Thursday, 25 November 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle…

I am a Lucky Blogger!  So many lovely things seem to happen to me, as a result of blogging.

A few days ago, I had a very nice e-mail message, from Andrew at Dobbies.   He’d seen my blog and liked  it, noticed I had done a review previously (back in the summer, I reviewed some Bunting I was sent by another online shop) and he wondered if I would like to review one of their Christmas Lights products. 

I had heard of Dobbies before – they are a chain of Garden Centres in U.K. – though I hadn’t visited any, since our nearest one is some distance away.  However, I didn’t know they had an online shop!   As they’re a well-known and reputable company, I thought it would be fine to work with them and I agreed to the review.

I hope you’ll like to see what I have been sent and to read what I thought of it!

* * *

So, a couple of days ago, this arrived:

Inside, all nicely packed in scrunched up paper (I love that brown packing paper, it’s so useful – it feels like a freebie when I get a parcel packed with that paper!)


Good package for the lights too.  Nice and stiff, so they couldn’t get broken – either in the post, or on the shelf of a shop.

They looked so nice and twinkly in the photo – would they be any good?


Unpacked everything.  There are 10 lights, with little starry covers and small spikes to push into the ground (those were packed in a little bag).  There was also a package with a mounting and ground spike for the solar unit, that provides the power for the lights.


The back of the solar unit has an on-off switch and a control to choose whether the lights flash or not.   See the little ground-spikes on the lights?

When I switched it on, the lights came on – it was ready-charged and they all worked (the kitchen was quite dark, as it’s winter time).


So, off into the garden to set it all up.  Here it is, all laid out on the grass.  Each  light has a bit of cable between, linking one to the other, then to the solar unit.


This is the power unit and its mounting set. 


Ground spike for the solar unit – it pushed into the ground quite easily.


I started to attach the mounting to the solar unit, but realised that it would be flat and not get much light.  Also, mounting it like this would mean it was difficult to access the switches to turn the lights on or off and allow them to blink/flash.


I took the mounting section off and re-positioned it, so the unit would face upwards and I could get at the buttons.


It pushed onto the ground spike without any problems.


I pushed the little ground-spikes into the ground and put each light on top, spacing them out as far as they would go.  They stretched about 9ft in total, along the edge of our shrub border.


Sherlock came and inspected everything, to make sure it met his approval. 


Once he was happy with everything, he came back into the kitchen!  This is the view from our kitchen doorway - the doors are glass, so it’s nice to be able to look out at pretty lights in the border.


This is one of the little lights, looking lovely against the green and the dark soil.  They’re quite small though, so they don’t stand out too much – subtle – after all, it’s in the evenings we want to see them!


In the dark…. At 4:30pm I went into the kitchen and this is what I could see through the back doors (eeee!!)

Sooo pretty!


Twinkle, twinkle, little star…. how sweet!

They stayed on for quite a while, though I don’t know how long, as it was too cold to keep the blinds open, but there is a built-in timer that turns them off after 6 hours, so they don't stay on all night and use up the whole battery.

They do look great though and I think I may move them to the front garden over the Christmas period. They’ll be a bit of a welcome for the post-lady – and Santa of course!

They need a good long time to charge up, the first time you use them, so the following day they didn’t stay on for very long, but if I turn off the battery unit, I think they’ll perk up over a few days and will then look very nice in the evenings. 

It’s also possible to put another rechargeable battery into the solar unit, so if I’m really keen to have the lights on, maybe I can give it a bit of extra support on days with really poor light quality.  They did come on again today, at dusk, and were still on when I went out to the recycling bin, so they're working okay (it's just been a misty and dull old day).

* * *

So, thanks to Dobbies, I have some very pretty lights to cheer up the chilly winter evenings in our little corner of the street.

And guess what?  I have also been asked to make a Guest Post for the Dobbies Blog, with a tutorial post (clue, it involves stars and paper!!).   Watch out for this in the very near future, with a companion post here on my blog too!

See, I told you I’m a Lucky Blogger!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Work In Progress...

