Friday, 24 February 2017

15 Facts About Missy Cat

Last week Kerri wrote a post titled 15 Facts About Sir Pork Chop (her hamster, for those of you who don't read her blog - although if not, why not?!) and I thought "aha! The perfect opportunity to bore on about Missy!" So, here are my 15 facts about Missy the Cat.

1. Missy will turn six in May and she's a domestic shorthair cat. We adopted her from our local RSPCA rescue centre, where she'd languished for months, in June of last year.

2. I don't actually like her name but we didn't have the heart to change it as, rather than a stray who the RSPCA named, she came into the rescue centre with it.

3. Before we adopted her we asked to have a one-to-one session with her in their 'meeting' room. This ended up not happening as, such is Missy's hatred of being handled, no-one could wrangle her out of her pod. Rather than put us off, this just made us want to adopt her more. Adult black cats are the hardest for rescue centres to rehome, and an adult black cat who was a bit feisty and grumpy struck us as especially hard to rehome, so we were determined to give her one.

4. She's still not a great fan of human-cat contact unless it's on her own terms. Things she likes include head rubs and chin scritches, giving us head boops to say hello, and little wet nose kisses when she's feeling really affectionate. She won't tolerate being picked up, being stroked for too long, or any hand-belly contact whatsoever.

5. Her favourite toys are, in order, an extremely ratty pink stuffed mouse, a second extremely ratty pink stuffed mouse (which we bought when the first one went missing for a while - later found hidden under the sofa), and an old leather shoelace.

6. One of her favourite places to sit is on top of our fridge freezer. Unfortunately, she often forgets how to get down and miaows pitifully from up there.

7. When she first arrived she was pretty much silent, but as the months have gone on she's become more and more vocal. Her range now includes an "I'm so happy to see you!" miaow, a "give me food NOW" miaow, a "where are you?" yowl, and a "why can't you make it stop raining?" grumble (which is very similar to her "leave me alone, I'm sleeping" murmur).

8. We suspect that Missy isn't the brightest of cats, as she can't seem to learn that head-butting a door she wants to go through will close rather than magically open said door. That being said, she was really quick to take to her cat-flap, so maybe she's not entirely hopeless.

9. Despite being a skittish and nervous little thing, she's not aggressive at all. She'll give a warning nip if your hand strays too close to her belly, but she's only ever scratched me when getting over-enthusiastic about Dreamies. Her more common form of warning is a hiss (or, weirdly, an open-mouthed silent hiss).

10. Her favourite game at the moment is to race up and down the length of the upstairs hallway, popping her head around the bedroom door every so often to check that we're watching.

11. She seems to have adopted me as her Person (it's common for rescue cats to be more wary of men, and with Thomas standing at 6'3" and hairy, he must seem very male to Missy) and will often follow me around the house, standing and staring at me until I give her a head scratch. Thomas calls her my shadow.

12. She's not a great lap sitter: the conditions need to be optimum (ideally her favourite yellow cushion will be ready on the lap for her to perch upon) and she rarely settles. It took her until October to sit on my lap and since then she maybe comes for a snuggle once a week, at most. Still, it makes those moments all the more special.

13. She is a great one for trolling us. Twice now we've made a vet appointment only to cancel when it becomes clear that no, she doesn't have a disastrous eye infection but instead is holding one eye shut while mewing pitifully for obscure reasons of her own (said reasons being to get food, I suspect).

14. Our nickname for her is poeshoofd, which is Dutch for cat head. Blame Thomas for this spectacularly unimaginative name.

15. Finally, she is (as we tell her daily) the best little cat in the world. She has immeasurably improved our lives and we are both completely obsessed with her. Remembering what a sad and angry little cat she was in the RSPCA makes it all the more lovely to see how happy and settled she is now.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Photo An Hour: Saturday 18th February

