Saturday, 30 November 2013

My Month in Numbers 2013: November

Hi you. Come in. Sit, sit.

I blog a numerical round-up each and every month of the year, but it's round about now that I don't feel the usual need to talk about the passage of time ...

... that's because, at this time of year, we're only ever a glance or a click away from an Advent calendar, a 'number of sleeps-to-go' countdown or a flashing neon reindeer shaped reminder that Christmas is on its way!

But for now, rather than living in the future, let's hop back in time a little to dwell on the 30 days that was November [or should that be Movember] 2013:
Despite Facebook comments to the contrary ... no, I did not take part in Movember this year ... I was just playing with a dressing up box [because who can resist?] ... but more of than later ...

Let me tackle November's Communal Count questions first:

[a] The date of my first Christmas card of the season: I haven't received any Christmas cards yet ... so the only number I can record there is '0'! When I set the question I was sure that I've received very early cards in the past ... but not this year!
[b] How many items did you write on a Christmas list to buy for someone else? And for someone else to buy you? Well, with this one I haven't actually written anything down yet ... so the list is still in my head and on Pinterest! But I've bought 9 gifts for others up to now and have hinted at 3 definite things that  I'd like [a phone / L'Occitane treats / David Sedaris tour tickets] making for, so far, a 3:1 giving-to-receiving ratio that I reckon Santa will definitely look kindly on! 

[Oh dear ... after writing that I've just remembered the 2 tops I tried on last week and both of which were bought for me while I was there. Sorry Santa ...].

Here's how the rest of my month measured-up ...

6 days for James's stitches to dissolve: he had a short operation on the 1st of this month. In fact, I wrote about the way zebras were watching over us that day here [seriously ... if you didn't read that post you'll be forgiven for thinking that he was operated on during a safari. Which he wasn't!].

But as for the stitches themselves well, obviously I couldn't actually count the actual number because, being dissolvable ... they'd vanished before the dressing was removed. Speaking of which ...

10-14 days =  the time he had to wait before removing the post-op dressing which he was perfectly happy with thankyouverymuch but as for me ... well ...

... we're talking here about someone who, in the past, has been known to open Christmas presents [secretly] before Christmas and to me 10-14 days felt like a long time to find out exactly what they'd done to him because, with the dressing in place, it really wasn't clear cut [pardon the pun] .

Knowing me as he does, I think he slept with one eye open for the first week ... just in case temptation got the better of me and I decided to chance a sneak-peek in the night! ;-)

Before you worry about him, he's almost back to normal now, well ... when I say 'normal' ...

... meet the man of 1000 faces [OK, so, there's only 8 here ...]:
I think every time I looked up during the party he'd turned into someone else ... like Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts & Coronets!

What's that I hear you ask? What party am I talking about? Why ... it was this one:
My [older...just sayin'] sister had a 'Heroes & Villains' themed 40th birthday party:

While she herself is partial to a spot of  theatricality involving dressing-up she decided not to force a full-on costume party on those less flamboyant guests! Instead we collected together all the dressing up items [wigs, glasses, masks, capes etc] and silly props [moustaches, hats, guns, sonic screwdriver etc] we could find and turned our parents' hallway into a self-contained party photo-booth:
It made a great alternative to a costume party as those who fancied dressing-up and capturing it on camera could do so to their heart's content ...
... meanwhile, those who didn't want to make fools of themselves could still enjoy the night and ever-changing surreal scenery eg. the 2 nuns dancing to Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky'.

[I would say 'you had to be there' but, as I was one of those 2 nuns ... I'm actually glad you weren't!].

We also had a board for people to leave messages for the birthday girl. Messages like:
And if you thought she might be mad at me for telling you she was 40 ... imagine what she'll do to me now!

But, however old she is ... she's not as old as a certain Time Lord who turned 50 this month:  Did you watch the Dr.Who 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor?

I've only been interested in the show since Matt Smith took on the role [I really can't enjoy the original episodes despite James's attempts to sway me otherwise].
And I generally consider it a good night if I've managed to understand at least 50% of what's going on in an episode!

 But I do so enjoy Smith's Doctor ... and the fact his final episode airs on Dec 25th is a rare reason to not be looking forward to Christmas Day!
Because 'bow ties are cool'

The 50th anniversary occurred in the same week as Jo's birthday and, appropriately enough the backdrop to her photo-booth was a TARDIS.

