Monday, 31 March 2014

All For Charity...

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, this year I got to take part in Sport Relief. It was actually something I had the opportunity to do last year but a hospital thing got in the way and I had to give that priority. This year I had no such obligation and when I found out I could put my name forward for it I didn’t hesitate.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, despite knowing several people who have done it before but I knew it was for a good cause and too good a thing to miss out on so I spent the week beforehand gearing myself up; feeling alternately ridiculously excited and embarrassingly nervous.

Friday 21st dawned cold and bright and before I knew it I was on the 8am boat heading away from the island with my giant wheely suitcase. It had seemed so much smaller in the shop but compared to my companions I felt like I was going away for a week! In my defence it wasn’t full, I did have a lot of free space inside, and it was definitely more practical for travelling from one train to another on the journey. And there were a lot of trains involved.

The boat met the train to Glasgow. So far so good. This is a journey all four of us had completed numerous times. We knew we were on a pretty tight schedule as each train was lined up to meet another, and another, but when we reached Glasgow we had roughly fifteen minutes to spare before we hopped on the next train so we separated to get various essentials, like coffee.

I’d never been on a Virgin train before and I’m not used to that sort of travel. We got lucky and found ourselves in a coach with free wifi and funky tables that sort of pulled out. We were also immensely amused by the message in the toilets that started playing when you locked the door; it started out like a standard message warning not to flush things that aren’t toilet paper down the loo, but then went on to say you also shouldn’t flush goldfish, your ex’s sweater, old mobile phones, bills, or hopes, dreams and ambitions either.

I was all for getting a recording of it on my phone, except we soon discovered that far from being on that train until after 2pm, we were only on it until about 12pm! Imagine our shock when we heard the announcement for the next station. There was a bit of a scramble to get all our stuff, especially as my luggage was left in a rack at the opposite end of the carriage from where we were sitting.

We made it off the train at Preston without any further hiccups and had a bit of a wait before our next train and quickly found the one we needed to be on which took us to our final destination where we got checked into a very nice hotel. We had a bit of time before we needed to go out for the work-related part of our trip so I did what any normal person would do in that situation:

Took photos of the bathroom of course!

I’m sorry, but it was lovely and definitely photo-worthy. I had to show Mr Click back home.

That evening we got all set up for taking calls for Sport Relief donations. Up until that point I’d thought it was a good, worthwhile trip but I wasn’t sure if it was one I’d want to repeat in the future. I changed my mind after the first thirty minutes of the night. It was such a fantastic thing to be involved in, I loved it. There was a brilliant atmosphere in the room and it was so different to what I do on a day-to-day basis.

On the one hand I’m reluctant to put my name forward in the future because I don’t want to take that experience away from other people, but on the other hand, I really selfishly want to be involved in something that big again in the future.

It was a long day for us because we’d been up since around 6am and didn’t start taking calls until 7pm, then kept going until midnight, especially with all the travelling as well, but when we finished we were buzzing and couldn’t go to bed right away. It was like we needed some time to wind down off of the cloud we’d ended up on.

The next day was basically the previous day in reverse, though it wasn’t without a slight hiccup either. I called to book a taxi first thing in the morning. The train was at 9:26am and we figured getting the taxi for 9am would give us plenty of time to meet the train, after all, it was only about ten or fifteen minutes from the station to the hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t count on the taxi firm not actually sending a taxi!

After waiting for five minutes we started to panic, I called again and found there was no taxi coming. We booked another one at the hotel desk and waited. And waited. And waited. The panic levels rose as the minutes ticked by and we realised that we would be really pushing it to get the train.

And then a taxi showed up. We piled into it. And hit every set of traffic lights between the hotel and the station. I swear they must’ve built extra ones in the night just to slow us down!

But we made it to the station, the rest of the group took off with my suitcase while I threw money at the driver and jiggled about waiting for my receipt. And then dashed up to the platform. Where we had about three minutes to spare before our train arrived.

Thankfully the rest of the journey home was quite smooth. Our next train was just across the platform from the one we got off of. We had to walk to a different station for the one after that, but it was just across the road and we could see it as soon as we got out of the station. And we were soon settled on a Virgin train for the return trip to Glasgow.

We were a bit disappointed on that train, compared to the one we’d been on before. There was no free wifi in our carriage and the toilet didn’t have a funky recorded message but we were tired and were just glad to know we were on our way home; apparently we’d gotten lucky on the way and had been in a hybrid coach which would occasionally be upgraded to First Class if it was busy. We set about getting one of the things we’d been asked to do before we returned to work and settling in for the journey. But when two of the girls went to grab something to eat the guy at the counter heard about our lack of wifi and that we’d been down to Manchester for Sport Relief and promptly upgraded us to First Class.

Not only did we get free tea and wifi, a lady came around with little snack boxes filled with goodies (but in miniature) for us to refresh ourselves with. I was particularly enamoured with the teeny tiny Toblerone bar which made me feel like a giant. Still no funky message in the toilet there though.

I was so relieved to get home, the rest of the journey passed relatively quickly. From Glasgow Central we had a short wait for a train (where we got a bemused Virgin train lady to take a photo of us all around one of the massive umbrellas we’d each been given the night before and of course I picked up some Millie’s Cookies). It was such a busy two days with so much crammed into it that I feel like I’m only just recovering from it. I certainly felt like I could’ve slept for a week afterwards.

But it’s definitely something I’d love to do again. Next time they ask for volunteers my name’ll be at the top of the list!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Weekly Rundown

I completely forgot to write a post for yesterday but it was kind of just as well because if I had I wouldn't have realised that this is my six hundred and sixty-sixth post. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

This week has been a lot more relaxed than last week, something I’m eternally grateful for because after all the excitement and travelling last Friday and Saturday I’ve spent pretty much the whole week just longing for my bed. Yesterday I got to have a lovely long lie-in, doing nothing more taxing than filling in the pages of my newest Book Journal and watching films. Exactly what I needed, even if I still couldn’t help waking up at 7:30am!

This week I’ve been taking a break from knitting Hattie, the doll I’ve been working on. Well, I’ve made her one outfit and cast on for a scarf, but 12 stitch rows of garter stitch are a little wearisome and I needed something to work on while I was away last week so I’ve been working on a monster instead. I’ve gotten the body finished but wasn’t feeling one hundred percent during the week and couldn’t be bothered with the effort of knitting dinky little arms and legs so I’ve not made any progress with it recently.

It’s not something that I’m going to let languish on my needles though. This week I’m aiming to try and get at least two limbs finished and the rest done the following week and all sewn together. I’m not sure exactly where my little monster is going to end up but I’m tempted to take it into work for my desk as my little elf person is a bit out of place there all by himself.

I’ve been well stuck into my OU this week as well. Reading all of the books for this section of the course has really paid off because I’m just whizzing through the material, rather than having to stop and read to a certain point before I’m able to continue. Despite doing practically no OU work the week when I was away I still managed to finish that chapter on Friday and got a little way into the next one the day before I was technically due to start it.

I’ve got a few more evenings in next week so all being well I’ll be able to crack on with the last two chapters and start work on the final assignment next Saturday. Kind of scary to think how close to finishing it I am now. We’ve even been talking about my graduation ceremony this week. I’m hoping it’s in Edinburgh so we can make a long weekend of it and visit the city when it’s slightly less crazy than it was at Christmas time.

