On leaving technology behind for a while

Following on from my single-tasking experiment (which is rapidly becoming a habit), I’ve also been thinking and talking about going off-grid for a bit. Just for 24 or 48 hours at a time to start with.

Imagine. No phone, no laptop, no tablet/Kindle/internet.

No screens (except possibly the one on my camera).

No Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram… Pinterest is a particular offender at the moment, because I can spend three hours pinning things in front of a screen and then feel like I’ve been creative without actually having exercised a single creative muscle.

I love them all – but talking to the lovely Sarah, Lisa, Nina and Louise last week, I realised that I’ve not been without my mobile since I got it at the age of 14. That’s HALF MY LIFE.

I’ll happily admit that one of the reasons I love living alone so much is modern technology – on the rare occasions I’d prefer company and haven’t already organised it, I can communicate with someone in moments. But as a result I barely know my neighbours, and make less effort to see my local friends than I would otherwise. (We all acknowledge this – but don’t often do anything about it.)

I’m also conscious that I couldn’t have the lifestyle I do, or run the businesses I do, if the internet didn’t exist. And I don’t want it to un-exist. It’s a massive resource, a valuable tool and an altogether incredible concept.

And it would be daft to pretend that I don’t invite much of this contact in – I’m well aware that I make a lot of effort to contact and stay in touch with people using all sorts of social media because it’s convenient.

But I wonder how much more I could have achieved if Facebook didn’t exist, if I didn’t spend hours scrolling through Twitter, pinning on Pinterest, liking photos on Instagram. What if I was out there capturing even more of my own images, getting lost without the assistance of Google maps? Having coffee with people instead of chucking a vague Facebook message their way?

And then I saw this, and it cemented my intentions.

I’m not going to give it up entirely. But I am going to have 48 hours off grid while I’m away, and then try and work up to having a day a week free from screens, the internet and the pervasive nature of social media.

Of course, there’s a possibility I’ll hate it, and like all habits, it’ll be hard to break. But I suspect my life, this blog, and my relationships will be all the richer for it.

Have you ever been off-grid? Or restricted your use of screens, social media, phones for a while?

Discovering the perfect blue hair dye

It’s been a long journey of wanting, wishing and waiting, but in February this year, just after my 28th birthday, I finally booked an appointment to have my hair dyed blue.

Several hours of bleaching, foils, and inadvertently making both of my hairdressers look like they’d been busy murdering Smurfs, it was done. Eeek!

But because my hair doesn’t hold anything (colour, curls, shape), I found myself having to re-apply the dye twice in the first week. At £9.50 per tube for the (admittedly pretty) Fudge blue colour, this quickly became unworkable. So I did what I always do when I have a problem, and asked the internet for help.

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This pretty much summed up everyone’s advice from all over the internet – try Directions. It’s also, as far as I can tell, vegan, which means the lovely Annastasia at Not The Vegan Police will approve!

So I trooped into town, bought a pot each of Atlantic Blue, Midnight Blue and Lagoon Blue, and proceeded to re-dye my hair.

The results:

Atlantic Blue is by far my favourite, and caused more than one colleague to exclaim “Carla! Your hair! It’s SO BLUE today!” which I think can only be a good thing.

Lagoon Blue, while much lighter in colour, has actually lasted almost three weeks and has faded to a bright turquoise, which is absolutely acceptable and will probably be my summer colour of choice.

Midnight Blue I’ve not yet been brave enough to try, as I’m scared it’ll be too dark – but I’ll give it a go soon.

I’m yet to master decent lighting for photos, but here are a few:

I’m over the moon with my new hair – and it was summed up best by two of my friends. Josh told me it was “mermaid hair”, and Naomi’s is still my favourite comment – “it’s the hair you were always meant to have”. That’s definitely what it feels like!

 

 

 

[thinking] how 12 months can change everything

Hello loves! I’ve been, as promised, rather quiet for most of October – and if you usually visit me via my site instead of through a feed, you’ll notice the changes!

