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Monthly Archives: August 2012

There are many ways to customise your own Internet experience. Personally I use Google Reader to keep up with the blogs I like to read regularly, Delicious to bookmark favourite pages, and post-it notes to remember the passwords for work related sites that I rarely use.

But sometimes, I need the Internet to come to me. So I subscribe to a small number of favourite blogs via email too, and I get a daily mailshot of inspiration to stir up the creative juices.

Email Inspiration is a free service that sends you an email a day showcasing creative work in graphic design, illustration or photography. I’ve been subscribed to these daily emails for well over a year, and I’ve picked out a few of my favourites over the last three or four months here…

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Weekly weigh-in number seven, and it turns out that five is the magic number. I lost 5lbs. In one week. And that quickly and unexpectedly brought me down to meet, even pass, my 5% goal.

I am so pleased to have achieved such weight loss in less than two months. I do feel like this is some kind of temporary glitch – like maybe the scales weren’t configured properly or I accidentally forgot to wear any clothes or I only had one foot on? And so next week I’m bound to go straight back up again. But fingers crossed that 5lbs is gone for good.

In the meeting afterwards we talked about what I did differently this last week, and to be honest I don’t know. Gaining last week, even a little bit, made me realise that weight loss takes a conscious effort, but this last week didn’t feel much like work. Ultimately I am less hungry, and my eating habits are changing. My fridge is stocked with zero point vegetables and fruit and my ‘treats’ drawer is all Weight Watchers bars and separately bagged biscuits – 2 Malted Milks per sandwich bag!

The annoying thing is that without any effort, as a consequence of the healthier dinners we’ve been eating in the last couple of months, James has lost half a stone. While continuing to eat chocolate and crisps, second portions of dinner, beer and Irn Bru… how do men do that?!

So now I have to revise my goals. I’m 1.5lb off my first stone, then I’ll be aiming for my 10%, and then thinking about what weight my final goal will be – the weight I want to stay at. For the short term though, my most pressing goal is to get into this dress within three weeks.

debbiedoesdoodles | female superheroes

Inspired by the updated wardrobes for Disney Princesses by Sidney Emerson on Polyvore, I’ve created some outfit ideas to emulate superheros in every day life. Every item below is currently available on the British high street, and most of the time at reasonable prices too. So now, you can be Wonder Woman at work, She-Ra at the supermarket, or Rogue at the railway station.

debbiedoesdoodles | Supergirl

debbiedoesdoodles | Catwoman

debbiedoesdoodles | Wonder Woman

debbiedoesdoodles | Silk Spectre

debbiedoesdoodles | She Ra Princess of Power

debbiedoesdoodles | Rogue

Click through to visit the outfits on Polyvore for details of each individual item and where they’re stocked in the UK.

Polyvore is a super handy tool for creating mock-ups like this – this was my first time using it but it’s so intuitive and the range of items already in the catalogue is pretty vast. You can also add to this range using a handy bookmarklet to save products to your profile, and there are a whole range of additional embellishments for creating a set including backgrounds and frames. Maybe see you over there!

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The Paralympics are coming. This afternoon the four flames from the four capital cities of the UK will be combining in Stoke Mandeville, and beginning the journey into London for the opening of the Paralympic Games tomorrow. I’ll be watching eagerly, and not just because my mum is volunteering as a steward at Stoke Mandeville and I’m hoping to catch her on the telly (isn’t it supposed to be ‘Hello Mum’ and not the other way around?!).

Before the Olympics I had a feeling of reluctant enthusiasm. I felt that I should be more excited about it than I actually was. I think it was partly the uncertainty of whether the UK could pull off such a huge event of worldwide interest. It was almost stage nerves, on the country’s behalf. But then the Opening Ceremony totally got to me. Our athletes showed what great competitors they were, and what a passionate and likeable bunch they turned out to be.

The Paralympics don’t hold the same uncertainty for me. The excitement of the Olympics has carried through. And that excitement has been so well corralled by Channel 4, official broadcasters of the Paralympic Games. Their billboard says it all: thanks for the warm-up.

David Abraham, Channel 4 chief exec, has stated that rather than an opportunity for political correctness, “We saw it is an opportunity to change attitudes and minds about disability.” There’s also been some interesting interviews regarding the commercial reasons – or lack of them – for Channel 4 to broadcast the Paralympics, suggesting that they are expecting a “commercially neutral” end result.

