Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year(s Eve)!!!

Hello, I hope you've had a lovely Christmas!

Chris and I went over to my mum's on Christmas Day. She'd made far too much food so we spent the afternoon lounging around feeling stuffed, but it was still a nice day, or as nice as it could be. She came to us on Boxing Day; we were planning to make another dinner, but since she had so much food left over, we thought it might be better for her to bring it to us and we'd have a kind of 'buffet'. It was mostly things like mini sausage rolls, quiche, pringles etc, plus some of her yummy trifle which she makes every year, and has done for as long as I can remember. She's been having a bit of car trouble, so I went to pick her up and took her back home a few hours later, so that she didn't have to drive. Speaking of pringles, I'm never eating the salt and vinegar ones again, they do something terrible to the skin inside my mouth!

My main present from Chris was a Nintendo 3DS. I got three games with it - Nintendogs, a sports one, and a puzzle one called Mind Gym. The puzzle one was ok at first, but it's not very challenging and as you progress through the levels, the puzzles just start to repeat, so I think I've done them all now. I'm sure they will get a bit more difficult, but it would've been nice to keep getting some new ones. I'm rubbish at the sport games; I keep having a go but I invariably lose every time. Nintendogs is cute, but I feel a bit daft 'stroking' the 3D image of a pup on screen, and telling it to sit. It's not a game I'd play in public! My birthday is coming up in January, so I've put in a request for a few more games, preferably more puzzle-type ones. I've heard good things about Professor Layton, although I don't think the 3DS version is out till February. I'll have to see what appears...

Apart from the Nintendo, I also got a few books, including two crochet ones. I've never bought any so far and I thought it was about time that I started building a collection! So I got The Encyclopedia of Crochet Techniques by Jan Eaton from Chris (which was on my list) and also Cute and Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench from my mum, which was a surprise, because I hadn't really said anything to her about getting some crochet books. So I've had a flick through them, and although nothing has really jumped out at me yet, I'm sure I'll refer to them lots in future. I also got some perfume, toiletries, lots of chocolates (unfortunately!) and a few other bits and pieces. Chris' main present from me was a Tablet computer, which he seems very pleased with, and an mp3 player with a portable speaker, which I think he listens to while he's in the bath. The cats got a few bags of treats - the fishy shapes went down well, the cheesy wedges get eaten when they realise there's nothing else left, and the milk drops... well, they're still there on the floor. Also, my mum bought them a 'crinkle bag'. It's basically just a bag that makes a kind of crackling, rustling sound when you touch it... you know, like a plastic bag. Mischief is usually straight in there when you put a plastic bag down on the floor, but he was a bit tentative with this, and after spending a bit of time with his head in the bag and the rest of him sticking out of it, he hasn't really bothered with it. Millie is even less interested. I really like it that my mum thinks to buy them a present for Christmas, but I feel bad when they don't enjoy it or show any interest. Oh well, that's cats for you...

I'm suffering with a bad back at the moment. It started on Boxing Day - it gradually got worse through the day, and when I drove my mum home I was in agony every time I moved my foot from the accelerator to the brake. It's my lower back, on the right hand side. I don't know what I've done, I must have twisted it or slept awkwardly or something. I've been thinking I should try and rest it, but I was looking on t'internet yesterday and I think it's just 'nonspecific back pain' and the best thing to do is keep active, even if it hurts. Which it does. But resting hurts too, so I guess it doesn't really matter what I do. I haven't taken any painkillers - I'm not a fan of taking tablets at the best of times, and I'd rather be able to feel how bad it is all the time, rather than mask the pain and possibly do something to make it worse, without realising it.

So did you watch the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations over the last few days? When I first saw it advertised I thought, ooh, that looks good!, but I'd never seen the original film, or read the book. I had a look on Amazon and managed to download the novel onto my Kindle for 86p - it probably would've been free if it hadn't been coming on tv, but I can't grumble at that price. So I started reading it and it was a bit of a race against time to get in front of the tv episodes. I was about halfway through by the first episode, I'd got to about 80% through by the time the second one came on, and I managed to finish the whole book before episode three. I'm glad I read it first, because they missed out huge chunks of the book, and made other areas of it much more concise. I enjoyed the book, although I find it takes me longer to read something like that because of the language and style of writing - some of the sentences are a bit convoluted and I have to think about them more to understand what he's trying to say! As for the tv version, I thought it was pretty good. At first I thought Gillian Anderson was a great Miss Havisham, but by the end of it her voice was really getting on my nerves. I think I spotted a continuity error too - it kept showing a close-up of her hand, which was red raw and scabby from her picking it, but then in the next shot her hand was unmarked. Little things like that bother me. I saw a comment on Twitter about how it seemed wrong that Pip was prettier than Estella - I agree! I suppose Ray Winstone wasn't a bad choice for Magwitch (like I said, I haven't seen any other versions) but it did feel a bit like every other Cockney-style gangster he's ever played, if you know what I mean. Overall I enjoyed it though - I don't often watch period dramas on tv, so it was a nice change for me.

Speaking of my Kindle, I've just downloaded a load more free books, mainly classics such as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and a few more by Charles Dickens. I think I'm going to make it one of my intentions for 2012, to try and read more of these. I'll try again with Wuthering Heights too - every year I attempt it, get about 30 pages in and then abandon it! I've got a lot of these old classics, and I've also got some which are a bit more modern, like The Great Gatsby, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Brideshead Revisited etc. I got them in a boxset from The Book People, who deliver to us at work (when they used to do decent box sets of novels - now it's all children's and cookery books). Another box set I got was (I think) Booker Prize winners, none of which I've ever tackled. So I'm going to try and make some space on my bookshelves, by reading a lot more next year. I can't decide whether to make a list of what to read in advance, like for each month - if I stuck to it it could be a good idea, but I've got a feeling that if there's a book on the list which doesn't take my fancy at that particular time, it could put me off reading for a long time. But generally I'd like to try and read a couple of 'proper' books a month, at least, whilst also reading some of the classics on my Kindle (which I'll probably start taking to work with me again). I'll try and report back here every time I finish one.