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Ducking Fabulous has evolved into a creative hub – so the blog doesn’t disappear, but becomes part of something bigger. I feel very passionately that every creative person should have the opportunity to have an online presence. I also know all too well how daunting it can be to set up and run a website/twitter feed/facebook page if you’ve never done it before, and if your creative talents tend not to be digital ones.

Over the past few years I’ve been consulted almost constantly by a steady stream of incredibly talented people who have absolutely no clue how to tackle the powerhouse that is the internet. They know it can help their businesses, some of them even have websites and social media presence, but it doesn’t come naturally.

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So I’m here to help – with a combination of e-courses, live workshops and web design, I intend to take the terror out of getting yourself established online.

But my blog is staying just as it is, with its rather eclectic range of subjects – you guys don’t want to read about techie stuff all the time, or presumably you wouldn’t be reading my blog! Right?

So thank you for bearing with the silence while I’ve been working on the changes – and normal, slightly sporadic, service will now resume 🙂

Oh, and my other secret project? Kittens. Yes. KITTENS. They’re coming to live with me just before the start of 2014, I hope – depending on which little balls of fluff the rescue has in over the Christmas period. Ridiculously excited doesn’t even begin to describe me at the moment!

(and an edit I forgot to put in the first edition of this post – the title refers to how, this time a year ago, I was still stuck in the London job. Now I’m in a day job I love, a home I adore and running two businesses – and about to have pets of my very own. Honestly, some days I wake up and I still can’t believe it!)

On the hunt for unicorns

Things have been a bit quiet over here on the blog, while I’ve been having creative block and lots of ideas all at the same time. Which is something of a weird situation, it has to be said – I have notebooks and word documents bursting with ideas, but was stalling on knowing what to do with them.

However, through the haze, one idea has taken shape and become clearer… (my apologies for the terrible quality of the pic – I will endeavour to replace it when the light is better)

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Yup, I’m going unicorn hunting. (armed only with a camera and notebook, I don’t want to hurt them!!)

Those of you who knew or followed me before Ducking Fabulous was born, when I was blogging but not here, may remember some musings back in 2009 about a camper van trip across the UK.

Now, while I’m certainly still intending to convert my own camper at some point, currently I don’t have the time, space or money to start on that particular project. But it has come up in several conversations recently, and I also unearthed, entirely by accident, the original itinerary and route I’d put together for the first one.

You may also have noticed that unicorns have become my thing. Not intentionally, but I’ve always been fascinated with faeries, unicorns and all things mystical and magical. (yes, I know this blog is called Ducking Fabulous. I like ducks too. I’ll find a duck with a unicorn horn. Maybe.)

The British Isles are heaving with magic and myth, with unicorns and dragons and castles. I want to document the stories in words and photographs, a legacy of magic woven throughout our islands.

For the first time in some time, my day job is one I have no wish to leave. So while I won’t be taking a year off to travel, I don’t want to put off the trip until I a) have a camper van and b) can do the whole trip all in one go.

And so I will shortly embark on a series of journeys in my beloved Poppy, and occasionally by train. Hunting the mythical, magical tales of Britain, and maybe beyond.

I hope you’ll join me on that journey?

(I’ll probably set up a separate site for the trip when I decide on a final name for it – I’ll post the link when I have it. For now, my writing will continue to live here!)

[personal development] what do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year?

I spent some of my lunch hour today listening to this video interview.   As I’ve also been reading The Creative Habit and the Happiness Project, it’s all clunking into place rather nicely.

The video sparked me into thinking – what do I want to be able to say about myself a year from now? What do I want my daily life to look like, what do I want my habits and routines to be, what kind of a person do I want to have become in that time?

every-day-matters

To become a pro at anything is as much about mindset change and daily routines as anything else, and the gist of the interview is that in order to do this, you need to change your existing and new habits from amateur ones into professional ones. Keep going through adversity and crap. Don’t let life get in the way of your goals.

