Friday 30 September 2016

A Scapbook Story in Layers

This is a page I worked on a little while ago about my experiences travelling through the rainforest in Ecuador's Amazon basin.  You can read about the full adventure here! I've shared a few sneaks of this page, but the whole layout is now live on
The full tutorial talks you through the layout, and how you can fit lots of photos and a longer story into one page, so that it's still effectively one page and fits concisely in your album.  I wanted my experiences of the rainforest to be in my album, and I wanted to include lots of photos, but I didn't fancy making page after page of jungle-green layouts.  This page was a happy medium that let me do both!
I hope you enjoy the tutorial over on; after all, now that autumn is upon us it's a lovely time to get crafting!
Kisses xxx
P.S. Even better, once it gets to November, I can legitimately start doing some Christmas scrapbooking!

Friday 16 September 2016

Elephants on Parade

 This summer, I visited the continent of Africa for the first time. I climbed sand dunes in the desert for the first time, went in a microlight for the first time, ate oryx for the first time and yes, went on safari. Several times. Today I want to share a few pictures that I took of some of the elephants we encountered.
First of all, it's worth stating for the record that elephants are huge. Like, really huge. 
And they absolutely don't care about anything. Why would they? They're peaceful, have very little to worry about on the predator front and puny humans are simply of no concern. They supremely and regally ignored us.
The first time I saw elephants was in the Etosha National Park in Namibia. We were camping in a fenced off area, and once we'd arrived and pitched our tents, we wandered down to the watering hole. 
And my jaw dropped. Elephants. Loads of them. Drinking and showering in water and dust in the dusky twilight.
The watering hole is on the other side of a pretty sturdy-looking wall, and on our side were benches to sit and perch and watch. And so we did, mesmerised by the spectacle. The elephants bathed and splooshed and went about their business and eventually wandered off. Seeing elephants that close and in such numbers was so far beyond my expectations. I had sort of images that going on safari is long periods of nothing with the occasional dot on the horizon that may or may not be an antelope. If you're lucky.
I did not expect whole herds of elephants to be chilling in prime photography position by the campsite.
 We spent literally hours that evening, quietly spellbound, sitting and watching by the watering hole. More elephants turned up for their evening ablutions periodically. And we would joke in a whisper that the seven o'clock show might be done, but the 7:30 performers would be along soon. And they always were.
Sometimes interlopers appeared. A nervous giraffe, afraid of his own shadow put in an optimistic appearance but was never brave enough to make it to the water. There were springboks galore too, and the odd rhino. But when the elephants arrived, they cleared everyone out of the way, snorting and even charging until their demands were met. And really, who's going to argue? No wonder giraffes are nervous.
And we watched, as sunset gilded the horizon, as the elephants became grey shapes shambling through the dark. And we still watched, into the night.
We spent more time at the watering hole the next day and into the evening, enjoying the antics of a little one who was enjoying a bath, and clearly desperate to fit in with his much bigger family. I think he was my favourite, and I absolutely know he smiled at me, especially for my pictures.
Our other big elephant experience was staying at Elephant Sands in Botswana. Not far from Nata, Elephant Sands is quite literally a place in the sands with elephants, a camp around a desert watering hole frequented by these impressive giants.
Big permanent tents are arranged in a wide arc around the water, and there's a bar and terrace which completes the ring. There's nothing else for miles around because you don't need anything else: you come to see the elephants visiting the site. And my goodness, there are elephants.
They appear from nowhere, suddenly on the horizon, making a beeline for the water. These elephants are somewhat more frenzied as this is the only water for miles around. They aren't really into sharing and operated on a much more take-what-you-can-get attitude. 
I was so excited to watch that I just chucked my bag in the tent and bounced impatiently until my roommate was ready.
Armed with my elephant safety guide, I set out. Elephant safety training goes something like this: Don't annoy one because it's bigger than you.  So don't be an idiot, don't get in the way, keep a safe distance, don't get between an elephant and something it wants, such as water, or its baby and don't make a lot of noise.
If you do annoy one, you will know because it will start flapping its ears menacingly at you.  At this point, you need to leave, calmly and briskly.  Next it will mock charge.  At this point, you need to have left already, because after that comes a real charge, and after that, frankly what's left of you could be spread on toast.
There is some etiquette at Elephant Sands. It's important to remember that a) Elephant Sands is completely open, no fences to keep out the wildlife. And b) weirdly, elephants make no noise when they walk; they're strangely light of foot. So to head to the terrace for good views, you have to dodge from tent to tent, peering around corners, checking for elephants and then walking calmly around once you're sure there are none coming.
We spent the whole afternoon and evening watching the elephants, having a drink on the terrace, dinner outside and then settling down again. We were so close to the animals but again, they were so disinterested in our presence. After all, why bother with the tiny people when you can trumpet at other elephants, snort and clash tusks or run one another away? The elephants were somewhat restless and crotchety, barging into each other, huffing their displeasure, at times moving with surprising speed. As dusk fell, a fire was lit in the pit on the terrace which kept us warm in the cold African night, something we had come to expect after each hot, sun-drenched day.
We were seated in chairs lined up along the edge of the terrace, as close as we could be, scant feet away. You could feel the collective intake of breath and see the way we all involuntarily leaned back whenever an elephant barged in our direction, ears flapping a warning. My goodness, they can move, and they can really seem threatening. But even when the pachyderm prickliness came in our direction, it was never at us, always at the approach of a more interesting, and often much larger, competing elephant.

