Sunday, 23 April 2017

From you to you

This post will have references to anxiety, insomnia and depression - a trigger warning there if you need it.

This is one of those posts I've been wanting to write for a while but I haven't known quite how to approach it. I've been getting back into the world of snailmail, writing letters at least twice a week and sending them out like little boats onto the postal sea. There is one particular letter I've been thinking of writing for a while now - and it's one that won't need a stamp. It's one that won't even be seen by anyone else. It will be a letter from me to me.

Specifically, a letter written by the me of today to a potential me of the future. A potential me who may find herself struggling with mental health and feeling like she is approaching the bottom of the pit - or has got stuck there.

My second experience of anxiety and depression was far harder for me to deal with than my first. To have that kind of episode, lasting 4+ weeks, the once is okay. Everyone has bad moments. You can justify one fall. A second episode? Now that's a whole different ballgame. As I began descending that second time, about 18 months after the first, the phrase that kept revolving round and round in my head was this:
Once is a mistake. Twice is a habit.

I felt there would be no understanding for a second fall. I could be permitted to let my duties and responsibilities lapse once - no more though. More would mean something else entirely. More would mean I was failing those around me on a far greater level, and that it was something I couldn't guarantee wouldn't happen again in the future.

I don't want to go into to much depth about my episodes as even writing this is difficult, but as I approach the second year anniversary on my last episode I have felt myself wanting to write to that person I become when anxiety and depression rob me of sleep and all self-worth so that if it does happen again my voice is there, waiting, offering what comfort it can.

What would I say?

You are going to get through this. You have got through it twice before, you will get through it again.

Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Do not judge. Let go of the reins. It's fine to let someone else be in charge.

You are going to get through this.

Send no texts, steer clear of social media - the urge will be to contact your friends in a desperate search for answers, hoping that one of them will send you words that make the world fall back into place around you and restore order. That is not going to happen and it is a heavy and impossible burden to place on your friends and on yourself.

Seek no big answers. This is not the time for big questions. Focus on the small things. If you can focus on nothing else, just focus on your breath.

You will get through this.

Look for colour. Keep your hands busy. Give yourself things to do. If it gets so bad that you feel your whole body is going to shake itself to pieces and you are going to break inside this sleep-starved shell, take it one minute at a time. One. Minute. At. A. Time.

Breathe. Just Breathe.

And did I mention? You will get through this.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

3 and a half out of 40

Progress on my 40 before 40 post:

Have something I have made exhibited in a public space

My piece is Number 7

In March I took part in a collage workshop, not realising that the finished piece would end up being exhibited, so this turned out to be an easy win! An article on the workshop ended up in my local paper - you can check out the article if you so wish.

I didn't take a proper picture of it, so here's a partial snapshot. I was going for a feminist statement, and using women with big hair for part of it. 

Attend a religious festival 

A celebration of the Holi festival was held at my local park in April. Otherwise known as the festival of colours, I was looking forward to taking part in it. The experience itself left me with mixes emotions. Those few moments of flinging the coloured powder about were definitely exhilarating. The queuing beforehand not so much. I had read up on the festival and knew that it was about the victory of good over evil and a celebration of spring amongst other things. I was considering this while waiting to get to the tents where volunteers were handing out the colours. I'm not sure my fellow queuers were. There were mutterings of how 'the powder would run out' by the time we got there. There were complaints that people who had obviously already had and flung powder were queuing again to have another go. Angry mutterings rippled along the people assembled as it became clear that a group of kids were asking people at the front to be 'let in' so they could have another go without joining the very end of the large queue. So I didn't get the feeling of good conquering evil as I queued, or the delights of spring - I got instead the English attitude to The Correct Use of Queues, How People Shouldn't Be Greedy and Fun Should Not Be Had In Excessive Measure.

There were pockets of colour flinging rather than one great moment of abandon when everyone went crazy. As people left the tents with their powder I could see puffs of pink, red, blue and green rising in the air. I doubt the colour-flinging ever ended up with more than maybe 50 people all flinging at once. I would have preferred to be in the situation where there was a better way of handing out the colours and we were told to wait for a sign. I'd like to take part in the Holi festival again but won't do it locally - I'll keep an eye out for bigger festivals

Have a go at Postcrossing

Inspired by Teach, Marry, Avoid's post on her experiences with Postcrossing, I signed up to this at the end of March and have thus far been given 5 addresses to send postcards out to. When someone asked me to describe what Postcrossing was about, I summed it up as 'getting something nice in the post along with the bills and the junk you can't avoid'. There's also the element of connection with someone hundreds/ thousands of miles away.

