Thursday, 31 December 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: December



You know ... if either of us blink we're going to miss it.

The end of the week ... the end of the month ... the end of the year could easily give us the slip while we're sat here scrutinising the menu in the remaining box of chocolates for something that isn't 'the coffee one' or while we're trying to remove from our chins that elusive bit of glitter that's been there, on and off, since November.

So how about we take this chance to pause and reflect on December before January turns the page on us and starts an entire new year. And how about I throw in a few statistics to help me along the way. Here's my month ... in numbers ...

[If you're new here - hi, you're looking good, all that turkey and tinsel has done wonders for your complexion - if you want to know more about this feature just drop by this page].

The first week of the month saw me spending ...

3 hours 20 minutes in the cinema:
The Bristol Old Vic production of Jane Eyre was brought to the National Theatre from where it was broadcast live into cinemas.

It was a strange, energetic, minimalist kind of production - for example ... this is not just Thornfield Hall ablaze* ... it's the entire set for the 3 hour long production:
Screenshot of the Jane Eyre 'Production Gallery' on the National Theatre site.
****168 year old spoiler alert: it was the mad woman in the attic what done it!

And, at the risk of glossing over all of the merits of the actual performance, perhaps the most impressive element of the evening was the fact that I managed to sit still through each and every one of those 180 minutes.

Well, I say I sat 'still' .... I did definitely sit.

If you like the look of the production [and can face watching the big screen without being able to get up to make a cuppa whenever you fancy] then visit this page on the NT Live site to find out if there are any Encore performances you can catch [simply type in your location and it will find your nearest venue].

Fortunately for you you won't have me jiffling away in the seat next to you.

But then again ... neither will you get to share in my never-ending supply of Werther's Originals and fruity travel sweets. It's all swings and roundabouts.

While we're on the subject of travel sweets ... this is the scene before James and I set off on a trip to Bowes Museum for their Christmas market. Note the temperature ...

16 at 8am on a December morning. 16℃. At 8am. In December!!! 
Because I've been doing this number lark for quite a while now [this is, after all, my 72nd Month in Numbers post!] I can consult my statistical back-catalogue to find that in December 2010 [my first MinN year] we were regularly experiencing temperatures of minus 11! 

And, while I'm not a huge fan of being freezing ... it just doesn't feel right and proper to have warm hands at any given point in time throughout December. Let alone not needing to wear a hat [whoever heard of such a thing?]

We haven't had a single frosty day here yet and there's something to be said for a crisp frosty day to get you feeling Christmassy. All in all it's a good job there've been other things on hand to make it feel a lot like Christmas. For instance ...

I saw 3 reindeer! 
Alas ... they weren't flying over the roof of my house [although I did wave to Tm Peake as he passed overhead in the International Space Station this month!]. Rather they were attending the Christmas market. [Even Santa's helpers need to find those last minute gifts.]

This was also the week I heard 3 people describe reindeer as being like big dogs ... 
  1. The first person was me. When a crowd cleared revealing the pen where the reindeer were being kept my flight or [appropriately enough] flight reflexes kicked in until I realised that they weren't actually big dogs. Phew.
  2. Then, as they walked past the pens, I heard a Dad explaining to a toddler he was carrying that "No, they're not doggies". 
  3. And finally there was this, from a BBC news report about an escaped reindeer: "Warren Porter, who took a picture of Bjorn as he galloped up Carlton Hill, said at first he thought it was a "big dog"". 
And boom! It's not just me who's been fooled into the resemblance! 

Although, thankfully, it's a relief all round that this is just a repeated case of mistaken identity. Because, really, the idea of Santa landing on my roof accompanied by 9 big dogs would certainly have taken the edge off any anticipation I'd had as a child!

[BTW you need to visit the actual story about the reindeer for two main reasons ... [1] the headline is a work of bizarre genius: "Runaway reindeer that escaped from Tesco event recovering" and [2] the look of sheer 'couldn't give two hoots now I'm freeeeeee' in Bjorn's body language as he sprints down the road!]

And now, seeing as it's [almost] Christmas, allow me to make the tortured link from an escaped reindeer stalking along the road ... to another kind of deer ...

It was a 2 deerstalker month: 
Deerstalker No.1 occurred on our festive trip around York [which I wrote more about here]
Then, a fortnight later, in an antiques shop in Barnard Castle, we came across Deerstalker No.2:
And if casually finding another one wasn't enjoyable enough ... check out the label inside this one:
You couldn't make it up could you?! 

Clearly the Gods of Antiquing are also excited about watching the new - Victorian - Sherlock in just one day's time!!

And, now let us glide from one instance of a Cumberbatch to another [entirely arbitrary one]...

In case you're thinking I was in danger of passing up the final chance this year to remind you that I saw him in Hamlet this year [which I may have mentioned ... once or three dozen times] ... then let me share this possibly-Hamlet-inspired car-dirt graffiti I spotted in a car park on the same day ...

Fill in the 2 blanks.[Or should that be the 'To' blanks?]
Surely those 2 wiped-out spaces once read "To be" and "Or not". Surely?

Well ... that is the question.

December was also the month I magically* 'glued' 3 photos together to make my 1st 'gif': 
*OK, so, the 'magic' was actually via gifcreator.me and the photos show my sister and I trying to get a decent pose of us in our Christmas outfits where it's a wonder our two large 50s inspired skirts actually fit in the room let alone the shot. Then when I flicked between them in my photo-viewer we seemed to move ... and I was moved to conquer the gif! Et voila. Merry Christmas!

Right ... we're almost there now ... I promise there'll be no further mentions of Cumberhamlet all year ... so let me just squeeze in a few more things before I leave you to 2016 ...

CLARIFICATION: someone new here last month inquired about the nature of the relationship between James and I, which was understandable considering that the post she'd read was all about staff Christmas parties and I didn't clarify that we don't work together. So, for the record:
  1. James is my partner. Not in business, or crime. He's my husband if you will. At least he would be if we'd ever gotten round to getting married. Which we haven't. 
  2. Neither are we co-workers or colleagues. And please don't suggest he's my 'boss' ... it'll only give him ideas. 
And, should you need further proof that one of his roles in life is to keep me happy ... who else could I sweet-talk into dressing in 90s denim for a photo-opportunity? 

Whilst seeking out Christmas decorations in the loft James found his 25 year old denim jacket [And I made him pose in it because a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do.] 
It's what he used to wear when we first met. And - to his credit - it still fits him, and yet ...

... just because one can wear 1990s denim ... it doesn't mean one should. Not for a second time round at least!

