Monday, 20 March 2017

The Final 40

Following on from my previous post, this is my final list of 40 before 40.

If I aim for about 3-4 a month, it's an achievable set of goals.

1)        Take an IQ test
2)        Try almond milk
3)        Upgrade to a better camera
4)        Go to a live poetry/ short story event 
5)        Have a week of vegetarian food
6)        Watch a sunrise
7)        Colour part or all of my hair an unusual colour
8)        Go flat in public
9)        Get a pedicure
10)    Really really refine the wardrobe!
11)    Put a fairy/gnome door up in the park
12)    BBQ on a beach
13)    Ride a horse again
14)    Long weekend to Brighton
15)    Have a caricature drawn
16)    Time in silence
17)    Have hair styled victory rolls
18)    Have something I have made exhibited in a public space
19)    Go to a beer festival
20)    Learn how to apply red lipstick
21)    Laser quest
22)    Climbing wall
23)    Riding on a segway
24)    Melt marshmallows over an open fire
25)    Act of craftivism
26)    Bake a Victoria sponge
27)    Attend a religious festival – not a Christian one though
28)    Go to a madhatter’s themed tea party
29)    Have a go at making churros
30)    Take a trip to Minsmere bird reserve and get some good photos
31)    Visit a cat cafe
32)    Take a driving test
33)    Learn the Alpha/Bravo phonetic alphabet
34)    Trip to see the northern lights
35)    Visit a royal house in England
36)    Learn to use a Dremel
37)    Visit an observatory
38)    Feed a lemur
39)    Have a go at postcrossing –
40)    Make a fruit curd

From Pixabay

Saturday, 18 March 2017

40 before 40

Birthday candle from Amazon

During the last couple of months of my bullet journal journey I have come across the idea of a 40 before 40 list. My 39th birthday approaches and I'm taken with the idea of having a list of realistic things to achieve/ experience in my final year of 30 somethingness before I launch into my 4th decade of existence.

In no particular order, this is how my current list looks:

1) Take an IQ test (a friend has recently done one and I admit I'm curious)

2) Try almond milk (nice easy win there)

3) Do the research and upgrade to a better camera

4) Go to a live poetry/ short story event

5) Have a week of vegetarian food (and aim not to have cheese with every meal!)

6) Learn how to apply red lipstick

7) Have a go at making churros

8) Take a trip to Minsmere bird reserve and get some good photos

9) Go flat in public

10) Attend a festival held in one of the local parks

11) Have hair styled in victory rolls

12) Commit an act of craftivism

13) Refine wardrobe (I've been in a process of paring down my clothes for the past few years but I know there are still a couple of items lurking that I don't like/ wear. By 40 I would love to have a compact wardrobe which contains only items I use and like)

14) Build and install a fairy/gnome door somewhere

15) Ride on a segway

16) BBQ on a beach

17) Ride a horse

18) Visit Brighton (been saying I want to go there for years . . .)

19) Have a go on a climbing wall (I am not good with heights so this is a facing-my-fears kind of challenge)

20) Have a caricature drawn

21) Spend a day in silence

22) Visit a royal house in England

23) Bake a Victoria sponge (my favourite cake, and I've never made one)

24) Melt marshmallows over an open fire (something to combine with number 16 perhaps?)

25) Have something I have made exhibited in a public space

26) Go to a beer festival

27) Watch a sunrise

28) Have a go at laser quest (trying to persuade work that this would be an excellent team building exercise but for some reason they are skeptical!)

29) Visit a cat cafe

30) Take my driving test

32) Take a trip to see the northern lights

As you can see, the list is not complete (and pretty random!). I've asked friends and family for ideas, and some of the list above was inspired by suggestions from the Bullet Journal Junkies UK Facebook group. I've been given recommendations which I like very much but which I know I won't make time for next year so they are on a potential future list. I want to get a tattoo in the area of my mastectomy scar but the skin has a couple more years of healing before that's possible. I love the idea of taking part in a historical re-enactment event but don't have the first clue on how to arrange that. At some point I want to foster/adopt an animal from a local rescue - I'm not able to do that in my current circumstances so it would be unrealistic to add that just now.

