Friday 28 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 28th December

I love getting together with the friends over Christmas.  Even though some of them are now scattered to far flung places like New Zealand and, y'know, Cambridge, it's a great way to recall them all together.  And I've made this little JYC card to commemorate the occasion as part of album for Shimelle's class Journal Your Christmas.  And sometimes, a few layers of paper, a snowflake and some sticky pearls are all it takes to create a little memento.

I've written the full story and I'm sure I'll share it another time (I definitely need more than a 6x4 card to record it on).  But for now, a little reminder of the happy time we had is all that's needed :D

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and my very best for the new year,

Kisses xxxx

P.S. Sorry it's been a quiet around here - I've been working on stuff for my class 'Telling Tales'.  You can get the full information here but in a nutshell, it's about telling stories through words, pictures and layouts from how to write them, to how to make room for them on a page.  I'd love for you to join me - and we all need a little treat for the new year! - and every penny raised goes towards my fundraising for Girlguiding UK.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Telling Tales: A new scrapbooking class

***Button now working!!!!***

Telling tales is a brand new scrapbooking class all about telling stories and sharing memories.  Through a series of prompts and audio recordings, we’ll be looking at how we convey our stories through our journaling, pictures and design.  I believe that capturing our memories is one of the most fundamental aspects of scrapbooking and that the way we do this is personal and unique to each of us.  Telling Tales explores the different ways we can communicate our stories while doing what we love: scrapbooking!

Every scrapbooker has their own way of sharing their memories and Telling Tales will show you how to make the most of your stories in your own style.  Whether you are more comfortable with photographs, words or design; whether you prefer long wordy rambles or something that’s concise, heartfelt and to the point, Telling Tales will help you to make sure the memories you record come to life on your pages.  

You can scrap along with Telling Tales at your own pace whenever you feel like it. There's no pressure to 'keep up' and you can respond to the prompts in your own way.  You might choose to scrapbook, art journal, go digi, write, take photographs or simply draw inspiration.  You'll have permanent access to the material so you can use the ideas whenever and however you like. 

What's included in the class?
12 scrapbooking prompts featuring exclusive scrapbook layouts which all tell stories in different ways*

8 journalling prompts with different writing suggestions*
*4 audio recordings discussing storytelling*
*4 photography prompts to help you tell stories through pictures*
Permanent access to all class materials*
 *A dedicated Pinterest board to display participants’ work and projects*
  *A private forum to discuss the prompts, share links to your work, get feedback and be creative!*
The class will run for 4 weeks from Monday 28th January and each week, you will receive 3 scrapbooking prompts, 2 journaling prompts, 1 photography prompt and an audio recording.  These will all be emailed to you in pdf format (and as an mp3 file for the audio), landing right in your inbox each day!

What does it cost?
Permanent access to the class Telling Tales and all its contents costs just £6. Every penny goes to charity to support my fundraising for GirlGuiding UK. (Click here to read a little more about my fundraising).

You can pay securely through PayPal by credit or debit card - simply enter the email address you would like the prompts sent to, and click the 'Buy Now' button below!

Email Address
So why not treat yourself or a friend this Christmas? Then there's something to look forward to once the festive season is over and we're facing a cold, wet, dark January!

What next?
Once you've paid via the PayPal website, I'll be in touch by email - usually within the next 24 hours - to confirm payment and class membership. The class will officially begin on Monday 28th January but I'll be in touch a couple of weeks before then with a few ideas to get you started!

So go ahead, click the Buy Now button above and join me for an exciting scrappy adventure!

Any questions? Please get in touch! You can email me at journalofcuriousthings at googlemail dot com and I'll answer any queries as soon as I can.

Kisses xxx

P.S. If you're interested, it would be lovely if you could give Telling Tales a shout out on your blog. In fundraising, as in life, every little helps :D

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 9th December

I cannot make a Journal Your Christmas album without mention of snow.  So I have written a letter to that staple of the season: the British Weather.

Dear British Weather,

I wrote last year and asked for snow.  It was not forthcoming.  Now I don't want you to think this is a complaint, but I am rather expecting you to come through this year.  And the sprinkling that fell on the 5th does not count.  You know better than that. 

