Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dog walking with Doddle and a giveaway...

A few weeks ago we were offered an intriguing new pet product to review. The Doddle is a dog collar with a lead built in to it.

We have two quite different dogs in our family and we were very keen to try the Doddle out on our Beagle Bella, who with all the crazy scent driven characteristics of her breed, is the dog we spend the most time putting on and off the lead during a walk. Usually to avoid traffic, rabbits and deer!

The lead is perfect for those who, like us, need a lead for short periods of time and then spend the rest of the walk carrying it. Doddle comes in two sizes and is suitable for dogs up to 27kg.

We've been using it for a couple of weeks and we thought that rather than writing up a long wordy review for you, we'd just do a short video during the morning dog walk which explains what the Doddle is and how we use it. Don't forget to scroll down for your chance to win a Doddle for your pet too.

So do you fancy winning a Doddle? If so enter via the Rafflecopter below. Although it isn't a compulsory part of entering I'd always appreciate a follow on Bloglovin too, which you can do via the button beneath the Rafflecopter.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

7 great Instagram inspired gifts to give for Christmas

I feel I should probably start by apologising a little for using the word 'Christmas' in a post I am writing in October. In my defence I would say that for a few years, a large number of my Christmas gifts have been photo based and in order for the process of making them to be enjoyable and not a mad rush to the Christmas printing deadline, I do generally start preparing them at about this time of year.

Like many people, I find a lot of my photos are taken in the square format for instagram and finding the right way to print and display them can take a bit of research. So I wanted to share with you a few of what I think are the best ideas...

Buy a series of canvases

I confess I haven't bought a canvas for a few years cause I got a little bored with them, but Canvas Pop have managed to refresh the idea by displaying multiple canvases together with characteristic Instagram rounded corners or frames making them look very contemporary. The website allows you to import directly from Instagram and their inspiration gallery of customers prints will make you want to order staright away.

Make a Blurb book

I have been printing photo books with Blurb since 2006 and I have never found anyone to rival their quality and printing options. They aren't the cheapest, but they are worth every penny. With Blurb you can import your Instagram photos directly into the online editor and create a 60 page square book for £13.79 (plus P&P)

Design a cushion

We did one of these last year as a bit of a joke gift for my father with a photo of his dog on it (he is rather obsessed with the dog!) but you don't have to have a photo of a family member grinning at you from the sofa. Take inspiration from these cushions and do your own plant prints. You can buy photo cushions from a  range of places online, or you can buy printer transfer paper and make your own at home.

Create Coasters

I know coasters aren't terribly rock n' roll, but they are a really useful way of using your photos to decorate your home and crucially they are square too. I've been using my own photos for coasters for years usually from PhotoBox. You can chose personal pictures or images that are more obscure like landscapes or close ups.

Do some prints and create a multi-aperture photo frame

This is really two ideas in one, but as I doubt you'd just give prints on their own as a gift, I thought I'd list them together. My favourite place to do Instagram square prints is Polargram. They do both polaroid style prints (with a wide white border at the bottom) and 4 inch square prints which fit the Umbra multi-aperture frame (above) from Red Candy perfectly. I reviewed this frame back in April  and it's still one of my favourite things on the walls of our house.

Fridge magnets

These might not be the most expensive or big gift, but they do always go down well. Sticky 9 do sheets of 9 square magnets for £9.99 or you can get them in the more conventional photo dimensions from for £9.50. Also if you are making for close friends or family it might be worth asking their partners if you can arrange a time to raid their photos so you can print their images on the magnets.

