Tuesday 27 October 2015

What's happening in my world

Earlier this week Rinda wrote an interesting post which was a variation on a meme that she found hereAs I'm home this week there is no excuse for not doing a blog post or two so thought I would join in with the idea.  
 1.  What’s the title of the last book you read? 
I have just finished the last in a trilogy of books written by Jonathan Holt.  They are fabulous!  It's hard to recommend books to people because everyone has their own taste so whilst I feel like shouting from the rooftops that everyone should read these three books I do realise that they may not be everyone's cup of tea.  In order of reading, they are The Abomination - (this may have a different title in some places) The Abduction,and The Traitor.  It's rare that my husband and I both enjoy the same book but he is hooked on these too!  They are mysteries set in Venice and a lot of the activity is linked to US military bases there.  There's a bit of political background going on without it being heavy going.  I'm not spoiling anything by telling that the Carnivia part of the titles refers to a website which has been set up by one of the characters where you can enter the world of Carnivia, which is a realistic copy of Venice, but are completely anonymous.  Needless to say, this gives people the opportunity to lead a double life, to lead a lifestyle or join groups which would be frowned upon or not be permitted in 'real life'. We're talking murders, Masonic groups, kidnapping, a bit of romance and a lot of intrigue. 
2.     What is the last thing you cooked at home? 
A friend of mine came for coffee yesterday and brought with her a large bag of windfall apples from the tree in her garden.  I've just peeled and chopped them all and part-cooked them ready to freeze for future apple crumbles.  While they were stewing I made a batch of sultana scones.  I'm looking forward to having one with a coffee after I've finished here!

3.      What is your favorite thing about Fall? 
The colours in the gardens and parks.  The leaves are so beautiful. 
4.     Share one thing that challenged you at some point over the last week.
Good job I wasn't doing this last week after the infamous excel melt down incident!  This week I've been trying to get my head around quantities of fabric needed to complete the quilt I'm making for my sister's Christmas present.  I'm not following a pattern, and adapted a quilt square I'd used before in a larger size and let's just say that there have been a few 'oh no, I'm not sure I've got enough of that fabric' moments!  However, with a bit of economical cutting, I've got all 16 squares cut and sewn now and I feel like I'm on the right track again.  But there was a moment ... Here's the work in progress, one more row to add before borders, binding and backing commence! 
5.     List three hobbies that you actively pursue or want to pursue. 
Sewing.  It's my number one craft at the moment.  Cooking.  I just love cooking, trying out new recipes and planning dinners.  Mandalas.  I got into these when I was doing the Summer of Colour and then lost the impetus, but it's something I definitely want to get back into doing.
6.      What is the most recent sporting event  you watched? 
The rugby.  I drew Australia in the sweepstake at work is in the final so I feel like I have a vested interest even though poor old England were wiped out in the very early stages.
7.     Besides watching "live TV," what service do you use to watch TV or films (netflix, on demand, etc.)?
We don't have Netflix or anything like that so if it's not on live tv or 'catch up', I don't see it!
8.     Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 
Yes.  It's early for me but I have a couple of presents that need to go overseas and I decided that I must be more organised this year rather than queuing at the post office on the last posting date.
9.      Do you have any upcoming trips?
No.  I have a few ideas of things I'd like to do next year but will wait until the New Year to actually book anything.
10.    Do you remember your dreams? 
Yes.  Vividly.  Colours, conversations - everything.  Not every day, but when I do recall them they are crystal clear.
So that's what's happening in my world; if you fancy joining in copy and paste the list and jump right in!
1.     What’s the title of the last book you read?
2.     What is the last thing you cooked at home? 
3.      What is your favorite thing about Fall? 
4.     Share one thing that challenged you at some point over the last week.
5.     List three hobbies that you actively pursue or want to pursue. 
6.      What is the most recent sporting event  you watched? 
7.     Besides watching "live TV," what service do you use to watch TV or films (netflix, on demand, etc.)?
8.     Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 
9.      Do you have any upcoming trips?
10.    Do you remember your dreams? 


