Hello, week two of NaNoWriMo! It has been an interesting week. We are all walking zombies, I really can’t describe it any other way. We are all still sleeping in one room so it has now been a week of sharing a room with my toddlers. I now have the FEAR that I will never get them out of my bedroom again. However, there is an end in sight and we are crawling slowly towards it thanks to the recent weather drop but this weekend should see us all in new bedrooms! Just save that celebatory glass of champagne until it actually happens.
Our second regional write in is this evening which is why I am writing this blog post instead of increasing my word count. I missed the first write in but I have joined in all the virtual write-in’s on YouTube and you can catch the replays here if you are interested. I have taken part in the NaNo word sprints on Twitter and they have really focused me on achieving my goal. I really do recommend that if you are in a slump and you can’t write to pop on to Twitter and take part or tag a fellow WriMo and have a word count battle. Having someone to hold you accountable is really key where you are in a funk. Which brings me nicely on to the next section:
Shut up and tell me about your writing already!
Ok today is day eight of NaNo and the word count to hit by the end of the day is 13336 and I am currently on 9,169 which means that I will finish on December 14th at my current rate. The whole reason for this was down to losing four consecutive days of writing time and every time I get into the flow of writing it gets broken because of a child or building work or well life pulling me away from the laptop. The words are flowing really quickly when I do get to write and yesterday I managed a word count of over 3K so I know that over the course of this week I can get back on track and just write it out.
One of the biggest problems for me was how to write the final image and it came to me while I was working on chapters five and six so I’m happy about that but the blues on week two is more about falling behind due to all the external circumstances that are out of my control. (Yes as I write this post my husband has just informed me that the floors are to be sanded this weekend ermmmm)
When I write, I am getting lost in the story but it’s hard to know if it’s because it is so personal or if it is actually good writing. I know in places that the entire chapter will need to be reworked in editing but by getting it down on paper, per say, the first draft is flying along but just not as fast as the WriMo’s who have actual time to sit and write in batches. I know that if I don’t get some uninterrupted sleep this will not be finished in November so cross your fingers for me.
Why? To those who are against NaNo and are saying that you can have 50K words at the end of the month but a terrible novel I say, well yes that’s true but NaNo is about giving yourself the possibility of achieving it with help of a supportive online community in your corner all routing for you. My target was to tell my story and to have a first draft in need of some serious editing because I would never carve out the time in my life to do it otherwise. Now I have people who are cheering me on and lending a hand when I’m stuck (writing prompt anyone: zombie dragon) and I’m doing something for me that matters. I can’t learn what my weakness is if I never try and I’m a person who needs a good hardnose deadline in order to achieve something. That person who never studied until the night before an exam and got a 1.1, that’s me. I need that clock counting down to zero to get my bum in gear and just do it. Don’t be against NaNo, there are a lot of young writers taking part in schools around the world. They are all learning how to write and some are surpassing myself at every level. I may not have an amazing novel by November 30th but I will have achieved something that I never have before in my entire life.
So, I am pushing towards the deadline and shaking off the blues. Who’s with me? In saying all of the above, how are your novels coming along?
Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.
I love this time of year, autumnal harvests and pulling out knitwear for cold snaps are some of my favourite things but it is Oíche Shamhna or Halloween that I have always loved most. I don’t know why because I never trick or treated as a child and I only had Halloween costumes really in college but I loved Halloween night.
Halloween was always a night I spent at home eating good food and looking for that ring in the Barmbrack, which for those who don’t know, is a fruit-filled loaf traditionally with a ring or coin inside. There were always different bowls of nuts about the place and of course, chocolate so maybe in hindsight, it was always about the food. It could also have been because it was the one weekend in the year that I got to keep my dog in my bedroom!
It’s funny how family traditions always start sometimes they are planned and sometimes you just fall into them. In my case, the latter was how the baking started and it is a tradition that I am following through with my girls though at their ages I’m baking cookies and buns opposed to a heavy fruit-laden cake game that might choke them!
We carved our pumpkins and had squeals of delight and disgust from the toddlers. We made pumpkin soup from the inside and toasted the seeds so I didn’t feel guilty for making a candle holder out of perfectly good food! We danced and the kids dressed up in costumes but most importantly we did it together as a family.
So as darkness falls tonight and you’re wrapped up tight, ask yourself if you are continuing your family traditions in the way that you want. Pull out a journal and make a list of wishes or dreams that you want from the year ahead and see what you can start doing tomorrow fora fresh month is fantastic for a fresh start!
For those who would love to know more about Celtic traditions for Oíche Shamhna pop on over here. I am off to keep up with my toddler wrangling but from all of us, we wish you a very Happy Halloween.
Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh go léir!
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
I’ll be honest I struggled with whether I should write this post but between the daily post prompt being ‘Believe‘ and people asking about what I thought of the V by Very Blog Awards and I found it hard not to. This is a personal post and is very much about believing that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, provided you can ignore the stress and self-doubt.
I would love to say that I entered in order to win but in my mind, I never thought I had a shot at the finals let alone a silver medal. I entered in order to take part in the process, see how it worked and also to have a bit of fun in the Irish Blogger’s Group on Facebook. I wanted to meet new people and have fun but as the blog progressed the more stressed I became. I have never entered on my own before, I have always been the support of someone else’s blog. So doing this on my own was unsettling but you never achieve anything if you are always comfortable right?
