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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A kittenish birthday

Though it seems completely impossible, my two silly felines are two years old. Already. Still the very best decision I’ve ever made, they continue to make me snort with laughter on a daily basis and give the absolute best cuddles.

However, they were entirely nonplussed by both the occasion and my insistence on taking birthday portraits…
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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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The ghosts of Carla past

Aka a spontaneous trip to say goodbye to my childhood home before it was sold.

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We moved in in 1993, when I was seven… and we turned it from an identikit new house on an estate to a much loved family home with a glorious garden. (I say ‘we’ – I had a miniature cement trowel and gardening kit, but while I was convinced I was helping, I’m now pretty sure my lovely parents were just humouring me…)

The Wendy house in the corner was the site of some of my most magical and happy childhood memories. It had electricity (because my Dad is amazing) and he and one of his best friends moved it for me from our old house – apparently 6 year old me made it a condition of moving, along with a Thelwell pony cartoon frieze in my bedroom.

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Not long after we moved in (though we had laid grass, top patio and put the Wendy house up)

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As it was when I saw it for the last time, at the beginning of May. Some difference! 

I probably wouldn’t have made a special trip to say goodbye to the house now it’s empty, but happened to be down the same weekend to see one of my best friends try on her wedding dress, and she only lives half an hour away from the old house.

So we went and wandered round, remembered all the happy times the house has seen, and also took some photos in the garden by my wendy house (I’m still slightly sad I haven’t been able to dismantle it and bring it to live up here, but my garden isn’t big enough and it’s almost 25 years old. I think it should stay where it is).

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I sat in my favourite place to watch thunderstorms (but no longer fit all the way through the window as I used to as a child), and I marvelled at how much the garden has changed since we first moved in, and I reminisced aloud with Lou and silently, nostalgically, quietly alone as well.

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I even found my hamsters’ gravestone. You can almost read “Dozy” but the dates, and Herman’s name, are long gone.

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And then we went and had tea with two of my lovely neighbours, and got in Lou’s car, and drove home.

It was strange but lovely – a little like stepping into the past, a little like looking to the future. I think I’d have found it hard to do if I wasn’t so settled where I am – so many rites of passage and key life events happened while I lived there. But I’ve flown the nest and the house should do what it does best – shelter and nurture a growing family.

I found some old photos of my childhood in the garden and my bedroom:

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I still have Larry the lamb. Sadly Biscuit the cat, Amadeus Woofgang Mozart the dog (what can I say? I was a gloriously geeky child) and Scruff the smaller dog have since found new homes. There’s the Thelwell frieze I apparently insisted my Dad installed before I consented to move house…!

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Terrible photo, but we lived at the top of the hill and Dad built me a sledge so I could have more fun on snow days. It was the envy of the other children in the close (as was my night time sledging!)

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Dad and I having breakfast in the garden. My late godfather Nick would have approved – this was when we still had a charcoal bbq, before we got the gas one I still use now <3

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Some things never change – I still love My Little Pony! 

I’m full of love and gratitude for our time there – it saw everything from knee scrapes to my first love, from Dad’s departure for a stint overseas to my driving test, and I left to go to university and start my adult life from there. Though I’ve not lived in it for nearly a decade, it feels very strange to think I’ll never go through its doors or see my beloved Wendy house again.

I hope that the family moving in loves it as much as we did. It’s bittersweet letting it go – but its sale is helping me buy a house of my very own – so a new era is beginning.

With love and nostalgic unicorns,

Carla

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…

52 Project: Weeks 7 – 9

Oops. I’ve been taking as many photos as ever, but somehow have completely failed to choose a photograph every week and put it on the blog. The first three and a half months of 2015 have flown past with indecent haste!

I can’t choose just one so the 52 Project will be more of a my year in pictures type project…

Week 7 (9-15 February): Creativity

Louise Rose Couture at Retro Photo Studio

Assisting Louise Rose Couture with a shoot at Retro Photo Studio – which was so much fun! I have a whole stash of shots from my behind the scenes documenting of the day, but I’ll share them in a separate post. This was a quick snap with my mobile.

