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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stylin' Feet

Even in the cold and wet a gal's got to have some fun on her feet. Each cost me £25-30. All I need now are a pair of hiking boots to tackle the rough terrain around here I'd love to be hiking and I'd be set. Well, at least as far as the outdoors are considered. I did see a rather awesome pair of block colour heels the other day…

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Motto

So I had this sorted out weeks ago but it's taken me this long to post it. As many of you know, each year one of my dearest friends and I select a motto for the year. It is often a reflection of the year we've had which informs how we want to approach the new year. Some have had a comical side, others were, well a little cynical, but generally they are optimistic.

We've both had tough years and gone through a lot. Change has been very prevalent and it will likely be so in 2012. I think the hope is that the changes we go through will be self-driven. Now, we're both realists though so we know that most of time we just have to take what life gives us and make the most of it.

Here is our mantra for 2012: "Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, it must be accepted. ~ Unknown"

Having had this in the back of my mind for the last few weeks, I realize how much it's already changing my perspective. I was in a situation I couldn't accept and I know I'm changing it.

Change can be good. Change is scary.

Bring it on.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Cross posting… sort of.

Read the latest post here: Imaginative Lens Photography.

Uh huh, yeah.


A Place of My Own

We crave a tiny little space for ourselves- I think we all do it in some way. Perhaps that's why the idea of owning your own home is such a driver for so many people. We want a place that can be OURS. In working towards starting this business, I've come to understand this on so many, many levels.

I was chatting online with a friend of mine in England whose advice I always respect. Like me, he often needs a kick in the rear when motivation dies and when we're having a bad day, we know how to be supportive but also tell it like it is.

I made a comment about having so much to do yet and he replied, "There always is, and it never stops, but this is your business… your desk… your challenge."

And so it is.

My success, my failure, my dream. Whatever shall be will be mostly because of my own efforts. I'm a pretty resilient person and I can accept that there will be difficulties along the way, but I also am optimistic about things going really well if I keep working hard at it.

This working from home thing has it positives and negatives. For one thing, no one knows or cares that I'm wearing my blue socks with white reindeer and red stars on them and that I didn't get dressed until nearly 10 am this morning. But I can also go out during the day with my daughter, and then work later when she naps and at night. The balance is tricky though, especially right now when I have so many things to do and feel pulled in many directions. That is a down side. So is the fact that it can be hard to turn my brain off at bedtime enough that I can sleep. Reading something completely unrelated is vital to calming my speeding train of thought.

But back to my topic: a space of my own.

I work on a laptop, so due to uncomfortable dining chairs, I do like to sit in our overstuffed chairs much to the chagrin of my knees. But then again, I'm up and down so much that I stretch lots.

Still though, I needed a place to keep all my business stuff organized. I also needed a clean place that wasn't going to end up having jam spread all over it (like the dining table) and I also wanted to get all our personal papers in order too.

So I was industrious the other day and moved one of these comfy chairs (although they are horribly made and have the most awful goldish fabric that is ripping- the things that come from renting a furnished flat) into K's room and moved the Ikea desk in her room into the lounge (living room). Shifting the dining area a little and turning it to be at an angle to the corner it was in gave us a bit more room and space between it and the desk.

We have no money to buy furniture or organizational things, so I'm being creative at the moment. Instead of file folders for all our bills and stuff, I took our christmas cards and some small binder clips, slipped the sorted stacks of bills and other papers into the cards and then clipped the top or side to keep things from falling out. I'll probably keep doing this because instead of large file folders, the cards are neat and tidy. I'll probably buy some cheap non-holiday ones from our pound shop (ie. dollar store) later. There you go, your DIY tip for the day!

In any case, the results of my 3 hours of hard work is a neat and tidy work space that is mine. It may not be entirely devoted to my business, but nothing in this set-up will be really.

Here is my home "office" in all it's glory:

A piece of inspiration stuck to my white board with one of K's magnets...

A good notebook with a short version of my to-do list, purple pen (why not?) and my iPhone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Checking off the List

Thanks for all your support! Things are moving along now and coming together nicely if I do say so myself.

I've also realized how nitpicky I can be about things. For example, it took me several hours to comb through all my images and find the one that was perfect for my Etsy store banner and other graphics I needed. And I tested my graphical design prowess by installing free for use fonts so I could get the "perfect" look.

Suffice to say, it was worth it.

Still lots to do, but I now have a new blog/gallery for my art (you can find it HERE), and a Facebook page (HERE). Don't worry though, I'll still be blogging here. I want to keep my personal stuff out of the business stuff, so it made sense to separate everything.

Everything is still a work in progress so bear with me as I get things set up!

And on a very different and completely random note, I learned how to french braid my hair today. Huh, cool…

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decisions, Compromises and Finding Courage

I mentioned I have been in a bit of a funk.

That was a lie.

The other night at far too late an hour to be having proper discussions, hubby and I hashed out some issues. He asked my if I was mad at him. I was. We talked. I admitted the truth…

I am depressed… again.

Been there, done that, know the drill.

It's no secret that this move has been hard on me. I've now been in this new country for 7.5 months and sure enough it was at the 6 month mark that it really hit me. Just in time for the cold and wet winter weather to set in. Just in time for Christmas.

It's not just being far away from friends and family, and the solution isn't as simple as making new friends. I haven't had any status here. Aside from a visa that allows me to live and work here, you wouldn't know I was even here. Bills were all set up before I came (though that is changing), the bank account can't be changed to a joint one for another week, and I have no money of my own.

