Monday 28 August 2017

Weston-super-Magic: Snapshots from the Seaside

Six months ago I decided to start an Instagram account devoted to pics taken on my walks in my new seaside hometown. I've had a bit of a break recently (this summer has been very hectic!) but I've really enjoyed having a space to share these pictures, which have a totally different vibe to the bright colours of my main Instagram account.

Here are some of my faves taken since February...

The seafront has some very charming Victorian shelters, but I love this more modern one as well. All those different geometric shapes and textures coming together, with that pop of colour? Delicious!


There are a lot of fabulous walls in Weston; this is one of my favourites.


Sometimes when you stop to take photos of very "ordinary" things you get very baffled looks from passers by. A guy out walking his dog on Uphill Beach was most perplexed when I decided to photograph this!


"DANGER. Soft sand and deep mud. It is not possible to cross the riverbed on foot." These soft, muddy colours pop up a lot at the beach (they don't call it Weston-super-Mud for nothing). They are growing on me a lot.


It's not all greys and browns though - sometimes there is some actual sunshine! I went for a loooong walk along the seafront one sunny weekend in the spring, it was lovely being able to take lots of photos with that gorgeous blue sky as a backdrop but when the town was still quiet before the summer season.


I've not had a chance to take many photos in town yet, but I couldn't resist photographing these doors. They are fading fabulously.


I also love this snap of nature doing its best to overflow and burst out from the formal lines of the Victorian Grove Park. 

I am getting a teeny bit obsessed with all the texture round here. There are so many wonderfully rusting, fading, peeling and cracking surfaces (thanks to all the coastal wind and rain)...


... but there's also the texture of all the interesting walls around town, and the rocks at the North end of the beach. I mean, what's not to love about this?

Or these delightful pebbles and that oh-so-Instagram-able pink rock?

I also can't get enough of the wide open space of the beach. I've only been living here a few months but I practically pined for the sea when I was away this summer.

Slightly further afield, I've loved exploring the local nature reserve...

... and Uphill Village, with its magical bluebell field.

Finally, I have to include one of the photos from the wonderful sea fog! Believe it or not, I took this picture on a bright and sunny day... 

You'll find all my photos of Weston over on my Instagram account: @westonsupermagic. It's been a little while since I've updated it, but I've got lots of walks planned!

Friday 25 August 2017

A Year of Wreaths: August Felt Ice Cream Wreath

UPDATE: my August Felt Ice Cream Wreath Tutorial is now available as a printable PDF pattern on my Patreon.

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Click here to see all 12 seasonal wreaths in this series!


August's addition to my Year of Wreaths series is all about ice cream!

This month's wreath was inspired by delicious ice cream, the trend for Instagram-friendly “unicorn food”, and the way we all share our holiday snaps on social media.

It captures that moment you buy a really delicious, slightly over-the-top ice cream, photograph it (maybe against a wall) and share it on Instagram or Facebook to a chorus of oooh!s and OMG!s and lots of likes and heart-eye emojis.

Making this wreath really made me smile, and I hope you guys will love it too!

The wreath features a large, colourful felt ice cream topped with sequin and bead “sprinkles”, a pair of heart-eye emojis, an “OMG!” speech bubble, and lots of felt hearts. If you don't fancy making a wreath, you could use these felt elements to decorate/make other things - the emojis would be very cute as brooches, and anything you stitched that ice cream to would be instantly fabulous.

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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Read More Books: February to May

My New Year's Resolution this year was to try to read more books, and to blog once a month about what I've been reading.

Have I actually been blogging once a month about what I've been reading...? Of course not! I did manage one blog post in January and then the days rolled by and suddenly it's August already and I've still not blogged about books (oops).

Soooo... here's a round-up of all the books I read from February-May. I've read more books since then, of course, but there's only so many books you can fit into a blog post before it gets ridiculously long and (I'm pleased to report) I have actually been reading relatively regularly this year (hurrah!).

At the beginning of February I finished reading Dead Cold, the second of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache novels (I'd read book one in January). It was a fun little mystery and I zipped through it quite quickly but I definitely don't feel the urge to work my way through the rest of her books. It's funny, isn't it, how some series totally grab you and you want to read them all IMMEDIATELY and others you see why people like them but they're not quite your cup of tea.  

