Easter Bank Holiday Weekend 2013

It was cold…so cold that I had to make an emergency trip to Marks and Spencer to buy thermals for the children!

That said, Easter Weekend 2013 has been a lot of fun and rather than write about it, I thought I’d show you…so here you go, hope you like it!

 

 

 

A poem…

Sorry for not posting, but it’s been a busy week,
With so much to do and places to go, I’ve honed my multi tasking technique.
I’m now quite the expert at juggling, three hundred tasks at a time,
But I have to adnit that this week’s tasks have seemed like a mountain to climb!
It started with a party, a birthday extravaganza,
A balloon, soft play, jelly, ice cream, birthday cake bonanza!
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So next came Calonogi and the sewing machine’s been manic,
Two full days of bunting making had me in a panic!
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Some days I feel that social networking could be a full time job,
Just keeping the website, Facebook and twitter updated has been making my head throb.
I’ve actually cleaned my car this week (my children will be over the moon)
As they no longer have to travel in a rather untidy saloon *
My efforts at making an Easter Bonnet were quite a sight to behold,
The kitchen looked quite pretty decorated in swathes of purple, red and gold.
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And on to biscuit making, Easter bunnies all in a row,
And thirty five faces to decorate, each with a golden glow.
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So after such a busy time, some retail therapy was needed,
And with this lovely purchase from The Salmon Leap, I think I have succeeded,
In making myself feel that this week’s drama’s been worthwhile,
But if next week isn’t slightly calmer, I think I’ll run a mile!
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* it’s actually a people carrier but that didn’t rhyme with much!

Friday in photos…

Today has been a…

House tidying…

Manic sewing…

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Cushion finishing…

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Laundry doing…

Birthday party decoration making…

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Internetting…

Sweetie prepping…

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List writing…

Tissue paper ball making…

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Invoice sending…

Party bag filling…

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E-mail writing…

Gift wrapping…

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Photograph taking…

Fun filled…

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Takeaway eating…

Kind of day!

Here’s to a good weekend!

Over and out.

Me, my business and I…

My blog posts often make reference to my business, Calonogi, but I realised that I’ve never formally introduced you to what I do or why I do it.

So how did it all begin? Well, I worked for the same large organisation from the time that I graduated until very recently, moving from one role to another as promotions came about. In the early years, I viewed it very much as a career; I was motivated to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as I could and basically thrived on building a good reputation for myself. Then came the children…and everything changed.

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After PFB (Perfect First Born) came along, although my life changed, having a child didn’t really affect the way that I viewed my career. I still applied for promotions and whilst PFB was in toddler mode, I was promoted into the most demanding and pressurised job that I’ve ever had. It didn’t bother me that I worked long hours, or did work on weekends or late into the night, I just wanted to do make sure that each task was completed to the best of my ability. And it was whilst I was doing this job that PSB (Perfect Second Born) decided to make himself known…

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Now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll realise that PSB is quite a mischievous little thing and causes some kind of trouble on a daily basis; his 9 months of “cooking time” was no exception. It was a difficult pregnancy and one that was fraught with problems…I knew he was going to be trouble from the very beginning! And it didn’t end when he made his grand entrance either as my health continued to suffer (much like it is now actually, but that’s another story!).

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Going back to work was never going to be easy and what with two little ones to ferry around to breakfast club, crèche, football training and swimming lessons, it was hard. I felt that my life was not my own anymore. So I decided to do something about it and do something for myself for a change. I’d always loved to sew, it was a gift inherited from my grandmother, although both my grandmothers were quite crafty in fairness. Now, I’m not one for technical sewing and I have trouble following patterns; I love to be a bit more “freestyle”.  I like to think of my talent as creating art on fabric. So creating my bespoke fabric crafts business was a no-brainer really!

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So for a while, I did my crafty-thing, albeit only making things for friends and family at this point, alongside my 9-5 job…yes, I was completely insane to think that I could juggle everything and I had to come to the conclusion, that I, multi-tasker-extraordinaire, couldn’t do it all and live to tell the tale: this was a sad day. There were days that I would leave my desk, pick PSB up from crèche, collect PFB from after-school club, dash home, feed them both, change PSB into his pyjamas, take PFB swimming twenty miles away, come home, feed them again, put them to bed, get the sewing machine out and finally get to bed at around 3am. Not exactly a sustainable lifestyle I think you would agree!

