Tuesday 25 October 2011

Blogging Introspection

Thank you Nutshell, from The Writing Nut, for the 7 x 7 Link Award, especially as it’s provided me with a most useful morning. For this award I've got to post 7 links from my own blog and I must say that trawling through old posts has been fascinating. My blog style and outlook have changed without me noticing it. I'd recommend this activity to anybody who's been blogging for over a year.

[One thing I've discovered is that my blog's 2nd birthday is imminent. I didn't know that! I’ll have to throw a party... again!]

According to the 7 x 7 Award rules I have to find posts in the following 7 categories: [You can click on the category title to visit the post.]

This has to be the one where I travelled on 7 trains in one day [nice link to 7 x 7, huh!] to visit my brand new grandson. There’s a photo of me holding him and, I know I’m biased, but he really is beautiful.

OK, I’m being flippant, but the post does claim to be a warning about wishes. It’s my poem called My Little Nut Tree.  

This was the virtual Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning post which is no surprise as I worked hard to spread the word. This blogpost raised £215.50 for support for people with Cancer, a very worthwhile cause, and it was done in memory of my Mum.

This was my campaign to improve care for the frail elderly in hospital. It was initiated by the appalling care that my Mum received when she was so very ill and the realisation that many people are too frightened to complain. I’m proud to say that changes were made at the Leicester General Hospital in response to my campaign.

This has to be the one where I itemised my complaints about my Mum’s hospital stay.

According to my stats the post about a shivering mid-winter visit to the National Amyloidosis Centre is one of the most frequently visited on my blog which is good as the main reason for starting this blog was to try and link up with other people affected by Amyloidosis. Mr A is such a positive person that it’s easy to forget that there’s no cure, just courses of chemotherapy to keep control of the accumulation of sticky platelets in his blood.

I love this one. I was hoping it might become an official UK sport with as big a following as football but sadly the sack race is still only enjoyed in primary schools during the annual sports day.

So once again, thank you Nutshell for encouraging me to partake in this session of introspection. I’m passing this award on to anyone who would like to have as useful a morning as I’ve just had… and now I’m off to reorganise my labels. I can’t find a thing in this place!

Thursday 20 October 2011

My Strictly Secret

Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens.
I’m as happy as Len with a ten.
Cause for three months I’ll tango and jive in my dreams
With the Strictly Professional men.
I’ll dress up in sequins, a basque made of lace,
High heels and a teeny tight skirt,
Doing chasses and flicks with a smile on my face
Cause not one single muscle will hurt.
Now, I know that a dream should remain strictly that
But this dream is a much longed-for goal.
It's to dance a routine with a cane and a hat
In the arms of that cute Brendan Cole.

EXPLANATIONS [for those who need them!]: Strictly Come Dancing in the UK is similar to Dancing with the Stars in the US. It runs for about three months and I blogged about it last year here

Brendan Cole with
Lisa Snowdon in 2008
Len is one of the judges and he doesn’t often award the top mark of a ten. Brendan Cole, one of the Professionals, is pictured left...  enough said!

Celebrities are paired with professional dancers and have to perform a dance each week. It’s tough, not least because they have to wear gloriously skimpy, glitzy outfits [and that’s just the men!]The public votes for their favourite couple and each week the least popular is voted off.

The main show is on a Saturday evening. The results show is on Sunday and every week day there’s a half hour show giving an update on training and interviewing the couples. So you see I’m quite contented for the next three months. My TV viewing is sorted.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Across Borders

A few posts ago I mentioned that I’d won a copy of Can’t Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill and that it hadn’t arrived yet. Well, thank you so much to Susanna because... it just arrived!! and what's more it’s travelled 3344.841 miles. Can you believe it? It’s crossed New York State, the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland and England. What a big journey for a little book [Actually, it’s quite a big book with great pictures that include huge animals… but I was using poetic licence!] 

