Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Bullet Points

Yeah so I don't really know what happened. One minute it was the beginning of December and Christmas seemed like it was an age away and the next minute it's the 20th December and I haven't posted really all month and I'm starting to wonder if I've just lost my blogging mojo a little bit.

Anyway, I can't be thinking about that now. I have actually had loads of posts lined up about things this month but time has got away from me so I'm forced to condense it all in to one lovely bullet  pointed Christmas list.
  • Christmas has come to my little house. The Scot and I really wanted a Christmas tree so took a trip to Asda and found this tiny little beauty for the princely sum of £15. It's weird though, it doesn't smell like a Christmas tree which has perturbed us a little.
I was left to my own devices to decorate it which excited me greatly. As it's only a small one there was only really room for all my Christmas ornaments, rather than normal baubles but I kind of liked that.

I wouldn't normally have tinsel  on my tree but The Scot couldn't imagine one without it so we compromised. Actually I guess it doesn't look too bad.

  • I do have someone to look up to when it comes to Christmas decorating though. My Mum....

This is her tree and mantlepiece. I learned everything I know from her. Actually when I was little I wasn't really allowed to decorate the tree because it was in the front window and was very classy and beautiful and I didn't understand the ways of bauble placement, but I absorbed it all in and now I think I'm pretty good at it.

(Just in case you think my Mum is terrible she wouldn't really not let me decorate it, she would let me do it and then move whatever I'd put on the tree. And then I was allowed a tree in the back of the house that I was allowed to cover in tat however I so chose.)

  • I was lucky enough to win Hazel's giveaway and the most beautiful pair of earrings I've ever had the pleasure of sticking in my lobes. They are my official Christmas earrings and have already been on a couple of nights out where they have been complimented accordingly. I really wanted to do a whole post about these but time went away from me and I couldn't take pictures of my own ears so please go and see this post on Hazel's blog to see the earrings.
  • I held the Annual Stitchette Christmas Party at Mum's house. This consists of cheese based party food, Secret Santa presents and fun cupcakes.

Normally Secret Santa fills me with dread but these ladies have broken the bad run of Secret Santa experiences that I had and my presents each year are amazing. We also played the post-it note game, you know the one - you  write a celebrity's name on a post-it and stick it to someone else's forehead and they have to guess who it is? It's not often that you attend a party with Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Pippa Middleton, Winnie the Pooh, Colonel Gadaffi, Pat Butcher, Matt Cardle and Prince Phillip.
  • My work's Christmas party was this Friday. This is a rather infamous affair because the drinks are available for £1. All drinks. All £1. Bottle of Bulmers? £1. Glass of wine? £1. It tends to be messy and hilarious in equal measure. Last year was rather horrific for me and I had a terrible time because I suffered a rather major black out which has actually changed the way in which I drink since then.
This year however was very different. People were asked to volunteer to work shifts behind the bar and I put my name down for the 7-8pm shift. It was actually really good fun. But then people unfortuantely took advantage of my good nature and I was roped in to working behind the bar 10-11.30pm. And then I was a complete mug and ended up going behind the bar about 9.30pm. I don't know. Some people are just selfish. But I have to say that given that I only had an hour and a half to enjoy myself I still had a pretty good time. But next year my good nature will not be making an appearance. Some other mug can do it thank you very much. (And if you wanted to read about what happened last time then please don't judge me.)
  • I have finally finished all my Christmas making and crafting. I was officially bored of doing it by the end and I don't think that I'll do as much next year to be honest because it was too stressful. Plus I think that the people who I know would really appreciate hand-made stuff I have now showered with gifts and they might be a little sick of it. But that's something to think about in 2012.
In the meantime I have begun making a little something for myself. I really wanted it to be finished by Christmas but isn't going to be. Booooooo. But it is nice to do a selfish make.

  • I'm leaving to go to Preston this afternoon to see The Person. We will be spending Wednesday and Thursday in Manchester for a little Christmas celebration of our own. Doing a bit of Christmas market shopping, mooching round the shops and being festive little creatures. I'm coming back in time for Friday and the last day of work. I was going to take that off as well but we usually get sent home at lunchtime so I decided I wasn't going to waste a day's holiday when I'll get most of it off for free!
So I think that's me done for now. I won't be blogging until the New Year because I'm going to be a busy little bee over the Christmas period.

Thanks for reading this year. I promise to be a better blogger next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

New man

Have I told you about the new man in my life?

His name is Max and he’s got blonde hair and is pretty burly and is ultimately loveable and soft in the head.

He is of course a dog. Aren’t I hilarious? Did you see what I did there? I pretended I was talking about a human when actually it’s a dog. I know, I know. I’m totally mad.

When Jess died it left a hole in my life, never mind my Dad and Step-Mum’s. She was about 14/15 years old so really she’d been around forever for my Step-Mum. Add to this the fact that she was recently retired and she was left feeling pretty lonely in the house all day with no doglet padding around after her.

Unfortunately the timing wasn’t right for them to get a new dog because they were going to stay at the house in France for a few months over Summer so they decided to wait until they were back and settled before beginning to have a look for a new canine friend.

They had decided they would want an older dog because they weren’t really up for training a puppy again, so they thought that they might get a dog from a rescue site or something. But not long after they were back, they were flicking through the local paper and happened upon an advert looking for a good home for a 6 year old Golden Retriever.

Max’s old family was a lady who lived not too far away from them and had recently been diagnosed with an illness meaning that she wasn’t really in a position to be looking after a somewhat boisterous dog anymore. She came with Max to visit my Dad and Step-Mum and to see the house and having decided that they were good people the deal was done.


