Friday, 30 January 2015

A little bit of of internet love: Part V

I got into the habit towards the end of last year of spreading the internet love but it faded somewhat a while back, mostly because my To Be Read list on Feedly was a dreadfully terrifying number and I kept putting off catching up with blogs.

But I read this post on Bonjour Blogger the other day and it reminded me that it's important to keep the love going - talk about the posts you like, tell the bloggers that you liked it etc etc.

Plus, if I can fill a blog post with other people's blog posts then that's like blogging without actually blogging.

I've already said the words "blog" and "blogging" too much and now I feel a bit nauseous.

Anyway. On with the love...

1. Have you read any of the Under the Paw books? You should, they are hilarious. But that's an aside. Tom Cox has a Facebook page you should follow, not just because his posts are funny, but because he seems to be followed by a genuinely enormous number of followers who just don't understand that he's joking when he posts. Case in point - this little snippet.

2. More love for the boys coming at you in the shape of a post by Mr X Stitch, the frickin' coolest guy cross stitching that I know. I had already heard wind of The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon and was beyond excited to discover that it's got a pattern in there from Mr X Stitch himself! You know what's missing from your walls? A cross-stitched picture of a Wrestling Guinea Pig, that's what.

3. Juliet has finally given me an excuse to buy Crayola pencil crayons. You can only bloody turn them into lipstick!

4. Oh and if you were feeling hungry, Sarah posted earlier in the month about some incredibly lip-smacking recipes. I've made the blue cheese pasta before and it was so glorious it has stayed with me forever. Now I'm feeling an insatiable urge to make it again...

5. It wouldn't be a little bit of internet love post without a post from Janet. To be fair, I sometimes just feel like linking to her entire blog because everything she writes I love and wish I could claim as my own. At the moment she and another lovely lady called Steph, are organising a Big Blog Clothes Swap an online swap for all shapes and sizes, all you need to do is sign up and you'll be matched with someone else and you can get swapping!

6. Louisa posted an amazing tutorial for some absolutely brilliant looking Tunnocks Teacakes coasters. They look so great and are easy peasy to do. Plus you get to eat for the sake of crafting.

7. Ben over at The Running Dad wrote a very interesting post entitled "Do we really need to run like The Hulk?" a sentiment which I really need to keep in my brain when I go out running. It's not about "smashing it" and being the best there is, it's about just going out and enjoying yourself, something I definitely need to do more of.


So that's a little bit of internet love for you - how about you get sharing too - spread the love people, spread the love.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A space for me

There were many odd things that I did immediately post break-up.

One was completely emptying all the cupboards in the kitchen, cleaning them and throwing out things that were past their use by date / bit gross / for no reason whatsoever. Seriously I went to get a lot of things in the couple of months after that I swear I used to have in there and suddenly no longer did.

Second was a take-over of the space that was the spare bedroom. This had been His domain, where his computer was set up. Where, you know, he'd been sat planning his new life, buying furniture for his new flat whilst I sat oblivious in the next room. Maybe it was my subconscious taking control and wanting to clear the room from as many bad memories as possible, or maybe it just wanting to keep myself busy. Who knows. Either way I set to work carving out a space for myself.

My crocheted blankets have found a new home hanging out on the sofa-bed and in the days and weekends immediately following the break-up I found myself actually sitting in here quite a bit. It was where I sat when I was on the phone with family and friends as I recounted the story for the umpteenth time and tried to not cry. It was where I took to sitting in the mornings at the weekend, reading books and drinking tea - the sun streams in through the window first thing and it was actually a really nice habit to get into instead of the usual walking into the lounge and turning the TV on to watch something incredibly not good for my brain.

The desk became a place for me to finally set up my stall to do all my online 'stuff'. Sitting in front of the TV with the laptop burning a hole in my thighs meant that I was never terribly productive. I was too easily distracted from getting stuff done that really needed to be done, like blogging, and also found it too easy to get idly sucked into nonsense on the internet - not really concentrating on the laptop or the TV.

I have seen many an image of people's home offices and have been tainted with the green fingers of envy looking at their perfect shelves and inspirational washi-taped photos, postcards and platitudes taped to the walls. Somehow I'm just never able to pull it off myself though. I just don't possess the ability to create Pinterest-worthy interiors.

And so stuff is randomly stuck on the walls with absolutely no order going on whatsoever. I do mean to try and make these a bit more ordered but it's not going to happen. In fact, it's probably my intense need to make them ordered that is my downfall - as much as I love 'randomness' when I look at pictures I'm just not quite capable of creating it in real life.

Remember, if it's not a right angle it's a......wrong angle!

My favourite and best stuff is reserved for the corner of the desk. I bought this lamp for Ikea. I picked it up and put it down, and picked it up and put it down again. I knew that I didn't really have anywhere to put it but I just bloody loved it and so home it came with me. And I really didn't have anywhere to put it, until I had the chance to make this space my own and out it promptly came.

These two postcards are two of my favourites. I have a slight problem for buying postcards that I'm never going to send to people because I want to keep them for myself. I've never had anything to do with them....until now.

The pigeon postcard makes me smile every, single. day. How could it not? 

The leaf is one that I picked up from the pavement when I was tramping around Leicester with Janet before Christmas. I'm a sucker for leaves in Autumn and it's only fear that people with think I'm a crazy person that I don't constantly stop as I'm walking along and pick them all up. Clearly I am unconcerned about Janet's thoughts about my sanity. 

