DIY | Autumn Craft Jars

Happy October, everyone!

Christmas is traditionally the time of year when we go all out with decorations- lights, tinsel, maybe even an ironic stocking- but with a new season sweeping in, I love decorating for autumn, too. I’m not just talking about hanging up some skeletons for Hallowe’en. This season offers us such a beautiful palette that it’d be remiss to not use it as an opportunity for some home décor.

Most of my Instagram feed have already plundered TK Maxx for their wares (myself included). If you’re on a limited budget (also myself included, my TK Maxx haul was a candle and bunting) you can still add a little festive spice- pumpkin, if you wish- with some super easy autumn crafts.

A quick descend into a Pinterest abyss can offer a wealth of crafty ideas but if your resources are limited, I’ve got you covered. Decorated jars are easy to make, hella resourceful and budget friendly. They look pretty, and if you reuse old jars, I dunno, does that count as recycling? Or upcycling? I like to think so. Here’s my five step guide to making an autumn jar…

Firstly, you’ll need..

  • Some jars (coffee jars, candle jars, mason jars, the choice is yours)
  • Leaves (duh)
  • Mod Podge or PVA Glue mixed with a li’l water (the Mod Podge also acts as a sealant as well but glue does the job if you don’t have any handy)
  • A paint brush

Forage

This is arguably the most fun part. This is the perfect time of year to gather leaves, they’re not too crunchy (and therefore won’t stick) and we’ve not been so ravaged by rainstorms that they’re basically mush.

The colours of fallen leaves this time of year are perfect too: it’s the most vibrant palette of deep reds and golden yellows, and even the odd green straggler.

Go a long walk on a dry day and pick as wide a variety as you can. Plus it’s nice being outside when you’re doing something you actually want to do, right?

I also found it helpful to press ’em before sticking them on, just to make sure they’re nice and flat. It makes it easier for sticking on to the jar, as you don’t have any wee end bits sticking up. Kids’ hardback books are especially good. If there’s any moisture on the leaves, line the pages with kitchen roll to get out the last of it.

Gather Your Tools

Y’know when you go through jars of coffee, decide you’re going through too many and switch to the refills, and find yourself with a box full of empty jars you dunno what to do with?

If, like me, that’s a resounding yes I’ve got good news- it’s time to harvest.

If not, you can reuse a candle jar, or buy one. Whatever works, as long as it’s big enough to stick some leaves on.

We got Mod Podge in Hobbycraft, purely because we were in the shop, the packaging is retro A.F. and I figured if I had the means to make crafts I might actually do it. It’s not as cheap as regulation PVA glue, and not as widely available. If you like, you can mix some PVA glue with water and it’s basically the same thing.

Your paintbrush doesn’t matter, although a smaller one might be good to work quickly with the glue. I had a load of bog standard ones I got from The Works, and some kiddy friendly ones from Tesco- basically anything that you’re not gonna be precious with.

Glue the First

Using your brush, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the area you want to stick your leaves on. Apply the first leaf, making sure it’s all nice and smooth. Hold it on for a few seconds to make sure it doesn’t peel off, or until the Mod Podge goes slightly tacky. If you need to, you can apply some more glue around the edges to make sure it sticks. Continue with your other leaves until you’ve applied as many as you like.

Glue the Second

Once you’ve stuck your leaves on and it’s dried off a little, paint another thin layer of Mod Podge to seal the deal. The regular stuff has a matte finish, but there’s also a gloss version if you want a bit of shine.

Ta-Da!

Once the glue’s dried you can do whatever you want with it: we tied some twine into a bow around the neck of the glass, and you can fill it with candles or fairy lights if you’re feeling extra. See? Told you it was easy.

Third Quarter Review

It’s been six months since I last posted anything on here. Half a year. I wouldn’t have believed it myself, had I not realised the date.

That’s not to say that it’s been lying dormant. I’ve written three-ish posts in that time. I just haven’t actually posted any of them. Last time I blogged, I wrote about how I’d been feeling uninspired and needed to give myself a creative shake. In that time I’ve done precisely nothing to improve on that and I don’t even know why.

The bones of this post have been around for a while. It started off as a mid-year review, to see how far I’d come since the new calendar. Around that time I was preparing for my mid-year review in work. I thought it’d be fun to do the same IRL.

