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31 July 2016

Creative Twitter Chats

Rainbow crayons

There are so many twitter chats and groups out there, that I'm starting to lose track of them all! So, I thought I'd put a list together of some great UK ones to not only remind myself but help you out too. If you have any other recommendations, let me know and I'll add them to the list. I'm just focusing on UK chats at the moment but can easily add other countries in too, so do drop me a line! 

#blogtacular hooks up every Wednesday at 9pm to discuss all things blogging.

#cbloggers meets every Thursday from 8.30pm-9.30pm and chats about creative blogging.

#CraftBlogClub is on every Tuesday from 7-8pm and is aimed at fans and bloggers of craft.

#CraftHour meets every Sunday at 7pm. It connects crafters with customers.

#folksyhour is on every Tuesday from 8-9pm  and is an opportunity to showcase your work and talk all things handmade and Folksy related.

#HandmadeHour meets every Wednesday at 19:30pm & Sundays at 20:00pm. It focuses on handmade, craft and customers and gives you the opportunity to showcase your work.

 #remadehour meets every Wednesday from 8-9pm to discuss all things upcycled.

If you're new to Twitter chats, check out this great insider's guide by Creative Education to get you started. Happy chatting!

29 July 2016

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Music stamp

For those of you who are new to my blog, every Friday I post up some songs that have been encouraging me to design, make and create each week. Why do I do this? 

Well, music is really important to me. It burns brightly within my soul. It brings me such overwhelming joy and incredible emotion that my heart often feels like it's going to burst on hearing a song. 

Like food and water I simply couldn't live without it. It encourages and inspires me to design, make, create, write and photograph. And because I like to share what's inspiring me creatively, music has to feature on the blog. It's too big a part of my creative world not to.

And so, each week I share a number of songs that have stood out for me either in a creative, emotional or energetic sense. Here are this week's tracks. 

Tilted by Christine and the Queens
Sabu Yerkoy by Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate
Golden Touch by Razorlight
Baby Hit and Run by the Contours
Weapon Of Choice by Fatboy Slim
Let's Dance by David Bowie
Think (About It) by Lyn Collins

Pop them on. Have a listen. Have a dance. Have a sing. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend everyone!

28 July 2016

How to make working as a solopreneur work for you

Do you work on your own? Do you work from home? Are you a freelancer, solopreneur or small business owner? It can be tough, right? No one to run stuff by, decisions to be made on your own, no tea break with colleagues, no official clocking in or out time and no HR/accounting/IT department because you're all of those things. Everything is firmly on your shoulders.

Ok, so anyone considering going freelance or full time on their own business, don't run away now as it's really not that bad. Instead, read on because I'm sharing my thoughts on how best to conquer those stresses and issues to make being a freelancer, small business owner or solopreneur work for you.

Set the alarm and walk to work
One of the benefits of working for yourself is no more commuting. Great, you save money and don't have to be standing in someone's sweaty armpit on the tube. But on the flip-side you may be missing out on a walk to work or half an hour on the bus with your book, which can be quality time. So, instead of working in your pyjamas all day, get up and go for a 30 minute walk as though you're walking to work. The beauty of this is you can walk anywhere and any route as long as you get to "the office" for a reasonable time to start work. After 30 minutes the endorphins will be flowing and you'll be on top form ready to kick ass!

Working 9-5
Whether you're a night owl or an early bird, in my experience it's best to set yourself a start and finish time for your work. Treat your work with respect and put those hours in like you would if you were working for someone else. It doesn't have to be 9-5, it could be 8am-12pm and 4pm-8pm or whatever suits you and your situation. The benefits of working for yourself is that you can make the schedule work for you and knowing what your hours are, makes it easier to stick to them and therefore achieve your goals.

Rainbow crayons

Have a tea break with someone you want to have one with
The positive side of working for yourself is that you don't have to take your tea break with that irritating colleague any more - we've all had one or more of those in the past, right?! So, go have a tea break with someone you want to spend time with. You could also call up your fellow freelance pals and have a tea break over the phone. Just remember to go back to work and not let it become a very long lunch break!

