Every Day in May

So here we are, the 31st of May, and it’s official… I’ve managed to Blog Every Day in May!

This is Rosalilium’s final blogging prompt of the month:

Hoorah! Well done, you have made it through the month. How was it for you? Did you learn anything? What did you enjoy? What did you dislike? Sum it all up!

I have to say that although it was challenging at times, I really enjoyed pushing myself to blog each day. More importantly, I enjoyed pushing myself towards different topics. I think since I started this blog that has been my main concern… the what. When I started out I was blogging exclusively about my studies, and in that first year I only blogged 30 times. I kept telling myself that my blog was about this, so I could only post that. What a huge mistake! Since branching out into different areas I’ve enjoyed writing so much more (plus, this year I’ve already posted 104 times!). Now, rather than viewing my blog as a chore, I see it as a playground.

In the past month, I’ve also discovered how much I love engaging with other bloggers. It’s strange that I’ve avoided that for the past couple of years… but I think I always worried that (this is going to sound lame) they’d be mean. I didn’t really consider myself a ‘real’ blogger. I was so, so wrong. I’m sure there are blogging demons out there, but my experience so far (particularly of the BEDM bloggers) has been entirely positive. I hope to stay in contact with the ladies I’ve ‘met’ over the past month… I really feel like I know them. I think in the coming months I’d really like to start collaborating with other bloggers more… I’m not even sure what with, but I’m available if anyone has any ideas… I like to have a project! I’ve also jumped straight into another blogging challenge – Armchair BEA, and hopefully I’ll manage to connect with some like-minded people…

I’ve started to embrace that the only way I’ll be able to develop this little corner of the internet is through trial and error. I experiment and if I don’t enjoy something I’ll stop, if I love it, I’ll think of ways to do it more. In the past I’ve tried having a more rigid blogging schedule and it just wasn’t fun. I want freedom here, not ‘work’. You can’t jump into this whole malarkey and be as great as the people who have been doing it for years… and if that’s what you expect then you’re going to end up so frustrated that you give up on blogging altogether. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to write for yourself and not the readers, because any writer has to have their readers in mind, but try to do what you enjoy, not what you think others expect from you.

If you stay with me and my blog over the coming weeks, months and years, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of changes. Some will be fab and some will make me cringe in hindsight, but hey, the same could be said about my hair.

I’m in no position to give anyone blogging advice, but how about you? If you had to offer a nugget of wisdom to a blogger what would it be?

D x

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The nineteenth-century novel

Today is the second to last day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and the topic of the day is all about inspiration. The obvious thing for me to do would be to talk about the artists that inspire me, but I’m considering a blog series along those lines, so instead I’m going to talk about my studies.

As you probably all know, I’m currently working on a Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University, and this year I’ve been studying AA316 (the nineteenth-century novel). Last summer when I was picking my courses I remember been torn between this one, ’20th century literature: texts and debates’ and ‘Shakespeare: text and performance’. What was the deciding factor, I hear you ask? Classics. I love ’em. I love reading books that take a bit of deciphering, that contain beautiful writing, not just an engaging plot. I love the total delusions of a lot of the characters. I love the quaintness of times gone by. I love the romance and the tragedy. Mostly, I love costume dramas.

One of the things that inspired me to do this module was sheer book envy. That feeling you get, when you’re convinced you should read something but just never seem to get to it… that’s what pushed me into the world of the nineteenth-century novel.

Working through my set books, I’ve come across some real gems. I’ve discovered some things I’ve LOVED and some things that are headed straight to the charity shop… even though I really did hate some of them, I’m glad I suffered through (because at least now I know A- who to avoid and B- that a lot of the time other people are WRONG).

So these are those infamous books I’ve had to read (linked to reviews) –

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

My first ever Austen… underwhelming at best.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A book I’ve read many a time before, and will undoubtedly read many a time again.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

The book that changed my mind about Dickens! Despite my love for all BBC adaptations, my torturous experience of reading Hard Times really put me off… but I absolutely LOVED this one. Enough to download the rest onto my Kindle (thank God for Project Gutenberg!)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I enjoyed studying passages from this novel more than actually reading it- there’s some truly stunning prose, but the dialects really bug me…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

In a word… long. Came from a snobby hypocrite, but an enjoyable read.

Germinal by Emile Zola

Enjoyed it waaaay more than I thought I would, could never be described as ‘nice’ but I’d recommend giving it a read… I’m currently trying to track down the rest in the series (not as easy as you’d think!)

