Monthly Archives: July 2015

Personalised mugs

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A really simple project to do on a rainy day (or any time really!). It’s a bit of a cheat to describe this project because I didn’t design or invent anything. Basically, if you can write and you can wash dishes, you can do this craft.

You will need:

  • some smooth, plain ceramic items (mug, plate, tile, bowl)
  • ceramic and/or glass pens (all of the same fixing type see below)
  • your arm muscles
  • coffee or your beverage of choice
  • something cool to listen to while crafting
  • cotton buds (Q-tips)
  • scrap paper for blotting the pens
  • somewhere safe to store the pieces while they set properly

I am doing a really simple design on some mugs. I’m going on holiday next week with my old uni flatmates and since we all live far apart it’s hard to keep up with birthdays and Christmases. So I’m taking them a mug each with their name on it, and everyone else’s names on the back, to make a full set. I’m making one for me too!

FIRST – you need to wash the mug/plate/whatever and make sure it’s totally clean and dry. Try not to touch the area you want to paint with your fingers, because your fingerprints leave an oily residue. The glass pens I bought all say on the side that the surface you want to decorate must be dust and grease-free. There needs to be no barrier to the paint gripping to the ceramic.

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The pens I’m using are all designed to just air dry in three days. You can get ones that need oven-baking to fix. The place where I got my pens has them sorted by colour and nib size but not by type of fix, so I had to dig through to find the colours I wanted that were all the same type. I chose to use the ones that don’t need to go in the oven, just for convenience. The important thing is that your whole design is done in the same type of pen.

Now you’re set up with clean ceramics and shiny new glass/ceramic pens, it’s time to choose something to listen to and put the kettle on. Let’s do things in comfort and style, eh? I was drinking coffee and listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage podcasts, but whatever you want is fine. While that’s loading, brewing, etc, you will likely need to shake the pens to get the ink flowing. Sometimes this takes what feels like forever. No need to do weights on ceramic pen day! I had six to do so I was really flagging the end!

The only thing left to do is draw or write your design on the ceramic – being careful not to touch it unnecessarily! I was lucky because with the mugs, I could hold them by wedging my hand inside so I didn’t touch the outer surface. I started with doing block writing for each person’s mug. Everyone is getting a different colour (choosing who got which was the hardest part!) and on the back I wrote everyone else’s names in their colour. You’ll see in the photos.

NOTE: The pen will probably say this on the side in the instructions, but when you have shaken the pen to activate it, you need to take the cap off and blot the nib on paper first, to get the excess out of the way.

Some of the ink was runnier than others – the teal was quite metallic and thick, but the orange and green were more translucent and thin – so be patient and you can use cotton buds to clean your edges if you need to. If you’re super unhappy, you can always immediately wash off the whole lot and start again. I did that with the green, because the letters were too fuzzy the first time I did it. I found, because of the difference in ink, that I had to keep an eye on how they were drying, and keep turning them over to stop all the ink running to the bottom of the letters. I didn’t have any ink run outside the lines – it doesn’t go on that thick!

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After a few minutes, the ink will have set enough to leave and then mine took three days to be fixed for washing (or dishwasher). I had enough time to do mine in two stages, with three days between, because there was such a big area of paint on one side I didn’t want to smudge or accidentally smear on the table by trying to do the other side on the same day. So I did the first sides on Tuesday and then the second sides yesterday.

I did mine first, so I could test it was fixed! I re-washed the mugs to make sure that they hadn’t got dusty or greasy while drying (not that our house is a tip, mind!) and to make sure any fingerprints got cleaned off from me moving them about. Then I re-shook the pens, blotted them, and did the lines of text on the back. I did a couple at a time and waited for the runny inks to set a little before adding the next line, but I got all six sets of text done in 40 minutes, including washing.

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This is a great craft that is as complicated as you want to make it, and has a lot of possibilities. Personalised crockery is one, but why not potholder tiles; coasters; even a glass table top; champagne flutes etc. Just check your pens first to make sure they’re suited to the surface. And if I were you I’d stick to painting the outsides, just in case it starts to flake off in your food/drinks after repeated use and abuse. Even though they’re meant to be dishwasher safe, I’m going to recommend to my friends that they hand-wash the mugs at first, until they feel brave enough! I don’t have a dishwasher so it’s not an issue for me, but I’d be gutted if the ink flaked or ran because someone’s dishwasher was too brutal for it.

I still have enough time to add a little more to them if I want to, since I don’t need to wrap them for another week. I’ll see how I feel on Monday.

KEY NOTES:

  • WASH the ceramic first
  • follow the INSTRUCTIONS on the pens
  • DON’T TOUCH the ceramic as far as is possible
  • GET ARTY
  • make sure they DRY FOR THE FULL TIME NEEDED
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Review – Mildred’s Resistance

**DISCLAIMER** I was sent this book because I was super-excited about it on Twitter.

**DOUBLE DISCLAIMER** I just realised I can embed GIFs. I’m not sorry.

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Mildred’s Resistance is the prequel for Katie Cross’s YA Network series. The plot takes us back to the youth of the current High Priestess – Mildred – and explains how the actions of her generation have shaped and influenced the plots of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening. Most of the story takes place in and around Chatham Castle, the seat of power, and the people who work there. As it’s a prequel, if you’ve read Miss Mabel’s, you sort of know where it’s going. But just like when you see a documentary about events leading up to a war, or an assassination, it’s the journey and all those turning-point-moments that make it so interesting.