So are you making any New Year resolutions? Last year I made a list of intentions, and looking back at it, I'm pleased to see I did actually achieve some of them, to varying degrees. So I think I'm going to do the same this year. I probably won't post them on my blog, as some will be a bit too personal, but if I can share any, I will.

Anyway, I think that's all for now. Sorry about the lack of photos on this post - that needs to be one of my intentions for next year, start using my camera more!!

So all that's left to say is Happy New Year! My new year's celebrations will be as quiet as always; I'll be thinking about the people who my family lost this year, and hoping for a better, happier 2012 for us all.

Take care, see you next year   xxx

Saturday, 24 December 2011

And So This Is Christmas...

I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young...

Well, it's been a difficult few weeks. Obviously there's never an easy time to lose someone, but at Christmas you seem to be even more acutely aware of the people who are missing from your life. My mum decided that she still wanted to go ahead and try to have as 'normal' a Christmas as possible though, so that's what we're going to do. It's always been a fairly quiet affair in my family, so I imagine it will be much the same, if a little more subdued than usual.

I haven't been feeling very festive until a few days ago - I've been off work and spending most days with my mum, helping her sort things out, so it's been quite hectic. Chris and I only got around to putting our trimmings up about three days ago. For the last couple of years we've selfishly deprived the cats of their favourite toy - The Christmas Tree - and had a tree-less Christmas, but I still think we manage to make the place look quite nice. We put fairy lights all the way around the living room, out of paws reach (apart from near the bookcase), and wrap a bit of tinsel around them too in places. This year all the cards are on the fireplace/hearth (don't worry, we never really use the fire) plus one or two ornaments. The photo doesn't really do it justice, it looks more twinkly and Christmassy really.

Mischief on his new favourite blanket... well, it's mine, but we share
Inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I thought I'd treat myself and paint my nails. I love nail polish, but I don't wear it as often as I used to, I must be busier now than I used to be!

The Pinterest Version
My Version - nailed it, right?
In my defence, it was my first attempt, and I don't have any fancy nail art equipment or anything like that - I was just using the normal nail polish brushes and lets face it, they're not made for precision or fine detail. So they're not perfect, but they're not bad, I guess.

Today I took the last of my garden photos (better late than never). At some point during the year I thought of taking a photo each month of a tree at the end of our garden, but I haven't always managed to get exactly the same shot. However, today I downloaded Picasa to have a go at one of those collages that I see on so many other blogs, and here is my attempt with the tree - January to December, from top left to bottom right:

I think we may see more collages next year, now that I've just discovered it! (Late to the party, as always!)

I don't know what's up with the cats just lately, but I keep finding them... sitting next to each other, shock, horror!! They get on really well generally, but Mischief kind of 'tolerates' Millie most of the time; if he's on the bed and she gets up next to him, he'll go somewhere else. I think he just likes his personal space. So it's kind of strange to see them this close together:

"Oh no, she's here with the camera again..."

"I'm so bored of having my photo taken..."

"I'm not even going to look at her this time..."
Earlier I got Millie on her own, in the same spot, looking adorable:

Just a-sitting in a sunbeam!!
In wildlife news, the squirrels are back! There were two of them the other day, queueing up to get to the bird feeder, but for some reason every photo I took came out blurry - I obviously need to get practicing again. Chris spotted one this morning though, and then realised what it was up to. We have a blue bin that we keep bird food in. The bin has a lid. The bin is behind the wheelie bin, next to the black thing, which is actually a wormery.

I don't know how the lid became seperated from the bin, I'm sure it's usually got a brick on it, but anyway, the squirrel was just about to take full advantage:

He was probably in there a minute or so before Chris went out and put the lid back on.

Anyway, I think that's about all for now. I'll just leave you with a splash of colour, some flowers that Chris bought me last week:

Have a very happy and peaceful Christmas, and enjoy the company of loved ones.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


My father passed away this morning.

That's the third death to occur within my family in the last five months. I don't know how much more we can take. Enough, please.

I'll miss you so much dad xxx

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Rest In Peace

Just heard the news that the footballer Gary Speed has been found hanged at his home, aged 42.

In my teens I had a massive crush on him, when he played for Leeds Utd. I had posters everywhere, and I even went to meet him one day when he was doing a signing in a sports shop. I got his autograph, and had my photo taken with him. I kind of embarassed myself in front of him (nothing terrible, just fumbling around in my bag for a picture for him to sign) and funnily enough, my crush kind of fizzled out not long after that! I lost interest in football too, but I kind of always had a soft spot for him, so I was devastated when I heard what had happened.

If it's true that this was suicide (I'm only going by what I've read so far on the news websites), then he must've had some serious inner torment that drove him to this tragic act. I hope he's free of it now, and in a better place. I just wish he'd found some other way to deal with it, for his own sake and the sake of his family and friends.

My thoughts are with them.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I Like Driving In My Car!!

Ooh, I'm a bit rubbish at this blogging malarkey, aren't I? I've even had this week off work, and usually that means a brief flurry of posts, but it's kind of been all go and I just don't seem to have found the time. Anyway, I hope you're well - done all your Christmas shopping yet??

So, things that I/we wanted to get done this week:

1. Buy a new car, for me!
2. Decorate the living room and stairs, now that we've had them plastered
3. Do some Christmas shopping
4. Have a general 'get-the-place-ready-for-Christmas' kind of tidy-up
5. Any other business

Things that we've done this week:

1. I bought a new car!! Wippee!!

Yeah, that's it.

