Helen Russell Creations



One of my favourite weekend activities is to hit up on local craft and art fairs. Rob and I have been visiting these fairly frequently for the last couple of years. In fact, we have been to enough now to recognise and build a friendship with some of the artists.

One lady, has become a particular inspiration for me. We met Helen Russel a couple of years ago and instantly loved her cute ceramics populated with cheeky cartoon birds and critters. I especially love her Batman and Robin series and the Puffin who thinks he is Fred Astaire. All the characters she draws have back stories and worlds that they inhabit, each one is bursting with personality and life and is a reflection of the artist herself.

Seeing Helen once every six-to ten months or so, it has been incredible to see the steps she has been taking to build up her business. One time we chatted to her just as she was making the leap from working from home to renting her own studio space. Then we saw her at the beginning of the month at the Art in the Pen event at Skipton to discover she has introduced a whole new line of stationary items to her collection.

When I talk to Helen I am amazed at her bravery; how she keeps on trying new things and how hard she works. Although I have no desire to become an artist myself she inspires me to keep on working hard at the things I love to do, and to be willing to take risks. And even as she takes these big steps she always has a great joy and cheerfulness about her that saturates her creations.

I know this all sounds very gushy, but I really do admire her work and her approach to making her own business. I promise I am not being sponosored for this post, and apart from seeing her at art events I don’t have any other friendship with her. She is just someone who I admire and I thought it would be nice to share a bit about her and her work.

If you would like to see more of what she does you can check out her website here.


Memory Verse: Interpretations of Change


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I have missed a couple weeks of my Memory Verse challenge with being on holiday so I am feeling a bit rusty as I come back to it today. In fact I was half tempted to stop this series. I began it as Orla was keeping me so busy that I struggled to get to my Bible at all during the day so I swapped from reading four chapters a day to having a memory verse to learn a week.

Now that Orla is napping more consistently I am back to reading my chapters daily. And I am very grateful for that! Reading the Bible is for me the primary (but not only) way that I experience God’s presence, and I miss it when I go without it.

But learning and focussing on a single verse for a week has also been beneficial. It makes me think about some of the more challenging things Jesus said where otherwise I would be tempted to gloss over it. So I have decided to continue my series, and this week’s verse is Matthew 5:17 which says…

mt05_17These words are important as they show the huge change and connection between the Old and New Testament. I think this is something a lot of people struggle to get their heads round as Christianity sprung up from the Jewish faith and Christians still hold the Old Testament to be the Word of God but are not under obligation to obey the Old Testament Law.

The reason for that is that we view the Old Testament Law as a covenant between God and the Israel nation. The people would worship God and obey the Law given by Moses in return for God’s blessings. God would then make His name known through the Israel nation and would use them to bless all other nations.

That covenant was fulfilled and completed in the sacrifice and Resurrection of Jesus, and a new form of the Covenant was introduced that would not only be for Jews but for everyone who would put their faith in Jesus.

The differences between the Old Covenant and the New way are…


Old Way New Way
Contained by the Israelite nation For all peoples of every nation
Only the special related to the Holy Spirit All believers can receive the Holy Spirit
Practiced by law Practiced by faith
Had priests to mediate between man and God Has Jesus to mediate between man and God
Concerned the earthly life of Jewish people. (interesting to note: there are no promises that eternal life would be given to the Jews if they followed the Jewish law. The people’s hope of an eternity with God was always in the Messiah) Promises eternal life for all believers

So even though Christians don’t have to obey the Mosaic Law it is still really important to us as Jesus came to fulfill the Law on behalf of all people and bring in a new way of grace.

Obviously, this is a massive subject that I could go on and on about but that feels like enough to keep me going this week! I am looking forward to continuing on my Memory Verse challenge!

Currently… September 2016


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Rob, Orla and I are just wrapping up our ‘big holiday’ of the year. Rob had two weeks off from work and, for a change, managed to pick the hottest and sunniest weeks of the year!

