Sunday, 15 May 2016

Hey Little Magpie Blog posts for May

Over on the Hey Little Magpie blog three layouts for May using Pinkfresh Studio's Life Noted collection.

Here's a sneak peek ...

Monday, 9 May 2016

Hmmm ... where were all the girls ?

I spent the day in Cambridge on Saturday at Clare College, attending the Faculty of Mathematics Open Day. It's been a bit of a pipe dream of mine to continue my education when the nest becomes empty which may be as soon as next year. Where better to study that at the college that bears my name ( albeit a different spelling but that's a minor detail ) and has the most fabulous gardens, the prettiest bridge , one of the best choirs and a dining hall where you could pretend you were at Hogwarts. Shallow I know but then life can be and I certainly am.

I'd been smitten by the place when I'd visited Cambridge earlier in the year and decided there and then to apply. Can you teach an old dog new tricks ? Well, most mature students may forget first principles of mathematics if they haven't practised them in a while but as I'm fondly acquainted with them on a daily basis, why not ?

Funny that when I was at University, the last place I'd want to spend a sunny day was in the library but now, with the benefit of maturity and a smidgeon of wisdom, I couldn't imagine anything lovelier than to immerse myself in the world of academia and lose myself to a day of Calculus. There's something quite beautiful and absorbing about Mathematics that enables you to block out the irritations of family life like ' What's for dinner ?' and ' How come we haven't got any peanut butter? ' or even ' You should have woken me, now I'm going to be late '  as if everything and anything is always your fault. Time to call my own agenda.

My first observation on arrival at the college was the buzzing that was emanating from the helicopter mothers hovering nearby their offspring , eager to ingratiate themselves with the professors from the Mathematics department and desperate to glean anything that may amount to an advantage for their admissions process.

My second observation, sadly, was that in a room full of foppish students, there were only three girls ... and I was one of them - can hardly call myself a 'girl' these days but I was sorely disappointed that our gender wasn't better represented.

After an entertaining introduction from the Admissions Tutor, the parents were asked to leave ( which they did reluctantly ) at which point I must have stuck out like a sore thumb as the average age was probably 17. There followed a lecture by the Director of Studies in Mathematics , who asked for volunteers to solve a variety of mathematical conundrums which he presented on a flip chart.

Emboldened by the fact that I was able to answer them, I decided to ask him a question at the end of the session. His answer to my query as to whether they have or have had any mature students apply to study Mathematics was a rather curt and monosyllabic  " No ". That's me told then.

I suppose there's always a first time for everything but it stuck me that there was a lost opportunity for them to acknowledge that mature students still have something to offer, are less likely to drop out and may actually be capable of a spot of differentiation or algebra here and there. Sadder still was the fact that my quick head count of those present revealed that less than 5% were female. What's going on in schools ? Is Mathematics still a male domain . Surely not ? Come on girls get your calculators out and let's give the men a run for their money.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Stash Heaven

So here it is ... my little ( ahem ) pile of stash purchased at Version Scrap in Paris last weekend.

The show was held in a modern venue called Cite de la Mode et du Design - a much better event than last year's and bursting at the seams with absolutely gorgeous stash , unseen in the UK. What's more there were loads of vendors selling 12 x 12 papers .

I adore the simple graphic quality of the French dies and stamps. My absolute favourite has to be Simply Graphic. The fine quality of their dies and their chic designs are a sheer delight  Carabelle score very highly too with their stunning stamps and  stencils and a close joint third would have to be Carto Scrap whose stamp set prices were so reasonable at around £5.50 for a 8cm x 15 cm set and Ephemera who had fabulous enamel shape packs in gorgeous colours for a mere £2 per pack.

There was evidence of a lot of items from the US that weren't yet available in the UK  which was surprising - like the Heidi Swapp Lightboxes and a lot of the new We R Memory Keepers tools and punches.

I tried to restrict myself to products not available in the UK though . Here's a little peek.

