A little bit of honesty and hopeful encouragement about blogging

I am going out on a limb today, try to write honestly about my roller coaster relationship with blogging. Bekki (at the Creativity Cauldron) has some great advice about asking questions during creative process,  I find this is a marvellous strategy especially when I am encountering blocks.

I have been struggling with this blog recently, mostly because I feel torn in several directions:

When I first started my blog I wanted it to be an authentic space, where I can express who I am.

Over and above that was an opportunity for interaction with others –  to have a discussion about the things that matter to me.

Since I wrote stories in school, I had a passion to be a published writer – back then it would have been an incredible feat; now it is easy.

It still gives me a little thrill to click a button that says publish! I can get my writing out there for people to read: how great is that? To be noticed – to have an audience. I want it out there.

My little web within this massive world wide web that says

hello this is me

But…After a few months I realised I want a successful blog, I would read other blogs and notice that they had hundreds of followers, or comments!

(Comments were as rare as hens teeth  on my blog for well over a year!)

Isolated among the world of bloggers

It was not enough to write and be published, I wanted a response and so  I had to get my voice heard, attract followers, get noticed – get something back.

With all this connectivity, it was no longer talking within my circle of friends, or at my local ladies group or even in my community.  its like getting my voice heard globally, among the whole world of blogs, and honestly, sometimes I feel as if I am competing to be heard – while everyone in the world is singing ‘I’d like to teach the wold to sing’ (you have to be a certain age to remember that coca cola advert!).

I started to read about blogging, actually laying out funds for books like…. ‘In order to have a successful blog I should be doing…. x y z’ – or an on line course… your guide to the first 1000, followers.. after reading all these my blog felt like a job in itself and not the fun I thought it would be.

The advice suggested my blog should be different:

  • I needed to focus on one subject matter.
  • I should be mindful that people needed to be motivation to read my blog, I had to give them a reason to read.

My blog was no longer about me and my voice but pleasing everyone else..  you know the saying … you end up pleasing no-one and driving yourself crazy in the process.

sigh – back to the initial question,

Why am I writing a blog?

(I made a mind map…using colourful felt tip pens, a big piece of paper and a great deal of writing I came up with a few reasons)

One of the first thoughts was that blogging has dented my confidence at times.

While my circle of friends are encouraging about my creative endeavours enough for me to want to share it with the world, it has been daunting.

There are lots of talented people on the web, with quantifiable numbers of blog followers blinking away on screen. There are times when my efforts looks so small, especially when its followed by a deafening silence.

I realised I need a strategy to make me more resilient to maintain a balance and perspective. Nothing more than a way to re-frame thinking and curbing my competitive nature so that I still feel I have something to add to this global creative soup.

I need a strategy

Advice tells me to stick to one subject yet I resist; restricting my blog to a specific theme goes against my desire to express myself feely – yet it does make logical sense. I would not like to pick up a magazine on crafts and find articles about motor bike repairs!

I live a varied life, with many interests – narrowing my blog means choosing!  Do I start multiple blogs about different aspects of my life?.. that would require a lot more time and makes me feel exhausted just thinking about it.

The process highlights that I need to separate the business aspect of my life, to support my classes and my writing. It thrills me that students ask for details of my blog but I hesitate because it is so personal. So I shall be maintaining a blog about my sewing – and maybe a second for all that is left over.

This questioning session has been useful, I need to create a balance -decide how much of my time and effort I wish to give to this process realistically. There is only so much time you can spend recording and cataloguing your life rather than simply living it. This post itself has taken me the best part of a working day to compose.

The overwhelming conclusion of all this pondering is that I love blogging, despite its ups and downs.

I read a lot of inspirational blogs that are thankfully honest about their journey; they have written posts about how difficult it is at the beginning.  Some have generously shared their process. Some allow a peek behind the scenes to a more balanced perspective from the blog ‘shop window’ with their beautiful photography, lives of blissful creativity and blog following counter in three figures. (Numbers are so quantifiable that it is hard to resist the comparison)

As  I follow other people’s blogs I am privy to these lives, I learn about the positive pregnancy test, the trips to tea rooms and valentines meals, the creative up cycling or revamping, the adorable crochet hat for a newborn nephew.

A notification about a new post, feels like hearing from a distant acquaintance – over time a new type of friendship develops as I follow the journey they are on. Their advice or experience is often a nugget of wisdom that carries me forward on my journey. Can I really have that type of relationship with thousands of followers?