Now that I’m all up to date with my OU reading I’ve also got freedom to read whatever book I feel like, completely guilt-free. I’ve gone to The Lord of the Rings because it’s about due for another reread. I had been determined to read the illustrated edition this time around but thus far I’ve managed approximately one chapter and the rest has been on my Kindle.

The problem with the illustrated edition is that it is most definitely not portable. Had I tried taking that to Manchester with me I would’ve needed another suitcase (and a whole table to myself on the train so I had somewhere to put it while I was reading)! It’s also somewhat expensive and valuable and so not the sort of thing you can read in bed while you’re drinking a cup of tea (as I found out with my illustrated edition of The Hobbit, luckily it hasn’t stained). So for practical reasons I’ve been reading it on my Kindle and then just visiting the illustrated edition to check out the pictures. It’s working well for me so far.

TV viewing has been sporadic this week. After having a lazy day at home last Sunday I didn’t get to watch the episode of Bones my in-laws had recorded for me on the Sky+ and we’ve been out of the house most evenings this week so we’ve not seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds either.

The Two Ronnies, on the other hand, we’re sailing through. They’re not too long, about 45 minutes, so are the perfect length to watch with a hot drink in bed before snuggling under the covers and reading. Some of the jokes date the episodes a little bit, at the moment there’s a reference to Uganda’s General Amin at least once an episode but on the whole I’m enjoying it. It seems like a good thing to follow The Good Life with.

This week I’m hoping to get stuck into the A to Z Challenge, focusing on the entirely random collection of music I have on my mp3 player/other assorted songs that I like. I’m also hoping to continue to post books reviews and extra posts some days as well, but I’m hoping to use this as a chance to get well and truly caught up with the other blogs I follow and actually post some comments on them to say hi as well!

Friday, 28 March 2014

To A-Z or no...

The A to Z Challenge kicks off in the blogosphere next Tuesday and I'm still debating whether or not to take part this year. Although in the course of writing this post I think I've kind of talked myself back into it!

One of the problems I had last year was that lots of the blogs that I started following were only interesting to me while they were taking part in the challenge; once they stopped the challenge they became more sporadic in their posts or the subjects they posted weren't of much interest to me.

And the changes to Google Reader haven't helped either. Now I have to use BlogLovin which isn't the same. The old reader I used had no problem loading basic pages on my crappy mobile internet connection but BlogLovin's iPhone app seems to load everything or nothing. It rarely updates itself if I'm not connected to wifi and everything is marked as unread regardless of how many times I read it.

That means I have to open up each blog individually and then work through the posts, which is a bit of a faff when I just want to load the posts while I take the dog out to go back and read in bed or on my breaks at work.

That said, I enjoyed reading the posts that everyone came up with and I've had a topic in mind for mind since about September. (I want to do a music-themed A to Z, it's relatively low effort and won't get in the way of my regular posts).

So I'm thinking of using this year's challenge to improve my blog reading habits. Last year it helped me to get into the routine of posting every day. This year I'll use it to get into the habit of reading my friends' blogs and actually commenting on them; something I've been really lax about recently!

Happy Blogging!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Day Zero Project: Watch all the Harry Potter films in one weekend

I love to have movie marathons, just this weekend I sat and watched all the Lion King movies back-to-back. Back when I made my list of things to do for my Day Zero Project one of the things I included was to watch all of the Harry Potter films in one weekend.

I kind of cheated a bit when I actually completed this challenge in April 2012 but I class it as completed. I never actually specified how long the weekend had to be so when we watched all eight films over the Easter weekend I decided that was it completed.

I'd like to go back and rewatch them in a shorter space of time at some point. Perhaps start earlier in the morning and go for four one day and four the other. I'm thinking of doing this at some point in the summer this year because the last time I watched the films was way back two years ago.

I had to read the first Harry Potter book for my course last year and since then I've read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets so perhaps if I can get the others read I can go back and watch the films afterwards. I'm quite keen to get on with reading the books again as a friend has found and given me an America edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's massive but it looks beautiful and I can't wait to look at the pretty pictures.

But back to the films, this is one challenge that has definitely been completed but I think it's one which can be repeated fairly frequently. I know the films have their critics and their fans, I prefer the books but I do like the films too.

Just writing this blog post has got me looking forward to watching them again!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book 57 of 2013: The Perfect Treat by various authors

After my long slow trek through Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women I knew I needed something light-hearted and fluffy to lift my spirits.

This was around the time that I started getting ridiculously excited for Christmas and so went on an epic downloading spree for free Kindle books featuring some kind of Christmas content. One of these was The Perfect Treat; a short story collection comprising of five stories by Claudia Carroll, Julia Williams, Liz Trenow, Miranda Dickinson and Mhairi McFarlane. The stories were all either little shorts or sample chapters from larger works.

It was a lovely quick little read. I started it on the 11th of November and finished it the following day. After the long time I'd spent on Little Women it was good to have something I could pick up, read and get through relatively quickly.

Most of the stories had a hint of Christmas in them but it wasn't really too big so it was perfect for the time of year I was reading it. One of the stories was set at New Year's Eve and I think one didn't actually mention the season anywhere at all.

The stories were all pretty much the right length. You got some sort of conclusion even if it wasn't completely perfect. The only one which I felt could have been a bit longer was the New Year one which was a bit like a take on It's A Wonderful Life. It covered a lot of ground in a very short space of time but it could've benefitted from slowing down and taking more time to tell what was essentially quite a complicated story.

I think I may look out for more stories by these authors in the future next time I'm looking for something a wee bit fluffy. They definitely helped me to get back on track with my reading after feeling so swamped by my course's required reading!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Monster Knitting

Knowing that I was going to be spending a fair chunk of time on Friday and Saturday travelling to and from Manchester, I decided I needed a knitting project to keep myself occupied.

I've been working on the female half of a pair of twin dressing up dolls and have been working on getting her fully clothed. The last bit of that involved knitting a scarf which probably would've been finished early on in the journey and unless I took a lot of other supplies with me I'd not have anything to do once I'd finished it.

I bought some lovely big chunky wool in Hobbycraft last week and ordered the corresponding needle tips for it a couple of days later with the intention of taking that. But I soon realised carting that around was not going to be practical as there was no way it would fit in my bag.

Plus I had a dream where one of my wooden needle tips snapped and so I decided I had to make something which I could use my metal tips for.

So I turned to my Big Book of Knitted Monsters. The book fitted snuggly into my shoulderbag and I quickly selected a suitable ball of yarn.

Picking the monster to knit took a wee bit longer but after ruling out the ones I didn't want to do I let Mr Click select one from the ones left. He chose Petunia the Patio Monster and I set to work on her.

This was the perfect choice actually because she's quite small so not a huge number of stitches but the body part basically involves doing the same thing for fifty rows. All I needed was a sticky note to keep track of how many rows I'd done, a pencil and a key for my KnitPro interchangeable needles (in case they worked loose). I managed to fit the key inside my locket that Mr Click got me for Christmas and so wore that while I was away so I always had it to hand.

