Friday 31 January 2014

My Month in Numbers 2014: January

Hi you.

We're 31 days into a shiny [if slightly damp] new year ... so how's it been so far? I hope it's been gentle with you.

[I also hope that I'm not the only one who hasn't quite managed to put the Christmas decorations back in the loft just yet too ... tell me I'm not alone ...]

If you've decided that 2014 is going to be the year you give this whole memory-keeping-by-numbers thing a go then you just need to follow the instructions on how to join in with My Month in Numbers ... and I'll be over to read your vital statistics soon after.

And please don't worry about getting things right (or wrong for that matter!) there aren't really many rules to follow and I'm actually pretty patient and hardly ever shout ... so no panicking! OK? OK. [btw: That wasn't shouting ... that's just how you spell 'OK'].

Anyway ... if you're just here to  say 'hi' and to read my numbers ... then 'hi' back at you, now allow me thrust the following under your nose ...

Let's start with the Communal Count questions [where we all document a number based on the same theme]

[a] How many new things did you try? Well, I didn't keep meticulous records on this one, but there were at least 5 which includes:
  1. spending 2 nights entirely alone [but more on that in a minute];
  2. tackling a Tax Return on my own;
  3. supporting a student in a chemistry lab [in my 7+ years on campus that's a new one on me];
  4. eating a hot pork pie [I've had plenty of cold ones ... but never one warmed! Wild and crazy times people! Wild. And. Crazy. Times.]
  5. and ... I dabbled in having vertigo when I lie down. And now, after showing no signs of improving after taking 23 tablets for it so far ... I'm a bit tired of that particular 'new' thing and would happily go back to boring old 'getting into bed without it feeling like I'm boarding a roller-coaster' feeling.
[b] How much did you pay for a loaf of bread this month? Well we paid £1.80 for a large 'Malted Grain Loaf' from Tesco, which makes good toast but ... we also paid £3.20 for a fancy artisan 'Carrot & Walnut' loaf from the beautiful Robineau cafĂ© where I had my birthday lunch. 

Now, let's get onto the rest of the numbers shall we?

8 = the number of days after Christmas 4 friends and I shared our traditional 'fake Christmas' where we took almost 2 hours to open our gifts!
Here's the detritus left behind after our 20+ presents had been opened. Crafters sure know how to make a pretty-coloured papery mess!
7 = the number of 'Only Connect' style quiz walls I created - using low-tech sticky notes - for a spot of post-New-Year-lunch-entertainment:
If you don't know Only Connect [a BBC4 quiz show] and it's fabulous 'Wall' round [where you have to sort the 16 things into groups of 4 linked themes] then do yourself a favour and watch a few if you can; if you're a quizzy/puzzley lover you'll love it.

And, even if you can't find any to watch then you can still play along with all the previous 'walls' online here.

You could even play along with the walls I created ... if I'd kept them somewhere ... I'll go look ....

15 crafters / 2 days / 2 meals out / 1 huge buffet = a crafting weekend away at the stunning Sneaton Castle in Whitby.

Organised by my ever-organising friend Jean [of 3DJean] this was a different kind of crafting break to the cosy cottage weekends we have twice yearly; more people, hotel-style accommodation and a larger work room for a start.

Here it is all tidy when we were just moving ourselves in:
  ... and here it is a few hours later, complete with more people, more boxes, more bags and more 'stuff':
And, after crafting [and eating, and drinking tea] in there all day I returned to my next number ... 
F10 = the room in which I spent 2 nights in. Alone.

As I've mentioned, there were 15 of us in total and, while everyone else paired-up and shared a room, being a bit of an introvert, I chose to stay in a room on my own. As I was going to be spending 12+ hours a day with other people I really wanted to secure myself a portion of empty space too!

So, as it was my decision I really didn't worry about being alone ... until I saw where my room was.

My building joined on to the one where the others were sleeping .... but there was no one else actually in my building!! And, if that wasn't bad enough ... see that dark ominous have-you-ever-seen-The-Shining corridor ...
... well guess whose room was at the bottom of it?

