I have decided I’m not going to do resolutions this year, unless keeping my head down and getting through it counts but I do plan on each month doing the appropriate month of Bustle and Sew’s Rosie and Bear quilt and I started with December (obviously). This is not quite finished as there is meant to be an applique fabric border but to be honest, right now, I don’t know where my iron is *blush*, so it will get done later. I thought I’d just post a picture of it as it is now, whilst it’s still December.
Ok, it’s not strictly speaking my birthday yet but I had almost gathered together enough money by Christmas Day for my new camera, so I ordered it anyway. It’s a Fujifilm FinePix S1800 (and actually going into Amazon just now to get the link and the photo I see it’s gone up a bit in price since I ordered it, so I’m doubly glad I didn’t wait till my birthday now!).
My last camera, which I lost on the way home from Legoland in October (*sob*) was a ‘good’ point and shoot Cybershot and it did take some nice photos but it was getting on a bit, the white balance was getting a bit flaky and it was developing some intermittent problems with the focus, so although I was gutted (and blinking annoyed with myself) about loosing my camera (there had been some really nice photos of the kids I’d taken at Legoland for a start that obviously I never had a chance to take off the camera), the level of being gutted was slightly tempered with the sneaking knowledge that I was probably approaching the time of needing a new camera anyway, it’s just the having to beg and borrow other people’s cameras for the few months between October and now wasn’t good.
Anyway as good as my old Cybershot was (and I was a big fan of Cybershots, this one had been my third), my new camera seems so much more ‘grown up’, it’s much bigger and heavier for a start and the zoom is amazing! The macro function (which is the most important function for me on a camera, not just for embroidery photos but because I love taking macros of stuff when out and about) is amazing to. Anyway, the camera arrived yesterday and we had planned a family walk in the park today so that I could take some photos and have a play but Boy Lacer is currently on the tail end of another round of de-compaction and the sounds his stomach was making, we did not want to have to take him out of the house unnecessarily! So instead as I needed to go to the supermarket anyway I walked the slightly long way round (only a few minutes longer really) and took my camera with me. I now present the highlights of my journey to the supermarket (in order of taking the photos).
The first photo I took outside (I told you I liked macros) and this happens to be my favourite, I happen to be very fond of this fence (I may be wrong but from what I’ve heard I think this fence may be listed) and I walk past it everyday and I love the flakiness of the paint against the bright yellow-green of the lichens (someone is going to tell me now that’s not lichen). The fence also gets some fantastic spider webs on it in the autumn.
Another macro, so nice to see flowers budding in December.
I like how some of the boats jut out at you from the photo.
I had to include a photo of the actual river, although it can be hard to find new ways of taking photos of a stretch of river I’ve photographed so many times before. This photo makes the Thames look a lot narrower than it actually is, the ‘bank’ on the left hand side of the photo is actually a tiny island in the middle of the river. Needless to say I can’t wait for some bright light to take photos in, but I don’t think the camera did too badly.
Experimenting with the zoom now (no way would I get too close to those things, yuck!), I think I like the reflection on the water behind them more than the geese themselves.
Another zoom shot, I like how this time the river looks almost white behind the seagull.
A shot I’ve taken a lot of times before but it is one of my favourite views, I always think there’s something almost Narnia-ish about having a bandstand amongst the trees.
Hopefully from now on photos of my crafting and my cooking will look a little better!
Ok it’s highlights of the year time again.
Boy Lacer starting school and starting school reasonably well, yes he is overly fond of the sick day but other than that it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
Finally getting my allotment and although as of this point there is still nothing really growing in it (bar weeds and an every decreasing amount of raspberry bushes) and there is still quite a bit to dig over, next year is going to be great for it.
Time for the nerdy book stats again, this year I have read or listened to 42 books which is amazingly up 5 books from last year (and I thought I’d had a really bad book year, worse than last year, although in fairness if I want to write whether it’s 37 books or 42 books, neither is enough). That number can be broken down to 14 audiobooks and 27 ‘normal’ books and 1 e-book. Out of those 22 were adult fiction (+5 from last year), 16 were children’s fiction (+2 from last year but still must do better), 3 non-fiction (+2 from last year) and 1 book of short stories (-1 from last year) – hmmm those numbers don’t quite add up but never mind.
My adult fiction favourite
My adult fiction favourite has to be from very early on in the year and it happened to be an audiobook (but I now possess the paperback, the only audiobook that made me go out and buy the actual book), it was The Children’s Book by AS Byatt. It is incredibly long (it took me ages to listen to), but I love how it encompasses two families histories from the end of the Victorian era to the First World War and there are some incredibly sad and incredibly uplifting moments in it. Honorably mentions also go to The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, Under the Dome by Stephen King and Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre (the latter two both happen to be audiobooks to).
My children’s fiction favourite
It has to be the incredibly scary The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd (which also happened to be another audiobook), it was enough to doubly make sure I set the dishwasher and washing machine to their eco-cycles and turn all the lights off.
