Monthly Archives: September 2012

I have so many more lists to share! I’m still loving doing 30 Days of Lists, but I’m becoming increasingly glad that it’s only for a month – prioritising real life means I’d constantly be playing catchup otherwise.

List #16 Things I’d Like to Learn

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 16

The three or four lists preceding this page were super busy and collage heavy. So in contrast, this page stuck to a colour theme and kept things co-ordinated and straightforward. It’s just washi tape, patterned stickers, coloured paper, transfer letters and pen. I spent a while thinking of the items for this list, because there are so many things that I’d really like to learn. But these five are things that I could be learning right now, and are skills that I wish I already had. I feel like a child who can’t drive, I wish I could hem my own trousers as well as create exciting looking clothes and quilts and whatnot, I’d like to take photos on something other than an iPhone, and my conversational Italian has been gradually fading in the eight or so years since I worked over there. I’m doing a screen-printing course in November with Edinburgh Printmakers and I’m really excited about it, but currently very underprepared. Hand me my sketchbook!

List #17 Excuses

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This page could hardly be simpler! I just loved the papers included in Elise’s minibook here and I didn’t want to cover them up. Plus, an easy and quick approach seemed fitting for a page on excuses, as many of the other pages took me so long to finish that I kept delaying their completion. The yellow date and title were old transfer letters, and the speech bubbles and excuses were written on coloured paper using a plain old gel ink pen.

List #18 Favourite Names

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 18Names are surprisingly hard to think of! Maybe because I’m not yet of baby-having inclination. Or because I was determined to fill up the gridded paper with names in a no black squares style crossword. I was feeling very sensible at the time and picked names I would actually want or give to a person, but in hindsight I wish this was full of BARTHOLOMEW and ZANZIBAR and TYBALT and HIERONYMUS and PILOT INSPEKTOR. Brilliant names that don’t even necessarily belong to people. As for the embellishments, the green and pink paisley strips were from Poundland a while back, the plain green strip is coloured paper and that’s a super thin strip of washi tape too. The tag was from Amazon with pink fluorescent gel ink pen, and the eighteen grid is another patterned sticker.

List #19 Events I’d Like to Attend

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 19 part 1debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 19 part 2

My cousin Jon got married this weekend and it was brilliant. My extended family is pretty huge as my mum was one of four girls, as was her mum, but it’s still a close family. The big get togethers are fairly infrequent nowadays but when we do assemble, at Christmas or weddings or parties, it’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun. So last week, when I made this list, it was top of my list of events to attend. The wedding invite fit perfectly into the book and I added the title directly onto the front using patterned origami paper cut into an interesting shape, washi tape and American Crafts thickers. The facing page, and reverse of the invite, featured photographs of the other events I’d really like to attend, with stickered labels cut into ribbon shapes. The yellow circled paper was perfect for a checklist, and since this list was written I’ve already been able to tick something off! The others may be slightly harder…

List #20 Fictional Friends

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 20

I mused on this subject last week – I think these list subjects of imaginary people or places have been my favourites, since they’re the ones that force you to stop and think on them for a while. This layout is fairly simple – after printing a few characters individually, spending ages cutting them out, and then realising they didn’t quite fit together, I combined all the friends together using PSE and printed as one sheet, which probably saved me about half an hour. The number 20 is one of my favourite fonts, JF Ringmaster, and and the ‘Fictional Friends’ banners are themselves a font too – Adhesive Nr. Seven. Some orange paper tied the two halves of the spread together (after feeling like some of my pages weren’t balanced last week) and a cue card provided space to write down the names (just in case at some point down the road I forget who these new friends are and need some assistance when I bump into them at a party and have to feign recognition).

List #21 Everything I bought this week

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This would have been far easier had I peeked ahead at the list topics and kept my receipts! It’s a vague list but captures the main things – although I should have added that the two pairs of pumps were a mere £7.99 each from New Look! And those shoes saved my feet when I hit the wedding dance floor at the weekend. Handily I bought some seriously bargainous washi tape last week, which provided some colour to the layout. I love that pink camera tape – it was included in my ‘Snap Happy‘ camera inspired round-up a few weeks ago and so I couldn’t resist when I found it listed on eBay super cheap.

List #22 Favourite Photos of Myself

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The iPhone app Incredibooth, which I wrote about a wee while back, takes the most flattering photos ever. This strip is a little old now but was already printed and hanging in the kitchen, so convenience ruled! The others aren’t necessarily the most complimentary photos of me, but they’re the ones that make me smile, and capture some great memories. I added the dates and locations using the Fuzzimo Embossed Label Generator, and made the camera out of foam and paper for some extra texture. I love that this minibook is 4×6 because photos are the perfect size – if I make my own book next time (which I’m definitely contemplating) it’ll have to be those same dimensions.