Now , maybe I've seen too many detective dramas in my time [OK, so there's no 'maybe' about it] but it's a well known fact that any woman on their own in a dark building [especially one near an old castle for goodness sake!!] will find herself dead at some point.

It's just how these things go.

So I was pretty convinced that I was bound to murdered at some point over the weekend ... as I  told James over the phone. And, such was the concern from someone who's watched an awful lot of Sherlock over the last few months, he replied:

"Well, if you do then at least make sure to leave behind a clue as to who did it."

Well ... who do you think it is I'm sitting next to while I'm watching all those detective dramas?

However, as you will have surmised, I lived not only to tell you [and maybe even slightly exaggerate on] the tale ... but to do some crafting too ...

3 layouts and 3 mini-albums added to [if not entirely finished]over the course of the weekend. It's not an overwhelming amount of work is it? In fact, I'm certain I spent more time eating than I did crafting.

22 = the number of items of clothing I wore to spend 2 hours outside on a windswept RSPB reserve watching a murmuration of starlings:
murmuration is where the birds fly together in huge groups, making strange and beautiful shapes in the air, before landing and roosting for the night. This was the 4th time we've attended the 'Soup & Starlings' event at RSPB Saltholme and the warm soup half way through was most welcome!
It was an absolutely amazing display this year - the guides estimated there were over 5000 birds which came so very close to where we were all seated: 
 ... so close in fact that at one point a bird flew through the gap between two people's heads!!
It was truly as if the birds knew we had come out especially to see them on a chilly January afternoon ... and they thought they'd put on a bit of a performance for us all.
This is my favourite shot of the day - where if you squint a bit - they formed [almost] a heart shape:   
And with that wonderful life-affirming way to begin a new year ... I'll set my numbers aside for another month.

Now it's your turn.

As I mentioned earlier 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 the best place to start.

But for now ... keep up the number-crunching and have a great February.

Julie x

Tuesday 28 January 2014

It's a Sign: Which side are *you* on?

Hi there.

You'll probably know this by now but ... I'm a bit obsessed with words.

They fascinate me.
  • I love to see what happens when I shuffle them together in a particularly pleasing order;
  • I love how they allow me to turn a simple sequence of 'events' into a narrative, a 'story' - something I can share;
  • and I love that they're both powerful and monolithic [after all, everything we think and say has passed through language at some point] ... and yet their completely flexible and accessible at the same time. Everyone can use them however they choose.
And I just can't work without them.

Everything I do, creatively speaking [blogging, writing, memory-keeping] revolves around words, words, lovely words, and so ...

... it's little wonder that I stopped to take a photo when I spotted the following contradictory lines of wordy graffiti, written along opposite walls of an alleyway in Newark-on-Trent.

I'm pretty sure I know which side I most readily agree with ... but how about you?

On which side of the wall do you stand?

Are you team: "Words are all we have"?
Or do you lean more towards:
"Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness"?

Or are you somewhere in between? 

The fact that each of these opposing phrases are accredited to the same writer - Samuel Beckett - may suggest it's possible to agree with both.

And surely it depends on the occasion?

Sometimes we need words; sometimes we need silence.

Either way you're going to have to use at least a few of them to leave me a comment letting me know where you stand ...

Julie :-)

Friday 24 January 2014

Scrapbooking: My Favourite Doctor

Hello you.

Do you remember the dressing-up photo-booth from my sister's birthday party last year?

You remember. The one with all the costumes and moustaches?

Moustaches which people on Facebook told me actually suited me. As if, in some way, that's what my face's been missing all these years?

Yes. That's the one!

Well, even though I was convinced I'd forgotten how to scrapbook ... and even though this page saw me chasing tiny scraps of paper around a page for what felt like an inordinately long time ... I've now begun scrapbooking some of those photo-booth photos. Starting with this one:
This was also my 3DJean Design Team project for the month and you can visit my full post, complete with product details here.

