27 July 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Hello again, how nice to see you, do come in and close the gate behind you.

I can't believe another month has flown by and you are with me again for our monthly catch up. It was so good of you to stop by. If you were with me now I would greet you at the gate with a tray of mugs, the big blue teapot and those cakes I shared a sneak peek of on Thursday.

You would pull up one of the creaking chairs and I would position myself under the umbrella. As has become a tradition I would mention the weather as we poured the first cup. It's overcast but muggy today. After several weeks of the most glorious hot weather, the news is that we are soon to return to form with more rain and more grey days. Still, we can't complain. It's not often that Britain has a heatwave.

If you were sitting with me now I would point out the different things in our garden. The passion flower which has grown at a phenomenal rate, the fig tree that is threatening to overtake the wall and the beautiful roses along our border. I am not a gardener I would tell you but I have enjoyed watching my mum in her first year of tending this beautiful walled garden. I enjoy seeing her in her element pottering about pruning and in her words "titivating".

I would offer you the tin of cakes and laugh because since they were baked they seem to be going rather quickly. You can't beat vanilla and chocolate chip muffins. I would tell you that I am settling into holiday mode. That I am establishing a nice pattern for my days. I would tell you though that I really miss university. I miss having my friends down my corridor and going for long evening strolls and laughing till the early hours over a cup of tea. With a smile though I would recite that Pooh Bear quote which reminds me "how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
I would sit back, mug in hand and listen to your wise words on friendship and family and nod that yes, this time in all its guises needs to be savoured.

I would lean forward and confide, trying not to laugh, that as of next month I am going to be a "national trust lady". If you weren't British you would probably look at me quizzically. The National trust is a huge organisation that works with restoring land and preserving stately homes across the country. I am going to be working at an old abbey with the children. Organising activities for their families. It is volunteer work but I need to be kept busy. Looking deep into my tea I would quietly mention that the job hunt was and still is unsuccessful. I would tell you how disheartening it is to receive not a "no thank you" but no response at all from everywhere I applied. Still, I am one of the lucky ones. Volunteer work will be fun and always looks good on the old cv.

Gosh, I can waffle on. How rude of me to not ask about how you are getting on with your summer. Are you working, holidaying, relaxing? I would tell you as I bit into my second muffin that I am heading off tomorrow with the boy to France. I cannot wait for some time away with him and his family. I have him to myself for ten days and I am so excited.

The door is open to our house and out of it comes the cacophony of sounds that greet the hour. The grandfather clock chiming, the cuckoo cock calling and the clock in the lounge dinging away. You smile at all this noise and it reminds me that soon the lunch needs to be started. We drain the dregs from our mugs and I finish up our chat by telling you the big news here that my Granny has come to stay. That she has made the brave move to relocating next door to my parents. I would tell you that she is such a character and is in turn exhausting and hilarious. "next time" I tell you, "next time" you can hear all the Granny stories.

On that note you pick up your bag and I walk you to the gate. We embrace and I thank you for spending the time with me today, for reading my blog and for being a genuine friend.

If you were meeting with me now, what would you tell me? 

If you would like to write a "tea" post please add it to the linky at the bottom so we can all sit and share with you! The linky will be open for a week so you have plenty of time! 

25 July 2013

The kettle is on

The tea is brewing, the cakes are freshly baked and the sun will hopefully be shining. 
Here is a little invite to join me on Saturday 27th for a drink and a catch up. 

I use this time to share my heart, to welcome you into my world and virtually share life with you over a spot of tea. 

Anyone can join in. You can just sit and listen, you can respond in the comments or you can go the full hog and write your own "tea" post. There will be a link on here so we can all join in and chat to you over a cuppa. 

A "Tea post doesn't need to be long. If you are stuck on what to say how about five things you would tell me if I was sitting in your garden with you now. Trivial, deep, funny or serious it doesn't matter. We will enjoy catching up with friends. 

See you then!

If you want to know more about "Time for tea" click on the link on the sidebar to the right. 

24 July 2013

Lessons learnt from blog designing

Blog designing is in turn frustrating and rewarding and whilst I am happy with the end results, five years of tinkering with blogs and particularly tinkering this time around has taught me a few things.

This is what I have learnt:

Have a big picture.
I don’t necessarily plan in detail what I want to do but I do work out what I like and what sort of feel the blog will have. That meant working out that I wanted a clean and uncluttered feel which led to decisions on minimal colour and capitalization throughout.