So this is where I sit when I'm typing up this stuff. Nice to be able to picture where someone is when you're reading the blatherings isn't it?

I'd ask you to show me pictures of your office but I really don't know I'd be able to keep my jealousy in check...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Weekend Round Up

I feel as if January has completely passed me by. The beginning of the year, followed by two straight weeks of working without a weekend in between, followed by a week of recovery....and now suddenly it's almost February. Hello?

I did have plans to travel to Manchester this weekend but they were cancelled at the last possible minute meaning that this weekend wasn't quite what I had planned but it was honestly pretty good. I was in need of a full weekend at home, I haven't actually had one yet this year.

So this weekend was full of;

I was not cut out for the events industry let me tell you. My six days on-site in Barcelona absolutely trashed me. It's funny really because in the midst of it you just kind of get on with it and happily go troll about during your crazy long working hours, the second I touched down in the UK my body completely crashed. I was dog tired for days and days afterwards and my immune system packed up and I have a cough from hell which I am dragging about with me like a massive mucus-laden load.

Turns out I live pretty close to Europe's Largest Inland Marina (living the furthest away from the coast it's possible to in the UK finally pays off?) so I took a little trip with my sister and recalcitrant nephews (it's just not worth crowbarring teenagers out of the house is it?) to see what it has to offer. It turns out it has a lot of shops that I can't see being open this time in a year, a farmer's shop which sells a load of stuff from Fentimans and a fuck ton of houseboats. Good to know I say.

A while back I pinned a tutorial for crocheted hearts and a friend who is getting married made a comment joking that she would have 100 of them please. She text me over the weekend to say she was trying to make them but was having issues deciphering the pattern - I hauled out the computer to take a look and made one, and then another, and then another. Then I text her and said was her comment serious because I could almost definitely get 100 hearts crocheted in not too much time. I've managed 50 in about 24 hours. They are addictive...

I could have stayed in the house all day on Sunday but at the last minute decided to take a quick trip into Tiny Town to have a cup of tea and a slice of flippin' carrot cake. Because I can.

Gerbil nursing
Friday night saw me have a little freak out when I noticed that Ser Jorah Mormont had blood in his urine. After a dash to Pets at Home to get a box to put him in and a dash to the vets I have the teeniest vials of medicine and the teeniest syringe and the teeniest dosage instructions - a mere 2 drops twice a day. The vet thinks he has a kidney infection but wasn't too concerned about him as he is still his same old self - eating, drinking, eating, eating, digging, eating etc etc. He's taking his medicine like a dream because I put the 2 drops on a piece of nut. I've spent a lot of time this weekend watching gerbils wee. Tyrion has been a champ looking after Ser Jorah, giving him a good ol' groom and has been enjoying his favourite past-time - jumping in the box containing his museli when I'm filling up their food bowl.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Things not to say to someone who has seen their relationship end

It's tough when one of your friends breaks up with someone. You know they're hurt and you have no idea what to say to them and you don't know if it's best if you should ask them about it all the time, or shouldn't ask them about it at all and you don't know how they're going to react to fairly innocuous questions about the demise of the their relationship.

I get that. I really do.

But in the interests of public health, here are some things which you shouldn't say to someone who is going through a break up

1. "You know where I am"

I know what you're thinking. What's this girl's problem. Of course you would let your friend know you're there for them.

The thing is, this phrase does not let your friend know you're there for them. This phrase says "I'm not really going to to bother with you unless you come to me. So....good luck with everything you're going through."

I have a string of texts from people who uttered those words in the days after the break up. That was the last I've heard of them and I couldn't tell you where they were. In the midst of it all I couldn't have told you where I was, let alone where they were.

Don't tell someone "You know where I am" let them know where you are. It is your responsibility to keep in touch with them and ask them if they're doing ok, it is not their responsibility to ask for your help. Call, text, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter - there are a myriad of ways to get in touch with someone and let them know where you are. Ask them out to dinner, ask if you can come round - they may say no, they probably will say no, get over it and show them that you are there.

2. "You're so strong, you're coping so well with it all, I'd be in pieces."

Again. What's wrong with telling someone that they're doing well? Surely this gees them up and makes them feel good about themselves?

No no. The trouble is this phrase is almost certainly paired with Number 1.

You see I don't have any choice but to be strong, because I'm doing this on. my. own, Am I going to sit down and curl up in a ball and cry? Actually yes, yes I am, and I do, all the time, but I'm not going to do it at work or when I'm out with friends because that would be super awkward and creepy for everyone. Of course I'm going to go to work and laugh and joke and seem normal, what else is there to do?

When someone says to you "You're so strong" it immediately puts a huge roadblock in the path to showing your true feelings. Now they've said that to you, you feel like you can't have a little breakdown and freak out. Sometimes I don't want to be strong, I want to feel like shit and not be happy go lucky.

By saying "You're coping so well with it all, I'd be in pieces" there is an implicit judgement in there for the recipient of that phrase. Oh so you think I'm a heartless bitch who has got over her relationship in double quick time. That's nice. And so untrue. I still cry most weekends when I'm stuck in the house by myself and I cry and feel miserable on other days of the week too. Yes those days are lessening but they're there still. Just because I'm not sobbing over my keyboard or stabbing pins into a voodoo doll over the lunch table don't assume that I'm "coping with it so well."

