Friday, 20 January 2017

Flea & Bear has moved to a new home!

Hi there,

I will no longer be updating my blog here, and will instead be blogging on my new website/blog which you can find at I hope you'll come and join me there!

Mary x

Friday, 13 January 2017

January 2017, some thoughts

Hi there 2017, good to see you!

As I ease into these first few weeks of a brand new year, I have, somewhat inevitably, been reflecting on the events of 2016 as well as looking ahead to what the next 12 months might bring for me and this little life of mine.

2016 was undoubtedly a strange and rather unsettling year both politically but also (to a lesser extent), on a personal level. Politically, at several points during the year, it felt as though the world had shifted in the blink of an eyelid, that the accepted order had been turned on its head and we were struggling to catch up, flailing helplessly, with mouths wide open in disbelief.

None of us can know what 2017 will bring for the world, but I must admit the thought of what the next 12 months has in store scares me a little. I try to remain optimistic and hopeful, to remember that change is inevitable, and from bad can come good. I guess all we can do is watch this space and try to carry on living our daily lives with love, compassion and tolerance, to speak out for equality and justice and to refuse to accept hate or prejudice on even the smallest of scales.

Personally, 2016 was one of the most challenging years for me to date, but it was also the most clarifying and liberating too. It was a year of wonderful highs (trips to Scotland and Iceland, our 30th birthdays, developing my textile art and beginning to sell my work, growing my blog and my Instagram, making new friends and growing even closer to old ones). But it was also a year of soul searching, anxiety and self doubt, fear of the unknown and some sadness too. Thankfully, through that maelstrom of emotion and navel gazing,  I managed (with the help of lots and lots of amazing people), to figure some important stuff out, work out a plan of action, and begin to make some important (and probably long overdue) changes to my career. And several months on from that, I feel stronger and happier and hopeful about the coming year.

2017 is set to be an interesting year for me. I have left my safe, secure job as a lawyer and will be relying on myself alone to make a living and grow my career. And I expect that to challenge and test me, to make me question my decision and to give me sicky-sweaty nightmares every now and again. But I am also excited, and curious and eager to give this new life a go.

Last year I chose the word "patience" as an intention to inspire me for the year ahead, and although I wasn't always as patient as I would have liked to be (this is something I find very difficult), I did manage to wait for some really important things,  and I learnt that not everything is immediately achievable and that some things are all the sweeter for waiting. I also learnt so much more to accept and even enjoy the process of life and the sometimes convoluted journey it takes you on to get to your destination.

My intentional word for 2017 is "courage" for obvious reasons! I want to have the courage to persist with my own business, to reach out for help where I need it, to leave my comfort zone and to be ambitious about the future. Here's hoping!

Last year, I also made a short list of a few things I wanted to do more of in the coming year, and it really helped me to spend my spare time wisely instead of wasting it in front of crap TV or browsing Asos (not that I don't love Asos). I thought I would make the same list this year too:

1. Cook. Making good stuff to eat has always been a love of mine, but the day in day out gets so boring, I find myself losing my cooking mojo on a regular basis. Now I have a bit more time in the day, I'm hoping to revive it. I have plans to extend my repertoire of marmalades and jams, soups and stews, cakes and cookies. Clearly no one is losing any weight around here in 2017.

2. Read. This was on last year's list and it motivated me to do it. And I loved it. So it's back on this year too.

3. London. I'm aware we won't be here for ever and I'll kick myself for all the stuff we didn't do. So this year I want to explore more, see more and do more in the city.

4. Camp. Towards the end of last year we bought Karl, a 1989 VW campervan and the love of Raoul's life (yep, I've been replaced). And this year we have lots of plans for adventures in the UK and abroad with him. Honestly can't wait. 

5. Make. This gives me so much joy and I didn't do enough of it last year. So this year I want to get back on the craft wagon and make more stuff. I'm currently dreaming about knitting, shibori, more weaving (of course) and sewing. Yeah yeah yeah! 

How was 2016 for you, and what are your hopes and dreams for 2017? Have you made any resolutions, or chosen an intentional word? I'd love to know if so! 

Mary x

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Shoreditch Staycation

Just before Christmas R and I did something we've never done before - spent a night away in our own city. And we both agreed that it was one of the most relaxing little holidays we had ever had. We stayed at citizenM's Shoreditch Hotel, which is nestled just off Shoreditch High Street and perfectly located for all of the hustle of Shoreditch and London's East End. 

