Tuesday 30 June 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: June

Hello hello.

It's that time of the month again, no, the other one; the time where we gather to us all those numbers who've had an impact on how we spent the last 30 days. [If you're intrigued enough to learn more then do visit here].

But, before we begin ... have you heard of Leon Day?

And no,it's not a long forgotten X-Factor winner or that boy who joined your class in the middle of the year when you were 7 and then never came back the following term and whose name you can never recall when looking back at your class photo of that year.

No, apparently - and I only learned this on the day itself, 25th June, this year - is the name given to the mid-point in the calendar when Christmas starts to get nearer; Leon is 'Noel' spelled backwards.

And yes, Christmas is always getting nearer [scarily so in fact] but Leon Day marks the mid point of the year when there are fewer days of 2015 left until the whole gift-giving, cheese-eating, sherry-drinking shindig kicks off again. And, if you're reading this on June 30th then that means you've got 177 days to get your list-making, sellotape-tearing, mince-pie-lifting muscles ready.

I've already made a start ...

171 days before December 1st = when I began working on Christmas themed projects for Papercraft Inspirations magazine.
I'm not complaining about the work ... but it takes a conscious shift in attitude and craftiness to face the mistletoe and holly in June! Oh by gosh by golly.

But enough festive talk for now, let's enjoy the summer first shall we?

100% illuminated = the full moon on 2nd June which conveniently lined itself up with our front window:
I'm not a regular lunar observer [insert your own 'lunatic' joke here] but how could I miss this perfectly positioned one peeking over my hills? You probably can't tell from this photo but the light is was emitting somehow made everything in between me and it look flat - giving the whole town the feel of a stage set or painted backdrop.

And while we're on the topic of wonderful staging ...

7 + 1006 = the number of episodes in BBC's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell adaptation which ended on Sunday and the number of pages in the novel ... which I finally finished! 
Even though I knew how it all panned out I was very often breathless watching the series. I loved it. Wholeheartedly, unreservedly, ohmygoodnessbuymetheDVDnow-ly. But, having read the book, I have no idea if it made sense to anyone who hadn't! 

If, after watching it, you do feel like tackling everyone of those 1006 pages what I can say is the adaptation doesn't cover everything that happens [how could it without being a year long?] but ... the majority of the scenes it does cover are very true to the text; impressively, how-did-they-get-into-my-head-that-looks-exactly-how-I-pictured-it true in fact. Enjoy!

And while we're on the subject of brilliant TV ...

  • after 5 glorious years [since 2010]
  • after 6 gripping seasons 
  • and after 78 near-perfection episodes... this month we reached the last ever episode of Justified.
There were moments during those final 45 minutes where I'm pretty certain I stopped breathing. 

I'd hate to spoil the end for anyone not yet caught up but let me just say ... if - over the previous 3510 minutes - you've invested a good deal of your time and emotional energy into the relationship between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder ... then the final ever 6 words of dialogue will definitely have an impact! 

[So much so my sister and I considered - for about 30 seconds any way - having them tattooed on our arms! I've just watched that scene again - there's a clip on Youtube - and I still got goosebumps!] 

Speaking of goosebumps ...

AA11 = the seat number I've grabbed for when I go to see Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Barbican.  

Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet no less.

I know!

I can feel my blood pressure rising just typing that phrase ... and there's several weeks to pass before I actually go ... and there's no question that I'll be mentioning this to you again before then [and after then. and then ongoing for the rest of my life. In short, I'm going to be insufferable.] and so ... I won't go on I'll just throw in one more related number before I go and apply a cold flannel to face.

£10 = the price of the Hamlet tickets. 
The regular tickets sold out long ago but I was deliriously surprised a fortnight ago to win a place in a draw I'd entered to be able to buy 2 x £10 tickets. 

Sounds like a bargain doesn't it?

Ah my friend ... but that's because you haven't yet worked out what a return train ticket plus 3 nights stay in a London hotel for 2 costs these days ... 

6 inches = how much of my hair I had lopped off:
After having the same style for a few years it was time for a change! And it hurt the lady in the highlight foils, sitting behind me in the salon, more than it hurt me.

Once my 'do' was done she declared: "It's lovely. But having all that lovely thick hair and then cutting it all off?!!!!"

My stylist - who I've trusted with my locks for the last 8-ish years replied breezily: "Oh, it's what we do. She grows it and then we cut it all off again".

Exactly! That's what hair's for isn't it?

The 5 minute rule = a new Facebook hoop for page owners to jump through/ shake their heads, roll their eyes at and continue on as before. 
I tend to get more comments than direct messages to my Facebook page but people do occasionally get in touch privately to ask or share something and that's great. And, where it's appropriate to answer [and, trust me, it's not always appropriate to answer ... the phrase 'feeding the troll' springs to mind] I do so as soon as I'm in the 'dropping by to Facebook' mood. 

