Friday, 31 January 2014

Random Post

Last Saturday I got a really pleasant surprise when the postman arrived. Three letters and they were all for me!

One was a letter about a medical appointment that's not relevant to this post but the other two were very exciting indeed.

The largest was a Jiffy bag envelope bearing the name of a publishing company. This confused me a bit because the only books I'd ordered to be delivered to our house were course books and they'd all been received. It was quite a large envelope and so Mr Click assumed it was a knitting book, but I disagreed because I'd had all of those too.

Of course the easiest way to solve the mystery was to open it, which revealed Cuddly Knitted Toys and a receipt with the words 'Prize' and £0.00 on it.

And all became clear.

I subscribed to Simply Knitting magazine a while back and entered every competition in the magazine. And apparently I'd won one of them! I'm really looking forward to trying something from this book, either a mouse, a dog or a dragon, I think.

The other letter had come all the way from Arizona and was from a member of the Ravelry Random Acts of Kindness group. It included some aptly named 'Stash' brand tea.

I love this card and the note inside was lovely too. I spent a good part of the afternoon writing our postcards for other RAKs, because whenever I get one I can't help but pass on the good feeling.

I love it when the post brings nice goodies, even if they include reminders about making medical appointments!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Day Zero Project: Learn to crochet

Ah, crochet, my archnemisis!

As a knitter I feel like I should really be able to get the hang of crochet, after all it's using one less tool than knitting and it's nowhere near as sharp and pointy. But I still haven't quite got it yet.

A few years ago I went to our local shop which sells wool and got one of each crochet hook and invested in a Teach Yourself book, after all, it worked for knitting...

And it's all sitting in the upstairs cupboard with my other crafting supplies.

That's not to say I'm a complete stranger to crochet hooks. I've used them a couple of times with my knitting. Great Uncle Angus MacScarecrow needed one to thread his hair and beard.

I am able to make something with some yarn and a crochet hook; if by something you mean a rather wonky chain with no concept of tension. It's when I try to join things together to make an actual thing that I mess things up.

I'll get it figured out eventually, I'm sure, but for now I'll stick with my knitting considering I find that much easier to coordinate.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Book 49 of 2013: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I've read rather a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson recently. His name cropped up on my last course with his South Sea Tales and as a result of that I downloaded a bunch of free Kindle books by him. By happy coincidence Treasure Island was one of the books to be studied on my latest course. I'd ordered the correct copy for the course but it was taking its time to arrive, so rather than hold myself up I decided to read the Kindle version instead.

Image from Wikipedia.
It's a story that anyone who has ever seen the Muppet's film will be familiar with; Jim Hawkins comes into possession of a pirate map leading to hidden treasure. With the help of a local Squire and doctor a crew is put together to find this treasure, but little do they realise that Long John Silver, the ship's cook who has helped to recruit the crew is actually a pirate who intends to lead a mutiny and take the treasure for themselves. This leads to a conflict on the island between the pirates and the crew as they do battle to claim the treasure and get home in one piece.

On the whole I enjoyed this story, although at times it felt like it dragged a little. It was quick to set the scene and get into the action but then once they arrived on the island things seemed to drag a bit. Ironically this was where the action really came to a head, although it seemed like there was a lot of waiting around for things to happen right when I was expecting it to get really exciting.

Of course I couldn't help but keep thinking back to the Muppet's version. It was a little disconcerting to have bits of the text narrated in my head by Kermit the Frog, though I was able to shake that off early on. Didn't stop me from having Cabin Fever going round in my head most of the time I was reading it though!

Part of the reason that this book was being studied was as a comparison between books intended for boys and books intended for girls (Little Women was the book we looked at for the girls). I did like the way that it was written, it definitely seemed to be speaking directly to boys and I can see why it would appeal to them. I realise I'm kind of encouraging the stereotypes that we were studying here, but it's a book all about a bunch of men going off and having manly adventures together, and it wasn't really my kind of thing as a young girl (despite my love of The Hobbit).

After I read it I made a note to myself that I was looking forward to studying it. I did mostly enjoy it, though the essays that we have to read about the book kind of riled me. It was good to see Robert Louis Stevenson's influences in writing it (it kind of brings together the stories from the penny dreadfuls which were disapproved of at the time, and the moral stories which were seen as ideal reading material for young men), but some of the essays which look at deeper meanings and Freudian analysis just frustrate me. I mean, is that really what the author meant?

I'm really enjoying reading Robert Louis Stevenson's books and I've still got a few more on my Kindle to read. I'll definitely get to them eventually.

Monday, 27 January 2014

To a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!

Despite being terribly English, I've lived in Scotland for almost as long as I was ever in England and I associate myself far more with Scottish culture than with English culture. Even if I do still speak like a West Country farmer!

On Saturday we decided to have our own little Burns Supper as Mr Click's Dad kindly treated us to a haggis. I was a little nervous about actually eating it since the last time I had one it was a vegetarian version, and let's face it, they don't look particularly appetising at the best of times!

Mr Click cooked it up beautifully and we even had our neeps and tatties with it (though our tatties were boiled rather than mashed). And I really enjoyed it, which sort of surprised me a little.

Excuse the iPhone photo and the fact I'm wearing my jammies!
I can definitely see myself eating haggis again in the future!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Weekly Rundown

Although this week hasn't been as busy as the last couple of weeks, I've still been quite busy. Mostly busy doing things that I probably could've put off instead of avoiding the things I should've been busy doing, but anyway.

I got the results from my latest TMA back, with 75%. I still need to work on my introductions and conclusions but on the whole I seem to be improving. The next one is due on the 13th of February. I've also spent the last couple of days getting all caught up with the last three chapters of my course I have a terrible habit of giving myself a week off after each TMA which inevitably means that I end up rushing to get through material in the final week before my TMA study week.

It's not really helped by the fact that I've fallen a bit behind on my reading. I've been reading The Stories of English by David Crystal for the last few weeks and it's quite long. I enjoy reading non-fiction, particularly linguistics stuff, but you can't lose yourself in it in quite the same way as a good fiction book.

