Listing London Favorites

I’m back in the USA. The kids are running around the house squealing with delight as they rediscover long lost toys and belongings. I, however, am in a bit of a daze. Every time I leave London and my parents, the feeling is heart wrenching. I’ll get over it soon enough and settle into a new rhythm of work and life, but right now I’m in Limbo. This post was very difficult to write, because the sheer volume of things I wanted to write about threatened to turn it into a mammoth rant. So, in the interests of your sanity and my time, I’ve turned it into a series of short lists. I’m never going to fit every little memory, and event that impacted me during my visit into this blog, because my relationship with London is just so very complex, layered and delicious. So here are a few of my favorite things:

The five things I miss about London the most

  1. Walking everywhere, and never having to drive!
  2. Always being within throwing distance of a decent cup of tea.
  3. The BBC
  4. Being around people who knew me as a snot ridden tot/a silent teenager/an obnoxious twenty-something, and still like me!
  5. My parents. This should actually be number one.

 

The five things my kids miss about London the most

  1. Sitting on the top deck of a double decker bus
  2. Wimbledon Park
  3. Tea time with an assortment of English biscuits
  4. Being spoilt by grandparents
  5. Corner shops and newsagents
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Bus obsession

Five Best Discoveries

  1. David Walliams – my 10 year old is in love with his books
  2. The Magic garden at Hampton Court. A very, truly magical playground.
  3. Medieval graffiti at the Tower of London
  4. The new wing of the Tate Modern. I LOVE the Tate modern.
  5. The Kikki. K stationery shop in Covent Garden. Stationery heaven.

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    Medieval graffiti

Five most blissful experiences

  1. My birthday picnic at Morden Hall Park. The sun was out, the kids stripped off and splashed about in a stream, the food was delicious, and we were surrounded by beautiful rosebushes. Enough said.
  2. Staying up late with my dad watching Only Fools and Horses, eating beans on toast, and snorting with uncontrollable laughter.
  3. Watching my daughter learn to play cricket at Wimbledon Park, one of my childhood haunts, and seeing the delight on her face.
  4. Getting up close with Bridget Riley paintings at the Tate Modern.
  5. Long tube journeys with my mum, when we couldn’t stop talking and giggling.

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    Bridget Riley at the Tate Modern

Oh, and one last thing…

The Rosewater and pistachio cupcakes sold from a cart at Blackfriars Station made me so very happy, it would just be wrong to leave them out. Mmmmmm.

 

Why Your Kids Will Love London

Battersea Park playground

Battenbergs, Bakewells, Jaffa Cakes, Victoria Sponge….. I have been indulging in many childhood treats since I arrived in London three weeks ago, maybe a few too many, nostalgia does weird things to people, right? I’m not setting a very good example to my kids right now.

Fear not though, my interests here do extend beyond English puddings, and behaving disgracefully. In fact, I think my kids actually benefit greatly from spending summers here.

I visit London often, and always with my kids. Having grown up here, it offers me a level of comfort that most other destinations cannot. Examples: I never worry about getting lost, I have the tube map permanently etched on my brain. I don’t fiddle around with money trying to figure out which coin is the 20p, and which is the 50p (I’m looking at you, husband dear). I also still sound pretty local, with the exception of certain Americanisms that have slipped into my lingo – trash can, sidewalk, elevator (although I recently overheard a young Londoner finish a sentence with the word ‘period’ instead of ‘full stop’, so maybe I’m not so out of place) . I feel very much at home in London.

In fact, over the last few weeks I have found myself more than once entertaining dreams of moving back to London with my family (we would, of course, live right opposite Wimbledon Park in a spacious house with lavender and rosebushes growing around the vintage door. LOL). But let’s be honest, I don’t actually know anything about what it’s like to bring up a family here, to be a real adult with real adult problems to sort out. I left the country when I was a single, pretty gormless twenty-something, maybe it’s not as idyllic as it looks.