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Collaging and creating and giving myself permission to rip up old magazines. A lovely way of spending an afternoon.

Week 8 (16-22 February) Birthday joyfulness

Obviously I’m struggling to pick just one for each week. 16-22nd February involved birthday chilling, an amazing photo treasure hunt with a wonderfully eclectic selection of friends, and most importantly, my fluffy Clover-kitty was back to her usual silly self after a poison scare involving a stay at the vet.

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Week 9 (23 February – 1 March): Preparation

Getting ready to head off on holiday, I had a calming and colourful Lush bubble bath, got woken by the Nose-Biting Kitten Alarm (TM), finally cracked off-camera flash for product photography and found a stowaway while packing my suitcase.

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Creating A Magical Life – the Dream Board

It’s no secret that I’m a great believer in talismans – visual or physical (or both) representations of what means the most to you.

Things you’re aiming or hoping or striving for; things you want to be reminded of; dreams you’re chasing; anything you want to keep in mind.

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And I’m also a convert to the power of manifesting – or making what you want happen. The concept has undergone a bit of a transformation, from something totally away with the fairies to something more concrete and tangible, and I believe much more socially acceptable than it was a few years ago. (It’s possible I just hang out with very open, likeminded people, but either way I don’t much care what people think – it works for me!)

I’m the biggest fan of magic going, but actually I’m not convinced manifesting is particularly ethereally magical. I think it’s a more practical magic – if you get clear on what you want and remind yourself of this regularly, then you’re much more likely to notice opportunities to make it happen – opportunities that may otherwise have passed you by.

Gratitude and goals lists are already part of my daily routine – usually the last thing I do at night before I put the lights off and snuggle up with a cat on my head (yes, really – Luna-kitty refuses to sleep on the bed unless she’s on my head, purring loudly into my ear. It’s a surprisingly nice way to fall asleep). These tend to be more immediate – things from the day I’m thankful for, things I hope to achieve in the next few days/weeks/months. I have a list for each year too, though I’ve not yet shared that here.

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So when I saw Leonie’s suggestion in her 2015 Shining Year workbook to create a dream board for the year ahead, I jumped on it – a wonderful combination of talisman and manifesting list!

I covered an old noticeboard in pretty fabric, and found a teacup to store my pins. Then I dug out my scrapbooking stash, some precious objects, my 2015 intentions list and my Pinterest boards and proceeded to create a visual representation of the things that mean most to me and the things I intend, hope for, wish for and plan for in the coming year.

Some highlights:

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At the top is my Hogswatch 2014 medal – as one of the outstanding highlights of 2014, and with the passing of Terry Pratchett while I was away in Texas, Hogswatch 2015 in Wincanton is the one event I will be at by hook or by crook this year.

On the other side is a Night Circus inspired embroidery my gorgeous friend Gabby made for me – to remind me to keep my imagination, my dreams and my eclectic style going and not succumb to normality.

Then there are the other pins – ranging from reminders to inspiring quotes to business goals to personal aspirations, skills I want to acquire and experiences I want to have, things that inspire me and beautiful things I’d love to have in my life (velvet cloak, anyone?).

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I add to it constantly, and tick things off as I achieve them too. It lives in my living room, at the heart of my house – and it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever had of keeping track of multiple intentions.

Big thanks to Leonie – I’m already excited to see how it’ll look by the end of the year!

Do you have a dream board? Would love to see…!

Approaching 29

Seven weeks into 2015, and just a few hours from my 29th birthday.

I’m not one to get overly hung up on ages and dates, but I did get a bit of a shock at Christmas when I showed my cousin my 30 for 30 list, and blithely declared I had 25 months left to do it all in. She swiftly pointed out that a) maths clearly isn’t my strong point and b) I had 13 months left, not 25.

Oops.

That list rapidly became ‘daydreams to do’, because my 29th year is already packed full of wonder – there are some things on that list I know I will do in my life, but I also know I won’t do this year – I don’t want to squish in all the experiences, I want to have time to anticipate and then savour each one.

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So what have I learned, in my almost 29 years on the planet? Here’s a list, in no particular order:

Sometimes the things you’re most opposed to can lead to the most glorious moments of your life.