Oh, and I had forgotten to order the next three books which didn't help in getting to read them. Luckily I've had Swallows and Amazons read to me before, as well as watching adaptations of it before. I've read Tom's Midnight Garden before and although Roll of Thunder, Hear My Call is new to me, hopefully I'll get through it relatively quickly. I started Swallows and Amazons this morning and I'm already three or four chapters into it.

As for TV viewing this week; we're still watching Silent Witness and Friends. We've just finished watching series 9 and it's kind of sad to think that we're going to be watching the final series. We've got The Good Life to watch next though, so it's not all bad.

We've also finally started watching ER again. We were watching Friends in bed at night and ER while we ate our tea, but since the Blu-ray player doesn't always like the ER discs we've switched them round. It could be argued that this is for the best, since ER isn't always the best mealtime viewing. We're heading for the end of ER now as well, though we've still got a couple of series left to go.

As for films, well, we acquired three more Michael Caine films, so spent a good chunk of Saturday watching those. One seemed a bit like a made-for-TV movie and despite being on DVD was pretty bad visual quality. On the whole it was a fairly good film, picking up towards the end, but at times there were subtitles for people speaking German that were virtually unintelligible. The best of the three was The Fourth Protocol, with Pierce Brosnan, and had Michael Caine trying to prevent an atomic bomb attack.

I'm still working on my octopus. I love the Jean Greenhowe patterns, but as a character in Love Actually says eight is a lot of legs. I've finally finished knitting up all eight of them, and I've got three of the eight sewn up. I tend to alternate doing a leg with at least one hexipuff to keep myself from getting bored. Though I've recently realised that this is actually drawing out the process even longer and I'm better off just sucking it up and sewing them all up as I go along.

I'm trying to hold off knitting his scarf and hat until I've got all the legs complete and sewn on, so that the knitting is a bit of a reward to myself. But that hasn't stopped me from trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to work the stripe pattern on the scarf and hat.

And I've been hexipuffing like crazy. The photo above shows all bar one of the puffs that I've gotten finished up to this point. The Daily Puff group on Ravelry had a 'Rainbow Week' challenge, which although I didn't complete, encouraged me to try some new things that I wouldn't have thought about doing before.

Up until this week all of my puffs have just been plain stockinette stich, which while they look nice, doesn't make for a huge amount of variation. This challenge had me coming up with purled designs, having a go at cabling, playing with stripes and multiple colours on a puff, and also digging out a stitch dictionary that I bought years ago but never really did anything with until now. In the photo above you can see a slightly wonky looking VW logo that I did in green and yellow for Mr Click. I'm thinking I'll redo it in orange and white/silver to match our old campervan; I did it in Fair Isle which meant it's pulled to one side slightly but I think I'll redo it in duplicate stitch.

I'd set myself a challenge of 31 puffs this month and I've smashed it. I laid these all out to photograph and wound up with about six more than I was expecting. I'm going to try and get at least 30 each month. I'm also starting to think about how I'm going to join them all together. I don't want two puffs of the same colour touching each other and I'm thinking about putting designs onto more of them which symbolise important things to me and Mr Click; then I can sew them into groups of seven with a design at the centre. Then if I'm really clever I can have one half of the blanket with Mr Click's designs on it and the other half with mine, with stuff we share down the middle.

That's how it'll work in theory, anyway.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

TENS Machine

Why has nobody made me aware of these things before? Well, correction, I know of people who have used TENS units before, but why has no one ever recommended I try one before?

I've blogged before about how I was diagnosed with endometriosis and how hard I've found it to manage the pain associated with it. Each month I have the option of taking nothing and suffering pain which makes me want to throw up, taking painkillers that do nothing for the pain and still wanting to throw up, painkillers that make me cry about cheese, or painkillers that dull the pain a bit and make me so spaced out that I can spend a good ten minutes staring at something and thinking about absolutely nothing.

As you can see, there's not really a winner there.

Knowing someone who swears by their TENS machine when they're in pain, I did a little bit of research into them. Basically they use little electrical impulses to break up the pain messages. You have the little machine itself that clips onto your clothes, and these little sticky electrode things that you put in different places depending on where you're feeling the pain.

After crying to Mr Click about how horrible I felt, he picked one up for me. £19.99 from Lloyds, plus some AAA batteries.

It is incredible!

It feels a bit weird, kind of like being stabbed by little needles wherever you've got the gel pads positioned. It's not a bad feeling though.

What was telling was that the first time I used it I was unable to sleep because of the lack of pain! I'm so used to getting into a position and not being able to move because if I do things hurt. And I didn't! It was quite novel being able to roll from one side to the other perfectly comfortably.

There was also the bonus of not having to go to work with a foggy head from the painkillers. I feel perfectly alert and if the pain starts coming back I just press a couple of buttons and dial it up to a point where I can't feel it anymore. I love it.

I've been positioning the gel pads on my lower abdomen and lower back (though if I put the ones on the front in the wrong place I get the needle sensation in my thigh when I'm sitting in a certain position). Generally I set it on the 'Continuous & Burst' mode around about an intensity of 4 at the front and 2 at the back. The first time it switches to Burst always gives me a bit of a shock but that soon settles down.

I'll need to get two more gel pads before I can use it again because the ones on my back ended up sticking to my clothes and themselves after being on all day, but they're relatively inexpensive and definitely worth it.

I know the TENS machines don't work for everyone, but I'm so glad it's working for me!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Series Review: Sherlock Series 3

Last week we finished watching the third series of Sherlock, courtesy of BBC iPlayer and my in-laws' internet connection. I have to say I think it's one of my favourite ones yet.

The big question was how they were actually going to bring Sherlock back. The first episode dealt with that in true Sherlock style; there were several possible explanations but even the one which was actually given as the real one still had a hint of doubt as to whether that was what happened.

