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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Small mirror upscaling

Just thought I would share a small project I fitted in this week (despite being tired from my daughter now moving from a crib to a bed and getting up really early).  We have just redecorated the downstairs toilet but the mirror was a badly painted silver mirror.  It is a lovely size and design so I wanted to keep it but there didn't seem much I could do with it.

Here is a before photo from Halloween - ignore the ghost.
So I gave it a simple spray paint of white gloss using Valspar satin White spray paint and it now looks quite the ticket against the new darker walls.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Look Hot in a Minivan by Janice Min

How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman's Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom 

The best-kept secrets of Hollywood moms–revealed by the former editor of US Weekly and current Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter.
Current editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, Janice Min was editor in chief of Us Weekly for six years where she documented one of the biggest cultural shifts of the last decade: the making and celebration of the Hollywood Mom. Think Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham, Heidi Klum and Halle Berry—stars who proudly displayed their pregnancies, shed baby weight overnight, and helped turn the once frumpy bump industry into big business. Being a mom had become a style statement: skinny jeans replaced ‘mom’ jeans, Bugaboos became status symbols, and Pilates became a post-natal workout staple. Motherhood became chic, leaving regular moms across America, including Min, feeling both excited and anxious (what, one more thing to worry about?). But in How to Look Hot in a Minivan, Min dispels the idea that looking great post-pregnancy is only for the rich, pampered and lucky. In a style both smart and funny, she brings together top Hollywood experts in diet, fitness, fashion and beauty to show the reader the simplest, most cost-effective strategies for looking younger and better (without the guilt!), proving being a mom needn’t be a style liability.

To start, in compliance with FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.  

I think I just killed the last few braincells I still have reading this book.  It reflected everything I hate about the world of celebrity and the pressure that is put out there to be superwoman instead of just chilling and enjoying your life and baby. 

The author is very contradictory.  She writes that she does not buy into the world of celebrity and that we should not aspire to look like them or bounce back within weeks of giving birth, yet she then goes on to write a whole book about how you can get to look like the very same celebrities!  While the sections on healthy eating and exercising were just common sense (for anyone not just Mums),  the section on different types of Botox/plastic surgery type procedures just made my jaw drop.

The photos throughout of "celebrities" looking good and bad will, no doubt, interest some readers but I hate it when you see a photo of anyone and then everyone gets to comment on how good or bad they look.  What does it matter if Gwyneth Paltrow looks better with a paler lipstick or if someone wears Crocs on their feet (I am sure they are very comfy for running after a toddler), we should just accept them for who they are and their decision to wear whatever they are wearing, who are we to criticise anyway.

I managed to take one positive piece of advice from this book and that is, a recommendation for a dry hair shampoo for those days when you don't have time or can't be bothered washing your dirty hair.  I know I am grasping at straws but I am trying to say at least something positive about this book.  

Although,  I thought the author did have quite a good writing style and dry wit, I just wish she would put it to better use.  1 out of 5 stars for this alone.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Love Me Back by Cheryl A. Baisden

Love Me Back

Saddled with broken ribs, bruises and welts, an uncaring mother, the anguish of lingering sexual abuse, Beth Brown should have ceased to exist long ago. Yet, now, as an adult, she not only prospers in the heart of Kansas City, she also starts to relish the company of dear friends and manages to preserve herself to see the day she is reunited with the long lost love of her life.
In Love Me Back by Cheryl A. Baisden, we stumble upon the gut-wrenching tale of a small town girl who, bursting with love for all that breathes and exists, perseveres despite the forms of ignominy thrown her way.
Its triumphant description of a healing retreat within nature's deep reserve, unyielding good will, and the all-overpowering conquest of sincere love invites a second look at all the travails of our tired, inspiration-strapped world.

As required by FTC, I received a complimentary copy of Love Me Back by Cheryl A. Baisden as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

This is a confusing book.  Written as a fiction story I suspect it is really the authors own memoir, to a large degree and would have been more effective written as a memoir.  In fact, I would have liked it to have been split into three separate memoir books, each covering a distinct time period in her life - much like Dave Pelzer did in his memoirs (A Child called it, The Lost Boy and A Man named Dave).

The story itself had a lot of potential but it was not well written.  It jumped from one story straight into a new one almost without even starting a new sentence.  It felt more like a set of random thoughts and scenarios that someone had written down with the intention of writing it in full later to turn into a book.  It reminded me of the way I tell a story, jumping to the next happening before I have actually fully explained the part I am telling - and that is one of the many reasons why I could never be a successful author.  

