Spinning plates

Hello! I feel like it’s been ages since I sat down and actually blogged properly. Truth is, I’ve been super busy with work and stuff and it’s all kind of run away from me a bit. It happens.

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It’s always busy in the spring- it’s crunch time for getting Year 11 ready for their exams and I have to make sure that their coursework is all present and correct (this can sometimes feel like I’m herding gigantic kittens and managing a large load of printing at the same time). I also have to keep up with the rest of my work in a job that has recently made the top 5 most stressful jobs. Yay!

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Then, of course, I have a three year old at home- which is like herding many tiny kittens at the same time, with the added bonus of a really thick actual cat thrown into the mix to add to the fun. I’m not complaining though. I’ve learnt a lot about Lego Star Wars in the last few weeks and Bronte brought in a slow worm, which led to an interesting discussion with D about creatures that live in the garden.

I also recently started taking on a bit of freelance work: mainly proofreading and copywriting. It’s good to do some jobs that bring in a bit of extra work and money, and I’m choosing jobs that I can fit in around everything else. I’m not daft- I take work when it’s quiet elsewhere- but I enjoy it and I prefer it to signing up to do exam marking, which is way less flexible.

So, the upshot, I’ve been busy. But definitely in a good way. I’ve still managed to do bits and pieces that I liked (I’ve been working in the garden and I have three books on the go at any one time, as per), but I’ve appreciated them more than normal. I’ve also been sleeping BRILLIANTLY, which really is no surprise.

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The fact is, if I actually admit it, is that I like being busy. It shows me that I’m well and that my mental health is OK. It may be that it’s not always the right thing to do, but at the moment it serves me well. I like feeling useful and I like getting stuff done.

BUT! I am looking forward to the long weekend! I finished marking all of my Year 11 coursework (a Very Big Deal Indeed) and I have no work to do this weekend, bar prepping some display stuff. D is staying at his grandparents’ tomorrow and I am looking forward to just taking it easy. And I will very much enjoy and appreciate some downtime. After all, I think I deserve it.

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Happy birthday, Charlotte Bronte

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Today it’s Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday. As a Yorkshire woman (despite being born in Wales and currently living in Brighton, I have my county written in my bones like Scarborough through a stick of rock) and a literature fan- as well as simply a reader- it feels important to mark this anniversary.

Despite Charlotte not being my favourite of the Brontes- in her letters, I find her to be sometimes maddening and I imagine that she might have been a high maintenance friend- without her, we wouldn’t know anything about her extraordinary family. After all, she was the one who discovered Emily’s cache of poems and overrode both Emily’s furious indignity and Anne’s reluctance to have the work published. She may have been stubborn (and maybe slightly overbearing to her younger sisters?), but she opened up the world of these three isolated women to the rest of us.

It’s because of this anniversary that I’m working my way through all of the Bronte material I can lay my hands on, as part of my self-set Bronte Challenge. I’m currently reading- and enjoying- Jane Eyre, a book I’ve never got on with before. This time, something has clicked, and I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because of Jane’s determination to make the best of her life, despite her shortcomings, or the fact that as a woman in my early 30s, I get the mindset that Charlotte herself felt as she wrote the novel aged 31. I used to despair at Jane’s repeated reiteration of her plainness, but having read about Charlotte’s preoccupation with her health (bordering on hypochondria at times, although with siblings perishing around her, not wholly unwarranted) shortness and her teeth, I get where that came from. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for Jane Eyre when I was younger. Late to the party? Yes, I guess so. Most of my friends read the novel when they were younger. But I came to it with a more grown up view of the world and it worked for me.

So today, in honour of Miss Bronte, I’ll curl up somewhere with a cup of tea and my copy of Jane Eyre- and I’ll thank her for forcing her sisters to share their work with the world.

CharlotteBronte

 

 

“‘Ave you seen ‘er?” On Victoria Wood

An Audience with Victoria Wood, Dec 1988

Growing up, I always knew about Victoria Wood. My mum had her videos and we had a couple of signed books, too. I remember feeling dead grown up, aged about 10, when I was allowed to watch some of her stand-up. Here was a lady, who wasn’t thin or glamorous- but she was funny. Even as a kid, I knew she was unusual.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that she’s had a huge effect on me. As a northern, working-class kid, she talked about things I understood. I even own an orange raincoat (although not a fetching yellow hat to go with it.) My sister and I have been known to say “I’m looking for my friend, Kimberly. ‘Ave you seen ‘er?” to each other. We don’t know any Kimberlys.