Well, I thought I would try to give my Blog a bit of a pre-Christmas Makeover.  I have been wanting a wider screen layout for a while - most people have wide screens now and I hope it won't cause any issues for those who don't!
Working on the general setup of the screen, colours for backgrounds etc.  Please bear with me, as this is likely to go through a number of "Versions" before I'm happy.
I've been using some of the great advice available from a Blogging friend, Louise, of Adori Graphics.  This is her "day job", so she's well qualified to give advice - she does blog makeovers and design for people as a paid job, but she's also very generous with her Freebies and Tutorials - take a look at her blog to see what I mean!
Meanwhile, I'm making use of the knowledge I've picked up from her and also the helpful stuff we got from Shimelle, on the BFS course last year. 
Not sure about the pink background... don't know what it looks like to you people (all screens are so different), but my laptop makes it look really quite Pink.  Maybe not... I was trying for "subtle", but it seems to be verging on "Barbie"!
Also trying to sort out why there are still white bits behind the main section and above, in the header area.  No doubt I'll find it soon...
And there are the green bits, which are part of a nice background I downloaded free from  I don't know if I still want that, but I am not sure where it is on my HTML page setup...

As I said, "Work In Progress"! 

More posts being planned for very soon, by the way.  I have been sent a rather great little "Freebie", which I will review quite soon.  Also have been asked to provide a Tutorial as a Guest Blogger (!), which I'll be matching with another Tutorial on my own blog - linked together of course!  They will be about making paper decorations for your home/tree.  Watch out for these soon!

Also, I have got myself a "job"!  I submitted a Course Description form, to the Frontiers Club, that J. goes to on Saturdays.  They offer various choices each school term, for a six-week morning course, then a one-day Workshop in the seventh week.  I sent in details for a one-day workshop, teaching the kids how to make Sock Pets/ Monsters.  It has been accepted and the brochure for next term is now at the printers'.  All being well - assuming enough children sign up to it - I will be teaching a workshop called "Raid the Sock Drawer!" on Saturday 26th March - and getting paid to do it!  I still have to go and see the admin people, to complete paperwork and get my CRB check stuff sorted out (that's the approval to say you're not a criminal etc).   Shouldn't be a problem - not aware that I've done anything naughty, unless in my sleep...  I'm quite excited!

Three Sock Amigos!

Hope all my blog friends are well and busy.  I've been trying to "catch up" over the last few days, but still very busy here.  If I haven't got round to you yet, I will do, I promise!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Lizzie’s Guide to London–Part Three (at last!)

Hello again, all Blog Friends – old and new!

Well, a bit of an interruption – of the nicest kind – for the Blog Hop Party in aid of the Bloggiversary celebrations…

But I thought I would post about the rest of our family trip to London over the half-term holiday. 

There’s not a lot left to tell you though – we had big plans for the Monday and Tuesday, which were somewhat curtailed…

Lizzie's Guide to London - Part Three

Monday 25th October
A Trip into London Town

We’d been down the river to Greenwich and we’d explored the area round about our youth hostel, in the City; so it was time we went up to Town and had a look around.

The Boys had a Plan for their morning and I also had a Plan for mine… they didn’t quite match, so it seemed to make sense for us to separate at a certain point and meet up later.

We took the Tube (underground train for those who don’t know our funny language!) from St. Paul’s …
Actually, that’s not quite true, since we were prevented from getting on the train at St. Paul’s – it was closed and the area cordoned off by the police.  We don’t know why, but it did mean we had to walk down to Blackfriars instead. 

We all went as far as Holburn, then we separated – the Boys heading for Oxford Street and a particular Shop they wanted to visit (Warhammer related.. yawn.. zzz).  I headed to Russell Square, in Bloomsbury, with shopping of an altogether different sort in mind…

Bloomsbury, London – Map courtesy of Wikipedia

I love that name – “Bloomsbury” – it sounds like flowers and little city squares of old houses, with trees and green grass… it reminds me of “The Bloomsbury Set” and makes me think of poetry, Victorian novels, a certain age of elegance and exploration…

Of course, the Bloomsbury area of London does have some lovely old houses, still in great condition, many in those squares with grassy little parks in the centre. 

