Less is more

Around six months ago I also become aware that my chaotic approach to finances, meant I had very little idea where my money was going, and I was slowly sliding into debt. It took a great deal of courage to finally face my situation and it was worse than I imagined, but it felt liberating to be in control. It wasn’t until I was out shopping one day and I realised that I could buy something if I wanted it, without the huge stack of guilt on my shoulders about buying – it was wonderful to know that I had money to pay for it, rather than hoping.

I read Julia Camerons – Prosperous Heart,

Prosperous Heart

She was very open and honest about her journey, it made me feel that I was not the only one! that was a huge weight off my shoulders.

The book is very good, it gives workable steps so that I felt I was moving forward. She discusses the concept of getting the right payment for artistic endeavour and helps you to evaluate your spending ‘personality traits’.

One of the big revelations to me was that I could not afford the ‘bigger things’ I desired, so instead I was compensating by purchasing lots of little things, especially when it was ‘charity’ shops. Yet, if I stopped these purchases and gave myself time to consider what I really wanted, and why I wanted things, I could actually afford these ‘bigger’ things. I felt as if everything was within my reach, more importantly I began to feel blessed. I also used affirmations to enforce the belief that the universe provided for all my needs and wants.

The first month was really tight, I had overspent the month before so had to manage on a tiny budget but I was determined to do so. Instead of focussing on the ‘lack’ I began to pay attention to what I had.

I live in a fair size two bedroom flat and when I moved in I was creating a new home having been living with friends in the interim. There was a lot of space, but there were a lot of boxes it took me six months before I finally emptied the last box. In the three years I have lived here, my magpie tendencies has meant my little home has become full of ‘suff’.

lots of stuff

I spent a Sunday afternoon going through my larder, my freezer and my fridge – as I made my list I began to realise that I had a great deal of food and could manage to feed myself for quite some time without needing to do a big shop. I also realised that I was still in the habit of buying for a family even though I lived on my own.

When I began to look around my home all the stuff was making things difficult, to get a saucepan out of the cupboard I had to remove other pans, cooking pots everything in my home was like that. I began to question why I had so many pans when I only really used one or two. Since then I have been slowly, systematically, working my way through my cupboards and bookshelves – considering if I really need it. Once I realised just how valuable my space was, I began to make decisions about wether or not something deserved a limited resource.

glass and china

I had a whole glass cabinet full of so many glasses it was difficult to find the right one. I ended up taking two huge boxes to a local Charity shop. Having room to display the items that pleased me the most gave me immense satisfaction.

My bookshelves were full of books that I had read and would not likely read again, so I took those away and now I buy kindle books because they don’t take up any room.

Its a slow process, one that I do when I feel the moment strikes, I’ll do a shelf – or a cupboard and then rest. If you do too much its overwhelming.

I had three cake stands so I listed a glass cake stand on a Facebook group, offering it for free, and spoke to a fabulous lady miles away who was very much looking forward to owning one. She was arranging for it to be picked up so after finding a big enough box I realised that I could wrap it up in some fabric – I no longer wanted rather than bubble wrap. (We both enjoyed sewing!) and I also found a three tier cake stand that was also a duplicate and that also fitted in the box. It gave me a great deal of pleasure to be able to give things away, knowing that they would be valued and appreciated.

I have been reading around this subject and have found some other wonderful inspiration that has helped me enormously.

The simple Life

This is a wonderful book, Rhonda creates a warm cosiness about her lifestyle, contentment drips off the page. It made me yearn to have chickens and a veg patch. She has links in the ebook to her online community which is full of more great advice and like minded folks.

There are some very good questions that help you to re-evaluate what is important.

Well worth a read you can get it on amazon for as little as 60p.

 

It seems that clutter is endemic according to the BBC and it is affecting our health. I think that there is more to it than merely space, its stressful when you have to unpack a cupboard to get something out, or that you cannot fit all your items in your cupboards. I believe it affects our energy flow as well, living in a cluttered space does not give us the ‘white space’ to relax in.

I would be interested to hear what you think!

In the meantime I shall create a list of things that I have given away.

ttfn x

So far:

2 boxes of glassware

1 glass cake stand

1 Three tier china cake stand

1 Vax upright hoover

A set of six willow pattern dinner plates and bowls

A potato ricer

Two carrier bags of reading books

Advertisements

Book Review – Little Lies Liane Moriarty

Another gripping page turner
Another gripping page turner

Liane Moriarty is a genius!

The sign of a good book is when I think about the characters even when I am not reading, Maddie, Jane and Celeste felt as real as my own friends.

