28 July 2008

This Week I will mostly be ...

... reading 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens
... watching daytime TV
... knitting a cardigan
... hoping work comes in soon
... not walking - got a very sore foot so can barely hobble round the flat
... eating chocolate as comfort food to distract me from the foot!

27 July 2008

Stash Wars: fighting a losing battle?

Well, my attempts to deplete my stash have fallen on rocky ground recently. Not that I haven't been knitting - I've been a busy bee! First I made a tea cozy for my Mum:

The slogan on it isn't very clear but it says 'Coffee, Tea or Me?' I got the pattern from 'Stitch n' Bitch Nation' by Debbie Stoller and hoped that not only would it provide a nice present for my mummy, but that it would up a good chunk of my not-too-pleasant acrylic yarns, which I don't really want to use for clothes. I got through a lot of the pale blue but it barely touched the white or cream. Then I made myself a lace pattern skinny scarf:

I designed this myself using a lace pattern from 'How To Knit' by Debbie Bliss. It was supposed to use up a spare skein of Jaeger Trinity yarn but I don't think I even halved it before the scarf got stupidly long and I got sick of repeating the same four rows over and over, so I have to think of a way of using that yarn up too. My next project was to make a little cozy for hubby's new DAB radio:

I figured out the design myself from the gauge and dimensions, and knitted it up in moss stitch to make it a bit more cushiony to protect hubby's precious new toy. Sadly it used up a puny amount of my aran-weight denim-effect yarn.

Not downhearted, I decided to abandon the little projects for a while and embark on a biggie - a cardigan knitted with the yarn from a frogged old jumper. It's going to take months but currently looks like this:

That's just the start of the back. Hopefully this'll be one big stash-buster! I don't like big projects so may break up the monotony by doing a different project in between pieces.

The biggest blow to my Stash Wars, however, was this:

I mentioned in an earlier post that I went to The Threshing Barn on holiday. Their craft shop had some gorgeous yarn. A non-knitter cannot begin to understand the temptation this poses. So I bought two hanks of this gorgeous, hand-dyed British wool. My excuse is hubby picked it out because he wants a hat. But it's so beautiful I want to just cuddle it and drool over it with glee rather than knitting it. Oh well.

So all in all, I'm not winning the war. But I've learnt a lesson: small projects just don't cut it when it comes to stash-busting. I've also learnt that going into a shop that sells yarn so gorgeous I nearly explode is too much temptation for me.

200-word review: 'Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit' by Sean Hepburn Ferrer

Audrey Hepburn is one of my idols – brilliant actress, style icon and a wonderful person. So this book, written by her son, appealed to me as I thought it would tell me more about her personality. It didn’t disappoint.

It’s not really a biography. If you want details on her life and career, there are plenty of biographies around (I recommend ‘Hepburn’ by Barry Paris). But to learn more about the real Audrey this is perfect. It’s unashamedly sentimental in tone (what do you expect from an adoring son?) but this shows what a good mother and inspirational figure she was. There is little discussion of her films, as it focuses more on her humanitarian work, something I was interested in. This confirmed her idol status for me; she really was a wonderful role model in a way that no modern celebrity can emulate.

There are lots of photographs of and about Audrey, including many family photos. These give a clearer picture of the woman behind the stylish clothes - although there’s plenty of that too!

If you’re a fan, I thoroughly recommend this book. All proceeds go to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, so it’s definitely a good buy.

26 July 2008

Books galore

Saw this on my friend Fi's blog and thought it was pretty cool. Apparently this is a list of the Greatest Ever Novels, although it's debatable I have to say (for a start, since when was the Bible a novel?) but it's a bit of fun and makes me feel all well-read and brainy:

Look at the list and:
1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicise those you intend to read.
3) [Bracket] the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list on your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2.The Lord of The Rings - JRR Tolkein
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 [Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte]
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (actually starting this next!)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott 
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read a lot of sonnets and 19 plays, I think I can count this one!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 [Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky]
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 [Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis]
34 [Emma - Jane Austen]
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
(I agree Fi, this should be included in the Chronicles surely!)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie-the-Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (I think, probably ages ago)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - A. S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Generosity on Holiday

Well I'm back from a week in Staffordshire with hubby, Mum and my two big brothers. The weather gods were very good to us (much better than last year!) and all had a lovely time. 

It struck me that being generous on holiday isn't as tricky as it seems - in fact, it seems to come pretty naturally. Her's a run down of my holiday and how generosity just seemed to happen:

SATURDAY - drove down (not very generous admittedly, but unfortunately public transport just doesn't cut it if you're going on a country break), got there pretty late as we'd had to drop Millie off at 5pm because the cattery was full. Got to the cottage and had a nice meal with the family - generous thing: most of the vegetables we had with the meal were from Mum's veg patch!

