Versatile Blogger Award

It’s always lovely to get a bit of praise for writing this blog. I’m aware that I don’t write as often as I should, sometimes leaving gaps between posts that must make some of you wonder if I’m still alive.

So I was very happy to receive a Versatile Blogger nomination.

According to the rules I have to thank the person who nominated me, list 15 blogs I enjoy (I might struggle with that – I don’t read that many!) and finally provide seven facts about me.

I have two nominations!

Thanks to…

First up from my good friend T (the person who probably wins the prize for blog nagging – ie  encouraging me to blog more often – ha ha) with her blog Body of a Geek Goddess.

Secondly from Mrs Gold at These are my Days – this is someone I’ve never met – but we seem to have the same mission to find a film that will scare us witless.

Thank you gals! 🙂

My nominations…

*It doesn’t say in the rules that I can’t nominate my nominators*

1. Body of a Geek Goddess – without this blog I wouldn’t have many of my other nominees, wouldn’t know about the Dean pants, and wouldn’t be able to say in all honesty that I know the future Mrs Joe DuBois. Most of friends follow this blog now, it’s a fabulous mix of geeky gifts, reviews of Sci-Fi shows and a heavy dollop of pictures of hot men.

2. These are my Days – what can I say? A fellow horror fan. A proper horror fan, one who, in the interests of research put herself through the terrible writing featured in the Twilight books – read her hilarious post on her week of hell while reading book one. I should have taken more note of her musings and stopped myself from watching the first Twilight movie – if you’re reading this Mrs Gold – don’t ever go there.  She’s also one of the only people I know who has voluntarily watched Zombie Women of Satan. (As an aside – have you seen The Woman in Black – I thought the movie was very well done…)

3. Lemurs are Hungry – brilliantly written recipe posts and beautifully photographed food. This blog introduces you to ingredients and flavour combinations you never knew existed. I love the fact that the blog even travels with its owner – truly world food coverage!

4. Newcastle Real Ale listings – This started life as a blog – but it seems to have recently been updated to be a website proper – still going to give it a shout out! This blog/site is run by the delightful ‘Uncle Phil’ (he’s not my real Uncle but he is called Phil). He’s got together an army of real ale ‘tickers’ who visit pubs in the North East of England and let him know what ales are available. A brilliant resource for beer lovers!

5. Ear>Protection>Required – a relatively new blog – but a successful Facebook page already – here you’ll find all you could possibly want to know about music events in the North East and beyond. Great for presale information – may you never have to buy your gig tickets off eBay again!

6. The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks – as I often taken photographs of annoying errors in signage, in newspapers, on 20-foot high advertising billboards (that kinda thing) – this blog makes me laugh.

Sorry – can’t do 15 blogs – that’s ridiculous!

Seven facts about me…

1. It’s taken a few years, but I am genuinely proud to be a ginger. I do wish that people would heed Tim Minchen’s advice though.

2. I’m not really that keen on real butterflies.

3.  I was genuinely a little bit sad when David Mitchell announced his engagement last week.

4. I know Warren Speed – he plays Pervo the Clown in Zombie Women of Satan. Also ZWOS 2 is currently in production.

5. I love cheese toasties.

6. My favourite colour is green.

7.  I hate movie remakes/reboots and I get ridiculously angry about them.

End of January – the results are in…

Okay, so the resolutions are underway, but how am I doing?

Resolution 1 – Get fitter: I will do at least two exercise sessions a week

Absolutely cracked this. Just gotta keep it up. Week is pretty much made up of Monday lunchtime – swimming (40 lengths in about 30 minutes), Monday evening – Zumba, Tuesday lunchtime – spinning, Wednesday lunchtime – spinning, Thursday lunchtime – Abs, Thursday evening – Zumba, Friday lunchtime – spinning, Sunday – walk.

I’m not beating myself up too much if I miss one or two of these as I think I’ve got a lot going on. I would like to swap out a Zumba or a spin for a combat-type class but have yet to find one.

I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist and 1 inch from my bust. Need to do more in this area as I bought a dress for a hen night that’s about two dress sizes smaller than I am. I have until March 24th.