I think the people I was travelling with were kind of impressed with my Magic Loop ninja knitting and I enjoyed having something to do on what I'd thought was going to be a very long train journey (it was a long train journey but we had several changes which made it impractical to keep getting my knitting out and putting it away).

And my monster is looking really good. Because of the variegated quality of the yarn it's developed a sort of pattern of stripes which twist up the body. Mr Click has suggested that it'd make really neat socks.

No photos just yet unfortunately because my phone won't let me upload them. But I'll be sure to share it when I'm done!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Weekly Rundown

I'm going to keep this short this week because I'm kind of spending the day like this:

Obviously, I can't stretch out on the sofa because that's occupied by the dog so I'm lounging on my armchair. The intention was to spend the day doing little more than watching Disney films, reading The Lord of the Rings and knitting but then I decided I should probably do some OU.

Right now I'm watching The Lion King films whilst getting myself caught up. I basically did no studying after Monday last week but I've already finished last week's chapter and I'll make a start on this one's after lunch. So not behind at all.

It helps that I've read all the books required for this last block now. I was determined that I didn't want to take Junk away to Manchester with me as I was close enough to the end that I'd need to pack a second book for the return journey (and I was trying to travel light). Luckily I managed to finish it Wednesday morning so I could take my Kindle with the ebook version of The Lord of the Rings with me.

Junk is a pretty heavy going book in places and it's quite bleak. I struggled to like most of the characters and I knew what was coming thanks to its popularity when I was at school. That said, I did quite enjoy reading it and I'm looking forward to getting to study it. I think I could probably find quite a lot to say about it an essay.

We've not watched a massive amount of TV this week, simply because it feels like we've hardly been home. We did watch the last episode in the miniseries of Jonathan Creek and we've got to the end of the first series of The Two Ronnie's Collection. We haven't seen too much of Criminal Minds this week, something I intend to change this week!

Obviously one of the main things I've been up to this week was taking calls for Sport Relief in Manchester. It was a fantastic experience and I loved every minute of it.

I had great company for the event, stayed in a lovely hotel and we got bumped up to First Class on the Virgin train on the way back.

Now I just need to relax, recuperate and get ready for a (hopefully) quieter week!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Well-earned Treat

I'm almost home now after a pretty epic 36 hours.

I'll write more about it later but suffice to say it started at 5:45am yesterday morning, involved a journey comprising of a boat, several trains and a taxi, and then didn't actually end until I crawled into bed somewhere around 1:30 this morning!

But it was all for a very good cause, and it's been a brilliant experience, and I've treated Mr Click and myself to something from Millie's Cookies to have with our tea tonight.

I've definitely earned it!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Sport Relief 2014

Today is Sport Relief and I'm lucky enough to be getting involved in it.

As you read this I'll be heading down to Manchester to help take calls for donations throughout the evening. Up and down the country people will be getting involved in raising money for a good cause in a variety of weird and wonderful ways.

So go ahead, get involved! Even if you're not doing anything sporty, call and donate, you might just get through to me!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Day Zero Project: Watch all the Lord of the Rings special features

Here's a Day Zero Project target that I actually achieved!

When Mr Click (or rather, our pets) bought me the Blu-ray box set of Lord of the Rings films I knew I had to sit down and revisit all the special features, especially with the release of the first Hobbit film being imminent. But there are a lot of special features and I have a lot less time to sit around watching special features now than when I was teenager and it was all brand new.

It took me a long time to get them all watched, over weekends, when I was home alone and when Mr Click didn't feel like watching TV but I did. I gradually worked my way through everything, including the cast and director commentaries.

I'd seen pretty much all of the special features before, but some of them I've not seen for quite a long time so it was almost like seeing it for the first time. It was also interesting to contrast it with the special features on the Hobbit films, particularly just how new some of the technology was that they were using and that has now been replaced by even newer technology.

It was also kind of funny to see how the production worked originally, whereas they've not got a purpose built set of offices. It was nice to see the 'bigatures' something they've moved away from on the Hobbit films, as well as the increased number of green screen shots on the Hobbit compared to the relative lack of them on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I also loved revisiting the cast commentaries; particularly the one on The Fellowship of the Ring. I still remember back when that was the first ever commentary I'd ever really listened to and I completely fell in love with the idea of essentially watching the film with the cast and learning all about the behind the scenes stories.

This time around I also watched the director commentaries. I think I watched them on Fellowship and possibly Two Towers but I never watched the one on Return of the King. It's really interested to hear about the film from two different perspectives; those behind the camera and those in front of it.

It's also really funny to hear Peter Jackson talking about coming to the end of his time in Middle-earth, knowing that he's now right back there. It's something he mentions himself on the commentary of An Unexpected Journey as well as in the special features.

I'm pleased that I went back to revisit these special features. Some of it felt really nice and familiar (like the description of the games 'Cup' and 'Tig' which I'd forgotten about until I rewatched the commentary) and other bits seemed kind of new (like Peter Jackson talking about wrapping everything up on Return of the King). I was watching them with different eyes now compared to as a teenager and I think I can appreciate how filmmaking has changed in the last ten years.

It'll be interesting to see how things will be different in another ten years time.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Book 56 of 2013: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was one of the books studied in my Children's Literature course looking at different books aimed at boys and girls. It's a book that I'd looked at as a child, having had a copy of it in the Children's Classics set of books my grandparents gave me for birthday and Christmas one year.

This edition of the book is actually two books in one; the original Little Women book which introduced the March sisters to the world, and the sequel Good Wives which sees the girls paired off and begin their adult lives in earnest.

The first half of the book is heavily inspired by Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and basically follows the lives of the girls for one year while their father is away at war. The sequel's tone is slightly different and flits between the March sisters as they embark on their own lives, have children and deal with love and tragedies. It's semi-autobiographical at times as the sisters are all based on Alcott's own family, with Jo based on herself.

The fact that I started reading this on the 17th of October last year and didn't finish it until the 10th of November should tell you something about what I made of this book. I did really enjoy the first half, despite all the allegory and moral messages that were thrown at you every chapter. The second half on the other hand, well, it wasn't really my cup of tea. After setting up Laurie and Jo that gets thrown away, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen and it just generally annoyed me.

Having studied it I have a better understanding of why it has so many religious and moral messages and why it was written that way, but that didn't stop me from finding them a bit tiresome. Basically if any of the girls do anything slightly bad, such as putting off their chores, something disproportionally bad will happen as a result, such as their sister contracting an illness and nearly dying. It was done to kind of hammer home the message about being a 'good little woman' but when it's happening virtually every chapter you can kind of stop appreciating it.

The course materials kind of explained that this was done because of the serial nature of publication at the time. I found actually studying the book more enjoyable than actually reading it. It was really interesting to hear about how this influenced future books aimed at a similar audience; though I have to admit that I didn't hugely enjoy writing the essay on it (but I still got an okay mark).

I've read a few books by Louisa May Alcott and I do have to admit that I like her writing style. There's something quite tongue in cheek at a lot of times in the story, it's aimed at younger readers but you get the impression that she quite enjoyed writing parts of it, even if she did feel beholden to the characters because of the fan reactions and enjoyed writing them less as time progressed.

