Thursday, 1 October 2015

Do you need your own board of directors?

Last week we had a Sibling Dinner. Yes, with capital letters! This is a rarity these days (since the brother exited Europe stage right and spent longer than we care to remember hiding (I mean surfing) in Australia). So when it does we all sit up and take note! We had a brilliant evening, sharing anecdotes, debating each others lives and decisions and generally setting the world to rights.

At the end of the evening, after a heated debate about 'where I should be going and what I really should do next' (who isn't always deliberating this?!) my the brother exclaimed in jest 'Gosh, I feel like we're your own board of directors Marian!'.

And it's true. They are.

My rowdy rabble of a board on a recent Away Day in Tuscany (photo credit: Izzy Eeles)

I firmly believe that everyone needs a board of directors. It might seem like a rather dramatic statement, but bear with me on this one...

Why do we need a board?

Most of us will already have a few directors of sorts, although in reality they are more likely to be known as 'best-mate-Anna', 'Grandmole' or 'friend-I've-known-for-ever-Helen'! The people we naturally gravitate towards as we try and make our minds up on big life decisions or the people we seek out for refuge when the going gets tough.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. We all need others in our world who we can rely on to help guide us and mentor us through this whirlwind called life! We may find them in the most unlikely places - be it a kind face at the bus stop or a friend of a friend who just seems to 'get us' and we click with instantly. 

Execs vs Non-execs?

My executive directors I like to think of as those that I am closest to - they can be totally honest (sometimes brutally so!), they know you inside out and often know how you're going to act before you do yourself! In this bucket I'd include my brother, sister and 'rents plus my good friends. They're definitely all fighting in my corner!! 

On the flip side, non-execs would be the folk slightly less invested or engaged in your everyday life. Ideally with have a wealth of experience to drawn upon, in a particular area or just life experience in general. And these 'directors' play a slightly different role. When you feel like you've tried every avenue, they can offer up new potential solutions. When you're worried out of your mind, they provide perspective and calm. And when you're dithering and indecisive, they are a bouncing board for your ideas. 

The list of our potential non execs is long - ex colleagues, formal business mentors and partners, relatives and friends. We may check in with them every now and then, once a year or anywhere in between. Our relationship has strong foundations and they know us and our ambitions and yet at the same time they are distant enough to have a sense of perspective.

In this group I would count myself super lucky to have some ex colleagues who's opinions I trust, old friends who go 'way back' and some slightly newer ones too! 

The range is key. 10 people giving you the exactly same advice is not necessarily helpful (although it can help reinforce a decision you've reached). In reality, what we really need is a wide spectrum of opinions and perspectives. Some may not resonate with us and others will really strike a chord. But at least this way we will have considered all the possible options and leaving us free to follow our own gut feeling!

Give and Take

Who have you identified that are already on your board? And who do you want to add? Seek them out. Our relationships need to be nurtured and this is not a one way street. In fact, you are probably on quite a few other people's board of directors too!

So, next time you're stuck with a difficult decision or in dire need of a pep talk to pull yourself together, don't dither and panic - consult one of your directors!

P.s. you can find more ramblings on hanging out with my grown up siblings here

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Potting Shed Fantastic: Very Cherry

Do you ever sit at your computer with one hand on the mouse and the other tossing treats into your mouth? To suddenly realise you've scoffed the lot and you don't even remember doing it?! Yesss?!! That is exactly what I'm like with cherries. I get through a LOT of cherries.

So, you can imagine my delight when we discovered we had TWO cherry trees in our new garden! 

I know cherry blossom gets a lot of press. But, they have been the first plant in our garden that we've seen go through it's full annual cycle, it's like 'a year in the life of..'. And that's what I wanted to share here today, it's so magical!

From the delightful blossom of spring and these seemingly soft fluffy 'footballs' of flowers. 

Through to branches heaving with fruit and literally bending down with the volume and weight of them all.

All the way through to seeing the branches stripped bare. More often that not by smaller garden visitors, rather than me unfortunately. But I love feeding the local wildlife too, and who can blame those sneaky squirrels when the fruits are as plump, juicy and red as these?? :)

One lone cherry sitting in a tree...

