Monday, 30 January 2012

Crazy Cat Lady Part 15 - Fred and Lily update

“What have Fred and Lily been up to?” I hear you ask.

They have mostly been acting mad because that’s what they do best.

They had a pretty quiet festive season. They were sadly abandoned for just over 24 hours as Mum and I left on Christmas Day morning and didn’t come back until Boxing Day morning. They naturally behaved as if they hadn’t eaten for weeks.

Lily was in pretty high spirits over Christmas though and performed one of her favourite tricks which is to climb into the washing machine and then sit there looking out at you. She likes to open the door and get any dirty tea towels out and then drag them around the house between her legs, but when the mood takes her she also just likes to sit in there.

The problem is that she can only open the door a little bit so it then swings shut behind her, trapping her in. Or so we thought. She got in there on Christmas Eve and the door closed behind her so I opened it for her to jump out. She was totally uninterested in coming out though and just carried on sitting in there. She came out when she was ready.

The glass on the door as the unfortunate effect of making her look more googly eyed than usual though...

They are little so-and-sos. The other week I had a couple of friends coming round. I came rushing in from work and they swarmed around me for food before buggering off upstairs to do whatever it is they do up there and resolutely ignore me. When my friends got there though, ooh they were down the stairs, squirming about, being all friendly going “Oh hi we’re awesome, are you our friend? You can be our friend. Can you see how lovely I am? I like you. Do you want to stroke me? I like being stroked.” Thanks a bunch you little gits.

They were also my company for New Year’s Eve. Mum had gone away, and rather than her have to pay the cattery fees I said I’d stay and look after them for a few days. I tried to get them all excited about the event but I think Lily’s face says it all.

I even woke them up when the clock struck midnight and took them upstairs to watch the fireworks out of the window. Fred loved them, I think he just thought they were very colourful birds, but when I turned around Lily had disappeared and I found her in the bathroom. My bad. They also didn’t think much to my dancing as I boogied about the living room to Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. Whatevs. They just don’t appreciate good dancing.

Don’t be fooled by their cuteness though. They are horrid little beasts to each other, and Lily especially bullies Fred senseless. She will take absolutely any opportunity that she can to leap on him and chase him about the house and the poor guy never really sees it coming. Most of the time it’s good natured play fighting but Fred is currently sporting an impressive scab on his ear which must have come courtesy of a fight that got out of hand.

‘Til next time cat fans...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Black Sunday

I'm having a low day today. I've kept myself busy from Friday until today and I think it's just generally a boring Sunday, coupled with everything that's going on at the moment, which has left me feeling crapola.

I don't like me when I get like this, I irritate myself so my god only knows how irritating other people must find me. Instead I burrow myself away like a small bear until I'm feeling more myself. I also set a limit on my moping, there can be none of this "I'll just wait until I feel better" - like I said, I'm annoying myself at the moment, so I am allowing today to be a day of moping and then that's it, I will snap out of it and behave like a normal human being again. No point being sad, it won't change anything so why waste the energy?

So after an afternoon of slowly sinking in to a pit of despair I decided to snap out of it and make one of those vomit-inducing lists of things that are good in my life right now.

(Go and get your sick buckets now please.)

  • I am loving that my little tete-a-tete flowers came into bloom while I've been out of the house since Friday night. Good job little colourful flowers.

  • I am pleased that I finally learned how to use my curling tongs this week and discovered that I can look semi-decent as long as I'm willing to put in a bit of time.
  • I am very pleased that I have got some awesome friends around me at the moment who can cheer me up and are happy to listen to me have a little moan. (Some people are just plain disappointing but this is a happy list so we'll pretend I didn't just say that.)
  • I am grateful that Fred and Lily did their best to cheer me up last night by putting their little furry bodies all over my legs to keep me warm and cosy. Even though I did kind of need a wee.

  • I am very pleased that I have The Person, who has the unenviable task of trying to deal with a weepy girlfriend over the phone, when it would be infinitely easier to do in person. 
  • I'm beside myself pleased that I finally paid my Career Development Loan off at the end of last year. If the worst comes to the worst, at least I won't have £180 to pay out each month. And even better, it means that I have a couple of months to save that £180 so I have a little If Worst Comes to Worst pot of money.
  • I am loving my latest cross stitch project which is coming on a treat, thanks to having a couple of days off sick at the beginning of the week.

  • I'm really pleased that I don't own a house or a car or have any dependants. Most of the time it gets me down that I'm a renting bus wanker, but this is one of the situations where it's a bonus. At least I don't have mortgage payments to worry about.
  • Mostly I'm grateful for this cup of tea that I'm about to drink.
Peace out.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Surplus to requirements

- Adj

“Surplus to requirements, unnecessary or superfluous”


It’s hard not to take it personally, even though it’s affecting most people in the organisation. You want to stand on your desk and say “Well excuse me but I am totally necessary, thank you very much. I’ll have you know that I add quite the spark to a dinner party.”

At the moment everything is up in the air. They’re asking for voluntary redundancies and in a few weeks we’ll start to know more.

It’s a strange atmosphere. Everyone on edge. Everyone knows what’s going on but doesn’t really want to bring it up. It’s all head’s down, let’s get on with things, let’s not talk about it until we know more.

It’s hard not to feel paranoid that people are looking at you and wondering “Well what does she do – surely she’s not important, we could get rid of her and save us some money.” But come on, you know you’d do it too, I know I am. Going through a list of people and saying “Well we could get rid of them for a start.” It’s an unpleasant side to my character that has emerged but I guess it’s a fight or flight response. As happy and go-lucky as I am, if I’m in a situation where I have to prove my worth over someone-else’s the gloves will come off.

I can feel myself starting to mentally prepare some kind of statement to detail how awesome I am and what an asset I am to the organisation –the equivalent of practicing my song for the sing-off in X-Factor, hoping that Gary Barlow is going to tell me it was the performance of the night and put me through to the next round.

But when you’ve already been told you’re a luxury it’s hard to keep your self-esteem boosted and stay positive.

