31 December 2013

Project Life in 2014

Happy New Years Eve! I love this time of year because it means I have an excuse to change things up, get more organised and in some cases start afresh.

Whilst I loved Project Life in 2013 I want to change some things up in the coming year...
I want to make this project simpler and quicker to complete each week. 

One of the things that took up time this year was simply the placement and moving around of photos on journalling cards.
To try and speed this up I have gone back through my spreads and picked out some of my favourite photo and text layouts and made up some simple photoshop templates.
I am hoping as the year gets busier I can quickly pop the photos into the spaces and add text.
That's the plan anyway!

Page Layouts
I have really enjoyed using the page template "A" this last year but I think it is time for a change.
For 2014 I am planning on using this page layout with square spaces

and this page layout.

Some weeks I will use both, some weeks I will use one.
I am also going to cut myself some slack- if there aren't enough photos I am just going to make one page! Phew!

Weekly Markers
I want to make my pages slightly cleaner in style and I'm starting off with making these page markers. One of these popped in each week to try and create a cohesive look. It also will help me keep track of the dates!

Using an app to write down what happens each day. 
I am useless at remembering what happens each week so I am keen to get going with one of the many journalling apps and just writing a few words at the end of each day. Hopefully I can then use these as journalling prompts when I get down to making my pages.

Blogging about it every other week. 
I have a confession. I don't love blogging about Project Life. But, I really enjoy reading about and gaining inspiration from the project life spreads on others posts.
My PL posts also receive a lot of traffic so I figure someone out there reads them!
Basically, I am going to strike a happy medium. I gain inspiration from others PL pages so maybe others will gain inspiration from mine if I post them. That said I don't want to overload the blog with PL posts especially for those of you who have no interest in the project. Posting the layouts every other week feels like a happy

Simple, easy and fun. I'm going to try and pair Project Life back a bit this year while still keeping a lot of Abi! Watch this space...

29 December 2013

Project Life in review or what I would say to you if you are thinking of starting in 2014

Project Life. I have so many thoughts as I come to the end of this adventure and I want to share them here. I'm hoping that in doing so you can assess whether this project is for you or not or if you are thinking of starting, here are some nuggets of information that may be useful! 

A whole year complete. I am so so glad I took up this project. It made me reassess my photos, my memory keeping and let me have a crafty pursuit whilst at Uni.
Whilst at times it was hard to distill the week into 16 pockets I am thankful that I did it. It allowed me to take stock of what had happened, to pair photos with words and emotions and to do something different aside to academic study.

If you are thinking of starting this project I would tell you that above all ,this project is a whole lot of awesome. At times it will be a chore and at times you won't be able to stop making pages but at the end of the day, you are keeping memories and taking photos and both of those things are pure joy.

So, at the end of 52 weeks here is what I would say to you about Project life...

It's a marathon not a sprint.
This project is great in January but not so hot in March. You will lose inspiration and you will run dry. I think being aware of this is important. It would be crazy to expect a bucket of inspiration every week without you putting in some work to top that inspiration up.
Try keeping a journal where you scribble down ideas for photo layout or journalling cards.
Follow a few Project life boards on pinterest and update your stash every few months.

Project Life is a long term project. Have your eye on an end goal. For me it was the prospect of making a big book of my pages at the end of it.
As many sweet blog friends said to me over the year, our inspiration levels and our motivation go in peaks and troughs, just as life does. Just go with the flow, rejoice when the pages come easily and let it go when they don't.

Being realistic.
The premise of project life is that it is a simple memory keeping system. It is simple if you are realistic with what you can achieve. I set out knowing that I could achieve a double page spread every week. For some that just won't be realistic, try a spread a month or when you have special occasions or just when there are a lot of photos. Project Life could work beautifully in all these formats.

Unrealistic aims can really stall this project. If i'm honest I think my aim for a double page spread every week was too high. This year I am cutting myself some slack. If there aren't enough photos, one page is just fine!