... and the sweetest little calico carrier bag to hold them all courtesy of Simply Graphic.

One of my favourite purchases ( not shown in the photo above for some reason )  was from a supplier called Aladine who were selling tubs of foam backed rubber stamps in a variety of themes for a mere 10 Euros ( just under £8) . Now I don't usually like foam stamps but these were only foam backed ( making them lighter to transport ) . The actual stamp was a very good quality rubber - 36 of them in total plus a cube ink pad in black.The designs were right up my street and I couldn't believe the quality .

The photo below doesn't do them justice.

An absolute bargain and I know I'm going to be using them again and again.

I can highly recommend the show and what's not to like about a weekend away with best friends, stash shopping and the best food in the world .

Best buddies in the world

Iles Flotante - a pudding to die for

Flowers at the Marche at Place d'Aligre

 Choux pastries at Odette's

Love the French scrappers' love for vibrant colours

Rummaging at the market 

No title required 

Carabelle's wonderful array of tampons ( no not the sanitary variety - that's what stamps are called in France ) 

Eclair, mille-feuilee or tarte framboise ? That'll be all three then.

A bientot mes amis

Up-cycling ...

... sounds painful , like a bike-ride uphill, but it needn't be if it only involves making something that doesn't look that nice look a bit better. Maybe that's what I do every morning in front of the mirror ...

Anyway , I purchased this little thing from a flea market in Paris at the weekend ( sorry that sounded a little show offy , as if I'm always browsing Parisien markets - it only happens once a year , honest ) ... and the name Tim Holtz sprung to mind with his astronomically priced spinner things that hold stamp thingys. The difference is , this one only cost 5 Euros ( about £4 ) and so had to be bought as all bargains must.

I'm guessing it was made around the 50's or 60's , not a particularly good quality wood - I"m guessing pine or beech and had a rather ghastly layer of chipped varnish with a slightly garish orange hue.

I would normally attempt to restore anything made of wood back to its natural colouring but as the wood was cheap, the varnish horrid and I am rather lazy, I decided to slap on some paint instead. I applied a couple of coats of 2 different Paper Artsy Fresco Finish paints , appropriately named London Fog and French Roast ( a nice little trans - European blend I thought ) . I then finished it off with a quick buff of Pewter gilding wax to give it a slight metallic sheen. This all took a mere matter of minutes ( and about an hour to clean up the mess on my desk , clothes and carpet afterwards  ).

Tickled pink with the result . ... and given that I saved a fortune, that now gives me guilt-free reign to go buy things to put in it . Eh voila !

Monday, 11 April 2016

Funny old world

Just returned from Paris ( feels good to name drop from time to time - Jeez, I'm so shallow ) where I bought a crucifix in a market to add to my collection - bakelite with mother or pearl inlay - made around the 1950's in France.

Fortunately it still had its original label on the back - you can't beat a a bit of provenance when dealing with old stuff. It originally came from a Papeterie in Toulon. Being a nosey so and so I google mapped the address and dropped the little man into position, only to find myself in a street I had actually walked down, many years ago when visiting DH's sister who owns a house in nearby Port Grimaud. Sadly the Papeterie is no longer there but I did spot the cafe where we had lunch.

So, I have cleaned it up using the advised Brasso ( being careful not to breathe in any dust as Bakelite contains Formaldehyde - not good for longevity ) and had a quick look on some of my favourite antique trading sites and found its identical twin ... for sale at £80 ! Not bad for a 5 Euro bargain buy. I won't be selling it though as it now holds fond memories for me of our recent trip to Paris with my scrapping buddies. Oh ... and its year of manufacture ... 1958 - same year I was made . Don't you just love coincidences ?

More on Paris to follow - just having to edit out all the shots of me eating cake !

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Spring Cleaning

Condition: Spring Cleaning : A common condition that affects mainly women .

Causes: Sudden onset of sun striking windows , thereby highlighting several months of grimy dust. May also be brought on unexpectedly by reading Ideal Homes/ Good housekeeping or similar publications.

