Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Read-a-thon - Thursday-Saturday update


"How's the Easter Read-a-thon going?" I hear you ask.

Not great if I'm honest.

You see there are just too many people around. I knew it was a mistake to try and do an Easter Read-a-thon when all the family was going to be here, but I've been trying to snatch times when I can read and I've made as good an effort as I can do.

Thanks to me kind of cheating and counting the reading I did on Thursday night I've managed to finish Dominion which I'm very pleased about although it's not the best CJ Sansom I've ever read. I'm not good at the book reviews but maybe I'll stretch to a couple when the Read-a-thon is done. Usually I prefer to leave the reviews to the professionals like Kate but I guess this is a special occasion.

Whilst it has been difficult to have chunks of time to read, I've become the master of snatching moments when I can read...

I have read whilst in bed on Good Friday morning...


I read whilst we waited for Mum and The Person to arrive, under the watchful eye of Rowan.

I read on Saturday morning whilst The Person slept soundly...

I had an excellent opportunity to read on Saturday afternoon but I succumbed to sleep and woke up with Rosie pinning my feet down so I did a little bit more reading...

I read whilst it snowed and I read whilst the sun shone...

I have moved on to Toby's Room now and I am enjoying it muchly, I do enjoy a bit of Pat Barker.

Will I read multiple books? Hell's no. But it has been nice to feel I have an excuse to read. 

My crochet is suffering though and that makes me feel a little bit antsy...

Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter Read-a-thon

Oh hai Easter how are you?

I was as giddy as a giddy thing yesterday. Partly because I had a can of Coke, partly because it is one week until my birthday and partly because I now have a week off work and won't be back until Monday 8th April.


Oh yeah, I know I was freaking out about turning 30 and I totally still am a little bit but now this has been taken over with just intense excitement for my birthday. I have never met a single person who gets as excited about their birthday, who is above the age of 10, as I do. I love them and that is 100% down to presents. I'm a horrid little spoilt bint at heart and I love presents. I don't mind how big they are or how much money was spent, as long as it is wrapped in paper I am ALL IN.

So anyhoo. Easter.

Mumsie and The Person are coming down my sister's later today and will be here for the weekend until I head back to Preston on Easter Monday for the rest of my birthday week. I reckon turning 30 deserves a week of celebrations.

There is quite a bit going on but there will also be a good old load of relaxing and when I read about Nose in a Book's Easter Read-a-thon I thought that was definitely something I would like to take part in.

I don't do anywhere near enough reading as I would like to. I get bizarrely overwhelmed with guilt when I read outside of lying in bed before I go to sleep. I feel like it's being a bit indulgent and I should be doing something much more worthwhile with my time, like watching crap telly.

It is also of great annoyance to me that I've never found a way to read at the same time as crocheting - audio books don't work for me because I cannot keep my concentration on focus on what's happening.

So I am going to indulge in some reading this Easter.

I will not be storming through a pile of books like Kate will. In fact I'd be surprised if I get through one but this about fun ok? 

In fact I shall start by well and truly breaking the rules and stating that I'm totally counting the reading that I did last night because as far as I'm concerned, Easter started when I left work on Thursday and I read my book really hard last night and I want it to count.

All I have are the books that are with me here at my sister's and somehow, I've amassed quite the little pile even though I'm only allowed to buy a total of 12 books this year...

The main one I'm focusing on is Dominion - I've had this on the go for quite some time now and it's not the most portable of books so I would like to take advantage of being at home to have a power through. I made good headway last night and I have high hopes that my main achievement of the Easter Read-a-thon will be finishing  this.

If I do manage to finish it then it'll probably be on to Toby's Room as this has been lent to me and whilst I like it when people lend me books it causes me a lot of stress as I feel like I have to read that book immediately and I have eleventy billlion of my own books to read. So it would be nice to get Toby's Room read and then I can move on to my own.

Unfortunately everything I have with me here at my sister's is rather chunky so I don't think you'll be able to come back after Easter and see me boasting about the numbers of books I've read. Maybe I'll just count the number of pages read?


