2015: A round up!

So today marks an end to 2015. 2015 has not been the best year for me, but the last four months of it were dramatically improved. I started my blog on the 23rd August and since then I have writen  97 blog posts, had 6,249 visitors who have viewed a staggering 13,909 times! I’m astonished! Especially as my blog is only four months old. I am so overwhelmed by those figures, I am completely amazed by them and I am thankful to everyone who has visited and supported my blog since it started. I especially would like to thank Steve at Philofaxy for including me regularly in the Philofaxy web finds. Most of my visitors come from there. Steve, you do an amazing job and really help out people like me. Thank you for taking the time and effort to help us Newbie Bloggers out! My last attempts at blogs have been no where near as successful and I had quickly abandoned them. Whilst I was not really concerned about views and was just interested in writing my previous attempt of just focusing on one idea meant that I ran out of inspiration and interest, eventually giving up. Thanks to subscribers and people who comment – it really keeps a blogger motivated to carry on writing posts and I really enjoy doing it! I am truly honoured to have people not only view my blog but also to leave comments about posts and I even have  24 followers – thank you for thinking I am interesting enough to follow. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for helping to support A random English life.

I have decided to do a bit of a round up of my posts and share with you some of the highlights.

This Year’s Movie Hit: Everest

This Year’s Movie Flop: American Ultra

My most viewed post: Filofax: Your Perfect Layout

So what is in store for the upcoming year for this blog? I’d like to add a couple new sections to my blog. I have a couple of posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while but sadly have not had time to them! So hopefully I’ll get those up too.

I have also joined the All Stars team, which is a team of Bloggers who will tour on each other’s blogs and write some posts. Although this is organised by Philofaxy, the blogs might not necessarily be planner related! So a big change is that I’ll have a guest blogger!

…and for me more generally? I have a couple of resolutions…seven to be precise that I would like to attempt this year. So far I have never completed a New Years Resolution for a full year, I never really get to the end of January, if I am honest. So I have decided to keep them a bit more simple in the hope that maybe I will achieve them.  They are:

  1. Drink water every day
  2. Cut down on Coca-cola
  3. Eat fruit and veg every day
  4. Write a journal
  5. Be more positive
  6. Keep writing my blog
  7. Monitor and keep a healthy weight

Numbers 1 and 3 are really simple to do because all I have to do is focus on eating a minimum of one piece of fruit, one piece or veg and drink one glass of water a day. Obviously I am going to try and do more than the minimum but if I don’t it’s ok. Likewise number 6, keep writing my blog is also going to be pretty easy, at least for the moment because I have a ton of ideas for posts and I need to keep bashing them out. So far I have no run out of inspiration and even if I do – I may drop down from 5 posts a week to say 2 or 3. Number 4, writing a journal is a little more complicated, but I am again going to try and keep it simple and not put pressure to write 3 pages a day or something, some days I may only manage a quote or a sentence – that’s ok. I think the hardest ones on there are 2, 5 and 7. These are because they are the most vague. What exactly is a healthy weight? Well I’m not sure, at the moment I am a healthy weight but I don’t feel happy the weight I am – so I am going to experiment with eating a bit healthier and finding a good balance and then maintain that weight. Cutting down on Coca-cola is also deliberately vague. Caffeine is a drug and I am very much aware I am addicted to the caffeine and the sugar. I need to whine myself off it – and whilst I’d like to say I could only have x amount a day, I don’t know whether I could cope. I have introduced a 31 day challenge to not drink a drop of Coca-cola. This I imagine is going to be extremely tricky, but we’ll see how it goes.

Do any of you have similar New Years Resolutions? Maybe you have some different ones you would like to share? I am thinking that maybe building a little support community for those with similar goals might be a way of helping everyone achieve them. I need to start investigating that possibility.

A Happy New Year to everyone and may 2016 be fantastic for you!

All the best,

Emma

 

Into the Woods (4 Stars)

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The Brothers Grimm classics get a modern and unusual retelling in this film. The stories of Little Red Riding Hunt, Cinderella and Jack and the Bean Stalk are re-told…or should I say sung through this film?

