Wednesday, 29 June 2016

WOYWW 369

At last I’ve got something to show you on my workdesk this Wednesday. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get my Cougar cutting machine up and running again (she’s called Sheba) – she’s been in deep hibernation for several years as I’ve been dealing with other more pressing matters in my life during that time!

After much correspondence to and fro on the wonderful Thyme Machines forum, those wonderful people on there have helped me on the way and Sheba is in action again, just in time for me to make a card for a new baby – baby steps, you could say. You can see the finished card and its matching tag on the table. I have yet to make a card insert for it, which I am going to design on the computer and print out.

WOYWW 369 29-6-16

To the right you can see my Final Cut Pro folder with notes and instructions for using this video editing software on the Mac – not that I’ve done a lot recently, and that’s another thing that needs to be brought up to speed again soon. On top of the folder are my instructions on designing and cutting stencils using Sheba. The same cut file I used for the baby footprints has also been made into a stencil.

Since I last joined in with WOYWW I have been very busy, and have been attending a 5-week course at the cancer support and info centre at our local hospital entitled “Moving On After Cancer” which is proving to be extremely interesting and very helpful. Yesterday afternoon was session 3 of the course. You will notice that there are some new page tabs at the top of my blog, covering the sessions, if anyone is interested in reading them. I have had some good feedback from the cancer forum I am on – this sort of support is sadly lacking in other parts of the world, notably the USA and Australia, and I am happy to pass on the excellent information we are receiving.

Have a good week, everybody.

New Goodies from a Village Fete

Last Saturday my hubby and I returned to the village where we used to live, for their annual village fete, which is always great fun. The weather managed to hold off pretty much, with only a slight spitting of rain, so all was well. As usual, the bri-a-brac stall was very much in evidence and I made  bee-line for it, to discover that this year, it was even better than usual – they had brilliant stuff on it and I came away with some great bargains!

This has got to be the ugliest lamp you have ever set eyes on.

01 The Ugliest Lamp in the World

My hubby got some very strange looks as he carried it back to the car for me. Why did I buy it, you ask? Well, it is honest, not trying to be anything it isn’t, and so unashamedly horrible that probably nobody else would have bought it, and I felt sorry for it. That shade, on upside down… it even has a rip in it. The cable is horrible, with the wrong sort of plug on it. The poor old thing… No, but I almost had you there!! I bought it to go behind my magnificent Burmese screen:

18 Burmese Screen 9-5-26

with a red bulb in it. In our old house, I had a table lamp with a red bulb and it glowed beautifully through all the lovely pierced carving, but since we moved here I haven’t got a spare table lamp. When I saw that magnificently ugly lamp, I knew I’d found Just the Thing. I haven’t got a red bulb yet, and I’ve got to replace the cable, but soon, I hope, it will move to its new home and give good service.

What else did I buy?

02 Flower Press and Sparkles

I found this flower press. I bought one off Ebay a few years ago and it was such rubbish (the threads on the bolts stripped away as soon as you tightened the nuts and the whole thing was very flimsy) so it had to go back. This one looks a lot more substantial, and will be useful for a number of things in the studio, apart from pressing flowers. Beside it is a small plastic box of sparkly bits which will come in handy to embellish various projects.

03 Jewellery

As usual, there was lots of jewellery. I usually stock up on old necklaces and beads to take apart for art projects, but there wasn’t so much in that line that I was interested in this time. Instead, there was a lot of really nice stuff, most of which looked absolutely new – the earrings were all on their original cards, and the necklace and earring set was in its original box. All the earrings were only 50p a pair.

I also got one or two bits and pieces for the kitchen. I was a bit cross because in the box of kitchen utensils was a silicone pastry brush for about 25p, and I’ve just bought myself one!! Ah well, can’t win ’em all… I got this nice silicone spatula and a dual purpose knife and scissors sharpener which will be useful.

