12 December 2009

200 word review: 'The Complete Polysyllabic Spree' by Nick Hornby

I once saw a picture of a girl wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a girl wearing a t-shirt with … you get the idea. This is the literary equivalent – a review of a book of reviews!

I didn’t enjoy Hornby’s 31 Songs but I don’t hold a grudge (usually) so I thought I’d try The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, and I’ve warmed to Hornby again after reading it. This book is witty, honest and interesting – his breadth of reading is quite impressive (no matter what his self-effacing comments would have you believe). But you don’t need to read any of the books he discusses to enjoy it. There were only one or two I had read, and I doubt I’ll read many others, but he has such an accessible way of writing about books that I didn’t feel excluded. He is honest about his flaws, too – he admits to preferring some genres to others, and struggling with long novels. So many reviewers won’t admit to any bias, it’s refreshing to read somebody who lays his biases on the table.

Lesson of the day: just because you don’t like one book, doesn’t mean you won’t like anything by the author.

29 November 2009

200 word review: 'Four Letter Word: New Love Letters' edited by Rosalind Porter and Joshua Knelman

I borrowed this book from my local library mainly out of shock that they had it –a few months ago, I read an article about it in The Big Issue so I was surprised to see such a current book. It’s a collection of fictional love letters from modern authors, some more famous than others but all with excellent literary credentials.

The problem with collections like this is that there are always bits you love and bits you hate. Some of the letters really caught me – some were endearing in their innocence, others deeply moving, and others simply entertaining. But there were a few that were just a bit, well, smutty for my tastes. Maybe I’m a prude, but a number contained crass references which didn’t seem to have much to do with love.

The variety of letters represents well the depth and diversity of love. There were examples of love for someone (or something) other than a lover. Many letters expressed the pain of love gone wrong. Some were historical, others current (one based on Hurricane Katrina almost had me weeping on a commuter train). Overall, this is a generally enjoyable book which effectively shows all areas of love.

14 November 2009

Generous Journal: Catching up

I've been rubbish at blogging in general, but my Generous Journal has particularly suffered. That's not to say that I haven't been plugging away with my efforts to live more generously and more greenly; here's a few things I've been up to:

Now, I'm really not a 1950's housewife despite what my craft habit would have you believe, but ... I've got into baking recently! It's so satisfying to bake your own cakes and biscuits rather than buying them from the shop, and it means you can ensure the ingredients are ethical. I only use free-range eggs and try to use Fairtrade/organic chocolate and cocoa where possible. I've also found the best way to use up over-ripe bananas - Banana Bread! And not being wasteful with your food is very important, particularly with bananas - if you're going to fly something halfway across the world, it's not very good if half of it ends up in the compost bin. Here's an example of my yummy Banana Bread:

Mmm. Baking is also good for warming up the flat a bit whilst still using the heat for something else. The weather has suddenly become very cold here, so we need as many opportunities to heat up as possible. Now I have to admit we are using our central heating (I know hardened eco-warriors would string us up for that!) but we are trying to find ways to avoid it where possible. When I'm watching TV in the living room, if I get cold I'll cover myself in a throw. I'm layering as much as possible - I've even bought thermal vests!! And we're trying to eat warming meals like soup and casseroles. Our biggest problem is our bedroom though - easily the coldest room in the house, and that's where you really want to feel snug! We might have to rearrange furniture to see if there's any way of maximising the heat, but I don't like change!

Another Generous thing we've done recently is join Freecycle - and I've been waxing lyrical about it since! We've already got rid of a mirror and a cat feeder that were taking up space with minimal effort, and we managed to get a new lid for our compost bin too (the old one blew off in the gales a few weeks back, despite being very difficult to take off - that's how bad the weather is!) It's incredible what people give away on there, I've seen double beds and freezers listed, so check your local one out!

Our veg-growing has now stopped for winter, but hubby has planted cauliflowers for next summer. He's also been reusing stuff creatively in the garden - using our old broken bedframe to create a frame which, with some plastic over it, will keep our caulis warm over winter. He's also been cutting an old pair of fleece pyjamas and stuffing the sleeves with old socks today for use in the garden - don't ask me what they'll be doing, I'll just have to trust him on that!

The next Generous challenge is Christmas - I always try to make it as ethical and eco-friendly as possible, but it can be challenging. I fully intended to make cards but I'm not convinced I'm going to have time. We're cooking our own Christmas dinner this year (eek!) so we can be more conscious of the food we're buying. Other than that, the usual tricks of shopping locally and in charity/ ethical shops for presents, using gift lists so I don't end up buying wasteful, unwanted presents, and making what I can will come into play. Any more ideas for an ethical Christmas?

Stash Wars: Defeat?

Ahh, just as I'm coming to the end of my stash, it all goes a bit wrong.

The tabletop sale I was preparing for in September didn't go too well. As well as the cupcakes and brooches I've posted about before, I also tried to sell these hairpins, catnip-filled toys and Christmas decorations:

Unfortunately, I only sold two things in three hours at the sale - a cupcake and a mouse. Not much money raised for charity then. I managed to double my sales last weekend when my Mum visited though - she bought a cupcake, a mouse and two stockings. I think she felt sorry for me.

As I had some green cotton left from the shrug I made recently, I used this to make some baby stuff - no, not for me unfortunately, but for a friend of my brother:

Soo cute! Unfortunately the socks turned out bigger than I'd hoped so they can't be worn with the top, but still, I think it's sweet. Still got some of the yarn left though ...

Speaking of my brother, he very kindly bought me some black Bluefaced Leicester as a belated birthday present, which I am shortly going to use to make myself some gloves as I've lost my old ones:

It's lovely and much appreciated as I am in dire need of some warm gloves, but I am a bit worried about how much I'll have left over.

Then came the biggest blow to my Stash War:

A work friend has been clearing out and found a bag of crocheting cotton, which she very kindly donated to me. I'm delighted with it - anything that will fuel my obsession with anything crafty is gratefully received, but I think we can safely say that the war is over and the stash won!! I am excited by this crocheting cotton though, mainly because I don't really know what you do with it. As you can see, it's been used to make a few doilies, but I'm not really a doily girl, so I'll have to get creative with it.