I had a couple of messages this month and here - below my photo - is Facebook's assessment of how I did:
I answered 100% of my messages within 1 hour.

Now, I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty good communication.. Especially as it's a page about paper and crafting and old books and silly stories ... and not a medical emergency helpline!!

So, I might think that's a decent response time and you might be happy with that if it's you I'm replying to ... but how does Facebook feel about it?

If you visited me on my 'With Julie Kirk' page last week you'll have seen my mini rant about this because - in order for my page to bear the banner of 'Very Responsive To Messages' I'll have to buck up my ideas, because here's their criteria:
I need to answer messages, on average, 55 minutes faster than I do now!

Next time you have to wait in A+E for four hours to have your elbow X-rayed, or in a Doctor's surgery, like I did last week, for over 25 minutes after your appointment time has come and gone ...

... then do spare a thought for all those poor people on Facebook who are waiting over 5 minutes for a reply to their messages!  However do they cope?

2 = visits to the ever-splendid Olde Young Teahouse [Middlesbrough]:
Once time was to have lunch with my Mam and another was a Saturday morning pot of tea and a scone with James:
 And 'H' I know you missed my cake-based-statistics last month and I know you're good-old-fashioned-English-tearoom deprived right now ... so this one's just for you ...

A slice of 'Crunchie' cake which I took away with me to have at teatime!

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley = the book I'm currently reading [and taking notes from in an equally colourful notebook!]
I'm absolutely going to write a book one day. It might not be a novel as such, but whatever it turns out to be, Smiley's book breaks it down making it all seem infinitely doable.

Not easy. Not by any means. But possible. But let me finish reading this book first before I start writing my own!

And finally ...
Let's end on an event this month that combined 4 of my favourite things in the world ...

This was the scene following the end of The History Wardrobe's presentation of 'Fairytale Fashion' - can you spot Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother there?
You'll have heard me mention The History Wardrobe ladies before as I went to their 'women and the Great War' event last summer. If you're anywhere near the North East of England then do check out their other dates and presentations. Personally I've got my eye on 'Gothic for Girls'!

And those 4 favourite things it combined?

  1. Fashion ... naturally. What's not to love about experts talking about fashion history?
  2. Fairytales / folklore / story-telling. I love the fact that starting sometime once upon a time we became a species that creates tales and then shares them down the line for hundred, thousands of years to come. 
  3. History, especially social/women's history. Until they pointed it out in this presentation I don't think I've ever noticed how many fairytales feature sewing and cloth-making - all traditionally female pastimes. Plus any presentation that mentions Versailles is bound to entertain me [I have an inexplicable 'thing' for it!]. And lastly ...
  4. Public libraries!! That lovely old book-lined room in the photo above is Middlesbrough libraries Reference floor; isn't it splendid? and a perfect setting for a night of historical storytelling. 
And finally ... here's a rare treat that the History Wardrobe ladies brought with them to demonstrate the style of dress in certain versions of Cinderella ....

An original 18th Century skirt! 
When do you ever get to see something this old and ornate that isn't locked away behind museum glass? Such a treat to get up close and personal with it!!! 
It was not the kind of item we think of as a 'skirt' but a decorative front section that would have formed part of a dress when worn with another piece called a 'robe'. Apparently they couldn't buy the whole outfit and the robe part was purchased by someone who intended to cut it up and make dolls clothes with it. 

Horrifying I know. But ... erm ...when it comes to cutting up old things ... I'm in no position to judge; let she who is without crafty-sins throw the first stone! 

And I think we'll end it there!


As ever if you want to join in the number game and share your own, you're welcome to [there's lots of inspiration and tips here if you need them]. Just remember to leave me a comment to say 'hi' while you're dropping off your link. [Otherwise it can feel a little bit like you're one of those people who just sits outside beeping the horn so that I'll come out to your car, rather than you taking a minute to come to my door to greet me!] 

And I'll see you again in July. Or at Christmas ... whichever comes sooner [like I say ... it always seems to be almost Christmas!]

Julie :-)

Friday 26 June 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015: the town centre edition

Hello hello.

Ever since last summer I've been looking forward to joining in with the scavenger hunt again! This will be the third time I've joined in with the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt created by Rinda from the Gallo Organico blog and if you want to join in too, you can, Rinda is happy to have you.

You can blog your finds, share them on Instagram with the hashtag  #‎rindas2015photohunt or join the Facebook group. Plus Rinda also blogs some of those photos that have caught her eye throughout the hunt and she blogs posts where you can link up your successes too. 

