Friday, 29 November 2019

Friday Five: Christmas Carols

Friday Five

We went to the Christmas light switch on in Old Cwmbran today, with Anthony and Marianna leading the countdown. The lights did flicker on... then back off again. The SSE guy is coming back tomorrow to try and work out what the fault is! Still, it was a nice little event with carols and refreshments.

In honour of the occasion, this week I'm listing my five favourite Christmas carols. :)

#5. I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)

I Saw Three Ships

#4. Good King Wenceslas

#3. Carol of the Bells

I can't remember ever hearing this as a kid - though originally based on Ukranian folk chant Щедрик, the tune was rearranged with English lyrics for the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s. These days it's as American as apple pie. Still, it's a beautiful song, especially in acapella versions.

#2. We Three Kings (Of Orient Are)

Written by John  Henry Hopkins Jr in 1857, it nevertheless has quite a medieval feel about it. And it has lyrics like: Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume;— breathes a life of gathering gloom;—  Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying;— sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

What's not to love?

#1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest extant carols, dating back to at least the 16th century. As a kid it sounded kind of dark and a bit creepier than the usual carol, making it my favourite. Obviously!

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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Friday Five

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Tutorial: Miniature Doll Stickers

How to make miniature stickers

There is a reason I usually buy miniature books - I hate making them! Still, I made up a few little exercise books for Licca's desk recently and then wanted to jazz them up a bit. Here's my super easy tutorial for making miniature stickers.

You will need:

 - Scissors
 - Glue
 - Sticker
 - Teeny Tiny Pictures
 - Hole Punch

making miniature stickers for dolls

In the interests of cost free crafting, I'm using pictures cut out of the trusty Baker Ross catalogue and a bunch of old football stickers my mum gave me. Any sticker will do or, if you don't have any stickers, you could use double sided tape or even normal tape if you stick it to sticker backing paper (or anything else you can easily peel it off of) first. I've punched a hole out of the top right of the sticker to help me judge whether pictures I like are going to be the right size.

miniature stickers tutorialtiny stickers

Once you've found some suitable pictures, cut them out and glue them onto the sticker. That done, just pry the bottom off your hold punch so you can line the picture up in the hole. Press it down and, hey presto, miniature sticker. All that remains is to find places to stick them. :)

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Personalised Bottle Labels Review

Personalised Bottle Labels Review

A few weeks back I was sent a personalised Prosecco bottle to review. As I had the personalisation done in Anthony's name it seemed only fair that he do the actual reviewing! :)


It was only a little while ago that you couldn’t go to any event without being offered a glass of Prosecco, networking event, business lunch, or at anything to do with the arts, you were guaranteed to get a complimentary glass of Prosecco. Prosecco was the In Drink, although I couldn’t help but think that most of the cheap stuff you got handed as you walked into whatever function you happened to be at that week has a resemblance to grapes that had been fermented in battery acid.

 So when Jessica handed me very own personalised bottle courtesy of Personalised Prosecco, I was slightly taken aback, the design of the bottle was actually rather elegant and it was slightly novel to my own name printed on the a bottle, but as someone who is no stranger to decorative booze I would quite happily have had the bottle on my shelf as a conversation starter, and may well keep it. 

However to my mind the proof of a good drink is in the tasting, and I’ve mentioned before my experience with prosecco has tended to lean more towards the severe heartburn type. But my fears proved to be completely unfounded. What was apparent from the first sip of this bottle was a crisp and clear taste that wasn’t overpowered by its own alcohol content. It had a real freshness to it that surprisingly hit the spot as a thirst quencher, which isn’t something you find with many wines. And what may be unique in my experience with prosecco is that you could actually taste the grapes that it came from. Personalised Bottle Labels has really got themselves a great product.

Personalised Prosecco Review


I think this is such a cool gift idea, especially as even after drinking the contents glass bottle are great for displaying all kinds of stuff. (My favourite is sticking in one of those sets of fairy lights with the batteries in a plastic 'cork'.) The labels are professional quality, and there are tons of different options to choose from, up to and including adding photographs. Although we reviewed prosecco, Personalised Bottle Labels actually offer everything from port to vodka to champagne, and with regular sale events and discount codes on top of already good prices you can pick up some real bargains.

They also sell personalised bottles giftboxed with a newspaper from a particular day, or chocolates, or a rose, etc, making it a perfect gift for any occasion.

