Friday 27 February 2015

On The Lack of Browsing...

Hi internet! I feel like it's been aaaages since I've posted anything and I miss it. I've been really tied up trying to catch up with War and Peace (I have hopes of reaching where I'm meant to be or just a couple of chapters off by Sunday) so I've not had a huge amount of time for anything else! However yesterday I met up with Laura and Katie in London to visit some bookshops (because we'd never met Katie before - she's lovely- and because Laura and I don't really need an excuse at this point..) and while browsing around Foyles with Katie I was thinking (and talking) about how I don't really just browse in bookshops like I used to before I started blogging anymore.

Image result for hyperbole and a half book
Example: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh which I bought 
just because Katie told me to. (Thanks Katie, I finished it on the 
coach and it's hilarious!)

I know I've read other people's posts on this subject, but I'd never really thought about how blogging has changed my buying habits before and the more I think about it, the more it interests me. For instance, before I started blogging I would walk into the library or bookshop and literally just pick up anything and everything and have a look to see if it sounded good. As a teenager my favourite kind of book haul was lots of authors I'd never heard of before. Now, I tend to stick to authors I already love, stuff that's on my wishlist - generally because it's been written by an author I love or because someone I know, in real life or in blogland or both has recommended it, or authors/books I've heard a lot about on twitter and blogs. Honestly, while my eyes were skimming over titles yesterday I was very conscious that they would only stop when they hit something that sounded familiar for some reason and it unnerved me a little.

I really don't like to think of myself as a restrictive reader in any sense of the word, hence the nonfiction and diversity challenges I've set myself this year and my very loose participation in the Panels Read Harder Challenge. If there's a genre I'm conscious of not reading I will go out of my way to push myself towards finding a book in that genre which interests me and give it a go. I like to say I'm an eclectic reader and actually mean it, and because of that it worries me slightly that I'm limiting my reading choices, even unconsciously. I know there are so many published books in the world that even if they stopped publishing books today I'd still never be able to read them all (I really do know that now, ok mum?!) and I know that because of that I need to be selective about what I read and only read things which really appeal and that I really want to read, but what if, among all those titles I'm skimming over without taking in, there are hundreds of books I do want to read except that I just don't know I want to read them because I never picked them up to see if they sounded good?

A small selection of the books I've bought totally randomly. This isn't all of them but there were nowhere near as many as I expected. Most are based on recommendations or previously loved authors. 
I picked up a short pamphlet about this a while ago called The Unknown Unknown by Mark Forsyth which I know a lot of others have read as well, but he talks about good bookshops as being "a room (or two) where you can find what you never knew you wanted, where your desires can be perpetually expanded." All of the bookshops we went to yesterday were this, but I feel a bit like I'm not using them like this anymore. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking blogging as an influence on my reading life - without it I'd probably never have read The Night Circus or any Rainbow Rowell, unspeakable thought! - I'm just... trying to be more conscious of how I'm shopping and why. I think I was thinking about it yesterday because I was actively trying to avoid buying things that were on my wishlist as I'm still waiting on my Ninja Swap parcels to arrive and didn't want to accidentally end up with duplicates, and honestly I was finding myself a bit lost with where to start!

You'll see when I post about yesterday's excursion why this won't be a problem for many months, but when I do eventually buy books again, maybe I'll just try to keep it in mind and make my eyes stop on an author I've never heard of before, just to see what happens...

What influences the books you buy? Has blogging changed your buying habits?

Sunday 22 February 2015

Currently: 22/02/2015

I am not posting as regularly as I'd like to be the last few weeks but I'm busy and life takes priority so oh well. I'll get back to it at some point! The format for my Currently posts I borrowed from Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Time and Place 18:58 on Sunday evening, sat in my armchair (a different one from the one the blog is named after!). 

Reading I am so behind on War and Peace that I'm not posting this weeks update until I have caught up with where I'm meant to be! Charlotte has very kindly warned me of the danger of being spoilered so I'm steering clear, but I plan to have a big binge read of the thirty chapters that I'm behind and catch up! I'm also reading Gratitude Works by Robert A. Emmons. I've been going through it slowly and trying to take it all in and apply some of the stuff to my life. It's interesting reading. Finally I'm also reading Fables: Rose Red by Bill Willingham. This (and The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel which I just read for book group) may slightly be responsible for how behind I am with War and Peace but I just love the Fables series and they're always good, quick reads so it's hard to turn them down!