He is obviously very different to Jess and that’s weird sometimes. I expect him to do things that Jess liked to do and then it feels weird but I just need more time with him to get to know him better and accept him for Max instead of thinking of him as a Jess-replacement.

One huge difference between Max and Jess is the barking. Oh the barking. Pre-Max I would go to the door, ring the doorbell, Jess would come padding through the hall and sit and wait for someone to open the door and then she’d stick her head forward for a pat. Post-Max I go to the door, ring the doorbell and see and hear Max come hurtling at the door barking his massively large head off, non-stop, until Dad comes and tells him to be quiet and sit down (which he does because he is a good boy) and opens the door. Max shows a little bit of interest in you but then runs into the kitchen ahead of you and by the time you get in there, he’s stood with a toy in his mouth wagging his tail at you.

One night a while ago I spent the night at Dad and Caroline’s. Dad had already left for work and when he goes, Max is allowed upstairs to go and sit in their bedroom until my Step-Mum gets up. I got myself ready for work and came out of my bedroom to see Max lying outside their bedroom door. He watched me walk all the way along the landing. Not making a sound. I put one toe on the stairs to go down them and he erupted into a barking frenzy. I stood there going “It’s me! It’s me you idiot! You’ve just watched me walk towards you you maniac!” But nothing shut him up until he inevitably woke my Step-Mum up and she told him to pipe down.

He is much bouncier in some ways than Jess which I guess is down to his age. And trust me you know about it when a Golden Retriever tries to launch themselves at you. You’ll be sat down, stroking him and decide to stop. WHAM a very large paw lands on your lap to “encourage” you to continue your duty.

The best thing about Max though is the way in which he lies. At first I was a little concerned that he was going to have some kind of hip dysplasia but they’ve had him checked out and all his joints are in working order, he just must be incredibly flexible. His favourite position is to lie with his back legs out behind him like so...

It looks so funny. We call him Spatchcock Dog when he does that.

I’m yet to take him out for a walk but I’ve seen my Step-Mum out with him and he appears impeccably behaved and doesn’t have to be on a lead. Although if he spies a squirrel in the park he’s off like a shot and has come pretty close a couple of times to catching one. And one of his dog friends in the park is actually his Mum. I’m pretty sure dogs don’t really care about stuff like that but I think it’s pretty cute.

So everyone Max, Max, this is everyone.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Meet the housemates

I’ve just realised that I haven’t told you all about my housemates. And obviously you’ll be wanting to hear all about them.

So I live in a 4 bedroom house. (Actually it’s a 3 bedroom, but what would be the downstairs living room is a bedroom as landlords are wont to do to get more cashola in.) I live in what would be the Master bedroom and I’ve treated you to a little view in this post.

I currently live with 2 housemates. There were 3 but one moved out a few weeks after I moved in (totally a coincidence I would like to add) and the downstairs bedroom has had some building and redecorating work done on it since then so it’s just been the 3 of us for the past month or so.

It’s kind of cool actually because we’ve all moved in at pretty much the same time, meaning that we’ve been able to set up our own way of living and our own routines, rather than having to awkwardly fit in with someone else....like the poor 4th housemate is going to have to do when they move in mwhahahahaha.

So anyway I have 2 housemates. One boy and one girl.

The girl is Scottish so let’s be imaginative and call her The Scot. (I know. Don’t be jealous of my creativity people.) The Scot is actually kind of like me only about half my size and blonde. And Scottish. She is certainly the only person that I’ve met that gets as excited about cleaning products as I do and has an almost borderline obsession with Cillit Bang. This is good though because it means that there are at least two of us that are maniacally clean people.

The Scot is very straight-forward and has a pretty dry sense of humour so we get on very well. We’re still getting to know each other but I think we’ve had kind of similar upbringings and kind of similar views on life. She is single but does have a list of things she’s looking for in a man which is added to on an almost daily basis.

Then there is the male housemate. He is 31 and a trainee teacher but seems to be totally unprepared to actually grow up and face the harsh realities of life. We shall call him Peter Pan. I sometimes struggle to get my head around Peter Pan because I find it almost too difficult to comprehend how someone can actually revel in their immaturity as much as he does. He thinks it’s hilarious.

He’s terribly easy-going and although he’s not naturally clean and tidy he’s happy to do as he’s told and works well under direction. The Scot and I can set him the task of hoovering and he will quite happily do it but under no circumstances would he think to do it himself. But then I think that’s most men if you will allow me to generalise.

To be fair he doesn’t make that much mess. Particularly in the kitchen, although this is mainly because he doesn’t appear to eat. I’ve never known anyone go on a food jag quite like Peter Pan. Now I’m all for making a big massive pot of chilli in one go, it just makes sense, and then I will freeze portions and have a nice little stockpile in the freezer for days when I can’t be bothered to cook. Peter Pan will do the same but will then eat the same meal every. single. day. Not even I could do that.

Pizzas are his latest jag. He will make his own dough which is all very impressive and then will eat pizza every day for a week. Think I’m exaggerating? Last week Peter Pan had pizza on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, an omelette on Sunday and t hen pizza again on Monday and Tuesday. I kid you not.

I could write many a blog post about Peter Pan and I suspect he will feature on this blog pretty heavily because I will need to share more about him just so you can sit and stare at your screen in incredulity.

