30 December 2014

The year in books: December

This is a double whammy post in that I am reviewing both November and December's books (because I finished them both in December actually).


Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)

date finished: 24 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00J4SNT48     |     pages: 353 (Kindle)

The story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor in the Japanese POW camps building the Burma Death Railway, following his life during and afterwards. Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

A friend recommended this one to me, describing it as "a little bit harrowing". I thought, what the hell, I'll take it with me to Hawaii, it can't be too upsetting for a holiday. A little bit harrowing?! Descriptions of the living conditions, health of the POWs and the treatment by the officers and commanders was often difficult to read! One element in particular took me by surprise, and was actually quite upsetting (not that it all wasn't of course): cue a wobbly chin and damp eyes. There is an intertwined love story that frankly, mostly annoyed me. And there were elements of the story that got a little boring. Whilst no-one's life is linear, I wasn't sure why they were included. In the end, I found it a bit of slog, hence me not finishing it until Christmas Eve, however, that was likely due to the subject matter. The end left me in a similar frame of mind as when I read David Mitchell's book Ghostwritten; I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. For me, this was an average read.

rating: ★★★


John Sweeney - Elephant Moon (2013)

date finished: 29 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00C2UORQ4     |     pages: 300 (Kindle)

Not the artiest of photos: I took it just now at my desk! 
As the Second World War rages, the Japanese Imperial Army enters Burma and the British rulers prepare to flee. But the human legacy of the British Empire will be left behind in the shape of sixty-two Anglo-Burmese children, born to local women after affairs with foreign men. Half-castes, they are not acknowledged by either side and they are to be abandoned with no one to protect them. Their teacher, Grace Collins, a young Englishwoman, refuses to join the European evacuation and instead sets out to deliver the orphans to the safety of India. She faces impossible odds because between her and India lie one thousand miles of jungle, mountains, rivers and the constant, unseen threat of the Japanese. With Japanese soldiers chasing them down, the group s chances of survival shrink - until they come across a herd of fifty-three elephants who, with their awesome strength and kindness, quickly become the orphans only hope of survival. Based on a true story, Elephant Moon is an unforgettable epic tale of courage and compassion in the midst of brutality and destruction.
This was a Kindle book I came across when trying to escape from the horror of The Narrow Road to the Deep North in Hawaii, and at just £1, I thought I'd give it ago. Although, I wasn't sure I expected much in terms of respite with it being set in the same era I was hoping the appearance of elephants would bring some light relief. And I have to say, they did. Whilst the elephants are the backdrop, you still get to know the characters. I found Grace to be a little wimpy at times, and the 'bad guy' was quite cliche, including his demise. But, on the whole, I really quite enjoyed it. The average rating on goodreads shows that enjoyment is above average though.

rating: ★★★

And with that, my first year in books is over! I must say, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I shall be back with a post summarising the year. I encourage you to take part in 2015's project that Laura is kindly running again! I'm still debating whether to take part again myself, I probably will but may not do the individual posts.

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project in 2015?
Visit Laura's January link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the  button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag  #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

02 December 2014

Y u no like online date?

It's been a while since I let you lot in on what's happening in my dating life. I'm not going to say love life.

Well, the short summary is nothing. Not anymore at least.

Despite having a blog, and it's public nature, I don't often share the real nitty gritty, certainly not in a romantic context. I want to be honest here but certainly not at the expense of someone's feelings, by making fun or otherwise. But I also wanted to complete this teeny blog series, which has had a somewhat comical theme up till now. That's why it's taken me a little while to write this post.

My experimentation with online dating was going well when back in September I met my first OKCupid online date. Oooh aaah!

Let's call him Aaron.

The scene: tapas and cider on a Sunday afternoon in Bristol. It was supposed to be a Saturday but I had to rearrange as I had a night walk from Bath to Bristol later that day. Aaron took the short notice change well; a positive.

My first impressions? Good. We got on well with similar views, sense of humour and common interests. Aaron was fairly independent having his own business. He was shorter than I expected but not a deal breaker of course.

And so we set up a second date. Again, this went well, featuring decent burgers near Bristol's waterfront, laughter and a fair amount of cider. Aaron got somewhat carried away for a school night (I'm not judging, I do this too!) but I had the next day off so no working on a terrible hangover for me.

It was on this date I discovered Aaron was a social smoker. Well, I say social: he smoked whilst drinking despite his company – me – not smoking. Not sure if that is social, or in fact anti-social? It's also not a deal breaker but still quite unexpected, as I couldn't recall reading it in his profile. And I'm not the biggest fan of being forced to accompany you whilst you smoke outside, asthma will do that to you.

But Aaron was interesting, attractive and had good banter (a must!) so a 'courtship' began as my mother might say. Certainly nothing serious as far as I was concerned. How can it be? I mean, we'd only just met and it takes a considerable amount of time to know someone, even a little, right? At least for me.

Several dates ensued, including Aaron cooking dim sum from scratch! I was suitably impressed.

However, I did begin to notice a slight mismatch; Aaron made that little bit more effort than I did and he seemed generally more keen. How so? Saying he'd told his friends that he'd 'met someone' after two or three dates, and regularly making reference to me meeting them, and on occasion his family also.

And he wanted to do 'stuff' together. Wait, let me explain. Uninteresting 'stuff', like fabric shopping with me. No boy wants to do that sort of stuff. And I'm not so effing attractive as to make a boy want to. I'm not fishing; it's true. Yeah yeah, I'm great. But I'm a dick as well, and annoying. And if anything, those elements probably come across more quickly than my softer side.

This is all legit behaviour when you like someone of course. But it was a little too much, too quickly, for me.

I have some idea of what you're probably thinking: 'But you said Aaron was interesting, attractive and had good banter. What is wrong with you, you crazy betch?!'

