The world is so pale next to you

Firstly, thank you to those of you who left lovely, supportive comments on my last post.  Glad to know I'm not the only one who routinely freaks out about having too much on their plate.  I find being crafty and making things really cathartic so I've been indulging in some Christmas present wrapping and teacup candle making this weekend to blitz away the stress.  Most of the gift-wrapping related goodies I mentioned in a previous post have now arrived so I had lots of fun with ribbons, stamps and labels last night...

The ribbons were recommended to me by the very lovely Sammi and can be bought from eBay here.  The Christmassy twine can be bought here and the stamp and labels were ordered from Vistaprint.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was unimpressed with them and Groupon after it turned out I could have got more for my money without the voucher, but to Vistaprint's defence they sent me some more cards to make up for it.

Along with the labels in the top picture, I also had these printed for attaching to my handmade goodies (with gingham ribbon, of course!) I'm mostly making edible goodies (biscuits, fudge, truffles and chutneys) so the blank bits on the labels are for writing on what's in the jar.

I ordered this kit from Making Your Own Candles a few weeks ago and finally started making teacup candles tonight.  Here they are lined up waiting for their last top up of wax (the skewers are to keep the wick nice and straight).  The website is great - if you sign up for their newsletter you can get a free kit to make a teacup candle as well as a 10% off voucher.  

I got my hair cut on Monday (sorry for the bad iPhone photo).  I was trying to grow it long but I got fed up of it; my hair is so thick that it just gets unmanageable after while.  Luckily my hairdresser is a good friend of mine and so was able to turn my whinging into my crazy mane into an awesome haircut! I really like it all choppy and love that it needs very little doing to it in the morning.

Tom has said we're not allowed to put our tree up until December 1st so I've been trying to add other Christmassy touches like sprigs of holly around the house.

Bodhi the naughty puppy pulled up all the lino on our kitchen floor one morning this week - luckily he did us a favour as we discovered that the wooden floorboards go into the kitchen too so Tom is in the process of pulling up the lino and restoring the lovely floor to its former glory.  (Seriously, who lays lino over original floorboards?)

I bought Tom a voucher for an off-road driving experience back in June - he wanted to wait till it was muddy however, and so we went and did it today in Andover.  It was loads of fun - I was in the back being official photographer and trying not to worry about all the perpendicular drops and thick mud! 

Sunroof held on with a bit of duct tape

I want to start this post with a bit of an apology (and probably a bit of an outpouring of angst - soz) as I'm aware I've been a bit AWOL this last couple of weeks.  I find it frustrating that I haven't had as much time to blog, and even more frustrating that I haven't had as much time to read other people's blogs and leave them comments and tweets and so on.  One of the things I love about blogging is the sense of community and all the friends I've made and I hate missing out on that and feeling like a bad blogger.

from tumblr [no link]

The truth is, I haven't been able to do much of what's been on my list lately.  I feel like I've been put in charge of shooting a roomful of elephants (which would suck, I love elephants) and every day a new elephant walks in through the door and all I manage to do is shoot that one.  I read someone say the other day that their diary is like the Titanic, and to take anything new on would mean something else drowning.  Yeah, I feel like that.  We put so much pressure on ourselves as women I think.  At the moment I'm trying to juggle three assignments for my Certificate in First Line Management, cover two people's jobs at work, keep a three-bedroom house tidy and clean, see friends and family, think about Christmas shopping, renovate/decorate our whole house, look after a puppy and also fit in things that are important to me, or I should be doing more of, like blogging, helping out with My Street Chic (which I love doing), exercising, baking, being creative.  I certainly can't remember the last time I turned the TV on, or read a book.  What I really need is a weekend where I put the onesie on and curl up on the sofa with a blanket, a pile of books and my Where the Wild Things Are DVD.  Sadly these luxuries are at the bottom of my to do list at the moment.

I'm sorry this has been a bit a whinge, I guess I'm just feeling a bit stressed at the moment.  What do you all think? Do you have any tips for managing endless to-do-lists? Do you think we put too much pressure on ourselves to be superwomen?

The forest, Hepwrights, burgers and street style

Another blog, another set of dog walk in the forest photos right? Wrong! Oh no, wait...yeah... right! But I have done more than just this this week.  Scroll on...

I also visited the absolutely awesome Catherine at Hepwrights in Bedford Place in Southampton to interview her for My Street Chic.  I will be posting up her interview and some more photos to the Southampton section next week.  Catherine is the first person I've interviewed for the 'local stylemakers' feature and I had such a fun time chatting to her about the stories behind the clothes, fashion in Southampton and independent businesses.  I feel like I've made a new friend and will definitely be popping back up to see Catherine for a cup of tea and a natter again soon.

