Five people that win… January

Oof my timekeeping skills leave a lot to be desired. Blame a lazy Sunday! Anyway, on with the good stuff.

1. No-one fights like Gaston, does Press-Ups like Gaston…

Ok so he may be a Disney villain and in any other month be placed in the Villain of the Month category, but this January he proved his worth on this list when a visitor to Disneyland dared question Gaston’s muscly credentials and challenge him to a Press-Up contest.

 

Who’s laughing now, Random Tourist Guy?

2.       Tina and Amy. Again for the Golden Globes. I think this is the last time they can present it (is it like the Presidency, two times and you’re out?) so of course they claim back their place on the list.

3.       Stephanie Roche

Ok ok so she didn’t technically win (the honour went to Cristiano Ronaldo), but it’s about time women’s football got more recognition on a level playing field with the men. I can’t pretend to know anything about the game – although I have seen a couple of Women’s Championship games* at Fulham**, which I loved – but Stephanie well deserves a place on this list. I’m sure she’s well touched.

Here’s the goal what did it:

*I think this is what they were/what they are called

**Who knows. There was a field. And possibly a statue of Michael Jackson. I just turned up and cheered to be honest.

4.       #thisgirlcan

I love this campaign. I love working out and don’t give a crap what I look like when I do it – the sweatier, the sexier, I say – so this isn’t really aimed at me, but I see myself in each of these awesome, knackered women.

5. The Ghostbusters

Women! All lovely, funny, sexy, awesome women! Bring it on! I can’t wait to see this. Which brings me to…

All you female-ghostbuster haters out there get the dubious honour of being joint villains of the month. Especially you, Ernie Hudson! F*&k off. Pandering, my ass.

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Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient Champagne.‏

How do you like my dress?

 IMG_5145I am as yet undecided. Not because of the overall look of it – I love the fit (although it could do with a few tweaks), the shape, the material – and the way it looks (and makes me feel – like a classy bird, for once). But because there are several places where I bodged this dress, and this dress does not deserve a bodging. It deserves careful handling and perfect execution.

But let’s start from the beginning. This was a challenge set by my Sewing Bee several months ago – we decided we would all make a classy cocktail dress in time to go out for pre-Christmas cocktails together, which was such a lovely idea I couldn’t resist.

It took me ages to decide what dress to make – I ummed and ahhed about what made a dress a cocktail dress (not helped by the fact that my usual cocktail attire is not unlike my usual attire – i.e. holey jeans and New Balance), before remembering I’d bought Burda  6043 – a vintage style shift vintage reissue a while back which fit the bill perfectly. I love the early 60s silhouette and the way the ladies on the front could have walked off the set of Mad Men with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.

The next decision was fabric. It needed to live up to the elegance of the dress, but also comfortable enough to move in. As we all know, one too many cocktails can often lead to dancing. Shameful behaviour.

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When I saw this “Annalotte” dress from Kathryn at Yes I Like That, made in the self-lined Prada stretch crepe from Minerva Crafts, I thought that this was the one. I was originally going to go with black for the LBD, but something about the modest cut of the dress made me worry it would look a bit funereal, so I went for the purple “Aubergine” colour. I rather riskily bought it sight-unseen, and didn’t bother with a sample, as the reviews I’d seen convinced me it would be ok – and luckily it was! The fabric was £11.99 a metre. I bought 2.5m (am still beginner enough to plan for major balls-up in my cutting), but I think used less than 2 in the end.

The fabric is gorgeous, as you might expect from something with Prada in the title. It’s matt on one side, with a silky lining. I decided to use the silky side for the bodice, and the matt for the skirt section of the pattern, which makes for a lovely contrast.

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Totally derpy pic – for some reason I was hiding my phone behind my back.

 I pretty much followed the pattern as is – cutting out a size 14 I think (this was before Christmas, and my memory is not so good after the “Christmas Cheer”). I shortened it by about 4 inches, as it says it’s drafted for a 5’6’’ tall woman. I am not that woman. I ended up with a very small hem, but I like the length on me. I only lined the bodice, as I didn’t think it needed a lining in the skirt, especially with my fancy-ass self-lined fabric. The fabric is also quite thick, so I thought two layers in the skirt would be too much.