I have to be honest though, I am unlikely to continue for much longer with Postcrossing. Three of the postcards I have sent have been reported as received so that's good, and I have had one sent to me from America. I realised in doing the postcards that I was hungry to have that connection with other people in other place and other lives - but that one small piece of card was not enough. I don't regret doing it because it has opened up other opportunities in the snailmail arena and I'm now writing letters to people in other parts of the world. 

The Alpha/Bravo phonetic alphabet
A work in progress . . .

How much of the phonetic alphabet I know off the top of my head now:
Alphe, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxrot, G?????, H??????, India, J????, K?????, Lima, M?????, N?????, Oscar, Papa, Q?????, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, U????, V????, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Z?????

Over half assigned to memory. Now to work on the rest.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Stationery and the Tiny Home

It's been about three months since my last Dream Tiny Home post - time for another!

I love stationery. I buy notebooks when I don't need them, and recently got given lots of different types of pens and pencils for my birthday as I couldn't think of anything else to ask for. I get at least two novelty packs of post-its as a gift each Christmas and usually another for my birthday. I pick up stickers on sale and am powerless before the tractor beam of Paperchase. I've recently started making my own envelopes out of old books and calendars (tutorial here if you fancy having a go yourself) and thus my washi tape collection has expanded to actually become a collection rather than a pack of three tapes bought on a whim a year ago.

Dare you take the stationery addict test?
(I got teetering on the edge of out of control...)

I joke about being a stationery addict but if I'm honest I'm uncomfortable with the amount I have. While random accumulation may be part of my Western consumerist programming I do feel a certain amount of unease about it. Part of the reason why I daydream of one day having a tiny home is that the limit of space would mean I couldn't buy excessive amounts of stationery just for the hell of it. Any item I brought over the threshold would have to have a purpose. It couldn't just be something I put in a drawer because there wouldn't be an impulse-buy drawer in the house.

So what would my stationery collection look like in my dream tiny home?

Well, for starters, it would all fit in a writing desk bureau, like the one pictured below. I love this kind of thing, and have covetous eyes on my mum's bureau. My aunt does too and though I may have a couple of decades of youth on her she was in the Royal Navy and could no doubt snap me like a twig so it's not a foregone conclusion that Great Uncle Gerald's writing desk will end up in my hands one day. 

Edwardian writing bureau, found here - not keen on
the coasters on the feet of this model but otherwise
think it's gorgeous!

In a tiny house, this would be a lovely self-contained piece of furniture, a place to sit and write letters and cards, do my finances, scribble to-do lists - and, of course, house my stationery.

Not a lot of space, is there? I find that so appealing! Space for a couple of good quality fountain pens, a few good biros and pencils, a frivolous pack of felt tips and highlighters - pastel, please. I'd have one or two pads of letter writing paper, a modest stash of home-made (and boring shop-bought) envelopes, my bullet journal, a few rolls of washi tape to be replaced only when used up, a roll of address labels, one or two packs of novely stickers for adding to letters/ sealing envelopes, a pot of paperclips, a mini notepad for shopping lists and an A5 and an A4 notebook for emergency scribbles. One pack of post-its would round off the collection.

I think there'd be room in my tiny house stationery collection for a
steampunk fountain pen . . . :)

Another benefit of having it all stored in one place would be I could always (theoretically) find what I was looking for! If I recalled writing down a genius idea for something there would be a couple of notebooks to look through, not a possible drawer full of pads to flick through once, and then twice because I couldn't find it the first time and realised I had to take a slower look through all those pages. 

I've tried to find some examples from people living in tiny homes about how they prioritise and choose their stationery but as so many tiny homes are stationary I found lots of suggested posts but nothing dealing with what I actually wanted to read about. Doing a search on minimalists and stationery also didn't yield the kind of articles or posts I wanted - it mainly drew up vastly over-priced stationery with a minimalist look to it.

And let's be clear here. I might dream about a minimal stationery collection but it would still be as colourful as unicorn poop with patterns all over the place!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Something New: Washi Tape Feathers

Having had success with negative space sewing, I rifled around in my 'something new' jar to pick the next project and came up with embroidering patterned fabric. Ideally, this post should be an update on that but, I'll be honest, it didn't go that well. It could be down to the fact I picked the wrong fabric or the reality that I am still pretty new to embroidery and didn't have the skills to transfer the image in my head onto the fabric. Whatever, I have decided to move on to other things. I needed something quick and fun to pep me up and so I decided to have a go at making washi tape feathers.

The next question some might ask would be: why? What use could you possibly have for washi tape feathers? Sit down, and I'll tell you a tale...

I make a lot of my own giftwrap now, embellishing plain paper with hand-drawn designs (and hopefully in the future printed ones), collage and other paper based ephemera. The washi tape feather would be another tool in my embellishment arsenal. It's something that's so simple to make and can add a lovely individual touch to a gift.