1. It’s Stressful – Blog Post Workflow
I won’t lie this was easily the most stressful thing I have done. In the beginning, I didn’t really think about it; I was nominated and I entered. The more I thought about it, the more I focussed on my technique, SEO, image optimization, relevant posts and the list goes on. I stopped looking at my blog as a place of refuge for me and more like a business and I’m not sure I enjoyed that. I blog because I like to write and I enjoy all of the new opportunities that have come my way from writing here and building my space. It’s quite different to sit back and realise that industry professionals are looking at your work and grading it. I am always looking at what can be improved on my site and I’m sure I’ll always want to change something but ultimately this was my place to relax and the awards shattered that for a month. However, if I was more relaxed and didn’t think about the awards process then it wouldn’t have affected me so much.
2. Let Go
One of the best takeaways from the whole process was just to let go. The awards are often down to judges preference and although you can improve the technical side of your blog sometimes judges just prefer things to be in a particular layout or they prefer a style of writing. If their tastes differ to yours then there is nothing you can do about that. If you are happy with your blog and the space that you built and it’s a hobby then why stress about it. Let the award come and go but enjoy your audience and the process of blogging. The awards are one night but your audience and online community are worth so much more than that.
This is double sided. From entering the awards I became aware of more bloggers than I had before. I have added a few to my reader and even though they aren’t in craft or slow living I enjoy what they write and I love their aesthetic. I believe you can always learn from your peers and by that, I don’t mean copy. I mean that your peers can inspire you to achieve greater things and push you and by taking part in the process and finding new blogs, it has helped to remind me why I blog in the first place.
The flip side of that is people finding me. I have a following of around 3K/month. This goes up and down but I’m not at the dizzying heights of blogdom. These awards allowed me to take part in the process without a public vote and be graded against just my content. This is fantastic for someone new and only a year into blogging. The awards also helped introduce my blog to others and to gain confidence in what I do. This was worth every stressful night.
4. Friends Old & New
One of the highlights for me was attending the awards with two close friends of mine. I got to hold their hands as our categories were called and share in their wins too. We normally wouldn’t have a reason to venture out into the world together and as we all live in different parts of the country we needed a reason for us all to be in one place at one time. Events like this are amazing for networking making new friends or even inspiring collaborations you never thought possible. I got to meet online friends in person and make new blogger friends on the night and find out more about their lives and how they blog. Sometimes blogging be isolating, having friends that you can bounce ideas off or help you when you feel down or when you really want to quit and you feel lost, those friends are invaluable.
5. Believe in Yourself.
I know, I know this makes me cringe because it is everywhere but it is true. The reason a blog stands out is because of its unique voice and that is you! Your taste, your style, your decisions, they all create something wonderful and unique to you. This blog is not my first, it is my second. I’m not new to the craft community but I am to the blogging community. I didn’t know that many bloggers when I started and new I’ve met bloggers from all over the world and I love what they do. Evey blog has it’s own twist on posts, style and community it’s a window into how that person thinks of craft and their community usually reflect that. So don’t second guess yourself, just start and learn along the way. If you try and get everything perfect you will never publish. Believe in yourself first and others will follow.
Huge congratulations to both Carol and Evin on their wins and also a big thank you to Evin for allowing me to steal her photos from the night for this blog post.
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
This week I have been keeping track of my creativity and I realised a few things. That I’m much more creative first thing in the morning and then again when everyone else has gone to bed. I noticed that a lot of the stress that I feel during the day is actually self-induced by expecting too much of myself every day. I started to schedule in time for myself to read. This can be either blog posts or books but it cannot be social media. Social media, although I love it, drags you into the infinite scroll and I found myself doing more and more of that scrolling and less and less of actual reading.
Anxiety is the Handmaiden of Creativity
During my constant search for new blogs, I came across this quote by T.S. Eliot and although I remember when I first heard it, I had forgotten it. It’s true that the busier I get the more anxious I become and the less creative I seem to be. I fall into easier, proven content and push myself less and less. I know we all need different speeds at times but I don’t ever want to reach for my creativity and find that I lost my unique thought process because I have been too stressed or anxious.
Creativity Takes Courage
There have only been a few times when I have been really anxious about posting a particular piece. This is usually around a photo challenge as I feel I have a lot more to learn about photography and I doubt my skills. When it comes to written blog posts or Instagram posts, the posts that make me anxious are the ones that are truly personal. Where I have given it my all and though I want to share it with the world, I also want to hide it away and protect it from disapproval. I do find though that those posts, the ones with my unique voice and eye, those are the ones that really do well. I’ve found a wonderful group that help, support and advise on how to make something better rather than criticism and tearing a piece down. Yes, it still takes courage to let it out into the world initially but knowing that a core support group is there helps to build up that courage and just let go.
Creativity & Self-Doubt
Creativity and self-doubt go hand in hand for me. When I doubt I have the skills to achieve something I’m less creative about doing it and end up producing something mundane. Sometimes it’s ok to be ‘good enough’ and I don’t need to be a hundred percent all the time even though I would love to. I’m never sure where the self-doubt comes from but it’s there and the more tired and run down I am, the more I doubt myself. It’s a vicious circle. Now that I know I do this it’s much easier to ignore that niggling feeling and go and eat something or knit and come back to whatever I was working on a little later.
The blog awards this year have been incredibly stressful for me. I have constantly been looking at my blog, writing and images and trying to figure out if I can make them better and like a lot of people I am my own worst critic. When I started I was developing my eye and although I am still doing that, I can say that I can frame an image better than I could before. I can write with purpose when I have to and I still allow myself to ramble on my blog.
The awards made me wake up and notice those other amazing blogs in Ireland. Their consistency, their content, their branding and I fell into the direct comparison which in reality is a little silly across genres. What works for one niche may nosedive in another. Right before the awards I was proud of just how far I had come in twelve months but during them, I became really insecure and the further along the process the blog went the more stressed I became. I realised that although I had built my blog to my own personal taste, it was being judged on how well I ran it and obviously then ‘work’ me kicked in and all I could see was the negative. I became anxious about my post topics and images and second guessing myself. I also had an uneasy feeling that the blog was being judged partly on my personality which made me look more and more at my content. You can guess that this stalled my creativity but then something wonderful came from it all.