So there, I'm defeated. But hey, I couldn't have lost to a better opponent!

200 word review: 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad

Something strange happened to me when I read Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ – I didn’t feel gripped by the plot, I wasn’t particularly interested in how it ended, and yet I couldn’t stop myself reading it. Something about the novel cast a spell on me, and without me even noticing, I was enthralled.

It is a story about a seaman named Marlow, who travels to Africa on trade business and embarks on a journey to find the mysterious ivory trader Kurtz. Marlow himself tells his tale to fellow seamen on a boat on the Thames as evening turns to night. This gives the whole novel a sense of gloom, and the growing darkness of the night is paralleled by Marlow’s journey deeper into the jungle. The identity of Kurtz is gently hinted at throughout, and even when he appeared I still felt that I had missed something about him. The whole novel feels unresolved, but deliberately so. The words ‘heart’ and ‘darkness’ recur like a heartbeat, alluding to something never quite revealed.

I wish I could write more than 200 words on this occasion, because this novel is a masterclass in narrative – subtle, yet engrossing, with quietly wonderful use of language.

02 November 2009

Sorry ...

... I've been a bit rubbish at posting recently. I actually have loads to post, but life is getting in the way. Watch this space for an update on my craftiness, my Generous journal and a review of Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' - as soon as I find the time!!

15 October 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

On 24th June 2007, my first wedding anniversary, we were driving up from the West Midlands, having visited friends down there the night before. Our plan for the day was to stop off at Rother Valley Park on the way back up to Leeds and have a romantic stroll. But the driving rain scuppered that plan, so we went to Meadowhall, a huge shopping mall outside Sheffield. We window shopped, had some lunch in the food court, then headed home.

The next day, we watched footage on the local news of Meadowhall. The food court we had lunched in was underwater. We had driven through the start of the most severe flooding I could remember. The summer of 2007. It was the summer I realised that climate change was not a concept, and it wasn't happening gradually. It was, quite literally, storming in.

That summer, schools were closed, public transport was severely disrupted, and people were driven out of their homes. A whole area of the West Country couldn't drink tap water because the flooding had contaminated the water supply. This is in a developed country, with a relatively stable climate. If we can't cope with climate change, how are developing countries in more volatile parts of the planet meant to cope?

Some people say that humans aren't causing climate change. Others are saying it's too late to stop it now. But I believe it's better to try even against the odds, and if there's even the slightest chance that this is a man-made problem, we need to find a man-made solution. What do we have to lose by trying?

Coincidentally, I received an e-mail from Generous today. It didn't mention Blog Action Day or that the theme for the day is Climate Change. But it did talk about the simplest action we can do to help combat climate change - avoid using central heating. As I write this, I am guiltily aware of the warm radiator next to me. It's too late to try to push back the date we switch our heating on, but I am going to make a real effort this year to avoid putting it on. It's a little thing, but hey, what have I got to lose? Suggestions on how to beat the freeze will be gladly received!!

P.S. I didn't actually register for Blog Action Day because I was a bit worried about the security of the website, but I'm joining in the spirit nonetheless!

27 September 2009

200 word review: 'Lesley Castle' by Jane Austen (Foreword by Zoe Heller)

This is a collection of Austen’s early writings, including Lesley Castle, The History of England and Catharine, or The Bower. All three works were written when Austen was about sixteen years old – and will induce envy in any budding author.

Lesley Castle is a novel composed of letters, parodying a popular style of the time. The plot is a little muddled, but you can already see Austen’s use of characterisation and exposure of hypocrisy. The History of England is another parody, in which a, “partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian,” comments on the monarchs from Henry IV to Charles I. Despite the narrator’s self-proclaimed ignorance, it actually made me think about how well informed Austen must have been to comment on each monarch, when I struggle to remember who came between Victoria and Elizabeth II. In Catharine, a story of a young lady with little wealth or family connection who falls for a rather caddish young man, you begin to see the seeds of her later works and her most famous characters.

While these works are not of Austen’s usual standard, her knowingness and observational humour is so evident that it is hard to believe they were written by a teenager.

17 September 2009

200 word review: 'Died in the Wool' by Mary Kruger

‘”A body in a yarn shop.” He snorted. “Sounds like a bad mystery novel.”’

Well, I must give Mary Kruger credit – at least she’s honest. This is a bad mystery novel.

Ariadne Evans opens her yarn shop one morning to find an old, wealthy and unpopular lady on the floor, murdered with a garrotte made of her best friend’s hand-spun yarn. Nice. The detective who comes to investigate just happens to be handsome, brooding and a good cook. It couldn’t get much cornier – but somehow it does. The dialogue is cheesy, the constant descriptions of people’s appearance reminded me of creative writing lessons in primary school, and the whole premise just seemed bizarre to me.

It’s a harmless enough novel, a no-brainer that you don’t have to think about too much. But I’m afraid I’ve read better no-brainers. I’m sure that the combination of knitting and murder mystery would appeal to a lot of women, just not me. Perhaps I would have actually got caught up in the plot had I not accurately predicted the murderer about halfway through.

There is one good thing to come out of this novel, though – it inspired me to try designing a cardigan myself!

Next book review: 'Lesley Castle' by Jane Austen

12 September 2009

Generous Journal: Carrot-Man and libraries

Well, I've been very slack with my Generous Journal recently, but thankfully that doesn't mean I've become a materialistic, resource-eating monster. I've still been trying to live a Generous life, just with nothing remarkable to say about it. But here's a few things that have been going on recently. First of all, meet Carrot-Man:

Heehee! This was part of our (very modest) carrot harvest, we only had three others sadly. But we are inundated with potatoes (weeks after harvesting them!) and runner beans, and have had a good crop of broad beans with more on the way. I've just had a lunch including salad leaves from the garden, which needed a good picking because they were starting to grow out of control. We had a few very small onions so not much better than last year there. But all in all I'm quite pleased with our progress in the garden, especially when we have very limited space and poor, shallow soil. Our indoor dwarf chilli plants are also faring well, giving us an abundance of tiny chillis to dry for future use. They had a spidermite problem recently but that's sorted now. (Tip: If you get a spidermite infestation, which is noticeable by very fine webs on your plants, spray the plants with a hose until all the webs and tiny little beasties are gone. Sorted ours out.)