I like the hunt because of two seemingly opposite factors:

  1. that it gives your summer snapping a structure - in finding things which match the 21 categories listed.
  2. while at the same time providing you with more free-form opportunities, excuses even, to go out wandering with your camera 'just because', to see whatever it is you'll see, to let serendipity have its way with you and to capture it all on film [well, in pixels more likely!].
So let's kick off with my first round of finds. I've crossed off those I've found so far [although they wont all be in this post].
Earlier in the month James and I went into the town centre mainly so we could have curry at the Middlesbrough Mela festival for lunch. Only it turned out that ... due to the unusually high winds happening around lunchtime... the curry stalls were prevented from opening on health and safety reasons!

You'd think that anyone selling curry would be used to strong wind by now wouldn't you? [Too far?]. But I digress ...

... so, while we were in the vicinity anyway we did a spot of 'tourist in your own town' wandering around with our cameras and here's the categories I managed to scavenge from that day .. 

6. A metal bridge
There's something of the 'old Middlesbrough' the Infant Hercules about the riveted steel on the ornate Albert bridge that runs into the train station:
And then, 2 minutes away, something entirely 'new Middlesbrough' in the sharp lines of this metal walkway between buildings in the digital and creative Boho zone:

9. A tent
Three colourful promotional stalls at the Mela festival in Centre Square.

10. A college or university
This was always going to be the easiest item for me to find ... it's where I work from time to time. I managed to somehow lose/delete the photo I wanted to share - of a new building in progress - so this one  - with its funny bobbly things on the side is the next best thing:

11. A cellular tower or television satellite dish
Also on campus these were spotted at the tippermost top of the 10 storey tower building:

12. A public restroom, bathroom, or toilet
Inside the MIMA gallery:
 As soon as I saw this category on the list I knew I wanted to capture the acid yellow of the art gallery's loos. Clearly I've paid their toilets too much attention ...

13. A merry-go-round or carousel
How about 3?
Taken from the 2nd floor outside deck of MIMA before the Mela festival got started.

And while we were up on the deck I grabbed ....

16. A panoramic view, taken while standing someplace high in the air
Up above the streets and houses ... [British 80s kids I'm pretty sure how you just finished that sentence! ;-) ]. I love the outline of the hills in the distance , quite different from the much closer view of them I get from my workroom window.

So that's 7 out of 21. A third of the list duly scavenged; plus there's another item I found on the same day but I'm holding that one back for a later post.  

All in all not a bad start ... especially considering they're all from one morning/afternoon's wanderings and I've found one of the 'alternatives' in case I can't find all 21 on the main list. So I'm feeling pretty positive that I'll have an album full of summertime scavenger hunt photos by the time September looms into view.

Also before September there's June's Month in Numbers post - my regular monthly round-up in statistics - heading this way, so I'll see you at the end of the month. 


Friday 19 June 2015

Card making: Make a card for a man using an acetate overlay. Plus 3 ideas to steal.

Hello hello.

It's Father's Day on Sunday meaning there's still a couple of days left to make a card if you're that way inclined. And if you're not one for lots of layering or die-cutting then here's an idea for a simple Dad-friendly card using acetate.

This is the card I gave my Dad for his birthday this year:
As he's interested in all things astronomical I thought this map of the stars would be ideal as a base. And, as it's simply a sheet of 6x6 patterned paper from the Basic Grey Aurora range, all I had to do was tear it off the pad and stick it on to a 6x6 card. How's that for a quick and easy first layer?

To introduce a little more detail I added a square of star design acetate on top securing it with a few strips of washi-tape and a length of string threaded through holes I punched through the card/paper/acetate.

[The acetate was left over from the Luxury Foiled Acetate 'Rainbow Collection' that Hunkydory sent me to use in my '10 Ways with Acetate' feature in a recent issue of Papercraft Inspirations magazine].
And the finishing touch - as it so often is for me - was a snippet I'd set free from an old children's encyclopedia:
3 ideas to steal and use on a card of your own:
  1. Use the whole sheet: if you come across a 6x6 paper that has a fancy, all over design, that you can't bring yourself to cut into ... don't! Just stick it straight onto a card and you're almost done! For a card to be special it doesn't necessarily need to have lots of layers. How many layers are there on the majority of cards you'd buy from a shop?
  2. Fix acetate down using washi tape: forget about trying to 'hide' all evidence of adhesive somewhere under an embellishment wher eit won't be seen; just use some attractive tape to hold it in place. So much easier! 
  3. Personalise your sentiment by finding the 'right words' in an old book: thinking of something other than 'Happy Birthday' to say can be a challenge, so simply find yourself a book you don't mind cutting into and browse for a phrase that will say it for you. It can really show your recipient that it was them specifically you were thinking about when you made the card and that it wasn't just another generic greeting. 
And if you really can't face cutting into a book, let me do it for you - there's lots of vintage paper pack options in my shop and if there's nothing there that quite suits, you can commission your own custom collection of pages. Just get in touch and both me - and my collection of old books - will be happy to help out!

