The artists’ blog-hop

I was recently approached by a creative friend to take part in an artists’ blog-hop. The idea with a blog-hop is that you introduce the person who nominated you, write a post answering a few set questions, then hand over the blog baton to other artists. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the post, but first, I would like to introduce Sam Dounis who nominated me for the blog-hop. Sam’s artistic talents take the form of cartoons of a mischievous sheep called Seamus, allowing her to combine her interest in drawing with her passion for story telling. Do take the time to check out Sam’s blog where you can smile at the adventures of Seamus, as well as reading about her lifestyle experiments.

Now, on to the questions…

How does my creative process work?
My creative process is a form of free-flowing self-expression. It is usually spontaneous and rarely involves any planning. I respond to my feelings; the weather; my environment and whatever else inspires me to put black marker to brown paper or to pick up my camera or to let loose with colours on canvas. My art covers a variety of media and I often work with whatever materials I have at hand. Whilst out and about, walking in the woods with my children, I often feel inspired to make art, so I gather sticks and stones and lay them out on the ground to form whatever image or shape I feel drawn to create and if I have my camera with me, I will use it to document this temporary art.

She

Lady of the wood, made in Cuffley Great Woods whilst walking with my children.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I often use words in my art. I like to chalk out messages in my local park or on the street or at the railway station. I do this to draw people’s attention to things they may not otherwise notice; to encourage them to be mindful and not to miss the magical details in everyday life… there are so many of them. There can be a lot of mystery in the processes of some people’s art, which is wonderful… I love to look at a work of art and mull over how on earth the artist could have done it, but with my own art, I want people to think, “I could have made that.” I strongly believe that engaging in creative activities enhances people’s lives, so I want to encourage everyone to give art a try. Art is visual self-expression. It can be incredibly therapeutic, but many people struggle to express what goes on in their inner-world; art is a way of liberating those things you cannot put into words.

lady

Body art made in a hotel room in Glasgow and photographed against the window.

What am I working on now?
I am busy spreading the word about my upcoming Inspiration Days, so this means sharing the art I am currently making and whatever turns me on creatively. The Inspiration Days are an opportunity for people to meet up, make friends and create art. My art changes day by day. It is always experimental and I allow myself total freedom. Last week, I started a new series of drawings mapping the clouds, drawing cloud formations out whilst gazing at the sky, not looking at the paper. This makes me feel both mindful and free. I examine the clouds carefully, but I do not try to create a likeness, I just use them as my starting point. Recent experiments have involved oil pastels on paper, smudged with kitchen oil. Previous experiments have been in animation.

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because it’s too hard not to. Art is a part of who I am. It is something I have always (to a greater or lesser degree) done. Expressing myself creatively is vital to living a full and happy life. I share my art because I have witnessed, first hand, the transformative power of art and I would like to inspire people to give it a try. I teach art to children because I love their energy and they teach me so much. I make art with grown ups because I love to connect with others over art and to liberate people from the fears that have held them back and watch them blossom as they have the courage to experiment and become free to make art. In expressing yourself through art, you can discover your own voice and gain the confidence to speak up in other areas of your life.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

So, having answered the questions myself, I am passing the blog baton on… to three artists friends who inspire me through their own creativity. They will post answers to the questions above on their own blogs next Monday, but please feel free to check out their creative output right now!

First up is Alice Sheridan. Alice appears as comfortable working in print or on canvas as in sketchbooks. Her mixed media landscapes, whilst varied in subject matter are always atmospheric. She shares her creative process and musings at www.creativetortoise.com

Morwhenna Woolcock likes to be known as The Creative Adventurer and what better title for one whose life is one creative experiment after another? Morwhenna is a glowing ball of creative energy. Her doodling experiment begins today and you can join her at www.morwhenna.com

Bernard Webb is a photographer with a rare talent. He is able, in a single photograph, to capture a whole range of emotions. His images convey nostalgia and melancholy; joy and possibility. Though largely inspired by landscape and architecture, his knack for portraiture and street photography cannot be denied. See his work at www.bjwphotography.net

Next week, I will be taking part in a writers’ blog-hop, so watch this space.