I realised in order to stand back and be negative about my blog it told me that I can distance myself from a project. My skills have developed and over time I have become settled in what I want the Notebook to be which is something I have struggled with in the past. From being scared and stressed and entering anyway, the blog awards process made me a better blogger and also opened up a wonderful world of Irish bloggers in genres that I would never have looked into before.
It also wasn’t just the blog awards that made me feel this way. I take part in the Instachat by Sara Tasker (MeandOrla) and at the end of the chat we all join the Insta-train and share our grids and get to know some new online friends. This is wonderful and the group is highly supportive but I realised after the third chat that I didn’t like sharing my grid as I felt it was terrible in comparison to those who were posting. That I had so much to learn and achieve that I couldn’t/shouldn’t post. I did force myself too and I have some lovely new friends through there but again prior to the chats, I was feeling good about how far I had come to feeling terrible about how messy and unstyled it was.
The point of this post is to remind both you and me that we all battle our own demons. That the voice inside is both good and bad and that we need to listen to it in a more balanced way. Appearances are almost always deceiving and creativity shouldn’t come with a price. Give yourself room to breathe and de-stress and have the courage to post the work that you’re unsure about. Although the last month has been incredibly stressful for me, I am better person because I took part in the things that made me anxious or scared. The trick is to do it in a way where you can still be your creative self and find your unique path to the content you want to create. I’m sure that I can’t be the only person who has felt this way but for now I know what I need to do to move forward and be a better, creative me.
Best of luck to everyone taking part in the awards this year. I’m so glad to meet such wonderful new bloggers and be part of a wonderful group. I won’t be here on Friday so I will see you all next week.
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
I really can’t believe it, I mean where has the time gone? It’s very hard to believe that it’s twelve months since the Cottage Notebook was born. People say never listen to that voice in your head at 3 am but I am so glad that I did because it quite literally changed my life. The funny thing is I think my life became more chaotic! There are so many ways in which to approach today’s Birthday post from the ’10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging/Podcasting’ to ‘Tips for Starting a Blog’ but this post is going to take a slower more personal pace.
I sat down many times to write this post and it wasn’t easy. There are so many things that have happened in these last 12 months all because I stopped making excuses and just started to write and record. This online creative space is mine, it’s my space to write, share, enthuse about craft and have a giggle at my gardening attempts but what you all probably don’t realise is just how much of a lifeline this space has been for me personally.
Why I Started Blogging
It’s not a secret that I didn’t adjust to being a stay at home parent well and really, in all honesty, who does? In one moment you go from being a single being with bodily autonomy to being at a tiny humans beck and call. I’m a mum who breastfed and there are days when either little K or little T wouldn’t get off me and I found those days tough. I found that closeness hard and among all the other things that new parents have to deal with, you also need to figure out how to survive at home. For me, I loved my pre-baby life. I loved my job, the customers, getting up having a shower and leaving the house every day. I loved my peaceful days off but I also love my kids and so began that adjustment period.
I guess it takes losing something to realise why you valued it in the first place. When I had baby number two, it was so clear what I needed in order to be the best mum I could be. I needed something for myself. Something I could nurture and grow, learn new skills and find a sort of balance between my need to be a parent in a way that aligns with my values and my wanting to work and to feel like I am still contributing and developing my sense of self. That I had skills beyond babywearing, cleaning, feeding and soothing. I had no idea where this would all lead, I just needed to know that my years in higher education weren’t a complete waste and that I could still be part of the creative world that I loved.
So on September 16th, 2016 the journey into blogging and podcasting started and you can read just how the first 6 months went here. There are things that worked and things that didn’t but the one thing this space has been, was and still is my lifeline. When I’m a sleep-deprived zombie mess, I write. When my kids are being terrors and I close the bathroom door and cry for a bit, I come back and I write. When I grieve, I write. All of those posts don’t get shared but the ones that I have the courage to post, do. The one thing that has held constant through this year is this: that this space can be anything I want or need it to be and that ladies and gentlemen is the one thing that got me through every single really tough moment in the last year. I had given myself a space in which to breathe and be myself.
This blog was never about amassing a huge following but I’m so glad that you all found me and helped me through the tough times and celebrated with me on the successes. The blog was about holding me together and boy did you all do a fantastic job of supporting me and helping me find my feet and what I love. I went from typing alone to writing with a purpose. From recording in my spare room to recording in my ‘office’ with professionals in this industry that I love and admire. From being a stay at home parent to being a VA and freelance writer and social media consultant. The thing is I had amassed all of these skills I just had no confidence in using them and without the support of this wonderful community I wouldn’t be where I am now and that is a happy mum who is comfortable at parenting and working from home but don’t get me wrong the struggle for that balance is ongoing.
At its heart, this is a Thank You post from me to you. Thank you for joining me on this crazy journey and allowing me to share, vent and cry when I needed to. Thank you for the support and guidance and most of all nudging me in the right direction when I get lost. I know I have achieved a lot in the last year even though at times I feel lost, I never dreamed I would be published in a magazine, be a podcast guest, work with such amazingly talented artists, be able to take photographs for my blog/Instagram and also be paid to take photos. To top it all off is this year’s V by Very Blog Awards. I guess to some people blog awards don’t mean a lot, but to me as this blog has quite literally been my third child, it means the world to me to be up there as a finalist among such amazingly talented writers and bloggers such as Evin OK,Where Wishes Come From, Pieces by Aideen and Professional Stitch Ripper. Go check these guys out they are wonderful and all in their own unique way. I really can’t wait to see where year 2 takes us all. I love sharing interviews with you all and I love introducing new people into craft or slow living but most of all I love the yarn!
