Friday, 30 December 2011

The Buckyball Situation

When we were in New York, my husband kept going on about these Buckyball things that he wanted.  They are tiny little round magnets in a 6x6x6 block that you can make into various shapes.  He wanted them to absent mindedly play with while he's on his very many work phone calls.

I bought him some for Christmas.  He had a couple of days of playing with them, I got used to the familiar click of the magnets attaching to each other.  He made them into a long line.  Then he tried to pick them up and that's when all the trouble started.  Some fell off the bottom.  We heard them roll along our wooden floor and then *ping* as they attached to the nearest thing that was metal.  We spent hours searching for the ones that were missing.  We found some attached to the table leg.  A couple had managed to work their way into the top of the radiator, I have no idea how.  A few days later he was playing with them again and the same thing happened.  It took us a week to discover them lying under the Christmas tree.

When you purchase Buckyballs, there is the option to buy extra balls.  Do it.  It only took us 3 days to lose some.  And if it is at all possible to use them on a carpeted area, do that.  Better still, take them to work.  Or buy the Buckycubes so there's less chance of them rolling all over the floor.  If you have children, don't buy them.

They are lovely fun, but we've had a couple of little Christmas tantrums because we are still missing a couple and we have no idea where they could have possibly gone since they aren't in any of the obvious places!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Christmas when I was growing up was a lot of fun.  We'd wake up to my Dad asking 'Has He Been?' and dash downstairs to a pile of gifts under the tree.  But we weren't allowed to touch any of them until Mum was awake, we had all had breakfast and we had washed all the pots (the days before dishwashers). Then we had our presents, whilst Mum sat making a list of who had bought each of us what...very sensible, my mother.  Usually then we would travel to see my Dad's side of the family for Christmas lunch, alternating years between my grandparents and Dad's Auntie and Uncle.  There were usually up to 14 of us.  The men would all go to the pub for a drink while the women cooked and chatted.  Christmas lunch would start with a Yorkshire Pud and gravy whilst everything was being dished into massive dishes so we could all help ourselves and pass everything around.  After lunch certain members of the family would have a nap whilst the washing up was done (again, by the women ;-))  Then more presents, and the youngest two in the group would hand out the presents to everyone.

Then we'd go and do it all over again with mum's side of the family in the evening and a buffet tea.  
This is why I love Christmas, it's just fantastic to spend time with so many fabulous people and to laugh with them and eat with them and be silly.  Even if we only caught up with the extended family once a year it was enough if we had that much fun.  Boxing day would just be immediate family and a lovely drive into the countryside for a long walk.

Obviously, things change and people move on and move away and start families of their own but it's still good to keep in touch with everyone and to try and meet up when we are able to over the festive period.  I hope that it'll get to the point where we can do a big family gathering again at some point, but I sometimes wonder how we all fit in, it was very cosy, let's put it that way!

Anyways, this year, there's quite a lot of decoration going on in my flat, mainly in the lounge.  So I thought I'd show you what is making it feel all festive.

The snowman is a new addition this year, he's very colourful and rotates through lots of different colours.

These are little drinks mats.  Bought many years ago by my mum and dad but they always brighten up the flat at Christmas time.  

These wooden blocks came from Laura Ashley last year.

This is our moose/reindeer.  He's very squidgy and cuddly and I think maybe he might be a doorstop or something, but we like him too much so he sits by the TV.  I always forget that we have him and he's usually the first thing I spot out of the Xmas box.

My reindeer candle holders came from Woolworths many many years ago and they are my favourite thing in the Christmas box.  They are really cute but solid and heavy.

We have two of these stockings, a gift from my sister and her fiancé.

A little blurry I know, but if you look in the middle here, you'll see a tree present.  In our family, it's a tradition for there to be a small gift on the tree for each member of the household, and when the tree is taken down after Christmas, we open the tree presents.

Here's what our tree looks like this year.

That's about it from me now on this blog until after Christmas, I have plenty of things to be doing in the last few days, but I want to wish you a very Happy Christmas, I hope that you get to Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Love Jo x

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

More stuff!

