Monday, 4 June 2018

Dandelion or Giraffe?

Inspired by this pin - fantastically easy to recreate. I'm tempted to do a whole row of these with different colour backgrounds and use on one of my bullet journal spreads somehow. This spring I have rediscovered the simple pleasure of wishing on dandelions though I often forget to wish in favour of just enjoying the simple pleasure of scattering all those dainty dandelion seeds. Even when the wind changes direction and they end up in my hair.
Inspired by this pic on instagram - @ursusetruscus has some great mail art if you are looking for eye candy of the postal variety. The giraffe panel is taken from the Natural History Pepin sticker and label book. The artwork in this set is amazing but the sticky is quite crap so you need to use extra adhesive/ glue/ double sided tape if you want to use the stickers for anything where you need them to hold their place. No idea where I got the other stickers from, though the cat with the umbrella was gifted by a penpal. This envelope is destined to head off to Sweden in a couple of weeks.
Can I find the source of the inspiration for this? NO! I will have seen it either on Pinterest or Instagram but just can't track it down. Anyway, you can see the clipping that inspired the spread, and from that it's easy to see how I adapted the lay-out. The whole two-pages-for-a-week approach is still new to me and I liked the simplicity of this spread and the use of a strong colour. I get twitchy at bleedthrough on paper, so while I was fine with a line of colour I didn't want to copy that big splodge of yellow on the original as I feared it would make a mess of the other side of the page. I used my inch circle punch and chose a sheet of paper from one of my decorative paper sets that would compliment the green marker. I'm experimenting with different alphabet fonts and numbering, and used this pin for the numbering on my circles, which I then stuck in with double-sided tape.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

(Re)Embracing the Bullet Journal

When I discovered the bullet journal community early last year, I got into it in a big way. I gathered loads of ideas together, delivered a couple of free workshops for my local WI, and used it as an excuse to buy far too many pens. Then - I lapsed. I don't know why. Part of it was lack of motivation in life in general. The winter was long, grey and miserable and I was far more inclined to lie in bed under a cat or two and read or browse Pinterest than I was to be Motivated and Get Things Done. 

Then late April/ early May I came down with lurgy and on one dismal, cold, rainy day I sat on the sofa under a blanket and found myself watching bullet journal tutorials on YouTube. I was inspired anew. I dug out my old journal, tore out the months-old pages and over the course of the next week mapped out the enough months to use up those remaining sheets. With that done, my thoughts turned to what I would use for and do with my succeeding bujo.
I cut out a load of Garfield cartoons for a letter a
while back and had plenty left over to play around
with this monthly spread.
When in the grip of bujo fever I treated myself to a Leuchtturm. It was (and is) an expensive notebook and I have to be honest for that kind of cost I would have expected a thicker quality of paper which didn't have so many issues with ghosting and occasional bleed-through. There are lots of other recommended notebooks for bullet journalling (like Moleskine and Scribbles that Matter) but the price tag is still in excess of £10. I made a list of what I wanted in a journal, wandered round the local shops, and found a journal in Wilkinsons for £2.75 which fits the bill. Two ribbon bookmarks? Tick. Dotted pages? Tick. Pages not a bright white colour? Tick. The pages aren't numbered but that isn't a problem for me, I'm happy to number in batches as and when I need to. I like a bit of storage too and it's been no hassle to revisit the tutorial I did a while back and add a pocket at front and back. 