I won't be able to guarantee doing everything on my list anyway - you'll note that number 32 is worded 'Take a trip to see the northern lights' as opposed to 'See the northern lights'. I can head off to Norway full of high hopes but the weather could dash them. 

How will I react if I don't get to do everything on my list? Not worry is the answer. If I can get 75% done that will be good enough for me, and anything else can be punted on to a 41 before 41 list if I fancy putting another selection of ideas together for my next birthday after 40. 

Psst, all pics used above beyond the first one were taken from Pixabay. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Something New: Embroidering on Printed Fabric

Next crafty item out of the jar of ideas? Embroidering on printed fabric!

It's pretty self-explanatory. You take a piece of fabric (I have dozens and dozens to pick from!) and embroider within and around the existing pattern.

On Pinterest, from the RaddishBlossoms blog

You can work with what is already there (see below) or add colour where there isn't any (see above).

From The Curiosity Project

You can pick colours that are nearly identical to the fabric pattern you are using so that it takes the person looking a couple of seconds to realise something has been added. Alternatively, you can opt for a contrasting fabric to draw the eye immediately to the embellishment.

From Upcyclist

Some people even incorporate this into English paper piecing (EPP), which I will definitely be trying. Is it better in this situation to do the embroidery and then sew the embellished piece into an EPP pattern, or is it advisable to complete the EPP and add the extras in at the end? Give me a week and I will have an answer for you.

From Needle's Eye Stories

Current ideas?
👉 I like the contrasting idea very much though I'm not sure what fabric I could use that with at present. I have some black/white/grey tone prints and like the idea of sparking them up with a rich red or vivid blue. 
👉 I am also planning on using gold or copper thread to pick out similar metallic shades in one or two prints I have. 
👉 I have a few prints which feature retro ladies so perhaps embroidering the dress/hat/glove details?

I'll feedback what I get up to.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book by or About Someone who has a Disability

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism

Looking to find out more about autism in a straightforward and easy to read way? I would recommend this book. Written by the severely autistic Higashida when he was 13, the book sets out and answers nearly 60 questions relating to autism. David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas author, not comedian) has a son with autism and he found this book a very helpful resource on the subject, and he and his wife worked on translating the book into English. 

I had a vague concept of autism before I read this book. A friend of mine works for Autism Anglia and, like the majority of people, I know people who have children on the autistic spectrum. I've seen Mercury Rising and Rain Man, and read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The Reason I Jump is my first non-fiction foray into the topic.

When I said at the top of this post that Higashida wrote this book, he didn't sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop. He didn't narrate the answers for someone else to type up - spoken communication is all but impossible for him. He learned over time to spell out words directly onto an alphabet grid by pointing to the letters which someone else then transcribed. This is the world that he shows you. A world where things that many take for granted - speech, writing - are beyond him. Not only this but his body is also often an alien thing, something he can't control or direct. The pathways to his brain work in ways he has great difficulty regulating.

The preface of the book begins:
When I was small, I didn't even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem.

He is very aware of how far from the established 'norm' he is. Certain themes and ideas are returned to repeatedly through his answers. The feeling of being shut in; of being isolated. Desperation to do the right thing and please those around you while knowing you just can't direct your body and mind to do it. There is an idea that autistic people have little feeling but this book disproves that. I felt so sad reading some of the answers. You can try to imagine what it is to live with the level of autism but I don't think it's possible to take in even a fraction of its implications.

Naoki Higashida

People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can't express ourselves, and our bodies are hurtling us through life.

One of the questions is the book is: Why can you never stay still? In his answer he says that when he isn't moving it feels as if his soul is detaching from his body and he gets so scared he can't stay still. What a horrid sensation that must be?

Don't think all this book is sad though. Higashida recognises that in spite of the challenges of autism it also brings an ability to be aware of beauty in the world that those without autism miss.

