My curtains are purring…

There is nothing in my living room but a pile of suitcases, one recliner and some garden chairs. I have a glorious kitchen and no carpets, and my new bed is yet to arrive so I have put the old mattress on the floor. My bedroom floor is covered in filing and my makeshift curtains have just started purring…

Such is the joy of moving back into my house. And oh, it is wonderful… Rather odd, not least to have such a small amount of stuff in my home. And it looks so different! But quite inspiring at the same time, and I have great plans.

My carpets arrive in a couple of weeks, I am going to attempt to install sliding doors to make a wardrobe of sorts, and my sofa, bed and mattress and sofa bed for spare room arrive in the middle of November. Ish.

Luna and Clover and I moved home on Friday night, in a remarkably painless process – I think Mum and Dad were sad to say goodbye to the cats, but also relieved to have their house back. The three of us are not the most subtle visitors (especially as the litter tray had to live in my bedroom. I think Mum is probably still airing her study!)

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Let them out today and they promptly buggered off over the shed, but came back when they had done exploring. And have been good as gold (worn out?!) this evening. For any cat owners in the same situation, of moving their cats around a lot, I can highly recommend the Pet Remedy diffusers and Zylkene – I was dubious of both but they have helped chill my two out muchly 🙂

So what’s next? I want to re-read the Magic of Tidying Up and implement some of Marie’s advice – this means it may take me six months to get all my stuff back into my living space. But that’s a good thing – I keep a huge amount of things for sentimental reasons and I suspect a decent digital photo of the things would do just as well (plus they’re harder to get weepy over when I’m so inclined).

It’ll be good to get back into a routine – I have missed blogging regularly!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Here are my raw shots….

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One quick edit…

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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!

Can tidying up really be life changing?

I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.

As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates/visitors are also messy by nature!)

My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.

*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.

I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).

Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!

But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.

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But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)

Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?

Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!

Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.

And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.

Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.

And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!

So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?

  • Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
  • Read the book
  • Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
  • Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
  • Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…

With love and unicorns,

Carla xx

Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

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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!

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.
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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,

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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!)

Last minute photoshoot prep – argh

I have a photoshoot with the lovely Grace tomorrow afternoon.

We booked it months ago, which means the date has snuck up on me, and while I’m very excited, I’m also incredibly disorganised. This week I have been frantically making these beauties:

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while simultaneously freaking out about how little preparation I’ve actually managed to do.

Discovering at ten to five on Wednesday that a) a key part of one of my costumes was locked in my parents’ garage, b) the location I had scouted would be overrun with students investigating their futures at university (how inconsiderate, lol!), and c) I hadn’t actually got round to ordering two other key costume components yet, I haven’t been the most serene in the run up to the shoot.

Fortunately Grace has found us a new location, the internet is magical and I have both costume pieces in my hands, and I did a detour on the way to see my accountant last night and got the other one from the garage. Phew. Now all that’s left is dyeing my hair, deciding on make up and actually getting there in one piece tomorrow…

Worst case scenario, I guess we’ll fly…

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I have been scouring the internet and my Craftsy classes for posing ideas and practice, because despite all my dance history and being a photographer, generally when you stick a lens in my face I get the giggles, and not in a delicate and attractive way, usually in an all out snorting, crying-with-laughter-while-rolling-on-the-floor kind of a way. Which is going to be difficult in a corset.

Fortunately the two main looks we’ll be shooting are my two newest alter egos – Nell, real name Petronella Blythe Merriman, who’s a steampunk gypsy with a story all her own, and an as-yet-unnamed woodland fairy with rainbow wings and western boots. (I love how this alter ego work feeds off who you actually are.)

So though I’m excited-nervous to be the other side of the camera, I’m looking forward to drawing out more of Nell’s character, and perhaps finding out my fairy’s name and personality.

I’ll let you know how it goes! (and secretly? I’m pleased I’ve not had time to stress about it much. Like my self portraits, I suspect it’ll go better for being a bit spontaneous…)

With love and unicorns,

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Proof that in blogging years, I’m prehistoric

ELEVEN YEARS.

Well, ten and a half currently… but on November 6, this year, I will have been officially blogging for 11 years.

How the hell did that happen?!

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Here’s my first ever blog entry, on my first ever blog, which I found by accident this afternoon. It’s… very pink. It’s also cringeworthy to read and contains way too many personal details about me and others for a public space, hence the blurring.

My 18 year old self was rather fond of text speak (though I’m cutting her some slack as it was, after all, 2004) and appears to have considered a blog a sort of mass email system (like an early form of Mailchimp, I suppose).

The “previous posts” on the right hand side has three more posts from the same day. Obviously addicted from the start. I’ll be honest, I’m glad it’s now been offline for some time (!) The about page is linked to my current Blogger account for comments, hence the up to date photo. I wish they kept old ones!

But as I’ve been referring to myself as “blogging for nearly a decade” for some time, it’s rather nice to have stumbled across solid proof of my first foray into writing online (and only because I was trying to work out how to change the “Carla at Ducking Fabulous” which crops up whenever I post a comment on a Blogger blog.)