So . . . what are the new things I want to do with my budget bujo?
I aim to write a minimum of three letters a week - so many
people have created snazzy labels for their journals, and I
made these little labels up one afternoon to help me track my
weekly snailmail output.
In the past, I've squeezed a week onto one page rather than two. I've not been very adventurous with my lay-outs in terms of doodles and design, in part because there's no space if you have 7 days of to-dos on one A5 sheet! I'm taking the time to come up with more interesting ideas than just using washi, stickers and different coloured pens. I have weeks and weeks before I need to start using the new journal so I have plenty of time to create at my leisure. 
Why have I never tried sketching in pencil before? I'm seeing
inspiration for spreads everywhere at the moment. I can't draw
from scratch but my copying skills are adequate.
This is the first weekly spread I have done in my new bujo. And I love it! The inspiration came from the book Windows, illustrated by E. B. Goodale. I now see why so many people who journal this way put so much energy and effort into their pages. It's so rewarding. I have a list of ideas for future spreads, from using a Chinese lantern motif to mimicking some Simon's Cat artwork. Thus far I have no interest in doing a whole month in one style, but if you are wanting to try this kind of thing have a look at the tutorials on AmandaRachLee's YouTube channel.
Pencil sketching done, on with the permanent pen! I anticipate
other spreads will be more colourful but I liked this just as it
was. I'd like to try my hand at lettering and calligraphy and
am contemplating signing up to Skillshare to help with that.
I set up a tester page for my pens at the back of my new bujo. I probably should have done this with my Leuchtturm but I didn't think of it and also I don't recall it being listed on any of the various 'Getting Started' articles and lists I read through. I would recommend this strongly! I now have an idea of what pens to use that will have limited chance of bleed-through/ ghosting. I love you, Stabilo pastel highlighters, but you are outta the pool as you are among the worst offenders!

For my current bujo, I've made little envelopes to stick on my monthly spread page. In these envelopes I have pictures of projects I want to try, roughly broken into watercolour, linocut printing, bujo spreads, fabric/ sewing, papercraft and mailart ideas. The plan is to try at least one of the new ideas for each of these areas every month. The ones I get done that month stay in that envelope, a pleasant reminder of what I was working on at that time of the year. The others migrate on to the next envelope on the next monthly spread.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Hyperbole and a Half

I got this book for my birthday. Over the next week, I could often be heard laughing/ cackling maniacally/ giggling, and almost without exception the cause was Hyperbole and a Half. The book is a set of cartoons, dealing with a variety of subjects from getting lost in the woods as a child to how dysfunctional her two dogs are to her experience of depression.

The sketch which made me laugh the hardest was The God of Cake.
A representation of me and my love of cake. Only kidding.
It's Allie. Channelling me . . . 
Those who know me know of my love of cake. Tomorrow I'm off to visit a National Trust property and, while I am looking forward to giving my brain a bit of culture to savour, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also hoping to have a big fat slab of cake after the cultural aspect is over and done with. Anyway, Brosh's cartoon takes us back to her childhood and to a cake not intended for her consumption alone. And how badly she reacted to not being able to have it. Want to find out how that story ended (and possibly laugh until you cry like I did)? Then I suggest you read The God of Cake for yourself.

I recently posted about a book called Night Shift, a picture book describing depression in images. In Hyperbole and a Half you have a cartoon depiction on this subject, which is bittersweet to read as the author pinpoints the bleak, unrelenting nature of this illness with flashes of humour in her illustrations.

Those of you who have dogs that seem resistant to training/ lack intelligence and common sense/ have personality disorders will also find something in this book to make you laugh. One of my favourite passages is written about the trip home in the car after Allie and her partner have adopted a second dog from the shelter.

It was sort of like being the taxi-driver character in a Bruce Willis movie. You try to make small talk with Bruce Willis on his ride home from prison, where he spent the last nine years becoming hardened and vengeful, but he is finally free to pursue his plan and he doesn't give a shit about small talk.

Does it get better from there? Depends what you class as 'better'...

My favourite book of the year so far.

9 out of 10 Allie cake fiends

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Garden Photos

I now have an enclosed garden to enjoy and I LOVE IT!

Sadly, I did not get round to getting my kit off yesterday for World Naked Gardening Day, but I did have the time to potter about the garden this morning with the camera. Here are some of the beauties on display right now.

No idea what this is but have been told it is a spreader
so after this summer I will be breaking it up and
putting it in the borders

Look at the texture of these petals? Ranunculus/ Persian
buttercups are just such beautiful flowers!

Picked this up at the supermarket for 20p in a rather bedraggled
state. The flowers at that stage were white with a hint of pink
at the edges. Now in a space of their own in the sunlight those
petals have blazed into a boisterous hot pink.
Plant is an argyranthemum.

Another 20p supermarket rescue job - aubretia.

These lovely flowers are sprouting from a very large and unknown
shrub thing. I haven't hacked it back as the bees love these flowers
but the plant is a bit of a hog so at some point in the next few
months it will need to have some time with the secateurs.

A pansy - blithely facing the exact opposite direction of the sun.

