Anybody else feel that they could do so much more if only there were more hours in the day? I had planned for this post to be about little handmade notebooks - and it still will be, eventually - but the thing is that it hasn't quite turned out the way I'd hoped.
As you may or may not know, this blog is not my full time job (yeah I know, you can tell). I work three days a week as a features editor at a women's magazine and the other four days a week I look after my children (with the help of my husband at weekends - obviously) and try to 'do' my blog.
I love my blog, I love that it gives me a space to be creative and learn new skills and I love that it has re-inspired me in the kitchen, encouraging us all to eat better as a family. But at times I find it so frustrating. Not in a whingy whiney way, but in a stamp-my-foot-in-frustration-and-growl-in-the-back-of-my-throat kind of way.
Last week was case in point. I planned to make these little notebooks, because I was off to Blogtacular - a particularly amazing blogging conference in London at the weekend. I didn't actually have time in my week to go out and buy a nice notebook, not without grumpy children in tow - and no one needs that when they're making important stationery decisions.
So I raided the kids craft cupboard for card and paper and got out the sewing machine one evening and made my own. I planned to take pictures of them during naptime the following day and pop them on the blog. I take all my own pictures (yes I know, you can tell that too - right?) and it's a new skill that I'm still learning. My photo shoot time is always limited - max 1.5hr if I get my arse in gear and have everything ready and lunch cleared up before the boys go for their naps. (My almost-four-year-old still naps - I know - I'm hanging on to that nap for dear life).
A whole 1.5hrs - that's an absolute age you might think and some days it totally is. Some days it takes just a few minutes to get what I, at least, think is a good photo. Not this day. I just could not get these notebooks to look pretty - they just lay there, looking ugly and flat and boring. And worst of all when I tried to shoot them from above to get a picture of the embroidered covers the camera just would not focus on them.
There I was, stood barefoot, on top of my kitchen table, trying not to block out the precious daylight and silently screaming at the camera to take the bloody photo before it was the end of naptime. It just wouldn't do it. I had to abandon my blog post and try not to be hideously grumpy for the rest of the afternoon.
I spent the evening wishing I lived in a better house with bigger windows and lighter rooms. I tried to take pictures after work a couple of times but it kept on raining so it was far too dark. I had no back up plan. All my ideas needed prep work that I didn't have time for.
I couldn't even drum up something in my lunch break at work because it was press week and I'd taken Friday off to get to London to the conference. I worked through my lunch breaks and stayed late to get things finished. All the while I was frustrated that I'd had an idea but I just didn't have the time or the skills to make it work when I needed it too.
Why am I telling you all this? Not because I want you to feel sorry for me - but because I think it's important to be honest - and because I want you to bear with me. I want this blog to be amazing, I want the pictures to be fantastic - but I only really took my camera off auto in October last year - so it's going to take some time.
Time - there's that time things again. I have too many big ideas and just not enough hours in the day to achieve them. Each week I think - next week will be calmer I'll be able to get things done and I might even manage to fit in some exercise for my poor stiff body. But every week is the same mad rush. I look at other blogs and I think - well she must have days and days to produce every post - and maybe she does. But I don't so I kind of have to give myself a break right?
This weekend I met, and listened to, some pretty amazing women. All of them were bloggers, a lot of them were parents and all of them were juggling to a great or lesser degree. I learnt a lot, really a lot, most of it is still buzzing around my head in a jumbled mess because I haven't had a spare moment to process it all.
But a few things really stuck in my mind that I wanted to share - I wrote them down in one of my pretty, useful but generally unphotographable notebooks.
1 - "You will always have more ideas than time - and that is ok" - Natalie Lue - How true is this one for all of us? I definitely have more ideas than time - and I'm working on being ok with it.
2 - "Bloggers are awesome - if they don't know how to do something they'll learn it" - Anne Ditmeyer - So I found out why my camera wouldn't focus - the flat colour of the notebook meant it didn't realise there was anything there - I put a pencil in the shot and it worked (thank you Emily Quinton). I still don't like the picture - but at least there is one!
3 - "Blogging challenges you to be the person you're supposed to be" - Natalie Lue again - she's a very wise woman. The person I'm supposed to be does not take pictures of notebooks right now - so I'm moving onwards. Learning new things and new skills and hopefully one day you'll see a post on here all about making notebooks that do look pretty in pictures. In the meantime you can find out how to make these ones below - they look better in real life.
I hope you don't mind my sharing all this. So often on blogs you see these pretty posts, full of perfect pictures, of perfect things and you think - "crikey I want her life, she has so much spare time to make stuff and her house is tidy and gorgeous - I just want to be her." But probably the biggest thing I discovered this weekend is actually we're all normal and we all started somewhere - probably with some not so great photos in tow.
To make your own embroidered note books you will need:
A4 card A4 white paper - I used four sheets per notebook because I didn't want to kill my sewing machine Paper clips Thread in contrasting colours to your card A sewing machine
Method: Stack up one piece of card and four pieces of A4 paper per notebook. If you were being really picky and you have a guillotine you could trim your white paper by 5mm on each side so that when you fold it it sits neatly within the card. I don't have a guillotine and I did try trimming with a craft knife but it left a slightly messy edge - so I left mine with a tiny bit of white peeping out.
Fold the card over to make a book, then open it out and pop a paper clip on each short edge to hold the paper in place. Thread up your machine and bobbin with matching thread. Then with the card upper most sew straight along the spine of the book. I started sewing just off the book and finished just off the end. The I tied the lose ends together inside the centre of the book and trimmed the thread.
That's your basic book. I then decided to make them less plain by embroidering the front. I chose simple stripes and ziz zags which I think look quite neat. Try not to go over the top because every row you sew perforates that card so the more you rows you do the weak it gets.
And that's it. If you didn't fancy embroidering the fronts of your books you could just use patterned paper.
What would you do if you had a few more hours in your day?