Friday, November 30, 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front, the Blogging Front, and in Book Club

On Friday last week, rather than write about book club, and instead of addressing the pile of books to mark to the right of my bed, I made the fortuitous error of picking up my Kindle and starting to read 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Erich Marie Remarque.
Needless to say, I was unable to put it down. Despite the looming panic over craft fair preparations, and once again, what looked like a growing pile of exercise books to mark.
A German classic, and a famous film, the novel by Remarque presents the journey of a soldier on the front line in France during World War One. In England, we know all about the battles, trench conditions and how the war changed the nature of warfare as man had known it in the modern era. We're told lots about it in school history. Even now, however, we are perhaps not forced to confront the obvious truth: that the conditions, losses and changes were faced in Germany too. We seem to still prefer to demonise the 'enemy' and pretend that it was only us that suffered.
It's not really enough of a retort to say 'they started it'!, like they have no recourse to complain. What you can learn from reading this book, is that the experiences of the German soldier were as horrific and dehumanising as it was for the allies. It makes it a powerful novel as it reminds us that war affects ALL of the participants regardless of whether you are 'friend' or 'foe'. I would recommend it to anyone for a really good read, as long as you have a strong stomach, like history and the occasional piece of black humour.
Believe it or not, but one of the questions people tend to ask me about my relationship with a German man is whether or not our families fought each other in either of the World Wars. I've had people comment on how awkward it must be for us to converse about our country's past or even implied that I should skirt over it. Needless to say, we aren't that precious about it. I'm going to recommend him the book.
Put it this way, anything that Hitler set on fire in protest must contain ideas worth a read. Have you read it? What did you think?
I've hopefully redeemed myself by now for my absence last week; I promise I was hard at work for most of the time!  A couple of weeks ago, I asked your opinion on how to go forward with book club. Thank you so much for saying you wanted it to continue I think we've decided for Option A - which is that:
  • people who want to take part in book club nominate a book based on a given theme.
  • we then vote on this
  • after a month or so we link up our reviews.
  • we will also aim to have a live G+ chat for those who like to chew the fat over a novel.
So with that in mind I would love to have nominations for this round's theme:
Stories from another culture!
So what does that mean? Well, basically the novel you nominate should be set in a country other to your own. It should still be in English.
MY nomination will be a book that has been out and about for years, but one of my must reads. I would love to read and discuss:
This book, although written by a white, Scottish man, is all about a rotund, lady detective from Botswana. Light on gruesome murder, but full of careful reasoning, it's more than just ANOTHER detective series. It's short, engaging and part of a longer series which you could go on and read.....I know I look forward to each new release.
If you would like to make a nomination, please do so in the comment section below. On Wednesday next week, the vote will open and then we'll decide on what we can share together. I'd like to ask a little favour though....can you only nominate a book and vote if you want to join in. Lots of people seem to vote and then don't join in the read, which means people are left reading a book they maybe didn't vote for. Thank you!
I can't wait to see what you all come up with!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reclaiming my cupboards before Christmas - the big clear up!

If you caught my rant yesterday, you'll realise I am facing that dreadful Christmas feeling of bursting cupboards and impending visitors. In less than three weeks, I have a very good friend coming to stay, who is going to require some space for her, and her boyfriend's stuff - not to mention my one bedroomed flat is going to home to a cosy three.
I wouldn't have it any other way of course. Isn't it strange though, how mess you are prepared to live with suddenly becomes embarrassing when it is shared with others? I opened my wardrobe and shuddered at how I might make space. On returning my shoes to the 'book' cupboard, I had to climb parts of it to be successful. My corner craft stash glared at me in a fit-to-burst way, taunting me about where I might actually place a tree. When delving into my kitchen in the hope of a sugary snack to cheer me up, all I could see was clutter, piles and piles of precariously balanced pots and pans, and more pens in my cutlery drawer than is healthy. I'm surprised I haven't tried to eat my dinner with a Biro before now.
It's clearly time for some action. I have made a start. I have made a pledge:
I will tidy my flat, bit by bit, while I watch Masterchef.
Now, my flat isn't dirty. I DO clean it. But there is stuff that needs sorting and why not when I usually watch a T.V show, most of which I find superfluous as it's really all about the tasting at the end anyhow?  It's on 4 nights a week, which means that by next Friday I might not only have spic and span cupboards, a cutlery drawer restored to its primary function, but will probably have filed everything in my living room and started on my school files which 'decorate' my hallway. Thus leaving me with a couple of big cupboards to tackle when I reach my school holidays, rather than a seemingly never-ending mountain of cleaning.
Now all I have to do is stick to it. The craft corner is done and so is the main cupboard in the kitchen. My house guests might be confused that there are now more craft supplies in that cupboard than food stuffs, but it's less mortifying than it was!
Do you have any Christmas tidying tips or storage ideas? Or even any relatives to stay? Want to join in the T.V tidy with me?
Until tomorrow, and another tidy cupboard.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Rant: Christmas Catastrophes (O.K I'm possibly exaggerating a little)

