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Five Podcasts to inspire your morning

12/04/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Five Podcasts for a Wednesday

My school run day is Wednesday; I work from home and so I do both school runs with the girls, sometimes with Pip too but often leaving him at home to have one day a week when he’s not spending a large chunk of it in the car.  It’s 35 minutes each way, and as there’s only so much breakfast radio you can take I’ve found myself getting back into listening to lots and lots of podcasts again.  Years ago I used to listen and knit on the morning commute but then the 4G signal got a bit better along the train line and I spent more time blogging and playing on Instagram instead, and I’ve been rapidly remembering what I’ve been missing.

So here are my (and the girls’) current favourite five:

Blogtacular

I’m certain I’ve told you all about the Blogtacular podcast back when it first started and it’s gone from strength to strength.  Kat has interviewed some amazing creative people, and as well as having career envy multiple times over, I love that it shows how there are as many approaches to a creative work and life as there are people wanting to do it.  If nothing else it’s inspiration to never give up.  It’s also my girls’ favourite of my choice of podcasts; so far in the last few weeks of term Kitty has decided that she wants to be a potter/t-shirt designer/maker of pretty things and she wants to come to Blogtacular (maybe when she’s older!). We listen to half on the way to school and half on the way back and by the time we’re home, both girls have usually come up with a crafty masterplan for the afternoon off the back of it.

Hashtag Authentic

Sara, of both Me and Orla and Me and Mark Hamill fame started her podcast at the end of January planning to do one episode a month.  Well we’re at episode 10 now and I’ll happily admit that of all my current podcasts, this is the one I go to first for a new episode. They are a mixture of interviews with creative people and thoughts about photography and social media from the queen of Instagram. If you have ever suffered from imposter syndrome and self doubt (which is every single one of us), her most recent interview with Sas Petherick is a must listen.

So you want to be a writer

This is a one of those podcasts where I have absolutly no idea how I found it.  Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait are both Australian writers and every week they get together through the internet to host a podcast.  They talk about what they’re working on, pick out some interesting things that have been going on in the world of writing or that apply to writers and discuss their word of the week.  Their interviews are with people that to be honest I’ve not usually heard of, but actually that makes it all the more interesting because I don’t have any preconceptions about what they write about, or how successful they are, and I usually end up trying to track down a fair few on Amazon so at the very least it’s introducing me to some new to me authors. They’re at episode 164 right now which is a wealth of tips and information to dip into.  I haven’t listened to no 164 yet, but as it’s headed “write an award winning screen play on your commute”, it really need to be next on the list, and it ties in quite nicely to my next choice.

Act On This TV

OK, bear with me for a second.  It’s true that I reprised a stoic role as ‘non speaking townsperson’ in every single nativity of my junior school career, and I loved being in the plays I did in senior school, but my drive and ambition is not directed at breaking into acting.  So why I am I listening to an acting podcast?  Each episode is a replay of Ross Grant’s Monday and Wednesday periscopes and are all part of the Act on This network, and while some of the podcasts focus on things that are very acting-focussed, most are applicable to anyone with a dream and the passion to follow it, and they are all about not giving up, stopping procrastinating and getting going.

Monday’s periscope was about the five excuses you make for giving up, disected and discarded over the course of an hour. It left me feeling a little bit as though someone had taken my shell off, but in a good way.

John likes this one too, but as a storm warning it’s definitely not one for when the kids are in the car too, both for language and the style of delivery. They’re also on YouTube, which is where I came across them; I’ve no idea what I watched to make YouTube recommend it, but I’m glad it did.

Sparkle Stories

And last but by no means least, this is one for the kids, as recommended by all three of my children.  Every week the Sparkle Stories podcast reads a story from their vast catalogue of tales for the under 10s (available by subscription to the main site).  If you’re British then they are read in an American accent, but it’s a very gentle accent adn the stories themselves are simple without being boring and very peaceful to listen to.  We have them in the car after a hard day or if one of the girls is really struggling to get to sleep we’ll dig through the list for a Sparkle Sleepytime to see if that helps.

So there are my five current favourite podcasts; what are yours?

 

 

Blogging Inspiration

A little bit of planner love

20/01/2017

I have blank page syndrome when it comes to diaries and organisers.  Every time I buy one it sits in front of me, beautiful and empty and ready to be filled with my perfectly organised plans for a perfect year, or month, or even a week, all filled in with perfect handwriting, none of my usual scrawl.  It’s unobtainable overachievement at it’s best isn’t it.  It means in the past I’ve bought diaries and only kept it going a few weeks because all the humdrum of life just seemed too normal to be the story of me smashing through all of my life dreams.  There’s only so many times you can write “be a good mother” for your daily goal before it starts to bore even the writer.

