Friday, May 28, 2010

Postcrossing - Volume 1

I sometimes wonder if maybe I try and take on too much....I work full time, am pretty much a single mum to three boys (I do have a lovely boyfriend, but he lives an hour away), and already have tons of very time consuming hobbies - papercrafts and textiles, ice hockey, geocaching, making jewellery, following Pearl Jam around like a lost puppy.... etc

But hey – there’s always time to squeeze in one more hobby, right? I can sleep when I retire…

So when I saw a friend on Facebook talking about Postcrossing, I hotfooted it over to the website to find out what it was all about.

In a nutshell, Postcrossing involves sending postcards to (and receiving them from) complete strangers all over the world, just for fun.

I have received 22 cards so far, from 11 different countries:

And I have posted 23

It has been absolutely brilliant to come home from work and find these happy and colourful messages on my doormat 2 or 3 times a week.

You can see all of the postcards I’ve received so far here

But these are my favourites to date:

This cool collage style card is called 'Vagabond Pizza' - it came from Katie in Los Angeles. 

This one is also from the US - from Micky (a girl Micky) who lives near Washington DC.

it's a picture of the famous "Fallingwater" house, built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936.

This has long been on my list of places-I-want-to-visit-one-day

It's a pity the post office spoilt it a bit with that white sticker on the front :(

And another American favourite - once again featuring pizza! 

This very cool postcard was an original print bought from Etsy seller specimen7 (I might buy some myself). 

You can't see, but it has rounded corners.  I love rounded corners.

This was from Melanie, from Michigan

Here's a card made from an original photo taken by Athena, who lives in San Francisco.  I like this one so much because it looks like a perfect place to hide a geocache :D

And here's a brilliant card I got today - I looooove graffiti!  This one's from Minnesota.

I have just realised that ALL my favourites so far have been from America, how strange.

To balance things up a little - here's my most exotic card, I was very excited to receive post from Uzbekistan!
And here is a really cool one I got this week from the Ukraine:

As well as the brilliant images on the cards, I also love reading what each person writes. Some are short, sweet and to the point - one just said “Happy Postcrossing” and that was it - but most tell me a little bit about the person, and what life is like for them in their corner of the world.

It is a fantastic learning tool for Connor, too, as some of the postcards have prompted really interesting discussions about the country they came from.

Every time I get to 20 or so cards received, I’m going to bind them in a book, the photo at the top of this post is of my first postcard book - number one of hopefully many!

Happy Postcrossing!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Howdy Pardners!

It's Disney CJ time again :)

The theme of this month's CJ was meeting the characters in the parks, and I wondered for a while how I could make my entry different from the others already in the book - as - to be fair - everybody's character meet & greet photos end up looking pretty similar.

In the end I decided to use our first character piccies from day 1 of last year's holiday - and sepia tone them for a Wild West theme. 

The kids were so excited the day we met all these guys in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.  We had the whole holiday ahead of us, the weather was amazing, it was a brilliant day :)

The tag in the pocket on the left hand page comes out, and contains some journalling about the day.

Supplies used:

Background papers by Flair, Cosmo Cricket and Diane's Daughters, torn, crinkled and sprayed with Walnut Gold Glimmer Mist (if you click on one of the small pics for a close up view you can see the shimmer)

The title was cut on a Cricut using Sure Cuts A Lot software

The metallic square and bar brads I've had for ages, I *think* they are Karen Foster ones

The letter stamps for the labels are by Hampton Arts

I think that's everything...

Next month?  pastel colours and princess castles, not very "me" :D  But I'm looking forward to the challenge of being forced outside of my comfort zone....

Monday, May 17, 2010

So now we know whodunnit.....

I have another UKstampers CJ entry to blog...and I think this is my favourite stamp so far :)

This is the beautifully named "nun with a big gun" stamp from VivaLasVegastamps, isn't she great?

As usual, I brainstormed ideas for this one with my boyfriend Jay - my creative director :)  He came up with the great line

not a conventional hitman

(convent, geddit?)

and I just had to use it....

This is what I came up with:

So that finally solves the mystery of who was behind the grassy knoll.....

(PS - on a side note - I've just realised that I can now geo-tag my blog posts - how cool :) )

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A to Z year : April 23rd - May 6th : the letter I

Well, this isn't going to be the longest, most involved A-Z post yet, because we didn't do tons of different I-related stuff, but we did do one very major bit of I-related stuff.

