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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas In Bloom

All winter my living room looks like a small jungle as all the plants which spend the summer on my patio are hibernating there. Well, I thought they were all hibernating but it looks as though my giant – and normally very ugly – cactus which usually only earns its keep by flowering in the summer has decided to surprise me by suddenly bursting into bloom. It couldn´t have chosen a better time as I´m still suffering from severe backache and needed something other than my Christmas tree to cheer me up.

I created this page in honour of this lovely floral Christmas present using the Christmas Carol freebie QP which you´ll find here.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Feast For Everyone.

As some of you know already, I´ve been laid up for the past few weeks after I put my back out and I find it hard to sit at the computer for any length of time. It looks as if a stay in the orthopaedic clinic is on the cards for the new year. In the meantime I´ve been trying to keep my spirits up which isn´t always easy when the sky is leaden and my beloved garden is slumbering under several feet of snow and summer seems so far away. It´s then that I´m glad that I kept a record of how it looked when everything was blooming under a bluer sky.

Last spring Diane sent me a packet of sunflower seeds little knowing how much pleasure they would eventually give, not only to me, but also to some of the creatures which visit my garden. Most of the sunflowers “only” reached a height of about 6 feet but the ones I sowed in the fertile soil of my vegetable garden grew to an enormous height and seemed intent on proving that everything from Texas is bigger than elsewhere. Here´s a photo I took of them towering above my garden shed.
And this is a page I made using the Nature Notes freebie QP to remember them by on a dismal dreary day when winter seems unending. 
Journalling: “Sunflowers are a feast for everyone. In summer I feast my eyes on them while the bees and hover flies feast on their nectar. In autumn the sight of the birds feasting on their seeds gladdens my heart and makes me less sad to think that summer is over.”

The photo of the finch was a lucky shot taken through the screen on my kitchen window which is why it´s not as clear as it might be.

If you´d like to have the freebie QP, you´ll find it here.

Thanks again, Lajuana, for helping to make the blog look festive with A Christmas Carol...and if I´m not around for a while, I´m sure you´ll understand why.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shhhh...Helen's Asleep and the Christmas Elf is decorating her Blog!

The store is all decorated and is now featuring Helen's Christmas kits.  My goodness, I had forgotten how gorgeous these kits are...you must click on the MY STORE sign and go take a look at these festive kits!

It's been awhile since I have played around in Helen's blog...but I couldn't resist surprising her by doing at least a little decorating here for Christmas.  I wanted to save some of the decorating for Helen and Dora.  So, they can add the jewelled Christmas tree to the table and replace the flowers on the shelf with some Christmas decorations and cards!  Oh, don't forget to hang the Christmas stocking, too!

Merry Christmas to my very special friend!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making Christmas Cards

For the past few weeks I´ve been making Christmas cards, something which would normally take only a couple of days, but these are a little more complicated than most because they´re stitched rather than printed. Well, the motif is stitched but the layout is printed. Stitching is the fun part as I can plug myself into my iPod and lean back and relax during the day without that nagging guilty feeling that I´m neglecting other more important tasks. But all good things eventually come to an end and once all the stitching´s done I reluctantly unplug myself from my iPod and get on with the more tedious parts of the project. First the motifs have to be washed and pressed then stiffened by the addition of an ironed on backing. After that comes the part I enjoy least, namely designing the layout which entails some very precise measuring...not my strong point. The following screen shot may give you an idea of what´s involved.

As you can see, the layout is in 3 equally sized parts, (designed to fit onto an A4 sheet of card) the back of the card, the aperture and the flap which covers the back of the motif. By the way, the little corners within the frame are my guidelines for cutting out the aperture. For that I use a steel ruler and a sharp knife. The 4 vertical lines are for scoring the card in order to fold the flaps neatly and the large rectangle is the actual size of the card. If I´m feeling lazy I only print the card once and write the greeting by hand after the card is folded, otherwise I have to create a new layout with a printed greeting on the right side which will be on the inside once I´ve turned the card accordingly and printed it. Does this sound complicated? Believe me, it IS! However, it only has to be done once as I can alter the layout and change the aperture and the greeting for any similar cards. After printing I score the folded parts, cut the card down to size using – thank goodness – my trusty paper cutter, then all I have to do is cut out the aperture and stick on the motif using double sided sticky tape. I also use the tape for sticking down the flap to cover the back of the motif. TADA! One card down, a whole pile more to do...No, not really as I only make these cards for a chosen few.

Having said all that, here are some I´ve already finished. 

