Friday, 29 January 2010

Travelling Inspiration Notebook

My friend Anna came up with the idea of producing a Travelling Inspiration Notebook, and I was the honoured first recipient. Let me explain how the whole project works. Anna bought a notebook (see photo below) and filled the first four pages with whatever she wished, and then she sent it on to me so that I could do the same. I will be sending the notebook on to another recipient to do the same. When the notebook is full, the last recipient will return the notebook to Anna. She will then put the names of all participants into a hat and select one. That lucky person will win the notebook!


(Above: The notebook. Anna - do you recognise any of the books in the background?)


(Above: My first two pages. Some of you may recognise the photo)


(Above: My second page. I'm pleased with my pages but I don't think they are a patch on Anna's!)

I showed the notebook to my mum before putting it in the envelope to send on to my chosen recipient. She was really impressed with the project, and said it was the sort of thing her Weight Watchers group should do - fill a notebook with tips and recipes people feel helped them to lose weight, and encouraging stories. 

I really enjoyed working on my pages. It was such a fun project to do, and I would like to say an enormous thank you to Anna for sharing this! I think the finished project will be amazing!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Book of Tomorrow




The Book of Tomorrow is Cecelia Ahern's latest novel, and like the other six, best described as a page-turner.

Sixteen year old Tamara is spoilt and rude, but her luxurious lifestyle is turned rapidly upside down when her father dies, leaving her and her mother in debt. As their belongings are repossessed, they are forced to leave Dublin and their mansion, complete with swimming pool and private beach, and live in the country with Uncle Arthur and Auntie Rosaleen.

As Tamara adjusts to her new life, she stumbles across a diary that will change her perspective of the world, and help her to solve the many mysteries harboured by her new neighbourhood...

Set in contemporary Ireland, Ahern sews a few seeds of magic to animate her plot and characters, and warm her readers. She has clearly developed her own personal style, one that would not be praised for quality of writing, but certainly her skill of story-telling is outstanding. Ahern's characters and ideas are original, and always presented with a little twist, so that the reader never knows what to expect. I love the way that the mystery of this novel unfolds gradually, and I was left guessing to the very last pages!


And, now, on a different subject, I will reveal to you the answer of last Wednesday's post: Spot the Falsehood.

I wish I could tell you that I do love driving, and that number 6 was the falsehood, but it wasn't. I really do hate driving, but I think this is due to lack of practice immediately after passing my test. Don't worry though; Spud and I will go out driving more when I move nearer to him. He's going to put me on his insurance (and vice-versa) so that we can take it in turns to drive. I'm sure my confidence will increase along with my enthusiasm, when I get out on the roads more.

I can also tell you that number 10 was also true: I am not ticklish at all. It's something I grew out of when I entered my teens. Spud, however, is very ticklish, and I enjoy having this advantage over him!

I can now reveal to you that the falsehood was number 5. I told you that I would choose tea over any alcohol beverage, and this isn't really true. Although I think of tea as being my drink, and probably drink far too much for my own good, I do enjoy going out for a glass of white wine or rose with Dearest Friend from time to time. I am a sensible drinker - far more sensible with alcohol than I am with tea! - and never usually have more than a couple of glasses. Personally, I don't think anything beats a cup of tea brewed at home - it never tastes the same elsewhere - and so when I'm in a cafe, I will often choose hot chocolate or a milkshake for a change (or if it's a pub, a glass of wine). I do go through phases where I feel I've had my fill of tea, and I drink water instead. However, I won't often say no to a cuppa. I am planning to give up tea for lent as I know this is something I will really truly struggle to give up. This will be February's outrageous thing!

Finally, I would like to shout out to my friend from uni, Hannah, who told me today that she's started reading my blog. Hello Hannah!

Monday, 25 January 2010

A Day in the Life of K

I have decided to give you a little snippet of my world by writing about one day in my life. This is my Saturday (23rd January 2010).