This combined with the many grammatical and typing errors throughout the book made it quite a difficult book to read, despite being only 84 pages long.  I found myself having to re-read parts to work out what the author was trying to tell me. 

The publisher needs to get some better Proof Readers and Editors in to improve their product.  I don't proclaim to be brain of Britain or, indeed, very good at grammar but some of the mistakes were unforgivable.  For Example, referring to having "Post Dramatic Stress Disorder"!  Come on, is this a new disorder for actors or something, I assume you mean "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder"  hence the use of the acronym PTSD!  Another example "It don't get any better than this".  Ok they could have just been trying to reflect the way the character actually speaks but, for me, this grammatical error just made me throw my hands up in horror.

A shame as the author clearly has a good story to tell but has been let down by her editors, proof readers and whoever else helped her publish this book.

2 out of 5 from me on this one and only because I actually feel sorry for the author. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do...

I had heard of this book but had never realised what it was actually about or I am sure I would have tried to read it a long time ago.  So when I happened to read the synopsis of it I was quite excited to find this classic.  
Any story about book burning and censorship gets me quite riled up.  I adore reading books and would hate a world where they are not allowed.  Even in today's world of 24 hour TV, ereaders and all the other technology, there is nothing quite as relaxing and entertaining to me than reading a book.    I started this book with high expectations and a real desire to love it.

The concept of the story is great.  Given that it was written in 1950 as a short story in Galaxy Science Fiction and then transformed into a book in 1953, the author was very forward thinking and he got a lot of things spot on.  The dependence of people on large screen TVs and the rise of reality and interactive TV along with the dumbing down of society that it seems to cause.  Luckily, the whole book banning and burning has not happened!

It was in the execution of the writing that I felt let down.  It was just all a bit too poetical and pretentious for me.  If he had stuck to the telling of the story idea it would probably have been one of my all time favourite books but he somehow tried to be too smart - perhaps I am just too dumb - but the style just did not work for me.  It was supposed to be allegorical but  I was just missing what the underlying meaning was!

That being said, I am still going to look out the movie and give it a watch, even just to see Julie Christie in one of her classic roles. 

I gave the book 3 out of 5 for the concept of the story but I didn't rate the writing style very high.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Foodie Penpal - November 2012

I have been looking for some inspiration for my blog and when I saw a post on one of my book forums (readitswapit.co.uk) about the Foodie Penpal scheme I thought it was a great idea.  It started in America on the Lean Green Bean blog (Foodie penpal) and is a great idea where you are paired up with 2 separate people - one to send a parcel to and one to send a parcel to you.  It is a fun way to get in touch with other bloggers (and some non bloggers as well) and receive some fun parcels.

This first month I was paired with Adrienne (http://CrackthePlates.com) to send something to me,  a vegan Blogger who is very passionate about ingredients.  I got quite a cornucopia of herbs and spices and pastes along with a lovely note describing each one.

Included is Tarragon, herbes de provence, oregano, sage, fennel, cajun spice and whole cardamom.
Masaman and Green curry paste.
Coconut milk.
Basil Seeds and Dried Galangal.
Toasted Seaweed.
Various St. Dalfour Organic teas.

Ok so now the fun really begins when I decide what to make with each one.  I was so excited I had four recipes already looked out within an hour of opening the package and that was while I was trying to cook the evening meal!

So here are the recipes I am going to start with.  I will post the full recipes on separate blogs for anyone who would like to try them.

Chicken and shrimp Thai green curry - this uses the Green curry paste and the coconut milk and luckily I had all the other ingredients in my store cupboard - great way to use up those kaffir lime leaves and nam pla.

Cajun Chicken with Chili Cream Sauce - to use the cajun spice.

Beef Casserole with sage cobbler - this uses the oregano and the sage (recipe says fresh sage but I will just substitute the dried).

Roasted chicken - to use the sage as well.

Thai Fish Cakes - uses the dried galangal.  I must admit I had never heard of this ingredient before I received my package so who knew I actually had a recipe that required it.  This is what I am going to love about the Foodie Penpal scheme, bringing a myriad of new and exciting ingredients to my kitchen.

Chicken and Roast Aubergine Biryani - to use the cardamom seeds from the pods.