I loved the bit where Sherlock actually revealed himself to John as he was preparing to propose to girlfriend, Mary Morstan. The way that John didn't pay any attention to the imitation waiter at first was hilarious, quickly followed by the realisation and shock. It was classic.

Of the three episodes the second was probably my favourite mainly because it kind of broke from the norm. This was 'The Sign of Three', set during John and Mary's wedding with virtually the entire episode revolving around Sherlock's best man's speech. It was such a clever way of telling the story. And I figured out what was happening, who the murder victim was, how they did it and who did, which always makes me feel smug and smart!

My least favourite was probably the final episode. I can't say I'm enamoured by the idea of Sherlock shooting the bad guy, it just doesn't seem cerebral enough for him. Mary being an assassin was a bit random, but it had been nicely tied in to the previous episode so I could learn to live with that. I guess it's set up the next series, whenever that comes along, it'll be interesting to see how it follows on from this episode.

My one complaint about the series, as ever, is that it's too short. I really shouldn't complain, I mean it's three episodes and each one is practically a little movie. The way it's filmed is beautiful, I could just sit for an hour and look at stills from the series. And I love the way that we're privy to what Sherlock is thinking, this was used to really good effect in the second episode when Sherlock and John got drunk; the bits of text on the screen included things like 'egg, oval, sitty thing' when he looked at a chair. It was brilliant.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where they will take the series next and I can't wait to get it on Blu-ray so we can watch it all over again!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Day Zero Project: Volunteer for something

When I set myself this challenge I put this down as 'Volunteer for something at work' but since then I've kind of expanded it to just generally volunteer for stuff.

That's mainly because I've gotten quite good at putting my name forward for things. I volunteer for stuff all the time. The first one was to be on part of an events committee but since then I've kind of volunteered to photograph and video our local community bad as well. So I'd say the volunteering thing is going pretty well.

In a way the volunteering thing is a bit like my Random Acts of Kindness thing. It's good because you're doing something that's not necessarily for yourself, but which can make others feel good and so you feel better by association. I have to admit that I quite like that little buzz that I get from doing something nice, so it's kind of selfish in a way.

But it's a good kind of selfish.

So even though this is one which has been ticked off on my list since April 2012, it's one I'm going to keep on doing over and over, purely because it's a nice thing to keep doing!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book 48 of 2013: The Pumpkin Coach by Susan Sallis

I completely forgot to write my book post this week, so this is a wee bit late. But better late than never!

The Pumpkin Coach by Susan Sallis is a story of two families whose lives are closely linked together with that of a third, all of whom share a connection to an abandoned railway coach. The railway coach in question was purchased by a man and towed to a secluded spot for conducting an affair with his young mistress, a woman who went on to have a child illegitimately.

The story mostly follows the life of a young girl, Alice, in the 1940s who has decided to leave school and go to work for the railways like her father. Meanwhile, her best friend Hester has stayed on at school and intends to go away to university like her brother. It's a bit of a slow-burn tale set over the following years and looking at the way these families interact with each other, as well as the role that the illegitimate child and the pumpkin coach play in the story.

This really isn't the sort of book that I would usually pick to read myself. As it was I didn't pick it myself. I was being admitted to hospital and I sent Mr Click home to get me clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste and the ever essential reading material (because despite taking my time to read Watership Down I was pretty certain that it wouldn't last me more than a day in hospital). He panicked about which book he should chose for me, so got one from his mum instead. My Mum-in-Law and I have very different tastes in reading material, but when she recommends a book to me I inevitably enjoy it.

Knowing my Mum-in-Law's usual choice of books I was expecting something that would be heavy on the romance, but this really wasn't. I quite liked the way that the romance was fairly gentle and easy-going, as well as the way that it gradually drifted through time.

Despite the title being The Pumpkin Coach, I didn't really feel like the coach actually played that big a role in the story. Yeah, it was a place that almost all of the characters visited, and yeah it linked to the railway where many of the characters worked, but it could just as easily have been call Alice Pettiford or Lypiatt Bottom. The title kind of gave me an expectation that it was going to play a bigger and more obvious role and that never really happened.

I really liked the character of Alice but I wasn't really interested in Joe and Louise. Joe kind of had to stay in the story to maintain one of the links to the Pumpkin Coach, but once his involvement with Alice had ended he served little point. I didn't really like him and didn't care to hear what he was doing when I would rather be reading about Alice.

Considering when and why I was in hospital it probably wasn't the best thing to read because it annoyed me just how easily everyone was getting pregnant. Seriously, Alice had sex for the first time and worried about whether or not she was pregnant, slept with a guy the second time and gets pregnant. Ditto several other characters! I kind of guessed the outcome to Alice's pregnancy and marriage, but it was that sort of book. You didn't mind the predictability because it was a nice easy story. If I'm ever looking for an easy, not-too-taxing sort of story, I'll definitely look out another Susan Sallis from my Mum-in-Law's bookcase.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Getting Creative

This last week I've been taking part in a challenge on the Beekeeper's Quilt group that I'm a member of on Ravelry. This has involved making hexipuffs in all the colours of the rainbow following particular challenges.

The idea is that for each day of the challenge you knit two hexipuffs in one of the rainbow colours. I've been going through the rainbow in order, starting with red and ending with purple. As my puffs have all been plain up to this point it's encouraged me to get a little bit creative.

The first day asked us to use purl stitch in some way. I did a basic pattern alternating a row of knit with a row of purl for my first puff. Then I got really creative and made a chart with a large purled heart on one corner and three small ones diagonally opposite.

The next day was a cable challenge. Aside from some leg warmers (which I frogged) and some hats (which I didn't) I haven't had much experience cabling. I dug out a stitch dictionary that I got years ago in Cornwall. In the picture above, the one on the right is my favourite.

And these are my most recent puffs. The iPhone picture doesn't show it very clearly but these are bright yellow and dark green. The first is just a two by two stripe pattern but I decided to get clever and used a VW logo chart I found on Ravelry. I did it Fair Isle style which led to a bit of puckering but it turned out fairly recognisable. Mr Click recognised it and I kind of made it for him so that was the main thing.

