Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Book 45 of 2013: The Secret Life of English - How English Became English by Henry Hitchings

I have a small collection of books about the English language and linguistics in general. I never used to read that many non-fiction books, not since early secondary school at least when I used to get through two Horrible Histories books a night, but since discovering that language and its development fascinates me I can happily read loads of these books.

The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings is one of those books. I picked it up for a pittance in a charity shop way back when I was studying my first OU linguistics course. I dipped into it a couple of times to use in assignments but never actually sat down to read it properly though until this summer.

This book is structured into chapters, titled after a particular word, which then goes on to explain what influenced that word's entrance into the English language along with other words which came about through the same events. It's largely a book about historical events (such as British colonisation) which brought new words into the English language.

I did find this book really interesting. But I can't help but think that it would have worked better if I had dipped into it rather than reading it all in one go. It wasn't really the sort of book that you could properly read from beginning to end. It took me quite a while to get through and I suspect that this was why.

It would have been interesting to learn more about the twenty-first century's contributions to English as most of the book focused on the far past. I suppose that some of the words that were featured took a long time to become properly established in the language so some words which have entered the language recently haven't actually been in use for that long and so might fade away with time.

The very last bit of the book was about more recent words to enter the English language, but I didn't actually recognise many of them. I suppose either they're taking their time to become established, or at the time of writing they seemed like they were going to become new words, but didn't. I guess it's hard to predict which words will stick around and which will disappear into obscurity.

There were notes all the way through the book which you had to look up at the very end. I think notes are always a tricky thing to include in books. There never seems to be a great place to put them. If they're at the end of the book they annoy me because I have to keep flipping from the page I'm on to the end, if they're at the end of the chapter then ditto. What I'd like is for the substantial comments to be down at the bottom of the page that the note is listed on, then any bibliographic information comes at the end of a chapter or at the end of the book (perhaps under headings to show which chapter/page it was referenced on). Of course that probably wouldn't satisfy everyone and despite keeping me happy, I'm sure it would annoy countless other readers.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Knitting Resolutions

I'm not a big fan of New Year Resolutions, though I usually start the year with some things I'd like to do (take more photos, walk more, you get the idea). On Ravelry someone posted asking what Knitting Resolutions people were setting themselves, well, it got me thinking about things I might like to achieve in the coming year.

1. Reorganise stash
I'm usually pretty good about buying yarn just as and when I'm needing it. This year my husband treated me to three balls of variegated wool which I didn't necessarily need but which I thought were pretty. I did however need the numerous 500g balls of wool I bought for making his Temperature Scarf. Of course I didn't use all 500g worth of yarn in that project so now I have a fair bit of yarn just waiting for me to get through it.

I store my stash in an 80l tub in a cupboard and then in a 30l knitting bag (in whichever room I'm doing the most knitting at any one time). Due to the aforementioned four or five giant balls of yarn this space has become a bit tight, so now I've got an extra carrier bag which is stuffed with wool as well. This isn't the best way to store things so I'm hoping to either do a lot of knitting to run down some of these supplies, or sort through what I have and donate some of it to people who will use it (to make more room for the stuff I actually want).

2. Try to learn something new from each pattern I try
It doesn’t have to be a big lesson, maybe just which yarns I shouldn’t use in the future, but I’ve recently knit a proper sock for the first time and have got to grips with magic loop, picking up stitches and Kitchener stitch in a very short space of time. I’ve really enjoyed stretching myself and it’s opened the door for more patterns that I’ve previously avoided; I want everything I knit to make me feel this way!

3. Buy the Beekeeper's Quilt Pattern
This relates to the point above. I always loved the idea but put it off because of the need for DPNs, now I’ve got the hang of magic loop that shouldn’t be a problem so I’d really like to try it now because it looks like the sort of thing I could take to work to keep from snacking in my breaks.

Ironically, after posting this as one of my resolutions, as part of a Random Act of Kindness, someone treated me to the pattern. Now I can't wait to get it started. Normally I try to stick to one project at a time, but I'm coming to realise that having more than one thing on the go at a time isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it's nice to have something you can work on a little bit at a time, and then go to something simpler which you can do when you want some mindless knitting.

4. Keep adding to my knitting library & actually knit things from these books!
I really enjoy knitting Jean Greenhowe's patterns so I've developed a habit of sticking almost exclusively to her booklets. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s fun to try new things so that’s what I want to do.

After Christmas I bought myself four new knitting pattern books, one of which is a toy knitting book but which requires patterns to be knit in the round (I wanted it for ages but figured I'd never be able to do it). I also collect vintage knitting books and I really have to stop neglecting those, it can be time consuming modifying the patterns into modern terminology but what’s the point in collecting them if I’m not going to use them?!

5. Play with more variegated yarn
This year I’ve discovered a love for variegated yarn and I want to do more with it in the new year. I mainly make toys and I think this will be a good way to break from following the pattern instructions for the colours and learning to just go wild. Sooner or later this’ll probably help me to learn an important lesson about colour (see point 2).

6. Ask for more knitting-related gifts
I’ve really gotten into knitting in a big way this year but only asked for knitting related gifts for Christmas as an afterthought. When people ask me what I want this year I want to ask for things that will be useful for my hobby, from storage supplies to needles. That'll help me to resist the urge to go crazy buying stuff for myself!

Do you have a particular hobby that you're setting New Year's Resolutions for?

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Project 52: Get Knitted

This year has been, without a doubt, the year of the knitting needles. I first taught myself to knit in January almost six years ago now and since then I've found myself spending more and more time working on projects. It's probably overtaken reading as one of my main pasttimes (mainly because you can sit and knit a lot more easily than you can sit and read, and you don't look like you're being quite as antisocial).

But since last year I've gotten a lot more into knitting than I was previously. I've started spending more time on Ravelry (I'm Caitak over there) and that seems to have sparked my enthusiasm. Just as I hate to be without a book, I now hate to have nothing on my needles).

I like to think that I've improved as well.

This is my latest project, hot off the needles yesterday.

It seems like there's a sort of divide in the knitting world (well, there are quite a few divides, but this is on of them); those who knit socks, and those who don't. I've always been one of those who don't. Well, there was an attempt many many moons ago, but I only made one sock and never actually sewed it up.

This is part of a pair that I knitted from the top down, in the round, using the magic loop method, and along the way taught myself how to pick up stitches and use Kitchener stitch to graft the toe together. For non-knitters that's probably all a bunch of gobble-de-gook but basically it means I started at the cuff and worked down to the toe; I knitted it all in one piece without having to sew up a seam; I didn't use double pointed needles but instead a really long cable with a needle at each end and slid the stitches around as I worked on them; I added extra stitches by 'picking them up' from the side of my work; and I used a special way of finishing which involves knitting together stitches with a sewing needle.

