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Guest #10 Kat

June 28, 2015

My blog wouldn’t be the blog it is today without Kat. From being there for support when I went self hosted a few years ago, tinkering with my blog to make it look how I imagined in my head, and then keeping me sane when I started doing it all myself, and occasionally almost break it. She has given me a place in her home to sew, and more importantly to rest and recover when parenting just gets too much for me. Her house is welcoming, her family wonderful and I feel very lucky to have her as a friend. Kat has a blog, Housewife Confidential, but can mostly be found on Twitter – she is also one of the founders of Blogtacular – the best blogging conference ever.

Kat Molesworth Blogtacular

Kat in action at Blogtacular. Photo credit : Piers MacDonald – Thanks to Mollie Makes.

Dear Kelly,

Happy anniversary and let me begin by saying that I am glad that you are one of the women in my children’s lives.

Like all children mine are sponges for the stories fed to them of our human history. Ask Monty about the fire of London and he’ll share everything he has learned with glee. But with their education being tilted heavily towards the white men in our history I want add the stories of the women who make up our past.

On a recent trip to the National Portrait Gallery my youngest, Betsy, asked me to read all of the details for every woman in the rooms we explored. Reading about women who did great things regardless of what was stacked against them is incredibly inspiring.

When I was asked to write about one of my heroes as a school child I couldn’t think of a single person I admired. Today, I’ve struggled to whittle my list down to just ten of the women whose work inspires me in my life. This is a list of ten women I want my children to know, (in no particular order).

Shami Chakrabarti

Shami Chakrabarti’s work as a human rights advocate has her in the public eye regularly.  Despite personal slurs from those in power she remains on track and brings about change. I am interested to see what role she takes in the changes to the Human Rights Act over the next few years.

Ada Lovelace

In the 1800s there weren’t many people working on computer programmes. Ada on the other hand was pursuing her interest in maths supported by her mother (her father being Lord Byron who left, never to return after she was born). Not only this but she wrote the first computer algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine. She has come to represent women in STEM and is commemorated each year on Ada Lovelace Day.

Laura Bates

Have you ever been told that sexism simply doesn’t exist any longer? That your experience must have been an exception and really not the norm? Yeah, haven’t we all. Laura started The Everyday Sexism Project to record those insidious sexist experiences that every woman and girl experiences like a dripping tap. Not only does it lift the lid on our experiences but it also provides a platform to address issues such as Project Guardian which, in conjunction with British Transport Police, highlights and fights sexual assault on transport.

Dian Fossey

Dian’s work as a primate researcher led her to study groups of gorillas in the Rwandan mountains. Her studies over the course of 18 years not only gave us huge amounts of knowledge about gorillas but also conservation. She campaigned against wildlife tourism as the risk of cross species infection is a huge risk to gorilla populations. Dian was faced with poachers who would kill whole family groups in their attempts to capture infant gorillas for zoos or to sell their heads and hands as souvenirs. She established the Digit Fund (now Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International) to create anti-poaching patrols. Ultimately she was murdered in her mountain research cabin.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

The discovery of pulsars as a student shot Jocelyn Bell Burnell to fame (and infamy when the Nobel Prize for the discovery was awarded to her thesis supervisor). Her career in Physics has spanned decades and she has contributed much to our understanding of the universe. I heard Dame Bell Burnell speak at a science festival last year and her accounts of how she was treated as a female student in University was very matter of fact but you can see how easily many women were driven out of their field.

Dame Kelly Holmes

Kelly Holmes was the first Briton ever to win double gold at an Olympics. That on its own is kick ass enough for me. And yet, what Kelly has done with her position is what really inspires me. She founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust which supports athletes transitioning out of sport and uses their skills in a mentoring programme for disadvantaged children. And that’s double kick ass.

Francesca Martinez

Francesca is a comedian who challenges the concept of normal. As well as being hilarious she is a campaigner and has been particularly vocal in these recent years of government austerity. There are so many ways to change the world and I admire Francesca Martinez for using both comedy and campaigning to challenge our perceptions about ability.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a scientist and her discoveries of radium and polonium were ground breaking. Her Nobel record is impressive: she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes and remains the only person to have won two Nobel Prizes in separate sciences (physics & chemistry).