One of the major strengths of the Channel 4 approach to the Games is to focus on the individuals. The UK has some top class athletes competing in these Paralympics, highlighted through the ‘Meet the Paralympians‘ spots and in the brilliantly paced, adrenaline raising TV advert, ‘Meet the Superhumans’. The promo presents the Games as exciting, action-packed and totally brutal, with Public Enemy’s ‘Harder Than You Think’ (with spot-on timing of the line “thank you for lettin’ us be ourself”) the perfect blood-thumping accompaniment. But the whole campaign isn’t just focussing on the athletes, it features the disabilities themselves. By including scenes of a car accident, military action and a pregnant mother receiving news of a complication, the promo speaks to me about both dimensions: these are disabled athletes, and these athletes are disabled.

There’s been some chat about the use of that word ‘disabled’ lately. The President of the International Paralympic Committee Sir Philip Craven has demanded that we should stop using it to describe Paralympians altogether, saying “You know what the word ‘disabled’ means. It means something that doesn’t work, doesn’t function.” I see his problem, but I think it’s a problem of context, rather than vocabulary. I have no personal experience of being disabled, but I do understand the power of words. As a former lexicographer I once considered assessing the meaning behind a word a speciality.

Words come loaded with meaning and connotations. And so for some, describing an athlete or a sport as disabled may seem to diminish its importance. Craven is certainly suggesting that it is in some way demeaning. But is that really the case? My big red Chambers describes disability as “lack of power; lack of legal power or qualification; a disqualification; a difficulty, esp physical”. So, “a difficulty”. Isn’t that fair? Isn’t it fair to say that swimming the 400m freestyle is more difficult for Ellie Simmonds than Becky Adlington? As long as both are recognised as the phenomenal competitors and athletes that they are, is there a problem in recognising a difference? I don’t think so, but I’m looking forward to watching the Paralympics coverage where I’m sure every competitor, commentator and expert will have their own view on it. I’m prepared to have my mind changed. For me, it comes down to respect – for each athlete and for the sport they compete in.

What’s clear is that there are sensitivities and uncertainties around the description and treatment of the athletes competing in the Paralympics, and the wider community of people with disabilities. And if the Paralympics garners as much public interest as it’s shaping up to do, these issues will be considered and debated on a national scale. #Paralympics is trending. Disabilities are being demystified. Comedian Adam Hills is hosting an evening talk show on Channel 4 to talk about, and even make jokes about, these subjects. There’s a Lexicon Decoder to help viewers understand type and level of impairment within sporting classes. And in a move towards the equal recognition of Paralympians as that of Olympic medallists, the Royal Mail will now be issuing stamps for every gold winning Paralympian.

So it all kicks off this evening! Maybe Team GB’s Paralympians will bring home some golds. Maybe it’ll change the way we talk about disabilities. Maybe my mum will be on telly. Only time will tell…

There’s been a craft fair inhabiting the gardens of St John’s Church on the west end of Princes Street for the last month. And finally, yesterday, the very last day of the craft fair, with just a couple of hours before they packed it all away, I made it along. And it was brilliant! Colourful bunting hung from posts and trees, stalls filled the arches under Lothian Road, and rows and rows of marquees filled the cobbled paths. There was a lovely buzz to the fair – stallholders were friendly and relaxed, chatting with each other, customers, potential customers, me… I saw so many soft handmade scarves and unusual decorations and upcycled jewellery made of typewriter keys or old pennies or safety pins. There were many many moments when I had to be strict with myself and walk away from something I desperately wanted, but didn’t necessarily need.

But if you live in Edinburgh and didn’t make it along, never fear! Because my two top finds of the craft fair both happen to be based in Edinburgh anyway.

Phoenix Copper Art: handmade books

Superhero and comic book covers caught my eye while wandering the stalls of the craft fair but once I started browsing these handmade notebooks I soon fell for a map-covered book showing Edinburgh and the Port of Leith. These books are bound by hand with big bold stitching along the spine, in such a way that once the papers of the notepad are used up it’s possible to refill with standard A5 paper or hand-made punched papers of your own desire. Creator and stall holder Will Phoenix happily showed me how to refill your own book and his enthusiasm when speaking about his work was contagious. This book, it seems, was made from an old Bartholomew map from the 50s, which is in remarkable condition considering its age. Other books on the stall featured designs embossed in copper, recycled second hand books and comic book strips. He also makes a pretty funky looking Tardis notebook.

Information included inside the books tells that Will is a book-lover and only upcycles books beyond repair, in order to “breathe new life into old books”.