I was looking forward to taking things a little more slowly, and didn't resurface from unconsciousness until a little before nine. I felt tired. My limbs were heavy from the busy week, but I knew I would sleep on no longer. I was glad to be awake, and grateful for the day ahead. I uttered a silent prayer of thanks as I rolled over onto my back, and propped up my pillow. I rose from the bed and crossed the room barefoot to switch on the light. As I returned to the bed, the awful dregs of a nightmare returned to my mind. I had dreamt that Spud was dead, and I was crying uncontrollably. I didn't think I would stop. I had woken up in the middle of the night, and acknowledged with relief that it was just a horrible nightmare, before falling asleep once more.

I stayed in bed for a further two hours, reading Mrs de Winter, Susan Hill's sequel to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. I was only about eighty pages from the end, and I knew I would finish it that day. Although I hadn't engaged with the plot immediately, it was one which I had gradually begun to enjoy. It was interesting to read another's vision of what would come next after du Maurier's bestseller, although I'm not sure that I was convinced by it. It still made a good novel, and an enjoyable and gripping read. I think I got up at intervals over the next couple of hours to make myself a cup of tea. I think on one of these occasions I ate one of my favourite maple syrup granola bars, which I find makes a sufficient breakfast.



Finally, at eleven, I felt I could not delay the getting up process any longer. I put the unfinished book aside and dressed. I wore my second-hand Boyfriend jeans (named because they're baggy and supposed to look like they belong to my boyfriend) and my rainbow stripe t-shirt, that Spud had picked out for me from a sale rack, last time we went shopping together. 'This is the sort of thing you wear', he said, smiling. I couldn't agree more, and it had been reduced to a pound. After cleaning my teeth, I sat down in front of my laptop and opened the relevant Word documents, containing parts of my dissertation in first draft format.

I laid my many books out on my bed, which is beside where I sit at my desk, and the perfect surface for spreading out my notes. I spent an hour or so reading through what I had written, and referring to my numerous notes, trying to decide what to write next. I stopped for lunch, and while I prepared my usual favourite snack - beans on toast with a thick layer of grated cheese - I decided that a weekend off would be beneficial after the week I'd had. I'd been to work everyday that week, and up every morning at 6 so that I could be in to work the 7-9 shift. I had also worked evening shifts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The early starts, combined with the late nights had worn me out!

I had spent Friday morning working on my dissertation, and succeeded in writing 900 words that I was happy with, boosting the word count up to 3,500. My plans to take Friday afternoon off and watch a film were foiled by Spud, who was panicking over his own work, and needed the support through instant messenger. And so I spent the rest of my Friday being there for him, and wasting time on the internet, too exhausted to even post a blog!

So I spent Saturday afternoon, watching the films I would probably have watched the previous day, had circumstances been different. I had only intended to watch one film, and chose 'She's the Man', one I received for Christmas from my brother. I saw the first half a couple of years ago, and never knew how it ended. It was quite good, if a little corny. The references to Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' didn't go much beyond the fact that the film was about a girl called Viola who dressed up as her twin brother Sebastian (in order to join the boys' soccer team in this case).

While I watched the film, I knitted. I actually finished my piece of knitting as the film was ending, and was so keen to stitch it together, that I put on another film, 'Wimbledon', so that I had something to watch while I continued with the project. I wasn't even sure what it was meant to be, but I had planned to line it with a pair of old jeans. I prepared these, separating the legs and discarding those. I put them in my box of fabric, as I'm sure I will find some use for them at some point.

When the film had ended, I got out my sewing machine, and stitched some pink star embellishments onto my knitting. I was called down for dinner while I was doing this, but continued with my task after I had done the washing up. Once all the stars were in place, I stitched the denim lining in place. This was a difficult task because my machine, although a decent one, struggled to stitch through the many layers, and in the thickest places it would come to an abrupt halt and beep at me. Somehow, I managed it. It was poorly constructed in places, but the finished result looked pretty. I decided that it must be a bag. It just needs a zip and a strap and then it will be complete.





When my project was complete, I changed back into my pyjamas and wrote in my diary. After that, I did my Bible reading for the day (4 chapters of Job) and then continued reading Mrs de Winter. I was only pages from the end when Spud rang, and I spent two hours chatting to him. He was in considerably better spirits, having worked hard on his assignment all day. He had panicked the day before because his work is due in tomorrow, and he was struggling to find any relevant references. He was now close to finished, thankfully, and so the bulk of the pressure had lifted.

