Thursday, 31 January 2013

2, 4, 6, 8...

Apologies  for the absence, just when I thought was getting back into the swing of things as well. 

The reason for my brief disappearance has been work and I thought that now would be a good time to let people know how it's going, given that lots of lovely people have taken the time to ask me how things are going.

Basically, it's brilliant and I love it. I've never worked so hard in my life and I'm working longer hours than I've worked but I don't resent it and have relished finally having the opportunity to use my brain. 

From my very first day I've had a challenge looming on the horizon - a strategy meeting with all the Directors and other members of the senior leadership team up in Scotland. It was my job to organise it and although on the surface it doesn't sound particularly complicated - get 15 people to North Berwick - this has almost consumed my life getting it sorted.

If it had been 15 people all coming from one place that would have been vastly easier - instead it was 6 people going from one place, 4 coming from 3 different places, 2 people coming from America, 2 people coming in a car - my head has been spinning at times. But luckily the fact that I have an obsession with spreadsheets meant that I knew who was coming in from where and at what time and when transfers would be picking us up from Edinburgh airport etc etc

Even then it wasn't easy. Trying to keep a group of 15 high powered people is a bit like trying to herd cats (now that would be a job) I would have one group under control, turn my back to get another, and turn back round to find they'd all wandered off in several directions, talking into/trying to get a signal on their phones.

I was responsible for making sure the meeting ran smoothly, people were fed and watered, and for taking the minutes and the actions of the meeting.

By the end of the 2nd day I was pretty much beside myself. I was tired and my eyes felt like they were bathed in acid, from staring at my laptop screen all day as I took down the minutes. I was the only person that had to concentrate through the whole meeting - others could let their minds wander and dip in and out but I had to remain focused - and my brain was feeling the strain.

I'd also arranged spa appointments and golf for the following day and in the breaks during the day, whilst getting people to sign documents that I'd been asked to bring with me to get Director's signatures, and giving people train tickets for their travel the next day and being asked when appointments were and when taxis were and when dinner was, I was ready to snap.

I had one of those moments where I was like "I am not cut out for this. My job is to organise these people and at the moment all I want to do is tell them to organise themselves."

Then at the dinner table that night the Director stood up to propose a toast. I wasn't surprised - it'd been a long couple of days and a lot had been talked about and it seemed right to acknowledge that.

So imagine my surprise when the toast was for me.

For little old me. To acknowledge and thank me for organising everything and making sure everyone got where they should be and for ensuring that the meeting ran smoothly.

I was flabbergasted and then I realised...

I have never been thanked for doing my job. Ever. I have never been sincerely told "Well done" or "Thank you" or "That was great." Isn't that bad that I've been in the employment game for 13 years or so and have never experienced that?

I know there are those that believe that you shouldn't need to be praised for doing your job - after all, it is what you are paid to do - but there can be no greater motivator to ensure that you continue to try and do your best than being shown a little bit of appreciation for a job well done. It was genuinely surprising to be in an organisation that made me feel valued and whilst it was lovely it also made me a little sad that it's taken me this long to experience it.

And that is why I am happy to take these eyeballs that feel like they've been bathed in acid to bed and get up ready to do it again, and better.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Crazy Cat Lady Part 22 - Everyone meet Blinky

I should be ecstatic really. I may no longer be living with my boyfriend but I am now living with a cat. As a Crazy Cat Lady this should be good news, but unfortunately it isn't.

For Blinky is a minion of the antichrist.

Don't believe me? Look at this face...

Blinky has always been a bit 'spiky' to say the least. I went round to my sister's house 10 years ago when they first got her. "Oh what a cute kitty!" I exclaimed and scooped her up. She immediately turned into a ball of furry fury, claws akimbo, wriggling to escape.

And no, thank you, it wasn't me being over zealous, she just quite simply hates all people.

She has literally never sat on someone's knee like a real life cat. She will deign to sit on the end of your bed but you are under no circumstances allowed to touch her - leading to a disturbed night's sleep as you attempt to relax without actually moving a muscle.

She has been known to purr but do not allow that to fool you into thinking she likes you.

She even looks cute sometimes and her kitteny face belies her aged status but this is just a ruse to get you to put your hand through the bannister where it will be cruelly shredded.

The only people she vaguely tolerates are my nephews and she only makes a vague effort with them because they feed her. And so she hangs around outside their rooms, chirruping to be fed.

