TED Women 2015: Momentum!

A rather different kind of post this time, as I return from an extraordinary week at the global TED Women meeting in Monterey, California… an amazing experience that I’m still digesting and processing several days on.  The theme was ‘Momentum’ and it drew hundreds of women from 200 countries together to listen to talks and ideas from those who are kickstarting transformational change in the world, whether big or small.

Have you ever been to a TED meeting?  I’d been an avid follower of TED talks which I use a lot in my work, but never attended an event.  The energy in the conference centre was palpable as participants registered and  began to gather for the opening sessions… this was the auditorium; like a small, intimate theatre which masked the size of the audience..

TED Auditorium

The meeting was structured into 6 themed sessions over 3 days, beginning with Spark; how ideas come to live and ignite into a groundswell of action – through to Sustain; the impact of transformational change over decades. There were some big-name draws on the speaker list; former US President Jimmy Carter, former Irish President Mary Robinson, Billy-Jean King and Jane Fonda to name but a few – but some of the most compelling and powerful talks for me came from the lesser-known speakers; like Linda Cliatt-Wayman, an unstoppable inner-city high school principal who has transformed her school from a rating of ‘persistently dangerous’ to a safe, nurturing, inspiring environment.

School principle

Linda spoke –  no, issued a rally-cry – for 9 minutes and you could barely hear an audience member breathe.  Formidable and awe-inspiring in equal measure, she captivated with her passion and energy and earned a stamping, standing ovation at the end. Her simple mantra in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity; “So what? What now? What are we going to do about it?” – summed up her resilience and determination that there is always a way, no matter how stacked the odds are.   You can read her amazing story here (the videos of the talks themselves are not yet uploaded; I’ll link to them when they are).

Equally compelling and moving was Nancy Lublin, pioneer of the youth volunteering movement dosomething.org, who spoke of the day her team received an incoming text from a teenager who was being abused by her father, eventually asking simply ‘…R U there?’.  Feeling powerless to do anything more than text back details of a national rape support line, Nancy and her team determined to set up a resource to support teenagers in crisis in the way that they needed, and two years later Crisis Text Line was launched. Anyone can text the support team and begin a conversation, on their terms, and get the help they need.  Over 6.5m texts have been received to date, and one of the most valuable outcomes is that the data can be used – anonymously – to highlight the most vulnerable populations and areas across the US to help better target local resources.  You can read more about the remarkable evolution and impact in this New Yorker story.

Nancy Lublin (below), who closed her talk by saying; ‘Why am I here today? In the hope that one day, the young girl who reached out to us, who made us take action, might just hear this and know that although we couldn’t help her, we’re doing all that we can to help all the others who came after her…’.

Nancy Lublin

I could go on – and on and on – about the talks which covered everything from the front-line fight against ebola to robotics; from global climate change to basket-weaving in Nigeria.  If you have the time and a cup of tea in hand, lose yourself in the TED site which covers the highlights of the programme and the conversations which took place… even though I was there, I keep going back to it.

We also got schooled in how TED prepares its speakers for their talks, and the tips for powerful, memorable presentations (tell a story; make it human, be authentic – not rocket science but so easy to forget..).  A large neon clock is set on the back wall of the auditorium counting down so that speakers know how they’re doing against the fiercely moderated nine minutes of airtime.  If you ever have the chance to go, or to attend a local TEDX event, I cannot recommend it enough.

A couple of final highlights to share; three short videos which were chosen to bridge between the talks, and which bear watching again even if you’ve come across these before;

A powerful short film about reclaiming what it really means to run like a girl

A ballet dancer who refused to listen to the critics and proved them wrong

And a beautiful poem written by a Marshall Islander to her baby daughter

all photos courtesy of TED.com



Regular followers will have noticed the tapering off of posts in recent weeks as attempts to juggle work, work-travel and family life become temporarily all-consuming, albeit for the best of reasons.  Harry is now five, and our sessions of cutting and pasting, daubing and scribbling are now more often surpassed by strenuous wrestling, ninja-warrior swordplay and the endless retrieval of mishit tennis balls from flower pots, guttering, car exhaust pipes and – memorably – the stagnant pond at the far end of the garden.  Growing up is an important business and I must bear witness; this time is far too precious to spend on lesser things (and if nothing else, I must keep my wits about me given all the ninja/ball-hitting/new wrestling moves;  a girl’s got to be quick with her reflexes to foil such an agile opponent…)

The crafting and home improvements continue (of course!), but in fits and bursts when time allows. I’m going to take a short break from writing and return in July when the days are longer and school is out and there’s suddenly more time to share what we’re upto, and to finish the myriad of partially-complete fleeting obsessions and artistic experiments which spill across my studio table.

