Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Weekly Round-up and a Charming (Bracelet) Craftbotic Tutorial

I've been doing quite a bit of lurking this week. I have some serious coldage going on right now and it's wiped me off my feet, made me behind with my work and given me little energy to get my blog on. However, there's some awesome blog action going on out there and while I didn't have loads of energy to comment I want to show these ladies some love:
  • Lauren moved me with her commitment to raising awareness about childhood cancer.
  • Julie made my mouth water with her tasty shredded beef recipe.
  • Alex made me homesick for Germany, but happy that I've found someone else in the blogosphere close to Mannheim!
  • English, who reminded me of great times in Trier and Luxemberg, shared some awesome photos from her Europe road trip.
    For those of you who missed it, I guest-posted over at Cocalores on Thursday. I hope you'll go and check out what I am in love with!
Anja is the great gal behind Cocalores. I met up with her in the summer; you can read about this here. She brought with her lovely homemade gifts (it's at this point I would normally show you a photo, but I forgot to take!). While we were there, we hit up an awesome little craft shop with some super-cute beads. So I bought some materials and vowed to make both English and Anja something to remember the day by.
Voila - here we have the 'Karlsruhe' bracelet! And like giant school kids, we all sorta match.
Twine or thin leather cord (1 metre is easily enough)
A charm of your choice
Some small beads in a complimentary colour
Thong findings (the clasp things below...)
Some jewellery pliers, or a boyfriend with normal pliers covered in electrical tape!
 1. Use an existing bracelet to decide on the size of your bracelet. I have skinny wrists, but this one dangles just right.  Make sure the string is the same length or slightly longer. Cut 4 pieces of string into separate pieces.
2. Attach half of the clasp to one end of the bracelet cord.
3. Place the charm halfway along one piece of string. Tie knots either side. Check it will sit on your wrist in the correct place before tightening too much.

 4. Leaving the next strand of string clear, tie a knot 2-3 centimetres down from the clasp. Thread on the smaller beads. Make sure there is some movement in the row before tying the second knot. Then check that they sit on your wrist well.
5. Fiddle with the 4 strings until you have them together in one bunch and the string or cord taught. Check the size again against your existing bracelet. Check where the second clasp should go (using the existing clasps as a guide.)
6. Add the final clasp making sure your strings stay tight. Snip off the ends.
7. Put on your wrist and admire.
 Who says we should ever get too old for bracelets?
It's taken me over 4 weeks to write this tutorial, but expect more from me in the future. I am hoping to be back on track with craft fair production after the weekend. Until then, I hope you had a great one!
If you have any ideas for easy and popular crafts to sell at a school craft fair, please let me know!

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Club Week 6: Have you Fallen for 'Fallen'? Plus our next title

We've reached the last week of this round of Book Club. So it's goodbye to Fallen by Lauren Kate and hello to (drum roll or something):
The Guilty One by Lisa Ballyntyne.
We're going to start reading and discussing this book on Friday 12th October and as it's a slightly shorter novel than we've been used to, we'll read it over 5 weeks rather than 6. I'll be back next week on 5th October with all of our discussion questions and the schedule. I hope that you guys will be able to join in this round.
Every round, I giveaway an advertising space for my top Book Club reader. It was quite hard this time as I had two awesome ladies who took part in the whole thing. So, because it was too hard to decide between them, I've decided to offer both of them the prize! Thanks Brighton and Karen! Please drop me an email so I can send you the link to my sponsorship page.
So here are our final questions for this week's link up:
  • When Luce finally gets some answers from Daniel, how interested were you by this plot development?
  • As the book rushes to a dramatic conclusion, what are your thoughts on the end of the book? Will you go on to read the other three novels?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Rant: When did people get so mean?

I was reading the news over the weekend and once again a massive row has erupted about teacher's pay based on comments on the leader of our inspection regime. As usual, I scrolled to the bottom of the article to view the 'comments' expecting the poles apart responses of those who teach and those that don't.

