EXCITING TIMES AHEAD

Hi Everyone!

Today is a very exciting day for me as I can finally share my shiny new website with you! And why would I need a new website I hear you ask? Well it’s to showcase my artwork and prints for all to see and I can’t wait for you all to check out what I’ve been up to.

While I may have been quieter than I’d like on here, it was for a good reason. I’ve been dedicated to getting my new business ‘Ink & Folly’ prints, up and off the ground so there hasn’t been time for much else. It is with much excitement that I invite you to pop over and have a look at my work. I’m still building up my online portfolio but that will grow gradually as all my prints start with sketches which are then cut into lino and printed up, so it’s a process which can’t be rushed.

I’ve been really enjoying the whole experience of learning a new creative skill which you may have read about in my previous post ‘Well That Was Unexpected‘. Obviously the small matter of running a business in between school runs isn’t without it’s challenges but it’s very rewarding to see your work appreciated by happy customers.

Unfortunately this means I don’t have the time available to do both Ink & Folly and Mess & Merlot (sad face) so I’ll be blogging over on the new website¬†going forward. I’ll really miss my blog especially my bloggy friends on here but I would love to be able to keep in contact via Instagram if any of you are active on there? You can see what I’m up to at ink_and_folly_prints come and say hello!

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WELL THAT WAS UNEXPECTED

Oh Hi! I’ve been M.I.A from the world of blogging for a while now but I promise it’s for good reason. I thought I’d give you a little update on what’s been going on behind the scenes as it’s all very exciting (and quite unexpected) – and noooo this is not a pregnancy announcement!

If you read my last blog post ‘Fear Of The Blank Page‘ you’ll know that I’d really been craving some creativity in my life and had decided that 2018 was the year I was going to get back into art. Well two months on I can safely say the creative juices are in full flow and I am now 100% back in the zone! Woohoo!

My little ‘lino print beginners kit’ kicked off a whole new obsession and I now spend my days either designing, carving or printing linocuts. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I was going to get the best results then my very basic starter tools really weren’t going to cut it, in every sense. I am now the proud owner of some lovely ‘proper’ gouges that cut like a dream.

If you’ve never heard of lino printing (or linocut as it’s sometimes called), it’s a method of printing where you carve your image into a piece of lino, cover with a layer of ink and then press onto your paper to transfer the image. I first experimented with some little card designs below and then moved onto a multilayer print where you lay down one or more colours over each other.

I was so delighted to have my work accepted for a local gallery display at such an early stage, it really gave me the confidence in my work to carry on. After spending a day working at the gallery I met some wonderful, creative women and feel spurred on to get back out there and enjoy meeting more like-minded creative types!

As if that wasn’t enough I have also been learning how to use Adobe Illustrator so that I can play around with my images digitally and am having lots of fun experimenting – see, I told you I’d been busy ūüôā

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CREATIVE BLOCK – FEAR OF THE BLANK PAGE

I miss Art. I miss giant studios full of light and noise and colour and ideas and creativity and tears and joy and discovery. I miss screen prints, dark rooms, light boxes, sewing machines, charcoals, life drawing, sculpting and sketching.

The day I got my first little set of watercolours, aged 10, I was hooked. Maybe it’s the same feeling some people get from performing, or sports or watching videos of cats, all I knew was it made me happy. I remember looking at the first blank page, a ‘proper’ watercolour sketch book all bumpy and stiff, being scared to make a mark in fear of ruining it. Not knowing where to start I decided a still life would be as good a place as any given that was what a real artist would probably draw.

I didn’t have a silver bowl laden with exotic fruits to hand so I had to make do with the nearest thing….
a potato. Yes, my first subject on the road to becoming the next Francis Bacon was indeed the humble spud. It wasn’t a bad effort if I do say so myself, I showed it off pleased as punch, or poit√≠n if you will. It was hard to read my Mother’s reaction, I’m pretty sure she was smiling with pride rather than amusement. Either way it made her happy too. I don’t remember anything else I drew in that sketchbook but I remember every detail of that spud.