Let me tell ya:

  1. I date boys I already know. So what? It means me liking a boy happens without me realising it, and without the pressure of my tiny little mind doing itself an injury with 'Do you like him yet? Do you? Well, DO YA?!'
  2. I date boys with feeling-block. Whuuuurt?! Yes. Boys that don't really seem to know their arse from their elbow in terms of feelings. Gifts: what are they? Doing activities I like doing, with me? Unheard of. I'd buy what I want, do Jen-shit by myself and mostly assume we're still together because I'm 'alright'. All this, fundamentally means, if a boy is too nice to me, buys me things or wants to partake in 'my stuff', I find it a little overwhelming and essentially, freak out. I'm not your typical girl, and like my own company. Good effing job; I'm getting a lot of it at the moment!

I don't expect any of that sounds rational. But it's true. Obviously not all relationships should be the same so I shouldn't have been trying to recreate those of my past. I was trying not to compare. Really, I was. But I'm an old dog; you cannae (easily) teach me new tricks.

Anyway, I told myself to stop being an eejit and let things take their natural course. I'd gotten myself into a shitty position a couple of years ago with letting things move too quickly (soon realising it was a rebound) so intended to take my sweet ass time. And had told Aaron as much.

But slowly I started to feel like it wasn't going anywhere. Even that I wouldn't be cut up if it didn't. We were quite different, in many aspects. Admittedly, I'm not looking for a clone. However, a decent amount of overlap is required.

Ultimately, I didn't want to admit any of this to myself. Instead, I wanted to be 'easily pleased' for a change. Sadly, my actions betrayed me and Aaron called me out on it. When he did, I don't think he expected me to actually say yes, you're right, I don't see a relationship here. But that is what I said, face-to-face at least. My view: it had been a short courtship, it'll be alright, invite him 'round and just be honest. And I was. Tip: not wearing any form of eyesight correction also helps: if you cannot see their face properly, you cannot see their emotions, including their tears. (There were no tears.)

But he was quite surprised and appeared disappointed . Again, not because I think I'm awesome; no-one likes a knock-back. So, I thought I'd lighten the mood with a joke:

Me: something something... Maybe it's because I'm completely terrified. lolnotlol.
Aaron: If that's the case, you're a dick.
Me: ... ... yeah, that's not the reason.

Told ya. I told you lot I was a dick. You're better off out of it Aaron.

And then I followed with the supposedly cardinal: let's be friends. What?! It was true. And it had been no more than 6 weeks, he's not that cut up! Nope, I do not feel that guilty about that. But he made it clear he wasn't interested in that. H'okay.

And now? Feelings of guilt and confusion. Maybe Tinder was better?: OKCupid's going down, I'm yellin' Tinder! But a further foray into that had ultimately zero results.

Conclusion: online dating probably isn't for me, as I guessed it wouldn't be. And I don't much like it. Because reasons.


02 November 2014

The year in books: November

Aloha! A pretty apt greeting for y'all since I'm currently in Honolulu, Hawaii for 12 days, a mixture of work and holiday. Not gonna lie, it's pretty lush. And it gives me an excellent opportunity to devour some books! Let us begin.


Burial Rites - Hannah Kent (2013)

date finished: 26 Oct 2014  |   ISBN: 1447233174    |     pages: 355 (Paperback)

Iceland, 1829. Agnes is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Shortlisted for the 2013 Guardian First Book Award, this is based on a true story about the last public execution in Iceland.

Descriptions of Iceland, including what must have been, and likely still is, but without central heating in the mid 1800's, excruciatingly cold winter tempers really brought the country to life as well as immersing me in the atmosphere and surroundings, pulling me into the story. The ending was what one might come to expect, and what one might consider a twist was not really a surprise. But whilst the 'facts' leading up to Agnes' conviction are recorded and written in folklore, the story of Agnes herself remains a mystery. This is what Kent puts words to. I read right to the end, including the epilogue and book club questions; all very insightful. I would recommend this one. 

rating: ★★★★☆


November's book, hopefully one of many, is the winner of 2014 Man Booker Prize; The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not. Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not. 
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.
Has anyone read this? What did you think? I studied the shortlist before the winner was announced, and this was the one that definitely stood out to me. Straight on the to-read list it went.

Right, it's 8:30am so off for a mega American breakfast, and avec mes livres, TO THE BEACH!

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's November link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the  button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag  #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

17 October 2014

Survey: Should I change to Disqus comments?


I need your help! I'm thinking of changing my comments to Disqus comments, and would really like your thoughts.

Why Disqus?

Mostly, I find it more interactive. If I comment on someone else's blog, unless there is a 'subscribe to comments' feature or in the case of Blogger, the 'Notify me' option is available (which it often isn't!), the only way to see any response(s) to my comment is to go back to the post in question and lordy, I cannot remember every single post I comment on. With Disqus, I get a notification of a reply to my comment, either by e-mail or from within the Disqus interface itself when logged in on anyone's blog/website.

However, I know that some people really don't like it e.g. some people report login or sign-up problems. And I wouldn't want to stop or put people off commenting on my blog. Whilst I want to foster further conversation, and for  people to be notified of my replies, I don't want to stem all conversation in the first place!

Your help

So, my question to the people who do comment on my blog (gawd love ya! thank you!), would you love, hate or be indifferent about this? I've created a wee poll down there and would loveyoulongtime if you could select one of those answers. Of course, if you have more to stay please go ahead and leave a comment.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts!


If you changed to Disqus comments, I would...

11 October 2014

Sewing Saturday: Colette Iris shorts

This Sewing Saturday post comes in the shape of shorts.