A luxury?

I feel like a Lush bath bomb sat next to some Asda Value bubble bath. I want to say “But just try me, I smell gorgeous and I’ll make your skin feel all soft and if you’re lucky I might just cover you in glitter.”

But when push comes to shove and you just want to have a tiny little treat, you’ll go for a bit of cheapo bubbly rather than the luxury item which is only going to coat the bottom of your bath and make you break your neck the next time you step into the tub.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and prepare my song. I’m going to go for Journey’s, “Don’t Stop Believin’” – bet I’ll knock Louis Walsh’s socks off.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The weekend I attempted the impossible

After New Year I had an unexpected e-mail from The Person.

“When you come over next can we do things to make the flat homely?”

It was an e-mail which simultaneously surprised and didn’t surprise me. I remember when I moved into my new place and got myself all unpacked, he started round looking a bit confused before saying “But this room looks like you live here already, you’re all unpacked and everything and it looks like you. My flat looks like I’ve just moved in.”

What surprised me was that he wanted it in his place at all. I just assumed he was being blokey and liked things as they were. But the nesting bug must have caught hold of him somehow and the request was made.

At first I was in heaven. Getting to make a home for someone else is immensely fun. Mostly because it doesn’t involve you spending any money doing it. But I soon realised one huge stumbling block.

Homey things = girly things.

Trying to make a flat seem nice and homely whilst retaining a sense of masculinity about it was hard to imagine. Especially as I’m a girl. And whilst I don’t think I have excessively girly taste, I didn’t think The Person was going to get as excited about an ornamental birdcage as I would.

In the weeks leading up to me going to see him I started to have a little browse and pick up some things as presents to get him started. Some nice mugs which are colourful and can go on a mug tree in the kitchen but were without a hint of Liberace. Some decent tea towels to replace the dirty rags he currently owns. Some grey storage boxes – grey – how manly can you get?! And some little fake plants that require no care and won’t be producing any unexpected girly flowers on them.

But I knew there were going to be problems. I spotted this throw on Dotcomgiftshop (£49 reduced to £15? Yes please!) and suggested it because it was brown, thought that would be pretty manly. But it was rejected for being girly. Apparently if a sofa and a bed are already covered in fabric then why the need to cover them in more? It was a logic I found difficult to argue with.*

I went over prepared for a battle and, to be fair, I kind of had one, but by the end of the weekend things were starting to take shape. To really understand what I had going on here you have to imagine a student, who has just moved in to his first place. There was seriously nothing to work with. As in, he didn’t have a bin in the bathroom. Or a table to put a coffee cup on. Getting a picture? This wasn't really a case of getting amazing, expensive furniture that will last our whole lives, and more about just getting stuff, full stop.

So by the end of the weekend we had:

A nest of tables (one for each end of the sofa) A bin for the bathroom and a toilet brush
A toothbrush holder and soap dispenser
A bath mat (Hurray for 3 for 2 on Argos Colour Match stuff)
Some nice new colourful towels
Shelving unit (bargain from Morrisons for £9 – although I wouldn’t put much on it given that you didn’t actually need a screwdriver to put it together)
A bamboo plant
2 table lamps (to take up residence on aforementioned nest of tables)
I also did a bit of re-jigging, moving the never-used small dining room table into a corner of the lounge and moving an uplighter to create a little dining area. I suggested getting something to sit in the middle of the table but couldn’t get agreement on anything, having a conversation that went a little like this:

Me: How about a bowl?
The Person: What would I put in it?
Me: Well nothing. You could just have a bowl. OR. You could put some sand/pebbles in it and a candle in it?
The Person: You know what would be good? A big giant rock.
Me: *silence*

I discovered that it’s actually difficult making somewhere homely when you’re not the person living in it – all I could really do is suggest things to The Person and see if he liked them. I tried again with the soft furnishings, I brandished a tartan throw from Primark in his direction and made him feel how soft it was and I thrust a cushion in his face in Debenhams exclaiming “Look! Pigeon cushion! How manly is that?!” But it was to no avail.**

I still haven’t won the battle over candles unfortunately. I think that’s a no- go. Although a utensil holder for the kitchen has been given the green light so it wasn't a complete fail.

All in all – not bad for a weekend’s work say I.

Next time.....bedroom!

*But I totally went and bought that throw for myself anyway and I love it. It’s so so so so soft I just want to smoosh up in it all day.

** Or was it? Later on he admitted that the throw and cushion might not have been such a bad idea. Aha! I just had to plant the seed!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Conversations with Peter Pan

Having a chat with my housemate, Peter Pan, can be both hilarious and exasperating. Mainly due to the fact that it’s like talking to a 15 year old in a 31 year old’s body and mainly because he might just be one of the most shallow people I’ve ever come across.

For instance...

The other night he was talking about how he might have a “few” dates lined up this weekend. He was trying to remember their names and The Scot and I were asking him questions about each one.

Peter Pan: And then there’s Ellie...

The Scot: And what’s she like?

Peter Pan: Well she’s kind of small and petite...

The Scot: No but what’s her personality like?

Peter Pan: Well she has kind of rock chick look.

Cue hysterics from me.

Peter Pan: Why are you laughing?

Me: Well it’s just that The Scot just asked you what her personality is like and you just said she has a rock chick look!

Peter Pan: Well yeah, you know, like a rock chick!

Me: Right. You do know that’s not really describing a personality trait though?

Peter Pan: Erm...


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Closed for business

I’m having particular problems with a new person in my life at the moment. She came pretty much out of the blue, into one of my sets of friends, and I am feeling particularly hostile towards her and that isn’t really like me. I would under any normal circumstances enjoy having a new person in the group, someone else to breathe a bit of fresh air into things and mix it up and change the order of things, but at the moment I’m just feeling incredibly invaded.

Before I go on, I fully accept that this is my problem. I am all too aware that these are my own issues that I need to deal with but I am blurting it out on here in the absence of having anyone else to talk to about it.