I don’t need a new notebook so although I really appreciated the artistry behind this, I knew I shouldn’t buy it. Remember that bit above about walking away from things I wanted but didn’t need? Yeah.

The problem was, I couldn’t put the notebook back. I have a total lack of willpower when it comes to books. Especially beautiful, unique, geographically relevant, reusable books. And so I am now the proud owner of an A5 Edinburgh map hand-bound notebook.

Miss Ballantyne: organic skincare

Karen Ballantyne produces a range of organic skincare products which smell fantastic without using any artificial ingredients. Judging by one day of use they can also make your skin feel super soft. I stood nearby her stand looking interested and was quickly drawn in to sample various different creams and moisturisers. Karen suggested that for my normal skin the vanilla scented blue cream would be ideal – I’m a big vanilla fan, and the label suggested it was a good solution for tired or dehydrated skin, which sounds perfect for Weekday Debbie!

Instead of a simple business card or flyer, Karen provided her contact details inside this gorgeous hand crafted envelope – it’s actually a large gift tag with details printed and stuck inside, folded over and tied up with string, and each one was adorned with a different stamp. I love this kind of detail and it couldn’t be more different from the experience of shopping on the high street. Each crafter I spoke to yesterday was so passionate and enthusiastic about their particular product – Karen had started this business on a trial six month basis, and just never stopped, because not only had there been demand for her products, but she loved what she was doing. Speaking to these people made me want to buy independent and local more often – not just to support small and innovative businesses, but because the experience you get as a consumer is that much better.

Miss Ballantyne is stocked in numerous shops around Scotland (and a couple in England), and her products are also available via Etsy.

Books are great, aren’t they? (Yes, they are). I LOVE books. So a bookshop, a place filled with books, is a wonderful place to be if you are me. And second hand bookshops can be the best. They smell of books. The books aren’t uniform. Sometimes the books will have the name of a previous owner scrawled inside, or a page turned down at their favourite passage. I love the potential to find a little treasure hidden amongst the jam-packed shelves of a second hand bookshop.

Here are a few of my favourites…

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It’s about a month in, and I’m loving blogging. I’m still finding my style and my voice, but I’m forming a better idea of what I want to get out of writing it. I revised my ‘About Me’ recently and struggled to capture exactly what I’m writing about here – this blog covers so many categories because my life involves all of those different activities. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing – this blog is a melting pot of interests and activities that reflect my actual life. And right now that’s ok.

The part that stands out for me though is ‘adding more creativity into everyday activities’. That is truly a major motivation in doing this. I want to be a creative blogger, who blogs about creative things. And I recently discovered 30 Days of Lists, which I suspect will help me do just that.

The idea behind 30 Days of Lists is to journal something every day to create a snapshot of your life over the course of a month – in this case, September. There are daily prompts and there’s no wrong way to do it. I’ve been pinning other people’s journals from this and previous months and I love how creative some people have been with their lists. I don’t scrapbook or do Project Life, yet somehow accumulate fancy papers, embellishments and stamps like they’re going out of fashion. So I’ve got myself a whole set of tools ready for the beginning of September!

As a journal I’ll be using a minibook by Elise Blaha. It is jam packed with gorgeous patterned papers and cards. I bought it a couple of months ago and have been itching to find a good project to fill it up.

In many ways, signing up for thirty days of lists was a bad idea. I’m starting an eight week e-course next week that I really want to focus on. I have a big family wedding mid-September. Work promises to be busier than ever and I’m supposed to be training for a 5k that takes place at the beginning of October. But this is going to force me to take a little time every day to be creative. Which might just start a habit of creativity that’s hard to break. Fingers crossed.

This is the pre-makeover ‘before’ screenshot – if it were possible it would be shot in dim lighting with a solemn expression, dull clothes and greasy hair. Just you wait for the ‘after’ set-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I mused about adding an interesting header to this (pretty dull looking) blog and while it may seem like nothing has changed since then, this is all a giant ruse to build the phenomenal anticipation of what will be debbiedoesdoodles 2.0. Honest. Nothing to do with being too busy working and socialising and the like. My blog dedication is unwavering.

SO header ideas are currently looking like this:

I’ve also been thinking about emphasising the different subject categories on the sidebar, because at the moment this blog seems to cover a zillion different subjects. And with freakishly good timing, Katrina from Pugly Pixel has guest written a post over at A Beautiful Mess all about adding clickable images to blog sidebars. She’s even provided instructions especially for WordPress.

