Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Two on Tuesday x

Good morning and welcome to Two on Tuesday the weekly post where I share things which I have found on the Internet, read, bought or just found inspirational.

Firstly, I would like to share with you a beautiful new kit club from right here in the UK - The Lollipop Box Club. I first read about this club on the beautiful blog of Curlywiggles who had the chance to receive a review sample box. It looked so beautiful that I went off to explore the website and find out more. The founder is Lisa, a crafter, vintage lover and of course a scrapbooker. The club only began last month and each moth the box you receive has a theme. The first kit was Alice In Wonderland.

Lisa describes the club as.......................

A Lollipop kit is a fun monthly kit that’s delivered to you every month.  On the 1st of every month a new theme will go on sale. The contents will vary every month keeping it fresh and exciting for you and full of surprise.  There will be a variety of crafts, vintage findings, cute stationery, a super easy mini DIY kit, handmade goodies, homeware, jewellery, a mystery gift for you and of course a handmade lollipop for you to enjoy whilst opening up your fun kit.  The contents will vary every month, so one month you may not get any jewellery, but you may get an additional piece of stationery.
Our kits are handmade and hand sourced.  The contents and colours may vary.  Each kit is unique in it’s own way which is why we love them so much. They are not mass produced.  We only make a certain amount of kits every month.  A lot of love, care and time goes in to each and every one.
I received my kit this morning and it is so pretty I didn't want to unwrap anything but I have to admit I did and it is even more lovely once unwrapped. The box is all wrapped in twine on arrival and there is a personal note inside from Lisa. And here is how it all looked..............

 First in the theme of Alice, an Eat me lollipop. Hopefully I won't shrink or grow taller once eaten. That would be a laugh.

A really small handmade clip holder which is magnetic so you can put it on the fridge or any metal board. Then a red pen with an origami bunny and a pocket full of punched hearts and some flower paperclips along with a Love rubber stamp. I plan on using the stamp in my parent's Golden wedding pages.

An envelope with red, heart shaped buttons and a roll of washi tape as well as two bunny clips.

A tea party kit because it wouldn't be an Alice theme without one. Inside the envelope are two invites and envelopes as well as a card with toothpicks on the back with a full explanation of how to make little party flags. I feel the need to invite friends round for tea and cake now, not exactly a hardship really.

The crochet heart is a hair clip.

Then an envelope with......................... open me...............

Inside was a handcrafted tag and on the back are 2 lovely hair clips which will be great for my very long hair.

A scroll with two sheets of book paper...........................

An envelope with drink me on...........................

Inside were a range of paper items including vintage pages, vintage playing cards, some sticky notes and a lovely paperclip.....................

Have to say I'm really looking forward to using the kit and for next month. The next kit is called Bon Voyage and looks amazing too................................

Secondly let me introduce a gadget. I am always intrigued by new things which could help me to print out pictures on the go. I have a Polaroid Pogo which prints out small pictures although sometimes I find them a little dark. But this gadget looks intriguing.

It prints direct from your phone via wireless and uses instant pictures, much like a Polaroid, to print your images. The fun part is that via the App you can use a variety of templates to add to your pictures and also add dates and information like where the picture was taken. 
Price wise it comes in on Amazon.co.uk at around £120.00 with the Fujifilm around £13.00 for 20 pictures. It seems to use the same film I have for my camera the FujiInstax mini which is the modern version of a polaroidstyle camera. The pictures are really clear and process virtually instantly.

I wonder if anyone has one of these printing gadgets yet and if it is as much fun as it looks. I can imagine it would be great for scrapbooking away weekends hint hint for September.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Me on Monday x

On a Bank Holiday here in the UK so extra special weekend. I'm joining in with Sian today sharing my weekend exploits.

It's been a mixed bag of weekend weather as always for a bank holiday - Saturday was scorching, Sunday was wet and today is cloudy but that's ok, we UK peeps knuckle down and take our coats and brollies with just in case.

