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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

UK Scrappers 52 card challenge - Week 9

The Week 9 challenge, set by Nat some time ago, was to use this picture as a jumping point for inspiration:

What I took from the photo was a combination of mint and peach, flowers, ribbon, lace and some sparkle through gems/pearls. 

I made this card a few weeks ago, before the container had arrived from the UK, so I only had some basic supplies to work with.

The patterned paper is from a pack I bought from Aldi - it is mint and pink, on a faux knitted background.  The pink sticker was also something that was in the pack.  I also used one mint and jade checked ribbon and the white lace. 
A simple card with just a bit of sparkle from the flowery green gems placed on a pre-stamped sentiment. One for my mum to give to one of her friends!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Card 13 of 30 ...

I came across one of the first stamp sets I ever acquired and decided to dust them off, as I loved the sentiment for my nephew's birthday. 

I haven't created a vintage collage card like this for a long time.  I did the vintage bit the first time around, many years ago, and got sick of the browns.  But inevitably things come full circle and what's old is new again!
I used this sentiment primarily because this is the wish for my nephew, who turns 19 soon - the world really is your oyster at that age, and I wish him the very best of everything in his life. 
I found this piece of ancient K and Co paper in my stash and pieced it together for the background and used some other cream patterned papers to cover the joins.  Maybe it is Life's Journey?  I really don't know, but it has been in my cream scraps bag forever.  I love it when I use these bits up!
I've used lots and lots of stamping and distressing with inks and coloured pencils.  I am not primarily a stamper, but I love it when I get good use out of my stamps - I only buy ones that I think I will use over again.  I also added some copper shimmer with Perfect Pearls mixed with water.  I keep some of them in a Mini Mister - and just applied them here with a really thin paint brush. 
Along with bits of patterned papers, I also keep scraps of Bazzill and use them up accordingly - they come in very handy for bits of stamping and die cutting.  I overstamped onto the Kraft background and then further distressed for the vintage label behind the main journalling block. 
I delved into my metals box, and found this little copper clip, perhaps its Karen Foster? No idea now. 
Various patterned paper, including K and Co
Bazzill basics various
Simon Says Stamp Dark Chocolate premium ink dye
Colorbox chalk inks - various
Derwent Inktense coloured pencils
Perfect Pearls - copper
Washi tape
Stamps - Personal Impressions "London Sights", Crafts Beautiful free stamps - "Happy Birthday" ticket, Rubbadubbadoo "The World", PaperArtsy "Ephemera - Plate 2"
Copper metal clip
Almost there - card 13 of 30 in the stash busting mission ... thanks for visiting! :)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mojo Mums - Our Story so far ....

Our Story so far ….

by Alison Drummond Jones
Here is an article I wrote at the request of Kelly Rice, for Mojo Mums

As a young woman, I sought great adventures and dreamed of achieving outstanding things. I had always dreamed of the green pastures of England, the chocolate box villages and the pastoral life (more reminiscent of “All Creatures Great and Small”, I suppose) and so in my twenties, boarded a plane from Brisbane Airport, bound for the other side of the world. 

About eighteen months after living in London, I started a temporary admin contract at Eurostar depot, where I worked in the Procurement Department.  Paul was one of the engineers and we started going out after I had worked there about a year. 

Twelve months ago, in March 2013, moving overseas was still a dream.  Our house in Rickmansworth had been on the market since September 2012.  We were in a massive declutter phase and each weekend had to have the house ready for viewings. 

We finally had an acceptable offer in May but it took until the end of August to complete on the house sale.  We then booked our tickets and flew into Brisbane Airport on 12th September, 2013. 

Our twin boys, Henry and Lewis, had turned two in July, so the flight over seemed unending and relentless.  We had a welcome respite with a stop over in Kuala Lumpur and could at least lie horizontally in a bed for a little while!   

Paul took a long time to convince to move to Australia – but the boys coming along helped to sway him that they would have a better life here, being able to grow up in the great outdoors. 

Paul is a great hobbyist, and brought over two vintage motorbikes, and a lot of fishing gear.  I am a scrapbooker and cardmaker, so have a roomful of craft stuff.  We both sold lots of stuff before coming but despite this, only just fit most of our possessions in a 20ft container to transport to Australia.  On reflection, we could have honed a lot of things even more - my tip here would be to definitely go minimalist with all the clutter - in your new lives, you probably won't want it. 

