28 Feb 2015

February was...pretty meh

It's not been the best February which sucks because it's usually one of my favourite months (mostly thanks to my birthday & the fact that I tend to notice the days finally getting longer). The unemployment blues definitely got the better of me this month which made me v.anti-social, moody and kinda rubbish to be around to be honest. On top of that, one of my very best friends, one of my bridesmaids in fact, is leaving for Australia on Monday. I know it's absolutely the right thing for her to do and she is going to have the most amazing time and we have this clever thing called the internet and skype so we can stay in touch. But selfishly, I am so bloody sad. We gave her an epic send off last weekend and last night three of us went for a really lovely goodbye dinner (at Moro in Exmouth Market, which, incidentally, was lush and I can definitely recommend it). And so, I've said my goodbyes, written my farewell card and given her a USB stick of music and stuff that holds some awesome memories of the last 10 years. We'll skype, we'll send postcards and hopefully next year I'll fly out there for a visit :) I have so much love for this girl!

In other news, it's the end of February, time to see how I did with those goals... 

1. Dye my hair. Yep, got this sorted last week and I feel pretty good about it. Now to get it cut.
2. Book a doctors appointment. All done and dusted.
3. Transfer ISA account. Also done. Life admin-wise I did well this month.
4. Make a skirt from the red fabric bought at the knitting & stitching show. Fail. I've done exactly NO sewing this year so far, something I need to sort ASAP.
5. Find blue tapestry wool to finish my auntie and uncle's Christmas present (I really am the worst present giver ever). Massive fail. Although I've finally accepted what I've been putting off for the whole month: I am going to have to cut out all the blue I've done and start again (obvs having bought enough of the new blue to complete it). I am such an idiot.
6. Have people over for dinner. This didn't happen and it is v.unlikely to happen whilst we continue to live at my parents. Le sigh.
7. Continue with the weekly badminton session. I only managed 2 out of 4 this month - not for want of trying - but I did manage to go for a bike ride. I hadn't been on a bike in about 10 years and it was the most liberating feeling! It sounds stupid but I honestly felt flipping amazing peddling like crazy around the two parks nearest my house. Plus the weather was amazing that day.
8. Ebay the large-ish pile of clothes that I've been putting aside. I actually only Ebayed half of the pile but all but one thing sold :)
9. Bake a cake. Nope, that didn't happen and now that my parents are having their kitchen re-done, I don't see this happening any time soon.
10. Get a job, obvs. Ha! This hasn't happened yet either but I do have an interview next month which is exciting.

A not so bad result considering I was SUCH a grumpy grace this month. After feeling meh about February, I'm feeling really optimistic about March and I fully intend to make a positive start to it tomorrow :) Hope you're all having fabulous weekends wherever you are!

25 Feb 2015

things I want from UNIQLO

I've not made a wish list in a very long time (mostly because doing such a thing whilst unemployed is tantamount to torture) however, an email came through from Uniqlo and, silly me, I opened it. What followed was a good 40 minute rummage through their site and they've got some good stuff at the moment...

1. & 3. & 11. Part of the Thomas Paul collection (it's ALL maritime themed & bloody great)
2. & 7. Merchant & Mills have a clothing collection!!! And breathe. As a crafty lady this appeals to me no end.
4. Stripy trousers (that actually feel more like a cross between jeans and leggings, similar to the ones Topshop make but for just over half the price).
5. Stripy skirt. Yes, there is a definite stripe thing going on here.
6. Peachy polka-dot shirt. I love this a lot, it's so spring-like. FYI they do this shirt in a variety of  colours.
8. Demin shirt dress. There's definitely a shirt thing going on here too...
9. "I didn't ask to be a swan". Omgee they have a David Shrigley range for men and women! Rejoice!
10. Incredibly cute tea dress? Yes please.
12. Black shirt, a staple my wardrobe it  lacking.

