Friday, 2 December 2016

Beyond The Point - Local History Project In Essex

Sometimes, things don't go to plan, but that's okay, because I recently had the chance to catch up with one of the guys behind 'Beyond The Point' and had to give the content a new home on my blog. I really enjoyed their website, and some of their documentaries that I've been able to view. Maybe it's because a lot of their content is Essex related, or they just present things in an engaging way, but this is what I wanted history lessons to be like when I was at school.


BTP at Dover Castle

“Never leave the camera at home” that’s the message from Joe Mander, co-founder of ‘Beyond The Point’, a website bringing the history of South Essex to life. If you take the time to look through the photos and documentaries Joe and Liam have made, you’ll realise how true that message is! This is a blog on what 2 young men, their cameras, and their passion, have created.

When I was at school you could have divided our year quite easily into the history or geography camp. I was the latter, and absolutely loved geography at school, but became quite frustrated with the history teaching. I wasn’t inspired, and felt the curriculum was quite narrow. Thankfully for Essex Joe and Liam had a different learning experience, and were able to explore history in a creative way from a young age. “When Liam and I started junior school we set up the ‘History Club’, where we would make small art and craft items on a Friday afternoon. This was everything from Roman belt buckles made from foil, to cardboard pencil pots. We had always enjoyed history and just did this as a hobby.”


BTP at Vange Well
Joe and Liam continue to explore history in creative, traditional ways, and combine this with technology, to film, photograph and digitally preserve content on historic sites and abandoned buildings. Even ruins and former factories/farmland have made it onto the site. Recognising the role technology can play in connecting people of all ages with history has been an important one, and helped the site grow from a modest blog into a full website and hobby organisation. Joe comments that, “Back in our early days all we had was a horrible history book. Now kids can learn about their history through fun interactive games and videos, which is a really good thing. I think technology has played a big role in changing how people learn about history, now that it is much more accessible for everyone. You can find information in minutes.”

Search the ‘Beyond The Point’ website, and in ‘minutes’ you will find articles on medieval food, the Guildhall and Roman Amphitheatre in London, the gunpowder plot, and Dutch Cottage in Canvey Island. It’s a mix of museums, general historical articles, visits to historic sites, and public land with a story. Then you come to the documentaries.

I have a point and click camera, and just hit record on my videos, but the pieces Joe and Liam film and edit are full documentaries, covering the familiar tourist trails, areas around where they grew up in South Essex, and uncovering lesser known places.


Filming For Their New Website
“Hadleigh Castle is one of South Essex’s most notable tourist ruins, but we are fortunate enough to know that directly adjacent to it you can find a Second World War gun battery, viaduct, pond, and jetty, over a century old, all unmarked. The sheet multitude and variety of locations we have visited is in itself a rare treat, considering it is such an eye opener to what lies un-signposted within our immediate locality.”


As a hobby, building up ‘Beyond The Point’ to the resource it is today has definitely kept them busy, and helped shape their futures. Joe has a role as an ITN news cameraman, Liam is heading off to university. Joe describes ‘Beyond The Point’ as “the best work experience they could ever ask for” and while both boys are looking to their future careers, with the launch of their new website, and expanding the areas and subjects they cover, something tells me they’ll be uploading content for many years to come.

Find Out More:
Beyond The Point has recently re-launched online, and their new website offers an interactive map to help you digitally explore photo and video content from all the places they have documented, and new guides to help everyone else explore the outdoors – I know I’ll be reading those to pick up some tips. Click over to http://www.beyondthepoint.co.uk/  or find them on Facebook.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Baker Ross Christmas Blogger Box - Overview And Pom Pom Bauble Make

Hi everyone,

It's happy post time again, and this time it was some Christmas craft goodies from Baker Ross. I think Christmas is one of my favourite boxes, there's always something different to try, and for some reason I find Christmas one of the most exciting things to craft for!



