Pack Hunter

I have wonderful friends who seem ever bemused by my commitment to collecting Jokers. Unhappy to just hand over a single card, I am often given an entire pack of playing cards. Recently I've received Moomin, Montgolfier and a Ladurée pack.

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The Moomin pack came from Finland and contains these cute characters amid the usual suspects of diamonds and clubs etc.

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The Mongolfier pack contains some gorgeous illustrations by the Mongolfier brothers of hot air balloons dating from 1783 to 1983.  The deck is accompanied with a little booklet containing the stories behind each of the illustrated cards. I think I shall have to embellish you with the tales at a later date, they are just wonderful!

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The Ladurée deck is a marvellous raucous clash of gregarious characters that seem to compete for my attention. 

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Finally, the handsome Jokers.....

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Splendid aren't they? The Ladurée couple are very handsome but the representative from the Moomin pack is my favourite. Stinky! Stinky who according to Wikipedia is:

A criminal by profession, trickster, and a dangerous influence who tempts the Moomin family to do things that are against the law. He has a code of conduct of his own, and is offended when the Moomins want to give him a large sum of money which has been causing them much trouble.❞
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I'll Take a 1st Class Coffin Ticket Please Conductor!

When I first heard tales of London's Necropolis Railway, I thought it to nothing more than a fanciful serving of porkie-pies. Much to my surprise however, such a thing did exist!
In November 1845 and at the height of the cholera outbreak in London, The London Necropolis Railway Line was opened and proceeded to carry bodies of the departed along with their mourning living (in separate carriages) from a dedicated station in Waterloo to the London Necropolis Company's huge cemetery in Brookwood Surrey. At the time, this was the largest in the world.

Photo Source

You would be mistaken to think that all is equal in death, for even the dead could travel 1st class with the LNR. 

The original Necropolis Station in London was relocated in 1902 and only to suffer heavy bomb damage during the Blitz of WWII. Although segments of rail tracks survive in Brookwood today, much of the original buildings have been demolished or repurposed.  I am quite tempted to take a trip to Brookwood soon to while away some time.........

There is an insightful and thorough write up about the LNR HERE for the curious among you!
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Hopefully Devoted

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I put my hands through the proverbial wringer these days! I seem to be constantly washing them as I pass from one craft to another and then back again. My nails in particular have been looking worse for wear and so I formulated my very own nail oil (this way I know exactly what is in it) and everything on the ingredients list has been traditionally used by countless women over the years - so no nasty peculiarities here!

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My nourishing nail oil is made with a blend of Grapeseed oil and organic Japanese camellia oil both contain vitamin E and C. 

I have then added a mix of frankincense, myrrh and organic lemon essential oils which can promote antiseptic protective, regenerative, healing and strengthening qualities for the hands and nails. My devoted nail oil has been working very well for me and I have made and remade it many times now. I tend to use this twice a week in the evenings before retiring to bed or after removing nail varnish that I've left on for far too long.  

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I am putting together a few of my handmade potions for a few volunteers to try. Like fine liquor all my potions are carefully and diligently made in small batches. I always make far too much for one person to use and so these may well find themselves Here - by special request only. 
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Halloween Heroines

Not sure why but, I seem to have firmly established myself as the person to consult Halloween costumes with among my friends and even a few of my customers. 

So here I am offering up 5 of my favourite ideas for all you Halloween revellers out there:

✝ Pris from Bladerunner   
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While I am not keen on sci-fi, I am ever astonished with the vision created in this film. Stunning lighting, sets and costumes. There are so many memorable characters, I am quite fond of Gaff with his dandy garments and his penchant for origami. Yet, it is Pris who makes my list for her simple to recreate style. However, the Pris look seems a regular occurrence in Dalston these days.....

✝ Miss Havisham from Great Expectations 
 photo Havisham.jpgMiss Havisham, how do I love thee...let me count the ways! What a tragic muse Charles Dickens created when he dreamt her up. So many fine actresses have played her over the years and I am certain that many more shall yet. I think she makes a fine Halloween costume character for she is so elegant in her creepiness. 

