24 February 2014

Sewing "Saturday" and a birthday

Again, it's not Saturday, is it? I swear it isn't going to be like this every week. But I was rather distracted this weekend. Why? Well, this happened:

I promise I was happier than this in all of the other photos! 

On Saturday evening, my housemate Amy and I hosted a dinner party to celebrate my birthday with our friends. She also bought me a surprise and scrumptious birthday cake! The candles seem to be producing a phenomenally large amount of fire/light. They weren't. They were totally ordinary candles, producing a totally ordinary amount of fire/light. Nor were there 29 of them. But then, I still look the same as when I was actually 16 so that many candles were somewhat appropriate.

My actual birthday was on Sunday and I received some wonderful gifts including a Kindle (!), a snood I've barely taken off since, a cactus (because it was "small and prickly, like me"), some wonderful Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, fabric, a sewing book, books, and money. The rest of the day featured a Wagamama lunch, purchase of a Kindle case, some fabric shopping and a new Belgian crime drama on BBC Four called Salamander to replace The Bridge.

I am in love with the Kindle and late last night bought and started reading Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave (49p) as well as Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (99p). Twelve Years a Slave is brilliant so far. I think the Kindle is certainly going to help with my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge of 20 books this year. At the time of posting, these prices were still correct. Grab yourself a bargain!

Sunday also marked the start of my second attempt at Project 365; taking a photo every day for a year. The reason to start on my 29th birthday means I can photographically document the last year of my twenties. And two days down, I'm doing good. You can keep up with me on Instagram or via the Project 365 page.

Today, we've had the day off work so Amy and I decided to have a 'sewing day'. With the spotted fat quarters my sister bought me, I made a teal buttoned pocket for my Kindle and started a red placemat to sit under my sewing machine. I just need to get some bias tape to go around the edges. Next up, this Thursday in sewing class, we shall start making cushions. I discovered this beautiful grey, charcoal and gold poppy fabric and even at £13 a metre, I just had to have it. OK, two metres of it. Ssh!

How was everyone else's weekend?

Jen

21 February 2014

Caaaaake!

Today, I have made cake! Nigella's Chocolate and Guinness cupcakes to be more precise. At my place of work, when it's your birthday, it is customary to bring in goodies. Baked goods usually. Nigella (well, her team) also provide some instructions for converting them to cupcakes.


Oh and today, I am over at Hannah's blog That Adventurer, sharing my story about this photo in her Friday Photo feature.


Jen

20 February 2014

Not averse to adverts

Having a Sky box that allows you to fast forward through adverts is great technology and a real perk of being an adult. But sometimes, I don't mind watching the adverts. In fact, sometimes I quite like them.

As a student, my housemates (and my ex’s housemates) and I used to play The Advert Game; guessing the advert before the product or company was revealed. It made forced advert time fun and some of us became pretty competitive.

I’m a particularly big fan of funny adverts and thought I’d put together a short playlist — about the length of an advert break I'd say — with some that have cropped up recently as well as some old favourites.

An advert about loans with a singing satsuma. An advert about free television channels with a singing cat and budgie. One about an online hotel comparison website that I cannot decide whether I like the Black Country accents. Child adults or adult children talking about Haribo (love the 'SANDWICH' moment). A olympian advertising internet services. Finally, diary milk.



And my favourite older adverts? EDF Energy featuring the EDF Flame (which looks more like an orange poo really), oh I simply love(d) him/her. My housemates found it quite odd. Then there's Old Spice. An advert for featuring eurodance hit 'Rhythm is a Dancer'. Finally, a moonwalking pony.



There must be many more but I simply cannot remember any others. I do enjoy a good advert!

Jen

19 February 2014

Because I'm gross, rubbish, anti-mainstream and a bad person

This might be a risky post but I'm going with it.

There are a lot of social expectations, conventions, rules and values in life, aren't there? I certainly think so. You're expected to do, say and think certain things. You're expected to be good at certain things and dislike others (things, not people). This can get even more complicated within your own social circle, work environment or for 'someone your age'.