Blogging transcends borders and is a pleasant place to hop around the globe! 

I can read about women in other countries enjoying the same small joys of living every day, in a different climate or culture; they are usually upbeat. We all struggle, we all strive for greatness and we deserve to tell our story.

Reading blogs is positive, for example Jen was posting on her blog (Make do and Mend) about the little libraries set up in her village, it is such a delightful idea. Reading about these positive things creates a balance towards the wonderful things that are happening in this world – an alternative to the catastrophic dismal tirade that is ‘News’.

In this enormous crowded world wide web where it can be surprisingly lonely – I have been profoundly encouraged by my blog readers, especially when they take the time to comment.

It is with that in mind that I try to do the same, because I know how much those few words at the end of a post mean.

In writing this honest account of my struggles, I hope that it encourages others who might wrestle with their blog, or their creativity – to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Perhaps  someone else is reading this and has strategies that has helped them overcome these barriers, I hope they are willing to share here or point me in the right direction.

No matter what, it feels good to be writing and pressing that little button ‘publish’.

ttfn.

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Dog Nutrition – Cooking for Your Dog and Why It’s Good for their Health

A Dog's Diet

Imagine living on a diet of convenience food, how long  would be before it took a toll on your health? Yet most of us feed our beloved dogs pet food because we are encouraged to believe it is the best way to keep our dogs healthy.

When my dog, Gus, arrived from the rescue centre he was balding, his ribs were showing and you could see his spine, he also had the most appalling stomach problems that made living with him a little challenging!

I tried several expensive brands of food, but nothing really helped.  Most of the advice on the internet either advocated a raw food diet or commercial food: so I decided to try the middle ground and created a recipe that transformed him into a healthy dog.

Healthy dog

The recipe is simple:

5lb of minced hearts, (heart is muscle not offal)

250g of frozen mixed veg

Place in a large pan and add cold water.

Bring to the boil until mince is cooked.

Allow to cool – drain off some of the water but keep the fat – you dog needs this.

Sprinkle the food with linseeds – it is very good for their coat.

I put these into tupperware boxes so that I work out portion sizes.

Add Porridge Oats soaked overnight in Water or Boiled Rice, I add this afterwards not cooked up with the other ingredients. Rice can go off easily, so I use it fresh.

IMG_1160

Dogs need certain nutrients from raw meat, so I give him a portion of uncooked heart mince on the day I buy it.

Your dog will need additional calcium, you can crush up egg shells but I give my dog bones from the butchers.

My dog is a Staffie, he has incredibly powerful jaws that need to gnaw bones and he is able to crush them down. Sometimes when I have made stock with a chicken carcass I add a little vinegar. This makes the bones soft enough for him to eat. (I am reluctant to give him raw chicken bones because of they can splinter even more so if they have been roasted).

If your dog is smaller it might be worth talking to your vet.

I know exactly what is in my dog’s food, unlike commercial food,

(see further down the post)

Home made food

 Here are the reasons I have for making my own dog food.

  1. He is a healthy weight – my dog is well past middle age (11 years old). He is active, and vibrant, with a glossy coat like you will see on a racehorse. He is not slowing down, nor does he appear to have any arthritis or joint problems.

  2. His teeth are white I don’t need to buy him teeth cleaning treats, he has no tooth decay.

  3. He does not smell – his tummy has settled down and picking up after him is easy.

  4. He doesn’t eat treats other than pigs ears, even when the vet gives him a ‘treat’ he will lick it and politely leave it on the floor.

  5.   It is cheaper on average it costs me £10 per week to feed my dog.

  6. Apart from his annual checkups we do not have to visit the vet, there are no signs of diabetes, obesity or teeth problems.

You cannot feed your dog the following: Onions, dairy like milk or cream, chocolate.

I avoid putting in greens like broccoli, cabbage or spinach as it can make the food smell unpleasant.

Pet food was ‘invented’ as a way of selling animal waste left from food manufacturing. Before this many dog owners fed their pets leftovers from their own meals – which wasn’t all bad as a dog requires a diet similar to our own requiring meat, vegetables and carbohydrates as well as the odd bone.

The scientific claims of pet food is designed to give us the same confidence used to sell washing powder and toiletries. Bear in mind a business primary aim is to make money, that means  maximising profits and trying to outsell competitors.

I began to read the labels on dog food and discovered the following.

