Our first month in Otley

Hello! From Yorkshire!

Yes, a month ago today we made the move from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, all the way up to the little market town of Otley in West Yorkshire. It was a horrendous move….we collected so much stuff living in such a big place in Hitchin, especially with all the wedding things. Plus it was our first move with the dogs, who have a lot more luggage than you might expect! Still, they were as good as gold during the move and really did us proud.

Dogs in the car on move day

Are we nearly there yet?

Dogs on moving day

All in!

We’re finally getting sorted in the new place though, and have a place for most things and most things in their place….it has been a great opportunity for some serious sorting though and we’ve had lots to Freecycle, donate to charity shops and box up for the car boot sale. And hopefully the next move will be much easier as it won’t be so far away….we very much intend to stay in Yorkshire as we have so many friends and family here, not to mention the fact that we’ll be able to afford a much nicer house than in pricey Hitchin!

My home studio

My new studio….still a bit of sorting to do but I can work in it at least!

We’d not been to Otley ever before our move day, and hadn’t even seen our new house! With such a busy summer we just couldn’t get the time together to do a proper scout as we usually would, and were lucky enough to have some family and friends view a few places for us. Our dear friend Craig actually came to see this place and said we’d love it….and we do! Thanks Craig!

Otley is a lot like Hitchin really. It’s a market town with lots going on, but also has the advantage of quick and easy access to the countryside. My morning walk with the dogs is just perfect….we’re a few moments away from a playing field which we walk through first, then a little river side park before we get to the gorgeous formal gardens (and playground!) and then wonderful fields for the hounds to race around, as well as lots of places for them to dip into the river….Digby has even had his first proper swim (so proud!)! We’ve seen Kingfishers along the river and I’m told you can see otters if you’re out early enough too….fingers crossed!

Swimming dog in the River Wharfe

Digby taking a swim in the goregous river Wharfe

Being a little more remote we decided we’d finally have to get a car, which means we can explore other places for our walks too. We’ve taken to driving to the stunning Chevin Forest, just two minutes away, for our afternoon walk. The dogs love exploring all the winding paths, and we adore the views from up there. There’s even an ice cream van waiting at the summit, which is a great treat after the climb! The Chevin is actually thought to have been an inspiration for some of Turner’s paintings, and I love having that connection!

The view of Otley from the Chevin Forest

The view of Otley from the Chevin Forest

We’re hoping to explore some of the nearby places too before long….I love Skipton and the Dales which are now very close, and then there’s the Keighley Railway (famous for appearing in the Railway Children!), Bronte country in the pretty village of Haworth, nearby Ilkley and its Darwin Gardens and stunning moorland, plus more of Leeds which I love for food and shopping.

There’s plenty to do in Otley too, and we’ve been enjoying getting to know it. There’s a regular market which I’ve been going to for our fruit and vegetables, plus a monthly Farmer’s market which is just wonderful, and a craft market in the Old Courthouse. There are stacks of tea rooms and plenty of good pubs….all of which we have vowed to try out, although that may take us some time!

Otley Farmers Market

Shopping at Otley Farmers Market

All natural dog treat

Cooper ready for a treat from the Farmers Market!

giant yorkshire pudding filled with chips and gravy

My kinda grub….local ‘delicacy’ of giant yorkshire pudding filled with chips and gravy

Otley Folk Festival

Dancers outside the Court House Project for the Otley Folk Festival

Adam has joined the Otley Camera Club, which is celebrating its 75th year, and we’re hoping to find local dance classes and an archery club too. I’ve been loving all the gorgeous galleries in town, and there’s a Sunday car boot within walking distance, plus several more we can explore in the car. We’re looking forward to some upcoming events as well….there’s a science fair and beer festival very soon and a Victorian fair at Christmas, plus food festivals, arts events and all sorts in the new year. Oh, and we checked out the Vintage Transport Extravaganza too which was super!

Otley Old Grammar School gallery

Art this way, at The Old Grammar School gallery

Ice cream at the Otley car boot sale

Me with my ice cream at the car boot sale. There’s ice cream everywhere here!

Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza

At the Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza

We’re celebrating our first month here with a trip to the wonderful sounding vegetarian restaurant, The Cheerful Chilli, up on the Chevin tomorrow night….it’ll be such a treat to have so much to choose from for a change and I’m looking forward to trying it out! Then it’ll be more exploring for potential places for us to settle down in….the plan is to buy a place within the next year, so we want to get a flavour for where in Yorkshire should get to keep us!

That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about our new town soon. Have a lush weekend!

Ems x

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New items in my Etsy shop!… The Capy Collection

Just thought I’d update you about some new items I have up on my Etsy shop for sale now! I’ve been drawing Capybaras for ages now, as they are Adam’s absolute favourite, but when a friend told me I should really try to sell them I wasn’t sure how popular they’d be! It seems though that lots of people also think that capybaras are truly amazing, so they’ve gone down very well so far!

I’ll be making lots more capybara-based treasure before too long I’m sure, but in the meantime, here is my Capy Collection…..

‘Capybaras in Love’ Espresso Cup and Saucer Pair, £35

‘Monsieur le Capybara’ Pint Mug, £15

‘Mr and Mrs Capybara’ Salt and Pepper Shaker Set, £15

‘Partybara’ ‘Capyccino’ Cup and Saucer, £15

Hope you like!
Ems x

Foodie Friday: The Copper Beech Tea Room

I do love a quaint little tea room, and when we recently found this charming place I knew it would become a firm favourite. In fact, we took my Mummy there last weekend for her birthday, and she just adored it too!

The Copper Beech Tea Room is actually part of the Copper Beech Art Gallery, which is just a short drive away from Hitchin, Letchworth or Stevenage in Little Wymondley. The gallery sits within an oak-beamed barn on a working farm, and hosts both resident and guest local artists, as well as workshops….. you can learn cake decorating, painting in many styles, mosaicking, lino printing, hand applique, gilding and lots more! The owner actually spotted the self-made dinosaur necklace I was wearing, and once we got chatting about what I do invited me to bring some of my work along for her to see and perhaps sell!

We love having a wander around the gallery as we wait for our drinks to arrive, but then it’s time to settle down in the darling little tea room!

Nothing matches in the cosy little cafe….there are charmingly mis-matched chairs, tea cups on totally different patterned saucers and art work of all styles on the walls. One wall is dominated by a gorgeous large dresser, upon which stand various home made cakes for you to gape at! The menu is great for us…nearly all veggie, but plenty varied to boot. There’s a quorn spag bol, toasted ciabattas with your choice of fillings, pasta dishes and soup. For just £7.50 you can get any drink of your choice with any main meal, and for £10 you can also choose a cake!

On our most recent visit I opted for the mushroom bake, which is a seriously yummy sort of pattie with loads of cheese inside and all crispy and breadcrumby on the outside. All the main meals come with delicious home made coleslaw, pasta salad and a nice leafy salad (which I am happy to say is not dominated by rocket or raw onion which often spoils a side salad for me!). Adam and Mummy had toasted ciabattas, both of which were devoured! We can also really recommend the (pictured) stuffed mushrooms (with with parmesan risotto or with goats cheese and onion marmalade) as well as the goats cheese puff which we’ve had on previous visits.

Tea for one comes in a pretty little tea pot, whilst my hot chocolate was served in a huge mug topped with stacks of cream and hundreds and thousands! The meals are way too big to be able to tackle a cake straight afterwards (especially as the cake portions are massive too!) so our waitress kindly wrapped up our two slices of pineapple cake and slice of apple cake to take home! We made the right choice too….the huge portions made a nice pudding about an hour after we got home, and then stretched to pudding after our supper too! Both cakes were amazing to boot….seriously tasty and moist, just like a home made cake should be.

We’ll definitely be going again soon and couldn’t recommend the place enough….it may be small but it’s certainly perfectly formed, and beats the in-town chain lunch haunts hands down!

Ems x

Yarn Bomb!

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When I was planning our move out of London to Hitchin, one of the things I looked forward to the most was the better sense of community. So when a friend told me about the local Time Bank scheme, I joined up before we’d even packed!

