31 December 2013

A New Year's Eve Summary

It's New Year's Eve today. I am deciding whether to attempt drunkeness on my own or whether it is just quite pathetic to sit alone with a bottle of red wine, a Harry Potter marathon and possibly my five year old...

I will definitely manage the Harry Potter marathon and I'm guessing the five year old will insist on staying up as long as she can... I do have a bottle of red that has been hanging around at home for ages and ages and now seems as good a time as any to drink it.

I have had an interesting year full of highs and lows as ever. I think I can safely say that some of the littlest things have made me most happy. Spending time with good friends, improving my crochet techniques, teaching myself new things, trying new recipes. I think my post from the other day  is probably the best illustration of where I am now.

Although, to be fair, I try new recipes all the time! It doesn't always work as well as I hope it will. Last night's strangely bland potatoes being a case in point. How can potatoes cooked in buttered stock and thyme not have flavour? Well, I achieved it. The experimental barbecue chicken worked a treat though... 

Worst moments? Probably during my college course earlier in the year, it stirred up so many strong emotions in me. I spent a lot of time thinking about myself which, athough in the long term was helpful, was hard to get through. I think this post probably sums up some of that darkness that still haunts me.

Although, those feelings are retreating more and more and I go longer between the utter blackness that surrounded me more times than I care to think about this time last year. I hope that there will be more improvements at this point next year. 

Maybe I'll even have found a job and a new boyfriend! Stranger things have happened after all...

29 December 2013

a book a month challenge

the perfect companions to a good read

I am almost certain that I have mentioned my love for the fashion blog essbeevee before, though possibly not in a fashion context as there is so much more to Sarah's site than that.

The thing I have been most obsessed with all year has been her book club posts. This is not a normal book club though as it isn't about everyone reading one book it's about one person sharing their favourites to give us all a little bit of inspiration.

As I said, I have been reading them all year and have decided to make myself a reading list based on the recommendations that have been shared. Some of the books mentioned are ones that I have already read and loved which was quite satisfying, but ruled them out of my list. 

I have decided to try and get back into reading regularly as it seems to be something that I have got out of recently and I have therefore charged myself merely to read one book a month as I should be able to manage that! I have tried to pick books I have either never heard of, but sound intriguing, or ones I have wanted to read for ages and not got round to. There are a couple from authors I have read before and one from an author a lot of people have told me to read but I've not ever quite got into despite having started a couple of her books. 

I should really have waited a couple of days before writing this post as this months Books Are Amazing post won't go up until the 31st. I have therefore used Sarah's own list of favourites to get my 12th book from. I have read all the posts from most recent backwards and selected one book from each persons list. Some months I have wanted to pick all the books. Every month I have had to make a hard choice between two I liked the look of... 

Madam with the books she won earlier this year from DK Books

I think I should also write a review after I have read each book so that you can 1: make sure I'm sticking to it and 2: hopefully find some recommendations of your own. I will also be taking any further recommendations you care to give me. I shall post the review at the end of each month to give myself chance to get it read. 

I am really rather excited at this idea :) If anyone would like to gift me any of these books I am also completely happy to accept them! (cheeky, I know). I do have a birthday coming up sort of soon so don't be surprised if I request a specific book from you!

The list is in order of how I took it from the blog starting with November's book and working back to last December. This is not necessarily the order in which they will be read. When I review them I will mention what month they're from with a link to the original post so that you can see the books I passed over for the one I eventually chose! (although, as I said, I wanted to mainly read most of them)

1 - The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
I have heard of this before, mainly as a film, but it sounded like something I would enjoy.

2 - I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
I have picked this up and put it down again in so many bookshops so many times. This year, I will read it!

3 - Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This just sounded like a really good read, to be honest.

4 - Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Another series of books I have wanted to read for ages and never gotten around to. I watched the BBC adaption of it and loved it.

5 - Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Volume 1) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Seen the film, laughed all the way through it, seems like a good choice for a first graphic novel.

6 - The Shell House by Linda Newbury
This is another that just sounded like something I would enjoy reading.

7 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
It said a grown-ups Harry Potter, sort of. I'm sold.

8 - Devils Cub by Georgette Heyer
Ah, Ms. Heyer, you have been recommended to me so many times by so many people. Perhaps this is the book to spark my own love...

9 - The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall
This just sounded surreal. And I like that in a book.

10 - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Based on a biblical character who had four mothers. I need to read this.

11 - Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood
I really enjoy Margaret Atwood's books, this is one I have so far not got round to. 

