out – and I didn’t want to detract from the polka dotted, blue-and-red-and-white shoes. (which, for the record, I can walk and run in!)

So I chose a pretty beaded navy blue dress with a glorious chiffon skirt… dress-full-length

My hair was in ringlets when we left the bride’s room – sadly it doesn’t hold curl so by the time we arrived at the pre-ceremony brunch, it was more wavy, and by the time the ceremony was over it was straight again!

Here’s the gorgeous couple cutting their cake…

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Aren’t they brilliant? It was one of my favourite weddings to date, and I was honoured to capture it in photos for them as well as being their witness (surprisingly nervewracking!)

Witchy portrait fun

My first Halloween/Samhain with my two familiars, and I thought I’d have a bit of fun.

In preparation for trick or treaters, I had positioned my broom by the front door, bought most of my local shop’s supply of miniature chocolate bars and dug out my pointy hat.

Luna-kitten was looking rather obliging, so I also made a Halloween picture while I was at it…

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Loving my new lens!

Thought I’d share the best outtake too – I’ve never seen her look quite so horrified at my antics.

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Clover was very sensibly snoozing on the back of the sofa, just out of shot. She’s a great witch’s cat but she doesn’t like to flaunt it.

And as Saturday was the start of NaNoWriMo, I have accidentally now written almost 5000 words of a story/book about how Luna and Clover came to be witch’s cats… it’s so much fun letting my imagination out to play!

Writing from the pool

Back online after a 48 hour technology detox, and what a way to write my first post!

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Hah, I’ve always wanted to blog from the poolside, but Dad left Abu Dhabi the year before I started my first blog, and until now I’ve usually had clunky laptops with zero battery life so it’s not really been possible.

The pool is rippled because April-May is shamaal (desert wind) season over here. Which is actually rather nice, because it means we can lie in the sun for far longer than normal as the breeze makes it not just bearable, but pleasant to sit in 35-40 degree heat in between dips in the pool.

I’ll write more about the trip when I’m home and have been through the insane number of photos I’ve taken, but it is amazing to be back in the Gulf. And especially as an adult, when I can appreciate the scale of the building work, the luxury of the hotels and the complete insanity of the driving. Taxis all the way – I have no desire to take my life in my hands by trying to drive here.

Though I have been working a bit while I’ve been out here, I disappeared off-grid for 48 hours, abandoning all my own technology except my camera and Kindle, and it was gorgeous. I hopped back onto Gmail only long enough to send the cattery where Luna and Clover are alternative contact details. And while I missed being able to post photos, I loved the freedom so much I’m leaving my phone behind every day and just checking it at night.

On logging back into this, to pick up all my emails, I was conscious of anxiety creeping in and having to DO ALL THE THINGS. Whereas actually there was very little that needed actioning, and nothing at all super-urgent. One to ponder on – I reckon I need to do less and chill more.

Currently Dad is sprawled in the sunshine, Mum’s reading in the spa and I am about to finish this post, finish this cocktail and jump in the pool to cool down. And dye all the towels blue in the process, gigglesnort. My hair has reacted amazingly well to the sun though 🙂

Vintage Goodness at Goodwood Revival

Good-ness… see what I did there? Yep, ok, I was definitely not cut out to be a stand up comic.

I had another one of my trademark weekends, full to the brim with friends and exciting experiences. Life is definitely starting to be more about what I do than what I have, and these few days were enhanced even more by pretty cars and very little kittens!

Here’s Merlin, exploring my book bag when I arrived at Em’s house.

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Sunday morning, after a night with the kittens, and a 6.30am fight with victory rolls (patience, kirby grips, at least two people and a LOT of hairspray) I set off for Goodwood.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Revival, it’s a vintage event at Goodwood Motor Circuit, and visitors are encouraged/required to dress in period costume – in this case 40s, 50s or 60s. Rob and I chose a hybrid of late 40s/early 50s and though neither of us had a clue what the other was wearing until we met up at the gate, I think we managed to co-ordinate brilliantly!

Here’s me. Dressed more or less as I often do at weekends, only with the addition of proper hair and less ridiculous shoes. Huge thanks to Lou at Contrariety Rose who was utterly wonderful and got my dress to me just before she went on holiday – it will be forever appreciated!

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Here’s Rob doing an excellent impression of a vintage gentleman. Complete with pipe.

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Mobiles are strongly frowned upon within the enclosure, and everyone puts a massive effort into dressing up, so there was a real sense of stepping back in time – vintage heaven!

There was so much to see I actually took very few photographs, but was quite pleased with this shot of old bikes in the French quarter:

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And it chucked it down with rain as we walked the track, so by the time we returned to our cars (having nearly lost mine in the mud along the way) we resembled drowned rats. I’m pleased to announce that the victory rolls held!!

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