A TARDIS which we'd pinned up over the door during the day not realising for a moment that ... once it got dark outside it would be perfectly aligned with the glass of the front door and, once the hall light was on it would be illuminated and ...
... and look delightfully like the real thing!
And, in case you were wondering about how we fit all that dressing-up equipment, a full-length mirror, props and tripod into the hallway while still having space for slightly inebriated people to strike a pose in, well ...

... that'll be because it's bigger on the inside you know? ;-)


So, those were my November numericals ... do you want to share yours? Either for November or at any time in the future? 
I'll look forward to reading your posts and I know for a fact I'll see many of you in the comment sections of each other's blogs too.

I'll pop back here tomorrow with the final Communal Count of  2013.

Julie :-)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Found: A mouldy 'minion'?

Hi hi.

The human brain is hard-wired to recognise faces. It's likely an evolutionary thing. And sometimes this cognitive function leads us to recognising faces in things that aren't really faces.

[Bear with me on this science bit, there's something inane heading this way any minute. Promise.]

In our house we're very fond of finding these 'faces in places' and I've blogged at least one of them before now that time we found a potato that looked like a Marc John's drawing.  [How could I not blog about that?]

My photo folders are scattered with them and I know we're not alone ... there's a whole world of 'faces in places' photos over on Flickr and I've just come across Faces in Things on Twitter ... and so, with the knowledge that this is definitely a 'thing' ... and not that I'm just a little bit odd ... I just had to share our latest face with you today!

According to Wikipedia: "objects incidentally perceived as faces evoke an early activation in the ventral fusiform cortex, at a time and location similar to that evoked by faces"

So all I can say is: prepare to have your 'ventral fusiform cortex' activated ...

Last week James was putting some fresh lemons into the fruit bowl when something amongst the old ones in the bottom of the bowl caused him to shout over to me: 'There's a face in a place here" ...
... and, naturally, I had to go and look ... and he wasn't wrong, was he?

Is that not the cutest, most poignant seen-better-days lemon you've ever seen?

[If not, I insist on seeing your photographic evidence to the contrary.]

Personally I can see some family resemblance between it and a 'minion' from the Despicable Me films or a Toy Story alien?  What do you think?

If nothing else, it makes me feel better about my lapses in household management, how does that old saying go? She who has a perfect, spore-free fruit bowl shalt never get to blog about a mouldy lemon.

Now wouldn't that be a terrible pity?

Julie ;-)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Plundering Pages for cardmaking: What's in a name?

Hi you.

What's your name?

Why do I ask?

Because- when I'm browsing my old book collection looking for an interesting page to plunder -  I love it when I accidentally stumble across a familiar name:
This is my latest find which made the perfect addition to the card I made for my sister's recent birthday:
But I'm not only excited about finding my own name [in this case inside a 1960's girls' annual] no ...

... in recent weeks I've sent out several envelopes stuffed with plundered pages to friends whose names I'd happened upon in various books.
 Both ladies have names which - I'm imagining - they don't come across that often in books so I couldn't bear to keep them to myself! I just had to tear them out [did you just wince?] and post them off to a rightful home with their namesakes! 

Similarly I was delighted to find this image to use as my focal point for the card ... because [if you don't know her] let me promise you that she actually does look rather like this:
[If you read my post on Sunday she's the 'superhero sibling' I wrote about in my Simply A Moment post].

Whenever someone enquires about ordering a Custom Pack of Plundered Pages, and we're chatting about what themes and topics they'd like me to find for their personalised pack ... I often ask if there are any significant names they'd like me to keep my eyes peeled for at the same time. I can't promise to find any ... but it's great when I do!

Because I know how much fun it can be adding a very specific as-if-it-was-tailored-to-you detail to a project: I've made various projects for myself featuring familiar names and ...
  • while I know you could type/print/stamp out any name or phrase you fancy ...
  • there is something particularly special about finding it on a page, out of the blue, fully formed then just snipping it out and being inspired by it.
  • for example: I built the entire sentiment of this card around this phrase with my name ...
... the card just wouldn't have been the same if I hadn't taken it as my starting point!