Even still the greenery and remaining tree continues to bring colour, structure, shade to the garden and extra habitat to it's wildlife.

This is what gardening is all about to me. Nurturing and watching plants go through all the stages of life. Stages we take a lifetime to work through, plants get through all within one year! Excited with the prospect of new growth and shoots in Spring. Enjoying the beauty and exuberance of the tree in full bloom. Willing the small fruits to ripen and plump up as they grow. Feeding and gorging on the bounty. And then finally preparing and growing strong to survive the long winter and be ready for spring's fresh growth once more. Ever cyclical.

P.s. You can see more of our early spring garden here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

DIY Fantastic: Creating in Watercolour

I'm always excited to dig out my watercolours. The freedom, fluidity of adding water and pigment to thick heavy paper and seeing what happens is always amazing. The results can be mixed, but they are certainly always unusual, unexpected and impossible to replicate! These few factors make them a creative force to be reckoned and why I always try to let the watercolours do the walking and the talking, rather than vice versa. They will never bend to your will so it's a real test in letting go and guiding rather than controlling.

The quiet time I've had this week as I recover has been the perfect time for some relaxed watercolour experimentation. That plus the veritable explosion of flowers in the garden and from the folks' garden in Hereford has meant endless floral inspiration. Perfect for putting water to paper and seeing where we go...and this was where we went.

I'm super pleased with the results, the colours are vibrant and the intensity and textures varied and they sort of look like sweet peas too (always a bonus!).

I also love my watercolour palette below, I never tire of looking at this, the tiny cute block of colour and the crazy colour combinations I create on the mixing plates. Ha!

Are you inspired to get out your watercolours or any other favourite medium after this? Nothing like a little creative experimentation to help you feel alive!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Guerrilla Gardening Update

Over the last few weeks I have been the lucky recipient of a daily 'dirt' photo from Mr Fantastic! In his usual impatience he has been snapping every teeny green shoot he spots in the scraps of soil along our street and forwarding them over for identification!! I have to admit, the vast majority of photos sadly got a resounding 'no' in repsonse to the nasturtium identification challenge. They mostly looked like various weeds, but this week we popped out on to the street to study the soil more carefully and lo and behold, we spotted some seedlings!!! Nasturtium seedlings!!!

We were beyond excited and hopped from tree to tree inspecting as we went, leaping up and down in our flip flops and pjs every time we spotted one! In honest, there are very few compared to the ridiculous volume of seeds we planted out, but we still count this as a big WIN for the street! Some Nasturtiums has to be a lot better than none.  

As you can see they are popping up amidst all sorts of debris including cigarette stubs and chewed chicken bones!! Apologies for the macro shots of such paraphernalia. Not exactly photogenic. But I think that all adds to the charm for me...beautiful fresh new life growing through the litter of the modern world! How poetic.

They are still small, but I hope they survive and grow into thriving bushy plants over the next months. Fingers crossed for the odd rain shower here and there to keep them growing strong. I shall be sure to report back with an update as soon as we spot our first flower!

Friday, 12 June 2015

My Blogtacular Manifesto

I have taken a deep deep breath and signed up for Blogtacular this year! I took one look at Grace's Bonney's key note speech topic, all about 'the fear' and it completely reminded me to 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. A long lost motto of mine from my school days...when I was fearful but fearless, or so it seemed! 

To justify this leap to myself the doubting voices in my head, I've created my own little 'Blogtacular Manifesto' - a list of all the things I want to achieve/do this weekend! I was totally inspired by Elise's summer manifesto, this is something I've done lots of each year, but never formalised or actually shared before! :/

So, here goes:
1. Fill a WHOLE notebook with ideas, thoughts and inspiration. Pretty sure that's going to be easy peasy! 
2. Go up to my online blogging heros and just say 'hi, I love your work'. Rather than blurt out nonsense, stutter, mumble and then shuffle on!
3. Get down and dirty with all crafting activities on offer - these are my favourite!
4. Not even consider trying to 'network'!! Instead I'm going to trick my brain and focus on chatting, sharing jokes and finding out interesting things about everyone else (aka networking without the scary title!!) 
5. Make some new friends, like, in person, not just online!
6. Continue to make connections and share things with all those folk and friends long after Blogtacular comes to a close (sniff). 
7. Maybe take a FEW pictures to share on IG/twitter, but don't take thousands (I want people to meet me not my iphone!).
8. Hand out all the blog business cards I've hand made (even if I give them out to randoms on the street at the train station, I'm not carrying any home!)
9. Decide on five things I'm going to do differently after Blogtacular and how I'll do them.
10. And most importantly - have FUN!! 