Liane Morriaty creates believable characters – Maddie was my favourite, maybe the one I can relate to the most because she loves a bit of drama! she is far from perfect, a bit of a stirrer, but has the best of intentions.  The characters seem to struggle with the similar issues, big and small, grappling with modern family life. The school gate mothers were so true to life here in the UK I enjoyed a giggle as I could pinpoint a Renata alongside the blonde bobs! My school yard experience seems not quite as unique as I thought, I spent many a terrifying time quaking in my boots waiting for my children to come out of school!

I have to admit the story telling gave me a little headache at first, you flit through so many characters, it seems to hop from one to another but this is put to good use as the tension builds and grows until I found myself reading well into the early hours! The observations that come from minor characters give more depth to the main characters, you get to see them through different eyes.

What could be more hilarious than fighting men wearing Elvis Costumes while a host of Audrey’s gaze on?  Murder might not be a usual occurrence at a school event, but its the humanity that Liane weaves into her tales that makes all her books such gripping reads, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. We might dislike some characters, they may behave in unreasonable ways, judgemental attitudes, bullying that occurs not just among the children. Domestic violence is tackled with understanding and realism, constructed in such a way that it is credible, it helped me to understand why domestic victims have mixed emotions.

It does reach a satisfactory conclusion, we do discover who the murderer is, and more importantly who the victim is, and I am smug enough to report that I guessed correctly! (Perhaps its written so well that the clues are easy to follow!) The loose ends are tied up so neatly, that I found myself smiling as I read the end; although somewhat disappointed that I had lost a host of wonderful entertaining friends.

I cannot recommend this book enough, alongside the Husband’s secret, What Alice Forgot and the Hypnotist’s love story.

If you haven’t discovered Liane Morriaty yet, then I am envious! She is a tremendous writer, I am sure it won’t be long before we see one of her books on film.

ttfn x

Fabric Portraits

DSC01658

Its wet and cold outside, so there is nothing more delightful than having a little time sewing and being able to kick back and play a little. I am teaching a couple of workshops and one of those explores free motion embroidery but I thought I would also try a hand at appliqué portraits as an option.

It is a great way to use up scraps as you only need small amounts of fabric. It can be quite interesting to play around with the fabric direction to enhance the shape. I really liked the way this brown flower piece seemed to create an interesting top detail.

Free motion embroidery is addictive! its just a case of dropping the feed dogs, (the metal teeth that move the fabric past the needle), most machines have a little button, most likely your manual will tell you where to find yours. Use a embroidery needle, its not just sharp but also has a strong shank.

Self portrait

I used this picture as a template – I wear a lot of hats and so it is a recognisable feature.

You need to print your picture out roughly the size you want to stitch.

While this photo looks a good choice, the tilt of my head creates an angle for my eyes, and my mouth is slightly tilted you can see what problems crop up in the stitched portrait.

As it is just playing I decided to go with it.

Stitched portait

You can get something called dressmakers’ carbon paper, its used to transfer embroidery designs or simply use ordinary carbon.

Iron your fabric so that it is free of creases it should be larger than the picture.

Lay the carbon paper on top – make sure the transfer side is face down onto the fabric – finally place the picture on top.

Carefully trace the features, eyes, mouth, hair and nose. It helps if you use a ball point pen that shows up in the photograph so you can see what you have traced. Its important to check you have all the pieces because once you lift the picture off, you cannot re-do it.

begin stitching

I find it easier to back the fabric with some iron on interfacing, and a hoop. It prevents the fabric from shifting and wrinkling as you stitch.

Drawing with your sewing machine is easy but different to using a pencil. The needle stays in place and you move the fabric to create the lines rather than the paper staying still and the pencil moving!

Use a darning foot – you can see easier and the loop of the foot prevents the fabric from being pushed through the holes in the footplate.

You may find it easier to work backwards and forwards, moving the fabric quickly results in large stitches, or slowly creates tiny stitches.

applique shapesOnce you have created the features, you can trim it and then assemble the appliqué shapes.

Use the photograph to create the appliqué templates, such as the hat, and the dress.

Use the lines not just to highlight the features, but also to give shading to the hat.

rose applique

Finally I added a rose appliqué, another feature I often have is a flower brooch in my hair – this was a tiny flower on a scrap of fabric, but it really brightens up the whole picture.

I think it is best to simply follow a few lines, rather than go into too much detail. I could have put in the cheeks and little dimple that you can see in the photograph, but it can go drastically wrong! less is more.

As you can see, the tilt has meant my eyes are at a slight angle. I think I can get away with it, but maybe next time I shall try and get a more level photograph.

I do hope you will try this, its so much fun – frame them in an embroidery hoop and hang on the wall.

ttfn x

Glasgow Girl

Glasgow Girl!I headed up to Glasgow on Friday, leaving the blue sunny skies of Hampshire and landing at a cold, wet Glasgow! However the I found the Scotts’ hospitality warm and inviting! We were up to meet Mr D’s family, they were so welcoming it was easy to feel at home.

