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22 September 2017

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Knitted blanket work in progress by Joanna at creative lifestyle blog, Adventures & Tea Parties.

How are you? Good week? 

I had a mixed bag this week but I'm going to focus on the positives, as is my way on a Friday afternoon. Actually, I'm just going to cut straight to my five "happies" and my five songs from the week...

Happy #1 / Went on an extra long walk and saw what has now been confirmed as Linnets. On that walk I met some lovely, fellow bird watchers, one of which we both walked the last bit of the walk together. She told me about some good places to go bird watching and I showed her where she can find the Little Owls. If I hadn't extended my walk that would never have happened.

Happy #2 / Tried two new delicious Indian vegetarian recipes from the 'Fresh India' book, which is now my favourite cookbook.

Happy #3 / Went to sleeping dreaming up a new product range and woke up with another idea to add to it. Promptly went and bought one of the items needed to start it and drew up a few sketches to see if I can make it work.

Happy #4 / Found the silver lining in the whole Instagram shadow ban and spent the day photographing a new range, which I'll be adding to the shop soon.

Happy #5 / Had an idea for something lovely I want to do, which is nothing related to my business. Going to think it through a bit more this weekend and will share when the time is right, if I go ahead with it of course.

Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) by Sparks
Something For Your M. I. N .D by Superorganism
We were beautiful by Belle and Sebastian
In the Meantime by Spacehog
All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem

Whatever you have planned this weekend my lovelies, have a good one...

19 September 2017

A day in the life of Zabby Allen

Yay, it's time for another 'Day in the life' and this month I'm super excited to be sharing what the average day at work is like for Zabby Allen, indie magazine editor and small business owner. So, without further ado, let's dive on in and find out what her average day is like....

A day in the life of Zabby Allen. Blog feature at Adventures & Tea Parties, creative lifestyle blog written by Joanna Payne.

Hi there, can you tell the Adventures & Tea Parties gang a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I'm Zabby Allen and I live in South East London. I always dread people asking me what I do because I do lots of things and I worry they'll get bored by the time I've finished explaining! Alongside making my own pins, patches, prints and things inspired by all the things that make me happiest, I work as an Illustrator's Agent and Editor. I spend two or three days a week working for Phosphor Art, getting work for the talented illustrators we represent, showing portfolios at agencies and keeping on top of our social media accounts. I also work for another agency, Artist Partners, one day a week doing social media scheduling and general admin/design jobs. Once a month I go down to Ramsgate where they're based, which is always a lovely treat for someone who works from home on their own. On Mondays I work on Girl Planet, a zine which goes in the Lucky Dip Club subscription boxes – this is what I'll focus on for the rest of the Day in the Life as it's what I'm working on today! I'm also the Crafts Editor of Caboodle Magazine. I get to pick a theme for each issue, commission the DIY tutorials, lay out the pages on inDesign and assist with the final photoshoot. Oh and I've just started doing some editing for The Happy Newspaper too! Once in a while I take on small design jobs like creating flyers and logos for clients and take on the odd pet portrait commission. It's safe to say I never get bored!

I trained in Book Arts at London College of Communication. I had no idea where it would take me, if anywhere, so it's been a huge shock to me that I've actually ended up doing something that's pretty relevant to my degree - we did lots of work on magazines and layout, so that's helped me a lot along the way.

Designs by Zabby Allen, creative business owner. Designs available on Etsy.

How does your day start?

I try and get up between 6:30 and 7 every day. I've been attempting to keep things consistent recently, but getting up is ALWAYS a struggle for me – why is bed so much more comfortable when you have to get up?! At least 3 days a week I go for a run to wake myself up. It takes a lot of willpower not to talk myself out of going, but I always feel better after a run. My favourite place to go is South Norwood Country Park where you can spot pheasants, sparrowhawks, voles and lots of good doggos! You feel like you're in the depths of the countryside, rather than the depths of South East London!

I aim to sit down at my desk at around 8 with something vaguely healthy for breakfast and a big cup of tea. I use this time to answer emails about commissions etc and to pack any orders from the past couple of days. I love packaging up orders from my shop! I have to find time before and after “work” to do my own work, and recently I've been taking some more whole days for myself to get commissions and new designs drawn up.