In restaurants with slow service, it won’t take long for Benn or I to whisper to the other “Two soups?”

I’ve always felt a bit suspicious about prawns too, thanks to this sketch:

And I remember seeing her programme about tea. Of course.

The thing is, Victoria Wood’s humour was funny and warm; it was grounded in real life and it was never cruel, either. I’ll miss her.

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#PaperHaul Featured: Jodie Goolding

Ah, #PaperHaul, I love you. I love how, after a month where I’ve been a bit unsure about a box, the following month you produce a box that is so me it’s like you read my mind. March’s box really did pull a rabbit out of a, er, box sufficiently sized to fit through a standard UK letterbox.

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If you read my #PaperHaul reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for the animal boxes more than any other (but I’d like to put in my semi-regular request for a dinosaur themed box…) This month’s didn’t disappoint. What I like about it is that it’s on the right side of cute to not be too twee. Plus, the positive message is one I can really get behind. The notecards above are a perfect encapsulation of the overall feel of the box.

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The postcards remind me of adult colouring books- and actually, it might be nice if you sent them to a friend who could colour them in. But that’s up to you- I’m not your boss or anything.

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I am a worrier of the highest order. I am currently worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet and is only a possible problem. It’s definitely a skill. Wouldn’t it be nice if you sent this card to your worrisome friend?

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The washi tape is another strong one this month. Most recently utilised on a child’s birthday present. (My hairdresser was amazed when she saw my washi tape bowl and couldn’t get over how many rolls I had. I like to think she was impressed.)

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I love these larger-than-usual stickers! I’ve stuck them onto my writing case. I’d definitely like bigger stickers to be a thing sometimes, although I do also like the smaller stickers for decorating letters etc.

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Finally, the notebook. It’s cute and I already have someone in mind for it.

Overall, a good box this month! I understand that every box won’t be to my taste, but I must say that I’ve found stashing the cards etc has been quite useful, as I always have something on hand, stationery-wise. I’d definitely say that #PaperHaul has made me seem 68% more organised when it comes to birthdays and other occasions.

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.

 

“It’s a bit ‘Triffid’, isn’t it?”- an adventure in houseplants

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I’ve gone a bit plant-mad lately (and not just garden-plant-mad, as it’s still quite early for a lot of planting to happen.) This is mainly because of two reasons: 1) a new plant shop has opened in the North Laine and 2) D is a bit less grabby now that he’s 3.5 and I can have nicer things (occasionally).

I’ve never been massively into houseplants before, although I did buy Benn a yucca when we first started going out. He had nothing ‘alive’ in his flat, which was a sterile bachelor pad. The original yucca, known as Geraldine, has long gone, but I repotted a cutting from it last summer which has started to magically grow a new stalk:

For @spiderplantshop- the small 'stalk' started out looking like an air root, but has sort of turned into a support for the plant! Very weird and have no idea what's happened! #houseplant:

I’ve never heard of plants doing that, but apparently it is a ‘thing’- and a pretty cool one at that!

I’ve also had a jade plant and an aloe vera for about a year. Apparently, jade plants are known as ‘money plants’ because of a Chinese proverb that says you should treat your plants like your money-carefully- as both will reward you in the long term. My jade plant was given to me by a friend and I love it. Although, like with my money, I can sometimes be a bit forgetful and nonchalant!

Repotting #gardening #greenfingers #urbangardening #succulents:

That massive aloe vera plant cost me £1.50 as a teeny tiny plant at last year’s Seedy Sunday. It has been so happy on the kitchen windowsill, despite me breaking leaves off on a semi-regular basis to treat quesadilla-related burns, that it’s happily throwing out new baby plants. It is such a useful plant (sunburn, skin burns, I even have used it on eczema for relief) that I wouldn’t be without it now. Which is good, as those babies are appearing at the same rate as baby rabbits at Easter…

A teacup full of chamomile to grow next to my bed. I think it's rather sweet and watching it grow cheers me up no end. #gardening #urbangardening #sweetdreams:

I decided, on a bit of a whim, to see if chamomile would grow in a teacup (you can see my thinking there, right?) Happily, it does! Once it’s a bit more established, this will be going by my bedside. I don’t actually like chamomile tea, but I like the idea of this in my bedroom. It’s also really tactile and I love stroking it. It would also make a nice gift idea, if you can find pretty teacups in charity shops, and chamomile seeds are cheap.