As a little New Year's gift this year I gave each member of my immediate family a photograph I'd printed off of each of them in an iconic moment of their 2013 and this was the one I chose for James.
I 'm really not a general Dr.Who fan ... I'm more of a 'very select few Doctors' fan as the journaling reveals ...
As for those little bits of paper I found myself pushing around until I just about got into my scrapping stride ...
... they were all from the Carta Bella 'Wildflower' collection which was my favourite range of 2013. So much so that I bought the whole set. And that never normally happens as I'm much more of a pick 'n mix girl!

Anyway, as for all those sections of blue diamantĂ© mesh [from 3DJean] I dotted around the page:
... well, how could I not use those?

Not when they were just the perfect shade of sonic-screwdriver-blue!

I hope the sight of a scrapbooking page here didn't shock you too much today ... I know it's been a while! ;-)

Have a great weekend.

Julie x

Friday 17 January 2014

Simply a Moment: January 2014 'If the clothes don't fit ...'

Hello there.

 For a moment [no pun intended] there, after I'd remembered to pause to document a fleeting moment of time ... after I'd scribbled down some notes ... and after I'd typed up some more coherent lines ...I realised I hadn't asked if Alexa at Trimming the Sails was going to be continuing the Simply A Moment meme into the New Year.

But fortunately she is  ... so here's mine ...

[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 first moment of 2014 for you to add yours.]

'If the clothes don't fit ...'

Date: Wednesday 15th January 2014
Time: 10am
Location: 1st floor chemical engineering laboratory

I'm wearing a lab coat.

Which is unusual for me.

I mean, that's generally the kind of outfit I like to keep for special occasions; like Christmas, birthdays and new episodes of Sherlock. Oh and ... when I also have to attend a science lab with the latest student I'm supporting.

According to the blue marker pen letter, written inside the collar, this coat's an 'M'. On a 'man-sized' scale too I reckon.

Only I'm not.

The sleeves are so long that I've had to fold them back several times ... so I'm pretty sure that I'm looking as casually-chic as a model in a GAP advert.

Either that or like a toddler playing dress-up as a scientist.


Slightly self conscious about hovering around my student while she works I focus my gaze on the experiment being demonstrated and sink my hands into the coat pocket.

There's a  pen in there and my fingertips detect the rough texture and irregular surface of a lid that's been chewed.

And it's not my pen.

I quickly let go and make a note-to-self to keep my hand out of that pocket for the rest of the morning.

Last week, when on my first visit to this lab the tutor asked: "So, what's your background?" my immediate and only reply was: "Not this".

And I wasn't exaggerating.

I look around and realise that, bar my student's plum-coloured nail varnish and a bag of sugar over there on the scales ... almost everything else in this environment is foreign to me.
  • All the need for accuracy is alien to me -- I use my ruler as a straight-edge ... hardly ever to actually do something as boring as 'measuring'.
  • And the machines look so complex I can't even make a guess (educated or otherwise) as to what you'd use them for --  my ATG gun and Big-Shot are the only machines I need to use for work! [Although, to be fair, have you ever tried putting in an ATG tape refill? That's been know to take up 2 whole minutes of my crafting time!]
  • And there isn't a dusty old book nor an opportunity to roll a well crafted phrase around your brain in sight -- like I say, my experience is definitely 'not this'.
In light of all this ...

... it seems rather appropriate that this lab coat simply doesn't fit me.


Well, that's my moment for January. Don't forget to visit Alexa's to catch-up on some more moments from around Blogworld.

I'll see you soon.

Julie :-)

Friday 10 January 2014

Overheard: A birthday in the balance

Hi hi.

Yesterday I was walking to the Post Office [so many of my posts here begin with that scenario don't they? You going to have to trust me that I also walk at other times.]

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes .. on the way to the Post Office. Of course.

And along the way I was heading toward a little boy [around 5] and his mother who was pushing a buggy with a toddler inside. And here's what I overheard ...
Date: 09.10.14
Time: 15.20 ish
Location: On the way to the Post Office, haven't you been listening to anything I've said?