I definitely don’t want children (the cats are quite responsibility enough) – but I’m properly excited for more of my friends to have children, so I can be the cool auntie who brings inappropriate presents and has them over for weekends full of sugar and fun.

Living on my own has been one of the best decisions I ever made. And it isn’t lonely.

Occasionally, you’ll make decisions which will change your whole life and turn it upside down. But mostly, you’ll move towards your dreams step by (sometimes painfully small) step.

We overestimate what we can do in a day, but (massively) underestimate what we can do in a year.

Pets are actually small, furry family members, and just as precious as fellow human beings.

I can tassel twirl. And as part of the Paper Dolls burlesque troupe, I also do it on stage. The shy, gawky, nervous 15-year-old me is staring down the passage of time, awestruck and slightly embarrassed and bloody proud of how I’ve dealt with my body image issues in the last few years.

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I’ve learned we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves too early in life – discovering at 19 that I was creative, after a lifetime of being told I was academic and not creative, was the single biggest revelation of my life to date.

If you don’t like your job, get the hell out. Don’t quit without a plan, but start looking – knowing their shit is no longer your problem when you hand in your notice to a place that’s wrong for you is an amazing feeling.

Your first broken heart hurts like hell.

You learn an absolutely ridiculous amount about yourself from relationships and their endings. Seriously, it was like a crash course in How Carla Works, both times – in very different ways.

Never, ever settle for being second best or someone’s backup choice. You are worth SO much more than that.

Try everything that catches your fancy, if it’s possible – I have a room full of craft materials, half of which I’ll probably never touch again, but all of it has brought me joy and new skills at some stage.

Serendipity and coincidence are sweet – and never get old.

Old friends and new friends are just as precious, but in different ways. Don’t abandon the old in favour of the new unless you have good reason to do so. And don’t assume that just because someone is very different to you, that you can’t be friends. Variety and different perspectives are always good!

Don’t feel guilty about things you can’t control or influence. Spend your energy doing what you can, but remember that everyone has their own free will.

Nothing is original, but no one can do what you do like you can. And never second-guess people’s reactions to what you do. Telling people about my alter ego coaching and course has been eye-opening – the reactions have been amazing from even the most unlikely people.

If you make a daft statement like “I love this house so much, I can’t ever imagine crying while I live here” when you move into a new house, you are highly likely to be proved wrong within the week.

Having good friends within walking distance is unbelievably sweet – especially after close to ten years of trekking up and down the M25 on a regular basis. (I’m still working on getting certain people to move up here….!)

It’s ok to stop doing things you don’t want to do – whether that’s a business, a job, a relationship, a house… it’s good to have a plan first, but you don’t have to do anything forever unless you want to.

Life is too short to worry about your weight or what other people think of you. Wear, and do, what makes you the happiest.

Oh – and if you want to dye your hair, go ahead and do it. I waited 9 years to dye mine blue/turquoise – and while I love that it represents me so perfectly right now, I do wish I hadn’t waited so long.

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Here’s to the very last year of my twenties!

With love and unicorns,

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52 Project, week 6: colourful

Couldn’t choose just one for this week – too much good stuff! Rainbow shoes, My Little Pony hair, glittery Doc Martens and a sign I’m on the right track…

First up, rainbow decopatched heels – these were a much loved pair of black leather Mary Janes from Schuh, which I own in black, red and magenta. But all three pairs have been so worn over the last 7 or 8 years that no amount of polish was going to make them acceptable. So I turned the black pair into rainbow shoes.

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Then I went to get my hair re-bleached for some more and brighter blue on Saturday. But liked the brown-to-blonde-to-mint-green look so much I haven’t actually put any extra dye in yet! IMG_20150207_155655

If I don’t find any cowboy boots I adore on this trip to the States, I shall be buying these glittery babies the moment I return…

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And a sign that I’m on the right path with Unfurling Your Wings – I’ve never bought Illamasqua, though my friend Wendy has designed bags for their launches, but I have just discovered that their tagline is “make up for your alter ego”. Perfect. 20150208_115452

 

As ever, the other contenders are on my Flickr stream.