Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fabric

Velvet, voile, canvas, calico, felt, silk, organza, denim, cotton, wool, silk ... you name it I have it ... in various sizes, widths and colours. Quite what I ever thought I might make with all this stuff, heaven only knows. I've now whittled it down to one medium sized basket.

I may never use any of it but it's comforting to know it's there , just in case. That's the problem - this 'Just in Case' scenario. When the end of the world is nigh and the apocalyptic whatever finally happens, is it really comforting to know that I will have nothing to eat or clean water to drink but I will have enough quilting squares to make myself a curtain which will stretch from one end of the country to the other ? I doubt it . I will also be able to embellish it with every conceivable size of pompom thanks to my collection of ( unused) pompom makers . Mind you , just the very mention of the word pompom cheers me up so aren't they worth keeping for that reason alone ?

I will leave you with the cheery sound of the word POMPOM ringing in your ears.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

There is another way ...

... to simplify your life which takes seconds. It's called Unsubscribe.

Every morning I"m bombarded by a dozen or so tempting emails from sites I may or may not have ordered from before. by 6am this morning I could have ordered a cordless screwdriver , a 2 foot high Morroccan lantern reduced by 20% , a holiday to Aruba( 2 weeks for the price of three), a half price fish tank foot de-tox and an Indian silk printed cushion - none of which I need or want. However the temptation was there to nab me during a weak moment. One click later and I was free from temptation. I'd still like the holiday but at least now I won't feel as if I'm missing out.

Oh -  I did order the cordless screw driver though , but then it is for a very good reason , as my visit to Ikea last night will testify.

Out with the old ...

... and in with the new. I felt vaguely embarrassed by the pile of make-up gathering dust in my bedroom. All the more so as I only ever really wear mascara. Some of it went back years, other items were bought in a mad rush of blood to the head and I'll admit to some purchases as being nothing more than desperate attempts to re-capture my youth ( Mac - where all the make-up assistants look lie extras from the set of Twilight ).

There were enough eye-brow pencil to draw a line twice round the earth and back again, every shade of brown imaginable ( looked more like the shade card from a Farrow and Ball paint chart ) and a multitude of dodgy past the sell by date mascara.

So , what to do ? Throw it all out ( apart from the Mac which went to some of my very grateful students ) .

I'm now the proud owner of a minimalist set of essentials - mascara , brow liner, eye shadow, lip gloss , face powder something or other and a decent set of brushes. They fit nicely inside a squishy metallic gold make-up bag and I LOVE it. I have Hayley-Jo to thank at the Laura Mercier counter of John Lewis for making me look half decent .

I cannot describe the joy of getting up in the morning and knowing that the whole shebang only takes 2 minutes to locate, choose ( no choice involved ) and apply. Just think - that must have saved me at least 5 minus a day , 35 minutes a week , 1825 minutes per year or just over 31 hours of saved time ... in which to find something to wear that actually fits. That's a whole other story.




P.S  The only non Laura Mercier item in the photo is Gimme Brow by Benefit - cannot recommend it highly enough . For an old nobby no-brows like me , it actually fills in the gaps, from years of over-plucking, with fibres but doesn't make you look like Groucho Marx.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I think I may have turned into a de-cluttering bore ...

... in fact I know I have . It's my last thought at night as the lights go out and my first waking thought . I'm heartily bored of it all myself and I keep asking myself HOW on earth did I let all my clutter build up like this  as if I didn't know the answer.

There's a timeline to de-cluttering . It starts with the desire to make space in your life , followed by a surge of energy at having broached the subject . This is quickly followed by a trip to a DIY store to get  the latest Dulux brochure. You start lusting after shelving systems, cupboards and storage boxes online into the wee small hours of the night .

There's then a bit of a delay whilst you summon up the energy ., a spot of procrastination perhaps about how it's not quite the right time. The first day is promising , the second is singularly unpromising and sometimes you don't get past the third day . There then comes a plateau followed by renewed vigour and then an all time slump into miserable depression by the end of the first week , assuming yo get that far.

If you manage to choose a paint colour , some new carpet and a curtain or blind this is called progress. At some stage of the proceedings you will become excessively grumpy and then whoa .... a flash of ruthlessness. The bin bags start piling up and you realise you could keep Oxfam in used goods for at least a decade. At some point you'll realise you need more extra strong bin bags - you're on a roll, literally.

When the furniture gets moved out into every available nook and cranny in the house in the days leading up to the painting you can pat yourself on the back at getting this far. The fact that you have to catapult yourself into bed from the other side of the room because there's a wall a boxes by your bedside , is a small price to pay ( although the novelty wears off quickly when you get up in the middle of the night to pee and can't get to the door before your pelvic floor goes. )

So we're 2 days and counting before the lid gets prised off the tin of Farrow and Ball Off White . The carpet is ordered ( acid test - if you can crush a handful of Digestives and watch the crumbs disappear into the pile it's a goer ) ,  I've splurged on those American shutters and may even stretch to a couple of new lamps.

Now the only problem is this. Lovely neutral shades of decorative gorgeousness on the walls, luscious slate grey on the floor , calming decorative accessories , natural baskets etc but then all the stash will go back in and it'll look as if the Dulux paint mixing machine has exploded in there. It's going to look like a technicolour acid trip on every shelf unless I discretely hide it behind closed doors in which case I'll never use the half of it as I'll never know what's there.

When you browse on Pinterest for Craft-room inspiration , they seem to fall into two camps :

Camp One - Boudoir style, over-frilly, pink nonsense where no crafting whatsoever goes on but the walls are awash with jokey quotes like " If in doubt just add glitter "

Camp Two - A mad assortment of every Rubber-Maid plastic storage option ever manufactured in various shades of purple and lime green.

I'm not sure I fall into either camp , so I'll have to make it up as I go along... but I won't be adding glitter.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Well ....

... the 3 shelves are out of my scrap room and squiggled into my bedroom but the Expedits are still there although not for long as the painting is being done next weekend. I've ordered the carpet and,  rather rashly, some of those American shutters for the window - a mad moment of impulse but I'm pleased I did it . Now I just have to wait 12 weeks for them to arrive.