We checked in on a Friday evening after work and spent a gentle hour unwinding and getting ready to go out, and having a good fiddle with the room's iPad, through which you can control the lights, blinds, ambience, TV and alarm clock. The rooms are not huge, but they are so cleverly designed that nothing feels cramped and each one comes with a huge king size bed that takes up the entire end of the room (so ingenious), mountains of crisp white linen, a flat screen TV and a petite but well arranged wet room with waterfall shower.

Undoubtedly the best bit about the room for me however, was the wall to wall picture window with its grey urban view of Shoreditch and the City beyond. I loved lying in bed underneath the twinkling lights of the city's skyscrapers and apartment blocks, while the East London line rumbled past silently below at regular intervals (extremely impressive double glazing).

After a freshen up we headed out for cocktails and dinner at Dishoom, which was a five minute stroll from the hotel. It was at this point that we started to understand the perks of a staycation: you know where you are and how to get places, you've already sussed out the best eating and drinking options in town, and you're not in the least bit tired or jet-lagged as you haven't had to travel miles to get there. There's no pressure to track down the most authentic hole in the wall that only the locals know about, you don't have to scour the guide book, and there's no need to tackle the bizarre idiosyncrasies of a foreign transport system to get from A to B. All in all, it's really relaxing. Who knew?!

I had planned to document our meal but it turns out I was far too busy stuffing my face with all manner of delicious things to find time to do that. I got as far as the cocktails (above) before giving up. Trust me though, it was GOOD. 

After eating as much as we could humanly manage, we briefly floated the idea (mainly for appearances' sake) of going on somewhere else for more drinks before agreeing unanimously on returning to the hotel, getting into bed and watching a film (handily the hotel has a range of on-demand movies). Which is exactly what we did (and it was an excellent idea).

The next morning we woke high up in the clouds, surrounded by a thick and atmospheric London fog which clung damply throughout the whole day. We ambled downstairs for breakfast and to explore the hotel's communal areas.

The lobby, breakfast room, bar and living rooms are all spacious and comfortable, punctuated with quirky design touches and interesting objects. I particularly liked the collection of George Nelson bubble lights which hangs above the stairwell, the iconic Vitra furniture and the big communal breakfast tables strewn with newspapers and magazines. The hotel has a wonderfully informal, lighthearted feel to it, which makes it instantly likeable, and the staff are incredibly warm and friendly to match. 

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast accompanied by the Saturday papers, making sure to sample as many of the lovely breakfast options as possible. The mini bagels from Brick Lane with smoked salmon and cream cheese were a highlight. 

And after one more cup of coffee we checked out and headed off into the freezing fog for a spot of Christmas shopping.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at citizenM, and left feeling refreshed and relaxed, not to mention total converts to the concept of the staycation. I think the hotel's aim to create affordable luxury and focus on the important bits of a hotel stay (while cutting out the non-essential) really works. I like the fact that all of the rooms are the same and that everything has been so carefully thought out and configured. The Dutch chain has two more hotels in London - at Bankside and the Tower of London, and also hotels in Glasgow, Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Rotterdam. I would have no hesitation in recommending citizenM to visitors to London or indeed returning for another stay of my own!

This post was written in collaboration with citizenM but all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

On the topic of staycations, have you every taken one? Do you have any tips or ideas on what makes a successful one? I'd love to hear them if so! 

Mary x

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas at ours 2016

I thought I would share some pics of our Christmas decorations this year as I always love seeing how people decorate their homes at this time of year. Last year I went a bit overboard with the festive decor as we were hosting Christmas at our little London house, but this year we are going to my parents' in Wales so I kept things a little simpler. Also, what with general end of year busyness, finishing work last week and general tiredness, I decided to take the pressure off and only do what I felt like. 

We bought a small tree again this year (despite R insisting he wanted an 8 footer) otherwise our sitting room feels a bit crowded. My decorations were quite soft and neutral - silver, gold and brass baubles, rusty vintage keys, recycled glass, the gold and white clay leaves and stars I made (see here) and delicate starry paper garlands from last year. 

I made a garland for the mantelpiece with the eucalyptus leaves I painted last year, and rediscovered my trusty brown card bunting which always makes me feel Christmassy.

I decorated this beautiful silver birch branch with twinkly lights and two ceramic ornaments that were a gift last Christmas. Got to love a branch in a bottle. I also bought some fragrant beeswax candles from ebay and have been loving their sweet subtle smell.

