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7 habits of people who age well – The REMIX.

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7 habits of people who age well – The REMIX.

 

Remember when you thought reaching 20 was ‘old’?

(if you’re under 20 you may have wandered on to this page inadvertently. *waves at rapidly retreating figure*

me

As the eldest amongst most of my friends I was pregnant first, bought a house first, ended a long relationship (not first, to be fair and some of my friends are in wonderfully loving long-standing partnerships). I’ve definitely started Natures gift  that keeps on giving, Menopause, first! So I tend to be looked upon as the oracle of all things aging, parenting and general adult-ing. As someone who, for most of my life, has radiated outer confidence whilst being simultaneously consumed with an inner ‘Help me! I don’t know how I got here!’ panic, this situation is bewildering and bemusing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m more vocal and less worried about being found out in some areas (I’m working on the rest). Growing older does that to you.

Anyway its my birthday month. Despite feeling no older than 35 (and acting no older than 15) , for the most part, I’ve approached FIFTY five faster than I could say ‘Where did I put my cod liver oil?’

So here’s a list I found on the inter webs. Apparently its a list of habits that ‘normal’ people  who’ve aged ‘well’ follow. I couldn’t resist some teensy amendments…

  1. Maintain a positive attitude: Hmmm it’s a bit difficult these days isn’t it? It certainly involves avoiding or filtering The News and ignoring any inner demons. Re those pesky I.Ds – Most of us have those. Please don’t think that you’re on your own. Take social media breaks that can allow you to shut out some of the ‘noise’ and to live in the present. Do that.
image1-1

Definitely not wine, chocolate or crisps….more’s the pity.

  1. Watch what you eat: …when you’ve consumed a large packet of kettle crisps, a bar of salted caramel chocolate and 2/3 bottle of wine for dinner on a Friday night. (not me, of course. My ‘friend’) Yes, eat healthily and get your 52 portions of veg in a day or whatever the government figure is now. But that guilt that comes with eating junk food every once in a while? Stop that.
  2. …And how much you eat: I read somewhere that in order to stay  healthy you shouldn’t eat carbs after 6pm. Does anyone actually do this? I tried it ONCE a long time ago. I couldn’t sleep! Am I the only person who gets the munchies *just* as I decide to go to bed?
  3. Exercise regularly: Some people like to run marathons and gym daily and cross train. Some like to do housework to music and mow the lawn. Some like brisk walks and long stretches. Your body isn’t the same as anyone else’s. Just move with a purpose. And try to do it every day.
  4. Stay social: Log off, go outside and speak to actual people. Arrange to visit a friend. Join a group of like minded souls. Seek the company of others.
  5. Protect your skin from the sun: Actually this is a good one. I would add never underestimate sunlight. Even in the UK. It’s beautiful,  clever, dangerous stuff at times and Skin Cancer doesn’t play. SPF it up.
  6. Get plenty of sleep: All the intention is there. It’s a great idea in theory. But that ‘go to bed now’ reminder gets ignored more times than not. Every time. I’ll try again tomorrow. I mean, tonight. Soon.

Of course I haven’t figured everything out, because no one can. But experience (age) means that I have an opinion on many topics. I’m finding that the more I learn, the more there is to learn. Self awareness is exhausting but its never boring.

image3-1

Sorted!

On aging ‘well’? Thats debatable. My physical parts sag and creak whilst my mindful parts strengthen and bloom. Perception changes everything. Most days I’m more than happy with that. And on the days I’m not, I know that ‘this to shall pass’. It hasn’t always been this way.   Taking responsibility for my own happiness is a big step. And making sure I wear something that makes me happy – usually colourful – on a daily basis. That works too! (try it).

Therefore I would also put (and these are neither groundbreaking or new but still…):

Read books. Encourage curiosity. Listen to others.  Breathe deeply.  Stretch daily.   Empathise.   Laugh out loud. Hug long and hard.   Cry when you feel like it.   Observe others. Write it out.  Keep negativity at bay. Sit in silence.  Keep learning. Look up.  Wear your ‘happy’.  Dance to music.  Marvel at nature.  Express love often. Be present. Talk.  Appreciate.   Give.   Shed.   Live.

Thats  everything, right? My completely non-complete list. What would YOU add?

P.S. Still doing the business over here. But decided to share on here when the mood takes me. I may end up shouting into a chasm. We shall see.

 

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Rain, Rain Go Away!

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Rain, Rain Go Away!

