A Year On…

Facebook reminded me this morning that I “came out” a year ago today. When I say “came out” I mean that I revealed to the world, via this blog, that I’d been suffering from PND and anxiety since having my little girl.

I don’t know where that year has gone but I know how much has changed. I know that reading that blog post now almost feels like reading somebody else’s words. Yet somehow it still feels like yesterday.

I also don’t think I’d realised just how far I’ve come in a year until I looked back at the blog post. It got me thinking about what had got me to the much healthier place I am in now – not so I can preach a miracle cure or pretend I have all the answers. I don’t. I just know what helped me get to a place where I finally feel some contentment and strength and most importantly a place where I can really enjoy every moment with my little lady. Ok, so I didn’t enjoy kneeling in a suspicious wet patch during potty training or dealing with the mother of all tantrums in a very public place – but you know what I mean!

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My husband has been amazing – I genuinely don’t know where I would have been without his support. I’m seriously lucky. I’m trying to persuade him to write a post for partners who are supporting someone with PND or anxiety.

I’ve also really begun to notice the difference eating the right food makes to me. I’m not on a rabbit food diet, I still stuff my face with chocolate here and there, I don’t deprive myself all the time. But I try and have a decent fruit and veg smoothie everyday if I can. I try and eat less sugar and less junk. I don’t have great willpower, sometimes I have a fat-filled burger and chips…but I try and eat well when I can.

Somebody told me that magnesium is awesome for a lot of things. I think hormones play a massive part in poking the PND bear for me and I think I’ve heard that it helps with imbalances in that field. I think I read it can help with anxiety too. Don’t quote me on that…it doesn’t seem to have helped my memory! I take a magnesium supplement and it may or may not have contributed to me getting better.  I’m not a doctor, this isn’t proper advice but I believe it’s helped me.

If you can find the time, doing something you enjoy, even just for a short while, is brilliant. One of the things that was a big cloud for me was the feeling that the old me had disappeared. I didn’t feel at all attractive, I wasn’t performing anymore, I couldn’t find time to really concentrate on anything I enjoyed for any length of time. I felt like everything that made me feel worthwhile was gone. Crazy when you think about it – what could be more worthwhile than motherhood? But feeling like you’re a shitty mother stops you seeing it that way.

Slowly though, and with support from my hubby giving me an hour or two alone here and there, I slowly began to fill those precious minutes with something I enjoy. Sometimes it was drawing the bridal designs, sometimes searching for miniature inspiration or treating myself to a 12th scale purchase. Sometimes it was half an hour to scan a guitar tab site for something with easy chords I could play to make myself feel a sense of achievement.

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But sometimes, it was just to wallow a bit. To sit and cry, or curl up under a blanket and watch rubbish TV. Wallowing is fine. Letting it happen, acknowledging how pants it is and just stop fighting against it for a while was so good. I was lucky my husband started to see the signs that I was having a tough day. But sometimes I could just tell him “I’m having a grey day today”. He learned not to ask why – he knew I didn’t have an answer. Sometimes he’d ask what he could do to help, mostly he knew just giving me space if he could was the best thing. He knew suggesting taking little one out for a while would fill me with guilt if I agreed to it – what kind of mother am I if I say yes, take her out? He’d just do it, take her on an adventure, or to Tesco.

So what’s the point of all this? Other than a self-indulgent look back on how far I’ve come. I guess so that anyone who needs to hear “it gets better” can see it does too.

A couple of weeks ago, after a being let down by someone kicked me back by miles, I finally found the courage to advertise on Facebook for a new band. I had replies in minutes and we start rehearsing next week. And I’m genuinely excited to be getting a big piece of me back. I never thought I would and I certainly didn’t have the courage to try.

We moved house in the summer – we finally have a garden and I’ve discovered the joy of twitching (well, watching the birds in the garden). I’ve kind of become Crazy Bird Lady, engaging the waiting Jackdaws in daily conversation as I put the seed out in the morning (“now you guys make sure you leave some for the little birds ok?”).

I got guinea pigs. I used to have them and sadly lost my last two girls while I was pregnant. It was another slightly quirky step towards feeling like me again. I should add that of the 2 beautiful boys I was assured I’d purchased from the breeder, one is now very much pregnant, so I may have slightly more piggies than I’d bargained for very shortly!