I enjoyed stitching this Christmas pudding so much I made a batch of them, some on cream linen and some on green. I think I prefer the contrast of the green but I like both variations. It´s just a pity that the glittering thread and the shine on the beads don´t show up on these scanned images.

I forgot to say that although the second pudding is smaller than the first, it´s only because it was stitched on finer material.

This angel is very glittery because I used lots of sparkling threads. Again, the effect is lost when it´s scanned.

The following 2 motifs were really intended by the designer of the chart to be stitched using black thread on white linen but I think they look more effective and dramatic the other way round. By the way, I stitched the house motif before I realised that it was too wide to fit into a landscape layout and I had to create a portrait layout especially for it. You can imagine how I enjoyed doing that!

I´m off now to start a new project using this chart.

I stitched this motif many years ago and gave it to a friend. This time I´m going to keep it and frame it and hang it in my living room so if I´m not around for quite some time, you´ll know where to find me. I´ll be sitting comfortably in my workroom plugged into my iPod....with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Today is the ancient festival of Samhain which marks the last day of the Celtic year and the beginning of winter. The Celts and Druids believed that in the night before the New Year, the wall between the living and the dead was open, allowing spirits of the dead, both good and bad, to mingle among the living. Some of these spirits were thought to possess living people, cause trouble, ruin crops, or to search for passage to the afterlife and many of the rituals performed in order to placate these evil spirits are best left shrouded in the mists of time. Halloween, as it´s now called, is a sanitized child-friendly version of that pagan festival, now mostly practised in the USA. We would certainly rest uneasily in our beds if we knew exactly what the Celts regarded as suitable tricks and treats. I know I wouldn´t like to spend this evening, or any evening, in THIS room! (although it was fun putting it together.)

To quote an an ancient Scottish prayer,

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us.

Amen to that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nature Notes Freebie

Here´s a set of 5 grungy elements which coordinate with my recently released Nature Notes.
If you like them, you´ll find them here.
And if you´d also like a quick page created from the same kit, watch this space...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Season Of What?

John Keats called it the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” but to me it´s always been the season of colds and chills and cough syrup and a plentiful supply of Kleenex. In case you haven´t already guessed, we both mean autumn but either Keats was immune to the dreaded virus or he was using poetic licence. As for me, only the first line of verse 3 rings true, namely “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?” I know exactly where they are. They´re six months into the future, that´s where, and the way I feel at present they can´t come fast enough!

Still, all isn´t doom and gloom. At least I´ve got my autumn blog header to cheer me up while I write this though that open fire and cup of tea look so inviting I could nod off in the process. But not until I´ve announced the release of Nature Notes which, with it´s subtle greens and browns, seems to me to reflect the more appealing side of autumn with a few glittering little reminders of summer thrown in. The sight of it gives me hope that once I´ve recovered from this beastly cold I may again take pleasure from walking through the forest crunching autumn leaves beneath my feet “While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue.” 

Ah. I´m beginning to feel better already.

Here´s Nature Notes.

There will be a few freebies to go with it once I´ve fully recovered.

Thanks for looking.

PS If you´re interested, you´ll find Ode To Autumn here

Friday, September 28, 2012

At It Again!

I was sorting through my summer garden photos and I came across one that made me smile because I see they´ve been at it again. Yes, I know I´ve shown them at it already several times but this year they´ve really outdone themselves. Well, one of them has. He seems to have managed to paint quite a few of the white roses red before Her Royal Frightfulness came to investigate. Too bad she caught the wrong one!

I created this page using Nature Notes which I´ll be releasing soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


If I haven´t been around for a while it´s because I´ve been making the most of the summer by spending my days in the garden. While the good weather lasts, being outside is preferable to scrapping, designing, keeping up my blog and just about anything else you can think of which requires a computer. I did spend two weeks in Scotland though. No, not in my mothers´garden. Judging by the changeable weather, summer seems to have lasted until around mid-June this year and I came back with less of a tan than I had when I left Germany. I also came back with less of my luggage than I had when I left Germany but that´s another story. Thanks to UPS it was delivered a week later. How nice it is to have a hair brush again. I missed that most of all. (Since the only alternatives were Dora´s brush and the lavatory brush, I wisely made do with a comb.) Despite the weather I also miss Scotland, especially my home town, Glasgow, where I met up with my friend, Eileen, a couple of times. We visited the Art Galleries, Glasgow University´s Huntarian Museum, Kelvingrove Park and the wonderful Victorian glasshouses in the Botanical Gardens, the last of these being the best place I know to heat up in on a chilly day.

