How to give old shoes a magical new lease of life

Three ways I’ve given old shoes a new lease of life…

1) The Rainbow Shoes

I don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud to admit that I have three pairs of identical Mary-Jane shoes from Schuh, in different colours. Red ones,  a present for my 19th birthday, to go with my Dorothy outfit. Black ones followed to go with an interview outfit, because they were SO DAMN COMFORTABLE but also looked good. And finally purple ones, a 21st present from my then-boyfriend.

I have now worn all three pairs so much that the straps have broken, the buttons have come off, they’ve all been reheeled at least three times and the leather is, well, completely buggered. No amount of polish is ever going to make them look good again.

So I took a leaf out of my own book (I’ve gone through phases of decorating shoes before) and decided to turn the black ones into rainbow shoes… using Decopatch papers.

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I finished them off with a couple of coats of glitter Mod Podge (because sparkly rainbows on your feet!) and when they were dry, a coat of satin spray varnish to get rid of the stickiness.

 

2) The Lace Effect Heel Shoes

I used a similar ploy very effectively years ago, in the hideous London job, when I was informed my favourite shoes weren’t smart enough any more because the heels were worn and scratched. Never one to be deterred by rude people, I spent an evening up to my elbows in sandpaper, Mod Podge and tissue and this was the result:

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These are now five years old (I did the heels three years ago), still worn regularly and have held up to all the abuse I regularly chuck at my high heeled shoes.

3) The Sparkly Shit Underneath Shoes

Yeah, that never took off as a brand name. But, back in 2012 when I still lived in the flat, I had a cheap pair of black-and-turquoise satin shoes that needed a bit of pep for a night out with friends. As you can’t really glitter glue or spray paint satin, I looked around my studio, spotted my bead stash… and the rest is history.

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These have sadly long since bitten the dust, but I plan to use the same technique on another pair of heels that need some love soon.

So now I never have boring feet!

With love and unicorns,

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Tiny Lifechangers: colour coded keys DIY

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It can’t be just me who finds my tray of keys and spare change a constant muddle, and has more than once picked up the wrong one to house sit or feed a friend’s cat. (I often try to blame being creative, but in this case I am just hopeless at keeping the keys organised).

After the third time I tried to let myself into my parents’ house with my business partner’s house key, I decided I needed to do something drastic.

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Enter the 10-minute fix for easy, pretty and un-mix-uppable keys: nail varnish.

I have three sets of house keys besides my own, all of which are similar enough to make it difficult in a hurry (or the early morning) to see which is which.

So I raided my (embarrassingly extensive, for someone who paints her nails maybe three times a year) nail varnish stash and chose four colours.

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Glittery blue, for my own key.

Pool blue because it’s pretty.

Burnt sparkling gold because it matched the one gold-coloured key in the set.

Bright green because it makes me smile.

(Sneaky tip, I chose all of these for their heavy coverage too, to reduce the number of coats).

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Steps to making your gorgeous new keys:

Remove all keys from keyring, and wipe with white spirit or similar to remove any residue from fingers and handbags.

Arrange on a non-stick surface which you don’t mind having bits of nail varnish on (I used a box file)

Paint one side of your keys in your chosen colours.

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Let dry, and add another coat. Repeat until it’s as bright as you’d like – but be careful not to paint any of the actual key mechanism!

Turn over and repeat on the other side.

Once dry, re-attach to keyrings and admire.

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(optional) 7. Write initials on keys with permanent marker for extra identification.

Definitely one of the simplest projects I’ve ever done, but it’s had an amazing effect on the part of my life that involves me turning up at the right house at the right time and actually being able to let myself in…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love and unicorns,

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On my desk: Planning geek heaven! (contains Filofax goodness)

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My love affair with Filofaxes blows hot and cold, but I am certain it will never blow over.

It’s that time of year when I start needing to write stuff in my diary for the following January and February (and March, given our upcoming trip) and my stationery addiction comes out to play. (Oh, who am I kidding – it comes out to play most days!!)