Contents of commercial dog food

If you read the contents of pet food you will find

Chondroitin – is cartilage and connective tissue (food waste that cannot be used in human food) it was this product suspected of causing BSE, as diseased animals were used in animal feed.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) also sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan,  used as an alternative sweetener. Amino glucose or anything ending with ‘cose’ is sugar. 

Sorghum is a grass and its grain is widely used in dog foods as an inexpensive alternative to traditional grains it does not have the same level of nutrition as rice and oats.

Calcium carbonate – this is made from shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells

Pet food does provide nutrition – but I want to know exactly what my dog is eating, so I  make it myself.

Little pieces of heaven

I have a lovely rocking chair, its beautiful and when I read this I resolved to have a little time sitting in it. Rocking chairs bring back so many happy memories and yet, I leave it in a corner forgotten most of the time.

Mindfulbalance

File:Finnish rocking chair.JPG

A beautiful description of what meditation time is: an act of kindness towards ourselves, a time when we do not have to be anything or get anywhere. We can allow trouble and judgment to be busy somewhere else, while we allow ourselves be supported and held in a kinder space.

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People wont even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the…

View original post 19 more words

Valentines Weekend in pictures

Bacon Sandwich and breakfast readingThere is something decadent about lazy Saturday mornings, crisp bacon between soft brown bread and a little bit of reading inspiration.Mr D bought this magazine because it had an article about lingerie – he knows I have been researching this subject for a while. I am so blessed to have a man in my life who pays attention to my creativity and encourages me. He bought me a pile of little reading books for Valentines day, short stories that he will read me when we are tucked up in bed!

As well as some beautiful daffodils. I think these flowers should be identified with Valentines day, roses are simply twigs at this time of the year, but the daffodils push through the cold, they are like vases of sunshine – so good at lifting my spirits on a dull February day.

Cross-stitch love 2

I have been playing around with cross stitch, creating these two pieces to be turned into bolsters on our bed, except I realised the material is up in the Cotswolds. I thought it might be a nice gift. I also created a play list on youtube of songs that are special to us – we listened to it cuddled up on the sofa. .. nice.

Portrait picture design

I had this idea for creating personalised portraits about a year ago, its only just come to fruition.

I have a couple of workshops coming up, so needed to concentrate on getting them completed this weekend

Arranging fabric portrait

I love this ‘red bird fabric’ from Eternal Maker – I bought it from memory about the right shade of red to match the frame, thank fully the red was just right.

Fabric portraits

In no time they were done! we can gaze into each other’s eyes, or turn them around if we argue!

Afternoon tea was ready and waiting.

Home made afternoon tea

Smokies, muffins, chocolate cake and raspberry and white chocolate brownies

The chocolate cake was sublime, I am usually the baker but I think Mr D has stolen my crown!

After a walk along the seashore in the glorious sunshine

Heart chocolate souffle

Dinner was sublime, crab pasta followed by heart shaped chocolate raspberry soufflé

Mr D is a delightful cook and a fantabulous man! Breakfast Bagel

Smoked Salmon Bagels with cream cheese for Sunday Brunch

Picking out embroidery colours

More embroidery

Reading papers, relaxing and dog walking.

Perfect!

ttfn

x

Calm down and get crafting

 

 

Do you spend most of your time having ideas but not following through?

Is there a dark corner of your home that has a mountain of unfinished projects?

Do you find you are so full of ideas that you cannot focus or sleep?

You aren’t alone

To be honest most of the time I find my creativity overwhelming; last week for example, I visited the library to return one book, I came home with several books; subjects were varied from hat making, dog training and gardening. I spent most of this week researching hats and gardening websites, leaving projects unfinished because the excitement for them has waned.

The biggest problem I face is maintaining enthusiasm for a project until its completed without being de-railled by the next idea.

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, for example I was walking my dog and I came across some variegated ivy, by the time we made it home the idea developed and I taught a Christmas Wreath workshop out of it. I had to go through a process of trial and error (or playing as I prefer to call it) before I could take that idea forward into a course.

I thought I would share simple steps to ride that wave of enthusiasm, enjoy the making process right through to success! 

1 KEEP A NOTEBOOK

Writing down an idea means that I don’t lose it;

instead I can keep it on record until I have the time to pursue it.

Some of my best ideas come usually when I am in the middle of doing something else or on a long car journey. I take a notebook with me wherever I go.

Some projects never get beyond this stage, but others develop in time – I might change the method or the materials or  from a cushion to a wall hanging. Keeping a log of ideas also reduces the fear that one day my creativity cease at the moment I will need to come up with something.

