31 January 2014

Reading Challenge – January Update

First things first, Happy Birthday to this blog! I can't believe it's been up and running for a year already and that I have managed to post over 200 times in the last year! I hope this will continue for a long time to come.

And now, on to what you really want to hear about, reading:

I have set about my challenge with the gusto of the newly converted. I have never forgotten the pleasure I have always found in reading but I have rediscovered the thrill of making time for it.

This has been in part helped by the fact my phone is basically nothing more than a fancy bit of plastic and components at the moment and I have been unable to use it for anything even vaguely diverting for most of this month just gone.

I have had my evenings given back to me in a way. I have, of course, still been watching DVDs like they’re going out of fashion, but I have always sort of used them as background noise. I have also spent some time actually watching some of those DVDs and getting much more out of them than I do when I am also plugged in to Twitter at the same time!

But what about the books, I hear you say. There have been more than I really thought even I would get through. I’m not a slow reader but I am only really reading in the evenings and at weekends. I have also slotted some in on my commute to the course the jobcentre have insisted I complete.

The first book from the list I created was I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (who also wrote 101 Dalmatians, did ya know?). I enjoyed the book and found it absorbing with plenty to think about to keep me interested in what is, after all, a fairly standard love story.

The book is written from the point of view of Cassandra Mortmain and takes place over six months in which many changes happen to her family. Cassandra and her bored older sister Rose, younger brother Thomas, stepmother Topaz and her father – a once famous author now gone to ruin through a crippling case of writers block.

Everything changes when the Cottons arrive to take over the running of Scoatney Hall. The Cottons bring with them all sorts of glamour and an injection of company the family is not used to.

Most importantly the new owner of Scoatney Hall and his brother are young and handsome (this is the bit that I said was standard).

But the book is more than just a love story. The rehabilitation of the family from abject poverty to a new beginning is beautifully told and I read it long into the small hours to find out what would happen next.

The book is written in journal style which lends it a pleasing conversational style, allowing you in to Cassandra’s innermost thoughts. She is a spirited and amusing storyteller.

My main disappointment was in the ending of the book. I had successfully paired everyone off previous to the last couple of chapters but was left with an unfinished feeling about Cassandra’s own story.

I quite wish there was a sequel.
I have managed to read my first full Georgette Heyer novel as well. And did enjoy it greatly, my mum knows me well enough to have suggested the perfect book to get me going.

The full list of books I read in January looks like this:

1.  I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – 31/12/13 ~ 4/1/14
2.  A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne-Jones – 4/1/14 ~ 5/1/14
3.  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – 5/1/14 ~ 8/1/14
4.  The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – 5/1/14 ~ 12/1/14
5.  Stardust by Neil Gaiman – 8/1/14 ~ 11/1/14
6.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 11/1/14 ~ 27/1/14
7.  Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult – 13/1/14 ~ 16/1/14
8.  Is It Just Me? By Miranda Hart – 17/1/14 ~ 23/1/14
9.  Reckless by Cornelia Funke – 24/1/14 ~ 26/1/14
10.The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – 27/1/14 ~ 31/1/14

(Just squeaked that last one in by finishing it off at lunchtime today!)

Pretty impressive, I thought. You know, for someone who probably read less than that many books in the whole of last year…

I have lined up my first book for next month and have to say thank you to my lovely friend L for posting me her copy. I have now also got hold of copies of two other books on my list and will have to decide which month I am going to assign them to.

I mentioned that in the last month I have been doing this course from the jobcentre, I have to say that it has proved much more helpful than I initially thought it was going to be and I have found that the days have passed incredibly quickly with something to occupy myself with.

I have also had mother in to help me get the house sorted out properly. We have junked so much stuff that I should be surprised there is anything left. But I am not as I knew I had an excess of everything, which was making staying on top of things just so hard.

But the house is properly tidy at the moment. And I am keeping on top of the cleaning. I have been making sure that madam has been eating breakfast and we have been slightly less rushed in the mornings. I feel a lot more in control than I have done for an incredibly long time.

The only down point is the enormous damp patch that has sprung up in madam’s room. The guttering has things growing in it and is leaking quite badly just by her window coupled with the fact the pointing around the same part of the window has crumbled. This is not good for her at all, the agency are now getting on top of it, but I really rather wish it was already done.

Oh, and I have got my new washing machine sorted! Things are really on the up around here… 

My reading challenge was inspired by essbeevee and her Books are Amazing posts (latest post on that link).

9 January 2014

A busy old week so far

Well, hello! How are you? What have you been doing with yourselves? I have been all over the place in the last few days! I shall begin at the beginning and see where we go from there.

First of all, I finished the other mitten! Here it is, complete with fastening sewn in place. Cute, no?

