Tuesday 30 July 2013

Camping a deux

So the girlies have gone away for a few days with their grandparents (Legoland and the beach apparently) so hubby and I decided to book ourselves a brief caravaning holiday in Enid whilst they did.  We went to a lovely site called Daisy Bank about 40 minutes away from here on the Welsh border.  Boy was it quiet, the only noise you could hear was that of the sheep bleeting in the field at the end of the site!  No kiddies, no loud music, no nothing!  We were practically the youngest there!  But it was nice.

No!  I'm NOT a poodle!

The view

Evenings spent playing this!

You could stay in a pod!

The latest Simple Things magazine - a perfect recipe for my newly purchased lavender and nutmeg sugar!

Weather has been a bit unpredictable of late, so we were prepared for a few showers, which we got.  I managed to sneak a morning off by myself to Newtown to have a rummage around the charity shops, whilst hubby stayed in bed watching Not Going Out on his ipad!  I got some pretty things which I'll show next time.

We visited a couple of castle sites, one at Dolforwyn and the other at Montgomery. 

We also wandered round the towns of Bishops Castle and Montgomery - I think we want to move here!  Bishops Castle had been yarnbombed, I was in my element!  And the bookshop stocks Pretty Nostalgic magazine too!

Statue outside The Deli

Statue above The Music Vaults pub

Yarnbombing at the bookshop

the most beautiful house!

Needless to say, I did find time for some crafting, my blanket for use in Enid is coming along well, over 20 rounds completed so far, but I am not looking forward to sewing in the ends!  I also did some reading (well, why not) and found this fantastic book set in Shropshire.

In 1988 Katherine Swift arrived at the Dower House in Morville to create a garden of her own.  This beautifully written, utterly absorbing book is the history of the many people who have lived in the same Shropshire house, tending the same soil, passing down stories over the generations.  Spanning thousands of years The Morville Hours takes the form of the medieval Books of Hours.  It is a meditative journey through the seasons, but also a journey of self-exploration.  It is a book about finding one's place in the world and putting down roots.

This is so not my normal read, but I am loving it and I highly recommend it!

Thank you and welcome to my new followers, it's lovely to meet you all on here.

Are you having a good summer holiday too?

G x

Friday 26 July 2013

Girl Least Likely To

Girl Least Likely To: Thirty years of fashion, fasting and Fleet Street by Liz Jones
Published by Simon & Schuster
4th July 2013
288 pages

Liz Jones is Fashion Editor of the Daily Mail, and a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.  She is the former editor of Marie Claire, which sounds quite an achievement, but she was sacked three years in.  A psychotherapist once told her, ‘What you brood on will hatch’, and she was right.  Nothing Liz ever did in life ever worked out.  Nothing.  Not one single thing.

Liz grew up in Essex, the youngest of seven children.  Her mother was a martyr, her dad so dashing that no other man could ever live up to his pressed and polished standards.  Her siblings terrified her, with their Afghan coats, cigarettes, parties, sex and drugs.  They made her father shout, and her mother cry.

Liz became an anorexic aged eleven, an illness that continues to blight her life today.  She remained a virgin until her thirties, and even then found the wait wasn’t really worth it; it was just one more thing to add to her to do list.  She was named Columnist of the Year 2012 by the British Society of Magazine Editors, but is still too frightened to answr the phone, too filled with disgust at her own image to glance in the mirror or eat a whole avocado.

She lives alone with her four rescued collies, three horses and seventeen cats.  Girl Least Likely To is the opposite of ‘having it all’.  It is a life lesson in how NOT to be a woman.