Colette — Iris  |  £12 Printed Pattern  |  Beginner

These shorts were actually the first piece of clothing I made (read: finished) and I was really happy with how they turned out. Of course, you will notice how shoddily my invisible zipper insertion is! And I probably should've fixed that. *slapped wrist* But they are really comfortable! The purple zip was the only invisible zip I had at the time but with the purple flowers in this cotton/linen blend fabric, I think I just about get away with it. Maybe not. There are some slight issues with the zipper reaching the top. But, I liked them so much, I made them in a navy flowery print as well! The zip was much better on those pair. ;)

Beige and flower print, cotton/linen blend. Navy flower print, cotton. Fabricland, Bristol, each ~£4 per metre. 
Sizing and cutting
  • Size: I cut a size 6 and it fit out of the packet. 
  • Adjustment(s): None
  • Fabric: As you can see, I didn't pattern match; the fabric is busy enough. The stretch of the fabric means they do give a little. This is what makes them so comfortable! Once washed, they return to their original shape. I made the same size in the navy flowery cotton and that doesn't have as much give so they are a little tighter. Both pairs were lined in white cotton lawn.
Pattern instructions
The pattern instructions were very good and easy to follow. The second time around, very little reference to the pattern instructions was required. 
Fitting and alterations
Only one real alternation:
  • Lining: the pattern does not provide details on lining the shorts but I decided to line them. This involves cutting the same pieces for the shorts, without creating the pockets, and joining them at the top of the shorts before adding the waistband. 
Yay! No adjustments to the pattern pieces needed.
  • Seams: I made these when I had access to an overlocker so the seams had a purdy, professional finish. 
  • Lining: As I mentioned above, I lined the pockets and shorts with white cotton lawn.
  • Hem: I actually hand stitched the lining for the beige pair (!) and machine top-stitched the navy pair.
Despite the dodgy zip, I'm happy with the beige pair. They are my go-to shorts for holidays and around the house.

Working on...

1. Tilly And The Buttons — Lilou Dress  |  Traced pattern  |  Book £10 on Amazon

Yup, still working on this. It's been rather calamitous! After a disaster with a broken zip that left me stuck in the dress until I could get the zip down, and fabric that has given way too much at the seams, I put this to one side for a little while.

Also, I've not really been able, or wanted to touch any fabric the last week or so as I managed to pick up impetigo whilst at a party where they hold playgroups! But antibiotics finally cured me and I should be able to get back on the sewing wagon.

2. Neon Dot Canvas Totes  |  Basic Tote pattern

For our sponsored charity at work, FareShare Southwest, we are hosting a Craft Fair where I plan to sell canvas tote bags decorated with neon dots, zippered polka dot pouches and possibly some geometric cushions. Watch this space!

Other news...

1. Celebrate Indie Patterns competition win  |  3 x By Hand London patterns

I won a competition! That basically never happens. After posting a review of a By Hand London pattern; my Georgia you saw last time, on Pattern Review, I was chosen at random to receive three By Hand London patterns of my choice! :D To diversify my pattern collection slightly I opted for the Holly Jumpsuit, Anna Dress and Victoria Blazer. I really would recommend becoming part of Pattern Review, subscribing to their newsletter and watching out for their competitions.

Today, after the success of the trip to London's Goldhawk Road with some members of my old sewing and dressmaking class, we are currently perusing the fabric on offer at Birmingham Rag Market followed by a trip to Guthrie & Ghani. I am on the hunt for some fabric for an Anna Dress for our 1920's themed Work Christmas Ball. What fabric and colour to go for?!

2. Lauren to Sew with Lauren  |  Signed Book £25 at Guthrie & Ghani |  Book £17 on Amazon

In addition to the sewing and dressmaking books now gracing my shelves that I mentioned last time, I also received a free copy of Learn to Sew with Lauren after subscribing to Love Sewing magazine. If anyone is interested, I definitely recommend a subscription.

Lauren's book comes with 5 adult garments with multi-size patterns in handy little envelopes at the front and back of the book. I already have my eye on several of the projects!

3. I have an overlocker!  |  Singer 14SH754  |  £129 Lidl

I almost could not believe this deal at Lidl! They were selling Singer overlockers for £129 AND Singer sewing machines for £99. This overlocker is priced at £300 in Hobbycraft and £250 on Amazon. I was not passing this opportunity up! And so I was the first person in my local Lidl store when they opened at 8am and bagged myself the first overlocker. :D I haven't used her yet as I'm still a little scared, but soon!

Do keep your eyes peeled for Lidl offers like this as I'm told they do them perhaps every year. Maybe Aldi too.

Has anyone else been sewing or crafting? What's on your table?


Sewing page | Sewing Saturday posts

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all items mentioned myself. All views expressed are my own.

07 October 2014

The year in books: October

This year is going uber fast! August was a very satisfying month book-wise so I was hoping this month was going to follow suit.


The City & the City - China Miéville (2009)

date finished: 4 Oct 2014  |  ASIN: B003E2UQLO   |  pages: 373 (Kindle)

Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad begins investigating the murder of a female PhD student in his city of residence, Besel. As the investigation continues and the details unravel, he has no option but to travel to Ul Qoma to get answers.

This was certainly an interesting read but whether I enjoyed it, is difficult to say really. Having started with the murder I really thought the investigation and the interaction between Besel and Ul Qoma; the two cities of the title, would be the main focus of the book and it was up to a point but the investigative parts didn't really ring true, I struggled to connect with the characters and visual descriptions of either city were severely lacking. Then toward the end, it felt as though Miéville though 'Oh shit! I need to get in loads that stuff I mentioned in the synopsis about nationalists and unifications buy I'm running out of time/pages! Quick, do it now. RELEASE!' because there was just a mass of information and introduction of characters that I got pretty lost. In terms of excitement and understanding, the end of the book was peaks and troughs. The final chapters, as far as I could tell, were supposed to have an ethereal feel but I'm not sure that it didn't just evoke in me 'Er... what?!' and I'm still not entirely sure whodunnit. It's a shame as I know a lot of people enjoyed this, and the concept of these two cities was very interesting. I didn't dislike it but it wasn't great for me.

rating: ★★★☆☆


This month's book is a recommendation from a friend, someone else who equally enjoyed Nele Neuhaus' Snow White Must Die. So, October's book is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. After trying the Kindle sample, I had to have it. And decided to buy the paperback this month as, well, just look at the cover! The picture doesn't do it justice at all. It's lovely to touch too; it has a brushed effect.
Northern Iceland, 1829. A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. A family forced to take her in. A priest tasked with absolving her. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out: winter is coming, and with it the execution date. Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes's story.
Does this take anyone else's fancy?

