My 5 top tips for working from home…with kids!

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Those of you that follow us on Facebook will recognise the image of me above from earlier in the week…at near meltdown.

I had all three kids at home on Easter holiday, the weather hadn’t quite reached the loveliness that we are now experiencing and my husband was at his work. So I/we was stuck inside, no-one to tag team on the kids front as I stared down the barrel of blog posts and FB updates to do.

My fault really – Georgie & Gus is needing my time as well as the normal Studio stuff. But I was starting to get that clenched teeth feeling when I was answering questions about snacks, toilet trips and sibling arguments. The meltdown occurred when I turned around to see ALL my kids in the room with me, but busily getting on with their own activities/arguments.

That was when I snapped the photo you see.

Sometimes, you gotta laugh or you are gonna cry…or more likely, go postal.

But I also know, in my crazy “got to get this done now” scene, I was forgetting my golden rules when it comes to working from home. Rules and I have a love/hate relationship…but when it comes to working from home…the rules RULE!  Here are the 5 that work for me:

1. I get up at least an hour before the kids do and work on the most important things on my to do list. I am a morning person when it comes to work and I get more done in that golden hour than if I try later on in the day.

2. Where I am able, I order anything I need (from groceries to printer cartridges to windshield wiper blades) for delivery. It gives you more free time to juggle things around – nothing is worse than when you can see a free hour in your schedule but know you need to go grocery shopping instead.

3. If the kids are home with me, I try and make sure that they have activities to do, preferably at the same time so I get a window of time free. Normally, I can get an hour of them doing an activity and then they get bored. So I make sure to really work for that hour.

4. See if you can get one day (of a week) where they are ALL booked in activities or at friends. One clear day is better than trying to grab an hour here and there each day.

5. This last little bit of info sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t but when it does, it is magic! I will give my 7 year old a task but word it in a way that makes him think he is doing it for a greater cause. As an example, if I ask him to make his bed as good as Stampy Longnose, he practically runs to his room to do it. When he is finished, really truly finished, we take a photo and then send it to said Mr Longnose…(I hope you all know who Stampy Longnose is…). Try it!

So I have one more week to go of this balancing act. Feel free to keep checking back in to see that I am compis mentis!

X

PS –   Okay, so those are my top tips…what do you do if you need to carve out time to finish a project while the kids are swarming around you like bees to the honeypot?

Spring clean your in-box (no duster required!)

 

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As a busy Mum, small business owner and lover of the internet, I find my in-box both a source of joy and frustration. It is what keeps me on top of my game until someone changes the rules of the game.

A few months ago I had so many emails in my inbox that it ground to a halt. My emails were only allowed in under a very strict “one out..one in” policy as per my email provider. My husband, who is my resident Dr Spock, looked at my in box and said quite bluntly…”your email is full of crap”.

What? I only have emails coming in that I want to get – what is he talking about?

He told me to start taking a look at what I really get in my in-box every day..not what I think I get in my in-box.

So I started to take note of every email that I received which fit in to one of three categories: never opened, never asked for or just not needed.

Oh my - what an eye opener.  

The biggest offenders were Amazon (at least 3 a day!), Boden and Facebook. One day, I counted over 35 emails in my personal inbox that didn’t have to be there…and my mail box for Make and Do was suffering from the same fate.

I have given it an official name #overinboxitus.

So the first thing on my list of Spring cleaning was to identify the biggest offenders and unsubscribe them. In the case of Facebook, you can tick unsubscribe for only certain things – like being notified if a friend of a friend posts – but still get notified of posts that you want to see.

And then if there was an email that was sent to me without my notification, I unsubscribed and reported it as spam. That was a bit harder as some of the senders made it REALLY hard to find that little unsubscribe button….but keep looking as, by law, it should be there.

And now I really like my in-box as when I see an email coming in, it really is from someone that I want to hear from.  

Do you suffer from overinboxitus? Really look at what comes in…it is eyeopening

And then get Spring cleaning that in box and I promise you that the side effect is that you don’t feel like your inbox is so overwhelming!