Take it step by step.
I think blog design can be totally overwhelming. Break it down and start simple. Take your header for example. The whole look of your blog can be determined by the header and background. I made these in photoshop before touching anything on the blog. Concentrate on one thing at a time.

Google is your best friend:
I type everything and anything into google regarding blog design. At one point I wanted to work out how to add that dashed line under the post title so I typed just that into google. Two seconds later I had found a code and copy and pasted it. It really didn’t require any understanding!

Be prepared to be totally fussy.
Your blog design will only be as good as you are prepared to make it. I knew that for my own piece of mind I had to be prepared to be incredibly picky. All of the greys for instance had to be two precise shades.
Maybe this is just me but I know that if I did it by half measures I would spend a year or so unsatisfied with the design. (reading back that is probably just me!) 

At the same time let it go.
There were a few things I wanted to do with CPD which just weren’t feasible. I googled and the instructions just looked too complicated. I wasn’t prepared to spend the time to get them right. The risk of getting them wrong was too great. I therefore let it go. Be picky on what you know you can do and be selective in what you choose to do.
I figure its better to do a few things well than try everything and be scrappy.

It takes time and practice
Each time I redesign I get more adventurous. I think this is the biggest redesign I have done but that is because it is the third or fourth time around.
Start small. There is nothing wrong with just changing your header or the font of your posts. As I said before it has to be done in small steps.
I still don’t tackle the HTML. I think it will be a few more blog redesigns before I get to that stage.

There is no right or wrong.
Change your design or don’t change your design. Blogging is about a lot more than what your blog looks like. I find this process satisfying but I totally know that it is not for everyone.
The best thing about blogging is that it can be what you want it to be. For me that means playing with how my blog looks. 

From reading through the comments the vibe I was getting was that lots of us lack confidence in blog design. I am in the process of putting together some form of electronic guide which will be more step by step. I am no expert though but I think that is key. Blog designing is something very accessible and with a bigger document I hope to share some of my story, tips and how I gained confidence in blog design. 

23 July 2013

Welcome to a new design

Maybe it's an annual thing but I have been playing around with blog design again. After a year I guess I get bored and I itch (perhaps inadvisedly) to get playing with code again.

Five minutes in and I want to kill both the blogger system and the person who invented code because it just does not make sense to me.

That said the joy and feeling of accomplishment I feel on getting the blog to look like how I want is worth everything.

There are a few new things this time around. First up, "making the ordinary glorious" has gone. That is not to say I am no longer trying to keep this as my mantra but I felt CPD was lacking a real link to me and my name. Both my instagram account and my pinterest page have "abibeach" as the username and I wanted to extend this to my blog header.

I have gone back to a sidebar but I wanted to keep it really simple. There are therefore links to my "tea" posts, tutorials, about page and Project Life. I really like social media icons but just couldn't find a place for them in the blog design therefore there is a new "Connect" page.

I have spruced up both the "About" and the "Tutorials" page. Both were looking a tad out of date. I really liked an idea I had seen a lot which was to include photo links to my favourite posts. I have done this on my "about" page.

Basically the whole blog has gone a lot cleaner and simpler. The boy looked at it and called it "Swedish". I took that to mean minimalist rather than Ikea-esque!

So I would love some opinions. Are there any areas that are difficult to read, not opening or looking funny? Anything else you would like to see? I so value your opinions as long time blog friends.

I will be back tomorrow with a few things I have learnt this time around from redesigning. Mostly to help me remember for this time next year when I am ringing my hands again! 

21 July 2013


Blogger and I are not getting on at the moment.
I only want to make some minor changes to my blog but apparently I have caused too much fuss already and none of my changes are working.

So it's on with the surgeons gloves, scalpel in hand to tackle the blog head on.
I am going to try and remove all customisations, go back to a blank slate and work from there on in.
I'm scared.
I'm pretty sure this dear old blog is scared too.

I figure there is going to be a lot of mess.
Please excuse this while I try and get my little slice of the web to look like I want it too.
I may be gone for some time.. ( or perhaps a few days)!

19 July 2013

Project life week 28

Thank you so much for all of your suggestions for iphone apps. I am going to spend a happy weekend downloading and playing around. 

