teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

The Miracle Morning

First up, I am not a morning person. I can find it quite the challenge to haul my ass out of bed each morning and usually the first half an hour of being awake is a little bit fuzzy an experience, and I try to avoid too much stimulation. Well, I should say that I never used to be a morning person, that is until recently.
I am an avid fan of Jess Lively and through her weekly podcast, The Lively Show, I discovered the Miracle Morning, created by Hal Elrod, who appeared on her show as a guest. When I listened to the show, something twigged in my brain and I remembered someone else discussing the Miracle Morning on their blog… now who was it again??? It was another of my favourite blogs, Miranda’s Notebook. Miranda had shared how she was experiencing the Miracle Morning and the amazing benefits it had afforded her too. So, armed with two seriously strong recommendations and with a burning desire to see how my morning could be radically overhauled to change my life for the better, I ordered the book from Amazon.
I was not disappointed – I read the book in one sitting and was seriously inspired to try it out for myself. So, you get up an hour earlier than normal and spend time working on your goals and developing yourself, in a nutshell. Hal recommends that you do the following: experience silence (through prayer, meditation or whatever floats your boat), affirmations, visualisation, exercise, reading and scribing (writing, or journaling). I’ve tried sticking to Hal’s way and though I found it enjoyable, I think I’m going to tweak it a little more to my own unique way of doing things, which he strongly urges you to do in the book. I think it’s good to have a prescribed way of doing things to begin with, to provide some structure whilst you’re feeling your way around the new experience, but once you’ve found your footing it’s quite nice just to adjust things a little to what is relevant in your life.

I thought that getting up at 6am would be complete anaethema to me, but I’m loving it. Time to be completely by myself to contemplate, to relax, to be productive and active is sheer bliss, and much more preferable to lying in bed. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, to get up on these cold, dark autumnal mornings, but it’s definitely worth it.
I’m spending the time in prayer, which is easy for me and I find myself rabbiting on a bit too long at times. I find visualisation very difficult. Well, I find it easy to visualise the end point of my goals, but not so easy visualising what I’ll have to do to reach my goals! Much as in real llife I suppose – it’s very easy to have goals but you have to put the work in if you want to see them come to fruition. I’ve heard of many others struggling with this part of the Miracle Morning, as it can be hard work to imagine some of the difficult obstacles we might have to overcome before reaching our much loved and treasured goals! Exercise is great is it gets the bloood pumping round the body and wakes me up, reading is brilliant as it means I can make time for non-fiction books that inspire – like Big Magic from Elizabeth Gilbert which I am currently reading during my morning routine. I am also keeping a gratitude journal which is immensely satisfying and such a positive, lovely thing to read back to yourself in darker moments – no negativity here! That’s my miracle morning as it stands, but I’m keen to like I say, tweak it a little so that I feel less like I’m doing someone else’s routine. I’d like to include some craft and some creative writing too. Perhaps I’ll need to get up even earlier!
I really recommend the book to anyone, it is light, cheery reading and leaves you wiith goosebumps all over as you contemplate just how awesome it is to have an hour a day dedicated to your personal goals and achievements. Or just go to the website for a quick look around if you’re not interested in the book. The thing with the miracle morning is that it is nothing new, like anything it is an old concept reworked and repackaged for the modern age. Hal has done a really good job on it too! (No, I’m not on his payroll!)
Try it, you might just love it!



I recently went to the flicks and saw the film Brooklyn, on a recommendation from a friend. I wasn’t too sure about seeing it as I’m not overly keen on Saoirse Ronan as an actress, and the men in it didn’t appeal too much to me either, but I went along for the story of the Irish girl leaving her homeland behind to discover a world of opportunity in America in the 1950s.

I wasn’t disappointed. The story was touching and poignant, the acting brilliant and the attention to period detail and costume mesmerising. I loved it. I even thought that Saoirse Ronan was good in it!

Eilis is a young Irish girl with very little in her life. She has an older sister and a mother with whom she lives and she has a job in the local convenience store. Her life is unexciting and uneventful. So far, so normal. That is, until her sister organises for Eilis to go to America, complete with a job and a boarding house to live in, in Brooklyn.

She has an interesting and eventful Atlantic crossing and then begins to find her bearings in New York. But with her new found freedom, Eilis is set adrift on the stormy seas of a different type of sickness – homesickness. She finds this incredibly hard to bear but then hey ho in walks Tony and makes everything alright with his Italian-American brogue and his lovely baby browns. So far, so good. Until Eilis hears some awful news from home and everything changes.

