My Grandma's Buttons

When I was little, I used to love trips to my Grandma's house.
She was one of those brilliant old ladies who collected EVERYTHING!
When she passed away last year, we had to clear out her old bungalow, and although it was hard, there was such happiness in seeing all those things I remembered loving as a child.
Amongst the collection of stamps (not exotic ones, just second class stamps torn off envelopes) and the old issues of the People's Friend magazine, and the hundreds of sachets of salt, we found all of her old knitting and sewing and making stuff, including EVERY button off of every garment she could have ever bought! The woman threw NOTHING away!

And so the other day, when I was rummaging in my mum's craft room for bits and bobs that I needed for some people's gifts, and she brought out my grandma's button box and said I could help myself, I had a bit of a cry before setting about planning something special for them.

My grandma couldn't get out the house very easily , but was far too determined to do nothing. 
So she channelled her energies into making other people happy by providing for people in need...
She spent her last few years knitting blankets for homeless people to keep them warm in winter, and making teddy bears for orphans and homeless children.

And so I've decided, every last one of these buttons will be used to make somebody else happy. I think she would have liked that.

I've already incorporated a few into my home made Christmas gifts for some very special people, but for fear of giving away surprises, I won't show my hand just yet.


So it's been a while...

It's been the actual craziest couple of weeks.

Firstly, I have a job offer! As an actual real-life counsellor. I couldn't be happier.

Since then, I've been snowed into my friend's grandmother's house up in Newcastle, played lots in the snow, caught a horrible cold, gone a bit mad over deadlines, my university's actually had to close because of the weather, finally paid for my New Year Birthday Weekend in Wales with some amazing friends, and in less jolly news, I'm currently stranded in Hull while I'm meant to be home seeing my parents for their big party.
Not only are the roads undriveable, but the train station where I would be going to caught fire!!
Maybe I'll sit tight here.

Enough about me, let's talk about Hannah...

Hannah is the lovely lady who asked me to design her new tattoo for her.
She is one of those people who makes you smile and laugh without even trying. She's also one of the most strong-hearted people I know.
Anyway, she was looking at a painting I'm working on of some love birds, and she said she likes my style.
And so asked me to do some little doodles of "maybe some cherry blossom or something"
... Seeing as cherry blossom is a symbol of strength, I think it's most fitting.

So doodle I did, and they're all very rough but forgive that and think of them as a first draft...

I've numbered them all, please tell me your favourites or what you think of each, and I'll work on getting some more finished versions soon!

Oh and excuse the messy pictures, my scanner hates me, and I don't have a real camera right now.

1. Just a basic shape. Needs colour I think.
2. I personally quite like this one. Poshed up would maybe have a couple of falling petals. 

3. Not cherry blossom, but I liked it for a tattoo.

4. This was more for the cherry blossom flower shape, bit dull as a design.

5. I just love fans!


7. One of my favourites




11. I can't decide whether this is a dove or a phoenix

12. My favourite cherry blossom design

Thank you. Enjoy the snow on my behalf... I'm off for lemsip and soup!



The other night I heard the most beautiful story about a little boy who goes to a friend's church. His grandparents are caught up in the mess left from the recent flooding in the Philippines. Soon it's his 5th birthday - a chance to be happy and showered in gifts and entirely selfish. But this little boy instead stood up in his church on Sunday, and asked everybody to please not buy him presents, but to send his grandparents and their friends money to stay alive and well.

Earlier this year, Allen and Violet Large, an elderly Canadian couple, won  $11.2 million on the lottery... 
and gave every last bit of it away. 

"That money that we won was nothing. We have each other."
- Allen Large

I'll admit, sometimes I think people are pretty rubbish. But I LOVE being proved wrong. 

My dear friend and almost-sister Liz recently wrote... 

"Idealism isn't necessarily unreachable abstract concepts that we daydream about, 
idealism is the truth, depth and beauty we see in the world around us. 
It's about seeing something pure and thinking, 
I want more of that." 

