Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Favourite May photos

It's been all about the colour for me this month, what with the mild weather and lovely sunshine bringing the flowers out in such profusion. 

Pleased that I managed to get the light just right here so that the
edges of the petals just seem to dissolve away

Giant poppies are amongst my favourite of all flowers. The anther
here look like a fluffy feather boa to me

My favourite picture of the month, all that beautiful colour

Those experienced phorographers may look askance at this as the
light exposure is a tad too bright but actually this is what I wanted
so the centre of the flower almost appears to be glowing

A standard sized poppy, magnified by the power of macro

Is it just me or does this style and stigma combo look a tad on
the raunchy side?

The best photo of a ladybird I have ever taken

Looking upwards through a tree, trying to capture all the diffrent
textures of the various lichens and so on clustering on the branches

On the morning this was taken there had been heavy rain the night
before and I wanted to get the contrast of the sleak water droplets
and the texture of the rose petal

Another rose - this one a much smaller variety, petal after petal

An iris, looking like something you would find in a tropical fish tank

Playing with light and shadow on a rose. Yes, the big shadow in the
bottom right hand corner is me. Wish I had noticed this before taking
the picture and moved to get rid of it.

For this one, I wanted to capture as many flower heads as possible
while having the centre of one on display in the foreground.

A pansy that looks like it is sticking it's tongue out :)

Monday, 29 May 2017

Gettin' my button on

A catch up on my most recent Something New post . . .

The tree
I used a very simple stitch, as you can see. I didn't want the buttons to line up exactly with the branches, as I liked the idea of tinkering with the non-perfect look. This piece will end up on a christmas card, methinks.

The dandelion
I got a bit more adventurous with my stitches for this one. I used the simple stitch radiating outward from the top of the stem, and for the seeds I used what I think is called a Lazy Daisy stitch to get a loop effect. For the stem itself I wanted to have more texture so it was thicker and chunkier so did a back stitch border on each side then wove the thread over and under between the stitches on either side. The nearest thing I can find to it online is a Picot Stitch but that still isn't exactly what I did, though the texture is quite similar.

I'd also hoped to do something with button embroidery on a steampunk theme but it was not a success. I used metallic threads and discovered they were a PIG to sew with. I could post a picture but I'm sure your imagination is more than capable of picturing a tangled, sparkly mess.

Would I recommend button embroidery to others? Yes, definitely. But not with metallic thread if you are a beginner!

It's an easy craft to suit people new to stitching and more experienced crafters alike. You can make big pieces if you want but it's also perfect for creating small card or scrapbook embellishments. Have an item of clothing or a plain bag you want to pep up with a button flower or two? Go for it! Have a spare couple of hours with a child who wants to make something and is old enough to be trusted with a needle? This is something you could easily to.

Tempted to have a go?

You will need:
The basics
Embroidery thread/s
Fabric to sew on to, preferably something with very little stretch

Optional extras
Embroidery hoop for keeping fabric taut while working on it
Notepad and pencil for scribbling down ideas and designs

Sunday, 28 May 2017


Yup, those two cat envelopes were made from the same
book as the one used on my upcycling envelopes tutorial.

The flamingo stationery came from The Works.
A bit of Casablanca and cupcakes . . .
The pumpkin cupcakes envelope was sent to someone 
who loves all things autumn and this was the only 
envelope I had to match it.
I'm getting two new chickens socialised with my
old two at the moment - sending a letter to
update a friend on the process in an envelope
with a vulture on it seemed very apt when considering
how evil my two chooks are being to the new girls!

How lovely is this envelope! As far as I can work out it was done
with the use of a stencil. The blurry pink bits are my first attempts
at anonymising an envelope. Messily. Thanks to the stamp in 
right hand corner of this letter I now know who Dorothy Height is. 
The heart shaped stamps look like the pattern is done with quilling.
The USA has some very attractive stamps!
Cute washi tape
I couldn't quite capture the lovely sage green tone of the writing
paper in the background here. A friend picked it up in a charity shop
and found it took fountain pen writing well. The colourful flowers
in the foreground are taken from what I think is meant to be jotter
or similar as they are long and narrow but the great thing about 

letter writing is that you can use anything as writing paper.
I received a blank postcard with one of the letters and found
the stamp area on the back had this really sweet little detail. Could
I get a crisp photo of it? Could I bollocks. A blurry one
will have to do.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Tea Bag Art

A collection of work by Ruby can be found here as well as on
her website (link below)

Once upon a time, Ruby Silvious decided to start creating artwork out of used teabags. As far as I can work out, she started doing this in 2015. I discovered it this week. And I think it's GENIUS. Which is why I'm sharing it to spread the knowledge.

Another article of Ruby Silvious

She isn't the only person repurposing old teabags in the name of creativity but as far as I can tell she is the only person with a book in print on the subject. Know anyone who would love this as a random present? You are welcome.

The variety of pictures, some very simple, some incredibly detailed, is astounding. What a creative soul! Check the variety out on Pinterest or Google. Imagination is an awesome thing.