Next I read The Miniaturist, which had a temptingly beautiful cover and which turns out to be a real Marmite book! 


When I shared this photo on Instagram and Facebook the comments were a mix of people who ADORED it and people confessing that they absolutely loathed it, hadn't been able to finish it, which I thought was very interesting - it's obviously a book that prompts strong feelings in a lot of people! I loved it to start with and thought it was beautifully written, but I found myself gradually losing interest in the characters as the plot developed. 

It was quite a light read though so I did finish it, and I enjoyed it enough to get Jessie Burton's second book (The Muse) out of the library to try. I'm also rather looking forward to seeing the TV adaptation - I love seeing how people tackle the challenge of adapting books for the screen.

In spite of my lukewarm reaction to these two books, my New Year's Resolution was beginning to have its desired effect and I was rapidly falling back in love with reading (hurrah!). I enthusiastically got a whole pile of books out of the library...

... then proceeded to read something totally different! I needed something light to read on a train journey, so I grabbed Unseen Academicals from my "to read" pile and totally neglected my library books while I worked my way through it. 

As I mentioned in my previous book-themed post, I've been slowly re-reading all the Discworld books over the past couple of years. Unseen Academicals is definitely not one of my favourites and I ended up reading it incredibly slowly, reading a bit here and there and wondering if I should skip it altogether instead of sticking it out just for the sake of completeness. I'm glad I finished it, though. I might not love this particular chapter in the Discworld series but the process of revisiting them all in sequence has been so enjoyable I'm glad I resisted the urge to skip ahead. 

After Unseen Academicals I dipped into that pile of library books, starting with Image on the Heart and other stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This turned out to be a compilation of some of his early stories, not remotely his best work but still with flashes of his delicious style. I zipped through these, reading them in a patch of sunshine on a couple of warm spring afternoons (totally blissful!). 

Not being able to sleep one night I picked up the next book on the pile, Up at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham, and honestly if this hadn't been a library book I would have thrown it across the room (probably waking my neighbours in the process). Uggghhh, I hated this book so much. The characters! The plot! The dialogue! Pretty much everything about it! A friend whose book taste I tend to trust likes Maugham though so I'm planning on giving his books another chance but I wouldn't bet any money on me liking them.

After another library trip I made a start on some more F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories (The Love Boat and other stories), reading them on more relaxing sunny afternoons... but I bogged down partway through one of the longer ones and didn't pick the book back up again after that.

On another visit to the library I was tempted by a trio of Vintage books with their delicious red spines.

I started with Picnic at Hanging Rock which is not just the best thing I've read in ages but one of the best things I think I've ever read. I adored it, gobbling it up in one sitting and practically beaming with happiness the whole time.

My New Year's Resolution to try and read more books has (gradually) helped me get back into the habit of reading - carving out a space for it in my weeks, and enjoying the process of sitting quietly with a book and letting myself get absorbed in its pages. But it wasn't until reading Picnic at Hanging Rock that the real love of it came back - BAM! - like it had never gone away.

Spring brought some stressful things with it so I ended up doing a lot of comfort reading. I read a vast quantity of Harry Potter fan fiction, which isn't something I've read much of before but I fell down a rabbit hole of the stuff and didn't get out for quite a long time. It was exactly what I needed and quite delightful.

I also decided to reread one of my all time favourite books (and certainly my favourite romantic novel), Gaudy Night... but of course you can't just reread Gaudy Night, you've got to go back and enjoy the whole Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane romance and really savour it. So, I started with Strong Poison...

... then moved on to Have His Carcase, and took a short detour from the Wimsey/Vane novels to read Murder Must Advertise (because it's just so funny, though that whole Harlequin plot is the wrong kind of ridiculous). If you're a fan of murder mystery novels and have never read the Wimsey novels I cannot recommend them highly enough. They get better and better as the sequence develops and the introduction of Harriet Vane is an absolute joy, I love her so much.

At the end of May I took a break from Wimsey to make a start on The Muse...

... but quickly abandoned it for a book of Ghost Stories by E. F. Benson, which I hugely enjoyed.

I often associate ghost stories with dark winter nights but most of these are set in the blossoming spring or on sultry summer evenings. The stories are full of ancient, dark, nameless things lurking in woodlands and streams, of terrible things at your open window on hot, sleepless nights. All rather dated, of course, but gorgeously written and full of incredibly creepy moments.