 Sadako from Ring  
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Sadako scares me. I get the heebie-jeebies and the collywobbles, the spine-tingles and the morbid fears all at the same time when I even think of her wraith-like manifestation. I have a copy of the 1st film and I hide it in a box too terrified to ever watch it again. That said, very little is needed to get dressed up as Sadako, simple white dress and looooooooong black hair...done!

✝  Baby Jane Hudson from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane  
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One of my all time favourite films. A real psychological thriller and a cautionary tale that leaves a mark. The aged Baby Jane in puerile dresses concealed in a decaying mansion with her wheelchair-bound sister caught in a circle of torment. I think she makes a stunningly haunting halloween costume if you can pull it off....I am saving up my wrinkles for my future Baby Jane appearance :)

✝  Agathe from The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec  

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Classed as a bit of a flop by many yet I still find this film charming. Agathe is Adele's sister who suffers an unfortunate accident in a particularly competitive game of tennis with her sister and spends much of the film, comatose with a hat pin lodged in her forehead. Quite obscure and you may find yourself having to explain your costume over and over again....

Are you dressing up for halloween this year? 
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Cutting Rubber

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I have been wielding sharp objects late at night recently. I sit by my lamp, past the witching hour and cut and carve away at little slabs of rubber till they start to resemble something. 

Making stamps out of erasers, though not easy is strangely addictive and relaxing. These "eraser stamps" are called "keshigomu hanko" in Japan and there are some real artisans out there, I mean jaw-droppingly good and speedy with it.

The equipment I use includes, pencils, tracing paper, a slab of rubber, a craft knife and a set of gougers with different ends for different effects. 

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My edges are raw and my cuts are tatty but thankfully this does not effect the print of each stamp. I like the raw, warmth that the prints seem to exude. A little bit of wabi-sabi is good for the soul.

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I use a variety of stamping inks. Some of my favourites include VersaMagic for its soft finish that resembles chalk, VersaFine for it's amazing ability to pick up every detail and Brilliance for its sparkle.

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I don't intend to sell these stamps in my shop as I am too far off making them presentable but I will be using them to create some lovely little gifts so do keep an eye out for them :)

Incidentally, I came across this wonderful blog aptly called DIY Eraser Stamp so if you are interested in seeing much finer examples of this craft, you may wish to hop over there.

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| Lesser Known London | Secret Street

Isn't it wonderful when you find a yourself walking down a side street, within your own locality, that you have never sauntered down before? Despite having walked past it, beside it and stood right in front of it time and time again, I always assumed that Camden Passage came to a dead-end after the the spoon sellers. Yet it was only recently that I discovered that if you side step the crowds and what seems to be the "dead-end", there is a snaking path that hosts a delightful array of little shops only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

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It was here that I encountrered a shop crowded with cups and saucers and all manners of crockery. Concealed, almost camouflaged within it, sat the lady of the shop. She told me that she has been collecting, and selling hers wares for years and countless years....Sadly, I hadn't enough money to buy anything at the time. I am certain that I will be visiting her again soon.

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Next we stumbled across a print shop teeming with a huge selection of bookplates and prints that managed to prise my pennies from my purse.

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We are fond of interesting compositions and creatures both great and small. And, although we know that many may well disagree, bugs are a source of fascination for us so we were very happy with our new acquisition.

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Finally, and rather unfortunately for me, I found a row of stamp sellers! Stamps depicting all sorts of marvels!!

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I am now saving more pennies so that I may swap them for more old genuinely marvellous things!
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From The Green People

Green People, not the sort from outer-space (as far as I am aware), have been catching my attention over the past year with their collection of organic skincare products that seem to meet the requirements of many a skin complaint. I received a PR sample of the Vita Min Fix Vitamin Rich 24-Hour Nourishing Moisturising Cream many months ago and I enjoyed it so much that I found myself purchasing another.

