Sunday, 25 August 2013

Craftroom re-modelling continues...

You may recall from my previous post that I had to clear my craft desk so that my friend Tim could re-site it at a better height - and intended doing it whilst I was away so that I "didn't get under his feet"...

Well, I arrived back in Southend on Thursday evening, after a knackering coach trip and then driving back round the M25 after dropping my sister home - staggered up my stairs with my bags and stopped dead... for at the top of the stairs was the bottom half of the Ikea Billy bookcase...

I thought Tim's plan was just to get the desk to the correct height, but no... he went all out and totally replaced the desk so that it is a huge 'L' shape running under the window and under the bookcase - which is going to be re-sited a little higher up the wall to give me clear working space underneath it!

The bookshelf is currently sitting on the desk but once it is moved (and probably shortened a bit more) there will be a massive desk area for me to spread out on - heaven!

Under the desk on the left he has built a little cubby which as well as providing support for the desk top, will house a built-in purpose cupboard for my scrapbooking papers/cardstock - we're in discussion as to how exactly this will work but he has a "cunning plan" so I'm leaving him to it... I did suggest however that the bottom half of the bookcase could well slide under the desk flat against the wall and provide more storage space for my Really Useful Boxes (that seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate)... there will still be more than enough legroom under the desk so no worries there.

Not sure yet whether the black drawer unit is staying or being replaced - but right now it's happy there. The other two white units are being replaced at some stage too.

He has made a great start but is not finished by a long shot - but life (and weather) gets in the way - we've had seriously bad flooding in Southend today and roads have been closed, so he took the opportunity to work on something else, but will be back in due course to carry on the re-model.

And I can't wait to get crafting on it!

Scotland ahoy! (heavy on the pics tho...)

I've just got back from my break in Scotland with my sister - we went on a Lochs and Glens coach trip and stayed at the Inversnaid Hotel on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond - and very bonnie they are too! The main reason for the trip was to visit the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo which we have both wanted to do for ages - and boy it is so worth it if you get the chance to go... I love the sound of the pipes and drums, and watching the precision marching and inter-weaving and entwining they do - absolutely stunning.

As well as Scottish and English bands they have bands from abroad - this year there were bands from North Korea, Mongolia, Mexico and New Zealand - the latter keeping everybody well entertained with their singing, dancing "Gangnam Style" (yes - honestly!) and finishing off with the Haka...

The Imps junior motorcycle display team were also there, whizzing around the auditorium and doing fast crossover passes - whilst riding their bikes standing facing backwards - heart in mouth time but their timing was perfect. So too was the marching from the girls from New Zealand - they also did a routine which included perfect crossovers whilst marching backwards!

As well as the tattoo, we visited Stirling and the Wallace Monument, the Glengoyne Distillery and Callendar, as well as driving through some stunning scenery over The Dukes Pass. We also had a short cruise on Loch Lomond itself which was very informative, all about Rob Roy and the Duke of Montrose. All in all a very busy and packed 3 days, with a day each side for the journey up.

It was a nice break and very good value for money, its now the third time I've been away with Lochs and Glens and certainly intend going again - but next time I'll be a devil and go for longer - 3 days just isn't long enough to get over the 12-hour or more journey on the coach up there (especially when the selfish cow in the seat in front of you fully reclines her seat into my knees without warning and gives me zero legroom for the whole holiday grrr)

So - pictures...

To get you in the mood, here's the piper at Gretna Green

Inversnaid Hotel

The Arklet Falls - right next to the hotel

Reflections of me and my sister in the waterfall!

The Scot Monument, Edinburgh

Greyfriars Bobby and his pub


Massed bands at the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo

Me and my sister at the Wallace Monument, Stirling
The Glengoyne Distillery

Reflections on one of the many lochs we passed

Lily pads on Loch Achray

The Haggis Farm on Loch Lomond
Oh ok, so the last picture isn't really a haggis farm - but that's how the tour guides describe it... it's actually the hydro-electric power station feeding from Loch Sloy way up at the top of the mountain - but according to the tour guide it's the haggis factory... Haggis's - or more properly Haggi - are a wild 3-legged creature that roams the mountainsides of Scotland, feeding on the heather, and they are chased and caught and sent to the building at the top of the pipes which is the slaughter-house... they are then prepared and rolled down the pipes (which gives the haggis the traditional round shape) and then arrive at the bottom building which is the packing station... where they are packed and sent to Tesco's...
Believe that and you'll believe anything... :-)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Slightly less over-whelmed...

I've now made serious inroads into tidying and boxing up my craft stuff ahead of the first stage in re-modelling my lounge into a lounge-cum-craft studio - still have a ways to go but thought I'd share what I have done so far.

