Tuesday 31 December 2013

My Month in Numbers 2013: December

Hello you. How'd it go? I hope you had a good time, you deserved to ...

Now then, before 2013 gets scrumpled up in a ball and thrown into the recycling bin with the remains of the Christmas wrapping paper I'm sneaking in here to statistically summarise the final 4 weeks of my year.

Thank you to everyone who joined me with theirs during 2013 and if you've been thinking of making 2014 the year you try out documenting your month in numbers then you'll be very welcome ... I'll look forward to it this time next month. But until then ... 

... here's my December 2013 in numbers ...

Let me begin with my responses to the Communal Count #6:
  • [a] How many Christmas movies is too many? Well ... I watched 8 full movies during December and snippets of at least 4 more and to me ... there is no such thing as too many Christmas films [unless they've got talking dogs in them, which too many of them seem to have].Watching the Christmas24 channel while I wrap presents is one of my favourite things about the entire season!   
  • [b] How many Christmas events did you attend? 8 which includes: 2 x Christmas lunches; a meeting, with added cake, at work; a muddy Christmas market at Bowes museum; a few cosy get-togethers and ...
A 12 hour crop = we decided that, for the final crop of the year, rather than our usual 6 hours we'd all get together for a 12 hour crafting marathon. We all contributed something to the table and had a lovely buffet lunch and tea [when you're crafting for that long you need an almost constant supply of strong tea and good food!]after which we really had to drag ourselves back to crafting rather than stop for a cosy nap!

To keep the creativity flowing we played an impromptu game of  'cardmaking by committee'. OK, this isn't an actual game [unless there's a way I can make money from it, in which case - it's definitely a game and I'm copyrighting that name! ;-)] ... but it involved us adding one layer to a card, then passing it on to the person sitting next to us who added another layer/element etc. It certainly managed to keep us on our toes ... although I'm not entirely convinced that each end result made a cohesive card ... maybe there's a reason we don't always create by committee ... ;-)

However we didn't quite make it to the full 12 hours after all; we finished after just the 10 hours. I know. Lightweights.

But, seeing as it finished earlier than  I was expecting at least I got home in time to pour a glass of wine, shove a bag of popcorn in the microwave and settle down in front of ...

the 2 final episodes of Borgen 3 on BBC4 =  if you'd told me, a couple of years ago when the political drama Borgen was first broadcast here, that it would be so very good that I'd regularly be on the edge of my seat concerned about the machinations within Danish coalition government ... I really wouldn't have believed you. [Just writing it out it still sounds faintly improbable ... and yet it's true!]

771 pages in the library book I'm currently reading =  For one reason or another I didn't read any books during November [breaking the regular reading habit I'd been nurturing for the last 18 months] ... and now my latest read seems to want to make up for it!

Somehow, in the reviews I'd read of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt's latest novel, the actual size of the thing had passed me by. James collected it from the library for me and asked 'Have you seen the size of it?'

I hadn't; it's a biggie:
Let's put it this way, it's the kind of book which, if you plan to read it in bed, and if you're not overly fond of concussion you'll need to prop it up somewhere secure.

Other than the slight matter of the risk of personal injury ... yes, I would recommend it. I'm just over half way through and loving it. It's one of those books where, rather than get caught up in constant plot or action, you find yourself simply 'living' in it, like a second life. [And after the hours it takes to get through all 771 pages you actually will have almost moved in with the narrator!]

70 dresses on display at the Bowes Museum Laura Ashley exhibition:

Can I just repeat that for you. So you feel the impact: 70. Dresses.

70 dresses!!

Be still my frock-loving heart:
This was the colourfully beautiful sight that greeted me on entering the room [empty but for James and I ... and the 70 dresses!] containing a 60th Anniversary retrospective of Laura Ashley's dress designs.

And, dear blog reader, I almost cried.

Look, I know, what's new eh? Quite often I mention on here that I get overcome and shed a tear over really random stuff but that's just because well ... I do actually get overcome and shed a tear over really random stuff a lot of the time! But, look at it this way ...

... it was a room filled with pretty dresses, flowery dresses, colourful flight-of-fancy dresses; with no glass between them and me to give it a proper museum-like feel. So ... to someone who spent the first dozen or so years of her life playing with dolls ... it just felt like either I'd shrunk and was now inside a doll's wardrobe ... or else they'd all come to life:
I opened my mouth to try to explain to James why I suddenly felt all giddy ... and found I couldn't string a coherent sentence together. All I could manage was: 'You've never been a little girl have you?'.

But I have. And I know she'd have loved it as much as I did. In fact ... she might have loved it more because ...  they had a rail of replica dresses you could try on ... but they were only in child sizes!!

The only concession they made to full grown frock fans was two capes you could throw on over your clothes then take a photo in behind the frame which was no real compensation and yet, when you're a blogger/scrapbooker and you're in an unoccupied room with a perfect photo opportunity in front of you ... it would be a dereliction of duty not to take advantage of it! So here I am:
And finally ...
... something I found at the last minute became one of James's favourite stocking-filler gifts this year: 
'Over 120 ways of using bread' = Can I interest you in a Banana and lettuce toastie? Or lamb brains on toast? What? lost your appetite?
OK then how about the 'raw beef sandwich' which is recommended 'in cases of weak digestion' instead? These are all genuine dishes you can find in the pocket-sized vintage recipe book I managed to buy for James, without him noticing, while we were both browsing an antiques shop on the Saturday before Christmas.
The back of the book declares 'Bread built an Empire' and, as he's a bit evangelical about bread [major food group in his diet!] and we both love vintage books I thought it would make a perfect gift. Here he is sharing the loaf-love with my sister before Christmas lunch.
I think the empty Bucks Fizz glass is a clue to how she's managing to remain looking interested ...