I should be reading not blogging - be on your way.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

January and February Project 365 round up

Yay I love being late with posts like this.

But really what do you expect, it took me until mid-February to post about my Not Really Resolutions.

I liked doing these round-up posts last time I did Project 365 - they were nice for me to look back at each month and also means that I post about the stuff that I forgot to post about. I don't understand how I ever posted more frequently, I think I'm doing amazingly and back on my blogging track and then I look and realise that I have posted 4 times in March - what? Worst blogger ever.

Anyhoo. Here's post 5 the month and a quick round-up of my best* photos of January and February.

Clockwise L-R: SWAN, my new home, Rowan taking over my bed, reading on the train, fancypants house, SNOW

6th January - I took a picture of a swan innit? This is a lovely wee place that we drive to to take the dogs for a walk. This swan nicely floated into view for me to take a photo, then caught sight of Rosie, hissed and scared the shit out of me.

1st January - First photo of the year and a picture of my new nest. This is the box room at my sister's that I moved into before starting work the next day. Man when I think about that I'm impressed I didn't have some kind of breakdown...

4th January - ...but how could I feel rubbish when I was now living with this person? This is Rowan, taking over my whole bed which she still regularly does and I let her because I'm a fool.

20th January - Being away from The Person properly sucks but it does mean that I get a good load of train reading in. I love being on a train, forced relaxation is the bomb.

21st January - It snowed! Ha. I thought this was such a novelty - little did I know it would still be happening in March. Less cool.

29th January  - My first big work challenge - organising a Strategy Meeting for all the Directors at work. We went to the place pictured and I flounced about like I was in Downton Abbey.

Clockwise L-R: Cats vs Andrew, Peeking Fred, failed Cookie Monster cupcake, very early roses for Valentine's Day, Rosie got to my Valentine's card before I did, the beginnings of the Tetris Blanket.

10th February - The Person is a funny old fellow you know. I came back to the flat to discover this little set-up - my two ceramic cats (why yes, yes they are Fred and Lily!) set up looking into the fish tank. Apparently the idea is to give them some "stimulus". Personally I reckon Andrew could take them on.

1st February - I went back to Hull for the first time since before Christmas. This means some jolly good Fred and Lily time. This is a photo of Fred peeking at me from behind a curtain. I have no idea why.

9th February - Let us never forget Cookie Monster-gate. 'Nuff said.

11th February - I got roses for Valentine's Day! Wait. But this photo says the 11th February. Oh yes, that's because The Person kind of got the delivery date wrong. Hey, he tried at least!

13th February - The Person did manage to send a Valentine's Day card in time though. Unfortunately Rosie got to it before I did...

25th February - Hey I had a great idea in February, I was going to crochet a Tetris Blanket. This involved planning to the max. Excel to the rescue!


You see this is exactly why I've done Project 365 for another year. It helps you to remember all the daft little things. I mean who wouldn't want to remember the time they completely messed up their baking or when the dog ate your Valentine's Day card? 


*When I say "best" clearly I don't mean photographically brilliant, I just mean my bestest and favouritest moments.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Stampede

I feel like a broken record. 

First I start by doing a post about how I've fallen out of love with running. 

Then I start running again and post about how much I love it.
Then I stop running again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

After completing my firstever 10k back in September last year I've basically not run again.

I have a myriad of excuses as to why I haven't been running and they are all 100% kind of valid to the extent that I cant help feeling that if I put as much effort into running as I do into excuses for not running I'd have won some kind of championship by now.

The basic problem is that I don't reeaaaally like running.

I mean I like it when I'm doing it well and I'm definitely really up for the idea of it, but the actual execution of it is a different matter. And I've come to the conclusion that unless I've something to run for, I'm not going to be running. I'm not out of my mind, I don't like running so much that I'm just going to do it for no good reason.