I’ve been following Susanna’s blog for some time now and although we live 3344.841 miles away from each other, there are many similarities between us. She’s an ex-teacher who loves animals [just like me]. She’s not so keen on housework [definitely like me!] She writes children’s picture books [just like me again!] and I now have one of them. The book is hilarious. It’s one of those stories that you look at and say, “Why didn’t I think of that!” Well done, Susanna.

There may be similarities amongst us bloggers but there are differences too. This week’s posts hit a bit of a language problem and thanks to a number of my blog friends I now know that:
  • In the US a cooker is called an oven 
  • US bakers do not use castor sugar [which is finely milled sugar and has nothing to do with castor oil].
  • J. L. Campbell explained that in Jamaica electricity is so expensive that they prefer to cook on gas.
  • And during a Twitter chat with Misha I discovered that ‘holding thumbs’ in South Africa is the same as ‘crossing fingers’ in the UK.

I love it when there are similarities and I’m fascinated by the differences but more importantly, I love the way that we can all blog and chat and get on with each other across all the borders of the world. In fact, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could nurture world understanding and peace just by blogging together? Maybe I should suggest it to the United Nations.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

My New Cooker-thingummy and a recipe for Orange Biscuits

I mentioned my new cooker in my last post and was taken aback to discover that in the US it’s not called a cooker. I don’t know what it is called. I’m hoping that one of my blogger buddies will tell me. To clear up any misunderstanding, this is it and you can even see my delicious Orange Biscuits cooking in the oven.

It’s a Belling electric cooker with induction hobs and I love it. The only down side was that we had to have new saucepans. The induction works by magnet and so the saucepans have to be able to stick to a magnet (there is a technical term but...) It was worth the extra investment. The heat is almost instant... Hang on, I’m starting to sound like an advert so I’ll move swiftly on to the biscuits (cookies!).

These biscuits are so easy to make. All you need is:

5 oz self raising flour
2 oz castor sugar
4 oz butter
Grated zest of one orange

Put all the mixture into a bowl and rub together. 

Mix until it forms a dough and then roll small pieces into balls and place them on an ungreased baking tin.

Press down with a fork and bake at 180C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with caster sugar, let them cool and eat them... if you can wait that long. The smell of orange oil is mouth watering!

I can’t promise they’ll do much for your diet or your cholesterol but they never hang around for very long in our house.

That’s it. I’m off to put the kettle on so I can have a cup of tea and an Orange Biscuit... but I’m still curious to know what people in the US cook their dinners on.

Monday 10 October 2011

Winning Books

I’ve won four books this week! 

Two books arrived in the post the other day from John Dougherty. I’d entered a book title competition on the AwfullyBig Blog Adventure site during their Litfest 2011 and have won a signed copy of ‘Zeus on the Loose!’ and ‘Bansi O’Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy’. They both look like wacky reads and have joined my tbr pile.

Susanna Leonard Hill had a competition on her blog recently and I've won a signed copy of one of her picture books, ‘Can’t Sleep Without Sheep’. It sounds like fun but I haven’t received it yet as it’s having to travel all the way from the US.

And this morning the postman delivered a signed copy of RebeccaEmin’s book, ‘New Beginnings’. I entered a caption competition on her blog and this is my prize. It sounds fascinating. 

Here's the sales blurb:  Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true... and then some. When Sam meets a different group of people who immediately accept her as a friend, she begins to feel more positive. With her new friends and interests, will Sam finally feel able to face the bully who taunts her, and to summon up the courage to perform on stage?
So when I’ve finished here I’m going to settle down with a mug of tea and a piece of homemade fruit bread and start Rebecca’s books.
[Yes, you did read that correctly... homemade fruit bread. We have a new cooker and it’s amazing. I now know why I haven't been able to bake recently. This new cooker can be set to different temperatures unlike the old one which I now realise was cooking everything on a temperature akin to furnace level.]
Before I settle down with Rebecca’s book I’d just like to thank everyone again for their support during our virtual Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. We raised £215.50 for the charity. If you missed it you can still visit the blog post and the JustGiving page that we set up in memory of our Mum.

That only leaves the fancy dress and coffee morning joke awards to dish out.