From washi tape crafts

As with the majority of my list of crafts to try, I first saw these on Pinterest. There are lots of tutorials. Some use cocktail sticks for the centre, others use yarn or chord or garden twine. Depending on what you are going to do with it would influence what you chose. If you were doing this as an activity with children, you'd probably want to steer clear of the cocktail sticks as injury could ensue either accidental or through the perfectly natural sibling impulse to stab another sibling with the nearest sharp object. 

Bookmarks from My DIY Tips
I don't think I'd use washi feathers for this as I am quite
hardwearing on my bookmarks but if you are dainty and
delicate with such things it's an idea

The feathers I made are quite narrow and I consideredmy initial thought was that buying thicker washi tape would be better for the next set - then realised that the tape I had was just fine if I
a) overlapped the layers of tape to make it wider before adding to the chord 
b) did various tapes in horizontal bands and could then have a multi-colouted feather as plump as I wanted

Washi tape feathers would be an easy card embellishment, something bright and colourful to send.

Card design from three umbrellas

Want to know what else you could do with these feathers? I'm sure Pinterest and Google are stuffed with ideas so go check them out. 

The thing to remember with these items is that they would not be particularly robust. Whatever you used them for, they couldn't stand up to continual handling. They could make a lovely seasonal decoration, like a row of feather bunting for a spring or summer party. You could make cupcake decorations out of them or scatter them over a table at a wedding as decoration. Like everything, you just need a little imagination to come up with some great creative ideas.

An idea from Pellmell Creations

Monday, 10 April 2017

Reading Challenge: An Audiobook

I listened to this mainly on walks to and from work, borrowed from my local library through their free digital download service. Every now and then I would let out a snort of laughter or find myself grinning like an idiot at a particularly entertaining turn of phrase.

Being autobiographical, this book doesn’t have a story arc as such. It felt like two parts to me. The first related to Carrie’s time filming the first Star Wars film, specifically around her relationship with Harrison Ford. The second part is more about Carrie’s later life and how playing the role of Princess Leia continued to have an impact through the decades. Most of the book is written from the viewpoint of the age at which she composed the book, observations coloured by the experience of life. About halfway through there is a section read by a different reader, a young woman, as sections of Carrie Fisher’s Star Wars diary are read out.

I would not recommend this book to those who love the minutiae of SW and would expect Carrie’s diary to be full of titbits about the director, the other actors, the special effects etc. The diary is focussed on Carrie’s affair with Harrison and the emotional turmoil that this threw up. I’ll be honest, I found this part of the audiobook the dullest. Constant circles going round and round. I much preferred old Carrie with her amusing and cynical take on things than the earnest and self-absorbed voice from the diary.

This book also does not go into salacious details about the intimate side of the affair so if you were hoping for something juicy look elsewhere. Her focus is more on an analysis of herself at that time and how she responded to and was influenced by this relationship going on at this particular time in her life. One of the images that struck me was the one where she says that when they kissed, he was kissing all the potential Carries that she carried, all the roles she had yet to take on; and she was kissing all the potential Harrisons. I have not lifted that word for word – the author put it far more eloquently than me!

The second part of the book flits here and there. She talks about how she considers signing at conventions as ‘lap-dancing’ – pleasing the crowd for her income. She repeats conversations she has had with fans, which can often take a turn for the surreal very quickly. There is gratitude for the role she had the opportunity to play – and there is sadness for the listener/reader when she talks of being involved in Star Wars films to come when we know that won’t be happening now. This is a woman who has learnt a lot of lessons during her time on Earth and I found The Princess Diarist to be an amusing and hopeful audiobook I would recommend to people.

The audiobook is somewhere between 5-6 hours, which makes it easy to slot in here and there - or polish off on your walk home in a couple of weeks.

7 out of 10 Star Wars hairpieces

Are you undertaking the #popsugarreadingchallenge?

Other books I'd recommend under the audiobook category:

Pretty much listed here, under a previous post on my favourite audiobooks.

Are you mixing reading with listening to audiobooks to make sure you get the 40/52 books done in a year? These are other categories in the Reading Challenge this audiobook could apply to:

A book about an interesting woman
A book written by someone you admire

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tutorial: How to make your own upcycled envelopes

You will need:
An old book or magazine or calendar (if you're intending to send these envelopes in the mail make sure the paper quality is robust)
Washi tape, decorated sellotape or similar
Optional extras:
Paper cutter
Double sided tape
A ruler
A pen

Pick your pic. If you don't have any old books at home, get thee to a charity shop. You can also check out places like the Works from January-April time for calendars reduced to 50p or similar if there's a particular artist or style of photography/ art that you want to make the envelopes from. Books with pictures of various sizes will yield envelopes of various sizes. For your first one, choose a largish picture.

