Three tips for surviving Christmas with your family

4 Jan

To be quite clear, this post does not come from a place of resentment but love. Anyone who knows me knows exactly how much I adore my family and friends. However, never more than at Christmas is the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ so pertinent. Whether it be hitting the cheese board a little too hard or spending an extended amount of time with your nearest and not so dearest.

Follow these three simple guidelines and all will be well…

Christmas, surviving christmas, family christmas, awkward photo, awkward family photo

1. The simple games are the best

When you open up a new board game and have a whole new set of rules to get accustomed to, it splits the family unit down the middle, and you find out very quickly which half each person falls in to. It separates those who are board game rule Nazi’s from those who couldn’t give two @$$*’s and just want to get on with the G%$ D*$% game.

Our favourite game to play at family gatherings is a variation of charades. All family members note down around 10-15 names of celebrities or well-known people on scraps of paper throw them in to a big bowl, pick small teams and commence ‘three round charades’. Teams get one minute each time and the bowl must be empty for you to move on to the next round. The most correct answers at the end of all three rounds wins the game.

Round one: You must describe the individual

Round two: You must silently act out the individual

Round three: You may just use one word to describe the individual

Super simple and loads of fun when everyone’s fuelled by a tonne of libations. I’m not going to promise that things won’t get ‘lively’ and someone won’t accidentally throw something or call their boyfriend an idiot (this has never happened) but it’s great fun.

2. You can NEVER have too much food and drink

Besides the fact that Christmas somehow turns off our natural ability to say no, to ANYTHING, regardless of matter how much you love your family and friends, when celebrating the festive season in the UK the inevitability of atrocious weather means that you’ll be confined to one room for an extended amount of time.
If it helps, visualise it as some kind of solitary confinement sentence or an awful disaster where you’re trapped in a lift with tinsel and flashing lights. Now wouldn’t you find it much more bearable plied with lashings of cheese* [*replace with your festive culinary vice] and alcohol? No! So stock up!

3. Foolishness must be unanimous

By foolishness, I’m talking ugly festive headwear (inclusive of headbands, deely boppers, santa hats and paper crowns) offensive jumpers and flashing earrings that at any other time of year would be considered an eyesore.

Make it known to any friends you invite along that your family enjoy, encourage and demand that all attendees must be willing to ‘ugly up’. Start as you mean to go on and set the tone for foolish behaviour, jokes and music.

You’re welcome! Please remember these three key things next time Christmas is fast approaching in order to enjoy quality time with your loved ones to the maximum.

Got any family rituals or essential components that make the festive season all the more bearable for you? Add your own contribution to the comment box below and help others in a time of need…

Five inspiring quotes from people I admire

23 Nov

Now I may not entirely align myself politically or culturally with all these folks, but that’s besides the point. Sometimes in life inspiration and stimulus can come from the most unexpected of places. These are simply some key moments and thoughts that have stuck with me.

famous quotes, inspirational quotes,

“I’m very clear that women in politics, in business, in whatever field they are in, should be able to do the jobs as themselves and not feel they’ve got to walk like a man.”

Theresa May – British home secretary

“…marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

Chimamanda Nqozi Adichie – author and feminist

“It’s the very struggle of life that makes us who we are. And it is our enemies that test us, provide us with the resistance necessary for growth…cherish your enemies, your difficult tasks, and anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone”

Dalai Lama – philosopher, writer

“Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off. It’s not a tourism trade, it’s not cool, and it’s not something that MPs on a salary of £65k a year plus expenses can understand, let alone our PM who states that we’re all in this together. Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one Weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.”

Jack Monroe – food blogger, author, political activist

“I don’t believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you’re spending your time doing something worthwhile”.

Dame Helen Mirren – actress

What famous or not so famous words have struck a chord with you?

Customised denim jacket

13 Sep

My denim jacket heirloom was looking a little sorry for itself, and to be perfectly honest, it rarely gets worn.