It does sound kind of complicated and that's why I've put off learning to do socks for so long, but now that I've done it, well, they're actually quite easy. I'm quite looking forward to trying more in the future... well, once I've tried some of the other things that are in my queue to make.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Film Review: The Secret of NIMH

When The Lord of the Rings films came out I was quite pleased to find that I'd been a fan of Peter Jackson as a director since before it became fashionable to be a fan of his work, having loved The Frighteners since I was about eleven or twelve (even though it scared the bejeezus out of me).

Since then I've discovered that I actually had very particular tastes in my directors from an early age. One day while listing favourite animated films from when I was a child I realised that a substantial chunk of those animated films were directed by Don Bluth. This Christmas I asked Mr Click for any Don Bluth films he could find, and he came through magnificently.

On Christmas Day night we watched The Secret of NIMH, which is based on the book Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. The film was made in 1982, Don Bluth's first film after leaving Disney. It was such a huge gamble that actually saw the lead filmmakers mortgaging their homes to provide funds for production. It made a modest $14 million (after costing the relatively small $7 million to make) but paved the way for Bluth's later films An American Tale, Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven.

The Secret of NIMH follows Mrs Brisby (renamed for the film to avoid any legal conflicts with Frisbee toys) as she tries to help save her poorly young son Timothy. He has contracted pneumonia and cannot be moved from their winter home in a brick situated in a farmer's field; however the farmer is preparing to plough the field and her son will almost certainly be killed if he remains. Acting on the advice of an owl, Mrs Brisby goes to visit the strange rats who live below a rose bush on the farm, learning something unexpected about her deceased husband and proving that she will do anything for her children.

It's a lot darker than the cover above would suggest. The original film poster is a lot more fitting for the story, in fact some die-hard fans apparently print this off and use it to replace the DVD cover. As much as I like the poster, I'm not quite going to go that far (I do like it though, the Great Owl reminds me of Gandalf).

I used to have this on DVD and I watched it a lot as a child so I'm very familiar with the story. I also read the book within the last couple of years so the story was still fresh in my mind. Having read the book more recently than having watched the film there were a couple of places where things happened differently to what I was expecting because I'd forgotten the changes between the book and the film.

The animation in this film is absolutely beautiful. The backgrounds are totally stunning and the way the characters are animated is perfect. Of course all the animals are anthropomorphised but the mice are mouse-ish and the rats are rattish. Being a big rat lover I really enjoy watching this film for these rats alone. I couldn't help but notice that perhaps our Carol-rat was related to those NIMH rats; except she didn't need a sign telling her how to open the cage, she figured it out all on her own!

I know that this is a film I'm going to want to watch over and over again. Despite the Disneyfied cover, it probably wouldn't suit a lot of young children, there's a scene where a rat is crushed to death as well as several mice falling to an uncomfortable end. Like Watership Down it's given a U rating when it probably would've been better suited to being a PG, but it's definitely a film that adults can enjoy without feeling like they're watching a children's film.

Now I'm really looking forward to rewatching An American Tail and All Dogs Go To Heaven (even though the latter of those will almost certainly make me want to cry!).

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Time For Receiving

And of course another fun part of Christmas is people giving you gifts. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy getting presents. I really do. I didn't realise just how much I'd received until I laid them all out on the bed to take this photo yesterday morning.

Pictured above are all the presents that were given to Mr Click and I (apart from the ones I gave him, I posted a photo of those yesterday). The only thing not shown up there is my Secret Santa gift from work (a Wonder Woman mug with matching socks, those were in the wash because I'd worn them the day before, and a little cat shaped phone screen cleaner).

The day started with opening stockings. Too big to fit inside was the big cuddly dog on the right. I've named him Cracker and he's just like another (slightly larger) cuddly dog Mr Click bought me a few years ago. Tara was very jealous of this dog being allowed on the bed when she wasn't!

My stocking is the pink and black thing underneath the goodies at the bottom of the photo, amazingly Mr Click had managed to squeeze that big book into it. It's a copy of Jean Greenhowe's Knitted Toys which was originally published the year I was born. I've wanted it for ages and I can't wait to get started on knitting some of the toys from it. It's a bit hard to make out from the photo but on the book is also a little blue net bag with some handmade stitch markers in it. Just what I need since I'm always using scrappy bits of wool!

I also got a massive stash of Wonka goodies. I've not had Nerds for years, I always used to get 50p sweet money each week and would buy myself two packs of Nerds back when you got three flavours in a box and they were 25p each. The Wonka bar is becoming a bit of tradition now, it'll be set aside somewhere safe until we watch Charlie/Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory again which is when I like to chow down on the bar.

I also got a whole bunch of films. I'd asked for Don Bluth films since I lost all mine in the move. I got The Secret of N.I.M.H., An American Tale, and All Dogs Go To Heaven (which I've not seen for years because I never had a copy of that). Mr Click always gets me Disney animated films and I get him the Disney Pixar ones to avoid duplicates, this year didn't disappoint, I got The Jungle Book and Peter Pan (which is convenient because that's what I'm studying at the moment).

There was also underwear (woo hoo!) and long socks (because most of mine have worn through and are slowly being binned). The socks are lovely and stretchy, stripy and come right up to my knees which makes them perfect. And I got a beautiful locket with butterflies on it. I'm going to print out some nice photos to put in it soon.

My main presents from Mr Click were The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition. I've been waiting for this to come out pretty much since we saw it in the cinema last January. This edition has a 3D holographic cover so if we ever get a 3D TV/Blu-ray player I'm prepared. I can't wait to devote nine hours of my life to watching all the special features!

I also got a box set of the X-Men films. I've not watched the originals for so long. I always used to watch them with my brother on the 30th of November while we waited for the Christmas music channel to go live. I've not even seen X-Men First Class yet so I'm going to have to have an X-Men marathon at some point soon.

And then the main gift from Mr Click was the complete series of Criminal Minds. It's a series that I've known of for years but never got around to watching. Of course I knew it as 'that series with the guy from Dharma and Greg and the guy from Dead Like Me', but it's right up my street. We've spent the best part of this year watching E.R. so it'll be good to go back to watching a good crime series. I don't think it'll be too long before I'm hunting out Criminal Minds fanfic (as well as trying to track down the old X-Men RPG I used to be active in when I was at uni).

I also had a nice tin of chocolate biscuits, from my work's Christmas night out (there's a tin of Roses from work as well, that's not pictured because it wasn't wrapped up and we've eaten almost all of them apart from the caramel, orange and strawberry ones). A family friend gave us some other fancy biscuits with a posh jar of honey. And the two pairs of trainers at the top came from my in-laws. I've needed new trainers for ages but I'm awkward to find trainers in the right size. Since we've got Tara we get through trainers like nobody's business so these are good sturdy ones which will hopefully last a good long while.

As you can see from all that I've been thoroughly spoiled. It's really hard to pick just one favourite; the trainers are fantastic so comfy and have really good grips on so will be perfect for the winter weather (plus the last pair I had from this brand lasted about four or five years). The locket is beautiful, Cracker is really cuddly, the films will bring me hours of entertainment, and the knitting book will keep me going in knitting projects for years to come. And you can never have too many socks.

