Friday 30 November 2012

My Month in Numbers 2012: November


To paraphrase John Lennon ... so this is November ... and what have you done? Another month over and a new one just begun ... all together now ... No? Anyone? OK, let's start again ...

It's the end of another month so, without further ado or reference to any more Christmas songs .. let's see how my numbers stacked up this time round.

[For more info on the My Month in Numbers project visit here].

6 [7 including this one] = the number of blog posts published.
Looking back over previous years it would seem that I've always had a dip in blogging around this time of  year. But this month has been quite spectacularly low in comparison to the rest of the year.

For this I'm blaming my laptop [which had a virus] and, truth be told, what has been a general lack of inclination to sit still and focus on squeezing the words out of my head. Yet I have not run out of things to blog which makes my lack of blogging even more anxiety-making. I've got several months worth of plans and ideas trapped in a blogging back log, a blogging log jam .. a blog jam!

What I really need is to find someone who can follow me around coaxing out the ideas from my brain, bashing them into coherent sentences, taking dictation, photographing finished projects, editing the photos - on a virus free computer - and who can then blog them for me. That's all.

*Puts 'Blogging fairy' on Christmas wish list*

minus 3 =  the temperature in my garden right now. And this sudden cold turn has brought with it a very pretty and festive feeling frost. It's like December just kicked November out of bed and yelled at it to start doing something wintry-looking.

Now let's take a big leap up to some larger numbers ...

10,000 = the approximate number of starlings we watched carrying out their 'murmuration' in our now annual visit to the local RSPB reserve's 'Soup + Starlings' event.
I say it's an 'approximate' figure as I couldn't quite count them all myself ... so I'm going by what the bird-expert who led the event said. And he seemed pretty confident!

And on a related note:

20 = the number of individual items of clothing I dragged onto my body to keep the November chill at bay whilst standing on the aforementioned reserve for an hour and a half.

2 = the number of sandwich bags I wore on my feet - in between two pairs of socks...
...  just in case my much-adored-but-getting-on-a-bit boots let in any water I might have to tread through following the recent rains and flooding. Fortunately I didn't get too wet [and better still ... the extra pair of socks on top nicely deadened the crinkling and rustling noise they made ... ].

323 = the number of footsteps it takes to climb up the 10 floors at work which I mentioned in my Month in Numbers post last month. I counted the footsteps [not the stairs] early on this month but since then I've started supporting another student immediately before having to get up those 10 flights so now I have to get the lift instead. Which would be OK ...

... if, on the first time I had to do it [with no time to spare] someone hadn't pressed all the buttons for every floor, 1-10 on their way out making me have to stop at every floor in between. Student japes eh?

And finally ...

235 = the number of tomatoes left to ripen on the kitchen windowsill.
Looking at our little greenhouse early on in the month we had to give in and accept that, as it was now November and the days weren't likely to get any sunnier anytime soon, all of the perfectly lovely fruit was never going to ripen naturally on the vine.

So James brought them in from the greenhouse in two big bowls which he left them on the worktop ... but I thought that the tomatoes - like me - might benefit from a little more access to sunlight so I cleared everything off the windowsill and tipped them all out so they could get the most exposure possible.

[For the record: I've never actually tried to access more sunlight by personally laying on the windowsill to soak up a few extra rays. Well ... not up to now I haven't ...]

Later in the month I noticed him looking ponderous at them all laid out there ... scrutinising how they somehow seemed to transition, 'ombre' style, from bright glossy green at the lefthand side all the way through shades of yellow, orange and right up to the most ripe reds at the righthand side ...  and I could guess what he was about to say next ... and indeed he did:

"Why do you think they're all going ripe first at that side?" he asked, no doubt trying to gauge whether the quality of light was different at one end or something scientific like that.

Yet ... what had apparently momentarily slipped his mind was ... that he lives with someone who finds arranging things things in colour order the very height of entertainment.

Frankly ... it's almost like he's never met me!


OK then, that was my November 2012 ... now I'll hand over to you.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in. If you're a number newbie - you might find  it useful to read through the tutorial I made and for new and old number crunchers alike, here's a quick reminder of  the Month in Numbers 'etiquette':

If you write a post and want to leave a link for myself and others to visit and/or for me to pin to the Month in Numbers Pinterest board please bear in mind that this part has a shared element to it.
  • When you swing by my blog to drop off a link to your Month in Numbers post - please leave a comment for me while you're there. Not because I'm needy ... but because it feels fair. Reciprocal.
  • Please link to my blog in your post. As much as I'd like to think that everyone who reads your blog already knows what 'My Month in Numbers' means... the truth is, they don't. So unless you explain where the idea comes from and how your readers can join you in doing the same next month, they are none the wiser.
  • Please take time at some point in the month to visit and comment on a few of the other posts too.
  • Dropping in on the Pinterest board makes this last bit simple as you can see all the participants in one place - then hop on to their individual posts from there.