This one has an almost Banksy feel to me though it's heavy on the
fantasy rather than the social messaging

Friday, 26 May 2017

Random Thoughts on Snail Watching

So, as a gardener (albeit a dilettante one) I am not supposed to like snails. They are The Enemy. They Devour the Weak, the Innocent, the Newly Sprouted. I should Cast Them Out. The sound of shells cracking under my booted foot should give me a savage feeling of satisfaction rather than the rush of guilt I actually get.

The truth is that I find snails fascinating to watch when they're on the move. To me, they are a mindfulness exercise in their own right as they take so long to get anywhere or do anything but go about their task with dogged determination. The variety of colours and patterns of shells is incredible once you really start to take a close look. I imagine a shell is as individual to a snail as a fingerprint is to a human.

As a child I remember being fascinated by their eyes, rolling in and out of facial tentacles. As a child I was also probably a bit of an arsehole, bumping those eyes to make them retract and then watch as they reappeared again. Their smaller, lower tentacles always made me think of whiskers, and still do.

To make this random post educational, here's some words you might not have heard before:
Malachology - the study of molluscs
Conchology - the study of shells

Helicophobia is the fear of snails. My internal logic tells me that a helicophile is therefore someone who is a snail fancier but alas there is no such word in the dictionary.

To any gardeners reading this in sheer disgust at me siding with the enemy, let me make it clear that I find slugs utterly repulsive and have no difficulties in casting them out. Or throwing them to the chooks.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Resilience and Overload

Resilience is a term we hear a lot these days. 

Here's a definition from Mind on the subject: 
There may be times or situations in our lives that are more difficult than others. The capacity to stay mentally well during those times is what we call ‘resilience’. 

The Mental Health Foundation have a downloadable Emotional Resilience Toolkit which you can access for free.

There's lot of information on the internet on how to build resilience, like this article on Tiny Buddha.

Amongst the items/ habits/ characteristics people recommend you work towards to achieve resilience, goal setting often comes up.

I think resilience is different for different people. Part of mine is understanding what my triggers are and working out what the best thing is to do when I feel my mood slip.

One of my key issues, ironically, has to do with goal setting - in that I set too many.

When I'm buoyant, that's great! I feel I can take on new challenges, make time for things, need to have this or that extra focus to mark my days by. I overload my schedule with the best of intentions, and I always forget that at some point there will be that tiny thing, that last straw, that tips me over the edge from ebullient to feeling smothered.

52 book reading challenge for 2017? Let's sign up! 

Join the local WI? Do it! 

Nominate myself to run two groups for my new WI, and sign up to be a member of three other groups? Yeah! Why not! 

Become a member of a writing group again and aim to finish one short story a month for submission? You got this! 

Next year's a big birthday so let's follow the fashion and come up with a list of 40 items to achieve, 3-4 a month to keep on track.

Work on those refashioning skills and upcycle one item of clothing a month. Cool!

Let's not forget all those other hobbies you want time for - embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, patchwork, sewing, papercraft, lino cut printing, photography, dressmaking, watercolour painting, art journalling, letter writing...

And socialising! Oh, no, can't forget that! Better get things booked in so I don't miss anyone out. No free weekends for another 3 months? Never mind. 

Housework too, that needs to be done. And I want to get more done in the garden this year.

And on and on and on.

Until one little thing goes wrong and my mood doesn't so much drop as plummet. I look at the goals I have tied myself to and realise how meaningless they are. I feel like I have no time whatsoever simply to stay still and appreciate life. I have a list for this and a list for that, a weight of to dos pushing me down so I don't actually feel like I have the energy to do much of anything at all. My hours are eaten up with tasks and errands and the minutes spew through my fingers like sand, impossible to hold in. Time haemorrhages on things I don't actually really want to do that day but have to in order to keep on top of things.

I posted recently on stopping my reading challenge. I'm also hereby scrapping my 40 by 40 list. Right now, it feels like a tick box exercise.

I need to work out how to prevent myself from overloading like this. It's a pattern I return to again and again. For me, resilience needs to be about building in a big fat red STOP! button that gets triggered each time I get tempted to add some new goal or commitment to my life. Am I adding this thing because it has meaning and worth to me, or because I have a compulsion to add another set of to dos to my existing list?

From Pixabay

Maybe a button won't be enough! I think I also need an audio track to go with it. Someone like Aretha Franklin ordering me to Think! And reminding my that freedom is far more important than a bulging list of things to get done.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Sayonara, Reading Challenge

I am bang on target for completing my 2017 reading challenge. In fact, I'm a book or two ahead of myself.

And I've decided to give it a miss.

Image from Pixabay

I'm at the stage I got to with my other reading challenge (2014? 2015?) which I had forgotten when I started anew in January, and now clearly recall. Each time I pick up a new book, I check to see if it fits the criteria of the challenge. The last few weeks, the majority of stuff I've been tempted by hasn't been something I could crowbar into the conditions. And I'm starting to get resentful about it. It's the resentment I'd forgotten. That feeling that I'm an adult and should be able to read whatever I want without it ticking specific boxes.

