27 August 2014

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Hello, come on in, can you feel that nip in the air? It has dropped a few degrees around here and we are definitely starting to think of Autumn.

I would lead you through our lounge, waving at my little brother and into the kitchen where the AGA is toasty, the pot of tea is already on the table and fresh brownies are cooling on the side.

Sitting back I would pour you your first cup and tell you that it has been a bit of a whirlwind month.
We got back from holiday last week and had the most magical time. The weather was lovely, Boston was beautiful and it was great to have family time. Smiling I would tell you stories of walking through the 'dodgy' end of town just to reach a fabric shop. Of the time we were so tired from walking that we decided to head back to our house and straight to the ice cream parlour down the road. Or that time when we ran to get the train on the subway only to find, once on it, that it was going in the wrong direction!
Smiling you would laugh and probably tell me that these are the stories that make a holiday and become a piece of family history and retellings.

As I offered you a slice of brownie I would ask you about your holiday. Did you get anywhere exciting?

As I say though, it has been a whirlwind few days. No sooner did we get back from holiday than I hurried off to the farm to see my very favourite person. The farm at this time of year is magical.
It's harvest so it is very busy, but man, it is something else to see that huge combine harvester, collect in all the wheat and leave behind a trail of stubble and dust. It's noisy yes, but exciting.
As I cradled my mug in my hands I would tell you how good it was to walk across those golden fields with the boy. Despite the noise of harvest, it's peaceful and remote and oh so good for my soul.

Listen to me whitter on! Your tea is gone and the pot needs a topping up.
Whilst I do that, fill me in on your crafty plans. What have you created, what are you planning?
Me? Well I don't mind telling you that I am in a rut with project life. A lot of photos to scrap and a bit of project life block if you catch my drift. It will come. I'm not going to force it.
My current project is a bit of sewing. Clothes sewing. Exciting I know. I have very nearly finished a sweet little top and have big plans for a tunic dress. This was my first time following a dress pattern and was far simpler than I first imagined. I envision a whole new world of craft opening up for me!

We would continue chatting, pausing over this and that, laughing hard and munching through the cake. Time would probably fly and all too soon, the clock in the hall would chime and we would smile at how quickly it goes with friends.

I would walk you to the hall and we would embrace.
"come again soon" I say, "I promise." you reply.

If you were sitting down for tea with me today, what would you say?

I am looking forward to seeing some of you at the bloggers retreat soon and sharing in an actual cup of tea! What a treat is in store! 

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! 

26 August 2014

A late reminder

Hasn't the month flown!
It's that time again and tomorrow I am going to be sitting down with you and sharing life over a cuppa.

I would love for you to join me and write your own tea post, chat with me in the comments or share a drink with other lovely ladies around the world.
The idea is simple, "what would you tell me if we were sitting down for tea together?"

Previous examples of tea posts can be found under the tab on the sidebar.

Owing to work etc. I won't be posting my tea post till the evening of the 27th GMT. Rest assured there will be a linky though and it will be open for a week so you have plenty of time! See you then. 

25 August 2014

gift ideas for a new student

I love approaching Autumn. I love getting ready to start a new academic year.
I have said it before, but for me, September feels like the start of the year far more than January ever does.

With that in mind, I though I would share a few ideas for gifts for stocking up and preparing new students. These are all things I was appreciative of or bought when I started university two years ago. To be honest these are all things I stock up on or would still use in my final year!
I know a few of you have children at university and I certainly have younger friends heading off for the first time. These are all items that would work well as leaving gifts or just as little extras that you may not have thought of.

Disclaimer: I am a woman at a British university. I don't know how much of this is applicable across the pond and I also know for sure that my brother would not appreciate being sent off to uni with a pretty mug. Just saying.

1. Slippers.  Living in halls during my first year I walked everywhere in slippers. Down to breakfast, to see my friends, to the library. I lived in a college where everything was contained in just a few buildings so slippers were essential and comfy.
Even if your student isn't in halls, accommodation can be chilly!
These sweet slippers are from Next. 

2. Stationary voucher. Space is always a premium when travelling to uni and I found that I didn't really know what I would need/use until I got there. I think a stationary voucher would make a great gift as it can be used to buy those heavier paper pads and folders once your student is at uni and has worked out what they need.
For UK based folks, I use Rymans as they offer a cracking student discount.

3. Photo gift card. So many of my friends take lots of photos at uni however have no idea where to print them. I use photobox for all my photo printing. A gift card can be used whenever you want and the photos can be delivered to your accommodation.