Elsewhere in the house I made some easy Christmassy additions - some fairy lights in our green demijohn and baskets of vintage baubles, sparkling in the candlelight.

Last weekend we celebrated "fake" Christmas for my doctor sister who has to work over Christmas. We cooked a full Christmas dinner, played board games and dozed in front of the fire. With no present opening there was a lot more time to talk and enjoy everything properly - it was much more relaxing than real Christmas day!

I kept the table very simple - white cotton napkins tied with brown twine and little eucalyptus sprigs. Table adorned with dried orange slices and more of my clay decorations. And little name labels on brown card.

We re-painted our fifties unit recently and moved it into the kitchen and I have enjoyed turning it into a little festive corner adorned with candles and a big bowl of clementines. And I hung one of our twiggy wreaths above it.

So that is how things are currently looking at ours. Have you got round to decorating your home this year? I would love to know how if so! 

Sending lots of festive love,

Mary x

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

On not apologising for who you are

As some of you know, I have worked for the past few years as a lawyer in the City, an experience which, though sometimes difficult, has taught me a great deal, and for which I am immensely grateful. Some of you will also know that I will soon be taking off my lawyer's hat, and from January, will be (excitingly and terrifyingly) forging a different path, embracing a freelance lifestyle and going it alone.

It's therefore of little surprise, I guess, that thoughts of careers, achievements and success have featured heavily in my mind over these last few months. I have reflected frequently on my role as a lawyer, the successes I have had and the lessons I've learnt. I hope that at least some of those will carry me forward and help me as I embark on a new career, with all the completely new challenges that that will inevitably bring!

 I was asked recently to be involved in Danish design brand Georg Jensen's You Can Never Be Too Much You campaign, and it got me thinking about the some of the fascinating and inspiring women I know (and know of) and the wonderful and impressive journeys that they have made in the world, often defying other people's prejudices and perceived limitations to get to where they are. The campaign itself features five seriously amazing women at the top of their respective fields, each of whom has got there through hard work and gritty determination (they are Sarah Kendall, Dominique Crenn, Susanne Bier, Behnaz Shafiei and Cecilia Braekhus).

The campaign also inevitably made me think about the challenges that women face when they strive for success, and the pressure that many women in professional environments can sometimes feel to conform to a certain image, or to present themselves in a way that is "acceptable" to others. I have seen this at first hand in law and felt that pressure myself from time to time. I have sat through meeting after meeting dominated by outspoken men with forthright opinions, and felt unable to say what I think or feel. I have voiced my opinions (about how important it is to enable part time employees to become equity partners of law firms) and had them dismissed out of hand. I have watched women apologise for being too loud or too pushy, too opinionated, too demanding  (i.e. for just being themselves) time after time. I have heard the word "ambition" used like it's a dirty word about women, as if there is something shameful about wanting to reach the top or achieve your dreams.

Thankfully I have also seen the opposite too, not least at my current firm, where senior management is almost exclusively female, and 80% of the workforce are women. I have had the privilege to be surrounded by a host of strong, fierce women, speaking their thoughts, sharing their ideas and refusing to be anything other than true to their own characters and convictions. And as I've grown older and progressed in my career, I too have found the confidence to openly embrace and express my own personality, without apology, and not soften or mould myself into a certain image. Of course, this is exactly what the campaign celebrates - "You'll always be too much of something, for someone. But if you round your edges, you'll lose your edge."

As I leave the world of law and embark on a new path, there will be new challenges to overcome. Being one's own boss, trusting one's own instincts and relying on one's own inner resource requires just as much grit and determination as toughing it out in the boardroom or courtroom. I will have to fight to maintain confidence in my own worth, to champion my own voice and my own abilities, to stay true to my own intentions and not lose heart in the face of doubts or criticism. Thankfully, just as in law, I have many role models to inspire me - artists, bloggers, photographers and countless other creative women who publicly express who they are, what they think and what they want, without apology or embarrassment.

We are each and every one of us deeply complex and flawed, vulnerable and strong, strange and wonderful in a million different ways. And when we embrace those things, we achieve great things. Why would we, why should we,  ever apologise for that?

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Georg Jensen, but as you can probably tell, all opinions are my own and come straight from the heart. I love talking about this sort of thing and would so love to hear about your own opinions and experiences - please do leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Please do have a look at the video too - I think it's great!