Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book Reviews - July

I didn't finish any books in June, so there were no book reviews for that month.  My reading (along with my crafting!) has been pretty slow-going lately.

I did finish one book in July, though.  I started it in May, so it took a while, due to other things going on in my life.

- Mark Billingham

I don't think I got fully into this book, due to how long it took me to read and what with everything else going on.  But that's no fault of the book!

The story revolves around a young woman who has been attacked and left in a coma, unable to move or communicate.  However, she can still see, hear, think and feel.  Other women have been attacked in a similar way, but have been killed.  DI Tom Thorne is on the case to find the person responsible, and communicating with the girl in the coma could be the key to cracking the case.

I do think it was a good book, but perhaps didn't enjoy it as much as a few I had read previously.  I'm not sure I quite warmed to the characters.  I think it's worth a read, but didn't leave me that excited.  Although, again, it might be due to my lack of focus when reading it.

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

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Operation: Get My Act Together!

Hi everyone, and thanks for the very kind comments on my last post regarding my breakup.  I really appreciate your thoughts and consideration - you are a lovely lot.  I have finally got round to replying to each one, here on the blog, as well as your comments on the few posts before which were outstanding.

Now... as the title of this post suggests... I need to start getting my shi act together!  The breakup was six and a half weeks ago, and the Lumberjack moved out a week and a half ago, once he'd sorted somewhere to live.  As I said things are pleasant and amicable, so there is no nastiness or any issues there.  I'm actually doing fine, but when I'm not seeing friends or family, I have a tendency to become a bit of a vegetable.  I'm not moping or anything, just being extremely lazy!!  I just can't be bothered to get anything done.  So, that's gotta stop!  Here is the plan...

1. Get Creating Again

a. Pick up this cross stitch again... I started it years ago!

b. Make some progress with my cotton stripy blanket, and get those ends sewn in.  I had been sewing them in as I went, but let it slide a bit.  I started this blanket in September 2013 and am yet to reach the two thirds mark - need to get a move on!

c. Perhaps start (and finish!) some smaller makes, for some quick wins.

2. Get Organised

a. Finally get the craft room in a fit state to be both used and shown here on the blog!  It has become a bit of a dumping ground, and I have to tip-toe through the layer of clutter on the floor to get anything!  I will show you pictures, to shame myself into acting!  (In theory...!)

Lucky enough to have a craft room and yet I have treated it like this - bad bad me!

b. Sort out paperwork which is currently piling up in various places, and try to keep on top of it.

3. Decorate

a.  The conservatory.  It needs tidying, organising, decorating, and furnishing... then maybe I can start to sit in it before it becomes too cold and wintery!  It is a junk/DIY room at the moment, as you can see...

b. The Utility Nook - you saw a sneak peak here.  I need to finish it!

c. The downstairs toilet - I won't scare you with a picture!

Hmm... perhaps this list is pretty ambitious - to go from doing nothing to all this!  Well, we'll see how I get on - I'll keep you updated on Operation 'Get My Act Together'!

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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A Breakup

I've been a bit quiet here lately, as I'm sorry to say that the Lumberjack and I have broken up.  It's amicable, but sad.  I don't seem to be in a crafting mood, so haven't had anything to show you here - I just wanted to explain my silence.

On the plus side, my brother and sister-in-law bought me the very cute glass-fused coaster shown above, as a 'breakup present'!

I hope to get my creative mojo back soon so that I have some pretty things to share with you.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Reviews - May

My book reviews are getting later and later each month.  I know I spoke last time about possibly not continuing, but I wanted to review this months books as they were so good!

Dark Places
- Gillian Flynn

Back in February I read Gillian Flynn's first book - Sharp Objects - which was very dark and very good.  Her second book - Dark Places - is just as dark and twisted!  I was hooked from the very first line.

The book flits between today and about 25 years ago when violence struck the Day family, and delves into the truth of what happened on that blood-soaked night.  If you want a bright, happy, cheery read, then keep away!  It's definitely not a feel-good book.  I loved it, though - it kept me intrigued and interested throughout.  I highly recommend it.

Before I Go To Sleep

- S J Watson

I'd seen a trailer for this at the cinema, but never got round to watching it.  However, I realised the film was based on a book so bought the book.  Ooooh, this was really good too!  Not as disturbing and twisted as Dark Places, a bit nicer to read despite being a bit of a thriller and having some scary and tense moments.

