janewilliams20: (Default)
My starter kit for my life as a Stampin' Up demonstrator has arrived. Time then, not to play with new toys and go SQUEEE!, but to test out the tools of my trade and do a fair, objective and coherent review.

I have punches, two sorts of stamps ("clear-mount" and "photo-polymer"), an envelope punch board, a silicone craft sheet (intended to be glue-resistant), a snowflake die that makes swivel cards, papers, ink pads, and pens. Those last three are all in the five new colours for this year.

First impressions of all of this are that my fellow demos are right in saying that Stampin' Up products are a cut above the norm.
The punches aren't just the normal "insert paper and press", they have locks that hold them closed when not in use.
The ink pads don't just have lids that you pull off (and that fall off), they have a sort of slide and seal mechanism. No clear lid to let you see what's inside, but a nice label on the top, in the ink colour, giving the name. What's more, if you want to store them on edge and see the names from the side, there's a peel-off label supplied that you can apply whereever you like - it'll fit on either of the ends.
The stamps, both sorts, come in a DVD-sized case, with labels giving the name, and pictures of what's in the set.

So far I've played with the envelope punch board. It has a chart (in inches and cm) listing the card sizes you might want to make an envelope for, and the size of paper each will require. Looking this up for the 6x6 card I had in mind, I realised why their "envelope paper" is 12x12 - 9.5x9.5 is a lot bigger than A4. The instructions are nice and simple, everything works easily, and you end up with a nice envelope with all corners rounded, and overlap for gluing that's just the right size for a tape dispenser.

While producing that bit of 9.5x9.5, I realised why my fellow demos had recommended the Stampin' Up Trimmer, rather than my fairly standard guillotine.  See that extending ruler? That's what I needed. Next order, I'll be getting one of them.

janewilliams20: (Default)
Yesterday, instead of the usual MIND social, there was a MIND Council meeting, with a suggestion that I might like to go along as a "service user" rep for Biggleswade. So I got in the car, set up the sat-nav, did a 30-min drive to a place I'd never been to, and attended a meeting of 30-40 people, most of whom I'd never met. I did the round-the-table intro without a problem. In coffee break, one of the actual real staff from Biggleswade suggested that I might like to give the report to the group on how Biggleswade were doing.Who, me? Yeah, all right then.
Not that I had much idea what to say.... so I listened to what other groups reported on, noted interesting differences, jotted down a few illegible reminder notes, and gave mini presentation as requested. Both staff members present agreed that I hadn't missed any points. No panic, no stuttering, no more nerves than might be considered normal for someone asked to do that at short notice. We agree that it's time for me to move on from being a "service user" to being a volunteer, complete with training and resulting qualifications - though I'd stay a user at Biggleswade, and a volunteer at some other centre (have car, will travel).

Today, I got a reminder that the local Green Party were meeting for lunch at the Stratton. So I went there (local, but never been inside before) and joined a group of people who again I'd never met before, and chatted, and came up with ideas, and generally networked. Again, no problems at all.

That's right, no problems. Not just problems, plus methods of handling those problems, but nothing there that needed handling. It wasn't the drugs covering it, either, I've been cutting down, and for the MIND meeting, I hadn't had any for three days.

janewilliams20: (Default)
 Up at 5 to drive the already-loaded car round to the car boot sale. Last time we did this, I froze to the extent of buying an extra coat and hat from other stalls, so this time I was in walking boots (found at the mack of the garage and miraculously, they fit!), fleece, extra fleece gilet, and had an extra coat, hat and gloves, in the car. So, of course,  it was a beautiful sunny day.
The G&M growers site has the advantage of being next to a duck pond, so there may be ducks. I wasn't expecting the groups flying over, nor the skeins of geese (mostly Canada), nor the house martins or swifts, and certainly not the magnificent views of a red kite hunting directly over the stalls. If only I'd had a camera....
I managed to walk round the complete area, all rows, and without a stick. Those supportive boots made quite a difference.