Cue some difficult decisions and lots of heartache BUT, this did lead to my decision to establish my business and make a go of it. It’s been hard, it’s still scary, but I love every minute of it. It’s exciting when I see the orders come in and I love spending entire days making gorgeous pieces of fabric art for my customers and spending evenings sketching out designs ready for the following day. I could never call it a job, or a career, come to think of it…it’s an extension of me. This is what I was meant to do.

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It makes me laugh when I think back to my school days: deliberating over which subjects to do at GCSE, agonising over which A-Levels to take, which university to go to. Today it all seems so insignificant and irrelevant. I’m doing something that I don’t need any of those qualifications to do…unless you can think of a way in which a joint honours degree in Politics and English is relevant to making a coastal scene cushion?!

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So that’s where I am at the moment…self employed and loving it! Now for a bit about the business itself, Calonogi. I’m not one for making the same thing over and over again. I want everything I make to be unique to the person who commissions it…and I’ve had some great commissions! For me, it’s all about bespoke: if you can’t think of it, I can make it (and I’ve never said “no” to an idea to date). I work predominantly with fabric, with a bit of wood and clay thrown into the mix on occasion, just to keep it fresh! I make cushions, fabric frames, doorstops, bunting, children’s baking bags and everything in between…and they’re all personalised in their own unique little way, whether it be as  brazen as putting someone’s name across a cushion or slightly more subtle such as co-ordinating a doorstop to the colours of a customer’s living room. And then of course, there are the more unusual commissions…take a look at my facebook page to see some of my creations www.facebook.com/calonogi.

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So at the moment, my business is 75% “virtual” with orders pouring in through the Calonogi website and facebook page; the other 25% of my orders come through Calonogi displays on other retail premises. Breaking news for this week is the brand spanking new display at O&F’s Coffee Shop in Carmarthen. I was really excited to put his together as I had a particular concept in mind for the display. I didn’t want it to look like just a bunch of things for sale, so I went with the vision of “breakfast before travelling” complete with breakfast tray, travel ticket and vintage suitcase. So if you’re visiting the cobbled streets of Carmarthen in the near future, why not call in for a delicious latte and see what they have on display at O&F’s (the Italian leather handbags are to die for!) http://www.olioefarina.com/en/carmarthen

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There we go, insight into me and my business duly completed. It may be small scale at the moment…but I’m working on it!

See it all for yourself at www.calonogi.co.uk.

Over and out…

Crafty little things…

As expected, Saturday was a whirlwind.

It was an early start to get PFB’s (Perfect First Born) football kit ready for his game later on that morning and to do a last minute check that I had everything ready for the morning’s craft fair. Why is it that every time I do a “last minute check” it turns into an hour of complete and utter panic? Cue lots of running around the house like a headless chicken, walking into rooms and then forgetting why I went in there with PFB around my feet trying to “help” when all he succeeded in doing was making me trip over my own feet…or his. If I told him to be careful with the keys to the cash box once, I told him a million times…I had visions of prising it open with a screwdriver when he told me that this time, he thought he had “REALLY” lost the keys and that he’d looked “EVERYWHERE” for them! Needless to say that my stress levels by this point were rather heightened…

Following a mad ten minute hunt for the keys, during which, PFB triumphantly announced that he’d found them…in his pocket, he was duly dropped off with his Gramps. Gramps is responsible for football duties you see, which conveniently saves me from having to stand pitchside in cold, wet conditions. I think it’s an excellent arrangement.

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And onto the Gorseinon Food and Craft Fair I go with a neatly packed boot full of wicker baskets. I arrived at around 8.20am and proceeded to empty the car and set up the stall. My new, streamlined version of the stall looked very pretty, even if I do say so myself! There was a great atmosphere amongst the stall holders and I even managed a browse around the other stalls before the doors opened to the public. I met some great fellow crafters who were selling some gorgeous products…so gorgeous, that I thought I’d feature a few of them in this blog post.

The Pure Bliss Body Products stand was one of the first to set up and I was instantly drawn to it because it smelled so fantastic. The stand was brimming with brilliantly coloured and of course, glorious fragrances…the cherry bath bombs smelled good enough to eat. It was most definitely an assault on the senses! I believe that Beverley may be looking into doing house parties before long so keep an eye out for news on her website www.bevbombs.com

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The next stall to catch my eye was Little Bit Different who had an amazing range of quirky vintage products that were right up my street. Think hyacinths planted in teacups, personalised wooden letters, pretty floral jewellery and quaint vintage tea cup candles. A very eye catching stand which proved popular throughout the day with a steady stream of customers…no doubt helped by the lovely customer service provided by Vicky and her daughter. If you take a look at the website www.littlebitdifferent.co.uk, you’ll find that Vicky has given each design of vintage tea cup candle its own personal name…I love Agnes..and Belle…and Grace!