Bedford Gardens, Bloomsbury, London (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Other parts are more modernised and more filled with traffic.  In Bloomsbury you will find many great buildings, including the British Museum, where we went on our last trip to London about 3 years ago (another stay in the St. Pauls YHA and plenty of exploring). 
The British Museum

There are also a number of businesses that have been there since Victorian times (or even before) and plenty of reminders of its Victorian hey-day.

I was searching for a Particular Shop, on Southampton Row, right in the heart of Bloomsbury… I got off the Tube at Russell Square, feeling a bit excited… this was my own little expedition; for the first time in years, I was all on my own in London, going somewhere just for me! 

First Mistake (if you don’t count the extra walk because of St. Pauls station being closed).  Russell Square is one of the oldest Underground Stations in London; it’s also one of the deepest underground. 
There are two lifts to the surface, also a staircase.   The station was very busy and it was taking a long time for everyone to get a space in the lifts, so I thought I’d be clever and take the stairs.  After all, it was only 165 steps and I could do with some exercise…

So, ignoring the notice that warned me about the 165 steps, I started off up the old, winding staircase…. and took rest-stops at the various little landings on the way… and started to wonder if it had been such a good idea after all… especially when younger, fitter people started to pass me on the stairs and were complaining about the walk… and I started to feel a bit worn out and breathless… and after all, maybe 165 steps is too much for an unfit woman with asthma… but I’m further up than down, so I may as well continue… I must be nearly there… well, now I must be… now? … whew, 165 steps is a lot…
(photo courtesy of jonathan percy on flikr)

At last, the Top of the Stairs!  I won’t dwell too long on how I was feeling. It wasn’t elegant or pretty to be hot and exhausted at the top of Russell Square Station staircase.  I headed across the road and into a coffee shop… A hot chocolate and a sit-down later, I began to feel a bit better.  Well, that would teach me not to take the stairs next time! 

I set off along Southampton Row, looking for No.76.  The numbering started at this end… so it must be a little bit further down… a bit further, on this side of the road… what number is that? Oh, twenty-six… hmmm, a bit further then… Good thing I had that hot chocolate and a rest… Number fifty… good I’m almost there… Seventy – oh good.  But what about all this scaffolding across this row of buildings – it must be one of those… Ah, relief, it’s not closed! 
Falkiner’s.  Well, Shepherd Falkiners, to give it its full title, since Shepherd’s and Falkiners merged in recent years. 

Who?  Falkiner’s.  The Holy Grail of Bookbinding Supplies… well for me anyway.  Shepherd’s and Falkiners have been around for years and years.  They make wonderful, traditional hand-bound books and sell all manner of fabulous supplies for us lesser mortals, who are trying to learn our bookbinding as we go, at home in our little studios….
(photo from Falkiner’s website)

And Paper, don’t forget the Paper!  Their supply of paper, on their internet site, makes my eyes go fuzzy… there is so much choice!   They sell a variety of plain papers, for the pages of books; then there is a huge choice of decorated papers, from all over the world, for use as covers, linings and end-papers. 
(photo from Falkiner’s website)

Japanese washi, chiyogami etc… lovely designs, elegant and beautifully printed;  A variety of mulberry papers, from the finest Tibetan tissues, to lovely heavy-weight Khadi papers in jewel-like colours;  Italian prints in traditional designs – like that popular Florentine Paisley-like pattern – and some more modern; French papers, elegant, stylish and richly coloured; local English papers, with copies of story-book illustrations, Art Deco and Art Nouveau designs, British designers’ work; hand-made marbled papers, from Italy, Germany, France…

It’s hard to describe the variety of papers available.  I would have liked to buy a huge amount… but I didn’t want to over-spend and also knew I would have to get it all home safely, so I stuck to a few sheets of special paper, chose the fine tissue I needed to make silk bookcloth for my Diary/Planner project – it’s a sort-of mulberry-style paper, not like the tissue that you’d use for gift wrapping etc.

