23 January 2014

Sew exciting!

Some of you may recall I signed up for a 10 week 'Sewing for Beginners' at the Bristol Folk House at the end of December. No? Well, I did. And last Thursday was week 1.

Feeling apprehensive and excited in equal measure, I left work early and trudged up Park Street for the 5:30pm start. Thanks to Amy, I felt just the way I used to as a teenager when I started a new year at school; I had all of the relevant tools and equipment (including the correct quantity of fabric, lining, type of zip and thread for my first project), and I was pretty damn excited to get going.

Karen, the course leader — and wedding dress designer by day — asked each student what they hoped to achieve from the class and if we had any prior experience. Between myself and the other four women, there was a broad scope from nothing at all to owning a sewing machine and already having made some items.

The class then began with some basics about sewing; types of fabric, where to buy, some terminology. Next came how to set up a sewing machine and experimenting with different stitches. Some of the other girls' attempts were very neat. Mine, on the other hand, was just a little haphazard:

The main section of the class was to begin our very first project; a scissor bag/pouch using some provided fabric. This involved sewing along three sides of two rectangular pieces of fabric to create a pocket or pouch.

I'm sure to many this pouch is very little to be impressed by. But, considering two hours prior, I didn't know my arse from my elbow in terms of machine sewing never mind how to set one up, I was more than happy to walk away with just a pouch. The final step is the addition of a button and button-hole.

When 7:30pm rolled around, I really didn't want to leave. And you know, one of the best things about it is feeling like a 'student' again. I really do enjoy learning! I have subsequently spent many an hour on Pinterest and the internet drooling over fabrics.

Today, I shall return — with the button I have chosen for step two — and I cannot wait!


21 January 2014

The year in books: January

In-keeping with one of my 2014 wants — to read more — I have been updating the 'To Read' list on my Goodreads profile. This now cleverly, automatically feeds to my Bookshelf page. Oooh! Aaah!

Quite serendipitously, on Saturday I stumbled across Laura's post over at Circle of Pine Trees about The Year in Books project and link-up she has set up. The idea: to read one book a month during 2014. I thought 'Ah yeaaaah, I'll have me some of that!'.

So, without further ado, here is my January edition.

I am currently finishing off Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) — don't judge me too much — as it's been hanging over me a little. I am nearly there though!

After that, for the 'real life' book club I am part of via work, we are reading The Shock of The Fall; Costa's first novel award-winning book by Bristol author Nathan Filer about a young schizophrenic man struggling with guilt. I've read very little fiction that features mental health and so am intrigued to give this a go.

Sadly, I don't have a pretty picture of a physical copy as my paperback copy is on its way! Amazon decided to reduce the price and I get free next day delivery anyway so I gave in to buying a paper copy. Plus, I've not bought a book for nearly a month.

If anyone else would like to join in with The Year in Books project, visit Laura's link-up post to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. And If you're still book-thirsty, Laura has also created a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know, she's a star!


20 January 2014

Weird shit that I do

Beeta's recent post What makes you you? over at fill my little world got me thinking; what does make me me?

There are several components of a person that make them who they are, and I am no exception. There's being a 'Brummie' and having red hair. But a large component of who I am is probably all the weird shit that I do, and like, and dislike.

Such as? Well, here are just a few:

  • Counting stairs as I walk up them, wanting them to be an even number and my discomfort at reaching the top having counted them differently to 'normal'.
  • Eating jelly by pushing it through my teeth.
  • My confused lefty identity: I eat, and wear my watch and bag like a left-handed person.
  • Worrying about getting off the bus; what if my skirt is tucked in my knickers or I trip off the bus. This actually happened once.
  • My (psychological) gag reflex: the texture and mixture of some foods, brushing my teeth, and even over-analysing the food/meal I've just eaten can make me want to regurgitate. A lot of it is psychological and I am actually a hell of a lot better than I used to be would you believe. 
  • Drying my feet on the towel before I step out of the shower. Always.
  • My hatred for penne pasta. Oh come on! It is the worst one.
  • An intense affinity for science and physics.
  • Referring to the location of an item as its 'home'; I regularly ask 'Where does this live?' when referring to inanimate objects out of their 'home'.
  • How sensitive my teeth are and how much I hate the sound of scraping ice because it goes right through said teeth.
  • My dislike of chocolate ice-cream. 
  • The mild paranoia I have about looking after my feet and not wearing 'stupid shoes'.
  • Holding my wee in for far too long.
  • My desire to learn and master new skills.
  • The extent to which I cannot stand being called 'Jenny' or 'Saunders', or worse; both!
  • Actually cartwheeling when I'm happy or excited (or sometimes intoxicated).
  • How hilarious I find 'funny noises'.
  • My dislike for giving up, failing or admitting I need help.

