Category: Little projects

Surviving January

As little T’s dog eloquently put it, January can be a difficult month.  The days are long and dark and often, it is wet and cold too.

I knew the house would look bare once I’ve stripped off all the Christmas decorations.  I was prepared for it and was even for the very first time, relieved that the decors were gone, normally I dreaded it.  But one day, as I sat in our living room tapping away in the dark morning, that really looked more like later afternoon, I began to feel really weary of all the gloom around me.

Doc and I would stomp defiantly on the headland in the rain and glare at the grey sky.  Day in and day out I would pass by these forlorn-looking dry tree branches and would always think how sad-looking they were.

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And then one typical sombre day, I stopped and looked closely at them.  They actually weren’t bad-looking at all.  And then had a eureka moment.

Our next walk, I made sure I brought along a pair of secateurs with me, and stopped along the dry tree branches and managed to get one-dried branch.

As soon as I got home, I got an empty vase, put another smaller one inside, and made it steady by putting in small stones.  Then stuck my chosen branch between the stones.

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I knew what I wanted to do with that branch.  You see, I have a small collection of glass baubles, which I’ve always wanted to use year-round, but didn’t really know how, till now.  So off I went to our cold and dusty attic and hauled my precious baubles back down.

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But first, I decided to wrap the branch in fairy-lights – I wanted to brighten up a particularly dark corner in our house.

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Viola!

Here’s the finished product.  Since it was only a small branch though, I was only able to use a few of my glass baubles and my two birds made of glass.  And instantly, my mood was lifted.

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It may be dark outside and all the shades of grey, but inside my little warm home, I have a small branch to literally brighten up my day 🙂  Doc is right, the trick is to focus on small joys and I’m following his advice and you know what, it’s definitely working!

What about you?

Do you also dislike January?

The Reading Residence

A is for Alone

This photo was taken when we visited Tintagel castle a few weeks ago.  I had to squint to make sure that it really was a sail-boat alone in the open sea.  Reminded me so much of one of my favourite poems written by American poet, Muriel Rukeyser:

“Oh grow to know me.  I am not happy.  I will be open:

Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,

like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm about me.

There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing … ” 

– Effort of Speech Between Two People

I’ve linked this post up with PODcast’s Alphabet Photography Project.

Come and join!

On Writing and the BiB Awards

The lovely Samantha invited me to join in the Writing Process Blog Hop.  I love a good Q & A especially if it involves books and writing.  So of course, I couldn’t refuse.

Questions:

1) What are you working on?

This is embarrassing, but I’ve been working on a few short stories for about a couple of years now (maybe even three!)  It’s just so difficult to write creatively when you’re a mum of an excitable three-year-old who is at that lovely sometimes annoying stage, you know the Why do we need hands? Feet? Eyes? so on and so forth stage.  I can barely write a decent blog post!

But I’ve been specifically trying to work on this story I wrote about two strangers who meet in a small coastal English town.  The man is German and in his 80s.  He’s been going back to the same seaside village for the past fifty years.  He likes to sit on this particular bench facing the sea and one time he meets a woman (a foreigner too, though it’s not really mentioned where she’s from in the story) and they start a conversation.  Since the woman lives there, they eventually over the years keep meeting on the same bench.  It’s one of those “talkie” type of short stories, where nothing much is going on and it’s purely conversation which of course, others might find boring.  I like it though.  It’s a quiet and simple story about strangers who form an unlikely friendship.

2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I write from personal experience, though that’s really no different from others I guess.  While the story mentioned above was loosely based on myself, the German is fictitious of course.

3) Why do you write what you write?

Was it Mark Twain who said “Write what you know?”  But I bet though, other writers before him has said that too.  It’s always easy to write what you know about.  I think your writing also comes out more sincere and not constrained or worse pretentious.

So yes, I like to base my fiction on something I’ve experienced or something I’m at least familiar with.

4) How does your writing process work?

I haven’t had a “writing process” for years now.  I used to when I was single and living on my own.  At the moment, all I can say is that the only “writing process” I have is to sit down and just write as if your very life depended on it.

I wrote the story mentioned above – “Same Time Next Year” in one sitting.  I think my husband took my daughter out for a little outing without me so I could have a bit of a rest.  Instead of putting up my feet on the table, I typed furiously away.  That’s the first time I’ve ever done that.  You know, start a story, from the very beginning and actually finish it till the very end.  I have loads of attempts, first drafts on my files, most of them rubbish actually.  But I think the trick there is to silence your inner critic and just keep writing as fast as you can and see where it takes you.