Right then let me leave November behind with one final statistic ... 25 = the number of days 'til Christmas! 25!!!

Now, where's that Christmas music CD? All together now .. and so this is Christmas ...

Julie :-)

Thursday 29 November 2012

How I slayed [or should that be 'sleighed'?] the Christmas cardmaking demons

Hi, hi.

What with making them in advance for magazines right throughout summer ... I usually really struggle to make Christmas cards nearer to 'real' Christmas.

[To be fair, I also struggle to make them during the summer ... but I'm getting paid to make those ... which magically seems to focus my mind ...].

By November I'm often just Christmas-craft-ed out, but this year I had a bigger demon to slay: a sort of: I can't-be-bothered-to-sit-in-my-craft-room-on-my-own-but-I'm-bored-and-really-want-to-attack-some-paper-and-make-something-anything kind of demon. And it's that one that won the day!

So, armed with just a box of paper and a tote [which, granted, is the craft equivalent of Mary Poppins's bottomless bag!] I sat myself on the settee with a tray on my lap and made Christmas cards.
And it was fun because ...

I restricted myself to using a limited set of supplies:
  • 2 sheets of 12x12 featuring vintage festive images [by Pion from 3DJean];
  • lots of papers by Collections Elements and Pion which Jean had supplied for my 3DJean Design Team projects over the last year; 
  • half-used sheets of alpha stickers / label stickers;
  • flowers + buttons;
  • only the ribbons I had in my tote;
  • and decorative pins.
Because many of the embellishments were the kind of item that tends to get used one or two at a time, I had quite a few odds and ends left over and lurking in my craft tote until, after using them with gay abandon on around 20 or more cards ... they'd all just about gone.

I know some people like to hold their supplies close, saving them for 'best', nurturing them for a while ... blowing the dust off them when they're been their for a while longer ...

... but, from time to time I like to clear the decks and just use something up completely. Gone. Finished. Out of the way. Freeing up space. Put to good use. Fulfilling its crafty destiny!

And, after doing this, not only will you feel righteous and wholesome and cleansed ...

You can then start collecting things again ... guilt free!


I've got lots more examples of the cards I made the day I slayed the Christmas cardmaking demons which I'll share over the next week or so. and I think I'll do it in in colour order ... because I'm like that.

So, after today's fuchsia offering I'll see you back here for some red + white Christmas card inspiration next time time.

In the meantime, tell me:
  • how do you trick yourself into getting inspired?
  • do you limit your supplies / pack yourself a kit / set yourself challenges?
  • do you use up stash until it's all gone?
  • do you, like me, sit onthe sofa in a landslide-like eagle's nest of supplies giving puppy dog eyes at the nearest person to keep you supplied with tea?
Thanks for reading me today.

Julie :-)

Thursday 22 November 2012

Shop sale. Just in time for gift buying & December journaling projects

Hello, hello.

So ... lists.

Have you made one, or more, yet?

Actually, there's [at least] two types of list we're scribbling on at this time of year isn't there?
  1. the "Things he/she/it might like. Hopefully. Please let them like it. Well, they're getting it anyway' list ...
  2. and the 'Things I'd like to receive thankyouverymuch. After all I have been especially good this year. Honestly. Ask anyone' type list.
And, to hopefully help you out with either or both of those lists I'm having a sale in my Etsy shop:
[The shop listings show the non-sale price - the discount is applied after entering the code once you've placed the order.]

So ...