12 - The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly
Again, grown-up fairy tale is enough to have me hooked!

I have made an Amazon wishlist with all the books on too! I might have to investigate the amazon marketplace for some of it's famous 1p bargains... 

27 December 2013

a Christmas as myself

I have been away for far too long and have been itching to post a couple of things from this last week... It has, of course, been Christmas and I have been distracted by that! 

I went to Midnight Mass on Tuesday evening with my friend V. We do this most years but have missed the last few mainly because of madam being too little. This year I knew she would sleep through and that mum and dad wouldn't have a small screaming child on their hands. 

So having told the parents I was going to MM they were both surprised when V rang the bell at 11pm to collect me. I was slightly amused. We were joined in our trip by V's brother and his wife which was lovely as I haven't seen them for ages and certainly not since before they were married. 

We got to the church in reasonable time and even managed to get a space in the church car park, which is ridiculously small in comparison to the size of the church/congregation. V and I have always loved sitting at the front as we get a good view of what is going on and also we used to be able to see the baby Jesus being placed in the nativity at midnight. 

Sadly, they now do a crib service earlier in the day and place Jesus in the scene then, and they've also moved it to a different part of the church to make it more accessible. This, obviously, prompts a "gosh, Jesus is premature" response every year. Yeah, I am that person...

Anyway, we took up our usual front-ish row seats and settled down to wait for the start of the service. We did our usual gossiping and V did her now customary "I really want to dust that" at the organ screen. (She's right, it's awful, but a very fiddly and delicate job).

We sang a couple of hymns and listened to a couple of readings and then it was time for the sermon. We knew it was going to be interesting when the vicar started off telling us about the "words of the year" that have been added in to the Oxford English Dictionary. We both rather hoped that he would refrain from explaining/demonstrating twerking!

He culminated in what has been the word of the year. Selfie. He explained what it was and how ubiquitous it has become. Though I don't think it's as new a phenomenon as people try and make out. I have a couple of selfies of me and V from when we were about 17! Anyway, he then went on to explain that the birth of Christ was God's version of a selfie.


I had to cover my face with the order of service pamphlet. I also had to clamp my mouth shut so I didn't laugh out loud. I took one look at V and that set me off again. 

About halfway through the sermon the chimes sounded for midnight and V and I wished each other a Merry Christmas. I have always loved seeing the day in like that. But whilst I was sitting there, listening to the vicar waffle on and wishing V a merry christmas at the exact same time she said it to me, I realised something.

I felt totally myself.

For the first time in such a long time. That giggling, silly, easy familiarity and love of good friends finally got through and made me feel better. I came home after the service and had the quiet of the house to myself. I sat and wrapped parcels and placed them under the tree and instead of the underlying loneliness that usually accompanies me everywhere I just felt blessed to be having this quiet time.

I don't for a moment think that I am completely back to myself, but I've finally got to a place where it's becoming easier to feel it. I'm hoping this means that by this time next year I might, finally, be more myself than not :) 

15 December 2013

Advent Sunday 3

Oh, my poor little neglected blog! I really do have a reasonable excuse for not having blogged more this week. I have been on a training course. Yup, the job centre have actually allowed me to be trained in something that will actually be useful to me. 

I am doing what's called a Level 1 in Basic Computing. This is a four day course and I'm doing 2 days a week over this last week and next. I have spent a day learning Sage software and a day on Excel. Sage is something which I have never encountered before so was a good thing for me to play with and I felt like I really got quite a bit out of. 

Excel I have used before, but not much since my GCSE way back in 1994. This meant that although I couldn't remember much of the GCSE stuff I didn't take long to pick it back up again when he explained it. I spent most of the session explaining how to do things to the people sitting on either side of me. But hey, I like doing that kind of thing, so it was fun :)

Tuesday we will be covering Powerpoint which is, again, something I've never used before (I don't even have it on my computer!) and on Thursday we're doing Desktop Publishing. This is another thing I covered in GCSE so I might have some idea of what is going on, but then again...

I've really enjoyed putting my brain to use. I do sometimes think that I would be happiest as a perpetual student. I love learning things and trying new stuff out. Which was an almost subtle segue into what this post is actually about.

I done did another making :) 

I have been pondering making sequinned baubles for a little while and never quite got around to it. But yesterday I bit the bullet and decided to give it a go. I bought 3 packs of sequins in different colours (99p each and on a 3 for 2 though I couldn't get the red I wanted so had to settle for silver) a tub of sequin pins (£2.30) and a polystyrene ball from Boyes for 40p.

