Link Up Party: 1/19/18

Danny over at https://dreambigdreamoften.co is hosting a blog party! Head over and join in!!!

Dream Big, Dream Often

 

It’s time for the Link Up Party weekend everyone!!  Strap on your party shoes and join the fun!  

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

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The Quest for the Perfect Bag

I’ve been wanting a new bag for a few months now for carting my belongings to and from work (when I return) and seem to have spent so much time looking for the perfect one that I feel a bit like I’ve seen them all and maybe the perfect one does not exist.

My perfect bag wishlist is….

  • 3 large interior pockets
  • Roomy enough to carry water, my filofax, keys, phone, purse, notebook and any other things that I may want in there like my kindle or a book
  • Not be too plain
  • But on the other hand, not be to flashy or blingy
  • Not be black or brown
  • But also not be too bright
  • Some kind of shoulder bag
  • Not be branded visibly
  • Be waterproof
  • Be hard wearing enough to withstand being chucked about
  • Not be nylon
  • Not look or feel too cheap
  • Be within my price range (up to £30)

I used to have a Bessie bag that I really loved, it was hard wearing, cream coloured with brown accents, fit everything and more, was perfect for any occasion, and fit most of the criteria that I have listed above.  I wish that bag still existed because I’d 100% buy it again.  It lasted me a good few years and, aside from swapping it over to another bag, I’m now unsure of what happened to it.

I am tempted by a few other Bessie Bags but I worry that I will compare it to my last one, and what if it doesn’t live up to my expectations?  I’ve also had my eye on a few different ones on Amazon but without seeing them in real life I’m not sure what to expect quality wise….

What sort of bag do you use?  Do you have any suggestions for bags?

How I Stay Creative

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Being Creative

I’d love to say that I’m always creative and have ideas going round in my head all the time, but like all energies, the creative energy that generates ideas ebbs and flows as unpredictably as a river after a heavy rain.  I have days, weeks, and rarely, months, where I seem to be forever creating and crafting and the ideas seem to keep on coming at me, but I also have times where my ideas and passion for creating seem to dry up and shrivel away to nothing.

In the past, staying creative was easy – university provided me with loose themed projects to work on, our own interpretation of the topic was hugely encouraged.  It made thinking about topics and things to do incredibly easy, in some ways it took that ability away from me.  I found it easy to come up with creative ideas when there was a topic presented to me.  We had group chats about our work and the direction we wanted to go in with our projects along with feedback from our peers and lecturers.  We focused on research, trial and error and then the final outcome.  Having other persons input into our ideas really helped.  But now I’m alone and away from group discussion, the onus is on me to continue with being creative.

After I finished university I had this itch to continue to make things but had no real idea of how to start and what to do with this energy inside me.  I had very little skill in knowing how to use this energy and formulate it into solid ideas.  I dealt with it in the worst way possible.  I sat and did nothing, letting this feeling fester and then wither.  While I did continue to take photos and create other bits and pieces here and there, it was nothing like having a project and something to really focus on.

And then the fear started to creep in.  Fear that what I was doing wasn’t good enough, fear that what I was producing didn’t have a point, fear that my ideas were limiting my work and without discussing my ideas and getting feedback and opinions that my work wasn’t somehow validated.  So I stopped.  I stopped creating, I stopped thinking, and I felt like I had lost a part of me.

What really got me back into creating and being creative was social media, I found some Instagram accounts that I liked, I joined Facebook groups where my interests were embraced and where people shared their work with others.  And I slowly started to re-gain confidence in myself and my ideas.

Now, to stay creative I read articles that are related to my interests, I read blogs about crafting and art, I follow lots of Instagram accounts that are working in a similar way to me, and I research skills I’d like to learn.  There are so many craft ideas pages, tutorials and step-by-step instructions on the web that have helped me to.  Lots of the big hobby stores have pages of ideas to read about too, which help.

