Sunday, 26 January 2014

'Where'd you go, Bernadette:

Just finished this ignoring husband, child, washing up and impending school inspection to do so. Loved it. Plot driven and different.  Usually not keen on American stuff with references I don't get but this was an exception. Thoroughly recommended.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

January Treats: tulips, bird-watching and Asda chocolate

It's not been a great week.  Miserable weather; work pressures and everyone sniping at each other at home as a result.  So have tried to cheer things up with a few treats:

Spring Flowers - love white tulips.

A new bird feeder. So this morning attempted the RSPB Garden Bird Watch while washing up.  Not a terribly accurate count as I wasn't writing it down or fully concentrating.  But I did spot lots of blue tits like this little chap which I managed to snap through glass; several great tits; a blackbird or two; some robins or maybe the same one revisiting his patch as I think they are territorial; some brownish ones which were probably sparrows and, to my delight, a pink and grey nuthatch, a rare visitor to the garden.  And of course lots of pigeons and big black crows or ravens or both who congregate on the trees at the back of the house and make a huge raucous racket.  But no pretty goldfinches like my dad always did on his peanut feeders in Ballyronan.

And last night had a lazy night in front of the fire with teenager watching television and eating M&S chinese takeaway.  Crispy duck and pancakes  - our favourite.  Watched Corrie which we both like and then attempted to show an interest in Celebrity Big Brother.  Fell asleep - don't recognise any of them except the Nolan sister (who was evicted and then booed at by the crowd - lovely)  and Jim Davidson. More food treats purchased today - some Asda organic dark chocolate. Not quite Green and Blacks but not bad.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A Year in Books;'The Hedgehog' and 'The Prince'

I'm joining in with lots of other bloggers I read with the Year in Books project which was started by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.  I like the idea of picking up ideas for books to read from other people as I've found some of the best books I've read in this way.  One of my favourite writers is Patrick Gale, discovered because someone chose his 'Notes from an Exhibition' in the bookclub I was in at the time.  My favourite last year was 'Cutting for Stone' by Abraham Verghese again passed on to me by a friend who'd read it with her bookclub.  And I've recently acquired 'Stoner' on the the Kindle by John Williams because Older Mum in a Muddle had mentioned it.

Like Mairead at As I Roved Out, I prefer real books to Kindle versions and so I get most of mine from the local library.  You can get pretty much anything by reserving for £1 and this means that I can try lots of books.  No longer do I force myself to read things I am not enjoying, be it classic, trash or a Booker prize winner.  The only disadvantage is that occasionally someone else reserves before I finish and so recently I had to return 'The 100 Year Old Man who Walked out of the Window' when I was only half way through.

I am a member of a bookclub too so many of my choices for my monthly book will be determined by this. Our regular monthly meeting was last Tuesday and this time we went to a film version of a novel the group had read last year, 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog', which was being screened by Chester Film Society. What a wonderful film!  It's about an emerging friendship between a 12 year old girl and the rather grumpy middle-aged concierge in her Paris apartment building ( It's a French film; we watched with subtitles).  The concierge has a secret which the young girl discovers: she is not the uneducated TV addict she pretends to be but instead spends her free time reading everything from 'Anna Karenina' to philosophy while drinking tea and eating dark chocolate - stacks of spare bars in fridge.  Sounds perfect to me, so I wasn't that happy when the little girl encourages her to drop her prickly exterior and look for love.

Next month's book choice is very different - 'The Prince' by Machiavelli.  Husband has read this so will be interesting to share my views with him.  Hope also to have time to get going on my pile of library books.  And I'm waiting to get hold of 'Parallax', a new anthology of poetry by Sinead Morrissey who won the T. S. Eliot prize this week.  Just caught the end of her performance on Newsnight and thought she sounded good. Another voice from Northern Ireland.

Now have to tackle the kinky linky (whoops spellcheck does strange things sometimes)  Not exactly comfortable with the technology of blogging.


Monday, 13 January 2014

My Blogging Year

I celebrated my blogging birthday on New Year's Eve.  Started a year ago with the vague intention of blogging about fashion like some of the blogs I'd been reading. That didn't last long.  I had other things to say and wasn't keen on too many pictures of myself anyway.  I've kept on blogging though, even if less regularly than I originally intended.

This is post number 80, so quite an achievement.  My other statistics aren't that impressive.  Ok, I've had 4416 pages views, but I suspect quite a number of those are me checking my own pages.  And the most viewed post is one about handbags, mentioning designer Michael Kors - 444 views last time I looked.  No comments on that post though - reckon those who did look at it were fairly unimpressed.   I have 10 followers, not a huge number compared to the hundreds many of you other bloggers have, but I really value those of you who do read and comment here. And reading the blogs I follow is a real treat: blogs about fashion, minimalism, motherhood, craft, cooking, gardening.  I also love the blogs which show beautiful photographs. I love reading about other women's lives and I've really enjoyed connecting with other people - people like me from Northern Ireland, but also those who have lives which are very different from mine.

Looking back over the posts for 2013, I am struck by how many are about loss.  In addition to Dad whose phone call I still wait for every Sunday evening, I've blogged about the loss of others who have influence our lives: Seamus Heaney,  Iain Banks and even Margaret Thatcher (who may not have been such a positive influence). It does feel like the end of an era.

Yet there was much happiness too in 2013 and I begin 2014 in a fairly hopeful and positive frame of mind. My blog is a sort of online journal, I suppose, a companion to the journals I've been keeping for years.  I got a new 2014 one from Paperchase for Christmas and a pen to go with it from my lovely girl. Blogging is, like journal writing, a habit now and one I'm going to continue, even if posting much more than once a week is unrealistic.  So please keep reading and commenting when you can.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

New Year; Kate and the Big Boy Cousins

When Kate was younger one of our favourite books to read at bedtime was the 'Katie Morag Island Stories' by Mairi Hedderwick. So we were pleased to hear that a television adaptation of the books was being shown over Christmas on CBeebies.  It's great - the little girl playing Katie is very convincing and the Island of Struay looks just as it does in the books.  The two grannies are also portrayed perfectly.  Completely charming, just like 'Balamory' which we watched when she was small.  Programmes like these make me grateful we still have the BBC.

Our favourite story was this one, 'Katie Morag and the Big Big Boy Cousins', who visit the island and get in lots of trouble for playing Chickenelly - knocking on doors and running away.  We liked this one because Kate also had some big boy cousins who were equally naughty. And one was a redhead, just like Katie's cousins.  Here she is with them at Christmas 2004.

Today is the bigger boy cousin's 21st birthday.  Last week I returned to Northern Ireland for a few days to spend time with my sisters at Dad's house in Ballyronan, where this photo was taken.  We lit the fire; cooked a chicken with stuffing the way he did it and played Scrabble like we used to.  And on Saturday night we celebrated Cousin Dean's 21st birthday.  Now at university in Dundee, he's still fairly naughty:  he certainly enjoyed his party.  Before we went out he showed off his newly acquired skill at university and made me Strawberry Daquiri.  Happy Birthday Dean!