Everyone has different ways of approaching new people. I’m not emotionally slutty when it comes to making new friends and establishing new relationships. I will sit back, take things in, wait and see if I really like this new person. I try not to force myself on people, I take the attitude that if they will like me they will see something they like about me, I don’t need to force myself on them and prove that I’m a great person. If they want to like me, they will find it eventually. I basically don’t come on strong before committing to a relationship with them. Because for me I do see it as that, I take my friendships very seriously and I want to be good friend to people. I don’t see life (or Facebook) as a rush to gather as many “friends” as possible, I’d rather make sure I’m investing myself in worthwhile people.

I think because of this, I have a pretty adverse reaction to new people who try to force themselves on me in an attempt to establish a friendship. Writing all over my wall, commenting on my statuses, liking my pictures, texting me all the time, is not the way to win my friendship. In fact it immediately makes my barriers go up and actually prevents me from even wanting to establish any kind of friendship with you.

It would be easier if this was a romantical thing that was going on. You could say to the guy/girl, “Hey, you’re actually coming on a bit strong, could you back off a bit please and let’s just take things slowly?” But with someone who isn’t even your friend yet you couldn’t say the same thing without sounding as if you have severe mental problems.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what is I don’t like about this person. I’ve been saying “There’s just something about her I don’t like” which I recognise makes me sound as if I’m convinced she’s going to whip out a gun and kill us all as we drink our tea and sip our mochas. But it finally hit home the other day what it is that’s turning me off her.

It’s not just this way too full on approach that she has (I literally feel like she is everywhere in my life at the moment, something that Facebook has to answer for because it all too literally shows at times how someone is involved in your life) but it’s that she seems a very needy person.

I’m not cold-hearted in the slightest. I know that we all have problems and we all need friends/people to help us through those problems. I think the trouble at the moment is that I have a lot of “real” friends who are going through emotional trauma.

These emotional traumas don’t necessarily affect me in the slightest, but like I said, I take friendship seriously, and if my friends are having problems then, even if I’m not literally doing something to help, I’m certainly thinking about it and worrying about them and wondering what I can do to help them. Unfortunately there seem to have been a spate of traumas in my friend’s and family’s lives in the past year or so – there’s been marriage breakdowns, troubles with babies, people suffering from depression, people’s parents breaking up, relationship woes, fights with families, people not talking anymore – the list feels heavy-going. And whilst my own life is (relatively) smooth at the moment I feel like a part of me is ever so slightly invested in these woes because I love my friends and I want them to be happy and I feel upset when they’re not.

I think that this is the underlying reason as to why I’m wanting to keep this new person at arm’s length. Coupled with the fact that she is coming on way too strong, I think that this is my brain’s way of saying “Closed for business.” I cannot take on another needy person at the moment, (especially one who I suspect is prone to the “next new thing” and that I’m not convinced will stick around) I need to conserve my energy to being a good friend to my real friends, not having someone in my life who is just a drain. If one of my friends have a problem I’ll be there in a flash, but I’m not spending time on someone who puts out statuses on Facebook purely to get people to comment about how wonderful they are – that is not a person who values friendships, but is somene who’s looking to get as many people worshipping them as possible and I’m afraid I’m not interested.

It makes me sad because it means that I have made the decision to hold off seeing this group of friends for a while. And I fully accept that that is my decision – this new person is, I’m sure, a perfectly nice person - but until I can find some way of dealing with her that doesn’t make me want to scream I’m going to have to absent myself and get a grip. Unfortunately that means that some of my real friendships may suffer (although there is an argument to be made that if they were real friends then they won't let our friendship be affected by the fact that I'm not seeing them on one allotted day of the week).

I don’t know if this is a form of the “January Blues” (or if they even exist) or just the culmination of feeling the stress of other people’s issues but I don’t want them exploding out of me in a direct hit on an unsuspecting person.

That’s what you guys are for...right?

Now go clean yourselves up and carry on with your day.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Things that have been happening around here.

You know I love a good list post so I thought I’d fill you in quickly on a quick update of my life at the moment.

  • I totally made something new as per my Not Really Resolutions. I made a vegetarian lasagne. Now I’m a girl who does like my meat but very occasionally, the look of something veggie will catch my eye. I roped in a couple of friends to be guinea pigs and we were all pretty impressed with it. It was very filling and I hand on heart didn’t really miss the absence of meat. I also found a recipe for a different veggie lasagne which sounded even nicer so that might be next on my list!

PS It’s really difficult to take appetising pictures of roasted vegetables and crème fraiche and cheese.

  • I’m working on a new cross-stitch thing for my niece’s bedroom. Thinking about it, it will be the biggest cross-stitched piece I’ll have ever completed so that’s exciting. It’s a pattern from the Christmas 2011 CrossStitcher magazine and there’s a tiny little part of me (the girly side apparently) that would secretly like to keep it for myself.

  • I now live in a full house! A new housemate moved in whilst I was away at the wedding at the beginning of the year. She is Irish and I will christen her as Newbie. She seems pretty nice actually, although I haven’t seen that much of her because I feel like I’m out and about a lot of the time at the moment.
  • I've been trying to get back into running but it has been fraught with masses of frustration. I can’t believe how much of my former fitness I've lost and I get incredibly mad with myself. I used to be able to run 5km without too much of a problem, now I'm lucky if I can get to 4km. I know it will eventually come back and I know I have absolutely no-one else to blame but myself, but I am finding it really difficult to remain positive. Especially as my shin splints in my left leg have already re-appeared and I only ran 3.5km one day and then 2km the next. Have been sat, icing my shin and feeling very very sorry for myself. My 10km goal is looking impossible at this point in time because of my incessant injuries. I’ve read everything there is to read about shin splints I know everything there is know about what causes them and how I’m supposed to cure them but it’s just to no avail I’m afraid.
  • I saw a really pretty sunrise this morning.

That is all.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Inner Brat

There comes a point every Christmas when I get exceedingly bored of shopping for other people. My Inner Brat awakens from her tomb of selfishness and tries to put the halt on everything that’s not geared up towards feeding her ever hungry soul.