At 9 I start my day job, usually with another cup of something. Editing for Girl Planet involves commissioning articles and artwork, chatting to Leona (who runs Lucky Dip Club) about future issues, editing copy and laying out each page on inDesign. Often I'll start the day with a Skype chat with Leona, which is always good for getting my brain in gear. I spend the first part of my day responding to emails and writing lists so I'm organised and know what I need to concentrate on for the rest of the day. We commission most of our articles and artwork from Lucky Dip Club subscribers, many of whom also run their own businesses. Leona always describes Girl Planet as being like a heartfelt high five from a friend and past articles have included subjects such as self care, start-up businesses, creativity, body image, Kickstarter campaigns and pets! We try and keep things fresh and personal and each issue is based on the theme of the box contents – last month's pins and socks featured some super cool sloths by Natelle Draws Stuff, so we focused on articles on self care and allowing yourself to slow down.

Lucky Dip Club mug. Photo by Zabby Allen, creative business owner and indie magazine editor.

Do you have a lunch break?

I don't have a set lunch time, I just stop when my brain is getting a bit fuzzy. I find that I need to step away from the screen at some point to clear my head, so I try and get outside at lunch even if it's just walking to the post box or eating lunch in the garden. I really miss having our dog George (he was recently put to sleep sadly), as he was guaranteed to get me out of the house. Often I need to do a post office run though and there are lots of colourful street art in my area, so there's always something to look at on the journey. Lunch usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before (my fave!), or a salad made from whatever we have in the fridge. Today was a random combination of salad, rice and some tomatoes from the garden. If the sun's not out sometimes I'll watch a YouTube video while I eat my lunch – TED talks, The Daily Show, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and Kat, Rachel & Nikki's vlogs are all firm faves on my screen.

If I'm working on Girl Planet I'll usually spend my afternoons editing and laying out content using InDesign. It's a lot of fun to design the pages; we have such beautiful artwork to work with and sometimes we use Rainbow Vintage Home patterns as our backgrounds, so I always have something to swoon over. Sometimes I'll have an interview scheduled with one of our box collaborators. I won't give away who our current box collaborator is, but I interviewed her at 1pm and it was 10pm where she was. It's always fun chatting to the illustrators and designers Leona's commissioned to create artwork for the socks and pins, I feel like I really get to know them in the short time we talk.

At the end of the day I'll make sure that I have everything I need for next week, or if it's deadline day I'll WeTransfer the finished mag over to Leona for any last minute edits and a proofread. I only work on Girl Planet once a week, so I need to make sure I'm really organised and spot if there are any gaps in the issue so that I can email our contributors in enough time for them to respond.

Day in the life of Zabby Allen, blog feature at Adventures & Tea Parties.

When do you clock off?

I usually stop my freelance work at about 5:30pm or 6pm and then crack down on some of my own for an hour or two. I might write a blog post, send some more emails, design or order some new products for my shop or get my bullet journal in order.

At about half 7pm I usually stop work and go and sort out something for dinner. If it's something that needs a while in the oven I'll go back to work while it cooks. My boyfriend, Kurtis usually gets home from work at about 8:30pm and we'll eat dinner before watching something and having a fairly early night. Rock and roll! Sometimes one of my housemates will cook for me too and I can cram some extra work in, which is a big luxury!

Today it's a bank holiday and the sun was shining (lo and behold!), so we had a BBQ! I was in charge of sides, so I made a Greek salad, spicy rice, potato salad, halloumi skewers and some more garden toms! I might have got a bit carried away...

This evening it was the Game of Thrones finale and I'm 3 series behind the 3 guys I live with (you can imagine how fun that is!), so they shut themselves away to watch it while I attempted to crack on with some more work. My brain wasn't working properly, so I decided to do some reading instead at which point my brain started working overdrive and I had to keep stopping my book to write things down. Classic!

I tend to leave my studio in a bit of a mess at the end of the day – I find that tidying up in the morning always motivates me to get to work. Is that a good enough excuse?!

The Underdog pin, designed by Zabby Allen. Gorgeous pin for a dog owner / dog lover and for those pingame strong fans.

Do you work at the weekend?