My box this time didn't disappoint. There was a good mix of things that I would use again, and for different crafts, and it's a box that has made me think on my feet. There's no patterned papers or pretty topper - nothing is done. I think my favourite items are probably the roll of jute twine, just because I think it'll add a shabby chic/rustic touch to so many things, it will last for ages, and I'll have fun adding little touches to it, also the glitter paper. I LOVE glitter card/paper, the self adhesive kind that doesn't shed. The colours are just so vibrant, I don't understand why some crafters cover it up so much with their layering, I want to see it sparkle.

So here's my box in full:




  • Bark Stars - £3.99 for 20 - Good size for different projects, and you can decorate the surface easily, but some of them were a bit curled up so wouldn't sit flat on anything.
  • Jute Twine - £2.99 per reel. Big reel and good quality jute. Handy to have in my stash.
  • Hessian Roll - £4.50 per roll. Good amount for your money, though not as easy to use as the self adhesive sheets. Good to shape round craft products.
  • Self - Adhesive Glitter Paper Sheets - £2.45 for 5 sheets - Lovely range of colours, no shedding of glitter, easy to use and cut - good value for the price, but the size of the sheets is too small, won't go very far. I'd prefer to buy A4 sheets, or more in 1 pack.
  • Mini Pom Poms - £2.45 for 500 - good amount in a pack, like that there are different sizes included, and a good amount of each colour. Bit hit and miss finding the right adhesive to get them to stick to things, but fun for all ages to use.
  • Self-Adhesive Felt Sheets - £3.60 for 18 sheets - Good selection of colours, easy to use, need a good pair of scissors to cut. Handy for backgrounds and basic shapes.
  • Craft Baubles - Pack Of 6 - £3.49 - Easier to work with than some of the other bauble shapes they have, though a bit small in terms of decorating. Good quality and size, though a bit pricey for 6.
  • A4 Coloured Card - £2.99 for 50. I've not opened this yet, but a good selection of colours, and just what I needed for my stash - which has too much pastel in it.



Pom Pom Makes

I have a few blog posts planned which will be up in the coming days and weeks, but I thought I'd share my first make with the blogger box here. Although my four year old nephew isn't really into drawing and painting much yet, he does quite like sticking and some crafty activities so I shared my pom pom pack and craft baubles with him and we made these.





I did try and make some kind of pattern but that didn't really work, however they are bright and fun, and something different for the crafty tree this year. We did have a fail trying to get them to stick though, we tried glue, tacky double sided tape - which worked better, but for a final attempt at sealing and sticking them, I've sprayed them with hairspray. So far, so good.



* This blogger box was sent as part of the Baker Ross Blogger Network activity, but all opinions and feedback are my own.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sarah Hurley Botanical Stamps Overview

Hi everyone,

This is my first official blog post as part of the Sarah Hurley Community, and I am quite excited to get going and share some of Sarah's new products with you all. First up is a new range of stamps themed as 'botanical' so all things floral and fauna, perfect for me and my Pawprints and Petals page.

I thought I would kick off by giving you an overview of the range and a little review, then hopefully share a few projects over the next weeks to show what you can do with them. There are 8 sets in the range, all priced at £5.99. With each set you will get at least one sentiment, and a variety of different flowers and foliage. I received the Birthday Flowers, Friendship Flowers, Thank You For The Flowers, Brushstroke Roses (my favourite so far), and Thinking Of You Flower sets.




Things I Like:

It's something everyone is talking about now, but it does make a difference if you get a full stamp sheet, and a choice of different images to stamp with. I do sometimes buy a big/intricate stamp if I really like the image, but I also enjoy using smaller stamps, and cutting, pasting, layering and creating with them, so the Sarah Hurley stamps win there. I've already tried using them for small projects, and creating a scene on a card and they work well.

I also like how some stamps such as the flowers are solid and others an outline, again great for layering. I need to invest in some new colour ink pads and try faded backgrounds, but I find ink quite pricey.