I think in future if I was rereading it I'd just read Little Women and stop before I got to Good Wives, although curiosity does make me wonder about the other books featuring these characters so who knows, maybe I'll investigate those at some point.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Crafty Shopping

As I mentioned yesterday, I did a wee bit of shopping in Hobbycraft. I'd gone in with a budget of about £20 which I was willing to stretch to £25 or maybe even £30 depending on what I saw while I was there. I'd started off making a little list which gradually grew and grew into quite a large list:
  • Yarn - that was the main thing I wanted, specifically sock yarn and/or chunky yarn, especially variegated stuff.
  • Snips - the little ones you can wear on a chain around your neck
  • Patterns - any and all, I love looking at pattern books, especially toy ones
  • Buttons - the dolls I'm knitting at the moment call for buttons as decoration as well as zips for fastening clothes, I'm modifying them so that the buttons are actually used for fastening clothes and I don't need to worry figuring out what I'm supposed to do with a zip!
  • A project bag - the one I've been using for around five years is seriously worn out now to the point that there are holes in the top, middle and bottom of the bag; it's still fine for storing yarn in but not so good when you want to carry it places and not lose stuff
  • Any other bits and pieces which occurred to me as I was wandering round the store and suddenly realised I needed it desperately.
I didn't do too badly at all.

The first thing that I picked up was a pack of googly eyes. They're designed to be sewn on and as I'm wanting to make some monsters and aliens at some point in the future, I think they'll look pretty funky. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't ordinarily order online because you don't really know what you're getting. Plus they were dead cheap and it was something to put in my basket.

I looked at loads of pattern books but didn't buy any. Not because I didn't like the look of any of them; they had both Knitted Dinosaurs and Knitted Pets from Search Press and I want to get both of those at some point. But I've got loads of pattern books that I've not even touched yet so I restrained myself.

They didn't have any of the snips that I wanted. Plenty of scissors and other cutting implements but not quite exactly what I wanted. I've got some old nail scissors which do the job just as well and can be carried around in a little pouch when I'm travelling though so I wasn't too concerned about not getting them. I've actually seen some beautiful ones designed to be like jewellery on Etsy so I suspect a little treat may be in order at some point in the future.

Buttons were a great find. I used to have a massive collection of buttons which belonged to my Great Grandmother, all stored in an old metal tea chest, but I lost it when I left home. Since then I've acquired a modest collection of buttons snipped from old clothes but there's not much to choose from. As I'll be needing buttons for the dolls I'm making, as well as for eyes if I'm making larger monsters, I decided to get a big pack of assorted buttons in all different colours and styles. They also have 'Vintage Buttons' which aren't really what I'm wanting right now, but which fired up all sorts of ideas for decorations on hats, scarves and mittens for the future.

At the last minute I went back and got a little tub of 'subdued colour' buttons as well. I'd seen them in Simply Knitting a while back as well as at the craft shop at Cardwell Garden Centre and thought these would be perfect for the darker clothes I'm knitting for the Twin Dressing-up Dolls. They're all different shapes and I've already settled on the green flower shapes for the little pinafore dress I'm making at the moment.

And then we got to the yarn!

I'd been holding off going there until last because I knew that once I'd picked what I wanted I'd lose interest in everything else. They have a three for two offer on pretty much everything in that department so I decided I wanted to get just three balls but it was quite overwhelming. I'm not used to having that much choice and being able to actually squish it as well.

I totally understand how small children feel when they have temper tantrums because they can't decide what they want to do. I found it so hard to pick I eventually had to recruit Mr Click to help me choose, and even then he coaxed me to take an extra three balls to help make the choice easier.

The sock yarn I bought is a nice little variegated one in pastel colours. I'd kind of wanted to get some which I could make into socks for Mr Click but there wasn't a whole lot that I was keen on in more masculine colours, so this time around I'll make some for myself and make Mr Click some in something a little chunkier.

The chunky yarn was a fairly easy choice. They had a whole selection of different colours in various variegated combinations. After a bit of umming and ahhing and went for these three:

The one on the left is called Big Dipper, the clown barf in the middle is Ferris Wheel and the one on the right is Ghost Train; they're all part of the Robin Candy Floss range. They call for massive needles and I'm really looking forward to playing with them because I don't often do much with anything thicker than DK.
I'm not sure what the Big Dipper will become, maybe a baby blanket for someone. The clown barf is destined to be slipper socks and the Ferris Wheel should be some sort of shawl or hat and scarf combo. I'm hunting for a good pattern to use at the moment because I want to take it to work on while I'm travelling on Friday.
Aside from shopping for crafty stuff I've been doing a wee bit more work on my doll, Hattie:
She looks a wee bit creepy here although her smile looks wonkier than it actually is. This really shows off just how much hair she has. The instructions for sewing on the hair were quite vague; the fringe was easy enough but the hair called for cutting 20" strips, folding it in half and then stitching it down the middle of her head. It sounds so simple when I see it written out, but it was really awkward to actually get my head around it.
I cut reams and reams of bits of brown in the right length (or as close as) and then positioned them onto her hair. Then realised I didn't have a clue what I was doing. The internet was down so Google was unable to help me. And my first attempts gave her some random bald spots. But I figured it out and she looks pretty good, albeit rather in need of a trim!
Next up on the needles is her little pinafore dress. I've got the skirt complete and I'm just in the process of working out how to adapt it to put in button holes. If I'm lucky this time next week she'll have actual clothes instead of spending all her time sitting around in her underwear.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Weekly Rundown

I spent the whole week looking forward to Saturday, a little while ago I realised that there was a Hobbycraft store at Glasgow Fort and so I made it my mission in life to convince Mr Click that he should take me there. Bad weather kind of prevented us the last couple of weeks; I'd been desperate to go on the 8th but as the boats were seriously disrupted (with the final sailing being mid-afternoon) so it was just as well that we didn't so this weekend rolled around and it was all systems go.

We checked Tara into the local kennels to give us the chance to get away dead early yesterday morning and headed straight for Hobbycraft. There was only a slight spanner in the works. Using the postcode provided on the website and the SatNav we were deposited in the middle of a housing estate with no sign of any retail park in sight. We kind of guessed that something was up when Jane (the SatNav) told us to come off at Junction 12 instead of Junction 10.

Once we'd finished cursing modern technology, got back on the motorway and found Junction 10 without any further hiccup it wasn't long before we saw the sign for the main shop we were looking for.

We made a quick trip to Asda for refreshments and then proceeded to buy a single duvet and pillow set, fitted sheet and valance for the single bed we've acquired for the spare bedroom. That's a story in itself actually. Thursday night I saw a single bed being offloaded at one of the local charity shops. I mentioned this to Mr Click as we've been looking for a cheap bed for the spare bedroom for a while and suggested he might like to go in and check it out. The following day I got a text to let me know he'd bought it (and a bedside table) and it would be with us Monday.

I'm quite pleased that we'll finally get it all set up as a spare room at last. I mean we've lived there for two and half years and just this year we've broken the habit of using it as a dumping ground for stuff we don't want to look at downstairs. Having the bed in there will greatly reduce this even further and even give visitors somewhere to sleep. Bonus!

Anyway, back to Glasgow Fort. Once we'd finished buying half the home furnishing department of Asda we headed virtually next door and I was in heaven. I always used to be given craft sets as a child, in part because my parents used to describe me as 'creative' (I always had a notebook in hand ready for my latest story), everyone interpreted this as 'artistic' so I got sewing kits, modelling kits, painting and colouring kits. Even now I love all those sorts of things so you can imagine how much I enjoy going to places that Hobbycraft.

