Wednesday, 30 November 2016


... hence my rather late (and short) blog post this evening.

I've been coming down with a cold and have done something to my shoulder so I've soothed myself by filling our Christmas stocking garland with Celebrations chocolates and working on something for work.

I don't often bring my work home with me, but we're putting together a display and I volunteered to do the lettering for the sign. After starting to write it out on the yellow paper I decided I wasn't happy with how it looked, so I've switched to the lined paper to make a stencil and it'll be black lettering on a yellow background. I think that'll make the colour really stand out.

I just hope I've got enough black paper now!

... tomorrow.

Although I did decorate the tree at work today. A colleague and I went with a red and gold theme and we even got a couple of compliments on it. I think it looks great.

We're decorating the house tomorrow though. I envisage it taking all evening, but I've done a quick recce tonight and located all the decorations, so at least getting them all out shouldn't take too long!

Listening to...
... the wind howling outside!

I'm glad that we decided against going for a walk in it this evening! This is weather when you want to be all snuggled up indoors, with your husband's hoodie on. Which is exactly how I've spent my evening!

What's your weather doing at the moment? And are you decorating for Christmas?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Books 1 & 2 of 2016: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien & if... by George Kempis

As we reach the end of the year, I'm finally ready to start reviewing the books I've been reading this year. I've been a lot slower with my reading this year, just over half the number I read last year, so I'm hoping that I might get through these ones by about halfway through next year.

At least I know I'm well set for blog post material for the coming months.

First up was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

As I was beginning my own journey across Middle-earth with my Walk Middle-earth project it seemed fitting to start the year by reading The Lord of the Rings. My favourite story about a a magic ring and the quest to destroy it.

It took it really slow this time around. In fact, I didn't finish it until halfway through February! I don't think I've taken that long to read a book in a long time. It kind of set the tone for the rest of the year since I've been incredibly slow to read everything! On the other hand, it was quite nice to take my time and savour it.

This edition is actually filled with some rather interesting and hilarious typos. I didn't make a note of it but there was a particularly brilliant one which involved Legolas. I think there was one which turned 'cloud' into 'clod' or something similar as well.

I obviously enjoyed my reread this year, but next year I'm hoping to read it a little quicker. I'll probably go for the Kindle version next time, since I can read that on my phone far easier than a single volume edition. Or perhaps the three volume version, so I can at least cover three books rather than just one!

I followed The Lord of the Rings up with if... by George Kempis.

This is an unusual tale about a tree and the seeds that it brings forth. There's kind of a story within a story here about the people who are responsible for caring for it and bringing the seeds on to the next generation. There are nods to religion, but it didn't come across as being preachy.

I thought it was an interesting book. There were little bits of it which made me think of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, there was a degree of magic realism to it. I did enjoy the style of the writing as well. At times it did feel a little like you were reading some old record of events long in the past.

There was an obvious religious theme to the book which was kind of lost on me, but I liked the way that it sort of linked religions like Christianity and Buddhism. The former being the one which I probably know the most about (thank you, UK education system) and the latter being the one which I was most drawn to in my late teens.

It was a pretty quick read, though a little bit weird in places. I liked the mythical element but I felt like there were a lot of unanswered questions, particularly regarding a death right at the beginning of the book.

On the whole though, it's definitely worth a read.

Monday, 28 November 2016

NaNo Update: I won!

I did it!

I finished up yesterday evening with 50,243 words and the story is done. I was hoping that it would be a little longer but I let my good start lull me into a false sense of security and took rather too many days off from writing. Part of that was to work on my competition entry, but not always, sometimes I just couldn't really be bothered to write.

Next time I need to work on that.

Also things took a turn from what I'd originally intended. I'd planned for my two main characters Selah and John Mitchell to develop a strange sort of friendship but after meeting on the bus she just became obsessed with tracking him down. But they didn't actually meet again until near the end when she found his house, collapsed in his garden and then shortly afterwards expired.

They did have a good long talk prior to that but if I rewrite it, I'd kind of like to fix it so they at least hang out together a couple of times. It wasn't until after I'd written myself into a corner that I remembered that I'd wanted to do a bunch of stuff with Selah sneaking out of the house to visit him and learn about his past, convinced that somehow he would have some answer to her future.

There was also a whole subplot with John Mitchell raising Jennies (genetically modified) pigs, possibly descended from the one he was born from, which I never actually got in to. Mainly because I didn't plan this beyond a note in a margin which said 'maybe JM raises Jennies'. Also something to add into a rewrite.

I'm pretty pleased that I did actually finish it though. It's become a bit of a trend for me to write the beginning 50,000 (or 100,000) words of a story but not actually finish it during the month. I'm glad I reached the end of this one (even if it was getting down to the wire, I knew Selah was dying and I still had 2,500 words to write, so I got VERY descriptive all of a sudden which is highly illogical since she's going blind and isn't really aware of what's going on around her, but oh well).

I've had a couple of people ask to read this one... It might be a while, but maybe. I might share some snippets here once I've polished them up a little.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

30 miles to go!

This week has seen some crazy cold weather. Temperatures have dipped down as low as -7 at night and there's been frosts so thick that it's looked like it's snowed.

Yesterday the temperature finally rose a little and the frost on the grass outside work actually started to melt a little (for the first time in about three days). All the same, when I was walking Tara home from Kerrycroy, I still ended up crunching over ice as I passed the chapel.

It did slow down my walking rather a little because neither myself nor Mr Click were particularly keen on breaking any bones whilst out walking. Even though it was mostly just frost, there were still some very slippery patches along the way.

All the same, I did manage to walk a fair few miles this week and now I only have 30 miles to go!

So only 7% of the way left to go now.

This morning we took a little walk up to Calvary Pond. They've recently done some work on the path up there, so it's no longer as boggy as it used to be.

Once we reached the top of the slope, Tara managed to tangle her extendable lead around a tree and we had great fun unwrapping her from it. Other than that it was a pretty eventful walk.

And it earned me another 1.33 miles towards Rivendell. I'm so close I can practically smell the libraries!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Amazon's A New Night Before Christmas Competition

Is anyone else entering this competition on Amazon?

From here.
Amazon have launched a competition to write a new version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, also known as A Visit From St. Nicholas by (probably) Clemence Clark Moore.

Mr Click sent me a message about it back on the 15th and since I was freaking out about having to go to the dentist to get a tooth taken out, I threw myself into trying to come up with something in keeping with the original, but y'know, modern.

I've actually prioristised this over my NaNoWriMo writing because hey, this could get me a Kindle and £2,000 to spend on Amazon. I came home from work today with the intention to banish Mr Click from the room while I worked on the final few lines. It took me less than half an hour to finish it and now I'm just in the 'polishing it up' stage.

I'm pretty proud of what I've ended up with. I've managed to tell a little story in rhyming couplets, (mostly) sticking to the rhythm of the original. It would be really lovely to win.

And if I don't, look out for it on here in the future.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

One Year Ago Today

Today I've felt a little out of sorts.

