Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Two on Tuesday x

Welcome to edition 2 of Two on Tuesday, a post highlighting interesting blogposts, books, music, creativity. Generally, items I have found that need a good old share.

Firstly, some blogging help for blogging. I love reading posts which help me to redesign my blog. I feel it is a vital part of being a blogger. Updating your blog, or redesigning the blog, is an important part of breathing new life and energy into your blogging. Anything which aids me in my design is a positive.

Last week, Chaitra aka PinkPot and Holly aka Bloomin Rouge began a short collaborative series on Blogging Building blocks. This is a 4 week series and these lovely ladies will be sharing their top ideas and tips for building your blog.

This week Chaitra focused on resources for your blog and Holly has focused on blog design. I will be following their series over the next 3 weeks to see what helpful ideas I can use for my blogging.

My second is a new author and book series. As you know I love to read and each year for the past 3 I have set myself a challenge via Goodreads to read a certain number of books within that year. This year I am aiming for 60, and last week I read 3! I was pretty impressed myself. Anyway, onto my recommendation.

The author of these 3 books is M J Arlidge who has worked in the television medium for many years as a writer and producer, but has now published the first three novels in this series following the work of Detective Inspector Helen Grace.

As you imagine, this series is a crime/thriller. I love this genre of novel and have read alot of them over the years. The reason I chose the first novel was because I loved the book title which is Eeny Meeny and the blurb sounded interesting. A young couple wake up to find themselves trapped in a disused swimming pool unable to escape with a mobile phone. Unable to ring out, however their abductor rings them and gives them a chilling choice. One of them can go free but the other has to die. Choose!

The story behind the abduction of this and subsequent pairings is told at a fast pace with real detail into police procedure. There is a gripping back story for DI Grace and her team and the characters are clearly drawn, flaws and all. I could see this being adapted for television and making great drama.

One of the other reasons I chose this book is because the series is set in Southampton and the vicinities. Having lived there for 16 years, I loved reading about the city again and I felt drawn into the book because of that link. M J Arlidge writes a great story which keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through and I finished the first 3 books in 3 days. His newest novel in the series comes out in September and is now on my wishlist.

So what interesting blog series are you following or looking forward to and are you reading any great books? I'd love to now.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Two on Tuesday x

I feel sorry for Tuesdays. It's not the beginning of the week exactly like Monday and it certainly isn't the middle of the week like Wednesday nor is it humpday when you're on a Monday to Sunday rota or night duty. It doesn't have the excitement of finishing work on Fridays or the decadense of the weekend.

Tuesday is not anything as far as I can see. Even in blogland it's all about the Mondays, Fridays, weekends and Thursdays. So in true underdog fashion, Tuesday is being given its rightful place as I present to you........

From now on Tuesday can hold her head high, justified in her belief that one day her true nature would be seen, that the ugly sisters of Monday and Wednesday would no longer hide her true flair and she should shine like the star she is.

So without further fanfare, let me share with you two items I have found interesting, insightful, inspiring, creative, helpful or just simply fun this week.

Firstly may I present for your delectation Sarah's blogpost on clearing up your blog in preparation for freshening up your blog and making her glitter and shine. She's like a bloggers Fairy godmother.

Sarah writes really simple but very effective blogposts on all manner of blog related goodness and her hints and tips give you a great jumpstart if you're wanting to learn about blogging, how to redesign or refresh your blog or quite simply how to write a good post on "how to". I have used her ideas on several occasions to redesign my blog here. This year I've redesigned my header and updated my about page and I'm in the process of also updating my other additional pages.

Secondly, I'd like to share a new video show courteousy of Amy Tangerine and Jamie Waters. They have recently collaborated together on a great new handbook called "5 practices to squeezing more out of your creative life". It's free to donwload and if you go to Amy's site there is a link in the video for it.
I have to say my day was made by their co-host Tudor Williams who made me want to wrap him up, bring him home and let him sing to me while I scrapbook. He's good to look at and sings up a fine tune.

These videos will follow Amy and Jamie as they are given 3 random items and have to scrapbook using those in some way in only 15 minutes and as always they create something truly inspiring.

Below is the first video of the handbook work she and Jamie began .......

 For a lovely look at the handbook in use then hop over to my friend Jennifer's blog for a peak at how she used hers

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solar eclipse - 20 March 2015

So if you've been in hiding or hibernating, you may have missed the fact it was a Solar eclipse today. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on the day in 1999 when the last eclipse occurred. I was a special care baby nurse in Salisbury and I took pictures of all the babies on our ward that day so somewhere out there are a load of 16 year old with faded Polaroid prints of them from that day courtesy of me.