Saturday was a sit in the garden and relax kind of day. I spent it catching up with my projects for "My Details" an online class I'm taking with Kristin. I'm using lots of journalling, paint and a small selection of scrapbooking items to make my book which is a Simple Stories folder. I also sat and read away into my new Val McDermid book, got to love a crime thriller. It was also a pass your pilot tests on the computer bookkeeping course evening so I can do the real thing. Multiple guess was never my strong point but now I've passed stage one so onto the next level, Yippee!!!!

Yesterday was all the tea, cake and catching up with friends. We sat in a lovely cafe sipping our drinks, whiling away the dampness of the day with tales of fun trips, health improvements, boyfriend troubles, books read and summer plans. Lovely. We also made a trip to the moat to meet the new cygnets who put on the perfect display of cuteness for us. There was 8 little fluff balls on the water. It was also a plant buying day for some pots which look slightly weedy but should spring forth like Chelsea flower show, not!

Today is a day for trips back in time to my old home in Wells for the fair. There will be more of the above mentioned tea, cake and plants. Meeting friends, seeing cute animals in the show and sipping drinks on the cricket pitch.

What have you all been up to? I do hope it's been fun.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Dunkirk 75th anniversary x

Today I'd like to tell you the story of how history and family come together as one. As many of you may have seen on the news this week, it is the 75th anniversary of the rescue of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk when Germany invaded France in 1940. This rescue mission involved not only the Navy but many hundreds of local Kent boat owners who risked their lives to go across The Channel to rescue those soldiers they could. The story of "the little boats" is famous in this country. Between May 26 and June 4 1940, 338,000 troops were evacuated under Operation Dynamo. This effort also led to Winston Churchill's famous speech given to Parliament on June 4, 1940.........................

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

This was a very long speech and can be read in full here.

This has a very personal link for me and my family as my dad's father, Jack Sowerby was critically wounded and rescued from there on 31 May 1940. My grandad was an amazing man and I thought I would share a little bit of his story as a memorial to not only his experiences but those of the thousands of men who were injured, killed or captured as POWs at that time.

My grandad was born in Co Durham and he joined the Coldstream Guards in 1932 aged 18 years old. I am very lucky to have copies of his attestation papers in my family history files. These are papers signed when a new soldier signs up and follow him through his career. He was given these by the Coldstream Guards many years ago when my dad arranged a surprise visit for him to their barracks in Chelsea.

This picture is my grandad in his full Coldstream Guards uniform. It's not a great shot as it is a frame so reflects I'm afraid.

My grandad served with the Coldstream Guards, met my grandma and had my dad Gary in 1938. He remained in the Guards and was sent to France in 1939 as the German army began trying to invade other European countries. My grandad was in the 2nd battalion Coldstream Guards for all of his career.

This is a picture from a book my dad owns of all the Sergeants, including grandad, before leaving Aldershot

My grandad is the middle man in the row of three.

From his attestation papers, he was sent with his platoon to France in September 1939 and they eventually found themselves in a small town called Bachy, which is not far from Lille.

My parents has visited the town before and there is a painting inside the station of a Coldstream Guard in full regalia. My dad spoke to a French gentleman who said that the townspeople are forever grateful for the protection the Guards provided them.

As the invading forces moved onwards, the Guards became embroiled in many skirmishes and many were killed or injured. My grandad once told us the story of how his commanding officer requested that he transfer his break in the UK and grandad came home early. On his return to France, he found that his commanding officer and platoon had all been killed in a skirmish which my grandad would also have been involved in if he'd not altered his leave. My grandad always said that he save his life by asking him to go home early.

In my research for this post, I found some fascinating details in the 2nd battalion's war diaries. Most of them have been destroyed but there are some parts which have been transcribed on a website dedicated to WW2. These diaries enable you to get a clearer picture of the experiences my grandad would have had during his time in France.

