Thursday, 27 February 2014

February Books - Group Reading

A shorter month and fewer books read too.  Thank goodness my Book Club deadlines keep me focussed and force me to make time for reading or some months I might not read at all!

Rachel Joyce's "Perfect"
Each month, a member suggests a choice of books for the monthly read and then we vote.  While I waited to get hold of the February "winner" I grabbed one of the "rejects" from the library: Rachel Joyce's "Perfect".  Right from the start I knew I was reading a book that would haunt me. Like many of last month's books it had different narrative voices and times, alternating between present day Jim and a young schoolboy Byron growing up 40 years earlier.  Byrons's schoolboy view of the world is naive and confused.  Reading between the lines of clipped conversations, the reader has a better idea of the potential chain of events spiralling out of control.  Recently released back into the community, modern day Jim is equally lost and confused following the closure of the psychiatric home where he's lived for many years.  Again the reader watches with a greater understanding, uncomfortably anticipating the reactions of Jim's co-workers as he struggles to cope in the "real" world, relying on OCD rituals to soothe his fears.  The alternating narratives intertwine and gradually reveal their connections ... with a final surprise twist for the unwary.

"The Cuckoo's Calling" - Robert Galbraith
February's Book Club "winner" was "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K.Rowling).  This book had its flaws, not least the ridiculous choice of name for the private eye hired to re-investigate the death of model Lula Landry: every mention of Cormoran Strike set my teeth on edge!  However the plot raced along with plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing and, despite some heavy sign-posting revealing the murderer, I couldn't work out the motivation.  I was reminded of the Agatha Christie novels I loved as a teenager - we even had a Poirot-esque big reveal in the final pages.  Galbraith/Rowling is planning to write another few (six?) books featuring Strike and his female sidekick Robin.  As there were plenty of unanswered questions about the characters' pasts and several intriguing hints about future developments, I'll probably read on.

Louisa Young's "My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You"
Finally I am currently reading March's "winner" in plenty of time for our next meeting.  Louisa Young's "My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You" was chosen because the centenary of the outbreak of the "Great" War is being celebrated commemorated this year.  Riley is a working class lad in love with upper class Nadine and she with him.  When she is removed from his life, he volunteers to serve in the army for the duration of the war (he viewed the alternative of enlisting for a year as an excessive commitment).  Riley's descriptions of life on the front line, the field hospitals and his periods of leave back in Blighty have had me in tears several times. Whilst there are some graphic descriptions of the effects of warfare on the common man, it is the emotional impact on Riley and his fellows that really hits home.  The book also recounts the lives of several women left behind who, under normal circumstances, would have been content to live out their wifely/motherly/spinsterly lives but are forced into  new roles thanks to the lack of men and the straits of wartime.  The novel is so well crafted that I have no idea how the main characters' stories will develop and I cannot wait to continue reading.  Highly recommended (so far)!

Do you belong to a reading group?  How do you choose which books to read?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #8

My blog posts are a bit like buses ... nothing for ages and then three at once!  Today's post is me just about remembering to join in with Helena's ZIZO before the end of the "week".  I took the photos soon after ZIZO #7's power cut candles as they show some of the external effects of the recent 100mph winds ... and we got off relatively lightly hereabouts!

At first glance you see a healthy budding goat willow (I think?) but zoom out and you realise that the buds won't be developing any further!

Two trees in a small local park were simply ripped out at the roots.  Further along there were several trees which had withstood the winds to fight another day ...

... by sacrificing a limb or two.  So sad, but at least these particular trees hadn't damaged people or property.  I'd better check out who else joined in with Helena's meme before the next round starts!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Christmas Crackers

Welcome to the start of February's Members' Blog Hop from the Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog .  I chose the second challenge this month to make a fun background of angled patterned papers for my page.

Jimjams - Layout - Christmas Crackers

Jimjams - Layout detail - triple stitching embellishment clusterThree patterned papers from my February Counterfeit Kit matched well with a silly photo from our Christmas crop and the addition of some glittery alphas, bright red pearls and triple zig-zag stitching added some textural appeal.

I wonder which of this month's challenges will feature on the next stop on the hop at Julene's blog.

If you get lost whilst hopping the full order is published on the Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog today.