I said earlier that I hadn´t done any designing recently. Well, that´s not strictly true. Eileen looks after a little boy twice a week and often reads to him. Somehow we got onto the subject of bookmarks and I said I could make one for him and asked what kind of motif he´d like on it. Since the current book is a harmless children´s fantasy by Enid Blyton, I was surprised when she said “Aliens”. Apparently he´s also interested in finding creepy crawlies in the garden, bringing them indoors and examining them before releasing them again. Somehow that rang distant bells which came closer the more I thought about that, to me alien, hobby. You may remember my preoccupation with combating the snails in my garden this year. Well, I think I may have been influenced by that when I designed this alien-themed bookmark . 

I hope he also likes slithery slimies...which is more than I can say for myself.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Painted Seashells Freebie

Here´s a little set of 3 painted seashells to celebrate my recent holiday on the coast. If you´d like them, you´ll find them HERE
Happy shell gathering!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Held To Ransom

Yesterday I left my computer for a while to attend to my laundry and when I came back the entire screen was filled with a message purporting to be from the police. It informed me that I´d been caught visiting illegal websites and that access to my computer was being denied until I´d paid a fine of €100. Even if I hadn´t heard of this nasty malware I´d have realised immediately that it was a scam but it was still quite a shock to suddenly be denied access to my computer. I was totally perplexed about how to deal with it until it occurred to me to simply switch off the computer and immediately switch it on again. This prompted Windows to offer me the option of running it in safe mode in which I had access to all my programmes but no access to the Internet so I was able to run a malware scan. Sure enough, 3 items were detected and deleted and after I´d restarted Windows things were back to normal again. I´m no computer expert and there´s probably another way of dealing with this pest but it worked for me. If you don´t already have Malwarebytes I suggest you install it immediately. You can download a free version here: www.malwarebytes.org/

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back Again...In More Ways Than One.

Well, I´m back from my holiday in Domburg and it´s taken me a couple of weeks to recover from it. To begin at the beginning...The first half of it was sunny and warm. In fact there was one memorable day when the sand was so hot it practically raised blisters on the soles of my feet. That really was too unrelentingly hot to be called a perfect day but it was preferable to some of the days during the second half when it rained almost non-stop and kept Dora and me confined to our little house most of the time with just short outings in between showers. That would have been bearable if the house had been well insulated but you can hardly expect that to be the case in a converted outhouse and it felt really damp indoors when it rained. I´ve suffered from back problems for years and they´re always worse during cold and damp weather. If I´d been able to turn on the central heating I´d have been OK but it was only shortly before I left that I finally discovered how to do that! So for the last week of my holiday I was creaking about like a superannuated robot in need of an overhaul. I´ve more or less recovered from the worst of it now but after I get back from Scotland I´ll have to see about getting more treatment in the orthopaedic clinic. It only only works for 5 years and my last course of treatment was in 2003 so it´s well overdue. 

Still, all isn´t doom and gloom and I wouldn´t want to give you the impression that I didn´t enjoy my stay in Domburg because I did and, of course, so did Dora. She spent most of her time rearranging the beach and creating mantraps for the unwary or plunging into the sea after her favourite toy. I sometimes think that dogs are like little children. You can buy them the most expensive toy but they often end up playing with the box it came in. In Dora´s case it isn´t actually a box but it´s the same principle. This particular toy I made myself from a piece of sacking roughly sewn together, filled with corks from wine bottles and tied with an old shoelace. It replaces the fancy floating toy I bought her which is a sort of fish shaped loofah which she shuns, much preferring the tatty old sack. Here it is in all its enchanting splendour. Ha! 
One thing I did buy her on holiday was a new and very smart red collar to replace her old disreputable one which had faded to a dirty pink from too much exposure to salt water and her penchant for rolling in mud. I´m sure she´d take it off and put on the old one again if she only had thumbs and could work out how it opens.

Well, I could go on about my holiday for ages but I won´t. The summer isn´t over yet and while I sit here chattering the sun is shining and the garden is calling my name so I´ll get off now. Before I do though, I´d just like to mention that Lajuana, as always, has done a great job updating the store. Not surprisingly, this month´s featured kit is Jewelled Sea which is one of my favourites as it perfectly expresses the joy I feel when I´m on the coast. In good weather or bad, it´s always been my favourite place. 

You´ll find larger previews of this kit HERE along with a couple of freebies. Thanks for looking!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Perfect Day

Perfect days in life are few and far between and for me today certainly isn´t one of them. It´s dull and rainy and seems more like October than June. All the more reason to look forward to my summer holiday when good weather is forecast.