I keep a notebook of ideas, my phone holds lots of web links, I have saved articles on my pc and I am subscribed to websites that email projects I may be interested in that I can refer to when I hit a wall which helps me to overcome an “artists block”.  I have realised that I don’t always need the guidance of others to help me create and I follow my own set of rules.  I no longer care whether what I create has a point, means something or whether others will like or understand it.  I create for me.  That’s how I stay creative.

 

Top 10 Stationery Items

  1. img_1377Notebooks.  I have hundreds of notebooks stashed all over the place, the only problem is that I can’t decide if I forget that I have bought them or if they are breeding?  Still, you can never have too many notebooks in my opinion.
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    Front to Back… Paperblanks Ananda Lined Moleskine Dispicable Me Lined Lechtturm 1917 Dotted
  2. Fountain Pens.  I love my fountain pens, Lamy and Parker are my favorites.  It’s just a bit sad that I don’t get to use them as much as I’d like because much of my work is p.c based, though I do use them for taking notes in my various notebooks and planners!

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    Lime Green – Lamy Safari Purple – Parker Grey – Parker
  3. Highlighters.  I have no idea how I came to have so many highlighters though I blame it on my student years.  My favorites are the Zebra Mildliners and my Stabilo Boss mini ones which I use in my planners for colour coding everything!
  4. Felt Pens.  These felt pens are by far my favorite at the moment (though I own a heck of a lot more than I want to admit to).  I seem to have a love/hate relationship with felts but at the moment I’m really liking them for using in my doodling.img_1329
  5. Fine Liners.  I own a load more than these ones…this is the set I tend to carry around with me all the time though, they are really good for writing really small and neat in my planners and journals as well as for drawing with.img_1339
  6. Coloured Pencils.  These are from Paperchase and I love that from 12 pencils you get 24 colours!  Such a genius thing to create and saves so much space in my pencil-case.  img_1335
  7. Coloured ball/gel pens.  Is there ever any need not to own pretty coloured ball and gel pens?  They make shopping lists and chore lists look so much more appealing!  img_1340
  8. Paperclips.  In as many novel shapes as possible, these paperclips are used to mark pages in my planner that contain important information and keep paperwork together.  They never cease to make me smile.                 img_1347
  9. Sticky Notes.  I have a love for novel sticky notes, and they are super useful when I need to write something down to transfer to my home planner, leaving little reminders about things over the house and for keeping phone numbers safe.  img_1350
  10. Pencil Case.  I had this for Christmas from my little brither, its perfect for carting around the pens and pencils and other stationery items that I need on a day-to-day basis!  img_1355

A Quote

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Author of quote – unknown

I stumbled upon this quote a little while ago, I can’t remember what I was looking for but the quote stuck with me and I couldn’t seem to forget it.

For me, this quote seems to sum up my life and my art.  The quote has a sort of Alice In Wonderland feel to it which I really love.  My life has taken me on a journey that I never expected to take, even the most highly planned decisions I have made have turned out to have the most unexpected consequences and I embrace them fully, without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The way I create art and put together my home and my dress sense seems to work in the same way.  I start out with a general idea of what I want to achieve and along the way, things happen, often other thoughts and ideas emerge and the finished thing is not how I expected it to be.

I think we all have to embrace the unexpected, try not to see things as mistakes or things we have done wrong, see them as things to learn from, things that educate us and make us the person that we are.

What quote has stuck with you?

 

A Box Of Stories – Unboxing

I stumbled upon A Box Of Stories one evening back in December when I was looking for quirky book gift ideas.  The site says that you get a surprise selection of books, spanning 20 genres, selected from over 250 titles and sent to you for the princely sum of £9.99 (+ p & p).  The great thing about this company is that 50% of the profits goes to support The World Literacy Foundation which is even better.  The only thing I am sad about is that the company won’t be around forever…once their stocks have gone, that’s it…

The site offers 4 different boxes – I Love Surprises – Adult – A selection of Fiction and Non-fiction for adults, I Love Surprises – Mixed – 1 Adult and one Kids Fiction, 1 Adult Non-fiction and 1 Kids colouring, I Love Surprises – Kids 6 – 10 – A mix of kids fiction and colouring suitable for kids aged between 6 – 10 and I Love Surprises – Kids Up to 5 – a mix of kids fiction and colouring for kids up to 5.

