Wednesday, 25 May 2022

The first residential

Last week Mia went on a four day residential trip with her school. It was a noteworthy event, because it was the first residential trip for either child. At their school the first residential is in Year 6, and Harry's trip was cancelled two years ago due to covid.

The children have been away from us overnight a few times before, even for several nights, but they've always been with grandparents, with each other, and we've been at the other end of the phone. So even though she was very excited, Mia was also quite apprehensive.

Of course it all went well and she had a wonderful time! She did all sorts of activities that we don't do with her, like dry slope skiing and rock climbing, and she also enjoyed the independence of sharing a room with her best friends and taking a bit more responsibility for herself. She did say that she was a bit homesick, but I think that this was outweighed by the positives of the trip.

As for me, I found it really hard while she was away! I missed her of course, and I also missed being in control. Normally I'm in charge of everything that she does - where she goes, what she eats, how she spends her time - and I found it hard to relinquish that. I also felt a bit lost because I was no longer as needed as I usually am. It made me think ahead to when both children are all grown up and have left home - what will I do with myself?! 

It was very quiet while she was away. She's the chatty one who is constantly on the move, and we definitely missed her presence! But I'm so glad that she had this opportunity and I hope that both of them have the chance to do something similar again in the future.

Child with suitcase for first residential trip

Monday, 23 May 2022

The Big Jubilee Read

As part of this year's Jubilee celebrations I was really interested to hear about the Big Jubilee Read. It's a reading for pleasure campaign celebrating seventy great reads. Ten books have been chosen from each of the seven decades, with authors from across a range of Commonwealth countries. As well as recognising great books, the campaign is also intended to highlight lesser-known books and authors that deserve to be recognised.

You can find the full list here, sorted by decade, along with a short summary of each - The Big Jubilee Read booklist.

I've encountered many suggested reading lists over the years, and I always enjoy browsing through them. Firstly to see which books I've read, secondly to remind me of books that I've heard of and want to read, and thirdly to find some new books to add to my reading list. 

Of course I'm always happy to find lots of books that I've read on a 'best books' list - it's always enjoyable to think that you are well read - but this list certainly gives me plenty to look for when it comes to finding future reading! 

From the list I have read just twelve of the books:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Small Island by Andrea Levy

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

I loved reading every single one of these books and in fact two of them are in my personal top three books - The Remains of the Day and The Handmaid's Tale (my third is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier). So despite the fact that the list also includes two books that I started but didn't get along with (Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel) it looks as though there are plenty of books here that would really appeal to me.

I've been through the list and picked three which I liked the sound of. I decided on them because they are fairly recently published, one was a Booker prize winner and one was shortlisted and I find I always enjoy Booker prize winning books, and finally I found them all second hand on my favourite second hand book website Wob, with a 15% discount code when you buy three books in the promotion!

I've ordered The Secret River by Kate Grenville, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields and The Bone People by Keri Hulme. I'll let you know how I get on with them!

Reading a book
Photo credit Clay Banks via Unsplash

Friday, 20 May 2022

Making some new fabric bunting for the garden

A few years ago I made some fabric bunting to hang across the entrance to our vegetable patch area. It was never intended to last forever, and as spring approached it was looking decidedly scruffy so I knew that it was time for an upgrade.

I had some gorgeous beach hut fabric in my fabric stash, and as I'm intending to make it into a seaside themed area I knew that it would be the perfect choice. I alternated the patterned flags with some plain green so as not to be too overwhelming, and it is all sewn to a length of green ribbon for hanging.

Garden fabric bunting with beach huts

This is the third set of bunting that I've now made for the garden, and although my method is a bit rough and ready I'm really pleased with how it looks! I have a cardboard triangle template which I've used before, and I cut out a front and back piece for each flag. Then I turn the good sides together, sew around the long edges and turn them the right way around. I trim across the tops so they are all even and then I just sew them to a length of ribbon.

This time I sewed the flags to the top and bottom of the ribbon to hopefully keep them lying nice and flat and stop them twisting too much. I leave a long length of ribbon at each end for tying to the trellis, and sometimes I secure with a drawing pin or two if they are blowing about too much. They look so bright and colourful, and will hopefully keep looking good for a few more years at least!

Simple fabric bunting for the garden with beach huts

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

My life lately - May 2022

I thought I'd do a little life update with some of the things that I've been doing and enjoying lately!

Reading

I wrote recently about the books that I read on holiday, and now I'm working through the rest of the free books that I downloaded and didn't get to. Then I have a haul of second hand paperbacks waiting by my bedside table. 

A book that I really enjoyed recently was one of my Amazon First Read selections - The Candid Life of Meena Dave by Namrata Patel. It falls under one of my favourite genres - a woman inherits a house full of secrets - and this book is about a woman who is Indian but was adopted and raised in a white Catholic family and has no knowledge about her heritage. She discovers that an unknown woman has left her an apartment in a block that was purchased by Indian students who moved to the US to study engineering so that they could take their skills back to India. It's now inhabited by their descendants, who introduce her to their culture despite not knowing exactly why she has been left the apartment. I enjoyed reading a new take on a favourite genre.