Saturday was Photo An Hour day for February, as arranged by Louisa and Jane. It turned out to be a day of pottering about at home, getting jobs done, reading, and a big gap in the evening when I forgot to take photos. Weirdly, February 2016's Photo An Hour was not all that different! Must be something about this time of year...
I'm tending to sleep so late at weekends at the moment, I'm not sure why. At half nine I'd been awake for a short while and had picked up my book - Uprooted by Naomi Novik - to read before breakfast.
What weekends are made for - leisurely breakfasts with a magazine, instead of rushing about like a mad thing trying to get ready for work.
This little cat is so silly. Despite yawning fulsomely, she just won't go to sleep. I think she has a severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), as any day that we're in the house she really struggles to nap, instead following us from room to room to keep an eye on our activities.
I went to the garden centre yesterday, as our hanging baskets and pots were looking very sad and brown after a long winter. Half an hour with the trowel, and everything's looking a lot better.
In an attempt to earn a bit of extra money, I'm doing some proof-reading work. This is a frankly incomprehensible PhD thesis, but really well-written so it's turning out to be easy to edit.
And she's finally asleep!
Working on an IKEA hack. I think I'll write a post about this soon, it's been such a fun and easy project.
I walked into town (stopping to chat to a friend on the way) and made a beeline for Oxfam to have a look at their book selection, before returning some bits at H&M and buying a new pair of jeans (which I need to return, as apparently I am now taller and the 30" leg jeans are too short).
Strictly speaking, at 5.30 I was browsing in Waterstones, but I figured two photos in a row of bookshelves would be a bit dull. I've been racking up points on my Waterstones card for quite some time now, and finally decided to spend some: I got this and a Holly Bourne novella.
Date night, and our first-choice pub was rammed so we went to Firebug instead. Vegan pie for Thomas, nachos for me, cider for both of us.
Still in the pub.
Home two hours later, and Missy was so happy to see us that she came and hung out on the bed with us (a rare occurrence, she doesn't usually like it if we're both in bed - she prefers having a full side to herself).

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A Long Weekend In Norfolk

I love Norfolk: not only is it a relatively quick drive from Leicester, but it's just so beautiful. Thomas and I have visited the North Norfolk coast together three times now, and especially enjoy the bleak and windswept beauty of the area off-season. As lovely as Norfolk is in summer, it can get overrun with visitors. In October (when we usually go) or February, on this trip, the roads are emptier, the pubs are quieter, and the beaches blissful expanses of sand.

Last weekend we were back on the A47 heading down to Stiffkey, a tiny village a few miles outside Wells-Next-The-Sea. Our cottage was the cutest, cosiest space we could have hoped for (although, as we realised when we were awoken at 7am on Friday, it directly abutted a building site - but that's another story!). Our plans were for plenty of relaxed walks, time spent with friends who live locally, and  lots of reading.
After a bracing but gloriously sunny walk along the coastal path, with stunning views across the saltmarsh, we headed into Wells on Friday for a mooch around the shops and a walk on the beach. I love Nomad & The Bowerbird in Wells, and always insist on a visit to eye up the vintage signs and lettering (this time I managed to escape without parting with my money).
Saturday dawned grey and rainy so we headed over to Norwich to visit the cathedral, which is one of my favourite in the UK (yes, I have a favourite cathedral. Yes, I'm a massive geek). The way they combine modern additions and stained glass work with the original building is wonderful; thanks to the pouring rain, I didn't take a photograph of the visitor centre, but it's so cleverly incorporated into the ancient stonework.
We had a delicious lunch at The Iron House (I'm still fantasising about their tofu katsu curry - oh my!) then, taking advantage of a break in the rain, poked around The Lanes admiring street art and sniggering like teenagers at road signs.
Thanks to the building work next door, we cut our holiday short by a couple of days and headed home on the Sunday after meeting friends for a walk along the marshes to Blakeney and a pub lunch. Luckily, super-negotiator Thomas has wangled us a full refund so we're already planning our visit to the area.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Buyer's Archive: January

Since February 2015, 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.

In January last year I spent £70.50 on four items - new jeans (which cost half of the total, amount and which I wore to death), a Sugarhill Boutique jumper in the sale, which still gets worn regularly, and a dress and top, both of which have been donated to charity already. January 2017 ended up being a mixture of deeply frivolous purchases and cosy basics.
Blush tulle skirt, Boohoo via ASOS £14 in sale
Starting with the frivolous. I've wanted a tulle skirt for ages and ages and never found one that sat well on me. This Boohoo Petite version is the perfect length and although I know I won't wear it regularly (if I dare to wear it at all), it makes me happy to twirl around the house in so for £14 I think it's worth it.

Vintage duffle coat, £35
This was one of those panic buys that sometimes happen in vintage shops. I've been looking for a navy blue hooded duffle for ages, since my last one died. However, eagle-eyed readers will spot that this is very definitely not navy blue, but it fit me and wasn't too expensive and so I bought it on a whim and am already regretting not holding out for a blue one. Silly Janet.
Black Peter Pan collar t-shirt, La Redoute £14.50 in sale
I can hear you saying, "Really Janet? Another collared top?!" but I genuinely do need a new one. The black collared top I bought in September 2015 washed very badly and I ended up having to send it back after a couple of wears. Then  the Primark polka dot collared top I bought this time last year never sat right - the collar was too high and the top itself too short. Hence this new purchase, which is much better quality than my previous La Redoute one and fits perfectly. Have I convinced you yet? I've convinced myself at least!