Resolution revisited: Get fitter: I will do at least four exercise sessions a week.

Resolution 2 – Lose weight: I will lose three stone by the end of June 2012 *edit by the end of September

So I revisited this resolution within 24 hours of setting it! I think 5lbs a month as an average is very sensible – so aiming for September (and a likely trip to Greece) seemed like a good idea. Though this month I’ve lost:  10.5lbs. 

I can already fit into smaller clothes 🙂

Resolution 3 – Blog more: I resolve to blog at least eight times a month

In the words of Glee’s version of Don’t Stop Believin’….. “Ta-Da”!!!

I have to admit to not being great at sourcing blog entries or having them ready to go: I’m sure I could achieve more than eight per month.

Resolution 4 – Read more: I will read at least one book every two months

Examining John Taylor under the table was an eighties hobby of mine.

I actually finished a book of short stories called End of the Line edited by Jonathan Oliver. The book was free with a horror/haunted magazine. The stories are a mixed bag, but there’s a Christopher Fowler in there which is always good value. They are all set around underground/subway systems. Siding 13 by James Lovegrove was particularly creepy.

I have also finished another book: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield.

Thrifty Gal picked this up when we were last in New York and pressed it into my hand as she finished it telling me I’d love it. And I did. Each chapter has an eighties song as its title which acts as a great device for Sheffield introducing a memory. I particularly enjoyed the Morrissey chapter where Rob uses lines from songs to provide an ongoing discussion with his idol.

Of course, the fact that the book is peppered with eighties references means that you’ll find yourself veering alarmingly from New Kids on the Block to Paul McCartney. Yes, I did post ‘No More Lonely Nights’ on Facebook the other night. It’s all Rob Sheffield’s fault.

When travelling home from a gig the other night (the remarkable Cornshed Sisters) I ended up eavesdropping on the conversation happening beside me. A man was having a conversation with a woman about the relative merits of Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Talking to girls about Duran Duran is the past, present, and undoubtedly, the future. Buy it now 🙂

So that’s like two books in one month – go me!!

Butterflies and quearies?

Belated Christmas gifts are always amazing. This joyous piece of craft came from Denis Denis of the murder bathroom . It looks lovely, all glittery and sparkly and well, butterfly-y. When you open it though, there are about a billion pins. Apparently it is suitable for anyone over 36 months. I dread to think what might happen when a 37 month old gets hold of it (let alone a 38 year old…).

Bonus! When going to collect my amazing mystery parcel from the Post Office I also spotted this delightful typo in their brand new laminated signage all over the collection desks…

Quearies???

Fitter, slimmer, blogger who enjoys a good book: my resolutions for 2012!

Okay, so I’ve faffed about not making resolutions and instead creating blogs on what I did last year, so now, time to bite the bullet and actually decide what the hell I’m going to do in 2012.

I’ve read and been thinking about Richard Wiseman’s Blog Guide to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions; it’s no secret to friends that I think his approach to, well everything, is amazing.

I’m currently reading Luck Factor, his book on changing and improving opportunities in your life. Don’t worry though, I’m not putting ‘must talk to more people in bus queues’ down as a resolution, but please don’t run away if I do speak to you.

In his blog, he suggests that you should go with one resolution and try not to repeat resolutions from previous years. I’m going to go against this. But what I am doing is reducing the number of resolutions (four instead of last year’s 10 – find out how I did) and taking on board his suggestions that you should:

  1. Break your goal into steps
  2. Tell people what you plan to do (that’s what this blog is about!)
  3. Remind yourself of the benefits of what you’re doing
  4. Reward yourself as you reach each step (I like this part)
  5. Keep a progress map of how you’re doing

So, in the interests of keeping Richard Wiseman partially happy…

Resolution 1 – Get fitter: I will do at least two exercise sessions a week

Carrying on from last years’ vague ‘get fit’ resolution, I’m specifically planning to do at least two pieces of  exercise a week (this might be swimming, spinning, zumba, abs, or simply more walking).