Particular hatred is reserved for my sister, who Blinky regularly tries to trip down the stairs. And not in that cute, general winding round the legs that cats do, but in a very deliberate shove to the back of the ankle. It's most undeserved as my sister was the one that picked Blinky out of the litter to bring home - part of me wonders if that's the basis for the anger, my sister probably got in the way of Blinky's plans for world domination.

She recently did the same to me on the stairs. I'm unsure if it was a case of mistaken identity or if this is proof that she hates all women.


I refuse to give up and I have launched a campaign to make Blinky like me. I've taken over feeding her, in the hopes that she'll transfer her cupboard love to me, and this makes me a little bit ashamed of myself but a Crazy Cat Lady has needs...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Dress Code

As you can probably tell I am not a fashion blogger. The reasons for this are numerous and include, but are not limited to, the following:

a) I hate pictures of myself and can only pose when someone else is in the photo with me;
b) ...or I am drunk, and,
c) *whispers* I'm just not interested in fashion

I've never been a clothes horse and my wardrobe is by no means bursting at the seams. When people talk about things they've bought that they've forgotten about and never worn, they are met with an uncomprehending stare from me. 

I don't know what the latest must-have wardrobe item is, I don't know what trend I should be rocking, I own 4 pairs of jeans, 3 of which are too big for me and/or suffering from what I endearingly call "crotch rot". (where the inside seams rub away - I know it happens to others too, it's not just me!) And before people chime in saying "I don't own jeans either", you should know that jeans are my uniform. I don't wear dresses. I don't wear skirts. I wear jeans and a t-shirt/jumper. Or pyjamas.

I don't pay attention to what other people are wearing. Ever. I am oblivious to all things clothes-related, you could be wearing rags for all I'd remember. There is no point saying "Do you remember that thing that so-and-so was wearing this one time?" because I will not. No way. No how.

But now.....

Now I am a beady eyed little hawk. Perfecting my ability to take in what someone is wearing with a mere flick of the eye. I'm keeping tabs on whether you're wearing a skirt or trousers and what colour nail varnish you've got on.

The reason?

The Dress Code.

My new work has an exacting dress-code policy, which has left no stone unturned in its quest to ensure that you are the perfect Corporate World model. As I've already mentioned, tattoos are not to be visible and body piercings have to be removed - but that's not really uncommon. But it is made very clear what you are and are not to wear.

Skirts are to be knee length and no shorter. No sleeveless tops are allowed. Tights can be blue, black, brown, grey or neutral. No patterened tights are allowed. No coloured tights are allowed. In fact, it goes as far as actually telling you that no bare legs are allowed between the 1st October and 1st May.

Nail varnish has to be subtle and un-chipped and "complement business dress" - the jury's out as to what that means.

Even the men don't escape - they're only allowed black, navy, brown or charcoal grey socks. Although somehow they are given a reprieve in that they don't have to wear a tie. Bizarre.

I was not happy when I was faced with this. Neither were ll the patterned/coloured tights and nail varnishes I have lying around. I'm not used to a dress code for work. I previously worked for a charity where the dress code was fairly relaxed. In fact, as a researcher, it would have been detrimental to data gathering in some cases if I'd turned up looking too formal. And as much as I'm ok with covering up my tattoos and taking out my tongue piercing, I do kind of resent being told I can't wear my burgundy tights. That kind of stuff is what makes me, me and I didn't want to be another Corporate Clone.

And so I watched. I observed. I saw what other people are wearing and judged how much I could get away with. I've gone from not paying attention to what people are wearing to some kind of maniac, keeping a track in my head of the different outfits people wear. 

Ultimately, I've got over it.

You're talking to someone who wore a school uniform until they were 18 (and it was a smart school uniform - all blazers and pencil skirts) and used to dread Non-Uniform Days almost as much as I did cross country. If I'm honest, I'm kind of comfortable being a Corporate Clone, I kind of like that everyone looks the same. Kind of.

And I've found ways to inject a little bit of my personality that don't involve breaking the rules. I found a nice smart work appropriate dress in Next. But I didn't buy it in navy - I bought it in pink. I don't even like pink that much - but I was making a stand. Albeit a stand I've yet to take because I'm actually a little bit nervous about wearing it to work. It's a little more "Look at me" than I would normally go with.