Slow start, but we ended up making £90 or so - it's being saved as "holiday money". I may have been the only person there to manage to sell all the loom bands I'd taken with me, and I managed my first ever sale as a professional crafter! I have sold a card! Having had feedback from the last time about what people wanted, I'd adjusted the range on offer, simply by using up oddments from other cards I'd made recently, and one of the last ones, put together at about 1am, was what went. "It's different," said the happy customer - yes, my cards are.

Onward to put things away, and start research for the latest card commissioned. I'll do a few that meet the criteria, giving me more spares for sale, plus running off all the ones I was asked for today and didn't have. Also, I want a proper display/storage box for them. I got it half-way designed while I was there (wandering around stalls looking at the competition), and came up with some other ideas for things I could make - things that other people might have been selling if their presentation had been better. Sorry, but showcasing your output by screwing it up at the bottom of a dirty box labelled "all items 10p" is not good marketing.

janewilliams20: (Default)
Well, maybe not the next to start, or to finish, but the next to look into. I need teaching qualifications, but I also need something at "level 3" in the subject I intend to teach. Which is crafts (but not art) in general, particularly those that the student can carry on with without needing expensive equipment.

On advice from the WEA tutor I'm learning from at the moment, it'll be a City & Guilds Creative Techniques (7113).
It's a modular course, so I can pick and choose to some extent, assuming I can find places that teach the module I want. Some will be simple proof that yes, I can do this, others will improve my knowledge, one or two will be picked just because I'm pretty sure I can whizz through them in no time (web site design?), and one or two look like incredibly useful information about how to run a small craft business.
It seems that a lot can be done as distance learning, or even completely online, which will make life far easier.

Space2Create look like good people, aiming at doing exactly what I want.
WSTA do some distance learning courses - textiles and embroidery. Possibly a little more specialist than I'd want, but well worth a look.

janewilliams20: (Default)

Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Enjoys the occasional head-lopping
Sensitive Roleplaying32.91%
All the game's your stage
GM Experience31.88%
Closer to a novel than to a campaign
Systems Knowledge93.64%
Played in a couple of campaigns
Livin' La Vida Dorka33.33%
Carries dice in pocket 'just in case'
You are 54.72% pure
Average Score: 68.9%

janewilliams20: (Default)
I've just upgraded to one that will do a 2lb loaf, not just 1.5. The older, smaller one has absolutely nothing wrong with it (last used yesterday), but is surplus to requirements. You could probably purchase something similar for £25 or so, so not worth posting or travelling long distances for, but would any of my friends like it before I put it on Freecycle?

Update - taken!

janewilliams20: Rose (garden)
It's Spring. No need for a coat. And everything's been going right, pretty much.
Into town to pick up a prescription that I'd ordered by phone, yesterday. It was ready for me. I have no idea how, they must have bypassed all the usual procedure. Met a couple of friends from MIND, sat around in the sunshine and had a chat for a bit.
Off to Hitchin, where I had a little more trouble finding a parking spot, but the lady who was vacating the one I got also passed over her ticket, which ran for another hour and a half!
A rather lovely motor-trike parking up, and I stopped and admired and chatted to the owner.
Ducks, moorhens, geese etc. on the river, snowdrops in the churchyard.
A book faire.... well, it would be rude to resist, wouldn't it? Travel guides were down to £1 each. I now have a little guide book for each of half a dozen German cities.
David's Arts and Crafts had the black relief outliner I was getting for someone else, didn't have the white I wanted for myself, and didn't have the apple-green paint, but did have a set of six that included a chartreuse green that should do the job. Also gold.... and four other colours that I already had :(
Back through the market, picking up a freshly cooked Pad Thai and sitting by the river to eat it. Yes, lunch outside. It's spring!

Onward! I'd skipped visiting the Harkness Roses garden centre opposite the Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living last time I was over there due to stress overload, but it sounded like a good place to look at greenhouses. It was, fairly - they had the wooden type I'd seen before, and other pretty things - and a full rack of vegetable seedlings, ready to go out! I'd wanted to get something into Poppy the Veg Trug, so picked up a tray of rainbow chard and another of mange-tout.