Beef Kofta Curry - to use the Fennel and whole cardamom pods.  One of my favourite Indian inspired recipes - you can tell as my little recipe card is all stained and puckered.

Please give me some of your ideas and inspiration to use the rest of the spices.

I do apologise to Adrienne for not going vegan with her ingredients (what can I say I am a carnivore) but I will keep on reading her blog to get some ideas for a least one meat-free day each week.

I was paired up to send a package to Jennifer (http://blog.jenn-mann.com/).  Watch this space to see what I sent and what she thought about it!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Megamind 3D

Villainy is a way of life, but if a villain doesn't have a hero to battle, can he still expect the same sense of satisfaction from his evil deeds? When Megamind (Will Ferrell) finally defeats his long-time nemesis Metro Man (Brad Pitt), he ecstatically goes about laying ruin to Metro City, reveling in the fact that he can now have anything he wants. Surprisingly, Megamind's glee quickly turns to dissatisfaction as he realizes that the battle was half the fun and everything comes too easy now. Thus begins a plot to turn the nerdy Hal (Jonah Hill) into Tighten, a new hero for Megamind to battle. What Megamind doesn't count on is that Tighten may not turn out to be as good as he's meant to be. Nor does he anticipate falling in love with his old rival's girl Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). In the end, Megamind finds he must rethink his assumptions about good, bad, and what makes him happy. 
It's an ok movie, a fun way to spend 90 or so minutes.  A good twist on the usual evil versus good movies where the Villain wins and then is lost without his nemesis to pit his wits against.  It is also a good moral of how even someone who has been created pure and good can turn evil.  The 3D effects are better than some other animated movies I have watched recently like Brave.  Not much else to say about it, other than it is offers nothing new from every other similar animated movie but it does entertain for 90 minutes.

Dead Man's Shoes

A disaffected soldier (Considine) returns to his hometown to get even with the thugs who brutalized his mentally-challenged brother (Kebbell) years ago.

This movie is a classic example of a low budget, lesser known movie just getting it right.  It hits hard and is such a powerful story that you are just sucked into it despite it lacking the dramatic effects of the blockbuster movies of today.  Paddy Considine gets the role just right and Toby Kebbell is amazing as his mentally challenged brother. 

The Big Twist - I did not see that coming - and you have to watch the movie all over again afterwards to get a whole new appreciation of it.  No more said as I don't want to ruin it for you.

The one downside for some people will be the accents.  Very strong English Midlands accents are hard to follow at times (and I am Scottish) but do not let it put you off this movie as it is well worth struggling through the dialogue.

Attack the Block

Synopsis: Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing project into a sci-fi playground. A tower block into a fortress under siege. And teenage street kids into heroes. It's inner city versus outer space.

If you are a lover of independent, low budget movies, like me, then you will love this one.  It is billed as a black comedy but some people seem to mistake this for a comedy.  It is not Shaun of the Dead, it is a fairly serious movie with some underlying humour throughout.  It's main message is quite sad with underage boys having to fend for themselves because they have been forgotten and abandoned by their families.  The lead male has the attitude of a much older man despite being only a boy but he has not had an easy life and has had to fend for himself for most of his life.  You can almost understand how he got into crime and being a young thug and can even empathise with him.

The aliens are hilarious and look like evil Furbies but I guess this is because of the low budget.  Don't let the bad aliens ruin the movie though as the story is not changed.  In fact, I don't think this movie would have worked so well had it been shot with a bigger budget.

I am from Britain and have spent a lot of time working in and around London but even I struggled to understand the broad London accents at times.  However, the accents added to my enjoyment of the movie as it gave it an element of reality but I think your average American watcher will struggle to understand them.  Don't let that put you off as it is a movie worth watching.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Brave 3D

Set in the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland, Disney Pixar's Brave follows the heroic journey of Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to change her fate, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane), unleashing chaos in the kingdom. When she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters), she is granted an ill-fated wish and the ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her resources including her mischievous triplet brothers to undo a beastly curse and discover the meaning of true bravery.

What a charming movie.  It was a funny story with all the usual laugh out loud and sentimental parts that Pixar animated films usually have.  Being a Scot living abroad it was also nice to hear a lot of Scottish accents together (even if some were a bit dubious) and even I laughed heartily at trying to understand the "Aberdonian" accent of Lord MacGuffin's son.  It also made me a little home sick to see the beautiful Scottish scenery reflected in this cartoon - there is nowhere in the world like it.

