Monday, 25 May 2015

Joining in, again, with the 'Movies in May' photo challenge

Hi hi.

As the month's nearly over [which reminds me ... are you joining in with your Month in Numbers this time round?] I thought I'd drop in with some more photographs that fit with the 'Movies in May' photo challenge set by Get It Scrapped.  Call it a sequel if you will ...

You can catch my earlier post here which contains half the photos from the challenge prompt:
... now let's move on to the main attraction [popcorn and bucket-sized fizzy drink optional] ... the other half of the film titles I've managed to find over the course of the month.

'Bringing Down the House'
Let's just say that when I took this photo - of my General Election polling card - I had hoped that the election result would indeed fit with the 'Bringing Down the House' title ... but, alas, it didn't quite turn out like that.
'Fried Green Tomatoes'
As he does every year Dad grew some extra tomato plants to donate to our tiny 6x4' greenhouse. I took this photo one morning after opening the greenhouse door so that they wouldn't actually end up as fried green tomatoes!
Honestly Dad ... they're planted up properly now and we are looking after them! And while we're in the garden ...
As Good As It Gets'
The clematis on the back fence is absolutely at its peak during May:
How about we nip back inside now? Follow me up the stairs ...
'28 Weeks Later'
Actually ... it's longer than that. Possibly over a year in fact. but still ... you get the idea ... It's been a long time since I first started redecorating my workroom and planning to have a new desk made. [Another job for Dad. He doesn't just grow tomatoes.] But I couldn't decide what to have and ... I waffled about ... but now finally, this month, it's here!!
So much better!
And while we're upstairs ... let me show you my current bedtime reading matter ...
'The Never Ending Story'
I've had this on my shelf since 2004 when it came out .. when I only read the first 100 pages.
This month I picked it back up again in the hope I could get more of it read before the BBC adaptation started. We're two episodes in [which I enjoyed greatly!] but at a whopping 1006 pages I'm not likely to get it all read before the next one. So I'm just trying to keep up!
'The Usual Suspects'
Attendance at the monthly crafty group I attend, The Middlesbrough Crop, fluctuates month to month. Sometimes we're packed-out, but this time round it was just the hard core regulars!
'Funny Face'
Me, in a just-killing-time-while-dyeing-my-hair demonic selfie:
I thought it might make James smile if ever he came across the photo. And, knowing what makes him laugh has probably contributed to the subject of next photo ...

We took this on our anniversary this month [no, don't vomit ... I'll be brief ...]:
It took dozens of arms-length-snaps to get one I'd be happy sharing. And when I look at this shot I definitely think how nice it is to still be happy together after all these years ... but I also think ...

...  how well that hair dye covered my greying roots ... and how clear the photo is despite it being taken indoors in the late evening. So really it was a win all round: Go romance! Go Vidal Sassoon Darkest Intense Violet; Go Fujifilm!

Right then ... I'll better stop it there:
  • for a start, that's all the movie title photos I've found this month ... and as it was just a challenge for May - it's all I'm going to find too.  17 out of 40 wasn't too bad! And next month sees the start of Rinda's Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt so the photo-hunting will continue!  
  • and at this rate I'm going to have nothing new to share in my Month in Numbers post!
See you soon.
Julie x

Friday, 22 May 2015

Book review: 'Snail Mail' by Michelle Mackintosh. A 'Portable Magic' post.

Hi you.
First things first, because you know I never hide things from you [well, actually you don't know that because, if I was hiding something from you, you wouldn't know would you? Because, well, it'd be hidden. But anyway ...] I need to tell you up front that the book I'm sharing today was sent to me, free of charge, for review purposes. But the views are my own and I didn't receive any other payment.
Right then ... now I've got that out of the way [hopefully without having to take a truth serum or show you my bank statements] let me just say that from time to time I get asked to feature or review books but I've only ever accepted the offer when:
  1. I feel it's something both you and I would actually like to read AND
  2. it's something which won't look out of place here on my paper-loving, life-documenting, nonsense-chattering style blog.
For example I was once offered a book of sewing projects for babies, yet it had two fatal flaws: 
  1. sewing and
  2. babies...
... neither of which I ever mention here and so ... alas ... I had to decline. [BTW: it was a book of  projects which adults could sew for babies ... it wasn't babies doing the sewing ... because that would have been a book I'd liked to have seen!]
But today's book fits in perfectly cosily here as it is dedicated to something we've chatted a lot about here over the last few years: snail mail!
Firstly, here's how the publishers introduce this lovely, and hefty, ode to all things postal:
"Beautifully illustrated and complete with cut-out postcard designs and papercraft and rubber stamp templates, Snail Mail explores the art of handwritten correspondence - learn how to romance someone the old-school way through love-letters; understand the etiquette of thank you cards, and be inspired to take time to reflect on your life through writing.
Michelle Mackintosh shows you how to improve your handwriting, make your own paper, personalise stickers and stamps, or make beautiful DIY invitations. In a world of internet trolls, 140-character limits, Snapchats and textspeak, are we losing the ability to really communicate with our loved ones? Snail Mail brings back handwritten communication - and more - in one perfectly proper package.