One of the women at work commented on it this morning and I sort of brushed it off as being busy and having lots to do but truthfully it's because exactly one year ago today I knew that little Olaf and Elsa were no longer with me. It was another couple of days before the midwives and hospital confirmed it, but by the evening of the 24th of November, I knew that it was over.

I wasn't really planning on posting anything today about them. I kind of worry that people are going to get a bit annoyed with my posts about Elsa and Olaf.

But then I arrived home to a parcel. A very funky looking parcel in a red bubble wrap bag, which had come all the way from America.

After that momentary burst of confusion where I thought 'Crap! What have I ordered and forgotten about?!' And then I saw the name on the back, and I thought it looked like Stacy, and I realised just who it might have come from.

Because the only Stacy I know is Stacy @ Stacy's Books.

And what was inside the parcel could not have been more perfect, given today's date. It's a copy of Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn, which she reviewed back in October. As soon as I read the post, I thought it sounded like a book I'd like to read; unbeknownst to me, she sent it over, along with a lovely little note.

I intend to begin reading it tonight. So if you're reading this, Stacy, thank you so very, very much for this book. It means a lot to me.

It seems like a fitting way to end my little spell of remembrance for the babies I never got to meet. I lit a(n electronic) candle for them on the one year anniversary of our transfer and it's flickered away for the last few weeks. Ironically the battery is going in the candle, so it's been getting weaker and weaker as this last week has worn on, that's kind of right too.

This evening I was prompted to dig out the shoe box of memories and have a little rifle through it too. I've done that a few times this year, particularly on important dates.

It's an odd collection of stuff. Not pictured are some colouring pencils (from the front of the colouring book magazine Mr Click got me while we were waiting at the hospital to find out if Olaf and Elsa had survived the thaw) and two more letters from the hospital, confirming appointments in the run up to the transfer.

What you can see above includes the remains of my medication that I took during the cycle and while I was pregnant; my fertility bracelet and statue; my Elsa and Olaf charms which we bought after the transfer and which I wore until the clasps on them broke; the cases for both my and Mr Click's pendants that we wear in memory of them; the protocol sheets for the treatment; and you can't really see them but there's also the Frozen poster I stuck up on the door of what would have been their bedroom and the letter from the hospital congratulating us on the pregnancy and giving us the date for our scan.

I've also still got the pregnancy tests. Kind of gross, I realise, and they've faded a lot now, but there's something kind of comforting about seeing them sometimes and reminding myself that it did happen.

It's just a box of memories, but every one of those items in the box evokes something in me and I'm glad I've got them all.

And hopefully some day in the coming year, Olaf and Elsa will be able to donate the remaining Pregnacare vitamins to their brother or sister.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016


Slightly miffed...
... because my wisdom tooth extraction has become an incredibly complicated and expensive procedure.

I'm actually more miffed about the fact that just when I psyched myself up to having it taken out, it became incredibly complicated and expensive. And since the time window to get it done is 'just January', it's unlikely I'm going to get it done after all. Not for a little while anyway.

... still my 'Muggle Studies' book.

Okay, so it's really The Plains of Passage but I much prefer this cover, particularly since I've seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I'm hoping someone magical will spot me reading it and I'll get dragged into the Wizarding World, just like Jacob.

I can dream, can't I?

It feels like I've been reading it forever, but I'm finally nearing the end of it, at last. I'm really looking forward to cracking out some Christmas Kindle books.

... Miracle on 34th Street (the nineties version).

We're getting on really well with our Christmas viewing. We seem to be doing all the Christmassiest ones first. So far we've had White Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Scrooge, along with Four Christmases and Fred Claus. I'm really enjoying it and it's definitely got me in the mood for festivities.

... the fact that this time next month I will be in Wales and all ready for Christmas.

I am so excited. It's so close now!

I also only have two Christmas presents left to get. One is an extra gift for a family member, the other is my Secret Santa gift for work. I know what I'm getting for both of those, I just have to actually put in the orders online.

Thanks to Amazon's Black Friday (Week) I was finally able to order Mr Click's final Christmas present this morning. I've been obsessively checking the site every morning in the hopes that the price would drop to within the budget I had allowed for it and this morning it had sunk even lower than I'd hoped. You can bet I snapped that one up right away.

I'm determined to get the last two presents ordered by the end of the week and then I'll have done all of my Christmas shopping a whole two pay days before Christmas. This has to be some kind of a record for me!

How's your Christmas shopping going?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Books 89 & 90 of 2015: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald & As kingfishers catch fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I am so late with this post tonight. I'm blaming Saturday's trip to the mainland, what with the film and the washi tape, I was so excited to post about it all that I totally forgot to schedule this post. So I'm hanging out in bed with a packet of Maryland cookies for supper and a hot chocolate while I watch Scrubs. It's a good night.

First up is book 52 of the 2015 Reading Challenge; a book you started but never finished. That would be The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It's the story of Jay Gatsby and the woman he loves, Daisy Buchanan, set during the 1920's. It fit the bill because it was a book I was assigned to read in Fifth Year; I made it to the end of the second chapter before I gave up and rebelled.

My teacher at the time, Mr L., had selected me and two of my friends to read it out of everyone else in the class, like it was some sort of a treat. And we hated it. I made it the furthest before we gave up and told Mr. L. that we were definitely not reading it. He was kind of disappointed and let us switch. The following year the same thing happened with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, except that time he sat down with us and completely changed our minds.

I can't help but think he kind of wanted us to give it a go and argue our thoughts and so years later I decided I would try it again, and yet that never happened. Which was why when this Challenge week came up, I decided to give it another go.

I actually quite enjoyed it, which surprised me. In fact, I got through it a lot quicker than I was expecting. I started it on the 27th of December and finished it on the 30th. I was sure that it would tide me over to New Year's Eve and it meant I had to scramble to find a follow up to see me through to the end of the year.

In the end I actually felt sorry for Jay Gatsby. It turned into a different book from what I was expecting, what with Mr and Mrs Wilson and the events with the car. I can kind of see why Mr L. wanted me to read it and I do wish I'd given it more of a change so I could find out a little more about his thoughts on it.

By the time the book ended, I kind of wanted a little more. I did want to hear more about Gatsby.

It may be a book that I revisit at some point in the future. In the meantime, I'm glad that I read it so it's another one I can cross off my 'classics' list.

I couldn't end the year without a book to read. And I hate ending the year on an unfinished book, so that meant that whatever I chose would have to be short. In the end I picked one of the Penguin's Little Black Classics, and decided to go with number two, As kingfishers catch fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

It's a little collection of poetry and it was perfect to tide me over until midnight when I could start my first book of 2016.

His views on nature made me kind of think of Tolkien. There was something about the way which he used language and I couldn't help but be reminded of him, even if I couldn't pinpoint the exact reasons why. Of course, the reminder was reinforced when I reached one of his poems which described Oxford.

I couldn't help but think that there was an almost Old English style to the poems because of the use of alliteration. I was slightly confused about the accents on some of the words. I thought it might have had something to do with where the stress was supposed to fall but I'm not entirely sure about that.