Hope you've all had a really good Christmas holiday. What are some of your favourite things that you've received?

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A Time For Giving

One of the things I enjoy about Christmas is looking around for presents for special people and trying to find things which I know they'll enjoy.

This year I think I did a particularly good job of present finding. Pictured below are the presents for Mr Click and Tara, not included in this photo are the gifts I gave to my work Secret Santa, my in-laws and a couple of other people (because I gave them away and so didn't have photos of them this morning).

The stocking was filled with the traditional treats; a Terry's Chocolate Orange, some chocolate coins and a chocolate Santa. There was also a little cuddly penguin (on the right hand side of the photo) who sings 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' (it was the least annoying of all the singing cuddlies I could find. The stocking included some socks and slipper socks and also some blu-rays (E.T. and Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Too big to fit in the stocking were a set of books featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, his wife, by Laurie King. Mr Click spotted those in The Book People catalogue a few months back and they've been sitting in a box on top of my wardrobe ever since.

The main presents were another set of books which he'd also mentioned liking the look of, The Two Ronnies Complete Collection on DVD (I'd wanted to get him the Columbo box set but it briefly came down to £30 before shooting up to £50 where is stayed until the week before Christmas, by which point I'd already decided to go with The Two Ronnies instead).

The very top present was the Morphy Richards slow cooker. We'd mentioned getting one at the beginning of the year and I suggested we get it in the Autumn. Then I found that one and had to come up with the lame excuse of waiting until the January sales to put off Mr Click from buying another one! I also found a really good recipe book to go with it; so many of them had really fancy foods which would be fine for a dinner party but weren't really things you'd have for tea on a regular day. After a lot of searching I found the one pictured on top of the box, it's got all normal sorts of meals like chicken noodle soup and beef casseroles which are the kinds of things we both like to eat.

And then to the left of the photo were our presents for Tara. There was the traditional doggy stocking, we learned last year that if we gave Tara something from her stocking while we open ours it helps to keep her occupied and less interested in what we're up to. This stocking had a big green Christmas tree chew, which had an interesting effect on Tara's morning deposit today! I was a little bit worried until I remembered what might've caused it.

The big red thing is a Kong Wobbler. I was most excited about giving her this present. It's basically a giant size version of the black Kong toy she already has (one at home and one at my in-laws'), which is made out of thick plastic. The top unscrews and you can fill it with treats. There's a small hole in the side and when it's knocked over in a certain direction the treat falls out. It's weighted like a Weeble so when it's knocked over it springs back upright again.

Tara figured it out pretty much straight away and it brought us all a lot of entertainment value watching her play with it on Christmas Day. I'm hoping to get a video of her playing with it at some point soon.

What were some of your favourite gifts to give this year?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

Hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas Day and that Santa has been good to you all!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Four Years Ago Today

Let me tell you a little story that happened four years ago today.

It was 2009 and Mr Click and I had realised that we could actually get married in the December that was fast approaching. I'd always loved the idea of a winter weather, especially in December because Christmas is my favourite time of the year.

I thought the 21st of December seemed like a good choice (shortest day, longest night) but when we realised that this was a Monday, and the registry office was closed for weddings on Mondays because of court sessions taking place there then, we had to reconsider.

I wanted the date to be memorable, beyond being our wedding day, so the next option was the 16th of December; Mr Click's birthday. While we were talking about it we half joked that Christmas Eve would be pretty memorable too but never imagined for one minute that it would actually be an option.

I made the call to the registry office and they said 'when were you thinking?' Joking I replied 'Christmas Eve' to which they said 'how does 11am suit you?' And so that's when we got married.

And it was definitely a memorable day. Not least because for several days before there was a lot of snow and roads closed due to ice. The day before the wedding we kept trying to call the registry office to see if it could go ahead. Little did we know that they'd actually closed up for the Christmas holiday and only went back on Christmas Eve purely to marry us! The staff did a fantastic job and we'll always be grateful to them for that.

It was a lovely white wedding, in as much as there was still a pretty layer of snow blanketing the ground; my dress was a deep red with hints of purple. It wasn't a massive fancy affair, but it was perfect for us and just what we wanted.

So Happy Anniversary Mr Click, here's to all the rest!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Early Spring Cleaning

I've been thinking that I need to have a clear out of the blogs that I follow for a little while, but this Sunday I finally sat down and actually did it.

A couple of months ago I found I was spending less time online and so this caused me to fall somewhat behind in the blogs I was reading. I kept on trying to get caught up with what was going on with everyone but it was a bit tricky, mainly because I was following so many people. Granted, not every one of the 100 or so blogs was posting every day, but it was enough that if even half of them posted each day I had a lot of reading to do.

I added a lot of blogs during the A to Z Challenge, mainly because I found their A to Z posts interesting. Since then I've been whittling some away because aside from what they chose to write about during the month of April I don't have much in common with them.

I also added a lot of blogs when we were going through the IVF. Those blogs now fall into one of two categories; pregnancy blogs for the people who were successful or unsuccessful IVF blogs for those who weren't. As happy as I am for those people who are now expecting their miracle babies, it kind of bums me out when I go online first thing in the morning to see posts about their latest scan or the cute outfit they've picked out for baby-to-be. By the same token I can deeply sympathise with those who were unsuccessful but it's just as hard to read about how they're preparing for the next cycle, or for life without children. So I've stopped following those blogs until I'm ready to start reading them again.

So now I'm down to a rather more manageable fifty-eight blogs that I'm following. Some of those aren't really updated any more, but I'm keeping them there so that I'll know if they are in the future. Of course I'm going to be adding to this number, I don't have nearly enough blogs about knitting in my list, so I'll get those added as I find them, but I think this is better for me to keep track of. Hopefully I'll actually have time to reply to some of the posts I read as well now!

How do you keep track of which blogs you follow? Do you set a limit or do you have a regular cull to keep things tidy?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Project 52: Sock It To 'Em

Please excuse the crappy iPhone photo for this week's Project 52 post. Also ignore the random subject, background and staging. Photo awards, this one isn't going to win any!

I feel like I've grown as a knitter this year. I've enjoyed knitting for around five years now, but I've tended to stick to safe things and not stray out of my comfort zone too much. This meant mainly knitting hats, scarves and starting lots of other projects but not finishing them.

Then the toys came along and suddenly I was able to make things that not only looked good, but that didn't matter so much if they had mistakes in because it just added to their character. I've learnt a lot of new techniques whilst learning to knit toys.

But I've also found myself looking at some of the other things people knit and feeling a little bit jealous because I want to knit pretty things like those too. One of those things was socks which I've always put off because double-pointed needles and I do not get along. But I've been reading more and more about this thing called Magic Loop.

