For an incredibly long time, I have wanted nothing more than to start my own business selling handcrafted products. Over the years I’ve dabbled in a number of crafts which I’ve enjoyed, holding on to the belief that one day, I’d be able to make a living from my passion.
Sadly that day never arrived!
I’ve made products which were sold in the family business, and I’ve made things to give as gifts – which were always very gladly received, I’m pleased to say – but I’ve never taken that leap of faith into the great unknown and set up on my own.
I’ve now decided, however, that now is the time. There’s absolutely nothing to stop me from giving it a go… Although it would help if I could make up my mind as to what I want to create and which craft I’d like to get more involved with.
But while I may be fairly confident in my abilities as a crafter, it’s the business side of things that scares me a little. My dad and sister are the ones known for their business acumen in the family – me, not so much… Although I have despaired at some of the ridiculous antics of the candidates on The Apprentice!
However I’ve stumbled across a really useful book that I think is indispensable for anyone who wishes to start a craft-based business. It’s called Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald.
It’s not a new book but out of all the books that I’ve read that explains how to start a craft-based business, Crafting a Business, I find, is the most helpful and inspiring. The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains profiles for various female business owners as they outline how they got into their particular craft, started their business, built their brand etc. The fact that many of these talented women are self-taught, never attended a course, or had to overcome life’s trials and obstacles in order to get to where they are now, is nothing short of inspirational.
The second part of the book is what is called the Business Crafting Workshop which gives instructions as to how to structure a business plan, finance your business, develop and market your product etc. For those of us who don’t have much practical business knowledge or experience, it’s a great starting point to help you get your business off the ground.
OK, I’m done with part one, now time to tackle part two!
Wish me luck!
I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal, I’d say that this post has come at the right time.
When I met Mr. D almost ten years ago, I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him, despite my intention to stay in contact. We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again. I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!
Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got together think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.
Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!
But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate, forgiving, non-judgemental and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve. He’s the last person you’ll ever find bitching about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances and being the life and soul Mr. Popularity, down-to-earth Mr. D. really couldn’t care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s not just me, but why my family and friends love him him as well.
I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.
A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.
Mr. D. is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.
And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!
So this is the first week (for me!) to start this challenge and I’m very thankful to be doing it at all after very nearly missing out!
As I said in the previous post, I’ve never really participated in such challenges before. But this was one that I felt I should do…
I was brought up to believe that gratitude was everything. I knew from a young age the importance of saying thank you. I was taught to be thankful for everything that you have. As I grew older I learned to count my blessings, and realise I actually had plenty of them.
And as most of us know, gratitude is a quality which is very much in short supply these days. How many people express genuine gratitude when something nice has happened to them? How many people even bother to say those two little monosyllabic words ‘thank you’? Judging by the number of people I see sailing through a door being held open of them by someone kind enough to do so, I’d say not many!
It might be strange to say that we need to practice gratitude when it should be second nature but I guess we all don’t reflect enough on the good things that we have in our lives. And that’s what’s so good about this challenge.
2016 was not one of my better years and that’s something of an understatement. I’m so glad to have left it behind and all the awful things that came along with it. But as I sit here writing this post, I think how easy it could have been for things to have been far worse than it was. So would you believe it – I’m even thankful for the problems that I have!
So as grateful as I am for everything, I hope that by the end of the year when this challenge is over, I’ll have experienced an even deeper level of gratitude.
Best of luck to everyone who’s taking part in this challenge. May it make us ever more thankful, kinder and wiser with it.
So those who have opted to do this challenge are well under way with the 52 Weeks Of Gratitude Challenge but I’ve come into it a little bit late…
2016 was a very overwhelming year for me from start to finish. True, there was never a dull moment but that said, life was sometimes a little more overdramatic than I wanted it to be. As a result, many of the plans I had, including my blogging endeavours, got put on hold towards the end of last year.
So I log on this week, ready to kick some serious blog ass in 2017… and then I stumble across this very interesting and exciting challenge. With the exception of a couple of challenges I’ve set myself in the past, I don’t really get involved in any of the challenges that I see my fellow bloggers partaking in. But this one struck a chord with me…
So late as I am, I think I will give this one a go. Better late than never and all that. And I can’t wait to get stuck in!
