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.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Life lately

Reading: The Lie by Helen Dunmore. (Well, that's a lie in itself! I haven't actually started it yet but it's on my bedside table ready to be started. I just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind for the third time for book club. LOVE IT!)
Watching: Dawson's Creek. I never watched it as a teenager but a couple of friends of mine have gotten into it recently and said they thought I'd enjoy it. It's such a great, mindless thing to put on when I want to chill out a bit and I love how 90s it is!
Eating: too much Five Guys. I've been there three or four times in the school holidays! Eeeeek! It's so good though but now that I've found out I love their hot dogs as well, it's double trouble!
Worrying: about my dad. We got some bad news about his latest scan. He's starting chemo again this week and I'm just praying it will work well.
Trying: crochet, calligraphy and embroidery. I love having a go at new crafty things!
Feeling: excited and nervous about starting a new job tomorrow. I'm so grateful to have a friend/ex-colleage who already works there so I will have a friendly face to help me. Phew!
Enjoying: cuddles from my baby niece. Baby cuddles are the best.
Contemplating: what to do with my blog. I have big plans. I love writing and so am determined to make this blog work...just need to figure out a schedule, design, etc. that I love and will work for me.
Loving: my paper planner. I seriously feel so organised and productive when I use it. And it's helped me plan and write a whole week of blog content!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Big Picture Classes news (& giveaway!)

Have you visited the new Big Picture Classes site yet? It looks great and I'm so excited for all involved over there.

There are two new BPC workshops that I am crazy excited about. Along with the details of each one, I'm going to be sharing some personal reasons why I really want to take these classes myself.

First up is Wilna Furstenburg's Art & Design workshop...

4-week guided workshop • Starts September 25, 2014
Take some paint and some pictures, apply an artistic technique or two, and then sprinkle in a few design principles like balance and repetition—and what do you get? Beautiful, unique, scrapbook layouts you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
In Wilna Furstenberg’s newest online workshop, Art & Design, you’ll see for yourself that the rules of good design and the freedom of artistic expression absolutely can exist in the same space. In fact, when you find the right balance between them, magical things can happen.
In 20 instructional videos, Wilna will walk you through dozens of tips, tricks, and techniques that you’ll be dying to try yourself. She’ll inspire you to jump in with both feet, try something new, and just MAKE stuff.

Why I want to take this class...
  • I feel like I'm not 'artsy' but I really want to be! I know that this will be a great opportunity for me to have a go at some things without the pressure of having to make it perfect.
  • I am scared of trying new techniques. I'm thinking this will give me the kick up the butt I need to just do it!
  • I feel like I don't use my Cameo enough. Wilna seems to use hers a lot so this will provide me with some amazing inspiration to use it in fun ways!
  • Any opportunity to look at beautiful layouts by Wilna is a big plus for me!

If you're familiar with Wilna's work, you're probably in awe of her like I am. She is such an artistic, talented lady and I'm SO happy she's teaching over at BPC. The class looks like it is going to be amazing!

12-week guided workshop • Starts October 2, 2014
Every photo tells a story, no matter how technically perfect it is. Now in this 12-week workshop with celebrated photographer and scrapbooker Rebecca Cooper, you can learn to do both—tell better stories with the pictures you take of your everyday life and improve your technical photography skills.
You'll finally be able to capture moments as beautifully as you see them, and maybe even infuse them with a little bit of magic.
In October, you'll learn to Capture the Everyday. In November, you'll learn to Capture Beauty. In December, you'll learn to Capture the Holidays.
Rebecca will share the specific tools, tricks, and ideas she uses to create the lovely, fresh, nostalgic look she's known for. She'll walk you through her process start to finish—from creative beginning to post-processing end. Here's your chance to use her workflow as a foundation for developing a process that works for you.

Why I want to take this class...
  • I feel like I'm a little bit in a rut with my Project Life photos at the moment. Recently I haven't been taking photos unless I've been doing something out of the ordinary, like taking trips out. This has made it super hard when it comes to putting my weekly spreads together as I then don't have anywhere near as many photos as I'd like to be able to choose from to represent my week. I love the focus of this class on everyday moments...I definitely need some help learning how to photograph those again like I used to!
  • Looking at beautifully shot photographs helps me advance my own photography skills. I really believe you can learn a lot about composition, lighting and all that other good stuff by looking at great images from other people. Rebecca will provide these in spades!
  • I want to explore other ways of processing and managing workflow. I'm really looking forward to that aspect of the class.
  • This pains me to say it, but I don't really document the holidays! I'm not sure why. I think I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed and therefore shy away from it. Plus, my holiday festivities never look as well put together as other people's...do you know what I mean? I'm ready to put that aside and try this year! I love that Rebecca will be helping us document the holidays as part of our class.
  • I need the accountability of a class where we are possibly going to be sharing our photos with each other. I'm hoping this will force me to take more pictures, ideally with my DSLR, which tends to be a bit neglected!
Rebecca is such a huge inspiration for me. Her photography is absolutely stunning and I spend ages over at her blog looking through her beautiful images!