Watching My parents stayed this weekend and we watched Topsy Turvy yesterday, which is about Gilbert and Sullivan. Rhys and I are big fans (both of G&S and the film) as we met doing am-dram Gilbert and Sullivan (Patience in case anyone is interested. He was Archibald Grosvenor, I was in the chorus of lovesick maidens. Let the ridicule commence - Ellie I may be looking at you :-p). 

Rhys and I have also been rewatching Our Zoo after our visit to actual Chester Zoo a couple of weeks ago. I really love that series - I don't care if they have no more story to tell, they should make a second!

Listening to the wind outside. It's crazily windy tonight! Kind of makes me wish the estate agent would come and take the sold sign down from outside already....

Blogging This week I posted about how behind I was with War and Peace (nothing changes) and about my February prompt for One Little Word

Recommending this post by the ever awesome Andi of Estellas Revenge on how we should all cut each other some slack and stop competing to be perfect and have it all. Although I'm not too caught up in the pressure to be honest, I do feel that particularly on Instagram I probably come across as having time for everything, whereas what you don't see is that while I was baking chocolate chip scones, my mum spent an hour driving the same car (which didn't fit) up and down the ramp in Ben's garage, and that while I cast on for yet another big knitting project the previous twenty big knitting projects are still stranded, unfinished in bags upstairs. Personally, I'd rather be friends with a person who has occasionally crap days, whose house isn't perfect, who doesn't 'have it all' but who knows how to support people when they're having a hard day or when they feel like all they've done all day is scream at their kids and the house is a mess and they just want to cry. So yes, that. You should all read the post. 

Loving The Ninja Book Swap. Despite the hassle of actually pairing people up and dealing with broken wishlist links and delays and the occasional non-responsive person, I love the swap and I think it's definitely one of the best things blogging has inspired in my life. Without fail it restores my faith in humanity - this time we had over seventy people sign up to spend their hard-earned money making a beautiful parcel for a stranger. How could it not be totally heart-warming? 

Also my family. As I mentioned, my parents were here this weekend, and as we only had the last lingering few boxes blocking up the conservatory and preventing it from fulfilling its planned use (a playroom for the boys) my dad watched Sam while Benji helped my mum and I to unpack the boxes, clean, rearrange and sort all the toys from the living room to the playroom and now both rooms are usable and gorgeous. Without the help it would have taken us about two weeks to get it sorted! 

Making Chocolate chip scones from The Great British Bake Off Everyday. I love the Bake Off books, they always have such deliciousness in them and this recipe really didn't disappoint! I've also cast on for my first jumper for myself. Of course I've picked the most complicated pattern I could 

Anticipating Book shopping in London this week with Laura and Katie! It's always really exciting to meet a blogging friend in real life, and Laura and I usually have silly amounts to talk about. Also we have plans involving Waterstone's Piccadilly (which I still haven't been to!), Foyles (which I love and adore), and the Persephone Book Shop (how have I never been?!). If that wasn't enough I also get four hours (there and back) on the coach on my own to read. 

Thursday 19 February 2015

One Little Word: February

Some of you may have read my previous posts about my One Little Word for this year, Gratitude. I am posting my thoughts about how my word is impacting my life on a monthly basis and these posts will be a little more personal than normal so feel free to skip them and come back next time (when there will be some books I promise!).

Each month there are prompts to help us think about our words and this months' prompt was a vision board. I used to do these all the time at school but haven't done one in years so it was actually really fun to do one again. It may also have slightly led to a bit of a magazine buying binge, but the less said about that the better! (Plus I discovered some new magazines to be grateful for - see what I did there? It's driving Rhys nuts :-p) Basically the idea is to go through magazines or newspapers or whatever and pull out words and images which you are drawn to. I ended up with so much stuff I could easily make another three of these and I'm hanging onto the rest in anticipation that it will be useful at some point in the not too distant future.

