Shit Happened

Some more stuff I enjoyed, Stateside:

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Pottering around my cousins’ beautiful home and admiring their many trinkets, antiques and pieces of art, including this tiny scrimshaw box and this vintage tin from the factory my uncle managed back in the day.

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Walking into Anthropologie and realising the whole shop was 20% off and managing not to lose my shit.

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Enjoying several amaretto sours made by Jim, my cousin’s husband – he mixes a mean cocktail.

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Watching telly, feasting on choc-ices.

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Having dinner at Brio one night, which was all lit up outside like Christmas (it was quite cold, too).

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Seeing a real-life possum in the wild (ie on the patio) and being grossed out – these are some  much more photogenic squirrels. The one without the tail is called Stumpy and is the butt (ho ho) of many in-jokes.

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Carol singing in Fountain Square – again, SO super-Christmassy.

 

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Gimpsing New Riff Distillery and having a pang of missing Lee, who on our last trip, booked a bottle of bourbon from their first distillation – we have to go back in 4 years to collect it.

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This pleasing display in Target.

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Awesome sunset on the way home from somewhere. So vivid.

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Enjoying an evening of culture at Pendleton Arts Center to see their Final Friday studio tour – we saw a lot of mediocre art, but also some cool stuff. These self-portraits were very  much, to me, in the former camp. Pendleton also wins the award for most 80s logo ever.

 

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Going to Cheesecake Factory and not being able to eat any cheesecake because we had lunch beforehand – forgot about their mahoosive portion sizes.

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Eating at hot-ticket restaurant Nada and enjoying some awesome barbacoa tacos, guac and chips for brunch before hitting up the City Flea Small Mall - a truly excellently curated and well set up craft fair at the 21C Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

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Sneaking in some Dojo gelato at City Flea – so tasty.

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Coveting this full size sleeping bag suit that you can climb into and be the cosiest ever in – built-in snack pockets and a hood all for $130. Was v tempting…

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Hanging out with a whip-smart, funny, beautiful teenager who was just a delight – I wish I’d been so smart at that age! We had a lovely time at brunch and shopping together with our respective mothers and Anne.

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Getting a glimpse of the old Keebler factory that my uncle managed – he invented the plastic tray in some biscuit packets there, you know. You’ve him to thank for your biscuits not being broken.


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Eating the best doughnuts (and cronuts!) ever – Buskens, you must start shipping to Scotland NOW.

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Walking down and then back up these very confusing stairs at the 21C Hotel.


16012217795_535659afd5_zSeeing Paul Blart Mall Cop in the flesh.

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Enjoying drinks by the outdoor fireplace.

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Going bourbon shopping for Lee and having to keep my mum off the merchandise.

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And generally, just enjoying the festive season with my American family.

Now, one final piece of giveaway business to take care of – and to prove it really is random, The Crafty Lass, your name came out the hat (ie random.org) again, so the crochet books will be winging their way to you, too! Yay.

I think I’ve already identified another couple of giveaways to come, once I start giving things away, I find it very hard to stop.

 

#VATMESS

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Image from Knowledge Computing

Did you know that on the 1st January 2015 there are changes to the VAT laws within the EU which are going to cripple small businesses who sell e-services? No, of course you didn’t, because they’ve seemingly been rushed through and no one had heard anything about them until last month.

People are not happy about it. I’m not happy about it. So many  people are being royally screwed over, businesses will close, people will be out of work.

Basically, instead of VAT being charged in the country of purchase on e-products and services, it will now be charged in the country of sale, meaning UK micro-businesses will have to be VAT registered if they sell a single PDF to anyone in the EU. Sophie over at What Delilah Did wrote a heartfelt post about it  and an update here that gives you more background on how it affects pattern sellers.

The extra admin, expense and effort this would take for most micro businesses, including mine, is so ridiculous that many of us are just going to have to stop selling our e-services. So to that end, all of my PDFs will be coming off the virtual shelves on the 31st of December.

Until then, you can get 25% off them all by using the code 25PDF at the check-out. Shop here.

Way to stifle the creative industries and the little guys, law-makers, you fucktards.

 

Start Choppin’

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Imagine the most Christmassy thing you’ve ever done, then triple it – such is a trip to the Christmas tree farm to cut down your own freakin’ Christmas tree. Reader, I almost wet myself with the giddiness.