I won’t say any more than this as I would hate to spoil it for anyone who has not yet made the trip to the pictures to see it, but suffice to say that it is a gentle, pleasant and interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

I haven’t read the book but am now dying to as it will of course be better than the film and the characters more fleshy and vital. I wonder, has anyone reading this had a go at the book or the film? Which do you prefer?


A wonderful workshop

Back in April I attended a wonderful workshop at Raystitch in North London, hosted by none other than my craft and inspiration heroine, Jane Brocket. I tried not to get too excited or nervous about meeting her, but I needn’t have worried, she’s a very down to earth and friendly person with a relaxed, easy manner. All my starry eyed awe and wonder was dissipated very quickly and I simply got on with what I had come to do – play with colour and quilts.

There were about six of us in total so the workshop was quiet and relaxed and Jane was able to give lots of one on one attention. One of my favourite parts of the workshop was that Jane had brought along quite a large selection of her own quilts to show us. To see quilts like the Hydrangea (on the cover of the Gentle Art of Quilt Making) in the flesh was absolutely mind blowing – this woman sure knows how to put a quilt together and knows her onions when it comes to use of colour. In fact, I took inspiration from one of her quilts for my own – using a nine patch repeat with larger blocks with just one fabric to help the quilt grow quickly and with vibrancy. I loved looking at her quilts and will never forget the inspiration it provided me with at the time, and now.

The brief for the day was to experiment with and try out colours with which we didn’t feel too comfortable, or colours that we just didn’t like very much. So, I brought along a variety of prints in both orange and pink, two of my least favourite colours, that is, until the workshop. I went mad in Fabric Rehab and Frumble Fabrics and had a ball selecting the most garish and what I then perceived as vomit inducing oranges and pinks in florals, graphic and geometric prints. I was not disappointed when they showed up on my doorstep – I’d really gone to town! I also brought some fabrics with me to the workshop that were two of my favourite colours – red and yellow – but I didn’t get to use them, in the end I was having too much fun with the pink and orange. I found that the more I placed pieces of fabric next to each other and played around with combinations, the more I grew to like the fabrics I was working with.

One of the most important parts of the day was to spend time playing. Jane is very into playing around with colour as is evidenced in her many books, in particular the Gentle Art of Domesticity. Whether it is playing with different coloured sweets for some cupcakes, different coloured tulips for her garden or colours in quilts, Jane Brocket knows how to do colour. And this is largely because she has a playful nature and likes to mess about a bit. Which she encouraged us to do plenty of during the workshop. I think we must have spent at least an hour and a half playing with colour and fabric, before we’d even begun to cut out.

Jane got us to play around with different fabric combinations and even let me have some of her own fabric, a bright orange rose floral which is now gracing my quilt as I write. We then set to the task of cutting out, which I usually do with templates, and which is not the easiest or most efficient method of cutting out by a long way. As I was not particularly au fait with a rotary cutter at this point, I was rather timid about using one, until Jane showed me how. Jane Brocket taught me how to use a rotary cutter! A fact I am most proud of! With pieces cut out and a plan in my head about how to make the various prints and patterns work in my quilt, I set about making some nine patch blocks. By the end of the day I had constructed about six blocks and was well on the way to making my quilt. Within a week of completing the workshop my quilt was made and I was simply bursting with creativity and ideas (not to mention tons of fabric!) for future quilts. I have only completed one other quilt in my lifetime and that took me around fifteen months.

What Jane taught me, apart from rotary cutting, playing with colour and how to piece a quilt top quickly and easily, is that quilting does not have to be full of rules and tiny squares hand sewn together. It can be pleasantly simple and non-fussy, using larger squares, lots of repeats and a minimum of fancy stitching. I was so pleased with my final quilt and part of the reason for that is the (lack of) time spent making it. It’s very easy for projects to go off the boil, particularly long term ones, so it was incredibly refreshing to make such a large scale project in such a short space of time.

I’m not sure if Jane Brocket is going to be doing any more workshops in the future, but if she is, and you’re a bit of a quilting maven, (or not, as I am!) then I strongly urge you to hot foot it to London to take part in one – it was just the best day out I’ve had in a long time, with memories and inspiration aplenty! I nearly forgot to mention that Raystitch itself is a great venue for workshops and a lovely shop in itself. I even bough some fabric and a pair of scissors whilst I was there. Well, I was in a sewing shop, what was I going to do, just sit there?!