Next up is two puffs using some other stitch pattern besides Stockinette. Looks like I'll be looking through my stitch dictionary for inspiration again!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Repeat Viewing

Posting this as I sit in my local cinema, eating a Mint Feast waiting for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The film won't be in 3D, nor is there the option of viewing it in D-Box (though if you end up with a small kid kicking the back of your seat it's practically the same), and if you don't like the film, tough because there's only one screen so they've been showing this film for a fortnight.

But it works out at half the cost of tickets for Cineworld where we went last week, ditto for refreshments. They even sell popcorn now, sure it comes in a tub, but it's buy one get one free.

My one concern is that the screen might not be 3D but I'm a lot closer to it this week. I may have to leave the room when the spiders appear!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

On Friday 10th Mr Click and I finally got off the island to go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I've been wanting to get a chance to get away to see it for nearly a month but we've just not had an opportunity what with the weather, Christmas and the weather. We finally had a break in the weather and grabbed the first chance we had.

I'd been keen to see it in D-Box but that wasn't available in 3D, and 3D was way more important to me than seeing it in a seat that moved. I've got a Cineworld account online and booking in advance saves me 10% so we booked it the night before we went to save a few pennies. Plus we already had our 3D glasses from seeing the first Hobbit film, so it wound up being a fairly reasonable day out. I've got to remember to renew my NUS card ready for next year so I can save a little bit more and get a student ticket as well.

Warning: Here be spoilers!

So, my favourite bits... Well I loved the Barrels Out of Bond bit. When I heard they were making a film I imagined that bit would be changed or cut or something. I mean, in the book they all get shut in a bunch of barrels for two days, hardly edge of the seat stuff there. The way it was handled in the film made it into a proper action sequence and it was definitely a change for the better. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer the book, but in terms of making a good film, that was the right way to handle it.

I also really liked how they handled Gandalf leaving them at the entrance to Mirkwood. I've really enjoyed the way that both films so far have given more depth to what else is going on in Middle-earth during the time when the events of The Hobbit are taking place. Now Gandalf actually has a reason to leave them and it works so much better than him just abandoning when things might start getting sticky.

The dragon hoard and Lake Town were also brilliant visually. I had an idea of what I thought the hoard should be like, inspired partly by loads and loads of illustrations I've seen over the years. And I've always wondered exactly what Lake Town should look like, I mean, I've had a picture in my mind, but it's been fairly fluid and changed with different readings of the book. Now I think when I read the book I'll be picturing this version of Lake Town because it just makes sense.

As for my not so favourite bit, there's just one; the spiders, Dear God the Spiders! I ended up having to watch the lower left hand corner of the screen for the whole time they were on the screen. That way I could kind of see what was going on, but I didn't have to see the way the spiders moved or what they looked like. That's not to say they were bad. They were just way too lifelike, and they were giant and they were in 3D. It was not good for an arachnophobe like myself.

There were some really obvious changes, probably the biggest one being the inclusion of Legolas and the new Elf, Tauriel. I honestly was expecting to hate Tauriel; I was picturing Mary Sue type Elf-warriors and was prepared to complain about her inclusion. But having seen it I quite like her. The Hobbit is at a bit of a disadvantage because it doesn't have any real female characters; even though the women in The Lord of the Rings are a bit sparse, at least they're there!

Tauriel obviously creates a bit of a pull for the guys and who's to say she wasn't there in the background of the story. She's just a nice little added extra, and her relationship with Kili and Legolas helps to add some more depth to the story.

In the book everyone goes to the Lonely Mountain, but there's a bit of a change in the film and some of the dwarves get left behind. I'm guessing this'll link to something in the final film. Perhaps to make it more realistic that Bilbo is able to recount what's happened (because the dwarves are able to tell him) rather than not being there at all. Also, I suppose that it'll make two of the dwarves more easily accessible for killing and the associated angst that'll come along with that.

I wasn't expecting Thorin to face the dragon, considering in the book it's just Smaug and Bilbo. On the one hand I'd have rather that bit stuck closer to the film, but on the other hand, it does make sense for the point of view of the film. You couldn't really have one of the main characters not meeting one of the main antagonists.

A couple of other things that I just have to mention.

The whole way through the knitter in me was getting excited about Gandalf's scarf and hand warmers. I kept wondering who would've made them for him and I came to the conclusion that it must've been Galadriel, after all, she was a bit of a wild child in her youth and I can imagine her rebelling by dating one of the Istari. Totally makes sense!

Also in the first Hobbit film I got excited to see that Radagast's staff basically looked like Gandalf's from The Fellowship of the Ring. This film sees Gandalf's staff getting destroyed so I'm half-expecting to see Radagast giving Gandalf his at some point in the third film. If he does it'll be a nice little nod to all the Lord of the Rings fans who spotted it way back in the first Hobbit film.

I really can't wait until the next one comes out. It'll be kind of sad when it does, but at the same time, I'm really looking forward to having a Hobbit/Lord of the Rings marathon weekend!

Oh, and I'm going to see it again in our local cinema this week as well. I wonder if I'll notice anything else on a second viewing.

Friday, 17 January 2014

TMA 03 Word Cloud

My latest TMA was due slightly inconveniently on the 9th of January. I'd kind of fallen behind in the run up to Christmas, mainly because I was more interested in knitting socks and watching Christmas films than in studying. I meant I had a couple of days where I had to do a week's worth of work in a day, which I managed.

Obviously I wouldn't recommend studying like this, but as I had picked which of the two options I was going to do, I read those bits of the block with that essay question in mind. It helped me to stay focused on what I needed to talk about in my assignment. I won't really know if this paid off until I get my marks back though.

This assignment called for a study of three texts; one being an extract from a scene in Peter Pan and the other two being poems from the 100 Best Poems for Children book. I picked one called 'I Can't Find My Teddy Bear' and another called 'Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony' along with the opening of Peter Pan. The assignment brief asked you to look at the way that the family was celebrated and the anxieties they demonstrated.