I've been wanting a new car for a year or two. I've had a Nissan Micra for about 6 years, which to be fair has served me very well, always sailing through it's MOT's. But it was a bit slow, it didn't have much 'oomph' if you know what I mean, and it was small too, and I felt ready to get something a bit bigger. When we've gone on holiday we've always gone in Chris' car, which is an estate, but he's been talking about getting himself a little van, and I didn't fancy going away in a van, so I suggested that if I got the 'family' car (ie. big enough for all our luggage and the big crate that the cats travel in), he'd be able to get a van and we'd use my car for holidays etc. So Tuesday was the big day. Off we tootled to the car auctions. We'd had a look at a few MPV's and I seemed to have settled on a Vauxhall Zafira. Looking in the catalogue, there were a few going through the auction, so we waited and waited. The first one to go through looked really nice, so Chris got himself in a position where the auctioneer could see him, while I stayed off to the side, hardly daring to watch. He bid once, and it was all over. The hammer came down - we'd got the car!! There was no tax, MOT or insurance so obviously we couldn't drive it away, so the next day he hired a car trailer and went to pick it up, then took it for it's MOT, which it passed. The garage brought it home for us and parked it on the drive, and then on Thursday I got my insurance swapped over, and then paid my road tax, and then it was all legal!! So off we went for a spin! Over to my parents, and then over to Chris' mum and dad, to show it off. It feels a bit strange, and obviously quite different from the Micra. It's bigger, it does have a lot more 'oomph' thankfully(!), and there's the usual little things like getting used to the gears and the pedals being slightly different. But we went out for a long drive on Friday, and today I took my mum out for a bit, and I'm getting better each day, so I hope I won't be long before I'm really comfortable driving it. I'm back at work on Monday, so driving into town and back every day will soon get me used to it, I'm sure. I should have taken a photo of it really, but I never thought. I might do tomorrow. (Y'know, just in case you've never seen one!)(I realise I might be the only one who's excited about getting a new car!) So I know you're probably thinking, ok you bought a car, that hasn't taken all week, why couldn't you get anything else done? There's been lots of to-ing and fro-ing though, and it did kind of take up part of Tuesday, a lot of Wednesday, and then Thursday morning, and then I've been out driving it on Thursday afternoon, Friday and today (and probably tomorrow aswell). And the rest of the time I was probably too excited to do anything else!

Speaking of photos, I'm ridiculously late with my November ones. I did take some a couple of weeks back, and I was going to upload them this evening, but my camera battery was flat so it's currently charging and I might have to try and post them tomorrow, unless it charges up in the next hour or so.

So as for the other things on the list, no, we haven't managed to do any painting. Chris did give the living room one coat a couple of weeks back, so it's not looking bad, but obviously it needs finishing, and we've still got all the stairs to do. We're really going to have to make an effort to get it done.

I did actually manage a little bit of Christmas shopping, but only online. I've had a few things delivered, and I've got a few other ideas of what to get, it's just a question of getting to the shops. I'll probably start going shopping after work a few times.

I haven't really had the 'tidy-up', but I'll have to move things when we decorate, so that might spur me on to tidy other rooms as well. I can't blame Chris - it's all my mess, I'm afraid. I have little pockets of 'untidiness' all over the house.

I'm still rippling, two rows of each colour and I think I might be on my 5th or 6th colour now, although I haven't done any for a while. I might do a photo update, if I remember.

I should've added 'reading' to the list above, because I have actually read two(-and-a-bit) books. I've got a few thriller-type paperbacks which are not always my thing, but I don't like giving books away if I haven't read them first. A woman at work likes them though, so I've decided to try and read them all really quickly and then take them in for her - she reads them and then takes them round to the fundraising office, who sell them around the hospital. So I've read a couple, but there was a third one which I started but I just wasn't getting into, so I abandoned it. I don't usually do that - I always keep going with a book, even if I don't really enjoy it. But I kind of had an epiphany and thought "Michelle - if you don't like it, just don't finish it!" In fact, I've got four books to take for her, because there was another which I just didn't even bother to start, cos I didn't like the sound of it. So I'm slowly making space on my bookshelves again (partly because I've asked for some new books for Christmas!)

Oh, the battery light has gone green, so we're fully charged again!

Hmm, not really worth waiting for... I'm definitely not doing this next year, you'll be pleased to know!

Oh, I've just remembered what we did on Tuesday, after we'd been to the car auction. We went to see Breaking Yawn Dawn. Don't get me wrong, after I finally got around to reading the books, years after everyone else (always late to the party, me), I turned into a bit of a Twi-hard, and I couldn't wait to see this film. But it was a bit dull, to be honest. They could've definitely fit the last book into one film, instead of splitting it into two. I think it was probably poorly-directed, because they'd have these long 15-20 second shots of Bella's face, and it would basically just be her frowning. Because that's all she does. I'm sure we were supposed to see some kind of emotion in her eyes, but nope, nothing. I've seen better actors on Neighbours. Ooh, miaow! Seriously, I wanted to love it, but I didn't. I hope Part 2 will be a bit more exciting.

A film that I am looking forwards to, although it's not out till February, is The Woman In Black starring Daniel Radcliffe! I am almost beside myself with excitement for this!! I love a good ol' Gothic ghost story, and Susan Hill knows how to write one. This is the trailer:

Can. Not. Wait!!!

In a slight change of style, I watched Strictly tonight. Loving Harry, loving Chelsee, got a soft spot for Robbie, finding Jason a bit dull, a bit indifferent to Alex, liking Holly, Anita to go this week. And someone sack that bloody awful female singer!! I can sing better than her, and I can't even sing!

I've just re-read this post and it's really obvious that I'm writing it in a rush, sorry about that. It's 10pm and I'm tired and I want to go to bed. I can't have too much of a lie-in tomorrow as I need to get up and get ready, because we're going for Sunday dinner ( a carvery) with Chris' parents. I might be driving, although it will involve the M62 and the A1, two very busy roads which I generally avoid like the plague (I don't like the big scary lorries!) But it will be good practice I suppose, and it'll all help with me 'getting to know' my new car, so I might be brave!

Anyway, I think that's all for now, I really should go and get my beauty sleep.