And here's the result so far:

Now I don't know about you, but I'm insanely impressed with what I've got so far! This sock has taught me several new techniques, not least of them being Magic Loop (which basically involves using one long needle to do the job of four or five double-pointed ones) but also I've mastered picking up stitches (with black wool, no less!) something which I've previously avoided like the plague, and hopefully in the not too distant future I'll be getting to grips with kitchenering, which fingers crossed will be less painful than it sounds.

Ironically Magic Loop knitting isn't as new to me as I thought it was. I kind of figured it out all by myself when I'd only been knitting for a few months, was making a toy in the round and had decreased to the point that I should have switched to DPNs but didn't have any. It was sort of cobbled together and one of my circular needles hasn't been the same since. This way is much better.

And I'm getting to use some awesome stripy wool with this, it's called Paintbox and it's really pretty but would probably look a bit weird if it was the main colour of a hat or something. This way as well the socks will match but not be totally identical, so perfect for me.

Hopefully the second sock will be rustled up fairly quickly and this can be my first finished project of 2014!

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Christmas Tag

My friend Mark from Random Ramblings was tagged in this Christmas Tag just over a week ago. Being a generous sort of guy he tagged me in too. As Christmas is my favourite time of year, this was right up my street!

Do you prefer a real Christmas tree or synthetic?
I've only ever had a real Christmas tree twice.
Once when I was twelve I went to America to spend Christmas with my uncle and his family out there. They actually had to get two because the weather was really hot and the first one died!
When I was in Sixth Year we acquired a real tree for the common room. After two weeks off school that thing lost its nice piney scent and just stank. And we were finding pine needles all over the place right up until we left that summer!
I prefer synthetic personally. It's nice and tidy and at the end of the season you can pack it away ready for next year. We technically have two real Christmas trees but they live just outside our front door. This year Mr Click picked up some lights for them so I guess they count as Christmas trees too.
You're in a coffee shop, it's December, what do you pick up?
I'm not a coffee drinker although I love the smell of it, especially the fancy ones you get at this time of year. I'm more of a hot chocolate fan.
I like my hot chocolate in coffee shops the same way all year round, the fancier the better. Lots of whipped cream, maybe some marshmallows, a gingerbread biscuit. When I was in Edinburgh the other week I had one with caramel and that was pretty yummy. I could definitely go for another one of them!
What's your favourite colour scheme for decorating the tree?
When we moved into our own place, in the run up to December, we realised that we didn't have a Christmas tree. Luckily Argos on eBay were selling one for just £14.99 including the lights and all the decorations, so our tree currently has a red and gold theme. Although as each year we exchange anniversary Christmas gifts, there are some other colours on there too.
I don't really have a set Christmas colour scheme. Obviously red and gold and green are good. I also like silver and purple and blue too. We've got purple tinsel all over the house, pink and silver baubles hanging from it as well as multi-coloured paper chains round the ceiling in the living room.
Giving or receiving?
Well obviously I love to receive presents, who doesn't? I love the excitement of getting all those oddly shaped presents all wrapped up and wondering what's inside them. And then finally finding out on Christmas Day. Plus there's getting new toys to play with as well which is fun.
But then I like to buy gifts for other people and I love trying to find things that will be a little bit special or unusual. It's always fun on Christmas Day to see what people think of what they've got. This year I've got Mr Click a fantastic present which I'm really pleased with. Plus I got it at an absolute bargain price as well. Normally when I get a gift for someone which is that fantastic, Mr Click is the first person I'll tell. It's killing me that I've had this gift sat at home since October and I've not been able to share it with him. Only another five days to wait at least.
To mince pie or not to?
I'm really not a fan of mince pies at all. In fact pretty much all of the traditional Christmas dessert are out for me. I don't like Christmas pud, I don't like Christmas cake, and I don't like mince pies. I'm not part Grinch, honest.
Those mince pies up there are ones which I made myself a few years back. I can't stand the taste of them, but I do make a mean mince pie. I just also have to make a batch of jam tarts to go with them so that I have something that I can eat while everyone is saying how scrummy mine are.
What's your traditional Christmas lunch?
Roast turkey all the way!
I'm more than a little bit disappointed that we're not having turkey at my in-laws' this year. We've got a capon instead. Luckily Mr Click has picked us up a little turkey crown which we'll be having tomorrow as a mini Christmas dinner at home together. This year will actually be my first year in memory that I've not had roast turkey.
I also like my old family tradition of having a buffet for tea. Leftover turkey, cold potatoes, salad, cheese sticks, crisps, pretzels and all those other goodies. Then you sit there and pig out while you watch Doctor Who.
Christmas day fashion?
I usually go for something comfy. I wouldn't usually dress in anything different from a regular day really, although I do have to sleep in nice comfy Christmas pyjamas the night before. I've also got a funky Christmas jumper, although we spend Christmas Day at my in-laws' house and it would be far too warm to wear that all day.
What's your favourite Christmas song?
I couldn't possibly pick just one. I've made up a playlist on my Kindle and it has somewhere in the region of 497 Christmas songs from compilation CDs, Disney CDs and movie soundtracks. I like nothing more than putting them on and having a little rock out in the kitchen.
It depends on my mood a lot of the time but generally I like the really upbeat, poppy songs. Oh, and the complete soundtrack to Muppets Christmas Carol. Last year I did a series of blog posts through the month of December so those would probably be my top 25 Christmas songs.
What's your favourite Christmas film?
We have a massive collection of Christmas DVDs and blu-rays so I'm not sure I could pick just one favourite. Muppet Christmas Carol is obviously WAY up there as one of the top ones, but I also quite like Elf and it's never properly Christmas until you've watched White Christmas.
Open presents before or after lunch?
Always before. As a child the tradition was always to do the stockings first, before breakfast, and then we'd have croissants and other treats for breakfast and then afterwards it was time for the bigger personal presents.
As an adult things follow pretty much the same routine. In five days time we'll wake up, go and investigate to see whether Santa has been. We'll give Tara something from her stocking so that we can open ours in peace. Then all of our main presents will be packed into the card and we'll head to my in-laws' house, where we'll give Tara her present first to distract her and then exchange and open all of the other presents we've been given.
I've fallen way behind on the blogs that I read so I'm going to just leave the tag here for anyone who wants to take it. If your do, let me know and I'll post a link to your post here.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Day Zero Project: Pay back my father-in-law

I don't like to owe people money. I don't think that anyone does. I can't think there's anyone in the world who wakes up in the morning and thinks 'ooh, I owe my friends stacks of cash, what fun!'

For reasons which I won't go into here, in 2011 I had to consult a solicitor about something. Some letters were sent back and forth and I got some very good advise. Unfortunately this came at the cost of somewhere in the region of £300. At a time when I was out of work.

Thankfully Super Dad-in-Law came to the rescue with his magic credit card and I agreed to pay back what I could each month. So when I made my list of things I wanted to achieve in the coming 1001 days, paying him back all of the money I owed was top of the list.

