Well, goodbye to all that! Last year was a right stinker for us and we were definitely glad to see the back of it. Wind back to 31st December 2017 and there we were, celebrating the arrival of 2018 with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, a toast to the future, party poppers and a wish for everyone to have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. The New Year however, had other ideas. It looked at our welcoming party and laughed in our face. Rather than being a welcome to the good life – 2018 decided it would be a total dirtbag and throw down a number of challenges one after another throughout the next 12 months.
Poor health, huge financial bombshells, both parents being very ill (mum had 3 separate life-threatening episodes) and even Louie the dog was touch and go there for a moment too. But here we are – we got through it So, on to the next year – and going by the premise that nothing can be like last year (I know, I know, don’t tempt fate), I can only hope/pray/wish that 2019 will be in a better mood. Of course, mum and dad and Louie are not out of the woods yet, there will also always be surprises (both good and bad) and then there’s always Brexit, which is likely to pee on anyone’s parade, no matter how you look at it. But there are also positives. The hospital tests mum had detected a rare congenital heart deformity, so they can now look to managing that in a way that can improve her quality of life. Dad’s radiotherapy treatment looks as though it may have put his cancer into remission. Louie is still with us and as for the finances, we may think it’s the end of the world, but I remember reading a while ago that: ‘no matter how bad you think your life is, there is always someone else who would see you as living the fairytale’.
Has the last year made me stronger? Hmm.. the jury remains out on that one. I still have regular wobbles and periods of self doubt about how I’m going to cope, but as Sir Elton John would have it – I’m still standing. And that’s always a start.
I hope 2018 was kind to you and yours and wish you all an even better and brighter 2019!
It’s almost that time of the year again. I know, I know, where did the last 12 months go? Seems like it was only a few weeks ago that we were packing away the Christmas decorations and yet here we are again, ordering the turkey, planning the New Year’s Eve party and wondering what gift to get for Aunt Ada, when Aunt Ada seems to have everything she needs and totally wants for nothing. Ah, Christmas – it’s my absolute favourite time of the year – I love it.
Even though the children are all grown up now, Christmas still holds the same magic for me. We still have Christmas crackers and I’m still the last one to be wearing the hat. We still play charades and board games (the TV hardly goes on – but computers and the internet are making that particular tradition harder every year). We still put up a secret grotto on Christmas Eve once the younger ones have gone to bed so they can wake up to a magical scene on Christmas morning (now who could have possibly done that? It must be Christmas magic). We’ve been creating this ‘magic’ ever since my children were babies and even though they now have children of their own, we’ve continued the ritual, silently sneaking around after they’ve retired for the night, hanging up lights and creating a ‘snowy’ village (using lots of fake snow fabric) in the hallway.
Christmas holds lots of happy memories for me and I like to believe we’ve created the same for our (now grown-up) children and they love Christmas with all that it means to them, in the same way. No matter how rotten the previous year has been (and believe me, 2018 has been an absolute stinker for us), once those carols are back on Spotify, the feeling of hope starts to flicker into life again – along with the lights on the tree. And for me, no matter what belief or religion anyone wants to pin on it, that is the true spirit of Christmas. The feeling of hope.
I appreciate it isn’t the same for everyone. Let me tell you, I’ve been there! I still have vivid memories of being a single mum, trying to work full-time whilst bringing up 2 children. Every Christmas was the same: I would worry about their presents, I would worry about how I was going to pay for everything, I would worry the kids would be disappointed. I would worry my Christmas dinner was nothing like the ridiculous expectations forced on me by the ideal world of the commercial Neverland. But you know what? The kids never once complained they didn’t have the latest ‘must have’ toy (anyone remember the furore over the Cabbage Patch Dolls?). They never once said ‘yuk’ (at least not to my face) to my less than perfect Christmas dinner without all the trimmings or ridiculed the homemade decorations – and Heaven knows I used a lot of glue and cotton wool back then.
The fact was, we all knew it was tough. Even at their young age, kids are not stupid – they recognised they didn’t live in Neverland; you don’t all huddle under a duvet on the sofa every evening because you can’t afford to put the heating on in Neverland. Sure, they could have kicked off and told me I was a rubbish mother for not providing them with a pony, or central heating or a dinner with all the trimmings, but they never did. Now, they contribute towards Christmas as much as anyone and dare I say it, they even look forward to it and embrace it as much as I always have… maybe hope is contagious after all.
So, whoever and wherever you are – we would all like to wish you and yours a very happy, happy Holiday and trust that 2019 brings you all the hope, health and peace you could wish for.