Our houses are so much more than just shelter from the elements. It’s the place where we expect to find peace; feel safe; be ourselves; relax; represent who we are; have friends over, and most of all, be happy!
As an excited first-time homeowner, it’s so important that the place that Mr.D and I call home is somewhere that brings us a lot of peace and happiness – a place that we can’t wait to come home to every day. And happiness doesn’t always come from designer kitchens, finished basements, and Olympic sized pools – although I wouldn’t say no to any of those! But quite often it’s the simple things that that make a house a home and bring a sense of peace, happiness, and well-being. These are the things that make mine a happy home.
1. LET’S GET PERSONAL
Many of us would like to live in the kind of home that wouldn’t look out of place among the pages of Home and Garden – or in my case, MTV Cribs! But in trying to do so, we get so bogged down with the details concerning our chosen theme or colour scheme that we discard anything that doesn’t ‘go’ with the decor – even though quite often these are the very things that reflect our personality and gives the home we live in a sense of identity and signs of life.
I’m often quite underwhelmed by homes that don’t seem to contain anything personal or tell me anything about the people who live there. To me it feels a little soulless. So I love to see photographs, artwork, holiday souvenirs, collections on display, a library of well-loved books, home made furnishings, home-grown flowers in a vase… anything that tells a story and says something about the habits, interests and personality about the owner of the house.
True there should be some flow between personal objects and the style of the house but with a little imagination, you can bring together the most eclectic of objects bound together in your own inimitable style. So our house is most definitely going to refect our love of travel, rock music, food, family and friends, 1980s nostalgia, angels and… Lego! Now that’s some story to tell!
2. DISPLAY PHOTOS
There’s hardly anyone out there who doesn’t carry some kind of device for taking photos which means that they can literally snap away any time, any place, anywhere. Taking photos has never been easier. But unfortunately most people have a tendency to just leave the photos on their phones or tablets or upload them on to social media and then just forget about them. When I worked in a gift shop, most of my customers would only really buy photo frames or albums as a last resort. “Well that’s what Facebook’s for,” they’d say.
Well I personally think that’s a waste of a good photo.
When I lived at home with my family, I was photo mad. My room was a shrine to me and Mr.D. which some people found nauseating but who cares! Then I framed photos and put them all over the house which annoyed my family as they kept knocking them over. Which in turn annoyed me if the photos were just left lying there, or worse the frame was broken. And when we moved to the States, I couldn’t bring my mammoth collection with me but I made sure I had enough to put all over the apartment.
I love displaying photos and I don’t think a home feels complete without them. There’s nothing like seeing the faces of the people you love most every day, especially when they can’t be with you in person as often as you’d like. Each photo tells a story and gives you the chance to relive memories. I’ve also found that photos can be a real talking point when you have guests over – especially with people you don’t know very well.
And there’s an array of gorgeous frames available to suit everyone’s taste, to simple and elegant to colourful and funky. Yep, I’ve got the lot!
3. A SOFT SPOT FOR SOFT FURNISHINGS
As the child of parents who own a soft furnishings business, I definitely have a liking for soft furnishings – much more than Mr. D does. I think they add a touch of luxury and a lot of comfort and really make a house feel like a home. True, I’m not into doilies, you’ll never find chairbacks or armcaps on my sofa, and I’m not sure how fussed I am about tablecloths.
But I know that I’m most definitely a fan of curtains. I appreciate the beauty of a well dressed window as well as the practicalities of providing privacy and retaining warmth. Beautiful bedding is a must; beanbags and floor cushions provide extra, informal seating for guests, and I don’t believe that a couch is really a couch unless is got throws – perfect for snuggling under when you’re watching TV or surfing the net – and a truckload of cushions. Not that Mr. D would agree with me!
And what I love most about soft furnishings is that it really is the quickest, most convenient, and possibly the cheapest way of instantly changing the appearance of a room.
4. SIMPLY SCENTSATIONAL
Like songs, certain aromas are highly evocative and have an effect on our moods, feelings and well-being. But quite often how fab – or unfab – your home smells is often overlooked.