And while we're talking about slightly misguided wardrobe decisions ...

I bought 40 tea bags for 99p and started saving myself 75p per cuppa.
Now, this statistic might sound far too much like maths for anyone in a post-Christmas dairy/meet-induced stupor to care about, so let me give you the salient points:

  • after years of paying for a cup of tea from the cafe at work I realised it would be much cheaper to just bring my own teabags and buy a plain hot water instead; 
  • so I bought a pack of 40 bags from a nearby 99p shop and started keeping a handful of them in a little purse in order to easily take then down to the cafe with me to drop into my hot water.

Which was all well and good ... at first. Until the day I forgot to take the purse out of my pocket and spent the afternoon like this:
As I shared on Instagram
  • Forgot I'd been walking around work with the purse with all my tea bags in tucked in my shirt pocket. #onenormalboob #onebigone
Ah. A mention of Hamlet ... and a boob joke.  I'm ending the old year as I mean to go on. 

And so ... 

*************************
As always you're more than welcome to join me in documenting your own days in numbers:
*************************

Now I'll let you get back to deciding what to wear, who to kiss, and which resolution to break first after midnight.

And while you're there ... remember to do a little jump tonight ... right as the 2015 rug is pulled out from beneath your feet, take a deep breath, and then dance, dance, dance your way across the new year's pristine floorboards. 

In heels. 

Let 2016 know you've landed ... 

Julie x

Monday, 21 December 2015

A little something to digest before Christmas.


I really wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas here, of course I did.

I still do.

In fact ... "Merry Christmas!!" there, I've done it now. *Ticks it off the To Do list.*

And I felt I should accompany my greeting with photos of something filled with the spirit of the season ... yet I'm seriously beyond Christmas crafting ... [and I'm saving the photo of the Peppa Pig/ Shrek / Minions nativity scene I saw at the weekend for a post on my Facebook page later this week], so I had a rummage around my files and found just the thing.

It's a collage I made a few weeks back mixing together two of my favourite things to do: listening in to conversations and creating Snipped Tales.

I made up the first half myself ...
But the second half - well, the speech part - is something I genuinely overheard in a tearoom this year:
In real life the man in question mostly appeared to be joking ... yet something in his voice told me he would stick to his guns and not pick whatever it was his lady companion had suggested ... 
And so ... I chose to share an awkward conversation over what's supposed to be a nice lunch ...

... because if that doesn't describe Christmas ... I don't know what does! 

And with that I'll wish you a Christmastime filled with merry lights and twinkly people ... with not a hint of indigestion in sight.

Julie x

Monday, 14 December 2015

How to do a staff Christmas lunch (when you don't really like other people).


"Are you sure you're not already regretting letting me come?" I asked as we wended our way from the car park, through a back street, past a pub sign that ominously read 'Dogs Welcome!', and towards the city centre of York early on a blustery morning in December.

"No" he replied "I don't regret it. You're not spoiling anything, you're invited. I've invited you to my Christmas lunch." 

And, though slightly breathless in the blowy morning air, I smiled one of those smiles that despite trying to keep a lid on your pleasure [for 'playing-it-cool's sake] somehow manages to escape through the side of your mouth anyway.

I'd asked the question because, for the last few years, James has gone to York to do Christmas shopping on his own.

Over those years, he's also anticipated and enjoyed the prospect of a long, leisurely [and no doubt, quieter than usual] lunch in his favourite restaurant on his own. [Without me I suspect he feels something of the relief of a parent securing for themselves some 'me time'].

And, normally, I'm otherwise engaged, but not this year. Plus we'd been planning to go 'somewhere nice' to get some shopping done and ... well ... it just made sense for me to break with tradition and join him in York. And so ... there I was, invited to his Christmas outing, with a free lunch thrown in!

And so we did the kinds of things people do on a festive staff day out in York*.

(* This is purely conjecture. I can count on my hands the number of staff parties I've ever attended. My jobs have always been rather peripatetic and I've never spent time with the same colleagues day in day out. Although actually, now, when I'm doing self-employed stuff I spend lots of time with the woman I work for and I know her pretty well. But hang on ... we're meant to be talking about York ...)

Here's how our staff Christmas party unfolded...

(1) We took a wind-blasted 'stroll' around the Minster grounds:

Isn't he splendid?

(2) We had a mooch along The Shambles:
For those of you who don't know The Shambles it isn't some Harry Potter-esque Diagon Alley reconstruction .. it's a genuine medieval street [although most of the current buildings were built in the 14/15th Centuries]. And it's a 'must see' if you're ever in York.

(3) We then continued to fantasise about old buildings:
I have a serious love of buildings on bridges [I don't know why...] and while Minstergate isn't exactly a bridge - you can walk under it.

Since taking this photo I've learned that you can actually rent it out! Oh goodness!

(4) We squeezed ourselves into a five storey second-hand book shop:
James, engrossed in the history section at Minstergate Books.
That is what other people do for office Christmas parties ... right?

(5) Some of us tried on hats. 
In the interests of completeness the viewing of this next photo should absolutely be accompanied by this music because ... the game is on ...

(6) We had lunch and toasted 'Team No.1':
Just FYI ... we weren't being particularly boastful there ... that's actually our house number. #WeAreAlwaysNumberOne

Here's James and his big sea bream:
I had tagliatelle ... for good reason there are no photos of me eating it. [Scrolling to the end of this post will clarify that for you ...] ;-)

And, finally ...

(7) We exchanged 'Secret Santa' gifts: 
Kind of ... 

"We should have done a Secret Santa" I said. 
"Ha!" he replied acting out a scene: "Mmmm ... let me guess who this came from!

And then ... he paused ... leaned back in his chair ... and reached into the pocket of his coat which was hanging on a hook behind him ... 
... and, after some riffling, he turned and planted down on the table in front of me ... a caramel chew he'd bought earlier that day. [What? Did you think it was going to be diamonds or something?].

And I laughed and laughed at the timing of it, of the serendipity of it, of the brilliant 'punchline' of it all.

Then I had an idea.

And I turned to my own inside coat pocket, rummaged to the bottom ... found what I was looking for ...and then placed my contribution to the 'Secret Santa' moment on the table in front of James.

And that's how we ended up exchanging the gifts of a 20p caramel chew and a glasses cleaning cloth that had been lurking in my pocket for weeks without me once being able to remember where it came from and, as I don't wear glasses, why on earth I was keeping it in there ...