So we're doing well on the grow-you-own front, bringing down our average food miles nicely. What's great is that our families are also in on the act so we can get home-grown fruit and veg from them too - I'm currently trying to think of things to do with piles of plums and greengauges!

In other Generous news, I've been side-tracked from my library-going recently, partly because of a rather disappointing trip a few months back where I couldn't really find anything good. But today I went and found loads of books I'd love to read! So once I've finished my current book, I'm going to try to only read books from my local library until the end of the year. I would do longer, but I'm bound to get a book or two for Christmas. It's a start though, and I do believe in supporting local libraries as they're very important community resources.

I'll try to post more about Generous stuff ... maybe I should start a diary so I remember when I've done something interesting ...

05 September 2009

200-word review: 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel

I think I’ve lost my literary mojo. I should have liked ‘Life of Pi’. After all, it was the 2002 Booker Prize winner, and it’s extremely well written.

Yann Martel’s story of the childhood and coming-of-age of Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi, is best known as the book about a boy who gets trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger. This dismisses the fascinating part of the novel before the shipwreck, in which Pi grows up as a practising Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Not a theological standpoint I sympathise with, but interesting nonetheless, and vitally important to understanding the meaning of the novel. The bulk of the novel dealing with Pi’s time at sea is also beautifully written and, at times, engaging.

Despite that, I didn’t enjoy it. This may be because I am an animal lover with a strong sense of empathy, and some horrific things happen to animals. I also found much of the ‘at sea’ part tedious. That’s probably a literary effect to reflect the monotony of Pi’s life, but it was difficult. However, I thought the ending raised interesting ideas about belief and tolerance. But it’s definitely not a book I want to read again.

Next Book Review: 'Died in the Wool' by Mary Kruger

16 August 2009

Stash Wars: Ceasefire

I took a break from my Stash war to make myself a shrug to go with the vintage dress I bought a while back, and here is the final product:

I got the pattern from 'Let's Knit' magazine, it was originally meant to be knitted in red mohair but I absolutely love the way this yarn makes the lace pattern look all leafy:

The yarn is Rowan Purelife organic cotton in Chlorophyll. It's naturally dyed as well as being organic, and it's lovely and soft. So not only is it a pretty shrug, it's Generous too! Apparently it can't be machine washed due to the natural dyes but I'm always dubious about these claims so might knit up a swatch and chuck it in a washing load.

I'm really pleased with how it's turned out, it's by far the hardest thing I've ever knitted (lace on DPNs? Now that's sadistic!) but it's also the most wearable garment I've made to date and I think my version is actually nicer than the original! How modest am I?

Well, time to get back to the war. The tabletop sale is finally organised for 26th September so I'll be furiously knitting things to sell - I've started on little cat toys and may make some potpourri sachets that look like sweeties which I've seen in one of my books. Hopefully they'll sell, I'm starting to worry that nobody will like my little creations!

24 July 2009

200 word Review: 'The Thrift Book' by India Knight

This book should carry a warning: Only to be read by people without common sense. I thought it might teach me something new about saving money, but instead I discovered there are people who know considerably less than I do. And that’s not much.

If you need India Knight to tell you how to save money, I worry for you. What’s so difficult to grasp about using leftovers, making packed lunches and holidaying in Britain? Who needs telling to mend clothes, go to their library and buy second-hand furniture?

If the blatant stating of the obvious doesn’t annoy you, Knight’s constant references to London will push you over the edge. Why wax lyrical about the Eurostar and how it’s cheaper than a train ticket to Manchester, when some readers might be in Manchester? Add to this her rather snobbish rants (the section on weddings will get many people fuming) and you may need to take deep breaths to calm yourself.

There are some useful bits, but nothing I couldn’t have found online if I looked hard enough. Flick through this and write down the books and sites she recommends, but don’t waste your time or (more importantly) money on it.

12 July 2009

200 word Review: 'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen

Now … I love Jane Austen, and I don’t want to betray her but … ‘Northanger Abbey’ isn’t her best work. I actually had trouble concentrating on it, which rarely happens to me.

It is the story of Catherine Morland, a naïve young lady on her first trip to Bath, who becomes obsessed with Gothic novels and starts to imagine intrigue everywhere. As usual, Austen’s observation of character is not only spot on, but up-to-date too – I was reminded, embarrassingly, of myself as a teenager, waiting for spectacular things to happen to me. Perhaps teenagers don’t change, or maybe it’s just me (hopefully the former!) The other characters are painted with the wit you would expect from Austen.

The plot lets her down. It takes ages for anything to really happen, with a lot of tangents along the way, and when it does happen it’s not that interesting. Austen often seemed to rush her endings by bunging a few weddings in, and this is the most rushed and formulaic of them all, which leaves you feeling disappointed.

If you’ve read the other Austen novels, then read this for completeness. Just don’t start with it, she’s got much better to offer.

Next book review: 'The Thrift Book' by India Knight

11 July 2009

The reason for my absence

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Here's why:

Now I was meant to be posting updates on how the rehearsals went for this, but because my part isn't huge I didn't have many rehearsals for a long time, then they came in such a big glut that I had barely any free time! As you'll see, we've now done 2 out of 3 performances, and it's going brilliantly.

I've struggled with Mariana - I spent three months when I had few rehearsals trying to figure her out and going through several different interpretations, then when I found one I could engage with, the director said she'd already figured out a character for me, and it was totally different to what I'd worked out! Aargh! The final product is kind of a compromise between the two - I'm a bit of a 'thinky' actor and can't say a line in a certain tone without having a reason.  One big stumbling block was the final scene, where she confronts Angelo. Some people thought I should play her with power because she knows she'll get what she wants (i.e. Angelo will be forced to marry her). My interpretation is that she doesn't just want him to marry her, but she wants him to love her, which is something he'll never do. So playing her with power when she has no power over the thing she truly wants was a real sticking point for me. I think I've found the balance ...

The first two performances have been a blast. Nerve-wracking, yes. Exhausting, both emotionally and physically, definitely (I have to kneel onstage for about ten minutes, which is longer than it sounds!!) But the harder it is, the more fun it is, and both nights I've walked on for the curtain call with a massive grin on my face, feeling like I've given it my all, so have all the other actors, and I'm proud of what we have all created.