05 Spatula and Knife Sharpener

I also bought this mandolin-style slicer, still in its original box, complete with instructions. I think it had been used, probably only once or twice, but it’s in pristine condition. I’ve tried it, and it works a treat.

04 Mandolin Slicer

In addition to these bits and pieces, I discovered a huge quantity of textile artwork. A lady in the village had apparently been on a textile course and these were her sample pieces. She had had a tragedy in her life and was moving, and downsizing, and had put all this stuff in the fete. I was thrilled to find it and thought that probably if I didn’t buy it, it might end up being thrown away – something I couldn’t bear to think about, so I thought I’d give it a good home, and possibly even use some of it, but looking at it later, I didn’t think I could bring myself to do that, but would keep it and use it for inspiration.

I didn’t buy it all as there was a huge amount, but in a plastic sleeve were these samples:

14 Small Samples

There was also a large portfolio-style book of fabric pieces, “Experiments” – she had obviously made the book herself, and it’s amazing. There are some gorgeous rich textures and interesting use and combination of materials.

01 Experiments - Front Cover

Inside the front cover:

02a Experiments -  Inside Front Cover - Blurred

The pages are all made of fabric which looks like old sheeting.

“Random.”

03 Experiment - Random

“Fabric, lace, gesso, acrylic, ink, threads.”

04 Fabric, Lace etc

“Random.”

05 Experiments - Random

“Random.”

06 Experiments - Random

“Cities.”

07 Experiments - Cities

“Waterfront.”

08 Experiments - Waterfront

“Factory chimneys.”

09 Experiments - Factory Chimneys

“Fence.”

10 Experiments - Fence

“Fence.”

11 Experiment - Fence

“Pylons,” “Fence,” and “Random.”

12 Experiments - Pylons, Fence and Random

Inside the back cover:

13 Experiments - Inside Back Cover

Far too good to be thrown away, wouldn’t you agree? I think she would be pleased that someone has appreciated all her hard work and given it a good home. I wish her well in her new life.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

New Baby Card

I am feeling highly delighted that I have now got Sheba going again. Sheba is the name I gave to my Cougar cutting machine, and she’s been under wraps for several years. So much has been going on in my life over the past few years that I haven’t had time to get her going. Starting afresh, I am also using her with  new operating system (my iMac) and I’ve experienced numerous difficulties along the way, but with the excellent help of the folks on the cutting machine forum, I’ve finally got her to work properly, and I’m very pleased with the result.

10 Completed Card Front

The first thing I was able to cut with Sheba was the stencil for the baby footprints. In the past, I have always used acetate for stencils, but this is quite hard, and fine parts of the stencil tend to break, and it is also very hard on the blade of the cutting machine. Someone on the forum some time ago suggested using polypropylene instead, as this is a softer plastic, and much easier to manage, and it makes stronger and more flexible stencils too. They suggested cutting up cheap polywallets, so I got some at the time from Ebay. I have to agree that this material is a lot nicer to use in every respect than acetate; it cuts like butter, and I cut a lovely stencil with no problem at all.

I adapted an image I found online, and designed my stencil in Inkscape, which is a very powerful vector drawing programme, which is also open source (free). I use a plug-in which enables me to export the designs to Signcut, another programme which sends the information to the cutting machine.

Here is the stencil.

01 Baby Footprints Stencil

This is the original sketch and notes that I made for the project. I find it helpful to do this when working with multiple layers, so that I know which parts to cut from the different coloured card. Signcut has a facility whereby you can select different elements of the Inkscape drawing and cut each element in turn. You just have to draw them in different colours.

01 Initial Sketch

Here are the first elements of the design, duly cut out. These were all cut from the darkest blue in my pack of American Cardstock 12 x 12 in. cardstock, which cuts beautifully with Sheba. You can see the lattice frame, and the tag, and two narrow frame pieces.

02 Dark Blue Elements Cut Out

This is the only piece I cut from the mid-blue card. The card base was eventually cut from this colour as well, but I didn’t need Sheba to do that because it was just a question of cutting a piece to A4 size and folding it in half.

