Monday, 31 December 2012

Handmade Loveliness

I always love a handmade present, and this year I got a couple of lovely things I thought I'd share here. Firstly my aunt made me this gorgeous rag rug. I think it took her several months to complete but it's so comfy and pretty, I'm really happy with it.

Secondly my talented knitter friend made me these cute and sparkly hand warmers. Apparently the sequins are part of the wool. Aren't they pretty? 

Also, I made this cross stitch portrait of Tom and I for Tom's Christmas pressie (after being inspired by one seen on Morten and Me). I also added a tiny dog quite wistfully as we aren't able to have pets in our tiny flat, but we can dream!

Hope you all have a lovely New Year. Apologies for the dark photos, it's awfully rainy here and the house is so dark and it's only just 4pm! Tom and I are planning on staying in to watch the Muppets movie tonight, but might pop to a friend's house nearby to ring in the new year later. Have a good one! Lx

Friday, 28 December 2012

Film Friday: Favourites of 2012

It's the last Film Friday of the year, so here's a summary of my favourites from 2012.

The Artist (this seems like longer than a year ago but I saw it back in January!)
The Descendants
Moonrise Kingdom
2 Days in New York
Take this Waltz
The Cabin in the Woods
The Perks of being a Wallflower

 Let me know if there's any good ones I've missed this year (I really want to see the Muppets movie which I missed when it came out).


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Highlights of 2012

Well, another year has flown by! Highlights for me this year included a gorgeous holiday in Croatia staying in a Bowie themed apartment, a brilliant week spent in Holland exploring Deventer on bicycles, and the grand opening of mine & Tom's Etsy shop. I also managed to find a lovely new role in the arts sector which I'm really enjoying so far. Next year marks my 30th birthday and hopefully it will prove to be a good one. I hope you all had a great year and here's to a brilliant 2013! Laura x

January - I got a new camera flash for Christmas so Tom and I had some fun trying it out in the hallway

February - it snowed! Lots. So me, Tom and some friends found a cosy den in the woods at Rufford Country Park

March - A rare sunny day meant perfect weather for cycling along the river to Radcliffe-on-Trent

April - Ada the Globetrotting Doll visited me in Nottingham

May - Tom & I had a lovely holiday in sunny Dubrovnik

June - We met a friendly horse in Shropshire

July - I spent (a mostly rainy) day at Indietracks festival

August - Had a rather lovely week at my friend Gerdien's house in Deventer, Holland

September - I made a giant rubik's cube cake with my friend Sarah..

October - a cosy evening of crafts with some friends

November - Had fun dancing to some classic tunes at our friend's 90s-themed birthday party. (Okay, when I say 'classic' I actually mean the theme from Baywatch...)

December - Tom and I swapped home made stockings. (In case you're wondering the one he made me says 'Fur you' on it. I do love a good pun!)

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Simply having...

... a wonderful Christmas time. Happy Christmas folks! 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Film Friday: Holiday Affair

Last weekend when Tom popped out to watch a friend's band I decided to stay in, relax and watch an old Christmas film. Holiday Affair (currently on iPlayer) stars Janet Leigh as a single mother who is being pursued two men both vying for her affections. Although the film is a wee bit predictable, if you're in the mood for a festive story involving romantic mishaps, toy shops and New York in the snow I'd thoroughly recommend it!

Monday, 17 December 2012

A Handmade Christmas

I keep seeing such pretty ideas for handmade Christmas things I decided to post a little round up of my favourites.

Christmas in a Jar (pictured above) via Dandee

Handmade Christmas Crackers via Junkaholique (these look time consuming yet beautiful)

DIY Christmas Crackers via Design Sponge (these ones are from last year but still look cool to make)

Chocolate and Orange Christmas Cake via Make Do and Spend (sounds so tasty)