I love the sea and most of my perfect days have been spent on the coast. One of my favourite North Sea resorts is Domburg on the Dutch Zeeland peninsula where I rent a small cottage near the shore every summer, mostly just for Dora and myself as Herbert´s too busy to spend more than a few days with us. I get up early every morning as I particularly love the beach at that time when it´s abandoned by everyone except Dora and me and the seagulls. It doesn´t take much to keep us happy for the rest of the day. When I´ve had enough of lounging around reading I´ll go off to the high tide line to see what new shells the sea has washed up overnight and Dora will follow me carrying either her ball or the cork toy I made for her, and being Dora, sometimes both! 

  Click on image for a larger view.

I know that this isn´t everyone´s idea of a perfect day so, while we´re away, I wish you whatever makes you happy this summer. Hope you´ll have lots of perfect days.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Tribute To Stanley Unwin

This is my tribute to Stanley Unwin who would have been 101 years old today. What? You´ve never heard of him? The man who could explain absolutely anything in such clear and precise language that even a child could understand?

Here´s a short video of one of his educational lectures.

Now you can´t say that wasn´t informative.

One of his many fans has described him as “The masterlode of Stanfoolery of the verbally thrips oratory.” He went on to say, “Stanley lived in a little village in Northampton called Long Buckby, which was known for the boot and shoe bespokey all lock stitchy in the leathery uppers, deep joy of the footwear.” ...and that just about sums him up.

“Deep joy” was one of his favourite expressions which is why I chose it for my tribute page. Also, it perfectly describes how I feel whenever I listen to his Stanfoolery.

In fact you could say he liked this phrase so much that he took it with him when he died.

But let Sir Stanley himself have the last word. He usually did anyway because anyone talking to him would have been incapable of speech after listening to him.

Friday, June 1, 2012

When All Else Fails....Colourize!

Whenever possible I prefer to scan old damaged photos myself, especially very small ones which can be difficult to restore unless scanned at a high resolution. However, not all the photos in my scrapbook belong to me and I often have to rely on other family members to scan them for me. In this case the original was scanned at 300 dpi which is the absolute minimum for a single photo and may even have been all right if it hadn´t been just one of half a dozen scanned together on one page of an old album which meant that all detail was lost. At first glance I was struck by the composition and decided that by adding contrast and then sharpening it I might manage to revive it. As you can see, that was a definite improvement...but still not enough. I felt that what it really needed was an immediate focal point. The beach ball, which was just a blur in the original version, looked like a good choice and I think that colourizing it worked pretty well but there was still something missing. I think it was at this point that I realised I was never going to be able to make a presentable photo from it – there simply wasn´t enough detail - but that it might make a really good impressionistic painting so I applied the Paint Daubs filter. Having done that it seemed to me that the parasol merged too much into the sky so I added a color overlay. It took a while to get the right shade of blue but I´m quite happy with the result. A little more contrast was all it took to make it perfect or at least as perfect as I could make it. All I had to do after that was to remove the stained border and create a new one using an off-white shade sampled from the photo itself. (Among my simple tutorials you´ll find instructions on how to do this.)

 Click on image to enlarge

I think you´ll agree that the final result is a lot more interesting than the original. As you can see, I made a note of all the steps I took to transform it from a pale blurry image to quite a presentable little work of art. If, like me, you´re also a beginner in the art of photo restoration I hope this will help and encourage you!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nostalgic Scrapbook Freebies

Sorry about the delay in posting these freebies but the recent ice age has finally past and I´ve spent most of my time in the garden recently.
Here they are at last.
If you´d like to have these frames, you´ll find them here.
As for me, I´m off to the garden again...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nostalgic Scrapbook Is In The Store

My latest kit, Nostalgic Scrapbook, is now in the store. Here´s the preview.

 Click on image for a larger view

Because this is such a huge kit I´ve had to show practically all the elements at a fraction of their actual size in order to fit everything into a single preview. A list of its contents may give you a better impression of how large it really is.

You can find more information either in the store or among my kit previews where I´ll soon be offering a set of 3 freebie sketched frames.

Thanks for looking.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In At The Deep End

While looking through my old photos recently I was reminded of a page which I´d almost forgotten. It dates back to shortly after I joined Deco-Pages almost 6 years ago when I had no experience of designing anything other than stained glass windows and murals and it´s only significant because it features the very first photo I ever attempted to restore. Talk about jumping in at the deep end! If I´d had the slightest idea what was involved in photo restoration I´d have chosen something a lot easier to begin with. Well, they say that ignorance is bliss and, if so, I must have been the happiest would-be photo restorer ever. In those days I didn´t have Photoshop to help me so I had to improvise and struggle along with the very few tools provided by my old German language version of Corel Photo-Paint 9. Looking at the results now with a critical eye I realise I really didn´t do a great job but at the time I was so proud of it that I designed a layout around it. Come to think of it, that was a first too. Anyway, for what it´s worth, here it is.