Oh, and here is my finished quilt. Sorry about the lack of good quality photography, it’s not something I do particularly well!


Simple Abundance

simpleI have rather belatedly discovered Sarah Ban Breathnach who wrote the marvellous Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, in the 1990s. It was a runaway bestseller in her homeland and has become something of a cult classic over here.

Part self-help book, part spiritual guide, this book is a little on the syrupy side and can sound a bit too mawkish at times, but it is uplifting and inspiring in equal measure. There are three hundred and sixty-five essays, one for each day of the year. Each one starts with a quote to get the brain juices flowing and each one has something to say about being a woman and getting in touch with ones’ authentic, true self, through the path of simple abundance. The path of simple abundance is reached through cultivating gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty and joy in our lives. Yes, it does sound woolly and vague and touchy feely and it is in some measure. But there does seem to be a truly authentic voice behind it all, which shines through in the writing and makes for a truly inspiring read.

I look forward each day to my next essay (some are quite brief, others fairly lengthy), and have even started to take some of the advice given in the book, for instance I have established a gratitude journal to list on a weekly basis all the things for which I am truly thankful. This is a truly brilliant (not to mention easy) way of cultivating gratitude and for noticing all of the important small things in life which make it worth living. This is a book which makes you think, which is what every book ought to encourage…and achieve. Simple Abundance does just that.


snowdrops1I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m in full hibernation mode. Following the initial optimism and hope that January always brings, I have in the past week hunkered down beneath the duvet with books, a tablet, a laptop, plenty of magazines and a hot water bottle to retreat into myself until the world is a little less dark, and a lot less cold. This will no doubt continue until February has lapsed, and will only begin to recede when those first signs of spring appear outside in early March. However, there will soon be cause for celebration when the snowdrops appear, which ought to be anytime now.  That’s what I love about nature, even in the depths of despair of winter, we are still treated to some beautiful displays of life and vitality. I love snowdrops, they offer a fresh, brisk take on beauty when everything else is so glum and dreary. There is a very small patch of snowdrops that come up in the garden each year, and I’m holding my breath for when they decide to show themselves again. Does anyone else have a favourite winter flower or plant that cheers them when the winter starts to get too much…I wonder?


Burns Night Supper

Scottish-Burns_NightAny excuse to have a friend round for dinner and to eat some tasty nosh is enough for me. For the past five years or so my husband and I have ‘celebrated’ Burns night. We do not have a penchant for the poetry of the great Rabbie Burns (the only poem of his that I know of is the famous …my love is like a red red rose, whose newly sprung in June…). Neither are we Scottish. But we do like haggis and we do love a dram of whisky. So with our friend Andrew we settled down to a lovely non-traditional meal of haggis, roast tatties, mashed nips, gravy and peas (yes, I know, not traditional at all). It was thoroughly delicious as was the Glenmorangie, though potent and a little more fiery than I remembered! a good night was had by all, though hibernation quickly resumed. Did anyone else celebrate Burns Night at the weekend?

An Education

ladybirdexA while ago, I wrote about Ladybird books, and most particularly the art in Ladybird books. Well, I was delighted when my husband sent me a link to this Guardian article which tells of an exhibition that showcases the art of the Ladybird book. I’m thrilled, now I just have to work out whether I need more reason to visit Bexhill or if this is enough! Does anyone know what Bexhill has to recommend it? Are there any other cultural highlights to see whilst down that way? I’d love to hear if anyone has any ideas. If not, I’ll more than likely just go to the exhibition anyway…


Ladybird By Design opened at the De La Warr pavilion at the weekend. Here you will find 200 pieces of original artwork from the “golden age” between 1958 and 1973. I don’t know about you, but I had several Ladybird books on my shelf as a child and it was my first concept of what it was to have my own library. My Ladybirds were deeply special to me and the illustrations burned on my brain. I can’t wait to see them and to acquire as many postcard images of them as possible in the exhibition shop afterwards…it will certainly be an education for me, just as they were when I was child.


The Vyne


Now that we are fully paid up members of the National Trust, we intend to make the most of our membership and so the Sunday after setting off for Basildon Park, we made our way to The Vyne, near Basingstoke.

The grounds are impressive, with a pretty tree-lined walkway leading up to the gatehouse and beyond that full sweeping drives leading to the main house. It is all very picturesque and makes for a lovely walk on any kind of day…though we had freezing cold, a bit of rain and a lot of wind! It was still enjoyable though, in spite of the weather. I personally love a bracing walk and it set us up well for our picnic, which we had pretty much on arriving at the house proper.