So, that's my December ... and yours? Did you count up anything this time round? Are you sharing it in the coming days / weeks?
As usual all the instructions for how to join in the Month in Numbers community can be found on the dedicated page of my blog which is also the best place to start if you're planning to join us for a month or two ... or 12 in 2014.
I'll get round to visiting, commenting on, and Pinning all your posts as soon as I can in the New Year.
Wishing you all a peaceful and magical start to 2014 and if things ever feel like they might not be heading that way just think... things could be worse: you could be sitting next to someone who wants to share 120 ways of using bread with you ...
Actually I will be, and that's just where I want to be. [I know, sorry, I'm a big softie. Next thing you know I'll  be crying about pretty dresses ... oh ... ].
See you next year my lovelies.
Julie x

Friday 20 December 2013

Simply A Moment [December 2013]: A Matching Pair

Hello there.

I  think this will be my final post before Christmas and I think it's rather appropriate ... some wintry scenery and festive cheer has found its way in!

It also marks a whole year of my joining in with 'Simply A Moment' - a blogging meme hosted by Alexa at Trimming the Sails - making this the 11th [I missed one month!] time I've paused to document a fleeting moment of time.

[To learn more you can read Alexa's tips on how to record your own moments and if you do join in, there's a link box on her December moment for you to add yours.]

A Matching Pair

Date: Monday 16th December
Time: 9.35am
Location: Like so many of my 'moments' this one happened while walking close to home.

After a weekend of long working days [trying to get projects completed before Christmas] walking to shops in the crisp fresh air feels like such a treat.

Intoxicating almost; like a good glass of wine.

'This is free' I think 'I can have as much  of it as I like!'

I'm working my way up to the Post Office hoping that I don't miss a delivery of supplies while I'm out. The irony of that situation would not be welcome right now.

Ahead of me an elderly man walks with a spritely little Yorkshire terrier who [the dog, not the man] is wearing a little blue coat with tweed trimming and is drawing smiles and attention from those around him. A man walking up his drive shouts a hello to the dog walker who in turn asks after his health:

'Oh, not so bad' he replies then, gesturing toward the dog: 'I wish I was as fit as he is!' and the owner agrees. Everyone, including me, looks down affectionately at the dog.  Then we round the bend ...

'Look who it is, look who's here' the dog walker says to the dog and allows a few extra feet out of the extending dog lead so the dog can get greet and elderly lady who beams at the sight of him:

'Hello Charlie, hello.' she says bending to pet him. Quite obviously Charlie is famous round these parts! Who knew?

As the three of them stop to chat I overtake, up the bank, and onward to the Post Office which turns out to be a bustling grotto of pre-Christmas parcel posting.

On my way out I notice a box of festive snow globes on a bottom shelf and bend to take a closer look; I pick one up and - as you just have to do - I gently tip it up creating a tiny whirling snow storm inside.

Back out side now and in this chilly December morning air I suddenly am made aware that while one of my hands is snug and warm ... I'm missing a glove on the other; the one I removed to look at the snow globe!
As I search my pockets and bags [like someone doing a poor mime of 'Oh, I seem to have lost something'], assuming that I absentmindedly tucked it away, an old lady passes by then stops and turns to me to say:

"Someone else has forgot something!"

"I seem to have lost a glove" I say holding up my unevenly attired hands by way of illustration.

"I've been going through my pockets too" she confides and we share a  smile; a conspiracy of forgetfulness.

As I can't find it anywhere then it's back into the Post Office I go for a good look on the floor when my eyes meet those of elderly man in the queue ... who holds up my black beaded glove!

I grin in return and again hold up one gloved and one chilly one, this time as proof of ownership.

"I was just going to hand this in" he says handing over the glove, completing the matching set. I thank him and leave. And who should be outside but ...

... Charlie and his clearly proud owner chatting to yet another someone who looks delighted at his presence!

So many smiles. So many little acts of human [and canine] connection. Good job that's a sharp wind blowing ... I can blame my watery eyes on that ...

I slip my hand back into my glove and head home.

Thank you for taking one of your moments to read one of mine.
If I don't  see you before ... I'll wish you some wonderful Christmastime moments in the days ahead.
Take care ... and take a glass of sherry or two and a bacon-wrapped sausage while you're at it.
Julie xx 

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Do You Know: Graham Rawle's 'Lost Consonants'?

Hi you.
I must have come across his Lost Consonants in the Guardian newspaper's Weekend magazine over a decade ago and in case you're not familiar with his work I thought I'd link you up today.
The 'lost' consonant idea does pretty much exactly what you'd think; but dropping that one single letter ... it makes a world of difference to the meaning! See for yourself ... 


What do you think?

I love them; word play combined with collage is a little bit of creative-heaven for me!

Wouldn't the idea make a fun starting point for an art journal page? Or a scrapbook title? I'm sure there's some fun to be had there!

I could go on much longer, and more embarrassingly, about how much I admire Rawle's work, and how unbelievably frustrated I was to discover on his blog that he'd just given a lecture at the Uni where I work from time to time ... if only I'd known I'd have done my very best to have sneaked into a seat at the back!

But instead .. I'll leave you to enjoy more examples on  Graham Rawle's website where you can find links to his other works and his books.

Soon, soon.

Julie :-)

Monday 16 December 2013

It's a sign: Must be the one with the sparkly scales

Hi, it's me.

I'm one of life's magpies; not only because I'm drawn to collecting actual shiny treasures [hello silver shoes!] ... but I also can't help collecting together overheard conversations, 'found' wisdom and funny signs etc; things that unexpectedly catch my beady eye and make the average day just that bit brighter.