But I guess I had my answer to that; I was keeping it there so we could share with one another two perfect, spur-of-the-moment, serendipitously pocket-sourced gifts!! We couldn't have chosen better if we'd had weeks to plan and shop!

So that's how you do a staff Christmas lunch when you don't really like other people ...
  • you go with someone you do like
  • you do the things you both like to do
  • you eat well and pretend you're Sherlock
  • you rummage in your pockets and find the perfect gifts* [*used tissues not included.]
  • then you return to the car and eat pork-scratchings on the way home while one of you reads aloud from a novel [using a head-torch because it's dark] while the other one drives [true story].
This way...
  • no one gets drunk 
  • no one is forced to dance with strangers while wearing tinsel 
  • no one gets trapped sitting next to that colleague who finds a party the perfect time to discuss the worst, most anxiety-making, work related issues ... [we've all been there right? Even my limited experience of staff parties involves this one!!] 
  • no one photocopies their bottom [not sure if that's a pro or con ....]
  • and no one carries out any form of infidelity in a cupboard! Result!
And I for one am hoping Team No.1 gets to replicate this little festive outing in December 2016, I guess have to check with the boss* first. [He's not my boss. I don't even call him Boss. Not even for Christmas.]  

I'm making a note right now to have something interesting in my pocket on standby ... 

Feel free to take inspiration from our party any which way you fancy! 

[FYI James recommends the sea bream. And the deer-stalker.]

Julie  

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Do you remember that article you inspired me to write? No? Then take a look inside the Pretty Nostalgic Yearbook 2016.


Hi you.

If you're:
  • [a] looking for something lovely to read over the Christmas break [and beyond] ... OR ...
  • [b] looking for a beautiful gift for a vintage-lover [by which I mean someone who loves vintage and not someone who's old but who's still got it going on ...]
  • OR [c] at all likely to feel happy for me when I reach one of my life goals ... then have I got the book for you! 
This also gives me the chance to say thank you to those of you who helped me reach that goal. Even though you probably don't yet know that you did! 

The Pretty Nostalgic Yearbook 2016 is the first book from Pretty Nostalgic with their new publisher The History Press. They previously published big, beautiful, magazines with a focus on vintage-inspired living and are now continuing that theme in book format.

And this is how they describe this latest publication:

"An old-fashioned annual for grownups who love traditional things, gloriously illustrated with original vintage images and filled with fascinating facts, pearls of wisdom and heartfelt glimpses into British social and domestic history.

A Passion for the past. Making things last. Putting people first.

This is the perfect read for anyone who yearns for times gone by and respects the past enough to see that not all modern things are good for us."


Here's the contents page:
And ... if we just zoom in a little  ... to the 'Winter' section ... you'll see why this book means something in particular to me:  

See that Julie Kirk there?

That's this Julie Kirk here.

That's me that is!

My article 'Addressing Life' is not only the first time I've had any non-crafting-related work published ... it's also the first time I've had work published in a book.

And if we're talking life-long dreams ... then this is one that became reality for me on page 138:
And while I was the one who wrote the article - which is all about the importance of the humble address book - there are many of you reading this, right here, right now, who helped me do it!

So THANK YOU!!

To jog your memory ... quite a while ago now ... I struck up a conversation about address books on my Facebook page where I talked about how I'd stopped writing in a 'real' address book around about the time I started to rely on email / social media as my main forms of communication.

  • And many of you joined in the conversation and shared your own address book histories in that thread.
  • And I was completely enthralled by how similar many of your reflections were. 
  • And, quite frankly, I found that your responses [many of which were touching and profound, for example, how you can't throw away the address of relatives who are no longer here] were too interesting to allow them to end up floating off into Facebook obscurity; forgotten about; languishing down the bottom of the internet somewhere. 
So I decided to take pull out the main themes, reflect on what we can all draw from them and then turn the whole thing into an article which will hopefully inspire more people to hang on to ... or to even begin keeping .. a 'real' paper address book; rather than rely on their less tangible email 'contacts' files.

And I sent it to Pretty Nostalgic, because - as they describe themselves as "promoting creative and sustainable living inspired by the past" - it felt like the perfect fit for them, and they accepted it ... and now it's in print! 

I'm not saying you should buy the book purely for 'our' article ... but ...

I am really proud of it ... I mean, I even managed to mention Shakespeare and Game of Thrones in the introduction:
But look, I only take up 4 of its pages, the remaining 160 plus are equally worth a glance.

Here are a few to give you the idea of the mix of vintage images and retro-fabulous topics on offer:
History of the sandwich anyone?
How about fossil hunting?
And there are plenty of shorter features too:

If the Yearbook looks like something you - or someone on your Christmas list - might enjoy then:
For the record: this isn't a sponsored post, I bought my own copy. Likewise none of the above are affiliate links.

However, the gorgeous vintage Christmas wrapping paper in the background of the photos [peeking out from under the book] is available from my Etsy shop here!

So .. there it is ... the perfectly splendid Pretty Nostalgic Yearbook 2016: home to my article on the importance of the address book.

And if there's ever a time of year when we're all reaching for our address book ... it's the time of year when we've all got Christmas cards to send! 

Julie

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Be careful not to tear it. It's too nice to throw away! Indulge in some vintage Christmas wrapping paper nostalgia.


Hello hello.

Our eyes met across a rammle-filled room.

Well, actually no, because a pile of breathtakingly glorious vintage gift wrapping doesn't really have eyes. Yet what it lacks in the eye department it more than makes up for in every other way imaginable! 

I could tell all that the minute I clapped eyes on it where it was tucked away, sitting on an old dining chair, in the back of a junk shop, in a narrow residential street, in a seaside town, in England's North East.

An unlikely first meeting. An unlikely place to meet. An unlikely amount of oh-so-rare UNUSED vintage wrapping paper!!

Of course I bought it. Of course I did:
You want some? Want to share the thrill? Want to fall in love with it too? Then don't let me stop you ... I'll happily step aside so you can start a new life together...

Head over to my Etsy shop to browse the various options available to you young loversHere's how I've described this papery treasure trove there: 

"Be careful not to tear it." Give me it here, I'll keep that for next year". "It's too nice to throw away!"

Such is the refrain of the wrapping-paper-lover.

Maybe that's you. Your mother? Or maybe it was your Grandmother.

And with this original, vintage wrapping in exquisitely retro and festive designs ... it easily could be her carefully opening each gift and saving the papery treasure for another year!

How much would you pay for a single sheet of mass produced gift wrap in a local store?

Now ... how much would you pay for a technicolour glimpse into Christmas Past?