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Daddy Pig Leonard

I finally have enough room in my heart to utterly absorb myself in motherhood – every change, every new phrase, every giggle, every endless request for the same YouTube video over and over. Of course I lose my shit sometimes, I get tired, frustrated, I worry about so many little (and big) things. That’s because we all do – it’s part of the territory. But I do that without that dark cloud filling the space and sapping my strength. Mostly.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% out of the woods…maybe I’ve reached 90%…but that feels significantly better than the 80% and the 52%. Yesterday I felt gloomy for no reason and I couldn’t decide whether it was the PND, general depression or just one of those days we all get sometimes. But I went with it and it passed and I feel more positive today.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re reading this and you’re in the throes of that dark place and can’t see a light ahead, well here I am shining a little torch in your direction, hoping that maybe my words will help just a little. I was there once and now I’m here – and you will be too one day. It’s ok to be where you are. It’s ok to feel what you feel. It’s ok to keep on your journey because one day you can be ok again.

 

 

NB. Pics of my feathered friends are by my very talented hubby and thus I have to say they are copyright of Matt Searle.

A Few Developments

Yet again life has rather got in the way of blogging! This time a delightful flood caused by some faulty plumbing and a very busy Christmas.

So before I get caught up again in a flurry of insurance companies, loss adjusters, builders…oh, and potty training (Munch, not me, obviously!) I thought I’d write a little post about the latest additions to the dollhouses.

As well as finally replacing the lighting in the Tudor home and hanging the shelves, another little chap has joined the family. He too has come from Costume Cavalcade, just like his parents. I think he really completes the family and I’m a little bit in love with him!

In the new Edwardian house, Christmas was celebrated with the arrival of a Christmas tree behind the french windows and a few new items of furniture.

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The Edwardian House Christmas Tree

Before Christmas I searched high and low for some Edwardian bedding or indeed, completely dressed double beds. I found it almost impossible to find what I wanted. So much of what I did find were way too modern, with duvets and contemporary prints.

I settled instead for what may be a temporary measure – an old Dolls House Emporium bed I already had actually works fairly well in one room (although will probably be replaced) and some new plain white linen, also from Dolls House Emporium. The linen dresses a quite lovely Edwardian style bed from McQueenie Miniatures – this bed can stay!

When Christmas arrived I was delighted to discover that my family had been shopping at my favourite Masters Miniatures for my gifts and I was, as ever, delighted with them.

A cute little washstand which looks so authentic in the second bedroom and a beautiful child’s bed and swinging crib for the nursery. I’m pleased to finally be getting some really nice quality pieces in the nursery but again I’m left with the issue of dressing them!

A little sweet-talking to my seamstress Mum will hopefully solve this problem and that of the other bedrooms. She’s been debating getting into producing miniature textiles and dressed dolls for some time now so this may be the boost she needs! Watch this space! I may be blogging about her new Ebay store soon!

 

 

 

It’s Finally Here…!!!

A good few months ago, I made the decision to replace my old, tired Edwardian house with a new, ready to move in model.

After much searching and deliberation I placed an order with the lovely Sally and Richard at Cloverley Dolls Houses. I went for their Beeches house with basement.

All the way through the process they’ve been in close contact about every detail so I knew I was going to have a house which was finished exactly to my specifications – and for what I consider to be excellent value.

After a long but worthwhile wait, the finished article arrived yesterday, delivered and set up for me in person by Sally and Richard themselves. Now, before I even get to the house, I have to say that they are such a lovely, friendly couple who are clearly very passionate about their work and the personal service they give is a real credit to them. And on top of that they are clearly very, very, skilled!

As for the house, well, I have to say my expectations were exceeded. It is the house I’ve always wanted but never had the time, patience or skill to produce. The finish is exceptional, the attention to detail is immaculate and I still feel like a kid at Christmas everytime I look at it!

From beautifully executed mouldings to expertly fitted lights, from faultless wallpapering to beautiful stencilled flooring, there is so much about this house to admire. And admiring it is something I’ve spent pretty much all of the last 24 hours doing!

I’ve moved most of the furniture and miniatures from the old house in already (pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had!) and will probably end up buying a few new bits and bobs and replacing some of the older things as I go along. But then that’s the continuing joy of this hobby!

I’m planning a slightly more in depth blog about all the wonderful details and features soon but I must sign off now…need to go and play…I mean “admire” again!!

I will just finish by saying that if you’re looking for a house built to your specifications, with an attentive, friendly and personal service then you need look no further! Thank you Cloverley Dolls Houses! You’ve made me very happy.

 

LINKS

Cloverley Dolls Houses – http://www.cloverleydollshouses.co.uk/

I Took a Little Trip – Miniatura 2016

Wow…the last weeks and months have been crazy and just flown by! Moving house and bringing up a toddler have left little time for any real ‘hobbying’ or indeed blogging.