Turns out it wasn’t as fun as I hoped. I compiled a list of promises and goals I’d made at new year, and how I’d either achieved them or not. It worked, in a sense that I got a full post out of it. It just felt… bleh. Like eating Weetabix with the dregs of a carton of milk. Not enough to scrap it completely but not enough for it to be truly great. So I clicked ‘save draft’ and that was that.

The longer this went on, the more I felt embarrassed about not posting anything. I still used blogger hashtags on Instagram, sure. But it felt hollow. I couldn’t talk about blogging stuff because I wasn’t blogging. The more I left it, the harder it got to sit and write. Repeat ad nauseam.

I was mostly embarrassed because my last post had ended on such a determined note. I wanted to steal my time back from self-doubt, to stop comparing myself to others and look for my own positives. Honestly, I had great intentions, I really did.

Great intentions can’t quite prepare you for curveballs though.

This year, this last six months especially, has thrown them in abundance.

I don’t know that I’m ready for discussing the throes of my personal life on the internet (I know that’s basically the purpose of a blog, but I don’t know that I’ve dealt with it all myself, so ssshh). It’s been a difficult few months and at this point in time, there’s not a great deal of change of the horizon. So I put things off and blamed them on other circumstances.

It was this post from the amazing Sian that got me thinking. It’s a lot more succinct and beautifully put than I could hope, so you should probably read that if you’re still combing for the point in this post. I guess I was overthinking a lack of direction on my blog to distract me from a lack of direction elsewhere.

Maybe I was blogging or applying for jobs or planning new hobbies with the wrong intentions, regardless of whether they were good.

Maybe I was holding myself back because I didn’t want to admit that I’m no further forward than I was last time you heard from me.

Maybe I didn’t need to have all the answers or know where things where going.

Maybe all I needed was to deflect the curveballs and toss one of my own.

To get started, I just had to write something down.

So here it is.

The Thief Of Joy

Yeah, before you go on, it’s yet another addition to the canon of “questioning my worth as a blogger” posts. Other people have lamented this point and put it better or more succinctly than I could. It’s a post I sometimes think about writing, then worry about being self-pitying or indulgent. Since returning to work, though, blogging has become my biggest shortcoming. The longer I don’t do it, the easier it becomes to ignore. So why now, then?

Well, I guess, when there’s a red alert for weather and the rest of your family are taking a nap, what else can you do?

I’m loathe to use the term ‘blogging community’ because it’s not really, is it? It’s so disparate, dependent on niche, location, regularity, any number of other factors. Still, in some factions, there’s very much a supportive community vibe and in it, I feel like a fraud. I like and comment on posts, agonise over the right amount of exposure and contrast on Instagram updates and proudly boast that my blog is self-hosted in job interviews. I do all of this without actually publishing anything on the regular. I’m not sure how active you have to be, but if there’s a percentage I’m coming up on a deficit.

It’s easy to find reasons and excuses not to blog and subsequently feel down about it. “I don’t have time” is a popular one, followed by “I’m not really saying anything new, so what’s the point?” and “who’s really going to read it?”. I have these at hand so that when I do feel the guilt creeping in, I can shrug it off. Who am I even making excuses to, though? 90% of the time, it’s usually to myself.

The real problem is that I’m stuck in a rut, and I’m not doing enough to dig myself out. Begrudgingly I’ve ended up back at work full time, Sunday ’til Thursday. Two days a week I don’t get home ’til 9pm, by which point I’m clocking in at about 15 hours of waking time. On the days I have off, I have baby stuff to do, family to visit, friends to catch up with and an never ending rotation of housework. Blogging feels like a frivolity. No one is going to go without if I don’t and there’s always something else to be done. At the moment, most of my online time is spent job hunting and half-filling application forms until my eyes get tired.

Sitting at a computer all day seems to have sapped any creative energy and means it’s the last thing I want to do at home. If I do have an hour to spare I go to the gym, because I’m sedentary for the majority of my day. That’s my banner excuse but the truth is, it’s a problem that pre-existed long before my return to employment. I have a phone full of photos I’d planned to use, half-written list posts gathering dust in my draft folder and an ever growing sense of apathy about the whole thing.

There are so many creators just now, whom I love, that are killing it with their content and output. Not just in blogging- in vlogging, film making, arts, crafts, running their own side hustles, everything. Many of them have kids, or work full time, or are always on the go. Everyone’s time is precious, we are all time-poor. Despite this, they’re putting in the work and I’m backing further into my corner.