While I was making the board I found myself thinking about my childhood, during which my parents and siblings and I used to do loads and loads of collage making, painting and general craft activities. I started thinking about how grateful I am to have those moments of learning how to express myself creatively when I was a young child, before I became so aware of what I was 'supposed' to think about things and how I was meant to react. Also those craft sessions are where I learned to really talk to my mum and sisters. While we were all distracted doing something else we would chatter away about things - often not anything particularly deep and meaningful - but it helped me to know that these were the people who would listen to me when I needed them to. And also listen to me when I talked (and am still talking) vast quantities of crap.

When I first read about this prompt I was lukewarm towards it. I didn't see how it was going to help me to focus on my word and implement it more into my life, as January's prompts did, but now having done it and stared at it and taken a little time to let it sink in, I'm starting to see a lot of things in it that I didn't notice before. As I was cutting out words I was thinking 'oh great, these are all the things I need more of in my life, this will help remind me to calm down, breathe, make art, simplify etc', and then while sticking everything down tonight I looked at it again and thought yes, these are the things I need more of, but more than that these are all things I already have in my life and need to make space and time to be grateful for them rather than taking them for granted.

Also, on a trivial note, the making of my board itself did not go entirely to plan - first the carefully arranged images fell on the floor as I was transferring the board for sticking, then the spray adhesive was running out and didn't stick properly, and then I couldn't find any decent glue to attach the words with so I had to use PVA which ended up all wrinkly despite my epic efforts to only use the tiniest bit. I decided to embrace it though, and use it as an exercise in being grateful for what I already have! It's not perfect, but not much in life comes out the way we mean it to and a lot of the time it's awesome despite that.

To find out more about One Little Word check out Ali's website.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

War and Peace Readalong: Week Two

Guuuys, I'm late and I'm behind! I am officially the best at readalongs, although I'm doing better with this than I did with The Pickwick Papers as I've not given up on War and Peace yet! 

I'm thirteen and a half chapters behind where I should have been on Sunday, although that does only equate to just over fifty pages which isn't actually too bad. For this book anyway. Regardless, I'm still enjoying it, just for some reason I've hit that mental block this week which tells me to do anything and everything I possibly can aside from read War and Peace. I think it's something to do with 'having' to read it - my brain still rebels against being told to do things and so as soon as I impose deadlines it refuses to play ball. It's why I have twenty unfinished knitting projects lying around the house. 

I just wanted to throw out there that I'm reading the dreaded edition with all the French in it (Vintage) and once you get used to it it's actually kind of nice. It would be easier if people would just stick to one language (especially during the military bits where they throw in a bit of German for good measure) but it does give you a nice sense of atmosphere in terms of the kind of setting the characters are in. 

I will finish this novel though, I'm determined, so I'm updating for this week even though I've not finished the chapters!

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel has changed this week? Has that affected your enjoyment?

At least for the first few chapters it did. The military stuff is fine once I get into it, but because it's just stuff about logistics and battles my brain goes 'urgh, borrrrrrrring!' and refuses to engage so I end up doing that thing where I read the same sentence five times and still have no clue what it's about... (are you getting that my brain is like a petulant child? I think it's the house move and all the being an adult involved in owning your own house. The rest of my life has suddenly become very childish)

2) Do you feel comfortable telling other people that you're reading War & Peace?  

Absolutely. Far too comfortable. The other day we were at dinner with friends and my friend passed me my bag and commented on how heavy it was and I was all like 'it has War and Peace in' and pulled out the book, all marked up and everything. 

3) How do you feel about Helene and Pierre's marriage? Happily ever after or mildly doomed?

They haven't got married yet at the bit where I am, but definitely mildly doomed. Mostly because when your father in law proposes for you, that's got to be a problem. Also because of Pierre's constant internal monologue about how much trepidation he has about it. It's like Tolstoy is in the background shouting 'THIS ISN'T GOING TO END WELL!'. 

4) Should Marya have married Anatole or should she have stayed at home with her Father?

Again, this is just about to happen where I am, but probably stayed home with her father because, let's face it, Anatole's a bit of a knob. 

