Loom Knitting

I got a set of knitting looms for Christmas and since New Year’s Day I’ve been doing a little everyday.  I seem to be getting the hang of it and so far I like it.

Here’s a picture of my first project on 2nd January 20160102_104200.jpg

I’d show you a picture of it today (much bigger and with added green yarn) but I reached a point where I needed to stop or turn it into something other than a mindless learning piece with no purpose.  I showed Mum when she came round earlier and I was thinking do a bit more and turn it into either a snood or a bag.

But then disaster struck and I made my second big mistake (my first big mistake was on my third ever round so it didn’t really matter). And I couldn’t fix it.  And it was just becoming more and more unravelled as I tried.

So I can’t show you a picture and it’s not going to be a snood or a bag. It’s going to be a pile of frogged yarn waiting to be made into something else. Which might then turn out to be a snood or a bag or maybe even a hat.

I’ve been researching and watched a few YouTube videos and although at first I thought you couldn’t do a lot with these beyond round items in stockinette stitch it seems the possibilities are basically endless.  So I’m keen to do more.

I don’t think it will ever replace regular knitting or crochet (which I seem to be enjoying the most at the moment) in my heart but it’s fun, easy and so far doesn’t require a lot of brain power which makes it the perfect thing to do while listening to audiobooks or watching TV.

My biggest complaint is I don’t know what to call it “I think I’ll go do some looming” makes little sense and although I think people refer to it as knitting that doesn’t feel right to me.  Because if I say I’ve been knitting there should be a pair of needles involved. Watch this space.

Opening Lines

Here are my Opening Lines of 2015 – the first line of the first blog post of every month.  I found this really interesting last year looking back so I wanted to do it again this year. Looking at these you’d think all I’d blogged about this year was self care and books. Link to the post is in brackets.

January – I promised myself I’d make more of my blogging this year. (Self Care Sunday)

February – This week has been a difficult one in many ways. (Self Care Sunday)

March – It’s generally been a terrrible week but there have been a few good moments and I’ve had a great day today despite a few moments of anxiety (new people, train faffing) (Self Care Sunday)

April – (I had intended to post this a couple of days ago but the last two have been good but busy) (A to Z Blogging Challenge)

May – I bought four books in Waterstones last Sunday.  (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Six)

June – I think I’m going to move these posts permanently to Monday. (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Ten)

July – A combination of a couple of train journeys – including to Birmingham and back – and several late nights sat enjoying the cool of the evening in the garden mean I think I’ve read the most this week that I have since I started writing these weekly “what I’ve been reading” posts. (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Fifteen)

August – For the small things worth mentioning but probably not worth a blog entry of their own (Random Bullet Points of Life)

September – I’ve enjoyed every single Colette Caddle book I’ve read and so when I saw her new book, A Summer Breeze, was available to review I was really keen to have a copy. (A Summer Breeze by Colette Caddle)

October – Language around disability is a really tricky thing. (“Special Needs”)

November – Once again I’ve been a bad blogger. (Bad Blogger)

December – Actual news, not personal news that is. (All Things News)

Merry Christmas!

It seems as though I’ve forgotten this blog over the last few months. I haven’t, I’ve thought of it often but not been writing. It’s not deliberate, it’s just the way things have gone for no real reason.  Lots of things I’ve thought of writing but not many have actually made it as far as fingers on keyboard and fewer still have made it as far as hitting the publish button.

I’ll be back in a few days with a wrap up post of 2015 I want to write (which may turn into two posts) and I plan to be back with a bang in January.  I’m taking the next few days off of the Internet and social media to rest and catch up on reading and films and things I’ve meant to do but not managed because I’ve been distracted by rubbish on the Internet (and not rubbish on the Internet too).

But for now I just wanted to post to thank everyone who reads this and  especially the few who take the time to comment for their support this year.  And most of all to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

With today being 8th December I decided it’s finally close enough to Christmas to break out the festive reads.  And I started with Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn.  That’s a digital original ebook novella published by Simon and Schuster who kindly provded me with a free copy to review.

Cover of Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn
Cover of Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

A perfect winter warmer novella for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey.

When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it’s not quite what they imagined – it’s pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it’s going to be a huge job to get it up and running again.

It’s just before Christmas but they are determined to relaunch on New Year’s Eve, to bring the new year in with a bang. But with nosy neighbours, miserable locals and no money to contend with, it’s not going to be easy.

And when the sisters’ past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…

Curl up with Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence – the perfect novella for those winter nights. 

