Windows Live Writer

Felicity at All Things Bright and Beautiful has put together a fabulous series of blogging tips for new bloggers, including many tips from various guest bloggers.

There’s some fantastic stuff there, but I’ve been astonished at how many tips include very complex HTML instructions for things like setting up tables, resizing pictures etc. etc.

I’ve got a slightly vested interest in the following, since, as you know, the Husband works for Microsoft (though in a completely different part of the business) but a year or so ago he introduced me to a small downloadable app called Windows Live Writer which has transformed my blogging experience.

Essentially, it’s gives you a WYSIWYG interface for blogging, much like Word in Microsoft Office.  So you can drag images and text round the page, line them up side by side, make them bigger and smaller, just with your mouse.  To insert a link, you just right-click on the link text and post in the URL.  It’s all easy peasy lemon squeezy and doesn’t require an ounce of HTML knowledge. (The only time I use HTML is to add polls and other widgets to my posts).

I use Windows Live Writer with Typepad but believe it’s compatible with Blogger and WordPress as well.  Don’t think it works for Macs though.  It’s also now just out of beta, and doesn’t have any glitches that I’ve come across. It’s also the most intuitive piece of software I’ve ever used (much better than the usual overcomplicated Microsoft offerings – and don’t tell the Husband I said that.)

 

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Here’s what this post looked like in Live Writer, just before I hit ‘Publish’ . The toolbar is down the right hand side.

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The Tree That Keeps on Giving

Not only does our cherry tree look like this in April, and like this in June, but it also means that we can eat this in January.

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We made two pots of cherry jam using this recipe in the summer, and I swear it is the most amazing stuff ever committed to bread. Yes, right up there with Nutella.  To be eaten only with a sourdough ficelle from Macrina and lashings of creamy unsalted butter. I wonder why I need to go to WeightWatchers?

Here’s what the tree looked like a couple of days ago.  I spy buds!

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Today I Am Mostly

So, today I am mostly launching my new photoblog Today I Am Mostly, where I’m going to try and paste one interesting photo every day for the next year. 

 

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This blog is mostly a challenge to myself – a way of forcing me to think creatively about my photography and develop a recognisable personal style.  I’m also hoping that it will become a photographic diary of my year.

The rules I’ve set for myself are – one photo a day, taken on that day. I will also be setting up a Today I Am Mostly Flickr set with any ‘spare’ photos available on my Flickr photostream.

I’d love it if you came over and played on the new blog.  Please tell me in the comments if you particularly like any photo, as I’m hoping maybe to set up an Etsy shop to sell prints and postcards later in the year.

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Daily Inspiration

There’s something about the start of a new year with all those empty days stretching before you, which lends itself to the starting of daily projects.

  

Images of Michelle Caplan’s collages

Michelle Caplan is challenging herself to produce a mixed media collage everyday in her new blog Collage Labthe results of which are for sale through her new Etsy shop. I can’t begin to imagine the mental effort required to produce a new piece of artwork every day.

The girls behind the hugely inspirational 3191 A Year of Mornings (soon to be turned into a must-have coffee table book) are now embarking on 3191 A Year of Evenings with features more beautiful and unplanned (that’s the bit that always gets me) photo diptychs of intimate domesticity.

Photos seem to lend themselves to the daily thing. I always enjoy the Seattle photos taken by Kim of Seattle Daily PhotoI’ve learned so much about Seattle life from her.  There are Daily Photos for most major(ish) city in the US and Europe (and many from further afield)  if you want to check out your local photographer.

There are also loads of Project 365 (or 366 this year) groups on Flickr for people to take a photo a day.  I’m currently enjoying Auntie Cookie’s 30 Days set and DineandDish’s Project 365 (mostly for the great foodie pics – a girl on WeightWatchers has to dream). 

You’ll see tomorrow why I’ve been looking into daily challenge thingies.  Tuesday 29th January is the ideal day to be starting a New Year’s project, n’est-ce pas?

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From the sublime to the…

I just wanted to introduce you to the work of another hot new jewellery designer… me!

I took my first jewellery-making class – ‘Beginning Beaded Jewellery’ -  at Fusion Beads the other evening and this is what I came up with.

They took us through the basics of making the little chain link loops that join the beads together and then had us rushing about the store choosing beads and findings to make our earrings. Talk about a kid in a candy store – I felt like one of the designers on Project Runway rushing around Mood in a very stressed way, while trying to ‘design’ something on the fly.