Have a great Easter!

X

PS –  I also wanted to say that my Spring has started on a real high note as I am going to be a Keynote speaker at both the CHA’s Creative Exchanges in a few weeks time and then again on behalf of Coats Crafts (they are the people behind names like Rowan and Free Spirit Fabrics) about the changing face of craft businesses….very excited!

Think that good business karma is an accident?

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Do you believe in the idea of karma?  And can you learn how to cultivate good karma and keep on growing it for your business?

One word answer - absolutely.

Karma is just an exchange of positive energy combined with a bit of luck as well as the ability to see more than what the immediate picture has to offer. I know it can sound a bit hippy dippy but I have seen good karma manifest itself again and again and in particular, the last few weeks.

So how can you cultivate good karma in your business?

You look for an opportunity to say yes where you are able. Because that is the positive energy that karma needs to grow.

When someone asks you for help, say “of course – what do you need?“.

Can you spare five minutes to look at this for me“sure, happy to help”

I know you are a bit busy but if you could give me advice...”thank you for asking for my advice. I am busy at the moment but can make time later in the week to have a quick chat”.

And no, I don’t mean say yes to everything. That would be completely soul destroying and energy draining. I mean that when you are asked, you say yes if your head (and your heart) tells you that saying yes is for the right reasons.

You cannot grow and cultivate good karma if you only do things that will benefit you or your circumstance.  

But if you try and get that Karma gig going, you will be amazed at how slowly, slowly…it starts to come back to you.

The last few weeks have been busy here at the Studio –  between getting the final list of speakers for our Georgie and Gus event lined up, adding new workshops to our schedule, teaching workshops that are already there! and just keeping all the plates spinning that family life requires. And every time I have gotten myself in to a bit of pickle while keeping all these plates in motion, good karma has stepped in to give me the space and energy required to keep the plates spinning.

So get going on the good karma, because the sooner you start, the sooner it comes back your way!

X

PS – Isn’t that a gorgeous flower in the photo? I snapped it a few weeks back and it is a boutonnière that was on display by the talented Living Colour Flowers at a wedding fair that we both were involved with. Stunning!

So the chance to try something new isn’t really your thing? Read on!

Why would you ever?…

….agree to speak to a room full of strangers?

…about a topic that could quite easily be boring if you aren’t careful?

…at an event that is one of the largest in the UK crafting industry?

..and then agree to do it again if asked?

Because, quite simply, sometimes it is really important to do something that scares the pants off you.

When you were a kid, you did this on a daily basis and it was part of the thrill of being a kid.

Growing up on a farm in very rural Vermont (read: middle of nowhere…) we often had to create our own experiences. It was back before the days of play centres and afterschool clubs. So, depending on the season, we would try and invent activities based on things we hadn’t done before….going through a deeper part of a river, swinging on an even higher rope, on a snowy day going as fast as you can on your sled (which happens to take you across a busy road) while your brother makes sure there are no cars coming across said road.

Each time you did it, you got that tingle in your tummy. The one that says “ooohh..now this should be interesting!”.  

And I don’t think, just because we are a bit older, we should try and avoid that feeling. I think we get scared of what doing that “new thing” will cause – and our brains think of the negative possibilities and we push that “new thing” to the side. And you miss that tingle in the tummy feeling.

So next time you are given the chance (or maybe you make the chance?) to do something new….don’t listen to the naysayers in your head….just grab the sled and get going down the hill!

X

My best December present and what you can learn from it

Last year at the beginning of January, while thinking hard about what I wanted to achieve in the year 2014, one of my intentions was to take time out to sew more. As my business has gotten busier, I have sewn less and that was bugging me…

My sewing habits did increase last year – as they say, that when you set an intention, it tends to get done. And they are right.

But there are/were two things I was struggling to get started/finished…I started a single sized quilt in August that in soooooo close to finished  (if you followed my visit back to Vermont on Facebook, you will have seen my Mom and I working on it),  as well as a lap quilt for my nephew, born in May, which I started weeks before his due date by designing and cutting out a nine squares. I didn’t want to use a pattern so was just kind of making it up as I went along but according to my maths, I was going to need alot more than the nine squares, but hey, I had loads of time before the baby came along.