Aaaaaandd.... breathe!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Holiday Memories

I was reading Kathy's post about her trip to the Scottish Highlands, and I confess to coming over all envious, as I'm just ever-so-slightly completely and utterly obsessed with that part of the UK myself. As mentioned in my previous post, roughly this time last year we were up there in a place called Portuairk, which is a tiny little crofting village (barely even big enough to be a village in fact) on the very westernmost point of the UK mainland, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The weather was pretty typically Scottish all week, but we still had a fantastic holiday. I don't have any links with that part of the world, and apart from a weekend coach trip with my mum, I'd never been there on holiday until Chris and I started visiting. Yet every time I go there, I kind of feel like I'm coming home. The breathtaking scenery of the lochs and mountains fills me with an enormous sense of peace and belonging, and every time we leave, I think I leave a little bit of my heart behind. I suspect it probably is my 'spiritual home' and let me tell you, when I win the lottery, you won't see me for dust! I'll be up there buying a romantic little cottage quicker than you can say "och aye tha noo"! Erm, hopefully Chris will want to come with me too!

Anyway, seeing how pleased Kathy was to get a photo of the majestic stag, it reminded me of my own 'Monarch Of The Glen' moment from a few years ago, which I just thought I'd share with you.

We were staying in a little cottage in a place called Cove, on the shores of Loch Ewe. At the opposite side of the loch is a place called Mellon Charles, and one day we visited a little shop which made handmade soap. I'm pretty sure this is the same place, although it looks like they've expanded a lot since we were there, and I'm not even sure if the same people own it now. At the time though the owners were a lovely couple (whose names escape me unfortunately) who spent a lot of time telling us about the area and suggesting places to visit. One of the places they suggested was the Applecross Peninsula. So we had a study of the map and decided to give it a try later in the week.

To really experience this area, you need to cross the mountain pass known as Bealach na Bà, which roughly translates as Pass Of The Cattle, as it was once a drover's road. It has the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 626 metres (2,053 ft). This is the slightly ominous sign that greets you at the start of the pass:

So off we went, fearless, into the unknown! Once you start the climb, you don't really want to stop unless you have to in a passing place, so there weren't many opportunities to take photos, and to be honest, since I had the steep drops at my side of the car, I think I was clinging on (to what Chris refers to as the 'Jesus Handle') for dear life! But it really was breathtaking though!

We did manage to stop on one of the hairpin bends, where the road widened a bit, and this is where I had my Monarch Of The Glen moment. The reason we stopped was because we saw these three deer running down the hillside:

I got a couple of photos of them, and then turned round to speak to Chris, and saw this guy on the hillside behind me:

He stopped and stared right at me, and I think I held my breath the whole time, whilst snapping away. It felt like such a privilege to be able to take his photo, he was absolutely stunning, and he was literally just a few feet away from us, no zoom lens needed! Eventually he wandered off out of sight, so we carried on, and I got a couple of photos of the road that we'd just travelled up:

At the summit there was an information board about the view - I think on a clear day you can see Skye from there. I braved the gale force wind to walk to the board, but it definitely wasn't a clear day and I couldn't see a blimmin' thing. Chris stayed in the car, and snapped me making my way back, all wrapped up with my woolly hat on, genuinely worried that I was going to get blown away:

A brilliant experience, one I can't recommend enough if you're ever in the area, and if you're brave enough!!

This video, courtesy of twpduk on YouTube, shows you what the road is like. There are lots of other similar videos; clearly driving up there on a motorbike with a helmet camera is a popular thing to do! The engine noise/gear changes give you an idea of the effort it takes to climb to the top. Be warned though, if you suffer from motion sickness, particularly from things like video games, you might want to give it a miss:

I hope you enjoyed that little visit to one of many stunning parts of Scotland!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Bit Of All-Sorts...

Helloooo! How are you? Well, I hope? It's been a rough few weeks, but I'm doing ok and just trying to get back to some kind of normality.

As it's been a while since I last blogged, I've made a list of things I wanted to mention, so this post is going to be all over the shop and not in any kind of order. Be warned!!

First things first, my monthly garden photos, which are, um, nearly a whole month late! I did take them around about the 8th I think, but obviously I haven't got around to posting them until now.

Can you see the moon, just above the tree? Still there at about 9am

I'm really not good at taking complimentary photos of our garden, I seem to make it look worse than it really is, so I don't think I'll be doing this next year. But I'll keep up with it for the next two months.

I've temporarily relocated to the bedroom from my usual spot in the living room, as we've just had it plastered. The walls are still drying, so the plaster is quite dark, and we've taped newspaper over the window as we have no blinds or curtains up. Chris has also removed the manky old radiator in preparation of fitting a lovely new one that will hopefully throw out a lot more heat, and as we've got the small windows open trying to help the drying process, the room is basically cold, dark and dingy at the moment. I'm going to have to wrap up when I watch Strictly tonight!

So I'm currently sitting on the bed writing this, which is quite pleasant actually. However, it's taken me ages to get started, because earlier on Millie was doing some major ATTENTION SEEKING and wouldn't leave me alone! She was basically sitting on my chest/stomach, between me and the laptop, and if I stopped stroking her to type, she'd start nudging my hands. I tried to take a photo to demonstrate, but it wasn't easy one-handed. I have a general rule of not posting photos of my ugly mug on this blog, but I couldn't resist this one:

Actually she wasn't 'thwacking' me, she has this habit of looking up at me and stretching, as though she's trying to touch my face. The problem is she does it with her claws out and I was fearing for my eyeball which is why I'm kind of turning away from her. Bless her, she's adorable, and I wouldn't have her any other way. But she is a teensy-weensy bit annoying at times. She seems to have settled down now, as she's burrowed under the duvet to sleep.

