Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Year in Books 2015: May

I am so far behind in catching up that I think I am just going to start again from where I am! I know this makes little sense but right now I am beginning to resemble the White Rabbit haring around and never quite making up the time or catching up with myself. We are five months down the line and I am just posting my first Year in Books post to join in with Laura and all the other readers which is shocking. I have been reading/listening just not posting!
April's read was the new Bob Skinner book by Quintin Jardine which I read on kindle. I am always a little ambivalent about ebooks but the convenience, syncing between devices, being able to read with the light off in bed as well as quickly checking things that arise in the book online does have its advantages.

The book was readable and has the familiarity of characters that I've 'known' and seen developed for 20 or so years. 'Big' Bob is on some sort of sabbatical as he hates the idea of the integrated Police Scotland and has decamped to Spain where he helps out an old friend which in turn helps him decide where his future direction will lie.

It was a good enough book, enjoyable for me due to the familiarity, but not one of his best. Normally his books will focus on some key individuals but many of the others are woven through the story in the background. I felt it was rather pedestrian as it had a fairly limited cast of characters and was mainly set in Spain which is where the author spends much of his time. I finished this today on my phone while abortively sitting waiting in an X-Ray Dept for scans which I had to reschedule due to the glacial pace of the dept. as I had other meetings to attend. This kind of thing is where ebooks come into their own.

If you haven't read any QJ and enjoy the Ian Rankin/James Oswald crime-novel-set-in-Edinburgh genre then these are definitely worth a look. Its not as dark and curmugeonly as Rebus and the only spooks come from MI5 but it is a pretty contemporary read as everyone has aged and kept pace with time. Incidentally Quintin is very caught up with the male characters in his books being constantly described as 'Big'...Big Bob, Big Mario, Big McIllhenney...etc. I met him at a book signing last year and asked him why? but he reckoned it was just the Scottish thing about prefacing men's names with either 'Big' or 'Wee'. That aside the female characters feature strongly and he's very equality and diversity minded as they get a fair share of promotions and positioning.
May's book is the delightfully titled Paw Tracks in the Moonlight by Denis O'Connor which was recommended to my by a lovely Instagrammer @seriouslyrubylicious who has the most stunning Maine Coon cats. I'm falling in love with these giants of the feline world again after having been put off some time ago by the bad tempered MC which used to belong to a friend. I am off to bed to start reading this book tonight and am hopeful I'll love it.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Crafty Treat

Today was a very good day to treat myself. There has been a fair bit happening recently and by this afternoon I decided some 'be-nice-to-myself-time' and a bit of retail therapy was in order.
I haven't visited Queen Margaret Drive in ages but I was visiting nearby and decided it was high time for a tiny wander as two of my favourite shops are just a couple of doors from each other. QMD follows on at the top of Byres Road and runs past the Botanic Gardens and over the River Kelvin. It also used to be the location of the old BBC Scotland Headquarters before they moved to the riverside.
 