You might have noticed that there are now a couple of new tabs to look at.  An About Me one with a little background info for you, and then a stitching projects tab to show the things that I've bought and I'm hoping to complete as part of my hobby.  There's a LOT in there!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Change it up, baby!

It occurred to me today that my blog profile is using a pretty old photo of me.  When I came to look for a new one, I realised I don't really have a good quality one of what I look like now.  But what I do have is a selection of my hair changes throughout recent times.  I think the only time I only didn't change it was in the run up to my wedding because I had decided if it was long and blonde I could do many things with it on the day.

Other than that, I get bored pretty easily, and on more than one occasion, I've walked into the hairdressers and asked them to chop it all off, change the colour or restyle it.  Their jaw usually drops like I've gone a bit bonkers, but I think they are getting used to me now.

So here's a few past pics...This one about 9 years ago...

Then I got bored of blonde and decided to be my natural mouse for a while...

Then back to blonde again... I really love this length, it looks good straight and isn't too hard to manage.

I kept growing it for my wedding, I love this photo as it looks so shiny and there were so many things I could do with it this long!

But then after the wedding, I was desperate for a change after being blonde for so long.  So I walked in and asked for the chop and to go fiery red!  I felt fierce for the first few days after getting this done!

Although the red looks amazing in the photo, in real life it washed out really really fast and I wasn't happy with it except when I'd just had it coloured.  So the hairdresser suggested a different brand which meant the colour was slightly darker.  I also saw a poster on the shop wall where the girl had quite short hair and a squared off fringe.  I thought it would be fun to try it with the red, so this is where I am today.  And the colour is so much better lasting and so shiny (although it doesn't look it here).  I'm still trying to decide if I like this fringe or not, since I'm not used to having one, I can't decide if my last style was better.  But I will say because it is so thick and long, it's easier to style than when I've had fringes before.  Also, it must make me look older since I've not had to prove my age to buy alcohol since the restyle!

But there are still some days where I feel like a change... so it's fun to have a couple of wigs in my wardrobe...

Even though this one is a bit of a mad photo, I quite like it, some of the others in this session looked very gaga-esque... and why not? It's brilliant fun to go a bit wacky once in a while!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Flitting around the country

Things were pretty busy last week.  I had re-arranged my trip to Swindon to see a friend and her little boy which should have been when I took the New York trip.  Even though I only stayed one night with them, it felt like I'd been there for much longer.

We fit in so much stuff, including a trip to the soft play.  People I know with children are always threatening me with this when I visit them, and telling me horror stories, and yet it was perfectly good fun!  Admittedly the weather was atrocious and so it seemed like not many people had turned out, but still, I think I had almost as much fun in the ballpool as her little boy did.

We also went to a playgroup kind of thing which was also quite interesting, especially the part where I had to try and remember nursery rhymes that I haven't sung in about 25 years.  Having said that, by the time I got back on my train on friday afternoon, I was so tired I thought I might sleep and never wake up.

However, I did have to wake up as early on saturday, I was off north to see another friend for a girlie night out, and this one had been planned for ages.  I was really happily surprised with Chesterfield and it's bars and pubs.  I expected it to be a bit run down and naff, but actually, the bars were quite funky, the atmosphere was really nice (not sure if everyone was in the Xmas spirit and that had something to do with it).  The bars were all busy, but when we wanted to sit down, we could find seats easily.

It seems that the drinking culture there is one of having a drink and then moving on to the next place, so we saw many of them same people in different bars throughout the night and the bars felt full but not uncomfortable because there was constant flow in and out. The downside of this was that you hear some of the popular songs multiple times through the evening as every bar is playing them.

I noticed that the crowd was a little older than I was used to as well, probably most of the drinkers were around my age, there weren't very many groups of late teens/early twenties, and I think this probably added to the vibe being a little nicer.

We were pretty sensible and didn't go too mad, left when we got tired and got home not too late.  Sunday wasn't a write off either, we managed to fit in the arcades at Matlock Bath and then also a lovely carvery meal before I caught the train home again.