Life lessons I learned from sailing

rope Be Creative Daily started out as a way of documenting a 30 day commitment to my creativity some 30 months ago. One of the first things I learned to do early on was be more open about what being creative means to me and not just limit it to art. I apply creativity to my cooking; ways of looking; how I coil my ropes; my life. I am open to possibilities; to experimentation as a way of learning; to surprising twists and turns and as I have already shared here, this last month has seen be doing something I had never previously considered: sailing a yacht.

This week, I received my Competent Crew certificate, having spent 5 days in the Solent, learning the ropes. Prior to this adventure, I had only ever spent two nights on the water… a little taster a couple of weeks earlier to see how I liked it. Having enjoyed the sense of space out in the fields close to where I grew up and relishing the feeling of freedom that travel and new experiences offer, I loved it. It was way outside my comfort zone and I was constantly in fear of either myself (not a strong swimmer) or someone else (what if I panic and we can’t get them out quick enough) falling overboard; nobody did.

Rising with the sun and sneaking out early through the window in the cabin roof for coffee and breakfast before the others on the yacht woke up was such fun. Feeling the breeze through that window; watching the stars from my bed; listening to the clinking and lapping as I fell asleep was music to my ears, like a meditation. Days were spent checking the engine, learning new terms, tying and untying ropes, hopping on an off, standing at the helm, steering the boat, tacking and gybing and practicing manoeuvres and our man overboard routine (not with a real person, thank goodness, but stopping and turning the boat and hooking up a bucket and a fender). It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. I slept well on the yacht!

I learned so much in those 5 days… about sailing and the weather, about life and myself. Here are some of the important life lessons that being out on the water taught or reminded me that I have already applied (or soon will) to my business:
1. It’s OK to mess up.
Step up, take action, get out there, make mistakes and learn from them. Being told by my love (an experienced sailor) before I went out for the first time that I should “go and make mistakes” gave me permission to **** up. Here’s your permission if you need it: go and make mistakes. You will likely learn much more from your mistakes than from the things you get right. Whilst at the helm one afternoon, when I really should have handed over a little earlier, I turned the boat way too far. Voices were raised, I scared myself, but I didn’t do it again. Ready to throw in the towel (and feeling really stupid), the instructor encouraged me to stay at the helm for the next manoeuvre. I got it right, regained my confidence and from then on, got better and better.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
I am not a strong swimmer. I feel sick on a ferry if the sea is a little choppy. I had no clue who I would be sharing the yacht with for two days that first time I tried sailing. I was stepping way outside my comfort zone on many levels. It was a steep learning curve, but I soon became comfortable with it and was ready for the next challenge. If you keep stepping outside your comfort and meeting new challenges your world will expand and you will achieve much more.
3. Allow the tide to assist you
Finding your flow and going with it, you will get to your destination much quicker. When we tried to move against the tide, even with the wind on our side, we got nowhere fast. Find your flow and use it to propel you forwards. Don’t fight what’s easy… use it to benefit you.
4. Enjoy the gift of the present.
I love taking photos, but on day one on the water, my camera broke. I felt lost, unable to capture the memories in the way that feels natural. After my initial frustration subsided and I gave in to the fact that I could not record what I was seeing in my usual way, I allowed myself to sit back and take in the views and the details in a way I rarely do when armed with my camera. I began to take photos with my mind and even began drawing in my head. This meant that I was totally in the moment instead of looking at life through a lens. What also happened was that my desire to draw became even stronger than my desire to take photos. Allow yourself to be in the moment. Step back and observe and breathe it all in. Give yourself the space required for new things to open up for you.
5. Work with others
There is much to be learned and gained from working as a team. Everyone has different strengths and brings their own energy and experience. Observing two men with wildly different sailing backgrounds (one racing on tidal waters; one sailing in the Caribbean), but a common understanding of the yacht and the sea, working side by side, was like watching beautiful choreography. Find people with whom you share values and interests and work with them to mutual benefit.
6. Be open to everything
Just two months ago, I was standing on Yarmouth Pier with my love and my boys, watching a woman on a yacht sail by, wondering what it must feel like. Not for one moment did I imagine I would ever find out. Yet, two months later, it was me on the yacht, being watched by a family on Yarmouth Pier as we sailed into the harbour to moor up for the night. Anything can happen… remain open to possibilities.

sunsetPlease share below your own experience of putting these things into action as I am sure you already have. The more we share, the more we realise we are not alone.

