Free Printables: InCoWriMo Postcards

With International Correspondence Writing Month (aka InCoWriMo) just around the corner, I thought I’d share some free printable postcards with you. I painted the originals on actual postcards, so they’re the perfect dimensions to print onto card and release into the wild by snail mail. However, if what you want to write won’t fit on a postcard, you could stick them on the front of a greetings card instead.

Simply left click on each image to view the large version, right click on this larger image, then select ‘Save Image As.’

If to share your these postcards on social media do tag me, so I can see it and say ‘Hi!’

Wishing you every blessing!


These images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License

Mental Health Monday: Self-Compassion Part Three

It’s Monday morning, so it must be time to write my Mental Health Monday post. Today, I’m wrapping up my Self-Compassion mini series with the last few things I’ve learned.

Firstly, I want to share how mindfulness has played a massive part in my awareness of my need for self-compassion and my ability to be self-compassionate. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the art of paying attention without judging yourself when your attention wanders. It’s about focusing on the present moment, noticing when your mind has wandered, and then simply bringing your attention back to the present moment without telling yourself off for having let your mind wander. Daily mindfulness practice is helping me pay attention to the way I think, to the stories I tell myself and the negative thinking habits that I have a tendency to get into. I’m learning that that I can choose what I focus on and that I don’t even have to finish a thought if I know it’s not going to be productive to do so; I can just let it go. I’ve also stopped berating myself for having certain thoughts – I can stand back, observe them and even chuckle at them sometimes. My husband once said: you can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from nesting in your hair. He was so right. Thoughts come and go, but – with practice – it’s possible to mainly focus on the positive ones. If you’re interested in finding out more about Mindfulness, I highly recommend the Headspace app. I use it every day and it’s made all the difference.

Secondly, I want to talk about the power of imagery. Most people find it quite easy to conjure up the image of something in their mind. If I were to ask you what your favourite meal was or where your favourite place is, you would probably imagine them straight away. I know I’m thinking about fish and chips on Swanage beach right now. I can almost taste the salt and vinegar! But as well as being able to imagine pleasant experiences and places, we can easily imagine unpleasant ones too, and this can trigger off our flight or fight response and even lead to a panic attack. Sometimes, our thoughts and feelings can be as vivid and strong as they would be if the events in mind were actually occurring. Flashbacks can be incredibly distressing. But … it is possible to train our brains to build compassionate images that we can call on when we need to activate our soothing system.

So, how do we go about building a compassionate image? Well, we can start when we are feeling calm, when our breathing is slow and steady, when we’re somewhere safe and surrounded by things that soothe us. We can then ask ourselves some questions:

  • When I feel calm and safe, what images naturally come into my mind?
  • What are my favourite colours?
  • What are my favourite smells?
  • What are my favourite tastes?
  • What are my favourite textures?
  • What are my favourite sounds?
  • What do I want my compassionate image to look like? A person? A group of people? An animal? A place? All of the above?
  • Do I want my compassionate image to be completely imaginary, or do I want it to reflect someone/somewhere/something real?
  • Would my compassionate image have been through the same things I’ve been through?
  • What qualities are associated with my image? Wisdom? Strength? Warmth? Non-Judgment?
  • How would my ideal compassionate image relate to me?
  • How would I relate to my ideal compassionate image?

Sometimes a compassionate image can spring fully-formed into our minds. Other times, it can take a while to build. This may sound a little bizarre, but over the years, I’ve created a corridor in my mind’s eye, along which are lots of doors. Behind each door is a different world populated by fictional people – some are my own creation, and some are from films, TV shows and books I love. When I want to imagine something soothing or exciting or distracting or adventurous, I walk through the appropriate door, sit back and watch the action. It’s like going to the cinema – but a lot cheaper!

Lastly, I want to remind you (and myself) that it’s okay to be self-compassionate. It’s not selfish or self-centred to care about YOU. Self-compassion is the first step toward self-care, and self-care is what enables us to not just survive life, but to thrive as we live it. It enables us to be the people we were created to be. It also helps us to care for others. You can’t pour from an empty cup! Yesterday, I was reminded of the words of Jesus: Love your neighbour as yourself. Loving our neighbours, first requires that we love ourselves!

Well, that’s it! I hope you’ve found this little series useful. Next Monday, I’ll be back with a post on unhelpful thinking habits. Until then … Thanks for reading! xxx

Design Team News!

