Sunday, 10 December 2017

Photos in the Snow

I haven’t gone out with my camera in months. When the snow started coming down today, I knew this was the Sunday to get back out there. True, I wasn’t out there for long owing to the cold, but it was worth a quick jaunt around the neighbourhood. I put my Grumpy Adult self (the one who is practical and hates snow) on hold and went in search of beauty. And it was easy to find.

I can’t remember the last year we had snow like this in December. It isn’t meant to last the day with sleet setting in this afternoon and rain forecast all day tomorrow. There is something soothing about watching snow falling. Being outside in the non-sound of snowflakes is another simple pleasure.

Get out there if you can.
Black and white artsy photo . . .
Not a very festive comparison but this made me think of the
brain bug in Starship Troopers
Love these vivid colours
A cluster of snow suspended on a single hair/ strand of spiderweb
- couldn't work out which

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A book in a genre you usually avoid

Pick & Mix Reading Challenge: Book #4
Taken from: The Modern Mrs Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge
Challenge: A book in a genre you usually avoid
Image taken from Amazon as my charity shop copy has lost its dustjacket
Doreen Swinburne
Genre/ setting etc: 
Hospital based fiction (not sure if this is technically a genre in it's own right but it's a type of fiction I never pick up)

The story: 
I'll begin by saying I believe this book was written as propaganda for the profession of nursing. The first chapter deals with how a woman (yep, woman) would go about becoming a nurse, what the length of training is, what she'd be paid etc. Then we go into the fiction part of the book, which at various intervals goes about explaining certain procedures like x-rays and blood transfusions, partly I suspect to dispel any misconceptions.

Jean has come to visit her older cousin Norah, who is a nurse in a big hospital. Norah looks darling in her smart uniform and cute cape. Jean begins as the everywoman character - dubious about hospitals, fearful of terrifying matrons, squeamish at the thought of blood - and over the course of the book her concerns are dispelled until she leaves practically signed up to go in to the profession herself.

The nurses come across as neatly uniformed soldiers in the war on germs. The language used to describe the aforementioned germs uses terms like 'invasion' and 'battle' so it's quite militaristic. The nurses don't go to war with guns and knives; their weapons are of a very different sort. But it is clear that they are locked in conflict with germs throughout the day, heroes in their own right. The military overtone is evident in the names of the nurses - they are by and large known by their surnames, or abbreviations of those surnames. There isn't anything macho about the women though - they are most emphatically attractive and feminine. One trainee nurse is likened to a floating butterfly in her white uniform.The matrons are prettier and younger and nicer than Jean expected - see, girls, no ugly old hags to be dealt with after all! 

Sarcasm aside, it was interesting to get all the details on how the hospital functioned, what was done where, and also get an idea of how patients were treated back then. 

I've done a bit of research and this book appears to be part of a series which includes Jean at Jo's Hospital and Jean, SRN.
No spoiler, really
Memorable line/ image: 
The fact the nurses named the three mice that used to be in attendance on one of the ward kitchens. Anna, Hannah and Harriet to be precise, all obligingly female. No, I am not making this up. Approaches to certain elements of hygiene have obviously changed in 60 years.

Easy to read?: 
Yes. Within a couple of chapters I found myself reading it in an RP voice. All the nurses have crisp, well-spoken English at their disposal. Half the patients and any clearners are from the cor blimey guv'nor school of mockney. Classism abounds in this book, as evidenced by nurses known as Squiffy and Tops.

The language was dated in places - I felt a reflective flinch at words like 'cripple' and 'mental defectives'. The political correctness of today is missing in this book. There are other stereotypes too, beyond the implied class ones above with the mockney patients. A nurse has got engaged and is going to get married and the assumption is that she will automatically leave her job and that's that. All the nurses are female. The wards are single sex, except in the case of children. Nursing is a good and worthy career but it is still trumped by the goal of marriage.

Did I learn anything from this book?: 
That a jolly uniform and a chirpy capable nature make the best nurses. Or at least they did in the 1950s.

Read if you like: 
Hospital based fiction. 
Books written in the 1950s. 
A laugh at old social stereotypes.

