Sunday, 30 September 2012

Project 365+1: Days 259 - 271

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I missed out on my chance to get my photos up on Sunday. This week I've been pretty tired and so most of the snaps I've taken have been on my phone (see if you can spot the one I took at the last minute right before I fell asleep).

We've had some fantastically stormy weather up here recently, though thankfully nothing quite as wild as at the beginning of the year, but it's rather hampered my desire to go out and take nice photos. Though with all the leaves turning brown and gold, and Autumn well and truly underway I'm hoping to be able to get out and take some nice pictures when we get a bit of a dry spell. I love Autumn colours!

Day 259: Fresh Apple Pie
Doesn't that photo just make your mouth water. This was an apple pie baked by a local lady - she does them to order at a very reasonable price. My in-laws' started getting them as a treat for pudding on a Sunday and when we couldn't manage it all, we brought some home. I LOVE apple pie, so it is a treat that has gone down very well with me.

Day 260: End of the Day
I have no idea why this picture is coming up this way round, I've rotated it round on the computer so we'll just have to put it down to some iPhone hinkyness. This is how many of our days end, with Tara collapsed on the bathroom floor while we get ready for showers and things before going to bed. The floor is all wood and she just throws herself down with such a thump. Obviously doesn't hurt though because it's as much a part of the routine now as our having a wash. If there was any way to take a photo of her trying to climb into the bath which didn't risk my camera getting wet, or inappropriate photographic nakedness then I would totally share that too.

Day 261: Getting To Grips With Othello
My OU course officially started yesterday, though I always like to try and get a little bit ahead of the schedule purely because it allows for things like procrastination (my number one enemy), tiredness, family emergencies, power cuts, illness and just plain getting stuck on something and needing to take a little more time to work through it. So I started work almost as soon as the course books arrived.

I have a very particular way of working. I've used the same folder for each OU course (it's a little bit of good luck for me now and so I can't change this late in the game). I write out detailed notes for each bit that I read. I normally start of writing really detailed notes, but gradually work myself down to writing briefer ones. So far I've been finding it all very interesting, and it all seems to make sense too. I hope that's not just lulling me into a false sense of security!

Day 262: Fresh Baked Failure
This is what happens when mid-way through throwing together the ingredients for a loaf of bread you realise that you've not got enough flour. The recipe I use calls for four, we only had three left (due in part to the poor weather and ferry disruption so we weren't able to get off the island for our shopping on the day we had originally planned). A quick flip through the recipe book suggested that three cups of flour could be used for a 1.5lb loaf. I modified the quantities of the other ingredients and we set it going hoping we'd have a small loaf for our soup at teatime.

Well, as you can see, we didn't. Somewhere along the line something didn't quite work out. The white you see at the bottom is flour, the top is totally sunken in and the whole thing weighed about five pounds. We ended up having omelette and sausages for tea instead.

Day 263: Supplies!
Luckily we didn't have to actually eat the bizarre loaf I made, because Mr Click went shopping and filled the kitchen up with all our essentials. He always waits to unpack everything until I'm around so I can see all the goodies he's picked up for us. He never disappoints, there's always something interesting, special or just a little bit yummy tucked away amongst all the regular stuff I put on the list.

Day 264: Pyramid
I love it when Mr Click cleans the bathroom. He always rearranges the stuff on the shelf in there and it's kind of fun to come home and see what he's done with the loo roll (hey, it's the little things that keep me happy). Recently it had been pyramids, but I'm holding out hope for a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower any day now.

Day 265: Add Wine
One of the goodies Mr Click brought home from his shopping expedition was a whole leg of lamb which he roasted following the instructions in the Good Book (AKA Delia Smith's cooking bible). It was very very nice, but he didn't think it necessary to use exactly the quantity of wine suggested by the great chef, so he added some wine to a glass and basted himself while he cooked. I have to say it certainly helped to add to the meal. ;-)

Day 266: Santa Gets Stuffed
I've posted this picture once already, so I've already explained the story behind it. Alas, Santa hasn't progressed a huge amount since this photo was taken because I've had studying to do and I've been good and actually getting it done. So let's all just be amazed that I've only got one hundred days left to go taking photos and so far, so good.

Day 267: Hard At Work
And just in case you doubted the truth in the last paragraph about all the studying I've been doing, look! Photographic evidence! I wasn't making it up at all. Although the course officially started yesterday and I didn't do any work on it then, and it's unlikely that I'll get any done today. Strangely enough, after working all day I find it much easier to get home and throw myself into studying at the moment, than I have done at weekends when I've got pretty much nothing to stop me from getting stuck it. I suppose it's something to do with being in the right frame of mind for it I guess.

Day 268: Making Money
Obligatory book cover photo so I've got something to use when I do my review without having to search the internet for a decent photo to use. I've actually got a review for this book already written because I'm doing the Reading Challenge on HTV and each review is worth 50 points (very good motivator), but it'll maybe be a little while before I get it posted on here because I'm still working through a backlog.

Day 269: Autumn Leaves
For the last week or so I've been desperately hoping to get a good photo of the pretty Autumn leaves all over the place on the Estate. There are some fantastic colours but I've just not been able to get out when it's been dry and daylight at the same time. So I decided that until I did, our living room curtains would be an okay substitute.

Random fact: nothing in our living room (well, the entire house really) matches. We don't have any particular colour-schemes, but thanks to all the colours in these curtains, everything kind of goes together.

Day 270: Just One More Page
I may have mentioned a photo which was taken as a last minute, oops-I-really-need-to-take-a-photo. This may or may not be it.

I can't be the only one who reads like this, lying on one side with the book tilted up so I can see the page. This doesn't always work so well with hardback books (which really hurt if you doze off and bop yourself on the nose with them). I have a funny feeling that this photo was taken while I was trying to read the last hundred or so pages despite it being late already and having to get up early the next morning, because it was Making Money and I hate going to bed with an unfinished Terry Pratchett book.

Day 271: Strike A Pose
And finally one of Tara being cute while we were getting ready to take her out for a walk. I'm not sure what it was that she was sniffing at but it wouldn't surprise me if she was just posing for the camera. When she's not being a silly clown she's quite the little poser.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A little catch up

I've been a little bit quiet here this week because my in-laws weren't well at the weekend so we gave them a quiet day on Sunday. Sunday is normally the day when I get all of the photos off my camera and write out planned blog posts. By rights I could have posted something on Sunday, but I got stuck into knitting my Santa and didn't really do much of anything else that day.

