Illuminated moments

Sometimes in parenting my two little girls, certain fleeting moments burn themselves into my memory bank and turn into something else. They take on a deeper meaning and an illuminated quality. Here are two illustrations of such moments with my girls recently.




The Last 2 Months!

Life has been a little crazy lately, in an amazing way, and I’ve COMPLETELY let blogging fall by the wayside during the time. Sorry! Now I have a few mins, I thought I’d do a nice little round-up of June and July!

June: Photography Exhibition Launch, Ireland and beginnings of design range. 

At the start of June, I was already pretty busy, but when the opportunity came up to participate in a photography exhibit with lots of other amazing artists, I couldn’t say no! The exhibition was launched on 16th June at POD, Bishop Auckland, a really exciting new emerging art space and gallery, and runs through til mid August.

The whole process was a big learning curve for me, as I’ve never printed, framed and hung an exhibit before! It was complicated by a delivery mix-up by my courier too, but Tim Scott at POD generously re-printed all my pieces the night before hanging day to save me! So well appreciated.

The opening night was lovely, and the exhibited was formally opened by the Mayor of Bishop Auckland, with quite an amazing turnout of people. Here are a few snaps….

Amazing crowd at the opening…

 The hanging committee…. Got everything done just in time with help from these two ❤11108409_10100529970896242_5692007375776673972_n 11406499_10100530819635362_246707746200930703_o 11412010_10100530821666292_5358781895618265179_o


I also took the chance to quickly pull together a few greeting card designs for this event. I have plans to develop a LOT more design stuff soon, but thought I’d get a few done in time to share here.  A greeting card buyer was gracious enough to share lots of hints and tips with me, which I’ve noted down in my wee book ready for the next round of designing.  You can find my existing stuff in my etsy store. 


Another cool thing that rounded off the end of June was that Tea People, a fine tea company I founded with my friends Neeraj and Vishaka Agarwal, was selected to win ‘Small Business Sundays’, meaning lots of exposure. Tea People exists to raise funds for children, especially girls, who need help with their education. We aim to reach tea-growing regions of the world, and have started with Darjeeling.  Here’s some of our gorgeous new packaging, a collaborative effort between my talented illustrator friend Maria Amelia Randall and myself. The Agarwals do all the heavy lifting with Tea People really, so it’s always encouraging when we get these wee boosts to keep us going.


Apart from all this, I also managed to tour Ireland for a week in a car with our dear friends The Whites- 6 of us in a car. Such a needed and inspiring rest/breather in between several weeks of non-stop work, and Dublin, of course, always breathes new artistic ideas into me.


July: The BIG NEWS!

July finally saw the fruition of months of hard work, because my book collaboration with author Carly Brown, finally hit the shops! ‘I Love St Andrews‘ is a 64-page illustrated book, celebrating everything there is to love about St Andrews in Scotland, a town I called home for 10 years before moving to England.  Carly and I both traveled to St Andrews to launch the book during the British Open Championship (the golf!). In fact, my car was practically scraping along the ground from Durham to Scotland as i temporarily transported my life back up north for a few weeks.  We could not have been more delighted with the support we received. We’ve had so many lovely letters from fans of the book, and nice comments.  I wasn’t expecting so many people to say they were moved to tears! Waterstones gave us an ENTIRE wall at the front of their store which is such a career goal for me that I almost passed out! J&G Innes, the local bookseller, supported us with SO MANY things. We were delighted to host our official launch there and break out the champagne gifted by the local wine sellers. One of the best things for me was that so many friends I hadn’t seen for AGES turned up to celebrate with us. It was so moving!  I’m terrible at writing long descriptions but, again, here are some pics of us celebrating and signing books at various shops!

Books delivered…..


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Carly in front of our Waterstones Wall


Carly reading aloud at the book launch at Innes.11737939_10100546865035252_1523282321968038473_n

11698468_10100544291407822_1701423879207034726_n Well hello there, window display!


Carly with Laala, one of our 3 amazing editors!11707452_10100546822754982_4739161083564576853_n


Delicious treats made by my wonderful talented friend Karen McCormack of Sucre Coeur.10984619_10100546865544232_550724188151480936_n

 Jannetta’s Gelateria were pretty pleased to be featured as one of our happy St Andrews memories. Oh, and free ice cream for us that week!11028015_10100546822176142_5711535259461527436_n


Front page news during Open week. Couldn’t ask for more!11666186_10100543726489922_6383960696147147411_n11707536_10100543726479942_1020194970399452688_n11755684_10100546865140042_891013005131710912_n11755177_10100546865135052_5120661974236439262_n



So strange and fantastic to see a nice wee ‘signed first edition’ on a book with your name on it in a real book store!