For me each stamp set is quite different, which again is refreshing as I see so any floral products on the market that are the same repeated, patterns, it gets boring. I've seen some of the makes my fellow community members have made, and for me they can be bold, modern, and if you want bright, and that's what I want with flower products.




Not So Good:

I've been thinking a lot about this and there's only a couple of things I could find to comment on. The stamps are made from good quality, tacky materials, but they don't take the ink clean off when I'm cleaning them after use, I've had this before with stamps, still completely usable, but some have black marks left on them from inking.

The only other thing I'd say was with the sentiments, which look hand drawn or painted. Whichever way they were produced, I think having used them all, some of the words/phrases have been made into stamps which are a bit small for the style of writing, and I would have preferred a different font or bigger word for a clearer finish.

Overall:




I like the hand drawn/painted look to these stamps, and although I wasn't too sure at first how they might come out, I have been pleased with the results. There are co-ordinating papers to go with these stamps, double sided (yes!!), but while a few of the flower designs do say Spring to me, others can be used for all different occasions and seasons!

Each stamp set in the Beautiful Botanical range retails at £5.99 and the set of matching papers is £7.50 each. These products will be available very soon at www.sarahhurley.com .

* I was sent these stamps as a member of the Sarah Hurley Community/Design Team for the purposes of experimenting/review/possible project blogs. All opinions are my own.

I'll be back soon with some gift box/packaging ideas using some of the Botanical stamps. Thanks for reading and please comment and let me know what you think, and what your favourite crafty products are.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Looking For Work As A Freelance Writer

I'm sure some people think I live a privileged existence as a self employed worker - bumming around the house in my PJ's, getting up when I like, flexible hours etc. Working for myself does have it's advantages (maybe I'll cover that in another blog post), but it's also like you're on a constant cycle of looking for work! especially in the quiet times in between projects, when the fear of the unknown creeps in, and you think you may never work again!

It's impossible to have my eyes everywhere, and my brain honing in on every possible avenue I could look down, or use to find new connections and opportunities, but having my virtual ears pricked is something I think I'm pretty good at.

I'm on a few Facebook groups for journalism and copywriting, and they are useful for writer shout-outs for articles, jobs, and possible networking opportunities. For me these groups work best for those reasons, and if I just happen to come across a useful tip, resource, or piece of advice I hadn't thought of. If I'm honest though sometimes when I have posted, the resulting comments have been a bit 'obvious' - i.e. suggesting I contact past clients.

Twitter is also a must, but for slightly different reasons, for me this is the public place to be seen, and to show what I can do, what I know and am passionate about, and to build relationships with people in the field. Showing genuine interest in something goes a long way! I've found a few things/people to write about recently on there who I am still in touch with, whereas I prefer to keep my Facebook profile private, and for who I know.

It's also worth playing around with hashtags and search terms as well. It's worth keeping an eye on general ones such as #journorequest, prrequest, journalism job etc, but adding some specifics can also give good results, such as copywriter job uk, freelance writer job, content agency Essex, content editor remote (if you're looking for homebased work).

Here's a few other things I'd suggest:

1) Keep your eyes on job sites, even if you see a position advertised that isn't for you, if the organisation, publication etc. has captured your interest, make sure you read the fine print of the advert - I've seen 'commission freelance writers' a fair few times in job descriptions, so have added them to my contact list.

2) Advertise your availability, but with care - I personally have no problem writing little adverts reminding people I'm about, or highlighting certain things, but I think they have to be done in the right way. Talk about a recent project you've done (are you looking for similar?), show your keen to make new connections and broaden your experience, but don't appear over keen, or highlight any quiet times in a negative way. Use your time constructively.

3) Think outside the box - apart from a typical media job, project, pitch - where else could your writing skills benefit people, and how could you combine these with your other passions/hobbies/knowledge. I love craft, and have been lucky enough to be chosen for 2 design teams, and been published a couple of times in that area, so I have started to do a little advertising targeted towards craft businesses and start-ups who might need help with content. It helps with the cold calling element as well if you are confident in your knowledge.