Something has occurred in the main character's past to cause her to have amnesia.  Every morning she wakes up not knowing where she is or what has happened, and anything she learns during the day she forgets again when sleeping that night.  I won't give anything away, but it is such a good book.  A real page-turner, I couldn't put it down!  Really loved this - definitely read it!  I want to see the film now.

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

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

All Tea Towels

You may have heard of All Tea Towels who sell the most lovely range of tea towels.  There are so many designs, it's difficult to choose your favourite!

Al of All Tea Towels kindly offered me two of their tea towels, and after much pouring over the website I picked the below (pictures courtesy of their website - click on images to be taken to the items):

You may remember that my kitchen was renovated last year, but I'd still been using my old tea towels.  It's now great to have a couple that go nicely with the kitchen!

I think they work well.

And I especially like how this one goes with the colours in my print above the shelves...

I've had them a few weeks now, as I wanted to use and wash them before reviewing for you.  So...

Design - as you can see it is a definite thumbs up for design!

Dryability - they dry items well and are a smooth fabric, rather than fluffy, so don't leave fluff all over your dishes.

Washability - they wash well.

Size - they are a good size, quite a bit bigger than the cheap tea towels I was using previously.  This gives you more to dry with!

Customer Service - Al was ever so friendly and helpful and delivery was very prompt indeed.

To conclude, I can most definitely recommend All Tea Towels.  Go check them out, as there are bound to be lots of designs you'll love!

Disclaimer:  I have received a complimentary pair of tea towels for the purpose of this review.  All pictures, words and opinions are honest and my own.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beginner Crochet - Blog Hop

I have been following Sarah's blog Annaboo's House for many years now.  I think from pretty much near the beginning actually.  Her posts are always written in such a fun and enjoyable style, and her ideas and patterns are great.  I couldn't be more pleased for her that she's had a crochet book published - what an amazing achievement and well deserved!

To celebrate the launch of Sarah's book - Beginner's Guide to Crochet - I'm taking part in a blog hop organised by Stitch Craft Create sharing beginner crochet wins and fails.  See Sarah's kick off post here.

My crochet adventure began when I started a new job working with Anna back in 2008.  We quickly learned that we both were creative crafting types and that was the start of a beautiful friendship!  Anna is the crochet queen - just check this out if you have any doubt - and that's just the tip of the iceberg!  She brought some yarn into work and started teaching me how to crochet on our lunch breaks.  I seem to remember really struggling with how to hold the yarn so that it would feed nicely through my fingers - that was one of the tricky beginner bits for me, my first fail if you will.  Somehow I figured out a way that worked - and as Anna always says, you're not at school any more - there are no rules, if it works for you, do it!

She taught me the classic granny square, and I made my first crochet item - a cushion.  That was my first win!

Not too shabby for my first project - I felt I could handle this crochet malarkey!

The good thing about the granny is that you crochet into the gaps rather than into the stitch, which made it easier for me.  But then (possibly a couple of years later, now I look back) I tried single crochet (UK double) amigurumi style, actually having to crochet into the stitch on the row below - that was a big crochet fail!  I really couldn't figure out where on earth I should be putting my hook - where was the top of the stitch?! - and Anna and I weren't working together any more so I didn't have assistance readily to hand.  Despite our emails back and forth, sometimes you need to be shown!

Well, one day it just clicked - I don't know how, but somehow it did.  I was ridiculously proud of this little ball...

And made these two cute little fellas!

That seemed like a big win - I felt like I could actually crochet!

Another fail I had was an attempt to crochet a cowl.  I just couldn't get the sizing right, and the stitches were all far too tight and rigid.  This is where Sarah's fab tutorial on Annaboo's House for The Ultimate Cowl came in handy and I made this...

Such a great pattern - easy to do and it worked up quickly, just what I like.  A win.

And how great that Sarah now has a book full of beginner crochet patterns!

I've now crochets blankets, monkeys, cushions, shawls, and all sorts of other bits and bobs.  Check out my crochet tab to see my creations!

Now it just remains for me to nominate another blogger to carry this hop along...

The lovely Sam of Betsy Makes.  Her crochet work is beautiful, and her blog is full of inspiration.  Be sure to keep an eye out for her Beginner Crochet Blog Hop post!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Glass Fused Coasters

My sister-in-law and I recently went on a glass-fusing workshop.  When she suggested it I was most excited, as I never thought I'd see the day we were crafting together!  (As much as she loves the things I make, she's never really been the crafting type - but finally that's changing!  She'll be a craft geek like me in no time - mwuhahahaha!)