I think perhaps I need to be clear in my expectations.  The snow should be white and fluffy and it should stick together properly to make snowmen and snow houses.  I understand that this also means it will stick together to make snowballs and that this will be a problem at school, but I am prepared to deal with the consequences (and any children) in a firm manner.

The snow should be of a sufficient quantity to ensure the closure of school for at least 2 days.  And bear in mind, my school is the one that never closes.  There was that time in the Blitz when a bomb fell on it and everyone just carried on with their lessons.  So don't pull your punches: if the school is going to close, there is going to have to be depth.  And drifts.  You may even need to take out the central heating.  It's been a very long term.  We all need this.  And you owe us for last year.

It should also look magical and sparkly.  So why not toss in a little winter sunshine?  Everyone will appreciate the effort more then.


And it must be the right kind of snow.  If it's the wrong kind, the trains get upset and stop working and I do not have time to sort out temperamental locomotives.  I'm still busy sorting out the kids with the snowballs.

Finally, and most importantly, it's the only thing my Dad asks for every year and I can't get it on Amazon.  

So here's to that white Christmas I'm dreaming of.  

All the best for the new year,

Kirsty xxx

P.S. Maybe work in a few icicles for the look of the thing.  I mean, if I'm going to get 2 days off work, I want to get out with my camera, and some picturesque icicles would be just the ticket.

P.P.S. I love what you did with the frost this morning.  The frosted trees leaned over the road like a cocoon of spun sugar and the blushing pink sunrise over the horizon was magical.  

P.P.P.S. This, however, does not excuse you from the snow.


If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember I spent 3 weeks in the summer volunteering in Armenia, training women to lead units of Girl Guides and provide opportunities for girls and women in their local communities.  I went as part of a team on a project called GOLD: Guiding Overseas Linked with Development.  Each year GOLD sends teams of leaders from Girlguiding UK to run a variety of projects abroad to help develop the communities, skills, opportunities and lives of girls and women through Guiding.  Each project lasts for three to five years, with a new team visiting each year, and each project is designed to be sustainable; the aim is to give those involved in Guiding the ideas and resources to take control and facilitate their own development.

As a participant last year, I was eligible to be a leader in GOLD 2013 and I’m absolutely over the moon to have been invited to lead the Cambodia project next year.  I’ll be leading a team of 5 women and we will be travelling to different communities and teaching English.  Having some basic language skills means that the girls in these communities are more likely to be able to find work and develop some independence.  In the summer, the Cambodia 2012 team were anticipating having classes of around 30 and ended up leading sessions with over a hundred participants.  People were prepared to travel to take advantage of the English lessons and the team were overwhelmed by the response.  Obviously, being in Guiding meant that the GOLD team thought on their feet and made everyone welcome, but the sheer volume of those interested really illustrates the need for schemes like this in local communities in Cambodia.

Each person involved in GOLD project has to raise the funds to go, and projects are running this year in Tanzania, Armenia, The Gambia, Sri Lanka, Latvia and Malawi.  Having experienced the huge impact we were able to have in just a few short weeks on young women in Armenia, I’m really excited to get to grips with a new country, helping them work towards a better future through Guiding.

You can read more about our team’s Armenian adventure over the summer here, and I feel like I’ve been scrapbooking the photos ever since!  Last year I ran a scrapbooking class called Just One Sketch to raise funds.  That class is still available here in a self-paced format, and if you stop back tomorrow, I’ll be sharing an exciting new project!

Kisses xxx

P.S. And now to the kitchen to bake up a storm!  If only it were that simple...

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 8th December

I'm continuing to work on my Journal Your Christmas Album for Shimelle's class and today, I wanted to record the annual Christmas Make, Bake and Cake.  My friends and I gather together and catch up and have a lovely time and we've done this round my flat for the last couple of years.  This year promises to be not exception, and as I'm making sure I've got enough food and calculate exactly how many beds I can reasonably convert the sofa into, I wanted to document the somewhat haphazard invitations I sent.

On a side note, the photos are from last year's shindig.  I intend to get new ones this year!