But this year I was firm with her. There comes a time in every brat’s life when she learns that she just can’t always get what she wants.

Only kidding. She’s almost 29 years old, there’s no way I can fix her behaviour now.

One thing that was different however was my resilience to getting out the plastic. If the Brat wanted things, she was going to have to pay for them herself. Mr Barclaycard was not going to be funding her excessive wants.

Luckily for the Brat I found some pennies. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but in case you’re new around these here parts, I’ll fill you in on my excellent saving tip. At the end of the week, or every couple of days, or whenever I feel like it, I empty out everything that’s in my purse. I put the £2 and £1 coins back in it and everything else goes in a piggy bank. Occasionally, if I’m feeling particularly flush I’ll stick the £1 coins in there as well (that happened, like, once). It can take a while depending on how skint I am that month and how many times I raid it to get bus fare but sooner than you think you have a nice little money pot that you can do with as you wish. And because it’s silver it adds up to much more than you would think.

I noticed that piggy was getting kind of full. Normally I would wait until you can’t fit any more in but I decided it was close enough and it was Christmas after all so took it off to the bank to be deposited (there’s a branch of my bank that has a coin counting machine in it so you just dump it all in there and it deposits it straight into your account. MAGICAL.) and before I knew it, the Brat had some shiny pennies in her grubby little mitts.

Off Brat skipped to Manchester with The Person to spend money on herself. She was almost beside herself and upon entering River Island went into paroxysms of delight (RI is going through an awesome phase at the minute. But it seriously needs to stop putting so many cropped tops on its racks – we’re not all size 6 seventeen year olds thank you very much). She holed herself up in a changing room to try on all the clothes and declared that she wanted everything but I decided that she should probably be restricted to just this top, this skirt, and another pencil skirt which is green and awesome but is inexplicably not on RI’s website.

She also went to Waterstones and bought the last books until 2013 (every time I write/say that it makes me throw up a little you know) – she might be a Brat but she does at least like reading so I don’t like to discourage her too much. She tried to be good and choose between this book and this book but then she decided she’d just get both. Oh you funny little Brat you.

And so she was sorted. She had some new clothes to wear, she had some new books to read, she was quite the happy Inner Brat and, more importantly, she hadn’t broken the bank in her selfish ways.

Christmas and New Year passed and it was with some trepidation that I typed in my ID and password to have a look at the havoc that had been wreaked on my bank account, it’s always such a painful time of year and I braced myself and squinted at the screen in an attempt to minimise the shock. But actually, surprise of all surprises, it wasn’t that bad. In fact it was much better when I realised that some direct debits that I thought were still to come out, had already come out. Well done me. I think it’s still the shock of readjusting to having a fair bit of extra income each month now that my Career Development Loan has been paid back but it was looking pretty good.

It just so happens that at the same time I was having a little browse on the Schuh website when I chanced across some Irregular Choice shoes in the sale.

I groaned inwardly because I knew that if I’d seen it, then the Inner Brat had almost certainly seen it and she would start up her tattoo of “Want it. Want it. Want it. Want it. Want it.” inside my poor little brain. I managed to resist it for 3 whole days but Bratty just would not leave it alone and kept demanding that I return to the website because how often do you find Irregular Choice shoes in the sale that you like and are your size (if you happen to be a size 8)? Answer? Never. (Seriously. IC must make about 2 pairs of shoes that are a size 8, and man alive are they a small size 8 at that, it’s hard enough to get them at full price, never mind reduced.)

The Brat did make a compelling argument that went something along the lines of this:

a) They’re reduced so it would almost be a crime not to buy them
b) They have a low heel so you can wear them when you’re with The Person and not feel like a Gigantosaur
c) They’re awesome
d) I’m awesome and deserve it

It was inevitable really.

Brat is now officially silenced. Until next Christmas...

And yes. I was so excited to get them I took photos of them whilst I was at work. THAT is how much I loved them.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Kindle vs Real Life books

To be honest I wasn’t really that desperate to own a Kindle. I saw them and held one and got what it was all about and totally understood the rationale behind them and thought it would be great for when you went on holiday but for someone with a bookcase groaning under the weight of many unread books who hasn’t been on holiday for years, it just didn’t really feel like a must-have item.

I could see the appeal though. I was getting tired of lugging a book around everywhere with me, getting frustrated because I’d left a book at work that I really wanted to read at home, or I’d be travelling with two books, just in case I finished one and would be unimaginably left with nothing to read.

Then I decided that I would not be buying any more books in 2012, which was freaking me out just a little, and not long after my Dad asked me how I felt about Kindles and would I like one for Christmas. I immediately,
a) saw a loophole in my resolution, and,
b) thought I should take the opportunity to get one as I’m unlikely to ever spend that kind of money myself on it.

So I gratefully accepted and went for the smaller Kindle. My Dad did point out that it wouldn’t hold as many books, but I said I reckoned that space for over 1,000 would probably do me for a while!

Its role has become my travelling book, so it’s in my bag at all times to be read at work on my lunch break and if I’m lazy and get the bus. Home will be my place for reading “real” books.

Using it is easy peasy lemon squeezy. It’s incredibly easy to handle and work out which buttons to press. The only hard part actually is refraining from touching it like I’m used to doing with my phone, I still find myself automatically doing that sometimes – oh how times have changed!

But I’m still struggling with the concept of it. It just does not feel the same as reading a book. I read Northanger Abbey and instead of that feeling of turning the last page, I just knew I’d reached 100% read. There was no reflective pause where I put the book down and then turn it over to look at its front cover one more time. No riffling the pages through my fingers, no shoving my nose into the middle of it to smell its bookness and no satisfying noise as I turn the page or slide my bookmark into place. To be honest I don’t feel like I’ve read a book at all which puts a bit of a dampener on things.