Anyway onto today's events and it certainly was a total eclipse ..................................... of the FOG! I woke up early and all you could see was fog and cloud, not a chance of seeing the eclipse, might as well give up.

Despite, these thoughts, I drove to my parents as planned and we discussed the lack of sun at the breakfast table:

Me - well what a shambles

The Father - I'm not interested anyway

The Mother - What a shame

Anyway, I felt spurred on to give it a try anyway and after about half an hour there was a chink in the clouds and the sun shone through and kept doing that for a while. Me and The Mother played around with a colander and white paper to see if we could get an image of anything which led to much hilarity:

Me - well we need to angle to colander onto the paper like this

The Mother - ooh look there are circles how exciting we can see it

Me - no mum that's the colander

The Mother - oh well it looks lovely

I love my mother, she's a hoot. She did pose for this picture when we actually saw the eclipse which made me laugh again.

At this point in the proceedings The Father was doing his best impression of Victor Meldrew in the lounge and refusing all attempts at us getting to come and look.

Anyway, after much running in and out, playing with the camera screen whilst not looking the sun itself and trying different angles and devises, the window was a good one but none of the photos show what we could see which was so clear, I eventually got these.

When I got the pictures into Picasa I had to really add in the shadows to see the images clearly, if that helps anyone else.

It certainly got dark and really cold and the birds went quiet, but it wasn't quite the same as last time when there was complete silence, obviously the birds round here didn't get the memo.

I am so glad we persevered and despite The Mother standing next to me the whole time saying "Don't look at it, I mean really don't look" it was all over and we had a nice cup of tea.

I hope you managed to see some of the eclipse. What did you think? Did you have clouds or bright sunshine?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Goodbye Headclutcher - Time to Change photo campaign x

Hey there. How many times would you say you've seen images like this when the media talks about mental health issues?

For me, one is enough and I find it incredibly off putting to say the least. My mental health just doesn't look like that the majority of the time. Ok, ok I confess that when I am in the depths of depression I do have some images which mirror this one, however I am not constantly in that place and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to believe I was.

Why? Because even if you have a mental health issue, you are not always in that place. You have days, like we all do, when we laugh, sing and dance and those times although pinned together with the bleakness, crying and despair deserve to be celebrated too.

Stephen Fry in one of the new campaign images

So Time to Change are campaigning all media outlets to dispense with the Headclutcher images and go for the reality.  That all of us are individuals and we all experience mental health issues in very different ways.

So this is me today and I am feeling rather pretty I have to say...........

What image would you like to see as a portrait of your today?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Lacock Abbey and village x

Have you ever wanted to visit a place so quintessentially British that you feel like you've been there before? Well, if you come with me on a sightseeing trip to Lacock Abbey and village you will.

Knowing you, you have probably been here before in your imagination. The beautiful village streets with the markets laid out with fresh produce, the sounds of crinoline skirts swishing across the cobbles, dancing in the Town Hall, young scholars milling through the cloisters and oh yes is that a broomstick I see flying in the sky over there?

That is because Lacock has been used in so many amazing films and TV series, that you have been here quite often but never realised it. I know that many readers are Harry Potter fans and Jane Austen fans too so you will, I hope, enjoy this trip around a beautiful part of our heritage.

It was the perfect spring day - blue skies, sun shining, not a cloud in the sky when my friend and I set off to visit Lacock. As it's a National Trust property you know that is something special and this was a place we had wanted to visit for sometime. As this is a village and property, the car parking is off site and this makes it a wonderfully safe place to walk around.

The first view you see is the crocus walk and Lacock Abbey in the distance. The spring flowers were perfect and also included snowdrops and daffodils. The grounds also have woods, river walks and gardens so there is plenty to see.

Our first stop was the Abbey after a stroll around the grounds. The Abbey itself was a nunnery until the Dissolution of the monasteries, which if you know your Henry VIII or have watched Wolf Hall, is the destruction of the Roman Catholic monasteries and nunneries during Henry's battle to separate from Rome in order to divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and form The Church of England. You see I do remember a bit of history from middle school. The remains of the Nunnery are beautifully maintained and they are the key areas used in Harry Potter, they even have a cauldron, although this was made in 1500 and something not brought from the studios as a prop. The Cloister ceilings are ornately decorated with carvings.

The rest of the Abbey was restored and built upon to become a family home for the Fox Talbot family, more on them in a while, and remained a family home until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in the 1900s. You can see the new building as you go around the outside as the different shapes and additions demonstrate the architecture of the times.

Inside the rooms are all laid out as a traditional family. We loved seeing the rooms and collections and also spent time searching out the mice and small cameras as we progressed, there were 8 in all although the wine cellar was close obviously that mouse had a hangover.