Last night tonight, let's hope this post doesn't jinx it! I currently have what is either bad hayfever or the start of a cold, so tonight's Mariana will be red-eyed and snotty-nosed. Ahh well, maybe that could be a new interpretation!

21 June 2009

The Big Read books - how are you doing?

Ages ago, I posted a list of what was apparently the 100 best novels. I'm more than a little dubious about the list - for a start, it lists the Complete Works of Shakespeare, which predate novels considerably! It seems to be based roughly on the BBC's The Big Read list of 100 best books. So, to see how I'm doing, and maybe get my (few, or possibly non-existent) readers checking their total, I thought I'd do another post.

The rules are: put books you've read in bold, books you love in parentheses and books you want to read in italics:

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

12. (Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë)

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks

14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres

20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling

23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling

24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

27. Middlemarch, George Eliot

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving

29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck

30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson

32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett

34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute

38. Persuasion, Jane Austen

39. Dune, Frank Herbert

40. Emma, Jane Austen

41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams

43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

44. (The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas)

45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

46. Animal Farm, George Orwell

47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian

50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck

53. The Stand, Stephen King

54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

56. The BFG, Roald Dahl

57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome

58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer

60. (Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman

62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden

63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough

65. Mort, Terry Pratchett

66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton

67. The Magus, John Fowles

68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett (I think ...)

70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding

71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind

72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

74. Matilda, Roald Dahl

75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding

76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins

78. Ulysses, James Joyce

79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson

81. The Twits, Roald Dahl

82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith

83. Holes, Louis Sachar

84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake

85. (The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy)

86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson

87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

89. Magician, Raymond E Feist

90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac

91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo

92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel

93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett

94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

95. Katherine, Anya Seton

96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer

97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez

98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson

99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot

100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Actually, I think I might be doing worse on this list than I was on the other one! Some surprising choices in there ... I doubt I'll ever read the whole list, especially since I have an aversion to Harry Potter and Tolkien, but 30 out of 100 is a bit rubbish! So, come on, anyone else out there doing better?

14 June 2009

200 word review: 'Enduring Love' by Ian McEwan

Almost all the reading I do takes place on public transport, mostly on the train to work. It takes a special book to make me read at home in the evening, and ‘Enduring Love’ is the first book to achieve this in months, maybe years. When I wasn’t reading it, I was so desperate to know what happened next I couldn’t wait until the next opportunity to get stuck in.

I already knew that Ian McEwan is a brilliant author, having read ‘Atonement’ years ago (one of the few books to make me cry uncontrollably), but I’d been warned that ‘Enduring Love’ was too dark for me. Dark it certainly is, but I’m glad I ignored the warning. A story about a man being stalked by another man that he met through a tragic accident, it is packed with suspense, challenges and twists. The most unsettling thing about the novel is the way it draws you into the mindset of Joe, the ‘victim’, then yanks you out and makes you question his actions, his views, even his motives.

This book had me thinking like a student again, and anyone who likes to be challenged by literature should definitely read it.

Next book review: 'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen

23 May 2009

200 word review: '31 Songs' by Nick Hornby

I had high hopes for this book. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, so was excited when I got it as a gift. I thought that, as someone who loves music, I’d find a book about songs interesting. Unfortunately, I feel a bit let down.

The problem is, while Hornby is a great fiction writer, his writing style in this book is a bit … well … pompous. He seems to sneer at other people’s tastes whilst regularly protesting that he doesn’t really know that much about music. A bit of a contradiction, methinks. In fact, the whole book is based on a contradiction. Hornby says very early on that people who like songs because they remind them of certain events don’t really like music. So how come so many of the short essays in the book talk about how songs link into certain periods in his life? Pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

There are some highlights. The two essays in which he talks about his relationship with his autistic son are honest and moving. Unfortunately, these were the only diamonds I could find in the rock. The rest I found a bit supercilious and smug.

16 May 2009

Stash Wars: nearly there ...

Remember the free yarn I got recently? Well, I used up the black and white ball a while ago with the potholder and I then got some inspiration for the pink and brown ball:

I made these for the tabletop sale that I seriously hope my church are still doing at some point, once I've sewn saftey pins on the back they'll make very pretty (in my opinion) corsages. The pattern is based on one in 'Stitch'n'Bitch: The Happy Hooker' by Debbie Stoller and I first used it to make my best friend a corsage as a birthday present:

I made this a while back but she only got it this week so kept it under wraps. I'm very proud to say that she didn't realise I'd made it at first! It's a very fiddly pattern but once I got used to it I found I could play around with the yarn combination and petal sizes. Not only have the pink ones used up around half a ball of the free yarn, they've also finished off my pink acryclic and used most of my cream acryclic. Great! That, combined with some more baby booties that I've knitted for a friend who's becoming a dad soon (he'll never find my blog so I'm safe!), means my stash now looks like this:

Getting there! It will be increasing shortly but not for long, as I want to get some yarn to make a matching cardigan for my beautiful new vintage dress. But hopefully I'll be able to rid myself of the last of my stash soon - only to build it up again of course!

It's vintage, baby!

Want to be Generous with your clothes shopping, but can't find anything chic enough in the charity shops? Try vintage! When I passed my driving test recently, hubby offered to treat me to a vintage dress from The House of Rose and Brown in Saltaire, Bradford, and this is what I got:

Oh, yes, how pretty is that? It's 1960's and it makes me want to twirl and skip and be very girly! I dismissed it at first because I wasn't sure about the colour (I'm a brunette with a sallow complexion, whites and pastels don't always suit me) and thought it was a bit shapeless. But I tried it on anway and instantly fell in love. It's not shapeless - the empire line nips you in just below the bust (and the darts in the top part create the illusion that I have more bust than I really do!) and skims over all the bits you want skimming over. I'm going to wear it to my friend's outdoor wedding in August, but it looks great teamed with jeans so I'll be able to wear it more casually too. And it was only £36 - yes, you can get cheaper dresses in Primark, but will they last 40 years and look this good? I doubt it.