3. "I envy you your space."

This is one of my personal favourites and is only ever uttered by people who are in relationships.

No. You don't envy my space. You don't envy that one day I came home to discover that my one ally in life was not only leaving but was a complete stranger to me. You don't envy that I went from splitting my bills with someone to being responsible for them on my own.

What you want is an evening/weekend to yourself when your other half is out/away and you can have a bubble bath and watch crappy TV and paint your nails. You don't envy that I spend every weekend in on my own. You sit at home on a Saturday night, with your other half and your takeaway, watching Take Me Out and laughing at all the desperate single people - I'm sat on my own doing the same and trust me, you don't envy me.

4. "Have you heard from him at all?"

This just acts as a reminder that no, no I have not heard from him. Yes he was the biggest part of my life for a huge period of time and yes he did indeed turn his back completely on it and sever all contact completely. Thanks for reminding me.

Also trust me, if I hear from him, believe me I'll let you know.

5. "You'll meet someone else."



Arm yourself with these and you'll be able to be a fabulous friend to someone in need.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

On many a cactus l America 2014; Part 6

We have reached the end.

I know there was a point where you probably thought it was never going to end, but I said I was going to get this done within a year of me being in America and damnit if I set myself a goal I'm going to achieve it.

So just a re-cap of what the hell was going on in America and why I was there:

I was over there to see American Girl and American Boy get married which was, as you would expect, brilliant. But before that happened I got to do some good old traditional American stuff like watching a Spring training baseball game and then embarked on a four day road trip which took in more sights than it should be possible to take in in that amount of time.

Day One - Drive from Phoenix to Monument Valley
Day Two - Drive from Monument Valley to Four Corners and then to Page, Arizona
Day Three - Visit to Antelope Canyon and then a drive to the Grand Canyon
Day Four - Visit to the Grand Canyon and then back to Phoenix

Once I was back and weddinged out there was time for one more piece of adventuring in Phoenix - this time heading out to the Desert Botanical Garden.

I'll be honest it wasn't my choice to go. There were a couple of other people over from England who were without a car and they had suggested going and if I had said "Naaaaaah, don't fancy it" then no-one would have been able to go. And nobody wants to be that girl do they?

In my head botanical gardens are kind of boring. They tend to be something that you're dragged to on a wet weekend where you are trailed into a slightly damp and muggy over-sized greenhouse where you wander around looking at ferns on steroids.

But you see I forgot that a botanical garden in Phoenix is not going to be the same as a botanical garden in Belfast. For a start - it's in the flippin' desert innit? No need for the greenhouse! And no ferns on steroids here, instead, about 4 billion types of cactus. And we all know that cacti are hilarious to look at.

Not only were there cacti there but there was wildlife to spot - we saw an actual roadrunner (it is not blue and it did not say "meep meep" which was a huge disappointment, but it did run almost horizontally so it pulled it back slightly for me.) - and we were lucky enough to be there at the same time that there was an exhibition by Chihuly, a glass sculptor whose work can be seen over here in England in the form of the glass chandelier in the V&A Rotunda.

His pieces of work were dotted all over the gardens, popping up in unexpected places and I'm almost ashamed to admit that I may have once or twice mistaken a sculpture for a real cactus, only to be terribly disappointed that the very pretty thing was glass and not nature.

It was actually a really fun tramp around, you could walk for miles without realising and some of the views were absolutely beautiful. There are several trails that you can take around the gardens and there's a wildflower and butterfly garden. (Although I stayed away from the butterfly garden because let's all remember that they are the creatures of the devil and not to be trusted.)

If I hadn't have gone, I'd have probably spent the day recovering from the wedding and being hungover on the sofa, which I can't lie would have been pretty good fun but pretty much a waste of a day when this was the other option.

So the rules to remember. Botanical Gardens in deserts? Not boring.

You are welcome,

And we're done.

Now I need to plan what to do next time I go over there...

Monday, 19 January 2015

Photo an Hour l 17th January

When I discovered that first Photo an Hour date was set for the 17th January I immediately thought to myself that I wouldn't bother. I knew that Saturday 17th January was going to be a fairly rubbish day for me. It would be the first day off I had had in thirteen days as I had gone straight from my first week back at work, straight through a week on-site in Barcelona, straight to another event in London.

In other words I was going to be absolutely shattered.

But I sucked it up and got on with it. After all, someone's day might be busy and someone's day might be lazy - what would mine have in store?

This was Saturday 17th January...

09.30 Quite the luxurious lie in compared to the days I'd had in the previous weeks but I was still shattered as I had not been to bed until gone 4am the day before. Not because I was being a huge party animal, but because other people were being huge party animals and I ended up taking care of some people - taking them to bed when it was time for the party to end, returning them to bed when they decided their party wasn't over...I was incredibly unimpressed. I felt I deserved a fry up.

10.30 In hindsight I should have just packed up and gone home. I left my house at 4.30am the previous Saturday and was keen to just get home, but being the nice person I am I was checking on people and making sure they were ok and helping them to get ready to check out, helping them pack their bags, ringing their rooms to make sure they were still alive etc etc. Oh I'm being serious. There were some real party people and I was rapidly losing my patience, wanting to be out of the hotel and on a train.