Also, with that synopsis, I cannot resist posting a link to this meme.

More October books...

So after debating last month whether to duck out of the work book club. Yeah, I'm gonna. The constant cancellations and postponements are frustrating, and this happening on the day of said meeting, after I have potentially put over other activities for it, is down right aggravating. So, I'm joining another for now; Bristol Book Group. You are given three books to choose from and just read whatever you takes your fancy, or all if you wish. I've opted for Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca as my sister has a copy. Of the other two, Emma Donoghue's Room has been on my to-read list for a while but the library were out (and I am being strict with spending); and Thomas Harris' Red Dragon was tricky to get hold of, cheaply at least.

Also, if anyone has any book recommendations, I have a work trip followed by mini-holiday to Hawaii thus have many hours of long haul and beach time to fill. Recommend away!

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's October link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

30 September 2014

September Playlist

A little trip down memory lane for me this month, bookended by some 2014 music. Rdio is seriously under representing this month (my choices can't be that dated?!). Anyway, I hope you enjoy!


27 September 2014

Sewing Saturday: By Hand London Georgia Dress

Remember those sewing and dressmaking classes I attended? All that sewing I said I was (going to be) doing? The Sewing Saturday series I started? And a sewing page on the blog I made? It happened, honest. And now it's time to revisit all of that.

I've been wanting to share my sewing escapades with you lot for aaaaages! But only now — after moving house, trying to more effectively manage my time, lots of work (the day job!), some travel, and of course, procrastination — am I finally at a point where I can start doing that. And I'm really excited for you to see what I've made so far!

You've already heard about totes bags, cushions and more in the Sewing Saturday posts thus far, with pretty pictures on the sewing page; which I've finally updated and shall endeavour to keep updated. But what I've not shared yet, are any of the dressmaking projects I've completed; a good number now! So that's what's I'm going to do.

Be warned: I'm a novice sewer, and certainly not a sewing blogger, of which there are many awesome examples! Also, I cannot promise excellent photography: the problem with trying to show off clothes is you have to wear them and get someone to take photos of you. Good ones. But I'll try.


By Hand London — Georgia  |  £9 PDF Pattern  |  Variation 2 (skinny straps)

My first dress! Well, that isn't strictly true. You probably don't remember — I'm not even sure I do, or want to — but I tried to make a dress before; New Look 6968. But, it remains in my fabric drawer, unfinished. I'd become fed up with it; the cotton fabric, the fitting issues and not really wanting to wear it. Maybe I will finish it one day...

Anyway, so I was apprehensive about starting another dress and not finishing it but as it was for a friend's big birthday party, I couldn't really not finish it, else I'd have nothing to wear. But just to be safe, and to avoid forced feedback, I didn't tell anyone I was constructing my attire for the evening.

I have a couple of photos from the evening itself but none that show enough of the dress to be suitable here. Instead, you get a shot in our sunny garden.

Geometric print, stretch cotton sateen. Purchased during a a fabric trip to London's Goldhawk Road, ~£7 per metre. 
Sizing and cutting
A couple of points:
  • Size: based on the finished garment measurements, and accounting for the amount of stretch in my fabric, I graded the pattern between a UK 8 bust : UK 10 waist : UK 12 hips. This is not the sizing you see in the photos, see Fitting and alterations below.
  • Adjustment(s): according to my measurements, no Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) or Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) was required. I made a toile of the bodice in some cotton from my stash and was happy I did. Whilst a FBA or SBA was not necessary, it was very helpful in determining this without using my geometric fabric.
  • Fabric: I was going to have alternating panels of black and print à la House of Pinheiro's panelled Georgia dress, which is beautiful! But in the end, I wanted all of mine to be in the fab geometric print that I'd been waiting to use, and did the straps in black stretch cotton sateen. Also, it might look like I cut some of the pieces wonky but there was a slight slope in some sections of the fabric. I also didn't pattern match because a) I think it's fine and b) would've taken an age and more brainpower than I have!

Pattern instructions
In general, the pattern instructions were very good and the BHL's sewalong posts helped a lot. I got somewhat confused between some of the images in the pattern instructions and those in the sewalong posts. This may have been due to my beginner skill level but I personally found the sewalong instructions more accurate. I contacted BHL for some clarification and they were quick to respond and very lovely. 
Fitting and alterations
After trying it on, I needed to alter the pattern quite considerably, but some elements also fit out of the packet:
  • Skinny straps: I shortened these by ~1" but they were still a little too long so would shorten them further if making again.
  • Side seams: the whole dress was too big so I shaved 1–2" off the side seams, to fit my body shape. I could've spread this reduction across all of the panel seams but this worked fine (and I was in a bit of a rush), especially for such a busy print. Ultimately, I think I could've cut at least a UK 8 all round. 
  • Lower back: I have a big booty and a relatively small waist and under-bust area. This meant I had a lot of a fabric hanging loose around the lower back area. I came in by 1" at my waist, grading out to my hips. Even if I'd cut a UK 8 all round, I suspect I still might've needed to bring this area in.
  • Under-bust: there is still a little bit of loose fabric here but actually, I don't think it looks too bad.
I now just need to make these adjustments to the pattern pieces! Ya know, when I learn how to do that properly.
  • Seams: An overlocker gives a professional finish, as seen on clothing in fashion stores. But since I don't have one of those (on my wish list!), I pinked all of the seams. 
  • Lining: I lined with white cotton lawn, although in hindsight, perhaps black may have been better. Due to time constraints, I just tacked the lining and really must sew it in properly.
  • Hem: Again, due to time constraints, I opted for a double-turned topstitched hem. I planned to have a blind hem but as the fabric is so busy, you can barely see the black cotton, and where you can see it, I quite like the look. So I probably won't change it.
Overall, a success I think! And I would make this again. I now want a black version with the wide collar straps. Lessons learned? I should allow more time for sewing as this took longer than I thought, especially with the alternations.