I don't really read as much poetry now as I did when I was younger. I guess I'm a little picky about it now, whereas when I was younger if it had a good meter and rhyme structure I was happy. I think little books like this are a good idea though, it allows you to get a taster without going all out on a whole book and it's almost certainly one I'll revisit in the future.

And now, I'm off to bed!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Saturday Shopping

When we weren't in the cinema enjoying a certain newly released film on Saturday, we were wandering around Glasgow.

It was the perfect day to visit the city. We were there early enough that it wasn't too busy, which suited us well because there's nothing worse than trying to battle your way through heaving crowds of bodies when all you want to do it take a look in a shop.

I wanted to take a look at a couple of shops for Christmas gift ideas. As of Saturday I had three and a half gifts left to buy; one of which is Mr Click's and I'm waiting for Black Friday to go for it, one is a work Secret Santa gift and two are family presents. I didn't pick up anything there, though I did find one of those gifts today.

I did need to pick up some new clothes for when we head to Wales next month. I ended up getting rather more than I intended to, so I am completely set now. There was a definite theme going on with the day, since all of my tops have a Hogwarts/Harry Potter feel to them. Perhaps my favourite is the one I'm planning on wearing on Christmas Eve. It's got two layers, the bottom one says 'after all this time' and the top layer, which is slightly see-through so you can see the writing beneath, just has 'Always' on it. Perfect for our anniversary.

And of course it wouldn't be a shopping trip without adding to my washi tape collection...

That's almost enough for a Christmas Washi Advent Calendar. I did toy with the idea of popping a roll into each of my little advent stockings before I string it up, then helping myself to one each day. The problem is, I'm already starting to draw up my Christmas Bullet Journal pages and I want to be able to decorate Christmas cards and gifts, so maybe not.

Two of my favourites are the green Christmas trees against the blue background (in the pack second to the right in the front) and the blue roll with 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' (in the pack on the front right). I'm already planning out things I can do with them.

I'm fully aware of my washi tape addiction, but I suspect that Mr Click might have caught it too. He was very helpful in pointing out tapes that I didn't have yet to the collection.

I also found a selection of Christmas stickers:

I'm especially chuffed with the stickers in the centre at the back. They're Raymond Briggs Father Christmas ones. And there's two sets of each sheet. This is important to me because I like to trade tape and stickers with my pen pals and sometimes I feel like they have way cooler stuff than I do. Bonus side effect of trading with friends; you end up with twice as much as you started with because you have some of the things you bought, plus some of the things they've shared with you, which gives you lots of choice.

I almost didn't get the advent countdown stickers, but Mr Click talked me into getting them. I've done weekly spreads in my Bullet Journal through November, but I'm planning on going back to dailies for December and these will be perfect for dating my dailies. It's not clear from the picture, but they're read and glittery. Yes, apparently when it comes to stickers I am six.

So I'm now really looking forward to the end of the month. And not just because of pay day for those last couple of Christmas presents. For me a huge part of Christmas is the build up, and all this crafty stuff means I can get well stuck into some easy going crafting.

Look out for some very festive BuJo pages, coming soon to a Leuchtturm near you!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (4DX Screening)

Warning! Here be spoilers!

If you wish to remain unspoiled, turn back now.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

I am literally just in the door from having seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (hereafter referred to as 'Fantastic Beasts' because I've been up since 6am and awake since 5am for this little jaunt to the mainland and I've not got the energy to call it anything longer). As soon as this post is done, I'm heading to bed for Christmas films and sleeping.

When I heard about this Harry Potter series prequel/spin-off I was in two minds about whether or not I wanted to see it. Of course, the part of me that desperately wants to join the Wizarding World quickly won and I made plans with Mr Click to see it as soon as possible.

And thanks to my dodgy wisdom teeth and a promise that if I got to see it pretty soon after it came out I wouldn't make a fuss about having to go see a dentist about getting knocked out for them to be pulled, we got to see it today. I was so excited to be able to see it the day after it came out, and then to top it all off I discovered that the time we were planning to see it at Cineworld also had a 4DX option.

Now I've never seen a film in 4DX before, in fact, counting this one, you can count the number of Real D 3D films I've seen on one hand, so this was going to be a bit of an experience for me. Basically, 4DX involves more senses than just sight. Your seat moves, you get scents, puffs of air, bubbles and water. It sounded pretty damn magical, so what better way to see the most magical film of the year?!

I can honestly say, it was worth the extra few quid for the tickets. We were immersed in the action right from the very start.

The film opens with an attack by Grindelwald. It's night and there's smoke, and lo and behold, on either side of the screen smoke starts pumping in. A moment later we're spinning through a host of Wizarding newspaper articles from around the world and we're spinning and swooping right along with them.

It's almost like being on a rollercoaster, particularly as this film is set in New York and there are many sequences where we follow the apparating witches and wizards as they move through the city, or follow the apparent big bad on their course of destruction.

My favourite feature was probably the water though. Although, I'll admit, every time I got squirted I couldn't help but giggle, including in some serious bits where I didn't really want to giggle. There's one but of the film where a rampant Erumpent falls through some ice, sending up a splash of water; a moment later she's teetering on the brink again and you know what's coming. For those who aren't fans of getting wet, there is an option to turn this off on your seat.

The puffs of air also brought the spells to life. During scenes where spells are flying every which way, you actually get little puffs of air on either side of your head as though they're just missing you. It definitely adds to the magic.

But what of the film itself?

Well, I went into it with pretty much no expectations. The only name I knew was Eddie Redmayne and I honestly couldn't tell you anything that I've actually seen him in yet. The others were all pretty much unknown to me too. This was probably a good thing because it meant I quickly lost myself in their characters, rather than thinking 'he's channelling so-and-so here' or 'it's so weird seeing character-from-another-film doing these things'.

Newt Scamander, the hapless Hufflepuff who was expelled from Hogwarts after an 'incident', is visiting New York with his suitcase which puts Hermione's beaded bag to shame. Unfortunately shortly after he arrives he bumps into Jacob Kowalski, switches cases and unwittingly lets loose a host of banned magical creatures into New York City.

Ex-Auror, Tina Goldstein, tries to get the mess cleaned up and winds up with both men back at her flat where she lives with her sister Queenie. Unfortunately for them all, there's something big and scary attacking the city's residents, and Newt's suitcase is going to get the blame.

Perhaps one of my favourite bits in the film is where we get to visit the inside of Newt's fantastical suitcase.

He's got a little mini zoo in there and we get a tour of it. There are creatures in there which fans of the books will recognise, even though they don't play a real part in the story this time around.

In fact, there's lots of little nods all the way through the film which fans of the books will pick up on. Albus Dumbledore gets a mention, we see a Deathly Hallows symbol (which actually proves to be a pretty big clue as to the identity of one of the characters we meet), you can infer just what happened to Ariana Dumbledore to cause her death. Even little things like the duelling wands and the protection spells employed by MACUSA.

