The story continues…

Emerald and Lime | Eco-friendly stationery Hey there,

I hope you are well today and that you are enjoying your summer so far. 🙂

I’m just checking in quickly to let you know that I’m shifting the blog over to my website for Emerald and Lime. (It’s an SEO thing *snores* 😉 ). For us to keep in touch from now on, you’ll find me on Emerald and Lime instead of here.

Actually, the VERY best way for us to keep in touch would be if you sign up for Em and Lime updates. When I send these out, I tend to include, and link to, the blog, so it’s probably the easiest way not to miss anything. If you’d like to do that, you can pop over to Em and Lime here and I’d love to see you.

It’s not the end of this site, but it will be quiet for a while. Thank you for all your support, likes and comments over the past few years if I’m leaving you here, but I REALLY hope to see you over at Emerald and Lime so we can continue to chat about all things journaling, planning, stories and, of course, stationery!

Much love,

Elle xoxox

There’s a new post waiting for you on Emerald and Lime, so hop on over now!

Emerald and Lime | Eco-friendly stationery

A year of big changes: coping with overwhelm, anxiety and grief

Hey there,

Hope all is well with you today.

It’s a little over a year since I left my day job to concentrate full time on starting Emerald and Lime. For this and other reasons, I feel like it’s the right time to reflect on the good things that have happened over the past year, as well as the almighty bumps along the way.

This isn’t all about the business. It’s a personal story – sadly without a happy ending, but with another new beginning and that’s never a completely bad thing. 🙂

Business first, though.

I’d wanted to leave my day job for a long time, but it took years – firstly to figure out what I wanted to do and then to get my plans in place to be able to do it. For me, the main purpose of making such a big change was to live a more integrated life, working hard while having the flexibility to focus, as necessary, on my other responsibilities. With my parents getting older and my boys approaching important exam years, I finally committed to the idea of a future with more freedom to concentrate on everything important to me – looking after my family, building something worthwhile for my children and doing something I enjoyed at the same time.

Before I go any further, I should say that I’m 100% glad I made the leap. It was certainly the right decision for me, I love having my own business and I wish I’d made the change years ago.

But…

It has been the most emotionally difficult year I’ve ever experienced.

Getting Emerald and Lime off the ground was a gargantuan task, the steepest learning curve and a very nerve racking adventure. I firmly believe now that any anxieties, self-doubt or worries a person has will well and truly show themselves if they decide to start a business. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to close Em and Lime’s doors (the first time being the day I opened them), but I kept going, and will continue to do so, because fundamentally it’s still been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I said that a big reason I started Em and Lime was to integrate working with my family responsibilities and the freedom to do this became so very much more important recently.

It’s now just over two months since we lost my dad. He died unexpectedly overnight in late February and I haven’t felt able to mention it online until now. We are working hard to get to grips with new routines and to reshape our lives with someone so pivotal missing.

Our wider family and friends were stunned but it is, of course, hardest of all for my mum who spent 60+ years of her life with him.

For my part, I’ve lost an adviser, my best banter-buddy and someone who meant the world to me. I’m still very up and down, but I reckon the only worthwhile way to look at it is that I’m lucky to have had him to lose.

We’re getting back on our feet (ish) but, unsurprisingly, it’s had a big impact on the way I’ll go forward from here, both generally and in my business. I’m going to make sure it does. It’s easy to become jaded and get lost in the day to day minutiae, whether it’s work or life in general,  but I reckon the only way to extract something positive from a sad life event is not to lose the clarity about what’s important that accompanies it.

In light of the whole year’s events, I’ve been thinking about what it would be a good idea for me to remember going into my second year of self-employment. These tips don’t just apply to business and I’ll be bearing in mind variations in other areas of my life too.

  1. Keep sight of the big picture

It’s so easy to get bogged down in some aspects of the day to day (did someone say Google Analytics? zzzzz) and there will always be something that knocks you off course but, if you keep reminding yourself why you started down a particular road, you’ll be able to keep a check on whether that reason is one that’s still important to you.

  1. Don’t let the path to the big picture overwhelm you.

Remember the big picture, but break down the steps to get there. Break them realllllly far down. At the moment I’m making monthly notes of small achievements because it would be too easy to dismiss them on the days when “build something worthwhile for the children” feels unattainable.