Today we are giving this blog post over to an honorary member of our staff:
I was taken in by new family when my previous owner couldn’t look after me anymore. My new “owners” (anyone who lives with a Bichon Frise knows no-one really owns one) say I’m a beautiful, most gorgeous, attention seeking, loving and affectionate, it’s-all-about-me diva of a dog. And who am I to disagree?
Have you ever met a dog so happy to see you, or a dog who loves to be the centre of attention so much? Nope. I can melt your heart with just one look and my cutesy little poses. But hey, you leave that bin unattended for just one minute and it’s asking to be raided right? And what’s this? You’re showing that pesky cat affection? But look at me, see how gorgeously, gorgeous I am. Look, I can dance and do tricks. Now you show me a cat who can do that!
I’ve heard humans say Bichons can be very lazy but I prefer the term: selectively relaxed. Now you do see a lot of other non-selectively relaxed dogs jumping around at the chance of a walk, going nuts at the sound of the dog lead being rattled. But that’s not for me – any walk has to be a short one – I’ll let you know once I’ve had enough by laying full splat out on the pavement and no, I won’t budge for anyone or anything. Plus the weather has to be just right and even then I have to be ‘feeling it’. Too hot? Nope, not today. Too cold? Are you serious?Raining? Snowing? Windy? With this fur?I don’t think so. Is that a slight incline? You’ve got to be kidding me?
My humans may think I’m high maintenance in the best diva fashion, but the love and affection I give them is total and unconditional. I can do wonders for a bad day and a quick cuddle will make things seem not quite so bad. I really do love everyone (well, maybe not everyone, there’s the squirrels, I can’t stand squirrels. Oh, and of course the pesky cats…and the groomers and then there are the vets. Vets really get me rubbed up the wrong way). OK, maybe I don’t love everyone, but did I mention that I can dance and do tricks and generally look adorable?
Being as cute and gorgeous as I am, I naturally adore the camera and the camera also adores me (I don’t have a best side, all my sides are best sides darling).. Of course, this lucky for my humans. They just love taking my photo and they must have hundreds of pics of me by now – I might have to start charging them royalties..
I know my humans worry a great deal when my health plays up – I admit I’ve given them much cause for concern this year. Still, I like to think I bring a lot of love to their world and to everyone I meet.
My humans say I mean everything to them and do you know what?…..they mean everything to me. Even though they persist on taking me for walks, regular grooming, the visits to the vets, banning me from bin raiding and the strange insistence on keeping those pesky cats – I wouldn’t change them for the world!
*Typed up by humans on account of keyboard being incompatible with dog paws.
It’s June (so where did those first 6 months of the year go?) The weather is finally starting to warm up, people are starting to shed their outer layers, the trees have turned the freshest of greens and the birds are singing.
June is also Pride Month when cities around the world stage their own parades and carnivals to celebrate and support gay, lesbian and trans culture.
In the UK, the largest event takes place in Brighton on Saturday 4 August, which coincides with the Pride Festival held at Preston Park between 3 and 5 August, (headlined this year by the which is this year being headlined by the legendary Britney Spears.
Other key events taking place across Britain this summer include:
Pride Edinburgh – 16 June
London Pride – 7 July
Pride Glasgow – 14 July
Bristol Pride – 14 July
Newcastle-upon-Tyne – 21 July
Belfast Gay Pride Festival – 27 July-5 August
Norwich Pride – 28 July
Sheffield Pride – 28 July
Nottingham Pride – 29 July
Pride Cymru – 25 August
Manchester Pride – 25 August
This summer’s biggest Pride events in Europe are:
Riga, Latvia – 9 June
Rome, Italy – 9 June
Vienna, Austria – June 16
Dublin, Ireland – 21-30 June
Barcelona, Spain – 30 June
Paris, France – 30 June
Madrid, Spain – 7 July
Budapest, Hungary – 7-8 July
Frankfurt, Germany – 21 July
Berlin, Germany – 27-29 July
Oslo, Norway – 27-30 June
Amsterdam, the Netherlands – 3-5 August
Stockholm, Sweden – 4 August
Prague, Czech Republic – 11 August
Copenhagen, Denmark – 18 August
And around the world, you can celebrate Pride in:
Washington, DC, US – 7-10 June
Tel Aviv – 8 June
Shanghai, China – 8-18 June
Los Angeles, US – 9-10 June
New York, US – 15-24 June
Toronto, Canada – 22-24 June
Chicago, US – 23-24 June
San Francisco, US – 23-24 June
Rio de Janiero, Brazil – 24 June
Vancouver, Canada – 5 August
Wherever you are and whatever you do, everyone here at ButtonChops would like to wish you a happy celebration and keep on right on rainbowing until you drop!