Would I recommend The Reason I Jump? Definitely! I'd recommend it to those who know next to nothing about autism; to siblings of autistic children who might need that extra help in understanding how different their brother or sister's life is; to relatives and friends of parents who have autistic children. This book isn't a to do list with ideas on treatments. It's a tool for building empathy, and through the honest voice of Naoki Higashida it accomplishes that.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Bullet Journal: Dutch Doors

So, I posted before about integrating a bingo style tracker in my weekly spreads and while I liked the idea very much and used it more than the standard habit tracker, I couldn't get the lay-out right. The grids took up too much space and made a mess on the page. Leuchtturm may have the cool dotted pages but the paper is not the thickest and lines do show through. For some reason, having the grids show through has irritated me more than seeing text.

A possible answer to this conundrum? Dutch Doors.

From Sublime Reflection

Simply put, Dutch doors are where you cut a page to remove the top or bottom section, or fold/ cut vertically so you have a double page spread with a partial page in the middle. This allows you to fit more space in your weekly spread if you find just the two pages are not enough. Or if, in my case, you have tried the bingo format and don't want the distraction of the lines showing through on to your main pages.

A Pinterest find

You aren't limited to how many pages you use either so if you need a couple of cropped down sections then that's totally doable. As you can see below, some people use washi tape to help distinguish the pages from each other.

From productiveandpretty

As mentioned in my previous post on weekly spreads, I do like to chop and change things, especially as I'm so new to bullet journaling, and I have a feeling that Dutch doors will come in handy on those weeks which are really busy.

From @alexandra_plans on Instagram

And they will give me an excuse to use up some washi tape . . .

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book that is a Story within a Story

This book is a blubfest. If you have lost someone recently to cancer or have a close friend or relative currently going through treatment you might want to avoid this book. Conversely, if you know an older child or adolescent struggling to come to terms with a similar situation, this book might help.

Conor's mum has cancer. I can't remember his exact age now but it's somewhere between 10-13 if memory serves. His dad lives in America with his new (possessive) wife and child, and he doesn't like his grandmother much which is tough as she's about to move in to help his mum out. He is struggling to come to terms with what will happen should his mother die, and in the midst of all this a monster begins to pay him regular visits. The monster, an elemental force who takes the form of a yew tree in this incarnation, promises to tell him three stories. When his stories are told it will be Conor's turn to tell his own tale, one that he has kept secret and doesn't believe he will ever be able to share with anyone. His mother is admitted to hospital and given a new treatment derived from the yew tree and Conor believes he may have worked out why the monster is visiting him.

I thought the characters were well drafted. Conor is intelligent and astute, and it would be difficult not to empathise with him and what he's going through. As well as the situation at home, he has to deal with bullies at school as well as teachers and pupils who all know what is happening with his mother and have a tendency of looking through him because they don't know how to talk to him about it. His father, whether he means to or not, gives the impression that his new family is his priority as opposed to his old. His grandmother is not like other grandmothers. At one point he describes her as looking like a bird of prey - 'a hawk that could carry off sheep'. The most powerful scene in the book for me is when she returns to her home where Conor is staying to find he has wrecked all but one item of furniture in the room - and this she then tears down herself.

Patrick Ness

I read the first third of the book one day and intended to read about a hundred pages on the next but the second time I picked it up I couldn't put it down until it was done, tears running down my cheeks, aware that dinner was late and not caring because in that moment finishing the book was far more important than getting jacket potatoes out of the oven. 

I don't want to give any spoilers about the ending. I will only say that it was the right ending. I intend to watch the movie when it is out on DVD as I would be curious to see how/if they have altered the final scenes on film.

Coincidentally, I picked up this book shortly after listening to this Radio 4 programme on the yew which influenced my reading of the story (and the monster) as a result. It's an interesting 28 minutes, if you have the time to listen to it.

8 out of 10 yew berries

Are you doing the #popsugarreadingchallenge?

