Findhorn and Forres, Scotland

I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip up to Scotland. It took me 5 trains to get from my parents home in England up to the small town of Forres situated on the Moray coast. I was lucky enough to be attending a training course in Forres and had the opportunity to explore this idyllic corner of the world.

On our free afternoon my fellow participants and myself visited the ecovillage at Findhorn, and wow what a place! Not only has this ecovillage grown from nothing to a thriving community in the past 50 years, it has been at the forefront of eco-friendly design and experiments in community life. However, the thing that struck me most about this place was the undeniable commitment to craftsmanship. This was most evident in the construction of the Universal Hall that plays host to many events.

This stunning building, nestled between the trees, is a showcase of craftsmanship. From the conception of the overall design through to every detail of the stained glass windows, mosaics and interior decor this building is exemplary. The mosaics on the pavement outside immediately caught my attention:

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But I think that one of the most impressive features is possibly the dry stone walling. Dry stone walls are common in this area but usually have a rather rough appearance. Not so in Findhorn ecovillage! Here dry stone walls have been taken to the next level and the precision is pretty mind-blowing.

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On this wall the stone even creates a mural showing the river Findhorn flowing through the Cairngorms and running out to the sea at Findhorn Bay.

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As mentioned above, in the ecovillage they have also experimented with various types of sustainable construction and eco friendly design. This house is incredibly made from an upcycled whiskey barrel! Apparently you could still smell the whiskey for 5 years after the house was complete!

After visiting the ecovillage, we took the short walk over to the beach.

Walking down the beach, we took a short cut across the dunes and arrived at the little harbour and sat down for a well deserved fish and chips. The north of Scotland gets ridiculously long days in summer so we were able to sit outside into the evening and enjoy the fabulous reflection of the boats on the mirror-like water:

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The next day we had another treat as we were able to spend a couple of hours at the Highland Games in Forres. We saw various races and athletic competitions, a very competitive tug-of-war, traditional Scottish dancing, Haggis burgers, plenty of kilts and of course…a whole host of bagpipes!

 

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Highlights of Croatia #2: Zadar, Split & Brac

Part two of my highlights from my travels in Croatia last year is here! Part 1 covered Zagreb, Karlovac and Plitvice Lakes. This second part is about the beautiful Croatian coastline.

First up is Zadar! I visited Zadar twice last year while travelling around Europe. It is a charming little city perched on a peninsular with plenty to see and do. The historic centre, with its red roofs and white towers, is very picturesque.

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View from one of the aforementioned towers

If architecture or history is what you are in to you can find it all here. Roman, byzantine or Venetian the architecture is top notch!

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But one of the main attractions in Zadar is neither historical nor architectural – it is in fact musical. The sea organ, located on a promenade with a fantastic view, uses the movement of the waves to push air through organ pipes set into the sea wall to produce some pretty amazing sounds. This is accompanied by a solar powered light show (think dance floor) to make a unique experience.

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Te sea organ is set into these steps/seating
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View from sea organ (yes that is a yellow submarine)

Next up was Split. Now I have to make a confession from the start that I didn’t much like Split. I found it to be dirty, smelly, tacky and over-priced. However, I will admit it has its beautiful parts.

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Another great thing about Split is that ferries leave from here to many of the islands including the one I chose to visit: Brac.

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Bol Harbour

I stayed in the little town of Bol on the island of Brac and I loved it! It was the end of September when I visited so the busy summer season was coming to an end and Bol was returning to being a sleepy fishing village. I really enjoyed sitting at a cafe by the harbour (pictured above) and watching the locals coming and going.

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Lovely tree-lined walkway leading to Zlatni Rat

Walking along this tree lined walkway you arrive at Bol’s most famous attraction. Zaltni Rat is a spit of beach that stretches out into the water, changing shapes depending on the currents. What most people don’t realise is that it is a stone beach rather than a sandy one – but I loved it because you don’t leave feeling like you have sand in all the wrong places.

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Zlatni Rat beach
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Sunset at Zlatni Rat – stoney beach not sandy

Bol was my last proper stop on my European tour last year before heading back to Zadar for my flight. And what a way to finish. Despite catching a cold (was lovely and hot in the sun, but chilly in the shade which was not good after swimming), it was one of the best places I have visited and would highly recommend a visit.

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Simply stunning sunset Bol, Brac – no filter needed
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And the sunrise on the way to the ferry back to Split

Final words on the Croatian coastline: is becoming touristy and over priced but there are still lots of gems that make it worth it.

Highlights of Croatia #1 (Zagreb, Karlovac & Plitvice Lakes)

This time last year I was exploring the delights of Croatia. Most people know by now about the stunning Croatian coastline and wonderful islands. However today I want to share my love for inland Croatia and the cities of Karlovac and Zagreb.

