Saturday, 31 December 2011

the shape of things to come

A couple of weeks ago, before we put the decorations up, I had a mass clear-out in preparation for making space for the belongings of a New Little Person, and found the whole thing pretty therapeutic. I spent the time throwing out the physical rubbish, and mentally throwing out the rubbish bits of 2011, while simultaneously planning a few changes for 2012.

There's something rather promising about the start of a new year, the idea that nothing from before that point counts, and as if by magic at the stroke of midnight you can just erase all your bad habits - which you obviously can't, but there's nothing wrong with having a go. By the end of the day, I had two things: a very tidy lounge (minus a workspace, but with a nice new cosy corner), and a list of things I want to achieve in 2012.

1. I absolutely, definitely, 100% will master the art of knitting. By this time next year, I aim to be cable-ing with the best of them.

2. I will spend far more time doing, and less time procrastinating. Be it the cleaning, or finishing a project, I will Get It Done.

3. I will be more consistent with my ethical and environmental efforts.

4. I will read the books I've always planned to read - Austin to Dickens, Fitzgerald to Collins, I'm going to work my way through the lot.

5. I will make budgets and stick to them. Probably. Ahem.

6. I will put more effort into finding writing work, rather than sitting slumped in front of Eastenders at the end of the day.

7. I will work my way through my overflowing basket of half-finished craft projects, and actually get them done. The Boy will have his patchwork wall-hanging, and my Mum will have her lavender bags.

8. I will cook more, make more use of batch cooking, and eat far less convenience food and takeaways.

I also just want to take the opportunity to say thank you for all your lovely comments and followings throughout the year, since the humble beginnings of Owl and Accordion. I still can't believe so many of you log on so frequently - aim number 9 is to produce far more regular content for you all!

Happy New Year, lovelies. See you on the other side!


Yet another 'better-late-than-never' style post from me - weeks and weeks after most bloggers have written lengthy details of their Christmas preparations, I sit down on New Years Eve to write two posts: reflections and thoughts on 2011, and aims for 2012, and the token festive post. This is the latter, and is basically going to be a massive picture-fest - I was so busy making and baking, crafting with the Boy, seeing friends and family and shopping up a storm, that there just didn't even seem to be time to upload the photographs from the camera, let alone edit and add them to a blog post. (This links nicely to my other post that will come a little later in the evening - more doing, less procrastinating!)

Christmas also happened to fall in my 27th week of pregnancy - token bump picture coming up.....

I still refuse to even entertain buying maternity clothes - I rarely buy anything new anyway, and the thought of spending such an obscene amount of money on (let's face it, pretty hideous) clothes that I would only wear for a short time is enough to give me a nervous twitch. I've bought a few stretchy dresses and long vest tops, but so far nothing that can't be worn after Madam makes an appearance. As you can see, the third trimester has completely taken its toll on my ability to shoehorn myself into any remaining vintage - and throbbing, swollen feet mean that nice shoes are pretty much off the agenda. Sigh. Roll on Spring, and little sandals, that's what I say.

The run up to Christmas in our house was a flurry of baking (assisted greatly by The Boy - although I strongly suspect more decorations made it into his mouth than onto the baked goods)....

....and making, both of handmade gifts and decorations....

This garland never actually got finished....

I was ever so chuffed with the handmade gift tags - despite getting the stamp from Hobbycraft, and the tags from WHSmiths. Ahem.

I had the grand idea of making teacup candles.... never again.

We had most of our decorations from last year - the only thing that was new was the felted heart garland along our makeshift 'fireplace' (a radiator cover in the hallway, ahem), and seeing them again was a little like revisiting old friends, punctuated with cries of, "oh, I'd forgotten about those!"

The Boy is three now, and this is the first year he's actually understood what happens at Christmas. As you can tell, it pleased him greatly.

I was lucky enough to receive some really lovely gifts from friends and family this year - books that I've lusted after, candles, scarves... I felt incredibly chuffed with my lot this year.

The Boy was thoroughly spoiled by all my lovely friends as well. Lucky little man!
As much as I enjoy the festive season, I'm now itching to take the decorations down and get my teeth well and truly stuck into the new year. We had a truly lovely Christmas, and now I'm ready to follow it up with more of the same in 2012.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Over the last couple of weeks, as Christmas approaches, I've spent quite a bit of time pondering on the things I've done during the last year, and what I've learnt as a result. I'm always quite reflective at this time of year, and find that making resolutions comes far easier than actually sticking to them! This post is dedicated to my top five lessons learned during 2011. Here we go.....

1. You cannot be equally good at everything.
I spent a lot of time devising Grand Plans during 2011, none of which really came to fruition. I decided that because I had a basic grasp of sewing, I was only one step away from becoming a dressmaker. So off I trotted to the charity shops, bought a load of lovely but completely unwearable vintage clothes, and sat down to make them into wonderful garments ready to sell on. And this is where I stumbled, and ultimately, fell down. I can make cushion covers, curtains, soft furnishings and add a basic elastic waistline to an oversize t-shirt. I cannot undo seams and alter a dress by two sizes, I cannot add darts or tucks, and I certainly wouldn't have a clue how to transform a size 22 vintage St. Michael dress into something a size 6 teenager would want to wear. In my head, I have great ideas when it comes to altering clothes - but in reality I lack two things; technical skills and patience.

I also cannot knit - I've spent countless hours poring over books and tutorials, sat next to my Mum while she shows me exactly where to put the needles, and even longer staring longingly at knitting patterns on Ravelry. I've spent money on needles and yarn, books and even considered attending classes, but I've recently just decided that I am simply not one of lifes knitters. I'm guessing that this absolutely won't stop me trying, though, and that come next year I'll still be found on the sofa, wielding needles uncomfortably and swearing like a trooper.

While I might not be able to start up a dressmaking-style business, or knit wonderful clothing, there are plenty of crafty things I can do. I can crochet up a storm, follow most patterns and even make up my own - unlike knitting, crochet just seems to make sense in my head. And one hook is infinitely easier to handle than two awkward needles! I can also make soft furnishings, bunting, accessories, and give furniture simple makeovers. While none of these things are going to set the world alight, I've decided that I'm happy to be proficient in a couple of things, rather than average at lots of things.

2. Tea makes everything seem better.
Whenever I'm having a bad day, or a difficult time with something I'm making, sitting down with a good old cuppa to have a long ponder always seems to help. Biscuits only seem to amplify this.

3. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
There were a few weeks this year that I found myself trying to juggle way too many different projects - writing articles, illustrating for numerous publications, producing stock to sell at a local fair, setting up an eBay shop and keeping the blog going. All this, combined with being the mother to a toddler, working part time, and trying to keep our home tidy and organised, proved way too much - I ended up having later and later nights, feeling tired and cross, and not being able to do my best at anything. Next year, I'm going to commit to one thing at a time - or maybe two at a push....

4. Your home is absolutely not going to look like something out of Country Living, Country Homes and Interiors, or Homes and Antiques all of the time.
Being house-proud is one thing - obsessing over dust levels and cushion plump-ness is quite another. I read a lot of interiors magazines, and started doing so more for inspiration than anything. But I really do think that spending too long poring over these publications is skating on thin ice - I can recall several occasions where I looked around at our slightly dishevilled but wonderfully homely little flat and felt nothing but loathing. Why didn't I have a fireplace? Why didn't all my furniture match? Why wasn't everything clean and orderly? The answer is simple - because I have a toddler, and a job, and hobbies and interests, and pockets with fairly shallow bottoms.

5. No matter how hard you try, you will never successfully grow plants or vegetables on a balcony that gets two hours of sunlight a day.
Enough said.

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