List #23 Current Favourites

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 23 part 1debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 23 part 2This is one of my favourite layouts so far. It’s not exactly complicated, but it took a surprisingly long time to put together! The title page is made up of a few paint sample cards and simple letter stickers from Amazon. On the yellow striped card I added a few lists of current favourites (although thought of so many after that I should have added!) using the diagonal lines as guides – I really like the way that echoes the handwriting in the orange stripes from list 16. I also made a full size replica of my phone! A screenshot of my home screen shows all my favourite apps at the moment, and I mounted this phone mock-up to a piece of black foam to simulate the thickness too! On the back I added a picture of the cassette tape iPhone cover that I have on my phone. At a glance this really looks like the real deal – I tried to pick it up yesterday while the page was lying nearby me, it took a few seconds to realise I was merely grabbing at foam and paper!

List #24 Yesterday Was

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Since this page was supposed to be written on Monday, about Sunday, I pretended that I didn’t in fact put this together last thing on Thursday evening, and so wrote it for the day it was intended. When I look at this book in a few years, or even a few months, I won’t remember differently and will be super impressed by how regularly I updated this minibook! Ordinarily Sundays are pretty lazy, but thanks to the wedding at the weekend we seemed to fit such a lot into one day. As this involved flying from England back up to Scotland a banner pulling plane seemed the most appropriate for the title! I made it in PSE and used fonts Neoretrodraw, fill and shadow to create the 3D colour-coded text. The details of the day were just printed and cropped into ribbon shapes, and the ‘TODAY IS’ stamp is that brilliant Elise Blaha Cripe creation popping up again – now available through her stamp shop. I’d like to add that the word hidden by the book rings is ‘napping’ before any eagle eyed readers begin any more risqué speculatoin…

It’s crazy how thick this book has become and just how few days are left – this has been the best project to get me feeling creative again, and having a daily reminder has been exactly the motivation I’ve needed. I always feel slightly panicked when I’m behind by too many days, but I know how satisfied I’ll feel at the start of October when I can hold a book in my hands that is jam-packed with my thoughts and experiences, all laid out with bright colours and pretty shapes and patterns and even as I’m typing this I feel like such a girly girl but I don’t care because I love it SO THERE!

Thirty Days of Lists is a challenge to journal something every day to create a snapshot of your life over the course of a month. Click here to see all my posts on the subject and please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or tips for UK craft stockists. You can also keep up with my 30 Days of Lists activities via Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest.


Google celebrates its 14th birthday today with an animated birthday cake Google doodle. I LOVE the Google doodles, they’re fun and creative and add a little interest to what should be a straightforward search function. They also flip the usual logo conventions around – branding is all about creating a distinctly recognisable visual for customers or users to associate with your company or product, so it’s normal that a company’s logo should be consistent and not changing regularly according to local festivals or birthdays or anniversaries! But then, being unconventional seems to be typical of the Google approach to business. They’ve taken a simple idea for an internet search page and become an international recognised brand producing a huge range of software and hardware. I use Google constantly to organise my life, and I love that it’s become not just a dictionary-recognised verb but a naturalised verb to boot – no matter which search engine is used, most people refer to online searching as ‘googling’.

So today’s ‘wise words’ come from the Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who set out to revolutionise the internet while retaining their ethics and morals. I’ve illustrated these quotations using a variety of free to use fonts that were lots of fun to play with:

“We have a mantra: don’t be evil” – Larry Page, co-founder of Google

Don't be evil Larry Page Google quote

“Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately making a big difference in the world.” – Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google

Sergey Brin quote Google everyone wants to be successful

The last week and a bit have been filled to the brim with activities and travelling and so much fun. It was such a good decision last week to stop trying to blog daily and instead focus on real life just now while so much is happening. Between working, socialising, trying to keep up with 30 Days of Lists and fitting in the exciting things like a foraging course and a giant family wedding, blogging has been almost the last thing on my mind.