This was my first visit to a vintage shop and it was a little daunting. I get nervous in small shops when I'm the only customer, but the shop assistant was lovely - helpful, but not full on. It took a bit of rummaging to find things I liked but it was worth it. Here are a few tips I've gleaned from my first visit:

- Look twice. Of course, fashions have changed since whenever these clothes were made, so it can take a couple of looks for your eyes to adjust to the difference in style. I found nothing the first time I went round, but then I landed on three things I was interested in the second time.

- Try things on. In the shop I went to, everything was labelled with a guide size, but remember our shapes have changed a lot in the last half-century. I tried on a lovely maxi dress that was supposedly 8-10, which I am on top, but I'd have had to remove a few ribs to squeeze into it! Similarly, the dress I ended up buying looked too big at first, but when I got it on it was perfect.

- Think outside the box. I saw a couple of things that, with a bit of alteration (i.e. a raised hem), would look great, but I'm still on baby steps with my sewing so didn't go for them. It might be worth brushing up your sewing skills if you plan to shop vintage often.

- Visit again. I overheard the shop assistant tell another customer that they'd sold out of 1940's clothes the week before - such a shame, because I love that style. But it just goes to show that they'll have different things in every week, so I'll definitely be going again next time I want a treat! Don't be deterred if you don't find much the first time you visit.

I'm still a fan of charity shops and there's no doubt that helping a charity adds to the satisfaction of knowing you are reusing something that could have gone to landfill and saving resources. But for something a little bit special, vintage is a very chic form of recycling!

05 May 2009

Stash Wars: Cupcakes and potholder

For the last few weeks (maybe even months) I've been trying to use up my nasty acrylic yarn by making cupcakes. I've now run out of beigey-brown yarn so I'm almost done with the cupcakes for now, they just need buttons for decoration:

Don't they look good enough to eat? Well, don't - it won't taste nice and the thought of squeaky yarn against teeth does funny things to my spine. 

I also figured out a way of using up one of the free balls of yarn I got recently - hubby mentioned that a potholder would be handy for the kitchen, so I found a crochet pattern in 'Stitch'n'Bitch: The Happy Hooker' and simplified it for my purposes:

Not the most exciting project, in fact it's really just a big tension swatch, but it used up some yarn I didn't know what to do with and it'll come in handy. Plus, it kinda matches our lovely new worktop. It's very different from the original pattern - that was made of two nearly-squares sewn together, but I only had enough yarn for one side. Plus the original had a skull picture on it - obviously, I had to simplify that bit slightly!

No stash update because, frankly, I can't be bothered getting it all out then putting it back again. But I think I'm making progress. Plus, I've started trying to learn to sew on a sewing machine passed down to me from my Godmother's mother - I'm really useless at it now, but I'm hoping I'll get better, I've got loads of fabric in my stash bag that I keep meaning to do something creative with!

03 May 2009

200 word review: 'Friends Like These' by Danny Wallace

This is a big hug of a book. I love Danny Wallace’s work, because it’s so honest and personal you really feel like you know him. Plus his adventures are so weird and wonderful that you want to join in.

‘Friends Like These’ follows Danny’s latest ‘stupid boy project’ as he tries to meet twelve friends from his childhood. Sounds simple enough? Not when those friends include a Fijian chief, a Japanese doctor, a German rapper and a journalist living in America. Danny travels the world to see these people in an attempt to deal with the prospect of turning thirty, but discovers much deeper meanings along the way. The book is witty, touching and, in places, movingly profound. It made me think of the names on my Facebook ‘friends’ list, and how many of them I would count as true friends, how many I could go for a drink with after years apart. Maybe we should all start our own ‘Face-to-facebook’ just like Danny.

The book is a reminder of what friendship really means – not messages and comments exchanged through cyberspace, but a connection that doesn’t fade with time. And it features a ninja. What more could you want?

13 April 2009

Holiday to Galway

OK, this doesn't come under any of the various categories I cover in my blog, but I had such a good time in Galway I feel I need to write a bit about it.

We travelled there by plane - I know, shock horror, I'm meant to be reducing my carbon footprint. Unfortunately my pocket won out - plane is cheaper, and so much quicker too. Plus, I'm pretty sure driving from Leeds to Holyhead, getting a whopping great ferry to Dublin then driving again to Galway would have incurred far greater carbon emissions than a drive to Manchester, a flight to Galway airport and another drive just up the road to our hotel. Plus, we flew with Aer Arann who claim to have 'the world's greenest aircraft' - which, if it was the one we went on, will be because it's so small it doesn't look like a real plane:

We stayed in the Western Hotel in Galway city, which was very nice. The staff were really helpful, the room was nice, and the breakfast was great! Our first night wasn't great, they had a group of what sounded like about a dozen staying who decided to spend the night shouting, singing and banging on each others' doors until about 5.30am - thankfully, they checked out the next day and after that we had no more problems!

Because the pound is quite weak against the euro right now, we couldn't really afford to do anything fancy, but we had a hire car so we did a lot of sightseeing. I know, I know, cars = carbon, but there was just no way of seeing all the beautiful landscapes without one, I really doubt public transport would have covered the areas we went to. We tried to make up for it by supporting the local economy - mainly by eating!

I don't think I've ever been as full as I was in Galway. We ate in the hotel restaurant on the first and last nights, and very nice it was too. In between, we ate at an Italian restaurant, a small cafe attached to a garden (which we didn't see because the admission fee was too much), a proper Irish pub, a little cafe by the coast in Lehinch (OK, we didn't eat, we just had hot chocolate to warm us up on a windy day) and a Spanish restaurant. Spoilt for choice! Everywhere we ate the portions were very generous, especially in the pub - I've never seen such a full plate! The garden cafe did organic, vegetarian food and the pub used locally sourced produce, so that's all good. It just goes to show how much variety there is in the area - we could have had Japanese, Chinese, Thai and lots of other cuisines in Galway city as well.

I really recommend Galway and western Ireland for a holiday. It is so beautiful, with lots of different landscapes to see, and Galway city is great for shopping, eating and probably drinking (not that I know, I'm practually teetotal, but there's plenty of pubs)!

Hmm, looks like I've put a 'Generous' twist on this post without noticing - perhaps it does fit into a category after all!

