Thursday, 28 April 2016

Bullet Journalling: April

I'm still using my Bullet Journal and I've also successfully sold a friend on getting started using a Bullet Journal (that's not counting the couple of online friends who have adopted it as a method for staying organised as well).

So how's my BuJo shaped up this month?

This month took me a couple of days to get started because it didn't have the sense to start at the weekend. I ended up pencilling in the standard month stuff and then spent about a week inking over the top of it. Thankfully April ends on a weekend, so I'll be able to devote my time to getting everything drawn and inked in one go.

As usual, I began April with a review of March:

I've been exchanging washi tape with some of my pen pals and one of the tapes matched the pastel colours I've been using for my March theme, so I thought it would be a nice way to pretty up review page. This notebook doesn't really need much in the way of jazzing up since the pages are coloured and have little pictures on the corners, but I'm almost at the end of the gridded section (and I'm thinking of moving on to the beautiful anthracite Leuchtturm book I picked up in Wales rather than using the unlined pink section that's next in this notebook).

I tried something slightly different for my month overview this month:

I was struggling with having enough space for everything on a single line; sometimes it would look a little jumbled where I would write something in for the end of the day, then I'd get an appointment or something would come up for earlier in the day which made it confusing.

I'd seen something similar to this layout on Boho Berry, except I organised mine into morning, afternoon and work. It's fairly self-explanatory; work is where I make notes about my start/finish times and holiday hours. I left space down the side for notes which I've not really used. I'm not sure if I'll leave the notes section here or swap it out for something else.

This month I've switched out some of the stuff from from April Habit Tracker to create two different trackers:

I still have my standard habit tracker where I'm tracking the 'need to do' things, but I now also have a self-care tracker as well, which is for the 'want to do' things.

These are for the things that don't need to be done, but which are fun to do. It's sort of for those moments where I've checked off the laundry, or gotten back from walking Tara, or just had a busy day at work and want to reward myself with something I enjoy. The problem with those things is that they don't always count towards any of my monthly goals or targets so it feels a little like you're wasting time, when you're not; doing things just for you which you enjoy is important too. So I've made a little tracker to stay on top of that too.

This month I decided not to bother with a whole food tracker, instead I've done a snack tracker:

I still want to do something a little bit different with this, because I like tracking my food and meals, but I don't like this list format. I'm actually playing around with the idea of doing some sort of weekly overview in the future, with a page per week and including that information on the weekly view (so I can see it week by week, rather than on a monthly basis). But it's something I'll carry on playing around with in the future. As I keep saying, that's the beauty of the Bullet Journal system. I'll just keep messaging with it until I get a system I like.

I'm still just doing dailies where I track my fluid intake, list my to-dos and write a little review at the end of the day. I don't have much in the way of Collections this month. I'm still using my TV Series tracker to stay on top of which episode of House we're up to. I've also got a special list of things to do before my Mum and stepdad visit next month, and my latest 'collection' spread is a tracker for our FET.

I based this on the Calendex idea for keeping track of details, such as appointments and events. I originally tried laying it out in the style of a habit tracker but I needed it to run over more than one month, so in the end I modified the Calendex format. Each day has six boxes for me to record medication, appointments and other information. The facing page has a little key to make sense of the colours and letters, as well as additional details (like times of appointments).

My one other change this month was to move all of my pen pal details out of my Bullet Journal and into a whole new folder, I'll go into that on another post.

Do you Bullet Journal? What's working for you this month?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Books 45 & 46 of 2015: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett & Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Getting on for about a year ago now, Pempi @ Pempi's Palace heard that I hadn't read Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam and offered to send me a copy. I held on to it until we started on the IVF because I figured that a little Terry Pratchett would help get me through the long hours of appointments, travelling and waiting.

Raising Steam is the fortieth Discworld book which returns to Moist von Lipwig's story arc. Having turned the Post Office into a roaring success, securing a formidable portion of the Disc's communication network through his relationship with Adora Belle Dearheart, and coining the Ankh-Morpork Mint, von Lipwig's got a new project; now there's a new invention on the Disc and he's responsible for getting it all on track.

I took a lot longer to get through this book than I ordinarily would for a Terry Pratchett book though that had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with all the IVF stuff. I was reading this book through egg retrieval and embryo transfer so I quite often found my mind wandering when I was trying to read it. And during that my Mum and stepdad came to visit so I was preoccupied with them too.

I did kind of struggle with it and didn't enjoy it quite as much as I wanted to. I think that this was for a number of reasons. One was because I found it hard to focus on the story with all of the other big important things going on around me. That might explain the other reason why I struggled with it; I found it a little disjointed and didn't always feel like I followed what was going on, but again, that could have been due to the fact I kept picking it up and putting it down.