That´s still one of my favourite vintage photos and one I´ve attempted several times to restore to my own satisfaction. Well, that hasn´t actually happened yet but, so far, the following is the best I´ve managed. The original is on the far left, then a couple of early attempts at restoration and my latest attempt is in the foreground. Lying next to it is the back of the original on which is written along with the date on which the photo was taken, “With love from your little daughter, Lucas”, something which, for obvious reasons, baffles me to this day.

I created this slightly surreal page using a very few of the 85 items in my most recent kit which was named appropriately “Nostalgic Scrapbook” by Lajuana as my imagination apparently took a break after I´d finished the kit. I´ll show a preview soon and may even get it into the store within the next few weeks.

As for that photo, I´m still not entirely happy with it. I can almost feel the ghostly presence of little Lucas looking over my shoulder saying, “Surely you can do better than THAT.” Who knows? Given another 6 years, maybe I can...

Monday, April 30, 2012

From The Sublime...

In most of the photos I have of my aunt she´s unsmiling, composed and elegantly dressed in the height of 30´s fashion. However, just occasionally the façade slips and shows her to be more than just a perfectly groomed fashion plate.

  Click on image to enlarge

The first photo is typical of many I have in which she´s looking her most elegant which is why I chose that particular one for my present blog header. As you can see from the second photo, at some time during the 30s she seems to have become a victim of a truly bizarre fashion and in the third one she´s lost her cool entirely as she scrambles around the beach on all fours with my mother and a friend on her back. Good to know that the family sense of the ridiculous didn´t pass her by. Now you know who you got it from, Neville.

I created this page from the kit I´m currently working on. That is when I´m not in my garden waging war on the snails that infest my veggie patch. I probably cut a ridiculous figure myself as I scatter crumbled egg shells around while muttering strange oaths under my breath. Thank goodness there´s nobody around to take photos of me while I do it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creating A "Real" Scrapbook

It´s been typical April weather here recently, a horrible combination of torrential showers which flatten the daffodils in my garden, and sudden gusty winds which turn even the sturdiest umbrella inside out. After a thoroughly unpleasant walk with Dora I needed something to do indoors to take my mind off it. There´s nothing better than difficult and tedious work to make me forget everything but the task in hand and there´s nothing more difficult and tedious than restoring photos so I dug out an old album which is my own personal chamber of photographic horrors. All the photos in it are in a sad state and the one I decided to tackle was so badly scratched, blotched and faded it took me the best part of the morning to restore it and several cups of strong coffee to restore me. Having finished I felt a sense of anticlimax. A glance out of the window showed that the weather hadn´t improved in the meantime so I cast about for something else to do. Then I remembered a battered old scrapbook which pre-dated digital scrapbooking by many years and which had stood neglected on a shelf for so long I´d almost forgotten about it. When I opened it it took me back to the days when I used to draw frames and little motifs to decorate my photos. I never actually stuck on buttons and other “real” embellishments so I suppose it wasn´t a scrapbook in the usual sense of the word. Anyway, it gave me the idea to create something which you might call a hybrid, a cross between a traditional scrapbook and a more modern one which would be particularly suitable for displaying my recent restoration work. The following layout may give you an idea of what I mean.

  Click on image for a larger view

The photo second down on the right is the one I´ve just finished restoring. All the others were edited some years ago and in each case I´ve shown both the original and the restored version though this very small format camouflages the worst of the wear and tear on the originals. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this page though it´s not all my own work. As you can see, I had a helping hand, not to mention an eraser to correct my mistakes as I went along. I think that by now you´ll have gathered that a cup or three of strong coffee is essential to the creative process and is usually accompanied by some drips and splashes so I´ve replicated these too. Now, quite literally, back to the drawing board...

Creating this kit is going to be so much fun!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vintage Whimsy Is Now In The Store.

Here´s the preview of my latest kit, Vintage Whimsy. As with all my heritage kits it´s a mixture of old and new, vintage and modern and, as always, with a sprinkling of bling and precious stones.

Click on image for a larger view. Click back to return here.

I´ve just released Vintage Whimsy and it´s now available in my store. You´ll find more info about it and other kits plus a new kit freebie HERE.

And talking of bling, I´ve also released a favourite of mine, Floral Bling. Any of these flowers would add an eye-catching accent to any heritage or floral page.