ALL the carrier bags that were under the table and around the chair have been emptied and the contents found proper homes for - now I can get under the desk and start to pull out the tools and odds and sods that have migrated under there. The sewing machine (which is a 1952-ish handcranked jobbie) is going to a friend from Benfleet Scrappers, so that'll release some more space.

I've made a good start at clearing the desk itself, some things have been put away where they should have been put away well before now *looks all sheepish and hangs head guiltily* but other things have had to go into storage boxes for now, until I can find proper homes for them. I've also earmarked a lot of stuff to either sell, move on, recycle or (shock horror) purely throw away as it's no use to man nor beast - or even other crafters! I know that "One mans trash is another mans treasure" - but seriously peeps... there is a limit here, and some things have just reached it!

To help with storage I've bought some rather lovely sturdy but collapsible storage boxes from The Works - they were a fiver each but well worth it as they look lovely - I've got 2 of each design, London and Paris, as well as a 5th one which has the London Underground map printed on it. They are a good size, they take a 12x12 ziplock baggie laying down nicely, so all the baggies of half-finished and "yet-to-start" layout projects I've had laying around can go in one, all the kits bought from Total Papercrafts etc can go in another etc... As you can see this is definitely a work in progress, piles of stuff moved away from the craft desk just so's I can get near it to clear it, but it will all sort itself out eventually.

The plan is for these nice storage boxes to go under the shelf that the DVD/video player is on - currently under there are several carrier bags containing holiday ephemera - y'know, all the "crap" you bring back from your holidays that you want to use in scrapbook albums for that holiday: brochures, ticket stubs, newspapers, postcards etc... they are all piled up and sliding around looking messy. So if I put the bags into a couple of these smart storage boxes instead it'll look much neater. And with a luggage label tied to the handle of each one (thanks for that great idea Toni!) I can easily locate which box has got what in it.

But that is phase 2 - or even possibly phase 3 - clearing the top of the craft desk so that it can be removed and re-sited takes priority, and I only have a few days left to do this.

So I'd better hop to it!

Playing with PaperArtsy!

Finally! (I hear you say...) I'm getting around to blogging my trip over to Barleylands last Saturday with Toni (misteejay) to watch a demo by Leandra from PaperArtsy at Sugar & Spice.

Can I just say - right from the outset - that I had no intention of buying more than a couple of the JOFY stamp sets, the ones that they have used in this months Craft Stamper... and maybe one or two other bits...

Yeah. Right. No further comment. Ahem...

Moving swiftly on, I did also go back to Pinnacles with that Fiskars trimmer as I'm still not getting on with it, Andy tested it out for me and agreed that this one is STILL not cutting straight, so I am now the proud owner of a Woodware trimmer which is a) cheaper, b) has loads of interchangeable blades, c) feels much more sturdy on my desk and d) you can cut up to A3 on it whereas the Fiskars one couldn't... so all in all  a much better purchase methinks!

Anyways, back to PaperArtsy... and hot damn those JOFY stamps are rather lovely - these 2 sets were the ones I'd planned on, the 2 mini's were "just because"...

Leandra did some gawjuss demo's using their Fresco Finish chalk acrylic paints, so one or two of those had to hop into my basket as well, I think I now understand the difference between opaque and translucent paints and have a finer appreciation for the chalk finish as opposed to the standard matt finish of acrylic paints. Just as I thought I'd gotten away lightly, she started playing with their crackle finish and grunge paste... "shop!!!"... Fab demo's, lots of video taken and several photos too -

 Oh.My.Gosh. I am so in love with the crackle finish! She made it look so easy, but the product itself is as easy as pie and does all the hard work...

Base coat in a blue Fresco Finish chalk acrylic (don't ask me which one, I've slept since then lol) then a VERY THIN coat of crackle finish applied with a palette knife, it dries almost straight away and then a THICK coat of Nutmeg or Snow White chalk acrylic on top - she says you can either use a brush with lots of paint on it, or heavily load up a piece of Cut'n'Dry foam - but either way to only give it ONE coat and move on, don't go back over it too much... then zap with heat gun... and WOW - all these fabby cracks appear - the finer ones are from where the top coat of acrylic was applied a little thinner, so the moral is: the thicker the top coat the better the cracks...

Lots of inspiration, lots of laughs, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Leandra 'cos she'd given up some of her birthday to come over to Sugar and Spice to demo for us which was very sweet of her, and then Toni and I headed out to hit Pinnacles and then the bistro for lunch - jacket spud with tuna mayo and a side salad. They've opened the new wine bar next door now, shame we were both driving as they were handing out glasses of plonk to celebrate... grrr...