Upcycled Christmas Wrapping Paper via Knitting on Trains

Map Coasters via Martha Stewart

Beautiful Christmas Snowball Meringues found via Tabitha Emma

20 Last minute DIY Gift Ideas via A Beautiful Mess

Sunday, 16 December 2012

My Christmas Gift Swap

This weekend I had chance to collect an exciting parcel that had arrived for me at the post office - it was my Christmas box from the thrifty gift swap I joined on Janet's blog last month. I was so happy when I opened it, every present inside was so lovely (and so 'me'), thanks to my thoughtful swapee. The contents were as follows: a gorgeous mixtape tea towel, a vintage cup filled with tea, a mini candy cane (which has gone straight on my little tree), an old Penguin book - Gigi by Colette (can't wait to read this), a mix cd (featuring many ace tunes, I gave it a listen earlier when wrapping presents!), a Jam record, a handmade lavendar cushion and a Make Do & Mend vintage booklet. Hurrah! Hopefully the person I swapped with will get her box soon too. Thank you Janet for organising such a lovely gift swap.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

My Favourite Christmas present (then & now)

I realised the other day that two of the best Christmas presents I've ever had were quite similar - I'm lucky enough to have had two dolls houses hand-made just for me. 

The first was when I was around eight or nine. It all came about because of a rather depressing Christmas the year before. That year, my parents and grandma had got together to buy me the most fantastic dolls-house that they could afford. To prevent me from seeing it all wrapped up on Christmas Eve and guessing what I'd been given, they decided (rather foolishly!) to leave it in the car overnight. The next morning the car had been broken into. The only present I had left that Christmas was some dolls house furniture! I remember my Nan in particular being really distraught, and my Dad going up and down the nearby streets checking the bins to see if the robber (on discovering he'd stolen a dolls house and not a pricey stereo) had thrown it away. No such luck!

The next Christmas I had a far more special present; my mum and dad got together to make me an amazing dolls house. They used an old basket for the roof, real carpet pieces inside, cardboard and wood interiors and wallpaper to decorate the rooms. Sadly I no longer have a photo of the dolls house, but a couple of years ago Tom made me a new one - a home for Frank, the little guy I'd been given for my birthday that year. I feel so very lucky to have had such thoughtful gifts given to me and it just shows that handmade gifts far outweigh expensive ones that can quickly be forgotten.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Weekend in pictures

Above: my friend Laura knitted this Christmas jumper, isn't it amazing?

This weekend I discovered a huge new vintage shop called Hopkinson's just opposite the train station in Nottingham. If you ever get chance, do pop in, there's several floors of quirky knick knacks, old bicycles, clothes and books.

I was getting a train to Sheffield, to meet up with some friends to see an old favourite band; Pulp. The band were ace, but the venue was so huge I got lost a couple of times and a little claustrophobic, I forgot how much I don't like arenas! But exploring Sheffield in the afternoon was great- we found a lovely gift shop and a brilliant Oxfam full of old records (with quite hilarious covers, including this! What did people ever see in this band?!) We also discovered a book shop called Rare & Racy which had everything you'd need from a bookshop; lots of staircases, ladders to reach the shelves and an old man in the corner working on bookbinding. I ended the weekend with Home Alone and Elf which made me feel rather festive indeed.


Friday, 7 December 2012

Top 10: Films that have made me cry

Yesterday I felt a little teary after Tom told me the jazz pianist Dave Brubeck had passed away. When I listened to this song (familiar to all, no doubt) I suddenly felt all emotional. Ahem. Sometimes things just get you out of the blue. Anyway, I thought I'd make a list of films that have made me cry, some for sad reasons, some for happy. Are there any I've missed?

1. Life is Beautiful
If you've seen it you'll know why. Probably the film that made me weep the most!

2. It's a Wonderful Life
Sad tears, happy tears.. watching this film around Christmas is becoming a great yearly tradition.

3. Dumbo
So sad when he's separated from his mother.

4. The Graduate
I know, it's a comedy. But the bit at the end where they're all happy on the bus together.. ahh.

5. Up
The opening scene. Last time I watched it I had to leave the room! Anything about old folks feeling lonely inevitably makes me a bit teary.

6. My Girl
Still makes me well up.. Thomas Jay needs his glasses!

7. Little Women
The scene at Christmas near the beginning. Sniff.

8. The Land Before Time
Orphan dinosaurs are in it together!

9. Lilya 4 Ever
A pretty sombre film about a girl from Estonia called Lilja who dreams of a better life with her only friend, a boy called Volodya.

10. Bambi
Those evil hunters.

And some films that didn't make me cry...

The Notebook
I was told that this would definitely make me cry but for some reason I couldn't sympathise that much with the characters.