We did a UK based holiday this year. We set off on Saturday and spent the weekend with friends in Cambridge, before going on to a rented house on the seafront at Clacton-on-Sea. We stayed there a week and were joined on Thursday by Rob’s Mum and one of his Aunts. Then all five of us went to stay at another one of Rob’s Aunts house for the weekend as Rob’s Uncle was having a big 60th Birthday Party. He’d hired a local pub and pulled in many musician friends to play live music all day. It was excellent!

We then had another, slightly calmer, week back at home together. It’s been great having Rob around full time and it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system when he goes back to work on Monday!

Anyway, here is a flavour of my September, currently I am….

img_20160922_174926.jpgEnforcing chill out time. Each month looking after Orla is getting a little bit easier but I still sometimes feel frustrated with how little I get done in the day. The temptation is to then plow through jobs when she does go to sleep at 8pm, but if I do that I get totally frazzled and exhausted. I have come to realise that once it gets to 8pm, I need to relax and do things that I enjoy and get me ready to sleep. So I am limiting my evening activities to watching TV, painting my nails, reading a book or colouring in my Enchanted Forest colouring book!

Watching Friends! Suddenly the Comedy Central channels have appeared on our TV and they show Friends episodes almost continously. It’s been a few years since I actually watched any episodes so it has been great to dive back in, especially as all Orla wants to do is walk around the coffee table for hours on end. It is a life saver having something entertaining going on for me!


Itching to wear my new boots. On the way down to Cambridge we stopped at a Boundary Mill Store in Grantham. I got separated from Rob and Orla for a few minutes and on my way to find them I spotted these beautiful navy Rieker ankle boots! By the time I caught up to my family there was a big shopping bag swinging at my elbow! I adore these boots, they fit perfectly, they look gorgeous and they scream out ‘autumn is here!’. Except it’s been boiling and sunny ever since I got them! I need the weather to cool down before I can show them off.

Reading ‘Surprised by Hope’. A Christian book leant to me by a friend who does Bible translations. It is about how the central hope of the Christian faith isn’t to go to heaven when we die but that one day the creator God will renew His entire creation. Believers will have resurrected bodies (like Jesus) and the world will be renewed. It is really fascinating! But I have found if I read it too close to bed time that it gets my brain thinking too much and then I can’t sleep!

dsc_1169.jpgAdmiring the pastel rainbows of beach huts. Is there anything that sums up modest British charm than a row of pristine beach huts! I loved walking along the beach at Clacton and taking in the views. Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside….

Eating too much ice cream for my own good. Enough said.



Continuing with my Bible Journalling. This is a sneak peak on the piece I am working on right now. The monthly challenge I have from my Bible Journalling group is to make a ‘shaker‘ based on a favourite  worship song. I have an idea of how it will look in the end but I am a bit cautious to start the next step as it involves glitter!

Book Bag: Rural Readings!


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The last two books I have read have both had very rural settings, its made me feel very grateful for my little home town surrounded by fields, woods, rivers and meadows!

Off to the Lakes by Jessica Lofthouse

My Dad loaned me this book that used to belong to his Mum, who sadly passed away when my Dad was only ten, so this was a very precious read. Off to the Lakes was published in 1949 and is a beautiful description of walks, hikes and ambles taken by Jessica and her friends all around the lake district.

The book follows the course of a year and my Dad recommends reading whatever walks correspond to the current season for the full immersive effect!

The writing is spectacular and poetic. Jessica Lofthouse clearly has a deep passion for the English countryside and she launches into magnificent descriptions of her surroundings at every point. Here is one example:

“The vale of Lorton is illuminated, the tree-tops gilded and every feature on the now familiar landscape transfigured. We come to the old Butteremere coach road, to the low intakes, the old stone farms with the last birds calling from orchard boughs. We pause to chat with farmers at leisure and cottage women standing by open doors, and the light fades. At last the mountains become black cut-outs, the stars come out and predatory owls pass over as we open the farm gate.”