11.30 Everyone rounded up, in a taxi and finally at St Pancras station ready to return home.

12.20 Essential train snackagement.

13.30 No photo as I was train sleeping after train snacking

14.20 The best photo of my day. Finally back at home and finally getting to see my two little gerbil bums. I had missed them so much whilst I was away and you know what? I think they missed me.

15.30 Unpacking. A.k.a. chucking everything all over my bed and then sifting through the debris and putting a load of washing on.

16.30 Washing finished and hung up. On-site uniform is where super boring ugly clothes come to die. Black dresses, white shirts, black tights - bleurgh.

17.30 Time to catch up with The Archers after my week away. I could wait for the omnibus the next day but what would be the fun in that when the podcasts are downloaded and ready to go?

18.30 No food in the house. What better excuse than to order a takeaway...

19.45 ...which didn't arrive for over an hour. I was ridiculously hungry.

20.40 On the sofa beneath cushions, blanket and big wrap. I was not up for moving any time soon.

21.30 After a brief nap under my cushion/blanket/wrap pile I decided it was time to blow the candles out before I burned down the flat and take myself to bed where I promptly slept for over twelve hours.


Many thanks to Louisa for hosting - check out her blog for February's Photo an Hour date and don't forget that you can join in on Twitter and Instagram using #photoanhour

Friday, 16 January 2015

Adventures in DIY: The Geometric Canvas edition

I wish I could think of a snappier title for this blog post but I really can't.

Back in October I read a post at Oh Gosh that afforded me a ruddy brilliant nosy around Emma's new living room. We all love a good nosy around don't we?

I immediately noticed a gigantanormous canvas above her fireplace and thought to myself, "I need one of those."

Lo and behold that clever lady totally made it herself and not only did she make it herself, but she also posted a flippin' DIY tutorial on how to do it.

God I love the blogging world sometimes, I really do.

So I promptly went out and bought a tiny canvas because I was too chicken to do it on a massive one for my first attempt, dug out all the yellow and grey match pots I had bought to make over some coasters when I was performing major revamping on my Ikea Lack Table, and some Frog Tape.

I dutifully taped off my pattern.

Big huge important note.

I actually found this hugely difficult. I don't know if my brain just doesn't work in the same way as most people's but I found it really hard to make triangles.

I know.

I would make so many and everything would be good and then there would be a random confusion of tape and I would be left with a gap that most definitely had more than three sides. I don't know. Maybe it's just me but if anyone else attempts this please will you let me know if you have the same difficulties as me? Because I really don't want to feel alone in this one.

I immediately started slapping colour on with really very little regard for what I was actually doing and with no major thoughts about colour placement. I decided I didn't want two triangles of the same shade next to one another and then pretty much closed my eyes and hoped for the best and somehow it all seemed to work out, even though I only had two shade of yellow and two shades of grey.

I very patiently waited for the paint to dry, painted my second coat and patiently waited for it to dry and then went about peeling off my Frog Tape which apparently doesn't bleed.

Lying fuckers.

It bled all over the place as you might be able to see on one of the grey triangles in the above photo.

But apart from that...

Ohmygod I loved it. I loved it. I loved it so much that I was furious that I'd bought the world's smallest canvas to do it on and wished I had one three times the size.

The absolute best part of this project is the speed of it. For people who are insanely impatient like me, this is so incredibly satisfying it's hard to put into words. I started this in the late afternoon and it was all finished by the time I went to bed. Amazing.

In fact it was so quick that when I next had a few hours I sat down and made another one for my nephew's bedroom.

As long I'm keeping myself busy, right?

I had a similar cock up with the Frog Tape on the second canvas but as long as you have a small brush and some white paint (and a steady hand) you can get any wibbly edges tidied up pretty quickly.

How much would these make awesome presents for people? They would think you were a) a genius and b) had spent hours on it when in fact neither are true.


So go and show Em some appreciation for her canvas which really is a work of art, plus her pictures are much better, mostly because she hasn't taken them with her phone, or at the dead of night because she was too over-excited to wait for better light to take a photo.

I've a lot to learn when it comes to this blog photo stuff...

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

En Pointe

One of my Not Really Resolutions this year is to design and make my own amigurumi and I'm looking forward to putting pen to paper and getting thinking and inspired.

But if I didn't want to bother with designing my own piece I wouldn't have to worry as I have approximately eleventy billion patterns that I can follow. I think my book count is up at about 5 or 6 now and I have a huge lever arch file which is full of patterns that I've pulled out of magazines such as Simply Crochet or Inside Crochet.

There are also a couple of other magazines on the shelves including #crochet and Love Crochet and I *think* it is the latter that this pattern came from...

Would you just look at her? She is almost too much.

I decided to make her for my niece for Christmas and also decided to do something which I never do - buy the wool that's recommended in the pattern. Why not, it was Christmas after all. So I ditched my normal Stylecraft DK and used DMC Natura which is a 100% cotton yarn. It comes in 50g balls which doesn't sound like much, but it is only 4 ply so a little can go a long way.

And because it was 4 ply it called for a smaller hook than the 4mm that I am used to using. Quite a bit smaller in fact, a 2.5mm bad boy.

There was a lot of swearing when I first started this project. I felt like a giant with a toothpick when I was trying to manipulate the 2.5mm hook and the 100% cotton was so soft that it would literally slip off my hook unbidden at times.