I want more of this.
I want a world FULL of these people.
And I want to be that kind of person...
I want to know that I could give up millions of pounds or a day of justified self indulgence just because I love people so deeply and truly and beautifully.

Sometimes I think people are wonderful.


Time to get doodling...

I've just spent the most lovely weekend with friends watching fireworks, drinking Baileys, playing guitar and baking cakes.

Last night, three of my gorgeous friends and I had a bit of a dinner party.
We decided that since Bonfire night is over, it's now officially OK to be excited for Christmas, so my housemate Liz and I made a big meal of pumpkin soup, mulled wine and gooey (charred - not burned) chocolate cake! And though I say so myself, it was rather lovely. Largely down to the company. I adore good food shared with good friends.

So anyway, one of these friends is wanting to get a new tattoo... and after seeing my recent success as a tattoo artist (...kinda) she's asked me to design her a pretty little something to go on her hip!

I'm VERY excited.

I may do a little something for myself too... though I still can't decide if I'm brave enough to get a tattoo!

As for my home-made Christmas plan, I now have lots of pretty teacups that I'm planning on turning into candles and pin cushions and containers for home made sweeties... but I'm still waiting to have an old sewing machine donated to me for some slightly more daring projects. Watch this space...

I love winter this year.

And toffee apples... I LOVE toffee apples.


A home-made Christmas

Nothing makes me more instantly happy than when the sun shines,
and yet this year, I'm finding myself massively excited for winter.

Maybe it's because last winter was the best time of my life...

The last blue moon... New Year's eve 2009, on the night the man I love asked me to marry him...

 ...Down on one knee in his kilt in the snow... Right here.

Chester canal in winter. Beautiful.

Possibly the biggest snowman in the history of time (I'd like to think so...)

Or maybe because we've since agreed that we want to have a winter wedding, which makes winter suddenly seem like the most amazing time of year to me.

Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've decided this year is to be home-made Christmas!

I'm well aware it's still October, and I normally don't THINK about gifts until December, but I'm VERY excited for this.

Now I just need to plan what to make for everyone!!



Each year, I help out at a children's holiday club, and it's one my FAVOURITE weeks of the year!

So every Summer, I'm given the task of producing some huge art for the walls.

One such year I was asked to paint a lion. But not a scary lion. The kind of lion that makes 5 year olds want pet lions!

And so I did my thing and the result was a 2 foot tall friendly looking lion who was soon named Patrick.

Around the time Patrick was adorning the walls, I was just starting to fall in love with a boy named Samm, and so at the end of the week Patrick became his, and now has pride of place on his bedroom wall.

Over a year later, Samm is now my fiancĂ©, and Patrick's moved up in the world too...

A friend of mine liked the look of this handsome little fella, and decided she liked him SO much that...

...he's now a permanent feature on her ankle!

I never thought I'd be a tattoo artist... life is full of surprises!



So I kind of threw myself into this blogging before I could talk myself out of it.

The point was to find somewhere to share what I do. Even if it is only with whoever may stumble across it (hello!)
But I've found myself instead sharing a lot more of me.

And I figure there's room for both.

Firstly though... to finally get around to it...

I love to paint and to draw, alongside playing guitar and singing, they're the things that let me let something of myself out in a way I can't quite say.

When I left for University a couple of years ago, I wanted to give my mum something to say thank you for more things than I could ever list.

She's always loved eagles, and as a Christian, it's an image that she holds close to her heart...

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
 - Isaiah 40: 31

So one afternoon I took myself away into my room and splashed some paint around and the result looked a little like this...

It may not be spectacular, but she loves it.


Breaking News

For the first time in my living memory last night, these two words - Breaking News - were followed by what can only be summed up as unspeakable joy.

Too many times has Breaking News meant death, hatred, scandal, fear.