To celebrate the blog’s birthday Laura from Ellie & Ada has dyed a special colourway for me called Garnet and you can find it in her shop here. I am also running a birthday giveaway on Instagram next week so keep an eye out for that and you could win one of Laura’s skeins along with some very special items. So, you can support us by purchasing a skein and enjoying Laura’s beautiful dye work. This is a sock base (75% Merino and 25% nylon) so it’s perfect for that winter sock project you have been eyeing up for you. Isn’t she gorgeous:
come, click, buy 😉
And so I leave you guys with a song that you can Dance it out to, don’t read into it too much because my memories from this last year are AMAZING, it’s just what I’m bopping away to right this second:
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
This is one of those posts I had running through my head since August when Robynn (Woollythinker) mentioned in the comments section about writing a post on Instagram and how I choose my images. I found it really difficult to explain how my brain works so instead I thought I could walk you through my thought process on Instagram and how it has changed over the last year since starting the Notebook. At the end of this post is my checklist for Instagram posts, please keep in mind my account isn’t huge. Everything is organic and I’m enjoying growing my close, engaged following.
Why Do You Use Instagram?
This is the easiest place to start. Have you asked yourself why you use any of your social media platforms? Are you using Instagram to share personal images and keep in touch with friends or are you a business trying to grow a close following or are you trying to grow an influencer account? I’m not really any of the above. I’m a blogger but I wanted to grow a friendly online community who may be interested in what I blog about. If you know what your Instagram is for, deciding how, what and when you post becomes easier.
I wanted and still want an easy account to manage, sharing stories of life here at the cottage that follow along loosely with my grow-craft-love ethos. The crafter inside of me wants a place where I can showcase my finished objects and have other knitters help when I run into trouble at 4 am because as you know, someone is always online. Another important thing for me is to enjoy playing dress up with the girls but also have useable images for my blog or our photo wall at the end. Most of all, I want Instagram to be fun! To be a creative outlet where I can play with a camera and learn. I want it to move with the topics that I find interesting but along a theme that was still me and my personality at the heart of it.
Dublin City Center on a rare quiet September morning.
Why Instagram Is A Great Platform For Bloggers.
This paragraph will be short. If you have a blog, images are important. They draw the reader in on a more personal level and for readers who skim posts, the images can stall them and cause them to be drawn into the text. They help to tell your story on a deeper level. I will hold my hands up and say that the reason I found three of my favorite blogs was via Instagram and their amazing images on their grid.
Personally, I wanted to move away from the few stock images that I had for blog posts. I wanted to develop my own unique style mostly because I want my blog posts to be recognisable when I share them across social media platforms. This is something that I am constantly working at as I develop what I like and how I want to tell a story.
If you approach Instagram as something that you can learn from. You start to look at grids more than individual images. I find myself picking apart the story that the account is portraying. If I like the account, why do I like the account? Is it their use or lack of colour, is it their captions or are they using Instagram differently in a way I admire? The last reason is why I follow The Tall Photographer aka Charles Budd. His use of cinemagraphs and unique style images always invokes something creative in me.
My account is far from where I want it to be at the moment. Partly because I am still trying to develop my eye and trying to decide how much of my personal self, ends up in a public account. Since realising how time poor I am, I wanted to pull back on media platforms but still be present and be part of a fun, engaged community. I understand that posting less often goes against good social practice but for me, it has helped me find that balance that I craved. I try to post more high quality more engaging content that means something to both myself and the viewer. Unless you follow me on Twitter where I choose to vent and be more relaxed and chat about coffee, cake and the toddlers secret plans for world domination……
This was my first image to be featured on IG. (edit: Lightroom)
My Instagram Process:
I think this is more of the type of answer that Robynn was looking for.
Plan: I try to take a series of images in one day that compliments my editorial calendar for my blog and then fill in the spaces with things I love. This is really fluid though.
Set up the Images: When the weather is right, I set the theme/tone or create a backdrop if I need too. In my early days I just took images, now I think about what I want to say before I take the image. I usually have a caption in mind or I’m taking part in a challenge and I can see the image I want to take for my grid.
Edit: I use both VSCO and Lightroom and then plug the images into the planners to see how they line up.
Grid Planner: I tried both Planoly and UNUM and I prefer UNUM but I’m still not happy because I prefer to type up captions at my desktop. There are a few hashtags I love to take part in on Instagram like Faceless Fridays, so I get creative and plan some images for those if I’m bored.
Hashtags: Yes I have a very long and detailed hashtag list. I use them to try and reach new people and view other images and accounts that might be of interest to me. It’s my roadmap of Instagram.
Captions: I try to write engaging captions and use Instagram as a micro-blog when I need to. I don’t want to increase my posting schedule on my personal blog so having IG allows me to have somewhere else to write when I need to.
Timing: Then I just share my images at a time when my followers are online. I did use Iconosphere for a while but I’m not an influencer and couldn’t justify the paid app per month when other apps give me detailed stats and allow me to plan my grid for free. I think if I ever monetise the blog properly and blogging is a way to have an income this would justify paying for the app.
Reply to Comments: Yip tough on time but I try to be active on Instagram when I post. To reply to comments and comment on other photos and stay in touch with the growing community there.
