Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Flip Books

My investigations into the modern world of snail mail continues! I wrote about my discovery of fold and mail yesterday, and how that led on to a happy new experiment with papercraft. The next discovery I want to share with you?

The snail mail flip book. 

It's in the same stationery family as fold & mail but it goes a step beyond. This isn't just about letters. It's about sending other things too.

From @paper_sweetpea on Instagram

There are pockets for stickers, teabags, post-it notes, vouchers, stamps, crafty bits - anything that you can get in the assorted pockets that litter a flip book and still get it sealed shut for posting. Instagram (as you can see from where I've found the majority of exmples for this post) is a bustling hive of snail mail sharing with some very dedicated creators and followers.

From @prettylittlethings_fr on Instagram

As well as sending little bits and pieces in flip books you can also decorate them with quotes that appeal to you, little recipes, lists of things to do, books to read, challenges to undertake in the upcoming week or month. In amongst it all there's often a letter as well, enclosed in an envelope within the main envelope.

Found on Pinterest

Do you love scrapbooking? Do you have stacks of stationery - stickers, paper, card, washi tape - that you want to use? Do you have a child or two in the house who loathes writing thank you letters after birthdays and Christmas but might engage with it if given the opportunity to make something like this? Are you an adult whose life seems lacking in colour and creativity and you want an excuse to indulge in both? The snail mail flip book could be for you!

From @love_cat_xo on Instagram

I haven't tried to make a flip book. Yet. I have so many other projects and ideas on the go but I feel it is just a matter of time.

The plus points to me discovering flip books:
I have books and magazines set aside for collage, and I could use bits and pieces from this for these kind of snail mail options. Washi tape is a major material in the construction element of these little books and I have a few rolls of that to use up...

The negative:
All those packs of decorated card and paper and decoupage kits that I've been able to avoid buying because I couldn't think of what to do with them now have a tantalising purpose. Oh dear. Much as I want to believe I am a minimalist at heart the part of me that compulsively creates is having none of it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

It's post, Jim, but not as we know it

I have nearly four decades clocked up on my personal speedometer but that doesn't stop me from discovering new things all the time. My recent 'new thing'? Fold & mail. A letter sheet that can be folded into an envelope and popped in the mail. Genius.

This kind of thing has apparenty been round for decades but I have not consciously taken it in before.

Nancy Drew!

Did you go through a phase in your childhood/teens where you wanted penpals? I remember getting an animal magazine when I was a child and there was a penpals section at the back. Ah, the people I wrote to! Those were the days when you could be pretty sure owing to the handwriting and content of the letter that it WAS actually a child you were writing to and not some adult male with unpleasant intent. 

Money was tight when I was growing up and while I yearned for beautiful writing paper I more often than not made do with notepad paper as the pretty stuff I got at christmas and birthdays was too precious to use up all in one go. 

Fold & Mail is pretty cute but I don't know if I would have used it much as a child/ teen because at that age I wanted mileage out of my meagre pennies. If I was buying a stamp, I wanted to make the most of it, so my letters were about 3 pages long, sometimes longer.

Fold & Mail, Cath Kidston stylee

So, cute as fold & mail is, I have picked up a fold and send pack from Paperchase for thank yous and left it at that. 

My imagination has been sparked by the discovery though - how to adapt it to get more letter space but keep the same compact idea?

I went to the stack of books I keep for collage projects and tore out some nice big pics from them, folded and cut them into envelopes, and got to work. I made inserts out of squared paper, used my sewing machine to sew down the middle and through one of the folds of the envelope but wasn't sure I liked being able to see the stitching on the outside of the envelope. Also, when I wrote a letter on my fold and mail prototype, I realised that the squared paper was a bit restrictive.

I changed from squared to unlined, coloured paper, kept the stitching, stuck the booklets into the envelopes and voila! A design I was happy with. Today I discovered that other people have had the same idea - Moleskine do something similar, branded as 'postal notebooks'.

Over the weekend, I've made a batch of my own fold & mail envelopes and will keep some to send and put others on my Etsy shop. It's been a really fun project to do and enabled me to play with use bits and pieces from my collage shelf.

The next step will be to combine the letter idea with a cover on the front of the internal notebook to give these missives that little bit of extra appeal. Kind of like a letter within a card. I do so love a hobby that keeps on giving 😄

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book you Loved as a Child

This book was originally a Christening gift given to me when I was 5 months old. It passed through my hands and the hands of my two younger sisters. My youngest sister must have taken it to school with her at some point because it has her name and class scrawled on the top left cover page. Cellotape, yellowed and crackly with age but still hanging on, holds the book together top and bottom. Open the book and the pages are pulling away from the binding, exposing bookish entrails of glue and thread.