Kibble Palace at the Botanic Gardens and the spire to the left is is Oran Mor which does A Play, A Pie and A Pint at lunchtimes.  
View over the Bridge and along the River Kelvin 
No idea what this tree is but it looked amazing. If anyone knows please do tell.
 My first visit was to the marvellous Opal Moon which stocks a wonderfully eclectic range of pretty and mystical things.
 I love that they even think of the four legged customers who might be passing.
It's a tiny tardis of a shop and there must be magic afoot as I've never known how Joan packs so much stock in. It's also the kind of place you can never leave without a perfect little something for yourself or as a gift. The first thing to catch my eye, or more accurately my nose, was the beautifully scented wax tart which is already in my burner and bringing a calming aroma to the room right now.
Then I was totally delighted when I realised they had managed to get the lovely little angel cards back in stock.
Many spiritual shops will have a bowl on the desk for you to randomly select one as a message from your angel. They are lovely and I've been after a set for ages. Today was obviously my lucky day!
You can store them in their own box but mine are now in a gold bowl on the chest of drawers beside the front door for me to choose one each morning and for friends to select one when they come to visit.  
They even came with some bonus angel stickers which is nice.
The next visit was to Yarn Cake for yarn, cake and to see if they had any handled crochet hooks.
Its taken me until the last few rows of my chenille poncho to realise my carbonised bamboo hook is kind of dragging the yarn and a handled hook might make things more comfy for my wrists. I lost my  5.5mm aluminium hook on the train journey down to London.
Obviously, cake, coffee and chatter had to be partaken of before any gruelling decisions regarding what to buy. The hook choice was simple though, and I bought a 5.5mm Clover Soft Touch for the poncho and a 4mm KnitPro Waves for general use. I was also delighted to get a snap of their new sheepy cake label holders but less delighted I couldn't get one to follow me home.....*big petted lip time*.
I decided to save my yarn purchase till next week when they are having their Yarn Shop Day with discounts. Technically, this means I will SAVE money but I think we all know I will use the saving to buy more yarn. I may also have to have more cake and coffee while I ponder what I'll purchase again.....! Apparently, to get the discount you have to tell Antje, the owner, that you love her. She said she'd tried this last year and it was quite hilarious from the extravagant expressions of adoration to others whispering it in an embarrassed tone.

I hope you've enjoyed our trip to QMD. It certainly cheered me up and I'm just sorry I can't send you a piece of the amazing warm from the oven Rocky Road Brownie, handmade by Antje. It was exactly as scrummy as it sounds!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Happy World Book Night 2015 and Giveaway

Happy World Book Night 2015!
I didn't apply to be a giver this year but neither did I want to miss out on celebrating it. So I joined in at an event in Glasgow Women's Library where they were having readings from a number of participants' favourite books. I particularly enjoyed the passages from a book called 'The House on Mango Street' which I'd like to read.
I've never visited a Women's library before but they were very welcoming and it was lovely to hear the readers share a part of a favourite book and why they had chosen it. There was a quiz, a really hard quiz. Well, I found it really hard but some others were giving it baffled looks as well so maybe there is hope for me.
They had a number of WBN books and were happy if anyone wished to take some extras. So I asked if they would mind me taking some for a giveaway, which is where you come in.
There are five books in total and if you fancy one then please just leave a comment. 
If you have a particular preference let me know and I'll see if I can accommodate the request if you are a winner.
Four books are from WBN and the small one above and below is a collection of Scottish recollections of home.
I'm particularly looking forward to reading this one as I love social history and reading the thoughts and lived experiences of others. Probably why I enjoy blog reading so much!

There are no hoops to jump through, no tricky questions - just leave me a comment and I'll draw the winners on Sunday 26th Apr 15. I'll post internationally too if you are a winner so all are welcome.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Cute & Free Plant Labels

I was looking for nice plant labels for some roses and shrubs I'd bought but nothing took my fancy. As I was making a cup of coffee I realised I could cannibalise the white plastic from the milk container. Even better it would be both free and come with recycling brownie points!

Kit
White milk container (Note to self: avoid washing in really hot water as it goes all wonky and melt-y!)
Scissors
Craft Punch/s
Hole punch or eyelet kit
Permanent marker
Covered wire or string

Making the labels:
Firstly I cut up the milk container to get as many flat surfaces as possible,
and used a spare piece to test with the punches
Out of the four heavy duty punches I have, only the large butterfly punch was strong enough to cut out the shape completely, so butterflies it was then!
It found it was actually easier to use the punch 'upside down' as I could see how far to push in the plastic.
saving myself any wasted or incomplete punches
After I'd punched out all the butterflies, I used the spare pieces of plastic to cut other shapes with scissors
Creating the hole:
The easiest way was just to use one side of a normal office hole punch. This would have been far and away the kindest to my wrists and the labels would have been ready to thread with the garden wire or string.