The Time Bank is a community skills exchange which operates across North Herts and recently launched in Stevenage and Buntingford too. The scheme enables members to give time to help local people, then ‘bank’ the hours they’ve given so you can exchange them for support when you might need help or want to learn a new skill. So for example, I might do an hour’s sewing for another member, then I get to bank that hour to use later, say when I need some DIY done around the house. I love the concept, as it so effectively brings the community together, helping you meet new people and share your skills. There are all kinds of people involved from all walks of life and at all ages….there are people who offer help with form-filling, crafts, gardening, IT skills, shopping and all sorts.

The Time Bank also has two very popular knitting groups, who meet every week to work on projects, share tips and just have a good chat. So, when Time Banker Carmen got in touch with an idea to get everyone involved in a big project to help promote awareness of the group, I was super excited!

Carmen’s idea was to stage a yarn bombing somewhere in Letchworth, to show how the Time Bank brings people together and benefits the local area. ‘Guerrilla knitting’ or ‘yarn bombing’ is a form of street art, whereby colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are used to cover and transform trees, community sculptures and street furniture.

After speaking to the council and Heritage Foundation, we managed to get permission to cover the ‘Paradise Is’ sculpture in knitting and crochet. Carmen then rallied around, as well as lots of other Time Bankers and local knitters, together giving a whopping 300 hours to get the knitted and crocheted panels and details ready for the big day.

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We were so delighted with how many people wanted to take part, with people learning to knit for the first time and also members giving up their time and sharing their other crafty skills to help sew it all together. On the morning of the ‘bombing’ hours were spent carefully attaching the panels and other decorations to the sculpture  to ensure it wasn’t damaged and that it was all secure. I couldn’t believe how intricately designed it all was, with beautiful little details to represent all the elements of Time Banking and volunteering, such as the gardening project, photography and baking.

Here are a few of my favourite bits….

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The Time Bank scheme, run by North Herts CVS, has been growing and growing, and the popular knitting group made up of fellow members takes place every Friday morning at the Community Coffee Bar held at the Brotherhood Hall on Gernon Road. The group is always looking to find new members to help take on new projects, and have recently raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind by selling knitted clothing and gifts they have made. If you are interested in joining or learning how to knit just come along to the Brotherhood Hall on a Friday morning between 10:00am and 11.30am and join in the fun. It’s free to join in, and members of all ages are welcome.

The yarn bomb will remain in place until the end of the month, opposite the Broadway Cinema (which is currently showing Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End’ which was filmed in Letchworth and features the cinema as one of the pubs!)  and once removed the knitted panels will be re-sewn into blankets to be donated to local charities. The art form is unique in this way, as no public property is damaged and nothing is wasted.

The Time Bank is free and easy to join:  visit www.mytimebank.org.uk, call 01462 689405 or email timebank@nhcvs.org.uk to join.

You can also find out more about the Time Bank on the NHCVS Blog, which I also write for!

Ems x

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Wednesday Wants….Sompex Balloon Dog Lamps

They’re metallic. Love.

They’re balloons. Love.

And they’re DOGS. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

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I’m desperately hankering after one of these Sompex Balloon Dog Lamps on Fab.com at the moment. I adore Jeff Koons’ huge balloon dog sculptures, after which I’m sure these are based. And really anything shiny and dog-shaped is going to have my name written all over it. But which colour….?

They’re currently £85 on Fab.com which I don’t think is *too* bad for a rather wonderfully different lamp. Especially when it’s shiny and dog-shaped.

 

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Who Inspires You?

“Who inspire you? Are they close to you? Somebody famous? Or even somebody infamous?”

I get inspiration from all over the place. I love my fashion books and vintage magazines for design inspiration, blogs and old cookery books for recipe ideas, films and fashion trends for event and party planning, and friends for more personal stuff. I’ve never really thought of *people* as being inspirational to me though, at least not celebrity type people….but when I think about it, there are certainly a lot of creative people who inspire me to be more creative myself….