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2018 – THE YEAR AHEAD

Happy New Year!

I’m back from my blogging mega-break (9 weeks!) and so excited for the year ahead. I absolutely love New Year. ¬†I know some people think it corny or depressing after the excitement of December but I find myself getting giddy at the possibilities of a whole new year. Will 2018 finally be the year I make it into the World Series of Poker?? OK maybe the year I finally just learn to play poker but you get the gist.

As soon as Christmas Day is over I’m boxing up baubles and clearing the decks ready to say goodbye to the year gone by and welcome the next with open arms.

New Years Eve is my day. It starts early with a train journey to Brighton armed with coffee, a notebook and a pen. To start, some mooching in The Lanes and a visit to the art gallery then lunch and a glass of bubbles. After weeks of Christmas planning, visiting relatives and the general chaos of school holidays it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. Not to mention a walk along the seafront and a literal breath of fresh air to blow away the cobwebs of 2017. The journey home is spent scribbling my hopes and dreams for the year ahead. By which I mean a giant ‘TO-DO’ list with a few personal goals thrown in here and there. I won’t bore you with the entire lot but here are a few of the things I’m looking forward to in the next 365 days:

Health & Beauty

One thing I won’t be doing is starting another flipping diet! Nope. Wasted enough of my life to that soul-sucking nonsense. I ate my own body weight in Christmas cake, stuffing and stollen over the past few weeks and don’t feel remotely guilty about it. In fact I’m not even done yet so jog on Slim Fast.

My fitness goals come from a desire to challenge myself or try something new. Last year I did a couple of 10k runs (my first ever ‘proper’ races) and really enjoyed it. I’ll admit I’m definitely a fair weather runner though and there is nothing that would get me out pounding the pavements on a cold, dark day. For that reason I want to sign up for another 10k race this year to give me the incentive to dust off my trainers and get training again. Other than that I’d like to learn a bit more about strength training using my own body weight in a bid to tone up before we start peeling off the layers for Summer.

Drink more water. Urgh, I know I say it every year but I rarely drink enough and I know it’s a really good habit to get into – please tell me I’m not alone!! Despite its many benefits I still struggle to force myself to down anywhere near the recommended 6-8 glasses a day.

Wear SPF daily, book dental appointment to finally replace those two fillings (*cries*) and while I’m at it sort my barnet out.

 

Style.

I know what I’m comfortable wearing. I can walk into any clothes shop and easily pick out what’s ‘me’ and what isn’t. I know if a colour works with my pasty Irish skin and dark hair or makes me look like the undead. I’m bored though. My Converse/skinnies/jumper combo is my safe place and I love it but I need to be more adventurous with my choices. Nothing too mid-life crisis-y, I don’t want to to look like the lovechild of Grayson Perry and Lady GaGa. I’ve already made a start with my new Honey & Toast saddlebag, in a much braver colour choice than usual. I love it, but to be honest I’ve never met a leopard print I didn’t like.

Interiors wise I’m planning to ditch one of the sofas asap and replace it with a cosy armchair to free up some space for my children to fill with tat. Before Christmas I painted the master bedroom white and am on the lookout for some new bedding and copper/marble accessories for zhuzhing. Spud fancies a bedroom makeover this year for his 10th birthday which luckily is 9 months away as it will probably take us that long to agree on a wall colour.

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BEING A HOBBY BLOGGER

I love my blog. My own little project, born out of a desire to try something new and challenge myself a little.

Writing is never something I’d particularly explored as a creative outlet, despite being drawn to other areas of creativity. While I admire anyone who has a talent for creative writing, I definitely use it more as a therapeutic process. From the very basic act of writing a list on the days when my brain can’t seem to focus on one thing, to keeping a journal over a number of weeks to help process life’s little challenges – the act of writing something down is cathartic.

