Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ok, ok. That was mean of me.

I love my birthday present. I ordered it off Etsy, from a shop called Strawberry Notebook. I saw it on This Bug's Life, where Janet waxed lyrical about the service and the communication and the kindness of Diane, the shop owner. It's all true, Diane is lovely and she does keep you informed as to what and where she's up to, but it was the concept that got me. Because I thought with this in my bag then maybe, just maybe, with the right pair of shoes I could be just a little like a middle-aged (and slightly over weight) version of her....

No, not Amy..... her... River Song!

The product is called River Song's Journal. It's handmade in Florida by Diane, and based on the Midori Travelers Notebook elastic system, the system where you use elastic bands to keep a few notebooks together to organise your life. People use them as planners, or journals, some even use them as wallets, but I haven't tried to yet! I have moved into the system instead of my Filofax because I was feeling restricted by the page size in the personal and the ring system, while an A5 was too heavy to carry around.

Empty notebooks are available from various sellers on Etsy, but I got mine from a really lovely Etsy shop called Travelers Times. The booklets cost about £2.50 each for blank, squared or lined. Diary inserts are available, and there are so many little fiddling things you can do with them it's amazing. If you thought Filofax could be pimped, the possibilities are even better with a Midori or a Fauxdori. They seem to be especially popular with artistic types who need an easier and more free flowing way of being organised, or who use it as an illustrated journal.
I will do a set up post and probably a video in the next couple of weeks, but this post is about the shell.
The notebook leather is hand finished and hand tooled. The work that has gone into it is intriguing, with tooled leather channels forming the squares of the cover. The inside leather is of high quality and the whole notebook has a pleasant leathery smell. It's not shiny effect, although I think you can request a shinier leather. It's pleasantly smooth and pliable, with the empty leather happy to flop open. It lies open with the notebooks only if you actually have the notebooks on both sides, but that's what I'd expect of any notebook cover.

The elastics inside can be set up to suit you. I asked for 4 strings, because you can never have too many, right? and they are beautifully set up,  with only one knot fastening the 4. You can see how they look on the outside here. And the knot sits very quietly in the centre of a notebook, so no problem there.

The fastener is another length of elastic and this is my only complaint; the elastic is already stretching too much and letting the notebook fall open in my bag. I will replace it with a stronger piece of elastic when I find the black elastic I ordered a month ago, and when I do I'll add a word charm as well as my hanging charms.

The fastener comes from the centre of the spine, not the centre of the back as on some notebooks. I prefer that; there isn't a lump in the middle of the page when I write in my back book. These things matter, you know?

I have 5 notebooks in at the moment, but I could just rejiggle a bit and fit 6. There is no overhang, the leather is at least 2/3 of a cm wider than the notebooks, so no risk of my tabs getting bent in my bag. The size is really nice, not too wide, just comfortable to hold and use.

The shell came with a book mark, which just gets strung from one of the elastics at the top. Diane was sold out of the Weeping Angels, but I love my Tardis charm, so I'm happy. The string just slides between pages to record vital places.

 At the moment my pen is lacking a loop. I don't know whether to go for a Leuchterm pen loop and stick it on to either a plastic insert or to the leather, or to make my own after a tutorial on Youtube by Robyn Lott.

I'm happy with my system. I had a different Travelers notebook from the end of March so I've had a chance to wear in the planning system. And I will do a walk through in the next week or so. 

Diane is a really wonderful lady to deal with. She sent me the notebook and a couple of other things, and I will also be back to blog about the little cover I got; it is gorgeous and you will love it!

A teasing Adventure in Time and Space....

I am absolutely chuffed with my birthday present!!
I ordered my own present, because Mr AJ would never think to buy me something so silly or off the wall. It came, on Saturday last, and I waited til Monday to use it (parties can be so inconvenient; good fun, but inconvenient!) and I have been using it ever since.

What do you mean you don't know what I got? Haven't I said? Didn't I tell you? No?.... oh I'm so sorry.

Am I going to tell you?

That would be telling. Spoilers!
Come back in 12 hours if you want to know x

Friday, 29 May 2015

Fridays in Half term; normality will be resumed..... eventually

The week has flown past, hasn't it? And I can't believe it's school again on Monday!
But in the meantime, I mean to use my last few days wisely.

In drinking chai and meditating.  I took my son, James to a revision lesson at his school this morning so on the way home I stopped off at the park and had my chai and 10 quiet minutes. I watched the dogs playing and the rain raining and returned home feeling very chilled.