Symptoms: Sudden flourish of activity involving the purchasing of unnecessary cleaning products and storage boxes, urge to fill charity bags full of unwanted clothing and underused kitchen gadgets.

Side Effects: Restlessness, guilt, hyperactivity, breathlessness, irritation, fatigue.

Cure: None known

I have spent the day bleaching last year's grubby garden furniture cushions, sorting through 25 years worth of photographs and de-griming the teens' bathroom. Not content with this, I then went on to clear out the entire top cupboards of my built-in bedroom wardrobes and attempt a de-clutter of my scrap room. I am a glutton for punishment. The photographs nearly did my head in. Each and every one involved the following decisions - keep, chuck, store, scrap, insert into album etc.

I am utterly worn out with the effort of it all - not the physical effort , the mental anguish of it all. The straw that broke the camel's back was what to do with all the baby bath toys which I'd stashed under the basin thinking that out of sight was out of mind. Not so. One duck and Mr Wheezey, the water spouting penguin have gone into the attic.

And as for the photographs ....

I had to laugh at the rather macabre Polaroid of myself, sister and father looking long faced and suitably distraught at the Funeral Home where Mum had just been taken. I think we may just have been leafing through the coffin brochure attempting a decision on whether to go with the Old English Oak with the solid brass handles ( cripplingly expensive ) or the veneered version with the stainless steel knobs . For the life of me I can't remember what on earth compelled us to take a photo of the sorry scene. Why on earth would I ever want to be reminded ?

This along with what seemed like a million other memories have now been consigned to piles on the floor from where they will remain for at least a fortnight, gathering dust be sorted into albums, cataloguing the various chapters of my life.

This spring-cleaning ritual has become a recurring feature of my life for the past 20 or so years. It is an annual phenomenon which only seems to afflict me. The rest of the family seem capable of by-passing it completely. There is no known cure, other than maybe to simply stop buying the 'stuff ' in the first place.

Maybe today's selfie - taking, snapchat - swapping, text-exchanging generation have something to teach us hoarding oldies. Life is transitory , fleeting and utterly disposable.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Farewell Basic Grey

So sad to see them leave the Scrapbooking Industry but making the most of their last ever collection Urban Luxe over on Hey Little Magpie's blog . Here's a sneak peek of what I've been busy making ...

And if you like what you see please leave a comment . Thanks

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Make It - Farnborough 2016

Spent the morning with friends at Make it in Farnborough - thanks to Sandra, Ruth, Sue and Niki for showing me your purchases ( almost as nice as buying them myself - shopping by proxy ! ) and encouraging 'enabling' me to splurge.

And splurge I did, on these little beauties...

Couldn't resist adding some new colours to my Starlights - they do white now ! 

And who wouldn't want these foils in all those gorgeous colours. I have a few from Heidi Swapp's range but couldn't find a decent pink that wasn't too cutesy so the shade called Watermelon from Deco Foil is perfect and there's lovely chocolately brown and a rather luscious black too - so why buy six ? Because they were cheaper in threes of course and who doesn't love a bargain.

I found them a Craft Obsessions stand - also lovely to meet Brenda and David finally. Good to see them at the show - hope they make it a regular booking as they had some wonderful stock including this delightful watercolour stamp from Rubbernecker . I noticed they aren't up on their website yet but that's maybe because they've only just come in to stock so grab them when they do as I'm sure they'll sell out fast.

Isn't it funny observing how trends come and go in scrapbooking? The crafting world has suddenly gone bonkers for water colouring as if it's only just been invented. I'm happy though, as I've always loved the hazy look of water colouring and it was high time for a revival so bring it on I say. These are a cheat's dream. No skill required - my kinda product ! You simply ink up the splodgy background stamp , you could spritz it with water if you like then stamp. Then ink up the outline stamp with black ink and overstamp the lovely smudgy watercolour image - et voila . Can't wait to try this out and I know I'll be back for more as there were so many to choose from and I limited myself to just one.