One of my favourite activities is the point where I’m about to choose a new book to read. I stand in front of my bookshelf and cast my eye over all the spines. I look at the different colours and fonts and see what jumps out at me. I look at the size of the book, am I in the mood to tackle something weighty or do I want something a little easier to get through? I admire the lovely alphabetical order and linger over particular authors that I enjoy – do I feel like reading another one of theirs or shall I go for something new? I love that process.

With my Kindlle I turn it on and look at my home page. So far I have three different sets, “Fiction”, “Non-fiction” and “Classics” (now this is something I need to do with my own bookshelves!) and within those are a couple of books. No colourfulness. No different fonts. Just listed titles. I have no idea how big the book is, I don’t know what I’m getting into. If I want to just read the “back” of the book and find out what it’s about I have to connect to the internet and that’s just not always possible. Which of those two experiences sound more pleasant?

And what about when it comes to buying books? I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be able to see my Not Really Resolution of not buying any physical books this year through. I like wandering into bookshops or even just wandering down the book aisle in Tesco and seeing what’s out there. I like it when there’s not a book I have in mind that I want, I just look at the covers and see what takes my fancy. I get the thrill of selecting my choice and taking it to the till and paying for it and carrying it home with me. Even when I order books over the internet you still receive something physical, there’s something to show for the money you’ve spent and you get that satisfaction.

With the Kindle there is none of that satisfaction, and it’s borderline dangerous. It’s linked to my Amazon account and my card details, so buying a new book is literally the click of a button. No taking you to a virtual checkout and filling in your details, just boom and there’s a message that says the book has been downloaded and there it is on your home screen. Instead of that warm “I’ve just bought a book” fuzzy feeling, you’re left feeling a little shallow inside.

I did wonder if some of my problem was that I just don’t have enough on my Kindle at the moment. There isn’t really a ‘library’ to browse and there are only so many Classics I can take. I have downloaded a couple which have cost me a few pounds but I’m still not feeling that buzz of electricity. Even visiting the “store” is soul-less and doesn’t compare to the hours I can spend wandering round a branch of Waterstones.

I know this sounds like I hate it and I really don’t. I think it’s the most amazing piece of gadgetry I own and I think that the more books I get on it and the more I use it, the more I will warm to it, and if I get to go on holiday this year I’m sure I will thank my lucky stars that I have it; but right now at this minute, it doesn’t compare to my real-life babies.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

2 Classics down, 10 to go.

Nothing like hitting these Not Really Resolutions running I think and somehow I’ve managed to get two under my belt before the second week of January is up.

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is also the first book I have ever read on my Kindle so well done to it. Round of applause please. The Magic Toyshop was one of the last books I bought in 2011 as a Christmas present to myself, having saved up some pennies. My copy is one of the Virago Modern Classics with the beautiful hardcovers.

I was actually looking for Mansfield Park on my Kindle but of course, my luck being what it is, this is one of the few Classics you actually had to pay for (not much, but I want to spend as little as possible at the moment). So I went for Northanger Abbey. I have to be honest, I’m pretty sure the only Jane Austen I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice, although I think I’ve picked others up from time to time.

Northanger Abbey felt completely different to Pride and Prejudice though – I mean not so much in terms of plot, but the style of writing was very different and it threw me a little bit, I’ve obviously underestimated Miss Austen.

Bizarrely enough, the Northanger Abbey of the title isn’t even mentioned until you’re half way through the book which was frustrating at times, I was reading it and questioning what the hell it was all about. And to be honest I didn’t really feel like it was that relevant to the story – although maybe that’s just because my over-analytical A-level English Literature skills have now officially deserted me.

The story follows Catherine Morland, a young 18 year old, who goes to Bath with some friends of the family. There she meets the odious Isabella Thorpe, who you want to give a good slap to, and her equally fatuous brother, John Thorpe. She also meets Mr Henry Tilney, who she falls in love with completely and his sister Miss Eleanor Tilney, a much nicer friend than Isabella.

Catherine is eventually invited to Northanger Abbey, the home of the Tilneys, and it’s then that things kind of go a bit haywire and Austen appears to be trying her hand at a bit of crime fiction with a frankly weird storyline that goes absolutely nowhere about a possible murder.

She is unceremoniously turned out of Northanger and sent home without reason given and she thinks she will never again see her Mr Tilney.

But does she?

I’ll leave you to find out.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this book, it’s certainly different, but it felt so odd and disjointed in places that I couldn’t say I absolutely definitively loved it.

The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

No book could be further from Northanger Abbey than this one. It’s part fairy story, part grim reality and you are helplessly swept along with the story.

Melanie and her two younger siblings are sent to live with relatives they have never met, following the death of their parents. They slip from a privileged life into one of dirt and grime with no money. Uncle Philip is the head of the household and only appears to care about his puppets, which he spends time in the basement crafting, to put on shows for the rest of the family. Aunt Margaret is mute and her two brothers, Francie and Finn, live with the couple, Finn helping out in the toyshop that earns Uncle Philip a living.

It is uncomfortable in places to read but is absorbing at the same time but I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the ending which just felt rushed and a bit clumsy. I can’t explain more about the book without giving too much away but it was one of those books that felt both beautiful and awful in equal measure.

Definitely one to pick up.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The wedding season begins.

Ooh I’ve been a busy little bee since the New Year started. I feel like I’ve been all over the place but I’ve checked my diary and I definitely haven’t been – there must have been some strange glitch in my brain that’s making 2012 difficult to cope with so far.

I managed a whole 3 days back at work before I head off on holiday again. I can’t recommend this enough as it’s made January almost bearable and I see that we’re already in the second week which can only mean that pay-day is coming soon which is always welcome – especially because we get paid a week earlier in December which seems like an excellent idea at the time but means you end up eating dust in the run-up to January’s pay-day.

Anyway. I digress.

The reason for my little jaunt away so soon in 2012 was that I was heading down to a wedding. I know. They’ve started early this year. It is a mildly terrifying thought but I think we’re ok because so far there’s only 2 weddings booked in this year which is a much less horrifying prospect than last year.

The Person’s cousin was getting married so this meant I was faced with the prospect of being faced with all his family in one go. I’ve met most of them before to be fair, but there’s something about the thought of all of them in one room that makes your heart beat that little bit faster.

