Tuesday, 1 December 2015

1st December: Journalling my Christmas

Today is the first day of December.  It's the day when I finally get to begin my advent calendar, when I can light the advent candle, when I don't have to remind myself not to sing Christmas songs, and when I throw myself into the season with over-enthusiastic exuberance.  Because I LOVE Christmas.

There's a lot to look forward to!  It will be a month of trips to the ballet and afternoon tea, a month of curling up with a crafty project and a film, a time of dinners out with friends and dinners in with family, festive outings with the man and celebratory jaunts with colleagues.  There will be twinkly lights in the trees, the scent of cinnamon wafting from the oven, a chill in the air over the ice rink, the snip of scissors and the click of needles. There will even be a hop over to the continent to find some snow!

This morning it was lovely to get up and think of the possibilities that await.  And I'm going to have my camera with me every step of the way and aim to blog something Christmassy every day as part of Shimelle's annual class, Journal Your Christmas.

This year, as last year, this blog will by my journal, and by the end of the month, I hope I will have a whole host of Christmas memories journalled and captured on camera, ready to scrapbook whenever I want.

So Merry Christmas everyone: welcome to the season!

Kisses xxx

P.S. Because life doesn't stop for Christmas, my first December evening will actually be spent in school at parents' evening.  I'll confess I'm looking forward to coming home, curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, lighting my advent candle and doing a little bit of something crafty.After all, 'tis the season.

Monday, 2 November 2015


The Monument in London is, conveniently, a monument to remind folk of the disaster that was the Great Fire of London.  It's a few hundred steps up a spiral staircase inside a large column, and its height is the same as its distance from the location where the fire started.  Once it would have stood out as a key part of London's skyline, but the city has grown around it and rather than a bird's eye view, you can look across to the modern skyscrapers that crowd the Thames.

That is not to diminish the views: they are terrific! Entry to the Monument is a steal at only £4, and that includes a certificate on your way out to prove you've climbed it!  The certificate is a nice memento as it has a history of the building printed on it.

The Monument has a viewing platform that wraps around the top to give you the best views in every direction.  There's wire over the top of the platform, which is why there are mysterious shapes over my photos, but it doesn't impede the view, and I kind of like the urban look that my pictures have taken on!  

So many of the buildings in the city are sleek and shiny, reflecting the dazzling blue of the sky, and the clouds seem to drift over them.  Looking south, the Monument affords lovely views of the Shard.

It was blustery at the top!  But with one hand very firmly clutching my skirt, I explored further.  We could see the distinctive dome of St Paul's Cathedral which appears to be plagued that the cranes that constantly dominate the skyline as London continues to grow outwards and upwards.

Plus a cheeky shot of everyone's favourite vegetable-inspired building: the Gherkin.

Completing a full circle of the Monument, we had a clear sight line down the Thames to Tower Bridge, the river busy with traffic as usual.

No trip to a London landmark would be complete without the obligatory selfie. Camera balanced on the little shelf, I waited for the tourists to clear, set the timer and ran to assume my pose.

I think he did this on purpose :D

Kisses xxx

P.S. Half term is over and back to school!  But on the plus side, now that's it's November, we can legitimately begin discussing Christmas!  November is a lovely month to start preparing in.  I enjoy a gradual lead up and by the time December rolls around, I'll be all ready and sorted, and can really throw myself into the festive season!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

new home together, new scrapbook page

The last week has a been a busy one full of packing, organising, and beginning the process of selling my little flat: my home for the last 5 years.  But this is an exciting move, because it has also been the week that I moved in with my man! 

It's been so lovely sorting out our things together, arranging his flat to now accommodate both of us, and pointing out to him where I am planning to put the fairy lights. I'm so happy to be taking this step in our relationship and while I've been half living here for quite a long time, it's great to make it official!  

Anyway, it seemed appropriate to make a scrapbook page about this, so that's what I'm sharing today. I used a little instax-print-style selfie layered up with patterned paper and I hand cut a swirly looking title. This is all stuck onto a sheet of clear acetate which is then simply laid on top of a white cardstock background.  That means I can lift the acetate, along with the embellishments and title off to read the journalling underneath.

