Thursday 31 October 2013

The Fault In Our Stars

Eleanor isn't big on reading so I was somewhat surprised when she came home from school a few weeks ago with a book in her hands. I was even more surprised when I couldn't get her head out of it for the next forty eight hours.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a book which many of her friends have read and were discussing in school. Eleanor decided that she wanted to read it, so one of her friends lent it to her. Now Eleanor isn't the fastest reader, but she finished this in two days flat, she couldn't put it down. Since reading it, she's mentioned it many times and said that she'd like to read it again, but she'd given the book back to her friend. I think when you've read some books, you can't get them out of your mind for some time afterwards, and this is obviously one of those books for Eleanor.

I decided that I'd buy a copy so that Eleanor has her own copy, but also so that I could read it too. It's actually aimed at young adults, and some of the language actually gives that away, but I enjoyed reading it.

The book is narrated by Hazel, a sixteen year old Cancer sufferer who meets Augustus Waters, a seventeen year old amputee, at a support group. To put it in a nutshell, it's a teenage love story, but it's not just for teenagers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Be warned though, it will reduce you to a blubbering wreck.

I finished this book in bed a few nights ago. When Eleanor knew that I was on the last chapter, she laid next to me and waited patiently for me to finish, at which point, she took the book straight from my hands, took herself off to bed and started reading it again. This is the girl who seldom reads, praise for The Fault In Our Stars indeed.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Big, Blousy And Beautiful

I love this time of year, I often open my back door to find a carefully placed bunch of chrysanthemums laid on the garden table. I don't grow many flowers myself at the allotment, but Mick's uncle grows chrysanthemums and gladioli for cut flowers. He visits his plot very early in the morning and on his way home, he creeps round the back of our house and leaves these wonderful gifts for me to discover when I venture outside.

These big, blousy, beautiful blooms cheer me up no end. They smell delicious, the perfume fills the house. There were enough in this bundle to fill two vases.

My absolute favourites are the yellow ones. The colour here isn't true, they're actually much, much brighter, they really zing. I love the way the petals form, they're like little individual scoops.

Chrysanthemums last in water for ages so this lot will be around for a while yet.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Challenge Update - October

My 2013 challenges are:-

1) Watch one old film each month.

2) List five items on Ebay each month.

3) Have a date night with Mick each month.

I watched one film in which Vivien Leigh won an Academy Award earlier on in the year. I love Gone With The Wind, a wonderful film, but I'd never seen the film in which she won her second Best Actress Oscar, A Streetcar Named Desire, so I chose this as my film to watch for October. I didn't know anything about the story so didn't know what to expect at all, and I have to say that the film didn't pan out at all as I was expecting. When visiting her sister in New Orleans, Vivien Leigh's character is told to "Take a streetcar named Desire and transfer to one called Cemeteries", a good outline of the plot. Three of the four main actors received academy awards for their performances, which isn't surprising as the acting is fabulous. It's just a shame that Marlon Brando missed out on the Best Actor Oscar for which he was nominated as, in my opinion, he gave a wonderful and very believable performance. I enjoyed this film and will definitely watch it again.

Listing on Ebay is ongoing, I'm still managing five items each month, and most of them are selling. I have a few things which haven't sold but I find that most have sold when they've been relisted. I'm hoping that I won't be left with many of the sixty items I'll have listed over the course of the year when this challenge ends.

Mick and I went for a pub meal for our date night. The pub we went to is one we used to visit quite often, but haven't been to for a number of years now. We bumped in to our old neighbours there from the house we used to live in twenty years ago. We'd never seen them since we moved so it was nice to catch up and hear all their news.

It feels as though my washing machine has been going constantly this weekend as Daniel has come home from university bringing his washing with him. I've stood and ironed it all this morning so it's all ready for him to take back with him later on today. It's time to start all over again now with our washing which has had to wait while Daniel's got done. I hope you've all had a more relaxing weekend than I have.

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Night Rainbow

I read many blog posts where books have been mentioned or reviewed. If any catch my eye, I jot down the title with every good intention to read them, however, there's many which I never get round to reading.

Back in the summer, Anna over at Green Tapestry blog wrote a post, Reading Matters, where she reviewed some books, a couple of which I quite fancied reading. One of them was The Night Rainbow by Claire King, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it at less that £2 on Amazon. I buy lots of books from charity shops these days, and many of them are more expensive than this.

I've really enjoyed reading The Night Rainbow. It's set in southern France and narrated by a five year old girl, Pea. Her father has died in an accident and she lives with her little sister, Margot, and her mother who is too sad to take care of them. Pea and Margot make a friend in the meadows behind their home, though he's keeping a secret.

It's an emotional story, which I have to say is very cleverly written. The ending was not what I was expecting at all.

This is Claire King's first novel, and I think she's done a fabulous job with it.

Monday 21 October 2013

Not A Conker To Be Found

We took Archie  to Temple Newsam for his walk yesterday. I wanted to go somewhere with lots of trees so that I could look for conkers. I'm not sure if they're called conkers around the world, anyway, what I mean are the shiny, dark brown nuts of the Horse Chestnut tree. I need conkers.

I didn't manage to find one, single conker. There were plenty of acorns and helecopter seeds from the Sycamore. I need conkers. I've heard that scattering a few conkers near doors and on window ledges deter spiders from entering the house. How true it is I'm not sure, but anything's worth a try. I'm finding huge spiders in the house at the moment, sheltering from the colder weather, no doubt. I even had a cheeky thing climbing the stairs at the side of me yesterday, and another walking the wall next to where I was sat. It's no good, I need conkers.