Working on...

Tilly And The Buttons — Lilou Dress  |  Traced pattern  |  Book £10 on Amazon

After settling into the flat, and purchasing a desk for sewing and blogging purposes mainly, I set out to kit out my sewing space (more on that soon!), including some relevant literature. I'd given myself some breathing space to see whether my zest for sewing and dressmaking was going to continue now I was no longer attending classes. And I'm very glad to say it has! If anything, I'm even more eager to progress and excited by the possibilities for developing my skill(s).

After much consideration, I opted for:

The first two contain patterns; 7 patterns you have to trace or draft for Love At First Stitch, and 5 full-sized tissue paper patterns for The Colette Sewing Handbook. Whilst The Sewtionary is an excellent A to Z, spiral-bound reference book for sewers of any skill level.

Of all the projects I could choose from Love At First Stitch, I have gone for the last project: the beautiful Lilou dress and shall be added a scalloped neckline. I've cut a size 2 in some blue cotton with white polka dots I picked up from Abakhan fabrics in Manchester for ~£7 per metre.

I look forward to sharing more of these with you!


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all items mentioned myself and all views expressed are my own.

22 September 2014

Pinterest Pron: living room

As I may have mentioned, I recently moved house — for the fourth time in my two years in Bristol — and now reside in a lovely garden flat with a friend. Spread across two floors, with south-facing bedrooms and garden, it's a beaut. And after nearly four years of doing without, it is wonderful to have a garden!

My new flatmate and I have very similar tastes and may have already mentioned, we have various decorating and crafty projects in mind for the house.

What I might not have mentioned is that I am essentially addicted to Pinterest. I mean, who isn't? I can scan it for hours and often do just that. Those who don't like it, don't get it. That can be the only explanation because it's a massive droolfest! If it were possible to experience a physical manifestation of overindulging in Pinterest, I would be going through it. On. The. Daily.

It is the place I bookmark, and covet, all of the things I want in my life. In my house. In my wardrobe. And so on. So I thought, from time to time, I'd share some of my pins with you. Cue the Pinterest Pron series. Note to self: stop starting series you don't finish. Sssh!

Just to clarify the title, I really wanted to call it the Pinterest Porn series but that didn't seem like a good idea, and whilst I wasn't sure how many people would get the pr0n reference, I really wanted to call it that anyway...? This series was initially spawned by the idea of comparing my house inspiration with the reality but then I thought, keeping it more general might work better.

First up, let's stick with the house inspiration theme and have the living room edition.

Some must haves in the living room, and actually throughout the house, were contrast or pops of colour; some bold and striking prints, and unusual furniture.

What are you coveting for your living room?


20 September 2014

The year in books: September

Slowly navigating my way through the year in books project, alongside my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge of 20 books. Still one book behind schedule but there's time.

If you read last month's post, you'll know it was a rather disappointing read. Thankfully, this month has been super which definitely makes up for it!


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler (2014)

date finished: 10 Sept 2014  |   ASIN: B00EZTLN62   |   pages: 310 (Kindle)

If you've read any reviews of this book so far, you may well have read many times what I am about to say; I cannot tell you much about this book without giving the storyline away. But oh how I want to!

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, this story of a family tragedy grabbed my attention and pulled at my heart strings. Rest assured I'm not an overly emotional person or someone that regularly cries at books but this one got me. I read it whilst on holiday in Italy last week but it was engrossing and very easy to read, and yet not simplistically written as that might suggest. I can truly see why many of the reviews have been 4 or 5 stars. I rarely rate anything 5 stars but this is genuinely deserving of that accolade. I also never re-read books — apart from as a child, I genuinely cannot remember a book I have read more than once — but this one, I actually plan to read again! I might even buy it in paperback form as the cover is so beautiful and the story therein so captivating.

Now, please can someone else read it so that I can talk about it?!

rating: ★★★★★


I was actually debating ducking out of the book club I'm a member of mainly because I felt I wasn't getting a great deal out of it but with anything like that, it's variable and I should give it more of a chance. So, September's book is another book club book; The City & the City by China Miéville
Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds deadly conspiracies beneath a seemingly routine murder. From the decaying Beszel, he joins detective Qussim Dhatt in rich vibrant Ul Qoma, and both are enmeshed in a sordid underworld. Rabid nationalists are intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists dream of dissolving the two into one.
Has anyone read this? What did you think?

September link...

A brilliant, weekly source of Kindle bargains can be found over at A Bit Of Mel Time, she even creates handy weekly Amazon wishlists for you to follow.

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's September link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

18 September 2014

Stupid cupid?

This post, technically the second in the dating series, is long overdue. But that also means I have amassed a number of entertaining messages and interactions to share with you all.

So, after my fairly dismal 'success' on Tinder, I thought I'd flirt with OKCupid, pardon the pun, and it being free was particularly enticing.

A quick intro to OKCupid, to set the scene, for those who don't know. This New York based online dating website suggests potential matches based on your answers to a database of questions, coupled with which answers you are willing to accept, or which ones you consider completely unacceptable, in a suitor! Each match is given a percentage and you can filter them by age, education, location, etc. The aforementioned questions are endless; you can answer as many, or as few, as you wish. The more you answer, presumably the more accurate your matches become. Those are the basics.