After reading Going Postal I felt in love with the character of Moist von Lipwig and I was thrilled that he got his own story arc (I'm still a little sad that the girls from Monstrous Regiment never got a further arc of their own). This book also has Vimes in it, who is another of my favourite Discworld characters, I loved that they get a final outing in this book.

I just couldn't help but feel sad as I was reading, realising that Terry Pratchett is gone and there won't be any more books. I still have The Shepherd's Crown to read but I'm sort of putting it off as long as I can because the longer I wait, the longer it is until it all has to end. I feel like there are just so many more stories that Discworld had to tell.

I followed up Raising Steam with Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy for my Reading Challenge. This was for Week 25: A book you should've read in school. Technically this is a book that I started reading at school but then set aside and never returned to after my English teacher died.

Tess is the oldest daughter of the poverty stricken Durbeyfield family, who is sent out by her mother to meet with her 'cousin' Alec d'Urberville. She leaves the d'Urberville home in shame and delivers a short-lived illegitimate son, ultimately leaving home and falling in love with Angel Clare. For Tess, however, she seems destined to live a tragic life.

Warning: Here be spoilers!

When I read this the first time I made it a lot further through than I remembered. I kept on finished chapters thinking 'right, this is where I got to last time', then I'd read another chapter or two and realise that there was another one I'd read. I remember finding it a bit of a slow read last time, though it was a beautiful edition (this time I was reading it on the Kindle). I found it a surprisingly quick read, getting through it in well under a week.

I did enjoy this book, until the end. Tess killing d'Urberville was really strange and unexpected for me. I actually ended up reading that bit late at night and going back and reading it again to double check that I hadn't misunderstood what had happened. After all the bad things that happened to Tess, I was really hoping for a happier ending. On the other hand, the fact that I got so involved in the book, that I felt that way, shows how much I enjoyed it.

I really felt for Tess. Both Alec and Angel both did a serious number on her. She was a poor, naive young woman who was trying to do what her family wanted her to but who ended up in a situation outwith her control. I realise that it's reflective of the time period when it was written, but it still made me angry that she could end up in the situations she did and it was still seen as her fault. Stupid men.

I've heard people complain about Thomas Hardy's style of writing, but I really liked it. I'm definitely going to try more Hardy in the future, I've got at least two more books on my Kindle waiting to be read.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sunday Walk

I know it's only been a couple of weeks since I last shared my walking progress but the Sunday before last I took part in a 14.54 mile walk with a group of eight of my friends.

Frustratingly, I completely neglected to take any photos on the way, mainly because I was trying to stay upright and a fair chunk of the journey was uphill. I did carry my camera around the whole way with me, so I did intend to take photos, it just never happened.

Luckily I walked over 35,000 steps and climbed the equivalent of 100 flights of stairs, so as well as having my Runkeeper map showing my progress around roughly a third of the island, I also have two shiny new badges.

The walk saw us walking from Port Bannatyne, out towards the Rhubodach ferry. Then we veered off up through the woods (stopping briefly to visit a convenient outhouse along the the way), before stopping for lunch and continuing up a massive slope.

One of the girls had done the walk the week before and warned us that we would need wellies for the walk. She wasn't kidding. There were a couple of fields which we had to cross which were covered with this long, yellow, tufty grass. In between the clumps were boggy and wet muddy patches so even with welly boots on, it was tricky business to pick your way through secure ground. I thought that the best places to stand would be the big tufty bits, because like looked like they were solid ground.

They weren't.

Quite often you would step on one and discover that not only was it just a fluffy patch of long grass, but that the long fluffy patch of grass was growing over boggy mud and you'd end up sinking almost to the top of your welly boot. I didn't fall over, but I did come close a couple of times!

Unfortunately the walk also virtually finished off the walking boots that I got in February. After we got past the boggy fields, I carried on walking in welly boots because the other shoes were rubbing; I'd rubbed right the way through the fabric lining on the inside. Mr Click has found me another pair which I should receive next week; they're Hi-Tec, the same brand as his, which he's had for approximately sixteen years, so here's hoping they'll last a little longer.

It only took me about three days for my muscles to return to normal after the walk; the first day was definitely the sorest and by the third it was just when I moved after being in the same position for too long. I'm hoping that this means that all the walking I've been doing each day has helped me find long distance walking a little easier.

I've taken the walking a little easier in the week since the long walk, but this week coming I'm getting back into the swing of things. We've got my birthday, plus a trip to Glasgow in the week ahead, so I'm hoping I'll rack up a few steps that way. And as of yesterday, I'm roughly 200 miles across Middle-earth which means I'm just coming to the end of the Midgewater Marshes!

