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Showing posts from 2018

10 fun questions on literary Edinburgh

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This picture was taken right beside the entrance to an Edinburgh street used as the title of an Ian Rankin novel.Name the street/book.
Scottish surgeon, Joseph Bell, taught at Edinburgh University and was the inspiration for a famous detective created by Edinburgh-born author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Name the character.
Author Daphne Du Maurier and her family were the inspiration for the Darling family, created by Edinburgh-born author JM Barrie in what book?
What writer is based in Edinburgh but has a series of popular novels set in Africa?
This year (2018) marks 100 years since the birth of an author whose childhood in Edinburgh provided the inspiration for her most famous book, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.Who is she?
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the last resting place of many Edinburgh residents including a Mr Tom Riddle, a famous author used it for help when creating character names.Who was she?
The author of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde didn’t want to be remembered with a statue, but wound …

Sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather

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Even where I live (Scotland) the breaks between rain showers are getting longer, in fact we’ve even had a few days where there hasn’t been any rain at all. In other words, the weather’s as good as it gets for eating outdoors and even when that’s not really an option, packed lunches have a lot to be said for them. It’s not just the fact that they can be so affordable, they save you queuing, plus you know exactly what you’re eating and drinking. Nevertheless, I still see loads of people buying convenience food because they “don’t have time” to make a packed lunch in the mornings, well the answer to this is to move away from the traditional sandwiched-based packed lunch and start making packed lunches which will keep perfectly happily overnight, so you just need to pick them up in the morning. Here are some ideas for sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather.
Start with the right containers
If you’re planning (or hoping) to make a packed lunch regularly, then invest in some pr…

Five quick tips to beat everyday stress

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If you’re suffering from any sort of mental health issue which is causing you serious problems, then you need to get help of some sort. If, however, you’re simply facing everyday stresses, from exam nerves to people getting on your nerves, then there are some quick tips you can use to deal with it. Acknowledge your stress and recognize its beneficial intent Stress is your mind letting you know that it thinks you need to take better care of yourself and get out of what it perceives as a dangerous, or at least uncomfortable, situation. When you feel yourself starting to get stressed, acknowledge the fact, acknowledge the cause and commit to dealing with it either immediately or later. Ideally you want to deal with stress as soon as possible, but if that’s not practical, the very act of making a promise to yourself to do something later to improve the situation can help to feel calmer in the present. Accept that stress can be irrational and that is fine Stress can be like a (hopefull…

7 ways to help bees

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By this point in time, you’ve probably heard about how the humble bee is in a lot of trouble and if the humble bee gets into a lot of trouble then humans do too, because we need them for food, in fact the whole world needs them for food.The good news is that you can help, especially if you have a garden, but even if you don’t.As a minimum you can spread the word about what individuals can do to get the bees back.Here are 7 ideas.
Grow pollen-rich flowers
You can now buy bee-friendly flower seeds, but essentially most wildflowers are rich in pollen and therefore good food for bees.If you’re not keen on filling your garden with wild flowers, try poppies, cornflowers or sunflowers.Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still help out the bees by planting flowers in containers.
Let you lawn show its wild side
Personally, I have never had a problem with flowers like daisies and dandelions growing in a lawn.I actually think they look nice and bees love them.
Go organic
You wouldn’t want …

16 tips for making laundry easier and more fun

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Speaking for myself about the only thing I can say for laundry is I’m glad I have a machine to do it for me. I really don’t know how people managed in the days before they existed. In fact, I don’t know how I managed in my London days when I had to use launderettes. Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered from that, I don’t like laundry so I’ve worked hard at learning how to make it easier on myself and here are 16 tips I’ve gathered over the years.
Before you wash
Make members of your household responsible for their own ironing, folding and hanging up
Sometime clothes need to go in the wash after just one wear (e.g. if you’ve worn them to work out) but mostly they don’t, but if you do all the ironing folding and hanging up then you’re asking for people just to chuck clothes in the laundry without thinking about whether or not they actually need to be there. If, by contrast, you delegate this as much as possible, you’ll encourage people only to put clothes in the wash when they actua…

Book Review of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

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This is another classic which is availableforfree although it can be worth paying the small fee for a cheap digital copy or a hard copy since some of the free digital copies have some quality issues. I got a free digital copy from Amazon to save space in my bag and I noticed that every time there’s an illustration the copy says what the illustration is and goes straight on to the text. You get used to this but to begin with it’s a bit confusing. Also there are a few snippets missing, which have then been added at the end. Having said that, if you’re really low on funds these are minor issues and other free digital copies may be better.
Characters
The book is narrated in the first person by J and who mainly talks about himself and his human friends George and Harris, plus Montmorency the dog. There are a variety of minor characters sprinkled throughout the book. The three young men are all clearly fairly well off, although they mention working, and none of them are particularly …