The book is a selection of poems - old-school poems. Having re-read them, I would imagine they span from perhaps the 18th century up to the Victorian era but I don't have any concrete evidence to support that. Going through the poems, I realised how old-fashioned many of them were and I don't know if a book like this would be as popular with parents of today's children as it was with my generation.

This isn't going to be a standard book review with a rating as I have had this book for too long and the words and images have sunk too deep into the core of my child mind for anything to be objective. This was one of the books I learned how to read with. These are poems that were read to me over and over until I haltingly read them myself, finger tracing letters then lines. Some of these pages I have read a hundred times over.

I'm so glad I still have this book. After so many other treasured tomes have come and gone, this one has remained, tenacious and true. There were lots of books I could have picked to read for this part of the challenge but I'm so glad I went with this one for a trip down memory lane.

Recognise the distinctive style of drawing but not this actual book? Check out this Pinterest collection and see if any of the images jog your memory and bring on a wave of nostalgia . . . I think the illustrators were very popular for children's books and fairytales in the 70s and 80s so if you're in your thirties/forties/fifties they may stir some fond nostalgia for you too.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Final 40

Following on from my previous post, this is my final list of 40 before 40.

If I aim for about 3-4 a month, it's an achievable set of goals.

1)        Take an IQ test
2)        Try almond milk
3)        Upgrade to a better camera
4)        Go to a live poetry/ short story event 
5)        Have a week of vegetarian food
6)        Watch a sunrise
7)        Colour part or all of my hair an unusual colour
8)        Go flat in public
9)        Get a pedicure
10)    Really really refine the wardrobe!
11)    Put a fairy/gnome door up in the park
12)    BBQ on a beach
13)    Ride a horse again
14)    Long weekend to Brighton
15)    Have a caricature drawn
16)    Time in silence
17)    Have hair styled victory rolls
18)    Have something I have made exhibited in a public space
19)    Go to a beer festival
20)    Learn how to apply red lipstick
21)    Laser quest
22)    Climbing wall
23)    Riding on a segway
24)    Melt marshmallows over an open fire
25)    Act of craftivism
26)    Bake a Victoria sponge
27)    Attend a religious festival – not a Christian one though
28)    Go to a madhatter’s themed tea party
29)    Have a go at making churros
30)    Take a trip to Minsmere bird reserve and get some good photos
31)    Visit a cat cafe
32)    Take a driving test
33)    Learn the Alpha/Bravo phonetic alphabet
34)    Trip to see the northern lights
35)    Visit a royal house in England
36)    Learn to use a Dremel
37)    Visit an observatory
38)    Feed a lemur
39)    Have a go at postcrossing –
40)    Make a fruit curd

From Pixabay

Saturday, 18 March 2017

40 before 40

Birthday candle from Amazon

During the last couple of months of my bullet journal journey I have come across the idea of a 40 before 40 list. My 39th birthday approaches and I'm taken with the idea of having a list of realistic things to achieve/ experience in my final year of 30 somethingness before I launch into my 4th decade of existence.

In no particular order, this is how my current list looks:

1) Take an IQ test (a friend has recently done one and I admit I'm curious)

2) Try almond milk (nice easy win there)

3) Do the research and upgrade to a better camera

4) Go to a live poetry/ short story event

5) Have a week of vegetarian food (and aim not to have cheese with every meal!)

6) Learn how to apply red lipstick

7) Have a go at making churros

8) Take a trip to Minsmere bird reserve and get some good photos

9) Go flat in public

10) Attend a festival held in one of the local parks

11) Have hair styled in victory rolls

12) Commit an act of craftivism

13) Refine wardrobe (I've been in a process of paring down my clothes for the past few years but I know there are still a couple of items lurking that I don't like/ wear. By 40 I would love to have a compact wardrobe which contains only items I use and like)

14) Build and install a fairy/gnome door somewhere

15) Ride on a segway

16) BBQ on a beach

17) Ride a horse

18) Visit Brighton (been saying I want to go there for years . . .)

19) Have a go on a climbing wall (I am not good with heights so this is a facing-my-fears kind of challenge)

20) Have a caricature drawn

21) Spend a day in silence

22) Visit a royal house in England

23) Bake a Victoria sponge (my favourite cake, and I've never made one)

24) Melt marshmallows over an open fire (something to combine with number 16 perhaps?)