Enjoy your weekend. 


Thursday 11 June 2015

Portable Magic. I've been disappearing into novellas: The Mussel Feast & The Library of Unrequited Love

Hi hi, settle in with a cuppa, we've got another a few books to disappear into ...

And if it's an especially portable book you're looking for - perhaps to take on your summertime travels - then today's collection of lightweight, read-in-a-few-sittings, novellas might be just the thing.

Maybe if I was a bit slicker [or any amount of 'slick' in fact] I would pretend to you that I'd read these two books one after the other as careful research for a feature about monologues delivered in the novella format by European female authors.

But slick is not my middle name. [Thank goodness. Doesn't really fit with 'Kirk' does it? And what would my parents have been thinking?!]

Anyway, yes ... back to slick planning and novellas ... while I absolutely did read these books, back-to-back, one right after the other, there was no grand plan involved.

With books [as with many many things in my life] I'm more of a browser than a planner. More fond of the delight of serendipity than the logarithms of 'if you liked X then you might like Y'.

And so it was that, by providence rather than design, I ended up reading two books in a row - The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and The Library of Unrequited Love  by Sophie Divry - both of which just so happened to use the novella format to deliver a monologue spoken by a female narrator.

Both simply happened to catch my eye, from their shelves in two different libraries, and I just picked them out and read them. Which didn't take me very long at all seeing as how - put together they total a mere 208 pages between them!

Chances are, that after carrying around several whopping, shoulder straining, 500, 600, 1000+ pagers with me this year ...  it was their slim profile that appealed to me most!

How about we dip into them now?

The Mussel Feast ¦¦ Birgit Vanderbeke
Trigger warning: this book - and my review of it - contains themes of domestic abuse.

This book has been translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch and, according to the publisher Peirene Press it's "the modern German classic that has shaped an entire generation."

Here's how it's described on their website:
"A mother and her two teenage children sit at the dinner table. In the middle stands a large pot of cooked mussels. Why has the father not returned home? As the evening wears on, we glimpse the issues that are tearing this family apart."
And here's a note from the author herself:
'I wrote this book in August 1989, just before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to understand how revolutions start. It seemed logical to use the figure of a tyrannical father and turn the story into a German family saga.' Birgit Vanderbeke
As those descriptions might suggest this is a lightweight book in grams/ounces alone! The subject matter is certainly heavier and darker although the harder elements of the story kind of sneak up on you as you're reading.

The lone voice we hear throughout this book is that of a teenage girl, and we only ever hear the story from her point of view; however, while no one else has direct dialogue we do hear from other people through the filter of her limited understanding and her child's naivete. Here she introduces us to her father - the character who looms large over the entire monologue even though we don't hear from him personally:

"We already knew that my father was a brilliant and highly influential speaker; he was known for, and very proud of, his extraordinary didactic skills which he unfurled during these lectures. He also possessed a very winning and endearing manner with the public, a natural charm in addition to his expertise in one of the most difficult and controversial areas of science. This endearing manner with the public softened the rigour of his expertise, and audiences were consistently delighted by the lectures and by my father himself." 

At first glance this sounds pretty over-the-top and you might wonder what kind of teenager - outside of an Enid Blyton story or an etiquette book from the 1950s - would actually describe their father in such glowing, reverential terms??  But as the monologue continues our narrator - unknowingly - reveals more about her father's true nature and we begin to realise that the kind of teenager who would say such things ... is a frightened one. One who's being controlled, brainwashed?, to not question the way of life he forces upon everyone in his household.

When describing how her mother's hands are red from repeatedly scrubbing the eponymous mussels she lets slip the reason why such care has been taken: "since my father couldn't bear the crunch of sand between his teeth". And later her mother tells the children to stop helping because: "if there’s any sand in them then at least neither of you will be to blame". 

After this our adult, experienced, ears are on alert for other alarm bells indicating just what an unpredictable, demanding, unpleasant and abusive man the father actually is.

Cleverly and rather painfully all while the author is dropping us hints about just what kind of man the father is she maintains the voice of the teenager who - like so many children who've grown up in abusive homes - doesn't realise that what she's describing to us is NOT the norm in most homes. She doesn't know that we hear something quite different to what she thinks she's told us. She doesn't know that the family activities and experiences she relates to us don't happen in homes that aren't ruled by a controlling parent.

But we do realise it. And, if you're anything like me ... you'll want to rescue her and her family from him. Get them out from beneath his tyranny.

When the book begins he's already late and they're wondering where he could be - and you too may spend the next 100 or so pages hoping that he won't return home; that something, anything, will prevent him. Or you hope that, even if he does come home, that somehow they'll join together to fight back, to overthrow him, and at last they'll be set free from his oppressive regime.