The important thing is that my ‘new’ idea doesn’t derail my project.

2 LIMIT RESEARCH-2

Trying to create my idea while surfing the net – is like trying to be heard at a loud party! 

Learn to search with a purpose and tune out distractions

The process starts with a Pinterest board or  Flickr for inspiration but I narrow my search just on the object I am making. It doesn’t mean that I can’t ever spend time browsing and meandering around the internet, just not while I am trying to do a project.

A while ago I decided to make a vintage apron after a little research I decided on the design I liked most and I had incorporated elements of other aprons I had seen. I did not stray from aprons, even though my Pinterest feed was full of lovely things – I knew if I wandered off the path I would end up wanting to make a host of other things but essentially be too scattered to do anything.

I look at youtube tutorials, see how others have made them and incorporate their methods and ideas. I revise techniques I haven’t used for a while; there is no right or wrong way to make something, but there are a host of tips and tricks there.

Know when to STOP

Its important to decide when I have researched enough – I usually draw or sketch out what I am making, so that I have a fixed idea and then I stop looking. It is essential: otherwise I will find my ideas get muddled or I can get stuck  looking for the ‘next’ apron that might be better and my creative time slot has gone.

From that point on It is vital to stay away from the web until I have finished my project – it calms down the chatter in my head I find I am more focussed on my project idea. It is a relaxing place to be: allowing my mind to focus on just one thing for a while.

“Ignore the helpful voice suggesting I might miss something ..”

I have discovered that there will still be lots on the web waiting for me when my project is complete. It has always surprised me that after a few weeks away from FB it takes me only ten minutes to catch up!

MAKE NOTES-2

Taking a break helps you to be productive.

There is a theory that your creative mind is often drowned out by your problem solving logical mind, repetitive tasks such as walking or housework occupy the logical mind enough to allow the creative mind to come forward. That is why some the most creative ideas come while you are mopping the floor or in a supermarket queue. 

Walking the dog is good for creativity, I need time for my imagination to process my research, sift through the ideas and come up with a practical way to bring my idea into being. Walking is meditative and the physical movement oxygenates the blood helping the brain to function – I let my imagination take flight.

If you feel blocked or over stimulated it is really one of the best cures – right now its a real delight to see a snowdrop with its head bent in the frost, or the daffodil buds forcing their way through.

The internet works at a frenetic pace, connecting with nature and the slow rhythms of the seasons helps to slow down over stimulated minds. 

develop your idea-2

At this point you may want to simply jump in, but you are missing the fun of developing your originality – take time to explore your project.

Let’s assume I am making a strawberry pincushion, I can find 100 strawberry pincushions on the web – if I jump in now my pincushion will be like a photo copy of a photo copy or 101st strawberry pincushion –I need to make my own original version. I print out some of my research, (but I don’t go back to the web), play with the templates, mix them up – take the elements I like, piece them together to come up with my own design – original designs are what gets published .

I might look at strawberries, the shape, the colour, study them. Draw them. Get a feel for the strawberry, make it my own. I need to be off grid for this – its about my strawberry not the 100 net versions.

Crayons can be tremendous fun, or cut up magazine pictures, collages. I am not doing a work of art I am exploring the object. Even great artists do this, it should be sketchy, scratchy – definitely not a finished article – more about observation – or grown up play.

I might gather materials I might use, is it red velvet? Felt? Am I going to use embroidery? What shades of green do I have for the leaves?  I rustle through my stash – with a sense of purpose. A bead might be just the right thing for strawberry seeds, or I might find just the right shade of red fabric.

buy only what you need

Its so easy to get lost in buying: fabric stores are full of inspiration -in the past I have gone in for a fat quarter and ended up buying fabric for a dress.

Space is finite: filling a studio up with stuff not only reduces space to be creative the stuff saps energy. 

My first studio became a jumble; at first it was a great space but as time went on it became harder to find things, I had to move things around each time until eventually I would waste hours simply sorting through my stash. I would walk away not feeling uplifted as I did when I first had the studio but stepping away guilty at my lack productivity.

accumulating things was not making me creative it was making me feel guilty.

So now I make a list, stick to it and promise myself I will go back for the dress fabric I spotted that is temptingly more exciting than making strawberries. (I can jot it down in my notebook or take away a sample and tape it on a page) but I don’t buy it.

 I remain focussed but open minded -if I were looking for red velvet and I found some beautiful red wool that sings to me; then I am still creating a strawberry pincushion.