Each Monday I will plan in my exercise sessions to ensure work/nights out don’t ruin my plans.

Resolution 2 – Lose weight: I will lose three stone by the end of June 2012 *edit by the end of September

This is averaging at about half a stone a month, so difficult, but not completely impossible. Healthy salads, soup and an aim to cut alcohol down from ‘yes, please’ to a couple of nights a week. The exercise will help.

*After properly thinking about this, I fear the three stone by June might be a tad optimistic. I have a social life. I am not doing some stupid faddy diet. I need more time. So, on that basis, aiming for an average of 5lbs per month which takes me to mid September.  If I get there quicker, then great, if not, at least I’m not starving myself. 

Each Monday I will weigh in and measure recording the details in my diary. I will record my food in the same way, planning my week so as not to be scuppered by pesky socialising!

Benefits of both these resolutions are happier, healthier, slimmer Linda and the opportunity to wear all the clothes currently hidden in a case under the bed. New wardrobe – no cost!

Resolution 3 – Blog more: I resolve to blog at least eight times a month

Look, I’m doing it!

Step 1 – Develop a blog plan for the year. All too often I go to see a show or read a book and I think “I should review that or comment on it”, then life gets in the way. If I plan when key events are coming up and plan to blog about them, the idea is that blogs will happen.  Part of the plan will take into account seasonal messages – I missed a whole range of opportunities to blog about grammatically inspiring Christmas gifts.

Step 2 – Have some blog entries ready to go – if it’s a slow week or I’m really too busy, I’ll be prepared!

Benefits of this will be to increase my blog readership, increase my writing skills and prepare me for being lead blogger for the Live Theatre for a month this year. Eek!

You, dear readers, can assess my progress!

Resolution 4 – Read more: I will read at least one book every two months

I probably read about 15 books last year. That’s not a total failure. But I can sense Thrifty Gal over at E for Envelope shuddering as she reached 100 in October.  I tend to read in concentrated bursts: five books in a week long holiday, one book on a transatlantic flight. I feel like I should be a bit more consistent in my reading and not have huge gaps between each book.

Step 1 – Reduce the amount of TV watching, Facebooking and faffing I do. This time could be better spent with a book in my hand.

Step 2 – Make sure I have a book with me at all times and choose to read that rather than a magazine, newspaper or facebook on my phone.

Hey if I read all the books I have in my pending pile – I can then buy myself more as a reward!!!

So there it is…

There’s a whole raft of other things I could include in this. But things like improving love life, moving house, moving job etc I haven’t had a chance to think about yet.

The things I’ve chosen, I believe, will make me fundamentally happier, more organised, and thus more likely to tackle those other things along the way.

Happy 2012 everyone – what are you going to do?

Review of the year: how many resolutions did I keep?

So back at the start of the year I set myself some top 10 ‘plans’ for 2011… I rather prematurely did an update about two weeks later. The real test is now, a year on.

1. Improve my beauty regime – I must say I think I’ve done pretty well on this front. I’ve had some lapses but generally have followed a moisturise (if nothing else) regime fairly regularly. Origins have had a further £100 (or more) out of me, but I am using the products now instead of just admiring them as they languish under dust in my bathroom.

I also discovered primer. On a trip to New York the lovely Sephora store gave us freebies galore (however I guess they weren’t technically freebies when you’ve spent hundreds of dollars already) – one of the freebies was a make up primer. I’m a convert. My make up even stays on after spinning (more on that later)!

As an add on to this plan/resolution I also upped my work wardrobe (hey everyone has off days, you guys sniggering at the back). Generally my attempts to wear heels, funky trousers, and ‘festive’ jumpers have been greeted positively. However, by far the most successful (and in fact unintentional) change has been my intensified hair colour. Going that deeper shade of red/ginger has paid for itself in compliments. The non-reactions of those who clearly don’t know how to deal with change have also kept me amused.

2. Get Fit. I said in January that this appears every year, and so it goes. It will appear in January next year too. It took ’til around June to get really going with this, but then it clicked into place. I went spinning and swimming a few times a week, every week, until October. I also tried zumba! Spinning has since continued but with less intensity. The result? Dress size down and a stone and a half lost.