5) Andrei has featured in a lot of the war-related chapters so far. Do you think he'll ever make it to military greatness?

I kind of hope so. I really disliked him in the first bit but I like him a lot more in a military setting. He's still not my favourite but he seems to be less of a twat when he's actually doing something. 

It's probably safe to say that I'm going to be at least a bit behind for the rest of the readalong, but I'm going to do my best to at least vaguely keep up. With other people is definitely the way to read this! (Also blame The Astronaut Wives Club for being really good and taking all my attention!).

Sunday 8 February 2015

War and Peace Readalong: Week One, Book One

This week was the first week of Hanna's War and Peace readalong and I just managed to finish the chapters in time! Despite that though I'm actually really enjoying it, and, who would have thought, War and Peace, actually quite fun reading. 

Answering Hanna's questions as I'm doing three things at once and totally exhausted! One little quibble though - I really don't like it when they translate people's names. A name isn't a word you have to understand so why translate it? If someone's name is Lise it's Lise, not Liza! 

1) What pre-existing ideas did you have about War & Peace?
That it was going to be reeeeally long and dry with a lot about peasants. 

2) On that note, is it as bad as you'd expected? :P
Nowhere near. I'm actually really enjoying it so far. I've heard it described as the soap opera of the age and I can see that. I love all the gossip and weirdly love the amount of characters -there are enough who appear through a few of the storylines to keep it together but enough diversity that I don't feel like I'm just reading about the same people page after page after page!

3) What strategies are you employing?e.g. reading in short bursts, using your Kindle on your commute, taking notes about the characters...

Reading a few chapters a night. Honestly though I'm finding I actually want to keep reading!

4) How are you getting along with your translation?
Initially I hated it. I'm reading the Vintage edition some people have been having issues with as it's constantly in French so you have to read from the footnotes and it's a little bit disjointed. I thought I was going to have to switch but then my uni brain kicked in and I'm ok with the footnotes thing now. 

5) Most and least favourite characters?

I really like Lise but agree with Hanna's point about Tolstoy's constant reference to her facial hair. Why, Tolstoy? Just leave her alone! I also quite like Pierre and Natasha Rostov.Dislike most of the Princes... Vassily, Andrei, Anatole (is that his name?), Andrei and Marya's dad. He sucks quite a lot. 

6) How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book?
I'm not in love with it. So far the women are the characters I like the most (except Anna Mikhailovna - apologies if I've spelled it wrong - I feel like she's probably a bit of a conniving bitch) and I don't like how people keep treating them like eye candy. And I particularly dislike how Tolstoy patronises Lise/Liza. Poor girl, she's so nice to everyone, can they all just stop patting her on the head and being mean to her?!

I'm excited about next week!

Saturday 7 February 2015

300 Picture Books

I talk a lot here about what I'm reading but not a lot about what I'm reading with the two littlest (and arguably most important - in their own eyes at least!) members of our family. To be succinct, we read a lot together. We read to Benji pretty much from day one, and to Sam slightly less early because to be honest, when you're breastfeeding and reading a story, it's kind of difficult for the kid to make eye contact with the book, let alone take in the pictures etc! But now we're onto bottles and Sam is all about trying to grab pages and 'read' to himself while rolling around the floor of the library dragging a board book with him.

Earlier this year I came across the 300 Picture Books Challenge which is being hosted by Live Otherwise and thought it would be a really lovely way to track our reading with the boys. I've been sharing our books as and when I remember to on Instagram, so once again if you want to see pictures head that way! (armchairbythesea)

I thought it might be nice to do a monthly roundup here on the blog too for those of you who have little kids or are interested to see what we read together! The criteria for the challenge is that it has to be 300 different picture books, so no reading The Gruffalo sixty times and counting it as sixty books! I'm going to keep a list, probably on this post, as we go through the year. I think it will be lovely to come back at the end of the year and see what we've been reading and what we particularly loved.