  1. Make peace with the fact that everything takes time and stick with it

You’d think I’d have known this already considering the length of time I’ve been writing to be published. I did know it really, but on a day-to-day basis it’s still frustrating. I have so many plans for Em and Lime, but only one pair of hands. Bummer. I’m working hard at focusing on one thing at a time, instead of trying to split my wee self between many different projects.

  1. Make positive changes

It won’t be a good day every single day, but unless overall you feel positive about the direction you’re going in, make a change. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, it just has to be a change for the better.

That sounds easier said than done.

It is, but what’s more important, really, is that it’s easier done than left undone.

  1. People are the most important thing

Not businesses, not getting published, not (*insert deep breath here*) notebooks.  😉

People.

Over the last few weeks, the number of people who have supported mum and me has been staggering. It’s humbling the care and concern that’s been shown for us and always a good thing to be reminded of the fundamental kindness of humans.

These are my reflections on a year of big changes. If you’re still with me, thank you so much for reading.

Onwards.

Elle xoxox

Do you think about the author?

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

I have a quick question for you:

When you are reading a book, do you think about the author?

The reason I ask is, I was speaking to a friend recently who said she always thinks about the author when she’s reading a book. She wonders why they wrote the story they wrote and what parts of it are true to their real life.

That’s not something I’ve ever really done.

When I’m reading, I think of the characters, the story and I’m in that world (if it’s a good book). The thought that someone wrote it rarely comes into my head. Even if it’s a book I’m not enjoying, I’m thinking more about the writing or the story, I’m not thinking or wondering anything about the author or their life.

The only caveat to this is, when I read books by online buddies whom I feel I know, I occasionally get a jolt of, ‘Ooh, X wrote this,’ but that’s more just pride in their achievement/excitement on their behalf, because I know what it takes to write a book. In the generality, I don’t do what my friend does.

I’d love to know your views on this, so please get in touch either here or on Twitter and let me know!

Elle 🙂 xx

 

TAPESTRY_front150dpi copy Amazon and websitesIn hope, in pain,

we lose, we gain,

but always and forever

the human heart braves life

in light and in shade.

Tapestry. A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love. Available now.

Random facts and plenty of them

Hey there,

Hope you are well today. I saw this tag on the lovely Portobellobookblog – Thanks, Joanne! I love random fact posts, so I thought I’d just join right in. 🙂

What is your middle name? 

Elizabeth.

What is your favourite drink?

Sauvignon Blanc or Caramel macchiato

What is your favourite song at the moment?

When He Sees Me by Sara Bareilles. It’s from the Soundtrack to the musical Waitress.

What is your favourite food?

Baked salmon with tomato puree and cayenne pepper, rice and broccoli.

Or a burger with blue cheese. 😉

What is the last thing you bought?

I think it was Molecule 01 perfume.

IMG_1617

Favourite book of all time?

This is so hard to answer, but I’ll try.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Although I loved reading as a child, this was the first book on the high school syllabus that resonated with me. I spoke about this when I visited Rhoda Baxter’s blog to take part in her fab Inheritance Books slot.

Addition – Toni Jordan

Even though I had wanted to write since I was a child, it was while reading this book that I decided I was definitely going to write books myself. I enjoyed it so much I thought, I want to be able to do this.

11/22/63 – Stephen King

Blimmin’ good book, this.

Favourite Colour?

Green, most shades until it heads towards yellow.

Do you have any pets?

No, sadly not. I’m allergic to most household animals. We used to have budgies, though. Budgies are cool. They really are.

Favourite Perfume?

At the moment, a blend of French Lime Blossom and English Pear and Freesia by Jo Malone.

2015-05-04 17.29.50

Favourite holiday?

In 2000 Hobs and I went to the States for 16 days and visited New York, Washington, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I love the US and would go back in a heartbeat. I’d love to tour it in a motorhome for a year – that’s on the bucket list.

Are you married?

Yes. Hobs and I met at University. We got married in 1997 and chose our wedding date to coincide with my Grandad’s 93rd birthday. Everyone at the wedding signed a massive card for Grandad which, now that he is no longer with us, is a keepsake we have at home here.