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Arriving at what looked like a normal farm outside Goshen, Ohio, I discovered that it was actually a Christmas tree plantation! You rock up, they give you a plastic sledge, a polythene sheet and a saw, and they send you off for a wander to find a tree you like the look of. (NB not much happens in Goshen, there’s no reason to go there apart from to buy a Christmas tree).

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All the trees that can be cut down have tickets with their prices on (about $50 for a 7ft tree which is pretty reasonable compared to UK prices, natch). They are topiarised a bit, I think, to give them a good shape.

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It’s a vast place, with trees and trees and trees of all sizes as far as the eye can see. We were tipped off to some “real pretty trees” round the other side of this extremely picturesque lake.

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We found one we liked the look of after a good search and set Jim to work cutting it down (which was surprisingly easy). I am not sure my video upload has worked, but I did get to shout “TIMBERRRRRRRRR” for the first legitimate time of my life which really added to my enthusiasm for the whole caper.

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Then this little guy came for a cuddle and to escort us back to the barn to wrap and pay for our tree.

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Actually, we went inside and drank the free hot chocolate whilst they wrapped the tree for us, of course. We’re civilised. I also bought a genuine handmade quilted proper Folk Art Christmas tree skirt for pennies whilst we were waiting, because although I am civilised, I never miss an opportunity to shop.

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Then, the agonising choice of which wreath to get. We couldn’t decide, so we bought three. They were enormous, and fresh, and smelled divine and were like $20. Amazing.
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It was just all so QUAINT and I almost died of Christmas twee right there and then.

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Once we’d finished up in the barn, we went back outside and lo and behold, some strapping all-American chaps had tied the tree to the top of tiny Anne’s massive truck. We all clambered in and went to Frisch’s for lunch. SUCH FUN.

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Did you win the Nice Cup Of Tea giveaway? If you are Jenny from The Gingerbread House, then yes, yes, you did. Email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com]!

Top marks if you knew that the title of this post refers to this:

Gift Guide

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Image by Little Dot Creations

Y’all know already that I am a very strident supporter of buying local, independent goods all year round, but this is even more important at Christmas time. Christmas for the little guys can totally make or break your whole year. Some years, I’ve taken more cash in November and December than the rest of the year put together. It can really be a massive deal. I try to buy at least 50% of my gifts from indies (I still buy from big box retailers for things like electrical goods, clothing, etc and for people like my dad who pretty much only ever gets books anyway) and year on year, I try to improve on that.

This year, I thought I’d put together a few finds from friends of mine that you might like for inspiration if you’ve still got last-minute gifts to buy:

Custom Made

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I love matt gold and turquoise together, so this Altair clutch from Custom Made caught my eye. Also, Anna, the gal behind the name, is really just a super-duper person who always makes my day brighter when we meet all-to-infrequently at craft fairs in the Big Smoke.

Hilary Grant

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If you’re looking for a special gift for someone who appreciates a good woolen, then Hilary’s Scottish designed and made knitwear is a real winner. These new blanket scarves are truly divine – at £120, they’re a special purchase for someone you really want to please, but will be a lifetime staple.

Finest Imaginary

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I love Kim’s work (and she’s super-funny, helpful, generous and all-round awesome, too) and her new cacti collection is just IMMENSE. They’d make equally good ornamentation for your home as they do for your body, I reckon (but they’re not real plants, just to be clear, ho ho).

La La Land

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Pop Cult pencils by La La Land are the best stocking gift ever. There’s so many designs to choose from, there’s something to raise a smile from just about anyone. Sarah is a long-term Glasgow craft scene colleague of mine – another smart and funny female, knocking it out of the park when it comes to being awesome in business.

Paul Revie

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This fellow has wise words to impart in a variety of mediums. I’ve long-admired his artwork and have high hopes that this year, I might own a piece come the 25th of December. Another awesome talent in Glasgow, there’s a lot of us about.

Neil Slorance

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You should totally buy a piece of Neil’s art before he becomes too busy and important being a Dr Who freaking illustrator to bother with us peasants. His comics and travelogues are really both super-cute and funny, too – awesome gifts.

Emily Peacock

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I can’t express to you just how amazing Emily is – both her work, and her as a person. She’s a great friend, and though I haven’t spoken to her in a while, I know that when I do, it will be like we just left off our conversation. Her work is bright, bold, colourful and cheerful, just like her. Her tapestry kits are a great gift for anyone who likes to keep their hands busy – they’re very well put together and fun to work on.