25) Have something I have made exhibited in a public space

26) Go to a beer festival

27) Watch a sunrise

28) Have a go at laser quest (trying to persuade work that this would be an excellent team building exercise but for some reason they are skeptical!)

29) Visit a cat cafe

30) Take my driving test

32) Take a trip to see the northern lights

As you can see, the list is not complete (and pretty random!). I've asked friends and family for ideas, and some of the list above was inspired by suggestions from the Bullet Journal Junkies UK Facebook group. I've been given recommendations which I like very much but which I know I won't make time for next year so they are on a potential future list. I want to get a tattoo in the area of my mastectomy scar but the skin has a couple more years of healing before that's possible. I love the idea of taking part in a historical re-enactment event but don't have the first clue on how to arrange that. At some point I want to foster/adopt an animal from a local rescue - I'm not able to do that in my current circumstances so it would be unrealistic to add that just now.

I won't be able to guarantee doing everything on my list anyway - you'll note that number 32 is worded 'Take a trip to see the northern lights' as opposed to 'See the northern lights'. I can head off to Norway full of high hopes but the weather could dash them. 

How will I react if I don't get to do everything on my list? Not worry is the answer. If I can get 75% done that will be good enough for me, and anything else can be punted on to a 41 before 41 list if I fancy putting another selection of ideas together for my next birthday after 40. 

Psst, all pics used above beyond the first one were taken from Pixabay. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Something New: Embroidering on Printed Fabric

Next crafty item out of the jar of ideas? Embroidering on printed fabric!

It's pretty self-explanatory. You take a piece of fabric (I have dozens and dozens to pick from!) and embroider within and around the existing pattern.

On Pinterest, from the RaddishBlossoms blog

You can work with what is already there (see below) or add colour where there isn't any (see above).

From The Curiosity Project

You can pick colours that are nearly identical to the fabric pattern you are using so that it takes the person looking a couple of seconds to realise something has been added. Alternatively, you can opt for a contrasting fabric to draw the eye immediately to the embellishment.

From Upcyclist

Some people even incorporate this into English paper piecing (EPP), which I will definitely be trying. Is it better in this situation to do the embroidery and then sew the embellished piece into an EPP pattern, or is it advisable to complete the EPP and add the extras in at the end? Give me a week and I will have an answer for you.

From Needle's Eye Stories

Current ideas?
👉 I like the contrasting idea very much though I'm not sure what fabric I could use that with at present. I have some black/white/grey tone prints and like the idea of sparking them up with a rich red or vivid blue. 
👉 I am also planning on using gold or copper thread to pick out similar metallic shades in one or two prints I have. 
👉 I have a few prints which feature retro ladies so perhaps embroidering the dress/hat/glove details?

I'll feedback what I get up to.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book by or About Someone who has a Disability

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism

Looking to find out more about autism in a straightforward and easy to read way? I would recommend this book. Written by the severely autistic Higashida when he was 13, the book sets out and answers nearly 60 questions relating to autism. David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas author, not comedian) has a son with autism and he found this book a very helpful resource on the subject, and he and his wife worked on translating the book into English. 

I had a vague concept of autism before I read this book. A friend of mine works for Autism Anglia and, like the majority of people, I know people who have children on the autistic spectrum. I've seen Mercury Rising and Rain Man, and read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The Reason I Jump is my first non-fiction foray into the topic.

When I said at the top of this post that Higashida wrote this book, he didn't sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop. He didn't narrate the answers for someone else to type up - spoken communication is all but impossible for him. He learned over time to spell out words directly onto an alphabet grid by pointing to the letters which someone else then transcribed. This is the world that he shows you. A world where things that many take for granted - speech, writing - are beyond him. Not only this but his body is also often an alien thing, something he can't control or direct. The pathways to his brain work in ways he has great difficulty regulating.

The preface of the book begins:
When I was small, I didn't even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem.

He is very aware of how far from the established 'norm' he is. Certain themes and ideas are returned to repeatedly through his answers. The feeling of being shut in; of being isolated. Desperation to do the right thing and please those around you while knowing you just can't direct your body and mind to do it. There is an idea that autistic people have little feeling but this book disproves that. I felt so sad reading some of the answers. You can try to imagine what it is to live with the level of autism but I don't think it's possible to take in even a fraction of its implications.

Naoki Higashida

People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can't express ourselves, and our bodies are hurtling us through life.

One of the questions is the book is: Why can you never stay still? In his answer he says that when he isn't moving it feels as if his soul is detaching from his body and he gets so scared he can't stay still. What a horrid sensation that must be?

