Making It Up as we go along Tue, 07 Nov 2017 17:39:14 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller Tue, 07 Nov 2017 16:59:42 +0000
Otherworld – the game is compulsively playable. The book is compulsively readable. Utterly immersive, with a story that rocks along despite its main character striving to be unlikeable. He’s not fond of himself, and doesn’t see why anyone else would feel otherwise.

Give it a try, but make sure you’ve plenty of time. Once you stop, you won’t want to start.

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller - affiliate link to Amazon
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Are you ready to play?

There are no screens. There are no controls.

You donโ€™t just see and hear itโ€”you taste, smell, and touch it too.

In this new reality there are no rules to follow, no laws to break.

You can indulge your every desire.

Why would you ever want to leave?

Step into Otherworld.

Leave your body behind.


Having read books about gaming before, I was a little blase when I approached Otherworld, expecting more of the same. However, there’s a reason these are bestselling authors – they are very very good at what they do. Otherworld is beautifully constructed, and there’s far more to this book than a story about a gaming system. Layers upon layers of complexity pile up here, with acute insight into human nature, technology and where we could easily be headed if we don’t keep a close eye on ourselves.

On one level this is a fantastic technological adventure with a strong and varied cast (not all teenagers!) and interesting premise. On another there are conspiracy theories galore, just who is behind the experimental developments to the Otherworld system? What is the real purpose of it all? But the conspiracy never overpowers the personal interest or action, and that’s how I like it.

Will appeal to readers of YA SFF, gaming fans and those into their technology I suspect. Well worth a look, and currently a reasonable price on Kindle. My biggest problem is that I’ve got to wait a year for the sequel!

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:23:32 +0000

I don’t know what I was expecting from Little Fires Everywhere, but what I got was a compulsively readable book, filled with fascinating characters on a slow but inexorable dance towards the disastrous start of the book in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated, and couldn’t wait to see unfold.
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Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

I absolutely loved this book – although when I read the first page I really didn’t expect to. I don’t generally like books that spoil their own ending as it were, but it turns out there’s so much more to this book than the way it starts (or ends). The characterisation is superb, and the plot unexpected in some places, which scream at the character obvious in other parts. Not that I mean it’s cliched, more that you can see what’s coming before the character does, and you get so invested in them that you want them not to make that bad decision. But they do, and it’s still deliciously well written so you keep on going, hoping against hope it will all turn out for the best in the end.

I’m definitely going to track down and read her other book – if it’s half as good as this I’m in for a real treat.

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Wading through autumnal mud Fri, 13 Oct 2017 21:37:13 +0000 On Instagram I wrote:

I don’t know how I manage to forget, every year, that I will slow down and grind to a halt as the seasons change. I will want to hibernate, and eat all the chocolate, and each and every day will be like wading through mud.

I don’t know how I forget that lying in bed doesn’t help, what helps is getting outside and getting active. Challenging myself to take the camera and find a picture that I can be proud of helps. Sharing that picture with a community is good – but then I need to put the device down and *do* rather than falling down the rabbit hole of clicking from site to site.

I know it’s not just me. I know that I can manage this better. I may not be here as much because I need to get all of this under control, but I’ll try to keep up with everyone as best I can.


And then I stopped, because Instagram should be for quick pictures and short thoughts, not woe is me essays. And yet I have far more readers and interaction there than I do here any more, because it’s built around community. (Although a tiny bit of me is wondering what community I could have built here, if I’d put daily work into posting and publicising and how do you publicise a blog without a community around it? I don’t know.)

The rest of the woe is me is around the fact that my shoulder hurts and my hip hurts and apparently I should just build my shoulder up and you have to put in separate referrals for different parts of your body (which doesn’t make any sense to me, surely a body is built up of all the parts together and they interact?) and trying to be active and outdoors is really hard when just walking to the shops hurts.

Woe. Doom. But I bought vitamins and actually took them and now I’m going to bed after doing a drawing and tomorrow I’ll try all over again.