All of my stash is now piled up on the shelves in my bedroom which means that every morning when I wake up, I find myself staring at it . This is good because I'm able to remind myself that there is simply too much of it . In scrapping , trends come and go so it's unsurprising that the brads and eyelets I used a decade ago will have gone out of fashion now. Lord only knows what we'll be thinking of washi tape in ten years time = probably marvelling that we all bought so much of it .

So would I wear some of the hideous clothes I bought a decade ago -? No. So why would I need a brad in every colour, size and shape ?

I've also realised that you really have to be in the right mind set to de-clutter . Last weekend I sat on the sofa and sobbed at how overwhelming the task had become. Needless to say , as is so typical of me , I could't just de-clutter my scrap room . It had to be the whole shebang - clothes, jewellery, make-up , toiletries the lot . So no wonder it all felt a bit hopeless.

All the make up went last week and all my jewellery has been de-tangled and is hanging from pretty hooks. My nail varnishes are down to a couple of nice bottles and I've given away any perfume I haven't worn for a year. Today I'm in the right mood to tackle my clothes. They're piling up in charity bags and it feels good.

I've also listed some items on ebay and there are actually a few bids on them . As the listings end today , I'll see how much they've made which is exciting . Encouraged , I've listed a few more. Little and often.

... which just leaves my stash - still the hardest part but it must be done. So what did I do yesterday ? Bought a whole lot more . Mad .

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Is this what happens ...

... when life gets out of control ? Trying to de-clutter . Failing miserable. One step forward , nine steps back . I have a theory . When my mother died and the Wicked Witch of the East moved in with my father , everything that I'd ever owned as a child - photos , memorabilia , sentimental knick-knacks and trinkets went straight in the skip . I didn't have any choice as to whether I might wish to hold on to a keepsake or two. She eradicated any trace of our life as a family before Mum died. As a consequence every item that comes through our front door , stays and is never thrown away . The result is a home choc full or what I can only describe as 'stuff'. Add to this the salve of retail therapy borne out of various unhappinesses along the way and the advancing of years and you get a situation that is out of control.

If you have ever visited our home , you will know that outwardly it has the appearance of an ordered and organised life. But delve a little deeper and open a few drawers and you will discover the full extent of my hoarding. I may be being  a little harsh on myself. I visit friends whose hoarding is like mine. A life full of sentimentality and decision making that is too difficult - keep or throw ? It happens to all of us .... I think. It's when it stifles you that you need to decide , enough is enough .

I once attempted to de-clutter for a friend whose mother had died some 10 years previously . Her kitchen drawers were full of half spent birthday candles from her children's birthday cakes , first aid plasters spilling unhygienically from their ancient yellowing wrappers and photo lab folders that had long since lost their photos. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Her mother's house contents jostled for position amongst their own family belongings . It was a battle destined to end in tears. We managed to empty one cupboard but our progress ground to a standstill as it all became overwhelming.

It's the decision -making I find so difficult . That's why you have to approach the task with an almost military-like mindset. Ruthlessness is the keyword. I've just sat on the sofa in tears , overwhelmed at the enormity of the project. I suspect that I may be exaggerating the task in my own head . As I said, for anyone that's been to our house , they're probably laughing now at my description of our over-cluttered house but I suppose everyone has different ideas of what clutter levels are acceptable and I suppose mine are low.

So, I've made a start . Last week I went out and bought a brand new minimal kit of make-up . Yesterday I tipped the remnants of a decade's worth of mascaras and eye-shadows into the bin. Today , I've discovered that I own 3 lash curlers, have never used one and frankly, life is too short to even think about curling your lashes. I have filled 2 charity bags with boxed sets of various fripperies and nonsense, emptied make-up bags, scarves , hair ornaments and jewellery that would look childish on a teenager. What was I thinking when I bought the outsized plastic gingerbread man brooch ?

I suppose I should have taken a 'before' photo but as I always rashly dive in head-first to these manic projects, I rarely pause long enough to think about doing that. And here I am , procrastinating by typing a blog post as an evasion tactic. Maybe the 'after' photo will suffice. Watch this ( newly cleared) space.

Monday, 24 March 2014

New Layouts

I haven't uploaded any layouts for ages so here are four of my latest.

First up is a daft photo from our crop retreat in 2012. I've used Scraptastic's March kit which I absolutely adore . Its a bit on the wild side for me but the colours really zing and suit the season so well. Who'd have thought I'd have ended up liking yellow ? I used yellow and pink Gelatos for the background and not a a lot else besides stamps and my beloved sequins.




Next up is another dash of yellow using the same kit . here's my eldest off on his Duke of Edinburgh expedition.





Now for one of my youngest . I adore this photo which was shot at dusk hence the silhouette effect of twilight . To emphasise this , I shaded the background with corresponding Pan Pastel colours over some grunge paste scraped through a hexagonal stencil  and added just a whisp of vellum and light papers and acetate overlays to keep it all magical.





And finally a photo from 1997 when my eldest was only 3 . I can't believe that was nearly 17 years ago. I kept the layout pretty old fashioned to match the style of the nineties - this was how I was scraping back then. I don't think my style has changed that much. It was taken in Nantucket , hence the little boat appliqué on his T shirt . My, I love that place . Good grief .... there's that yellow again ... what's going on ?



Downsizing

Not me ( I wish ) but my scrap room which is now a scrap space. Voluntarily I should add.  After much soul searching, I realised that I do not scrap at home any more now that I'm working full time. It seemed indulgent to take up so much space with materials that only get an outing once a month , if that . It also releases space in the room to accommodate a bed for snoring husband , friends to stay ... although not at the same time obviously.

So , prompted by the latest slew of 'hoarding' programmes on TV , appropriately scheduled now Spring has arrived - they never miss a trick, and the decibel level of snoring ( his not mine ) I have set about a radical re-think.

Youngest son is away this week and therefore the demands of transporting, homework - helping, laundry, rugby boot scraping and feeding have diminished considerably. I never thought I'd hear myself say this but I rather miss those piles of clothes on the bathroom floor and the call of "What's for tea Mum " as soon as he walks in the door. I'm going to be a hopeless empty nester.