I emptied it all out on to my lap tray and got pinning. I had a couple of false starts whilst I worked out the design which meant I pinned and re-pinned more than I would have liked to. But eventually I settled on a segmented design and happily pinned away whilst watching DVDs with madam. It's incredibly easy to get quite a fancy effect.

It did take ages though, partly as I had such a big ball to cover and partly because I kept being distracted by a certain someone and her antics. I also realised that the amount of sequins I had might not be enough to complete the project and that started making me stress a bit, but I just kept pinning and in the end I finished, with the design I wanted, with only 2 sequins left over!


and leftover pins from a full tub...

the base of the bauble (and where the design started from)

A right way up bauble

spinning, hanging bauble!

I'm so impressed that today I have gone out and bought more supplies and some slightly smaller balls to decorate! I did buy more pins too, but this is mainly paranoia on my part as I have some left, though I must have used at least half of the ones I had originally so I maybe do need them...

I shall put some pictures up when I have finished making them, though I need to try and wrest the first one back from madam who has hung it up in her room. Mind you, when I look at it all I see is that it's not the colours I wanted so maybe I will let her keep it! 

8 December 2013

Advent Sunday 2

Today is Sunday again and the 2nd in Advent. We failed to go to church this week too! I'm beginning to feel like a rubbish Christian. But then, I do also think that as long as I hold the principles in my heart God isn't about to quibble with me over how often I actually go to church. It is, after all, not about where you worship, but how. 

The run up to Christmas is always a time of reflection for me and thinking about family and friends. Trying to reconnect with any I may have been remiss in keeping in touch with. Writing out Christmas cards I will invariably forget to post (yeah, get ready for that happening again this year lovely friends!). Although this year those Christmas cards are a mixture of the ones madam designed at school which have been made up into professional cards (cute!) and some amazing ones from the mouth and foot painters charity. 

All the pictures have been produced by people who cannot use their hands to paint and the level of skill is amazing to me. I would struggle to produce anything as accomplished myself. Which is a weird sort of a compliment, but I can't think of a better way of phrasing it. Basically, they're amazing!

Madam was fascinated when I explained how the pictures were produced so we looked it up on YouTube and found video of a chap doing a work of art purely with his mouth. She was incredulous that anyone could manage it and did beg to have a go, but I (being mean) refused. She makes enough mess the regular way! Ha! 

She will be allowed to make some Christmas decorations etc which we're going to keep in a box ready for when we can put them up. She started making a paper chain at guides on Friday so I shall let her add to that as and when she feels like it. 

I am thinking of letting her make a couple of stained glass pictures as they were some of my favourites to make when I was little. I'm sure she'll be bringing home some from school too! 

The main thing we've had home from school in the last week are reading books. They are rather uninspiring and repetitive (to me), but by jove, she is whipping through them and gaining more and more confidence. I am so pleased as reading has always been *such* a big part of my life. Especially as a child. She is realising the possibilities already and is hunting down words everywhere we go and sounding them out.

She has also realised that there are words within words or that they make different words when read backwards. I have a jumper that has Oops! on it. This morning she realised that if you read it backwards and add an 'n' you get spoon!. Also, without the 's' you get poo. I will leave you all to work out which one made her giggle more.

We have just been into town to get some bits and pieces and to have a bit of a walk out and some fresh air. I hadn't completely forgotten it was the town's "Festival of Christmas" today, but it had certainly slipped from my mind as we wondered why on earth it was so parked up at that time on a Sunday. We managed to park somewhere near our old (family) house and walked into town from there. It was lovely seeing the town so bustling and all the Christmas lights on as we walked home at the end of our shopping mission.

Madam and mum did some stealth shopping whilst I went to look up the pattern that we had decided to buy to make madam a new dressing gown with.  Madam was then allowed to choose what colour Nanna was going to make said design in. She has picked bright orange. 

Those of you who have known me since youth will be amused by this colour choice! ;)

She did want tiger striped faux fur, but it's got a really scratchy backing and we had to veto it. Mum did find an off-cut of black in the remnants bin though, so will be using it to embellish the orange... *plans to buy sunglasses*

(and yes, I am just going to keep using my old Christmas photos!)

6 December 2013

well, that was unproductive!

Today I have sent madam to school with her new Christmas jumper on as it's non-uniform day. The payment was a donation to the Christmas hamper they're raffling off. Judging by what I saw going in to class this morning it's going to be a rather biscuit heavy hamper this year! 