Don't think all this book is sad though. Higashida recognises that in spite of the challenges of autism it also brings an ability to be aware of beauty in the world that those without autism miss.

Would I recommend The Reason I Jump? Definitely! I'd recommend it to those who know next to nothing about autism; to siblings of autistic children who might need that extra help in understanding how different their brother or sister's life is; to relatives and friends of parents who have autistic children. This book isn't a to do list with ideas on treatments. It's a tool for building empathy, and through the honest voice of Naoki Higashida it accomplishes that.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Bullet Journal: Dutch Doors

So, I posted before about integrating a bingo style tracker in my weekly spreads and while I liked the idea very much and used it more than the standard habit tracker, I couldn't get the lay-out right. The grids took up too much space and made a mess on the page. Leuchtturm may have the cool dotted pages but the paper is not the thickest and lines do show through. For some reason, having the grids show through has irritated me more than seeing text.

A possible answer to this conundrum? Dutch Doors.

From Sublime Reflection

Simply put, Dutch doors are where you cut a page to remove the top or bottom section, or fold/ cut vertically so you have a double page spread with a partial page in the middle. This allows you to fit more space in your weekly spread if you find just the two pages are not enough. Or if, in my case, you have tried the bingo format and don't want the distraction of the lines showing through on to your main pages.

A Pinterest find

You aren't limited to how many pages you use either so if you need a couple of cropped down sections then that's totally doable. As you can see below, some people use washi tape to help distinguish the pages from each other.

From productiveandpretty

As mentioned in my previous post on weekly spreads, I do like to chop and change things, especially as I'm so new to bullet journaling, and I have a feeling that Dutch doors will come in handy on those weeks which are really busy.

From @alexandra_plans on Instagram

And they will give me an excuse to use up some washi tape . . .

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book that is a Story within a Story

This book is a blubfest. If you have lost someone recently to cancer or have a close friend or relative currently going through treatment you might want to avoid this book. Conversely, if you know an older child or adolescent struggling to come to terms with a similar situation, this book might help.

Conor's mum has cancer. I can't remember his exact age now but it's somewhere between 10-13 if memory serves. His dad lives in America with his new (possessive) wife and child, and he doesn't like his grandmother much which is tough as she's about to move in to help his mum out. He is struggling to come to terms with what will happen should his mother die, and in the midst of all this a monster begins to pay him regular visits. The monster, an elemental force who takes the form of a yew tree in this incarnation, promises to tell him three stories. When his stories are told it will be Conor's turn to tell his own tale, one that he has kept secret and doesn't believe he will ever be able to share with anyone. His mother is admitted to hospital and given a new treatment derived from the yew tree and Conor believes he may have worked out why the monster is visiting him.

I thought the characters were well drafted. Conor is intelligent and astute, and it would be difficult not to empathise with him and what he's going through. As well as the situation at home, he has to deal with bullies at school as well as teachers and pupils who all know what is happening with his mother and have a tendency of looking through him because they don't know how to talk to him about it. His father, whether he means to or not, gives the impression that his new family is his priority as opposed to his old. His grandmother is not like other grandmothers. At one point he describes her as looking like a bird of prey - 'a hawk that could carry off sheep'. The most powerful scene in the book for me is when she returns to her home where Conor is staying to find he has wrecked all but one item of furniture in the room - and this she then tears down herself.

Patrick Ness

I read the first third of the book one day and intended to read about a hundred pages on the next but the second time I picked it up I couldn't put it down until it was done, tears running down my cheeks, aware that dinner was late and not caring because in that moment finishing the book was far more important than getting jacket potatoes out of the oven. 

I don't want to give any spoilers about the ending. I will only say that it was the right ending. I intend to watch the movie when it is out on DVD as I would be curious to see how/if they have altered the final scenes on film.

Coincidentally, I picked up this book shortly after listening to this Radio 4 programme on the yew which influenced my reading of the story (and the monster) as a result. It's an interesting 28 minutes, if you have the time to listen to it.

8 out of 10 yew berries

Are you doing the #popsugarreadingchallenge?

Tempted by this book, but already have your book with a subtitle covered? These are other categories in the Reading Challenge this book could apply to:

A book recommended by an author you love (if you love Philip Pullman or John Green)
A book about a difficult topic (Cancer)

Other books I'd recommend for a book that is a story within a story:

Where Three Roads Meet - Salley Vickers
Loitering with Intent - Muriel Spark
Holes - Louis Sacher