After the 10k people were full of. "half marathon next!" talk. I was full of intense feelings of hatred for those people. I did 10k, why was this not good enough?! There was no way I was contemplating running further and I'm still not for the following reasons;

A) I'm not mental
B) I don't have mental problems

Hats off to those who can run that far but it just doesn't appeal to me. I can only just manage the 10k, not just in fitness terms but in terms of battling total boredom. It was a stroke of genius deciding to listen to podcasts whilst I ran but I've reached my limit both mentally and physically.

However, the fact remains that my love for ALL the food means that I need to keep exercising to prevent myself turning into 2 Tonne Tessie. So running and I need to get ourselves back on track again and the only way we're going to do that is if we have something to aim for.

At some point last year it was mentioned on Twitter that there was such a thing as zoo runs, where people could go to a zoo,


And so I ended up signed up to the Whipsnade Zoo Stampede where I will be running 10km around a zoo.

Clearly I cant do this on my own. 

Me + running + wild animals = running into lampposts/bins/other people and falling over. 

I need someone to keep me on track and this person is Lucy.

Luckily I've met her once before so I'm pretty sure she's not going to kill me and tip me into the bear pit.

However she is a veeeery good runner. She just completed the Thirsk 10 Mile at the weekend, where I am currently struggling to make it to 2.

I think it probably best that Lucy prances gazelle like ahead of me whilst I plod along like a rhinoceros (you may laugh but i wouldn't want to stop a rhino in its path, you know what I'm saying?) and we shall meet at the end and go and properly look at the animals.

But we don't want to keep all the fun to ourselves, we would like to open this up to all you internet people, a kind of Bloggers Run Wild experience. 

Be you a rhinoceros or a gazelle come and join us at Whipsnade Zoo on June 9th? Or come and cheer us on?

Who's up for it?

Too see the course map and hear Lucy's plea - go HERE
(If you do want to take part let me or Lucy know, either here, or on the Twitterville by tweeting @LucyInTheClouds or @Shippers1983)

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Why I will never make it as a fashion blogger

Being away on a jolly with mostly fashion bloggers was a bit like stepping into another world. I arrived back from Chatsworth House on the Sunday to find the garden filled with people posing by brick walls and in doorways, accompanied by the soundtrack of the click and snap of the SLR.

I actually missed most of the photo-taking and I was gutted to the extreme - I really wanted to hang about on the sidelines like a groupie and see what goes into being a fashion blogger.

After seeing what I did see though I became gripped by an overwhelming desire to join in. "I will be a fashion blogger too" I thought "And it will be brilliant."

I felt like I'd picked up a few tips from my creepy totally normal observations so I enlisted the help of Alex to come with me, to my very favourite place in the gardens of Norbury Manor, the secret garden door, where I would unleash my inner fashion blogger.

Here is my list of essentials for being a fashion blogger:

1. An SLR camera - I have a point and click and it did not provide a satisfying sound when my photos were being taken.

2. Find your signature pose - I don't have one yet so I went for your average hands on hips, legs crossed pose...

...but this kind of made me look like I was out on day release, so I went for the next must-have fashion blogger pose...

Just in case you were interested:
Shirt & cardigan - Primark
Jeans - Dorothy Perkins
Shoes - H&M

4. Don't look directly at the camera - instead stare whimsically off into the distance. Or even better...

5. Don't look at the camera AT ALL. Actually this shot isn't even posed, I think I'm just admiring the lovely door - but Alex, being a pro at this fashion blogger malarkey spotted a good shot. I am however taking full credit for that beehive. Don't be jealous of my backcombing skillz.

6. Get some nerves of steel - I have absolutely no idea how people can stand normally and have their photo taken, I felt like the biggest fool on the earth. There must be a way of blocking out the voice in your head that is screaming "Why on earth would anyone want to look at this photo of you you total muppet?!"

7. Failing getting nerves of steel, develop a drinking problem - to be able to pose naturally for a photograph, or feel that I was looking good enough to have my photo taken I need to be at least 1.5/2 sheets to the wind. It sounds dramatic, but once I got good at the fashion blogging and became a world-renowned name, I'd make enough money to keep me in gin anyway.