While the plasterer was here yesterday, we shut the cats in the bedroom (complete with litter tray and food/water) and I stayed in here most of the day with them. Mischief wasn't impressed - he's very nosy and wanted to get out to see what was going on downstairs, but he's quite good and eventually takes the hint, and goes to sleep. Millie gets very timid when she knows there's anyone else in the house, so she started off hiding under the duvet, but eventually came out and, like today, she wouldn't leave my side. Here she is, basically leaning on my hand while I'm trying to use my mouse:

Wonky one-handed photo
The only time I went out yesterday (we'd both got the day off work by the way) was to go to the doctors. I started with a cold last Thursday, just sneezing and a runny nose... I'm now on antibiotics, steroids and an inhaler. Joy of joys. Every time I get cold these days it seems to turn into a chest infection. The antibiotics are one every twelve hours, so I had one last night and one this morning. The steroids I have to take on a morning, after breakfast - six in one go! Unfortunately I was sick this morning after I'd taken them (sorry, TMI!) so I don't know if they'd had chance to start working or not. It's only about 6 or 7 weeks since the last time I had a cold, I think; I'm kind of in a vicious circle - I'm run down, so I get ill, then I can't sleep because I'm ill, then I get more run down. I asked the doctor what he thought about me taking some multi-vitamins, but he told me not to waste my money. Just as well really, because when I had a quick look on the internet, it seems that nearly every vitamin interacts in some way with warfarin (which I take daily), so I probably wouldn't have been able to anyway. I did have some vitamin C at lunchtime though. In the shape of a Terry's Chocolate Orange ;-)

One of the reasons why I'm run down is self-inflicted, because I get up at stupid o'clock for work (4.30am). I never used to get up at that time, but over the years it's got earlier and earlier, and I don't really know why. I don't take ages to get myself ready, so I've come to the conclusion that I'm just slooow. I don't rush round on a morning like a blue-a***d fly, I kind of take my time, daydream, watch the news while I eat breakfast, give the cats a fuss etc. So in a bid to be a bit less tired, I've decided to try getting up later and just accept the fact that I am going to have to rush a bit. I was getting up 45 minutes later at 5.15am, but having the cold kind of slowed me down again, so it crept back to 5am, and then 4.45. But next week is another week, and I'll try for the lie-in again. I officially start work at 7.30am, but I like to get there for about 7.00 and have a bit of quiet time before everyone else turns up. I could start later, but then I'd have to finish later; at the moment I finish at 3.30 which means I still get home pretty early and have a decent amount of time in the evening to do stuff. I can't really have it both ways though - either I get up early so that I can start and finish work early, or I have a bit of a lie-in, and maybe change my hours a bit. I'll see how it goes.

Great, I think Mischief has been taking lessons from Millie, he's just come and climbed on me, and keeps trying to lick my hands. He's had a fuss, but I've had to tell him there's no room at the inn, and he's gone and settled down on the bed.

I'm still enjoying Strictly Come Dancing, and looking forwards to tonight's Halloween Special, although it's a little bittersweet because this time last year I was watching it snuggled up in front of a wood-burning stove in a gorgeous little cottage on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, while the rain poured and the winds howled outside. Happy days. I know I said I'd refrain from 'Strictly' talk on here, but as I haven't bothered with my other blog, I might as well write about it here. At the beginning I was mostly supporting Dan Lobb, but he turned out to be a bit crap, and I didn't really like his attitude. He came across a bit 'spoilt brat'-ish. So I kind of switched allegiance - yeah, no loyalty here! I can't help it, but I really like Chelsee, and I didn't think I would. Her airline-themed Quickstep last week was brilliant!! She was like a different person, she seemed so focused. I hope she keeps it up. Harry McFly is of course very easy on the eye, as well as being a good dancer, but I do worry that he doesn't have great chemistry with Aliona, and I've seen a lot of criticism of her choreography, so we'll see how he does. The best thing about Harry is that Tom McFly is always in the audience ;-) I don't really like Lulu, and I wish she'd gone out instead of Rory Bremner, as I thought he was doing pretty well. Can't decide if I like Nancy and Anton - ok, they're pretty funny at times, but I don't think I'd mind if they went out pretty soon. Another one who I didn't think I was going to like, but who I'm actually finding more appealing each week, is Robbie Savage. I thought he'd be really arrogant and bigheaded, but he seems so modest and humble. And he does have lovely hair. And nice eyes. And a cute smile. And last week he had Gary Speed supporting him in the audience, who used to play for Leeds Utd and who I had a massive crush on in my teens and who I was convinced I was going to marry. I went to meet him once when he was doing a signing in a sports shop. I had a photo of him (a bought one) with me for him to sign, but everyone coming out of the shop seemed to have the same picture, so I assumed he had a pile of them next to him, so I tucked mine back in my bag, between the pages of a notebook to keep it flat. When I got to the table where he was sitting, I realised he didn't have any photos, so I spent ages fumbling around in my bag for mine, which was excruciatingly embarassing. I still queued up again to have my photo taken with him, though. Unsurprisingly, my intense crush fizzled out quite quickly after I'd completely humiliated myself in front of him. By the way, I've just Wikipaedia'd Robbie Savage and it says that when he did the knee slide towards the camera and kissed it last week, he actually broke his nose! Don't know if that's true or not...

So guess what?? I actually have a couple of ta-dah pics to show you!! I know!! To say this blog was meant to be about crochet, it doesn't feature very often, does it?