When I used to live in a house-share, some of the highly pungent foods that my housemates used to cook would make me want to gag. I would have to hold my breath as I walked into the kitchen and I would be afraid that the not-so-sweet fragrances would be lingering on my clothes. And I couldn’t even escape it in my bedroom where the dreaded smell would be wafting up into my room. So even though I do have happy memories of my time in the house-share, this was not one of them!
But pleasant aromas can have a positive effect on us and can make us feel refreshed, calm, energised and can induce sleep. Everyone knows why people eager to sell their homes are keen to have the aroma of freshly baked goodies wafting around their home, and its that same smell that can be delightfully welcoming to a guest visiting your home. That and freshly ground coffee, and beautifully-scented cut flowers.
I’m not really a fan of air freshener or highly fragranced cleaning products with that ghastly synthetic smell, so I wouldn’t use those. But I do love good quality scented candles and incense sticks; good old-fashioned drawer liners and lavender sachets; essential oils being used in oil burners, floral-scented water spritzed over bedding, and an aromatic bath doesn’t just do wonders for you but also makes your bathroom smell divine.
And although I wouldn’t normally have it in the house the rest of the year, I really don’t think Christmas is Christmas without some festive-looking and festival smelling pot pourri!
5. MAKE TEA-TIME A REAL TREAT
It wasn’t anything as grand as afternoon tea in a posh hotel or quaint tea-room but growing up, tea-time was a pretty big deal in my family – especially when I went to Granddad’s house. Everything stopped for tea! I guess that’s where I get my love of afternoon tea from.
Unfortunately with the hours most of us work, tea at four o’clock every day is impossible. It would however make a fabulous, relaxing weekend treat – just what’s needed to help you unwind. And why not go to town by using real china, cake stands and serving lots of scrumptious, sweet, creamy delicacies?
There’s no reason why tea-time at home shouldn’t be every bit as enjoyable as at your local tea shop.
6. HAVE A BAKE-IN!
Closely linked to number five, baking used to be regarded as something that your mum or gran would do especially if you needed cheering up or deserved a treat. But for a long time it wasn’t really considered cool or especially trendy. When we wanted a birthday cake or fresh bread, we headed over to our local bakery rather than whip something up ourselves. We all live such hectic lives that when we get home after a hard day’s work, the last thing we feel like doing is creaming butter and sugar!
But baking can be relaxing, enjoyable and therapeutic. And shows such as Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and Next Great Baker have reignited our enthusiasm for baking and enabled us to get happy with the mixing bowl again.
Baking is an activity which involves all five of the senses. Who doesn’t love the sight of prettily iced cupcakes; the texture of bread as it’s being kneaded; the taste of choc chip cookies; the aroma of delicious home baking, and best of all, the sound of everyone happily tucking in!
If there’s something else I think that makes a home complete other than framed photos out on display, it’s candles – and lots of them. And if they’re scented candles then that’s even better. There’s nothing like the cosy, warm glow of candlelight to bring that touch of magic into your home. It’s great for when you want to unwind, meditate, or get romantic. Candlelight is also great to fall asleep to but for this I would strongly recommend the common sense option of battery operated candles.
8. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE
When Mr.D and I lived in London, we had to make do with a flat that was a little on the cosy side! But despite this, Mr.D and I both marked out places that were our ‘spots.’ These were places where we could put our feet up; watch a bit of telly; read; have a cuppa; blog or do crafts (me!) play computer games (definitely Mr. D!) and have it looking the way we wanted it to look.
When you live with others, I think it’s important for you to pick a place in the house that you can call your own: a place where you can talk on the phone; read a novel; write etc. and generally just slow down, enjoy your own company and be lost in your own thoughts. Absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Your own space could be a comfy armchair by the window; a window seat with a nearby bookcase containing your fave novels; a corner of the room with bean bags, floor cushions and a side table with all your fave knick-knacks on it. In fact who even says it has to be indoors? Maybe you could relax on a blanket beside gorgeous, sweetly scented rose bushes in your garden, or a bench under a tree.
In one episode of Wife Swap, I came across a lady who had built a thirty thousand dollar meditation feature in her garden, which she never used for meditating but she did like sitting out there and admiring it (admittedly, we don’t all have the budget for that!)