Not one to make things easy, I decided to try this kit that I'd bought from Lidl a couple of years ago that I've never taken the time to properly figure out how to work.
It has a pair of hole pliers, crimp type pliers and little soft metal rivet/eyelet shapes.
After some trial and error, with no real help from the enclosed instructions, I did figure it out. It's a nice effect but you really need the wrist strength of an Amazon as well a couple of goes at getting it right! 
 The deal seems to be firstly punch a hole corresponding to the size of the eyelet. I suspect these pliers might work better on a thicker material as I had to snip the half punched holes with scissors after I'd used the punch, though this might just be my wimpy wrist strength!
 Position the eyelet in the hole
then fit into the crimp pliers and squeeeeeze like Billy-o! I must admit that a couple of eyelets or more were squashed by angling the pliers against the table and leaning on them!
 reverse view
 Finished labels
All ready for the wire or string 
 I used a Sharpie permanent marker and so far so good but I'll know better in time how well the writing, and the eyelets, hold up to the elements.


Now I just need to drink some more milk to have another container to use...!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Leibster Questions from Angel Jem

Angel Jem very kindly nominated me to answer some Leibster questions and I'm only now getting round to posting my answers- sorry Angel Jem! These have been some random but fun questions to answer so I hope you enjoy my answers.

1) If your house was on fire, what one thing, other than family members and pets, would you save?
If I had time, then aside from people and pets, I'd probably save the very old family photo albums. My Mum's old album contains pictures right back to the great great grandparents and my childhood one is in a 'Cloth of Gold' album which I think was originally supposed to display greetings card or printer samples. Given how much styles and camera technology has moved on my poor pictures look like museum exhibits of the 'auld days' or 'how we used to live'. I mean, seriously look at this, my childhood was in Black and White....hmmph!
Realistically though, as I have an unnaturally high fear of fire I'd probably be too busy running screaming from the building and waving my hands in the air to save any items.

2) What, other than your children, is your greatest achievement?
This is actually a hard one and I am finding it difficult to choose between two options so I'll put both. One is that I strive hard to be a genuine and good person, to be responsible and caring towards those that I love and to be there for my friends and family.

The other is more materialistic and relates to my academic achievements. I always wanted to someday have more letters after my name than in it and I have achieved this with seven academic or professional awards. I never use them except for application forms but it is nice to know they are there.

3) What would be your dream job and is it a job you do or have done?
I suppose to a greater or lesser extent I have a good job, though I'd argue this vigorously when I need to get out of bed to go to it in the morning. It allows me to be creative, to work with committed individuals, to teach others and to be working towards a higher purpose for the good of others. This makes it sound saintly, and it certainly isn't, but as jobs go it has its merits and its moments.

All jobs have downsides but if I could create a total dream job it would probably be working with animals but never having to scoop the poop or deal with the whiffier side of things. Is there such a job as puppy and kitten cuddler aboard a cruise liner....?  
4) What is your dream holiday destination?

Venice. Quite simply, no question, no arguments. This is on my dining room wall and there is another print in the living room.
 

5) If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you bought?
A flight to Venice and a beautiful apartment in a palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal to ponder how to do good with the rest of the money.

6) Name your top three films of all time.
I'm a huge cinema fan, love world cinema and have an eclectic range of DVD's. Oddly, in trying to whittle it down to 3(+1) I realise the ones I could watch again and again are light, insubstantial and heart-warming rather than weighty and worthy. I could probably act all the main parts of the films I've chosen and they are rather aged now but I'd definitely watch them anytime. 

Only You - a light romcom with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr but I adore it as it bobs along through Italy (see answers 4&5). RDJ's big brown eyes do it for me every time as I can refuse big chocolate brown eyes almost nothing - whether they be human or canine!

You've Got Mail - another romcom and getting a little dated now as technology moves on so fast but its a sweet feel good film which gladdens my heart.

Ripoux contre Ripoux (My New Partner) -  A daft cop buddy movie  with Thierry L'Hermitte and Philippe Noiret set in Paris, which is another favourite city, with some very funny lines and an over-excited horse given a performance enhancer which wins both the first and third race without stopping.

