Sunday, 30 October 2016

Photo An Hour: Saturday 29th October

Each month Jane and Louisa arrange Photo An Hour, and for the second month in a row I managed to remember in time to take part!

Saturday was a fairly quiet day: despite being our four year anniversary, Thomas had to work down in London all day so I mostly pottered around the house, did a wee bit of shopping, and hung out with the cat. Check out the #photoanhour hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to see who else took part and what they got up to.
9am:
Just awake and starting the day right: in bed with a book. I'm halfway through This Song Will Save Your Life and very much enjoying it so far. This quote felt very relatable to me: "Lord knows you can launch any kind of criticism at me... but don't you dare doubt my musical knowledge," because that was basically me when I was 16, too.
10am:
How every Saturday at home begins: listening to the Huey show on BBC 6Music while waiting for the kettle to boil. He's an absolute twat of a man, but his taste in music is impeccable.

11am:
Missy doing her best Batman impression. This is one of her favourite spots on which to sit, while she susses out whether the bed it ready for her to make the leap.
12 noon:
I'd pretty much finished getting ready when I realised I hadn't showered since Thursday! So, full make-up on and hair already put up, I dashed to the bathroom quickly and remedied the situation.
1pm:
Hearts or bees? I've been lusting after this bee-print Primark shirt since I saw it on Donna's blog and Rebecca's Instagram. Sadly, #bigboobproblems struck again: the only size I could get fastened over my chest hung like a sack everywhere else.
2pm:
I got bored pretty quickly in town when I realised I can't afford to buy much, so I came home to see this furry little face snoozing in her usual spot on the end of our bed. I sat with her for a while and read an improving book  faffed about on my phone until I felt I should actually achieve something, so...

3pm:
... to the office/craft room, where I finally - a year after purchasing it - started to use this cute fox-print fabric. I made a couple of zipped pouches, which will probably find their way into some Christmas gift swaps, and then got sick of my sewing machine playing silly buggers so I went to sort out...

4pm:
... the woodshed. I'd popped to Aldi earlier in the morning to get more of their excellent value kiln-dried logs (god I sound like such a nanna). I love a well-stocked wood shed, so this task gave me more satisfaction than it perhaps should have.
5pm:
Completely lacking inspiration for my 5 o'clock photo, so I snapped what was closest to me: the anniversary card I gave Thomas this morning. Black cats + stripes + staying in = very apt.
6pm:
This may look like your common-or-garden photograph of a sleeping cat, but it's a record of only the fourth time Missy has ever sat on my lap! After adopting her four months ago, both Thomas and I have used various wiles to try and get her to settle down with us but she showed no interest until a week ago, when she sat on my lap three times over the course of the weekend. Then a week with no lap action... followed by Thomas getting a precious 10 minute sit on Thursday and this long snooze on my lap last night. (Since then, she has run onto my lap when fireworks scared her last night, which just about made me weep with joy, and had a long snuggle with me this morning. Aaaaaaah!)
7pm:
Wine o'clock. Strictly o'clock. 
8pm:
Thomas is home! He'd had a good day at the London Anarchist Book Fair, his workshop had gone well, and, being the total boss he is, he'd brought me presents. Yep, this guy knows me well: forget anniversary flowers, what really sets my heart racing is anniversary zines about fat activism 💕
9pm:
And in a rather meta turn of events, my final photograph of the day was one of me editing this very post, while waiting for Thomas to finish watching Borgen.

Did you take part in Photo An Hour yesterday? Hit me up in the comments so I can have a peek at your day.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Week In Crete

In the last week of September, Thomas and I went to Kolymvari, Crete. After a hectic year for both of us - twelve months that have seen him complete his PhD and start two new jobs, and me leave teaching for a new role - a break was long-overdue. Our plan for the week, therefore, was to sit by the pool and do nothing.

Kolymvari is pleasingly undeveloped and our apartment complex 2km out of town was small, peaceful and surrounded by olive groves, which meant we could totally relax. There were enough shops within walking distance to keep us stocked up on spinach pastries, bread, tomatoes and olive oil, a couple of tavernas for evening meals, and that was it. As a result, we had a wonderful seven days of reading, swimming and lounging.
However, being more used to frantic weekend breaks and city-hopping, we couldn't quite manage a full seven days of lounging. Luckily, Hania - the second-biggest town on the island and site of the ancient Minoan settlement of Kydonia* - is within easy reach of Kolymvari on the bus, and we fell head over heels for its picturesque Old Town. A mass of tiny alleyways and iron balconies with lush vegetation spilling overhead, you never know when you might stumble upon an intriguingly mysterious corner of Venetian architecture or some decidedly contemporary street art.