I thought I'd therefore carpe the old diem and get cracking . I almost stalled at the first hurdle as it all seemed so daunting but , fuelled by a boozy Sunday roast lunch out ( another by-product of youngest son away ) , I set about rounding up the old man to help me shift the furniture to get a sense of what it would all look like if I crammed everything down one end of the room. The Ikea Expedit has been rotated 90 degrees and now sits perpendicular to the wall creating a room divide ( thanks for that suggestion Kate and Emma ). I now have a teensy square footage into which is crammed 2 Expedits, a desk , one chair and a wall of shelving.  The bonus is that I can swivel on my chair and reach just about everything - a bit like the working triangle eulogised by kitchen planners. The downside is that there are a number of stuffed laundry bags lined up on the landing awaiting their final resting place. That may be at the charity shop, the bin ( peel-offs only ) or neighbours children.

Phase two will be to empty the room completely, paint the grubby walls and re-floor with some snazzy vinyl. Only items that I know to be useful or believe to be beautiful according to William Morris will be re-housed. watch this space for photo updates.

Here's what it used to look like but you'll have to wait for the after photo. I only hope it doesn't take too long as I can feel the momentum ebbing out of me even as I write . I'm almost embarrassed to upload these photos as the room looks like an absolute tip . Still it's a good motivational incentive to remind myself of how messy it was.








Monday, 17 March 2014

Encouraging blogging ...

... in my students. What a great way to encourage my students to develop their writing skills. I am sitting next to one of my pupils right now and encouraging him to set up his own blog so that he can record his thoughts, beliefs and observations about the world. I haven't quite convinced him yet but I'm going to pass the keyboard over to him now to have a go ....

I shall call my pupil 'Tom' for the purposes of this article to preserve his anonymity.

Take it away Tom ...




Hi there it's a anonymous pupil here... just going to talk about reading and what to recommend. If you think that you don't like reading books because there to hard or you don't generally just think its boring i used to be exactly the same until i found graphic novels. They helped me in a such a way because i am a visual learner and I like to imagine things visually.



... so there you have it - Tom's first blog article. I'm hoping that he enjoyed that enough to want to start writing his own blog . What an amazing way to encourage young writers to find their voice.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Today ...

... I have done school run, taught a lesson at 8am , been to school and taught for another 2 hours , including wiping child's ( not even mine ) bottom following unpleasant diarrhoea incident, done food shop for the week ( after having bleached hands several times ) , shovelled kitten and cat's poo ( this time both mine - cats that is not poo )  from litter tray ( more intensive hand bleaching ) , prepared labour intensive fruit salad and skewered chicken with coriander marinade ( involving retrieving under-used food processor from the top of the kitchen cupboard whilst teetering on step ladder ) for dinner tonight , cleared out 300 pizza / estate agent / taxi service junk mail leaflets from letter box, folded ( note not ironed ) laundry , replaced ( slightly less under-used ) food processor back on top of kitchen cupboard , read two units from 'World of Shakespeare' MOOC ( see earlier post ) , speed read Merry Wives of Windsor , prepared 3 lesson plans for this afternoon's lessons and booked youngest's sons parent teacher interviews for all 8 teachers . Just about to start the afternoon's lesson onslaught which will finish around 7.30pm.

If anyone's watched Outnumbered lately , you'll appreciate that I have won ( hands down ) the 'Who's More Tired " contest with DH who is going out ( again ) tonight having watched sport all weekend . And if he claims that he's even close to second place he knows what he can do with his skewer.

Phew, Got that off my chest.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A few layouts

It's been ages since I uploaded any layouts so hear are 4 that I managed to complete at yesterday's crop . Pretty prolific for me , I'm usually too busy chatting.

If I could remember where I saw the original layout on which I based the first layout I would credit the original but I can't remember for the life of me where I saw it . I used the sketch as our crop challenge yesterday - well done to Ali for winning with her version.


Apologies - all of the photos are looking a little blue. I haven't yet downloaded the latest version of Photoshop onto my Mac so I'm using the basic editing tools from iPhoto ... which are , well basic but adequate.


This next one was inspired by a tutorial on the Silhouette website for using sketch pens . I love this technique and when you combine it with cutting out shapes the end result is terrific. You can't really see any depth from the photo but the stars and hearts on the drawn circle lines are cut out and I've backed them with some woodgrain paper.



This next one uses a funny little photo of Jack taken close up giving a fish-eye lens effect which makes his legs seem tiny . He was trying to lick the camera lens when I took it . I"m loving the new Kaiserkraft stamp - fantastic value too. I've used the grungy borders around the edge of the card stock here.



And finally a favourite photo of youngest son which needed little embellishment other than a beautifully dreamy piece of patterned paper as background ( Allison Kreft for Webster's Pages ) , some stamping - more Kaiserkraft and a chalkboard label and woodgrain card from American Crafts' latest DIY Shop range.



Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

I've been MOOC'ed

I think I remember reading something about these online courses last year ... all the more reason to sign up for one as the memory seems to be flagging.

After listening to the Today programme this morning, I was intrigued by what they were talking about , especially one of the contributors who's writing a book called My Teacher is an App - great title. Hadn't got a clue what MOOC stood for until Google helped out - Massive Open Online Course - another great title - does what it says on the box -  they're Massive ( global ) they're Open to anyone , they're available Online and it's a Course .

So I"m now one module into Shakespeare and his World and loving it . In 10 weeks time I'll be wiser and 10 weeks older but happy in the knowledge that I can add something to how I teach English.


How it works

Professor Jonathan Bates , Biographer , Critic , Honorary Fellow of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and a Fellow in Creativity at Warwick Business School, presents the 10 week course in conjunction with the University of Warwick . Given that I wouldn't have the time to get to Warwick University once a week , let alone afford the fees , to be able to do it from the comfort of my sofa at 3 O clock in the morning is a real bonus ... and its free which, let's face it, is extraordinary.

My next foray will be into How to Read and Model Fictional Minds : Introducing cognitive poetics - the application of cognitive science to literary reading , in conjunction with the University of Nottingham . Thereafter it will be a quick canter through Getting a Grip on Mathematical Symbolism ( thank you Loughborough University) , followed by a spot of  Community Journalism ( Cardiff ) and then onto Causes of War a (Kings College, London ) . This is brilliant - how come I hadn't heard of it before ?