I picked all three because of the similarities I could see in their portrayal of the family unit as well as the gender roles represented, and also looked at the fear of loss which seemed to be shared in all three. I honestly could've talked for two thousand words alone on 'I Can't Find My Teddy Bear' and was well over my word limit by the end of my first draft.

This does not normally happen. I always work out what the minimum number of words I can write will be and then aim for that, because when I go over, if I just go over by say 10% I should still be within my ideal word count. This time I just couldn't help myself and I kept on finding new things to say.

In the end I cut a massive chunk about financial anxieties which was probably really, really, relevant and I'll probably get notes in the feedback saying I should've mentioned it, but I couldn't cut anything back. By removing all references to that I was able to remove 208 words straight away.

My main feedback on my last assignment was that my introduction wasn't very strong. I made a huge effort on my introduction this time around. I think that by comparison my conclusion is quite weak so I'm expecting some comments on that. It'll be interesting to see how I get on with this one.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Day Zero Project: Cook romantic meal for my husband

In our house Mr Click is the king of the kitchen. Usually when I venture in there I injure myself, so we've established that it's probably safest if I just stay away.

That said, I can actually cook, when I put my mind to it. I can cook very yummy jam tarts and mince pies, though I've not made any for a while. I have even cooked full roast dinners, including meat, whilst I was a vegetarian, so I'm not completely hopeless.

All the same, I usually leave the cooking to Mr Click purely because he's so much better at it than me. He's a very good cook, and everything is at the right level for him. He's almost a full foot taller than me so he can reach the things on the top shelves. I can't, so I have to run around with steps to be able to reach stuff. It's simpler to leave it all to him.

Here's one I didn't prepare earlier...
But I'd really like to make up a nice romantic meal for him. I'm hoping we'll be able to pick up a suitable dining table for our house at some point and then I'd like to do the works, nice music, low lighting, candles and something yummy in the kitchen.

Considering we're in January at the moment, I've got plenty of time to build up to it. I've no idea when I'd do it. I'd like to make it a surprise, but it'll take some work to come up with something yummy and interesting for him without him realising what I'm planning. Perhaps one day when he's out of the house I'll hijack his slow cooker.

Whatever I cook, and whenever I do it, I'll post photos and let you know how it goes... and what the fire brigade say!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Book 47 of 2013: Watership Down by Richard Adams

I've had a copy of Watership Down by Richard Adams for years. It came from my great uncle's house and I've tried picking it up to read several times but never got very far. That didn't stop me though, and when I saw Plague Dogs, also by Richard Adams in a charity shop a few years ago I picked that up too. Both ended up languishing in book boxes until my last bookcase reshuffle when it was about time I paid them some attention!

I found this to be quite a slow read at first, taking me from the 25th August to the 12th September to get through. It took me ages to get in to and if I hadn't been admitted to hospital with no other reading material there's a strong chance I'd still be reading it.

Once I did get into it, I really enjoyed it. I just struggled to keep going with it when I had other things going on.

Most people are familiar with the film, it's been years since I saw it but I think it's a fairly good adaptation. The book follows Fiver and his brother Hazel after Fiver has a vision that something bad will happen to their warren.

They set out with a small band of rabbits for a new place to live, encountering other rabbits and wildlife along the way on their quest to create a new warren.

At times it really reminded me of Tolkien, mainly because there was obviously a fantastic history in the story. The rabbits have their own language and series of myths, but you're only ever given little glimpses of these so you're always aware that they fit into a bigger picture. I couldn't help but wonder what Tolkien would've made of it.

Some of the rabbits did kind of blend together for me, especially if I only read a little bit of it at a time. Most had identifiable characteristics, like a tuft of hair, a scar, the shade of their fur, but if they were just mentioned by name I could easily get then muddled up. If I'd read it a bit quicker I wouldn't've had that problem.

Despite having seen the film many years ago, I couldn't really remember the end. That meant there were a few bits where there were cliffhangers or rabbits didn't look like they were going to make it out of a scenario alive and I was genuinely worried. I like it when a story makes me feel that way.

I thought the ending was perfect. Stories like this which go on and on can sometimes have a disappointing ending, but this one was perfect. It went along nicely with all the little rabbity folklore stories throughout the book.

The Plague Dogs is up near the top of my list for the next book book I'm planning to read, after my next ebook on my Kindle, and my next couple of course books.

Monday, 13 January 2014

On Pins & Needles

This is what I've been working on this week.

This being Oscar the Anxious Octopus (anxious because at the moment he has no legs, I've got five knitted so far but not enough stuffing for them) and my seventeen hexipuffs.

I'm trying to do one in each colour I use for another project, hence all the black and pale blue ones because Oscar's legs are light blue, black and one other colour.

I've really got the hang of the puffs now and can do them from memory with just a little cheatsheet reminder of which row I'm working on. I've got my eighteenth on my needles as I type so I'm well ahead of my personal goal of averaging one a day, and they're a nice little break from the tedium of knitting eight virtually identical octopus legs!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Weekly Rundown

This week's been a bit of a busy one. We're at that 'back to normal' time of the year where you have to dust yourself off and go back to five-day weeks. I wasn't quite ready to do that so I took Friday off to go see The Hobbit on the mainland. I loved it, by the way, and will be writing a proper post on it later.

So, aside from galavanting off to the mainland, what've we been up to in the House of Click...

I got my third TMA written and submitted. I'll share a word cloud and some of my thoughts on the assignment in the coming week.

I've read two books; The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling on my Kindle and The Stories of English which I'm working on at the moment. I'm still writing up reviews of books I read last summer so I'm sure I'll get round to reviewing these eventually. I decided to kick the year off with The Jungle Book purely because Mr Click got me the Disney film for Christmas and we watched it at the end of the year, seemed like the right book to pick.