No this does not mean I'm about to start balancing my camera on a chair whilst I set the timer and run and try to strike a flattering post. But it does mean I might just notice you've got a nice pencil skirt on...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How I finally learned I can't wear heels and drink

You would think that a pulmonary embolism would have been warning enough to me that I really shouldn't wear mega high heels and drink copious amounts of alcohol.

But sometimes, one bad experience (even if it does involve hospitalisation for a week and 6 months on warfarin) just isn't enough and you I need to receive another lesson before something can really sink in.

*cue wibbly lines and dream sequence music*

I moved to Preston on a Friday afternoon in May and the very next morning I was on a train heading for Sheffield for a hen party.

I wasn't massively looking forward to it. Obviously I'd just gone through some major upheaval in my life and there was some potential awkwardness with the group of girls that was going that I wasn't really looking forward to.

Please note: These are not excuses for what happened - we all know I was going to get drunk anyway

As hen parties go it wasn't too horrific, but my heart sank when it was announced that there was going to be a competition. My heart sank for 2 reasons;
1) Hen party competitions are always rubbish,
2) My competitiveness will not allow me to not take part in the rubbish competition.

Note to anyone organising a hen party: Please don't do these "fun" competitions that are to last the whole night. They are wank. And also everyone will be so drunk by the end that no-one will be bothering with the competition. But mostly....they're wank.

This little round of "fun" involved us getting photos. We had a list of photos to get - things like "you and a phone box", "you and a blue drink" etc etc.

I had on one of my most beloved pair of Irregular Choice shoes, a present from The Person who picked them all out by himself and everything.

We were almost in the club when Best Friend and I spotted a policeman standing nearby. A policeman was on our list of photos. Being the competitive spirits that we are (and having imbibed a few shandies) we didn't just calmly walk over to the Officer and ask for our photo to be taken. Oh no. We decided we would run.

Across cobbles.

Aaaaaand down she goes.

I've had more than my fair share of sprains and I know when a sprain is a bad sprain and this was a doozy. This was the one that made me think that my lucky streak was up and I had finally, after 29 years of falling over, managed to break something. It swelled to hideous, elephantine proportions within seconds. My friends were horrified. I was mortified because I was now the centre of attention on someone else's hen do. Not cool.

It was one of the few times that I was glad I don't drive, because if I'd driven to Sheffield I would have been well up shit creek. I hoped that I'd go to bed with ice on it and it would calm down, but when I woke up I was reduced to walking about like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, dragging my lame leg behind me. With a hangover.

Note: No I did not go to A&E that night. Why? Because I have had too many Friday/Saturday nights in A&E. If it was broken it would be broken in the morning. There was nothing that was going to persuade me to go to Sheffield's A&E at 11.30pm on a Saturday night.

I got myself back to Preston on what was the most miserable train journey of my life and I was met by The Person, who stifled a laugh at my piteous state and came with me to Preston Royal Hospital, marvelling at the fact that he had lived there for 3 years and never been to the hospital, whilst I had lived there less than 24 hours before I was becoming acquainted.

It was not broken. Thankfully. And mindful of what happened the last time I was laid up with an ankle injury (oh hi blood clots!) I insisted on crutches to allow me to get about a bit.

It might not have been broken but it was, quite frankly, fucked up. In a big way. I did this back in May and even now, if I'm in heels that are more than 2 inches high I can actually feel that my ankle is weak and that it's not stable. I think I've used up my ankle's 9 lives and have stretched the tendons and muscles so much that they now resemble Nora Batty's tights.

So heed my warning.

Heels + alcohol = a not happy ankle

There's an ankle in there somewhere.

One week later...

You have been warned.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Of me, but not all that I am.

There have been a few things which are new to me now that I've joined the corporate world for the first time in my working life.

Apart from jobs in retail and catering, my "grown-up" working life has basically been the Third Sector and it's all I've ever known. This was followed shortly by my horrid job, which although private sector, was the crappy end of the private sector where wages are low and staff turnover is high.

This job is Corporate with a big C and it means a whole new world. Rather than working on a housing estate in Hull with people who are well-meaning but not necessarily well turned out and everyone was one big family, I'm now in a world where high heels clack along slate-tiled corridors, and, the best thing ever, a canteen with nice food and more importantly cheap food.

Living in Corporate World has meant that image is now forefront of my mind all the time. There is a dress-code and there is probably more to say on that another time but it has meant that I have had to change a couple of things about myself.