Whilst noshing we compared notes on our various purchases, and both decided that one or two more paints were required, so we headed back to Sugar & Spice. Leandra had already left and Marion, Barb and Nina were in full swing demoing and showing off the display boards that Leandra had left for us - some lovely ideas on them to whet the appetite. Anyhow, one thing led to another, a chance remark along the lines of "you running this as a make'n'take then ladies?" and those of us there ended up spending a happy couple of hours playing with the paints, crackle finish and grunge paste, which was applied thru stencils and then covered over with Treasure Gold gilding wax... here's the two pieces I made and am rather pleased with...

Love love love the crackle finish - I want to have a serious play with this by myself now, so really need to get my craft area sorted out!

Interesting effect, I like the grunge paste but not too sure on the Treasure Gold, I've seen some fab pieces where the grunge paste has been painted instead and it looks much nicer and is more controllable. And, to be honest, acrylic paint is much cheaper - I appreciate that Treasure Gold is used very sparingly and is a seriously decent product, but its very expensive compared to the other gilding waxes you can get - and its not something I think I will want to use that often...)
So that was our day at Sugar and Spice - a lot of fun, a lot of inspiration and some new products and stamps to play with - just need the space and time now!

Friday, 26 July 2013

So glad...

...that this week is over... it's been a hard week for me as I've had to deal with the funeral of my manager from work, Chris King. He'd been ill for some time and was admitted to the Royal Brompton Hospital on 5 March with, amongst other things, a collapsed lung... he went downhill but then seemed to be fighting the various infections and making a little bit of slow progress.

However, despite their very best efforts he sadly died a couple of weeks back, and the funeral was held on Wednesday. I'd taken the initial call at work so had to pass the news on and promptly broke down - and I've been crying on and off ever since.

It sounds like a cliché but he really was the best manager I've had up til now; over the 6 years I've worked with him he has supported me thru my marriage break-up and subsequent divorce, the deaths of both my parents, the loss of my part-time job at the craft shop (which I'd heavily relied on to pay all my bills) and one of the last things he did was to put the wheels in motion for a higher manager to get me back to work full-time from my part-time hours, which has helped me no end.

He was totally selfless, always put everybody else before his own needs... always had a smile and a cheery "hiya" as you walked past his desk... always had time for a chat or a joke. My section soon got used to the pretend fights and arguments we would have, just daft office banter between the two of us but if he needed me to do something it always got done.

On and off over the last couple of weeks I've been clearing his desk which has been hard - anything confidential had already been removed by our temporary manager who's been put in the role for the next 6 months whilst they find a suitable replacement (ie one who doesn't have such a hellish journey getting to and from our 2 office locations!) So I'm left with clearing all the years of accumulated office "junk" that we all have in our desks: coffee cups and glasses, paper clips and staples, notepads and pens etc... as well as assorted general paperwork. Boy, he was a hoarder lol... he'd kept a printout of everything "in case it comes in handy"... training course notes and office procedures dating back to 1989 (I kid you not...)

Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day, blue sky and a tiny breeze, and the grounds of the crematorium were nicely set out and full of flowers. There were a lot of colleagues from work - current as well as retired, and lots of his church family and Boys Brigade colleagues. When the hearse arrived, we could see that his coffin was draped with the Union Jack standard of the local Boys Brigade Battalion, of which Chris had been a member since a young lad himself, rising thru the ranks to hold Warrant Officer status. What a lovely tribute and honour - for someone who had given so much of their time to such a worthwhile activity.

After the service his sister had made arrangements with the pub around the corner for refreshments, and I got the chance to have a chat with both her and the Minister who took the service. My colleague Toni (misteejay) was there too, and when people started to leave, she kinda kidnapped me and we went for a spot of craft retail therapy, for me to spend money I haven't got, and then she took me back home to Southend. I was almost cried out by now, so many well-meaning colleagues had come up to me and said "are you ok?" which of course would set me straight off again... and feeling totally numb, so it was good to have someone stay with me for a while whilst I tried to get a grip on things. Thank you for that Toni xx

So - RIP Christopher King - you will be missed by countless people for a myriad of reasons, but by me for simply being "the best manager I've had til now". I hope you have a comfy cloud with a ringside seat for the cricket, and that you can again enjoy a cheeky beer or two.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Totally overwhelmed...

Ever felt so totally overwhelmed that you just don't know where to begin? how to start? how to even make a plan of action?

Let me introduce you to my lounge-cum-craftroom - living alone I can get away with spreading out a little and letting my hobby kinda take over a corner of the lounge... but its gotten rather out of hand.