Talking of watercolour techniques, I'm in love with Brushos. Have you tried them yet ? They are such fun ( as Miranda's mum would say ) . Again, no skill required , although the expert artists would probably beg to differ. I just prick the caps of mine with a pokey tool, sprinkle them onto some watercolour paper as if I were dusting the top of my cappuccino and Bob's your uncle whoever he was. I wonder how that translates into French - might just go check Google translate to see if they struggle with our weirdo Brit sayings. 

I've just bought Basic Grey's Urban Luxe collection and I'm going to experiment on my layouts with Brushos which I think would be the perfect accompaniment. Incidentally, I'm still in shock over Basic Grey's decision to pull out of the scrapbooking market. I grew up with their papers, in fact I think they may have been my very first purchase when I discovered scrapbooking so they're part of my heritage. It would be a bit like Beatrix potter saying she'd decided to give up on her little books after Mrs Tiggywinkle. My top three favourite collections would have to be Romany ( which I think may have been called Gypsy in the UK ) , Periphery and Highline - what's yours ? Leave a comment below with a link to your contact details and I shall donate a BG prize to whoever mentions one of my next 3 faves after those I've just mentioned. 

Those who know me will know that I'm a neat-freak so no surprises that I had to buy Lawn Fawn's turquoise chamois with that cute little deer lurking in the corner. Can't abide a messy stamp. 

I also managed to find a few stands stocking the Altenew brand. I'm intrigued by their layering stamps - another fad ? Well who doesn't love a fad ? I'd found the 'To The Moon' stamps online and fallen in love with them only to discover that they were sold out everywhere which of course made me want them all the more . Shallow ? yep ! So imagine my delight when I saw them hanging on a rail at the show. They are every bit as gorgeous as I thought they'd be and I've been experimenting with using embossing on the top layer . I'll be using these on my next blog post along with the gorgeous midnight blue colours in the Urban Luxe collection - a match made in heaven - literally.

All in all , I thought it was a very good show - predominantly for card makers as always seems to be the case so not a lot of new papers but it was lovely looking at all the stamps, paints, crayons, stencils and dies. Making a note in my diary for 2017 that is if the world of scrapbooking hasn't imploded by then.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Hey Little Magpie - Blog Post for February

Over on the Hey Little Magpie site today , my 3 projects for their design team blog.

Here's a little sneak peek.

Thursday, 21 January 2016


It is day eleventy twelve of de-cluttering the corner of the spare room, laughably known as my scrap space. Removing the 's' from scrap would more accurately describe it.

I can spend forever tinkering with silly little bags of a dozen or so sequins , organising them into their respective colours but cannot seem to tackle the big stuff like ten years worth of patterned paper which catalogue the scrapbooking industry's evolving trends hilariously.

My obsession with woodgrain paper has spawned a whole box full of the stuff, another for Valentine's paper although I'm not the lovey dovey type and in the past twelve months I have clearly developed an addiction for metallic paints which is bordering on obsessive.

I own every adhesive known to man but can never find the perfect one for any given project. Name me a colour of watercolour pencil and I probably have it. What is it with pencil cases ? Nineteen at the last count.

I'm indulging in what the pop psychologists call diversion activity. You can spot this if you find yourself cleaning every toilet in the house rather than complete a report with a looming deadline. It has to stop. I must take this bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.

I have moved every item from one shelf to another in the desperate search for perfect order, boxed up stickers by shape, size and colour and even sorted my spray paints in accordance with the colour spectrum but still the fiddling continues.

I am going in for another bout of organisational therapy and I am not coming out until I can see  my desk again.

Incidentally the spark that prompted this post was hearing that James Wallman who wrote Stuffocation is on Woman's Hour this morning. Off to listen to  that now.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Ready ... Steady ... Sew

Last year I used my sewing machine twice. Once to make some curtains and a second time to sew on one of my scrapbook layouts. It's always such a faff to lug it out of its cupboard , locate the power cable , plug it all in and thread it up. Bobbins, threads and accessories are scattered in a variety of places. Is it any wonder it never gets much love.