I need to give myself a shake.

Sometimes I can feel myself brimming with so many creative ideas that I can feel my brain vibrate. Rather than do anything I just sit, waiting to begin, and never really doing so. I used to love drawing and lettering to soothe away a day, and now I have a brand new pack of sketching pens unopened and gathering dust.

I spend so much time trawling the internet, scrolling Instagram, avoiding blogger chats and watching other people get on with things. All the while I wonder what my place in it could be, or why it isn’t.

I’ve thought about changing up my content- it’s not hard to see what types of posts are popular, what people are engaging with. But then, it wouldn’t feel authentic. In some cases I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t feel like I do enough to review anything. Much of my working week is spent in boring ‘business casual’ dress and, out of that, I’m not much of a shopper. There are a multitude of beauty bloggers embracing cruelty free brands and foodies tapping into vegan culture- the very USP upon which this blog was founded, before being abandoned until pregnancy awoke a need to document things.

Nowadays, I’m more likely to find myself reading posts and thinking about how I wish I’d thought of it, or even kept a note of ideas when they come to me. Let’s be honest, how often have you read a post that’s not particularly well done and thought “I could’ve done this better myself?”.

So then, why don’t I? After a couple of job knock-backs in a row, and a stressful week in work, it all sort of overcame me one night driving home. Not quite a full on ugly cry, but a general feeling of tiredness. Tiredness at my work situation, tiredness of the same routine, tiredness at never allowing my half-formed ideas to come to fruition. The first thing Ally commented when I got home was that I ‘looked sad’. I realised then that, more than anything, I was tired of this being my default mood.

Writing, drawing, planning family days out, taking photos, reading books and going to the cinema make me happy. It might read like the first time CV of a school leaver who still includes ‘hobbies and interests’, but it’s true. Comparing myself to others isn’t working. It’s not inspiring me, it’s not spurring me on to do better. It’s a common problem though- not just with me, but the many bloggers and professionals who write about the dreaded ‘impostor sydrome’. All it does is knock our confidence. What we need to do is remember what we love and to make the damn time to do it. I need to stop making excuses and hold myself accountable for what I do (or more likely, don’t) do.

It’s now March. We’re careering towards the first quarter of the year and thus far it’s passed me by. In January I made goals for the year with an unbridled sense of optimism. They centred around self care- not the bubble baths and candles type (not throwing shade at it, I just don’t have a bath). For me, that meant writing, creating, pouring my efforts into things that made me happy. So far, I haven’t done much of that, so maybe it’s time to start again. New month, new season on the horizon and all that.

So, will I suddenly start blogging to a routine, dropping new posts on the regular with an as yet untapped assuredness? Probably not. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what the point in this incoherent ramble has been. A promise to myself, I suppose, to take time out to indulge what I need to do. To remind myself that, while comparison does nothing for happiness, the real thief of joy is a lack of action. It’s time to steal that time back.

Part Time Mum

Shuffling towards the edge of the platform, artificially awake thanks to trite alarms and instant coffee, I estimated that I had roughly ten hours before I’d be getting off at the other side. Until then I’d paid £7 for the privilege of being squashed into standing in an aisle, far closer to any stranger as I like to get. I rooted in my bag to make sure I had my awful, unflattering ID pass and readied myself for the day ahead.

Yup, as of September our little bubble of maternity leave burst and I had to go back to work. In our flat I could walk into town and back, avoiding the cattle trains and turnstiles. Towards the end of my pregnancy I took the train and hated it. I travelled six minutes into town and back, for two weeks, and that was enough for me. Now I’m a fully fledged commuter… and it sucks. No one looks especially happy to be there. People shove and huff and we all get off at the other end, trudging towards our daily destiny.

There’s no sugar coating it. Going back to work after maternity leave is hard. You spend your first few weeks of parenthood in a daze, forge a new normal for yourselves around every new milestone and wrap your days around making a world for a whole new person. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of the parenting thing, the real world comes calling. Before you know it you’re duty bound by alarms, bills and childcare- if you’re fortunate enough to have it.

I don’t doubt it’d be hard even if I loved my job. Of course it is- and I certainly don’t. Before I finished work I always had the finishing line in sight, I had something to look forward to even on the hardest days. Now it’s like… this is it. There’s no end goal. It’s just day in, day out. For me, though, it’s got to be done. My job search has stalled as I get used to the new daily routine. I spend all day at work, commute home, spend some time with my son and maybe have time for dinner. Even blogging has fallen by the wayside. Going back part time isn’t an option that I can afford. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I’ve ended up going back full time. So what does that make me as a mum?