Your networks are your colleagues, so build them!
Working remotely with no one to run stuff by can be rather daunting, so build up your online network of fellow freelancers and small business owners. Head to Twitter and Instagram and get involved with online chats and groups and you'll soon have a great network of virtual colleagues who you can bounce ideas off. Schedule in online chats with each other too and if you live near each other, meet up!

Orange tools

Organise your working week to cover all those "departments"
Being the HR, Accounting, Marketing, IT department etc sure can add an extra pressure to working for yourself. So, instead of stressing out over it, schedule in time to cover those areas. For example, Tuesday afternoon could focus on your accounts and Friday afternoon your marketing strategy. Alternatively, you could spend 1 hour a day on each different area. It's much better to chip away at those departments rather than letting them build up into a nightmare mountain of work. 

Rubbish at accounting? Get someone to help.
Just because your jewellery design business is a roaring success, doesn't mean you are naturally good at finances and filling in your tax return. Go ask for help and/or employ someone. The speed at which an expert can do that job for you, will save you a whole load of time and heartache. It will also enable you to put more time back into your business and do what you're good at doing. If you're not at that stage of paying for help, schedule time into your week to learn how to do it yourself or even go on a course and don't forget to chat with your virtual colleagues too; they might be able to answer your question quickly.

Get organised and focused.
It's so easy to procrastinate or get distracted when you work for yourself, even if you're a super organised person. Something about working from home can confuse your brain into thinking you should be putting some washing on or rearranging your CD collection or whatever. 

To keep you focused, write down your goals for the month and spread them out week by week. At the start of each day (before you get distracted and find yourself browsing Pinterest) write down how you are going to chip away at those goals. Keep it realistic and within your "office hours". Use a calendar and/or planner to keep you on track.

If you have the option of an office/studio, then keep your work in there and close the door on it at the end of your working day. You will then associate that room or space with work, the kitchen with cooking and eating, the bedroom with relaxing and sleeping, and so on. It's a good psychological trick and will help keep you focused on work.

Take your office on a coffee break
If you are going crazy staring at those same four walls, then grab your laptop and head to a comfy cafe or library to work. There are lots of lovely places where it's more than acceptable to grab a coffee while you type away on your latest project. A change of scene can really help.

Remember to stop working, rest and exercise.
It's oh so easy to keep on working until the silly hours when you run your own business but trust me, it will zap you of energy and see you drained and ineffective the next day. So, stick to your office hours and remember to stop working and go get some exercise and rest. Your brain and body will be way more efficient the next day.

Don't whatever you do look at your mobile phone late at night. Trust me, you won't sleep a wink.
This is such a tough one and I'm terrible at it. I regularly find myself "just checking" my emails and ending up falling foul of seeing an email I DID NOT WANT TO SEE at 11pm at night, resulting in a sleepless night. So people, try your hardest not to check those work emails causing you to get wound up. Instead look at them in your office hours. Also remember, if you're on social media for your business, schedule some tweets etc in advance so that you're not a complete slave to the internet and your phone.


Socialise baby, socialise!
Working on your own can be lonely, so don't forget to go see your friends and family and make plans to do lovely things!

Don't let those negative walls get in the way.
Running your own ship can be tough and sometimes you can have bad days when things just don't go to plan. The printer breaks, a client doesn't pay their invoice, a customer is rude and then you spill a cup of tea over yourself. You know those days I'm talking about it. It's like the world is out to get you. 

When this happens, put your tools down, leave your desk and go for a 20 minute walk around the block or put some music on really loud and dance the frustration away! Don't whatever you do send a shirty email back to that client or customer. It really won't get you anywhere. Take five, get calm and come back to the situation with a calm, professional head on you.

I hope you find these ideas useful! Do you work for yourself? What tricks have you learnt to make working solo a good experience? Please do share in the comments field below.

27 July 2016

Cadgwith Cove

Cadgwith Cove Cornwall

See all my snaps and read about my recent trip to Cadgwith Cove over on the gorgeous This Is Your Kingdom website.

22 July 2016

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Sweet Peas
It's been a complete mixed bag of music in the studio this week. Here are a few highlights to wrap your ears around. Have a wonderful weekend and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter and catch up on my Instagram snaps too!

