Monday, 29 February 2016

What I Did In Wales, Part 1: Arriving & Shopping

My journey to Wales began on Thursday the 18th of February. I'd been up and at work early that day but I finished early to give me time for tea and to catch the second to last boat.

I had a bit of a wait when I got to the coach station, roughly two hours, so I used my time wisely, finishing one book and then reading a complete poetry collection while I waited for my coach to arrive. What happened when it did show up was possibly the most British thing I've ever witnessed.

The board said that the coach was to go from Stance 50, so we all dutifully queued up there, but there was another coach already at that stance so when our coach came in it had to pull up to Stance 51. Everybody shuffled over to the next stance over, then patiently rearranged themselves back into the queue we had been in before! It was magical to behold.

I managed to doze for part of the way down. Though I do have to admit, I kind of love watching the people out and about in the towns and cities we pass through in the small hours of the morning. Manchester is fascinating! There always seem to be hundreds of people roaming the streets, or sitting on them, and not wearing much in the way of clothing.

When I arrived I discovered something kind of cool about wearing my Fitbit. It showed how my heartrate spiked when I met my Mum off the coach in Cardiff:

Kind of cute, no?

Friday night was a family get together for my cousin who recently got engaged, so I chilled while my Mum baked and then I helped decorate the cake. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo but you can take it from me, it looked good and tasted even better!

Saturday was for shopping in Cardiff with my Mum, Aunt and Nan. I treated myself to a squishy neck pillow for the return journey (for the princely sum of £1 in Poundland), and a shiny new Leuchtturm notebook (plus some black pens) for when my current Bullet Journal is full:

I visited the Pen and Paper Shop when I was in Wales around a year ago and before I went this time I looked it up to be sure I could get the journal I wanted. Obviously, I didn't go all the way to Wales just to get a notebook, but I did kind of plan on picking this up here... I certainly scheduled it into my Bullet Journal.

Sunday also saw me get in a little bit more shopping, in between generally relaxing and not doing very much. We headed off to What! and spent a good hour strolling round. I picked up a collection of stickers, plus a slightly phallic dog toy for Tara:


Since getting home the duck has had both of his eyes surgically removed (by our resident expert, Tara). He's also been christened Dick the Duck, because Mr Click and I are really immature.

Check back on Thursday when I'll share my trip to Gigrin Farm where we saw the Red Kites.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Weekly Rundown: I Have Returned!

Hello All!

I'm back from Wales and I'm slowly getting caught up. Very slowly because I'm still pretty tired from the journey so posting will still be a little sporadic this week and then I'll get back into it properly again after the weekend.

I had a fantastic time away and as of yesterday I've successfully unpacked all my stuff (which makes a change because normally I'll leave it all until Mr Click gets fed up with tripping over my case in the living room). My plan for today is to take a look through all the photos I took. I took a lot of photos. You'll be seeing a lot of them here over the next few weeks. I've probably got enough Wordless Wednesday posts to see me through til Christmas!

I'm still recovering though. I'm not the sort of person who usually naps but I took two when I got home on Friday; one of which was in the bath, I wouldn't recommend that. Then I slept for twelve and a half hours.

My walking has slipped slightly. I did a fair bit of walking in Wales, though I didn't track everything (there's a story there, trust me) but yesterday I threw the towel in and just had a pyjama day. I've gotten involved in a Bullet Journal Pen Pal group so I spent the day writing letters to use up a book of stamps. It was lovely and relaxed and just what I needed before I head back to work this week.

I have started making it up today though. I walked Tara to Kerrycroy. The weather is lovely, the sun is shining and although it's icy in patches, it isn't too cold.

My target for February was to average 1.5 miles per day which I don't think I've achieved, so I'll just roll it on for March. Lighter mornings and evenings should help there.

Now, if you don't mind. I'm going to have a bit of a snooze.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Books 27 & 28 of 2015: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier & Sherlock Chronicles by Steve Tribe

Things are a little quiet around here while I'm in Wales, but to keep things ticking over, here's another book review.

The first of today's two books is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This is one of those books which I've had sitting on my bookcase for years and years. It regularly gets bumped up the bookshelf, only to be overlooked or bumped back down again a few months later. When the Reading Challenge called for a book set in another country, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to crack out Cold Mountain.

This is set during the American Civil War and tells the story of Inman, a man who must go away to war, and Ada, a well-off minister's daughter. Inman is wounded in the war and decides to journey home to Cold Mountain to the woman he met shortly before he left. Meanwhile Ada's father has died and she is left with a farm to run and no means to do it; until Ruby shows up on the scene and helps her set everything to rights. But for some of them, there will be no happily ever after.

I saw the film many years ago in the cinema and actually quite like it. I've got it on DVD but it's been a while since I last watched it but my one overwhelming memory of it is the change in Ada as she is forced to abandon her former way of life and accept the harder one after her father's death. Considering how much I'd enjoyed the film I was expecting to really enjoy this book.

Unfortunately I didn't really.