And then I started on a tidy up. Usually I run a mile from cleaning and tidying, but this hadn't been done for a while and needed to be done; I have sorted my kitchen cupboards. Really. I have emptied and binned the out of date food, lined the shelves and placed the stuff back in (with a slight fiddle to reorganise them more ergonomically) and I am happy.

No, more than happy. I am pleased with the result.

The red pvc is my old table cloth that got ripped by a stray plastic storage box and was therefore not going to stay on the table. I measured and stapled and the result is very fetching. Not quite lace edged shelves, but definitely shelves with class.

Only the mugs cupboard left to do, but I grabbed a cuppa and settled to the 'puter just to show you the result so far.

 Above is my spice cupboard; the one you open and grab the salt or pepper from to add to cooking. I don't keep the spices there...

The baking cupboard. I swapped the position of this in the kitchen. With Sarah being such a keen baker, we needed more room for the resources she uses. The top cupboard has the ingredients,

 This work surface holds a variety of stuff that she uses. The small polka dot drawers have small cookie cutters in.

And the full effect; everything she needs to make me a little something for fika all in one place. We're missing some cocoa powder, so I'll put that on the next shopping list.

The mugs cupboard. There are five people in the house and..... well, I dread to count how many mugs we have. Enough. More than enough.

Talking mugs, I still haven't heard from Brocante Home and the way-overdue download. As far as I can work out, nobody who ordered it has received it. And I have heard nothing since the weekend.  Sad faces, here. All I wanted was a message to say when it would be ready. So, friends, advice please; do I start a case against Brocante Home for non-delivery of a product that I have paid for, or shall I sit tight and be patient? I don't want to be horrible, but I would probably have started something against a person I didn't 'know' selling a physical product.
But I was trawling for another 'uber' blogger to read and came across Kimberly Wilson, a Yogini and lifestyle blogger from Washington DC. Her site is good for mindfulness and living well. Oh, and she has a massive thing for pink, I think. I've bookmarked it and I will be reading through the archives, while I spent an Amazon voucher on her book, Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life on and Off the Yoga Mat and will be reading it, mindfully, during the weekend.

And another blogger I found is Abigail Alice. This young, pretty 24 year old lives in Liverpool and blogs about life and fashion. And I taught her when she was 5 (and just as beautiful!) I may never visit her blog again, but I had to share the link just to say that I am so proud of her. I wish I knew what my other old pupils were up to. It's the drawback of teaching the lower reaches of the school; pupils sometimes go back to their senior school to visit, but rarely if ever the KS1 department. Time passes, the teachers change, and they were different people then. It's lovely to know that the child has grown into a useful and very talented member of society.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Making Fika!

After seeing the Cunard liners (do you know the joke? Keep reading to the bottom to see it!) on Monday we went into the toon (sneaky Newcastle reference there!) and went to Waterstones.

After having bought books for Sarah, promised books to David and tried to force something printed on James ("Listen, Mum, I'd rather have more money on my Steam account")  I spent a happy 15 minutes (I counted) looking at cookery books. Have you seen my sidebar? I now have a direct link through to Amazon and my favourite cookbooks. If you click through and buy from there, I actually make a little cash, now I'm an Amazon Associate. (not a lot; I won't be living the highlife on the percentage I get)

I am still loving all things Scandi, so I went looking at the regional cookbooks. There are a few that tempted me to pull out my birthday cash, but then I saw The One, the one that I knew I wanted to buy, to use and to share with you, my friends.

Fika; The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

Fika is the Swedish word for a coffee break. It's a created word, made by putting the syllables of caffe in reverse order; ca-ffe becomes ffe-ca. Clever. eh? I can think of a few more words that would benefit from this (offuch for the person you don't like but don't absolutely want to wind up?)
It's a break, a chance to sit and rest in the day, any and every day, and to pause. The book sums it up thus;
Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it at home, in a park, or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that's what fika is all about.
The book is 160 pages, separated into 5 chapters that look at various aspects of fika; A History of Swedish Coffee, Modern-day Fika,  The Outdoors Season, Celebrating more than the Everyday and Fika as a snack. Each chapter has about 10 recipes, with swedish names that whet the appetite, like apelsinsnittar, fikonrutor, karleksmums and mandelkaka. The recipes are all for cakes or cookies, and the swedish favourite flavours of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and especially cardamon are there in force.
I haven't made any yet, I have a few already ear-marked for later on this week, when I want to fika with the family. And once Sarah discovers that the swedes, like her, love skurna chokladkakor she will be making them until we are tired of fika! (although she who is tired of fika is tired of life!)