4. Storage bags. Hands down, one of the best things I bought for myself in my first year. These bags are super strong, look pretty and hold a huge amount of stuff. I used one for storing all my 'extras', one for holding quilts and bedding and one for washing. They look pretty out on display in your room and are great for packing up at the end of term. Also, they are super cheap. Can be found here. 

5. Key fob. I was presented with a lot of keys when I arrived at uni. Room key, accommodation block  key, library key. I promptly lost these in the depths of my handbag. A big chunky key fob is essential. A little boring but your student will thank you later. Can be found here.

6. Tins and loose change. Most university halls will have big washing machines which take small change. In our case £1.80. One of the best things my mum got me before I left was £20 split into 50ps, 20ps and 10ps. I put all this in a pretty tin and kept it solely for washing money.
Cath Kidston do a sweet set of tins but anything pretty would work and helps to set the money aside as just for washing (not for coffee shops. ahem).

7. A pretty mug. I drink a lot of tea. I appreciate a nice mug. A few nice mugs and a tin of biscuits breaks the ice in those first few days. The one pictured can be found here.

8. A proper wall calendar. My uni supplies us with a big academic wall calendar but it neither stays up or looks pretty. These calendars from the rifle paper company are just beautiful. I like a calendar to plan holidays, plan work and schedule in fun things!

9. A washing crib sheet. This would be really easy to make. My brother has one of these and though we laugh at it, it is very useful. On one side are all the washing symbols and what they mean, on the other is a description of different types of stain and what to use to get them out.

10. Graze Box. Snack box that arrives in the post. A lot of my friends at university have these boxes and really appreciate them. They can be set up as a gift and scheduled weekly or monthly. They contain four little snack pots and are a healthier option to chocolate and biscuits! Not that I would say no to chocolate and biscuits! Either way, food in the post has to be a good thing! Found here.

22 August 2014

Scavenger hunt stories

We are back. Back from a wonderful time in Sunny Boston. I have pictures a plenty to share and many many stories to tell. I also have lots of catching up to do and am intending to spend some happy hours visiting through blog land over the next week. 

I have joined in with Rinda's scavenger hunt the last few years. Because I am both mad and like to make things difficult for myself I always try and set myself the challenge of finding most of the photos on our annual week holiday abroad.

I was moderately successful this year. Most of my photos are from Boston however there are a few home shots thrown in too. I mean, finding a gnome in the city was asking for trouble....!
Part of the reason I love the hunt are the stories it produces. The cloud shot from last year is one that springs readily to mind. The gnome this year also seems to bring a lot of discussion, mainly over whether they are creepy or cute!

I also like that we all have individual stories to tell about where we found photos, what the location represents, how difficult or easy it was to find each item.
Basically I love that it gets me thinking about my photography, gets me to open my eyes and gets me sharing the tales.
Rinda, you are on to a winner!

So these are a few of my stories from this years hunt.

A Bakery: 

We rented a house whilst out in Boston and on the first day we arrived we explored the neighbourhood. We came across this lovely looking place only ten minutes down our road.
Now, I will have to consult my Amercian friends here about whether this is a generalisation or not, however in the UK, we know a bakery to sell mostly bread and maybe cakes.
This bakery was more of what we refer to as a coffee shop. Selling sandwiches, brunch, cakes and coffee as well as having chairs and tables to sit and eat at. A welcome surprise after a long flight.

We actually enjoyed this bakery so much that we came back the next morning for a big breakfast to celebrate my little brothers A level results.

Birds on a wire:

Birds on a wire caused me grief. Firstly because there didn't seem to be any wires in the city and secondly the ones I did see were notable in their absence of birds.
I had all but given up when we went into a lovely paper and craft store. There sitting on a shelf was exactly what I had been looking for, albeit in a rather more roundabout way than I first imagined.

A Horn:

On Sunday we headed into the italian quarter of Boston to watch a parade through the streets. One item ticked off already I thought! Little did I know that there would also be a rather magnificent horn to capture (or Sousaphone to be precise). As an added bonus there was also the amusing feature of a cup holder attached to said instrument so the player wouldn't miss his morning coffee.

If some of my more dubious finds are accepted, by my calculations I only have five items left to get. One being that allusive juggler....

How are you doing on the hunt?

13 August 2014

Taking a break

I am taking a break for a week as we are off for a family holiday in the sunshine.
I am hoping to crack the scavenger hunt list (wish me luck), take plenty of photos and come back with stories to tell...
See you on the other side.

11 August 2014

the finished quilt

This quilt has been in the works since Christmas but owing to uni work, revision etc, it wasn't until this summer that I really made it a priority to work on it.

There is something so special about going into a project knowing it will be a gift. Handmade is so precious. It is magical to think you are making something unique.