Have you had your eye on something in the shop but not got around to treating yourself to it?
  • well, you could either simply treat yourself now ... while there's 1/4 off the usual price ...
or ... 
  • why not [subtly ... of course] send someone a link to what you'd like suggesting [in the nicest possible way] that they grab it for you while there's 25% off?
  • The code they'll need to use [the one on the poster above ^^] is also clearly marked at the top of my shop, under the title banner if they forget.
  • I promise I'll keep it secret and not tell you that they've treated you ... and I can even leave off any shop branding from the envelope if they mention it in the 'Note to Seller' box. Just don't you go opening any parcels not addressed to you! ;-)
Do you need to pick up a few affordable-but-creative stocking fillers or Secret Santa- type gifts for crafty friends?
 Or maybe you're taking part in some kind of festive crafting yourself, in which case ...
  • there are full size packs of Christmas and winter themed Plundered Pages in stock and in the sale too [all large Plundered Pages will be £9.00 during the sale]:
These would make a lovely touch of retro nostalgia to any of the popular Christmas documenting projects such as 'Journal Your Christmas' from, Ali Edward's December Daily or even just your December Project Life / 365 style pages.

OK then, I'll leave you now so you can go have a browse!

Don't forget:
  • you've only got until I finish my Sunday lunch [2pm Sunday 25th November 2012] to place you orders.
  • you must enter the code THANKSANTS when prompted at the checkout to receive the discount.
  • Then, as usual, I'll have them in the post to you within 1-2 working days.
See you soon

Julie :-)

[p.s: I will add in a free gift to the first person who - in the Note to Seller box of their order - correctly mentions/guesses where I got the term 'thanks ants' from! I'll announce it on my Facebook page and Twitter if/when someone gets it!]

A little bit more about introversion. Then I'll be quiet. Y'know, for a change?

Hello again.

It seems my post yesterday drew out a few fellow introverts in the comments.  I knew there was a good reason to bring up the subject and loudly declare myself as one of the quiet folk!

So thank you for adding your voice to mine.

As I mentioned yesterday, it's taken me until now to realise that 'introvert' is probably a good way to describe myself. And I'm ambivalent about that.

Not because I don't want to be one. But because it took so long to make itself clear.

Because, ever since then I've been able to start letting myself off the hook for things I've always thought I needed to change about myself. Things like:
  • being quiet even when I have a lot to say;
  • preferring to stay at home than make an effort to go out and socialise;
  • being reluctant to make video tutorials to share here or to branch out into teaching crafts in 'real life';
And the most recent ...
  • being hesitant to take my products to a craft fair, which I'd like to do ... but where I'd have to discuss them with more than one person at a time! The horror ... ;-)
Now, I'm not saying that just because I've willingly stuck an 'introvert' label on the front my cardigan that I'm using it as an excuse not to do things, not to push myself, not to progress, no ... it's just that:
  • It's given me a reason to be kinder to myself while I 'gird my loins' and prepare myself to try new things.
  • It allowins me to give myself breathing space. To stop beating myself up.
  • It's helped me understand how I can feel completely happy and confident in myself ... while not always feeling able to project that to others;
And also, importantly:
  • reading up on how introverts find social interactions physically tiring has helped explain how I can attend meetings etc with perfect confidence and composure ... yet sometimes when I return home and lock the door behind me I slump into a small heap and just want to be quiet / watch TV / do puzzles / read / sleep etc.
  • Knowing that this is common amongst introverts has come as such a relief to me! As someone who once suffered from depression these moments would often make me afraid it was somehow sneaking back into my life. But it isn't. It's just who I am. What I do. And, fortunately, it only lasts a few hours.
Sharing this with you is helping me to clarify what I've recently learned but I hope it helps someone else too. Maybe you. And I think it's good to reach out and speak up ... because quiet folk really do get a rough deal at times, for example ...

How often have you been in a social situation - with other adults, not children - where one person walked up to another and told them outright, sparing no blushes to just shut the heck up? Not very often I'll bet ... yet people seem to think nothing of telling a quiet person that they should be saying more! 

 And, on a personal note, in a job I once had in a school I was once told by a member of staff - in front of others - that they'd been expecting one thing, one particular kind of person ... but then they got me!
And for a long time after that I felt I couldn't possibly be doing that job properly until ...
  • until a teacher said she admired the way I could sit quietly with the children, especially in art lessons, 'modeling' the behaviour and the work that was expected from them;
  • until a headteacher said I did a good job at sitting and playing board games and chatting with kids at breakfast club;
  • until a teacher wrote in my leaving card that she'd now have to find someone else to calmly keep a particularly distractable child on task!  
  • until I realised that I simply had a 'different' way of working, which helped different children, in different ways to how a more extrovert, gregarious mentor might have. And I learnt that different certainly didn't mean worse!
So, with my true confessions over for the day ... I'll leave you with a few related resources:

It's around 20 mins long but well worth watching if, like me, you're tired of feeling that you need to change to fit in with what the wider world expects!  
OK, I'll leave you in peace. Feel free to go and slump on your sofa now ... if you're not there already ...