I saw the Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman exhibition at the British Museum about 18 months ago, before which I didn’t know a great deal about Grayson Perry. Not only did I come out of the show feeling like I knew the guy, but also feeling massively inspired, excited to work and full of creativity. I think it shows true inspiration if you can be so creative that you make other people feel creative too….often I come out of amazing exhibitions like that feeling like I’ll never be any good and it’s pointless me even trying…but there’s something about Perry’s ingenuity, originality and confidence that just grabs you and tells you that you can do it too!

I’ve been a big fan of Tim Walker’s work for a long while, but seeing his exhibition Storyteller at Somerset House earlier this year was still an eye opener. I adore his playfulness, intelligence and silliness, and I suppose because so much of his work speaks to me, I find it terribly inspiring too.

As much as I owe to these awesome creatives though, I can’t forget the inspiration I gain every day from all the creative people around me. I have lots of seriously creative friends, acquaintances and online chums…. whether they be designers, photographers, crafters or writers…. and I count myself lucky to know them and to be part of their world….

These include (but are not limited to…I know I’ll forget some people!)… Vixie of Matin Lapin…. Nevada of Joy Nevada…. Michelle of My: Creative…. Ellen of B Millinery…. Elizabeth of Rosalilium…. Jackie of Oooh Mrs James…. Sharon of Sharon Cooper Photography…. and my very own Adam of Unfamiliar Ceiling….

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..cakes, walks and rummaging

It was a close call, but the rain didn’t dampen my weekend….

On Saturday morning I pootled around the house, cleaning and tidying whilst Adam walked the hound….Friday hadn’t gone as planned so it was good to catch up a little. Then after a nice big brunch (Adam poached some very yummy duck eggs for us!) we made our way into London, leaving the pooch with his Grandma Liz (that’s Adam’s Mum!).

We made our way to friends’ Richard and Tara’s flat in Farringdon, Tara and I leaving the boys to get up to mischief whilst we headed into town for our friend Brigitte’s hen do! First of all we took in a lovely afternoon tea at a hotel on the Strand, then went bowling at the fun All Stars Lanes, before we had a big dinner together. We didn’t go in for the traditional Hen stuff (L-plates and penis straws etc!), but chose instead to honour the occasion by all wearing fascinators in light of the fact that the Bride and Groom have requested no-one wears hats to the wedding!

As the pup had a sleepover at his Grandma’s, Adam and I managed to get a nice lie in before we went to pick him up. Then after a late breakfast, we took a turn around the Sunday car boot sale at the Market, then went along to the second Great Hitchin Rummage Sale at Bar Ab nearby. Lots of local shops had taken up a pitch there, in what is sort of a one-day pop-up shop….and some of our favourites were there to tempt us with the rummagy loot….Jolly Brown and Red Eyed Dove had a stack of goregous vintage treasures, whilst Mamacita’s Cakery (new to us) were selling a table full of dreamy looking sweet treats. We picked up several of the latter’s offerings, then made our way home to yum them up!

Because there are so many cupcakes and such being sold on similar stalls at the moment, it takes a lot to impress us….we’ve really only tried one stall’s cakes and been truly wowed (how we miss Flavour Town at Old Spitalfields now that we’ve moved!). However, the amazing yums by Mamacita’s Cakery really did impress us, and we scoffed a Dulce de Leche cupcake, a Mexican wedding biscuit and a ‘bronze’ biscuit (each) in close succession! Definitely will be trying more of their treats!

To walk off the gluttony, we took the hound to the common for a nice jaunt, then went back to Adam’s Mum’s for a dinner of fajitas, followed by some of her amazing freshly baked scones (with clotted cream obviously!).

Back at home we had a relaxed evening on the sofa. I finished off a little drawing project for a competition (Oasis’ new butterfly collection cover photo) and then had the customary early night!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

The Hills Are Alive, With the Sound of Music!

After a little inspiration from the Austrian-themed hen do I went to last weekend, I’ve finally listed my new jam jar sculpture….. Inspired by the opening scene from The Sound of Music, this miniature scene features Maria atop a meadowy mountain, with her arms outstretched in song.