I must admit I am not a fan of the musicals and although interested in seeing this film at the cinema put it off in favour of other things and sadly ran out of time to see it. I wished I had seen it now. The performances of Emily Blunt, James Corden, Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick were brilliant and the witty and complex lyrics made this film superb. The thing I particularly liked most about this film though, was the returning to the original Gebruder Grimm. In this film, some of the more gory elements of the books are seen here and highlights the fact that not every story has a happy ending and not everyone gets to live happily ever after. Although I didn’t like his singing I thought Chris Pine was perfect as Prince Charming, and as he says in the film, he is charming…doesn’t mean he is sincere – which is always want I thought of Prince Charming. He just seemed too perfect to not have a flaw, it’s great that he has them in this film!

Midwinter of the Spirit (2 Stars)

Merrily Watkins (Anna Maxwell Martin) is a vicar who is also training to be an exorcist. Following the death of her husband she moves with her daughter Jane (Sally Messham) to a new Parish. The death of a particularly nasty individual in Merrily’s presence leads her open to attack from a supernatural force. Still reeling from the discovery that her husband was having an affair and the difficulty in coming to terms with that leaves Merrily vulnerable to a psychic attack.

This drama series sounded promising, it has the potential to be a really good series. However it just didn’t work. The first episode is slow and dull…which can be forgiven as it is setting the scene for the story and introducing the characters and getting you to understand their relationships. The trouble is, the episode just seems superficial and that the relationships are not fully explored, in fact the whole relationship between everyone in the drama just seems superficial. The next episode is equally dull and uninteresting and the tension and drama is not revealed until the last 2-3 minutes of the episode. This sets episode 3 to be good, however because there is only one hour left to cover everything it just seems skipped over in terms of detail and rushed. I am left feeling that in the attempt to build up to a dramatic third episode, the relationships and character development was lost in order to preserve a surprise. However this came at the expense of fully getting to understand the characters. I left like there is something I am missing throughout. I know this is the second book in the series and the started with that one. Maybe it would have been better for ITV to have started with book one and made it a two part drama.

A Beautiful Gift – Van der Spek A5 Writing Case

Before we begin I just want to apologise for the photos. I am not, nor will I ever be a photographer. Just imagine these pictures done properly…one day I may improve!

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On the 7th of December, Philofaxy had an interview with Petra Van der Spek about their company which makes leather organisers similar to Filofax. I have heard of the name since during the planner community in August but did not know which about their products. It was a very interesting read, and led me to read another post about the making of a planner. At the end of the interview Petra announced a competition. I lusted after the beautiful A5 writing case and entered the competition; answering the questions as best as I could. I didn’t for a second think I would actually win the competition.

I got an email from Steve announcing that I had won a prize and to expect an email from Petra the next day. I felt like a kid at Christmas…I kept checking my email, but alas no email. I checked my junk folder on the night and found it. Petra was super lovely and told me she had picked something out and because I was in Europe I’d get it for Christmas day. Petra didn’t tell me what I’d won and I didn’t ask. I thought it would be a wonderful surprise for Christmas.

Well, it didn’t arrive in time for Christmas…or so I thought. Turns out it did and a crafty member of my family had sneaked my parcel and wrapped it up and hidden it under the tree. Although technically a crime, I do forgive them for opening my post.

When I opened it I am in awe. Any of the prizes would have been beautiful, but I actually won the one I lusted after! The beautiful A5 writing pad.The photo did not do it justice on the interview did not do it justice! Sure it looked beautiful…but it’s even more beautiful in real life.

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The colour, I’m not sure what colour it is but it is so rich and beautiful. The leather is soft, smooth and smells like new shoes. The smell is overpowering and feels the room, but in a good way. The quality is divine.

I am a traditional letter writer and I have penpals in the Netherlands and Germany. I had looked for a writing case before but never found one I liked. I thought they were not vintage looking enough and looked quite cheap. Until the article I didn’t know Van der Spek did them. This is absolutely perfect. The writing pad is smooth and thick, substantial enough to take a fountain pen.

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The pocket configuration is a secretial flap on the right, which fits the a5 pad. On the left is pockets. You have three pockets for cards. When I buy stamps for posting to Europe, they come loose so I recently made a stamp holder (tutorial to follow), which fits perfectly into these slots. Above that is two further pockets. I have filled these with two different sized envelopes. Behind that is a send pocket. I have put an outgoing letter in the first one (my penpal is a big Harry Potter fan). Finally there is one more secretarial flap that I have stored a letter I need to reply to in. There is a loop in the centre for a pen. I’m too scared to put a pen in at the moment because knowing my luck it’ll leak all over it. So pens are staying away for the moment.