This post is about Fashion, Photography and Mental Health. If any or all of these topics make you a little squeamish I suggest you LOOK AWAY NOW.

Still here? Good.

I was hoping that the old adage ‘third time lucky’ would prove itself to be true when I found myself making plans for a Reddskin photoshoot last month. It had been a long time coming. I had saved up my hard-earned pennies. I had gathered my favourite, talented and (most important) fun loving models, Layia Johnson and Jordon Bolessa. I had nabbed the wonderfully warm MUA I had been busting a gut to work with since Forest Hill Fashion Week in 2014, Muna Hassan. And, finally, I was thrilled that my favourite photographer – for her work and her open spirit – Sara Atteby, was available and actually excited to work with me. Everything was in place. All we needed was some amenable weather. Cue praying to Gods and putting a LOT of positivity into The Universe.

Please note: No animals were sacrificed during the planning of this event.

Caught!

Caught!

Why ‘third time’? Weeellll…hmmm…ummm. Honestly?

Ok.

Attempt 1: March 2015.

Thwarted by being off sick from my actual (ex) job. The threat of Gross Misconduct did not appeal to me (‘working’ whilst off ill). Plus I had lost the will to sew therefore I didn’t have any new stock to photograph.

Whilst we’re on the subject. There aren’t powerful enough words to accurately describe what it feels like to lose the will to do something you have always loved. Something that has always given you life. Uplifted you. Completed you. But Depression (yep. Big ‘D’. That’s what we’re talking about here) does that. For me it was like watching the world continue without me through a pair of Vaseline-smeared sunglasses…under water. Something like that. Frankly, it was shit.

Attempt 2: June 2015.

In theory this would have a been a better time to steam ahead. I was feeling a LOT better**. We had fairly predictable fine-ish (this IS Britain after all) weather and my willing, talented team were almost assembled. I was conveniently overlooking the fact that I had recently left behind a 28 year teaching career and suffered a bereavement in the family. I was trying to execute a Will, had organised a funeral (My first one. Not recommended) and was trying to ‘manage’ my grief. (Seriously? Who does that? Lesson learned), amongst other things that I won’t go into here (who said ‘Phew’?). Plus I *still* hadn’t produced many more creations. But, I was worrying frantically, I had postponed the first planned photoshoot and I couldn’t let anyone down (I know, I KNOW!).

It would HAVE to go ahead, wouldn’t it?

Well actually it wouldn’t. The Universe was clearly listening HARD. One of my lovely models had a car accident (!) on the morning of the shoot and ended up in hospital, unhurt mostly, but in shock. She called to say she was late but on her way (Dedicated? Yes. Bonkers? Definitely!) and I told her to go home and rest. My understanding co-collaborators were gracious and everything went ‘on hold’.

Again.

Third and final attempt. September 2015.

I was ready. WE were ready. All systems go! Transport For London tried to hold us back with their all too usual weekend engineering works but we were having NONE OF IT! The skies held up and the sun even made an appearance. George, the wonderful owner of a local cafe Kente, fed and watered us when we had finished. The team were on top form, we got some great shots and, most importantly, we had FUN!

The results are dotted throughout this website. I hope you like them as much as we do!

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**on ‘better’.

I considered filing this post under TMI (too much information) but I figured ‘Why not?’. I am acutely aware of the awkward shuffles and embarrassing silences that STILL surround the topic of Mental health. I’ve been on the receiving end and, to be honest, it just makes you feel worse.

I am a human being who happens to be a Fashion designer. I, like all of us, am a Work in Progress. Many things have occurred throughout these 12 months. They’ve brought me to now… as I write these words. Some factors I felt able to control and some simply happened. I am eternally thankful to some amazing friends and family who supported and continue to check in with me. Yes I feel (much) better. I am also fully aware that whatever this is isn’t over (is it ever?). How I approach my own mental health, and that of others, is VERY different now. I am kinder to myself and I am open to change.

So to anyone reading this who is having a tough time and feels that life is being an absolute bugger (understatement Klaxon), you’re going to have to trust me on this one, things can and do improve. You never stay still. All those old cliches and adages, especially the one that goes ‘This too shall pass’ (the jury’s out on who said this first) Well its true. Living proof right here y’all!

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you for staying.

Feel free to comment on any or all of the above. Don’t be shy…I would love to hear your views.