This is Santa shortly after I stuffed and sewed him up. I'm quite impressed with how well he's come together. All of this was knitted in one piece and then you sew him up, stuff him, and sew the last bit up. The neck is the best bit of all, you just wove a bit of thread in between the stitches around the neck where the decreases were, pulled it tight and suddenly Santa's head was separate from the rest of his body.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to add his arms on because Tara got excited and knocked my table, splashing lemonade all over Santa's arms. I had to wash them out then couldn't sew them up and stuff them until they were dry. I'm hoping to get some work on that done tonight, just as soon as I've finished getting caught up online.

I've also been getting stuck into my new OU course. It doesn't technically start until this Saturday coming, but what with work (and a school disco, woo hoo, better dig out that old school tie), I thought it better to get stuck in sooner rather than later. I've almost finised the first chapter and I've been quite enjoying studying Othello. It's really good to do the activities in the book, read the discussion and realise that I'm actually on the right track.

Anyway. I'm a little bit behind on book reviews and things. I've got some book tree posts which I'll start listing soon, now that the book tree is pretty much finished, everyone involved should know who picked which book.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Book 65 of 2012: A Game of Thrones

I'm almost up to date with my book reviews now, though I've got a few to post from the book tree books that I've been reading this year. The book tree is due to finish next month, so I'll get those all finished up and posted in the next few weeks.

Last year I watched most of the TV series of A Game of Thrones. I really enjoyed what I saw (basically every episode except the last one, because that was when we moved into our new house) and decided that I'd quite like to read the books. I took a look at them in various shops but they're such massive tomes that I realised I'd have to find a space on my shelves for them, so I put off getting them. When I got my Kindle I realised that this would be the perfect series to get on my Kindle, so Mr Click treated me when I passed my OU course. I've got this version: A Game of Thrones: The Story Continues: The complete 5 books (A Song of Ice and Fire) which comprises of all of the published books so far (the first five, in seven volumes).

Of course, my ebook version doesn't have a pretty cover. But it's got lots and lots of books which should keep me going for a while.

For those of you who've not seen the TV series or read the books, A Game of Thrones is the first in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. It's set in a fantasy world and each chapter follows a different character and is told from their point of view. This book mostly follows the relationship between the King in the south of the country with one of his subjects who rules in the North, Ned Stark, (though who isn't king). Originally the land was divided into seven realms which have all gradually pledged allegiance to the king (over many, many years). King Robert took the throne in his youth and a parallel plot follows the exile king and his sister.

During the course of the book one of the Stark children witnesses something which leads to an attempt to assassinate him, meanwhile King Robert asks Ned to be his 'Hand' (sort of second in command) and Ned and his daughters move south. Daenarys (the sister of the exile king) is married off to the leader of tribe; Ned's illegitimate son goes off to be a guard on the Wall. There's so many different strands to the book that describing it as a whole it quite tricky.

I really enjoyed the book. I'd seen most of the events in the TV series and it appears that the TV series stuck quite closely to the book, with the exception of just a few bits (though I'll have to wait to say exactly which bits were different until we get the TV series on blu-ray in November). The last few chapters were all very new to me because although I had a vague idea of what was going to happen, I was lost on the fine details.

I love the Stark family. There's something about them which is quite easy to relate to; they value family and despite their differences, they're quite close. Though I do think that Sansa needed a good slap for most of the book. Among my other favourite characters were Jon Snow (Ned Stark's illegitimate son) and Tyrion Lannister (the Queen's younger brother) who has some of my favourite lines.

In terms of the ebook edition that I read, it was great. I was very grateful that I had a slim 'book' in my bag instead of the big fat copies that I've seen. I do tend to read ebooks slower, and this was the case with A Game of Thrones. It was quite cool to discover that I could download the book onto the Kindle app on my iPhone and so read it on there, then sync it to my Kindle and have it recognise what page I got to. That's very handy for when I'm out somewhere when I can't take my Kindle with me (as was the case when I was on Red Cross duty and ended up sat in the tent with nothing to do in my down-time).

A slight downside is that you can't zoom in on the maps and they're so packed with detail about the places that the Kindle edition just doesn't do them justice. Luckily I was able to find an app (as well as various websites) that display all the same information and it was handy to have that open on my phone when I wanted to double check something, so see who a particular person was.

I did get a little confused about some of the numerous characters and places. Martin has several characters who are named after other characters, or who have names that are similar to other names. Plus there are various 'houses' and places which need to be kept track of. It's useful to have something to refer to to keep track of everyone. There's an Appendix at the back which explains who is who, but when I'm reading, I get a little bit annoyed at flicking back and forth and like to be able to compare side-by-side. Again, my phone came in handy here, though I was worried about catching a spoiler when I was looking at some of the sites I found so tried to stick to Wikis that would be spoiler-free.

I've really enjoyed getting into this series. I'm trying to pace myself with it to keep it lasting a little bit longer, but almost as soon as I finished this one I moved on to A Clash of Kings. I'm really looking forward to seeing the TV series again now, though we've just started watching All Creatures Great and Small so it's unlikely to be on the cards until the beginning of next year now.

""... My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind... and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." Tyrion tapped the leather cover of the book. "That's why I read so much, Jon Snow.""Page 118

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Band of Brothers

Way back, almost three years ago, Mr Click and I got married and were given some Amazon vouchers to celebrate. Being practical people we put them towards Band of Brothers on blu-ray at my recommendation (I'd seen it once before). It arrived (in a lovely presentation tin), we put it on our bookcase, and never actually seemed to get around to watching it.

Well, we finally got around to it a few weeks back. I'd totally forgotten how much I love this series. It's so well made that you just get sucked into the story. For those of you who aren't familiar with the series it basically follows the guys in 'Easy Company', an American Paratrooper regiment during the Second World War, beginning with their training. It's only ten episodes long and we managed to watch it within a fortnight (pretty much one episode a night on weeknights for two weeks); each episode runs to about an hour long with two running slightly longer than the rest.