Home.... and Poppy has had the surviving lettuce moved to the front (how they got through the winter is beyond me, but they did) and chard put in the back, next to the fully-grown one from last year. The mange-tout are in a couple of the big round tubs, with climbing facilities ready for when they're a bit bigger. Yes, bought them and planted them the same day - I must have found my Round Tuit!

janewilliams20: (Default)
But I know why the backwards part happened, so it's all a useful learning experience.
Thursday, as previously reported, was a busy day.
Friday was MIND day. Read more... )

The game, incidentally, can be found at www.memrise.com, and I'm quite impressed with how it adapts to my learning rate and specific weaknesses. Well worth a look for anyone trying to learn the basics of a new language.

Today, Sunday, is a day of rest, using up  bits from the fridge, and readi-meals. No stress.

janewilliams20: (Default)
Dentist this morning - I'd been called back because on studying the X-rays, she had an idea she could save one of the many teeth due for extraction. She looked, she got a colleague to look, and then she put a filling in it. I have one more working tooth!
Since I was down in Stevenage anyway, I dropped into Hobbycraft (as you do) and got a few more storage bits and some assorted inkpads.
Onwards to Tesco, where I acquired some of the Chinese needed for tonight, the sandwiches needed for tomorrow's no-brain breakfast and lunch, the ends of some reduced cold meats (Tesco are good at that!), and some reduced sushi. I have heard of "full price". It happens to other people.
Hitchin, and Tim's art supplies for an extra glass paint (I was good, that was all I bought), then Chilli Banana for lunch, and a dawdle/hobble round various charity shops (buying nothing).
Whew. Since then, have put the new storage bits to work, drunk coffee, and eaten sushi.
Next, go and check the cows' feet I put in the slow cooker before I went out - they're supposed to turn into gelatine for the making of a Gala Pie for Saturday.
Also plan/prep for Chinese tonight, most of which will be home-cooked.
That means finding the kitchen..... last used for making pancakes, and it shows.
Finished the coffee, better go and Do Stuff.

janewilliams20: (Default)
Yesterday was a very good day. I'd figured out that what I wanted to do at MIND wasn't bingo, it was sorting out the Big Box of card-making bits so that we knew what we had for the Friday session where we get to use it, and we could end the problem of nice papers getting too crumpled to use. I was going to move everything from there into two flat drawers that are currently (over-)full of yarn, and put the yarn into the Big Box.
Plan. What's more, two-stage plan.
Three stage plan - I had spare GRAZE boxes suitable for storing little bits. Take them.
Then it went four-stage. I know from storing my own papers and so on that it helps no end to have the right size boxes to store things. A4 for paper or card, long thin ones for peel-offs. I did research on Monday to find out where sold such things. The answer turned out to be Hobbycraft.
So, after looking up opening times, I got up early, ate a pre-prepared breakfast, packed lunch and so on, and drove down to Stevenage for a bit after their 9:00 opening. This means the same route (mostly) as going to work, at the same time. No, it wasn't triggering - good! Got the bits I wanted, plus some more for myself, had a celebratory breakfast out (note to self, don't bother going to Burger King again), and went back to MIND to get going.
Plan worked. It took me a good three hours to do it, with longer and longer pauses towards the end, but that's three hours of concentration on one task, and for me, that's a very long time indeed.
I had an hour or so left at the end, and spent it making and applying brooch pins to some little crochet flowers, and replanning the proposed contents for the MIND stall at Asda - we've been moved to be after Easter rather than before, so what we offer needs to change theme.
So, after an unusually busy day, straight home to chill and eat readi-meals, right? Oh, no!
Aldi are doing an Italian specials week. Round there to stock up on a few things.
Home, and, yes a couple of hours catching up on email and so on, but then making pancake batter so we could have Galettes for tea, it being Shrove Tuesday. Oven on, trays ready, as a "complet" needs to be baked once filled. Dave got home, we cooked and ate and enjoyed, complete with French cider in the right Breton cups (which I'd looked out earlier).
Later that evening, sorted my die cutters into their new magnetic holder. Signed up for an on-line course in C15 history (this may prove to have been a mistake, but it was free).
All that? In one day??? That was most of my spoons for the week!