Umm, also, buy my stuff, please.

Giving Thanks

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So, Thanksgiving. What a uniquely American experience that was. I arrived in America a few days beforehand and all anyone could talk about, family, friends, strangers in shops was – “what will you be eating?”. Not what are you doing for Thanksgiving – oh, no, “give me a full rundown of menu items so we can compare notes”. This is very much my kind of holiday.

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Everyone in Cincinnati at least has a wide and varied range of turkey and/or pumpkin-related decorative items for the occasion – I am not sure when they go up, but I can tell you that at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving Thursday, a team of silent elves apparently appears to spirit them away to the basement and replace them will full-on Christmas decoration. My cousin’s house was very tastefully decorated with little turkeys and autumnal accents around her spacious pad, like a Martha Stewart spread, I was most envious.

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I really did not expect KISS to feature in my Thanksgiving, but as I sat in a very comfortable armchair between eating bouts, watching the Macy’s Parade, there they were, in all their facepainted glory, Gene Simmons getting his tongue out in a very sleety New York especially. The parade seems to consist of a bunch of giant blimps in various shapes and sizes, 85,000 marching bands and a whole bunch of people I have never heard of looking cold in a variety of coats, most likely available at Macy’s. I mostly loved the adverts, American adverts are so much more entertaining than ours.

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And then – dinner. The big event. It was truly delicious, though some items are a little questionable – e.g. sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. Pretty delectable on its own, but oddly out of place with a turkey dinner. See also: pickled watermelon rind and croissants. Crazy Yanks.

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My cousins though made it such a special and memorable day for us. After we’d stuffed ourselves silly, it was time for the National Dog Show from Philadelphia and a few cocktails. Most civilised.

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I’m very thankful for my American family – both my great uncle Sam on the left there (he of the biscuit factory managing) who is sadly no longer with us, and my cousins, Anne and Jim who so graciously host us when we visit and are really the best fun. I’m so lucky to have them.

On a different note, the stationEry giveaway winner, picked at random, is…Claire from Claireabelle Makes! Whoop-la! Please email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com] and I’ll get that off to you.

You Know It’s Christmas When…

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  • You have a customer who bought something last night and emailed this morning to ask why it hasn’t arrived yet.
  • You’re at a craft fair opposite a stall full of shit upcycled Santas made out of toilet rolls and leather offcuts and they’re selling tons and no one is buying your lovingly handcrafted design-led wares.
  • Your customer wants to return the acrylic flower necklace, described on your website as being made from plastic, because the flower isn’t real.
  • You have no clean clothes left, the only thing in your fridge is a mouldy wedge of cheese and you can’t remember the last time you spoke to a human that wasn’t employed in logistics.
  • You have 18 old ladies glaring at you in the post office queue because you’re holding them up from collecting their pension with your massive bag of orders
  • You get 37 unsolicited emails about craft fairs in your area panic-selling stalls as they’re under-subscribed and under-prepared – AVOID.
  • You’re averaging 4 hours sleep a night and are making things in your sleep.
  • A group of 3 people with a pushchair stand in front of your stall to have an air-kissing catch up, blocking the way to all customers, and all you can do is grin and bear it because they might buy something when they’re done.
  • You haven’t done  your own Christmas shopping because you’re too busy making everyone else’s Christmas gifting awesome.

Yup, it’s Christmas. Have you got any of your own experiences to add to the list?

Eat It

It’s no secret that quite a lot of my time spent in America is spent eating. It truly is the land of plenty – so much to choose from, but only 3 meals a day to fit it into. Creativity is required to fit everything in. Before we go over, usually Anne, my cousin, will ask us for a list of “must-eats”, so she can plan a loose schedule to take in as many of the spots on our wishlist as possible. Anne, like me, is a professional planner, we love a list, and we love to tick things off it!

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Skyline Chili is one of the must-do things in Cincinnati. The city is famous for its chili, but it’s not chili as you know it. It’s spiced with cinnamon, cloves and other strange things to give it a slightly sweet but definitely savoury taste. Some critics have described it as “quintessentially American”, others have called it “the worst regional American food” there is, but it’s a definite must-experience when you’re dining in Cincinnati. Traditionally for our family, it’s a lunchtime thing – we’ll meet Anne from work and have Skyline at the restaurant next to her office, and also it’s an on-the-way-to-the-airport snack to fortify you for a transatlantic flight.