These beautiful sheets can take you right back there, to sitting beneath a tree decorated with all kinds of trinkets and baubles ... [not the colour-themed minimal ones of the 21st Century!] ... right back to watching the pleasure on the faces of the gift-givers and receivers ... right back to saving the paper ... because it's too nice to throw away!"

Some designs are available to purchase as single sheets while others come as a pack of 12 with the original retailer -Boots - label:
And it's from the pre-decimal price on that label that we can at least be sure that these designs are pre-1970s [although the designs alone scream that they weren't made yesterday!].

The larger packs are a considered purchase ... but you do get 12 assorted designs and if  you think what that would cost in a high street stationers right now then it's not so different ... and these are unique and nostalgia-filled and wonderful!! When are you ever going to find more like it?

Similarly ... if you plan to use them in crafting, buying festive scrapbook papers would cost you something similar for a pack of 12x12 sheets  ... and they wouldn't have the history and authenticity that these provide.

Of course I'm biased ... but I just know there's someone who will see them, fall for them, and throw caution to the wind to own them. And I know it's possible ...

... because that's exactly what I did! 

Seasons greetings to you!

Julie 
-------------------------------

Hop to the shop for vintage gift wrap, vintage Christmas cards, Christmas junk journal kits, festive washi tape, festive craft packs plus gift ideas [many under £5] for the crafter or vintage book/ephemera lover in your life! 

Friday, 4 December 2015

30 Things I learned from leaving 300 blog comments in 30 days


Hello hello.

When I set myself the challenge to leave 300 genuine blog comments over 30 days [across Sept/Oct 2015] my motivations included:
  • to stop pitying myself for receiving relatively few comments [i.e: single figures per post];
  • to maintain the relationships I had within my regular blogging network;
  • and - primarily - to reach out from the safety of that network to make new connections in the blogging world.
When those 30 days and 300 comments were over [OK, I’ll be honest … I actually only managed 270 …] I realised that, alongside achieving the things I’d set out to … I’d picked up all kinds of random insights into blogging in general along the way.

What had begun as an impromptu challenge had subsequently grown into a month’s worth of solid, focused, yet entirely accidental market research into blogging.

Like so much in life, this ‘research’ was actually just a bi-product, something that really only came along for the ride, while I’d set myself a task to do something else. Carving out dedicated ‘research’ time 5 days a week for four weeks is just not something I would ever have deliberately scheduled in. But ... tempt me with a silly project that I can create a hashtag for and get other people involved in? Well hey hey good looking, count me in!

Perhaps there is already a lesson for me to learn in that fact alone …

[If you’re new here then my introductory post to the #300in30days challenge will explain more as will this glimpse at the statistics I racked up during the challenge.]

Many of the things I learned won’t really be of use to anyone but me ... so I won't share those here. [Although I might save them up for a very solipsistic post of their own some time!].

But many of my ‘lessons learned’ will be useful to you ... 
  • if you're nosey. Are you? Yeah, me too. Read on for more peeks inside Blogland.
  • if you are planning to take part in the 300 in 30 Days challenge:-  I know it’s a big task but … it's still worth attempting as there’s no way you can avoid learning something from the experience,[even if that ‘something’ is: ‘I can’t do it for 30 days’ or 'I can't make it to 300'!]. And many of those lessons will come in useful for your own blogging. 
  • OR if you’re a blogger who - over the years - has become comfortable in their niche, with their regular network, and has started to wonder what else is out there?:-  After you've completed the challenge you'll know what's out there [for good or bad!].
  • OR if you’re someone who enjoys reading blogs and would like ideas on how to find new places to visit.
So ... here are the 30 lessons I learned while leaving 300 blog comments in 30 days ....

Part One: The 'Practical / Technical' Lessons

Lesson 1: 300 is a lot.
In fact if you're honest with yourself it's approximately 200 more than you expected it to be.

When I broke it down [as did many people who supported me over the course of the challenge did - to boost my morale!] 300 comments over 30 days sounded doable because that’s just 10 a day … just  10. 10's a relatively manageable number isn't it? Isn't it? And yet …

Lesson 2: 'Just 10 a day' is relative.
10 comments a day about The British Weather? Easy. Just show me the stranger I need to make awkward non-personal conversation with and I'll rack up that 10 without breaking a sweat.

10 things tidied away / sorted / discarded / deleted from my Inbox a day? Mmmm ... a bit trickier ... would probably take more thought, I'd need to assess each item, double-check it wouldn't 'come in handy' at a later date .. but ... yeah .. I think I could give it a good try.

But leaving 10 blog comments a day is harder still. Maybe not for one single day. But for 30 in a row? That's when you start to meet problems.

Lesson 3: Woe betide you if you take weekends off!
If, like me, you give yourself a break from leaving blog comments on a weekend [until the last weekend when you're frantically trying - and failing - to reach the 300 goal!]  ... just remember this ... if you don't leave the requisite 10 comments on Saturday and Sunday ... come Monday you'll have to leave 30 if you're going to stay on track!

Lesson 4: You have to read a blog post before you can comment on it.
It might just have slipped your mind that in order to leave a a coherent comment on it you actually have to read the post first, so let me remind you ...

You have to read the post first! Why didn't anyone warn me how much extra time that would add to the idea of 'just 10 a day'? 

Consider yourself warned ... but don't be put off. Reading the posts really is where the magic happens ... that's where you'll discover if the blogger you've found is someone you'll want to come back and read more from in the future.

Lesson 5: You might not have enough blogs readily on hand to meet the 10 a day goal.  
Wherever it is you store the list of blogs you read [I use Feedly] it's going to have to be populated with enough new content each day ... at least 10 posts ... for you to be able to leave 10 comments.

Failing that you'll have to dip into the archives and read older posts OR find new blogs.

I learned that I had relatively little new content coming in to Feedly each day. Or at least ... not content that I felt I could comment on. Which led me to my next lesson ...

Lesson 6: Your blog-reader needs updating from time to time.
How often do you see a new post pop up in your reader and you just scroll past it without even bothering to read it, let alone to click on it to read the full post and then take time to leave a comment afterwards?

During the 30 day challenge I started editing my reader and deleting subscriptions to blogs which no longer grabbed my attention. I need to do this more often. If I'm not going to read the posts why do I need to know they exist? Anything else is just white noise, too much information.

Ironically I learned that while I needed to read MORE blogs [to reach my commenting target and to widen my network] I also needed to weed out ones that no longer suited me.

Lesson 7: Logging into and remembering usernames for several accounts in order to leave comments across the various blogging platforms is one of the dullest activities known to man. 