This is my desk - my fella and I custom-built it a few years back, to fit perfectly between the window and an existing bookcase which couldn't be moved. Trouble is, we got a little carried away with our measurements and mis-read the marks we'd made on the wall, consequently the desk is about 2 inches too high to sit at comfortably. So I sourced an office chair and a footrest from Freecycle and with the chair at its highest point and my feet on the footrest it seemed to work... but not really totally suitable... but it seemed too much effort to take everything off the desk and re-site it, especially as the little cubby on the right of the picture houses my modem, and I need to be able to get my hand in there to re-set it...

So, altho the desk got used quite a bit, it also became a bit of an "administrative dumping ground" and it got to the stage where I needed to set up a folding camping table to be able to work... trouble is, it's only a small table and very soon it because rather full. (Having said that, the only reason the project life box and ink pads, as well as the pile of envelopes are on there, is because I had to move them to get to the modem when my internet went down earlier - honest!)

The camping table has the opposite problem to the desk, in that its a little too low and I can't quite get my knees under it... might have something to do with the pile of pizza boxes stacked up under it containing half of my cardstock and paper stash...

So my friend Tim (who I swear closes his eyes and shudders each time he comes into my lounge) has decided to take matters into his own hands and re-site my desk to the correct height - and last night we were discussing the best way to utilise my lounge as a craft room - he's suggesting cutting this Ikea Billy bookcase in half and mounting it a bit higher on the wall, and then extending the desk to go across underneath it as well as making it considerably deeper - the bottom 2 shelves of the Billy house photo albums which can be re-homed elsewhere so that's not a problem.

The pizza boxes will have to go somewhere, so he's turned himself 90 degrees to the right and looked at the wall of mis-matched shelves and units... and decreed that they will all come out and he'll put two custom-built shelves which will be deep enough to take my growing collection of thin 12x12 plastic boxes (y'know, the ones you get at Ally Pally 3 for £10...) as well as everything else currently there...

I have 3 more bookshelves in the lounge currently behind the sofa, and they will also be cut in half and mounted above these new shelves to form purpose-built storage - utilising what I already have to its best advantage.

Trouble is, there's currently an awful lot of stuff on these shelves and units - in fact there's an awful lot of stuff everywhere - he wants to start by lowering my current desk whilst I'm away on me hols in a few weeks time, which means I have to clear the top of the desk, and everything that's precariously balanced on the chair, as well as moving the "carrier bag holding pen" that's sprung up underneath the chair and into the corner under the desk (where the woefully inadequate powerpoints are)... so you can see why I have a problem - and why I'm so overwhelmed!

Suggestions please - however the first person to recommend a skip (or a number of skips) gets royally slapped...

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Serendipity Day

Ser·en·dip·i·ty  (srn-dp-t)
n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties
1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.
I've always loved that word and it's definition - can there be anything better than making a fortunate discovery by accident? And they also say good things come in threes, which today they have done.
I've managed to pull a muscle in my right calf. No, that's not serendipitous, nor good, quite the opposite, but whilst I am no longer limping around I do need to get more exercise, so my fella suggested I take myself off to Barleylands this afternoon and go for a walk around the craft shops. Not necessarily to buy anything, but to have a walk. Park at the farthest end of the carpark and all that.
Not buy anything at Barleylands? with Pinnacle Crafts and Sugar & Spice and Craft Arena just waiting to relieve me of all my wages - and then some? I've got more chance of waking up next to Daniel Craig in bed (hmm, hold that thought for a while girlie...)
So off I pootled this afternoon, drove over to Barleylands and parked where I usually park, but took the longer route into the craft village via the loo's (bladder the size of a small walnut and all that...) and resisting the ice-cream van parked at the entrance. Quick shufti around the Brocante market but not grabbed by much today, and into Sugar & Spice. 
Now Toni (Mistejay) and I had done a class there a few weeks back, making a rather lovely mini-book with the lovely Barb - and I've only gone and mislaid the Eiffel Tower. Yeah I know, how on earth can you lose something that is 1,063 feet tall and made out of iron? Well, somehow I managed it, but today the lovely Nina gave me a replacement version that was 5 inches high and die-cut out of chipboard, which will do perfectly as a replacement for the original die-cut piece that Barb did for us and which I promptly left there as we were packing up... so that was the first happy discovery.
Then I poodled over to Pinnacles. No Andy there today, so I picked on Paul instead (the poor lovey!)... Y'see, last week I'd bought a Fiskars paper trimmer from WHSmiths in Southend, but when I got it home I discovered that it was faulty and didn't cut a straight line, so it's going to go back. However Pinnacles had a couple on their shelves, so I bought one and promptly opened it and made a couple of trial cuts to make sure this one worked properly, which luckily it did, so now I have a working trimmer. Which is very odd for me, because usually I'm a "ruler and craft knife kinda girl", but the minibooks I'm working on at the moment need some weird sizes of paper to be cut and they suggest using this paper trimmer, so I *had* to rush out and buy it. Along with the Martha Stewart scoreboard. Damn, I'm easily led... Anyways, getting a working trimmer was the second happy discovery.
Heading back to the car I cut thru the upstairs shops in the craft village and ended up in Craft Arena's new 3-shop premises - looking good Denise! Especially as she's got a couple of tables set up with stock she's selling off at either half-marked price or £1... and it would have been rude not to have looked eh... Well, nestled between some Ten Second Studio metal sheets and a couple of black chipboard albums was something that I have been meaning to get for a while - a new cutting mat... 'cos I stupidly cooked mine whilst using a heatgun on it (even tho there was a heatsheet on top, the heat still warped the cutting mat grrr...) Don't try this at home children...
Now I've seen several cutting mats for sale over the last couple of weeks, but they were either the wrong size, the wrong colour or metric only - and I'm an inches girl (don't go there - you know who you are!) so to find that this mat was a) the perfect size for my craft table, b) the proper green and c) inches on one side and metric on the other was fab. And at half the marked price, bringing it down to £3.99 - how could I refuse? Very happy discovery #3.
So, tomorrow looks like I shall be happily playing with all my new toys - adding my Eiffel Tower to my French minibook, and cutting more paper and cardstock with my trimmer and my new craft mat for my Kathy Orta minibook... More on both of those later - with pics if I can remember how to add them!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Can it really be over a year since I last blogged?