This week is National Coffee week in the UK. I’m not sure what that actually means to be honest, but hey, every day is a National this-that-or-other Day so I suppose it’s only right that coffee gets a fair crack of the whip.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I love coffee. I’m a coffee addict: my blood group is Skinny Latte positive. If I don’t start the day with a coffee hit, then look out happy people – there’’s a grump on the loose.
My morning coffee time is my quiet time: it’s when I get work done on the computer, or catch up on reading, it’s when I can sit and work on more designs. It’s a very valuable stop time – something I’ve learned to embrace and not feel guilty about. I used to fret: “what am I thinking, sitting here doing nothing when there’s so much to do”. And there you have it – the proverbial nail on the head – because there will always be more to do! We all strive to make more time, only to fill it right up again.
My coffee time grounds me (see what I did there?), it allows me to stop, sit down and take time out. Rather than feel guilty about it, I channel it into being a more positive experience and a creative opportunity. Coffee and creativity – perfect partners – now what’s not to like?
This month sees our 1st anniversary on Etsy (where did thatyear go?). It’s been a very interesting 12 months, mostly happy – a little fraught at times – but always satisfying, especially when we get positive feedback from our customers.
Right from the very beginning, we’ve been determined to stand by our company ethos of supplying high quality products at a competitive price along with top notch customer service. A simple mission statement maybe, but, as they say in LaLa Land: simple doesn’t always mean easy. It means emailing the USA at midnight to work out a custom order; it means building a working relationship with the printing company so they will do a superfast, re-run because the shade of the coffee image wasn’t quite ‘coffee’ enough. It means checking every single badge, no matter the size of the order, for lint, for alignment, to making sure the pin component is not too short so it doesn’t come undone.
Twelve months ago we said we would give this on-line thing a go and see how things worked out: now our buttons have winged their way all over the world and we’re having to rein in the flurry of ideas we have for the next 12 months. If it wasn’t for our wonderful customers, we wouldn’t be where we are today and we are so very grateful for the continued support we’ve been shown.
So, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all the customers who are wearing, or are maybe thinking about wearing, a ButtonChops badge and hope to see you here over on Etsy in the coming year.
THANK YOU xx
Bea, Click and MJ (not forgetting Louie the Bichon)
Autumn in England can be a beautiful time. I say can be, because like any season here, it has its moments. Admittedly, it rains…. a lot, and then there’s the gales and the cold biting wind…. and some days you just want to stay indoors with a hot cup of tea, letting the world go by. But not every day. Indian Summers are not unknown and a crisp, dry day under a blue sky will blow away the cobwebs and warm the cockles of your heart. Hey, I’ve even been known to take my cardi off in October (totally living on the edge, that’s me).
The weather was especially kind to us during our weekend in the Peak District, a beautiful area of central England with breathtaking scenery. Green rolling hills and trees turn to gold and red as they prepare to end the year with a fiery swathe of colour, the cold blue/grey of the streams, white bubbling over the cobbles. We made a quick stopover in Bakewell; very quaint with a padlock bridge and very crowded with lots of dogs (nearly everyone seemed to have one) and yes, we might have had a pastry or two…. it would have been rude not to.
Then on to the highlight of our visit – The stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire – Chatsworth House and the Five Centuries of Fashion exhibition*. My middle daughter (a Fashion Historian and avid dressmaker) and I are both historical fashion addicts, it’s a real passion for us. To see how things were so beautifully made so long ago, without the benefits of the machinery/technology we have now, never ceases to amaze and fascinate me. So when we heard about this exhibition we just had to go along and feed our addiction – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
When Laura Cavendish, Countess of Burlington wanted a christening gown for her newborn son, James, her mother-in-law, the Duchess of Devonshire suggested a look in the Chatsworth Textiles Dept (as you do). Of course, my own Textiles Dept is a cardboard box marked “baby clothes” in the attic, but then my humble abode is not quite the ancestral home of Mr Darcy from Pride & Prejudice (Colin still nails it imo). Anyway, back to the Chatsworth Textile Dept; not only did the Countess find several christening gowns, but also a wealth of other items all carefully packed and labelled, many of which hadn’t been seen for years. So the seeds for the exhibition were sown and 6 years later a lavish display of gowns, robes and tiaras were set to tell the story of this wonderful house and it’s occupants.