Funnily enough, the silly thing I'm sharing today manages to combine the two ...

I'd bought a glittery belt, to add a touch of sparkle when I'm wearing jeans, which had a care label attached informing me that some of the glitter may come off. But hey, being a crafter that didn't phase me; randomly finding my hands / face / furniture lightly dusted in sparkle is all par for the course. ;-)

So, I duly read the label,  snipped it off and left it out to drop into the recycling bin. So far so mundane no?
Or did you notice it?

Because then I noticed that, rather than warning me that "due to the nature of the finish" of the belt that some glitter may shed ... what it actually said was:
Personally I've never met a finfish ... but considering they're apparently glittery by nature ... I bet they're the belle of the ocean ball. 
[Until of course they're caught and their skin gets turned into belts that is ...] ;-)
Funny how a simple typo, adding in one extra consonant, can take you off on a flight [swim?] of fancy isn't it? 
 See you soon.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Overheard: But it complimented her cold pink nose so well ...

Hello hello.

When you're someone like me, who likes to keep her ears open for snippets of overheard chatter, the winter can be a tricky time to be listening-in; woolly hats tend to muffle the sound! ;-)

Fortunately there are those occasions when someone manages to make themselves heard despite a layer of hat-ness getting in between us ...

Date: Late November 2013
Time: 8:50am-ish

My current route for a morning walk takes me past a path that leads to a primary school, and on this particular occasion I was passing by at that point in the school run, so close to the start of the school day, when things tend to get a little frantic.

Cars and vans were pulling up alongside me dropping off little ones left right and centre.

Then, ahead of me on the path there stood two sweet girls aged around 4 and 6 bundled up in winter coats and knitted hats with teddy-bear ears, to keep the bite of the crisp November morning at bay.

Next to them, bending over the smallest of the two, a slightly frustrated mother licked her fingers and began rubbing at the girl's mouth.

The girls were still, and silent while the mother, in a frustrated tone laid down the law:

"When I tell you to go and clean your face after your breakfast...

... I don't mean: 'go and cover your face with make-up'!!

You've got lipstick all over!"

Then the mother looked up at me as I passed by, well aware that I'd heard what she'd said. And, despite me not wanting her to shout at me too ... I really couldn't help but smile!
[p.s: When looking for a suitable photo to illustrate this I spotted this photo James took of me a few years ago on Christmas morning. But, just so you know: I don't always go for a walk around the neighbourhood in bronze metallic heels and flowery tights. Well, not every day ... ]
So, did you or your kids ever do something that had to be dealt with at the very last minute before the school bell rang?
Things like that are always fun to hear in the comments. I'll be waiting  .. without my hat on ... to hear them.
Julie :-)

Saturday 7 December 2013

Storytelling Sunday: Zat You Santa Claus?

Hello hello.

I'm sneaking in under the wire here [which, at this time of year I'm guessing has been wrapped with some sparkling tinsel by now] to join in with 'Storytelling Sunday' hosted by the ever-inspiring spinner of yarns Sian at From High in the Sky.

After 3 years of encouraging bloggers worldwide to share a tale or two once a month Sian is closing the book on Storytelling Sunday and ever so gently setting down the idea on her bedside table. So I wanted to make sure to join in with her final chapter.

This little tale only happened this week ... so it's not something I've been mulling over for years ... but I still think the theme of Christmas and family fits in nicely with the theme Sian chose for Storytelling Sunday 2013 of 'Pick your precious'.

And here's some musical accompaniment for you ...

... while you read my story ...

Zat You Santa Claus?

Over recent weeks my parents, both retired, had been telling me how I ought to go and see the beautiful Christmas decorations on display at a local garden centre. Yet with one thing and another, I never got around to going.

But they persisted.

One morning, a fortnight or so ago, Dad phoned to tell me they were heading there for another visit and invited me to go with them for coffee.

But I was busy trying to get a magazine project finished and didn't want to get distracted. Not even by the offer of  'a big slice' cake he tried to tempt me with.  So I didn't go.

Then ... the day after all my work was complete I sent him a text - the exact same sentiment of which I could have written 30-odd years ago [if there had been such a thing as a mobile phone waaaaayyyy back then!] because it read:

"I've finished all my work. When can I go and see Santa?"

And, as I'd been good all year ;-) ... I went. And it was indeed as lovely, festive, shiny, sparkly, snowy and splendid as they'd suggested. But now let's hop forward to two days ago when Dad extended another Christmassy invitation ... which, once again, could have been written somewhere back in time, when I was tiny:

"We're going to Helmsley, to see if Santa's there. Shall we pick you up?"

Now, I should just state, for the record, that I'm not actually regressing back to being a little girl [when I can still vividly remember telling my family I'd heard the sound of Santa's sleigh on the roof of our bungalow. If only there's been camera phones then; I'd have had proof!].

I'm honestly not currently actively seeking Santa out  ... but ... the thing with this time of year is ... you don't always have to be the one doing the looking; sometimes the magic of Christmas finds you.

Because ... accepted the latest invitation [which was really to go Christmas shopping in a lovely little town in North Yorkshire] and, right after parking the car and walking into the town square ... I just happened to look up ... into a beautifully blue December morning sky ...

... and the sight that greeted me was this one:
And I could hardly believe my eyes!

"Look, look" I squealed, stopping in my tracks, pulling at their arms and at pointing toward the man in red himself.

"Look! You said we were coming here to if Santa was here ... and he is!!"
And he was!

And it's times like that that make me so glad that, as a blogger / scrapbooker, I always err on the side of something wonderful happening ... and drop my camera in my bag before leaving the house.

You just never know when you might need proof that even though you actually stopped looking for him a long time ago ... you just found Santa!