Trips down South can only mean one thing to me – massive expense because of stupid train fares – and I nearly died when I realised that I was looking at £100 ticket from Hull to the Sussex but thanks to the Megabus, which could get me to London, and booking train tickets from London in October, I managed to bring the journey in under £40. Although you pay the price by travelling for much longer time period – it’s a bit of a toss up at times.

I arrived late afternoon in Bognor. The Person gets mad when I call it Bognor because it isn’t really Bognor but for argument’s sake, let’s just call it that and let him rage away to himself when he reads this on his computer screen.

I am beside myself with the fact that his Dad’s house is literally round the corner from the beach. It’s a thrill that I think only someone who’s never grown up on the coast can have. I get unreasonably excited about it and within minutes of arriving I’m begging The Person to take me to see it. I’m so jealous that people have the sea right on their doorstep, it’s so wonderful.

The wedding was a little further away, near Balcombe, at the rather marvellous Highley Manor. Probably the best location for a wedding. Ever. All dark wood and big roaring fireplaces and leather settees and wing-backed chairs. The whole venue is hired out, so the rooms are all taken up by wedding guests too, meaning that you have the whole place to yourself.

The Person and I have been to a few weddings now so we’re definitely getting a feel for what does and doesn’t work as a wedding guest. Something that does work? Booze. And lots of it. The bar prices were actually a little bit frightening (£10.50 for a pint of Guinness, a gin and tonic and an alcohol-free beer – my little Northern soul blanched a little bit, we don’t pay those kinds of prices up here!) but there was nothing to worry about because they had allocated a generous portion of the wedding budget to keeping us liquored up, meaning that that round was the only money I spent that night. Always good in my books. Lots of champagne, lots of wine at the tables, free bar for part of the day for those people who don’t like champagne or wine = very happy guests.

Wedding favours came in the form of Lotto tickets for that night’s draw (unfortunately neither of us were winners although I haven’t heard if anyone else was lucky) and the tables were all named after 80s tv shows (we were on Duck Tales). Photos of the bride and bridegroom were throughout the venue and there was a little sweet bar for people to fill up on throughout the day and night. They had a band to provide the entertainment which was an excellent move, they had us all whipped up into a frenzy and dancing our socks and shoes off – it’s the first time I’ve been to a wedding with a proper band (minus the jazz band debacle of the New Year’s Eve wedding of 2010) and it was definitely one of the things that have been squirreled away in the girly portion of my brain that occasionally surfaces and thinks about what my wedding might look like if I ever get married.

(By the way, that whole providing your guests with lots of booze thing? Not so good the morning after when you want to put a gun to your head just to stop the hammering in your brain and are faced with an absolutely mammoth journey back home thanks to your desire to save money.)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Not Really Resolutions 2012

So here we go. Not Really Resolutions 2012. Eek.

I think last year went pretty well. 9 out of 10 is a success in my book anyway, certainly as close to perfection as I’ll ever get.

So what’s on the list for this year? And more importantly, why?

1. Complete France 2010 trip album. Ha. Well it has to be on here doesn’t it really, given that it’s the only thing I didn’t complete last year. Shame on me. But this way it will definitely get done so it’s time for me to get my head down!

2. Furniture make-over. I have 2 items of charity shop furniture that need a make-over. One is a drop-leaf table and the other is this scabby looking chest of drawers that I picked up for £5 a few days after Christmas. They are very good at their jobs, but they’re not exactly pretty. I even know what I want to do with them, after getting inspiration from Tete en l’air last year, so it’s just a case of getting on with it. Think it might have to wait for more clement weather though!

3. Run 10km. A tricky one to put on the list as I’m still not overly sure if I am able to run 10km without my shin imploding. But if I don’t put it on the list I won’t push myself to try and achieve it so it’s going on here. I need something to aim for because once I’d run the 5km last year I stopped having the impetus to go running and as a result I’ve become a reet lazy so and so and I’m piling on the pounds as a result.

But I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t achieve this one because it’ll be because I physically can’t do it. Note that I’ve just said run 10km, not enter in a race, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself because then I’ll end up in pain – if I manage to run 10km, whether that be on a treadmill or running up and down my street a million times, I’ll count it as a win.

4. No buying of physical books for one whole year. Yeah you read right. I’m going hardcore for 2012. There is good reason for this. Namely that I do not need any more books. There are currently 92 books waiting to be read on my bookshelves. I read about 45 books this year, and 44 the year before that. Do the maths. Also I just don’t have the space to be buying books.

Which brings me to why it says no physical book buying. I decided this would be my resolution a couple of months ago and was all settled until Christmas Day when I opened up my present from my Dad and discovered I am the proud owner of a Kindle. I’ve had mixed feelings about these for some time now but I was mostly pleased because I saw a loophole in my resolution. I can’t buy any physical books but I’m allowing myself to buy books for my Kindle. I mean otherwise it would just be a waste wouldn’t it?

This one is going to be a tough one because I have a bit of a compulsion with book buying, as evidenced by the problem in the first place.

5. Learn how to do French knots and use them in an embroidered piece. These guys are the bane of my life. I literally cannot do them. Many have tried to teach me and many have wanted to poke me in the eye with the needle due to my complete inability to do it. But this year I am determined. If anyone has any links to any tutorials or videos that are good please tell me about them! I think French knots are going to be to 2012 what learning to crochet a ripple blanket was to 2011.

6. Use my alpaca wool. American Girl went all the way to South America to get me this wool (there’s a chance she also went for a holiday but we all know it was about me) and all I’ve done with it is turn from skeins into very neat balls of wool. This is bad behaviour. The main reason I haven’t used it is because I’m a giant scaredy cat because it’s not Stylecraft DK so I don’t know what to do with it. It is thin thinny thin thin and it frightens me. Any suggestions for what I can do with it (keep it clean please) then let me know!