Glasgow has been given the title of City of Culture, and was host to the Commonwealth Games last year, as well as being the home of Mackintosh. There are some beautiful buildings, stunning red bricked Victorian tenements with beautiful 8 foot ceiling proportions. Turrets and large bay windows abound, like magical castles there is so much to delight the eye.

“The Hunterian Art Gallery houses one of the most important collections of the work of Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist-wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933).‌” you can visit the site here.

The house was absolutely wonderful, it was extraordinary being able to walk round their home as if we were visiting! Although the home was a Victorian villa, Mackintosh made many alterations to the property re-defining the space entirely. It feels as if there is a Japanese influence, with black block back chairs and white. He added windows and adjusted the ceiling heights to create a light airy space. They used the house as a ‘shop front’ for their designs and often commissions were duplicated so that they had copies in their home. The dining room was soft green tones, with dark furniture, the walls had a dark stencilled design. The first floor was a lovely surprise, painted entirely white with white drapes and a few items of furniture painted black. The top floor was entirely white with beautiful roses decorating the bed, wardrobe and dressing table. When you consider most of the usual Victorian interiors were dark and cluttered, the Mackintosh style must have been revolutionary.

Willow Tea Rooms

I also enjoyed seeing Margaret MacDonald’s plaster frieze on the walls, she was influenced by Aubrey Beardsley (caution!) with the curves and lines, but I also noticed her focus on hands and feet with decoration detail creating the rest of the form. Considering she was painting pieces like this, you can’t help but surmise the influence she had on Klimt, especially the Beethoven Frieze her work pre-dates his by 10 years.

The Mackintosh couple had tremendous success, with commissions for the Glasgow School of Art and a Mrs Cranston’s Tea rooms. Thankfully the Willow Tearoom still survives, and I was thrilled to take my tea enjoying their beautiful lines. All these pictures are from the Tea rooms.

These were a wonderful invention, the temperance movement needed alternatives to public houses and tea rooms became very popular. They were designed for ladies who lunch, as well as a place to have business meetings.

Mackintosh Fireplace

There were newspapers and reading material available for customers, as well as billiard tables.

When you consider that most homes were cramped it must have been a wonderful escape.

I love the striking colours on this fireplace, stark, black and white with cool blue the red coming from the fire must have been a wonderful contrast.

The straight lines combine with curves and organic flower shapes. (here you can see the oval from the honesty flowers)

Entrance Doors

You can see the beautiful entrance doors – notice how the proportions are played with by altering the width of the windows on either side of the the handles.

The illusion elongates the glass and makes the doors appear taller.

Famous Rose

Here you can see the famous Rose design in the door panel detail.

This works beautifully with the linear organic honesty.

Fire place detail

This is one of the fireplaces, I love the use of the mirror and silver.

You can see the beautiful Stained Glass window here, as well as the lovely wet Glasgow weather!

Willow Tea Rooms
Willow Tea Rooms

The Glasgow Girls were also revolutionary, the Girls were taught the applied arts, at a time when many women were barred from Universities. Margaret and her sister Frances both attended learning from skilled craftsmen – they were both able to make every aspect of their objects including copper work and pewter. Margaret created pewter panels for some of the Mackintosh furniture. Charles Mackintosh was studying Architecture together with his friend James Nash, so the two friends married the two sisters.

I can definitely recommend a visit to Glasgow, although more balmy May might be better weather.

You can find out more about Mackintosh style here

ttfn

Somewhere over the rainbow….

Unlike the film, you may never reach the Emerald City
Unlike the film, you may never reach the Emerald City

Its January and the media are all awash with New Year’s Resolutions, coming up with the top lists of things people plan to change this year. Its all so tempting, pictures abound of people taking Art classes, or sitting in some beauty spot or looking lithe in a yoga pose the picture of health and blissfulness.

It got me thinking, the underlying message that bombards me is that clearly I am not good enough, my life needs a transformation and I ‘need’ to change.  I should be thinner, healthier, read more, etc…

I read once that although we have far more money and leisure time as a nation than previous generations we are more depressed – the psychiatrist attributed this to one thing, advertising. In order to sell us products a desire or need for that product has to be created so we end up with a life that looks less than perfect and a glimpse of a better brighter future.

Sounds familiar? One article today I read told me that there are 52 Monday’s in each year and every one of them should be exciting, if they weren’t I wasn’t in the right career. Really? It immediately creates a huge magnifying glass on my life and highlights a potential flaw. Not all of my Mondays are exciting, some of my Mondays are actually quite repetitive and boring.

These ‘helpful articles’ create unhappiness, dis-satisfaction with who I am – they encourage me to examine my life – with this belief that every single moment  should be filled with a satisfying career, with time for healthy food, a fit beautiful body and inner peace.