I'm late (again) with project life this week. Things ran away with me. As always though, I am so happy once I start creating this weeks spread and I am always pleased I make the time to finish it.

The quality of my phone photographs has totally improved and it is really changing my project life. This spread is entirely instagram and phone photography. I have also used photos on this layout that never made it to instagram. It excites me that my phone photography is a good enough quality to be able to upload photos as they are. My poor SLR is going to need a workout soon.

The photos this week are mostly from an outing the boy and I took to a National Trust property and then small moments through the rest of the week.

I am really enjoying the midnight edition PL journalling cards and used a few on this layout. I recorded details of our day trip and our walk to the beautiful reservoir. I also wrote a short letter to the boy. I think it's fun sometimes to change up the journalling style and write in a different format.

The big photos are back! The photo of the grand house was just asking to be blown up big as was the picture of the lake. I find it interesting to see how including a big photo can totally change the imapct of the spread.

As usual some wrap around tags and sentiments on most of the photos. Also quite a bit of handwriting this week, around the roses and as a filler card on the first spread.

Anything else: 
I still like this project and am itching to get the book underway!

17 July 2013

What i-phone apps do you use?

So a few weeks back I got an i-phone.
I am such a convert. I love the camera, I love the design and I love all the apps.

But there is the problem. I am totally overwhelmed by the choice of apps.
I have downloaded a few photography ones and some I love some not so much.
My favourite is "afterlight" for editing photos. I didn't really like "over" when I first started using it but its growing on me.

If you have an iphone, what apps do you use? Both creative and everyday and games.
Which apps would you not like to be without?
Which apps are worth spending money on?

Thanking you in advance from a rather overwhelmed iphone user!

15 July 2013

Simply a moment

I am sitting outside at the weathered wooden table. Under the umbrella.
It is warm again today. Uncharacteristically we are all up before ten and I think it was because it was just so hot last night.
I'm not complaining though. I like this sunny weather although today is slightly more overcast.

There I go again, being British and talking about the weather.
Thinking about being British I ponder when the Royal Baby will be born and shake my head inwardly at how crazy the media is already going about it.

My laptop is out in front of me along with a cup of tea and my bible study notes. I like this summer routine of getting up, having a quick shower, making myself a big mug of tea and then setting up in the garden to do my quiet time.
After I finish my Bible reading I lean back in my chair and quickly browse through instagram. Not a lot is happening on there at this time of day. Most of my American friends are fast asleep.

Instead I take a take a large gulp of tea, pull my laptop closer towards me and fire up bloglovin.
Time for a fun romp through blog land. Sometimes my list of unread blogs is overwhelming however today there is only seventeen. I like stopping by my friends and reading what they are getting up to.

As the minutes slip happily by the boys come out in the garden and the twitter of the birds is accompanied by the "ping", "pong" of the table tennis game and their muffled shouts of exasperation and joy.

I like this summer weather (there I go again) when the doors are all open, the windows are flung wide and the garden becomes an extra room. The boys have now moved back inside and I hear their muffled voices floating out of the house.

The noise level increases as mum turns on the mixer in the kitchen.

I have nearly finished my blog reading now and the cat has curled itself around my ankles. My mum has come and joined me in the sun with her paper and a fresh mug of tea for me. Glorious.

I reflect that this is the best way to start a morning and then decide to write it down as my little moment for the month.

Today I am joining in with Alexa's beautiful meme, "Simply a Moment." Do stop by her blog to read both Alexa's words and other bloggers as they record their moments. 

13 July 2013

Painted stripe clutch

Sometimes I just have those urges to make something. Anything. My hands itch for the sewing machine and the pot of paint.

I had this lovely piece of linen lying around that I knew I wanted to make into something. I had picked it up for 50p in Laura Ashley. (Top tip, go into furniture stores and look out for the remnants or sample bins. If you can't find them ask for a sample of material and most shops will be happy to give it to you. I find this is a cheap or sometimes free way of picking up good quality heavy duty material like linen, canvas or curtain fabric.)

Whilst looking for something to do with it I stumbled across this tutorial for a clutch bag.
I loved the look of the metallic paint on the neutral material. I therefore found some silver acrylic paint and haphazardly painted vertical lines down my strip of linen.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. A bit wonky perhaps but I feel it adds to the charm.

