April reads (2015)

It’s time to share the books I read in April.  I finished five books this month.  I’m now six books behind on my challenge for the year.  (You can follow me on GoodReads if you don’t already.)  Teddy Roosevelt’s autobiography, which I have been reading for months, is never-ending.  I’m thinking of abandoning it.  Do you abandon books when you get bored?  I haven’t abandoned it yet because I’ve reached the half-way point and if I abandon it I won’t get to log it as a completed book!  Pathetic, I know!

The Minimalist Budget – Simeon Lindstrom

I bought this book because it was on offer on the Kindle.  I quite enjoyed it.  It’s a short little book about how to apply minimalism to your budget and enjoy the finer things in life.  I really recommend it for anyone struggling to manage their money (although as mentioned many times on here, the first thing you should read is Your Money or Your Life, as it’s a superb book).

The Simple Life – Rhonda Hetzel

This was on offer on the Kindle at the same time as the book above, and so I bought this too.  It’s about one woman’s decision to become self-sufficient and set up her home to be sustainable.  She’s based in Australia, and did it a couple of decades ago when self-sufficiency was still just a fringe movement (I like to think it’s a little more mainstream now).  Definitely worth a read, and another short book.

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

I have been reading this book for months, and whilst I’m glad I’ve finished it I do think it was a good psychology book.  It’s all about the two ‘parts’ of our brain: the part that does things automatically without us being conscious of the decision-making, and the second slower part that is our conscious decision-making brain.  For anyone who dabbles in psychology and neurology like I do, this is a must read.  Brains are so fascinating!

May Martin’s Sewing Bible – May Martin

I will be reviewing this book in a separate blog post, however I think it’s an excellent sewing guide.  I read it all in one sitting!  There is so much useful information in it.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – Robert Sapolsky

Ahhh, this book.  Another one I have been reading for months, recommended to me by my therapist.  I’m so glad she did, as it is superb.  There is so much excellent research in this book, and I think it’s a book that everyone should read.  The basic premise of the book is explaining how the stress function works in humans, how and when it goes wrong, and what we can do about it.  However, stress is a hugely fascinating biological response, and its study yields far-reaching consequences into other fields of biology.  The author discusses all of this and it’s brilliant.  A must read for anyone interested in their bodies and/or science!

Have you read any interesting books this month?

A new yarn storage bag and some new yarn

When I was looking for items to review on the Flamingo Gifts website, I noticed that they stock storage bags made of recycled plastic.  I am a big fan of re-using materials that would otherwise go to landfill, so making storage bags out of plastic bottles is something I can definitely get behind.

This is a double win though, because the storage bags come in loads of cool designs, and I chose a woodland animals design.  Isn’t it adorable!

Recycled jumbo storage bag 1

I wanted a large storage bag to hold all of my yarn, as my collection is starting to get a bit ridiculous.  Before I got this bag, I had it in a couple of delivery boxes and a cotton bag (also recycled!).  Now, it all fits in one bag.

Recycled jumbo storage bag 2

I’ve kept some balls in one cotton bag inside this bag, because they’re all odd balls left over from other projects.  The rest of the balls are loose and have lots of friends, so can be used for new projects in the future.

Recycled jumbo storage bag 3

I like that the storage bag zips up, which stops dust settling on the items inside, and I like that the zipper extends a little way down the sides of the bag.  It means that the opening is really wide – good for rummaging around for yarn!

Here’s what my bag looks like inside:

Recycled jumbo storage bag 4

If you look closely, you’ll see that there is a bag of yarn on the right hand side which I haven’t mentioned!  That is because I’ve been shopping.  Uh oh!  I recently chose the colour palette for my next crochet blanket, whose design I have already chosen, even though I probably won’t start it until 2016.

Popcorn crochet blanket yarn choices

I wasn’t going to order the yarn until I actually wanted to start the project, as it is quite possible I will change my mind over the colours.  However, I was short of a few balls of yarn for my current crochet blankets, but my order wasn’t big enough to get free postage.  I hate paying postage when there is an offer on (i.e. if you spend a certain amount and get postage for free), so I decided to order the materials I needed for the next blanket.