There are some crafts that I'm not remotely interested in (decoupage doesn't really interest me particularly) but there are others that I've read about online which interest me. Obviously it's a bit tricky to decide if a craft is for you without seeing it in person so it was good to see some of the things I'd probably need to get before I got stuck in. One thing I'd love to try is making stitch markers for my knitting (and possibly to give as little gifts to knitting friends); it looks like this would be a cross between jewellery making and possibly Fimo clay stuff as well. Might be something to ask for at Christmas... ;-)

After spending a small fortune there, but only going slightly over my self-imposed budget, we headed to a little Chinese restaurant/takeaway called McChan's where we got some of the tastiest Chinese food I've had for a while. We didn't quite understand how the meal deal worked so wound up with extra that we took away for tea - two Chinese meals in a day, so unhealthy.

Other highlights of the day included finding a shoe rack in Lidl for £9.99 and getting me a wheely suitcase for a little trip I'll be taking for £17 (when the Tesco till said it was supposed to be £30)! Considering we've not done a big shop since before Christmas we've now completely stocked up and have enough food to last us well into the summer as well, so all in all it was a very successful day.

Aside from big shopping trips and eating lots of Chinese food, this week's been all about getting my TMA polished off and submitted. I should've really gone on to make a start to the next chapter of the course book, especially as I'm having a busy couple of weeks this month. But I felt like I needed a rest and so I've concentrated on reading the last few books that I've got to read for the course. I'm getting through them quite quickly.

I really enjoyed reading Beverley Naidoo's The Other Side of Truth and as soon as I finished it I went straight onto Melvin Burgess's Junk. It's one that I remember a friend reading and enjoying when I was at school but I'm not enjoying it quite so much after The Other Side of Truth as that was a book I just couldn't put down. This one kind of flits around between different perspectives and as I know what's going to happen (courtesy of the aforementioned friend) I don't feel the same urgency to get to the end.

When I get to the end of Junk I'm determined to read the illustrated version of The Lord of the Rings so I'm trying to use that as an incentive to spur me on but so far it's not really helping me get there any quicker. At least once I finish with Junk I can have a few months of reading anything I want to which always seems to increase my reading speed.

As for TV viewing this week, as I mentioned last week, we finally watched the last episode of ER. I have so much love for that series and as we've been watching it for nearly a year, I really miss it. I think it's one that I'm going to go back and rewatch by myself whenever I get the chance. Especially the later series because for most of them I was only seeing them for the second time and there was so much I'd forgotten since the first viewing.

We've now replaced The Good Life with The Two Ronnies and ER with Criminal Minds, although Criminal Minds didn't seem like such a good thing to watch right before bed so we've switched around when we watch them. The Two Ronnies is excellent before bed viewing so that's worked out well, and Criminal Minds is proving to be good as well; I like things where you can try to solve the mystery along with the characters - so far I'm pretty good at figuring it out.

This week is going to be another long and busy week for me, more of that later in the week. I'm quite looking forward to the week after actually, when I've not got anything planned so I might get to take advantage of a Saturday in bed. I think after these busy weeks recently I'll need it!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

EA300 TMA05 Word Cloud

Last Friday I settled down to start writing my fifth TMA for my current course. I'd spent the last couple of days scouring my course books for any bits and pieces which might make useful references and thought I was ready to go. Until I sat down, scribbled out a couple of sentences, tore that page out the notepad and threw it across the room, turned to a new page and stared at it, and stared at it, and stared at it.

The problem was, both of the two available options gave me very little to work with. One required you to analyse images using the method of analysis detailed in one of the essays in one of the Readers. The other gave a statement about the use of animals in illustrations and asked you to write about that. I kept flip-flopping between the two options because giving up as asking Mr Click for help.

Sometimes you just need someone to bounce ideas off of. I talk to him about what I'm studying and obviously he listens because he kept on suggesting things I could mention until something pinged into place and I was able to send him into the bedroom to leave me in peace, well, half-watching The Sound of Music, to get my essay draft churned out.

It's a bit of a hodge-podge of words, which probably reflects the fact that I didn't really know what I was going to write about. It gradually came together into some sort of an argument but I'm not sure that I've made my point very well.

I really hate my conclusion as well because I didn't really know the best way to sum up what I was saying. By the time I hit my conclusion I was well over my word limit and both trying to cut down my words and find some nice little quote I could throw in at the end. I couldn't find one and finally in desperation I chopped out a random sentence which wasn't really doing much for the essay and that got me down to 2,083 words. It wasn't even that long a sentence but it made me feel like I was less over the 2,000 word target.

I think this assignment is the one I feel the least confident with. But to be honest, I'm not that concerned. As long as it gives me a pass, I'm not too worried if I get less than 65%. After this it's just one more, then the ECA and then I'm done... at least with this degree.

Friday, 14 March 2014

TV Series Review: The Good Life

Mr Click bought The Good Life for me last birthday and it was a proper surprise. It's a series we would occasionally watch when it was on TV and one which I'd always found funny when I was younger but it was never one that I'd actually watched all the way through, in order, before.

For anyone not familiar with the series, which was known as Good Neighbours in America, it's about two couples living in Surbiton in the 70s. They live right next door to each other with Tom and Jerry (yes, really) working together at the same firm; that is, until the night of Tom's fortieth birthday when he decides he doesn't want to do that any more and embarks on a self-sufficient lifestyle with his wife Barbara, much to the chagrin of neighbours Jerry and Margo.

What I remembered of this show from my youth was that it was about a funny couple with lots of animals in their garden having all sorts of funny disasters but generally coming out on top. As an adult I realise that this assessment is fairly accurate with the exception of one little point; there is a whole lot of sexual innuendo that went completely over my head as a child. At times it is quite hilariously smutty.

In a way this series is the precursor to more modern series, like Friends, dealing with the relationships between groups of people. A lot of the comedy comes from the way that the characters bounce off one another; I particularly love the way that Margo, the uptight posh one, always ends up saying or doing things that leads to the others laughing at her. Of course a lot of the time the things the Goods do to get by in their new lifestyle are hilarious as well, like adapting their rotary cultivator when they no longer have a car.

The box set I have is the complete four series. It was a bit of a surprise that there were only four series as I rarely remember seeing the same episode twice. One exception is the one where they go out to dinner and are discussing how much money they have, a whole £50, which enables them to pay all their bills and still have some left over. I think the episodes I'd seen before were mainly from the third series and those ones are easily my favourites.

My absolute favourite episode is The Wind-Break War, the fifth episode of the third series. After a falling out between the two couples over the positioning of an arbour in the Leadbetter's garden they make it up over the Good's homemade pea pod wine. This results in everyone getting thoroughly and utterly sloshed, with very funny results.

I think it's aged really well overall, with the exception of comments about money and the things they can buy with it. The whole self-sufficiency thing has become popular again in the last few years and so a lot of the jokes are still kind of relevant. Plus a lot of the comedy comes from the fact that it's about the interactions of two couples with very different personalities and outlooks on life so most of the jokes just don't get old.

