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 (join up here and have lifetime access to my digital archive, which includes all previous newsletters) 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

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

WOYWW 369 - Only just made it!

Talk about last minute - it is past 8 pm and I am finally sitting down with my laptop to get this typed up.

Of course I went to Julia's Stamping Ground first to see if she had been well enough to join us, and was very interested by her long post about her health, so that distracted me for a while.

I have not been here for a few weeks - either I have been too busy to get a blog post done, not well enough or just not had anything crafty to talk about.

I have made a few cards here and there, but my plans to get on with scrapbooking/journalling/doodling/sewing etc, etc have not come to anything.

I was in a lot of pain a few days ago and took to the sofa for a while whilst an extra painkiller took effect.  I always try the various tv craft channels, and on Hochanda there was an Encaustic Art show just starting.  Always wanted to try this, and for some reason this time it really grabbed my attention.  I had the inspiration to use it for making covers for the handmade books I plan to make for a 'Luxury Tarot Package' that I will be launching soon on my Tarot business website.  I searched on Google for suppliers of the materials/DVDs etc, as I know that they are often cheaper away from the tv channel.  I found the website for the people doing the demonstrating (Michael and Shona Bossom).  Not only did they have everything at roughly the same prices (and I know that if you purchase off the tv, then Hochanda will take a large percentage), but they also live in Pembrokeshire, not far from the farm that we used to live on.

I ordered the Big Starter Kit, plus the sealer stuff for use on cards etc - which includes a book and lots of DVDs - which arrived today.  See below all of the wonderful stash for me to play with -

I will do a regular update from now as I learn the techniques and hopefully produce some designs worth sharing!

Do any of you do Encaustic Art?

I emailed Michael and Shona to see if they did workshops and perhaps whether I could visit them.  They do not do workshops, but Michael has offered to spend some time with me going through the basics, particularly in relation to the projects I hope to attempt.  How exciting!

I will blog on that too.

I hope that everyone is well and busy with their crafting.  I will go and take a tour around a few blogs now (I have been having a lot of pain in my right hand/wrist/arm, so quite often I cannot use the computer - but will try whilst I watch the Sewing Bee).

Ali x

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

WOYWW 359 - Cute diecutting machine

ETA - just noticed this is my 300th post on this blog.  I look forward to reaching 500.

Happy WOYWW to everyone - and apologies for those I did not get to visit last week.  My health took a down-turn, at the same time that my Tarot reading business got busier, and I just didn't have the strength to read blogs in the late evenings.

WOYWW means What is On Your Workdesk Wednesday and is hosted by Julia at her blog, Stamping Ground.  Click on the link and join in.

A little bit of crafting has occurred on my workdesk this week.  Not a lot though!  (Reminds me of the wonderful Paul Daniels, who sadly left us last month.)

I have not taken any photos to show evidence of this crafting, but I do have pictures of my new toy - a Spellbinders Sapphire mini diecutting machine.  It has been a while since I turned the handle on a diecutter.  I had a Cuttlebug many years ago, then moved into the world of Silhouette Cameo.  That was a fabulous machine in many ways, but I just wasn't doing enough crafting to justify it - and I was offered a reasonable amount to sell it, so off it went to a new home.  I watch all the craziness of collecting dies (and the many different machines) from a distance and sigh a huge sigh of relief that I am not getting myself into more debt over all that.  However, I also watch the crafting shows on tv and wish that I could cut out some circles/basic shapes easily.

I had seen the Sapphire a few times and thought it looked great, and then last week there was a special offer on tv with a pack of card to go with it.  On impulse I bought one - perhaps as I am really suffering with my health at the moment, which raises my stress levels, and I just needed something to look forward to.

It arrived in 2 days and I have had a little play with it.  It is easy to use, gives good results and now I am watching on Ebay to see if anyone is selling any suitable dies cheaply.

Here it is -

It came with all the necessary cutting plates and a nice selection of dies.

It really is as small as a deck of Tarot cards!