Monday 26 October 2015

Me on a half term Monday

Well Hello Monday, come on in and let's give a big old Monday wave to Sian and the rest of the Me on Monday-ers.  What's that?  I seem remarkably perky for a Monday, could it have anything to do with it being half term?  No work for me today! 
Saturday found me test driving a new floor map (what a glamorous life I lead) and really cracking on with my quilt. Having done all the cutting and matching, the squares started to come together quickly and I'm reaching the part that I love, when you can see what it's going to look like
A final job for the day was to make sure all our clocks were altered so that when we woke on Sunday they were correct for going back an hour.  No chores for me on Sunday though. We were invited to our son's for lunch.
What a treat, someone else cooking Sunday lunch!  It was a really lovely day and great to have the family all together.  Even Coco came, although she missed the photo shoot as she was on Squirrel Watch in another room. She loved the fact that she could stand up at the window sill and have a brilliant view of the garden and people walking by.
So before I tell you what I'm up to today, let me share a story which happened last week and made me feel every one of my 57 years.  You see one of my jobs is to compile the school newsletter which I actually quite enjoy even though getting people to write articles is sometimes like getting blood out of that proverbial stone.  Some of our Sixth Formers are participating in the Dragon's Apprentice Challenge and had written me an article.  They are given a set amount of money and have a year to generate as much money from that starter to finance any charity events they organise.  So they wrote me an article.  The first group are raising money for the YMCA.  The second, YCT a counselling service for young people.  The third - and I quote - is:
Age Concern -  a meeting place for the over 55's. It provides elderly people with great venue to meet new people, enjoy good, hot food and participate in a variety of activities.
Hang on a minute.  Over 55 qualifies as Age Concern? Over 55 = elderly?  Oh my goodness. How old did that make me feel?  No matter how carefully you highlight those silver strands in your hair, no matter how tastefully on trend you may try and dress, those pesky Sixth Formers apparently classify you as 'elderly'!  There's a thought to start the week on. 
So today marks the start of a week away from work and I have a caffeine filled day in store.  A friend who is a teacher coming over for coffee this morning and this afternoon meeting up with a group of friends at CafĂ© Nero in town.
And a lot of quilt sewing in between.  In fact I can't think of a better way of spending a Monday, not being at work, meeting friends and doing something crafty.  A pretty good start to the week off.  Hope your Monday holds good things too!

Monday 19 October 2015

Me on the Monday after the Friday before

I did not want to go into work this morning. It wasn't just the normal Monday morning blues.  Those who know me on Facebook will have seen that I had an atrocious day on Friday and came home seriously considering leaving. Without boring you, let's just say that a 26 column, 12 worksheet sized excel spreadsheet was involved, along with three mail merge letters. I came home from work so wound up, and as I came in the kitchen my husband casually said 'how was your day?' Which prompted me to start having a 'bit' of a rant which turned into tears of frustration and there was an obvious moment when I could see from his face that he realised this wasn't a normal reply that he could get away with not listening to properly, and that he needed to pay attention as clearly the words 'what do you think I should do?' were about to be said.  If I was built with a 'rewind' button, he would certainly have been skipping back a bit so he could see exactly where the conversation all started to go downhill!
Anyway I calmed down, moaned about it a lot, made a status update on Facebook and was so touched by the words of support I was sent online. My sister was so moved by people's comments she rang me up to say what a lovely bunch of friends I have!  But I still wasn't keen to return this morning, thank goodness I had a nice lunch with friends to look forward to when I finished my half day.
Me on Monday - a flat iron steak in a baguette with caramelised onions, two good friends to help put the world to rights, lots of laughs and gossip.  A perfect antidote to the horrendous Friday.
The weekend went by in a flash.
Saturday was spent baking and sewing, followed by an Indian take-away with a group of friends.  Very good therapy for the technically stressed. 
Sunday was a 'having Grandma over for lunch' day.  My mother in law is a little very hard of hearing but is adamant she can hear a pin drop (she must have some particularly heavy, noisy pins) and refuses to wear her hearing aid. Anyone walking by the house must think we spent our afternoon shouting at her!  Sometimes she tries to second guess what we are going to say which leads to some rather interesting conversations where we are talking at total cross purposes.  Oh the joys of being 88. Our daughter went to a dog show at the Excel centre in London and came home with all manner of treats for Coco.  Including a rather smart bow.  It was supposed to be her Christmas outfit but she couldn't wait to try it on for size.
 Giving a big wave to Sian who had the idea of Me on Monday.