*this is in no way a sponsored post (I just love Uniqlo and could happily wax lyrical about their beautiful and non-over-priced products forever)*

22 Feb 2015

Reading & Seeing (& Listening) 22

I don't want to disclose too much information about the plot apart from to say that Michael Keaton plays a former hollywood actor, star of the superhero movies, Birdman, who has jacked it in to adapt, direct and star-in a stage play. Keaton is on top form (as is the rest of the cast), the script is sharp and the set and direction (flipping amazing camera work which makes it all seem like one continuous shot) is superb. Believe the hype. Go see Birdman.

Another film with a lot of (good) noise around it. A simple premise: a young guy is studying drumming at the best music college in the US and gets picked to play in the school's highly prized "studio band" orchestrated by an incredible, and absolutely terrifying, JK Simmons. At only 1 hour and 40 minutes, this film is tightly wound. There's no dead time, no filler scene, it's highly charged and uncomfortable to watch at times. Music drives the two central characters completely and utterly with no regard for people's feelings or well-being. Boundaries and lines are disregarded and crossed but the end result is one awesome film with a killer ending.

Inherent Vice
Joaquin Pheonix plays private investigator, Doc, who attempts to unravel a case involving a kidnapped real-estate big shot which leads on to a string of other mysteries that may or may not be related to the kidnapping. Confused? You better believe it. I thought the trailer for this film looked ace but now I understand why the reviews have been mixed. First off, the good bits. 1. Cinematography. The setting, costumes, props (Doc's mint green phone! I want it!), the entire feel of the film is great. 2. The cast. It's a fabulous line-up and all the players play their parts incredibly well (Pheonix and Josh Brolin stand out for me). 3. The music, which also kind of ties in with the excellent late 60's feel of the film. Now for the not so good bits. 1. The plot is hard to follow. I've read reviews where people describe it as incoherent (much like Doc and lots of the other characters) which is very accurate. I had to really concentrate in order to keep up with everything and even then I'm not sure I got all of it. It's based on a Thomas Pynchon novel and, having read and studied Pynchon before (The Crying of Lot 49), I had an inkling that it wasn't going to be your straighforward narrative. I'm not saying I need everything wrapped up with a nice little bow on top but I could've done with a little more connected-ness. 2. It is long, 2 hours and 20 mins long, which is a particularly long time when you're trying to make sense of all the different story lines. But perhaps that's where I went wrong, I shouldn't have been trying to figure it all out and instead just enjoyed each little set piece for just that, a mini movie in itself. Like as if Inherent Vice was just a series of mini films, where the characters sometimes cross over into each other's stories, and create an over-arching movie...Gah, who knows. It sure gave me a lot to think about, which isn't a bad thing, so many films spoon-feed us these days. However, it also presented me with so many scenarios and characters that I struggled to find answers, not to mention completely forgetting what the questions were in the first place.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North
Let me start by saying: I loved this book. Harry is a kalachakra, meaning that he re-lives his life over and over again with all the knowledge of his previous lives. Perhaps this concept sounds familiar, it's true that this reoccurring theme is somewhat reoccuring (apologies) in my own book choices (Life After Life and Replay). But the basic concept (of people re-living their lives) is the only thing they have in common because, thanks to independent thought and all, the authors have completely different stories to tell. ....Harry August is particularly awesome thanks to it's non lineal structure (the narrative moves between his fifteen lives with such ease!) and because it introduces another fascinating idea, that of a whole community of kalachakras, stretching all through the ages, who called themselves the Cronus Club. It's an intriguing concept to get your head around (which thankfully isn't overly "science-y"), kind of like a whole new way of perceiving time itself! Anyhoo, before I put off those of you who aren't partial to SF, it isn't really very SF at all, in the same way that Atkinson's Life After Life isn't. Lastly, this book has one of the most satisfying endings I've read in aaaaages. It was pretty much perfect. You should read it.

