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This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is to capture 2012 in just twelve photos. SO HARD choosing just twelve but these ones best sum up the moments or moods that have most stood out for me throughout this year. What I can’t sum up here is how brilliant blogging has been this year! What started as a fun idea in July became a bit of an obsession for the next few months, which I am absolutely dying to do more of in 2013.

Here’s to more adventures over the next twelve months. I will be taking part in little white dove’s 13 in ’13 reading challenge, organising my craft projects using a working list, and definitely doing at least one more month of 30 Days of Lists. AND moving into a lovely new flat, watching loads of exciting films, making new friends and spending time with old friends, going to some exciting places and making an actual effort to become fit and healthy!

See you NEXT YEAR YOU GUYS!!!!

Aaaaah, madness.

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How quickly is December whizzing by! Christmas is less than three weeks away and the flurry of parties and nights out has begun – hooray! While I’m loving the more exciting social life this brings (and the German market that takes over the centre of Edinburgh throughout December), I am rather envious of the gorgeous minibooks and Christmas craftiness I’m seeing pop-up all over blogland. At some point in the next three weeks I’m hoping to find time to make something seasonal myself! In the meantime I am getting my fix on others’ creations like some kind of creepy crafty voyeur.

A few brilliant December minibooks here by ladies well known for their skills in documenting life! The start of Elise Blaha Cripe, Amy Tan and Ali Edwards’ December books below…

Elise Blaha December Holiday Minibook
Amy Tan December Daily
Ali Edwards December Daily

I do love the idea of a December Daily – capturing the build up to Christmas one day at a time. But unfortunately for me just now, sorting and packing and getting ready to move house just doesn’t lend itself to a month of crafting! And I’ll be travelling down south in a couple of weeks to spend time with my delightful family – so excited to spend time with the little ones whose growing up is mostly witnessed via Facebook and the sporadic family event.

So instead I am celebrating December through #reverb12, hosted by Kat of I Saw You Dancing, who is fresh out of hosting Blogtoberfest just over a month ago! Reverb looks back over the year through reflective prompts and provides some focus on the important stuff for the coming year. What works for me is that there’s no daily blogging requirement, no need to dedicate an hour of every evening to craft, just a prompt to think about and react to in whatever way that works. For me right now, that’s mostly just something to mull over as I walk to work in the morning, or as I sit on the bus en route to a meet up of some kind or another, probably involving mulled wine, possibly also rum. They go together so well, it’s almost criminal. This is how my December rolls!

Hello dear readers! It’s been a while, so here is a giant update on the last month or so. Life has been busy since my ‘radio silence’ warning at the beginning of the month, so prepare yourselves for a long read…

Firstly, so many of you lovely bloggers left really supportive comments and advice when I posted about my recent break-up. Thank you very much to all of you! It meant so much more to me than I can explain here. One nugget of wisdom that really stayed with me was from Michelle, who told me to “keep creating. I really do think it helps us heal”. That pearl of advice couldn’t have been more spot on during that first emotionally tumultuous week when he behaved particularly atrociously – I filled up a whole sketchpad with doodles and words that reflected my emotional state – usually anger! It was extremely cathartic, and probably stopped me from lashing out at a friend, family member, or random unfortunate passer-by. Apologies for the NSFW language!

break up sketchbook

After working through that part of the Kübler-Ross cycle, I began sketching some drawings and patterns in preparation for a screen-printing course at Edinburgh Printmakers, a local arts studio which runs weekend courses introducing you to a range of different screen-printing techniques. I was so thrilled to be learning something new and creative, that was totally separate to the break-up and the seemingly endless flat hunting – until, that is, the course was cancelled with just a few days’ warning. I was gutted. And the stinger in the tail was that the course had been a birthday gift from the recent ex – so no chance of rescheduling, it was just gone. Cue more tears and anger! Oh the drama!

