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    Lifestyle

    How a house move taught me the value of consumerism

    Still baring the scars from the last house move 12 months ago (and the one before that 4.5 years ago), I’ve moved house again a few months ago.  

    My, now-ex, housemate moved in with her boyfriend and I took the decision that it was time to downsize from half a house to renting a room.  After all, I work full time and my curiosity in exploring and learning more means I’m often out a lot, so saving money and having less space to clutter seemed a wise plan.

    However this meant the very painful need to get rid of a lot of things I just wouldn’t have space for.  Despite a trunk full of books going to charity last year, another car-boot full went to a local school’s summer fair fundraiser and several others to another school’s library.  Saucepans, cuddly toys, DVDs and a variety of other miscellaneous items to various charity shops.  Most things went to charity, some went to organisations which give you money for your old things, but mainly it was just about ridding myself of stuff I didn’t need.

    A fellow Brummie blogger, Travelling Coral, linked to a blogpost about consumption and the Disease of More.  Thankfully I’ve been pretty fortunate enough to work in jobs I’ve (mostly) enjoyed and haven’t felt the need to buy things to distract me from a terrible 9-5.  But the move has made me recognise that I still buy more things that I need – my groaning bookcases as prime example.

    The last paragraph in the blogpost, an almost call to action, really resonated with me and made me think:

    “If the goal really is to work until you die, then keep earning, keep spending, keep consuming, and ultimately your goal will be reached.  If the goal is to enjoy at least a portion of your life, to spend time with family and friends, to enjoy what little time we have on this earth, then wake up, get conscious, and make a change.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Take a step back and evaluate your consumption, and ask, at what cost? ”

    – from the blog With Husband in Tow.

    With the house move scars still so fresh and a spate of celebrations upcoming, it made me realise that maybe the answer wasn’t to clutter up my friend’s houses with more junk, but buy something that would mean spending more time together doing something we enjoy; dinners out and concert tickets, primarily.  After all we can consume more, but we can also consume art and knowledge and good food in the company of friends and loved ones.  And what better way to consume than that?

    Lifestyle, Online stuff

    Birmingham Blogger Meet

    IMG_4164.JPGIt hasn’t escaped me, the irony of being a week late blogging about a blogging meet up that was about getting more organised, but you know what they say – better late than never!

    Last weekend I trundled off to the Birmingham Blogger Meet (or #bhmbloggermeet), as organised by Abbigayle over at stealstylist.com.  Back when I first started getting into blogging the types of meet ups were very much on the more nerdier side of things, but now it seems the beauty/fashion blogger reigns supreme.  That said, whilst beauty/fashion/lifestyle bloggers made up the most numbers everyone swapped lots of blogging tips and there was plenty to talk about.

    First things first, we were given some lovely goody bags with some exciting treats inside; a necklace from Lylia Rose, a blending brush from Nanshy, hand cream and lip balm from Bee Good, Lovely Lotions handmade soap, Colour Me Fragrance perfume samples, a whole bag of stuff from Lush, a pencil and sign from Dottie Rocks, and saving the best till last – a blogger ring-binder organiser and goal jar from Abbigayle herself.  I’m a complete stationery nerd, so knowing that I need to get more organised with my blogging made this all the more exciting.

    IMG_4167-0.JPGAs well as the goody bag (I’ll blog about some of the items in individual posts), Abbigayle had organised a series of games for us to play.  I particularly enjoyed listening to the individual questions she asked everyone, from “Where do you see your blog in five years” to “What city would you move your blog to if you could”.   The second question was the one I was asked and given my other blog Full to the Brum is Birmingham based it would make it sort of redundant, but this blog would happily go travelling, if the mood took me!

    After photographing ourselves with our binders and coming up with witty slogans for cupcakes, we were given a talk by Kirsty from Motives cosmetics, who showed us some of their bestsellers.  This was followed by a demonstration by Maria and Jessica from the Central School of Make Up who showed us how to do winged eyeliner.  I’ve always been curious as to how people get this to look right, turns out it’s all in the tilt of the head.  That said, I doubt I have the patience to master this look.

    With a couple of games left, and prizes being awarded to the winners, the meet up finished with a buffet lunch and a good gossip about blogging with some of the other people at the meet up.  The warm up questions at the beginning of the session and the fact were were all bloggers meant that conversation flowed easily and it was nice to get some great hints and tips, as well as some new blogs to add to my RSS reader.  It’s also inspired me to re-start this blog, so hopefully you’ll see more posts on here from me soon!

    Lifestyle

    Shapes, words and reminders

    I’m sat here in the new library, looking out onto Birmingham with my wrist bandaged up like a prize fighter. Today marks the day I got my first tattoo. I always thought I’d be the kind of person never to get one; I always said there was nothing I liked enough to chose to mark my skin with every day. But this has been a hard year and I’ve resorted back to one of the things that helps me to remember to persevere.  And when I thought about it, I’ve been doodling this on my wrist on and off for ten years, this little purple star.

    It’s funny because my mind remembers in pictures, shapes and colours; I’m hopeless with names but I will remember where on a shelf a long forgotten book is or the route to somewhere I rarely go. But words, words and stories, have always been my first love, in all their shapes and sizes. During hard times I always retreat to stories; books, music and film; to quotations and lines from songs.  Tell me a story, better yet put it in a song, and it has the power to stop you in your tracks…or struggle on through.

    I have a quote for most occasions and several for when things are tough and you keep going, but the one I always come back to is from New Found Glory; “every darkness, I’ll shine through”.  Life is full of struggles, big and small, but keep shining. It’s the same message as Winston Churchill’s “If you’re going through hell, keep going” or Disney’s Finding Nemo “just keep swimming”.  Life is wonderful and hard, awesome and awful, it’s so simple and wonderfully complex, but it’s worth persevering even when things aren’t as good as they could be.