At 90 pages this is a novella not a novel but it was the perfect length to curl up with in the hour or so before dinner after coming in from a busy day cold and tired.  It left me with a warm and festive feeling and I enjoyed it. Today was definitely the right day to start my Christmas reading and this was the right read to kick off with.

Ideally I would have liked it to be a bit longer because I enjoyed it and didn’t want it to end.  I wanted to hear more about the characters, especially Sam and loved the sound of the Star and Sixpence and the yummy cocktails (I want a cocktail now!).  But luckily there are two more installments in the series coming out next year so I will definitely pick those up.  I hope they might delve more into the back story of the sisters because those girls definitely have something lurking in their pasts and I want to know what. More of the love interest too would be good because that was a plot line I particularly enjoyed.

If you’re looking for something fun and festive to read you won’t go wrong with Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence.

 

All Things News

Actual news, not personal news that is.

Since June I’ve been volunteering as editor for Tenants’ Times -Soha’s community newspaper written by tenants, for tenants which comes out three times a year. I thought I blogged about that but if I did I can’t find it.  And as a part of that I’ve been doing a foundation course in Journalism once a month since October.  It’s interesting and I mostly enjoy it although cruch time for Tenants Times can be frantic and exhausting.

Yesterday I was part of a group of people (all community journalists from 4 different hyperlocal newspapers) who visited Newbury Weekly News.

Newbury Weekly News is a newspaper written, produced and printed in Newbury. They are one of only a few newspapers printed like that now.  The company also print other papers, most20151202_121829ly independents (community newspapers, newsletters, small local papers etc) – currently they print in the region of 60 titles covering an area from Cornwall to Manchester (a selection is in the picture).  This is one way in which the internet has changed things – previously they could only print stuff that people could physically get to them so their range was much smaller.

We got to have a look round, see the various teams working on putting it together in the offices – design, copy etc.  We chatted to the editor and several other people. Without exception everyone we met was so enthusiastic about news and about what they do and what we do with our papers and happy to answer questions and discuss things.  We learned about the history of the company (which was started in 1867) and heard various anecdotes.

After lunch (yummy!) and more chat we got to go look round at the physical production side and see the print presses (they have two complete presses) and also see the CTP area (computer to plate – where they take the computer files and turn them into physical aluminium plates for the presses.  Everything on both sides was so interesting and I could have stayed there chatting for a lot longer.  I also wished I had taken notes.  I did a bit of live tweeting over on the Tenants Times twitter account though.

A few stats and pics. Some of these seemed unbelieve to me and I’m not sure I’ll look at a newspaper in the same way again knowing so much more about what goes into making it.

20151202_133001Big rolls of paper.  There were loads of these as you might imagine. The ones in this picture are double width and contain in the region of 21KM of paper each which is enough to print 14,000 32 page newspapers. I didn’t make a note of this but I think they said these weigh over one ton each.

20151202_133424One of the printing presses. Four different colours of ink are used cyan, black, magenta and yellow.

20151202_133719I was intrigued how you could see a ghost like image of what had been printed on that press before (I assume most recently).

20151202_133950This is a not very clear (a bit too dark) picture of the well or tray (not sure what the technical term is) containing one of the colours of ink for the press – in this case Cyan or as I called it blue. 30kg of ink fits in those which was one of those numbers that made me think “wow that’s huge.” And in total Newbury Weekly News use 80 tons of ink yearly. Which is a number I can’t quite get my head round.
20151202_134820Many computer monitors were on the desk in the CTP (computer to plate) area. I’m not sure I’ve seen so many monitors on one desk before. When computer files arrive they have to be taken through various processes before the plates can be made and printing can begin. One of which is to adjust the colours/files from the three colour setting computers use to the four colour settings printing uses.

We also got to see some just made plates but I didn’t take any photos.  These are made from very high grade aluminium and are brand new. After their one use they are sent for recycling but the recycled product can’t be used for print plates again. The plates are photographic so the lighting where the machines were was yellow as normal light would damage them.

20151202_135853Part of the presses.
20151202_140555

Right before we left we saw the presses started and got to watch them in action. This showed finished pages on the tracks hanging down.  It takes approx 35 seconds to go from blank paper to finished newspaper.

It was such a fun and educational trip and I really enjoyed it. I’d like to thank everyone we met for their time and encouragement whilst we were there.