I did it by that February making it one of the very first things I ticked off my list.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

TMA 02 Results

Last week I posted wondering how I'd gotten on with my last TMA. Well, on Sunday morning, just after I'd crawled in from the work night out, I got a message on my phone to tell me that my TMA results were in.

I'm not able to download the marked assignment on my phone, but I am able to see what my score for it is. I was hoping for something between 40% and 65%; I got 73%!

One of the first things my tutor said was that I had taken on board her comments from my last assignment and she could see evidence of what I'd changed between the two, so I'm glad that it showed. One of the main things I did this time around was avoided using the Study Guide as a basis for my essay; I used it to help identify which chapters in the Readers I should look at, but didn't reference anything from the Guide itself. Obviously that was the right thing to do.

I think something else that helped me this time around was the fact that I read the assignment brief before I actually started studying the chapters it was assessing. That meant that while I was actually doing the course work I was looking out for things that I could use in my essay. It definitely worked well so I'm going to make sure that while I'm studying the next block I'm also referring to the brief for TMA 03 ready for getting that written and submitted for the beginning of January.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Book 44 of 2013: Moments in Time: Chronicles of Eternity 1 by J.A. Gordon

I regularly go through the Kindle store on Amazon, looking out the most popular free downloads. I have a sort of routine where I go through to a particular section of the store, sort the books first by price from lowest to highest, and then by popularity. I've been burned too many times to bother with the low stars but I usually give anything with three stars or more a shot.

Back towards the end of the summer I was feeling like reading something a bit historical and so after trawling through my options I found Moments in Time: Chronicles of Eternity, Book 1 by J.A. Gordon. It had a good number of positive reviews (although I don't like to read them before I start a book because I like to make up my own mind). Unfortunately it really was not for me. I very rarely give a book one star in by book journal, but this was one of my one-star reviews.

The book begins with someone going through some sort of hypnotic regression to a past life before picking up the story of Graecus, a young Roman Centurion, and from then on follows their day to day life.

I really couldn't get into this story at all. From the description on Amazon I thought the premise sounded cool. There seemed to be a blend of fantasy and history which I kind of wanted after finishing off the Game of Thrones books. Unfortunately I ended up feeling a bit let down, as though this could have been an awful lot better.

I liked the idea of taking a glimpse into someone's former life, but aside from the beginning which had someone being hypnotised, there was no other reference to this all the way through the book. It wouldn't have been missed if it had been cut from the book. I was expecting it to return to the regression at the end with someone waking up, but it just ended with Graecus heading off to someplace new.

This is the first of a trilogy so I'm guessing that maybe that'll be picked up on in the later books, but after struggling through this book I'm not really in any hurry to pick it back up. I think it would've been cool if it'd been approached from both modern and historical perspectives; looking at someone's past life and present life and having chapters switching between the two.

At times it felt a lot like a children's book, as though it was designed to educate children about life in a Roman century. The language was kind of simplistic and at times I was reminded of those Dorling Kindersly books, like the Eyewitness History ones. One particularly memorable quote is "His Latin lessons with Graecus continued. With Zig at his side, he learned the declensions and conjugations and all the tenses of the verbs, he learned the correct use of the subjunctive, the deponent verbs and the ablative absolute and he very quickly became fluent in the language." At times I felt like someone had taken a textbook and just thrown some characters into the mix for added flavour!

Of course, it obviously wasn't a children's book because there were regular descriptions of sex and men's erections. I couldn't help but think it was trying to go for the Game of Thrones audience or was trying to be a bit edgy. I wasn't impressed though. I think it would've been a lot better if that was all cut out and the target audience left as children. The combination of the language style and the events that were described didn't gel at all and left me feeling somewhat confused as to who the book was aimed at.

The whole book felt like it was telling me things, instead of showing them with any degree of subtlety; as you can see with the quote I posted above. There were paragraphs which glossed over events which I felt could've been given an entire chapter to develop, whereas whole chapters were devoted instead to what happened when one of the guys ate some funny mushrooms.

Towards the end it seemed to be edging towards becoming a religious story as the main character started to learn about Christianity. I'm not sure if that's the direction that the series is going to take in the second and third book. I'm not in any great hurry to read the new two to find out.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Happy Birthday Mr Click!

Just a short post today to say Happy Birthday! to my wonderful husband.

Another year older and that little bit closer to Christmas now.

Hopefully we'll have a fantastic day with lots of presents and yummy foods.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Project 52: Meeting Santa

Last night was my work's Christmas night out. I can honestly say it was a huge success.

I'd been at work all day but still had enough time to get home and watch Arthur Christmas (fantastic film by the way) before getting all dressed up in the festive outfit I'd picked up in Edinburgh. The weather had been awful all day and I was a little bit worried that we would get trapped on the Estate by fallen trees or something, but we were okay and arrived just after the busload of my colleagues.

The meal was lovely. I went for the proper Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and I ate almost all of it. Then, in the lull between the main course and pudding, Santa showed up to do the raffle. I won a tin of biscuits and got a hug and kiss from Santa too.

It was quite funny how excited a room full of adults can get when there's the prospect of getting a photo taken with Santa. Of course I had to get one of Mr Click:

And I didn't want to be left out of the action either:

Ignore my unshod feet in the above photo, I took my super high heels off during the meal and didn't put them back on again until we moved back into the bar.

Because we'd checked Tara into the local kennels we were able to stay right to the very end as well. It was a lovely evening with really good company and it's really put me in a Christmassy mood!

Friday, 13 December 2013

EA300 TMA 02 Word Cloud

By the time that this is posted I'll probably have my results back for this TMA, I'll let you know how that goes.

This TMA was another one with two options, I went for the second one because when I read it I could immediately see how it related to what I'd been reading in the course book, whereas the first option didn't really grab me at all (until I'd read further in the course book and understood what it was talking about, but still didn't want to write about it).

I'm pleased that 'boys' and 'girls' are the two largest words as these were one of the main things I was talking about. I'm not sure how close to the mark I was but as long as I pass I'll be happy.

One of the main issues that was raised in the tutor notes from my last assignment was that I relied on quoting the study guide too much. This time I don't think I quoted from it once, instead I used the Readers a massive amount, which is what you're supposed to do. Hopefully that'll be reflected in my marks, as long as I've not waffled on for nearly 2,000 words about the wrong thing!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Day Zero Project: Write at least one letter to a friend each month

My letter writing target kind of goes long with the address book target that I set myself. Unfortunately this is one that I'm yet to achieve. I send letters sporadically but I've not gotten into a routine of actually writing letters to my friends.

To be fair, they've got busy lives as well and it's not always practical to exchange letters that frequently.

