Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday Mishmash

Needle Painting
From Trish Burr Embroidery, found via Pinterest
Not heard of embroidery being called Needle Painting until this week. I like the term very much - hence me wanting to share it with you, as well as this beautiful example. If one day I'm able to 'paint' half as well as this I will be very pleased.

Following on from previous weeks of working through the second and third series of Blackadder on audiobook, I have now completed the fourth. I know the scripts like the back of my hand. Blackadder was something that was often playing in the background while I was growing up and being able to quote it verbatim is something I appreciate in friends and family. The final episode is as superb and poignant as ever - for those not familiar with the series (all 2 of you), the last episode sees Blackadder and his men go over the top. The setting was 1917 and we all know, with the hindsight of history, what happened there. I paused in my housework to focus on the words, and the fact that 100 years ago so many lives were wasted on both sides in the trenches.

Bagpuss, Clangers & Co
The Bagpuss, Clangers & Co exhibition is currently showing at the Ipswich Art School and I wandered over to have a look. It isn't a big exhibition but it is interesting. I wasn't a fan of the Clangers but Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog all have their part of the exhibition too. You can even make your own little 12 frame stop-motion animation using a scene and figures from Ivor the Engine. It's aimed at children but I made one myself because it's not something I've done before and there were no kids around at the time.

There are early drawings from which the various characters eventually sprang to life; an x-ray of a Clanger; Bagpuss and co all on display behind glass - and there's a room to the side playing the shows if you want to indulge in nostalgia and watch a couple of episodes. I caught part of an Ivor the Engine one where a local hunt was thwarted in their attempts to get one of Mrs Porty's foxes. Go, Ivor the Engine, go! There's information on the creators of these shows - did you know, for example, that Oliver Postgate was a conscientious objector during the second world war?

I've included a clip above for anyone who hasn't seen an episode of Bagpuss, though with all the merchandise still current in the world I imagine the majority are familiar with the main character.

Cute of the Week
How cute is this idea? For full information including printables see Design Eat Repeat. I don't know if it's something you could give as a random gift to someone but I love the idea of this cute packaging for cake sprinkles.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Random Thoughts on Not Wanting to Buy a House

Our landlady has informed us that she will be retiring in a couple of years. She’s angling for us to buy the house we’ve been renting for nearly a decade. Part of this may stem from genuine concern for our future but as she hasn’t offered the house to us at a knock down price (to take into account how much of the mortgage we have paid off for her in that time) my practical side recognises it would be so much more convenient for her to sell to us than get the house properly ready for the market, find estate agents etc etc.

Once upon a time (around 30 years ago to be a tad more precise), you could get a 3 bedroomed house for £35,000. Nowadays you would be lucky to get the same size house for £170,000. To save up a 10% deposit on such a house would take my husband and I about 6 years. We aren’t high earners and have always been work to live rather than live to work people.

It would be years where we couldn’t afford holidays or treats. Problems with the car, dental costs and other unexpected bills would set us back. We both work in the public sector so restructures and the threat of redundancy are perennial threats for us. We could push parents into coughing up but I don’t like the idea of taking someone else’s hard earned money at a time when they should be enjoying it rather than passing it on. There’s so much pressure to buy but to be honest I just don’t think it’s worth it. Aside from student loans I have no debt. Zero. Nada. To go from no debt to a 6 figure sum sounds horrendous to me. 

Now, a standard argument from the house owning collective is that paying rent is throwing money away. That’s not how I see it. I see it as paying around £25 a day to stay in a hotel that’s just mine. A hotel where if anything goes wrong with the property I contact someone else and they arrange the fixing of said property, and the payment of the fixing of said property. I get to keep pets at this hotel. I get to have as many friends around as I like. And because it’s a hotel I can choose to up sticks and head off to a different hotel if I suddenly end up with horrid neighbours or decide that I fancy a change of scene.

The big 40 beckons next year and it has occurred to me for the first time ever that there is a time limit on getting a mortgage. Naïve, I know, to only just be realising this. I feel like I am pretty much at the edge of that time limit and it’s prompted numerous Deep Thoughts. I assume many people have Deep Thoughts as they approach their fifth decade of life, and that a lot of these revolve around expectations of what they should have achieved by that age. What classifies as ‘success’. 

