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Nearly Ready For Christmas

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Minor Christmas tree fail the other day. I wrestled it into the tree stand (not that easy to do by yourself) , got decorating and was most pleased with my efforts. Doesn't it fit nicely into the alcove?

Then I went out and came home a few hours later to see this:

TREE DOWN!!!! Nooooooooooooooo.

I was lucky that only one thing broke but it had to be the biggest, loveliest vintage bauble didn't it? Smashed to smithereens. Minor waaaah-ing took place but the tree was propped back up and doesn't appear to have made another bid for freedom. The massive stack of presents is probably helping keep it upright!

I'm having great fun decorating the rest of the house too! The living room is obviously Christmas Central:

But in the library I have advent corner:

With my truly beautiful advent calendar:

I pinched a leftover floral decoration from work to liven up the hall:

The stairs have been garlanded:

I've even decorated the bed!

Just need to have a quick hoover round the place and then I'm ready to put my feet up and dive into my stack of special festive books. Can't wait! I chuffing love Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone. I'm signing off for a week or so - I like my time offline over the holidays. Hope you all have a lovely time, full of as much food/drink/presents/family fun/peace and quiet as your heart desires.

A Festive Frock

Monday, 22 December 2014

I made my Christmas party dress this year. Hark at me!

Mooching around Dunelm in October, I came across Christmas fabric and rather fell in love with this vintage inspired print fabric. I pondered hard - the house is sucking up all my spare cash at the mo and really, I could have just worn a frock I already had, couldn't I?

However, Christmas needs new clothes. It's the law. Honest it is. New pjs for Christmas Eve are an absolute must (this may perhaps be a Scouse thing but I reckon it should be an everyone thing) and you have to have something pretty to wear on the big day itself. Same rule kinda applies to the work do.

T'was an excellent bargain as it turns out. The shop assistant and I were both in rather dozy form and I waltzed out of the shop, went home and only then discovered that although I'd asked for 3m, she'd given me 4m and only charged me for 2m!

As for the final result, I freely admit that the satin trim did not work properly. I might have had plans for the frock in mind since the autumn but I wasn't organised enough to buy any proper bias binding and this ribbon did not want to get pressed into service as makeshift bias binding. I ended up just stitching it straight on and it's gone all wonky. The girls assured me that it looks like it's meant to be a ruched sort of trim neckline and I'm going with them on this.

I made it in a day though, minus the time spent going into town for lunch and to watch a live screening of The Crucible (and holy heck, that's a long play!) and I'm pretty impressed with myself for that. I haven't sewed anything for months and I thought I might have forgotten how to do it.

Dress - handmade, Simplicity 2444
Petticoat - Vivien of Holloway
Blazer - Warehouse via Oxfam
Heels - Shelly's

Also, yes, not great pics. I take so flipping long to get ready for a night out that there's never any time left to set the camera up and take proper outfit photos.

The frock goes smashingly with a beard though!

The House: The Boudoir

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

I am muchly enjoying the new place. It's slightly odd wrapping my head around the fact that I can merrily spread my stuff all over the house rather than having to wedge everything into my bedroom, but I'm coping ok with that. Ha! Who'd have thought I needed encouragement to fling belongings everywhere?

Now that everything doesn't have to live in my room, I'm trying to keep it less cluttered and more of a soothing space. A boudoir, if you like. The decluttering isn't going fantastically well and it's still really messy, hence the lack of stylish wide-angle interiors shots. The basic things are in place though!

I gave the bedside table a spruce up last year and although it's not a match with the shade of green of the wallpaper, it tones rather nicely. We don't want too much matchy matchy, do we? The initial lamp was from Out There Interiors but I don't think they stock them any more.

The bedding and clock are both from Asda who are doing some seriously good homeware at the moment. Bargainous prices too! It looks as if they've changed the clock design slightly but the duvet set is very much still available.