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Gift Ideas

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Tutorial: 1/6 Baker Ross Craft Pack

Miniature Crafts

We received a Baker Ross catalogue in the post yesterday, full of crafty goodness, and it got me to thinking about how I could use it in a miniature setting. I've seen a 1/12 scale paper craft pack on Delph Miniatures, but that's like £2.50 and I'd rather make one at home for nothing...

You Will Need:

 - Paper
 - Scissors
 - Ruler
 - Washi Tape
 - Cellophane
 - Heat Source
 - Baker Ross Catalogue! (/printer)

Doll House Miniature Paper Craft

First up, grab your Baker Ross catalogue and flip to the craft paper section. Cut out one of the little labels. (Alternatively, you can print a label out.)

Sixth Scale A4 Paper

Next you need to create your A4 paper. I used a scale calculator to work out the measurements, taking 1/1 A4 (297mm x 210mm) down to 1/6 scale (49.5mm x 35mm), then got busy with my scissors. As you can see you don't need your own supply of fancy craft paper - here I'm upcycling an envelope which contained some junk mail this morning.


Paper done, it's time to make the packaging. You can either use sheet cellophane, or one of those little packaging bags you get around greetings cards and so on. Cut it to size - i.e. just a few millimetres bigger than your paper width wise, and a few more length wise so you can fold the top over.

how to make doll size packaging

Now you need to seal up your cellophane. Any kind of heat source will do really - you can hold scissor blades over a candle flame then lay them flat over the edges you want to join, or put some baking paper over those edges and run an iron over them. I like to use a mini soldering iron because it's quick and easy. [Leave this bit to adults, younger readers!]

Doll House Miniature Craft Pack

All that's left to do is pop in your little paper sheets and the Baker Ross label you cut out earlier. Fold the top of the packet over and seal with a little bit of washi tape (masking tape or a sticker will do just as well) and, huzzah, mini crafts galore!

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Monday, 25 November 2019

Jakks Pacific G.I.R.L. Force

Jakks Pacific G.I.R.L. Force Fashion Dolls

Jakks Pacific introduced their line of G.I.R.L. Force fashion dolls in 2000. The name was said to stand for Glamorous Intelligent Respected Leaders, and they were given various special attributes in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. The dolls stood 11.5" tall with rooted hair and painted faces, jst like a standard fashion doll, but were designed to look much more realistic than contemporary rivals.

Their hands were finely sculpted with separated fingers, and the bodies were made of a seamless rubbery kind of plastic with an internal armature allowing limited movement of the elbow and knee joints. The dolls had painted knickers, arched feet, and sculpted rib detail. Jakks also tied their licensed dolls for Charlie's Angels (2000) and Josie and the Pussycats (2001) to the G.I.R.L. Force brand.

Although the line was short lived the bodies were popular with adult collectors, and dolls continued to be produced for other sellers even after the line folded in 2002/3.

Jakks Pacific GIRL Force So Wild BiancaJakks Pacific GIRL Force So Wild Creanna

So Wild

★ Bianca - box front / box back.
★ Creanna - box front / box back.

Jakks Pacific GIRL Force Body Art Dolls

Body Art

★ Creanna - box front / box back.
★ Felicia - box front / box back.
★ Lola - box front / box back.

Jakks Pacific GIRL Force Pop Stars Dolls

Pop Stars

★ Arianna - box front / box back.
★ Felicia - box front / box back.
★ Lola - box front / box back.

Jakks Pacific GIRL Force Rays and Waves Dolls

Rays and Waves

★ Arianna - box front / box back.
★ Felicia - box front / box back.
★ Lola - box front / box back.

Kulture Shock

★ Jaz - box front / box back.
★ Lola - box front / box back.
★ Nenko - box front / box back.

In some cases Lola and Jaz seem to have been shipped in the wrong outfits, and Nenko may not have made it past the prototype stage.

Charlie's Angels Jakks Pacific GIRL Force

Charlie's Angels

★ Alex - box front / box back.
★ Dylan - box front / box back.
★ Natalie - box front / box back.

★ Alex - box front / box back.
★ Dylan - box front / box back.
★ Natalie - box front / box back.

Jakks Pacific GIRL Force Charlie's Angels Look Two

Josie and the Pussycats Jakks Pacific Dolls

Josie and the Pussycats

★ Josie - box front / box back.
★ Melody - box front / box back.
★ Valerie - box front / box back.

Jakks Pacific Paradise Dolls

The dolls were also sold nude in plain slimline boxes, sometimes rebranded as Paradise Lady Camelot of Fashion or Picket Fence Dolls. There were various face molds available, and a range of hair colours from black through to platinum blonde. The usual hairstyle was long and straight with a middle parting, but you could also get dolls with fringes (bangs) and some shipped with their hair pulled up in a ponytail.