So there you have it. Those are The Housemates as they stand. I wonder who our next victim will be...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas Wreaths

So I mentioned a bit ago that I had made a couple of Christmas wreaths like the one I'd made last year and I thought that in the spirit of sharing I would show you guys how to go about it.

Please be aware that there is no way that I could come up with this idea on my own, I am in no way vaguely creative enough to have these kinds of ideas by myself. This is all the work of one of The Stitchettes, who showed us how to do this last year and sat with me, telling me what to do.

So first of all you need some wreaths like so;

This guy has a diameter of about 20cm/8ins. You can find them online at gardening websites and the like. They can sometimes be kind of pricey - the good thing about having fellow Stitchettes is that you can buy in bulk, which makes it cheaper, and then split the cost. Hurrah.

You also need fabric. Christmassy fabric, if that floats your boat. But any kind of fabric will do.

I've been getting mine from Doughty's which is a brilliant website. You can get fabric by the fat quarter, which is useful if you're trying to save pennies, and they are very quick at getting your fabric sent out to you and if there's something you've ordered that they don't have, they'll call you right away with other suggestions or refund you your money straight away.

You then need to cut your fabric into strips. The beauty about this is that you don't have to be super precise with your cutting, everything's cool, everything's all a bit rough and ready.

For a ring that size I used 4 fat quarters. Those of you who are maths whizzes will have astutely observed that that is 1m of fabric. These guys are approximately 3cm/1in by 15.5cm/6in.

(And speaking of Doughty's they sell Christmas themed fat quarter packs which include 8 fat quarters for £10.99)

And then you just start tying them to the wreath. Fold each strip lengthways in half and then knot it. Easy peasy right?

Now. Beware. When you start this endeavour, you will go through a period where you want to cry and you will sit there going "It looks rubbish! It's no good, it's not working!" Believe me I went through it and had to be cajoled and encouraged by my Stitchettes to stick with it and eventually it would reveal itself to be awesome.

And they're right, you have to keep going and most importantly, keep bunching your strips up together. Now you might think that everything is good and everything is placed nicely but trust me those strips are minxy. You will think that you've filled one section of your ring and then you squish them up and suddenly you realise that actually you've only filled half of one section of your ring.

So you keep going and you keep going and you keep squishing and you fluff and primp and preen it as you go along and you will end up with a fluffy side, with the other side of it much flatter and you will keep going and going and then suddenly, 2.5 hours later*, you will have one finished wreath. (And I actually had a few strips spare.)

Then you just need to get some ribbon to tie round it and you're done. (I still need to buy some ribbon so you'll just have to use your imagination.)

These are the easiest gifts ever to make and work out not too expensive as long as you get a good deal on your fabric and your wreaths. These wreaths work out at about £5/6 each. Obviously not taking your labour into account - because when do you ever when you make home-made gifts?

And what I love is that each wreath is different. No 2 will ever be the same and just a slight change in fabric will make the wreath look totally different. This guy is much lighter, thanks to the cream fabric, but the last wreath I made was much more traditional looking thanks to the golden tones in some of the fabrics which made the overall effect much darker.

So I guess you'd better get making. Go on. Less blog reading, more wreath making.

*I kind of timed it and this was how long it took to make from cutting up the fabric to finishing the fluffing and taking photos. Don't blame me if you're a slow coach.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Ripply Beast - Done and Done

I. am. done.

And I don't really have the words to be honest. I'm just relieved that it's finished to be honest.

It was odd really because at the beginning it was so exciting seeing it grow and it seemed to come on leaps and bounds but once it got to a certain size it just felt like it really wasn't getting any bigger and it was as if no matter how many stripes I kept adding it wasn't getting any bigger, which meant I started to get sick of it.

I still don't know how I feel about it. I mentioned before that I had started to fall out of love with it and I'm still not sure. I mean I do like it myself and think it's awesome but I'm just not sure if my Dad and his wife will love it. I guess we will see, but it's an important lesson for me to learn - that I have to remember who is getting the blanket, rather than just pleasing myself. Or at least think a little more carefully about how the colours are going to go together.

But either way, hurrah, it is done. And in plenty of time for Christmas, so that's two names to knock off my Christmas list which always makes me happy.

He has now been folded up nicely and stored away for the day when I sit down and wrap all my presents (which is always an exciting day by the way) and now? Well now I could maybe, possibly, think about doing something for myself. Shocking idea I know.

Some stats for you? Oh go on then;

Yarn used: Mighty mighty Stylecraft Special DK

Amount of yarn used: Erm....I dunno. Each ball is 100g and I reckon I used about one and a quarter or one and a half balls of each. So I guess anywhere between 1375g - 1650g of yarn

Colours used:
Wisteria (1432)
Saffron (1081)
Claret (1123)
Bluebell (1082)
Magenta (1084)
Grey (1099)
Raspberry (1023)
Turquoise (1068)
Plum (1061)
Teal (1062)
Cream (1005)

Number of stripes: 66

Time taken: Started on 13th October - finished 2nd December = 51 days

Monday, 28 November 2011

Things that have been awesome today

I spent three hours away from my desk on Fire Warden training. I have been snowed under lately but things have relented slightly and being away from my desk for a while was actually quite cool (although I do now have a slightly irrational fear that things are going to combust in front of me).
I discovered that I can do something cool with my phone - I can draw on it with my finger and then send the messages to people. People are now getting crudely drawn stick figures on a regular basis from me.

One of my housemates made the most amazing chocolate and orange cake and I'm totally having some as soon as I've finished this blog post.