First of all, I think I mentioned that I'd tied loads of oddments of yarn together to make one big ball, with which I proceeded to make yet another granny square blanket for the cats. I kept doing a bit, whilst watching one of my favourite shows on the iplayer:

I finished it a few weeks back, and here it is in all it's garish glory. I'm calling it the Ugly Betty Blanket:

Can I ask you - when doing a granny square, and you finish a round, do you move onto the next round and carry on in the same direction, or do you turn your work, and then carry on? I turn mine, which is just how I was shown, and I think that's why you can see the obvious line at the top there, and why the colours go one way and then the other, rather than just following on. Anyway, the cats approve:

Wait, there's more!! Remember the flat circle? It was suggested that I could keep going and turn it into a bag, which was a great idea. So I did. But the flat circle was quite big, so I've ended up with a mahoosive baggy bag! I made it a drawstring top, although the cord I made is probably too thin for the weight of the bag, and I haven't quite finished the ends of it. I also couldn't decide whether I should put a handle(s) on it, or what kind, so I haven't. Yes, it's not quite finished. But I've kind of called it a day for now, so here it is, full of yarn to 'pad it out' a bit:

A size comparison
I'm not sure if I'll ever use it to be honest, which is a shame. It'd probably make a great beach bag, or something like that, but I'm not a beach holiday type of person. I'm not totally confident about it's strength either; even just with some balls of yarn in it goes quite stretchy. It might be better with some kind of lining, but that's a skill which currently escapes me. So, um, yeah. A big bag. If you have any suggestions on how to improve it, or what to use it for, I'd love to hear them.

The reason why I kind of abandoned it slightly unfinished is because I wanted to get on with my next project. Oh yes, brace yourself, there's another!! This isn't a ta-dah though, it's a 'just started'. Whilst working on Ugly Betty, Chris was a little bit miffed that I'd done four blankets for the cats, but none for us. Fair comment. I've been wanting to do a large blanket (cover-the-bed-size) for a while, but I was going to do it in colours to match our bedroom, which is kind of browns and creams (basically, Millie-coloured - yes we inadvertently decorated our bedroom in the same shades as one of our cats. In the interests of fairness, next time it'll have to be black). I would've had to buy some brown and cream yarns though, and I wasn't feeling very patient, so instead I'm going to use the Stylecraft that I've already got, and it's going to be a multi-coloured blanket of RIPPLY RIPPLES!!! Look, I've started:

I'm using Lucy's Neat Ripple Pattern, which is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Apart from the first row into the foundation chain. That's a bitch. I powered through though.* She stresses that the foundation chain has to be in multiples of 14 so to keep count, and in the absence of any stitch markers, I used safety pins in every 14th chain. I think there were 30 blocks of 14, so that's, um, 420 stitches, plus the last 3. I think. Something like that. It covers the double bed, with a little bit hanging down either side. I hope, I haven't checked it since. I also did my foundation chain with a 5mm hook, and then changed to a 4mm, in the hope that the chains would be a bit looser. I'm not sure it helped. I'm going to do two rows of each colour - I'm currently on my fourth row, second colour, but haven't taken any more photos, although did you notice the little bit of pink yarn showing in the photo of Millie above? There's a clue. You can actually speed along really quickly once you get going, but I haven't been able to spend as much time on it as I'd have liked, what with stripping wallpaper and moving furniture out of the living room.

*I can't say the words 'power through' without thinking of this clip!

So there you go, those are my ta-dahs!!

You can't tell but there was a break here while I went to watch Strictly, 'cause I didn't manage to finish writing this post in time. I thought it was a great show, they really go to town with the costumes and make-up. Thought Chelsee was brilliant again, and I felt so sorry for her having the whole 'wardrobe malfunction'. I'm sure there will be a few nasty comments which will be unfair; it was a great dance and at least she still finished it, it was just a shame that she got so upset. Really loved Holly and Artem's Swan Lake - so beautiful and elegant. I know they sometimes play traditional music rather than pop songs, but I don't think we often have classical, and it was lovely. Jason Donovan was back on form - Kristina is a great choreographer and I'd love to see her go really far in the competition this year. I could even see them winning. I enjoyed Harry and Aliona's tango, although even while I was watching it I knew that Len would complain about the lack of actual tango content. As I said above, she gets a lot of flack for her routines, but I actually think they're really good, just maybe a little bit too 'out there' for Strictly. Wasn't as keen on Robbie and Ola's routine this week, but I don't really like Paso's generally. Still like him though. Missed most of Nancy and Anton 'cause I went to get a bag of crisps and a drink - when there's no adverts you've got to pick your moment to leave the room, haven't you? According to Alesha she had her legs too far apart, so I'm kind of glad I missed it. Everyone else - just ok, to a greater or lesser degree. Lulu to be voted off please.

Well, I think that's all for now, I need to go and take some tablets then try and get a decent night's sleep. Bye for now!!

P.S. Are you superstitious? While we were moving furniture and other stuff yesterday, we smashed a mirror, but I reckon we've had enough bad things happen in the last few months, so I'm refusing to let myself think about the whole 'seven years bad luck' thing...

P.P.S Apropos of nothing apart from the fact that it's just come on my music player, I felt like posting this video. You should see me chair-dancing to this when it comes on in the car. I know, I shouldn't be chair-dancing while driving, but I just can't help myself. I want to dance like Regine (*girl crush*). This band is so JOYOUS, even when they're singing about a serious subject. Parts of the song are in French, so I just kind of hum those bits...

Come on, admit it, you're swaying a bit, aren't you? Tapping your foot? I bet you'll be singing the "woo-hoo-oo-woo-hoo-ooo-ooo" bits all day, won't you? In fact, what the hell, here's another - my favourite Arcade Fire song!! Win!!! In every sense of the word!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Little Subdued...

Hi, I hope you're well. I've been absent for the last couple of weeks, and I just thought I'd pop in and explain why.

A couple of days after my last blog post, we suffered a family bereavement. Obviously I don't want to go into all the details, but suffice to say it was very sudden and unexpected, and we're all having a really difficult time coming to terms with it. I can't quite believe that it's happened, and that I'm never going to see this person again. I suppose in a little way I'm in a kind of denial. I keep expecting to see them, just walking down the street, and then we find out that it was all a mistake. I know they say "time's a healer", and deep down I think I believe that, although at the moment I feel as though I'm never going to heal, as though I'm never going to get over this. Every now and again, the realisation of what's happened hits me, and it's like being kicked in the chest, or getting an electric shock - it kind of takes my breath away, makes me jump. The last couple of weeks have been awful, there has been lots to sort out, lots of arrangements to make. I've been off work but today was my first day back, so I guess it's kind of the first day of trying to 'get back to normal'.