Today is Wednesday, and I'm quite pleased with myself for getting up, getting dressed, and eating a crumpet for breakfast. I've answered an email, had a couple of on-line discussions about local affairs, and scanned and emailed a document without quite forgetting what I was doing part-way through. (Concentration on anything computer-related or "techy" remains abysmal.)  Can't stay awake....

Plan now is devilled kidneys for lunch (should have been for breakfast), either more pancakes or kedgeree for dinner (I made too much batter), and making use of the rest of the new storage boxes. And a sort-out of what needs freezing, and what needs de-frosting (frozen the bread, need to look at meat and veg).

Incidentally, the nice ladies at MIND suggest that while I'm making great progress, I should stop trying to push myself too hard, and remember that this will take time, They've said that before, but now I have an estimate. About six months off is normal. Six months! Eek! What's more, the ability to concentrate is the first thing to go, and the last to come back. My concentration is recovering for things like cooking, craft, and music, but for anything "techy" - oh, dear. A half-way serious coding problem, and I stare at it blankly for maybe 30 seconds, then find I'm asleep. When I wake up, I've probably forgotten the problem even existed.

I suppose last time I was off sick, the problem was my leg, and I don't use that to program. This time, a fairer comparison would be if I'd broken a leg, but my job required not just running, but running marathons, or playing football at international level. "I can do it at the same level as the average person" wouldn't help even if it were true - and it isn't.

I've got a meeting with the local Green Party in the diary for tonight. We'll see. Sleep might be a better idea.
janewilliams20: (Default)
I have now owned one for just over a month. Last night I played at a gig for the first time.
So, what have I learnt?
Those anti-anxiety tablets work. No stage fright.
There are some chords I can play and some I can't, but I'm already well beyond the "three-chord" level. And if I can't...?

If I can't manage the complex strum pattern, hit the main beat.
If I can't play the whole chord, do the top string only.
If I can't even do that, play "air uke" in time to the beat, and join in on the "main" chord for that song. I'll have plenty of time to get fingers in the right place if I skip the one before it.
If I can't do that much, keep singing
If I don't know the tune/words, the uke is a perfectly acceptable percussion instrument.
If  I can't even do that much, silence is fine. The wrong note is not.

At practice, we sit down - in a gig, we stand. Given a duff ankle, this hurts. I need to work out what shoes to wear, and practice at home standing - the method of holding the uke is slightly different.

Noting what gadgets others use, and reading up afterwards, I'm getting a clamp-on electronic tuner. My perfect pitch isn't, so it helps to have something to get at least one string right when I'm playing with others, and at home, the phone app does the job nicely. But in a noisy room full of other ukes, it can't tell which one it's listening to. I've been round Amazon and Ebay, reading reviews, and the new tuner should arrive next week. Once I have one string in, I can do the rest by ear.

A strap, or not a strap? Most other people seem to use one, and there are lots of possible designs. So I did some reading up. It seems that quite a few don't actually let you go "hands-free" so as to clap. They help support the weight (what weight?) and help hold the uke away from your body, so you're not deadening the sound, but if you let go completely, the uke hits the floor.
The method of attaching strap to soundbox is either by a strap button (can also be the jack socket for an electric pickup), around the soundbox, or hooked into the sound hole. I don't have a button or jack socket, and anything on the sound box or sound hole will alter the tone. Also, the recommendation is that beginners should learn without a strap until they're completely confident like that. So, no strap.

Printing out every song in the gig list, in play order, with the chord charts for each one written on the sheet, helped no end!