It’s hard when you’re reluctant about going back. What makes it worse are the sly comments about how you can’t really have it all, the exhalation of SAHM’hood as being a woman’s highest calling, the swathes of Facebook friends with ‘full time mum’ as their occupation. I’m not saying that being a stay at home mum is easy, or even always a choice. Childcare costs can often mean that it’s simply not financially viable to work. When your life revolves around rearing a family it’s hard to ever be yourself. Even in my nine months of it, it was bloody difficult, often stressful and sometimes completely overwhelming. Still, though. The particular choice of ‘title’ can hurt. What, then, does that make me? If I work full time, and say at home mums are ‘full time mums’… am I, then, a part time mum?

The guilt is real when I think about how much I’m missing. The things I didn’t do on maternity leave. The WhatsApp group of mum friends that I don’t have. My son is ten months old, hurtling towards a year, getting more vocal and mobile every day. I know there will be milestones that I’ll miss, and it kills me. But it’s what I have to do for now.

It doesn’t make it any easier when my social media feeds are clogged up with colourful, playful, seemingly non-threatening infographics. You know the type. The ones that play on your guilt, that you could be doing more for your family selling shit from home.

Looking for people to join me on my journey!!!”

Are you a working mum wanting more time at home???!!”

Don’t let other people raise your children for you!!!!111!!111″

Of course when you’re hustling for a place on a crowded platform, anything else seems like a better option. When you have to drop a poorly baby off so you can go to work, the gnawing self-reproach at having to do so can swallow your focus. Going back to work is hard enough. Plying working mums with images of the life they’re not leading- while playing on feelings of maternal inadequacy- isn’t fair.

The truth is, no one has it really sussed. Not that I can see anyway. There are pros and cons of being a working mum and stay at home mum. I long for the endless stretch of days just me and my son, finding fun new things for us to do or having lazy days when it was raining. But I missed adult conversation, having some sort of purpose outside the home and having my own money.

Practically, it’d be selfish of me to stay off work. Ally earns decent money but it’s not enough to support three people. It’s not fair- for us- to let all the finances fall on one person. On a selfish level, I like being able to pick up stuff without worrying too much. I’ve always had my own money. I’d like to keep it that way. Lucas is growing at such a rate of noughts that he needs new clothes all the time. And I can get ’em. Cool.

Some parents are limited in their working choices because they also have to fit in studying around a family.

Some parents just can’t wait to go back to work.

Does that mean they love their children any less? Does it hell.

Just because your child spends more time with someone else doesn’t make you less of a mum. If I leave my son with his grandparents for nine hours a day I’m still his mummy. I’m the one who gets him up in the morning, puts him to bed, takes him to all his appointments. It’s me who takes the hit of his teething grumbles, or drives him to the hospital when he’s got a virus. It’s me that he shouts on and flashes a huge, toothy grin at when I eventually trudge home.

There’s no perfect way of parenting. We’re all just doing the best that we can, with the knowledge and resources that we have. Just like everything fuckin’ else in life, whatever path you’re forging is yours, your family’s, whatever. It doesn’t have to work for other people, if it works for you.

 

Class Trip

The online world often feels fractious. Of course it is: it’s a platform for anyone to air whatever they choose, and not everyone is going to agree. In the UK, the seemingly endless surge of elections saw clear divides in political affiliation. Now, it feels like there’s a different kind of division and it’s along class lines.

Stories of the little guy standing up to corporations have been all over my timeline this week. Service staff, tired of shitty conditions, are finally making their voices heard and- it has to be said- I’m lovin’ it.

In three English franchises, McDonald’s workers made history earlier in the week, as the first of its staff to go on strike. The move was in response to cuts in hours, meaning its staff are scraping a living on basic wage. Staff also had larger demands, such as a £10 per hour minimum wage, an end to zero hour contracts (which I’ve discussed on this very blog) and the right to unionise to discuss terms of employment.

In Glasgow, on the 30th of August, ten members of bar staff in Ashton Lane’s The Grosvenor found themselves unceremoniously booted out of a job. Their crime? “Over-using” their staff discount on colleagues’ food orders. The discount amounts ranged from £1.89 to £30. The bar’s parent group raked in £66.6 million in revenue last year. It shouldn’t be a surprise that The Grosvenor is owned by The G1 Group, whose name is impossible to say without sounding like you’re choking down a dry, fart flavoured biscuit.