* This fact ensured I had Muse's Knights Of Cydonia stuck in my head for practically the whole week.

Thomas having struggled all week to find any vegan food (hence the bread, tomatoes and olive oil from the local shops), we were thrilled to find Tamam, which has a number of vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu, while exploring the Old Town. Being a bad blogger, I completely failed to make a note of the other taverna we found in Hania that had a vegan menu, but if you ever find yourself in the area, it was opposite the old arsenal.

I'd thoroughly recommend the quiet northwestern coast of Crete if you're looking for something a bit different to the usual resorts. The combination of majestic mountains and peaceful olive groves, ancient historical sites, and friendly and welcoming towns made it a real winner. And for late September/early October, the weather was glorious: we had above-average temperatures for the time of year - hitting 32c on the 1st October - and gorgeous sunshine every day. We're already planning our return trip.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Thrifty Christmas Gift Swap Is Back

I can't believe I'm talking about the C-word when just a week ago I was lying on a sun lounger in 30c heat. But autumn is definitely here - I'm looking out of my window at yellowing leaves and grey skies - and so that means it's time to start planning for Christmas.

This will be the fifth year of the thrifty Christmas gift swap, and it's always so much fun to have participants making, buying and thrifting cool gifts for each other. Unlike a lot of other swaps, you do not need to be a blogger to take part: last year was about a 50/50 split between bloggers and non-bloggers.

So, if you're interested, take a look at the guidelines below and then drop me an email to sign up.

How It Works
1. Send your name, address, blog address (if you have one) and extra information to jbistheinitial@gmail.com by Sunday November 6th. Include in your email as much detail about your likes and dislikes as possible, so your giver has a starting point.
2. Once you receive the information about your recipient (by November 10th at the latest), you can start putting together a box of bought, thrifted and handmade goodies you think your recipient will love.  In previous years, gifts ranged from framed animation strips from the giftees favourite film, to Christmas mix CDs, to cool brooches and embroidery hoops, to secondhand books.
3. Limit yourself to a £12 spend (not including postage).
4. Pop your parcel in the post by December 10th (although try and be a bit more prompt if sending overseas).
5. Sit back and wait to receive your own box of delights from a mystery giver!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Buyer's Archive: September

Since February last year, inspired by Elise's Buyer's Archive project, I've been keeping a record of all my clothing purchases in an effort to track what works and what doesn't and - in theory - cut down on my spending. Check out the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter/Instagram to see posts from everyone taking part, which usually includes Elise, HazelKezzieDonnaLucy and Charlotte.
Last September, I bought four items for a total of just over £70. Of those four, I only regularly wear the boots; the denim skirt and collared top, meanwhile, have already gone to the great charity shop bag in the sky. This year, thanks to the unseasonably warm September skewing my shopping habits, I've managed to acquire practically an entire wardrobe of summer clothes... just when I need them least.

Grey crew neck t-shirt, ASOS £6
I actually bought this tee in August, I think, and then forgot about it in a drawer when I came to do last month's Buyer's Archive post. Oops. Anyway, there's not much to say: it's a grey t-shirt, I wear it a lot tucked into skirts. The end.

Polka dot midi skirt, vintage shop in Brighton £25
This is FAR more than I would ever usually spend on something secondhand and not true vintage, but come on... it's a polka dot midi skirt, could it be any more Janet? I've already worn it at least ten times, thanks to the unseasonably lovely September we had, so at price-per-wear it's turning into a bargain.

Fight Like A Grrrl t-shirt, Etsy £11.83
Because I am utterly crap at properly measuring myself and guessing what size I'll need, this t-shirt arrived from America FAR too big for me. This tutorial came to my rescue; a few minutes with the sewing machine later and it fits me far better.
Button front denim skirt, originally New Look but from a charity shop £2.99
I've been looking for a skirt like this for over two years now, so I pounced when I spotted it on a trip to Nottingham. It's just a tad too big at the waist for me, but I figure I can belt it.