Stash Wars: Attack of the free but useless yarn!

Remember I mentioned that my knitting magazine sent some free yarn? Well, I got it from my Mum's a few weeks back and here it is:

I don't like it. I'm not too keen on self-patterning yarn unless the colour changes are quite subtle, and I am mildly annoyed by the fact that nowhere in the magazine could I find information on fibre content. There were six patterns to accompany the yarns but I didn't much like them either (apart from the amigurumi cat, but I think that would look better in pure black, or another more catty shade). So I've been racking my brain as to what I can do with them. It would have helped if they'd both been the same colourway, two of the same would have opened up more options. But hey, I suppose I can't look a gift horse in the mouth - even if it does increase my stash.

I have been slowly stash-busting with little projects recently. Still working on the cupcake bottoms, probably have enough beigey-brown yarn for one more. And I've been making little pink flowers to put on pins and hairgrips:

As you can see, it's not reducing the pink yarn very quickly, I may need to do bigger flowers, or think of a big-ish project to use most of it up. Hmmm.

10 April 2009

200 word Review: 'The Basque History of the World' by Mark Kurlansky

I have always been interested in European minority cultures – as a child, I attempted, and failed, to learn Welsh. When I first heard of Basqueland (in a Spanish lesson, the teacher saying their language is as different from Castilian as Welsh is from English) I wanted to know more. So when my husband got ‘The Basque History of the World’ as a present, I was keen to read it.

The book gives a complete overview of Basque history, from Roman times right up to its publication in 1999. This approach could have created a very dry, dull text, but Kurlansky’s style saves it. He uses the story of this ‘non-nation’ as a way of exploring histories from all over Europe and beyond. He peppers the narrative with personal accounts, recipes and cultural details that create a sense of what ‘Basqueness’ is. The later chapters, dealing with the twentieth century, drag a little but can be vivid and surprisingly moving. His account of the Guernica bombing nearly had me crying on my commute.

If you are interested in overlooked cultures, this book is a quirky, informative and fascinating read which will teach you parts of European history you’ve never heard before.

08 April 2009

I'm a bad blogger

I've been rubbish recently, not a single post since 20th March! Oh dear ...

Well, I've been away since last Saturday but I'm now back home and not in work til next Tuesday (yay!) so should have time to knock out a few posts. Expect a new book review, a craft update, a write-up of my trip to Galway and maybe even a bit of Generous stuff (although I've been a bit rubbish at that lately - perhaps that could be the subject of that post!)

20 March 2009

Crafty birthday treats!

It was my birthday on Monday - boo, quarter of a century. I hate birthdays, bad things have happened around my birthday quite a few times so I'm always bracing myself for catastrophe at this time of year. But what did cheer me up was the big pile of pressies hubby got me! Including some Denise Interchangeable Needles which now pretty much complete my needle collection as they will serve me for all my circular needle needs, and this fab crochet book. I'd seen it in a magazine a while back, then my friend at work was leafing through a copy, and without even asking for it my hubby picked up on the fact that I wanted it and bought it for me! How sweet, and here was I thinking he ignored all my craft talk!

Current craft projects are little knick-knacks for the potential tabletop sale at church (although I've yet to hear when this is). I'm alternating between knitting the bottoms of cupcakes (I'll do the tops later, just want to see how many I can make after my last ball of beige yarn ) and crocheting little pink flowers. For the latter I've discovered the Magic Ring technique of starting crochet in the round, which is very handy indeed. I'm still mastering it though!

17 March 2009

Songs in my Head recently

(Is this the way to) Amarillo - Tony Christie (quality)

Avenues and Alleyways - Tony Christie

Islands in the Stream - the Comic Relief version

That dreadful Christmas song 'Neighbours' keeps playing, which make me want to bang my head on a table until it gets out of my head

That equally dreadful Diet Coke song that Duffy sings (Duffy, what are you doing?)

13 March 2009

Songs in my Head recently

'Ruby Tuesday' - don't know who by but not the Rolling Stones version, the whiney lady version

'Canned Heat' and 'Virtual Insanity' - Jamiroquai

That song from 'Slumdog Millionaire' again (haven't even seen the film!!)

'Just Because you Feel Good' - Skunk Anansie

09 March 2009

200 word Review: 'The Unadulterated Cat' by Terry Pratchett

Ahh, a bit of light relief! Normally this book would be a bit short and whimsical for my tastes, but after a heavy tome it was just what I needed. The title says it all – it’s about cats. Not any cats though, Real cats. Not pedigrees, not well-groomed fluffy things with long, saccharine names. Real cats chase cars, leave dead things in your hall and do their business in the neighbour’s garden.

Now, I don’t know if Millie is a Real cat or not – on the one hand, she has very few teeth, is a mishmash of different breeds, and will happily eat off the floor. On the other hand, she is an indoor cat, so can’t kill things or spoil people’s flowerbeds. Mind you, the book does say that, “Real cat is what you are, not what is done to you.” Maybe if we could let her out, she would be fully Real.

Anyway, I’m going off point. This is probably because the book is so short I’ve not got much to say about it – but I did enjoy it, and I think anyone with a cat that’s even slightly Real will find something to chuckle at in it.

05 March 2009

200 word review: 'The Name of The Rose' by Umberto Eco

Here are three words that inspire terror in me – Mediaeval Murder Mystery. I found mediaeval times the least interesting part of History at school, and I’m not a huge fan of violence and death either. So, when I was given this novel as a gift, I almost didn’t read it, but I gave it a go.

I can appreciate that this is probably a very worthy novel. According to the introduction, it’s a translation of a translation of a 14th century manuscript by Adso, who narrates the story of a series of murders in a monastery. It delves deeply into Church history and theology, and I’m sure someone who is interested in that would love it. Unfortunately, I'm not. I found the theological discussions dull and bewildering, I became frustrated by the amount of Latin in it (what’s wrong with footnotes to translate?) and I stopped caring who was killed or who was doing the killing because there were so many characters I lost track of who anyone was.

If ‘mediaeval murder mystery’ sounds like your cup of tea, who knows, you might love this. But if those words make you want to run for the hills, then don’t bother.

04 March 2009

Songs in my Head - Weds 4th March

'I'm in the Mood for Dancing' - The Nolans (oh yeah ...)