It is your project.
Cathy Zielske has written a ton about this and I want to echo her words that Project Life "should be 1. Fun and 2. Suited to how you work best."
It's as simple as that. I found it overwhelming at first to see so many beautiful PL pages and try and get mine to the same standard, but that isn't the point.
This project can be what you want it to be. For example the lovely Amy makes stunningly beautiful, clean Project Life layouts.  If you know her and her blog you will realise that they totally echo her style.

Let Project Life be in your style and start off the year trying to deduce what you want project life to be. Do you want a blow by blow account of the week? Do you want a lot of photos and simply five highlights from that month? Do you want lots of stories? In other words, what sort of result are you looking for?

Free resources 
I'm a student and I love free resources! Project Life really doesn't have to be expensive. Just type in "project life printables" into pinterest and a whole host of sites will pop up.
One of my favourite sites that collates a lot of free project life resources is One Velvet Morning.
Whether you go down the digital route (which is a very cheap option) and use the resources as photoshop files or you go down the traditional route and print them out, Project Life doesn't need to cost that much.

I love this project, I am so excited to start again in 2014 and I'm so glad I completed a year. If you are thinking about starting just do it. I am so chuffed to have a years worth of memories and photos sitting on my shelf. This project can look daunting but take it a day, a week or a month at a time and it is very feasible.

28 December 2013

Around Here-Christmas edition

Photos with brothers 

Christmas lunching 

Playing silly games


Time with siblings

Watching the boxing day hunt. 

We had a lovely peaceful Christmas. I hope you enjoyed yours too. 

I will be back over the next two days with two posts about Project life including tips for those of you thinking of starting in 2014 and where I personally see this project going in the next year. Stay tuned! 

24 December 2013

Joyful, expectant waiting

Today we are waiting. Waiting for midnight, waiting for the bells to peal through the candlelit church and for Christmas to arrive. We are again expectant for a birth... 

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord" 
Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas friends. 

21 December 2013

DIY christmas table decorations

Each year I try and make something to decorate our table with on Christmas day. I like to create something that not only makes the table look prettier but also serves as as a name card.

This year I went super simple and made these little sacks, each filled with a selection of chocolates and tied up with a little salt dough tag with the recipients initials.

This DIY is very easy and very cheap. The bags are versatile enough to be used at any time of year- I just made them christmassy with some red ribbon!

Salt dough
Alphabet stamps
Hessian material
Sewing Machine
Ribbon and twine.

To make the tags: 
1. I followed a really simple recipe for salt dough, simply 1 cup flour to 1/2 a cup of salt and 1/2 a cup of water. Mix and knead this until you have a smooth pliable dough. Roll the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick and then cut out circles with a biscuit cutter. Using a straw, punch a hole in the top of each circle.
Salt dough takes a while to harden. I just put them in the bottom of our AGA all day. Basically place them somewhere on a really low heat to dry out. Don't cook them!

2. Once your salt dough tags are rock hard it is your chance to decorate. Salt dough takes any kind of paint so you can go crazy! I simply brushed on some white accrylic paint with a bit of tissue. I then stamped the initial of each of the recipients onto the tag when the paint was dry.

To make the sacks:

1. Each sack uses a piece of hessian about 8" x 4". My sacks were very roughly cut though as I figured that I was going for a rustic look (its a great excuse for wonky sewing!).

2. Hessian frays really easily so to try and prevent this I quickly sewed a zig zag stitch around all the edges.

3. To make the top of your sack nice and neat,  take one of the shorter sides of material and fold it over about 1/4 of an inch. Using a straight stitch hem down this side. Repeat on the other end of material.

4. Fold the material right sides (the neat looking sides) together so that the hemmed edges meet. Using a straight stitch again sew each side of the sack. There is no need to sew the bottom as it is folded.

5. At this stage you can leave the sack as it is but I think it looks nicer if you "box" the bottom. Doing this will make the sack stand up on its own.