Thank goodness because the midges here have been awful over the last week!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Weekly Rundown: Surprise!

Friday night I had a very pleasant surprise when I went round to my friend's house for the evening.

The plan was for a bunch of us to gather, watch funny videos, eat takeaway and generally having a bit of a giggle. I'd been looking forward to it all week because you never really know what's going to happen when we get together. Friday I finished up at work, got some money out for my share of the takeaway and debated whether I would have chicken balls with egg fried rice or a pizza for my tea.

When I arrived one of the girls was outside on her phone, she told me that only one other person had arrived and that we were still waiting on the others. I headed into the house and opened the living room door. The lights were off.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

I didn't.

The lights went on and there was a crowd of my friends wearing wigs and daft glasses. Turns out they'd planned a surprise 30th for me.

I got to wear a tiara and everything!
And it was like a proper old party. We had party music (I suck at doing the macarena but taught everyone the actions to Purple People Eater and The Court of King Karactacus), played pass the parcel and a slightly dirty version of pin the tail on the donkey (and I won all the prizes), ate jelly and ice cream, and generally had a fantastic time.

It's kind of funny because at least once this week I complained to one of my friends about how I really don't like surprises. What I actually meant by that was that I don't like knowing when there's a surprise coming, you know, when someone says 'I've got a surprise for you'. When it's a complete and unexpected surprise, I really do like it!

This year I feel slightly like the Queen, except I'm getting even more birthdays than her. Not only have I had the party on Friday, Mr Click and I had all the leftover party food to consume yesterday and I still have my actual birthday to come, and my Mum coming to visit in May as well. I feel like I'm getting about two months of birthdays!

Have you ever had a surprise party?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Books 43 & 44 of 2015: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell & Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

This week's books were both read for the Reading Challenge last year. Week 23 was a book more than 100 years old and Week 24 was a book chosen for the cover.

First up is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.

This was originally published back in 1914 so it just qualified as a book over 100 years ago. I did debate reading a couple of other older books that I had on my Kindle but I've had this on my bookshelf for absolutely years without ever getting around to reading it. This seemed like my opportunity. It tells the story of a group of men who work as painters and decorators, they are joined one day by Owen, a man who desires a more just society. He encourages his fellow workers to rise up against the capitalist system for which they work.

I did find this an interesting read, but I wasn't really in the mood for it at the time. It's a pretty hefty read and I was trying to get through it in a short period of time for the reading challenge. I think I would've enjoyed it more if I'd had more time to read it.

I couldn't help but be reminded of Dickens as I was reading it, particularly in the names for some of the characters and businesses. In a way, Tressell was doing the same thing that Dickens was doing with many of his books; enlightening his readers to the plights of other people.

I do think that the messages of this book are still quite relevant today, especially considering the fact that the gap between rich and poor continues to increase today. All the same, the book was really heavy-handed in its messages and I couldn't help but wish that it was an awful lot shorter as I was reading it. I suspect I'll revisit again in the future, perhaps when I'm more in the mood for it.

As soon as I finished The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists I went on for a book which was about as far removed from it as possible. Earlier in the year I had picked up Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, by Jaclyn Moriarty, in a charity shop purely because of the cover, so it seemed like a good choice for the reading challenge; even though I had far more pretty book cover that I was drawn to. There was just something about the ransom note style of the cover which drew my eye to it.

The book follows Bindy Mackenzie, an Australian High School student, who is perfectly aware of how smart and kind she is. Unfortunately no one else seems to share this view of her. She documents her life at school through emails, essays and transcripts of a group learning project at school. Along the way she not only makes some discoveries about herself and her classmates; she also learns that someone is out to kill her!

For some reason, in the UK this book was published under the title of Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, but elsewhere it seems to have been published as The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. Perhaps had my copy had that title on the front cover, the switch in plot direction wouldn't have been such a surprise to me.

It's clearly written for teen girls, and as a teen girl it probably would've been right up my street. It kind of reminded me of The Princess Diaries books in a way (and I LOVED those books as a teen). There were definitely similarities in the way that they were written.

At the start of the book, I couldn't help but find Bindy rather annoying. She was so full of her own self-importance and completely oblivious to the feelings of her classmates. Then again, I suspect that I was a similar sort of teenager myself, so perhaps the irritation was more than a little directed at myself. As the book went on, I couldn't help but find her growing on me and after a while I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She was a product of her environment and she didn't know how to behave differently.