If you are self employed, what do you suggest for finding work and advertising yourself? It's not always easy to realise your strengths and get out there, and keep going through freelance ups and downs, so if you have any tips please share them below.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Sherbet Lane - Stationery Subscription Box Review


I don't think everyone quite understands it, but I love stationery, and while I wouldn't call myself addicted, I have to write letters on pretty paper, and use notebooks with a funky cover. Plain is just a bit boring! I was lucky enough to chat with designer and illustrator Claire Keay for Essex Lowdown, and kept in touch after doing the article. It's great when you freelance and you can keep some of the connections you make, and write follow up content.

So hear I am with a new and shiny #SherbetBox - this is the stationery subscription box from Claire's Sherbet Lane brand, which was initially crowd funded in super quick time. So far it seems, so good, so well done, as I know it's not easy launching a new project, and wondering if anyone will fund or buy it.



My Sherbet Box was the second one to be released for July 2016, and the theme was all seaside related. Inside my box of goodies was a themed pencil, a themed gift tag, a small sweet, a colouring sheet, a small note pad, 3 large greetings cards, postcards, and a seaside print, limited edition for the box. There was also a large sticker, some small stickers, and a tin with magnets and paper clips in.

The box fits through your letter box, and it's surprising how much you can fit neatly into it - maybe I'll put together and send all my presents like this in future! First impressions were good, it was all nicely themed, and the note describing the theme and why it was chosen was a really nice touch. I think it makes it more unique and a bit more personal, plus I love hearing the inspiration behind things I'm buying.



The quality was a big plus point for me, the small print was on good quality card and ideal for framing. The greetings cards were also really good quality, better than I expected to be honest, and unlike some have said not too large for me.

One thing that was slightly disappointing was the colouring sheet, it was a bit flimsy, and got a bit crumpled tucked into the bottom of the box. Perhaps thicker paper, a sheet placed in an envelope for extra protection, or maybe a mini book of a few sheets to colour would have fared better in the post.



The contents are a surprise, so you are partly buying on Claire's previous work, other boxes, or because you like the latest theme. My concern would be while I love stationery, and the idea of getting a box full of goodies through the post, different to what's in the shops, I might eventually end up with a lot of 'stuff''. Lovely stuff, but stuff that might start gathering dust, if it's the sort of items I don't use all that often, or slight repeats from previous boxes. I think that will be the challenge, producing box after box, and balancing the mix of treats and useful things you can never have enough of.

Money Talk:



The Sherbet Boxes currently cost £45.00 for a 3 month subscription, and £15.00 for a one-off box.

I absolutely appreciate the effort gone into creating the designs and producing/sourcing items for the box, and that you get free postage in the UK. It was all very well done, but I would have expected some kind of deal if I was subscribing for more than 1 month.

Some contents were absolutely worth the money and had value to me, but I think overall I wanted a bit more - 1 pencil is great, but one gift tag? it was cute, but it looked a little sad on it's own and would've been great as a set.



I don't think I'd buy regularly as a subscriber, but I would consider buying occasionally as a treat if I had the funds, and they'd make a lovely gift for someone. I think the designs will appeal to a wide audience as well - cute stationery is fairly well ageless!

For all the insider gossip on #SherbetBox and the chance to have your say on future themes, visit Facebook or for all of Claire's work check out he Sherbet Lane website. You can also read my interview with Claire on Essex Lowdown here.

* This box was sent to me for a review, but all opinions and feedback are my own.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book Review - The Woolworths Girls By Elaine Everest

Although I don't get the chance to read, or be in the mind set to read as much as I'd like, yep I still have a pile of un-read books to keep me going for the rest of the year, I couldn't pass up the chance to review a new book by fellow writer/journo Elaine Everest. The Woolworths Girls jumped out at me, apart from loving and missing their Pick and Mix, I also love seeing and reading about what town centres and iconic shops used to be like, so this novel sounded a great fit.