There! Isn’t that marvelous! The whole book has that passion and breathless wonder of the world. It makes you want to put the book down and go outside and keep reading all at the same time. I highly recommend reading it with Google Maps open as well, so that you can look at the landmarks and follow the course of Jessica’s hikes!

As many of the walks took place in the 1940s there are some interesting references to the Second World War. It is a fascinating glimpse into history through the life of one remarkable woman!

The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown

Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cosies, bobble hats, and jumpers. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the cock-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale.

There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas jumpers are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen…

I am such a shameless sucker for these kind of cosy books that I end up reading Christmas books whilst off on my Summer Holidays! These types of books are my guilty pleasure – where there is a tight-knit (get it?!) community that is good to one another, a make over, lots of yummy food and a happy ending!

The Christmas Knit-Off is a great book to nestle down with this winter but be warned it will make you hungry. Nearly every other page is Sybil wolfing down a piece of cake or full English breakfast, or a roast dinner, or mulled wine and mince pie! In fact I will probably read this again for the food descriptions alone! Plus it got me ready to don the knitware….just as soon as this Indian Summer is over!

My Reading List:

 img_20160923_160651.jpgHere is how my pile of books to read is looking like at the moment:

Pinterest Inspiration: Neverland Signpost


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When I was browsing Pinterest for ideas for Orla’s Peter Pan themed bedroom, one of the things I kept coming across was this picture of a Neverland Singpost:

It looks amazing, and I seriously toyed with the idea of making one for Orla’s room. (You can buy this one here. But it costs over £150 and doesn’t ship to the UK anyway!) But Orla’s room is only a little room and we have pretty much used up all the wall space, so I abadoned the idea until I found this fabulous artist on etsy selling story book signs:

SignsatSimplyWood sell these adorable hand-painted door signs for all of your favourite children’s books, and they only cost £9.50 each plus shipping. Now, some arty types out there might be able to create these from scratch but I know I could’t do it to the same standard and not without buying in some materials.

So I ordered one for Orla’s bedroom door and it arrived last week. Here is how ours looks:

dsc_1208.jpgAs you can see it is a little bit different to the one on the website, ours came with a lovely starry sky background and if anything, I think it is nicer than the one the site!

dsc_1201.jpgWe decided to put the sign at the same height as the doorknob, rather than at the top of the door, so that Orla will be able to easluy see it as she gets older. We fixed it in place using the ‘No Nails’ Unibond tape which worked really well and means that there are no nail marks in the door.

I am really happy with the end result, it’s just another touch of whimsy added to the house!

Her Ladyship’s Notebook: On Children’s Birthday Parties


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I was leafing through The Vintage Tea Party Year by Angel Adoree and came across her chapter on children’s birthday party. She says in the introduction:
instaquote-06-09-2016-15-29-39.pngIt got me thinking about all the birthday parties Orla has to come and all the parties that I had when I was little. I have seen on Pinterest and blogs I follow that children’s parties can become elaborate and expensive, with huge decorations and big venues, but I think that really the most fun is probably still had at the simple and laid back parties where there is Jelly and Ice Cream.

Here are the things that I remember making a great birthday party;

  • Party dresses that twirl out when you spin in a circle
  • Party ring biscuits
  • Musical Bumps and Musical Chairs and Musical Statues….one CD player, endless games!
  • Themed Birthday Cakes with your favourite toys balancing on the icing
  • Party bags with cheap plastic toys
  • Dancing
  • Giving invitations to your friends
  • Grainy home videos of the parties where the adults are all wearing vibrant 90s jumpers (this may not be possible to recreate)

and of course….

  • Jelly and Ice Cream!

That’s what makes a good party in my opinion. Have I missed anything out?


