Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the past week.

mosaic89ed464a3f0a2d08bfcf5c0b4458da37445696c6 e1416571312375 Friday Round Up

1. Penny (Rats As Big As Cats) made me this beautiful cushion for novel inspiration.
2. Quick night out outfit mirror selfie – Cardigan from Mango, t-shirt from TK Maxx, Skirt from H&M, bag c/o Brit Stitch
3. Christmas comes to Custard.
4. It’s ok to buy wine purely because there’s a cat on the bottle, right?

After my lovely day in Hay with Penny, the Herefordian adventures continued with the annual post Craft Fair Courtyard Bar night out. Despite no longer working at The Courtyard, and the fact I’ve never worked on the bar there, I went along anyway, and had an excellent time catching up with Hereford lovelies I haven’t seen in a while, as well as all the usual suspects. Lots of gin was consumed. Good times.

This week’s been a busy one at work; but it’s official Christmas at Custard, with the lights and trees going up. I’m getting very close to my first anniversary of working here, which is weird; it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here a year. We’re sorting out the Christmas party at the moment, which is quite exciting. It’s going to be a good’un!

I’m in the final stretch of NaNo, so regular programming should resume around pretty soon. I’m covering MCM Birmingham this weekend (officially as press this time, woop!), so keep your eye out for cosplay excellence next week.

This week, I’ve been reading:
Why Adele was right to ignore Bob Geldof and Band Aid.
Get 10% off at Moo.
Four lessons from NaNoWriMo.
29 times Tumblr raised serious questions about Harry Potter.

Hay-On-Wye Day Trip

PicMonkey Collage e1416079622509 Hay On Wye Day Trip

I’ve been adventuring with Penny, of Rats As Big As Cats, today. We decided that rather than stay in Hereford, we’d take ourselves for a day of pottering in Hay-On-Wye. I haven’t been to Hay in a long time, which is a shame, as I love it.

We had a good old mooch in several of the bookshops, which is pretty much a must in Hay. Penny’s husband has been putting up bookshelves today, so it seemed only right to find some new books to put on them. Hay is full of exactly the sort of bookshops I love. I like a bookshop to be packed to the rafters, preferably with lots of little rooms and staircases and hidden away corners, just crying out for a good browse. Perfection.

We had a potter in a few on the Antique shops too, with Penny making a beeline for the Textiles and me examining all the teacups, and trying to decide whether I really have room for any more vintage crockery. I did manage to resist this time, but I will be day-dreaming about some of the especially beautiful ones for a while.

We popped into Oscar’s to refuel with tea and cake. Penny was pining for the apple cake, whereas I could not resist an enormous slab of chocolate cake, which was insanely delicious. Suitably fed and watered, we went back out to hit the last of the bookshops, before heading home.

Find of the day? An entirely unofficial Buffy comic, documenting her time as an under-age Vegas showgirl. Yes, really.

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the last week.

mosaic9145f4c88c459113bd7c5800d1a2df3a4be6d026 e1415957743107 Friday Round Up

1. Snapped out for dinner, back home in Hereford.
2. Christmas cups! Sticky toffee latte!
3. I went home for a week, came back and it was Christmas in Birmingham.
4. See? It’s Christmas now

It’s suddenly become Christmas here in Birmingham. I came back from my week away to find all the Christmas lights are on, the German Market opened yesterday and there’s an ice rink by the library. It seems a bit early for all this festivity, but I’m loving the Christmas drinks being back in the coffee shops. Costa’s Sticky Toffee Latte is my new favourite. So good.

I’m ticking along nicely with NaNo, although I’m a day behind with my word count at the moment. I should get caught up over the weekend with no trouble though. The rest of this week has been spent in a fairly relaxed fashion, before all the festive season insanity starts at work. I’m back to Hereford again tonight, for a last couple of days with Jen before she heads off for more Canadian adventures.

I am so sick of rain, guys. I all but swam to work this morning. Make it go away!

This week, I’ve been reading:
Go Analogue

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the last…few…weeks. Sorry.

mosaicf72ba70789892b9235b1935b9e15de7326fe5ae8 e1415363176740 Friday Round Up

1. Tim Minchin and a glass of wine. Don’t mind if I do!
2. The bull has rather snazzily dressed lately.
3. Just another day at Custard…
4. Going out out!
5. This is what happens when you have skeletons in the office.
6. G&T in a teacup. Yes!
7. The Glamophones rock The Grave Gatsby party at work
8. Night-out selfie time

I’ve been quiet this week, partly because I’m at my mum’s with no internet, and party because it’s NaNo time. Currently I’m a day ahead with my word count, so I am a happy camper. It’s going well so far, and I’m actually really enjoying myself. Feeling confident for a win.