I went to visit my mum today.  She is in her old bedroom, still in the semi-detached Sixties’ house she shared with my dad in Saffron Walden in Essex, but the room could now by anywhere.  Or at least, anywhere inside an institution.  Her bedroom furniture has been taken away – the double divan, the heavy, dark dressing table – as the carers found it to be in the way, too low, too high, too heavy.  Basically, my mum’s pride and joy, Pledged over many decades, contravened health and safety.  She is, instead, in a narrow hospital cot, with metal bars on each side, a hoist above her hovering like an obscene child’s mobile.  It twinkles, I suppose, when someone has bothered to open the curtains (a ritual that began and ended my mum’s every day, whilst she could still wield a mop to shove the heavy, oak curtain pole back up into place, given it always drooped with the weight of the blue velvet).  But rather than being a comfort, the mobile-hoist hybrid is a constant reminder of her infirmity.

Everything in the room is the colour of her dentures, which she no longer wears, given she no longer eats solids.  There are pads and wipes and cotton wool and anti-bac gels everywhere, as though she were a giant baby.  She is served tiny spoons of baby food by a Latvian carer who shouts, from time to time, ‘How are you feeling today, Meesees Jones?’  A lifelong tea addict, her only liquid is lukewarm water, syringed from a small pipette into her gaping maw; a mouth like that of a long-neglected baby bird.  Occasionally, the water hits the back of her throat and she splutters.  She can no longer watch TV, even if she could ever find her glasses (a lifelong quest), or listen to the radio, so these last ornaments of normality have been excised.  She doesn’t really know it is me, her youngest child, her baby, her Lizzie (her other children were summoned with a roll call – ClarePhilipNickLynTonySue – until she hit upon the right one, but she always knew it was me) sitting by her bed, my silver laptop a shield from her torment.

Liz Jones is a bit like Marmite.  You either love her or hate her and this book will not change that.  Many who already dislike her will read this and continue to do so.  Those of the three million readers of her column in the Mail on Sunday will read it and love every word.  So what about those who aren’t sure, or have maybe never even heard of Liz Jones?

Journalist and fashionista Liz Jones never felt she would be good at anything.  She only really had two ambitions, to own a horse and to appear in Vogue magazine.  The first she finally managed a few years ago, the latter she never achieved.  Starting out as reporter on Lyons Mail, Liz worked her way up through the likes of Company magazine until she was offered the role of Editor of Marie Claire.  She was to dramatically fall from grace just three years into the role by challenging the ‘body issue’ and the way that magazines portray women.

This is Liz’s account of her life, from her first childhood home by the A130 that she was too scared to cross, to her failed marriage to an adulterous husband; Liz reveals all.  I will readily admit to being a reader, and admirer, of her column in the MoS.  I do think that she has become a parody of herself, that with her writing she has created a persona that she now cannot afford to shake off.  But, she has an unfailing talent for writing, and publishing things that shouldn’t be said, but for Liz, that has made her career.  She no longer has a husband, or very many friends as a result but she tells it as she sees it.  She is nothing but unseeingly honest.  I actually really enjoyed this book, she focuses more on her earlier years than the later ones of her marriage, and current relationship to the Rock Star, but that’s what the book is about; if you want the latest ins-and-outs of her life, read her weekly column.  However, I wouldn’t want to be Liz Jones for anything.  She clearly is a woman who tries too hard, and seemingly fails at almost everything in doing so.  Is she her own worse enemy?   Probably.

G x

Thursday 25 July 2013

This Week

First week of the school holidays and I've been:

Making things with hama beads

Reviewing books

Ordering wool from a fabulous website called wool4less to make my poncho/cape with.  I've been hunting around for an alternative to Sirdar Big Softie for so long now, as it was going to cost me about £50 to make but finding something that used 10mm needles was a bit of a challenge.  Happily I stumbled across this website this week and in less than 48 hours my wool has arrived, at a mere £22 for 800g!

Visiting the zoo (again) as the eldest girlie turned 7 yesterday.  We usually go for the dinosaur exhibit but this year it was giant bugs!  Needless to say, they loved them!

The birthday girl

Girlies are now away for the next 6 nights at Grandma and Gramps' house for the first time in 7 years.  Hubby and I are going away camping with the dog for the  weekend.  We may have to talk to each other!!!!