On the plus side, I have discovered so many interesting and inspiring things that I just can’t wait to post on here. For a quick sample, here is a Project Life inspired snapshot of the last couple of weeks:

Project Real Life_late September two weeks of debbiedoesdoodles

Beautiful skies and enjoying some late September sun after a dubious and rainy August; sending Chris off to the navy with a suitably raucous and crazy party; James on tour and returning with a gorgeous bouquet and pressies for me; creating a birthday card for Laura which is still awaiting an address; learning about edible plants on the track down to Tyningham Beach; giving my laptop a makeover; filling up and padding out my 30 Days of Lists minibook; decorating wooden letters for the twins’ fourth birthday; spending time with family and the gorgeous little ones who grow up way too fast; a wedding full of love and fun and a good selection of traditions; feeling ill and being looked after by the most lovely (although camera shy) man; trying sushi for the first time EVER; watching the late summer disappear in a single moment with a strong gust of wind and a crazy Scottish storm

debbiedoesdoodles fictional friends

Yet another 30 Days of Lists inspired post! This time – fictional friends. And while the selection of characters above do seem like a strange assortment, each would bring their own particular qualities to our new special friendship…

  • Doctor Who – for all the laughs, the insane ‘take it all in his stride’ attitude, his devotion to his pals and the added benefit of travelling in time and space together.
  • Arya Stark – she could teach me a thing or two about attitude, strength, cunning, swordfighting and dire-wolf training.
  • Jessica Day – life with Jess would be full of entertainment, insane songs and Kermit voices. And being friends with her would also involve an apartment full of hilarious men-folk too!
  • All the Ewoks – you think they’re cute, and then they turn out to be fierce little warriors – I would want an ewok with me at all times if I could.
  • Jules Kiki Cobb – Cougar Town‘s Jules Cobb and the cul-de-sac crew combine the insanity of the New Girl gang with lots and lots of red wine. Which sounds excellent to me.
  • Superman – Who wouldn’t want to be friends with the big guy? Any potential dangers of being used as bait by baddies would be totally outweighed by the flying trips to space, free lifts around the planet, and the authentic takeaway food. Presuming he wasn’t too busy saving the world.
  • Dr John Watson – Not only is Watson an actual practising doctor, he is also a crack shot and knows how to be a patient friend to unusual characters.
  • Kara “Starbuck” Thrace – As Kara’s friend you’d spend a lot of time getting her out of trouble, but she’d be a great drinking buddy, Triad partner, and she’d always have your back against any potential cylon outbreaks.
  • Arrietty Clock – I would put teeny-tiny Arrietty in my pocket and carry her with me everywhere. She’s super smart and would love the adventure. Some days I’d let her ride on the Ewok.
  • Lion-O – The Lord of the Thundercats has the coolest weapons with the best names ever – hello Sword of Omens! He isn’t scared to take on the genuinely terrifying Mummra but doesn’t have the greatest success with the ladies. In real life I think Lion-O would make a great personal trainer; he’s slightly terrifying, super fit, and wears a man-leotard like a pro.

Thirty Days of Lists is a challenge to journal something every day to create a snapshot of your life over the course of a month. Click here to see all my posts on the subject and please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or tips for UK craft stockists. You can also keep up with my 30 Days of Lists activities via Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest.

Hey blog,

How’s it going? How’s the traffic? (insert sarcastic ‘boom boom’ here)

So I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. In fact, you seem to have been in the back of my mind most of the time since we first got started a couple of months ago. You’ve been making me really happy. I’ve really enjoyed thinking up posts, sharing things I’ve discovered or created, becoming part of a blogging community. I love having a platform to write as me. I love the tingle of glee when I see a new comment, or a like, or a follow. I love that feeling of being inspired or excited by something I see or read and then knowing there’s a way I can pass that feeling onto others.

This has become a daily thing between you and I. Except Sundays, I’ve been posting every day. And that self-imposed daily requirement has been tough at times, but it’s forced me to turn creativity and writing into a daily habit. To become active, rather than passively observing the world of the Internet. We both know that some of those days I’ve not been at my most imaginative. Sometimes the writing is lacklustre or the photos look dull. But hey, a lot of the time, the end result has been something to be really pleased with. Something I’m now just starting to tell friends and family about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m ashamed or anything. It’s just that finding my blog voice has somehow been easier knowing that the people who might read it don’t know my real one.

But here’s the thing. It’s also been stressing me out. Because it’s not having the ideas for the posts that’s the problem, it’s finding time to write them, get the relevant images together, or in some cases to actually finish creating the item that I want to write about. Don’t feel jealous now, but I read a lot of blogs, and some are written by everyday people about their hobbies and families and lives, whenever they have the time to share. But a lot of the blogs that I love and read regularly, those ones written by super creative people, who share ideas that make me think “Yes! I could do that too!” – those blogs are usually written by people for whom that is their job. Creating things and writing things on a blog is their job, or at least supports or promotes their job. This is not my job. I have a job. This is not it.

You know that gap earlier this week when I didn’t post for a few days? I felt so guilty, like I was letting you down. I felt like something bad would happen. And the stats dropped a little, but the world didn’t end. You were still here. I still intended to publish a post, and publish a post I did. And so it turned out that letting that daily post requirement fall was quite the relief. It let me think up other ideas, some potentially really good ideas, of things I’d like to write about. It let me focus on real life, and remember that I’m part of a real community, as well as an online one.