I’m home this week, and my lovely ex-flatmate is back from a year of Canadian adventures, so we’ve been spending a lot of time visiting old Herefordian haunts and generally enjoying ourselves. In between frantic writing, anyway…
Tonight, we’re off out with some of my favourite people for dinner and drinks. I’m excited!

As well as NaNo, I’ve been reading:
Photos from The Grave Gatsby – this is what I’ve been doing at work lately…
11 reasons Birmingham is the best place to stuff your face.
Marvel debuts Phase 3.
Ted Cam.
WLFCC Highlights.
What’s a dad to do when his daughter wants to be Han Solo?
Blogger problems.
6 ways to pick yourself up after a break-up.
Don’t cheat yourself.
Blog advice 101.
Things you probably didn’t know about Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The Carlton dance on Dancing With The Stars.
Jennifer Lawrence calls photo hacking a sex crime.

20 Reasons to Do NaNoWriMo

111411 nanowrimo e1412076652881 20 Reasons to Do NaNoWriMo

 

NaNoWriMo kicks off on Saturday. I’m all plotted, I have key scenes written up on flashcards, my special stationery is gathered…I’m ready.If you’re still debating whether to join me on this crazy journey, here are 20 reasons you should.

  1. No matter how much you write, you’ve made a start. You know that saying to motivate runners? No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch. NaNo is much the same for writing. If you don’t write the 50000 words, never mind. If you only write 500 words, that’s still 500 words you didn’t have before.
  2. Get the story out. It’s said that everyone has a book in them. Get yours out. Books don’t belong in people, they belong on the page.
  3. Turning off the inner editor. Writers are often plagued by the little voice in their head that tells them their work is naff. For NaNo, shut the inner editor in a cage, and just write. First drafts are meant to need work.Nobody churns out a perfect novel in the first try and NaNo helps you realise that.
  4. The excuse for crazy behaviour. Writers are meant to be quirky characters. Adopt a strange hat for writing time (NaNo founder, Chris Baty, often wears a Viking helmet to write, so you’ll be in excellent company), talk to your characters out loud, act out your scenes…whatever crazy behaviour you fancy indulging in, do it. It’s not weird, you’re writing. 
  5. Writing everyday Writing everyday is an excellent habit to get into. While you don’t have to keep up the pace of NaNo at the end of November, the habit of getting even a few words down every day will help your writing a lot.
  6. Progress. It can be daunting starting a new writing project. NaNo helps get that first scary chunk out of the way.
  7. Making writing a priority. NaNo is an excellent excuse to put writing first. If you’re the sort to put it off in favour of organising the cupboards, or, God forbid, doing the ironing, let NaNo be a reason to let those jobs slide for a little while.
  8. Projects makes us happier. It’s so satisfying to be working on something. And that deadline really keeps you going.
  9. Writing Community. Writing can be very solitary, but NaNo makes it a team sport. Go to local write-ins, chatter nonsense in the forums, either way, you’re meeting like-minded people and finding writers to be friends with.
  10. The achievement. 50,000 words in a month is impressive. The feeling of winning is awesome, trust me. You’ll be proud of that for years to come.
  11. Creativity. Getting the creative juices flowing feels pretty great, and feeds back into the rest of your day. When you’re on a roll with a creative project, you might be surprised what else it spills into.
  12. Bragging. Come on, be honest. Being able to casually mention your novel in conversation would be pretty cool, right?
  13. Caffeine and sugar. Lots of NaNoers swear that their novels are entirely fueled by insane caffeine levels and a LOT of sweets. If you’re that away inclined, it’s a great excuse.
  14. You’ve always said you’d like to write a novel. Go on then. What were you waiting for, a written invitation? Consider this it.
  15. The deadline. Deadlines are a great incentive to get your head down and get on.
  16. Speed. The 50,000 words over 30 days works out at 1,667 words each day. A challenge for some, but totally doable. You’d be amazed how much you can bash out in an hour when the words start flowing. And the more you do it, the faster you get.
  17. No writing project will ever seem daunting again. Essay for school? Dissertation? Work project? Oh, only 10,00 words? That’s nothing. You wrote a novel in a month. You’re a writing superhero now.
  18. Finding strength. There will be times when it’s hard. There’ll be some days where you stare at that little blinking cursor and wonder what mad person talked you into this. But you will get through that, and you’ll find some inner strength to push you through the days when it sucks.
  19. Changing up your writing. Are you stuck in a bit of a rut with your writing? Writer’s block? No room for that in NaNo! The pace forces you into changing things up, trying new things and writing through the toughest of blocks.
  20. Find what works for your writing. Writing this much will probably mean you write at times of day or in places you wouldn’t have before. You might find something new that really works for you. Maybe you actually write best early in the morning, or in coffee shops, but you’ve just never tried it. NaNo is a great way to find out.