Thursday 15 October 2015


I've always been interested in space travel - watching that moon landing on the TV when I was eleven obviously had a profound effect on me.  I've never been tempted to send my CV into NASA though, clearly the fact that I'm too scared to step foot in a lift doesn't bode well for being encased in a lunar capsule hurtling through space for months on end. 
Matt Damon has been turning up on a few chat shows recently, promoting his new film The Martian, and I thought it sounded like my kind of film.  Can you imagine being left behind on a planet because the rest of your crew thought you were dead and the next scheduled landing was four years away?  I'm not sure that I'd cope awfully well with that.  Also, no internet?  No phone? So I suggested to my husband that we should go and see it.  We hadn't been to see a film for years, in fact neither of us could remember what it was, but last time we went it was touch and go as to whether we'd get in (must have been something very popular) so to ensure no disappointment we pre-booked our tickets in advance to pick up at the cinema.

To say we needn't have bothered in an understatement.  The foyer was empty apart from a girl behind a counter selling giant boxes of popcorn and litres of cola and as we walked down to screen three I said 'I wonder how many people will be in here?'  As we pushed open the doors it was quite obvious that we were the only people there!  10 minutes later the doors opened again and the audience doubled in size with the arrival of two boys.  Talk about a private screening! 
It made me think back to going to the cinema as a child.  There was one cinema in town and there was only one screen - no choice of film.  The internet hadn't been invented then so you couldn't pre-book, you had to factor queuing time into your schedule and normally the queue would be going round the block.  If you were going with a group of friends it wasn't unknown for 2 people to queue and then 8 others turn up to join them as you got closer to the door.  This was not always popular with the people behind you! 
After anxiously approaching the front of the queue, you'd get your tickets and go up the stairs where an usherette would meet you and guide you with her torch to a vacant seat.  There was usually a few adverts for the local Chinese take-away and the local cycle shop, then a short film before the lights went up briefly for the usherette to reappear with her tray of ice creams.  Tiny tubs with little wooden spoons.  Then the lights would dim, everyone would settle down into their seats and the main film would start.  I don't ever remember going to the cinema without nearly every seat being taken. 
At the end of the film they would play the National Anthem and as we got older standing up while it played was very un-cool, so it became a race to predict when the final credits would stop rolling and make sure you were already out the door before the music started.  Hard to imagine that nowadays eh?  I wonder when they stopped doing that. 
Are you thinking of seeing The Martian?  Have you already seen it?  I'm not sure I would have been as resourceful as Matt Damon, but luckily it's highly unlikely for me to be put in that situation.  Unless of course NASA find a way of making space capsules less lift-like and raise the age limit on applicants. Quite significantly.  Also, I'm pretty sure I'd be too short for the space suits.  Do they come in a Petite range do you think?

Monday 12 October 2015

Me on a mid October Monday

I decided back in the summer that I was going to make my sister a quilt as her Christmas present.  Having bought fabric quite a while ago I decided on Saturday that it was finally time to take scissors to it and get sewing, because the longer I left it, the more likely it was that I'd never get round to doing it.
It felt good to have all the sewing equipment out again, although it naturally led to dinner being later than planned as time just flies when that sewing machine comes out! 
My son offered to take his girlfriend's brother to look round the University of the South Bank on Saturday as he'll be applying to UCAS very soon.  Now, we knew that our surname Keyworth is also a place in Nottingham, but we didn't realise quite how famous we were in London too.  Not only is there a Keyworth Centre at the University but in order to get there you have to travel down here ... 