But once I got into a rhythm it started to go pretty well. She did take a while though. Using that much smaller of a hook required a lot of concentration and I was nowhere near as fast as I would have been if I had been using a 4mm hook.

I was worried that her body was freakishly long at first and it is indeed freahishly long. But rest assured that once you have the tutu added and the arms sewn on, she starts to come together.

The tutu was my absolutely favourite bit to do and was hugely satisfying as the constant increasing led to the ruffling of her skirt. I did sew the tutu on to the body but you would be able to leave it and then there's the possibility of making more tutus so she can have outfit changes. Now there's a thought...

I was also slightly concerned about her lack of face and thought it might be super creepy and freak my niece out. I'm actually still waiting for to receive this little ballerina so I'm hoping for the best.

Her head is also pretty massive compared to her body and consequently she's quite floppy. There was a point when I worried whether I was propagating unrealistic body image (only joking) but I can't explain it - she just works once she's all put together and in place.

My absolute favourite part was adding her hair and I could have done that all day and all night, it looked so cool once it was all added and it was so simple to do yet looks brilliant.

Gathering it all up into a bun on the top of her head was pretty much as stressful as I find it to gather all my own hair into a bun on the top of my head, and so it isn't absolutely perfect and there are a couple of stray hairs wanting to escape from her very pretty bun cover, but I couldn't have her looking too perfect could I?

She is a dainty little creature and I'll be honest I'm a tiny bit fearful that she might not stand up to my niece's rough and tumble ways. I'm hoping that my sister-in-law will take one look at her and perhaps suggest that she's kept for best. But I'm now looking for an excuse to make her using a chunkier wool and a bigger hook as I think this lovely ballerina lady will look beautiful in any size.

See? No propagating of unrealistic body image here.

Monday, 12 January 2015

On the Grand Canyon l America 2014; Part 5

This is it guys. We are well on the way now. I am rocking and rolling with this wave for as long as it may continue. There is no way that I am letting a year go past before I manage to actually blog about the places I went to on the road trip, it's bad enough that it's been 10 months...

So, another re-cap for you guys:

Day One - drive from Phoenix to Monument Valley and a night spent at the View Hotel
Day Two - drive from Monument Valley - Four Corners - Page, Arizona and a night spent at the cheapest Best Western ever
Day Three - a visit to Antelope Canyon and then a mega drive to...

You get precisely zero points for guessing correctly.

The grandest of all the canyons, the Grand Canyon.

We actually arrived in the late afternoon of Day Three of the road trip and were in time to see the Canyon in some really great light. However I was so busy enjoying it that I didn't take any photos of it so you will have to deal with some incredibly washed out photos that I took on our stroll around very early the next morning.

We stayed at Yavapai Lodge which is inside the Reservation perimeter. There are a whole host of places you can stay near the Grand Canyon and there are loads either within walking distance or a short drive away. Think Center Parcs but on a slightly, you know, grander scale. There are eateries close by and there is also a supermarket in the Grand Canyon Village so if you want to go self-catering, or are one of the people who decide to camp there, you can get supplies.

The next morning dawned much earlier than it should have done for me as I continued my reign of getting time confused when in America. It's not as stupid as you might think and I will attempt to explain.

So much as we have GMT and BST time changes to deal with, parts of America do too and they change over to Daylight Savings Time (DST). However, Arizona, doesn't change their clocks ever (why would they? The blinking sun is always shining for them. Bastards.) Still very simple. Except for the fact that some of the Reservations, despite being in Arizona, do observe DST. So you can still be in Arizona, but on a Reservation and there's an hour's time difference.

It gets better...

So because of where we travelled we were very close to the border with Utah which does observe DST - so when we arrived at The View Hotel at Monument Valley which is technically in Arizona we mysteriously lost an hour. Only to gain it back by the time we arrived in Page, Arizona.

Meanwhile, I'd been an idiot and not changed all my watch or various electronic devices to the correct time when I arrived which just meant complete chaos. I didn't know what way was up or down or what the hell time it was and when I jumped out of bed bright and breezy on Day Four of the Road Trip ready to tackle the Grand Canyon - it was actually 7am and not 8am...

You want to know the bonus of getting up ridiculously early though? You will be one of the first people on the shuttle buses which drive around various routes at the Canyon - it's a hop on and hop off service and you can walk between stops if the fancy so takes you.

Actually you won't just be one of the first people, you'll kind of be the only people, but that just makes it more atmospheric doesn't it? Right?

You may have noticed that I've blathered about where I stayed, and really talked about how time confuses me a lot but I haven't really mentioned much about the Canyon have I?

You see the thing is, there isn't really a great deal to say about it.

I know. I'm about to be hugely controversial here.

Don't get me wrong it is more than grand and photos and people describing it will never do it justice. It really has to be seen with your own eyes to really appreciate it. And the first time you see it you really do go. "Fuck me, that's massive."


But for me, that's kinda it. Once you've seen it once, you've seen it. And you can walk along it for a few hours and stop at various points and look out but it will still be very very big and very very grand and very very canyony.

This was actually the second time I have visited the Canyon, I went back in 2008 on my first trip to Arizona and I honestly wouldn't have gone again if it hadn't been for the fact that The Fucktard (I'm trying out some new names, I'll let you know what I settle on) hadn't seen it before and was adamant that he wanted to see it. And when I did see it again for the first time I went, "Oh yeah, it really is big", but then was pretty much of the opinion that I was ready to go.