And the joke;
Man from Southampton; My Dad works for Cunard.
Scouser; Yeah, My Dad works hard, too.

(That's for Lisa!)

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Three Queens; One Magnificent City

I have said it before and I WILL say it again, but I love my city. I wasn't born here, but about 10 miles away and moved here when I was 25, so not even half my life yet.

This weekend we have played host to a fantastic sight; three massive ocean liners, all in the river, all turning, all drawing fantastic crowds from across the North West.  I can testify to the crowds being massive. We went to see the three ships together on Monday and pushing through to catch a glimpse was a real job. I pity anybody who had children, or a wheelchair or a tottering relative. It was a crush.

But, oh, the majesty of seeing three.... three....ocean liners, one after another, steaming (and, yes, I know they don't steam any more!) up the river, to come to an almost full stop and then half turn to salute the crowds before executing a three point turn and sailing back up to the Pier head. I loved it, I really did.

And afterwards we went into town, to look at the books (and perhaps buy a few. How did that happen? I just do not know!) and enjoy a picnic from Tesco in the sun. First of many this year, I hope!!!

This was the closest to a family photo I took. Once upon a time they would all line up and smile, and look at me eagerly. Now I grab the shots I can.

And if you are passing by Liverpool before 9th June, there is a duck trail on, raising money for Macmillan cancer care. There are 20 large ducks to seek out and find! A downloadable trail is available and they are everywhere! We only saw 2 today; town was too crowded to hang around in. I might take Sarah back this week and just do the trail, with a stop off for coffee and cake (We'll fika, as the Swedes put it!)

Monday, 25 May 2015

After the party....

There are small pieces of detritus left everywhere....

Tea cake wrappers on the tables and shelves.....

The biggest serving pot and other bits and bobs left out on the table, moved across especially for the party....

Washing up all over the kitchen.....

And I take 4 peanut buttercups, a Tunnock's Teacake (I had one of these with a candle in as my birthday cake last night!)

 and a BIG cup of chai to sit with my feet up, quietly, watching....

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A letter to Brocante Home; To Alison, whose work I have read for years.

Dear Alison,

I am feeling much better after my couple of days of crotchety sickness that have made me feel headachey and bone weary and taken every last piece of my patience away. 
And although I would still rather have a copy of House Rules, because I like your writing and because it was my birthday pre-present to myself to pass the week before my happy day away, I think my cross, crotchety and impatient side has been a tad too busy the past few days. I feel like I have been chasing you too eagerly, too impatiently and too energetically, and I apologise for that. 
This afternoon, in lieu of reading your latest offering, I read over some of your archives. Because Brocante Home is like a set of Country Living magazines, or a well-worn copy of the Famous Five. I love looking back and reading your articles, and seeing how the seasons' change is captured in the corner of England where you live, my corner as well, as it happens. And I found this post;
It's about things happening that shouldn't have, about taking a breath and starting again. I loved the sentence you wrote,
Because we have to learn to live with the consequences of our own silliness and and when we recognise that silliness we have to do what we can to limit the damage, apologise for the kerfuffle, and extricate ourselves from the mess as politely as possible. 
And I'd like to ask; please can we start again?

I really am happy to have House Rules sent to me in any form possible. Heck, I'll even drive up to the wilds of Ormskirk with a USB to collect it next week if you need me to. I'd just like you to talk to me and explain if there's a problem. It's the not knowing, you see. And I know that so much of life is about not knowing, but sometimes not knowing comes across as not caring. And I do care about you as a blog writer I admire, and I know you care about me as a blog reader. I've been reading your blog since 2007. You were one of the heroines that inspired me to think, "I can do that". I read your books on the Kindle like I read Sarah Ban Breathnach, as a voice of sanity in an insane world, a reminder to slow down and to accept the limitations of life, even as I work to make it better. And I am asking you to communicate with me, to forgive me the pushy pushiness that I have had the past few days and to relax. Let me know when or if the download will be available, and then let's move on together. I'd invite you for a pot of tea, but I know you're busy.

Sometimes you just press the wrong button. It happened and I couldn’t un-happen it and I am silly and sorry and ready for another cup of tea.

I have closed the case on Etsy and I will remain patient. Please answer my email, and let me know that we can go on with life.

Yours hopefully
Angel Jem x