An American Miscellany

Goats, street cars and the world’s best hot dogs. These are a few of my favourite things from our Cincinnati trip earlier this year.



If there is one thing America knows how to do right, it’s a flea market. I’ve been to a couple in my time, but this time I made it to not one, not two, but THREE. My cousin Anne loves antiqueing, and we both have a ruthless policy of strategising our approach to both looking and purchasing, with me being the haggler, so we make a good team.

This trip, we made it up to Springfield for their twice-yearly outdoor extravaganza at the county fairgrounds. I think the cannibal hotdog was my favourite spot. SO many pieces of industrial furniture I could have brought home, and most of it so cheap – next time, I should book a container ship.

The other type of flea market is the City Flea, Cincinnati’s premier independent designer/maker monthly event. It’s held in Washington Park in the Over The Rhine district, which is full of cool art, shops, restaurants and stuff.  I’ve been a couple of times and I think it must have been the first one we went to that I first saw the work of James Billiter, the smiley guy pictured above.I finally got to meet him this time properly and as well as being super-talented at the artwork game, he’s super nice and also a bit of a sneak, as he and Lee cooked up between them to send me an absolutely beautiful piece of art for Christmas – look how excited I was to open it!


Can’t wait to get that framed and on the wall. Hooray for fleas.



I’ve been dying to get back in the saddle for years, but, to be honest, I’ve just been too unfit and fat to burden a poor horse with it. Now I’ve lost some weight, and am feeling a bit more limber, I took the plunge last month and hopped aboard this massive horse.



This was my burst face after the first half  hour. We didn’t even do a lot. I felt like I might die and I could barely walk for a week afterwards.


Flash forwards about 7 weeks or so and I can now last an hour in the saddle without death approaching, and without hobbling for days afterwards!


Look, ma, no hands!


Alex is a Clydesdale, about 16.2 hh to those in the know – a giant to anyone non-horsey. He’s very green and needs a lot of schooling – which suits us both fine. He has a dodgy sense of direction, and needs to be jammed against a wall so I can get on him (from the wall/stepladder/crane) but we get there.


He’s quite sweet, really.



And now I can fit in a skirt that’s 2 sizes smaller! Hooray! More horseing around, please.


A few weeks ago, I spent a delightful 48 hours in Copenhagen with my BFF, Jo.We’d both really wanted to visit for some time, and we finally made it.


Our Air B&B was simply perfection – great location, and in the oldest building in the city! Highly recommended if you’re visiting.

It is such a beautiful place to explore and there’s a lot to see – we crammed in food  halls, flower markets, a pilgrimage to Hay, exquisite pottery shopping and a lunch time feast at Paper Island, a permanent street food market.

Other highlights including hiring our own boat to explore the canals for an evening, which was SUPER fun. You just turn up, bring a picnic, and off you go! Turns out my sense of direction on water is not as great as it is on dry land, so Jo did most of the driving whilst I posed in my blanket/cape.

Another top notch spot was the open air harbour swimming pool! You can have a dip in the icy river in the specially designated pools absolutely free of charge. There are lifeguards, diving boards but no changing rooms, so bring a large towel to change behind. I was so proud of myself for getting in and letting go of the side and swimming!


Overall, 10/10. Would recommend.

Moving On With Life

It’s been a whole month since I retired! I can barely believe the time has gone so quickly. Perhaps if I wasn’t flat out at real work, I’d have noticed it pass.

What have I done, apart from work down the TV salt mines for what feels like 27 hours a day?

>> I’ve taken in some musical divertion – Belle & Sebastian (sweaty, joyful, a solid gold evening) and at the other end of the scale, The Melvins (weirdly air-conditioned, too loud, not my bag, really).

>> Lee and I have been doing some home improvements, finally putting some art work up in the kitchen and hallway, and my Jimbob Art plates are in their new home above the sink. Everyone jokes that we’re putting stuff up now because we have finally decided to stay – psychologically, that’s probably not that far wrong, given our previous housing woes. We’ve also been painting some rooms in varied shades of grey and I’ve been teaching Lee the subtle differences in seafoams.


>> Spending a fair bit of time in medical waiting rooms, as I discovered a few weeks ago that not only am I now diabetic, but I probably have been for quite a while without realising. I’m now on the medication I need to be, and making the changes in my life that I need to to be more healthy. I swam a whole mile before work yesterday!


>> Voted in the total fiasco of a referendum that has brought our country to the state of catastrophe it’s in now. It’s hard to explain to Leave voters that the reason us millenials are so cheesed off about it is that everything we’ve based our life decisions on has been pulled out from under us by their close-minded myopia. Still, it’s heartening to know that at least Scotland largely has its head screwed on.


>> Bought this guy a tie. I think he likes it.


>> Oh, and I’m blonde again. Hooray! I also realise that in all my photos of myself recently, I look like I have a wonky eye. I’m fairly sure I don’t, and that it’s just my insanely curly eyelashes on my left eye showing up the flat ones on my right eye. Just to clear that up.

Business-wise, I can’t say I am missing it too much, though after a full month away, I am missing the extra spends somewhat! But I think it’s thus far outweighed by the feeling of freedom and ability to take off and do whatever, whenever. I will change my mind come Christmas about that, I bet. But for now – freedommmmmmmmmmmm!


The garden at Brownton is blooming and we are over-run with floral beauty right now. It’s brightening up the nooks and crannies of our home, both inside and out.