As I knew the journalling was going to be quite lengthy, I kept it in a column and treated it a bit like another embellishment, almost like a background stamp.  It doesn't swamp or dominate the design; instead it contributes to the layout.  But I also know it's there and easy to take out and read if I want to.

And so now I'll get back to unpacking, making the flat nice and cosy so I can curl up with winter with a blanket, some mulled wine, a candle or two, and my lovely new flatmate.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I am not looking forward to paper work and estate agents though, as my flat goes on the market.  Maybe I should keep it and use it as my own incredibly extravagant scrapbooking and craft studio?

Monday, 26 October 2015

beachy head

A visit to Beachy Head was his idea; he'd been before some years ago and suggested we should go and make a day of it.  Well, it took us over a year to find a free day with decent weather, but we finally made it and it was a lovely way to say goodbye to summer.

We drove down, enjoying the ride, and arrived to find sunny, if somewhat windy weather. We parked up and spent the day wandering along the tops of the cliffs.  The dazzling chalk makes them stand out against the blue of sea and sky, and I loved spotting the lighthouse as we rounded each little slice of headland.

We were so lucky with the weather for an autumnal afternoon.  Perfect blue skies in every direction.  It was just lovely to wander along the coast.

Eventually we turned inland in search of sustenance, and he led the way to a lovely village pub.  We sat outside in the sunshine on the village green, watching people come and go, admiring the blue plaque displayed prominently on Sherlock Holmes' retirement cottage, and tucking into heart pub grub and a cheeky glass of wine.

Oh, and we split a hot, melty Camembert.  I'd never had it before, and it was the most delicious thing!  It was warm and creamy and spread perfectly onto crisp, toasted ciabatta with lashings of tart cranberry.  More please.  

Kisses xxx

P.S. I do love the summer, but I can't help but be a little bit excited too for twinkly lights in dark winter nights, toasty mittens, warm drinks to wrap my hands around and the scent of cinnamon.  Winter is coming!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

clouds of steam on top of the world

Our intrepid little group had spent the night under piles of blankets, without electricity, as the temperatures plummeted. It's quite amazing how warm 4 layers of fleece will keep you.  But getting up at 5:00am made us face the cold.  I munched by breakfast wrapped up in layers and wearing mittens and shivering as the feeling slowly left my fingers and toes.  It was dark, and it was below freezing, but we had a long way to go, and we piled into the jeep before dawn to set off across Bolivia's high altitude desert lands.

We were heading for the Sol de Manana geysers, and we bounced along, without need of roads as the sun crept over the horizon.  The most incredible sight awaited us: vast plains, mountain tops, snow on the ground and steamy clouds erupting from the earth.

It was surreal to wander through the clouds, one minute on frozen ice, and then next through boiling mud.  The landscape was barren: nothing grows here.  And yet there was still a huge amount of natural beauty to behold.

And I was able to defrost my fingers a little bit.

Inevitably, we had to pile back in the jeep and move on, now much more awake and in awe of the views around us.  And very much looking forward to throwing off all the chills at our next destination: the hot spring!

I had come prepared that morning!  I was wearing my swimming costume under by clothes, a decision that had seemed ridiculous at 5:00am in the freeing dark. We had to buy a ticket but as there was no one around, I stuck my money in the box, tore off my own ticket, and flinging my clothes into a heap, leapt into the pool.

It was the most deliciously warm, luxurious experience imaginable.  Just bliss.  I can't describe it.  Actual heat!  Warmth!  I could feel my feet again!  None of us wanted to get out, and we spent a lovely time looking out over the lagoon, watching a curious flamingo who came over to investigate, and begging our lovely guide Marco for 'just 5 more minutes'.

We visited so many amazing places in Bolivia, and as I was on an Oasis Overland tour, it was so wonderful to be able to hop around and experience lots of different facets of this amazing country.  I definitely need to go back to South America one day.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I had never been in a hot spring before, and so I'm very much hoping to repeat the experience!