They’re in a mesh bag (Wool Warehouse now deliver their balls in mesh bags, which I quite like), and they shall stay there until I’ve completed my current crochet projects.  Probably.  Maybe.  Who knows.

I received this storage bag for free from Flamingo Gifts.  All words are my own.  You can purchase a storage bag for £4.95.

Product review: Clairefontaine 1951 exercise book

Today I have a notebook review for you!  It has been months since I last did a notebook review.  I guess this blog has now definitely evolved beyond the initial blog I created to share stationery finds!  To be honest, this is mostly because I have brands that I like, so I don’t buy new items as much.  I’ve reached that point in my stationery life where if I’ve found a brand I know and love, and don’t want to try new products as much (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!).  I have yet to reach that point in other aspects of my life…!

Anyway, I love Clairefontaine products already, as their paper is beautiful.  B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.  Seriously, if you’ve never used Clairefontaine paper you should really sort your life out and buy some!

The reason I bought a 1951 exercise book is because I love the retro look to the notebook.  Also, they come in lots of different colours, which is always a win for me.  Don’t make me conform to your boring black notebook ideals, please!

Clairefontaine 1951 vintage style notebook 1

I bought the notebook in orange, which I’m sure you could have guessed as my love of the colour orange is no secret.  The notebook has a sort of textured feel to the cover, but it is just a thick durable cardboard.  I love that there is a little name box on the front for you to write important details.

Clairefontaine 1951 vintage style notebook 2

The inside covers of the notebook are blanks, and the pages are bound with glue.  There is a cloth spine to add to the retro feel, and the 192 pages inside are lined.

Clairefontaine 1951 vintage style notebook 3

The only thing that disappoints me about this notebook is that it doesn’t naturally lie flat.  However, once you’ve bent it a few times you can’t get the darned thing to lie closed!  It’s because of the width and nature of the binding, and we’ve probably all experienced it before, but it does annoy me.  The only other thing (and this is a tiny niggle) is that because I’m such a stationery snob now I much prefer my lines to stop before the edges of the page.  I suppose because these were originally designed as exercise books for children this isn’t appropriate, but it’s just a little preference I have.

Having said all of that, the appearance of the notebook and the delicious-ness of the paper inside more than make up for these little irks, and I am a huge fan of this new range from Clairefontaine.

I bought my notebook from Bureau Direct, and they are a complete bargain at £4.50.  Clairefontaine also make a thinner 96 page exercise book with a stapled binding, for the ridiculously cheap price of £1.95.  There is also a pocket version of the stapled binding available for £1.25.

I wasn’t sponsored by anyone to write this post.  Just spreading the stationery love!

Dog sitting

Jensen on stairs

On Wednesday this week I looked after a little dog called Jensen, so I thought I’d share a few photos with you.

Ever since I was a child, I have always identified myself as a dog person.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually a cat person and I just never realised.  It feels like being a “dog person” is a big part of my identity, and it’s something that’s hard to let go of, but my last few experiences looking after dogs have made me wonder if I can really say that any more.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?  Did you switch allegiance at some point in your life from cats to dogs, or vice versa?

My friend for the day.

04.29 The little Jensen munchkin I spent the day with.

Here's the face of a troublemaker!

Cat friday

Cat friday is not a new feature on the blog (I’m sure we’d all get bored very quickly!).  However, just for today you can have a post with nothing but Archie photos!  I’ve been ill on and off this week with terrible jaw pain (I have TMJ), and Archie has been looking after me with lots of cuddles and purring.  She might finally be learning how to be a cat!

Archie circle!

04.19 Cat finally wormed.

My lap has been invaded.

Sleepy kitty

Happy Friday!

Progress with crochet blanket…

I’ve started joining a few rows of my grey circle blanket together, to get a sense of how big it will be.