I have also spread the fitness joy by encouraging KD to join me at zumba and Emma B to embrace the joy that is spinning. I think Emma B only comes spinning to giggle with me at Jane’s attempts at handing in the tickets to the hot instructor (I’ll just say “headboard”).

Result of resolution 2: astonishing thighs in the web team.

3. Write more. Hmn. Not great. I completed the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course from the Open University with flying colours. However it didn’t have the required result, that of making me write more fiction.

I have got more involved in writing theatre reviews for a London-based website. Again, though, after a flurry of blog activity in March, Postcard of a Painting was pushed to one side.

4. Travel more, travel differently, travel alone. Not sure I was entirely successful with this.

Travel more. I actually probably had fewer holidays this year, but then 2010 was a bit of a mad flurry.

Travel differently. I can’t actually remember what I meant by this. But if I meant destinations, I failed. I went to lots of places that I’ve already been to: Zakynthos, Rhodes, New York, Glasgow, York, London, but nowhere new.

Travel alone. I went to Zakynthos, Rhodes, Glasgow and York alone. And if I’m honest, I realised that I don’t like it as much as I make out. I mean I do enjoy some solo travel and I’m quite independant when I do travel with others. Generally though, I’d like to travel with someone else, someone to share the experience with – just don’t interrupt my book reading on the flight. 

5. Cook more. Over the summer in my health kick, cooking more, meant ‘make soup’. I haven’t done very well on this resolution otherwise.

6. Phone the people I don’t make time to travel to visit. Major fail. I can’t even claim that I visited them instead of phoning. Sorry people. 😦

7. Be open to dating. Again, this hasn’t gone spectacularly well. I’m not sure I count picking a random stranger up on the corner of my street as a successful dating strategy. He was very sweet,  until he starting talking about God, then he was a bit scary.

8. Be nice. There are many instances where I’ve done this, from friends and colleagues, to the girl at the Post Office with the funky red nails dotted with white polish – just like snow I tell you 🙂 and what happens? Either the recipient thinks you’re taking the piss, tells you that the item you like was cheap/free/old, or smiles (and keeps smiling). Take a hint people – accept and embrace the compliments! Be the smiley one.

9. Be nice to myself. After a year of feeling pretty shit, 2011 was the year I started to turn this around. All the stuff above is part of this. Everything that Richard Wiseman has written is part of this. I’ve started being and thus feeling more positive. And if people give me a compliment, I take it, thank you very much 🙂

10. Be timely. Hey I’ve done better here. At least this review of the year is out there before the year ends. Just have to make sure that next year’s plans, if I do any – just managing expectations – are posted in the first week of January (again making sure your hopes aren’t too high for a blog on January 1st)…

But nevertheless, see you some time in 2012 folks. 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December – my birthday that is…

Okay it’s not December, therefore it’s not my birthday yet. But I have received my first birthday gift for this year. Some of you out there will disagree with the opening of the gift before the official date but as it was from Thrifty Gal from Body of a Geek Goddess: she of the continuous birthday giftage, (seriously one year she was getting presents up to a month before her next birthday year – don’t know how she does it!), I felt I was allowed to open it.
The reason I decided to blog about the gifts is that it struck me how spot on she was in her selection of pressies. Not saying I can be packaged up too easily – a girl needs to keep some mystery – but she pretty much covered some key aspects of my personality and my likes in her presents.
So, what did I receive?
Nail Polish: I actually ruined her original nail polish present by buying it in New York – oops. But nevertheless she had some funky polish in a colour she didn’t like but that I love, so passed that on. (I’m all for bonus gifts….)
Nicola Roberts Dainty Doll make up: a triple whammy of Girls Aloud fun (though it’s normally Chezza creating the hilarity – I wonder if she might comment on this blog, she’s been quiet of late…), make up for pale girls and packaging with a feck-off-huge ginger cloud of hair on it.
A Butterfly scarf: that be a scarf covered in butterflies. It’s great, butterflies on a scarf. I’m so obsessed with butterflies that I bought a ring from Tiffany in New York in the shape of one. Yes, Tiffany. Not cheap.  I’ve also rediscovered the song Elusive Butterfly of Love by Bob Lind in the last week. I need help.
“Across my dreams, with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love”
Edgar Allen Poe Raven Notebook: I love this soooo much. The cover is great: all sinister and dark and featuring a quote from The Raven. The inner pages are all framed nicely and also feature quotes from Poe’s work. How much do I ‘heart’ this? Well let’s put it into context, on a recent trip to New York I made my companions visit Edgar Allen Poe Street which is essentially just a street. There’s nothing else of interest there. I took a photo though… :/ So a combination of stationery, horror and writing – perfect present!
I’m also hoping for the DVD of Tales of Terror (which is Vincent Price acting in Edgar Allen Poe stories) for Christmas: I am a little bit crazy for horror stuff.
And there it should end.
But I have a confession to make. I ‘kept’ the birthday card for my birthday. In reality I couldn’t resist a sneak peek. OH MY GOD, I love it!