I was travelling from Trieste, Italy where I had spent  a wonderful few days with my mum. Heading into Croatia, once again solo, my first stop was Karlovac. I wanted to stay in a small city, a bit off the beaten track, in an attempt to get to know the ‘real’ Croatia. I had a nice few days in Karlovac, relaxing on the river banks, exploring the old city walls and hanging out at the castle. I even did some embroidery with a view:

While I was in Karlovac, I also took the opportunity to visit the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park.

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It was quite a grey day when I visited – which meant the long walk around the lakes was bearable – but was not so great for getting stunning photos. But with a little help from some filters I hope you will get an idea of the tremendous beauty of the place.

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The greenery and the reflections where absolutely stunning, not to mention the amazing waterfalls that connect the 16 lakes.

After Karlovac and the wonderful day trip to Plitvice, I unwillingly made my way to Zagreb. The capital city was definitely not top of my list of places to visit – I thought I’d had enough of big cities – but it soon became a firm favourite.

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No filter – I just love the light hitting the leaves and the water in this photo.

There is something about Zagreb that really struck with me and I felt at home almost straight away. I say almost….if you discount an incident with a giant moth you could say immediately. I loved the architecture, the parks, the seemingly endless festivals, craft markets and open air concerts, the pockets of alternative culture, the people, oh and the food…

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Lunch

Zagreb is not the most photogenic place, but it has a certain atmosphere that really appeals to me. Perhaps it is the meeting of cultures – the Austro-Hungarian influence meeting the Balkan/Ottoman – that creates this unique place. Whatever its secret to success, it is somewhere I have returned to and will hopefully return again in the near future.

Craft Crush: Hungarian Embroidery

This week I’ve been obsessed with traditional Hungarian embroidery. This style is known for its bright colours and nature inspired patterns. There are a few regional variations such as Matyo or Kalocsa, with multi coloured motifs of flowers and fruit, but my favourites are the simple red or blue patterns that make great table runners.

I also love this vintage pink variation:

Available here

One of the reasons I love it so much is that I know I will never have the skill or patience to make something like this myself so I am in awe of those who have. Maybe I will just have to console myself by buying one of these cute pendants with a typical flower motif:

Available here

For more Hungarian Embroidery see my Pinterest board here.

The Peak District, UK

A quick post to share a few photos of my brief visit to the Peak District this weekend:

My family and I have spent the weekend at a lovely little cottage just under the Roaches, a prominent rocky ridge, a perfect location for walking and exploring. I captured a few shots while out walking, but I have to say I am no photographer, so I have had some fun with photo editing.

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Fantastic views
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Trying to make the grey sky blue
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Dramatic landscapes
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The loneliest tree

I actually find the process of photo editing quite useful. Firstly, to draw out the essence of the picture, you really have to look at everything in the picture and find what it is you want to show. Why did you take this photo? What were you thinking about when you took it? Then you need to work out the best way to bring out these qualities through editing. I often use my landscape photography as inspiration for creative projects, so editing the photos helps me process the photos in preparation for that.

Travel Inspired Gifts

Looking for a gift for the travelholic in your life? Want to inspire their wanderlust? Want to celebrate a big occasion as any jet-setter should – with style!

I have collected together my favourite travel inspired gifts from Etsy. I am always on the hunt for original, creative and handmade gifts and as a bit of a travelholic myself, I am always eager to share my passion.

So here is my top 10 travel inspired gifts:

1. The obligatory travel journal

Any good traveller must have a travel journal for all those notes, observations, sketches and of course for copying down bus timetables 😉 Keeping a diary while travelling is a must so give a budding traveller a journal when they set off. I loved these notebooks by TangleCraft which use upcycled postage stamp to create a colourful cover. There is a whole range to pick from but I like these Scandinavian stamps to feed my current Scandi addiction.

2. The travellers tote

Handy for hitting the local farmers market (or craft market), for when you’ve overloaded with souvenirs or just out and about sightseeing. This practical ‘ready for takeoff’ tote is perfect for popping in your hand luggage.

3. Shibori passport holder

Etive&co have created a stunning range of handmade purses, passport holders and e-reader cases. They are handmade, eco-freindly and 100% cotton – what could be better!

4. Mountain earrings

A great present for an adventurous lady! I love these little mountain earrings by MelissaMorganDesigns. They are simple, little wooden studs and great for casual traveller style. Gotta love this explorer jewelry trend!

5. Wanderlust confetti

Celebrating a special occasion? Whether its a wedding, baby shower, leaving party or themed party DicrellaDesigns have you covered. As well as confetti you can find banners and decorations. Personally I like these little paper planes made from old atlases.

6. Map bottle stop

What a perfect gift for a housewarming! These personalised map bottle stops are just adorable!

