A round up and saying goodbye to 2017

Handmade by Caroline Label

These last few months of 2017 have flown by and come the 1st of December I had to make a very big effort to slow time right down. Christmas is my very favourite season of the year and I wanted to soak up every last little drop of the festivities.

In October I started a Christmas gift blanket and finished in good time to get it wrapped and under the tree leaving me to enjoy slow and relaxed stitching during December.

We organised a village Halloween party which was a fabulous success and such fun. I'll try put a post together with decorating, catering and games ideas in plenty time for next Halloween.

I also hosted a trick or treat with hot dogs and wine (for the adults!) at home on the 3rd of November for my lovely neighbour who wasn't able to bring her boys on the 31st.
We attended a fireworks night at a friend, and although I have a love/hate for fireworks, it was pretty spectacular.

At the end of November, Stuart and I took the train up to Edinburgh for a long weekend and my mums birthday. We had the most beautiful weather, and treated ourselves to afternoon tea in Edinburgh Castle, mum to birthday shoes and a coat, and a day in the Christmas market.

December has been pretty busy and I have been following along with Ali Edwards, December Daily project to record our festive adventures.

And now I'm looking at closing the book on 2017. Thinking about the holidays and trips we've taken, the memories we've made and so importantly, the memories I have recorded in my Carpe Diem memory planner. This method of memory recording has worked so well for me!

I will share my 2017 projects over the remaining days of this year and what's happening in 2018.

C xx

The change in season

Autumn 2016 change of season

Autumn is in full swing here in Hertfordshire. Trees are glowing red, orange and yellow and we have been blessed with some beautiful bright blue skies. But I have been feeling uneasy. The change from summer into autumn and winter throws me off my routine and I feel closed in and anxious.

Growing up, I didn't see much change in the seasons. It was hot, bloody hot, or warm all year round in Durban, South Africa. When we arrived in the UK in 1999, I was so excited and in awe of the real obvious change in season that I didn't ever feel the darkness closing in around me. Exactly when that started to happen I couldn't tell you but I have been very aware of it for a few years now.

It's like falling down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole! It's dark and damp and I'm never sure which way is up, there is no end in sight. The notion of having no way to stop the fall and try climb back out is really frightening.

This year has been particularly hard and I am just starting to see the light again and regaining some order. Tidying and sorting and purging has helped, and I'm celebrating the victories and ignoring what is still left to do. I'm seeing clear spaces that will soon be filled with Christmas décor and that is going some way to making me feel festive and a bit merry.
My Get to Work Book is my trusty companion during these unsettled days. Giving myself a daily task.....1 load of washing, put shopping bags in the car, clear/clean lounge side table. Basic tasks and just one a night. But each one important.

Some slow and easy crafting has helped too. Of course it has! A crochet project that is started and finished in a week, gives me focus and a sense of achievement. It makes me happy.

Starting and finishing my 2015 'Journal Your Christmas' album in a weekend, reminded me how much I love and miss papercrafting. It makes me so happy.

Slowly the cloud lifts and that makes me super happy! Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.


Don't get stuck in a rut

Ken Hom book

Last year my husband watched a James Martin Saturday Morning with the American (Chinese) chef Ken Hom, and declared that we should start making stir fry for dinner. It was just before dear husbands birthday so I added the Ken Hom 100 quick stir fry recipe's book to his gift and set about clearing a bit of kitchen cupboard space for him to store his ingredients.

There are a few standard store cupboard ingredients that you need for most recipes, like sesame oil, nut oil, corn flour, Chinese rice wine and soy sauce (both light and dark). And then others that add flavour like black bean sause, satay sauce and fish oil, these have a once opened fridge life so we were careful not to buy huge jars to begin with!

We do at least 2 stir frys a week that need more fresh veg ingredients which meant updating our menu planning regime. At first I thought it would be a faff and didn't relish the idea of in store shopping again. But like with most things in life, if you plan carefully and think about where you need to go and what you need ahead of time, you can get it done relatively pain free.

The fresh veg that we use in our stir fry last about two weeks (and I have a small bag of frozen stir fry veg for emergencies). We've found a Chinese supermarket not far from home which happens to be in close proximity (ie next door) to a supermarket and outdoor fruit and veg market. This means fresh stir fry ingredients and any other shopping needs (like soap and cat food) are done in one stop!

We use mostly chicken and pork in stir fry and have found a local butcher that does excellent deals on chicken breasts. I cut them into strips and portion off to freeze. The packs are quite big so again it's a fortnightly visit.

This is a very different way of shopping to how I started doing things 18 months ago, but we're really enjoying the stir fry and it's so quick and easy. We cook more meals together, with me preping and giving instructions (from the book!) and dear husband doing the 'woking'. Eating and shopping like this has brought our food bill down further which in my book is a huge bonus!

My meal planning isn't 'this is what we're eating on these days', more of a shop for certain meals and then decide what to have on the day.

Happy days

Ciao xx

A month of planning

01 02 planner post 2

01 02 planner post 1

I'm pleased to say that I survived the first month of using a planner alongside my diary and totally loving the process.