So I guess I’m saying that this isn’t over. It isn’t even a break. I just might be here a little less often. But in the spirit of quality, not quantity, hopefully this will be a good thing. I’ll still think about you a lot, and I’ll probably still visit all the time, because after all, I’ve learned that I enjoy this. But from now it’ll be because I have something I really want to share, and not just because it’s a new day.

Well, I guess this is it. Thanks for the good times so far, blog. Until next time,

Debbie (doing doodles)

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge to post to your blog via email (using the Post by Email feature), touching on the subject of email, communication, and online correspondence. I figured that if I’m writing an email to my blog, I’d actually write an email addressed to my blog – we had some stuff to talk about. This is my first Weekly Writing Challenge but I enjoyed that it incorporated both post inspiration and a technical challenge – I’ve never posted by email before or used the shortcodes, but it turned out to easier than expected.

Half way through Thirty Days of Lists and I’m really enjoying the prompts to get creative. Finding the time to write-up and decorate the lists is proving increasingly tricky though – real life got in the way of listing much or posting for the last few days! Some lists feel a little rushed, but I find that having a daily prompt is the only way to guarantee I’ll do it at all, rather than just planning out the perfect spread and then never completing it for fear of messing it up.

A few of this week’s prompts required a lot of thought and contemplation and I think I could dedicate the entire month of September just to writing up the lists and decisions behind each one. But since I’m guessing that would be fairly dull to read, here is a quick summary of the week instead:

List #8 Out my front door

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 8

I loved making this one. Since living in a flat in a city means I don’t have a front garden to write about, I dedicated this collage to my neighbourhood of Leith. I used some cutouts from The Leither magazine, including the photo of the Rabbie Burns statue, the title font for my title, the Leith crest and ‘Persevere’ motto. The two strips of photos, mostly from my Instagram, were all taken within a few minutes walk from the flat, and were mounted on black card to create a photostrip visual. I included a portion of a very tatty old map I used to carry with me when I first visited Edinburgh over four years ago, and a snippet of the lyrics from the Proclaimers’ Sunshine on Leith, Leith’s unofficial anthem. This spread had the orange squared page already within the minibook, which allowed me to add the list prompt and the reasons on the reverse of each other.

List #9 Today you can find me

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A very simple spread this one! The envelope came within the minibook and I couldn’t help but use it for some private journalling to take a snapshot of my current mood. The big bold TODAY letter stickers were from Amazon.

List #10 I am at my best when

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This photo, taken on Skye, shows me in a very happy mood on a very lovely holiday last September. The gold frame was cut out of a magazine and fit perfectly on the back of the envelope from List 9. The yellow strips and chevrons were stickers which I cut to shape, and the ‘best’ is American Crafts ‘Doll’ fabric thickers. For the actual list I used a page out of the SMASH pad cut into a more exciting shape, and another round sticker for the list number.

List #11 Favourite scents and smells

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Quite a collage-y feel to this list with a few different textures going on… packaging from a fajita kit, printed images of the Sailor Jerry girl and my favourite perfume, mint made from washi tape, photobooth print of James (he was away this week which may have made me more girlish than normal), and some felt embellishments from Papermania via Hobbycraft. I used old gold transfer letters for the title and date, which are pleasingly subtle.

List #12 Fictional places I’d like to live

debbiedoesdoodles Fictional Places to live

I had so much fun thinking up and debating these ones with myself that I wrote a whole post about it last week. It’s mostly a collage of different printed images, with some washi and transfer letters thrown in. I used a Sharpie and gel ink pen for the miniature Metropolis skyline and wished afterwards that I’d left space to do it across the whole width of the spread for continuity across the pages.

List #13 Dinner party invitees

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Initially I contemplated just making a list of all the people I know in real life who would make great dinner party guests, but inspired by all the incredible people my fellow Listers were thinking up I couldn’t resist the lure of celebrity. My eleven guests include a couple of musical legends, a genius inventor and artist, two brilliant writers, a film-maker, a lexicographer, a pioneer for women, a peacemaker and two of the funniest comedians to have ever lived. I love the idea of the intellectual and thought provoking discussions this group would have and the stories they would all tell. Morecombe & WIse would make everyone feel at ease and Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis could swoon a lovely post-dinner duet. I would perhaps be careful not to place Emmeline Pankhurst too close to Elvis though, I’m not sure she’d approve of him calling her ‘babe’.

The visual look of this one was going to be epic in my head but I’m really disappointed with how it turned out. The turquoise pattern is so pretty that I wanted to use a delicate doily shape to add the title, but the black is too dark and dominates. I always love a good collage of faces but wish I’d incorporated some turquoise on this page so that they felt like a combined spread – I have the perfect coloured washi tape! So the last couple of lists have made me think about how to make two pages work together even if they have completely different backgrounds.