When we finished talking for the night, I read the last pages of Mrs de Winter, and before I went to bed, lined up a new book to begin reading the next morning...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Beauty in the 'Real' Sense

This is the revised version of something I wrote about a year ago in response to John and Stasi Eldredge's book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. As a sufferer of low self esteem, I feel compelled to write to you today about beauty, in relation to my personal experiences, and my faith in a God who loves us all equally.

Beauty: A Virtue of the Past and the Present

I am sure you are just as aware as I am of the emphasis placed on physical appearance. Beauty is a trait that has been elevated and praised, not just in today's world, but for always. If you've read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you'll remember Mr Darcy's cutting remark to Mr Bingley, within earshot of Elizabeth Bennett, that he is dancing with 'the only handsome girl in the room'. Of course, this is an example taken from fiction, but I believe Jane Austen very much captured what life was like for a woman of her time.

I read recently about an experience that Charlotte Bronte had at school which seems to have deeply affected the way she perceived herself for the rest of her life. When she was 14, she 'was told by a fellow pupil...that she was very ugly... Certainly she hugged the idea of plainness to her, and all the charitable compliments she received in adult life...seem never to have loosened this fixed idea. The two proposals she received in youth did nothing to build up her confidence' (From Reader I Married Him, by Patricia Beer).

But if you travelled back, even further than that, to the dawn of time I am sure you would see that beauty was still admired, and even worshipped. Beauty is frequently referred to in the Bible. If you read about the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis, you'll know that he had a wife called Sarah, who was stunning even in her old age (she is 90!) There is an incident where Abraham and Sarah go to Egypt, and Abraham is so afraid that he will be murdered for his much coveted wife that he persuades her to pretend she is his sister.

A little further on, we hear very briefly about Leah. Her predicament is not much dwelled upon, but I think it is quite heart breaking. We learn that Leah has weak eyes, and is outshone by her little sister Rachel. When Jacob falls in love with Rachel and asks for her hand in marriage, he is tricked into marrying the older sister first. When Jacob marries Rachel a week later, poor Leah becomes the second-favourite wife. However, God does not forget her, but blesses her with many sons. And unlike Rachel, who dies on the road, Leah is buried beside her husband when she dies.

How it Often is

External beauty is a trait that not everyone is blessed with. So often, it is something we strive for, and when we obtain it, it comes at a cost.

Consider all the beauty products available on the market today. There are enhancing conditioners that claim to give your hair a natural shine; creams that make your skin soft and smooth; make up that can alter your appearance completely... But think also beyond these products. Think about fashion today. We are dictated to by the media. We are told what is 'in' and without it, we have no hope of being beautiful. Think of diets. Think of plastic surgery: the face lifts and the breast implants...

This is where we step into dangerous territory. Sometimes, the pursuit of beauty can cause disease. I'm talking about anorexia and bulimia. We see pictures of models who are size zero. We are told that super-skinny is sexy. We are inadvertently taught to become like skeletons. Or at least some of us are. We can ignore the media, but when you are in the pursuit of beauty, and everyone around you tells you what is beautiful, then it can become very difficult to ignore.

One of the things I rave about is diversity. Don't you just love the difference in each and every person? We weren't made to be the same. We were made to be individuals. If we all conformed to the persistently changing pictures of what beauty really is, then we would all become clones. We would all wear the same sort of outfits. We would all get face lifts. We would all plaster make up over our faces. We would all stop eating. We would all have the same hobbies. Would we even have hobbies? I imagine all our time would be spent beautifying! And even then we would still try to alienate people. We would somehow find the tiniest difference in someone, and think ourselves better than they are.

Am I lovely?

Why is so much importance placed on beauty? Why are we constantly striving for it; constantly evaluating ourselves in relation to the people around us? 'What is she wearing?!' 'I can never be as beautiful as her!' 'Ugh! It's so obvious her face is completely plastered with make up!' I think I know the answer.

In Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge believe that the question at the core of every woman's heart is 'Am I lovely?' The answer we receive to this question lies in the things people say to us; the way people behave towards us. This answer will ultimately change the way we perceive ourselves for the rest of our lives. Charlotte Bronte had her question answered in the negative, and consequently she never thought of herself as being beautiful. Her publisher thought that 'she would have given all her genius and all her fame to have been beautiful' (Reader I Married Him, Patricia Beer).

