Posted in Thoughts

So long, farewell!

This will be my last blog post, for a number of reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, my business Vanilla Monkey Creations launches on Monday. I am incredibly excited about it.  I still have about 100 ideas for products that I haven’t had the chance to make yet and I’m feeling really hopeful that it will be a success.  Product collage 6 Aug

As part of my website, I will have a blog to chat about my latest products, new ideas, craft fairs and, well, anything really.

Secondly, I’ve had a disappointing experience lately with spending quite a long time on a profile that I haven’t been able to post.  This made me assess the amount of time I have available for this and sadly, it just not enough to make it the success that I would like to.  I’d rather not do something half-heartedly and I just don’t have the time I really need for this.

And lastly, this was a blog charting my career transition.  I view it very much as a journey without end (and I’m still looking for consultancy work in Learning and Development), but with the new business launch I’m slowing down a bit.  I hope that those of you who have stuck by me on this journey have found it useful and you are able to use bits in your own career transition.  For the last time then, Happy Venturing xx


New Adventures.jpg

Posted in Thoughts

Notice to Move

Ok, so there’s a little bit of shameless self-publication in this post.  A little.

I might have mentioned a while ago about being interviewed for a brand new podcast.  Jo Milmine (multi award winning podcaster, creator of Shinybees, the Golden Skein, Shiny’s Hive and all-round lovely person) has started a new podcast for military spouses, veterans or serving entrepreneurs (and is it just me that finds that word very difficult to spell?  Thank goodness for spell check is all I can say…).

I listened to Episode 2 this morning whilst I was trying to do about 400 things in the space of a couple of hours and feeling really time pressured and just generally a bit blah.  (Because we all have those days, don’t we.  Don’t we?!)  The podcast really lifted my mood.  It struck just the right cord between being informative, but light hearted and entertaining.  It also made me feel a bit (can’t think of a better word here) smug when Jo was talking about creating work space at home and I was thinking ha, I have a whole room for work in the new house.  (Which I still haven’t seen, so this could be considerably less impressive than I’m thinking, but I think I can roll with it).  The episode was about working from home and some top tips that had come out of the interview on Episode 1 with Chloe Horwill-Hunter. I loved the format of picking up some of the things from the interview and having a discussion.  And my Episode came out today!  So, if you want to have a listen, here’s the link:

Notice to Move

I enjoyed doing the interview as it made me consider things, which is always a worthwhile amount of time in my view!  I was also reminded of that last week when I interviewed Beky Hugill for the blog.  Beky is right in the middle of career transition and we discussed some of the things that led to her deciding to career change.  It was a great interview and I’m really excited to publish the profile.  Keep an eye out for it this Sunday!

In the meantime, happy venturing xx!

Posted in Thoughts

Choose to be happy

My nation is tearing itself apart in the wake of the EU referendum. Regardless of how you voted, whether or not you believe predictions or view what is happening economically as a necessary short term blip or the beginning of years of recession, whether you are left or right, young or old, we all deserve to be treated with respect. That means no abuse – verbal, actual, online or otherwise. No scorn or derision or belittling the choices others made.

Sadly, a significant minority of people can’t handle that. They are clearly enjoying the hatred, the scaremongering, the vilification of neighbours and people who share this country. I am reminded of the Charles R Swindoll quote ‘Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it’. Also that adage about knowing what you can’t change. So I recognise that I can’t change either the result of this referendum, the fact it was called, how it was fought or the viciousness of the aftermath. But I can choose to react to it all in a different way. I can, in fact, choose to be happy.

I choose to take part in activities that give me satisfaction and fulfilment. Last night I made cakes with The Boss after she got home from nursery. Today I get to go and interview someone new for the blog (super exciting, I can’t wait to write it!) AND I am going to an audience panel with the Young Women’s Trust tonight. And if that wasn’t enough, I’m finishing the night with a quick  catch up over some beer with a friend I’ve not seen in a while.

For the rest of the week (in addition to all I’m doing in preparation for the Vanilla Monkey Creations launch), I’m going to do things just for the pleasure of them. I’m going to do a bit more knitting. I’m going to run (half marathon training started!) and treat myself to a bubble bath afterwards. I’m going to eat good food, go glamping with my lovely family this weekend and drink some great wine. How will I find the time, you say? Easy. I’m going to give up Facebook for a few days, in the hope that when I return, the vile bitterness may have reduced.

During this bitter time, I hope that you also choose to be happy and react with dignity to the chaos others are choosing. We are all in this together and whilst we can’t change the macro picture, we can choose to be happy in our day-to-day lives. Or not. The choice is yours.