6. Holding the sack with the open end at the top, push down until one of the bottom corners folds into a triangle.

7. Pin across like this. Repeat on the other corner.

8. Sew a line just below this pin like so.

9. Your sack should now look like a little animal with funny ears!

10. Turn the sack inside out and voila! You have a sack with a lovely square bottom ready to be filled. These little bags hold about four 'quality street' sized chocolates.

10. To decorate thread your salt dough tag onto some twine and wrap it around the neck of the sack.

11. Add your ribbon and tie a bow to finish.

I think these bags would look sweet at any occasion. You could even make one for each day of advent, you could fill them with treats for valentines day or just leave it for someone to find. They don't even need a tag!

Do you make anything to decorate the table with on Christmas day?

19 December 2013

Project Life

Dear Project Life,  I have neglected you lately. My creative energy has been sapped into work and I'm sorry. But you know what, I have got home and those ideas they are coming at me in force.

So, because I enjoy posting it here and because I value when others post their project life pages, this is week 49 in all its glory.

The penultimate week of term so quite a few photos to document. I had a few silly stories I wanted to include such as our triumph at changing the bulb in the ceiling light of the bathroom.
I also had lots of photos from our secret santa evening. The top photo on the right hand spread had a good amount of white space. In photoshop I cloned out the picture that was hanging on the wall behind the sofa so as to make more space to write.

I did my usual techniques for journalling this week- lots of journalling cards stuck directly on photos and titles written on too. I got out the graphics tablet again and really enjoyed adding some of my own handwriting to this weeks spread.

I needed a few fillers this week and have really liked the more clean and graphic side of project life that I have seen appearing. I had a play around and created those three red christmas 3 x 4 cards in that style. If you would like either the "comfort and joy" card or the "merry and bright" card I have them saved on file and would be happy to email them your way!

Anything else: 
I started putting the book together this week! Yes, you heard that correctly, the book is in production. I am itching to get it all uploaded and sent off but am hanging in there because I know that blurb do some decent discounts and the size of this book could mean it will be fairly pricey.

There are some weeks I have missed this year, I think two, and I debated about catching up. I then decided that doing so would be counter productive. I have few photos from those weeks and I certainly can't remember the detail of what happened. In the years to come I am not going to miss two weeks. Keeping it real folks!

I am planning and sketching and thinking about next year and my thoughts on this year. Stay tuned for more details on where I want this project to go in 2014!

16 December 2013

sitting down to write

I am sitting down to write these words and I don't know how to catch up on a week away.
A week that was so full of joyful, funny and christmassy things.
I want to tell you about our evening of doing secret santa presents or of the carol service which I helped at, that was attended by nearly three thousand students.

I want to fill you in on this term, I want to be honest and tell you that both my body and my heart are weary. There has been more academic expectation this term, more demands on time but also more rewards.
I want to tell you that I am tired after so many late nights but that sometimes laughing into the small hours is far better than that extra hour of sleep. For now at least.

I want to tell you that I am behind on project life, on the friendship quilt and on most crafty things but am feeling very relaxed about this. I know these things will happen and that from experience there is no point in trying to force the creativity.

Most of all I want you to know how eager I am to get blogging regularly again but for now I am resting this little head of mine and enjoying the warmth and comfort of being home for the holidays.

7 December 2013

Let's talk matte black and white edits

I don't edit that many of my photos but I do play around with black and white filters quite a lot. 
One effect i've noticed that is becoming more popular is the matte effect. 
Don't get me wrong, I really like black and whites with a lot of strong contrast, but I am enjoying playing with these slightly greyer toned photos. 

Unlike ordinary black and white I find that it doesn't work on all photos. 
Photos with strong dark and light already don't work so well with this filter. 
Photos of people tend to work better too. 

I also think it's quite a flattering filter for photos that are imperfect or blurry or have some funky lighting going on. 
I use this effect quite a bit in project life because the photos make a nice background to add words to as the tones are far subtler. 