We had travelled quite a bit before the boys arrived, and I love to create scrapbook albums of our experiences and to remember the details of our trips.  I always dreamed of moving back to Australia and to flick through scrapbooks of our travels and to remember our adventures when we were younger. 

I had lived in the UK for twenty years and couldn’t wait to get back home to see my family.  We are very blessed to have a lot of wonderful friends in the UK and it was a real wrench to leave them behind.  However, Paul had worked at Eurostar also for twenty years, and had grown tired of the politics and the fact that the company had changed beyond recognition since he had started there at its inception.  He was finally ready to begin a new adventure and start over in a new country.  We waded through masses and masses of paperwork to get him a permanent visa and then once the boys were born, I needed to get them certificates of citizenship so I could also get them Australian passports. 

We were excited to arrive at Brisbane Airport on the evening of 12th September, 2013.  My Mum and Dad had kindly agreed to give us lodgings temporarily until Paul found a job and we could get settled.  He embarked on his list of things to arrange and get sorted almost from the moment we arrived, and started attacking the job market with great determination and vigour. 

Paul was a senior Electrical and Mechanical Engineer who had worked on locomotives throughout his career at Eurostar.  He did 13 years of evening classes and college and achieved a thick wallet full of NVQs and City and Guilds qualifications in refrigeration and air-conditioning and so had built up specialist skills and knowledge.  His dream job in Australia was to “come off the tools” and drive freight trains for a rail company and we thought this was realistic and achievable.  This would also have been a less physically demanding job than being an Engineer on the shop floor and would have seen him into retirement. 

After a month of only applying for driving jobs in Queensland, we broadened the job search to his engineering skills set.  Only by actually picking up the phone and speaking to some recruiters did we learn that there were significant impediments to Paul’s ability to get an appropriate job. 

After two months, Paul discovered that he needed to do an aptitude test to become a driver, and sat a series of six tests which lasted four hours.  It was heart wrenching and very disappointing to find out about two weeks later that he had failed one of the tests.  The company don’t tell you which one, so it was impossible to pinpoint what he could practice or try to improve upon.  He was told by a recruiter contact that they only accepted Trainee Drivers from the applicant pool who had passed the test, and that he couldn’t resit it for one year.  He had to then rethink his career options. 

After about two and a half months, Paul discovered that none of his electrical or mechanical qualifications were recognised in Australia, and that in fact, he should have applied for Trade Recognition before emigrating.  Despite a massive amount of reading about Australia, buying various emigration magazines and dealing with a company who assisted with the emigration process, this was all new to Paul.  He had been to several job Expos in London – and in the previous 18 months, had been offered several jobs on the spot.  It was a terrible shock to the system to discover that the job market had significantly changed in 12 months, and that he had needed to undergo this trade process in order to get an equivalent job in Australia. 

For several trades, emigrating is not a problem, but with regard to anything electrical or mechanical, the Australian government departments want to see that an apprenticeship has been served and that the appropriate papers were gained.  Paul had got the job with Eurostar before finishing his apprenticeship and thus had gone an alternative route to gaining his knowledge and experience. 

In the meantime, I was undergoing my own bureaucratic battles.  Paul got his Queensland driver’s licence with the minimum of hassles.  They had to link up my old details with my new ones, so I had to present a sheaf of documents to prove my identity.  I had to revisit the Department of Transport 5 times before getting my licence, and was even told at one point that my name was incorrect! 

Luckily, I lived in a city, as I had to travel into Central Brisbane to get my Tax File Number.  The last known address for me (according to the government) was the Tax Agency who had processed my last claim – so I finally gained the appropriate paperwork for that after about a day’s admin and many phone calls and trips later. 
My mother encouraged me to claim for Child Benefit through the Australian Government Department called Centrelink, which deals with all the benefit and social security issues for Australia.  I have had long drawn out nightmares in dealing with various subsections of that organisation, trying to get a Medicare card (for being able to access doctors and the public health system) and it took me about 4 months of fairly sustained effort before I received Child Care Benefit, which was actually back-paid to the date of our arrival.  To my surprise, my claim churned up an Application for Rent Assistance which we were granted after a lot more bureacracy, so we have been very fortunate to be given enough money to be able to feed ourselves and pay our share of the bills whilst at my mother’s house.   