9. TO READ OR NOT TO READ
Knowing that printed literature is fast becoming obsolete makes me feel sad as just looking at a book puts me in a better mood. To say that I am a bookworm is something of an understatement. I grew up with books, newspapers, and magazines and I cannot imagine a world without them.
Yes, I know that E-readers are all the rage and that everyone reads newspapers and magazines online these days. But when I was growing up, the focal point of the sitting room were the bookshelves that contained Dad’s vast collection of books which he used to sit and read most evenings in ‘his space’. And I like the fact that some kind of reading material perched on a coffee table gives a home a nice ‘lived-in’ feel.
And taking a look at people’s bookshelves also tells you a lot about them. Mine reveal my love of crafts, writing, studying languages and chick lit. My mum’s extensive collection of recipe books gives away her love of cooking, being a bit of a feeder, and ambition to be the next Masterchef! My brother’s books show that he’s sports mad, while Mr. D’s reading material point towards being a Trekkie and avid watcher of Game Of Thrones and that he loved Brian Jacques books as a kid.
10. WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS
Sleep: the one thing that most of us can’t get enough of and would never say no to more of – if only we had the time!
When I’m sleep deprived I am not a happy bunny but then, who is? That’s why it’s so important that your bedroom is a tranquil haven where you can nod off easily and get adequate hours of peaceful slumber. And when I’m not sleeping, my bedroom is the place where I lounge around, read, and meditate, so it really is the place where I get some much needed rest and relaxation.
That’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe that, if it can be helped, you should never use your bedroom for working or studying in. It should ideally be kept clutter-free and as device- free as possible which, yes I know is hard, but we all know how technological gadgets interfere with our sleep. And if you suffer from allergies like Mr. D and me, then its important to keep your sleeping area clean, tidy and dust-free.
Even though my bedroom when I lived at home was pretty loud (which wasn’t a problem for me) most people would generally decorate their rooms in calming, serene colours or darker colours which help them to nod off more easily. Use adequate blinds, curtains and poles for windows as early morning sunlight seeping into your room might cause you to wake up sooner than you would like.
You can decorate your home any way you like but it’s the people we love who bring the happiness and laughter into our homes. And being a born hostess who loves nothing better than to entertain, I love having friends over to watch movies, major sports games or to stay for the weekend. I enjoy throwing parties and gatherings; hosting formal dinner parties or informal supper nights, and my famous cocktail and canapés events.
Like most people I have the never-discuss -politics-or religion rule, especially with people I know. I have also added parenting methods to that rule too – as well as few other topics. And the reason is, as everyone knows, it is indeed the quickest way to end a friendship.
How I wish I’d stuck to that rule!
It’s all very well having these discussions if the person you’re talking to is tolerant, mature, reasonable and willing to accept that everyone has a different opinion. If you’re able to have these discussions in a non-offensive manner, you can’t go far wrong.
But when the person you’re having the discussion with is the complete opposite of the above, and all they do is preach, lecture, rant, rave, talk at you rather than to you, criticize your own opinions and are extremely offensive with it… It takes a very, very strong friendship to get over it!
I had this very unfortunate encounter very recently with someone I consider to be a very close friend – in fact I hope she still is! Unless you’re a complete dimwit, you can’t have failed to have noticed that our nation is in the grip of Brexit fever. Everyone has some kind of an opinion on whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU. Whether you’re an innie, an outie, or an ummie, everyone has something to contribute to this great debate.
Because we’re very good friends, I felt quite comfortable in breaking one of the few rules I have in life and told her where I stood with regards to the referendum. Boy did that prove to be a big mistake!
My normally mild-mannered friend turned into what can only be described as a raving lunatic. Not only did she stomp all over my political opinions but she tried to ram her own brand of politics down my throat, and to be honest, because she was unable to articulate herself without going over the top, whatever she was banging on about just went over my head – and not because I’m short! I can’t even recall what she said exactly – all I got was a faceful of blah ba blah ba blah ba blah!
I’m sure my friend thinks I’m too thick to understand how politics and the EU work – and maybe I am. But as one of my tutors once said to me the real idiot isn’t the person who admits to not knowing something, it’s the person who thinks they know everything.
