the working wardrobe



Depending on where you live in the world by today most people will be back at work.  Whether that means going out to work, getting up for the school run or sitting down in your home office/studio, one way or another the lazy “hey what day is it today” lie ins of the holidays are over.

I haven’t gone out to work for years.  I have worked at home, been a stay at home mum, helped with the family translation business, written books, all very time-consuming but almost all things that didn’t involve me dressing up in work clothes and going out to work.  Consequently I have read a lot of books and articles about how to succeed at working at home.  I know for some people being at home is just too distracting and they need somewhere else to go to work even if it is the shed at the bottom of the garden.  Personally I like working at home.  I like to have the flexibility to put on the washing and do an hour or so of work before emptying the machine, and to be honest if you suffer from distraction you are going to catch up on Facebook and play a couple of games of Candy Crush whether you are in an office or at home!

One of the tips that almost every home working guru gives is “get dressed” , even FlyLady tells you to put on your sensible shoes before you start your day.  First of all, the first thing I do when I get home is to take off my shoes and put on my slippers.  In my case I do this for comfort, but in some cultures to wear your dirty outside shoes in the house is downright offensive.  Rule Number One “Put on your shoes” summarily dismissed.

Now the getting dressed rule.  It is 12.34pm here.  I have been working since 9.20 and I am still in my pjs.  I have written and sent all the December invoices, set up the broadband account, set up a new email account, replied to various emails and phone requests, ordered some office equipment, written  my journal and gratitude list,  had 20 minutes of meditation and planned the meals for the rest of the week.  In between that I have had copious cups of tea, put on two machine loads of washing and fed all the animals.  Personally I think that is pretty good going for one morning, particularly one morning just after the holidays when I’m not really feeling the love for this work malarkey.

If you work from home and don’t need to get dressed to meet clients or Skype then for goodness sake if you don’t want to get dressed then don’t.  There is no rule that says you can only be productive if you are wearing shoes and a neatly accessorised outfit.  If you need that to put you in the work mood then by all means do so.  But don’t fret if you are still working furiously at 4pm and are still in your pjs!


pen and paper

My Facebook and twitter feed are full of people talking about new year resolutions and plans to make joy jars, keep diaries, set fantastic goals.  It is a wonderful momentum created by people from all over the world as we try to make our world and our lives better places and perhaps us better people.

Over my fifty or so years I have kept a diary most of the time and added a daily gratitude list some six or seven years ago.  I have set SMART goals and fantastical goals.  I have used simple jottings to set goals and complex systems and programmes to set them.  One system required a whole book to explain the process!


Anyone who loves stationery will understand the joy of a fresh new notebook ready for you to fill with your observations, dreams, tears and private rants.  The smell of the unused paper and the creak as the spine bends for the first time.  However, the greater joy is to go back and read them.  Several years ago I got out all my diaries, going back to a 1974 Puffin Book Club diary in which I spilled my heart out with gems like “Today I palyed (sic) with Georgina”.  Some entries brought back vivid memories, some took me completely by surprise; I had no recollection of those events and they read almost like a novel.

Diaries can be cathartic.  Any diary keeper who has been through a trauma, particularly an emotional one will remember writing pages and pages of  “Why?”  “What if?”  “Could I have …?”  In my great reading session I came across the diaries I kept after my first husband left me for another woman after six months of marriage.  They made for interesting rather than painful reading.  At the time I thought I would never love or be loved again.  It was good to see how wrong I was and all those people who told be I would eventually come out on the other side were right after all.  Having said that I had no wish to keep those diaries.  They had served their purpose at the time of writing and again at the time of re-reading some 30 years later.  My husband set up a huge fire in our largest wood burning stove and I happily consigned them to the flames, they served their purpose one last time, that part of my life was well and truly over and I had no need of a written summary of it.  All the other diaries, even the excruciatingly embarrassing teenage ones I kept.

Today many people keep a blog like this one and many of those are extremely open and raw, the writer exposing themselves, sometimes anonymously, to a public they don’t know with more honesty than they may to the friends that they do.  But that is not, at least for me, quite the same as putting pen to paper that is only intended for my eyes.

So if you are making resolutions, setting goals and planning a better life then you could do no worse than resolve to keep a diary.

Love Gillie x



virtual decluttering

At this time of year as the last of the turkey is finished and the empty chocolate boxes and biscuit tins glare accusingly at you across the kitchen most of us say “ENOUGH – there  is too much stuff everywhere.  I need a sort out”  And indeed we probably all do, however there is one kind of sort out you probably haven’t done for a while, if at all, and I guarantee it is the easiest and quite the most satisfying.