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Saturday snippets 7th October 2017 Sat, 07 Oct 2017 23:59:55 +0000 {watching} The Saint. Not taking itself too seriously, featuring the always excellent Eliza Dushku, and with all the right names and connections. Rather more recommended than I’d expected to be honest. (I’ve a long history with the Saint. It’s rather more boring than it ought to be given the topic.)

{reading} The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I rescued this from a box outside a neighbour’s the other day (there was a sign saying please help yourself, I wasn’t just filching books honest) and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it. (If you want to follow my reading habits I’ve a new bookstagram account where I share books I’ve received for review, found on the street and/or red to the children.)

{exploring} a town a little way up the road. (NotSo)SmallTeen had a recording masterclass today arranged by guitar school and rather than come all the way home then drive all the way out again, I took myself on a photo walk. Which was quite fun, but would have been even better if the cafe I finished at had had cake. How does a cafe not have cake on a Saturday lunchtime?? The coffee was OK though. And I managed to write a whole couple of sentences of book. Yay me. 

{blogging} irregularly again. Which is probably a relief to my handful of regular readers ๐Ÿ˜‰ There aren’t that many of you left out there, and I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be. 

{working} on my art related plans. Slowly. But with a level of determination. 

{decluttering} even more slowly. Did you know some charity shops won’t take magazines any more? Disappointing, these were BBC History magazines, largely unread, and I hate to just recycle them. (Which is why we live in a house over full of stuff.)

(Moon pic to follow)


Big is doing the whole sixth form and working and life plate juggle – we see her is passing, and quite often she’s pretty exhausted. Small is beginning to get the hang of college, and Japanese is great, so that’s good. Oh, and his Coldplay album finally arrived. Smallest and Tigerboy had a good trip to softplay – Smallest even tried skating again. (She didn’t like it.)  She has plans to start a book blog, and I’m wondering about tracking down some sort of group activity for Tigerboy – I think he’s still too young for Beavers though and I’m not sure what else there is. 

So,there you go, all updated.

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Skating, friends and a doodlesome evening Tue, 03 Oct 2017 22:40:57 +0000 First Tuesday of the month meeting, for the first time in a while (it doesn’t run in school holidays, and got caught out in September by inset days). Small declined on the grounds that none of his specific friends were going today, so I was able to offer a lift to one of Smallest’s friends, which she enjoyed hugely. So much so in fact that she gave skating a go again, and made it round the rink a couple of times, with only one unintended sit down. It was particularly lovely to see her hand in hand with another boy she’s met a few times who turned out to be an accomplished skater and happy to offer assistance.

Tigerboy made me laugh – I was chatting with a new family and he came up and said “I’m very sorry for interrupting your conversation but could I have a drink please?” Very formal for a five year old!

Building up to writing something specifically for families pulling kids out of primary school and worried about keeping up with the curriculum – my experience is that in most areas it’s pretty easy to cover without a lot of sit down work, but it’s tracking down the resources that suit that will allow you to do that. I have some thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, easy family meal tonight of macaroni cheese, and I’m hoping my tomorrow’s yoga video will work as today’s was corrupted. And I’ve spent quite a bit of this evening doodling, partially inspired by sktchy again.

How is October kicking off for you?

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Smyth’s Toy Superstores – making children’s dreams come true. Mon, 02 Oct 2017 23:11:33 +0000 Recently I was invited to review the new Smyth’s Toy Store catalogue with the children and then take them shopping to review the shop itself.

Couldn’t really turn that one down, could I? So we were sent a catalogue and some gift cards, and the children began compiling their wish list.

It turned out that using a catalogue before going to the shop made the shopping experience *way* more pleasurable for all concerned (and how I’ve got this far into parenting without finding that out is a mystery to me quite frankly). The children spent quite a bit of time (two days!!) putting together their top 10 toys, which featured things like Hatchimals, Iron Man gloves, Minecraft diamond pickaxes or swords or general weapons of any type, Minecraft and Roblox figures and so on. We discussed prices and what could be afforded with the gift cards we had, and Smallest decided what she really needed was a Hatchimal, while Tigerboy was very into the idea of Iron Man accessories.