Having said that, London is still an excellent place to take your kids to in the Summer, and here is why:

  1. The Public transport
    This had to be number one on my list. All children travel for free on buses, trams and the underground up to 11 years old (take that DC Metro!), and can apply for a visitor’s discount card until they are 15!! This makes life so very beautiful when you have a little trainspotter and a super energetic micro-tourist in tow.
    The London Underground is, in my opinion, the best underground system in the world (and I’ve been on quite a few of them). It has the best map (don’t argue with me, just don’t), is easy to use because there are signs and announcements everywhere, its very hard to get lost on it. Want to see an example of how good design can improve your life ?- Use the Tube, form follows function, baby. Londoners who complain about it are spoilt and need to go and live somewhere else for a bit, so they can return with their tails between their legs.

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  2. The people
    Sheer population density means that you will never feel alone. Sure there may be moments of anger and frustration when you are in the midst of  crowd of a thousand people all trying to get into Victoria station through one entrance, but the pay off is that your kids will always find other kids to play with wherever they are, and you will meet some really interesting people. London is so diverse in every single way, and I am glad that my kids get exposed to that. Hopefully they will grow up with a broad and accepting view of the world’s peoples. The world needs that more than ever right now!
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  3. The Food
    Yes, I know, England has never had a great reputation for it’s cuisine. However, my husband and I were so impressed by how easy it was to buy decent, tasty, nutritious food for our kids while sightseeing around London. We are vegetarian, and generally struggle in DC when we take kids into town for the day. Hot dogs, pizza and burgers seem to be a staple food at attractions there, with a limp salad lurking in a corner of a fridge for any vegetarians who dare wander in.  By contrast, the museums, galleries, and other tourist places in London all had pretty good eating places, with lots of healthy  (and multicultural) options. Also, to ensure that we never get stressed, there is always a Marks and Spencer or Pret a Manger not too far away with lots of yummy veggie options. Top marks London!
    Pret

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    Indian sweets in North London
  4. The Museums
    I’ll elaborate on this in another post, but the museums and galleries in London are the most child friendly I’ve encountered anywhere. Even the security guards seem less uptight. If you visit when English school kids are on vacation, then you will encounter so many amazing free events and hands on activities in them. Also, they almost always have indoor picnic areas for people with packed lunches, and great kid’s food options (see #3)
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  5. The Parks and Playgrounds
    So many wide, green spaces to run around in, and they all have amazing playgrounds as well?!! I’ve said this before, London has the best parks and playgrounds!!! Here are a few that my kids love: Wimbledon Park, Battersea Park, Brockwell Park, Regents Park, Hyde Park, Morden Hall Park, Hampstead Heath. We have never managed to go to the Diana Memorial Playground, but have heard it is wonderful.
    I know what you are thinking…What’s the point?  It’s never sunny in England! Well, I visit London every alternate summer, and I have always had just enough sunshine to take my kids to these parks, so there!
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  6. The History
    Oh…my…god, the history. I am a history geek, and my children are fast becoming history geeks too. You can’t escape history in London, Romans, Normans, Saxons, Angles, Celts and the rest. The kind of gruesome history that places like the Tower of London have to offer is their favorite. Maybe not everyone will find this interesting, but, really, they should!
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I’ll stop there, and put the rest of my thoughts in another post. I haven’t even started with: walking, teatime, corner shops, and Britain’s general enthusiasm for making the most of summer. However, the clock says it’s time for me to drink a cup of tea and eat a Jaffa Cake. Don’t sulk DC, I still love you too, but there’s always room for a bit of improvement. xxx

Recipe For The Past 10 Days

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I can’t…….I just can’t…even …write…full sentence today. Flight to England tomorrow, last day of school. Ugggghhhhh.

Ingredients

6 school events attended
1 last volunteering stint
1 pair of sandals destroyed at the kindergarten picnic
5 library books returned ON TIME!!
2 summer reading programs joined
2 pediatrician visits
3 dentist visits (one particularly painful!)
1 x-ray (thanks for the scare, pediatrician)
1  hair cut for one very wriggly child
1 final printing experiment for camp
1 Etsy order. Remember I said that someone always puts in an order the day before I go on vacation? Told you so.
5 huge bags of artwork, math assignments, and miscellaneous papers brought home from school.
4.5 huge bags of artwork, math assignments, and miscellaneous papers recycled
1 giant cleaning spree, which looks like it never happened!
1 disgusting chocolatey surprise found out the bottom of a backpack being cleaned out for travel.
6 loads of laundry done
4 suitcases open on my bedroom floor being filled
1 trip to Barnes and Noble for the kids to spend birthday money on travel games, crossword books and novels.
2 birthday parties that were too important to be missed
1 father’s day picnic
1 head injury (the six year old tried to jump from the sofa to a folding table, sigh)
1 emergency visit to the doctor.
4 meltdowns, one mine.
3 Winter festivals applied to
2 large orders of t-shirts for printing, and a very tired credit card.
1 expired credit card
1000 bills paid (well it feels that way)
1 coffee habit started. Seriously, this is the year I finally started drinking coffee!
2 big shopping sprees for my parents
2 surprise gifts left on my doorstep by a sweet neighbor, who sees me looking more and more frazzled by the day.
28 walks to the school bus stop
4 Zumba classes missed
1 big zit on my cheek (nice timing, mate)
1 rushed pedicure with a sympathetic friend
1 taxi to be ordered
1 sense of humor unbelieveably still more or less intact