 

Back to Hogwarts #PotterBinge

The Estella Society are currently hosting #PotterBinge – a Harry Potter readalong between November 1st and 31st January. And I signed up but hadn’t got started rereading yet.  I was definitely going to but frankly I’ve not been reading lately.  I love the Harry Potter books but having reread Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone a few years ago I didn’t enjoy it as much.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read them but it’s a lot.

I could write a post of Harry Potter memories and at some point maybe I will. But that’s not what I wanted to write about today.

I’ve been wanting the audiobooks of Harry Potter for ages – I had the one of Order of the Phoenix when I was at uni but I never got through it all despite trying several times, some of the discs went missing and at least one got damaged.  It wasn’t available on Audible and even the digital downloads (which is what I’d want) were extortionate on Pottermore/Amazon (over £180 for all seven books).  Then  I saw a tweet on Friday I think that the books are now available on Audible for 1 credit each. And I had two credits so now I have the first two books on audiobook.

I’ve been listening to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone yesterday and today.  It’s playing as I write this.

I’m enjoying it – Stephen Fry is the perfect narrator for these.  My perspective as an adult is different to what it was the first time I read them as a late teen.  I’m not far into the book but I think this is the first time the actions of The Dursleys around the letter make me think of anxiety and trying to do their best for Harry in their own possibly misguided way.  I’d like to read more about that in fanfic.

I don’t know if part of the difference is just being older or if the fact it’s the audiobook (unabridged, I only get unabridged audiobooks). I’m a fast reader and audiobooks definitely take substantially longer than reading even though I tend to listen at 1.5x but it seems like I notice more of the details, the colour of books when I listen than when I read.  So some of the nuaunces of the book may be more obvious.

As a writer I love audiobooks too. Hearing the dialogue makes it clearer to me how it works.  I sometimes feel like dialogue is lacking in my writing and when I listen to a book I tend (if it’s the right book and I think Harry Potter is so far) to feel inspired and as though I can do better with it. Tips on how to show not tell (which I can really struggle with) have often come from audiobooks too. They say you can’t be a good writer unless you read a lot and read widely. But over the last few years I’ve begun to think you need to listen to audiobooks to be a good writer too.

15 in 31 Update

I set myself a goal of reading 15 books in the 31 days of October.  It was a challenge I saw on twitter and I was really behind with my reading goals so I thought why no give it a go.  I wrote about my reasons for doing it here.

Well now it’s the last day of October so I should probably write a post detailing my progress.  I’m terrible for posting about challenges and things I’ve decided to do and then not getting back here to update so this is my attempt at breaking that habit.  Of course part of the problem is that I’m also really really good at deciding to do things whilst also being really really bad at actually doing them.  I’m an ideas person not a doing person.

I didn’t actually manage to read 15 books this month.  I read 9.  Plus I’ve nearly finished an audiobook (I had hoped to finish that today but given how late it is that’s unlikely now) and I’ve read a bit of another book.  I’m really pleased that I’ve read as much as I have – my motivation for a lot of things, blogging, reading, crafting etc has been lacking this month because it’s been a bit of a boom and bust between busy busy busy and quiet and tired. Amongst all the other things that make up daily life I started a part time course, went to Birmingham for the day to visit a uni friend, went to London for two days, went to the end of season supper at the sailing club, had lots of problems with taxis and became an aunt.

The 9 books I read this month are:

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon.
  2. A Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemmingway
  3. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  4. An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls
  5. Star Trek New Frontier – The Returned part 3 by Peter David
  6. Still Reigning by @Queen_UK
  7. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
  8. The Little Flower Shop By The Sea by Ali McNamara
  9. Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

Some books I loved, others I liked. One I was disappointed by and one I felt like I didn’t understand. So all in all a mixed bag of reading.

Auntie Emma

Last week I became an Aunt for the first time! Several of my cousins have children as do one or two friends and lot of those kids know me as Auntie Emma (something which surprised me).  But last week I became a proper Auntie.  My brother and sister in law welcomed their first child which was really exciting.

Henry David Nicholas was born Tuesday 13th October 2015 weighing 8lb 1oz.

The level of excitement in the Crees family really had to be seen to be believed. I think in the past week most of us have fallen in love with the baby but calmed down somewhat. I haven’t seen my Mum with him since the weekend but I’m not sure the same could be said for the new Granny!

We didn’t know he was a boy but I’d been saying since the day I found out Geri was pregnant that I thought it would be a boy.  Until the day he was born when I was waiting for news and the word niece kept coming to mind and making me wonder if I was wrong.