Twyla Tharp advocates morning rituals to get you going for the day, among other things, and as I find mornings the hardest part of the day, I’ve been pondering what I could do to make them better, more joyful and to set me up better for the day.

Now I find my thoughts going further than just the morning. Without taking on so many commitments that I get overwhelmed and give up, what can I commit to changing? Writing every day? A photograph every day? Getting up by a certain time so I can accomplish these things and better self-care (like actually eating breakfast)?

It’s certainly made me consider what I do every day in a new light. I shall continue to ponder and blog my specific changes when they’re a little clearer in my mind. Right now they’re a confused blur of DO ALL THE THINGS BUT BETTER…

What do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year’s time?

Further reading:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Image credit – Ducking Fabulous / Letters from my Twenties

Paper Dolls Burlesque at the Fling Festival 2013

Quick post today, but wanted to share the photos of our tent at the Fling Festival a couple of weeks ago – it was the most glorious debut for my burlesque troupe. And who knew, when we took that first class eighteen months ago, what it would lead to?

Here we all are with our fab stage kitten Lou:

Paper Dolls Burlesque | carlalouise.com

And here are the rest of the images – squeak!


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

The Fling always defies description, but to be there as a performer, helping to create the experience for other festivalgoers – it was a privilege, and one of the best days of my life.

Check us out – our troupe is Paper Dolls Burlesque, and we learned (and continue to learn) the art of burlesque with  Jem Ayres at Burlesque Jems.

 

[inspiration] my first Cybher

When we booked tickets back in May 2012, I had no idea a year would pass so quickly. I had no idea what I’d do, what I’d achieve, what I’d feel in one year, and I couldn’t have imagined, then, having this life of mine by the time Cybher rolled around.

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“it was wonderful to be surrounded by people whose first question was ‘what do you blog about?’ rather than ‘what the hell is a blog?’ :)” ~ Cybher 2013

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Guest post by Jenny G: Am I getting old?

As I’m fairly sure you all know by now, I have been moving house this week. Proper update coming soon, but in my absence, the lovely Jenny has written for Ducking Fabulous…

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This is Jenny and I on a friend’s Krakow hen do. *Grins*

Over to Jenny…

Recently there have been a few occasions where I’ve stopped and thought, “I’m getting old!”

Before some of you get annoyed at my suggesting I might be old at the age of 26 (nearly 27!), I know I’m not old and there are many people older than me, but don’t you sometimes get the feeling the world is trying to remind you that you’re getting older?

My moments of age realisation have included:

· Waiting for my brother outside the secondary school he works at and realising I left education nine years ago and the pupils are at least that many years younger than me.

· Remembering the days of dial up internet and times before social media existed.

· The shock on the face of a girl in her early teens when I told her Facebook wasn’t around until my 20s (possibly marginally earlier for those of my age group who went to University) and I chatted to friends on MSN, which no longer exists.

· A Facebook moan of mine about road closures in Wokingham being printed in the local paper on their letters page – surely only ‘old’ people moan in papers!

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This week I am mostly…

Feeling: Either overwhelmed or ridiculously excited… I don’t seem to have a middle setting, and it’s rather exhausting!

Reading:

[Interview] The Paris Letters – a project that turned into a business

[Article] Why mess can be a good thing

[Book] The Secret Supper Club, Dana Bate

[Blog post] Dance to your own beat, the Be Free Community

Eating: with other people – it’s been lovely! (And the year’s first Cadbury mini eggs. Nom nom nom).

Planning: new lines of jewellery, wholesale options and a website; things to do in the new house (decorating, cooking, creating, entertaining) and some dance routines.

Dreaming of: Not being surrounded by boxes, and being a bit bloody warmer, please – the novelty of winter is well and truly over now. If we’re talking actual dreams, I dreamed of sunglasses the  night before last so we can only hope that means spring is on its way.