Writing my first blog post though? Less theraputic, more completely terrifying. Who was I to be putting words out there on the interwebs for all to see? No background in writing, no training or qualifications remotely relevant to putting words down that people might actually enjoy reading!

And what do you write about when you can write about literally anything?? It’s so easy to become overwhelmed in the early days of blogging and self-doubt would ultimately creep in, leading to me agonise over the simplest of things before I got anywhere near ready to press the ‘publish’ button.

I never gave much consideration to my ‘audience’ (I just assumed nobody would ever actually read my posts) and to be honest I still try not to think too much about that. In fact most of my close friends and family still don’t know I blog!

After the first few posts I felt confident enough to tentatively share my efforts via ‘linky parties’. These are a great way to share posts, discover other blogs and build online friendships (some which have grown into real life friendships!) As a newbie those reassuring comments from the blogging community make all the difference. It wasn’t long before I was joining more linky parties than I could keep up with and suddenly the pressure to read-comment-repeat began to become another daily chore on my ‘to-do’ list. I started to feel the pressure to post (and read) regardless of whether I actually wanted to or not. Social media platforms were no longer somewhere to kill a few minutes looking at pretty pictures or discover an interesting article; it was all about self promotion and scheduling to grow my audience. This was not what I’d signed up for.

So why not just stop? I’m in control of my own blog, not vice versa right?

Well, it’s complicated.

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*GIVEAWAY – A3 FELLOWES LAMINATOR*

There’s something strangely satisfying about laminating stuff, no? This week we’ve been laminating left right and centre and basically living out my childhood dreams of being Teacher. Here’s a peek into what we’ve been up to…

There are oodles of online printables available for organising everything from your weekly menu to your wedding day. Visit Fellowes.com/ideascentre for some fab free options. Use a dry wipe marker so you can clean and reuse as many times as you like.

 

I also laminated my favourite ‘Daily Blogging Checklist‘, nothing quite as satisfying as being able to tick things off that list right?

Getting Flump to practice her writing isn’t easy at the best of times but it seems the novelty of a wipe-clean sheet makes it slightly more interesting! I also laminated her times tables sheets to keep them in the back of the car for practicing while we’re out and about. Next up – telling the time sheets (wish me luck!)

I found this idea online and thought it was so cute as a present for Grandparents – mini-me bookmarks! Just print a photo of your little one with their hands clasped up in the air, laminate and thread some ribbon through the top – simples. I also made a cute unicorn tail version with some leftover wallpaper. You can find some simple bookmark printables here to get you started.

These wipe clean placemats have been the kids favourite laminating project and actually the most useful. I let them choose some wallpaper samples and cut them to size using this nifty little trimmer. I also found these cool Dinnertime Doodle free printables which the kids will love.

With the start of a new school year comes the bonus of works of art arriving home on a daily basis- yay! Some lovely Mummies cannot bear to part with even the teeniest scrap of paper and store these offerings in a folder, to be filed away for sentimental reasons. I’m not that Mummy, ours get filed away in the recycling bin, sometimes enroute to the front door. However occasionally there are some treasures that even I find hard to ditch – there’s something about those handprint ones that get me every time. A quick trip through the laminator means I can store it away safely to cry over in years to come!

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3 INGREDIENT BISCUITS, YOU’RE WELCOME!

High on any kid’s list of favourite pass-times are making a mess and stuffing their greedy little faces with junk. It goes without saying then that baking, an activity that combines both these things, is always a winner. While I do a lot of baking when I have the kitchen to myself, I rarely have the patience or inclination to allow my two little helpers in on the act ‘just for fun’. This recipe is my secret weapon for those times when I can no longer avoid the joy that is baking with children. It’s simple enough for the kids to get involved, quick, has 3 basic ingredients and best of all uses little equipment so you won’t be left with a mountain of washing up.