Happily though, I have some really lovely family and friends, and one, Sam, ordered me to visit her in London. And so obediently I obeyed! I took an extra day off to visit one of my sisters, Jenny, and her two boys Ben and (another) Sam. There is nothing like bringing the kid out in you like playing with actual kids. Ordinarily I’m unstoppable when there’s a wooden train set to assemble. It’s like something inside me forces me onto my hands and knees to fit all the pieces of track together in the most complicated railway route imaginable  It turns out I am worse when there’s a marble run. The resulting tower was a marble maze taller than the children, with multiple routes to the bottom and a precarious support system. Thank goodness I don’t design structures for a living, or we would all be surrounded by inter-looping train tracks, rubble, and giant glass marbles.

twins boys and a giant marble run

And so into London, where I seemed to spend a huge chunk of the weekend in various markets. I met up with Sam and Lizzie, two of my best friends in the world, and spent Saturday lunchtime together in Borough Market, the most amazing food market I’ve ever been to. We scoffed wild boar sausages accompanied by hot mead, followed by oodles of free samples of cake and cheese, taking home a chocolate brownie as dense and thick as a brick. And then on Sunday afternoon Sam and I wandered to Spitalfields and bought dinner at Brick Lane market, where even after many stallholders have started packing up you can still get delicious hot food from so many different countries, or in our case, a banana & chocolate Malaysian pancake accompanies by a cup of mulled wine. Yes, a steady stream of chocolate and hot alcohol prevailed! Not good for my Weight Watchers diet, but definitely good for the soul.

On Sunday afternoon we took a trip to the Barbican Centre to visit the Rain Room, hosted by Random International. It is exactly what it sounds like – a room where it rains – except for the fact that movement sensors can stop the flow, meaning that if you move slowly enough for the sensors to catch up with you, you can travel throughout the room without getting wet. I failed to do so, as I’m obviously impatient, so got fairly wet during my experience. But the sound and feeling of rain falling all around you was really magical (yes, more magical than just holding an umbrella), and the dramatic lighting made for some beautiful photographs. The bottom two were definite favourites on my Instagram feed!

Rain Room Barbican
Sam at the Rain Room Barbican
Me at the Rain Room Barbican

I’ve always hated London a little bit, because of how busy it is, how people surround you constantly and all the hustle-and-bustle of the streets and the tube and the shops, but finally that weekend I understood why some people just fall in love with The Big Smoke. That if you let yourself just be part of the madness and not try to push through it and seek tranquillity  it can actually be amazing. Instead of trying to compete with the crowds at the super touristy areas we enjoyed how busy the markets were. And we discovered little havens of calm, like Bunhill Fields cemetery with its seriously inquisitive squirrels, or Postman’s Park, which seems to feature on so many ‘Hidden London’ lists as well as providing a name for Natalie Portman in Closer. When we arrived at Postman’s Park we were the only people there, and only as we browsed the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice did we realise how well timed our visit was – paying tribute to heroes on Armistice Day.

Heroes Wall

Back in Edinburgh, and flat hunting has proven to be a challenge. I have visited so many box rooms described as ‘cosy’, uninterested strangers described as ‘friendly’ and total dumps described as, well, habitable. I’m sure there are many people prepared to sleep with a noisy boiler next to their head, or in flats that reek of burned cooking oil, or who don’t care if a five-bed flat has a tiny kitchen, one bathroom and no communal living space. But I am not one of those people. Eventually, after turning down a couple of nice flats with friendly people but minor problems that meant they weren’t totally perfect, I found the home I’d been searching for. A lovely three bed flat in a quiet area half way between work and the centre of town, sharing with two friendly ladies who love films and books and tea and cake. I’m not moving in until the beginning of January, which gives me a chance to sort out and streamline my many piles of paper and clothes and ‘miscellaneous’ drawers. And I look forward to giving some updates on the new space I’ll be inhabiting in the new year! How crazy is it that 2013 is just around the corner.

In other news, I’m learning how to knit. I joined an Edinburgh meet and make group and we enjoyed some communal craft magic over cups of tea and scones at the lovely Mimi’s Bakehouse in Leith recently. Until that point my early ventures into knitting had been entirely YouTube taught, without any success at all. Casting on seemed so difficult! But thanks to instructions from the very patient Abi of Knitnicks I will one day own a scarf that I will have made with my own two hands (and some knitting needles, and some wool).

And that’s my not-so-brief update! There is of course always much more in the works which I am busting to share, but since I fear this post will already have resulted in oh so many TL;DRs, I think that’ll do for today. See you in the not too distant future!

Do you see what I did there? Oh yes, hilarious. See, it’s newly November. NEWvember. Oh my, the hilarity. I know, I know, you are struggling not to roll on the floor in floods of tears. Probably the best joke you’ll hear today, right? Hey, probably the best joke you’ll hear all month! Sometimes I wonder why I never began my professional comedy career. A wasted talent, I tell you.