So…who’s in?

Kick-Ass Fictional Women

I started the Kick-Ass Fictional series a while back, with the intention of a one off post of ten amazing women from films, television, books and cartoons. That list rapidly grew, and so became an ongoing series, ten at a time, of these awesome characters. Inspired by all the amazing female heroes at WLFCC, I thought it was time for the next installment.

Merida e1414065487720 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Merida
Merida is the central character of Pixar’s Brave, and Pixar’s first ever female protagonist. Merida’s whole story is about gender conventions. She rejects her traditional role, preferring to pursue archery over needlework, and competing to win her own hand in marriage, so she may choose for herself. I also love that the central relationship in Brave is between Merida and her mother, not a love interest. These two women have to overcome their own struggles and help each other come to a mutual understanding and respect. Unusual stuff, for a Pixar film.

Sabriel by kami kazen Kick Ass Fictional Women

Sabriel
Sabriel is the star of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy. Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen, a powerful Necromancer. When his sword and bells are delivered to her, Sabriel believes he has been trapped in death and sets out to rescue him. Starting the series as a child, Sabriel grows throughout the books, finishing as an adult, married with children. She finds incredible strength to allow her to wield the Abhorsen’s tools and take over her Father’s role.

 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark is yet another badass woman from Game of Thrones. She’s a rare character in the Thrones world, in that she is overtly opposed to another War. She has survived one bloody War, and lost loved ones to it, and she will do anything to protect her family from this one. She is given immensely hard decision to make. Stay with her crippled son or head to the capital to warn her husband of a betrayal that puts the whole Kingdom in danger? Should she stay with her younger children, or accompany her oldest son into war and advise him? She is intelligent, and tough. She endures all these hardships, the loss of her husband and daughters and she keeps on, as best she can.

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Arya Stark
We couldn’t miss out the youngest Stark woman, could we? Arya is a favourite Game of Thrones character for a lot of people. Brave, clever and fierce as hell, Arya is not taking any crap from anybody. It wouldn’t even occur to her to be anything less. Rather than let her families enemies overwhelm, Arya goes on the run, keeping herself with her wits, and her remarkable ability to lie. Despite her limitations, she outlives plenty of older and stronger characters.

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Matilda
Road Dahl’s Matilda was one of my favourite characters growing up. Here was a little a girl using her brains and love of reading to triumph. After beginning by playing pranks against her parents, Matilda’s superior intelligence becomes telekinetic powers, which she uses to help her teacher, Miss Honey. She’s smart and curious about the world, as well as kind. Her bond with Miss Honey is a strong friendship, something which is not often portrayed between female characters. She also faces discrimination because of her gender, often being told by her father that girls should be seen and not heard, and being excluded from her father’s talks with her brother about the family business. She was my hero, as a kid, and I still love her.

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Jo March
Little Women might not seem like the obvious place to look for tough characters, but Jo March is a badass, if you ask me. In a time where women were expected to make good marriage matches, Jo prefers her independence, and supports herself with a writing career. When family friend Laurie proposes to her, she turns him down, despite the lucrative nature of the match. She treasures his friendship and dreads being tied down into marriage. Though she does later marry, she chooses a man she loves, rather than her friend with a higher standing in society and greater wealth. Her independence is her most treasured possession.

mulan e1414070997213 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Mulan
Disney’s Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. Mulan steals her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man and sets off to help fight. While not physically strong, she is quick-thinking and self-motivating, and goes on to save China. Her victory actually takes place after she’s been outed as a woman. Her gender will not stop her.

Katniss e1414072622484 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Katniss Everdeen
Katniss, from The Hunger Games, is a hugely popular character at the moment. As well as being strong and clever, Katniss is a great portrayal of a female character, because she’s flawed too, dodging that ‘strong woman’ trope. We see her doubts and fears as well as her strengths. Katniss’s strength is from need. She becomes strong, and skilled, in order to protect her family. She has to do it, so she does.