Hello lovelies,

Christmas approaches (I can tell because I'm excited) and so I thought I'd plan a few plans around the annual Christmas knees-up.  I have put together ......drumroll please.....a Rough Plan.

The detailed plan is obviously, that we play it by ear.

The rough plan is:

Saturday lunch/afternoon mooching around Camden.  I would like to drink something mulled and eat food while I wander and buy inconsequential things that seem like a good idea at the time, but will seem less so upon my return.

Unless it's raining, in which case, screw Camden.

Then we can go back to mine, I'll make dinner (with courses!!!!) and we can ice cookies and maybe do a film and tons of board games and mulled things.  I wonder if one can mull tea?

You're welcome to stay over, breakfast will be laid on for those unprepared to troop home to their separate abodes.  We will play Sunday by ear.

Please send your availability (ie, do you want me to feed you and give you a blanket), your permission slips and your dietary requirements.

Your humble (yet, admittedly fantastic) host,

Miss Smith 

P.S. You will indeed be expected to bring your woollies and play photos again.  If you thought last year was a one-off, think again.  What I didn't tell you is that it was the first go through of my Christmas tradition when I get awesome candidly posed shots of my favourite people in the world :D

I'm so looking forward to hooking up with these lovelies :D

Kisses xxx

P.S. School concert tonight.  It was brilliant!

Monday 10 December 2012

Ten on the Tenth: Christmas stories to tell

For Ten on the Tenth, lots of bloggers share ten things that they are enjoying at the moment and we all link up at As I'm cheerfully Journalling My Christmas along with Shimelle (see the first complete page above) and the other class members I thought I'd chose Ten Christmas stories I want to include as part of my JYC.  

Over the weekend, my fellow leaders and I took our Guide unit away for a Christmas-themed holiday.  Imagine a giant sleepover with 30 teenagers and Christmas dinner, then bump up the excitement and festivity levels and you're about there.  And I had the MOST. AMAZING. CHRISTMASSY. TIME.  And best of all, I now have lots of lovely Christmas stories and memories and photos to share.  I've included my favourite ten below, and while I will share the stories n full over time as I make the pages, below I've included some potential page titles, and a few hints.  I've also included some pictures for good measure, although I've stuck to ones without the girls in.  Which is a shame as some of them are classic, but still.

1) Is there anyone who's not wearing a onesie?
No, would be the emphatic answer to that. Who knew that baby-grows would make a comeback?

2) Don't Look behind you...
The older girls made paperchains at midnight and strung them around the room.  But the pathetic adhesive wouldn't hold the weight.  We snuggled up to watch The Snowman and tried to avoid turning round to peer at the room every time another soft swish told us a paperchain had collapsed.  1:00am found various girls balanced precariously on items of furniture in a desperate bid to hold it all together.  We considered leaving them there and seeing how long they were prepared to hold up the loops of paper for, but in the end, we passed round the sticky tape.  Decorations fail.

3) Gingerbread Houses 2: Attack of the Guides
There is no way to adequately describe the experience of trying to get 30 Guides to each make a gingerbread house from scratch.  All at the same time.

4) Christmas with all the trimmings!
"Guys, they're making more every minute!" was the rallying cry and girls tumbled over to the kitchen hatch to hoover up the thin strips of left-over gingerbread.

5) The Great Slipper Swap of 2013
No one really cares if you're slippers aren't the right size, as long as they're cool.

6) Thighs of Steel
In the morning once breakfast was over and jobs were done, we sent the girls outside to run around in the woods and get some fresh air.  It was very cold, so they wouldn't stay out for long even wrapped up in woolies.  And we felt they needed some exercise.  And thus, Christmas Aerobics with Kirsty was born.  Making up aerobics to 'All I want for Christmas' outside on a patio in December, where your breath mists in clouds and there is frost on the grass has to be one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  And it's a strange feeling of power as 30 people all follow along as you break out with moves such as "Clean the windows, hail a cab, SQUAT! lunge, skiiiiiiiiiii and brush your hair".  Yes, my "workout" was heavily influenced by bad 90s pop.  Strangest of all was that the girls LOVED it, all joined in with enthusiasm despite having declared it to be horrifically embarrassing, and requested we do it again the next morning.