There, doesn't seem half so difficult now! Phew!

P.s. You can also check out my 2015 'things to do more of' here

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Travel Fantastic: Whistle-stop tour of the Cyclades, Greece

When I was deciding on the title for this post I started out with 'A guide to Milos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Paros, al.' But I quickly realised that was becoming a total tounge twister! Luckily for me, the Greeks have a collective name for this cluster of rocky outcrops in Agean ocean - The Cyclades. (Thank goodness!)

And these islands are literally that - huge rocky mounds that push straight up out of the azure blue ocean in a series of sharp dramatic cliffs. This makes for dramatic scenery, raw beauty and a drop of mystery. The islands are inhabited by a rock gardener's dream collection of hardy succulents that are tough, tenacious and tireless! And so they need to be, with the Methini wind sweeping over these isolated isles for many months of the year you need to be a tough cookie to survive these extremes.

We spent a week doing some serious island hopping, spending each night on a different island. We were the guests of my wonderful parents in law on board their gorgeous sailboat. We stayed is small marinas on each isle, sailing and motoring between Islands during the day. And by night mooring up in  series of small marinas scattered across the Cyclades!

By virtue of the early season, the marinas were quiet and the waters even more so! This one above was probably busiest we visited! 


I landed in Milos, a gorgeous little island. The small cute town of the same name rises up over a small hill, with a little church on the top. It sits on the edge of a wonderful large bay and is really the most beautiful setting! The seafront has a handful or lovely fish restaurants and they'll even cook you home caught tuna fish for you if you ask nicely!!

We spotted this colourful waterfront as we left the bay, what a colourful collection of beach huts! Would love to go back and explore this coastline on foot, those colours are so enticing!  


This is maybe my favourite of all the islands, one of the least developed and least touristy! We stayed at Platis Gialos which had a delightful little bay with a lovely long sandy beach and a series of small cute restaurants and modest homes along the beachfront that opened straight onto the beach! This would be a wonderful place to come back to for a week long holiday or with a family. It felt incredibly safe and easy (other than getting there!). There was just one (fabulous) restaurant open in the village at this time of the season and we had the beach and the crystal clear water completely to ourselves! Bliss!

Leaving the next morning on our way to Folengandros, we came across then most wonderful sight - a large pod of dolphins! There was possibly 7-8 of them in total and it was amazing to see. We didn't get too close, but we think they may have had some young with them as usually they are curious to investigate sea vessels pasig, but instead they kept their distance. 

A day or so later we saw another dolphin, this time a large lone male and he came right up to the boat and dove beneath us!! If you're a fan of these darling aquatic creatures, then sailing around these islands is a must! 


The small bay and harbour of Karavostasis was both practical and delightful! We clambered over the hills and cliffs to find some wonderful deserted tiny beaches! And a short bus ride yo the hill was the Chora of Folegandros, a gorgeous hill top town, full of tiny white houses with splashes of colour creating the most delightful vignettes at every turn through the meandering narrow streets.

The view from the cliff-tops was breathtaking (and the perfect spot for a sneaky little selfie!) and while exploring the village we stumbled across the most exquisite square in the Chora. Nothing beats dining alfresco at the best of times, and in this setting with the textured walls, rustic wooden tables and chairs, twinkling lights and it's own dancing begging dog (I kid you not!) it was truly heavenly!


The welcome you get as you arrive into the bay is gorgeous, the first thing you see is this unmissable church perched on the peninsular towards the opening of the bay.

For the party capital of the Cyclades, Ios was rather sedate in May! Ios is less untouched than the other islands, the town is a little functional and the water on the beach was no where near as clear as the other bays we stopped in. This may have had something to do with the large swell we had on our evening in Ios, walking the plank from the boat to the quayside was a mini adventure in it's own right each time!! Thankfully none of us had an impromptu dip this time round!