Each episode is like a full on war movie, it's produced by Steven Spielburg and Tom Hanks, so I suppose it's to be expected really. It's brutal and violent and there's no softening of the realities of war. You get attached to a character only to lose them midway through the series, or see them fall apart as one by one their friends die.

What gives it so much impact is that at the beginning of each episode there are a few words from a few old guys. They talk about what life was actually like during the war, what their part in it was; it's quite heartbreaking watching them tear up as they remember fallen comrades and the awful things they experienced as young men. Because these aren't just 'a few old guys', they're the real people who experienced the events in that episode.

It's made even more effective by the fact that they don't actually name these men. You come to realise that they are the people you're seeing played by actors but you don't know which ones they are. You know who they aren't based on who survives certain episodes but it's not revealled who they actually are until the very end of the series. In some respects it's nice to see that they made it through, they survived and they went on to live, comparatively, normal lives. On the other hand, something about it made my chest hurt, watching these men talk about what they went through and seeing them as old men talking about their grandchildren, realising that so many didn't come home to have the same experiences.

Of all of the episodes two stand out as my favourites. The first is the very first episode 'Currahee' which follows the training of the group and their preparations for D-Day. It shows how they come together to form a proper team. I especially like a bit where one of the men is sent off to run alone and a group of other men from Easy Company run up alongside him to help him keep going.

The other episode which sticks in my mind is the penultimate one, 'Why We Fight'. It's mostly told in flashback and it's really powerful. I dare anyone to try and watch it without wanting to shed a tear. The company come across a concentration camp, totally harrowing, as they liberate the camp and try to provide food and support for the men abandoned there, then realise that they'll have to return them to the camp until they have somewhere to send them. It's something that I struggle to comprehend, just understanding how people could do that to one another.

I wish that something like this had been out when I was studying World War II at school. It was a really good way to show the human aspect of the war; what the men themselves went through. While I'm aware of various historical inaccuracies, on the whole I think it was well researched and I'm quite keen to read the books that helped to inspire it.

"I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?"
Grandpa said, "No... but I served in a company of heroes".

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Project 365+1: Days 246 - 258

As I was hanging with a cold last week and in no fit state to leave the house I didn't get a chance to upload all my photos so here's another batch for the last two weeks. Unfortunately they're mostly phone photos (and there's a lot of knitting pictures) because I've been both poorly and tired (and my fancy camera needs a good charging).

Day 246: Box of Goodies
I got a nice little surprise when I came home from work to find a box sitting on the doorstep. I'd been expecting it, so it wasn't as big a surprise as it could have been, luckily I'd realised it was on the way so I got all my required reading books ordered. It was a bit like Christmas when the big box of goodies from the OU arrives, I had great fun opening it up and looking at all of the books I'll probably come to be very annoyed with by the time my exam is drawing near.

That one on top is the first of three course books, but hidden under the brown paper on the right is also a fiction book and a DVD. These books aren't quite as nice as the ones I had for my linguistics courses, not as many pictures, hehe, but it's been good fun getting stuck in in preparation for when the course begins at the end of the month.

247: Cowgirl
As part of the STV Scotland's Biggest Tea Party, we had a tea party at work. Of course we had to get dressed up for the occasion so everyone in my team decided to go the easy route and dress up as cowboys/cowgirls. This is possibly one of the easiest costumes to put together: checked shirt (stolen from my husband, so new he hadn't even worn it yet), jeans, boots, cowboy hat (I have no idea where that one came from, I think it just materialised in the cupboard one day). I actually left the hat in the car that morning, and it's been so long since I've worn three inch heels that walking was a little bit tricky, but we had nice cake and raised lots of money so it was a very good day.

248: Ray of Light
Now that the evenings have started drawing in (and Summer has decided it's just not worth the effort anymore), walking Tara is becoming a little difficult because you can't always see where you're going. Plus we live on a big old estate with a Gothic mansion which is illuminated at night so you can just make it out through the trees being all old and creepy; it's really just a matter of time before we're attacked by a vampire or werewolf.

So Mr Click decided to solve this problem by buying some supernatural creature repellant torches. After the problems we had at the beginning of the year (read: not having power for five days) we decided to go with some wind-up ones which we don't have to worry about having batteries for. They're definitely a success, though I'm still a little bit chicken about going outside in the dark.

249: And So It Begins
Here is photographic evidence that I've started work on my OU course a little bit in advance of when I'm supposed to. In truth I had to stop shortly after this point because I couldn't go any further without having read Othello (which I finished this morning, yay! Time for more notemaking). I like to make really detailed notes when I'm studying, so I can take everything in and it makes it easier to go back and find useful points. So far, so good, there's not been anything I've not understood yet.

250: More Supplies
I've been getting quite close to the end of the Terry Pratchett Discworld book series, so I've been organising books to take their place on the bookcase. Well, as we were off the island and wandering around charity shops I decided to treat myself to some books to keep the shelves from looking too empty.

The first of the books is written by Christopher Timothy about making the 'All Creatures Great and Small' TV series. As we've just started rewatching the DVDs of this, I thought it would be interesting to read at the end. Next is a study guide for Othello, bought just in case I need a little bit more help making sense of the text. Then a new series from Kathy Reichs which I've been looking out for since last year. And lastly a book to keep the little linguistic geek in me happy; it got mixed reviews from people on my course last year but I like the sound of it so I'm going to devote a section of my reorganised bookshelf to books about language.

251: Sometimes You Need A Cuddle
Mr Click hates this photo, so ignore his weird expression (seriously, this was the best of four) and just enjoy the cute labrador all snuggled up on the sofa she's not allowed on. I'm much stricter than Mr Click and rarely allow her up on the furniture...

Day 252: Get Comfy
... well, sometimes.

Day 253: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!
Having been unsuccessful in my attempts to knit an elephant, I came across this lovely knitting pattern book filled with really simple patterns for toys. I've been in a bit of a knitting funk this year. I like things that knit up quickly but which aren't too repetitive, but which are easy enough that you can read or watch TV while you're doing them. My last project required a lot of attention on the lacework and got a little bit tedious.