Noticeably my much loved tongue-piercing was removed on New Year's Eve as it its a no-no. And pop socks have been purchased to cover up Herbert who has the unfortunate luck of being my only visible tattoo.

I have got into some "debates" regarding the removal of my piercing and the covering of my tattoos for a job. On the whole I do think it's silly, neither of those things affect my ability to work - there merely (possibly) affect people's perceptions of me and I do think that's wrong.


That's the way it is in Corporate World. Tattoos are unfortunately still seen as unprofessional and that's just that.

Am I going to give up a job for a bit of titanium I had shoved through my tongue in Affleck's Palace when I was 18 at uni?

Yes my tattoos and are of me, but they are not all that I am. When I took my piercing out, was I still "me", did my personality change? No of course it didn't, I was exactly the same person funnily enough.

Maybe this comes with the confidence of age or maybe it is just the way I personally am. But my tattoos do not define me. I didn't get them for other people to see and think how cool I was and that is why it's not really any big deal to me to have them covered up. I've had them done for me, and at the end of the day when I go home, if I want to, I can look down at my feet then and say hello to Herbert (or indeed to any of my others - although the one on my back is a little hard to talk to at times).

And actually, as much as the Corporate World may judge me for having my tattoos, my bet is it's no more likely to happen than when so-called hipsters and cool dudes say to me " have tattoos?", because I don't necessarily appear at first glance to be hip or trendy.

How very sad that those people recalibrate how they think of me once they find out I have a bit of ink on me. And I actually don't know what would offend me more - have someone think I was unprofessional because I have a tattoo or someone who decided they liked me because I do.

I don't want to be thought of us as unprofessional as much as I don't want to be put in a 'cool' box.

I'm just happy being me. And I am me. Whether you dress me up in a fancy dress or put me in a bin bag, whether you cover up my tattoos or let everyone see them - what you can't hide is me. 

Bad luck.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Why I love the Little Tin Bird.

When I wrote my 2012 Year Review I made one hell of an omission guys.

As I mentioned in the recap and at probably other points in my posts, my time in Preston was pretty lonely. I obviously moved away from all my friends and then got a horrible job where I didn't stand a chance of making any friends. And although The Person is a lovely guy and I love him with all my heart, a girl needs her friends.

Apart from anything, if I only have him, who am I supposed to bitch to about him?

However it turned out I wasn't completely on my own. My move to Preston may have taken me further away from my Hull friends, but actually moved me closer to one of what I like to call my special blog friends - namely Heather of Little Tin Bird. (Obviously you know her, I'm pretty sure about 90% of my traffic comes through her site.)

Once I'd moved to Preston I was merely a hop, a skip and a bus journey full of white haired grannies, away from the Land of the Little Tin Bird where I could spend an afternoon in her domain before returning to the general blahness of Preston.

Luckily for me, my move to Preston coincided with her having an actual baby in her tummy and I was fortunate enough to see her both when she was still knocked up and after Tiny Tin Bird (TTB) because a person rather than a bump.

I reckon that most babies are pretty lovely but let me tell you, TTB is the happiest baby I've ever seen. He coos and smiles and waves his legs and arms in the air and is generally just pleasant to be around. Trust me, I've been around a few babies in my time and you can spot the troublemakers a mile off.

More than being able to spend time with a little baby with little baby fingers and little baby nails and little baby arms and legs, I have been able to see a natural mother at work. Heather was made to be a Mummy, of that I am certain, and although at time TTB can be trying (like not wanting to sleep because life is too amazing to miss out on any of it) she deals with it all admirably.

She doesn't pretend to be a Supermum and isn't afraid to say that it's hard, purely because those niggly times far outweigh the joy that she gets from motherhood and being responsible for this little person.

Watching Heather and TTB is like receiving a lesson in motherly love and a wonderful things to watch. Both their eyes light up when they see each other and it's been hard to walk away from them both without feeling a little nag in the ol' ovaries myself.

She is completely at ease and comfortable with her role and exudes a confidence that makes it seem as if she's been doing it for years, rather than a mere 15 weeks.

More than that, she hasn't become someone completely subsumed in all things baby and is still able to have proper conversations with you, remember things that you've spoken about before and make you feel as if your life, in which you're really not doing anything as important as raising a child, is pretty worthwhile too. She is a person that I just find it relaxing to be around and she makes me think that maybe, just maybe, one day I could be as good a person (and hopefully mother in the future) as her.