Lancashire Love: Gawthorpe Hall


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I have been toying with the idea of getting National Trust membership for a couple of years now because I am an old biddy at heart who loves nosing around old houses and eating cake in tea-rooms. But I have held back because I am not sure if we visit enough places in a year to justify the membership, looking online there are attractions within an hours drive of us but less than I thought there would be.

However, there is one attraction right on our doorstep in Lancashire that for some strange reason I don’t think I have ever been to. Gawthorpe Hall is a beautiful manor house in Padiham, and this Sunday Rob and I finally got round to checking it out.

20160904_161611.jpgFirst of all the building is beautiful inside and out. It is a proper square building with lots of windows overlooking fields and hills. From every angle, it is an impressive sight.

dsc_1104.jpgWe went for lunch in the tea room, then had a look inside the house before heading out for a short stroll in the grounds.

Here is what we made of it;

The Negatives:

  • The Tea room had a lovely setting with exposed brick and flagstone floors but the menu is strictly soup, boxed sandwiches and cake. Which isn’t bad but you would be disappointed if you wanted something substantial and it was a bit pricey for what it was.
  • The Hall itself is not wheelchair or pram friendly. There are lots and lots of stairs and tight corners. It was fine for us because we could carry Orla and the lovely receptionist said we could leave our pram behind the desk and that she would look after it, but this would not be a good visit for someone with mobility issues.

dsc_1089.jpgThere was plenty of room for sleeping Orla and pram in the adjacent tea-room!

The Positives:

  • The Grounds are beautiful and wheel friendly. We had a nice walk up into the woods on a wide dirt road. Although it was muddy, which to me is part of the charm!
  • Inside the Hall is wonderfully maintained with lots of original features and furniture. There were also lots of stewards around happy to talk through some of the detail of the house. For example one steward told us that one of the family members in the 19th Century was into vintage furniture – she would commission pieces to be made from broken 16th Century pieces so that they would appear older than what they were. Funny, how old the ‘reclaimed’ furniture trend is!
  • Adult tickets were £4 each, that is pretty good value for money if you ask me, and that was just for entry into the Hall itself. Parking and the grounds were free entry.
  • There were some really interesting collections on display including an extensive textile collection and an exhibit of Charlotte Bronte’s possessions and letters that were fascinating to look at if you are as obsessed with Jane Eyre as much as I am!

dsc_1101.jpgdsc_1100.jpgI really enjoyed our visit and think it will be a spot we will be returning to. In fact I think I would like to go on my own sometime and have a really take my team to read up all the plaques without feeling like I am holding anyone else up. Might be awhile before that happens though!

Memory Verse: Let Me See the Deeds


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Just after Jesus calls the people to be light, like a city on a hill he finishes the thought by saying….

I have always found today’s passage of scripture challenging because of two little words:

good deeds

Jesus says ‘let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’

Jesus doesn’t say that people will see your ‘faith’ or ‘love’ or ‘anointing’ and praise God. Those things are great, and should fuel everything we do, but it is the good things we do that point people towards God. We might talk, sing, think and even pray about doing good and caring for the vulnerable but unless we turn that passion into action all we have is ‘virtual church’ which will not feed the poor, clothe the cold or defend the vulnerable.

Jesus expects our faith and love to turn into visible actions and He expects His followers to become a force for good that makes an impact on the surrounding community; like a city on a hill, you can’t miss it!


Cathy’s Kitchen: Ginger Chicken Stir-fry with Toasted Sesame Seeds




I tried out a new recipe yesterday; Ginger Chicken Stir-fry with Toasted Sesame Seeds. Now, normally Rob is the stir-fry maker in our house, so it was a step out of my comfort zone for me. I know stir-frys are meant to be easy but I always tend to get it wrong somehow….and this was no exception, as you will see!

dsc_1065.jpgFirst I had to marinade the chicken in soy sauce and water for an hour. You know a meal means serious business when it involves a marinade!
dsc_1070.jpgThen I had to fry up the chicken and leeks in the trusty wok! So far so good.
dsc_1072.jpgOnce I had browned the chicken I chucked in the rest of the veg. I totally cheated with the veg and got pre-prepared cut up veg. Orla has very little patience when I am cooking so anything that helps shave time off is a great help. Also the sliced carrot and the broccoli and cauliflower florets only cost £1.60 altogether and I have plenty left over for another two meals so I think it is a pretty good price.