All the same, I really enjoy writing letters, when the time allows, so I'll hopefully work on this one so that I do get into the habit of writing to people more often. This is a good time of year to get into it, I guess, because I've got Christmas cards to send and it wouldn't hurt to include a little written note in with them.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Day Zero Project: Get An Address Book

Back when I made this list I was existing with a little old-fashioned Nokia phone. I'd decided that I wanted to write to friends regularly but whenever I wanted to send a little surprise letter I would ruin the surprise by having to ask someone for their address. Usually I'd do this via Facebook or online over a forum, so I'd have the message saved somewhere but not having internet access at home, I wouldn't be able to get to the details I needed.

So when I made my Day Zero list I decided that getting an address book should be a top priority. So I did. I managed to tick this target off within a month of making my list.

Then a few months later I got an iPhone. The address book has gotten buried somewhere and all of my addresses are stored in my contacts list in my phone. Or if I lose one, I can just send a message via Facebook or on a forum, and I have access to it.

I'm all set as long as I have power and internet access.

I'm beginning to think that it might be a good time to dig out that address book after all...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Book 43 of 2013: Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

I finished reading all of the Discworld books earlier in the year but I still have quite a collection of Terry Pratchett books to read. Only You Can Save Mankind was the first non-Discworld Terry Pratchett book that I've read in, well, a long time.

This is the first in the Johnny Maxwell series of books and introduces the character of Johnny, a teenager who unexpectedly finds himself in a computer game. It's the classic sort of game, you have to kill the aliens, except that one day while playing the aliens in the game surrender, which is not supposed to happen. It's up to Johnny to save the aliens, whilst having to deal with school, homework and 'Trying Times'.

I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy this. I mean, I love Terry Pratchett and everything he writes, but I've got into the way of the Disc and I was concerned that coming back to the real world might not suit me so well. But I got really into it. I had to keep putting it down to go to work and things, but I read it really quickly because I just didn't want to stop!

In a way it's a little bit dated. The games Johnny plays are on discs on his computer, there's no mention of a console anywhere and yet, it's surprisingly undated at the same time. One of his friends is able to break pretty much any copy protection on the games and keeps Johnny supplied with all the latest hits. There's no mention of motion sensors or photorealistic games, but the idea of teenage boys holing themselves up in their bedrooms defending the galaxy is still fairly common.

It was kind of nice because I remember those old games. I used to love playing The Hobbit, the old text-based game. Me and my Dad made a project out of it and worked out what would happen at each turning point on a massive map. I remember getting our first Playstation and thinking that all the graphics were fantastic, only to go back to the same games years later and realise that everyone in the Harry Potter games had cuboid heads. Nowadays TV adverts for games show actual clips from the games, not a bunch of funky images with a little disclaimer at the bottom saying that's not actual game footage. Reading Only You Can Save Mankind made me feel a little nostalgic.

I really like the character of Johnny. I think modern kids would still relate to him. His parents are going through a sticky patch and computer games are his way to escape. It still has the classic Terry Pratchett humour that I've come to expect as well. I love some of the things that Johnny and his friends end up coming out with as they hang out together.

This is the first book in a trilogy and I have the others on my bookcase just waiting to get around to them. Unfortunately studying Children's Literature is delaying me somewhat, which is ironic, considering these would probably be classed as Children's Literature. I'm looking forward to when I am finally able to read them.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Book 42 of 2013: The Uninhabited House by J.H. Riddell

I'm quite behind on typing up my books reviews, and as I've been terribly disorganised about posting during the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to spam my blog with some book reviews for the next few days. Starting with a book I read way back in the summer during the HTV Reading Challenge.

I was looking for a book with a title beginning with the letter U for the Summer challenge and found a book called The Uninhabited House by J.H. Riddell for free to download for my Kindle. It looked like a nice short read, which it was.

It's the story of an old house which is owned by a poor woman but which cannot be sold or let out due to a resident ghost who scares away all prospective renters. A young lawyer agrees to stay in the house in order to prove that there is nothing wrong with the house.

I wasn't expecting it to be a ghost story, I didn't read any blurb or information about it before I started so that came as a bit of a shock when I realised the direction it was taking. That did slow me down a bit because I was reading it in bed at night and I didn't want to wind up frightening myself, so I had to set it down and finish it the next morning. If I'd not chickened out I would've read it all in one sitting.

It's the sort of story that would make good reading at this time of year, rather than in the summer when I read it, because I always associate Christmas time with Victorian ghost stories (thank you Mr Dickens). It had a bit of everything in it; the creepy ghost story, the romance, the technical legal stuff.

It was a nice simple quick read and one which I'm sure to revisit again in the future.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Project 52: Community Band

I've kind of slipped up with my Project 52 posts. I have been taking photos but I've sort of stopped following the themes set on the BBC site. I'm just taking photos of things that I like and want to photograph. It's working out a bit better for motivating me actually, so I'm going to finish up the year photographing what I want to.

As I said yesterday, we went out to the Christmas Fayre on the square at the centre of town and the community band played for almost an hour. I'd been asked to take my camera with me to get some photos for them. It'd been a while since I'd had my camera out and it was good to have an excuse to take photos, completely unposed.

I spent the first bit of the session with my little lens on and taking photos of everyone, but once I knew I'd got a few which they could use I started playing around a bit and taking photos of things I wanted to. I don't normally have an excuse to take photos of actual people, so I had good fun doing it.

Community Band
Right from when it started I wanted to get a photo like the one above. I wanted to look through an instrument or between two of the band members at their music. This one turned out exactly the way I wanted it to.

I've been asked to take photos at the concert they'll be doing later in the week and I was a little bit unsure about doing it, but I had so much fun yesterday that I'm quite looking forward to it now.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Today has been a very Christmassy sort of Saturday. It's actually the first of several Christmassy Saturdays as next week is my work's Christmas night out (when I'll be having my first of three Christmas dinners).

This afternoon was the Royal British Legion's Christmas Fayre and the local community band were playing carols. I'd been asked to act as official photographer for the day so we headed down early so I could do some last minute Christmas shopping and pick up some cards for family and friends.

It was a wonderful boost to my Christmas spirit. The moment they started playing Good King Wenceslas I couldn't help but feel all excited and Christmassy. So when we got home I banished Mr Click to the living room and took all the presents I had upstairs to sort and wrap.

He'd put my main presents under the tree the other day, that's them on the right. I wrapped the two in front and the pile to the left which includes his birthday presents.

I decided to be really organised this year and started Christmas shopping in August. Unfortunately I didn't keep a list so I wound up buying a few extra gifts. Some are going to be stocking fillers but one has been redesignated as a birthday present from our Tara-Tup to Mr Click for his birthday.

Speaking of Tara, her main present arrived today; a Kong Wobbler! I really can't wait to see what she thinks of it on Christmas Day; I think it's as much a present for us as it is for her!

Friday, 6 December 2013

First Snowfall

Yesterday at work I got back from my lunch, settled at my desk, started doing what needed to be done, glanced out the window and noticed it was snowing.

