Sunday 28 July 2013

Scrapbooking Travels

Did I mention I'm heading to Cambodia for three weeks?  Yes?  Multiple times?  Oh.  Well, just imagine how much I'll be mentioning it when I get back!  Anyway, while we're out there, we're going to be teaching English in rural communities, training Guide leaders and running workshops and living in and experiencing a whole new culture.  And I want to scrapbook it.  All of it!  It shall be mine!

When I travel, I often take a notebook and keep a journal of everything that happens, but I've never scrapbooked on the road before and I decided this was to be the trip where I gave it a shot.  However, in between health forms and flight details, insurance and lesson plans, conference calls with the team and insane amounts of packing, I knew I wasn't going to have much time to get organised.

So I kept it minimal.  I wanted to take as few things as possible, limit the use of tools and forget pictures entirely at this stage.  The kit I put together needed to be small, robust and able to withstand a kicking, and ideally something I can break out with anywhere when I have a couple of minutes.  We're going to be busy after all!  And hopefully I'll have some 6x4 mini pages when I get home that can go into divided page protectors.

In the end, I packed some 6x4 journalling cards, some tags, a notebook to jot ideas/quotes in, a few postcards, some embroidery thread, a couple of rolls of washi, little letter stickers and some Elle's Studio tags. Then in terms of tools, I chucked in a glue runner, two journalling pens, a pencil, a date stamp, a ruler, some scissors, needles and a paper piercer.  Those last three pointy objects will not be joining me in my hand luggage though - they'll have to travel in the hold. Alas!  No pointy objects on planes!

I'm going to worry about photos when I come back.  My lovely camera will be joining me, and I can flick though a day's photos and note down the photos that could be printed to go with the project.  But the printer is staying firmly at home.  I'm going to take one little instax-stye print with me so I can get an idea of size - then I could leave space on a card and add the print at home afterwards.  But that's it.

The main focus of this scrapbook will be journalling.  Hence my journalling card hunt.  I cut them up myself as they used to be 12x12 cut-apart sheets.  Both are by American Crafts, one from Amy Tangerine and one from Dear Lizzy and both are lovely.  They were also inexpensive as it's just 12x12 paper and I bought four of each which gives me a range of designs and patterns, but they all tie together.

To personalise the cards however, I wanted them ink splattered.  So I've done that here at home and they're ready for the trip!  There was no way I was going to be taking mist with me :D

The advantage of this preparation, even though it's been minimal, is that it all packs up very small.  And it's absolutely vital that you find a really cute back to pack it all in.  And I mean seriously cute.  Even if it is supposed to be a washbag.  

It's probably worth pointing out that I don't expect everything to be perfect and finished when I come back.  I may want to add extra stickers, pearls, labels, paperclips, you name it!  But I can't take it all.  This way, I can ensure that I get the important memories and experiences recorded in a pretty way, and I can have fun reliving the experience when I get back!

So there's my kit, all tucked away and ready to go.  This bag is actually doubling as a pencil case as well as a scrapbook kit, so I've also got notecards to give to our hosts and pens and so on in here too.  I wrapped the journalling cards up together in a little plastic resealable bag - if we do get monsoon rains, they will be safe!  It also helps to keep them flat and together as they suffer untold abuses in my hand luggage.

Now all that remains is to hop on the plane, whip out the kit and start doodling borders and designs on the cards so they're ready to use!

Have you ever scrapbooked on the road?  If you have any last minute tips, I'd be v. grateful!

Kisses xxx

P.S. As I write this, it occurs to me that I have packed a date stamp and no ink.  Now I need to decide whether to pack the ink, or leave the date stamp.  Argh, not another decision to make!

P.P.S. The sensible thing is to leave the date stamp.

P.P.P.S. I can't decide if I'm sensible or not.

P.P.P.P.S. Help!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Time for Tea

Given that you’re coming round for tea, certainly think you ought to arrive early.  Nothing tastes quite like that first cup of the day and I hope that you’ll stay until at least elevensies which is many more cups of tea after that.

You look up when you hear me screeching your name at a quite unnecessary pitch.  But I’m excited and I can’t help it. You can see me leaning out of the window of my first floor flat waving frantically and I call that I’ll be down in a second – the weather is so nice that I thought we’d make a picnic of breakfast.  Find a nice spot in the shade and I’ll bring the pot down.

I appear a couple of minutes later, apologising that it took longer than I thought as I nearly forgot to warm the pot.  And that just won’t do.  But it’s steeped nicely and I've taken the teabags out and put the tea cosy on.  Seriously, this pot will be good for a while.  It stands on its tray with the milk jug and my unapologetically cutesy cups and saucers.  The tea is Lady Grey – I hope you’ll try it as it’s very summery with flavours of orange and lemon.

I have a picnic blanket slung in a bag over my arm and I spread it on the grass – could you hold the tea tray? – and we settle down.  I kick off my shoes because bare feet feel good in summer.  I thought we’d have some fruit with our tea but I threw some chocolate on the tea tray too because I don’t think it’s ever been a bad idea in the history of the world to have a bite of just-in-case chocolate.