Monday, 19 October 2015

click, snap, scrap

Well the weather has definitely taken a turn for the damp and chilly, and it seems to be time to think indoor thoughts, settle down with a bit of craft and dream up delicious things to add into gently steaming mugs of hot chocolate.  I am in the process of packing up all my belongings at the moment (more on that another time) and I seem to be getting rid of as many things as I'm packing.  It's strangely satisfying to have a good clear out and it will be nice to nestle in for winter knowing it's all taken care of.

A couple of weekends ago, I took advantage of an entirely free day in to do some scrapbooking.  I'm a very slow scrapbooker and only completed a couple of pages in the end, but this is the first.  It documents a visit to the Rough Trade photobooth in London; a proper old fashioned one that I'd wanted to visit for a while, and was in fact on my list.  Anyway, I wanted the photos to make an appearance in my albums, and so this page came together.

I wanted the black and while photos to stand out, so I stuck to a largely neutral colour scheme, and a white background. I like the little flashes of yellow and blue, and I found that a little dash of colour went a long way.  I aimed to balance out the photos with a block of (mostly) straightish journalling explaining where we were and why, and my page was done! 

I can never quite work out why scrapbooking takes me so long, but I enjoy it, and so I don't really mind.  And there are lots of lovely crafts to look forward to this autumn and winter. More scrapbooking, some calligraphy, knitting, making an Advent calendar and a spot of sewing too.  Here's to one or two warm, cosy evenings in!

Kisses xxx

P.S. And now, back to packing!  If I'm very good and pack lots of things, maybe I will order a take away later.  And if I'm not very good, I could order a take away to console myself over my lack of progress.  Yes, that seems like a good idea.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

a tale of trains and travel

This is the story of how I came to be leaping James-Bond-style over trains in the middle of a high altitude desert in darkest Bolivia.

During the summer, I spent a couple weeks in Bolivia, travelling around with a group of fellow backpackers and a guide with Oasis Overland.  It was a great way to travel for me; I was a solo traveller so it meant I always had company, and being part of a group meant I could still do public transport and keep costs down, but there none of the hassle of trying to figure out which bus you're supposed to get on.  Just follow the person in front!

We left La Paz to head up to a town named Uyuni,  This involved a 4 hour bus journey to Oruro, and then a train ride for seven hours.  The train ride was amazing.  First of all, there was the comedy aspect of quite poor 90s disco music videos being played for everyone.  But then there were the views: wide, flat plains, flood-lands which supported flocks of flamingos, mountains hustling on the horizon, and a glorious sunset. And all this at an altitude approaching 4000m.

Then net morning, we set off to explore the Train Cemetery.  I'd been very much looking forward to this! Apparently there used to be a great deal of train manufacturing here.  Steam trains were very much the business, and the flat plains seem ideal for freight as the tracks skew themselves together, getting lost in perspective.  But sadly the age of steam is no more, and these magnificent vehicles were abandoned, left to slowly rust and decay in the desert.  Inevitably, they were pillaged, stripped for parts and weathered by the cold, wind, sand and sun.  And so now these creaky engines stand as a monument to times past.

In some ways, it's quite a melancholy place, with a slightly sad, industrial beauty.  But viewed from a more positive perspective, the Train Cemetery is a unique and unusual site, affording many opportunities for the often-neglected sport of train-climbing.

OK, so it might not yet be a 100% official genuine Olympic-certified sport, but it's extremely entertaining, and you get bonus points if you can convince your hat to stay on, and not drop your camera.

Having scaled the trains, it is of course necessary to take around 100 selfies.  And to stage as many as you possibly can where you strongly imply that you are James Bond and Indiana Jones embodied in one superior being.  Which, fortunately for me, I practically am. 

I loved spending them morning here exploring this site.  I've never seen anything like it; it was such an unexpected spectacle to find on the edge of a Bolivian desert.  But soon enough, it was time to hit the road and leave the engines behind, just like time has left them behind.  But I won't forget them.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I'm pretty sure that, now I've practised on stationary trains, I can leap between moving trains.  And it's not that I'm too afraid to try, it's just that it doesn't seem quite the same on the 11:03 Virgin East Coast service to Newcastle.