Coveting: Contrariety Rose’s cherry dress (yup, that’s me in the listing. I wanted to take it home!!)

Wishing: I was better at playing the ukulele and/or guitar, especially after discovering 9 year old Zoe Thomson’s guitar playing.

Working on: New fonts on the site (did you notice how much prettier they are now?) courtesy of Gemma at Jane & Philbert, and deliberately disconnecting more often, courtesy of Diane Leigh and Grace Marshall.

Celebrating: Having been 27 for a whole week today, and the launch of 15 Queen Street tonight.

Grateful for: The first shafts of sunshine, likeminded souls and my apparently innate ability to network and connect with people.

And finally tomorrow I will be: drinking hot chocolate with Rachael, finalising the packing up of the studio, making lists of the contents of the flat and working on all my websites.

On my to-do list?

– Various money-related tasks (paying bills, setting up accounts, budgeting & planning)
– House admin (let people know I’m moving, switch providers, notify of change of address, etc etc etc)
–  Try and get some kind of control over my Ducking Fabulous accounts
– everything is there, but nothing is in date order and it’s making me cross
–  Book next burlesque course
– Learn a bit more about Google Analytics
– Getting dates in the diary with friends who I’ve been trying and failing to see for months

So quite a good one ahead – and of course ploughing on with the web stuff at the day job. Which I love, but which occasionally makes my pea brain hurt.

The year that was: 2012

Christmas is all over for another year, and though I’m very much enjoying the week in limbo between years in a way I thought would be impossible a few short months ago, the season rather snuck up on me this year. Sitting working quietly on Rob’s sofa before we head out to a party later, I thought now would be a good time to look back at 2012 and perhaps forward at 2013. Though that may make the post too epic, so perhaps I’ll do that separately. I’ve kept it wordy as I hope to sort a photo album out later on…

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I saw the 2011-2012 new year in with Rob and his friends, at Holly’s house, watching fireworks and making Emily dress up as a dinosaur, accompanied by large amounts of cocktails. The rest of January shot past in something of a blur, with the highlight being Progress Theatre’s production of Neverwhere, one of my all time favourite books, which the fabulous Lou had done the costumes for.

Much of February 2012 was taken up with our much-anticipated USA road trip. Though I never finished blogging it, this was truly epic, so much so that we still haven’t chosen the photos to go on the wall – there are too many awesome memories! I turned 26 as we flew home, which was actually quite nice.

In March I met the gorgeous Anastasia’s equally gorgeous daughter Zoe. Unrelatedly, I discovered I would have to embark upon the first and only diet of my lifetime, in order to fit into the bridesmaid dress Julia had bought for me when she and Ed first got engaged. (I love her, and it was that or not be a bridesmaid, which was unthinkable. I do not love anyone else in this world enough to diet for them, believe me – never, ever again!!). To make this more bearable, I also booked a boudoir shoot for June, went to a corset party and signed up for burlesque classes. I had no idea how this would change my life…

April brought the relaunch of the Ducking Fabulous shop, dressing up as a dead parrot for a Monty Python party and my very first burlesque class. I loved it from the start – it was like recognising something that had been there all along.

May was a completely mad but absolutely wonderful month. I started it with a long weekend back in Loughborough with my uni girls I lived with, which was weird but fab; hit Paris and Disney dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast for Julia’s hen do; booked CybHer to give me some blogging oomph and incentive, saw Swan Lake on Ice with Hannah and revisited the Royal Albert Hall as a spectator, for the first time since I performed there in 2005 (which was lovely but very odd…). And my favourite part, a week on a narrowboat with Rob, Andy, Gemma, James and Jo – which we just happened to have booked during the hottest week of the whole year.