I bought a massive load of veg from the fruit and veg co-op that my company runs on the local estate, it's run entirely by local volunteers. I get fresh veg that's cheaper than supermarkets plus I get to help out the local economy. Everyone's a winner.

I spent about 2 hours in the kitchen when I got home from work which seems like a lot but I've made 4 portions of chilli, 2 portions of chicken & chorizo jambalaya and 5 portions of vegetable tagine so the freezer is stocked up for a wee while now.

I got an amazeballs package in the post from Bella Bee and Me - lots of lovely cross stitch patterns for this Christmas and next.

Lots of people said they liked my hair today which was very nice because I have officially learned how to backcomb my hair to make myself a little beehive number. I do have a bump-it and I do use it but for ages I've wanted to be able to do it myself and thanks to the magical You Tube I totally can now. I can feel an obsession coming on, and I don't think my hair is going to thank me for it.

I bought two Christmas presents today meaning that's two more people I can cross off my Christmas list. And that's always a good feeling.

Sorry. Don't know where this blog post has come from. I must be in a good mood. Don't worry it won't last long.

Edited to add: Just after writing this post I threw one portion of vegetable tagine all over the kitchen. But we're good! I still have 4!

Edited again: Want to see a photo of the little beehive number? (Emphasis on the little - I have stupid layers which are too short which I'm trying to grow out) 'Tis on me Flickr photostream, have a little clickity click here. And if you comment on my grey hairs I'll come and sock you one on the nose.

Edited AGAIN: Another awesome thing happened! I totally won a prize in Alex's Amazeballs Giveaway (there's a small chance I made up that name myself.) I think I should just stay awake until midnight on the off-chance that more awesome things happen.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Gantt Chart: Revisited

Haha Gantt Chart. How hilarious you are.

I have already mentioned a couple of times I think that my Gantt Chart has gone down the swanney but please allow me to elaborate.

I made the classic mistake of totally underestimating how much time it was going to take me to do everything I wanted to do. I must have been taken over by some kind of haze which made me think that I am Superwoman.

“Christmas card every two weeks? BOOM! Easy.”

It just appeared to fall out of my mind the fact that I work for a living and that I’m just not that speedy a crafter; two small but oh so very significant details.

To be fair though, looking back over it there is still the chance that some of it might be rectified. The first 5 things on the chart were all completed within the time allocated to them, including:

- One mobile for a friend’s baby,

- One cross stitched a new home card for my brother and sister-in-law,

- One cross-stitched a birthday card for one of the Stitchettes, and,

- I got my soluble aida out and cross-stitched some designs on 3 tops for my niece’s first birthday (sorry didn’t get any pictures before I sent them off).

- One Christmas decoration (in the shape of a Christmas Wreath like the one I made last year) for my Mum’s friend’s birthday present.

And I don’t actually know if I would have got all of that done if it wasn’t for the Gantt Chart so for that I salute it. It kept me on track and gave me a kick up the bum when it was needed.

Actually when I look at it, not everything is necessarily lost. The main thing that’s not going to happen is the whole Christmas cards and gift tags thing because I just over-estimated my abilities there. But I am still trying to do what I can here and there, and I have got another 2 cards to add to the pile already.

However there is still time for me to make all the Christmas decorations, I just need to wrap my head around what materials I need and get a wriggle on. They’re just extra little presents that I’ll be giving to people probably.

But I haven’t been completely slacking of course. The Ripply Beast has taken up the most time and I had two additions to my Gantt Chart – I whipped up another mobile for a new baby and I’ve made another Christmas wreath which will become part of a friend’s Christmas present.

The mobile in pre-production. I  really must remember to take photographs of things when I actually finish them.

Actually scrap this pity party, if you take out the Christmas cards and the gift tags then I am totally on track to see this Gantt Chart through to the end.

I feel enthused! I feel pumped up! It would appear that the Gantt Chart has infiltrated my brain without me realising it and I’m just getting on with things of my own accord.


(This post has been most confusing. I apologise.)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ripply Beast and I fall out

Ripply Beast and I fell out the other day.

It was awful. There were tears and tantrums and we both blamed each other for the hurt that we were going through.

I think it all started when the Doubt and the Fear set in. I just looked at the Ripply Beast one day and said “I’m not sure if I really like you.” I know, it’s a terribly thing to even think, let alone speak out loud and I must have hurt its feelings dreadfully but I really am having doubts about him. He’s just so blinking colourful, I don’t understand how that happened. I’m pretty sure that I had a vague idea in my head that this blanket was going to be a little bit Classic and understated and somehow I’ve ended up with this riot of colour that isn’t cohesive in the slightest.

I don’t know how it happened. I guess I just got over-excited choosing the colours and I’m not 100% convinced that I really know how to choose colours. I should have realised this earlier, I mean I knew that I had 11 different colours going in to the blanket and I looked at them being all beautiful in my bag but for some reason I just didn’t connect the dots.

And as much as I think it’s cool to have loads of colour, I’m not sure how my Dad and his wife are going to react to it. I’ve been trying to keep my cool by reminding myself that they’re not really good at interiors themselves (harsh but oh so very true), but the Doubt and the Fear are starting to nest permanently in my head. I was planning on telling them that it was for their house in France anyway, I guess that way, if they do hate it it can just live in a different country and they won’t have to face it that often.

So the fact that I have the Doubt and the Fear nestling on my shoulder, meant that I wasn’t really feeling in the mood in the work on him and I think that’s when he really took the hump.