I did like that it was set in Australia. I started out thinking I was reading a story set in America so I had to do a sort of mental adjustment to the different location. I don't often read books set in Australia so it made for a nice change.

As I said above, I was not expecting the plot to suddenly go off into an attempt to murder a teenage girl, so it caught me completely off guard. It probably really would've appealed to me as a teenager though so I can imagine this being popular with the teen set.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Weekly Rundown: Out Walking (Again)

My posts might be somewhat sporadic this week, since I'm giving up my online time today to go walking again. You may remember how my last walk went. If you've forgotten, it involved a close encounter with a gorse bush. Aside from that it was great.

This week I'm going for what is expected to be a fifteen mile walk. We've also been warned that there's a boggy bit on the walk and to bring wellies. My friends are a little worried about how long I'll manage to stay upright. I'll let you know how that goes next week.

In other news, I had my Prostap injection this week.

I went to the health centre in the end, chickening out of doing it myself. I was in and out in fifteen minutes, which was definitely a lot easier than travelling all the way to Glasgow to get a jab, then turn around and come home.

So far, no hot flushes, just a little bit of a headache on and off. And I'm not going to let that stop me from enjoying my walk today.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Film Review: The Battle of the Five Armies, Part 5

Get your hankies ready, here's where it all ends. And I'm not just talking about The Hobbit films, I'm talking about the final cinematic excursion into Middle-earth!

210. Ooh, back to the Dwarves fighting.

211. It's kind of funny how Bifur's axe gets stuck in the whatever that is's head. And when it comes out he can speak intelligibly again!

212. Bilbo made it up to Thorin and Dwalin. Thorin doesn't seem unhappy to see him which is nice. I'm guessing this means Bilbo's forgiven.

213. Fili's about to be in some serious trouble.

214. You're too late. Azog's got him.

215. Poor Fili.

216. And poor Kili.

217. So there's more fighting. This time it's Azog versus Thorin.

218. And now Bolg's shown up with his gang. Time for even more fighting.

219. I remember when we were watching this in the cinema and at about this point I suddenly found myself thinking 'this is just one big war movie, and I'm actually enjoying it'.

220. Meanwhile, Legolas has hitched a ride on a giant bat creature. Hope he's holding on tight.

221. Bilbo's relying on that old Hobbit fighting trick; stone throwing.

222. Legolas demonstrates that old 'hanging upside down from flying animal whilst taking out a platoon'.

223. And now Bilbo gets bopped on the head, putting him out of action for a while so we can concentrate on Thorin versus practically all of Bolg's army. It's a good job that Legolas is on hand to help him out.

224. Tauriel does a fantastic job of both leading the enemy towards her, and distracting her Dwarf toy boy by yelling his name nice and loud.

225. Is that a human skull on Bolg's loincloth? Nice.

226. Oh, he has skulls on her shoulder pads too.

227. And Kili came to Tauriel's aid, so she gets to watch Bolg skewering him like a kebab.

228. Now it's her turn.

229. She basically decides that since Kili is gone, even though she barely knew him, she has nothing to live for, so she might as well take herself out in her attempt to get rid of Bolg.

230. Legolas is out of arrows. Oops.

231. And so he jumps off a tower and lands on the blind troll. Neat.

232. I don't think that's a structurally safe place to do battle guys.

233. Back to Thorin and whoever it is he's fighting. Briefly, because he throws him off the frozen waterfall. Another foot and the ugly brute would've landed on Legolas!

234. Do the goblins actually have no sense of pain? I know I would flinch if someone drove a ruddy great knife through my hand!

235. And there's more of Azog's guys coming to join the party. I think if I was Thorin I'd just be cowering in a corner somewhere by now.

236. Luckily Legolas has his physics defying skills to get off the disintegrating tower.

237. Scrambled Bolg.

238. If I was Thorin, I'd be wanting to move the fight off the ice. This is clearly just asking for trouble.

239. Then again, I guess he's hoping Azog will fall in and weigh himself down with his stone on a chain.

240. The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!

241. Oh, hi Radagast! Nice of you to show up.

242. And there's Beorn. It's kind of cool how he changes into a bear as he falls.

243. Well done, Thorin. You got Azog into the water. Now is the time when you should get out of the way. Don't just stand there for him to burst through the ice at you.

244. Seriously, Dwarf! Run, now!

245. Don't follow him!

246. You idiot!

247. Don't say I didn't warn you.

248. Ouch.

249. An Eagle flying over right about now would be really useful.

250. It kind of looks like Thorin gives up here.

251. I guess he kind of does, to be able to stab Azog and finish him off. That's sort of a heroic move, I suppose.

252. Welcome back, Bilbo.

253. Thorin should've flagged down one of those Eagles and let them know he was injured. They might've gotten him down for some Elvish healing.