News of Cat and Mark’s engagement heralded June, while drinking cocktails at the Oxo tower. Which was rather lovely. I spent a day at Elstree studios learning WordPress with Andy, and we overheard and then sneakily watched Leona Lewis rehearse. Lou and I went to a Startup Saturday course, and I took the beginnings of the London Pin Up School to start to form them into an actual strategy. It went down a storm, and both of us came away feeling really inspired. I sold my first international order on Etsy, built an online portfolio (which still needs work, but the basics are there), discovered a new friend and rollerskating companion in Caroline, and took myself on a date to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Against Time – Flawless vs the English National Ballet. Some things are too good to be shared! The lovely Bluebell the bicycle also came to live with me towards the end of the month… a good omen, given that I can now cycle to work! I also slipped in the boudoir shoot, with Emily, which was terrifying but fabulous and incredibly good for both soul and self image. And I also met the lovely Craftyguider in real life, which was nervewracking but fab – we had a great time and her children are gorgeous!

July was characterised by inspiring conversations about opening a gym and generally working for oneself and escaping the City grind, puppies, celebratory dinners, long bike rides and another amazing CAE, this time in Yorkshire. Even the rain couldn’t stop us having fun, and I treasure these weekends, they’re truly three days of laughter, bant and frankly ridiculous conversations, surrounded by people I never expected to meet and now cannot imagine my life without, even the ones I only see once or twice a year. I picked up the images from my photoshoot and experienced a profound shift in perception – for the better. I cannot recommend this experience enough, and promptly booked another one for October – seeing myself in a new light is one of the most valuable things I’ve done this year.

July was of course also Julia and Ed’s wedding, and it was gorgeous – the bride was amazingly beautiful, the groom couldn’t stop smiling and the rest of us managed to hold it together until Julia’s old musical drama group did a Love Actually-style flashmob in the reception, where they’d rewritten a Disney medley for her and Ed. I bawled, but it was lovely. She’s now a Wilson and happily settled in Bristol, and I am dying to see her! (and yes, I fitted the dress, I lost almost two stone between March and July. Proud, but never again!!)

August saw me suddenly putting myself in gear and organising things – a picnic for lots of dear friends I hadn’t seen for ages, a conversation with Annastasia led to our now launched company Ink Drops Boxes, I discovered Free Range Humans and began to look at the world differently and start to work out what I actually wanted to do with my life. I was able to work from home during some of the Olympics, and I was amazingly moved by the Olympians and how well we hosted it – definitely a summer to remember. Horses and puppies and GCSE results arrived with my extended family, Janine had an amazing tea party/BBQ for her birthday (and my gazebo is still there, oops!!) and Wendy and I went up to London to see the Hurly Burly show – the first live burlesque I’d seen apart from the Fling last year. It was even better than expected!

Trade shows and Ink Drops dominated September, including nearly running out of petrol halfway home from Birmingham and discovering that “vegan” and “just irritatingly fussy” make for a very relaxed approach to eating out together! I started applying for more craft fairs without really believing I’d have time to do them, but knowing I had to start somewhere to build up my attendance again. I did a double take when I realised a whole year had passed since the Romania rally, and had a whole host of lunches out with amazing people to try and get over the shock!

September also brought news of a new job, handing in my notice to the City at last, and my first Escape the City workshop, plus a new friend. Ironic, as I’d already left… but we’ve now formed an entrepreneurial support group which is fabulous. I managed to squeeze in two burlesque shows – one at Proud Cabaret, with work ladies, and one in Chelmsford with my best friends, both of which made me squee and want to work on my own routines even more. Having handed in my notice, I was quite overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and intrigued by comments that I was brave.