However, our money was draining fast, despite not paying for rent and the situation was becoming desperate.  Paul is a very driven individual, whose identity centres a lot around his skills and his work environment.  He became extremely depressed and inconsolable.  Do not let anyone tell you depression is not catching!  I was so happy when he finally agreed to come to Australia and had a lot of faith that we had made the right decision as a family .  However, it was exhausting being at the pivotal point in terms of trying to maintain a positive home environment, momentum in the job search, and being positive about the future.  It was difficult for my parents to give up space in their home – especially for two very energetic and noisy boy toddlers!  Relationships were very strained at times, and everyone was on edge. 

Christmas was a fairly bleak time but there were some positive signs.  Paul was making some headway in terms of having some positive prospects on the job front, but it was slow and arduous.  He registered with Manpower in November, but was depressed to be told that the only kind of temporary work he could get was as a labourer, as he didn’t even have a recognised qualification to drive a forklift truck.  After lots of pushing and persuading, he did get a basic work safety qualification in order to work in a warehouse, which then earned him a place on a forklift truck driving course. 

We pared down our shopping list as a family and agreed to only buy for one other person.  In the lead up to Christmas, Mum and I went shopping at a local Brisbane shopping centre.  After some exhausting retail therapy, we sat down at one of the coffee shops for a break.  We got talking to a couple who had a very cute one year old boy.  Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, this man said that he may be able to assist Paul getting a job! 

Paul had consistently said to me that if he had not obtained a job by the end of February, he was chucking it all in and heading back to the UK.  Everyone tried to convince him that it wasn’t long enough; that he needed to give it more time – but he was adamant.  We would be looking at paying twice for removals, another airfare, and being homeless in the UK.  Paul took a long time to convince that his job was no longer available at Eurostar; we were facing the possibility that he would go back to the UK and live with his parents, I would stay in Australia with the boys until he found a job and a place to live.  We would have been unable to buy a home in our previous town of Rickmansworth, and would have had to climb our way back on to the property ladder.  The situation was desperate all round. 

It was a very bumpy road to Paul commencing a job with lots more bureaucratic obstacles to pass, but he finally started as an Electrical Trades Assistant with Laing O’Rourke on the 27th February.  We moved to Chinchilla in Western Queensland as a family.  Paul has gone from being a skilled engineer in the UK to being an unskilled assistant in construction in the oil and gas industry, earning nearly double his old salary! 

It is a very difficult shift for these men – they start work at 6:30am and work until 4:30pm 6 days per week, with half a day off.  Most of them live in work camps around the town, and get picked up by coaches who transport them to various work sites around Chinchilla.  The Surat Basin region has undergone a massive boom over recent years, and the town of Chinchilla is experiencing a resurgence in growth of infrastructure and investment due to young families moving in.  Mining companies are building a massive pipeline from these coal seam gas sites in parts of remote Queensland to the coast.  These drought stricken areas might also see a change in fortune as one of the by products is salinated water which is also pumped to the surface. Desalination plants are also being built in these gas plants.  The plan is that farmers will be able to access this water for their crops and livestock, and thus partly “future proof” themselves against drought.

So our fortunes have radically changed within the seven weeks that Paul has been working.  Money is now generously flowing into our bank accounts, partly replenishing what was being eroded away.  Paul met a valuable mate on his first day who extolled the virtues of Hervey Bay, three hours north of Brisbane – a tourist mecca for people who want to go whale watching, or camping or 4 wheel driving off the coast on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. 

We found a house we liked on our first trip, and made an offer – amazingly, we both agreed on a house after seeing three previously. All the administration is proceeding, but we are buying a four bed house with a pool, and three garages, including one for a boat – way beyond our expectations of what we could have achieved in the UK!

I could write on and on about our experiences, but such a life-changing move necessitates expert financial advice and lots and lots of research.  The bureaucracy and cost of such a move is not to be dismissed and neither should the emotional upheaval be ignored. 

The boys have settled in nicely and are in a marvellous day care centre two days per week, which just gives me a bit of a break.  This day care centre, being in the country, has lots of outdoor space, which includes a small farm, and a vege patch! 

There is not a huge amount of suitable activities for young children, but I am fortunate in that I have met other mums in similar circumstances through hanging out in local parks.  I now have a small network of friends, and I am very thankful for that.  Of course, everything will be all change again, when our house sale is completed, and then the boys and I will be living in Hervey Bay, whilst Paul commutes as often as he can back and forth to Chinchilla. 