This gorgeous snuggly throw is c/o The French Bedroom Company. My little house is quite toasty warm anyway but there's something lovely about having a super soft, beautiful blanket at the end of the bed when some extra warmth and comfort is needed.

I love toile. Like, an awful lot. Surprisingly hard to find in green though - red and blue are loads more common. I tracked this wallpaper down on Direct Wallpaper.

Not gonna lie. I had a lot of fun searching for knobs on ebay. I was in mild despair until I hit upon a seller called The Barrister's Horse (excellent name!) and found approx 957685 different styles of amazing knobs. I pretty much wanted all of them but these Parisian ones were perfect for the boudoir, especially as the black matches the all the metalwork on the bed frame and hat stand.

Hat stand! Or should that be bag stand? It was an ebay purchase about four years ago and now I've got the room settled and decided that there's space for another one, I can't find the same flipping style anywhere. Gahhhh. Might have to go for a mismatched approach.

This bedside table was another little painting project. I bought it for £5 in a fit of frivolity after signing the contracts for the house and it was a gruesome shade of pink. I was gonna try and recover the fabric part but I don't think I can get it off without ruining the trim. It's still vaguely gruesome but it kinda works, doesn't it?

Also, please admire the luxurious boudoir carpet. Turns out it's very hard to pick a colour that matches white woodwork and that particular wallpaper. The bloke in the carpet shop took pity on my aimless wandering around and suggested this one. I hadn't considered grey at all but it looks lovely.

Books, glorious books.

I'll do the library next. It's nearly sorted!

A Blogging Good Read - December

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Morning all!

I'm joined for this month's edition of Blogging Good Read by Steph and Denise. They're both back again for another go. Aren't they ace?!

Steph chose Queen Mabby Kate Danley:

I came across this book without knowing what it was about, I have read & loved some of Kate Danley's other books so thought I'd give it a go. It is very different to the stuff I'd read, but still easy to read without being patronising. I love the characters and I was screaming in my head at times.

Oh how I loved this book, it is a different view of a very well known tale, but explores some of the other (more interesting...) characters. I thought it was cleverly imagined - possibly not for Shakespeare purists though. Without giving too much away the story looks at the surrounding to Romeo and Juliet without the focus being on them, Queen Mab plays a role in their fate and events are not quite as they seemed to be.

If you have seen Wicked and enjoyed it, you will probably enjoy this.

Did Denise like it?

In some ways you could say this is a behind the scenes version of Romeo and Juliet, focusing on Queen Mab and Faunus, who are pulling all the strings and using the Montagues and Capulets as players in their own private battle.

I am familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I confess not with all the supporting characters, so I found parts of this book hard to follow, I couldn't quite keep track of who was who and all the relationships. There were scenes that I liked, and I got the overall flow of the book, but at no point can I say I enjoyed reading it or felt connected to any of the characters. I wonder if I was to go and re-read Romeo and Juliet and then try this book again if I would enjoy it more?

Overall this book was not for me, and it was a struggle to finish.

I really enjoyed this. Written Shakespeare isn't usually my cup of tea. Studying it at school drove all possible enjoyment out of my brain and it wasn't until I started seeing his plays performed that I really grew to understand and love them. I still have to tune my brain into Shakespeare mode but after a few minutes it's all fine. Romeo & Juliet isn't one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but I've seen enough versions of it to be really familiar with the text.

Kate Danley's take on it is really interesting - a reimagining which takes that familiar plot but seeks to expand on it and explain it by featuring more of the minor characters. Mercutio was always one of my favourites so I loved the larger role he played in this story. I'm really glad Steph picked this as I doubt I'd ever have come across it otherwise.

My pick was Life After Lifeby Kate Atkinson:

This was a recent impulse read from the library, picked mainly because it looked like a good, long book and I liked the cover. Cover karma generally doesn't work in my favour but it definitely did here. Yoicks! The story is all about Ursula Todd, starting with her birth in 1910 during a snowstorm. It begins with quite a wallop: the baby dies. Then on the next page, her story starts again, only this time she lives.