But at the same time I do want to be a little bit more organised when it comes to blogging.  At work I am organised to the point of OCD; our calendars are all online and unless I know I’m going to be spending the whole week on just one case, I have a printed to-do list with all my cases on it that I fill in every Monday and mark up what I need to do on each day.

I probably don’t need to be quite that level of colour co-ordinated crazy and while I’d love to have all the time in the world to put into the blog, at some point something has to give, no matter how many time management books you read, but my intention for the year is to at least have an idea about what I’m aiming to blog in the week before I’m supposed to be writing it to give my subconscious a chance to start thinking about it, rather than sitting down of an evening, having poured all of my brain power into the day job, and wondering if I can really remember how to put one word in front of the other.

Taken back to basics, I wanted something that would fit in my handbag so I always have it with me, where I could plan out some blog posts each month, write a few notes and give myself a bit of a storm warning when I need to take photos, especially during the winter when photos are a weekends only deal.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And after much blissful searching of the internet between Christmas and New Year (and yes I know I probably should have been a bit more organised about being organised) I landed on the Kikki K site, decided I loved it all and after much, much deliberation, settled on the Small Inspire Diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

It is gorgeous.  At the front is a month at a glance which I’m trying to use as a blog editorial calendar and then the majority is a week at a glance with space for the days of the week down one side and notes on the other.  So far I’m using it to track where I’m working each day, when I’m aiming on publishing a post (aiming being the operative word because I’ve already crashed and burned on keeping to that intention) and little reminders throughout the week.  But that’s just the diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

I ever so slightly fell down the rabbit hole of Kikki K’s own YouTube channel, and then all the other YouTube posts playing with their stickers and washi tape and all the diary decorating loveliness and it pushed me past my blank-page-itis into organising and decorating each week as I like.  The quote cards and stickers will always be my favourite, a little dash of motivation and drive whenever I open the page.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into January so perhaps we should come back in July and see if I’ve stuck with it, but so far I’m really enjoying getting my random thoughts and inspiration out of my brain and onto paper, being able to see what I’ve got planned really easily, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t having a lot of fun decorating each week’s pages.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

As I said, I spent a lot of time watching diary and planner walk throughs on the internet between Christmas and the New Year, and ended up buying the one diary I couldn’t find a video for.  And while I know it’s a little on the late side, and if you haven’t bought a diary before now you probably don’t want one, but just in case, I’ve also made a little walk through video. With occasional help from a certain tiny someone.

So, tell me that I’m not alone in the newfound love of planning and stickers, or tell me what you’re doing this year to be more organised.

 

Inspiration

Hypothetically tongue tied

13/07/2016

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

The problem with all those “who would you like to have at your dinner party” questions is that while various historical figures are fascinating, even if your wish were really to become true you still end up at a slightly awkward dinner party with people who don’t necessarily know each other, to say nothing of having to try to explain spaghetti carbonara to Elizabeth I.

But what about a writing gang? There might be a bit more technology in the 21st century and fewer quill pens but the basic concept of writing hasn’t changed. It’s storytelling, plain and simple, a fundamental common value regardless of era or age, so if we allow for a time machine to have been invented, and presume that they all say yes, who would I choose for a dream writing group? Well no one too obvious because I suspect they’d already be taken. I’d be curious to see whether Shakespeare really could write, and I’d love to talk to Dickens about his childhood, seeing as he’s the reason we all think winters should be very snowy, but I can’t really imagine sitting down around the table with them and getting going, I think they’d either bring on immediate writer’s block or I’d find myself only able to write out quotes of theirs. Not so good.

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

First on the list though, Dorothy L Sayers. She is my writing hero, both for the cleverness of the plots of her novels and for her characters. Peter Wimsey is brilliant, quirky and just plain entertaining but it’s her writing of Harriet Vane that I love the most. Harriet is clever, independent, stubborn and vulnerable, she owns her choices in life and when I first read the books as a teenager, Harriet was who I wanted to be when I grew up – minus the being tried for the murder of her ex. I’ve always thought of Dorothy Sayers as being a combination of Harriet and the astute and sharp tongued Miss Meteyard in Murder Must Advertise and I can see her being bluntly honest, but kind with it. She’d be able to tell you exactly where your writing had gone wrong, but then help you pick it back up again.

