Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Well, I've Done It...

It's the 30th June, and I've just uninstalled Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest from my phone and Kindle, and deleted the bookmarks from my computer. I wonder if I'll be able to manage without them for the whole of July? I wonder if I'll be a lot more productive with my free time on an evening?

As for Instagram, I hardly ever use it to take photos myself, but I have started to follow quite a lot of people on there, mostly other bloggers and yarny people. I've decided to leave that one, as I might try and get into the habit of using it for taking photos of anything crochet/yarn-related. I just hope it doesn't take over too much!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Little Star's Big Star

When we were on holiday back in March, I bought five balls of Rico Design Baby So Soft DK in blue/vanilla. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with them, but I kind of had in mind a star-shaped blanket for Junior. When we got back, I found this pattern for a 12-point star that looked good, so I made a start.

I wasn't sure what size to make it - for a long time it didn't seem big enough, and then all of a sudden it was almost too big. I used all five balls that I'd bought, and in the end I had to buy one more, just for the last couple of rounds, so it took me a bit longer to finish than it would've done otherwise.

So this is the finished blanket:



It's approx. 4ft wide from point to point, and I did 42 rounds. I didn't write down the date that I started it, but I think it was the first week of April, and I finished it on the 5th June, although as I say, there was a delay while I decided whether to buy one more ball to finish it off, or frog a couple of rounds.

Junior already has a couple of blankets that usually stay folded over the end of his cot. He used to sleep under a sheet and a blanket, but now he sleeps in a sleeping bag, so we don't really use the blankets any more. I might put them away and fold this one over his cot instead though - if he does ever need one, he can use mine from now on!

I really enjoyed making this, so much so that I'm already doing another one, and I've got some colour ideas for at least two more after that. If I do make them, I might try and sell them. I can also definitely recommend Rico's Baby So Soft yarn - it's gorgeous to work with, really buttery soft. For the second blanket that I'm currently making, I bought some King Cole Cherish, as it looked very similar, but although it's nice, it isn't quite as soft as the Rico yarn.

So there it is, my Big Star Blanket for my Little Star!




Friday, 19 June 2015

FFFF

Hello!

All I seem to have posted lately is book reviews! I'm glad I'm managing to fit in some reading time, but it probably doesn't make for a very interesting blog.

FAMILY
I don't write about Junior much, for reasons I've stated previously. It's a shame, because I would've loved to fill this blog with photos of him, and tales of all the funny things he does, but it's just not to be. However, my life as a mum continues, and I'm loving it! He settled in with us so well, and really quickly - it feels like he's always been here, and I can't really remember what life was like without him. Chris and I have settled in to our parenting roles too, and everything is just great, we're one happy, contented family. Junior and I have our weekly routines - he goes to a couple of playgroups, which we both really enjoy, and the rest of the week we try to get out and about for walks, or visiting some of the attractions in the area. We have quiet, stay-at-home days too, which are really nice, especially just lately when we've had good weather, because we've been out in the garden. We bought him a sandpit (well, sand table) which he loves, although his favourite past time is emptying the sand out of it, one handful at a time. His latest acquisition is some chalks and a chalkboard, although I also got some of those chunky pavement chalks, so the patio is his canvas (and mine, if I'm honest, I've been reliving my childhood a bit too!).

He's always been a chatterbox, but we haven't had many proper words out of him yet - the main one for ages was 'tick-tock' for clock. However, he's now starting to copy our intonations on certain words, for example, if we count to five. He's not saying the actual words, but he'll make a sound that sounds like he's counting along with you. He especially likes it when we say "1, 2, 3, Go!" or "Ready, Steady, Go!" - he can definitely say Go and always joins in with that bit. He's also got quite a repertoire of animal sounds - we can ask him "what does a sheep say?", "what does a horse say?" etc and we get a sound in reply, with varying degrees of accuracy. He does Baaa, and Neigh with enthusiasm, and if we ask "what does a crocodile say?" he has to stand up to do the action aswell (clapping his hands together whilst saying "snap, snap"). I think so far, he has a sound for sheep, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, cockerel, snake, bees, crocodile, monkey, tiger, lion, bear, parrot, mouse and bird!

He's not saying mum or dad yet though. (Hmmm, think mum and dad need to get their priorities right, and stop teaching him animal sounds!)

* * *

FILOFAX
I reorganised my Filofax a couple of weeks back - if I ever get chance, I might do another post about it, although it's hard to take photos of it without showing anything personal. Basically, I just added a few more dividers, and took some stuff out that I wasn't using. I still love the idea of using a Filofax, but I've struggled at times to make it a part of my day, you know, to look at it on a regular basis. And it doesn't matter how well organised it is, if you don't look at it, it's not really going to help you, is it? So I'm really trying to use it more, and I'm hoping that the new sections I have in it will help me do that.