I blogged over on Ink Drops recently about my custom daily planner, and I have been really enjoying using it. However, when three months of the year is chunkier and heavier than a standard A4 hardback notebook, it’s not the most practical for planning – and it’s become more of a daybook – somewhere to record what I do, spend my time and money on, am grateful for, would like to do next, and all the random thoughts that occur throughout the day.

Then I ambled into my friend Nic’s office and found her pulling apart an A5 Filofax, while her printer churned out some beautiful planner pages. And a little light went “ding” in my head.

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On leaving the library in 2011, I was given a Paperchase voucher (because they knew me well) and I bought myself… yep, you guessed it,  the most glorious plum leather A5 Filofax. I adored it and I’m not entirely sure when or why I stopped using it.

And wouldn’t you know, there is a whole world of Filofax and personal planner customising out there – a way for me to let my inner crafter loose!

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I’ve spent most of my spare moments this week creating dividers from scrapbooking card, joyfully making lists of what sections and sub-sections I want to have in there (I’m in geek heaven) and Nic and I have even bought a proper hole punch between us so we can easily add more custom bits to our planners.  I’m also working on a whole bunch of custom inserts, which I might chuck in the Etsy shop if I ever finish a cohesive set of them!

I’ll reveal it in more detail at some point, and review the punch too (you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find one, but this one was reasonable at £32 and has worked exceptionally well so far).

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The best part? Except for the punch, I’ve not spent a penny – I’ve used scrapbooking card & papers I already owned, Project Life cards and stickers from my stash to jazz it up, and I even already had colour coded pens (why does that surprise no one?) to keep with it.

 

 

[happy things] compare the meerkat toy is on its way!

Coming in this evening to a renewal quote of £224.24 for my contents insurance, I got to work on the comparing sites. Comparethemarket.com came up trumps and found me extended cover for £96.03 with Legal & General – and then told me that A MEERKAT TOY IS COMING MY WAY!!!

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so excited – but I love meerkats and I’m ridiculously pleased 🙂 AND I saved nearly £130 in the process. Win.

Simples!

(Disclaimer: this post is in no way affiliated with or sponsored by comparethemarket.com – I just love meerkats and am chuffed to have saved money!)

 

New typewriter!

When I was invited by the lovely Cheryl to bring Ink Drops to the Make Me Joyful Letter Writing Salon, I delightedly accepted and promised to bring two typewriters.

It wasn’t until a week or so before the event that I realised I only had one that worked properly. Cue a mercy call to the staff of the university where I work (at least half of them are as quirky as me) and lo and behold, one of them needed to get rid of his as he was moving house.

So this lovely little Adler Tippa has come to live with me! Typewriter at the bus stop

It needs a proper service, as there’s some rust and accumulated dust, and the shift key is sticking – but the ribbon still works, it still types, and it was lovely to see people using it at the salon last night.

And I couldn’t resist this quick snap when I took it apart for a speedy clean – don’t you think it could be a steampunk typewriter quite happily?!

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January Storecupboard Challenge

It’s January. Christmas and New Year seem but a distant memory, and most of us were paid early from the day jobs, or haven’t had much income from our own businesses due to the festive break, and there’s all the Christmas and New Year cash haemorrhaging that happens when you’re somehow not paying attention. (Or is that just me? One minute I’m in control of my finances and next, boom, I’m teetering on the edge of exceeding my overdraft…)

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In an attempt to avoid bankrupting myself in supermarkets, or giving yet more of my money to Ocado (who are great, and reasonable, and save me throwing unnecessary offers into my basket, but do have a minimum order which I can’t currently justify), I thought I’d try a Storecupboard Challenge.

This unimaginatively titled challenge involves trying to cook from my fridge, freezer and storecupboards without adding to them during this month (essentially, until 28th January which is payday). I’m allowing myself trips to the uni shops for essentials (bread, milk, eggs, frozen veg).  The intention is to both save money and release some space in my freezer for lovely things I’ll be making later in the year!