Initially I wondered if I was making a big mistake outlaying cash on the Carpe Diem planner. Don't get me wrong it's pretty as heck and I love it but not knowing if it would sit on a shelf after a lousy few weeks of use was scary. Especially considering my planner track record!

It didn't all fall into place immediatly and I made a few blunders that would usually have left me feeling dissapointed. The first month of my planner doesn't look like I imagined. 
This is a huge learning curve for me, as I'm the type of person that wants to perfect a new hobby or craft or process before I've even picked up the tools. I over research and over analyse. My urge for something to be perfect on the first attemp often stops me trying new things.

The great thing about this style of planner is that the layout and options of style and design are flexible. I have moved a few things around as January progressed and have a much better feel for the pages I use most and those that I need and want but not all the time.

Initially I wanted to have four months in the planner at a time so I could add photos and ephemera and it not get too bulky. Then remove each month as it finishes, archive and bind it all together at the end of the year into a mini scrapbook. But it turns out I want to see and use the whole year. This became apparent when we booked a weeks holiday in September and I wanted to add it in my planner straight away. So i've added the month to view pages back in but not the weekly pages. This makes the planner less bulky and I get to access the whole year. A planner has to work for you and be adaptable to what's going on in your life, if it can't, then it's not the right planner for you.

One thing that irritated me was the 'curling' of the last page when I closed the book. It seemed to get a bit scrunched and bent and that was annoying. So I used a sheet of clear binding acetate, cut to size, and punched as a 'back page'. It slides against the inside fabric covering making the book close better protecting that last paper page.

Having found the perfect planner for me, I needed to form habits to make it work for me and ensure I use it. Of course it comes everywhere with me but if I don't take it out my bag and use it then it's just extra weight I can do without. Here's what is working for me so far:

  • Every morning when I get into work I get my desk draw key, pen (I'm very particular about the pen I use and mine comes everywhere with me!), phone and planner out of my handbag.
  • While my laptop is firing up I open my planner to today and check if there is anything to do or add to my days plans. I chose the weekly pages because I work full time and don't have a huge amount of 'out of work chores' in my life. This planner is for me and not work. I also glance back at yesterday to see that everything was done and carry over anything that wasn't and needs to be rescheduled.
  • My planner stays on my desk as a reminder to do any of the days tasks. If I have calls to make I take it with me to lunch or to the kitchen if it's a quick call that can be made while the coffee machine whirls out a cuppa, ie calling/texting to order wood, or book a car MOT.
  • I usually have a quick glance when I get in from work and if there is nothing left to do I don't look at it again until the morning. If however there are things to discuss with dear husband then I leave it out as a reminder.
  • On a Monday I have an hour after work before an appointment so I sit in a lovely quiet Hitchin pub, with a coffee and do some 'making pretty' on my planner. It's me time and a good opportunity for me to add any goals and review my yarn craft lists.
  • The weekends are slightly different. Saturdays can be quite busy, so although I'll add tasks to my planner I tend to also add them to a separate slip of paper that I can take with me. I have a quick look at the planner first thing and grab the slip of paper. I don't like to plan too much for a Sunday so I don't schedule any tasks on that day. I do however have a quick look first thing for birthdays.

This may not be how I manage my planner at the end of the year and my methods may evolve but this is working for me now. Good habits are the key to effective planning, ticking off tasks and reaching goals.

If you have an effective way of using your planner or ideas please share!

Ciao xx

Patchwork throw update

29 01 Jolie
29 01 jolie knit and chat
29 01 patchwork throw
29 01 patchwork throw book
29 01 Bag of blocks

On Tuesday I visited Jolie in Walkern for a very long overdue knit and chat with some lovely ladies. I discovered Jolie in 2008 after my love of yarn craft was reignited and I had made 4 granny square blankets in 6 months.

I get to knit and chat as often as can manage without using all my holidays. When I was with John Lewis and my contract changed to allow for a day off each month, I chose a Tuesday. When I was off for two months post redundancy and pre 'get back to work', I went every week. I loved my Tuesdays with like minded folk.

There is always lots to look at in the shop as well as cake and biscuits, delicious coffee and oodles of inspiration!

I took a better photograph of the patchwork throw and also a photograph of the book, which is now out of print, as a few people have asked which one it is. I have found the pattern on ebay (a quality reproduction, laminated) but it didn't feel right paying someone other than Debbie Bliss for the pattern.

I have made 12 of the 40 blocks and each one gets easier. As well as understanding cables I am getting into a good rhythm and learning to match the row below when i'm on a wrong side row. With only 40 blocks i'm not fretting about putting it together at the end, in fact i'm looking forward to it! I get two blocks from each ball of yarn so if I swop and change colours and pattern I'm always doing something different.

Looking forward to getting back to it after the bed socks!!

Ciao xx

Carpe Diem Planner - Part 2

CDP front of month page

CDP monthly quote page

CDP this month page

CDP month ruler

CDP March

CDP today ruler

A bit like diaries, I have had my fair share of planners and not managed to use one all year, or even for a few months at a time. I decided that if I could keep a diary in 2015 then I would treat myself to a new planner. I really wanted to split the appointments & plans and my daily thoughts into two separate books.