Summertime Blues by T-Rex
Polka Dot Rag by Sidney Bechet
In Waves by Slow Club
Lenny Valentino by The Auteurs
Nothing's As It Seems by Gordi
Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels
Pump It Up by Elvis Costello

20 July 2016

A little adventure in Sark


Sark is like a little magical island you would find in a story book. Think along the lines of Enid Blyton as the only means of getting around the island are by horse and cart, push bike or on foot for cars are banned. Only the odd tractor is allowed.

horse and cart

All you need is a rucksack with some fresh crab sandwiches and a flask of tea to accompany you as you explore the many hidden pathways adorned with Daises, Red Campion, Bluebells and Three-Cornered Garlic.

floral footpath

sark footpath

There are birds and butterflies as well as trees arching over the pathways, stunning bays, caves and cliffs, quaint buildings and cottages and impressive views of the sea and neighbouring channel islands. And with the lack of cars it is an incredibly peaceful place as well as very freeing being able to roam around at will.

Sark cottage

sark henge

To fire up the imagination even more if you head to the south of the island there's Sark Henge, and Derrible Bay (isn't that the most wonderful name for a beach you ever did hear!) and the Hog's Back to the west. Further round to the south-west is La Coupee, a tiny isthmus (with breathtaking views!) leading you to Little Sark, which has an old silver mine and mill and Venus Pool tucked away in the rocks and only visible at low tide.

Venus pool and silver mine

When you're in need of a sit down, La Sablonnerie has a pretty garden where you can have a scrumptious cream tea in the pretty garden.



Head around to the west of the island and you can even spot through your binoculars a castle on Brecqhou Island. This isn't open to the public but if you head out for a 3 hour boat ride on George's boat, he'll sail you around the entire island where you'll get a fine view of the castle.

George's Boat Sark


Staying on the west side, La Seigneurie boasts a beautiful walled garden, maze and exhibition, as well as serving up some mighty fine food, perfect after a hike around the island.


Heading up to the north of the island there's a wonderful Buddhist Carving next to the unspoilt L'Eperquerie Common.


With plenty more to explore, this treasure island really is the perfect choose your own adventure book of a place to visit and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get away from it all and those who are fond of walking and exploring the great outdoors.


18 July 2016

How to make a refreshing spot in the garden

Deck chair under the apple tree

With the heatwave upon us, I thought I'd share a quick idea on how to make a refreshing spot in the garden to escape from the heat to. Don't worry if you don't have a garden, you can easily recreate this in a park under a tree, minus the deckchair.

Righto, so go choose a shady spot in the garden or if heading to the park, find a lovely tree to set up camp. Grab blankets and cushions to make your spot comfy.

deck chair

Pop some suncream on (best to be on the safe side), grab a hat and your sunglasses.


Make yourself a cooling drink, such as lime or elderflower cordial with soda water, ice cubes and a slice of lemon and lime. If you're feeling extra special, you could add a drop of gin too! And whilst you're at it, why not pop the glass in the freezer for a short while to make it extra cool. If you're heading to the park, take your drink in a small cool bag instead.

summer drink

Choose a good book, newspaper, magazine or download a new album you've meaning to listen to and go head to your refreshing spot and relax. Warning - this position can cause drowsiness, so you may nod off ;-) 

Enjoy and happy summer everyone!


Yarn shops in Yorkshire

Yarn shops in Yorkshire

Over on the Simple Stylish Makes blog I'm sharing four top knitting shops in Yorkshire. Pop on over to have a look and don't forget to share your knitting projects with all of us at the Simple Stylish Makes team using the hashtag #simplestylishmakers. Happy knitting!

15 July 2016

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Teal crayon
Two songs very much kick started my week - Um Chagga Lagga by the Pixies and Beck's Wow. I then became obsessed with the intro music to the tv drama, Versailles, which is a stunning, heartbreaking song called Outro by M83. This lead me on to Midnight City, another awesome song.

On Thursday I loved the People's Playlist on Radio 6, which included lots of gorgeous tracks recommended by listeners all focused on theme of clouds. Stand out tracks for me were Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb and Get Off Of My Cloud by The Rolling Stones. Check out the other songs listed; it's a great mix.