So, moving on, and forgetting that ever happened, the new month means:

a) the end of Blogtoberfest, and the challenge to blog every single day. It’s often been tricky to find the time, but if anything this challenge gave me more ideas for posts and projects than a normal month, and definitely introduced me to some other brilliant bloggers. I have particularly loved seeing what littlewhitedove and whattaylormade managed to blog about in their 31 days, but am finding that I’m reading increasingly more through WordPress Reader than my RSS feed, which means non-WordPress bloggers have been somewhat neglected recently!

November calendar of the month

b) another awesome Calendar of the Month from Scout Creative. I am gutted to have been away from my printer this week because this is my favourite since I signed up – a nuclear charging station and calendar all in one! What more could a girl need?

Its a Giveaway

c) the giveaway ended! This was my first time ever hosting a giveaway and it turned out to be far simpler than expected… while the giveaway announcement got a few likes and a handful of new followers (according to my stats, anyway) it only generated two actual entrants! And so, without further ado, the winners of the giveaway are officially the super creative Pillows a-la-mode and the mysterious buntyw – drop me an email at debbiedoesdoodles@gmail.com with your postal addresses if you’d like to claim your prizes!

lots of moustaches

d) The beginning of Movember, which seems to become more and more popular each year – in Edinburgh, at least. Sadly Thankfully my female face isn’t inclined to sport the facial hair, but I look forward to seeing some cool tache’s about town and will gladly sponsor anyone taking on the hairy challenge for such a good cause!

Image: Moustaches from pinkmoustache.net and available for free download as vectors in AI or EPS formats. Personally I love me a good Dali.

Its a Giveaway

Today I am very pleased to announce the first ever Debbie Does Doodles giveaway! Two lucky readers can receive a batch of free journalling/scrapbooking tags. Lovingly handmade and sized to fit 3×4 or 4×6 pockets for use in Project Life, or for incorporation into scrapbooks or journals or pinning to your wall. They’re currently being crafted, sneak peeks coming soon!

To enter, simply follow this blog via email, WordPress reader, RSS or Bloglovin’ and leave a comment below telling me so. If you choose to do more than one of those things, leave an extra comment. Two commenters will be picked at random after 31 October 2012, and I’ll announce the winners on the blog soon after.

No geographical restrictions apply, so good luck! Buona fortuna! Bonne chance! Zorte on! Lycka till! Pob lwc!  İyi şanslar! Powodzenia! Sėkmės! Viel Glück! Sterkte! And so on.

UPDATE: Thanks to my choc-a-bloc sidebar, comments are tricky to find. To enter, scroll on down all the way to the bottom to leave a comment below…

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Just like that.

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Yep, you get it.

>>> This is post 8 of the 31 I’ll be writing for Blogtoberfest 2012 <<<

debbiedoesdoodles October 3D Calendar Scout Creative free printable

October is here! And so it’s properly, officially autumn going on winter. I went out without a coat on Saturday night and was roundly chastised for being so impractical and unScottish. One taxi-less walk home and I’ve learned my lesson – it is no longer the season for summer clothing.

This new month brings a new 3D neon ghost-inspired totem pole calendar from Scout Creative. Now that’s a string of words I never anticipated writing! Head on over to the Calendar of the Month Club to grab yourself a free printable pdf of the three amighosts and make your own calendar – top tip for this month is definitely printing on card and remembering (unlike me) to score the mouth part of the design BEFORE sticking all the tabs together! You live and learn.

The end of September also means the end of my first 30 Days of Lists. It took some effort over the weekend, but my book of lists is officially complete. I’ll be adding some photos, tips and tricks over the next couple of days – it was such a significant project for me that there’s likely to be a plethora of posts on the subject!

So, one project down and another hard on its heels… BLOGTOBERFEST 2012. Kat over at I Saw You Dancing is hosting this year’s annual blogging festival, which challenges you to blog every single day throughout October, with creative prompts and inspiration. It’s like Oktoberfest, but with less beer and more blogging.

Now, on the one hand this is totally insane. I only just decided to take a break from daily blogging a couple of weeks ago because my real life was so jam-packed with activities. But on the other hand, I’ve spent the last month learning how to do something creative every single day, and it’s been loads of fun. So I’m hoping Blogtoberfest could be the perfect follow-on project from 30 Days of Lists.