List #14 I know I am getting older when

debbiedoesdoodles 30 Days of Lists spread 14

Eesh that’s a depressing list. I only finished this one yesterday which may account for the emphasis on hangovers. The list of films was inspired by this xkcd post on ‘Movie Ages’ which is guaranteed to make you feel old. I think Macaulay Culkin’s face says it all really.

Mostly a combination of paper and stickers, my favourite feature of this spread is that the neon paper I used to demonstrate the return of the neon trend is itself about 20 years old, from back when neon and tie-dye were in fashion the last time.

List #15 I know I am young at heart when

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A slightly more upbeat subject! Although apologies for the rubbish photo… I used origami paper for the blue and white flowered background, which gives the page a lovely texture, with washi tape and patterned stickers for added colour – and to cover the mistakes! The ‘young’ lettering is American Crafts felt thickers in Playroom, the same letters as on the front page. The photos used for this list were both taken at Cairnie Fruit Farm in Cupar, Fife, from a weekend of adventures around St Andrews last October. So much fun.

I also had to change out my book rings this week! The 30mm silver rings that came with the book were just too small for the expanding pages – all the different textures, embellishments and thickers have added so much volume. I bought these green 38mm rings on eBay and now there’s so much more space to add even more stuff!

Thirty Days of Lists is a challenge to journal something every day to create a snapshot of your life over the course of a month. Click here to see all my posts on the subject and please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or tips for UK craft stockists. You can also keep up with my 30 Days of Lists activities via Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest.

debbiedoesdoodles Fictional Places to live

Two Thirty Days of Lists posts in a row shows that this idea of list prompts is really good for inspiration! Yesterday’s list was ‘fictional places I’d like to live’ and there almost seemed too many to choose from. So, in no particular order, the shortlist is:

1. Metropolis

Definitely the DC Comics version, rather than the Fritz Lang imagining. As I child I was totally obsessed with Superman, and proudly wore the outfit (meant to be worn by little boys and not pigtail having girls like me) anywhere I was allowed. As a teenager I kissed posters of Dean Cain from The New Adventures. And as an adult I still have Superman nick nacks and feel a sense of attachment to the Man of Steel. So, naturally, if I lived in Superman’s world, I would live near the big guy himself, just in the hope of catching a glimpse.

Similar place I would not like to live: Although apparently within driving distance of each other, I would not like to live in Gotham. Way, way darker. Way more violent.

2. The Magic Faraway Tree

The Faraway Tree books by Enid Blyton are probably one of my favourite series of children’s books ever written. As if the everyday lives of Moon-Face and Silky the fairy, with their ridiculous neighbours Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot, Mr. Watzisname and the Angry Pixie, wasn’t enough, adding to the excitement is the prospect of magical lands that arrive at the top of the tree. I could fill this whole list with lands I’d like to live in: the Land of Do-as-you-please; the Land of Tea Parties; the Land of Goodies; the Land of Marvels… the list goes on.

Similar places I would not like to live: The Land of Topsy Turvy; the Land of Tempers; the Land of Dame Slap

3. Dorne, Westeros

Dorne is the most southerly kingdom that makes up the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the land of the Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones series. As a large peninsula to the south of King’s Landing, a mountain range and a rebellious attitude meant that Dorne was the only kingdom not to fall to Aegon the Conqueror in the Targaryen grab for power, but was incorporated into the kingdom later through marriage. Thanks to the Rhoynish traditions prevalent amongst the Dornish, they practise equal primogeniture, which means the eldest child inherits the title even if she’s female. Which would be nice.

Dorne is hot and water is scarce, but trading with the Summer Isles makes Dorne the least dependent on the unreliable and war ravaged economy of Westeros. And being hot might not be a bad thing, since we all know that Winter is coming.

Similar place I would not like to live: The Wall. Luckily as a female I wouldn’t be allowed to take the black, but even as someone who lives in Scotland, the Wall is just too cold for me. I think I could handle Winterfell, but in times of strife in Westeros, I’d rather hide somewhere inconspicuous.

4. Do As You’re Told

Parental instructions lost their edge once they became associated with the bizarrely adorable creatures living in the land of Do As You’re Told, home of animated series Stoppit and Tidyup. The eponymous characters were the most unlikely of friends – the excitable Stoppit lived in what looked like a landfill site, while more serene and house proud Tidyup loved to tend his garden of giant gherkins. I loved the two bees, Beehave and Beequiet, the overconfident Clean Your Teeth, the messy Comb Your Hair and mischievous Eat Your Greens. Go and Play with his giant white shorts was always a little creepy, and the villain of the series, the big bad I Said NO and his pet Not Now were quite alarming as a small child, but watching them again as an adult, as I have been known to do, is brilliantly entertaining thanks to Terry Wogan’s hilarious narration and the complete absurdity of the storylines. I could definitely live with these strange neighbours in the land of Do As You’re Told, perhaps in the Valley of the Sit Downs, although the language of calls and squeaks would take some time to master.