With some of these things — things I should or shouldn't do, things that are or aren't expected of me — I go against the grain. Not always deliberately; some things I'd really like to do or be good at.

So, what are they?

GROSS.
It's not cool and it's not glamorous but I enjoy eating beans on toast, as well as hot dogs which I know are all the shit bits of the meat. I sometimes eat until I've made myself feel sick because it tastes so. good. I don't always brush my teeth or take my make-up off before I go to bed. And I know that I should. Totally aware. But I don't. Some weekends, I don't want to shower. I mean, I want to be showered, but I cannot be arsed to go through the process of actually getting in the shower, washing and drying my hair and doing something with my fizzog. I enjoy having needle injections and pressing bruises. It's weird and it's gross, but I do.

RUBBISH.
Society and your contemporaries expect you to be good at geography don't they? Well, I'm not. I don't know how or why, I must've decided at some point to just ignore this. But this is one thing I would like to be and am trying to be better at. Visiting places is what works for me; I can then place them on a map. And another thing, I can't judge temperature. You know, when the weather report tells you that it's going to be 19°C outside today, I don't know whether that means I need a coat or not. I know what cold and hot are, but with these mid-range temperatures, I'm lost! An ex found this hilarious. Oh and I'm a slow reader. Powering through a book in a day or two isn't a regular occurrence and I've learnt it's probably because I'm not a scan reader. Speed spelling is a slight issue too. If I ask someone how to spell a certain word, e.g. necessary, if at lightening speed they reel off 'n-e-c-e-s-s-a-r-y', I struggle.

ANTI-MAINSTREAM.
I'm a big fan of veg! But sometimes, I don't eat all of the veg on my plate. And I'm not going to eat them just because they're good for me. If they're raw and taste like shit, they're going to get shunned. Harry Potter is not for me. Everyone is supposed to love it but I don't and I have no desire to find out. Which leads me on to my next point; if everyone is doing something, I really don't want to do it. I remember trying on a pair of shoes and the saleswoman saying they were very popular and a lot of people had bought them. I couldn't get them off my feet fast enough!! I don't want to buy an iPhone, die my hair ombre style, hate Amazon for their tax avoidance or put quinoa in everything (not to mention the fact that the Western demand for the stuff has made it too expensive for Bolivians and Peruvians to buy meaning their main food source is now completely unobtainable! See here.).

A BAD PERSON.
Laughing at and assessing people. It happens. I do it. And I don't think it's in a mean way. Like, if someone trips, and it looks comical, I'm going to laugh. But if they hurt themselves, it's not funny. Sometimes I'm pretty selfish and short with people. I don't always automatically ask people how their weekend was, or even remember what they said they were going to be doing that weekend. Walking past a homeless person stresses me out, because I feel guilty about not giving them money. And then I notice I've made it all about me! I've already talked about being a bad friend by some people's standards. And I don't say Happy Birthday to people on Facebook. Nor do I feel guilty about that.

I'm sure others have similar quirks and traits, and I have plenty of others where I do conform that 'outweigh' these. But sometimes these expectations, rules and conventions stick in my throat a little.

Jen

17 February 2014

Recipe : Thai steamed fish

Coriander and ginger used to be two of my least favourite flavours, and I still dislike a heavy amount of the stuff. Which is why I was completely taken by surprise with just how much I love this dish.


Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
From: Rachel Allen's Easy Meals

INGREDIENTS METHOD
4 x 175g (6oz) salmon fillets
2 pak choi, each quartered lengthways
Small handful of coriander leaves

For the sauce
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 large garlic cove, peeled and finely grated
2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tsp root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and mix them together.
  • Set a vegetable steamer or metal sieve over a saucepan of boiling water. Line the steamer or sieve with a piece of foil or parchment paper (large enough to come just over the edge of the steamer), then place the salmon inside along with the pak choi.
  • Drizzle over the sauce, then cover with a piece of foil or a lid to steam for 7-8 minutes or until the fish and pak choi are just tender.
  • Transfer the cooked fish and pak choi to warmed plates, saving all the juice, then pour the sauce over the top, followed by a scattering of coriander leaves. Serve on a bed of rice.