And then I pointed out to Smallest that we’re very near to her birthday, and that the voucher would go a long way towards the Nintendo 2DS she has wanted for a very long time, and that I would put the rest of the money in as her birthday present.

Slightly to my surprise, she didn’t seem at all excited by this idea. She didn’t seem excited on the way to the shop, not even when we went in.

Unlike Tigerboy who was practically levitating. And this was when the prep with the catalogue paid off. He was interested in the various things he saw. But all he wanted to actually get to and buy were the Iron Man gloves, and when I said that he could afford the mask as well – he squeaked. He actually squeaked.

I'll have those iron man gloves please

So we carted those off and went to look for the 2DS section. Smallest still didn’t seem happy, even when she chose pink from the available colours (pink and white or red and white. A 2DS with pre installed digital copy of Tomodachi Life. They didn’t have any of the other bundles in stock – so no option on the game but that didn’t seem to be a problem.) Once we had all the items in the bag, we headed off back to the car.

And that was when reality hit. She still didn’t precisely look happy, but she looked up at me and said “I don’t quite know how to be. Today is the day that my dream came true.”

So I’m going to take that as a win ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our bundle of goodies looked like this when we got them home.

And the Nintendo 2DS is quite unremarkable in looks.

But I have an extremely happy nearly 8 year old, a 5 year old who can be Iron Man complete with light and sound effects and I’ve learnt that a catalogue and a wish list makes visits to toy stores an awful lot more manageable. I highly recommend it.

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September snippets Sun, 01 Oct 2017 22:20:13 +0000 {Blogging} I blogged every day in September. Completely coincidentally, I had my best month stats wise for ages. I did rather run out of material a couple of times, and I’m not convinced I’m up for daily blogging any more, but it was a really interesting challenge ๐Ÿ™‚

{Kentwell} Small and I attended the last Tudor reenactment of the season and it was really really lovely. The weather was extremely kind, borrowing a caravan made it a very straightforward and comfortable sleeping experience, and I got to spend time with a friend I’ve not seen for ages as well as making new ones. And I learnt to dip candles ๐Ÿ™‚

{family} Small and I had an overnight trip to Yorkshire to help my sister celebrate her (ahem)th birthday. Was lovely to see folks and a very much easier trip without smaller car sick children. (Suggestions re car sickness gratefully accepted. It’s making life hard! )

{instagram} I’m trying to focus creativity by taking part in the showup100 challenge I mentioned the other day. It’s not being entirely successful.

{Running} have completed C25K program although I’m not running 5k yet. It does seem to help my hip which was very stiff after 8 hours driving to and from Yorkshire, but not my back oddly.


Big is really focusing on her art at the moment and doing some gorgeous stuff. I watched her karate practice on Thursday and was very tempted to join in.

Small started Japanese last week, which was apparently less conversational than he was hoping but may improve. Got to be worth a shot anyway.

Smallest has had the best day ever (I’m quoting) and has discovered rainbow fairy books. I think she’s going through them at a rate of one a night!

Tigerboy is still refusing to read and is now full of cold. He has also had a good day though so yay.

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Clutter out, cash in – selling on Ebay with the android app. Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:19:56 +0000 Recently I was invited by Mumsnet Bloggers Panel to review the experience of selling on Ebay, which a particular focus on using the app for listing and managing the process. As regular readers will know, I’ve a renewed focus on decluttering the house at the moment, and this seemed like an ideal time to give the whole online selling another shot. I have sold on Ebay before, but it was several years ago so it seemed like a great time to give it all another whirl.