January's Books

  1. Bouncy Bouncy Bedtime by David Bedford & Russell Julian - a big hit with Benji who demanded it every evening for the week we had it out of the library. I found it a bit weird that they didn't call animals by their actual names, but the artwork was absolutely gorgeous. 
  2. Chimp and Zee by Laurence and Catherine Anholt - beautiful artwork, lovely repetition. Ben's a big fan.
  3. Dragon Loves Penguin by Debi Gliori - one  of our auto-read authors, this one was as lovely as her books usually are and the pictures were as gorgeous as we've come to expect. Ben particularly loves her pictures of dragons.  
  4. Funny Bunnies Rain or Shine by David Melling - cute little counting book with lovely little illustrations about bunnies doing silly weather related things. Benji and Sam both really enjoyed. 
  5. Slinky Malinki Open the Door by Lynley Dodd - I've loved Dodd's books since I was a tiny kid so it's really nostalgic and wonderful reading these to Ben and Sam. This isn't our favourite but it does grow on you the more you read it. 
  6. Someone Bigger by Jonathan Emmett & Adrian Reynolds - this has been one of our favourites (by which I mean Ben's, mine, Rhys's, my mum's, basically everyone who ever reads it to him) since Ben was about six months. It's just gorgeous and awesome how the little kid proves everyone wrong in the end. 
  7. The Scarecrow's Wedding by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler - our favourite writer/illustrator pairing. Their most recent caused lots of controversy because one of the characters smokes, but I'm here to tell you it's all totally plot-relevant and awesome. As usual. 
  8. The Troll by Julia Donaldson & David Roberts - We're big Julia Donaldson fans in this house (again, all of us) and this is good but not one of my personal favourites of hers. I think Rhys likes it quite a lot though. 
  9. The Winter Dragon by Caroline Pitcher & Sophy Williams - really beautiful artwork and lovely story about a little boy who's scared of the dark in winter. We've read it a few times now and enjoyed it every time. 
  10. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen - We read I Want My Hat Back by the same author a while ago from the library on a whim and found it absolutely hysterical. This one didn't disappoint my expectant hysteria levels either. If you have kids (or even if you don't) and haven't read Klassen's books you really must. Favourite book of January for both me and Ben I think!

We read more than that this month but these are the ones I remembered to take pictures of! If you're on Twitter, Instagram or anything else with hashtags and want to check out other people's books, search #300PBs.

We're probably still in Internet blackout as you read this so keep an eye out for some more scheduled stuff coming up and keep your fingers crossed that at least one of the major providers comes through for us in our new house so I can get back online soon!

Friday 6 February 2015

#yearofmaking: January roundup

I want to blog about my #yearofmaking project, because honestly so far it's been so much fun and I feel like I've achieved a lot more than I expected to. I didn't want to blog too often about it though as that's really not the focal point of the blog, so I figured a monthly roundup of what I've made that month would do!

As you can imagine I've been massively utilising Pinterest so far this year, and have a 'Stuff I Want to Make' and a 'Things to Make For Kids' board. If you're interested in following along with my daily makes as they happen (because, you know, they're hot news and if you wait a month they might be less exciting or something) I'm armchairbythesea.

So, January!

Basically, you can't see any of my pictures because I can't work out if there's a way to get them back off Instagram, so you'll just have to take my word for it that I've posted something each day! Not everything has been a finished work, and in fact at the time of writing there are three projects where the knitting is finished by the lining still terrifies me and so is sitting inside the knitted pieces, all nicely cut out, waiting for the sewing fairy to come and finish off.

I did finish some things this month, which include:

* Gluten and dairy free chocolate cake for Sam's baptism, modified from the Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home book. (It was yummy but we ended up having to buy a cake to take to the actual baptism because it turned out more like chocolate pudding. Ah well)

*The title page of my One Little Word journal

* A sketch of Moomin in preparation for painting a couple of bookcases for the boys bedroom and playroom in the new house!

* A wooden spoon puppet superhero lady

* My very own homemade fabric conditioner! It's awesome and smells gorgeous but I think next time I'll go for the other recipe I found because it doesn't require me buying two bottles of conditioner and thus might actually be cheaper than buying it! If you're interested, the recipe I used is thus: get a big empty container, pour in 5 cups of hot water, 3 cups of white vinegar and 2 cups of standard hair conditioner. Shake (a lot) until mixed. Use.