My intentions for this month are to blog something creative, interesting and potentially even inspiring every single day. I want to finish some of the craft projects currently cluttering up the flat, share them, and move on to new things. Most of all I want to keep up this creative habit – sure it’s the distraction that keeps me from doing the washing up or ironing or going to the gym, but it’s also the hobby that makes me feel excited, cheerful and satisfied. Sounds good, eh? Follow the tulip cart of magic on the right hand side there to visit Kat’s Blogtoberfest page and sign up yourself – happy feelings, unicorns and rainbows 100% guaranteed.

See you tomorrow!

>>> This is post 1 of the 31 I’ll be writing for Blogtoberfest 2012 <<<

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.

Voila! Ta-da! Proudly presenting Debbie Does Doodles 2.0… new and improved! *jazz hands & spirit fingers*

Based on six weeks or so of procrastinating and doodling and mock-ups, I’ve added new header and sidebar images, social media widgets, and a favicon – in the end these were super simple to make and could have been done weeks ago if I’d trusted my instincts and not put so much pressure on making it perfect.

debbiedoesdoodles | Doodling

I created the header by doodling on printer paper with a Sharpie (which made much bolder lines than the biro I used previously), scanning the images and then editing using Adobe Photoshop Elements. The fonts used are Pacifico and DK Limoen, both free for non-commercial uses.

debbiedoesdoodles | washi tape for sidebar

The sidebar categories are clickable images, created by scanning strips of my favourite washi tape, reducing to the sidebar pixel width of 225, and then overlaying text in Lobster using PSE. My previous instinct would be to save these as .jpgs but with thanks to Kira of Her New Leaf I knew that these header and sidebar images would be cleaner as .pngs. The images were then uploaded to my WordPress media library and added to a text widget using this guidance from Pugly Pixel (by way of A Beautiful Mess). Similarly the ‘About Me’ tab uses a standard PSE shape cut-out and font NeoRetroDraw.

For the favicon I used this simple guidance from Her New Leaf (her Primp My Blog series is really worth a browse if you’re new to blogging or need reminding of some of the basics).

The social media icons are designed by Carrie Loves who offers loads of different icons in a rainbow of colours for free download. I downloaded a few of my favourite colours, mostly named after food funnily enough, and picked an assortment for this dolly mixture look.

I learned a lot about HTML in the course of implementing these changes. I’m already fairly confident in the basics but discovered just how much you can edit even on a free WordPress blog; at the moment I don’t have the CSS upgrade. There are some great tips online and I’m lucky to have an in-house expert to explain the bits I don’t get – developer boyfriends are the best. I’m planning on sharing some of those HTML tips and the Blogum specific coding used here at some point, but this post is long enough already.

As well as this visual resprucing, I’ve also decided on the following blogging guidelines:

Every post needs an image. Long posts need lots of images. The Internet is so visual and photographs or graphics speak volumes about the content of a post before the reader actually starts on the text part. I’ll admit to retrospectively adding an image to this very brief post last month to accentuate the brilliant quotation only after I realised a couple of days later how dull a text-only post made my home page look.

Compilation images should have numbers or captions, it just makes sense. It’s way easier to reference items on this image of nautical party inspiration than this image, where everything just floats. From a practical point of view, an image that’s clearly labelled is also more pinnable and identifiable on Pinterest, and allows me to use one of the many cool fonts I’m always going on about.

Looooong posts or posts containing lots and lots of images will be separated with the ‘Read More’ tag to avoid dominating the home page with one long post. It does require readers to click through to read the whole post though so I’ll still include an image before the tag in order to give a taste of what to expect.

I want to use my own photographs wherever I possibly can. And when I’m purposefully displaying someone else’s work (i.e. in an inspiration board) I’ll provide a link or credit (or both). I’ve been following this blogging etiquette already on the most part, but there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve needed an image of something obscure and have relied on a cheeky Google image search. Bad Debbie.

This is still a work in progress. The favicon needs improving, I’d like to add another page or two (for the project ideas currently churning around my mind), and better utilise the features of Blogum like the h6 header tag and image galleries. But for now, I’m happy to finally have a blog that I’m proud to show off. We’re hitting the town, my blog and I!

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…

Experimenting with typography seems to be so popular now and there are some great designers and sites that provide fonts to download for free – my favourites are dafont and Font Squirrel, which I often find myself browsing when seeking inspiration.

Thanks to these I’ve played with a few alternative headers – I love those that could almost pass as being completely hand drawn. Scroll over to see font titles.