 

IMG_5146 So about that bodging. Here’s a little list.

  • The little point in the bodice won’t sit smoothly – despite me resewing it several times –  I can’t work out how I would fix this in the future, but perhaps it was just inaccurate cutting from the start.
  • I don’t like finishing the armholes with a bias binding, but I’d already sewn in the lining and zip so had left it too late to finish them another way (this is why you should always read a pattern from start to finish before you start wielding the scissors I guess!)
  • The back bodice doesn’t line up properly at the back ­and I don’t know why!!! I ended up having to hand sew this to fix it. It’s still not perfect but it’s not so bad that anyone else would notice unless they were intently watching me walk away.
  • I used some bad bad interfacing. It’s probably not the interfacing’s fault, but more that I need to learn about interfacing and what kind to use, as the stuff I’ve got is so stiff it’s like paper. This doesn’t actually bother me when I’ve got the dress on, luckily, as I can’t really tell. It’s more that I know that it’s there.
  • I could do with pinching a bit of fabric out of the front bodice as it has the tendency to gape a little (one of these days I will probably make a toile. But not today). It wouldn’t need a huge amount taking out, and again, no one else would probably notice – I just found myself fiddling with it a little while I was out. Until the third cocktail, and then I didn’t give a cr*p.

But at the end of the day (or the start of the next), none of the bodging really mattered – we all had a great time at the Hide Bar in Borough, which has some of the most interesting cocktails I’ve come across in my long history of cocktailing.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you have something you’ve made you’re not sure about, get drunk and wear it anyway.

Although technically this post is all about the cocktails, not the bubbly, I couldn’t resist this quote from Dorothy Parker from her poem Inventory.

Five people that win… December

1. The Royal Eye Roll.

Wrapping Christmas presents can be trying for the best of us.

2. Quentin Sommerville (although the video is a few years old)

3. This dog, who’s got the moves.

4. Another animal one for you – this monkey, who saved his friend’s life when he got electrocuted on the railway tracks.

5. And finally, these BBC News staff who’d perhaps had a little bit too much Christmas cheer?

But we love them for that.

Villain of the month? Guys, it’s Christmas. God Bless Us, everyone.

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.

Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, filled with love, joy and mincepies.

And presents, we can’t forget the presents. Which is what I wanted to share with you today – I made each of my family a little something to go in their stockings this year, which I didn’t want to put on the blog until after they’d seen them, as you never know what little elf might share the secret before the big day.

For my sister, who loves African prints, I made this tote bag. The two clashing prints were from a shop on Petticoat Lane – I forget the name, but there are lots to choose from! Although I needed less than a metre to make the bag, the fabric only comes in 6yd lengths, but don’t worry I have big plans for a full skirt from the bird fabric, which makes up the lining, and a fitted shift dress from the fan fabric. Gift for my sister, gift for me! The wooden button was from my stash, but I think it goes quite nicely.

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The pattern is from the Cath Kidston “Sew” book – which I picked up for a few quid in the charity shop near me – all templates still included! I’d previously made up this tote for my mum, so I knew I could pull it together quickly (due to reasons, mainly a job change in the last couple of weeks, I’d been quite busy and so my decision to make presents was very last minute!). The reason I like this pattern so much (apart from how easy it is to put together) is the inclusion of both a front and inside pocket, so you’ll never lose your lipgloss or keys at the bottom of your bag again!

Also from the same book, I made my dad a little drawstring washbag, using a lovely pinstripe fabric from my stash. The pattern calls for shower curtain fabric on the inside, but the only shower curtain fabric I could find cost about £16 per metre, and I would have had to wait for it to be delivered. So instead I just went to Argos and spent £2.50 on a basic shower curtain, which works perfectly once cut up, and nobody is any the wiser! I have a lot of this left over now, so I guess there are a lot more gifted washbags on the horizon.

I stupidly forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but it looks much the same as the one in the book (although I omitted the side piping because of time, and not having anything suitable to hand!). Again, this was an easy make, but I actually found the instructions in the book a bit lacking. It was ok for me, having some experience in sewing, but they felt a bit bare in places and left me scratching my head in confusion. Although perhaps I’d just had a little bit too much Christmas cheer*.