We were away for Christmas.  I took my phone and iPad but I left my laptop at home.  Consequently when I turned it on this morning there were thousands of emails waiting to download.  A goodly number went straight into the spam folder but my inbox was still full of stuff I didn’t want to read.  Most of the emails were newsletters from companies I had bought from online or somehow seem to have indicated that I was indeed desperate to receive their regular missives, when that could not have been further from the truth.  The rest were those that had slipped through the assorted spam filters.

So armed with tea and toast and  honey I began the process of gutting my inbox.


There are two options to inbox de-cluttering.  The simplest is to block.  In Outlook (which I use) you simply right-click on the email and select the “block” option.  There are, however, downsides to this option.

  • If you have bought something from Company X and they have automatically put you on their mailing list and you block them, the next time you want to buy from them you won’t get any confirmation emails etc.
  • It doesn’t work for automated mailing lists.

So you have to go for option two.  A little more cumbersome and time-consuming (hence the tea and toast) but much more effective.

Where you have an email from a company or interest group they will most likely have used an automated bulk mailer such as Mailchimp.  Somewhere deep down in the bottom of the email and in a font so small requiring excellent eyesight or very good glasses you will find the unsubscribe option.


Click on this and a hyperlink will open.  Sometimes the message is an automatic “you have been unsubscribed”, sometimes you have to go through a few hoops such as inputting your email address, confirming your desire never to hear from them again.  Almost all ask you to say why you are leaving, this is usually optional and I never bother.  Frankly the options they give are so banal and similar that if there is somebody analysing them they have a very boring job and I’m not going to add to it.

You will probably find your junk mail box suddenly fill up with emails from all the companies who you have asked to remove you from their email lists asking if it was a mistake!  Oh yes, my favourite was from Vintage by Hemmingway (which I like but I don’t need a whole bunch of emails telling me when all their events are around the country when I only want to go to the Festival of Thrift) who asked me if I had perhaps forwarded the email to a friend so that they could share the love and the friend had clicked on the unsubscribe link and inadvertently tried to unsubscribe me by mistake … Really?

Now I have a lovely relatively empty inbox containing only the few emails I need and want.  The added advantage is that when a spammy email sneaks in you can easily spot it and zap it at once!


Wear the Wild

Regular readers will know I am huge fans of Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  I have been on plenty of their courses from Herbal Medicine (where my recently macerated knee provided a live demonstration of how to make a poultice)  two and a half days foraging in Staithes.  We have also been mushroom foraging with them and Stuart learned how to butcher a deer.  So you can imagine my glee on my birthday when I discovered I had a morning with Rose making cosmetics.

I make a lot of my own cosmetics and potions etc, but there is nothing more fun than doing it with other people and there is always more to learn.  So last Tuesday I got up early, scraped the ice off the car and headed down to North Yorkshire.  Boy was it cold so the cup of tea on arrival was most welcome.

Cop a look at this.



Infused oils and dried herbs and flowers all ready to be played with.  First we made shampoo.  Rose gave us comprehensive tables with the properties of the various herbs and flowers. She had already made a birch decoction which we would all include in our shampoo as birch is a wonderful all rounder for hair, then we chose three other ingredients.


We steeped our additional ingredients in the hot decoction and added it to pure castile soap.


And there you go.  I don’t even use conditioner now, though do be careful not to get castile soap in your eyes!

Next up was a healing balm.



Melt pure beeswax into the infused oils of your choice.  Note the clever homemade bain marie.  When slightly cool add an essential oil of your choice.


Pour into clean pots and leave to set.  Wait until it is almost set before putting on the lid so avoid contamination with condensation.




Next was lip balm, made in much the same way but this time with peppermint essential oil.  We finished up with a bath bomb and some wonderful herbal bath salts which I used when I got home that evening and there were just the ticket.


Finally, as I was in the area I popped into Ripon for lunch on the way home!



Love Gillie x


Pretty card and fingerless gloves

Apparently, according to trend forecasters the next hot craft for 2017 is going to be macrame.  Watch out for spider plants in bead adorned knotted hangers.  I love lots of crafts but I can’t see myself taking up macrame in a hurry.

One of the crafts I love, but have not had so much time for as I have been knitting and sewing so much, is working with paper.  I began scrapbooking back in 2000 when we had to buy almost all our supplies from the US and acid free glue was the holy grail!  Things have moved on a long way since then but a lot of the independent shops have given way to big stores who don’t have the individual touch and the more interesting and quirky stock.  One of the trends that has survived and does still offer that quirky touch is the monthly kit.  I used to get one sometimes from an American company that always included a little sample of flavoured coffee (before we got that over here too).  The smell as I unwrapped it was part of the joy of seeing all the gorgeous bits and pieces.