Similar place I would not like to live: The ancient castle of Trapdoor, the claymation series made by the same producers of Stoppit and Tidyup, was the home of many a monster of varying ferocities.  I’ll take the advice of the theme song and “Stay away from that trapdoor, ‘Cos there’s something down there….”

5. Hogsmeade

Butter beer, Honeydukes, a joke shop… I think Hogsmeade satisfies every requirement for a wizarding way of life. And as the weekend destination of choice for wizards all around britain, not only is there good food and drink, but everyone there is in the best of moods!

Similar place I would not like to live: Hogwarts sounds exciting, with the grand hall and banquets and moving staircases and Quidditch and Hagrid and all, but if I haven’t made it clear above, I’m really not one for danger. And [spoiler alert] if Dumbledore can die, no pupil is safe.

6. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

Rivers of chocolate! Ooompa-Loompas! Singing, magic, mayhem and treats! While it’s true that many of the children who visited Willy Wonka’s factory suffered not so nice fates, they were the naughty children. Only the naughty children break the rules or steal or sneak. I would naturally be a very good girl and live a contented life amongst the Oompa-Loompas in the sweetie trees.

Similar place I would not like to live: The Giant Peach. I don’t like confined spaces, I don’t like insects.

7. Galactica

Space travel was never so dramatic as when aboard the Battlestar Galactica. Not only is the ship and civilian fleet travelling with it running for their lives from the warring cylons, they are also desperately searching for a new home which is possibly their old home, unknowing of the enemy embedded within their ranks. As the centre of the action and excitement Galactica is a dangerous place to be, but it’s also got the best defences, most interesting people, and most importantly a bar. And yes, Cloud 9 would be so much more luxurious, but [spoiler alert] it’s also got too many explosions by nuclear warheads for my liking (which is one, because one is all it takes).

Similar place I would not like to live: The Pegasus. I would rather live forever on New Caprica, or   to have been wiped out by the cylons on one of the twelve Colonies.

8. Wonderland

So much nonsense and lots of tea parties while wearing funny hats. Sounds lovely.

Similar place I would not like to live: Narnia. Love the talking animals, but the risk of permanent winter doesn’t appeal. Even factoring in the Turkish Delight.

Other fictional places I would not like to live: District 12 of The Hunger Games (not enough food, too much dictatorship), anywhere in Middle Earth (too much Sauron, not enough japes – perhaps with the exception of The Shire, which does seem pretty fun), District 9 of District 9 (too many catfood craving aliens), The Island (what is a smoke monster anyway?), Arrakis from Dune (too much sand, too many sandworms), the American Arctic research station (too much Thing) and Fantasia from The Neverending Story (too much Nothing).

Thirty Days of Lists is a challenge to journal something every day to create a snapshot of your life over the course of a month. Click here to see all my posts on the subject and please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or tips for UK craft stockists. You can also keep up with my 30 Days of Lists activities via Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest.

Last week as part of September’s 30 days of lists, I was prompted to list reasons to quit something. And as a person who regularly leaves things half done, I chose to quit quitting.

While it’s true that I’m really bad at leaving craft projects and paintings incomplete, I’m also pretty bad at abandoning books half way through. Generally I’ll find my way back to them eventually, but pausing during a good read makes you lose so much momentum. And when I do find time to pick a good book back up again, it takes me a chapter or so to even remember who the characters are.

So, this must stop. While I have some great new reads which I’m itching to start on, right now I have a plethora of incomplete books crying out for attention. But each incomplete book has its own back story, and for each I remember exactly where I was when I started, and paused, my reading of it. So selecting which to complete first is not such a simple decision…