The weight of my workload has been lifted from my shoulders since the craft fair finished and my colleagues were kind enough to buy some of my goods from the staff room. I am nowhere near as stressed out as last week because I have all the time in the world to finish my marking. It is looking more and more likely by the day that if I stick to my schedule, I'll have a very small amount to mark over the Christmas holidays. The sense of achievement is immense. Not sounding very rant like? Well it's coming, I promise!
Last week you had tales of the washing machine and the incompetent warranty (it was more riveting than I just made it sound...well hopefully). Anyhoo, this week I'm ranting about the top five things you do NOT want to happen before Christmas, but for some unknown reason always do. Can you guess which of these happened to me this week?
1.   Just at the moment when you are carrying the most food/drink/heavy presents, your bag handle snaps and you end up scattering goods (usually inconvenient rolling items like potatoes) all over the floor. 
2. Your car breaks. It's a major repair. It's also obviously the time of year when you tax your there's the December going out and festive shoe budget out of the window. You also have not been food shopping, so you enjoy your dinner of cold sausages and cereal while watching cookery shows, like a puppy scratching at a window.
3. You wear fabric shoes, inspired by the sunny, yet crisp weather, only to find that when you get to your destination, the car park is flooded, the heavens have opened and you look like an unprepared tool. ( this isn't universal...)
4. You invite people to stay over Christmas time. In your excitement you realise that every cupboard you open is full to the bursting and that you might actually die of embarrassment at the state of them, or worse accidentally kill your guests with an avalanche of books. The only resolution involves HOURs of cleaning. Jingle Balls!
5. You desperately try and find out who is going to the Christmas parties you are invited to, but there is no subtle way of asking without making it exceedingly obvious that you are basing your decision to go on their actual response. So you end up at all of them, in order that no offence can be taken by any of them. All of the while, you are considering how you will find the time to clean out those blasted cupboards.
I love Christmas. This week though, it's enough to make me say 'Bah Humbug' - which is fortuitous as I am in the staff panto this year...and it's 'A Christmas Carol'. Loving my part, but it's top secret. I've I told you, Santa would have to put you on the naughty list. Obviously.
Want to air the cobwebs of your discontent? (That's rant basically) then come and join me over at Cocalores where we are really starting to love a little moan!
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Why I believe the SMALLEST actions make the BIGGEST difference: valuing yourself in the Blogging Community