My memories of listing on Ebay were that it was all fiddly and difficult, and I’m very pleased to report that it wasn’t anything like that this time. Basically the app (on android for me) walks you through the whole thing step by step, including things like suggesting pricing and listing, finding the postage service and recommending postage rates and giving you prompts on how you’re doing as you fill the different sections out. I have a vague memory that you used to have to pay for any pictures past the first one (I may be making that up) – now you can have up to 12, and you can snap them on your mobile while doing the listing and do the cropping and rotating as you go. There are of course still fees involved in the process, but it has all been massively streamlined, and if you’re curious as to what it might cost you, there’s a fee calculator here.

To give you some idea of what it all looks like, I took some screenshots as I went.

This is the first screen, with some hints as to what is going to follow

The picture editing (do kind of wish it had a brightening effect, but I guess that would inflate the app somewhat! The advice to approach your pics as if they were selfies is probably a good way to look at it all, except that I don’t really do selfies ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Once you’ve got pictures in, you get walked through all the other sections – description, pricing, auction length/ style, postage options etc. It’s all very straightforward, and if the app can find similar items, it will come up with suggestions for pricing etc, and then finally you get to preview your listing before you put it live.

I have to say that of my three test items, the only one that didn’t sell, even with an auto relist, was the used item where I took the app’s advice on starting price – I think it was way over inflated. I’m testing again right now with a much lower starting price as my main aim is to get stuff out of the house, and the profit motive is definitely a secondary line. However, with the other two listings I made ยฃ7.15 on a couple of little toy/ baby items, and it all ran through very smoothly, with payment received instantly via paypal and smooth communications with the buyers.

Other hints and tips? Always, but *always* get proof of postage. I don’t bother tracking low value items, but the proof of postage is how you get your money back if the item disappears in the post. I use recycled wrapping which keeps the cost down, so I can keep the postage/ packing costs down for buyers as well. (Plus I’m decluttering some of the postage envelopes I’ve got, which is also a win in my mind.)

All in all, now I’ve got back into it, I intend to keep up a regular trickly of Ebay listings over the next few months, and as I add a charity donation to my listing I can feel like I’m doing some good for other people too. Everyone’s a winner ๐Ÿ™‚

If I’ve tempted you to give it a whirl, do let me know how you get on, and if you’d like to read a few more bloggers on the topic, take a peek at the linky.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post.

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Thor:Ragnarok – a Schleich figure review Fri, 29 Sep 2017 12:46:59 +0000 I love the quality of Schleich figures, they are beautifully made and hand painted with incredible attention to detail. This Thor figure is no exception to the rule. It comes in a well made but light box, ideal for storage if you are a collector who likes to keep figures in pristine condition.

If, however, you’re more into the details of the figure, and of course his signature weapon, you’ll love the getting a bit more up close and personal.

I love the hammer. You can bet it will feature in the Thor:Ragnarok film, which is in cinemas 27th October. You could even recreate your own movie scenes with it!

Three are plenty of other Marvel figurines in the range as well, such as Spider-man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widown and so on. I would enjoy a collection to be honest, I’m quite a fan. And with this level of detailing (see the twinkling in his eye?) they look pretty good to have around.

(Yes, I might have had far too much fun taking pictures and playing around with depth of field. And why not? Hopefully I’m showing off the amazing level of detail – did I mention that already?)

This figure has an RRP of ยฃ9.99 and is suitable from 4 up. I suspect as it doesn’t move it wouldn’t be quite as interesting to younger children, but that’s about the only drawback to it I can see. The whole range is available at Schleich online or of course via retailers such as Amazon (affiliate link). So who is your favourite Marvel character?

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On being all the places Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:30:01 +0000 Today I have driven and sat and been and driven and walked and shopped and walked and driven and walked and eaten and driven and watched and driven and eventually home.

There hasn’t been a great deal of room or energy for writing, drawing or really even just being. But I’ve made the effort since I got home, and here’s an ink blind contour drawing with added watercolour wash for experimental purposes. 

I’ve decided I really like this effect. Going to explore it more.

(Apologies if you already saw this via Instagram. At least these are different words!)

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