Here are a selection of some of the comments I found from the non-teaching community:
  • "Teachers are selfish and self obsessed, I think this is why there are so many comments about the 'real world'"
  • "It's an insult to the term "Profession" to think of teaching as a profession. Nothing but bad mannered, poorly dressed layabouts. It's high time somebody made them work hard for a living."
  • "Teachers are nearly as bad as those Islamic fundamentalists when it comes to being offended by criticism."
  • "Teachers complain they can only go abroad during the expensive time. They're like farmers - never satisfied."
So did I jump on the comments and put them right? Did I disagree fervently and rant with my teacher friends over how 'misunderstood' we are? Did I ridicule my comparison with Islamic fundamentalists and farmers (those well known 'moaners' apparently)?  Did I throw a fit and start ranting about politicians, bankers, the unemployed, immigrants, other public sector workers, the price of cheese, the colour of sheep or the lack of libraries? No.
Instead I was struck with a great sadness. When did we, as a society, become so mean? Teachers have been the subject of these 'debates' for years, as have any public sector workers, so it's not even that this particular 'attack' is aimed at a profession I work in. It's more the increase in viciousness that I question.
As an English teacher, one of the books we study is Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'. Much to our Education Minister's particular offence, I would say that most children in our country study this as a cultural novel as part of the English Literature GCSE. In fact, I am studying it right now with examination students. It's a wonderful novel and teaches us a lot about what happens in a recession.
The message is simple and I see it whenever I open a paper, hear conversations about money, or turn on the news. Poverty and hardship makes humans mean. We lose our sense of community; we resent the money other people make; we're in a constant competition for who has it worse and strive to make sure that no-one is allowed to have it any better than anyone else.
This summer, the Olympics gave me hope. Our nation united with a level of pride and community that would make anyone proud. Less than 4 weeks later and the sniping has started. Gone is the inspiring news of Olympic success. Gone is the sense that united we can achieve the most amazing results. The 'legacy' that was so hoped for is fading and quickly.
I am left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment for my community and increasing frustration that courtesy and respect for others is disappearing rapidly (which is almost ironic considering England is pretty much known for it's reservation and politeness).
This was going to be a simple 'rant' about my lift being broken for the last week, for the cigarette butts dropped on my balcony, for the offensive comments in the resident's book, for the pictures of men's genitals which someone keeps drawing on any note that they don't agree with, for the rubbish dropped in the stairwells, for the mud streaked across the walls and for the silence in which neighbours greet each other. Then I realised that this behaviour is symptomatic of everything that I thought about when I read the hateful attack on teachers in the news this weekend.
Economic suffering has made people angry, bitter, selfish and mean.
Not everyone, obviously.  I don't even feel pity for those who attack others around them in a reaction to an economic situation that seems out of most people's control.
Instead I am grateful. I am grateful for the online refuge and community that I am involved in here. There may be cliques here and there, but people of all backgrounds, nationalities, intellects, genders and wealth come together and make a difference. It gives me hope. I am also grateful for all of my friends, family and work colleagues who are equally unaffected by the meany bug that appears to be going around right now.
Have any of you noticed similar behaviours in your country or community? Is this just all in my head? How can we as individuals make that change and restore a sense of 'real-world' community?
I can't wait to hear your opinion, whatever that maybe!
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words and a Fantastic Photo Canvas Tutorial

A picture paints a thousand words and I absolute love the one below. Sometimes I don't think I take the time to really appreciate the moments they capture. So I thought I'd share this one with you today.
 This piccie has found it's way onto the blog before. But I didn't really write about it. For me it's so much more than a beautiful sunset. This moment was captured in April 2011 in Darwin, Australia. I met Andi here (well not exactly in this romanitc setting) in 2010 and was visiting him while he still worked there. This marked the last day of a holiday which had changed my life. I am not exaggerating. If you had asked me a year before if I would be returning to Australia for only 10 days, flying half way around the world to spend time with a boyfriend who needed to stay there indefinitely, I would have thought you were crackers.

But I did and I will never forget any moment I had throughout the whole time. When this photo was taken, we had 24 hours left together before I went back to my life in England. Back to weekly phone conversations and no fixed knowledge of when he would be back in Europe. You can imagine that my feelings were a jumble of gratitude, over-whelming uncertaintly and even more consuming love. If I could have expressed my opinions at this moment, it would be with this photo. It was like the sky had read my mind and produced my feelings in a blaze of colour. We watched the sky until it became dark and then it was time to head home.