I chose the Adult box.  Payment was really simple – paypal is always the easiest for on-line purchases!  Once payment had been made I eagerly awaited my delivery.  The company emailed to say that they had received my order pretty much as soon as I had made the payment and I recieved an email on 5th January to say that the order had shipped with Royal Mail and provided me with a tracking number.  The parcel was posted second class.  I received my order on the 8th January.

Here’s a look at what I received…

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The books came in a plain cardboard box (I have removed my name and address), and it was sealed shut across the edge with sellotape and was pretty secure.

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Inside was a sheet of brown paper protection stuff (I have no idea of the technical name for this!)

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Underneath were the books…

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Here are the 5 I received….There is a pretty good selection!

 

A Summer Scandal – Kat French

“When Violet inherits a Victorian pier on Swallow Beach from her mysterious grandparents, she falls in love immediately.  All she wants is to make it popular again, and when she meets hunky Calvin, inspiration strikes.  What if she turned the pier into an adult-themed arcade full of artisan shops?

But not everyone in Swallow Beach is happy with the idea.  As tensions worsen and the heat between her and Calvin begins to grow, Violet must make a choice – stay and fight, or turn and run.  Can she find her happy ending before the swallows fly North for the winter?”

An Orphan’s War – Molly Green

“Liverpool, 1940.  When her childhood sweetheart is killed in action, Maxine Grey loses more than her husband – she loses her best friend.  desperate to make a difference in this awful war, she takes a nursing job at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital.

A Broken Heart.  Maxine takes comfort in the attentions of a handsome surgeon, but Edwin Blake might not be all he seems.  As the Blitz descends on the capital, Maxine returns to Liverpool heartbroken and surrounded by the threat of scandal.

A Brave Spirit.  When offered a job at a Dr Barnardo’s orphanage, Maxine hopes this is the second chance she has been looking for.  And one little boy in particular helps her to realise that she needs the orphans just as much as they need her.”

True Lies – Ross Slater with Douglas Wight

“When ex-Paratrooper and policeman Ross Slater took on a close protection security job for Greenpeace he got more than he bargained for.  Soon he found himself a double agent, spying on his eco-warrior paymasters for Special Branch and ultimately a government twitchy about any kind of protest activity on British soil.

During five explosive years as an insider, Slater immersed himself in the radical lifestyle of the environmental activist, blurring truth and lies and battling to stay straight while drug-taking and a free love spirit took hold around him.  In that time he was taken hostage, caught plotting an attack on a nuclear power station and nearly arrested outside No 10 Downing Street.  But all the while he provided UK law enforcement with the most comprehensive breakdown it has ever received of the organisation’s global hierarchy.

The role of undercover police officers in environmental groups has been bought into sharp focus in recent times and now Slater gives a unique perspective on what it takes to be an undercover agent and how our government spies on green groups.”

The Lie – C.L.Taylor

“Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales.  She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie.  jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened.  Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves…”

Nobody’s Child – Michael Seed with Noel Botham

” ‘Sometimes today I still cry for the lonely, frightened little boy I was then – so unhappy and so longing for love – and marvel at not only surviving the brutality and other appalling abuse but also, in the end, triumphing over it all.’

Abused by those who were supposed to love and cherish him, Michael Seed had to fight for survival against his violent and emotionally deranged father in a broken home.

Born into a life of poverty, Michael was starved, beaten, and sexually abused by his father from the age of five.  After losing his mother to suicide, a haunting depression grew inside the young boy and he long considered following in her footsteps.  Yet, even in the midst of such tragedy and brutality, he always found that his desire to live outweighed his wish to end it all.