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

After a slight struggle with the first chapter I really got into this one only to be left a bit cold at the end, not one to read if you’re looking for a bit of action!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

DREADFUL.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Again, long. A lot of build-up for a kind of boring scandal… I guess times have changed…

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A good classic to start off with… purely because it’s so short! I thought it was ok the first time I read it but have enjoyed it more and more as I’ve had to study it. An appreciation for symbolism is required for this one.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Enjoyable, if well-known, story. It’s just a shame about the insipid declarations, total chauvinism and two-dimensional characters.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Started to read and couldn’t get into it, then I realized I wasn’t going to get examined on this one so I’m leaving it for another time, and doing some revision instead!

I’ve definitely got a lot more classics on my ‘to read’ list that I’m hoping to get through…

So what do you think of classics? Do you read them because you enjoy them or because you just feel like you should? Do you just stay away altogether?

D x

A slightly creative morning

Hi guys!

So today is day 29 of the Blog Every Day in May challenge – I can’t believe we’re nearly there! Today the topic is morning ritual, and because my morning ritual could be summarised in a line or two I’m going to try something a little different…

In my creative writing class last year I studied a lot of techniques for coming up with ideas for poems… one of these was to pick a really mundane topic and bring in as much figurative language into a piece of prose as possible, before turning it into poetry. So I thought I’d pull out my rusty writing technique and give it a whirl with my morning ritual:

My morning usually starts with my fickle friend the snooze button. He lingers quietly, letting my flirt with the Valhalla of slumber before ripping me away from all that is good about life.

The next twenty minutes are a blur of teeth brushing, hair brushing, face brushing. Of messy wardrobes, messy bags and messy buns. But I make it out, to the rush of mug that swallows me whole as I try to embrace this cold, grey day.

The walk through town is a perilous adventure, with all vehicles honing in on me, like salt to vinegar. That old man tries to hit me with his (push) bike for the twelfth day in a row, cars forget to indicate before their outrage at pedestrians devours all reason. Then finally, that sunflower saviour graces the horizon, and carries away to pastures new.

Pastures of phone calls and spread sheets, emails and folders, tea breaks and tantrums. But the gates to that peaceful meadow of monotony are barred until that beauty known as breakfast shows her face. Whether she’s dressing up as sausage sandwiches or swirls of cinnamon, maple dyed pastry braids or ‘breakfast biscuits’, calories are key. Sugar in belly, tea in hand, I’m armed to face the day.

Let me just say, this is not supposed to be literary genius, the whole point is to kick up a few interesting phrases that you can file away for later… and I pledge to you, my loyal readers, that even though I’m the least poetic person on the planet, I will turn this into a bit of verse for you. One day.

So you’ve read about my romanticized morning, how would you describe yours?

D x

Bad Advice

When I saw that today’s Blog Every Day in May prompt was about the worst advice you’ve ever received, I instantly knew what I wanted to talk about.

When I was seventeen and leaving home my mother’s parting words of wisdom were ‘Don’t bother going to Uni, it’s not worth it’. This may seem completely insane coming from a parent… but when she went away to Uni she came back with, well, me so it could be argued that she was just worried about her darling innocent daughter. Or she was doing what she always did, and worrying about appearances. The thing about my mother is that she wanted me to be better than everyone else’s kids, but not so good that I would be better than her; I was expected to have a better tan and blonder hair than everyone I went to school with, but I couldn’t have a smaller dress size than mummy.

I’m not going to hide the dysfunction, but I’m getting distracted.

What I wanted to say is that I’m so glad, and so proud that I ignored that terrible, terrible advice. Doing my degree has made me feel so much more confident about having a career, rather than just a job. I’ve learnt a lot more about my own strengths by engaging in distance learning – I now know I have the determination and ambition to succeed in whatever I set my mind to. I know that sounds a bit lame, but now I just have a lot more faith in myself (maybe it has something to do with living far, far away from somebody obsessed with my weight?)

I admit, I haven’t gone about the whole higher education thing in a conventional way, but that tends to be my style. I won’t go over the Pro’s and Con’s of the Open University (again) because I don’t want to bore you… but the most valuable thing it has enabled me to do is hold down a full-time job. Not only have a gained valuable work experience, I’ve managed to save. A lot. When I finish my degree I won’t be swimming in student loans, I’ll be in a position to buy my own home.

Plus, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I did it all on my own. (Ok, mostly I mean I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I WAS RIGHT)

So is it just me, or have your parents laid some crap advice on you too?

D x

A Page of Affirmations

So today is day 27 of the Rosalilium Blog Every Day in May Challenge and the theme is Secret Talent.

