03 December 2016

Candle making

Making candles is one of those crafts I've always meant to try, but never quite got round to until now. I'd actually picked up this candle making kit a couple of years ago in a charity shop, but hadn't got round to using it. Now, seeing as I'm going through a bit of a Hygge phase, and using loads of candles, I decided it was the perfect time!

The kit came with wax, two moulds, a length of wick, coloured chips to colour the wax, and blu-tak to seal the holes where the wick goes through the mould. The kit only cost me £2, which is a great price for trying out something you're not sure whether you want to invest a lot of money in. But I saw the kit being sold new in a local craft shop and it was actually over ten times that price!

First you have to pierce holes in the bottoms of the moulds with a skewer, then thread the wick through (that was the really fiddly bit!). Then, after sealing the holes with blu-tak, you can melt the wax and pour it in (the wick is supported by being tied around a little stick). The box was designed to hold the moulds upright.
Because there were blue and yellow coloured chips, I was able to make blue, yellow and green candles.
I decided to make scented candles, so I added essential oils to each batch and coloured them appropriately - yellow for neroli and ylang ylang, blue for lavender, and green for rosemary. Because there were only two moulds, I had to wait some hours between making the batches of candles. If there was a little wax left at the end of pouring into the moulds, I used this to top up one of my other candles.

I n total I was able to make 6 candles out of the kit, and now I know what I'm doing I can get some wick and melt down the leftovers of some other candles! I'm also going to try using different containers as moulds - I'm saving some yoghurt pots and the containers from mini Christmas puds!

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01 December 2016

20 Ideas to bring hygge to the winter months

This month I'm going to be indulging in some serious hygge, both here on the blog and in real life! Hygge is the word for a Danish concept of cosiness and togetherness. Not being Danish, I hadn't come across the concept of hygge until a few years ago, but it fits in very well with the things I enjoy in life, especially in winter - warm socks and cosy blankets, hot drinks and comfort food, a pile of books to enjoy, comfy cushions, and, more importantly, getting a sense of contentment from the little things in life. 

As someone who has always enjoyed a Friday night at home better than one out clubbing, I can definitely relate to the idea of hygge! And now the concept's become fashionable, I don't have to feel embarrassed about admitting that I am going to have a quiet weekend relaxing! We rush around so much in life these days, and sometimes it's good to take things at a slower pace.

The Danish have a word hyggekrog, which means a cosy, cushioned reading nook. But I've also found another great word recently, hibernaculum, which is the place an animal goes to hibernate. So I think of my settee piled with blankets and cushions as my hibernaculum.

Although I've always had a few candles around my living room, this is the first year that I've been using them almost every evening, and, in fact, one large candle that I've had for all the years I've lived here is now finally coming to the end of its life!

Often at this time of year I feel like going to bed as soon as it gets dark. But now that I have embraced the idea of hygge, and surrounded myself with candles, I find I'm not going to bed at a ridiculously early hour.

Another thing I've really been indulging in this year is hot chocolate, and I've been trying to mix it up by making some different variations. So far my favourite has been adding some red wine - sounds weird, but it makes the hot chocolate so rich! I've also been adding some Baileys or Amaretto on other occasions, using different mugs and cups to make each cup of hot chocolate an individual and special experience, and adding chocolate curls or chocolate sauce on top of the obligatory whipped cream! I've even been doing a bit of baking too.

Here are some of my ideas for adding some hygge to your life!
1. Wear the cosiest socks you can - whether you make, buy, or receive them as a gift (my mum knitted me these ones).

2. Wrap up in a scarf, hat and gloves, and take a cup of your favourite hot drink out to the garden so you can admire the frost.

3. Add some mood lighting with candles, fairy lights, or small lamps.

4. Make a pile of inspiring books next to your sofa or bed, so that you can pick them up whenever the mood strikes.

5. Make a cosy area to sit with lots of cushions, blankets (I just got this amazing M&S one and it's the softest thing ever!), and a footstool.