And yet last night I sat and watched the most amazing display of love between men and their wives, children, parents, and the thousands of people around the world celebrating their freedom from a Chilean mine.

I couldn't help but think of the start of the movie Love Actually, when Hugh Grant puts it...

"General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends."

Although in this situation, it was both dignified and newsworthy, it was nice to know that sometimes the movies are right - sometimes there are happy endings.

One man, Mario Sepulveda, (now called Super Mario by locals - brilliant!) said in an interview...

I grabbed God's hand. I never doubted he would pull me up from there.

After the recent Catholic bashing that's filled the UK headlines, I hope now that people will recognise the amazing strength that God can give people. I hope people will recognise that these are strong men with strong faith, not using God as a lucky charm or a "crutch for the weak-minded" but as their refuge, their strength and their saviour.

As I watched those men cling to their loved ones, I stopped to think about what that hug contained. Besides "I missed you"... it seemed clear that every one of those people was simply saying "I love you, and I'm so happy you're alive"

It made me think... maybe what the world needs is more of those hugs.

You don't have to go through what those men went through, you don't have to be reunited after months of being apart, to tell the important people that you love them and that your world is all the more beautiful for them being alive.

Have a gorgeous day, love people boldly.


Flip flops in the rain

Hull is not a sunny place to live.

The other day though, the sun shone. I had no reason to go outside, but in mid-October in Hull, you don't take sunshine for granted. I walked alone to nowhere, with my ears full of Ingrid Michealson (whose music makes me want to laugh and cry and live) and took in how life looks so different in the sunshine.

But as I walked, as I turned corners and found myself in the shade of depressing grey buildings, I realised it's not so easy to stay soaking up the rays when you live in the middle of concrete student land. All of a sudden I was just walking, kind of bored, a bit chilly, until I remembered reading recently...

"I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine."
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

...So that's what I did. And it didn't matter that the street I was on has no flowers, no beautiful sights or interesting people. It just mattered to walk where things looked brightest. I smiled at the mundane and embraced that for a little while longer, this place is my home.

The next day, I shimmied into cut off jeans and slipped my toes into my flip flops, and threw my curtains open... and was greeted by rain. LOTS of rain. Something told me not to worry though. A few minutes later I was facing my university tutor, who told me I was either very brave or very silly... I told her I am in fact simply an optimist. The rain didn't stop, but it felt good to hope.

Some days my life is full of sun. I know that my friends love me, that I'm blessed with an amazing family and a wonderful life... and no matter what happens, I walk in that sunshine.

Other days the rain comes. 

I suppose all I can do is hold onto the sun in my heart, and wear my flip flops in the rain.


Blank canvas

How to begin something new...

After many paragraphs typed and deleted, maybe just cutting the frills off is the best way.

This is the part of life I am worst at. I LOVE to draw, I love to paint and to play my guitar and sing and to bake cakes and to write. But all of these things terrify me when I haven't started them yet. That "what if I ruin this spotless clean canvas" feeling takes over, and with a thousand ideas and tunes and plans in my mind, I do nothing.

I have spent the last two years of my life studying Psychology with Counselling at Hull University. Counselling is, without a doubt, what I want to spend my life doing. And yet I'm still so scared every time I sit down in front of a video camera, ready to counsel somebody about to tell me all their problems, knowing that later - everything that I do, say, don't say, every movement of my face and body, will be assessed. It's pretty brutal.

And yet today, on my first day of my final year, I feel I learnt something invaluable. I received the highest mark for anything I have ever done so far. My tutor noted my "use of creativity" and "...daring questions. I love how you just got straight in to the crux of it" and naturally, I was more than happy. But it also made me think, if I don't do that, if I don't just get down to it, then I won't do anything.

So six months ago... I decided I should start blogging. I've dreamed for a while of one day selling my art. We'll see whether that ever happens, but for now... I have this blog as my new canvas to work on.

It baffles me, I feel a little silly typing away to myself, but I like it, I feel like I've finally just got it done!