Over the years the G1 Group have come under fire for numerous heinous acts: famously their Shimmy Club venue installed a two way mirror in the women’s toilets, wherein men could pay to watch from a room on the other side. Yeaaahh. They also relaunched a bar in their flagship Corinthian venue as The Cotton Club: a tasteful homage to the famous whites-only club in Prohibition-era Harlem which had a code of conduct for black performers and openly promoted segregation.

The case of the Grosvenor 10 brought the group’s mistreatment of staff back into the mainstream. Only two years ago they were under fire from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for paying below the minimum wage. You’d think they would’ve learned a lesson. Last week’s actions were a handy reminder that they haven’t learned shit. The case was picked up by campaigners Better Than Zero, who aim to end pay poverty and exploitative zero hour contracts. The group’s online petition is hurtling towards its goal of 3,000 signatures (you can add yours here). Zero hour contracts are a topic of great personal interest to me, and I for one am backing Better Than Zero all the way.

So far, so good, yes? I mean, who could possibly refuse basic rights to service industry staff, pretty much the backbone of our leisure time?

As it turns out… quite a lot of people. A quick scroll through #McStrike on Twitter is pretty revealing. A choice cut of opinions includes “they shouldn’t be allowed to strike”, “I don’t get £10, why should they?” and the ubiquitous “why don’t they get a real job?”. I’ve had this one lauded at me before and, to date, I’m still unsure what a ‘real job’ is. An office job? A teaching or nursing job? Something in the creative industries?

It’s an awful, snobbish, middle class term that no one seems to have an answer to- but still like to mock working class people anyway. Therein lies the other side of the aforementioned class divide.

Twitter went into meltdown (again) over a throwaway Instagram story from nobody artist Hetty Douglas. I’m not going to share the screengrab, but basically Douglas had taken a snap of men in workie gear, in a McDonald’s queue, with the caption “these guys look like they got 1 GCSE”. Social media users leapt upon it, branding her comments snobby and classist and tearing down her (admittedly terrible) artwork. Even by today’s standards it got out of hand fast. Douglas is not the cause of the problem, she’s just a product of it. We’ve seen them before: the middle class students at good universities, who very probably went to good schools. They dress like 90s TV presenters, grow out their roots and live in grotty flats, because it’s cool.

The working class aesthetic, the idea of poverty safari, is intrinsic with gentrification. People like these are symptomatic of something we don’t like to address. Class society is very real in Britain. It never really went away. People like the idea of being working class, of dressing a certain way and thinking it’s bants to hang out in a Wetherspoons or McDonald’s. When actual working class people want rights though? That’s when the real colours come out. Not to draw crude comparisons but it’d be remiss not to mention the Munroe Bergdorf story and its subsequent outcry. White people across the internet were aghast at being called ‘racist’, and lashed out in the face of uncomfortable home truths. The fact is, Bergdorf’s sacking on the tail of her comments only serve to prove her point. White people are only outraged at racism when it’s directed at them, and those who celebrated in her sacking did so because it meant a woman of colour was being put in her place.

We should be cheering on the staff striking for fair pay, or campaigning for job stability. After all, they do physically demanding work with little or no thanks. Who are you to call strikers ‘lazy’ because they want assurance that they’ll have money to keep a roof over their head? Why should service staff not receive fair pay for the job they do, just because it’s not what you’d deem a ‘real’ job? If they’re on a zero hour contract they don’t have fixed hours, or sick pay. Hell, the lamest excuse I got for losing my job was asking for Sundays off because I’d worked every one for nearly a year. We demand a lot from our service industry staff. We want fast, efficient, friendly and courteous service. Apparently, though, we don’t really care about the people behind it. It’s cool to dress in a certain aesthetic, but god forbid actual working class people should make themselves visible.

Whether you agree with Douglas or not, the responses to her stupid comment have been intense. Much like Ellie Harrison’s much-maligned Glasgow Effect, her work, lifestyle, demeanour and background have been torn apart. The truth is that we don’t need these people to remind us of our intrinsically classist society. We live it every time we pour scorn on minimum wage workers for daring to ask for the same stability and rights afforded to everyone else.