It's time to take back the written word!"
And here's what I made of it ...

To begin with - and before you even open it - this book has presence.

It's far weightier [it's a hardback] and more substantial than I'd imagined from looking at photos of it and, with its airmail striped spine and page edges it's beautifully bound:
And from there on in it just gets better and better.

It's an exceptionally beautiful piece of work. And the time, skill and dedication which must have gone into making such a treat for the eyes surely reflects what must be a true love of the subject matter.

In its quest to win us over into returning to more traditional, slower, more personalised, postal contact every page is there to draw us in further. Each one is lovely to look at and there are no obvious 'filler' pages:
There really is something pretty each time your turn over:
And its stunning details make it a complete joy to flip through:
It covers a wide range of postal-themed topics ranging from types of letter you could send, to how to do just that:
And from copies of letters from figures in history, to the practical crafting templates and fun stickers in the back, there's little postal-themed this book doesn't touch on.

This book is perfect for you if:
  • you believe that we spend too much time communicating online and we need to get back to something  [personally ... I love communicating online  - ahoy there! - but I know not everyone feels the same].
  • you're nostalgic for days of pen friends and stickers or you want to share those times, stories, pleasures with your kids.
  • you'd like to revel in an exceptionally creatively designed papery joy that you can leave on your coffee table to share with others.
When reading some of the text [eg. detailing how to write letters, what to say and not to say etc] I did at times wonder if the book's ideal target audience was someone younger than me. Either that or I'm just feeling especially old this week!!

But if you know of a young stationary-loving, thoughtful, girl who you need to find a gift for ...  then I couldn't think of a nicer gift.

I know my teenaged self would have passed out with glee if I'd have unwrapped this on my birthday. Heck, what with the dedicated space to write your name in the front and all those cute stickers in the back ... I think it would've made my stationary-collecting-book-loving head spin!

So ... if you'd like to find out more about Snail Mail by Michelle Mackintosh then:
  • You can visit the Amazon page where you can flip through some of the pages
Or you can read further reviews from this blog tour here:

For more book talk from me visit my 'Portable Magic' Pinterest board:

And for more mail-related projects you can always dip back into my 'Going Postal' series which I started way back in summer 2011.

Thanks for stopping by to pause, to read, and - if you've got time - to leave a comment today.

Julie :-)

Friday, 15 May 2015

Everyday Adventures: I'll see you when I get my glasses

Hi again.

You know how James and I visited Fountains Abbey over the May Day Bank Holiday [where I took lots of photos for the 'Movies in May' scavenger hunt?] well the reason we were over in that neck of the woods was because, for his birthday, someone had gifted him a surprise overnight stay in a hotel deep in the Yorkshire Dales.

Strangely enough, and by sheer coincidence [the person who bought the gift had no idea], the place where we stayed was a mere 0.9 mile / 3 minutes away from the cottage where my friends and I stay twice a year. In fact ... twice a year we all drive past it on our way to the craft shop and my friend Janet has often wondered what the food's like in there. And now I can tell her!

Anyway it was tricky knowing what to pack - we were only going to be away from home for 36 hours at the most and yet the weather had been so changeable that we had to take clothes to suit all eventualities. And so, somewhere in between sorting out cosy jumpers, lighter layers, sunglasses and winter coats I forgot to pack something.

A hairbrush.

Cue: thoughts of 'Oh great, we've come away for a nice break and I can't even make myself look presentable after a long day in the great outdoors.' [Basically I reckoned I was going to end up looking like I always had after a day at school: unkempt, bedraggled and like I'd just had a close encounter with a hedge. Backwards.]

And yet there were 3 key factors that meant  I needn't have worried:

Factor 1:
  • had brought a large hair clippy-up-thingy that had prongs on it which I could use to comb through my hair and get it in reasonable shape before being seen in public. 
Factor 2:
  • I didn't even have to leave the building for tea!
  • There was a table booked for us downstairs, in the pub below our room, so really, apart from wearing shoes, not sitting on a sofa, and not shouting answers at the TV while watching Pointless, it wasn't that different from eating tea at home. And goodness knows I never comb my hair for that!
But ... better still ..

Factor 3:
  • James had lost his glasses ... ! Hurrah! How's that for a silver lining?!So, really, it all turned out OK in the end.
OK, OK ... don't roll your eyes at me ... I'm joking!