Thank you for looking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Distracting The Baby

The thing that struck me when I first saw this photo – apart from its battered condition - was the expression on that poor baby´s face, and after all those years I can´t quite define it even now that I´ve removed the blemishes which partly hid it from me. It´s not exactly fearful and it´s not exactly pouting but it looks to me like the lull before the storm and I can well imagine that she probably burst into tears the very moment after the shutter clicked. She´s obviously not looking at the photographer so I can only imagine that the look is directed at her mother. Maybe it´s an appeal for help which says, “I´m being a good girl and sitting as still as I can but I can´t keep this up much longer.” So I thought I´d try to distract her from the ordeal by giving her something fun to look at, but showing her the girl on the swing doesn´t seem to have done the trick. Maybe she´ll cheer up when the girl with the dog runs past her. Hmm. But then again, maybe not, and the pensive child clutching those original defaced images seems to be entirely in sympathy with her.

I created this whimsical page using mainly the teal, blue and turquoise elements in my new kit which is a heritage kit with a difference in that it´s possible to use it for either elegant or playful layouts, hence the name Vintage Whimsy. I´ll be releasing it soon and I hope you´ll like it when you see the previews.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tante Anna

Anna was the oldest of the four Schwerdhöfer sisters of whom the second youngest was my husband´s mother. I never knew Anna and know very little about her apart from the fact that she was born in Marktheidenfeld in Bavaria and died in Mainz in Rheinland-Pfalz at the age of 89. As for the age of this photo, it´s difficult to be exact about the date, but judging by the hairstyle and the dress which doesn´t have a dropped waistline, I originally guessed it was probably taken during the early 1920s. My husband thinks that Anna died about 25 years ago which would mean that she was born around the end of the 19th century so my guess is probably pretty accurate. I´d even go so far as to assume that this lovely studio portrait may have been taken to commemorate her 21st birthday. It´s obviously a special occasion anyway as she´s decked out in all her finery and wearing some beautiful jewellery and she´s certainly looking a lot less solemn than the subjects in most of the studio photos I have from that era. I think this is a perfectly beautiful photo and it´s still in such remarkably good condition that no restoration was necessary, thank goodness!

The kit I´m working on at present is mainly in warm sepia and cool teal with cream, gold and silver accents. I´ve used mainly the warmer shades for this page with a little pale gold and silver to echo the colour of her dress and the artificial roses she´s holding.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Baby Face Restored

Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions on how to finish restoring the baby photo of my mother. You may remember how defaced the original damaged photo was but in case you´ve managed to block that horrific image from your memory, here it is again.

And here´s what I sincerely hope is the final restored version. It´s not perfect but I felt I had to stop somewhere before I ruined its vintage look by overworking it.

First of all I tried doing what Diane suggested to correct the spotty blotch over the left side of the nose, namely by copying the other side, reversing it and moving it into position. That didn´t work but it gave me an idea. I drew a selection around a part of the left side of the cheek which I judged to have the right amount of shading, feathered it, copied it and moved it over. I merged it down and I think at this point I smudged it a little to blend it in. Then, using the clone tool, I recreated the faint dark crease at the side of the nostril and also a small amount of reflected light around the nostril itself which would otherwise have looked too flat. It didn´t actually go as quickly as it sounds because in between each step I had to experiment until I found something that worked. Once I was sure I couldn´t do anything more to it without completely ruining it, I applied the median filter to smooth it just a little. Then I straightened it using the ruler tool, drew a selection around the photo, reversed it and removed the border. After that I created a new one using a pale colour sampled from part of the photo because I thought that white would be too much of a contrast and also unnatural looking around such an old photo.

Here´s a close up of the face as it was...

...and as it is now.

I´m fairly pleased with the way this photo turned out and I learned a lot while working on it though I must confess that I still feel there are areas which could be improved. At least it´s given me the courage to tackle an older and even more damaged photo of my grandmother which has been on my To Do list for about 10 years.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facial Reconstruction

I can´t say in all honesty that I actually enjoy restoring photos though, if I´ve been successful, there´s a certain satisfaction afterwards in a job well done. It´s just as well that I get something out of such a tedious task because my family seems to have a long tradition of defacing, abusing, neglecting and for all I know maybe even wilfully damaging its old photos. Judging by the tea stains on some of them, both my mother and my grandmother appear to have used many of theirs as saucers and my aunt´s are so scratched they´re more a reminder of the various cats she kept than a family record.

I´ve had one particular photo in my album which I scanned long ago and occasionally open in PS with a view to restoring it then abruptly change my mind and close it again with a shudder. It´s a photo of my mother and, as far as I know, the only one in existence of her as a baby so it´s particularly dear to me. This is what it looks like after goodness knows what kind of child abuse it´s been subjected to.