I did warn you it was a little controversial.

I feel like it's something you tick off a list and say it's done. 

Don't get me wrong though, it really is bloody Grand. They definitely thought about that name a lot.

By the time we returned to the Grand Canyon Village at about 10.30am the bus stops were absolutely heaving with people, and I mean heaving. So if you are going to go I would maybe consider an early jaunt so you can get the chance to really take in the views and take some photographs without people crawling all over you.

After The Grand Canyon it was time to head the 230 miles back to Phoenix in time to see my American Girl get married and my Road Trip was officially over, leaving me absolutely gagging to do it all again.

(Nope. I haven't yet finished my posts about America 2014 - just one more and then I swear I'm done. Possibly.)

Friday, 9 January 2015

The love that never dies

For the past 13 years Manchester has been where my heart has resided. Don't get me wrong, I love my Mothership (Hull, just in case you've lived under a rock) and nothing could ever take me away from her, but Manchester has been an all consuming, soul shaking, stomach flipping love since the day I started university in 2001.

Cities really are like people - some of them you just don't click with, no matter how hard you try (Leeds and Dublin I'm looking at you here) and some you just feel an instant connection with the second you step out of the train station or into the city centre (Newcastle I'm looking at you here). Some cities just speak to you and Manchester didn't just speak to me, she yelled in my ear and its resonance has never stopped ringing since.

As with any big city there is almost too much to discover and my world was hugely small - back in the day us students weren't really that fussed about the Didsburys and Chorlton (or at least none of the ones that I knew) and they still remain un-chartered territory for me. As a student my domain was Oxford Road, the city centre, Rusholme, Fallowfield and what was back then a 'new' and 'up and coming' part (which may be unthinkable to some reading now), The Northern Quarter.

I first lived in Halls directly opposite Manchester Piccadilly station and I remember my first walk down Oxford Road to go and register at the Student Union. It was about a 20/25 minute walk and I remember getting overly excited at seeing Paradise Factory, the club that Paradise Records was turned into and the BBC building. I was dealing with the big guns here.

As I walked under the footbridge with University of Manchester emblazoned on it, I swear I really felt at home. I belonged on these streets and from that day on I walked up and down Oxford Road like I owned that joint. This become my territory and I have never, ever, in my whole life, felt as confident and assured of who I was than I did in the years I spent in Manchester.

Maybe everyone who goes to university feels this way about the city they lived in and the people they met and the time they spent there. I have absolutely no doubt that I look back on my time there as an undergraduate student and a postgrad with rose tinted glasses. And I don't care. I thank God that there were enough good times to merit the rose tinted glasses, goodness knows there are enough periods of my life where the strongest lenses wouldn't be able to put a good spin on it.

It felt like my city and I think it will always feel like my city, even though it has now changed almost beyond recognition in some parts and I am hopelessly clueless as to where the good places are to go, or indeed, where anything is that is immediately out of the areas that I used to frequent all the time.

I want to stop people in Piccadilly Gardens and say "I remember this being unveiled bitches! I was here that long ago!" I want to march up to all the hipsters in the Northern Quarter and go "Booya! I remember a time when the stuff in the Oxfam vintage stuff was actually affordable!"

Whenever I go there I feel alive. I feel like me again. I feel the beauty of living in a place that is so large that you can be whoever you want to be because anything goes. I always wondered if I would grow out of being a city girl and eventually have the hankering to settle down in a more suburban area or live in a little village, but I have slowly realised that it is just never going to happen. I need stuff happening - I need an endless choice of places to eat and places to drink and places to go and things to see. But I still feel like not just any city would do, I could move to Birmingham and I still don't think it would be right, because Manchester is the one that will always be the comparison and aint no-one who measures up to Her.

But unfortunately, my memories of living in Manchester and being in Manchester and breathing in Manchester are all intrinsically linked to The Person. He is wound up and caught up with all those memories and those feelings and my brain has struggled to begin to pick apart Him from Her. She is the one I want to hold on to, hers are the memories that I want to retain - him? I have no place for Him in anything.

December 2014 was the first time since I first lived in Manchester that I didn't visit the Christmas Markets. I couldn't even bring myself because going to the Christmas Markets had become something that we did together, even though there were a whole bunch of years when I went before we ever even dreamed of getting together. And it made me feel so sad that he was going to not just break my heart, but break the part of my heart reserved for Manchester.

And so this year is the year that I go back. It's the year that I go back more than once, it's the year that I go back and make new memories with Her and slowly excise Him out of my brain.

I can't wait to start my love affair again.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

On Antelope Canyon l America 2014; Part 4

"I will finish blogging about my road trip in America before we get to the one year anniversary of me going..."

This should become my new motto in life.

That leaves me with until the end of March to get it done. Don't worry, we're not too far away from the end now. I know what you're thinking - "The road trip was only about four days long, how much more can there be to write?" - but I really did jam as much in as possible.

So just to give you a little re-cap:
Day One - drive from Phoenix to Monument Valley and a night spent at the View Hotel
Day Two - drive from Monument Valley - Four Corners - Page, Arizona and a night spent at the cheapest Best Western ever

So the morning of Day Three dawned in Page, Arizona...