I've only just started catching up on my favourite blogs - seeing other people getting on with their lives actually made me a little bit sad, because it made me think of the person - and the life - that we've lost, but it also kind of comforted me too. I'm slowly starting to think about the things I was doing 'before' - my crochet, reading, writing this blog etc - and I think I'm gradually feeling like I want to get back to them. I suppose there's the whole 'guilt' issue - it doesn't seem right to be enjoying things after what happened. I watched a comedian on tv last night and was laughing out loud - I didn't think anything of it at the time, but today at work I remembered and felt bad that I'd been laughing, and had almost, for a moment, forgotten everything else. But you can't stay sad forever, can you? I hope all of this doesn't make me sound selfish, like it's all about me, because that isn't what I mean. I suppose it's that other cliche that "life goes on" - the last two weeks have been all about this awful thing that's happened, and I think I need to start thinking about other things now. Sorry, I'm kind of waffling. I know what I want to say, but it's hard to find the words to say it.

I missed Strictly Come Dancing on Friday and Saturday night, but I caught up with it on iplayer on Sunday. I didn't have time to blog about it, and didn't really feel like it anyway, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm going to bother blogging about it at all, despite the whole 'announcement' a couple of posts back. It was quite nice at the weekend just being able to watch it and not think about what to write! Although I enjoyed it, and I'm sure I'll keep watching, I just don't think I've got the same level of enthusiasm as I did a couple of years back. So I thought I'd mention a few other SCD blogs that are definitely worth reading, if you're interested (and if you don't already know about them):

Monkseal is pretty much the definitive blog about all things Reality TV - very funny, with great screen caps

Strictly Come Bitching is another really funny/sarcastic one, but without any pics, although it's so descriptive you don't really need them

Strictly Come Blogging is a brief, but informative, rundown of the show, and contains videos of all the routines

Why Miss Jones is just an entertaining blog, whatever she's talking about, but her Strictly posts are always a good laugh. I basically have 'blog envy' when it comes to Miss Jones!

There are others, but these are my favourites, and I think I'd rather read their recaps than write my own!

I haven't done my monthly garden photos yet; I'll try and get around to it, although it's a shame I didn't do them this weekend while it was sunny, because it looks like the weather is about to take a dramatic turn for the worse over the next few days. I also haven't been doing the Scavenger Hunt, despite really enjoying the first one that I did, but I've noticed one of the things on this month's list is a black cat - "Mischief!! I need a model!!" So I might have another go this time (famous last words!)

Anyway, I think that's all for now. I hope I haven't depressed you, I just wanted to explain why I might be a bit quiet and subdued for a while.

Bye for now

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Triple Bill

Good to tell I went back to work last week, after my week off - the blogging stopped!

I've had a lazy day today. Chris was out all day on a 'bee thing', so in between doing a few loads of washing, I've basically sat and watched some of these:

Hmm, what shall I watch??
while doing a bit of this:

Treble, treble, treble, chain, treble, treble, treble...
and eating this:

Coffee and toast
and, um, snacking on these:

Mmm, dolly mixtures - my favourite!

I've unintentionally had a bit of a Judi-Dench-and-Maggie-Smith-athon, because I started out watching Notes On A Scandal, starring Judi and Cate Blanchett. I've had the dvd for a few years, but never watched it before. Cate B plays a teacher, Sheba, who has an affair with a student, and Judi is an older spinster-with-a-cat type teacher, Barbara, at the same school, who finds out about it. It wasn't a bad film, but I can't say it blew me away either. I found parts of it kind of far-fetched, and I didn't really like the characters or find them believable.

Next I watched another film which I've had for ages, but never watched before, Ladies In Lavender. This stars Judi again and Maggie Smith as sisters living together in a cottage on the Cornish coast in the 1930's. The morning after a storm they find a young man washed up on the beach, and they take him into their home and nurse him back to health. They discover he's Polish and can't speak English, although over time they teach him the language. They also find that he can play the violin really well. It's quite a sweet little film, although in a way not a lot happens in it. The story of how he came to be washed up on the beach is never really explained; I think we're meant to assume that he fell from a ship during the storm, and I think at first he may have suffered some memory loss. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are great in it, and I was quite envious of their little coastal cottage. Although mine would be on the west coast of Scotland, not Cornwall. No offence, Cornwall.

I managed a third film, although I've had to stop it half way through while we had tea, and Chris has just been watching Dr Who, so I'll have to pick it up again in a little while. I chose Gosford Park, which I've seen a few times, but I really like, and which just so happens to star, yep, Maggie Smith! Amongst a brilliant cast which also includes the likes of Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Clive Owen, Richard E Grant, Kristen Scott Thomas, Emily Watson and Stephen Fry. It's a great little murder mystery, and I love the different perspectives of the upper class and the servants down below. I also think it's great that people like Helen Mirren and Richard E Grant, who so easily could've been cast as members of the upper class, were instead cast 'against type' I guess, as the working class.

The crochet that I'm doing is the latest cat blanket, where I tied all my oddments of yarn together and I'm just doing one big randomly patterned granny square. I reckon it's either going to look pretty good when it's finished, or absolutely hideous, depending on how the colours work out. I'm sure the cats won't mind, either way.

I don't know what the weather's been like where you are, but yesterday we had a MASSIVE thunderstorm! Chris picked me up from work and we went for a meal - at this point, it was just a bit drizzly. Towards the end of the meal, we realised the rain was a lot heavier, and we could hear thunder, and then we noticed it was lightning as well. We got in the car and started driving home, and I'm not kidding, the rain was almost of BIBLICAL proportions!! I've never seen anything like it! In fact, I don't know how Chris was managing to drive, because even with the wipers going full speed, I couldn't even see the road through the rain hitting the windscreen. And the amount of water on the road! These weren't puddles, it was like driving through small lakes in places! Eventually the rain eased a bit, and then the sun came out and there was a gorgeous double rainbow, which I managed to take a photo of:

A bit further on, I noticed the clouds looked kind of strange - I guess it was the storm moving further away. I always think of the word 'apocalyptic' when the sky's like this. So I got a few more pics, but this was while we were driving so they're a bit blurry, and they don't really do justice to how amazing it looked:

It was strange seeing the 'bottom' of the cloud, and then blue sky underneath

Another little rainbow, in the clouds
It was definitely an exhilarating drive home!!