Here are some photos (clicking on any photo brings it up bigger)

HENRY 008(photo shows me holding Henry when I met him in the hospital the day after he was born. It’s taken over my shoulder and my face isn’t visible. My shoulder and arm are, I’m wearing a bright pink fleece.  Henry is asleep with his eyes closed and has lots of dark hair)

20151014_154239Ben and Geri holding Henry in the hospital. Geri is in bed and they are looking at Henry, not at the camera.

20151014_155437

Me holding Henry in the hospital. He’s tucked against my shoulder and I’m smiling. The blanket I made for him is over him and I have one of my hands on top of it helping to support him/hold it in place.

cropped blanketThis is the blanket I made for Henry.  Photo was taken in my messy lounge and the light isn’t great for the colours (cream, beige like and a midbrown) but it shows the detail. It’s being held up in front of someone but their head is cropped out.  The blanket is crocheted and is made up of 25 granny squares joined together with a thick cream boarder round the whole blanket.  For some reason I always thought granny squares were too complicated for me but when I set to learning to make them for this blanket I quickly got the hang of them and after several trial runs to get colour combos and hook sizes right I now love making them.

I have loads more photos – I swear between all the people he’s met thousands must have been taken – but a lot of them are still on my phone so I’ll leave this here.  But I reserve the right to do the excited Aunt thing and post more soon (I went to something new yesterday and was asked in advance to prepare a presentation introducing me. My slides were all photos and I put one of Henry with the blanket I made him in – snuck it in on the excuse I could talk about my crafts. But really I put another photo in for crafts and used that photo of Henry to boast about being a new aunt)>

Readathon – October 2015

It’s the readathon today!

Usually on the morning of the readathon (it runs lunchtime to lunchtime in the UK) I would go buy supplies. But I’ve been waiting in to get my broadband fixed (and fixed it is!) so with an hour to go I’m off to Sainsburys quickly.

I’d like to read 4 books but I’ll be very happy with 3 and would settle for two.

2:45pm update: I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami for the last week or two and so far I’ve listened to that for 33 minutes (I was listening at 1.5x speed so actually listened to around 45 minutes of it) of that while putting my shopping away and making and eating a sandwich. I had intended to listen for 30 minutes but I did the extra couple of minutes to finish the chapter.

5:08pm update: I treated myself to two new books when I had an hour or so to kill after the wheelchair rugby yesterday in Westfield Stratford. What can I say? They have Foyles in Westfield and I love Foyles and rarely get to one (although as they know have a branch in Grand Central in Birmingham I may get to one slightly more often now). One of the books (Wicked by Gregory Maguire) is something I’ve been wanted to read ever since I saw Wicked the Musical last year, keep looking at in bookshops and not buying. I decided yesterday was the day to finally buy it.  But that’s not a readathon book because I want to take my time with it.

The second book I bought was An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls.  She’s a kidlit writer I’ve read other books by and know they are short but fun books that I enjoy a lot. Plus it has a gorgeous cover so I couldn’t resist buying it.  It’s got 221 pages and I read it cover to cover in just over an hour and a half – the way it’s spaced/typed etc means it’s an extremely quick 221 pages as several pages are blank.

8:31pm Update: Since I last updated I’ve read another book. Star Trek: New Frontier – The Returned Part 3 by Peter David. That’s a novel that’s being seralised in ebook format over three parts and it had 171 pages. I was a little disappointed by this. I love Star Trek books and Peter David is my favourite author. This had all the things I love about his writing but didn’t seem as good as previous. I know from reading serialised novels in other genres that I’m not a massive fan of the format and I suspect I may have enjoyed this a lot more had it been a whole book. However the editing also left something to be desired – the main character in another Star Trek series is mentioned once and her name was spelled the wrong way.  I’d like to read all three parts back to back and see if I get more from it that way. But I’m not sure I will.

I also listened to some of more of Dance Dance Dance while sorting dinner – another 35 minutes.  I’m beginning to suspect I’ll finish that during the Readathon but I think it’ll be back to the books for my next read. I’m gonna take a break for a little while first though.