 

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ihop, or International House Of Pancakes to give it its Sunday name, is another place frequently on our list. Who knew there were so many breakfast options? I particularly like breakfast in America as they are a) so accommodating with substitutions, no eggs, etc b) are quite happy for you to order a bunch of sides c) their bacon is just the best and d) you can have as many drinks refills as you like and then they’ll give you another drink in a cup to go at no extra charge.

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Mulled cider for breakfast? Aye, go on then. Start your day off with a festive swing. I usually have these chicken florentine crepes and they are just amazing, though not all that to look at.

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New to me this time – Frisch’s Big Boy:

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The tartare sauce is the thing here – it’s mighty tasty. A bit like Big Mac sauce but way better. Their onion rings were a solid 7/10.

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And of course, no trip to the States is complete without at least one visit to Five Guys, the best burgers there are. Their first Scottish location opened in Glasgow last week though, so now it may drop off the list, as we’ll be able to go whenever we like – yay! Not yet though, as apparently the queues are horrendous. I think it’s worth waiting for, they’re really delicious, good quality, well-cooked and I just like their ethos.

I’m probably not finished talking about food yet, but for now, I’ll leave it there. The Crafty Lass, you’re the winner of the Christmas giveaway!

Winter Wonderland

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas round here. This is the current view from my  kitchen window. It sounds pretty idyllic to have your kitchen in a conservatory, but to be honest with you, it’s always bloody freezing in there. Probably just about worth it though for views like this. So picturesque!

I had an amazing time in America, I have so much to write about, but also, so much to do. I am keen to announce the giveaway winners though, so the first one, who wins this bundle, is Rainbow Fizz 21, who blogs over here. Email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com]!

I’ll post back soon with more winners and more snowy pics. I love the wintry weather!

Cute Crochet Competition!

 

One last bundle of giveaway goodies to go, and this time it’s crochet-tastic. I can’t crochet. I tried once and it basically looked like I had just tied a bunch of knots in a bit of wool. These books are all WAY beyond my skills, so it’s time for them to go. Amigurumi – who am I kidding?!

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Want to win? Click over to my Not On The High Street shop and tell me what your favourite item of mine is there. Leave a comment below to let me know!

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

I think that might be it…for now! But do remember to come back for winner info. And also, just to see me, you know. Let’s be pals.

 

Loosely Christmas Themed Giveaway

Are you all giveawayed out yet? I hope not, there is still more to come…

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This time, the little bundle comprises a small selection of loosely Christmas themed decorative items, including one of my very own puddings.

To win this bundle, simply follow me on Instagram (@tinyotterpaws) and leave a comment with your username.

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

Still hanging in there? There’s one more to come! Stay tuned!

 

A Nice Cup Of Tea Giveaway

 

 

 

I don’t even drink tea or coffee, but I sure cross stitch a lot about it. But I realise I am in a minority there. Most people I know love a good cup of char, as they insist on saying.

This giveaway has a little theme of tea time, very loosely. In reality, it is a wee collection of things I have gathered that I really love but would like someone else to enjoy, rather than remaining in a drawer in my office, waiting for daylight. I just can’t keep all the nice things and not do anything with them.

  • IMG_2543A Nice Cup Of Tea book
  • Nikki McWilliams foiled print
  • Washi tape
  • Letterpress coasters
  • Thai ceramic birds
  • Jonathan Adler notebook
  • Vintage Czech matchbox notecards

A nice wee selection, eh?

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

There is still more giving away to come. I know, I am a very benevolent ruler.

 

24 hours in the us of a

I’ve been here just a little over 24 hours and I’ve crammed so much in already. We arrived later than planned, due to a 2 hour delay in Philadelphia. The reason for the delay was that the latch on the toilet door was broken. Jeez.

We finally made it to Cincinnati around 2130, collected our bags, met Anne and Jim, our hosts, and had a very late dinner at Arthur’s, which was so tasty and much-needed that I forgot to photograph It, chow fans.

This morning, we went to The Original Pancake House for breakfast.

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So good. A trip to Monroe outlets afterwards bore some good shopping fruits – 50% off the entire Gap store, for example, was too good to miss out on.

