Sunday, 1 March 2015

Book Reviews - February

Another month of 2015 is over, and I'm here with a brief review of the books I read in February... just two again...

Worth Dying For: (Jack Reacher 15)
- Lee Child

The next in the Jack Reacher books, after reading number 14 (61 Hours) last month.  For some reason I struggled to get into this at first, but not through any fault of the book.  I think I just had other things going on, so didn't really get the chance to sit and read it enough.  Once I did get into it, however, I was hooked and really enjoyed it!

Jack Reacher has ended up in another small town, whose residents are being controlled by a nasty bunch of brothers.  There are mysteries past and present to be solved... lucky Reacher is there then!  I won't give anything away, but it was more typical Jack Reacher shenanigans, with a touch of sadness.

Sharp Objects

- Gillian Flynn

I went to see 'Gone Girl' at the cinema, and loved the film.  I later found out it was based on the book by Gillian Flynn, so I requested all three of her novels for Christmas.  'Sharp Objects' is the first one.

Oooooh, what can I say?!  I couldn't put it down - so good!  It's pretty dark, somewhat disturbing, and keeps you intrigued throughout.  Camille is a journalist who reluctantly has to go back to the hometown she's kept away from for many years, in order to report on a year old murder and a currently missing girl.  A more intense and sinister read than the escapism of Jack Reacher, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Keep away if you like a cheery read - this isn't exactly uplifting!  It sticks with you, though, and keeps you thinking about it.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book by this author!

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* Links to the books I've read are Amazon affiliate links

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Organisation: Shoe Care Box

We've been slowly but surely working on our tiny utility nook.  Whilst waiting for coats of paint to dry, I got caught up in the below frivolous little project!

We already had the Variera box from Ikea.  I raided my collection of gold peel-offs from my card-making days, and got sticking.  Quick and simple, but I was really pleased with the result.

As for the contents, I just gathered all the random ancient tubs of polish and what-not that we had hanging around.  I never bother to polish my shoes, but I probably should.  Maybe I will now!  (Yeah, right...!)

This is just a small step towards a tidy and organised utility space... I hope to share more with you soon...

Check out my Organisation tab for more ideas.

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Beanbag Cube

Thanks for the great comments on my spare room.  I enjoyed reading them, as always! 

Ok... now onto a bit of sewing!  This is something I made for my nephew for his third birthday, which was a few days after Christmas.  I was a terrible blogger and didn't take any photos at all!!  So, my dear sister-in-law (thanks Roon!) took some on her phone and whatsapped them to me the other day... so excuse the phone pics, and the fact that it's a very tricky item to photograph!

A few years back, I made a beanbag cube for myself, which you can see here (in a post with pretty rubbish pictures, even with a proper camera - I hope my photography skills have improved at least in some way since then!)

From the time I made that last cube I'd had in the back of my mind to make one for my nephew, but he was only a tiny baby back then.  These days, when he comes round to my house, he loves jumping on and rolling around with mine, so I thought he'd got to the age where he'd appreciate one of his own.

And he does seem to be enjoying it!

I bought thick cotton fabric - not sure what you'd call it, but it's thicker than normal weight cotton for quilting etc.  Hopefully it'll withstand all the bouncing!  (If not, Roon - let me know and I'll fix it somehow!)

It has a concealed zip on the bottom that looks rather neat, even if I say so myself, with the zip pull tucked away - but I'm afraid I have no pictures for you.  The idea is that Theo won't notice it and start investigating the inside of the cube!  I did buy beans that come in a kind of stocking bag, though, so if he does make his way inside hopefully it won't be too messy!  He's never noticed the zip on my cube, so I think we should be ok.

Spot the Olaf peeping over!

So, a bit late - but the beanbag cube gets it's time on the blog!  You can see my other sewing projects on my Sewing tab.

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Friday, 6 February 2015

Spare Room Transformation

Well, this was redecorated last year, but I hadn't had chance to get any decent photos until now!  (There may have been a couple of boxes and whatnot hanging around, looking untidy...)

There are still a few things I want to do, but I thought I might as well show you now.  If I wait until it's perfect, it'll never happen!

Above is how the room looked when we viewed the house (estate agent picture)... and below shows the state it was in after being used as our junk room for a year or so:

Let's take a closer look at that wallpaper:

Two walls were in one wallpaper and two in the other.  When we stripped them, the walls weren't a pretty sight!

Anyway, that's enough unpleasantness for one day - let's get on to how it looks today!

The walls were plastered and painted, coving was put up, the skirting, door and carpet replaced (none of it by us, I'm ashamed to say - we got the professionals in!) and here we go... (we finally got round to putting up the blinds and pictures last weekend)...