Update 12:41 am: this will be my last update until tomorrow morning my time as I’m going to bed once this is posted.  I found it hard to get back to reading after my break to eat my dinner.  But I did eventually get back to it and listened to another 10 minutes or so (another chapter) of Dance Dance Dance.  I then read Still Reigning by @Queen_UK on my Kindle which has 272 pages according to goodreads, amazon and my kindle but frankly it felt shorter and I’d have guessed 172 pages.  That may just be because it’s short chapters on a variety of subjects made it fly by. I used to love @Queen_UK tweets but they’ve gone downhill later. And I really loved Gin O’Clock.  Still Reigning however I didn’t enjoy as much. I was glad I read it because I was curious and keen to read it but if a third comes out I probably won’t.

Sleep time.

Update 10:44 am. I wasn’t up as early as planned but I’m now listening to the end of Dance Dance Dance.

11:33 Update: I’ve finished Dance Dance Dance, listening to another 38 minutes to do so.  This is probably going to be my last readathon update because I can’t fit another whole book in in the time left and I have some writing and other stuff I need to get done before going to visit my very new nephew (he was born on Tuesday) and the rest of my family in the late afternoon.  But once I’m home this evening I’m planning to read If On a Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino.  I was planning to read that this morning and finish Dance Dance Dance but frankly I went back to sleep after my alarm went off.

I’ve really enjoyed this readathon – two of my three reading challenges are looking much healthier for doing so.  But it’s fair to say a lot of what I thought I’d read when I was hosting the @readathon twitter account earlier in the week and when I posted my pre-readathon post I didn’t. Which is cool, I’d suspected I wouldn’t. I’m hoping that I can finish the several books I’m in the middle over of the next few days and get it looking much better.  I’m also really excited because I won a $15 book from BookDepository as a door prize for taking part in the readathon and I’ve asked for Katy by Jaqueline Wilson which I’ve been really wanting to read but was waiting for it to come out in paperback. Yay!

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on this post – I hope to get round and visit blogs etc in the next few days.

Running total: 3 books, 664 pages, 1 hour, 56 minutes of audiobook

Readathon thoughts and tips

Readathon blog.
For the last four years or so (I think) I’ve been taking part in Dewey’s 24 hour readathon every April and October. My first readathon was an October so I think the one this Saturday/Sunday will be my 9th.
I enjoy the readathon and get a lot out of it. So much so that I’ve been spending a few hours this week running their Twitter account @readathon. I’ve enjoyed that too and at some point soon I must add some of the people I’ve chatted to there to those I follow on my own account. Meeting new people is one of the best things about the readathon for me. The best thing is obviously the books.
Over the last however many years I’ve learnt about what does and doesn’t work for me with the readathon. Here are a few thoughts/ideas/tips/tricks about that.
The most important thing is to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you read one page, one chapter, one book or ten. If you take part, if you read you’ve met the most important goal.  
That’s something I tend to struggle with remembering during the event when I’m seeing others update that they’re on their 400th page and I’m not as far as I’d like to be. I sometimes get to the point where I’m like “this readathon thing is a ridiculous idea I can’t keep up, I’m never doing it again!” At some point I’ll come to my senses and realise it’s not a race. And I always come back to it the next readathon. 
So my second point/tip is linked to that. Recognise where you’re at and plan your reading and your day around that. Equally recognise that sometimes what you’ve planned isn’t what you need at that time and it’s ok to go off plan.
If you’ve been reading my readathon tweets you might know that I would love to really get stuck into a long classic book and was thinking about doing that this weekend. But based in the fact every single person who replied when I posted that said shorter books were the way forward and thinking about what my week is like I’ve shelved that plan.
My week is full of fun things but it’s busy. And I have a physical disability which doesn’t affect my reading but does cause fatigue. I also have depression which doesn’t usually affect my reading but is worsened by fatigue. I’m looking forward to everything I have on this week and think the readathon is going to be a good way to recharge.
But my plans are taking that into account and are much longer than I need to give me choice and the chance to abandon something if it isn’t working for me.

I’ve got in mind

A YA book by a favourite author – I often fly through her books and her YA one is about 100 pages shorter than her usual adult fiction.

The final part of a serialised Star Trek novel by my absolute favourite Star Trek writer.

An audiobook 

A book from a childhood favourite series (not sure which series yet)

Something by Ian McEwan. I just discovered him properly last week and want to visit the library and see what other books of his they have.

Perhaps a shorter classic.

And because he seems to often feature in the readathon for me this list looks wrong without adding a mention of a possible Haruki Murakami book
I’ve also got in mind taking a break from my wheelchair to read, going to my favourite coffee shop to read for a bit, my favourite easy dinner and lots of sleep around the reading.
How do you see the readathon working for you?