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The stitching is also so beautiful. I love the little angle and makes it subtle but beautiful touch to the writing pad, it makes a delicate statement.

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The two sides come together and are not secured in anyway, which was oddly what I was looking for before but couldn’t find that style.

I am stunned by how beautiful this is. I am completely in love with it. It was a wonderful gesture from Petra and her family and I cannot begin to thank them enough for it. Thank you so much Van der Spek!

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My Filofaxes: Mini Black Baroque

I’ve seen in a couple of places people going crazy about the Baroque, particularly the personal sized Baroque in the blue/aqua hue. It goes for stupid money on some sites. I did bid on one the other week and missed out on it. I did however find a mini Baroque for sale on ebay. Mini’s are not the most popular size out there so I was able to get it for a good price. I brought it mostly to see what all the fuss about them once. According to Steve Morton from Philofaxy, no one was particularly bothered with them until Filofax discontinued them, then all of a sudden everyone wanted them.

I really like the pocket configuration in this planner, much more so than the Malden. It has four pocket slots which allow the card to slot into the top, compared to the Malden’s two pockets which slide the card in from the side. In addition is also has the two pockets that the Malden has. Secondly – the thing I really love is that it has a massive in comparison to the malden zip pocket which allows you to put more coins in. In the back it has a full length secretarial pocket like the pocket Malden, but the mini Malden has the two slide pockets like in the front.

The thing that this Filofax is missing is the back full length slot on the Malden which is great for storing notes in.

I really like the Baroque feel on it. But I think this Filofax has too much leather in it. It doesn’t seem to lie as flat as the leather on my other Filofaxes and whilst I really like the inside. I really don’t like inside. Another feature I don’t like is the pen loop which sits outside of the planner, which means that when the Filofax is closed it has wrinkled.

I do really like the Baroque nature of the Filofax, but I think if I was to make this planner I would have removed some of the leather to give it that more taunt experience of the Malden , added in the note pocket and put the Baroque pattern on the front as well as the inside.

On the whole. I really like the zipped compartment and wish that the Malden had one as big. I am keeping my eyes out for a pocket version of it.

I got this ‘second hand’ off Ebay. It had been owned by someone else who had just kept it in the box. When I got it I was interested to see what a ‘second hand’ Filofax would be like. I was a bit nervous about ordering it. I opened it and my heart sank as it look like the rings had in-bedded in the leather and caused it to tear. I got out some polish and a cloth and gave it a clean to my relief I found it was just dust. So it arrived undamaged which was great. I would consider buying used again.

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Batman Returns (3 Stars)

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The legendary film where Michelle Pfeiffer wears the famous cat suit, apparently 40 cat suits were made for this film because they were so scarred of it ripping (with the cat claws and trying to get Pfeiffer out of the costume) but apparently it didn’t rip.

The film is like any other superhero movie – it has a formula and the formula works. It begins with the story of The Penguin (Danny Devito) whose been abandoned as a baby and raised by Penguins (yet somehow managed to learn English as well…we’ll suspend are disbelieve for this film). I loved the Burton feel to these scenes and the music by Danny Elfmann, it reminds me very much of other Burton films and I just like his style.

33 years later at Christmas he along with his the Red Triangle Circus Gang cause a riot at Christmas (so naturally it’s up there as a good Christmas film!). Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) a prominate business man is kidnapped and threatened into helping The Penguin. In the process, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) stumbles along some of Shreck’s plans and he attempts to kill her. She survives but suffers a mental breakdown, and takes on a new alter-ego of cat woman. Enter Batman (Michael Keaton) and ensuring plotline to stop The Penguin an Max Shreck’s evil doings.

The film is ok, it’s like most batman films. I particularly liked the Batman costume in this one – it looked more vigilante that the more modern Batmans (although Bruce Wayne has enough money to make an awesome Batman costume as we see from the later films).The script is nothing special, I didn’t find the acting that inspiring either. Danny Devito did look amazing in this film, I loved his makeup and costume and thought he looked particularly creepy as a villain. I did get a little bored towards the end of the film, it just wasn’t fast flowing and punchy enough. Keaton wouldn’t be my best Batman and despite a good attempt by Devito he is also not my favourite Batman baddie.