Peace.

x

My Quilt of Wonder

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My Quilt of Wonder

I remember sitting in my local Craft Emporium, Stag and Bow, during one of their legendary Friday Evening Socials having forgotten my sewing project (but remembered the wine…go figure). I was watching Big Daddy Cyrus juggle feeding their baby daughter Bertie whilst simultaneously hand sewing teensy hexagon shaped pieces of fabric around card. It looked fascinating (the sewing not the feeding…) I wanted to have a go. So Cyrus instructed me in the basics, whilst Bertie covered herself in hummus. Then he left me to it. I purchased a pack of small Quilting templates the next day and began in earnest. This was April 2014.

and so it begins...that teacup doesn't contain tea #drunquilting

and so it begins…not exactly tea #drunquilting

I cleaned out an empty icecream tub – an excuse to buy some more – and filled it with fabric, templates, scissors, thread and a needle. Sewing Warrior ready, I took my Crafty Quilting container almost everywhere. I quilted on the Tube and on the Overground. I quilted in cafes, in parks and on the beach. I quilted whilst watching House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Masterchef (two series) and The Great British Sewing Bee to name a few. I quilted in Banbury, Nottingham, Helsinki and Barbados.

hand quilt

pretty colours

My growing quilt never failed to spark a conversation. Others became fascinated by the colours, patterns and skill. They marveled at the tiny hand stitches and my patience. Complete strangers wanted to know what I was making. Many shared treasured memories of family or loved ones who had quilted or other types of sewing. Some said they wanted to go home and finish (or start) a crafting project. I loved those journeys.

ironing on the back...getting there!

ironing on the back…getting there!

I quilted from heavily stressful times into hopeful ones. My quilt allowed me to move slowly but steadily through uncertainty and ill health to strength and encouragement. It grew and it spread and gathered momentum just as I was forced to make some major decisions about my own life.

Hand-stitched padding

Hand-stitched padding

Every scrap of cotton reminds me of something I made, or a memory of the person I created an item for, or where I was when I bought it. The abundant variety and stunning colours never fail to lift my spirits. Each piece has significance, however small.

Pinning custom made bias-binding to the edges

Pinning custom made bias-binding to the edges

I often wonder why I chose, for my first EVER quilting project, to attempt something so vast and potentially so daunting. Why didn’t I just make a very simple cushion cover…or a placemat? It didn’t actually occur to me. I just thought ‘patchwork’ and then ‘quilt’. That was that really. I focused on the process, not the end product. I really loved watching my quilt grow, create its own space, until it almost developed a personality of its own.

It fits!

It fits!

It’s now May 2015 and my Quilt of Wonder is complete. It took fifty-six weeks. Had I know this when I started I would probably never have done it. Over a year to sew something together? Bonkers! But I’m SO glad that I started. Not only has it been my therapy, its an absolute, all-encompassing beauty. And I made it. ME. *grins*

The quilt journey ends as mine is just beginning.

The quilt journey ends as mine is just beginning.

It’s amazing what a difference a year can make. I do miss my quilting project. I have plans to start another one…eventually. Maybe this one won’t take as long. Maybe it will take longer. In the grand scheme of things does it matter? Have you got a project that took an age to complete? Maybe you have one you want to finish? What’s stopping you? Start something. Go on. You might surprise yourself.

Credit: Cushion and lamp (just seen) by Arhinarmah

Can Craft improve health and well-being?

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Can Craft improve health and well-being?

*blinks in the sunlight*

Well HELLO there! It HAS been a while!

I’d really like to report back  that I’ve been super busy making and selling and being uber-productive. But the truth is that I’ve been stepping down, having a ponder, making things for me and learning to simply ‘be’.

More on that later.

Fair warning as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close this post WILL actually touch on mental health. Mine. So if that makes you a little uncomfortable then now’s the time to go and make a cuppa.

Still here? Oh. Good!

A few months ago a respected friend, Momtaz aka @TheCraftcafe , asked me to guest on her, then new, weekly show on One Harmony Radio who are a community internet radio station based in Brockley, SE London. At the time I was in, shall we say, a ‘difficult place’. I had been off work for months and the doctors had been chucking scary words like ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Depression’ in my direction. Frankly I was in a bit of a state about it all. Talking sense? To an actual person? Over the airwaves? Not uppermost in my thoughts.

But I had HOPE (wonderful stuff. I highly recommend). So we made a flexible plan and, several weeks later, I found myself sitting in front of a microphone at an unheard of hour on a Saturday morning.