'Up All Night' - Take That (on the radio this morning)

'Wired for Sound' - Cliff Richard (distressing)

22 February 2009

Songs in My Head - Sunday 22nd February

'Islands in the Stream' - the Comic Relief version (it was on TV last night)

'Flashdance' (was also on TV last night on the same show - 'Let's Dance for Comic Relief' - which was far more entertaining than I expected)

'Ghetto Superstar' (that song from years ago which borrowed the tune of 'Islands in the Stream', so not that random a song)

Stash Wars: The beginning of the end?

Well I got my doll assembled quicker than expected:

Isn't she cute? I altered the pattern a bit from what the magazine said, using cream instead of pink on her clothes, giving her black shoes and a funkier black hairstyle, leaving out some felt embellishments and a little yarn bag that, frankly, I didn't have the patience to make, and sewing her eyes on with black yarn instead of buying craft eyes. I also added the flower in her hair myself, using a bit of a pattern from 'Stitch'n'Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker' by Debbie Stoller. After making her I decided her name was Susie (although I'm sure that the future daughter she's intended for may change that!)

Here's what my stash now looks like:

Much more manageable. I've been told that my church may be having a tabletop sale to raise funds for refurbishment in May so I'm thinking of making some little trinkets to sell there, maybe some flower pins with the bright pink yarn, cupcakes with the beige and pastels, and possibly something clever and inventive with the blue ribbon, black mohair and leftover remnant of Blueface Leicester. That should reduce it a bit more.

But this isn't actually my entire stash - Mum told me that this week my new edition of 'Let's Knit' arrived, along with two balls of yarn. Yay, free stuff! I've no idea what it's like so I'll have to wait until I se Mum in a few weeks, but I'm sure the magazine will have patterns for it if I'm stuck for ideas.

20 February 2009

Songs in my Head over the past few days

'Two Ladies' from 'Cabaret'

'Bag It Up' by Geri Halliwell (deeply distressing)

That new U2 song (is it 'Get on your Boots'? It sounds way too much like Muse whatever it is)

That ' like a wink and a smile' song I had in my head the other day

'Gives You Hell' by All American Rejects

That song from 'Slumdog Millionaire' would I think I should hate but I actually love - don't know what it's called, it goes 'All I wanna do is ... and a ... and take your money.'

New scarf and new dolly!

Well, I've been getting busy with my every-reducing stash recently! First I used the last of the gorgeous Bluefaced Leicester to make a funky scarf:

The pattern is from 'Let's Knit', a frankly brilliant magazine that my Mum gets for me and it's actually designed to go with the beret I made a while back and sadly lost somewhere between home and work one morning. The pattern had to be adapted as I didn't have enough to make it as wide as it should be, so this is a half-width version but I think it still looks good. I love the zig-zaggy pattern, created by short row shaping, and think it really sets off the beautiful yarn. I really recommend Bluefaced Leicester, I'm really sensitive to wool but wear this scarf load now and it rarely itches. And it's British!!

My current project which is nearing completion is from the same issue of 'Let's Knit':

It's an amigurumi doll, which is a Japanese crochet craze for making little creatures or people. I think this is probably bigger than your usual amigurumi piece but never mind. I just need to sew her together and then I have a brand new dolly - I just need to name her!!

I'm not sure what to do next, I'll post up a picture of my remaining stash after I've finished dolly.

17 February 2009

Measuring Up

I said at the start of the year that I'd do more blogging about my interests, acting being one of them. I actually did my degree in Theatre and Performance Studies, but moving to a new city made me shy about getting involved in amateur companies as I didn't know anybody. So last year I took the plunge and joined a local group and in December I acted for the first time in over four years. I'd forgotten how much I loved it, and now that I'm not acting with a view to making a career out of it (gave up on that when I realised I like routine way too much) I can appreciate being part of a play so much more.

We've just started work on 'Measure for Measure' - a brilliant Shakespeare play, one of his later 'problem' plays all about politics, morality and power. I studied it for my A-level in English Literature and loved it then, and the years haven't diminished my fascination. I've always loved Shakespeare and have wanted to be in one of his plays since I was 14 - so you could say I'm fulfilling a life ambition!

We found out the casting on Friday and I have the part of Mariana. She's a very interesting character, kind of a recluse after being ditched by her fiance five years before the play, yet she's still in love with him (and frankly, he's a nasty piece of work). I'm going to have to think hard to understand her, but hopefully I'll figure her out and will be able to do her justice. After all, a character who had a poem written for her by Tennyson has to be more interesting than she seems. She's not a huge part, but I'm hoping that'll free up my time so I can help out with production, I've never done any of that and really want to learn.

I'll keep putting updates on about how it's all going, so watch this space!

Songs in My Head - Tues 17th Feb

'Mein Herr' from 'Cabaret' (watched it for the first time at the weekend, what a film!)

That one that's on 'Sleepless in Seattle' and goes 'We go together, like a wink and a smile'

'1, 2, 3, Shake your Body Down' - don't know who by or if that's the right name

12 February 2009

Sorry ...

... for my lack of posting. I was busy last week and I've been ill since Saturday so haven't felt up to blogging. Besides, having spent most of this week laid either in bed or on my sofa, I don't have much to say.

But - once I'm fully better and over the mountain of work I'm bound to face back at the office, expect piccies of a scarf I recently finished, perhaps some progress shots of my first attempt at amigurumi (crocheted toys, a Japanese style) and, of course, more songs in my head! 

02 February 2009

Songs in my Head - Monday 2nd Feb

'Let it Rock' - can't remember the full name, something Rudolph?

'It's my Time' - the shockingly bad Eurovision song

'My Baby just Cares for Me' - Nina Simone (more of that please!)

28 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Weds 28th January

That 'Money in my Pocket' song, think it's by Daniel Merriweather but not sure, not certain that's the right title either

The Chris Moyles remix of 'Put a Ring on It' by Beyonce

A song that goes 'It's a wonderful night, gotta take it from me, it's a wonderful night, come on and break it on down' - anyone recognise it?