This is why getting to make the trip to Birmingham for Miniatura 2016 was very welcome and really rather exciting!

I thought I’d share the couple of little treats I bought for myself – I’m really rather pleased with them!

FOR THE TUDOR HOUSE

I’d discovered Costume Cavalcade a year or two ago when I purchased a regency doll for my Mum. I’d spotted the Middle Class Tudor couple at the time, but, with no Tudor house for them they stayed where they were.

Since then I’ve made several trips back to the website and debated purchasing them, but for some reason, I never did hit send on the order email. But when I saw them in the flesh (well, you know what I mean), the decision to buy them was easy.

I’ve searched high and low for the right Tudor dolls for the Tudor house but have only ever found peasants or rich courtiers. These little people however, superbly made by Teresa Thompson (who incidentally is a lovely lady), were just right for my setting. Teresa clearly works hard to ensure historical accuracy when making her costume dolls and it truly pays off. They look just perfect in their new home.

I also visited Masters Miniatures again and bought a cute little water carrier and an adorable Tudor rocking cradle, both of which sit beautifully next to the other pieces I have of theirs.

EDWARDIAN HOUSE

A few months ago, I finally decided to order a new Edwardian house, from a company called Cloverley Dollshouses. I’m very pleased to say it has now been built and will be delivered in a couple of weeks (watch this space for a nice long blog post when it arrives!).

So it seemed only right to also begin to buy a couple of little bits and pieces ready to install in the new residence.

One of these was this cute little toy theatre by Jacqueline Crosby. It took sometime to choose between all the exquisite toys on her stand – I think about 3 hours. As well as the theatres there were beautifully detailed teeny tiny circus scenes so it was a difficult choice. I finally settled and look forward to seeing how it looks in the new nursery.

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Finally, I fell in love with the dolls of Carol Bull at Bags of Character. The name could not be more accurate! These little people are handmade from top to toe, with not a mold in sight and each one has it’s own little personality.

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My heart was stolen by this tiny butler – he has the most expressive face, complete with bushy eyebrows and a look that hints he may have been testing one too many of his master’s vintage bottles! I can’t wait for him to take up residence in his new abode. For now he’s tucked up safely in his box, only coming out briefly for me to admire again!

You can guarantee I’ll be finding time to blog when he finally moves in to the new house!

 

WEB LINKS

Costume Cavalcade – http://www.costumecavalcade.co.uk/

Bags of Character – http://bagsofcharacter.weebly.com/

Miniatura – http://www.miniatura.co.uk/

 

 

 

Mastery in Miniature

It’s been a while since I last blogged…so much has been going on. I’ve also been hanging on because I knew I wanted this to be my next post and I was awaiting the arrival of some new goodies from the lovely people at Masters Miniatures.

Some time ago, I discovered Masters Miniatures when looking for some gifts for my Mum. She’s been very slowly building a regency style cottage and the chaps at Masters were super helpful in suggesting the pieces that would work best from their stock. They also made me some beautiful dining chairs for the purpose.

So they seemed to be an obvious choice when furnishing my Tudor house. Given the rush job I did on the Edwardian house, I have been determined to only fill the Tudor house with really quality items, regardless of how long it might take me!

Masters Miniatures are Gary and Heidi Masters, who hand craft beautiful wooden furniture in a variety of scales from their workshop on the Devon-Cornwall border. The first item I ordered for the Tudor house was a simple but carefully made Tudor table which sits perfectly in the kitchen area but is versatile enough to suit anything from a grand Tudor hall to a witch’s cottage or apothecary shop.

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Tudor Table by Masters Miniatures – £20

Then, after my visit to Weald and Downland, a truckle bed became top of my shopping list. Masters Miniatures just happened to have a perfect replica on their site which, at just £36.00, I snapped up. And I adore it. It couldn’t be more perfect! I have since been on ebay and acquired materials to make bedding and drapes but I’ve not been brave enough to dress it yet!

Inspired and excited by these exquisite items, I emailed Masters Miniatures with photographs of some shelving and a cabinet from Weald and Downland to see if they could custom build them for me. Which they happily did and they arrived this morning!

I immediately dropped everything else I was doing, unwrapped the package and stomped over to my Tudor house to try them in situ. They are so delicately and carefully made and look completely spot on – exactly as I’d hoped. Despite my somewhat sketchy instructions and measurements, they have been made to perfection.

I’m yet to hang the shelves, I need to be completely decided on where they’re going to go, but I can’t wait to fill them with all sorts of pots and kitchen paraphernalia!