Julie x 

Wednesday 21 November 2012

A bit like my previous post, but with half a tortoise this time

Hi, hi.

Firstly I'd really like to thank my agent ... no, hang on, that's wrong, I'm getting mixed up with my Oscar acceptance speech again ... no, I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to leave a comment on my previous post about creating our online identities. And such interesting comments at that!

I've not been feeling like blogging much lately and yet suddenly, with that post, the blogging muse reappeared and it poured out. Yet I had wondered whether anyone would really want to read my thoughts about psychology lectures and parts of pigeons ... but fortunately some of you did. Which was good to know!

When I began blogging I always said I wanted it to be about more than telling people how to stick one piece of paper to another ... so when I get such positive, engaged, feedback from a post like that ... it feels good.

It feels like what I'd like to do more of in fact. So ... let me do just that ... with a little help from the body of a tortoise and a head that reminds me of Virginia Woolf:
As the journaling suggests ... my name's Julie ... and I'm an introvert. And, as obvious as this statement is to me right now ... I only really started believing and understanding it from this year.

Now, as much as I could now go off into a reverie about this and write a whole post about introversion ... I'll resist [for today at least] and instead relate it to what we were previously discussing about online identities because, for me, the two things are closely connected.
For an introvert who likes to play with words blogging and social media are ideal social and creative outlets for me:
  • I get to share and communicate from the comfort of my own home; 
  • I get to share and communicate through the written word; 
  • It allows me to choose, craft and to present what I want to share it in my own time, with nothing to fluster me or make me change my mind and decide to keep quiet instead;
  • It allows me to connect with lots of people, with you, at my own pace and in relaxed surroundings. Heck, sometimes I'm in bed listening to Radio 3, when I blog [and I've never been to many social gatherings where pyjamas and Rhapsody in Blue were the preferred attire/entertainment ... and if they were ... I might go to more parties ....]
And all of this connecting with others is important to me because ...
  • despite some people misinterpreting 'quiet' for 'shy' or even 'antisocial' ... us introverts like people. A lot.
  • We honestly, truly, do like talking ... just maybe not as part of a group [although presenting / official speaking I'm OK with ... but informal stuff .... not so much. I've always been aware of the contradiction that when I was little my school calle dme 'quiet' .... while my family called me 'chatterbox'.]
  • And to me blogging, which is just chatting to you, here and now, is just like my most comfortable kind of conversations: one-to-one ones!
So, now we've had that chat you know a little bit more about me and once I get over my nagging doubt that I might be over-sharing [!] ... I think I'll be glad I told you.

And if it gets you to think about yourself, or others, in a different light ... then all the better!

If you're interested in reading more on the topic ... there's a wealth of information out there .. on the good old internet but tomorrow I'll share a great video I found on the subject and a few other links too. But, until then, who's up for a spot of quiet introspection in their 'jamas?  Anyone?

Julie x

Tuesday 13 November 2012

What can half a pigeon tell you about the life you've created?

Hi, hi.

I've got a question for you ...

What does half a pigeon have in common with a 3rd year Psychology degree lecture I was note taking in last week?

[I'm just wondering here how long I should give you to answer this ... how about now? Are you finished? Any guesses?]

It's actually this quote:
A quote which, although blog layout and headers and colours have come and gone, has remained in my blog sidebar ever since I started a blog.

[Strangely enough last Thursday, 8th Nov 2012, was my 4 year blogging anniversary and also the very day I was note taking in that Psychology lecture ... but I digress ...]

Now, I'm not saying this is my personal creed or anything as strong as that, but the quote, credited to George Bernard Shaw, first appealed to me as it implies that we are in control of what we do and who we are. We get to create things for ourselves, rather than just hope that they were there all along.

Of course, I do also believe that we can 'find' ourselves ... and much of what we do need really is there ... it's just that we usually discover it after we've actively done something to find it and searched hard enough, with the right tools and the right experiences.

Anyway ... back to this lecture ... it was all about how, in the Facebook / social media / blogging age we're doing exactly like the quote says: we're creating ourselves.

With every photo, status update, tweet, list of interests, quotation, playlists that we share online we're actively creating the version of ourselves which we want others to believe that we are.

[It's during lectures such as these that I almost forget to take notes as I just want to sit back and absorb what's being said. Except I'm not paid to do that!]