I have been blessed with a loving family. My parents have always shown me that I am lovely through the things they say to me, and the way they behaved towards me. My insecurities stemmed from elsewhere, namely, school.

I spent my high school years feeling completely alien. I was bullied in the sense that there were antagonists in my life then, who would deal metaphorical blows to my confidence and my self-esteem. I'm not sure that bullying is a term that really applies to what I experienced, which I don't perceive as being all that severe, but I was made to feel small and insignificant, so maybe that is what it was after all. Thankfully I had a small handful of friends who helped me through.

At school, my question was answered in the negative sense, mostly. Obviously, I'm not implying that I went around asking everyone 'Am I lovely? Am I lovely?' Being quiet and timid, I felt I was virtually invisible to my peers (there's proof of this in that both my first name and my surname were spelt incorrectly in my high school year book!) and if I was noticed, it was often for the wrong reasons. And so my question was answered: 'No, you are not lovely. You are not beautiful and you never will be. You are nothing special. You are plain and awkward...' Once I had broken free from the confines of school, and I began to come out of my shell and experience new things, my self-perceptions began to change...

You are the Missing Link

Here is something I've realised over time. Each and every one of us was intentionally and lovingly created for a bigger purpose. You were no accident! You were carefully shaped; built to fit the purpose you have been given; the purpose that each one of us is waiting to discover. When a new baby is born, it is common for relatives to try and identify whose features the little one has inherited. Let me share something with you. The Bible says:

'God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them... God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.'
Genesis 1.27, 31 (NIV Study Bible)

You might think I am spouting rubbish at you, but take it from me. You were made in the image of God, and he is very pleased with you! He has also given us the authority to rule over the land he has given us, and all other things: birds, fish, and beasts. Don't you think this is a big clue as to what he thinks of you? He really thinks you're something!

When I was living in halls, I placed the above verse beside my mirror, so that each morning, when I was brushing my hair and cleaning my teeth, I would be reminded of just how much God loves me. It was a real boost to my self esteem.

Beauty isn't Everything

Beauty is just a temporary virtue. Depressing as it may sound, we're all going to become grey and wrinkly in a short space of time. And personally, I don't think external beauty is something a person will be remembered for when they're done with this life. I think people are far more likely to be remembered for their conduct in life: the things they have done for other people, and positive difference they have made to the world. The Bible says:

'Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears God is to be praised'
Proverbs 31.30

The Bible also says:

'Your beauty should not come from outward adornment... Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit'
1 Peter 3.3-4

The Bible doesn't condemn beauty. Esther is an example of how God used the beauty of one woman to prevent a holocaust! God doesn't give external beauty to everyone, and if he has given beauty to you, it might be that there is a purpose behind it!

I know it's a big cliché, but what's on the outside doesn't really matter. It's what's on the inside that counts.

Behind this Smile

I do not perceive myself as being outwardly beautiful, although I have learnt to overcome my insecurities. They might return from time to time, but they have faded, and are no longer what they used to be. There was a time when I could not look in the mirror because I only saw ugliness.

Instead, I have learned to behold the other gifts that God has given me, and not all of those are internal. I am often told that my smile is my best feature; that I have a beautiful smile. I smile at everyone, even at strangers that I pass on my day to day smile, as I feel that God gave me this feature to benefit others. Personally, whenever anyone smiles at me, I am always warmed, and it makes a small difference to my day. I think smiling naturally makes others feel that they can approach you. I also read somewhere that the more you smile, the more you feel like smiling.

When I was younger, I wanted to be stunningly beautiful; to be noticed by all the boys, and admired by all the girls. Now that I realise that I never have been and never will be, I believe that what God had given me personally is beyond all that. If I had been stunningly beautiful I might also have been proud and rude. I might have become the bully rather than the victim. If I had been stunningly beautiful and known it, then I doubt I would have been able to write this blog, as I wouldn't be able to emphasise with people who, like me, suffer from low self esteem. I believe God has given me a very special spiritual gift that I am learning to use. Perhaps that's what lies behind my smile that makes it so likeable. I am trying to see beauty in everyone, whether that beauty is external or internal.