7. Sell something at a craft fair. This requires me to be organised and get a stockpile together. Of what I have no idea but I like the thought of making money. Remember the mobile that I made for my niece? Since that one I’ve made 4 more for friends and it’s earned me some lovely cash. Now obviously I can’t make those – not unless I develop psychic powers and learn the names of my potential shoppers beforehand – but I’ve been bitten by greed and want to make pocket money for myself. I can feel a Gantt chart coming on...

8. Read 12 Classics. I had such a good time last year that I definitely want to carry this on this year. Mostly because of the stockpile I have – remember those 92 books? Yeah well 17 of them are Classics that I bought on speculation. And I can download Classics for free on my Kindle so no excuses.

9. Cook/bake something new every 3 weeks. When I was doing Weightwatchers in 2010/2011 I really started to enjoy being in the kitchen much more as I was always making myself new things. Since reaching my goal weight in February 2010 I’ve been lazy and that, plus the lack of exercise (see Resolution 3) has meant that slowly but ever so surely the weight is creeping back on. It’s not a big deal, I’ve just fallen into some bad habits, but I know what I need to do to change them so there’s no stressing to be done. But I thought this might help give me a kick up the bum.

Why 3 weeks? Well I knew that if I said fortnightly I’d never keep it up and if I said monthly well that’s just a big fat cop out isn’t it really? So every 3 weeks it is. God knows how I’ll keep track of this one.

10. Keep a diary with photos for one whole year. I loved doing Project 365 last year because it allowed me to look back over a year in my life and remember all the little things that happened. However it was a little limiting because I try to be as private as possible on the blog and not have other people’s faces in my photos etc. So I have decided that I will keep an actual physical diary for a year that will include photos. I’m not pressuring myself to write something every single day or take a photo every single day but I do want to keep a record of the little things that happen day to day. I even bought myself a cool book from Paperchase to do it in. Anything to oblige my stationary addiction.


So there we have it. I am locked in. Bring it on 2012.

It's actually kind of scary. I think I might start thinking of valid reasons why I haven't completed these now, just in case...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

2011 - A Year in Crochet

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect.

Yes I know everyone in the blogosphere has been reflecting their backsides off this past week and you’re bored of it but I haven’t even had my chance yet have I?!

I could have written a list of things I did for the first time in 2011. I still might, it might just sneak up on you unawares, but instead I thought I would do a crochet-specific 2011 round-up.

It’s been an exciting year crochet-wise. Just look at what I managed to fit in to one year!

1. Crocheted flower cards (courtesy of a pattern from Petit Filoux although I did change it a wee bit). These were good and went down a storm with those that received them. I think I need to take some time out this year to make up a batch more so I can have them in reserve for when I suddenly remember someone’s birthday at the last minute.

2. Crocheted cushion cover. This was so long ago I’d officially forgotten about it, even though I see it every day when I pummel it back into shape after I’ve been lounging on it on my bed. I did some good stash busting this year. In fact so good that I managed to kind of get rid of everything which left me feeling all empty inside. But I know have enough left-over from the Ripply Beast to keep me going for years.

3. Amigurumi. My first foray into the world of 3D crochet. I like it. But I still have no idea what to do with them so I haven’t made any more.

4. Yarn Fairy blanket. I have waxed lyrical about this far too often. So I will stop for at least 2 minutes. ButohmygoddidyouknowIlearnedhowtoripplethisyear?

5. Jungle Ripple blanket.

6. Ripply Beast. I can confirm that Ripply Beast is now in his new home and is very happy there. His new owners are undecided whether to take him to France or leave him here but they were apparently “in awe” of my talents. (But then he is my Dad so he kind of has to say that.)

7. Blankets for Preemies UK. This included my first ever fancy pants border and my first ever granny stripe blanket. And got rid of more of my yarn that was hanging around. I need to do more of these next year, especially when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Helping others always makes you feel a little bit less of a loser I think.

8. Bunting. I wasn’t going to put this in because it was just a test run really. But I did do it so I thought it should go in there. (Also I was one photo short of making a collage of 12.) I am definitely going to make me a little bit of crocheted bunting love this year. My mantelpiece is actually crying out for it. Seriously. Sometimes at night I can hear it sobbing.

9. Cowl scarf/snood. (Pattern from I Ripple, I Dance) I saw this and immediately felt the need for one in my life. I’d been planning it for a while and have bookmarked a load of instructions but this looked nice and simple so I thought I’d give it a go. I even had the perfect yarn, some gorgeous super soft Katia Pima Cotton that was a present for my birthday (I used shade number 11 and 13 – lilac and pale blue). But I realised that I would need loads and loads and loads of it to make a big enough scarf so I used some Stylecraft Life DK in white. Isn’t it all kinds of classy? Not like me at all. I ended up using kind of ridiculous amount of yarn and mine seems to be much bigger than the original one. Not sure what I did there. Although I did only use a 4mm hook so I don’t know if that made the difference. Anyway, I finally finished it just after Christmas and it’s barely been off my neck since. I loves it.

10. Kindle cover. The last official crochet project of the year and it was made in the evening of New Year’s Eve*, with me sewing in the ends at 11.45pm. Talk about cutting it fine. I used some yarn (Pink and Blue mix) that I’ve had since Christmas 2010 that I haven’t been able to find a project for. This was perfectamundo and took me no time at all. It’s a little big actually but I was so carried away it was like I couldn’t actually stop. It was knocked up on a 4mm hook and is half treble stitches – just because I felt like mixing it up a little. I’m mental like that you see. It’s nice yarn but it is very splitty – a little warning from me to you there.

So there you have it. 10 whole things that I'd never done before that I have now. I think we can call that a success.

Does this mean I have to up my game this year as well?

*I’m not a huge New Year’s Eve fan although this year was the first time I’ve actually spent it alone. Mum went to my sister’s so I was on Fred and Lily duty. I still managed to have fun though, drank some pink fizz and danced around the living room watching Jools’ Holland’s Hootenanny. The cats were bemused.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Not Really Resolutions 2011 - The Conclusion!

Well it’s been a whole year.