Dark grey t-shirt, H&M £7.99
Like the ASOS tee, this is one I actually bought a month or two ago and then forgot to blog. As you can see from the photo, this t-shirt has already stretched out of shape quite a bit, which is annoying, as it'd been a handy top to throw on with skinny jeans on cooler days this summer.

Ditsy floral print midi skirt, originally Bon Marche but from a charity shop £2.99
Because I can no more resist a midi skirt in a charity shop than I can a glass of wine on a Friday night.


Chunky t-bar shoes, Deichmann £19.99
I ended up donating my previous pair of chunky T-bars because, even after two years of wear, they were still so painful. I'm hoping this pair are quicker to break in, because a chunky Mary Jane is my go-to shoe in winter.

Book print skirt, Cath Kidston £36 (with 10% student discount)
And finally, I eventually caved and bought this little beauty. I've been eyeing up this skirt since it first went on sale, and after my size sold out online I thought I'd have to forgo my dream. Imagine, then, my delight when I popped into the Nottingham store and they had one solitary size L left, and we discovered Thomas had a mere 3 days left on his NUS card with which to gain student discount.

All of which gives me a total for September of £112.76 for eight items. However, £13.99 of that was actually last month's spend, so the true total for is £98.77. Plus, I made £100 selling old clothes on eBay and Depop this past month, so I've actually ended up in credit to the tune of a whole £1.33. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

What I've Been Reading Recently

As We Descended*
Robin Talley
Rating: ***
A diverse cast - including disabled, Latinx, Black, gay & lesbian characters - is one of the highlights of this clever re-telling of Macbeth set in a Southern boarding school. The setting, too, is well drawn: a venerable school on an old plantation, complete with misty & sinister lake, dusty locked rooms and abandoned passageways, and the terrible echoes of slavery and exploitation casting a Southern Gothic shadow over the place. There are some genuinely scary moments, too, most notably the opening chapter séance, which takes the place of the encounter with the three weird sisters and their predictions to Macbeth, and the later chapters in which Maria - our Macbeth - begins to unravel. As a Shakespeare geek, I thoroughly enjoyed the nods to the original play, both explicit - such as in the name of the prestigious school prize, Cawdor, for which Maria is fighting - or more subtle plot points.



The Last One*
Alexandra Oliva
Rating: ****
A group of people are sent off into the wilderness, cameras following discretely, to compete against each other in a Survivor-like reality TV show. Zoo, off on a solo challenge and starving and exhausted, is horrified at the lengths the TV production team have gone to scare her - fake rotting corpses, mechanised rabid animals - unaware that a cataclysmic virus has hit the east coast of America and that not only are these things not fake, but there are no cameras anymore, no production team. Instead, she's stuck in a race to survive that may never end. It's a brilliant premise, well executed, and while it doesn't maintain its initial promise right up to the end, it's a solid 3.5 stars from me, bumped up to 4 thanks to the ingenious idea behind it.



The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free
Alex Perry
Rating: ***
I was immediately interested in reading this, by the former Time Magazine correspondent to Africa, as it seemed to offer a wide-ranging and Africa-focused look at the recent challenge and opportunities that the continent faces. However, despite an introduction in which Perry promised to offer Africans a voice in their own narrative, this is - largely - still a white Western man's view of Africa. There are exceptions - the chapters on China in Africa offer an interesting and enervating post-colonial view on investment in the continent, as too do his discussions with tech start-up entrepreneurs in Kenya and Nigeria - but I found this still too much about Western views of Africa rather than African views thereof.
American Housewife
Helen Ellis
Rating: ****
Short stories with enough bite to take your hand off, Ellis's collection is bleakly, bitterly funny. Particular highlights are a story about a failed novelist taking part in Dumpster Diving With The Stars, a reality TV pastiche that's all too familiar, and the surreal, insidiously sinister tale of a young woman's introduction to her - initially innocent-seeming - new book group.


The Trespasser*
Tana French
Rating: *
It breaks my heart to say this, because I have - to varying degrees - either very much liked or loved all of the previous books in the Dublin Murder Squad series, but my gosh The Trespasser was a terrible read. Where previous instalments have had real tension, great characterisation and brilliant scene-setting, this had a paper-thin plot which was easy to guess, and generally unlikeable characters. All in the series have been somewhat over-long and under-edited, but this read more like a novella or Kindle short padded out to 480 pages.



* I received a digital copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review