Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Let's Sit for a Cup of Tea

Hello there, come on in, sit down and let's have a chat! It's so lovely to see you again, I do so enjoy our monthly catch up and cuppa. My favourite pot is full and I have baked some chocolate and vanilla marble cake which you're more than welcome to take a slice (or three!) of. Don't be shy - I'll be helping myself generously.

So how have things been with you? Can you believe that August is over and September is almost here?  It seems like only yesterday that the whole summer was stretching out ahead of us... And now I'm looking back wistfully that the lazy days of summer have elapsed! But there's something nice about autumn creeping up too. The blackberries have started to appear on the bushes, darkness is descending earlier and there is a definite chill in the air. I'm getting the urge to bake more and I even broke out the crochet hook and the chunky wool at the weekend and made a cowl/neck-warmer (the whole thing took two hours from start to finish and was so easy, my kind of project!). But enough of my ramblings, what are your thoughts on the changing seasons? Are you a bit nostalgic for the summer days, or ready for the crisp leaves and cosy fires of autumn?

Go on, have another cup of tea, and more cake? I promise I won't tell! September has always been a month of routine for me, getting back to school or university. However, since I qualified as a teacher last year, things have been a little different due to the challenging job situation here in Ireland. I was lucky enough to get a position in a little school I loved last November, but since it was a temporary contract I've spent my summer job-hunting again. Sadly, nothing has come up and it's been really disheartening and depressing. I feel like going into the streets with a sandwich board: "Somebody HIRE ME!!" Just kidding...maybe! I've sent tons of applications and got too many rejections... But I suppose I'm doing everything I can and just have to trust and pray that something will turn up. Rant over, I promise!

On a happier topic, I'm absolutely loving getting back to crafting these days! What are you creating at the moment? I tried cross stitch for the first time this week (slow progress but very pretty), I'm doing some crochet, and I've gotten massively back into scrapbooking. I got a big order in the post last week from Two Peas (seriously, it was like Christmas coming early!), and I also made a massive order of 170 photos from Photobox. I had piles of pictures, from Italy and London and meeting new and old friends and my school year and day trips and my birthday... It was so lovely when they all arrived! Do you order photos or print at home? I'd love to hear your recommendations about home printing!

Oh no, is that the time? I can't believe our tea has passed so quickly - but I'm afraid I've got to run. I'm trying to cram as much into these last few days of summer as I can, and that involves meeting up with school and uni friends, helping my sister move into her uni accommodation, taking impromptu shopping trips, crafting as much as possible, watching the Great British Bake Off, applying for more jobs, reading loads and drinking lots of tea and coffee in between! Thank you so much for coming for tea, and do promise you'll come again next month?

Today, I'm joining in with Abi's lovely meme about sharing a cup of tea over at Creating Paper Dreams. Pop over and say hi to Abi (she's the best!) and read the other tea tales from other bloggers from all over the world. 


Friday, 23 August 2013

Adventures in Macro Photography

I love macro photography, but it's always been a kind of admiration from afar, a bit like unrequited love if you like. I'd browse through beautiful macro shots online and marvel at the stunning detail they captured. I even used macro photos for a project during one of my teaching practice placements... One of those 'guess what this is' kind of games! But I knew the chances of me ever shooting macro photos was slim. For one thing, the lenses cost an absolute fortune, and I really wouldn't get enough use out of it to justify the price tag even if I could afford it.
Then this summer, I unexpectedly got my first taste of macro. After coming back from my cousin's wedding in June, I noticed these weird blue lines across the middle of the photos. The sensor was damaged (if I ever find out who dropped my camera, there'll be trouble!) and I was told it was going to take a few weeks to fix it. Sad times! I was so disappointed, but my uncle, a MAJOR photography enthusiast, came to the rescue. He loaned me his fancy Canon 600D, which is his backup camera (!), along with a macro lens for me to experiment with. I was so excited!
It was a huge learning curve... In the space of a few days, I had learned to use a new camera, I had messed around with a tripod, I had used manual focus for the first time and I had produced my first (very basic!) macro shots. It's a totally different type of photography than what I'm used to. It's slow and precise, and it takes a long time to set up a shot and get it perfect. The slightest shudder of movement and the picture is ruined. And I have to admit that, on my uncle's advice, I spent more than a few evenings chasing flies around, wielding a can of fly spray, trying to kill one for a photo! Yes, really! I got more up close and personal with things like wriggly caterpillars and slimy snails than I ever would have anticipated. And though my sister wasn't very impressed with how disgusting these creatures are when massively magnified, it was worth it for the pictures!
Sadly, the time has come to return the camera and lens, now that my own beloved model has returned in full working order. However, I have to say that I really enjoyed my flirtation with macro photography. Have you ever tried macro?