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Onto something a little different and it was Twiddleys Wedding Stationery and handmade cards that next drew my attention. Their range of stationery was simple, elegant and refined; a total contrast to the crystal encrusted, glitter embellished offerings that you often see. The choice of colours on the stand was understated and classical and it was obvious that it was drawing much attention. And if you visit their website www.twiddleys.co.uk , those of you who enjoy card making will find that they also supply a comprehensive range of card making supplies.

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My next visit was to the stall of Sam’s Invites. Sam had a great range of wooden embellishments and shabby chic plaques. One of her plaques instantly caught my eye as it summed up my morning with the children beautifully! It read “Having children is like being pecked to death by a duck”! Never a truer word was read…Sam specialises in blank wooden plaques and shapes so take a look at her facebook page www.facebook.com/people/Sams-Invites/100004499283469 for some great crafty ideas.

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And on to the stall of the Little Black Hen I go to rifle through the album of amazing celebration cakes that Alison makes. The cakes, whether they be for a birthday, christening or wedding, are a sight to behold. I totally recommend taking a look at the website www.littleblackhen.com or visitng the facebook page by clicking HERE to see for yourself…the rainbow creation complete with rainbow coloured sponge is ridiculously impressive. The Little Black Hen jam and chutney range was a definite hit at the fair with lots of customers taking time to read the tempting flavours on offer…I can thoroughly recommend the lime curd!

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My final destination on my whistlestop tour was to Goggi’s Cuisine. There was no way I could walk past Naseem’s stall without sampling her amazing Pakistani home cooked food. The onion bahjees and samosas were being freshly cooked on the stand and the smell was marvellous. A few samples later and I was set to go back to my own stall with my bag containing Chicken Tikka Massala, Lentil Curry, Vegetable Biryani and a selection of onion bahjees and samosas which served as my delicious Mother’s Day tea. Take a look at the Goggis Cuisine Facebook page by clicking HERE.

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And I hope you don’t mind that I’m sneaking in a few photos of my own stall! Come and visit Calonogi on facebook to see some of the commissions I’ve been working on recently… www.facebook.com/calonogi

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Before I knew it, it was time to start packing up the stall and say goodbye to the lovely people that I’d met…but I’m sure that we’ll cross paths again in the near future.

It was, however, rather nice to come home to an afternoon filled with good friends, mad children, my favourite food and one or two Cherry Fizz cocktails!

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Hope you all had a great weekend too.

Over and out…

“Memory…is the diary that we all carry about with us” Oscar Wilde

Brightly coloured crocuses and tulips and cold, crisp mornings are very welcome given the miserable weather we’ve had recently, and over the weekend, I’ve felt the sense of Spring being in the air…time for a bit of reflection methinks.

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Over the last month or so, it feels like I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t had the opportunity to step back and take stock of things. Life has been chaotic, moving from the school run, to cooking, to house cleaning, to ferrying the children around to various activities, to running my business…I feel as though I can’t function without my iPad (that is completely true…my business depends on it) and my brain is full to bursting with designs, colour combinations and types of fabric. Now I have to admit, my work is a lovely thing to be consumed by, simply because, I absolutely love it. It’s an enormous sense of satisfaction when I hand over a truly bespoke gift to a happy customer…I wouldn’t have it any other way. But this morning, whilst drinking my first cup of tea of the day and watching the children causing their usual chaos, I thought to myself “What kind of memories am I creating for my children?”

I have lovely childhood memories. I remember being taken on day trips, going on holiday, spending time with my grandparents, spontaneous weekends away to London when we were originally heading to Cardiff (this really did happen and we didn’t have a toothbrush between us)! I feel so guilty when I realise that I’ve spent the last two hours berating PFB (Perfect First Born) for whingeing and whining and I feel awful when it dawns on me that I’ve spent the majority of the day saying “No” to PSB (Perfect Second Born). It makes me think to myself that my children are going to have awful childhood memories. But then I think back to when I was as young as PFB…I don’t remember being given rows or being in my parents’ bad books…ever. Now, this means that I was either a perfect child (very much doubt it) or that the good stuff outweighed the bad (far more likely).