Anchored by his faith, Michael overcame his horrific childhood to become an inspiration and a guide to help others, both in the church and the secular community.  Rather than dwell on the past, he has used it to change lives for the better.

Nobody’s Child is a poignant, at times agonising, tale of abuse and loneliness that no child should ever have to endure.  Above all, Michael’s words provide a lesson for us all in courage and the power of hope and forgiveness.”

I’m pretty pleased with the selection that I received and, aside from one (The Lie, C.L.Taylor) I have not read any of them but they would be something I would pick up and read.  Once I have started to read them I will post my reviews of each book!

What are you reading at the moment?  What books would you recommend?

Project Make – Candles

I started making some candles back in December to give away as gifts, it’s not something I have done for a really long time.  The last time I made candles I was probably 10 or 11 and had a Get Set Candle Making Set by Waddingtons (sadly discontinued) and I really loved creating my own candles.  At the time there wasn’t really much information about different waxes to use and how bad certain ones can be for the environment, our homes or our health and I’m pretty sure that the kit I had used paraffin wax.  Back to today…I had a look online at what sort of waxes were available and which would be best for what I wanted to do and Soy Wax seemed to be the best so that I what I chose to create my candles with.

I’m not a candle making expert and have since learned that there are lots of techniques when it comes to candle making which I am currently researching, but if you want to make a nice candle for yourself or as a gift then I can show you my method below…

You will need

  • Soy wax *
  • Wick *
  • Wick Sustainer *
  • Blue tack
  • Scissors
  • Saucepan
  • Measuring jug
  • Container suitable for a candle *
  • Kettle
  • Pencil
  • Something to stir with.  I used a spatula.
  • Kitchen Scales
  • Pliers

Optional

  • Wax Dye *
  • Candle Scent *

I bought these items from Hobbycraft *

Before we begin I need to just outline a few things….  Please, only use scent that is suitable for candles, DO NOT use essential oils, while they do smell lovely and have healing properties. when burned the healing properties are pretty much zero, they can emit toxins when burned which can cause respiratory problems and they are a fire risk.  DO NOT add things to your candle like glitter or dried flowers, while it may make the candle look pretty it can be a fire risk and also can clog up the wick when burning so that the flame is unstable.  DO NOT use crayons or food dye to colour your candles, for one they probably won’t work, and secondly, when the crayons melt and come into contact with flame they can emit toxic fumes, and lastly, it can be a fire risk.

Method

  1. Once you have found a suitable container for your candle you then need to work out how much wax it holds.  I found this site to be really useful. Once you know how much wax you will need you will then need to weigh the wax out.  I weighed mine into the container I used to melt it down.  Make sure the container you use is dry and free from any contaminants (like dust or hair).img_0716
  2. Once you know how much wax you will need to fill your container you will then need to attach the wick to one of the wick sustainers.  To do this thread your wick through the hole in the wick sustainer and pull through.  Once the wick end is near the flat side of the wick sustainer use pliers and crimp the pointed bit of the wick sustainer around the wick to hold it in place.  DO NOT cut the wick just yet!img_0519
  3. Now you need to get your candle container, make sure that it is clean and dry.  add a tiny bit of blue tack to the underside of the wick sustainer and then press it into the base of the candle container making sure that it is attached in the centre of the base.  I used a jar and needed to use long tweezers to help get it into the correct position.
  4. We now need to use the pencil (or other long item) and wrap the free wick around it and then balance the pencil onto the top of the candle container.  This ensures that the wick will stay straight and even all the way down the candle once the wax has been poured.                                                                      img_0503                                           img_0504
  5. Now that the candle container and wick are set up you can now melt the wax you measured out.  To do this firstly fill and boil the kettle then pour the boiling water into a saucepan, add the container of wax to the saucepan of water so that the container sits in the water similar to a bain marie.  I then placed the saucepan onto the hob over a low heat just to keep the water hot and help melt the wax a bit easier.