Pretty bad, isn´t it? But wait until you´ve seen a close up of her face. No wonder she looks so apprehensive, poor baby. It´s as if she knew even then just how badly she´d be treated in years to come.

On a dull day recently while I was casting about for something to do, I came across it again and finally decided to bite the bullet and at least make a start on it. After a lot of frustrating trial and error using the clone/patch/healing brush tools this is as far as I got.

Large damaged areas with little detail are relatively easy to repair so many of the major flaws have gone and I can tackle the damage around the edges later on but that spotty white blotch at the side of the nose totally defeated me. I´ve had several attempts at it since then and it still defeats me. I don´t think there´s a quick fix for this but any advice would be welcome.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I´d just about resigned myself to starting from scratch again after the computer virus attack when I discovered that I couldn´t open my scanner in my new PSCS5 and I couldn´t uninstall and reinstall the scanner because it didn´t appear in my programme list. I´d had exactly the same problem with PSCS2 which is why I´d had to replace it with a newer version. That wasn´t as easy as it sounds because I can´t get PS in English over here and I had to enlist Diane´s help. I thought Here we go again...and bought a new scanner only to discover that, unlike its predecessor, to open in PS it required the Windows Image Acquisition driver which the virus had apparently destroyed. Diane couldn´t help because she only works with Macs so I wrote to my 2nd cousin, Michael, who said that the virus I described sounded a lot like one he´d dealt with himself. Then he went on to casually say something which sent me off on another train of thought, namely... but what we did notice was that it seemed to hide all folders as opposed to delete them and we had to manually go to each folder and “unhide” them. Ever since I got my computer back minus all its folders I´d had the creepy feeling it was haunted. All my programmes tried unsuccessfully to use paths which didn´t exist to store my data and I had to save everything on a USB stick and manually drag it into one of my new folders. Whenever I tried to create a substitute folder to replace one I´d lost I got the error message that it already existed and that I couldn´t create another with the same name. Given the fact that I got a similar message whenever I tried to reinstall a lost programme, after what Michael said about hidden folders the penny finally dropped. By the way, this long rambling story does have a punch line so please bear with me in case this ever happens to you. I wrote back asking him how he´d “unhidden” them, thinking if it means my messing about in the registry, forget it. It didn´t. I simply had to tick a menu sub-option Show hidden files and folders. When I looked at my desktop after doing that it was overflowing with all the folder/programme links I´d lost all jumbled up with the new ones. I clicked on my old Design link hardly daring to hope that I´d get anything more than an empty folder, if that, and was totally astonished to discover it was almost exactly the same as it had been before the virus struck. By “almost” I mean that all the images were there but greyed out. However, by going into Properties and unticking the Hidden box they were magically restored. I did that with every folder and now have everything back which I´d thought gone forever. When I think of the 100s of hours I spent desperately searching for my lost images, documents and programmes not realising that they were there all the time and only invisible to me! And it was a complete fluke that led me to restoring them with a click of the mouse. Not only have I all my folders back but I can also access my old PSCS2 which is no longer hidden and that is an incredible stroke of luck because it has no problem opening my scanner while the newer version still stubbornly refuses to do so.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I´d lost the kit I was working on when the virus struck and that I intended to recreate it. In the post immediately preceding this one I also showed a substitute page using the photo which had inspired it. I hadn´t quite finished working on the original layout before I “lost” it. This is as far as I´d got.

As you can see, the swinging girl, the leaf swirl, the lace edging and the bird are identical (I had them on a USB stick) but everything else is different. I was particularly pleased to get my original frame back but am now presented with a dilemma. No kit really needs 2 oval frames. Should I include this one in the kit or the gold one I replaced it with?

Now that my computer disaster is a thing of the past I still have a little work to do moving new images/documents into old folders and deleting the replacement folders but, as you can imagine, I can take that in my stride. What I find very strange about this saga is, firstly, how the software I used recently to restore data was able to retrieve so many “deleted” files which were in fact only hidden and, secondly, why my computer was returned to me with a shrug of the shoulders and a casual It looks as if a lot of folders are missing. If in future – heaven forbid - I have any further computer problems I´ll turn to the Yellow Pages. I know who won´t be entrusted to solve them!