NOTES
  • I usually make twice as much sauce as I really like it.
  • Thai sticky rice is an excellent accompaniment.
  • This dish has quite strong flavours so I think a light white wine would go very nicely. This time, I opted for the Thatchers Gold I'd already purchcased though.

* I know incredibly little about a) white wine and b) pairing wine with food. But knock yourself out!

Jen

16 February 2014

Sewing Saturday

...except it's on a Sunday this time for no reason other than I got sidetracked by making some small changes to the blog yesterday. Quite a way into the early hours. I refused to be defeated!

So, this week — actually, last Sunday — I made a shoulder bag with lining and inside pocket for my sister. She's been is a little unwell so hopefully it cheered her up. : )


I've almost finished the apron that we started in class on Thursday using the same fabric that I used for my shoulder bag. I've set my sights on making this zipper card pouch for a friend although finding some of the supplies has proved difficult so I've made no headway.

It seems I cannot resist buying fabrics even when I don't have a project planned/in mind and picked up this pretty flower fabric. Oh and I've now taken to buying dress patterns despite a) enrolment for the dressmaking course not being available never mind having started and b) me not having a single clue how to decipher a dressmaking pattern!

Meh, I'll worry about that later! :D

Jen

15 February 2014

52 Lists: My to-do list

I've been dipping in and out of the 52 Lists project because well, just because. But this one I quite fancied having a crack at after reading several others' posts.

The theme this week was what is on your real to do list this week?

  • Household chores: laundry, clean bathroom, vacuum (hoover), etc.
  • Complete my replacement passport application form I dropped it in a gutter on what seemed to be one of Bristol's rainiest days last month and the photo page is a little distorted, to say the least
  • Pay my credit card bill
  • Resist buying a camera!
  • Purchase fabric and innards for 3 cushions
  • Book train ticket to Manchester for 4 March
  • Finalise and practise my talk for "Showcasing Womens Careers in Physics" event in Manchester on 5 March
  • Work: put together the journal's statistics and annual performance report for the Board Meeting in London on 14 March 
  • Book hotel in London for the same weekend
  • Pay for my Wireless Festival 2014 ticket
  • Prepare for parents potentially visiting on Sunday (yup, tomorrow) This is mainly buying milk for teas
  • Finish sewing the apron from my sewing class
  • Blog: Sewing Saturday, a recipe and maybe more
  • Go to the cinema I'd like to see Her and Inside Llewyn Davis 
  • Plan (think about?) menu for birthday dinner party on 22 February
  • Get ready for restarting Project 365 on 23 February
  • Not freak out about turning 29 
  • Read another book this month Probably The Handmaid's Tale
  • Visit The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibition at Bristol's M Shed See Angela's great post to learn more

a) Why are so many of my to-do list items financially orientated?! b) It is perhaps a sliiiightly optimistic to-do list for one week. Some items might just have to roll over into next week.

Jen

13 February 2014

February Playlist

I simply adore sharing music, as well as receiving shares back. So I thought I'd start a monthly playlist feature to release my pent up music-sharing energy. This month, I've chosen some new and a couple of my old(er) favourites as a soundtrack to the rain.

With the handy Spotify and rdio playlists, you can acquaint yourselves to your ears' content. I hope you enjoy!




Jen

12 February 2014

Waxing quizzical


It is a rarity for me to take part in blog tags, opting almost exclusively to complete them only when I've been tagged. But they are fun, aren't they?

This is one of those times.

The lovely Hazel from World of Joy has thrown the Liebster blog tag my way. First I shall answer her 11 questions and then list 11 (hopefully sufficiently original and imaginative) questions of my own. There is something else in the rules about nominating 11 blogs. But like Hazel, I'm not going to do that either. I would like to pass this along to Kim at Grace & Flower, Angela at Little Apple Tree, Scarlett at Work Rest Play Love, Bee at fill my little world, Amy at Fluffy Owl's Adventures and San at The In Between is Mine. Fear not though! You don't need to be invited, if you just fancy taking part please do.