The main parts that I read described the days after the Germans invaded France and the soldiers had to move back towards the coast as the German forces moved upwards trying to cut them off. The nearest place to get to was the beaches around Dunkirk. The war diaries clearly describe the mass evacuation not only of the soldiers but also of the French people trying to escape through the roads, and you get a real sense of fear as many of these roads made the evacuating people open to the German planes who shot at and killed and injured many evacuees. Often the roads became blocked by destroyed vehicles and dead bodies. It must have been horrific.

Eventually, the 2nd battalion ended up in a place called La Basse Canal where they attempted to hold the Germans back thus enabling the other British and German soldiers to be evacuated from Dunkirk. As I read these diary pages, I came across this section from May 31, 1940................

This shocked and surprised me, as so many soldiers were injured it seemed incredible that my grandad's name, Sergeant Sowerby was mentioned. However, it must be remembered that there could have been another Sowerby injured in the same way and at the same time. I would love to think that it was my grandad but we will never know for sure. My grandad was injured on 31 May and was in Carrier Troop though so it could be him..

My grandad was so badly injured, he had a fractured skull, shrapnel injuries and bullet wounds to the skull as well. These are documented in his attestation papers. We are not sure which boats brought him back to Dover Castle, however he was very lucky to come home and receive the specialist care he needed as many soldiers and sailors died in the boats before they even began to return across The Channel. Many soldiers were killed on the beaches themselves as they were easy targets for the planes.

After returning to England, my grandad spent many months recovering in hospital in Hillingdon and Mill Hill initially for 4 months and then for a further 3 months in 1941.  He was also sent to Roehampton for aftercare. My grandad said he remembers waking up and seeing my grandma and my dad who was a toddler at the end of his bed. My grandad was eventually discharged from the Coldstream Guards in 1941 for medical reasons and because he had what they called "neurosis". I am sure that these days we would call that Post-traumatic stress disorder.

On his papers, his commanding officer wrote:

" Military conduct - Exemplary, A steady, smart, hardworking and intelligent NCO who has done (unclear writing) throughout his period of mobilisation.............. Disability - multiple gunshot wounds to the head"

As a young girl, I remember my grandad had little hair and he had what he called "his dimples" which I would put my fingers into and laugh little knowing that these were in fact the scars of his wounds. He suffered from debilitating headaches for the rest of his life but considering he was only given 10 years to live after Dunkirk, he managed to survive until 1994 when he sadly died as a result of an aortic aneurysm in his abdomen.

In my family, we are very proud of his achievements in the Guards and so was he. He was a member of the Dunkirk Veterans Association and travelled back to Dunkirk for the 40th anniversary of those events in 1985. This is his certificate................

And his medals......................

As so many of the soldiers who fought for our freedom are now no longer with us due to age and infirmity, I am so very glad to be able to continue to tell some of my grandad's story so that he, and his comrades, will not be forgotten.

Some of the 2015 veterans in Dunkirk, they are all in their 90s, from The Telegraph

The Allied Beaches Memorial, Dunkirk

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Jay Bell - Something like series x

Today is a special day.................

yes it's Wednesday, middle of the working week, hump day and also drum roll............

the publication of Jay's 10th book.

photo owned by Jay Bell

Jay is an American writer living and working in Germany, where his husband Andreas was born. Jay writes the books and Andreas designs and draws all the illustrations for Jay's books. A husband and husband team of incredible creativity.

photo by Jay Bell

Above are all of Jay's books to date, the most recent is bottom right "Something like Thunder" which is the 6th in Jay's "Something like......." series. This series began with "Something like Summer" which is the first in the Seasons series and has now progressed into weather i.e. Lightning and Thunder.

This series follows the story of Ben and Tim, two high school students who following an accident become friends and then......................... well you'll have to read the stories now won't you.

I have read all Jay's books, except obviously this new one, although I could have, more on that later. What I love about the books Jay writes is his brilliant characterisation, the engaging stories of a wide variety of characters from all walks of life, romance, life and hope. I always come away feeling real hope when I've read one of Jay's books. The other brilliant concept is that certainly with Summer and Winter the stories are told from different points of view. Summer is primarily Ben's and Winter is Tim's. This provides such a wonderful insight into the parts of the books which were missing, it gives a breadth to the characters and introduces you to even more.

