Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas Craft: How To Make Joy Jars

With Christmas 4 weeks away this is the second in my Christmas blog series. Christmas and New Year can be a reflective time of year and is also often difficult for many people. Why not help the cheery mood along by making a Joy Jar? A joy jar you say? What's that? Okay, so I definately didn't make this idea up, but my version is called a Joy Jar and makes a great crafty gift at Christmas.

First cut out strips of nice paper or card. Then decorate a clean jam jar with glitter, stickers, ribbon or whatever takes your fancy. Put the pieces of paper or card in the jam jar. Finally, write a message on a gift tag explaining to the receiver of your present what they have to do with it. Every time they feel that something nice has happened to them in the coming year they have to write it down and put it in the jar. When the year is over they can look over the year and feel cheery.

Finally, finish off the jam jar with some pretty ribbon and the gift tag and you have a ready-made Joy Jar!

Carpe Diem xx

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Blog Sunday: Christmas Craft Haul

Welcome to the first of my Christmas-related blogs! As I've already done most of my minimal Christmas shopping I thought I'd share a haul with you. I will be crafting most of my presents and using these crafty decorations.

6 Tartan Gift Tags, W H Smith - £1.49
I love the pattern on these gift tags. Can be used as tags to remind you who your presents are for or as decoration.

3 Christmas Ribbons, W H Smith - £4.99
These ribbons come in three different thicknesses and patterns and have a myriad of uses. I particularly love Merry Christmas one.

Adhesive Christmas Decorations, Tiger - £1.00
Having never heard of Tiger before, I have been in 2 local stores in London in the last week and love it. This Danish chain is amazing value! Adhesive stickers/decorations can be used on your own Christmas cards or as part of a Christmas present decoration (e.g. on top of a jam jar). Be careful though, these Christmas stickers do look nice but the sticky backing did come off on some of them.

Carpe Diem xx

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Easy Curry Omelette Recipe for Students

Image from: http://oscarslunch.blogspot.co.uk

Serves: 1
Cooking level: Easy
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Energy: Around 300 calories

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
2 eggs
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1/3 large bag of spinach

1) Finely chop the onion and red pepper, crush the clove of garlic and tear the spinach leaves
2) Cook the onion, red pepper and garlic lightly in a pan
3) Add the spinach and cook until it has reduced in size
4) Add the eggs and chilli powder, season with salt and pepper to taste
5) Leave to cook for a couple of minutes

Carpe Diem xx

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday Spree: A Collective Book Haul

I mentioned a few blogs back that I had been on a book buying spree. A few weeks ago I realised that I wasn't making full use of my spare time and that I needed to be reading more, in particular catching up on the classics that I have never read (which is a lot!). So here are four of the books that I have accumulated in the past month:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:
I first read To Kill A Mockingbird as a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl and much of it went straight over my head, so when I saw this beautiful 50th anniversary paperback edition by Arrow I decided it was a chance to right some wrongs and give it another go.

Christmas Books by Charles Dickens:
This is a Wordsworth Classics edition of collected Christmas stories by Dickens, which of course includes A Christmas Carol. Can't wait to read it for the first time nearer Christmas time.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith:
This new Bodley Head hardback edition of the classic was just released on 7th November 2013. It is beautiful and was so happy to get it in the post after pre-ordering it a month before. Unfortunately it doesn't come with a dust jacket, which I think lets it down slightly.

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde:
I have definately trumpeted the genius of Fforde's work on this blog before, so again, I was tempted to add to my collection of the Thursday Next series with this, the third in the set.

What have you been reading this month?

Carpe Diem xx

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Goodbye and Curtain: Agatha Christie's Poirot

I've been hooked on Agatha Christie and Poirot ever since I saw a TV dramatisation for the first time when I nine years old. There seemed to be a never ending cascade of them ever since. Christie wrote 39 Hercule Poirot novels and I'm ashamed to say I haven't read most of them, but every time different channels aired new adaptations I was eager to see them. There is an odd closure then, when such a prolific writer seems to have no more to say. There are no more books to dramatise. The series is finished. Poirot, like Miss Marple and all other good classic fictional characters, belongs in its own timeless milieu.