Amelia Earhart

Amelia’s name has become synonymous with aviation and adventure. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and disappeared during an attempted circumnavigation of the globe in 1937. Not only did Amelia go after her passions with gusto but she founded the Ninety-Nines to support and advance women in aviation. It is something to be a trail blazer but lifting other people with you is something to really be proud of.

Camila Batmanghelidjh

I firmly believe that the work of Kids Company is some of the most important work being done with children in Britain today. Camila’s work, campaigning and love are beacons in a time when there are increasing numbers of children living in poverty. I want my children to know that you can be a disruptive force in a world filled with status quo.

Those are just ten of the women I want my children to know. Who would be on your list?

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Write

Guest #9 – Jen

June 25, 2015

It always seems to me that in blogging circles everyone knows Jen and Jen knows everyone. She blogs at Mum In The Madhouse. I think I have known Jen as long as I have had Piran although I couldn’t tell you when we met! She is always online with a friendly word and a real mix of family centered posts – including cooking, crafting, activities and plenty of ideas to keep the whole family busy. I hope you like her top 10 songs and the reasons behind them.

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When Kelly asked me to do a list of ten things, I racked my brain. Should I try and be witty, should I look for amazing quotes that have touched me and will touch you? Should I be my creative self and look for great tutorials or should I do something else? Well unfortunately people who know me will agree I am neither witty nor wise, so here are my top ten songs. Before my kids were born I was really into Music. In fact way back I used to do a Tracks of my years linky on my blog!

Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town – Kenny Rogers
My early years was filled with wonderful music, my Dad was an Elvis fan and both my parents loved Country Music. I was also in a marching band and we played this song and I still love it to this day. It reminds me of frilly knickers, short dresses and happy, happy times. It is a sad song, but I dare you to listen without clicking your fingers or tapping your foot to the beat.

Hot Love Now! – The Wonderstuff
March 1994, the month me and the husbeast made it official that we were a couple. I remember watching their last concert on 15 July 1994 at the Phoenix Festival with him and knowing this was the man I wanted to spend my life with and 21 years later I still feel that way! My brother had an idiot under construction t-shirt. We didn’t have an our song at our wedding a year later, but this always makes me think of my fella!

Last Stop: This Town – Eels
1998 and Videos were big in music land and this one and the upbeat song really sung to me. I totally loved the Eels’ previous songs and this was a standout for me on the Electroshock Blues album. It kind of felt like it was looking in to my brain at this stage of my life, all mixed up, but happy!

Street Spirit – Radiohead
This will be the song that is played at my funeral. Morbid? Maybe, but it has touched me since I first heard it all those years ago. From the excellent album The Bends. This is MY song.

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

Oh a song that give me Goosebumps whenever I hear it. It makes me think of my husband as he introduced me to this song way before it appeared in Shrek! Mini’s class sang it last year at their school proms and it was amazing.

Wires – Athlete

This was on the Athlete album Tourist that we bought in January 2005 when I was pregnant with Maxi. It never really had any major meaning until Maxi was hospitalised at five months old and nearly died. As we drove him to the hospital in the car this was playing. This will forever be his song.

Muscle Museum – Muse

Song’s often hold meaning for me as they remind me of times in my life. This is no exception. This was on Muses first Album Showbiz which was release in November 1999. The same month as my Dad died after an industrial accident the month previously. In January 2000 we went on a break to The Canary Islands and I remember laying by the pool with this playing on my Rio mp3 player when the sun shone and I knew that everything would be OK. It was also my phone ring tone for years….

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
As Maxi has a song, so has Mini. Chasing Cars is from the fantastic Eyes Open Album and released on June 6 2006 and Mini was born on the 24th June 2006 and this was what was playing in the car as I pulled in to the hospital. I wanted Mini to lie with me and just forget the world.

Counting stars – One Republic

Not my usual style, but when we went to Orlando in 2013 with my brother and his family this was on the radio all the time and the three kids in the back of the car singing it at the top of their voice every time it came on. It makes me think of an amazing family holiday and great times.