Method

Combine all ingredients roughly in a medium sized family home, bake with scorching Virginian sun for ten days, then drizzle with a bottle of wine. Leave to rest for seven hours at a high altitude before enjoying.

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Chaotic Etsy packing
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Rushed printing experiment
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I will always have time to volunteer at the school
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Can’t wait!

Time For a break…Almost

Picking blackberries in Morden, Surrey.

 

In 9.5 days I will be on holiday- this has been my mantra all day (friends in the USA, try as I might, I still can’t get used to saying vacation). I have been using this mantra to self soothe. I’m mentally tired, and sore from standing upright for 8+ hours at each of those fairs. I’m slightly sunburnt, I’ve just been to the dentist, and my mouth feels like a swarm of bees has attacked it. It’s time for a break…Almost.

First I need to do the following:

Grace some of the 50-odd events, that both of my kids’ schools have arranged for parents to attend as part of the end-of-school-year mania. Is it me, or are there more every year?

Get my screens ready for the big Fall/Winter print session, order all my onesies and hire an assistant, because September is a sneaky bugger, and I want to be on my toes when it jumps out at me.

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Ideas for Fall/Winter screens

Let everyone know that I am going on holiday (this post is part of that effort), because interestingly, I always get a big rush of Etsy orders, only when I land on foreign soil. Why??

Shop/pack at some point. I always put packing off until the last moment, because I actually am really, freaking good at it, like some kind of  Samsonite-superhero. Shopping, on the other hand…ugggghhh. I have a list of things that my parents need from the US that requires me to frequent places such as Costco (shudder), and the pharmaceutical section of Target (a labyrinthine cruciatus) with a fearless heart and the look of grim resignation pasted on my face. I know, this is really interesting, right?

Return library books, put Summer Camp books on hold, buy teachers’ gifts, organize my summer camp enrollment folder, try out a new printing technique for the camps, do my post-fair banking, go to the dentist once more, make sure my kids eat, do something awesome for my long-suffering spouse on Father’s Day, do the laundry about eight times, and then…..

Voila!

I’m off to England (and France!!) to see my lovely parents and be parented once again (sigh). This July I turn forty years old, and I am so ready to celebrate. Bring on the Pimms, good chocolate, croissants, sarcasm, old friends, picnics, nostalgia, crazy weather and lounging. London, I miss you, I even caught myself getting blurry eyed and nostalgic over an old episode of Rainbow on YouTube last night (look it up).

If I’m super productive, I may even get one more post in before I leave, wonders may never cease (but don’t hold your breath). Here’s to holidays and vacations!

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Airport excitement
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My choice of guidebooks!

 

The Happiness List

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Right, I know that I’ve been a bit of a moaning Myrtle lately. The last two weeks of school/last two weeks of planning for my camps/ordering materials/getting ready to print for Fall/sewing things up totally before I leave for England, have meant that I have been so preoccupied that I have barely cracked a grin lately. But, as hectic as things are, life isn’t too bad, and I actually function better when I’m busy, idle hands…devils work etc, you know the saying.

I thought that for this post I would focus on the things that have been making me happy (on the inside, I know my outside looks tired and grumpy!) over the past few weeks.