So far I have used up the remaining burgers (one beef, one beef with chili, one pork and apple – very nice too), some sweet potatoes, microwave rice and made a pork & cider casserole in the slow cooker, which is well on its way to doing three meals. My parents fed me on Saturday and I made chicken and tarragon spaghetti last night, with (almost)homemade rosemary and garlic rolls. And managed to make some cakes to take over to Mum & Dad’s on Saturday too! 

Next up – watch this space!

*I’m also trying to get a bit more control over my finances full stop – but won’t bore you with the details!!

Whirlwinds of change…

So as some of you will know, I finally quit my City job last week and will be starting (work!) at the University of Essex in November.  This was a fairly emotional decision as while I have been immensly frustrated, tired and cross for much of my time here, I work with a great bunch of people and it will be sad to leave. 

 

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I am incredibly excited about the new position, and the joy of knowing I will no longer be commuting on the train, and instead riding my bike for 40 minutes each way, is fabulous… but after a frankly eye-opening conversation with HR about just how much will be deducted from my final month’s pay, it would appear I’m going to have to be very thrifty for a month or two until I’m settled into the new job and money has resumed making its way into my bank account!

I will of course still be doing the things I love, but will be keeping an eye on those pennies until after Christmas. I will (sadly) be taking a break from my burlesque class until January, but I will continue to practise the routines I’ve learned, and until my train ticket runs out, will pop over and see the girls before class every Wednesday anyway.
They are some of my favourite people in the ENTIRE WORLD and I have no clue what I did before I met them! (not all of them in pic below, but I’ll have some after Saturday! That’s me in the polka dots and cherry buckled corset.)

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My blogging should step up a notch, and I might even get time to do the long-awaited overhaul of DF. Between now and starting the new job, there’s the official launch of Inkdrops, my first ever burlesque performance, a huge powerpoint project and some serious work to be done with Escape the City and Free Range Humans. Excellent.
Here’s to a new life – and managing to stay in touch with the fabulous people I am leaving behind in the City!

 

All photos link back to their original page if not my own.

Really speedy update – 100 days challenge

Somewhere in the last mad couple of weeks, the 100 days challenge officially ended.

The end result? A slightly healthier bank balance, a lot less random tat in my house, a more focused me and and a better thought process when impulse shopping. And shopping generally.

I did slip up a little – a gorgeous grey dress (categorised as ‘work clothes’ to make it ok), stage makeup and the odd magazine did slip through the net. But considering the madness of the three months I’ve been doing it, I think I did pretty well. And I will certainly be making more informed, less impulsive decisions to do with money in the future.

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I have been absent from the internet for a few days, and have been ill on and off for about three weeks now – I am finally feeling more myself and so normal Ducking Fabulous service should resume. You never know, I might even photograph stock and update my shop!

The Homecoming of a Vintage Sewing Machine

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Quite some time ago, I broke the little portable sewing machine my Gran gave me. The tension has gone, and when I took it in to be fixed they told me, gently but firmly, that it would be significantly cheaper to buy a new one.

So I have existed without one till now – not critical as I plan a lot of sewing and rarely get round to actually doing it, and have been able to beg, steal or borrow machines to use when I’ve needed to make things like the parrot costume.

However, lovely Kim at work gave me one quite a while ago, and only its weight and bulk stopped me from bringing it home till now. One very long day, a sturdy suitcase and a few pulled muscles later, and here she is, installed in my studio… isn’t she gorgeous?

Joining my Singer and my Jones (meep, that means I now officially have a collection of vintage sewing machines), but superior in that she has an ELECTRIC PEDAL… she’s very heavy, but threaded up and whizzed through the test piece very smoothly. I have bobbins that fit her, so will get some new needles tomorrow and we’re off!

Here’s to a long and happy relationship!

xx

PS Pretty sure Kimmy doesn’t read my blog – but if you do, a million thank yous, I’m in love!