I have been meaning to get this picture changed into a canvas print for a long time. In truth, I can't afford it. Every spare £1 is being invested in the 'save up to live in Germany' fund.

Help might be at hand! Let me introduce you to the marvellous Myranda who is here today sharing an awesome tutorial with you guys on how to make a cheap, but classy photo canvas at home. 

Hello Craftbotic readers, I am so glad that Rosie is featuring my post today! My name is Myranda and I blog over at Pretty Living PDX, you can go here to find out more about me. On my blog you will find posts about our family life, my weight loss and our journey to healthier living. 

I love the look of photo canvases, they are so gorgeous and they look amazing hung on the walls. I have one problem with them, the cost! They are outrageously priced, an 8 x 10 canvas will set you back about $40 plus shipping, yikes. I am a bargain shopper, so there is no way I am paying $40+ per canvas. Naturally I did what any sane person would do and I went to Pinterest. There are so many great crafts on Pinterest and I came across this tutorial for making your own photo canvases, I was in. 
Today I am going to share with you how to make these photo canvases, for under $15!
-8 x 10 photo
-Paint (I used black)
- Modge Podge
-8 x 10 stretched art canvas

(Another Pinterest trick)
 I chose black paint because it blended in better with my photo edges. 
  • Let the paint dry (2 hours or so)
  • Trim photo edges (if desired)
  • Attach Photo to Canvas

Now this next part is scary, because it looks like you will ruin it...but trust me you won't. 
Use the brush and apply modge podge on top of the photo, it will appear milky, then dry clear. 
(Make sure you get good coverage so it looks even)
Let the modge podge dry well and voila, you will have a photo canvas for under $15!

That my Craftobotics is an easy DIY photo canvas, thank you Rosie for letting me share this tutorial and please come by Pretty Living PDX and say hello!

How awesome is that! I will need to give this a try VERY soon (well as soon as all of my craft endeavours aren't going towards the fair).
In the meantime, go and check out her blog soon. She's bursting with ideas.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Club: Fallen Week 5 & Vote for Our Next Title

Last week I said that we'd nearly reached the time to vote on our next book. Well, that time is now! I decided that I fancied reading some crime/detective fiction as it's not a genre I normally run around in very comfortably. Anything too mysterious and tense and I do tend to get a bit freaked out. Horror is pretty much out of the question. As much as I love reading books about teenagers - my life appears to be saturated with them. So based on our Facebook group conversations so far, these are the three you have to choose from. Leave your vote in a comment or drop me a quick email.

1. The Guilty One by Lisa Ballentyne

A little boy was found dead in a children's playground...
Daniel Hunter has spent years defending lost causes as a solicitor in London. But his life changes when he is introduced to Sebastian, an eleven-year-old accused of murdering an innocent young boy.
As he plunges into the muddy depths of Sebastian's troubled home life, Daniel thinks back to his own childhood in foster care - and to Minnie, the woman whose love saved him, until she, too, betrayed him so badly that he cut her out of his life.
But what crime did Minnie commit that made Daniel disregard her for fifteen years? And will Daniel's identification with a child on trial for murder make him question everything he ever believed in?

2. The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken
Since 1993 over 500 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez.Residents believe the true number of disappeared stands at 5,000.When a new disappearance is reported, Kelly Courter, a washed-up Texan boxer, and Rafael Sevilla, a Mexican detective, are sucked into an underworld of organised crime, believing they can outwit the corruption all around. The Dead Women of Juárez follows these two men obsessed with seeking the truth about the female victims of the Mexican border wars.

3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the four crime novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in the Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound.

Now on to this week's questions on our current book 'Fallen' by Lauren Kate:

How well does LK build up the tension between Luce and Daniel?
As the novel goes on, we start to find out more clues as to Cam's secret. What do you think we will learn about Cam before the end of the novel?

I will be linking up a bit later this weekend. I've enthusiastically planned for a lot of teacher related work to come in at the same time as all the Blog Angels admin. SUCH a rooky mistake. Maybe in a couple of weeks, life will have balanced again. Let's hope so! I will be avidly reading your link ups though. Thanks for taking part!

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