Momtaz introduced me as her ‘Best Dressed guest ever!’ thereby cleverly ensuring that I would be putty in her hands for the duration of her show. Good one, Momtaz. Although it was nerve-racking, (watching Momtaz in action was like an masterclass in Radio to me. So effortless!), the topic is so close to my heart that I found it easy to chat and open up. The hardest part was shutting up when the little coloured lights were on/off/whatever they do. Flash?

Me being all 'best dressed' 'n' sh*t

Me being all ‘best dressed’ ‘n’ sh*t

I learned to sew in my teens thanks to the patience and expertise of my mum. Newly single and working to a tight budget she would turn her creative hand to most things out of necessity. I liked it. Loved it, in fact. Now my mum ‘persuades’ me to sew everything for her. Fair enough.

Throughout my life the Arts, in a variety of forms, have always been my place of solace. My natural home. I became a kick-ass (not literally. Illegal apparently) dance teacher and always marveled at my students ability to create and express themselves regardless of ability, age or gender. When, after a pesky injury,  I began to focus more on my sewing skillset it never occurred to me that the same wouldn’t apply. People are often surprised that I taught boys to sew. ‘SACRE BLEU!!’ they exclaim. (French-speaking of course….with a flair for melodrama). Craft knows no gender. Fact. It’s SO much more than the activity. It’s that feeling of pride, of making something from practically nothing. Learning a new skill or perfecting a new one. That feeling of worth and achievement. It can’t be beaten! One of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE things is to show others how and then watch them run away with it. (not literally because that’s dangerous) To those of you who say ‘Oh I’m no good at *insert suitably creative activity here*” I say ‘Pah’! And ‘Try!’. And other (clean) one syllable expressions.

The advice for the millions (yep. Worth keeping in mind next time you feel like you’re on your own) of people out there experiencing Anxiety or Depression is well documented. And a great deal of it involves getting out and ‘doing’ things. In the spirit of ‘doing’ you can’t go far wrong with trying a new skill. Can you see where I’m going here? My experience has always been that when the going got tough (seriously resisting the urge to embed THAT Billy Ocean tune into this post) if I could get to my sewing machine, or pick up a crochet hook or teach myself to knit half a sock *glances feebly at half knitted sock* then I’d be moving in the right direction. UP (in case you hadn’t figured it out).

IMG_20150319_241959795

It might work for you.

Back to Radioland. So Momtaz and I chatted and I made a bit of sense (allegedly) and we how we laughed and Momtaz played some FAB-ulous music (what happened to PM Dawn? Anyone?) and before we knew it the show was over! *sniff*

At time of writing I am still a Work in Progress. But aren’t we all? I’ve made some positive and life-shifting changes (to put it mildly). But I know I won’t be giving up sewing (or teaching others to sew) anytime soon.

Of course now I also want to be a DJ….

Bottle to Bangle in under 60? GO!

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As you may know – I’ve been bleating about it enough – I decided to give up alcohol for the the not so jolly month of January. So instead of enjoying a glass of wine whilst cooking, or watching TV… or breathing, I have been drinking virtuous ‘Mock’-tails and cordial with LOTS of fizzy water.

I’ve accumulated a fair few plastic bottles even in the past seven days as you can imagine. I couldn’t possibly let them languish in the recycling bin without an attempt at using them up, now could I?

So here, for your delectation and delight, is my Easy Peasy Upcycled Bangle Tutorial!

You will need;

1 plastic 1 ltr cordial bottle.

1 felt pen (sharpie’s are good)

1 pair sharp kitchen scissors

1 pair Fabric scissors – not the same as above or you’ll blunt these.

A smidgen of masking tape or Sellotape

1 Strip of medium weight fabric (cotton) 50cm x 7cm approx.

1 needle and  some thread.

A sewing machine. – if you don’t have one you can  hand sew using small running stitch.

1 clothes peg

1. Mark around the bottle. Pierce it and cut along markings
Lean on me

2. Cut a 3cm wide ring from the bottle. Cut through the ring so it opens out. I was able to get 6 rings from a cordial and a washing up bottle (see below)

3 plastic rings

3. Cut a strip of fabric 50cm x 7cm. If you want a wider bangle then the formula is width x 2 + 1cm + 1cm. The 1 cm is for the seam allowance. So a 5cm wide bangle will need a strip of fabric that is 50 cm x 12 cm. Get it? Just trust me.