6. Get (or make) some nice postcards and some stamps, and sit and write them to some friends.

7. Go on a walk and pick up some pine cones, acorns, stones etc, then display these in a bowl.

8. Do some crochet - it's easy to do while huddling under a blanket or hanging out with friends or family, and the repetitiveness can be quite hypnotic and relaxing.

9. Get a book about baking out of the library and try making some bread.

10. Get the slow cooker on the go and cook something warm and satisfying.

11. Switch off from social media and read a book or listen to some music.

12. Have a Scandinavian-style brunch of open sandwiches.

13. Get your favourite childhood cuddly toy out of the attic and keep it by you on the sofa to cuddle.

14. Buy some lovely pastries and eat them from your favourite plate.

15. Have a long and relaxing bath, especially if you usually take showers.

16. Create your own hyggekrog or hibernaculum with lots of blankets and cushions. 

17. Wear your favourite knitted jumper and embrace your inner Sarah Lund.

18. Use neutral colours and lots of textures in your decor.

19. Read books that encourage you to appreciate the little things in life.

20. Allow yourself an afternoon or early evening nap, without feeling guilty about all the other things you should be doing. Just remember to blow out the candles first!

30 November 2016

This month on emuse

Last month I'd been to BlytheCon UK in Edinburgh, so there were a lot of posts relating to that this month:
BlytheCon UK 2016
Purchases and prizes
Mini-me self-portraits
Dolls in dresses

And this month was the 50th anniversary of the school where I work, which actually led to quite a few creative projects:
GHS 50
GHS 50 postcard design
GHS printing blocks
Creating a school badge stamp
Felt school badge
Planning a school anniversary display
Photobooth props
GHS dress

Because it's just over a year since I went on holiday to Italy, I did a bit of Cinque Terre inspired shed decoration! And I decorated a t-shirt with the name of one of my other favourite places, Kyoto.

I also started a new Moleskine, showed you my collection of scraps, took photos of a fairy garden, and took some Parisian chic self-portraits.

29 November 2016

This month I have been mostly...

It was the big anniversary of the school, something I've been helping to plan for months! I'm not sure what I'll do with my time now! The week of the anniversary events was full of ups and downs, since as well as the events themselves there was the US election result, the death of a former member of staff who'd hoped to attend the events, and the death of one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Leonard Cohen. And I won a prize in the #myselfinobjects competition by the National Galleries of Scotland.

I started my TUC Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety last month, and it's hard work, a big step up from the Stage 1 and Stage 2 courses! So maybe that's what I'll be spending most of my spare time doing!

It's been a busy month, so haven't done much reading at all!

As with the reading, I haven't had time to watch much TV, so there's a lot building up on my TiVo to watch!

I had been listening to Leonard Cohen's album The Future after hearing the result of the US election. One of the songs, The Future, really fitted my mood about the election result, and another, Democracy, brought back bittersweet memories of seeing Leonard Cohen in concert in 2008, the day after Obama was first elected. The day after I started listening to these songs, I woke up to hear that Leonard Cohen had died.

Here's a drawing/painting I started at that concert, and a clip from the concert of my favourite part of my favourite Leonard Cohen song.

28 November 2016

Planning a school anniversary display

This month the school where I work had its 50th anniversary, and I somehow ended up being the person who organised all the displays of old photos etc! I couldn't find much information online about how to do this, so here are some ideas if you ever find yourself in the same situation!  I would recommend that you start at least 3 months in advance of the event.

1. Gather everything you have

If your school has an archive, that’s great! But otherwise you will need to ask all the staff to have a look in their cupboards and on their hard drives for anything that you can use. This could be photos, slides, folders of old information, school ties, newspaper clippings, programmes for plays, or old artefacts (we found an old school belt!). I also have my own archive of local history materials at home, and photos I’ve taken at work over the years, and some of that came in handy.

2. Look online

Try looking online for more photos. Google images is a good place to start, but you could also try searching Facebook or Flickr for any mentions of the school name, and online archives such as SCRAN. Think about setting up a Facebook group for former pupils and staff, where they can upload photos.

3. Look in libraries and archives

Visit local or national libraries and archives and look at any books, newspapers, magazines or photos they have that may be useful. Because I’d spent so long looking at the photos we already had (and had set them as a slideshow on my computer desktop!), I was immediately able to tell which photos we didn’t already have.