OK, I didn't spend money on a strap, or on a new case ( very tempting, some of those). But there was this mug....

dit to add: one more thing. I have a duff ankle. Standing for the entire gig hurts - think carefully about what shoes to wear. Dancing, during the last number or two, is asking for trouble. Do not expect to be able to walk more than a few yards without a stick the next day. In any case, what's a beginner doing trying to play, and sing, and dance, all at once?
Ah, yes. Having fun. That's what I was doing!

janewilliams20: (Default)
Next week, instead of ukulele practice, there is a Gig - we're playing at an old peoples' home. Naturally, I took it for granted that as a beginner, I'd have an evening off.
Oh, no, I don't. I may not play all the right notes, but I don't play any wrong ones, and apparently my rhythm is spot on. I'm playing in the gig.
Better do some more practice, then.
Improved a lot just during the practice tonight - my shift from F to G7 is far smoother, as is D7 to C, and after listening to how the strumming as we went from common chords to an E7 went embarrassingly quiet, I've added that to my repertoire. It isn't really all that hard.

janewilliams20: (Default)
Don't know where my get-up-and-go has gone, and but it's got up and went, taking any ability to make any decisions with it.
So far, I have managed:
Bins out - that had to be done, no decisions to be made. Took tablets. Drank coffee. Cleaning food bin and replaced bag? Nope.
Spent two hours trying to work out what to have for breakfast. Cooked breakfast (scrambled eggs on toast).
Wrote an RP post on a gaming forum.
Stared blankly at PC for about 4 hours, dozing and trying to decide what to have for lunch.
Got dressed.
Ate the end of a pot of pasta salad.
Went to Sainsburys. Acquired sandwiches for tomorrow's breakfast and lunch, so the decision paralysis can be overcome tomorrow, tonight's evening meal (stick it in the oven), a few bits for recipes I quite fancy playing with, a new top, and a card-making mag.
Came home, made stir-fry for "lunch" (about 16:00) using spare veg from the fridge, prawns I'd picked up at half price, instant noodles, and packet sauce. It was rather unpleasant. Ate it anyway, it's good for me.
Removed free gift from card-making mag. Tried to read mag, failed.
Came up to big PC, wrote this. It's almost time to go back down and put the oven on.
Pulse is pounding, singing sound in the ears, vague ache in the chest. I probably ought to check my blood pressure. 

Tidied kitchen, done washing up. Food bin has been disinfected. Dinner is ready to go into the (heated) oven once Dave's back. I haz coffee!
janewilliams20: (Default)
It's World Play Your Ukulele Day today, so I thought I should at least do a little practice. It's very different strumming at home from in the club - I can hear what I'm doing, and go "aargh" when I notice I've half-deadened a string I wasn't meant to be touching. (F-chord, I'm looking at you.)

Also, in club, we get handed a new song and expected to play it, at full speed or near enough. So I read through, realise that at least half the chords I have no idea how to play and half the rest I can't possibly get fast enough, make a mental note of the ones I can play, and join in on those. At home, I'm starting off by pulling the sheet out of the songbook and writing down the fingering for every chord in that song. Then I play through them, in order, taking as long as I need for each change, and maybe several tries as I work out where each finger has to shift from and to. I've more or less decided that while playing a D by bridging three strings is certainly nice and easy, especially when changing between that and Am, I'm probably better off playing it "properly" with three fingers under most circumstances.

So, I sat down with the uke at about 20:30, got interrupted by a "take your tablets" alarm at 21:30, decided I'd carry on playing just a little bit more, then realised it was 22:30, but there's just this one song I want to try out.... and at 23:00 finally decided my fingers hurt quite enough, thank you. But that last song, I'd been singing, and playing every chord.

I'd better take those tablets.

janewilliams20: (Default)
And it was worth it.
MIND - I was helping teach rather than being a pupil/consumer. Crochet, with the intention of producing scrunchies for sale on a craft stall. I then came up with a fall-back plan aka "first lesson" - spectacle "chains". A simple crochet chain in some attractive but smooth yarn, with a rubber fastener at each end. I'm rather glad I did, as only one of my beginners progressed beyond that. Still, one non-beginner has progressed to things she couldn't do before, and we have ideas on how to use the random granny squares she's already made, one lady who's always had problems with tension now knows how to solve them, and two have gone home bearing hooks, yarn, and either patterns or photos of how to hold the hook and yarn for best tension control.
Plans before next week include turning some very simple patterns into diagram format, as my non-beginner can't cope with a written pattern.