I then followed the tutorial to make the clutch. I used this lovely soft flowered fabric I had left from my quilt as the lining.

The making of the clutch was super simple. It really was as easy as folding the rectangle into thirds and then sewing the edges. I decided not to add a closure like in the tutorial but just to hold it closed.

The whole clutch is a little on the wonky side but it will be a fun and quirky accessory to take out on those summer evenings.

11 July 2013

Project life week 27

Lots and lots of photos this week so the spread came together quickly. Always nice when that happens! 

Last week I got an iphone. I am still super excited about this as I have wanted one for a long time. I think my favourite thing about it is the camera. The quality is ace and I have been filling up all of your IG feeds with silly every day photos! I wanted to record this excitement though because I guess in a year I will find it funny. 

In particular are photos from my trip to the farm, watching Wimbledon with the cat on my knee, our potato harvest and the joys of sending and receiving mail. 

There wasn't space for much this week! I used a wrap around card stretched across two photos on the left hand spread. I like how this turned out so think I will use the technique again. I also added little snippets to a few of the photos and told the story of the new phone and the ridiculous number of bananas my mum brought home! I also had to include the story of the week which was Andy Murray winning Wimbledon. Part of me loves that a landmark like this sits alongside such everyday things as bananas. Only in Project Life! 

A few weeks back I purchased the midnight edition journalling cards. I am really impressed by the set. There are so many to choose from and in great colours. I am always a fan of grey and yellow! They also include nice sentiments so I have been cutting a few of these out and adding them to photos like the "this week" arrow. 

Anything else: 
I am excited to see where PL will go now that I have a better camera on my phone. Before, I was always reluctant to include phone photos because of the quality. Now that it is improved I think my phone photos will be making more of an appearance. 

I am also loving doing project life in the summer. Sunnier photos make for happy pages! 

8 July 2013

Snail mail and the wisdom of Pooh Bear

I love getting letters. I love sending letters too.
I am sad that less people my age embrace "snail mail". Maybe it is the crafter in me but I cherish letters in a way I don't emails. Letters need to be thought out. Pen goes physically to paper as the writer captures a small moment of their lives. A moment that by the time the letter has reached the recipient will be old news.
There is something magical in that.
There is also something magical in what the letter is written on, whether that be a well chosen card, a scrap of lined paper or thick white cartridge.

Despite the fact that I contact my friends most days I wanted to send them something. I like writing letters and I like making cards so it was pretty enjoyable task!

I set about choosing supplies and used a lot of the things I received in the swap. I haven't made cards in a while but really enjoyed the process.

Now one of my friends at uni is a quote lover. During exams we would email our favourite book quotes back and forth to keep ourselves motivated. We agreed that Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh have the most wonderful quotes
After seeing beautiful examples of Sian's quote cards I decided it was high time that I tried a quote card myself. Unlike Sian however I decided to forgo literary wisdom and chose instead the wisdom of Pooh Bear.

Just as I sent them off I received this one from my friend which I felt summed up everything nicely!

Do you enjoy sending or receiving letters?

7 July 2013

Storytelling Sunday- the journey

When I was seven my family and I moved to the other side of the world for a year.
We moved to the Falkland Islands. 
I remember being told about the Falklands and not being able to get my head around the concept of it. As a seven year old I forgot that Britain was an island too and imagined that as soon as we stepped out into the Falklands, the island would tip like a plastic toy in a bath tub!

That year on the little island is probably the most magical of my childhood. 
I remember our school which had just 24 pupils. I remember walking to school one day in a blizzard and my four year old brother being bowled along the road by the force of the wind. 
I remember wearing walking boots everywhere, about travelling around in the land rover and visiting the nearest "town" 30 miles away on a road with ditches along each edge.

I remember not being able to get most foods. Of drinking UHT milk for a year. I remember how lemonade was saved just for Sunday because it was so expensive. 
I remember school trips in helicopters and aeroplanes. Holidays to deserted corrugated iron houses where we sat two feet away from penguins. 
I remember watching dolphins jump either side of our boat and seals and sea lions bathing on the rocks.

I remember the endless blue sky and the trees that were bent horizontal because of the force of the wind.

I have hundreds of stories of our time there. 
Enough to make a series.
My memories are the vivid and colourful recollections of a child. 

As a family we often talk about our time there. We have lots of things around our house to remind us of the Falkland Islands but perhaps the most precious is our bell. 