I would like to conclude with an important message for you, a message that I want you to heed, even if you don't think it plausible. You are extremely beautiful. You were made by an all-loving God who knows everything about you. He knows and loves you like an only child. He gave you every single one of your traits and features. 'If He'd a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart. And what about the Christmas gift He sent you at Bethlehem? Not to mention that Friday at Calvary. Face it, He's crazy about you!' (Max Lucado).

God was pleased with you; more than pleased. He adores you. He is 'rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind' (Proverbs 8.31). You are no exception.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Making a Difference

Every Monday, Carrie of [carrotspeak] posts about the good deeds she has done each week, in order to make a difference (no matter how big or small) in another person's life. This week she wrote a touching post about a visit she paid to her grandmother, who's very poorly at the moment. You can read about it here. I could so relate to what she wrote about not knowing what to say. I was in a similar position last week too. Carrie invites the readers of her blog to respond with a post of their own, about how they have been making a difference each week. Here's mine.

Last week I attended the funeral of Dearest Friend's older brother, who passed away three days after Christmas. The saddest part was that he chose to die. He was thirty-nine.

The last few weeks have been hard ones for Dearest Friend and her family, and they have all been in my thoughts and prayers. With the people to inform, affairs to put in order, and the funeral to be arranged, they have had to put their grief temporarily on hold. I wasn't able to see much of Dearest Friend during this time, but she did invite me to the funeral.

I didn't know her brother well at all. I met him a few times, and have some memories of him, but Dearest Friend told me most of what I knew of him. I don't think I ever held a conversation with him. But I still wanted to be there, both to pay my respects, and to be there for a beloved friend.

The funeral took place on a chilly winter afternoon. The air was moist and icy, and I joined the assembly of friends and relatives outside the chapel, shivering both from the cold and the atmosphere. Eventually we moved inside the chapel, which wasn't much warmer, and took our seats, waiting for the imminent procession. My other best friend, Darling Girl, arrived after I had taken my seat amongst strangers. She and her mother were the only two people I knew in the chapel.

I curled my hands in my lap, already feeling my emotions stir. With the opening melody of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' we all rose, and as I watched Dearest Friend and her family traipse in behind the coffin, the tears threatened, and I began to cry for a man I hardly knew.

The service was fairly bleak and, despite the moving, sometimes humorous account about the life of the man, the obituary was very much centred on his mode of death. Indeed, the lady that spoke seemed to place great emphasis on this; more than was necessary. Dearest Friend and her family were seated several rows in front of me, and my eyes rested on them for most of the ceremony. They were, naturally, very upset, and it just broke my heart to watch them fighting their grief.

Afterwards we filed outside, and gathered in the car park to pay our respects to the family. It was, if possible, colder than it had been before. I could see Dearest Friend sitting alone, shivering with her suppressed grief and the cold. Not sure what to say, I threw my arms around her, and perhaps the gesture said more than words. I held her for a long time, wanting desperately to take away some of her burden of grief. 'Thank you for coming,' was the first thing she said through her tears. I know that there was very little I could do, but just being there seemed to make a small difference to her day. I stood by her side until most of the guests had gone, and only left when she and her family seemed to be returning to the car.

I have spoken to her since, and I am going to see her next week. She seems to be doing okay, but I know it will be a while before the hurt and grief begin to heal. Her great nephew was born shortly after the funeral, and I'm sure this will be a positive distraction in the lives of her and her family.

Spot the Falsehood

Some of you will remember that a while ago, Carrie posted eleven facts about herself, and asked people to guess which one was false. Now I am going to do the same, to see how well you think you know me :) Good luck!

1) I was Mary in two of my school nativities. The second occasion was my first ever speaking role, and I had four lines to learn!