Thanks for letting me share my story with you today.

For more, do drop by Sian's place where everyone else is joining in with their own final Storytelling Sunday tales.

I'll see you soon.

Julie x

Thursday 5 December 2013

5 Things I've learned while 'crafting for Christmas' during the height of summer [or: Why you don't need to spend to get festive!]

Hello you.

Do you wish you could just sit down, with your paper-craft supplies in front of you, and get merrily creative for Christmas without feeling like you need to spend money on brand new festive supplies?


Because I wrote this just for you ...
As a freelance craft-magazine contributor, and as magazines work several months in advance, I've spent the last handful of years working on Christmas crafting commissions during June, July and August. And, while I'm certainly not complaining about it ... working to that timetable certainly throws up its own particular issues.

Issues such as ... 
  • [a] it's always tricky [as someone living in NE England where it's always cold and frosty at Christmas] to get my 'Ho Ho Ho' on when I'm barefoot and wearing shorts! 
... and
  • [b] when I have to begin decking-the-halls ... there are hardly ever any new Christmas ranges available for me to work with.
Now ... while I definitely don't believe in having to craft with the latest supplies ... when it comes to Christmas ranges, if I use an existing one, it's always going to be at least a whole year out of date when it ends up in print ... so I always try to find a way around it using more recent but necessarily non-festive supplies.

And it's this experience that's led to my 5 thrifty tips for how to craft for Christmas using supplies-for-all-seasons!

Scroll down to read:
LESSON 1: Geometric patterns are for life ... AND for Christmas.
LESSON 2: Broaden out your colour palette; there's more to Christmas than red & green:
LESSON 3: Festive focal points can be made from scratch using everyday supplies
LESSON 4: A Christmas tree is one of the quickest and easiest way to say 'Christmas card!!!
LESSON 5: When in doubt ... add a big red ribbon!

I created all of the examples below during various summers and they've all been ...
LESSON 1: Geometric patterns are for life ... AND for Christmas.

Don't have any festively patterned papers? No backgrounds of snowflakes or stockings or Santas? Don't worry, all is not lost!

All those super-useful 'basic' patterned papers you use during the other 11 months of the year can all be put to use on Christmas projects.

Think spots; stripes; grids; checks; chevrons; hexies ... and more:
In the above examples, A-D, I haven't used one single 'festive' design of paper.

Instead I've relied on:
  • various everyday, generic prints [stripes, dots, geometrics etc]; they're the kind of designs you often find on the B-side/reverse of a heavily patterned design, or in a pack of everyday basics.
  • and rather than have the patterned background create the festive feel for me, I introduced it via a combination of Christmassy wording/sentiments plus ... 
  • I chose traditionally wintry shades of frosty-blue and Santa's-coat-red.
And, to my mind, there's nothing about the end result that would suggest I used papers that were part of summery ranges.

So ...
  • how many basic geometric designs are lurking quietly and unremarkably in your regular everyday crafting stash?
  • Take a look at them with a fresh, festive, pair of eyes to see how they could be the star of your next Christmas card!
Ok ... while you're searching through your all-season craft supplies for those super-useable basics ... which colours are you going to look out for?

To make the most of your existing stash in your Christmas crafting don't get too hung up on setting aside only the traditional shades to work with ...

LESSON 2: Broaden out your colour palette; there's more to Christmas than red & green.

If you're not using supplies specifically marketed as Christmas ranges then, chances are, you're going to have all kinds of colours to choose from. And that's fine!

Take inspiration from shop displays, particularly Christmas tree + decoration departments, and experiment with all kinds of bright jewel shades, such as purple, and even pastels in your festive crafts:

Once again, the only Christmas papers I used here are the spots and tartan on [F] ... and even those are pretty generic. Everything else was part of my day-to-day supplies even including several snippets of summery floral print which made their way on to [F] and [H].

All shades of purple [and pink] are great for using both on their own [E] but also alongside the usual red and green [G+F] where it adds an extra, rich, pop of colour.

So ...
  • don't overlook pink and purple ribbons, papers and embellishments in your Christmas-crafting; they can all be put to work offering colourful festive alternatives!
Right then ... now we've [literally] got our backgrounds covered ... let's move on to what you can put on top of them ...

LESSON 3: Festive focal points can be made from scratch using everyday supplies.

There's no doubt that in amongst the latest Christmas card-making and scrapbooking ranges you'll find some beautiful multi-layered, glittering and inspiring embellishments which would make an incredible focal point to any festive card or layout.
However ...
... for me, crafting away in the heat of summer with nary a new release in sight, or for anyone who just doesn't want to spend any more money then they already have on craft supplies ... there's always the option to make a focal point from scratch!
Apart from two small die-cuts on [I] these layered tags, featuring mistletoe and a snowman, were made entirely from regular work-a-day supplies:
[I] Mistletoe tag supplies:
  • I made the wired mistletoe leaves by sandwiching craft wire between 2 layers of green paper;
  • then added the berries, which are simply a cluster of white mini pom-poms;
  • the finished thing is mounted on to various die-cut layers and stickers;
  • which in turn are sitting on a tag covered in vintage book paper. [The numbered text pages are available in my shop].
  • Finishing touches include twine, green ribbon and heart pins.
 [J] Smiling snowman supplies:
  • I glued black buttons as eyes and a mouth [plus an orange nose and two pink cheeks] to a circle of cream cardstock;
  • I then filled in the gaps with a hotch-potch of pearlised cream buttons and dabbed some Stickles around them all for a touch of sparkle to the space in between. [Think: 'glittery grouting'!]
  • Once it was dry I popped a bow on and added it to various layers eg. a scallop-punched disc, tag and paper doily.
I hope I've shown that:
  •  just because you're not relying on festive supplies it doesn't mean you can't produce multi-layered focal points filled with the festive spirit!
However ... if you're looking for something simpler to tackle ... then Lesson 4's the one for you ...

