Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Pick & Mix Reading Challenge

From Pixabay
What I enjoy most about a reading challenge is how it connects me to new books and new authors I wouldn't otherwise pick up. What I don't enjoy is the way I approach a reading challenge.

Do you know what I do? I Prepare. With a vengeance. I Prepare so thoroughly that I squash the majority of opportunities for spontaneity because I have everything set down in a spreadsheet. There is evidence to suggest that the human brain is built in such a way that if you over-plan something your mind is happy to mark it as done and enthusiasm and motivated are diverted from that task to something else. This sounds accurate in my case!

I've approached previous reading challenges with a spreadsheet ready to go. I've come up with ideas for almost every bit of the challenge. I've even been a little panicky about those few that have blanks, even thought there have been MONTHS of reading represented by the full spaces. Essentially, this means I spoil the reading challenges for myself. I know what I'm going to do for weeks and it stifles me and after a few months I break free and call it a day because it all feels so regimented.

So. How to combine my enjoyment of the plus points of a reading challenge while tempering the negative side of it by countering my over-organising brain? I think I might have an answer...

I'm calling it the Pick & Mix Reading Challenge for want of a better name. There isn't a set number of books to read, and I'm not going to give it a time frame. I am going to read one book at a time. Yep, you heard me. One book at a time. With no idea of what's coming next and no spreadsheet to have anything lined up and waiting.

There are lots of reading challenges out there. Easy to pick one at random on Google, close my eyes and let fate guide me on another random pick from the list in front of me. Then go to a library or charity shop or bookshop and find something to suit. No sitting in front of a computer going through Goodreads and Amazon for likely candidates. Instead I'll be getting out there and connecting with books. Which is what a reading challenge is all about.

When that book is finished - and ONLY when it is finished - pick another reading challenge, and another random selection from that list. And so on and so forth. 

When will I start? Actually, I started yesterday and am loving the book I picked up.

Friday, 20 October 2017

A goal within reach

From Pixabay
I made a promise in January that I was not going to buy any new clothes in 2017. Anything I needed I was going to source from charity shops. There were two exceptions:
*Knickers - I hope I don't need to explain this one!
*Quality shoes - I have grumbly heels so need to make sure I get good ones, which you can't always guarantee from a charity shop.

Have I stuck to this goal?


Was it easy to stick to this decision?


Am I thinking of carrying it forward into 2018?

I am. Though if I do I will be adding one more exception to the list -
*Pyjama bottoms - not something I would want to get second hand.
- and enlarging knickers to cover all underwear
From Pixabay
I have really enjoyed not feeling the need to go in to clothing shops. When there are SALE SALE SALE posters plastered up everywhere, there's been no compulsion to go in on the off chance there's something cheap that I might 'need'. Charity shops have provided everything I have wanted - work tops, work trousers, jeans, summer dresses - and the restriction on shopping has also meant I have been using my existing wardrobe well.

How much money have I saved so far this year? I don't know. I never bought tons of clothes before I set myself the challenge but I was guilty of sales shopping without a purpose a minimum of £200. Peanuts to some but that equated to at least 8 hours worth of driving lessons for me, and as I passed my test this month that was money well spent.
From Pixabay
The only dilemma I have had is whether or not I could ask for a new item of clothing for Christmas - would getting it via someone else place it outside the bounds of my challenge? I decided that no, it wouldn't. I made the choice not to buy new clothes as an ethical choice and it would be a bit of a cheat to have someone else buy my something new, even if it was a pretty cute skirt I had admired on someone else.

Are you starting to think of New Year commitments for 2018? A year without buying new clothes could be something to consider. If you have a deep love of clothes shopping and find the idea of 12 months too daunting/ don't believe you could find anything to wear in charity or vintage shops then you could always do a mini challenge as a tester. Say you won't buy any new clothes for the first 3 months of the year and see how you go. If those 3 months are hell on toast for you, at least you will have saved a bit of money. But you might find that it is easier than you think and be tempted to push it on for another month . . . and another . . .
From Pixabay

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Wallace & Gromit Fold & Mail

I noticed this fold and mail stationery pad on Amazon weeks ago. The cheapest one was marked as used: very good and located in the USA. I am not a 'true' collector in that I use my fold and mails rather than stockpiling them, and don't need to get the pads new as long as they are in good enough condition. The cost for these packs can be stupid! Hundreds of pounds. Much as I would love to get my mitts on the Yellow Submarine, Bewitched, Catwoman, Star Trek and Nancy Drew sets, anything over £10 is a steep amount to pay for what are essentially glorified envelopes.
It took quite a while to arrive. I'd act all casual and pretend I'd almost forgotten about it when it turned up but that would be a total lie. Very, very excited to have this in my collection. 10 sheets missing but still plenty to be going on with.
It's another set where pictures are hard to find on the interwebs so I hereby share with the world these lovely fold and mail designs.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Elliott Erwitt Fold & Mail