2) My blogger name is that of a heroine in a trilogy of books that I loved during my teens

3) Spud is my first and only love, but I did send a Valentine's card before I knew him

4) I've never broken a bone

5) I would choose a cup of tea over any alcoholic beverage

6) I passed my driving test three years ago, but only drive out of necessity as it is something I really hate

7) For most of my childhood I wanted to be a vet, a dream that I soon revised after starting high school and discovering just how difficult Science was, as well as developing a strong aversion to blood

8) My parents would have christened me Amy, had my aunt and uncle not chosen that name for my cousin who was born five months before me

9) My favourite dessert is lemon meringue pie, closely followed by homemade apple crumble with hot custard :)

10) I am not at all ticklish, although I was very as a little girl

11) I find walking into a room full of people, or walking towards someone from the opposite direction quite an ordeal, but one which I can conquer

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Uninvited

But you're not allowed
You're uninvited
An unfortunate slight

- Alanis Morissette - 'Uninvited' -

Ow. How can a two letter word express so much pain? It would be fair to warn you that this post is going to be shamefully self-pitying as I've just been slighted and feel the need to get it off my chest.

I was a bit miffed, you see, to learn that all my friends attended a party the other night, and I was the only one uninvited :( I know the group too well to know that the slight was completely unintentional, and if I had any inkling that any of them read this blog then I wouldn't be posting this. I know they would be devastated to hear that I feel left out. They probably thought I was working, or something...

I know sometimes my work hours and time away visiting Spud can interfere with social gatherings, but I could have made this particular party. I was only working until 6 that night.

This isn't the first time that I've felt left out lately. I have another group of friends who, until quite recently, I was good friends with, but we seem to have lost touch. I don't know if they still meet up, but if they do, then they haven't invited me along. I haven't seen them in months, and last time I seem to remember that it was me who organised the meeting.

It's made me feel quite isolated and insecure. I appreciate that the next year or so will be a real test to my friendships, and I'm beginning to see the ones which won't remain intact after the upheaval of my move. I've more or less come to terms with it, and I have a couple of friendships that I know, without a doubt, will survive.

I've decided that one answer is to invite all my friends to the party I plan to throw for my 21st, and then perhaps I will receive some invites in return, whether to parties, or just to meet up generally. That way, hopefully I'll know where I stand. I apologise again for this blog. I prefer to write upbeat and uplifting posts, and this one is more or less the complete opposite.

My Blogging Story

Quite a while ago, Sarah and Ashley posted a blog about How or Why they started blogging, and I decided that I would do the same at some point when I got round to it... You can read their blogging stories here and here.

I first stumbled onto blogger round about November 2008, and I'm not even sure why. I had previously visited the blogspots of my old church youth leader, and my brother-in-law-to-be, and I must have decided the time had come for Kess to have her say! Thus, blog number one was born.

It took me a while to get the hang of it, and I didn't really start posting until January 2009. It took me longer still to figure out how to browse through blogs and follow them.

I became quite proud of my blog to begin with. I used my real name, and Spud's real name, and generally wrote about my life and my faith. However, I never gained any real followers other than Bethany. Spud became a follower, and I did gain one other follower, who blogged in Spanish! She never commented, so it was difficult to tell if she even looked at my blog.

When my blog was eight months old, it simply died. I grew bored with it, and had no inspiration for further posts. Strangely, it was while I was on holiday and couldn't blog that The Passing Place was born. I didn't want to stop blogging, but I did want to start afresh, and as Bethany was my only 'real' follower, I felt I could do so without too much upheaval. While I had struggled to think of a name for my previous blog, The Passing Place came into existence with a name. This time it was meant to be.

I decided that rather than pouring all of me into my blog, I would distance myself. I don't use my real name, and to begin with I didn't even post a photograph of myself. Of course, as soon as The Passing Place was a reality, I followed Bethany again, wanting to maintain that friendship, support, and contact with her blog which I really enjoy reading.

I browsed through other blogs and discovered people who I felt able to be my kindred spirits, people whose thoughts I can strongly relate to: Anna, Carrie, Muffins, Mariel, and of course, Sarah and Ashley. I realised that there is more to following than gaining popularity. Following is about support and friendship, making people's days by commenting on their blogs or giving them a shout.

I began to put more of myself into my blog again, because people seemed to enjoy reading about me and my life, and thoughts, as much as I enjoy reading their blogs. Blogging has become a part of my daily routine. Even if I'm not posting myself, I will go online at least once a day and read the most recent posts of my blogging friends.