For one thing, I found Ada and Inman really hard to like for most of the book. I'm not entirely sure exactly what it was that I found so unlikable about them, they just didn't appeal to me. According to the notes I left in my book journal, my opinion of them changed in the last quarter of the book, but it wasn't really enjoy to redeem them for the first three-quarters.

On the other hand, the character of Ruby was really interesting. She'd had a really hard life, basically raised herself, but knew all the life skills that she needed to survive. To be honest, I'd have rather read a book all about her instead!

One thing that did kind of bug me about this book was the total lack of quotation marks. I have no idea why they weren't used but it made it really hard for me to keep track of who was speaking during stretches of dialogue.

Probably the main thing I liked about this book was the descriptions of the scenery. Frazier did a good job of painting a vivid picture. That's the other thing that I remember from the film; the beautiful scenery, so I'm glad that the inspiration for some of those shots obviously came direct from the book. All the same, the film remains my first choice over the book, and I don't say that very often!

I followed this up with a book my Mum got Mr Click for Christmas, Sherlock Chronicles by Steve Tribe. It's a behind the scenes look into the BBC TV series and ticked another Reading Challenge box as I needed to read a non-fiction book.

It gives an overview of the first three series of the TV show, beginning with the inspiration behind it through the making of each episode, script excerpts, interviews and loads and loads of photos. It's not a portable book by any means, but it's a lovely book to sit in bed with and pore over, especially if you're a bit of a fan of all things Sherlock (like my husband).

This was a really interesting read. I love behind the scenes stuff about films and TV series so this was right up my street. I especially liked that rather than just jumping into how episodes are shot or actors prepare for big scenes, they went right back to the beginning, looking at the inception of Sherlock.

It was interesting to see how they were influenced by the old Sherlock Holmes TV series. I never made the link before about how the old Basil Rathbone versions of the Sherlock stories from the 1940s were basically doing the same thing as the modern BBC Sherlock; taking an old Victorian character, putting him into a modern setting, and seeing how he interacts with new stories based on the old ones. We're rewatching the Basil Rathbone Sherlock films at the moment and it's funny to think that without them, there might never have been a BBC Sherlock.

I also liked reading about the little things that make the Sherlock series Sherlock, like the on screen text which shows us text messages or what Holmes is thinking. It's one of the features that I love about the show but I hadn't thought about how complex an idea it was to execute well and make it gel with everything else you see on the screen.

I really liked all the pictures. There were a lot of posed shots and stills from episodes, but there were plenty of behind the scenes ones too. I like things like that because it gives you a glimpse into just what goes on when a programme like this is being made.

The book is also filled with funny little quotes and interesting facts. It was perfect for whetting my appetite for rewatching the series. I hope that they bring out a similar or updated volume once a few more series have been made.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Film Review: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 5

I'm in Wales right now, but I didn't want to keep you waiting for the last instalment of The Desolation of Smaug. We're into the home stretch now. Time for a battle of dragon versus Dwarves (and Hobbit), Orcs versus Elves (and a few kids), and Gandalf versus the forces of Evil.


216. Balin's figured out that Thorin's starting to lose it. It's only going to get worse from here, mate.

217. Considering Smaug's figured out what Thorin's up to, he doesn't seem too bothered about the Arkenstone just being left out in plain view. Does he even know it's there?

218. And once again, Gandalf is trapped and watching the forces of evil assemble. He must've gotten a bit of a sense of déjà vu when he was imprisoned at Isengard.

219. Smaug's finally grown bored of talking to Bilbo, but he does give us a nice view of the missing scale so we know where Bard needs to aim in the next film.

220. I also love how they made Smaug breathe fire. It looks like the world's worst heartburn!

221. Bard is locked up now, Bofur's stealing Kingsfoil from the pigs, and a crew of Orcs are invading the town. It's all getting a bit dramatic.

222. The invading Orcs are making a mess of Bard's home. Tilda's putting up a valiant fight though, apparently she subscribed to the Sam Gamgee School of Kitchenware Weaponry.

223. Oh look, it's Tauriel and Legolas here to save the day.

224. I know she shouldn't be there really, but I wish I could beat people up like Tauriel. Not that I often have the need to beat people up, but y'know, if I needed to.

225. Legolas decapitating the Orc is both gross and all sorts of awesome.

226. I'm not a fan of the Dwarf/Elf love story. The bit where Tauriel says she's going to save Kili makes me think of a girl trying to make a three-legged puppy feel better.

227. Back in the mountain, Thorin is getting decidedly weird about the Arkenstone.

228. I like how Thorin runs into the room screaming because his jacket is on fire, then shrugs it off and is like 'I'm cool, man'.

229. Who decided that a bowl of walnuts would be the best pillow for Kili?

230. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but it sounds like Tauriel is saying the same words that Arwen said over Frodo.

231. The Dwarves are really not big fans of handrails, are they?

232. It's raining gold!

234. Are walnut pillows a Dwarvish thing?

235. I do love the music for Tauriel and Kili, it's so pretty.

236. And back to the mountain, where the Dwarves have stumbled into a room full of dead Dwarves. There's even a baby.

237. But that hardens Thorin's resolve. Now they are going to kill the dragon.

238. "If this is to end in fire, then we will all burn together!" But do the others want to burn?