Happy venturing xx



Posted in Thoughts

Triathlon done!

Hey guys!  It’s been a week since I completed my first ever standard distance triathlon.  (That’s a mile sea swim, a 35k very hilly cycle and a 10k run).  I’ve done the sprint distance before which is half the distance, so this represented a big challenge for me.

I was disappointed the week leading up to the triathlon at the weather forecast.  Mid June and it was predicting showers.  As we got closer to the day, the showers crept earlier and earlier.  By the morning, the forecast was for showers to set in at 1pm.  As I had a start time of midday, I was less than impressed at the idea of having a slightly wet road for most of the hilly cycle around the Great Orme in Llandudno.  At 10am, as the sprint triathletes set off, a small shower kicked in and I dared to hope that that would be it.  Ha.  No.

The rain started whilst I was swimming (which obviously I didn’t notice).  And then it went on and on and on.  For the first 2 laps of the cycle, I felt a bit sorry for the spectators.  But then my sympathy for anyone else just gave out and I was only sorry for myself!

EventPhotoHandler.ashxThe rain got heavier.  And heavier.  The marshals were freaking out at all of the downhill turns and there had been a couple of crashes, which was making me feel a bit anxious.  I’m a fairly cautious rider and I wasn’t making up the time on the downhill that I was losing on the uphill.  Whilst the marshals were doing a very valuable job, when they were shouting ‘slow down, slow down’ at me, I felt like shouting back ‘do you see how many people are overtaking me?!  I am the slowest person on the course!’.  But I didn’t.  Mainly because I was hanging on for dear life.

And the rain continued.  Someone somewhere started to build a big boat.

The first lap I had taken it a little easier on the big hill and thought it wasn’t too bad.  By lap 3, I was beginning to feel it a bit more.  My husband caught me at the bottom of the hill on lap 4, which had not been my plan.  He had started 30 minutes after me and I thought he would catch me on the run.  The hill was about half way around the course so I felt pretty demoralised at this stage.  It felt like I was the last one left.  I felt like there was no point in even starting the run as I’m a slow runner so I knew that I wasn’t going to be overtaking anyone.  Luckily, towards the top of the hill, I overtook someone who had got off his bike (bless you, sir) which made me feel a bit better and then I overtook someone who was still cycling and that made me feel even better.

EventPhotoHandler.ashxBy the time I got back to transition, I was feeling a bit more chirpy.  As I ran out of transition, I was even feeling quite upbeat.  Then I got cramps in both quads, which I have never had before.  I thought I could just carry on.  But then they got so bad, I had to stop to walk (I know, shameful!).  Then they came back on the hill up the Little Orme.  By this stage, I would have given up at the next marshal point if the cramps had continued, but they did go and I was able to stumble along the last half of the run.  Still in the rain.  I had another boost when I ran past the guy I had overtaken on the hill (the run was an out and back) when I had about 3k to go.  Fair enough, he could well have started in the 1230 wave and therefore be 30 minutes behind me, but it made me feel pretty good.

The final boost came as my cheering squad (thaEventPhotoHandler.ashxnks to my parents, my sister Abi, my in-laws and, of course, The Boss) greeted me a couple of minutes from the finish (from under shelter – the rain was definitely taking its toll!).  The Boss ran towards me and then pointed at the finish yelling ‘that way Mummy!’  It was very cute and I loved that everyone made the effort to be there for me.  My family definitely rock.


So, how did I do overall?  Well I was slow, but I knew I would be.  I’ll never be that fast, but I was fairly happy with 73 out of 80.  More importantly, I finished it and finished it safely, without being involved in a crash (which is more than can be said for some of the guys that were much faster but didn’t finish!).  I finished it without absolutely hating it and thinking ‘never again’.  Would I do a standard tri again?  Probably.  Would I do that Llandudno one again?  Probably not!  What’s next then?  I start my half marathon training this week (for the all new Manchester half marathon in October) and the next trip will be the North West sprint in Nantwich in September.  I’ve done it a few times now and it will be interesting to see how my standard training impacts on my sprint times.  I’m hoping for a new PB, but we’ll see!

Back to work type related things next week with a post on writing speculative letters!  Hope you’re all getting on well out there with your career transition plans.

Happy venturing xx

Posted in Thoughts

Sewing Bee buzz

This week I’ve been catching up on my Soft Furnishings Level One homework.  I am LOVING this course, but so far have simply not had time to make any of the things I should have.  This week then, I’ve made a falanged cushion, a piped cushion (with concealed zip), a roman blind with standard lining, a roman blind with blackout lining and a standard lined curtain.  The studio (as I’ve started calling my little workroom) has certainly been a busy little place.  The great thing about some of these products is that they require hand stitching, which I like to do in front of the tv.  It gave me an excuse to catch up on some of the Great British Sewing Bee.  (Although, small confession, I haven’t actually watched the final challenge of this week yet!)