Autumn and Winter introduce new characters but with Ben and Tim well and truly interacting with them, whilst Thunder and Lightning give newer or smaller characters a chance to shine.

So onto  why I could have already read the latest book, Something Like Thunder.

Are you sitting comfortably? Well so was I last Friday afternoon, when there was a thud on my doorstep. Thinking it was a new telephone book, I left whatever it was for a while and about an hour later went to pick it up (sorry Jay).

To my surprise there was a padded envelope with lovely stamps on it.

"What did I order that I forgot about?"

On examination, it was from Jay. "What is he sending me?" I wonder (Jay and I have corresponded for a while via email, Facebook etc).

Opening the parcel, out comes a copy of "Something like Thunder" to which I say another "What?" and 2 pieces of A4 paper.

On said paper pieces are three emails we had shared back in August and September 2013 to which I give another "What?"

On the back is a handwritten note from Jay saying................

Hi Jo!
Surprise! Remember this email exchange? I hope you like the end result. Please keep the details secret until the book has been out for a while. We don't to spoil it for anyone!
Thanks much for everything!

To wit another "What?"

So I re-read the emails and go "Oh yeah, we had a conversation about a plot point and I told Jay about an idea I had". Thinking no more I open the book to have a sneak and come to the Acknowledgements page and see this.............

To which, I have a few freaking out moments using certain language not necessarily heard from this lady's lips. Have another look, freak out a bit more then laugh and wander around in a daze with a stupid grin on my face before sending a gushing fangirl email to Jay.

And Jay, being the lovely gentleman he is didn't run for the German mountains with Andreas but sent me the loveliest reply telling me he'd planned it all as a surprise and how my idea had just happened to work for this novel.

I've only told a few people, mainly mum and dad. This led to a hilarious exchange on Saturday.

Me: So what do you think?

The Mother: So your names in this book?

Me: Yes.

The Mother: So is it only in your book then?

Me: No, it will be in all the copies of the book people buy across the world.

The Mother: so it's quite a big thing then really?

Me: Yes

The Mother: Well isn't that nice.

Yes, actually it is Mum lol.

Now as a hater of spoilers, I know not to tell you guys what my idea was or how Jay made it come to life. Indeed, not even I'm sure quite how it's going to roll out because my copy is now virgin territory. It is one of only 3 proof copies in the world and I want to bu another copy to read so this one remains special.

I am looking forward to seeing how Jay's wonderful characters progress this time.

If you'd like to find out more about Jay then he blogs here and he will be celebrating big time for his 10th book.

Also Something like Summer is about to become a movie in the USA, filming begins this summer and I cannot be more happy for both Jay and Andreas as they move into a new chapter for the books and the characters they've brought to life.

I am sure all Jay's fans will agree he so deserves this recognition and wish him great big congratulations for number 10.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Two on Tuesday x

Wow another week gone and it's Two on Tuesday.

So I hope you've all recovered from the brilliant weekend of Focusing on your crafting with Jennifer Grace. I have to say she truly outdid herself with the crafting this time, I was super impressed. I popped over to most of the posts but I have chosen just one to focus on today as it is something anyone can do and it has such an impact. Make an inspiration wall...........................

I chose this because it is such a simple idea but really, really effective. You can do it absolutely anywhere really. Jennifer used a door and we almost all have a spare one of those, but you could use a wall, pinboard, a canvas, a big frame and lots of other ideas to focus you.
I know I have quite a few bits that are in my craft room hidden away which I could get out and produce a focused area all of my own and it looked really simple. If you go to Jennifer's blog, there is a process video to watch too so you can get an idea of how she put the whole wall together.