Or maybe I'm romanticising when I think these things only apply to me...?


16 January 2014

#dreams 004

Dreaming about my teeth falling out — I'm sure a few of you know the contemporary interpretation for that — and me sweeping it under the carpet (figuratively, not literally); and people with changing faces.


15 January 2014

On being organised

Pretty organised; I'm sure that's how many would describe me. Sometimes it can feel more like I'm flying by the seat of my pants. But I know this isn't really true; any level of disorganisation simply becomes amplified until I've convinced myself that everything is in disarray. Truth is, yes, I am pretty organised.

Here I shall list and describe five tools I use — and thus, recommend — for organising my life, hobbies, job and blog. And the majority of these tools are freeeeeeee.

1. GOOGLE CALENDAR. life | work | blog | £: free
I'm definitely coming to the party late here, I know. But I have finally started using Google calendar to keep track of my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly events, including syncing it with my Android mobile. The whole she-bang. I use a lot of other Google based services so it really is a wonder I never used this before. The only downside is that I can't 'sync' it with my work calendar (because my work are bonkers and use IBM Lotus Notus). Meaning I have to add any work related events/reminders manually. Boo.

Colour coding is clearly a thing I like to do. Each entry has a colour which corresponds to the different calendar categories, including blog, work and birthdays. This means I can think about my plans, goals, to-do's, etc. for each of those even if I'm not actually sat down doing them e.g. on the bus. There are handy little reminders on my mobile and MacBook too. I do supplement this with a pocket-size physical diary but find I am writing in that less and less.

2. EVERNOTE. life | work | blog | £: free
I was one of those people that just didn't get Evernote; why you would use it and what for. For some people this goes as far as 'Why wouldn't you just create a series of Word documents.' a) No, and b) Just no.

My first flirtation with Evernote left me feeling rather cold. But I really wanted to like it so turned to the internet for inspiration, read a series of articles on it and decided I'd give it another go. The result? I love it. It is a 'cloud' based application which you can access via desktop software and mobile apps (look how pretty it is!), as well via the web version. I want to stress if you're unsure, you should just have a play with it and persevere.

So yes, Evernote might just be my new favourite e-toy. It does just about everything I want. For example, this blog post first existed in Evernote, one Friday lunchtime at work when inspiration struck. I can even use it to create and add events to my Google calendar (I do this via Event Noted. but have since discovered you can do this using IFTTT, mentioned further down this post.) For any O2 customers in the UK, you can get a year's free Evernote Premium which includes offline notebooks; an increase in the upload and note size; and the ability to share notes and allow others to edit, amongst other things.

Still not convinced of it's worth? I concede, it may not be for everyone but if you're open to the possibility, please see the links below for a whole series of articles on what's so great about Evernote as well as how to use it for blogging.

I've Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here's why it's actually amazing. | What's All the Fuss About Evernote? Should I Be Using It?

Using Evernote for blogging10 Tips To Better Productivity With EvernoteHow to user Evernote as a blogger | How Evernote Has Made Me a More Productive Blogger | 6 Benefits of Evernote for Bloggers

3. IFTTT. life | blog | £: free
Now this one, I totally 'got' but until recently, never completed on my mission to use it. Mainly because I was scared of its power! So, what is it? IFTTT — pronounced like 'gift' without the 'g' — stands for If This Then That. Quite simply: if x happens, then do yIFTTT.com allows you to create (or use already created) 'recipes' to connect your different web applications and set certain actions to trigger automatically.