I’m starting to get the feeling that most, if not all of my Tudor house will end up being furnished entirely by Masters Miniatures! For what I think is an exceptionally reasonable cost, their work is just beautiful. You can see the time and care that goes into their furniture and indeed the incredible skill.

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Cabinet and Table in the house.

They have an excellent Tudor section but they also make and sell furniture from most eras and can offer great advice on what would work in your setting. And if they don’t already have one, then you can be sure they will be able to make exactly what you need.  Each piece can be made in a variety of woods, with a choice of finishes and custom upholstery.

If you want to fill your dollshouse with quality, handmade, bespoke furniture but you don’t have the hundreds of pounds that some companies charge for a single chair, then you literally cannot go wrong with Masters Miniatures.

Visit Masters Miniatures here.

A Little “Research” Trip

The last time I went to Weald and Downland Open Air Museum was on a school trip more than 20 years ago. I remember loving it but as I think I may have spent half the trip wrestling with a teenage crush I had on one of the boys in my class, I remember little else about it!

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit as an adult, especially as it has evolved and grown since that school trip. My husband and I were wracking our brains yesterday morning trying to think of something to do and after dismissing the same Isle of Wight attractions we’ve been to a million times, we decided to throw caution to the wind and leap on the next available ferry. The decision was made at 9am and by lunchtime we were in beautiful West Sussex.

Whilst I hadn’t intended this to be a research trip for my Tudor dollshouse, I thought I might gain a little inspiration whilst indulging in my love of medieval and Tudor history. However, I got more than just a little inspired and armed with my husband’s DSLR camera, I was snapping away at every room and every piece of furniture.

For those who haven’t been to Weald and Downland or know what it is, I’ll attempt to describe what it’s all about. In very basic terms, they have saved historic buildings from the bulldozer by carefully pulling them down and then rebuilding them within the most breathtaking rural setting of the west Sussex Countryside. These buildings date from the 13th century onwards and rather than being the grand manor houses you may be used to visiting, they are all the homes and working buildings of ‘ordinary’ people. This, to me, makes them more special.

There are some 50 buildings on the 40 acre site and each one tells the very individual stories of the people who would have lived and worked in them. Each time you step into one you genuinely feel like you’re stepping back into history and that, at any moment, the medieval farmer or Elizabethan merchant might return home and catch you there!

The surroundings allow you to totally absorb yourself. You can’t hear or see a single road, or car. Despite the car park being stuffed full, it never felt crowded. The houses are mostly spread out (be prepared to walk ALOT!) so that you can see them within the context of their original settings, against a backdrop of rolling sheep-filled fields, or nestled within equally ancient farm buildings and animal pens. You feel as much as if you’re THERE as it’s possible to be.

A real highlight for me was “Bayleaf”, a Wealdon House presented to the museum in 1968 by the East Surrey Water Company. It was originally built in the late 15th/early 16th century and has been set within a farmstead, including a barn dating from 1536, to show how it may have looked in about 1540.

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The open hall in “Bayleaf”

As I entered the building I realised I was the only person in there. It’s a big space, and so atmospheric when it’s not full of visitors! I stepped into one of the upstairs rooms and I was utterly transported to 1540. I looked out of the window to see geese running across the grass and outside I could hear a cow mooing and the metallic ‘tap tap tap’ of a blacksmith shoeing a horse. As someone who loves history and makes every effort to absorb myself in it as much as I can, it was really a magical feeling.

At the other end of the scale is Poplar Cottage which is believed to have been the home of a craftsman or “landless husbandman” dating from the early to mid 17th century. Whilst in no way is it as grand as Bayleaf, it is no less magical. The interior furnishings are recreated in such a way that you expect to turn a corner and see the original inhabitants at their work. It gave me goosebumps.

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Beautiful Poplar Cottage

As far as “research” goes, well it was very fruitful. It’s given me some great ideas for the affluence level of my Tudor dollshouse, who may have lived there and how they may have used the space. I’ve discovered that bunches of lavender tied to the walls and ceilings of each room are a must, that I need lots of pots and baskets and that a truckle bed is the best choice for the bedroom! I have a shopping list for miniatures as long as my arm!

I’ve come away from Weald and Downland having had a truly special experience and I’m adding it to my list of absolute favourite places to be! If you love social history, or indeed any kind of history, you have to visit this place. And if you’re researching a miniature Tudor family home it’s an absolute must! If you’re doing both, then you’ll be utterly in your element!

To find out more (and I suggest you do!) visit the Weald and Downland website.