At a time when all sorts of things are changing and when I’m feeling a bit at odds with myself about my direction and my progress on certain businesses and projects, it’s amazing to see, in black pink and white, exactly how far I’ve come since I started. Some of you will be reading this on my website, but for reference and anyone on Feedly, Bloglovin or any other platform, here’s a screenshot of my current front page (all my own self-taught work, including the graphics except for the doodled magic wand):

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To give some context to my ancientness in blogging terms, Technorati has published a State of the Blogosphere report every year since 2004. In October 2004 they were tracking around 4 million blogs, 40-odd percent of which hadn’t had a post in three months. There were 4.6 posts per second, or 16,000 per hour. That’s roughly 384,000 posts a day.

In 2015, as I write this post, Worldometer (which uses Technorati data) estimates that 3,704,924 (and growing every second) posts have been published today.

I’m currently working through Cerries Mooney’s amazing Calibration Kit and Aligned series, and in the process have been facing my own biggest business demons – comparisonitis and self doubt.

Stumbling across this proof of my status as blogging pioneer/dinosaur (as we’ve seen, eleven years is a ridiculously long time in the world of technology and the internet) has given me a new wealth of confidence in myself.

In my ability to learn code, CSS and a new platform (I switched to self hosted WordPress in 2008); my persistence; my natural abilities (this is probably the only thing I’ve done consistently for more than a decade, other than basics like eat, sleep and brush my teeth); and the incredible improvement in my clarity, direction and the look of my online homes.

It gives me a boost against my tendency, especially after a couple of glasses of wine, to freak out about entrepreneurs who have been going longer than me and are correspondingly more well known or successful. It addresses the fact that anyone who was writing a blog that could be understood by someone over the age of 20 had a far better chance of succeeding than I did back then. It reminded me that I’m a competent self taught photographer, blogger and website maker (among other things) – which is no small achievement.

It also opened my eyes to the fact that though now I can’t imagine being without my businesses, at the time I simply wanted to record my life – and all of that is ok. 

Something seemingly small and simple has helped me to rewrite my personal history more truthfully – and stop beating myself up for not having been in business since about 2006, like so many of the mentors I follow. And now I have an official blog birthday to celebrate!

I wonder if I knew, writing that first post which “felt strange”… that all this time later I’d still be doing it…?

Tulle and rainbows {What I Wore}

A dear friend’s 41st birthday… our new favourite bar in town… a balmy Saturday night… and a quick detour to the ruined priory at the bottom of the high street for some photos on my way in…

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Jacket and tshirt: ancient components of my wardrobe | Tulle petticoat: Hell Bunny | Polka dot pencil skirt (underneath): M&S | Rainbow shoes: Schuh, custom work by me | Handbag: genuinely not a clue, possibly from Dubai. (I’m in that delightful stage at the moment where most of my wardrobe is so me, but also so old, that I have no clue where most of it originated)

My hair was in ringlets before I left the house – but it’s now so long and heavy that a twelve minute drive rendered it vaguely wavy, instead. It still felt mermaidy though.

And apparently I need to work on my poses – I do actually have two legs, it’s just not that obvious from these photos.

Will definitely be wearing my petticoats as outerwear for the rest of the summer, though!

With love and unicorns,

Carla

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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My kind of happy

Curled up with a book and a cat. Taking pictures. Writing. Making and eating good food. Time with friends. Pottering, making my home my own. Househunting. Doodling. Dressing up. Daydreaming. Crafting. Learning. Dancing. Collecting. Believing in unicorns.

Be your happy | carlalouise.com

Your happy doesn’t have to match anyone else’s expectations or what anyone else does. Each of us has our own unique combination of things that we love to do, things we quite enjoy and things we’ll tolerate if we absolutely must.

What’s your happy?

 

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:

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(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:

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

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

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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?)

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

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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:

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to be continued…

Pomophily

What do you get if you cross 38 balls of wool, 14 women, 12 weeks and 1 serious piece of research in a TED talk?

An art piece made of pompoms, featuring Campus Cat.

Obviously.

Over a year ago, I met the lovely Sarah by chance when she bought something from a classified ad I’d placed and we got talking about her crochet flower brooch. We decided, as you do, that what we really should do instead of going for coffee was start a craft club at the day job. And Crafty Coffee was born.

When the university we work at then launched an art competition to celebrate 50 years and our campus spirit, we had a mad idea that became reality – and I went to see it in the gallery last week. It was rather a lovely experience, actually – it’s been a while since I’ve seen my work in a public place, and I believe this is the first time something I’ve collaborated on has been exhibited in an art gallery.

So without further ado, let me present… Pomophily. (Because the design was based on Professor Maria Fasli’s TEDx talk on Homophily. But we made ours from pom poms.)

 

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(not as sad as it used to be, as the Hex is now in use as a gallery. But a quirky and often unnoticed part of the uni, anyway)

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