239. This reminds me of when I was in America, and I watched the squirrels in the woods taunting a cat.

240. In Laketown Legolas is single-handedly taking out all of the invading Orcs.

241. You know I'm no good at writing about fight scenes and pretty much all that remains of this film is a bunch of fight scenes.

242. Legolas is fighting a bunch of Orcs.

243. He does a pretty good job at using Bolg's head to knock down a pillar, then Bolg gets in close for a little Elfy cuddle.

244. Also, Legolas gets a nosebleed. And then he gets mad.

245. But Bolg's had enough and he's off.

246. Thorin's really lucky that rope was still there.

247. Oh dear. The furnaces are out. How will they set them on fire again? Maybe using the walking lighter?

248. Yup, that'll do the trick.

249. Thorin's almost back to himself now. At least he's giving orders and telling people what to do to get rid of the dragon. Apparently all he needs is to be distracted from thinking about the Arkenstone.

250. They're very lucky that there was still water available to put out the dragon and set the water wheels turning, otherwise there would've been roast Thorin and the quest would've probably come to an end.

251. Smaug's really trashing the place now. They might kill the dragon, but they're going to have to do a lot of tidying up afterwards!

252. I'm really not sure you'd be able to surf down a river of molten gold, surely you'd pass out from the heat.

253. I do like the Great Hall. Or at least, I did until Smaug trashed it.

254. The place was actually in pretty good condition for having had a dragon living there for however many years; then the Dwarves and Bilbo show up and the place is ruined.

255. Smaug's surmised that this is clearly the work of the people of Laketown. Not looking good for Laketown now.

256. When I saw this bit in the cinema I thought that there was something wrong with the CGI when the golden statue's eye begins to melt.

257. This would've been a really good way to kill the dragon if it was possible to drown him in molten gold.

258. Alas it isn't.

259. He does look very pretty in gold though.

260. And I like the way he shakes off all the gold. Just as well, otherwise that could've repaired the damaged scale in his armour and made him impervious to Bard's attack.

261. "I. am. fire. I. am. DEATH." "What've we done."

262. DUM!

263. Oh, hello Ed Sheeran. I love this song. I kind of love Ed Sheeran too.

As I'm currently in Wales, I'm not watching the next in the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies. Next week we'll take a little break and I'll return with a regular schedule from the 5th of March (seriously, how are we so close to March already?! Wasn't New Year's Day about a week ago?!)

See you there.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Gone to Wales. Back Next Week.

I've been counting down the days (in my Bullet Journal, of course) for over a month now, but the day has finally arrived.

Hopefully my bag is now packed, my suitcase is organised, and my tickets are somewhere safe and easily accessible for the journey.

All being well the weather will be kind for me and the journey will be uneventful. If I'm bored or lonely, look out for me on Twitter and Instagram (I must remember to try not to go over my data allowance this time).

I'm not planning on blogging while I'm away, my Mum and I have a lot planned which I'll tell you all about when I get back. In the meantime, I've scheduled a few posts to keep things ticking over (book reviews and Wordless Wednesday posts).

I'll see you all (figuratively speaking) on the 28th of February!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Books 25 & 26 of 2015: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling & The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel

As I've mentioned two, or three, or twenty, times. Last year I took part in a Reading Challenge and tried to read a book which would tick the box for each week's requirement.

For week twelve it was 'a collection of short stories'. I've got a few options for this one, but next up on my bookshelf was The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.

If you're not familiar with this one, it's a tie-in book for the Harry Potter series. In the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we hear the story of 'The Three Brothers' as well as get a mention of a couple of other wizarding fairy tales; the sort of thing that magical children would listen to instead of Snow White or Rapunzel.

I chose this one partly because I knew it would be a quick read. I have a few other books which are a lot longer and I wanted to get through all my challenge reads alongside my non-challenge reads, so my decision was more than a little based on the number of pages in the book. I managed it in an hour before work which meant it was perfect.

I like the way that it's written. Each story includes an analysis of it by Dumbledore. To be honest, for some of the stories I think that Dumbledore's comments on them are more entertaining than the actual stories themselves.

The thing I love about The Tales of Beedle the Bard is probably the same thing I love about Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages; the fact that it makes the magical world feel just a little bit more real. It does feel like you are reading the sorts of fairy tales magical kids would read. As I'm fairly certain that my owl just got lost on the way to me and in 1997 there would have been a spare bed in the Ravenclaw dormitory waiting for me, so it's nice to get extra information into the world I wish I could inhabit.

Of all the stories in the book, my favourites were probably 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' and 'The Three Brothers'; though when I'm reading the latter, I can't help but hear Hermione narrating it and picture the animation from the movie. If you've only seen the films and not read the books, I think this book might be a neat way to introduce yourself to the wider world of Harry Potter.

When I finished up with The Tales of Beedle the Bard I moved straight onto The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel. This is the second book in the Earth's Children series and picks up where the first left off; Ayla has found a safe place to live and sets up a little cave to live in. She adopts a foal and later an injured baby cave lion but misses the interaction of other people.