Have you ever been out the country? If so, how many times?

Um…Canada twice, USA twice, Lanzarote, Majorca, Germany, Italy, mainland Spain and Hungary so that makes ten, I think.

Do you speak any other language?

I’m very embarrassingly rusty, but languages were my “thing” at school. I did French, Spanish and Italian. My brain doesn’t work fast enough for me to speak any of them well, but I could probably pick up reading them again OK.

How many siblings do you have?

None.

What is your favourite store?

Blimey. I’ve been thinking about this for a while but I’ve no idea. It’s a while since I’ve browsed anywhere as I’m usually on a clock when shopping. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

Favourite restaurant?

We’ve forgotten how to go to restaurants, really. We still go to places our guys like mainly – Pizza Hut, TGI, that sort of thing.

When was the last time you cried?

I mist up a lot, mainly at music and books, sometimes the TV, but I’m not a big boo-hooer in any circumstance really. My nose goes instantly red, so there would never be any scope to hide it, so I try not to.

Favourite Blog?

Ooh, good question. There are so many. In fact, I’m going to cheat a bit and pretend this question said Favourite Vlog so that I can narrow it down better. I loved watching these vloggers variations on “Vlogmas” over Christmas.

Pretty Shiny Sparkly

Ms Goldgirl

Lily Pebbles

The Michalaks

Favourite Movie?

Hmm, another tricky one. I don’t watch a lot of films, but I loved the ones we watched when our guys were smaller like Ice Age, Cars and Monsters inc. I like a good romcom too, so probably Love, Actually or The Holiday.

Favourite TV show?

Coronation Street.

PC or Mac?

PC

What phone do you have?

Iphone 6. Permanently attached to it. Love love love.

What’s your favourite pastime? 

Reading, falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube (to watch the folks I mentioned above).

Can you cook?

Yes, I’m nothing spectacular but I can cook well enough. I can’t bake, though, everything comes out a bit wrong.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

I have pierced ears, but that’s all. Periodically I toy with the idea of a tattoo. I’d like a little witch on my shoulder.

 

So that’s it! I’d love to know what you would say to these questions! If you join in the tag, please let me know so I can check out your posts.

Much love,

Elle. 🙂 xx

TAPESTRY_front150dpi copy Amazon and websitesIn hope, in pain,

we lose, we gain,

but always and forever

the human heart braves life

in light and in shade.

Tapestry. A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love. Available now.

Book benches

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

Thanks to twitter (what else?) I found out about Books About Town, a project by Wild in Art and the National Literacy Trust.

Fifty benches shaped like open books can be found around London this summer. There are four trails – the Bloomsbury trail, the City trail, the Greenwich trail and the Riverside trail – maps are available on the Books About Town website. You can see the benches in London until 15 September and even bid for one if you like, as they will be auctioned in October to raise money for the National Literacy Trust.

I saw a few benches recently – it’s quite hard to get a photo because, given that they’re benches, someone’s behind is usually parked on them. However, as it was a bit rainy in Greenwich, I managed to snap this:

 

Frozen in Time – the Captain Scott BookBench.

Frozen in Time – the Captain Scott BookBench.

 

Bee-yoootiful! You can find out more about this bench and its artist here.

I love public art events, not only for their fun and aesthetic value, but also from an educational and engagement point of view. If you miss the benches, Wild in Art are working with Transport for London to bring bus sculptures to the city in September for seven weeks. You can find out more here.

Have you seen the benches? Have there been any public art events near you? I’d love to know, so please get in touch either here or on twitter!

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Elle 🙂 xx

 

 

Elsie and the Abbey series

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

I’ve spoken a few times about the books that affected my life when I was little, particularly the Abbey Girls books by Elsie J Oxenham. Elsie died in January 1960, so to commemorate the anniversary of her passing, I thought I would look into Elsie’s life and the Abbey series a little more.

Elsie was born in 1880 and was one of six children, four girls and two boys. Her father was also a writer and she adopted Oxenham, his pen-surname, when her first book (it was not part of the Abbey series) was published in 1907. Elements of her life unsurprisingly turned up in her fiction, for example folk dancing played a large part in the Abbey series and Elsie was a member of the English Folk Dance Society.