So, the really exciting part is that I have a spot in each of these workshops to give away. One person will win a spot in Wilna Furstenburg's Art & Design workshop and one person will receive a spot in Rebecca Cooper's Capture Life workshop. Leave me a comment telling me which of these workshops you'd like to win a place in and why by Monday 8th September at 12noon BST (7am EST).

Good luck!

A couple of things...

I hope you're having a great Sunday! There's just a couple of things that I wanted to draw your attention to today.

Firstly, a tutorial I put together for making a layered mini album page went up on Shimelle's blog this week.

 Check it out here.

Plus, don't forget that today is the last day to enroll for Maggie's 30 Days of Me class.

 I can't wait for class to start and am excited to see what she's got in store for us!

I'm also in the process of putting together a fun giveaway post. I may end up posting it tonight as I'm so excited to share it with you!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Poet Society reveal

Subscriber reveal is happening over at Studio Calico and the creative team gallery looks truly amazing! I always get completely blown away each month looking through the projects...there's some serious talent in there!

Here are my projects for the Poet Society gallery (click through to see full details):

Project Life 2014 | July 28 - Aug 3 (Project Life main kit only)
The colours in this months kits are absolutely gorgeous and I loved being able to match the blues, greens and greys in the main PL kit with the colours in my photos. For the card with the star in the middle, I actually cut out the middle of the card with a craft knife and stuck the star in the gap to create a floating pocket element with a twist. I love how this looks and definitely want to try it again soon!

I've been trying to make a traditional layout from my leftovers from the Project Life kits for the last few months and I absolutely love that it's been possible. The Project Life paper pad is a definite help with this and this month's pad was full of soft and pretty papers that were perfect for a page about the first time I met my baby niece. Those digital stamps are just gorgeous too and I used them to make cut files, which I then painted with Mister Huey's mist like a watercolour paint.

I couldn't resist using the wreath digital stamp as a cut file a 2nd time this month and thought it would be perfect with this Crate Paper rub-on. I'm definitely going to continue using my PL kit leftovers for art journaling...this was so much fun!

Click | embroidery hoop art (Project Life digital stamps)
This month, I had a brainwave while I was looking at all the digital files for this month and decided to use some of them to create some embroidery hoop art either to give away as gifts or to hang on the wall myself. I'd never done any embroidery before but I'm so glad I tried it...I absolutely loved it! Be on the lookout for a tutorial from me soon about how I used the digital files to put these together.

You're a gem | embroidery hoop art (Card kit digital stamps)
The card kit stamps are SO fun and I loved being able to utilise the digital versions on another embroidery hoop project. I have a friend who uses this expression all the time so I might give it to him as a fun gift!

Carpe Diem | embroidery hoop art (In a Creative Bubble cut files)
I love the references to the film 'Dead Poets' Society' in these kits and 'carpe diem' is something that I definitely need to do more of! So I created another piece of embroidery hoop art to hang up and remind me to do just that!

And here's a look at what I'm adding to my cart now it's reveal time...

4. NEW Colour Theory ink pad bundle (subscribers only for now!)

What did you get this reveal?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Poet Society sneaks & happenings in the Studio Calico classroom

This month's kit, Poet Society, is a bit of a tribute to Robin Williams and one of my favourite films of his. It just so happens that this month's Project Life kit is one of my favourites too!

Here are my sneaks for this month...

I had a blast making a Project Life spread, a traditional scrapbook layout, an art journal page and three embroidery projects! I can't wait to show you the full projects!

As always, things are busy in the Studio Calico classroom! I've been loving reading all the lessons from Marcy Penner's Workspace workshop, which you can still sign up for here. I've beenplanning out a dream craft space for the future in my head and getting inspired by photos of Marcy's and her contributor's photos of their spaces. There are also some new classes that have opened for registration recently...

30 Days of Me | As memory keepers we spend our lives capturing the world around us. Yet, when you take the time to gather your memories and share them with the world, are YOU in those moments? By enrolling in “30 Days of Me” Maggie Holmes will guide you through this month long course where you will learn more ways to incorporate yourself into your memory keeping by completing an entire album, focused on you. This class will remind you that not only is it important to collect those moments with the ones you love, but to also show yourself in your projects.