04.20 My blanket is growing.

I’m joining the squares together with a stitch that makes a ridged line, so when the blanket is completely finished there will be a clear distinction between each square.  I’m also using a grey that is a shade darker than that of the squares to make the joining stitches, to further highlight each individual square.

I love how it is looking so far, but I need many more rows!

Pink cat apron

I finally found a project for the cat fabric that I accidentally dyed pink.  Yey!  I’ve needed a new apron for a while (I am a messy chef), and since I can’t use the cat fabric for anything special due to the uneven nature of the dye, an apron seemed perfect!

Pink cat apron

I used the instructions from the Martha Stewart craft book to get an idea of the shape and sewing.  I used ribbon for the neck loop and ties, as I have loads of ribbon and I never have projects that can use it!

Pink cat apron hem

I did rolled hems, and did two rows of top-stitching to make sure it was strong.

Pink cat apron double mitre

For the corners, I used a technique called a double mitre fold, which I found in my May Martin sewing book (review to come soon on the blog!).  Isn’t it beautiful and pointy!

I’m so glad I finally found a use for this fabric!

Bee House by Wild & Wolf

I was recently contacted by Flamingo Gifts, who are an online gift company.  Their stock is quite wonderful, so I agreed to work with them and promote some of the items from their store.  I haven’t been disappointed!

I asked to review the bee house that they sell, which is one of a number of gardening related gifts that they stock.

Those of you that have been reading the blog for a while will know that I’m creating a wildlife area at the end of my garden, where it meets with the railway line embankment.  I thought that a bee house would be perfect here, as there are many solitary bees in my garden visiting all the flowers.  I already have a small water tub on the back for drinking water, a hedgehog house and several species of wildflower.

Bee House hook

The bee house is bright yellow and is made of wood, by a company called Wild & Wolf.  I googled them, and their merchandise is amazing!  There are so many great gift companies in the UK at the moment!  The little holes for the bees are bamboo, and there is a metal hoop on the back for hanging.  The house is presumably intended to be hung on a nail, but I was attaching it to the railway fencing which is metal, so I used wired to put it up.

Flamingo Gifts Bee House

Doesn’t it look lovely!

Flamingo Gifts Bee House 2

I will keep an eye on the house, and I will be reporting back on here to let you know if any bees take up residence.  For those wondering, the hedgehog house has been out there for almost a year and no-one has used it.  I think I might have the cat to thank for that!

The rhubarb is also on the railway patch of land.  Last year I rescued it after it started looking pathetic.  I am sad to report that it died over the winter and is no more.  So I am now completely rhubarb-less!  I am aware that rhubarb is one of those plants that could survive a nuclear war, but apparently it couldn’t survive me!

I have a couple of other items from Flamingo Gifts to review, so please keep an eye out on the blog because all their stock is wonderful!  The bee house is £19.99.

I received the bee house for free to review, but all thoughts are my own.  Do your bit to help save bees!

Photos from early April and some blurb about IFTTT

There are now over 100 photos in my photo a day project.  How exciting!  You can view the album on Flickr if you’d like.

Someone asked me how I make these collages.  I don’t use a Flickr montage app, hence why the photos cannot be clicked through to their Flickr page (do those apps still exist?).  I use PicMonkey to make the collage (I have a paid account, but you can make collages for free).  I have an IFTTT recipe that automatically saves all my Flickr uploads to a Dropbox folder, so it’s no work at all to import all the photos to a collage.

If you don’t use IFTTT I recommend it.  It’s basically a website that compiles instructions for your computer and web accounts.  It’s free to create an account, and then you can set up any instructions (called recipes) you want to run.  So, as an example, I have a recipe that automatically downloads Flickr photos to Dropbox, as mentioned.  I have another that does the same with Facebook for any photos I’m tagged in.  There are all sorts of recipes for syncing documents between programs, alerting your phone when certain events take place, changing house settings if you have clever tech, recording exercise data and much more.  Have a browse!

Beginning of April

RE: the fish at the top.  I don’t own fish – I was at the aquatic centre in my garden centre and this little chap was at the till.  He is beautiful!