Little British Things

littleThink of Little British Things and fish and chips and ice cream in cones and other simple delights spring to mind. On May 13, a wonderful, adventurous friend of mine, Diane Leigh, took off on a tour of Britain, by road, boat and rail in search of these things that make Britain so… well, so British. Along the way, she heard stories and told tales and sampled local delights as part of her 80 day Little British Things tour, during which she raised funds for the RNLI.

On July 14, we met up on the beach with a mission… a little meeting that had been planned (though very loosely, as in, “we must meet on the beach and make art”) for some time.

When you think of Britain’s beaches, it is unlikely that you will think of London (unless you are a regular visitor to the South Bank at low tide)… but when the water is out, the Thames has plenty of sand and all manner of scavengers’ delights… if only you know where to go. So, at 10.30am, we met up at the Royal Festival Hall and headed for the beach at the foot of the OXO Tower. Here, without a specific design in mind, we began gathering the raw materials to make our beach art. Driftwood and stones, shells and shoe soles, old brushes, bits of clay pipe, sea glass, a little plastic fish and some objects unknown were placed in piles ready to make a start.

collection“Let’s make a map”, Diane suggested, so we started setting out the pieces in the shape of Britain. The tide soon turned inwards and as the piece began to take shape, we sorted by colour and design and a plastic watering can came to represent a tea pot and fragments of weathered glass and worn plastic were placed in groups to mark sea and countryside.

cornwallIn the space of a couple of hours, our piece was almost complete and to finish it off, Diane scored the centre of the map with a fork we had found, leaving little lines along the land she had recently travelled, the shoe soles crossing the map as she had crossed the country. A couple came over, curious to find out what we were making and seemed keen to share their experiences of their own journeys as people who like to travel so often are. Then we walked up the stairs and we watched as a little boy strolled across our map from west coast to east coast and back again and we went for a sandwich, leaving the inbound waters to wash away our temporary art.

boyInspiration is everywhere… keep your eyes open wide.
Adventures can be yours… make up your mind.
Create something form nothing… be willing to try.

Diane set a target of raising £1000 for the RNLI by the end of her current adventure. Yesterday, donations exceeded that amount. Tomorrow is the final day of her tour, so if you would like to donate to the cause, click here to make a difference.

thank youLet me know what Little British Things means to you.
Share the adventures you dream of.
What would you make if we went to the beach together?

Everything is a miracle

Everything is a miracleAs we stumble through life, there are so many things we overlook. 

On certain days, my eyes are wide to life’s miracles; I notice all of nature’s divine details and on other days, I just drift through in a fog.

As I have mentioned here before, my current weekday routine is to detour through the park as I head home after the morning school run… taking the long way instead of the short cut. This sets me up for the day and gives me the clarity I need to see beyond the blur of Must Do list.

Today, I took a barefoot, mindful stroll in my love’s garden and took the time to enjoy the little miracles that have unfolded since I was here last. Some roses have faded as others have burst into bloom; the grass has become long and the apples have grown. Simple things.

Through my camera, I also see things with fresh eyes. I see shapes and colours in different ways and this slow time absorbing and recording boosts my creativity.

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

I am choosing the latter. Everything is a miracle.

I would like to share with you this Vietnamese Proverb:
“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
and invite you to share your thoughts in the comments here.

With my love,
Julia x

Pushing the boat out beyond my comfort zone

Haslar MarinaJulia onboard

 

 

 

 

 

 


One week ago today, I took a leap into the great unknown on a salty adventure that took me way outside my comfort zone.

For a few years during my childhood, Dad had a little boat which was moored on a canal close to home on which we would occasionally explore the waterways of Warwickshire. I remember vividly the time I saw my first kingfisher, but I recall little else. In recent years, many holidays have been taken in a France, so a quick hop across the channel on a big ferry has been a regular occurrence, but I had never been sailing.

The previous week, my partner, a keen sailor in his younger years, had returned from five days in the Solent gaining his Competent Crew certificate, full of enthusiasm. Each evening he would call home, detailing the day and his delight was evident; infectious even. He suggested I give sailing a try and whilst I agreed in principle, I had not an inkling that a few days later, I myself would be stepping on board a yacht for the first time and going sailing. To cut a long story short, after a small amount of resistance on my part and some persuasion on his, he signed me up to head off to the Solent for a weekend on board a boat called Intuition and 48 hours of intensive learning. “Go,” he told me “get involved and don’t be afraid to make mistakes because that’s the best way to learn.”

