A Grand Day Out…… Exploring Scotland

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Sounding  a bit like “Wallace and Gromit” but it really was a “grand day out”. When the Scotrail operator changed I managed to snap up a couple of free rail tickets.  Given the choice of destinations I picked Stonehaven on account of its open air swimming pool. And vague recollections of very good fish and chips. It proved to be a good choice. Easily manageable in a day , not too far to walk from the station to the pool or town centre and with more to do than we managed to fit in on one visit.

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This year the pool  has opened for its 81st season but in the 90s it was threatened with closure and I remember having signed a petition to save it. Fortunately the campaign was successful and the pool has gone from strength to strength ever since , supported by a very active community team. They give it a lick of paint over the winter and it was looking beautifully colourful.

stonehaven swimming pool

What sets this pool apart is that it is a heated seawater pool. And they are now thin on the ground. I have to wonder why, as the water was so much nicer to swim in than the normal chlorine smelling pools.

The weather was a little changeable but we braved the elements and , though the water was apparently a little cooler than normal, it was perfectly fine. I think during the school holidays and on very sunny days it will be much busier but I still wouldn’t hesitate to return.

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There is a poolside  cafe – we sampled  delicious freshly cooked  scampi , as well as a warming cup of hot chocolate later on. In summer there is plenty room to sit outside and soak up the sunshine.

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I’d done a bit of research before leaving home and it also turns out that Stonehaven has an ice cream parlour of some repute called Aunty Bettys. Well, they know a thing or two about icecream ! Quite an unusual collection of flavours alongside the traditional ones – apparently Scottish Tablet and Butterscotch are amongst the most popular ones. If you choose to have “toppings” your ice cream will come bedecked in sugary decorations – and it makes quite an impression. Alongside the ice cream counter is a very well stocked old fashioned sweetie shop.

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Travelling by train was perfectly feasible, with direct routes from Edinburgh. Now I’m looking to see where else might make a great day trip.

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Seaside Treasures

Sea Glass

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for sea glass , but used to hunt high and low and find very little. Now I find myself living near some spots where I can find it easily and it is very hard to resist. I especially like all the pale aqua shades and this time also found a few pieces of broken porcelain. I am sure this colour palette is going to show up in a design or painting sometime soon.

rail bridge low tide

The bridges have also been looking wonderful during the last few days – mostly lovely summer weather and some very low tides which make for interesting images.

two bridges

rail bridge

If you are visiting Edinburgh this summer South Queensferry makes a very pleasant wee jaunt out of the city, especially during the crazy festival period. You can even take a boat to Inchcolm island and have a go at spotting seals or even a puffin if you are lucky. Get yourself an Orkney Ice cream and stroll along the prom to the High Street.

Zuider Zee Museum Enkhuizen

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A little more catching up from the Dutch trip a few weeks ago. The Zuiderzee Museum is somewhere I’d visited about 10 years ago and always wanted to go back to. I’d thought that really it would be easier to visit by car but in fact it is perfectly feasible with public transport as a day trip from Amsterdam. It’s worth setting off early enough in the morning though, because you will need plenty time to do the museum justice. The best way to approach the museum is to take the train to Enkhuizen and then look for the ferry that will take you over to the musuem. You can get there on foot but arriving by water adds to the atmosphere.

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(If you have a museum card you will get in free. And even if you are not resident in the Netherlands , if you are there for more than a couple of days and plan some intensive museum visiting, the card will pay for itself very quickly. All the big musuems are included – you can get one on the spot at most museums. ) One other tip – the whole museum is only open during the warmer half of the year, so save your visit until then.

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I didn’t realise that it was only established in the 60s – it feels much older than that. Houses have been brought here lock stock and barrel from various places around the Zuider Zee ,including from an island that became land locked once the Ijselmeer was completed. There are photos showing some of the complete houses being wheeled along on trucks or winched off ferrys. They are laid out in little clusters to represent an island community or a town centre around a church. The special charm is reinforced by the costumed characters who do a very good job of staying in their role even under quite thorough questioning.