I was worried going into this film that it would somehow spoil the original films or be at odds with the book, but it doesn't at all. If anything it enhances what you already know because it's dealing with familiar things in an unfamiliar setting, so when you watch Queenie trying to unlock the door to Graves's office, you're not exactly surprised that her first approach is to use 'Alohomora'.

Plus, because we see things through Newt's eyes, we get to make the discoveries about the American Wizarding World right alongside him. And American Wizards might have a black female president, but they're incredibly backwards on Muggle (or as they say 'No-Maj') and Magical relations; contact with No-Maj's is strictly forbidden and marriage isn't even to be entertained. Arthur Weasley would be horrified.

I'm curious about the direction that the future films will take. I'm hopeful that we might get to see some other countries and learn about how they strive to keep the magical world hidden.

And one final point before I go. See this:

This is a Niffler. And I want one.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Fun With Spam

A couple of years ago I implemented moderated commenting on my blog. It weeds out the nuisance posters and allows me to delete offensive comments, or double-posts where someone's hit the button twice.

Unfortunately it does mean that you guys don't get to see some of the more entertaining comments here on the blog.

Considering I spend a lot of time blogging about infertility and fertility treatments it's not surprising an awful lot of spam postings come from people advertising their fertility clinics in India. Usually it's fairly obvious that the poster hasn't read the post in question (here's a hint, don't begin a comment with 'Congratulations' just because it mentions pregnancy).

Some fall into the word soup category:

I'm not sure what it was about this Frankenstein book review that attracted so many spam posts, but I had dozens of them!

Some of them are rather more concerned about the state of my health, such as this one from another book review post:

You'll notice that one above is also worried about my sex life, but it's okay, because this week's spate of spammers have got that covered too!

Seems like you can get virtual anything these days!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Christmas Film List

As I type this, I'm watching the tail end of our final 'Not Quite Christmas' Film, Bridget Jones's Diary.

Of course, this run through of 'Not Quite Christmas' Films has alerted me to a whole host of other films which I've not included on the list. While watching this one, I've remembered the fact that Christmas makes an appearance in About a Boy so that'll have to go on next year's list. There's probably a couple of others I've forgotten about right now.

I'm surprised at how quickly we've got through them all so I'm optimistic that it won't take us too long to get through all of these:

I've literally just done the drawing to find out what film we'll watch first (mainly so I could include it in this blog post).

And the winner is White Christmas!

I have a feeling that my Christmas Music playlist is about to get a little larger!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


... a rather lax blogger.

I was full of intentions to post on Monday and get some NaNo done as well before I went out for a meal with a group of friends (for one of the group's birthday). Except, I never actually got as far as switching on my laptop before I went out.

That means my NaNo word count has taken a bit of a hit as I didn't get any writing done yesterday. It was late by the time I got home and showered, so in the end I just left it. I'm still optimistic that I'll hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, but I'm not sure I'll be at the end of the story by then.

I need less than 900 words per day to the end of the month to finish on time, and I'm optimistic I can double that on some days before the 30th.

... not one but two trips to the mainland!

One is pleasure; a trip to the cinema to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was going to be a trip for Mr Click's birthday except I'm desperate to see it as soon as possible. We managed to get a good deal on our contents insurance so we're using the money we've saved for a slightly earlier than planned trip. I may also get some Christmas shopping in too.

The other is definitely not pleasure!

I mentioned a little while ago that at least one of my wisdom teeth is slated for demolition. Well, I've got an assessment appointment where they will have a good poke around and figure out the best method of attack. Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to that trip so much!

... The Wizard of Oz.

It's the penultimate film in our Not Quite Christmas List. Tomorrow we're watching Bridget Jones's Diary and then on Friday we'll be watching the first of our 38 Christmas Films.

As we've been watching, each time I hear a Christmas song I've been adding it, or a variation of it, to my Christmas playlist on Spotify. Considering we've not actually started on the real Christmas films, it's grown pretty large already. I've got almost 60 tracks (including two Christmas albums which I stumbled upon by chance). It's going to be a behemoth by Christmas Day!

... The Plains of Passage.


I've managed to get about halfway through in three weeks. I'm determined I'm going to finish it by the end of the month, though there's no way I'm taking it with me to Glasgow or the dentist which I head off the island. It weighs an absolute tonne!

I'm looking forward to finishing it and getting stuck into some Christmas Kindle books.

What're you currently up to?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Books 87 & 88 of 2015: The Secret of Annexe 3 by Colin Dexter & A Christmas Carol & The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

These books see me reaching almost the end of my Reading Challenge for last year. This year I didn't bother taking part in a reading challenge (and I've read a lot less as a result of that) but I'm on the fence about taking part next year.

Week 51's book was 'a book based on or turned into a TV show', coincidentally Mr Click had recently finished reading Colin Dexter's The Secret of Annexe 3 which is from the Inspector Morse series, which seemed like as good a choice as any. Although it wasn't directly adapted for the TV series, it was used for inspiration for one of the episodes.

In this story, Inspector Morse is called to solve the mystery of a death at a hotel. One of the visitors to a New Year's Eve party doesn't get up the next morning, leading to a whole host of mysteries for Morse to unravel before he can learn the truth about what's happened.

I enjoyed this one a lot more than the last Morse book that I read (The Riddle of the Third Mile). I think this is mainly because although it was a rather complicated case, with a costume ball and people not being who everyone thought they were, it was still fairly easy to follow what was going on.

It also didn't hide too much from the reader, so you could follow along with the crime and try to solve it yourself. As you'll be aware from my previous book reviews, being able to solve the crime yourself is really important to me in detective/crime books.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there wasn't the usual high body count that you often get in Morse books. I don't remember seeing the TV adaptation that this one inspired, but Mr Click and I are planning on watching the complete series at some point in the future.

I was definitely reading it at the right time of year. It's all set around a New Year's Eve party and I started it on the 19th of December, finished it on the 23rd. This was entirely accidental, but it was pretty cool. I tend to read Christmas books in the run up to Christmas, there's not really many books set at New Year though.

This was also a good choice because it didn't take too long to get through. I was a little worried that I wouldn't have time to read my traditional Christmas read, A Christmas Carol, before Christmas.

But I did.

On one of my trips to the mainland I managed to find a copy of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth which I had in the Children's Classics collection that my grandparents got me as a child. Last Christmas I decided that this was the version I should read, since I like to try reading a different version of the book each year.

This edition has the traditional story of A Christmas Carol (I don't need to recap that for you, do I?) as well as a short story at the end, The Cricket on the Hearth. It's another Victorian Christmas story, in which a mysterious man shows up at the Peerybingle home and stays with them. Meanwhile May, the girlfriend of a man named Edmund who has been missing for some time, is preparing to marry a miser, but the mysterious man might put a stop to that.

It didn't take me very long to finish A Christmas Carol. I started it on the 23rd and finished it on the 24th, whilst sitting at work, watching the Disney film of A Christmas Carol. At one point it was kind of race to see how far ahead of the film I could stay.