I had no idea who the other people on board would be, what their level of competence was or how we would get on in a confined space. To be frank, I didn’t even know if I would make it thought the first night on board without being sick… but I did. All was well and I loved it!

The very gentle movements of the boat in the water at night were barely detectable and the sounds of the marina were soothing. I shared a cabin with a fellow artist, a mother to two boys like me and there was a lot of nervous giggling that first evening. Also on board were a father and son and our instructor Dave who had worked in the Navy and on submarines. I felt comfortable and confident under his instruction. The amount of information to take in was somewhat overwhelming. Words I had never heard before were taught to us and we learned to tie figure of eights, reef knots and bowlines. I have to admit that my heart gave a flutter as we first hoisted the mainsail. It looked so tall and I was struck by the power of the wind. The weather was kind to us and all apprehension and uncertainty melted away as we got stuck in with the hands-on learning. I was in my element… out under rolling clouds, off into open waters, enjoying the breeze.

One of the benefits of being signed up to this unexpected activity so soon was that there was little time for the anxieties to build up, but I truly had not a clue what to expect as I stood waiting at Hamble station for my lift.

My childhood and teenage years were not the most adventurous. I was never encouraged or inclined to take risks and my comfort zone was a safe and familiar place that I rarely left. I was taught always to have an eye out for the dangers or risks and though I have been a little more courageous in recent years, stepping onto a boat full of strangers with not a clue what I was doing really did feel quite brave. But it taught me something… as trying anything new does… that if you stretch outside your comfort zone, you eventually get comfortable in that new place and your world expands a little. Each time you push, your world grows more.

I felt a little tearful as we headed back to Hamble Marina on Sunday afternoon… two days at sea with strangers and all of the new knowledge I had acquired felt like such a massive achievement. I was proud of myself. On Monday morning, still swaying in my chair, I downloaded my pictures. The experiences have taken a little longer to download and it has taken me several days longer than I intended to write up this post, but I got there. These things can take a while to sink in.

The sense of space out in the middle of the water was incredible; the feeling of freedom with the wind in my hair was unbeatable; the feeling of control at the helm as the boat responded to the slightest movement of the tiller was empowering and I returned home a more confident woman.

Sometimes it is vital that we feel the fear and do it anyway; we need to step outside our comfort zones in order to grow.

I have just booked my next sailing adventure… in less than three weeks, I leave Southampton for five days! Obtaining my Competent Crew certificate is my mission this time.

I would love to know your experiences of pushing outside your comfort zone. When did you feel the fear and do it anyway and what were the results for you?

boatseau yeah!

Investing in myself and embracing authenticity

living authentically
Last year, I was asked by my coach at the time what I did to invest in myself.

Her coaching was in lieu of help I had been giving on a project and I was hard pressed to remember a time when I had really invested in myself. I went to the hairdresser only when my mane became particularly unruly, had never had my nails done professionally and had not received a massage or other such treatment in at least 5 years. Paying for coaching or spending money on mentoring or personal development that involved anything more than spending a few quid on Amazon was totally off the radar.

How then, she enquired, did I expect other people to invest in me and my offerings?

This conversation came around the time that I was working on content for my online courses. It took a few months before her words of wisdom finally sunk in, but eventually they did. Still, investing in myself when I had little money to my name felt like an enormous leap. Nevertheless, I was keen to make substantial changes in my life and on the last day of last year, I signed up with my mentor, committing to one year of working together. I have not regretted it for one moment. I had faith that if I invested in myself, other people would also invest in me. One month and a day later, I ran my first online course, with more participants than I had imagined possible for a first outing.

My major learning in the past few months, guided by my mentor, has been around authenticity. How can I build a business in a way that’s authentically me? The answer reflects back to the conversation with my coach around leading by example and living the life that I want to be living and sharing that authentic me… more joy, more gratitude, more creativity. So, here I am, six months in, blogging about my personal journey so far this year.

It may sound obvious, but I have noticed how, particularly as mothers, we too often neglect our own needs. We make sure our kids wear their coats on cold days, eat healthy, well balanced meals, go to bed early enough that they are well rested, attend clubs, see friends, but do you ever ask yourself what about me? I have lost count of the times I have left the house under-dressed or under-fed, stayed up way too late and neglected to spend time with my friends. Surely this too is behaviour we should be modelling… to care for (and speak to) ourselves as we would someone we love.