Luckily for her she finds Jondalar; a fellow Cro Magnon, who is embarking on a great journey with his brother. Unfortunately for Jondalar the pair of them are attacked by a cave lion; his brother is killed and his is left near death, until Ayla finds him.

I have to admit, Ayla is a bit of a Mary Sue in this book. I mean, she was a bit of Mary Sue in the first book, but by this one her Mary Sue-ish habits have grown to new heights. This book sees her invent pretty much everything from domesticated horses to methods for transporting bulky items to new weapons.

I found this book a little slow at first. I'd forgotten about the way that it's basically two separate stories until the the final third. It felt like it sped up a lot once Ayla and Jondalar met. The way I remembered it, they met a lot earlier in the story so I was surprised that it came so late in the book. Even now I don't really remember what happened that took so long to get through before that point. My guess is that there was a lot of describing the scenery, the fauna and floral, the things that they cook, the weapons they make, and all the other stuff that Auel likes to dwell on in these books.

All the same, I did enjoy Ayla and Jondalar's interactions. It was nice to see how they expected one another to act and how their expectations changed as they got to know one another. I also liked the glimpses into the other 'Caves' during Jondalar's journey. It was interesting to see the contrast between them and the Neanderthal clan of the previous book.

I did read most of the Earth's Children books last year; you'll see the reviews for those later in the year. I've still not reached the end of the them all. The last one is so big and it just goes on forever. I will get to it, eventually, but it's taken me a month to read The Lord of the Rings and I suspect The Plains of Passage will take me at least that long, if not more!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Weekly Rundown: Super Shopping Trip

All this week I've been getting up early so I can get to work a little ahead of normal time. I've been banking hours in order to finish a little early next week for my trip to Wales.

Normally this would mean a nice long lie on Saturday. But not this week.

Yesterday the alarm went off at 6am so we could get up and out nice and early. We had to leave the house at 7am. I finally dragged myself out of bed at about ten to. I was this close to telling Mr Click to go without me so I could stay in bed and take it easy all day.

I'm really glad that I did go though.

Out first stop was a garden centre to pick up some potatoes for my father-in-law. Cardwell Garden Centre has a craft shop which I like to visit when I get a chance. Alas, yesterday it was just not meant to be. We were there too early and the craft shop was closed. So we skipped that one and headed straight on to Lidl, via Tesco's car park while we deal with a suspected puncture.

Happily the car was fine and we were able to move on with the day, just a little later than expected.
I had a great time in Lidl and scored some fantastic 'decorative tape' in there. On all the Bullet Journal sites I see people using washi tape to mark off sections of their books, cover up mistakes, highlight and decorate areas of their plans. There have been a few times when I've thought it would be handy to have something to make things stand out.

About a week ago people in the UK started sharing the decorative tape they'd picked up in Lidl and I really wanted to get some. I was fairly certain that it would all be gone by the time we went this week. On my first trip round the shop I couldn't see any and I guessed that we'd missed it. Then I looked a bit closer and I found twelve different packs of the stuff. All at 99p each.

I did the logical thing and bought them all.

Another thing I picked up yesterday was a pencil case. I feel like I'm back at school! Since I splurged on the pack of 30 Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, I knew I needed something more practical than the box they came in to travel to Wales with but I was struggling to find a decent pencil case which would hold all the pens I like to take about with me. Then we stopped into Tesco and I found a pretty one for £3.

I may have also picked up Taylor Swift's 1989 CD as well; because I need music to listen to on the way down south.

Of course, I still have to finish washing the clothes I need to pack. I still need to actually pack. I still need to print off my luggage labels and decide which bag I'm using as hand luggage.

But at least I have pretty stationery supplies!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Film Review: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 4

Hopefully as you're reading this, I'm off to the mainland for a little bit of retail therapy. Unless the weather is bad. If the weather is bad, I'll be snuggled up in bed at home feeling really glad that I don't have to go out in the horrible weather.

But you're not here to hear about the weather or my shopping plans. You're here for the next installment of The Desolation of Smaug!

162. And now let's catch up with Gandalf and Radagast who have just arrived at Dol Guldur.

163. I love that after Gandalf send him away, Radagast comes back to ask him if it's a trap. Because it probably is one.

164. Thorin's like 'you have keen eyes, Master Baggins' except not really because it's a ruddy great staircase which is right there in plain sight.

165. Gandalf clearly isn't going for the surprise attack here.

166. Look out! Something's about to land on you.

167. I like that all of this was seamlessly added in from the theatrical release. The little running Dwarf guy would've freaked me out in the cinema.

168. He's quite spirited for someone so old.

169. Lucky that Gandalf was there to make him feel more like his old self.

170. By the way, it's Thrain. Thorin's Dad. It's quite a sweet reunion really, considering that unless you've read the books you probably won't have much of an idea of what's going on here.