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And finally, I knitted my mum some fingerless gloves. I hadn’t planned on knitting my mum some fingerless gloves. I had planned on making her the glasses case from the same Cath Kidston book. In fact, I pretty much did make her the glasses case, but so badly I decided it wasn’t worthy of my mum. The problem wasn’t the pattern or the instructions (although again, they were strangely bare, for such a hand-holdy friendly style book), it was more with me rushing to try and get it done before Christmas came.

So to solve the issue with rushing to get a present done before Christmas, I decided to rush and start to knit a present just a few days before Christmas day. Oh, and my parents arrived on the 23rd, so it’s not like I could sit around in the evenings and knit… 1419839240703

But, I managed it! Luckily the pattern was for quite a chunky yarn. I don’t know what it is, because it all came in a kit free on the front of a magazine – I AM SO GENEROUS I KNOW, but time was of the essence – but it was for 5mm needles (I used 6mm to get the right gauge).

I also made my boyfriend some pocket squares for his suit jackets. Not much to say about these as they only needed some hemming. But don’t they look cute?

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Did you make any presents this year? Did you plan ahead, or were you making them right up to midnight on Christmas Eve?

 Today’s quote is from Mother Teresa.

*Booze. Always booze.

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.‏

What are your last minute Christmas baking plans? One thing that’s always easy to throw together, and is always much appreciated, is homemade mince pies. What’s your favourite recipe? Do you make your own mincemeat?

I have to admit here that I hate mince pies – I am not a fan of dried fruit in any shape or form. Not even when it’s wrapped in this delicious pastry. So I never make the mincemeat, just buy it in jars. Just like Jesus would have wanted.

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This year I followed Paul Hollywood’s pastry recipe, but given that it’s 2 days before Christmas, if you want to use Jus-Rol, I won’t judge. He also does something fancy-schmancy with the mincemeat, but I ignored this as I didn’t plan ahead (anyone out there surprised?) and didn’t have any of the ingredients.

Ingredients

2 jars mincemeat (about 500-600g total

375g plain flour

260g unsalted butter, cold (The recipe says softened, but I was always told cold butter for pastry, so I went off-piste. Stick with Paul if you don’t trust me.)  (I wouldn’t trust me either)

125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 large egg, plus 1 beaten egg for glazing (I had leftover egg whites from the pannettone recipe below, and just used this and my judgement for how much to add. Worked pretty well, although I had to add a bit of flour at the rolling stage as it was a little bit too wet to roll out well)

  1. Place the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together until it’s like crumbs.
  2. Mix in the sugar and the egg.
  3. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and fold until the pastry comes together, be careful not to over mix.
  4. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 10 mins
  5. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
  6. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick.
  7. Using a 10cm round cutter cut out 16 bases and place them into greased/non-stick muffin trays.
  8. Put 11⁄2 tbsp mincemeat mixture into each. (I LITERALLY JUST REALISED I READ THIS AS TEASPOONS. I HAVE UNDERFILLED MY MINCEPIES. CHRISTMAS IS RUINED*)
  9. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg.
  10. Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal.
  11. Glaze with the rest of the egg, sprinkle with caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops. (I NEVER DID A CUT IN THE TOPS THIS IS WHY IT WAS BUBBLING OUT THE SIDES OHMYGOD I MIGHT AS WELL HAVE SHOT RUDOLPH**)
  12. Bake mince pies for 15-20 mins until golden brown.
  13. Leave to cool before releasing them from the muffin trays and dusting with icing sugar.

Despite my several failures, these have turned out pretty damn fine. We of course had to try one to make sure (I just nibbled at the pastry like the precious fussy eater I am). I’d never added sugar to pastry before, and I think it makes quite a difference. It’s a lovely texture and tastes really decadent. Just like Christmas should be.

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The other thing on my Christmas bake list this year was a pannettone. I have previously made the traditional Christmas Cake (Delia all the way), but as the only fans of it are my mum and dad (the only part of it I like is the decorating, and subsequent eating of the icing), a lot seems to end up going to waste. There’s probably even some left from last year we could dig out from a Tupperware from some dark corner at the back of a kitchen cupboard.