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
Set in Amsterdamn in the late 17th Century, the story follows Nella, 18 years old and newly wedded to one of the city's well respected Merchants. She leaves her family and rural home behind to live with her new husband, his sister and their two servants. Her husband gifts her a magnificent doll's house, decorated to mirror the house she now lives in. Nella employs the skills of a miniaturist to create furniture for the doll's house, and over the course of a few months, receives a collection of un-asked for items and figures identical to those around her. More worryingly the figures seem to be forshadowing the fates of her and her new family. This was Blook Club's Febraury read, it's not something I'd normally pick up as I'm not really into historical fiction. I'd only seen very positive reviews so I thought it would pleasantly surprise me. It didn't. About half way through I briefly thought about giving up - it was moving at an excruciatingly slow pace and the tiny bits about the miniaturist were not enough to sustain me. But then, the episode with Jack and the dog happened and the story gathered momentum. It's true that the second half of the book is waaaaay more interesting than the first but I can't help feeling (and a few people said this at Blook Club too) that there was a better story hiding amongst the pages and pages about the sugar loaves and Johannes, Marin and the rest of them, a story about the miniaturist. Considering she's the book's titular character, the miniaturist was given a pretty rubbish non-exit and a half-arsed "explanation". There was a lot going on in this novel, but I'd rather have read more about the miniaturist, it's a creepy and intriguing concept but it's really not developed substantially. Was she a psychic or was it more sinister, was she in fact deciding their fates rather than predicting them? I think I'd rather have read that story but maybe that's because I'm a SF girl through and through.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Adapted for the stage from Mark Haddon's popular book of the same name. This was an excellent production and, in my opinion, better than the book. I found it hard to get on with Christopher's narration in the book but it lends itself perfectly to a play. The best thing about it was the set. You've all seen pictures of the grid stage set I'm sure, but seeing it in action (it's incredible what you can do with lighting) is freaking amazing.

I know this post is already v.long indeed but I just had to mention Serial. I'm rather late to the party but omg it's incredible. In case you're even later to the party than me, it's a free podcast which follows a Baltimore newspaper journalist's investigation into the murder of a teenager back in 1999. In the weekly instalments (or 12 episodes which you can now listen back to back) she revisits the evidence and trial against the seventeen year old boy who was convicted of the murder as well as talking to friends, acquaintances and family members of the victim and suspect. It's so addictive, I'm glad we waited for all the episodes to be released as I wouldn't have been able to wait a week between each one. Thankfully there's a second series in the pipeline :)

18 Feb 2015

Crochet Baby Hat

A little bubba is due to join our extended family in just over two weeks, cue lots of making :) The timing of this particular arrival is perfect as I have quite a bit of time on my hands (a definite perk of not being in full-time employment). After some searching (thanks Pinterest) for free hat patterns (there are so many good ones out there), I settled on this one. It was incredibly simple and took no time at all to make. The sex of the baby has been kept a secret so I went with yellow. My sister informs me that yellow is more of a 'girl' colour but whatevs. I'm sure my cousin won't mind. I'm also in the process of knitting a baby blanket too (so much glorious time on my hands). Here's a sneek peak.

In other news, tomorrow will mark two years since Mitch brought Moriarty home. At two years and two months, he's doing pretty well for an old boy. We've all noticed that he's a lot more reluctant to come out of his cage these days but when he does, the little guy is so full of beans, running and climbing about all over the place, just like the old days :)

16 Feb 2015

Wedding DIYs #1 Paper Stuff

Mitch and I have been married for 6 months :) In a lot of ways it feels like longer but at the same time I can remember every bit of our wedding as if it was last week. To mark this mini milestone, and because all the "thank you" cards have finally be written, I thought it's be fun to share, in a little more detail, some of the stuff we made for our v.DIY wedding...

So, first up is a little bit about all the paper stuff. (I think the traditional term is 'wedding stationary' but that to me sounds like pencils, notebooks etc none of which was present at the wedding. Incidentally, I really struggled with all the "traditional" wedding terms/ettiquette/order in which stuff had to happen - we kinda just did whatever we thought seemed cool in the end.)

Save the Dates
We used Moo.com to print these. They had lots of different options (we opted for the postcard layout) including the ability to upload your own designs (in our case two v.simple geometric designs that I created in InDesign. The more you order the cheaper each indivual item costs so we opted for 50 which meant we had a few spare that I can now add to our 'wedding book'. The delivery was quick and the quality of the postcards was excellent. Really can't fault moo.com.