If you’ve attempted to bake with kids before you’ll already know that they have zero interest in measuring out the ingredients or lining baking trays. All this stuff is boring. They basically want to get their hands covered in goop and eat the end results as soon as possible even if it means first degree burns to the tongue. Just get everything prepped beforehand (it won’t take long in this instance) and I promise things will be 100% less painful.

Ingredients: 100g softened butter or Stork, 50g caster sugar, 150g self raising flour.

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DAVID BADDIEL’S ‘ANIMALCOLM’ CHILDREN’S BOOK

David Walliams, Frank Lampard, Ricky Gervais – to you and me well known names¬†from the celebrity world but to my 8 year old son, authors of some of his favourite children’s books. Now you can add to the list of famouses-turned-author, funny man¬†David Baddiel. In fact Baddiel has been writing for many years but has only ventured into children’s fiction more recently. Already a huge fan myself I need no convincing of his humour and brilliance but as we know, kids are the harshest critics and so on this occasion I’ve delegated¬†the task of reviewing ‘AniMalcolm’ (Baddiel’s latest) to my own little bookwork, Spud.

At first he thought the book looked a bit big compared to his usual reads but inside the text and illustrations are well spaced out and make this an easy read for him- he flew through the pages chuckling away to himself! He really enjoyed it and especially loved the idea of the main character being turned into all the different animals and experiencing life from their point of view! Two big thumbs up from this little bookworm.

“I loved it when he was turned into different animals!” – Spud Brown, 8 years

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RUNNING MY FIRST 10K – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER

If you saw my post back in February¬†you’ll know that I was lucky enough to be offered a place to run Vitality London 10,000 for The Children’s Society. You’ll also know I am not a runner. Less than four months later it seems surreal for me to be sitting here writing a post about running 10k, but I did it! Yesterday along with 12,000 other runners (including Olympian Supermum Jo Pavey) I ran through the streets of London and it was one of the best experiences of my life. A highly emotional week for our country, those affected by the Manchester bombing were remembered in a minute silence as runners lined up in the Mall pre-race; with a reminder from Event Director Hugh Brasher that “above all, love overcomes hate.”

Every single participant¬†had their own reason for running, their own experience of the race and their own story to tell, here’s mine.

BEFORE

  • When the opportunity arose for me to run 10k for The Children’s Society I’ll admit I had my reservations. Of course I wanted to do it but I had serious doubts that I would ever be able to achieve it. I’ve tried running in the past but for one reason or another never really stuck with it. I’d never even got to the 5k mark never mind 10k so I knew it would be something I would really have to work for.
  • I looked into what would be a realistic time period for a beginner to progress to 10k and discovered that it was definitely achievable if I stuck to a training plan. I downloaded the C210K app and without boring you with the details huffed and puffed my way through the next 14 weeks training.
  • Signing up for an event and running for a charity means you are committed, failure is not an option and what better incentive than knowing you are running for a good cause? Had this not been the case I know for sure I would have given up.
  • It’s very easy to get carried away when it comes to running gear – it’s everywhere now and so pretty. Unfortunately it’s also so spendy! I had a few bits and pieces hiding at the back of the drawer under the bed (with all the other stuff that never gets used) which I knew would be fine for now but footwear needed some serious consideration. I had a fantastic¬†gait analysis at Sweatshop Milton Keynes and the staff advised me on the best running shoes for me within my budget.
  • Obviously there are challenges along the way that can’t be ignored but they can be overcome. Strained¬†muscles or blisters can be expected but¬†shouldn’t be ignored. My initial fear was my knee (which I’ve previously had surgery on) letting me down. I researched ways of running that wouldn’t exacerbate the problem and ironically as I’ve progressed through the weeks my knee has greatly¬†improved!
  • As with any new training¬†it’s normal to have reservations/expectations about how this might affect you, both physically and mentally. Now this is a funny one for me to sum up¬†because although I haven’t lost any weight and my bingo wings and tummy pooch remain unchanged I do feel much happier with myself physically than I did before I started running. Four months is a relatively short time period to expect to see any notable¬†physical changes from a few runs a week but perhaps underneath this soft exterior a slightly more toned version¬†is emerging. Mentally, running allows you lots of time to think without distractions, whether you like it or not! All I can say is I’ve never returned from a run without feeling energised and positive.¬†