OK, time to answer this pop quiz.
  1. If you were a cartoon character who would you be?
  2. Tough one. I was a big fan of Batman and Spiderman as a youngster. Oh and The Raccoons were great. (Seriously. A cartoon show about racoons; what child wouldn't like that?!) But maybe Jessica Rabbit would be a good choice? Yeah, I'll go with that.

  3. What's your nickname?
  4. I have several. Ginge, Gingerella, G1, Robin (as one half of a Batman & Robin combo), Maphie (I don't wish to explain that one right now), Dr Jen. I think that's probably about it.

  5. What are you reading at the moment?
  6. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson as part of The Year in Books project.

  7. If you could take a year off work with limitless funds, how would you spend your year?
  8. This probably won't be much of a surprise but travel the world. And then come back (to where, I don't know) and start my own business. I'm still deciding on which business I would choose to start.

  9. What is your signature dish?
  10. Risotto. This salmon, pea and lemon risotto is scrumptious. Although, I make a mean thai steamed fish that I must share the recipe for!

  11. What is the one thing that everyone should do, at least once, in their lifetime?
  12. Do something that absolutely petrifies them; public speaking, karaoke, skydive, you name it! The adrenaline rush is always totally worth it.

  13. Have you ever given blood?
  14. Yes. And I really need to do it again. Convenient and available appointments are difficult to come by when you have a 9 - 5 job.

  15. Do you have any tattoos?
  16. No. I've just never had anything that I'd want permanently panted on to my body.

  17. Name a film that you have watched over and over again?
  18. Dirty Dancing. Need I say more?

  19. What question would you most like to ask me?
  20. I'll like to ask Hazel where do you think you will be in 5 years time?

  21. Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery? What is it, how did it come to be yours?
  22. I do, yes! It's a close call between the diamond, gold ring my parents bought me for my 16th birthday (2001), and the gold and light green peridot earrings that my sister bought me when I was her bridesmaid in 2008. Can I have both? Thank you.

And here are my questions:
  1. What is the one thing you would like to become better at?
  2. What is the last text message you sent or received? To whom?
  3. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  4. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
  5. Where was your last holiday?
  6. Would you rather have summer or winter weather all year round?
  7. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  8. Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?
  9. What is the worst job you ever had?
  10. Where did you grow up? 
  11. If you could hold on to just one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
And if you do take part, don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can route around in your bizniz. Fanks!

Jen

09 February 2014

On friendship


I'm probably not a very good friend.

At least, that's often what I think, when I measure myself and how I approach friendships against how I imagine the average female my age does. Which way is that? Well, I probably don't ask the right questions, or say the right thing. And I've definitely been told I don't stay in contact enough. Basically, I don't think I carry out, r subscribe to, a lot of the usual friendship rituals, especially those expected of a typical female friendship.

The honest truth? This probably isn't going to change despite how much I try or want it. It's a fundamental building block of who I am as a person, and as a friend. Hell, my approaches to many types of relationships probably share a significant degree of similarity.

My approach? The simplest way to describe it — whilst also stating that none of this is conscious thought — is that I don't put all my eggs in one basket and I don't show my hand. What do I mean by that? Well, since high school, I've always had several friendship groups. Some crossover, some don't. But within those groups, only a select few know me for who I really am.

Why? Let me first of all say, I'm not trying to incite the world's saddest violin concerto on the world's smallest set of strings. This is just the truth; cold, hard facts. Being bullied by your 'best friend' at age 13 affects you. If you can't trust your 'best friend', who can you trust? So, I suppose I thought having several friendship groups would work out better in the long run.

And has it? Well, yes and no.

Let's get the negative out of the way first. This is bad because...? I would hope it's obvious; I often struggle to stay in contact with the sheer number of acquaintances I've made, and keeping my cards so close to my chest often results in few of them really understanding who I am, and why I am who I am. And because I don't measure up to their expectations, it hurts their feelings and/or they no longer consider me a friend. Whilst it has happened, they don't tend to contact me and say 'Hey look, you've barely been in touch. I don't think we can be friends any more.'. They just stop sever contact, or stop replying. You don't get a chance to say 'Oh I'm sorry, I just hadn't noticed how much of a crappy friend I was being. I'll change.' Mind you, if they did, I'm not sure I'd be too impressed if it was because they had unrealistic expectations of the commitment two people should make to a friendship.