And now, I suppose, for context purposes, my profile. A fairly generic description, I'm sure you'd agree, and standard, Facebook-esque photos.

You can fill in sections entitled 'I'm really good at', 'The first things people usually notice about me' and 'The six things I could never do without'.

And after joining back in April, the weird and wonderful messages haven't really stopped. Everyone has to start their message somewhere but some of these message are golden, and are one of the main reasons I am yet to deactivate my account. Here are some of my favourites:
"Do you like brownies with or without nuts?" There was no mention of brownies anywhere in my profile.
"Hi H r u" Zero English skills 
"...Speaking of "bumbling", the word can also mean jewellery for the bottom"."
Thank you. For that. 
"Hey sweet, you are so cute xx" My profile correctly displays my age; please talk to me like I am 29. Not 12.  
"I probably don't match your criteria and I'm really only after 1 thing, but thought I should tell you..... you are incredibly beautiful x" +1 for honest. -10 for the rest.
"Hey! I fall in love with your username. [ He proceeded to start a conversation about my job and then remarked it was a 'lame' conversation topic. ] ... I got a better idea, and sciency in natures, do you know how much does polar bear weigh?" Nope. Also: a) OKCupid highlighted this as 'one of the best messages you've received'. b) He may have been Polish?
"Wow what an amazing women x" I don't get it. 
[ After receiving several messages from him already, none of which I'd replied to ] "Were you in Pam pans last night? :-)" Err... what?  
After an intro e-mail that I didn't reply to, the following were all from the same guy:
Jun 29 "Love you to take a chance" Not gonna. 
Aug 1 "Love you to take a chance, I know I have written already." Yup. Still not gonna. 
Aug 16 "What do I have to do to persuade you that I think we would click." Give it up mate.
Normal service resumed.
"Well there's a quandary." Do tell?!
"Baby i love you xxx 3 add me in wots app [ telephone number ]" You're confused about what this is my friend. 
 And finally, this was both the best and worst exchange to date, from a 22 year old chozzer:
Chozzer: "hey, if you reply to my message i will read your profile, otherwise I will not waste my time as i spend too much time reading long profiles and writing long messages for no reply." I wouldn't normally reply but this aggravated me so much, I couldn't resist.  
Me: "This is probably the worst OKCupid message I've ever received, and there's been a lot! [ I meant a lot of bad ones... not a lot of messages. ] You have a terrible attitude and you have little hope of finding a date with a nice person with a message like that." And breathe.
Chozzer: "well there we go. I can tell you what is wrong with you and why you are on this site instantly. You think that everything a person is comes across in the first message and that is ridiculous. As for that first message, it actually works well and it's surprising my attitude is so good considering i have been on these sites four years." There are so many holes in your argument and so contradictory compared with your first message.  
Me: "*for years" Passive aggressive.
Chozzer: "no, i have been on this site four years. The number four. That's how bad it sucks. just a load of hypersensitive idiots. Like one girl, said she wanted to meet up sometime but needed to wait till payday, i offer to pay and she never replies. I wait a few days, ask her if she got the message because i wondered if it sent as sometimes messages only show in the sent box, and she gets all hypersensitive about it and i get this: Ok dude. Seriously, calm down. "I'm moving house this weekend. I'm busy. I don't need you hounding me. To be honest...the fact you are being so full on already....not good. I retract agreeing to meet & wish you best wishes to find likeminded people. You're FAR too full on for me. " The funniest thing is, she spent so long arguing about that message, yet she could have just acknowledged she got my other message in the first place and saved that. See most of you women on this site are like that. Guys cant win unless it's grovel grovel all the time. Hell i can't even think about a girl on this site without them getting upset...." Yes. OK.
Me: Silence.
But I must say, despite showing you several funny and slightly cray messages, there are of course a number of good ones and my making fun is certainly not intended to be malicious. End disclaimer.

In general, I have become quite fascinated by the disparity of how men and women approach dating, including online dating. And there have been several interesting studies, of which Jon Millward's Cupid On Trial is one such study.

Jon sets out, over a four month period, to answer the question: Is online dating a different experience for men than it is for women?, creating 10 dummy profiles in the US and UK to investigate. If you're even remotely interested in the topic, I definitely recommend reading the article, but he has also conducted other interesting trials including analysing the last words of 478 death row prisoners, plus he has some great infographics! Re: online dating, you may not be shocked to discover the inference that women on online dating websites get a lot of messages from men, and if the woman is attractive, she is inundated. There are other intricacies that are perhaps also not surprising, but interesting.

So, who else has tried online dating? Good, bad or ugly?


Heart image credit: Gopal Vijayaraghavan, CC BY 2.0

31 August 2014

The year in books: August

The year really is just flying by! And I knew that reading might start to catch up with, and even roll past me a little bit. Especially blogging about it.


Look Who's Back (Er ist wieder da) - Timur Vermes (2014)

date finished: Unfinished  |   ASIN: B00ELIF0Z2   |   pages: 352 (Kindle)

So it's 2011 in Berlin and Hitler is back. Somewhat shocked to discover that people either don't recognise him or think he's an impersonator, and that the Nazi movement is no longer in full swing.

The concept, I was very much intrigued by and was definitely curious to see how Vermes progressed the storyline. But it just fell completely flat for me! Of course, Hitler's resurrection is completely fictional, the rest still had to be rooted in reality. However, some parts just seemed ridiculous: the way people reacted to him and how the situation progressed just didn't ring true. But above all that, it was really rather boring. I only read a third of the book but a) I fell asleep trying to read it on three separate occasions and b) I don't think I would've even read that much if it weren't a book club book. The remaining parts of the plot mentioned in the synopsis did not fill me with excitement or curiosity so I just decided to write it off. Not bad for my first book in six months; one of 12. And life is too short to keep reading a book that anaesthetises you! Amiright?