Well, not about the losing the glasses part. He totally did that.

But ... no, I wasn't actually happy about it!

But hey ... as a writer/blogger ... everything's 'material' ... and there was something deliciously ironic and complementary about the combination of things we both misplaced!

[Although, granted, as he can't see without them ... I accept that his loss was slightly more concerning than me having ruffled hair.]

So ... how did he lose them? Well ... it had been a gloriously sunshiny day at Fountains Abbey:
And he'd swapped his regular pair for his prescription sunglasses:
And, throughout the day as we walked the length and breadth of the grounds, he'd carried his glasses case containing his clear pair, in his pocket:
But it wasn't until we arrived at were we were staying, and he wanted to change into his clear lenses to go inside, that he realised they were no longer in his pocket.

Or his bag. Or even my bag.

Or, in fact, anywhere at all in the car.

And while the glasses are perfectly functional while the sun's out ... it's a different kettle of fish when you're inside ...

... and furthermore there's the dim light of evening approaching ... and they're the only pair of glasses you have in the world ... and you can't see without them ... and you begin to think that if you don't find them soon you'll have to go to work in sunglasses ... [and you know what people say about people who wear sunglasses indoors] ... and don't even mention if you have to drive any where at night.

And god help anyone who jokes about the future being so bright ...
And with all that in mind you can imagine the relaxing and fun evening we had. Talk about 'through a glass darkly'.

And so ... after an evening spent watching TV in the dark [which was fine really as we watched a re-run of the 1st episode of Sherlock which we know by heart anyway ... so he didn't miss much ...] the following morning, after phoning to check if the glasses had been handed in [they hadn't] we set off for home. And for the opticians.  And on a day that was far more grey, far more rainy, and far less sunny than the previous - my sunglasses remained in my bag ... while his stayed on his face.

On the way home we stopped off in Ripon where, upon noticing they had a branch of his optician's there, he went in to interrogate an assistant about how quick a turnaround he could expect on any new lenses he would need to buy once we got home. And I browsed their many charity shops seeking out 'treasure'.

Which is where I found this most perfectly perfect example of the universe having a laugh [and at 49p, a cheap one at that] and decided there was no way I was leaving the shop without it!
And when I spotted it, lifted it from the shelf, and handed it to him declaring "If we buy this then all your problems will be sorted" ... fortunately he saw the funny side too!
It's our 'Not a Wedding Anniversary Because We've Never Had a Wedding' anniversary soon ... and this little episode of light and shade is probably as good a metaphor as any for being in a long term relationship:
There'll be times you'll make the effort to go away for a relaxing break ... and it won't be.
But equally ... there'll be times when you'll have messy hair but it'll OK, because he just won't see it. 
Julie :-)

Monday, 11 May 2015

Joining in with *Movies in May*: a photography challenge


As I've learned from taking part in the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt [hosted each year by Rinda at Gallo Organico] I'm quite partial to documenting  my months with a prompt in mind. And so  - with a few weeks to wait for the scavenger hunt to return for summer 2015 I latched on to another to get myself and my new camera warmed up nicely!

I first heard about this photo-prompt list for May from my friend [and yours no doubt, she's generous with her companionship like that!] Sian at From High in the Sky.

Sian's part of the Get it Scrapped team and their 'Movies in May' challenge seemed to be a fun twist on the photo-challenge idea: 
I think one of the initial ideas was to play along on Instagram with a photo-a-day ... but I'm neither on Instagram, nor particularly good at daily projects so I'm taking part here, on my blog, and in the 'scavenger hunt' style as mentioned by Sian in her in introductory post here.
And I'm planning to just see which photo opportunities I can find to match the movie titles whenever and wherever I find them, starting today with those I found over the recent May Day Bank Holiday weekend and what better way to begin ...

'The Great Escape':
Nothing says 'the great escape from the every day' quite like a motorway over-run with caravans and
RVs on a Bank Holiday weekend!!

 But to find one actually called 'Escape' ... well, that was a photo-hunter's trophy!

'Rear Window':
Remember my Hound of the Baskervilles moment that I told you about last week [the one where I needed the loo on the moors?] well ... this was the view [or lack thereof] through the car's rear window: 
That road sign reads 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles' ... and, seeing as how it's hardly readable through the fog ... it's a good job we weren't planning to head - blindly - in that direction!
Later that same day ... as we descended out of the mists we ended up in Helmsley where we visited the allotments which run along a public footpath as they're always good for a photo opportunity. [Last year, to mark the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire they had Sir Bradley Wiggins and a yellow bike loitering there]. So I captured this beauty to fit with ...
'Pretty Woman':
Just because your head's a terracotta plant pot doesn't mean you can't be pretty!
Later in the weekend we visited Fountains Abbey which is where my remaining photos were found.
Both the days prior to and after that day were rainy, grey and dismal ... and yet the Monday itself was glorious with no rain and clear skies, hence ...
'Perfect Blue':
And, as dogs were only allowed on the property if they were on leads I could even go ...
'Into the Woods':
Here we are inside Irene Brown's 'Hall of Mirrors' ...
'Now you See Me':
Honestly .. I'm in there somewhere ... over on the right there. Can you find me?

