Wednesday, 27 July 2016

WOYWW 373 - stencilling just about to begin

Not only is this another Wednesday, but it is also the end of another month.  I promised myself that I would start my Xmas cards in July, so had better get a move on!  I was going to join in with the 'Christmas in July' events on Monday 25th - but ended up having very little time to craft.

If you would like to join in with this weekly tour around global craft workspaces, go to Julia's Stamping Ground.

Today I am proud to say that the other table in my craft room is now dedicated to 'messy' crafting.  I can clear it if I want to use it for Tarot readings or cutting out fabric, but it seems to be used most days for paint/ink etc.  I have ordered another Raskog trolley from Ikea (and a bookcase/bins/other storage fell into my online basket too!), which is all due to arrive on Friday, so then I can organise all of my tools/supplies etc into an area close to the table.  I love storage and organisation, so will be very happy getting it all sorted.  I will share photos and a possible video next week.  

On my crafty table today is -

  • my craft mat (I found a video on YouTube recommending the use of cheap oven liners instead of buying the usual fairly expensive craft mats - and found large rolls of such material in Aldi this week - will test that out and report back), 
  • my journal covers waiting for the next stage in the process of finishing them (stencilling using 3 or 4 designs) - so far they have had several layers of different paint applied with my fingers,
  • my new favourite paint (a fabulous bronze),
  • my 'practice journal' which I am using when I join in with the live crafting events online (heard about one that is every Thursday evening, so planning to join them tomorrow).  You can see my very first attempt at a page.  The only issue with this journal is that it is made up of very thick kraft-type paper/card, which does not like ink sprays (everything just merges into a blob), so bit more restricted on which techniques I can try.
  • baby wipes (I am getting through a lot of them keeping my work area and me tidy),
  • some new stencils which I am excited to try.
craft room ready for mixed media, art journelling, stencilling, metallic paint, bronze

Well, I had better get this published and listed, and then I can decide which paint I am going to use with the stencils.  I would appreciate any recommendations for paints/other materials and tools that you find really work for use with stencils.  Comment below or email me at

Happy WOYWW to all that I do not manage to visit this week.

Ali x

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

WOYWW 372 - making journals

Morning everyone.  I was so excited when I went over to Julia's Stamping Ground to see what number I needed to put in the title and saw that WOYWW (What is On Your Workdesk Wednesday for those who are not already addicts) is back home!

I am doubly glad that I am forcing the time out of my day to sit down and get this typed up.

I have been saying for years that I would love to do some art journals - and even make my own - and I have finally started.  I saw a competition to win a scholarship to a 3 month course (it runs all year, but is split into quarters and the prize was for July-September) and entered - and won!

I have started this week - there are lots of videos to watch, plus a Google+ community.  So far I have got 4 pieces of card gesso'd (is that a word?) on both sides - 2 coats - and just starting to decide on the colours I will be using for the journal covers.  The theme is 'Silence and Sanctuary', and I always fall back to my love of woodland when I think of this - so have selected 4 different greens from my fab new tin of Derwent Inktense blocks (never worked with these before and loving them already).

My photo shows my little scribbles seeing how to merge the colours together.

First day of using Derwent Inktense blocks with my Art Journalling course

I will, of course, be blogging regularly to show my progress.

Here is the link to the website for the courses - The Journey Within - there is a Mini course that was originally held in December as a taster - and I purchased that before I knew that I had won the competition.  Seems like a good way to see if it is for you.  She also has regular free craft-alongs through Artsy - THE NEXT ONE IS TOMORROW!!  (Sorry for shouting, but didn't want anyone to miss out that would like to try it out - they are recorded if you are unable to attend live.)

Enough links for this week.  I must get back to these journal covers.

I hope that everyone is well and happy - and for those in the UK that you enjoyed our 2 days of mini heatwave (it is cooler and cloudy in Pembrokeshire today).  I managed to get sunburnt on one shoulder, one ear and cleavage (changed into a different dress and forgot to reapply suncream, and tied my hair back in the afternoon)!  I am almost glad that we are back to normal weather, as now I can be in my craft room and not feel that I should be out in the sun.

I will do some blog reading later today - and I thank you all in advance for your lovely comments.

Ali x

Monday, 4 July 2016

Psoriasis - painful and embarrassing

Psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions - coping is so difficult
Coping with a chronic skin condition is incredibly difficult
In my newsletters for the members of my Tarot VIP Club, I have been talking about the 4 main chronic health conditions that affect me.  This time the topic was Psoriasis.

I expect a lot of you know about this - whether you have it or know someone who does.  It affects around 3% of the world population (so even with the small number of people who follow this blog, there is probably at least one other person with Psoriasis).
This auto-immune condition has many different forms, but basically is patches of abnormal skin.  I will not go into great detail on here (read HERE if you would like to know more about the different types and treatment etc), but mainly talk about how it has affected my life in a practical and emotional way (and continues to do so today).

It first flared up with me when I was about 3.  We were living near Cambridge at the time and I was sent to see a dermatologist at Addenbrookes Hospital.  Some of my first memories were having to take my clothes off and a nurse coming into vacuum the floor (as my entire body was covered and it flaked a lot), and also my dad having to carry me around the house, as I was unable to walk due to the pain.

It has varied throughout my life - from periods such as now when I 'only' have it on my scalp and occasional patches on my eyelids (plus the very dry skin on my hands and feet), to several periods when my entire body has been affected and I have been hospitalised.