Talking of My Street Chic, the lovely Gina who works for MSC visited me on Friday for a yummy Slug and Lettuce lunch, a scout around West Quay for some fashionable Southampton types and a radio interview.  We photographed some great street style, all of which is now up in the Members Gallery in the Southampton section.  Look out for a Street Style Heroes vote of six of the best early next week.

On Friday evening we went out for dinner with some friends and then invited them back to ours for ice cream and a game of Pointless.  We went to Sixty Million Postcards in Bournemouth, which is an amazing pub/venue/eaterie/generally awesome place and all had burgers (I had an avocada, bacon and dolcelatte burger and it was amazing).  Tom and I agreed we'd go back there again during the day so I could take a couple of snaps - until then here is one I nicked from bhbeat.com.  

img credit: bhbeat.com

Today has been a boring computer day of finishing my management assignment and editing photos, along with designing and ordering gift tags from Vistaprint.  I bought a deal from Groupon for £60 to spend on the website, added it all to my shopping cart and then discovered that, because they take off all the discounts they usually offer it would have been cheaper to order it without the voucher, meaning I totally wasted the £12 I paid for it.  Wrote a complaint to Groupon and they replied with a crap standard response.  Gah!

Personalising presents and notanotherbill

Eager to get started on my Christmas craftiness but without much time to spare this evening I have turned my mind to gift tags and finishing touches for all the presents I am yet to buy and make.  I am picturing clip top kilner jars full of fudge, biscuits and chutney, tied with gingham ribbon and brown luggage labels, and personalised gift tags with Victorian Christmas graphics.  Luckily I have managed to locate most of what I need at very little expense.

Ebay has tons of gorgeous East of India ribbons which will be perfect for attaching gift tags to or tying up presents with.  Most are around 99p for a metre.  You can pick up luggage labels here for £2.45.

As always, Notonthehighstreet has a gorgeous Christmas section with loads of great ideas for personal touches.  I love this personalised Christmas stamp, though at £22.50 you'd have to be giving a lot of presents to get your money's worth! 

This snow globe stamp from Present and Correct is much more affordable at £7.85.  Love the idea you could draw your family, or your house in the globe!

I mentioned in my previous post that I was thinking of designing some Moo cards to use as gift tags (like below, but more Christmassy!) and I've been busy playing with some ideas in Photoshop.  If you want to do the same, or you want to make some other paper goodies for Christmas crafts you can find some great Christmas graphics from The Graphics Fairy here.  I just love all the Victorian Christmas graphics, think they'd make lovely Christmas cards and gift tags.

Talking of presents (stay with me), I have been thinking a lot about my monthly beauty boxes (currently subscribed to Boudoir Prive and Feel Unique) and have decided to cut it down to just one.  I have been thinking a lot about saving money lately and also about living a bit more sustainably and have decided it just makes sense.  However, no sooner had I made this decision than I was browsing Ever So Juliet's blog today and came across her post about Not Another Bill.  Not Another Bill works in a similar way to beauty boxes but you basically get sent a 'present' every month, usually something vintage-y or graphic design-y, but from the looks of the past presents, always ultra cool!

In the past there have been sewing kits, art prints, road trip kits and aprons and teatowels, and I love the quirkiness and innovativeness of them all, they're just so lovely.  I was sold straight away and signed up for a three month trial for £30 here.  I think they'd make great Christmas presents, and you can buy a month as a gift for £15.  Much cooler than a bunch of beauty samples I'll never use!

On a clear day I can see a very long way

01. Sorry I haven't blogged this week - taking a week off work last week has meant I was extra busy with work this week, especially since I had to have a day off work on Thursday due to a horrible headache and generally feeling rundown and exhausted.  I like keeping busy but it does mean that you occasionally have those days where you literally can't get out of bed!

02. The photos above are from my walk with Bodhi this morning.  One great thing about having a dog is that it gives me the push I need to get out of my pajamas in the morning and get out and get some fresh air.  It also makes me feel like I have a reason to get out exploring, which I wouldn't ordinarily do if I was on my own.  This morning I dragged Bodhi down a section of the Avon Valley footpath and it was a really nice little walk, you can see from the photos what a beautiful day it is today and it's really nice and warm too.  Bodhi is now fast asleep on the floor!

03. You may have seen in my last post that I mentioned I'd had some ideas for blog posts and features whilst I was away in Wales.  One of the things I'll be posting about over the next few weeks is 'handmade Christmas'.  I want to give a lot of handmade gifts this year and will be making biscuits, fudge, cushions, felt animals and teacup candles (as inspired by Fiona and Ella - Ella has even posted a tutorial about how to make them here) and will be posting about all of these here.  I've already bought my candle making kit and am currently musing over whether to make some Moo mini cards to use as gift tags.  I do love Christmas!