Photo taken by Gem
Cat jumper present from Alex - you are so jealous of me right now - you have a disappointing lack of cat jumpers in your wardrobe I bet.

8. Employ someone full time to follow you around with a camera - That way, if  you find posing for a photo as excruciatingly painful as I do, your photographer will be able to capture some candid photos of you were you don't look like a serial killer. Ok - let's ignore the face I'm pulling in this photo (I was playing with Bodhi the dog) but we're half way to a good photo here. Also your photographer will have a proper camera which will make a satisfying shutter noise so that's Point 1 taken care of.

9. Actually be interested in clothes and fashion - I've already spoken about how meh I feel about fashion. This is probably going to be a downfall in my ambition to become a fashion blogger.

10. Think up a 10th point. No-one like a list that ends at 9 for God's sake.

They say it's fun to do things outside your comfort zone - and whilst I think this probably refers to bungee jumping off a bridge over a shark-infested river, standing in front of a door with a stranger taking photos of me probably resulted in the same levels of stress and sweating.

After the above three photos I felt I could admit to myself that I'm never really going to be a fashion blogger. If you will excuse the pun, I'm just not cut from the right cloth.

And besides, unless I develop that drinking problem I mentioned all I'm ever going to want to do when a camera is pointed at me is something like this...

....or this...

Maybe I've found my niche...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

12 go mad in Derbyshire

"Wait. So you've never actually met any of these people that you're going away with?" went the conversation with my sister a couple of days before I went away.

"Nope. Not even once." came my reply.

Whilst my sister was worrying about my sanity (oh bless these people who do not understand the interwebz) I had bigger worries on my mind. For yes, I was about to go away with 11 people that I had never actually met in the flesh, but of much bigger concern was the fact that most of these people are Fashion Bloggers. As in actual, real-life, take photos of their outfits and post them on the internet Fashion Bloggers. People who know about layering and the art of accessorizing. People are so good at fashion blogging that people come to them asking them to blog about their stuff.

The roll-call being:

Lucy from Tete en l'air
Gemma from Fat Frocks
Char from t*rexes & tiaras
Sarah from A Million Dresses
Rosie from A Rosie Outlook
Sarah from essbeevee
Maria from Frills 'n' Spills
Chloe from Chloe Likes to Talk
Alice from An Alien World

I was out of my depth.

A hop, a skip, and a bus and train ride later I was in Derby ready to meet actual internet people out in the real world.

The first exciting thing?

Getting to hear people's voices.

So strange to think that I've been reading Alex and Lucy's blogs for about 3/4 years but have never heard their actual voices. Thankfully it wasn't like when we all heard David Beckham's voice for the first time and wanted to pull our ears off our heads.

Our base for the next 4 days was Norbury Manor, a National Trust property that has recently been renovated and let as a holiday cottage. These were surroundings I think we all could get used to, and despite the proximity of a graveyard freaking some people out, being Ladies of the Manor suited us very well.

Norbury Manor highlights from L-R
1. Our neighbouring sheep  2. The graveyard next door. 3. The only man on the trip, Rosie's dog, Bodhi. 4. I took a photo of Alex taking a photo of Lucy taking a photo. 5. Norbury Manor 6. The Winner of the category for Most Secret Garden-like Door 7. One of the beautiful bedrooms 8. The summerhouse    9. Our garden.

With 12 people all in one place there is more than a little chance for people being on top of one another and feeling the pressure. Not this weekend - the Manor was more than big enough to have everyone in it without feeling on top of one another - a quick walk through would find people in the kitchen, people in the wood-panelled drawing room, people in the snug, people getting lost trying to find their way to the toilet or capering about in the garden.

I wonder what the previous residents of Norbury Manor would have thought if they could have seen the extent of the outfit photos taken in the house and grounds over the space of one afternoon, much less what they would have made of the series of photos we took of all of us together...