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I’d been scared off by a few people who claimed it took days to make pannettone, but I whipped this one up on a Sunday afternoon without too much grief. It’s probably not traditional, but meh. Looks good. I’ll have to come back to you on the taste as it’s not Christmas yet, people! Patience!

I’d bought a special Pannettone tin from Lakeland because I am a middleclass snob like that, but actually all you need for this one is a normal deep cake tin and some baking paper. The recipe is from Dan Lepard in the Guardian (whose chocolate fudge sauce recipe I also used for presents this year – shush, don’t tell!). Of course, I made the chocolate chip version.

For the cake:

200ml warm water

25g cornflour

25g caster sugar

6 medium egg yolks

7g sachet fast-action yeast

3 tsp each vanilla and orange extract

3 tsp glycerine (optional, but it makes the crumb extra-soft)

50g white chocolate

50g unsalted butter

400g 00 flour

1 tsp salt

150g chocolate chips (or good glacé fruit or raisins you dried fruit-eating monsters)

For the sugar crust

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp egg white

1 tbsp ground almonds

25g chopped hazelnuts

1 tsp cornflour

12-15 whole unskinned almonds

  1. Whisk the warm water with the cornflour and caster sugar, then beat in the egg yolks and yeast.
  2. Stir in the vanilla and orange extracts, and glycerine (if using).
  3. In a bowl over hot water (or, let’s face it, a microwave) melt the white chocolate and butter, then whisk this into the mix.
  4. Add the flour and salt, then mix to a soft dough using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Set aside for five minutes.
  5. Put the kettle on for a cuppa.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips (or glacé fruit or raisins if you’re a monster) so they are evenly distributed through the mix, then leave for an hour to rise.
  7. Put your feet up and drink that cuppa.
  8. Line the base and sides of a deep, round 20cm cake tin (or pannettone tin if you went wild in Lakeland) with an oversized piece of nonstick paper that extends out at the top by 5cm or so (this is to allow the loaf to rise during cooking).
  9. Transfer the dough to the tin. Cover and leave to rise for two to three hours, or until more than doubled in height.
  10. This is the perfect amount of time to watch It’s A Wonderful Life.
  11. Dry your tears and remember no man is a failure who has friends. Cry again.
  12. Blow your nose and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4 and make sure you can fit the high cake tin in your oven!
  13. Mix together the ingredients for the sugar crust (apart from the almonds) and dab this all over the top of the panettone. Dot with the almonds and cut a cross in the middle with a sharp knife.
  14. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the panettone is a dark, golden brown on top.

Despite my panics about it not rising, I actually quite enjoyed the process of making this – and am pretty impressed with how it looks. I of course have no idea how it will taste, but fingers crossed! If it turns out well, I think I might have a new tradition. And I’m already eyeing up this recipe for pannettone bread and butter pudding for my leftovers…

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Merry Christmas!

Today’s quote is from Mary Ellen Chase

*Luckily I was over generous with my teaspoon measurement, so I think it’s worked out all right in the end. Phew.

** Christmas is a stressful time for all. I apologise for the dramatics. I think I need a lie down.

Five people that win… November

Happy December 1st everyone! And talking of December 1st – remember that “sew-your-own” advent calendar I lusted over at The Makery in Bath? Well my lovely other half only went and got me one! What a lovely chap! Isn’t it lovely?

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Can’t wait to see what delights that are awaiting me inside. (Spoiler: it’s chocolate coins).

Anyway, December has arrived at last, and so it’s time to look back at the winners for the month of November.

1. Amy Poehler.

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For writing the utterly delightful, charming, and witty “Yes Please”, which I raced through in about two days when it arrived in the mail.

2. Philae.

And the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (catchy name). Okay, so it might not have gone quite to plan, but it was a pretty intense ride nonetheless. Scientists, eh. Pretty clever chaps.