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Certified organic, alcohol free and formulated with natural goodies like evening primrose, olive derived squalane, green tea, seaweed and avocado. This is a veritable cornucopia of vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial minerals.

It works well for my skin during the day with just enough moisturising capabilities to set well under a sunscreen or my regular BB creams. Though it is a bit on the light side  as a night cream for my dry sensitive skin, I found it worked well with my PAI Rosehip oil for a more penetrating moisture boost and my skin certainly feels more revitalised come the morning.

I am impressed that Green People have done without parabens, petrochemicals and colours and still managed to create a moisturiser that does not mess with my skin's delicate balance yet helps to promote a and maintain a healthy complexion. 

| There is a list of ingredients here if you would like a closer look |

>> When writing this, I noticed that Planet Organic are running a 3 for 2 promotion on Green People products <<

| Green People | Planet Organic |

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Repurpose + Reuse

I think that my penchant for a pretty piece of packaging is well documented on this blog and though, at times, even I have to admit that  my obsession may seem superficial, materialistic and purely aesthetic, I can honestly say that I make the most use possible of these boxes that I collect.

Boxes are very useful things to have! I am particularly drawn to items that come in well constructed, smart and good quality boxes. 

Here is a selection of some that come into use daily and are perfect for storing a variety of articles that I use in my makery.

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Teacup boxes are particularly handy as they are roomy and extremely robust.

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I use mine to store my ever increasing selection of trimmings and haberdashery.

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Macaron boxes are perfect temporary accomodation for my little macaron purses until they are ready to go off to their new homes.

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Many of my boxes have been with me for years. This Penhaligons candle box is still going strong after over 3 years of daily demands. It houses a selection of metal parts that I use in sewing and has taken a lot of knocks and tumbles.

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On a slight tangent, I reuse thread spools to hold lengths of ribbon and lace and prevent them from getting in a tangle.

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Finding a new purpose for things that many may discard is a little joy of mine. I think such storage solutions are far nicer to look at than ubiquitous plastic boxes. I hope you agree?
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10 Wonderful Yet Seldom Used Words

I've taken up listening to books while I work recently....far more sociable than my sewing machine! I've been listening to all sorts of Victorian and Victorian influenced literature during which some peculiar yet wonderful sounding words have cropped up and lead me astray. I have since found some right corkers that I fancied sharing with you.

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To silently watch a person while they are eating, hoping that you will be invited to join them.

+ FARD +
To put on make up. 

In a state of confusion or disarray. Can also mean to act in a secretive way.

Another word for twilight.

To move rapidly

+ Deliciate +
To enjoy oneself 

+ Calamistrate +
To curl one's hair.

+ Nuppence +
To have no money.

+ Woofits +
Depression or an unwell feeling.

+ Gorgonise +
To hypnotise or petrify

Now that I have given you 10 examples....go forth and use them today :)

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Sleeping Beauty, or a disturbing tale of molestation and intended cannibalism.

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I fancy myself as a budding aficionado when it comes to fairy tales and folk tales. I can attribute this curious life-long fascination to my mother who was quite the story-teller. She had the unusual ability to pluck a tale from her imagination and tell it in a faultless stream of words that would keep me spellbound from till the very last word.

I had very few toys as a child. I had to use my imagination to think up games which was very easy to do with the expanse of wilderness that surrounded our ramshackle home in Kenya. However, when the skies tore apart and the rains came, I felt trapped and restless. I often sought refuge in the raggedy sun-bleached pages of various fairy tale anthologies that lurked on my bookshelf. Hours if not days of my life have been spent on reading old old fairy stories. Some forgotten, some re-imagined and some that the modern reader may wish never was written.

Recently, there seems to be a revival in interest in fairy-tales and I often hear people blithely declaring that they wish that their life was more like a fairy tale. How careless people are with their wishes! I can think of a few fairy tale snippets that are less that delightful. 

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Let's start with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, or as I like to call it...The disturbing tale of molestation and intended cannibalism.