Happy – Pharrell Williams
Minions, clapping, smiling and laughing. Happy makes me, well happy. There is just something infectious about this song and I love that we all sing along as a family. Cheesy? Maybe, but I am old enough not to care!

Once I started this it was really hard to stop. I love so many artists that I couldn’t fit in Beck, Placebo, Turin Breaks, The Icicle Works, The Beautiful South, Kasabian , The Fratellis, Killers, Suede, The Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses, The Manic Street Preachers, Pulp, Blur, Mansun, The Foo Fighters oh and so many more.

What is your favourite song?

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Live

Family Portrait 2015

June 22, 2015

Every Father’s Day we take a photo of all four of us together. This is both something I love and dread in equal measures! I usually only get a few takes before someone wanders off or just flat out refuses to be in the picture. Yesterday the sun kept going behind a cloud and then back out again which made it even harder but we got there in the end. I gave up trying to get Piran to be a little more ‘normal’ and just settle for him being in the picture. It is a true representation of us at this time, crazy kids and all.

Cheesley Family Portrait 2015

This year I cannot resist adding the other pictures we have taken – I love seeing how everyone changes, and it really brings it back to me how grown up our small people are looking.

Write

Guest #8 – Heather

June 22, 2015

I remember the first time I ever met Heather, in an office on an industrial estate somewhere in Kent. We had come together for a blogger meeting with a baby company. I didn’t get much from the meeting itself, but I gained a wonderful real life friend. From family holidays to blogging conferences we have bonded over the past five years and she was one of the first bloggers I asked to be part of my blog birthday celebrations. Whether we are messaging each other every day or manically busy catching up every few months over coffee and cake my life is much better for having a friend like Heather in it. She also has the best style and when I grow up I want my house to be like hers. I hope you like her top tips for adding personality to your home and if you do you should definitely follow her blog, Growing Spaces. All images in this post are from Heather’s home. That black wall is amazing.

Anyone who’s visited our house (including the lovely Kelly) will be able to tell you that my house is never, ever perfectly tidy. And although I have (many) moments when I wish we were all a little tidier, I do like it that way because it feels like home – it reflects our character and is full of life. While I can be wowed by a totally minimal space where there either isn’t any stuff, or what little there is is all neatly hidden away, I personally can’t relax in a space like that. I’m constantly aiming for a happy medium – not too chaotic, but not too pristine either. I want my home to feel warm and welcoming for guests, as well as being the place that my family and I can play, create and unwind.

When it comes to decorating your home, I reckon there are ten tricks that will help you to express your personality and create a unique space that you’ll feel happy to come home to.

10 ways to add personality to your home

1. Use colour
Your choice of colour says so much about you and can have a massive impact on the feel of your home. Even if you choose to paint every room in the house white, add depth and interest with accent colours – whether these are barely-there neutrals of hits of saturated brights.

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2. Get some pictures up on the wall
There’s nothing more depressing than an expanse of bare wall or an empty shelf, so find pictures you like – whether it’s floral prints, landscape scenes of photographs of your family and friends – and put them on display. If (like me) you’re rubbish at getting round to putting them in frames then cheat – pin them to a noticeboard, or show them off on wooden clipboards.

3. Play with pattern
Introducing pattern through wallpaper, fabric or accessories, is a great way to evoke mood in your home. From delicate florals to graphic stripes, pattern adds visual interest. Always changing your mind? Opt for easy-to-change shots of pattern such as cushion covers, or hang a framed piece of wallpaper instead of papering the whole wall.

4. Layer textures
Appeal to the sense of touch with an array of textures in your room – this will give your scheme depth and warmth, especially if you’ve chosen a very restricted colour palette. Use texture to reflect the season – knits in the colder months and lighter fabrics in the summer.

5. Curate a display
I’ve got too much stuff but I find collecting knick-knacks (as my mum calls them) irresistible and they are key to creating a unique home as no-one else will have the same collection as you. They will also fill your home with memories as these objects will often remind you of a particular time and place – from holiday momentos to beach-combed finds to a treasured family heirloom.

