just an old-fashioned girl

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you dropped by. If you´re looking for something a little nostalgic of bygone eras with a timeless elegance and a little modern twist – in other words, something slightly “retro” – then you should feel right at home here in my shabby chic room. Month by month, there will always be something new to see so I hope you´ll enjoy your stay and come back again soon.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Off To Scotland

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sadly Glittering

I´ll admit I´m a magpie. I love anything sparkly. Well, practically anything...

 Click on image to enlarge

Journalling: “I bought this plant recently in a supermarket, mostly because I felt sorry for it. I find succulents beautiful just as nature intended. They don´t need – or deserve – to be “embellished” with turquoise glitter.”

Having got my poor sparkling succulent home I put it among my small collection of unadorned succulents where it stuck out like..well maybe not like a sore thumb, more like a glitzy gewgaw. The sight of it bothered me so much that I wrote to my favourite specialist website and was relieved to get the following advice HERE

So this is my thank you to Jacki, the green-fingered lady who knows all the answers!
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Belated Birthday, Helen

Oh my goodness...where has the month of January gone.  It is just flying right by as fast as the 35 mile per hour wind outside my window.  It just hit me like a ton of bricks...the wind must have blown that stack of bricks by the edge of the woods right inside the house and aimed it right at the top of my head.  HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, HELEN  I actually thought about your birthday when I renewed the store's domain in December....remembering that the store was your birthday gift several years back.  Making a mental note when I'm celebrating Grandson Jase's birthday on January 10th, that Helen's birthday is just three days away!   Thought we would revisit your birthday room once again for a nostalgic yet belated celebration of your birthday.


To be truthful, Jacquie Lawson, sent a notice of a new birthday card  to my e-mail...so that set off the ton of bricks that flew right through the walls of the house!  So, you can look for an e-mail card today as well.

Happy Belated Birthday, my friend...I hope you had a perfect day!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dog Rules

I´ve always known that boxers are clowns and, judging by the the huge number of silly, not to say ridiculous, photos of boxer antics I´ve found on the Web I´m not the only one. Here are just a few which, along with the constantly amended list of dog rules, are guaranteed to put a smile on anyone´s face, also hair and slobbers on your pillow if you´re besotted enough to abide by the utterly ludicrous rules set down by what you were foolish enough to allow to become the leader of the family pack...

 
Even if you´re a dog owner but don´t have a canine clown, does any – or all – of this sound familiar?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Distance Lends Enchantment

As soon as my mother was old enough she joined the Women´s Land Army which was a British civilian organisation created during the First and Second World Wars which enlisted young women of 18 and over to work in agriculture to replace men called up to the military. She was sent to Argyllshire in the Highlands of Scotland to work on the estate of the Duke of Argyll, chief of the clan Campbell. For a city girl this must have been quite an adventure though I suspect that it didn´t entirely live up to her expectations. Knowing my mother and her love of animals, I imagine she´d pictured herself tending to cuddly lambs and petting sheepdogs. However, the closest she ever came to an animal was too close for comfort when she had to lead a large and very bad tempered bull from a field to a barn during a thunderstorm. I remember her recalling this episode with a shudder when she described how he tossed his head so wildly that he managed to get one of his horns into a sleeve of her plastic raincoat and would have shaken her about like a puppet if the sleeve hadn´t ripped from elbow to wrist and released her. As for lambs and sheepdogs, the former were far too skittish to allow themselves to be cuddled and the latter were mainly vicious and untrustworthy. Even so, she always looked back to that time in her life with great nostalgia. As the poet said, “Distance lends enchantment...” 

This photo shows her with one of her colleagues. I sincerely hope that the implement she´s holding is a hoe or a spade and not a pitchfork. Apparently, on days when working in the fields was not a priority the girls were sent into the barns to kill rats and the weapon of choice was invariably a pitchfork. According to my mother, she always shut her eyes tightly before thrusting the pitchfork randomly into the straw. She said this was the most effective way of not killing anything!

Of the 2 smaller photos, one is of Inverary Castle, the seat of the clan chief and the other is the original photo of my mother which is, as you can see, not in particularly bad condition, just a little faded with some slight damage at the bottom edge. I thought I might have to experiment quite a lot to both brighten and darken it but actually “Auto Contrast” worked like a charm and the damaged edges were easily repaired using the clone tool and the healing brush tool. Having done that, I sampled an off white shade from the photo and used it in creating a new border.