Are there any unique, hard-to-find or simply significant names you'd like me to stay vigilant for in my book browsing?

I'd be interested to hear ... and, who knows, maybe I'll get in touch one day with that all elusive name!
Julie :-)


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Simply a Moment [November]: My Super-hero Sibling

Hello you.

I'm joining in again with 'Simply A Moment' - a blogging meme hosted by Alexa at Trimming the Sails, who  reminds us once a month to stop and document a fleeting moment of time.

[To learn more you can read Alexa's tips on how to record your own moments and if you do join in, there's a link box on her November moment for you to add yours.]

I actually forgot I was meant to consciously memorise a moment on the 15th ... until the 16th! And while Alexa always stresses that it's perfectly fine to choose another day ... when I thought back to the previous day to see if I could remember back to anything worth capturing ... one vivid, perfectly formed, moment leapt to mind.

And this is it ...

My Super-hero Sibling

Date: Friday 15th November 2013
Time: 12.30 pm-ish
Location: Mam + Dad's hallway.

The party preparations are fully underway now.

Mam's juggling quiches, pies and finger food in the kitchen; Dad's sprinting around the house with a toolbox tending to last minute tasks and really, all that's left for Jo [the birthday girl] and I to do is the fancy bits:
  • pinning up the rows of comic-book style bunting we've been preparing for weeks;
  • finding the best spot for the paper pom-pom garlands;
oh and ...
  • the small task of turning the hallway of a suburban house into a Tardis / superhero themed photo-booth complete with dressing-up box and props so ...
... not that much to do really ...  
Every time a crowd-pleaser style song comes on the radio [an all request day on Radio 2 in aid of Children in Need] Mam asks Jo [who's created a 16 hour playlist for her party tonight]:

"Have you got this one on there?"

And every time Jo replies:

"No" ... then shoots me a 'but I have got 16 hours worth of other songs on there and people are bound to like some of them' look.

I move the step ladder into the hall so I can reach up to pin a pom-pom garland to the ceiling of the 'Tardis'. [As if, with all that time on his hands, the Doctor had taken up papercrafting.]

Standing on the top of the three steps I manage to press the pin into the plaster and successfully hang the garland and then ...

... I start to tilt backwards ... and [no Dr.Who pun intended but ...] time begins to bend and to stretch out, giving me time to think a lot of things in just a few seconds.

Things like:
  • Uh-oh ... this feels a bit unsafe ... but I'll be able to right myself in a second ... I always do. It'll be fine.
Followed swiftly by ..
  • I'm flapping my arms like something in a cartoon ...
  • This isn't getting any better ... I'm still tipping backwards ...
  • OK ... there's nothing I more I can do about this ... this will either really hurt ... or else someone will just have to catch me!
And with that ... I slipped off the ladder ...
... straight into my sister's arms!

The second thing she said to me after her extraordinary catch was:

"I quite literally 'had your back' there!!"

And didn't she just?

And ... if I was prone to sentimentality I would leave that story right there. On a profound, life-affirming note. All metaphorically perfect. She had my back then ... and always. Except ...

... I think I'd rather end this moment by telling you the first thing she said after she prevented me from falling backwards on to a hard floor as I think it gives a far more accurate portrayal of sibling relationships ...

... because, the first thing she said after grabbing me was:

"Urgh!! I just touched your boob!!"

Now that's what I've come to expect from a sister!


If you'd like to read more 'moments' do drop by Alexa's ... and thank you for reading mine.

Julie :-)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Overheard: Just shooting the Bries.

Hi hi.

It's been a while since I shared an overheard so, what better way to jump back in than with a snippet of conversation about one of my favourite major food groups ... cheese ...

Just shooting the Bries.

When: Sometime this summer [uncharacteristically for me I didn't record the date of this one]
Where: my housing estate

What:  I was walking through, up, and out of the housing estate heading towards the shops one sunny afternoon this summer.

A few metres in front of me two elderly men stood chatting, their shopping bags on the pavement between them.

Well, when I say they were 'chatting' ... that might have been an overstatement.

An exaggeration.

There wasn't exactly a bubbling back 'n forth happening.

In fact ... I rather got the feeling that I'd approached them just as they were reaching that point in a conversation where you realise that you have ab. so. lute. ly. NOTHING left to say!