You know those crafty tid-bits that you buy, despite having no idea when you might quite use them, that’s exactly what I used. A bit of excess cutting of crochet trim I had foraged from a market stall, and a sew-on patch with my initial embroidered on it worked perfectly together.

The trim was sewn around the up-turned cuffs with a loop stitch, while the sew-on patch was fixed to the top left-hand pocket with a simple running stitch.

There’s something about crisp white and deep denim blue that makes for such a pretty contrast, interested to know what you think though…

Crochet, crochet trim, denim jacket, arts and craft SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

‘Havarie’ – a dark debut from the Lost Goose Theatre Company

29 Jun

This month I was lucky enough to be one of a select few Londoners attending the debut night of brand new stage play ‘Havarie’ at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden – a universal tale of loss, nostalgia and great seafaring voyages.

You’d be forgiven for assuming the opening scene of the play is set in slow motion, however (aided by aquatic sound effects) one swiftly realises our four storytellers are underwater – inspecting long-lost objects sacrificed to the sea.

The play’s narrative centres around two young European sisters (depicted by actresses Louise Ni H-Eidhin and Mona Becker) forced to flee their home and face the maddening effects of the sea.

Louise Ni H-Eidhin, Mona Becker, Havarie, Lost Goose Theatre Company, Tristan Bates Theatre,

The fifth member of the on-stage team is the inanimate companion ‘Dolly’, a modest rag-doll and vessel for the thoughts of the youngest sister played by Louise Ni H-Eidhin. Through Dolly we get to hear the inner-most fears and doubts of a terrified child, stranded at sea.

The play’s namesake ‘havarie’ German for ‘lost at sea’, defines the morbid tale – narrated by actresses Hannah Martin and Marie Keiser-Neilson.

Lost goose theatre company, havarie, play, production, tristan bates theatre, hannah, marie

An intelligent use of set design and on-stage props deliver endless uses. Lights projected behind turquoise umbrellas imitate the fluidity of crashing waves and graceful sea creatures. While the ship’s sail doubles as a puppeteers projection screen.

‘Havarie’ is the first production from the Lost Goose Company, a theatre collective of four women from across the globe. Their different artistic backgrounds spanning everything from musical theatre, to dance and stage acting combine

Searching for an Off-West End production bursting with creativity and darkness? Check out ‘Havarie’. View the tour schedule via the Lost Goose Theatre Company website.

You can also see real-time updates from the production staff via the Lost Goose Theatre Company Facebook page.

“Henna art in high demand” Jen of ‘Jen’s Henna’

16 Mar

The kind of crafts I love, are ones that are both inexpensive and bring people together – two things that epitomise the ancient art of henna tattooing.

hand henna, henna tattooing,

Once used in ancient Egypt and India to adorn brides with elaborate floral patterns and motifs, it’s now more widely used amongst men and women at times of celebration.

The sciencey bit: Henna leaves alone won’t stain the skin. It’s only once the leaves have been sifted in to a powder, treated with a mild acid and worked in to a paste that it can form an almost instant stain upon contact with skin – growing darker the longer it is left.

I spoke to a talented young lady who’s busy sharing her passion for henna tattoing in both London and Cambridge! Jen of ‘Jen’s Henna‘ told me about how she got started, and  increasing interest and demand for henna at kids parties, hen do’s and for brides to be.

1. Tell us about how you got in to the art of henna?

I’ve been interested in henna since I was young – I remember once occasion when I was on a beach on holiday and saw someone doing amazing designs, I thought, I’ve got to learn to do that! I’ve always loved drawing patterns and so henna feels like quite a natural interest. I got hold of a henna kit when I was 17 and started practicing on myself and on friends. I’m completely self-taught, and so it was only after graduating from University and wondering what to do next that I started doing henna for money.

interview picture me

2. What’s your proudest henna project to date?

It’s hard to pinpoint a particular project but some the work I’m most proud of has come from when customers have brought their own ideas and asked me to translate them into henna art. I feel most confident doing my own designs, but some of my best work comes from being challenged to create something completely new.