You could make what you liked within the limits of a certain overall size - so I decided on two coasters, and a kind of retro square design...

I had to cut out all of those white, blue and green squares of glass.  You use a similar technique to cutting tiles.  Score and snap.  Although the glass is sharper and my hands ended up cut to shreds!  (Ok, slight exaggeration, but I had a few cuts!  Most people didn't, so I'm not sure whether I'm clumsy or something...?)

I stacked the glass squares into the design I wanted and semi-stuck them with glue.  (I say semi, because they were still moving all over the place as the glue was so wet.)  You leave your positioned pieces with the ladies who run the course, to be fired in the kiln - and these are the finished items!

I'm very pleased with them - worth the blood!!!

My sister in law made a very cute beach hut plaque...

How gorgeous is that?!  And she quickly threw together another plaque at the end with some pre-cut colourful bits of glass.  We absolutely love the result, so bright and cheerful!

She's clearly a natural crafter!!

I hope this is the start of more creative times together!  ;)

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Monday, 11 May 2015

My Three Most Popular Posts

When I read Lazy Daisy Jones' post on her three most popular posts, I thought it sounded like a good idea!  It was interesting to see which mine were...

In reverse order...

3.  At this moment in time, there are two posts exactly equal in third place:

Fabric Notice Board - this is an old post, and pretty cringeful when I read it back!  Although I do still have the notice board, and do still love those gorgeous little pins I made.

African Flower Runner - also an old one, but still absolutely love these colours!  It probably remains my favourite colour combination of all my projects.

2.  In second place...

My Christmas Star Jar Cover Tutorial - this is good to know, although I'm not sure whether anyone has actually used the pattern to make one!

1.  And in first place, with over double the page views of second place...

A random post called 'Weekend Bits' - which is pretty pointless and yet attracts so many views.  I think it is solely because it has a couple of very cute pictures (even if I say so myself) combining crochet, yarn and a pretty colander, which clearly appeals!  What more does anyone need?

There you go, said pretty picture.  Not long after this, the yarn was unceremoniously dumped out so that the colander could actually fulfil its purpose in the kitchen!

I am still working on that blanket (it's been over a year and a half!) but it's getting pretty big now.  I WILL get it finished this year!

You can check out the crochet projects I've actually completed in my crochet tab.

Thanks to Lazy Daisy Jones for the great idea.

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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Book Reviews - April

Let me first start by saying that I have started replying to your comments on the actual blog post, rather than replying via email (or more usually not at all, sorry!)  I've never been sure of the best way to respond, and some commenters are no-reply bloggers, so I can't email them back.  I've always wondered whether anyone would remember to pop back to the post to see my response, but I thought I'd give it a go.  If you have any thoughts on this and the best way to respond, I'd love to hear them!

So, if you've commented on the last few posts, you will find a response there.  (Try not to get too excited now!)

Secondly, I am getting later and later with my monthly book reviews.  I have to admit I'm not really enjoying writing them, and I'm not sure that anyone is enjoying reading them?!  I'll keep going for a bit longer, though.

Only one book read in April... I don't know what I did with my time, as I have achieved very little lately!  (Hence the lack of blog posts recently.)

The Affair: (Jack Reacher 16)

- Lee Child

The Jack Reacher reading continued.  This was a good one.  It actually went back in time to the period just before Reacher left the army, and explained the situation leading up to that point.  In all the years and adventures covered in the books (which start about six months after he left) the situations surrounding his departure were never quite clear.  Now they are!  It was a good story, and had the usual escapism you get with a Jack Reacher book.  I won't give anything away, but I enjoyed it and recommend it.

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

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Small Changes

I made a few tweaks to my home a couple of weeks back, and have been meaning to show you.

I've had the below Caroline Rose print for a few years now...

But I changed up the off-white frame I had, to this black frame (both Ikea)...

I think the black frame really pops against the creamy/ivory walls, and also brings out the colourful print.  Just a small change but it makes a difference.

You may remember my hall, stairs and landing redecoration from last year.  It left a blank canvas that I wanted to brighten up.  The hall received a grandmother clock and some console table styling but upstairs was still rather plain.