Off now to tackle something more challenging.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

video
Lajuana has sent me this poem and the picture of Santa which fit in so well with Dora´s greeting, I just had to share them with you.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS 
(BOXER VERSION)

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
The puppies were squeaking
An old rubber mouse
The wreath which had cheerfully
Been hung on the door
Was scattered in pieces
All over the floor
The stockings so lovingly
Hanging in rows
Now boast of a hole
In each of the toes
The tree was subjected
To many bright eyed whims
And now although splendid
Is missing some limbs
I catch them and hold them
Be good, I insist
They lick me, then run off
To find what they missed
And now as I watch them
The thought comes to me
That theirs is the spirit
That Christmas should be
Should children and Boxers
Yet show us the way
And teach us the joy that
Should come with this day
Could they bring the message
That's written above
And tell us that, most of all
Christmas is LOVE!!
~~ Author unknown
Merry Christmas, Dora.
Thanks, Lajuana!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Digital Christmas Tree

I´ve just about finished my Christmas preparations. I´ve posted all my cards and wrapped all my presents and either sent them off or put them under the tree. I´ve also hung all my baubles and beads on the Christmas tree although that´s always an ongoing project due to Dora. Unlike one of her naughty predecessors, she doesn´t wait till I´m in bed and then start to demolish it. In fact she always pointedly ignores it. It´s just that several times every day with one swipe of her joyfully wagging tail she manages to dislodge and scatter at least one bauble and, worse, cause the carefully draped gold bead garland to rat-a-tat onto the floor. Since I can´t tell her to take herself and her tail away and go off and be happy elsewhere, this is something I´ve had to accept. All the more reason to create this digital Christmas tree well out of reach of Dora and her wagging tail.
 
If you´d like to have this festive gift, everything you can see on the above tree is available for download here

 
As you can see from the preview, this is a DIY project as you have to assemble your own baubles. I thought it would be more fun and also more versatile to create separate layers so that you can choose which bow to add to your bauble - you could also alter the baubles´ transparency - or just use the bows themselves as deco.

Have fun!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Dora A Day...

A Dora a day may not keep the doctor away but she definitely keeps the blues away with her antics. That´s the reason I always order a Dora calendar for Herbert as a Christmas present so that even while he´s at work she can still put a smile on his face. 
I´ve just finished uploading a selection of this year´s photos. It´s such a difficult task to choose which I like best I always wish there were more than 12 months in the year. While I was uploading them I took some screen shots. Here are just a few which are so typical of Dora I thought I´d share them with you on a dull November day.

January shows Dora in an unusually sad and reflective mood because, for our playful Dora, a day without a ball is a day without sunshine, especially when she´s on holiday in Domburg.
In February she´s still in Domburg and she´s got not just one but two but she´s still not happy because her ball-thrower is more interested in reading his newspaper than playing with her.
It´s so typical of Dora that once she´s finally got her playmate to participate she does her utmost to make sure that he can only do so once...Notice the determined way she holds one ball down with her
paws and the other with her nose while the third is tucked right under her chest.
 
August shows Dora in a typical awkward situation where she´s got a hold of her ball-on-a-string and has dragged Herbert all the way down the lawn until she´s stopped in her tracks by the prickly bramble bush. (called blackberries by non-Scots) At this point Herbert knows that it´s stalemate and he only has 2 alternatives. Either he lets go of the ball and Dora is propelled backwards into the prickly bushes and then shoots off down the lawn as if she has a bee under her skirt, or he just keeps hold of it. This is not a good strategy as he could miss dinner that night and possibly even breakfast the following morning. Dora can be very determined.
As you can see by November´s photo, once Dora has got her favourite toy she´ll guard it with her life. Don´t be fooled by the butter wouldn´t melt look. Make one false move and the nose goes down and the front paws tighten up and you´ve no chance at all of getting it away from her until she graciously allows you to throw it for her again.
There are times though when a human participant can be essential not just as a ball-thrower but as a ball-retriever. To explain April´s rather strange photo, on her walks Dora has the uncanny knack of finding toys which other dogs have either lost or abandoned. Herbert lets her play with them for a while before putting them out of reach in a tree so that other dogs can also play with them or the original owner can get his/her ball back again. Sometimes when he forgets to bring a ball with him he resorts to picking these strange fruit. The way Dora looks at him in this photo says it all even without the caption.
The following photo is also typical of Dora although it has absolutely nothing to do with her favourite occupation. See it from her point of view. She´ll be lying quite happily on the lawn when I´ll sneak up on her with “that annoying clicking thing.” She´ll immediately turn her head away and put on her long-suffering here-we-go-again look.
As a last resort she´ll get up, give me a withering look and stalk off indignantly to her favourite retreat under the Russian vine where she´ll lie watching me quite convinced that she´s safely in hiding.
I´m so looking forward to the arrival of this year´s calendar but in the meantime I hope that Dora has brightened your day as she always brightens ours.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Fairy Tale Meadow Revisited