I've also created a rota, using some reusable sticky labels, to manage my time on an evening. Junior goes to bed between 6 and 7pm every night, and after that, it's ME TIME!! Except I sometimes can't decide what to do - do I read? do I crochet? do I blog? For the past few weeks, I've taken to crocheting in our bedroom every evening, because if I try to do it downstairs, I have two cats trying to get on my lap, plus I distract myself by being on the internet. So I've started sitting up there, and I've managed to get quite a bit done. However, it means that I don't get to see much of the cats, especially Millie, who only ventures downstairs on an evening. So my rota is basically one night upstairs doing crochet, one night downstairs reading (and fussing the cats), and so on. Each crochet night, I'll work on something different (I have about six things on the go at the moment), and once a week I think I'm going to try and have a blogging/admin/any other business kind of evening. I've only been doing the rota for a few days, but I feel a bit happier about how I'm managing my evenings, and all the things I need to get done.

* * *

FINISHED OBJECTS
Speaking of crochet, as I said, I'm working on about six different projects. I've made something for Junior, which I'll blog about once I've managed to take a photo of it, and I'll probably write about the other things as and when I finish them. One of them is particularly exciting, because it's something I've designed myself! Once I've taken some photos of the finished item, I'm hoping to put the pattern up for sale. I'm not expecting to make millions from it, but you never know, one or two people might make a purchase. I'll just be happy if it pays for me to buy a bit more yarn!

* * *

FACEBOOK (and Twitter)
Following on from the time management issues mentioned above, I've been giving some serious thought to having a complete break from Twitter and Facebook, perhaps for a month or so, just to see how much more productive I might be. It's quite scary when I think about how much time I spend waste on them! Twitter, especially, sucks me in - I just keep scrolling down, scrolling down, scrolling down, and when I eventually catch up to where I've previously read, I go back to the top and start scrolling down all over again. I did actually have a bit of a purge the other night. I was thinking about the Marie Kondo method of tidying, and for all the accounts I was following, I asked myself "do they bring me joy? do I enjoy reading tweets from this account?" and I managed to 'unfollow' several tweeters. I'm still following 108 accounts though, so that's still an awful lot of tweets to read, even if these are of more interest to me. So yes, I'm still thinking about going cold turkey from twitter for about a month - I'll delete the bookmark on my laptop, and I'll delete the app on my phone and Kindle, so that it's not so easy for me to access.

I'm thinking of doing the same with Facebook too, although I wouldn't want to leave it completely. I'm in a lot of crochet groups on there, and my feed is full of crochet posts all the time. They are mostly quite nice to read, but again I just find myself scrolling down through them all, then going back to the top and starting again.

My fear about avoiding Twitter and Facebook for a month, is what will take their place? The idea is that I should do something more productive, like more crochet, or more reading. But I'm worried that if I don't have them to look at, I'll fall into an endless trawling through Pinterest or Instagram instead! I suppose I should delete those, too!

* * *

Anyway, sorry that this has been a long wordy post with no photos, if you've made it this far, well done!

Right, I'm off to check Facebook and Twitter while I still can....


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Darkest Past - Haunting Tales by Benedict Ashforth

Started: 11th June
Finished: 13th June


Another book by the same author, even though I didn't like the previous offering? I know, I know. The thing is, before I'd started reading Abbot's Keep, I had a look at some of the other books by the same author, and thought this one sounded interesting, so I actually purchased it (for 99p).

Luckily, this turned out to be a much better choice. It's actually a book of five short stories; although the title says 'Haunting Tales', they weren't really what I'd call haunting, or scary, in that sense. However, they all had just enough creepiness and weirdness about them - although I don't remember the series very well, I would maybe compare them to the kind of stories in Tales Of The Unexpected.

The five stories are:

Passing Affliction - an account from a foster carer about a young girl who appears to have special powers

The Westhoff Version - The Westhoff's are a couple living in a remote area in the South of France, who introduce their 'version' of foie gras to a family holidaying in a rented farmhouse nearby

The Other One - a ghostly apparition appears to a family who have just moved into a large house in a quiet village

The Setting Sea - an art dealer finds a priceless painting, but part of it seems to be unfinished. Can he complete it?

Alderway - a 'selling your soul to the devil' type of tale

Interestingly, all apart from The Westhoff Version are written in the style of letters, or accounts, of the events that happened. This author clearly likes the letter-writing format! As these were only short stories though, it worked a lot better than it did in Abbot's Keep.