Use Somebody by Yak was turned up loud and played on repeat throughout the week. It's a great new song to bounce around to or maybe do some mighty fine head nodding to.

And for that Friday feeling I reckon it has to be Here I Am by the one and only Al Green and The Race by Yello. Pop them on, turn the volume up and have a little dance because it's good for the soul! 

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

14 July 2016

Blog Gem - The Messy Brunette

Hola! Woohoo, it's Blog Gem time and this month I found out all about the super talented Maura, who runs The Messy Brunette, a creative blog full of gorgeous crochet, embroidery, upcycling and more. It's a delightful treasure trove! So, you can see why I was super excited to find out all about the amazing lady who creates such a wonderful creative corner of the web. Lets dive on it and find out more!

The Messy Brunette

Hello there, can you tell us all a little bit about yourself?
Well I am 41, Irish, wife to one and mum to two small boys, living in the sticks in an old farm house that has been in my husband’s family for 170 years. I decided to start my blog as I was bored and wanted something for me to do, other than being a stay at home mum. I love being creative and love trying out new crafty things, so I am always on the go with jobs. I have always loved reading blogs and finding out how others do things and getting tips. I suppose it was another way for me to express myself creatively.

The Messy Brunette

Where do you blog? 
I blog in my sitting room, this room originally was 2 rooms. Back then they had a parlour room (the good room for the visitors that no one was allowed into) and a sitting room, so I decided to knock down a wall and make it into one big family room. There is enough room in the corner for my desk and I can still keep an eye on the kiddies and type away for myself. The only thing I don’t like is the lack of light that comes into this section of the house, but hey I’m not allowed to knock it!

The Messy Brunette

If you had to take only one craft tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
Oh only one !!!!!! That’s so hard, hmmm maybe a drill so I could try and build a hut, ha ha!

The Messy Brunette

How do you work and get inspired? 
I try and treat it as that …. work I mean, so I try and plan around the kids and school. Mostly mornings when it's quiet and that first coffee has done the trick. Inspiration comes from everywhere, other bloggers, Instagram, Pinterest, magazines. I am very visual so I like to see things …

The Messy Brunette

What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog?
Oh tips …….. well I am not at this long so I am still only learning myself. But I will say that I did a creative blog online course with Pip from MeetMeatMikes and it was a great way of seeing how blogs work, the technical side of things and how to actually start. It was a nice introduction to the world of blogging and I learned so much from it. Plus, I met other bloggers starting out, some of whom I still connect with. 

Other tips, try Facebook groups for bloggers and Twitter, these were big steps for me to make as I didn’t really use them before I started blogging. Twitter is good too as I met loads of other bloggers and you can find some twitter chats, I especially like the CraftBlogClub chat on Tuesday nights. I think just reaching out and chatting to people is a good way to start!

The Messy Brunette

Is there a story behind the name, The Messy Brunette?
Well, I am messy, in a creative way of course, and I am a brunette! It’s also the initials of my name
too, which was unintentional.

The Messy Brunette

If you could go to a Blog Award dinner with any 5 people (dead or alive) and/or fictional characters, who would you choose?
That’s a tough one. I’ll have to say, the first person I would like to choose, would be Joanne from KyleLane. She runs an upcycling furniture painting shop not too far from me and I love her style, plus I’d say she would be great craic on a night out! Second would be Kasia from the TheCraftyMummyBlog. I love her quirkiness and I could get loads of tips off her too. Third, I’m thinking maybe Kirsty Allsop, she must be interesting all that work she does, but would I get a word in?! Jools Holland would be interesting, he could get the band going while I hit the bar and maybe Brian Johnston from AC/DC, I love a bit of rock …. be a great night I’d say! They could be the entertainment of course ….!

The Messy Brunette

And finally...if you had to choose one song to represent The Messy Brunette, what would it be and why? 
Maybe a bit of Sinatra ‘I did it my way’ (you can clearly see my music taste varies wildly). I like it and love Sinatra and yeah I am a stubborn and like things done my way!

Thank you so much, Maura! It's been wonderful hearing all about your creative world and ooh what a great song choice, love it!

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem. Catch up on all my interviews here and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter too! 

All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Maura at The Messy BrunettePlease do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.


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