Cook book highlight
I think my favourite cookbook would have to be Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights , the recipes in it are lovely and pretty much work and I went through a phase after getting it of cooking loads from it and then stopped because I pretty much stopped cooking full stop and other than some brief encouragement from Nigella, I still haven’t started properly again, may 2011 be better.
Craft book highlight
I think the one I’ve certainly got the most use out of (as in I’ve made the grand total of two projects out of it) was The Embroidery Companion by Alicia Paulson, I need to do something next year to make sure I actually use more of the craft books I buy.
Film / DVD highlight
I haven’t seen that many films in 2010 and I certainly haven’t been blogging about many. I think off the top of my head my favourite was Inception (which I didn’t blog about), I thought it was a clever, original movie.
Getting to see the end of Lost was a big one for me, also seeing the end of 24 as well and I think this may have been the year I finally caught up with the end of Battlestar Galactica to (on DVD), this has been a year of TV endings. Oh and Ashes to Ashes to, must not forget that. Spooks was also good and of course Doctor Who, as much as it was good under Russell T Davies and David Tennant, I think it’s even better under Stephen Moffat and Matt Smith.
Finally getting to see more live music of course, Linkin Park were excellent!
WARNING: Lost spoilers
Me and Mr. Lacer were way behind on Lost, we used to watch it faithfully when it was on terrestrial and then Murdoch got his hands on it (ggrrrhh) and we had to wait until we got cable (note: cable, not satellite, so we’re only paying indirectly into that man’s pocket) and then we had to wait for Sky to show repeats. Luckily Sky have been showing repeats (they had a ‘box set’ showing of season 6 on Christmas Eve), so we recorded all of them and have been watching them non-stop since Christmas and now we know what finally happened and I really did not expect to blub and/or have a lump in my throat from right at the point where Sun and Jin die to the end.
I have said before on here I think about how much I love the writing on Lost, I love how there were pretty much no loose ends (even if the episode where they explained Jacob and the Monster’s back story was a little boring) and the characterisation of the main cast was so good, I can watch plenty of ‘sad’ TV and not blub but if the characters are that believable, of course I will. I think there were very few moments (but there were some, it wasn’t flawless) when I thought “hang on, why is the character doing that?” and I think those moments stood out more because the rest of it was so good. The bits I didn’t like (and this is me being picky) is, like I say the Jacob and Monster back story episode, now don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I know the back story, but to take us away from the main cast who were such well fleshed out characters to devote an episode to characters who were a little bit more 2D in comparison, seemed ‘off’ in the tone of the season as a whole. I also thought the choice of Jack as the new Jacob was a little too obvious and Benjamin Linus’ rapid switch back to Locke at the end also seemed a little off even for him. Benjamin Linus has to be one of my favourite fictional ‘bad guys’ ever, as to quote I think Neil Gaiman, ‘every bad guy should be the hero of their own story’ and you could truly believe Ben Linus thought he was doing right (most of the time). But other than those minor groans I loved the final season and I’m not quite sure why a lot of people were moaning about the ending, but then again, a show like Lost, something so many people have invested so much energy into just watching, they probably wouldn’t be satisfied with any ending. I, personally thought the ending was sweet, I loved how the characters were finding each other in the ‘reality’ off the island and lost loves were reunited before moving on, yes it was a bit sentimental, but what’s wrong with sentiment? It was also so like Ashes to Ashes (another TV series ending I love). As for the ending on the island, I thought the ending was quite ‘simple’ but in a way it was a classic good versus bad story and those often end simply, with a final confrontation, a final task performed.
For me personally I think Lost is up there with Twin Peaks (excluding the episodes after they discovered who killed Laura Palmer of course) and The X Files (before it got bad) and when you compare it to those two other iconic examples of TV I think it did such a good job at finishing where it needed to be finished and to resist being dragged on like the two aforementioned shows did. I wish I could write and create characters and plots a quarter as good, I will just have to keep working at it.
I am with the Amazon Associates programme, where if people click on a link in this blog that leads to Amazon and then they buy something, I get a very tiny proportion of the money. However in all the time I’ve been an Amazon Associate it’s only paid out twice, as it takes a very long time to build up enough money to trigger payment, so much so that I’ve stopped automatically linking books I review to Amazon, as there isn’t actually that much incentive as far as I can see, however the money does slowly drip in and it triggered my second payment on Christmas Day, so that was a nice Christmas present (and a big thank you to anyone who has ever bought anything from Amazon after arriving there from a link here)!
So with a £25 voucher burning a hole in my e-mail account, what was I going to buy? My first thought was the Tender books by Nigel Slater, big, beautiful books that cost a lot, I have successful resisted buying them for about a year now but Amazon does have good deals on them at the moment, particularly for Tender II, so I could resist no more. And actually I’m quite glad that I managed to delay buying them because as much as they are incredibly lovely books, I doubt looking at them now I would have quite appreciated them in the same way as I do now as a new allotment owner, as I would have with just a few pots on my patio. The Tender books really are for the gardener cook, with lots of advice on how to grow the plants you’re cooking (although in less detail than say some of my actual allotment books) and a deep love for each fruit or vegetable that I think can only come from (in most cases) having grown it yourself. These will be books I can imagine I will go to time and time again when I have a glut of, say for example leeks and I have no idea what to do with them that is different, I will be able to just turn to a chapter full of leek recipes and problem solved.