The story opens on three nervous young women, all slightly different ages, and coming from different backgrounds. Maisie, Sarah, and Freda all turn up at Erith Woolworths on the same day hoping for a job. They became instant friends, and the shop where they ended up working becomes the backdrop for life, love, and sometimes pain.

New characters are introduced at various points in the story, some like Alan, trainee manager, make an instant impact as a love interest, while others such as Betty Billington develop bigger roles as the story moves on, both through daily life, bigger dramas, and the onset and eventual impact of war.
Sometimes the book left me wanting more - it would've been fun to see old pictures of Woolworths, and what the store was like, beyond working for the company. I also questioned how quick Sarah fell in love, and would've liked to have seen a bit more of Freda and Lenny together.



I'd say this was a book full of moments, and all of those moments I enjoyed. The obvious contrast between the 3 girls when they met, the insights into the local community, and the inclusion of local busybody Vera were all well-written. I don't want to give away too much and end up writing a spoiler post, but some of the lesser characters have some surprises I didn't expect, and as for the ending - it's a poignant one.

My concentration did go a few times, but overall I was engaged, and enjoyed Elaine's vivid writing style. I've read a fair few historical based novels before, and some of the story is nothing new, but this novel will stand out against the rest for the variety of characters in the same community, and the shop setting provided scope for interesting day to day details.

I can't imagine the work that goes into writing a whole book, I've only ever tried the odd short story, so well done Elaine, and I would read/buy your work again in the future.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Nickleodeon's The Other Kingdom - Accessories and Craft Unboxing

When I was living in a rented house for six months last summer we didn't have any access to a TV aerial, and rather than connect to Sky, we bought Internet TV boxes. I had a Now TV Box connect to my TV, and I have to admit to using the entertainment pass, and watching some of the American teen programmes on there - light and easy Saturday morning viewing! It's more of a guilty pleasure, rather than me being their target audience, but when an email popped through about a new show The Other Kingdom, promising a box of handicrafts, or make-up/accessories I wanted to give the opportunity a go - you know me and crafts.



What came through the post was a very pretty gift box (definitely a keeper), with an outer sleeve that had the programme logo on, and a 3D butterfly. Opening the box wasn't quite what I expected, as I thought it would be a mix of branded merchandise to make or use, but it was a mix of products from other sources.

My box had - glitter nail art and body glitter sets, small fabric flowers, shimmery fabric in 2 different colours, an unusual Amethyst Necklace, small pink beads, and two colours of ribbon, along with a beaded fairy crown headband.



I think the ribbon would be great to make hair bow clips with, or a bigger bow to decorate a plain top. I even had the idea of hemming the fabric so it doesn't fray, and shaping it into an apron, with the ribbon as a tie at the top - I've not tried it out yet, but you could easily accessorise to make a fairy costume without cutting up any existing clothes, or buying a one-time wear fairy outfit.

I couldn't resist a more crafty project though, so I used a plain cardboard wreath from my stash, and cut strips of fabric to tie around the wreath, with the ends pointing into the middle to make it look more quirky. I then added some fabric flowers, a fairy wand, and a few other bits to finish decorating the project. Time is needed to tie up the fabric pieces, and let the glitter glue dry, but other than that it's a fairly quick project to do, and would look great hung up for a party, or room decoration.



I hope this gives you or your teens a few ideas for fairy princess makes or decorations - if you keep an eye on my blog or follow my Instagram account (These City Days) you may find a few other bits and pieces as the series gets under way.

About The Other Kingdom

The Other Kingdom premieres on Nickleodeon at 6.30pm on August 8th 2016. It's a live action series featuring Astral as the fairy princess. Follow her journey as she has to choose between being a fairy princess, or living her life as a human. Human teen-dom v's the fairy kingdom of Athenia!

* I was gifted this box of goodies for a possible unboxing post, but any opinions expressed are my own.