There are over 30 Abbey books and some related shorter stories. Apparently characters from the series show up in some of Elsie’s other works and characters from her other works show up in the Abbey series. Although not all of her works are interrelated, I love the idea that her characters moved in and out of each other’s lives and continued to exist beyond the confines of one series.

I have five of the Abbey books, thanks to my mum, and as I said in this post the books made me want red hair, twins and my own Abbey. They also read well alongside my love of dancing and I remember making up my own steps to the dances Elsie described that must have come from her folk dance background. I was also more than a little enchanted by the May Queens who each had their own unique colour and flower associated with their “reign”.

Elsie’s books are collectors’ items and, more than 50 years after her death, there are appreciation societies internationally for those who collect and/or are interested in her works. It is my plan to track down the rest of the Abbey series, the main list you can find here. I’ve had a look and it might prove to be time consuming and a little costly, but I’d love to know more about Joy, Jen, Rosamund and Maidlin among the many, many others who appeared in the books. Many of the books are now out of print although Girls Gone By Publishers reprinted some of the series and it is still possible to get them second hand. The hunt is on 😉

Do you know the Abbey series? Are there books from your childhood that you would like to revisit? I’d love to know, so please get in touch either here or on twitter.

Elle  xx

Background information and further reading:

The world of Elsie Jeanette Oxenham and her books – Monica Godfrey

Wikipedia -Elsie J. Oxenham

Wikipedia – Abbey Series

Our story for World Prematurity Day

Hey there,

This week leads up to World Prematurity Day on Saturday 17 November highlighting an international campaign to raise awareness of the number of babies born around the world too early –  and what this means for them and their families.

Fifteen million premature babies are born each year, 60 000 of them in the UK. This is our story.

Hobs and I had long wanted to be parents and were beyond delighted when we found out that we were expecting twins. We expected to meet them one April, but it didn’t quite work out like that.

Our guys were born in January, 13 ½ weeks before their due date. They couldn’t breathe unaided and both weighed in at less than 2lbs each. You’ve likely heard the phrase, they weighed less than a bag of sugar. Well, they did.

1kg

They were born late at night – I caught only glimpse of them before they were necessarily whisked away to be supported by machines and a team of doctors and nurses to try to save their lives. Hobs was able to pop to the neonatal unit after a couple of hours, I didn’t see them until the next day. I jerked awake every few minutes overnight because I imagined I could hear people talking outside the ward and thought they were coming to give me bad news. A nurse came in at one point with a photo someone had taken of Twin 1 for me. He was all woolly hat, wires and had a ventilator tube coming out of his mouth. But it had been a few hours since his birth and he was still alive…

Twin 2 was two weeks old before he was well enough to come out of his incubator for me to hold him. Twin 1 was three weeks and a day before I held him.  We had some very low points and close calls but, because of the skill and care of the medical staff and the technology available to assist them,  the close calls became fewer and further between. Machines monitored my guys breathing and heart rates for months and they had skilled medical attention 24 hours a day. They needed oxygen for a long time. They needed partial blood transfusions. They needed medicine.  They needed operations (we travelled to Glasgow for Twin 2 to have an operation leaving Twin 1 behind in hospital in Edinburgh) and they needed the time that they should have had in the womb, but didn’t.

Our guys were in intensive care for nine weeks and special care for a further ten before they came home to us weighing in at 9½  lbs and 7lbs aged 4 ½ months.

This is them now.

Future F1 champions?

They are happy, healthy and LOUD. Hobs and I are acutely aware of how lucky we are, how different things might have been and we do not underestimate the facilities it took to achieve the result we got.

World Prematurity Day is to focus attention on premature birth, to help improve care for premature babies around the world and try to find ways to prevent this from happening. Just now in many cases (including ours) no reason for it can be identified.

One organisation working for this in the UK is BLISS. You can find out about them here and what they say about World Prematurity Day here. We are forever grateful too for the fundraising efforts of Simpsons Special Care Babies, the charity that helps the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s neonatal unit – the unit that saved our guys.