The tale that you may know is much ado about a comatose princess who is gently and magically awoken from her mystical slumber with a kiss from a handsome prince is not exactly how the original tale was told. 

Her name was Talia and she was the daughter of a great but superstitious lord from a far away land. The upon her birth the lord called an assembly of wise men and astrologers to predict the future of his newborn daughter where he learned that great danger would befall his precious Talia from a splinter of flax.

Lo and behold, despite the lords many precautionary measures. One old lady seemed to miss all the memos and kept her spindle. So came the day when Talia was sent into a comatose stupor by..... a splinter of flax from this very spindle.

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Her father, believed her to be dead yet was unable to bury his daughter. Instead, he has her body placed in one of his many country manors and left to the elements. Along comes a king from another land who finds Talia and after an unsuccessful attempt to wake her......rapes her and saunters off back to his land. She gives birth to twins who the fairies look after and place at her breasts. One day, a child mistakes her thumb for a nipple and draws out the poison that keeps his mother unconscious and she wakes to more disturbing drama. She names the twins, "Sun" and "Moon" and.

Now the lusty molesting King who seemed to forget all about his dirty deed, suddenly remembers the sleeping beauty and wishes to see her again. How surprised he must have been to see Talia awake and with twins! Talia, far from harbouring vengeful, murderous thoughts about the King, gladly falls into bed with him again.

The drama does not end there! Now the King was a sleep talker and he jabbers on about Talia the Sun and Moon to his queen who flies into a rage. She threatens the King's secretary who then spills the beans and the sordid tale is out.

The queen hunts down the children and orders her cook to kill and cook them. The cook takes pity of the kids and hides them away. Meanwhile she has Talia brought her and she welcome's her with a fine speech....

"Welcome, Madam Busybody! You are a fine piece of goods, you ill weed, who are enjoying my husband. So you are the lump of filth, the cruel bitch, that has caused my head to spin? Change your ways, for you are welcome in purgatory, where I will compensate you for all the damage you have done to me." 

The mortified Talia tries to explain to the furious queen that she was raped but the queen has gone past the point of listening and decides that she would like Talia burned at a stake. Eventually after much hoo-ha with clothes and more cussing. The king comes to the rescue and saves Talia who he marries and they live happily ever after with their children. The tale ends on a rather chilling note;

"Those whom fortune favours
Find good luck even in their sleep"

This is from the original tale of sleeping beauty called The Sun, Moon and Talia by Gamabattista Basile written in 1634. The story was then changed by Charles Perrault in 1697 to something more like the tale most people know today.

| Wikipedia|Various versions of the tale

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Supa Fresh!

I think it is about time that I came clean, surrendered my hugger-muggery and spilt my little secret. 

I have been sneaking away from my dining table workshop to learn some sciencey alchemy so that I can make a few handmade, carefully thought about and well considered beauty items.

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I have issues with most lip balms that I come across their list of ingredients look increasingly suspicious/synthetic to me. I think that many of the synthetic balms that I have used in the past are ultimately quite drying for me hence why I seem to be constantly re-applying them.

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It will come as no surprise then that my 1st mission on my handmade beauty adventure was to tackle the lip balm issue. I made this simple balm using minimal and organic ingredients.

+ Organic unrefined fairtrade shea butter
+ Organic avocado oil
+ Organic yellow beeswax 
+ Organic unrefined fairtrade coco butter
+ Organic peppermint essential oil

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I chose avocado oil because it is rich in vitamins including vitamines A, B1, B2, D and E. It is also super moisturising and rich in fatty acids. All good for the lips and skin.

Peppermint oil is known to have powerful natural antiviral and antibacterial qualities and also promotes blood circulation. Also good for kissable freshness and a nice tingly cooling sensation...supa fresh!

The skincare benefits of shea and cocobutter are well documented so I shan't bore you with the details.

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I have made a few of these now (practice makes perfect afterall) and I have started to hand them out to a few people for their opinions. Hiro was the first to use it and he thinks I could add more mint and less of the glossy effect. 