7) Tidying Up Karaoke
Clearing up is an inevitable by-product of crumbs which in turn is an inevitable by-product of 1 gingerbread house, never mind 30.  But, never mind, lets make it a game.  I whacked up the volume on the CD player, hit the now ubiquitous 'All I want for Christmas', seized the waiting microphone (brush) and went to it.  Lead vocals by yours truly shimmying round the broom/mic and backing vocals and dance routine by the older girls.  Crumbs vanquished.  Next: X-factor.  

8) Christmas Buns
At out Christmas dinner on the Saturday night, we very properly laid the table, handmade placemats and crackers at the ready, and a surprise bottle of something fizzy and grape-flavoured (and yes, alcohol free.  For the girls).  And everyone also received a knitted Christmas pudding stuffed with chocolate coins.  Of course, these turned out to be exactly the right size and shape to fit over hair styled into a bun.  There was a flurry of activity and every girl sporting long tresses immediately piled up her hair, affixed a Christmas pudding, and a new trend was born.

9) Things are really awkward...
What is more cosy and comfortable than settling down to watch a Christmas film?  On our second night, the younger girls were in their room and the older ones were allowed to stay up and watch a film.  We hauled the comfy chairs round together and projected it on the wall.  And then we made the girls feel spectacularly uncomfortable by speculating about exactly when Jude Law was going to put in an appearance and leaping in front of the projector to sensor any kissing.  Such behaviour is hilarious and witty when you are 25.  It is humiliating when you are 14.

10) Things are really (not) cool in the Earth House
Sung by the girls to a ukulele (I kid you not) to the tune of one of the songs from the film Nativity.  They changed the words.  It was awesome. 

And so that's a little peek into my weekend.  We are SO doing this again next year.  

Kisses xxx

P.S. Stop by later in the week for an exciting announcement!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 7th December

Secret Santa with the Guides.  And obviously, as leaders, we weren't prepared to miss out,  Everyone picks a name out of a jar, and buys that person a present costing £2.  What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, it all worked out rather perfectly and yours truly has acquired a nice little selection of chocolate that  will be carefully hidden in my office desk drawer.  For emergencies.

Kisses xxx

P.S. In fact, I've just got back from a whole Christmas-themed holiday weekend with the Guides.  It was FANTASTIC and I feel impossibly festive.  More to follow!

Friday 7 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 6th December

I LOVE Christmas music.  And I can't help myself.  It made me jump out of bed on the 1st December as Classic fm had finally started to include carols in their repertoire.  And on the 2nd, I was woken up by the phone which turned out to be Dad singing 'We wish you a merry Christmas' down the phone.  Ably assisted by Mum.  

In fact, singing down the phone is a family thing and every so often, we all gather round the receiver to inflict our vocals on some poor, unsuspecting friend or family member.  And at Christmas, we do a good line in carols.  We do parts and descants whether we know them or not, and the words might not be traditonal as when we forget them, we make them up.  But you've never seen anything like it, and our version of White Christmas is unparalleled.  We regularly get so carried away harmonising that no one sings the tune, and any audience that happen to be listening have to imagine it in for themselves.

When the family aren't around (or aren't answering the phone) Bing keeps me company and I break out the Christmas Crooners CD.  And given that Perry Como and Frank Sinatra also slide their way through some Christmas tunes, t's a rather cheery CD.  And then I round it off with a terrible Louis Armstrong impression, before hitting the repeat button.  And when it's time for something quieter, there's always the immortal 'Panpipes Play Christmas' CD.  Lovely!

Then there's the Carols for Choirs books, the stalwarts of Christmas carol books everywhere.  Any music department, church or choir worth its salt has copies in a variety of hues squirreled away - I've got the white '100 Carols for Choirs' version.  Descants don't get more definitive than that.

I think Christmas really is a time for singing and whether that's carolling with Staff Choir at the local care home or pom-pom-pomming along to 'Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful' when out shopping and it comes on the sound system, I think it's l perfect.

Sing on!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I had a perfect stash moment when I found little silvery music note confetti buried in my staff.  Ultimate Christmas stash win!