I want to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to all my loyal followers - I'd much rather call you friends. Hearing from you, whether from your blogs or your comments, always makes a difference to my day, and I can say truthfully that one of my highlights from the last year has been getting to know each and every one of you! It's much more fun to blog when you know that there are people reading and interacting with what you have to say, so thank you again. It really means a lot! :D

Saturday, 16 January 2010

BookSneeze

Darling Anna introduced me to BookSneeze the other day. BookSneeze is a website which will send you books for free, and asks only for you to write a 200(+) word review and post it on your blog in return. I've signed up, and requested my first book. I'm really excited about reading something new and writing my first review for BookSneeze!

I review for BookSneeze

I am very preoccupied at the moment, which explains the lack of posting. I did my first work shift of the New Year on Thursday, and have been in every day since. Apart from tomorrow, I will be in every day next week too, but thankfully have the following weekend off. After that, I begin lectures again, and will take on fewer hours, because my assignments will take the main priority.

Other than that, my spare time has been spent working on my dissertation. I haven't actually written anything, but I've done a lot of reading, and note taking.

I found out earlier that Spud will return for a visit three weeks today. This piece of news has really spurred me on! Hope you're all having a happy weekend, peeps!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Knitting In Blue

It has been a joy to rediscover knitting recently. I had to cast my needles aside after the summer, as I had so much work and reading to do that there wasn't the time to start anything new. As soon as I handed my assignments in last week, I spent every free moment clicking away on my needles, working on a new project that Dearest Friend set me. You can see the finished product below.


Dearest Friend is about to become a Great Aunt. She's only twenty like me, but she became an aunt when she was only six months old. When her last niece was born I gave her mum a knitting pattern for the adorable baby jacket above. I later expressed an interest in having ago at the pattern myself, but with no new babies in the family I didn't see the point. So when Dearest Friend heard that another baby was due in her family, she set me the task of knitting the jacket for her Great Nephew, due next month. That's what I've been up to recently :)

I found out too that my dear mother has found her way onto my blog, and I think she definitely deserves a shout: Hello Mum! :D

Never Let Me Go

I'm at a little bit of a loss as to what I should write this afternoon, so I thought I would review a book I read just before Christmas, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.



When I read Never Let Me Go I was not a stranger to Kazuo Ishiguro's writing, having studied another of his novels, The Remains of the Day, for two consecutive years - the first for my second year of A-levels, and the second for the first year of my degree. I also looked at one of his short stories for last year's creative writing module.

Ishiguro really is a master at capturing voices. In The Remains of the Day he writes from the perspective of Stevens, a butler in the 1950s. Never Let Me Go is written from the perspective of a thirty-one year old woman called Kathy, an entirely different voice to that of Stevens. However, both novels deal with similar themes, namely those of memory, friendship, and loss.

In Never Let Me Go Ishiguro 'imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England'. The protagonist, Kathy, unravels the mysteries of the past through her reminiscences, as she comes to term with the fate she has been aware of all her life...

This is a deeply moving novel, powerful and elegantly written.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Reality Kicks In

My big move in June following the completion of my degree has, since Sunday, started to feel very real indeed. Whenever I speculated a future of living nearer to Spud, namely in his very city, I just couldn't picture it. I couldn't imagine living minutes from Spud, instead of hours, nor could I imagine having a full time job, and living anywhere other than the place I've known as home all these years. It all seemed very surreal, and consequently, I think a part of me just didn't think it was going to happen, even though I knew with certainty that one day it would.

I think part of the reason was that when we started going out, we knew there would come a time when one of us would have to move closer to the other, and I was all for leaving home and moving closer to Spud - I still am. Anyway, the move has always been on my mind, but up until the last few months, it's felt a very long way into the future. Now, suddenly, it looms upon the horizon, only five and a half months away.

Just before Christmas, when I was last visiting Spud, I advertised for a room through the church he is involved with, and the church where we think we'll end up attending weekly, and even getting married! On Sunday, I received a phone call from a woman who had seen my notice and was interested. We had a brief conversation on the phone, and will arrange to meet in April when I am next visiting Spud. Afterwards, Spud looked her address up on Google Earth and we were even able to see a picture of her house on street view. That was when reality kicked in - when I saw my prospective dwelling from June onwards. It is in an ideally location, and only minutes by car from Spud's house.