One of the men was standing silently, ever so slightly nodding in agreement, while the other [somewhat resigned to the desperate turn the conversation had taken] declared ...

"Cheese ... cheese. Cheese. You can't beat cheese."
Here's a photo of cheese. Enjoy! [p.s: Jean - does this count as a mention on my blog? You ate some of that cheese! ;-) ]
Part of me wishes I'd heard more of the conversation ... so I'd know exactly what the question was ... for the answer to most emphatically be: cheese.

But another part of me is glad that I'm now free to speculate!

Had the other one asked: 'What's the best toastie filling?' OR 'the best mouse-bait'?

Who knows?

What do you think they were talking about? I'm sure you've got some creative interpretations!

Julie :-)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Blog book tour: Kirsty Neale's 'Hoop La!' [Or: my friend wrote a beautiful book, come look!]

Hello, ahoy and welcome.

You've reached another of the stops along the book tour celebrating the launch of 'Hoop La! 100 Things to do with Embroidery Hoops' by my good [and oh-so-talented] friend Kirsty Neale:
While you're settling yourself in here, I should probably just mention that, if you've been following the other posts along the tour, then this post is a tiny bit different to some of those. Let me explain with one of those 'you-know-I-like-to-be-honest-with-you' disclaimer-ish type statements:
  1. Kirsty's publishers didn't send me the book for review purposes :: Kirsty sent it to me, pre-release - simply as a gift to a [very proud] friend.
  2. I didn't make one of the projects from it just so I could take part in this blog tour :: No, I made something from it long before the book tour was organised and purely because I needed to make something to take on a crafty holiday where friends and I planned to exchange handmade gifts. And, with a beautiful book containing 100 gloriously fresh ideas sitting on my desk, it seemed perverse to try to think up something of my own!
  3. I was not paid to take part and none of the links in this post are affiliate links.
So, now the official bits are over and done with, how about we just look at the prettiness?

Here's what I made:
I fell in love with the 'Christmas Wreath' [which you can find on page 105 of Hoop-La!] so settled myself down in front of Elementary one night and made a start on recreating it.

[It really is a wonder that I got anything done while Jonny Lee Miller vied for my attention on TV. But, hey, that's crafty-dedication for you.]
Like many of the 100 ideas in the book, this project was easy to adapt to suit the supplies I already had to hand. Apart from the hoop itself I didn't need to buy anything new to make this.

While I followed the design pretty closely, when it came to wrapping the hoop I did substitute Kirsty's original 'white yarn' for some fine parcel string I found a while ago which I'd been saving for the perfect project, and this was it!

[Yes, you heard me correctly, I did just admit to saving some string for 'best'.]

And, naturally I used beads from my own stash, but I did keep them to a very similar selection as those in the book as the project was already so nice I saw no need to reinvent the wheel hoop!
As for the actual 'making of' part ... I actually followed Kirsty's instructions to the letter!

This included gluing the beads as well as wrapping them on to the hoop: a step which I'd omitted at first ... until my carefully placed beads began migrating. Then I realised just how important and useful* it was ... which is when I went back and did as I was told!

[*The lesson being: Kirsty knows best. 100 times.]

All of which, as I'm someone prone to going off-piste [or even of wandering off down the road before we even get anywhere near the piste. And what is a piste anyway?] and doing my own creative thing without following the instructions, trust me, should be taken as a recommendation in itself!

In short: I had a lot of fun making my version of Kirsty's Christmas Wreath.  I've long harboured a desire to try my hand at dry-stone-walling ... and this, with the way you get to arrange different shaped beads close to one another, was the next best thing.
And I could do this not on a windswept hillside but indoors while watching Jonny Lee Miller.

Which was a bonus.

And finally ... those of you who've been visiting me here from the start won't need any explanation of why I'm beyond happy to be sharing details of a book by Kirsty Neale.

You'll know that together we hosted a creative blog: The Copy & Paste Project [we never did decide which one of us was 'Copy' or who was 'Paste'] for two splendid years during which we shared all kinds of ways in which you could take inspiration from external sources to create wonderful new things of your own.

And while we let that go a few years back I'm just thrilled at the way things have now come full circle [no hoop-based pun intended] ... 