(And. Despite having a baby she still manages to blog more than I do which puts me to shame I tell you.)

Having Heather there to go to has been invaluable to me. Knowing that someone was only a bus journey away was comforting and I am more than gutted that I've now moved away and won't be able to pop over regularly to see TTB growing up.

Apart from anything I want another go at buttoning up his babygro, which took an unacceptably long time the last time I saw him - although I think my ineptness gave both of us a bit of a laugh. I'm pretty sure he was smiling and it wasn't wind....

And so I slap the back of my hand. How could I forget, in my recap of 2012, that one of the most brilliant things of all happened - a bloggy friendship became a real-life friendship. And how often can you say that?

Monday, 7 January 2013

2012 Year Review

Yes yes yes. We're a week into 2013 already, who can even remember 2012? But I've started and so I'll finish.

I got an attack of the rages on 31st December 2012 after one too many Facebook statuses (statusi) saying something along the lines of, "Well, 2012 wasn't good to me, let's hope 2013 is better".

This made me want to hurt people very muchly, not just because I'm generally a rageful person, but because I wanted to shake them by the ears screaming "Of course 2012 wasn't great - NO year is great all the way through you bloody knobhead."

I actually feel I have permission more than most to say that 2012 was a crappy year. It started off with me being made redundant, moved on to me being unemployed for three months before swiftly ending up with a horrific job that I was bullied in. And then ended the year having to move out of my flat with the boyfriend for a new job.

But you know what? Loads of really good stuff happened in 2012 as well. It's easy to sit there and remember all the crappy stuff but forget about all the motherfreaking amazing stuff that went on.

What was bad, was that when I went back through the year thinking of all the good things that happened I realised that I had hardly blogged about any of it. That made me sad because I have missed blogging and also made me realise I've done that  thing you do where you only blog when you feel crappy about something, which can't be a pleasant experience for anyone reading.

So I apologise, I do definitely have good intentions for blogging this year - I intend to blog the good, the bad and the ugly.

But for now let's talk about the awesome stuff that happened in 2012;

  • I visited the Ribble Steam Railway - this was one of my favourite and my best. It ran along the trainlines outside our flat and for ages, whenever I was staying with The Person and would hear the whistle go I would beg for us to go one weekend. Finally, in Jan/Feb he obliged and we went up and down the line. It's not much but it made me a happy person.

  • The Person and I went to see Florence + The Machine at the MEN Arena - I love this lady like a whole load a lot and when I just happened to see tickets for sale I grabbed them. I don't even understand why it wasn't sold out because she's awesome.

  • I took a trip to Manchester Pride to see the street procession. Not to be confused with gay pride this is a festival all about how amezzing Manchester is. And it is amezzing. Many many many pictures were taken, but these guys were one of my favourites.

  • I watched my swucklings be born and grow up. I have watched these guys from they were eggs people. I am also pleased to report that they are still going strong, I saw them a couple of weeks before I left Preston with their Mum and Dad - although I'm not going to lie they weren't all there. I like to think I just didn't see the others and not that they've come to an untimely end.
(And just in case you haven't read the above blog post - I know they're not called swucklings really.)

  • I spent a weekend watching The Person take part in some Dragonboat racing as part of the UK Corporate Games which were held in Preston in 2012. Dragonboat racing is exciting and involves lots of shouting when you're a spectator. However, because The Person's team did so well, they went into the finals which meant a lot of hanging around all day.

  • Living near the Docks in Preston meant we were close to all the action and The Riversway Festival is basically a little folk festival that happens each year. But the best thing about it is that it's obviously on the calendar for people who own houseboats and they all come and moor up and then decorate their houses with bunting.
Also I saw dogs wearing life jackets which might just be one of the highlights of 2012.

  • I took a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach with The Person and his sister and cousin. Note to self, only go to theme parks with people who love scary rides and rollercoasters. The Person and his sister do not and I was left nearly foaming at the mouth. Sadly I didn't get to ride The Big One this time, but at least I did it last time, so I'll cling on to those memories.