And  sure enough, Jack came in to this world a bit late but pretty much around his due date. And there sat the squares in a nice neat pile. And they pretty much stayed in that pile, bar a few times I spread them out to see what they looked like. And then scooped them up and put them back in the pile…and the guilt from not having sorted the quilt out started to eat at me.

So I made a decision...better to be late than not at all….and maybe not quite what my good intentions created.

And a week before Christmas, I delivered Jack’s quilted cushion:

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Here is a close up of one of the squares:

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And when I decided to add the blue trim around the squares, and was spending ages trying to figure out how much fabric to cut for the fabric (and a fair bit of swearing! , my clever husband whipped up a spreadsheet that does it for me… all I do is add some basic numbers….and out spits my necessary requirements!

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So, with all of us rolling in to 2015 with intentions of being better at whatever we think we need to be better at…maybe just go a bit easy on the expectations, deliver them when you can and high five yourself when you do it?

Anyone else agree?

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Let me and my Dad give you a lesson on perspective

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You must be wondering what this photo of my Dad’s tomato has to do with perspective?  More than you would imagine and that is what I want to share with you.

At the tail end of my month back home, my Dad’s tomato’s started to get ripe and were teasing him with their “almost readiness”.  And for those of you that tend to a garden, you will struggle to find more joy than when everything starts to need to be picked. I would say “fruits of your labour” but really in my Dad’s case, it is “vegetables of his labour”.  And this beauty was the first one off the vine.

I suggested we take some photos as it was such a source of pride for my Dad and as I am slowly finding confidence in trying to take better photos,  I thought the tomato was a good subject. So we started to snap away and I showed him my first few attempts which were okay but not great.

So we both wondered what would happen if we turned it this way, shined it up a bit (like you do with an apple - rubbing it on your trouser leg) and that helped a bit. But as we got better at making the tomato look like the perfect tomato by hiding the blemishes and shining it up, we decided to see if we could make it the biggest tomato as well.

So in came little Addison and his small hands  - and suddenly, my Dad’s first pick of the season looked like the size of pumpkin and was perfect in all aspects.

But it just looks perfect folks. Trust me (sorry Dad!) there were loads of dings that you are hidden and well, if it WAS that big, I would be on the horn to Guinness World Book instead of writing this post.

And it occurred to me that it is important to remind people that this tomato is a good lesson in perspective.  

And reminding yourself that what you see isn’t necessarily what reality is.

 

That parent who has perfect children? No they don’t – they just know how to behave better in public.

Dang – their house is always clean. No it isn’t – everyone has a junk drawer and we all know it.

Your business is floundering while your competitors is flying. Nope – everyone has peaks and troughs….they just show you the peaks.

Her ass looks so much better than mine!  One word – Spanx.

You can let that distorted vision of perfection make you feel less….well, just less.

Be vulnerable and truthful enough to not be afraid to show the imperfection in your life.

It will make you feel more human and real.

And stronger.

Here’s to imperfect tomatoes!

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It’s all about the number of heartbeats…

son_number_oneIn amongst the preparation for our trip back to the mother land, son number one, who is 15, is making a quick trip to Germany for work study.

I dropped him off early Sunday morning, the first light rain in what seems like ages, misting the windshield as we drove to the airport. Everything about the morning was telling me to  go  slow and be present – this was his first trip on his own and my first of letting him go.

I also had to be conscience in not taking the lead  - it was, after all, his trip. So I explained the importance of checking the flight board and then let him stretch his wings.

And then we were at that moment where we were stood by the mouth of security and he wanted to go and I couldn’t think of any more words of wisdom to impart to him. And in typical man/boy fashion, he turned and started to walk towards the security gate….I had to call him back for a hug and a kiss. He laughed at his mistake, bent down and gave me one of each.

And then as he strolled down in to the sea of people, my tears came out of nowhere. The kind and volume where the security lady looked at me, smiled and said “he will be alright”.