I also found some interesting things like adverts for local shops selling school uniforms in the year that the school opened!

4. Take photos

Go round the school and take photos of anything you think people would be interested in seeing. Even if there will be tours of the school organised on the day, people won’t always pick up on the small details, like the original telephone that I found in the corner of one room. I also went round and took photos from the same angles as those that were taken when the school opened, for a “then and now” display.

5. Collate everything

You may not wish to put original photos on display, so scan these in. It also means you can print the photos out at a larger size. Organise your scans into folders on your computer (I arranged them by what size I would print them, and whether they would be in black and white or colour). 

6. Create collages

Creating collages (using Picasa or other software) is a great way of bringing together a number of photos showing different aspects of the same subject. For example, I did a few of some building work that had been done in the school – the photos were not in themselves very interesting, but bringing them together showed the progress of the work.

7. Print your photos

Make sure you leave enough time to print what you need. You may wish to print the photos in batches, like I did, rather than leaving them all to the last minute. Try to find out as much as you can about the photos, a rough date at the very least, and write or print it beside each photo - try to write this far enough from the corners so it won't be covered by the drawing pins!

8. Plan your displays

Look at how many photos you have, and decide how they will be arranged – will you do it by decade, or by subject? Divide the photos into wallets labelled with each of these sections. If you want to have labels at the top of the pinboards, print these too. Think how many photos will fit on a pinboard, and decide how many pinboards you will need. Lay out folders and other items on tables, and measure how much space they will take up. Also, work out how many drawing pins you will need – I printed about 250 photos so I needed 1000 drawing pins, and the school didn’t have that many in stock so they needed to be ordered specially!

If you have items in folders, try to get a batch of matching ring binders and add matching labels to the front of them. I used red folders and used a piece of art on the front that I’d created to celebrate the anniversary.
If you have precious items, these may have to be displayed in a glass cabinet to prevent them being touched. It’s a good idea if this is a lockable cabinet so items don’t go missing.

Keep all your items together ready to create the displays. If there is a room or cupboard where you can keep them, use it, or keep everything together on a trolley that can be moved about.

9. Think of decorative items

You can decorate in all sorts of ways – tablecloths and balloons in the school colours, for example. We’d just got some banners made for the school hall, so it was looking pretty good anyway.

(I didn't do this display, but it's just to show how you can use tablecloths etc.)

One of the decorative things I did was to use Picasa to create a collage in the shape of the number 50, using a lot of the photos I’d found.

10. Use technology

If you have a large screen in the hall, you can have a slideshow of old photos constantly running. You could also set up some laptops as I did, so that people can go through photos and videos at their own pace.

11. Arrange pinboards and tables

If you need to ask someone for pinboards and tables, do this well in advance, otherwise get hold of them yourself and put them in position. Make sure to tell everyone that you will be needing these, so that someone else doesn’t pin things on your boards, and ask people to be careful around them so the photos don't get damaged (we had an event where pupils were leaving their coats and bags around the pinboards, so I had to put chairs around them to protect them).

12. Create your displays

Decide when the best time is to create your displays. You may not be able to leave them out, if the venue is being used for other things, so get some help from other people to help to arrange them and clear them away afterwards.

Pinning the items up can be quite time-consuming, so make sure to start a week or two in advance. Staples are a quick way of attaching items, but drawing pins mean you can move them about. Start by planning where to put the largest photos, then fit the smaller ones in around them. If you're using drawing pins, just pin the top corners of the photos until you are happy with the layout, then add pins at the bottom corners. For A3 pictures, add pins halfway along the long sides as well as at the corners.

There’s a lot more to organising a school anniversary (publicity, food, photo booth etc), but I hope this has given you some ideas for the display side of things. And a lot of these ideas would apply to other events too. There’s a huge amount of work involved, so you’d really be mad to volunteer, but it can also be really rewarding seeing people enjoying the displays. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the place I work and the people I’ve worked with over the years (which kind of ties in with this post I wrote earlier this year about appreciating your town).