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

My grandmother, my father’s mother, loved giving presents. She would put so much thought into choosing gifts and spend so much time wrapping and decorating each one. As a fellow book lover she frequently gave books to people for Christmas and birthdays, and naturally this was something I particularly enjoyed. When she died in November 2008, days before I moved to Edinburgh, she had already bought most of that year’s Christmas presents. And so that year, for the last time, everyone received presents selected by Granny. Mine was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale, accompanied by a silver monogrammed bookmark. I really enjoy the way this book is written and the depth of the research undertaken by the author, particularly the inclusion of old weather reports and social statistics to set the scene of what life was like during that time. Yet something about how special that last gift is has stoppped me from quite finishing the book, and the monogrammed bookmark is still resting in one of the final pages.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin & American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Half way through reading A Clash of Kings, the second volume of the Song of Ice and Fire series, I joined a book group that was reading American Gods. So I abandoned the former for the latter, but in the week or so before the group never completed the reading. The book was great; the book group wasn’t so great. And as it turned out, that was their last meet-up. Without a sense of urgency I lost the nightly reading habit that I’d hoped the group would encourage. I will return to both, particularly since I’d like to read A Storm of Swords before HBO complete a third series of Game of Thrones. These books take you to a different world entirely, with kings and knights, houses and sigils, direwolves, white walkers and dragons. The complex web of characters plays out even better on paper than it does on screen, with even more detail. As the bookseller that sold me A Clash of Kings said: “He spends a chapter describing one character and their back story, only for them to die on the next page”.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharpe & Just My Type by Simon Garfield

These books are perfect for dipping in and out of, in that typically each chapter deals with a different subject. The main problem with these is that they are so well written and inspiring that they make me want to stop reading and do something instead, whether it’s creating something artistic or just oggling lovely typography (with a better appreciation of it).

Dune by Frank Herbert (again)

I read the whole Dune series as a teenager and have such a distinct image of the desert planet Arrakis, sandworms, the Fremen people, spice, and all the brilliant names, like Muad’Dib, Kwisatz Haderach, the Bene Gesserit, House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and the Sardaukar. It’s a cliche, but re-reading this book is like seeing an old friend again. One of my old flatmates ‘borrowed’ this book many many months ago and I’m on a quest to return it home – at least for now I can dip into James’s identical copy!

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

I love Scarlett Thomas’s writing. The End of Mr Y was totally captivating and is one of those books that, a few years later, I still find myself thinking about from time to time. Our Tragic Universe was formerly a book that lived in James’s flat, before we moved in to our current flat together and while I was practically, but not officially, living at his. I’ve found it a bit of a slow read so far – for the first chunk of the book the protagonist is dissatisfied with her life and a little depressed. It’s perhaps for this reason that since the consolidation of our literature this novel has continued to drop down the priorities list.

Pocomoto: Brush Popper by Rex Dixon

This was a find from one of Edinburgh’s lovely second hand bookshops. It’s a children’s western about a horse named Pocomoto, probably one of the greatest horse names ever. I bought it for its intriguing title and simple illustration, but I’m not sure I’m committed to finishing this one. It may find its way to a more appropriate owner sometime soon.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Bed by David Whitehouse & The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

All three of these novels were bought in an airport or train station. Books are great for long journeys, especially for reading on the train. The 4.5 or 5 hour trip from Edinburgh to London is ideal for reading – it’s long enough for any other activity to be boring, but gives you enough time to get so involved in a good book that you almost forget where you are. More than once has a ticket inspector had to give me a little nudge to get my attention, as I sat reading with complete obliviousness to my surroundings.

So I have no good excuses for not finishing most of these, except the usual – time and energy. But just writing this has been the reminder I needed of how much life exists in the pages I’ve been neglecting. And at least I kept my bookmarks in.

I’ve read many blogs about people who go to giant ‘Thrift Stores’ in their spare time, to find items for their homes or for upcycling or to sell on for a profit. A rather romantic image is created, of strolling and browsing and reaching under a table covered with quaint picture books and vintage tin signs to uncover something undiscovered, dusty, and perfect.

While that cliché can’t be true for most, I’m sure that most people’s bargain hunting is a far cry from the experience of shopping at the Jane Street lane sale in Leith.

Jane Street outside

Hosted by auctioneers Ramsay Cornish, the lane sale is sold as “Edinburgh’s best kept secret”, but the throng that assembles on Jane Street every Thursday would beg to differ. I used to live in a flat on Kirk Street overlooking the auction house, and the sight of the many many tables snaking around the forecourt of Ramsay Cornish was always intriguing (shown empty, above). Those many tables fill up with old jugs, vases, teacups, records, books, broken projectors, 2 foot tall wizard statues, 3 foot tall porcelain cats, crystal ashtrays, mismatched salt and pepper shakers, and so much more. Many of the tables themselves are for sale. The next few rows are made up of cardboard boxes filled with random assortments from kettles to old letters, postcards, broken frames and vintage books – some items so personal it seems that many of these boxes have come straight from an estate clear-out. And then the furniture: grand armchairs in dire need of reupholstering, whole sets of dining chairs and mahogany cabinets and sofas and wardrobes. It’s a different assortment every week, but every week it’s full to the brim.