Although A Christmas Carol was a reread, The Cricket on the Hearth was a first time read for me. I did try reading it once as a child, in this edition nonetheless, but I gave up on it then. This time around I found it a lot easier to read. I suspect my issue before was a combination of the language and the fact that the story wasn't as familiar to me. I really enjoyed the way that this story ended.

I really love reading A Christmas Carol each year. It's as much a part of Christmas to me as putting up the tree and decorations, or listening to Christmas music. Although it begins in the festive season, I don't see The Cricket on the Hearth as quite such a Christmas story; I'll probably not reread it again this year, though next time I pick up this edition to read, I'll give it another go.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Sleep Tight Yoda

Yesterday evening we arrived home earlier than usual and it quickly became apparent that our little Yoda rat was fading fast.

He'd been showing his age recently; slowing down, sleeping a lot more, wasn't as sprightly as he'd been in the past. We kind of knew it was coming. He was two years and nine months old.

I wrapped him up in an old t-shirt and we both took it in turns cuddling him, stroking him, telling him we loved him and that it was okay to go. Around an hour passed before he finally left us.

He never once had to go see a vet. He was spoiled absolutely rotten; he always ate a little of what we were eating (sometimes Mr Click would actually make a little extra just for him). He got into the routine of coming to bed with us (in his little cage) to watch whatever we were watching before we put out the light and came to expect a bit of digestive biscuit at this time each day; he let us know what he thought if we didn't have a biscuit at bedtime.

Yoda was my Yo-Yo, Yoda-Bean, Little Man or Grumpy Old Man Rat. I upset Mr Click this week by pointing out that the way his fur lay on his head kind of reminded me of Donald Trump's hair; my rat was so much better to look at though.

Yoda was not the most cuddly rat I've ever owned. I think that yesterday was the longest I've ever cuddled him for in one go. He was terribly independent; when I used to lift Wicket out of the big cage, Yoda would make his way down to the bottom to climb out by himself. If you stuck your hand into the cage you were liable to be nipped, not really aggressively, just to warn you that he was the boss in his house.

He was very smart though. He could hear a packet of chocolate opening at twenty paces and he'd be there, up at the bars of the cage, waiting for a tasty morsel before you'd even gotten out whatever you were planning to eat.

It was also Yoda who learned to put himself to bed. Unlike our other genius level rat, Carol, who learned how to open the cage to let herself out, Yoda never mastered this skill (mainly because since Criminal Mastermind Carol we've added extra clips to our rat cage to prevent further escapee rats) but he did learn to navigate the staircase. If you popped him on the stairs, he'd hop his way up to the top, trundle across the landing and climb into bed. It was a trick Wicket learned too, but he was never quite as good at it as Yoda was.

You could also dump Yoda at the top of the stairs, head on down and call him at the bottom, and he'd do a cute little bunny hop thing down the stairs. It was very cute to watch and something which I hope to teach future ratbags to master.

Recently a colleague lost her cat, Hicks, which was a bit of a shock as he was only a young thing. Hicks was actually Yoda's friend from when she watched both our boys when we took a trip to Wales last year. I remember being anxious about how the cats would be around the rats so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that they became fast friends, apart from the time when Hicks left his tail too close to the cage and Yoda gave it a good tug; it looked like nice cosy bedding.

So now I'm picturing the three of them together. Wicket would be snuggled up on top of his brother, with Yoda (skinny by comparison to his brother) squashed underneath. And somewhere nearby is Hicks, wanting to join in on the snuggle too.

Sleep tight, Yoda.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Mount Stuart Water Supply: The Saga Concludes

I've been sharing the saga of our water issues for a while. My last post on the subject was about the connection we had made between the strong chemical smell and the runny nose, sneezing, sore throats, tight chest, breathlessness, etc. we were experiencing post-evening shower.

At that point I was feeling pretty happy since the issue had been pretty much resolved. I'd called and been told that, yup, there was a little too much chemical in the water, sorry about that, it's fixed now.

Which was cool but we still ended up spending an afternoon at the hospital because nearly two weeks later we were still getting that tight chest/breathless/sore throat feeling and when Mr Click tried to make an appointment at the health centre, he was summoned to the hospital instead.

And it was pronounced that we had bronchial irritation, likely caused by the steam we had inhaled from whatever was in the water. Turns out the doctors were aware of the water issues up here.

So we got in touch with Mount Stuart and were told to put it in a letter, which we did.

It's not my most eloquent of letters ever written, but I think it makes the point:

We are writing regarding the recent disruption to the water supply on the estate.

On the 18th of October we noticed that there was a noticeable odour to the water, however we had recently received a letter advising us that the issues with the water supply had been resolved and assumed that this chemical smell was due to the cleaning agent that had been added to the water. After taking a shower that night, Click felt as though she was coming down with a cold; headachy, runny nose and sneezing. At the time we did not connect this to the smell in the shower.

The smell and symptoms continued over the following day so on the 20th of October we got in touch to confirm that the water was safe to drink. The chemical taste was very strong making it unpalatable. We were advised that although the taste was unpleasant and the smell strong, the water was perfectly safe and had passed all the tests confirming there was no bacteria in the water.

However when we took a shower that evening, within minutes the steam began to sting our eyes. After ten minutes in the room, Click developed a tight sensation in her chest and felt as though she was having to work harder to get her breath. At this point we realised that our symptoms were actually being caused by the steam from the shower as whatever chemical that was being added to the water was aerosolized in the steam and we were then inhaling this while we were in the room. From this point we did what we could to maximise airflow in the room when showering or washing up, and avoided exposing ourselves as much as possible, expecting to hear from the office regarding the situation.

Having spoken to our neighbours that weekend we noticed that they were also reporting similar complaints, such as the steam from the shower affecting their asthma, tightness in their chests, breathless, coughing, sore throats, runny noses, sneezing, and upset stomachs.

Click contacted the estate office regarding this on the 24th and was advised that there had been an issue with the chemicals being put into the water which was being resolved and we did notice a massive improvement to the water taste and smell by the following day.

However by the 28th of October we were still suffering from the effects of the chemicals; feeling breathless, coughing, and with lingering sore throats. When Mr Click got in contact with the Health Centre regarding this, he was told to visit A&E where a doctor advised that he was aware of the problems with the water supply and diagnosed bronchial irritation as a result of inhaling the steam. Unfortunately there isn't much that can be done for this, except to wait for it to clear up on its own.

That day we got in touch with the Estate Office and were advised to make contact regarding this via letter.

We were rather surprised not to receive any written communication regarding the problem with the odour and health complaints caused by the water as we felt we were well informed when there was a problem with bacteria in the water. Could you advise us, via letter, what steps are being taken to ensure that this does not happen again? Also, will there be any form of compensation, such as a refund on our water bill, for the disruption and discomfort caused by the problem with the water supply, specifically regarding the problem with the chemicals in the water?

We look forward to hearing from you,

Well, we got a reply today.

I'm not sure which my favourite part is. The bit which focuses on the fact the water is safe to drink (which you'll notice I stated in my letter) or the part that states there were low levels of chemical in the water which contradicts what I was told by the person I spoke to in the Estate Office on the 24th!