As this year has moved on and my commitment to daily diary entries has been proved I started to allow myself to do a bit of planner research. I read all the reviews and scrutinised each planner on the market and finally settled on the Carpe Diem planner. There are so many amazing planners on the market and this is such a personal choice but here's what I loved about this planner. I can add, move and get rid of stuff. Simple as that. I wanted a planner that I could adapt to me, that I could use for my yarn projects and blog planning as well as the every day. There are so many great planner printables that can be added to this folder too. This is a great base for me to adapt to suit me.

I am having the most fun getting the planner set up to start using in January!

The monthly divider tabs are plastic coated and is of a sturdy thick card with each page sporting a lovely image or quote. There is a double page month view, which is undated for you to personalise. Each month has a THIS MONTH page for birthdays, goals, important dates and don't forget. The planner came with weekly inserts but you have the option to buy daily pages. I have stuck with the weekly pages for now as i'm at work for 8.5 hours a day and don't need to plan that! The daily/weekly pages are undated too so you can stamp, handwrite or sticker your dates on!

The options for making this planner your own are endless and even though I won't be using it until January, I already have it in my handbag and can't stop admiring it :) Silly I know but I LOVE it!


Ciao xx

Carpe Diem Planner - Part 1

CDP planner

CDP plastic cover

CDP stickers in pocket

CDP sticker sheets

CDP stickers

Today I want to share some details and a little pre-use review of the new Simple Stories Carpe Diem Planner and products. I will split this post into two (check back next Monday for part 2) so it's not information and photo overload!

I ordered my planner from The Homemakery who offered a pre-order back in July (or was it June??), and chose the Robin's Egg colour. In October Simple Stories released better photos of the products so Homemakery offered the opportunity to amend your colour choice and we could start to get an idea of what additional items we would want to buy on release.
The Simple Stories blog had a few posts showing how each of the team had set theirs up. Of course by this time I was dreaming about my planner popping through the door!
Because I had pre-ordered I had the chance to order some accessories, and do the final planner payment, before the planners landed so it would all be shipped within hours of arrival. I was feeling slightly overwhelmed at that point so just ordered the number and icon stickers. I knew I would want more but needed to see the planner first. I had a little panic about the planner size, I was worried it would be too small to use as a planner/memory book combined, so didn't want lots of stickers I couldn't use.

The lovely team at The Homemakery shipped the goods with such efficient speed and when it arrived I was NOT dissapointed!
The binder itself is of excellent quality and well made, I always worry about dodgy stitching! The front plastic sheet is nice and thick and there are plenty inside cover pockets to keep the sticker sheets in! Of course there is a handy pen holder and cute little camera charm.

A few days after the planner arrived I placed another little order for some more bits:
Bookmarks - there are three in the pack. I have used one as a current month marker, one for the current week (I opted to stick to the weekly pages) and one to mark the next month so I can look forward every now and again.
A5 notepad - for a few extra note making pages that I can keep in the current month.
Dashboard inserts - these are great adding some dimension.
Insta quote, clear and reinforcer stickers - just cause you gotta have them.

I split the sticker packs in two so I have a batch to use in the second half of the year.

See you next week for more!

Ciao xx

A small celebration

I am celebrating 10 months of daily 2015 diary writing.

Diary update 02 11 15

I feel so great about this considering I have bought a diary every year for all of my adult life and never used it! I knew it would happen one day :)

I've pre-ordered the Simple Stories Carpe Diem Planner from The Homemakery, which should be ready for dispatch mid November. The plan is to move diary entries ie.appointments, events, anything yarn or paper craft related and the blog post schedule over to the planner, leaving the diary a more personal space.

I'll share what I buy as soon as it arrives!

Ciao xx

The changing season

This week we have had the bright warm days of an Indian Summer...

Indian summer definition

But there are signs that Autumn is here and the early morning chill reminds me that these days will not last.

Autumn 2015

Autumn is a hard season for me. My body reacts to the changes in a negative way and I find myself unsettled and agitated. My sinuses constantly feel blocked and sore and my skin itches and feels prickly. The eczema in my ears flares. My scalp tingles and my hair goes from feeling dry and brittle to lank and greasy in a matter of hours.

There is a pull towards winter yarn craft and log fires but I want the warmth of the sun on my skin just a little longer. I fight the need for socks and Uggs, preferring to wear Birkinstocks and ballet flats. Cardigans and jumpers are required for the morning commute but by lunch time I am too hot. The changable weather across the day is unsettling and I feel flustered and uncomfortable. Rain makes the air feel muggy and my shoes soggy.

I don't sleep well and dark mornings make getting up for work that much harder. I long for the weekends so I can hide under the duvet until it is light and warm.

I'm never quite in a good routine but in these Autumn months it seems impossible to find a good footing. Always chasing my tail and feeling like every room in the house needs attention. I re-learn the rhythm of being indoors while longing to be outside.

Oh how I look forward to Winter so I can look forward to Summer.