G x

Sunday 21 July 2013

Baking and Books

are two of my favourite things!  Today I've made some chocolate chip and banana muffins instead of whipping it up into a loaf cake, I do like these very much!

If you like your crime fiction, here's an author you might not of heard of yet, Steven Dunne; and if you have, then apologies, for I hadn't!!!  His latest novel The Unquiet Grave has just been published by Headline and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy to review.  Here's what I thought:

The Cold Case Unit of Derby Constabulary feels like a morgue to DI Damen Brook.  But in disgrace and recently back from suspension, his boss thinks it’s the safest place for him. 

But Brook isn’t going down without a fight and when he uncovers a pattern in a series of murders that date back to 1963, he is forced to dig deeper.  How could a killer stay undetected for so long?  Could it be luck or are there more sinister forces at work?

Applying his instincts and razor sharp intelligence, Brook delves deep into the past of both suspects and colleagues unsure where the hunt will lead him.  What he does know for sure is that a significant date is approaching fast and the killer may be about to strike again…

Saturday, 22 December 1973 - Derby

The boy looked up from sorting through his football cards to watch him mum light another cigarette.  Her hands were tight and clumsy as she fumbled for her props but, eventually, the hiss of gas and a guttering flame signalled job done.  Tossing her gold lighter on to the coffee table, she took a quivering draw, holding the blue-grey poison in her lungs for a beat before exhaling across the room.
     Jeff watched in silence as she tried to ease back and relax but she couldn’t manage it, at once pulling back her frame to the edge of the sofa, her legs bent double, her tension-wracked shoulders invisible under the uncombed hair.  She played with her housework-reddened hands, sometimes picking at a jagged nail, sometimes swivelling the two rings round her wedding finger.
     ‘I’m hungry, Mum,’ said Jeff, in that way children have of asking for things without actually posing the question.
     Without looking over at him she answered, her voice hoarse and strained. ‘Dad’s home in an hour.’
     Jeff gazed unblinking, waiting for her to crack.  It didn’t happen.  ‘But I’m hungry now.’
     ‘You can have a sandwich when Dad gets home,’ she replied, trying to keep the rising emotion from her voice.  She glanced his way to reassure but it didn’t take.

This is the fourth novel by Steven Dunne featuring DI Damen Brook.  Following on from his previous case, Brook has been placed on suspension and is just returning to the force, a figure in disgrace.  There is only one place for a policeman such as him and that is to be stationed in the basement of the police station working on the cold cases of the Derbyshire force.  But as you can probably imagine, he’s a good policeman, and his instincts soon lead him to reinvestigate a number of murders, that date back as early as 1963.

Unfortunately for Brook, there aren’t many left on the force that he hasn’t already managed to antagonise, so he is left pretty much a one-man team with his enquiries.  But has he discovered a developing pattern that has been left undiscovered by his predecessors, or was the now-deceased DCI Sam Bannon actually on to something when he flagged up the supposed ‘Pied Piper’ killer all those years ago?  If that is the case, Brook only has a matter of weeks before the killer strikes again!

This is a well-written, fast-paced novel.  Despite the plethora of characters that Dunne manages to entwine into the book, it’s a real page-turner.  I couldn’t wait to find out if Brook was right and that there was a link to the Cold Case Unit and if he would catch the killer in time, of if other factors were actually at work.  If you are a fan of crime fiction, which I most definitely am, and haven’t discovered Steven Dunne yet, this is a pretty good place to start.  As for me, I’m off to devour his back catalogue!

If you fancy a crime busting summer read, it's a good place to start!  I started some knitting last night too, inspired by an old post by Pixie  More will be revealed as I go along!!!!

The sun seems to have deserted us today, it's just a mass of white cloud in the sky, but at least the temperature is more bearable for my pale skin!

Have fun

G x

Saturday 20 July 2013

Ready for the hols?