P.S. There's still time to have a go with the SJ Crafts  February Sketch and be in with a chance of a prize ... check it out

Sunday, 23 February 2014

10 Minute Craft Dash

Each month on UKScrappers there is a home-page feature listing interesting, inspiring and often incredible blog posts from various members and sponsors.  It's a lovely way to find unexpected mojo and this month I have used a technique from one of Angela's cards from Paper & Ribbons with the third challenge over at the Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog (to make a card in 10 minutes or less):

Jimjams - card - punches

I can't say I really enjoyed working within such a strict time deadline, but it certainly focussed my mind and stopped me from pondering too much on the options.  Can you spot the inspiration card on UKS ?  Angela used the centres to make another card ... maybe I shouldn't have tidied up so vigorously!

P.S. There's still time to have a go with the SJ Crafts  February Sketch and be in with a chance of a prize ... check it out!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #7

I'm relatively early in Helena's Week 7 of Zoom In Zoom Out - with an un-planned subject for my photos thanks to the 100 m.p.h. storms that ravaged the north west part of the UK.  The winds were bad, raising part of the roof of the train station, felling trees, closing motorways and damaging power lines.  We were warm and safe indoors, enjoying the Winter Olympic round-up on TV and marvelling at the men's double luge final.  Just before the climactic (gold-medal-winning) run from the Germans ... the light went out.
And stayed out.
Along with the TV, the heating, the cordless telephone, the internet router and Child No.3's laptop!

So it was time to break out the candles ...

... and the wind-up lanterns.  Luckily we have a gas hob, so hot water bottles and cups of tea were available.  By morning the power had been restored and we were grateful that only one panel of the (neighbour's) fence had blown down.  Other neighbours were less fortunate and lost roof tiles whilst for many others in the region the damage was worse and the power cuts longer.

I wonder how many others will zoom in and out on the effects of the UK storm this week?

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #6

After another breakage on our unforgiving kitchen floor and yet another chipped dish thanks to careless dishwasher emptying, I decided we could not cope with seven assorted plates and four mismatched bowls and it was time for some new "everyday" crockery.  We found a style we liked in a local store but ordered online as that way we could get the requisite eight plate settings and have it delivered.  Eight might seem a little excessive as there are just three of us at home at the moment, but the dishwasher only runs once a day and when we have family here we regularly have a table full!

Another advantage of having the crockery delivered was that I could inspect it at my leisure before returning some.  It wasn't that I was expecting a packaging problem ... in fact there was so much bubble-wrap, corrugated cardboard and airbag filling that there was only one cracked plate in 40 items.  A good start.

However, experience has taught me that "everyday" crockery, made in China, is not subject to the world's best quality control and that there would be flaws in the glaze or pattern on a proportion of the dishes.  And I was right!  Three of the side plates and four of the dinner plates had tiny flecks in the white glaze that would forever make them look like they hadn't been washed properly!  Luckily the local store had enough stock without obvious flaws to replace them.  All that remained was an hour of plate washing (by hand) to remove the residue of labels and very sticky sticky-tape that had secured them during transit.

I'm linking up with Helena's 6th week of Zoom In Zoom Out ...but I'm hoping for better weather so that I can get outdoors for next week's ZIZO.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Bridge

Jimjams - Layout detail - GC1X4NV
Holidays are always something of a compromise.  You cannot please everyone all the time.
We've always found it best to make sure each person has free choice with one activity and everyone else does their best to make sure that it's a success.
Last year's Scandinavian Road Trip holiday allowed me to attend a 30 year reunion with colleagues ... and of course, having worked there, I had plenty of ideas for what I wanted to do.  Hubby had just one request: to travel across Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö (we are BIG fans of Scandinavian dramas on BBC4).

We discovered that it was accessible by car (very expensive toll charges), rail (affordable, but you are travelling on the suspended lower level of the bridge) and bus (cheap and we could both enjoy the view).  We chose bus!  Crossing the bridge also enabled me to claim an earth cache (GC1X4NV) which resulted in a geocaching "badge" for Denmark as well.

Jimjams - Layout - The Bridge - Øresund Bridge

Having avoided hearts when counterfeiting my February Kit I'm quite surprised to see hearts on both pages made so far ...  my MS deep Garden Trellis punch makes lots of fun borders!  The title alphas are cut with Sizzlits Round-a-Bout dies and the Versamark stamping uses Banana Frog Tiny Teen stamps.