He knows that there will be enough similar work to see him into retirement, and all being well, he can start an electrical apprenticeship with Laing O’Rourke next January, so he can finally work toward gaining back those qualifications! 

We are so thankful that our fortunes have finally taken a turn for the better when it could have so easily continued into financial ruin – I don’t mind admitting I prayed a lot through the process in our darkest days and this has meant I have started attending church regularly, to give thanks to God for looking after our family! 

Paul only wishes that we had made the move at least 10 years ago, but I feel that our fate is determined and that what will be will be. 

I only hope that other people embarking on an international move have an outcome as fortunate – life is to be lived and opportunities grabbed with both hands!  May you live your lives to the maximum and get as much joy and happiness as you can. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Week 8 UK Scrappers Card Challenge 2014 - transparency

This card is for week 8 of the 52 card challenge on UK Scrappers - use this sketch. 

Week 8 - sketch prompt

I started this card by choosing the base ingredient that I wanted to use.  Being that I am trying to use up some stash that I have been storing for years, I spied some transparencies in various pads - most of which haven't been used at all. 

I could have chosen to use the original journalling circle which was behind the transparency, but it fell short of the lovely circle of flowers, which would have then disappeared into a coloured background.  So I traced around the transparency, cut it out, and then distressed the edges with a mix of Worn Lipstick and Spiced Marmalade. 

I found my staple "Happy Anniversary" stamp which was one of the first things I bought, eleven years ago, and stamped the greeting in "Pumpkin Pie" Stampin' Up ink.  On reflection, the better way of doing this would have been to stamp the greeting first, and then centre the cut out around it.  You can't centre wooden stamps as easily as clear stamps - so that would be my learning point for the future. 

I then adhered the transparency to the background with a series of brads and edged around the transparency in Stardust Stickles - whatever did I do before they were invented? 

I used some of my "lumpy bumpy" flower brads because this card is for my parents - something I would never use when posting a card.  Add the brads, and the 3D foam - and that is some depth!

I changed the placement of my sentiment from the sketch to fit in better with the transparency, but I think it works just as well.  The flowers are true to the sketch, and also hide a join in the patterned paper!  Even though I have hundreds, I do this to eke them out and to use them wherever possible to full purpose. 

K and Co "Mira" Scrap pad
Cloud 9 Design "Bay Blossoms" photo/journal transparency pad
Anita's stamp "Happy Anniversary"
Distress Inks - Spiced Marmalade and Worn Lipstick
Classic Stampin' Up! Pad - "Pumpkin Pie"
Velvet flowers
Various gems and brads
Stardust Stickles

This is card 12 of 30 in the mission to buy new stash - never mind that it has already been bought!  I like setting myself challenges as it gives me some drive and momentum to create.

I am very happy with this card - it is bright, colourful and very happy.  I hope my parents' 51st anniversary is the same!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Card 11 of 30 ....

I owe so many thank you cards, but haven't had the time to get around to making most of them yet.  This one is winging its way to Paul's parents as a thank you for all the little jobs they have to do for us in the UK. 

The image quality is pretty poor, as I took the photo with my phone, and then edited it later when I had some time. 

Using one of my new Spellbinders dies, and the rest is all existing stash - I am pleased to be using up those Rhonna Farrer rub-ons - they really do deteriorate over time, and I am happy to get value out of them - even if it is several years later!

I also repurposed a buckle that I have had stored too - I altered the colour with alcohol inks, and fancied it up with a Prima "Say it in Gems" embellishment in the browns, red and pink.  I stamped the "so much" crookedly! in Simon Says Stamp Chocolate Brown dye ink - beautiful quality ink; I am hoping that the Close to my Heart inks match up to Stampin' Up! and Simon Says Stamp for quality. 

Embellished with a touch of Stardust Stickles on the leaves, and some pearls - they do add the final "ta dahhh!" on cards, I think!

Classic Studio Calico patterned paper
Rhonna Farrer Phrases rub-on
Simon Says Stamp Dark Chocolate premium dye ink
Altered buckle using alcohol inks
Prima Say it in Gems embellishment
Pink Pearls
Bazzill Just the Edge white strip
Brown crushed velvet ribbon
Spellbinders Nestabilities Labels Fourteen
PSX Alphabet Stamps
Elizabeth Craft Designs - Curvy Leaves
Stardust Stickles

Simple, yet tactile and elegant in my view - I love that I am mining into my old stash, albeit a tiny bit at a time!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Card 10 of 30 - glitter and Stampin' Up!