So with that David Suchet said goodbye to the character role that had been his for over twenty years. On Wednesday 13th November 2013 the last David Suchet Poirot episode was shown, Curtain. Having read the book I was disappointed. I have never liked the 2 hour ITV dramatisations. They feel too long and drawn out. With a characteristic star cast, Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Alice Orr-Ewing as Judith Hastings and Philip Glenister as Sir William Boyd Carrington, the show revealed the age of its long-standing cast. 

There is none of the closely-knitted plots of many of the Miss Marple adaptations and the ending is lacking. There is barely any heed given to the brewing second World War or Hasting's daughter's association with the Nazi party. But maybe it is an integral part of something that has given so much to the cult of Christie that it will ultimately leave you wanting more. It's goodbye and curtains to Poirot.

Carpe Diem xx

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Watch Wednesday: The Escape Artist review

Tuesday 12th November saw the culmination of the BBC1 drama that was The Escape Artist. Starring David Tennant and other stars such as Sophie Okonedo, this three-parter far exceeded my expectations. The plot predominantly centres around the legal case of Will Burton (David Tennant) against Liam Foyle (handsome English-gentleman-type Toby Kebbell), whom he believes murdered his wife after he failed to defend him in court. The mix of subtle shots, arty photography and drama woven into three one-hour slots culminates in a series of quality not seen for a while, far outreaching the likes of some two-hour ITV dramas.

Carpe Diem xx

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: The Boy Who Fell to Earth by Kathy Lette

From writer Kathy Lette, The Boy Who Fell To Earth traces the story of Lucy and her high-functioning autistic son Merlin, over a period of a year or two. I join my fellow readers on review websites in being disappointed in this book. Tragically chick-lit and insubstantial. As a book largely about living with autism it shines glimmers of hope throughout, however it's one liners and lack of content make it a fail. This was the first Lette novel I have read and safe to say I won't be going back for more. On the positive side, the plot is compelling, with more twists and turns than most, and I did finish it, so if you want an easy read and a laugh-a-minute or are interested in books about autism then give it a go.

Carpe Diem xx

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

It's cold. It's a Monday. It's still 8 weeks until the season of the mince pie. The only thing to do, of course, is to review Remarkable Creatures, which I read 3 weeks ago. I have wanted to read this for at least a year, after I went on holiday to Charmouth in Dorset, where the book is largely set. I also loved Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring and decided that this was a must read. This novel attempts to fill in the gaps of the lives of Victorian lady fossil hunters Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning. As an attempt to shed light on both sexism and scientific discovery in the Victorian age, this book is only half the answer. Creative license has been used liberally and the story is a romance. It does however read more like a film story and is certainly removed from a biography of either of the protagonists. A nice story and a great read for geologists, but slightly disappointing to me. Full marks for originality and imaginative storytelling though.

Carpe Diem xx

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Neil Gaiman and The Power of Reading and Fiction

Prisons are apparently following the same trend as schools. In this time of economic recession and financial cut-backs, prison and education systems across the globe are facing the same issue. Both need to expand with an expanding population, and both need to respond to changes in their respective industries. Best-selling author Neil Gaiman (of books such as Coraline and Stardust) gave thoughtful and well-timed answers to these problems in his lecture for the Reading Agency, an edited version of which was printed in the Guardian (19/10/13) in an article called 'Face facts: we need fiction'. 

Gaiman argues that although you can't state that a literate society has no criminality, there are real correlations between illiteracy and the prison population. You could say brashly that 'fiction is read by literate people and literate people are less likely to commit crime'. The author describes the way fiction works in the lives of its readers in a positive way. Firstly, fiction is a gateway to reading. Once you start reading fiction you climb on a rollercoaster that you never want to end. Fiction is a gateway to literacy and knowledge. 

Second and most importantly fiction builds empathy. Through its characters and plots fiction builds in its readers an ability to understand and imagine different circumstances, and to help them imagine a different world. In Gaiman's words 'it is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different'. Fiction largely helps this. So next time you wonder what the point of a library is, or why an individual might not read, try imagining the  boundless possibilities of the power of reading. You are, in a way, already experiencing it. 

Carpe Diem xx