Four hours, with a break, and not *too* tired at the end of it. No shaking hands, no stuttering, no problems coping with people who aren't as fast in learning as I'm used to.

By the way, shout-out here to my mum and gran who made sure I was totally familiar with working with yarn from early childhood. It really does make a difference!

Evening was ukulele practice, and yet more evidence that they're a lovely welcoming bunch - I got there a little bit later than planned, and Brian had saved a seat for me! One song was simple enough that I was actually playing every chord, I caught on to some slightly more complex strumming patterns without too much trouble, and I'm getting there with the more complicated things. I can do all the chords, just not (yet) fast enough.
But two hours of intense concentration was too much. I was really struggling by the end, yawning all over the place. Well my therapist said that concentration is the first thing to go, with depression, and the last to come back. This is pushing me just up to my limits, and that's what I need.

So, Saturday, breakfast was toast, brunch I did manage to do properly by doing a recipe "by the book", laying out all ingredients before I start rather than grabbing and improvising as I go. Mid-afternoon, and I've sorted some emails and might even consider getting dressed. But basically, Saturday is devoted to recovering from Friday.
janewilliams20: (Default)
Diabetes check-up this morning. The blood test they did two weeks back says that I'm well-controlled, so that's good. Cholesterol's a bit high, though, and after discussion, we're putting that down to the Cheese. Need to keep an eye on it, though. Any higher and I go on statins, and I'm already on quite enough drugs that argue with each other, thank you. Potassium also looked a bit high, but since there are apparently reasons why tests can get that wrong, she's taken another sample. In the meantime, I shouldn't eat too many bananas.
Measuring other things, it seems that my weight hasn't gone up over Xmas, though as usual could do with going down. BP is back down to my "normal" 130/80-ish.

So, having been courteous to other health centre users and getting some exercise by parking in Aldi and walking, I went shopping. Aldi, and a couple of charity shops, coming back to the car with a load of fresh veg, a collection of zero-sugar biscuits, a Lean Mean Grilling machine, and a diabetes cook book.
janewilliams20: (Default)
No, I'm not swearing. Woken up around 3am by a sore throat and runny nose. Blew it a few times, switched the light on, discovered it wasn't a runny nose, it was a nose-bleed, and the pillow and sheets were auditioning for parts in a chain-saw massacre. BP is about 30 points higher than it's got any business being, which could explain that. I'm staying upright (with a cup of camomile tea) until the flood subsides, then probably doing laundry.
janewilliams20: (Default)
As I said a few days ago, I've been sewing. The recipient has now got the new toys, and expressed happiness, so I can reveal:
Camera strap cover and hat
a camera strap cover and matching hat, for a niece who's as teddy-obsessed as I am.

The meeting on Friday was all about Art, and trying out new techniques, so I had a go at pyrography

and having used watercolour pencils to colour that, tried using them on paper, with water.
watercolour pencil sunrise

and then moved on to pastels - a rather inappropriate word, considering what I produced.
pastel phoenix
janewilliams20: (Default)
I'd forgotten how much fun music as a group can be. I want more of that.

The friend who'd invited me to go along to the Sandy Ukulele group forgot to bring me a spare one to borrow, but I still had a fun two hours, mostly singing, and occasionally borrowing her uke so as to join in whenever the C chord was required. Went home with a sore throat, but still singing in the car.

I now have a ukulele tuner installed on my phone, have taken advice, done some web-browsing, and expect to spend tomorrow afternoon at a shop in Bedford purchasing a ukulele. Next week, I should be able to join in with more than just a C (though probably not take part in the concert on the Saturday). Even uke-less, it seems my contribution was appreciated - one more voice, and in an almost-all-male group, a useful one. I may not be a soprano, but I'm an octave or so closer to it than most, and when we're invited to do the high bit in "Edelweiss", yes, it's in my range - just.


janewilliams20: (Default)

September 2017



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