Ripply Beast - 23rd November 2011

When I finally did pull myself around and start back on him I realised I was at an interesting point in construction. I was facing the dilemma that all crocheters (and I’m assuming knitters) face - I was coming to the end of my first balls of yarn. I was there, trying to gauge things and decide if I could eek it out just a little bit further and decided that I could probably at least get one row of ripple out of what was left and then start the new ball for the second row of ripple. This would avoid me running out half way through and having to tie the end of the old ball to the new one in a way that isn’t coming to fall apart and isn’t going to result in an unsightly blemish in the middle of the blanket.

Scraps of wool that are going to look awesome in my glass jars

All was going well until I got all taffled up in a knot. Instead of calmly pulling it out I had a freak out and pulled as hard as I could, which rather inevitably resulted in me snapping the wool, meaning that I ended up having to tie some ends together and do exactly what I had tried so hard to avoid.

I tried not to be put off and moved on to the next row where I had some kind of total brain malfunction which caused me to go wrong twice meaning that a whole row had to be ripped out twice because I lost the inability to count properly.

At that point, Ripply Beast was abandoned for some time whilst we both tried to come to terms with this sudden decline in our relationship.

But I realised that it’s just too late to do anything about it now. I’m too far down the road to start again and I’m just going to have to forge ahead despite the Doubt and Fear jackhammering into my skull.


But even if I don’t like it, there are two people who love it...


Fred - who seriously did love it. As in loved it so much I couldn't leave it alone for 2 seconds before he climbed on it loved it. I'm still picking ginger and white fur off it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Not Really Resolutions 2011 – Update 6

Time for an update my pretties. I know the last update was in September, but I’ve managed to tick a couple off the list since then. Exciting times I know.

1. Run a 5km race – All done, done and done. I would absolutely love to do more running and would love to add running a 10km race to this list but my continuing shin splint on my left leg seems determined to scupper my chances of running further than 5km. Ah well. I shall keep trying. Anyway, see this post  to see all about how I ran a 5km race.

2. Crochet a ripple blanket – Two blankets completed and hopefully by the end of the year I will have completed three of them. Ripple well and truly conquered. (Yarn Fairy Blanket, Jungle Ripple Blanket and Ripply Beast Blanket.)

3. Back up all my photos on to CD – Done and done. It’s fun to be super-organised.

4. Paint my plastic frog – Done and done

5. Go to the cinema on my own – A new one crossed off the list! Hurray. Just when I thought it was never going to happen, I got let down by a friend and had to spend the day in London on my own. I feel proud because not only did I finally complete this resolution but I did it in el capital. I know how to do it in style baby. Read all about it here

6. Complete Project 365 – Woo we’re at 3?? photos –the end is in sight! Have I mentioned a gazillion times already how much I hate the fact that it’s dark and I can’t take any decent photos? Well it’s true. It sucks. I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved and hated doing this all at the same time, but I guess it’ll get its own post in 2012 when it’s all finished. Feel free to check out my Flickr photostream for the evidence.

7. Make an album/scrapbook of my 2010 trip to France – I get increasingly worried that this is going to be the Resolution That Got Away. I so badly want to get it done but unfortunately we’re now entering in to the peak of Christmas crafting and smoke is starting to come out of my ears and I just don’t think it’s going to happen. I will try my best to keep the faith though, I promise. But hey, at least I started it didn’t I?! (See this post for more details.)

8. Go over to Belfast to visit my family – Woop! Another one bites the dust! Done, done and done at the end of October and you can read all about it here.

9. Read 12 classics throughout the year. – Oh. Yeah. Three resolutions crossed off in this update. Don’t feel bad to be around such brilliance. This has been one of my favourite resolutions, I’m so incredibly glad that I set myself this challenge because it has been so very interesting and eye-opening. You can expect to see this one again next year because there’s no shortage of Classics out there for me to read. You can read my thoughts on this particular resolution here, which contains links to the reviews for each Classic I read. Try to contain your excitement.

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card each month – Ack I could go for another one and have four whole resolutions crossed off in one update but I’m going to remain pedantic here. Far be it from me to be accused of cheating. Now I have now currently got 16 cross-stitched Christmas cards which means that I have surpassed my total of 12. But technically I’ve said in this resolution that I will make one cross-stitched card each month and as we’re still only in November I feel that it wouldn’t be fair to cross this one off the list yet. Read all about how it's gone here.


What was that you say?

What? This face?

Oh yes. This is my smug face.

Only 3 things left to cross off my list. Hurray.

And the other face?

Yeah that’s the side of my face that I’ll be laughing out of when I don’t manage to make the stupid scrapbook/photo album of France by 31st December 2011.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Part 14: Fred and Lily Update

Oh hey guess what? I haven’t talked about Fred and Lily for about a gazillion years have I?

Or since July. Whatever. That was like a whole season ago I’ll have you know. I remember it well, it was a time when there was sun and I my hands didn’t feel like they were about to break into a thousand pieces because of the cold. Oh and you could take photos...Anyway. I digress....
So yeah, Fred and Lily are doing pretty well, thanks for asking.

I had a week of looking after them a couple of weeks ago when I was on my blogging hiatus and we had lots of fun together. Actually scrap that, we didn’t. They are like moody teenagers who spend all their time asleep, only appearing when they want feeding. I started just not letting them upstairs after they’d had their tea and forcing them to sit in the lounge with me and be a family.

(Yeah I totally do talk to them when I’m looking after them. I won’t even pretend I don’t.)

