Monday, 15 September 2014

Get Real | A new blog series

If I asked you to tell me something that you know about me, what would you say? Would you say that you know I am from England? Or that I am a teacher in my twenties? Would it be that I am part of the Creative Team for Studio Calico? Or maybe that I love reading? Would you be able to tell me anything beyond that?

Because I'm not sure you would.

And that's not your fault.

It's mine.

Here on my blog, my Instagram page or even on my scrapbook/Project Life pages, I tend not to go too deep with my thoughts and feelings. Everything tends to be a 'this is what I did and when' show and tell scenario. Which is fine. But there's always been something within me that feels I want to delve deeper. To be more real. This is especially the case with how I approach my memory-keeping. Journaling for me tends to be a bit of an afterthought or, dare I say it, a chore. It's the thing I always leave for last because it's the thing I enjoy the least. How did that even happen? I love writing. Or, at least, I used to. But you wouldn't know that from reading my blog or my scrapbook pages. And I think that's a dreadful shame.

Over the last week or so, I've had what you might call a bit of a relevation. And that's all thanks to Laura Kurz's class for Studio Calico, Pen & Paper. Laura has helped me to reconnect with the author within me and fall back in love with writing. And I am so grateful for that. Yesterday, I created my first traditional scrapbook page with meaningful, heartful journaling for the first time in years. And you know what? I think it's my favourite page I've ever made. It's not technically brilliant. It's not particularly artsy. But looking at the photo I chose alongside reading the words I crafted tells a story that is very dear to my heart in a way that will be so special for years to come. And it feels good, my friends!

But it doesn't just stop there. I want to have that feel on my blog here, too. I want this to be a place that's more than just a place to share my projects and host giveaways for you, although I'll still be doing those things.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to a new series that I'm starting here on the blog...

Get Real will be an opportunity for me to tell real stories about me and my life here on the blog. It won't always be serious. It might sometimes be short. But the stories I tell will be me. The stories I tell will be real. And I'm really excited about that.

To kick things off, I'd like to share with you something I wrote one evening last week and then shared on the Pen & Paper message board. It is the first part of a story about a day that turned out to be one of the most memorable days of my life...

I stir from my sleep with a heavy feeling. Today is Wednesday. I hate Wednesdays. It's my longest day at work and still so far from being the weekend. Following my waking ritual, I roll over and look at my phone. It is some time before 6am and so I have a little time before I need to get up for work.
There's a missed call from the one person from whom I have been waiting to hear. That can only mean one thing. Today is going to be no ordinary Wednesday.
I have been waiting for this call for a few days now. Since the 11th of July, I have prayed to receive this call and every day that has gone by has brought with it a sense of disappointment. Not today. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow?
The call was logged some time after 11.00pm last night. I have slept the entire night in blissful ignorance. A sense of annoyance rises up in me. How could I have missed this?
I press the callback button, my fingers shaking ever so slightly. There is no answer. I immediately send a text explaining how I'd been asleep, all the while getting crosser and crosser that I should have been having the conversation last night. Suddenly, I am faced with a strange dilemma. I am desperate for the toilet but I don't want to leave the room! I compromise…I take the phone with me!
A text comes through a few minutes later. “Can't talk at the moment...I'll try within 30 minutes,” it reads. Thus begins one of the most agonising waits of my life. Every second seems like a minute, every minute an hour. I try to go on with my morning as normal but my thoughts are consumed of what news will await me on the other end of the phone.
Closer to about 7.15am, the phone rings. That familiar sound that usually inspires a sigh before I see who's calling. Not so today. My heart is pounding as I swipe my finger across the screen.
“Hello?” I answer in a questioning tone, despite the fact that I know very well who is calling and what he is calling to say. The familiar voice of my brother on the other end of the phone responds with a casual greeting. Definitely not the greeting that I would expect on such an occasion. But this is Daniel, after all. He does like to play jokes by feigning ignorance or indifference.
“Have you got some news for me?” I ask, timidly.
In the next sentence he tells me what I have been waiting months to hear. I'm an auntie.
The rest of the morning is spent in a hazy dream-like state. Despite the fact that I am still not allowed to know the gender of the baby (not until I meet him or her face-to-face), I am almost unbearably excited. I am an auntie.
This is no ordinary Wednesday. This is the most exciting Wednesday in the history of Wednesdays.

I hope Get Real is something that you can get excited about as well...I'm pleased to have an opportunity for you all to get to know me a bit better! If there's anything in particular you would like to know, please leave me a comment or send me an email! And be sure to check back here later in the week...I'll be sharing that scrapbook layout I mentioned earlier.