Kat Stratford e1414074213910 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Kat Stratford
I love Kat Stratford. Since seeing 10 Things I Hate About You, she’s been a serious hero of mine. She was the first person I’d ever seen talking about male privilege, which was a big deal. She was independent and intelligent, and advocating being yourself, regardless of what people thought of you. To quote the lady herself, “Why should I live up to other people’s expectations instead of my own?”

wednesday e1414074710893 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Wednesday Addams

I love Wednesday. She makes me laugh so much. She’s scary as crap though. Wednesday is clearly the more central of the Addams children, with a much bigger and better part than her brother. She leads all their schemes with skill, all with that famous deadpan expression. I admit it, I kind of wanted to be Wednesday as a kid.

Have I missed your favourite? Tell me in the comments!

WLFCC 2014

123 e1413841032871 WLFCC 2014It’s convention season. Last weekend, I got out the green tights and set off to Earl’s Court to Winter London Film & Comic Con. After the Summer’s madness with Stan Lee appearing, WLFCC seemed very calm in comparison. While it was a shame to not have so many cosplayers around, it was lovely to actually be able to walk around freely, and look at all the stalls in a leisurely fashion.

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I debuted a new cosplay; Poison Ivy. You guys got a sneak preview of the work in progress, but here’s the finished look. There’s a few tweaks to be done I think, partly because I was shedding ivy leaves like a trail everywhere, and the ivy swirls in eyeliner got rubbed off by the wig. In general, I was really pleased with how it turned out though, and it went down a treat. This charming Riddler pounced to let me about a Gotham cosplay group, so I’d best get my act together and get Ivy repaired so I can start joining them at events.

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Despite being a DC villainess, I went along with the Avengers again. The company of Thor, Loki and Black Widow is fun enough to create a multi-verse. Later on we even added Starlord and a Lego chap. Serious multi-verse.

Despite the lower numbers of cosplayers, there were some top-notch cosplays to be admired.

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There are more pictures over on my Facebook page, if you’d like to check out the other bad-asses running around, or see more shots of my Ivy cosplay.

WLFCC was, as expected, immense fun. Con friends, good stalls, amazing costumes and a small child who threatened me with Batman. Good times.

One kiss, my love, for luck. 

Grand Designs Live

Disclosure: My entry to the show was provided by Kinetico. All words, thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and entirely honest. If you’d like to know more about my disclosure policy, you can read about it here.

0181 Grand Designs Live

On Saturday, I went to check out the Grand Designs Live Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I was invited along by Kinetico, who create home water systems, including water softeners and filters. The show is enormous, and covers just about everything to do with the home you could imagine, from the basics of building right to through to crazy kitchen gadgets and interiors.

244658217 e1413127106894 Grand Designs Live

When you first come into the hall, you’re greeted with a selection of entrances into the different sections of the show. Always on the look out for more clutter, I dived straight into the interiors area. Immediately I could tell it would be all too easy to spend an absolute fortune at the show. Within about two minutes of walking into the Interiors stalls, I had already fallen in love with some really clever wallpaper posters, a stunning (and giant) oak dining table and a selection of Indian-inspired quilts.

There were some fantastic techy bits tucked away amongst the interiors. Lots of it was definitely ‘aspirational’, but it was really interesting to see some ideas on how home tech, like wireless internet, might work in the next few years. In the Tech Box, I found a couple of examples of transmitters that were stylish and sleek as well as being functional, which seems obvious to me now I’ve seen it. Rather than tucking away your wireless box, why not have something that looks smart?

Not having a garden, I wasn’t expecting to be too captivated by the Gardens section, but I was very wrong about that. I’ve decided I need a huge garden and a posh summer house. There were some seriously amazing examples that were absolutely beautiful. I quite fancied the Hyro Pools too.

Next, it was off to Bathrooms and Kitchens. After I’d drooled over the perfect 1950s style and candy colours of everything made by Smeg (I’d like my whole kitchen to be kitted out by Smeg, please), I went to find Kinetico. The Soft Water Company were showing some of their products. Now, water softeners might not sound very thrilling, but if you live somewhere with hard water, they make a huge amount of difference. When I lived in Bath, I learnt what a total nuisance hard water is. On a basic level, it makes cleaning harder, thanks to limescale, and it can also make showers and washing machines less efficient, making them more expensive to run. Hard water has also been shown to aggravate skin conditions like eczema. Soft water on the other hand, is much better for the skin, because it doesn’t clog pores, or strip out the skin’s natural oils. Both your hair and skin are much softer and smoother with soft water. Sounding more interesting now?

After learning about some of the benefits of soft water with the Kinetico guys, I headed to the Food section. This section was a mix of kitchen gadgets and fresh food. Apparently I only photographed the salami while I was there. Clearly I was too busy sampling cheese and olives to take more pictures. Some of the kitchen gadgets on offer were being shown off with some serious shopping channel style demonstrations, which ended up being rather amusing to stop and watch. I also found Market Lane up here where there were various cooking demonstrations going on throughout the day. I caught part of a session which included some top tips to cook perfect rice. Useful stuff!