Really, to give the book a rating would be unfair as I didn't read it all so I shall refrain. Maybe I will pick this up again one day and it will turn out to be 4 or 5 stars... but I'm not holding my breath. If anyone else has read this, I'd be very interested in your thoughts.


To make up for my diabolical performance in July, I was hoping to regain some ground by reading a few books in August. Well, that didn't happen. So September is my month of redemption then! I am currently 1 book behind schedule in my 20 books in 2014 challenge.

August's book (which will, in all likelihood, be finished in September now) is a recommendation, but also one that piqued my interest because of the striking black, white and bright yellow cover. We'll ignore the fact that I am reading it on the Kindle though.

August's book is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.

And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.
I didn't get the chance to take the stock photo of it on my Kindle (although I much prefer the yellow cover) but will hopefully update at some point. What I've read so far (about 20%), I'm thoroughly enjoying so here's hoping I have more success than in July.

August announcement...

Amazon are currently running a 'Three for £10' offer on hundreds of paperbacks, from 27 August — 23 September. Find out more.

What are you reading?


p.s. there's been a little bit of back-dating here as, strictly-speaking, I only wrote and published the post at the beginning of September. Sssh!

Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's July link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

11 August 2014

August Playlist

Despite how much I dislike to be mainstream, this month's playlist potentially features a fair bit of mainstream music. That's how I do sometimes.

p.s. A little late but... better than never?


31 July 2014

The year in books: July

And I think this completes the mad rush to publish all July-specific blog posts. Whilst I haven't finished July's book despite it being the end of July, June's books were done and dusted a wee while ago.


Ghostwritten - David Mitchell (2013)

date finished: 18 July 2014   |   ISBN: 0340739754   |   pages: 436 (Paperback)

From the author of Cloud Atlas, comes a debut novel written as a series of separate narratives, about the link between ten characters in various locations, including a financial lawyer in Hong Kong, a disembodied spirit in Mongolia, a Russian curator planning a heist in St Petersburg and a quantum physicist in Ireland.

I've not read Cloud Atlas — although it has been thoroughly recommended — so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Mitchell. It took me a little while to adjust to his language style but that isn't unusual for me, especially if I'm coming from something very different. I didn't enjoy reading all of the narratives and I'm not convinced the first narrative was the best one to start with but then, given the nature of that character and the storyline, perhaps I'm not supposed to like it.

My initial rating for the book was two stars, because I felt it came to an abrupt end without many 'answers'. I now think that was quite unfair as I did enjoy reading it, it didn't feel like a chore, so I've re-rated it. But I still finished the book feeling like I was free falling, unsure of what to take away from each of the narratives, how much linkage existed and whether I had missed something glaringly obvious. Perhaps that is my trying to apply my logic and desire for completeness where it doesn't belong. In summary, I was completely mystified and I just haven't decided if that's good or bad.

rating: ★★★☆☆


I was hoping to have another treeware month but alas, all the library books were checked out and Kindle is cheaper. This month is once again my book club book. With this year being the centenary of World War One, we wanted to read something topical, either specifically connected with WWI or in the very least, war related. A book club member recommended a book originally written in German and with a unique take on World War Two; Look Who's Back (Er ist wieder da) by Timur Vermes.
Summer 2011. Berlin. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well.

Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognise him, though – as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All while he’s still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it.
A striking cover I'm sure you'll agree.

Also read in June...

Sleep Tight - Rachel Abbott (2014)

date finished: 3 July 2014   |   ISBN: 0957652231   |   pages: 384 (Kindle)

Set in Manchester, Olivia turns to the police when her three young children go missing with their father. Two years later, DCI Tom Douglas is now brought in to investigate Olivia's disappear. In doing so, uncovers the truth about Olivia and her past.

I was expecting this to be an easy read but also fairly average and not overly impactful. It was certainly a quick and easy read and whilst I got a little annoyed with some of the monotony, I actually really rather enjoyed it. Especially all the little twists and turns at the end of the book as all the different threads of the story came together. A crier at books I am not but the end of this book actually gave me a lump in my throat. We'll pretend that had nothing to do with being slightly tipsy. I discovered this is one in a series of books with DCI Douglas as the common element and now want to read the others in this series.

rating: ★★★

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's July link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

30 July 2014


Well, it's July (what?! it's still July!) and we're already 211 days through the year. 57%. Strictly speaking 0.6 but let's say halfway (mainly for the purposes of my 'cleverly' constructed post title).

A lot can happen in 5,064 hours. Has it? Yes and no I suppose.

Back in January, rather than a list of goals, I formulated a collection of 'wants'. Let's review.
FRIENDSHIPS. This — making the effort to meet up with distant friends — is certainly still something I need to work on but there's still 154 days, right...?
BLOG. Whether the undulating nature of my blogging will ever change is something I cannot say as this year has so far been similar to previous years. With 37 posts so far, that's an average of about one a week, but there have been bouts of e-silence. Room for improvement? Definitely! The last two months or so I have struggled to find the time really, as well as the inclination sometimes; staring at a computer screen all day at work and not having a proper desk at home until recently have affected my eagerness. But my sparkly new desk, which I now write to you from, should facilitate a reboot and I am expecting good things! On a more positive note, I've started to develop the sewing element of the blog. I'm not sure quite how much it will, or won't, grow but I certainly wanted to share some of it.
CRAFT. This leads on well from above. After 10 weeks of a dressmaking course, I've been steadily developing my sewing skills; homesewn items thus far have included a scarf, dress, skirt, two shorts and four tops. And there's certainly more where that came from! I love it. Other craft has been few and far between but the wifey (new housemate) is particularly crafty and we have a number of plans to craft specific elements of our new home. Watch this space!
READ. To help accomplish this want, I gave myself a target of reading 20 books in 2014 along with taking part in the year in books project organised by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees. With the exception of this month, I have read an average of two books every month so am actually one book ahead of schedule with 12/20. So nurrr! I'm also still very happy to receive book recommendations, so sling 'em my way. 
EXPLORE. This one is difficult to quantify. I've certainly been saying a few more yes's resulting in more trips, festivals, nights out, charity events as well as on the horizon, a group holiday to Italy and attendance at a friend's wedding in Sri Lanka. Albeit not great for the bank balance, it's all certainly very fun!
DECISIONS. BE OPEN. Perhaps linked to the preceding want, this one is also difficult to measure. Of note so far: having some fun with dating, whether it be dating apps, online dating or giving more credence to meeting someone in a drinking establishment,. Results are, thus far, pending.
The only thing that doesn't neatly fit into any of the above is my return to two wheels. Whilst I'm not generally just a fair-weather cyclist (some weather ain't for trifling with), hills are not for my asthma-ridden lungs so the acquisition of a flat cycle route to work, I was straight back on my bike. The only issue is the plethora of people littering the cycling paths. Sigh. But they're still better than hills.