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This time it was the interiors that struck me particulary. Probably as I was still in an interior design kind of mood after visiting the Woonbeurs/ Home Show. I noticed a lot of deep greens as well as the bright blues that pop up in many early decorating styles. I had a vague memory that the blue served a particular purpose and one of the costumed “locals” told me that the colour came from the addition of laundry blue and was considered mildly antibacterial. Also, with out our masses of modern “stuff” there is a simplicity to many of the interiors which is very calming. I know life was hard in that era and many of our modern possessions make life easier,but still, I think we can take a leaf out of their book in terms of simplicity and functionality.

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There were also a few locations within the museum where contemporary craftspeople and artists had been invited to create work. One example of this was a room that had been decorated entirely in the style of Delft tiles – the walls and even the radiator. This little side table also got the tile treatment – that would be a fun project to have a go at !

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Amsterdam Holiday Appartment – As seen in Flow Magazine

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For the recent Meet The Blogger I needed to find somewhere to stay in Amsterdam. The places that I’ve used before were unavailable, but then I remembered reading something on the Flow Magazine blog earlier in the year about a studio flat in Amsterdam. I’d filed the info away and with a bit of detective work managed to find it again.

So I spent five nights in this very cosy little gem on the banks of the Amstel. On a map this flat may seem a little out of the very centre, but in fact this is a bit of a bonus as it means you will not be disturbed by city hubbub while you are trying to sleep. There are various trams that go close by so you can get into the centre in no – time , although you could walk it in 20 minutes or so too.

The studio consists of a bedroom , a sitting room with a little kitchen corner and a separate bathroom with bath and shower. As you can see from the images the decoration is white with splashes of reds and yellows. And then more decorative details are provided by the porcelain pieces that the owner ,Joke, makes in her atelier next door. She is happy to let you have a wee look round too, an extra treat.

You do need to know that it is up quite a few flights of stairs, those very typical steep Dutch stairs,as the studio is at the top of the house, so you’ll be happy if you are travelling light !

Just along from the studio is the very good cafe/restaurant “De Ysbreker” which serves all kinds of food from breakfast onwards. In summer there is terrace seating along the Amstel too. It seems to be a pretty popular spot with locals as it was always pretty busy. But Joke will also have lots of suggestions for you on arrival.

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If you speak Dutch you can have a wee look at the Flow article, and if you want to make an enquiry you can do that via Joke’s website www.jokeschole.com which will get you the best rate.

I had a really lovely time staying there and would definitely go back and stay some other time.

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Meanwhile, after my trips to Holland and down south for a big family birthday, I am getting back down to work and *drumroll* my cushions are going to be available next week ! If you’d like to make sure you get a tip off I’d invite you to subscribe to my Studio Newsletter.

Meet The Blogger Amsterdam

Meet the Blogger Name Tag

I have been off on my travels again during the last week. A lovely mix of catching up with family in Holland and a bit of “tourist” time too. But first I went to the 3rd Amsterdam Meet The Blogger event. I went to the initial one two years ago and the idea has really evolved since then. First time around it was a one day event around a number of speakers. This time it has grown into something over two days with a very varied programme.

Meet The Blogger Stage
The first day was held at the Wester Gas Fabriek – a sprawling formerly industrial area that is now used by all kinds of events. After a welcome coffee we got down to the serious business of the day – listening , learning and mingling with old and new friends.

Victoria Smith at Meet The Blogger

The first of the main speakers on the podium was Victoria Smith from the very successful SFGirlByBay blog. She shared her story of how she got started and had quite a few tips for us as well. One of the ones that stood out for me was her advice to use your blog to bring together your different interests and strengths.

Tricia Guild at Meet The Blogger

The second of the main speakers was Tricia Guild from Designer’s Guild and that was a real highlight for me as I’ve been inspired by her designs for as long as I’ve had a house to decorate. I asked a question as I was curious to know what she had started off with initially. She replied that she had been inspired by indian block printing and had brought out a range of fabrics based on them. She then opened her first shop because she realised that she had to show people how to use the fabrics. It is useful to remember that this was before ” lifestyle shops” and even Habitat was only just opening around the same time.

