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 ?


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 :