And suddenly you'll understand why Vanderbeke used a domestic, small scale, tale to explore the idea of a wider national revolution, as the author herself stated.  Maybe many of us can't conceive of what it would be like to decide to overthrow an entire political regime ... but perhaps, in this setting, we can imagine wanting to be free from an individual.

This may be a very thin, speedy, read - but The Mussel Feast really does provide a lot of food for thought. And both its subject matter and its clever [if necessarily claustrophobic and narrow] narrative technique really does linger longer than its fleeting length might at first suggest.

Strangely enough ... and adding to the already huge coincidence of reading two monologue-based novellas by European female authors ... this next book also concerns itself with notions of revolution. Not that you'd guess it from the rather cutesy title ...

The Library of Unrequited Love ¦¦ Sophie Divry
Our narrator in Divry's monologue [translated from the French by Si├ón Reynolds] is a middle-aged, over-looked librarian whose contempt for Napoleon Bonaparte - who she calls a "barbarian and tyrant" - is matched only by her love for a student called Martin who frequents the library.

The entire book is a one-sided conversation she has with a man who's been locked in the library overnight and, after her initial annoyance of his presence wears off, she launches into using him as a sounding board for her stream of thought, which is the entire book.

Here she's often critical of men ranging from Melvil Dewey [he of the Dewey-decimal system of book organising] to "men making marks in books" and architects who've historically not spared a thought for the people who need to work in their buildings [her area of the library is dark and tucked away].  But it's a different matter when she's rhapsodising about Martin; here [from page 26] she's talking about that part of his body she finds herself admiring while he sits reading; the back of his neck:
"Yes, intimate, It's the part of the body you can never see for yourself. A few inches of neck, with a trace of down, exposed to the sky, the back of the head, the last goodbye, the far side of the mind."
But it's not just Martin who stirs her passions. There's a lot of talk of revolution from a historical perspective in this book [she is running the history section after all] but it's also revolution from a cultural stand point. Some of my favourite, expressive, parts of the book are where our narrator champions the role of books and libraries within society:
"Well, anyway, libraries do attract mad people. Especially in summer. Of course, if you closed the libraries during the summer holidays you wouldn't see them. No more lunatics, poor people, children on their own, students who've failed their exams, no more little old chaps, no more culture and no more humanity." [page 62]
"Help yourself, it's free. Borrow, because as much as accumulation of material things impoverishes the soul, cultural abundance enriches it. My culture doesn't stop where someone else's begins. I fact, the library is the place where the greatest solidarity between humans takes place. Humanity, in its most depressing and suffering state, the  most beautiful humanity there is, actually, the sinners, the unemployed, the cold weather refugees, they're all around me here, Knock and it shall be opened." [page 67]
I love this!!! I'm a huge fan of libraries and there's no doubt 'cultural abundance' has enriched my soul and - more pragmatically - my bank balance! I simply wouldn't have read the breadth of stories and I'd never have risked so many unknown quantities if I'd been paying for them.

But I think I'll leave that train of thought there for now ... I think my love of the library deserves a post dedicated solely to it sometime soon!

If either of these titles has grabbed you, or if you'd just like to ponder furher on the short, condensed, almost poetic nature of the novella structure then here's some further  topical 'cultural abundance' for you!

On The Mussel Feast:
On The Library of Unrequited Love:
And on the format of the 'novella' in general [might help you if you're looking for additional easy-to-carry, quick-to-read books]:
If you do read / have read any of today's titles  - or if you've got a great novella to recommend - then let me know in the commets. 

Thanks for stopping to chat over a good book with me today. See you soon.


This is another post in my Portable Magic series ... 

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Vintage Treasure: notes from a 1909 cookery class

Hi you.

It's September 17th 1909...

In London the Selfridges department store has only been open for 6 months, and newer still is the Victoria & Albert museum.  Louis Bleriot has only just crossed the English Channel in a biplane and while it'll be 5 years before such planes are put to work in the First World War, closer to home there's another war raging. In the women's suffrage movement - on this very day - the force-feeding of imprisoned suffragettes has just begun.

But at the same time, on the same day, another woman, possibly a schoolgirl - although we don't find out her name - takes out a new notebook, picks up her pen and begins taking notes on a cookery class, starting with a recipe for 'Beef Olives' ...
First page. Vintage handwritten cookery book.
And so begins the first entry on the first page of this wonderful vintage notebook which, at over 100 years old, is a true, antique treasure.

[If this notebook steals your social-history/food-loving heart then it can be yours. Head here to make it yours. Edited to add: this lovely thing is now heading to a new owner, on a different continent and so its 116 year journey rolls onward ...]
If you're a cook / baker with an interest in history, you'll love leafing through recipes which take up 8 pages /16 sides in the handsome E.J.Arnold & Son notebook.
And if you're a food blogger then just imagine blogging the process of following and sharing each of the [approx 28] recipes inside! Wouldn't that make an interesting blog series!! Kind of an antique take on the 'Julie & Julia' blog!