Plus I've got loads of wool that needs to be used up, but seldom have exactly the required sort or quantity that I need for half the projects I want to try. I'd considered just knitting up a bunch of random socks to use it all up, but then I decided cuddly toys might be a bit more fun. And they are, this is Santa's boots, trousers and part of his body (I've very nearly finished him now). He's been nice and quick to knit up and, incredibly, I had all the colours I needed. I was anticipating him taking a while I knit up, hence starting him in September, but I think I'm going to look out some more similar patterns and make a bunch of Christmas decorations in the run up to Christmas.

Day 254: So That's Where I Left It
The other morning I was getting ready to go to work, and running spectacularly late on account of not being organised the night before. I knew I would be going to my in-laws' house after work so spent much of the time that I should have spent getting dressed organising my knitting stuff to take with me (for Father Christmas, remember).

That evening I sat down to dig out my knitting and discovered I was a ball of red wool short. I tentatively knit a few rows worrying the whole time that I was going to run out and have to give up because I'd not brought a spare ball with me. When I mentioned this to Mr Click he responded with "oh, I was wondering why there was a ball of wool in the bathroom".

Apparently, when he'd been home earlier in the day he'd spotted a random ball of wool behind the toilet and had wondered whether the spare bedroom had suddenly become too small to hold my vast wool collection so I'd started on the shelf in in the bathroom. I informed him that, just for the record, if he ever finds a ball of wool in the bathroom he should bring it with him because I've probably forgotten to put it in my bag.

Day 255: Butterfly Bag
Roughly once a year I replace my everyday shoulder bag with a slightly less battered and worn out shoulder bag. These are usually charity shop acquisitions and so sometimes are already a bit battered when they come to me (a situation that does not improve with my use). I'd made a noise about having to get a new bag as my green one is shedding sequins and sparkly bits, but hadn't as yet found anything that would be suitable.

Luckily my Mum-in-law was on the case and found this lovely little thing. It's a bit smaller than my last one but big enough for a paperback, my book journal and purse, along with other little essentials. And it's got butterflies on it, which I love so all in all, very good find, Mum.

Day 256: Othello
This is an 'Oops, I'm in bed and I've not taken a photo yet' photo, though it does a good job of showing the annoying formatting in the copy of Othello that I had to read. I've also just noticed that the angle it was taken at makes it looks like two of the legs have fallen off our wardrobe; rest assured that's not the case, I just don't happen to be very good at taking one handed photos on my iPhone.

Day 257: Return of the Halti
Tara's gradually gotten better at walking on the lead. The metal chain certainly helped, but recently she's gotten really pully again and on the advice of a friend from work, we got a Halti. And it was incredible! Suddenly Tara was walking to heel, she virtually stopped pulling, our two walks were nice and relaxing and I didn't feel like I was trying to correct her behaviour the whole time. It was perfect.

Until the next morning when the Halti was left in a bag where Tara could get at it and she decided to eat the damn thing, rendering it completely useless. Actually, she didn't eat the whole thing, mostly just the clasp as you can kind of see in the picture above. I love the look of fear and worry on her face in the picture, just a fraction of a second after I took this picture she tried to have another chop on it!

But rest assured, we've had the last laugh. Mr Click ordered a new Halti and she's back to walking nicely on the lead again. And we're keeping this one well out of her reach!

Day 258: Skinny Santa
And this is where I stand with Santa at the moment. He's going to need a hand this Christmas, and a lot of stuffing, but he's coming together quite nicely. I'm sure he'll look a lot better once he's got his nice white trimming on his cuffs, oh, and a hat, and a beard, and a face...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Book 63 of 2012: The Hungry Ghost Festival

Isn't it always the way? You wait around for your friend to write a book for ages and ages, and then two come along at once!

Earlier this year my friend Jen had her first book published, the very funny Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops. Just recently (well, during the summer) The Rialto published Jen's first poetry collection. I actually got it way back when it was published, and read it a month ago, but I'm a little bit behind.

The Hungry Ghost Festival (available to order on Jen's blog) is a lovely little collection of poems focusing on life in the North East and the journey through adolescence. The title comes from a traditional Chinese festival and there's a slightly fantastical element to some of poems.

I've been familiar with Jen's poetry for a while now. I've known her for about five years now and I've enjoyed the little teasers of her writing that she's shared on HTV and on her blog. But this was all new to me. I used to be a huge poetry fan as a youngster, but as I've gotten older I've not read quite so much. What I have read has largely been as a result of Jen (either directly or indirectly); she's organised Poetry Trees where a group of us have shared copies of our favourite poetry books, as well as just recommending poems and poets (and offering to send out copies of books that she's loved).

With the poems in The Hungry Ghost Festival there's a real story behind each one. Each poem gives you a little snapshot into the scene or events you're witnessing and odd little lines make you realise that there's a whole backstory to whatever you're reading. I like that, I read the book twice (once for the first read and then once more while I went through looking for my favourite quotes) and I found myself imagining what what going on behind the poem. Jen posted a really interesting blog post about her inspirations which you can find here - I loved reading that post after I read the book.

I got the impression reading the collection that there's a lot of Jen packed into these pages. The poems come across as being very personal, which is clear when you read Jen's blog post about her inspirations. I think it's so brave to publish something which has so much of herself in it. I'm glad that I read through it twice because I think there were things I didn't full appreciate on the first read-through; poetry is like that, it needs a bit of time to percolate through your mind.

I couldn't possibly pick just one favourite poem because I like different poems in the collection for different reasons and in different ways. Among my favourites are 'Kitchen', 'Memories Of Your Sister In A Full-Body Wetsuit' and 'Lobster Girl'; my absolute absolute favourite is 'Ullambana', dedicated to her Poppa, I challenge anyone to read it without feeling their chest go all tight.

"For you I signed a form to place my brain in a jar when I'm
done with it. They will lift it from my skull and see you."Page 27

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Interesting Stats

Took a peek at my stats today for the first time in a while, with some interesting results:

Search keywords 11/09/12
The bottom one is, I think, a search leading to my post on my hydrotubation and laparoscopy. I'm really pleased about that one because it gets lots of hits. When I was getting ready to have the op I struggled to find information about what it actually involved so I'm glad that people are finding it and I hope it's useful for them.

The second from the bottom is obviously linking to my review of Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men. The Terry Pratchett review posts tend to get a lot of views as well, I can understand why.