1.Planning my Vacation
Was it Thomas Wolfe who said “You can’t go home again”? Well he was wrong. I can, and I will. Despite being very happy in the US, I miss London so much sometimes, that I feel a physical ache for it. I’m ridiculously excited to share my beautiful city with my husband and kids. Even though it has sort of become a second home for my kids, and they have their own favorite things to do in London, I can’t wait to take them to the museums, and parks, and show them places that mean so much to me. I can’t wait to be able to get a decent cup of tea, and go shopping in Marks and Spencers, and say things like “you’re bloody having me on!” without getting strange stares. I can’t wait to take the bus or tube everywhere, to see pavements on every street and, of course, I can’t wait to see my parents again.

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Neals Yard, London

2.Turning 40
Yup. This is the year I join the big leagues. Forty has always seemed like a good age to be for me. People always seem so much better, so much, for want of a better word, much-er,  (thanks Mad Hatter) after they turn forty. I’m waiting for a shed load of wisdom and muchness to hit me anytime soon. I’m ready for it. Already, just the thought of turning forty has made me approach life in a whole different, more daring way, and the year has been better for it. To celebrate this most momentous birthday, I’m spending a few days in Paris, flaunting my fine, almost-forty self. I shall sit outside cafes filling my arteries with liquid chocolate and eating croissants, and soak in the lovely muchness of it all (with my family beside me, of course).

3.Escapism: Okay, you’ve heard me say this before, but books are the mostest of the most when it comes to keeping this lady content. Having a good book to tuck into, an alternative world to retreat into now and then, actually helps me to be more chilled out and pleasant in the real world. Whenever I can’t go anywhere, and am stuck in the same surroundings for too long, I do my traveling through books.Over the past few weeks I have been immersed in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doering, and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, both of which I strongly recommend to lovers of good, meaty fiction. I’m currently reading NW by Zadie Smith, also a great read, and The Penderwicks series which, although it is a children’s series, is comfort reading that reminds me of Jane Austen  (sorry, I’m no good at book reviews, I always worry that  I’d be diminishing the book if I wrote too much about it).

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More book recommendations!

4.Time travel: I have been connecting with many old friends lately. I visited an old work place and met colleagues and friends whose company I have missed sorely. Working from home, can make you forget how many kindred souls you really have in your life, it’s good to have a reminder from time to time. Soon, I’ll see even older friends when I visit London. I’m guessing embarrassing memories will be dug up along with the good ones, but It will still be wonderful. Note to self: no man is an island.

Indulging my inner child: Like any other mom I have my moments of ‘Leave me alone! Why are you taking so long to do everything? Why is my house always a mess! Aarrgh!!!! 
But, most of the time I love hanging out with my kids. Part of this is because I still like doing things that I did when I was a kid. My somewhat stunted maturity makes me an excellent playmate for my kids when there is no better option around. Here are some things I have done over the past week that have given me more pleasure than I should really admit to: riding a scooter really fast down a hill, then panicking and dive bombing into a bush; almost destroying my house with nerf guns; building ice cream sundaes with as many colors as possible, because everything should be rainbow colored; watching Zootopia, REALLY enjoying it, and then quoting parts of the dialogue with my daughter over and over again;  speaking in a fake Russian accent for a whole day. I can hear my husband’s exasperated sighs right now. Worry not, this won’t last long. I’m turning forty soon, apparently wisdom, inner calm and maturity are winding their way towards me even as I type this.

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Drinking from public fountains? YES!

Working for Free
Like many of you, I too like to earn money.It is shiny and pretty, and it helps you buy cool things such as food, clothes, and the latest sparkly Gellyroll marker set at my local art store. However, I do often volunteer my time as well, and this makes me feel a different kind of happy. Recently, I helped teach a workshop on graphic design at a friend’s school, I set up a sixties themed art night at my son’s school, and I helped a neighbor make props for a eighties themed school event. Also, I work out with a bunch of 5-7 year olds at a PE club every Wednesday morning, it keeps them laughing; and this week I am going to help my daughter’s class learn about fashion in the fifties (nostalgia seems to be a thing this year!).
I’ll never forget that it was volunteering in schools that actually led me to becoming a teacher in the first place. The great thing about volunteering is that it can lead to unexpected inspiration, and a great deal of learning (those PE sessions gave me a lot of ideas for my summer camps, and the graphic design workshop forced me to get better at making slideshow presentations). Also, you meet some lovely people, and do good things. You can’t go wrong.