* Yummy yummy yummy clementine marmalade because the farm shop were selling huge bags of clementines for 50p. Did I mention it's yummy?

* A pair of handwarmers as part of my Chase Your Dreams swap parcel, organised by the lovely Mia

* Pasta with tomato and baked ricotta from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

* A couple of lavender bags (of the many I'm making for the new house!)

* Fudge!

* The front cover for my Gratitude Journal

* A literary inspired card

* Chicken Korma, from the Rick Stein India book that Charlotte got me for my birthday. Yum.

The unlined projects are: a bag to house all of Sam's many thousands of bibs which I never remember to use because they're always in the drawer in the bedroom and I'm always not, a basket to house my current works in progress and stop them annoying the hell out of Rhys, and a draught excluder for the back door of the new house which hopefully we will be moving into as you read this! I'm writing a few days ahead of time so there's always the possibility that I'll have finished up a few lavendar bags before the month is over as well!

Still, way more than I thought I'd achieved! I'm finding this project so motivating - some days I make more than one thing. Today for example, I cut out letter for a door sign for Sam's new room, made pizza from scratch with Benji, finished knitting the draught excluder and started on the lavender bags. Other days I have to push myself to make something (these tend to be the days where whatever we have for dinner features!), but I always feel better at the end of the day for having reminded myself to make something. Creation is just empowering I guess!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Currently...A Month in Review

Because I'm actually keeping track of my reading so far this year, I thought I'd at least start the year with the intention of doing a monthly wrap up in the same format as the Currently posts I've been doing and using these posts to review whether I'm keeping in line with my goals. In case you missed that post, and to remind myself these are:

* One in every four books is nonfiction
* One in every three books by a diverse author
* Read five of my own books before buying one.

Time and Place I'm scheduling this as I'm not going to have internet at home between 1st and 16th February! I'm hoping to snag occasional access at the library but who knows how much childless opportunity I'll get? Hopefully some to at least post the first couple of War and Peace updates! So, currently it's 9.35 am on the day before we move (January 31st) and I'm balancing in my hallway, between boxes, with the laptop on top of a set of shelves so Benji doesn't try to join in...

Reading This month I have finished FIVE books and started another three! This is totally amazing, unprecedented and pretty much unheard of since pre-baby days. Stats wise my eight are entirely gender split: four women, four men. I've finished one book by a diverse author (Drown by Junot Diaz) and started another (War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy for Hanna's readalong) and read one (incredible) nonfiction title (The Winter of our Disconnect by Susan Maushart - glowing review coming!). I've also started another nonfiction title (Gratitude Works! by Robert A. Emmons, for my One Little Word project). Honestly, I'm feeling pretty good about my January reading! In terms of the read 5, buy 1 project, I've finished three of my own books and am currently reading two more (War and Peace and Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons), so once I'm finished with those (or more likely, once I find a graphic novel I already own to distract me from War and Peace), I'll be just in time to have one whole credit to spend while book shopping with Laura and Katie at the end of February! 

Watching This week we've been entirely screen free. Although the TV is still unpacked, we gave up our TV licence over a year ago and so only use it to watch DVDs and iPlayer through the Wii, both of which were packed on Monday. Honestly, I was dreading it but Benji in particular has been so much calmer, more focused, and plays by himself really well which he never did before. I never thought we'd see a difference in four days, but we really have! It's strengthened my resolve to have at least one entirely screen free day a week and limit it the rest of the time. 

Over the rest of the month, Rhys and I finished Season 2 of Once Upon a Time (so good - can't wait until we get season 3!) and Season 2 of Mr Selfridge which I was convinced I'd see on TV but it quickly transpired that I hadn't, so that was a nice surprise. I'm sad because I know it can only go downhill from here - series being based on the life of a real person has it's downfalls as I know what happened to real life Mr. Selfridge and I love the character so much I just don't want to see it happen to him!