'Christmas bean' is probably linking my my review post on Mr Bean's Christmas that we watched last December, hehe. Those posts still get dozens of pageviews each week. Bizarrely I get a lot of views on The Grinch and Home Alone films from Russia and Germany, I wish I knew the reason for this.

The second from top is probably people who know me googling the blog. Might actually be me when I've accidentally hit the search bar on my iPhone rather than the address bar, hehe.

But it's the top on that gets me.

I have no idea why 'diddly bears in Scotland' is linking to my site, or even why three people have searched for that! It appears to be connected to a YouTube video which is spamming lots of blogs, which is a little bit boring really. But if you have visited today (and aren't a spambot) feel free to leave me a comment explaining exactly what it was you were looking for. ;-)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The blogger can't come to the internet right now...

I'm hanging with a cold right now. Thankfully it's moved out of my ears and nose (to a degree); unfortunately it's moved down onto my chest and throat.

Rather than risk passing it on to someone else, I've spent the day at home. I'd like to say I've spent the day lounging on the sofa, but someone else got there first...

I've been keeping myself occupied watching the special features discs of the Lord of the Rings blu-rays the girls got me for Christmas.

Oh, and knitting a Father Christmas doll... As you do...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book 62 of 2012: The Lord of the Rings

I have a little tradition where, each year for the last eleven or so years, I reread The Lord of the Rings, this year being the twelfth time I’ve read it (my first read was in 2001, so in 2002 I made a point of reading it twice to make it easy to keep track of how many times I’d read it. Me, obsessive compulsive?) I’ve read it in single volume editions, three volume editions (I’m still keeping my eye out for a decent six volume edition); paperback, hardback and now ebook version; I’ve read it in Scotland, England, Finland, Russia and Estonia; and it’s kept me company on many a journey or quiet day at work.

Summer generally heralds my reread time for the book; longer days, more sunlight hours, time off work or holidays. Plus it avoids awkward moments like one December 31st around six or seven years ago when I realised with horror that I was still only halfway through The Return of the King and shut myself in my bedroom until seven o’clock in the evening to finish it before midnight!

I’m a big fan of Tolkien, having read The Hobbit as a six-year-old as well as being a massive fan of The Father Christmas Letters (another book I’ve started a tradition of reading each year, now I have my own copy, right in the run up to Christmas of course). In the last year I’ve read more than a few books about Tolkien and his influences and it was interesting to learn that his degree was in English Language and Literature, the very same degree I’m hoping to acquire in the next couple of years. I also share a fascination with languages and during my first linguistics course became very interested in Old English (in the final exam I chose to write about an Old English text, despite having planned to do the transcription question, and received a Distinction). It makes me wonder whether Tolkien’s writing has had more of an influence on my life that I’ve really realised.

This has the potential to be a very long and rambling book review, so I’ll try not to waffle too much. The Lord of the Rings is easily one of my favourite books. It’s certainly my favourite fantasy book and probably, if I had to choose one book to be marooned with on a desert island, the one I would pick, which maybe explains why I always try to have it in my bag whenever I’m going away somewhere. I have a little bit of a collection of copies of The Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to explain why; I like having all the different covers (except the ones from the films which don’t do much for me because I can be a bit of a cover snob), it’s kind of cool to see how the prices have changed over time (the edition published the year I was born was £4.95, the copy I purchased to take to Russia was £14.99), and because it’s one of those books I read so frequently it’s inclined to get a little bit battered (especially when you’re jamming a single-volume edition into a handbag).

Last year I was trying to set myself a personal record for most books read in the year, and also using a small shoulder bag for work which wasn’t designed for large fantasy tomes, so I read the book in three volumes. I’ve only got one three volume edition, the one I got when I decided to read it after I saw The Fellowship of the Ring. Personally I prefer to read it in the single-volume editions however my copies of these aren’t exactly practical; the oldest is a little older than I am, somewhere in the region of twenty-six, it’s cover has been taped back on twice and it’s looking a little worse for wear; one is a Reader’s Digest edition I have from my Grampy’s book collection, it’s got a lovely red-brown cover with gold lettering, it’s a bit worn too and the paper is very thin; I’ve got an illustrated version which weighs about half a tonne and while the pictures are lovely to look at, it’s not portable at all (but that’s the one I’m going to use when I read it to my kids as a bedtime story!); then there’s the copy I have from when it was first released as a single volume (with practically no appendices) and the copy I bought to take to Russia. I suppose I could have used one of those, but instead I decided to treat myself and spent £13 on an electronic version for my Kindle.

One good thing about reading different versions of the same book is that it seems to make it easier to pick up on things that you’ve overlooked before. You’d think that after having read it so many times and being so familiar with the story I would’ve seen all there was to see, but that’s really not the case at all. A bonus of having the Kindle is that I’m able to highlight the passages that I love so much easier (uh, kind of ended up with 76 pages of notes and highlights at the end of this book, oops), I don’t end up with half a dozen pieces of post-it sticking out of my book or hundreds of little bookmarks threatening to damage the pages.

Each time I read it I seem to find myself focusing on (and loving) different characters and parts of the book. This time around it was the hobbits, specifically Merry, Pippin and Sam. Sam is one of the characters who has grown on me with each reading of the book; I vaguely remember finding him a little bit spineless during my first couple of readings but that’s gradually changed and he’s now easily one of my favourites. I’ve always loved Merry and Pippin for the light-hearted relief that they bring to the events (I’m always slightly surprised when I realise that they weren’t just made like that for the films, ditto for Gimli).

I’ve also come to enjoy more of Tolkien’s poetry and songs now as well. I know that when I first read The Lord of the Rings I had a tendency to skim over most of the songs (with the exception of a handful that appear in the films in one form or another so I could remind myself of the film version rather than the book one). Maybe it’s because I’ve read more about Tolkien (and more of his other works, such as the first books in the Hirstory of Middle-earth series that I read last year); or maybe it’s because I’ve studied a little more poetry and I’ve learnt to appreciate it more; maybe my tastes are changing as I get older. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. Certainly I’ve highlighted at least one or two lines from each poem or song in the book this time around. I was definitely pleased to note the emphasis in alliteration in one or two of the poems/songs as well – Old English poetry relied heavily on alliteration and I think being aware of that, and Tolkien’s background, made me appreciate it more.