This was my second favourite Island of the trip. It was even more untouched and quiet than Sifnos. We stayed in a tiny bay on the South West of the Island and again the waters were totally clear and divine.  There were only two boats on the quay and a handful that anchored in the tiny bay and again it was a one-restaurant village. Perfection.


The most cosmopolitan of all the islands we visited. Naoussa on the Island of Paros was actually rather chic and sophisticated! The seafront and old marina was lined with smart fish restaurants that each vied for your custom, hanging out their squid out front to tenderise it in the sun! 

The old port was an absolute delight, so many gorgeous tiny fishing boats in all shades of blue and turquoise an instagramers dream!!

The small narrow streets wound up the hill and were full of hidden shopping gems, selling all sorts of good quality wares such as jewellery, beachwear and shoes! A shoppers paradise! 


Naxos was our last stop on the trip. The history of Naxos was fabulous, from the old castle at the very top of the town, that we stumbled upon whilst exploring, to the ancient arch on the peninsular. No idea how this remains upright in the face of the Methini winds, but it frames the town marvellously!

And that rounds up our whisle-stop tour of the Cyclades. Phew, sounds exhausting, right?! ;) Don't feel too sorry for us!

It only remains for me to say a huge thank you to these two super smart sailors for putting up with us on board, teaching us the ropes, saving us from scrapes and generally spoiling us rotten. Cheers!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

DIY Fantastic: Guerrilla Gardening

I've always joked about becoming a  Guerrilla Gardener. The idea of throwing wildflower bombs over fences into abandoned lots or neglected gardens and seeing the results grow and blossom always sounded like such a lovely antiestablishment act! And let's face it, as a goody-two-shoes at heart this is about as rebellious as I was ever likely to get! 

Finally, these long-harboured dreams have been turned into reality - there's really is nothing quite like getting a foot on the property ladder to get you invested in your local community and street improvements! Ha!

So tonight, I ventured out on to our street armed with 101 nasturtium seeds, a trowel and a watering can on a one woman mission to brighten up our street! Oh and I dragged the husband along to carry the watering can! (I think he enjoyed it, at least the guerrilla part at least!) 

We planted a handful of seeds under each tree, in the scrappy square of soil around each tree trunk. Created a series of trenches in the greyness and popped in a nasturtium seed or three into each. Covered them back up with a sprinkling of soil (aka dust and twigs) and watered thoroughly before moving on to the next tree.

And that's it. We now get to sit back and wait a while and hope for more rain! Each day I'll walk to the station hopeful of seeing my handiwork start to spring out of the earth. First as a teeny seedling, then grow into a strong little bushes and eventually burst into a root of colourful flowers! Hmm...we'll see! 

It's sure going to be a test of my patience mind! By the virtue of my daily walks in sure it'll feel like they're taking FOREVER to come to fruition, as I watch them grow a millimetre a day! But with the days and weeks, hopefully they'll bring a flash of colour and life to our already cute street over the summer. 

We picked nasturtiums as they are hardy, love scrappy, poor soil (which is what they're getting!!). They are bright and fun and hopefully easy to grow with very little tending! My ma bought out the pound store of nasturtium seeds last time she visited to stock us up in advance!!

As for hazards of the job, we got down and dirty with all sorts, the cigarette buts, the bottle tops, the dried dog poop (extra nutrients?!) and all sorts of natural debris. We both wore gardening gloves for the job and were super careful. Said gloves even got a deep bleach clean afterwards and I must have scrubbed my hands about four times before I was satisfied! Our remaining natural foes will now be the council weed-killing men (please don't do the rounds soon), dogs and drought! I don't often say this, but...bring on the rain!

I'm desperately hoping to one day spot a neighbour or visitor admiring the new addition to the street so that I can glow smugly on the inside knowing that each small change like this will help make our street a better place to live. (I'll report back if we manage it!)

So, what small steps have you tried to help contribute to your neighbourhood? I'm all ears - we need our next project!

P.s. you can see more about our first step onto the property ladder here and more gardening updates here.