This caused a wee bit of excitement (mainly from me) especially when it actually started settling in places. Luckily it didn't snow for very long and didn't stay settled for much longer, but still, it all adds to that Christmassy feeling.

You'll notice I mentioned being at work up there. After the excitement of yesterday I did eventually make it to work. Only two and a half hours late.

We had a little while to wait for the trees blocking the roads where I live to get cleared as well as the main road along the seafront to be reopened after some scaffolding was made dangerous by the high winds (read: blowing bits of it across the road and into people's homes!) but once we got the all clear it was a pretty easy journey.

Lots of big trees uprooted though, two of which took out two big chunks of a wall in virtually the same place as last year when we had the big storm. Luckily there weren't any power cuts and we fared a lot better than some places around the country.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stormy Weather (Update)

The fact that I'm posting this while I should be at work should tell you something about how successful my commute has been!

Four roads on and off the estate and all of them are blocked!

So I'm staying home and drinking hot chocolate until we get a chance to try again because even if we could get off the estate there's problems with scaffolding done along the road at the front.

Power cuts are expected and a neighbour of my in laws has discovered a chimney pot in their garden and has no idea where it came from.

Just another day on Bute really.

Stormy Weather

A couple of years ago we had an unexpected freak storm that knocked out power to most of the island for three days (and to our remote corner for five).

It seems that storm is back with a vengeance today.

I dreamt I was on a boat last night because of the strong winds buffeting the house. Our house has two foot thick stone walls and I swear it was shaking!

Taking Tara for her morning trip to the garden I was nearly blown off my feet. It's wild out there!

About to brave the journey to work. Good luck to anyone travelling in increment weather today.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas Decorations

There's a bit of debate about when it's best to put your Christmas decorations up. When I was little it was always a couple of weeks into December but I always liked the idea of putting them up on the first of the month.

So now I have a place of my own, that's what we do.

Except this year we were in Edinburgh on the first so they went up on the 30th of November instead.

The first year we were here we just had a tree. Last year I made paper chains and we added those to the decorations. This year we've got the tree, the paper chains and tinsel and baubles all over the place. Oh, and lights on our 'Christmas trees' outside.

If we keep going like this I dread to think what the house will look like next year!

How about you? Are your decorations up yet?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Cedric the Town Crier Hedgehog

Back in the summer I made a postman hedgehog for Mr Click who he christened Cyril. I kept on calling him Cedric so decided the next one I made would be Cedric for myself.

And here he is:

I'm really pleased with how he turned out and I love his little bell and queue (that's his little ponytail thing at the back of his neck). I can't post photos of them from my phone so I'll show him off properly in another post.

I'm keeping him for myself but I've already got plans for the next hedgehog I'll make. He'll be called Cecil and will be a chimney sweep. For now I'm working on something a bit simpler; a tea cosy.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Edinburgh Christmas Market

A group at my work organised a trip to Edinburgh for Christmas shopping yesterday. It was only my third trip there and the last two times were just for short shopping trips while on school theatre trips. Mr Click was a toddler the last time he went so it was a brand new experience for both of us.

After a LOOONG journey (we were up at 5am and arrived at around 11am) we were refreshed with hot chocolate and a decaf latte before wandering through the market looking at all the fantastic Christmas stalls.

We then did some slightly more practical shopping (and outfit for the Christmas night out for me and jeans for Mr Click). I got an absolute bargain when I paid for my shoes and found they were £10 off!

Then we wandered to a sweet shop and around some other shops picking up new jammies and bits and pieces for Mr Click's stocking.

And returned to the market at the tail end of the day for our first ever taste of roasted chestnuts (which were lovely once we figured out how to break into them) and to buy more treats. I got us German Advent Calendars, chocolate gingerbread shapes and after trying to decide between a wooden nativity scene and an advent tree I went for the tree; I've wanted one for years and I'm planning on knitting a nativity scene at some point.

By the time we got home we were knackered and the alarm went off far too early this morning, but it was a fantastic day and I hope we can go back again in the future.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

I'm Back!

OU coursework kind of caught up with me as well as getting stuck into required reading and doing a LOT of knitting and I sort of fell off the face of the Internet.

But I'm back and slowly getting caught up now.

Just in time for my favourite time of year.

Expect some sketchy blog posts for the next week and things will get back to normally the week after (once I've got organised enough to pre-write some blog posts).

I'm also going to do my best to get caught up on my friends' blogs as well. But for now I'm just going to chill out here, underneath my Christmas tree and finish my current knitting project.

Friday, 15 November 2013


Just a quick post to share my almost finished scarf for Mr Click:

I had considered arranging it to day 'done' but it's not quite long enough, despite being around eight feet long!

I still have some finishing work to do on it but I'm pretty pleased with it.

And I've already cast on for my next project; another hedgehog!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Day Zero Project: Hit Step Target Every Day For A Month

This target is kind of linked to my target to go for a walk every week, and since we've got Tara this is something which turned out to be quite easy to achieve. Several years ago Mr Click and I got the Walk With Me 'game' for my Nintendo DS and started trying to increase the number of steps we were taking each day.

The white one is mine and the black one is Mr Click's. We've got slightly different step targets, but have both had good runs of achieving them. We've been a bit lax about checking them more recently but it's good fun to check how many steps you've taken if you've been on your feet or been on a new walk.

I managed to achieve this target between April and May last year, I think at one point my step target actually increased and I still managed to maintain it. I was pretty pleased with myself for doing that, even though I didn't keep it up and managed to slip back below my step target on several occasions a few days afterwards.

Having Tara certainly helps to keep those step counts up. Of course you do need to wear the step counter for them to count, it's a little bit frustrating to forget to put it on and then realise that you're missing out on steps later on in the day. I still wear it every day though, even if I don't check the steps. When New Year Resolutions come around in a month and a bit's time I suspect that checking my counts more regularly will be on the list.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tired Tup Tup

As I mentioned on Monday, Tara and I went for a lovely long (and painful) walk on Sunday morning. I was pretty tired out afterwards but I got on with the day, albeit a fairly lazy day (largely spent knitting a scarf and writing out blog posts for the week ahead).

Tara on the other hand, she did this:

That's our sleepy Labrador draped across her daddy's lap. I've never known a dog as cuddly as Tara. She loves to snuggle up with people, especially with Mr Click.

Later in the day Grandad vacated his chair, so Tara decided to keep it warm for him while he was out of the room.

What you can't see in this picture is the fact that she was dreaming and her little cheeks were flapping around as she gave these little woofs. It was ridiculously cute.