What I love about this story is the little touches that give depth to the characters: Evelyn is always in the middle of a drama, and serves herself the biggest slice of cake to compensate; Mildred crops her hair in order to feel like herself; half the cabinet are alcoholics… the little actions build into the big actions. The little check points along the way may leave you frustrated because it’s so clear how a character could have taken a different path but they sabotage themselves a lot.

Evelyn starts out a bit like Gwendoline Mary from the Malory Towers books by Enid Blyton. She is spoiled and treated well so she gets arrogant and obnoxious. But the tragedy of her childhood is a weakness that runs through her and drives her actions more than she thinks. Even when it’s on the surface, and she’s talking about her plans to “lead the poor” (i.e. oppress the poor), what it really comes down to is her abandonment issues. May (the grandmother of the Miss Mabel who runs the school in Bianca’s time) twists that fear for her own purposes, and gives her an outlet for it, but really, Evelyn is just a scared girl lashing out because she never grieved properly for her parents.

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Mildred has a similar start in life, but since her mother doesn’t know the High Priestess, she has to go and be poor somewhere else, with her brother. The differences in the way they grow up show all too clearly how divergent your path can get dependent on tiny choices and decisions, and your own personality and drive. Mildred finds magic difficult. She has to study harder and work longer than Evelyn and Stella, and even then it’s hit or miss. But she keeps going. She doesn’t blame external sources for her problems. Isadora, the Watcher who interviews the girls for what school they’ll go to, rejects Mildred from May’s school and sends her to another. She is separated from Stella and Evelyn who both go to May. And you’ll see how that turns out. Evelyn, the other hand, takes all obstacles as personal insults, or deliberate actions against her (egged on by May). Anyone who tries to check her is obviously jealous.

There are a few “aha!” moments for people who have read the other books in the series, as you realise who people are (including one near the end!!!) but you wouldn’t suffer if you hadn’t read them. This is an excellent prequel that you could read before you start the main series without anything being spoiled, or later to fill in the background to the world. What I like about the world in general is that people have ordinary names. There’s a tendency in fantasy – even fantasy with mainly human characters – for names to go down the extreme-sports thunder spectrum. I like that in the Network, ordinary people with ordinary names are the people who are doing the things. Some of the names are old-fashioned, but they’re not elfy-magic names. I’m sure you know what I mean.

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What I appreciate about all the Network books is that most of the characters are female. They still cover the range of motivation and emotion and personality that a typical male-driven fantasy would do, but wouldn’t you know it, the women still manage to carry the story! The male characters are important, and they are still fleshed out, but it is all about the building tension between Mildred and Evelyn. Neither of them shy away from a fight, or from doing the dirty work, but Cross also allows them to be vulnerable without losing integrity. The mainly female cast almost slips by unnoticed, until you think about it, because all the characters are people not just fantasy stereotypes. This would be excellent for any book, but I think for a YA book it’s important. While that might not be the point, and of course you have to write the story, it’s always great that as a by-product you get kickass ladies leading the way.

I very much enjoyed this book and am now even more excited about the next – The High Priest’s Daughter – which hopefully won’t be too far away either!

Mildred’s Resistance is released on 15th July! That’s next week!

More information can be found on Katie’s website, and you can find her on Twitter, here.

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Vacate your mind, but not your bookshelf

Currently just finished: The Magicians

Alright, guys and gals, it’s round-up time.

I’m still working on my master list, and have just crossed another off. I need to cheat a little though, because I just got my ARC of Mildred’s Resistance by Katie Cross, and I’m really looking forward to diving into that! Katie wrote me a really sweet message as well, just to butter me up a little 😉 It’s the prequel to the Network series (Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening) ahead of the third main timeline book set for this autumn!) and will give the back story for Mildred and Evelyn… two witches who were once best friends… BUT THEN. *thunderclap*

I also roped myself into a book challenge.

book bingo

I’m hoping that doing this bingo card will help me tear through some of my list over the summer, too. Found via Katie who found it via My Little Book Blog who found it via Savidge Reads who did it last year with Books on the Night Stand. You can make your own here. There are loads of prompts – hopefully it’ll help me clear the decks a little.

I’m on summer break now from work, so I’ll have plenty of time for reading. Haha. Hahahahaha. And all the sewing. And anything else I want to do. Plus holidays with the girls I lived with at uni and seeing family. It’s going to be back to work time before I know it! I’m still going to try keeping up with photo blogs for Rivka’s Christmas craft present, and I’ll schedule some posts ready for December and January (the crazy organisation!) as obviously I can’t say what it is or share it now or it’ll ruin the surprise. But soon… sooooooooon…

Ooh, it’s clouding up! Hopefully time for another storm. It’s been crazy hot here north of the Wall, and while summer is welcome (and it’s a lot easier to cope with now I’m not at work and restricted to things like clothing choices and professional language) it has been ridiculous. A good cloud burst will do us all good. That might have been thunder I just heard! Or a tractor. It’s hard to tell round here.

So I just finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I ripped through it, and I kinda like it. It’s a mix of The Catcher in the Rye and The Chronicles of Narnia, which don’t feel like they should gel. And on places they don’t, but that’s sort of the point of the book. I think? I would recommend it though if only because you’ll spend hours trying to work out the rules of Welters – a sort of magicians’ chess with the players as pieces. There’s a sequel, grumble, not that I’m at liberty to get it yet. Grumble.

Try not to melt, you guys. Be like this otter.

MjvGBan

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