This one is a hard one for me… I’m the kind of person who cringes when I have to talk about myself, if someone tells me I’m good at something I can’t help but say something sarcastic. And the only ‘secret’ I have is this blog. So I thought maybe I’d use a get out of jail free card and ask the boyfriend to share my special talents…

Want to hear what he came up with?

‘Well, err, you’re creative. And y’know, skilful. And you can multitask, that’s special.’

Obviously I have an excellent candidate for writing my next CV, but coming from the person who’s supposed to love and indulge me more than anyone, I don’t know how impressed I am…

So instead of using a boy as my source of information I’m going to share my latest Life Book page with you. This class was taught by the fabulous Dawn DeVries Sokol, and the idea was to create a page filled with positive words about you and the things you’re good at (so perfect for today’s blogging prompt!)

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The light bounced off the paint a bit so you can’t really read all the text:

Creative Soul * Nobody Stronger * Nobody Stranger * Mama Bear * Doodler Extraordinaire * Unique Creature * You see through the blurred lines * With a talent for sarcasm * You never forget * Somehow there’s someone who loves you enough to put up with all your issues * Ans you pull the best faces [evidenced by the photo!]

I wouldn’t say this is the most beautiful page I’ve ever created but I enjoyed making it… even if it’s not that easy writing things about yourself!

So how about you? Any secret talents?

D x

Whootie Owl Card

The latest Quirky Crafts challenge has gone live today, and the latest theme is black and white with a tiny amount of another colour. Check out the original challenge post here.

One of the biggest challenges for me as part of the Quirky Crafts design team is using the digital stamps provided by all of our great sponsors. If you’ve seen any of my other art work, you’ll know I like to create each element on the page; I prefer to use hand painted papers over scrapbook paper, my own writing over computer generated fonts, my own drawings over somebody else’s. But you should also know that I love a challenge, and these images we’re given force me to push myself, and find different ways to make my mark.

So to that end, today I’m going to share an artsy card making tutorial using the ‘Whootie Owl’ stamp from Limited Runs.

Supplies:

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Half a sheet of sturdy watercolour paper * a pair of scissors * a glue stick * a tube of acrylic paint * a pencil crayon in the same colour as the paint * a flat paint brush * a black felt tip * a fine black pen (I used a gel pen) * a white pen * a piece of bubble wrap *  a black and white image

Steps:

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Fold your piece of watercolour paper in half, then water down some acrylic paint and cover one half in a light wash. While it’s still wet, blot with a piece of toilet roll or kitchen paper for texture.

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Coat your bubble wrap with a thicker layer of paint and print onto your background. Set aside and let it dry while you work on you image.

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Using a black felt tip divide the image into smaller sections. Then start adding doodles with the gel pen.

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Fill in the rest with doodles, I’d recommend picking two patterns and then repeating them across the image. Remember to leave some blank space, or it’ll just look too fussy. Add a splash of colour to those blank spaces.

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Add a few scribbles to your background to tie in the black and white of your main image.

Cut out your image and stick to the background. Add a border using your black and white pens and your pencil crayon. This will add balance out the card and make each element look like it ‘goes’ together:

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I hoped you enjoyed this little tutorial, and I hope you’ll consider linking up to the latest challenge!

D x

P.S. If you make anything based on this post, I’d love to see pictures!

Five

So this is day number 25 of the Blog Every Day in May challenge I’m taking part in this month and today the prompt is Music Love. What are your 5 favourite albums and why? I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts, I’m sure I’ll find some great new music!

Only problem is, I don’t think I can come up with my top 5 albums… living in a world of Youtube and ITunes, I very rarely listen to full albums anymore… I’ll pick out a few songs that I like and shove them on a playlist, but it’s not like the old days when I used to put on a CD and play if for hours and hours.

Instead, I thought I’d share the last 5 albums I’ve listened to from start to finish:

The Music of Nashville: Original Soundtrack (Season 1, Volume 1)

The soundtrack to one of my new TV faves – all original songs, all sang by the actors on the show. The CD was an anniversary present from boyfriend and I just love it, I’ve listened to it over and over and over. I’ve never really listened to a lot of Country music, but I actually may have a new love…

Wait for this Day to Grow Old – Tom Skelly

This is an album was written and sung by somebody I went to school with and is genuinely amazing! It’s soo soulful and soo raw, I’m genuinely amazed that this came out of my home town! Check it out here.

Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner

I’d never heard any Frank Turner before a work friend leant me this… so good! The songs are touching sometimes, witty always and deliriously catchy!

Bowling for the Soup Goes to the Movies – Bowling for Soup

I’ve been brushing up on my Bowling for Soup in preparation for the gig in October. There are a couple of good songs but it’s not my favourite of theirs (Drunk Enough to Dance is – it’s their crowning glory!)