254. At least he got to make up with Bilbo before he died.

255. It's sweet and sad how Bilbo keeps talking to Thorin after he passes.

256. I just want to give Bilbo a hug right now.

257. Thranduil still looks pretty stunned.

258. I love the little nod to Aragorn here. I want to know what happens between here and the Council of Elrond between Legolas and Aragorn.

259. Oh Thranduil, you wait until now to finally talk about Legolas's mum.

260. This bit here kind of makes me ship Tauriel/Thranduil a little bit. They've both loved and lost and I can see them connecting over that.

261. Thranduil, just give her a hug.

262. See, they understand each other now.

263. Gandalf always knows just the right thing to do. At times like these, what you really need is to get your pipe out and have a smoke with a friend.

264. They're like a pair of old soldiers.

265. Back to Dale where someone is blowing a really big trumpet thing.

266. This is what's done at a Dwarven funeral apparently.

267. It kind of bothers me that after saying she wanted to bury him, we don't actually see Tauriel paying her respects to Kili.

268. Balin crying just crushes me.

269. Oh, and Bilbo too.

270. And now Billy Connolly, I mean, Dain, gets to be king.

271. Balin wants Bilbo to stick around, but Bilbo needs to hit the road.

272. Everyone (who is still living) has come to see him off.

273. I love that he invites them all to tea. He's changed his tune since when they all showed up on his doorstep.

274. And so he and Gandalf head back to the Shire together. And it's an entirely uneventful journey.

275. Wizards bring good luck?! Are you forgetting who it was who got you into this situation, Bilbo?!

276. Gandalf's onto your little secret, Bilbo.

277. "You're a very fine person, Mr Baggins. And I'm very fond of you..." And you're a terrible liar.

278. Have you noticed that Gandalf has a habit of leaving Hobbits on the outskirts of the Shire, so that they have to go back and sort the big mess waiting for them?

279. Bilbo's not supposed to be here, on account of his being dead. That's why they're selling all his stuff.

280. Bet Bilbo's wishing he'd got back a day sooner.

281. Come on Bilbo, prove you're not dead.

282. Welcome home, Bilbo. You've got a bit of tidying up to do.

283. The house looks in a worse mess than when the Dwarves showed up and pillaged the pantry.

284. I love that Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson have been Hobbitified and are Bilbo's parents.

285. But wait, Bilbo still has a little secret. And I love that the music tells us what it is before we see it.

286. The Ring? Not lost at all.

287. And suddenly we're back to the start of The Fellowship of the Ring.

288. "And what about very old friends.." Love.

289. Such a perfect way to end these films.

290. And now I want to watch The Lord of the Rings.

291. This song is easily the very best end credit song of any of the six Middle-earth films.

292. They couldn't have picked anyone better to sing it either. It's not just saying goodbye to Thorin, but to the whole film franchise. Perfect.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Pen Palling

Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post leads on quite nicely to today's post, since I've recently become involved in letter writing.

When I was younger I used to email a few people that I 'met' online through 'e-pal' groups. A couple of those did progress into actual letter writing friendships but they never really lasted because for the most part we were teenagers and we just didn't have that kind of sticking power.

Now I'm a boring grown up, I only ever seem to get boring mail and I've often longed for a pen pal or two who I could write to about the random things I get up to. I enjoy writing and there's nothing quite so fun as getting home to find a letter waiting for you.

But I didn't really know where to actually begin looking for letter-writing friends. After all, you're putting your address out there in a public forum, you want to be sure that you're not handing over your details to crazy stalker axe-murderers. I found Postcrossing but couldn't seem to get into it, I wanted more than just postcards; I wanted letters.

At the beginning of the year I got into Bullet Journalling which introduced me to a whole interweb full of clever, crafty, organised people when I joined a couple of Bullet Journal groups on Social Media. On Facebook there are a whole host of Bullet Journal-themed spin-off groups, one of which was the Pen Pal group.

It's very well organised and I quickly wrote two letters and fired them off to a couple of people. That was back in February, I went to Wales, wrote another handful of letters on my way home, found at least one waiting for me when I returned, and things have sort of snowballed from there.

I'm writing to people not just in the UK (there's about three people in England I've exchanged at least one or two letters with), but also Canada (I think I've written to two people there) and also Pennsylvania, Virginia and California in America. And remember how I said that Postcrossing wasn't for me, because I wanted more than postcards? Well, I've exchanged postcards with several people as well!