To make this quilt I used a jelly roll from Moda. These are strips of fabric that are designed to coordinate with one another. They are pre cut into 2.5" strips which is fab for those of us who are lazy cutters, (not that I am one of them, ahem.)

I tried a few new things with this quilt. First up was machine quilting it together. For this I used my darning foot on my machine. Rather than feeding the fabric through the machine, the darning foot just sends the needle up and down in the fabric so that you are free to move it as you will. A bit like drawing yet you are moving the paper rather than the pencil.

To keep it simple I just moved the fabric in big swirled patterns. I love the texture it gives.

I also tried a strip piecing ( I think that is the term) technique to patchwork the top. This really speeded up the process and made the quilt look far more detailed and time consuming than it was!
Strip piecing is super simple:

Grab as many strips as you want in your row. Here I have demonstrated with five. Sew these together where I have marked the dotted lines. Press the seams.
Now cut these strips horizontally like so. Keep repeating this process with different combinations of fabric.
Now join these horizontal strips together again to make the square.
I am so pleased with how the quilt turned out. It is pretty large but all the more room for snuggling! 
One of my favourite parts of quilting is finishing off with the binding. I chose a very pale pink stripe because, a. it certainly didn't need any more bright colours and b. you can't go wrong with a stripe.

A finished quilt. All packaged up and delivered to a special friend. I have to admit I was sorry to see it go but her face when she opened the package was just the best!

Homemade. It can't be beaten.

9 August 2014

One photo & twenty words

A little late with this meme today. The weekend rushed away with me! Always lovely though to see a few of you posting along even when there isn't a link. Thank you, thank you! 

The pleasure of homemade present giving. A quilt in the works since Christmas. What a delight to see her joy.

My challenge for you today. Find one photo and choose up to twenty words to tell its story. Jot it down and link back here. The link will stay open for a week so you have plenty of time to join in! 

5 August 2014

me on monday or tuesday as it were

 This weekend was a granny moving (not her you understand, just her sofa), pinterest looking, quilt finishing, cookie baking sort of a weekend. Throw into that lots of sleeping after a busy week which involved National Trust volunteering and starting a new job. Just a few evenings a week, helping out a mum and her two little ones. Just my cup of tea.
Many reasons therefore to be a joy jumper this week. Lots to look forward to, a new job to get the hang of and a holiday on the horizon. Hooray for August!

What did your weekend look like?

Thank you Sian for inspiring such a lovely weekly meme. 

2 August 2014

Photo tips- taking photos at a party

Last weekend we held a small family party for my Granny's birthday. As per usual I had my camera out. I didn't take hundreds of photos but those I did were natural enough to make me happy and showed enough of the party atmosphere to please my Granny!

These are my tips for shooting at parties and other lovely summer events...

Capture the details before people arrive. 
I think that the details really set the scene and give context to the event you are trying to photograph. I like to go around before the guests arrive and take a few snaps when everything is in place and ready to go.

Sort out your settings.
Capturing the details before the event can also be an ideal time to sort out the camera settings. I tend to always shoot on manual but if the weather is changeable (which as it is Britain, is quite likely), then I will choose the "aperture select" mode. This lets me select my f-stop which I put as low as possible to get the lovely blurry background but means I don't have to bother with getting the other settings correct as the camera sorts out those.
This is also the time to pop on your favourite lens!

Make the camera invisible.
I carry my camera everywhere. It is awkward for the first ten minutes however the guests soon forget you are photographing them, especially if you get long distance shots. The more pictures you are taking the more normal it becomes and you will get natural smiles and not poses.

Anticipate the moment.
I try and work out when the ideal picture will come. For instance here, I had the camera on my knee and was watching some of my family looking over an old photo. The jokes were flying and I started snapping, knowing that the laugh was on the way. The scene was already set up, it was just being in the right place at the right time and taking lots of shots.

Take lots of shots of the same scene.
Like above, I always figure I will have more chance of getting the photo I want, if I take lots of photos of that one scene. This is particularly true if there is a certain photo that you want to capture. As it was my Granny's birthday we wanted a picture of her cutting her cake. It made sense therefore to take lots of photos of that one event to make sure we got one we were happy with.

Call a name. 
I love this technique and use it all the time. Place your camera up to your eye, focus on someone who isn't looking at you and then call their name. As they turn, snap the photo and the result is a relaxed and unposed shot.

Let someone else have your camera for a bit. 
If all else fails let someone else have your camera for a bit, although the shots may not always be what you wanted...!

Do you have any tips for photographing a party? Do you prefer to have the camera or are you happier drink in hand, being photographed?