Page might seem like a very random place to go and I would never have heard of it if it hadn't been for a colleague that had gone at the beginning of the year and after seeing her photos I knew I had to add this to the list of places to visit.

I was there to see Antelope Canyon - another of Arizona's geological wonders. There are a couple of canyons, an Upper Antelope Canyon and a Lower Antelope Canyon. I was there to visit the more popular Upper Canyon.

Access to the canyon is limited to official tour guides only and Page is filled with trucks driving people to and fro from the main street to the canyons. I was booked with Antelope Canyon Tours and they were brilliant from beginning to end.

Antelope Canyon is a busy old place. Tours are taking place constantly throughout the day and I was there at the busiest time of the day, around 11am, which is when tourists have the opportunity to see lightbeams coming in to the canyon.

The Canyon was formed like any other kind of canyon - just water doing its thing and cutting through rock. In fact Antelope Canyon still floods and when it happens it happens quickly and dangerously - hence the reason for access being limited to official tours only. (That and it's a hell of a money spinner says the cynical side of me.)

As you can see from the photos so far this is a scenic place. It's aaaallllllllll about the photos.

There is the possibility to book on more specialised Photography Tours which last longer than the ordinary tour and the guides can instruct people in setting up their cameras to get great shots. But to be honest our tour guide, Ricky, was incredible with getting us to take great photos - he told us the optimum settings to set our camera to, how to get the best shots, it was all covered.

But it really did feel like it was about going "Take this shot, take this shot, take this shot, take this shot, move, move, move, move". There were at least four or five other groups in the Canyon at the same time as my group and there are times where the canyon is narrow and it felt like there were a lot of people in there.

I would have liked a bit more time to just stop and stare about me because it is just insanely beautiful.

Instead my pictures are filled with other peoples' cameras, elbows, heads, arms and whatever else. And I'm pretty sure we were all getting in the way of the people who were part of the 'proper' photography tour.

You can't deny how beautiful it is though. You just have to be prepared for it to be a bit of a bun fight to get the best shot.

There are lots of pieces of random driftwood and other detritus hanging about in the Canyon as a result of the last flood that took place, but my all time favourite were the huge piles of tumbleweed that were hiding in every corner and crevice and piled up really high just outside the Canyon.

On the first day of the road trip on the way to Monument Valley I nearly died when I saw honest to god real life tumbleweed blowing across the road in front of the car. I didn't even realise that stuff existed outside of films. Something you might not realise - tumbleweed is super spiky and painful, don't try and grab it. Just saying...

Being in there around midday meant that we got the opportunity to see some light beams coming in to the Canyon which was beautiful.

The guides throw sand up in the air so that the dust motes stand out in the beams and it is very beautiful, although, as you can see from the photo below, it is hard to capture without also including someone's elbow or head. There were a few times when we were shooed out of the way so that the people on the photography tours could get a good shot of the light beams.

It could be worth doing however as a photo a light beam in the Canyon has just broken the record for the most expensive photo sold, selling for a rather impressive $6,5 Million

Not sure how much I'd get for the below shot...

After the Canyon it was time for a quick drive down the road to have a look out at the Glen Canyon Dam. Let me tell you, health and safety is not high on the agenda around this place - no barriers and no proper stairway which made me really want to freak out but it did allow for some good photo opportunities.

It was then time to get back in the car and drive 130 miles to the next destination - a Canyon with another name...

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Not Really Resolutions 2015 - The Introduction

It's time. I'm ready for you 2015.

If there's nothing else this blog is good for, it's been absolutely awesome at getting me to set myself some actual goals and then attempt to see them through. Ok, they're not massive huge things, they're usually just stuff that I really needed to do anything but will never get done because I have a tendency to sit in front of the TV watching something with absolutely zero cultural merit.

I can't actually believe that this is the fifth year of doing these - anyone bored yet?!


1. Read ten Classics/Non-Fiction
So for the past four years I have set myself the challenge of reading twelve Classics throughout the year. The idea behind this originally was just to try and expand my reading repertoire and it's been great at doing that but lately it's started to feel like a chore. It's become something that I've started to get a bit stressed out about and that's no good to anyone.

I've also realised that I don't read a lot of non-fiction and I wanted to rectify that. I didn't want to add in reading non-fiction on top of Classics as I'm not the speediest of readers so I thought I'd take my foot off the pedal a little bit and set myself the challenge of reading 10 books that are either Classics or non-fiction.

2. Go to two Park Runs a month (on average)
When I was looking at getting my car one of the reasons I was really looking forward to it was the freedom it would give me to do more. There is a Park Run tantalisingly close to me but inaccessible unless you have your own transport so now I've got it there can be no more excuses.

(I put in the "on average" when I realised that I'll be away for the first 3 weekends of January...)

This will also tie in nicely with number 3...

3. Beat my 10k time
Last year was the worst year ever when it came to running for me. It feels like I was injured in one form of the other for the whole year - I spent a ridiculous amount of money on physiotherapists and osteopaths and I was completely incapable of winning the battle between myself and my head when I was out stomping around the streets.

But this year is the year that I sort all this out. No more injuries. Just no. No no no no. Well I mean there probably will be, but hopefully nothing too debilitating.

I am roping in the help of my blogger friends with this one - I'm hoping that the encouragement of excellent runners like Miss Pond and Lucy will help me achieve this goal.