7. The travel loom

If, like me, you love to travel but you also love to get crafty, I have the solution. The ultimate travel loom is portable and includes everything you need to get started, even yarn. I can just imagine myself sitting on a balcony in Greece/ Slovenia/ Portugal/ anywhere really with a great view and whiling away the hours weaving. Also great for kids – will keep them busy and quiet!

8. Personalised leather luggage tags

Leather travel accessories are a must in my book. These personalised leather travel tags will ensure you are travelling in style AND you will never lose your bags again.

9. Vintage travel washi tape set

For more DIY crafts with a travel theme this set of vintage travel themed washi tape are perfect. The set of 5 tapes comes in a handy little tin so makes a nice present for anyone crafty or equally great for wrapping any of the above mentioned gifts too!

10. Atlas envelopes

And finally… to go with any of these gifts you might want to send a card or note. But forget the boring white envelope, use these vintage map envelopes. I would also be very happy receiving a set of these as a gift (hint, hint) because I know I would get a thrill from sending them.

 

 

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Berat, Albania

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Deep in the heart of Albania is the beautiful city of Berat. The two neighbourhoods of Mangelem and Gorica face each other across the river, each displaying the characteristic architecture of the Ottoman era, cobbled streets and a certain undefinable charm. High on the hill above Mangelem is the castle and from here you can capture views of the surrounding mountains.

I was lucky enough to spend some time in this city learning about its history and up close and personal with some of its wonderful architecture. The most memorable aspect of the city for me is the neighbourhood of Mangelem where the house almost look like they are built one on top of another and hundreds of windows stare out – getting the city the names ‘city of a thousand windows’ or ‘city of a thousand eyes’.

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But I will not only remember Berat for its architecture – trust me to unwittingly arrive on the day of a craft market. There were still several stalls out when I arrived late on a Sunday, but I was drawn to one in particular. This couple sold me some stunning woven table runners made in the north of Albania, in the Shkoder region. The weaver has won national awards for her stunning designs and craftsmanship.

I was attracted to the simple and elegant red and white designs which I think are so typical in the Balkans and although they appear simple there are some deceptively intricate patterns.

Final words on Berat: Character, Charm & History.

Ohrid – Pearl of the Balkans

Perched on the edge of the lake that shares its name, the city of Ohrid is known as the pearl of the Balkans. The city and the lake are both protected by UNESCO as cultural and natural heritage respectively.

As well as being home to beautiful vernacular architecture, amazing natural diversity, stunning scenery and a fascinating history, Ohrid is also home to some wonderful craftsmen. Traditional crafts in this region include wood carving, silver filigree and handmade paper.

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Sunrise view of the lake and the old city

At the handmade paper workshop on Car Samuil you can witness the process of paper-making that has been passed from generation to generation and find unique souvenirs like handmade cards and beautiful prints of scenes of the city or people in traditional dress.

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Traditional methods of paper-making being demonstrated

Just along the street from the paper workshop is the Tron woodcarving gallery exhibiting the work of woodcarver Dragan Nelovski. This craftsman will show you his work and the process of creating it, explain the different types of wood he uses and share his passion for the craft with you.

Tucked away by the Church of Saint Sophia is one shop that is not to be missed. A deceptively small shop is an absolute treasure trove for traditional, handmade textiles. Outside you will see a selection of folk costumes, but inside is where the magic is. If you are looking for a handwoven kilim rug made here in Macedonia you will find no better place. Stored away in the back rooms are all conceivable sizes and colours so you are sure to find the perfect souvenir!

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Folk costume on display outside shop
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And inside hides a treasure trove of handmade textiles

My final words on Ohrid: inspirational, tranquil & authentic

Welcome to Macedonia

Last week I arrived in Macedonia (FYROM). I’m going to be based in a the small city of Struga in the south west of the country for the next few months, so expect to see a lot more about this beautiful country and its crafts. For now here’s a taster:

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Current project #1: Travel Set

For Christmas I received a sewing machine and I couldn’t wait to try it out! To be honest my machine sewing skills were a bit rustier than I expected. My first attempt to make something was a apron upcycled from an old dress. However I was far too excited about getting to use my lovely new sewing machine which resulted in a rather wonky, thrown together apron. Not a very auspicious beginning.

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Then I spotted this printed fabric in my local fabric shop. The colour and pattern caught my eye and looking closer I saw that it was made of old post marks and stamps. I decided it would be perfect for making a kind of travel set to hold all my bits and bobs while I am travelling.

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First I made a laptop case for my little HP notebook. Like with the apron, I was a bit too eager and made quite a few mistakes. But it functions pretty well as a padded case so I’m happy with it. I also made a pencil case and two drawstring bags to keep my chargers and cables in to save them getting tangled or lost. I am really pleased with the drawstring bags. The time I put into thinking through how to make them and measuring correctly really paid off and the red cord from Norwich market is a nice finishing touch.

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I still have some of the fabric left over and I’m wondering what else to make. Any suggestions?