Thanks to this book I also discovered that reading ghost stories on busy trains weirdly makes them (the stories, not the trains) even spookier. I totally expected it to be distracting but actually quietly reading a ghost story in the midst of all that noise turned out to be extra chilling. It is a teeny bit awkward though when you realise you're pulling "oh my goodness, this story!!" faces in public.

So, how many books is that in four months? Ten, I think? Plus a whole bunch of fan fiction and a tiny bit of The Muse.

Ten books in four months is nothing to shout about, but, still! Reading is happening! And continues to happen! Woohoo!

What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the books I've been reading? What did you think of them?

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, so if you click through and end up buying something (anything!) on Amazon during that session I get a very small payment for the referral.

Monday 21 August 2017

June & July in Pictures: Colour & Crafting amongst the Chaos!

I spent a hectic few weeks this summer living out of a suitcase, travelling back to my flat from time to time but mostly staying with my parents and helping them prepare to move out of our family home and across the country to their new house. You might have noticed that I rather dropped the ball on the blogging front (oops!) while all this was going on... but I still managed to squeeze in some crafting and other fun stuff in between all the packing and general moving prep.

So... what did I get up to in June and July?

My friend Kate visited Bristol and we met up for a day's sightseeing and photo-taking (you can read about her trip to the city here and here). It's always a joy to show people round my favourite city, and Bristol was looking pretty darn gorgeous in the summer sunshine.

I was nearly late to meet her in the morning, though, as I was busy taking photos of this fabulous wall! (Instagrammer problems, man...).


For my birthday one of my friends surprised me with this awesome "Making Things" print and I couldn't resist taking a photo of it surrounded by some of the crafty supplies I'd been using that week.


I made things with this wonderful marbled paper (click here to see what I made with it!)...

... and made lots of felt butterflies for June's "A Year of Wreaths" Wreath tutorial (follow that link for the free tutorial).

The shiny new edition of my first book, Super-Cute Felt was published (prompting an Instagram post full of feelings)...

... with a free project from the book available over at MAKEetc...

... and the pear needlebook tutorial (delightfully) featured in Prima Makes magazine.


I blogged about some fabulous fog, my visit to Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, a trip to Lichfield and a magnificently quirky museum: the Birmingham Pen Museum.


I confessed to sometimes preferring unused skeins of yarn and embroidery thread to finished projects (there's just something so appealing about those soft loops of colour!)...


... and had a hilarious dream in which I went on a date... not to a bar, or a café, or the cinema, but to a giant branch of Paperchase! The way to my heart is clearly via nice stationery (or haberdashery!). Naturally, I couldn't resist obeying my subconscious and visited the big Paperchase on the Tottenham Court Road when I was in London a couple of weeks later. Mmm... so many colours...


I shared a photo of my much beloved Dorcas pin tin - which it turns out is something a lot of people have in their sewing kit, and treasure (maybe you have one too?). This tin belonged to my mum when she was at school. I also have a larger one which I inherited from my grandmother, along with the rest of her sewing box.


I do love things which are pretty but also practical... although sometimes I buy so many of them that they're not quite so practical any more. Like mugs - I definitely have way more mugs than I technically need but there are just so many lovely ones! This one is my current fave: a recent gift from a kind friend who knows just how much I love a pop of colour.


Finally, July turned into a month of colourful selfies as I visited the WALALA X PLAY installation (a maze of mirrors and bright patterns that's perfect for taking photos)... 


... then got inspired by Instagram's "Weekend Hashtag Project" photo challenge and ended up spending a chunk of a Sunday afternoon lying on the floor covered in blankets (which is a perfectly normal thing to do, right??).

That week's challenge was #whptalentshow, and I got thinking about how my creative talents are things I've inherited from my parents, and which were encouraged and nurtured by them when I was growing up. Which (naturally) led to me taking selfies while sandwiched between the blanket my mum knitted for me when I was a baby, and the blanket I'm knitting for my new flat.


(Psst - for more blanket-y lols, check out the outtakes!).

Want more colourful, crafty updates? I'm lauralupinhoward on Instagram - click here to visit my page and follow me. You'll also find me on Facebook and Twitter.