We were sent to be not long after ten, as there had been a lion alert nearby.  Lions do use the watering hole, but not while the elephants are there.  But the issue is apparently the lions will lie down beside the tents waiting for the elephants to leave, which can be awkward for humans who accidently stumble into one.
I suppose awkward is an understatement.  Anyway, we all went to bed before the lions came, stumbling through the dark, checking for elephants and curling up in our blankets, willing the onset of the new day which might bring the dawn trumpet of more elephants.
A truly magical experience; I look forward to the day I return to Africa.
Kisses xxx
P.S. Africa (the entire continent, I'm convinced) is photographers paradise.  Have you explored any of its countries?  Are there any you would recommend?

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Back to School

Over the past week or so, the summer has drawn to a close and students and their teachers have returned to school. For me this happened on the 31st of August which seems intolerably early, but I cannot complain as I have had a wonderful break and equally I am enjoying being back in the school routine. Crisp new exercise books, eager students, a clean whiteboard and a brand new cake rota for those lessons that we all, pupils and teacher alike, just have to get through.
It's all about the little things that help along the way!
Summer was wonderful: a long break from school brings with it the opportunity to travel which I seized with both hands. With travel, I find the more I do, the more I go, the more I see, then the more I am inspired to go further, explore more, adventure more, experience more, try more! In July, I travelled for the first time to the continent of Africa, making my way up the west coast of South Africa into Namibia and Botswana, before popping to Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. In August I spent some time in New. Zealand with my brother, marvelling at the scenery and having some quite exhilarating experiences! It was a summer that dreams are made off, a summer where I achieved 6 of the ambitions on my list and have come away with more travel dreams and ambitions. 
Back to school brings new things to share here on the blog. I am gradually editing the hundreds upon hundreds of photos I returned home with. I'm looking forward to pairing them with entries from my travel journal, blogging about the amazing places I was so fortunate to experience, and of course, scrapbooking.
And speaking of scrapbooking, I am looking forward to the weather turning cooler, the approach of Autumn, the appearance of hot chocolate of an evening, and spreading out all the pretty things around the sofa so that I can sit under a blanket with a cup of tea, scrapbooking and crafting my little heart out! I have signed up to Wilna Furstenburg's new workshop called Artventure to give me scrapbooking inspiration for the next year, a class which my parents very kindly treated me to as my Christmas present.
Back school also means back to Guides and getting excited as we fundraise for a unit trip we're planning next year to Switzerland.
Back to school means Bake Off. Enough said.
Back to school means commuting and a new knitting project as I work on the shawl that will wrap around me and keep me warm when the temperature drops.
Back to school means new recipes in the crockpot, making soup and experimenting with delicious new curry recipes.
Back to school not only means reflecting on the joys of travel in the summer, but it brings cosy evenings planning the next adventure; a time to go away with the man and the excitement of spending a week in New York together, just the two of us.
So all in all I like September. It's like a new year to me; as a teacher the academic new year I think resonates more with me than the calendar year. Its time to look forward to the coming year, make plans, reflect on golden summer days and enjoy the cool approach of Autumn with a cocktail in the last few rays of sun. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to sharing more here.
I wish you well if you're returning to education this week. And a very happy new year to all!
Kisses xxx
P.S. If anyone has any New York must-sees let me know!  I've been before but the man hasn't so we will do a mixture of the usual tourist spots and taking in the sights, but also aim to try some more unusual things too!