The challenge has also led to a bit of book hoarding. Not that long ago I purged my bookshelves and found the resultant freeing up of choice exhilarating. In recent months I have been acquiring books I think would knock off another number from the list of 52, not necessarily because I want heart and soul to read them but because they would do. There may be lots of flippant quote out there like 'I don't have too many books; I have too few bookshelves' and 'there's no such thing as too many books' but if I don't have the time to read them or the space to store them then they represent a kind of pressure to me.

So, sayonara reading challenge. 

I've read some good books as part of the process but I have a feeling I would have gravitated to a number of them without the challenge there as an excuse to pick them up.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


A round-up of snailmail I've sent out into the world in recent weeks, just because I'd like to keep a record somewhere of things I've sent.

Anne Stokes artwork from 50p on-sale calendar in the Works, and
dessert from a 70s pudding book

Postcard picked up from a shop in Colchester; printed envelope with
matching stationery from my father-in-law

Another retro pudding - what says style more than
cakey fingers stuck in some kind of creamy concoction, like
an up-market 99 ice cream?

Birds from a desert wildlife book; Daleks from a Doctor Who annual
picked up for 30p in a charity shop. Yep, another grotesque pudding . . .

Doctor Who and Amy Pond (from above mentioned DW annual)
and some chocolate pudding. Mmmm. Chocolate pudding.

More 70s culinary wonders! Those strange brain-like raspberries are
obvious of the tinned variety, and that melon cut into a fruit cocktail
bowl is a bit on the sloppy side.

I hope everyone who received them enjoyed getting a bit of colour (and weirdness) in their mailbox.

Fancy having a go at making some random envelopes yourself? Check out my tutorial here.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Self-Care Wheel

I've posted about the Wheel of Life template before and I came across something new this week courtesy of Pinterest that really appealed to me.

The Self-Care Wheel.

You can get a PDF version here from Olga Phoenix

The name is self-explanatory. There are a few different types available to find on the interwebs but I like the ones with no more than 6 sections. From a personal point of view, I think having a limit to the areas to focus on means that you are more likely to fit that self-care in. Too many ideas and you might run the risk of being overwhelmed and not doing any self-care.

Link to PDF here

I'm going to sit down over the weekend and have a go at putting together my own self-care wheel. We all have nebulous ideas about things to do that benefit us in the long run. I really like the idea of focusing them all in one place so in moments when I might be feeling down or aimless or just have a spare slot of time I don't know what to do with I can go through some ideas and put them in to practice.

And I will of course store my SCW in my bullet journal 👍.

Tempted to have a go at creating your own SCW but not sure where to start with ideas? You can check out this article on Tiny Buddha to get you started, or have a read through this list of 134 self-care activity ideas from Hungry for more ideas after that? Go to Pinterest and search self-care list and you will come up with oodles of stuff. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Tutorial: notebook pocket

I've been sticking envelopes in the backs of notebooks for ages. They are such a useful way of storing receipts, vouchers and so on. Lately, I've noticed that more notepads are being made these days with similar storage, a pocket rather than an envelope, with sides that can expand to give you a bit more space for stashing loose paper. I had a go at making something along these lines today and here's the tutorial for it, in case it's of use to anyone else 😃

1.) Get your 'ingredients together' - pick your notebook and whatever you are going to make your pocket out of. In this case, I raided my charity shop book stash on my collage shelf and went for a cupcake piccie. You could use craft card for this as well. I wouldn't recommend paper from a magazine or comic as it might be too thin to stand up to regular handling. Grab a roll of washi tape or cellotape, and a roll of double-sided sticky tape.

2.) Cut paper to size so it won't stick out of your notebook when done.

3.) Fold the pocket piece in half.

4.) Cut two pieces of paper/ card for the gussets on the sides of the pocket - i.e. the pieces that will give the pocket depth. I used two bits from the offcut of the original picture but you could use whatever - again, pick something durable rather than something lightweight. I would recommend cutting a piece that is at least 2 inches wide, and about an inch shorter in length than the folded pocket panel.

5.) Fold both pieces.

6.) Fold over each side again, but smaller folds this time. 

7.) Place one of the folded pieces on one side of your pocket. This is how it should look, the V of the paper pointing down. 

8.) Using washi tape or cellotape (washi tape is a more decorative finish) stick down the folded flap that is hooked over the front of the pocket.

9.) Turn the pocket over and, using the double sided tape, stick the other folded flap down.

10.) Repeat the above couple of steps with the other folded piece of paper/ card.

11.) Add two more strips of double sided tape to the back of the pocket.

12.) Peel the top off the double sided tape and stick on to the back cover of the notepad.

And voila! A handy pocket for postcards, notes, vouchers, receipts - whatever scraps of paper you deem worthy of keeping.