Mother to little boy walking along the edge of the curb: "Stop that now, come on" [I think she was aware that he was almost blocking my way past].

Little boy: "I'm just doing my balancing".

Mother: "Well you shouldn't be doing your balancing next to the road. Now come on."

At this they passed behind me and I couldn't see what happened next ... although, from what she said next,  I'm guessing he didn't quite stop ...

Mother [in a firm-but-not-too-mean voice]: "You won't get a birthday cake if you don't do what you're told."

And, considering I'm another with a January birthday [today in fact!] ... it really touched a nerve with me!!

Now then ... I haven't been balancing dangerously on anything today? Does that mean I get my cake now?
Me celebrating my birthday - with cake - at the crop in 2009.  @Hannah - how was this 5 years ago???
Julie :-)

Monday 6 January 2014

2013: A Year in Bad Portraits

Hi you. I'm starting a new tradition ... and you're welcome to join me ... if you dare.

Over the last few weeks I haven't been able to turn around in Blogland without falling headlong into any number of  '2013 in photos' year-in-review type posts. And the very ubiquity of them almost led me to putting one together myself ... but then I thought:

"But ... I blogged my Month in Numbers 12 times during 2013 [and in 2012, 11 and 10 for that matter] complete with photos ... so, if I did summarise my whole year, I'd only be repeating myself. There's really not much my online visitors haven't seen."

And that's when I heard it.

A little mischievous voice in my ear. A sort of juvenile devil on my shoulder whispering ...

"Well ... they haven't seen every photo of you Julie. What about all those ones you didn't tweet, blog, Facebook?

The ones that didn't pass the usual criteria.

You know the ones I mean? The unflattering ones, the ones where you look freaky, weird or possessed. Or all three at once.

The ones you never thought you'd show anyone ... there's always those. People would like to see those you know?"  

And it wasn't wrong about that.

When I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was considering posting an 'out-takes' type post where I'd share some of my less-than-perfect selfies and portraits well ...

... let's just say the idea received a fairly enthusiastic response from which I'm surmising that those who replied are either:

[a] being selflessly supportive of my blogging ideas ... or else ...
[b] they just reeeeeeaaalllly wanted to see me looking ridiculous.

Which seemed fair enough to me.

I'd have said the same if they'd been suggesting it!

Who wouldn't?
January 2013: 'I'm ready for my close-up now. Oh my. Now that is close isn't it?'
I'm happy to admit that throughout my entire time online I have - and will unashamedly continue to do so - shared photos of myself looking what I consider my best. [Or looking 'passable' at the very least!]. And I will happily go on taking new profile pics etc which are shot from a flattering angle; in good light; preferably behind a light blanket of make-up ... and with just the merest of photo-editing tweaks going on afterwards too!

So, yes, you could say I make an effort to present myself in a good light [literally] yet, what that giggling, perverse, little voice in my ear made me realise is: I enjoy sharing life's imperfections with you and [hopefully] raising a giggle even more and so ...  

... while this was initially meant to be a reflective post, to round-up an old year ... instead, here it is,  as my first real blog-content of the year. A post in which I'll dance like a monkey [metaphorically speaking that is. Come on now, leave me with one scrap of dignity in tact will you?] for your viewing pleasure.

Let's consider this as me starting as I mean to go on shall we? 

For the record ... and with some regret ... let me assure you that none of these were meant to be 'funny' photos at the time they were taken. That just happened naturally ...