Mary Poppins may have had 'raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens' but I also had a few of my favourite things going on Sunday morning.  Rediscovering my old faithful Simply Red Albums (yes I still remember ALL the words); Singing along to ALL the songs at the top of my voice {remind me never to apply for Britain's Got Talent} as I had the house to myself for a couple of hours; turning the blackberries we picked last week into a blackberry and apply crumble for lunch and getting a few more of those quilt blocks made

So where does that leave Me on Monday?  Well I'm waving frantically to Sian, who organised this meme and also taking advantage of the sunshine and taking the dog and the husband for a walk around the fields in the town where I grew up.  I mistakenly thought it might be muddy so was dressed in wellies which seriously hampered me in keeping up with them.  Once that dog gets the smell of rabbits in her nostrils, nothing will hold her back!
Before escaping to the great outdoors I had already worked my half day today.  Had a cheeky little smile to myself as I realised the importance of naming Excel spreadsheets appropriately.  Remember those aptitude tests from last week?  Well they happened on Saturday so this morning was spent co-ordinating all the results.  There were several parts to the sports tests: endurance, balance, speed, agility with large balls, accuracy with small balls etc.  I decided to name the sheets according to the teacher who had been responsible for scoring them, followed by a short term for the section of the test.  I was fine with 'Melanie - Balance', and 'Zoe - Endurance' but when I got to 'Richard - Small Balls' I had a little smirk and realised that this is how nicknames get started!  I'll never look at him in the same way again ;-)
Thank goodness I can pull myself together to find the new edition of my Quilting magazine had been delivered, perfect timing for a sit down and a cup of tea. Hope your Monday is equally relaxing! 

Monday 5 October 2015

Me on an October Monday

The dynamics of the home changed this weekend. Our son came back for the weekend. He took over the remote control, politics was discussed, football scores were under discussion and rugby was watched.  The less we say about the last one there the better ...
Strictly Come Dancing was recorded to be enjoyed at a later time when conversation about the new leader of the Labour Party and the worth of the footballer who scored five goals in 20 minutes is over. It's amazing how different things are by adding one 25 year old male back into the fold. I think my husband relishes these changes in conversation subjects and I love hearing them discussing things that I either know little about, or don't enjoy discussing.  I was happy to listen to their chat in the background while I made a big batch of chilli con carne and jacket potatoes, and wait for our daughter and her boyfriend to arrive to complete the family reunion

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and a long dog walk turned into a fruit picking event.

Blackberries harvested and sloes picked ready to make the annual sloe gin.  We hadn't gone prepared with containers but ever the resourceful family, fortunately each of us found spare poo bags (clean and unused) in our pockets which were soon used to carry our goodies home.  An unexpected benefit of being a dog owner. We must have made a strange sight on the way home though, each of us carrying a couple of full bags - the neighbours must think the dog has some odd and unpleasant digestive trouble!
It's a busy week for me at work, so Me on Monday saw me at my desk drowning in a sea of letters and excel spreadsheets.  Ours is a very popular school so people are desperate to get their daughters admitted.  Each year we have an intake of 160 and we offer 10% of places to those who gain the highest scores in musical and/or sport aptitude tests.  That's 16 places in total - 8 for music and 8 for sport.  But I've had 248 applicants to take the tests!  Some take one, some the other and some take both.  Plus I have to find out if they've applied to any of the other local schools who do the same tests so we can make sure they are only entered once.  It's a logistical nightmare but I think we're almost there ...

Remember those blue skies and sunny days we had last week?  The bright but warm autumnal feel to the air?  Well it's gone.  We woke up to drizzle this morning, which turned to heavier rain and I've nudged the temperature up on the heating thermostat.  Lunch was a warming leek and potato soup and a hunk of bread, whilst reading a magazine. 
Now I've warmed up a bit I'm giving up a wave to SianWhy not pop over to her blog and see what she is up to today!

Thursday 1 October 2015

My reading habits

One of my favourite blogs to read is Julie's.  Her sense of humour and style of writing always makes me smile and I love to see when her updated blog post shows up in my reading panel. Do you read her blog?  If not, then you are missing a treat, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.  She's one of those bloggers that I think would be really fun to meet.  Although she doesn't like dogs so I don't think there's any point inviting her round any time soon!  She recently wrote a post here about books and suggested people join in with the theme so without further ado, I'm going to jump right in.  Even though I do only have two photos of me reading and both times I'm not alone!  (Look away now Julie, both involve my four legged friend)