 The final room of the house is embellished with figures, one of which was very much like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, however in reality he was a traditionally attired Jewish gentleman from the times.

 This room had the most incredible ceiling decorated with different shields and the windows had beautiful stained glass features.

We walked around the gardens a little more before retiring to the tearooms where we partook of the tea and yummy cakes. Definitely recommend the coffee and walnut and St Clement's cakes.

We then rambled around the village which is lived in by local families. The village is small enough to stroll around and there are some individual shops to visit and the tithe barn. We wandered to the church and then to the river where we watched the children and dogs playing in the sunshine.

After a rejuvenating stroll, we finally went to the Fox Talbot museum which is attached to the visitor centre. This museum, for photographers and the interested, a look back at the history of negatives, photo development and photography itself. Fox Talbot was one of the first individuals create the first ever photographic negative in 1835. In the museum are a variety of vintage cameras and the story of Fox Talbot's findings and the development of photo processing styles to the modern day. It was interesting to learn how long it took for photographs to be processed compared to the digital picture we can now see immediately. I imagine Fox Talbot would be stunned by the significance of his discoveries and how they have moved forward in the past 100 years. This gives a bit of a brief insite into his part in photography

I would highly recommend this lovely day out. If you've got any wonderful places to visit then do let me know. Oh yes and all my collages were made in Canva and I wrote a little tutorial about how to use this great site here.

Have a lovely day.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Canva x

Oh I do so love the wonder that is Pinterest and Bloglovin. It is such an incredible joy to be able to find new and interesting places to play and to meet new people along the way. The other day whilst perusing Pinterest I came across a lovely picture and post all about a site called Canva. I wonder how many of you have also found this place?

Well if not I hope to enlighten you on a really brilliant online source for designing photograph pieces for your blog, Facebook, Twitter and a multitude of other things.

Canva is primarily a free site and anyone can use it, all you need to do is sign up. It has alot of similarities to Picmonkey however one of the key elements I love is that is has loads of free templates designed for you to make the most of your photographs and to present them in a stylish way. You can also buy access to templates at $1.00 so it's not going to break the bank balance.

To give you idea of what you can create, I'm going to give a brief run through of some of the creations I've made. Now obviously this is only a summary so I will post links to get you started and then it's up to you if you'd like to play yourself.

So when you go to the site you get a welcome page and a signup sheet, complete that and then check your emails as there will be one of those links to confirm your account. Now you can begin creating.

The first page I went to was this one........

Along the top there is a slidebar which shows all the different designs you can choose to work with, so let's choose a collage. This opens this page........

Along the lefthand side are your function bar and the clipboard for uploading your photos. The rest of the page is given over to the collage. So choose a collage you'd like to use, double click it and it will magically open up in your screen like this.

Next I tend to open up my photographs and upload them to the page too, this is pretty fast despite my slower than a tortoise broadband service. Ah village life. But the tortoise won the race so there you go. Once you have all your photos uploaded, select the frame you want your first photo to go into double clicking with your mouse and you then slide the photos with your mouse until programme sucks then into place. Clever.

The photo programme then opens up some tools so that you can add filters, do some touching up of brightness etc and then once you're happy you do the same thing again until all your photos are in place. The great thing is that the programme constantly saves your work for you too.

Once I've got my picture settled, I then play around with the background. There are a large number of free backgrounds to choose from and ones which cost a few dollars. Choose your background and it will look like this..............

Next text. Most the templates have a place for texts and all you do to alter this is double click on the words, change the text, font, colour and size and then the same for the next piece. You can move the text boxes around just like in a Word programme by hovering your mouse over the box until the cross appears then move it to the new position.

Once you're happy with your masterpiece you can download your images. The collage can be saved as a PNG. file or a pdf. If you add in additional pages these are downloaded as zip files with each page as an individual image, so you can make lots of collages at once but upload them individually.

The collage is also saved to your personal page.................

and here is my collage completed...............

I hope this post will help you to create your own collages and I'd love to see some. If you've been using Canva for a while and have any hot tips, that would be great too.

Monday, 9 March 2015

1 photo, 20 words x

Joining in with Abi's meme...............

"How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain....."
Wlliam Henry Fox Talbot 

William Henry Fox Talbot was a British inventor and photography pioneer who invented the calotype process, a precursor to photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries

Read more: http://www.photoquotes.com/ShowQuotes.aspx?id=37&name=Talbot,William%20Henry%20Fox#ixzz3To7Lw5Vv

Photograph taken at National Trust property Lacock Abbey. There are 8 mice hidden on "mousetrap" cameras around the Abbey. Fox Talbots wife named his early cameras "Mouse traps".