I'm alive! (If you're reading for the topic of this post, skip to the next paragraph!)
Now that we're over that revelation, I am very pleased to be back, relaxing in the evening, tapping out the thoughts in my head without stressing about packing up goods, pricing, examinations, food shopping, exploding washing machines and the like. Thanks to my lovelies who have emailed or messaged me to enquire about the Craft Fair. I'll do a big update on that later in the week. Needless to say, yesterday evening, I was pooped.
Today, however, I am not. I am here instead to chat a bit about how people value themselves in this ol' blog community. I noticed that The Ultimate Blog Angel's sign-up has seen a decline in entries in December (so far....there's still time folks and the form link is just below my signature). I think I might know the reasons why.
The most obvious is likely to be Christmas. People genuinely lose time to blog over the festive season and possibly would rather be Angels to their real-life loved ones. Fair enough.
The second is, and I have comments, emails, chats to support this one:
People, possibly even you, don't think you have a big enough blog to be able to really help someone else out.
Well, I can understand that feeling. Only 9 months ago I was on about 5 followers, knew very few people in blog land. All of the people I followed seemed to have 10 billion (well like 200+) followers and seemed to be: out of my league, together, popular, attractively decorated and just out and out fabulous.
All the while, I felt desperate to grow my blog, write really interesting content and make my dream of one day of having my own little internet community come true.
Now before you get worried, I am not about to preach about how successful I am, how I've achieved my dreams and everything is perfect. I would be a humongous liar if I did that. Instead I wanted to illustrate how you CAN make a difference to another person be their blog new, tiny, well-read or globally successful. You never know, you might even be able to take this concept of the 'small gesture'  into the real world. Now that would just be awesome.
Behold! I had time to use Picmonkey! Please feel free to PIN for inspiration.
See, you don't need money, design skills, many readers or a 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' to make someone else feel good about their blog or their writing. You don't have to buy friends or be an expert to switch on your virtual smile and brighten one person's day. That's what Blog Angels is all about. It's about selfless cheeriness and a hand reaching out in friendship.
Can you do that? Then please sign up for The Ultimate Blog Angels in December. The list closes on Friday and the form is STILL under my signature. You need to find a blog to 'help' or maybe even 'befriend' before you fill it in. Check out your friends list, a link-up you like to take part in, or even choose someone you have just started to follow. 
What other little things brighten up your blogging days?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Rant: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous.

Yesterday, you got the sublime part of my weekend and now you can have the ridiculous. I am full on stressed out.
For new readers, you should probably know that I am a teacher, and while I LOVE my job, reports, mock examination, and mid-term exhaustion brings about a pressure that tends to overrule anything I would normally do in my spare time. You should also know that I signed up to do a craft fair to raise money for charity and through some unfathomable reasoning, I decided to do a craft fair at the same time as reports, mock examinations, and the mid-term exhaustion. If you read yesterday, you'll know that I combined this pressurized time with taking a weekend off to spend with my boyfriend.
Yep, I once claimed to be intelligent - not right now. Now I am learning to juggle, but as of today I feel like I am being covered in a load of brightly coloured balls.
I am not going to rant about having work today, or the silly decision I made to hold a stall at a craft fair at the same time. I work quite well under pressure and know that the stress will help it go faster and probably better. I just wanted to give you some context for how my weekend went a teensy bit wrong.
1. I tried to make some button earrings (a nice quick craft job) - the glue didn't set off. (Minor incident resolved by comforting words and tea).
2. I got lost going to The Killers concert and added 35 miles to the journey and an additional £8 to the petrol bill. (Medium incident resolved by moderate sulking and a burger).
3. I tried to make some fabric key rings - the machine wouldn't sew through the material and the thread didn't match. (Minor incident resolved by throwing key-ring at the wall, and a roast dinner at my parents.)
4. I tried to make some fabric rosettes and succeeded...HOORAY...but burnt most of my fingers in the process. (Minor incident solved by tea and the moderate success of rosette completion).
5. My washing machine clunked, stopped, smelled like burning and refused to drain. Despite having a warranty, I quickly discovered this is useless if the warranty people are incompetents, crooks and outright liars! (Major problem, initially calmed with chocolate, solved with an unladylike telephone conversation and an amazing boyfriend who has the patience to manually drain 30 litres of water from an inactive, locked machine).
The good news? Well, the craft fair is this weekend and every day that whizzes by brings me closer to Christmas, the visit of faraway friends, the return of the man for our first English celebration and plenty of excuses to stay in, drink hot chocolate and watch Home Alone.
I might not post again until Friday, and then again on wish me luck, cross your fingers and toes I meet my deadlines, make some money and don't go completely grey in the process.
What's pushing your buttons this week? Join the link up at Cocalores and enjoy the benefits of a group moan! 

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