If you'd like further inspiration then there are tons of great links on Pinterest of course. I found these 2 ideas for renters like myself.....................

 photo from here
In the picture above, washi tape has been used to both frame and also hang pictures on the wall. The beauty of washi tape is it doesn't affect the paintwork so you shouldn't have any problems with your landlord when you move out. All you have to do is alter the washi tape when you want to refresh you inspiration wall.

photo from here
Here is another excellent idea using an old shutter, or a louvred door. I've seen these used on DIY shows for magazine holders, records and books and you can just take this with you when you move and respray it different colours to suite your mood.

And on a personal note, Mandy from A Teacup of Scrapisms sent me a lovely comment based on my bloghop post which you can read here. She was so inspired by my journal and ideas that she's begun one of her own. Thank you so much Mandy, blogfriends are brilliant.

My second offering today is your own personal Sheldon Cooper amigurami doll. I LOVE The Big Bang Theory, it is by far the best comedy programme I watch and I would love to have my own Sheldon to sing me soft kitty when I'm ill.

If you can't afford your own Sheldon, I'm sure he's way out of my price range, then why not crochet one. A(mi]dorable Crochet has the perfect pocket sized pattern for you here.

Furthermore, Jackie has patterns for most of the Big Bang gang. Here's Amy............

and if that wasn't enough Jackie gave the real Sheldon his own version which he shared on US TV. Go Jackie.
You need to go to about 2.30 minutes in for that part......................

Have a happy Tuesday x

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Focus Your Craft and Soul bloghop x

Good evening welcome to the next part of Jennifer Grace's bloghop in celebration of her latest blog event.

You should have arrived here from K's Crafty Corner or perhaps you hopped over from Bloglovin. However you arrive, do be sure to hop over to Jennifer's blog and follow all the other lovely blogposts, not only because it'll be a beautiful trip but also because you could win a fabulous giveaway. 

This is the rather aptly named "Shine" Insta album kit set you could win courtesy of  WRK. Enter to win by commenting on all the blogs in the Focus Your Craft & Soul hop! The giveaway closes on Sunday the 24th of May at 10pm BST, and is open internationally".

For me, crafting is all about relaxation and to be honest at the moment, I'm really busy so my relaxation times are small. In order to maintain some semblance of creativity, which helps my mental health no end, and to not get bogged down in the daily routines of life, I began doing a small piece of creative activity everyday after I've had my supper.

I have begun keeping a creative book and I'm following 2 projects on Instagram which I found via Amy Tangerine's blog and Instagram account. These 2 projects help keep me focused on being creative everyday without having to get out a load of scrapbooking supplies or taking a huge amount of time when I'm tired or just unmotivated.

This is one of the great things about blogging and using social media - the joy of finding something which inspired you to be creative in new and interesting ways. 

The first project I'm doing is called the Creative Midori Challenge and is the brainchild of Florence Antonette on Instagram aka livelifeandcreate . Every month she sets a daily topic for you to be creative with, this month's May can be found here . I like the fact that the topics are slightly off the wall some days and I have to think a bit before creating my page but also they are brief and I can do as little or as much as I feel up for.

Here are a couple of my pages............

The second challenge project is by Cori aka  The Reset Girl. Again each month,  Cori compiles a daily listing topic and you base your creative activity on that. I use the same journal for this project and much like Amy Tangerine I have one side of the page for my listing challenge and the other for the creative midori challenge. Here are a few of my lists..........

What really focuses me on these projects is that it is so simple and quick. I have a tray in my lounge with all the basic bits I use for the projects. It has my journal which was 99 pence from The Works, my watercolour paints, brushes, a StazOn ink pad, some washi tapes, some stamps, a stamping block, pens, pencils, a few stickers - alphabets, quotes and sayings, and that is just about it.

Keeping this tray simple has meant I am focused on being creative rather than swamping myself with lots of choices. I can always add some extras on as I go along, but I am pretty much keeping it to those few bits. And so far I've done everyday for 15 days so that makes me very happy indeed.

Your next blogger is Jacky so hop on over and see what she had prepared for you. Have a wonderful time.