After a trip to a shop if I am wavering, it helps me to look at the collages and sketches once more – my enthusiasm emerges and I usually find the tempting other project fades.

 

Making is a journey not a destination

Collage, drawings and sketching will have helped to remain focussed, its time to  gather everything together to create don’t be surprised if you have a sudden desire to clean the windows, or re-order your stash because..

Making is scary! 

I find my ‘helpful perfection critic’ usually pipes up, listing all the things that could go wrong and why this particular project needs to be ‘PERFECT’.

Its helpful to see the making stage as experimentation

This is the journey – be prepared to have fun its not about getting to the outcome as quickly as possible.

Try different versions, see what works and what doesn’t.

If you are making clothes, do a toile first, if its a painting, use a ‘test’ canvass.

Expect failures, disasters or for things not to do what you expected

Sometimes the most wonderful ‘accidents’ turn into some of the best projects.

Be prepared to problem solve try to enjoy the challenge

If you get stuck then ask a friend or a forum or Facebook group.

You might need to look at youtube tutorials again, but stay on track.

Creating is a process – give yourself lots of time and allow for experimentation

It is easy to lose heart if it isn’t working – it is tempting to put it away…don’t give in!

If you have really hit a block,  take some time out usually a walk is the best exercise

Most artists imaginations are far richer than the reality – I may feel that my project has not come up to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.

Accept that you may never be entirely satisfied with what you have made – it is ok. 

Show a trusted friend – one that is encouraging, they may love it

If they suggest changes try not to take it personally but use it to direct you, see everything you make as learning

Try not to point out mistakes and accept the imperfections; it is hand made not machine bought.

The Japanese believe that imperfections are uniquely beautiful – imperfections make stamps and coins more valuable.

If its a dress,  no-one will notice the wonky seam line until you point it out! 

I like this quote:

Art is a process not an object

if you would like to find out more about avoiding procrastination, Bekki at the Creativity Cauldron has some fantastic advice, books and tips to help you tackle your unfinished objects.

I would be interested to read your tips, strategies or struggles please add them in the comments box.

most of all have fun

ttfn x

Recycled wax tea cup candles

Tea cup recycling candle

My fellow blogger Cheryl is taking up the challenge to have a make do and mend year, (you can take a peek at her lovely blog) One of the things she loves are scented candles – reading her blog reminded me about my candle recycling.

Its easy to do and makes good use of the candle wax we usually throw away saving you pounds and the planet!

 

Some of the scented candles are strong enough second or third time around!

tea cup candle recycling

You simply collect wax as you go – I usually pour out the hot wax into a bowl after I have blown out the candle. Not only does this seem to help with lighting the candle the next time I use it but I keep collecting until I have enough wax.

I use my slow cooker to melt the wax its easier than a double boiler.

Place about 1 inch of hot water into the ceramic bowl and then put the bowl of wax to melt on a medium to low heat. (Don’t put the wax directly into the slow cooker especially if you are using scented candles)

tea cup candle recycling -005

 

 

You can purchase pre waxed wicks – 50 of these cost only £2.79 from an ebay seller called Szafir who will send you them postage free.

They come boxed up nicely and they work very well.

 

 

 

I use two bamboo sticks to hold the wax tapers in place, just hook over the edge and place in the middle of your tea cup.

tea cup candle recycling -003

Chop sticks work just as well – and if you wish you can secure both ends with hair bands it traps the wick tightly so that it won’t move when you fill the cup.

When the wax is liquid you can colour it with wax crayons if you like, or leave it white.

Use bamboo sticks or chop sticks to trap the wick in the centre – you can bend them over slightly

A small hair band or elastic bands can be wrapped around each end if you want to trap the wicks and hold them in place.

Fill the cups using a ladle and leave to cool

 

Tea cup recycling candle

You will find that the wax tends to creep up the wick slightly.

Once the wax has set, trim the wick to to the length you want.

 

The wonderful thing about recycling candles is that you can use any container as long as it is heat proof.

 

 

Tea cups are ideal because they are made to handle high temperatures.

tea cup candle recycling -010This tea cup had a crack in it, it would be a pity to throw it away. As it was such thin china it gives a beautiful glow as the wick burns down.

If you have a big cup – you can always use more than one wick.

I usually keep these on my bathroom shelf, they look so pretty during the day and give a beautiful glow at night.

 

I use lavender and camomile essential oils which are so relaxing combined with a luxurious bubble bath.

ttfn x

Recycled tea cup candles

 

 

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