The German character in that story actually “appeared” to me.  No, nothing ghostly as an actual apparition, but I really saw him vividly in my head, walking up the headland.  What he looked liked, how he walked and I just knew him right away.

I entered that story in a major writing competition here in the UK.  Of course, I didn’t win.  I just figured at that time, no harm in trying right?  The contest had a three thousand word-count, so I had to edit it down a lot.  I want to re-write it and maybe make it into a novella.  Perhaps when my daughter starts proper school, I’ll be able to get down and finally do it once and for all.  And who knows, enter it in another contest and even win?

For now I think I’ll stick to trying to write decent blog-posts in between answering my daughters questions like Why do we need eyes mummy?  

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Incidentally, I received an email from Britmums inviting me to nominate myself or other bloggers in the 2014 BiBS Awards (Brilliance in Blogging).  I’ve already shamelessly emailed all my family and close friends to nominate me for the MAD Awards.  But stayed mum about it in my blog, however I’ve decided to make a go for it this time (and spare my family and friends from pleading with them to vote for me again), so if you think I have a chance, thank you for nominating me, though I have a feeling it will be a bit like that time when I joined a major writing competition and it went pfft.  I tried at least, right?

I’ve already voted and in case you guys need a little nudge, here are fantastic bloggers who really ought to win and the good new is that there are lots of different categories and I’m sure you can all fit them in.  They are all British bloggers by the way, I’m not really sure if it’s only open to British bloggers or at least bloggers who live in the UK. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

Hurrah for Gin (A sure Winner.  Yay, go Katie!)

PODcast

Coombe Mill

Space for the Butterflies

Over There to Here

Ramblings of a former Rock n Roll Mum

The Secret Father

Englishman in Italy

The Adventures of Sonny and Luca

P.H. Davies

Verily Vocalises

Mum turned Mom

3 Children and It

The Coffee Table Years

The Fat Worm

Thank you!

This post is linked up with #PoCoLo

Post Comment Love

Please Vote for Me

First off let me just say that I’m not a photographer.  I’m just someone who likes to take photos with my handy point and shoot camera.  It doesn’t mean though that I don’t want to become one, would love to!  And would also love to have one of those fancy DSLR cameras, complete with different kind of lenses and all, although admittedly it would probably take me ages to learn how to work it.

Anyway, for the fun of it, I decided to send an entry to Field Notes from Fatherhood’s  2013 Summer Photo Contest.  I joined really late, but guess what?  My photo made it on the list!  Woohoo! 🙂

The photo I sent first appeared on this blog-post.   I honestly wasn’t expecting to make it on the list, especially since I’ve seen the other entries which were obviously taken by let’s-just-say people who know more about photography than I do.  So yes, as the Brits would say, I’m really chuffed!  Now this is where I need your help, yes, you, reading this blog-post.  Please click here to vote for me, scroll down the blog-post, and you’ll see the other lovely entries, but please vote for me!  My photo is the third one called :View from the Window.

I have no idea if there’s actually a price involved, but I don’t really care about that, I just want to WIN!  Why?  Because I’ve never won anything!  So who knows, with your help, this might be my first win!  Once again, thanks to Field Notes from Fatherhood for choosing my photo to be included in the finalist.  Do check out his blog too!

Free Printable Gift Tags

I love freebies.  Who doesn’t?  I used to love to buy Ideal Home Magazines because of their freebies.  It was usually a notebook – I love notebooks.  My husband got me a subscription and guess what?  The freebies were gone!  The subscription was cheaper compared to buying it monthly on news-stands.  It just hows that that those freebies, weren’t in fact, really freebies at all.  You pay for them!  Oh well, I still like the magazine though.

Anyway, you get loads of freebies online too.  If you know what you’re looking for, just google it.  I love graphic designers who give out their designs for free online.  I guess it’s also free advertising.  My favourite go-to place for freebies when it comes to blog-back grounds, shabby buttons I go to shabby blogs.  They’ve got great designs, all shabby chic-y.  If you have a blog and want to personalise it with backgrounds, buttons, visit their website.  All the buttons I use on all my blogs come from this site.

Oh but wait, I’m not blogging about them.  This is supposed to be a post about free printable gift tags!  I don’t buy gift tags.  If only I were artistic enough, I’d make my own.  But since I don’t have the time, nor the talent to do it.  I resort to looking for free printable gift tags online.  This is my latest find:

 

Aren’t they the cutest?  And you can find loads of them online.  Why buy gift tags if you can make them or get them for free?