At only 134 pages, it only took me a couple of evenings to read, but they were decent short stories, and made up for the disappointment of the previous book.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Abbot's Keep by Benedict Ashforth

Started: 5th June
Finished: 11th June


This was the next book I downloaded from the Kindle Lending Library. To be honest, I'm finding it harder to find in there any of the kind of books I want to read, due to my picky tastes. I tend to do a search for either ghost stories, or Scottish fiction, that kind of thing. This time I searched for ghost stories, and this one popped up. It had some really good reviews, comparing the writer to the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker.

Set in 1980, before mobile phones and email, Clifford Fox QC receives a letter from his estranged brother, and leaves his home and family to go in search of him.

The book begins with a letter from Clifford to his wife, explaining his reasons for departing so suddenly, while she wasn't there, and is followed by her response, again in the form of a letter to the hotel where he has booked a room. In fact, the whole book is written in letter format, back and forth, either from Clifford to his wife, or from his brother, Simon, to himself.

This, for me, was what spoiled this book, because the letters ran to several pages, and contained full dialogue and descriptive paragraphs. I couldn't believe that anyone would write that much detail into a letter, especially if, as in certain points in the story, they were writing whilst under the threat of imminent danger. It just seemed a bit unlikely and far-fetched. A few hastily-written letters dotted throughout the story would've been better, if the rest of it had just been the usual kind of narration, if you see what I mean.

I didn't find the 'ghost story' aspect of it scary at all either (not that any ghost story is really scary, but some are definitely a bit more chilling than others). It was all a bit predictable, and none of the characters were particularly likeable.

All in all, a bit disappointing. Glad it was free!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

Started: 29th April
Finished: 3rd June

Image from Amazon



This was a free download onto my Kindle (I get four free books to choose from each month).

It tells the story of sisters Clara and Maren, and their almost-brother, O'Neill. Maren begins to transform into a mermaid, and Clara realises that to save Maren's life, she must take her from their mountain home, to the sea, and so she and O'Neill set off on their emotional and perilous journey.

Needless to say, this is a bit of a fantasy story, and I wasn't really into it to begin with, which is why it took me so long to finish it (I probably didn't even look at it for the whole of May). I picked it up again intending to finish it quickly, only because I had Outlander by Diana Gabaldon lined up for my next read! However, as I got back into the story, I actually really started to enjoy it. The best words I can think of to describe it are that it is 'sweet' and 'charming'; just a lovely, gentle fairy-tale (though not without moments of danger), and with the odd mythical creature here and there.

I believe it falls into the Young Adult genre, but it's just as suitable for grown-ups too!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker

Started: 25th April
Finished: 28th April

Image from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wreckage-Emily-Bleeker-ebook/dp/B00NAJZDIM




This was a free book I downloaded from the Kindle Lending Library. It's about two people who were stranded on a desert island, and the lies they feel they have to tell to protect the ones they love.

I really enjoyed this book. The chapters are told from the perspectives of the two main characters, both in 'present day' and 'flashbacks'. I think a couple of times, early on, this confused me, because something would be said and I'd think, "hang on, that never happened", but then the truth and the lies kind of all come together as the story progresses, and you have that "aah, I see!" moment.

I managed to guess one of the significant aspects of the plot before it was revealed, but I don't think it was ever really meant to be a huge surprise; it was more about how it was going to be explained by the two protagonists.

All in all, a good story, a page-turner, and I'd definitely recommend it.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

Started: 28th March
Finished: 29th March

I saw a link to this mentioned in this post on The Quince Tree blog (currently on hold), and I couldn't resist having a nosy to see what it was about. Hmm, interesting, I thought. I pondered for a bit longer, and eventually gave in and downloaded a copy onto my Kindle, which I read in about three hours, over a couple of evenings (although I don't think it's a particularly lengthy tome).

Marie Kondo is a Japanese Organising Consultant, because yes, that's a job. Basically, she tells you how to tidy up. Like with most self-help books, a lot of the advice is fairly obvious and common sense, but sometimes it just helps to have someone spell it out for you, or tell you something in a different way.

The basic premise, is that, for every item you own, you should ask yourself the question: "does it bring me joy?" If the answer is yes, then you simply have to choose a place where you are going to keep it. If the answer is no, then you get rid of it, in whatever manner suits the item (throw it away, give to charity etc). Eventually, you will only possess those things which make you happy, and they will all have a special place in your home, which in theory means you will never have to tidy up again.