It’s ok as a film, but it’s brilliant as a Christmas film, saves you having to watch some other Christmasy films. I’m not a Christmasy person so unless there is violence in it I don’t want to watch it (the notable exception to this is Muppet’s Christmas Carol).

Making Dividers part 2

So in my previous post I discussed making dividers. This is a follow-on post which will show you how to print cut and laminate them.

Option 1: Cardstock

Cardstocks are some beautiful designs and they can look really great. The easiest thing to do is to go to a local craft shop and have a look at different cardstocks. I recently went to Hobbycraft and picked up a beautiful Christmas themed pack for another project. Cardstock books have themes that will complement but you can mix and match with different card you find in the store. They’ll hopefully be a lot of choice. I am using my cardstock for a different project but it is so beautiful I may make some dividers with it at some point.

Now you make your divider you can take an existing template, if you have ones that came with your filofax/planner. If not you can take a template of a page and draw round it and add a tab if you want one. You can also draw one onto the card with a ruler and have the outline that way. Once you have a template to follow simply cut them out.

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Option 2: Printing from Publisher

If you are printing on a personal sized template page to get crop marks you’re going to want to make sure you have crop marks selected, you are also going to need to onset your pages a little to make sure they line up. My previous printing post has a very good step by step guide, so please go and read that one to set it up properly.

If you are working on a4 paper it should be really easy to print. Just select to print double sided.

Ctrl + P > Make sure landscape is selected > change print one sided to Manual 2 sided Printer flip sheets on long side. 

Printing is printer specific so it’s best to experiment a little with how your printer prints thinks. To save ink you can do this in black and white or work on just putting shapes or words on a publisher page – to save wasting ink.

Once printed it’s time to cut them. I recommend a stanley knife, cork board ruler and a cutting mat. It’s cheaper than a investing in a guillotine. Now you want to have a nice clean edge without any white on it, so it’s best to place the ruler on the white next to the divider and cut. I normally prefer to rest my ruler onto the colour/printed image and cut away from it, but with dividers it’s better to see the print so you can see if you’ll get any white showing, rather than not trim enough. It can be hard to tidy up with a stanley knife as I’ve found it tears, so it’s a good idea to get it done in one cut.

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Laminating

Now is the fun part, well it’s not really fun, I just find laminating therapeutic/fun, I don’t know why. I got my laminator on Amazon. The one I got had a recommend retail price of £50, I got it on sale so it was much cheaper than it was listed on at the moment (I got it for less than £20, it’s currently at £26.50 19/12/2015). There’s nothing special about this one it doesn’t have a heat setting to turn it up or down or do anything fancy. It works well but you can probably get a cheaper one, this was just a really good deal when I got it. I use Textet Laminator Pounches, I really like this set as a starter set. They have a bunch of different sizes so don’t have to buy a ton of different packs to get a variety for different project or wait to have enough to laminate. These have a nice thickness to them and they make my dividers feel sturdy but don’t add loads of bulk to my planner.

I recommend working on your cutting mat. Place the laminating pouch on the mat and open it – they can be quite prone to causing static so it can be a bit fiddly. Place your items on the sheet, you need a good balance between filling it to not waste the laminating sheet and allowing a gap between the images. It’s good to have them on a cutting mat because it’ll limit the chances of the divider moving when you pick it up – and risk them sticky. It happened with my sticky notes.

Plug your laminator in and allow it to reach temperature. When ready gentle slide the sealed edge towards the edge of the cutting mat. Lift the mat and feed the sealed edge into the laminator. Keep the mat steady as the sheet feeds into the machine. Went until all the laminator has gone through before removing the mat – this will save dividers moving. Once laminated you can leave the item to cool again.

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Now you can cut your dividers again. My laminator is good enough that I don’t have to leave a sealed edge so I try to minimise that as much as possible, but it’s personal taste. I recommend leaving an edge for my reuseable sticky notes for cleaning them. If you did your dividers the same size as pages leaving the edge with a laminator will make them a bit bigger. Once cut you can punch them. If you’ve not labelled your tabs a great way to keep them usuable is to write on them with a pen like this. You can wipe it off and rename the tab later if you wish.

This is my current front page and it makes me smile!

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Making Dividers part 1

I think dividers are the biggest way you can express yourself with a planner. They can really bring your personality into your planner. This is just a blog post about how I made mine, I use a graphic design package to make them and I go a little fancy to tie them together. It’s a great way for you to personalise them and add your name etc, but if you are not so confident using design software, skip to ‘Option 3’ and follow from the publisher selection. If you really don’t want to print your own.