So this year, I decided to give it its very own place , all wired up , plugged in and threaded , ready to sew with all the accessories to hand.

I found the perfect table in TX Maxx. It doesn't take up too much space, is the perfect height and rather nicely painted in a  charcoal grey- a snip at £99 compared to prices I'd seen elsewhere. It has the perfect sized drawer for all the bits and bobs too. I had toyed with the idea of renovating a junk shop find but after hunting high and low, I could only find some overpriced ugly dining room drop leaf tables which wouldn't allow me any leg room or spindly legged side tables, neither of which were suitable.

I found the lamp in Sainsburys for £14 which included the bulb. I've paired it with a sweet little rosewood library chair which used to sit in the corner of the bedroom covered with clothes. It was my mum's favourite. The shaped legs compliment  those of the table - a match made in heaven. I was also going to make my first project a quilted sewing machine cover but in fact its original vinyl cover is practical and blends seamlessly in with the wall colour. In fact , looking at the photo I realise the wall behind is crying out for a rather lovely picture - yay - another shopping opportunity. I'm rather pleased with how it all looks. Can't wait to get stuck into a project now.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Hey Little Magpie - January Blog Post

Head on over to the Hey Little Magpie Blog today to see my new layouts for January using Fancy Pants Designs Happy Place collection.

Here's a sneak peek ...

Thursday, 7 January 2016

So here's my new stuff

I could have bought a whole heap more ( coral velvet cushion cover , mini iPad, copper salad servers, geometric ring, guitar shaped pizza cutter ) but I was very restrained.

As I walked into Paperchase , I repeated my mantra - do not buy any more pens or notebooks. So guess what I bought ... yep.... a pen and a couple of notebooks. But not just any old pen and notebook - luscious geometric patterned matt black and copper notebooks.

And a sweet trio of copper clips and pins.


I'm usually very negative about 'stuff' but I have come to realise that I actually quite like 'stuff' which may explain why I've bothered to put it between inverted commas, which requires patience because I never get the spacing right and then have to fiddle about on the keyboard tying to correct it.

Today I am going to look at 'stuff' ( got the hang of the spacing now ) in my nearest shopping centre. I may not buy any. I may just look. Looking at 'stuff' is as much fun as buying it. The reason I like 'stuff' is because I like to touch it , appreciate its beauty, if it has any, and to understand how it has been designed and made. I don't like all 'stuff' just beautiful 'stuff'.

I also like the sound of the word. It begins with the st sound which reminds me of words like stuffing ( which I enjoy in sandwiches ) and stew and stamp and strong and stink which is not nice to smell but is funny to say. Best of all it ends in ff which reminds me of words like fluff and faff and sniff which also sound funny and are fun to say.

So, how can I extoll the virtues of 'stuff' straight after posting about how to get rid of 'stuff' ?
Simple. Not all 'stuff' ( sorry, bored now of inverted commas - you get the gist ) is created equal. There is naff stuff ( another nice word ending in ff ) and there is lovely stuff. I am repelled by the former and addicted to the latter.

You mustn't let stuff take over your life apparently  ( like inverted commas and over gratuitous use of parentheses) according to de-cluttering gurus. You know you have too much stuff if you can't find the stuff you really need or want at a particular time. I probably have too much stuff ( oops .... misspelt it , but have now corrected , which lent a whole new meaning and probably belongs on a completely different blog ) already but I'm working on weeding out the bad and appreciating the good. Actually can you have too much stuff ? How can you tell if you have and by whose standards ?

Anyway, when I get back from my stuff sortie I may show you what I bought ...  or possibly didn't.

Thought for the day

From ' Reasons to Stay Alive '

A cheery read for January .. No really.