Go check out the course list at :

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

What a difference a day makes ...

... as Dinah Washington once sung .

Yesterday morning I was sat in the coffee bar at Selfridges stifling a tear because our much loved cat had gone missing and yet this morning, only 24 little hours later I was full of the joys of spring and shopping for England. Yes Jack is back, having spent 48 hours mistakenly locked up in a neighbours garage. He was no worse for his adventure but all of us looked like we'd been through the wringer . Funny how one small furry creature can have that effect on the heart.

So today was a very different kettle of fish. Having dropped youngest son off at the Wigmore Hall for the second day of his music improvisation workshop, I ran off down the street with a purse full of tenners and five hours to fill.

First stop was the flagship Paperchase store on Tottenham Court Road which was stuffed to the gunwales with paper loveliness. Yes I know there's one down the road from me but this is the biggest and bestest branch ever and never fails to disappoint. I managed to satisfy my stationery fetish with a basketful of jotters, notebooks and various bits of paper madness.












On to the British Museum - best enjoyed without kids in tow as, let's be honest, they're never going to enjoy Highlights from Sutton Hoo or the Zoroastrian Traditions in Persia and beyond as much as you might want them to.

On to bookshop heaven - The London Literary Review,  purely co-incidental that they have a cake shop; Rose and Pistachio cake with Jasmine Pearls Tea - now that's what I call a fine combination. It was an added bonus that Blade Rubber ( sounds kinky but isn't ) was next-door and so it would have been rude not to have popped in and made a small purchase or two of lovely wood mounted stamps.













Then back to the Wigmore Hall in time for Max' concert. I was bowled over by the ensemble's performance with Max on the African Djembe drums. Way to go Max.






Oh , and talking of kettles of fish Jack cat has just run up the stairs and legged it into our bedroom with one of next-door's Koi Carps. It's good  to have him back despite the wildlife menagerie that's going to turn up under our bed.








Thursday, 13 February 2014

Here Kitty Kitty !


Look who's coming to live with us .

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Always on the lookout ...

… for new things to use for teaching and look what I found - the sweetest little flash card books . Made by a Japanese company called Midori and available from www.thejournalshop.com . Each contain about 100 pages so they're perfect for vocabulary or maths formulae or times tables or whatever.

There are heaps of animals to choose from hedgehogs to hippos . I went for the polar bear, penguin, squirrel and hedgehog . I may just have to go back and order some more .




Monday, 27 January 2014

Organisation

I'm sure I can't be the only one feverishly re-organising their craft supplies . I found this clipboard thing lurking in a cupboard that I'd bought from Country View Crafts when it was half price thinking it may come in useful one day - well it's day arrived and that was yesterday.

I have many little packets of 'things' that I never know what to do with - labels, stickers, chipboard pieces , do-dads whatever they call them , with no home to go to but now they do. I bundled them all into separate little glassine envelopes with one of each envelope's contents stuck to the outside so that I'd know what was inside.

I love the way it's turned out and hopefully I'll be more likely to get around to using some of the bits and pieces. Now all I have to do is find somewhere to hang it …. All in good time, you can't rush these things !





Tuesday, 31 December 2013

… is there a better way

… of teaching fraction than using chocolate ?

I don't think so.

I bought a chocolate bar lookalike phone case for my youngest's stocking but sadly it didn't fit. Rather than return it , I've pressed it into service as a teaching resource. Managed to print off lots of bars of chocolate which I then cut into constituent fraction parts , halves , quarters , thirds , tenths etc , all of which fit neatly inside the is cute little zip up chocolate case . I can now whip it out in an instant whilst teaching fractions and use the power of chocolate . Not only that , but inside was a bonus bar of mobile phone shaped chocolate .. as if my students would need any further incentive. Genius.




Thursday, 19 December 2013

10 Things I always forget about Christmas


  • That husbands view it differently . worthy of a blog post all of its own.
  • That Away in A Manger will always make me cry.
  • That just when I think everything is in hand someone throws a spanner in the works.
  • That the fridge will empty itself daily.
  • That you suddenly realise that you all own too many clothes because the laundry takes forever.
  • That whatever you buy a month before Christmas will be suddenly slashed to half price the week before.
  • That a 14 lb turkey will cost an arm and a ( turkey) leg
  • That 'best intentions' quickly turn into 'damage limitation'
  • That when the children break up from school / college , even though they're old enough to entertain themselves , you will get nothing done
  • That it is just one day

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Talking Turkey

Just ordered my 15 pounder and I was reminded of past turkey disasters which make me laugh now although didn't at the time . In no particular order as Dermot would say …

Disaster 1 : Nigella's special turkey in brine recipe involved dunking your bird into a whopping great trough full of salted water overnight . We left ours in the garden on a table covered with foil and hoped for the best. The foxes didn't get it , but when we drained the liquor off on Christmas morning the inside of the trough was lined with slugs … all in their last death throes due to the salt of course but seemingly alive and , well if not kicking, sliming their way around our turkey . We still ate it … just didn't tell the boys.,


Disaster 2 ; I'd gone home to my parents new home for Christmas after my first term at university - they'd just downsized and hadn't quite mastered the new gas oven . My mother , bless her , was no cook, so presumably she hadn't even used it. We couldn't get it to turn on to cook the turkey on Christmas morning so ended up hacking great chunks off the breast and wedging it under a separate wall mounted grill to cook.  The gas board wouldn't come out to fix it on Christmas day ( hadn't expected them to but worth a try ) and we later realised that it was just the timer which was programmed to come on later which is why we couldn't get it to light . My father was a very practical and resourceful sort , so if the grill hadn't worked he doubtless would have lit a fire in the garden and torched it that way.