In the past I’ve read this book very quickly (as evidenced from my ability to read the whole of Book Six, plus appendices) in the space of about five hours one night), but this time it took me a little bit longer. I think that this was due to a number of factors; I had work (and while my Kindle is perfect for transporting large books to and from work, if we’re having a laugh in the canteen I’m not about to whip out my book no matter how gripping I’m finding it), I also caught a fantastic cold from my lovely husband and that made me feel a bit rotten (I’d say about 90% of my reading time these days is in bed with a couple of hours at night and an hour or so in the morning, with more on weekends) when I’m not well I just want to snuggle up and sleep, never mind reading.

I’ve also noticed that reading electronic copies of books seems to make me go slower. I think it’s because you don’t get a tangible sense of how far through the book you are, or how close to the end of a chapter even. I like the percentage display in the corner of the screen but it’s not quite the same as having a good chunk of book in one hand and another chunk of book in the other. In some ways a Kindle is easier to pick up and put down. When I’m putting a book down I have to mark the page carefully and set it down safely so the bookmark doesn’t fall out. With my Kindle I just turn it off, knowing that when I come back to it I’ll be at the right place (if I’m really wanting to make sure I get to the right place I can even highlight the next paragraph I’m to read and then just unhighlight it when I’m ready to go again).

The maps and family trees weren’t as clear in the Kindle version as in the book versions. I was hoping to be able to zoom in on the maps by making the text size larger, but alas, that’s not the case. In the map showing the whole of Middle-earth it’s quite faint so you online get a very general impression of what the map looks like. It’s be a little bit frustrating if I was reading it for the first time, as it stands I’ve got all my different editions and it wasn’t so difficult to pull out a my illustrated copy if I wanted to have a really close look at the map. I’ve probably read it enough times, and studied the maps for long enough that I could probably draw the map from memory better than a map of the UK. I’ve also got a map book somewhere in the spare bedroom that I inherited from my Grampy that I must remember to dig out and put on the shelf ready for my next reread.

The footnotes were also a little bit of a sticky point. There would be a little asterisk with a line beneath it which was incredibly difficult to hit at times (sometimes I’d make the font size larger to make it a bigger target). Then all of the footnotes were on their own individual pages at the very end of the book. As I’m pedantic and like to read from cover to cover I then had to skip through a bunch of footnotes that I’d read before.

On the whole though, I was very impressed with the quality of the ebook. I suppose because I’ve just been reading free ebooks I’ve gotten used to a slightly cheap/amateurish feel with some of them. This one had a nice front cover and a back cover as well. No obvious errors and it was well formatted. It was also created from the 2005 anniversary edition of the book which meant that it had a new introduction that I’d not read before and the page numbers tied up with the Reader’s Companion that we were given by a family friend several years ago.

I’m really pleased I decided to go with the ebook version this time around (though I’m still considering reading one of my single volume copies for next year’s reread). I’m thinking I’ll probably invest in The Hobbit in ebook format at some point, though maybe not this year as I have a paperback copy in mind for my reread before I see the film, and I’ll certainly get The Silmarillion and possible The History of Middle-earth at some point. Not to replace any copies in my collection, you understand, rather to compliment the ones I have and make reading them a little bit more flexible.

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace – all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.
Page 661

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Book 61 of 2012: Devil Bones

Devil Bones is the eleventh book in Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series; this time Tempe is working in North Carolina where a selection of artefacts hinting at devil worship are found in a basement of house under renovation. In solving the investigation Temperance learns about voodoo, Santeria and devil worship and uses her formidable skills to identify the victims.

This book embodies pretty much what I’ve come to expect from the Temperance Brennan series of novels. The story was gripping, more gripping than others I have read purely because I’ve hit the section of the bookcase where I’m reading books that I’ve never read before. It had a good plot and some interesting cliffhangers and twists, which I always look forward to when I’m picking up one of these books.

However, as usual, it followed the standard formula. Tempe narrates the novel, there’s a healthy smattering of catching up on previous stories and events in Tempe’s life (she’s divorced, she’s got a daughter at university, she’s had an on-and-off relationship with Andrew Ryan, she worked in both North Carolina and Quebec), she conducts the investigation (and may or may not run into problems convincing other members of the team of her beliefs regarding the suspects), she finds herself in mortal peril somewhere in the last few chapters (inevitably being rescued by a police detective she has been working with, bonus points if it’s one that she’s been butting heads with previously, therefore sparking a realisation that she should change her opinion of him, which is usually forgotten by the next time said police detective crops up).

On the one hand, I did enjoy the little nods to previous books. It always makes me smile when I recognise a reference that other readers might not get. I can’t help but feel a little bit smug, plus it’s nice to be reminded of things that have come before. At the same time, it would be nice if each novel didn’t begin with a run-down of the books that have come before it. I realise that there will always be people (who are slightly less anal than I am) who are perfectly content to pick up a story eleven books into a series, but generally speaking I’m sure that people reading this book will have read at least one Tempe Brennan book before. If nothing else, include a prologue at the beginning or an appendix at the end along the lines of ‘Previously in Temperance Brennan’s life…’ so that those of us who are perfectly aware of what Tempe’s relationship with Andrew or Pete can skip those bits and just focus on the story.

Oh, and one other little thing that bugged me. One of the bodies in this story was blatantly frozen and that explained the strange decomposition pattern. If I, with my armchair forensics knowledge, can figure this out, then surely an acclaimed forensic anthropologist such as Tempe Brennan should have had no problems. I was practically yelling at the book as I was reading because it seemed so obvious to me; besides, Tempe has mentioned once or twice (or ten times) before that during winter in Quebec her job slows down because bodies aren’t discovered, but these surface in spring and that’s when she’s needed. So surely this wouldn’t have been her first experience with a body which has been frozen and then thawed out resulting in an abnormal decomposition pattern.

“Switchboard’s lighting up with calls from outraged citizens wanting to know why the cops ain’t rounding up witches and warlocks.”
“Yeah. They think He’d be all for it.”

Page 269

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Project 365+1 (Day 245: The Joy of Socks) & OU

My husband took pity on me (and my holey socks) last week and treated us both to new socks.

They're all funky colours and I've got twelve pairs in total so plenty of opportunities for mixing and matching. Mr Click's aren't in as interesting colours as mine, they're more sensible but still stripey and nice patterns.