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Sunday, 24 November 2019

This Week - 24/11/2019

a fo ben, bid bont - to lead, be a bridge

The Christmas tree is up! I'm kind of loathe to have it done before December, but Marianna wanted it and we'll have to take it down quickly after xmas ready for her birthday so I relented. My collection of tree decorations now includes a metallic alligator in a tutu, retro style mini santas, and a rubber ducky in a Christmas hat. Kitsch, galore!

This week has been mostly school stuff. I had a meeting with Jane McCarthy from Estyn on Monday, then Tuesday was school governors at Maendy. I also had another meeting there this week, and we had Marianna's belated parents' evening. It was good to hear that she's playing well with the other kids, and is coming out of her shell a bit.

She's firmly on track for expected level +1 and, possibly, +2 which would be awesome. The most important thing is that she's enjoying school and loves going. :)

Other than that I've gone out as little as possible. I think Anthony's telling people I still have a chest infection, but I suppose it's easier to talk about physical stuff rather than mental. If it hadn't been for purdah I would have definitely had to be signed off sick for a bit. As it is, I'm hoping I can get my head sorted while there is not much on and be okay for 2020...

Deal of the Week -

20% off at The Book of Everyone

On the blog I wrote a post about International Men's Day (November 19th), a guide to Bandai's Locksies dolls, and a Mini Mart review of Even Tinier store on Etsy. I also posted some scans of Anthony's various appearances in the newspapers this month and a review of Snatch app. For my Friday Five series I wrote about my favourite cryptids.

I've been carrying on with my refer-a-friend collection too. I've got 242 offers on my pinterest board now.

Song of the Week -

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Snatch App Review

Snatch app

Snatch is an app for apple and android which offers virtual gaming and real life prizes. In layman's terms, it's a phone game in the style of Pokemon Go but instead of small animals you're trying to capture parcel boxes.

If you can keep hold of your parcel for 6 hours it will hatch open and give you a prize. They range from in game currency and boosts, to discount codes and cold hard cash. The challenge aspect comes from other players who can 'snatch' the parcels from you, requiring you to defend your property.

Snatch screenshot

If you live in a densely populated area with a lot of players this is probably intensely irritating. There are quite a few players near me, according to the map, but the snatch rate has only been about 10% so far which is liveable.

My prizes have been a 50-50 split between game items and 'real' things. As I'm not interested in the snatch element - it costs 250 coins a go - I've been using the currency to extend the range of my reach. As for the good stuff, I've won a Chili code to stream a film, two months free with Dine Club, and a free £11 on a Curve card.

Plus I've had a few things which I won't use but readers are more than welcome to:
 - 55% off your first Great Game Treasure Hunt with code PC5J3.
 - £5 Super Me bundle with free delivery using code ENERGY-769.
 - 30% off a LetsGetChecked test with code SNATCH3018721.

For a bonus 1000 coins sign up with my referral link:

Sign up to Snatch and get 1000 free coins with referral link

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Frugal Living with Babiafi

Friday, 22 November 2019

Friday Five: Cryptids

Friday Five
My Five Favourite Cryptids

A cryptid is an animal whose existence lacks concrete scientific evidence, but who is nevertheless believed to exist by cryptozoologists on the basis of more anecdotal reports. Here are five of my favourites...

#5. The Beast of Bodmin Moor

The likelihood that there are big cats terrorising the British countryside is kind of slim to none, given the issues of space, food supply, and those resources having to support a breeding population. And yet... Although the Bodmin Beast is the best known, it's certainly not the only alleged British big cat. They've been seen everywhere from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall, and back in 2000 an 11-year-old in Trellech was mauled by what he claimed was a 'leopard-like' cat. Between 2011 and 2014, Gwent and South Wales police forces alone received 17 reports of big cat sightings.

Some say the cats are ancient survivors of a more wild Britain, perhaps reaching back as far as the ice age, while others suspect they have a much more recent provenance. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 brought in mandatory licensing of big cats, which lead to some owners releasing their animals into the wild. E.g. Felicity, a tamed puma who lived out her days at Highland Wildlife Park, was captured in Inverness in 1980, and it is alleged that circus trainer Mary Chipperfield released three pumas onto Dartmoor after her zoo closed in 1978.