Disaster 3 ; Not so much a disaster but a pain in the neck . Husband had been working on The Good Food Show on TV that night and had arrived home with a massive 25lb Black Norfolk turkey that they'd been reviewing on the show ( along with a dozen others ) strapped to the back of his motorbike, the trouble was , as it had been under the studio lights all day , we had to cook it there and then so the oven went on at midnight and I had to set an alarm every 2 hours to baste the ruddy thing . Think I may have slumped and fallen asleep in my brussel sprouts the following day having had no sleep the night previous ( pre kids so we still had the luxury of being able to sleep whenever we liked luckily. )

This year , I'm ordering from the farm shop where they serve a magnificent hog roast for lunch whilst you collect on the 23rd . Hopefully I'll get a full night's sleep, be slug free and have sussed our cooker so we may actually get to enjoy it.



Friday, 6 December 2013

Inspired or what ?

A year's sub to Car Nonsense Mag or an item from M&S's Blue Harbour range which aims to make men look as if they live an outdoorsy kind of life ?

Neither - a voucher for the Waitrose Cookery School for my cookery averse husband. It took 1 minute to find the website, 5 happy minutes to peruse the choice of courses and less than a nanosecond to click the BUY button.

The voucher is now printed and I'm sitting back and licking my lips at the prospect of a gourmet fish supper, an East /West fusion banquet or just an expertly executed Sunday roast at some stage in 2014.

I'm hoping this is met with more relish than the Red Letter day voucher for a trial flying lesson purchased ( Christmas 92 me to him - unused ) and the bread bin ( Christmas 08 him to me ) - yes that's what I unwrapped that Christmas morning , surpassed only by the year we went away and so I chose, bought, wrapped and bagged up all my own presents for him to pop in the car … which he forgot. That was the year he bought me an emergency, last - minute pair of wooden salad servers. I still use them to this day, only not for salad , I'll let you guess what I did with them.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A Hatblog

I've just coined a new phrase - a hatblog or maybe it should be blogtrick . Three blog posts in a row.

Blogfest 2013

I'm supposed to be attending this today but I'm not . It was all too complicated to get from here to Kings Cross in the pouring rain with a couple of crutches . I would have scoffed the buffet lunch by now and had at least 3 chocolate brownies from the Primrose Hill Bakery between sessions. I'd have laughed at Jo Brand , marvelled at Lionel Shriver's writing genius and made a few good friends along the way .

But instead I'm sat at home feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I don't just do the blogging rather than spend the day talking about it , in a grumpy fug. So here we are - my own Blogfest blog post which is just as OK as if I'd schlepped all the way to Central London and learnt how to be a better blogger. Oh and I've saved myself a fortune in cab fares, train tickets or car parking depending on which ever mode of transport I'd have chosen, which I'd already spent online by 10am on fripperies and nonsense but it did feel good and I can look forward to my parcels arriving next week. Incidentally , have you tried Amazon Prime yet ? Do yourself a fortune and don't. It will save you from near certain bankruptcy.

The Black Dog

Those who suffer with it will know what this means. It's not good . It descends like a black mist or the analogy I like to use is a drop of black black ink ( gone a bit Dylan Thomas there ) in a glass of water.

So, if I'm going to have to live with my own black dog I might as well give it a name. I'm thinking of Shaggy ( too Scooby Doo ? ) or Baldrick or maybe something human like Percy , yes Percy is good - slightly silly, slightly squiffy a bit toff like.

I'll then have to buy it one of those long plastic scoop things that you a fling a ball with. They hadn't been invented in my dog-owning days , more's the pity. I'd scrunch up my blackest thoughts into a ball shape and fling into the middle distance where it would lie undiscovered for months.

Then of course you'd need the pooper scooper, the personalised dog bowl , the woollen car rug for those damp dog walk days and a squeaking rubber chicken. With that lot in tow , I couldn't help but cheer up = job done.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Recuperation and Retail Therapy

They go hand in hand like butter and toast , cheese and wine, chocolate and ... well more chocolate.

Had a bad week last week hobbling about in pain and short on sleep . I'm sure there's medication out there that could help but I decided instead to self medicate and go shopping instead. Grappling with crutches, car parks and trolleys wasn't my idea of fun so I opted to pull up a crumpet and a cuppa and stalk the aisles of some of my favourite online scrapbooking shops.

Postie has just delivered another pizza box of loveliness and my youngest brought it upstairs for me commenting " Another box for you Mum ... you must have been doing a lot of shopping " That would be a yes and why not ?

Today's haul included the following delights :




  • Some Tim Holtz texture plates which I adore and strangely didn't own already - how come these escaped my notice until now ?
  • A sheet of woodgrain paper ( can never have enough )  
  • Some October Afternoon tin pins and as I teach , they're perfect 
  • An adorable sheet of stamps which I intend to make my Christmas cards with ... how many years have you heard me say that in October ... no honest , this time I really will.
  • Some October Afternoon labels  which I plan to use in my kitchen
  • An October Afternoon Sprinkler in a colour called 'Token' ... well I have a reputation as the Farrow and Ball Queen to maintain ... LOVE those taupe neutrals.
  • A delightfully compact 5 x 7 cutting mat which will slip into my tool tote a treat for crops and in my favourite colour too.

.... and all of this for £20 - thank you Craft Emporium - you do a fine sale . Well , this little lot will aid my recovery far faster than a fistful of Tramadol.






Saturday, 19 October 2013

Can there be such a thing ...

... as too much choice ? YES

I'm trying to buy a bed for youngest son. I thought I'd get him a double now that he's nearly 6' tall.

Trouble is , there are doubles and doubles - small doubles , regular doubles and large doubles . Then there are slatted bases ( wooden or metal) and divans . Then the divans have drawers - doubles or singles and the bed-base can lift up or slide out .... on the left hand side or the right hand side and you can have whatever permutation you like - single drawer , 2 drawer , 4 drawer etc.