The Candid Life of Meena Dave by Namrata Patel

Watching

We are so behind with our television watching! There are lots of series that I have lined up to watch - Bridgerton, Life After Life, The Time Traveller's Wife, The Essex Serpent...I just need to find the time!

We've just started the new and final season of Better Call Saul which is looking good. I've also discovered a little programme on Netflix called Old Enough which we are enjoying watching, each episode is only about ten minutes long and it follows a small child in Japan who is sent out to run errands and filmed to see how they get on. It's very sweet! Finally we enjoyed watching Moon Knight as a family, the latest Marvel series on Disney+ and definitely one of the better ones.

Listening

Lately on the school run I've been enjoying listening to piano music. I have a playlist on Spotify called 'Relaxing Piano' and I do find that it helps me feel calm when driving. I'm enjoying playing the piano too myself and so I like to hear fancier versions of the pieces that I play. In particular I'm enjoying listening to Ludovico Einaudi.

Playing

I'm still enjoying Pikmin Bloom on my phone, although I accept that I'm probably one of the only people in the country playing it! It's a simple mobile game that is a little bit like Pokemon Go in that it uses a map and your walking data to play. You collect seedlings which take a certain amount of steps to grow, and when you pluck them they become a Pikmin which is a little character that follows you around and plants flowers. If you collect seeds from certain places then when you have fed them enough nectar they put on a decoration related to where you picked them up, and so you can collect lots of different décor which is where I'm at now in the game. I have lots of beach, café, park and forest Pikmin but I'm still working on lots of the others, like the different shops which include sweet, sushi and clothing. I have it on when I'm out running, and it encourages me to run to different places to try and pick up the ones I'm missing.

Creating

I've been working on a cross stitch snowflake piece for Christmas which I'm quite proud of. I've worked up my own pattern for an embroidery hoop design, and I'll be publishing it on the blog as winter approaches.

Snowflake cross stitch in progress

I'm also working on some bits for the garden - I'm planning to make some fresh bunting and paint some plant pots.

Travelling to

Over the Easter holiday we had a wonderful holiday to Mauritius with lots of sunshine, time to relax and sightseeing. Then we managed another trip to Monkey World to see Mia's adopted gibbon and other primate friends.

I've also been up to London twice, having not visited for over two years. The first was a lovely surprise trip for our wedding anniversary. We went to watch Les Misérables, which is my favourite musical, and also went Swingers for some tipsy mini golf! Then last week we went to the Young Voices concert at the O2 to watch Mia perform. It was so strange seeing all the crowds and everyone out and about, it really did feel as though things are now back to normal.

Swingers mini golf club in London

Coming up

I can't believe that the summer term is so short, with the half term holiday in just a couple of weeks! We have booked an Airbnb in Bournemouth for the week which is on the beach and looks lovely. It's Mia's birthday that week, and so there will be at least one trip to Monkey World while we are there.

Then it will just be the countdown to the end of term, and the end of Mia's time at primary school which will be emotional I'm sure. Fingers crossed the weather this summer will be better than last year, I want to enjoy some garden time!

Monday, 16 May 2022

Some of my favourite book themes

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

I read widely - newly published books and older classics, female and male authors, historical and contemporary. I flit between easy reads and more complicated texts. However I find that I'm often drawn to the same themes, and here are some that I've been enjoying recently:

The inherited house renovation romance - A woman inherits a house from a distant or unknown relative, usually at a point in her life where she is going through a life change. The house has an idyllic  location in a small town, often by the sea. It's run down and old fashioned but still habitable. While sorting through the possessions left in the house she discovers hidden secrets and learns more about herself and her history. There's usually a romance involving a handsome local man who is helping with the building work or connected to the house in some way.

I've enjoyed lots of books with this theme, two very recent examples are The Candid Life of Meena Dave by Namrata Patel and The Vanishing Tide by Hilary Tailor (both Amazon First Reads and will be published on the 1st June 2022.) I also liked The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson.

Opening a bookshop (see also café, sweetshop) - A woman going through some sort of life change decides to move in a new direction and open up a bookshop or similar. She usually has some sort of help to get started, for example she inherits or is given a lot of books or other relevant supplies. She is greeted with distrust by the locals, including the inevitable eligible bachelor, but she wins everyone over and becomes part of the community. 

Some examples - The Bookshop on the Corner and The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan.

The middle aged woman reinvention story - A mother to older teenagers realises that now her children have grown and no longer need her she has forgotten to live her own life and doesn't know where to start. Sometimes prompted by meeting an old flame. So she does something drastic - often upping and leaving her family, meeting new people and finding new interests.