Still more likely is that many sightings are actually of large pet cats, like the maine coon which can grow to over four foot long. Even true big cats aren't out of the question though; the Born Free Foundation found that there are still almost 300 being kept as domestic pets in the UK.

Cwmbran Big Cat 2005
Cwmbran had its own big cat sighting in 2005. It turned out to be a large soft toy...

#4. Chupacabra

The chupacabra - literal Spanish for 'goatsucker' - burst into the public consciousness in the mid 1990s. It was a term given to the creature responsible for livestock deaths across Puerto Rico, the farm animals being killed and drained of blood through small puncture wounds. Eyewitnesses described the chupacabra as reptilian, with greenish/grey skin and spines all down its back. It stands about three foot high and is said to hop like a kangaroo! Others claim it looks more like a wild hairless dog, with pronounced fangs and claws.

Over the years sightings of the chupacabra have been reported across southern America, the USA, and even as far afield as Manipur in India. For the most part the idea is ridiculed by mainstream science, with the most common explanation being mangy dogs and coyotes feeding on easy prey, like pets and livestock. The original sighting by Madelyne Tolentino is said to be based on a creature from 1995 sci-fi horror Species. Either way, the cases broadly fit with other livestock mutilation around the globe so who knows? Maybe the chupacabra are really those cow abducting aliens...

Sil from Species

#3. Yowie

We've all heard of Bigfoot, the large apeman who is said to roam rural Canada and North America, but I'd wager that way fewer people know about his Australian equivalent, the yowie. Sightings of the latter stretch back centuries, and today they continue to flood in, especially around the Gold Coast and the Blue Mountains. Check out Yowie Hunters for a comprehensive collection of newspaper reports and firsthand accounts.

The yowie, historically known by names including doolaga, jimbra, and jurrawarra, has some consistently described characteristics: it's hairy, walks on two legs, and is both strong and fast. But some say they're big and tall, like Star Wars' Chewbacca, whereas other eyewitnesses say they stand about three feet high. Their tracks are human, clawed, three toed, or, according to historical tradition, face backwards. Is there more than one type of yowie? Or are the discrepancies proof of its non-existence?

As I said in my earlier post on the subject, if early hominids had a stab at surviving under the radar anywhere, the deathtrap that is Australia would be the place.

Yowie sketch from The Gold Coast Bulletin
'Gary', a delivery driver from the Gold Coast, told newspapers he's been having nightmares since encountering a yowie which thumped on the bonnet of his truck in November 2018.

#2. Loch Ness Monster

As a kid I loved dinosaurs - and not just the Disney show - so I was 100% convinced that Nessie was the last survivor of a once vibrant plesiosaur population. It didn't matter what science said, or how thoroughly that famous 1934 photograph was debunked. I wanted to believe.

Today, sadly, I'm a whole lot more sceptical. But I'm also more aware of the huge number of Nessie rivals around the world. The USA and Canada have a whole collection of lake monsters, from Chessie to Bessie, while Japan has Issie and Kussie. Norway has Selma the Sea Serpent, and the Republic of Congo has the Mokele-mbembe. Scotland alone has had sightings of monsters in over a dozen different lochs, suggesting that a) bodies of water produce similar optical effects, or b) there are plesiosaurs everywhere!

Loch Ness Monster
Lake monsters are sometimes linked to the water horse, aka the kelpies of Scotland and the Welsh Ceffyl Dŵr.

#1. Mermaids

Today the cryptid of choice is unquestionably the unicorn - manufacturers seem convinced that there is nothing which won't sell better emblazoned with one. I'm an 80's baby and still prefer the mermaid; Ariel and Daryl Hannah did their jobs well!

Supposedly half-human / half-fish, the mermaid dates back to at least 1600 BC, based on Mesopotamian artwork and Assyrian legends. Cultures all around the world have a folkloric tradition of mermaids of one type or another. Some are the beautiful women with pretty tails we like to think of today. Others, like the ningyo of Japan, are literally a fish with a human face. Hmmm.

What really resparked my interest were the so-called fiji mermaids - fake composites made up of various animal corpses. What better way is there to combine folklore, media history, and the creepy and macabre than this thing??

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Friday Five

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Anthony In The Press

Anthony's been in the local press quite a bit lately! Here he is at the launch of the poppy appeal in Cwmbran town centre, and then again on the front page of the Pontypool Free Press in a story about the opening of an exhibition to celebrate 70 years of Cwmbran.

He's also managed to get on the telly (ITV News), and was in the papers again yesterday in a piece about the 70,000 trees the community council is planning on planting.

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15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press

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