Oh my!  The frantic wheels of life turning round for the last week of term.  Haven't got very much crafting done at all as I had 200 pages of The Woman in White to finish in a day for my Pretty Nostalgic bookclub meeting, and do you know what, I did it!  If you haven't read it, I'd recommend it, for even though it's over 600 pages long, it's an easy read.

It's the 6 year olds birthday next week, so we had an impromptu party last weekend for her great auntie visiting, and then another this weekend for the grandparents coming over! 

Hurridly made cake for last weekend!

We will be doing it all over again on Wednesday when she officially turns 7 and apparently a visit to Chester Zoo is in order to see the giant insect exhibition - photos of that to come! 

The 4 year old had her ballet show last weekend which was lovely, with all of the dancers showing what they can do.  At the end, they all got certificates and then awards were given out for Achievement in ballet and street dance.  We didn't expect anyone from the baby ballet group to even be considered, so imagine our delight, when out of every ballet dancer, our littleist won the award!  To say we are very proud is an understatement!

Craftwise, I've just picked up this beauty from the library, in the hope that I may be able to make something this holiday!  We shall see!!!

Aren't these the cutest egg cosies?!

I've also signed up to Crochet Camp care of this blog  Our first project is a pot holder which I've yet to find time to start though!  If you're a beginner at crochet, or wanting to start, I'd recommend a look.  You can also find it on facebook.

Hope it's not too hot where you are!

G x

Saturday 13 July 2013

The Saturday Review

Today the blog takes on a slightly different aspect, a book review!  I've been reviewing books for a few years now, firstly for Waterstones, as part of their Book Circle, and when that finished for serendipity reviews  I love reading, though do struggle to read as many books as I used to do pre girlies.  However, even though my reviews get published on Viv's site, I thought I'd put them on here too.
My first review for here is a memoir that has just been published by Viv Groskop. I first came across Viv as she reviews the books for Red Magazine, and due to the power of twitter, I've tweeted her a bit over the past year or so.  We usually love the same books, so I've labelled us #booktwin when we tweet each other.  Her first book has just been published so she agreed to send me a copy in return for an honest review!  She also gave an interview for serendipity reviews which will go live next week.  Here's what I thought of her book:
I Laughed, I Cried: How one woman took on stand-up and (almost) ruined her life by Viv Groskop Published by Orion Books
 27th June 2013
288 pages

Everyone wished their life had turned out a certain way. What if you can still make it happen? Viv is fed up, recession-scarred and pushing forty. She always wanted to be a comedian. But surely that’s not advisable if you have a mortgage, three children and a husband who is, er, not exactly a fan of stand-up? With no time to waste, Viv attempts the mother of all comedy marathons: 100 gigs in 100 nights. Sometimes the audience laughs. Often they don’t. Along the way she is heckled, flattered, hated, hit on and told that she is ‘not as funny as Miranda.’ A brave new start or the last desperate roll of the dice? This is a laugh-out-loud, inspirational memoir about having the guts to find out what you were really meant to do with your life.

July 2011 The back room of a pub in Stockwell, south London. Close to 11 p.m. ‘Please welcome to the stage…’ Oh no, it’s me. Sometimes they don’t tell you where you are in the running order. I know I must be on soon as there are only a few slots left. But it still sometimes comes as a shock. As I register my name being called, the adrenaline kicks in. For a good few seconds I can’t breathe. I’m sitting near the back and I have to push through the crowd to get to the stage. Cheers, clapping, whoops of support. The applause dies down. It’s just me, a microphone and whatever I thought I was going to say. And – oh, yes – a massive white torture light shining in my face and blinding me. There’s a feeling, suddenly, that I have worn the wrong underwear: these pants are too tight and they are cutting into me. Not that anyone else knows this. I try not to let the information about the pants show on my face.