I am interested to know what you think? On the whole I think I prefer the stronger contrast black and white photos but I do like the greyer tones with this filter. 
Have you seen this effect being used? 
Do you use it or do you prefer not to edit? 

I used an action in photoshop to achieve this effect. You can find it for free here

4 December 2013

5 things at midnight-student edition

The lovely Sian, of storytelling fame, has recently posted ideas for a five things post. The title of this is entirely taken from her! 

So here are my five things that happen at midnight. ( The original title was five things to think about at midnight but as you will soon see, less thinking and more doing happens at that hour in our little house!) 

Midnight. It's that funny hour that seems shorter than all the rest. Somehow midnight runs into one 'o' clock with indecent speed so that before you know it, a reasonable time to turn the light out has become a speedy hour, of blog reading, commenting and posting and then, here we are in the wee small hours. 

Midnight. The hour of every opportunity. I leave all my jobs till midnight. I justify this with saying that I do work in the day and everything else in the evening. Folding laundry, washing the mugs, reading blogs, working on Project Life. I am productive at midnight I tell you! 

Midnight. The hour of long chats. Midnight means the third cup of tea and the phrase "I should probably head to bed now but oh well..." Midnight means sitting in the lounge, under the quilt with a hot water bottle not wanting to move after a good film. 

Midnight. The time for "landing" conversations. The "I've just gone to brush my teeth but i'm still standing outside the bathroom talking" time. For some reason, at midnight, the best conversations happen on the stairs while one person brushes their teeth. 

Midnight. 12.04. The hour I am writing this. What we think of in our dear little house as an early night.  

2 December 2013

Storytelling Sunday-in the candlelight

Go back ten years or so and I am eleven.
It is dark outside and we are in the week leading up to Christmas day. 
The house is full of Christmas, lights twinkling at the windows, holly bough on the door and three advent calendars lined up in the kitchen. 

The smells of christmas come from the kitchen. Mince pies on the side and the cupboards groaning with cheeses, crisps, nuts and ingredients to make chocolate puddings. 

We are bubbling with excitement for christmas, for the traditions, for Santa Claus. The boxes of oranges are by the back door, in preparation to make Christingle candles. 

It is a Saturday evening and we have had a cosy day of reading our favourite christmas stories and decorating the tree. The lounge smells of pine needles already and we are giggling as we tell each other where were have hidden the chocolates on the tree. 

After dinner we crowd into the lounge and embark on a funny tradition we do most weekends through advent. 
We one at a time choose one of the candles around the room. 
They are a fun collection. Some are in lanterns, some have patterns that show through when lit, some are huge and fat, some are tall and thin. 
They are scattered about the room during advent, resting on the hearth by the fire or on the windowsill. 

We all pick our candles, all five of us. We have our favourites. The box of matches is taken out and one at a time we light them. 

My Dad walks over to the lamps and goes around turning them off one by one. 
The room is now dark except for the twinkling of the lights on the Christmas tree and the five candles flickering on the table. 
We sit there quietly, staring at the flames, remarking how lovely it looks-the lounge lit by candlelight. 

After a time in the stillness my Mum starts up the candle song, "see the candlelight, see it burning bright, we don't need it while we're sleeping, blow it out at night". 
The smoke rises in tendrils to the ceiling and we are left with the fairy tree lights and the almost tangible magic of family at Christmas. 

Today I am joining in with the lovely Sian and her storytelling Sunday. 
Sian, thank you for making storytelling a joy these last few years. Thank you for the connections you have weaved across the web as we have shared the threads of our lives with each other in the most organic and natural of ways. I feel blessed to have been a part of this meme for so long. 

27 November 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Hello, come on in, out of the cold, let me take your coat and scarf.
Yes, the wind is picking up and there is definitely a real chill in the air.

If you were meeting me now, I would usher you into the lounge, asking you to excuse the laptop cables and discarded text books. As you can see the work is increasing as we hit the home straight of term.