Q: Do you have a certain place at home to read?
Now, it may seem a little odd to sit in a dog's bed and read a book and I promise you that isn't my 'certain place'.  We have a new librarian at work and she had a idea for a competition where students had their photo taken of them reading in an unusual place.  As always she also wanted staff to join in too.  The winning entries included a girl in a wheelie bin and one half way up a climbing wall in the gym.  Mine was very tame in comparison!
So in reality, my favourite reading place in the evening is in bed.  No matter what time I go to bed I have to have a short while reading a chapter (or two) of my book.   Daytime reading is best carried out in the conservatory, curled up in the armchair with the sun coming in through the windows.   Another favourite place is laying on a sun lounger on a beach or by a pool.  Accompanied by frequent offers of drinks and snacks of course.
Q: Reading at home or everywhere?
Everywhere.  If ever I have an appointment at the doctors, opticians or whatever I cannot just sit and wait.  I have to have something to read.  And isn't it always the way that your name is called just as you are getting to a good bit?
There's always the dilemma of how much reading material to take on holiday.  I usually take a couple of proper paper books and then download a few onto my Kindle.  I couldn't rely on just the Kindle because what would happen if the battery charger broke and I was half way through a book?  Can you imagine - thousands of miles from home and nothing to read? Also, picture this.  We're sitting on the plane, having just taken off from Stansted to go to Lisbon.  I get out my book, husband gets out his kindle.  'Oh dear' he says and shows me the message that tells him that the battery life is almost zero and to plug into a power source immediately.  'I knew there was something else I was going to charge up before we came away.  I don't suppose you brought the charger lead with you did you?' No I didn't, because I was taking a book, and they don't need charging.  Reading material for husband is now a tourist guide to the city and the in flight magazine advertising Pringles and cheese baguettes. 
Q: Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?
I'm not a great listener of music to be honest, apart from the daily commute to work when I am the karaoke queen of sing a long and there's nothing very musical about that I can assure you!  Despite being a woman and therefore a ninja multi-tasker, I can't watch TV and read at the same time, unless it's dipping into a new recipe book which doesn't involve total concentration.

Q: Do you eat or drink while reading?
I certainly do.  It's thirsty work and a drink's too wet without something foody to go with it.
Q: Reading aloud or silently in your head?
Silently in my head.  Although I have to confess that sometimes I do feel the need to share a particularly interesting or amusing passage.  Whether anyone wants
 to hear it or not.
Q: One book at a time or several at once?
One at a time.  I get so engrossed in books that I can't share the emotion around. 

Q: Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or number of pages?
There has to be a proper stopping point.  "Just to the end of the next paragraph/chapter" is the answer to many a late night 'how much longer are you going to need that bedside light on for?' question.  And if I'm reading in the waiting room at the doctor's surgery, it is very inconvenient if they call my name at an inopportune moment.

Q: Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Bookmark for a book of fiction but my recipe books are full of random bits of paper.  Which fall out and then I can't find where they were so it's not the best way of marking a page!  I did make a batch of origami book marks that Julie showed on her blog once but they seem to have been used up marking important recipes.  I need to make more!

Q: Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?
I can't believe you would even ask that question.  Never would I read ahead!  Skip pages?  I stopped doing that after I left school!  Actually when we were reading Nostromo by Joseph Conrad I skipped most of the book and just read the revision notes.  And still I passed the exam so is there a moral to this story? 
Q: Do you ever write in books?
Absolutely not! I hope our Librarian isn't reading these questions, she'll need a lie down and a glass of brandy if she finds out there are people out there who write in their books.

In a reading related post I think it's appropriate to share how much I've learned by the experience of my friend who has recently left work to become a full time author.  She's just finished her 3rd book and is researching plots for her 4th.  You wouldn't believe what goes on behind the scenes between the author finishing the last sentence and the publisher going to press.  It's absolutely fascinating to hear about the process from the other side of the book cover.  I also get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from seeing her work in a book shop, I can't begin to imagine how happy it makes her!  In fact, once when delayed at Gatwick she saw her book on sale in WHSmith and spoke to the manager of the outlet who then proceeded to arrange an impromptu book signing.  How brilliant is that?! 
So those are my answers.  Are you a book reader?  Why not join in and show us
your answers too.