Remember my little peperomia from @spiderplantshop? I repotted it into a candle holder, where it seems very happy! #houseplant #greenfingers:

This is my peperomia plant, which is actually tiny. I liked it because it’s green and pink (you’ll spot a theme) and was just, well, CUTE. I’m having a hard time finding pots I like, so this one is plonked in a tealight holder from Tesco. I just have to be super careful when I water it, but so far, it seems happy as it has grown like the clappers since I brought it home.

New houseplant #1- jewel orchid. Apparently much easier to care for than a normal orchid, I like that it looks a bit jungle-y #houseplant #home #orchid #flower #urbangardening:

In theory, I should HATE this jewel orchid- but it’s quite the opposite. Bonus points in its favour that it will apparently take quite a lot of neglect before it dies, so that’s nice. I think I like it because it’s quite elegant, in an alien way. D calls it the ‘dinosaur plant’ and I kind of get where he’s coming from. I do need to find a good pot for it, though.

Houseplant #2- a fittonia. I had to put a heavy filter on it to show how vividly pink the veins are! @spiderplantshop is bad for my bank balance but good for the general air quality in my home, ha! #houseplant #home #plant #urbangardening:

The fittonia is tiny and whenever I photograph it, I have to use a filter, as the colours just don’t come through properly; the pink is almost neon in tone is an amazing contrast to the dark green. There are loads of variants of fittonia- light green leaves with pink veins, pink leaves with green veins and so on. Apparently they can be a bit temperamental, so I need to keep an eye on it. But for now it makes me super happy to look at it!

I’m now on the look out for interesting pots- and a Christmas cactus. Benn is only mildly despairing.

 

I think I’m turning into Amy Farrah Fowler

You know when you go through life, consuming pop culture, minding your own business and then one day it hits you- you’re turning into a character from a TV show? I have recently had that epiphany. And it’s not someone cool, detached (like my beloved Scully, or Buffy, another favourite), but Dr Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory.

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A bit of background on this- I am currently teaching The Big Bang Theory to a GCSE Media Studies class (they have to learn about scheduling and audience pleasures and how the two combine), so I am watching A. LOT. of it at the moment. And although I look nothing like the actress who plays Amy, Mayim Bialik, I have noticed some similarities.

Our dress sense- Despite the fact that, in my head, I dress more like Bernadette, I know that it’s with Amy that my TV wardrobe lies. There is waaay more evidence in that direction. Fabulous knitwear that cool people would never wear,  in similar colours to the knitwear I own? Check. Glasses? Check. A sensibly proportioned handbag, often worn cross body, despite sometimes being hideously unflattering? Check. Sensible shoes? Check. A love of tights in interesting colours? Yep. We also share a deep-seated love of SHINY THINGS.
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Our significant others- I am married to a Sheldon. OK, Benn is nowhere near as bad as Sheldon in terms of social awkwardness and he’s sporty, as opposed to geeky. But he does like routine (you can set your watch by our meals in my house) and he does get very, very passionate about the things he’s interested in. He also looks very similar to Sheldon- tall, slim and short cropped hair. We could definitely do cosplay as Shamy any day of the week. Plus, Benn really likes cats.

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I appreciate my friends- a lot. Like Amy, I was badly bullied growing up and I know how hard it can be as a kid, not knowing who your friends are on any given day. This means that I love having a solid group of friends now that I’m an adult- although not enough to commission larger than life-sized portraits of them. Amy’s alone with that one.

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Car dancing- We both enjoy a good spot of car dancing, although Amy dances to Neil Diamond. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the man in the Jaguar in the traffic jam on the A27 Monday night who was ahead of me and my friend for about five miles. I’m hoping you found my enthusiastic rendition of the dance routine to the song ‘Stop’ by The Spice Girls entertaining, rather than alarming although judging by the way you sped off as soon as you could, I’m guessing the latter was the case.

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Amy may not be as sexy as Penny, or as cute (and scary) as Bernadette, but golly gosh darn it, there are worse people to realise you’re a bit like. I’m keeping my knitwear and sensible shoes- and I WILL be proud of them.

 

Which TV character do you most resemble?