The fancy dress award goes to *roll of drums* 
JO for her amazingly outlandish fairy costume.

And the coffee morning joke award goes to *another roll of drums* 
Doctor doctor, my right eye hurts whenever I drink coffee.
Well take the spoon out then! 
 Well we did ask for coffee jokes and that’s what Sarah gave us!

Thursday 6 October 2011

Are words more powerful than photographs?

I think so. Photos show the superficial. You don’t get to see the thoughts, the before and the after. On the other hand they can be pieces of art, carefully framed, pleasing to the eye... except when I’m behind the camera. I’m very much a novice. If one of my photos is pleasingly framed, it’ll be a complete accident but I’m working on my skills. I’ve just signed up to the 365 Project which means that I’m posting a photo a day on this website.

I suppose the idea behind it is to produce a diary in picture form. If this was a written diary I would have no problems. I could record and relive any number of experiences in just a few short sentences but as you’re only allowed one photo each day I’m finding it difficult... and I’ve gone and set off in my usual unplanned panster style. The first two photos were of the cats [naturally]. The second two were flowers in the garden and now I’m wondering, should I decide on a theme or should I just snap and post?

This was yesterday’s contribution. It’s a close-up of a dead clematis head but it looked so pretty sitting amongst the yellowing leaves that I thought I’d capture it. [Between you and me I’m a bit pleased and a lot surprised at how it came out.]

Today’s contribution could be a lunch table filled with food... provided I remember to get my camera out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve arrived home from a visually spectacular outing and realised that, although my camera was in my bag, I’ve not used it once! Today is my book group/ladies who lunch time again. We each take a dish to contribute to the meal and it always works deliciously. All I’ve got to do is to remember to take a photo before we’ve eaten it all.

What theme would you choose for a 365 Project or would you be a panster? 

Monday 3 October 2011

We Raised Money

Having a virtual coffee morning was always going to be a bit of an experiment. It’s one thing throwing a virtual party for a bit of fun. It’s quite another inviting people to a virtual fund raising event... but it worked! 
Some party statistics:
  • 172 visitors shared virtual coffee and cake with us over the last three days.
  • There were 20 fancy dress outfits and 5 jokes. [awards announced later this week.]
  • More importantly, we’ve raised £177.50 so far for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity (and there are a few more donations still to come in!)
The JustGiving website has been a great help, ensuring that all your donations went straight to the Macmillan Cancer Support team. If you haven’t visited the memorial page that we set up then please feel free to do so. There’s no obligation to donate and we’ve talked a bit about Mum and about the way we lost Dad to cancer too. The page, which you can find here, will stay live for the next few weeks.

There has been an additional bonus for me over this weekend. As I explained a few posts ago, my sister, Hilary Rifka, and I have lived 200 miles away from each other for over 15 years now. We’re always talking on the phone but we don’t often see each other and we weren’t sure quite how running a joint virtual party would work... but it did! 

We’ve giggled our way through her three fancy dress outfits, my deteriorating parrot costume and we even ended the party in the way we always used to end parties when we were kids... 

We sang “Sisters, Sisters”. 

Members of the family reading this now will be grimacing and nodding their heads and saying, 
     “This is true. They did. And they still can’t sing it in tune!” But do we care? No! We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend so thank you to everyone who came along and turned it into a real virtual party!

Hilary Rifka has asked me to include this message from her:
It’s been a fantastic party.  I've loved meeting everyone, the jokes, the fancy dress, the endless coffee making and the feather clearing.  But on a serious note this was all for a really good cause and something very close to our hearts. Our way of giving something back to the Macmillian Nurses who do such a wonderful job. A big thank you for sharing this with us - and honestly Ros has been the brains behind it all - I'm just the clown playing for laughs and clearing up the mess!!!!!! So Ros (my lovely little sister), credit where its due -  Well Done sis..... *big hugs*.
And *big hugs* back... in fact let’s all pat ourselves on the back and have a group hug. [or is that a physical impossibility... hmmm!]