May 2013: New hair cut, new dress, the end of a lovely meal to celebrate our anniversary, I had nothing in the world to be worried about ... not that you'd ever guess any of that from this look:
In modelling circles I believe this pose is referred to as 'the anxious guinea-pig'.
July 2013: Weekend break; unusually [for a British Summer] we had glorious sunshine and actual heat!
Which was great for my spirits and my vitamin D levels ... but less amazing for my hair
Here the humidity wreaked havoc with my locks leaving me looking less 'English rose' and more 'American rock guitarist from a 1980s hair band':

August 2013: This may have only been taken 5 months ago ... but already it's raising a questions to which I just can't recall answers. Questions like 'Why did I take my camera to the restaurant toilet with me in the first place?' [let's all hope it was just in my bag with me] but, more importantly: 'Why am I looking so utterly, nay - insanely - delighted about being in a public loo?'

p.s: that lovely lady who looks appropriately wary of being trapped in a small space with me is my sister. You didn't think I'd randomly take an insane photo of myself in the toilet with a stranger did you? What do you take me for? ...

October 2013: Thinks to self: 'I'll capture this glorious autumnal blue sky and sunshine with a nice selfie of me in the foreground with Mam behind. It'll be charming.'  Or, y'know ... I could just look evil instead ...

November 2013: This is a slight twist on the 'anxious guinea-pig' look I was seemingly so good at last year. What can I say? It comes naturally to me.
Also ... when I was taking up the hem of my dress I tested out the new length by sitting, standing and bending but the one thing I forgot to check was how short it would be should I ever get spun around while dancing with my aunty. I'll know next time.

And finally ... ever since I met James he's had a habit of snatching a photo of me while I've been eating. Mid-bite.

His excuse is that it's the one time when he can guarantee that I'll:
  1. be sitting still long enough for him to get the exact shot he's seeking and
  2. be unable to complain to him about how long he takes to set up the shot!
Hence our albums are peppered with countless charming portraits like these. Ones where you can never quite be sure if that food is just going into ... or just making its way out of my mouth ...
Pleasant no?


Then you're really not going to like my final #Bad Portrait of 2013.

If I can pass on one tip; one nugget of advice I've gleaned from looking back over my Year in Bad Portraits then it's this:

May 2013: Don't, under any circumstances, allow a camera anywhere near you while you're attempting to eat tagliatelle in public ...
... unless unlike me, you're happy with the idea that it could result in there being a photo in  which you'd look something like a tortoise in the throes of passion!
Don't ever say I don't provide a public service here!
So, I hope you enjoyed my Year in Bad Portraits but hey ... don't think you're getting away with things that easily!
I'm seriously asking you to consider either:
  1. going back through your photo files for 2013 to share some of your own finer moments too OR ...
  2. Go right now and put "2014: A Year in Bad Portraits" on your calendar as a 'thing to blog' for December this year, I have, then in 11 months time we can hold each other's hands while we bare all.
  3. [Edited to add: You know I'm only talking about those photos which you are happy to laugh about don't you? I'm really not suggesting you post anything that makes you feel bad about yourself ... I wouldn't want that at all.] 
And if you just can't bring yourself to share a ropey old shot of yourself then ...
  • how about at least leaving me a comment today?
  • even if you don't leave me another all year;
  • just to let me know you that you saw and [maybe] smiled. How about it? 

Happy 2014 everyone. I know we'll never make it a perfect year ... but how about we try to wring out a laugh from those imperfections whenever we can? Deal?
Julie x   

Wednesday 1 January 2014

My Month in Numbers Communal Count #6: Jan 2014

First things first ... Happy New Year to you!

Welcome he first Communal Count of 2014; I know those of us who've joined in with this number-based way of comparing our everyday lives have discovered some interesting similarities ... and differences over the last 6 months since it began ... so I've decided to keep it going for now.

If you're new to the Communal Count [maybe you've made resolution to join in My Month in Numbers throughout 2014] then well done you - you've made a winning start. You're here. I'm here. All you need to do now is take note of what we're going to calculate during January then share the results at the end of the month ... so here's what we're looking out for:
 What do you think? I like to try to mix a broad question with a specific one so you can choose which suits you best. Join in with one or both ... I really don't mind! Then ....
... at the end of January 2014 [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.
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].

For now I'll leave you to your loaf pricing and new thing trying ... and I'll see you soon.

Julie :-)