To end the post, it’s helpful to remember that with any social platform, you get out what you put in. If someone has a huge following, ask yourself why. Do they have a following somewhere else and are bringing it over to that platform? Try not to get too obsessed about your grid being messy and if you are doing things ‘right’. No one determines what is right except you. Be inspired but don’t copy and just be yourself and to swipe a phrase from MeandOrla, be authentic. That is really the key to creating unique content because no one else can be you!
These are just my thoughts, what are yours on using Instagram?
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
Last week we finally had some time off as a family. Like many young families, we don’t get to do this often and with two toddlers, well, you can imagine already being worn out before you pack and start making sure everyone has everything they need. The weather, in case you missed the news, was fairly dramatic which lead to some amazing beach photos during some fast moving fog. So, although we couldn’t play outside for very long, I did get to make use of the fog and keep the toddlers entertained.
Holidays are supposed to be about rest and recharging our internal batteries but not if you take them with two smallies in tow or so I thought. I’m always surprised how seemingly mundane situations teach me something either about myself or my kids. I was terrified of all of us sleeping in one, albeit, bigger hotel room. We don’t sleep that much as it is so the thought of being in a hotel room with our kids for 4 days with no one sleeping or one toddler keeping everyone awake, didn’t really excite me. It turned out I was wrong on all accounts but it did lead myself and my husband to discuss the expectations that we have as parents. Not the expectations of our children but the ones that are put upon parents or we put upon ourselves.
I’m not really sure when the expectations started. Was it during pregnancy? Birth? Or did it start before then? I’m don’t know when they started to creep in but those expectations that start rearing their ugly head almost as soon as you find out that you are pregnant, the ones that imply that as a parent you suddenly know everything. As if magically at that instance of birth you are filled with a wealth of knowledge. Erm, well I can tell you that the magic fairy was on leave the day I became a mother and that magical ability never came my way.
As a child, we think that our parents know everything. If we have a pain they can take it away, if we have a need or a want they can fulfil it. Being on the other end of that spectrum is somewhat terrifying. That realisation that we are all just fumbling along and trying to make it work. Each family trying to maintain a balance and do what is right for them. That there is no magic playbook and yet I somehow imagined in my naivety that we would be amazing parents. We are good parents, amazing isn’t a word on our spectrum. The toddler years are like firefighting. You try to hold it together as best you can and the days when it all goes to pot, well just let it and bring out your knitting.
“I am still so naïve; I know pretty much what I like and dislike; but please, don’t ask me who I am. A passionate, fragmentary girl, maybe?”
We came around to talking about parenting and I wondered how we could be parents and raise two children when both of us are still very much trying to figure out life, who we are and where we fit. How can we guide or nurture our children in social situations when there are times we both fail at this spectacularly. That as parents we now have to look after ourselves and our children without quite knowing how to do either and to top it all off we have to try and do it while sleep deprived zombies.
We came to the realisation that there are days that we will fail and I imagine they will be spectacular failures but on the flipside, there are days we will be fantastic parents. Days when our kids are laughing, playing and everyone is happy and their needs are met. There will be those magic days where for once everything is exactly as it should be. But those days, they wouldn’t be so sweet without the epic failures, the tantrums, the night terrors, the leaps, the constant whines of “I’m hungry” and “Mommy/Daddy” and the family favourite question of “Why on EARTH is there banana on EVERYTHING?”
The key to keeping me back from the precipice is either baby wearing or downtime. Peace and quiet to sleep or read or reflect or just be completely silly. I hope you find that time for you, a parent or not each person deserves that time to be alone to get to know themselves a little better. I’m happiest when I get to dream, write, create, knit or take beach walk alone and failing that babywearing while doing any of those things usually helps me to feel like I have had a break.
Today, I want you to do something kind for yourself and then tell me what it is in the comments.
Want to support and Blog or Podcast? You can with a coffee!
Recently I have found a lot of joy playing with images so I decided to take part in the Elemental photo challenge albeit rather late for this particular one. I like to push myself to learn new things and I’ve been trying to develop my own eye for taking images for my blog and podcast. There is something about the classical elements, something that just always leaves me deep in thought and with the Irish Coastline as a backdrop well I couldn’t help but share these images. I tagged each image with its element and if you leave this page singing the theme tune to Captain Planet….er…..it’s not my fault.
There isn’t anything as moody or breathtaking as the Irish Coastline. So this is my choice, a view of Clew Bay at sunrise. What is a knitter doing up at 5 am well the answer is Knitscape and a wonderful roommate.
Fire to me means warm, cosy nights knitting except it’s August and well in Ireland, it’s dark, downpouring and windy. I guess this isn’t confined to the winter months here. I like to relax with knitting, listen to podcasts, watch movies with my girls and just enjoy life’s little pleasures. (For those of you who will ask the white cardigan is Nanook and the project is Akoya and the project bag is from Strand Designs)
There are many images I could have used of the beach, falling water but this one has stayed with me since our Instagram story fun with the toddlers. I love it. We poured water all over the table and to exclamations of joy and little stamping feet I took this shot.
With the wind howling around the house I should really be outside but I wanted something soft and something the girls could join in with to create an image. We took many but in the end, this is the one that I like. Her soft curls bounced as we played with these shots and if you look close enough, it’s possible to see the air move from her mouth to the flame.
And so you have my very first attempt ever at a photo challenge.
This post started over on Instagram as an answer to the Makelight 365 prompt “Path”. I realised as I typed, that what I wanted to say needed more than an Instagram caption. Following your own path is difficult especially for those of us who are scared of the unknown. Some of us have families that help us to forge our own way into the world with confidence and a deep surety of our place in the world. I was never that person.
For me, finding my own path has been difficult. I want to do many things but should I do them is usually the question that requires the answer. These last 11 months have taught me many things about myself, some of which I don’t like very much but they have helped me craft my online place in the world. To grow, I have needed to learn many different skills and wear many different hats and usually more than one in a ten minute period. Do not get me wrong I have loved every minute of it.