Then I paid a visit to the Basement…The Bindery
(Poster available from Falkiner’s)

Bookbinding supplies, leather and tools… ahhhh…

They had printing presses, nipping presses, book presses, book-binding frames, knives, cutters, leather-working tools, embossing tools, bone folders, scissors, rulers;  there was a supply of binding tapes, mull (a form of muslin, used to line the spine of a traditional binding, to support the book-block and give it strength), needles, linen threads, gold leaf, heading tapes, glues, tapes, bookcloths in cotton, linen and silks…. and leather!  They had rolls and rolls of coloured leather, also boxes filled with leather offcuts of various sizes.  There were also ready-made book blocks, in various sizes, plus ready-to-bind diaries for 2011…

I could have spent all day there.

I could have spent a FORTUNE there!

I didn’t do either of those things… I did buy some lovely Italian papers, the mulberry tissue I needed, a great little bone folder, a copy of the fabby poster you see above, a roll of kraft paper, overprinted with a design of zig-zags, in magenta (they also had red, green, blue and orange… can’t have all of them, had to choose!).
I spent a modest amount and came away smiling even more than when I went in, ready to meet the Boys for lunch.

Who? Oh, yeah, them… the Boys… mmmm… almost forgot about them while I rummaged blissfully in one of the most wonderful shops in the whole of London… (but I didn’t forget them completely and sent a text message to say I was leaving soon, to meet them). 

I thought it would take so long to walk to the Tube, get the train and then walk up Oxford Street, that I may as well walk.  The distance was relatively short – along Bloomsbury Way, down New Oxford Street and into Oxford Street itself, to a little shopping mall, about half way down.  The Games Workshop (Warhammer shop) was there, also a food hall, where there are various food stalls with a central sitting area they all share.  We were going to meet there for lunch. Off I set...

Along Bloomsbury Way…. into New Oxford Street… a bit tired…. legs ache… sore feet… it isn’t much further though….

Down New Oxford Street – which was a lot longer than I remember… sore feet…. why did I wear my brown boots anyway? They are at least 6 years old…. they’re getting too old for much walking, even if they are flat…. tired legs…

Now Oxford Street. Very full of people… busy shops… could fancy a day shopping here… no, I have to meet the boys… besides, if I don’t sit down soon, I’ll fall down…

Got to the Mall.  D. took one look at me and said, “Lunch time!  You sit over there and I’ll get lunch.”  Phew!  Such a relief to sit down.   One baked potato and coffee later, I thought I was ready to carry on to Regent Street, where we hoped to visit Hamleys Toy Shop, then Covent Garden and perhaps the Rainforest Cafe (if they could find us a table).

Nope, once I was on my feet, it was clear that I couldn’t cope with much more.  We headed for the Tube.   End of shopping trip.  I kind-of staggered my way back to the hostel and spent a couple of hours resting on my bed.  On the way back from St. Paul’s underground station, D. bought me a new pair of shoes – some comfy trainers.  (It’s not that my boots weren’t comfortable, I just think they have got old and stretched, so there was no support for my feet).

Not quite the exciting afternoon we’d planned, but there you are.  Maybe we were a bit ambitious with our plans, considering how much walking we had done on Saturday and Sunday. 

D. went to the M&S food shop round the corner and bought a posh picnic for our tea (yummy!).  Once we’d eaten, it was about 6pm and we all felt rested.  Put on the new trainers (bliss!) and headed out…

Leicester Square

A fairground in Leicester Square – Fun!
A couple of likely lads…

VIEWTY2 251010_005_Leicester_Square_by_Night4
A couple of blokes we met… Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Chaplin, Sirs!

Trafalgar Square

The famous Fountains were all lit up…

National Gallery by night…

A certain famous Admiral, atop his Column
(Admiral Lord Nelson, for those who don’t know)

After exploring Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, we wandered into China Town and strolled around.  It was a pity we’d had our dinner – the smells from the numerous restaurants were wonderful – I did so wish I was hungry!!

Tired but happy… on the Tube back to St.Pauls

My pillow was a very welcome sight that Monday evening!

* * *

Just to finish, I’ll tell you about Tuesday.  The original plan was that we’d spend the day in London and come home mid-afternoon, which is what we had done the last time.  The hostel has luggage lockers, so although we had to check out of our room, we could leave our bags. 