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To luncheon…

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Bloody Five Guys. Bloody great. Some more shopping at Rookwood and then on to Hyde Park for a little mosey around. Such a pretty neighbourhood, I’ll take one of these apartments, please:

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It’s chilly here, so a massive hot chocolate was required, OBVS.

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Quaint, ain’t it? This evening, after a bit of a recap and rest, it was drinks out by the outdoor fireplace under a blanket.

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And then, Dewey’s!

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Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

Stationery Giveaway

 

 

 

 

There are several things that bug me, okay, several million things, but one of them is the confusion between stationery and stationary. It isn’t too difficult to remember that stationery is envelopes and stationary means you are not moving, but it is something that some people just cannot get a handle on.

Particularly annoying to me is when you spot a neat design online, you click through to the designer’s (inevitably Etsy) shop and  they describe themselves as a “stationary designer” – UNFOLLOW. If you can’t spell it correctly, you sure as hell shouldn’t be selling it. GAH.

Anyway, I do love stationEry. I quite like remaining still, too, to be fair. I’ve amassed a small collection of papery things that I must offload, and so, here we are with giveaway numero dos!

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Here we find:

  • Various kawaii stationery, including Tenorikuma and Hello Kitty letter sets
  • Paul Frank letter set
  • Jonathan Adler notebook
  • Laura Donald Eastenders notecards
  • Milk carton plush purse
  • Sharpie PENCILS.

Amazing. This time, to be in the draw, please follow me on Twitter (I’m @tinyotterpaws) and then leave a comment below with your username. Simple.

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

Still more giving away to be done. Keep it dialled in here.

 

A Million Things To Give Away

I’ve been such a bad blogger this year. I’ve just been flat out busy and I haven’t had time to devote to the frivolity of chronicling my life. Lately, I’ve been working a lot, helping my friends open their new business venture in Glasgow, travelling, doing custom work… despite ostensibly closing up my business in July, I’ve actually been busier than ever!

One thing though that I have been quietly doing in small stages is shedding extraneous possessions – a whole car load went off to the charity shop last month and I’ve been ebaying clothes and books and all sorts of fancy unguents I’ve never used. I find it quite cathartic.

Whilst I’ve been parting with things, I’ve found quite a large stash of stuff I’ve been saving to give as gifts, or things people have given me that I couldn’t bear to part with but have come to realise I am never going to use (please don’t be offended if  you gave me any of these things, I just want to pass them on to someone who will use them rather than hoard them magpie-like, as I do). To this end, I have a whole series of giveaways lined up and this is numero uno!

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The first prize pot is pictured here, and includes:

  • Knitted Cakes and Everything Oz books.
  • Jonathan Adler bee notebook.
  • Kawaii burger cross stitch by me.
  • Anthropologie push pins.
  • An array of stickers, badges and sewing notions.
  • Tiny sugar/trinket pot

Would you like a little parcel of joy in the mail? This could all be yours – just leave me a comment below and I’ll add your name into the hat. I’ll draw a winner once I return from the States – I am going to spend Thanksgiving with my family there, exciting!

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

Do feel free to Twitter about the giveaways – the more, the merrier! And I have a bunch of other giveaways lined up in the coming weeks – so stay tuned!

A Short Break

It seems quite a distant memory now, but in July, I decided to surprise Lee for his birthday/our 10th wedding anniversary, and book a short break in the sun. I did quite a bit of shopping around, but eventually settled on Kos.

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We’d been to Kos before and really liked it, and as chance would have it, I found a pretty good deal on a 3 night break to the exact same place we’d been to previously. I used onthebeach.co.uk to build the break, selecting flights, then accommodation and then transfers separately. This isn’t a sponsored post, but I was really pretty pleased with how smoothly it went and the ability to choose things separately, and then also to make several small payments, instead of one big one. Easyjet was nowhere near as grim as I remembered it, either.

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We spent our days laying on sun loungers, gazing out to sea…

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.. and enjoying some pretty awesome sunsets.

 

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A man came round every day on the beach in the afternoon selling massive fresh custard doughnuts for 2 euros. IMAGINE our delight!

Also, pretty cool that my best friend and her husband and little dude, Harris were on holiday on the island at the same time, so we were able to take a taxi across Kos and spend a day with them at their fancy hotel. It was pretty good fun hanging out in the kids pool and sneaking ice creams from the bar.

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All in all – go to Kos for a few days and recharge your batteries. But take mosquito repellent!