Denim skirt, Primark £3 in the sale
The black denim skirt from Primark was one of my top buys in 2016 but has already started stretching out and generally looking a bit shit. Finding this version of the skirt for £3 in the sale was therefore a massive win, and I subsequently also nabbed the black version on eBay for £4 (not pictured).

La Redoute cardigan via charity shop, £3.95
A lesson in never just going by the size tag, this one. It says it's 6-8 but I yanked it off the rack because I thought the relaxed fit might mean I'd squeeze in, and I was right: it fits me so perfectly that I suspect it must be mislabelled. Burgundy is colour I wear a lot of, and really warm and cosy: this has the potential to be my top buy of 2017 and it's only January.

Chunky navy blue cardigan, Primark £8 (not pictured)
I needed a new warm cardi to wear around the house over my Fat Face pj bottoms and a t-shirt, and this one is perfect.

So, not the most successful month if I'm to achieve my target of only spending £600 this year. But everything, bar the tulle skirt (no regrets), genuinely filled a wardrobe gap so I'm pretty satisfied overall.

Total for January: £82.45

Total so far for 2017: £82.45

Total this time last year: £70.50

Look out for the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see the other bloggers taking part.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

What I've Been Reading Recently

I've made a good start to 2017, racing through 20 books in January and loving many of them. I'm no longer blogging every book I read as it was too onerous a task, but I've started using Goodreads to keep a record (feel free to friend me on there if you want a nosy at some of the other books I'm reading).

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet & A Closed And Common Orbit
Becky Chambers
Rating: *****
These books are astonishingly good. Chambers creates a fully realised universe complete with varied alien species, a complex political back-story and, most importantly, entirely believable and relatable characters (even when said characters have tentacles or scales). The first book takes an episodic form, with the reader getting to know the crew of the tunnelling spaceship, The Wayfarer, as they embark upon a long journey to, yes, a small and angry planet. Eschewing the usual Big Bads and battles of sci-fi literature and instead focusing on the characters and their stories, The Long Way... is also admirably diverse in terms of race, gender & sexuality, and all the more enjoyable for it. A Closed & Common Orbit was a wonderful follow-up focusing on the AI Lovecraft and Pepper, two minor characters from the first book, and asking some big questions about what makes a person a person.

Juliet Takes A Breath*
Gabby Rivera
Rating: *****
Bronx-born and bred Juliet is getting to grips with her summer internship in Portland, Oregon (where she'll be working for iconic feminist author Hawthorne Brisbane), all while figuring out how to come out to her family, what the hell a preferred gender pronoun is, why she's not getting the answers she wants from White Feminism. Oh, and how to breathe. Juliet Takes A Breath was the queer, Latinx, intersectional feminist coming-of-age novel of my dreams: moving, political, angry, funny, and damn wonderful. Read it!

The Daughter Of Time
Josephine Tey
Rating: *****
Alex has been encouraging me to read this for bloody ages and I've no idea why I resisted so long, because it is absolutely brilliant. The Daughter Of Time begins with Inspector Grant laid up in bed with a broken leg. Encouraged by a friend to find something to pass the time, he lights on a postcard of a portrait of Richard III
The Muse
Jessie Burton
Rating: ***
I found a signed hardback copy of The Muse for 50p in a Leeds charity shop and obviously snapped it up. I loved The Miniaturist, so was interested to find out how Burton would follow such an atmospheric and richly descriptive book. Not awfully well, was the answer. The Muse follows dual timelines - Trinidadian immigrant Odelle in 1960s London, and artist Olive in Spain in 1936 - but while I was gripped by Odell's story, I couldn't take to Olive nor to the story told through her eyes at all.

Her Every Fear*
Peter Swanson
Rating: *
Still traumatised after a brutal attack by an ex-boyfriend years earlier, Kate Priddy makes an uncharacteristically bold decision when her cousin, Corbin, suggests an apartment swap, and she moves from London to Boston. However, arriving at his building she finds that his neighbour, Audrey, has been murdered. Comparisons to Hitchcock - and particularly Rear Window - abound in reviews of Her Every Fear, and the similarities are obvious as the plot revolves around a peeping tom. But this, for me, was one of the key problems with the book: the peeping tom character is presented as almost wholly unproblematic and (SPOILER) a good romantic choice for Kate. Because girls just love an obsessive stalker as a love interest, amirite ladies? More importantly, Her Every Fear felt derivative and predictable. As the plot developed, I found myself skimming pages until I reached the dénouement, which unfolded exactly as I'd forseen. This came as a disappointment after his wonderfully plotted and genuinely shocking The Kind Worth Killing: if you are looking for a truly unique and well written thriller, I suggest you look to that book rather than Her Every Fear.