The ratties are inheriting all of the holey socks, much to Tara's disgust. They'll make little hammocks and sleeping bags for winter. ;-)

Yesterday I arrived home to find a big box waiting for me from the Open University. It contained this:

So now I'm almost all set for A230, in fact as soon as I unpacked my box and found all these goodies I started making notes.

On Sunday I realised that this had been despatched so I knew it was on its way so I ordered the last six course books I needed. £35 but as it was on books I'm not going to complain. Book-money is always well spent.

Now I'm just waiting for Othello to arrive so I can get properly stuck in. Quite excited now.

Book 60 of 2012: The Donors

I received a free ebook copy of Jeffrey Wilson’s The Donors in exchange for reviewing it. The story follows the mysterious happenings taking place around a hospital where two of the main characters work and where a young boy, Nathan, is being treated following an attack by his mother’s abusive boyfriend; people are missing and the medical staff are being used to harvest their organs.

It was an interesting idea and for the most part I enjoyed the story. I liked the way that the story was told, with each chapter being told through the perspective of a different character. As with many of the review copies of ebooks that I’ve received, it’s not really the sort of book that I would pick up to read myself, but once I started it, I enjoyed it.

In terms of the characters, they all had very distinct voices. Considering the format, with the point of view changing each chapter, this was really important. If I’d put the book down midway through a chapter, I could tell who the main character was as soon as I picked it up. I particularly liked the way that the character of Nathan was handled; he felt like a five-year-old, rather than an author’s attempt to write a five-year-old.

I liked the relationship between the doctor, Jason Gelman, and the nurse, Jenny. The main three characters, Jason, Jenny and Nathan were very well-rounded, however this highlighted the lack of information provided about some of the other characters, specifically the Lizard Men but also Jazz and Steve. The good characters in this book were quite clearly and obviously very good, whereas there were no redeeming qualities in the bad characters. In the case of Jazz and Steve you only really saw them in the dream world where they were being tortured by the Lizard Men, which meant that you didn’t really find out what was going on to them in the real world. One thing which was never made clear for me was where the Lizard Men actually came from and what their actual purpose was. At the end I wasn’t entirely sure where they went as well.

Aside from these little nitpicks it was a really creepy story – it certainly made me feel more than a bit nervous about taking the dog out in the garden late at night, I was on the look out for people with weird creepy eyes. It was a little bit gory in places and some of the descriptions of the torture inflicted on characters such as Jazz and Steve were maybe a little over the top. On the whole it was a good book, ideal for people looking for a bit of horror.

The questions rattled inside him like background noise, rarely rising to a level that demanded attention. When he could provide no answers, they settled stubbornly and pouted like children.
Location 651

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Project 365+1: Days 231 - 244

I've been a very bad blogger this last couple of weeks. Things have been a bit busy here the last couple of weeks and I'm just about caught up now. I can't actually remember why I didn't get around to posting last week, apparently by the time I was finished doing whatever it was I was doing instead of blogging, it was time to go home.

The good news is, I'm all caught up now. I'll apologise for the boring photos I've been taking this week. The weather's not been particularly nice up here (as you'll see below) so I've been avoiding taking my DSLR out, this kind of led to it getting put safely away so I didn't use it at all. Quite a few of these pictures are taken by iPhone (or of iPhones) because I've been a bit lazy.

Day 231: Moo Cow
We've got a bunch of cows on the estate now. My favourite farmyard beastie is probably the sheep, but cows are pretty cool too. The walk to the front gate now passes two fields of cows which are really interested in Tara and so usually walk over to the fence or gate to say hello. Tara's pretty interested in them too.

This little guy came right up to the gate while Mr Click and I were walking Tara one evening. I was kind of hoping to rub his nose, but he wasn't keen on me getting too close. He was also a little bit shy and so it was tricky to get a good photo of him. His friend was a little more photogenic, but iPhones don't photograph pure black cows very well.

Day 232: Wallpapered
Uh, yeah, as I said, lots of photos of iPhones this week. I updated my wallpaper on my iPhone to make Mr Click's graduation picture into my wallpaper and screensaver. One of the funniest things about this is that when I open my 'Social Networking' folder the top of his head seems to open (because the picture divides in two) and Twitter seems to pop out the top of his head, hehe. Apparently I'm easily amused.

Day 233: Rainbow
We've been seeing plenty of these recently, lots and lots of rainbows. Some days the weather has been so changeable it's been hard to decide what to wear out the front door. We've left the house to brilliant sunshine, so warm that you don't need a coat; by the afternoon the wind's gotten up and it's very blowy, and I've been glad to be shut in at work where it's warm and dry; then by the evening it'll be hammering down, usually just in time to make sure we get throroughly drenched during Tara's bedtime walk.

On the plus side, there's lots of pretty rainbows. This one was just the tiniest little smudge of a rainbow, it looked as though it was coming out of one cloud and going into another. As we were driving along Mr Click offered to stop so I could get a photo, I'd told him not to bother, before we came around a corner and I saw this and I decided that actually, I would take a snap of it. It's just a shame I didn't have my fancy camera with me at the time.

Day 234: Birthday Girl
Tara recently turned a year old, so I decided that we needed to have a little photoshoot. I had planned to make a little party hat to stick on her head while she had her picture taken, but I ran out of time to make one, so I grabbed a scarf instead. It was all flowery and festive looking anyway. I tied it in a big bow which Tara was most put out about.

You can practically see the embarrassment in her eyes there, she's thinking 'this picture is going to end up on the internet, isn't it?' Still, I think it's cute. Tara's probably just glad that she only has one birthday a year... just wait until Christmas!

Day 235: Nice and New
Mr Click's new phone showed up, which he was very pleased about, understandably. I was going to take a quick snap of them side by side but there was a bunch of junk of the table and I couldn't be bothered to clear it all away to make room. So here's a very quick picture of his phone in the case he ordered for it and has subsequently changed for a flippy style case that covers the front of the phone as well.