Marley and Me
Mainly as I fell asleep a couple of hours into it and missed the sad part. Oops! May have to watch it again..

(Also of note, a slightly sexist list of films that make men cry. Hmm..)


Thursday, 6 December 2012


I'm always fascinated by other countries' traditions, and a couple of years ago I asked some blogger friends to write about how their home country celebrated the Christmas period. My friend Gerdien wrote all about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas (which is normally celebrated on 5 December). Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) visits Dutch homes each year with the help of Zwarte Piet. The blog post is still one of the most visited on my site, I guess a lot of people are intrigued to find out more about the antics of Sint and Zwarte Piet who takes all the bad children back to Spain in his sack! You can read the entry here.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Christmas Wishlist

I've been fairly organised so far and bought the majority of gifts for folks, so I thought I'd make a little wishlist out of a few nice things I spotted lately. (Note: i admit that the keyboard floor cushion is pricey, I just thought it was cool!)

Clockwise from top left: Curio shelf £30 from Urban Outfitters, Keyboard Cushion £215 Urban Outfitters, 2013 Cities Calendar £25 - Papermash, The House that Groaned graphic novel £9.59 from Amazon, NY stamp set £9.95, Yellow Owl Workshop, Silver & Gold $15 by Sufjan Stevens, Bear pepper grinder £8, Lazy Oaf, Twinkle Sparkle Trio hair clips £15 by Giant Dwarf, Holly brooches by Tatty Devine.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Film Friday: Uncle Buck

It's that time of year when it's still slightly too early to watch Christmas films (in my opinion anyway... December 1st though marks the time when it's okay to begin!) But in the mean time why not watch some wintery films that don't mention Christmas, like Uncle Buck. John Candy always puts a smile on my face and this scene in particular is pretty classic.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Lovely Links

Image above from pretty Finnish blog, Sparrow

Things I've enjoyed on t'internet recently..

This lady's flat is amazing (and she just turned 100!)

Anthropologie: Holiday shopping for those you hate

Why pen and paper can be better than technology

Why wasn't my school cat shaped?

Kris Atomic's drawing of every magazine gift guide ever

The term 'nerd' was first seen in a Dr Seuss book..

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Winter wanders

This weekend was a lovely chance to relax and also get some stuff done! I've been working on some portrait commissions recently as well as getting some early Christmas presents out of the way. Yesterday I ventured out to the second Pretty Dandy Flea which was lovely, and as a friend of mine said 'like a real life Pinterest board!' After some browsing we popped in a couple of charity shops and then warmed up with a cuppa and some tasty cheesecake in Lee Rosy's. Today Tom and I had a bright early morning walk around The Park where we found this impressively big leaf! I love wintery days when it's cold but the sun shines really brightly and The Park is the perfect place for a quiet wander. This evening we are having a home-made fish pie and meeting friends for some board games in a local pub. Who said dark winter nights have to be depressing?

Above: The Pretty Dandy Flea

 Amy Blackwell's lovely stall


Marketing tips for Illustrators - from Zero2Illo

 A couple of months ago a friend let me know that there would be a national illustration conference called Zero2Illo held right here in Nottingham, only ten minutes walk from my house! I booked tickets straight away for Tom and I so that we could attend our first conference together. (Tom doodled in his notepad throughout, so I've scanned his pages which you can see below!)

The talks weren't really about drawing techniques, but were themed around how to market yourself as an illustrator and how to get your work noticed. I thought it could be useful to post up a few of the things we learned from the day, as they are useful for anyone who is interested in promoting their own work, be it handmade jewelry, portraits or even your own blog or website.

In attendance were Rod HuntStanley Chow, Kate Slater and Kate Hindley amongst others (image of the panel above from the Zero2Illo site). Tom and I found their advice to be pretty useful overall, although one or two bits of advice they said seemed to contradict others! Here's a round up:

Advice by Rod Hunt

Self Promotion
- Make your own luck
- Build a brand (you are the brand)
- Create a visual identity
- Invest in your career - time, money and resources

Create a signature style
- it should be recognisable as you
- Indulge your personal interests in your work
- Be unique
- Create a niche

Harness the power of the internet!
- Your website's your shopfront
- Personal blogs are useful
- Try creating an email newsletter

There was also some advice from a panel of book publishers, including Igloo Books and Nosy Crow who explained what helps them choose to work with an illustrator.