I've been watching so many things this week. Sherlock and Silent Witness have been back on TV so we've been catching them on iPlayer when we're at my in-laws' house. Silent Witness has gone through some big changes in the last two series (namely losing two of the main characters) which I'm still getting used to but Sherlock seems to be going from strength to strength.

We're still not back to watching ER since our blu-ray player is funny about playing some double-sided DVDs, ER being one of them. We've started watching the month series of Friends so the end is nearly in sight there.

And we've been watching films. Lots and lots of films. We watched virtually every Michael Caine film we own, after Mr Click got the Harry Palmer boxset, I particularly enjoyed seeing St. Petersburg again.

We've also watched An American Tail and the X-Men blu-rays I got for Christmas. Oh, and obviously The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in 3D and it was great!

Knitting wise I've ceased to be a monogamous knitter. I'm working on my Beekeeper's Quilt alongside my current project, a knitted octopus. He currently has no legs and looks a bit worried about it so we've been calling him Oscar the Anxious Octopus. In between knitting each part I do a hexipuff in each colour I used for that bit, in the case of the legs that's three puffs for each leg completed. As the octopus has eight legs, plus a stripy hat and scarf, he's making for a good boost to my hexipuff quota (and I'm staying ahead of my one a day target).

I also received my copy of The Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger that I ordered over Christmas. I can't wait to get stuck into knitting some crazy creatures.

Other than that both Mr Click and I have colds. Let me tell you sore throats are no fun when you have to spend all day talking to people! But it's been a good excuse (as if I need one) to spend the weekend begging in front of the TV, knitting, with my jammies on!

Kind of like a less furry version of this:

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Film Review: E.T.

One of the films I got Mr Click for Christmas was E.T. on Blu-ray. I think it was a pretty good gift as he'd mentioned it offhand when he saw it in one of my film magazines, so I bought it and hid it away (so well that I forgot I'd bought it until nearly Christmas time). He was very pleased when he pulled it out of his stocking.

If you're not familiar with the story, here's a recap; E.T. is an alien who's on a mission to earth with some others of his kind, they're collecting samples when some government guys almost stumble across them so they are forced to make an emergency getaway. Poor E.T. is left behind, to be found by a young boy named Elliot whose parents are divorced and he's struggling with his place in the family.

The more time Elliot and E.T. spend together, the closer they become, developing a sort of psychic bond. Elliot's older brother and sister learn about E.T. and together the kids work to help him 'phone home'. But the government are onto the visitor and E.T. is at risk of being taken away from Elliot and never getting home.

It's a film that used to really annoy me when I was younger. I'm not sure exactly why, though I used to think that E.T. looked a bit like a large turd. This time around I really enjoyed it. I think now that I'm older I can appreciate the way that the story is told.

For one thing, it's actually a really timeless film. Although it's obviously from the 80s the clothes and hairstyles aren't that dated. Yeah, the cars are old and yeah, the kids are lacking modern gadgets and electronics, and yeah, it's highly unlikely that ten-year-olds are going to be dissecting frogs in their science classes, but it's aged remarkably well.

It's also a really well constructed story. I love the way that the kids interact with E.T. and the way that Elliot and E.T. grow to love each other. I really like how the family relationship works as well, as far as Michael is concerned, Elliot is his annoying younger brother, but when he needs him, he's there for him. The same with little Gertie, it's really sweet.

The special effects are obviously of their time. The iconic scenes with the kids on the bikes being levitated by E.T. have that dark halo around them, like the unedited scenes in the original Star Wars trilogy. But you can overlook that, because it is a cinema classic. Speaking of Star Wars, I love the little nods to the trilogy, with Elliot showing E.T. his action figures and E.T. appearing to recognise Yoda when he sees someone dressed as him at Halloween. Apparently a group of E.T.s can be seen in the first Star Wars prequel, when we finally get that on Blu-ray I'm definitely going to look out for it.

The Blu-ray version of E.T. that we've got has quite a lot of special features and I'm quite curious about the making of it. There should be some interesting featurettes there. I'll let you know what I think.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Fingers Crossed


Weather permitting, either today or tomorrow I will finally be getting to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the cinema.

I say weather permitting because recent weather has caused the ferries to be off more often than on. Last year when we went to the cinema to see The Hobbit I booked in advance but as the weather is being somewhat crap at the moment there's no predicting if we'll actually get off the island.

One way or another I will get to Glasgow to see this film!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Day Zero Project: Get breakfast in bed for my husband

This is one that I've only just achieved recently.

Ever since we moved into our little cottage, Mr Click has been in charge of the kitchen. With good reason. My last two forays into the kitchen have involved me throwing toast all over the cooker, nearly breaking the grill pan in the process, and grating my thumb instead of the lump of cheese I was supposed to be working with.

So it's understandable that the kitchen is firmly his domain. And he does a good job too. There's very little that he can't turn into some sort of edible meal, and the slow cooker I got him for Christmas has prompted him to try a whole bunch of new meals as well.

That's not to say I'm a complete failure in the kitchen. I can cook. When I need to. But he's much better at it than I am, and he doesn't make so much of a mess either.

Each morning begins in more or less the same way. The alarm goes off, I turn it off, head to the bathroom and deal with the dog, then Mr Click gets up and deals with our breakfast. It's quite easy now he's got his funky coffee machine, he sets it up the night before and the most I ever have to do is press the button to turn it on if it's not had the timer set the night before.

For Mr Click's birthday last month I did actually get up and not only press the button on the coffee machine, but also poured it into his mug and taken the nice fancy breakfast out of its packet, put it onto the plates and then took it through to the bedroom. We don't have croissants that often, but it made for a nice easy breakfast in bed that day.

I'd love to do some sort of fancy fry up or pancakes or something but that's not the sort of thing we have for breakfast so for now this simple little breakfast will do. Besides, even if I wanted to do cereal, it's all stored in a cupboard which is too high up for me to reach, so I'll just have to carry on with the simple meals, hehe.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Book 46 of 2013: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Since I've been studying Children's Literature I've been making a real attempt to read more books written for children and young adults, particularly those that have been getting a mention in my course books. One of the first ones to be mentioned was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and as I had it on my Kindle, and it's one of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, I figured I'd give it a go.