6. Prioritise storage
I know I’ve just told you to keep things out on display, but the key is making sure your less-beautiful possessions are stashed away properly to avoid your home feeling cluttered and oppressive. Baskets and storage boxes are hard to beat – add a couple to open shelves, or use them to tidy away toys at the end of the day.

7. Define your zones
If a room feels difficult to relax in, it may be that it’s trying to meet too many needs all at once and the overall effect is confused. Use your furniture to create smaller, well-defined zones within the space such as a reading nook, compact office, or dining space. A rug is a great way to define a zone within a larger room.

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8. Reuse, renew, recycle
Personally, I love to include vintage elements in our home, whether it’s a larger piece of furniture or just small things I’ve picked up at car boot sales or junk shops. Not only are they much more unique so you know no-one else you know will have one the same, but they also add a sense of history.

9. Focus on smell
I’m partial to a scented candle or two, or I’ll often choose fresh flowers or foliage for their gorgeous scent (eucalyptus is my absolute favourite). There’s a reason that estate agents say that you should bake bread or brew some coffee just before holding viewings when you’re trying to sell your house – the right scent can put people at ease and make them feel at home.

10. Lighten up
Bad lighting is a real bugbear of mine. I’m not a fan of having the main overhead light on (unless you need it for a particular activity) – I far prefer the softer pools of light created by table lamps, string lights or floor lamps (or ideally a combination of all of these).

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Create

Tutorial: Giant Floor Cushion

June 21, 2015

I mentioned this quickly on my monthly round up but I loved this so much it really needed a post of its own.

I love working with Justine and Lisa from Simply Solids. Justine got in touch to ask if I wanted to make something with the new Rain or Shine collection of fabrics and I jumped at the chance. I love all of them. She suggested a giant floor cushion and this is what I made.

Please check out the Simply Solids blog for the Giant Floor Cushion Tutorial. Making this got me out of a total sewing funk. I designed it myself, and as I started to construct it (and more importantly it started to come together as I had planned) I got such a rush. I absolutely loved the fact that something I dreamt up was now a real thing in front of me and I definitely need to try to do more of that. I hope that you like it. They are big, but not too hard to make, so I urge you to have a try.

giant floor cushion tutorial

giant floor cushion tutorial

I have since made a second one for Piran out of some cool Ninja and Dragon fabrics.

Write

Guest #7 – Emily

June 19, 2015

When I decided to ask other bloggers to guest post Emily was one of the first three I asked. For the past few years she and two other lovely ladies have been my cheerleaders on twitter, my constant facebook conversation friends and I honestly do not know how I would have got through the dark days of PND and becoming a mum of two without them. She is straight talking, honest, clever and funny and I love her for all those reasons and more. Oh and she loves cake as much as me. This post also landed in my inbox at the end of a very testing day and it made me remember some basic things about being a mum. I love Emily’s writing and I think you will love this post.

There are some people who you become friends with that just become such a part of your life that you can’t really remember how and why you became friends in the first place. I know that it was through blogging and the first time we met was at Cybermummy in 2009, a few months after I started blogging. Since then we have shared hotel rooms, cake, a very windy and rainy camping trip and lots and lots of words. Seeing as I started blogging as a parent I thought I would share ten things I have learnt about parenting in the last six years.