Last year I set myself some Not Really Resolutions. This is also known as the Wimp’s Guide to Resolutions. It means that they’re not really resolutions – because then if you didn’t achieve them you’d feel like a failure – but they’re more just things you’d quite like to achieve in a year. Much less pressure.

I’ve been providing you with scintillating updates throughout the year but now is time for the final round up and a little bit of my thoughts on each one.

1. Run a 5km raceRan the Race for Life in July 2011. This one was a big deal because running was most certainly not my thing but through training for the race I discovered that I actually really love running.

What I do not love however is the injuries that I get from running. After the race I was in so much pain that I could barely walk and then once the goal had passed I found that the drive to go out and run was no longer there. This has meant that I’ve barely run since the race apart from some attempts here and there. I would really like to carry on running but I also really need to determine whether my injuries can either be avoided altogether, are the kind of injuries that can be managed successfully or are the kind of injuries which mean that running just isn’t for me.

2. Crochet a Ripple Blanket – Made a total of 3 Ripple blankets. Well and truly achieved. I put this on the list because when I come up against things I can’t master, I have a tendency to conveniently forget about them and give up trying. By having this on the list I knew that it would force me to crack on with it. It did take me a stupidly long time to get a hang of (and I’ve no idea why) but once I’d cracked it I was off and away with a blanket for myself made, a blanket for a friend's baby made and a blanket for my Dad and his wife made.

The Yarn Fairy blanket is my favourite. Mainly because it’s mine. But also because it was made with yarn that was given to me by super kind people. At the beginning of the year I was in pretty dire financial straits and without these people giving me these awesome birthday presents I didn’t think I’d be able to see this one through.

(Also my Dad and his wife did indeed love the Ripply Beast which was their Christmas present.)

3. Back up all my photos on to CD – I’m glad I had this on there because not long after I’d completed it, my laptop had a complete nervous breakdown and gave up on life for a while. Luckily everything was recovered but during my anxious wait I was very pleased, and only about 46% smug, that I had set up a little system to keep all my photos backed up. Yes an external hard drive would be easier but I’m not spending the money on one I’m afraid – far more exciting things to buy. I have a little system and once a month I make sure everything is backed up. I’d go into it but you would probably declare me the saddest of all human creatures so I will try and retain a little dignity.

4. Paint my plastic toadDone. I know it seems like a stupid thing to put on a list but if you knew me you’d know that unless things get written down, they simply will not get done and I will sit and procrastinate and find other things to do and then bemoan the fact that I never got this one small thing done. I love froglet and he lives by my fireplace in my new room. Which reminds me, I should probably put on my list for 2012 that I need to dust him – he’s bloody filthy at the moment.

5. Go to the cinema on my ownDone. This was an odd one to put on there really. Mainly because I really don’t go to the cinema at all, never mind on my own. But it was more about an exercise in confidence and being comfortable and ok to do things like that on my own. Normally I think I’m a pretty independent person but I could do with a little kick up the bum sometimes and this provided me with it.

6. Complete Project 365 – Done! Hurray. You can view the set of photos here. This was a really interesting not really resolution and I’m so pleased that I took the plunge and did it. It is most definitely harder than it looks. Although that depends on how much pressure you put on yourself and what kind of theme (if any) you want to go for. I would imagine if you take “serious” arty photos you would struggle early on but because I was simply documenting my life I was much easier on myself. Sometimes not a lot happens in your life and you need to take photos of the cats – that’s fine!

What has been so much fun for me though is looking back at it and seeing the little tiny insignificant things that happened in my life. Things that I would probably have forgotten about if I hadn’t taken a photo of that day and left a note to remind myself. I can see what I’ve done in a year, when I’ve gone to see The Person (not as much as I’d like. Sad face.) things that have happened along the way. I’m really really pleased I did it.

I’ve decided not to do it again this year, I kind of feel like I’ve done it now and don’t need to do it again (although I wouldn’t rule it out in the future). But it has inspired one of my new resolutions that I’ll be talking about later in the week.

7. Make an album/scrapbook of my 2010 trip to France. – As predicted I didn’t get this finished. Boo. I think I really should have started it much earlier than I did because it got abandoned amongst crafting for Christmas and was left by the wayside. But I did make a start on it and I’m pleased because, again, if it hadn’t have been on the list I can guarantee that I wouldn’t even have got that far. It’ll be finished by the end of 2011 no worries!

8. Go over to Belfast to see my familyDone. Again I’m pleased I had this one on there. I know it shouldn’t be a resolution to go and see your family but I’m ok with being honest and saying that we’re really not a close family so it did kind of need putting on there to make sure I made the effort. It did the job and I reconnected with my cousins which was lovely. Sometimes it’s easy to pass the buck and say “Well so and so hasn’t rung/text/visited” when you really have to ask yourself if you’ve done all you can. Now I know that I have.

9. Read 12 Classics throughout the yearDone. So so so pleased I put this on the list because it’s been really brilliant and I’ve read and learned more than I ever would have done normally. It’s taught me not to judge a book by its cover and that sometimes it’s ok to say “Actually that book is a load of codswallop” and feel good about the fact that you can say that because you’ve read it and are entitled to your opinion instead of those who just repeat what they’ve heard other people say.

10. Cross stitch one Christmas card each month – Done! I can’t remember how many I ended up with in the end - I think it was about 18 cards so it was well smashed. It meant that I was able to give all those people I felt deserved one a special card which was the point. It was good to spread it out over the year instead of having a mad panic right at the end of the year, which meant that I was freed up to crochet blankets, embroider bags and make Christmas wreaths for presents, instead of cross-stitching cards. It also meant that I could choose some designs that needed a little bit more effort, rather than picking those that would only take a day or so to get finished.

So there we have it. 9 out of 10 completed. I count that as a success. And I don’t have to feel bad that I didn’t do all 10 because they weren’t really resolutions were they?!

Tune in at some point in the future (I won’t say this week because I’m not certain that my blogging mojo has returned yet) for my Not Really Resolutions of 2012!