03 Mid-Blue Element Cut Out

This is the only piece I’ve cut from the very pale blue, cutting the baby footprint stencil file.

04 Pale Blue Element Cut Out

Two backing pieces cut from silver mirror board. I used Anita’s silver mirriboard, which is more expensive than generic mirror board, but it is slightly thinner than most, and cuts very well on Sheba, so I keep this just for this purpose.

05 Silver Elements Cut Out

A mock-up of the various layers, showing how the card will work. I also made a tag to go on the gift for the new baby.

06 Mock-Up of Cut Out Elements

The lattice and outer frame pieces, and the silver oval, stuck down on the card base.

07 Background Elements in Place

The next layer added: the pale blue piece with the footprints cut out, revealing the silver beneath. I cut the oval slightly smaller than the silver oval, to create a silver mat layer around the oval.

08 Footprints Layer in Place

Finally, the narrow oval frame cut from the dark blue, to complete the card, seen here with the tag, which was cut from the dark blue, with a silver mat layer, topped with the pale blue rectangle with the feet cut out.

09 Completed Card Front and Tag

The finished card.

10 Completed Card Front

The finished tag.

11 Completed Tag

I still have to make a card insert, and propose designing this with my desktop publishing software (Serif PagePlus) and printing it out. I shall add the footprints motif using the stencil and some distress ink.

Edited on 30th June after making the card insert:

I designed the card insert using Serif PagePlus, my desktop publishing software – I added the image of the lattice frame temporarily onto my page template and created an oval shape the same size as the window in the frame, and then removed the frame. I added the text following a path, around the oval, and added colour and a couple of special effects – outline and drop shadow, and then added matching text in the top half of the page. I found the quote online and thought it was very appropriate with my footprint theme.

12 Card Insert and Stencil

I used the baby footprints stencil I made to add a pair of footprints inside the text oval, using Faded Jeans distress ink, and then distressed the edges and across the centre of the piece with the same ink, using an Inkylicious Ink Duster.

13 Distressing the Edges of the Insert

The final step was to trim 1/8 inch from top and bottom so that it would not extend beyond the edges of the card, and stick it in place.

I added some seam binding coloured with ink to the top of the tag.

14 Card and Tag with Ribbons

I wrapped the babygro I bought as a gift, and added the tag with some silver ribbon.

15 Wrapped Gift with Tag

Then off to the post office on my buggy and she should receive it tomorrow! It’s taken me long enough to do this project, with all the problems I had with etting Sheba, my cutting machine, running, but all is now complete, and the baby will get his card and present before he starts school!!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit

So… the UK is to leave the EU.

I have wondered for a very long time how any thinking person could be in favour of an institution which is clearly not merely undemocratic, but anti-democratic. This was the last opportunity to save our sovereignty from oblivion and I dread to think what would have happened if the "Remains" had prevailed.

I wonder if Boris will soon be moving into Number Ten?

We now watch with interest what will happen in Scotland.

To my eternal shame, I voted to join the EEC at the first referendum - it was actually the first time I was allowed to vote, and I was young and ignorant. Of course, this country was lied to by the politicians, who told us that this was just about trade, and nothing to do with federalism, knowing full well that that was the intent from the beginning.

No wonder the EU is disappointed at the result (to put it mildly). We have been one of the foremost net contributors and they must be wondering where all that lovely cash is going to come from, from now on!

What we must now hope for is that our leaders do not panic and make unwise decisions, but proceed circumspectly, and allow what has happened to become the great opportunity for Britain that Boris has suggested.

Whatever the result, what has emerged is that this is a deeply divided nation, and here and in Europe, it is clear that ordinary people are deeply disillusioned with politics and feel disempowered in the decision-making process. The ramifications are immense, and seismic waves will spread throughout the globe. The very foundations of the EU are shaking and it will be interesting to see if other member states will also demand a referendum on whether to remain. I've just said to my hubby that this could be the greatest constitutional crisis since the abdication in 1936 when the monarchy was thought to be in jeopardy.