One of the best bits was sharing the celebrations with my super talented friend Maria Randall, who illustrated the amazing new book Little Tommy Morris, also launched this month!  We used to sit at opposite ends of a dining table when we lived close to one another, sketching and planning our ideas, so what a thrill it was to see our books in shop windows side by side! I’m ridiculously proud of Maria and all she has achieved. She’s done more in one year than I did in 5!

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In summary though, i have to say that i’m just so grateful for how well the last couple of months have gone after all the crazy hard work. I’ve been scribbling lots of thank you notes but i just wanted everyone reading this to know how grateful I am for all the support and comments. It really lifts my spirits to get your emails, FB messages, tweets and notes.

Much love to all my supporters near and far!



The theme of my today seems to have been ‘Nostalgia’  During the day, we stumbled across Durham Nostalgia Weekend, a sort of mini vintage festival in the town centre with vintage clothes, cute sweetie and ice cream trucks, a teacup ride and lots of people in well-pressed early 20th century army clothes playing World War 2 era tunes.


Nostalgia is such a weird thing- they say that reminiscing can be good for us, but it also puts us in danger of never learning from the past if we only view it through sentimental spectacles. It’s easy to listen to Vera Lynn tunes now and tear up, while not remembering too hard the trauma and destruction of world war 2. On the other hand, they say that this is our mind’s way of protecting itself.  I’ve read that more and more people turn to nostalgic things in times of hardship, and that this might explain the recent popularity of all things vintage and retro, or the rise in practice of mindfulness, and stress-busting exercises like colouring-in books. 

I do think there’s something healthy to be found in the middle of all that though- if you can find a way to genuinely let go of past pain, forgive past hurts and let yourself heal enough that you can look back with fondness on the good bits, then I think a bit of reminiscing is good.  I can remember so many periods of my life where wonderful and absolutely soul-destroying horrible things were happening at the exact same time. Even now, the same is often happening. So which things am I to take with me? How should I choose to feel? How do I face the pain honestly and also allow feelings of joy about the blessings all at once? Like everyone else, I learn how to do it bit by bit as I get older. I live in hope that the future will be always better, but I also know that our lives are a constant ‘casting off’- aging, loss, dying…. it’s happening to us all.  The two things, pain and joy, have to just exist side by side.

I love listening to this song ‘Smile or Cry’ by a friend Mairi Campbell, because it really speaks to the idea of choosing whether or when to smile or cry. It’s ok to choose to cry sometimes, and totally necessary. I also think there’s something deep and powerful about crying for and with others. One of the best gifts a friend ever gave me, was seeing her shed tears for me during a really painful period of my life. It sliced that burden in two immediately. But you also have an ultimate choice to make about whether you let your pain go, or let it become bitterness. I love Mairi’s allusions to nature too- living in the countryside just now reminds me to smile in little ways each day– the crow of the rooster, the neighbour’s horses outside the window, the brilliant yellow of the fields near the house, the sun that rises every day on us all and the rain that sustains all the plants and trees.  As a person who grew up in a grey council estate, surrounded by people with broken families, a lot of substance abuse and quite a lot of the accompanying problems, some real child poverty and some genuinely poor souls… the visible pain all around that you have to really see to believe and the struggle to keep your head above water… these simple things in nature bring me so much happiness. Even just having escaped relatively unscathed to attend a good university, make good friends, be guided by good mentors, find a great friend for a husband, and have a healthy little girl… there’s nothing better that could have happened to me than this. It is cause for great joy!

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Anyway, sentimental meanderings aside (!!), the last bit of nostalgia today was sharing with a new friend about a small cafe I had started in St Andrews a few years ago. The project, Our Story Cafe, was fairly short-lived- ultimately property was just too expensive for us in St Andrews and our lives were taking us to a new country for Stephen’s career, but the overall vision was to make a cafe space that felt like home, encouraged story-sharing and the development of people and their creative potential… basically an open door, an easy threshold to cross, and some opportunity to be heard and valued within its walls. A social enterprise that would use its profits to keep developing people and giving funds away.  It was really hard for me personally that it didn’t work out long-term, and i kept quiet about it for quite a while as I felt the pain of failure, felt responsible to those involved that our collective hopes for the project were dashed.  Those feelings somewhat remain, but I’ve also managed to look back and think about all there is to celebrate, not to mention learn from mistakes.  I hope that it at least brought some good to a few people, and I live in hope of trying it again in some form in the future. Personally, i gained some of my closest friends of the last 5 years from this project, people I would not have otherwise met, so i will forever see it as worth every moment. I am ready to celebrate it out loud again.

So, here are a few of my favourite pictures of the place that once existed in my imagination, temporary occupied two shops in Scotland, and may once again exist somehow. ( More Here) Hope you all had a happy weekend!


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