Then I added four table spoons of wine and some ginger for flavourings.  The recipe called for freshly grated root ginger but I have learned from the past that I never end up using the rest of it so I just used ground ginger.

20160901_182418.jpgThis is where I ran in to trouble. The next step was to toast some sesame seeds under a hot grill for five minutes. This is what the seeds looked like before I put them under the grill….and yes, you guessed it, here is what they looked like five minutes later…
dsc_1075.jpgOops! I did manage to salvage a few teaspoons of the edible seeds. Next time I must keep a closer eye on these, but in my defense it was at this point that Orla decided that she wanted to be cuddled and nothing else would do!

In the stir-fry I added a cornflour and water paste…that I am not sure really added anything to the meal, but I followed the instruction anyway.

And the end result looked like this:

dsc_1076.jpgI really need to work on my food photography, but again had a crying baby to deal with! Anyway, the work was worth it as it was very tasty and healthy meal. And we have enough left over to have it for tea again tonight.

I love it when there is enough food for two meals! Maybe I should have another go at toasting sesame seeds…..

To a Perfect Bank Holiday Weekend


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I am a little late in writing this up, but I had a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend with the family last week and I want to write it up now so that I remember it. Here is what happened:

Friday Night


Orla has finally got a proper bedtime! After months of her staying awake till 10 -11 o’clock, she now is asleep by 8pm most nights. Hallelujah!

This means that Rob and I can have some relaxed time together in the evening again so this Friday night we watched a film and drank fireball whisky. Yum! We watched Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much but actually I really enjoyed it, and it was great to have a Movie Night again.


Cathy and Orla

In the morning I left Orla with Rob and went to see my friend Beth, who I hadn’t seen in ages. She was de-cluttering in preparation of starting a new course and wanted rid of a load of crafting/scrap booking supplies. I was happy to relieve her of some choice items!

Not only did I get a bag full of stationery swag I had a really good catch up with her. I got to see her gorgeous cottage for the first time and she has it decked out like a Geek Girl’s heaven. We had a great chat about all of our overlapping interests; Disney, Blogging, Comic Con, Bronze furniture accessories….It was lovely! And then as I was leaving I spotted we even have the same red polka dot lunch bag!

Then in the afternoon Orla and I went to a bridal shower and indulged in a wonderful afternoon tea whilst hanging out with some fantastic ladies.



Sunday we did Church in the morning  and then invited friends over for a BBQ. We had just enough sunshine and far too much meat to make the most of our fire pit!

It was great to spend the day out in the garden and have a long natter with friends.

By the end of the day Orla had really warmed up to the company and spent a good twenty minutes ‘walking’ from one person to the next. It’s her new favourite activity,to hold on to our hands and walk around for a bit! I



Monday started with Rob making a quick trip to Curry’s to pick up a Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner in the Bank Holiday Sale. I know this sounds boring but I am really excited about it. Needed a new one for a long time!

Then we went out to Skipton for lunch with my parents. We went to Herriots Hotel for lunch and then walked into the centre along the canal. We went to a wedding at Herriots a couple of weeks ago and were so impressed with their courtyard and food that I think this will be one of our favourite food spots from now on.We had a good wander around the perimeter of the castle, enjoyed ice cream and stopped for coffee before heading home with a pooped out little girl.

It has been a packed and fabulous weekend. I feel like we have made the most of the last Bank Holiday for the year now.

Bring on September!