Another big difference with the first Meet The Blogger was that now there are workshops in the mix as well. I had chosen to go to the one by Kirsten Jassies about tips and tricks for creating visual content. She had plently of those – and I will be working on adding some of them over the next while. The ones that I particularly picked up on were her suggestions to use infographics in different ways and also to incorporate video. I’ve already had a couple of shots with video and I’m thinking of ways that I could add this more frequently.

The other workshop I picked was SEO with Robert van Glabbeek who is an SEO specialist with Sanoma – less glamourous and more techy but again, I learned a bit more here too. Its not my favourite part of the whole online world but it can make a huge difference. At times like these I am glad of my dreadful year spent training in web design ! One of the surprising facts for me was that when people do a search on Google, the first result will be clicked 52% but by only the fifth result it drops to 15% – so quite an incentive to get the search engine ranking working !
Designer's Guild Amsterdam Showroom

And still the day was not done. At a short hop from the venue we boarded two boats that took us through the Amsterdam canals to the Designer’s Guild Showroom. That was a big success and a very nice touch, especially for those who had never been to Amsterdam. The showroom visit itself was interesting – to see how the different ranges were displayed – the agents were very welcoming to our rather large group. And of course, a chance to buy Tricia Guild’s new book and have it signed. Needless to say, I did have to get a copy , but I will leave reviewing that for another day.
Designer's Guild Amsterdam Showroom detail

If you are curious to read a bit more about the whole event this post gives an overview and links to many other blog reviews.

Of course an event like this doesn’t happen all by itself, so many thanks to all the organisers and also to the sponsers including VTWonen, Moo Cards, Designer’s Guild , Dyson and the Woonbeurs – all in all it resulted in a very enjoyable event.

And the bonus visit to the Woonbeurs was still to come – which I will save for another post as this one is already long enough !

I do make a point of trying to get to one or two of these type of events every year. It shakes you out of your familiar environment and routine and I always come away feeling recharged and buzzing with new ideas.

What are your favourite events to attend for getting out of the studio and recharging ?

Feast or Famine in the August Break

Burry Man

I signed up to join in with Susannah Conway’s August Break. Although in fact, I more or less had a July break too. A summer bug followed by visitors made quick work of July. I have been taking “August Break” pictures , but have been posting them to my Instagram stream instead of blogging with them.

So for a few days I’ll do a little catching up.
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Last week was a big day in the South Queensferry calendar – the annual Burryman day. I posted more extensively about it in this post. This year I didn’t get up early to watch him setting off but just caught him as he went along the High Street instead. It really is a very wierd tradition. But if he is scooping up all the bad vibes from the town onto his sticky burrs and taking them out of town, then that is fine by me.

A little bit of advance notice too – I am planning a shake up in my Etsy shop as I am going to move some items over to a different venue. I am also about to have my annual birthday special offer which will be a last chance to purchase some items before they are “retired”. If you’d like to be sure of exactly when , I recommend subscribing to my Studio Newsletter as I will be announcing it there first of all – you can sign up here.

All Roads Lead to Leiden

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Oh the Internet is a funny and tangled place. A day or so ago Ama an Etsy friend from Leiden posted a picture that a local blogger, Louise, had taken of her market stand during one of Leiden’s many festive weekends. Of course, I had to pop over to the blog to read the review and reminisce over attending the same event last summer. On reading a bit further I discovered that the same blogger had just been featured by Tina,a London blogging friend who has a regular challenge post. And the challenge this time was for each of them to make a video about their respective towns, Leiden and London. So hop over here to see both of their videos.

In the meantime I have finally felt like piecing together this Ixxi that I designed with images from ” A Leiden Year”. I know it sounds a bit soppy, but I felt too sad about the end of the Dutch adventure to pin it up before now. It really felt that I was reconnecting to a part of my heritage again , only to see it come to a halt. Well, there are good sides to every change, of course, but I do plan to hang on to those strengthened Dutch ties with more regular visits – and with a bit of luck there will be another period over there in the future.

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