OK then how about spotting Pan, Hecate and Neptune inside Simon Costin's 'The Curious Tale of the Professor and the Temple'?

'The Three Amigos':
Meanwhile up on the hill top walk we came across this giant 'nest' ... Gary McCann's 'Lost Property':
Which, on closer inspection - in amongst the twigs and branches - was made from all kinds of actual lost property! Which is where I got to cross another movie from the list ...

'Toy Story':
Crikey ... it's heartbreaking isn't it? Like Jessie's story in Toy Story 2?

And finally for today ... if you're contemplating what kind of bird would possibly require such a vast nest ... then here's your answer! Here's James coming face-to-feathered-underside with Gary McCann's 'Scavenger' ...

'Close Encounters':
If you like public art [and I do, so very very much] then the Folly! installations are well worth the visit! And they run until November 29th so there's time to get your camera ready and your walking shoes on. Fountains Abbey is also a UNESCO world heritage site ... so there's lots more to enjoy while you're there.

As for the Get it Scrapped #GISMoviesInMay challenge itself I can't seem to find out much more about it  - there's not a lot about it on their Facebook page  - but I did find this thread on their forum.

I'm pretty sure if you want to take part you can just run with the idea yourself. That's what I'm doing!

I've crossed off 9 of the 40 movies so far and am still keeping an eagle-eye out for moments that match the remaining titles. I doubt I'll try to find them all ... but I'll enjoy the hunt along the way!

See you soon.

Julie :-)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Everyday Adventures: Picnicking on the Grimpen Mire

Hi hi.

Get your winter coat on we're going for a drive ...

For James's birthday we planned a 'nice drive' out to the nearby moors taking with us the simple pleasures of a picnic, a blanket to sit on and a book to read. And, apart from the picnic ... the rest didn't quite turn out as planned ...

From the time we woke up it wasn't a particularly promising day, but [a] we're British, and [b] a person only gets one birthday a year and so ... grey rainy weather or not ... we decided to carry on regardless.

But as the car climbed higher and higher on to the moor, where usually we'd have a wonderful panoramic vista, the mist grew thicker and thicker until we couldn't see more than a few metres ahead ...
Eventually we stopped and had our picnic - in the car - naturally. Which was lovely anyway, because it turns out that, a passion fruit, lime and coconut tart tastes just as delicious with or without any accompanying scenery.
And here - having a [very brief] post-picnic stroll - is the birthday boy himself ...
 Will you look at how much fun he's having? See just how relaxed he is! If you can see him at all that is.

Truly, visibility was just around zero. There could have been anyone or anything lurking anywhere ...

While I daydreamed about finding Sherlock on a rocky outcrop in his Caspar David Friedrich 'Wanderer Above the Sea Fog' pose ... James joked about it being like Conan-Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles; a film which had terrified him as a little boy.

And the spooky viola music on Radio3 didn't help the situation any ...
It began to feel creepy, lonely, and claustrophobic. I even took to instinctively wafting my hand around in front of my face as if trying to sweep away the annoying dusty white cobwebs from of my eyes.

But to no avail.

Then, after downing a travel mug full of hot tea, another natural biological reflex began making itself known ...

Me: "Where does one go for a wee out here?"

Him: "You could go 15 yards down there, behind the car, and no one would see, not from the road. And anyway, there's no-one about."
Can any one say Famous. Last. Words?

Perhaps two, three, four minutes had passed ... I mulled the idea over ... I assessed how easy it would be: eg: how long was my coat? How strong were my thigh muscles feeling? How much would I mind if my jeans took some collateral damage?

And then ...

... out from the mists ...

... out from those exact same '15 yards behind' the car where - apparently - there was no-one around ...

... there came ...


Two in fact!!
Well, OK, so 'gigantic' may be exaggerating things slightly ...

... but I'm sure we can agree that there came two averagely sized dogs. On a lead. Held by a jogger.

But they did suddenly emerge from nowhere. And they were barking at our car. And I did almost jump out of my skin and/or wet myself.

And if I had been 15 yards behind the car, on my own, crouching with trembling thighs and my coat between my teeth  ...

... then you can take it from me that whenever I repeated this shaggy dog story, whenever I re-told the tale both now - and forever more - it certainly would have ended with me having met the hounds of the Baskervilles and having lived to tell the tale!

Julie ;-)