I wonder what the other 154 days are going to bring? Already on the agenda is more travelling, but the rest is tba.

How's your 2014 been so far?


Image credit: Svetlana Bilenkina, The Chic Type Blog, Free July Wallpapers.

29 July 2014

July Playlist

Shall we play a little game? Let's see how many July-specific posts we can cram into the last 3 days of July. Yeeeeeah! I just knew you'd be on board. /sarcasm

And during August, I might just make you literally* vomit with my overindulgence in blogging. Keep your diaries clear.


Anyway, featuring 80% 2014 (and new to me) music, I present this month's playlist. Have a ball y'all.

p.s. I'm almost definitely sure no-one actually listens to these but I enjoy the look of them all, just there in the right sidebar. And my perfectionism means I cannot stop until I have a collection of all 12 months. Yay me.


17 June 2014

The year in books: June

Last month's reads firmly spilled over into June but I have finally finished them so here we are again.


Fractured - Dani Atkins (2013)

date finished: 16 June 2014   |   ISBN: 9781781857106   |   pages: 304 (Kindle)

Rachel Wiltshire is a 23 year old with, by most people's standards, a rather unhappy and unfortunate life which all takes a turn for the worst when at 18, she loses one of her best childhood friends, Jimmy, in a car accident. Rachel awakens from a second accident to find the last five years of her life as she has known them, erased and written over by an alternative history in which Jimmy is now living.

This was quite an interesting take on splintered fate, parallel universes, destiny, and so on and so forth. However, I don't think I'd prepared myself for this being as much of a love story as it was. At points I found myself getting a little agitated at Rachel and the storyline meaning it sometimes became a little of a chore to read — hence me not finishing it until mid-June — but this was often countered by me agreeing and identifying with some of her actions. The twist at the end wasn't entirely predictable but the required attachment to each of the characters was somewhat underdeveloped for me personally meaning the ending fell just a little bit flat. A quick and easy read that some may enjoy the romance of. The Kindle edition is still only 59p on Amazon too!

rating: ★★★☆☆


Time to reacquaint myself with some treeware as this month's book isn't on the Kindle. June's book, a birthday present from a friend, is Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.
In nine corners of the globe, nine characters from an art thief in Saint Petersburg to a terrorist in Okinawa hurtle towards a shared destiny, oblivious to the intriguing ways their lives intersect and influence each other. From this dazzlingly original novel of love, metaphysics, history, politics and ghosts emerges an unforgettable visions of our common humanity.

Also read in May...

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner #1) - James Dashner (2013)

date finished: 7 June 2014   |   ISBN: 9781921989742   |   pages: 384 (Kindle)

A young adult story of dystopia which, whilst I've not read many dystopian pieces, I can certainly say I enjoyed, albeit not quite as much as The Hunger Games. Some of the writing was a little lazy at times and some of the characters failed to come alive for me. I was intrigued by the maze itself — Labyrinth anyone?! — but I was somewhat disappointed by the outcome on that front. The monsters were certainly aimed at a younger readership and whilst an author cannot be expected to write for all ages, they jarred with me. Despite all of that, it was a good read and I'd rate it somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars. There were a mixture of views in our book club; from the recommending book club member absolutely hating it to most finding it fairly innocuous. I would be interested to see how the story progresses and have made vague plans to read the second and third in the series.

rating: ★★★

Reading now...

Sleep Tight - Rachel Abbott

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project?
Visit Laura's June link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

15 June 2014

June Playlist

A tiiiiny bit delayed this month but I know you lot are cool. Let's jump in!

Oh and another song not available on Spotify that I've been addicted to!


11 June 2014

Happy 6th Blog-a-versary

This little beaut of a blog is 6 today! Can't quite believe it. Sometimes, it's more than I imagined, and other times I know it could be so much more...if I just put a little more time in.

But Happy Birthday my love!

Whilst searching for an appropriate photo for this year's post on Flickr, I stumbled across a plethora of LEGO stormtrooper based scenes. A deviation from the cake theme I typically have each year, but too cute not to include.

Although I don't quite have enough time to make cupcakes with a number in the centre (!) like last year, I shall be making a concerted effort to finally finish and post all of those draft blog posts I have sitting around! Such as?

  • June Playlist
  • The year in books: June
  • Ich bin ein Berliner — all about my trip to Berlin
  • 2014 | 0.5 — mid-year review
  • Chronicles of replacing a damaged British passport — my letter to Her Majesty's Passport Office
  • Several sewing posts!
  • OKCupid or StupidCupid? — the dating series
  • New abode — moving house (again!) and house-based Pinterest porn 



Image credit: Pedro VeziniCC BY-NC-SA 4.0