  1. Trust your instincts. People will always have advice and it is absolutely fine to listen to it, but once you have take some time to reflect on whether it sits easily with you. I clearly remember, when my eldest son was only six weeks old, tearing my hair out because he wanted to feed all the time and wasn’t sleeping for long at night. Everyone had an opinion and I tied myself in knots trying to decide how to tackle it. I then decided not to see anyone for a few days, cut the noise and try to listen to his cues. It worked, he became happier and my confidence grew so much in those days.
  2. When a child is grumpy and you are at the end of your patience, add water. It can be swimming (although it never is here) a bath, (there have been days where my children have had three baths in the same day) or simply a bowl of water and some cups in the garden.
  3. Be prepared. My best days are the ones where I am preparing lunch at 10am, preparing dinner at lunchtime and making sure everything is ready for my cup of tea, before I leave for the afternoon school run. Think “what’s next?” , it will help you immensely and if you really don’t know which way to turn, remember, you all have to eat at some point, so start with that.
  4. They grow out of stuff. It feels like they never will and you won’t really notice when they do, but suddenly the tantrums have gone and you are no longer asking them if they need a wee every 15 minutes.
  5. Sometimes, just sometimes, go to bed shortly after they do. Looking after small children is bone achingly tiring. It’s OK to admit that and give into it, by going to bed. It doesn’t make you boring, it makes you a person who knows how to look after yourself.
  6. There is no day so bad that it can’t be drastically improved by a dance around the kitchen with at least one of your children and if they won’t play ball, do it alone. You’ll thank me.
  7. Do what works for your family. If people want to visit at 5pm, or go out to lunch with you at 2pm and it doesn’t suit, don’t agree to it. You will be the haggard, worn out one trying to put your kids to bed at a stupid time, while they have their feet up with a glass of wine, so stick to your guns.
  8. Go easy on yourself. Mostly, things even out in the end. If they watch loads of TV today, they’ll probably spend hours running around the park tomorrow. Same applies to fruit and vegetables.
  9. It’s true what people say, the years do go very fast indeed, try to treasure those early years. However, it is also true that the days can go very, veeeery slowly and it is absolutely OK to not treasure every moment. Tortoise days and hare years is how I think of it.
  10. Find your tribe. I don’t mean the mum tribes you read about that supposedly frequent the school playground. I simply mean, people who get it, who get you. People who understand the way you parent and appreciate it. They don’t even have to parent in the same way as you, but they probably will. They don’t even have to be local, although some local ones that you can meet for a coffee or a glass of something cold are certainly a bonus. When you find them, hold onto them. They are golden.

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Write

Guest #6 – Victoria

June 16, 2015

If I have a question about London I turn to Victoria. Not only is she born and bred font of information she is a brilliant and interesting tour guide. She should charge, but I am glad she doesn’t because that way we have more money for the requisite tea (coffee for her) and cake when we are having an adventure. I am definitely going to look into doing some of these. Victoria is also a brilliant friend and very sensible – she always puts me right when I am dithering about this or that. I hope you enjoy this post and check out some of her suggestions.

Ten things to do in London without children

Now I’m as much a fan as anyone of doing stuff with my kids in London, but sometimes it’s really quite nice to leave them at home. Here are ten things that it’s better to do without them.

Dennis Severs’ House is a place where ghosts live.  It’s like stepping into a beautiful eighteenth century oil painting.  Lit solely by candles, oil lamps and firelight, it smells of beeswax, oranges and toast cooked over the fire, and you can hear church bells ringing in the distance and a maid making up the fire in the next room. You are instructed to walk around in silence, to better use your eyes, ears and nose.  Shake off the rushing and jangling of modern life.  Adjust to seeing by candlelight and breathing deeply. It’s a place everyone should visit at least once.

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Swimming in the Serpentine in Hyde Park is surprisingly peaceful, with only the muted sound of children enjoying the paddling pool up the hill, and a band performing at the other end of the park occasionally breaking the silence. The water is cool and dark, with shoals of minnows and water weeds under the surface and waterboatmen skating on top. And you’re swimming in the Queen’s garden pond, I always get a kick out of that.

The Jacobean theatre at the Globe is truly like stepping back in time. It’s entirely candlelit (there’s a theme here, I’m a fan of candles), with live period music and the wonderful acting you’d expect. Globe tickets are also cheaper than you might think, with seats often available for under £20.

Watching the recording of TV or radio shows is great, fun, way to get a free night out. It can be really interesting to go the recording of a show you normally watch on TV and see how it’s made and how much they cut out.

Of course museums are great places to take children, but did you know that they’re often open in the evenings? Wandering around an interesting exhibition with a cocktail in hand and just the quiet murmur of other adults having civilized conversations, has a lot to recommend it. They often put on live music, talks and other activities and some of them have singles nights, should that be your thing…

The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London has taken place every night for over 700 years. It’s free to watch the Yeomen Warders pacing the bounds at 9pm with a giant set of clanking keys, lanterns in hand. A little slice of London history.