We went to the Isle of Wight for a mini holiday - yay!

This was totally spontanteous, we were talking midweek as H was coming to an end, about the letter I and what we were going to do....I said, it would be great if we could go to the Island.....and then thought, well, why don't we???

So we swiftly booked the ferry and a hotel, and 3 days later we were there :) :) :)

We had the best time there - thanks again A-Z Year!

Some piccies (the full set are here) :

While on the Isle of Wight, we did of course have some ice cream:

and we popped to the ice rink in Ryde to see goalie-star-of-the-future Dan Murray play in a junior game.

But they were the only I-specific activities we could find on the island.... (I think just being there counts, though)

The following weekend, we went down to Dorset for a couple of days, to stay with my in-laws.  

On the Saturday, we were invited to a birthday party on the beach - happy birthday Michelle!


The following day we did some geocaching, and one of the caches we visited was on the site of Britain's largest Iron Age hillfort, Maiden Castle.  It was a wonderful location, another that we would never have discovered if it wasn't for our ace hobby, no doubt.  In fact, we have been to loads of great geocaching locations recently, I'll have to do another caching-specific blog post one day.

But in the meantime, here's that hillfort:

And I think that's it for I fortnight
See you next time around with the letter J....

Monday, May 10, 2010

the quest for the Ultimate.Cheese.Sandwich!

This all started a few months ago - late one night Jay and I were aimlessly surfing the TV channels looking for something that looked worth watching before bedtime. 

We found an unexpectedly interesting documentary about a Cotswold baker preparing for some kind of "best loaf in England" competition, which he duly won (and had won in previous years also)

Jay recognised the small bakers' shop as it was in the pretty village of Nailsworth, Glos, close to where he used to play football, and I asked if we could go there one day (early! that bread sells out in no time).

Fast forward to this weekend.

I went to Jay's on Friday night for a sleepover, to make sure we would be able to get out on our quest bright and early Saturday morning.

Said quest had developed a bit since the initial "let's go to that bakery one day and buy a tasty loaf", to "let's scour the Cotswolds for the most delicious ingredients known to man, and build the Ultimate.Cheese.Sandwich"

And that's exactly what we did, and it took us all morning and cost us a fortune, but boy was it worth it :)

The bakery is that purty white building to the right of the photo, wth the lovely pink blossomed tree outside, blossom confetti demonstrated by Reece :)

In the picture you can also see the gorgeous handmade chutney we bought (top left), the local dairy farmer selling the world’s stinkiest, mouldiest, but most delicious cheese (top middle), and at the bottom, the sign that informed us that our butter was “in the cow yesterday” :)

We also bought the-best-tomatoes-I-have-ever-tasted-in-my-life from another local farmer (not pictured)

Here are the ingredients once we’d got them home. I bet your mouth’s watering now :)

And a close up of the cheese....the mouldier and mankier it looks, the better it tastes - delicious!

The final sandwich is pictured in all its glory at the top of this page, and trust me, it tasted as wonderful as it looks.

And, in honour of J fortnight, we washed it all down with some utterly fabulous fresh pressed Gloucestershire apple and pear juice. Yum.

I'm such a foodie :)

It’s just a pity we can’t afford to eat like this all the time, it’s back to Tesco Value now for me…. but at least I’ll always have the memories of the UCS :)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A to Z year : April 9th - 22nd : the letter H

I am so late blogging H - we're mere minutes away from the end of I!

I've been having so much fun lately that there hasn't been enough time in between the days of excitement to blog about the days of excitement, iyswim :)

We started the H fortnight with a pleasant, and entirely unexpected, H related treat. Our local ice hockey team, the Swindon Wildcats, where we have season tickets, actually made it to the league playoff finals! Only four teams from a league of 10 get to the finals, and, well, let’s just say that it was a shock to everyone that we found ourselves part of that four :) Especially after how badly the team had been performing for much of the season.

So, Jay went off up to Coventry to support the team along with the other Wildcats faithful:

Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we’re just so proud of the team for getting there at all - go Cats go!!!!

While Jay was up in Coventry, along with our pals M & T, I was left babysitting various hockey orphans – poor little waifs and strays :) So I set out with three young lads to have an H-themed fun day out.