Yesterday, Lee and I made our annual trip to the Gardening Scotland show in Edinburgh. I have to go along with Lee to make sure he doesn’t spend all his pocket money at once, but to be honest, we both tend to get carried away and buy more plants than we know what to do with.

I love a peony, and I am mildly impressed that we managed to limit ourselves to buying just three new ones to go in our burgeoning peony bed. The beautifully perfect pink peony above was £80, or there would have been a fourth!


I had to go to work directly afterwards (dangerously leaving Lee unattended at a flower show) but by the time I woke up this morning after my late shift, Lee had already made the peonies at home with their pals. Everything looks so much better in the sunshine.

Some of the other things we bought – a giant red lupin for the front garden to go with the lupin already in there, some dahlias and herbs and um, lots of other things. I also picked up this black succulent from the cactus stand for indoors – really unusual colour, it looks like a miniature palm tree. Oh, and Lee got talent-spotted by the people that sell the magic volcanic dust that makes things grow – they took his photo for their website!

There are some lovely corners of the garden coming together now, and it’s all Lee’s hard work – he even built our deck single-handedly.

Not bad, coming from this just a year ago!


To this today!

Complete with built-in dog pool! 

Mr Brown, I salute  you and your green fingers! 

Where To Shop Now

Now that it’s all over, I thought you might appreciate some tips on where to buy awesome needlework from now. Here are a few of my firm favourites.

Kate Blandford


Kate’s shop is small but perfectly formed with music-based banners and hoops, as well as these pretty ace skull brooches. I have one of those on my shelf of curiosity.

Emily Peacock


Big, bold colours and simple lines, my love for the work of, and the person, Emily Peacock knows no bounds. Emily is probably the most generous person I know in the craft world, with her time, her knowledge and her advice and you should check her work out because it, and she, is beautiful. One day I WILL finish my Kiss and Hugs.

Satsuma Street


If I am really honest, Jody’s work is basically everything I wish mine was. I never took the time to expand my range beyond typographic style works and that’s something that always rankled with me. People think of me as the slogan stitcher but in my head, I have so many more elaborate designs that may never see the light of day because I’ve never had time.

That aside, I think Satsuma Street is awesome – I have stitched up the New York design and it was super-easy but also super-effective. I’d definitely recommend her charts.

Floss + Mischief


Another of the goodest of eggs, Genevieve from Floss + Mischief is a full-on dedicated purveyor and advocate of brilliant needlework. Those feathers have been on my to-stitch list for about as long as they’ve existed.

Subversive Cross Stitch


I don’t think my gal Julie Jackson would mind me calling her the grand doyenne of the modern cross stitch world, because it’s a) true and b) she’s fucking rad as all got out. Another person who is generous of spirit, with their time and always has good chat. Her kits and books (both cross stitch and Kitty Wig related) are where it all began and are worth checking out. Now.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s a good place to start.

Day In The Life – May 2016 Edition


Monday 30th May (ie tomorrow) is the next Day In The Life day. Hooray! Marceline chose it and as she is currently gadding about Japan like she doesn’t have a care in the world after where her next fix of kawaii plush is coming from, it should be interesting to see her snaps of what she’s getting up to out there.

What’s Day In The Life, you ask? Well, basically, we’ve been doing this for years now – basically just documenting one random day in our lives. I love to read about the different things people get up to, however mundane, and it’s a wee interesting insight into the lives of others.

We tend to do it on Instagram these days, but past DITLs include graphs, videos and diary entries. It’s fun, so why not join in this time around?

You can follow the action on the #IGDayInTheLife hashtag – be sure to add that to your posts to join in!

Follow me on Instagram @tinyotterpaws and Marceline @marcelinesmith.

It’s The Final Countdown!


Well, it’s been 12 years in the trenches, but the final few days are here for The Bellwether. I’m sold out of just about everything, but there are some kits and badges left, as well as a tiny amount of cards.

I’ve collated everything into one section of the shop, Closing Offers, and there’s a further 10% discount code for anyone who would like to purchase the last items! Enter CHEERIO at the checkout to claim that.

There’s also some more stuff on the Instagram sale to come, so stay tuned there for some unframed samples that I’ll be posting up.

For now – happy shopping!


Free Badge Friday!


Later than billed, Free Badge Friday is underway!

  • Firstly, you must be following me on Instagram – username @tinyotterpaws.
  • You choose which you’d like from all the remaining designs in stock, which you’ll find here. There are 3 pages, so make sure you check them all.
  • Email letting me know which badges you like the look of and include your mailing address.
  • Sit back and wait for your happy mail!

Extra karma brownie points for reposting, retweeting, writing it across the sky in your bi-plane.

I’ve also collated everything that I have left into the Closing Offers section of the shop, which you’ll find here.

Less than 4 days now until it’s all done with!

Go On, Make Me An Offer


Today, I’m feeling generous, so here’s an idea.

  1. Go to and fill your basket with all the things that take your fancy.
  2. Email me your list ( and let me know how much you’d like to pay.
  3. I’ll send you an invoice and you get your basket of goodies at our agreed price.

If you like to haggle, hit me up! I have a spare room to reclaim, so want to clear as much of my wares as possible, and I want you to be happy, so this is a win-win situation!

Any item that’s in stock is fair game as are items left in the Insta Sale and reasonable offers are considered – if you offer me a fiver for 3,000 cushions though, the answer is likely to be no.

Spread the word, tell your pals, free up my spare room, make us all happy!