Edited later in the day, as I have thought more about the ramifications of what has happened:

It was an extremely close-run thing. I just had to stay up to follow the progress. One has to respect the views of nearly half the population who voted to stay in, and to understand their motivation - the margin was so small that none of us can afford to gloat. Some rather foolish things have been said by certain people, suggesting that only those in favour of leaving were sensible, “real” people – this is insulting to those who voted to leave. Whatever people’s views, and however they voted, their opinions are valid. It is a question of becoming as well-informed as possible from the information available, and then responding according to one’s own perspective. This, surely, is democracy! One person who had voted to remain, said that this was a disaster for the country, and that the Brexit people should have listened to the “experts” (such as himself) and that they had voted emotionally and not in response to the facts. I find this insulting and patronising. Most people who voted to leave did so because they had seriously considered the issues and done their own research and come to their own conclusions. None of this sort of mud-slinging is helpful in any way; what we need is a mature appraisal of the facts, and good sense directing the way in which we go forward from now on; we must face the future united in a common search for what is best for the country, and make the most of the great opportunity that has been given to us.

For most of those who voted to remain, their reasons hinged on economics - what we will lose from leaving, all the trade agreements with Europe etc. etc., regardless of the fact we are fourth in the list of net contributors and have paid out far more than we have gained over the years. Membership has cost us dearly. They forget that we have always had trade with the rest of the world as well as Europe, and that the UK is in the top league of financial centres in the world, and this is nothing to do with being a member of the EU. We don't need to be part of Europe, and we are far from being a pathetic little isolationist country off the great continent of Europe, about to be cast off into the deep to sink or swim.

However, there is a whole lot more to it than that. Through treaty after treaty we have gradually signed away our sovereignty. We fought the 2nd World War to preserve our precious democracy and self-determination and since the 1970s we have progressively lost freedom after freedom to Brussels. It is not the European Parliament that runs Europe, but a group of unelected commissioners who are not accountable to anybody. The laws they have passed, and the treaties drawn up, are so complicated that no one person can understand them all. We have lost our self-determination, and the highest court in the land (the House of Lords) is now subject to the European Court of Justice, and we cannot pass any laws in our own parliament that go against the wishes of Brussels. The Queen has been forced to abandon her sacred coronation oath to defend the freedoms of her realm, and has been put in an impossible position. None of this is democratic. There is a huge gravy train on which a few unelected people are making vast sums of money at our expense. They do not have our interests at heart and it is high time that we took back the reins and started running our own affairs again.

Brussels is understandably very concerned about this move. They will lose an important source of revenue and our leaving is really rocking their boat, with several other member states now questioning how things are run.

Issues of immigration are of course very important, and it worries a lot of people that we are being flooded with migrants from Eastern Europe and our economy is struggling, and the NHS is on the verge of collapse. There is a great deal of ill feeling and resentment. More fundamentally, however, I believe that our hard-won sovereignty and ancient democracy are worth fighting for, formed through the centuries from Magna Carta, through the Civil War and Cromwell's Commonwealth before the restoration of the monarchy, when it was decided once and for all that the power of the monarchy should be curbed, and that the people should have the power to remove the government if it was not doing what it was elected to do, and that there should be no taxation without representation. (We pay taxes to Europe but have no power to remove that particular government.) This country's government is known as the Mother of Parliaments, and most of the world's democracies derive from our hard-won experience over many centuries, and in the last generation we have meekly handed it all over to those who have no business determining how we run our own nation. We might as well have rolled over and let the Nazis take over. Thousands upon thousands of lives were lost in that struggle and now, the end result is the same, without a single shot being fired - no self-determination, and no power to remove the oppression – OK, there isn’t the same degree of violent oppression, but the principle is the same. This was the last opportunity for us to have any say in our future, and to restore our autonomy, and thank God we succeeded before the door was closed forever on our ability to choose, and it was done in the nick of time. If David Cameron did one good thing, it was to allow this referendum.