LESSON 4: A Christmas tree is one of the quickest and easiest way to say: 'Christmas card!!!'

If you're not going to be using 'Christmas supplies' you might be concerned that the end result won't appear Christmassy.

However, in my experience, whenever I add a simple tree as my focal point ... then something unmistakeably festive emerges:
Yet again no specifically Christmassy supplies were hurt during the course of these projects and yet they still manage to shout 'this is a Christmas card'!

And a tree is one of the easiest designs to reproduce making them ideal for:
  • creating a big old festive statement ... when you have very little time / inclination;
  • crafting-with-kids ... the shape is immediately recognisable, but requires no sophisticated skills;
  • making the most of your 'good days/moments' when you have dexterity/ fine-motor skill problems ... tree designs make a big impact in relatively little time.
Furthermore, they can be made from a wide variety of supplies as mine here prove:
  • [K] = 4 lengths of green washi tape stuck to a card blank, with a scrap of brown paper as a trunk.
  • [L] = 1 triangle of green paper, with a trunk doodled on in pen and a gem on top. 
  • [M] = 9 lengths of striped paper drinking straw with a paper trunk and a button star on top.
  • [N] = 3 die-cut glitter-paper hearts stuck upside-down and decorated with gems.
So ...
  • the next time you're stuck for an idea of what to stick on a Christmas card ... think: super-simple-big-impact-tree!
And finally ... if you don't even have time to create the simplest of simple tree designs ... then just remember ...

LESSON 5: When in doubt ... add a big red ribbon!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record ... I didn't use a single festive range of paper here:
... and yet, the red ribbons give a distinctly luxuriously Christmassy edge.

In any other colour either of these designs could work for a card/layout at any time of the year. But that red ribbon is just screaming 'Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaassss'.

And, if you take nothing else from the 5 things I've learned while crafting-for-Christmas during the height of summer ...
  • I'd like to think that 'when in doubt, add a big red ribbon' could become your new thrifty-festive-crafting mantra!
It's definitely a time of year where spending on creative supplies takes a back-seat so I hope my experiences of crafting-for-Christmas using supplies-for-all-seasons have inspired you to reconsider what it is you need when it comes to making your Christmas cards, tags and more.

I'd love it if you left here today with a few ideas on how to achieve the Christmas feel simply by considering what you've already got with a festive frame of mind!

So ... if you do delve into your regular stash to create something inspired by any of my 5 'lessons' do let me know [either here on my blog or via my Facebook page or tweet me @notesonpaper].

And if you've enjoyed any of my examples today ... would you do me a festive favour?

Would you please pin the image below to Pinterest ... or share the post via social media? So more people get to see it?

You could even help me out by simply sliding this screen under the nose of someone who might enjoy reading my tips.

Thanks so much.  Happy almost-Christmas to you!

Julie x

Sunday 1 December 2013

My Month in Numbers 2013: Communal Count #6 - December


If, for any reason, you haven't got enough things to keep track of this month [Did I put the right tag on the right gift? How many hours a day can I remain horizontal? Does a diet of little sausages wrapped in bacon, Christmas pudding and sherry with a slice of orange cover all the necessary food groups?] ... here's what I'll also be counting up this month ... are you joining me?
I must admit that the first question has been influenced by my annual obsession with the Christmas24 channel.
For 10 months of the year I like to tell myself I have sophisticated cultural tastes.
Then, any day of the week, any time of day during November and December you can find me glued to cheesy and marvellous made-for-TV festive films!
So I'll be fascinated to find out which of you share my fetish ... and which of you need your hearts de-frosting. ;-)
As always...
  • you're welcome to respond to both, either or neither prompts. It really is entirely up to you
  • and you're welcome to interpret them however you like.

  • At the end of the month [or whenever you get chance afterwards] you can:
    • combine your responses to this this with your usual full Month in Numbers post
    • OR just join in with your responses to these shorter prompts alone
    • you can respond in a blog post / an Instagram / a tweet / OR simply in a comment on my Month in Numbers post [a link back to my blog somewhere would be lovely if you do blog it.]
    • OR ... join in with your response on my Facebook page
    • OR ... any other creative way I haven't thought of!
    • then - if it's 'pinnable' I'll pin it to the My Month in Numbers Pinterest board.
    Anything goes!
    You can then check back at the end of December [and on into January] to compare notes with the others who've joined in, and once again we can connect with the familiarities and marvel at our unique differences!

    If you'd like to share the question on your own blog / social media so your friends and readers can join you - then you're very welcome to. You can simply save and use the image above [all my details are on there so you don't really need to link anything up].

    Happy December!

    J x

    Saturday 30 November 2013

    My Month in Numbers 2013: November

    Hi you. Come in. Sit, sit.

    I blog a numerical round-up each and every month of the year, but it's round about now that I don't feel the usual need to talk about the passage of time ...

    ... that's because, at this time of year, we're only ever a glance or a click away from an Advent calendar, a 'number of sleeps-to-go' countdown or a flashing neon reindeer shaped reminder that Christmas is on its way!

    But for now, rather than living in the future, let's hop back in time a little to dwell on the 30 days that was November [or should that be Movember] 2013:
    Despite Facebook comments to the contrary ... no, I did not take part in Movember this year ... I was just playing with a dressing up box [because who can resist?] ... but more of than later ...