These past few weeks, I have been living more authentically. I am addressing my own needs and if I want to do something because it excites me and pushes me a little (such as horse riding), I will do it, knowing it will benefit me. I have invested in support to move through difficult issues. I have invested in a couple of items of clothing that my (self-designated) budget would not previously have stretched to. I dress up to stand out, not to fit in. I had my hair done before it got to the desperate stage; have taken time to clarify my feelings on certain subjects, allowed myself to really feel them and spoken my mind. I am finding my voice in more ways than one.

In finding my voice and being true to myself, I find that I have more to share and new ways of connecting. I feel more me. All of this comes from the more conscious, authentic living that I am working on. The knock on effect is that more people see what I am doing, are encouraged to consider making their own changes and subscriptions are increasing steadily. This keeps me going on my creative path and the more I commit to my path, the more I feel I want to share. I can feel it all growing… the business, the authenticity, the energy.

Other surprising things are happening; more opportunities are opening up day by day. So it is when you commit to your path and allow yourself to be open to change. The more I do of the things that excite me and bring joy to my life, the clearer I get about the path I want to follow and the closer I get to it day by day. What you focus on grows and in being grateful for all of the joys in my life already, there is more to be grateful for every day.

If you could do anything, how would you invest in yourself?
What single, small change can you make today from which you will benefit?
If there is any part of yourself that you are hiding, or if you feel that you have lost your way, think back to when you felt most you and most happy.
What can you do today to live more authentically?
Leave a comment below and tell me.

With my love,
Julia x

What inspired you today?

Today, I was out and about between school runs, shooting a video in Regents Park for the 30 Day Challenge and taking in the everyday inspirations that we too often take for granted. I do love my freelance life.

On Highbury & Islington station, between underground train arriving and overground train leaving, I had just ten minutes to kill. Again, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of pattern and texture, image and inspiration and shot more than 20 usable images. The dirt splattered walls made me want to get busy with charcoal and the broken ceiling lights looked stunning through a lens. Off at my home stop again, I was taken with the simple beauty of staple-studded wooden poles and a scratched and splintered fence. I have plans for these images… you will see some here in future weeks. I hope they will encourage others to look twice.

What inspired you today?

Let your true self shine

At school, I was the one who never wore jeans. I was the tall girl with the long hair… the one who made her own clothes, decorated her leggings with a stencil and a fabric pen and wore her Dad’s jumper as a skirt and made skirts by hand from sari fabric. The clothes I wore, were an expression of how I felt… different. I think we all feel that, to an extent.

Whilst at Uni, weekends were spent trawling the flea markets and charity shops, seeking out garments that made my heart sing… clothes which already had histories. At times, I felt like an actor in a play. I loved getting dressed up and acting out my life in the city. But as I grew a little older, found a job, settled down, I expressed myself less and less through my attire. This was partly because I was no longer finding such gems in the charity shops, but it was also a case of losing my sense of personal style.

Having kids has a massive impact on what I chose to wear. During pregnancy, choices are limited. First time around, I teamed nighties with leggings, but after the birth of my son, practical took over from pretty as my priority in an attempt to find clothes I could easily breast feed in and that covered my newly stretched figure. As I lost my baby weight I found that I regained neither my original figure nor my sense of style and felt lost putting outfits together. This sense of being lost as to what I should wear, was a reflection of how I was feeling in general. In becoming a mother, I had gained a baby, but outside of being Mum, I had lost my identity.

Ten years on, now that big boy is almost looking me in the eye and small boy is at school and five, I am finally finding my way back to me. In doing more of the things I love and earning an income from my strengths I am finding my own voice again and with this, my sense of style is returning. I am not trying to please anyone but me and I am not trying to be anyone else. I am rediscovering who I am and how I want to show up in the world and it feels empowering. I am still Mum, yes, but I am also Julia; a woman in her own right, with a voice and opinions and needs. I am embracing my difference and letting my true self shine once again.

With my love,
Julia x

p.s. I would love to hear if any of this resonates with you… let me know your experiences in the comments below please. Let’s get a conversation flowing.