But with that comes even more indecisiveness. I decided to sketch up some ideas and ended up with the following FOUR different things. Seriously it’s ridiculous. I will never make decisions.

#1 seems to be a really popular style on blogs nowadays, using images to represent a category. I tried it with a few categories that really lent themselves to this but think I would struggle with images for some others, such as ‘Moans and Objections’ or ‘Wise Words’.

#2 is scanned in images of washi tape, with overlayed category titles in Lobster. I caught the washi tape bug a few months ago and use it very regularly to spruce up pretty much everything (including these clipboard pinboards I wrote about a couple of weeks ago!)

#3 uses this Embossed Label Generator by fuzzimo, a free online tool which generates a jpg of an embossed label from text you input. I manipulated the colours in Photoshop afterwards for more vibrant shades and I love the retro feel which takes me right back to my childhood, but I’m not sure this is quite my style – having said that I’ll definitely be using this for overlayed photo captions or craft projects in future.

#4 is intended as an imitation of a paint sample card (seriously what do we call these in the UK? I want to say ‘paint chip’ but that just doesn’t sound British. Paint colour cards?) I overlayed category titles in font Simply Chalky, which I guess could be filled white. I imagined I could switch up the colours each month depending on my mood and colour trends.

Any ideas, sporadic readers? I am leaning towards the washi…

Last week, I missed my weekly Weight Watchers weigh-in (wow, the alliteration). And it’s amazing what a difference missing that one brief meeting made to my whole outlook over the week. I went running, but I didn’t track my eating and I didn’t weigh a single thing. I told myself that I was still making sensible choices, but most of the time I was kidding myself.

SO last night was the moment of truth. And when I stepped up to the scales, I discovered that I’d only gained half a pound. It could have been a lot more. But it should have been a lot less. When focussed, I’d been losing an average of 2lbs a week. I’ve been enjoying sharing that news each Tuesday or Wednesday with James, friends, family, workmates, blog readers, or anyone in the street who paused for too long. I don’t like telling people I’m going the other way.

So, I’d rather have lost this week. But at the same time, I’m glad that I gained. Because I haven’t worked at it for the last fortnight. If I had lost this week, I might have continued kidding myself. But gaining weight has been the slapped wrist that I needed to drive home the reality that if I don’t make the effort, I don’t lose.

For a little perspective, we had a stand-in leader this week who seems to be famous amongst the slimmers’ community around Leith and Portobello. Famous because she went away for a one week holiday, exercised and made sensible eating choices, yet still returned to the UK only to discover she’d gained a shocking 19lbs in one week alone. Compared to that my half a pound seems really quite insignificant.

I weighed and then tracked my breakfast this morning. I think I’m back in business.

PS. I can’t believe that just one day after I posted a round-up of cool font-related stories, Design Milk publish this brilliant series of illustrations by Matthew Olin personifying various typefaces as superheroes. I love them all, but especially the Flash. Weird that when I think of this, I can’t stop picturing Dr Sheldon Cooper though.

Some interesting items have popped up in the last few days regarding typography and design. So here’s a quick round-up…

On Wired last week: A computer virus named Gauss that has been infecting Middle Eastern banks and businesses has been discovered to install a font named Palida Narrow on infected computers. It’s possible this is used to flag to the virus’s creators whether Gauss has been successfully deployed. I’m not a Middle Eastern bank, but this immediately made me check my installed fonts to see if Palida Narrow was among them! Found some nice ones I’d forgotten about too…

Via Fast Company: FF Chartwell is a ‘font’ that allows you to create graphs without spreadsheets – just by typing values separated by plus signs, and converting them to the font. Except it’s not really a font, and more of an ingenious manipulation of font technology. Click through for the explanation of how this actually works and some more striking graphs.

From the CR blog: As a testament to the easy recognition of their logos, Coca-Cola have confirmed they will be permanently using a cropped logo on cans of Diet Coke.

Another Fast Company pick: A small, but ‘statistically significant’ number of participants in an experiment conducted on nytimes.com found Baskerville to be a more trustable typeface than others, a phenomenon now nicknamed the ‘Baskerville Effect’.

And as a bonus link: Designer Jessica Jones over at How About Orange occasionally posts links to interesting free fonts – the latest for inspiration are Hagin Caps, Florence, and Mountain Retreat. It’s definitely worth perusing her back catalogue of font selections too – some of these leave me yearning for a design project, and are a great prompt to get on with the blog redesign!