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

Next around the table and another childhood favourite; Arthur Ransome. Would I be able to hold it together with a calm and very British, “I really enjoy your work.” – of course not. I love the whole Swallows and Amazons series and I’d want to know all about which bit of the real lakes translate to his fictional mishmash and to what extent Dorothea is his younger self, and how she came to take over from Titty as the writer of the group, and a million and one other questions (what did happen to Bob Blackett?). But I’d also want to pick his brains on his writing process. Rather than sit down and write a story from beginning to end, he had it mapped out and then would just tackle whatever chapter he felt like that day. It’s why his unfinished 13th book, Coots in the North, makes such interesting reading; the storyline is there in scribbles and notes interspersed with big chunks of that bits he’d written, but it couldn’t just be finished off because it was such a hotchpotch. I’d want to ask how he mapped it out, how much planning went before the writing, whether he ever started writing one chapter and it ended up in a different place than he thought when it started and what he did with it, and how he decided what he fancied writing each morning. And I’d want to wangle an invitation to go sailing with him!

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

And then for someone more modern, and perhaps because I think she’d also like to be in a group with Dorothy Sayers, I’d choose Jill Paton Walsh. I read her books as a child and loved them; completely caught up in the worlds she created, and then I was delighted to see that she’d finished off Dorothy Sayers unfinished Thrones, Dominations, continuing the story of Peter and Harriet after their Busman’s honeymoon.

To take such beloved characters and write them convincingly is no mean feat, and we could chat about how she made sure she was keeping true to the original while also bringing in her own ideas and threading the passages together into a seamless whole.

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

And last but by no means least, Dorothy Whipple. She wrote ‘domestic fiction’ most of which went out of print and was then picked back up again by Persephone Books and republished and although she lived in and writes about a very different time world to today her stories are still completely addictive and the sort of thing that finds me still sitting in a cooling bath turning the hot taps on with my toes because I’m not getting out until I’ve finished. They’re timeless because she writes about people, with painstaking characterisation, and people don’t really change. She’d be the person to bounce ideas off when everyone in your story was being a bit two dimensional, and the person who I just want to know better.
The somewhat predictable thing about doing this exercise is that the more I think, the more people I would include (Molly Hughes, Vera Brittain, Ellis Peters and Frances Hodgson Burnett were all serious contenders for the last place and there are so many more), including a whole heap more current authors that I’d list if it didn’t feel just a little bit stalkerish fan girl to be writing it on the Internet.

Space for the Butterflies - a dream writing group

The truth of course is that if I ever did find myself in a room with my hypothetical group I would be the quiet one in the corner being ever so slightly awestruck so perhaps I should just stick to re-reading my favourites of all their novels and hoping for a bit of inspiration.  But what about you? If you could have a writing gang, or a photography gang or a blog gang who would you choose?

Blogging Inspiration Review

Adding to my notebook addiction

28/06/2016

Hello, my name’s Carie, and I have a notebook addiction.

I also rather like pens but pens come and go and run out and get lost in the bottom of my work bag and get stolen by the children. Notebooks, they’re treasured.

Right now I have, let me see, one, two, three, four in use; my Blogtacular planner, my Blogtacular notebook from last year which I’ve nearly finished, a spiral bound one from BritMums many moons ago with a picture of the sea on the front of it, my beautiful Essie one, oh and this year’s Blogtacular notebook which makes five.

And if I count the sample planner that’s very nearly full up, and the journal planner that I dip in and out of, that makes seven. Ah. That may explain a lot.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Even with seven notebooks on the go I’ve still got a little stash, just in case of notebook emergency; the teeny tiny one I made at the Berylune craft party, a little pile of spotty ones, two gorgeous exercise books that are the perfect handbag size, and my birthday present from the girls, a little black book with rainbow pages.

So when the lovely people at Bookblock got in contact and asked whether I’d like to try one of their Bookblock Originals the answer was an easy “Oh very much yes”.

A little scoot through some of my recent pictures, I emailed off a favourite and waited for the letterbox to thump the joyful sound of exciting post.

And exciting post it was.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

The only possible reaction was “Wow!”