For example, if you want every single photo you put on Instagram to be uploaded to your Flickr account, you would create an IFTTT recipe to do this automatically, each and every time you uploaded a photo to Instagram. If that recipe doesn't take your fancy, there are nearly 80 channels (several I've never heard of) and a plethora of recipes to choose from!

Initially, my main concern with IFTTT was just how much control I would have over recipes once I'd turned them on. What if I accidentally triggered a recipe?! So, I opted to experiment with the above recipe first as I was doing this manually anyway. I am happy to report, it seems to work well.

iPhone users can trigger a recipe by adding photos to a specific folder within iOS Photos or creating an iOS Reminder. Now, you can even trigger recipes based on entering or leaving a specific location, or both!

I do hope it doesn't sound complicated because it really isn't. If it does, please blame my explanation and simply visit the website at IFTTT.com.

4. OUT OF MILK. life | £: free
Another cloud based application which allows you to organise your shopping. I hear you; shopping isn't difficult?! You're right, it's not. But this app has some very handy functions. For example, ever find yourself at the supermarket, perhaps on the way home, wondering whether you have a jar of cumin in the cupboard for the chilli you wanted to make, or any baking powder left for the cake you were planning to bake? Well, with this app, you can create Pantry Lists that allow you to keep track of your baking supplies, spice rack and other essentials. You can specify quantity and expiration date, as well price. And when you run out of said supply? Just copy it to your current Shopping List.

You can populate your Shopping List using a barcode scanner or voice recognition, both of which work very well. It will remember items you have previously entered, suggest items as you type, let you calculate the cost of your shop (with the option to include tax), and all this will be synced across the mobile app and the website: outofmilk.com.

There is a lot of other functionality that I am yet to try including the ability to import, export, sort, search and share lists! For a big household, sharing can be pretty handy. All that remains is for it to connect with major supermarkets e.g. Tesco, for the times I order my shopping online.

5. PAPER. hobbies | £4.99
Since my other organisational tools are electronically-orientated, I seem to have less time, and need, for paper. But I do still love stationery. I'd heard of German stationers Leuchtturm1917 before but a post by Josie of The Finch's Beak reignited my interest. Like her, Moleskine had been part of, if not monopolising, my organisational arsenal for years but I wanted a change. Whilst I'd already purchased my Moleskine diary for 2014, I still needed to get a notebook for sewing. After perusing their selection, I settled on the medium squared paper Jottbook in turquoise.

The squared paper is a by-product of using lab books filled with squared paper for my calculations, sketches, postulations, etc. for the last decade. And I like it. I already have Moleskine's A4 and A5 hard cover squared paper notebooks, that do a great job but are quite heavy to lug around and also, a touch expensive.

Not wanting to carry around, and probably lose an appropriate pen, I opted for a Bobino Slim Pen which adheres to the inside cover of your notebook, also in turquoise (colour matching/complementing is a thing I like to do too).

Which tools do you use to organise your life? Any organisational tips you have to share?


07 January 2014

Grand plans for 2014

...7 days late. A good start then?

That wasn't supposed to happen! It's mostly due to spending the last week unpacking and settling in to my new abode. This has involved multiple trips to IKEA, including an incident with a plethora of fabric and perspex based organisational containers. But I mean look. at. these. Basically, the happiest woman alive I was when I saw/bought these.


OK. The topic at hand. I'm going to break this to you slowly. There is no grand plan for 2014. And no, 'winging it' is not quite what I mean. 

A couple of years ago now, I decided new year's resolutions and I don't mix. They mostly defeat their intended purpose. In fact, they often make me feel bad about myself and my obvious inability to complete on the somewhat wildly optimistic goals I set myself in the first place. Please tell me I'm not the only one?

Don't get me wrong, I want to do all of those usual things; eat better, spend less, save money, drink more water, exercise more, etc., etc. And I will try to do all of those. Basically, be a grown up. But I don't think I need to write all of those in a list, do I? Or that I need to measure them. And if I did measure them, I would've already deviated from the path of resolution. See initial point re: spending.