Either way, it's us against them so it's obvious we're not going to get any further with this, despite my overwhelming urge to write another letter straight back pointing out the above.

The saga has come to a close.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


... Frozen.

That's my Bullet Journal page of all the 'Not Quite Christmas Films' that we're working through at the moment. Since taking that photo we've also watch Hogfather. I'm still working on the list of 38 titles in our Christmas Viewing Collection.

... having a little bit of schedule flexibility at work.

I've mentioned before that I normally finish early every other Friday. Well, it's recently occurred to me that so long as I'm working the same number of hours I can redistribute that early finish occasionally. So I was able to take a two hour break in the middle of the day today. It completely threw me off but it was really handy.

And bonus, I've not used all three of my early finish hours so I can still finish a little early this Friday as well.

... very little.

I'm not feeling quite so in the mood for NaNo tonight, so I've given myself permission to write the bare minimum. I'm going to snuggle in bed and read and hopefully pass the 31,000 words mark before I do that.

What films do you like to watch during the pre-Christmas season?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Books 85 & 86 of 2015: Creepy Christmas by Jaimie Admans & Memoirs of Fanny Hill by John Cleland

For the last couple of years, when November hits, I start going through my free Kindle Christmas books and select my reading material from them. I'll alternate these with book-books right the way up to Christmas Day.

Which is how I came to read Jaimie Admans's Creepy Christmas at the beginning of December last year. It's a children's Christmas story about a girl named Kaity whose parents are separated. Her mum has a new boyfriend and Christmas this year just isn't going to be same as usual; especially as there are some very strange things going on in her home town as Christmas approaches.

Not going to lie, I totally picked out this book because of the cover when I saw it as a free download. How cute is that Santa? I don't think I realised right away that it was a kids story and then I started reading it, realised it was narrated by a ten year old and figured that I might as well finish it.

As it turns out, it's a nice quick read. I was done in a couple of days and I imagine that it would have been even more up my street had I been about twenty years younger. It's the sort of book that confident young readers could read alone, or less confident readers could share with a sibling or parent.

At times I thought Kaity, the narrator, sounded a little older than she was supposed to be, but on the whole she was a fairly likeable character. Often I find in books with children as the narrators the kids are a little too sickly sweet or annoying, but Kaity came across as a well-balanced kid.

I cold almost imagine this book as a made for TV movie. The sort which plays on the Christmas 24 channel or Channel 5 in the run up to Christmas. Something with a low budget but which once you sit down to watch it is fairly enjoyable once you get past the wooden acting. The Santa in this story reminded me of all the Santas in virtually every cheesy Christmas film.

Although I've not yet found anything else by this author, I would be interested in reading more. I felt like she had a nice style and strong voice in her writing. If you're looking for something a little bit festive for your inner child, I'd give it a go.

I followed this up immediately afterwards with Week 50 of the Reading Challenge: a banned book. I did quite a lot of searching to select the right book, which saw me scanning through lists of banned books from around the world. Ultimately I selected Memoirs of Fanny Hill by John Cleland using my usual criteria for choosing books for the challenge; it was shorter than most of the alternatives.

This book was banned for obscenity when it was originally published. It follows the life of the titular Fanny Hill as she rises through the class ranks whilst working in brothels, all the while hoping to find a man to love. And there's quite a lot of sex.

I was honestly surprised at how explicit this story was, considering when it was written. Apparently Fifty Shades of Grey isn't so original after all!

Despite its length it took me a while to read, mainly because it wasn't really the sort of book I felt I could sit and read in the canteen at work. It's a pretty short story really though, if I'd been reading it somewhere less public and could've saved my blushes, I would've gotten through it a lot quicker.

I did find it a little strange to think it was written by a man. His descriptions of what a woman feels were pretty interesting and there were a few times when I wondered what on earth he was going on about. It was funny in places just because of the way that things were described.

It's probably not the sort of book that I'll reread in the future. I did kind of enjoy it and I'm glad that I did read it because now I can say I've read it Another one I can check off the list of classics.

Monday, 7 November 2016

NaNoWriMo: Day 7

I'm just within grasp of 30,000 words right now, but I've decided to stop now because it's been a long day and I want an early night.

My graph is looking pretty good though:

I'm actually at 29,117 words so just a little too far away to get to 30k in the next half hour. I'd hoped to get there by Saturday but I was in pain and uncomfortable at the weekend so I allowed myself to slow down. Luckily I have a good buffer to tide me over.

I'm pleased to think that in a week I've managed to write over half of my story and it's been trotting along at quite a pace. So far my main character, Selah, has met the mysterious John Mitchell and learned about the existence of 'Pig Kids'. She's also learned that she's dying and had to break the news to her parents.

Next up she's going to recruit her mother (currently nameless) to try and find where the mysterious John Mitchell lives. She's also going to go through some old boxes of files belonging to her grandfather; turns out he was involved in the creation of the Jennies which were used in the first litters of 'Pig Kids'.

That was a useful revelation because at the time I didn't know why Selah was so convinced there was a connection between herself and John Mitchell. Then he got on her bus and took a seat next to her, and now it turns out her grandfather helped with his conception. I love it when you get little breakthroughs like that.

Are you NaNoing? How's it going? Run into any sticky bits yet?

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Johanna's Christmas Colouring Book by Johanna Basford

It's no secret that I love Christmas, so when I heard that Johanna Basford was bringing out a Christmas colouring book there was no doubt that I would add it to my collection.

It came out at the end of last month and Mr Click preordered it for me along with her other recent release Magical Jungle. Both arrived on Tuesday and after spending the whole day working on my NaNo project, he brought them home to me and I spent a fair amount of time flicking through the pages, stroking them and making cooing noises.

I love getting pretty things to play with.

I'll blog my thoughts on Magical Jungle some other time but last night I cracked open Johanna's Christmas and got down to some colouring in so I figured I should share my thoughts on it.

My copy is the UK edition which has a slightly different cover to the American edition, though the contents of both books are essentially the same. The UK cover has the same gold foil accents as we're used to seeing on the other Johanna Basford colouring books, while the American one has the wreath around the title picked out in red and green foil. I like the gold accents because they match my three other colouring books in the series, but there is something really festive about the US version.

Unlike the other three books this one doesn't have a removable dust jacket. It kind of looks like it has one but it turns out this is actually something called a 'French Flap'. The cover folds over like a dust jacket, but doesn't come off. This is kind of handy because you can use the cover to mark your place in your book if you want to.

Normally I take the dust jackets off while I'm working on a picture so that they don't get torn or damaged so I was a little unsure about how I'd get on with the cover of this book. Turns out it's fine. The cover is much thinner than the other books so it's not as bulky. I'm a little worried about the cover getting grubby if I take it out and about with me, but at least it's not getting in the way of my colouring.