When I started this blog, I was still using stock images but now this site is filled with images that are mine. I don’t need to be a photographer, I just needed to be happy with what I could create with the camera I had. I needed to develop my own eye, my own style and to be confident about what I can and can’t do. I use Instagram as my image playground. It has become my inspiration, where I set my challenges and interact with the growing community. There are a few accounts at the moment that I follow for their creativity. It’s ok to be inspired by pieces but let them be that, be the inspiration for you to grow, adapt and create something for yourself. Let the world see you through your own eyes and I bet that view is something wonderful to behold. I stopped caring about follower counts, I had a rough target for my first year and I hit my 1K but I realised that in order to create great content and to have fun while doing it, I needed to be free to seek, play and create my own ideas.
When is it that we lose our sense of wonder at the unknown?
When did it become so terrifying to explore your own path? When did our sense of wonder become fear? Is it because it’s an unconventional way to earn an income? Well kid, the times, they are a changing. Sitting where we are now, during another technological revolution, nothing is as it has been. People want to work to live not live to work. I want to raise my kids but I also want to have a career for myself. I don’t want to be a housewife but I can’t leave my kids to allow me to work a normal 9 to 5 and so this leads me to where I am today. I’m not the only person in the world who craves more control over their everyday life and we are nothing if we aren’t creative.
I was told once that following my own path would let me get to know myself in ways I didn’t understand yet and I remember thinking how very profound but only time had the answer to that. It’s true in that by allowing myself to be free with my choices in both the professional and personal sides to myself, I have found a balance for right now. No, it’s not perfect, there are days where nothing comes together and everyone is grumpy, tired and crying constantly for food or coffee but then there are the days where I am on fire. You know the ones I mean, those days when you hit a personal goal or do a particular piece of work better than you thought you could; on those days I go to bed smiling.
So why not follow your own path? Not on it yet, that’s ok but what changes can you make to take a step in your own direction? I don’t mean pack up your job and hand in your notice, I mean what small step can you make to start your own path. I won’t lie it is terrifying but you can do it because all you need to do is believe in yourself and keep trying until you make it happen. Yes, it’s hard but isn’t everything in life that is worth doing a struggle?
Today I’m going to be a lion and do another thing that scares me. What about you?
I know what you’re thinking, “These older traditional crafts aren’t for me” I’ll nod my head and ask you why not?
I’m a maker and just one member of the Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers. The reason I make, craft and create is a personal one but I consider making to be a personal choice; an expression of your inner self. My medium is yarn in all it’s forms. I love the feel of the different textures, I can play with colour, depth, construction, math, precision and on days when I’m just not feeling it I can just curl up with Netflix and knit.
The skills you master over time are the ones that are often worth learning. I learnt how to knit as a child, a skill that has been passed down in my family for generations. I didn’t appreciate it then but I do now. I like math and I like puzzles but I have a strong affinity for the arts so knitting has allowed me to combine all of my passions and to relax and to create. When I knit, I feel like I am still connected with passed family members and I remember times sitting by the fire, chatting and being happy.
Time spent crafting, is time well crafted.
Now, in my thirties I have an appreciation for the artists who have taken this skill to a professional level, spending years honing their craft. I love the handmade wheels from Johnny Shiels in Donegal, the turned spokes, the feeling of solid wood and the care applied to creating the mother of all and bobbins. This in itself is an art and yet I use this as a tool to create yarn so that I can knit. If you have a love of wood or making with wood have a look at these wheels and then take a dip into the drop spindles at the festival. Even if the yarn isn’t for you, I’m sure you can appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the tools we use to create it.
I find my life fast paced, so much so that it’s hard to keep up at times but when I make, I have to clear my mind and focus on what I’m doing. Making is a sort of therapy that I need in my life and I believe these traditional crafts need to be kept alive and no not because of the coming zombie apocalypse but because each generation builds on the knowledge of the previous one to make something truly exceptional. I don’t need electricity to knit, I can bring it anywhere and find a few moments for myself. Does this sound like something you might like to try?
When we create we put a little bit of ourselves into each piece so why not put a little bit of yourself into something you create and seek out a few moments of quiet in your day to be inspired and to create.
Those quiet mornings that start at dawn where the promise of a great day begins. You know those ones where the birds are singing and sunlight is filtering through the curtains? Those ones that follow with your child’s laughter breaking through the birdsong, not crying or fighting or screaming because someone took their toy but just laughter. Those mornings are the ones that I cherish and they are all far to few and far between.
The differences between myself in my twenties and my thirties are vast, it is the same as comparing a rose just blooming to one which is just bare roots. In my twenties, I was permanently full of energy and I wanted to explore the world. I walked the Wicklow Way, climbed mountains, toured Europe and visited America to name a few. I wanted to experience life, to find out what I liked all while working on a chosen career path.
It’s funny how we change and adapt as we grow. In my thirties, I love and cherish my settled life. These mornings like this morning when we are all at home, no one has to rush off to work or appointments. Those mornings where we have breakfast in bed, cuddles and TV followed by feeding the birds and waking up the animals, that’s if my toddlers didn’t get there first; where I can hold my partner’s hand and drink hot coffee and listen to my girls laughing and playing together. I want nothing else. I am completely happy.