And - after we all threw in our opinions on the 3 main categories of commenting difficulties here - we all know that that single fact contributes vastly to the reduction in commenting / community many of us have felt over recent years.

So ... we know this. But what can we do about it? To paraphrase Tolkien we need one log-in ... to rule them all.

Lesson 8:  'Approval' settings on comments are surprisingly widespread.
Which came as a surprise to me. I've never had to resort to using the pre-approval setting so I was quite intrigued as to why so many people have.

There are either some unfortunate people out there who receive nasty, inappropriate, unpublishable comments and therefore need to preview all comments before approving them for publication. Or else there are a lot of people out there who are concerned that they’re going to receive nasty, inappropriate, unpublishable comments at some point in the future.

Lesson 9: Lots of blogs don’t have any / many comments.
It’s not just mine. Hurrah

It looks to me like there are some bloggers who haven't set out to blog for the community aspect therefore they don’t court comments. Perhaps they're writing more opinion pieces, where they don't want to get into a debate, or else they're more commercial and therefore want to focus on putting content out there ... rather than receive any. Or maybe they're just connecting with readers on other platforms.

I came across some beautiful, well written posts that didn't have a ravenous commenting hoard murmuring away beneath them ... and it helped lighten my concerns about my own content-to-comment ratio!

Lesson 10: If you’re seeking out new blog content then Twitter hash tags are a great way to narrow it down.
Apart from being somewhere you can put content into the world [by tweeting about what your postman just did and what you overheard in the library, just me?] Twitter is also a fantastic place to source information; including where to find new-to-you bloggers.

There's a world of bloggers who are tagging links to their blog using specific searchable hashtags # - meaning when anyone searches for that tag, or clicks on one, their tweet will appear in the list.

Here are some examples of the #s I came across during this challenge ...
  • #Lboggers = lifestyle
  • #Fbloggers = food
  • #Studentbloggers = students
  • #Bbloggers = beauty
  • 30plusbloggers = bloggers over 30
  • 40plusbloggers = bloggers over 40
  • Edited to add ... Deb ... I found 50plusbloggers too! The possibilities are endless ... I'm sure there are more!
Note: Finding these last two in particular made me very happy indeed.

The main demographic of bloggers who know all about how best to hashtag their posts is generally young; teens and twenty-somethings. And quite frankly I spent a good proportion of the 300in30days challenge reading their posts, not connecting with their content in any real way, and feeling really old in comparison.

So when I learned there were communities of older [ie. my age] bloggers out there ... it came as a relief ... and it gave me some new places to visit.

But if you don't fancy narrowing down your blog reading by age how about by location?

Lesson 11:  Twitter hashtags can also help you find bloggers in your local area. 
Want to know what bloggers in your area are doing ? Want to read reviews of places to visit, events, etc in a nearby town? Want to maybe attend local blogger meet-ups with real fleshy people? Then use a # to search for local bloggers.

If a blogger has tagged their tweet with a regional and local # you can find it by searching for that particular # in the search box at the top.
  • For example: I've discovered that bloggers from North East England tag their tweets with #NEbloggers [so I've been using it to, when writing about local events]:
  • Also if I search for the same hashtag in the search box I get a list of tweets by people who've used the tag and who, in all likelihood have blogged about places I have some chance of visiting.
  • [I know there's a place for mooning over exotic travel blogs ... but if I'm looking for a nice place to spend a Saturday afternoon then somewhere 40 miles up the A19 is far more realistic].
I can't say for certain but there's surely an equivalent for wherever you live.

If you get stuck ... try finding something like your local paper / library / gallery / tourist association on Twitter first ... and look to see what phrase they are using to tag their posts.  

But, before you disappear head first down the hashtag rabbit hole ... know this ...

Lesson 12: While searching via hashtags will absolutely help narrow down the field a little … it’s certainly no mark of quality!
Just because someone is social-media savvy and knows a hashtag from a handsaw ... it doesn't mean that the post they're linking you to will actually be worth reading!!

After spending 30 days following such links ... and despairing ... you'll know what I mean.

Lesson 13: Before writing anyone off as an good-for-nothing-ignorant-non-replier …just check back to see if they have replied.
I, perhaps naively, thought that more people would visit my blog after I'd visited theirs. But, of course, they don't. [Well, just a few did].

And it shouldn't be surprising ... we're all trying to build up our own space as the place to be ... so, naturally, if we can reply in our own comments section, we do.

I found myself re-visiting a few blogs to see if they'd responded to my comment and many had - beneath my original comment.

I know it takes time, and memory, to go back for a re-visit ... but if you're seeking to nurture new online connections ... it's the only way.

And fortunately ... unlike the difficulties we all have logging in ... some of the platforms make it easier for us to read replies to our comments ...

Lesson 14: It's easy to find replies if you commented using the Disqus app. 
If you logged into the Disqus app with your Google account then replies will be sent to your gmail. How simple's that?

Alternatively, if you see the Disqus panel on any other blog you’re commenting on, and you're still logged into Disqus, just click your profile pic in the comment box and your commenting history, plus any replies you've received will show up!


Lesson 15: There's something similar in Wordpress too.
If you're logged into your Wordpress account you’ll see a speech bubble box in the top right of your own blog or of any Wordpress blog you visit. [Or at least that's what I see when using a Windows laptop].

Simply click that speech bubble box and all your latest notifications will be there [just like on Facebook].

If only there was something like this available on Blogger ... which so many of us use!!! If you know of something similar to this on Blogger that I've missed ... or any kind of method which notifies you of replies that I haven't mentioned .... do do do let us all know in a comment today! Thanks!!

Part Two: The 'Style / Content' Lessons

Lesson 16: There's an epidemic of  fuzzy photos on blogs.
I'm not being judgemental [or, come to think of it ... maybe I am] but in my efforts to find lots of new blogs to comment on I also observed that people were using quite a few fuzzy, blurry and out of focus shots.

I'm not talking here about arty farty 'bokeh' techniques, or playing with Depth of Field ... just generally blurry. Maybe they're phone uploads? After all ... as I've learned from my own experience, what looks crystal clear on a 3" screen leaves something to be desired when stretched across a 14" one.

Just an observation ...

Lesson 17: I prefer reading posts that have their layout broken up in some way. 
I’m a skimmer. No two ways about it.

And if there's a page of dense text resembling the North face of the Eiger ... then I'm already feeling exhausted before I reach Base Camp; so I'm not really inclined to then strap on my crampons to scale it.