All that´s left to say now is thank you again, Michael.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Victorian Tea Party

I love this photo. It´s well over 100 years old and it makes me feel nostalgic for a simpler era in which children´s toys weren´t powered by batteries but by imagination and little boys could take part in their sisters´pretend tea parties without feeling foolish. It doesn´t belong to me but to Linda who´s a cousin of my own – and her – cousin, Neville, and these 3 Victorian children aren´t related to me but to Neville´s father´s side of the family. They were first cousins to Linda´s mother and are from left to right Marjorie Ethel Lawson, known as Madge, Frederick Charles Lawson, known as Charlie, and Anne Mabel Edwards Lawson, known as Mabel. Linda says that she loved them dearly and remembers them with great affection. She is still in touch with Charlie´s children and grandchildren.

I decided that Madge, Charlie and Mabel deserved a layout created from a kit designed especially for them and this is what I´ve done so far. To highlight the whimsical Alice In Wonderland feeling of that long ago tea party I´ve included several Victorian scraps and kept the colour scheme fairly simple using touches of orange to complement the warm sepia of the photo, and teal and turquoise as a cooler contrast.

I hope Linda will like it. Neville too although, judging by what my mother has told me about him as a child, he wasn´t at all like Charlie and if he´d ever had any sisters he´d have been likely to have played The Mad Hatter and tried to stick someone´s head into the teapot! Probably the photographer´s...

Sunday, March 11, 2012


For the past week I´ve been recovering in more ways than one. For a start, by sheer coincidence, while I was updating my registry cleaner I discovered a free software download which recovers lost data. A cause for rejoicing? Well, yes and no. Yes, it did recover some of my lost work but a deep scan took 7 hours, and no wonder, because it found literally 100s of 1000s of images! On the face of it that sounds positive but only a small percentage show thumbnails which doesn´t necessarily mean that these files are still recoverable. All it means is that those without thumbnails are almost definitely, but not always, duds..... Also, of those showing thumbnails, there were literally dozens of duplicates scattered all over the place and not necessarily within the same clusters and sometimes wrongly named so every single image had to be viewed and, if of any value, ticked. Here´s a typical screen shot. See how far the slider´s got to? That was after about an hour.

After I´d viewed several thousand, I´d forgotten which I´d already chosen for recovery as a result of which, after the first scan alone, I had many MANY duplicates as the programme doesn´t ask Are you quite sure you really want a dozen of that? After about 8 hours of ticking boxes my back hurt, my head hurt and I felt as if I was well past my live by date...so I downloaded what I´d recovered onto a USB stick and then stopped for the day. That´s when I realised I had a major problem. After all that tedious work the slider had only moved down a tiny fraction and I still had 100s of 1000s of files to examine. I could just have left the computer running all night and resumed my hunt the following morning but for the fact that I´d have had to uncheck every single box or I´d have got all those 1000s of images added on again the next time. Unthinkable. I reluctantly had to close the programme, start it up again and leave it on to scan again all night. I thought if I marked the spot at the side of my screen to show how far the slider had reached I could at least spare myself the task of ploughing through all the images I already had. Ha! I could have saved myself the trouble as I found next day that the images were in an entirely different order after the 2nd scan. And so it went on...every day for a week until I got so thoroughly sick of it I reluctantly had to stop before I lapsed into a coma, and accept the fact that there were probably – almost certainly – many images I´d be abandoning and sending to oblivion. As I said before, I´m recovering in more ways than one. And I´m still not finished. I´ve only scanned once for documents of which there are even more duplicates. The horror of that is that all the duplicates have to be recovered because some are viable and others aren´t. Why this should be totally defeats me but then I find it equally absurd that the programme includes unrecoverable files at all. But after that comes the fun part – I don´t think - which is sorting everything out into folders and transferring them to my computer.

It´s a great pity that I never found a trace of the kit I was working on when my computer went belly up. Also, I never found the freebie I´d intended as an add on to Garden Treasures so I´ve created another one. Here it is:

If you´d like it, you´ll find it HERE.

I´m off now to recover. Well, sort of. After that major marathon even housework and ironing have their charms...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Kits In The Store

Lajuana´s been busy recently adding more kits to the store for me, one completely new and two from my collection. If you have a look in the store I think you´ll agree that, as always, she´s done a wonderful job. This month the new featured kit is Summer Past which I designed last year and previewed here on the blog in February.

Flight Of Fancy is a kit I particularly enjoyed designing because I love bling and this kit is full of bright sparkling elements to welcome in the spring.

And on the subject of spring bling, Garden Treasures is an elements pack which I couldn´t resist adding on as it goes so well with Flight Of Fancy. In fact any of the glittering creatures in it would add an eye catching accent to any floral or garden page. By the way, it includes the only snail I´d welcome into my garden!

You can see the kits in the store HERE. As usual I´m offering some kit freebies. If you´d like them, you´ll find them HERE along with more info about the kits.