Both Johanna's Christmas and Magical Jungle adopt a slightly different format with perforated pages so once your pictures are complete you can pull them out and frame them, should that be your kind of thing. The latter book doesn't have perforations all the way through, just the last few pictures in the book (instead of the large pull out picture which the earlier books had), whereas every page of Johanna's Christmas is perforated. The pictures in this book are also single-sided. There's a pattern on the back of the pages which you could colour in if you wished, but it's a sort of optional extra.

I was pleased to see the paper in this book is much better than Lost Ocean. As much as I love Lost Ocean I was kind of disappointed with the paper, which is thinner, bright white and doesn't have the same texture as the pages of Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. Johanna's Christmas is whiter than the original two books, but it feels considerably thicker. When I coloured in the title page of Lost Ocean pressing too hard dented not only the page I was working on but also the page beneath. This didn't happen when I colouring the title page for Johanna's Christmas and I was colouring in poor light so probably did press harder than I needed to in some places.

I'm not sure how well the paper would react to pens or watercolours. From what I've seen online, it seems to get pretty good reviews. Thankfully a new addition to the latest books is a 'Colour Palette Test Page' at the very back of the book. I think this is a pretty good example of Johanna listening to what the fans want because I know people have been asking for this. I carry around an old letter from the Estate in my pencil box to test my colours on but this is far preferable because it allows you to see how the colours and tools react to the actual paper in the book. I hope we carry on getting the test page at the back.

Actually, it would be cool if future books maybe included some other things in the back, like tips and tricks, or perhaps a little 'how to' so you can learn to doodle like Johanna to add to the pictures she's drawn.

Of course the most important thing of all when it comes to colouring books is what's in the pictures. This one is a lovely blend of patterns, scenes, animals and objects. There are some familiar pictures in there, a hare, an owl and a deer which are similar to previous books except this time they've got a more festive feel to them. There's a lot of presents, stockings, candy canes and robins. In fact, there's a bunch of robins hidden through the book. I found most of them on Thursday night as I scanned through it but I'm looking forward to keeping a proper tally of all of the ones I've found as I colour it in.

I was a little worried that all I would have to colour in this book would be red and green. Through these colouring books I've learned to experiment with colour (particularly colouring things in using colours they're not) as well as to limit myself to a specific palette. I did wonder whether my colour options might be somewhat limited, but there's a nice mix of realistic and whimsy in here.

I've seen some complaints at the lack of Santas and Elves. Apparently Johanna doesn't enjoy drawing people and I can't fault her choice. The book is filled with plenty of other festive pictures all of which definitely evoke a sense of Christmas. It's not that I don't want to see pictures of Father Christmas, it's just that there's so much more to the holiday than just a jolly old fat man. And while he might not be represented in the pages, it's clear that he's there in the background; not only do we have his sleigh, we have a fireplace scene complete with bulging stockings and a nibbled biscuit.

While this is a shorter book than her other colouring books (it clocks in at 37 images to colour), it's definitely worth adding to your collection if you enjoy Christmas, colouring or both. I'm planning on using it to wind down of an evening while we watch Christmas films, what better way to give yourself a little mental break whilst still doing something festive?

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Countdown to Christmas...

Is it too early for Christmas stuff?

Most of the fun of Christmas for me is the build up. I love starting to build wish lists of things I want to get my friends and family members, I love to start reading books set at Christmas, I love planning where the Christmas decorations are going to go, I love making Christmas music playlists and mix CDs.

And above all else, I love the beginning of our traditional Countdown to Christmas Movie Watch.

I've blogged about this before, but basically we have a massive list of Christmas films or DVDs which we work through in the run up to Christmas, we've also got a bunch of 'Not Quite Christmas Films'. These are the films which feature Christmas in some way (but it's not the whole plot) or they're set at Christmas but are generally a rom-com rather than a Christmas film, or the films which we associate with Christmas in some way because they're always on TV at Christmas, or they were first on at Christmas. We have 50 in total.

And we're aiming to watching them all before we got to Wales.

It's a bit of a tall order.

And we're late starting. Normally we'd begin on the 1st of November but we had to finish Series Nine of Criminal Minds first.

But we've kicked it off now, starting with When Harry Met Sally, picked at random using a random number generator. I think it's a great one to start with because it's filled with all the beautiful autumn colours, sort of easing us into the Christmas Countdown gently.

Plus it's good background noise to NaNo to, since it's totally familiar to me and I can tune in and out of it.

So, how do you begin your Countdown to Christmas?

Thursday, 3 November 2016

How I wrote 15,000 words in a day for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo has become a bit of a regular thing for me. Each year seems to follow a similar pattern now.

Somewhere around June I say to myself 'I won't do it this year', then the plot bunnies start creeping in and before I know it we're into August and those little guys are breeding like rabbits. There's something about the onset of autumn which puts me in the mood for it and before I know where I am, I'm surfing the forums, planning plot twists and compiling lists of character traits.

During NaNoWriMo the aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel; its focus is on quantity, not quality. You're writing a first draft to get the story out, all the other work comes later. In order to hit your target you need to average 1,667 words per day and that's one of the tricky parts.

I managed to get 15,000 words on Tuesday, the first day of NaNo, so I thought I'd share some tips for how I did it.

Be Prepared!
Just like Scar in The Lion King, you need to be prepared. And that preparation can take many forms. You might want to have detailed character studies, plot points, research background events, or you might be more of a 'pantser' (i.e. you write by the seat of your pants).

You might think that if you're a pantser you can't really prepare, but preparation isn't just about preparing what you're going to write. It's about making time to write, freezing some easy meals so you don't have to cook, cleaning the house before the start of the month so you can let your standards slip a little over the month, and letting your friends and family members know what you're up to so they can prepare too.

My preparation included booking November the 1st off from work. This might be a little bit extreme (especially if, like me, you're getting low on your holiday allowance). I like to start bang on midnight so this allows me to stop up late and not worry about being unable to function the following day. I also stocked up on yummy snacks to help keep me going and motivate me.

Plan to Write
This probably sounds a little bit weird. If you're taking part in NaNo you're obviously planning to write, but I mean you should plan when you're actually going to do your writing.

You might want to get up half an hour earlier to get in some writing time before the kids get up, take a tablet to work with you to get in some words during your break, or have your tea a little later and use that time of day to write.

You should also plan for the time when you won't have as much time to write. You lucky Americans have Thanksgiving to contend with. Others might have birthdays, family get togethers, work trips or other important things to do. So while you might need to aim for 1,667 words per day, there might be days you can't write so you need to write more for others.

Write When You Can
This is where my 15,000 comes in.

I know that I always do best when I start strong. By getting in 15k on Day One I'm able to coast for a week if I need to. It gives you a cushion in case there's a day when you just can't write. And if you can write every day, then that word count is just going to keep on growing.

If there is a day when you finish work early and you'd usually get home then head online to catch up; spend half that time writing. Forego your Saturday lie-in and write some more words. Take advantage of the weekend or a holiday and stay up late writing.

How I got to 15k
Firstly, I started bang on midnight. I'd aimed to write until 2am but I couldn't keep my eyes open (since I'd woken up at 4am that day). Even just getting an hour's writing time in meant I was able to hit my day's target before I went to bed.