How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Minimalists

If you're like me and start the year by throwing things out then this is the podcast (ooh ... funny - predictive text didn't recognise the word podcast - keep up Eblogger - this is the 21st century ) for you . I love these guys. I only wish I could be more like them . I'm typing this as I listen to the above podcast and hoping that its message will subliminally infiltrate my sub-conscious and manifest its message in my actions this month .

The Minimalists - Podcast

I'm not a great fashionista but ...

... I read this quote by Coco Chanel and had to pass it on ...

'' a girl should be 2 things : who and what she wants . "

Friday, 1 January 2016

One Little Word

Chosen one yet ? One little word which sums up how you want to approach the New Year .

Mine is LIBERATE . It came to me in a flash - they usually do which must mean it was lurking in my subconscious.

I chose it because it has positive connotations and can apply to many different themes. First and foremost , I want to liberate myself from pain. Having been diagnosed with Osteo Arthritis nearly 3 years ago most of my joints have gone downhill ... apart from my 2 new stainless steel knees ! This year , I may have to have a shoulder replacement and then I have to deal with my hips. I can't even begin to think about it . I'm therefore going to attend a pain management clinic to see if I can hang on in there a bit longer rather than resorting to surgery.

I'm also planning on liberating my 'stuff' - all that junk that's cluttering up my life. I started this morning my unsubscribing from useless emails that only encourage me to buy something I don't need. I'm a sucker for a gadget as anyone will tell you ( still got to unbox my Spiraliser ... but then haven't we all ... oh.. you mean you're actually using yours ??? ) . Having just read one of my favourite blogs - The Minimalists - I'm going to join in their 30 Day Minimalism Game which involves chucking out one thing you don't really need on the 1st of January , 2 on the 2nd and so on. I'm hoping email subscriptions count in which case I'm ahead of the game ... literally.

Sounds tough doesn't it but then do I really need to hang on to every freebie bar of mini soap from every hotel I've ever stayed in , especially when I don't even use soap ?

My third act of liberation is going to involve time - the time that disappears into the sink-hole of my life - when I get sucked into reading, or rather looking at,  the pictures in lifestyle magazines that make my own kitchen look like a formica throwback to the sixties and fundamentally encourage me to believe that what I have is somehow inferior and that the rest of the world is living in a show-home. I rather like the lived-in look of our slightly shabby kitchen that was fitted over 20 ( yes 20 ! ) years ago and has the dents and knocks to prove it. I can see where eldest son placed a red hot cast iron wok on our kitchen table when he cooked his first meal with his first girlfriend and the chunk of veneer that chipped off our lovely glossy black piano when youngest son slammed the lid down after an unsuccessful attempt at a difficult piano piece.

So, my kind of liberation comes in many forms which will no doubt evolve over the year.

What's your One Little Word for 2016 ?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .... Blast Off !

I remember listening to a radio broadcast in the car about the hopefuls who were applying for the opportunity to be the first humans to fly to Mars and thinking why on earth would anyone want to do that especially as it was a one way ticket. By the end of the broadcast it was all I could do to stop myself from rushing home to send in my application in the blind hope that they might accept an ageing Mum of two with a slight chocolate addiction and a couple of dodgy knees.

I've been following Tim Peake's preparation for his flight to the ISS and watched with bated breath at the launch and slightly rocky docking yesterday with my heart in my mouth. When they finally docked successfully and eventually unlatched the sealed door to the Soyuz capsule I nearly cried with joy. Back in the studio , they asked the assembled audience who would want to swap places with Tim and spend 6 months aboard the ISS my hand shot up as if I were back in school as an over-eager six year old in class.

I'll have to content myself with catching a glimpse of the ISS as it passes over the UK at 4.22pm this afternoon although with the today's forecast , it seems unlikely I'll be successful. You can track its progress and see when and where you can see it here on NASAs Spot the Station site.

One thing's for certain though ... on Friday 4.18pm I'll be looking up at the early night sky to spot a glimpse of .. not Santa's sleigh but something far more intriguing !

Go Tim ...