171. They better enjoy it while it lasts because they haven't got long.

172. Quick flashback to the Battle of Moria. Just to remind us all of who Thrain is.

173. Oh and he had a ring. He doesn't have it any more. He also doesn't have the finger it was on.

174. I love that Gandalf stops the vines on the walls from trying to attack them with just a thump from his staff.

175. Turns out you might have made a mistake with the quest there Gandalf. Thrain does not approve.

176. Woo hoo! They've found the door. Or at least the place where the door should be.

177. You'd think that out of thirteen Dwarves, one of them would know how to get a Dwarven door to reveal itself.

178. They've battled Orcs, travelled miles across Middle-earth, been held captive and fought their way out to eventually make their way to the hidden door, only to lose the light. Do they stay and fight? Do they try to come up with an alternative? No, they all give up and head back down the massive staircase. Thank goodness they had Bilbo with them!

179. Whenever I watch this bit, I'm reminded of when I saw it in the cinema on the island (before they went all digital) and the sound conked out here. The picture kept playing but there was just a buzzing noise. They had to stop it and start it again. I still half expect it to go when I'm watching it now.

180. Lucky Thorin came back otherwise that would've been an even bigger disaster than turning back when they couldn't find the keyhole.

181. But at least they're inside now. And you know it's a big moment for them all because the music's doing that thing where it gets all swelly and both Thorin and Balin have tears in their eyes.

182. Thorin's having a little moment now. I get it, he's happy to be home. Now they just need to evict the dragon.

183. Oh look, there's a pretty inscription above the door. Wouldn't it make more sense to have that on the way in, rather than on the way out.

184. I always forget that until this point Bilbo doesn't actually know anything about the Arkenstone. I wonder why they don't actually tell him about it until they get there.

185. Meanwhile, Kili appears to be in labour.

186. Bofur: "Don't move!" like Kili's going anywhere.

187. Balin's giving Bilbo the low down on the Arkenstone. Moments like this make the Balin's tomb bit in The Lord of the Rings feel so much sadder now. I love Balin.

188. I also love Bilbo's dressing gown.

189. "Oh and Bilbo, if there is in fact a live dragon down there... don't waken it." Sensible advice.

190. In the book it is Balin who goes down a little way with Bilbo, I like that they included it in the film.

191. Back to Gandalf and Thrain. It would appear Thrain has led the wizard straight to Azog.

192. I'm momentarily distracted from the ferocious Wargs by my own ferocious Warg asking me to play tug of war with her Kong.

193. When I tune back in Thrain is telling Gandalf to pass on a message of love to Thorin before being grabbed by the Necromancer.

194. And then Gandalf's staff disintegrates which makes me very happy because I noticed in the first film that Radagast's staff looked suspiciously similar to Gandalf's in The Fellowship of the Ring.

195. The whole Eye of Sauron/Necromancer thing is sort of seizure inducing but very, very clever. I think it kind of explains how he came to take up a form like a giant eye, because the body shape was gone, but he was still this big burning ball of energy.

196. Martin Freeman is just totally perfect as Bilbo here. I love all of his reactions, and I love the featurette where they show some of the takes that they didn't actually use.

197. Although he does also remind me rather a lot of his character in Nativity!

198. Coin-alanche!

199. Oh look! It's a dragon.

200. It's a very big dragon.

201. In the book it mentions that Smaug has kind of illuminating beams of light from his eyes and I like how they did that very subtly in the film.

202. Run, Bilbo! Run!

203. "Something made of gold, but far. more. precious." Ooh, he knows.

204. Smaug is such a poser.

205. "Do you think flattery will keep you alive?" Well, I kind of hope it will.

206. And there's the Arkenstone.

207. I'm so glad they kept in the riddling talk, though I wish they'd used more of it.

208. "You have nice manners..." for my dinner.

209. Smaug's a fine one to talk about being drawn to treasure. Takes one to know one I suppose.

210. And back to Laketown to see how Fili and all are getting on.

211. Apparently the kids weren't told that was where the Black Arrow was hidden, to make their surprised looks more real.

212. Meanwhile, back in the cave Smaug is monologuing. He could've taken Bilbo out by now if he'd just got on with making fire.

213. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Laketown, the guard would rather arrest Bard than let him try to bring down the dragon.

214. And Bard figures that if he's going to be hauled before the Master, he might as well go in for resisting arrest.

215. I wonder how many times Luke Evans fell in the water rather than successfully landing in that little boat.

And I think that's where we'll leave things for now. This time next week I'll be in Wales but I've got the final part of this blog series ready to go.

Next week the Dwarves join Bilbo inside the mountain, they all go head to head with Smaug; meanwhile in Laketown there's an Orc attack!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Not a Chapter-by-Chapter Post

You might be expecting to see today's Chapter-by-Chapter post where I read Chapter 9 of Stephenie Meyer's New Moon.

You won't find it here.

I had big plans to get ahead and read a couple of chapters to schedule while I'm in Wales, but real life has gotten in the way. I've had a couple of walks, a trip to the mainland and work which have kept me away from the blog.

This time next week I'll be on my way to Wales so I'll schedule a few posts for while I'm away, but it's a holiday so I'll be having a slight blogging holiday. Rather than making a rush attempt at a post, I've decided to take a break from posting Chapter-by-Chapter posts until I'm back from Wales.