I'm going for a fourth, Angel Jem set the precedent (not that I'd sneak on her tho').

Fanny and Elvis - yet another RomCom - what a surprise, eh? Set in glorious Hebden Bridge with lots of glorious Yorkshire countryside.

7) If you could have a conversation with a famous person, dead or alive, who would it be? 
It would have to be Jesus for my conversation. I'd love to get his take on what is being done in his name and what he thinks of how people are interpreting his messages. I'd like to think he'd be pretty outraged at people manipulating faith for their own ends.

I have a theory that the core of all religions are actually from the same stem as they all revolve around love, respect for others, drawing together in the collective societal good and forgiveness for human failings. I therefore wonder if all the different world religions are essentially the same thing drawn from different angles. A bit like the way one individual's recollection differs from that of someone else who was also present at an event or occurrence. 

I have a second theory that bad people latch onto religion as a way of indulging their unacceptable behaviours while masking it in a cloak of pseudo-acceptability. Making yourself the right hand of a dead/fictitious religious deity means you can never be contradicted by the boss but still pass the blame on to him. That is truly inspired, after all who can prove you are not fighting the good fight when a 'faith' or a belief cannot be argued definitively.

I reckon Jesus would be the most fabulous conversationalist to sit with debating life and the universe. I'd also like to know his take on religious humour and whether he sits and think "yeah, that's so ME!". I want my higher power to have a good sense of humour.

8) What is your earliest childhood memory?
 
My dinner bowl cooling on a window ledge! I spoke with my mother about this years ago and she reckoned I would have been around the age of 18mths. She used to cool my dinner by putting it outside on the window ledge to cool it (we lived on the second floor for goodness sake, what was the woman thinking!). I can vividly recall being in a highchair on the opposite side of the table in front of the window and reaching out to get the bowl from the other side of the table. After that I think the next memories must be around three or four years of age.
 
9) What is your favourite season and why?
It used to be the colours of autumn, which I do still love, but as I get older it reminds me more of the fading of life. So I think the expectation of spring is probably now my favourite, particularly as I have a garden and find joy in the resurgence of overwintering (or more accurately surviving) plants. 
Last year's £8 'twig' from Aldi finally bloomed this year and brought me such joy in its delicate blossoms, and that it wasn't actually dead 
I especially love that first cool morning when you shed all the winter gear and go out in shirt sleeves or a light cardigan as you just know it is going to be a glorious day. This used to be my favourite morning of the year when I was at school.
 
10) What made you decide to start a blog? 
My first was started for my new cat Red in 2009 to document his first year from a pompom of a kitten growing up to be a real cat and all our lives together.
Then I started a blog for my jewellery making but, after getting confused over which subjects to post where, I decided to make this one mine and give over pepsimaxaddict to the cats.

It's a given that life changes for good and bad, and some of the blog posts document this. However, what sometimes strikes me in reading my back posts is how much personal stuff and feelings are hidden between the lines and during the posting gaps.

The more I got into blogging the more I loved it and have 'met' some wonderful people. I love being allowed such privileged access to the lives of others and the reciprocity of sharing. I read a wide range of blogs on lots of subjects and lifestyles but the ones that really get me are the ones who write from the heart and share the good and bad honestly.

11) What would you like the future to hold for you?
Beyond a lottery win and moving to Venice, you mean....?

My retirement plan is to finally have the time to have my absolute long term heart's desire of two red setters and to live in the Peak District.

My wish would be to live there to enjoy the pleasures of long walks and being part of a village or town community. I love busy, impersonal 24hr city living right now but I want my third age to be one of having time to enjoy the pleasures of the country living.

More than anything I just hope that my future will be happy and surrounded by those that I love and living my life with pleasure. 

Now I think I am supposed to hand this question set over to some others but frankly, I think I'm actually at the back of the queue and feel like I am left holding the baton. So, rather than delay posting this any longer if anyone hasn't answered these questions please let help me out by flagging yourself up and I can gratefully hand these to you with a flourish!