27 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Tuesday 27th January

'Boy Does Nothing' - Alesha Dixon (probably heard it on the radip - a guilty pleasure)

'Breathe Slow' - Alesha Dixon (I'm not obsessed, honest)

23 January 2009

Au revoir

Remember my funky beret? Well, it's warmed my head for the last time. I dropped it on my way to work on Tuesday and despite much searching I can't find it. It's my first experience of completely losing something I knitted myself and it's surprisingly upsetting. I was so proud of that hat, the knitting was quite complicated but I'd done it, I'd felted it to perfection (something I'm not good at) and I'd even used my sewing skills in it. All that work down the drain. Oh well, I'll just have to make a new one.

Right now I'm knitting another scarf, although I'm on my third attempt - I'm trying to make the rest of my Bluefaced Leicester last out so keep decreasing the width of the scarf so it can go a bit longer. I'll post a pic when it's finally done.

I'm also spreading my knitty knowledge - a couple of girls at the youth club I help run said they wanted to learn so last Friday I started teaching them. Not easy, I'd forgotten how hard it all seems to a beginner. I let them take away the needles and yarn to practise, so I'll have to see how they've done without me tonight!

21 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Weds 21st January

'Don't Leave Me This Way' - Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes/The Communards (singing the Harold Melvin version in class tonight)

The theme tune to 'Waterloo Road' (no idea why)

14 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Wednesday 14th January

'Just Dance' - Lady Gaga (that's gonna be lodged there until Radio 1 fall out of love with it, oh joy)

The Barack Obama song from the Chris Moyles show (no explanation for this)

'I am the Walrus' and 'Come Together' - The Beatles (can't decide which one to do in singing class tonight)

08 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Thursday 8th Jan

'Fire and Rain' - James Taylor (made me cry in singing class last night and is now lodged in my head, not good)

'I am the Walrus' - The Beatles/Jim Carrey interchangeably (might do this in my next class!)

'Disturbia' -Rihanna/'Dance' - Lady Gaga (still got my own little mash-up going on)

07 January 2009

Songs in my Head - Wednesday 7th January

'No Air' - Jordin Sparks (was on the radio and I hate it)

'Human' - The Killers (downloaded the backing track for a friend last night - and I hate it)

A bizarre medley of 'Dance' by Lady Gaga and 'Disturbia' by Rihanna (anyone else get those two mixed up?)

06 January 2009

Songs in my head - Tuesday 6th January

(Ooh Aah) Just a Little Bit - Gina G (I have no explanation for this)

Breathe Easy by some band like Blue (possibly because I have a slight cold and this song makes me think of Vicks)

Chasing Rainbows - Shed Seven (hubby has been singing this a lot so it's his fault)

03 January 2009

Stash Wars: THE cardigan

Yes, tis true, the cardigan is finished! Only it didn't go quite to plan ...

The pattern is from 'Stitch'n'Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook' by Debbie Stoller and is called the 'Go Everywhere, Go with Everything Cardi'. Those who have the book will know where I've gone wrong - it's meant to be waist-length! Because I was using yarn unravelled from a tired old jumper, I was very conscious of making sure I didn't run out because finding matching yarn would be practically impossible. So I knitted one of the front panels much tighter than the rest, so had to do the same with the other front panel and hope for the best. I could've redone the back too, but that would have taken ages and I was losing the will to live, so I tried to make it work. The result is an unintentionally cropped and slightly A-line cardigan which looks a bit wrong. Hey, it might work as maternity clothing in years to come! I'm still quite proud that I recycled the yarn though, the only bit I bought were the buttons. And it means I've reduced this pile of yarn ...

... to this ...

Not bad, eh? Although what I'll do with those oddments I've yet to work out. Otherwise, I've managed to reduce my stash from this ...

...to this...

Not a huge reduction, especially as I missed a couple of smaller balls out of the original picture and had that little transgression last summer when I bought the beautiful Bluefaced Leicester. But I'm going to work on reducing it even further now. Next project is a scarf made of said beautiful Bluefaced Leicester, then I might do a few novelty projects like dolls, cupcakes etc to reduce that nasty pile of acrylic. But no more big garments for a while, I couldn't face another one!

In other news, the Christmas fairy (i.e. my Mum) got me loads of needles for Christmas, so I now have almost a full set of single pointed needles, just a few chunky ones outstanding, hurrah! Even better is that Mum got them secondhand at a charity sale, so they're Generous needles too!

01 January 2009

Belated festivity

Just to prove I have been knitting recently, here's a picture of Millie getting into the festive spirit ...

See, as a break from knitting THE cardigan, I decided it'd be funny to make a Santa hat for Millie, so I got out my red and white cheapy yarn and figured out a pattern myself (clever me!). I like the way she wears it at a jaunty angle in this picture. There is a better picture of it, but it has me in a bathrobe in the background and that's just embarrassing. Anyway, I was going to post it before but couldn't work out how to get the picture off my phone, then forgot. Sorry that it's now a touch unseasonal.

The cardigan is coming along by the way, just not quite as expected. I'll explain when it's done and I can post a picture, but let's just say I'll be very careful about tension in future ...

New Year, New Ideas

Happy New Year! Sorry for the lack of posting recently, but when you spend your working days staring at a computer, when you're on hols you want to avoid PCs. That and I've been busy spending time with hubby, knitting, buying kitchens and other fun stuff. 

Anyway, my little break from blogging has made me rethink the blog a little. My most regular feature is This Week, which is an idea I nicked off Fi. Now, it works great on her blog because she's very dedicated (and has stuff to talk about) so she blogs daily, but as I can go for weeks without blogging about anything in particular, it's a bit like treading water. So I'm ditching it. But instead I'm going to add a new item which I can drop in regularly or randomly, dependant on my mood and time restraints. This will be 'Songs in my Head'. I frequently have a very strange mix of songs going round my head and, to stop me just confusing my office mates by telling them about it, it might be entertaining to note it down on here. 

I'm also going to try and do a bit more blogging around my hobbies. The book reviews attract a lot of hits which is fab, so I'm keeping them, but I'm going to also try to write more (and post more pics) about my knitting and maybe also write a bit about acting and singing too. And of course I'll try to carry on my Generous journal (maybe even write it more frequently!)

I'd love to know the thoughts of anyone who reads my blog, so leave comments to let me know what you do and don't like!