There were many skilled craftsmen out on the Island and sadly there was still clear evidence of the war. Before we left my parents commissioned a craftsman to carve into this old bomb shell and make it into a bell. The map of the island is inscribed into one side and our family name and dates into the other.

A Naval officer who was a family friend made the beautiful red and white rope with which to ring the bell. 

For years it hung by the stairs and was rung when it was time for lunch or supper. Now it hangs in our porch, to be rung enthusiastically by my Granny whenever she enters the house. 

It is precious as an object in itself and precious in the memories it stirs of that journey to the other side of the earth.  

Today I am joining in with the lovely Sian and her Storytelling Sunday- pick your precious. Do pop over to visit other bloggers and read about their precious things. Thank you Sian for the prompt about holidays and journeys. It was just what I needed to tell this story! 

5 July 2013

At the farm...

This is his favourite place.
The farm. In the middle of nowhere. His childhood home.
I like being there with him. I like to see the peace in his eyes as soon as we open the car door to the lonely roads, the huge trees and the old house.

It is the only place I know where it is totally quiet. No car noise, no horns, nothing.
I stood in the middle of this road on the most glorious evening. All we could hear was the tree creaking in the wind.

There isn't much internet and there isn't any phone signal.
I like to retreat back to this place and focus on us. On long walks through the fields of wheat and barley. On muddy welly walks in the winter and the long shadow evenings of the summer.

Last time I visited we took a walk through the local village. It was a collection of picture postcard cottages. All thatched roofs and roses around the door. Bottled milk left on the doorstep.

I am enjoying going out to the farm and exploring a place he has known forever.
I think it is becoming one of my favourites too.

Where is your favourite place?

3 July 2013

Project life week 26

We're half way folks!
This is what was happening in week 26...

Instagram dominated this week. I don't quite know why considering I was home and that tends to be when the big camera comes out. I guess it's a wake up call to me to be exercising the big camera a bit more! Lots of everyday photos this week from crafting, babysitting and catching up with friends.

In many ways it was quite a quiet week so my journalling is definitely not earth shattering! I wanted to record the middle brothers birthday celebrations, making the hangers for my granny and how boring they became! I think including details like this will be fun to look back on.

I also included the story about the broken window. My brother managed to hit a cricket ball through one of the panes. I loved this photo I took of him on the same day so I changed it to black and white and added a big journalling card with the story.

A few new little things. Still loving the wrap around tags but used some more little details this week like that stripy tape on the hanger photo on the right hand spread and that fun tuesday graphic which I downloaded a while back. I am also really happy with how that little bit of journalling and hand drawn circle turned out.

Anything else: 
Part of me is overwhelmed with how detailed and memory heavy this album is going to be. The weight of what I have recorded often blows me over. None of it is very deep but I don't think there has been any other year when I have recorded in such detail each week of the year. Even when I scrapped I don't think I wrote this much!

I am so excited to be creating this project.

2 July 2013

In response

So just a quick drop in from me.
Several questions were raised in the last few posts and I figured that rather than answer them individually I would make a little post of them to try and inform you all!

Q. How did you create the pin-it button on your photos?

A. I used this tutorial from Bloggersentral. It was literally a bit of coding. If you follow the instructions you can't go wrong. I then searched for free pinterest icons and chose a nice neutral one.

Q. How did you create the bloglovin video?

A. Again, super easy. Go to quicktime player. I think most computers have it automatically installed. Certainly macs do. Then click "New SCREEN recording".
It will ask you to select an area to record (a bit like a crop box) and then you just go ahead and record with or without audio. It will record exactly what you do on the screen. So simple and so much fun!

I hope they answered the recent questions! I will be back tomorrow for a proper post.

1 July 2013

Around here- June edition

So I knew I hadn't done an "around here post" in a while when I looked back through the archives and the last one was in March!

But this is what life has looked like in June. Lots of outdoor events so lots of fun food. Visiting new places- this is the river in York. Finding signs that are intentionally or unintentionally funny for Rinda's scavenger hunt. Making cards for graduating friends. Lying in beautiful fields and typically drinking a lot of tea.

My around here photos are the photos that get left behind. The ones that are left on the memory card or never made it to the blog post. They are imperfect, the exposure is often wrong but they capture now. This month.

What would be your picture for the month?