We've been very happy with Vodafone's service. It would have been all set up and ready to go the day after it was received (as he was keeping his number and had to wait for the micro sim to arrive) except we were a little bit too slow to get it set up and their phone line closed at 8pm. They've been really good about getting everything all sorted (though I still have to call up to get their parental control lock thing taken off my phone). Funnily enough I've tended to avoid Vodafone in the past, having been happy with O2 and (later) Tesco Mobile, but they've been so good with getting these phones that they've definitely made a loyal Vodafone customer out of me.

Day 236: Nosy Dog
I'd been trying to get a photo of Tara and one of the ratties nose to nose, but the ratties in question we're so keen on getting their photos taken so always ended up just out of frame (or just out of focus). The rats and the dog are very good with each other. The rats don't generally try to nip at Tara and Tara tends to just lie down and watch what's going on, occasionally sticking her nose up against the cage. Sometimes she woofs at them if she doesn't think they're doing anything interesting, or nudges the cage if she's thinking they should get up.

Sadly we discovered a lump on one of our rats, little (or not so little) Bell. She's had a squishy bit in a little roll of skin by her front left arm but it suddenly became very noticeable. Of course, that happened over the bank holiday weekend, my pets never get ill at convenient times. Bell didn't seem to notice it at all, she was still eating fine, climbing fine, moving fine, so we held off. First chance after the bank holiday we headed to the vet with Bell (and Carol as a travel companion, because she loves to travel and acts as a calming influence on the other three in stressful situations).

Bell got a relatively clean bill of health. The vet declared the lump somewhat squishy and that it was still moving around. She was still healthy, if a little over weight. Carol was declared to be healthy. Right now we're just watching it to see if it gets any bigger or if it starts bothering her. The ratties are also on a bit of a diet because Holly is very fat, Bell is fatty, Carol's not exactly slim and Ivy is about right. They really like breakfast cereal so we've cut back on that and are reducing their treats. They're not exactly impressed with this.

Day 237: A Game of Thrones
This was one of those 'Oops, I'm in bed reading and I've forgotten to take a picture today'. I couldn't be bothered to get up and find something to snap and grabbed a quick photo of my view at that particular moment. I maybe should have turned to a different page before taking the photo; Daenarys in labour doesn't make the prettiest of photos. Also, the lamp didn't provide much light so it's a little bit noisy. That'll teach me.

Day 238: We're Watching You
This is what I meant earlier when I said that the cows came over to the fence to watch us. These cows actually started out virtually at the other end of the field but one by one they followed us along the fence as Tara and I walked past. We stopped so I could take a photo and as we carried on they walked right up to the very far corner of the field and watched us go. Tara kept on pulling back to see them. She's always so excited when we go past this field, I've got to take my camera when the weather is dry so I can get a photo of her reaction to the cows.

Day 239: The Rain, Rain, Rain...
... came down, down, down!

As I may have mentioned before, it's been chucking it down more often than not the last few weeks. This is as close as I could get to a rainy day picture, that's just outside the back lobby, under the porch (so my camera stayed dry). The rain was pouring off the roof, out the gutters; look at those splashes!

There was one day in particular where it didn't stop raining all day, except when we took Tara for walk, then it HAMMERED it down! Without fail, when we left the house it would start raining, getting steadily heavier as we went along. By the time we got home it would be just starting to dry off, as though it was doing it on purpose. Still, there's something about being out in heavy rain that makes hot chocolate taste so much nicer when you get home and dry.

Day 240: Seven Lovely Men
I've been running low on clothes... well, I will when I have a clearout to donate some of the clothes I don't wear any more to charity. Mr Click made a good find during the week though, as you can see above, from one of our local charity shops. It's Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, all sparkly and sequined with the words 'Seven Lovely Men' on it.

It's my kind of colour and just the right length for the style I like. I like tops that don't ride up at the back and this comes right down to cover my bum, which is great. Mr Click also ordered me a bunch of new socks this week as well, which arrived just the very next day. They're all stripey and funky looking; all the same length and perfect for mixing and matching.

Day 241: Morse Code
A couple of years ago I bought the complete set of Colin Dexter's Morse books for Mr Click, he's finally started reading them this year, so of course I've had to read them too. I'll write a proper review for it at some point, but I'll just say here, it's been interesting reading a police/crime book set back in the seventies, seeing how things are different.

Speaking of books, I took part in a reading challenge this summer on HTV. We all enjoyed it so much that we've gone for a year long one this time around. I can't wait, it only started yesterday and I went to bed early (partly to miss all the Doctor Who chatter online) mostly with the intention of reading. I'm on the second Game of Thrones book just now: A Clash of Kings and I'm really enjoying it.

Day 242: Shower time
This is Tara lying on the bathroom floor, probably wondering why I wanted to take a photo of her lying on the bathroom floor. She normally comes up with us when we have a showers after taking her on her last walk. By that time she's usually pretty tired and ready for bed so she just flops wherever she stops. Unfortunately the floor is wooden and she goes down with quite a bang. It's just lucky that we don't live in a flat what with Thunderpaws thumping around everywhere, hehe.

Day 243: Cuddles
We were up and ready to go quite early on Friday because some men came round to put up our washing line. There was lots of drilling and banging going on at the back of the house and Tara was a little bit unsettled by it, so she climbed up onto the sofa with Mr Click for some reassurance.

Of course, when we got her we, and my in-laws, had some rules about dogs on the furniture. Naturally, all these went out the window when we she settled herself in. Now she invites herself up onto the bed in the middle of the night, happily settles on the sofa for a cuddle while we're watching TV and generally breaks all the doggy rules that we'd made up. But when you've got a sleepy, snuggly labrador on your tummy snoring away while she's dreaming, the rules seem kind of silly.

Day 244: Lap Dog
And to end this rather epic photopost (seriously, I was going to do half now and half later in the week but I couldn't decide where the best place to split the post would be so I just kept going, I'm very sorry), here's yet another cute picture of my dog pretending she's really the size of a Yorkshire Terrier.

I love how the fact that she's leaning forward in this picture makes her look much bigger - this is how big she feels when she's on your lap, even though she curls up quite small. Until I got my camera out she was all curled up fast asleep looking cute - Mr Click did not really appreciate her waking up and fidgeting when I startly clicking away. Oops.

Next week I will try to take some more interesting photos, maybe one or two actually outside if the weather improves. I'm also hoping to get lots of reading done to give me a good head start at the reading challenge, might even get some book reviews written and posted as well, so look out for those.