Happy reading!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Bullet Journal: Food Log

When I showed off my latest spread in my Bullet Journal I included a shot of my Food Log for the coming month. I've seen these, looking infinitely more attractive than my offering, in other people's Bullet Journals on Instagram and Facebook.

I've been logging my food for nearly two weeks now. I started it with the hopes of helping to improve my results on my habit tracker page, also in my Bullet Journal, specifically on reducing the amount of chocolate I eat.

I know I can eat less chocolate. A couple of times I've given up chocolate for a whole thirty-one days with no adverse effects, the one thing that I did notice when I did that was that I would inevitably end up snacking on other things instead.

Which is where the Food Log comes in.

I'm not being obsessive about it, since I'm doing it to be healthy, rather than in an effort to lose weight. If I'd had more time to organise it, I'd have formatted it a little better. Instead I just listed out the days of the month with 'BREAKFAST', 'LUNCH', 'DINNER' and 'SNACKS' with a line for each. Occasionally I'll have 'SUPPER' too, but that just gets added on at the end of whichever line has the most space (usually the 'dinner' line).

As you can see from the photo above, I just write in what I've eaten during the day.

By last Thursday I thought I was beginning to notice a pattern, so I adapted my BuJo Food Log page slightly. Rather than writing everything in with black pen, I've adopted a sort of colour coding system. Foods eaten at home are black, foods eaten at work are in blue and things eaten anywhere else are green (for the purposes of my tracker, 'home' is not just my home, but my family members' homes as well).

This clarified the pattern I thought I was starting to see.

I snack way more at work than at home.

I suppose it's because at home I can get up and do stuff. I might be sitting and watching TV, but I'll be able to pick up my knitting or colouring in and distract my hands. At work I'll sit there, with a bag of something tasty on my desk, and I'll dip into it while I deal with an email or pop some notes on the system. In fact, the tasties don't even need to be on my desk. We're a sharing sort of group and someone usually puts something yummy out for us to help ourselves to.

I'm trying to come up with some healthy snacking alternatives, possibly carrot sticks and celery, which I can nibble on guilt-free, but if nothing else, at least I'm aware of my predisposition for nibbling on naughties throughout the day at work.

And I probably wouldn't have made the connection if I hadn't gone to the effort of writing it all down. Score another one for the BuJo!

What're some of your favourite healthy snacks to nibble on?

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Books 23 & 24 of 2015: Filth by Irvine Welsh and Blood Bath by Stephen Leather & others

Tuesday means it's time for another pair of books from the depths of my book journal (that's right, it's the book journal today, I'll be blogging about my Bullet Journal again soon).

First up is Filth by Irvine Welsh. This was a book which had been floating around at work and EVERYONE had given up on it. Some had only made it a page or two in before deciding it definitely wasn't for them and bringing it back in for the next person to try.

Well, you know I love a challenge. And I can't leave a book unfinished. And I did need a book with a one-word title for my Reading Challenge. So I took it.

It's pretty much a long stream of consciousness story, narrated by Bruce (among others), and Edinburgh police officer. His marriage has broken down and he's got an uncomfortable rash. His life basically goes downhill from there.

Surprisingly, this only took me about five days to get through. I was expecting it to take me much longer. It took me a little while to get used to the style of writing, but once I did, I was able to read it pretty quickly. At least, I got through the first half quite quickly, the second half took me longer.

I think during the first half of the book I was waiting for Bruce to do something which would make me like him a little more. By the second half, I knew that was never going to come. I wound up just feeling annoyed and disgusted by him, at which point I really wasn't enjoying the book any more and I was just waiting for it to end.

We do get a glimpse into why Bruce is the way he is, but by the time that came around I really hated him and not even that could help me to drum up much sympathy for him. I get that he is kind of meant to be an unlikeable character but I can understand why so many of my colleagues were turned off the book.

In fact, the thing I was expecting to be my biggest barrier to the book, the fact that it's written entirely in dialect with some pretty bizarre formatting, actually was the easiest thing to get to grips with. By the end of the first ten or so pages I was used to Bruce's speech. I suppose living in Scotland for a decade and a half helped too. In fact, the things that probably bugged me most were the complete lack of quotation marks and the interjections from Bruce's tapeworm.

Yeah, it's just that kind of book.

As soon as I finished Filth, I went straight onto Blood Bath by Stephen Leather and a whole host of others. It's basically a collection of short stories, one of which was written by Jack Nightingale creator, Stephen Leather, the others were written by six authors and fans.

It's a fairly short ebook and each story has the same title, but they all tackle it in different ways. It made for a nice little quick read after Filth and despite the subject matter, it was quite light and easy by comparison. This was a good side read in between my Challenge books.

I have to say, I preferred the first couple of stories over the latter ones. Obviously the first one was closest to the Nightingale character because it was written by the actual author. Of all the stories which weren't written by Leather, the ones written by the competition-winning fans were the best. I guess the other authors wrote because they were asked to, the fans were already probably making up stories about the characters and obsessively read the previous books, so theirs felt more true to the original incarnations.