However I don’t think these books are exclusively for gardener cooks (or for cooks dreaming about the gardener part), as the books are full of typical Nigel Slater recipes, i.e. simple, easy to cook, minimal ingredients (most of the time) and where the flavour of the main ingredient shines out. So if you like Nigel Slater recipes, even without a vegetable plot of your own, you will probably at least reasonably like these books. These are books that just feel good to hold in the hand (and as they’re very heavy would make them the perfect weapon of choice if on the slim of chance you’re ever assaulted near your cookbook collection), the paper itself is crisp and lovely, the photos are gorgeous, even the font is candy to the eyes. Slater’s enthusiasm almost overflows from the page with his beautiful, descriptive and evocative writing. I will be using these books a lot, even after a quick skim through today I’ve already ear marked several recipes that must be made soon and that’s before I even have any veg even growing in my plot. And I’ve already picked up two pieces of gardening information from the book to (reassurance that what I am currently doing to my raspberries is the right thing to do and the advice to plant your salad in seed trays first and to transplant later, as a little insurance against the slugs – I have tried and failed several times to grow salad from seed directly planted in the soil).
The perfect books to start a new year of cooking and gardening with.
Well, I wasn’t (I have been skating quite a few times as a teenager (well there’s isn’t that much to do in Norfolk) and I am utterly rubbish at it) but Girl Lacer wanted to, so I got her to talk Mr. Lacer into it, whilst me and Boy Lacer went to watch. It was an incredibly cold day but ice skating is so much meant to happen outside (maybe if the indoor rink I used to go to had been outside, I might of enjoyed it a bit more) and with the back drop of the palace it was pretty special. And as it turns out Girl Lacer has none of her mummy’s clumsiness on the ice and after a slightly wobbly start was skating pretty good for her first go.
Christmas night TV is one of the highlights of my Christmas day, that and the food I eat to go alongside all that viewing. It was Mr. Lacer’s turn to put the kids into bed and I was already in the kitchen whizzing up a batch of Nigella’s Jumbo Chilli sauce, oven on for the hot bread roll, trying not to eat all the parma ham before it hit the plate. Anyway I got my food ready just in time and hit the sofa almost at a skid, as Mr. Lacer finished put the kids’ bedroom light out and it was time to put Doctor Who to play on the DVR.
This particular Christmas episode opened with a space ship hurtling towards a planet looking like it’s going to crash any minute and I have to admit for a moment my heart sank a little, not another ‘space ship hurtling towards planet, can we save everyone in the nick of time?’ episode, much as I loved Russell T Davies’ work, it all seemed a little too Russell T Davies, but of course Stephen Moffat now writes the Christmas episodes and I doubt you could get him to pen anything formulaic in his life. It turns out that Amy and Rory are honeymooning on the doomed ship, so of course the Doctor pops by to help and he soon realises that to allow the ship to land safely he has to convince a Scrooge like character, Kazran to do something with his cloud machine but of course Kazran doesn’t want to do that. So the Doctor tries a unique take on the Christmas Carol, travelling back to Kazran’s past to try and make him a better person. There is singing, some beautiful flying fish, a scary as anything shark and a great script with some very funny one liners. A brilliant refresher into exactly how great Doctor Who is with Stephen Moffat at the helm and Matt Smith’s geeky Doctor and of course the trailer for the next series, more River Song, the Doctor goes to America and I bet I wasn’t the only one trying to work out which clips were from the Neil Gaiman episode, my money is on the scariest looking clips in the dark ruined looking house with the character with writing on their face.
After Doctor Who and a slice of disgustingly disappointing Christmas cake (I really must make my own next year), it was time for Poirot doing Murder on the Orient Express and this really was Poirot in a very bad mood. Travelling back from a disastrous case, a friend does Poirot a ‘favour’ and manages to squeeze him, at the last minute onto the Orient Express travelling back home. It is a dark story from even before Poirot gets on the train, with not only the disastrous end to the previous case but Poirot observing from a distance a stoning in Istanbul and not getting involved. The music to this episode was very well done, adding to the discordant, dissatisfied air of the journey before blood has even been shed. I’m sure everyone knows this story, it was one of my favourite books as a child when I got to the age of being able to start raiding my parents’ bookcases but I’d swear this version, although very faithful to the book, was actually even darker. David Suchet did an absolutely brilliant job, you can feel his dislike of having to share a cabin on the first night, from his body language you can feel his revulsion when he is called to examine the body on the train and from the tone of his voice his displeasure at the murderers who have taken justice into their own hands. Really brilliant.