Thursday 6 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 5th December

This is my page for 5th December as part of Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class.  Journalling reads:

There's nothing like curling up with a teacup full of delicious chocolate silk.  Hot chocolate is all about catering to one's own indulgence and I've perfected my own recipe.  It's not the whack-it-in-the-microwave kind; it's the baby-it's-cold-outside kind.  With a melty halo of marshmallow and glitter.  And it needs a spoon.  I'm just saying!

This page will be accompanied in my album by these photos, which I've shared before.  I took them back in October, but the love of hot chocolate definitely extends into the chilly, dark December evenings, and so I've saved scrapping the pictures so I can include them in JYC.  It just seemed like the right time.  If you're interested in the recipe, I blogged about it here.

Kisses xxx

P.S.  A nice camp blanket to snuggle under also works wonders.

P.P.S. In fact, I feel this would make an excellent JYC entry :D

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 4th December

I don't have a tree.  It would probably be tricky to fit in my flat.  But I do like admiring the ones that appear around and about this time of year.  So I am more than content in admiring other people's trees and smiling smugly at my pine-needle free floor.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I've probably shared enough Christmas tree pictures with bokeh effect lights for everyone's taste for a while.  But if you did miss it, it's here!

Monday 3 December 2012

Podacst Episode 5: Dreaming of a White Christmas

Switch to manual focus and unfocus your camera lens for a lovely bokeh shot.

So, here it is finally, the fifth episode of the Journal of Curious Things Podcast.  I'm sorry it's been a while and it's looking more and more as though monthly is going to be a more realistic schedule.  Anyway, below are the show notes and peppered throughout are Christmas photos and little photography hints and tips.

Looking out for striking colour combinations or slightly more unusual visions of the season can make for interesting photos.

Show Notes
And trust me: ginger biscuits and white maltesers.  A winner every time.

This is actually the new and improved model, but here it's around £80

You can find a couple of my album pages here.

So much more than a border punch :D

Bed of Cloud available on MusicAlley

Scoot me an email to journalofcuriousthings at gmail dot com

Using a wider aperture will let in lots of light and create a dreamy quality to photos.

Get as close in as you can to Christmas lights and decorations for detail.

The slightly yellow look of lights can also sometimes create warmth.  But hold the camera steady!

Kisses xxx

P.S. The delicious Christmas tea is here

Journal Your Christmas: 2nd and 3rd December

I'll be honest - I'm taking a bit of a detour from the prompts for Shimelle's class Journal Your Christmas.  I love hopping online in the morning and getting a little dose of Christmas lovely and inspiration.  And then I love doing my own thing.  Because I'm an individual.  My colleagues would tell you it's because I'm awkward.  

Anyway, for the second and third days of December I wanted to record two things: the first is advent.  I don't have an Advent calendar this year (gutted :P) but I do light a couple of candles most evenings and I have a daily Bible reading.  I'm also doing JYC (no really, I am!) and I have one more little Christmas tradition.  And that's my Christmas tea.

I buy a box from Whittards (or maybe 2 if I run out or a few more if it goes on sale in January) each year in December and slurp it up like there's no tomorrow because it's wonderful.  It's black tea flavoured with orange, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves and it tastes like Christmas in a mu that you can wrap your hands round.  I love to breathe it in and feel warm and cosy.  

And this is what I've documented for JYC.  Little traditions like this are important and I look forward to observing them.  And I was delighted to have the bperfect flair button from 'A Flair for Buttons' for this little page.  A few shiny foil stars from Paperchase which I snagged at the weekend made lovely confetti too.

For my page for 3rd December, I'm going with my Gingerbread house.  We're making these with the Guides over Christmas although shush!  Don't tell them - it's a surprise!  Anyway, the thought of constructing 40 of these along with my fellow Leaders and a gaggle of "enthusiastic" Guides makes me both hop with excitement and turn a little bit pale.  So I thought I'd have a go.

I will say that, due to an unexpected piping-bag-royal-icing-explosion incident, it rather looks like a small child decorated it.  But the mathematician in me ensured it was structurally sound.  And it did indeed survive a car journey to school and was then raised to the foundations by my tutor team whose affections I am, shall we say, currently negotiating for.