Best of Blue – Blue

A bargain buy from a car boot sale – 50p and money well spent! You’ve gotta love a bit of old school cheese, takes me right back to being 12 and watching Top of the Pops on a Friday night…

So what do you think of my latest plays? Random? Cheesey? I know. So tell me, what are yours? And no hiding the guiltiest pleasures!

D x

In The Fridge

Today is the 24th day of the Blog Every Day in May challenge and the prompt is to describe what’s in your fridge.

Unfortunately this has caught me right at that time of the month when we’re not quite ready to do a big shop, but still really don’t have anything decent in stock. For today I’m being faithful to the prompt though, so here you go:

Half a bowl of tropical salad * half a jar of gherkins * a tub of marge * a pineapple wrapped in clingfilm * a bottle of Black Tower (white wine) * a bottle of Mateus (rose wine) * butter * portabello mushrooms * two Pink Lady apples * the end of a block of cheddar * reduced fat coleslaw * humous (that needs throwing out) * two eggs * three Activia Intensely Creamy coconut flavoured yoghurts * a packet of grapes (that seems to have dissolved) * a pack of beef mince * a packet of pitta bread * a tub of quark * a packet of pork sausages * one tomato * four carrots * two peppers * a bottle of milk * an empty bag that used to house onions * a jar of lemon curd * a squeezey lemon * a jar of homemade (not by me) apricot and apple jam * half a jar of hibiscus flowers * a bottle of garlic mayo * a tube of crushed chilli * a tube of crushed garlic

As you can see… a lot of randomness! I’m anticipating a fair few ‘invention test’ style meals over the next week or so… So what would you guys cook if this stuff was in your Ready, Steady, Cook bag?

I can’t wait to have a nosey into the other BEDM bloggers’ fridges… although I bet I’ll be getting some food envy!
D x

The Liebster Award

I’ve managed to make it to the 23rd day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge! Today the prompts is: Compliments. Tell us about the best compliment you have received.

For this I though I’d tell you about the Liebster Award.

liebster

Last week Pippo from Xarglebook nominated me for this blogging award. The idea is that after you’re nominated you:

  • Nominate 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers.
  • Answer the 11 questions set by the person who nominated you.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Ask 11 questions to those you nominate.
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Remember to tell the people you’ve nominated, they’re not mind readers!

Got it? So here goes:

I’d like to nominate…

  • Words of a 20 Something  by a young OU student, non-fiction enthusiast and proud dog owner.
  • Lora Loves a local (to me) fashion and beauty blog.
  • Love + Cupcakes Blog a mixture of food, craftyness and general love vibes.
  • Satchels and Pearls written by my lovely friend Michelle about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, dumplings and pregnancy.
  • Indigo Buttons home of seriously HOT photography and fab writing. Plus we share a love of beige food.
  • Lace Lapin a new discovery of mine and it’s just filled with lots and lots of prettiness!
  • Hey Holly June another northerner studying with the OU (which is just one of my favourite kinds of people)
  • 25 to 30 a really fun, really colourful blog full of personality and randomness.
  • Kimi and Me another new discovery, consists of really well put together posts about pretty things.
  • Slapsnap a well written, conversational lifestyle blog, that kind of makes you feel like you’ve just sat down for a brew with your girls.
  • Hayley from My OU Odyssey is a fellow YSA and waaay more philosophical than me!

[I’m not been too strict about them having less than 200 followers- if it’s not listed somewhere obvious on their blog then it doesn’t count!]

I’d like to answer…

  • What is your favourite animal and why?

Tricky one, I’m a big animal person. I love elephants because they’re so majestic and yet so gentle. I like the big cats because they’re beautiful and dangerous. Koalas and pandas I love because they’re just huggable (ok, so they might rip my throat out, but still… cute!). On the domestic side I love dogs, preferably rescue dogs, they need you more!

  • How long have you been writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember but over the years academia and work have taken over. I’ve had this blog for a couple of years no, but I only actually started posting regularly last summer. I’m studying a creative writing module next year, so hopefully I’ll rekindle my love affair with words.

  • What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

There are a couple. I once ate breaded liver at my Romanian friend’s house… I only tried it because I didn’t know it was liver *vom*. Snails were yummy, prickly pears kind of taste like melon but with the texture of passionfruit (that’s pretty strange). Number one strangest thing I’ve eaten has to be ‘polvorones’. They’re a traditional Spanish sweet treat typically eaten around Christmas, they look like a combination of bonbons and shortbread, but they just taste like densely packed flour with a bit of sugar on top. 