    Let me tackle November's Communal Count questions first:

    [a] The date of my first Christmas card of the season: I haven't received any Christmas cards yet ... so the only number I can record there is '0'! When I set the question I was sure that I've received very early cards in the past ... but not this year!
    [b] How many items did you write on a Christmas list to buy for someone else? And for someone else to buy you? Well, with this one I haven't actually written anything down yet ... so the list is still in my head and on Pinterest! But I've bought 9 gifts for others up to now and have hinted at 3 definite things that  I'd like [a phone / L'Occitane treats / David Sedaris tour tickets] making for, so far, a 3:1 giving-to-receiving ratio that I reckon Santa will definitely look kindly on! 

    [Oh dear ... after writing that I've just remembered the 2 tops I tried on last week and both of which were bought for me while I was there. Sorry Santa ...].

    Here's how the rest of my month measured-up ...

    6 days for James's stitches to dissolve: he had a short operation on the 1st of this month. In fact, I wrote about the way zebras were watching over us that day here [seriously ... if you didn't read that post you'll be forgiven for thinking that he was operated on during a safari. Which he wasn't!].

    But as for the stitches themselves well, obviously I couldn't actually count the actual number because, being dissolvable ... they'd vanished before the dressing was removed. Speaking of which ...

    10-14 days =  the time he had to wait before removing the post-op dressing which he was perfectly happy with thankyouverymuch but as for me ... well ...

    ... we're talking here about someone who, in the past, has been known to open Christmas presents [secretly] before Christmas and to me 10-14 days felt like a long time to find out exactly what they'd done to him because, with the dressing in place, it really wasn't clear cut [pardon the pun] .

    Knowing me as he does, I think he slept with one eye open for the first week ... just in case temptation got the better of me and I decided to chance a sneak-peek in the night! ;-)

    Before you worry about him, he's almost back to normal now, well ... when I say 'normal' ...

    ... meet the man of 1000 faces [OK, so, there's only 8 here ...]:
    I think every time I looked up during the party he'd turned into someone else ... like Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts & Coronets!

    What's that I hear you ask? What party am I talking about? Why ... it was this one:
    My [older...just sayin'] sister had a 'Heroes & Villains' themed 40th birthday party:

    While she herself is partial to a spot of  theatricality involving dressing-up she decided not to force a full-on costume party on those less flamboyant guests! Instead we collected together all the dressing up items [wigs, glasses, masks, capes etc] and silly props [moustaches, hats, guns, sonic screwdriver etc] we could find and turned our parents' hallway into a self-contained party photo-booth:
    It made a great alternative to a costume party as those who fancied dressing-up and capturing it on camera could do so to their heart's content ...
    ... meanwhile, those who didn't want to make fools of themselves could still enjoy the night and ever-changing surreal scenery eg. the 2 nuns dancing to Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky'.

    [I would say 'you had to be there' but, as I was one of those 2 nuns ... I'm actually glad you weren't!].

    We also had a board for people to leave messages for the birthday girl. Messages like:
    And if you thought she might be mad at me for telling you she was 40 ... imagine what she'll do to me now!

    But, however old she is ... she's not as old as a certain Time Lord who turned 50 this month:  Did you watch the Dr.Who 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor?

    I've only been interested in the show since Matt Smith took on the role [I really can't enjoy the original episodes despite James's attempts to sway me otherwise].
    And I generally consider it a good night if I've managed to understand at least 50% of what's going on in an episode!

     But I do so enjoy Smith's Doctor ... and the fact his final episode airs on Dec 25th is a rare reason to not be looking forward to Christmas Day!
    Because 'bow ties are cool'

    The 50th anniversary occurred in the same week as Jo's birthday and, appropriately enough the backdrop to her photo-booth was a TARDIS.

    A TARDIS which we'd pinned up over the door during the day not realising for a moment that ... once it got dark outside it would be perfectly aligned with the glass of the front door and, once the hall light was on it would be illuminated and ...
    ... and look delightfully like the real thing!
    And, in case you were wondering about how we fit all that dressing-up equipment, a full-length mirror, props and tripod into the hallway while still having space for slightly inebriated people to strike a pose in, well ...

    ... that'll be because it's bigger on the inside you know? ;-)


    So, those were my November numericals ... do you want to share yours? Either for November or at any time in the future? 
    I'll look forward to reading your posts and I know for a fact I'll see many of you in the comment sections of each other's blogs too.

    I'll pop back here tomorrow with the final Communal Count of  2013.

    Julie :-)

    Thursday 21 November 2013

    Found: A mouldy 'minion'?

    Hi hi.

    The human brain is hard-wired to recognise faces. It's likely an evolutionary thing. And sometimes this cognitive function leads us to recognising faces in things that aren't really faces.

    [Bear with me on this science bit, there's something inane heading this way any minute. Promise.]

    In our house we're very fond of finding these 'faces in places' and I've blogged at least one of them before now that time we found a potato that looked like a Marc John's drawing.  [How could I not blog about that?]

    My photo folders are scattered with them and I know we're not alone ... there's a whole world of 'faces in places' photos over on Flickr and I've just come across Faces in Things on Twitter ... and so, with the knowledge that this is definitely a 'thing' ... and not that I'm just a little bit odd ... I just had to share our latest face with you today!

    According to Wikipedia: "objects incidentally perceived as faces evoke an early activation in the ventral fusiform cortex, at a time and location similar to that evoked by faces"

    So all I can say is: prepare to have your 'ventral fusiform cortex' activated ...

    Last week James was putting some fresh lemons into the fruit bowl when something amongst the old ones in the bottom of the bowl caused him to shout over to me: 'There's a face in a place here" ...
    ... and, naturally, I had to go and look ... and he wasn't wrong, was he?

    Is that not the cutest, most poignant seen-better-days lemon you've ever seen?

    [If not, I insist on seeing your photographic evidence to the contrary.]