Every room was a sumptuous celebration of the fascinating characters who have graced the grand staircase, from Bess of Hardwick, the first Lady of Chatsworth, through to the fashion icon of the 18th Century, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire right up to Deborah “Debbo” Mitford, Adele Astaire, “Kick” Kennedy and Stella Tennant. Livery, Coronation robes, fancy dress costumes, wedding dresses, mourning wear, bags, hats and headdresses, even a solid gold dog collar made for the 6th Duke’s spaniel and Stella’s old nose ring, it was all there, along with letters, notes and photographs – an eclectic treasure trove displayed perfectly in its own environment.
The Centuries wove in and out through the collection, from a 16th Century buckle belonging to Bess to a ‘punk room’ and a ‘Georgiana corridor’ at the end of which was a magnificent Galliano gown worn by Tennant – cleverly placed in front of a portrait of Georgiana, the fashionista herself – she could have worn it for sure.
Some of the items were quirky, like the 11th Duke of Devonshire’s monogrammed jumpers declaring slogans such as: “Never marry a Mitford” (he did – Debo) and “Bollocks” (not sure what caused that particular one) and a pair of Debo’s ‘Elvis’ house slippers (apparently she was a huge fan).
jumpers for every occasion
Bad day at the stately home
However, most were simply outstanding in their workmanship and craft, such as the exquisite ‘Queen of Zenobia’ gown made by the House of Worth for Louise, Duchess of Devonshire to wear to the Diamond Jubilee Ball in 1897.
The final display in the Great Dining Room was a curator’s dream. Thirty mannequins posed around the room, as though in conversation over cocktails at the end of the day – each wearing an outfit by top Design Houses: Chanel, Westwood, Dior and Balmain. We became immersed in this tableaux, marvelling at the elegance yet almost disbelieving the extravagant decadence.
Curated by the talented designers Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfredo, along with Hamish Bowles (Editor-at-large from Vogue) – this was one of the best exhibitions I had seen in a long while. The setting and material helped of course, but their imagination and insight had made it an experience to remember long after you had left the gilded halls of the Cavendish Family.
*Five Centuries of Fashion Exhibition at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire has now closed
Italy is one of my favourite places and especially the gorgeous Bay of Naples. The weather there is fantastic, the scenery breathtaking, sunsets that will stop you in your tracks, food to die for and the locals? Well, they seem to have a certain chic I believe can only be achieved if you are actually born with it. I do adore the area, but whenever I visit I always feel a sense of something darker, something you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s almost like everything is fine on the surface, especially for the pleasure of the tourist – and particularly those who give the impression of having cash – but you just scratch at that surface and….
Ah money, money, money… Here you are in Naples, the 3rd largest city in Italy, but also one of the poorest in Europe with a shockingly high unemployment rate. Gritty is a word often used to describe it and despite the best intentions of the Neopolitans, tourists are still reluctant to go there because of it’s bad reputation, and the crime levels. In fact, a local guide told us even some residents from the neighbouring town of Sorrento are afraid to go there.
Yet, hop on a hydrofoil and 40 minutes will take you away from all that grittiness, over the rainbow to the golden, hedonistic island of Capri. Back in AD26 the Emperor Tiberius, packed his bags, waved so long suckers to Rome and headed off to Capri. There he stayed for the next 11 years, ruling the Empire and according to Suetonius, giving himself to “all the vices he had struggled so long to conceal”…. in what people charmingly referred to as the “old goat’s den”. The idea of Capri being a playground in a private paradise stuck. Famous residents and visitors have included the Marchesa Casati, Clark, Rita, Bridget, Audrey, Jackie, Leo, Taylor and Swarovski family…. the list goes on; the blue island still captivates the rich and powerful. “Gritty” can never be used to describe Capri: beautiful people totter beautifully through the most expensive crowded, cobbled streets in the most expensive clothes imaginable. Gorgeous is theonly way of life.
Of course, not everyone can live up to Capri standards. Here’s me: hair scrunched up, complete with tourist rucksack, comfy sandals, even comfier cotton shorts, perspiring and stopping every half hour to sit down and fan myself in the heat. No competition for the Capri elite: full make-up (including non-smudge, non-melting winged eyeliner), 3” stiletto heels, not even glowing let alone perspiring, complete with at least 4 bulging pieces of designer shopping bags. This is the place to see and be seen. In Anacapri, a single night (high season) in Capri Palace Hotel with it’s 2 Michelin star restaurant can set you back almost £2k ($2834). Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Naples anymore.
The Bay of Naples may be one of the most beautiful places in Europe, but it comes with a price. Nature will inevitably have the last word – although the weather was awesome (a bit too hot for some, but hey, I like the heat) forest fires burned continually and there was an earthquake on Ischia whilst we were there.