So, when this arrived this morning,



and this was inside it.




And inside was this..


I was a very excited bunny!

Now I was expecting a paper cut kit.  I was not expecting a pair of handknitted fingerless gloves (which happen to be in my favourite colour), a sparkly tea light (perfect for my silver sparkly tea light holder), a yummy hot chocolate kit, a candy cane to dip into my yummy hot chocolate kit and a scalpel with spare bladses AND lovely shimmer paper to use for my cut outs.  This isn’t a kit, it’s Christmas!

Four styles of paper cut templates, all on the theme of Hygge, one of them is a template for a gorgeous little house.


My paper cutting skills are not brilliant (I once spent an entire afternoon cutting out my daughters’ names in scriptina font for a scrapbook project.  Those were the days before electronic cutters when your only option was by hand, a bulky sissix, or if you were lucky a quickutz.  Scriptina is a fine flowing font that looks gorgeous but is a killer to cut!



See what I mean!

So I was relieved to see that the designs look more manageable for a non expert like me!  First attempt will be posted shortly,  I have some time this evening and tomorrow and am really looking forward to getting my scalpel out again.

The lovely kit was from Amy Purdie at Embellish Cuts and costs an average of £18 (there are several plans you can opt for)  with free P&P within the UK.  During the course of the month the templates are exclusive to Embellish Box Subscribers.  At the end of the month the templates will be available for sale on Etsy, however Amy guarantees that the cost of the Box will always be cheaper than the individual templates and you get such lovely little extras too!  You also receive the templates in pdf and svg format so you can use them again and again (I didn’t realise this and scanned mine 🙂 )  Commercial licences are also available.  You can see more of Amy’s work here.

I recieved this box for free in return for an honest an unbiased review.


cake tins and pin cushions

We are downsizing and blocking off the Barn and Gin Gan to make a 3 bedroom house to let.  We have a lot of floorspace that now the girls are growing up and leaving home we don’t really need, and with an old stonebuilt house like ours it costs a small fortune to upkeep and to heat so the extra income will be good too!

However, that means we have to move our decluttering up a notch.  The great post flood declutter of 2013-14 has made the job a whole lot easier, but there is still a lot of crap that needs to go.  Most of it is now going to the charity shops, but in the interest of reuse before recycle I found a little gem in the Reloved magazine this month by designer Kate Beavis.  I have added her link to the list on the right.

Ta Dah!



I had a set of unused cake tins which with a combination of

  • 500mm x 10mm threaded rod
  • copper piping
  • 8 nuts
  • 8 large washers

I created a vertical desk tidy which I now used to keep essential sewing bits (scissors, chalk, pens, pin cushion etc.) bits and bobs related to work in progress and interesting little things I have found recently but haven’t decided what to do with yet.

The instructions say to use as large a washer as possible to give stability, particularly to the bottom tin.  I think I will replace the washer with a metal plate as it could do with a bit more support than even my large washer.

An afternoon’s work, though I suggest that you do it outside unless you want to drill through the kitchen table!

Love Gillie x




We have a huge Rugosa hedge and at this time of year it is bursting with hips, more than enough for me to pick my fill and still leave plenty for the birds.  They are one of the richest sources of vitamin C (rosehip syrup was a popular means to keep vitamin C levels up, especially in children, during the winter months).  We use it for rosehip jelly, rosehip syrup and also rosehip oil.

Rosehip oil is wonderful for the skin.  Packed with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties it is a permanent resident in  my bathroom cupboard.

True rosehip oil is made by cold pressing the seeds. Despite the fact I have succeeded in distilling my own rosewater (and broke a sink with the brick afterwards) I have yet to build a cold press in my kitchen.  However, I have found an alternative.  First of course  you need to pick your rosehips.


750g of fresh rosehips

Remove the stalks and tails and any of the hairy seeds (great for itching powder).  I harvest with a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the debris away as I pick.  Next chop finely, I put mine in a food processor.


Finally you place the macerated rosehips in a heavy bottomed pan with the oil of your choice.  I used 1 litre of Avocado oil this year, but any natural oil will do, avoid olive oil – it has rather a strong smell and can overpower the rosehips.

Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer on the lowest heat possible for about 6-8 hours.  You could also use a slowcooker or yoghurt maker.


Strain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth and store in sterilised dark bottles.  Store out of sunlight.


Love Gillie x