We were going to go to St. Pauls Cathedral, then on to a tour of the Globe Theatre, across the river. 
But we were just too tired.  All the walking and busy sight-seeing had caught us all up and we just wanted to go Home!  So, we did!

A train journey from Blackfriars to Bedford Station.  A short taxi-ride to our village… home in time for our Lunch!

It was disappointing to miss our chance to see the Cathedral and the Globe.  However, it was such a relief to be home again – I think we had done enough for one trip.  There can be a Next Time, as we are lucky enough to live reasonably close to London.  Maybe next year…




The End!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Blog Party Winners!

Well, I nearly forgot… to make the Draws for the Five Prizes from my Blog Party Pin-the-Tail-On-the-Donkey game!  I know I’m late and I’m sorry…

So, it got a bit complicated.  There are 45 comments on my Blog Party Post.  However, some of these were my response to the comments and one or two were from people who didn’t want to join in with the draw, but did want to comment….

I decided that if I drew a random comment which falls into those categories, I would draw again.  I hope no-one minds, but I just couldn’t cope with any mathematical gymnastics tonight!

Soooooo…. DRRRRRRRR (drum roll – yeah, I know, sad, but what can you do?); With the help of Random.Org and it’s great random number generator…

Prize Number One

The cute little Birthday Stamps

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 45
Result: 19

The Prize goes to Becky!   Congratulations to you, Becky.  Please get in touch to claim your prize.

Prize Number Two

The Pink Owl notebooks

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 45
Result: 45

The Winner is Beverly!  Last but not least, eh? Please send me your details, so I can let you have your prize.

Prize Number Three

Two Teeny Notebooks

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 45
Result: 18

The winner is Deb! Yay for DebTurtle!

Prize Number Four

The Christmas Bauble mini-scrapbook

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 45
Result: 5

Another winner… this time, it’s Nancy!  Well done you – let me know where to send your prize!

And Finally…

Prize Number Five

The pair of Pamphlet Notebooks

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 45
Result: 24

The final prize goes to…. Elizabeth!  Congratulations to you!  Send me your address and I’ll post your prize.

* * *

Some new Blog Friends are in the prize winners’ list.  I love blogging!

Please, all Prize Winners, send me an e-mail (lizziemade [at] aol [dot] com) with your Contact and Postal Details, so I can post your prizes to you ASAP!

Friday, 12 November 2010

A bit of Catching Up

Hello again, all Blog Friends – old and new!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything… I was busy telling you all about our family trip to London – still some of the story left to tell; I’ll post (the final) Part Three very soon. 

Before I carry on with that though, a bit of “housekeeping” and a little catching up on my last two or three hectic weeks… 

* * *

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, since we got back from our London trip.  J. has been back at school for two weeks now.  D. has been at home, “in between contracts” and has been busy with various projects of his own.

I’ve been doing the usual juggling of household chores (housework, what’s that? I’ve no time for housework!!); trying to make sure the house isn’t too grubby for good health; that we all have clean clothes, towels and bed linen; that the pets are fed and watered, with clean homes/beds…  Then I’ve been taking my mum to her usual assortment of appointments – mainly nurse and dr. visits – helping her with a few jobs, keeping an eye on her. … and trying to make books – lots of them!
And, of course, there was the small diversion of a Blog Party to go to last weekend…

* * *

Blog Hop Prize Draw

Firstly, I forgot to put a Draw Date on my blog hop post.  I will make the draw for the Five prizes on Sunday evening, some time around 8pm (GMT).  I hope that will give anyone who’d like to join in, the time to read the post and leave their entry on the Comments.

* * *

Then there’s this:

Ships Photo Album

9”x6” Photo album - Front view
Back view
Binding view

This was a commission order, that I received from a friend on Tuesday morning.  She rather urgently wanted an album, in blue, with a ship design, that she could put photos in and give to someone as a present.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, discussing her requirements, I came up with this lovely ultramarine blue paper for the hinged edge and inside the covers, and the fabby travel design paper on the covers.  I also used the travel paper as guards/spacers round each pair of pages.  It added a bit of colour and interest to the bound edge of the book.