I promised you cake and there is some waiting in the tin as well as a few sneaky mince pies. I had my first one of the year last week and had forgotten how much I enjoy them. Would you like a cup of tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate?

If you were with me now I would curl up next to you on the sofa, my knees up to my chest, holding my mug close to me to keep warm. (We are a student house you know!) I would lean forward and ask you, my eyes bright, what your christmas plans were? I would tell you that I can't wait to get home, there is something about the evenings drawing in that makes me want to be at home in front of a roaring fire. I would ask you if you are having family over or are you travelling? I would tell you that we are all at home for Christmas. Now that both me and my brother are at university and the littlest is at school just being together in one place is a treat. I would ask you if you have any christmas wishes. I would laughingly tell you that I have asked for one very unusual crafty christmas gift. I wonder if you can guess?

Have another mince pie? I personally like mine warmed, would you too? The conversation would move around to crafts. I would go and show you the beautiful tag that I was sent in the Christmas decoration swap from Jill. I would ask you if you participated. I can't wait to show you what I sent to Deb but need to wait till she receives it first! I am also trying to come up with plans for table decorations on Christmas day. Do you do christmas crafts? Ooh, now I am on the subject of crafts, come and see the lovely box full of beautiful quilt pieces. I am itching to get these stitched up in the holiday! I have also treated myself to a new quilting magazine and some of the projects in there are mouth watering. I would pull it out and together we would stroke the pages, gazing at the patterns and colours. Do you subscribe to a magazine?

Time would pass happily and we before we knew it the plates would be covered in crumbs and the the pot would be empty. I would thank you for reading my post a few days ago about blogging. I loved hearing so many wise words and kind comments. I would tell you that I am excited for what the new year holds, both with project life and with this little space. I would tell you that it was really cathartic for me to talk through blogging with you.

The darkness is closing in and I would get up to close the curtains. You would tell me that you had to be off. I would lead you to the door and it would take us a while to get there because we would keep stopping and carrying on our conversation. I would thank you so much for coming around again, thank you that this has become a regular thing and marvel with you that we have been doing this for a whole year now. It is good to share life with you.

As you walked down the road, you would turn, your hand raised in greeting and I would wave you from my doorway, light spilling onto the road.

If you were meeting with me now, what would you tell me? 

If you would like to write a "tea" post please add it to the linky at the bottom so we can all sit and share with you! The linky will be open for a week so you have plenty of time! 

26 November 2013

Tea and Cake

It's that time of the month.
It's cold outside but the lounge is warm, the kettle is boiling and there are two mugs waiting on the side. (Although judging by this photo my housemate may have all the mugs stashed away in her room!)

Tomorrow I am sitting down and sharing a cup of tea with you again.
I know things are busy at the moment and I can't wait to talk with you about your Christmas plans.
It doesn't need to be long, it doesn't have to be short. I love sharing in conversation with you. It has been a joy to do so this year and I can't believe we are now on our penultimate cup of virtual tea!

There are so many ways you can join in with having tea. You can sit back, grab your cuppa and just have a read. You can add your voice to the comments, you can write your own tea post and link up on here. We love sharing life and laughter with each other whatever way you choose.

I know some of us have been lost on what to say recently so here a few things I think I am going to be chatting about tomorrow... (just to get you excited!). You are welcome to follow these prompts or go off on your own merry way!

I'm going to tell you about my Christmas plans, the weather (I'm british, it goes without saying), latest craft projects and possibly a funny story or two.

Do come and stop by if you have a moment. You never know there may be a cake waiting next to your mug!

Over the past few months my ramblings have been accompanied by some beautiful conversations and posts from readers. The tab on the right sidebar contains links to all the "tea posts" and then the links to everyone who has contributed. If you have a spare moment, grab your favourite beverage and take a look- you are sure to be entertained. 

I also want to say a big thank you to everyone who responded with such kindness, honesty and concern on my last blog post. If you want to hear some wise wise words on blogging, click through to the comments on the last post. You are sure to come away revitalised!