Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Reading More Books (But Not Blogging About Them)

My New Year's Resolution last year was to to try to read more books and to blog about my progress.

I managed the first bit okay(ish), but I totally failed at the second part. I started off super keen, photographing all the books I was reading and writing what I thought would be the first of a series of monthly blog posts (haha). I didn't blog about books again until August, but I kept track of my reading all the way through spring and most of the summer.


I bought books from my local bookshop, and second hand. I borrowed them from the library and from my mum.

 

I read books in bed first thing in the morning (sometimes with a cat for company)...


... while eating breakfast...


... on trains, in cafes, on lazy summer afternoons...

 

... just before bed, and late at night when I couldn't sleep.

 

I read fun books and boring books, old faves and new discoveries, some I absolutely adored and some which were so terrible that I'm baffled as to why they are (apparently) so popular.

I kept a draft blog post running with photos and a list of the books I'd been reading. Then when I discovered the joys of audiobooks in the summer I dutifully took screenshots of each book I started, still thinking "I'll get round to blogging about these sometime soon!"

My enthusiasm for reading waxed and waned through the year but at no point did I actually feel excited to blog about what I was reading. It gradually dawned on me that this was because I don't actually enjoy blogging about books that much and the act of keeping track of everything I was reading was sucking a lot of the joy out of the process.

For neatness though, I've had a think and tallied the books I read from June to December. Excluding the books I've forgotten about, all the books I started but gave up on and the many many books which I keep meaning to finish but just not getting round to, I read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett , The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm & Career of Evil  by Robert Galbraith, The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis, and The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham.

I also listened to How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, Rack, Ruin & Murder by Ann Granger, Death Descends on Saturn Villa by M. R. Kasasian, A Study in Brimstone & The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles by G. S. Denning, Tales from the Dead of Night: 13 Classic Ghost Stories, Origin by Dan Brown, Murder by Sarah Pinborough, one of the volumes of The Time Traveller's Almanac, and La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman.

So (along with the 13 books I read earlier in the year), that's about 31 books in total for 2017. Not a particularly impressive number but definitely a lot more than I read in 2016.

I don't know how many books I'll end up reading (or listening to) this year. I hope it's more than 31 but it might well be less. Either way, I definitely won't be blogging about them!

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, so if you click through and end up buying something (anything!) on Amazon during that session I get a very small payment for the referral.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Tutorial: Embroidered Felt Plant Lady Brooches

If your home is full of plants (or you wish that it was) then you'll love my latest tutorial for The Village Haberdashery!

DIY Felt Plant Lady Brooches Tutorial

 Stitch an embroidered "Plant Lady" brooch...

DIY Embroidered Plant Lady Brooch

... sew a little felt cactus...

Felt Cactus Brooch Tutorial

... or make a monstera leaf!

Felt Monstera Leaf Brooch Tutorial

Click here for the free templates and step-by-step tutorial.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

3 Creative Ideas for Decorating your Parcels

Sending a gift to a friend for their birthday or other special occasion? Why not decorate the parcel to make it extra special!

 

Today I'm sharing three crafty ideas for jazzing up plain parcels: decorating them with pens, paint and colourful scrap paper.

Decorated parcels are super fun to receive but it's important to make sure they reach their destination safely: use lots of clear parcel tape to secure your decorated parcels before popping them in the post. If you're sending your package via a courier service it's best to wrap your decorated parcel in another layer of brown paper or even in a parcel box to keep it safe and protected on its journey.

This post is sponsored by My Parcel Delivery, a courier comparison site that helps you find the best deals for sending your important parcels.

https://www.myparceldelivery.com/

There are a whole range of courier services that deliver in Europe and internationally - two of the most popular are UPS who have lots of designated drop-off points (no waiting in long queues at the Post Office!) and Parcelforce who can collect your parcel from your very own home.

Follow these handy tips to package your parcels correctly!
 

1. Marker Pen Doodles.

Use permanent markers to add a burst of colour to a plain package!

Start by drawing a shape around your handwritten address or printed address label...


... then add more lines to build up a stripey pattern, with one line of each colour.


Keep adding lines until you're happy with your design. I repeated the same colours, adding them in the same order, but you could add colours at random to create different patterns.