I hate feeling like I am a kept woman. I'm too independent for that.

I'm not going to re-hash the argument, but simply put, I needed things and didn't know how to ask for them. As usual it builds to a point where I can't take it anymore and I blow up. Usually over something small. I know this about myself and it's simply something I accept and try to watch out for. But when you're depressed, every… little… thing… becomes… HUGE.

The day before this rather hard day, I was inspired. As in the kind of inspiration that fills you up with so much happiness that you bounce off the walls and feel like you might explode! Have you ever felt that?

It was so simple too; I found some photography competitions. That I can actually enter. And are free. The ones that cost money to enter are big ones and could be very worthwhile, but I need to work up to them.

But my excitement was quickly brought down to reality, crushed really by a bad evening with the crazy demon that has taken over my normally lovely child. Terrible twos… I LOATHE them. They make me feel like an inept and horrible mother. Can we skip them? Please?

But now, a couple days after my talk with my hubby (who is far more patient than I often give him credit for), I've not only found inspiration again, I'm running with it.

It comes down to finances. I mentioned that we are on a budget. It's a tight budget since most of our spare money goes home to pay off debts and student loans. It sucks but there isn't too much I can do about that from here.

So we have to cut our expenses here or make more money, or both. I'm opting for both. Now, keeping in mind all our constraints (no vehicle, urban location, small flat), we can't be one of those people who collects coupons and runs to five different locations to get the best deal. I hate grocery shopping in one location with a difficult toddler, let alone trying to do five times in a week. But we manage with smart food choices (also healthier- a definite bonus) and doing the small things to reduce our other bills.

But it won't be enough to help us have the lifestyle we want. Here we are in a entirely different country 7000 kms from home and we can't afford to go out and explore much. I also have things I want to save for (both short and long term goals), plus the all important rainy day fund to see us through the next job change in a few years or if the European economy sinks more than it already has., I want a way out and home. I don't want to be in the same place we were last year. We won't even get started on the things I want for our daughter (to be able to do swimming classes and maybe a dance class or gymnastics). This all costs money we can't possible save at the moment.

The answer is clear: I need to be bringing in an income.

So I have my National Insurance number in hand now and many constraints on the kind of work I can do. This led to a lot of brainstorming on my part. If I want to stick to a viable work-from-home idea, I could be a Virtual Assistant and do project or data entry etc. from home for companies who need extra help but don't want to hire a regular employee.

But… knowing myself as I do and knowing that I need creativity and inspiration in my life, this is not enough. It can be a start though, so we'll see if I do that as well as my other plan, which is already in motion.

I am an artist, a photographer. Over and over I have veered away from traditional careers in hopes that my art could be my career. But it's not a simple thing to accomplish and I have to keep in mind that I need to try and accomplish a steady income.

I'm not going to be a hired photographer. While wedding photography appeals to me, the long hours away from home on weekends don't mesh well with our life right now. I can't afford childcare (yet), and I need to be around in the evenings and weekends if Ryan goes off for work meetings and conferences (which happens several times a year). I need to be able to work from home in a way that I decide.

So I'm once again starting a photography business. But rather than muddle through as I did before, I'm selling my work online. I love Etsy!! Thank you to my friend CB for introducing it to me a couple years ago, as I will soon have a platform for selling fine art photography. I also am working towards having my work shown in galleries.

It's not going to be easy. But I have a plan. A real plan, all written down in steps. This is real, it's going to happen! I'm nervous and a little scared. But I'm also happy and excited about it!

Stay tuned for more about my upcoming Etsy store…

And now for a parting photo:

(She fell asleep in my lap while on Skype with my brother the other week…)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Photo of the Day: Lines Drawn

A sunny day should never be wasted. This is from the Botanical Gardens and I was very excited to have the new filters I got for Christmas. :)

Cooking for the Soul: Chocolate-Coconut Pudding

In a bit of a funk, which I'll discuss in another post. For now, part of my budget and healthy living involved making any treats I want myself. If I want to have something for dessert, I better be prepared to take the time to make it.

I use coconut milk quite a bit for different things, mostly Indian or Thai dishes. But rarely do I get to use up the whole can, so I'm left with a bunch and a question as to whether I should toss it or use it.

Last week I used it. There was still 3/4 of light coconut milk and it seemed a shame to waste it. So I went hunting for something to make for dessert. Given our decreased budget for food (more on that later), I only have so much in the cupboards and fridge. But luckily for me I stocked up around christmas for the myriad of baking planned to do (some of which I did, some I didn't).

None of the recipes I saw appealed to me and many of them that did, I either didn't have the time for or the ingredients.

So I made pudding. 

I played with a vanilla pudding recipe that was simple. It's a thinner pudding, but you could use a little more cornstarch if you wanted it more set.

Chocolate-Coconut Pudding:

2 Cups coconut milk (Use what you have and top up with regular milk. The fattier the milk, the richer the pudding)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (you can use any sugar really, but I like how the molasses of the dark brown works with the chocolate)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 table spoons good quality cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat milk in a saucepan on medium heat till it's just starting to bubble. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add in batches to the hot milk till dissolved. Heat until it thickens and remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. You can divide it into individual dishes or leave pour it in one larger heatproof bowl. Chill and serve.

I had mine warm and boy was it bloody good! Sorry, no photo…