  • 30 prompts designed to help you record your own story.
  • 5 videos from Maggie sharing details and techniques from her album.
  • A PDF sharing Maggie's completed album, along with tips and ideas to use in your own book.
  • A peek into each of the contributors albums - they'll each be sharing their take on five of the class prompts.
  • A class message board to connect with Maggie and your fellow students.
  • Printable journal cards and accents from Shanna Noel
  • Cut files from Kim Stewart
  • Digital Brushes for the stamp set from the bonus class kit

Pen and PaperPut pen to paper and make your memories come alive. Join Laura Kurz for Pen & Paper and take your layouts to the next level by seeing how you can use words to truly make a page. From journaling prompts to interviewing your loved ones, this class will explore many different ways of looking at life to tell your story.


  • 8 PDF lessons designed to help you find your voice and share your memories in a more meaningful way.
  • 1 video from Laura sharing her thoughts on the importance of journaling.
  • Journaling tips and tricks from our contributors - everything from finding the right words to capture a mood to fitting all that journaling into a page design.
  • Digital layout templates from Shanna Noel in 12x12 & 8.5x11 (shown above) - designed with room for your biggest stories.

SnapshotBring your every day moments into focus with Snapshot. Join April Foster in shooting a photo a day in September and learn to capture all of the little details that add up to your favorite memories.


  • 30 photo prompts designed to help you turn the camera on every aspect of your life and find new things to capture.
  • Photo samples for every prompt from April and one of her contributors, along with bonus ideas for each to help stretch your creativity.
  • Tips and tricks for staying inspired to pick up your camera and shoot new things from April and her contributors.
  • A minibook project from April featuring her photos from the class.
  • A class message board and gallery to share your thoughts and photos.
  • Digital photo brushes from Hello Forever (shown above).
  • A printable prompt list - sized to fit into your planner or your camera bag.

You can also save money by signing up for both classes as part of a bundle...

Photos & Words BundlePhotos & Words are the most important part of any memory keeping project. Learn how to effectively capture and share your memories with this special bundle offer of our two newest classes - Pen and Paper with Laura Kurz and Snapshot with April Foster. Laura will help you find your voice through a series of journaling lessons and prompts, and April will push you to explore new ways to look through the lens as you take on a photo a day challenge.
Purchase the Photos & Words bundle and save over 10% off enrolling in each class individually! This bundle offer is available through September 30th. By enrolling in the Photos & Words Bundle, you will receive access to two classes - Pen & Paper with Laura Kurz and Snapshot with April Foster.

I am SO excited about all three of these classes and will definitely be signing up myself. Hope to see you in class!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Project Life birthday insert tutorial

Last month, my sister turned 21 and I wanted a way to document the celebrations within my Project Life album. I knew that I had too many photos to include in my normal weekly spread, so I opted for an insert to hold the extra photos. Here's a step-by-step guide to how I put it together...

I chose some printable cards by Life Love Paper and Hello Forever that were released with the August Studio Calico papercrafting kits and resized them to 2.5x3.5in in Photoshop Elements so that they would slot inside the pockets of a baseball card protector.

Next, I opened up two of the circle printables by In a Creative Bubble and used the colour picker to select the colour from the 'sweet' circle and the paint bucket tool to recolour the 'do what you love' circle as I knew it would fit the colour scheme of my insert better.

Then I printed and cut all my printables, ready for putting the insert together.

I gathered together all the supplies I wanted to use, including some wood veneer banners and a stamp set from the Studio Calico August Project Life kit (which is still available to purchase here). 

To start putting the insert together, I laid out all my photos on top of the baseball card protector to see which pockets I had spare to include my other items.

From another pocket page protector, I cut some of the plastic down to 2.5x3.5in to fit inside one of the pockets on the baseball card protector for my circle printables as I knew I wanted it to look like they were floating inside the pocket.

I glued one of the circle printables to one side of the plastic and then glued the second circle printable on the other side, covering the back of the first one.


 I stamped the date of my sister's birthday on one of the wood veneer banners that I wanted to use and then glued  it directly to the outside of the baseball card protector as it was slightly too wide to fit inside the pocket.

In a similar way to the circle printables, I glued the other banner on the other side of the page protector, making sure to line it up with the banner on the front side. I then typed and stamped an arrow on to one of the journaling cards and voila...

 I love including inserts in my Project Life album to house the extra photos from special occasions, particularly birthdays!