I have made more of a conscious effort to give myself some proper time off at the weekends this year, so I don't get burnt out. Saying that though, if I'm at home I find it very hard not to do work, so I tend to split my weekends in two, spending one day working and one playing, or working in the mornings and going out in the afternoons/evenings. I try and use this time to do the calmer jobs – putting enamel pins on backing cards, stickering my envelopes, sending out interview questions for my blog... I'm also trying to give myself time to draw more, so that's a nice thing to do at the weekends.

If I'm not working then my favourite things to do at the weekend are going to a local food market or coffee shop or going for a walk somewhere in Kent. This weekend we have friends staying from Manchester, so we went to Maltby Street Market for gin and tasty food! I highly recommend it if you're in London at the weekend. I've been lucky enough to have some fun weekends away recently too. My boyfriend, Kurtis, works on film locations and was working up North for much of his last job, so I met him in Manchester and Lincoln at the weekends. My Mum lives in Dumfries, my Dad in Somerset and my Aunty in Cumbria so I have lots of opportunities to get out of London if I need to. It's been so much fun exploring more of the UK this year.

Girl Planet magazine, edited by Zabby Allen.

What do you love about your job and do you have future plans you can share?

I love the flexibility that my freelance work brings, it allows me to go on a little trip and get inspired if I need to and I'm lucky that I work with some very understanding people, who let me work around my random holidays. We're off to Lisbon and Porto next week and I'm so excited. It's always nerve-wracking taking time off and sacrificing wages, but I need a little trip now and again to refresh my brain and see some things outside of the confines of my studio and house. I do find it hard to make my brain switch off; there's always something to think about or do or somebody who needs something. I have to turn the email notifications off my phone and I leave it on mute most of the time, so I don't get distracted. I got to a point last year where I felt like I was ALWAYS working and it wasn't healthy, so I knew I needed to work on my self care!

I don't know how I'd cope trying to work a “normal” 9-5 job every day now, I really enjoy the variety my work brings and I think I need that to keep my brain working. Working for so many strong, motivated and talented women along the way has been really inspiring for me and I feel so lucky to be a part of the magic they've created. I would love to have some more time to build my own business, so at some point something's going to have to give I suppose! Next year I want to expand my product range and hopefully apply for a few markets, it's been a while since I did any trading in person and I used to really enjoy doing that back in the days my friends and I ran a vintage clothing stall. I'm also really excited to see Girl Planet grow and develop. Leona has brought together such a wonderful like-minded community of people with Lucky Dip Club and I know that she has big plans for the future of it too!

Zabby Allen, creative business owner and indie magazine editor. Day in the life feature at Adventures &  Tea Parties, creative lifestyle blog.

Thank you so much Zabby, it's wonderful hearing all about the behind-the-scenes of your amazing, creative world; keep up the incredible work and I can't wait to see where it takes you in the future!

I hope you've all enjoyed reading about Zabby's day and are now heading off to check out her fab site! You can also find Zabby on Instagram, Twitter and Etsy, so pop along and give them a like. If you'd also like to read more features, head over here to discover what a day in the life is like for these incredible people.

17 September 2017

Autumn Craft Projects

Over on the Simple Stylish Makes blog I'm sharing the craft projects I'm trying this Autumn. Hop on over to find out. What autumn craft projects are you doing this year?

15 September 2017

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Friday feeling post by Joanna Payne at Adventures & Tea Parties, creative lifestyle blog. Here Joanna shares her five happy things from the week and her favourite tunes. Pop on over for a dose of positivity.

Cooeeeeee, it's Friday and the weekend is just around the next corner. How was your week? Did you do something fun, try something new, see a friend, watch a band...? I hope it was good one, whatever you got up to.

I think, maybe, just maybe, I've had one of my most productive weeks to date. Instead of trying to tackle everything all at once and screeching into Friday wondering what on earth I achieved, I tried a new way of working. I'm going to give the method another go next week to see how it fairs and if it leaves me feeling positive I'll share it in a blog post. One thing I included in this new way of working, was how I manage my internet and social media usage, which I've already blogged about here if you fancy a read. I think that was a big factor in feeling productive but I'll let you know how I feel next week.

As well as getting shizzle done and blogging about internet time management, I also shared my latest Five Minute Chat with the super fabulous Lucy from Smile and Make, pinned some very cute knitting patterns for dog and started joining in on the #SewPhotoHop and #GreatBritishQuilter Instagram challenges.