  • What’s your greatest fear?

Being a disappointment to the people who love me.

  • If you had a week off to read, what would you read?

No clue! One of these.

  • If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?

There are so many times and places I’d love to see, but if I had to pick one I’d go for 1910. Plaits, bicycles, homemade lemonade, a quick jaunt to Imperial India, perfect!

  • What do you do to relax?

I read, I cook, I make art, and increasingly I blog. I recently wrote a post on ways I’m planning to relax over the summer, check it out here.

  • How many books do you read in a year?

I used to read feverishly, but in the last couple of years study books have taken over… I’m trying to fight it though by taking part in a bunch of reading challenges, and so far it seems to be working. I’ve managed 36 this year up to now, which is already more than I read in the whole of 2012.

  • If you wrote a mystery, who would be the culprit and how did they cover it up?

My mystery would involve an unspeakably evil person murdering somebody well-loved, and the bad guy’s dog would then murder his master. However, the police will assume the same person killed both victims and nobody will suspect the dog because y’know, he’s a dog.

  • What kind of weather do you like the most?

I love the dreamlike quality of snowfall, but I also love going out just after it rains because everything just seems so fresh and clean. Rain is also good because it opens up the possibility of a duvet day.

  • If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

I wrote a post about the countries I’d love to visit here, but I’d also really love to travel around Britain more… I’d definitely love to visit Edinburgh one day soon.

I’d like to share…

  • I could not live without cheese. I’m a firm believer that every meal can be made better with grated cheese.
  • I really wish I could be more of a book snob, but I really love my Kindle Touch!
  • I just bought a ticket for Bowling For Soup’s Farewell UK Tour and I CAN’T WAIT!!
  • I find it really difficult to throw away flowers people give me… I currently have two crusty bouquets in the flat (the most recent one being from about a month ago)
  • In exactly two weeks I turn twenty-two.
  • I’ve had a not-so-secret love for Star Trek for as long as I can remember, but the one time I attempted Star Wars I fell asleep.
  • I’d really like to learn a third language, I just can’t decide which!
  • Technically I’m the oldest of eight siblings.
  • I really hope Tony and Ziva end up together, despite rule #12 (gold star if you get the reference).
  • My favourite colour is turquoise.
  • I’m still buzzing that the amazing Hali Kahla shared a piece of my art yesterday!

I’d like to ask…

  • What was the last thing you read?
  • What’s your favourite sandwich filling?
  • If you could go on holiday to one fictional place, where would you go and why?
  • What’s your guiltiest musical pleasure?
  • What’s your favourite crime drama?
  • What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given, who gave it to you and why did you like it so much?
  • What’s your biggest pet hate?
  • What’s your favourite flower?
  • Empty your handbag onto the floor and tell me what’s in it.
  • If you were given one day free from all responsibilities what would you do with yourself?
  • List three new things you’d like to try over the summer.

I can’t wait to read all of your follow-up posts (if you decide to accept this honour of course!)

Thank you again Pippo from Xarglebook for nominating me,

D x

Words of Advice

Today is day 22 of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge. Yes, that’s right, I’ve blogged for 22 days in a row! The prompt for today’s post is: If you could talk to your thirteen year-old self, what would you say?

If I were to meet up with my thirteen year-old self, I’d give her a list of books to read. These books may never become her absolute favourites, but they’ll teach her some important life lessons, that will definitely come in handy during the tumultuous teenage years to come.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen: Some people are just plain crazy. And yes, I’m talking about your mother. Just grin and bear it for a couple more years, then you’ll be able to flee the country. Literally.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Life can be really, really hard and there are times when you’ll have to do the unappealing just to survive. People aren’t always going to like you and you just have to be ok with that. Appreciate your loved ones while they’re around, because they won’t be forever, and NEVER steal your sister’s man.

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy: Don’t be afraid to do something completely impulsive every now and again. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Never play around with other people’s feelings. Love triangles belong in soaps and they will NEVER END WELL.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: Real friendships are always complicated. Sometimes they’ll take over your life in a good way, but sometimes you just need to walk away from the drama.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott:  Families are MESSY, especially yours. You might not find ‘home’ in the place you expect to, but you’ll end up exactly where you’re meant to be!

Pirates by Celia Rees:  Girls kick arse, but you already know this. Just remember it’s always safer to stick together.

As an unapologetic bookworm, I’ve probably learnt everything I need to know from the pages of books and I can’t see that ever-changing. If you had to recommend a book to a younger you, which would you pick?

D x