3. Paul Mason.

For this:

4. Christmas adverts.

First of all, it was John Lewis and those penguins, and I thought my heart couldn’t break any further. (Full disclosure – I was always highly disposed to love this advert. If I could smuggle any animal home from the zoo in my backpack, it would be a penguin. Who am I kidding, it would be ALL the penguins.)

And then, hello Sainsbury’s – you kept this one up your sleeve you little tear-jerkers, you.

Anyone else want to step up to the plate and make me cry snotty tears all over my chocolate coins?

5. Mickey Rourke.

An actual winner, following his return to the boxing ring. Good on you, Mickey!

WAIT. HOLD UP. When I was checking the links for this post, I came across the news that actually, his opponent was a homeless guy who was paid to take a dive.

So, no winner’s title for you Mr Rourke. Shame on you.

And the Villain of the Month? No, you don’t win that either Mr Rourke. This one goes to Paul Spector in The Fall. Oh god, he is the best looking absolutely most scary psychopath on TV. Gives me the creeps.

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And then I see this picture and I think, Well maybe he’s not so bad.

Be careful–with quotations, you can damn anything.

Given my love of a good quote (and, conversely, hatred of these inspirational quotes that keep popping up everywhere *shakes fist at Instagram*), I couldn’t resist sharing this Guardian article about the proliferation of these “uplifting” and “enriching” (ugh) two line snippets that are impossible to avoid, unless you live in a world without coffee shop chalkboards, or have no access to social media (I’m looking at you, Facebook).

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Image taken from the Scarfolk Council website. Surreal and frightening, in equal measure.

I don’t know who gets inspiration from this type of thing, at their best they raise in me a wry smile (especially on tube station whiteboards), at worst, they make me ragey. Especially when they are accompanied by a photoshopped sunset, or a picture of a kitten hanging off a tree (You can do it, little guy! You go Glen Coco!).

If you need an antidote to all the cheer in the world, check out despair.com. Afterall, it could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

Today’s quote is from André Malraux

Stars will blossom in the darkness, Violets bloom beneath the snow.

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a super Thursday! I have managed to fight off a threatening cold by excessive echinacea consumption and a massive duvet-sofa session, and I’ve also just chased a massive cat that was scaring Maeby, so I am feeling pretty superhuman right now.

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I’ve also made a blouse! Well, I finished it on Monday, but am just sharing it with you now because, eh, timings.

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It’s the Violet blouse from Colette, which I picked up for the bargainous price of 2 pounds 50 off my friend Caroline who was selling off some of her stash. Bargain, right? I loved the pattern – I’d been wanting to make a blouse for a while, partly to fill a hole in my wardrobe (I say hole, I mean very small tiny little gap in my overstuffed wardrobe, but whatever) and partly just because I hadn’t made one yet. For the learnin’, see?

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Anyway, I bought this fabric from John Lewis (shocker) – it’s 100% cotton, and I can’t remember what kind of fabric it is. Sorry. Whatever it is, it is drapey as f**k. It has All The Drape. And the pattern is great.

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I may or may not have been inspired by my handbag. Ahem.

I cut out the pieces shortly after getting the fabric, and then didn’t get around to sewing it up for ages – I hate cutting out pattern pieces so much that I need to have a break before the actual sewing. But when I did get around to it, it was quick to put together – I think I did it in an afternoon, apart from the buttons and buttonholes which I did the next day when I had a random day off. And thank god I have a one-step buttonhole step on my machine cause this baby has 10 buttons. TEN. I got these buttons from the market in Bath, don’t they go perfectly?

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Buttons buttons buttons.

I’m pretty happy with how this looks – it’s very (very) loose fitting, and I think the collar is slightly (very) skewiff, but tucked into a pencil skirt it looks great, and the loose fit looks great over jeans. And no one but me will notice the collar, a benefit of the noisy print. Bonus.

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What on earth is up with my face. Derp.

I think I will make this up again because I think a few of these would be great for work – I might try grading it down at the waist and see how that works out, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve seen a few pics online of other people’s Violet’s where the collar meets in the middle, so I assume that there’s a longer pattern piece out there somewhere, because I think they look super cute.

And I’ll end with a picture of Maeby – this is her way of saying thank you for saving her life from the mean boy cat who invaded her garden. Close – but not TOO close.