This is a very, very significant move, of massive constitutional importance, and it goes far beyond whether we allow immigrants in or not, or whether the pound will go down, or big business will lose trade with Europe (actually there is no reason why that should happen - look at Switzerland to see how prosperous a non-member state in Europe can be). It is fascinating that many of the member states are expressing dissatisfaction with the anti-democratic nature of the European Commission, and what we achieved yesterday may give other nations "permission" to demand their own referendum too. It could mean the collapse of the EU.

What was exposed last night as the votes came in was that we are a deeply divided nation, and both sides showed a deep disillusionment with the establishment. The leadership of both main parties is at odds with their electorate, and whichever way the vote had gone, the powers that be would have to have addressed this real dissatisfaction with Westminster. Things could not have gone on like this much longer, and the immigration issue alone could have been enough to light the tinderbox and lead to riots or worse. It is significant that the Brexit vote has led to the resignation of the leaders of both the major political parties. What we need now is strong leadership from someone who is actually in favour of our leaving, and has the vision to see what an extraordinary opportunity this could be for our country if it is handled correctly. We need to pray for wisdom for our leaders, more today than ever before. I believe that God is giving this nation one last chance.

Today I have been thinking of this situation in terms of cancer. It is as if this nation has been suffering from cancer, and most people have not even been aware of the seriousness of the situation, just living from day to day and accepting a slight feeling of weakness and loss of control, and bleeding in the direction of Brussels, which we have been trying not to think about. The publicity in the run-up to the referendum was like a scan, heightening people's awareness of the nation's condition, and what happened yesterday was major surgery, with the size of the tumour being revealed as it was removed, and its enormity exposed to the nation. Yesterday's result was a shock to most people, including our friends and family, far and near. There are some, of course, who are still in denial, and refuse to see how serious our situation had become. Now that it is out, the treatment can begin. There will be tough times ahead until things stabilise and the new status quo is brought into being, and people will suffer, just as a person suffers more from the treatment than they did from the cancer, even though, if left untreated, the end would be death. The struggles of the next few years will be like going through chemo, with unpleasant side-effects and a time of weakness, and other matters being pushed into the background while we focus on this important issue. Once the process is complete, we can look forward to a new life, full of independent strength, and the ability once again to choose our own destiny, and hopefully a greater awareness of the preciousness of life and of our own personality and individuality, and our valuable place in the world. We will look back on our struggles and know that it has all been worthwhile, and we are stronger than we were before.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

More Pictures of Our Garden

As I promised a while back, here are some more photos of our garden. The first batch was taken on 25th May.

The new flower boxes on the summer house, with the narrow boat painting I did.

01 Flower Boxes on Summerhouse

02 Large Flower Box on Summerhouse

03 Small Flower Box on Summerhouse

My hubby decided to extend the decking in front of the summer house so we could have a table there, to eat our meals when the weather is nice. Here, he has prepared the ground ready to put in two more railway sleepers.

02 Summerhouse Ground Prepared for New Sleepers

The sweet pea plants he’s put in the troughs along the garage wall, with the trellises he managed to rescue from a rubbish heap on a farm he visited.

05 Sweet Peas

More trellises on the back of the garage, with the new Clematis montana. In a couple of years, this will grow up and cover the end of the garage – it is a prolific plant with very pretty flowers. Growing around it are some columbines which I really love.

06 Clematis Montana and Columbines

A couple of tomato plants my hubby was given, in pots outside the utility room window.

07 Tomatoes

The bank in front of the path leading to Mum’s patio. I love the wild ferns that grow there. There are male ferns and hart’s tongue ferns, and I’ve enjoyed watching them unfurl from their tightly-rolled beginnings. In amongst them on the bank are some wild cyclamen, too, but they are not in flower yet.

