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  • Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle

    Happy Book Lovers' Day! I'm not actually sure if this is an International holiday or not, but I decided I don't care because who needs an excuse to write about books?! I've written a review of my favourite book, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.


    This is my ALL TIME FAVOURITE book. Many people are now familiar with it because of the Studio Ghibli film inspired by it, which is not a bad thing, but I'm not a massive fan of the film {I know, I know, insert gasps of horror here}. It's just that the book is so much funnier, and so much cleverer, than the animation, and they mucked about with the characters for the sake of it, and made a goodie the baddie, and the baddie a humorous sidekick, and it's just NOT ON. Ok. Sorry. Rant over.

    The story follows Sophie Hatter, who lives in the land of Ingary where seven league boots and invisibility cloaks do exist. Cursed by the Witch of the Waste to look like an old woman, Sophie strikes a bargain with a fire demon living in the fireplace of a moving castle which roams the hills above her town: if she breaks his contract with the infamous Wizard Howl, then he will lift her curse. But Wizard Howl, so it is said, hungers for the hearts and souls of young girls...

    The first thing I can tell you about this book is that it is absolutely not what it seems. None of the characters are stereotypical of fantasy books in any way. I've never come across another book that is, when you actually think about it, so absolutely weird - and yet you never question a thing! It has one of those plots where you cannot work out where all the threads and strands will join up, but you don't care because you're having such an excellent time reading it.

    The second thing I can tell you is that it is laugh-out-loud funny. I used to read it late in bed at night, stuffing my duvet against my face so I wouldn't wake my parents because I was laughing so hard. Every time I read it I still laugh. The chapter "in which Howl expresses his feelings with green slime" never loses its charm.

    The third, and most important thing I would like to tell you about this book is that it is beautiful - it touches on themes usually absent from lighthearted fantasy stories. One of the main themes is the idea that youth can be hard for the young, that the pressures and expectations of the world around you can make your youth seem suffocating.

    It's an absolutely cracking read from start to finish and I will recommend it to anyone who will listen. Diana Wynne Jones is one of the most underrated British authors ever - her books were out of print for ages so as a teenager I had a standing agreement with two second hand bookshops that they would save any of her books for me so I could have first dibs. If you don't believe me, then just read what Neil Gaiman has to say about her.

  • How I Make the twopennylane Packaging


    Before I opened my twopennylane online shop, I thought long and hard about my 'branding'. And before I decided on the airmail theme I currently use, I thought long and hard about how to package my jewellery. I wanted the packaging to represent what was inside, so it had to be cute, intriguing, and exciting. The anticipation of opening the box is key. I think that excitement is a feeling I will never grow out of. That's when I remembered the song, 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music. They sing, 'Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favourite things!' Right there and then I knew exactly how I wanted my packaging to look! So here is a little guide to how I make the packaging.

    Step One
    The plain boxes I buy are made from recycled material. I buy them in various sizes depending on what needs to be stored inside them.


    Step Two
    I apply the "address" to each box manually with the aid of a rubber stamp and an ink pad. I designed the rubber stamp myself and had it custom made at a local shop in York.


    Step Three
    Once the ink has dried, I apply a sticker of the twopennylane postage stamp in the top right hand corner. I get the stickers printed by a company, although I designed them myself in my ancient (1995!) version of Photoshop. I'm much better with Photoshop now, but at the time I remember it took ages and I found the whole experience really frustrating!


    Step Four
    Once the box has its jewellery inside, the finishing touch is to tie the brown string around it. I'm now an absolute pro at this!

    So there you have it! I do tend to make the boxes up in batches of a hundred. It takes me about an hour to make them up but it saves me time in the long run. You may even have seen me making them up behind the stall when I sell at vintage fairs!

  • For Fox Sake: cute fox themed Etsy finds

    If you're not familiar with Etsy, then I pity you because you are missing out, but then I am also envious, because this means you still have a life. Prepare for that to change. Etsy is a global online marketplace for people to sell handmande and vintage items, and it has some of the best stuff out there. Admittedly, the better known it gets, the more it is being infiltrated by cheap imports that are neither handmade nor vintage, but hopefully most people can see past that. Anyway, Etsy has a TON of cool fox stuffs. This is just some of it. Sorry the prices are in $ (the site is American), but if you click on a link, the site should adjust to your local currency. Happy shopping, fellow fox aficionados!

    'For Fox Sake!' by twopennylane

    A collection of fox themed goodies. Because foxes are the new owls.


    Fox Felt Pouch
    $34

    Kids Fantastic Little Fox Co...
    $160

    GRID Woodland Foxes Notebook...
    $12.5

    Fox brooch - Cute animal bro...
    $19

    fall fox necklace- animal je...
    $45

    Panties with a fox face and ...
    $44

    Fox print leggings digitally...
    $65

    Fox Illustration Eco Tote Ba...
    $6

    Fox - iPhone 5 Case, iPhone ...
    $24.99

    Young Fox Mug 12oz
    $32

    Geo Fox - Hand Stenciled Cre...
    $54

    Mr Fox ENAMEL PIN
    $12

    Crafty Like a Fox pencil set...
    $12

    Altered Art Plate vintage Vi...
    $21

    Miniature Ceramic Fox, potte...
    $3

    FOXES - Embossing rolling pi...
    $30