Fred continues his obsession with getting in things. You leave anything on the floor for long enough and sooner or later, Fred will get in it. Sometimes I think he genuinely wants to get in things, sometimes I think he does it to annoy Lily, who has the idea first but lacks the motor skills to actually achieve her goal, at which point Fred slinks in past her.

I’ve never known a cat as clumsy as Lily. All those visions of felines gracefully leaping on to windowsills? You will forget those when you see Lily, who prefers to try and haul herself up things rather than jump on to them like a normal cat. This means you hear an awful lot of banging and clattering from upstairs, it’s not necessarily Lily falling off something, it’s just her jumping off the bed, but she seems to land with all the grace of a rhino.

Lily tried to get in the Tesco bag that you can see Fred in there. Except she decided she would try and crawl through the bag handle and inevitably ended up stuck, walking backwards, attached to the bag, freaking out whenever I tried to help her.

For some reason I find it almost impossible to take a good photograph of Lily. I don’t know how she manages to be so un-photogenic but I have a plethora of cute photos of Fred and then a shedload of Lily where she just manages to look slightly deranged.

For instance. I took some photos of Lily when she was sitting down nicely and not dashing all over the place and she looked terribly cute, she really did. And yet for some reason, I look at the camera and all I can see are her massive bat-like ears. Poor Lilster.

The other reason I can’t take photos of Lily is because she never stops bloody moving. Although my friend has pointed out that the sport setting on my camera should make that easier – I am yet to give it a go.

Fred on the other hand was born to have his photo taken and I think he quite relishes our little photoshoots that nearly always occur when I come and see them. I took some the other day and he looked so unbearably cute I made a very high pitched squeaking noise which scared him under the bed. My mistake.

Fred is also a bit of a cling-monster lately. When I was looking after them we had a routine, whereby he would disappear upstairs to sleep after eating his dinner, only to reappear at about 9pm to come for a sleep on my knee. It was almost a little too cute for words. Lily is incredibly friendly and will come and throw herself all over you, but she will rarely come and sit with you and go to sleep. Fred could not be more different.

I swear there is something about a cat sleeping that is the cosiest picture there can ever be. Those photos just radiate warmth and smooshiness. And Fred is a master of the smoosh.

Sometimes I feel sad that they’re growing up. They’re not as ‘togethery’ as they used to be – they no longer need each other to go to sleep and they are pretty independent of one another. But even though this is the case, they are most definitely a team. They’re a unit not to be messed with. For instance, see this photo that I took in September...

This is Lily’s standard “imaginary spider” pose. Basically Lily sees something incredibly minute and then becomes fixated on the point she last saw it, convinced that it’s going to reappear again. She might not have grace but my god does that girl have patience. This particular morning she sat like that for 20 minutes, at which point I got up and moved everything out of the way so that she could see that whatever it was she was looking for no longer existed. She remained vigilant, and then Fred appeared, who had absolutely no idea what she was looking at in the first place and hunkered down with her to keep guard also. The pair of them remained there for another 20 minutes. Weirdos.

Here ends the Fred and Lily update.


Hey do you like cats as much as I do? (Not possible.) Go and have a look at this set on Flickr. It’s ALL cats!

PS. Sorry for spelling Stormont wrong in my last post. It's all changed now. Forgive me?

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Do you realise how far behind I am with my blogging?

About a bloody month.

Because it was almost a month ago that I went away to Belfast to stay with my cousin for the weekend.

I know. I apologise for being so tardy with my tales of adventure. But also don’t get too excited because there isn’t really an adventure to tell. Apologies.

So I put on my Not Really Resolutions of 2011 list that I wanted to go over to Belfast to see my family at some point this year. I guess this kind of needs some explanation...

My Mum is from Belfast and moved to Hull over 40 years ago when she married a Hull man and had babies. When she first came over to Hull she spent quite a bit of time going back home to see family etc. However by the time I came along this was kind of wavering. Mum and her brother are not particularly close and I don’t know if it’s a man thing generally or my Uncle’s thing in particular, but he’s not great at making the effort and reciprocating visits over the water. And so I didn’t go over to Ireland as much as my brother and sister would have when they were small.

I have done my fair share of visiting though, and in 2005, before I went back to uni to do my Masters degree, I lived with my Aunt and Uncle for the summer and worked in Belfast city centre for a few months.

I have 2 cousins from this side of the family, a girl and boy, about 9 and 7 years older than me respectively. This age gap meant that they had all kind of flown the nest and weren’t about that much when I was a whippersnapper so I don’t really “know” them. And of course now, the only time we see each other is for weddings and christenings and then you’re restricted to small-talk and don’t get the chance to properly get to know each other.

So I decided I would rectify this and go over to see them this year. I went to stay with Tory, but luckily Roger only lives around the corner so I would get to see plenty of them and there was a date booked in to see my Uncle and his wife and my littlest cousin (who is younger than 2 of my nephews, which confuses my head at times – aaah modern family life).

Shortly before I took off for the ridiculously short flight I had a slight wobble – what the hell would I do if it turns out I don’t really like my cousins? What if there’s a reason that we don’t really have a relationship? What if I get there and we literally have nothing to say to one another?

Oh the panic.

I flippin' love taking photos of clouds when I'm in a plane.

Obviously I’m a moron. Of course we got on and I’m yet to be in a situation where I can’t find anything to say to someone so we were sortedamundo.

There followed one of the loveliest weekends I’ve ever had. It coincided with some very stressful time at work which meant that I think I appreciated the break even more. It was chilled and relaxed with no pressure to do anything or go anywhere in particular. Just time to sit and talk and get to know these people that I’m related to.