04. This deserves a post all to itself really, but in the absence of time I want to draw your attention to the lovely Bee's post about the Bloggers Christmas Party.  My Street Chic are throwing an amazing Christmas party for bloggers in Bristol on December 16th and there'll be a fashion show and after party, both of which sound like they're going to be amazing! You can get tickets (for the absolutely bargainous price of £5!) here - I've already got mine and even booked my hotel, I am already so excited (can you tell?) If you're tweeting about it, you can use the hashtag #xmasbloggermeet to keep up with all the chats about the event.

05. On a final (but related) note, I posted an article on the Southampton page of My Street Chic here yesterday.  Do the clickity click to find out all about the new Urban Outfitters store and my picks from their A/W range.


Sunset and pie - a week in photos

Looking back through the photos above I feel so lucky to have had such an amazing week. If you didn't catch my last post, I've been away for five days staying in a converted barn in the Wye Valley (on the border between England and Wales), and the weekend before and after I spent with my parents' and brother in Lee on Solent (in Hampshire). It was amazing to get away and spend lots of time with my family, along with enjoying the fresh air, walks with the puppy and quality time with Tom whilst away for our break. Being away from home has been so good for me - I feel so motivated and excited now I'm home and have been furiously scribbling away in my ideas notebook; I now have lots of blog posts, Christmas presents and other ventures planned, along with loads of ideas for how to carry on with the decoration/renovation of our house.  I love how taking yourself away from routine/normality can give you so much perspective on things and make you feel really inspired.  It also gave me lots of time to think about my lifestyle and how to achieve some of the changes I'd like to make - for instance, I admitted to myself that I've put on a lot of weight over the last year and feel determined now to can all my unhealthy habits (eating a chocolate bar every day at lunchtime, for one!) and start making little changes that will hopefully reap rewards.

Talking of food, the last photo above is from our amazing dinner tonight. I bought the Pie Minister cookbook a few weeks ago and made my first pie from it today; a sausage, cider and potato pie from the Autumn section of the book.  It was even more special because we made it with potatoes dug up from our vegetable patch in the garden, and served it with tomato and apple chutney we made also from ingredients from the veggie patch. It was so delicious and perfect comfort food for a chilly November evening! The cooked breakfast in the photo before was enjoyed at my parents' house last weekend - being around the table with my family enjoying a huge breakfast and a glass of Bucks Fizz made me really excited that it's only a few weeks until I'll be going back again for Christmas! I don't want to labour the point too much because it's almost too awful to do justice to here but the horrendous accident on Friday on the M5 motorway made me so grateful to have been able to have my family around me the last few days.  Things like that make you realise how fragile life is and how important it is to cherish every moment you have with friends and family.

Yesterday we had a lovely day celebrating my Mum's birthday with a mooch around Gunwharf Quays (there is now a Cath Kidston outlet store - love!) a couple of games of bowling and an amazing dinner at Las Iguanas.  I stocked up on Christmas White Hot Chocolate from Whittards, which I will be settling down to a big mug of shortly to watch X Factor.  Hope you've all had lovely weekends.


A converted barn in the Wye Valley

Before we bought the puppy, Tom and I had planned to go on a cruise in the Autumn as we fancied going to the Dalmatian coast and have a friend who works for a cruise company who could have got us a good deal. However, in the end, we decided to blow the budget on buying Bodhi (and we're so glad we did!) so we only had a small amount of money left for an October/November getaway.  We decided to book a cottage in sunny Wales through Wye Holiday Cottages, and we were over the moon when we arrived at this amazing place last night.  It is really too big for the two of us, and has three bedrooms, the most beautiful kitchen (which you can see below), underfloor heating, a wood burning stove and incredible views and walks all around the cottage.  (Incidentally, despite me telling everyone we were going to stay in a cottage in Wales I noticed on the map earlier we are about a mile from the border - hence the title).

On the way to the cottage last night we stocked up on some yummy foods and drinks (I have many varieties of cold cider chilling in the fridge!) and we're planning four days of walks and exploring along with lots of reading, lazing on the comfy sofas by the fire and a few trips to the local pub! I'm also really hoping to meet up with the lovely Kim as she lives nearby.

This morning we went for a really, really long walk which culminated in us arriving at the pub near the end of the walk to find it was closed! After considering phoning a taxi I mustered all of my remaining energy and tramped back to the cottage (going via the village shop to pick up local cheeses, tea and sausages for lunch), and this evening will be spent watching films and drinking spiced apple and rhubarb cider. Bliss!

I would normally make the photos a little nicer in Photoshop but I only have my little netbook so they'll have to go up as they are - sorry they are so massive!

The kitchen
View over the valley

View from the back door

Bodhi and Tom on a walk this morning

View from the back of the cottage

Wood burning stove