The Clockwork Sparrow & The Painted Dragon*
Katherine Woodfine
Rating: ***
I'd seen the Sinclair Mysteries series compared to the wonderful Wells & Wong mysteries by Robin Stevens, so when I spotted the first book in a charity shop for £1 - and subsequently got the new title from NetGalley - I was keen to read them. Set in Edwardian London, with the action focusing on the young employees of grand new department store Sinclairs, they're jolly romps of the kind I loved when I was 10. They worked less well for me as an adult reader than the superlatively plotted Wells & Wong books, but you'll still be rooting for our heroines Sophie and Lil as they race across rooftops, foil dastardly plans, and escape from locked cellars.

* This book was kindly provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Self-Care In The Era Of Trump & Brexit

I spent much of 2016 depressed, a mental health crisis triggered by the Brexit vote and exacerbated by the US elections. Yet I've begun 2017 in the most positive place for years and I wondered, why? When the world is undeniably getting worse, not better, and the news out of America becomes more and more dystopian, why am I feeling so cheerful?

I think the answer has to do with finally cracking a self-care routine that really works for me. Siobhan wrote eloquently and brilliantly last week on why self-care can be a problematic term and I very much suggest you read it, but I'm about to completely ignore her very valid argument that "self-care articles are [not] the way forward" and write one of my own.

I am very privileged - I hold a UK passport and am white, cisgender, and middle class, all of which means I am able to sometimes close the door and take a break from the noise of the world. It's important to recognise that this is not a privilege that everyone in this country - let alone the world - has. My self-care routines aren't about ignoring what's happening, they're about taking time to regroup and recharge so I'm better able to be useful in what has become a fight against fascism.

I'm accepting my limits with regard to activism and advocacy, while recognising what I can do
I spent a lot of 2016 beating myself up about the fact that my anxiety prevents me from going to protests and marches. I find large groups challenging in so many ways, from social anxiety to crowd-related panic attacks to IBS anxiety about not always having a loo accessible, and I saw this as a failing on my part, rather than looking at what else I could do. I wrote at the start of the year about not wanting to use my mental & physical health as an excuse to not take action, but I'm learning that it's important to recognise that there are many and varied ways of carrying out activism and resistance.

Thomas has encouraged me to view my writing as a valid form of activism, and one I can engage in from home even when my health is bad. Instead of marching, I'm writing regularly to my MP (which Write To Them makes incredibly easy). I'm putting my money where my mouth is on local, national and international levels. I've set up a direct debit to Leicester Rape Crisis, donated to the UK Black Lives Matter justice fund, Planned Parenthood and, after this weekend's events, to the ACLU as they seek to challenge the Muslim Ban in court.

Think about what actions you can take within your own limits - but also don't be afraid to sometimes push those limits. I know that a large protest in London is not achievable for me, but I joined a smaller local demo last night and although it was outside my comfort zone, I'm very glad I went. Being with others who feel the same anger, who also want change, is also a form of self-care.

I am staying off social media
I'm a social media addict and can happily spend an evening whiling away time on Twitter and Facebook, without achieving anything concrete. But I realised after Brexit that Twitter was having a detrimental affect on my mood; I could feel my anxiety and unhappiness kicking into higher gear as soon as I opened the app. And no wonder! At the moment it's an endless scroll of misery, brutality and fascism. So I deleted the app. I'm still reading the news, keeping abreast of what's happening, and taking actions where I can. But only visiting Twitter once a day has made an enormous difference to my mood.

Take time to consider your social media use and ask: is it telling me something new or does it make me happy? If the answer to both is "no" then switch off. It's ok to acknowledge that you have limits; it's ok to prioritise your health.

I am making & doing
In the run-up to Christmas I started sewing a lot and noticed an immediate upswing in my mood. And now that the festive season has passed I'm in full-on zine mode. Since the start of January I've finished one and started on my second, and seeing something tangible come out of my scribbling is hugely rewarding.

Make time each week for creative pursuits. This could be anything: baking, gardening, drawing, knitting, colouring... whatever you find most enjoyable. Spending time on an activity that requires both concentration and calm is a quick route to zen-like relaxation

I am embracing hygge
Yup, that word I'm afraid, but never fear - I'm not about to tell you to buy expensive new throws or designer Scandi candlesticks. What I am doing is making duvet forts on the sofa, lighting the fire, turning off my phone, and drinking lots of tea. Not exactly revolutionary, I know, but I'm trying to recognise this for what it is - essential self-care and something to be enjoyed mindfully - rather than beating myself up about not being more productive. Some days just call for fresh pyjamas, a 99p bunch of daffodils, and a good book, and that's ok.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Photo An Hour: Saturday 28th January

Sunday was the official Photo An Hour day this month, as arranged by Louisa and Jane. However, Sunday was the day I'd designated for pyjamas and sofa and not much else, so in an attempt to get vaguely interesting pictures I did mine on Saturday (together with a handful of others).