Carry your design on around the sides of your parcel for a really vibrant effect.


2. Painted Polkadots.

Cover your parcel in pretty polkadots! Use craft paint or leftover paint from emulsion tester pots - I used a pale lilac purple which stands out really nicely against the brown of the package, but you could use any colour (or colours) you fancy.

Print the polkadots using the eraser end of a pencil, carefully dipping the eraser in the paint then using it to make a few dots on the paper until the paint runs out. Repeat to gradually cover the parcel in dots!


Tip: print some test dots on a piece of scrap paper first to get the hang of printing them, and have tissues or kitchen roll to hand for wiping excess paint off the eraser.

If you're painting directly onto the wrapped parcel, remember that you'll need to wait for the paint to dry before you can turn the parcel over and paint on more sides!




3. Colourful Collages. 

Use small bits of leftover gift wrap, scraps of coloured paper and magazine pages to make a colourful collage!

Choose a selection of decorative papers, and use a compass or circular objects in your house (like glasses or spice jars) to draw circles in various sizes. Cut out the circles and arrange them on your parcel to create a bright abstract design.


Stick the circles to the parcel with a glue stick, with the design "overflowing" onto the sides of the package.
 

Then add pictures you've cut out from magazines or printed from the internet (you'll find lots of free printables online designed for scrapbooking, card making and other crafty projects) and stick them to your parcel to complete your collage.



DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by My Parcel Delivery, a courier comparison site that helps you find the best deals around. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Exploring Oxford: Carfax Tower & Oriel College

Our virtual journey around Oxford continues!

This week I'm sharing some snaps of Carfax Tower and Oriel College.


Carfax Tower, aka St Martin's Tower, is the only remaining part of St Martin's Church which was demolished in the 1800s. Although I have to admit that this isn't quite as cool as someone just randomly deciding to build a tower in the centre of Oxford, it's still a very charming old building and an excellent way to get some great views of the city.

The tower is known as Carfax Tower because it's located at Carfax, a crossroads that's apparently considered to be the very centre of Oxford. The four roads that meet at Carfax are the roads which ran from from the four city gates.

You're sure to pass Carfax if you visit Oxford, but make sure you time your walk so you can hear the chiming of the tower's delightful clock!


I visited Carfax Tower during the Oxford Open Doors festival which meant I got free entry (yay) but had to queue for a fair while as lots of other people wanted free entry too and there is, of course, a very limited number of people who can climb up a 13th Century Tower at one time!

I didn't mind though as not only was I saving a few quid but also it gave me plenty of time to chat to the other, very friendly, people in the queue who (like me) had visited Oxford specially for the festival. Here's the view of the queue and the crossroads from the top of the tower:


You have to climb quite a narrow spiral staircase to get to the top but I didn't find it too claustrophobic (unlike some towers I've climbed over the years!) and the views of the city are definitely worth it. I love seeing places from up high, and Oxford has lots of spires, domes, and other interesting buildings to spot.

 

Just down the road from Carfax Tower is Oriel College - Oxford's fifth oldest college.

 

Rather like how Carfax Tower was originally St Martin's Tower, Oriel College was not originally known as Oriel College.

Apparently the reason it's called Oriel is that "soon after the foundation in 1326 the ‘College of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ was given a property called ‘La Oriole’, on the site of the present Front Quadrangle, and gradually the college came to be called by that name." I love learning this kind of stuff, don't you?

Most of the buildings in the College date from the 1600s onward and they're rather gorgeous.

 

That lovely warm stone, and those windows, and that lamp, oh my!


I'm very drawn to the little passageways you get between the different quads, lawns and courtyards in the colleges - the contrast between the gloomy passage and the bright glimpse of the space beyond. I doubt I even noticed it at the time, but I love the worn paving in this picture (do you think that slight curve was worn by centuries of footsteps?).


There's always so much to see when you visit an Oxford college. Grand exteriors...
 

...and ornate but still somehow cosy interiors.


Signs of college life (in this case, some literal signs)...


... and decorative details in quiet corners. Such a treat!


Oriel is usually open to visitors for a few hours each afternoon, except in the summer term. If you're unable to visit in person, do check out the virtual tours on their website.

Missed the first post in this series? Click here to read about my visit to Magdalen College.