Listening I got Paolo Nutini's newish album, Caustic Love for Christmas so we've listened to that a few times. The boys are particularly loving their audiobooks at the moment which is great as they weren't getting much love when they were battling with the TV. We must have listened to the complete Large Family stories by Jill Murphy (read by the amazing Miriam Margolyes) at least six times in the past three days. We're also particularly enjoying a tape (yes, we have a tape player in our car, it's that old) of Dinosaurs which my siblings and I used to listen to when we were tiny. (In case you're interested, it features these lyrics: "Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, lived for more than a hundred million years and then they disappeared". Genius, right?).

Recommending Ninja Book Swap all the way! Check out the sign up post for the form you need to fill in and all the details. Also The Winter of Our Disconnect for anybody who has concerns over the way that media and technology are influencing society. Oh and also this month we went to Nathan Sawaya's Lego: Art of the Brick exhibit in Brick Lane in London. I would seriously recommend it - it's full of incredible sculptures made out of Lego and as a not traditionally artistic person, I found it really inspiring! It's also the most kid friendly art exhibition I think I've ever been to and it was extremely uplifting to hear how excited the (many) kids visiting it were getting about art. 

Loving Being allowed to eat more takeaway than we usually consume in six months, because we're moving house and can't be expected to cook. Conversely, loving thinking about all the yummy things I'm going to cook in our new kitchen! And our new house in general. Such excitement!

Making There's a post all about the loveliness of my January #yearofmaking coming up in a few days, keep an eye out! 

Anticipating After anticipating moving house all month, it's finally actually happening! Hopefully it will go well - we have all kinds of things going on in the new few days - locks being changed, new washing machines arriving, bookcases being painted (particularly looking forward to that one!), home libraries being organised (and that!), and eventually even new internet being connected! 

All things considered my January's been pretty awesome! How has yours been? 

Monday 2 February 2015

The Spring Ninja Book Swap is Here!

Just a quick post as we have our own blog for the swap now so you can pop over there to get full details, but sign up for the Spring Ninja Book Swap is now open and will be until February 10th!

If you're new and don't know how it works, here's a brief description from aforementioned blog:

On a set date you'll receive a list of your partner's likes and dislikes, and also a link to their bookish wishlist. It's your mission to put together a nice shiny package for your partner, including at least one book and something extra that you know they'll love. Naturally somebody else will be doing the same for you and the result is a lot of very happy people sobbing tears of joy over their new books.

It's open worldwide so you can sign up from anywhere in the world, and you don't have to be a blogger, just have an active online presence (regularly updated Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads etc). Generally it's just a great way to make a lot of people happy and feel better about yourself and the world in general.

All you have to do is fill in the form over on the Ninja Book Swap blog and you're in! What are you waiting for?

Follow us on twitter @NinjaBookSwap or email us at

Sunday 1 February 2015

War and Peace: Kick Off!

You guys, starting today I and a bunch of other crazy people are embarking on over two months of reading Tolstoy's epic War and Peace. I can't decide what we were all thinking, besides that we like Hanna (this whole affection for people gets you into a lot of silly situations doesn't it? Still thanking everyone that attempted The Pickwick Papers with me. It can only be love that spurred you on :-p) but I'm weirdly quite excited about it. 

I've been trundling my way through the Introduction to my copy. I don't usually read introductions until after the novel because they're quite often quite spoilery, but I figured this was published in 1868, so spoiler wise, if I haven't been spoilered yet, there's probably not a huge amount to spoil? Plus it's Tolstoy, we all know roughly what we're letting ourselves in for, right? Russia, aristocracy, peasantry, various wars and revolutions and a lot of Tolstoy's politics and views on everything. Plus five million characters. Hooray. 

Originally I had this grand plan to make some kind of cool fold-out bookmark of who all the characters were and give one to everyone who's participating, just for fun, but then I looked at how many characters there actually are and how I have kids who need me and I gave up on that idea. Apparently, according to the internet, there are over five hundred characters in War and Peace. My dad has been trying to get me to read it 'for fun' since I was fifteen. Seriously? 

I'm taking courage from the amount of support I will have from others doing the readalong, and also from how much I loved Anna Karenina when I read it aged seventeen. Because of that I'm actually dreading this, all 1215 pages of it, a hell of a lot less than I am dreading every Dickens ever. 

Bring it on Tolstoy, I'm ready!