Monday, 21 November 2016

Christmas Ideas: I've caught the DIY bug!

It happened overnight. I woke up one day and I wanted to upcycle things. I rummaged through old plain t-shirts and visualised glamming them up with lace inserts and sequins. I salivated over the creative geniuses on Pinterest and with great confidence lopped off the sleeves of T-shirt Number 1.

Have you ever cut sleeves off a t-shirt? I did such a bad job, cutting too close the collar, that I had to throw it away. So much for saving and upgrading.

It seemed my upcycling journey had come to an end before it had begun. However my cravings to sew and create were still alive and strong. I had hated sewing at school so this urge was really out of character.

I decided I would make my own Advent Calendar. I bought green, white and red felt and began my project. My husband raised an eyebrow at my messy stitches and gave me a lesson in sewing. 

My first creation was a funny looking snowman, my second a sequined stocking and third a lopsided Christmas tree. A practical man, my husband suggested looking in our local charity shop for a sewing machine. At the pace I was going my Advent Calendar wouldn't be ready until the following year.

I couldn't believe it when I spotted the sewing machine in the shop window. It was a ridiculous model. Bright pink with diamantes and obviously marketed to much younger seamstresses than myself, for six euros it was worth a shot. Once my husband had taught me how to use it (Seriously, how does he know how to do these things?) it proved to be perfect!

I'm on Day 9 now and I've been really enjoying myself. It's so satisfying to see something you've created yourself. It's relaxing too. I recommend it! 

This won't be my first and last project either. I keep looking around thinking, oooh what could I do to that?

I haven't given up the idea of upcycling old clothes either. I just need to learn some skills. 

Watch out Chanel, my little pink sewing machine has great ambitions!  

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Silencing the Inner Critic: What would your best friend say?

 I can't remember if I read it or if someone told me.

What if you talked to yourself as if you were your best friend?

It stopped me in my tracks. My inner critic which had been having a go at me for not getting up earlier, for not working harder, for not being more focused, was interrupted. I realised my best friend wouldn't be talking to me like this. She would be encouraging. She would be telling me to listen to my body. To be kind to myself. To accept some days are more productive than others.

Castellers supporting each other in Santa Ponsa
My inner critic likes to blame me for things beyond my control.  It likes to whisper regrets in my ear. You should have done things differently. You should have known better. But if I swap it for my best friend's voice, it completely changes. The voice says, it's okay, it didn't work out but you learned so much from that experience. Persevere.

My best friend's voice is much more practical than my inner critic. On a really personal note, I thought I'd have a baby by now. It hasn't happened. My inner critic sneers, says I'm not so 'creative' after all. My best friend's voice suggests I go to the doctor again if I'm worried. She tells me to relax. To not beat myself up about it.

This week two of my friends were facing unkind inner critics and I passed on the question:

What if you talked to yourself as if you were your best friend?

Both told me later that it had really helped them. So I thought I'd write it down and share it, in case you need to shut up your inner critic too. 


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A City Break: Things to Do in Madrid...

A while ago my lucky husband won some travel vouchers. Last month, realizing they were about to expire, we booked a trip to Madrid.  I had been once before as a teenager but my memory of it was hazy. 

We stayed at the handy central location  of Principe Pio, in an ancient hotel with green walls and bathroom tiles so old fashioned they had gone full circle and become stylishly vintage. 

We didn't spend much time in our hotel room and were locked out of it completely on day three because the booking agency had made a mistake and only booked two nights! 

Some heavy rain was the only other setback but I solved the crisis of wet feet (I had holes in my shoes!) by buying some very sparkly trainers. We wore rain ponchos after that and waved maps around in case there was any one left who hadn't realized we were tourists. 

Madrid overflows with culture. We began with an essential visit to El Prado and opted for the €4 audio guide to educate us on the masterpieces by Goya, Velazquez, El Greco and a gazillion others. I hope to come out with something knowledgeable at a dinner party one day, although right now I can't think of one fun fact! 

Erm... did you know that Goya painted his nightmarish Black Paintings directly on the wall of his house? ... I hope the rest of his decor was more cheerful. Oh dear, that's all I've got. Never mind. 

Getting Cultured at El Prado

Drunk on Art, we hopped on a tourist bus to get a sense of the city. I love a tourist bus although I think the audio guide could have done with more of a story line. It was basically date of building, architect, date, architect, date, architect... the views were fantastic though and we feasted our eyes on the cityscape.  

I loved Calle Alcala and in the evening we went up to the Azotea (rooftop) at the Circulo de Bellas Artes nearby for a glass of wine. I would recommend heading up there in the day though to take more advantage of the panorama.
View from La Azotea de Bellas Artes 
Our Madrid pass made our trip extra enjoyable as we didn't have to queue up anywhere. Lovers of opulent chandeliers, ornate clocks, frescoes, overwhelming wallpaper and mismatching carpet will love the Royal Palace. 

I recommend popping into the Cathedral next door too because it has the best ceiling ever. It's bright and colourful and if I had a kitchen with old wooden beams I would want to paint something in between them just like it!
Colourful Ceiling at Almudena Cathedral
I also have to add El Museu del Traje (Fashion and Costume Museum) to my list of recommendations. Opened in 2004 it has a fascinating collection of clothes from the 17th century through to the 90s. You get to see just how uncomfortable women's clothing have been through the ages. I'm talking about all those horrible corsets and crinolines! After months of wearing comfy shorts I can't even bear to wear jeans at the moment. Maybe I'll just line my rain poncho with some fleece and wear that this winter! 
As for food?
We hid from the rain at famous San Gines chocolateria for chocolate and churros. At San Miguel market we tried everything from fresh anchovies, to spicy sausage, to octopus, sardines, eel and weird barnacles which resemble dinosaur feet (Percebes). 

Percebes - barnacle or dinosaur foot? 

At San Miguel we also drank lots of sherry in the sherry corner: amontillados, olorosos, finos... (I began my sherry love affair in Jerez and Sevilla last year and it's still going strong.) 

I may not be a city girl any more or have any inclination to move to one but I do wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this vibrant capital for all those after a city break!