This box set also includes the two special episodes, one from Christmas 1977 and the other being the Royal Command Performance. Ironically we watched the latter on the day when Penelope Keith was awarded her DBE; it was kind of funny to see her meeting the Queen over thirty years ago after seeing her on the news doing the same thing that day. There are some special features which I've not actually explored yet but which I'm definitely going to go back to watch.

The series are so short, as is the whole series, that I think this'll be a good bit of TV to dip and out of when I don't feel like watching a whole film but want a quick burst of something funny. I'm going to miss watching this whilst I'm watching my tea, but we've got The Two Ronnies Complete Collection up next, which I'm sure will give us just as many laughs.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Day Zero Projects: Watch all the Lord of the Rings films in one day

Being a massive Tolkien fan I've often enjoyed marathon-watching the Lord of the Rings films. I hadn't done it for a while at the time of writing my Day Zero Project list so I added it on here.

The length of the Lord of the Rings films is such that if you watch them all back-to-back it'll use up about twelve hours of your life so actually planning to watch all three films takes a bit of figuring out. Partly because after having spent all day glued to the TV set, you're going to need to spend the next day doing something a little more healthy.

It also takes some planning to figure out exactly when to start watching the films. Being the geek that I am I worked out that if you start at 8am the breaks in the films will give you a chance to walk the dog, have lunch and have tea and still wind up going to bed at a reasonable hour. I'm just that much of a geek.

Despite having planned this so well, I'm still yet to actually make it through the whole process of watching all three films completely back-to-back. So far the closest I've gotten was last month whilst I was working on my fourth TMA.

As I was home alone I started watching The Fellowship of the Ring at about 6:30pm and wrote my assignment as I watched it (I like to have background noise, but it needs to be something I've seen before so I don't get distracted). I finished the actual essay draft by the time the gang reached Lothlorien. Although at times I struggled to keep my eyes open, I stuck The Two Towers on as soon as the first film finished, figuring I could take a break in the middle and watch the second half the following morning, but got a second wind and felt very tempted to power straight on to The Return of the King but realised I needed to not be a zombie the next day; I put that on first thing the following morning instead.

I've come close to watching all three though, and perhaps next time I'm home alone, if I haven't got an assignment to get written, I just might give it another go. As long as I'm able to spend all of the next day in bed!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Book 55 of 2013: I Am Currency by Whitney L. Grady

I regularly go through Amazon looking for free Kindle books. Sometimes I go for whatever's popular, sometimes I hit up the free classics, and sometimes I go searching in a particular genre. Back at the end of last summer, inspired by my impending course, I downloaded a whole bunch of Children's and Young Adult Kindle books and finally dipped into I Am Currency by Whitney L. Grady at the beginning of October.

I Am Currency is set in a dystopic future, one in which a massive meteor strike has sent humanity back towards the dark ages with technology ceasing to function. Knowledge has become the currency of choice and books are hoarded as valuable resources. Nevel is a young man with a powerful secret, he has a photographic memory and is able to memorise books. This, coupled with his parents' involvement in the Underground Book Movement puts him in great danger and when one of his schoolmates figures out what he can do he is forced to go on the run, changing his whole life forever.

I downloaded this one when it was free, it's now for sale at £3.07, purely because I loved the premise. In a world where books are held in a central repository with access granted only once a year, I think I would go crazy. The cover is obviously reminiscent of The Hunger Games trilogy and so I figured it would appeal to me.

While I have to say the premise is great, I actually struggled with reading the book. It had some plot holes which I kept on wondering about; like the fact that knowledge has become currency - people go to a shop and tell someone something in order to purchase products. I understand the theory but struggled to get my head around how this would be an actual workable practice, especially as children are still sent to school. I think that this might have been handled differently to make the premise work more smoothly.

This story has a romance between Nevel, the boy with the incredible memory, and Quinn, the girl who starts of out to get him. It felt a wee bit contrived. One minute they were deadly enemies; she practically kills him in the process of hunting him down, and then the next minute they were making out. It felt like part way through the author had changed her mind about Quinn's actual role in the story and so rather than going back and changing the beginning, she just kept going with what she already had.

The thing is, it probably could've worked if Quinn hadn't started out as Nevel's enemy. They both could've been loners and then sort of drifted together with Quinn working out Nevel's secret. From there the relationship might have formed more naturally and been a little more believable.

I liked the Australian setting. I don't remember the last time I read a book set in Australia, let alone a dystopic future one. It made for a refreshing change, although I'll admit I started out the book thinking it was set in America and had to do a sort of mental shift when I realised early in the book that I had it wrong.

This is the first book in a series and leaves it open for Nevel's role in the next book. I have to admit it's unlikely that I'll go on to read that one, as much as I like the premise, I just struggled with the execution.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Dolled Up

Back before Christmas Mr Click asked me for some suggestions for presents I might like. I sent him an email with a list of Jean Greenhowe's entire back catalogue of booklets that I didn't have. At the bottom of the list was something along the lines of ****Jean Greenhowe Knitted Toys - Hardback book**** and a note about how much I wanted it.

Of course he came through for me and it was there, right at the top of my stocking. I kind of knew that I was getting it because he'd mentioned a hardback knitting book but it was still a great surprise and all Christmas morning I kept pulling it out and leafing through the pages like it was some sort of picture book.

When I realised that I needed to find a project which used straight needles, the Knitted Toys book was the first one I went to. Mr Click had suggested at Christmas that I should do the 'Twin dressing-up dolls' as my first project because I could do the dolls and their basic outfit and then go back to do more in between other projects. As I had all the colours needed in an easily accessible place, that was what I started with.

I'm starting with the girl doll and this is how she was looking by mid-afternoon yesterday. I'd sewn on the neckband of her top before I realised that I'd not taken a photo of her, so that's why she's not got any sleeves, sock tops or leg tops in this photo.

You can see below her arm what she is supposed to look like when she's finished. I'm adapting her slightly as the pattern calls for her eyes to be cut out of brown felt and glued on, whereas I prefer to embroider them. I'm also giving her brown hair because neither of the yellows I have look suitably hair-like.

Considering how fiddly she is (she's comprised of eight separate parts for the main doll including a front head, back head, front body and back body) she's knitting up quite quickly. And although I spent a good chunk of Saturday and yesterday morning sewing her together, it's not actually that bad (except for the fact that I kept stabbing myself with pins, including a deep hit to my thumb where the pin went so deep I had to pull it out, ouch!). It's giving me plenty of mattress stitch practice which I have to say is the method of sewing I use almost exclusively now. I wouldn't say I'm the neatest, but it's looking a lot tidier than it used to.

Hopefully by this time next week I'll have a finished outfit for her and maybe I'll even get a start on her brother.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Weekly Rundown

It's been a bit of a long week here with more than a few late nights so I've been having a well deserved relaxing weekend. Well, fairly relaxing.

Friday night I decided to sit down and hammer out my latest assignment. I've not struggled too much with putting pen to paper for the four previous TMAs but something about this one made it really tricky. I wavered from Option 2 to Option 1 and back again throughout the final two episodes of The Good Life before having a complete meltdown because I didn't know what I was doing.