If you can help either of these charities to mark World Prematurity Day, or a similar charity local to you, please do so. There are so many babies and parents not as lucky as us.

Much love

Elle xx

Books from my mother

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

I was so pleased last week when Twin 2 asked me to pre-order the latest in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. Turned out it was to be released the next day and as soon as it arrived, Twin 2 jumped up onto the settee and started reading, forgetting all about football, TV, the Xbox etc. I’m so delighted that he has responded this way to a book.

I spoke here about books that affected me as I was growing up and  it started me thinking again about the books my Mum passed on to me when I began to show an interest in reading. My favourites were those in the Abbey Girls series by Elsie J Oxenham, but she also passed me Adventure for Two by Elsie, the story of two sisters, one with aspirations to be a ballerina, the other who (amongst other things) started a business rowing tourists from her seaside home to a local island. This really struck a chord with me because it involved ballet and boats. What could be better?

I made my way through Enid Byton’s Mallory Towers books (apparently there were only six, I feel as though there were many more) and Mum also gave me Cherry Jam at Glencastle by A. Ruby Forde, which I read and re-read but sadly can remember little about, apart from it involved two girls – one called Cherry, the other Cerise, which I considered kinda clever at the time. 😉

These books were written way before I was born, but they were still a very important part of my childhood. I’m on the case now to see which books from my childhood I could pass down to my guys. They’re still a bit young for my first choice – Fahrenheit 451 – but we’ll get there.

Which books from your childhood would you like your children to read? I’d love you to let me know, either here or on twitter.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day. 🙂

Elle xx

My best book buddies

Hey there,

I hope your day is going well. Today, before I settle down to work, I’d like to talk about books (no surprise) and ask you about some of the books that have affected your life.

My Mum says that a book is a good friend and, for me, that’s the best description I’ve heard. A book is always there when you need it; it entertains, brings you happiness, often teaches you a thing or two or makes you think differently. Really you’d like to spend more time with the book than you can. This got me thinking, which books have been my best friends?

I’ve had a few perms in my life and it all began with the Famous Five. I know this sounds a little odd, but I can explain.

Like many children I read and re-read Enid Blyton’s series until the book spines fell apart. I wanted to be exactly like George, the tomboy, and promptly renamed my cuddly toy dog Timmy, propping him on my feet every night to sleep. When I was on my own I spoke to the Famous Five all the time (I was mortified when I realised other people could hear me) and they were, I suppose, my best friends.

But what has this got to do with perms? At the time, my hair was poker straight. It appeared from the illustrations that George’s was not. George’s was as curly as curly could be, therefore I wanted curly hair.

Mum said no. I nagged and nagged and nagged. Mum continued to say no. I grew into a teenager, stopped reading and speaking to the Famous Five and retained my poker straight hair for the duration. However I continued to want a perm, eventually Mum relented and several years of perms followed, all thanks to George.

Among Mum’s favourite books as a child were the Abbey Series by Elsie J. Oxenham. She gave me several to read when I was young and I instantly fell in love with Joy, Jen, Rosamund and Maidlin. I immediately wanted red hair exactly like Joy’s (do you see a pattern developing here?) and as soon as I was old enough to dye my (non- permed at that point) hair, that’s what I did. On a non-hairy note, there were several sets of twins born to the Abbey girls and I quite fancied this too. Fast forward a few years – I’ve had the red hair and, as it turns out, I’ve also got the twins. I still don’t have my own Abbey, but all in good time I guess.

Being in the company of these books made me happy, as do many of the books I read today. But, as we know, a book doesn’t need to make us happy to have a profound effect on us. Simone de Beauvoir’s A Woman Destroyed is a good example and is definitely on my list of top five books.

As a reader, I love when a book stays with me. As a writer, I guess that’s my goal – to write a book that someone thinks of as a friend. (However, I really don’t mind if it doesn’t affect their hair.)

I’d love to know, do you have a book that you consider a friend? I’d love to hear from you if you would like to get in touch either here or on twitter.

And, just for the record, if you see someone with red, curly hair walking around talking to the Famous Five and looking for an Abbey, it’s not me. Not today, anyway 😉

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Elle xx