interview picture 2

3. What inspires your work?

My work is inspired by henna designs from all around the world. Different countries and areas of the world have their own styles and I try to learn from all of these.  I particularly like the floral and paisley designs of India and Pakistan, as well as the straight and symmetrical patterns of Morocco and North Africa. Continue reading

Jools & Jacks ‘Cupcakes & Co.’ cameo on 2013 Channel 4 ‘Grand National’ advert

21 Mar

Cupcakes are usually front of mind for me, so it’s no surprise that I spotted a cupcake stand within a channel 4 horse racing advert about The Grand National (of all things).

channel 4 racing advert, grand national advert 2013, The grand national

Only thing was, I recognised more that just the ’99p-style’ cupcakes, I also twigged that I’d seen the logo before. It was only ‘Cupcakes & Co.’ by Jools and Jacks!

>>> Previous blog: Rugby 7’s festival meets ‘Cupcakes & Co’ by Jools & Jacks<<<

My first chance encounter with these two lovely ladies was funnily enough was being mesmorised by their cupcake creations at a rugby 7’s festival in Manchester.

cupcakes and co Jools & Jacks

The advert itself features a scrum of horses charging through a rural town in England, residents cheer on as jockey’s are flung from saddles and whiplashed by tree branches. It climaxes in a scene of cheering and jostling (in amongst the all important Cupcakes & Co. food stand).

The full advert is below – check out the quick flash of the Jools & Jack’s banner at 1:18.

Cupcakes and baked treats for all occasions can be made to order by contacted Jools & Jacks via their Facebook page or website.

cupcakes and co jools and jacks

Craft: British beauty Perri Lewis on her amazing new book ‘Material World’

21 Dec

I’ve been following the glittery footsteps of one, miss Perri Lewis for a while now. Famed craft specialist for the Guardian, Lewis even headed up features for Psychologies magazine (great for some new year motivation!) – Lewis has finally released her highly anticipated ‘Modern Craft Bible‘ for the masses. 

Material World, Modern Craft Bible, Perri Lewis, crafting

Lewis’ ‘how-to’ debut is stocked pretty much everywhere, from Waterstones, to Foyles, to Amazon and even Anthropologie, Regent Street, London! This book does no fluffy skirting around; here you will find sterling craft techniques and expert advice from in the industry’s top designers. You’ll learn how to employ classic craft skills to decorate your modern world!

Let’s catch up with the main woman herself…

Perri Lewis Material World Craft

Your personal style in 3 words…

It rarely matches.

What influenced your journey in to a life of arts & craft?

Like plenty of crafters my Nana and Gran taught me how to make when I was about eight. I put my knitting needles down for a bit until I was in my late teens and was desperate to make clothes that were more alternative than you’d find in Topshop. By that time craft was starting to become big. I was pleasantly surprised, because knowing how to knit/sew/make already meant that I had a bit of head-start

I like craft best when it’s mixed with a bit of fashion, politics, current affairs or something else that makes it more than just a bit of stitching. Craft that aims to change the way people think -whether it’s intentionally or not – is where it’s at for me.

SONY DSCWhen is crafting not just fun but useful?

When you make something that you actually want to wear/use/display, rather than something that hangs around in the bottom drawer, unfinished, because really it’s actually a bit rubbish. There are craft books/blogs/shows that are full of stuff that might be super-fun to make, but actually, are you ever going to use a penguin-shaped pan holder, or a hat made from shells? My craft box is full of stuff like this – I spend two weeks making it, but then I never actually use it.

You’ve written a fabulous craft book: ‘Material World: The Modern Craft Bible’ how did it happen? What is it about?

Thank you, I’m glad you like it. I’ve been so nervous about people seeing it. When I wrote it I didn’t actually think that anyone except my mum would get a copy. Which is a bit ridiculous really, but when you’re holed up on your own for six months (I wrote it in my evenings and weekends with a full time job), you lose touch with what you’re doing it all for.