I love making these tiny pieces of art, and must get onto making a few more of the scenes I’ve been planning! If you have any ideas or requests, do let me know!

You can now buy this jam jar scene on my Etsy shop for just £35….. I hope you like it!

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Wednesday Wants…. I Am A Bird

I came across these stunning treasures on Etsy a few weeks ago, but was very happily reminded of them today when they featured in a daily ‘Etsy Finds’ email!

I Am A Bird is an enchanting Etsy shop hosted by the wonderfully talented Madeleine Belanger, a 21 year old artist and jewellery designer from British Columbia, Canada. Madeleine also has a darling blog that you can find here, but it’s really her stunning jewellery that has my attention.

Taking inspiration from her surrounding Canadian landscape, colors and animals, Madeleine hand paints each completely unique piece featuring owls, deer, evergreen trees, squirrels, racoons and birds.

You can even order a bespoke piece by Madeliene, and I think a pet portrait necklace would be an incredible gift!

fox necklace in wood necklace- framed fox necklace- hand painted unique fox necklae

Fox in wood necklace, £30

How adoringly crafty is this little fox?! This beautiful pendant was made from unique wood retrieved from wine vats, which has been cut, sanded and drilled by Madeleine’s Dad! The pendant has been painted and sanded, then filled with a crystal clear resin.

honey harvest bear- fall fashion wooden bear necklace- wheat field dark wood- iamabird black friday cyber monday sale

Honey harvest bear, £30

I love this sweet little grizzly bear who stands in front of a wheat field. Another original painting, every order is completely unique!

summer owl - turquoise teal summer fashion owl- hand painted wooden necklace black friday cyber monday sale


Summer owl, £27

I adore the teal backdrop to this owl necklace! It just looks stunning against the blonde wood and golden owl.

Framed Fox Necklace- Hand painted wood fox necklace- reclaimed wooden fox necklace

Framed fox necklace, £40

The oval shaped pieces rather remind me of cameos, and I find this little fox utterly enchanting! The wood, which is recycled from old bed posts and the like, has been hand stained.

honey bee spring fashion necklace- hand painted bee necklace- honey comb wooden necklace

Honey bee necklace, £30

I’m loving bees at the moment, so this one was bound to appeal to me. For this particular style, a hole is drilled into the wood and the bee is forever suspended in his quaint little home, safely behind a super glossy resin.

valentines bird wood slice necklace- hand painted wood slice necklace


Love bird necklace, £17

And the super-cute winner is this Love Bird necklace! The little loops are secured into each piece of wood, and from those the pendants hangs on a silver chain….you can even choose the length and colour!

Should funds allow, I’d go crazy and buy all of these….and probably lots more on the shop besides! And with an exceptionally reasonable £3 shipping cost, it’s all the more tempting!

Ems x

More Valentines Cards now in my Etsy shop!

I know I’ve already posted about Valentine’s cards, and that it is still a little way off, but I thought you may like to see the new Valentine’s cards I’m now selling on my Etsy Shop. My ‘Love Is….’ vintage Panini sticker cards have sold pretty well already, but I wanted to paint some romantic designs more in keeping with the cards I made for Christmas last year. The result is these rather kitch, lovey-dovey designs……

Flamingos In Love, Valentine's Card, print from original watercolour

Swans In Love, Valentine's Card, print from original watercolour

I have drawn and painted in watercolour these elegant swans and pretty flamingos, whose slender necks make the shape of a heart! I think they are wonderfully whimsical and rather cute!

I have made the designs into Valentine’s cards, but am also selling A4 size prints of the drawings, as well as the original paintings…. I think they’d make just as good a gift for someone’s home as a Valentine’s card…. and of course they work just as well for anniversaries and special occasions too!

Each card is printed in high resolution on high quality, thick 350gsm art card from FSC credited paper stock. There is a light satin coating on the outside, whilst the inside is left un-coated, making it easier for you to write your own message. Each card measures 4.13″ x 5.82″ / 105mm x 148mm and includes a good quality matte white envelope. They are available now in my Etsy Shop for $5.00 / £3.23 each.

Hope you like them!

Ems x