And then of course there is Vesuvius. Of the 3m people living in the area around the volcano (which includes Naples), approximately 600,000 reside in what is known as the ‘red zone’. This area will take the biggest hit should there be a major eruption, so why would anyone even still be there? Yet there they are; all 600,00 of them, many in illegal housing. Those living at the very feet of this threat carry on as though that huge, rumbling rock is just a brooding backcloth. It’s there. What can you do? It brings in the tourists – we’ll deal with it if, and when, it happens. The astute observations of human behaviour in the bestselling series of Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante, perfectly encapsulates the outlook here. It’s just the way of things.
Villa San Michele
Come dine with me….
Back on Capri is the Villa San Michele. The former home of Swedish born physician Axel Munthe (1857-1949) who declared: “my house must be open to the sun, to the wind, and the voice of the sea, … “ has some of the most stunning views and gardens I have ever seen. However, in the midst of all this heaven on earth, there on the floor by the entrance to the kitchen is a mosaic of a skeleton holding 2 pitchers. Not quite the interior design most people would choose to welcome friends and family to an idyllic dinner, until you realise many ancient dining areas had a similar image as a reminder to eat, drink and enjoy life, for tomorrow you may die. Sound advice for anyone, but especially for the people of this area. Cash may be king and Vesuvius may be quiet today, maybe quiet tomorrow – but just over there, the ruins of Erculano and Pompeii are stark reminders that nature holds the trump card.
So now the Christmas decorations are packed away and the last of the tree pine needles have been vacuumed up (I wish – if it’s anything like last year, I’ll still be finding them in July) and I find myself in true John Lennon style looking back at ‘another year over – and what have I done?’
Well, 2017 was a bit of a mixed bag, but on the whole it was very positive. I experienced so many wonderful things last year and I realise as I am getting older, I certainly tend to prefer experience over material things. Gone are the days when I’d drool over the latest phone, jeans, trainers, handbag, computer or whatever. It took a long time and a lot of hard earned cash for that particular penny to drop. Oh, quelle surprise…those things never last – what was I even thinking – they aren’t made to. The whole idea is to keep you hooked – always wanting the next new thing: just take out your wallet and open wide – this won’t hurt a bit (much).
Now, experiencing a beautiful vista or work of art gives me a much bigger buzz – and for much longer. They say experience is the best teacher, but it comes at a price. Unfortunately, this is very true (soz Mr Bank Manager – but please, won’t you look at my gorgeous pictures of Vesuvius?). I may have to work even harder this year to keep Mr Bank Manager sweet (I know… how about a slice of Bakewell Tart? No? Well, wait till you hear this piece by Prokofiev…).
Any road up, back to what have I done. I’ve deliberately left out the negative stuff at the moment – now is not the time or place to go there – instead, over the next couple of weeks here are some of the more positive things we got up to in 2017…..
SPRING AND ETSY
This was quite a big leap into the unknown for us. Having made a few protest badges because of the political climate in the UK (what with Brexit and austerity), we decided to take the plunge and dip our toe into the choppy online seas. We had read that Etsy was a tough nut to crack: don’t get your hopes up they warned, could be weeks or even months before you see a single sale! Undeterred, we thought we would still give it a go, after all, you don’t know if you don’t try, right?
So last March we opened an Etsy shop, made ourselves a cup of tea, sat back and waited. Anyway, to cut a long story short, our very first week online saw our first sales (we were so unprepared, we hadn’t even ordered enough padded envelopes!) and since then we’ve gone from strength to strength. It’s certainly taken us by (pleasant) surprise, in 10 months we’ve sent badges all over the world: to 30 different states across America, to 15 different European countries as well as the far shores of Australia. Sure, we’ve had a few challenges (with both equipment and customers), one or two requests have certainly raised an eyebrow and we’ve met (phew) tight deadlines, sent out buttons for weddings, schools, baby showers, parties, protests and graduations…. and it’s all been a blast.
Cutting the design
Hand-pressing the final pin
We still get excited when orders come in and every single one, whether it’s for a single button or a 100 custom-designed badges, is pressed and sent out with the same care and attention to detail. My colleagues may roll their eyes when they see me hunched over a 1 inch button pin with a magnifying glass, checking for lint and making sure the button is “clean”, but I want our products to be top quality and so far, our reviews are saying it’s all worth while. Our aim at ButtonChops is to bring back a business sense of high standards, value for money and excellent customer service. Old fashion ethics in today’s cheap and disposable world maybe, but I for one, was fed up with being expected to accept poor quality items and even worse customer service (“that’s the way things are now – like it or lump it”). I wanted to do something about it.