In the end I chose a mixture of gold-filled findings, Swarovski crystals and pearls and black wooden beads for texture, though realise now that there are so many things to think about – such as weight and size –  other than just colour and sparkle.  These would be a lot nicer, for example, if the square clear crystals didn’t line up exactly with the bottom of the hoop.  You also really don’t want to look too closely at my loops – they aren’t very round or robust at all. 

They took me forever to make - we were shown how to thread a bracelet and add a crimp beads and a clasp at the ends, but I really didn’t have the time (in a three hour class!) to thread anything.

But I’m hooked, it really was the most tremendous fun, though I now have a huge new found respect for anyone who makes jewellery. I’ve bought a set of little tools and a mat and will try a couple of the ‘recipes’ on the Fusion Beads inspiration pages so I can practise my loops and crimping before doing ‘Beginning Wire Wrapping’ next month.  I have a feeling this is going to become a horribly expensive hobby.

I photographed the earrings on my new rug!  Just a sneaky peak before I show it to you next week.  It really is the most exquisite thing but I need to tidy up the bedroom before I do.  And yes, I do realise I’ve had about five months since actually ordering the rug to tidy up.

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Abigail Percy Earrings

I’ve finally got round to photographing some new earrings from Abigail Percy.  Both feature her signature leaves – sweet horse chestnut leaves above and aquilegia leaves below.  I thought they looked great photographed with a couple of Karin Eriksson pieces as both artists like to play with outlines of leaves in their own different ways.

The sweet horse chestnut earrings are hand-pierced in sterling silver and I can’t imagine how much work goes into creating each one. 

The deliberately mis-matched aquilegia leaves are gold plated and then beautifully textured with linen. That girl is quite ridiculously clever and is also writing a great guest blog this week over on Design*Sponge.

I’m so pleased with these pictures as they are the first I’ve taken with my new daylight light, which meant I could take them in comparatively dull light. A new age of mirrormirror photography is dawning. Why did I never use proper photography lighting before?

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Shades of Grey and A Farewell

The Minx and I (the Husband went skiing instead) set off for Victoria, BC this weekend to say farewell to my great friend Lisa who is off backpacking in India for a year at the beginning of March.

Living comparatively close to her has been one of the highlights of living in Seattle and the Minx and I will really miss her.  I doubt we’ll popping over to Victoria so often either and will miss its reassuring Englishness and its fabulous bookshop full of English authors and childrens’ books (I’m finding a lot of American childrens’ books unbearably sanctimonious and twee).

This time we flew out on one of tiny six seater seaplanes which we watch all day landing in and taking off from Lake Union (why is it terribly romantic to be in the flight path of floatplanes whereas we’d be complaining like mad if we had the same number of jets flying overhead?)

Flying past the Space Needle in black and white

The Sound was blanketed with cloud as we flew (must do this again in summer) but you can just make out all the islands below the clouds).  This is a colour photo.

A grey day is still good for the beach.

Though we did see some blue sky

 

Girls on tour.  A tremendously unflattering picture of the Minx and I messing about with the camera while waiting to get the boat home. You really wouldn’t want to mess with us, would you? 
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Atonement

I finally got to see Atonement last week.

A great film, which stayed with me for days afterwards – always a good sign.  A wonderful performance by the girl playing the young Briony Tallis and even Keira Knightley managed not to set my teeth on edge too much.  And James McAvoy is of course very easy on the eye. In fact the whole film is ravishingly shot – it must win Oscars for cinematography if nothing else.

It was also a very faithful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book and managed to conjure up the same atmosphere with images and sound that he does with words.

The evocation of a hot, humid, sticky, oppressive English summer’s day is particularly well done in the film. This article is well worth reading as it explains how the set designers went about creating the atmosphere of an overblown, high summer day, just tipping into decay, by adding lots of green to the set (including, obviously, Keira’s iconic green dress).

Stokesay Court was the house used, unusually, for filming both interior and outside shots, and it appears to be a fabulous example of Victorian nouveau riche excess and lack of taste. 

Every single surface is overloaded with pseudo-Elizabethan, Jacobean, Gothic, you name it ornamentation and really serves to heighten the sense of brooding oppression and of a rigid class system which the war is about to tear apart.

This article from the Daily Mail gives a really interesting history of the house and also tells how production designer Sarah Greenwood chose the house for its dark, stolid wooden inner hallway – the dark heart of the house and evocative of the story’s dark heart.  (Cue lots of scenes of Cecilia and Briony swishing up and down the staircase).

It also explains how one whole (ugly) wing of the house was photoshopped (or whatever the movie equivalent is) out in the film.

All photos from the Stokesay Court website.

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