For those of you who haven't experienced the slight awkwardness of presenting people with a gingerbread house and having everyone just stare at it for 10 minutes, let me offer this advice: if you make it, you must be the one to collapse the roof.  Once you've damaged it, others will feel comfortable tucking in, and indeed my colleagues razed the little house to the ground.  No explosives required.  At the end of the meeting, two walls remained. I fed them to the maths department.

Anyway, I considered the experiment successful and I quite enjoyed it!  And for those of you that want to have a go, I used a third of this recipe from the BBC Good Food website, with my own house design template and added cinnamon and cloves.  Worked like a charm.  And made one house, with a bit left over for snowflake shaped biscuits.  Waste not, want not.

Kisses xxx

P.S. Still working on the podcast - honest!

Sunday 2 December 2012

Journal Your Christmas: 1st December

I'm joining in with two hallowed institutions today.  The first, as you're probably aware is Journal Your Christmas, a class from Shimelle and you can see my album page for that above.  But I'm also joining in with the wonderful Storytelling Sunday over at Sian's blog.  I wanted to share my journalling for yesterday, 1st December as I had planned a very Christmassy day all to myself.  I'll be using this journalling later in the month as part of my JYC album, but for now, it's good to have a record of the whole day...

I jumped out of bed this morning.  Literally!  It's Advent, the carols have started on the radio, my fairy lights are on and it's Christmas!  And I have decided that this year, my camera is coming EVERYWHERE.  That is my little Christmas promise.

So why did I jump out of bed this morning?  Because I had planned a Miss Smith Perfect Day.  I've been refusing invitations and obligations falling on this weekend since September so that I can have a little oasis of calm to myself as I head into the busiest (and most wonderful!) time of year.

I called home first of all.  The music on Classic fm got me all excited.  But Dad was a bit disconcerted.  He claimed that he liked to be the most excited about Christmas and that I was stealing his thunder.  He also demanded to know why it hadn't snowed.

Anyway, I sallied forth from the flat, got a jam doughnut for breakfast and hit the tube station.  I devoured the jam doughnut without getting a drop of jam on my coat or scarf (the trick is to follow the jam - if you bite into the jammy bit, the only place it can go is towards your tummy) and rode the tube to Goodge Street.  Giant Paperchase here I come.

I spent a good hour browsing and a good few pennies on exciting Christmas stationary for JYC and then wandered through Bloomsbury and Bedford square, across Seven Dials and into Covent Garden.  I had two missions: to take pictures of the decorations (doing this before December seemed somehow cheating) and to find the Christmas tea.

I bounded into Whittards and located my tea and sang along to their music.  I shared a "Yay!  Christmas!" moment with a member of staff who said they'd just put the Christmas music on that day, and with my tea in tow, headed off for lunch.

Wahaca dished up all my favourites - who doesn't love a restaurant where it's expected that you will order 4 dishes and scoff the lot? - and then I returned to Covent Garden to be serenaded by the London Gay Men's Chorus.  They were good.  Really good!  And their dancing was exactly camp enough to embrace stereotype :D  I also particularly enjoyed the Father Christmas hats and silver shiny scarves.

As lunchtime turned to afternoon, I snagged a cookie from Ben's for the interval, visited the reindeer - yes, real live reindeer! - and tottered on down to the Aldwych for the matinee of Top Hat.  And it was fantastic!  It was like Bertie Wooster was there in the audience with me - songs and dancing, glitz and glamour, truly terrible (and therefore perfect) puns and corny humour and enough top hats and tails to make any heart melt..  I will be going again.

It was dark when I emerged and I walked back to the tube via Covent Gardens.  What's the point of taking pictures of the decorations if you don't then go and get pictures of the lights when they're on and shiny?

So that was my day of Christmas magic.  I've had my little moment of festive magic and I'm good for the season!  And now, why not head over to Sian's to read other Christmassy stories?

Kisses xxx

P.S. Check back soon for Episode 5 of the Journal of Curious Things Podcast.  It's currently in the editing suite with yours truly who is being reminded yet again that computers are really not her thing and she misses pens and paper and thinks maybe she belongs back in the days of tape, scissors and the fire hazzrds that went along with editing in the old days.