The paint colour is Blue Boy by Johnstone's, which is a kind of light bluey/greeney/greyey colour.

We bought a corner wardrobe from Ikea, to maximise the bit of space we had.  We use it for coats and clothing we don't wear often.  The Lumberjack was insistent that he didn't want all white furniture, so we went for some wood-effect to warm things a little, with a white door that ties in with the bookcase you'll see in a sec.  (I'm still a little unsure about how it looks in the two-tone, but it's functional at least.)

I was planning to get new bedding in bluey/greeney/turquoise/lime colours and use those as the accent colours in the room.  But temporarily went with this stripy bedding from my old flat, and well, I just liked it!  Seems silly to waste money on new bedding when this looks colourful and cheery!  It also works with turquoise and lime as it has those colours in it.

I love my two peacock prints above the bed!  Hard to get a decent picture of them, but you can see them a bit more clearly below...

They are the designs of a Bristol artist called Bex Glover - you can see her work and order some of it here.  I'm so pleased with them!  I used a black Ikea Ribba frame - the black ties in well with the touches of black within the print, and I love the contrast it gives against the soft wall colour.

Here's the other side of the room:

The bookcase is a work in progress - definitely not styled!  There are more books to squeeze on somehow (the Lumberjack has a lot of books on tree and nature-related topics!)

We also have plans for that blank bit of wall, when we get the time/motivation.

So... let's get onto some before and after fun!

Definitely an improvement, I think!

Check out our other decorating projects in my Home Improvement tab.

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book Reviews - January

I've decided to do a brief review of books I read throughout the year.  I like to see reviews on other blogs to give me ideas of new books to read, so I thought that some of you might find it interesting and it will also serve as a record for myself of what I've read.  I'm going to post on a monthly basis.

So, here goes with January's reads... I've only finished two books this month, damn that full-time job getting in the way of reading and crafting and fun things!:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
- Mindy Kaling

Mindy writes for and acts in 'The Office' (American version) - she is also the creator and star of 'The Mindy Project', a comedy series which I love watching.  As I find that series so funny, I thought I'd give her book a go.

I'm usually a fiction reader and I think this might be the first autobiography (or biography) I've read.  (I prefer to live in a happy fantasy made-up world!)  I just got the impression it would be a fun read, and I was right.  It's a quick-to-read light-hearted book.  You hear about Mindy's childhood and how she came to be where she is today, interspersed with random musings and abstract thoughts which made me laugh.

It's seem less like an autobiography and more like listening to a funny, clever friend chatter away.  If you want to relax and have a laugh with an easy read, I recommend this book.  I really enjoyed it.

61 Hours: (Jack Reacher 14)
- Lee Child

I started reading the Jack Reacher books last Spring/Summer and have now finished the 14th one.

Jack Reacher was an Army Military Policeman and the books start about six months after his exit from the Army.  He is very big, strong, and tough (not quite captured by little Tom Cruise in the Jack Reacher film!) and seems to find himself in the midst of trouble wherever he goes.  Thank goodness he's around to lend a hand and save the day!  He is a bit of rebel, and does things his own way, by his own moral code, but always ultimately for the good.

In 61 Hours, Reacher - thanks to a mini-bus accident - ends up trapped by a storm in the freezing cold town of Bolton, South Dakota.  But of course, dodgy-goings-on are afoot!  (He does encounter all sorts of mischief, this fella!)  I don't like to give away much of the story, so I'll just say that I really enjoyed 61 Hours.  It is a fast-paced, easy read, that keeps you interested and turning the pages (or clicking the button on your electronic reading device).  A great bit of escapism, not too taxing!

And that's it for January.  More next month!

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* Links to the books I've read are Amazon affiliate links

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Organisation: Print Your Photos

I've made an effort in the last couple of years to start printing the digital photos I take.  You know how it is... thousands of photos stored in the depths of your computer, and on random hard-drives scattered willy-nilly about the house (ok, maybe it's not quite so chaotic, but you get the message).

I think it's a great idea to print a selection of photos each year so that you can see, hold, and access your pictures more readily.  Those stored electronically can easily get forgotten about... or worse, lost.

The problem is that it's such a faff, and so time-consuming.  In the good old days you'd get 24 photos from your film - and you'd make that last a holiday!  Or, if you were feeling extravagant, you might stretch to two films.  A whole 48 photos!  These days, you've taken that many before you've even reached your accommodation!  To then sort through hundreds (or thousands!) of photos and choose the pictures you want to print becomes a huge headache.