History plays such an important role with me that I had to bring that into my planner. The first thing I did was a tried to find images I liked, most of these were images I had already. Most of these come from previous google searches, so I collected them and I opened them up in Gimp (or publisher if you are following Option 3).

Option 1: Cardstock

By far the easiest way to make your own dividers is with cardstock, it’s the one most people do. I wanted mine to be a little more personalised so I made mine like below. However these are still a great option. I will discuss how to make these in part two, as it fits in more with cutting and laminating then it does with creating and printing.

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Option 2: Gimp 

Gimp stands for GNU Imagine Manipulation Program. It works like Adobe only it’s completely free for a full program (or at least it was when I downloaded it was free for a complete program). If you know how to do this you can skip this tutorial and go to my cutting and laminating post instead.

The pictures themselves don’t really have a theme to them so I wanted to try and tie them together a bit more. I googled and picked a nice looking vintage old paper texture. This will be a base where I’ll ghost the images on top of. Now I made a decision that I did not want the traditional tab on them. I love these images so much that I didn’t want them in a particularly order in case I changed the order and pick a different one for a front cover.

Firstly, create a blank Canvas.

File > New > Switch px to mm

Width: 95

Height: 171 (if you want tabs, add an extra 5-6mm on to these numbers, there are just for personal size. You can also generally add an extra 2mm or so if you want your divider to be bigger than your normal page).

It doesn’t really matter what background colour you have. I normally leave it on white.

Next you need to copy and page your old vintage this will act as a background. You’ll get a new layout pop up in the layout option but it’ll be called a floating layer selection, you need to change this to layer.

Right click the Floating Layer Selection > To New Layer

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Repeat this step again for the image you want. Then I’m going to ghost the top image (in my case a DDR Map of Berlin).

Layout toolbar > Mode: 

You’ll get a bunch of different options that come up. Play around until you find the one you like best. Once you are happy with it you need to merge down the layers.

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Layer > Merge down

Now if you wanted to add tabs, you have a view options you could do. You could either leave the image as it is, print it out and then cut the tabs by eye. Or you could set up guides to space out the tabs and then cut away the image. You can write on them if you want as well or if you want to potentially change their purpose you can leave them blank. I am in the process of ordering some sticky tabs so my dividers can be repostionable. Once you’ve added your tabs, if you are going to you can now copy and paste this and put it into publisher. I really like publisher for printing my documents as I love the print preview and crop marks. It’s a very user friendly piece of software

Option 3: Publisher

In my previous posts with publisher I have worked on personal paper, if you have a white divider that would be difficult to cut out without a guide – you’ll need crop marks; follow this tutorial to get your dividers ready for printing. If not I recommend working on an A4 page so you don’t have to worry about printing both sides the back side precisely.

File > New > A4 landscape

For once I’m going to leave the margins on as I don’t want to run the risk of my printer not printing part of the image (I don’t have a colour laser printer so I took these to University to print so I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t screw up). Copy and paste the image into your a4 page. Now you can fit up to 3 personal sheets onto one a4. So you can put at least one more if not two. I decided to space them out and just do two.

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Next add a new sheet and copy your original vintage paper template to this page. Make sure it’s large enough that it will cover your divider images.

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That concludes the tutorial on how to make them. Next post will be about printing and laminating them.

Carol (1 Star)

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Carol (Cath Blanchett) is an attractive and well off 1950s woman in the middle of a divorce from her husband (Kyle Chandler). Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a working class girl living on her own in a modest appartment with an uninspiring job in a Children’s store. She dreams of being a photographer, but lacks professional equipment and confidence. Therese’s boyfriend dreams of marrying her and sailing off to Europe, a dream Therese does not share. A chance encounter with Carol whilst she is buying a Christmas gift for her daughter sparks changes for the two women.

This film looked interesting from the advert, and I was not overly excited to watch it, but interested nonetheless. However, the film was just dull. I found Mara to be wooden and unconvincing and just boring to watch. Blanchett is an amazing and talented actress but even she failed to pull off a convincing seduction of Mara and the on screen chemistry between the two with absent throughout. The film just meanders aimlessly from beginning to end and doesn’t inspire you to want to sit until the end.