I woke up early and hit the keys before breakfast. This is something I could probably do on a workday, but I've not been bothering with it since, maybe I will if my buffer drops too small though.

Since I had Tuesday off work I paced myself. I aimed to write in bursts of fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, giving myself a break in between times so I didn't get burned out or sprain my wrists. In between writing I did laundry, grabbed a bite to eat, messaged Mr Click, hung out with Tara and joined in a NaNo chat.

Speaking of which, the NaNo chat was good fun for keeping me motivated through the day as well. I was ahead of most of people in the room so there was an incentive to make sure that I wasn't overtaken by anyone. I'm pretty competitive so this was a good motivator. Plus people were bouncing ideas off of one another and generally revelling in the NaNo buzz.

Those words all came from one Word Crawl. my little crawl on the NaNo forums has helpfully put together a Harry Potter Word Crawl extravaganza. There's a word crawl for each year of Harry's time at Hogwarts and from the first one I got a little under 15,000 words. I did a couple of activities from Year Two to get me up to a nice round 15k.

The word crawls are my favourite thing for challenging yourself because they give you different activities which help to keep you motivated. It's like a competition with yourself. After each activity or task in the challenge I made myself take a little break, sometimes only five minutes or so but all those minutes added up over the course of the day.

At the time of writing this, I'm steadily making my way through the Year Two Crawl. I'm hoping to finish it tomorrow or Saturday and I'm optimistic that once I do I'll be sitting on the other side of 25k.

Why not share some of your strategies for upping your NaNo word count?

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


Getting ready...
... to write a little more on my NaNo project.

I took the day off work yesterday and got in a whopping 15,687 words. I was aiming for about 10,000 and it came through surprisingly easily so I kept going for 15,000.

I'm just aiming for 2,000 words today since I've been at work all day, but this is how my NaNo graph is looking at the moment:

... my Hogwarts robes.

I actually found a simple pattern for wizarding robes. Now I'm wondering if I'm just quirky enough to be able to pull off wearing full blown wizard robes every day. I would totally do it, I don't think I've ever been so comfortable wearing a skirt.

I did wear my Ravenclaw scarf today and I'm thinking I need to get a matching hat on my needles.

... to get some colouring in done.

A couple of months ago Mr Click ordered me the two new Johanna Basford colouring books, Magical Jungle and Johanna's Christmas. They just arrived yesterday so I'm planning on dipping into the Christmas one very soon.

... writing this blog post right now.

Because I have 2,000 more words to write on my NaNo and they're not going to write themselves.

Are you NaNoing? How's it going?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Books 83 & 84 of 2015: New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri & The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

By the beginning of December last year I was struggling to get caught up on the Reading Challenge as I'd fallen behind a little. It was about this point that I made the decision to just read what I felt like reading this year, I didn't like the pressure of having to find a book that ticked each of the criteria on the list and then feeling like I wasn't going to be able to complete it right at the end.

For Week 48 the book was one written by an author with your same initials. The obvious choice here was Charlotte Bronte. I have Jane Eyre sitting up on my bookshelf, but I wanted something shorter, less heavy going and I was determined to go for something off of my Kindle.

In the end I selected New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri. I should add that the cover below does have the author's name down as Chelsea Luna, but my copy is under the name Chelsea Bellingeri.

I think that I pretty much picked this by sorting all my Kindle books into alphabetical order by author and scanning through all the authors whose surnames began with the letter B. In the end, out of all of the books on my device, I think there were two with the initials CB. I don't remember exactly how I picked this one to read; I suspect this was the shorter of the two, that's how I seemed to choose most of my Reading Challenge books last year.

This book is about a teenage girl, named Alex, whose seventeenth birthday brings some weird dreams at right about the same time a girl is murdered after apparently messing with witchcraft. It looks like there might be a witch hunter in Hazel Cove.

It clocks in at around 343 pages but I managed to get through it surprisingly quickly. Part of that was because it was a fairly easy read. It's aimed at teens and I was able to just switch off my brain and lose myself in it, which was exactly what I needed for my book of the week. I got through this in just four sittings.

On the whole I enjoyed it, though I couldn't help but be reminded of Twilight in places. I think it was inevitable with the supernatural elements; you can't help but draw parallels when these things crop up in teen fiction now. But also the Peter/Alex/James love triangle too.

Another, and rather surprising, comparison that I found myself drawing was between this book and the Kathy Reichs books. I think it was because for a large chunk of the book Alex is trying to figure out what was going on, then someone was out to get her which led to her being attacked during the last eighth of the book. It's the classic Tempe Brennan formula.

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending. It builds up to a point and then breaks off to make way for the next book. It's a good hook but I would've liked a little more resolution, especially as I wasn't sure I was going to go on to read the next book (spoiler: I haven't yet).

I followed this up with Week 49's book: a play.

I had a lot of choice here. I've got plays left over from my various OU courses (should I have fancied a reread), I've got a couple on my Kindle, I've got some I've picked up in random bookshops and haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Once again, time and energy won out. I looked for the shortest recognisable (to me) play on my Kindle. I went with The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare (because 127 pages). Interestingly, it was first published in the First Folio text, one of which currently resides not a million miles away from where I sit writing this review. Neat, right?

It's in a similar vein to Hamlet, but it's a sort of mix of tragedy and comedy. Leontes is convinced that his pregnant wife has been having an affair with Polixenes, leading to the latter escaping the country. Things generally go downhill from this point. But it's okay because it's kind of funny too.

I really enjoyed this. I always remember at school everyone groaned when we had to study Shakespeare, but I've always loved it. When I was fifteen, the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I carried that (massive) tome everywhere with me (including a school trip to M&Ds) and it still resides upstairs on my bookcase.

My greatest dread was always that moment when everyone would be assigned a 'role' in the text and we'd have to read it aloud. I was going to say that certain types of writing sound better when they're read aloud, but I think that's inaccurate. You could read the list of ingredients off the side of a cereal box and it could sound beautiful. It's about the way you say the words, the way you feel them in your mouth, how you play with the letters on your tongue. I think I have some synaesthesia thing going on with my relationship with words (and that's probably another blog post entirely).

In short, bored teenagers reading Shakespeare aloud, does nothing to make the text feel beautiful and exciting.

Which is why I've always much preferred reading these books alone.

Basically what I was getting at here is that I loved the language and I really didn't have any trouble following what was going on or was being said. Sure the language use is pretty archaic in places, but in others it's fairly unchanged all these years later.

I was reminded of The Duchess of Malfi and The Tempest in equal measure. The former because of Hermione, the woman who is powerless against the forces of the men in her life; the latter because of the abandonment of Perdita on the beach and her being raised by the shepherd. I'd love to see it performed on the stage to see if how I was picturing it is accurate to a performance.

Bits of it were quite funny. I especially enjoyed seeing the famous 'exit, pursued by bear' stage direction. I always like it when I get to see things which have become part of the cultural consciousness firsthand, it makes me feel like I'm in on the joke now too.