I did think that the book could have done with a little more editing, but it was a free book so I'm not exactly going to complain about a few spelling or grammatical errors. On the whole, it was a good little read. I thought it was an interesting idea to see how so many different stories could all come from the same title and cover. It'd be fun to have other writers do something similar to see the different results.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Pebbly Beach

Each week in my Walk Middle-earth group on Ravelry I set a challenge for people to take part in, if they feel so inclined. These challenges range from things people have to photograph on their walks, distances that should be covered, a particular time to spend walking, to specifically Middle-earthy challenges. Sometimes they're a combination of two different sorts of challenges.

In my Bullet Journal I have a list of potential challenge ideas but I tend to select them fairly randomly; when I set up the group I asked people which challenges they liked the sound of most and the Photo Challenge was definitely most popular, so I've got rather more of them than anything else. I try to make it fair and pick challenges that will challenge me too (it'd be really easy to think, I've got a busy week at work this week, I'll just challenge everyone to take a ten minute walk).

And this week's challenge was definitely a little challenging.

I'd suggested that people might like to take a walk to their favourite place, take some photos and then share their favourite places with the other members of the group.

It was a good challenge suggestion and I was quite proud of myself for coming up with it. Until the realisation dawned that I would also have to do this walk too.

Saturday ended up being a very lazy day and I didn't get out of bed until after 11am. My favourite place on the island is a little hidden away spot, Calvary Pond, and I planned to pull on my welly boots and trek up there with my camera. But I happened to mention to Mr Click that my proper favourite spot on the island is a little cove out at Kilchattan Bay.

When we first visited the island on holiday, when I was about eight or nine, we stayed at the Bay and one of our explorations took us along to a little beach which I nicknamed Pebbly Beach. It does have a proper and far more boring name, but my name has stuck.

So we headed out there and after walking Tara with Mr Click, I left them both at the car and ventured out to the beach.

And if I'd known what the path was going to be like, I would've picked an easier challenge for myself!

It was very boggy, very muddy, and very slippy. It took me about ten minutes to gingerly pick my way along the path, taking occasional photos (and trying to shield my little compact camera from the rain).

And it doesn't really look like much, especially when the windy is blowing and the rain is pouring down. But I've got many happy memories of playing on that beach. I'd scale the rocks and feel like I was standing on top of the world (now I stand almost level with the top of the rocks and they don't feel so very high at all).

I'm looking forward to when the weather starts to improve so I can go back out there and actually spend a little while there, rather than paying a quick visit and heading off before my thumbs freeze off and I got stranded.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Weekly Rundown: Sunday Walk

This year's big resolution is to walk more; not just to be more active but to actually go out places on walks. Luckily I have a group of friends who are happy to go a good long walk occasionally and so this time last Sunday we set out for a rather long Sunday stroll.

The estimate for the walk was that it was going to be somewhere in the region of eleven miles, so last Sunday I got myself organised, pulled on my walking boots and plugged myself into my mp3 player, then walked a mile up the road to the place where we had agreed to meet.

We had a rather muddy walk across the Meadows (our local playing fields) before getting onto the main road. The plan was to walk from town diagonally across the island to Ettrick Bay, a beach at the north end of the island. There's a little cafe at the beach where we were able to stop for some lunch before walking back into town along the front.

The week before our walk we had some awful weather. Storm Henry hit, bringing with him 90 mile per hour winds. The Sunday we went walking was probably the only decent day out of seven. It was pretty sunny on the way out to the beach, only starting to spot with rain when we arrived there.

Along the way there was a lot of chatting, laughing and pausing to take photos.

Arran looking all moody and Middle-earth-ish.
As I've been using my daily walks to count towards my progress across Middle-earth, I decided to have mushroom omelette when we reached Ettrick Bay; after all, according to my Middle-earth mileage tracker I was roughly at the point of the book 'A Shortcut to Mushrooms'. The mushroom omelette seemed fitting.

It was very drizzly on the way back. I ended up absolutely soaked, helped along by a car which drove through a puddle at the side of the road and splashed water over the three of us walking on the path! Despite that, I really enjoyed myself and we've already spoken about planning another walk at some point in the future, hopefully making it a regular thing.

It was a very good Fitbit day as well! I earned a whole bunch of badges, my favourite two being for walking 30,000 steps in a day (I may have put my laundry away one item at a time before bed to hit that quota) and climbing the equivalent of 50 floors!


The twelve miles did kind of kill my walking boots though.

I've had those shoes for well over a year now, but the recent increase in walking seems to be wearing them out quicker than before. The walk on Sunday finished them off and I wore right through the grips on the bottom. My new walking shoes have arrived now and I'm slowly breaking them in.

I'm curious to see how long these ones will last me!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Film Review: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 3

Time for another instalment of The Desolation of Smaug.

Last week we saw all the spiders, the Dwarves were captured by Thranduil and his folk and Bilbo smuggled them all out in barrels. Now it's time to catch up with Gandalf and head off to visit Laketown.