I'd much rather spend time on the grassy slopes of a post broken up with photos, line breaks and bullet points … so it's definitely something I try to do on my own blog.
  • Look ... I'm bullet pointing right now. 
  • And now. 
But this next lesson in style is a tough, tough one for me to have learned ... 

Lesson 18: I struggle not to skim through long posts …
Yet I know I write them.

Hello. Guilty as charged.

This post is approximately 4000 words. Halfway towards a dissertation.

I haven't quite reconciled this lesson with my own blogging practice yet. It's a work in progress ... and, yes, I'm a hypocrite!

Lesson 19: There are so many sponsored posts out there!
So many.

Of course I knew that bloggers were the new ... well, everything apparently, but until I started reading more widely I had no idea sponsored posting was this widespread.

Again, another tricky one for me to reconcile ... making money through my writing is one of my ultimate life goals, but ... at the risk of burning any bridges ... I'm not sure I could bare to be told by a PR what to write about.

[A stubbornness which will come as no surprise to my parents.]

Lesson 20: Beauty posts don’t do it for me 
Just like the sponsored post prevalence, beauty posts are everywhere [in fact, the two are often linked with beauty bloggers demonstrating sponsored products]. 

Beauty bloggers are also seemingly good at the whole self-promotion / Twitter hash-tagging thing so, chances are, in your search to find new bloggers, you'll stumble across many of them. [Do be careful where you stumble ... we don't want a bullet shaped mascara wand doing you an injury ...]

Actually, I've had to change the title of this particular lesson as a few weeks ago, scribbled in my notebook, it read 'I will never ever share my beauty routine on my blog'. But that was before I landed on a way I could maybe do this* ... and kind of make someone smile and still keep my pride.

*Here's where I should say 'Coming Soon' or watch this space'. But, realistically it's more a case of 'I've added it to the ever lengthening [like so many beauty bloggers' eyelashes] topics to blog about list'. See also: outfit posts. [Which I definitely want to do more of ... sometime or other!!]

Lesson 21: ... but fashion posts do.
What can I say? I love clothes. I like looking at outfit posts. Especially the authentic ones where people have actually put clothes together from their own wardrobes or from vintage/thrift shops. Again, sponsored posts don't grab me here [or anywhere!].

Part Three: The 'Personal / Personality' Lessons
Lesson 22: When you step out of the safety of the blogging world you're familiar with ... it definitely feels like you're not in Kansas any more Toto.
I'll admit that I found it daunting to begin with.

Sometimes blog visiting can be like a chain, where you have ready made links, where you can hop between people you see commenting on the blogs of other people you know.

But when you turn up at the gates of a blog brand new to you - not one you've found through a blogger-in-common - not only do you not know anyone - you don't even know anyone who knows anyone you know!

It's a whole new world ... and it's vast ... and a little baffling.

Lesson 23:  It can transport you back to your school days [Remember those? The happiest days of your life ... apparently ...]
When you find yourself in someone else’s comments section where people are already mid-conversation, and they all seem to know one another, it can feel a little like you’re walking up to an existing friendship group and joining in the conversation without being asked.

It’s a bit like school and it could be triggering of you’ve ever had unpleasant experiences related to friendship groups at school. And which of us hasn’t experienced that particular brand of soul-crumpling? So, be careful out there, make sure you've got your shield to hand.

That said ... 

Lesson 24: The beauty of the internet means you can elbow your way in boldly, by typing, and they'll never hear your quavering voice, they'll never see your nervous unstill fingers, your anxious furrowed brow, your bottom lip pinched between your teeth as you psyche yourself up to chat! 

OK, so you don't know the blogger you find yourself wanting to chat with . But, if you like what they've got to say, there's only one way to let them know. Throw caution to the wind and say something.

Lesson 25: Don't feel silly about 'butting in'.
  • Ask yourself what it is you plan to say in your comment. 
  • Is is adding to their current debate, contributing something welcome? 
  • Will it make the blogger glad you spoke up?
If so, say it. Who doesn't want to have nice people saying nice stuff to them? You're contribution is as worthy as anyone else's.

[BTW: If you're not planning to say something nice, if you are just there to mutter ‘Your hair/child/cat is gross’ … then maybe put your fingers away. And sit on them until you calm down.] ;-)

Lesson 26: I can’t take bloggers seriously who take themselves too seriously. 
And my-oh-my, do some people take their platform as a 'Blogger' verrrrrrryyyyy seriously.

Some speak as if they're imparting some Extremely Vital Knowledge. Or as if they're talking to children. Or writing a school essay.

I like to useful, I like to offer you my company while you're here, I know for sure that some of the things I share about myself help some of you feel you're not alone, and I like to be thorough and thoughtful and non-judgemental ... but equally ...

... I like to talk to you like I would if you were in the room with me. From one [almost-normal] person to another.

Not from a self-important position of authority. Or a pedestal [because the more I'm kept away from anything I can fall off, the better].

FYI: Whenever I ask James what he thought of a particular blog post of mine he almost always says "It sounds like you." And, as the man's spent the last 20+ years listening to me chatter away ... he should know.

Now .. at the risk of taking myself too seriously ...

Lesson 27: Lots of bloggers apologise ... a lot. 
I like you. I do. And I'd never deliberately set out to offend you. And yet ... you won't find me apologising very much here.

[Unless I'm being silly .... like apologising for mentioning for the 900th time that I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. Because that would be silly. Because I'm not sorry. Come visit me on my death bed and I'll find a way to rattle that tale out again.]

In my 300-seeking travels I saw a lot of [female] bloggers making apologies for all kinds of things; such as:
  • not blogging on the particular days of the week she'd said she was going to; 
  • not being able to maintain her blogging schedule while starting univeristy/ a new job etc;
  • and blogging about topics the reader might be put off by [ranging from depression to cold sores.]
And I understand. Truly. I empathise. I know it's scary to think you're trying to build a blogging presence, and you've read 100 'How To's about setting and sticking to a schedule or keeping things professional or shiny or glamorous. And you feel you need to follow those 'rules'.

And I know many women like to please, like to be liked, and don't want to be controversial, or disappointing, or seen in any way as 'less than'. 

But the apologising needs to stop. 

The sooner the better.

Especially if you want to build a following in your blogging career; because no one feels comfortable following someone who's not comfortable leading. 

You don't need to be hard, mechanical, masculine, cold or overly professional to lead people. But you do need to stop apologising for things that [a] you can't help and [b] honestly ... no one else cares about and probably wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't mentioned it. 

Be yourself and don't apologise for it.