Unless we’re directly involved in politics, its not always easy to know what information we hear is accurate and what is just propaganda. My friend has access to pretty much the same information as me. Admittedly she’s definitely more well-read and knowledgeable than me about such matters but is the decision she’s making based exclusively on true, unbiased facts? And have these facts been verified? Well we don’t know – although she likes to think she’s one hundred per cent certain she knows all the facts and they are all true. Things aren’t always black and white as we all know – there’s always areas of grey. And while its always natural to be biased when it’s something we agree with, to go around thinking your views are gospel is just a little too much.
I will be keeping quiet about my own views regarding the referendum – but I’m willing to accept that I may be wrong. The decision I make is based on my judgement of the masses of info we’ve been bombarded with but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily right and I will be keeping an open mind. One thing I will say is that I will be relieved when this referendum episode is over and we find out exactly what is in store for the future of Britain – and I won’t have to hear the term ‘Brexit’ for a very long time.
But when I’m approached with aggression, and spoken to in a bullying manner by a know-it-all, and I’m made to feel that my views don’t count, then yes – I do have a problem.
Of course there are subjects that I feel very passionate about but I’m well aware that not everyone will share my views. I can’t very well argue with everyone so I choose my battles carefully. This post isn’t just about sharing your views but giving an opinion to close friends and family in a way in which relationships are left intact. That could mean not discussing potentially controversial issues or biting your tongue hard when you hear something that makes you want to punch someone! But I think the best thing is to accept that there will always be differences; respect other people’s opinions – even if they do seem bizarre, and although passion is good, aggression is not, so save that for the boxercise class and not for a heated debate with someone who’s meant to be dear to you. Because once something extremely offensive has been said, it can’t be taken back. Hardly worth losing someone you care about just because you need to be right.
A while ago I told you all to expect some good news – but not of the gender reveal variety! Well I’m thrilled to announce that Mr. D and I are at last homeowners!!! Woo woo woo!
To be honest we never thought this day would come. I guess the move to America was worth it after all because when we lived in London, the dream of owning our own home was just that – a dream. Despite the fact that we were both working and Mr.D was earning quite well, it was impossible to find a property in our price range. Even a tent in a field would have been a bit much going by crazy London prices! London has gotten ridiculously expensive and it’s sad because given the choice, we’d have liked to have stayed here.
But I suppose everything happens for a reason and once Mr. D had found his dream house, there was no stopping him! If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t feel like this was the house for us. As it was in the country, and I’m a die-hard city girl, I can’t say I was jumping up and down at the prospect of rural life – something I’d tried before and didn’t enjoy, although Mr. D, of course, couldn’t wait to get back to country living.
Then of course there was the distance to Mr.D’s workplace as our new house is quite some distance away. As we’re leasing our car we need to keep an eye on mileage and also I was worried about him driving home in heavy snow ( I guess it shows that I’m a Londoner!) Furthermore, I’d already met one of our neighbours and let’s just say that living close to him was not something I especially wanted to do…
However it was quite obvious that Mr. D. was smitten with the house and especially the acres of woodland that came with it. Plus I have to admit, the house kind of grew on me; it wasn’t bad for a first time home; it was habitable, and needed very little work. We were getting a pretty good deal on the house… So we went for it. And now here we are!!! And I’m even excited about giving country life another attempt.
I’m unfortunately still in London, tying up loose ends and trying to pack up remainder of our never-ending belongings. I’m very sad that I wasn’t with Mr. D. to collect the key but then again I guess that moment belonged to him and him alone. After all if it wasn’t for his determination and persistence, we wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity. It really is because of him that we can call ourselves homeowners and begin to pay our own mortgage rather than someone else’s. There’ll definitely be a chance for him to carry me – and all my items of luggage – over the threshold of our new home, and that’ll hopefully happen sometime soon.
The idea of a thirty year debt isn’t appealing, and neither is the thought of having to cut back on the little luxuries that Mr. D. is always telling me off for splurging on which is definitely the downside of having your own home but my goodness, I won’t miss paying extortionate rent; matchbox-sized flats; greedy landlords determined to rob you blind; moving every few months; dodgy estate agents, and obnoxious housemates. And that’s just some of the horror stories!
This is the beginning of something new and hopefully good for both of us. I can’t wait to begin this stage of our lives. Its just a pity that our family and friends live so far away but hopefully they’ll all get to visit.
Just not all at the same time!