My only concern about the movie itself would be that a lot of the humour felt very Scottish and I think it would be lost on your average American movie watcher.  The story was nothing special and there were several things that happened that were not explained.  Why a bear, for example?  Perhaps, I am just overthinking it a bit.

I was also disappointed in the 3D effects.  While it gave the scenery some depth it felt as if the movie had just been an old movie made in normal 2D and then converted into 3D.  There was some scenes that could have been made more dramatic by using the 3D effect in a more effective way.

So if you are looking to pass 90 minutes with a charming animated movie, then try it but don't worry about seeing it in 3D.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow

With the opening line of "Silver Sparrow," My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist, author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man 's deception, a family 's complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle. Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon 's two families the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another 's lives.

At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers think Toni Morrison with "The" "Bluest Eye "Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just "not" as their mothers.

I had never heard of this author until I went to the National Book Festival this year, held annually on The Mall in Washington DC.  I went with my friend Vicki and we were wanting to hear Jeffrey Eugenides speak so we grabbed some lunch and went a bit early to the pavilion that he was speaking in so we could get a good seat and eat our lunch in the shade (it was an unseasonable 80 odd degrees outside).  By going into the pavilion early we ended up hearing the author, Tayari Jones, read an excerpt from her latest book (this one) and just generally discuss her life and writing.  She really made an impact on me.  She was just so "real" and well spoken and funny and just everything I would want from a friend, never mind a writer, so I thought I would seek out any of her 3 books and give them a go.  I started with this book, which is her third, because it jumped on me from the express shelf in my local library.  I was hoping I would not be disappointed after having such high hopes and a high opinion of the author from the book festival.

I loved this book.  She has a very smooth style of writing that just reflects the everyday lives of real people without any unnecessary drama - ok, perhaps there is some drama in a bigamist relationship but somehow she managed to reflect the characters lives as if you were there living it with them.  She also managed to get across the African American characters without having to opt for writing the whole book in a stereotypical Negro vernacular, which, quite frankly, I do not enjoy and ruins a perfectly good story for me. 

I couldn't put the book down and I got worried towards the end as I wondered how she would tie it all up.  I hoped she wouldn't go for the dramatic effect with a courtroom showdown, like Jodi Picoult excels at.  I was not disappointed.  Without inserting spoilers, the ending felt like what would happen in the "real" world and didn't have to resort to unnecessary drama to sell the book.

An author to really watch out for and I will definitely be looking out for her first two books, Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, for future reading.    5 out of 5 from me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Legendary director Ridley Scott (Alien) returns to his sci-fi origins in this epic adventure bursting with spectacular action and mind-blowing visual effects. A team of scientists and explorers travels to the darkest corners of the universe searching for the origins of human life. Instead they find a dark, twisted world that hides a terrifying threat capable of destroying them...and all mankind!

Being film geeks, my husband and I actually watched all the Alien movies (except the versus predators ones) prior to watching this so we would have a full, current understanding of all that had happened throughout the story. We thought this would give us a good base to watch this one letting it answer all our questions on where the aliens actually originated from. A bit of a waste of time as watching this movie actually gave us more questions than answers. Is there going to be another one? As, in my opinion there needs to be to fill the gap where this movie ended and the original Alien movie started.

Stand alone it was quite a good watch. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander from the original foreign language Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) is a good actress. She does need to work on her British accent as she started the movie herself (and the child version of her) with a very broad, posh English accent but ended up speaking in accented English, a small criticism but one that can ruin a great movie for me.

Guy Pearce is another favourite actor of mine but he just didn't work very well in his role in this movie. He was obviously a young man trying to play an old man. Just no need for that given the number of great older actors out there that would have fitted the bill so well.

Like I said, so many more questions which let the movie down but I won't list them here as they are spoilers for the story.