Because I'm pendantic and got, let's say, really into the DIY aspect of the wedding (read: controlling), I knew that I wanted to design the invites myself. Mitch, being the most patient and understanding person ever, let me get on with it. I say, let me get on with it but it's actually my dad who brought them to life. He took my original drawings, edited them in Illustrator (v.handy having a graphic designer around) so that they worked on the paper size we'd chosen, drew the map, laid out all the information AND got them printed. They didn't cost a thing in terms of cash but I know that a lot of his time went into them and I couldn't have been be more grateful or happy with the finished thing :)

Seating Plan
Referring back to my *ahem* enthusiam for DIY-ing as much as possible, I was v.keen to make the seating plan and had a v.clear design in my head. We'd already decided to name the tables after places we'd visited on our trip to New York (where Mitch proposed) so all I had to do was to draw a little illustration to go with each table. I used to draw all the time before uni but it's one of my hobbies that's been neglected for years. The wedding was the perfect excuse to pick up my pen and pencil again. It was a pretty laborious task, mostly because the piece of paper was huge and tracing the designs took aaaaages, but I really enjoyed making it.

Thank yous
Our 'Thank You' cards featured my illustrations from the invites and were, like the 'save the dates', in postcard format. Again, my dad v.kindly put them together and had them printed along with a photo of me and Mitch. Seeing as how straightforward they were to make I really had no excuse for how long it took me to send them out. Apologies friends and family if you're reading this, we are rubbish.

13 Feb 2015

Finds from the charity shop

I spent the last few weeks volunteering in a local charity shop and, during that time, I found a few rather nice things: small leather bag, black hat, blue-y green pencil skirt and a glass lemon juicer (something I've been searching for for aaaaages).

It was an interesting experience but not entirely positive. I met some lovely people - the manager, other volunteers, neighbouring charity shop workers and most of the customers - but I also encountered a lot of down right shitty-ness. The rudeness of some of the customers was shocking, arguing about the prices mostly. I can understand a bit of haggling, that "if you don't ask, you don't get" stance, but these people were unbelievably tight. One women refused to pay 99p for a book (in pristine condition) and would not take no for answer, and demanded it for 50p despite the fact that the money was going towards a charity. The next form of shitty-ness was the amount of theft. SO many people stole from that place. Finally, I have a massive bone to pick with the people who v.kindly "donate" utter shite, I'm talking actual rubbish - broken toys, dirty gym clothes, shoes with holes in them. Some of the things (and the smells that came out of those bags) we unpacked would put you off your lunch.

The shop I worked at is actually closing down today (thanks to the lease being too much to renew & too much competition, there are 6 other charity shops on the highstreet). I'm not sure I'm ready to volunteer again just yet. Charity shops are a really great thing - good for the charity and good for bagain-hunters - but they deserve more respect from some memebers of the public.

Mini rant over. Hope you're all having lovely Fridays!

11 Feb 2015

Cat print purse

I actually made this way back in December - it was part of my nan's christmas present - but I completely forgot to post about it. Anyhoo, here it is. The cat print was created from an afternoon of potato printing - I can't recommend this enough, hours of fun - and then I used some colourful threads to fill in the gaps with very simple embroidery (so simple in fact, I don't think it even counts as embroidery). A couple of the cats got some sticthed whiskers before I made it up into a purse. I had intended it to be a coin purse but, as you can see, it's a little on the large side (truthfully, I couldn't bear to cut through the cat faces). It's lined with plain black fabric and features my attempt at an inner pocket (which was not particularly successful, see above, but oh well, my nan didn't seem to mind). I'm definitely going to have another go at printing but I'm not sure what just yet...

Back to the present, it's a horribly grey day today and I'm feeling quite demotivated. The job search slog continues with ziltch results thus far. Sigh. Some tea and a slice of toast should hopefully perk me up a bit. Hope you're all having fun Wednesdays wherever you are :)

9 Feb 2015

my birthday weekend in numbers

5 - birthday flowers (lillies)

2 - chipotle beef rib tacos eaten at HotBox.

30 (ish) - zombies killed playing the house of the dead II at Four Quarters.