Things publishers looked for when choosing who to work with:
- How quickly can an illustrator work?
- Novelty is often key in children's books - eg pop up, touch & feel
- They like to see character led stories with personality
- Seeing an illustrator's blog is like a visual diary of what drives them which is useful
- A consistent drawing style
- Easy to navigate websites
- Try and be memorable when sending out work eg decorate envelopes

They also said as an agency they get over 50 submissions per week, yet only take on about 8 illustrators a year. Not great odds really!

In summary..
- Marketing is key
- Bring your own personality into your brand
- Its also important to hone your business skills
- Opportunities are out there if you stick at it!

My favourite part of the conference was hearing Stanley Chow (whose portraits you might recognise) talk about his first commission. Just for fun he designed an image of the White Stripes which he put on made into a pretend gig poster, which happened to get found by their management. Stanley got a call that night asking if he'd design a USB stick for the band which ended up winning him a design award. So personal work can be a great way to get noticed!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Film Friday: The Perks of being a Wallflower

I finally managed to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the cinema this week. I was a little worried that the actors wouldn't do the book justice but I thought they did a really good job (even Emma Watson!) The film starts off as your typical outcast going to high school movie, but it develops into a more complex story as it goes on. At first I was unsure about the title character's casting, he didn't look as much of a wallflower as I'd hoped! But he played the part really well as the film progressed. The soundtrack was very good too (the only thing that slightly bugged  me and my friend at the end was the fact that they listened to 'Heroes' by David Bowie in their car and couldn't figure out who the song was by... c'mon know your Bowie, kids!) Other than night it made a good winter movie, and Ezra Miller was really fun to watch as Patrick.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Stepping back in time

At the weekend I took a trip to Lakeside Arts Centre with my friend Caroline, to see their new photography exhibition, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. For those unfamiliar with the book, it was written by Nottingham author Alan Sillitoe in 1958 and adapted into a film starring Albert Finney, in 1960. Arthur is a 22 year old who works in the local Raleigh Factory. He is bored of his repetitive work and is having an affair with Brenda, the wife of his colleague. The book details his Saturday night and the aftermath on Sunday morning.

Lakeside Arts Centre is currently exhibiting photographs taken from the film around Nottingham, as well as other photographs from the time taken in local spots such as Sneinton Market and the Goose Fair, as well as the old Raleigh factory which was located here in Nottingham until a few years ago when production moved to Asia. It was lovely looking through the photos and imagining what the city was like back then. There was also a chance to dress in 1950s outfits, which we couldn't refuse! (We did have the option of wearing pretty patterned dressed with full skirts but chose to dress as old ladies in headscarves instead, heh!)


Sunday, 18 November 2012

November, lately

Watching.. old David Attenborough programmes from the 1960's. He was so young! His voice was so much posher! And he wore Converse. Ah, dear old Attenborough. Oh and the Killing Series 3 has just started too.

Listening.. to Jake Bugg - out of curiosity, and for the fact that he's from Nottingham and the council have decided to put a huge banner in the Market Square to congratulate him on his album success. Bless. (For a town this size you'd really think it'd be easier to name some famous Nottingham bands, but it really is tricky.. I get stuck after Tindersticks.)

Reading.. I just read the Night Bookmobile, a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, inspired by a lifelong love of libraries and reading. I really enjoyed it - it was also serialised on the Guardian a while ago, where you can read parts here.

*I wrote this post quite a while ago but was waiting to have a picture ready before posting.. last night there was this gorgeous sunset at University Park which I was pleased to capture.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Film Friday: Annie Hall

After watching Annie Hall again I can safely say it's one of my most favourite films, and certainly my favourite by Woody Allen. It's still as funny, charming and (I think) true to life as it was when it was made and I love watching Diane Keaton and Woody's relationship grow and change over time ("Well la di da"). It's also the perfect film to draw to, which helps as I'm working on a couple of new portraits for people at the moment (exciting!). Though watching it again did re-emphasize how light and fluffy newer Woody Allen films are - maybe it's time for him to hang up his hat?
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