Sunday, 16 October 2016

Keeping it Local...

A combination of the dreaded bloggers block and a run of migraines/nasty headaches kept me away last week, but I'm back (hooray all 3 of you shout!). I've been spending a little more time around my local area again since the little man went back to school (and I've been out and about a little more since work has calmed down a bit in the last couple of weeks). I realised the other day that I rarely write about where I live and I tend to think of it as rather uninteresting, but that isn't actually true - I just need to make more of an effort to find (and make proper use of - remember Just A Card folks!) the good, small, local stuff.

So this brings me to food.

I actually now have a whole list of wonderful things in Wallington, Carshalton and Croydon to share with you but I'm going to start with a couple of places which are within walking distance of my home.

New in Carshalton is Dotty's Teahouse. I visited a couple of weeks ago for a meeting and it's now set to become the weekly pre-swimming cafe stop with the little man, as he's completely fallen for the place too. 

It's a proper tea shop - pots, leaves and strainers, crumpets and Victoria sponge. Carshalton has quite a few cafes and when Dotty's opened I questioned whether it needed another, but this place is different. As well as gorgeous food and very nice tea they sell some vintage bits, pretty little girls dresses and all sorts and have an area for smaller children out the back. The staff are all dressed beautifully in 1950s style dresses. I basically want to go every day. 

They've also just won Newcomer of the Year at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards - that and the fact it always seems to be busy, suggest I'm not the only one to love it! 

Back in Wallington, we have somewhere that's been a favourite of mine for quite a while, The Brook.

The Brook isn't just a cafe - although the food is fab - they've just gone over to a fully vegan menu which I'm yet to try but I will soon (even though I'm a confirmed meat eater!). I have held two exhibitions of my work at The Brook, I've been to gigs, I've been in the evening for drinks and cocktails and taken the little man there for chocolate cake.

So rather than just a cafe, it's more of an arts venue - they have a recording studio there, regular weekly events (like a choir which I'd love to join but my childcare arrangements don't allow me to - maybe they will one day). They also have open mic evenings, ukulele nights, a book club and lots more. The back room can be set up as a cinema and they do parties... The list goes on. A lovely atmosphere and run by wonderful people who love their local community. They're currently doing a bit of crowdfunding to enable them to do more.

So the very furthest reaches of South London aren't quite as much of a desert as you may think...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bye Bye Kitty

On 1 September we said goodbye to our beloved cat St John. He joined us from the Cat's Protection League in 2011 when he was 18 months old and was just one of the loveliest cats ever (even if he didn't really do laps, or let you pick him up!).

He came as a set with his sister Mia (who we called Beany - not sure why but we did) - she was killed by a fox when we still lived in Tooting but St John kept on going for another 7 1/2 years. He had hyperthyroidism for his last 4, but coped well with it. He was too old and frail to undergo the invasive treatments and we were actually surprised he lasted so long. 

Here he is at his fattest (before his illness made him very skinny)...

The hardest part for me was having to make the decision to say goodbye. I know it was the right one but I did beat myself up a lot for a couple of weeks. We've now had St John's ashes back and have scattered them in the garden he loved so much. 

So the little man is after a kitten, but St John's (new) sister Tabitha - who has been with us for 7 years - seems to remarkably happy with the turn of events and is actually a lot calmer and quieter than she was before (I often joke that she's the world's noisiest cat - she just goes on and on and on...). So we're going to see how it goes.

Farewell St John. You were fab xxx

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Day Out in Kings Cross...

Not something I would've expected to be doing 20 years ago.. especially with a 6 year old. Kings Cross really did used to be a place you went to in order to catch a train and then left as quickly as possible. But the renovated St Pancras Station and the new Kings Cross have helped to change the area and I decided it was about time I had a proper explore.

I'd spotted Camley Street Nature Park when out on a work related errand a year or so ago, so that was our first stop on our end of the summer holidays trip. We arrived at about 10.30am and had the place to ourselves for the first half an hour or so!

Camley Street Nature Park is run by the London Wildlife Trust and is a quite remarkable haven in the middle of Kings Cross. Bordered by a road (and then the mainline from St Pancras) on one side and the Regents Canal on the other, it fills a little slither of land. Other than the occasional siren, sound from building sites and the trains you really could be in the countryside. The little man had a go at pond dipping and we tried to find some stag beetles (which we see quite often around here but I think they were all asleep in their log piles at the park that day!). We saw lots of wildfowl too including the family of swans in the image above.

After tea and cake at the park's cafe, we headed out and over to Granary Square...

Central St Martins moved to Granary Square a few years ago now (I always dreamt of going to college there...) and new students were heading in to register when we visited. The little man was more interested in the mesmerising fountains out the front though, and complained that I'd failed to bring a change of clothes so he could go in them (the weather turned out to be warmer than I'd expected!). He watched some other children getting wet for a while before we walked around the corner to the House of Illustration

The House of Illustration is a lovely little gallery devoted (as you may expect) to illustration. The main exhibition at the moment is of Quentin Blake's illustrations for the BFG - which was apt as we'd been to see the film the previous week. The little man had fun creating some Quentin Blake inspired drawings of his own as there was a lovely big activity table in the gallery for children. The second exhibition was on Russian children's book illustrations but sadly by this point the little man was getting grumpy so I didn't get as good a look around as I've liked.

Our last stop on the way to Euston Road for a late lunch (yep, Pizza Express again, who am I to argue?) was the glowing tunnel leading from the Granary Square entrance into Kings Cross Station. I had to stand there for a few minutes to get a shot without anyone in it! 