From L-R
Rosie, Char, Maria, Sarah, Alex, Lucy, Chloe, Sarah, Me, Alice, Gem, Sophie and Bodhi
(Photo courtesy of Rosie)

Whilst bona fide fashion blogger photos were being taken back at the Manor, Sophie, Lucy, Maria and I high-tailed it to Chatsworth House for a look around the House and Gardens. I've been in the grounds quite a few times, but never the gardens and I'll do anything for a good snoop around someone's home.

Chatsworth highlights (maze not included)

Highlights included:
  • Learning to listen to the Sat Nav lady when she tells us to bear right
  • Attempting to find the middle of the maze in the gardens and coming to the conclusion that there is no middle...
  • the same time discovering that Lucy doubles up as Ray Mears in her spare time
  • Discovering that one of the bedrooms in Chatsworth has a bath in a cupboard
  • Picking up new tips to lay the table next time I have some mates round courtesy of the knowledgeable Guides at Chatsworth - from now on I will be laying my forks with the tines pointed down so people with massive lacy cuffs don't catch them on their sleeves - a potentially mortifying situation I'm sure.
  • Practicing my lunging and photography skills taking photos of Maria in the Gardens (both are excellent I might add.)
  • Finding my new favourite crisps - Pipers Crisp Company. (Crisps are important to me, 'kay?)
  • Buying another book to add to my growing Mitford collection - a collection of letters from Nancy Mitford
Stained glass windows in Norbury Manor

The four days could have been awful, it could have gone all wrong and there's still a little part of me that can't believe it didn't. I mean there were twelve of us for god's sake - where were the arguments and the tantrums? Where was the person that I hated? (Although apparently everyone should have an annoying friend and if you don't have one, it's you.....erm....)

I can't think of 11 people from my "real" life that I could have gone away with and been chilled out the whole time, with no pressure to do anything but be happy. And full of cake.

Other highlights of the weekend included:
  • Playing a brilliant game of Articulate where we learned that Mallards can be male or female and that there is just no easy way to describe "joining" or "The Aga Khan"
  • Re-watching Clueless for the first time since I saw it at the cinema (I know)
  • Being almost killed off by the sheer volume of cake that came to the Manor
  • Marvelling at the wonder that is Chloe, who can cook for 12 people without throwing things
  • Watching Embarassing Bodies in the snug on the last night with Alex, Lucy, Sophie and Alice - a bonding experience that will never be forgotten.
  • Going in search of alpacas, not finding them and being chased off by two farm dogs whilst trying to take a picture of a tractor with a face.*
  • Just being in somewhere called a 'snug'
  • Sampling the delights of marshmallow vodka courtesy of Alex
  • Introducing Pooh Sticks to members of the group - but not being able to work out who actually won
  • Being saved from a total meltdown by Char who managed to find my embroidery scissors after they were eaten by a sofa
  • Trying to guess just exactly what Sophie does for a living (international spy can be the only option)
  • Getting tripped up by the stairs - every. single. day.
  • Watching Bodhi actually fly through the air at one point - the dog is a Champion Show Jumper
  • Emptying the charity shops of Ashbourne of anything that was worth having.

My last post was all about how I wasn't sure where I fitted in the blogging world at the moment. And I still don't know. I'm not a fashion blogger or a craft blogger or any other kind of blogger but I'm a blogger that is thankful that she took the plunge and went away with total strangers for a holiday. 

Except they're not total strangersThey are my new friends and this is where I belong.

(Photo courtesy of Rosie)

Corny. But true.

*See below pictures for said tractor and farm dogs


You know what it means when 12 bloggers go away? Potentially 12 posts about the same weekend. For other people's words (and much better pictures) you should read the following posts from;

Maria (plus a bonus Chatsworth post)
Alex (where you will see the funniest gif known to man I tells ya)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Finding a place

I dislike uncertainty.

And even though 2012 was officially the Year of Wankness which saw far more uncertainty than I ever would have thought imaginable, all I learned was that I can cope with it. I will never learn to like it.