However, its all ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ to a glorious point in the future when I finally get my act together, but definitely not in the now. Worse still, at the back of my mind is the knowledge that I have been here before, made announcements to the world about sweeping changes, my transformation, my brilliant new life that somehow has fizzled away to er… well nothing. I have failed, not even able to carry out a few simple changes, no staying power. I simply have no will power…. it all becomes a huge exercise in misery, wrapped up to look like ‘helpful advice’ to guide us to a better life.

The irony of this is that we can have a life that is full of wonder, joy and peace without really changing that much at all, it is within our grasp and it is a simple act of focus.

Take losing weight for example, I can stand in front of a full mirror and examine my body down to the finest detail. Yes, I am a woman in her forties who has had children and my body has wobbly bits, but you know something my body is wonderful and healthy. It does all that I require it to do – things that give me a great deal of pleasure, dancing, walking the dog, reading and writing this blog entry right now. All pain free. I can sit for a moment and feel the fabric brushing my skin, or listen to the most sublime music that makes me feel blissful. I can walk along the beach and feel the cool sand between my toes. I can squelch in muddy puddles wearing my wellies. I can experience the sheer bliss of chocolate as it melts on my tongue. I am so grateful for my body that faithfully serves me every day. Who wouldn’t want to appreciate that and give it the best food available that helps it to function? In this short paragraph I have closed the gap between this future perfection of happiness and brought it into now, this present moment. Where my body becomes the focus of endless pleasure and contentment.

Easy wasn’t it?

You see, over the rainbow, was actually Dorothy’s desire to get back home,  to the life she had before the tornado struck and she only missed it once it was gone. The Wizard of Oz was a film made at a time when America was on its knees, and people lacked hope for the future. The message was all about counting your blessings, as twee as it might sound. It is the a wonderful way to create happiness and contentment right now in this very moment, not next week after several gruelling gym sessions.

Change because your heart is telling you, not because you feel you should. Alter your perspective from a place of love, rather than beating yourself up because you fall short. If you really want to lose weight focus on returning the dedication your body gives you, by nurturing it with food that cherishes who you are, helps it to function well.

Thank you jar
Thank you jar

Last year I took a large jam jar and decorated it with glitter etc, I also took a few blocks of tiny post it notes and every time something nice happened I would write it down and pop it into the jar. I had to empty the jar twice this year, and all the little tickets make quite a pile. Simple things; the fantastic service I had in a clothes shop. The lovely flowers a friend bought me. The restaurant that kept my phone safe when I left it behind and posted it back to me. The kind compliment someone gave me when I was out shopping. All these things contribute to my blessed life.

Back to Mondays.. you know its a wonderful thing to have a job these days that provides all that I need in life..and working from home, is pretty blissful when the rain is splattering against the windows, the heating is quietly chugging away and the radio is full of traffic reports…  guess that makes every one of my Mondays wonderful…

wishing you happiness .. right here right now..

ttfn.

Happy New Year

New year's Eve Dance 2014
New year’s Eve Dance 2014

Happy New Year to you all, may it be filled with health, wealth and happiness! I hope you had fun celebrating! this year we went to a Vintage Swing Dance just outside Brighton.

The music is mainly from the 1930’s right through to the 1950’s with all the fun of dressing up! I made this dress specifically for the evening, it is a oriental satin fabric and had a fabulous drape, so that it swirls out when I spin. (More about the making of this dress later). I had just popped out for a breather which is why my petticoat is all over the place!

We are very fortunate there are so many wonderful dance events on in West Sussex, there is a very active Vintage community with regular events including the famous Goodwood Revival in September. I love the upbeat music and the opportunity to dress up with flowers in my hair without people looking at me sideways! Its great that the guys dress up too, shirt, ties, braces and trilby’s are the order of the day! We had a brilliant time – spending it with lovely dancers. Everyone goes all out to dress up so it becomes a joy to see so many lovely clothes!

NYE swing dance poster

If you aren’t sure what swing dancing is here’s a little taste 

We had an interesting discussion on the way home, how the English mostly celebrate New Year’s Eve, versus the Scotts New Year celebrations. Here in the Uk we go out early, usually until the clock chimes! Then we are off home, even though the music went well on to 1am it had thinned out considerably!

The Scotts do it differently, staying home quiet until the midnight chimes strike and then its time to go out and celebrate. They visit friends and neighbours – with allocated times organised so that everyone can go from house to house together, with whisky and food, usually lasting well into the next day. Its why the 2nd January is also a bank holiday in Scotland! Lucky them!

Dancing just after midnight
Dancing just after midnight 

 

The Hall was bedecked with bunting and flags just as if it were the 1940’s! Here we are in the centre of the floor dancing just after the midnight chimes had rung out. (you can just about make me out in my pink dress)

May the New Year be Happy, Healthy and full of blessings  xx ttfn xx