The assurances that he would be “alright” wasn’t really the reason for my tears (okay – maybe just a few!) it was about the fact that I get a reminder every once in a while, that life is a finite amount of heartbeats. Nobody knows how many but you will have some – hopefully many. But watching son number one stroll away made me realise just how many heartbeats had passed since he first came in to my life and how quickly they grow up and leave.

Enjoy this summer with your family and friends – be present as much as possible.

Take that time to remind yourself about the number of heartbeats….and make sure you spend them making memories…

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Travel tips for the nosey: what is inside my travel bag

Two weeks from today and I will be clutching my passport with almost youthful glee at that thought of getting on Mr British and Mrs Airways for our early afternoon flight to Boston. I have been doing this journey for over 21 years now and I still get that “clappinghandsaren’tweexcited” feeling about this time in the pre-trip run up. Our dinner conversations are now wrapped around swimming holes the kids want to invade, shopping that they want to do (they love Target-how high class!), people and family we are going to reconnect with and the easy comfort that going home brings me.

Having done this journey so many times, I thought I would share with you what goes in my bag when I get on the plane and also a few things not in my bag but worth knowing about (seriously, some of these are lifesavers!):

Tech, smells and meds for easy travel

Tech, gear and app stuff  (because we all use our phones as our third arm):

 

: fully charged iPhone with earphones.  I also have a real good sweep on my phone of all the apps I don’t need (delete!) or need upgrading (upgrade!) to free any memory that I might need for later.

: I have discovered that my iPhone seems to practically sprint through its battery life compared to when I first got it. I thought at first it was the battery just giving up the ghost but then I did a bit of research and it is do with with all the stuff that is going on in the background while your phone is just sitting there.  You don’t always need these things to be running so you need to shut them down – here is a list of what you can shut down and how (and you can use this list even if you aren’t travelling to get the most out of your phone).

: it goes without saying, if you are travelling anywhere outside of the UK, check your data and roaming charges for your phone.  Here is the master Martin Lewis and his input on how to make sure you get the right package for where you are travelling and what your usage is.  Me? I know that in the States free WiFi is everywhere so I plan to just ride on the back of that as much as possible and there are websites that show you where the wireless spots are to help you plan your data usage around that. It involves a bit of discipline in NOT checking my phone all the time but I am on holiday so I just switch gears and use my phone as a camera and not a distraction.

Potions. Lotions and Meds

: a spritzer water bottle (regulation size!) of water with a bit of rose water, bergamot and ylang ylang (thanks Sue Lacey for introducing me to these luscious smells!). I use it to keep my face from drying up like a prune when in mid air (someone mentioned forgoing alcohol mid flight to keep your moisture levels up – I would rather use my spritzer thank you…) plus the smell is lovely (mine are from  Neals Yard in case you are wondering).

:Vaseline as you can use it for dry lips, dry bits and everything in between.

: aspirin or ibuprofen – ever been somewhere with a headache (or a neck ache from the oh-so-comfortable seats in cattle class) and no pain relief at hand? Not nice so get the pain relief (only a few pills are needed for keeping your bag from getting overfilled) and be smug in your preparation.

:anti sick meds for my kiddos…no need to explain that one!

:toothpaste – I am a stickler for dirty teeth and stale breath so I pack a regulation size tube of toothpaste. If space allows – a toothbrush as well – but if not, a finger will do (come on, it reminds you of it what as like to have a night out at a place other than home where you got up, fixed your hair, gargled with toothpaste and walked out like you didn’t care!).

Comfort things

:spare pare of ped socks as I hate cold feet in flight

:a Pashmina given to me many moons ago  - it is a great blanket, light-blocker-outer and even classes up my in flight outfit.

:my latest crochet project

:a small paper notebook (this one is from the Lyndsey James photo workshop I took last Autumn) for taking down ideas of moments of inspiration. And my Bic pen of choice for flights.

: my Kindle fully charged and downloaded with some holiday  literary goodness.