The manic nature of the last few days did help me to realise just how much I enjoy train travel; I find it really relaxing and peaceful and a good opportunity for those little sewing projects that I have on the go.  I love to stitch a bit and then daydream as I watch the world go by. Here's the poppy that I did on the way back last night (apologies for the shadow!)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Pioneer release day

Today is an exciting day for me.  It's Pioneer release day.   (You can't miss that cover, can you?)

The Maine first popped onto my radar a few years back.  They were all pretty young back then, on their first full length, a couple of EPs behind them, but with, I'm guessing, someone to tell them what to look like...and popping them into a certain genre... sheesh...Even back then the music lodged itself in my brain and wouldn't get out again.  They went straight into my personal top 5 artist list, where they have remained for the last few years.

Now onto their 3rd full length album with Pioneer, they've gone from awww to phwoar and are all grown up (I know, I know, I can't really talk, at some point you have to at least pretend to act your age).  It's pleasing to see that they are finding their own way and learning to do things on their own terms, a route which a number of bands seem to be taking these days to get control back of the sort of music they want to produce.  Pioneer, pulled together without the Warner record label, is a testament to how much they have changed, and that they felt comfortable taking such risk is good as a fan to see that they have such confidence in their own music.  At the same time, it is clear that it has been a venture undertaken without any of the arrogance that might have come with that - they are humble, nervous and excited enough to wait and see what the reaction is from other people.

Their second album (Black and White) is one of my favourites and without a doubt it's the one I'll always pull out when I'm after a burst of sunshine.  In comparison, Pioneer is much rockier - if Can't Stop, Won't Stop is the cherryade, then Black and White was the fruity alcopop, and Pioneer is the darker, stronger shot of American whiskey. It feels again like an evolution, more serious in some ways and arriving as a sort of statement piece I think - 'This is who we really are'.

A huge favourite for me and the track I can't quite stop playing is 'Heroine', which makes me want to glam up like a rock chick, turn the music up and dirty dance round the flat.  I've seen the live performances on youtube, and although it's slightly different on the album, it's very sexy indeed.

'Some Days' was put out a couple of weeks before the album release, and again, it is stupidly catchy, with the lyrics 'Some days they taste like lemonade, some days can feel like razor blades' and honestly, isn't that so right?  The lyrics are clever and truthful and I think something everyone can relate to.

The others on the album I'll leave you to discover for yourselves, but it's a fantastic mixture of songs with more adult themes and a bunch of different sounds.  The Maine should be proud of what they have achieved with this album.  They should be one of the strongest contenders for best rock band of this generation, especially having seen them find their groove as a unit and raise the roof in a live setting.  I'm absolutely convinced that at still such a young age, if they are already this good, then at some point they will play to Wembley Stadium.

What I love about The Maine is that they are so interactive, one of them is always doing an interview or video, or sending out photos, writing a blog... you name it, they are constantly in touch with people.  Its a band that feels like it has a heart and a soul.  They have been doing track by track info on the new album in the run up to today, and will be doing a live stickam chat tonight to celebrate the release.  Check it out, I promise you won't regret it.  7.30pm PST   (a little late for those of us in the UK).

Pioneer is out on iTunes now.  The Maine tour the UK with All Time Low early next year.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho

Here we are again then.  That time of the year, when on the 1st of December, our first Christmas card plops through the letterbox.  This is all down to my super-organised friend.  Every year without fail, hers is the first card.  She makes me feel totally and completely useless and un-prepared.

However, this year, I have all my cards.  They are sitting in a box in the spare room because I went a little bonkers at the weekend and when walking past them all thought 'ooooh... look at those... so pretty... and I have so many to write, that I should just pick a few boxes up and then I'm all prepared and ready'.  So I am.  All prepared.  And ready.  I have a neatly printed list of all the people and their addresses so that I can tick them off as I go.  

Guess how many I've written so far? 

Oopsie.  I was full of all the best intentions.  And then a job interview got in the way.  But I'm going to do them.  Definitely tonight.  Probably.  But absolutely not on the last week before Christmas in a rush.