And, as it's Friday, that means picking out five happy things from the week and sharing some wonderful music. Here are my five happy moments and my five favourite songs from the week...

Happy #1 / Started a new knitting project, a massive blanket no less - I must be feeling autumnal and have a need to stay warm and cosy. Talking of which, not only has the week been about tights, cardigans and hot drinks, it's also been about looking at yummy autumnal colours, which I pinned here.

Happy #2 / Figuring out technical stuff that I thought I couldn't do.

Happy #3 / Feeling engrossed in the Paul Auster novel, '1 2 3 4' and wanting to read my way through the night. It's non-put-a-down-able.

Happy #4 / Going out for coffee and cake with the super lovely Jenn from Somerset Cool and chatting about all things creative, dogs and so much more! Ooh and it meant I got to visit the Kitchen at The Wharf for the first time, which was an added bonus. Check out Jenn's blog post about it here.

Happy #5 / Launched my new Door Keyring designs, figured out my next design range and decided on the prompts for the next #ColourMyEveryDay Instagram challenge, which I'll be sharing with you very soon, woohoo!

Lips That Bite by Downtown Boys
Burn it down by Daughter
Queen of Clubs by KC & The Sunshine Band
Waste a Moment by Kings of Leon
I Don't Want To Get Over You by Magnetic Fields

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

14 September 2017

Managing internet and social media usage

You know that moment when you log on to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or just the internet in general and before you know it, 1 hour of scrolling has gone by and you're not exactly sure what happened in that time? Well, in my opinion, I think it's a growing problem and it's what I want to look at today - managing internet and social media usage.

Now, you're probably thinking, why does an online business owner and blogger want to tell all us all to get off the internet. Actually, that's not the case. What I want to talk about is how to better manage our use of the internet and social media to make it work for us; a personalised analysis, if you will, of how we can use such an incredible tool more effectively, so that when we do reach for our phone first thing in the morning, we don't head down the social media rabbit hole of disappointment.

This blog post is not going to preach, instead it's a personalised exercise to help you get a grip on using the internet and social media in a way that works for you. For this exercise, you'll need a pen and paper and 30 minutes to 1 hour of uninterrupted time. You might want to put a brew on or grab a glass of vino; basically go find a comfy corner with your pen and notepad and we'll get started.

What are your positive experiences?
First up, lets agree on something. The internet is a very powerful tool and it has so many amazing benefits. It helps us connect and communicate quickly, order and receive goods without having to leave our homes, keep up-to-date on news and current affairs, discover and be inspired, share our work, build businesses from the kitchen table, apply for jobs, makes friends and feel a part of a community. Without the internet I would not have been able to start my business, set myself up in a new county and meet new people...and that's just for starters. 

How has the internet helped you? Maybe you discovered your local Etsy group, found a long lost friend on Facebook or met the love of your life. Whatever your positive experiences are, go grab a piece of paper and write them down. Remember, just focus on your positive experiences at this stage.

What's important to YOU?
Now you've written those down, take a sip of tea and mull this over: why is the internet and social media important to you? What do you actually need it for?

If you need a prompt, here are my reasons why the internet and social media is important to me.

I need the internet to run my business and I like using the internet for shopping, finding out about gigs, theatre and comedy and keeping up-to-date on current affairs.

I need social media to share my blog and shop and I like using it to connect with like minded people, stay in touch with friends and find out about creative events, projects and groups.

Now, write down why the internet and social media is important to you.
How are you actually using it?
You might need an extra sip of tea (wine) for this next step. Now, be brave and write down how you are actually using the internet. In other words, take an honest look at what you do on the internet every day. Do you message friends, bid on Ebay, check the weather...whatever you do, write it down.

If you're not too sure, you could try this exercise: starting first thing tomorrow morning, write down a log of how you're using the internet throughout the day. Is the first thing you reach for in the morning your phone? What do you log on to first? How much time do you spend on that app? If you take a detailed analytical look at how often you are reaching for your phone to check the internet/social media for something throughout the day and recording how much time you spend doing so, then that will help you identify how you're currently using it. Remember, be honest with yourself with this exercise.