Sightseeing isn’t really necessary for me because I’ve seen that much of Belfast but I’ve never been to Stormont before. I think that’s because when I was a wee thing and going over there, you couldn’t actually get up the Royal Mile because of the peskiness that was going on at the time. (Is it appropriate to call terrorism, peskiness? I’m going to say yes because I’m trying to keep it lighthearted here.)

So off to Stormont Roger and I went. We rejected walking up the Royal Mile because it was flippin’ freezing and there was a distinct threat of rain in the not too far distance. But we scampered about and I played around with all the different settings on my camera taking photos of the building.

Punk Stormont

Drawing Stormont

Pinhole Stormont

(See I haven’t even told you about my camera yet have I?!)

What I love so much about Belfast is, surprisingly for me, how small it is. It’s like the perfect combination of urban and countryside combined. It’s urban and paved enough that I’m not going to break out in to a cold sweat, and yet you can be wandering around town and suddenly catch a glimpse of greenery and hilliness and a sense of freedom not too far away.

We also went to The Grand Opera House (which has the most exquisite ceiling ever by the way) to see James Vincent McMorrow. Have you heard the Love Film adverts with a man singing “Higher Love”? That’s this guy. I guess you’d call him kind of folky? I don’t know I suck at music but I do know that it was hauntingly beautiful at times. Oh and a band called The Staves were supporting them and their singing was so mesmeric that I floated away on a little cloud of eurphoria and was only brought down to earth when someone needed me to move so they could go to the toilet. (Incidentally they were named The Guardian's Band of the Day on 8th November - look at me! I'm ahead of the times!) I’m now stalking both on Facebook although I’m guessing it’ll be a long time until Hull is on their list of places to travel to.

Sorry there isn’t more to tell you. Sorry there aren’t really any photos. It just wasn’t that kind of weekend but it was exactly what I hoped it would be and unfortunately there aint no camera that can capture that.

*Don't you love how imaginative this post title is? You can tell I'm not firing on all cylinders. I told you, at the moment I'm afraid it's below par blogging or no blogging at all.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Christmas Cards

Christmas Christmas Christmas. I'm feeling it baby. Who knows what has brought it on, whether it was watching Love Actually with my Mum last night or seeing Christmas ads appearing on tv (although technically I haven't seen the Coke ad yet and everyone knows it's not Christmas until you've seen that) or whether it's that special little nip in the air - but I'm feeling it all the same.

I had a little sort out this afternoon and went through all my crafty drawers, making things neat which is basically my idea of porn.

Anyway I thought I'd have a little check and see how my Christmas cards are coming along. As you may remember, it was one of my Not Really Resolutions this year to cross-stitch one Christmas card each month so I had a small stash to send to some people. Ideally I would have cross-stitched a card for everyone on my list, but instead I'm going to have to choose an elite list of people to send them to. 

I think I should tell people this and have them vie for a place on the list.


I totally have more than 12 cards! Woo hoo! Technically I feel like I can't cross this one off the list because technically the resolution was to stitch one a month, not stitch 12 overall, and I'm a stickler for the technicalities, but hurray I do at least have 12.

As you can see, there are 14 bad boys here. In fact there are 15, but I can't include a picture of one because that one's for The Person and he's a little creepy creeperson here on this blog and I can't have him spoiling his own surprise.

There's a wee mix. Some little ones and some larger ones and some that I've made up myself (if you couldn't guess, they're the ones that are mean - obviously my inner awful person comes out when I try to design my own cards) and a bonus picture of Fred thrown into the mix because I didn't have enough pictures of cross stitch.

November's card is currently on the aida - it's only a small one but hey I didn't say that they had to be masterpieces. 

I did have grand plans on the Gantt Chart to make more than this. I think I planned to make one every other week, but obviously I have mental problems if I thought that was going to happen. Still, I guess it's good that I over-estimate myself....or is that bad? I'm not sure.

Either way I'm pretty much ready to tick another Not Really Resolution off my list and, thanks to buying some Christmas cards in Paperchase in the sale in January this year I'll be able to send out all my cards at little to no cost. Bonus.

Anyone got a favourite card in that mosaic above? (Please note you can pick Fred.)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

All about how I read 12 Classics in 2011

So I feel like I’m allowed to be a bit smug at the moment because I’ve totally managed to cross something off my Not Really Resolutions list. Namely that I would read 12 Classics this year.

The debate as to what constitutes a Classic continues to rage on, both in my head and with the people that I talk to about it but I have decided to take a stance that it’s not up to me to decide what makes a Classic, I’m leaving it firmly in the hands of the publishers and if they call it a Classic then far be it from me to argue with them.

So here they are in all their glory. Yes you are right there are only 11 in this pile but that’s because I read Treasure Island on my phone remember? (See yet another argument against eReaders – I wouldn’t have been able to take a cool picture like this one if I’d read them all in eBook form!)

The final twelve
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
- Midnight's Children
- The Moonstone
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Wuthering Heights
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles
- Things Fall Apart
- Go Tell it on the Mountain
- Treasure Island
- The Great Gatsby
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
- The Dud Avocado

So I figured that really I should do a bit of reflecting on my list and see what I thought of them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a literary dunce, I do my fair share of reading and I try to read quality stuff, but I decided to undertake this because I didn’t feel like I was getting enough of the heavyweight stuff in my diet. Think of this as the literary version of getting more fibre in my system.