My fold and mail obsession journey continues. The Elliott Erwitt fold and mail set popped up on Amazon the other day and when I had enough pennies for a treat I purchased one.
Until I saw this stationery I had never heard of Elliott Erwitt but from what (very) little I could find out about the envelopes on the interwebs I thought they would be a fun addition to my f&m collection. Wonderwoman, Cath Kidston and the Pink Panther are all very colourful so having a black and white option makes a pleasant change.
Like these pics and want to see a bit more of Erwitt's work? Check out this link. I've ordered a copy of Personal Best from my local library so I can get to know more of this photographer's work.
Unlike my other fold & mail sets, there are 15 different pictures in this set rather than 6, so I've picked my favourites for this post rather than pictures of them all.
 I'd like to say I noticed the great big dog legs on this the first moment I saw it, but actually it took a little while as I was so captivated by the tiny little be-hatted chap on the right.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Ritva Voutila

I know the dangers of going to the library when there's plenty of time before it closes. I know I will be drawn to pick up at least as many items as I've returned, probably more. Far safer to nip in at 4:55pm, pick up my holds, drop off my returns, and scoot as the staff get ready to lock the door. 

But if I hadn't gone in today with time to spare, I wouldn't have discovered the work of Ritva Voutila. The corner of a book in the picture book section of my small local library caught my eye. I don't consider any books in a library out of bounds, fiction or non-fiction, adult or child, and so I picked it up and was immediately attracted to the illustrations. This is book dowsing in action, when a book decides it needs to be read by you and snares you at a glance.
The book in question was Outside. The story is simple enough and I didn't find there was much memorable in the words. What drew me in and will remain with me is the artwork. This artist has a very individual style, and the drawings in this book go above and beyond the standard fare I've seen in picture books. 

I imagine there's something of the Marmite reaction to this kind of art. You are either drawn to it and find it fascinating to look closely and pick out all the details; or you find it too busy and strange and don't like it. I'll be honest, I do found the little boy a bit creepy and haven't taken a pic to share - I could easily picture him with clown make-up, shudder. 

The cat could creep people out too, and I can't work out if I'm one of those people. The little girl is lovely, face calm and serene. The detail in the clothing, the patterns in the rays of the sun, the odd random touch of one of the sheep in the background having pierced ears and seemingly wearing rouge, the way the sun treks across the sky in the book, moving further to sunset with each page - beautiful.
The only other book illustrated by her available from my library is The Stone Lion, and I've now got it on order.
Self-portrait, Ritva Voutila
Thank you, book-dowsing, for this discovery. Fancy checking out more of her work? Take a look at Pinterest.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

ATCs (a new discovery)

From DecoArt
I am sure that the acronym ATC has multiple meanings but the one I'm specifically thinking of here is Artist Trading Card. It's a concept I'd not heard of until recently - and is another reason why I love connecting with new people because you learn so many random things that way! What is an Artist Trading Card, you might be thinking? Well, as far as I can discern from my research, it's 2.5" x 3.5" in size, can be created in a variety of mediums, the back of the piece is signed by the maker and given a title, and these Cards are traded not sold. In terms of what you make and how you make it, anything goes.

An ATCs can be embroidered like this wonderfully detailed sushi piece.
They can be minimalist and simple like this cat one from fancybutch.
There are some beautiful collage ones out there, like this one on Craftster.
You can make an individual one or do a bunch around the same theme like this naurical nine from Creawitch.
Do I sense a potential new crafting interest on the horizon? Probably not as I really do have enough creative hobbies to be getting on with. Might be something I return to at some mythical point in the future when I 'have more time'. Ha ha ha.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Pink Panther Fold & Mail Stationery

Another fold & mail bargain from Ebay. Mmmmm... Stationery. Sweet, sweet stationery.
I was a bit worried as the listing for this did not have a picture of the actual item, instead using a generic photo. The description was 'good' but that doesn't necessarily mean much as I've ordered books on Ebay that have been listed as 'good' that I would have been hard-pressed to describe as 'okay'. In the end, aside from a few pages being missing, this pad is fine.

As with the Wonder Woman fold & mail, there are  five designs. Here's what they look like. Typically, after saying I couldn't find any pictures of the WW envelopes on the internet, I found them within five minutes of publishing that blog post on Pinterest