From my recent reads - Worn Out Wife Seeks New Life by Carmen Reid, Ladder of Years and Back When We Were Grown Ups by Anne Tyler.

Time travel and repeated chances - There are many books with these themes, but I like stories where time travel is used as a device to see the same story from different viewpoints, or to see how something might have turned out differently.

Some older reads - The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (both of which have recently been dramatised for television). Also Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver which explores various different results caused by one decision.

On a similar note, immortality or having a second chance to try something - for example How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, Meet me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey.

Pile of books opened pages
Photo credit Gülfer ERGİN via Unsplash

These are just some of the books I've been enjoying. If you've read any books similar to those mentioned above then I would love to hear your recommendations!

Friday, 13 May 2022

I love paper books but I wouldn't be without my Kindle

Recently I wrote all about my love for paper books, and it is true that when it comes to reading I do much prefer a physical book that I can hold in my hand and enjoy the reading experience. 

But I also love my faithful Kindle, and it definitely has an important part to play in my reading life. In particular I get a lot of use out of my Kindle when we go away on holiday. I love the fact that I can bring along a huge selection of my books including old favourites, easy reads and non fiction so I always have something to read to suit every mood.

I always have a lovely time the week before a holiday browsing through the free Kindle books on Amazon and looking through the Amazon Prime Reading selection to line up some holiday reading. I very rarely buy a Kindle book as I'd rather spend the money on a physical book, and yet I never seem to run out of Kindle books to read as there are so many free ones available, especially if you are a Prime member. You just need to keep checking through the free Kindle books or hunt down classic books which are out of copyright. I never get through all the books that I download, so I have plenty left for my return!

The Kindle is so small and light that it's easy to take out and about with me in my handbag, and I can read it while I'm doing things around the house - stirring dinner, brushing my teeth, even eating. Because my Kindle is getting quite old now I'm not too worried about leaving it unattended in a beach bag if I'm in the water, or in the car while I'm collecting the children. I also enjoy the privacy aspect - people can't judge me on my book choice if I'm reading in public!

Person reading a Kindle on the beach
Photo credit Maarten van den Heuvel via Unsplash

It might not be the same experience for me as reading a physical book but I do love all the benefits!

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Plastic on the beach

I feel very lucky when it comes to plastic rubbish on my local beaches here in West Sussex. When I'm on the beach I very rarely see any rubbish. I mainly see pieces of rope and twine that I assume are linked to the fishing industry, or recent rubbish like bottles and cups that have been dropped by visitors. I think that locals and the council are very good at keeping the beaches clean. 

So I was sad on our recent holiday to Mauritius to see just how much plastic there was on the beach. It wasn't larger items like plastic bottles, as these were cleared away regularly by the resort staff. But buried in the sand and caught up in the clumps of seaweed there were hundreds of pieces of coloured plastic, some of them very tiny. It was mainly on the upper beach area rather than in the sea itself but it had clearly come from the sea and looked as though it had been there for some time.

Plastic collected from the beach

I couldn't stop myself from picking up as much as I could while walking along the beach, and Mia helped as well, roaming about with a discarded paper cup and collecting everything that she could find. It felt like a never ending job, although I did feel that by the end of our stay there was less plastic to be found. Nonetheless it was still an overwhelming feeling to think that I could collect so much plastic in just a few hours on a very small stretch of coastline.

Some of the larger plastic pieces I put in the bin, but I did bring a collection of small pieces back with me with the intention of creating some sort of art work with them. I've been inspired by similar things that I've seen online - have a look at my Pinterest board at the bottom of the post to see the sort of thing that I mean. 

On a related note a few companies have come to my attention recently that I thought I would mention, as they are all doing great things with recycled beach plastic waste.

Wyatt and Jack collect old and damaged inflatables and turn them into colourful upcycled bags as well as whole range of other products including purses and planters. They used to accept donations of old inflatable materials but it looks as though they have had to pause that for the time being as they were overwhelmed. I've got my eyes on one of the cosmetic pouches or purses.

Children love plastic beach toys for the beach but they are a huge source of plastic rubbish. Dantoy have created a new range called Blue Marine Toys which are made from recycled maritime materials. I love this range of sand and water toys, and although mine are getting a big older now I think that a set would make a great gift for new parents that haven't yet started a collection of beach toys.

Recycled beach toys from Dantoy
Photo credit Dantoy.dk 

Finally this company keeps popping up on my Facebook - Waterhaul. They make some lovely glasses, sunglasses and other equipment from recycled ocean plastic products. You can get the glasses made up to your prescription and they seem quite reasonably priced, although it's been a while since I needed new glasses so I'm a bit out of touch with the process!

Here's my Beach Plastic Art Pinterest board of beach art using plastic that I'm hoping will inspire me to make something beautiful with the plastic that I have collected.

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