Avoid if you don’t like: 
Gender stereotypes/politically incorrect terms - see above!
Lots of alternatives to the word 'said'. People rarely say anything in this book. They soothe, gasp, expostulate, greet, murmur and explain. It got a wee bit irritating by the end of the book.

6 out of 10 Jeans

Monday, 13 November 2017

Ideas for Christmas Cards

I find the practice of sending Christmas cards a largely tokenistic one. I would reckon 75% of cards get sent as a reflex of 'this person sent me one so I have to reciprocate'/ 'this person is in my address book'/ 'I work with this person and it won't be fair if I don't get them a card too when I'm giving one to the rest of the office they'll feel left out' - and so on and so forth. There's no real thought behind the majority and after Christmas there are tons of cards and envelopes that need to be recycled, though there will be those people who just chuck them in the bin and send them off to landfill.

For the reasons above, I choose not to send many Christmas cards at all. I prefer to give money to charity because it seems like a better thing to do. 

I do send a few cards though, and in the interests of adding more thought to the process I've found some easy ideas of ones to make.
From MollyMooCrafts
Mmmm. Washi tape. I referenced using washi for making gift tags in a recent post, and I think these MollyMoo cards are wonderfully cute. Just get pre-made white cards, or get white craft card and fold your own. Then a bit of washi tape, then a bit of drawing that even I with my meagre drawing talents could manage. Could even have a crack at drawing polar bears, robins, penguins - this is such an adaptable idea. And Pinterest has loads of doodling ideas if (like me) you need help.
From KellysCraftinCorner
This is the fiddliest of the designs I was drawn to. You'd need Christmas themed craft card, string or ribbon, and tissue paper to make this work. I wouldn't have that printed scripting on the front and I doubt there'd be a frame, but you could use some bold card colours for this, deep greens or reds, or glittery golds and silvers, all as long as it tied in with the colours of your 'gift bag'.
Taken from FirstforWomen's list of 22 cards to make
These snowmen are very simple and easy, and ones you could make up as an activity with children if you wanted. Ribbon, buttons, orange card or paper (or an orange felt tip/ paint) and some plastic googly eyes. Simple and effective on plain white card. A fan of penguins? Check out Hobbycraft's list of 15 penguin themed cards to make.
From Granne med Selma
This is another idea I really like. You could print out a festive poem for the card, or if you didn't fancy text you could use a Christmas image and tear that to make the layers of the spruce tree. I especially love the fact that the star is so obviously one cut by hand and lacks the symmetry of a pre-cut one, giving the card an extra charm.

Want a project that's colourful and messy? How about reverse finger painting? Do you have a stockpile of doilies to use up? Here's an idea for you! Do you own far too many buttons? Try this or this or this.

So much of Christmas in the modern world comes pre-packed and pre-made. It's nice to make a bit of time to create something special.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Easy Christmas Gift Tags

I did a post last week on ideas for Christmas wrapping paper. If you don't have time for something that size but still want to personalise your gifts somehow you could always make your own gift tags.

You could involve the kids (if you have any) or invite friends over and have a gin and gift tags evening. 

It could be an opportunity to bust some stash if you are a crafter. Do you have lots of buttons? With a blank tag, or some craft card cut into a rectangle and hole-punched at the top, you could make up some very easy tags with some buttons, a fine black pen and a ruler. This is one I'm quite tempted by. Or maybe a Christmas lights theme. If you have lots of white buttons you could always have a crack at making some snowman gift tags. Be very careful though that you don't inadvertently give a tag to someone with koumpounophobia.
Say it with buttons
Is there someone in your life obsessed with coffee? You could wander over to the Simply Kelly Designs tutorial for Coffee/Latte gift tags and add that extra special touch to a gift. If the gift is coffee related, so much the better!
Do you have lots of washi tape? Gift tags would be the perfect excuse to use some up and then have space to buy some more clear some space. You wouldn't even need to use tape that was explicitly Christmas related, just the right festive colours. Though if you choose to use this post to justify the purchase of specific rolls of washi tape who am I to stand in your way? (Psssst, The Works have some nice ones in for £1 a pop, and I hear rumours that LIDL and Tiger do too.) There's lots of shapes you could make with washi tape, like a present, a heart and a Christmas tree. Washi tape tags would theoretically be the least messy to make with children as you wouldn't need any glue.
Tutorial here
How about some easy watercolour tags? These wouldn't take more than a minute each, though of course you'd need to wait for them to dry. The design is simple and effective and very Christmassy.
Are you nifty with origami? How about making some mini origami santas to decorate a tag or two? A batch of small craft pom poms in your stash that need to be used up? Have a look at this easy tutorial from BabyccinoKids. If you like your cross stitch, there's loads of ideas out there for gift tag adornments.