London has always brewed beer, of course, but in recent years craft brewing has exploded in the city. Not literally. A lot of the new breweries offer tours, some of them free, others not, but you usually get to try the wares.

At St Martins in the Fields, the church opposite the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, they have free lunchtime classical concerts. It’s a beautiful church and a lovely excuse for a sit down between museums.

You might think that London isn’t good for cyclists, but actually it’s a brilliant way to see the city. I think guided cycle rides are the way to go, you don’t have to worry about traffic or think about the route, your guide does all that for you. There are lots of people offering them but I’m particularly keen on Breeze rides, which are just for women and very friendly. You have to provide your own bike (other setups lend you one) but a Boris Bike will often do, as the rides aren’t high octane. You’ll see another, greener, side to London and get a bit of exercise into the bargain.

I love comedy and what’s not to love about something free? Free comedy is completely brilliant, and pretty easy to come by in London. Win win!

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Create

From the studio { May }

June 13, 2015

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A mixture of weather but lots of visits to the studio this month, even with Half Term at the end.

I am late with this post – a week away at the start of the month messes everything up but I am loving recording the view from the studio each time I go there as well as keeping a record of everything I make. I captured nearly everything this month (just one giant cushion forgotten). After April’s lack of focus I decided the best way through was to have a month of selfish sewing. I did need to make a few presents and finish my Alison Glass Mini Quilt but other that that it was all for me, or my family.

May Makes

Inside the studio: (Top row) A ‘Sew Together’ bag for me. Utterly brilliant, and a real challenge to make.

(Bottom Row) An ‘Hour Basket’ for a friend, pencil cases (filled with book tokens) for Piran’s twin friends, A beach bag for my holiday which looked big but was perfect.

May Makes 2A giant floor cushion for Simply Solids (tutorial here written by me!) – I made a second for Piran which I haven’t photographed yet. A ‘Super Tote’ for my hand luggage bag for holiday.

I am itching to get back to it – next week after Blogtacular – but I might pop in and personalise my business cards if I get the time first.

Write

Guest #5 – Josie

June 12, 2015

I had been trying to think about an intro for Josie and then I read the first part of her post, and in describing me she has described everything I love about her. She is much better at these word things than me, and so I am just going to say. You need Josie in your life to make you look past all the stuff and see the things that really matter. The link is to her Twitter account because honestly she wins at Twitter.

10 things to do when you’re not having a good day

Kelly’s blog is very special to me, because through it, I got to make a very special new friend. Kelly is someone who gets what it means to be beautifully human. To love hard and try hard and fall down and keep getting up again. I adore the socks off her. Happy Blogiversary, Kelly. And thank you for brightening up many of my not-so-good days.

If your day isn’t feeling great, here’s some ideas on how to make it a little bit better.

1. If it’s a clear night, find out if there’s anything interesting to spot in the sky tonight (clue: there’s always something interesting to spot in the sky tonight). Use a stargazer app on your phone to identify a visible planet or constellation. Bonus points for bringing something alcoholic in a thermos and getting a dirty bum.
Remember: You are a tiny, momentary speck in an incomprehensibly vast and ancient universe. The light you can see up there has taken years to reach your eyes and try and make you smile, so try not to be rude. And, what’s more, you’re made from the exact same stuff, you improbable, unique wonderbeing. Feel it, and burn a little brighter.

2. Derail someone else’s bad day. Ok, maybe yours has been unavoidably crap, but you have the power of causality on your side. You could be the one person who turns around someone else’s. Do something impulsively generous for a stranger. Arrange for a gift to be sent to someone you’ve thought about lately. Write postcards. Put pot plants on doorsteps. You benevolent demigod, you.
Remember: everyone around us is struggling as much as we are. Maybe not today, but sooner or later – none of us escape the hard days in life. Despondency, disappointment, grief, sickness: we all have to take our turn at them. Our bad days can be what we use to fuel our compassion, empathy and care for people around us, rather than be something we use to wall ourselves off from others.