If you plan to say sorry each and every time you dare to be genuine, flawed or authentic ... you'll be a husk of a blogger - and human being - in no time. 

Lesson 28: There are a lot of bloggers discussing mental health out there. 
Before I go on let me state for the record that I have experienced anxiety and clinical depression in the past and so ... I'm not just talking out of my ... the top of my head here.

And the fact that I know it intimately is probably why the subject kept catching my attention as I searched around for something to comment on during my 30 days. And yet I certainly didn't set out to deliberately find bloggers who were discussing mental health issues. 

Yet I found them.

In spades.

And, the fact that mine was a purely ad hoc, wherever-the-wind-takes-me search for new bloggers [I didn't do a Twitter search for #DepressedBloggers] makes me conclude that:
  •  the issue is both widespread in society 
  • AND it's being discussed widely in Blogworld.
Now, initially, I took this to be a sign of greater openness and awareness. When I had my issues in the 1990s I was thoroughly, deeply and irredeemably ashamed at how I struggled with the things that ‘everyone’ else could manage on a daily basis. And so I did everything in my power to keep my illness and treatment as secret as possible.

So when, in my 30 days, I saw so many bloggers discussing their mental health problems on their blogs I thought "Wow. How wonderful that they feel they can be open about it. Times have changed. That's amazing." And yet ...

... after I'd read the individual posts, I began to see a pattern emerging. The bloggers - while openly admitting their issues online - often mentioned:
  • how they struggled to tell people in their personal lives, offline;
  • how they felt ashamed of their situation
  • how other people didn't understand
And it made me wonder ...
  • Maybe people are talking about it more ... but the stigma remains. 
  • And maybe the shame is part of the illness. Maybe it's not just a cultural thing. 
  • Maybe it's a personal feeling that isn't related to how many people are currently talking about it. 
  • Maybe it's something depressed people will always experience ... although it's something we can absolutely emerge from with gentle handling over time. With kindness. To ourselves first and foremost.
And maybe that's the great service all these bloggers will ultimately provide, to show that yes it's widespread, yes it's hard but yes, we can get through it.

Dismantling the stigma of mental health issues brick by brick. Blogger by blogger.

Now, on a lighter note ...

Lesson 29: Lots of young female bloggers talk about gin
Gin's everywhere. It's the trendy red-lipstick-wearing-vintage-loving female equivalent of the hipster beard.

I didn't realise it was such a 'thing' now. And I feel old. Because I prefer a nice chilled Sauvignon Blanc and soda.

Anyone for a 'bloggers ruin' and tonic?

And finally ... after visiting a total of 137 blogs, 100 of which were entirely new-to-me, during a 30 day period I can confidently tell you this ...

Lesson 30: You have to kiss a lot of frogs... 
... before you connect with a blogger who feels 'just right' to you. [I seem to have mashed-up The Frog Prince with Goldilocks there ... but you take the point ...]

If you're planning to embark on a voyage of blog-discovery of your own then you should know that:
  • It probably won't happen overnight. 
  • It might not even happen after 20 days of searching. 
  • But it will happen ... you will find someone whose online home you feel comfortable hanging around in and where you want to drop by occasionally.
  • It's just that ... it might literally be someone. One single new blogger.
And to find the Prince/Princess of your blogging dreams ... you'll have had to read a lot of content written by a lot of frogs.

[Most of which will have been sponsored posts telling you about how to style your lily-pad or the 5 best water-proof mascaras.]

As I mentioned in my earlier post [all about the statistics from my challenge] – my attrition rate was fascinating. I visited 100 new-to-me blogs ... added just a dozen or so added to my blog-reader ... had about the same amount reply to my comments ... had a handful visit my blog ... and have struck up something rapport with a couple of new faces and continue to connect with a few using other social media.

 But the thing is ... there's so much out there that you're inevitably going to have to experience a lot of "What are you talking about?" before you land on a "Oh, yes, I thought it was just me ...".

And when you do land on a new blogger who you simply 'get' ... it's a treat. [And a relief ... especially if you've been searching for 30 days!]

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It sounds like a lot of hassle doesn't it? And it is. You're not wrong.

Of course ... you don't need to launch full tilt into a 30 day challenge to find quality content, maybe you can challenge yourself to find one new blog a month.

But why bother? Why seek out new-to-you content  at all? Well ... 

... if, like me, you enjoy reading blogs [Which Oh.My.Goodness. you must do if you've made it to the end of this post!!] then ...
  • You're going to want / need to refresh your reading matter from time to time. 
  • You're going to need to find bloggers who reflect your changing interests and priorities as you move through life;
  • You're going to need to find 'new blood' to replace those bloggers that stop blogging;
  • If you're a blogger you're going to need to refill your well of inspiration ... you need to see what and who else is out that and what they're doing these days. [Hint: it's mainly gin.]
And ... eventually ... it'll be worth the effort.
  • It was worth the effort for me ... because of the lessons I unexpectedly learned along the way [I learned more lessons than I found new favourite bloggers!] 
  • It was worth if for me ... for the shift in perspective it offered me including the realisation that my blog's not perfect ... but it's pretty decent compared to some.
  • It was worth if for me ... because, while I could have spent my time reading up on pre-packaged tips on blog design, or content ideas, or marketing strategies ... my 300 in 30 Days challenge actually led me to find out for myself about what I currently like/don't like  
Ultimately, like all the greatest odysseys, when setting off on a New Blog Hunt you might think it's to find out about what's out there ... then end up learning more about yourself


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Thank you for making it through to the end of this vast post. [If you just landed here by scrolling to the bottom without reading it all then ... fair enough ... at least you're still here!]

If you've found anything in this post useful, fun, interesting, diverting, intriguing ... would you consider sharing it with someone? Especially other bloggers or potential bloggers? But, really, anyone at all. Even your cat.

New sets of eyes landing on their words is the best gift you can give a blogger.

Apart from a comment that is.

Oh and ... a book deal.

Obviously.

Julie.

Monday, 30 November 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: November


Hello. Tell me, how did November treat you?

I think here in the UK we're at the point where we can no longer kid ourselves that it's still 'mild for this time of year'. If you look down the street you might just be able to see the back of 'Mild's head as it sprints off into the distance ...
Because it's now officially 'Cold':
James and I huddling together for both a selfie and warmth along the promenade at Saltburn this month.
So let's dive in [not in to that flat, grey, and icy North Sea behind us ... that wouldn't be advisable!] but into how the last, increasingly chilly, 4 weeks totted-up. Here's my month ... in numbers ...