... and now I get this chance to 'copy and paste' Kirsty!
So, this stop on the book tour may not come from a place of complete and utter objective professionalism [heck, when we shared a blog we referred to one another as 'blog wife'!!!] ...  but you should know this:

Being her friend and talking to her while she was making the book has made me keenly aware of the level of time, care and attention to detail she put into it.

And the finished result certainly reflects that.
 But you don't need to take my word for it, to see for yourself you can:
Thanks for spending some time at my stop on the tour today. I'll see you soon.

Julie :-)


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Storytelling Sunday: A Three Zebra Day

Hello you.

Yes, I do know it's not Sunday. But Sian [who hosts Storytelling Sunday over at From High in the Sky] insists it's OK to share a post up to a week after the official '1st Sunday of the month'.

And anyway, some of you may well be reading it on a Sunday ... and it's definitely a story ... so I'm going ahead with it ...

The Three Zebra Day

Date: Friday 6th November 2013

Imaginatively called 'Zebra', this little chap has been faithfully watching over me for more than 15 years now and occasionally his skills are still called upon:
His origins are a long story [which, handily, I wrote all about here explaining where he came from ... and why] but, in short he's been a friend during some tough times in the past but also a pocket companion on all kinds of journeys and he's accompanied me, and those family members I've thrust him onto, through a whole range of life experiences.

He's a talisman; a totem; a touchstone.

And for much of the year he gets to relax his splendidly striped self on top of a picture frame in my bedroom ... but there are times when he's still called upon to carry out his protective duties. Like last Friday.

James had to go into hospital for the day for a minor operation [he's fine, no need to worry] and so, after packing his bag with all the things he might need [pyjamas, dressing gown, book to read] I also zipped Zebra into a small inside pocket; because, if you're going into hospital you need a zebra too.

Then, as a 'belt-and-braces' approach ... I also made James wear his zebra socks too [you'll never guess who bought him those in the first place ... ahem ...]
Now then, I'm aware that this could begin to look like I'm rather superstitious ... and honestly, I'm not really.

But there are times, when you're feeling helpless; and you know you can't be there every minute; and you know someone is going to cut into someone you love ... when I think it's OK to put your focus into a few black and white stripes. Which is what I did.

And, thanks to the stripes ... and the good old NHS ... 11 hours later James was back home, safe and sound and sitting on the sofa with tea, biscuits and me which is when ...

... he rolled up his sleeve to reveal the identity bracelet he was still wearing from the hospital and he said ...

"Have you seen what's written on this? I noticed it when I was getting changed to go down to theatre."

And I looked ... and I saw:
... and the smile spread across my face and I couldn't quite believe my eyes.

Just a coincidence? Most certainly.

But as coincidences go ... it's a good one.


Thanks for reading my story today.

Catch up with the latest selection of tales from bloggers across the world over on Sian's latest Storytelling Sunday post here.

And I'll see you back here soon.

Julie :-)

Friday, 1 November 2013

My month in Numbers 2013: Communal Count #5 - November

Hi, hi.

As it's the 1st of the month it's time to dust off the abacus and wipe the calculator clean ... because we're about to start totalling up some fresh numbers for November.

If you already do join me by keeping track of one or both of the Communal Count prompts, or if you'd like to start right now then here's what to look out for during November:
I'm just waiting now for someone to tell me they've already received a Christmas card ... !!!

Julie :-)


As always...
  • you're welcome to respond to both, either or neither prompts it really is entirely up to you
  • you're welcome to interpret them however you like

  • You can combine this with your usual full Month in Numbers post OR just join in with your responses to these shorter prompts. Anything goes!
    • you can respond in a blog post / an Instagram / a tweet / OR simply in a comment on my Month in Numbers post [a link back to my blog somewhere would be lovely if you do blog it.]
    • OR ... join in with your response on my Facebook page
    • OR ... any other creative way I haven't thought of!
    • then - if it's 'pinnable' I'll pin it to the My Month in Numbers Pinterest board.
    You can then check back at the end of the month [and into the coming month] to compare notes with the others who've joined in, and once again we can see how we're similar ... and where we're a million miles apart!

    If you'd like to share the question on your own blog / social media so your friends and readers can join you - then you're very welcome to. You can simply save and use the image above [all my details are on there so you don't really need to link anything up].