How do you go about doing something that you have always wanted to do, but not yet found the courage to do it? It’s what happens to Viv Groskop, wanna-be comedian. As a journalist, broadcaster and book critic, with three small children (and a husband), it’s not as if Viv’s life isn’t full enough already. Then she decides she wants to try stand-up. Not just once, but insanely, for 100 nights. That way she can finally find out if she is any good at it. 100 gigs in 100 nights. Simple really. Only it isn’t.

Viv’s gigs take her up and down the country, away from her family and the roles that she normally fulfils. Simon, her husband, suddenly becomes full-time parent as Viv can usually be found sleeping in during the morning school run, due to an early morning finish at a gig the night before, or leaving to perform at a gig just when the children need their tea and putting to bed. The cracks start to show; is this challenge really worth it? Away from her family, and in trying to achieve the impossible, Viv sometimes has to perform at more than one gig in a day, driving from London to Sheffield to perform to a mother and baby gig in the morning, then back down South to a seedy club, with little, or no audience whatsoever.

This is a warts-and-all tale of the risk one woman will take to find out if she really can fulfil her dream. Many of us have a vision of ‘what could have been’ but when push comes to shove, do we have the courage to go out and pursue it, or spend the rest of our lives thinking ‘if only?’ I really enjoyed Viv’s memoir of her 100 days of stand-up comedy. I certainly couldn’t do it. I admire her more for having done so.

G x

By the way, the 4 year old had her ballet show yesterday and only went and won the Achievement Award for Ballet out of every dancer!  Proud doesn't cover it!

Friday 12 July 2013

Just the two of us!

A rare day off for my and the hubby yesterday saw us at Ladies Day at Newmarket Races! Lots of champagne, and a three course meal whilst sitting in our box by the winning post! Lovely just to have some 'two of us' time together.

It's meant to be another nice weekend - we are off to the theatre to see James and the Giant Peach for the almost 7 year olds birthday treat! She doesn't know about it yet, and tonight the 4 year old is dancing in a ballet show to Puppet on a String!

 Have a good one

 G x

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Tales of Enid - part one

Introducing Enid!  This is my early birthday present, our holidaying in caravan Enid (so named as I envisage lots of Enid Blyton style jolly holidays in her)!

This weekend we decided to go away in Enid.  As it wasn't decided until lunchtime, and I had to work Friday afternoon, it was a bit of a rush, but as we had already booked a pitch we decided to go with the flow, and go!

As it was our first trip away, we decided not to go too far, just down the road to Bridgnorth, which is about an hour away.

We stayed at a pub with a large site, and a playground for the girlies to hang out in.  We could also take Megan with us which was important too.

We had a great weekend, the sun shone and temperatures got into the 30s.  Thankfully we managed to put the awning up with no problems so it meant we kept shady when the sun was at its peak.

Lots of time for this:

Colouring in our new books!

An appropriate article in the latest edition of Pretty Nostalgic magazine!

A little bit of reading...

...and crocheting - working on a blanket for Enid!

We managed a trip into Bridgnorth itself for a wander around the shops.  Girlies found a toy shop, and I managed a quick sneak into a charity shop or too! 

More yarn to crochet with - £1.50 a ball!

Pretty Monsoon top for £2.25!

More editions for my collection, and under £3 for the lot!
 Sunday came around all too soon and as we had to leave the site at 12 we were back in time for the Wimbledon finals - lots of shouting here for Andy Murray, and yes, I cried when he won!!!!

Two weeks left of school before we break up for the holidays, and we are hoping for lots more trips in Enid.  I think I had better book something before everywhere gets too full though. 

In the meantime, I've got more books to review

and a new project to work on.......

Meet Agatha!
 Remember I said I might be lucky on ebay last Monday?  Well I was, I won Agatha!  She's a 1983/4 Monza and is going to be my crafting caravan!  Once she is stabilised I can get inside her and show you just how totally immaculate she is inside.  No damp, or mustiness at all.  I am a very luck birthday girl (even though it's not until November)!!!

Hope the sun is shining where you are today.

G x