I cancelled my birthday last year. We were only a few weeks into lockdown when I was asked the ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ question and I had a mini-meltdown. Even though I’ve never really made a huge thing out of my birthday in previous years, I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t even if I wanted to so I told hubby and the munchkin not to bother with gifts and we’d do a birthday later in the year. Then I found a couple of Lucy Pittaway prints which I ordered for the office so I did get a gift after all even if there was no celebration 😉
This year, we’re not in lockdown but restrictions are only just easing so it we still couldn’t plan much. I did, however, lift the ‘no presents’ thing and was spoilt with some lovely gifts.
There was a bit of a hedgehog theme with the most adorable plush Steiff hedgehog from the hubby, a sewing project for a hedgehog and hoglet and a cute pen holder with a hedgehog reading a book in it.
Loving my new lighthouse and looking forward to featuring it on some photos with my books soon.
A huge thank you to my amazing friend Sharon for the gorgeous flowers, candle, bear and chocolates and to my lovely friend Jo for the hedgehog and bear scarves.
Sharon also sent me the most amazing card. It’s a card containing cake. I never knew such a thing existed and, being the huge fan of cake that I am, it made me very happy. I can’t wait to dive in and would have had a piece today but my in-laws dropped round surprise afternoon tea so we ditched our plans for a takeaway and had that instead and I am now full of cake. It was sooooo yummy. But there’s always tomorrow. Nom nom. And I have a birthday cake too!
Thank you to everyone who has sent me lovely messages on social media. Very much appreciated.
Back to editing tomorrow but it’s been nice to have a rare day off today.
How was Christmas? Quieter than usual? Virtual hugs rather than face to face ones? Perhaps you were planning to go away and couldn’t. Or maybe it was your first Christmas without a loved one or a family pet. Sending love if it was.
It was our first Christmas without our beloved cat, Felix, who we lost in January. His absence was certainly felt over Christmas dinner when he’d normally have been up on his hind legs against my chair demanding turkey. I’ve rounded up a few pictures of him at previous Christmases. He wasn’t impressed with his Christmas hat and ended up wearing it as a beard! He loved to lie under the tree or with the Christmas bears. Bottom right is hunting out Christmas dinner with his sister and partner-in-crime, Pixie, who crossed the rainbow bridge several years earlier.
Aside from a Felix-shaped hole, our actual Christmas Day was no different (other than being the first year the munchkin didn’t believe in Santa – sob!) as it’s usually just the three of us first thing then a visit from hubby’s parents who live in the next village either from lunchtime (they’d normally rotate round their three children) or from late afternoon. This year, they were in our Christmas bubble, joined us for a lunchtime Christmas dinner and stayed into the evening.
What was significantly different for us this year was not seeing anyone else either side of the big day. We would normally see hubby’s sisters at some point around New Year – often a full family get together at one of their houses where the munchkin loves to see her four big boy cousins (all in their mid-late twenties now) – but we can’t do that. And we’d normally see my side of the family twice and we couldn’t do that either. They’re not too far away but they aren’t local like hubby’s family.
I have two brothers and they’re both married with two girls each so we’d typically drive across to the nearest town to my parents about a week before Christmas and the men would go on a pub crawl while my mum, my sisters-in-law and the five girls (this year aged 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) would have a lovely lunch then a wander round the shops. The second get together would be between Christmas and New Year (would have been Sunday just gone this year) where we all meet up at my parents’ house for gift exchanges and food.
As we couldn’t meet in person, we planned a family Zoom on Sunday instead. Only it didn’t work. None of us could dial into the meeting my younger brother had set up so he sent a new invite and, for some strange reason, my parents and two brothers could get in but we couldn’t. We tried everything including the usual switching off and on again but to no avail.
Christmas shopping was very different this year. I’d normally explore the high street and local shops in my hometown of Scarborough and also have a trip to York to visit the Christmas market and the lovely independent shops there but, like so many others, we had to mostly shop online.
Hubby is exceptionally hard to buy for. There’s never anything he wants so I usually end up getting him socks (yawn), a chocolate orange (yummy but dull) and a couple of photography books including Landscape Photographer of the Year (inspiring for him but not very inspired seeing as he gets it every year). We usually agree that we’ll go away for a weekend as a gift instead but that’s not something any of us can plan right now.
When I was ordering things for the munchkin, I added in a few bits I might like and passed them to him to wrap, although this is something I’ve done for several years now as he claims I’m hard to buy for when there are so many things I love: jewellery, books, hedgehogs, bears, owls, stationery, lighthouses, chocolate etc. etc. etc. However, he surpassed himself this year. He visited NotOnTheHighStreet and Etsy and bought me some really fabulous gifts. The boy done well!
Hedgehogs might have been a bit of a theme! I got a gorgeous pin brooch which I’ll add to my bag or purse, a small plush hog for my desk, some socks, a fab T-shirt and a diary.
I also got 3 new charms for my Troll Beads bracelet. A friend started the collection at the launch party of my debut novel with a leather bracelet and a book charm. I’ve since upgraded to a silver bracelet and bought a charm for each part of my writing journey and to represent each of my books.
I’d previously acquired suitable charms for all my books except the Hedgehog Hollow series and, although Troll Beads did have a hedgehog charm at one point, it had been discontinued in something like 2002 so I’d given up on ever having one unless they issued a new design.