Hope that helps those of you going on your travels this summer…..if you want to post any travel hints that have been helpful to you, feel free! signature

Who wants to join me this summer in my travels to Vermont?

I am not sure if it is the warm summer nights, driving with the windows wide open on a dirt road or the abundance of lakes and rivers to cool off in. And then a stroll down main street for an ice cream (yes, that really is the High Street of Bristol – the town I am from).

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Or the State and County Fairs that celebrate things like the largest ear of corn. Or the most prefect zucchini (go on – ask me what a zucchini is!).

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Or my favourite bakery and cafe…ever.

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Or the craft beer on tap at our local bar (and the fact it is called a bar not a pub!).

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Or the fact that I get to spend time with the people who know me the best and have loved me the longest…on the most beautiful porch overlooking the most bluest of lakes.

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Or the fact that I am taking my camera with me to document my time away in such a beautiful place.

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But going home makes me excited in a way that is too hard to describe….in words anyway.

In exactly one month from today, I will be boarding a flight with all of my family in tow to spend some much needed time back in Vermont – the place I still consider home even after having lived away for over 20 years.

And I don’t think it is any coincidence that the same day I was thinking about writing this post, in my FB feed this popped up:

Vermont is the best state in America

 

So I have decided – that as my confidence in taking photos as well as video’s have grown – I would like to share with you the most beautiful state in America with you as well.

So starting on the 24th of July, when I dust off my passport and try to remember to drive on the other side of the road,  you can join me too in my trip back to Vermont – albeit digitally – by following me on my travels via the blog as well as Facebook and Instagram. I will post when the mood strikes me so don’t make me commit to a publishing schedule but I promise to try and do it as often as I can.

Looking forward to sharing some of the magic with you!

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PS – We have the core of our workshops for the Autumn up on our workshop listing – we have more being added over the next month so keep an eye out for announcements.

Want to be a better dressmaker? Here are my 3 go-to hints that work!

I have just had two weeks of solid sewing and dressmaking workshops. Like as in living, breathing, cutting, and sewing.  Wash, rinse and repeat.

As we near the end of our workshop, and their garment has taken shape – the one question that always comes up is “can you suggest another pattern for me to try”.

Success is all about the pattern that you chose!

So instead of sharing my words of wisdom (feel free to insert a laugh here!) with a chosen few, I thought it would be worth a short blog post. Sit up straight, dust off your lap and prepare to take notes:

Tip Number One:  Do your homework!  Chances are you are looking for a pattern on-line (the days of having a store that had all the pattern catalogues are long gone…plus they tend to only carry the top 4 pattern makers which I can’t say I find the most inspirational..).  Unless it specifically says ‘for beginners” or “easy” it can be a bit of judgement call (remind me to tell you the time when I had a private booking of  beginner sewers who wanted to make a vintage ball gown – true story!). So if you see one that takes your fancy, take the pattern manufacturer and the number (so in this case it is a Simplicity 2305) and I just google it with the word “review beginner” added to the search.

back_of _pattern_ImageChances are someone will have posted images of the pattern, and you can see their write up on whether it was suitable or not. If you struggle to find a review, you can either be a trailblazer, make the pattern and write a review….or you might want to give it a miss.

Tip Number Two: There is a great website originating from the States called Sewing Pattern Review - www.sewing.patternreview.com  and it does exactly what it says on the tin  - people submit their own reviews (with photos) of patterns they gave sewn.  They review a wider section of patterns – both independent and mainstream – and it is from the horses mouth as such. They also give you good hints like if the fabric suggested for the pattern is really what is best and if there is an error in the pattern. Saves you a bit of the hard work!

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And Tip number three: If you have tried to get a skinny on your pattern via the two tips above and still now joy – I tell beginner sewers to look at the images on the back of the pattern and if your garment looks like it has a lot of detail (you can see this better without the distraction of the image of the fabric on it), or you can see that it requires alot of piecing, you may want to think again.

And look at what they suggest you use for fabric (my guide for any one that wants to know more about the fabric they might want to use  - get it here) – there are certain fabrics I think anyone just new to sewing should avoid – anything super slippery and silk.

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