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Today’s quote is from Julia C.R. Dorr

Five people that win… October.

Oh I really need to take better notice of my calendar. So here’s a very late “Five people that win…” for October. And here we are, nearly at Bonfire Night. Anyone been to any fireworks displays? Our local one was on Sunday night at the park over the road. Given Eric Pickles has just taken over my borough, that might be the last one we ever get.

Anyway, on with the winners, and if you’ll permit me, I’m going to start with a couple of personal ones

1.       William.

The first one is William, who was born 3 months earlier than planned, because he was so keen on meeting his mum Marie, and he couldn’t wait until November. And he’s done so well, that on the 24th October – still 3 weeks before he was even meant to be here! – he was allowed home to his wonderful mummy and daddy.

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2.       Flash.

Back when I lived behind Brick Lane, I often used to pass a young gentleman called Flash. A bit of a flirt, he was, following me down the street, catcalling. A cat, obviously. A very friendly one – known to all the neighbourhood, and even known from time to time to take up residence in other people’s homes for as long as he felt was convenient.

Well, poor old Flash was hit by a car a few weeks ago, and very badly injured. His friends and neighbours didn’t forget him or what he meant to them, and raised nearly £7000 to help with his vet’s fees (with the remaining money being donated to Clerkenwell Animal Hospital, who have been absolute heroes in looking after him)

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Flash, in his better days.

Despite losing an eye, Flash is doing amazingly well and has shown a remarkable recovery – you’d expect nothing less fro the local neighbourhood supercat. You can read his updates from Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (to whom  he was a frequent visitor) here.

Get well soon, Flash!

That’s enough of the soppy stuff

3.       Daniel Radcliffe

I could have nominated him for this response to a question about the sexualisation of Harry Potter, but no. It’s for a rap (priorities, I know).

 

What with this, and Emma Stone, perhaps I should just have “celebrities who rap awesomely on Jimmy Fallon” as a permanent shoe-in for the win.

4.       Soshana B Roberts

 

I mean, we’ve seen this kind of thing before, haven’t we. But it bears repeating, until people take notice. There is no one in my group of female friends who wouldn’t recognise at least one of the behaviours in this video, if not all of them – and seeing them happen to someone else emphasises quite how unacceptable this is.

Also, props to the guys whose response was rape threats. Life – UR doin it wrong.

5.       Serial podcast

Is it even possible to award this to an entity? I dunno – my blog, my rules, I guess. Anyway, at the end of October I discovered the Serial podcast, from the creators of This American Life. It is a weekly in-depth look at a murder case in 1999, and has got me so hooked, I am re-listening to all six episodes so far to make sure I haven’t missed anything before the next episode comes out on Thursday. It’s really thought-provoking stuff, and a fascinating insight into how cases are put together.

Check it out here – then come back and tell me how to feel.

Villain of the month. Oh god, it’s got to be Those Guys from the Walking Dead (season 5). You know the ones. *Shudder*

Do not plan for ventures before finishing what is at hand.

So turns out this Euripides fella knows what he’s talking about, and I probably should take heed. Because this is my current list of Unfinished Objects (UFOs). They will be finished, I promise. The when is the issue. The when is always the issue. I thought I’d share them with you!

1. The Elisalex dress by ByHandLondon

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Am so close with this one – just the lining and the hem to do. So why haven’t I done it? I literally am unable to answer that question.

2. Socks.

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I can 100% tell you why these haven’t been finished. Am 98% sure that these will fit precisely 0% of people. Maths.

3. The Violet blouse by Collette

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All cut out and ready to go – I just need a good stretch of time to get on with it. I think it will be a quick sew. You know, once I start to actually sew.

4. Finlay Fox.

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Is he even called Finlay? He looks like a Finlay. Well he will, when he’s stuffed. And has eyes. And isn’t in pieces on my coffee table.

Poor Finlay.

5. Sweater.

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To be fair, I have only just started this. Which means it might be ready by – I dunno – next Winter? I probs won’t even like teal then.

So what’s on your unfinished pile? And are yours strewn all over your flat like mine?

Today’s quote is from Euripides.