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3. Go to the supermarket late, when they’re sticking all the ‘reduced to clear’ stickers on things. Head for the cut flowers section and wait. Avoid looking too suspicious by reading up on the nutritional value of vacuum-packed beetroot. When you see a flash of yellow on the bouquets, move fast. Load up and buy as many as you can afford. I’m talking armfuls, people. And men, don’t assume you’re excused. You too.
Remember: that sometimes the best person to bring a bit of beauty and care to your day is YOU. Don’t sit around feeling resentful that someone else hasn’t made it their responsibility to cheer you up. Maybe they have their own stuff going on. Anyway, being your own paramour is great.

4. Dedicate an hour, or however long you have, to researching something you’re curious about. See how much of an expert you can become about that thing before the end of the day. Suggestions: snail sex, duck penises, bird ears, lichen.
Remember: The world is bloody brilliant, and you have a lifetime stretching ahead of you to learn all about it. Are you excited? You should be. Oh, and you are now a surprising catch at dinner parties. Congratulations.

5. Go and buy a pot, some seeds, and a little bag of potting compost. Wilkinsons are great for cheap gardening supplies. Surreptitiously nick some pebbles from someone’s drive for the bottom of your pot, then get your hands in the compost and break it up till it’s crumbly (no trowels or gloves, dirty fingernails are obligatory). Fill the pot and pat it firm. The seed packet will help you work out the rest. Then wait.
Remember: There is always hope. Things we can’t see today will lift our heart soon. Sometimes you have get your hands dirty before good things happen. There’s potential in even the tiniest thing. Jeez, there’s endless metaphors for this one. Whatever. Above all, just be patient.

6. Get rid of some stuff. Pick a room, a cupboard, anything. Unless you love it with the intensity of a hundred birthday candles or use it regularly, put it in a bag for the charity shop. No “I’ll keep it just in case” or “I might need it one day”. If it doesn’t make you smile and lift your heart today, in the here and now, it’s going. If this turns out to be especially cathartic, go Google ‘Konmari’.
Remember: the less you have, the more the things around you have the potential to stand out, be useful and make you happy right now. And now is what matters. Give yourself, your stuff and your space some elbow room to stretch and see what it can do without distraction and competition.

7. Do something impulsive and completely out of the ordinary. Grab a book and climb a tree. Dye your hair purple. Make a completely out-of-character suggestion to someone in your life. If you don’t have time to carry it all out today, plan for sometime soon and get to revel in delicious, warm anticipation for a while. Whatever you do, give it your full attention. Make it worth it. Give it everything you’ve got.
Remember: Don’t be a passive spectator of life. You’re in charge. Maybe not of everything, but of enough to make a hell of a lot of interesting things happen. And, above all: “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” (That quote’s been ascribed to a hundred sources. Let’s say it was Obi Wan Kenobi.)

8. Read some poetry or actual, credited quotes from books. Poemhunter is great for this, as is Goodreads. Search for whatever you’re struggling with and see how others have expressed and explored what you’re experiencing. (Discount anything written over a rainbow or a waterfall picture though.)
Remember: Others have felt this way, over and over, stretching down the ages. What you feel is important, it is real, but it is not unordinary. Feelings are what unite us, not what set us apart from everyone else. Other people came through this, and you will too.

9. Write down what’s happened and how you’re feeling. Do it privately. Then write down what you worry might happen next. Now. Draw a line. Time to write some different endings. As many different ones as you can, the more outlandish, the better. With each new go, write something more and more improbable and silly until you make yourself laugh.
Remember: Your feelings aren’t facts. We can really hurt ourselves by writing stories in our heads about the future and believing that they’re true. Everything and anything is possible. The future is a big blank page. Wait and see.

10. Go to bed early.
Remember: Sodding it all is always a perfectly valid option. Let’s try again tomorrow. The beautiful gift of time and the ever-changing nature of existence means you’ll never have to live this day again. Plus, sleep is lovely.
(I think my other ideas are more fun though.)