I will get this published now and then visit a few blogs straightaway.  I am feeling very sorry for myself today.  Had a nasty cold for a few days that is making me feel really miserable (I read that Fibro/CFS makes cold symptoms far worse, and I definitely can vouch for that) and now my hip pain has flared up again.  Got a lot to do with my Tarot business (Crystal Pendulum readings are proving very popular at the moment), which helps to keep me distracted and sitting mostly still, but there is so much housework/animal care etc, etc that is shouting at me constantly.  I have given in today, taking maximum doses of painkillers/pain gel etc and just think of the day when I wake up and my cold has gone.  Positive thinking!

Hope you are all well.

Ali x

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

WOYWW 358 - Starting my Doodle Journal

Hi, 'WOYWW'ers of the World

There was a definite WOYWW- shaped hole in my life last week.  I was quite simply overwhelmed by the amount of stuff on my business/study To Do list, so I had to admit (again!) that I cannot do everything and this blog was one of the things I shamefully decided to not do.

I have been struggling more and more with my health - with some symptoms that are not classically part of Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was suspected.  My doctor confirmed that I do have this when I saw him on Friday - and I think my body is now feeling it is ok to throw even more issues at me, because since then I have become a walking symptom list!

I try to look at it in a positive way and see that it is making me stop and reconsider everything I do.  My Tarot business and blog is a big priority, but even with that I am having to take one project at a time and not try to multi-task.  I have been editing my website for a lot of today (this is being written on Tuesday, as I am totally rubbish until the afternoons now), so took a break to sort out one of my crafty storage wardrobes.  I found my calligraphy set and other pens, which have never been used, and spent an enjoyable time on YouTube looking at doodling/hand lettering videos.  I found one on making a Doodle Journal, so I have taken the plastic wrapping off a lovely notebook that had been sitting in my room for ages and just about to take the scary first step of putting ink onto blank page.

My photo today shows my desk immediately in front of my computer screen. The notebook and pens are there ready for action - and the Tarot card which is my Card For The Week (The Hermit).

My craft room is quite a dark space, as it is in the oldest part of the farmhouse - with a sloping ceiling and the original beams.  However, it is not as dark as this photo makes it look!  There are 3 windows and a bright green wall, so it is a very pleasant place to be.  The 2nd photo shows off my green wall, sewing machine table and stripy rug.

I hope that you are all having a happy and crafty week.

Go over to Julia's Stamping Ground for more details about WOYWW (What is On Your Workdesk Wednesday) and to join in.

Ali x

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

WOYWW 356 - designing a card digitally

WOYWW is What is On Your Workdesk Wednesday - expertly organised by Julia at her blog, Stamping Ground, for several years now.  Go over there and have a nose around lots of fabulous crafty blogs.  Join in too.  We are a friendly bunch!

I am attempting to get more organised and use Tuesday as a block day for writing blog posts - this should help productivity, but I have already been distracted by an email from a client this morning and then my brain took over.  I found myself reading a blog about designing your own Tarot/Oracle cards and then I made the decision to re-start my Reiki training.  Yes, definitely very random!

I then realised I needed some actual crafting to be happening, or I would not have anything to write about, except for my general rambling which I can do for a long time.

I have lots of cards to make for April, so started up my Serif CraftArtist 2 Professional software and got a card designed for a friend very quickly.  I love this software - and after many years of digital crafting I have built up a huge collection of digikits.  I truly can make anything for any occasion.

If you are not aware of how fantastic Serif software is (I think I have the full collection), go to and download the free version of CraftArtist to give it a go.  It is marketed for scrapbooking, but can be used for absolutely anything.  I make a lot of my cards with it, stationery, signs for the farm business etc, etc, etc.

You can do simple designs or really get creative and do incredible digital art.  Just the photo editing element within it is worth the purchase price alone.  No need to spend a lot of money on Photoshop!

Here is my screenshot of the birthday card I literally spent 2 minutes on.  It will be printed off on good quality card and there you go - a unique card.  I have also designed the insert and back of the card, and it prints double-sided on one A4 sheet, ready to be trimmed and scored.

I will be blogging again about Serif and, if you have any questions, leave a comment below or email me at

Happy WOYWW to all those that I do not manage to visit.

Ali x