    Someone I once heard talk said tattoos didn’t have to have meaning, they can just be artworks in their own right, and he’s right. To most people who might see this little purple star and I’m okay with that because stars are pretty awesome in so many ways. But to me it’s so much more.

    Lifestyle

    A little peace in moving house

    Over the last couple of months I’ve come to fully appreciate why it is they say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do.

    From our lovely Colourful House, my (now ex) housemates and I divided up 4.5 years’ worth of things and moved our separate ways.  To most people three girls moving out should be easy but we lived like a little family, so much of our stuff was shared.  In the end I devised games to make the ownership of miscellaneous items that we would probably need at some point easier.

    But some things we couldn’t justify taking.  All three of us were big readers, myself probably the most ferocious.  We were lucky in our old house to have a room almost solely dedicated to books with fantastic in-built bookcases.  But, as is whenever I move, I couldn’t take them all.  Two boxes of books went to a local school and a car boot-full or books and comics went to a local charity shop.  A box of cables and a chair went to work, anyone that came to visit in the last month went home with something.

    But my favourite story about our move was a phenomena that exists in Kings Heath, something I’d never noticed in anywhere else I lived; doorstep freecycle.  Amongst the maze of suburban streets in this suburb of Birmingham you will often find little piles of things with notes attached – “I’m free, take me” or “looking for a good home” or sometimes no note at all.  They’re always perfectly good items that are no longer needed in the house they sit outside.

    We left a few items outside; a collection of glasses, decorative plates and an uplighter.  The glasses disappeared to a new home without us knowing, but we hope the wine glasses are providing an interesting anecdote to a party.  The oversized gold plates palmed off on me by my mother, were picked up by a woman who told us that she worked for a charity which did a massive tea party for disabled people each year and they never had enough plates, these would be perfect.  And the uplighter went to a man who had been meaning to go get one for months but never had the time and was so genuinely pleased with his freebie I think we made his day.  If we didn’t, he and the charity lady certainly made ours.

    Moving house is hard; stressful, tearful and a slog of a marathon.  I had some great friends and family members whose help was invaluable – and some strangers too, who will probably never know how much.

    Lifestyle

    Blogging about baking (and alcohol)

    I know it looks like I’ve abandoned this blog, given the amount of time it’s taken me to post something but that’s not the case – honest!  I have, however, been writing another project I’m working on.

    Having worked for a pub and a bar (and soon to be a steak and ale house too) I figured it was about time I learnt more about alcohol.  So as well as attending some of the training sessions, rum clubs and asking a lot of questions, I thought I’d combine it with another hobby – baking!

    At the moment it’s a cross between using found recipes and making up my own, but please take a look.  And if I can help tempt you, here’s my recipe for Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky.

    Ingredients for Whisky Cake
    175g Caster sugar
    185g Self raising flour
    175g Butter
    3 Eggs
    1/2tsp Vanilla extract
    75ml Whisky (I used the Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch whisky)
    1/4tsp cinnamon
    30ml freshly brewed coffee (I used Ethiopian Mocha coffee)
    Icing
    75g Butter
    175g Icing sugar
    25ml Whisky
    1/4tsp Orange liqueur

    Method
    Pre-heat the oven to 180c
    Cream in the butter and sugar
    Add the eggs one by one, making sure they’re combined
    Add the cinnamon, whisky, vanilla extract and coffee
    Sieve in the flour and fold in
    Bake for about 45mins-1hr, then leave to cool.
    The icing is a basic buttercream; cream in all the ingredients and ice the cake once it has cooled fully.

    Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal with a slight orange and whisky buttercream icing

    Lifestyle

    Making paper garlands for Christmas

    The German Market is back in Birmingham and the John Lewis advert nearly had me in tears, so it has got to be time to prepare for Christmas.  And what better way than with some crafting!

    Cut outs ready to new sewn (by machine)

    Cut outs ready to be (machine) sewn

    Last weekend I wandered down the first of a series of workshops being held by Oh Buttons at the Jewellery Quarter branch of Urban Coffee Company.  The first session was the simple yet hugely delightful paper garlands workshop.

    Being a bit of an emo-kid I decided on doing a garland of stars.  Hannah from Oh Buttons had brought along a bunch of Christmassy papers and pieces of inspiration.  So once we had our idea and sketched it out, we had to cut out 24 pieces 8-10cm in length.  I’m pretty sure you could do smaller or larger pieces if that’s the affect you were going for, and I’ve seen versions with much more intricate paperwork than I’ll ever be able to manage.

    Anyway, once the cutting was done it was onto the sewing.  Sewing machines always make me a little nervous, even my own, but feeding through the bits of paper to make the garland was pretty therapeutic.  And the good thing was that a little gap sort of needed to be left in them so they’d have some movement…so there really was nothing to worry about!

    And behold the finished product!

    Star paper garlands

    The finished product - paper garlands sewn and displayed!

    I’m pretty pleased with mine and I’ve already hung it up in the house (as you can see).  I’ve got some butterfly templates which I picked up from a papercraft shop years ago and once I can find some suitable paper I’m going to try again and make some for my bedroom.  But first I think we need more to add to the Christmas decorations in the house!

    Hannah is running another three sessions on Sundays in the run up to Christmas.  The one this Sunday (20th Nov) is on felt Christmas tree decorations, then after that its things which can be made as gifts – embroidered brooches on the 4th Dec and Phone/MP3player cosies on the 11th December.  Sessions are two hours long, only cost £10 (more than reasonable in my opinion) and they’re good fun and easy to remember so if you want to make them again you can.

    Now, to try and convince my housemate to let me put up more decorations…