Insect news, now. A couple of weeks ago at work, I picked my bag up from under my desk and there was a strange little creature on it. I showed a colleague, and then evicted it outside (like I said before, I don't kill anything if I can help it). I'd never seen anything like it before but I was curious to know what it was, so I tried looking it up on the internet. Eventually I found something which I thought might've been it, but by this time I was kind of forgetting what it looked like. Anyway, last week another one appeared on the desk of another colleague (a male, who wouldn't touch it!), so I caught it and put it in a plastic tub that I keep paperclips in (I tipped them all out first). This time, I remembered to take a photo of it, and here it is:

Excuse the dust!
As far as I can tell, this is a firebrat, a relative of the silverfish. Apparently they prefer hot humid places, so I'm not quite sure what they're doing in our office, although I think they feed on paper, book bindings etc, of which we have a lot. After I'd walked round showing everyone the new 'office pet' I evicted it outside, feeling quite guilty and hoping it would survive. It's quite pretty, really.

Anyway, I think that's all for now, I'm going to finish watching Gosford Park. Even though I've seen it a few times, my memory is so bad when it comes to film plots, I can't actually remember how it ends, so it'll be a surprise. Again!

P.S. I was shocked to discover this week that I'm actually two years OLDER than Postman Pat!! I mean, what's that all about??!!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tonight's The Night!!

The glitz! The glamour! The sequins! The sparkles! Yes, it's Bingo Night down at my local pub!!

Only joking - it's Strickly Cum Dancin'!!

Tonight is the launch show, where I believe we'll get to find out which celebs (and Nancy Dell'Olio) are dancing with which pros.

Are you a fan, will you be watching? Or do you hate it with a passion?

A couple of years ago I was a big fan, mostly due to this man

who I had a bit of an unhealthy obsession with. In fact, I decided to write a blog about the show, which you can find here or over there in the sidebar - see the one called Millie-Moo and Chewbagga, named after my two cats?

I blogged about the whole of SCD 2009, although I kind of lost interest right at the end after Brian and Ali were voted off (Biased? Moi? Absolutely). The following year, I blogged about Brian's new show, Dancing On Wheels, which was all about the sport of wheelchair-dancing. And then I continued to blog about Over The Rainbow, Andrew Lloyd Webber's search for Dorothy.

September came around and so did the next series of Strictly, but by this point I was a bit fed up with it (partly because The Fortuna had quit) and blogging about it was taking up far too much time every weekend. I persevered to the end of the series, with an increasing sense of apathy, then called it quits.

I wasn't going to bother blogging this time around, I wasn't even sure I'd watch it. But then they revealed the celebs who are taking part, and THANKS FOR NOTHING, DAN LOBB!!! I think I'm going to have to watch it again. So, I might start the blog up again, but if I do, I don't think I'll be writing as much as I have previously, I just don't have time. But just in case you're not a Strictly fan, I'll try and keep the dancing talk away from this blog, and over there on Millie-Moo and Chewbagga.

Right, I'm off to slip into my ballroom gown and heels...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Let's Raaaawwwck!!!

Many months ago we decided to strip the paper from our hall and staircase, and have it all freshly plastered. Chris got a quote from someone, but it was a bit on the high side so he thought "stuff that, I'll do it meself!!" He can turn his hand to most things, especially if it means he can save a bit of money. So he plastered one wall. Then a few weeks later, another one. Then a few weeks later, he started preparing the third one. Then over the summer he kind of got a bit distracted by going beekeeping in every available spare moment, and our poor hall and staircase just sat there, half-plastered.

I didn't nag him about it, because I thought I could use it to my advantage. I'm not exactly the tidiest person in the world, I have little pockets of 'mess' all over the house, and although he doesn't nag me about them, he occasionally asks if I'm going to tidy them. So I thought, if he says anything to me like "are you going to tidy that lot up?", I could remind him that we all have things that we should be doing, but that we just don't feel like dealing with... you know, like plastering...

Anyway, we've both had all this week off work (hence the flurry of blog posts) and at the start of the week, he finally conceded defeat and phoned a plasterer, who gave a reasonable quote and said he could do the work on Thursday and Friday this week. So we are getting plastered, as I type!!

The title of this post refers to the fact that the plasterer's radio station of choice seems to be a local 'soft rock' one, playing such delights as 'Land Of Confusion' by Genesis; 'Who Are You?' by The Who; 'Won't Back Down' by Tom Petty and 'Blaze Of Glory' by Bon Jovi. So I'm rocking out in my chair while I'm blogging :-)

We weren't sure what to do with the moggies. They're indoor cats, we never let them out, and since the plasterer is in and out all day, we needed to shut them in a room. We were going to put them in the bedroom, but that would mean they'd be away from their food and litter tray all day, so instead I decided to bring them both into the living room and shut them in here with me. Mischief is fine with it; he's a bit restless cos he's just really nosy and wants to know what's going on at the other side of the door. Millie is a different kettle of fish. She's unbelievably timid with pretty much everyone except me, and at the sound of a stranger's voice, or even if someone knocks at the door, she burrows under the bedsheets and hides. She spends almost all her time upstairs, so being shut downstairs in the living room did not go down well with her. So to try and make her feel a bit better, I've made her a little hidey-hole on the armchair, by piling up some cushions and putting a throw over it that she can hide under. She's a lot more relaxed now. Although I don't think she was too impressed at having her photo taken.

Ooh, 'Boys Of Summer' by Don Henley, one of my favourites :-)
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