This is so rare that I know as soon as my eyes open that it’s one of those mornings. Usually, it follows a full nights sleep for everyone and almost always it’s a Sunday after the manic insanity of Saturdays. This morning started out just like this and it was magical. The cottage is still in renovation mode and it’s still driving me crazy but I just didn’t care today. Yesterday I was sick and I just had a home couch and Netflix day with my littlest. We laughed and played, we slept and we watched TV. I drank in her clean, freshly bathed smell from her hair when I cuddled her on the couch. I normally cram in far too many things while my children sleep but yesterday I was forced to lie with her and I had forgotten how much I loved it. The way she holds my fingers or pats my leg. The way she dreamily wakes up to check I’m there and instantly falls back asleep.
This transition from pre-adult to adult even though it’s marked by age and happened through experience. I realised as I chatted to my partner over coffee, still all tucked up in bed we have both achieved so much prior to meeting each other that when we met we could grow together. I am a very headstrong independent person. So much so that when I get lost or confused especially around a career choice or something for myself it actually scares me. I’m normally target or goal driven and I love ticking off those markers to make those dreams closer to a reality.
This is why those quiet mornings are so unsettling. As much as I love them it’s unsettling to be quiet, calm and happy all at once. Like I’m waiting for the phone to ring with bad news or to whisk one of us away. That by allowing myself to fully commit to these mornings and enjoy them completely that they won’t exist or will disappear in an instant. I guess this is part of my transition from twenty to thirty. Before I always lived in the moment. I barely made plans that were longer than a few months or a year at most. Now I have plans that are years in the making that I’m fully committed to and sometimes I don’t recognise the person that I am.
This morning made both of us reflect on how we got here, to this place, to this moment. We laughed at our other options that we had of travel, work etc. Had we taken any of those other roads we wouldn’t be here. Our family wouldn’t be here and I certainly wouldn’t be writing to you. I would probably still be in science of some kind or in a different country and the scary thought is my partner could be in a different country or as a horrible thought no longer alive. Both of us made very small choices that led to here but we became so busy that we barely get family time or holidays. There is always a sacrifice and that is usually family time.
But in these mornings, I remember why I made all of my life’s choices and my life although far from perfect, is right where I want it to be. Can you say that? If you can’t, what is the one change that you can make to turn it into the life you want it to? Do you have these mornings too? Can you tell me your secret love or just what they mean to you? Don’t get me wrong I would love for many different things to have happened, winning the lotto would be amazing for one but on these mornings I know there is nothing I would give up or swap out. That little head bumping mine to say ” ‘orning ” followed by a head pat or rolling over to freshly made coffee or a cuddle from someone you love in a warm safe place. But as always the mornings give way to midday, my toddlers get tired and cranky and there is yet another dirty bum to change, hunger to quench and an argument over toys to sort out. No matter how hard you try to keep that feeling of being complete and happy, time moves on and those feelings and self-surety are lost in those mornings. That’s why this post is an ode to them of sorts because I feel like if I don’t treasure them and immortalise them in writing, that the next time I stop to reflect on one of those mornings it might be too late to cherish any one of these things that makes me truly happy.
Yesterday I posted a tweet saying that I missed a blog from a professional writer. It’s true I do but he isn’t gone from the blogging world, he’s here and in fact now he has a following of over 100K a month and is doing incredibly well for himself. Why am I sad? Because his voice is gone. His funny, sincere voice, those blog posts with a quick wit that I used to churn through on a bad day when I would curl up on a couch with a cuppa, those posts are gone.
I dug around his new tutorial site and parts of him are still there but my reason for visiting is gone. I’m not a professional writer and sure I could learn a lot from his site but his posts don’t contain the humour or stories of his life anymore. The person he used to share with the world is gone. I can’t tell you how sad I was when I read his reason why. I like to write so I like to keep a blog. I know a lot of people blog for monetization and I can respect that. They blog to grow a following in order to sell something but I’m the type of reader that needs more.
I’ve been following the Yarn Harlot for years. I have a lot of respect for Stephanie and in a way, I feel like I know her even though I have never met her and I probably never will. When I want to curl up with a blog, hers is one of the first I go to. I want to catch up with her life, with those baby knits, I want to see her advent knits at Christmas, I want to know how her cycling is coming along and I like the humour and wit that’s shared along the way. I also like the way her house also seems to have been built by a team of drunken monkeys like mine.
Was I not the type of reader that you cared about?
So many blogs that I used to follow on a Sunday morning with my coffee have gone. I miss those voices and they mattered to me. When I was feeling down or lonely, they were there like an old friend I didn’t need to make excuses for not visiting. Many people stopped blogging when they got busier with social media or their life situation changed and they couldn’t devote the time anymore. Some people stopped because they lost their creativity for a little bit or lost their way but it’s the blogs that changed and became full of those instant tutorial posts and that really hurt. Was I not the type of reader that you cared about?
Why is it not ok to have a small dedicated following? The reader who wants to hear your voice? I’m planting my two feet firmly on the ground and saying I want more. Opening up the newspapers these days is grim, I like to read a good blog that isn’t trying to get me on their mailing list the second I hit the homepage. If you have tutorials on your site as well, good for you! Do those readers convert or are they fair-weather friends who pop in and take what they need and leave you?
If you are thinking “What would I know of blogging, your new etc”. This isn’t my first blog. I had a personal blog for years full of fluffy knits, bad writing and bad photos. I was in my 20’s, I had no children and free time. I liked it but I didn’t love it the way I do now. I get so much more from having a blog now. I get to talk to you and I have made some amazing friends since I started. I have had the zombie parent high five after a week of no sleep, I have gotten the “I love your blog” from people in person that I thought would never read a thing I wrote. This truly makes me happy right now and with it, I have a sort of peace from the insanity of my life.
Who do I blame?