The plot follows the title. Ursula lives life after life with certain things remaining constant but others, mostly relating to her choices, altering with each life. She's not conscious of this - it's only something that's revealed to the reader - but every decision she makes takes her a step closer to achieving the life and choices that she was "right" for. It's a swirling narrative that covers life in most of the twentieth century in evocative detail, with the most vivid sections revolving around life during WW2. Sometimes you might find yourself wishing that one of the lives was the one that the author stuck with but overall, the end result is a wonderful, multi-layered book that's well worth the effort you might have to put in at the beginning stages.

Unfortunately Steph wasn't able to read this one, so here's Denise's review:

I had never heard of this book, so I started reading knowing nothing more than the back cover description of 'what if you had the chance to live your life again until you finally got it right'.

I'll admit that at first, I didn't enjoy the book, I didn't really 'get it', I struggled to figure out the small plot differences in the repeated scenes at the beginning and thought that the book was going to be a bit tedious. However, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. Once I got my head around the format of the book, and got the characters straight in my head, I was hooked. With each situation Ursula found herself in, I was willing for her to make the best of it and to come back unscathed.

I enjoyed the time line of the book, going from her birth, right through her life, looking at all the different paths she could have taken, some heartbreaking, some entertaining and some empowering. While I felt that some of the plot points were utterly ridiculous, such as her last foray to Germany, the attention to detail in the writing was beautiful, with some very vivid descriptions, and some of the writing about Ursula's time in the blitz will stay with me for a long time.

Denise selected Sisterby Rosamund Lupton:

I first read Sister a few years ago as part of the Domestic Sluttery book club, and it was one of those books that I couldn't put down. When I found it on my kindle again recently, I decided it was about time for a re-read and it became my choice for this.

A story about two sisters, one receiving a call that her sister has gone missing, and gone missing just days before her due date for her first baby. Beatrice jumps on a flight from New York home to London, and begins to piece together Tess's last movements. Initially judgemental of Tess's lifestyle, Beatrice slowly finds herself fitting into her life, slowly becoming more and more like her sister as she works through what happened and continues her never ending search to solve her sister's mystery.

I won't say too much about how it ends, or the twist, but it is a book that I found I got more out of on the second reading, little things suddenly became significant and I began to second guess myself and what happened. My final thought on the book is that I'd like one more chapter, or a postscript, it really leaves you wanting more!

What did Steph think of it?

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, intriguing and sensitively layered but I found the last part of the story unrealistic and found myself drifting.It is a tale about someone who is dealing with the loss of her sister. I won't spoil the end which I thought was quite a good idea, I just got lost along the way as it didn't make sense to me with what had happened so far.

I'd say it is a good read but I'm not sure some of the medical details are accurate. Not really for me.

I don't think this book entirely worked for me. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination but I initially found the narrative framing device a bit awkward. Beatrice is meant to be writing this as a letter to her dead sister and retelling the investigation into her death and there's something about that that just didn't work for me. I grew towards ignoring it as the book went on, occasionally jarred by the odd bit of unwieldy wording that reminded the reader about it, and then at the end it left me feeling a bit cheated, although if I'm being entirely fair that may be because of the twist rather than the narration. Either way, it didn't leave me thinking "yay, I love this book!"

Now I've got the bad stuff out of the way, let's hit the good stuff. I always enjoy a good mystery novel and this was definitely one of those. It's really well written and enthralling and I was really caught up in it immediately, hoping that more clues would be revealed soon. The way the author weaves all of that plot and drama into what is also a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of family and sisterhood is really praiseworthy. I'm willing to bet that the narrative device will work really well for most people so don't let my opinion on that put you off!

So that's the three books for this month. Thanks so much to Steph and Denise for taking part again!

I'll be back next month and we'll be reading Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury, A Sensible Lifeby Mary Wesley and Howl's Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones.