Last January I went to Nottingham with Thomas for shopping, vegan pizza and cider. This year my day involved heroic levels of procrastination, blogging, a 50th birthday party, and lots of vegan food (some things never change!).
Wow, I slept SUPER late! We went to see La La Land last night (opinion - did not enjoy it very much. I love musicals but the oh-so-clever ironic detachment of it really turned me off. I did love the end sequence though, which was beautiful) followed by the pub, doing that thing where you go for "a" drink and roll home 4 hours later. So I needed to catch up on my sleep!
Making vegan pancakes for brunch. This recipe is so easy: just flour, sugar, baking powder & a pinch of salt, plus water and vegetable oil, mixed to make a batter. We ate them with slices of banana, in an attempt to be healthy, plus syrup of course.
Ah isn't procrastination grand? What I should be doing today is working on my application for a Masters in Gender Studies. But I urgently needed to rearrange my kids & YA shelves in colour order.
Exchanging bookshelves for supermarket shelves. Our local Morrisons has such a brilliant range of vegan frozen foods, it makes shopping so much easier to not have to go into town to health food stores to get Frys stuff (FYI, their peppered steak-style pies are immense with mashed potato).
Got home from the supermarket to find the postie had been, and delivered this most wonderful card from my brother. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Still procrastinating by catching up on blogging. Which is also on my to-do list for the weekend, to be fair.
Missy's absolute favourite game at the moment is to watch the wall of the office while we make shadow puppets, which she then endeavours to catch. Sitting in front of the wall is is her oh-so-subtle way of telling me that she wants to play.
Still. So. Much. To. Do. I can't be the only person who writes completed tasks on a To-Do list, simply for the pleasure of ticking them off, can I?
An earlier-than-usual dinner. I listened to Craig Charles' Funk & Soul Show on 6Music as I got everything ready.
Getting ready to go out. I'm designated driver for tonight's 50th birthday party in a village south of Leicester. And yeah, I literally only have one winter going out outfit - if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen this quite a few times before!
At the party. As it's a guy I used to work with, there were lots of old colleagues there and it was fun seeing them all and catching up with everyone.
Finally home from the party and feeling exhausted, but I had this little furface to greet me so it's not all bad.

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Day Trip To York

This post could be subtitled: In Which Janet Visits Somewhere Lovely And Fails, Once Again, To Take Enough Photographs. Or the shorter: In Which Janet Is A Shit Blogger.

So anyway.

Thomas and I had talked about going to York for a short post-New Year break but, when we realised it only takes 2 hours on the train from Leicester, decided to save some pennies and travel there and back in the same day.

Luckily, after a week of unsettled weather, Saturday dawned gloriously sunny, if very cold. Just the weather for wrapping up warm and exploring. We started our day at the lovely Little Apple Bookshop on High Petergate, before popping in to the brilliantly named Grimoire Bookshop a couple of doors down. A few pounds lighter - and our bags somewhat heavier - we walked past the Minster to Goji on Goodramgate, where Thomas got the most epic vegan hotdog ever (sadly one of the many things I failed to photograph - he'd scoffed it before I could even get my camera out.
Keen to make the most of the glorious sunshine, after popping into some charity shops, we headed to Monk Bar, from which we ascended York's ancient city walls. One of my favourite activities when I visited the city as a child was walking along the walls and peering into the back gardens as I passed by, and I can attest to the fact that having a good old nose around is still as fun now as it was then.

In need of sustenance (after all, I hadn't had a hot dog) we headed to Betty's. The crowd outside their St Helen's Square branch was enormous and we decided we'd rather queue in the warmth of their smaller Stonegate location round the corner. This is a much more traditional-feeling tea room but with the same excellent food and service as you'd expect from the venerable Yorkshire institution.

A few glasses of prosecco down - yes, we really did visit a tea room and fail to drink any tea - plus sandwiches for me and a torte to share, we reluctantly gave up our seats in the cosy nook by the fire and headed back out into the cold.
All told, it was a lovely day, and the perfect reminder that we don't need to spend heaps of money on weekend breaks to have a relaxing time away from home. Now to plan the next day trip: any suggestions?