The beautifully hand written script details the ingredients and instructions to make a variety of dishes such as:

Chester Pudding:
And also Bishop's Pudding, Sultana Cake, Shortbread, Chicken Coquettes, Rissoles, Potato Soup,
Welsh Cheese Cakes, Pork Pies, Sausage Rolls, Apple Fritters and Lemon Tarts:
Who knows what happened to the young woman who took these notes ...

  • Did she make these dishes for her husband before he picked up his uniform and headed to the trenches? 
  • Did she get a job in a stately home feeding her recipe for 'Filleted Plaice' to the likes of Lady Mary at Downton Abbey? 
  • Did she have daughters with whom she shared a celebratory 'Steamed Sultana Pudding' the day - 19 years later - that all women received thevote? 
We'll never know ... but we can enjoy speculating!

And, if you did make this book your own [now sold] you can always make your own history inside it by continuing the book where it left off: the second half of the book, the remaining 8 leaves have been left blank ...
... so perhaps they're just waiting for you to complete them with your own recipes, or memories, or art work?

Or else you can just continue to keep this piece of social history safe and sound ... and maybe even keep it alive by trying out some of the recipes from time to time!

And with this handsome illustration from the back cover ...
I'll close the book.

Thanks for stopping by to browse another of my vintage treasures today.


Sunday 7 June 2015

Book binding: Handbound *Little Books* - reclaimed pages pre-loaded with inspiration

Hi hi.

Let me show you my 'Little Books' [Books. I said, *books*! What did you think I said?].

Here's a selection of them currently awaiting a new owner in my Etsy shop:

*Little Books* are a range of, well, little books!

I made them to fit into your pocket - unless of course your coat or jeans only has those tiny pockets  you can only fit a mint or a £1 coin inside. In which case ... these books are bigger than those pockets! But otherwise they're small enough to take with you wherever you go. [Various sizes from 10 - 14cm high].

Between the reclaimed covers of each Little Book I've bound a wide variety of carefully curated pages cut and torn [it's a laid-back imperfect kind-of journal] from my vast and varied papery treasure trove. 

The approx. 10 - 15 folded sheets / 20 - 30 sides include a mix of things such as:
  • text from old books 
  • images from old books
  • map papers
  • scrapbook/craft papers 
  • graph paper
  • ephemera
And each on is unique combination which pre-loads the your pages with inspiration; because who wants a lot of scarily blank, shiny and new, pages staring back at them?

When you open it up you get to quickly tap into the fun part ... the creative part ... the part of seeing where the inspiration leads you and deciding what to add to each page! This could be anything from:
  • collage
  • photographs
  • poems
  • art journaling 
  • 'journal' journaling
  • lists
  • sketches 
... or whatever grabs you when you're settling down to get your craft on! 

Then, once you're done for the day you can pop your vintage-embracing Little Book back into your pocket/bag until next time.

So what of these 'reclaimed' covers? Here are a few examples made from map covers and the covers of a book of sheet music:
Each cover wraps around the contents with the stitches passing through the 'spine' which is hidden behind a strip of contrasting fabric. Which is where my contribution ends ... its new owner can go on to do add all the personality a Little Book can hold!! 

If you're one of those who've already bought a Little Book drop by here or my Facebook page any time to show me how you've filled your pages!

And if you're looking for a portable journal to take with you on a summer break ... I hope you'll cast your eye over a Little Book or two first. 

Thanks for stopping by today! 


Friday 5 June 2015

Card making: A fun (and feminist) acetate pop up card!

Hello hello.

The current issue of Papercraft Inspirations magazine  [Issue 140, July 2015, on sale since May 26th], features 'Acetate' in my regular '10 Ways With' feature.

One of my 10 projects was based on a design that uses a strip of acetate, passed into a slot in a base, as a pop-up mechanism:
 And while the method was fresh in my mind I made a second card to share here.

This time I've used the 'Girls' sets of stamps from AHA Arts. [I bought mine direct from the designer AshleyG on Etsy, but she no longer stocks them there. In the UK they're available here from That's Crafty!]. Isn't that just the best sentiment??

I made this card for a 14 year old girl ... although it's a sentiment I think we could all do with reminding ourselves from time to time!
In the right light the acetate can  almost disappear making whatever you add to the front look almost as if it's free-standing or, in this instance, free-floating!
The rest of the card is made from scoring an folding a strip of card or - as I used here - double-sided paper from a 12x12 sheet:
For more acetate-inspired designs you can check out my Papercraft Inspirations feature and I hope something in this post had inspired you to either:

  • (a) get your crafting supplies out or 
  • (b) consider your own superhero side! 