Hope you'll join us for lots of lovely book chat.

The Book of Everyone

Saturday, 6 December 2014

As you may have noticed from an earlier post this week, I'm not much into gift guides. However I'm always happy to spread the word about a company or a thing I really like. I know lots of you lovely readers are like-minded souls so I reckon there's a strong chance you'll approve of some of the stuff I'm fond of.

We all like books, yes?

And we like our mums? (Hopefully, anyway!)

This is a book I've made for my mum.

Well, with a little help from the ordering process at The Book of Everyone. It's obviously not entirely my own work.
I was asked if I'd like to review a copy of the book and with the Mothership having a big birthday in January and it being ideal for a celebration pressie, I decided to make her the lucky recipient. It'd be a fab present for anyone though - birthday, anniversary or Christmas.

Normally I'd be on the "hmmm" side about this sort of gift. Personalised books never really end up being that personal, do they? Bit like anything to do with star signs: they're always full of sweeping generalisations and look rather dry and dated. This is quite different though. There's a certain amount of content you can't change but those pages are all still beautifully designed and full of fascinating facts and info. What I really liked was all the bits you can change! There are loads of options for altering and personalising sections, from the front cover colour and wording to favourite quotes, photos and even what their superhero alter ego would be.

I did all the editing and ordering on my iPad and the website worked a treat. You wouldn't think this would still be a problem in this day and age but the amount of sites that aren't mobile and tablet optimised is ridiculous. I spent more time gnashing my teeth over selecting the perfect quotes and photos than anything else.

What's really nice is that the company work in partnership with Age UK and every product they make goes towards giving a book to an elderly person who may not receive any presents this year. So you get an excellent present for someone you love and the added warm glow of knowing that you've helped out someone else too.

My copy is still being held hostage by the sorting office but I wanted to get this post up as early as possible in December in case you wanted to try it out for yourself and order a Christmas present or two. I can't wait to get my grubby paws on the finished Book of Jean!

I've nabbed some photos from The Book of Everyone to show you what it'll look like when it gets here. Mothership's book is the lovely hardback option but they have a few different choices ranging from a digital copy to a deluxe one.


I was provided with this book for review purposes but all opinions are my own and in this case, I loved the process and bet the finished article will be just as much fun!

Can Thermals Ever Look Good?

Friday, 5 December 2014

I work in a very old building. Now this has many upsides and is mostly awesome but also comes with some rather large downsides. The main one is that the heating system is 130 years old and it doesn't cover my office (aka the cave. The cold, dark cave). Bah.

There are occasions in the chillier months when the clock hits 3pm and we're all still sitting there wearing coats, hats, scarves and gloves because it takes that flipping long to warm the place up with just a little electric heater.

I've been threatening to bring in a sleeping bag to cosy up in this winter but I don't think that's entirely appropriate for work.  Also, tricky to get in and out of when the door needs to be answered and I'm clumsy enough as it is. (Just got my foot stuck in my handbag handle and went flying approx 10  minutes ago)

I may have hit upon the ideal solution to office chilliness with these thermal denim trousers that Damart sent me.

Now I know thermals are not the most interesting of items usually but I'm honestly not just reviewing these for the sake of it. I was genuinely intrigued to see how trousers of all things could be thermal and look nice - this type of clothing is notorious for leaning heavily towards the frumpy old woman side of things.

Not so with this pair though! They look just like a normal pair of jeans, don't they? Happily for me, they have the advantage of being indigo (my favourite wash) and straight leg (my favourite cut). They're surprisingly thin so I was curious as to how they'd keep me warmer than a normal, thicker pair of jeans. Well, they've certainly done that. They are toasty. I am most pleased.

Also they look nice with my mega fun shoes. I don't often wear light coloured heels but these are great. Business at the front:

Party at the back:

Blazer - Warehouse via Oxfam
Jeans - c/o Damart
Top - Ruby Rocks
Shoes - Irregular Choice Baby Beauty