I took inspiration from the February Sketch from S J Crafts as my starting point ... which is itself based on a lovely page by fellow S J Crafts DT member (and former Master Forger at the CKCB) Jennifer.  S J Crafts have a linky on their blog if you fancy using the sketch too - it's open until February 28th - and while there may not be prizes, Sarah will be picking some projects to feature on the blog, so do please join in.
Actually, strike that!  There WILL be a prize, because I want to celebrate joining the DT at S J Crafts, and I'll donate a little something ... to a randomly chosen S J Crafts-sketch-user-and-linker-upper ... anywhere in the world! 

Winner announced ... here!!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

(Un-) Happy Accidents

Those darned rub-ons in my February Counterfeit Kit aren't making me happy :-<
The first few I tried to use for a chalkboard effect, but they wouldn't stick on at all and are now in the bin.
Yesterday at my monthly crop, I opened up a "new" (i.e. un-opened, but probably quite old) packet to add a giant ampersand to today's page - and it worked pretty well.  Unfortunately my stupid title positioning meant that you could no longer see that it was an ampersand - OOPS!  So I stamped some ampersands onto the page instead.  However, a day later and the alphabet stickers have lifted up from the page, bringing the rub-on up with them.  Hopefully a little photo glue will solve the problem ...

This page, based on the (90° rotated) January sketch from Skissedilla had more problems during its creation: I was trying to use a white paint pen to highlight the obscured ampersand rub-on when it splatted white ink onto the photo (luckily I had a second print available) AND onto the cardstock!  So the page quickly acquired a lot more ink splatters LOL - actually quite a happy accident in the end :-D

I've also used inspiration from the Weekly Challenge at UKS to use a B&W photo: perfect as for some unknown reason I looked like I'd been under a sun-lamp compared to my Mum and Child No.3!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

February's LOVEly Counterfeit Kit

Welcome to another month of kit counterfeiting with the Counterfeit kit Challenge Blog.  This month we are welcoming back a former Master Forger, Susanne, as our guest designer to start off the counterfeiting.  I'm next to have a go at making my own version of Kits de Somni's jam-packed January Kit based around Crate Paper's Love Notes collection.  Regular readers will know I don't do lovey-dovey so be prepared for some deviations from the original LOL!

Where to start ... a lot of chevrons, hearts (never going to happen!), some arrows and cassette tapes in red, white, black and blue with frames and vellum and chalkboard effects ...
I grabbed two 6x6 papers from my birthday shopping last October ...

... Good Stuff & Red Tweed, both from Simple Stories' 24/Seven collection, and based the rest of my kit around these colours.  I replaced the hearts with stars and hexagons (not used them in a while) and had a go at making my own chalkboard elements:

I did warn you not to expect a carbon copy!!

Supplies: (all Simple Stories unless otherwise stated)

12x12 Urban Traveller Green Chevron/Dictionary
6x6 You Are Here (red & white arrow dots reverse) also Urban Traveller
6x6 24/Seven Red Tweed/Calendar & Hello (multi-coloured hexagons reverse) & Bingo Card/Stripes
12x12 Red Arrows/Arrow Dots from Urban Traveller
6x6 24/Seven Good Stuff (typewriter numerals reverse)
6x6 Urban Traveller Jet Set
A scrap of Crate Paper's Art Appreciation
"Counterfeited" Crate Paper's Sparked paper
12x12 Charcoal by Lily Bee Design (plain black reverse)
A scrap of Basic Grey's Granola Wholesome
6x6 multi-coloured hexagon reverse of 24/Seven Hello

Various wooden and black buttons from my stash
Webster's Pages Camera washi tape
7 Gypsies' Lille paper tape
Narratives envelopes from Creative Imaginations
Luxe Designs' white Brackets rub-ons
Various white rub-ons and word stickers from my stash
Woven word labels
Counterfeit chalkboard spots
Lifestyle Crafts' nested hexagon dies
Studio G Series 11 clear stamps
JBS Numbers Quilted stickers
Left-over Crate Paper Storyteller stickers

My attempts at counterfeiting chalkboard papers did not go too well.  Some lovely white rub-ons had languished so long that they no longer rubbed on ... they fell off the black card at the slightest touch!!  However, I found some white ink (Stazon Cotton White & ColorBox Frost White) which stamped fairly well onto black and I'll make more "chalkboard" as required.   Perhaps there'll be some help from the other Master Forgers in the "I Can Make That!" post on the 8th - I'll certainly be sharing something "sparky" then.

I'll add cardstock as I go along and dig out some black alphas too.  Now it's time to pop over to Julene to see what she's put together today.