I won't have time to make a homemade gift tag for every gift, but I will definitely make time to create a few.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Self Improvement Book

Pick & Mix Reading Challenge: Book #3
Taken from: Better World Books 2016 Reading Challenge
Challenge: A self improvement book
I recently posted about the podcasts of An Uncluttered Life by Betsy and Warren Talbot, and decided to see what books they had available on kindle. I was familiar with the kind of advice they gave, knew I liked their style of delivery and was confident I would enjoy their written 'voices' too.

Genre/ setting etc: Non-fiction, Self-help/Practical & Motivational

The contents: a number of essays, mainly taken from the Married with Luggage blog, with a variety of titles including How to take credit without being a dick and Flying your freak flag. Betsy talks about her experiences, and experiences in the lives of others that have inspired her. The core focus of this short book is the development/exploration of confidence.

Favourite quotes:
I like this one in a slightly adulterated state:
When the person talking shit hasn't done shit, you can stop listening.
and in it's unadulterated state:
When the person talking shit hasn't done shit, you can stop listening. Especially if that person is you. 

[Confidence] is merely learning how to do something well enough to keep your fears in check. You don't normally gain that level of expertise with a one-time experience, which is why repetition is the key. This is something particularly pertinent to me at present as I passed my driving test a couple of weeks ago and am now building up my confidence levels being on my own in my own car.

Repetition breeds confidence while avoidance breeds fear.

The people we are most drawn to have something to teach us. I really like this idea, and looking back on personal experience I would say this is true though I didn't consciously realise that in the past.

Would I read this book again?: Bits of it. Some essays I found relevant, others not so much.

What I liked: The approachable style of the writing.

What I didn’t like: The last quarter of the book deals mainly with another of Betsy’s books. I downloaded the text on Kindle so knew it wasn’t going to be very long but was a wee bit disappointed to find the essays ended at 75%.

Easy to read?: Yes

Read if you like: Short motivational essays with a female bias.

7 out of 10 Betsy's

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ideas on wrapping Christmas presents

I've posted before on coming up with new and novel ways to wrap gifts. With Christmas approaching (whether you like it or not) I find myself looking for inspiration on festive themed wrapping. If you fancy the idea of jazzing things up a bit then read on.
Check out the Hobbycraft website for a tutorial on this reindeer gift wrap.
Then maybe adapt it and use a brussell sprout themed decoration instead!
Do you have a pom pom maker? I bought a set earlier this year, made two pom poms and then . . . nothing. I do have lots of red wool so a bit of Rudolph enhancement could be fun, though I'd have to do something different with the eyes - maybe use buttons - as the ones above are a little too dull and flat.

I love this idea! Right down to the tyre tracks in the snow.
How about creating a mini diorama as part of your gift presentation? This one might be easier for the mums and dads out there with access to lots of props and toys. Could this be a fun exercise to do with the kids to make a humdrum (but required) gift a bit more exciting on the outside?

Get some Christmas stamps from somewhere like the Works
and wrap your presents using a cute parcel theme.
Being a fan of snailmail, I LOVE the idea of creating the retro parcel look. You can pick up airmail stickers for free from your local post office. You could make up your own stamps with white paper, glue, a christmas catalogue and some pinking shears if you couldn't find any stickers in shops like Hobbycraft or The Works. Striped string is available in haberdashers for 25p a metre or less. If you don't have brown paper, you could always use white from the printer. Et voila! 