My workroom is a mess at present. Usually I diligently clear it up after I´ve finished each project but just recently one project has run seamlessly into another and searching through the resultant chaos for anything has meant that while looking for one thing I´ve been totally distracted by finding something entirely unrelated. My most recent diversion came when, quite by chance, I discovered this photo in a folder hidden under piles of paper and magazines. It shows my husband, Herbert, (front right) crouched beside his older brother, Manfred who´s next to their cousin, Karl-Heinz. The young man at the back is his oldest brother, Wolfgang. Herbert seems to have a mental blackout regarding the other children in this photo and just says vaguely that they´re “probably” assorted cousins though they “may” be just friends. He does, however, remember who took the photo, namely a close family friend the children called Tante Luzie. More about her later. Here´s the original photo which I scanned at 300 dpi.
I like this photo for several reasons apart from the obvious. First of all it´s the background which I find fascinating. It may look as if it was taken in a studio with a backdrop but what looks artificial is actually the view from what the children used to call “Die Märchenwiese” which translates literally as The Fairy Tale Meadow and, believe me, it really has an enchanted atmosphere. I know because I´ve been there and it hasn´t changed much in the years since my husband was a little tot. Its high up in a clearing in the Spessart Forest, quite a climb, but worth it for the spectacular view of the surrounding hills and woodland. Another interesting feature is that all the boys in the foreground, apart from the little fellow in the sailor suit, are wearing so-called Lederhosen, the typical leather shorts of the Alpine regions and Bavaria. In the days before washing machines were considered essential these shorts must have been a blessing to busy mothers when dealing with messy little boys, the cleaning procedure being just to wait for the mud to dry before simply brushing it off. I´m amused to see that the little girl is wearing a light coloured dress with puff sleeves which must have been difficult to keep clean while battling her way through the forest to reach the clearing. Ditto the sailor suit and the smart outfit worn by Wolfgang. The excursion was obviously planned in advance for the sole purpose of taking this photo. 

I find the photo striking as it stands. The very fact that it´s underexposed and faded adds to its vintage feeling of days gone by and the magical quality of the scenery. However, I still felt a need to add some contrast to the foreground while retaining at least some of the fading in the background. It was at this point that it dawned on me that this seemingly simple project was going to be quite tedious and time-consuming as the only way I could imagine doing this was by creating 2 layers and working on them separately. I do not enjoy making complicated extractions any more than you do. On the other hand there are people, mainly woman, who actually like ironing so maybe I´m wrong...Anyway, I digress. Before I could change my mind and restart my search through the chaos to find the project I´d originally planned, I gritted my teeth and made a rough extraction around the group in the foreground. I deliberately didn´t zoom in to do this otherwise I´d have been too meticulous and I´d have been at it all day! Then I feathered it and copied it onto a new layer. 
I tackled the new layer first by increasing the contrast and altering the tone a little. After that I tidied up some of the lighter parts around the figures I´d missed during the extraction and cropped the photo to remove the distracting edges. At this point I also used the clone tool to disguise some of the white blotches in the background Here´s how it looked at this stage.
As you can see this brought out a lot of the detail in the foreground but then the background was still so faded that the figures looked like cardboard cut outs so I darkened the background using Curves, adjusted the tone a little, flattened it and ended up with this.
I suppose I could have been reasonably happy with this result but anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I just can´t leave well alone. Something bothered me about it so I went away and unpacked a parcel which had just arrived and when I looked at the photo half an hour later with fresh eyes it was immediately obvious what was wrong. It was simply too much like a discoloured black and white photo so I added the sepia photo filter at 15% rather than the default 25%....and voilĂ !
I´m still not entirely happy with it but I´ve kept the layers so I may tinker with it a bit more when I have the time. Right now I´m off to play with my new toy robot which has been charging its battery while I´ve been sitting here agonizing over what to inflict on this image next. I wish this little robot could do my extractions and/or my ironing but it won´t. What it will do is the next best thing. It´ll whiz around the house sweeping the floors and probably giving Dora a nervous breakdown in the process! 

PS Almost forgot to mention Tante Luzie again. She was quite a character. I first met her shortly before our wedding and found her to be a delightfully eccentric and very sprightly 80 year-old. She always kept a hip flask somewhere about her person from which she took a nip of brandy every so often after which she invariably announced triumphantly in German, “Schnapps is good for cholera!” After the reception we all went back to my parent´s house where my mother was astonished when she walked past the open bathroom door to find Tante Luzie spraying her hair abundantly with air freshener. She didn´t have the heart to tell her and for the rest of the day the old lady went around taking swigs from her flask quite unaware of the fact that her hair was dripping wet and smelt strongly of pine disinfectant.
 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mickey Mouth

Mick Jagger would definitely get no satisfaction if he could see what Frank N Furter has done to his face during one of his failed experiments. It serves you right, Mickey Mouth, for having refused to let one of our friends take a photo of you in the days when you looked a lot better than this!