SUNDAY - went to Froghall Wharf and had a trip on a canal boat through the Churnet Valley. I don't know how eco-friendly canal boats are as they still have engines, but it's probably better than a car. Plus there are no roads through the Churnet Valley to preserve it, so a canal is a much greener way of seeing the scenery without plonking a horrible road through there! The trip was run by a small family business, so we were supporting the little guy too!

MONDAY - went for a walk down to Froghall so we could walk along the towpath and see more of the valley. Very green, no car involved, and we stopped at a local pub for lunch (supporting local business, and it looked like he needed it as there weren't many other customers!) It was exhausting though and we got lost twice so ended up going further than we intended. I say we, I knew where we were supposed to go both times ...

TUESDAY - we went to Cheadle. If you're holiday in Staffordshire, don't go to Cheadle, apart from a very pretty Catholic church there's really nothing to see. But while we were there we did go to the local greengrocers and butchers so that's pretty generous.

WEDNESDAY - we went to Leek. Still not much to do but it's a lot nicer than Cheadle and has some lovely shops. Continuing with the 'shop local' theme we went to a sweet shop there, had a drink in a little tea room and lunched at a cafe that supported Fairtrade - unfortunately none of us had their Fairtrade tea or coffee as they had luxury milkshakes on offer!

THURSDAY - while Mum and my brothers went off to Tittesworth Reservoir and the Roaches (hills I think), I had a bad foot so hubby and I went to the Threshing Barn, a fabulous craft shop which also runs courses in spinning and weaving! I nearly cried with excitement when I saw all the wool and despite my resolution not to buy more wool until I'd significantly reduced my stash, I succumbed to temptation - and dressed it up as supporting the sheep industry by buying British wool! Seriously, it was a small business so I think a compromise on my promises for the sake of supporting local business is forgiveable. We then went to a Nature Reserve run by the RSPB - didn't see any birds and didn't leave a donation either which I feel a bit stingy about. Maybe generosity doesn't come so naturally when you've just spent money on illicit wool!!

FRIDAY - best day of the week, we went to Trentham Monkey Forest, a 60-acre stretch of woodland which is home to 140 Barbary Macaques, a very endangered type of monkey. I like to think the admission fee goes towards keeping the monkeys happy and healthy, they certainly all looked it, they're really beautiful creatures and the babies are so cute I want to steal one! Along with two other forests in France and Germany, they've managed to release 600 Barbary Macaques back into their homeland in Northern Africa, which is fantastic news, and the ones still in England seem very content. In the evening we went to a local pub for dinner - supporting local business again, and considering how many pubs we saw up for let in the area I think it's a business that needs help! 

And today we just drove back. So, a nice holiday plus a lot of unexpected chances to be generous. Don't feel so guilty about the car now!

19 July 2008

Next Week I will mostly be ...

... in the Peak District on my hols! Byeeeee!

14 July 2008

Ten Things I Hate about the modern usage of English language

1. Would of/could of/ should of - no I'm not naming a Beverley Knight song. This is where people hear the compound word 'would've', assume it's a shortening of the words 'would' and 'of' rather than 'would' and 'have' and pronounce as such very clearly. Think about what the words actually mean!! An old manager of mine made this mistake once - I lost all respect for her instantly.

2. Like - this should be used in phrases such as, 'I like cake' or 'she looks like Jennifer Aniston' (for instance, I've never met anyone who looks like Jennifer Aniston, although I do like cake). It is not to be used in phrase such as, 'I was like so annoyed' or 'it's like what's going on?' I am guilty of this weird lingual phenomenon too and I am seriously considering starting a 'like' jar instead of a swear jar to purge myself of the hideous verbal disease.

3. Text language - if you're texting and running out of characters, fine, shorten away. But don't send me e-mails with words like gr8, lol or l8r, there's no character limit and therefore no justification. And if you actually write these words with pen and paper, well, you deserve some form of punishment.

4. Shock tactic language - people who swear or use language relating to potentially offensive matters just for the sake of it. It's neither big, clever nor funny, it's just a lazy use of the the gift of speech to get a bit of attention. If you want attention, learn to speak about interesting things.

5. The wandering apostrophe - a while back I went past a shop with a sign saying Baby Need's. I wanted to weep.

6. Their/they're/there - Their is a plural, third person possessive noun (if my grammar lessons serve me correctly), i.e. 'Jack and Jill went to their mother's house for tea.' They're is a shortening of 'they are', i.e. 'They're going to the zoo.' There is trickier, but generally it's an expression relating to place or an introduction to a clause or sentence, i.e. 'The bag's over there' or 'There are cookies in the oven.' Please, oh please, never muddle them up again.