A real-world wardrobe clean up

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Let me put my hand up and say I love a good “closet organization” video on YouTube. I know the story by heart now, person with way too many clothes declutters and finds a whole pile of ready-made solutions to turn her closet (and it is invariably a her) into the place of her dreams or helps man in life to do the same with his closet. At the start of the video the place is a hot mess and by the end it looks glorious. If only real life worked like that. So partly because decluttering and organization are two of my favourite topics, partly to show that the real world isn’t necessarily like social media (and that’s totally OK) and partly just for some fun, let me tell you about my slow and sporadic progress to wardrobe peace.
Purging
Now this is where life gets interesting. I really needed to purge and honestly I don’t know why because, apart from underwear, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually bought an item of clothing, apart from one occasion a few years ago when I …

Book Review of The Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

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The long way down charts a trip from John O’Groats to Cape Town made by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. While the trip wasn’t to raise money for charity itself, it did involve various stops to learn about the work of different charities.
People
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take turns at narrating their experiences so some of the language can get a bit fresh at times, with some swearing. The subject matter is interesting enough to compensate for the fact that neither of the authors is a professional writer. This book is essentially a tidied up diary rather than proper travel writing, in fact if you’re expecting fulsome descriptions of the landscape they encounter, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Obviously it is mentioned and the condition of the terrain comes up frequently, but this book is much more about people than about place. Their support team is mentioned regularly, although they don’t actually narrate, which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity, plus…

Lucky 7 uses for empty eggshells (apart from decoration)

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Over Easter I randomly started thinking about eggs, as in the sort which come from birds, rather than the chocolate sort (or the Fabergé sort) and then I started thinking about the fact that I have long been in the habit of just putting eggshells out for compost without actually giving any further thought to the matter, so I decided to do some investigating and see if I could find some other uses for them and, much to my surprise, I found a lot so I thought I'd gather all the ones I liked together here to share with people.

Before I get started, I thought it would be fun to include a couple of random facts about eggs themselves I found out along the way.

If you're unsure how fresh and egg is, put it in a bowl of water, fresh eggs sink but older ones float.

If you want to check whether or not an egg has been boiled, spin it.  If it spins regularly it's been boiled.  If it's fresh it will wobble a bit, because the liquid is sloshing about inside it.

So on with the tips …

Book review of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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I have to start this review with a confession, I never read the full version of The Wind in the Willows when I was a child, I just read the abridged version, which is pictured above (and has glorious pictures in it).  So, when I decided to start this blog, I thought it would be a good opportunity to read the full book and see how I felt about it as an adult.  It's now out of copyright and so available for free (although I didn't realize this when I made my decision).  So, reading this book with an adult's eyes, here's what I think.

Characters

The main characters are Mole, Rat (a water rat rather than the land-living sort) and, of course, (Mr) Toad and the three of them are beautifully drawn and blended together. Mole, is gentle, timid and, at the start of the book, completely uneducated in the ways of the world at large. Rat, by contrast, is highly sociable, knows everyone and hence gets to hear of everything which is going on. Toad starts the novel as conceited and …

My decluttering update and lessons I've learned from tossing "stuff" and preserving memories

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Around about this time last year, I wrote a post called 11 questions to a meaningful declutter in which I came up with a suggested process for decluttering.  I've been plodding along with my own decluttering project ever since and even though I've moved a lot of stuff on, there is still plenty which still needs to be shifted so decluttering remains a topic which is very much near and dear to my heart.  I therefore decided to try buying a book on decluttering by a professional organizer to see if it could give me any tips.  Now, to be honest, I didn't think much of this book, which is why I'm not going to review it here, I'm not into naming and shaming.  I have put a review on Amazon, so if you see the book there, then you'll see my opinion of it, but I'm only mentioning it here to explain why I decided to revisit my original blog and also why I'm not reviewing a non-fiction book this weekend as originally planned, but moving on to another work of ficti…

Book Review of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

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As The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins was first published in 1868, it is well and truly out of copyright and you can get a digital copy free from the ProjectGutenberg or at very low cost from Amazon. Paper copies are widely available at various price points as are audio editions. Widely considered to be the first detective novel (as opposed to crime fiction in the form of short stories), the plot centres around Rachel Verinder, who is given a priceless, but troublesome diamond on her 18th birthday. The diamond is certainly not this girl’s best friend and it quickly threatens to cost her both her love and her chance of living a happy and fulfilled life.
Characters
Unlike many detective novels, indeed many novels in general, there’s no real, single main character in the book, at least not in my opinion. Some of the characters get more page time than others and these are generally the ones who play the key roles in the story, but there’s nobody you could really say was the central prot…

Book Review of Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin

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Originally published in 1987, Knots and Crosses was the first of the Rebus novels. These currently stand at 22 (plus short stories) with another book due out this autumn (2018). Rankin made a brief effort to retire Rebus (literally and metaphorically) in Exit Music, which was book 17 and subsequent novels have contained hints that Rebus himself may yet be taken out of action in some way (certainly there’s a limit to how long Rebus can realistically be an active police officer and, indeed a limit to how long he can actually live, so if Ian Rankin keeps ageing the character as you would expect in real life, then one way or another he’s going to have to take his final bow at some point). Knots & Crosses, however, is where it all began with Detective Sergeant John Rebus battling a real-life serial killer and his own mental demons, with the help of whisky and music.
Characters
The main character in this novel is Rebus himself. In this first outing, he is 41 and has been 15 years i…