Starting All Over

Somebody once said to me “your life is literally like a musical. You have a song for every moment and you never stop singing!” I don’t know if this was meant to be a mickey take or not but I’ve always seen it as a positive. Music and singing are my breathing in and out.

The sad thing is though, I’ve not been singing much in the last two years. There are a number of reasons for this. The band I was in naturally drifted apart as people got busy with other projects or giving birth – well, that was just me! We were really a sort of gig band in the sense that we got together to rehearse if we found ourselves with a gig rather than rehearse to find gigs if that makes sense. It was a project we all did for love and for fun!

I’ve also not felt much like singing the way I used to. I couldn’t drive anywhere without belting out a song and singing in the shower was as natural as shampooing! But without noticing, I stopped doing it. It wasn’t one day recently that I realised. The mood suddenly took me and I began belting out “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess. When I emerged my husband looked like I’d just bought him a new Ferrari and exclaimed “that’s the first time I’ve heard you sing for ages!”

Recently I’ve braved venturing in to a new music project but my confidence isn’t where it was. Singing has always come so naturally to me but suddenly it feels kind of alien. It’s not been helped by having a miniature snot factory living with us, sharing colds and coughs gathered from every soft play and toddler group going! And I seem to be apologising an awful lot to my new music partner, possibly unnecessarily.

This week I’ve been thinking an awful lot about music. I picked up my guitar today for the first time in a long while and learned a new chord – Am7 apparently – but don’t worry, that still only makes about 5 or 6 that I can play vaguely competently. But mostly I’ve been thinking about songs that have got me through the rough times over the last couple of years.

It wont surprise anyone to learn that I’ve listened to an extraordinary amount of James Taylor – but especially the song “You and I Again”. I heard this for the first time live during his UK tour just after Munch was born. It immediately hit me and it was the first live music I’d seen for a long while. I went to see him with my Dad and it was a moment of real happiness that was palpable. I love the arrangement, the words, the journey the music takes and of course that forever youthful, soothing voice of his.

Another song which has been an almost daily “listen” is the Dixie Chicks version of “Landslide”. A few months ago, myself and my long term singing partner Jen got together with a couple of super talented musicians we’d previously worked with to do a couple of gigs. Jen is also my BFF (is that what the kids are calling it now?) and we sang this song together. The feeling of being back singing live, with such a poignant song and with one of the few people in this world that really gets me…well, that was a feeling that needs to be bottled.

I know there are a few more songs that have been important over my PND journey (ick…does that sound horribly cheesy?!) but recalling things hasn’t been my strong point recently! Also, if I noted down every single song that got me through something tough I would break the internet!

However, there is one more song that has given me something very important and has been the song I have come back to again and again. I can remember one occasion I was in such a bad place that I took myself out for a drive, parked in a local beauty spot, looking out to sea and I just sobbed…for something near an hour. I felt like I couldn’t call anyone. I thought they’d be super bored of hearing me bang on about the same old stuff. I thought the tears wouldn’t actually stop. Then my iPod gifted me Starting All Over by a beautiful duo called While and Matthews. I listened once, then repeated it over a few times. And suddenly I wasn’t crying anymore.

And the reason for that and my reason for sharing this story is because of the simple yet perfect lyrics of the song, which I’m going to share with you. Even if you’re not really a “music person” but you’re going through the cloud of PND, I hope that you can read these lyrics and that they can help you the way they helped me. I have to thank Chris While and Julie Matthews for giving their permission to share (I say “permission”…it was more a blessing. They’re very lovely people. And incidentally me and Jen are hugely influenced by them and kind of want to be them!). So here they are…

Starting all over again – Matthews & While

From the album ‘Piecework’ While and Matthews
It’s a very long road that’s in front of you
When you’re starting all over again
You say there’s no way out and there’s no way through
When you’re starting all over again
And it’s pulling inside of you, dimming the light in you
Turning your thoughts to yesterday
Your spirit is sinking low, thoughts have no place to go
The tunnel is closing in around you

Chorus
And it’s so hard starting all over, starting all over again
But the heart finds a way to recover
When you’re starting all over again

There’s a field of gold under distant skies
Starting all over again
You won’t see it till you clear your eyes
Starting all over again
Your heart feels as black as night, it will till the time is right
Just for the moment you’re holding on
Then turning each corner, your heart will grow warmer
And finding your feet you’ll be moving forward

Chorus

Your heart feels as black as night, it will till the time is right
Just for the moment you’re holding on
Then turning each corner, your heart will grow warmer
And finding your feet you’ll be moving forward

Chorus