4. Design and make my own amigurumi
Last year was the Year of the Amigurumi and it felt like all I did in 2014 was crochet zebras, elephants and horses. But I'm still very much a slave to the pattern and don't have the confidence to take it off the page and out of my head.

But I know I have all the tools to make my own animal/character - amigurumi is basically just a series of shapes and once you can do one you can do any of the others - but I just need to take the time out to sit and design something myself.

5. Crochet an item of clothing
Amigurumi is sorted. Blankets are sorted. But I don't feel that skill-wise I'm really going anywhere at the moment. I see people who have never crocheted before picking up a hook and a couple of months later are dashing about in jumpers and cardigans that they've made. I need to take the plunge and do something out of my comfort zone.

(And no I promise I won't crochet a scarf and call this one complete :) )

6. Blog 3x a week (on average)
I'm an advocate of saying that blogging should be fun and shouldn't feel like a chore and I really do feel that way, but sometimes even with the fun stuff there needs to be a little planning and preparation that goes in to it. I always feel as if I have lots to blog about but I don't get myself organised and then it's easy to be lazy and then there's no point really doing it....etc etc. It's time to get organised. Three posts a week shouldn't be that hard.

She says...

7. Finish one cross stitch piece that's just for me
I have a couple of things on the go at the moment that I've put to one side in favour of crocheting. The trouble is that in comparison to crocheting, cross stitch just takes such a long time. The results are nowhere near as immediate and that can start to become off-putting.

8. Tetris blanket
No seriously. THIS is the year. I've neglected this for way too long. This year will make it the third year that it has appeared on a Not Really Resolution list. I'm not even going to say "Finish Tetris blanket" I'm just making it a statement and whenever I'm looking for something else to put on my hook I will hear a voice in my head that just says "Tetris Blanket" with a slightly disapproving tone.

9. Go somewhere I've never been before each month
This is a follow on from 2014's Do One Interesting Thing each month. I don't want to fall into a rut of doing the same interesting thing each month though - I need to keep challenging myself and now I have a little car of my own it should make adventuring even more fun.

10. Makeover three pieces of furniture
I've been slowly plugging away at getting the flat looking how I would like it to look. I figured it was time to do it so I can stop living life like a student, plus it's a nice distraction. I figure that as I'll be spending a lot of time in it given that I'm the only person responsible for all the bills now, it might as well look nice whilst I'm at it.

Furniture-wise I probably have everything that I need but it is still all a bit of a mish mash which is adding to the weird studenty vibe. Just giving something a little slap of paint will make all the difference I'm hoping.


So there we have it.

Come at me 2015.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Betwixtmas 2014

Apparently we call the period between Christmas and New Year, Betwixtmas. I heard it on Radio 1 the other day and I liked it. I can be down with the kids.

Betwixtmas for me started off with some fairly major snow late on Boxing Day night. Not a big deal in itself, and quite exciting for most people, but a bit nervewracking for me as the next day I had to drive to Hull. I haven't driven in the snow/ice before and I would also have with me my Mum aka the World's Worst Passenger.

But we made it to Hull which was good because we had to break these two people out of cat prison aka the cattery.

Betwixtmas is a time for many a Fred and Lily photo to be taken. Pay special attention to the top right photo - Lily was nicely asleep on my knee for ages and when Fred saw this he immediately had to come and sit even closer to me because he is a big fat jealous ginger boy.

Betwixtmas was a time for catching up with friends. Catching up with them from 2pm until gone midnight to be precise. Messy. Although the next morning I discovered that I'd had a very productive shopping trip at Sainsburys. Oh and I took the funniest selfie with Lily ever - why does she look so horrified? Because I chased her all around the kitchen grabbing at her to take that photo...

Betwixtmas is also a time for me to dogsit for a day. Which just involves lying on the sofa watching TV with this pair of idiots. I don't know why they always look so sad in photos, I swear to god they're really happy dogs normally.

Betwixtmas is a time for crocheting things that have no purpose and are for you and you alone. I got Kerry Lord's book for Christmas along with some lovely fancy Tofts Alpaca wool (which is eye wateringly expensive when you're used to buying Stylecraft)

Betwixtmas is a time for sitting on your behind, drinking hot chocolate and reading massive 900 page tomes.

Betwixtmas is a time for starting to get organised and fill your fridge up after you have eaten it bare. Before I went shopping I swear to god all I had in my fridge was a bottle of cider, gherkins, Flora and an out of date yoghurt. I love a bit of batch cooking although it drives me mental that I don't have more space in my freezer. Jamie Oliver's basic stew recipe is a winner every time.

Betwixtmas is a time for surprise presents out of the blue from Apple. I have been the proud owner of a first generation iPod Nano for the last 9 years or so. You might not remember first generation iPods, I think they stopped making them a bazillion years ago.

Anyway the battery on mine gradually just got rubbish and wouldn't retain charge. I put out a random tweet saying I felt sad that my iPod's time had come, and a stranger replied pointing me in the direction of Apple's First Generation iPod Replacement Program. I was absolutely convinced it was a scam that was going to steal everything from me but it turns out it was actually true.

I sent my iPod Nano off and Betwixtmas delivered a brand new, latest, 16BG, iPod Nano. I could not believe it. Finally being cheap and not buying the latest model of anything pays off...

Christmas 2014 could suck it but Betwixtmas 2014 I could get on board with.