Are you ready for All Hallow’s Eve?

We are.

We’ve got our three pumpkins ready to rock the night away on Halloween.  Two are witches and the other one is the Queen the pumpkin patch – hail!  We’ve also got all the goodies ready for the “trick or treaters”.

Last year, the weather was really bad.  It looks like it will be the same this year.  Poor kids =(  Imagine having to go trick or treating in the rain.  Thank goodness my little girl is too young to go, she’ll be wearing the same costume she wore last year.  I didn’t want to get her a new one, since she doesn’t seem to remember wearing it last year and it still fits her!  The good thing about two-year-olds is that they don’t mind.  Of course, once they start minding – that will be a different story.  But for now, she’ll be a little witch again.

So yes, on All Hollow’s Eve, our pumpkins will be well-lighted ready to greet everyone.

Tamsin and I had a fun time carving out the three pumpkins about two days ago.  Last year, she wasn’t so interested at all.  This year, she actually “helped” me scoop out the insides of the pumpkins.  I’m not good at drawing, so I went online and searched for some fun and funny pumpkin templates and printed them out.

If you want to have the same funny-funky looking pumpkins on your window, here’s how we did it:

  1. Search online for pumpkin templates.  I found mine at Martha Stewart’s website.  Click here if you want the same template.
  2. Print them out.
  3. With a sharp knife, carve the top of the pumpkin off and scoop everything out till the insides are nice and clean.
  4. To make it easier, I cut out the eyes and mouth made them separately.  Use stick tape to stick the templates on the pumpkins.  (See photos below)
  5. With the same sharp knife, slowly carve out the eyes and mouth of your pumpkin.  I only used one template for all three pumpkins, but of course, you can print out three templates to use on yours.
  6. Once you’ve finished carving, you can also decorate the eyes and mouth with glitter-glue for a funky look.
  7. When your done decorating your pumpkin, put some tea-lights in your pumpkins, but don’t leave them unattended especially if you have young children and a cat who likes to jump on the window sill like ours.


Now for the mouth…

And there you have it, three fun looking pumpkins to decorate your window, really easy to do.

Have a safe, dry Happy Halloween to everyone!

Stuck

“Stuck, help!”  cries my 20-month old daughter from the living room.  From where I’m sitting in the kitchen, trying to beat a deadline, I know without even seeing her that she isn’t stuck.  This is my daughter’s way of calling my attention.  She knows that whatever I’m doing, mommy will stop and “rescue” her.

I’m a part-time freelance writer and a full-time mother.  I try to juggle the two, but most times I am finding it difficult.  When I am working, I try to explain to her that “Mommy is working”.  But of course, that is hard for a toddler to understand, especially when all she wants is her Mom’s 100% attention, which is fine, but not okay when one is frantically trying to beat a deadline.

So what do I do?

I drop what I’m doing.  I go her and see if she really needs “rescuing”.  I play with her for a while and then for the nth time in the day, explain that Mommy has to work now.  That works until the next “Help, stuck!” moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only mother who is experiencing this.  And like all those other mothers, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels guilty when we ignore our little ones even for just a couple of minutes, no make that seconds, just so we could complete the sentence we were typing.

I am a mother.  My daughter is my main priority. While I am thankful that I can still do freelance work, I am more thankful that I’m able to stay at home and take-care of my daughter and spend every single waking moment with her.  I keep saying to myself that this won’t last.  She won’t be forever 20 months old and calling out to me with a “Help, I’m stuck!” and wanting me rescue her.  Time drifts by swiftly.  These moments will be over before I can even get used to it.  So instead of gritting my teeth or ignoring her, I go to her and laugh, especially when I really find her “stuck”.

This is what I do when I’m trying to finish an important deadline (I’m sure a lot of moms do this too).

  1. Switch the TV on (I know a lot of times I feel guilty about it but it’s the only way to keep her distracted) and put it on cbeebies –  BBC’s children’s channel, a lot of them are educational shows.
  2. My daughter loves her crayons and colouring book.  She can spend hours and hours just ‘crayoning’. Of course that involves colouring our white furniture too.
  3. Build a house for her toys using her mega-blocks and duplo and also make sure her train-set is all laid-out-for her. And as soon as she’s busy playing, I sneak out and try to get some work done before the next “Help, stuck” moment.

My daughter trying to follow instructions from the cbeebies program ‘Squiglet’

What about you, what do you do to get some work done?