The Self Help Corner of the Shop

Friday night. 

I've just dropped the Playful Little One to the other parent. I've got an hour before my train and I dislike the empty feeling in my hand where hers used to hold mine. I'm listless and Sunday feels a long way. I head to the bookstore in the hopes of distraction. 

I breeze straight past the fiction section. Where once I devoured fiction I've now ground to a standstill thanks to poor concentration skills and short term memory issues. Any plot with more than 3 characters and 2 locations loses me after just 20 pages. I'm sad for it but I've found a new fix and I know just where I'll find it. 

Self Help Books

The Self Help section is almost always in an obscure corner of any bookshop. I haven't quite fathomed the rule that causes this to happen but there's something to be said for standing awkwardly, trying to look like you have your s**t together in front of books titled "The Power of Now" or, "Solve your Anxiety- For Good!". 

On this particular Friday night I'm struck by how crowded this usually quiet section is. Sure people come along, but usually they're furtive and quick to dismiss all titles and move off as if they surely didn't need help in the first place. I'm fairly sure most return within minutes of my departure, checking to see what carrion I've left behind. Tonight though, tonight I have 3 fellow readers for company. 

All women. 

Now there's a lot that could be drawn from this simple observation. It's a Friday night, it's 7pm and there's 4 women stood in the Self Help section. I'll let you draw whatever conclusion you wish from that but the thing that struck me the most is that no one is furtive tonight. We are all adopting that contemplative stance of a book shelf browser: head titled to one side, slight frown, scanning the shelves. We are at ease, no one is denying they meant to be in this particular section tonight. 

A husband arrives and starts to prattle on about dinner. All 4 of us swivel our eyes to him, heads still at an angle and his sentence trails off into the ether as he feels the looks. His wife all but throws keys in his directions and he scuttles away. Silence resumes. Someone plucks a book of the shelf, ponders the blurb, changes their mind and returns it to the same spot. 

I learnt some time ago to ignore most Self Help titles that start with 'The'. They're almost certainly proclaiming The Solution to my problem. The thing is, I'm not entirely sure what my particular problem might be. I just know I need help in the form of someone else's words tonight. So I browse, head titled and wait for a title to leap out at me and say, 'Kate, I have words to lose yourself in this miserable Friday night!' 

In the past 6 months, I've picked up quite the self help habit. I know I'm not alone in it either judging by my comrades in the store. I have always been a little sniffy about this side of the publishing industry, using words like "preying on insecurities" and "flawed heroes". However, I've recently discovered the thrill of a woman's voice written with power and ease. I've found comfort in another articulating their face down in the dirt moment. I've particularly enjoyed making fellow commuters blush when they saw I was reading a book about finding yourself through your sexuality. I might get that particular title out again next time I'm bored on the 7.55. 

The thing is, the Self Help section is where you find the most questions and the least answers in my experience and that, is proving very potent indeed. 


Self Help Book List

If you're looking for words that might suit a Friday train journey, I can thoroughly recommend:

  • Becoming- Laura Jane Williams
  • We Should All Be Feminists- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Rising Strong- Brene Brown
  • Yes Please- Amy Poehler (Not technically a self help book but a bunch of YES moments nonethless)
  • Reasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig

Blog Tour: Crafting with Mason Jars

Jars are big currency in my house so when my friend Hester from Hester's Handmade Home announced her latest crafting book would focus on crafting with mason jars and other glass containers, my ears pricked. Hester is something of an upcycling genius and offers tutorials on her vlog that forever have me itching to get making. 

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

When I moved house recently I caused great amusement that I shifted an entire box full of jars and bottles. They're all now in full rotation as small vases for fresh flowers, storage solutions and vessels for preserving. What I love about Hester's book is that any new glass entering my home will now have even more possibility as something fun and useful around the house. It speaks to the maker in me that wants my home to be as environmentally friendly as possible. It's a big part of my pledge for The Maker's Year so I'm considering Hester's book a bit of an essential for 2016. 

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Keeping the fact that I was moving again in 3 months firmly in focus, I flipped through the book, trying hard to resist the urge to make bird feeders, hanging lights and planters. Naturally I've earmarked a few for later when I won't have to dismantle them again. I wasn't disheartened by this limitation thought and soon started listing all the quick ways I could use new glass containers. For me, this is the joy of Hester's book: a project for everyone. 

In total Hester offers 35 projects ideas ranging from simple gift ideas to items for the garden or your home. A quick flip through confirmed there's not a huge amount of additional items that you'd need to invest in to make the majority of these projects. Upcycling for Hester is all about what's readily available so it doesn't become an arduous task but rather a project to make at the weekend that is quick with satisfying results. 

So what did I do to celebrate Hester's new book.....? 

Crafting with Mason Jars, Blood Orange Cocktail project

Crafting with Mason Jars, Blood Orange Cocktail project

I made a cocktail of course!

I have some fabulously shaped jars that I've kept with the express purpose of Summer cocktails in the garden. If I'm getting my own garden for the first time in months, I plan to celebrate! Hester includes a number of quick party and picnic ideas and her cocktail recipe just had to be tested out in time for my birthday this weekend. 

It mean, I should practice before Summer, right? 

Hester's version is Pineapple Vodka but, inspired by her suggestion to play around with the recipe, I decided to work with something more seasonal and reached for the Blood Oranges nestled in the bowl on my kitchen table. (I'll be sharing the recipe I used and links in next week's podcast which is basically a love letter to Blood Orange). I love the idea of cocktails with brunch this weekend, served in mismatched jars full of pink delicious vodka. 