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Volunteering at schools – Sixties Art Night
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Volunteering at schools – Sixties Art Night
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Volunteering at schools – Sixties Art Night
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Project for a friend

This list could keep going, but I realize how much I have spewed out. I’ll save the rest for another post. Later, friends!

A Vendor’s Life

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I write this to you while slurping down a huge caffeinated  drink and wearing comfortable shoes on my poor battered feet, and noise canceling headphones on my ears. Yes, it is the day after ViVA Vienna. What’s that you say? You don’t know what ViVA Vienna is? Have you, or have you not been following my blog over the past few years (probably not, according to my wilted stats!)?  Anyway, just for you, ViVA Vienna is a huge Memorial Day Carnival that takes place in my hood, Vienna VA. It is big, brassy, noisy, and fun filled, and I never really get to experience it the way my family does because I’m a craft vendor at the festival.
Despite missing out on all the rides, performances, and carnival fun, it is still one of my favorite weekends of the year, because I pretty much know EVERYONE in Vienna, and I get to catch up with friends and socialize, and show them what I do for a (sort of) living. I get a lot of love at ViVA Vienna.  I’ve blogged a lot about this event, so I won’t go on and on about the love that is showered on me at this event, and how really sweet Vienna is. If you want, you can read more of that stuff here  and here, oh and here (but if you’re at work, it’s probably best not to waste too much time). The Town of Vienna really should think about hiring me as a publicist.

So, highlights and lowlights from this year’s bash:

-I sold a LOT of shirts. This still amazes me, people like my stuff enough to buy it! Sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m doing the right things in life, but a successful fair always gives me a boost of confidence. I’m a proper designer and all that.

-My children ate more free candy, and brought home more free junk and flyers than I would have liked (it’s tough being that cute, people just foist stuff on you apparently).

-Whenever I got hungry, a friend would suddenly appear with a cookie (yay!), then my six year old would materialize out of nowhere and demand half of it (boo!).

-I met a buyer from a local boutique, who may be interested in stocking my shirts!! I also met a teenager who wants to be my printing assistant. I also met a strange old man who insisted that my American Apparel shirts were all made in India (what?).

-Despite being on my feet non-stop for nine hours a day, and suffering from monumental aches, pains and swelling, my Fitbit steps were non-existent. My husband gloated that he had 25,000 steps after spending a a day of riding the Dizzy Dragons and eating pizza, pffft. They should give me an extra 30,00 steps per day when I’m at a booth. Sore loser, me? Never!!!

-There were horribly quiet periods when I took to counting how many times the man dressed in a parrot suit walked past my tent (nine, if you are interested).

-I got my cute baby fix for the year. The Noctiluna tent gets the best baby guests ever, I will never stop making onesies as long as the babies keep visiting. Sigh.

-My daughter went around picking up tickets left on the streets, and got herself into two rides for free. She told her friend about her scheme, and she found five tickets and five dollars! They are planning a “friendly” competition for next year.

-Neighborhood friends just turned up and put up, and took down my booth for me. They bought me food and water, and spread the word about my booth, and made sure my kids were always looked after. So many friends stopped by for a chat, and my kids’ school teachers turned up to say hi. My heart feels ten times bigger now.

Today, I’m going to take things slowly, but I still have one more Spring fair to go. The Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival takes place in Alexandria on June 11. See you there?

Have a beautiful Monday.

 

 

 

 

Work, Family, and Self – is there enough nurture for them all?

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Everything happens for a reason. There is a reason for this post being written the day after Mothers Day. Not the day before Mother’s Day, not on actual Mothers Day, but the day after.

The day after is a thing for me. When something big and blog-worthy happens, some bloggers rush to their laptops and write a post straight after the event, most will get their act together in advance, actually pre-write the post way before the event, and release it right on time. Not me, I always write the day after, sometimes a couple of days after, sometimes even later than that (cough, sometimes never).

Is this due to a lack of discipline?
Well, its complicated. There are many factors involved in this, but I don’t want to bore you any more than usual, so I’ll simplify things down to one plain fact: I lead a very fractured work life.

What does that mean?
A fractured work life is a life that doesn’t have much flow to it, it stops and starts, and loses it’s train of thought continually. My work week is like a large ice rink, work and non-work commitments are constantly slipping and sliding around, and intersecting each other at the most inconvenient times (much like the thoughts in my head right now). Writing sessions are interrupted by doctor’s appointments, work days are cut short by school concerts, printing jobs are put on hold when a call is made from the school nurse.