I ordered myself a starfish charm (relevant to my 2021 Christmas book) and a lighthouse one (relevant to several of my stories and possibly a future book and acquired just in time as it has been discontinued too) but he came up trumps by finding a hedgehog charm. It’s not a Troll Bead but it does fit my bracelet perfectly.
One of the promises I made to myself and my family when I started writing full-time was that I’d finally get a work:life balance. Trying to fit writing around a full-time demanding day job made that impossible. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned, though. It has been difficult to break the habit of working evenings and weekends after doing this for well over a decade, particularly in a year when going out and about isn’t practical so I might as well stay at my desk and work.
I also feel guilty when I’m not working which is ridiculous but I know I’m not the only author who feels that way. We can put such immense pressure on ourselves sometimes.
Anyway, one of the things I want to get back into is drawing. It’s not a great talent of mine and I definitely can’t draw from imagination – absolutely need to copy something – but I quite enjoy it and I’d like to give it a go again. I used to enjoy drawing but haven’t actually picked up my sketch pad since I started college in 1988! So I choose some art paper, charcoal and chalk pencils and pastel pencils myself but hubby surprised me with a gorgeous lighthouse cross stitch kit; cross stitch being something I used to love doing before I had the munchkin. I also treated myself to a hedgehog one earlier in the year so I’m going to be busy! Just need to make some time to do it.
Another gift I chose for myself was a miniature Charlie Bear. Our local garden centre stocks them and the munchkin and I visited their fabulous Christmas display after school one day in early December (when it was pretty much empty). I always look at the Charlie Bear display. I have a few large Charlie Bears but I prefer the limited edition collectible ones. On the display were what looked like classic books with miniature bears sat on them. Each book was hollowed out and the bear stored inside.
This is the ‘Plush Hug Book Collection’ and I’ve since learned that they came out in 2019 and there are six in the collection. The garden centre had three on display. All the bears were gorgeous so it was a case of selecting the most appropriate book as the words on each were different. The green one featuring the panda is a ‘Guide to Snuggleability’ – awww – but what absolutely sold it to me was the caption on the back: All the best bears read books. Could there be a more perfect choice for an author who’s also an arctophile (collector/lover of teddy bears) with a book in her collection set partly in a teddy bear shop?
I’d chosen a heart-shaped necklace myself from one of my favourite shops in Scarborough – White Beach Designs – and a heart-shaped beaded clutch in the Accessorise sale that I plan to use the next time I can go to an RNA event (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but hubby surprised me with this gorgeous keyring. Aww. Isn’t he just the best? We met in July 2003 when I was 31 and he was 33. “If I had my life to live over again, I would find you sooner so that I could love you longer”
Another surprise gift was ‘baby Yoda’ aka ‘The Child’ aka – look away if you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of Season 2 of The Mandalorian where his true name is revealed – Grogu. He’s a plush version and he is absolutely adorable. I just need a Baby Groot now and my life will be complete!
And my final amazingly thoughtful surprise gift was this gorgeous scrapbook for my newspaper clippings. Isn’t it just divine in it’s purple-ness; my favourite colour?
So the hubby definitely did well and I have been thoroughly spoilt this year with some amazing gifts from him and the munchkin. Feeling a bit embarrassed about the socks and chocolate orange now! 😉
Welcome to another #MondayMotivation ‘What’s on my wall?’ post, showing some of the quotes and pictures in my office that inspire my writing.
Today I have two canvases (prints) because they’re by the same artist and they inspire me in the same way so it makes sense to talk about them together. They’re by Staffordshire-born artist and card designer Peter Adderley who is now based in North Devon.
My collection – if you can call two prints a collection – started with the smaller lighthouse picture which is captioned ‘A Close Shave’ according to an art gallery but ‘Lighthouse’ according to other sources. So not really sure which is correct! Lighthouse certainly says what it is, though!
We live a few miles from a farm called Redcliffe Farm where there’s a farm shop, cafe and gift shop called Carbis. I spotted this in Carbis and fell in love with it immediately as it had a red and white striped lighthouse like the one in my Whitsborough Bay stories (although mine isn’t in the middle of the sea like this one).
The person who served me in Carbis told me that Peter’s seascapes always include a cat and a dog, sometimes prominently, sometimes less visible. Can you spot them? The cat’s a little more challenging on the photo (answer at the bottom of the page). I haven’t been able to find anything online to confirm whether this animal detail is true but I hope it is as that’s a lovely idea.
When I refurbished my office last year, I decided I had the perfect space on the wall for another of Peter’s prints so returned to return to Carbis to get another. They were struggling to get hold of Peter’s prints and only had one picture left which was about three times the size of my first one so it wasn’t an option and I returned home empty-handed.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, though, and ended up re-arranging the whole wall just to fit in this gorgeous harbour scene. The colourful houses very much remind me of Whitsborough Bay’s Old Town. I’m afraid I don’t know what this one is called. It doesn’t say it on the print and I can’t find the answer online. If the smaller one is ‘Lighthouse’, I’d imagine this is probably ‘Harbour’!
You shouldn’t have too much difficulty spotting the cat and dog on this one as they’re very prominent in the foreground. But can you see the second cat?
These two canvases sit to the side of my desk but I often turn to gaze at them. They’re so colourful and calming and transport me immediately into my fictional seaside world.
Hope you have an inspiring week, whatever you have planned.
Where to find the cat and dog:
Lighthouse – dog on the boat, cat on the lighthouse on the railings around the light
Harbour – dog chasing cat in foreground, but there’s also a cat on the railings on the front of the red boat in the harbour