I have heard many people say that your 40s is a time to ditch societal expectations that don’t suit the person you are. I sincerely hope that this trend applies to me. The things I prioritise – experience, freedom from debt, the making of memories, learning new things, time with friends – are somewhat at odds with the directives of a culture which shouts MONEY CAREER MONEY POSSESSIONS MONEY. A culture which encourages comparing yourself to others and considering yourself lacking if your bank balance and what you own do not match up with people living a different life to you.

Let me give you an example of how my mind works.

If I won £50,000, I would not put it on a house. £50k on a £170k house would still leave me with a debt of at least £150k when you take into account interest and other fees etc.

Do you know what that £50,000 would be to me? 
A dream trip to Canada. A dream trip to New Zealand a few months later.
The chance to learn all those things I currently can’t afford courses in – Photoshop, developing my photography skills, lino cut printing, watercolour skills, starting and running a small business.
A cruise along the fjords of Norway.
Meals out at fab, highly recommended (and pricey) restaurants.
Day trips with friends to beautiful places I can take amazing photos at.
Weekends away with friends who live at a distance that I don't get to see half as often as I would like.

That money would be experience, enjoyment and interaction with the world around me. An incredible opportunity to see, to learn, to gain.

Not a pile of bricks and concrete. Not a debt. Not a gesture to suit the expectations of others.

British Columbia, Canada - picture taken from Paradise in the World

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Snailmail: Batlady and treats

I've been on holiday. Letters have been sent. Letters have been received. My first Philatelink order has arrived and I am already saving up for my next one. I opted for the 26p and under mixed bag and will go for the 68p and under option next time as I send letters abroad and would have no space left for an address if I used the smaller denominations for those. Also, I love making groovy envelopes and don't want them too buried under postage.

With some of my leftover holiday spends I have purchased my first Sheaffer fountain pen, my first bottle of Quink to use with a refillable calligraphy pen recently given to me as a gift, and a set of Indian Orange J Herbin ink cartridges as I love the colour orange and fancy having a whirl with it as a fountain pen choice.

But on to the snailmail!

Batlady card
Batgirl's predesessor? But in a corset and possibly needing to be rescued more regularly? I love this little illustration. The black gloves, the hat with it's bat ears and nose, the dainty cloak - lovely.

Washi tape

Peacock feathers, ghosts and cats - the ghosts from a US penpal who adores Hallowe'en and is already counting down the days.

A week of relatively plain stamps, with this trio as the highlight.

Writing Paper

The ducks are from a lady who tends to start her letter with one sheet of standard writing paper or a card, and continues on slim shopping pad paper. Am I making sense there? You know the long, thin notepads you get, often with a magnetic strip on the back for fixing to your fridge door? That's what I'm talking about. As someone who likes to adapt paper not intended for letters for that purpose, it's always a pleasure to receive a letter from someone doing the same thing.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Monday Mishmash

Space Cats! Thank you Pinterest!
Can't lie - I fully intend to invest in a cheapie notebook and print a copy of this to go on the cover!

Photography Goal Achieved!
A clear picture of a butterfly - a peacock butterfly in case you wanted to know the name. Maybe you take photographs and have never had problems taking pictures of butterflies. I have so this is an achievement for me.

Indulging the Hormones
Had my yearly ovary scan on Saturday (ah, the joys of BRCA1) and to thank them for being so well behaved I decided to reward them with The Legend of Tarzan. Emily Writes wrote a hilarious review of this film when it came out last year, and I would recommend a read. It definitely enhanced my viewing pleasure 😉

A National Trust property I visited during my recent sojourn to Devon. It was commissioned by and for two ladies in the 1790s who had the wealth to dodge the husband/child bullet of the time and live entirely for their creativity. They went on the Grand Tour, something I don't recall much women doing from my knowledge of history, and they returned to England with lots of art and lots of ideas. The house is literally covered in their creations, the most incredible of which being the shell galleries at the top of the house, made from natural 'ingredients' like shells, feathers, sand and so on. You can't view the shell gallery in person but you can have a virtual tour of the place which is more than enough to recognise the sheer scale of the thing. It must have taken decades.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Snailmail: Poodles and Frobisher

I've had some luscious snailmail this week. So much that there's no space on this post for my outgoing mail - picture home made cat envelopes and a couple of from standard sets and you have it covered.