 

Skincare stuff I swear by

Been reading the @mumsnet thread about skincare recommendations and bloggers. I thought I'd show some of my regulars (all bought with my own money!) and most of them are repurchases. I'm still looking for a good day cream though- suggestions welcome! #skincare:

I’ve been reading the recent posts on Mumsnet about trust in beauty bloggers and their recommendations (basically there is no trust in the big bloggers, due to them working with brands and non-disclosure.) Now, I have worked with brands in the past- and it was fun. It never affected my opinion, I always disclosed and I did genuinely find good stuff that helped my eczema (which flared up around my eyes when I was pregnant and has never really gone away.) I also find great recommendations online, especially from Jane at British Beauty Blogger and Sali Hughes at the Guardian.

Anyway, I started thinking about what I use on my face regularly and the products I repurchase. I don’t know about you, but I HATE it when beauty recommendations are stupidly expensive. I don’t have the money to spend £40 on a serum or whatever. All of the products I recommend here can be bought on the high street- and some are regularly on offer. I am on the hunt for a decent daily cleanser and a day cream with a high SPF, so let me know if you have any recommendations! Also- quick disclaimer: none of these links are affiliates.

Nip+Fab Deep Cleansing Fix- £7.95– This is often on offer, but worth the price if you pay full whack for it, as a pot lasts AGES. I use it to remove makeup and it’s lovely and rich; it offers comfort to my sore and sensitive skin. It also moisturises a little. The only downside is that the smell is weirdly antiseptic, but I can get past that as it works wonders on my skin.

Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Facial Pads £12.95– I’ve been using these since just after Christmas and they’re nice. Maybe not £13 nice, but they do make my skin feel smoother. I am super paranoid about acids on my face though, so only use them a couple of times a week and only at night. I would probably buy again if they were on offer.

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Quick Fix Facial Masks £4.99– I discovered these about a year ago on a lunch break and I keep going back to them (as much as I like Lush fresh face masks, I always forget they’re in the fridge.) I’m currently using the sensitive skin one and it smells heavenly AND calms my skin. Win/win.

Trilogy Rosehip Oil £16.50– This is my desert island product. I was originally sent this as a trial product when I was pregnant (for stretchmarks) and it quickly became established as part of my routine. So much so, in fact, that I have it on subscription and get a new bottle every four months, which is about right for my usage. My face doesn’t feel 100% until this is on at night- and if I miss it, my skin is very prone to eczema flareups and spots. I like that it’s fragrance free and has a light texture. It is brilliant.

Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum £2.69– Thanks to a recent Sali Hughes column, this is now out of stock, but I can confirm it’s really nice. Nothing fancy, nothing life changing, but a comfortable serum that works last thing at night and under makeup in the morning. I also like Vichy’s Hydrating Serum, which my friend Kerry bought for me last year, but it’s a lot more expensive than this one and I can’t always afford to spend £17 on a serum.

Superdrug Naturally Radiant Renewing Night Cream £5.99 and Brightening Eye Cream £5.99– as I write this, the whole Naturally Radiant range is on offer (as it usually is, in one form or another.) I actually really like Superdrug’s skincare ranges and think that they’re simple, affordable and reliable. The night cream is thick and comforting (although the jury is out as to whether I like its scent, but hey-ho, at prices this good, I don’t particularly care..) and the eye cream soothes my eyes if they’re in a pre-eczema stage. Good stuff.

Patisserie de Bain Hand Creme in Sugared Violet £3.99– I am OBSESSED with this. I love violet flavoured sweets and this hand cream, made in Haworth (home of the Brontes) is the best hand cream I’ve ever used- especially for knitting. I buy it for everyone and the range of scents is lovely. Definitely worth investigating if you’re a hand cream addict.

Carmex Cherry Lip Balm Pot £2.69– I know that lip balm with camphor etc in it is meant to be the devil, but I love this and have been a paid up Carmex devotee for about fifteen years. As long as I use it sensibly, it’s fine and I like the sweetness of the cherry and the traditional Carmex tingle. For what it’s worth, I tried the posh Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm once and was unimpressed. But it was only once and my friends who rave about it have used it for a long time, so who knows? All I’ll say is that you’ll wrest my Carmex from my cold, dead hands. Unless it’s a tube- I’m not keen on those.

These have all worked for me and are proper staples in my bathroom. Let me know what yours are- or if you’ve tried any of these.