Who do I blame for those blogs that I loved going dark? I blame myself and people like me who didn’t leave a comment or connect with the writer in some way. Did they know how much I loved their work? Probably not because I like to read and leave. I would read, have a chuckle, drink my coffee and leave. So I blame myself that they are gone. Maybe my comments would have made a difference. I took them for granted that they would always be there because they liked to write didn’t they? Consider my lesson learnt. I will comment in future. I promise. I will do my best to connect with those blogs that I read, I will step out of the shadows and be more active because your work matters to me and there are far too few left and I’m scared to loose you all.
Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring against you and I’m having one of those weeks where I’m being pulled along with gentle nods here and there that I’m right where I should be. It’s an odd feeling because usually, I feel like life is a never ending battle to get it to do what I want it to. It’s funny that today’s prompt should be Local because this week that is all I am talking about.
This week I am curating the Smallholders Ireland account over on Twitter and I’m taking this amazing opportunity to talk about growing your own food and how we manage to do that here at the cottage. I will be chatting about my previous life as a Chemist and how that has affected our water choices here and how important it is to introduce your kids to the garden and why shopping local is more than just a trendy phrase.
The Great Potato Hunt
If you have been following along on our adventure so far you know that my sanity comes from getting the kids out and in the garden and this weekend was the beginning of my favourite season; the season of The Great Potato Hunt!! Every Saturday we turn over a bag of potatoes we have growing and the girls hunt for potatoes in the soil with their hands. They each have their own baskets and it’s a race, OK a rather unfair race to see who gets the most.
When we have nothing to harvest we try to shop local with as little plastic as possible. We use reusable containers for the butcher, we use Tesco home delivery when we really have to and we buy directly from local producers at markets.By doing this we try to make our footprints smaller on our planet and we try to support the local economy and producers so that they can continue what they love to do. I’m a firm believer in community because who doesn’t need a bigger family right?
For me, the word local is much bigger than it’s combination of five letters. It encompasses community, the environment, skillsets, businesses, food and the future. I haven’t even touched on my other big love of local yarns etc. I have to believe that even though we are just four people that our choices can make a difference both locally and to the environment and to others otherwise the overwhelming thought that it is all hopeless is just too much to bear. The choice to build a world for us and our girls that we want to live in has to be worth it and when our girls are older that they will appreciate our efforts. They will have memories of eating warm fresh peas directly from the plant, they will know what homegrown salad and veggies taste like but also the skills to grow them if they need to in the future. I want to believe that these choices and making a difference now can change the future and that it’s not already written. I’ll meet you back here in a decade and then again in two decades and I’ll let you know how it’s going.
Following on from my last post on Creativity, Productivity and the Voice Inside, I wanted to share a little more about working from home and the effect that has had on me as a person and the knock-on effect that has on the blog and podcast.
I know what your thinking, working from home is great. You’re on your own time, run your own calendar and in charge. For the most part, this is true but no one talks about how you compensate when you work from home. You compensate by taking on a longer, larger workload to find that feeling of accomplishment. You compensate by taking less and less time off for you which quickly leads to burnout. You compensate by saying ‘yes’ to lots of things to feel like you are still connected to that world outside.
For the last little while, I have been very open about being a little lost and overwhelmed by the amount of work and opportunities that have come my way. Although I am delighted and want to do everything, in reality, I can’t. I’m working 7 days a week at the moment with no scheduled family time or downtime. There isn’t a day in the week where I don’t turn on my laptop and write or schedule something. In the days I work lunch cover I’m usually up early and scheduling something before leaving to go squish some yarn.
This is the downside of working from home. That lack of day to day interaction with business counterparts, I mean you real life human beings, face to face, has an effect on my personality as well. It gets harder and harder to be light hearted and write/podcast when all you can see are deadlines and no one to chat with. Yes, social media can help for a quick fix, or slack groups or comments but sometimes it would be really nice just to see a friendly face for a coffee and not to have to deal with a cranky toddler who needs something else from me.
It’s easy to lose sight of original goals because there is no one else to rail you in and say “Well what did you want to achieve originally?” Yes, you can set aside overview sessions once a month but really who has the time? I mean, I can barely find the time to change out of my pj’s between mommy duties, social media, writing, cooking and all the other things that have been creeping into my daily life. I’ve been following Martine Ellis’s blog and podcast and I do recommend that any of you who are in a similar position head on over and check her out. Her community is open and friendly and her blog/podcast deal with many of these issues along with productivity and business hints and tips.
In my day to day life, I’m lucky to get to chat with a few people, to check in with how things are going and what’s needed from me. This is fantastic for forcing me to draw up a schedule even when I don’t feel like it and it helps to dispel those down days when all I want to do is knit and stuff my face with chocolate. I don’t even remember the last time I did that! In this type of lifestyle, a business buddy is your lifeline, in my opinion, everyone should have a personal go to buddy to hold you accountable for your targets and goals. To make fun of you for being too serious or to give you feedback on your latest ideas etc.
Chatting to a lot of the people I collaborate with, who also mostly work from home, they are also struggling. I think it’s perfectly fine to have down periods because how do you know when something is truly fantastic if you have never been lost and unmotivated? It’s at these times that usually out of nowhere, I come up with something that inspires me so strongly that I fight the urge never to record or write again.
So, for April, I’m going to be taking the time to reflect on what I truly wanted to do and where best to spend my time. Why not join me in taking a few steps back from all those monthly posts and targets and have a simpler, happier April. Let me know your project goals/ aims below and hopefully, we can all get through these down times together.
I’m Nadia a freelance writer, blogger, podcaster and VA.
Sharing stories on craft, gardening and lifestyle.
Coming to you from a yarn filled desk at the back of a 100-year-old cottage by the sea.
Always fueled by coffee, so grab a cup and come join me.