Anyway ... while no doubt this act of creating our online persona can in some cases go wrong and take some people far off into a fictional life I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by reflecting on what we've chosen to share and how we've presented ourself online.
As every single thing we've shared online got there via a deliberate decision by us ... surely a close look at it all will reveal our priorities, our philosophies, our personalities?

Surely they can't help will bubble to the surface? We'll recognise what we feel is important [like me hanging on to my sidebar quotation for 4 years ... it must say something!]. We'll recognise those parts of us we were happy for others to know about us. We'll see the areas we wanted feedback, comments, sympathy, recognition form.

And, at the same time, we can also learn by realising the parts we didn't share! What do those say about us? Which status updates never reached your FB wall? What does that deleted tweet tell you about yourself? Why did you choose one photo over another?
A quick look at my 'created' online life might reveal:
  • that I want to share interesting craft projects;
  • that I want others to know there's no such thing as getting creativity wrong;
  • that I'm happy to pass on tips, tricks and lessons I've learned;
  • that I don't blog angry / upset / stressed but that I don't sugar coat everything either.
  • that I listen in to other people's conversations. A lot.
  • that I like to make people laugh;
  • that I like to pause to notice and document the unexpected, everyday, 'found' joy / comedy / stories and treasures of life.
There's certainly more to my online life than those [a quick look at my Pinterest boards will reveal I also present my self as something of a clothes fiend] ... but they're pretty representative I think.  And, fortunately ... I don't think they're that far away from the 'real life' Julie either. But you'd have to ask someone who knows me for a more objective view!
And, as for that half a pigeon I mentioned at the beginning ... it was the bottom half to be precise ...
... it came from the reverse side of a page I'd chopped up and put into a Plundered Pages pack and, despite it being headless, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. I just kept it in the box with all the other plundered pages I fall in love with and plan to use ... at some point.
And in this case, I did. I created a page especially for it in my newest journal ... and then ... rather than find it a new head  ...
... I created one for it instead:  


Thanks for stopping by to read me today.

Have you ever thought about what it is you've created as your online persona? Or even the 'real life' you?

What do you give yourself credit for creating and making happen in your own life?

I'd love to know ....


p.s: I originally made this page as a guest contribution to Bernice Hopper's 'Attitude of Gratitude' blog.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

3D project: 'Creative Paperclay' long-legged robin

Hi, hi.

If you remember my Month in Numbers post from last week you might remember seeing the
rather unusual birds we roasted on our crafty weekend away. And now today, as promised, I'm sharing the end result ... a paperclay robin who did indeed begin life drying out in an electric oven on low with the door open!
As the paperclay is available here from 3DJean, this is also my 3DJean Design Team project and if you'd like to read more details of how he was made hop over to my post on the DT blog for that.

But for lots of pictures ... you can stick around here if you like.

Effie and Jean put the whole kit together for us to play with over two days while we were away. On the first day we made the basic structure by covering over a lightweight modelling ball with the paperclay and adding a ball of clay for the head:
We also wedged the wire legs into the body and smoothed the clay down from the body to create thighs and I also added a stubby little tail:
Then we left the whole thing to dry out - which was partly why they were in the oven ... not because they needed to be, the Creative Papaerclay actually air-dries ... but because we were impatient!  Eventually we gave in and had to wait until the next day to be able to sand and paint them in our own style.

I chose a homespun rustic style for mine complete with a big heart, heat embossed silver wings and white Posca pen faux-stitching:
And as for his patterned legs ... if only I could get away with wrapping my own legs with text print washi-tape!:
Oh and a quick tip for lovers of googly eyes [the crafty kind of googly eyes that is ... ]

I'm a big fan of adding googly eyes to things [I don't know why, maybe some therapy could reveal the answer ...] but I didn't have any with me at the cottage when I made my robin so ...

After painting the eyes on with acrylics I tried out a blob of Glossy Accents on top:
Granted they eyes don't actually wobble and 'google' about but I think they're a great alternative.

He [I want to call it 'he' even though I gave it little rouged cheeks ... maybe he's just been out in the early morning chilly November air] .. anyway

... he/she/it now lives with my parents as he was a birthday gift for my Mam who's fond of a robin or two ... even the ones with unspecified gender ... and ones with a slightly shrunken wing where someone [ahem] over enthusiastically weilded the heat embossing gun over them. Even those.

Thanks for dropping in on me today.

Julie :-)