Ixxi Collage

This is a new discovery I have made. Ixxi consists of various size square cards that can be fixed together using x's. They look absolutely awesome on the wall and I love the potential to start a display that can be added to (or refreshed) every year.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Living Arrows : 42/52

ISO 400, 35mm, f/2.5, 1/3200

Forgive the scowl on Theo's face this week. We had all had a late night at our neighbour's before this was taken. He had stayed up a few hours past his bedtime playing with older kids (I had to laugh when a 9 year-old fell asleep on his shoulder watching a film) and we parents over-indulged on cheese and wine (we paid the price the next day)

There were more grumpy faces last week when we finally persuaded him to have a hair cut! It was every bit as traumatic as we had feared despite days of mental preparation, an appointment at our local children's salon (where they sit in cars and eat lollipops) and the promise of a trip to the sweet shop for good behaviour.

I don't know what it is, but he hates the whole experience! We have tried my sister cutting it, we have tried the salon cutting it, bribes, threats, promises, persuasion and explanations, but no progress. So tell me, when do they grow out of it?

living arrows

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#CraftTheParcel with In Post

A few weeks ago I was asked if I'd like to take part in a collaborative craft project to promote a new postal service. It was one of those occasions when I had to sit on my hands to avoid replying indecently quickly. Combining my loves of quilting and blogging and getting a small incentive to do so? How could I possibly say no!?

The project is called #CraftTheParcel (like pass the parcel, but errr with crafters!) Over the next two months, 18 creative bloggers in two teams are going to create a fabric square (quilted, crocheted or knitted) and post it on to the next blogger in the chain. When they receive it they attach it to their own square and then the chain carries on. At the end we should have two blankets that are approximately 36 inches square which will be gifted to charity.


I was first in the chain for team two so I made my quilted square earlier this week and it was collected by the InPost courier to be forwarded on to Kim at The Triplet Diaries. As I was first and have no idea what others later on are planning, I chose to do something very simple in a modern geometric design. I think subliminally I was also thinking about those who crochet in our team who may be considering making Granny Squares!

InPost operate a series of parcel lockers up and down the country, so my quilted square should arrive at Kim's nearest locker tomorrow. She will then get a text to let her know it's arrived and she can go and collect it at a time that suits her (even if that's 2am!) The text contains a link to a QR code which when scanned by the on site computer will open her parcel locker door. It's very clever!

The whole #CraftTheParcel project is being promoted across social media, so you can follow the progress by checking the hashtag on Twitter. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other talented ladies produce.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An autumn half square triangle quilt

My quilt turnover may be a little slow at the moment, but it hasn't stopped entirely. Whilst I had a five week break from university work over September I made this quilt for my mum. You wouldn't believe it, but we still haven't reached quilt saturation point in my family. It doesn't seem to matter how many I make, there's always a need for another!

This one is going on their new sofa to protect it from a rather indulged Border Terrier called Bullitt. The squares are 5 inches when cut and 4 inches finished. It's 14 squares by 14 squares so 56 inches long and wide. I think I counted up that I used 9 fabrics in total. A bunch of Kona solids with four patterned fabrics mixed in.

I had a bit of a wadding disaster when making this. Once again I have faffed and not got round to buying a replacement bolt of my usual Cotton wadding, so I went to the Eternal Maker and due to a bit of confusion over widths, I swapped the wadding I was going to buy whilst I was standing at the till and then bought some of their Eco wadding which I personally find is a little uneven in its thickness. To cut a very long story short, I then ended up doubling up the wadding which made it a little thicker than I would have liked. Moral to this story? Just order the bolt of wadding!!!

The backing fabric is from Ikea. I have seen this fabric used by lots of people as a quilt backing, but it's actually the first time I've used it and despite the fact it doesn't match any of the colours on the top (I'm a bit obsessive like that) I love it!

It's also got me wondering about doing a black and white quilt, or perhaps a black and white quilt with a few bits of bold colour (teal? yellow?)

This is the fourth half square triangle quilt I have made this year, I need a change for my next quilt! But before that I'll be catching up with my bee blocks and then a little later in the week I'll tell you about a great collaborative craft project I'm taking part in with eight fellow creative bloggers. More on that in the next few days...