Alice is a little girl who is supposed to be studying with her sister, but she's distracted day dreaming and suddenly spots a white rabbit. Following the rabbit, she takes a tumble down a rabbit hole and finds herself in the weird and wonderful Wonderland. Once there she grows and shrinks so much that she is quite confused about who she is and what she's doing there, and no idea how to get home.
I decided to start reading this after watching the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland so it was good to see the similarities and differences between the stories. Plus it had also warranted a mention in the course book and even though it's not a text that we're studying, I thought if it was worth a mention then it was worth reading in the context of the other Children's Literature classics that I'll be studying. In some respects I'm glad that I'm not having to study it because otherwise it might have sucked some of the fun out of the story.
I really enjoyed reading this as it was very quick, just under one hundred pages. It made for a nice quick read; started one day and finished the next. I think it would make for a good series of bedtime stories for children because it's nice and zany but it wouldn't take long to get through - there's nothing worse than having a long bedtime story so everyone starts forgetting what happened at the beginning by the time they get to the end.
I think that it's a story that's stood up to time really well. Although it's obviously taking place in the past, there's nothing that dates it that much. It's a fantasy so Alice could belong to any era and I think that's something that would help kids to relate to the story.
I also felt like there were little nods to the adults who would be reading the story to children. I read this many, many years ago when I was a child, but I don't remember picking up on some of those little jokes when I was younger. It's similar to when I re-read Winnie the Pooh, there were bits in that that I'd never noticed before but which are obviously there for the benefit of the mum or dad or whoever who is reading the bedtime story.
At some point I'm planning on reading Through the Looking Glass as well, it'll be interesting to see how that one compares to this now.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Puff, Puff, Puffin'

Some time ago, while looking around Ravelry, I found a pattern called The Beekeeper's Quilt. It's a gorgeous looking hand-knit quilt made by knitting these little hexagonal pockets which are then stuffed and sewn together. It takes 384 of these little 'hexipuffs' to make a quilt for a double bed and it's a pattern I've been wanting to try for quite some time.

As I mentioned around a week ago, I was lucky enough to be gifted the Beekeeper's Quilt pattern on Ravelry. New Year's Eve I sat down and spend a good long time working on a hat that I'd decided to knit on a whim, finishing the actual knitting of it shortly after the bells rang in the New Year. Once I'd sewn it up on New Year's Day I didn't have any other knitting with me to work on, so I pulled up the PDF for the Beekeeper's Quilt and have been hexipuffin' away on and off since then.

My first little puff was done in the multi-coloured yarn that I used for the stripes on my first pair of knitted socks. It's nice and colourful and bright, perfect for the first day of the year. I'm trying to do at least one a day (on average) because if I can do two or three on some days that'll give me enough for a whole quilt by the end of the year.

They do knit up very quickly, the first one, which I did actually have to start over because I realised that I was missing the second round of the pattern and had just been doing the first all the way round, only took me about three quarters of an hour to do. And the longest bit was getting it started and finished, mainly because both require me to do something slightly different to what I've done before. Obviously I'll speed up as I get used to that.

I'll try not to spam my blog with too many hexipuff posts because I'm sure that it's not something that'll interest everyone, but I'll try and update regularly with my progress because I think it's going to be fun watching this grow.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Project 52: All Over

And I'm wrapping up my Project 52 for 2013. I didn't actually get around to posting all of the photos that I took over the course of the year, but I've got them all on my computer and can pull them out for future blog posts, whenever I need something relevant.

Yesterday we spent the day taking down all of our Christmas decorations. It took us quite a while because we've got a lot more this year than we've had in previous years, plus I'd decorated up the staircase, and we had lights outside, not to mention all the birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards all over the walls.

As you can see above, the living room is quite pleased to be going back to normalcy again. Those are the strings that I'd hung all the cards up on this year (not pictured, another four strings like this above my chair and behind the living room door!) but they look like a smiley face, so I snapped a quick photo before I took them down.

Now the living room looks all empty and bare, except for all the little bits of glitter and tinsel which we keep finding all over the house (we'll be vacuuming that up until next Christmas, I think). We rearranged things a little bit to make room for the tree, but we're planning on not moving the TV back to where it was before because we've realised that gives us extra room for another bookcase. As our TV and film collection continues to grow and grow, another bookcase would be very handy.

As for my photos for the coming year, I've decided to do Wordless Wednesday posts instead of a Sunday photo post. I've always posted my photos on a Sunday because that's the day that I have internet access, so logically it was the best day for getting everything uploaded and posted. It'll probably take me a few weeks to adjust to making sure that I've got things posted on the right day, so please forgive any hiccups.

I'm also planning on posting a mix of new and old photos, depending on how I'm feeling that week. I think that'll help to take the pressure off myself to find something to photograph each week, regardless of whether or not that's what I feel like doing and help to keep it fun. I'm hoping that as the weather improves during the year I might be able to get some really nice and interesting photos taken.

And what about my Sunday posts? I'm not entirely sure what these'll become, but it'll be fun figuring that out.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Film Review: The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition

Yes, I know I've reviewed The Hobbit before but for Christmas I received the latest iteration of the first of the three Hobbit films. I know that people's views of the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are somewhat mixed; it's either a cash cow to pump people for more money, or it's a new way of watching a favourite film. I view it as the latter and ever since we went to see The Hobbit in Glasgow I've been looking forward to the Extended Edition.

I'm one of those people who loves not only watching the film, but also really enjoys hearing how it was made, I love the hours of special features on the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions and I'll happily watch the film six times in order to listen to all the commentaries. I've not even touched the special features on this box set yet, so I'll just talk about the film itself.