If you’re having a bad day and decide to do something from this list, will you come and tell me? I’d love to hear about it. I’m @porridgebrain, and I already think you’re wonderful, because I’m nice like that. X

I have asked ten bloggers to guest post for me in the run up to my 10 year anniversary at the start of July. I really hope that you enjoy these posts, and visit their blogs to say hello, or wave on Twitter. Each one of them has been a special part of my blogging life and I am so honoured to call them my friends.

Yours Truly

The absence of silence

June 11, 2015

I’m struggling to put this into words but I really want to get it out. Last week, when we were away, my mind was silent. Although I didn’t realise it at the time. All we had to think about was where we were going to read our book, what we might have to drink, what time would we eat. Should I have a nap? (always yes) What do you call that shade of blue?

calm

Coming home the juxtaposition is so intense. Until my brain started up again I had no idea how noisy it is in here. I started to feel everything creeping back in the morning we left. It was like my brain was warming up, switching on and at first I could push it out of my mind and try enjoy the stillness of the last couple of hours.

By the time we were queuing to check in my mind was beginning to think faster, starting to make mental lists. When the plane landed my brain was back at nearly full speed and my fingers twitched to connect my phone back to the real world and start doing something.

I woke at 4am yesterday (we arrived home at 8pm the previous evening) and I could ignore everything no longer. My brain was whizzing and there was just so much to be done and I was starting to feel overwhelmed already because I was wasting time.

My brain feels like a washing machine. Thoughts and ideas and things to do flick through constantly. Fleeting glimpses before I am distracted my something else. Until recently this was just the norm but after a week of silence and stillness (apart from ramped up anxiety but that’s a story for another day) it feels so loud and intense and almost unbearable.

…only a day until I go away…what will I wear…weather forecast?…green dress yellow sandals – bright and happy but not as comfy as my denim dress…but that is a bit dull…it all comes down to shoes really…will it rain? The washing needs hanging out but there isn’t time before we leave for school…maybe if I’m really fast…no I cannot bear to be late…

…I need to blog…I’m not happy with the fact I’m rushing to do it though…oh god I’ve forgotten to plan anything for dinner…and I probably need to go shopping…but when? I only have a couple of free hours tomorrow…I need to finish my business cards…must Google how to make a scarecrow too…and find a witches hat…where will I get a red dragon from?…oh maybe we could make one and paint it…I’m going to have to sew the green bird too…

…must quilt that mini quilt…by the 19th…and what am I going to do for my #homesweethomemini? I need to do a sketch or something…where did I save the inspiration mosaic…I need to do some IG stuff for that too…after this weekend, I can get a plan together after this weekend…I need a new notebook…I should be writing lists…

…when am I going to sort out Kate’s school uniform…I wish I knew how she felt about going to school…will she be okay?…she needs a book bag too…and I need to make her a PE bag…that can wait though…blimey girls need so much stuff, socks and tights and summer dresses and normal dresses…

…what will we have for dinner tonight…oh we forgot to take anything out of the freezer…need to plan better so I can start slimming world again…maybe if I just stop drinking for a bit again…but it is summer…where is Kate?…what is Piran up to?…it is very quiet…oh I love the sun…do they have enough suntan lotion on…can I convince them to wear a hat?…

…must blog…need to schedule those guest posts…and comment on them…is it weird if I comment on my own blog?…I am hungry…must not eat chocolate…need to clear my inbox….next week maybe…have I done everything for work?…where did I put my business cards when they came…I need to embellish them if I have time…if I write a blog post do I have a picture to go with it…oh I wish I had some time to sew…maybe next week…what will we do for Piran’s school project…what will I wear this weekend?…when will I pack?…I need to write a pitch…

Is this just life? Is it the same for everyone? Is this just being a mum? Everything is just so full on all of the time. There is so much to do, think about and organise. And that is okay, but I need to find a way of capturing that stillness, finding some space. Actually when I think about it that is how I feel when I am sewing – completely focused on the task at hand and letting everything else fade away. Maybe mediatation would help? Mindfulness? (not that I know how to do either).

Any suggestions?