As mentioned in my post from the other day we went to the panto on Monday. We set off fairly early on Monday morning so that we got a bit of shopping time in before having lunch. This was quite painful as madam and I have been enjoying our lie-ins whilst we've been on Christmas holidays. But we knew we would be getting back in to it with school starting on Tuesday anyway.

So, madam and I did a bit of shopping around York and got my mum a magazine with a free sewing pattern that I thought she would like. We also got madam some Frozen stickers to go in her new album. She has not stopped talking about Frozen since we went to see it with the Guides in the middle of December. And I still love that it contains a song that references fractals :)

We did end up in the Disney shop as well, somehow... I managed to drag madam away and we went and looked at pretty shoes in Schuh for a bit before heading over to the restaurant where we were meeting my parents and younger bro for lunch. 

Having lunched hugely on risotto and ice cream we headed to the York Theatre Royal for the panto to start at 2.30pm. Madam was so excited and I was a little worried she'd fidget. But I should have known better. She sat through the entire first half completely glued to what she was watching and with her mouth open like a fish! 

When the first half finished she looked devastated whilst I took her to the bathroom. I managed to find that this was because she thought the show was over! I promised her there was another half to come and reminded her that Grandpa had foolishly promised her an(other) ice cream! She perked up rather a lot at this prospect!

The second half brought more fish impressions and another sad face as the panto finally drew to a close. Her favourite thing had been the Gene Genie and the bit where they had gone into a filmed section and one of the characters had ended up upside down in a bin. She chattered about it non-stop on the bus back to the car-park but was so tired by then she just leant on my shoulder quietly on the drive home.

Tuesday was back to school day and I also had to go and sign on. I went round to the folks to get myself ready for the Jobcentre. It always makes me feel like I've done something wrong. I got to my appointment a few minutes early but then had to sit and wait, and wait, and wait! I was kept waiting for nearly 45mins which is not good when you're already feeling kind of anxious. 

I ended up having a half an hour or so consultation when it was finally my turn. I am looking to change my job search as I am not finding anything really to apply for. They offered to sign me up to a (and I hate this title) Fast Track 2 Work course. I, of course, said yes. I'm all for a course :) The drawback is that it is in Driffield and that I had to have a one-on-one interview before being accepted. Again, in Driffield. 

And that is what I did yesterday. I got my dad to give me a lift (aren't dad's great?) and went for a chat with the lady that will be running the course. She had also come in from Beverley to chat to me (ah, yes, bureaucracy is stupid). Anyway, we drew up a learning agreement and I told her, honestly, about the things I find hard about job searching (the forms, the phonecalls, the lack of self-worth!). She has promised she can help. Excellent. So I start this course next Tuesday (14th) and it runs until 4th Feb.

Today is the first day I have had to myself this week, I am quite enjoying being back at my fave cafe nursing one bottle of diet coke for as long as possible! They know me quite well, they don't mind!

And how is my reading going? Quite well actually. I have already read 3 books this year and am about a third of the way through an actual Georgette Heyer. I'm just starting another on my Kindle and will hopefully get that finished shortly. I think this is setting itself up to be a reading year. In the same way that last year was all about the crochet and the year before was knitting! 

I seem to only obsess over one thing at a time...     

4 January 2014

A mitt of crochet (sorry, not sorry)

I decided to finally get around to my new crochet project last night whilst I watched Pitch Perfect for the hundredth-odd time. I have been meaning to start it since I got Issue 13 of Simply Crochet Magazine last month. It came with free silver (coloured) fasteners to use with the project and they are dead cute which totally made me want to make them even more!

How the mitts look in the magazine.

I read the pattern and realised that the finished mitts would be too small for me. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for a bit trying to work out how I would make them big enough to fit me and my man-hands. I came to the conclusion that if I used a larger hook and followed the pattern as was that would be the easiest way. I just hoped that would work. 

I had found some DK yarn the other week that I had thought would be perfect for the project. I have used it before in different shades and know it is a slightly thicker yarn than some other DK weight yarns. This would mean that using the bigger size hook wouldn't leave me with less warm mitts.

That's madam's lovely patchwork blanket the yarn is on. 

The yarn is a James C. Brett Marble in shade 21 which is a lovely grey/teal combo. I made madam a lovely cardi in a pink/grey colourway when she was 2.

Ahh! I miss that hair...

I found the pattern easy enough to follow though when it switched from back and forth to in-the-round I got a little confused, but figured it out after a little puzzling. Not sure it could have been written more clearly, think I was just being dim... I still haven't got that much experience in pattern reading for crochet.