7. Your/you're - in the words of Ross Geller, "Just so you know, Y O U apostrophe R E means you are. Y O U R MEANS YOUR!"

8. So - similar to like, this little word seems to pop up in the most inappropriate places. In fact, it is often combined with like in phrases such as, 'I was like so not happy about it' just to emphasise the hideousness of the incorrect usage of language. It is also often used at the start of a sentence, for instance, 'So I went to the shop yesterday ...' but that's not referring back to a previous statement about needing to buy something, oh no, that's the first sentence in the text! Horrible!

9. Innit - really, must I expand?

10. Effect/affect - another two words that are apparently interchangeable these days. Hence phrases like, 'I must stop playing so many computer games, it's effecting my eyes.' Really? It's producing or bringing into existence your eyes? That's some computer game.

Maybe I should be an English teacher ... no, I think I'd make the children cry. 

This Week I will mostly be ...

... reading 'Audrey Hepburn: Elegant Spirit' by Sean Hepburn Ferrer

... knitting a skinny scarf

... watching 'Hogfather' (if we get time)

... at home. Temp contract finished on Friday and I go away next week

... doing loads of housework

... packing

12 July 2008

200 word review: 'Geisha of Gion' by Mineko Iwasaki

I added this book to my Amazon wish list after reading ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ – I was intrigued about geisha culture and wanted to find out more. While I’m aware that Mineko Iwasaki, as the most successful geisha of her time, was probably an exception to the rule, I couldn’t believe how differently she portrayed life as a geisha to Arthur Golden’s novel. In many ways it is a much kinder picture, but still communicates how tough it is to live that lifestyle.

I found Iwasaki’s telling of her life story very fascinating. She brings in a lot of details about Japanese culture in general but also gives an evocative picture of life in the karyukai (districts where geisha operate, literally ‘flower and willow world’). There are also amusing anecdotes involving Gucci, Prince Charles and even the Queen – unusually making a gaffe greater than Prince Philip! However, the book did leave me wanting more. She spends a lot of time on her childhood and training, but only hints at her efforts to reform the industry to give geisha more rights, which I was interested to know more about. Still, it’s a great read especially if you’re interested in Japanese culture.

09 July 2008

This Week I will mostly be ...

... reading a theory test practise book
... reviewing 'Geisha of Gion' at some point
... knitting a skinny scarf
... driving a bit more
... going to a BBQ on Friday
... having some retail therapy on Saturday

06 July 2008

Generous Journal: Learning to drive

Learning to drive is something I've avoided for a few years now. I took some lessons before I started uni but didn't enjoy it at all. I stopped lessons because I just didn't have time once I started uni, then when I graduated I couldn't really afford lessons, then I moved to Leeds and, while I complain about public transport here it's actually pretty good so I had no need to learn to drive. That and hubby drives, and I was perfectly happy to be chauffered when required! 

As I became more eco-conscious, I resisted learning to drive on an ethical level - why learn to pollute the planet when public transport is greener and isn't that bad? But it's got to the stage now where I feel I really should learn. I still won't be driving much, but I don't like getting public transport at night so could do with an alternative to begging a lift off hubby when I go out, plus we visit my family in Lincolnshire a lot (don't get train because the journey is hellish) so I feel I ought to share the journey so hubby doesn't get tired driving the whole way. Plus there's the fact that we may start a family sometime and then it may be easier if we both drive, and might in the distant future move away from Leeds to somewhere without decent public transport, so driving will become more of a necessity. So, I've started lessons.

Here are a few ways I'm trying to keep learning to drive ethical:

* Supporting local trade. Instead of going for Bill Plant, BSM or a similar franchise, I'm using a local, independent instructor. This means I'm supporting a small business, and also means she's not travelling far to get to and from my house, thus saving emissions.

* Practising with hubby. I'm on his insurance and if I combine practising with a journey we'd make anyway with him driving, then I'm not producing more emissions, and it'll help me ...

* Learn quickly. As far I'm concerned driving lessons are essentially a waste of petrol as you're not going anywhere you need to go, just going in circles, often not very efficiently either. So I'm doing my best to learn fast so I need fewer lessons and can reserve my efforts for functional journeys.

I can't really think of any other way of making learning to drive generous, but it's a necessary evil, so the sooner I get it over with the better!

New links!

A few months ago I got a text from Shoegal with a couple of websites she thought I'd be interested in. Now my problem is, I read texts, think, 'oh that's nice', and promptly forget about them (I think I have the brain of a goldfish. But I finally remembered today and discovered an interesting website - Hippy Shopper. It's hosted by Shiny Media, which also hosts Crafty Crafty, and so I clicked on that link. That led me to find Little Cotton Rabbits - free knitting patterns for little projects that I couldn't possibly get bored with. So I've added that little lot to my Websites of Note. Have a look!