Thanks for the inspiration Hester! If you're looking to pin this post for later reference, feel free to grab the image below: 

Crafting with Mason Jars By Hester Van Overbeek

Crafting with Mason Jars By Hester Van Overbeek

With thanks to Hester's publishers, Cico Books, for kindly providing a copy of 'Crafting with Mason Jars' and a mason jar to play with. This blog post has been created for the Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

Useful links:

Fixing Creative Block

Sometimes you just hit a wall and *nothing* happens for you creatively. I'm not making. I'm not writing and every picture I take feels a bit.... meh. 

So I went hunting for inspiration this week and thought I would share some of the goodies I have found because sometimes, we need a creative adrenaline shot. 

1. Podcasts:

I fell out of love with podcast listening as my daily routines changed a few months ago and I didn't have the same space to listen anymore. I've carved out some time lately and went hunting for something new and vibrant. The Slow Home and Blogtacular didn't disappoint.

Blogtacular's podcast is still a baby but they've launched with an interview with Marte Marie Forsberg so expect something that will make your toes tingle and your soul yearn for big adventures with a camera. 

As for The Slow Home, I jumped in with Zero Waste with Bea Johnson and have been hyper aware of my habits at home ever since. It touched me deeply and profoundly and her call to arms that involves " a life of experiences not denial" was just awe inspiring. 

2. Steller

A (new to me) story telling platform that lets you upload images, video and text. The thing I like the most about this platform is you can harvest old content in new ways so all that hard work across a year finds new life again. I'm a teensy tiny bit in love already and have drafted about a million stories that I would love to share. In the meantime, this one helped me find a story when I thought I'd never be creative again. 

3. Mamas who roar 

My lovely friend Jen of Make Do and Mend was recently interviewed by national press and film crews, eager to make a story out of her choices around a more sustainable family life. In a recent Skype call she told me she sat her children down for a chat about what this all meant and I urged her to share that story. She did (read it here) and it's pretty humbling how a mother in the public eye has to answer to the many voices asking if she's making her children weird. She's not. She's really, really not and we need to stop making this a question when women do brilliant and brave things. 


"I just ever seemed to quite feel that glowing period that everybody talks about"

Another mother who made my heart swell with pride is Emily at MummyLimited. Emily was brave enough to be part of a campaign in which she was featured in a video telling all about her experiences of miscarriage, anxiety and depression and is now nominated for a Tommy's Voice Award. This award celebrates a mum who has spoken out about her own experience and given hope to others so I sent my vote in immediately. Some of you might remember that Emily held my hand online a few months ago when I told the world I was a regular single mum struggling to make sense of it all. Emily's ability to make us feel better as mothers is uncanny and having her hand to hold made 2015 a much better year for me. If you are moved by Emily's video like I was, please vote. You can find details here

4. Going on a knitting adventure

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with Clara Parkes and she slipped an early copy of her forthcoming book 'Knitlandia' into my eager hands. I sunk happily into this ode to the fibre community this week and smiled throughout. Clara has a wonderful ability of describing people I have come to know and love in a way that is honest but also a magical version of them where our knitting is appreciated and our efforts celebrated worldwide. If the world saw people through the same eyes as Clara, we would all be better for it. Her starting point is that we are pioneers, explorers and leaders and it is, of course, as it should be. It's out in February and you can find out more here

5. Speakers who awaken my creativity

I was honoured to be a speaker at the annual winter workshop event held by Nuffnang last weekend. While my own contribution left me a little weak at the knees, hearing fellow speakers Sara (of Me an Orla) and Jess (of Love and London) made it all worthwhile. The take home lesson for me was know your platform, love it, nurture it and form a community around it. Watching these two women speak with such passion about what they have grown and love was truly incredible. They've created a world that allows them to earn a living and be creative and it made me hungry for 2016. It reminded me also that there is no greater adrenaline shot of inspiration than being in a room full of dynamic and fascinating people. 


What's been keeping your creative this week?

Sew, Here We Go!

With relish and delight I've been merrily researching and finding out about all things sewing. If knitting has taught me one thing, it's be prepared. I dived in when I learned to knit and prefered to work things out on the needles, ripping out if things went awry. This isn't so easy with sewing and I want the end results to be more useful and loved than some of my early knitting attempts.

I looked through the helpful comments you all left on my sewing machine post. SUPER helpful, thank you! I found the manual online and looked at that for a while. I went a bit cross eyed though as I'm a person that needs to feel the thing I'm learning and work through it both kinaesthetically and visually. 

Next I pulled out some sewing books I already have on the shelves. The pattern making one looked waaaaaaay beyond me yet but just look at the cuteness?!?!

Kathy Dress by Cal Patch (click through via image)

Kathy Dress by Cal Patch (click through via image)

There was some real inspiration amongst those pages and I started finding sewing blogs all over the place that just made me drool. I wanted to get going so I added lots of blogs to my blog reader and poured over the early pages of these books, making an initial shopping list of things like seam rippers and thread. 

Then I did a lot of pinning on Pinterest. I mean a lot. I have 3 boards: one for me, one for the Tot and one for miscellany like tutorials and things for the home. I may have fallen in love with beginners projects like these (all images click through). 

Via The Purl Bee - sewing resources of awesome

Via The Purl Bee - sewing resources of awesome

TShirt into Skirt Tutorial

TShirt into Skirt Tutorial

By now, I'm pretty excited and can't wait to start. My next task is going through all my wardrobes (and possibly everyone else's) and pulling out unwanted tops, shirts, tees, sheets and pillowcases. Why? These are materials I can practice on, possibly upcycle and make mistakes on without costing me a small fortune. I can learn how different stitches and fabrics work before I commit to cutting beloved fabric I picked out at the store. When I'm ready to start on real material and patterns, I won't have blown my hobby budget all at once in my excitement. 


I've also booked a sewing class that will teach me how to make a simple cushion and things like seam allowances, threading the machine etc. 


Wish me luck!