So, instead, I have decided on a collection of things that I want to do. That's right; want. And not because I should. Or because it's right. But because they're what I want to do.
FRIENDSHIPS. There are a lot of old friends I have not necessarily neglected, but have missed the opportunity to spend time with, even before 2013. This year, I want to rectify that and spend some quality time with them. Travel might be a little costly but I'll take the hit. 
BLOG. I get a lot of enjoyment out of blogging, and connecting with other bloggers, so I really want to continue that, if not expand upon it. Already, I have a list of topics and ideas that I'm eager to share! I went to a blogging event once, perhaps 2014 could present another opportunity. 
CRAFT. Signing up for a sewing class for the new year at the end of 2013 means I have already started to head in this direction; one of increased craftiness. Some time ago on the blog I spoke of my need to seek out and begin projects, particularly those which feel slightly out of my reach; as if I might almost be biting off more than I can chew. This is all subconscious but I've realised, since my departure from university and research, I do this to keep my mind active and stimulate my need for a steady stream of challenges followed by accomplishments. Something tells me 10 weeks of this (where, right now, I am fully expecting to absolutely suck at sewing! based on no data whatsoever) along with learning a 'new' skill will be good for me. I'm excited! 
READ. My love of reading is something that slowly slipped away from me during my years at university. Specifically, reading fiction during my research degree had far too much guilt attached to it. But I can now read as much as I like, guilt-free! My list is growing. 
EXPLORE. In short, I just want to do more. A previous year's resolution centred around getting better at saying 'no'. Whilst this isn't about saying 'yes' more – being selective is still important – I want to go out there and have a go at things. Lots of things. Especially those things I can't envisage myself doing or find way out of my comfort zone. Most of all, I want to have a lot of fun doing it.
DECISIONS. BE OPEN. It seems making decisions on where I want my life to go is fluttering around in the background. Not in an oppressive way. More in an inquisitive way. I'm having a great time at the moment; things in Bristol are still very fresh having moved here just 16 months ago. But I want to keep myself open to opportunities and places. This applies to my job, too; there are still enough aspects of my job that I find interesting and a challenge. There are parts of the world I really want to explore, things I want to discover, people I want to meet. As time fans out, it's easy to let the (negative) things that happen stop you from venturing further. I really want to avoid that. I've had reasonable success so far and would like to continue in the same vein. Uh-oh, this now sounds so serious. Being open was perhaps more what I meant. Yes; that.
As you can probably see, my 2014 'wants' aren't vastly different from the goals you might hear from others or read around the blogosphere. Mine need some fleshing out but perhaps if I remember they revolve around 'want' rather than 'could' or 'should', they will get just the right amount of attention and effort.


01 January 2014

My 2013: in review

It's been a while since I last did this back in 2010 and 2011, but I think I've started forgetting all the things that happen from one year to the next. So I thought I'd do a mini-review of my 2013.

2013 has actually been a great year.

Work got busy, I travelled a lot. Frequented pub quizzes and became intoxicated a little lot. Met lots of new people and moved house, twice! Including what felt like being evicted back in June. I forged some awesome friendships. They're pretty accepting of my unusual style of interaction, mainly because they are the same.

There was a romance. Some might consider it an extended holiday romance I suppose. Long story short, it didn't work out. But you know, once the initial deflation faded, as I knew it would, I realised I had a great time and a lot of fun. It was intense and exciting! Quite exhilerating. If we catch up one day, cool. If not, also cool. Either way, if I think of it in the future, I shall remember it fondly and smile. I regret nothing.

I know, doesn't the positivity just make you want to be sick? Maybe I'm going soft...

I spent more time on the blog, followed by less time on the blog. Who knew I'd manage to blog every day in May. Oh, and the blog turned 5. Sadly, my attempt at Project 365 was rather disappointing and I'd like to have another go at that, possibly in 2014.

There were a plethora of hen do's and weddings, or so it seemed. House parties and games nights. Cheese and wine evenings, and girls' nights out. Visits to family and friends. Lows? There probably were some shitty things that happened too but I've forgotten them it seems.

It has been the first full year in a new city, free of education (specifically my thesis), and having met some rather special people. 2013 has been pretty wunderbar really.

I hope everyone else had a great year. If not, I hope 2014 is better for you. I shall be back with a blog post about 2014 plans and goals but for now, all I shall say is I am genuinely excited for what 2014 might bring my way. And I certainly intend to make the absolute most of it.

Happy New Year!