I like them as they are. They feel light on the lips and are nourishing and moisturising without being sticky or overbearing.

I need more opinions and I have a few more of these ready to send out to any UK-based volunteers for my "try and tell trials". If you are game.... please do email me or leave a comment and I will get back to you!

>> Update <<
I am now out of lip balms but will still need willing volunteers for future creations. Please keep an eye on my blog for updates. 
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Eye Spy Shohei Otomo.......again

Many years ago, I blogged about the exceedingly talented-with-a-ball-pen Shohei (HERE).

Manga and anime fans may be interested to know that Shohei is the son of Katsuhiro Otomo the manga artist who brought us Akira.

I came across Shohei's collaboration with Pilot and being a fountain pen fanatic myself was impressed with his work solely using Pilot's Justus pen. The Justus pen is an innovative writing instrument that features a 14c gold  nib that is adjustable and allows the user to alter the nib's flexibility to pressure.

I use my fountain pens for writing but I am always amazed with people who use theirs for drawing and am certain that Shohei is up there with the very best at this. This video is brilliant!

|Pilot Japan|Shohei|
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Much Ado About Afternoon Treats

Afternoon treats lift my long hours of solitary working especially during clipped days of the chillier seasons. Though I prefer salt to sugar, the occasional sugar rush is just the ticket to add some oomph to a case of the "afternoon lulls". Lately I have indulged in some French fancies and strawberry tofu pudding.

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I over did the whisking of the tofu pudding. The bubbles were plentiful and very stubborn!

I mentioned that I prefer savoury to sweet and my usual afternoon snack come in the form of a crumpet with Marmite.

Afternoon treats are incomplete without tea! 

I am trying to avoid caffeine after I (much to my own stupidity) ingested too much and ended up with a mighty scary bout of palpitations the other day! Hence the reason why I opted for a caffeine free skincare friendly Dr Stuart's blend.

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Dr Stuart's Skin Purify tea is herbal concoction that includes, nettle leaves, dandelion root, chamomile, lemon balm and peel, red clover and burdock root which are all said to cleanse and boost the skin from within.

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Whilst this is a very soothing cuppa, I cannot claim that I have noticed anything different with my skin. I do like the packaging though!

Dr Stuarts Royal Albert |
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The Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin

I was looking for some "interesting" images to inspire some new makings for Stanger London when I accidentally came across this remarkable oddity in disguise as a children's book. 

Published circa 1865

The Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin borrows an old English nursery rhyme and accompanies it with the marvellous illustrations of Henry Louis Stephens.

I am so pleased that I can add this to my ever growing "Oddities" file. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I do!

|Cock Robin Nursery Rhyme in its entirety| A copy of the book is available digitally on Library of Congress|

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Preferred Pencils

Once a year, around this time, I have to restock on pencils. This year my graphite craving was instantly satisfied by this box of 12 pencils by Tombow.

Beautiful to look at with its vintage inspired packaging but also rich in heritage so it is ticking all the boxes for me.

Tombow begun life as "Harunosuke", named after the founder and established itself as a pencil manufacturer in Taisho era Japan (1913). Since then, Tombow has become internationally renowned for producing artist and writing instruments of quality. For me though, Tombow will always be synonymous with good pencils and erasers.

My set of pencils is a special edition reproduction of the 1928 Tombow Drawing Pencil which is the root of the much loved Tombow 100 regarded by many to be the one of the bets pencils ever made.

The packaging is stunning with it's nostalgic evocation of the dawn of Japan's Showa era.

The pencil  has a dark lead that imparts a lovely contrast when used and has a great balance to allow for seamless nuances when  shading, not too soft of too hard. 

I keep my pencils in a wrap case that I made myself using Japanese fabric on the outside and lined with organic medium weight cotton. The case does up with a micro-suede cord rather than leather so it is washable.

These are available in my shop: |Stranger London|

The pencils are available in UK from:
|Cult Pens| and |Choosing Keeping|.
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