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Story of a Friendship

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Abi. She wrote a beautiful blog that I'm sure you are familiar with, where she shared tales of her life at boarding school, and later on her gap year and at uni in northern England. She posted stunning photos and inspiring craft projects, intermingled with snippets and slices of her everyday life. I found her home on the web through some other craft blogs and was instantly hooked by her limitless talent and the web of words she weaves. I was so excited to discover someone the same age as me, who had similar interests. There aren't many girls in their early twenties who have a passion for crafts and wool and blogging and storytelling! After a while, I plucked up the courage to comment on her posts. Before I knew it, we became Facebook friends, and then progressed from short Facebook messages to long emails. We shared stories of our day-to-day experiences... Abi told me about her uni life while I relayed stories about teaching and waiting for the inspector to arrive! We talked about everything and anything, and gradually the emails became longer and longer as we got to know each other better and shared more! I looked forward to a message from Abi popping up in my inbox, and enjoying her stories curled up with a cup of tea (what else?!). This blog wouldn't be here if it weren't for the gentle nagging and inspiration of Abi. True story!
So when my parents got me the present of a trip to London with my sister for my 21st birthday, I wondered if maybe we could meet. We had chatted so much online that I already felt I knew Abi even though we'd never met in real life. So I asked her in my next mammoth email if she'd be interested in coming to London during the summer when I'd be there. And she said she'd love to! I was so excited. We'd be able to chat about Project Life and uni and teaching and blogging and everything. It was going to be magic.
And last Wednesday, I finally got to meet the lovely lady who I have formed a friendship with through blogging and emailing. And though I was a little nervous as I saw her mustard cardigan coming through a crowded Covent Garden, I needn't have worried. We talked and talked the entire time, as we strolled around the streets of bustling London. We shared a real cup of tea (as opposed to a virtual one!) and lunch in a cute little place (once we got past all the sushi places London has to offer!). We took some photos (me with the SLR, she with the iPhone). It was magic. We never stopped talking, and Abi was just as sweet and friendly and lovely as I imagined. And all too soon, the hours had flown past and Abi had to go back to her train. So we walked to the tube station and shared a huge hug before she disappeared into the stream of Londoners.
Thank you for a wonderful afternoon Abi! I can't wait to meet again.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Scrapbooking with a Kit

Scrapbooking and crafting in general is one of the most relaxing things in the world for me. This academic year, school and work and the pressures of being a teacher in my first year of work meant that crafty endeavours were at an absolute minimum. Sad times. When the summer holidays rolled around, I was determined to get back to scrapbooking, where I can get lost in stories and patterns and photos for hours... But it was all a bit overwhelming when I hadn't crafted in so long. Luckily, it was Shimelle to the rescue, as she hosted a variety of challenges last Bank Holiday weekend aimed at using up kit supplies. So I created my own kit with the supplies I had at hand and decided on a few challenges that I would attempt using my kit only. Now, I am a slow scrapper... I look and change my mind and rearrange and layer and cluster and plan and journal... and that's all before I even start to stick things down! So limiting my supplies and having some challenges really helped to structure my scrapbooking.

This was an easy challenge for me to start with...three really is my magic number when it comes to scrapbooking. If I go through my albums, I come across countless layouts with three clusters of embellishment, further decorated by groups of three butterflies, wood veneers etc (as I've done here). This layout has a photo of my sister and I as flower girls at a few weddings when we were small - we felt like princesses! 