The whole of the mitt is worked in Double Crochet (dc) which makes it good for beginners. I did find I got a bit lost with how many rows I had done whilst working in-the-round, but again, that's just me and not a fault of the pattern.

From start to pretty much finished.

I got one completed in the evening so I just need to do the second tonight and I can have a lovely new pair of mitts to wear on our trip to York on Monday :)


3 January 2014

Books on the brain

I have made a start on my reading challenge and have been thoroughly enjoying my first book. So much so that I am a good halfway through if not further already. I am now at that point where I want to just motor through and keep reading all the books on the list.

However, I think that I will stop myself as that would defeat the point. Instead I will read some of the many other books that people have recommended I try as well. I will then include an "other books I read this month" section. 

I have lined up my next two or three on my Kindle. And having put a Georgette Heyer book on the list I have drawn many suggestions as to other ones I might like to try, I think I might even manage a Heyer a month to go alongside the rest of my list! 

Of course, this is relying on me being able to read a Georgette Heyer book all the way through as I have always failed in this quest so far! Mother is lending me her favourite to get me going on this task... 

The manic reading has mainly been enabled by my phone being rubbish at the moment. I cannot access the internet when I'm not on wi-fi and I am therefore twitterless at home. It is diabolical! But it does show me how dependant I have become on twitter to dispel loneliness and keep me amused in the evening. 

I am mainly either playing endless games of Fruit Ninja or reading my Kindle with a DVD on in the background. Yes, I do need the DVD, otherwise I am in silence! I do listen to music on my laptop too, but I get bored with the stuff I have and with no internet can't access any other stuff. 

We're currently outfit planning for Monday as we're going en famille to the panto in York. We went last year and saw Robin Hood and his Merry Mam which was the first time we'd ever been to a panto with madam. She spent most of the first half an hour or so absolutley absorbed in the show but with her hands firmly clamped over her ears.

This year's panto is Aladdin and The Twankeys

However, near the end of the first half there was a scene in which one of the characters was made to have a bath, fully clothed and in very cold water. She was on her feet and yelling more! More! with everyone else and after that seemed to forget her worries about noise and just sat back and really enjoyed herself. 

Her favourite part was a dream sequence where the characters appeared in their normal clothes and sang a take on Gangnam Style called, you guessed it, Panto Style. Madam announced in a very loud voice that the dame was a man, at which point he turned to her and said "yes love, I am". Brilliant :)

She still breaks into Panto Style at random moments...


1 January 2014

New Year 2014

Happy New Year! I don't know why I bother getting excited by New Year, I mainly just do the same things every year...

I didn't even break open the red wine like I thought I might. I mainly just sat on the sofa with madam and watched Harry Potter 2-5 (we watched 1 the day before). Madam thought I should watch the next 3 but I pointed out I would get no sleep at all if I did that.

Madam made it until the end of the Goblet Of Fire and watched the fireworks the neighbours were setting off. She then almost immediately settled down next to me and fell fast asleep whilst I watched The Order Of The Phoenix. 

I didn't even get all the way through it before I fell asleep myself! We woke up at about 5am and hauled ourselves upstairs and collapsed into my bed. We finally surfaced at about 11am this morning! Really crap parenting, I am good at! (My parents do not approve of allowing a five year old to stay up until midnight!)

We got up, madam put on one of her many posh frocks (this one is from Primark, so not sure you can count it as posh...) and came over to mum and dad's. They were (as they do every year) watching the New Year's Day concert from Vienna. I love family traditions. Madam didn't even bat an eyelid at the random classical music concert and mainly just joined in waltzing to The Blue Danube at the end. 

We have had warm bread rolls and nice cheeses and now mother is preparing the New Year's Day feast for tea. This year it's a sort of boeuff bourginon followed by Christmas pudding. Yes, I know it's New Year, put we never have Christmas pudding on the actual day as it's just too much after everything else you have scoffed!

Now, talking of Christmas, I am enjoying relative peace to type this as madam is playing with the new Wendy house that my mum and dad got her. It is quite a bit bigger than anyone presumed it would be! It is basically an enormous cardboard box that has designs on the outside that she can colour in. With doors and windows too. 

It is so big she can stand up in it (the people who have a concept of how tall madam is are all impressed now!) I shall show you photos...

Massive, huh! It fills up just about all the available floor space in my parents conservatory. I am expected to take it home and find somewhere for it in my house! It will go in her bedroom. *grits teeth* It will!

I'm hoping she will use it as a home for all her dollies and soft toys as these are what she spends most time playing with. She loves playing families with them. They get told off a lot though, it has to be said!

Oh, and madam has cottoned on to a new idea. If I am not going to be married to Daddy any more, then I can get married again. And she could be a bridesmaid. Wearing a blue dress. With a bow at the back... Apparently!