    Personally I can see some family resemblance between it and a 'minion' from the Despicable Me films or a Toy Story alien?  What do you think?

    If nothing else, it makes me feel better about my lapses in household management, how does that old saying go? She who has a perfect, spore-free fruit bowl shalt never get to blog about a mouldy lemon.

    Now wouldn't that be a terrible pity?

    Julie ;-)

    Tuesday 19 November 2013

    Plundering Pages for cardmaking: What's in a name?

    Hi you.

    What's your name?

    Why do I ask?

    Because- when I'm browsing my old book collection looking for an interesting page to plunder -  I love it when I accidentally stumble across a familiar name:
    This is my latest find which made the perfect addition to the card I made for my sister's recent birthday:
    But I'm not only excited about finding my own name [in this case inside a 1960's girls' annual] no ...

    ... in recent weeks I've sent out several envelopes stuffed with plundered pages to friends whose names I'd happened upon in various books.
     Both ladies have names which - I'm imagining - they don't come across that often in books so I couldn't bear to keep them to myself! I just had to tear them out [did you just wince?] and post them off to a rightful home with their namesakes! 

    Similarly I was delighted to find this image to use as my focal point for the card ... because [if you don't know her] let me promise you that she actually does look rather like this:
    [If you read my post on Sunday she's the 'superhero sibling' I wrote about in my Simply A Moment post].

    Whenever someone enquires about ordering a Custom Pack of Plundered Pages, and we're chatting about what themes and topics they'd like me to find for their personalised pack ... I often ask if there are any significant names they'd like me to keep my eyes peeled for at the same time. I can't promise to find any ... but it's great when I do!

    Because I know how much fun it can be adding a very specific as-if-it-was-tailored-to-you detail to a project: I've made various projects for myself featuring familiar names and ...
    • while I know you could type/print/stamp out any name or phrase you fancy ...
    • there is something particularly special about finding it on a page, out of the blue, fully formed then just snipping it out and being inspired by it.
    • for example: I built the entire sentiment of this card around this phrase with my name ...
    ... the card just wouldn't have been the same if I hadn't taken it as my starting point!


    Are there any unique, hard-to-find or simply significant names you'd like me to stay vigilant for in my book browsing?

    I'd be interested to hear ... and, who knows, maybe I'll get in touch one day with that all elusive name!
    Julie :-)


    Sunday 17 November 2013

    Simply a Moment [November]: My Super-hero Sibling

    Hello you.

    I'm joining in again with 'Simply A Moment' - a blogging meme hosted by Alexa at Trimming the Sails, who  reminds us once a month to stop and document a fleeting moment of time.

    [To learn more you can read Alexa's tips on how to record your own moments and if you do join in, there's a link box on her November moment for you to add yours.]

    I actually forgot I was meant to consciously memorise a moment on the 15th ... until the 16th! And while Alexa always stresses that it's perfectly fine to choose another day ... when I thought back to the previous day to see if I could remember back to anything worth capturing ... one vivid, perfectly formed, moment leapt to mind.

    And this is it ...

    My Super-hero Sibling

    Date: Friday 15th November 2013
    Time: 12.30 pm-ish
    Location: Mam + Dad's hallway.

    The party preparations are fully underway now.

    Mam's juggling quiches, pies and finger food in the kitchen; Dad's sprinting around the house with a toolbox tending to last minute tasks and really, all that's left for Jo [the birthday girl] and I to do is the fancy bits:
    • pinning up the rows of comic-book style bunting we've been preparing for weeks;
    • finding the best spot for the paper pom-pom garlands;
    oh and ...
    • the small task of turning the hallway of a suburban house into a Tardis / superhero themed photo-booth complete with dressing-up box and props so ...
    ... not that much to do really ...  
    Every time a crowd-pleaser style song comes on the radio [an all request day on Radio 2 in aid of Children in Need] Mam asks Jo [who's created a 16 hour playlist for her party tonight]:

    "Have you got this one on there?"

    And every time Jo replies:

    "No" ... then shoots me a 'but I have got 16 hours worth of other songs on there and people are bound to like some of them' look.

    I move the step ladder into the hall so I can reach up to pin a pom-pom garland to the ceiling of the 'Tardis'. [As if, with all that time on his hands, the Doctor had taken up papercrafting.]

    Standing on the top of the three steps I manage to press the pin into the plaster and successfully hang the garland and then ...

    ... I start to tilt backwards ... and [no Dr.Who pun intended but ...] time begins to bend and to stretch out, giving me time to think a lot of things in just a few seconds.

    Things like:
    • Uh-oh ... this feels a bit unsafe ... but I'll be able to right myself in a second ... I always do. It'll be fine.
    Followed swiftly by ..
    • I'm flapping my arms like something in a cartoon ...
    • This isn't getting any better ... I'm still tipping backwards ...
    • OK ... there's nothing I more I can do about this ... this will either really hurt ... or else someone will just have to catch me!
    And with that ... I slipped off the ladder ...
    ... straight into my sister's arms!

    The second thing she said to me after her extraordinary catch was:

    "I quite literally 'had your back' there!!"

    And didn't she just?

    And ... if I was prone to sentimentality I would leave that story right there. On a profound, life-affirming note. All metaphorically perfect. She had my back then ... and always. Except ...

    ... I think I'd rather end this moment by telling you the first thing she said after she prevented me from falling backwards on to a hard floor as I think it gives a far more accurate portrayal of sibling relationships ...

    ... because, the first thing she said after grabbing me was:

    "Urgh!! I just touched your boob!!"

    Now that's what I've come to expect from a sister!


    If you'd like to read more 'moments' do drop by Alexa's ... and thank you for reading mine.