Grand Designs Live has now finished, but I’d highly recommend going along next year, whether you’re going all out and building your own house, proper Grand Designs style, or just looking for inspiration on how to decorate your home or give the garden something extra. There was so much to look at; I think you’d struggle to come away without feeling inspired. I would recommend getting in early though. I arrived shortly after doors opened and was able to walk around and look at everything easily. When I left at about midday, it was starting to fill up a lot and I could see it being difficult to get at the stalls through the crowds.

Thanks Kinetico for the invite! Now, who wants to buy me a fancy summer house? And a garden to put it in?

Project Wonder Woman – Confidence

WP 001973 e1412603592354 Project Wonder Woman   Confidence

Corset, ivy, shorts and tights: Ebay.
Shoes: Marks and Spencer

No, I haven’t lost it totally, this is the beginnings of a Poison Ivy cosplay for London Film and Comic Con later this month. There’s still a lot of work to be done on adding ivy, figuring out the make-up, and either dying or wigs to get Ivy’s iconic red hair BUT this photo is an important one for me.

Cosplay is a funny thing. A chance to put on a different personality with your costume, and be someone totally different. Someone who happily runs round in a corset and hotpants…
A large part of Project Wonder Woman for me is body confidence. I’ve touched on this lightly, without really going into detail, but feeling more comfortable in myself was, and still is, hugely important. I won’t talk numbers on the scale, because I feel it’s unhelpful, but weight has been on my mind the last few months. When I met Tom, I was a stone lighter than I am currently. The relationship happy pounds caught me, with more alcohol, takeaways and general ‘boy food’, and moving in together didn’t help, with Tom’s repertoire of recipes mostly involving things drowning in cheese. Occasionally, I would strict up a bit. I’ve spent the last few months losing and gaining the same half a stone, and generally getting very frustrated. Now…well, my break-up diet of ice-cream and wine has not helped.

However, all that aside, I’m in a funny place where I’m at peace with that. I am not 21 anymore. I can’t eat burgers the size of my head without putting on an inch these days, but who really can? And I like eating burgers the side of my head, and having a glass of wine or six. Would I be happier getting to eat and drink those sort of things, and maybe getting off the sofa occasionally to go for a run, or would I prefer killing myself at the gym and denying myself all the treats, all in the name of getting into a skirt I wore a couple of years ago? Option number one please.

The idea of getting back into old clothes in a smaller size has had a side effect in stopping me from doing other things and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. For a lot of girls, wearing certain things, or doing things like beach holidays seem to rely on, “When I’ve lost X stone,” “When I can get back in that dress,” “When I’m size X…” And it’s silly. Why are letting ourselves be limited.

After discovering cosplay in the last couple of years, I’ve got a list as long as my aim of characters I’d like to morph into for the day. I haven’t done any of them. Some of them are due to money and time constraints, but honestly, some of it was about size. I can’t wear that until I’m that size again. Last month, I decided, “Sod it.” Life is too short for that nonsense. And I started creating this. Poison Ivy, who’s been on the list for a long time waiting for those magic measurements. And you know what? I feel pretty good.

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the last week.

mosaicd93a424097b71303cae6d9c98411231c99b0b575 e1412333999229 Friday Round Up

1. Oh, just the Predator hanging out on New Street. No big deal.
2. Maybe it’s because of where I work, but I can’t resist Rhubarb and Custard flavoured things. Although these taste pretty similar to those Peach sweets, which was a disappointment.
3. New obsession. All together now, “Let me be your…staaaaaaaaaaaaar!”
4. New season, new flyers…lots of folding.

Some lovely person has hit me with their cold this week, and I feel rough as anything, so please excuse this being a short update. I’m made of headache, tiredness and sore throat just now and generally feel a bit grim, and typing for too long makes me feel weird. Fun times. Despite this, I am in full NaNoWriMo plotting mode, and enjoying it immensely. To get my plot and characters ready for November, I’m working my way through Ready, Set, Novel! and rereading No Plot? No Problem! which are pretty much essential NaNo tools if you ask me. It feels pretty good to be working on a writing project again.

Other than the NaNo forums, this week I’ve been finding online:
The 12 Weirdest Reasons For Banning Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books.
YouTube, Sexual Manipulation and Amazing Vloggers.
Six Easy Ways To Improve Outfit Photos.
Fair Pay For Bloggers Campaign.
9 Body Shaming Behaviors We All Need To Stop.
10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism.
You Know You’re A Blogger When…