October. Cabaret, cabaret, cabaret – my first burlesque performance! Rehearsals with the girls, rehearsals at class, class as normal. Costumes, feathers, glitter, panic, then elation as I stepped off the stage. The performing bug is back! Another boudoir shoot, this time with much more idea of what I wanted, followed, and Lou and I had a hilarious evening trying on all our outfits and accessories for it. I spent a lot of the month working on a helicopter presentation (who knew that a LAMA was a helicopter and not a furry animal with wings?!), had a Bare Escentuals make-under and found a glorious new liquid lipstick (in red, of course), had our first Escape the City meetup, and then left work in a blaze of tears, a vintage mannequin and a THREE KILOGRAM Kit Kat (photos of that to follow when I find my camera card). Straight in the car up to Nottingham where I spent quite a lot of time in stunned “has it really happened” kind of mode, and we spent the other half bankrupting ourselves in Lakeland and making chicken and tarragon pie and chocolate spoons. Not to be eaten at the same time, obviously. I subscribed to Simple Things in honour of my new, slower lifestyle.

1st November was our official launch date for Ink Drops, and the 5th saw me start my new job at the university. After a whirlwind month of being accepted to fairs, my first Ducking Fabulous stockists, a night of cocktails at Karen & Dave’s, the Free Range festival, a tassel making workshop (including making new friends and learning to twirl them!) with the fabulous Alex/Fanny Darling, a VIP trip to the Hollywood Costume exhibition to see the Ruby Slippers with Caroline, and frequent long “what the hell just happened” conversations with Lou (as Contrariety Rose and Ducking Fabulous found fairs and stockists at almost exactly the same time), I hit the end of the month with a big party for my aunt’s 40th and some much needed puppy cuddles the following day, before my first fair at Curves gym on the last Wednesday of the month.

December saw the beginning of fair season proper… it has been insane but so much fun! Leigh involved Val and Ellie, plus Anna and Dan had their stall behind us. Again made lots of friends, learned lots from both stallholders and customers, and managed to sneak in staying the night before with Val and dinner & putting the world to rights with Ellie on the day. New collaborations are looming, I’ve started burlesque again after the break and there are exciting plans going on there for a troupe and some performance, I’ve discovered edible glitter, I’m heading to another burlesque performance on Saturday night after my final fair, there’s a graduates’ Free Range group which is providing the most amazing platform for likeminded people to chat, give advice and generally work through this incredible new life together… and in the last week before Christmas, I packed in a shopping day with Mum, Olympia horse show with Ellie, and lunch and coffee with dear friends.

Christmas itself was gorgeous but quiet, and Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were spent with the extended family, the giant kit kat and a sense of relaxation. I’m now up in Nottingham with Rob till New Year and trying to decide what make up Little Red Riding Hood would wear, for a party this evening. Cocktails feature heavily in the next few days 🙂

From my breakdown in February to my overarching, incredible happiness, sense of self and enjoyment of every day now – it’s been a transformational year. I don’t think I could start to put into words what I’ve learned, discovered and found – but I do hope 2013 is as incredible. I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings, though less resemblance to a rollercoaster would be great…

This time last year, this time this year…

This time last year, like today, I was heading over to Chelmsford after work to join old colleagues for their annual Christmas dinner.

This time last year, I had somewhat lost the Christmas spirit. I stepped off a train, late, hot and flustered from the sardine-can interior, and spent the entire evening fielding calls from taxi drivers for the event I’d organised for some directors and their clients.

This time last year, I went home to a flat that closely resembled a storage facility with a bed in it, and didn’t get my Christmas decorations up until halfway through December because I was just too tired.

This time this year, I am already feeling festive. I will change and do my hair and make up, put Poppy’s roof down if the weather stays dry and drive over to Chelmsford from my new life. I’ll enjoy every drink, every moment and every snippet of conversation with my phone firmly switched off.

This time this year, I will go home, sort out my stock and box some up for Tea & Sympathy, and then tomorrow after work deliver it and collect my takings from the last batch.

This time this year, I have a full size Christmas tree, which I’ll spend tomorrow evening decorating, and a home I love and can entertain friends in.

Perfection. And I still can’t work out how I made it happen so quickly!