Happy Monday!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Friday favourites

1. Ali's Week in the Life kit.

2. These words & this script by Kal Barteski. (Available as a print here.)

3. This awesome digital layout template from Paislee Press. Planning a 2013 hybrid page with this beauty!

4. This stationery organiser. I need something like this for all my planner accessories!

5. Fun packaging.

6. Super cool nail art.

7. This desk set-up. I already a couple of pieces of the Martha Stewart desk organisers but definitely want to add a couple more to keep things really neat and tidy!

8. This haircut. This is pretty much what I wanted when I had a fiasco at the hair salon. Suffice to say, I didn't get this at all! Am planning to go elsewhere soon and have it done properly.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

BPC giveaway winners

Just wanted to announce the winners of my Big Picture Classes giveaway from last week.

The winner of the spot in the Capture Life class is:

I'd love to learn to make my photos special and magical! Afterall, that to me is the reason I scrap and what it is all about. I feel like my photos always lack something so this would be right up my alley! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to win a spot.

And the winner of the spot in the Art & Design class is:

How do you choose? They both sound incredible. I would have to say Wilna. She is so inspiring!

Congrats ladies! Please email me at stephbaxteruk{at}hotmail{dot}com to claim your prize! And for those of you who didn't win, there's still time to sign up for these classes! I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Autumn reads

Do you remember my summer reading list that I shared back in June? Well, I haven't exactly nailed it. I read Gone Girl in its entirety (loved it!) and half of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet before giving up on it (I just didn't find it as interesting as I thought it would!) I am in the process of reading The Lie and hope to finish it soon. The other books on my list (The Cuckoo's CallingCaptain Corelli's Mandolin and One Summer: America 1927 ) are sitting waiting for me to read them. I will get round to them at some point, definitely! I did end up, however, sneaking a couple of other reads in over the summer, one being Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks and the other being The Shadow Of The Wind, my third time of reading it (this time for book club)! So all in all, I'm quite happy with my summer effort, particularly seeing as I didn't go on holiday, when I can generally read 3 books in a week!

So on to my autumn reading list. I guess there is a bit of irony in making next season's list before I've actually finished my summer one but I wanted to share it with you anyway. Autumn is England is notoriously wet so I'm guessing I'll have many more opportunities for sitting down with a book than I had over the summer! So hopefully, by the time winter swings around, I'll have been able to complete the autumn list and catch up on summer's!

The Hobbit | J.R.R. Tolkien
So I understand that the whole Lord of the Rings thing is a big deal. My only encounter with them is being forced to watch the extended cut of the first film while I was at uni. I fell asleep within 20 minutes and woke up when it was over. So, as you can see, not a great experience! But with the recent release of the two Hobbit films, I've become a bit intrigued again. Everyone tells me that The Hobbit is a great book to read as an introduction into the world of Lord of the Rings so I'll give it a go. I'm not 100% convinced it's going to be my thing but I'm keeping an open mind. It is a classic, after all.

Marina| Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I mentioned that I have read The Shadow Of The Wind three times now. That's because it is an amazing book by an amazing writer that just makes me want to read everything he has ever written. This particular book sounds like it's full of the mystery and drama that I love about his stories so I'm excited to give this one a go. It's not available in the UK in paperback yet, which is a bit frustrating as I'm not a massive fan of hardbacks so I'll maybe save this one for last and see if there's any news on the paperback release later on. (And don't let the picture here fool you...I am not going to be reading the Spanish version!)

Enduring Love | Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan is another of my favourite writers with Atonement probably earning a spot in my top ten all-time favourite books. Enduring Love has always been something I've meant to read but just never got round to it. It's already sitting on my bookcase so there are no excuses anymore!

The Help | Kathryn Stockett
This is the next book I need to read for book club so I'll definitely need to prioritise this! It's not something I ever would have chosen on my own but that's one thing I love about book club.

The Rosie Project | Graeme Simsion
I think I stumbled upon this book when browsing on Amazon and when I read the blurb, I thought it sounded really interesting so into my cart it went! I love it when you come across something like that by accident.

What's on your reading list for autumn?

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday favourites

1. These ideas for washi tape. I have SO MUCH washi tape so I'm hoping this will help with that little problem!

2. Notes & Things by Crate Paper. (Project by Rebecca Luminarias.) I have a bunch of these products just waiting for me to decide what to do with them!

3. Crocheted blankets. Have been practising crochet over the last few weeks so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to make a cozy blanket like this now that it's moving into autumn!