Thankfully Mr Click chatted things out with me and helped me to formulate not only the basis of my essay but helped me to realise that I did in fact know something which I could use. I sat myself down and over the course of The Sound of Music I was able to churn out 1900-and-something words which gave me a passable start. Since then I've tidied things up a bit as I've typed it out and now I just need to get my references in and format it for submission on Tuesday.

I've also finally had a response from Royal Mail about an on-going problem we've been having with our mail. They seem to think that a book of six First Class stamps is the solution. I was understandably quite miffed about this so I'm gearing myself up to an interesting phone call with them tomorrow. I suspect that it won't make the slightest bit of difference, but I'm going to call them anyway.

As I mentioned last week, my beloved knitting needles are getting seriously worn out, to the point of being virtually unusable. I finally received my new ones that I ordered and gave them to Mr Click to withhold from me until my assignment was complete. As I'd gotten most of it written on Friday and Saturday he let me have them today. So far I've tried out the metal tips and I think I'm in love, they sound like a sword fight when you're knitting with them!

This week I've been getting on top of all of my reading material for the final block of my course. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve was the first book to arrive, so it was correspondingly the first book I read. It took me a while to get through but I really enjoyed it and I've learned there are more from that series so I'm thinking I might look into getting those once I finish this course and I'm able to go back and read it at my leisure.

I then moved onto Beverley Naidoo's The Other Side of Truth which I devoured in just over two days. I loved it and it was truly heartbreaking in places. It's a book I'm quite looking forward to studying and I'm definitely going to reread it at some point. From there I've moved on to Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin which is different from what I was expecting (though to be honest I'm not really sure what I was expecting from it). It seems to be a bit of a slow burner as I'm six chapters in and it still seems to be setting up the action. I think once it really gets going it's going to be a real page turner.

Once I finish Coram Boy I've just got Melvin Burgess's Junk to read and then I can read whatever I want. I've got the illustrated version of The Lord of the Rings on my bookcase just begging to be read so I think that's what I might have to go for. It'll be nice to go back to reading books just because I want to read them, instead of because my course book tells me I have to.

TV viewing-wise we've come to the end of two of the TV series we've been watching. We finished The Good Life on Friday and will finish ER tonight. ER's taken us nearly a year to watch, although we did have a month-long break from it at Christmas, so it'll be strange not having that before bed each night. Instead we'll be watching The Two Ronnies Complete Collection that I bought Mr Click for Christmas and Criminal Minds that he bought me. It'll be an interesting change.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Film Review: Dances With Wolves

Way back in 1990 I was probably more interested in the latest Disney blockbuster and whether or not I was going to get to be milk monitor that week than anything starring Kevin Costner. Dances With Wolves is one of those films that I've heard about loads of times, I've laughed at jokes referencing it, and I clearly remember it getting a mention in an episode of Rugrats, but until last Saturday I'd never actually seen it.

Set during the American Civil War, it tells the story of John Dunbar who inadvertent heroism results in him getting to pick his next posting. He asks to be sent out west, only to arrive and find that Fort Sedgwick is deserted. Not one to let something like that get him down he sets about making it habitable and continues following his military orders, with his only companions being his horse, Cisco, and a lone wolf who comes to visit which he names Two Socks.

Eventually he makes friends with his neighbours, a Sioux camp which is also home to Stands With A Fist, a white woman who was adopted as a young girl. Gradually he earns the trust of the Sioux people and after helping them with their buffalo hunt is accepted as their guest. Meanwhile the war is moving in their direction and the Sioux are also under threat from a nearby Pawnee tribe, all the while Dunbar finds himself falling in love and questioning whether he really wants to return to the life he once knew.

As the film started both Mr Click and I were a little bit unsure what to make of it. We kind of have a bit of a Mystery Science Theatre thing going on whenever we watch a film and even if it's a film we love, we find some things to mock in it. We do it because we care. The more we have to say, chances are the more we're enjoying it, we found quite a bit to say about Dances With Wolves.

I'll admit, to start with I didn't have a clue what was going on. Mr Click had less of an idea about what was going on that I did; he said himself that his knowledge of the American Civil War is fairly limited and is largely based on films like Cold Mountain and Gone With the Wind. I know slightly more than him, I've seen those films and I've been to the Cyclorama in Atlanta, GA. Luckily although the film is set during the Civil War you don't actually need much understanding of it once you get past the first twenty minutes.

I've read online that the film is actually pretty accurate in terms of things like the Sioux culture (although a funny titbit that I found mentions the Lakota language coach was a woman and Lakota is a language that uses different pronunciations for men and women, as a result of this the warriors talk like women having afternoon tea). Kevin Costner was actually made an honorary member of the Sioux Nation as a result of this film. The fact that he's not been invited into the Pawnee Nation probably says something about their portrayal in the film.

A fair chunk of the film is actually subtitled because a large plot point is the fact that Dunbar doesn't speak Lakota and they rely on Stands With A Fist to remember English to help translate for him. It's really nicely done, although you can kind of see the romance coming a mile off.

To say the film is long is kind of an understatement. It's rather Peter Jackson-esque in that respect. We started watching it while we ate our breakfast at 9am, and considering we had bathroom breaks, Labrador bathroom breaks, a knitting needle disaster and the associated pause while I went in search of new yarn, needles and pattern, we didn't actually finish it until after 1pm!

It's a film which I really enjoyed though and both Mr Click and I have decided we need to get a copy of our own (as this was just borrowed from a friend)... well, Mr Click said we had to get War Horse but he meant Dances With Wolves (they both feature horses and take place during a war so you can see where there might be some confusion). This is definitely a film which I'll enjoy watching again, maybe on a Saturday afternoon so we avoid staying in bed until lunchtime in future.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Knitting Knightmare

I mentioned last week that I was planning on knitting a Claude the Closet Monster from Rebecca Danger's The Big Book of Knitted Monsters. Well, you know how the saying goes, the best laid plans and all that...

Yeah, my knitting needles had other plans. Instead I'm currently working on one of the Twin Dress Up Dolls from Jean Greenhowe's Knitted Toys book. The book is as old as I am and the patterns are even older, having originally been published in Women's Weekly during the 70s. It really shows in the outfits these two dolls are wearing and I can't wait to knit the boy doll (who I'm tentatively naming Harold) to see if he looks as retro in real life as he does in the book.

Basically the needles I've been using for the last six years are plastic ones which sort of clip together by pushing one bit inside the other and twisting. As you can imagine, repeating this action regularly over six years has worn out the connectors. They used to stay together really well but now the gentle twisting motion I make as I knit makes them come undone.

I've always used the Denise brand of interchangeable circular needles but these seem to be difficult to get spare parts for in the UK so I'm broadening my knitting horizons and have ordered a selection of alternatives to try. We shall have to see how this goes.

Hopefully in the meantime I can get a couple of cute knitting dolls put together and then I can come back to my monster, who was nicknamed Candy until she fell off my needles (repeatedly). Watch this space!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Day Zero Project: Read all my literature course books before the course starts

This is an almost complete one. I did read most of the course books prior to my last course beginning, though some of them I read about two years before the start of the course so had to go back and reread them again in order to have them fresh enough in my mind to actually study and write about them.

For my Children's Literature course I've been a little more relaxed about the reading. Lots of the books I've studied so far I have read, or had read to me, in the past, so I'm able to start the coursework while I'm still reading them, but get them finished before coming to write the assignments.