If you’re looking for inspiration or project reminders in the meantime, you could have a look at my main Pinterest board where some of the best of the last 3 years is captured, with links.

Have a great – and sunshiny – June, and see you in July!

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Friends for dinner: time for kitchen experimentation!

How is your Monday going, are you surviving?  We managed a lovely weekend with friends and sunshine (the best combination), so the afterglow has seen me through a manic day at work.  We threw a small dinner party on Friday night.  The kind where everyone arrives, slightly giddy with a mix of exhaustion, anticipation, and the rush of adrenalin that comes after shutting your laptop, settling the babysitter in, examining yourself from every angle …
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Silvered Pebbles; a DIY Garden Game for Summer

DIY Painted Rocks

We’re in the throes of an unexpectedly lovely May holiday weekend, and have been living outdoors, sorting out sheds and pottering in the garden.  I uncovered a stash of old tiles, leftover from bathroom and kitchen projects both here and at our last house.  They looked too pretty to throw away, so I’ve repurposed them …
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A Horticultural Miscellany

Spring tulips

Life is full of injustices, big and small.  My mother was the recipient of one of these this week when the tulips we had each carefully brought back from Amsterdam last year burst into bloom in my garden and remained resolutely absent in hers, despite her attentive efforts and track record of green-fingered magic.

So this post must begin with an apology to Mum as …
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Happy Easter!

hatching chick cupcakes

Happy Easter!

Hope that you’re having a wonderful (and restful) weekend.

p.s. Our hatching chick cupcakes above are made with fondant icing and very little skill; find the tutorial here in one of my very first posts…I added wings this year for a little extra fun.


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Last-minute Easter Crafts

Making button Easter cards

The Easter holidays have begun!  You can tell it’s the holidays, because overnight the skies opened and since Friday the rain has been lashing down, driven horizontal by the gale-force winds. We took Harry to the park to practice riding his bike on Sunday;

‘It’s like being in a HURRICANE‘ he screamed excitedly, as he was swept into a hedge.

Time to retire indoors …
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Spring Fever again…

I feel fizzy and buzzy today with the onset of Spring; it’s been a weekend of brilliant sunshine – and yes, chills; but sunshine nonetheless – and we’ve been flung into a happy frenzy of sorting and organising, relegating winter firmly to the loft as we coax the seasons into changing.  The kitchen door has stood open for hours, with Harry racing in and out and the pleasure of taking cups of tea to …
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Cake! (And solar eclipses, and the pursuit of happiness..)

Rose ombre 5 layer cake

Did you have a lovely weekend? I hope so… it was Mothers Day here in the UK so I was woken around dawn by a breathless Harry, bursting with excitement and clutching a pot of daffodils he had secretly grown at school, a carefully drawn portrait of me (dressed in black, curiously, with forked hands rather …
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The Dream House Renovation: Creating a Family Bathroom

DIY Bath tray

Regular readers will know that we’ve been gradually restoring our ancient, crumbly-but-beautiful home, room by room as budget allows.  We began with the kitchen and hallway and gradually worked our way upstairs, tackling our en suite bathroom and guest bedroom last year.  One room that has never quite hit the priority list has been the family bathroom; an inoffensive but bland mishmash of …
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Singing in the Rain!

Singing in the Rain Again

It’s been raining, raining, raining here, so a few days ago we decided to bring the stormy weather indoors so that we could dance in the rain without getting wet…

Our very own raincloud has lasted for over a week now and makes us smile whenever we walk under it.  Oh, and it only takes an hour or so to make, with …
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