Ok, so that step was probably a bit harsh of me but I hope you'll agree, it was necessary, yeah? Now, go grab your first two lists you made earlier - your positive experiences and what it is important to you - and compare them to how you are actually using the internet. 

How do they compare? Are they similar or vastly different? Are there any changes you'd like to make? Yes? Good! Write those changes down now, maybe take a another sip of tea while you're at it too.

Making positive changes
The next step should, in theory, be easy. You've got your lists, made a comparison and understand how you would like to use the internet and social media to work for you but now you need another sip of tea and a big old dose of willpower....and your notebook.

Write down the answers to the following questions:

Q1/ How much time can you realistically spend on the internet/social media?

Be honest about this. Think about how much time you would like to spend online, thinking about the points you made earlier about what is important to you and what you need to use the internet for.

Q2 / What time of day or day in the week are you going to be on the internet/social media?

Think about what works for you. Are you a morning person who gets up with the birds and logs on to Instagram first thing before heading off to work? Maybe you're an evening person, who likes to chat with your mates every Wednesday evening? Only you know what time of day/week is best. What works for someone else might not work for you.

For this exercise, I found it helpful looking at the other things I do on average day in order to be realistic about how much time I have for the internet. For example, I like to cook a good meal every evening, go for a walk to ensure I'm getting regular exercise and I tend to do a creative activity, such as knitting or drawing, to help me relax. There are also boring things to consider, such as the weekly food shop, washing clothes etc. All that needs to be taken into consideration. Write it all down and start to form how, when, where and why you want to use that powerful tool, the internet.

Helpful time saving tips
By now I'm hoping you feel a bit clearer about where you're at with your internet and social media usage, how you want to use it, when you're going to use it and how much time you have to use it.  If you're now ready to make some positive changes, here are some tips to help you make the most of your time and this is where that willpower is needed.

- Delete any apps you are not using or that gobble up time without any positive benefits
- Unsubscribe from any mailing lists that you only ever delete and never read
- Set a timer or have a specific time of day to check on social media/emails etc and stick to it
- Turn off notifications if you find them distracting
- Turn your phone off or put it in another room while you're working or concentrating on something
- Call a friend, instead of texting
- Tell your friends that you're going to be offline or that you only check periodically. If they're good friends, then they will respect that.
- Don't whatever you do, feel pressurised to be online all day. Keep a mantra going in your head of what works for you and what you want to use it for. Don't compare yourself to someone else and remember those lists you made earlier.

With these tips and all your notes, you should have a better idea of how you are going to use the internet and social media to benefit you and your needs. Start right away putting this into action. If that means switching your phone off at 8pm in the evening or only checking Facebook messenger for 30 minutes when you get home from work, start doing it. The sooner you do, the sooner it will become the norm and I'm hoping, the better you feel about how you manage your internet and social media usage.

If you're still not convinced or are worried that your mates will disown you for not being online 24/7 (which is totally ridiculous but I promised I wouldn't preach!), try and think of it this way. When you have little sleep, you don't work effectively because you hardly have any energy. When you have plenty of sleep and rest, you work way more efficiently. Finding your own approach to the internet works in the same way - if you're on it 24/7, then your use of it will be poor compared to a short burst where you're concentrating and engaged.

What do you reckon? Do you have any tips for managing internet and social media usage?  Do you know someone who would find this helpful? Come and tell me your thoughts and share with everyone you know!

13 September 2017

Five minutes with Lucy from Smile and Make

Interview with Lucy from creative business Smile and Make. Feature available at the Simple Stylish Makes blog. Written by Joanna Payne, creative lifestyle blogger and indie business owner at Adventures & Tea Parties.

Over on the Simple Stylish Makes blog today I'm chatting with the super talented designer/maker, Lucy from Smile and Make. Put a brew on and head on over to the blog to discover all about her creative world and why she started her business.

1 September 2017

Gardening jobs for September

Gardening jobs for September. Tips on jobs you can do in the garden in September. Written by avid gardener, Joanna Payne, creative lifestyle blogger from blog Adventures & Tea Parties. Blog post available at Simple Stylish Makes.

Oh my word, I cannot believe it's September! How did that happen? I swear the year just started yesterday. Anyhow, with a new month brings new jobs to do in the garden. Head over to the Simple Stylish Makes blog to read my tips on gardening jobs for September.

Happy gardening!


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