I pour the tea – I like to put in my milk first, but you can add your own as you like it.  I've heard tell of mysterious folk from strange lands who like to put the milk in last or sometimes don’t put the milk in at all.  But I’m pretty sure those tales are just told to frighten small children and that such things don’t really happen.

You put the milk in last? Oh.  My apologies.


I have so much to tell you, it feels like an age since we last caught up.  I’m really enjoying the summer holidays; we’re only three days in but it’s such a relief to only have to think about one thing at once now.  For the last three months, I feel like I've been trying to juggle school and the attendant never-ending work along with Guides, friends, Cambodia… And for now, I've put it all on hold and I’m just focusing on getting everything ready for the Cambodia trip and making sure I really squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of the experience.  Even though there's such a lot to do, I suddenly feel more relaxed as I've decided to narrow my focus.  I could tell you about the times when I've not been convinced that I'll pull it off, but that talking to the other leaders has made me realise that I'm not the only one who panics occasionally, or worries about daft things. They're all incredibly supportive and they inspire me to tackle this crazy project with renewed energy.

It’s also lovely to think of the time I’ll have when I come back to spend with the boyfriend, the friends and the family.  And the scrapbook.

I hope this doesn't sound like I’m complaining – I've been loving life more than ever of late and I don’t think I've ever got out in the sunshine so much!  I've had Guide Camp, Sports day, garden BBQs, a day punting on the Cam, lots of alfresco dining and a day at Latitude festival, not to mention evenings whiled away outside pubs enjoying a glass of Pimm's. Or pink cider – who knew it came in pink?

But it is nice to steal these moments of calm and reflect on things.  Like how good a cup of tea tastes outside.  Or how lovely it is to spend a whole evening talking to a couple of friends, or how much fun I can have browsing for a few crafty supplies. Can I top you up? No?  I don’t understand, how could you not want another cup?  I know it would be your fourth, but they’re only little cups so you've really hardly had any!  Alright, I’ll top mine up – that’ll be the end of this pot.  

It’s been lovely to catch up.  Why not stay for a second pot?  It comes with cake and I promise I'll do my best to be quiet for a bit as I want to hear about your adventures.  It will be a struggle as it's brilliant when I talk (this is an established objective fact, and not merely my opinion) but I am curious and I do want to listen to your stories.

Kisses xxx

P.S. For more tea-based moments, head over to Abi's blog, Creating Paper Dreams.

P.P.S. I have also learned to use Bloglovin and Instagram.  I hate when the technology I've painstakingly learned to use changes (yes I'm talking to you, the oh-so-fickle Google Reader) but I actually quite like Bloglovin.  And Instagram is just fun with cameras, what's not to love!

Friday 26 July 2013

Scrapping the Macaroons

When it came to making a page for my macaroon story (full story here from previous post), I had an important point to consider.  First, I'd written all that journalling and wanted to include it all on the page.  Seems silly not to if you've already put all that time into telling the story!  However, there was quite a lot of it and I didn't want to just have an entire page of writing with a photo squashed on the edge and no room for embellishment.  And I like my white space too.

So I needed to reconcile the desire to have both lots of space and lots of writing.  Hiding my journalling was an option, but I do like to have my handwriting on the page as I think it gives it a more personal, handmade touch.  And I like it to be clear when you look at my layouts that there is a story here, that I've taken the time to write about this moment, and that it's there to read.

So here's my solution: I have journalled on a separate, 'hidden' sheet, but it's actually not so hidden!  I made my page on white cardstock, designed and embellished in the way I like with some white space, and cut out a heart shape behind the main cluster of paper and photos. The white cardstock is then mounted on an aqua-coloured background, but with a secret pocked to slide out the journalling.  That way, you can see still see the 'hidden' journalling when the page is all together, but you can also pull it out to get the full, admittedly lengthy, story.

Why do it on map paper?  There's a deep philosophical reason...I thought it was pretty! I added a little tab on the top though, so it's easy to slide out the journalling from the layout.  Problem solved - I quite enjoyed doing this and it's an idea I'd definitely use again.  I don't think I've ever told a short story in my life and more and more I find 12x12 too small to fit the words on.  I don't particularly want to do two pagers, so this may be something I can employ more in the future!