First of all, we went to Horse World in Bristol. I had never even heard of this place, until I started researching things to do beginning with H - another case of the A-Z Year project broadening our horizons and helping us to discover places and pastimes we never would have come across otherwise, thanks Nicole!

Horse World is a rehabilitation centre for working horses who have reach the end of their useful life, and horses who have been victims or neglect or cruelty. The horses are obviously the main draw here, the boys particularly enjoyed the opportunity they were given to groom one of the tamer animals. But HW is also an attraction in its own right, with large indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids, a cool ride where you get pulled along very fast by a madman on a quad, an arts and crafts barn, and various other exhibits and points of interest. The boys had a brilliant time there.

I particularly loved this horse sculpture, made from 5,000 CDs, or was it 50,000? Can't remember.... but however many CDs, it was very cool :)

We also had a very tasty (and healthy) lunch – the most delicious jacket potatoes ever, with salad. OK, maybe the boys didn’t eat much of the salad, but I enjoyed mine :)

After HW, we all went on the hunt for a geocache…..well we could hardly resist, given its name: Herman the Hamster's Houdini Hideaway! Howzat for H fortnight?? :D

This was a really good fun cache, in a lovely large and peaceful park, right in the middle of Bristol. It always surprises me how few people use these gorgeous green spaces – we saw a couple of people walking their dogs, but that was about it. Everyone seems too busy nowadays just to take a moment and go for a nice walk. I’m glad that we have geocaching to encourage us out into the open on a regular basis.

The cache owner requested that all finders should have their picture taken with the toy hamster who lives in the cache, so here are the Chaos Crew, junior division, and Herman:

The next day we went to see How To Train Your Dragon – excellent film! And then had a hearty (and huge, at least mine was) dinner at the local Hungry Horse pub.

The boys had hotdogs, and then what I call “mafia pudding” – a horse’s head made from ice cream – don’t annoy your local ice cream man or you might find this on your pillow :)

During the second week of the fortnight, it was happy birthday to me - yay! And Jay bought me a Hello Kitty cake :) :) :)

Connor made me two fab, and of course H related, pressies for my birthday:

A HAMA bead pendant

and Hoppity the frog

The eagle eyed amongst you will also notice I had a haircut during this week.

And Connor and I went out for a meal, where we spotted hexagonal shelving - result! :)

On my actual birthday, Jay and I went out to do some geocaching - a series by the Hedwig Hawks, that started with a cache called Hagrid's Beard. Lots of Hs there :)

It involved us getting chased by a herd of bullocks:

I was hoping they might be heifers, but according to Wiki, they are girl cows, and these were definitely boys.

(I know they don't look desperately menacing in that photo, but trust me, when there are 20 of them running at you, it's kind of unnerving :))

We also hid a geocache of our own this fortnight - if any of you are in or around Swindon, why not have a try at finding it?

Our final H related activity was, you guessed it, another geocache :) Well, we have to grab a few while the weather's nice....

It was a fantastic one at that - Hock Cliff by the River Severn, near Gloucester

The excellent thing about this cliff by the river, is that it is teeming with Jurassic era fossils - so after finding the cache we went on a fossil hunt - and we found quite a few.

I think that's pretty much everything for the H fortnight - still loving this A-Z adventure.

Next, the letter I, and an excuse for a proper (if short) holiday

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Proud to be a (adopted) Swindonian!

My Disney CJ this month is themed on EPCOT's World Showcase.

Bit of a tricky one for me, as I haven't been there in years and years - we only managed two trips to Florida in the last decade - on the first we managed about 20 minutes in EPCOT before Darby got a migraine and we had to leave, and then last year, we never made it there at all thanks to my bag (and Disney tickets) getting itself stolen. Boo.

I did go to World Showcase a couple of times back in the 90s, but I have no photos from that period of my life, and to be honest I can't remember much about it...apart from the cool troll ride in the Norway bit.

But all is not lost, I live in Swindon - so I have a perfect connection with the World Showcase.... our Twin Town plaque!

We Swindonites were all most excitable when we were named Walt Disney World's first ever Twinned Town at the back end of last year....and one of the most squeeeee-worthy aspects of the whole deal is that we get a fancy plaque in the UK Pavilion at the World Showcase over in Florida for the whole of 2010.

So my CJ entry, a simple one this month, celebrates our twin status:

Go Swindon Go! :)