Good morning! I’ve got two bits of exciting news to share today. Some of you may already have heard, but my first bit of news is that I’m now a member of the Design Team for The Little Paper Tree. Keep a look out for all the cards and whatnot that I’ll be making with the products they sell. They import to the UK the best arty crafty products from the USA. And my second bit of exciting news is that I’ve also been given a place on the Mama Makes Design Team. Mama Makes produces quirky stamps for planning, card-making, journaling, scrapbooking and whatever else you want to use them for! I’m on the paper craft team, but I’m sure you’ll see me use their stamps in planning and journaling too!

Crafting Out Loud: Unbox With Me [02]

Hi there! Welcome to my channel. In this video I share some exciting news and unbox my goodies from The Little Paper Tree – not The Little Paper ‘Shop’ as I called it at the start of the video!

You can check out there stock at  The Little Paper Tree.

Thanks for watching!

Mindfulness – Memory Pockets

The older I get, the faster the days seem to pass. Once upon a time, the six-week school holidays seemed to stretch on forever, but now they seem to be over in the blink of an eye. My eldest will be 16 years old in a couple of weeks. He sits his GCSE exams this summer and will be off to sixth-form college in September. Before I know it, he will have left home altogether, and, in between visits, I’ll just have to make do with the memories we made together – plus the occasional whatsapp message, hopefully!

The most vivid memories I have from my life are those formed when I was intensely focused on the moment: the births of my children; the moment Mr Bowers finally popped the question; checking the results board at Uni to see what classification I’d been awarded. There are others memories too, littler but just as important: walking along various beaches, hunting for sea glass with my family; the hundreds of times I’ve washed my daughter’s hair in the bath; all the times we’ve sat at the dinner table, laughing at one of my husband’s jokes – I forget the jokes, but I remember the laughter. But there’s so much I’ve forgotten because I wasn’t fully present at the time. There are times when the kids will say: Mum, do you remember when [insert memory here], but I don’t remember it, probably because I wasn’t paying attention. I tell myself that they remember these things because they’re young and they’ve got fewer things to remember than I have!

Anyhoo … all this has been on my mind lately, so when I saw these little envelopes on sale in Home Bargains this week, I knew exactly what to do with them. I’m turning them into Memory Pockets to stick in my journal. I’ll add them to the pages with washi tape and when I have something I want to remember, I’ll put a keepsake in them to act as an aide memoir: a ticket stub, a car park ticket, a hand-written note … anything that will make me pause and remember and reinforce those memories in my mind. I’ll also use them as prayer prompts, to remind me to thank God for the making of those memories. Just knowing I have these pockets ready to go will remind me to pay closer attention to the everyday.

How about you? How do you make lasting memories?

Thanks for reading! See you soon. xxx

The A – Z of Artful Journaling: S is for Sprays Part IV

When I sit down to art or craft, I usually warm up by preparing a spread in my artful journal. It’s a lovely, peaceful and colourful way to move my mind and body from whatever I was doing before – usually chores – into whatever I want to do next – mostly card-making.  I created this spread the other day, using watercolour sprays, stenciling, washi tape and embossing powder. It was very therapeutic! Click on the images for a closer look.

To make a spread like this you will need:

  • your journal
  • a craft mat or cleanable surface
  • spray colours
  • a heat tool
  • washi tape
  • a stamp and acrylic block
  • embossing ink
  • embossing powder
  • an alphabet stencil
  • silver pens
  • baby wipes or rags for cleaning up

First, spray your mat with three watercolour sprays. I used magenta, blue and violet as they blend beautifully together. I made these myself by adding a small amount of India Ink to about 50ml of water. This gives a dilute and delicate colour. Don’t spray too much onto the mat; you want the droplets to stay separate so they don’t all blob together when you press your journal on top.

 

 

 

 

Next, lay your journal, spread-down, onto the sprayed colour and gently press it. You can do this a few times to cover the page. Once you’re happy with the distribution of colour, dry your pages with a heat tool. You should see some nice blending of the colours. Another way of doing this is to spray, press and dry one colour at a time. Instead of blending, you get more of a layered look.

 

 

 

 

Once the spread is completely dry, run some washi tape down the edges of the pages. Then, use an embossing stamp pad to ink up the stamp of your choice. Now stamp the image onto your spread. I let my stamp overlap the washi a little to visually bring the layers together.