My picture of my little trio, wrapped all the way around the cover, so that Kitty and Pip are on the front, and a giggly Elma on the back. It’s a soft matt cover, and incredibly tactile, and the colours are beautiful and vibrant.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Inside the pages are blank, which suits me perfectly, with a book mark to hold my place, and an elastic band to hold it all together when I inevitably stuff little extra bits and bobs in between the pages.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

I love it. In fact the only problem is knowing that nothing I ever write in a notebook could possibly be good enough for it. In her Blogtacular talk, Kirsty of Eeh Bah Mum suggested that the best thing to do with a brand new blank notebook is to give it to your children to scribble on to get you past the hump of that perfect first page feeling but I’m not sure I can do it, not with this one.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Although, it did cross my mind that if I got a notebook with the children on every year that might encourage me to use it while they’re still roughly that age!

So while I work out how to convince H that this is a need not merely a want, let me know I’m not alone – how many notebooks do you have on the go at once, and have you ever had one too pretty to use?

Crafty Ideas Inspiration

Five for a Tuesday

07/06/2016

 

One

I’ve never been into football in my life and the closest thing I’ve owned to a football strip is a Celtic shirt that H got for me many moons ago by collecting the ring pulls from coke cans. But he has fond memories of dressing up in football kit to support his teams and his stories must have sparked something in my girls because they both have suddenly got very interested in the England team, and Elma in particular has become obsessed with the idea of having a strip.

Genuine England strip for three small but rapidly growing children is way way way out of our budget, but by pottering around the supermarket looking for school socks I discovered that Sainsburys has stepped into the breach.

20160606-DSC_0271

The far left shirt is Elma’s, as part of a shirt and shorts set for £11 (the shorts are navy blue with a little England shield on the bottom left leg), the middle is Kitty’s (aged 9!) which doesn’t come as a set but matches some comfy red shorts similar to Elma’s but with white stripes down the side, and Pip’s is the little one, which comes in all sizes up to adult.

Elma’s face when she saw hers was pure open mouthed glee – I don’t think she stopped hopping around the lounge for a full half hour. Alas I was not there to witness the expression of their Scottish grandfather when they all turned up to visit him in England tshirts, but I’m reliably informed that he rapidly asked whether Sainsburys sell Scotland shirts, to which H’s response was “do Scotland still even have a team?”

Two

20160606-DSC_0274

A little while ago we were sent a review copy of Ocean Tales, by Stuart Lightman. It’s a published on demand little pocket sized story book and in the world where we seem to be being told every other week that real books are struggling (despite my ever groaning bookcases that would argue to the contrary) I love that modern technology is opening up proper hold it in your hand publishing. I’ve got books on my Kindle app and they’re great for always having something to read on the commute, but I could never do away with the pleasure of sitting down with a nice solid paperback; an app can never quite recreate that new book smell.

Three

And speaking of stories – I discovered Sparkle Stories when casting about the Internet for audiobooks for the children. They are American so some of the pronunciation is obviously different but they are lovely gentle stories, especially the bedtime stories which have proved perfect for the times when light evenings make it hard for little eyes to get to sleep. We’ve got a subscription but they recently released a series of podcasts which are equally lovely and a great introduction to their repertoire.

Four

I am trying really really hard not to join in with the Modern Quilters Ireland Rainbow Rose Quilt Along. Really hard. It’s a beautiful pattern and I’ve always wanted to make a single block quilt, and I keep telling myself that I’m already doing the Sugarblock Club, and I haven’t finished the Fishing Net quilt yet (I am quilting it in the evenings at the moment so there is some progress), and I’ve got the bits and bobs I need for the next quilt I’m planning and …..

I should just go and start pulling a fabric selection now shouldn’t I. Anyone want to join me?

Five

This article from the Artful Parent on the perils of colouring books really got me thinking. I can see where it’s coming from; if you are always just colouring in you’re never drawing, you’re never being fully creative, and I would hate it if either of my girls stopped drawing and only did colouring. I can see how a culture of perfectionism could creep in and the concerns that come with it.

But I also know that firstly, colouring doesn’t entirely lack creativity – you still have to decide which colour to use and how to match and blend them – and secondly, it isn’t always a bad thing to let your brain have a little rest.

Kitty does most of her colouring when she gets home from school; it lets her focus on using her hands, on the pretty colours in her crayon box, and on the swirls and loops of the picture in front of her (she’s currently working her way through Lost Ocean), and it calms her and settles her. That she is so tired at the end of a school day that she needs this is perhaps a topic for a different blog post.

I think that there is a place for colouring books, as much as for drawing and painting and sticky glitter and everything else crafty, as long as we know what we’re expecting from them. Colouring in time is not when my children most stretch their creative muscles, it’s a soothing down time to play with pretty colours while someone else has done half the work for you. What do you think?