With so much stuff and so much of it of low low (really, very low) value, the trick here seems to be to rummage deep within the boxes (casting out of your mind the likely recently-deceased former owner), hunt out your favourite picks and stake your spot at a table. The auctioneer moves down the row of tables, with only one active at each time. When bidding at a table begins, anyone who wants an item on that table passes it to the auctioneer. He begins to rapidly fire off prices in your conventional auction style, but with less order, more jokes, and absolutely no pauses. Items typically begin at £1. Sometimes they go up a couple of pounds, occasionally they go up lots of pounds. While one item is being sold off, the next is being thrust upon the auctioneer, while two other auction house workers shout over the whole hubbub to make sure those who win an item actually pay up. Once there aren’t any goods being requested for bidding, the auctioneer will usually assess the whole table of leftovers and declare ‘rest of table’ for sale for £2 or so, before moving on. If you win the table, you have to gather everything up quick smart before someone starts picking things up to start bidding on them.

There’s some friendly banter and plenty of smiles, but don’t be mistaken: it’s vicious. If you get a good spot by a prime table you’d better stand your ground or you’ll soon be gently pushed out of the way by a smiling old lady with a zimmer frame, only to realise she’s only using it to carry all her new copper jugs and vintage ornaments and is on the hunt for a serious bargain*.

I’ve been a couple of times before and just passively enjoyed the chaos and hilarity while my old work colleague Joanne set about buying all the available vintage teacups for her upcoming wedding. This time I went with another work colleague in her giant teal coloured surfing van, which we joked about filling up with boxes of useless paraphernalia. A joke, or a prediction?

Visiting the lane sale at lunchtime is not ideal, as it’s open for browsing all morning so that when bidding begins at 11am everyone already knows exactly what they want and have already nabbed the best table-side viewing spots. Arriving after midday, as we did, the crowd is tightly packed around the tables in play. In a rush of excitement to get involved, I neglected to take a single photo – next time I’ll try harder. Workmate Laura and I had a poke around the upcoming tables and then tried to get a peek at what was happening. She seemed to be far wilier than I and regularly ended up in the midst of the action – I meanwhile looked at a plastic gold Jesus ornament which would have been oh so at home in James’s sister’s gorgeously eclectic South American style flat. I popped a pound in my pocket just in case – because there is NO TIME at this thing for wallets and fumbling, and definitely not for using notes or getting change.

So, after some wandering and some watching, Laura emerged with a beautiful hand-operated Singer sewing machine, black, vintage and shiny, in a wooden case with the original instructions, all for £24. While she took it to the van I watched gold Jesus go in a job lot and realised it wasn’t really worth the pound anyway, and then found myself at one of the last tables before they started on the cardboard boxes and the furniture. After a few of the nicest items, the auctioneer was pretty impatient to get going so offered ‘rest of table’ for £5. No takers. 4, 3, 2, 1… well, I had that £1 in my pocket. So I bid. And I got it.

“What a bargain!” said one onlooker at the lane sale.

“What a box of crap!” said my workmates when I brought my haul in to inspect it.**

When I laid it all out, I had:

  • 4 pewter tankards with Sheffield makers marks
  • 3 glass sundae dishes
  • 2 large china pots
  • brightly painted clay vase
  • shell shaped china dish
  • an ornate china ashtray
  • hexagonal china vase with Oriental patterns
  • a couple of empty plastic jewellery boxes
  • blue glass vase
  • 3 decorative plates
  • a slim decorated sunflower jug
  • 2 small clay pots
  • large blue and white china dish
  • floral china butter dish
  • 2 small crystal dishes
  • a crystal ashtray
  • a china bell (no ringer)
  • a glass bell
  • brass sunflower cufflinks
  • set of very tarnished ESPN cutlery

I know nothing about valuing second hand bargains but there are many folks at the Jane Street lane sale who do, and who take it very seriously. So I strongly suspect that I don’t have any hidden treasures here. But I am sure there are some items that could still find a happy home, or provide me with some crafty fun. And the tankards I am definitely keeping.

I have some plans to upcycle a few of these items, the least fragile may make it on to eBay, and some will simply be cleaned and donated to a charity shop – a task that James is keen to point out totally undermines the argument of “but it was only a pound!” I think he has a vision of our flat filled with other people’s discarded things, as I prance around pointing to bits of dusty broken crockery pronouncing “50p!” and “what a bargain!”.

Jane Street haul

I may have to give it a week or so before returning to Jane Street – after all, I only have so many cupboards to hide these things in.

*This exact scenario happened to me the first visit to Jane Street. Never again.

**’Box of crap’ has become the go-to measuring point for financial value at work in the last few days. “I knocked £1,000 off the asking price!” “Why, that’s 1,000 boxes of crap!”