 

 

 

 

Before the embossing ink dries, shake over some embossing powder, tip the excess back into the pot and heat the page with a heat tool as per the manufacturers instructions. My embossing powder granules are quite large so it gives a distressed effect. One thing to note when embossing on tomoe river paper: after heating, the powder-ink combo can ghost quite heavily through the other side of the page.

 

 

 

 

Depending on the journal you use, you might want to round the corners of your pages. You can do this with a corner punch. Finally, stencil in your date or a quote or saying and fill in the letters with a pen.

 

 

 

 

And that’s it – you now have a nice, light, bright, uplifting spread to journal on.

Are there any other ways you use sprays in your artful journaling. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading. Catch you soon. xxx

Artful Journaling Blog Post Master List

Planning Out Loud: January 2018 Part II

We’re nearly at the end of January already! How did that happen? Tomorrow, I’m going to film my February Plan With Me video, so today I thought I’d better post the second part of Planning Out Loud: January 2018.

This is my Goal and Brain Dump page for January. I don’t need much space for this. I tend to keep my goals small and practical so they’re achievable and not overwhelming – things like: book a dentist appointment, fill in a certain form or buy a pair of new shoes. At times these relatively simple tasks have felt like huge mountains to climb, so I don’t need anything more grandiose on my to-do list right now! This month I’ve included a couple bigger goals though: complete #janathon and #nojunkjanuary. These are things I really want to do because I know they will improve both my physical and mental health and get this year off to a good start. They’re doable too. I just have to do some form of exercise everyday this month and not eat certain foods – there’s no weighing, weight-loss targets or certain distances to achieve which is what I need right now. I’ve not written anything in Brain Dump space yet, primarily because all my thoughts and ideas are related to arts and crafts at the moment, and I’ve got separate collections for those.

This is my January hazard plan page. I started doing monthly hazard plans back in July after attending a Recovery College course on overcoming obstacles, and now, at the end of each month, I look at the coming month and identify events and issues that might cause me stress or anxiety. I write these in the left-hand column and then have a think about what I can do to overcome them. I then write my ideas in the right-hand column. I’ve found this a great way to reduce stress. Sometimes, just acknowledging that something might be stressful, makes it feel less daunting.

This is my current wellness tracker. It’s been twelve months in the making. Over the last year, I’ve discovered the things I need to do to keep me well. Headspace and Pray As You Go are apps I use for daily prayer and meditation. At the moment, exercise is a ten minute walk around the block – I can’t go any further due to back pain. Force Relax is otherwise known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation which I do every night when I get into bed. No Naughties is me cutting out the junk food from my diet.

 

This is my January Media Tracker. It looks a bit sparse at the moment. I actually took this pic a couple of weeks ago. Since then I’ve started reading Happy by Fearne Cotton and have watched a few more TV Shows. No movies though. I’ve not discovered any new songs lately, but I have been listening to my ‘Get Moving’ playlist which I use to get me out of the bed (still a struggle if I’m honest) and into the shower. It’s also my musical companion when I’m driving, cooking and houseworking.

 

This is my gratitude log for January. Every day, I fill a box with things I’m thankful for. I find this really helpful for keeping things in perspective. No day is completely awful. There’s always something to be grateful for.

As well as these spreads, I have also added a lot of collections over the course of January, including: Project Ideas, The A – Z of Artful Journaling Ideas, Card-Making Ideas, a list of all the Recovery College courses I’ve been on – I plan to write about each of them for Mental Health Monday – Mindfulness and Prayer Ideas, Planning Ideas, Printable Ideas, Arts & Crafts Supplies and Youtube Ideas. I’ll go over those in tomorrow’s Plan With Me Video. You can also watch my Menus and Meals video in which I set up my new food planning collection and show you how I use it.

And finally, to wrap up, here’s a look at the way I’m setting up my dailies. I use a time bar to plan how I’m going to spend my time each day. It helps me to see it blocked out as I can easily see how much time is available for arting and crafting during the day. When it comes to the bullet part of bullet journaling, I don’t feel the need to differentiate between tasks and appointments and notes. Everything just gets a regular bullet when it’s added, and a simple cross when it’s completed.

 

So, how did your January planning turn out?