Remove it from the book/ calendar/ magazine and either use scissors or a paper cutter to neaten the torn edge. If there's a border or print around it, you can keep it if you want. If you've found a 60s book you may wish to keep the text and peripherals.

Make the first fold. Make sure you have a minimum of 2cms of paper to seal the finished envelope properly. If the picture you have chosen doesn't allow for that, pick another one.

Make the second fold. When doing this, ensure that there is an overlap with the first fold of at least 1cm.

 Check how your envelope is looking.

Make the next two folds. This creates the 'sides' of the envelope. I tend to do this to about 2cm but there are no rules here so if you want deeper ones, fold deeper ones.

Open your envelope out. The folds should be in roughly the same place as the picture below.

Now it's time for the cutting. Make your first two cuts as shown in the picture opposite. They will need some angle, cutting right across the fold line will make the envelope bulky when you come to seal it up. If you don't like to cut without reference, use a ruler and a pen to draw lines of the same angle on each side.

If you have a paper cutter, you can use it to make the second set of cuts on the largest flap, again cutting at an angle. Don't make this angle too wide as this part of the envelope needs to cover the sides without gaps. If you don't have a paper cutter just use scissors. This part of the envelope will be covered with washi tape at the end so if you aren't a very neat cutter it's not a problem.

When you've finished these two cuts, your envelope should look roughly like this.

Make the next set of cuts as shown on the picture below. Two on the side, two on the top. That's the paper cutting pretty much done. 

Now, re-fold your envelope to check how it all lines up. Ideally when you overlap all the pieces (narrow sides ones down first, two larger envelope flaps down second) you should not be able to see the inside of the envelope poking out anywhere. If you have then I'm afraid it's back to the start with a new picture.

Now for the washi tape! Keeping the top of the envelope open, seal the sides of your envelope. I tend to put something on the centre of the envelope to weight the paper down to avoid bulging.

If this envelope is for your use and you are going to stuff the envelope then seal it with washi tape, your work is done!

However, if you have made the envelope for a silly gift for someone or intend to use it at a later date when you may not have any washi tape to hand, I would recommend placing a strip of double-sided tape along the envelope opening. This means it can easily be sealed when you or whoever you have given it to come to use it.

And that's it, folks! You can now go and unleash your creativity on all manner of charity shop bargains!

This is a lovely easy little project to do with children as well - though depending on the age they may need supervision with the scissors, from the point of safety, and the washi tape, from the point of view that they could keep unreeling it and waste tons with glee.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Reading Challenge: A Book with a Character's Name in the Title

In Shatnerquake a reality bombs goes off at the first ever ShatnerCon. All the characters William Shatner ever played on screen are brought to life and set about tracking down the real Shatner with murder in mind.

Having been to a couple of ComicCons in London, I found it easy to picture the scene which Jeff Burk sets. The complex where ShatnerCon is taking place is shiny, modern and new. It’s also impersonal as such convention centres need to be so they can accommodate and absorb the show they are running one weekend before sloughing it off and adopting a new one the next. You get the crowds, the (sometimes rabid) fans and the general feel of people connected by one over-arching interest with perhaps little else in common.

Shatner arrives at the convention centre a little late and is thrust into the action. Photos to sign, camera-ready smiles to flash, devoted acolytes to keep at arms length – that sort of thing. In the cinema complex at the centre, a number of screens are showing a variety of his work from Star Trek through to T J Hooker, taking in his Rescue 9-1-1 work and commercials. His devotees are lapping it up. 

Until a reality bomb (which has been slightly tampered with) explodes and vapourises the audiences. The bomb also causes the characters on the screen to step into the real world. ShatnerCon soon descends into outright carnage as William Shatner finds himself at the mercy of his own celluloid selves and a fanatical trio of Bruce Campbell fans. 

At 83 pages, this is more a novella than a novel. Character development is low but then again this is an action novel rather than a character study and more about the delight of playing out bizarre scenes than the metamorphosis of human nature. I read it in a couple of sittings in one day and found it entertaining. This is my second journey into bizarro fiction, a genre I didn't even know about until I undertook this reading challenge, and I am further encouraged to read more titles in this area.

Biggest gripe with the book? After all the people in the cinemas die, a woman is killed in a shower of falling weapons and is inaccurately described as the first fatality of ShatnerCon. The piles of ash in the theatre seats represents the hundreds of preceding fatalities. Such a petty thing to pick up on but it jarred and stayed with me to the end of the book.

Most entertaining bit? Anything involving James T Kirk really, especially when he gets hold of a working lightsabre. It's a cross-over spectacle which is a short-lived delight to some.

I'd recommend this for a lightweight hour or two of reading - something for the train perhaps.

6 out of 10 Star Fleet Captains