 

You shall go to the ball

When my gorgeous boyfriend called to invite me to the dinner and dance at his son’s school recently, I was both delighted and dismayed. Delighted because I had never been to such an event before… it was to be black tie and he would be hiring a tux for himself and his son. Dismayed because, well… where shall I start with the anxieties…? The first was, “What on earth should I wear?”, swiftly followed by “I don’t know anyone”, but it turns out I was not the only one who was feeling nervous. On accepting the invitation, I was met with a sigh. “P”, said he (for whom, in his own words, ‘smart is a clean pair of jeans’) “I thought you were more reliable than that, you know I don’t want to go. You were supposed to say ‘no’, but I guess we really should go, shouldn’t we?” So, we acknowledged that it would do us good to step outside our comfort zones and we went. Needless to say, it was wonderful!

I imagine most of you readers are girlies like me, with an interest in, though perhaps not a passion for fashion. So, let’s talk about what I wore. First, a little background… I was brought up by my parents to budget carefully. I was given a modest clothing allowance, with which I bought my own outfits and shoes. In my humble, teenage opinion, this was barely enough, but what it taught me was to be careful with money… a habit I have carried on into my adult years. So, when it came to buying a dress for the ball, I was cautious. I had a (self-imposed) tiny budget and not a clue about what I should be spending it on. So first, I purchased something I thought I could get away with and then (as I didn’t feel happy with the first purchase), something which, in my desperation, was just fine. And by fine, I mean not exquisite, but satisfactory. The sparkly shoes though were perfect. I had purchased them years ago and they had been inhabiting my wardrobe for almost a decade. They had barely seen the light of day, just waiting for a date like this!

I still felt nervous about going to the ball. Any tiny tinges of excitement I had initially felt were drowned out by a feeling of not good enough. The day before the ball, out in Windsor, picking up the suits my boyfriend had hired, he asked me the million dollar question: “Do you feel happy with what you are wearing tomorrow?” This was not a pointed, “Why don’t you think about getting something else because I don’t like what you want to wear” question. It was a gentle and genuine “Are you happy? Do you feel at ease?” He had sensed I did not. So, in desperation, I slipped into a couple of boutiques, flicked through the rails, discounting everything as being too expensive or not me and gave up.

In an attempt to distract myself whilst B picked up the suits, I popped into a department store to look for a Birthday gift for my Mum. There, I saw a dress that I would not normally have looked twice at. A switch in my head flicked. I wanted to feel confident and look good and to do so, I might have to shop outside my comfort zone. Slowly, with the assistant’s encouragement, I gathered a couple of dresses to try on. One was quite “me”, the other not so much. Both, I adored! I put out a call to B who promptly returned. I held them up and asked his opinion. This in itself was a vulnerable act as we have never, in our 4 years as a couple, been clothes shopping together. For me, shopping is a solo event. But maybe it shouldn’t be! “Which one do you prefer?” he prompted. “Well, this one is more me.” I answered, holding up the floaty green number. “Well try the other one then.” he said. He was right.

There was something about the little metallic shift dress that made me feel incredible… so incredible that, for once, I didn’t flinch at the price tag which, even in the sale, was more than I had ever previously spent on an item of clothing (except for my wedding dress). Right there in the changing room, I became excited about the ball and learned a lesson that has been holding me back my whole life. Sometimes it is worth spending more and treating yourself in order to feel good. What you are buying, when you buy a new dress is not just an outfit, you are buying confidence and sometimes that costs a little bit more. It is worth it.

For all the traipsing round the shops that I had previously done; the money on the Oyster card; the ill-advised purchases; the day away from my work; the stress of not feeling good enough, I could just have gone somewhere like this in the first place and saved myself so much. To be fair, I did not really know where to start looking, but now I do. I will start with the dresses that make me feel fabulous. Lesson learned. Next time, I will shop outside my comfort zone… though I can feel myself becoming more comfortable with this way of shopping already. I will set my sights a little higher and happily spend a little bit more in order to feel at ease.

Getting ready to go out on Saturday night was a joy! Never have I felt so confident getting ready for an event, nor have I stressed so little before heading out the door. I was a little nervous, yes, but as soon as we arrived and took that first sip of Pimms outside the marquee on the lawn, I relaxed and knew it was going to be a memorable night for all the right reasons. Inside, we sat with the one friend we knew and made several more. We squeezed hands and smiled as B’s son laughed and joked with his school chums… everyone was having fun. As we drove home, I asked B, “Would you do it again?” “In a heartbeat” he said.