100. Meanwhile, Gandalf is trekking up the High Fells.

101. Health and Safety would have something to say about that staircase.

102. And that tunnel.

103. "Oh it's you!" Hi Radagast.

104. "This is not a nice place to meet." Hehe.

105. He was one of NINE. Oh, I wonder who they could be...

106. I love how this ties things so neatly into The Lord of the Rings. I know it's hinted in the book that the Necromancer is Sauron, but they spell it out a lot more obviously here.

107. And Radagast speaks the truth. I like how he's like, Gandalf, we need you.

108. Soggy Dwarves. The special features bit on this is hilarious. I think their fat/muscle suits swelled up with water and they kept getting stuck in the barrels.

109. Look out! There's a Bard about.

110. I love that Dwalin is all tough but when the youngest member of the company is in danger, he just steps right in front of the arrow with just a bit of tree to protect himself.

111. Balin was doing well at the whole 'connecting with the human' thing, until he mentioned the guy's dead wife.

112. Looks like they've found a ride into town anyway.

113. Lee Pace does a really good Thranduil. He's all distant and monotone. I can believe he's Legolas's dad.

114. Tauriel is quick with her blade.

115. And that Orc is not pretty, especially when he does that hissy thing.

116. "I do not care about one dead Dwarf." Yeah, but Tauriel does.

117. The Orc's eyes are unnaturally small. I think that's one of the things that makes him look so weird.

118. "You promised to set him free." "And I did, I freed his miserable head from his shoulders."

119. Thranduil's plan is basically to close the doors and hope no one notices that they're there. It shows how the events of this film change him that he agrees to send Legolas to the Council of Elrond.

120. Uh oh. Tauriel's out after curfew.

121. The 'Dwarf blood' bit is a nice little nod to the bit in Lord of the Rings where Gimli tastes the blood on the leaf and spits 'Orc blood'. These guys should really stop putting random blood in their mouths.

122. I feel like they could have done something before now to show Gloin having money to spare to explain why Thorin asks him for the extra money here.

123. Hehe, Bilbo moving away from the knothole in case they can see him.

124. You should really watch the featurette on filming this bit. Those weren't fake fish they were dumping on the Dwarves.

125. I love Laketown. It just looks perfect. Not quite what I was imagining but it makes perfect sense.

126. Alfrid gets mixed responses online, but I think he serves an important role in this film. He's horrible but he's a great character.

127. You should see the audition tape where he plays the character like a slimy used car salesman.

128. I think those dogs belong to Peter Jackson. He almost had a cameo here, but it got cut.

129. I'm not easily disgusted, but Alfrid throwing the contents of the chamber pot out the window and getting it everywhere is really gross.

130. "There's even talk of an election." "An election? That's absurd. I won't stand for it." "I don't think they'll ask you". Love it.

131. "Bollocks!"

132. Okay, this bit is also really gross. I love Stephen Fry but he's just horrible in this. Which is totally the point.

133. I've never really thought about it before, but this is Bilbo's first encounter with Men. He spends way more time in the company of Dwarves, Wizards and Elves.

134. "What do you know about my wife?" "I know her as well as any man in this town." This film has so many little quotable lines.

135. And Bard's daughters are played by James Nesbitt's daughters. I love how much of a family affair these films are.

136. I love the Dwarf theme.

137. Tilda makes me smile. "Will they bring us luck?"

138. Recap of the beginning of the last film, with a few more shots of people trying to attack the dragon.

139. And a bonus show of Luke Evans made up to look like Bard's ancestor, Girion.

140. They need to get to the mountain very soon or the quest is a waste. Or they'll just have to wait for another year.

141. I'm with Balin. Why the insistence on 'proper' weapons?

142. Oh dear. Kili isn't feeling too hot.

143. Apparently drawing bows on each other is how Tauriel and Legolas greet each other.

144. Sheesh, if Thranduil's treatment of Tauriel is 'favouring' her, I'd hate to see how he'd treat someone he didn't like!

145. Tauriel speaks the truth. It's basically her we have to thank for Legolas being able to head off and join the Fellowship.

146. I love the prophecy rhyme.

147. Who needs a ladder when you've got a bunch of Dwarves to climb?

148. How many weapons do they need? They're not planning on travelling light apparently.

149. Nicely done, Kili.

150. It's snowing!

151. Thorin has got the hang of the politician's speech.

152. Bard has not.

153. They've never seen a Hobbit before. I'm not sure he's the most reliable one to vouch for Thorin.

154. They're all quick enough to complain about Girion failing to kill the dragon, but I didn't see anyone else up there trying to get Smaug.

155. "I say unto you WELCOME!" to another episode of QI.

156. Oh dear. Kili's being grounded.

157. I love those instruments.

158. Did no one notice that Bofur was missing?

159. "The entire town twittering your name." Hehe, nice little nod to Fry's presence on Twitter there.

160. Hehe, I love the Master's response to hearing Kili's sick.

161. The overlook looks suspiciously like the bit of Mordor overlooking the Black Gates.

And we'll leave things there for now. Next week, Bilbo finds the door, figures out how to open it and gets sent inside for his troubles.