I know that 3x4 cards have become hugely popular with the advent of Project Life, but I love the idea of including these elements on a full 12x12 layout. These three cards were from a cut apart sheet, and I put them with photos from my cousin's wedding last September. The vintage car scheduled to bring the newly married couple to the reception broke down because the clever driver left his lights on for the whole ceremony! Definitely a moment for the scrapbook!

I'm not a big user of sketches, but anytime I do use one, I love the results and ask myself why I don't do it more often? Shimelle is the unchallenged queen of sketches (in my opinion anyway!), so I liked this challenge. I chose Shimelle's sketch number 10, entitled 'Busy Busy'. This layout records the quirky coolness of Le Centre Pompidou in Paris, where I visited with my friend last summer.

When I thought about scrapbooking with a dominant vertical line, I immediately thought of a journalling-heavy page (most of my layouts are journalling-heavy actually!). I had loads of space on this layout to describe a horrible short fringe I had cut in my hair in December 2011, and the MANY bad hair days that ensued! This is also a monochromatic aqua/turquoise layout...I can't get enough of that colour!

I'm back to scrapbooking with a vengeance! More layouts to share soon!

Sinéad xxx

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Storytelling Sunday: A Love of Books

Today, I am joining in with Sian's Storytelling Sunday. On the first Sunday of each month, she urges us to think of the little things that are precious to us, things that are part of the fabric of our lives, and to tell the story behind them. Join her High in the Sky for more stories!

I am a reader. I always have been and I probably always will be. I was the child that begged for trips to the bookshop with its endless shelves of crisp new books, waiting to be discovered. I was the child that was lucky enough to be read to every night before I went to sleep. I was the child that hid under the covers of my bed, reading until the early hours by the faint light of a torch. I was the child that devoured books in a single night, my eyes skimming the words faster than I could turn the pages.

As I grew up, things didn't change all that much. Though school, university and now working life can sometimes get in the way, I always return to books. When worries and fears threaten and loom, a book can take me away to a place inside my imagination. I usually end up getting totally engrossed and reading for far longer than I had intended!

Now, I pretty much read anything and everything. Do I follow trends? Yes, I have to admit that if I see a book climbing the bestsellers list, I am always tempted to see what the fuss is about. So I recently read 'Gone Girl' and 'The Hunger Games', and I bought 'A Game of Thrones' yesterday. Jumping on the bandwagon, I know! However, I'll give anything a try, from thrillers and classics, to mysteries and girly romances, and everything in between. I don't generally reread books (with the exception of 'Harry Potter', obviously!) and a book called 'The Night Before Christmas' by Alice Taylor, which evocatively describes the traditions and joy of an old-style Irish family Christmas - I try to read it during the festive season every year.

When I began to think about which books are precious to me, childhood reads immediately came to mind. Nowadays, in an era of Kindles and readers and cheap paperbacks, books have almost become disposable to an extent. I find this sad. While I can see the advantages of a Kindle (and I was sorry I didn't have one with me on holidays as I get through books far too quickly), there's nothing like the feel of a book in your hands, turning those smooth pages, creasing the spine for the first time.

So these are some of the books that I had as a child, in the days before 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' or 'The Gruffalo'. These are (some of the many) books that are battered and torn (some more than others!), and that I couldn't part with for the world. They certainly are more than precious to me, because each one brings with it a wealth of memories and stories, cuddles on the couch and sleepy bedtimes and reading lying on my tummy on the floor...
'Spot's Birthday Party', by Eric Hill: This beautiful hide and seek lift-the-flap book definitely falls into the category of very well read. It has been sellotaped together more times than I can imagine, especially all those flaps which were impatiently ripped up as opposed to gently lifted!

'The Elephant and the Bad Baby', by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs: This is another book embellished with trusty sellotape! A classic cumulative tale where one character chases after another and each page sees a new addition to the train, my favourite part of this book was the rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta refrain.

'The Tale of Georgie Grub', by Jeanne Willis: My Dad bought this book on a trip to America and brought it back as a gift when I was four. I can remember bringing it to school and asking my teacher to read it to the class. It's a fabulous rhyming cautionary story about a little boy who refuses to wash!

There were many more... Dr. Seuss' 'Cat in the Hat' and his other books, all the fairytales, 'Charlotte's Web', and later everything written by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson was read. Books are precious. No question!

Sinéad xxx