Me? I'm just off to find my cape [although I think I'll give the wearing-my-undies-over-my-lycra look a miss this time round ...].

See you soon.

Julie :-)

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Vintage treasure: The Wanderer Stamp Album

Hi you.

I'm not sure when it was that Irene Dove lost interest in stamp collecting ...
... but whenever it was her Wanderer Album of Postage Stamps of the World at some point in the last 70 years made its way into the world without her. 

Eventually, [although through what route, through whose hands, through how many abandonments and trades, we'll never know] what began in Irene's hands ended up in mine. 

Its now empty pages, no stamps remain inside, would make an incredibly unique base for art journaling, for collage work or even your life story! And goodness ... how perfect would it be if it was to enter into a new life as a travel journal??!!!! 
While I can't find a publication date in the book there is a sentence on the page about Monaco that makes me suspect it's from circa 1936: "Commerce is relatively unimportant, the revenue being mainly derived from the gaming tables, which will provide in 1937 over £1000,000 and keep the population tax free!". It's that 'which will provide' phrase that makes me think 1937 hasn't ended yet. 

Similarly on the page about Germany, while there's a mention of World War One there's no word on the 1939-45 war. What it does, rather enigmatically say, however is: "The Germans have always been in the vanguard of literature, music and science, and the future of this great country is impossible to determine."

I'm certain someone with a greater knowledge of Geography and History may be able to date it more accurately ... but all I'm really trying to show you is ... this is old, it has history.

And while its cover may be a bit creased and scuffed [and which of us can say we haven't felt similarly ourselves?!] it is still a fascinating treasure which could  be a joy to work in.

So, why aren't I using it? Well ... I did buy it with the intention of using it myself but ... if I kept all of the old books I buy then I'd have no space to keep all the new ones I buy.  If you follow my logic?!

Seeking out papery treasure is one of my absolute favourite things to do ... and passing that treasure trove on to others from time to time is a way for me to keep being able to enjoy the chase! Plus it means I've saved someone else the job of rummaging around ten dozen dusty tea chests and 4 miles of old shelving just to find one pure gem like this one.

If it's your art / journaling / memory-keeping that you can imagine covering its pages then - at the time of writing - it's here for you to stake your claim on it. [Edited to add: Irene's book is now on its way to its new owner.] Like all of my orders it will be eclectically wrapped with a sprinkling of bits, bobs and ephemera tucked safely inside to spark your creativity.

And, of course ... you could always just use it as a stamp album ... a thought which only just occurred to me!  
Typical up-cycling crafter! I couldn't help but  see the alternative uses for it first!

And if you just enjoyed seeing the book today, that's great too ... there's plenty more where that came from ... enough to keep a blog [or two] well stocked for a while! Maybe I'll share some others sometime too.

If you haven't popped your head around my shop door for a while then get your head over there - no need to travel - just a click of the mouse, a swipe of the smart-phone or tabletty dooh dah thing. 

There's all kinds of additional bookish doings going on right now over there, with:
Happy wandering ... 

Julie :-)

Monday 1 June 2015

My Month in Numbers: May

Hello hello.

We've made it June. Already. June!  As James asked me, rather doubtfully, this morning: 'So, is it summer now then?' Because, this changeable, chilly, breezy weather we're having certainly doesn't feel like it! Here in the UK we could well be forgiven for wondering if we'd pricked our finger on a spindle, fallen asleep, and woken up in September.

Although, if that is the case then there should be a handsome Prince wandering around somewhere ... let me just check ...

No, hang on, before I get too distracted why don't I share with you my May ... in numbers? [If you're wondering what the whole number deal is ... you'll find all you need to know here, including how you can join in our merry band].

Let's start with the overnight trip James and I took right back on May Day Bank holiday ...

B6265 = the road I had to navigate to get us first to Fountains Abbey for the day and then on to our hotel.
Strangely, as I mentioned before, someone booked us an overnight stay near in a tiny town in North Yorkshire, as a birthday gift for James, without knowing that it was a mere 3 minutes / 0.9miles from the cottage I stay in twice a year when my friends and I go 'Crafting in the Country'.

Janet, all those times I spent navigating our way back from various tea rooms to our cottages must have paid off! I knew the roads like the back of my hand!

[Note to any other big 'Scandal' fans out there ... every time I had to say 'B6265 ... I would think of B613. And Jake Ballard. Obviously. Although ... I have been known to start thinking about Jake Ballard even without prompting.]