And at the time of writing this, Tara's actually upside in Grandma's chair, in much the same sort of position.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Book 41 of 2013: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Do you have books that you come back to time and time again? For me they tend to be books that I associate with my early to mid teens. It was an age where a lot of stuff happened, like moving four hundred miles to a different country and starting a new school, making new friends and all that stuff. I guess it was a time when I was looking for comfort and I found a lot of it in the books that I read. Now I like to go back and revisit them and relive some of that security that I felt back when they were brand new to me.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is one of those books for me. I didn't get caught up in the initial hype back in 1997/8 when it was first released and everyone started going crazy. I'm one of those stubborn people who digs their heels in when there's a book that everyone is raving about. A family member knew that all of my books were going to be in boxes after the move and so ordered the four Harry Potter books that were out at the time and had them delivered to the new house so I'd have something to read when I got there. I read them twice during the first two weeks I was there.

In case you've lived under a rock for the last sixteen (woah! that's scary!) years, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a children's book in which Harry, who has been raised by his disapproving (of everything) aunt and uncle, discovers that he is in fact a wizard and will shortly be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Along the way he learns that his parents were a talented witch and wizard who were killed by the most evil wizard ever, Lord Voldemort; he also makes friends, learns magic and becomes a dab hand at wielding a broomstick. Then Lord Voldemort makes an appearance and little eleven-year-old HP has to do his best to defeat him.

I normally make a habit of rereading this series of books pretty regularly although I didn't get to them at all last year because I had so many other things to be reading. I didn't really realise how much I missed not reading them until I picked it up again this year and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series over the next few months (once again I've gotten a little bogged down with reading my course materials but once I'm caught up with that I'm sure my reading will be back on track).

Part of my reason for rereading it when I did was because it was due to be covered in EA300. I read it way back in July and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it's a nice quick read which I can get lost in easily. I've lost count of the number of times I've read it and it's all so familiar to me. There are whole sections that I practically know off by heart.

Interestingly that kind of relates to why it was covered in the course materials. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was looked at alongside Philip Pullman's Northern Lights as being books intended for children (or in Pullman's case, teens) but which have been adopted as enthusiastically by adults. One of the things that I love about this series of books is the way that J.K. Rowling's writing style sort of changes through the books; this one seems kind of simplistic but by the last two or three they are so much more sophisticated. You get the sense that you're really following the children as they age, and at the same time I suppose that at the time they were being published the children who were reading them were aging alongside the characters; when the books were published both Harry and myself were starting secondary school.

One of my absolute favourite things about this book is how fully imagined the world is. I love how little mentions of things crop up later on as being bigger and more important. I love how the wizarding world is integrated alongside the non-magical world. And I love the way that the characters change and grow as the series progresses.

I can't wait to go on and read all the others in the series again.

Monday, 11 November 2013

An Eventful Walk

Yesterday I decided to take Tara for a nice long walk to tire her out first thing in the morning. We'd been off the island on Saturday so she'd missed out on her usual long Saturday walk, and woke me up at 7am on Sunday to tell me about it, so I figured I'd give her a long walk for a bit of peace and quiet to get on with my knitting. Plus I had an idea of what I wanted to photograph for my Project 52 picture and if I was heading in that direction it made sense to carry round in a big loop.

The problem was that there had been a heavy frost and so a large portion of the ground was frosted up. Not too bad on the grass, but decidedly slippery on the road. I couldn't very well turn back with my hyperactive Labrador who was very excited to be getting her walk, so I headed for the back gate. A short way down the road things thawed out and I decided that maybe it wasn't too bad after all. Besides, most of the walk was on grass and track paths so that was unlikely to be an issue for us.

I was wrong.

There's a small set of stone steps that led down to a gravel path and those were frosted up too. I tentatively tested the top one with my snow-booted foot and realised that this could be a bit dangerous. Icy steps coupled with a Labrador who thought mum was going just a bit too slowly caused me to rethink the way down.

There's a grassy bank on either side of the steps. It's steep but I figured it would be easier to go down that than to risk falling down stone steps. I mean, worst case you slide a bit, maybe fall back onto your bum.

Which is what I did.

About halfway down the slope Tara gave a tug on the lead, I leaned back, slipped onto my bum with a nice bump and skidded down the slope. I picked myself up at the bottom feeling a bit bruised, embarrassed, and wet, and on we went with our journey. After all, that was probably the worst bit over.

I was wrong.

The slope down to the path running alongside the beach was covered with fallen leaves. Wet fallen leaves lying on top of wet muddy grass. You can probably see where this is going.

Tara pulled forward, I said 'Heel' and pulled her back, the Labrador acted as a kind of brake but both feet skidded forward at the same time. And down I went. This time onto my thigh and knee, and almost onto the Labrador who shot away from me, pulling the lead off my wrist in the process. Once she had established that mum wasn't in fact trying to jump onto her, she came back to check I was okay. I picked myself up, brushed myself down and carried on.

For about three feet.

Then I went down again. This time into a branch which seemed very keen to get inside my rib cage.

I picked myself up. Again. And assessed the situation; ahead was a walk alongside the beach, a muddy-ish track leading to a path and road, a road which was leading uphill, but which hopefully would not be too icy because the sun had been on it; behind was a slippery track which I'd already fallen down twice, icy steps and an icy road. I decided to keep walking.

Luckily I only nearly fell over once more, when I tripped over a stone. There was a little bit more skidding and some very wet toes when I got dragged through a large puddle by a Labrador who thought that this was the best walk we had ever been on. We got home, wet, muddy and bedraggled (and that was just me!) but in more or less one piece.

And I'm thinking maybe the Shore Walk is one I should put off until the drier weather returns!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Project 52: Week 45 - Industrial

This week's photo was a little tricky because I live in a really rural place and I don't often see things which spark me as being Industrial. I had hoped to see some sort of farm equipment or building machinery that I could use as my photo but when nothing had presented itself by this morning I took Tara for a walk (which was very eventful, but more on that another day) to where we can see a power station on a neighbouring island.

I very nearly took my DSLR with me, but at the last minute switched to my little compact camera. This was a very wise decision because mere minutes after I'd taken this week's photo I slid down a bank on my bottom and by the time I reached home an hour later I'd fallen over a further two times!

Week 45: Industrial
It's not a great photo because I had to use the zoom to actually be able to get a decent view of the station and the sun was shining on the screen and I had a Labrador who couldn't understand why we had stopped and oh-my-goodness-why-can't-we-go-and-smell-that-brown-thing-over-there! But I like what it's a photo of; I like the tops of the trees, I like the big expanse of sky, I like the wind turbines and I like the power station in front of them. I think this is a photo I may try recreating on a less icy and muddy day with my DSLR.

I also played around with the shot on a website I spotted on BBC Click the other day. It's called Fotor and it's kind of like a Picasa-type site where you can add effects and simply edit your photos. I figured that this photo was the perfect one to play around with, though the end result is mostly just sharpened and contrast/brightness adjusted. I think it's an improvement on the washed out original:

The BBC site now has all the themes up for the weeks until the end of the year. I can't believe how close it is now. Next week is Masks and the week after that is Tools. I'm already thinking up ideas for those, and hopefully I'll be able to take some decent photos, instead of these 'ooh shoot, it's Sunday and I've not got a picture' posts that I've been doing during the last few weeks.