Working from home is a big part of the problem. It means that for better or worse, I tend to shoulder a larger proportion of family related duties than my spouse, from homework help and teacher conferences, to sick days and swim classes. In my already truncated work days, I average around two disturbances a day that take me out of my work flow, getting back into it takes a while.

There are days when I get frustrated and wish that I had started my business before I had become a parent. Would things have taken off faster? I’m sure I would have had more time  and energy to put into my ventures.

I’m sure you are finding this all incredibly uplifting. Stay with me!

So, what do I do on days like this, when it feels as if I am running, but not getting anywhere? How do I pull myself out of the rut? Well it can sometimes take a while, but here are some things that I find can help:

  • I get the **** out of my house. Anywhere else with free WiFi, and other humans is a better place to work, trust me.
  • I ignore all the self help advice that is offered by sage twenty somethings living on their parent’s loans, on Bloglovin. Instead, I  write down all my angst to get it out of my system, then forget about analyzing it until I’m in a better mood.
  • I stay away from my TV, read a book instead in the evening (books are my remedy for everything, they offer me escapism that TV just can’t), go to bed early, and then wake up an hour earlier the next day so that I can get an hour to myself to organize my thoughts and feel better.
  • I stay away from my phone, and go and talk to a friend in the flesh. Someone who can put up with my whining without wanting to hit me, and make me see the silver lining in my situation.
  • I tell my nine year old how I’m feeling, and get cuddles from her and the five year old. The best therapy ever.
  • If I have time, I do an hour of yoga. I know it’s counterintuitive to take more valuable time out of my work day, but on tough days this really helps me to think clearly.
  • Finally, I just ride it out, and try to understand that it will pass, just like all the other moments of frustration and self doubt did. Being a bit kinder and more forgiving to myself is something I’m still learning. Things are never going to be perfect, what is perfect anyway?

By the way, there is no way EVERRRR that I would write a blog post on Mothers Day. It’s sacrilegious as far as I’m concerned, I’m too busy completely being a mommy (and therein lies the crux of my problem)! I guess it would be unrealistic to hope for any kind of balance between my home and work life, but I’ll still work on it, and being a mommy is still worth it all.

Happy Day-After-Mothers Day!

 

What Happens When You Are Scared Of Success?

It is gray and gloomy, the rain is coming down in thick sheets outside, and I can’t believe that just two days ago I was frolicking amidst the Azaleas in my garden. What fresh madness is this?

Bad weather aside, I am feeling a little somber anyway today. I really shouldn’t be, I should be happy, excited, elated even, but I’m not.

I’m scared

Last weekend I took part in an indie craft fair run by these guys in Kensington, Maryland. Business was good, very good in fact. The Kensington folk seemed to like me and my products very much, and I sold out of almost everything. I must confess I wasn’t quite expecting that, I still have two more fairs to go this Spring.
Perhaps I should have taken some time to appreciate this little win, but I have always been a bit of a worrier. I hurriedly ordered more shirts and onesies online, and realized that I will need to get a large amount of printing, ironing and sewing done by my next fair on Memorial Day weekend (This is the first time I have needed to make more stock in between shows!).

The Root of my Fear?

I always expected that someday I would reach the point where demand would outstrip supply and I’d need to rethink my production processes, but I never really allowed myself to think about it properly. I think sometimes I’m so scared of making that turning point from tiny kitchen table business to proper label, that I subconsciously sabotage myself.
I have never made much of an effort to contact boutiques and shops, because I’m anxious about whether I could keep up with their demands. I’ve never taken part in trade fairs because, what if someone likes my work and orders a lot of it, and I can’t make enough to keep up with their needs, and I have no proper printing setup…kids will be home soon….what do you mean ‘extra homework?’…there’s not enough time…gah!
See what I mean? Total worrier. I’m sure there are other worriers out there like me. Maybe we could form a support group, Small Business Procrastinators Anonymous, any takers?

Well I guess a much needed turning point is here at last. It’s time to start getting faster, more efficient, and more professional; but where do I start? Do I need to explore new ways to make my shirts? Do I need to find someone to work with me? What do I do first? I’m all questions and no answers. I think I’ll go and drink tea, write a list and start putting my concerns on paper. I’ll be back with some plans soon!