I spent a while trying to decide whether to make a Coptic stitched binding, or a Japanese-style stab-stitch, with hinged cover.  I decided that neither would allow room for expansion, which would be needed if photos were being put into the album.  It was to have between 20 and 40 pages, which is quite a lot for a photo album (a paper one anyway).

I decided to make a traditional tied binding, through two holes in the covers and pages, so set about making the album along those lines.  After a while, I worried that a cord tie would be tricky to use for such a thick book. 

A bit more thinking and I came up with these binding posts, which are used for scrapbook albums.  I had a set of K&Co album binding posts, which were brand new and shiny, so I used those;  even so, I’m not sure there is enough room in the album and I’m going to try and find some extra extension posts (I only have 1 extension and obviously need 2!!), which I’ll send on asap.

I was quite pleased to have this completed in two days (in amongst my various commitments for J. and my mum!).  It went off in the post yesterday, with guaranteed delivery by 1pm today.  I’m waiting to hear if she likes it (I hope!!).  Apart from my reservations about how thick it is and whether the posts are long enough, I am really pleased with this album.  I’d have liked just a little more time though, to spend on planning and binding, as it has a couple of small mistakes, which I wouldn’t have made, if I had been able to take more time over it.  But it isn’t too “imperfect” and overall is quite a nice book!

(smiles broadly Winking smile)

* * *

Going a bit further back in the calendar…

I did my first ever “Craft Fair” last Saturday.  A local lady organised an Art and Crafts Exhibition in the Village; this was the second year that she has done this.  Last year I saw her advert, but didn’t think I would have enough stock for a stall, so I chickened out…

When we went to see the exhibition, there were people with little teeny card tables, on which they were displaying their work.  Even I could’ve filled one of those, so this year I phoned as soon as I saw the advertisement (before I lost my nerve) and booked a table, to have a Handbound Book stall.
I also booked a large table to be used by our Scrapbooking Club, so we could give demonstrations and try to drum up a few more members. 

We were lucky enough to be given 3 notice boards and a small table to display stuff on – some of our work.

Two Scrappers hard at work!

My Stall

I spent the two or three weeks leading up to the sale working flat-out to make books to sell.  The organiser thought I should have plenty of lower priced items, since she thought that people would not have a lot to spend.  So I made quite a few of my pamphlet-style notebooks, to sell in pairs; also a number of sets of covered note-pads (ready-made tablets of note paper, on which I put nice “policeman style” flip over covers). 

I made a couple of bigger books too:-

A large Album/ Sketchbook, covered with lovely collage-style paper.  Japanese-style stab-stitch binding in red linen.  Contains ten hand-torn pages of heavy-weight watercolour/print paper, with folded spacers.  Measures 111/4” x 81/4

A Journal or Sketchbook, covered with “Pens” paper, with a navy silk quarter binding. Contains 50 pages of sketch paper.  Measures 81/4” x 61/4”.

So the Big Day Dawned:

My stall, all set out and ready for Business!

I didn’t actually sell a great deal.  I made £24 of sales, which means I covered my costs, but no  more.  There just were not enough people coming through – and many who did come were not really spending any money, they were just there to look at the crafts on display.

However, I think it was still worthwhile, as now a lot of people locally know that I exist.  Quite a few took my business card away with them and some took my phone number.  A few stopped to chat and seemed interested – maybe I will get some orders from them later.

And, of course, the experience was good for me; planning, making, packing, pricing, presentation of books and the stall, putting together a portfolio album, just getting it all sorted out and experiencing a sale – even if a small one.  I may do it again – perhaps at a slightly bigger venue.  It wasn’t a waste of a day, but useful experience. I am glad I took the plunge and did it!

* * *

That’s a quick summary of the last couple of weeks in “Lizzie Land”.  Lots of other things have happened, but now they’ve gone by, it doesn’t seem a good idea to drag them back up again – nothing of much significance in the Great Scheme of things! 

I will post about London soon – probably tomorrow! 
G’night All…


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