  Then you have to buy a headboard - upholstered , button back or wooden slatted ? Don't even start me on the mattress - I have no idea whether an open coil , open sprung, continuous spring or pocket spring would be best . It's all too exhausting - I need a lie down ... now would that be on a open spring or a continuous coil ?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

( Un)predictive text

I sometimes worry about what my predictive text says about me. Am I right in thinking that predictive text builds up a profile of the words you commonly use , to predict what you might be trying to type ? If so my language must be pretty extreme. I've just sent thanks to a lovely lady in Germany , thanking her for her prompt reply to a message I'd just sent.  Showing off my schooldays German , I thought I'd attempt it in her mother tongue . The intended ' Vielen Dank' for 'Many Thanks' was immediately warped into ' Violent Drunk' . The poor woman was only trying to help , she must think us Brits are a pretty torrid lot.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Day +6

That's what they call it on the 6th day after your op when you're in hospital. So far ( happily ) no-one has asked me " Have you opened you bowels yet ? This seem to be a favourite pre-occupation of all nursing staff , more so than "Are you in pain ? " or "Have you got a pulse ? "

The nursing staff were in fact absolutely angelic , to the point that , if your pulse was about to expire, you'd happily change your will and leave your entire personal wealth to the Florence Nightingale Brigade or whatever their charity is called. When you're lying in bed in excruciating pain at 2am and a small sliver of light appears from your doorway and a gentle voice calls out " Would you like some more pain relief ? you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd died and gone to heaven.

So the operation is over and I now have a brand new knee. I almost won't be believe it until I see an Xray. It is the most bizarre feeling in the world to think that there's a mechanical joint in place of the one I was born with.

I have to admit that the prospect of the operation was enough to reduce me to a whimpering wreck prior to admission. The day itself was nerve-wracking in that my operation was delayed by 6 hours. By the time they wheeled me down to theatre ( not the plush seated, red velvet-curtained stage sort ) I'd resigned myself to the thought that the surgeon would now be punch-drunk with tiredness having operated on at least a dozen others before mine , since the wee small hours of the day before and would therefore fit the wrong knee to the wrong leg.

Being wheeled, horizontal , on a hospital bed through the bowels of the building prompted me to wave at strange passers-by, as if I were being taken to the gallows and this was my last contact with humanity. They all seemed happy enough to be waved at and many waved back in a puzzled sort of way. It's that same impulse you get when standing by the riverside watching a passing boat.

The pre-op room where you are anaesthetised was clinically white and postered with dire warnings of what might happen to the patient if everyone present didn't dowse themselves in anti-bacterial goo. These stopped thankfully short of a yellow warning hazard triangle enclosing a deathbed patient in black but were nonetheless scary enough to make me check that everyone present had suitably self-sanistised themselves to within an inch of their lives.

Suddenly , you get the green light and you're pushed, feet first, into the blindingly white operating theatre itself, almost as if making a stage entrance, complete with follow spots but no applause. At this point, you have a nagging doubt that the tube from the drip that's attached to the cannula on the back of your hand has somehow become twisted and you're not receiving the precious analgesia that will guarantee a complete knock-out whilst the op is in progress. It seems churlish to ask the anaesthetist if everything is OK , as if doubting their professional competence is a mortal sin and one which will guarantee to get their back up and ensure a rough ride hereafter. I decide to say nothing.

Stranger still is the surreal conversation you inevitably strike up with the theatre team, to drown out the noise of the industrial sized, mechanical implements , fresh form the steriliser ( one hopes ) , which are being lined up bedside. As if already under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs ( maybe that tube wasn't faulty after all ) the conversation ranges from Pink Floyd to Krispy Kreme donuts, which was as good a place as any to drift off into the land of nod.

Friday, 27 September 2013

What Makes Me Happy ?

Well apart from good friends, good food, good wine and good health ...


this ....



and this ...




and this ...




 and this ...




Otherwise Known as the ' Pizza box from Paradise' . Yes, just taken delivery of my new Scraptastic Monthly Scrapbook Kit and wow it's a winner. Like a small child in a sweet shop I had to get it all out and spread it across the table. Couldn't show it all in one photo properly either so thought I'd take a few. 

Can't wait to get stuck in. My postman must think I eat an awful lot of pizza .

Friday, 20 September 2013

Divine at No.12

Every now and then a shop comes along that makes my heart sing. Luckier still for me, the one I discovered today is in Teddington - Divine at No. 12.

You can tell its going to be something special as you approach. The waft of fresh flowers on display is a joy matched only by the beautifully styled exterior displaying a promise of what lies inside. Close your eyes and imagine the dark, velvety loveliness of a shop filled with pretty china, luscious cushions, hand-tied bouquets and vintage delights.

Cabinets filled with hand-crafted wedding albums and be-ribboned gifts jostle for position with sweet vintage shelves displaying hand-knitted bags, snuggling alongside cashmere lavender- filled mice ( I couldn't resist) . Attention to detail and exquisite styling is the key here - and this shop oozes both.

Treat yourself and pay them a visit. You'll be hard-pressed to leave without that wonderfully uplifting feeling of having just spent half an hour of your life very wisely.

Divine at No. 12 -
12 Church Road, Teddington








Friday, 13 September 2013

My Keyboard and Me

... or should that be My Keyboard and I ? To hell with grammatical correctness , I'm going with  'Me' - it sounds better.

I have a very intimate relationship with my keyboard . I caress its surface most days , often for several hours. I probably spend more time in its company than my closest family members. It knows all my little secrets and desires .

So , when I came to clean it recently ( after all , we've been together for over 5 years now ) I noticed a few interesting things. The grubbiest key was the question mark, closely followed by the exclamation mark. The number keys were also rather dirty, especially the 3 ( shift 3 gives you the pound sign ) and also the 2 ( shift 2 gives you the @ sign or the Euro ) . The Cmd key was pristine and the most used alpha key was A.

What does that say about me ? I consider keyboard usage signs to be the modern day equivalent of reading tea-leaves .

According to the evidence, my life is full of questions and exclamatory events. I love numbers ( well that figures .. no pun intended ... after all I'm a mathematician ) and I do a lot of shopping online ( £s and @s predominate so I must buy lots in the UK but nothing in Europe ). Oh and I clearly haven't mastered the art of the Apple shortcuts via the command key.

Sums me up ... literally.



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

On a Roll

I don't know what got into me at the weekend. Maybe it was the fresh country air , maybe it was the wonderful company, maybe it was just a break from the everyday humdrum of life but whatever it was , I wish I could bottle it.

I managed to complete a staggering 7 layouts , mostly with my new Scraptastic kit - the first kit I've killed in a long time and boy did that feel good.

And here are a sample few ...






Thank you Emma for a wonderful weekend ... hope that tooth is feeling better !

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The trouble with ...