I was pleased to get the Faulker stamp as he's one of the authors listed in my Favourite Short Stories post. I've mentioned Philatelink in another post, and it's been my intention for a while to buy one of their mixed bags of stamps. When I received the envelope with the Frobisher and Inigo Jones stamps on it I realised I could wait no longer! Paypal was raided and I now have my first order placed.

Writing Paper:
It was difficult to get a picture of the poodles that wasn't grainy but as you can see the border of this writing paper incorporated two poodles walking/ dancing and showing off their flashy new Marie Antoinette inspired haircuts. Cute.
The one with the bear in the corner came from a UK penpal - I spy with my little eye something that came from Paperchase! I know because I almost bought the same notepad with the intention of using it as writing paper.
Speaking of which, I saw a wide NOTES pad in Poundland the other day and got it for letters because of the two ladies sharing a pot of tea. It's about A5 sized so will make some satisfyingly big letters.

New penpal:
I got a packed first letter from a new penpal which included this postcard and a description of the Museum of Everyday Life in Vermont, which sounds charming.
The letter was finished off with this Edward Gorey cat stamp - a battered but cheerful looking tuxedo cat.
There was also this mini handmade book. I've been umming and ahhing about starting an art journal but it seems like a big time commitment - this book could be perfect for that project as the size of the pages wouldn't daunt me at all!
She has a cat called Smedley who looks like this. Smedley. Genius name. Makes me think of the character Lord Smedley in Blackadder Third thanks to my recent listening.
This I received from a different penpal and LOVED IT - that typewriter!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Monday Mishmash

Letter writing LUST!
La Papierre offers a stationery subscription service sending out letter writing sheets and envelopes. They aren't based in the UK but will ship here, and feedback I have seen on the subscription service is good. I'm not intending to sign up to this anytime soon as I have lots of writing paper and need to save my pennies for other things but it's lovely to know that such a service exists.

Miles Jupp on plotting 
There's an interesting 30 minute programme on BBC Radio 4 which references a book called Plotto that might be of interest to my writing friends. Written by William Cook, it is full of scenarious a budding scribbler can use. It is allegedly the master book of all plots - some of the examples Miles Jupp references in the show are quite random.
Example: A ventriloquist, is captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk and is consequently given his freedom and loaded with honours.

A podcast about the books you've been meaning to read
If you're a book lover and enjoy listening to irreverent people chat about books, I'd recommend the Overdue podcasts. Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting discuss a variety of books, one a week, which are books you should have read by now. Or books that lots of other people have read by now. The most amusing listen I've come across on Overdue is The Mummy by Anne Rice. They have also discussed Of Mice and Men, The Da Vinci Code, Fifty Shades of Grey, Outlander, Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, Kushiel's Dart - they're up to 248 now so you're bound to have read something they have done a podcast on.

Pinterest Cute
A baby crow - IT'S SO FLUFFY!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Snailmail: Cats and peacocks

An altered postcard for an altered postcard swap. The envelope is one of my favourite homemades and has headed out to an ailurophile in Sweden. 

Very please to send out the Gothic art envelope. I do enjoy posting unusual ones out in the mail. Some of the staff at my local post office don't pay any attention to what I send but some are interested in the envelopes, so it's nice to have something fun to show them.

Stamps - Swedish, American and Irish stamps. If I had to pick favourites, it would be Sweden who got the points. Note the 'Non Machineable Surcharge' comment on the American stamps? Apparently if you post anything in the states which is outside standard envelope sizes you have to pay extra as they need to be sorted by hand and won't fit through the machines.
Other stamps - envelope decoration.
Washi tape - love the cool cats! I've never been a fan of the narrow washi tape you can get - frankly, I don't see the point in it - but these dainty little seahorses used as embellishment on letter paper enable me to see why some people would like the thinner style of tape.
Writing paper. Beaufitul peacocks on one letter - fun sneakers on the other.