It’s different to traditional craft books – it’s not full of 50+ projects designed by me to follow step-by-step. Instead, I introduce people to 15 different techniques: How to do the basics, then we see some of the world’s most awesome designers and makers offer their insider tricks for making it really brilliant. There’s a project based on the technique, and lots of ideas for other stuff you can make once you master the method. I love the idea of not being too prescriptive so people can put their own spin on things. I’ve written around 15 features on the amazing world of craft, it’s about so much more than just making something on your own in your bedroom.

Autumn/winter are fabulous seasons for craft – any upcoming projects? Top tips?DIY jewellery, jewellery making techniques, Perri Lewis, crafting

Get knitting quick. You might see it all over the spring/summer catwalks but I don’t think it’s as easy to rustle up something that’s wearable when it’s boiling hot outside. This is your chance to stay in, watch boxsets and dive into your craft box. Start making a double quilt now and that’ll keep you busy until spring.

Three essential things that you’ve needed to be successful, in craft and journalism?

Fearlessness - I’ve emailed super-high profile people, CEOs and grand editors asking for help/a meeting/an interview and some of them have actually said yes. Sure, plenty of them never replied, but if you don’t take it personally then there’s no harm done and potentially a lot to gain.

Twitter - has been really useful. It’s a way of meeting people who already do what you wish you did, and I’ve found so many of them are really willing to engage with others on there.

Fuel – realising that I’m no good to anyone when I’m hungry. When I finally realised that, I got a hell of a lot more work done.

Proudest career moment?

Writing a small piece about a Barack Obama cross stitch for guardian.co.uk on day of his inauguration. It stayed at the top of the Guardian homepage for a couple of hours, which is BIG, because it meant people were clicking on it. I know I wasn’t exactly a massive part of that momentous day, but it felt pretty great to have been part of the news package of one of the world’s biggest liberal newspapers.

Perri Lewis Material World CraftAdvice for aspiring journalists and creatives?

Be nice and work hard.

Everyone I know who has succeeded in craft or journalism – hell, in life – does those two things. And I’m sad to say you will have to do things for free at the beginning – again, whether it’s craft or journalism – because it’s a great way to get your name out there. Just make sure you’re picky about the things you do for free. Always think: ‘how is this going to help me in the long term?’ or ‘is it giving me experience in an area I didn’t have?

It’s also important to ask whether you’re associating yourself with a smart brand/organisation/set of people that reflects really well on you? Are you getting a chance to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet? Yes, it’s cheesy, but if you think of all the unpaid stuff you do as an investment in your future, it makes it easier to swallow. That’s what I did anyway, and it hasn’t gone too badly for me.

Do you think interest in crafting is still as strong as ever in the UK? Or has the fad passed?

I think it is. There’s proof in the fact that Mollie Makes is now one of Future Publishing’s best selling magazines, and was only launched last year. This autumn loads of amazing craft books are coming out even though we’ve already had couple of years of really strong craft publishing: Katie Allen’s Just Sew Stories, The Merchant and Mills book of sewing, Momtaz’s 101+ Things To Do With Glitter, Cassandra Ellis’s Quilt Love, the list goes on.

Perri Lewis Material World CraftWhat’s next for craft?

God, no idea. Although what I hope happens is that more people recognise the incredible effect craft has on our wellbeing. So you don’t fancy taking up yoga? Well, craft can be just as de-stressing.

Perri’s seriously smart book: ‘Material World: The Modern Craft Bible’ was released for purchase November 1, 2013 by Virgin Books. Londoners can pop in to Anthropologie, Regent Street to find ‘Material World’ nestled amongst crafty loveliness. For everyone else, head to British book retailers: Waterstones or Foyles.

You can also find Perri blazing the craft trail in the following places:

Make & do with Perri (blog)

@PerriLewis

Guardian.co.uk

Psychologies.co.uk

Perri Lewis Material World CraftPerri Lewis Material World CraftPerri Lewis Material World Craft

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