.... Project Life is twofold .

Firstly the term 'Project' must surely strike a chord of abject fear in the heart of any mum with school age children.

That seemingly harmless slip of photocopied A4 paper that comes home, crumpled in the bottom of the school bag, with a headline that begins with the dreaded phrase .... " This term we will be studying The Tudors / The Rainforest / Metaphysics and Brain Surgery in the Nuclear Age  " ( delete as applicable ) . Weeks of misery stretch ahead as the deadline looms and the expected 30 page treatise complete with index , bibliography and copious illustrations ( no cut and paste allowed ) takes shape or rather doesn't , until the day before it's due to be handed in.

Competitive Mums will have done the homework. Intricately researched , glossily illustrated and bursting with interactive elements and pop-up pages to 'give it that edge' , their projects have been lovingly compiled , the children's input being completely eclipsed.

Slummy Mummys will have left it to their kids. A handful of hastily cut and paste, heavily plagiarised, disjointed , scrappy sheets will have been shoved in a floppy plastic wallet.

Middle ground Mums will have attempted to encourage their kids to pull out the dust laden encyclopaedia rather than hit the internet. They'll have nagged them weekly , made them do their own research and somehow been able to cobble together a respectable effort which will have a meticulously coloured-in title that may have taken longer to complete than the entire project.

Either way it's a lose-lose situation.

And then there's the second part of the term Project Life ... 'Life' .

Am I the only one that leads a humdrum kind of existence , interspersed with periods of hideous melodrama, mess and mayhem ? I never seem to be having " The Best Holiday Ever " or the " Perfect Time " or events that " Rock " . Every now and then I have a half decent holiday and the odd day that doesn't end in weary resignation . I'd like to see some Project Life cards that read " Where's the Bottle ? " or "Could Have Been a Bit Better" or maybe even " Thank God that's Over " .

I can't keep up with the American superlatives that dominate the happy clappy world of Project Lifers. This may be why my collection of " Best Day Ever " 3x4 cards are still in the box.

Any takers ?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

... and the winner is .....

... not having won anything since the age of 8 ( colouring - in competition , Woman' Own magazine circa 1966 - prize - painting by numbers set of galloping horses ) , imagine my surprise when I was short-listed for a recent competition I entered at Mumsnet's recent WorkFest event . I'd had to record a 30' elevator pitch explaining what I did for a living and how this would be helped if I won the prize up for grabs -  a Honda CRV car for a year.

Not one to shirk a challenge , I scribbled a quick script and plucked up courage to enter the video booth to record my entry. So here I am , 2 weeks later and my video effort has been posted to the Mumsnet site ( along with 4 others) and the winner with the most votes by July 3rd will win !

There now follows a shamless plea for anyone reading this to go vote for me ...


Whilst I'm unlikely to win it , I feel I ought to give it my best shot,

so I'm asking all my friends to vote for my video.

Embarrassed as I am to be displaying my hopeless and cringe-worthy
attempt , I've attached a link to the Mumsnet website below where you
can see the 5 shortlisted videos and at the bottom of the screen you
can vote.

I was pretty chuffed to have been shortlisted , but mortified at the
prospect of having to shamelessly plug my entry ! Drinks are on me when
I next see you ... and apologies in advance for asking you to endure
the video - thankfully it's only 30 seconds long ... and feel free to
laugh out loud at my Honda plug at the end - needs must and all that !
Oh ... one other thing - you have to be a registered Mumsnet user to
vote so here's the link to where you can register . They'll ask you for
your email , a username and a password ... but you can always delete
these afterwards .

http://www.mumsnet.com/register

The videos can be viewed here
http://www.mumsnet.com/competitions/2013/june-2013/honda

...and the voting bit is at the bottom of the page .- deadline next
Wednesday 3rd July and you'll also be entered for a draw to win a £100
John Lewis Gift Voucher. Here's hoping you win too.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Compare and Contrast

Yesterday I went to a conference at Bafta for working Mums - an opportunity to mingle amongst  intelligent women with energy, passion and enthusiasm for their professions and businesses. It was a chance to converse with like-minded mums , eager to advance their careers after maternity leave or pursue new business opportunities, having taken a career break to raise their families.

I met talented and creative women, some whom, co-incidentally, I'd met professionally in my former TV career. We re-lived hilarious tales of glass ceilings, chauvinistic alpha males and incompetent men. The sessions were upbeat, optimistic and thought-provoking and I left feeling energised and motivated, ready to take my so-called career to the next level and tackle whatever challenges may lay ahead.

Today I started teaching at 08.30, worked flat out without a break until well past lunchtime , schlepped to Sainsburys to fill our empty fridge, returned to find all of the alpha males in our house having taken themselves off for lunch without me, hoovered the house from top to bottom whilst they all sat downstairs watching non-stop sport on TV and am now preparing to taxi them all to a restaurant of my husband's choosing so that he can relax on Father's Day.

I'm exhausted just writing this.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Now that's what I call service

On a whim, I ordered some scrap-booking supplies from The Craftz Boutique yesterday afternoon. After placing the order I remembered that I'd wanted something else , emailed Denise the owner and asked if she could possibly add the item. No problem was her reply .
This morning they arrived , less than 24 hours after placing my order, beautifully gift-wrapped with a  gift tag bearing my name.

Now that's what I call service.



Let's hear it for the British Scrapbooking shops who have been having a difficult time these last couple of years. I'll be ordering from the UK from now on ... not that I didn't always ... but I also used to buy a kit from a certain US supplier whose customer service and general demeanour in recent weeks leaves much to be desired. They could learn a thing or two from The Craftz Boutique and our other wonderful Brit suppliers.



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Male Lexicon

Irony : noun ( pl. - nies )
   Painstakingly putting away 8 carrier bags full of supermarket shopping whilst husband     stands watching, telling you about a work colleague who doesn't pull his weight.

Compromise : noun
    An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by the female partner agreeing to do whatever is required whilst the male partner continues regardless.

Housework : noun
    No definition found. error .. sp?


 

Monday, 20 May 2013

What's in a brand name ?