The best way to rectify that was with a Cozamia print!  Nancy's work is absolutely beautiful.  I first saw her prints on Swoonworthy, but it took me ages to decide which to get, as they are all so tempting!

I eventually decided on Sweet Chinoiserie which I truly love.  Here is a close up shot I took on my phone for Instagram, but it actually shows the detail quite well (and looks better than my camera photos if I'm honest!)...

Dinki Dots - Cozamia Sweet Chinoiserie

Isn't it stunning?!  Even just looking at it here is making me smile!

Here it is in place over the stairs (and none of the walls are straight, so if things look like they're hung wonky, it's the walls to blame - we did what we could!)...

Dinki Dots - Cozamia Sweet Chinoiserie

I've gone with dark frames for the print and the mirror, to bring some contrast to the lightness of the hall.

It's very difficult to photograph, as I had to try to combat the glare from the window on the picture.

Dinki Dots - Cozamia Sweet Chinoiserie

These photos don't really do it justice, but you get the idea.  The colours and vibrancy of the print are shown much better in the Instagram close-up.

It honestly makes me happy every day.  At first I thought it might be wasted in that spot, but I end up seeing and enjoying it all the time.

It's difficult to get Cozamia prints in the UK, but Joss & Main sell them, which is where I bought mine from.  It's a member only website and has lots of different promotions for a few days at a time.  Cozamia prints often feature, so it's well worth a look.  (I'm not being sponsored by Cozamia or Joss & Main - I'm just letting you know in case you love the prints as much as I do and want to get your hands on one!  I haven't found them anywhere else in the UK.)

If you want to join Joss & Main, click on this link or on the icon below:

Joss and Main

(If you do join via my link and make a purchase, I will get a credit - but that's just a bonus, not the reason for this post!)

I bought another Cozamia print at the same time (picking just one was too difficult!) but I'll show you another time when I've found the perfect spot for it.  To be honest, looking at the Cozamia Gallery now, makes me want to buy more - aarrghhh!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Skull Doily and a Fabulous Dublin Weekend!

It's safe to say that you don't see a lot of skulls on this here blog of mine!  But when Alex (The Interior DIYer) and Kimberly (of Swoonworthy) and I made plans for a weekend in Dublin, I knew I wanted to make a little something for Alex to say thanks for putting us up.  A crocheted skull doily seemed just the ticket.

I first saw this crochet skull motif in my friend Anna's beautiful shawl here.  There was no way I was ever going to manage to crochet a whole shawl of fiddly skulls, but when I had the thought of a skull doily, I knew it was the perfect start.

I was going to study the pattern to try to figure out how to separate it into a single skull square, but luckily found this pattern which had done it for me.  (Although, looking at it, the original shawl patterns seem to be from different places, so there may be a few floating around and they may be slightly different...)

Regardless, I got to work and made a black skull square.  Interspersed with lots of comments from the Lumberjack... "What are you making?  That looks a bit racy!", "Sorry, am I interrupting your lingerie making?"... it went on.

I wanted the border to be a pretty juxtaposition against the edginess of the skull, so went for something very lacy.  After some Pinterest searching, I decided on this pattern, and it gave exactly the look I was hoping for.

I was determined it should be in Alex's favourite berry hue, so frantically searched my stash until I found some yarn in the right colour.  Things got dicey towards the end of the border...

That was all the yarn left after I made my final stitch!!!  I was actually wimpering out loud as I crocheted the final edge of the doily - I was so nervous I'd run out and have to rip it all back and start again with something different.

But all was well, and it just needed to be blocked (I obviously wove that end in too)...

One skull doily was ready to be given!

We've just had our amazing weekend in Dublin, and Alex seemed pretty pleased with the doily.

She met Kimberly and myself at the airport with these signs (and got a few odd looks while holding them)...

Brilliant!  We had such a fantastic weekend, full of constant chatter and laughter, talking nonsense about everything under the sun.  Alex's traumatised husband had to put up with a coven of giggling, screeching women for three days - that poor dear man!

Alex and I had met before, but it was the first time we had met Kimberly in person - it was safe to say we all got on like a house on fire.  In fact, we have become unhealthily dependent on each other - we'd barely separated at the airport before we started messaging each other with more nonsense!  Thanks to you both for a fantastic weekend - and to our chauffeur for ferrying us about without a word of complaint!

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