  • I was pretty fortunate in that my arrival in Preston coincided with the Preston Guild 2012 celebrations. This is a big event which only happens every 25 years so it really is once in a generation. There were events on all over the city for most of the year, but especially focused in the summer. One included the Blaze Arts Festival which took place in Avenham & Miller Parks. They even ran a Sit & Knit session which I was brave enough to go to by myself and try and learn to knit. Afterwards we hung our efforts from the tree nearby in yarn-bombing style.

See that scraggy blue thing? That's my first knitting!
  • The Person and I had a special day out at Witton Country Park where we capered about the countryside and admired the trees and got scared by cows which I am almost definitely positive were going to stampede us. It is also home to the most amazing adventure playground I've ever seen. And yes we did go and play on it.

  • We got our first pets as a couple - 2 brilliant (if slightly dull) goldfish called, Marcus & Andrew

Andrew & Marcus

  • How could I forget? I bloody went and ran 10k this year!

  • I went to see Marina & The Diamonds in Preston which was all kinds of random but you know what she's actually pretty good even if I basically only knew 2 of her songs.

  • I went to York Races for my brother's 40th which was well good. We got to go near the Parade Ring and see the horses being trotted round before they went out - my niece absolutely loved that bit. I loved the fact that I managed to back 2 winners, although my inability to bet anything other than the bare minimum meant that I didn't exactly rake it in.

  • This was also the year that I became a Spartan by taking part in the Spartan Race. Don't mess with me people. Look at this face...

  • I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate and got to hang out with the ever so cool Mr X Stitch and one of my most missed people from back in Hull, as well as see some of the incredible stitchy talent that's out there.

  • I said goodbye to Hull. Which was very sad in itself and could be seen as a negative, but it was actually nice as I made an effort to go around all things that are my favourite parts of Hull and appreciate them just one last time. It was also touching to have people come out and say goodbye to me, everyone likes to feel loved and I did.

My Humber Bridge

  • I had four visits whilst I lived in Preston from some of The Girls that I left behind in Hull. One of which was a surprise visit that I knew nothing about until they rang the door buzzer. Those visits were all immensely important to me as I didn't have the loveliest time in Preston - I made not really a single friend whilst I was there and I was thankful that I had my friends come to see me which made not having anyone (bar The Person of course) in Preston.
  • We went to stay in a cottage for The Person's 30th birthday in the Lake District. This was all full of many outdoorsy activities which are not really my favourite thing, but there was also lots of drinking games which are more my favourite (not because I'm a raging alcoholic but because they are so so very funny) so it all balanced out. 

  • Oh hai. I totally got to touch some big cats this year. This is me just casually stroking a tiger.

And I reckon that means that 2012 wasn't really a bad year if you think about it.

Touching big cats + other awesome things > shitty redundancy & unemployment

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012 - The Year of the Needle & Thread

I feel kind of bad for crochet you know. Poor crochet didn't get a look-in in 2012 in my life. I made a few squares at some point in the hopes of making a blanket but they were merely an exercise in distracting myself from the bad news of the redundancy and nothing ever came of it.

Even after I'd moved to Preston I think there was a hook in my hand only a couple of times and I just couldn't bring myself to get enthusiastic about it.

Cross stitch however. My first love, has accompanied me all the way through the year. I didn't even know I'd been stitching until I had a look back at what I'd completed this year. Unfortunately I can be pretty lame when it comes to actually photographing what I've produced - I need to work on that.

(Pattern from CrossStitcher)

For instance, without even realising, I managed to cross stitch about 12 Christmas cards, despite saying that I wasn't going to bother this year. I vaguely remember having a complete cross-stitching frenzy at the beginning of my unemployment period and I think that's when they were all produced. But unfortunately there is no photographic proof, you'll have to take my word for it.

As has become standard, my go-to for cross-stitch patterns is CrossStitcher magazine - since it had its make-over in 2011 it has become the coolest cross-stitch magazine about at the moment. It must be hard for them, there tend to be all kinds of ridiculous comments on their Facebook page from disgruntled people wishing there was more "traditional" patterns in the magazine, but there are loads of magazines offering that kind of jazz, and I hope people find CrossStitcher before they think that there's nothing out there for them.

Pattern from CrossStitcher

What I did do in 2012 was branch out a bit. Most of my cross stitch in the past has been in the form of cards because I've not known what else to do with it or have found any bigger patterns that I like the look of.

This year however I've done some bigger pieces - most of which have been given as presents - an excellent idea given that 2012 was not very blessed money-wise.