Oh I could make those, and then clearly haven’t because, well, life.

One of the things I’ve loved about this series, from the first episode, have been the little sewing weights they’ve used.  I said to my mum, they would be great for quilt making where you are cutting through several layers at once.  Oh I could make those, and then clearly haven’t because, well, life.

However, a great post came up on Shiny’s Hive yesterday (an absolute MUST Facebook group to join for anyone thinking of Venturing on their own; brilliant advice from a bunch of people that are out there doing it now) regarding sewing weights and I thought that the time just might be right to tell you all about the next level of Vanilla Monkey Creations.

So some of you might be really supportive of the idea of my business, but thinking that you aren’t my target market as you prefer to craft away for yourself.  Well fear not, my lovely little sewers, there is a section for you!  Have you always wanted to make a quilt, but don’t really know where to start?  Or fancy making a bag, but don’t want the hassle of having to buy a lot of the bits and bobs when you only want to make one?  Well, this is exactly for you.  Hand cut pattern pieces with all the supporting haberdashery that is required to make your own products.  There will even be a quilt in a year where you can subscribe to having a delivery every month which you will be able to create and build up into your own quilt.  If that seems like something you might be interested in, why not sign up to the emailing list and I can let you know when the products launch?

As an added bonus, one lucky person who signs up in the month of June can win a set of 6 small sewing weights, with co-coordinating needle book.  Look, I finally made some!  These are so cute that I thought I just had to get them out there.  I will be making others (as well as some larger ones) which will also be on sale.  If even this is too much for you as you want to get on with it yourself, reply to the email you will receive when you sign up and tell me you would like a kit instead and I will send you all you need to make your own set of 6 small sewing weights and a needle book.  (Except the rice that is used to weight them.  You guys have that, right?)

Hope you guys are doing well out there in the real world.  Let me know how you are getting on in the comments or drop me a line at

Happy Venturing! x

Posted in Thoughts

Home working

So you know those days where the boss brings in chocolates and then you feel obliged to eat them?  That’s me today.  Except I am the boss.  And I work on my own at the moment…. hmmm, no excuses then!

I’ve been home working (setting up my business – or beginning to) for a couple of weeks now and thought it was a great time to look at what I’ve learnt.

First, I need to continue to be organised.  I am using Asana (but sadly, still have not experienced the flying unicorns) for project management and planning out my tasks.  I’m still using my fantastic planner to keep my yearly goals in mind and make sure I’m working towards them.

But I also 13240602_10154332983686091_4892614794259533139_nneed to be organised about things like, well lunch.  Some days I’ve actually remembered to eat and it’s been great.  It’s much nicer than a packed lunch and it’s nice to stop and do some reading.  My problem is when I’m so involved in what I’m doing (patchwork cushions, for example) then I just don’t want to stop.  My solution to this is going to be marking on a clock a lunch hour.  Otherwise I know there will be days where I just won’t stop.  And then when I do, I will just eat rubbish!

I’m loving being able to schedule what I am doing, and having the ability to decide exactly what I’m working on.  The challenge for me is, as always, being realistic about what I can actually achieve in one day.  I also really (really!) need a break.  And I need to schedule that in so that I don’t hit a massive wall a couple of months down the line.  I read a great quote the other day about you can’t draw from an empty well, which really resonates with me.  I need to get some energy back, ahead of the official launch date!  So this week, I’m taking it easy (which has worked out well as I’ve been under the weather) and the difference I am finding in my creativity levels has been amazing. I have had so many new ideas which makes me think that this was definitely the right time to take a break.

Taking a break doesn’t really mean that I’m not doing006 anything at all and today has been quite productive, so I decided to treat myself to
some chocolate.  My local shop had a box of Roses for £2.  Well, I couldn’t leave them there at
that price, could I?  However, with no colleagues to share them with…..  Let’s just say it’s a good job I’m training for a triathlon!  But at least it gave me a good excuse to check in with you guys and show off my latest office decoration (how could you not love my terrarium?)  If you like it, check out NewDreamWorld at Easy.  I love it.  And that’s the last thing I’ll say for now about home working.  The decor is much nicer!

How about you guys?  How do you find home working?  Any great tips to keep on the straight and narrow?  I’d love to know.  Until then, happy venturing x x