I feel the list is pretty representative of all that’s out there under the banner of Classic at the moment – there’s some old stuff, some more modern stuff, and a bit of obscure stuff thrown in for measure.

(I apologise for the overuse of the word “stuff” in this post but my brain is fried now and it’s either less eloquent blogging or no blogging at all at the moment.)

As a very wide and sweeping generalisation I would say that I think I’m a fan of the older Classics than the Modern Classics, the Classic Classics, or CCs, if you will. They seem to be much more character and plot driven than Modern Classics (MCs) which tend to be a little more abstract and thematic, requiring the reader to work much harder to discover what the bloody hell it is they’re banging on about it.

So yes, basically I like the CCs that are a little easier on the brain, hence negating the whole concept of this idea in the first place.

But that has in turn thrown up kind of an interesting observation. If someone said to me they were reading a CC I think I would probably be very impressed and nod my head sagely and think how terribly clever they are. Having now read a few of these CCs I think I would be slightly less impressed because really I know that you’re just reading an earlier version of Marian Keyes. The myth has been blown people.

And the people who say that they’re reading a MC – well I know that there’s more than the slight probability that they’re erring on the pretentious side. And if not, they’re simply too clever and intelligent to want to converse with me.

There have been a few surprises along the way – namely Wuthering Heights which I read, waiting to be bowled over by the tragic love story....I’m still waiting. I just cannot see what the fuss is about that book. And then I picked up Tess of the d’Urbervilles almost shaking in my boots such were the awful things that I’ve heard about Hardy and it actually turned out to be one of my favourites of the bunch, it almost broke my heart.

My Dad’s wife had snipped out a brief article from a Sunday paper a while ago that said that there is some ridiculous percentage of people who have books on the bookshelves purely for the reason that they look good to other people. Never fear, I have kept these books for the purposes of the photoshoot for this blogpost and some of them will not be staying with me, much as I would like to keep them to point at them and say “LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM EVERYONE.” However, I am ruthless with the books I read and anything that didn’t really really really get me will not be staying. What’s the point in me filling my shelves with books I’m never going to read again?

The article also said that people will lie about reading Classics. I can also confirm this is true. The reason why is totally beyond me. Because they’re jerks?


The favourites?
The Moonstone – I really loved this and The Woman in White is on my Christmas list if anyone happens to be taking note.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – I’m flexing my muscles and I reckon I’m ready to take on another Hardy. Yes he isn’t the cheeriest of chaps but he can’t half tell a story.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – One word. Charming. But it’s fluff.

The not so much favourites?
Midnight’s Children – This still makes me shudder when I think about it. Begone with you confusing pretentious book.

Wuthering Heights – A victim of hype? Maybe I expected too much?

The Great Gatsby – Erm.....I don’t geddit. Sorry.

The surprises?
Treasure Island – How this was aimed at small children I don’t know. And it apparently was, it was originally serialised in a children’s magazine between 1881-82 (thank you Wikipedia) and hats off to those kiddlywinks because this was kind of boring at times. But then it would be oh my goodness so incredibly exciting that I almost couldn’t bear it. I still couldn’t really tell you if I liked it or not.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Proof that you don’t need to write a tome to write something that’s incredibly affecting.

If you missed out on all the fun that has been the reviews of each of these Classics (and let me tell you, it was quite a treat, go and feast your eyes on the literally 1s of comments) then you can find them all by clicking on the Not Really Resolutions of 2011 page.

I am most definitely going to carry this on into 2012 because it’s been an interesting little treat for my brain. Also I’ve been going mad all year buying Classics so I now have a shelf full of them and need to get through them.

Now I really must go and rest my gigantanormous brain down somewhere.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Ripply Beast grows...


*waves madly*

It's me. Back.  But who knows for how long, I'm now starting to learn that it''s not wise to make promises where blogging is concerned. Plus we have now officially entered the worst time for blogging ever which  is also known as "It's too dark for me to ever take photos damnit."

There is much to tell you that I almost don't know where to begin.

So let's start with something easy that doesn't require too much brain power. (And also the photos have already been taken for it.)

The Ripply Beast.

When you last saw him 3 weeks ago he was a much smaller being. In fact he was just 4 rows long.

I did go through several mild panic attacks in the beginning stages of this blanket. Mainly because I decided to see what he looked like on a real life double bed and then freaked out when I saw how insignificant he looked. He just looked so tiny on that big, massive bed - he was not Beast-like at all (although he was particularly ripply).

The main stress was just how much yarn it was going to take up. I was going for the cheap option by using Stylecraft DK and I bought all the yarn a while ago but I was feeling a little worried that I was going to need all the skeins in the world. Turns out there was nothing to worry about because he now looks like this...

37 rows long baby. And I'm still on my first balls of yarn! Let me hear you say YEAH! (yeah!)

So as you can see, he's pretty much half of a double bed at the moment so by my calculations, which involve fingers and thumbs and a lot of screwing up of my forehead, before just deciding to make a wild guess, I should be finished any minute now. Or maybe not, but I definitely won't need to buy more yarn so that's rather marvellous. And given that this is how far I've come in 3 weeks I feel pretty good about getting him finished in plenty of time for Christmas, although I won't lie, I think the Gantt Chart has been shot to shit. (This is what I get for overestimating what I can make.)

Seeing as I can't take any decent pictures of him I have resorted to making a collage of his progress so far. This is the journey of the Ripply Beast from 13th October - 6th November.

As with all things crafty, photos can be found in my Flickr photostream and also in the Attic24 & Little Tin Bird Ripple-along group.