Thanks for reading! See you soon. xxx

Mental Health Monday: Self-Compassion Part Two

I remember the first time I really thought about the word ‘compassion’. It was in a Religious Studies lesson at school. Our teacher explained that it has its root in Latin, where ‘com’ means ‘together’ and ‘passion’ means ‘suffer’, so being compassionate means, suffering together with someone, feeling someone’s pain, understanding, even experiencing, what they’re going through. I’ve never forgotten this way of thinking about compassion – it’s stuck with me because it evokes such a powerful feeling within me … to choose to suffer what someone else is suffering is an amazing act of love.

Fast-forward thirty years to the Compassion-Focussed Skills workshop I attended in hospital. There, we talked about how a compassionate person isn’t just a nice person; there’s an element of bravery, courage and strength in the way they support people. There’s a willingness to take responsibility and an ability to face and tolerate distress. They understand the problems people are facing, but they have a way of helping those people to help themselves. Sounds a lot like what my RS teacher said!

So, how does this relate to being self-compassionate? After all, if you’re suffering, you’re already suffering with yourself.

When it comes to mental illness, one of the main ways I’ve learned to be compassionate towards myself, has been to learn about my brain and understanding how it works. In last week’s post, I wrote about the drive, threat and soothing systems that we all have. It should have been obvious, especially as I have two children who I’ve had to soothe too many times to count, but I’d never really thought about humans having a soothing system. As a sufferer of anxiety, the threat system – flight, fight, freeze and appease – was all too obvious too me, but the idea that I could regulate it by activating my soothing system was a revelation. When my children were babies, I’d activate their soothing systems with cuddles or milk or a nappy change, but I didn’t twig that I could do the same for myself as an adult, even as a life-long comfort eater. Two and two just hadn’t made four in this area of my thinking. I wonder if it’s because society often tells us that comfort-eating is bad, and that spending time and effort on ourselves is selfish. To quote Daft Punk: everything needs to be done harder, better, faster, stronger. Slowing down to take a breathe is routinely frowned upon.

But I digress. The main points of the Compassion-Focussed Skills workshop were that people in crisis can often be very hard on themselves, but what they need to get through the crisis is support and encouragement, and that the best person to give them support and encouragement is themselves. Often, people can be good at looking after others, but not so good at looking after themselves – hands up if you can relate to that! What really helps is if we think about ourselves as our own best friend and find ways of thinking about ourselves and treating ourselves as if we were.

In the workshops, to help us become our own best friends, we learned a number of strategies. One of them was to engage in Compassionate Thinking/Self-Talk when we find ourselves thinking negatively about ourselves. For example: you realise you’ve forgotten to reply to a text message from a friend, and you start to criticise yourself and tell yourself that you’re a bad friend. Instead of thinking in that way, you could try to be compassionate toward yourself, as you would be to your best friend. Tell yourself that everyone is forgetful sometimes, and that when you’re busy or ill things can easily slip your mind. Tell yourself that your friend will understand, and that they’ll just be glad to hear from you – it’s better to reply late than not at all. This way of thinking acknowledges our common humanity, is non-judgmental, is encouraging and takes responsibility. It’s self-compassionate. Easier said than done, I know, but it just takes practice.

Another strategy we talked about was using a self-soothing smell. Apparently, our sense of smell has the fastest route to our brains than any of our other senses. Smells can trigger off our threat system – for example, the smell of rotten food will stop us from eating rotten food – but they can also be a good trigger for emotional memories. Smells can result in us remembering happy events or times which in turn can trigger our soothing system. I’ve always loved the smell of lavender; it reminds me of childhood visits with my grandma and picking lavender in my parents’ garden and hanging it up to dry in Dad’s shed, so, during the workshop, I chose lavender as my soothing scent and inhaled it during the relaxation exercises we did. When I first came home from hospital, I’d carry a pouch of dried lavender everywhere I went, so I could sniff it if I felt anxious. I can’t say it triggered off any specific memories, but just the act of slowing my breathing and inhaling a pleasant scent made me feel a little better. Even now, I put a few drops of lavender essential oil on my nightshirt before I do my morning mediation and evening relaxation exercises. It’s become part of my routine. It is a twice-daily reminder that to really take care of myself, I need to get into good wellness habits and that I shouldn’t stop doing what makes me well if I want to stay well.

Oh dear, this has turned into another long post, and I haven’t said everything I wanted to say about self-compassion yet, so it looks like next week’s Mental Health Monday post will have to be Part Three. Until then, what strategies do you have for activating your soothing system and being compassionate toward yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading! See you next time. xxx

(Image Credits: Pixabay)