I am beginning to anticipate the move with both excitement and impatience now that one factor has been potentially resolved. That's one prayer that God has answered for me swiftly. I can only hope that it'll be the same story when it comes to the job front! God is good! :)

In other news, Spud returned home today :( but it'll only be a short spell of 3-4 weeks before he returns! :)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

...In the words of Sarah. Here are the long awaited photos of my new look.







Saturday, 9 January 2010

Outrageous!

I decided, only today, that once a month I am going to do something outrageous, starting today. This evening, I did something I've been wanting to do for a while, but been a little hesitant about doing.

Just over a year ago I discovered hair dye. I made all the necessary enquiries beforehand, asking my cousin's advice about which brand to use, and deciding to use only semi-permanent (I would never use permanent hair dye!) The colour I chose the first time was called caramel, only a step up from my own natural hair colour, and hardly anyone noticed the difference. I used darker colours the second and third time round, chocolate and dark brown, and it was only really on the third occasion that people did notice the difference without being prompted. For years I wondered what my hair would look like if I dyed it black. About an hour ago I found out!

This evening I dyed my hair black (photos to come) as my act of outrageousness this month! As before, I used semi permanent hair dye so it should fade over with the next twenty-eight hair washes or so. I really like it as a change, and people are bound to notice this time!

My other New Year's Resolutions include:

1) Stop biting my fingernails (so far I have been fairly successful)

2) Produce a final draft of my novel

3) Read the complete plays of Shakespeare

Spud is here until Tuesday. I'm dreading his return home, but the good news is he'll be back for another visit next month! :)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

An Overview of Christmas


Spud and I have both got colds, not the best way to start the new year, but perhaps it's better to get the ailments out of the way now, and enjoy good health later on in the year. Spud is snoozing at the moment, so I thought now would be a good opportunity to post about how I spent my holidays. Because I had so much work to do during the latter half of Christmas, I didn't get much opportunity to write.

Shortly after Christmas, my best friend, Dearest Friend, received some devastating news. She found out that her older brother had died. Any prayers for her and her family would be appreciated, because this has been a real dampener for her, as you would expect. Spud and I were with her on the day she received the news - we went to see her as soon as we heard because she needed the distraction, and some close friends to comfort her.

She didn't come out with us on New Year's Eve as we had prearranged, which was a shame but understandable. Spud and I still went out though with Darling Girl, my other best friend, along with a couple of other girls, Darling Girl's brothers, and an ensemble of their friends. We all went out in fancy dress, as you can see from the photographs.





Dearest Friend and Darling Girl live by the sea, and so shortly before midnight everyone, locals and visitors alike, trooped along to the seafront where we saw 2010 in with a brief firework display lasting under five minutes. Everyone there dresses up for New Year's Eve, and some of the costumes were spectacular, more imaginative than ours even! I wish I had taken some more pictures.

The atmosphere was quite something, although by about midnight we were beginning to witness some wild behaviour. A horde of people climbed up on the roof of a small cafe right by the sea. We expected the roof to cave in as more people climbed up still, in order to join the rooftop party. The sky was alight, not with stars, but with Chinese Lanterns, which sailed overhead in the direction of the sea. I have never seen them alight before, but they were truly stunning.

On the second day of 2010, we celebrated my grandfather's 80th birthday, over a banquet of Indian food. His is the first of many family celebrations this year, including my coming of age, my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, and my parents' 25th. It's going to be quite a year. My granny gave me some books for my dissertation as she is quite a fan of Daphne du Maurier and the Bronte sisters. She told me I looked like Charlotte Bronte with my hair tied back in a bun as it was that day.

And that was the main events of my Christmas holiday wrapped up. I handed in all my assignments yesterday, much to my relief, and I have the next three weeks off, with nothing but the dissertation to concentrate on. Spud is here for another week, so it'll be nice to spend some time with him without the pressure of uni work. Mind you, I hope we recover soon so that we can enjoy some days out before he goes!