Firstly, the case is so cool! Mr Click got me the Blu-ray 3D box set. This is a great deal because the film was made in 3D (which got mixed reviews, but I loved it) but obviously we don't have a 3D TV setup. Not a problem because this set also includes the regular Blu-ray and a digital copy of the film as well. Now you can't see it in the picture above but that image on the front cover is in 3D as well. It's a sort of holographic cover and it just looks awesome. I kind of want to just prop the case up on the bookcase so I can see it all the time because it looks like there's a little Bilbo trapped in there!

As to the film itself. Well, it's not got a much longer runtime, it works out at around fifteen extra minutes of footage, most of which was not really missed from the original theatrical cut. That said, it does help to add a little more depth to the story and builds up to things to come.

Mr Click and I watched it the Saturday following Christmas and played 'spot the extended scene'. The first we spotted was right at the beginning which helped to show the rift between the Elves and the Dwarves. I'm glad they've popped that back in because it makes the later scenes when Gandalf leads the crew to Rivendell make more sense in terms of Thorin's reluctance to go.

Some scenes just have slightly different shots, like the view of the dragon attacking Erebor. Again I can see why that was cut; the dragon was barely revealed in the theatrical cut because, hey, he's going to be the main attraction in getting bums on seats for the sequel. Now that's out in cinemas, they can throw viewers a bone and let them see a bit more of him at the beginning.

There's also a nice little addition of baby Bilbo at Old Took's birthday party when Gandalf did a pyrotechnic display. It's a really short little scene but it helps to establish Gandalf's place in Bilbo's history and sets up the later scene when Gandalf is talking about the 'young hobbit [he] used to know'.

I like that the Extended Edition includes a little bit more of Hobbiton and a bit more of Rivendell. I have been predicting extra Rivendell scenes since we saw the film in the cinema, but the Hobbiton scenes were a pleasant surprise. One of these Rivendell scenes is a bit of a marmite one by the looks of what I've seen online; people either love it or hate it. I'm of the opinion that anything extra is good so I love it and rather than try to describe it, or post screencaps that might not make it clear what it is, I've found it on YouTube:

The stuff in Rivendell is a lot more light-hearted than the Rivendell scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I think that's how it should be. At the time of The Hobbit they're enjoying peace, this is Rivendell in it's summertime, by the period shown in The Fellowship of the Ring it's the Autumn of the Elves and they're beginning to decline and leave Middle-earth. Sauron is causing problems and no one is carefree and relaxed anymore.
The songs the Elves sing in The Hobbit with their 'tra-la-la-lally'ing was never going to fit into this film, but I feel like these scenes help to recapture the mood of that part of the book. And yeah, it's got naked Dwarves in a fountain too. It made me laugh.
There were also more scenes with the Goblin King as well as more singing in general. Over all I love the Extended version of the film and I know it's one I'll happily watch over and over again. Hopefully I'll get to see the second film soon and also get through some of the (over) nine hours worth of special features on the discs with this set.
Look out for my reviews of those here in the future!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Random Acts of Kindness

While reading forum posts on Ravelry at the beginning of the week I found a group called Random Acts of Kindness. The idea is that you post a wishlist and then read through other people's wishlists; if you see a wish you can grant, you go ahead and do so, and hopefully someone will grant a wish for you as well.

I loved the idea of this and so I went ahead and joined the group. But being a new member and it being close to the end of the month I didn't feel like I could post an actual wishlist. Instead I just asked for people to do some simple Random Acts of Kindness of their own.

I asked for people to handwrite a thank you note for one of the gifts they had received and post it to the person who'd given them the gift; to be totally selfish and pick something to knit just for themselves; or to go to a 'Finished Items' thread on a Ravelry group and pick six items to 'love' (which is kind of the Ravelry equivalent of 'liking' a post) which they thought needed a bit more attention.

I didn't expect anything back from that but I looked through the wishlist thread to see what I could give back to someone else. Imagine my surprise when I logged onto Ravelry the next day to find that I had been sent a pattern as a gift.

A very generous person had treated me to the pattern in memory of a family member. It wasn't even a pattern I had mentioned wanting in my wishlist, I'd mentioned it in my New Year's Resolutions post and she obviously looked it up and found it for me. I can't wait to start.

As I'd already decided to treat myself to it at some point in the future, on Sunday I put the money I was going to spend on that pattern towards a pattern for someone else in the wishlists thread. It felt so good that I can't wait to do more Random Acts of Kindness.

Have you ever done anything like that?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Day Zero Project: Buy a dress I feel confident enough to wear

I have always tended to wear clothes that I feel comfortable in, rather than whatever the current fashion is. This inevitably means I wind up wearing jeans and t-shirts. Or when I get dressed up it's black trousers and a smart top

It's a self-confidence thing more than anything. I feel self conscious of my chest, thighs, bum and some of the bits in between as well, so the best way to avoid drawing attention to them is to wear something plain and not too showy, because that way people won't pay attention to me.

Well, in recent years I've found that my confidence levels have grown and grown. I've gone in for things at work that I never would've considered going in for before. Now when Mr Click tells me I look beautiful in something, I'm rather inclined to agree with him, rather than think he's just saying it to be nice (which I'll admit, some of the time he probably is).

Wearing dresses is one of those things that I don't do very often, but back at the beginning of 2012 I put it on my list of things to do. I have short chunky legs and for years I've struggled to find outfits that don't make me look too short and frumpy. I have kind of chunky knees and so always used to wear skirts that came to below my knee, to hide them, which in actual fact just made me look shorter.

So when I discovered I needed a dress for a posh awards thing, I decided I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a dress with a white bodice top and black skirt which came to just above my knees. I found exactly what I was looking for in New Look:

You can't see my legs in this photo, but believe me they're there and they look good. ;-)

And now I've got not just one dress which I look good in, but two:

So yeah, that confidence thing is kind of a thing of the past!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Just a quick post to say:

Happy New Year!

Hope that everyone is recovering from their celebrations last night and you're not suffering too much.
Here's to a good year, lots of new and happy memories, trying more new things and meeting lots of new people.
And hopefully no five day power cuts this year!