Oh I know. Nothing in life is certain but what can I say? I like to have things in order and I like to be nested and I like to have somewhere I feel comfortable.

"Comfortable" is not my life at the moment. It's not about space - when I say I live in a box room I mean I live in a box room - I tried to take photos of it to show you but it's so frigging tiny I couldn't even find an angle to capture the bloody thing. But I don't need a lot of space.

What I need is my space.

I find myself betwixt and between homes. Most of my clothes live in Preston. With me here I have my work clothes and a pair of jeans and a couple of jumpers and that's it. It makes packing for a weekend in Preston incredibly light, but it doesn't help to make me feel settled (especially when I'm about to go away for a weekend with real, honest to god, fashion bloggers). I have pyjamas here and pyjamas there, I have about three toothbrushes in various places, two cans of deoderant, the list goes on and on.

I live in my sister's box-room. When I go to Preston I go back to The Person's flat*. When I go to Hull I go to my Mum's house.

I am rootless and I'm a person that needs her roots.

I know I'm incredibly lucky to have family that have been willing to take me in and a lovely boyfriend who is trying to find a way for us to live together. But I have no space to call my own and that makes me a very unsettled and nervous chappy.

This blog is my space though and that's been nice. But lately I feel like it's under attack. I'm starting to feel I don't belong in the blogosphere either. How could that even be possible? There must be a corner of the interwebs where I can settle myself down and feel at home, but at the moment I'm struggling to find that spot.

Blogging is not for the faint-hearted and if I'm honest probably isn't the best place for a person like me who likes to be liked. It's hard for me to read blogs and not start driving myself demented thinking - "Is this something I should be doing? Should I own more clothes than I do? Should I be wearing 2 different mascaras at the same time? Should I be worried that there is no-one out there reading what I'm saying? Should I be tougher? Sunnier? Funnier? Should I be less controversial and stick to posting pictures of cats?" and so on and so forth. It's probably not a good place for me. As my last post showed - I do have a tendency to compare myself to others and get wound up about it.

I find myself feeling more and more adrift in a blogging world which has become weirdly Stepford-ish and monetized. The seconds I read the words "When so-and-so asked me to do such-and-such" I groan and hit the X. When I see yet another post about just how wonderful and sunshiny their lives are, I view their photos with suspicion and wonder how many failed Cookie Monster cupcakes lie behind their glossy exterior. I feel bored, so very very bored and yet I sometimes feel total and utter confusion as to why these blogs are so popular.

I see the people who post every. single. day. and wonder where on earth they find the words, let alone the time. Is it that people worry that if they don't post people will stop reading? Is it more important to have followers than write something that you're proud of? Whilst I'm hardly writing the greatest social commentary ever, I would rather have a two week hiatus and spend hours writing one post than just roll out a load of old tut just to keep the blog stats rolling.

*whispers* I don't even really know where you find blog stats.

Should I be treating my blog like a business? Maybe I'm just not taking it seriously enough. Do I need to make a decision - either stick to posting about cats and dogs or try and write serious posts about the life, the universe and everything?

I lose track of the times people say "Blog for yourself". I also lose track of how often I scream "BOLLOCKS" when the person who's saying it - very few of us here are seriously here to blog for ourselves, we are all partaking in a popularity contest of some kind, although I wonder how many would admit it.

So I will sit in my place that isn't a home and ponder about my virtual place that isn't like a home either and wait for it all to resolve itself.

(Credit it to Hayles for inspiring this post)

EDIT: This isn't one of those terribly dramatic "I'm quitting blogging" posts. I've no intention of quitting, merely stating the blogging world is one I am finding bewildering at the moment.

*The Person's flat was his flat for 3 years until I moved in. Although he was more than happy for me to cover it in all my crap (and believe me I did), it never really felt like mine, and now that I don't live there it just feels like I did back in the day when he lived in Preston and I lived in Hull and I went to visit him in his flat.