Therefore I've tried to make it as simple as possible for myself.  This is how:

Select photos to print on a monthly basis

At the end of each month go through the photos you've taken that month, chose a selection of photos you like, and copy these 'printables' into a separate folder.  Doing this on a month by month basis means less work in one go.  When it comes to the end of the year, you can upload everything in your 'printables' folder to a photo-printing website and order the lot.  (Alternatively, you could print them monthly depending on your preference and how many photos you have.)

Remember: if you're having trouble choosing which photos to print, don't worry - the ones you don't choose are still on your computer.  If they don't make the cut, they're not gone.  You can print them any time you like if you have a change of heart.

Use a simple album in the right size

I love the idea of a pretty scrapbook, each page decorated beautifully, but I'll never get round to that.  In the end I decided to go with a simple slip-in photo album... but the key was the size.  This takes 4.5 x 6 inch photos, which is the actual proportions of digital photos.  If you buy a 4 x 6 inch album, you will need to crop all your photos when you order your prints.  Ain't nobody got time for that!  This way, you can upload and order with minimal fuss.

I actually struggled to find a very good selection of albums in this size.  (Why are albums and frames not produced in the proportions of the photos everyone takes?!  Do not get me started on this, I could rant all day!)  Eventually I settled on a suitable item.  The album I chose was this one: 

Walther Grindy Black 6x4.5 Slip In Photo Album - 200 Photos *

Your photos just slip in and you can write a little description next to them (when you get round to it, which I haven't yet, but I've only just got the album!)

Before I seem too perfect and organised, let me just say that I ordered my 2013 photos a year ago (when I started this idea), and they've sat in the box they came in until now.  My plan to organise my 2014 photos on a monthly basis didn't happen, so I ended up doing a big sort out the other week.  I will be better this year, though - monthly photo selections will happen!

I can fit both 2013 and 2014 prints into the one album - I kept the album's capacity in mind when I ordered last year's prints so that the number I have fits in exactly.

Honestly, I love having this selection printed out to flick through.  It's better than looking on screen - plus all the duplicates and dodgy shots aren't in there - just the best ones.  Go on, do it - print your photos!  You'll be so glad you did.

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* Amazon affiliate link

Sunday, 18 January 2015

2015 Goals

The last couple of years I've set myself goals (rather than resolutions) and documented them here on the blog.  So here goes for 2015!

Firstly, I'll review how I did with last year's goals - I apologise if this gets really dull - I'm probably the only one interested!

Declutter - using William Morris as a guide:  Have nothing in your house that you don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful

Well, I started project Less 365 and I have managed to get rid of 365 things this year - so I'm going to call that a success on the declutter front!

In addition, I started a separate blog - Exploring Minimalism to delve deeper into that way of thinking.

Become Mega Organised

I think I've been fairly organised this year, but I wouldn't say I reached the 'mega' scale!  There are a couple of organisational projects you can see on my Organisation Page.  I'd say progress has been made, but that's about it.

Decorate Kitchen, Craft Room, Spare Room

Very happy to say that all three rooms got decorated!  You can see the kitchen here.  I haven't managed any decent pictures of the craft room and spare room yet - but I will aim to rectify the situation and show you.  You can see a sneak peak of the craft room here but it needs a bit  (lot) more tidying and sorting effort!
As a bonus, the hall, stairs and landing was also decorated - pictures here.  You can see any house progress documented so far on my Home Improvement Page.
[UPDATE: spare room pictures have finally been uploaded here.]

Make an Item of Clothing - something I actually wear in public

Quite annoyed with myself about this one.  I spent ages working on a toile for a really simple top.  I completely over-thought it and made it too complicated.  Eventually I started on the top in the final fabric, but I haven't finished it!!  Also, I signed up to an evening course on pattern cutting and garment making, which would have definitely seen me ticking this goal off.  However, on the very day I was due to scamper my way to the college, they called to say it had been cancelled - grrr!  I was gutted.  So, I'm going to carry this goal over to 2015.

Cook Better Dinners - more variety, planned better, healthy (some of the time)

Hmm - well, didn't really do this one at all!

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - worry less and be more chilled and laid-back

Don't know about this one - just asked the Lumberjack and we have concluded that I might be a bit more chilled but, as he said, "we all have our moments"!

Escape the Rat Race - in a good way (not losing my job or dying!)

Nah, didn't manage this one - still plodding along at the same job, which isn't surprising due to my complete lack of a plan.  Although, actually there were redundancies at my work in 2014 so I could have lost my job - eeek!  So, I'm grateful that didn't happen!