I am charmed by this idea but as my ability to draw
is not that good it's one I'm unlikely to be able to do myself.
Another option would be drawing something on the packaging and then adding an extra prop to complete the picture. The car idea above is suited to the smaller gift. For a bigger present, you could draw a face and then add a wig of crazily coloured wool or tinsel. Draw a Christmas tree and then decorate it with ornaments in the form of sequins and mini craft pom poms.

So . . . are you inspired to try something new with your wrapping this year?

Monday, 30 October 2017

A Book set in the Past

Pick & Mix Reading Challenge: Book #2
Taken from Tricia Barvia's Reading Challenges, 2015
Challenge: Be a time traveler. Learn about history by traveling to the past. Read a book set in the past or a non-fiction title that explores a time period or historical event.

Genre/ setting etc: Non-fiction, cultural history of the 1950s

Overview: a bright, colourful book stuffed with photos of memorabilia from the fifties. Each new double-page spread deals with a different topic covering diverse subjects like toys, games, transport, kitchen goods, football, music, cinema and TV.

These mini essays are written in a knowledgeable and humorous way so while you are getting a selection of facts the delivery is entertaining.
Would I read this book again?: Probably not. But I would be interested in picking up other books by the same author.

What I liked about this book: The glimpse it gave me into my parents childhood. This occurred to me when I was about a third of the way through the book, and influenced how I saw the rest of it.

What I didn't like: The book just ends. No final rounding off chapter to give the book a conclusion. I'd have liked that pulling together. 
Easy to read?: Very. I read it over a few nights, cuddled up in bed. It's an easy book to pick up and put down because of how short the 'chapters' are.

Did I learn anything from this book?: I have taken a copy of the first page which deals with English money as it stood in 1950 as I have always found the concept of shillings, guineas, half a crown etc hard to grasp. Now I have a clearly worded reference.

Rosebud dolls were terrifying. But not as terrifying as some of the novelty soaps of the era that were popular stocking fillers.
The Archie Andrew soap (blue jacket) is especially horror-movie worthy
Read if you like: Books about the fifties, vintage items and adverts

Avoid if you don’t like: very loud advertising where bold, bright primary colours were all the rage.

6 impossibly perfect fifties housewives out of 10

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Haunted Dollhouses

When you think that the haunted dollhouse that The Bloggess has been working on is a niche project and then you Google the term and realise it is NOT - that!
This house is made out of cardboard!
Check out Greggs Miniature Imaginations for more info
Do a search on Google or Pinterest for 'haunted dollhouse' and you will get a welter of pictures and information.

And the miniatures. The miniatures! From fanged geraniums to mini coffins, tentacled soup to possessed mirrors, creepy curiosities to skeletal ladies taking tea together, there's so much out there to help you personalise and decorate a spooky mansion of your very own.

Etsy listing
Fancy putting together your own haunted dollhouse but don't know where to start? You could check out these two articles:
Susan Tuttle Photography - DIY Halloween Dollhouse
EHOw - How to Build a Haunted Dollhouse
Lots of meaty sized books - I approve Pinterest :)
I love the idea of planning a house like this but have a feeling I would get so swept up in the backstory and the detail of what should go in each room that I would never actually get round to making one.

Friday, 27 October 2017

An Uncluttered Life

I'm a bit late to this party in that I discovered the An Uncluttered Life podcasts about a year after the creators, Betsy and Warren Talbot, brought it to a close so they could pursue other business ideas. Sigh. I can get some of the most recent episodes via Deezer but the rest I'll be accessing through the Archives on their website.

What am I enjoying so much about these podcasts? Well, they are full of the advice and experiences of two people who decided they were going to pursue their dreams of travelling the world. They sold the majority of their possessions, left well paying jobs and headed off into the sunset. There are concepts that they bring up which are new to me and I want to pursue them. These podcasts get me thinking. For example, the idea of reducing what you cram into your available time so that you make space for new things to come in.