    Julie :-)

    Tuesday 12 November 2013

    Overheard: Just shooting the Bries.

    Hi hi.

    It's been a while since I shared an overheard so, what better way to jump back in than with a snippet of conversation about one of my favourite major food groups ... cheese ...

    Just shooting the Bries.

    When: Sometime this summer [uncharacteristically for me I didn't record the date of this one]
    Where: my housing estate

    What:  I was walking through, up, and out of the housing estate heading towards the shops one sunny afternoon this summer.

    A few metres in front of me two elderly men stood chatting, their shopping bags on the pavement between them.

    Well, when I say they were 'chatting' ... that might have been an overstatement.

    An exaggeration.

    There wasn't exactly a bubbling back 'n forth happening.

    In fact ... I rather got the feeling that I'd approached them just as they were reaching that point in a conversation where you realise that you have ab. so. lute. ly. NOTHING left to say!

    One of the men was standing silently, ever so slightly nodding in agreement, while the other [somewhat resigned to the desperate turn the conversation had taken] declared ...

    "Cheese ... cheese. Cheese. You can't beat cheese."
    Here's a photo of cheese. Enjoy! [p.s: Jean - does this count as a mention on my blog? You ate some of that cheese! ;-) ]
    Part of me wishes I'd heard more of the conversation ... so I'd know exactly what the question was ... for the answer to most emphatically be: cheese.

    But another part of me is glad that I'm now free to speculate!

    Had the other one asked: 'What's the best toastie filling?' OR 'the best mouse-bait'?

    Who knows?

    What do you think they were talking about? I'm sure you've got some creative interpretations!

    Julie :-)

    Friday 8 November 2013

    Blog book tour: Kirsty Neale's 'Hoop La!' [Or: my friend wrote a beautiful book, come look!]

    Hello, ahoy and welcome.

    You've reached another of the stops along the book tour celebrating the launch of 'Hoop La! 100 Things to do with Embroidery Hoops' by my good [and oh-so-talented] friend Kirsty Neale:
    While you're settling yourself in here, I should probably just mention that, if you've been following the other posts along the tour, then this post is a tiny bit different to some of those. Let me explain with one of those 'you-know-I-like-to-be-honest-with-you' disclaimer-ish type statements:
    1. Kirsty's publishers didn't send me the book for review purposes :: Kirsty sent it to me, pre-release - simply as a gift to a [very proud] friend.
    2. I didn't make one of the projects from it just so I could take part in this blog tour :: No, I made something from it long before the book tour was organised and purely because I needed to make something to take on a crafty holiday where friends and I planned to exchange handmade gifts. And, with a beautiful book containing 100 gloriously fresh ideas sitting on my desk, it seemed perverse to try to think up something of my own!
    3. I was not paid to take part and none of the links in this post are affiliate links.
    So, now the official bits are over and done with, how about we just look at the prettiness?

    Here's what I made:
    I fell in love with the 'Christmas Wreath' [which you can find on page 105 of Hoop-La!] so settled myself down in front of Elementary one night and made a start on recreating it.

    [It really is a wonder that I got anything done while Jonny Lee Miller vied for my attention on TV. But, hey, that's crafty-dedication for you.]
    Like many of the 100 ideas in the book, this project was easy to adapt to suit the supplies I already had to hand. Apart from the hoop itself I didn't need to buy anything new to make this.

    While I followed the design pretty closely, when it came to wrapping the hoop I did substitute Kirsty's original 'white yarn' for some fine parcel string I found a while ago which I'd been saving for the perfect project, and this was it!

    [Yes, you heard me correctly, I did just admit to saving some string for 'best'.]

    And, naturally I used beads from my own stash, but I did keep them to a very similar selection as those in the book as the project was already so nice I saw no need to reinvent the wheel hoop!
    As for the actual 'making of' part ... I actually followed Kirsty's instructions to the letter!

    This included gluing the beads as well as wrapping them on to the hoop: a step which I'd omitted at first ... until my carefully placed beads began migrating. Then I realised just how important and useful* it was ... which is when I went back and did as I was told!

    [*The lesson being: Kirsty knows best. 100 times.]

    All of which, as I'm someone prone to going off-piste [or even of wandering off down the road before we even get anywhere near the piste. And what is a piste anyway?] and doing my own creative thing without following the instructions, trust me, should be taken as a recommendation in itself!

    In short: I had a lot of fun making my version of Kirsty's Christmas Wreath.  I've long harboured a desire to try my hand at dry-stone-walling ... and this, with the way you get to arrange different shaped beads close to one another, was the next best thing.
    And I could do this not on a windswept hillside but indoors while watching Jonny Lee Miller.

    Which was a bonus.

    And finally ... those of you who've been visiting me here from the start won't need any explanation of why I'm beyond happy to be sharing details of a book by Kirsty Neale.

    You'll know that together we hosted a creative blog: The Copy & Paste Project [we never did decide which one of us was 'Copy' or who was 'Paste'] for two splendid years during which we shared all kinds of ways in which you could take inspiration from external sources to create wonderful new things of your own.

    And while we let that go a few years back I'm just thrilled at the way things have now come full circle [no hoop-based pun intended] ... 

    ... and now I get this chance to 'copy and paste' Kirsty!
    So, this stop on the book tour may not come from a place of complete and utter objective professionalism [heck, when we shared a blog we referred to one another as 'blog wife'!!!] ...  but you should know this:

    Being her friend and talking to her while she was making the book has made me keenly aware of the level of time, care and attention to detail she put into it.

    And the finished result certainly reflects that.
     But you don't need to take my word for it, to see for yourself you can:
    Thanks for spending some time at my stop on the tour today. I'll see you soon.

    Julie :-)