Another of the inherited natives of the garden. This one I did
hack back and now the cluster of twigs I left behind is covered
in these gorgeous autumnal-shade leaves.

The humble dandelion - welcome in certain areas of my
garden as it's such a friend of the bees and hoverflies

Seriously. How beautiful are dandelions when you get
close for a really good look?

Another flower often taken for granted - the daisy.
These ones missed the general daisy genocide of the day before
when D mowed the lawn.

Forget-me-nots currently waiting in a pot from my mum for me
to find a place for them in the garden. Dainty little things.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Today's random crochet project

Now that I live in a home with a garden that birds actually visit, I want to do my bit to help feed the local feathery population. The second-hand bird table we've been given is a tad rickety but it does the job. However, the starlings tend to mob it and I haven't really seen any of the smaller tits and finches using it.

We get robins in the garden too! Haven't managed to get a picture
of any yet - this is one from a couple of years back
There are two redcurrant bushes in the garden that these tiny birds tend to visit, and so for them I have got a pack of suet balls. I thought a proper feeder would look over-sized and be quite cumbersome on the redcurrant branches so I went in search of ideas on ones I could make for myself. Crochet was my first thought, and YouTube provided a tutorial from Arne & Carlos. It was very easy to follow though not one I'd recommend for anyone with zero crochet experience as you do need to know the names for stitches.
The only difference I made was to use metal jump rings instead or plastic rings. I wanted to get this project done today, I have no plastic rings like the ones used, and so I went with the nearest equivalent I could find. I'll keep an eye on the feeders to see if the jumprings get rusty and nasty, and if they do I will just crochet up some new feeders. 

Once I had the hang of the pattern, these feeders took me 15 minutes each to make - there are two sizes on the tutorial and I made the smaller feeders rather than the larger ones. I really liked the way Arne & Carlos talked about them being almost like Christmas tree decorations to liven up the tree and also provide food for chilly birds. Click on the YouTube link above to see how lovely theirs look. No pictures of mine for this post as a) the weather is grey, grim and miserable today and b) I am a loose hooker (cue smutty laughter) and thus while my finished feeders will do the job just as well they don't have the neat look that Arne & Carlos achieve.

These would be a great little project for using up odds and ends of wool - a bit of stash busting is always a good thing for a crafter!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Telling your story

This book called to me from a shelf in the library. I was dropping books off, no intention of picking anything new up, and as I turned to go Night Shift caught my eye. I didn't even open the pages to see what it was about, just trusted my book-dowsing instincts and checked it out.

Night Shift is a picture book, an attempt by Debi Gliori to put her story of depression into images and simple words. The language in the book in unpretentious; all the illustrations bar one are picked out in shades of grey. I read it twice on my walk home and it prompted many Deep Thoughts as some of the images spoke so strongly to me.

I've had two mental health episodes in my life and rationalising the feelings and sensations around those experiences is something I have struggled with. I've written notes and tried to make rational sense of what is beyond the rational. I've looked at what happened to me from every angle I can think of in the hope that I can untangle the mess of it and somehow, magically, come up with a formula whereby it need never happen again.

If I were to adapt this story to suit my own tale, how would it look? What pages of Night Shift would I keep? What would I alter or remove completely and replace with something different? Gliori uses dragons as part of the metaphor in her story owing to their reputation for destruction and leaving the earth barren. I have more positive associations when I think of dragons so what would my metaphor be? What language would I use? And what a pleasure it would be to strip my language back to the bare minimum with all the wasted pages that have gone before it!

This is a project I am going to undertake over the upcoming weeks.

I would recommend Night Shift for those who have had problems with depression and anxiety and who might find the imagery useful. It would also be a worthwhile read for those who have not had issues with mental health but are looking for insight into how it can feel. Have you suffered from mental health issues that you just can't make sense of but want to find words that resonate with you on your experience? This book could be a starting point for you too, a beginning to build on.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Africa Alive photos

Paid a visit to Africa Alive! in Suffolk towards the end of March. Fab weather and there was hardly anyone there as it's still off season.
The Live-In Chef's hands in this picture, but I got to hold hits lovely
creature too :)

So weary...

I'm ignoring you.

Nom nom nom


Do I kiss you, or bite you?

Head shake

So bored

Waiting for a rib


Bonnie the otter was SO LOUD!