I took the children to the park over the weekend…the same park that I use to be taken to as a child. It evoked some great memories of playing on the long since removed roundabout (why don’t you see roundabouts anymore? Is it another sign of Health and Safety gone mad?) and the absolutely massive slide, which I’m sure wouldn’t look quite so big anymore. It was nice to think that my children will have the same memories of this park that I have. In fact, the swings that I’ve photographed (of course I had my iPad with me) are one feature of the park that hasn’t changed in 25 years…although I’m assuming that they have been replaced many times since I played on them as there were no “condemned” signs and they looked in quite good condition on Saturday.

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I do remember being looked after by both sets of grandparents as a young child and these memories are quite vivid. Perhaps it’s because I’ve since lost my Dadcu (my paternal grandfather passed away in 1988) and my Mam (my maternal grandmother, who we lost in 2005) that I now remember spending time with them so clearly. I remember having sleepovers with Mamgu and Dadcu; I’d sleep on a little daybed that they slotted onto the end of their double bed (even though they had spare bedrooms!) but come the morning, my Dadcu would get up and make us breakfast in bed. It would be the same breakfast every time: my favourite, thickly buttered cracker-bread with grapes…bizarre, I know, but I was five, this is what I wanted and my grandparents catered for my every whim. Another distinctive memory is my Dadcu’s hair. It was completely silvery white, which was a stark contrast to his dark framed glasses and I remember how he used to stand in front of the mirror in the hallway looking at his hair, inspecting it almost. I used to stand and watch him and I’d ask him what he was looking for. He’d say “I’m looking for black hairs” and if he were to find one, he’d quickly pull it out, not to blemish the whiteness! My Mamgu would often berate him for driving too fast, calling him “Stirling Moss” at every opportunity…so there we go, those of you who call me “Penelope Pitstop” now know where I get it from!

I spent a great deal of time with my Mam and Dat as a child as they looked after my brother and I whilst my mother worked. Dat was a local Councillor and Mam would complain that the landline was like a hotline because it rang so often (I secretly think she enjoyed being his PA!). She would cook us proper chips in the shed, so as not to let the house smell of chip fat, and she’d make me cawl…without onions…and parsley…and meat…let’s just say that it was a very sanitised cawl and she’d put the ingredients that I didn’t like into little muslin bags to make sure that my cawl didn’t get “contaminated” as I used to tell her!

Mam and Dat had one of those half sized fridges that was veneered with a mock Walnut front and of course, “half-sized” meant “me sized” to my four year old self which meant that I was able to reach everything. For some time, every time I entered my grandparents’ house, I would make a beeline for the fridge and casually drop every egg that was neatly placed in the in-built egg rack, onto the floor. I wouldn’t have thought that this would have been met with praise, but do I remember being given a row for it? I honestly don’t. Neither do I remember being told off for scooping up the small pebbles used for the base of the flower arrangements in a local cafe and piling them up in the middle of my Mam’s ham salad whilst she wasn’t looking (you see, I told you that it was extremely doubtful that I was a perfect child).

Speaking of eggs, yesterday, I was lucky enough to be given some fresh eggs from the inhabitants of the chicken coop at Little Black Hen HQ. They looked so pretty, it was a shame to crack them, but it had to be done. With a little help from some lovely ingredients and a muffin tin, I fashioned the eggs into these little “Egg Muffins” as I like to call them. And the left over eggs were just screaming out to be made into pikelets. Needless to say, lunch was good…

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My Mam used to sew…a lot. I remember sitting by her side whilst she fashioned scraps of fabric into tea cosies and pretty little drawstring bags with her wheel handled Singer sewing machine. I’d sit there for hours happily watching her…unlike my cousin, who once got bored of watching and took it upon himself to use a ball of wool to tie my grandmother to the chair. She was totally oblivious to it until there was a knock at the door (it was the “egg man”…you don’t get egg delivery men anymore) and she tried, in vain, to get up (my cousin had actually used an entire ball of wall to tie her to the back of the chair and so, she was going nowhere). She had to call the egg delivery man into the house to cut her free! Now I DO remember the row that my cousin was given for doing this…funny that!

So, whereas I inherited my speed-demon tendencies from my grandfather, my love of sewing undoubtedly comes from my Mam. It most definitely doesn’t come from my mother, I can assure you; my mother tells the story of how, in her school sewing class, she completed a beautiful piece of embroidery, only to discover that she’d actually managed to embroider the fabric onto her skirt and it had to be cut apart to remove it. I still have some of the fabric from my Mam’s stash. Some of it still smells of her; it’s a combination of Imperial Leather soap and lavender.

I’ve now decided that I’m not going to fret too much about the memories that I’m helping to create for my children…I’m banking on them only remembering the good stuff!

Over and out…