Some of the worse times were during my teenage years when other girls were wearing bikinis and being confident in the swimming pool, whilst I sat on the sidelines keeping long sleeves and trousers on (the chlorine and cold water was painful for me - and, of course, now I realise that I also had Fibromyalgia and cannot cope with cold temperatures).

I also had a few years of extreme pain/flaking from 1990.  I was hospitalised in Whipps Cross Hospital in East London for 2 weeks with the most severe and dangerous form of the condition.  I was hardly able to walk, as my joints would also swell up, and could never get comfortable.  My whole body was fighting infection and it was just lucky that I was otherwise young and fit.

That followed with a few years where I was having to cope with this horrible skin condition and start a busy career.  Commuting on the bus in hot weather having to wear polo necks and trousers ... only being able to wear trainers, as my feet were so sore ... my eyes being almost shut due to the swelling.  Not a good time for me in many ways.

It did gradually clear up over the years, but around 2001/2001 I did get another flare up.  This time I was referred to the Birmingham Skin Clinic, which was literally just up the road from where I worked.  I was prescribed light treatment - similar to a very powerful sunbed, which I could only be exposed to for less than a minute at a time.  This had an almost magical effect on my skin and I got a fantastic tan!

I have not had to have any significant treatment since then - just managing it myself, except when it gets really sore on my scalp and then I get something stronger from the doctor.

However, I know that it is still there and could flare up at any time (in fact last night when I undressed I discovered an angry red patch on my inner left arm near my armpit - this can be a sign of my body fighting infection, and I have to be careful as it could lead to a full body flare).  There are various theories about what causes it and why flares happen, but there has been no pattern with me at all.  Stress, diet, other infections, lack of sunlight ...  These do not guarantee that my skin will be flaring or in a settled state.  I now obviously try to keep my stress levels down and eat a fairly healthy/balanced diet due to my other health issues, so hopefully I am enabling my whole body to keep itself as comfortable as possible.

So many people think that Psoriasis is 'just' dry skin, nothing to worry about - but it can be fatal in the extreme cases.  I admire the mostly men who can walk around in the summer exposing their legs/arms and not bothered by showing the world they have Psoriasis.  I am not that confident.  I hide mine away if at all possible, and when it has been really extreme only doctors/nurses really knew how bad my skin was.  You become very good at putting a smile on your face, dressing to hide what is underneath and only having a good cry when noone else is around.

Here are two useful articles - The Emotional Toll of Psoriasis and The Emotional Impact of Skin Problems 

Having a skin condition affects so much of your life, and how you are treated by others too.  I was bullied at school a lot, and strangers in shops/on public transport have moved away from me in horror/accused me of having Leprosy/will not take money from me when they see my hands etc.  Sadly these are often elderly women - the very worse offenders of being judgmental and basically rude.

A recent survey showed that - ... 84% of people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis suffer discrimination and humiliation, with many being stared at in public (40%) as a result of their medical condition. In addition, the results from more than 8,300 participants show that people with psoriasis have very low treatment expectations of achieving clear skin ...  (Read the full article HERE)

One positive thing about having so many chronic health conditions is that I do not take for granted my 'good' days or having mainly healthy skin now.  Our bodies are truly amazing and we really need to take better care of them.

I would love to hear from anyone who is a sufferer of Psoriasis or another skin condition.  It is always good to feel that we are not alone.

Ali x

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Pomodoro Technique - 25 minutes at a time

Do you struggle to get things done?  Are you easily distracted by social media etc?

Tomato representing the Pomodoro Technique - image supplied by 'khumthong' at
Image supplied by 'khumthong' at

I definitely can say yes to both of those questions.

I would sit down at my desk to get a blog post started, and 45 minutes later would still be on Facebook/Twitter etc, etc.

I then discovered the Pomodoro Technique.  Click on the link to read all about it, but basically it is working without distractions for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break.  If you are using this technique for most of the day, then after 4 Pomodoros you take a longer break - say 20-30 minutes.  It is amazing how much you can get done in 25 minutes, and taking regular breaks keeps the mind fresh (and it is great to move physically as well).

This technique is not just for bloggers/solopreneurs, it can be great for parents (get the kids to tidy their room for 25 minutes - they love the tomato-shaped timer!), students (a fantastic way to work through a revision schedule) and teachers (even a teenage boy can learn to concentrate for 25 minutes).

Outside workdesk - image supplied by #femininestock
Image supplied by #femininestock

Another fantastic advantage for us Spoonies is that it fits in with pacing.  I now have a lot of pain in my right hand/wrist/arm, so cannot use my computer mouse for too long a period.  However, I can get a Pomodoro done and then move onto something different.  The 5 minute breaks are fantastic for sorting out a laundry load, sweeping a floor, opening post or getting outside for some fresh air.  I have not spent an entire day using the technique, but even 2 or 3 Pomodoros per day really increases my productivity, which in turn makes me feel happier about how I have spent my time.  It is satisfying to go to bed knowing that I have ticked off some useful stuff on my To Do List, and it is less overwhelming planning the next day.

Yes, I am using a Pomodoro to get this blog post written.  Only 10 minutes in and I have written the bulk of it, and found some useful websites for research.

Go to the website, read more about it and give it a go.

BTW - there is no need to buy an expensive red tomato timer (although they look fantastic), I found a website that will time your Pomodoros and enables you to record how you spend your day.  Go to

Comment below if you try the technique out - positive or negative results.

Ali x