08 Ferns on the Bank

A trough of black tulips. I forgot to photograph these when they were at their best; they are dying down a bit here.

09 Black Tulips

The rockery in Mum’s patio.

10 Mum's Rockery

The strawberry pot.

11 Strawberries

A couple of new begonia plants in a pot in the corner of Mum’s patio.

12 New Plants on Mum's Patio

The water feature, taken from the kitchen patio.

13 Water Feature

The herb garden that my hubby made for me, in the corner of the patio outside the kitchen window.

15 Herb Garden

After these photos were taken, the water feature developed a leak somewhere along its length and my hubby had to work quite hard, trying to find the leak. I suggested that it might save him a lot of work if he replaced the plastic the whole way down – he had patched up the old plastic originally. He eventually agreed, and once done, it was successful for a short while, and then water started pouring out from somewhere again, all over the patio, and he thought he’d have to tackle the whole thing all over again… However, he discovered a fold in the plastic which he must have introduced when he had been replacing the stones, and once this was corrected, it has been working perfectly ever since.

This picture, taken on 3rd June, shows the water feature demolished.

11 The Waterfall Taken Apart 3-6-16

Here is my hubby, rebuilding it. This was taken on 4th June.

12 Rebuilding the Waterfall 4-6-16

The remaining photos I took today. You can see some changes and quite a bit of growth in some cases.

The water feature, repaired and working. The trouble is, pictures of it don’t show the water – you just see the plastic liner! In real life, it’s quite obvious, though. This photo was taken standing in the patio.

01 Water Feature from Patio

This photo were taken through the kitchen window, which gives a better view of the patio too.

03 Patio from Kitchen

The herb garden. My hubby has tidied it up, and we also have some parsley in there now.

03 Herb Garden

Pink geranium in a pot by the bank, where the ferns have grown up beautifully since the primroses died back. It’s lovely and mossy and wild. Beside the geranium is a pot of mint.

04 Geranium and Ferns on Bank

Looking along the bank towards the patio outside the flat.

05 Ferns on Bank

The strawberry pot. If you look closely, you can see that there are some strawberries developing – we probably won’t get more than a small bowl but it’s a start! You can see that the kitties have joined me and are “helping” with the tour of the garden.

13 Strawberry Pot with Kitties

Over the last few days, the sweet peas have started flowering! I am amazed how quickly they have grown up – they are quite tall now. There are plenty of buds, so in a few days there should be a good show.

06 Sweet Peas

The flower bed and the bird bath. The climbing rose is known as “Rambling Rector” which is rather amusing!

07 Rambling Rector and Bird Bath

Looking back towards the house along the flower bed.

08 Flower Bed from Top of Garden

Here is the summer house, completed as my hubby had imagined it. You can see the extra railway sleepers in front, providing enough decking for the bench and the small table which he bought in a second-hand furniture shop for £4! He painted it with Cuprinol to match the rest. We can sit up there and have our meals and there is a bit of shade from the apple tree, which makes it very pleasant, with a lovely view back down the garden. It’s a favourite spot!

10 Summer House with Flower Boxes and Baskets

Today my hubby received the two hanging baskets he’d got on Ebay, complete with their silk flowers like the ones in the boxes – maintenance free lol! They look so nice and bright against the brown wood of the summerhouse.

In front, on the decking, he has put a wooden box that he’s painted red, and inside is a basket which is supposed to have bottles in it – he’s thinking of putting some flowers in that as well.

11 Summer House and Apple Tree

The view of the summerhouse from the top of the bank. It makes such a lovely focal point at the end of the garden, and I love what he’s done with the flower bed.

12 Summer House from Top of Bank

Finally, a view of the water feature from above, through the trellis.

09 Water Feature from Above

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of our garden! As time goes on, all the plants will grow and mature. It’s already hugely different, and it’s all down to my hubby’s hard work and imagination, with a few suggestions from yours truly!