Conversely, it's good because...? Well, mostly because meeting and making new friends is pretty awesome; it opens a world of possibility. Knowing friends all over the world can be great in itself. But finally, those friends I have made who operate in a similar fashion — i.e. not needing to talk all the time to consider us friends — have remained just that for years; my friend, and I theirs. In most cases, both of us know they could call on the other if they were in a jam. Just this week, I met up with two people (separately) that I have known for ten years, and we just pick up where we left off. There are people I've known for longer; 12 years, 15 years; and shorter periods of time; 7 years, 4 years, etc., but because their approach echoes my own, I'm pretty confident that as the milestones roll past, we will continue to be friends. That is certainly my hope, at least.

So, whilst I started this post with 'I'm probably not a very good friend', I don't believe that. In fact, I'm going to blow my own trumpet and say I'm a pretty frickin' awesome friend; I am fiercely loyal, unreservedly frank whilst non-judgemental, and often very forgiving (up to a point, of course). Maybe it's just that some people have a different level of expectation for friendship.

Jen
____________

Image credit: arjun vCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

08 February 2014

I did something naughty...

With my day off yesterday, I went and bought one these:


And by naughty, I suppose I mean because I had this undefined, unspoken idea that I was going to spend less money this year. But, it wasn't a ridiculous amount of money and well, I just really wanted one! For anyone interested, this Janome J3-24 sewing machine is from Direct Sewing Machines in Bristol. 

Therefore, there is probably going to be a little more mention of sewing around here. I know from experience that if sewing is not your thing, seeing blog posts about it just turns you off. To that end, I thought I might confine any sewing related posts to one of the weekend days. That way, you can easily avoid it if you wish. Since today is Saturday, let's stick to Sewing Saturday (alliteration and all that).

This week, I finished the tote bag with lining and inside zipped pocket. I am really pleased with my first project and have used it a number of times since finishing it on Thursday. The fabric was from John Lewis and the lining and zip from Fabricland in Bristol. It took 6-8 hours and cost ~£5 to make.


I was so happy with it, and had so much fun making it, that I have already purchased the fabric to make one for my sister. Lucky lady!


And now I'm off to get started! :D

Jen

06 February 2014

#dreams 005

Theme parks. Rollercoasters. Cakes. Old friends. Locks and keys. Baby dinosaurs.

Possibly the most ridiculous one of late?

Jen

04 February 2014

The year in books: February

Time for the year in books #2.

I finished January's book, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer with a day to spare! It was also the new year read for the Book Club I am part of via work.

The story is about mental health and one I was both keen to read as I'd never read anything similar. I am happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a very quick read, although digestion of the themes and ideas of the book are perhaps less pedestrian. There were points that made me laugh out loud and I don't often cry at films nevermind books but this one got me. At least two of the other members of my book club bawled their eyes out also, but at different points in the story. So, I would say this book will resonate with most people, albeit slightly differently depending on the person.

My plan this year was also to make more use of the library for reading but there are so few books actually available that I want to read. For the popular and recently released books, there is often a waiting list as long as your arm! So I opted to buy this month's book on Amazon for £3.50. I might've stuck to the Kindle version if the Android app wasn't being slightly temperamental and if I'd saved more than 18p!

Without further ado, this month's book is Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. I'm not going to attempt to write a synopsis when the back of the book does it so well already:
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
That was enough to pique my interest!

It's quite a substantial one at 624 pages but I'm already almost 100 pages through since it arrived yesterday. OK OK, I cheated a little by reading the Kindle sample whilst I waited for it to arrive in the post. I really don't read that quickly.


In addition, after last month's post, I decided I also wanted to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge 2014 and have set myself I hopefully realistic goal of reading 20 books this year. It does mean I will have to supplement the 12 books that I plan to read as part of #theyearinbooks project, but it's certainly not impossible! I'm optimistic.

What are you reading?

Jen

Still want to take part in The Year in Books project? Visit Laura's February 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?