I am genuinely fed up of being ill now. I have had a cold for over a week and in particular a chesty cough. Even though I have had antibiotics for the cough it seems to be getting worse. It's really putting a dampener on my mood. Also, I am constantly exhausted so have achieved nothing in the last few days despite having access to a car :( 

My plan was to dump a whole load of stuff off at the tip and take a bit more control back in my house whilst we weren't living in it. Total fail. I haven't even managed to get to the gym (I should be there right now, but as soon as I start exercising I can't stop coughing (or breathe)).

We have been at mum and dad's house this week as we've been cat sitting for them whilst they've been away. But, due to the storm that's been going on for the last couple of days, they got stuck in Edinburgh for an extra night. This also meant that the stuff I thought I would do last night at home I also haven't done because I wasn't there :( I feel bad for everything getting so behind.   

I was hoping to avoid another bad go with a cold this year after I ended up on pneumonia meds because of a cough. But I think I really am going to have to go back to the docs and ask for further drugs. Though I quite want different ones as these ones have not really agreed with me, leaving me with headaches and other side effects.

I have guides tonight which I am quite looking forward to. We are doing Christmas crafts at the moment and I am quite keen to finish off my Christmas pudding pom pom :) Also, it means the guides will not be too loud and exhuberant! I don't think I could cope with them jumping around too much tonight... 

1 December 2013

Advent is upon us!

It's the first Sunday of Advent today. Also, the first day of opening advent calendars as the two days have aligned for once :) I am mean though and we don't have a chocolate one, just a gorgeous perpetual one that creates the nativity scene with little figurines. Madam rather disgraced herself last year when she was given a chocolate one by eating them all on the first day!

First Cristmas!
I am a real traditionalist around Christmas and loathe that the shops go into overdrive as soon as they take down the Halloween stuff. I like Christmas to be special and to be kept as a family celebration, not a massive opportunity to sell stuff. Our family has always kept a very small celebration which I have grown to love and appreciate as I got older (as a kid I wanted Christmas to start on the first of December like some of my friends had it!).

We were always told it couldn't be Christmas until my younger bro had had his birthday (the 19th) and that he could have his cards up for as long as possible. We were all allowed a week of cards, but A only ever got 6 days... So then, on Christmas Eve we would erect the tree (we now also put the lights on it). And that was all. We would do that sometime in the afternoon and then after tea we would go to church for the 9 Lessons and Carols service. 

Second Christmas...

We would come home after church, have a warm drink and get sent to bed. And then, in the morning when we got up, everything would have been transformed. The tree would have lights and decorations, the other Christmassy stuff would have been put up and yes, the presents would have arrived under the tree. 

Of course, as we got older and learned how Christmas works we were allowed to stay up and help with the decorating, though never the presents! And then, as we got older we just started doing it all on Christmas Eve. But since madam came along we have reverted to our old ways and now madam has to be in bed before operation Christmas commences. Last year was the first time that Christmas really clicked with her, so when she came downstairs and saw the tree, the decorations and the presents she was so excited!

Third Christmas :)
She checked that Father Christmas had drunk his whisky (which she thinks we should give him more of this year!) and eaten the biscuit she'd put out for him. Then she checked to see if the reindeers had eaten the carrot she'd left and checked outside to see if the reindeer food had gone.

We explained the sparkles might not disappear for quite some time as reindeer don't eat those bits... In case you've never heard of reindeer food and have a little one who may like to put some out to guide Santa to their house, it is made from porridge oats and glitter mixed together! We used quite big glitter so that it sparkled really well in the street lights. You can put food colouring in the oats if you fancy, but we couldn't be arsed! We use about half and half quantities of oats and glitter, you can make it in fairly small batches (you don't need very much) and the birds will take care of the oats!

Fourth Cristmas...
But now that it's advent I am happier to start preparing for the big day. I have already got part of madam's prezzie and something for both my mum and dad. I just need to get things for my brothers and they are always the hardest to get for :( Last year I got older bro a Lego Deathstar! I also need to attempt to sort out cards as for the last few years I have forgotten to send them out!

I think that Christmas is much more fun now that madam is around to be excited by it. When it's only adults it definitely loses something. Madam is still busting for a white Christmas, but I'm guessing she's going to be disappointed again!

Fifth Christmas, brought to you by Hello Kitty!

In case you're wondering, all the decorations come down by twelfth night, by which point we're getting bored of them anyway. I always miss the fairy lights though...