Kisses xxx

P.S. Time for Tea with Abi from Creating Paper Dreams tomorrow.  Her blog is one of my favourites (and my envy for her blog design skills knows no bounds). This post inspired me to load up my tea tray with pot, cup and saucer, milk jug and breakfast and head outside for a picnic breakfast on the grass outside my flat while I made my to do list for the day.  So thanks for that Abi :D

P.P.S. I'm heading off to Cambodia shortly and so dashing around like a mad thing trying to get all the lists sorted. You can find out what's going down here: Cambodia GOLD 2013

P.P.P.S. Finally, if you'd like a postcard from Cambodia, email me your address to the email below (minus the spaces) and I'll see what I can do!  I'm collecting a list of addresses to take with me and I'm looking forward to writing about my experiences when I get a free minute!

journal of curious things @ googlemail . com 

Thursday 18 July 2013

Perfect Macaroons (Assorted Sizes)

Perfect Macaroons was the name of the cooking class I attended at the oh-so-swish Waitrose cookery school last night.  And it was awesome! They gave us a special apron to wear and I felt a bit like I was something between a contestant on the Great British Bake Off and a celebrity chef. We all worked in pairs at a little workstation following the, frankly numerous, instructions, and I was partnered with an older lady named Daphne.  

Daphne was lovely and it was a bit like having a temporary grandma; she let me do all the steps as she said she struggled to hear the instructions and found stirring quite an effort.  However, this didn't prevent her from bustling around our little kitchen area, following me and clearing up after me, doing the washing up and wiping down the benches.  All totally unnecessary as the helpful Waitrose fairies made all the washing up disappear and new things appeared and this seemed to happen by magic without you really noticing. 

 Obviously after 20 minutes, I was wearing more of the icing sugar than the meringue was.  And that's Italian meringue for those of you wondering.  However, Daphne and I concocted a perfectly respectable mixture, dyed it green and piped our macaroons.

We were told that, whatever you do, once you've piped one of the delicate little meringue shells, don't go back and add to at as it will crack in the oven.  I went back and added to mine willy-nilly as some of them weren't very circular but were somewhere in between irregular polygon and dinosaur shaped.  And they didn't crack.  Haha!  Perhaps because mine weren't quite as delicate and petite and perfectly matched as some of the more successful students. Still, a sprinkling of pistachios made them look pretty.  Interesting macaroon fact-of-the-day: pistachios are too oily to go into the meringue mixture and will affect the texture, so you should only pop them on top for pistachio macaroons.

While they were in the oven, we knocked together a very yummy raspberry buttercream with a custard base and then whipped out the meringue and played match-the-macaroon halves.  Obviously I'd made an odd number so I ate the least appetising looking one.

It turned out to be a reasonably forgiving process; each half matched with another near enough and once stuck together with the rapberry filling, they were quite a pretty pastel green and pink combo.  I made 13 and a half - if you count the half I'd eaten - and I quickly wolfed down a couple to check they were OK.

Normally I would have said I'm not that wild about macaroons, but mine were extremely yummy!  Vain, yes, but true!  The raspberry buttercream had a real tartness to it and was wonderful with the almondy pistachioness of the macaroons.  Sluuurrrp!

That left me with 11, which wouldn't all fit in the box, so I ate another one thoughtfully and managed to fit ten in.  But they looked a bit silly, so I ate another and managed to arrange the nine remaining macaroons in a nice square shape.  I shut them up for the night and signed the box.  Definitely a celebrity chef now.

So there it is.  Macaroons: Assorted Perfection.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I though I'd write this now so that when I come to scrap it, I've already sorted my journalling and pictures!

P.P.S. I fed the rest of the macaroons to the maths department this morning,  They did not last beyond 9:15am. I think this is a positive sign.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

It's been a while...

Hello poor, neglected little blog. I still love you! You can’t tell, but I’m making an apologetic face right now.  It looks a bit like this :( But I’ve been a bit busy and so I’m hoping to resume normal service towards the end of August when things might calm down a bit.  Because until they do, while I love have TONS to scrap about, I have no actual scrapping time.

I know.  Shocking.

So I present unto the internet gods at the little alter of blogging, this page about the Tea Potter 2013.  It's only taken 3 months.

Journalling reads...

The tea potter is now a tradition.  I think three years qualifies as traditional. In fact, I should probably look to expand to other annual celebrations and locations.  But for this year, we hit YumChaa, the first London tea place I discovered and an old favourite largely because they permit you to inhale vast quantities of tea leaves before settling on which variety you want swimming around in your pot.  And because vanilla scones are yummy. And so is lemon drizzle cake, and chocolate cake.  And because they give you so much tea paraphernalia and have such a shabby chic look that you can set up really arty (ie pretentious) photos.  We pottered to another couple of places too, because let’s face it, without that it aint no tea potter.  But Yum Chaa will always be up there. Even though their wifi totally sucks!

Kisses xxx

P.S. One of my new year’s resolutions was to say yes to more things.  To this end, I am currently trying to balance my job, Guides, being the County International Advisor (purely because the acronym is CIA!) and leading a GOLD project with Girlguiding to Cambodia.  And as fun is important too, I’ve been making more of an effort to see my friends, and a another new year’s resolution - to find Mr Second Date – has turned out to occupy quite a chunk of my time over the last few months (and I hope he continues to do so :D)  I know we’re all busy and hey, I like it that way, but I think a good New Academic Year's Resolution will be to realise that sometimes saying 'No' is OK too.

P.P.S. I'm still dropping in on blogs when I get the chance (although still pouting over the Google Reader demise).