I spend most of my day at work staring at a computer screen so it's nice to do something else when I get home, be that knitting, colouring in, or decorating plain lined paper with washi tape and stickers and pouring out my thoughts on the day to someone in another part of the world. It's very relaxing and there's nothing nicer than coming home at the end of a long day to a nice envelope on your doormat. Mr Click observed last week that I get more mail than him now!

Plus it's encouraging me to work on my handwriting, which I've improved from a tiny printed scrawl to something which might not be an elegant cursive, but which is certainly a little easier on the eyes. Perhaps I'll share a snapshot of it some time.

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Do you have any pen pals?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Books 41 & 42 of 2015: Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allan Poe & Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stuart & Chris Riddell

Last year's reading challenge suggested that for Week 22 I read 'a book that scares you'. This was a tricky one for me since I couldn't think of a book off the top of my head that really scares me. There are a couple of the early Jack Nightingale books which creeped me out a little, but I don't really read horror stories and I really didn't fancy reading something that was going to give me nightmares.

In the end I had a skim through some of my free Kindle books and selected Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, knowing that his stories are typically of the scary variety. This is a short collection of some of Poe's best known stories.

Although this wasn't a book I'd read before, so I didn't know whether or not it would scare me, I figured I was probably on the right track reading something with 'terrifying' right there in the title. I was also a little late starting the challenge on Week 22 so I deliberately went with something a little shorter so I wouldn't fall further behind. This one was only around about 100 pages so it ticked that box nicely.

The first stories were definitely creepy; they really weren't the sort of stories you want to be reading late at night. The later ones in the book didn't phase me as much as the earlier ones. I was familiar with several of the stories, such as 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum' but hadn't ever actually read them before so it was good from that perspective just to read them.

There were a couple of C. Augustus Dupin stories and I found them interesting. They definitely weren't my favourites but it was interesting to read them as a comparison to Conan Doyle's Holmes stories. Dupin was basically the precursor to Holmes, in fact, without him there may have been no Holmes at all, so it was fun from a literary point of view to read.

Mr Click has a massive illustrated collection of Poe's works which he was given a few years ago. He started reading it but didn't get along very well with it and set it to one side. I may have to dig it out at some point to give it another go.

When I finished my week's Challenge book, I headed over to my Children's Bookcase in search of new reading material. You will not believe the stress I had in trying to organise the Edge Chronicles on this book case. The series is written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell, It originally consisted of three trilogies (though a fourth is now in progress) and, a little like Star Wars, books four, five and six were released first, with a prequel trilogy following them, then a sequel trilogy (the books that have been published since 2014 are a sequel sequel trilogy).

So began the agonising decision of where to start. I carried around the first book (book 4) and the first book (book 1) for a whole day before eventually deciding to crack them open in order of publication (which meant starting with Beyond The Deepwoods rather than The Curse of the Gloamglozer).

Beyond The Deepwoods introduces the character of Twig, who has been raised as a Woodtroll but learns that he's not actually one of them. He sets out into the Deepwoods to meet a cousin, only to stray from the path and get terribly lost. In doing so he meets the weird and wonderful inhabitants of the Deepwoods, courting danger at every turn, until he learns just where his destiny is.

These books were a firm favourite with my brother growing up; he had a cuddly dog named Twig for the longest time, Twig's tag is still slipped in between the pages 228 and 229 as a bookmark. I acquired my copies of these books from him, though he only had six of them (the original trilogy and then three other books from the prequel and sequel). I keep on looking out for the other books on my travels but I always forget which ones I have so I think I'll just wait til I'm ready to read them and I'll buy them then.

A few years ago I picked up Walter Moers's Rumo and received the other Zamonia books shortly afterwards; Beyond the Deepwoods strongly reminded me of Moers's books. Although Beyond the Deepwoods is obviously geared for younger readers (and the Zamonia books are decidedly older), the similarities are striking. Both have an engaging mix of text and illustration; both feature fish out of water characters in fantasy worlds; both introduce a different adventure and new characters in each chapter. I'd go so far as to say that a reader who has enjoyed The Edge Chronicles will probably happily progress onto the Zamonia stories.

It's been almost a year since I read Beyond the Deepwoods and just thinking about it is making me want to grab The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.

Because of the structure of the book (each chapter is another complete adventure for Twig) I think this would make a really good bedtime story book or book to share as a class/group of children. The chapters follow along from one another but they're also self-contained, so there's no need to end it in the middle of the action.

I'd definitely recommend this one for adults and children to share together; or for adults to indulge in for themselves.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Walking Progress

It's been a while since I updated my walking progress. As I've mentioned before, inspired by the Eowyn Challenge I have spent the year so far trying to 'walk' from Hobbiton to Rivendell in Middle-earth.