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Living Arrows : 41/52

ISO 400, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/6400

Blackberry season has only just finished, but we are already looking ahead to next September. This week a letter arrived from the council asking us to express our preferences for Theo's primary schooling. Only a few weeks ago he was still a two year-old, so this landmark moment has come quicker to us than to some others.

Fortunately we have good choices of schools locally and completing the form was a five minute process. We have in the past debated holding him back to start school when he is five, but increasingly I have noticed how he holds his own with the older children he mixes with and I believe he has the confidence and strength of character to get along well when he starts next autumn. 

The next challenge is a diplomacy one for me. Our local primary is almost visible from our house, just the other side of two fields. There is a track between the school and our lane with a warning sign that forbids trespassers. My challenge is going to be persuading the farmer to allow us access along this track before school starts or face walking three sides of a square along a main road. Apparently that could be a bit of a challenge. But if you don't ask...

living arrows

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

An awesome eighties movie soundtrack

Movies have played a big part in our lives over the last few years. When we were posted to Canada just after we got married we discovered our military quarter had an enormous basement which was just crying out to be turned into a cinema room. So shortly after we arrived we purchased a leather sofa, a projector and a surround sound system so powerful that it used to make the walls of the house vibrate. In the midst of the Albertan winter whilst snowdrifts piled up at our windows we would head to our basement and escape to another world. Whether it was the soundtrack of a tropical rainforest or the thundering vibrations of a helicopter flying overhead, safely entombed in our cinema room the sounds and sights of the movies took us to another location.

When we moved from Canada two years later, region and voltage incompatibility meant we had to be parted from our cinema set-up and our home movie nights with a TV and only one speaker have never been quite the same since.

So when Currys recently invited us to to name our favourite movie soundtrack, it got us thinking about all those great films we used to watch. The comedies, the war films, the classics and the romances and after a heated debate we finally settled on one film whose soundtrack we both loved... The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys was a vampire movie made before vampire movies were cool. With leather jackets, motorbikes and big 1980s hair it was accompanied by a diverse soundtrack of songs from INXS, Echo and The Bunnymen, Run DMC and Elton John with a few relative unknowns thrown into the mix.

One of my personal favourites is performed by Tim Capello a saxophonist who wears impossibly tight trousers and performs bare chested at a beach concert in the film. The scene is one bristling with sexual tension as lead character Michael catches a glimpse of "good" vampire Star for the first time. As their eyes meet across the crowd it sets into motion a chain of events which will lead to the film's climax.

In complete contrast fifteen year-old Corey Haim takes his turn in the spotlight similarly under-dressed, but this time performing in the bath, complete with bubble bath mohican singing the brilliantly quirky Aint Got A Home. Happy and care-free he is blissfully unaware that his vampire brother is outside the bathroom feeling thirsty (but don't worry the dog saves him) Corey's singing in this scene made teenage girls everywhere swoon and fall in love with him!

The film's title track, Cry Little Sister, is performed by Gerard McMann. It's a track laced with tension, a bass line that sounds like a heartbeat, a church organ and a choir in the background singing "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Even listen to it now after all these years it still sends shivers down my spine!

And then there's Lou Gramm, lead vocalist of Foreigner and a man with hair bigger than all of the characters in this movie combined. His rock ballad Lost In The Shadows is a tribute to  those who "must hide when the sun gets higher" although confusingly they also "go to bed with the light on" which perhaps isn't quite as sexy!

Listening to the soundtrack of Lost Boys brought back so many great memories we decided to recreate the iconic movie poster for ourselves. The original plan had been to get Theo to pose for the part of Michael, but despite relentless coercion, bribery and badgering he absolutely refused to put the wig on (it was a "luxury wig" from Poundland) so my sister stepped in to the role at the last minute.

We had a lot of fun putting it together and great difficulty keeping straight faces for the picture!

This blog post is an entry to the #CurrysMovieNight competition. You can find out more about the competition here.
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