148 mins - spent using all of my concentration powers to keep up with the plot of Inherent Vice.

50% rental and 50% owned - the split of a shared ownership property we went to view on Saturday. We actually didn't end up qualifying but we sure as hell learned a lot about the scheme.

20103.92 - Icelandic krona (converted from birthday money :D )

28 years  - that's how old I am now. Shiiiiiiiit.

7 Feb 2015

Mapping the City (and some February goals)

I have a thing about maps - world maps, old maps, illustrated maps, maps of imaginary places, planetary maps. I used to love drawing maps when I was little (you know, and making them look old by soaking them in tea) and I can be lost for ages poring over a detailed atlas. I think it has something to do with the connotations of journey and exploration, they give me the good kind of butterflies. So, given my penchant for maps, the title of this exhibition was enough to draw me in. It's comprised of an incredibly varied assortment of "maps" (in inverted comas as about two out of the 50 resembled anything like traditional map). Many were linked to where the artists (graffiti and street artists that is) lived or had lived or somewhere that held personal importance. Below are some of my favourites. I'd definitely recommend a visit if you find yourself near Somerset House. It's free and on till the 15th of Feb.

Barcelona by Sixe Paredes

Cabott Square, Canary Wharf by Will Sweeney

Paris Verticale by Honet

Mi mundo/Meine Welt by Martin Tibabuzo 
(The story behind this one was interesting. The artist began to lose his memory in the early 2000s and was advised by doctors to undertake memory exercises,  to create timelines and 'mind maps' which he then turned into artistic projects. This is the world as he remembers it.)

Tag Manhattan by Momo 
(A continuous drip of paint across Manhattan spelling out the artist's name to create one of the world's longest of tags. Pretty cool, huh?)

And now for some goals for the month. My Jan ones weren't entirely successful but that's cool, I can always try again in Feb :)

1. Dye my hair. It's not been done since the wedding (nearly six months ago) so you can imagine the roots I'm sporting.
2. Book a doctors appointment.
3. Transfer ISA account.
4. Make a skirt from the red fabric bought at the knitting & stitching show.
5. Find blue tapestry wool to finish my auntie and uncle's Christmas present (I really am the worst present giver ever).
6. Have people over for dinner. Mitch and I have been v.lucky in that a number of our friends have invited us for dinner over the last couple of months. Living in my parents' house makes me feel like we can't return the favour but sod it, I want to do it at least once.
7. Continue with the weekly badminton session.
8. Ebay the large-ish pile of clothes that I've been putting aside. Let's face it, I could do with with the cash. Being unemployed is poor.
9. Bake a cake. I've not done any baking in forever.
10. Get a job, obvs.

2 Feb 2015

where are they now?

The 'they' I'm referring to are bloggers. Bloggers who, for one reason or another, have either decided to stop blogging or just haven't posted in forever.

I've recently spruced up my  L I N K S  list and, in doing so, I've removed the blogs that no longer seem to be going. Rather than just delete and forget about them, I thought I'd make this list - the lost bloggers so to speak - so that I can keep hold of their links in case they ever return. (I do hope so.)
Anykind - Jesse's blog was one of the first I ever got hooked on mostly thanks to her posts about her business and the craft shows she sold at. Also, her thrifting skillz were impressive, she always found the most cool little bits and pieces.

I wanna go to the beach - I always looked forward to Jess' posts appearing in my bloglovin' feed. They were usually kinda off the wall and a little random. Also, her writing is ace.

Handmade Ryan Gosling - so perfect and, as a craft lady, so relevant. I am still sad this came to an end.

Diary of Diva - Becca was always visiting somewhere cool, whether abroad or exploring places in London. Plus she had an awesome series called: 'Bec vs. Pinterest' wherein she'd make stuff inspired by something seen on Pinterest - liked that a lot.

In between Idols - Guttingly I can't even give you a link to Lauren's blog as the internet reckons it no longer exists :( So, you'll have to believe me when I say, it was full of pics of life her in sunny Florida and of her ace tattoos.

Other honerable mentions: Pretty Much Penniless, Yours Truly x, Kit and Nancy

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