Ok... now I've bored you all to tears... here are my 2015 goals:

Make an Item of Clothing - something I actually wear in public (carried over)
Finish some Crafty WIPs - would be good to get at least one finished off
Use it or Lose it - start using craft supplies rather than hoarding them
Decorate Conservatory, Utility Nook, Downstairs Toilet - and be better at blogging about it!
Escape the Rat Race - in a good way (not losing my job or dying!) (carried over)
Continue to Declutter and Become More Organised

Let's see how I get on!

In case you're interested here are my 2014 and 2013 goal blog posts.

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Crochet Hot Water Bottle Cover

I love my latest make - simple and colourful:

I've had a cover-less hot water bottle hanging around my craft room for a while, waiting to be ensconced in something warm and cosy!  I had been given it in a cover I didn't like some time ago - so I got rid of the cover with the plan of making something new.

As with a lot of these plans, time passed... but eventually I got round to it!

I've always like the way navy makes other colours pop, as in my african flower cushion, and when I saw Sew Sweet Violet's beautiful rainbow scarf, I knew I had to make something in a similar style.

This is a small hot water bottle - not the standard size - which meant less work (yay!).  I used yarn from my stash, and gorgeous funky buttons my sister-in-law and brother had given me for my birthday, so this cost nothing - just what we like!

I made up the pattern as I went along, but I'll try to explain my method in case you'd like to give it a go.

This is less a pattern, and more general guidelines that you can use for whatever size hot water bottle you have.

  • Crochet a chain or chainless foundation that fits around your bottle.
  • Alternate rows of dc (UK tr) in navy and rainbow colours until you reach the point where your hot water bottle starts to curve in at the neck.
  • On the row when the bottle starts to curve, reduce stitches at equal positions on each side.  What worked for my bottle was to dc (UK tr) 2 st together 6 times on each side, making sure there were equal stitches between these reducing stitches.
  • On the next row, I then dc (UK tr) 2 st together twice on each side (in the middle of the previous row's decreases) to continue the shaping.
  • You will need to use your judgement to decrease until the curve evens out, then keeping going without increasing/decreasing until the hot water bottle starts to flare out again.  Then increase by dc (UK tr) twice into the same stitch a couple of times in each side.
  • Decrease when the bottle gets smaller, increase when it gets bigger (stating the obvious!)
  • Always make sure the middle of your increases and decreases are at the same spots, as these will be on the sides of your hot water bottle.  Make sure the number of stitches between each cluster of increases/decreases is the same, as these will be the front/back of your hot water bottle.
  • Make your final row of stripes a navy row, and then add an additional row of navy by dc (UK tr) twice into every stitch to give a bit of flare and frill at the top.

  • To make the flap at the bottom dc (UK tr) a row of stitches in navy to the bottom of your cover, but only on one side, using half the stitches that make up the round.
  • dc (UK tr) another row of navy.
  • To make the button holes, use the first rainbow colour you used and sc (UK dc) in every stitch except where you would like a button hole.  For a button hole space ch an appropriate number to be big enough to go over your button (it was 4 for me) and skip that number of stitches before you continue to sc (UK dc).  Space your sc and chains evenly so that your button holes are evenly spaced.
  • Finish off with a row of hdc (htr) in the same colour.  Stitch into the sc of the row before, or into the chain space with the same number of stitches as chains.

  • Sew your buttons on in the right place, fasten the flap with the buttons, and your hot water bottle cover is complete!

A bit of warm brightness on a cold day!

Let me know if you have any questions on how to make this.  It's a tricky one to explain as it depends on the bottle you're working with.  It's actually very simple to make once you give it a go.

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Creation Consolidation - 2014!

Happy New Year!

Just a quick round-up of my crafty creations blogged about in 2014.  Not a lot made really this year, as a lot of focus was on decorating the house - not all of which has been blogged about yet.  I must take some decent pictures!  But, here goes with the makes (click on each picture's heading to be taken to the post):

Crochet Tealight Holders
(Actually made end of 2013 but blogged in 2014)

Blue Crochet Monkey
(Actually made end of 2013 but blogged in 2014)

Crochet and Cross-Stitch Phone Case


Washi Tape Bottle Vase
I nearly didn't put this one in - as it's a bit rubbish really!  But, here it is - complete with WEEDS!

Crochet Baby Blanket

Crochet Bracelet

Lavender Sachet

Pinwheel Pot Holder


Mini Christmas Sacks

Washi Tape Christmas Cards

Santa Bottle Topper

Chunky Crochet Bowl

Crochet Christmas Tree

Felt Olaf

I think I need to do better this year and make more!  Most of these have been little dinky makes - must do better!

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