Long strip of fabric

4. Right side of the fabric facing down, press one short edge over (towards you).

Press 1 short edge

5. Then (still with right side facing down)  fold the fabric towards you and press along the middle.

press along the middle

6. Open  the fabric out completely – including the short pressed edge – and pin the long edge right sides together. Machine stitch the long edge just under 1 cm (8 or 9 mm) in. Note: It doesn’t matter what colour thread you use – no one will see it!

sew along edge

7. Trim the seam to half its width. Just makes it neater and the next bit is much easier.

trim edge

8. Attach a safety pin to one end of the fabric

attach safety pin

9. Use the safety pin to push through the opening. The fabric should turn as you shimmy up the inside. Magic!

peek-a-boo!

10. Remember the short edge that you pressed? Well tuck that under and in and press the (now right way round) strip of fabric flat.

press flat

11. Grab your plastic strip. Snip or round the corners of one of the plastic ends so it doesn’t ‘snag’. Place the peg on the other end of the plastic and push the rounded edged end through the fabric ‘tube’. Start at the fabric end that is folded under.

feed plastic through fabric

12. Now. Leave an opening so that you can see the plastic. Check that the bangle will go over your hand and then tape the ends securely. (I have large Sasquatch hands so I only overlapped slightly but you may need to check.)

A couple of layers of tape should do it.

secure ends with selllotape

13. Almost there – Eeeep! Guide the raw edge under the folded under edge. (You’ll be glad you ironed it now!) Choose thread to match your fabric (if you have it) and slipstitch – small stitches  on one half and then the other – the seam together. Doesn’t have to be super neat. I did it in about 10 stitches inside and out.

slip stitch ends closed

14. That’s IT! You’re done! How long did you take?

Finished!

Naturally I made a few more. I couldn’t help myself!

Ta-DAAAAHH!

Sasquatch hands modelling newly upcycled bangles. You like?

Pretty!

Do have a go. Use any fabric. Let me know how you get on!

You can sponsor me here when you’ve finished too if you like!

Only 3 weeks and 3 days to go! *gasp*

31 days and counting

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Ok I have 20 minutes to write this post AND finish a lovely bottle of Sancerre before I give up alcohol for January.

Yes you read it right. All 31 days of it. I’ve decided to just get on with it.

I realise that January is a long month and I did consider postponing to February to be honest. But that wouldn’t be so much of a challenge would it? I’ve always found them rather hard to resist.

So. My reasons.

Quite simple really. I’m raising awareness for mental health issues. You must have read the statistics – 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. It’s the ‘elephant in the room’, the topic you either make fun of or don’t talk about at all. Yet we all know someone who is suffering daily or has suffered in the past. They might be a friend or part of the family. But they exist. The stigma that is (still) attached to mental illness is huge – just think of the headlines in the media or the ridicule that people are subjected to when they ‘lose it’ or don’t appear ‘normal’. Volunteering at Crisis UK this year just hammered home how many more people, young and old, are having difficulty holding on to their sanity. Stress, bereavement, divorce, losing a job or not being able to find one are just some examples of events that can affect people adversely. In the current climate, mental illness isn’t something that happens to ‘other people. Christmas and the New Year are the hardest times of the year for too many.

Here’s an animated short about depression. It’s a mere  4 minutes and 19 seconds long…you can watch it in an ad break!

That’s it really. Oh here’s the bit where you come in. January, for me, is all about the charity SANE. And resisting adding that bottle of wine to my weekly shop. You can help support me through the LONG DARK GLOOMY DAYS OF SOBRIETY (have I made my point?) by making me feel it’s all worth it!

Please share this post. Read and learn about mental illness and donate on my Just Giving page . You can even visit my Etsy shop (there’s a sale on too!) and as I’m donating 5% of my total sales in January to the cause.

Talk about it. Learn, donate, even volunteer. Just don’t brush it under the carpet.

Thank you.

Happy New Year!  *drains glass*

x

COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP

by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

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Twenty something taking control of her mental health. Anxiety & depression sufferer. Learning as I go.

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Sewing, making and creating...most of the time.

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Worker Bee 2 Queen Bee

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Black Girl on the Front Row!

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Chronicling a delusional gardening experience.

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what I had for tea last night (and other stories)

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forget what you think you know about jazz

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artist and embroiderer

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Fashion Stylist. Fashionista. Naturalista. London.

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Story telling, bad dancing, much eating.

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'Cut from a different cloth'