The Talbots created a blog called Married with Luggage to document their experiences (the posts of which can be found here on the Uncluttered Life website) and published a book with the same title. When the pair decided to buy a house and have a steady base from which to launch further travels, they transitioned from Married with Luggage to An Uncluttered Life.

The more I listened, the more I realised that I had heard of Warren and Betsy before. Elements of their story rang bells with me, and I realised they were featured on the Miss Minimalist blog as part of her Real Life Minimalists series. 

The laughter of the hosts is a pleasure to hear. They come across as easygoing and knowledgeable on what they talk about, as well as happy to discuss their mistakes and learning experiences. I have barely listened to 10% of what they have on offer and I'm looking forward to hearing more. Being a lover of stationery, one of my favourite podcasts so far is the one about using a notepad to improve your memory. Warren gets very excited about his notepads, and I can empathise with that. They've also done a series of four podcasts about what their uncluttered life looks like, starting with episode 173, and I especially enjoyed that first one. They each have their own duvet on the bed - how genius is that! 

If you are on a mission to de-clutter your home/ life/ future/ whatever I would recommend these podcasts. Great hosts and lots of thought-provoking ideas to mull over. Cheers!

Betsy and Warren

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Spiderman Fold & Mail

This set popped up for a bargain £4 on Ebay - I could not resist it. I had the opportunity to get the Milton set for £5 a while back and agonised for a day as money was tight and of course it went to some other bidder. I learnt my lesson from that.
Details from the letter sheets
Finding pictures has proven difficult through Google and Pinterest for this pad so here, for fold & mail and Spiderman fans, are photos of the set.
Do I have a favourite? I think they are all good. I've already sent one to a friend who is a massive Spiderman fan - how could I not pop one in the post to her to christen the pack?

Fancy checking out my previous fold and mail purchases? Have a look here. And enjoy.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Book with a One Word Title

Pick & Mix Reading Challenge: Book #1
Taken from: Hannah Braime's 2017 Ultimate Reading Challenge 
Challenge: A Book with a One Word Title
Genre/ setting etc: Portland, USA. Time not specific but as the Iraq War is mentioned I assume around the mid-late 2000s.

The story: Glaciers follows a day in the life of Isabel, who works in the local library repairing damaged books. The reader learns of her love for old and vintage things, and her romantic interest in a co-worker. Interspersed with the present day are chapters that give a glimpse of Isabel’s childhood, to parents who divorced, to the beauty of the north she remembers. The books takes its name from her recollections of the glaciers she saw when young that she can't bear to revisit now, and her thoughts on their erosion and disappearance in the modern world. She dreams of going to Amsterdam, captivated by a postcard sent from this place years ago that she picked up in a secondhand shop.

The book has a gentle and bittersweet pace. It’s easy to imagine the scenes playing out on a screen, emotions flickering briefly across the faces of the players or betrayed in the way they stir a spoon in a cup of coffee. A lot of the story takes place on an internal level and any action in the external world is understated more often than not. People flow together and separate, loss set against potential. 

I liked the way the romance was handled. No hot, rampant looks; no over-sexualised heavy atmosphere. It felt natural and real, a glance, a touch, a kiss, an embrace.

Memorable lines/ scenes: Small, pearly buttons. The way they feel between your fingertips, against fingernails, slipping through cloth. She's thinking of the buttons of his shirt and the gentle eroticism of this description is just lovely. 

The scene where she finds a vintage dress to wear to a party is also lovely as she looks through the items on display and talks to the woman who owns the shop.

Would I read this book again?: Yes. It’s now on my list to look out for in charity shops/ book sales.

Easy to read?: Yes. At less than 200 pages it’s suitable for a long train journey or a couple of free afternoons.

Read if you like: Vintage clothes, thrift shops, books, libraries, postcards, gentle romance. Books that flit backwards and forwards between the past and present.

Avoid if you don’t like: A lack of speech marks. It doesn’t bother me for speech to be without the obligatory " " but if you are particular about your punctuation and find it offputting to read a text where they are absent then you might wish to avoid Glaciers.

Possible triggers: One of the characters was a soldier in the Iraq war and recounts a story involving an IED attack.

8 out of 10 glaciers