1132 = the year Fountains Abbey was built, which makes it an incredible 883 years old!
Here it is through the 'Toy Camera' setting on my new camera; I love that I can take my own 'tilt-shift' style shots now:

12,166 steps = taken around Fountains Abbey and its surrounding gardens.
Fortunately it was a beautiful day to be taking all those steps outside; comfortably warm [no coat!] and no wet grass. Apart from being situated not far from where we were staying our main reason for going was to visit the 4 'Folly!' installations they've currently got on show which are, as the name might suggest 'installations' inside four of the Georgian follies on the site. Here's my favourite ...

3.6m = the height of the 'Scavenger' found making itself at home inside the Banqueting House:
 For a sense of scale check out my post from last month where there's a shot of James next to it.

And while Scavenger [by theatre and set designer Gary McCann] was my favourite of the four ...
 the prize for 'Most painfully ironic installation' goes to this one:
If you think you've seen it before then that might be because I also mentioned it that post from last month; the one where I showed you a close-up of the nest with a lost doll inside.  But before I remind you of the name of this installation let me jog your memory that it was while were at Fountains Abbey that James lost his glasses and had to spend the rest of the trip wearing his sunglasses [if you missed that tale you can catch up with it all here]. 

And yes, he called their office to ask if they'd been handed in, and yes, they've taken his details and promised to let him know if they find them, and no ... they haven't called. So what's the title of this piece... well, naturally it's  ...  'Lost Property'!!
If you fancy seeing any of it for yourself then you can find out more on the Fountains Abbey website. And, while you're there ... have a look inside that nest for me will you?

We're wondering if rather than make their way back to the reception desk his glasses have actually been incorporated into the installation! ;-)

568 of 1006 = the number of pages I've read of Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell :
Getting beyond that half way point felt great! Until I realised I still had 503 more to go - which in itself is a lot more than many novels!

3 of 7 = the number of episodes of the BBC adaptation that have aired so far.
I've been frantically reading, trying to keep apace, to keep ahead of the episodes and as I'd read well beyond the point I knew the programme had tackling I thought I was doing OK ... until I watched last night where 2 main plot twists were revealed that I hadn't yet reached!

Clearly, adapting a book so large into 8 hours is going to mean a spot of plot re-jigging!! And I'm going to need to get a lot more read before next Sunday evening if I'm to avoid any more spoilers!

And - purely because My Month in Numbers wouldn't be My Month in Numbers without a nod to a random statistic that's made its mark on my month ...

21.62m2 = the total 'coverage' offered by 10 rolls of new loo roll. Which - should you ever need to know this - is [approximately] enough to cover one tenth of a standard tennis court!![Yes, I worked it out!]
I've never bought this brand before and didn't notice its particularly detailed statistical breakdown until I got home. Because, I don't know about you but ... when I buy toilet roll I'm not really looking for such in-depth product information. There's pretty much just the one thing, no make it 2 things, .. that I ever want to know about the loo roll:
  1. Is it more absorbent [sorry, we're wandering into rather unfortunate territory now aren't we?] than that water-repelling stuff they used to have in the toilets at school? And ...
  2. ... is there any of it in the cupboard when I need it??  And as long there's at least one roll [or 21.6m2 as I should now refer to it] then that's all I need to know! 
And finally, while were talking in square metres ...

1.3 m2 = the amount of lovely spread-out-able space available on my new desk!
If you'd like to see how much/little space I had before [and how much tidy my room was!!] then drop by this Month in Numbers post from 2012. But I really used to struggle to work on there though and got the men in my life to sort me out a new one!

My Dad made the top for me from plywood, re-using the legs from my old desk and the nice white work surface is a piece of vinyl flooring leftover in James's storeroom at work [don't worry, he cleared it all with his boss* first before we took it home. *He is the boss.]

It's such a small workroom [probably about 3x2.5m] that when they both went in there to set it all up I couldn't even fit in the same space as: 2 men plus the 1.3 m2m square of plywood that needed turning over so they could fix 5 legs to the underside! But it all worked out and now I have enough space to spread out my craft supplies while still having room for my laptop and - most importantly - my tea and biscuits.

The first time I put every last, beautifully useful, squared centimetre to the use it was intended [I.e: the first time I made a complete mess on it] James took one look and, unwittingly paraphrasing that famous quote from Jaws, declared ... "You're going to need a bigger desk!".

But if that's the case a bigger room will have to come first!

Well then, those are the numbers that shaped my May 2015 if you'd like to join in you're more than welcome to. [The MinN etiquette is all here if you've not seen it before].
  • Any one can take part, any time, you can dip in and out whenever you fancy;
  • I always say I'll be here blogging my numbers whether anyone else joins in or not - so having you hopping on board will be an added extra!
  • To read other people's numbers you can visit their blogs from the links they leave in the comments on this post. 
And if you've just dropped by for a catch-up - hello!! - how's things?
How's your toilet tissue situation?
What? Hey, I'm not shy about jumping in with the deep and meaningful questions straight away. That's just how I roll ... ;-)
See you soon.
Julie :-)