Tempted by this book, but already have your book with a subtitle covered? These are other categories in the Reading Challenge this book could apply to:

A book recommended by an author you love (if you love Philip Pullman or John Green)
A book about a difficult topic (Cancer)

Other books I'd recommend for a book that is a story within a story:

Where Three Roads Meet - Salley Vickers
Loitering with Intent - Muriel Spark
Holes - Louis Sacher

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A cloud, a strawberry and no Cheshire cat

A follow up to my recent Something New post...
A Cloud

I cut out a cloud shape on paper and used a wipe off fabric marker pen to put the outline on the fabric. I didn't want to draw round it, so instead I used strokes of the pen so it would be an interrupted outline - I don't know if I'm explaining that well so here's a pic to show you what the paper cut out looked like afterwards!

I did the first outline in a mid-light blue embroidery cotton and when it was done it looked to me like the piece needed something more. Not the same kind of colour, but I felt the outline needed to be chunkier. I chose a lighter blue, made the stitches a little longer while keeping them irregular like the first row. Pretty pleased with the result.

While making this I had an idea for a couple more cloud based negative space sewing projects

💙 Use of a dark grey rather than blue, make it a single row with longer stitches, and along the bottom of the cloud either embroider or add blue bead raindrops.

💙 Outline most of the cloud with blue but in the rop right 'corner' use a warm yellow to indicate the sun.

Will I be doing either of these soon? Nope. Think I might have to create another jar for ideas I've had a go at that I want to explore further!

A Strawberry

I wanted to try something new with the same essential idea so I did irregular red stitches that weren't closely packed, while using a chunkier green design for the leaves. When it was done, I felt that it needed something else so stitched the gold 'seeds' into the space.

Other ideas spawned by this?

🍓 A pineapple, perhaps with a faint criss-cross pattern in the negative space
🍓 A cactus with hot pink fruit, with needles somehow shown in the blank area

No Cheshire Cat
Let's be honest, I'm part crazy cat lady so of course this was the idea I was most looking forward to trying and it was the one I could not get right. I expected it to be a bit more complicated as I was going to use different colours to represent the stripes of the fur but whether it was the shape I'd decided to use for the cat head or the way I combined the colours, it just didn't work. It's something I'd like to try again but not with such an iconic character where there's so much to compare it to.

This project wasn't a complete failure though as it gave me ideas for other things to try:
😼 Embroidering around letters or words
😼 Cutting out a distinctive shape from a book or a magazine and using that for the negative space

My final verdict on negative space sewing?

I really enjoyed it. I've picked up a new crafting skill and busted some stash, and I got to play with colours which is always a plus for me.

The one small negaive of the experience was that it did aggravate my RSI so this isn't a hobby I could take up to the exclusion of all others without a fair amount of discomfort. For an occasional dabble though it would be fine.

If you're reading this and fancy giving it a go you will need:
  • An embroidery hoop. I used a 4 inch one, but there are other sizes out there. Not sure how to use one? Go on YouTube and type in 'how to use an embroidery hoop' and there's guides there like this one
  • Sewing needles. My needles are years old for the most part and acquired from here, there and everywhere so I can't give you the specific size I used. If you have none and need to get some you can either ask in your local craft shop for guidance or, if you're ordering online and won't have that face-to-face option, have a look at guides like this one to help you choose what you need. 
  • Fabric for sewing on. You could use linen, cotton or cross stitch fabric but whatever you pick make sure it does not have much stretch to it. A jersey would be very difficult to work with for this kind of thing for example. Never embroidered in your life and don't want to invest money in a large piece of fabric? Do you have any old clothes waiting to go out to charity that are made of non-stretch fabrics that you could use pieces of? Old bedding? Old tea towels? If you have patterned fabric it would help you build up confidence in your sewing by enabling you to trace/fill in shapes already there. 
  • Embroidery threads/ stranded Cotton - if you're doing this on a budget, you can go to places like Poundland and get a pack of stranded cottons. I think places like Wilkinsons also sell them. You won't get the shine that you would with more expensive ones like Anchor or DMC but you could still make a colourful display. 
  • A wipe of fabric marker like the one listed above is not essential but I'd recommend it if you have the spare pennies. 
  • An idea of what shapes you want to use. Not that good at drawing? Go on the internet or get a magazine, find a photo/drawing of what you want and use that.