Marie also states that you should never keep things 'just in case' or because they might come in useful one day. If it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it. If you ever need it again in the future, you'll be able to buy/borrow/download etc whatever it is.

We have an awful lot of 'stuff' in our house and I'm sure we could part with a lot of it, but when I've tried to have a declutter, it's actually a lot harder than I think it's going to be. I'm definitely a 'keep-it-just-in-case' person. For example, I have a jar of those little white curtain hooks. It doesn't bring me joy, but I'm certainly not going to get rid of them all! On the other hand, just lately I've found it easier to part with books that I'm fairly sure I'm never going to get around to reading; at one time I would never have been able to contemplate getting rid of a book I hadn't yet read! So I can't say that this book has suddenly helped me have a clear out, but I did make a checklist to use to help me organise the clear out, if and when it ever happens!

It was a very interesting book, with lots of good advice, although I felt that it was (understandably) aimed at the Japanese market, and the Japanese-style homes and layouts, which I suspect are very different to European/Western houses (very broadly speaking).

Nothing earth-shattering, but it did give me lots to think about. And I now fold my socks, rather than balling them up.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier

Started: Feb 10th
Abandoned: March 16th



As you can see, I didn't finish this book. It's taken me so long to write this review (if you can call it that), that I've even given the book away by now, so I can't refer back to it to remind me what the story was about. (I could look it up online, but I can't even be bothered to do that!).

I think it was about US Marines landing on the Cornish coast, and the locals not being too keen, or something. Just not for me.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Thoughts On Theme Tunes

You may remember my excitement back in February after I'd watched the first episode of Fortitude. Well, it wasn't misplaced. Week after week I eagerly awaited the next installment, and I was completely hooked. I wouldn't have predicted the ending, and possibly wish there had been a different explanation for everything that happened (although I don't know what), but the series definitely didn't disappoint, and I hope there will be a Season Two.

I'd planned to write a proper review of Fortitude, but it ended on April 9th and I feel that a bit too much time has passed now. (This post has been sitting here as a 'draft' for weeks, the only words I'd written were 'Fortitude - a review').

Instead, I thought I'd just mention one other thing that I loved about Fortitude - the theme tune. As excited as I was to watch each episode, I always let the opening credits play all the way through so that I got to hear the song, which just seemed so evocative of the bleak and freezing landscape of Fortitude. The song is called Peeling Off The Layers, and it's by a band called Wildbirds and Peacedrums.

I hope this video plays ok:



It got me thinking about another theme tune that I really liked, for a similar(ish) series - The Bridge. I found it by accident whilst looking for something to watch on iPlayer a few years back, and became instantly hooked. Once again, the theme tune seemed to be perfectly matched to the series.

This is Hollow Talk by the Choir of Young Believers:


I'm not convinced about some of those lyrics, but hey-ho...

My latest theme tune obsession is from my latest obsession, full stop - Outlander. I discovered it on Amazon Instant Video. I signed up for Amazon Prime, so I'm trying to get my money's worth by finding things to watch (it's also introduced me to Last Tango In Halifax, which I love).

Outlander is a novel written by Diana Gabaldon. In the UK, it was originally called Cross-Stitch. I actually had a copy of Cross-Stitch years ago, although I can't remember if I read the whole book or not. I may have been too young to appreciate it at the time. The story begins in the 20th century, where Claire Randall and her husband Frank are enjoying a second honeymoon in Inverness, after the end of the Second World War. After fainting in the middle of a stone circle, Claire wakes to find that she has somehow travelled back in time to the 18th century, and so begins her adventure as a 'Sassenach', an Outlander, amongst the Clans of the Highlands.

I found the series on Amazon, and binge-watched the first 8 episodes over a few evenings, before watching the rest of the series each Sunday. It was fantastic, and as I said, I'm now obsessed! I've downloaded the first two novels onto my Kindle (I think there are 8 in total, and possibly a 9th one on the way), and I'll see how I go with them before moving onto the remaining books. Part of the appeal of the first novel/series was that it was set in the Highlands, however the next book is set in Paris, and I'm not sure if it will hold my interest the same way. However, I think I've well and truly fallen in love with the characters this time, so the Outlander series may be a long-standing love affair for me!

And as this post is about the theme tunes, have a listen to this, and if it doesn't get you humming along and tapping your foot, and doesn't stir something inside you, and make you feel a bit happy and a bit sad all at the same time, well, I just don't know what to do with you! ;-) It's composed by Bear McCreary and sung by Raya Yarbrough (who happens to be his wife). It's an adaptation of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, set to the tune of The Skye Boat Song.



Ooh, it sends shivers down my spine! Utterly gorgeous!!

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