My progress has slowed down somewhat in the last week, after an awesome week the week before, as you can see above. There wasn't anything serious last week, I was just feeling rather under the weather, so I'm hoping to bounce back this week and try and get at least five 10,000 step days in over the coming seven days.

As for my progress across Middle-earth?

As of Sunday, I was on Day 10 of the Hobbits' progress towards Rivendell. I have now met up with Strider, left Bree and my current location is coming out of the Chetwood. I'm on one of those stretches where you go quite some distance without any real change in Middle-earth scenery and part of me was sorely tempted to join my friends on their 19 mile walk they went on yesterday. The other part of me argued that Sunday morning was the first day that I didn't feel totally rotten so I'd probably be best off taking it nice and easy.

As you can see above, I'm doing really well towards my goal. I'm especially pleased that I'm ahead of target at the moment. I think I'm due to finish somewhere around about Christmas time at the moment, which gives me a nice little buffer of a week or so in case I fall behind.

I'm really looking forward to crossing that 200 mile mark, but first I have to get past the Midgewater Marshes, at 173 miles. Luckily, living in Scotland, I have plenty of experience of midges!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Weekly Rundown: Shopping. Again.

Well, we needed food, and so a trip to the mainland was in order and then the inevitable kind of happened.

Mr Click and up were up at our usual time yesterday, in other words, entirely too early for a Saturday. Luckily for us the boats are running back to Wemyss Bay now, rather than Gourock, which means that the journey to the mainland is back to being a little over 30 minutes (rather than a little over an hour).

And I had one thing on my mind. Stationery!

I will admit now, I do have rather something of a problem in this department. It's like I can't help myself. The plus side is that I am actually using it all. Back when I first got my massive stash of washi tape it took a lot of effort to use it, knowing that once I'd used up a roll there was no guarantee that I would ever get the same roll again.

But now I've got so much that I'm happy to use it. And if I run out of my favourite stuff, it's no great shame, because I've got plenty and another will just have to be my favourite instead. Using it is just an excuse to buy more.

I've recently gotten into writing letters to people. I've got a whole host of pen pals now, most evenings are spent penning replies to my latest 'happy mail'. Some of them I exchange little washi tape samples with (some I'm always on the look out for something cute in my collection that I can send on), and others I use plain lined paper which I jazz up with tape and stickers.

So while Mr Click was wandering round Lidl and Tesco looking for essential stuff like dog food and loo roll, I was looking at all the bits and pieces in the hopes of finding new pretties.

And I did!

First in Lidl where I scored six sheets of stickers. I have a bit of a thing for butterfly stickers and although you can't see it above, there's a sheet of butterflies on the other side of the dragonflies. Also, I'm totally organised for next Easter with all those Easter Eggs!

Mr Click had a discount voucher for Tesco so I also picked up some (more) new pens in Tesco as well as the only washi tape they had in the store (pink and green and pretty good value for money). Mr Click got the latest Pet Shop Boys album so he was happy too.

I talked him into stopping in Greenock for a trip to WH Smith, only to find it wasn't there anymore. I'd had my hopes set on buying a set of their brush pens so to temper my disappointment I got a preowned copy of Scribblenauts Unlimited in Game instead to make up for it.

Oh, and Tara didn't go untreated either.

We got her a nice and shiny new collar for her at Christmas and it's been looking a bit worn out recently, so we stopped at Pets at Home. We debated replacing it with a regular red one again, before spotting a very smart 'luxury' brown leather one. And it was only £1 more than the other, so I decided to spoil her.

The only one who didn't get a treat all of his own was Yoda. But we had chicken nuggets for tea which he seemed pretty happy with.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Film Review: The Battle of the Five Armies, Part 4

We have almost reached the end of the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies. Last week the battle really picked up with giant wereworms showing up at roughly the same time as Thorin's cousin, Dain.

This week, Thorin realises that they really can't be doing without him and perhaps the time has come to lend a hand.

150. Back on the battlefield, Dain's doing a fair job.

151. It's now snowing and Dale is on fire.

152. Bard is a bit daft if he thinks that Alfrid is actually going to see the women and children to the Great Hall and then go back to fight himself.

153. "Out of my way! Abandon the cripples!" That's the spirit, Alfrid.

154. Poor reindeer.

155. Now Thranduil has to get his hands dirty.

156. You know it's a serious battle because the music gets louder and the sound of the battle gets quiet while we get a battle montage.

157. And now it's Dain's piggle's turn to get taken out.

158. And Dain doesn't know where Thorin is, uh, hiding in his mountain, mate.

159. Now for some clips of dead people and dying Elves. Just so you know how bad things are. We see Gandalf fighting, but what about Bilbo?