4. This shoe cupboard. One day it will be mine!

5. These words. I need to remember this so badly.

6. Ali's new website. It's seriously amazing.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Agenda | In the Studio Calico classroom

I am so excited about the newest class available for enrollment over in the Studio Calico classroom!

Life can be full of the unexpected. In Agenda, Marcy Penner will teach you how to master your planner and provide you with the necessary tools to structure your day, all while making it cute. The Filo-craze is sweeping the nation and you won't want to miss out! Why live another day with the stress of prioritization and figuring out what to do next?

Agenda is enrolling now through September 30th at 11:59pm EST. Class will start on October 1st. While supplies last, students will receive an exclusive stamp set.

I bought a paper planner a couple of months ago to try out as I was not getting along with planning electronically on my phone at all. So far, I am absolutely loving it and the thought of taking a class devoted to paper planning is just fab!

Hope to see you in class!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

ON MY BOOKSHELF | The Book Thief

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak

The blurb...
*Here is a small fact* 

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

*Some important information*

It's a small story about:
  • a girl
  • an accordionist
  • some fanatical Germans
  • a Jewish fist fighter
  • and quite a lot of thievery
*Another thing you should know*

What I thought...
I am the granddaughter of a Dachau survivor. Reading any book that deals with the experience of the atrocities that were committed during the Second World War will always be different for me than most people. But that's one of the things I love about reading. Our experiences, our lives, our personalities and our emotions all bring something a little different when it comes to reading books. Our interpretation, reaction and sometimes even enjoyment of a book is shaped by us as people. 

While my grandfather wasn't Jewish, he was Polish and, in the eyes of the Nazis I understand, was considered a second-rate citizen of Earth. A genetic weakness. Someone not to be trusted. (Especially given that he had already been rounded up to a labour camp and had escaped.) He was sent, therefore, to Dachau, the first concentration camp ever to be created by the Nazis. From 5th February 1943, he was known as Prisoner 43315. The horror he experienced in the camp, I will never know. He died when I was 11, before I ever got to learn about the events of WW2 and before I ever had endless questions about his experiences. I do know that he was kept at Dachau until the end of the war. I know that he was there when the Americans came to liberate the camp and were left speechless, heartbroken, disgusted and horrified by what they saw. I have seen a piece of paper signed by who I assume must have been one of the commanding officers of the company of US soldiers who came to give him back his freedom. I have touched the German Cross of, again I can only assume, a Nazi soldier; a reminder of the experience that my grandfather, for some unknown reason, chose to take with him.

In short, I know very little about my what grandfather went through. He rarely spoke of it to my mother. Whether that was because he didn't want to or because she never wanted to ask, I don't know. I must ask her. I know so little and yet there has always been deep within me a feeling of affinity for any story connected to victims of Hitler and the Nazi Party. It was a massive part of my grandfather's life and, therefore part of my heritage. I'm not sure my brother or sister (or even my mother for that matter) feel that way. But since I am the token history-lover of my family, I guess it's only natural.

I thought it important to mention this, since it made my reading of the book all the more complex. All the more poignant. All the more heartbreaking. All the more grateful that my grandfather survived.

There is a scene in the book where prisoners of the Nazis are being marched through the town to the concentration camp in Dachau. On those pages I felt like I had caught a tiny glimpse into one small part of my grandfather's experience and I felt connected to him in a way I have never felt before. The thought of him being paraded through towns on his way to the camp not knowing what horrors would be in store for him when he arrived breaks my heart. And it breaks my heart to think of all those others that had to endure the same experience. The scene, while painful to read, is beautifully written.

I wholeheartedly love this book. It deals with the subject matter sensitively, despite being narrated by death itself. At first, I didn't think I was going to like the narration at all. But it brings something so different to the story and is told absolutely perfectly. The first few chapters took me a few weeks to read...I need to be honest about that. It was hard-going in the beginning and, dare I say it, a bit boring. After a while, something really clicked with me. Suddenly, I couldn't put it down. Many of the characters are so wonderfully endearing and I genuinely felt an emotional connection to them, which made it so much more heartbreaking when the story began to unravel. There were points, when reading this book, that I cried uncontrollably. To have such violent emotional reaction to a book speaks volumes, in my opinion. Any book that can speak to my heart and move me that much, is definitely a special thing indeed.

I would give this book...

Read this book if you enjoy...
The Diary of Anne Frank, The Pianist, Schindler's Ark, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or other books that deal with the Holocaust or World War 2 in general.