I'm loving all the changing colours at the moment so our walk wasn't without its plus points, but I need conkers.

Thursday 17 October 2013

I Just Can't Resist

I'm not supposed to be buying magazines, they cost too much and I've bought far too many in the past, but I just can't resist new publications when they're launched, especially when they're at an introductory price and they're giving away free gifts too.

Mick knows exactly what I'm like, it was him who had seen the advert for Big & Little Knitting Projects For You & Your Family on tv and had alerted me to the fact that there was a new craft magazine out.

This first issue is £1.99 and comes with a pair of 10mm knitting needles and a 50g ball of cream acrylic yarn. The regular price for future issues will be £4.99.

It's a bit different to other magazines in that it's not actually a magazine but a book. Each book in the collection seems to focus on one particular topic, issue 1 is Contemporary Cushions and others in the series are Gifts For Babies, Cosy Hats & Scarves, Christmas Knits and Snug Socks & Slippers amongst others. There's some nice projects in this first issue and they're aimed at both beginners and advanced knitters.

I particularly like this Jewel Box Bolster.

There's also instructions to help you master new stitches and techniques, as well as covering the basics to help you brush up your knowledge.

As with most of these type of publications, there's a project which builds up issue by issue. This one is a chunky knit throw. Each issue comes with a ball of yarn with which to knit one square in the throw. Each square is a different stitch, so it will help you to learn new skills. The square in this issue is Double Moss Stitch and the full instructions for it are given.

Big & Little Knitting Projects is published fortnightly at £4.99 and the full collection spans over 60 issues, quite a financial commitment. I won't be buying it every fortnight, but I do like how each book covers one particular topic, allowing you to pick and choose which ones interest you. I think all knitters could find a particular issue which interests them. I quite fancy the Christmas Knits and the Snug Socks & Slippers.

Monday 14 October 2013

I'm No David Bailey

Since buying my new DSLR camera earlier on this year, I've been using it on the automatic setting. I don't know the first thing about photography, but I'm determined to learn. When I saw an offer on Groupon for a beginners photography session I decided to give it a go.

The date was set for Saturday just gone. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very good, dull and drizzly, but the session still went ahead. There were eleven of us beginners who met in a hotel just out of the centre of Leeds. We had a master class in Exposure, learning about ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture, before heading outside to put in to practice what we'd just learnt.

Afterwards, we headed in to the centre of Leeds to learn, and have a go at, Composition. Our first task was to look at Camera Angle and take photos from other angles other than head height. There were some good subjects in City Square, though you had to be quick before they flew off.

These birds were more obliging, metal sculptures which were on, what I think is, the front of the Norwich Union building.

Next, we headed off through Leeds towards the new Trinity Leeds shopping centre. Here, our aim was to use a technique whereby you frame objects within other objects. These were my attempts.

Finally, our last task was looking at The Rule of Thirds, positioning the subject off centre.

I was pleased that I managed some photos without having my camera set on automatic, though I have to say that I did feel quite conspicuous taking photos in the centre of Leeds and in the shopping centre.

The session was supposed to last for three and a half hours, but it ran over by half an hour. I was never going to learn everything in this time, but it's given me a start, and I now feel a bit more confident about taking my camera off the automatic setting and having a go myself.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Up To Date Technology

I'm a real technophobe, so I've always avoided having any technology around me that I don't need. My mobile phone has been a basic model, allowing me to make calls and send the occasional text. It had a camera too, though I never used it.

I've started making more calls just lately, so I thought a contract may be the way to go rather than pay as you go, which I've always had.

I only wanted a cheap contract, even though I'm making more calls, they're not excessive, but when looking at the contracts on offer, I saw that I could also update my phone for free. After what I've just said about being a technophobe and having had the most basic model in the past, I really don't know what possessed me to go with this model.

It's all singing all dancing, and I haven't a clue how to work it. The problem is, I'm frightened of it. Everyone's telling me to mess around with it and I'll soon get used to it, but I'm scared of doing something I shouldn't. I'm seriously considering putting the sim back in to my old phone.

Am I the only one who can't keep up with the times where technology's concerned?

Monday 7 October 2013

One A Day Blanket

I started my One A Day Blanket right back on the first day of the year. My aim was to crochet one square each day and join them as I went along, a joining technique I hadn't tried before. I really enjoyed the laid back approach to making this blanket, one square each day is so achievable.

It's made up of 192 squares, 12 X 16, so on the 11th of July, the 192nd day of the year, the blanket was complete. All I had to do then was crochet the border. I put the blanket to one side while we went on holiday, I needed a more portable project to take with me, and then when I got home, I concentrated on Daniel's Ripple Blanket as I wanted that to be finished to take with him to university.

The border didn't take long, it's just five rows of granny clusters, but I'm happy with how it finishes the blanket off.

I love this blanket, it's a real hotch potch of colours. I had the yarn, Stylecraft Special DK, bought for me for Christmas so I didn't choose the colours myself, but they're such jolly, happy colours.

It's been finished at just the right time, the cooler weather will be here before we know it and I have a lovely, squishy blanket to snuggle up in.

Thursday 3 October 2013

I Won't Give Up

For the last two years, Eleanor has had a session in a recording studio as part of her birthday present. When I asked her what she wanted this year, she replied the same.

We book it through Tesco Clubcard Deals with Songmaker. She only has an hour to record her song, but she thoroughly enjoys it.

Two years ago, she recorded an Adele song, last year she sang On My Own from Les Miserables and this year she chose to sing I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz. I can hear the improvement year on year.

Unfortunately, Eleanor had a cold on the day she did the recording, but I think she sang it well. What do you think?

I hope you enjoyed it.