     

  6. Optional Step if Using Scent and/or Dye.  Once your wax has melted and is of a clear appearance and runny in consistency with no visible lumps you can remove the container from the water and then add the dye and scent of your choice.  I add the dye first (follow the manufacturers instructions) and then stir until all the dye has dissolved before adding the scent (again, check the manufacturers instructions).  Dont be tempted to stir too vigorously as you don’t want to introduce any air bubbles into the wax..  Once the scent has been added stir gently, again, avoiding creating air bubbles, for around 5 mins so that the scent can distribute evenly through the wax.                                                                     img_0520img_0518img_0515
  7. If you are not using scent or dye, remove the container from the water and stir the wax for around 5 mins.  Stir slowly and gently so that you don’t get any air bubbles forming.
  8. Once the wax has cooled down a bit you can now pour it into your candle container.  Do this slowly and steadily being careful not to disturb the wick.img_0536img_0517img_0516
  9. Do not move the candle once it has been poured until it has solidified, moving the candle when in its liquid state can introduce air bubbles into the wax or disturb the wick.
  10. I chose to add a plain layer of wax to the top of my candles, I worked out how much wax I would need for the container then weighed out around 25 grams less than what was needed.  Once the wax was set in the jar I then melted the extra wax and poured on top to create a 2 tone candle.  Once you are happy with your candle and it has fully set you can then trim the wick with scissors.
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Mulled Wine Scented Candle
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Warm Gingerbread Scented Candle

11.  As I was giving these away as gifts I added a small charm and a tag with the scent name on.img_0538

Top 10 Things to do When it’s Cold

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I’m starting a new series on the blog…Top 10’s!  This series will be a list of 10 things and will cover all manner of subjects and will be posted each thursday!  To kick off the series today I’m posting a list of the top 10 things to do when it’s cold…

  1. Go for a walk.  Bundle yourself up in your warmest clothes and coat and, so long as the weather is dry and cold, go for a walk somewhere.
  2. Visit a Cafe.  Go to a local cafe and order a hot drink, sit in the window and people watch for an hour.
  3. Read a book.  Make yourself cozy with a hot chocolate and a blanket, curl up on the sofa and read a good book.
  4. Take a long, hot bath.  Run a lovely hot bath, use your favorite bath products and treat yourself to a lovely pamper session.
  5. Watch a film.  Invite friends over, stock up on snacks and watch a feel good film.
  6. Stay in your pjs all day.  Or better still, warm up nice fresh ones on the radiator and put them on.
  7. Catch up on your favorite shows.  Or start watching a series you have been wanting to watch.
  8. Do some gardening.  Put on some old clothes, layer up and get out into the garden and do some tidying and pruning if the day is dry.
  9. Start a Jigsaw.  It’s a fab way to spend time, and there is a sense of accomplishment in finishing one too.
  10. Visit a local pub for food.  Go out and treat yourself to dinner in a local pub (not a chain one though – a traditional village type pub!).

What Is Minimalism?

This is the second post in my “What Is….?” series.  The first post I wrote was about Maximalism and you cna find that post here.

We hear so much about Minimalism these days, its uttered like a magic word in so many different places and has been seen as a cure for mental health ailments, consumerism, hoarding, environmental issues (such as the problem we have with plastics) and a host of other things, but what really is minimalism?

When we think of minimalism images of white rooms with sleek furniture spring to mind, rooms that are soul less and personality free, junk and clutter free, but I think that is probably the most unfair, stereotypical image to have.

Minimalism is living with fewer material things, and only living with what you really need.

It’s about simplifying your life, home, your wardrobe, your possessions.

It’s about only having what you need and doing away with excess things that can hinder your life.

It’s about choosing experiences over material goods.

It is about focusing on what really matters, the things of value in our lives and letting go of the things that hinder that sight.

Minimalism is not about doing without or having a bland home, life or style.  Neither is it about being frugal or not having any fun.  Rather Minimalism enhances the fun.

Minimalism is a blank canvas on which to place your values and your goals.

Minimalism is a simpler way of life.