Some brands stand out head and shoulders above others and Faber Castell is one such brand. Everything they make just works, looks good and does what it says on the tin.
I treated myself to a Mix and Match Gelatos Mist Maker kit last week. You get a palette knife, 2 misting bottles a drip dropper ( sorry left that out of the photo for some reason) and a Gelato stick - this one was a gorgeous metallic coral pink - one of my favourite colours at the moment. The photo below doesn't do it justice - it has a delicate glimmering sheen.

You chop off a small piece of the Gelato stick, smoosh it with the palette knife having added some warn water , then slurp it up using the dropper into one of the two misting bottles provided and Bob's your uncle - in less than a minute - perfect mist in a shimmering colour. You can use the dropper to splatter it on your pages too if you like that look - which I do. They're great fun, acid-free, calorie -free ( no I don't eat them but they do look good enough to eat ) and come in lots of different colours and have many uses besides this.  Once you've bough the kit you can use your own Gelatos which cost about £2.50 each and change the hue by mixing in black or white. A darned sight cheaper that commercial brands of mixing inks too. What's not to like ?


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Wood Veneers

I love using these on my layouts but when I recently ordered some heart shaped wood veneers from Studio Calico and received a tiny pack of rather shabby shapes which must have weighed less than an ounce , I realised what a rip-off they were. So I've set about making my own. I managed to buy a small pack of wood veneer off- cuts intended for model makers - I bought them from an amazing art shop called Cass Art but I'm sure you can get them online too.

There are about 10 pieces of various wood veneers and it cost all of £2 . I then tried experimenting with my various punches. Woodware punches worked the best and fairly solid shapes without too much detail worked well. Make sure your wood veneer sheets are thin and the larger and chunkier the shape the more success you'll have. I punched out the following stars with ease - they're about 1.5 cm in width and I'm planning on punching some more hearts and stars in various sizes. Won't be having to order any more over-priced commercially produced wood veneers from now on - very chuffed !

Here are the results ...



Friday, 10 May 2013

Stuff

We all do it , to some degree or other. It's only when it gets out of hand and start to affect our families and relationships that it becomes a bizarre spectacle and none stranger than on the TV last night. Going under the title of Extreme Hoarders, or some such, we were given a tragic insight into the lives of 2 extreme hoarders whose lives had become overtaken by the sheer volume of 'stuff' which they felt incapable of discarding. It's difficult to understand until you realise that both of these individuals had suffered such immense pain in their lives, that their only coping strategy was to replace that with something else as extreme , which enabled them to blot out the real gaping hole in their lives.

I urge you to watch it if only as an opportunity to guard against the level of consumerism that blights our lives these days. I'm not suggesting that you fill your lives with bin bags of old newspapers and decade-old rusting jars of foodstuffs, but it was a heart-felt piece, presented by a sympathetic and clearly intelligent reporter whose own mother had suffered from the same debilitating inability to throw things, past their useful life, away.

We've all been there ( haven't we ? ) teetering in the bathroom with a plastic container in one hand over whether to chuck out a dozen headbands past their prime and enough hotel toiletries to keep us clean for  lifetime. Do I really need 8 spare toothbrushes and haven't flannels gone out of fashion ? Will I ever have that beach holiday when I'll need these threadbare towels in gaudy colours and why on earth did I buy a battery operated nail buffer.

Olive, one of the hoarders, had led a lonely life as an only child, pre-deceased by the fiance she couldn't marry who'd been killed in WWII . Unable to get over her grief she had replaced her heartbreak with an urgent need to re-cycle old tin cans and accumulate anything that might have a future value. The resulting stockpile of detritus had taken over her life and home to the point of being unable to reach her bed at night without climbing over a mountain of debris which blocked every room in the house. Her story was tragic and we might never have learnt about it , like those of so many of our senior citizens.

This morning I sat in a hospital waiting room with my youngest son, waiting with so many others, for a precious few minutes with the over-stretched consultant who was running an hour behind schedule. An elderly gentleman in a wheelchair was wheeled into the waiting room by a couple of ambulance porters and deposited without ceremony in the midst of the out-patient strangers sitting on vinyl chairs in the corridor of the out-patients department. When told that their 'patient' would not be seen for another hour they left without so much as a courtesy question as to whether he might need the toilet or a glass of water. As they dis-appeared from view to satisfy their own needs in the hospital canteen I felt a pang of sorrow for the lonely looking chap who sat opposite us, uncomplaining and compliant.

The least I could do was offer him a magazine to flick through whilst he waited alone and abandoned. He cheerfully accepted the offer and I leafed through the dog eared copies of Golf Monthly and Waterfowl Weekly to find something of interest. I managed to come up with a magazine about the wildlife in Richmond Park which sparked his interest as he told me he had been taken there on an outing only last month. We talked about the London Parks and  Hampton Court and one thing led to another.

Before long, he was re-counting the days of his youth when he had worked at a local boatyard on torpedo boats. He had been there when the little boats from Teddington Lock, under the leadership of his employer , had been deployed to evacuate the troops from the beaches of Dunkerque . And all of that from one, all too brief, conversation. I would loved to have known more.

I doubt that the slapdash hospital porters knew anything about this man with a wealth of memories stored up in his still lucid mind. They were probably still stuffing themselves in the canteen - their loss.













Sunday, 5 May 2013

I've cracked it

I love when you find a cheaper alternative and it works. So I managed to resist the ludicrously priced set of neon Mr Huey inks which would have cost a fortune and went looking for something which would do the job, I ordered  set of fluorescent marbling inks for about £3 from ebay which were great fun to experiment with but wouldn't work on scrapbook pages as hey left an oily ring around each splatter but we had great fun making marbled papers with them which look very funky .

Well, today I picked up a cheap set of highlighter pens from Asda ( the brand name was Zebra - they come in packs of 3 - pink orange and yellow ) . I chose them because the pens looked like cartridge pens and you could see the fluorescent ink sploshing around inside the barrel. Got them home, poked a small hole in the end with my pokey tool and hey presto - perfect neon splatters of wild colours . I've got them stored end-up in a pen pot and can't wait to use them again . I realise they're probably not everyone's cup of tea but I've always been drawn to neon - there's a kind of magical allure .


 Best part ? Saved myself a fortune ... which I can now go spend on something else instead .