160. Back to the Mountain.

161. Thorin's making no plans to go anywhere, even though Dwalin is practically begging him to let them go out and join the battle.

162. Thorin's not having any of it, he's all about the gold now.

163. Dwalin basically tells Thorin that he's not his king anymore. Thorin reacts in a sensible, rational manner; Dwalin's pretty much expelled from Erebor. Let's face it, that's kind of what he wanted anyway.

164. And Thorin's in the golden hall where they attacked the dragon. He's hearing voices and hallucinating a dragon swimming beneath the gold.

165. Then he gets swallowed up by the gold. This is obviously his important turning point.

166. Back to the battle. Dain's not doing so well.

167. Azog's pretty certain he's got this wrapped up.

168. The Dwarves are still moping about in the Mountain. If I was them, and that desperate for battle, I think I'd just leave by now.

169. Poor Kili, he's obviously rehearsed this speech and now Thorin's just strolling out being all kingly and noble again.

170. Looks like they're going out to fight then.

171. Better try and find Bilbo so you can apologise to him as well, especially as not that long ago you were trying to kill him.

172. The Dwarves outside are pretty much backed up against a wall.

173. It's really lucky that they don't kill any of Dain's Dwarves when they knock down the wall that they made.

174. I love that the battle was being lost, but now these thirteen Dwarves have charged out and now the tables are turning. Thorin must be some guy.

175. I quite like the little scenes they've added of Thorin's guys fighting. They're nice little nods to the characters we've come to know.

176. Travelling axe!

177. A blind troll with metal limbs does not seem like a safe weapon or mode of transport.

178. Bofur seems to have realised this also.

179. Looks like he's getting the hang of it now.

180. And in Dale the battle continues.

181. The woman who shouted at Alfrid earlier is rallying the women, children and old men to fight as well.

182. Alfrid is brave because he's wearing a corset. And he's found some gold, so he clearly has a new plan.

183. I like the little conversation between Dain and Thorin while they fight. Especially the way that they don't even break stride.

184. Apparently no one other than Thorin had the idea of kill Azog to end the battle.

185. At least he's not going it alone. He's taking his best men with him (which we only get to see in the Extended Edition, in the theatrical version they just ride up there on goats, now we see how they got the goats up there).

186. Turns out that goat pulled carts don't do so well on ice, especially when it's being smashed up by an angry troll.

187. Luckily Bofur's there with his troll to take out the other one, until his sinks.

188. The cart has the Middle-earth equivalent of a machine gun on it, except it's made of wood and fires arrows.

189. Oh dear, they've lost a goat.

190. And Dwalin's realised they're too heavy to get away.

191. Balin's getting his Big Hero moment as he tells them to go on without him, and take the goats.

192. I love that as he's shooting the wargs he says "I. Am. Too. Old. For. This."

193. Alfrid's still in his woman's outfit, though he's rather more well-endowed than before, though his corset's spilling gold.

194. Bard doesn't care that he gave up the chance of being Master, because he has his kids, aww.

195. Gandalf's not having much luck with his new staff. Hopefully he'll be able to get it tuned up in case he ever needs to, I don't know, do battle against a Balrog or something.

196. Alfrid's found himself in a catapult and his own greed is his undoing. What a way to go, being choked on by a troll.

197. Bilbo's shown up again, just in time to see Thorin and his back up riding up Ravenhill.

198. Azog's spotted the goat riders and I suspect that this is what he's been waiting for Thorin to do.

199. And their not on goat-back any more. Time for some hand-to-hand combat.

200. Legolas and Tauriel have shown up, and they haven't got good news. Bolg is coming.

201. And they're heading for Ravenhill. Great, they'll be able to take out most of the Dwarf royal family.

202. Kili thinks Azog has fled. That's just what he wants you to think.

203. Thorin's sending Fili and Kili to their deaths. I mean, to scout out the area.

204. Time for Thranduil to look pained about the number of his fallen fighters.

205. He's had enough. He's off.

206. Bilbo's volunteering for the suicide mission up to Ravenhill to warn the others. That's actually one thing I'm glad that they did change from the book, I always wanted to know what was going on in the battle when Bilbo was unconscious after being bopped on the head.

207. I do kind of like Tauriel standing up to Thranduil. He's clearly needed someone to stand up to him for once.

208. Thranduil doesn't really take kindly to someone standing up to him though.

209. Luckily Legolas is willing to stand up to his dad.

And we'll leave the two of them posturing until next week when things get very, very sad. Get your tissues ready.