One of the favourite things I stitched was the above and below birds for a Christmas present for my friend. I love these Scandanavian style patterns although it was not as simple as anticipated - there's a whole bunch of backstitch here which made me want to pull my hair out at times.

Although I did finally conquer the ever elusive french knot, meaning that I completed one of my Not Really Resolutions.

I do need to get better at framing things in hoops though - this wasn't my finest work but hopefully I'll get better with practice.

I also had a frenzy making some bunting cards and then decided to take them one step further by stitching on the flags to spell out a name or message. The below card was made for my niece for her birthday in October.

It's a good idea but only if you have someone with a 3 or 5-letter name, otherwise you can't make the flags fit, and having an even number just doesn't work, it doesn't look right.

I need to make more of these because they don't take that long to knock up and they look pretty good, but more blank cards I needed, I went on such a roll this year that I've finally used up all the blank cards that have been hanging around for a couple of years!

As I mentioned in my round of up of Not Really Resolutions I finally finished my France 2010 album and this has definitely been something I enjoyed. I'd like to do more stitching on cards/photographs if I can this year.

 The first big piece I did in 2012 was the below fairy castle which I completed in March 2012, even though it wasn't given as a present until October for my niece's birthday.

It was the ideal first big project because it was basically blocks of colours. Not loads of annoying faffy colour changes, you just stitched a block and then moved on to the next. It also meant it was pretty easy to do in terms of counting, much less chance of you cocking up and going wrong.

The backstitch did take a long time though, I decided to do it all in one go at the end and although I sighed sometimes, it was actually pretty good as the backstitch added the detail, meaning the picture really came alive as I stitching.

Pattern from CrossStitcher

I took it over to my brother's to give to my niece but said she probably wouldn't be fussed about opening it, she is only 2 after all, but she surprised me by ripping the paper off and going "OH WOW!" and then tried to carry it about everywhere.

I'm not sure if it was the picture or just opening a present that made her excited but it's hung up in her room and my brother has assured me she loves it.

The biggest project I did this year though kept me going through my unemployment, and for that I am grateful.

I did the owl and the pussycat for Little Tin Bird's Tiny Tin Bird, and as she got more and more pregnant, my picture slowly got bigger and bigger. There was definitely one time when this was thrown across the room, I counted about 3 times and kept doing part of the boat wrong. When I'd got so stressed out that I had to open a window because I was sweating so much, The Person pointed out that no-one was probably going to notice if the very edge of the boat was one square out.

Pattern from CrossStitcher

I absolutely loved this picture and at one point I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to give it up. But it turned out that Heather had a damn cute baby and I relented and decided to hand it over. But I'm not going to lie, don't be surprised if this picture appears in my house at some point - baby or no baby.

Patterns from CrossStitcher (sensing a theme?)

I did manage to stitch and keep something for myself in 2012 though. This set of vegetables are now individually framed and hanging in my kitchen back in Preston.

(Tell you what though, it's hard to take photos of things once they're in frames, damn reflective glass.)

They surprisingly didn't take long to stitch up at all, even though there's a hell of lot of colour changes involved in them. In fact it took waaaaaay longer to frame them than to stitch them - I always seem to fall at that hurdle when it comes to properly finishing off my stitchy stuff.

I really loved the frames on these photos and I hover between which is my favourite - the carrots or the tomato - because that's just what I do when I'm hanging out in my kitchen.

But I didn't isolate my needle and thread activities to aida/evenweave/fabric - oh hell's no. This year on my very long walks as part of my stupid commute I started to notice all the leaves on the floor. Some of them were so beautiful and I wanted to take them home with me...

Crappy phone photo - sorry

...So I did. And made me a leaf garland to hang in the lounge. It couldn't be easier, I just threaded through the leaves and hung it up, easy peasy lemon squeezey.

I did feel like kind of a weirdo collecting them on my walk home but they did make me happy and The Person said it was the happiest he'd seen me in a long time when I walked through the door announcing "I have LEAVES". 

I didn't know how long the garland would last but it was actually up there from the 23rd October until the Christmas decorations went up in mid-December. Some of the leaves curled up a bit but they didn't change their colours and it still looked really nice. You can bet your ass there will be another Autumn garland in 2013.

I'm looking forward to what 2013 will bring craft-wise and I'm hoping for a bit more crochet in my life because I have missed it.

But me and cross-stitch have got a thang going on baby.