This was one of those cards that you make just because you are experimenting a little ...

Memento "London Fog"
Stampin' Up! Hearts A Flutter, Bitty Banners and Papillion Potpourri stamps and Framelits
Matha Stewart Butterfly Punch
Papermania clear gems
American Crafts Tropical cardstock
My Favorite Things Die-namics Chevron stripe die
Creative Stamping magazine freebie birthday stamp

I started by stamping the birthday stamp on a piece of white card, then edged it with the grey ink.  Several years ago, I took part in a circle journal, and I printed on acetate and then embossed on the top.  I had mucked up one piece, and saved it in my experimentation pile.  So I came across it when trying to get a bit organised, and decided to try and die-cut it to see what would happen.  It was quite disastrous - the embossing enamel cracked and went everywhere!

The rest of it was duly consigned to the bin, but I decided to still use this piece and covered the surface with Glossy Accents to seal in the enamelling, which looked more like glitter as it is quite shiny. 

I took a piece of the really vibrant pink in the American Crafts tropical card pack and added some elements it together with the black, which I think makes the card pop. I like working with timeless, classic elements which never date - I know these items will be in my crafting arsenal forever (given wear and tear!)

Twenty more cards to go, but I am really wishing I had some time to scrapbook .... thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Spiderman - Card No 9 of 30

Well, you can't get more basic than this card - download an image from the internet, some slight embellishing - and good to go!

One of our new friends's sons was celebrating his 5th birthday on Saturday, so a rare nap time for the boys produced this quick smart card ...

I added some plastic letters for his name, and sticklesed around the border, on the number and over the web for some added pop ...
I used my Zig Zag circle framelits for this, and a Quickutz Katie die number for the 5 .... good to use my very old tools again!

Card 9 of 30 completed until a stash purchase, which has already been undertaken .... (:wink:)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

52 card challenge Week 12 - UK Scrappers

This week, Nat set up a beautiful spring like colour palette as inspiration for a spring like card this week. 

I didn't stick to this colour palette, but pulled a piece of scrap patterned paper from my stash and went with that.   C

Thank goodness I am down to this final sheet of Basic Grey Lilykate "Wisteria".  I seem to have been using it forever - I bought several sheets of it after doing a class a lot of years ago with Carole Janson, whose style I adored. 
So, a simple card using my Stampin Up! scalloped square punch which has hardly been used.  On reflection, I should have inked the squares so you could see them better, but hey ho!  A simple stamped greeting with the Stampin Up! Curly Cute greeting set - one of my favourites - and some other simple stamping and a flower for decoration.  I went around the edge of the Nestability die-cut with some Icicles Stickles in the appropriate colour to give the card some pop - it is really chunky compared to the normal Stickles, which I much prefer. 
So another card made for my charity pile - and card no 8 of 30 in the countdown to stash.  Have a great day!  :)

Friday, 4 April 2014

52 Card Challenge 2014 - Week 11

On UK Scrappers, Nat hosts a weekly card challenge .  I am operating quite a few weeks behind, but will endeavour to catch up over time as I make cards to suit the particular themes. 

Week 11 theme was - old, new, borrowed, blue

Yesterday was my niece Asha's fifth birthday and this is the card I made for her. 

The "old" was the Hero Arts and Sizzix Stamp and Framelit set "Flowers and Butterflies" which I have barely used to this point.  I die cut the butterflies out of light blue card, then stamped on them in bright pink.  As some of my inks are that old and drying out, I coloured over the top of them with Promarkers and then sticklesed them over the top.
The "new" is the number 5 bought in an alphabet set from a supermarket about six months ago.  That is also the "blue" as well. 
The "borrowed" is the neon pink cardstock from a pack I bought for my boys to craft on - I thought the colour was perfect for a 5 year old girl!
Doodlebug Fancy Frills glitter hearts
Kaisercraft "Miss Nellie" patterned papers
Hero Arts & Sizzix Flowers and Butterflies framelits
Elizabeth Craft Designs "Happy Birthday" die
Card No 7 out of 30 for my stash diet .....
Thanks for looking.  x