[As always ... you're welcome to join me, check out the full details here].

I had 3-4 inches lopped off my hair: 
It's pretty similar to how I had it in the summer which grew out but, perhaps counter-intuitively, it's is the ideal length for me to have at this time of year. One of the most annoying aspects of having long hair in winter is the way it constantly gets trapped inside coat collars and scarves and chopping it all off solves that problem in one sitting!

That said, I do like to keep it feeling long-ish or - as I told my stylist  - "I want it shorter, but I still want it to feel like I have hair". She called me a chicken. And from out of that debate ... came this:
You can tell I was happy with it. I took a selfie!

While this particular selfie wasn't taken with my phone ... it easily could've been because ...

I've now had a smartphone [and have therefore officially graduated to the 21st century] for 26 days! 
I've been saying for years, that I needed one and had been actively trying to choose one for months ... to no avail. In the end, like so much in life, fate stepped in and had my provider phone me on spec to see if they could offer me a better deal on my ancient, dying, phone. I ended up mentioning I was looking for a smart phone, he offered me one, I asked lots of newbie questions ... then said 'Yeah, I'll go for it'.

And so I'm now a signed-up-connected-on-the-go member of the 21st century ... which naturally means ... I'm now on Instagram

I've posted 13 photos to my 'withjuliekirk' Instagram account:
While of course, of course, you're more than welcome to follow me ... anyone who loves Instagram for it's perfectly styled interiors, or exotic locations, or fabulous outfits will come away utterly underwhelmed! 

So far I've shared photos of the Radio Times, a broken bottle of holy water, the area where students go to sleep in the library at work ... and a chorizo. 

Don't say you weren't warned!
Actually this next photo is something I would've Instagrammed if I hadn't been too busy shopping ...

Somebody was missing her 7 Dwarfs ...
So, there we are, me and 2 friends, browsing the always delightfully whimsical Gray Finch in Ripon [North Yorkshire, UK] when we looked down and spotted this:
Crikey Snow ... talk about making it hard for a guy. How's your Prince charming meant to wake you with a kiss when you've nodded off inside a shop display case?

If you're ever in the area do make sure to drop in, there's always something to grab the eye in there.

I bought this repro-vintage doll's head [left]making her 'Head No.5' of my head collection: 
Turns out that it's only after you say 'She'll go with my head collection' out loud, in a shop, that you realise you might need to explain to your friends just what you mean. Which reminds me ...

Janet ... that's my head collection!

And, before we leave Ripon ... despite this having nothing to do with numbers ... this notice, on a shop door, wins my prize for 'comforting sign of the month':

I managed to scatter 3 items of clothing to the four winds this month.
First there was a 2 day period where I literally could not hold on to my hat; first I left one behind in my Dad's car and, when he phoned to let me know me I confidently said he didn't need to bring it round for me as "I've got another one".

The very next day I left that 'other' one in the library at work and had to sprint back for it when I couldn't find it.

And then there was the time I dropped something smaller, something less seldom seen in public than any of my hats ... here's how I shared it on Facebook:

16 November 2015.
Earlier today, in a changing room: I take my jeans off, look down at the floor and see a pair of pants laying there. Think: 'Oh my goodness I've whipped my knickers off along with my jeans!'. Clutch bottom to check - am still wearing pants. I look at the pants ... they're mine ... the ones I wore yesterday. Which is when I realise they've evidently been inside my jeans all morning ... *picks up pants and stuffs them inside bag, is relieved no one saw any of that.* Thank god communal changing rooms are a thing of the past.

And in another November tale told on social media ... I tweeted the following [which does at least have one number in it!]

24.November 2015:
Picked up tape measure, unrolled it, + suddenly each hand had a tape measure in it! Thought I'd done a magic trick #‎idpickedup2tapemeasures‬

I read 4.5 books.[You can find links to them all here on my Pinterest board]

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
  • The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse 
  • Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James
  • How Much Land Does a Man Need by Leo Tolstoy
  • and, so far, half of  Eternity's Sunrise: A Way of Keeping a Diary by Marion Milner.
By the way ... I read read the Tolstoy as part of the Lucky Dip Book Club which I told you about back in October.  And - if you were interested - yes, it is still going ... and yes, they do still want people to join in remotely ... it;s just ... things are taking a little longer than they planned to get a blog or Facebook page set up. [It's tricky for us bloggers who  please ourselves and answer to no one to remember how other official organisations have processes and protocols to follow]. I'll share some of the work I've made - in creative response to the books so far - at some point, as well as a list of the books we've been randomly picking out of the hat ... but I'm afraid I can't do the official bit!

While we're talking about random surprises ...

November brought me 2 happy mail parcels: 
Sandie was very kind to share with me a selection of her papery treasure including these French ledger pages:
And Kimberley  totally spoiled me by sending me one of the Golden Girls greeting cards she'd bought .... just because I'd said I loved them when I saw them on her blog
I was a lucky girl in November. 'Thank you for being a friend' ladies!!

And, finally, while we're talking about friends ...

I went on my 13th 'crafting-in-the-country get-away with 8 friends. 
This was the view outside:
The view inside was mainly of paper and food and people struggling with the heat in the converted barn as its 12" thick walls do tend to hold in the heat!  Other weekend statistics include:

  • the 6 cars that were driven there, including 1 that - due to a mechanical problem - had to be hired at the last minute or else our crafting gear and, worse still, our food, would've had to stay behind at home! [We could have squeezed 5 people in one car ... but not with all our 'stuff'! along for the ride]
  • The 5 areas of the UK we all set off from to converge in the dales! 
  • The 3 of us who stopped off in Ripon on the way [where 1 of us bought a head ...]. 
  • The 5 bedrooms we shared.
  • And the zero phone reception or internet signal I could receive while I was there. My poor new phone was all dressed up with nowhere to go! 

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Well, that was my November. How about yours? 

Feel free to share:
  • as much as a blog post 
  • OR as little as a tweet @notesonpaper
  • a photo on Instagram @withjuliekirk 
  • or a comment below if there's anything statistically story-like you want to share.
Same goes for December ... you're welcome to use any of those methods to get your numbery tales out there! [Use the hashtag #MonthinNumbers and let me know!]

So, like the last few hours of November, I'm going to quietly step to the side and allow December to twirl its way into our lives wrapped in twinkling lights, handing us a hot cuppa and a car window scraper as it enters whispering "Here, you're going to need this" and leaving a paper trail of lists in its wake. 

In the blur and flurry of the season make sure to grab some of its magic as it passes you by. 

Julie x