 

DURING

  • When race day finally arrived I was a bundle¬†of nerves and excitement. Having never been to a running event even as a spectator I didn’t really know what to expect. However I’d done the training and once I’d dropped off my kit bag (and made that all important last minute trip to the portaloos), I knew all that was left to do now was enjoy it.
  • As I lined up with all the other runners I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Emotions were high and I wondered if I’d be able to make it round the course without crying the entire time.
  • I needn’t have worried. As soon as I stepped over the starting line all of that disappeared and I felt pure happiness the entire run. Himself and the kids came along to support me so I have a few action shots and I don’t think there is one photo of me running where I don’t look like the Cheshire Cat!
  • A mixture of adrenalin and excitement meant I didn’t even think about my legs aching or needing my inhaler (which I had with me in a running belt just in case). Despite the humid conditions it didn’t occur to me that I might be hot, or thirsty or…..anything. Just happy. I didn’t even need my emergency Haribo!
  • If you read other people’s experiences of running events they will almost certainly¬†mention the positive effect the crowd have on you and they are not wrong! Oh my goodness the crowd are so supportive the whole way around they deserve a medal at the end too. Whether it be having your family and friends there to support you, your chosen charity cheering you on, the fantastic live music or just strangers along the route shouting the name on your vest THE CROWD WILL CARRY YOU ALONG!
  • Runners are grouped by ability so while some will be looking to break records or leave with a PB, others will be simply aiming to make it to the finish lined. Being in the latter group I decided I didn’t want to think about timings, just enjoy the experience and I’m really glad I did. I think it would have been very different if I’d been conscious of how fast/slow I was going and to be honest my group was so busy that it would only have stressed me out if I was trying to weave in and out of the crowds. The timing tag you are supplied with (to attach to your laces) will take readings when you pass the start, 5km and finish timing pads if you want to look up your details after the race.
  • As the finish line grew nearer I almost didn’t want it to end. During training I’d thought a lot about crossing the finish line and imagined I would¬†be a blubbing mess,¬†full of emotion, a mixture of joy and relief. Weirdly it wasn’t at all how I’d expected. The cheering crowds finish a couple of hundred meters before the end and the road suddenly becomes very quiet and sparse of runners. As I stepped over the line I felt the last thing I ever imagined, I felt like a runner.
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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU CAN’T BLOG

With half term just around the corner now’s a good time for parent bloggers to think of¬†ways to keep your blog active while you enjoy some family time. These suggestions will help you avoid the dreaded Blogger’s Guilt that we all feel from time to time whether it be due to family commitments, writer’s block or too few hours in the day.

 

PLAN AHEAD: The most obvious and effective way to keep things ticking along is to plan well in advance. Scheduling new posts, tweets, Facebook updates etc for the week ahead takes the pressure off trying to ‘fit it all in’. Your¬†blog will continue to get views while you’re busy building¬†sandcastles and finally¬†making use of your¬†National Trust membership.

BLOG-MIN: If (like me) you are nowhere near organised enough to plan posts in advance use this time to do all the other bloggy bits and bobs on your to-do list e.g:

  • Find and fix broken links
  • Contact a blogger you would like to guest-post for
  • Update¬†your media-kit¬†
  • Respond to/follow up on emails
  • Refresh and share an old post
  • Pin your posts to Pinterest
  • Update your editorial calendar¬†

All are great ways of being productive when it’s not possible to work¬†on new ideas. Personally I need total silence to be able to concentrate on writing a post but I could happily manage a bit of blog-min while the kids are busy watching a DVD.

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