Rhetorical question - seeing as how its July the 14th, Two Thousand and Thirteen and all that... far too much has happened so I don't even intend to cover that much of it - suffice it to say that my crafting has taken a serious back seat due to several issues (not all good either :-(............)

BUT - being challenged online and in public by two friends to come up with my answers to the following means I've had to dust down my blog - and you never know, I might just stay around for a while... after all I have some rather interesting crafty things going on I'd like to show off :-)

1. Where is your cell/mobile phone? In the left front pocket of my tracky bottoms
2. Your hair? Scragged back in its usual ponytail, in need of fresh highlights
3. Your mother? Looking down on me from her comfy cloud.
4. Your father? Sat next to her (but with one eye on the cricket...)
5. Your favourite food? Anything that isn't nailed down (unless it has cinnamon, nutmeg or white chocolate in it)
6. Your dream last night? Don't remember having one
7. Your favourite drink? (hot) Tea, white, no sugar, (cold) gnats-piss weak orange squash
8. Your dream/goal? Winning the lottery with enough money to be able to live comfortably doing what I want, rather than what other people want me to do. And to live in a house that has its own private driveway and garage so I always have somewhere to park when I drive home!
9. What room are you in? Lounge
10. Your hobby? Crafting
11. Your fear? Being alone in life in later years. And losing my sight. Oh, and spiders...
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Alive
13.Where were you last night? Home alone, crafting
14. Something that you aren’t? In good health
15. Muffins? Not really a fan
16. Wish list item? Time - and the health to be able to enjoy it without worry
17. Where did you grow up? Essex girl born and bred
18. Last thing you did? Chatted online with a friend
19. What are you wearing? pale pink polo shirt and black trackys
20. Your TV? 32" widescreen and Virgin cable
21. Your pet? Don't currently have one - guess the visiting white cat that demands munchies every few days doesn't count
22. Friends? Few - but supportive
23. Your life? Lurching from one crisis into another - just had to buy a new washer/dryer
24. Your mood? Okay, bordering on the pissed off
25. Missing someone? Yes
26. Vehicle? Focus estate
27. Something you’re not wearing? Socks
28. Your favourite store? Anything crafty
29. Your favourite colour? Purple
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Several times over the last few days, upon learning of the death of a close colleague
32. Your best friend? Debbie
33. One place that you go to over and over? Work
34. One person who emails you regularly? Tim
35. Favourite place to eat? Anywhere I don't have to cook or wash up afterwards!

Blimey, all that lot kinda sum up the past year I've been having... very up and down. But slowly I am getting thru things, getting back to some semblance of normality (or what passes for normal in my neck of the woods...)

Right, back to the craft table and the Kathy Orta mini book I am making - if you've not heard of her then check out her website and blog - and have a look at some of the videos and tutorials she's got on Youtube - I'm currently working my way thru her "Back to Basics" mini albums - very yummy!