As you can see from the puddle to the left of the photo, we enjoyed our picnic outside, on the picnic tables provided. Nevermind that they were covered in rain water, and that we sat on plastic bags…no, we weren’t to be deterred. We had a lovely picnic in the great outdoors whilst garnering several odd looks from people who were leaving the relative warmth and comfort of the cafe.  We went to the cafe later in the day for tea and cake so we didn’t miss out though.

IMG_0380After our picnic, we decided to explore the grounds a little more and went to the river and skimmed stones and threw twigs into the river to see which ones went the fastest. It was pretty bracing but the scenery was delightful and other people had the same idea as us so there was a sense of camaraderie involved.

IMG_0384Messing about near the river can only keep a three year old interested for a certain amount of time however so into the house we went for our tour. At Basildon Park you can go and look at the house whenever you like, but at The Vyne you are asked to take a timed tour. I prefer to look around at leisure, so found this slightly irksome, but when the time came for our tour, I forgot all about that and set about enjoying looking around a timeless mansion. However, it was a little disappointing. Whilst highly impressive from the outside, The Vyne is quite run down on the interior and could do with a little TLC. It’s still worth a look and I certainly wouldn’t deter anyone from visiting, however, many of the artefacts are covered with sheets, the wall coverings are stained and peeling, the rooms have not been restored to their former glory and there is basically a bit of a thrown together look about the place.

I suspect that if one were to visit in high season things might look different. It could well be that because we visited in the middle of January that we came right in the middle of a restoration programme. We’ll see, as we intend to revisit The Vyne in the summer, as we were so impressed with what the outside had to offer. The other let down was that they were refurbishing the children’s adventure playground which our son was really looking forward to. Hopefully that will be up and running come the summer too.

Do give The Vyne a visit if you’re ever nearby. If you like a picnic and a lot of walking and aren’t too fussed if the Big House doesn’t fulfil all of your dreams of how it should be, then it is the place for you.


The Twelve Makes of 2015

296957_110408110912_Art_Supplies(1)I enjoy setting myself little challenges, so this year I’m challenging myself to make 12 crafty or arty makes over the course of 2015. I’ll be trying some painting by numbers….


some botanical illustration…sashiko…more crochet…

crochet-hooks1…quilling…quilting…knitting…and much more besides. My January make is, as I have already shared, a crochet blanket for my son. It is beginning to take shape, so hopefully it’ll be finished by the end of the month ready for me to start my painting by numbers project in February. Has anybody else set themselves a crafty little challenge this year to keep their hands busy? I’ll be posting my makes at the end of every month, so look out next week for that crochet blanket!


Basildon Park


One Sunday very recently, the children were bored and my husband and I restless. It was 10 o’clock in the morning and I simply could not bear the thought of being stuck inside the house for the remainder of the day, nor did I want to take yet another trip to the local park. I racked my brain for possible activities and then days of old crept into my memory of visiting National Trust properties with my parents. It’s something we had always done, and something I had not always enjoyed (mainly as a sulky teenager, wanting to be anywhere but), however, I suggested we take a trip to our local National Trust property, Basildon Park.

I’m so glad we did. It was such a great day out, I can’t recommend it highly enough. And this, a cold wintry day in January! It would be greatly enhanced by clement weather, but, nonetheless, we had a great time. We had such a good time that we even ended up joining the National Trust so that we can visit similar properties elsewhere. I’m so pleased we ended up going out that day instead of moping about at home!


Basildon Park, near Pangbourne in Berkshire has been lovingly restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe, who made it their life’s work to bring this beautiful and atmospheric mansion back to its’ former glory. The rooms are tastefully and stunningly furnished as well as being well looked after and conserved. They are so well presented that you can imagine yourself propelled back a couple of hundred years to its’ heyday, walking the corridors and living the life of some lady or suchlike. Below stairs is just as interesting – there is a 1950s kitchen and laundry to look around, full of fascinating period detail. Outside, the informal gardens and extensive parkland (inspired by Capability Brown) provide plenty of activities and trails to explore and enjoy.


Basildon Park is famous for being a location for films and tv. The Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed here, as was Parade’s End and most notably of late, Downton Abbey. I can see why it is used as a location shoot as it’s exquisitely furnished and looked after both on the interior and exterior of the house. Go and see why it’s such a sought after location for yourself – you won’t regret it – Basildon Park makes for a great day out.



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