So a good time was had by all. We'll definitely be heading back to Camley Street and I'm even considering joining the London Wildlife Trust as it turns out there are more places to visit which I didn't know about!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Eight Weeks of Summer...

I'm back! Well, I haven't really been that far but it's been eight whole weeks since I last posted here. I had an ideas drought but I also had the summer holidays to contend with (which allowing for inset days were seven WHOLE WEEKS - I now need a holiday). I've not been sitting still though, three posts a week for Made By Mrs M and one for Just A Card, together with finalising and launching my new collection (and everything which goes with that) and preparing for three big (for me) events (the first of which is happening as this post goes live) have kept me pretty busy, when I only had five days of childcare in seven weeks...

Anyway! I may still be busy but I suddenly had a rush of inspiration to head back over here and I have lots of lovely posts planned for you (in my head at least). We got up to quite a lot over the summer including trips to the South of France and Barcelona (I could write a whole series of posts about the small boy's behaviour in Barcelona - maybe I should as it'd get it out of my system and make me consider taking him away again one day - or maybe not), we also had lots of days out here in the UK and spent time with family and friends.

For now I'll send you in the direction of my Instagram (which I haven't taken a break from - it's too addictive - even though the new algorithm means my posts are seen by one man and his dog, and I get lots of new followers to both accounts who then leave immediately, but hey) and I'll be back with something more substantive next week!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Walking through the lavender...

I'm back after a forced IT related break last week... To be honest I've hit another blogger's block so I'd been struggling to know what to write about anyway! Last Sunday we made our annual pilgrimage to the lavender field which is a 5 minute drive from our house. Here it is...

If you're in South London/North East Surrey a trip to Mayfield Lavender is (it would seem) a must - it gets busier every year. We first visited when they opened in 2006 and have been visiting ever since (we didn't live as close back then). To begin with it was just a field you could walk in and purchase a bunch of lavender and some oil, now it's quite the commercial operation with 2 separate places to get a snack, a proper (albeit open air) shop selling lavender products and plants, plus tractor rides for the little ones. 

I attempted a little video (from which you can hear that it was pretty busy!). Sorry for holding my phone the wrong way (awaits audible sigh from Mr M...)!

I may have only managed one short post in a fortnight, but things may be a little more sporadic around here over the next few weeks of the school holidays... You never know though I may find myself massively inspired and blog more than usual, but let's wait and see. Keep your fingers crossed for some decent weather! 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Some positive things

This is actually the second attempt at a post for this week. My original one (written a couple of days before I wrote this) was a self indulgent, depressingly bleak ramble about the future of the country and how the world is basically ending...

I think I may have reached the next stage in the post-referendum grieving process now though and made the decision to delete the post. It just made me feel properly miserable again, and felt so melodramatic (note for my friends: yes, even more melodramatic than usual). So, I've decided on a change of theme.

If it weren't for the bad news, this week would've been pretty good. So. I'm going to make a list of positive things that've happened and stuff I'm looking forward to...

1. I went to Tooting this morning. Unless you know me well, you'll think that listing this is odd. I used to live there and I miss it quite a bit. Other positive here is that I was visiting to deliver a wholesale order to a new stockist. In fact I have 2 new stockists this week - this deserves it's own item number really.

2. The blog post I wrote on Monday (on my other blog) received such a fab response and I've had lots of lovely people approaching me, wanting to collaborate. 

3. Also on the topic of Blogtacular (which the post above was about), I've won a 1-2-1 coaching session with the founder, Kat Molesworth. So if this doesn't get me out of the doldrums, nothing will.

4. I was also one of the 9 winners of this week's #sgiew (So Good in Every Way - I wrote about it here). This week's winning grid as selected by Nikki McWilliams is here... (mine is on the right in the middle row - party rings and jammy dodgers).

5. I had a lovely, spontaneous trip to Tate Britain with my blogging friend Laura on Wednesday - we both needed cheering up. One of the best things was that we only planned it on Tuesday afternoon (spontaneous rarely happens when you have children). 

6. Mr M bought me the best set of oil paints, a table easel, paper etc on eBay and it's just arrived today. I'm planning to get on with trying them out ASAP. 

7. I've had lots of other lovely post this week too. 

And to look forward to...

1. Summer holidays - yes weeks to fill with the little man, I'm actually looking forward to it and to escaping (and hopefully getting some sunshine at some point!).

2. Visiting the Art Deco stations on the Piccadilly Line on Saturday (you're very welcome to join us - see here for info). 

3. Pressing go on my new collection (although I am a little nervous and holding back on this, as sales have pretty much stopped since the vote last week, and I'm wondering how long this will last). 

4. Another decoupage workshop with Gabriela Szulman (I'm going to make a tray).

5. Going to see the Pixies!!!!

So plenty of stuff. Plenty of yoga and gardening and sewing too of course...

Sunday, 26 June 2016

On being afraid...

I've really struggled to come up with a post for this blog this week as my thoughts are so totally occupied wth the EU Referendum. Today (as I write this) is Thursday so I've voted but don't currently know the outcome. Like so many, I'm afraid of what it will be and the dramatic effect it may have upon me and my family's lives if the result is leave. By the time you're reading this, we'll know (I really dislike uncertainty - has to be the biggest cause of anxiety).

Rather than going on about this, or trying to come up with something cheerful to write about when I really can't, I thought I'd just share a little hand lettering I did earlier in the week - mainly to cheer myself up. Feeling positive about the legacy of the murdered MP Jo Cox and hoping people take her words to their hearts - and extending this beyond the EU to everyone in the world which seems to be such a scary place at the moment.

So remember this folks, and try to be kind to one another...