*All mentoring and advice is appreciated, and thank you for joining me on my strangely shaped learning curve.

 

Upcoming Spring Markets

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It’s that time again. The time of year when I start checking my weather app neurotically, line boxes of products up in the family room for everybody to trip over, and prepare my children mentally for the upcoming chaos. Yes, the Spring markets are here!!!
Now, I don’t actually do many markets. I know crafters that are booked solid every weekend through April, May, and June. Good luck to all you fine, dedicated, folk, may the sun shine bright for you, and may your wares sell plentifully. However, my enthusiasm for getting out there and selling products has been tempered by my enthusiasm for spending weekends doing stuff with my kids. When they are older, I will do ALL the shows, right now I’m on a very whittled down schedule. The schedule grows gradually as my kids do, I’m trying to find the right balance. Also, I’m still learning about shows that are out there, next year I want to do Handmade in Arlington for sure!

If you are reading this, and live close enough to the DC metro area to visit a market, do come and say hi! A vendor’s life can be lonely, so it’s good to meet people and make friends at these events. Speaking of which, here are the markets I’m doing this Spring:

  • Gala/Crest Indie Craft Fair -Sunday April 24th 11am-4pm
    Run by the Gala Artisans Store, this runs in conjunction with the Kensington Day of The Book festivities, and has kids’ activities.
  • ViVA Vienna – Sunday May 29th – Monday May 30th 10am-6pm
    Vienna VA’s memorial day festival is a big rollicking ball of fun. Apart from the market,where you can meet yours truly,  there are carnival rides, performances, and it’s all in my hood!
  • Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival – Sunday June 11 9am-6pm
    Run by Volunteer Alexandria and held on the waterfront, a truly beautiful location. The Torpedo Factory Art Studios, and plenty of restaurants and boutiques are nearby.

See you there? I hope so!

Putting Your Business’ Best Face On

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Don’t Instagram, Facebook, and the rest, do a great job of making our lives and jobs seem a heck of a lot more interesting than they actually are?

Instagram is my favorite, it puts sparkles on everything, even my messy, outdated kitchen with scratched up cabinets. It’s the photo equivalent of bright red lipstick, or rainbow sprinkles on a cake. I do make pretty t-shirts, but Instagram makes them look even prettier, and it kind of gives me an unwarranted aura of professionalism. We all want our products, and indeed ourselves, to be shown in the best light possible, especially when we are just starting out.

This year, I started to think more about my business’s image, and how to build a cohesive look for my brand. Up until now, I have been mostly focusing on just getting my products made on time, and not so much on how they are marketed to the public. My clothes labels were often hand made in a hurry (that should be my tag line –Handmade in a Hurry!)and totally inconsistent with the style of my business cards, and other marketing materials. When I sent customers their Etsy orders, I’d wrap them in tissue, stick them in a bubble wrap mailer, and Bob’s your uncle!

I want to be more slick and organized, but right now I can’t afford to go the whole nine yards, hire a graphic designer and give my image a huge overhaul. So, taking tiny baby steps, I discovered a few companies that could help me get started with branding.

  • First stop,  Moo.com, I really like their easy to use design services. I designed me some sweet square shaped business cards, and some stickers, and clothes labels, all with a consistent style and font, using bright glossy Instagram images of my work on them.  I’m also thinking of making a photo book of all my past designs, to use as a mini portfolio, with them.IMG_0741[1]
  • Then I customized a rubber stamp from Paper Source and Three Designing Women, so that I could spend less time slooowly hand writing my address on everything, and to give all my mail a cohesive and professional look.
  •  I put together a wrapping station for mail orders with all these new tools and rolls of bright yellow tissue paper bought in big rolls from DickBlick (yellow is a big obsession right now).IMG_0754[1]
  • Next, I’m going to go back to my textile design roots, to design my own signature repeat prints on fabric using Spoonflower.com. I already make my fabric labels with them, and would love to start using my own  fabric on bags, and as linings on products. It would tie products together nicely, methinks.
  • I have plans to print the same designs onto my paper shopping bags. Super excited about this.

I know all this stuff is just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. But boy do the sprinkles make that cake look more inviting, and taste better. Pour on those sprinkles, baby! I’ll be back with photos of the fabrics.