(see my other blog post on these: http://didntevencheckthespelling.blogspot.com/2011/04/here-be-spiders.html)

So we end with Thrifty Gal adding grammar into the mix.

So, that’s me. A ginger with nice nails, a love of butterfly related gifts, an obsession with horror, stationery and grammar, any takers? I could add GSOH if that’d help…

Glee, Pride, Americana and Satsumas

Apologies wordsmiths, life has been getting in the way of blogging of late. I have no excuses. I have blog posts ready to go. I have no reason for not pressing ‘publish’. I’m just lazy.

So what’s been clogging up my blogging?

Well, since my holiday in June I’ve had a busy time…

The end of the month saw a trip to ‘that London’ to enjoy the delights of Glee Live. Thrifty Gal provided a timely and super synopsis so I don’t have to.

And proof that my musical taste is varied to say the least; this was swiftly followed by a trip to the Sage Gateshead to see Ron Sexsmith. I love Ron. He has a voice and face that belie his age. I spent much of the first album I listened to of his thinking he was about 24. Some googling later and I was astounded to discover he was actually in his late 40s. I feel a little bit sorry for him as success (as he sees it) seems intent on eluding him. In a recent documentary about him: Love Shines, he spent much of the time lamenting his failings instead of accepting the critical acclaim which he so deserves. At the concert someone shouted out “you’ve got real talent Ron” to which he mumbled a response about his only talent being able to wear frilly shirts. The man needs to accept he’s a great lyricist and songwriter and get on with it!

No such self-doubt at the Bright Eyes gig (12 July) also at the Sage. Conor Oberst filled the stage with a presence and energy completely unexpected from his small and wiry frame. At times loud, beefy and rockier in sound, Oberst peppered this elegantly with glimpses of his softer side (particularly songs from his folk-inspired album: I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning).

Next up: Northern Pride. A weekend of drinking and a coating of glitter. There was some music – a Lady Gaga act springs to mind. Mostly though, there was rain and pink wine.

This weekend saw yet another trip to the Sage: you’d think I lived there. This was for the Americana festival – a weekend celebration of folk, country, and obviously Americana music. Most of it free (take a hint Sunderland’s Folk Festival – £45 – eek!!) and all of it great fun. We kicked back on the Saturday with some wine, some dips and smattering of sunlight (I have some sunburn to show for it). I particularly enjoyed The Lucky Strikes – stomping tunes and some great lyrics – was on the lookout for them as they’d been likened to The Felice Brothers.

The Saturday headliner Justin Townes Earle was quirky and his set was made even more enjoyable by the crazy commentary coming from behind us. “Six satsumas, you’d think the headliner would get better lighting than that… ” (A comment on the six orange lights lined up behind him). And, “if I’d drawn him in art class at school I’d have failed” (Earle’s trousers were a little short making his thighs look overly long and spindly, while his shins looked very short).

Things are settling down (a bit) so hopefully I’ll dedicate some more time to blogging.