I've just this week had a delivery of the last five books I need for my course so now the race is on to get them all read before I actually need to make use of them. I'm sure I can do it.

Back when I set myself this target I had intended to buy all of my books in one go before the course started but as both of my last two courses have been literature ones with a very heavy reading load I quickly realised that this wasn't very practical. Firstly, you don't actually need to read all the books, I have for the simple reason that I like having the option to choose what I'm going to write about, but I didn't have to do that. Secondly, you need to have somewhere to put them all; knowing me I'd buy half a dozen books, put three of them somewhere safe and then end up having to reorder them because I can't find them exactly when I need them. Thirdly, buying them as you go helps to spread the cost; I'd actually intended to ask people to get them for me as birthday/Christmas presents but never needed to do that, but at least I'd had that option if I'd needed it.

This one is going to have to be filed under 'nice idea but not really practical'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book 54 of 2013: How To Think Like Sherlock by Daniel Smith

Way back last October, as I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo and congratulating myself on finding a slow cooker which would make the perfect Christmas gift for my husband, I spotted How To Think Like Sherlock in the Book People magazine. As I was needing to put an order together to buy Mr Click a slow cooker cook book I decided to treat myself to what looked like a fun little read.

This little book purports to be able to help you improve your powers of deduction, in the style of the great detective himself, Sherlock Holmes. It's actually more like a brain training type book with links back to Sherlock Holmes through extracts from the source material and quizzes that tie into Sherlock's cases.

It was a quick and fun little read. I started it one day and finished with it the next. It reminded me a lot of the Horrible Science/Horrible Histories/The Knowledge books that I used to enjoy when I was younger. The book is peppered with little logic puzzles and brain training exercises which means it's more of the sort of book you'd play with on a long journey, than something to read before bed at night.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, although to be fair, the Book People catalogue doesn't give you much to go on. I was kind of expecting something that would look in greater details about how Sherlock Holmes would've gone about deducing things and solving crimes. But then again, you can't expect much from a book which is only 192 pages.

I realised afterwards that it would've made a perfect little stocking filler for Mr Click. If I hadn't been so open about reading it in front of him I could have snuck a little peak and then hidden it away for a stocking filler, hehe.

Although I read through it quite quickly I think that at some point it might be fun to return to it and actually go through the puzzles, maybe like I said above if I'm on a long journey or something. I did some of them while I was reading it, but others would benefit from a paper and pencil to help figure them out.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Hat's All Folks

I mentioned last week that I had offered to test knit a pattern, for Gina Jones's Robyn hat. Well, on Tuesday I finally got it finished (thankfully my circular needles held out on me that long before deciding they'd had enough).

And this is the result:

Excuse the poorly lit and grainy selfie. This was literally minutes after I'd finished weaving in all the ends and hadn't even brushed the poor thing down so it was a wee bit bobbly. Luckily the photo is so terrible you can't actually see too much of the bobbling (it's just the way this particular yarn goes as you're knitting it, it gets very fluffy but once it's all brushed off it's fantastic).

The pattern is fantastic. It gives instructions for numerous different sizes going from baby right up to adult and you just adapt it to suit your measurements. I have a pretty small head so this worked brilliantly for me because I took a couple of measurements, saw straight away I was somewhere around teen/small adult and adjusted accordingly.

The pattern gives you several different options in terms of colour and style; I did the single colour option but there's also a two colour version. The stitch pattern is included but as the notes themselves say, you can switch that out for any other pattern you desire. I followed the pattern that was given and it was easy enough that I could knit mindlessly while watching TV. It's also very forgiving and when I made a mistake I fudged it and only I know where that little mistake is.

To knit this you need to be confident knitting in the round and at picking up stitches; there's a lot of picking up stitches! But I really enjoyed it. The end result is a nice, comfy, and depending on the yarn you use, quick to knit hat.

If I was to do this again in the future I would probably not use the same yarn again. I used US size 5 needles and it meant that it took quite a long time to work up. I think with some nice chunky yarn you could probably whip one of these up in a matter of hours - perfect for a last minute gift!

Check out the link above where the hat is available for download through Ravelry.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Weekly Rundown

This week's been a bit of a weird one because I had a day off work on Thursday. Of course we were still up at the same time as we'd usually be (and in fact it was such a busy sort of day that we went to bed earlier than usual) and then it was business as usual on Friday so it was an odd sort of day off. All the same, after the first half of the week dragged, the second half flew by. Unfortunately it's still flying by right now. Soon it'll be Monday again!

I'm well on top of my OU this week, I'm virtually a whole week ahead of myself which is fantastic because it means I should be ready to start my assignment in the next couple of days. EA300 really has all the TMAs back to back. You've no sooner got one submitted than it's time to start preparing for the next one; I guess that's part of the nature of a Level 3 course.

Speaking of OU, I got my results back from my last assignment: 76%. A slight improvement on the last one so I'm still pleased with that. I've not actually gotten around to reading the feedback on it yet but I'll get to it soon. I don't like to start the next assignment until I've read what the tutor has said about the last one, for obvious reasons.

All week the set texts I ordered last week have been arriving. It started with Voices in the Park, a picturebook by Anthony Browne; he's the author/illustrator who always draws his characters as gorillas and whose books always used to disturb me a bit when I was younger. I've also got Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve which I started straight away as I'd that morning finished reading Soul Fire which was a free Kindle book I'd downloaded. I'm making slow progress on it at the moment; even an hour in the bath with it yesterday only got me one chapter further on.

As for viewing materials, we're so close to the end of ER now, ditto The Good Life. I'm really enjoying watching ER especially as I've only seen the episodes of the final series once before, but at the same time I've been reading up on Criminal Minds (which we'll be watching next) and I really can't wait for that either.

I'll also be sad when we hit the end of The Good Life. We've been really careful to pace how many episodes we watch at a time because we don't want to get to the end so quickly. Luckily it's a series which you can enjoy over and over again so I foresee it coming out again in the future.

This week I'm planning on doing a little bit of shopping for myself, namely for some new knitting needles because I've had to abandon my monster knitting project as the cables kept coming undone and dropping all my stitches. I've had to switch to another project temporarily, one which uses straight needles instead.

What with all the goodies that keep on arriving in the post for me, it's beginning to feel a little bit like my birthday has come two months early!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

On the Straight and Narrow

As my knitting needles undid themselves for the third time and I watched half the stitches of my current project slide off the cable this morning I realised that perhaps the time has come to retire my trusty Denise interchangeables.

I've had these things virtually since I started knitting and together we've produced many projects. Unfortunately the connections where they twist together are rather worn out and they have a habit of coming undone at awkward moments. Like 3/4 of the way through a current project.

I hadn't planned to be looking for another project so soon and we were in bed watching a film at the time when I realised I needed something I could knit with two straights.

Luckily I had the free needles that came with the latest issue of Simply Knitting by the bed, and last week I moved my knitting stuff to the downstairs cupboard so I was back with a project in minutes.

So now I'm working on a doll from a Jean Greenhowe pattern. So far I've got her head knitted up so hopefully it won't be long before she's taking shape properly.

Oh, and I'm trawling Amazon and eBay for a new set of needles. I feel like I'm missing a limb without my faithful circs!