I wouldn't rush out to watch this but it did pass a couple of hours in a quite entertaining way. I hope there is another one to answer my questions. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin

Going Rogue: An American Life

On September 3, 2008 Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gave a speech at the Republican National Convention that electrified the nation and instantly made her one of the most recognizable women in the world.
As chief executive of America′s largest state, she had built a record as a reformer who cast aside politics-as-usual and pushed through changes other politicians only talked about: Energy independence. Ethics reform. And the biggest private sector infrastructure project in U.S. history. While revitalizing public school funding and ensuring the state met its responsibilities to seniors and Alaska Native populations, Palin also beat the political "good ol′ boys club" at their own game and brought Big Oil to heel.
Like her GOP running mate, John McCain, Palin wasn′t a packaged and over-produced "candidate." She was a Main Street American woman: a working mom, wife of a blue collar union man, and mother of five children, the eldest of whom was serving his country in a yearlong deployment in Iraq and the youngest, an infant with special needs. Palin′s hometown story touched a populist nerve, rallying hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans to the GOP ticket.

I like to think that my reading choices are politically, religiously, and in many other ways, unbiased so after reading the two Barack Obama books - Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope - I thought I would give this book a try.  It has been lying on my tbr (to be read) shelf since 2009 after the last election so when I needed a new book to read on this years election night, I thought what better choice, I would finally give this one a go.

It was a very interesting book.  This woman should be the next President of the USA as she seems to have all the answers to all the problems and has the drive and ability to implement them.  Or at least according to herself in this book. 

I won't get political but I did agree with some of her points and disagree with some, which ones are my own business but I could not get over how much this person thinks of herself.  I guess to go into politics one has to think quite highly of oneself but she seemed to come across (as they say in Scotland) "Up her own arse", which basically means it is all about her and everyone else must be wrong.

I understand that you cannot believe everything you see in the media and that editing can make anyone look anyway the editor wants so what is the real truth?  In my opinion, it must be somewhere in the middle between the media portrayal of Ms Palin and her own opinion as expressed in this book.  She has quite the conspiracy theories going on about everyone around her.

The writing itself was a bit mixed up.  The book could not decide whether it was her personal memoir (like Dreams of my Father) or her political manifesto (like The Audacity of Hope) and she would have been better splitting it into two books just like President Obama did with his.  I would have enjoyed to read her personal story on it's own more and then had the choice to read her political story separately.

The story itself showed a lot of naivety in the author and her surprise at the backlash after and during her VP candidacy must have been expected (even if it isn't nice, sadly, that is the way of the world today).

I have given it 3 out of 5, which you may think is quite generous, but it wasn't a badly written book and it did keep me reading to the end so credit where credit is due.  Not one I would recommend reading unless you have a particular interest in the author and I can't think of any reason why anyone outside her own family would!

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County

The legendary love story, the bestselling hardcover novel of all time, and the major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. This is the story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for fulfillment of a girlhood dream. It shows readers what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again

This book was chosen as one of my book group reads and I must admit about groaning before starting it and going into it with a biased view.  I do not like Clint Eastwood movies and associated this book with a Clint Eastwood movie (even though I haven't even watched it) so I thought it would be everything I hated about an old fashioned, bodice swelling love story.

I could not have been more off the ball on this.  I could not help compare the book to the classic book, Love Story by Erich Segal as it was set over a short period, it was pithy and to the point.  I thought the writing style was just divine as it flowed like a chocolate fountain and was so descriptive that I could picture each location as if I were there myself.  I am so glad he kept it short and to the point as it did not allow all the unnecessary sloppiness that is usually inserted in these types of novels and it kept it true to the short time period (a few days) that the love element actually happened.

I have a confession!  I actually shed a tear and felt my heart breaking for the two main characters as I so wanted a happy outcome for them, even many years later.  I usually hate happy endings but this is one book that I wanted to have one.  I wasn't actually disappointed though that it didn't have a happy ending as the actual ending was just true to the overall story.  Sorry can't say more as do not want to insert a spoiler.

So, a pleasant surprise from my original bias and a movie I now want to watch.  I guess I will try and get the book group together after the discussion to watch it.  5 out of 5 from me and if it can make a cynic like me cry then everyone else will be weeping buckets of tears!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New DIY Workshop

My new hobby is refurbishing old furniture and items around the house.  I have a number of items that I have inherited from my Mother as she did from her Mother and most are so old that they are truly antiques.  I love antiques and would never throw out these items as they have some family meaning, even if they have no monetary value.  So I decided to give a number of them a facelift, partly inspired by the work of my friend Susan (Mrs Mac) on her blog (check her out http://mac-adventureswithbooks.blogspot.com/).

I started with an old wicker chair but this was before I had decided to blog about it and it was an experiment to see if I enjoyed doing it and was any good at it.  It turned out quite well.  It was very sturdy and I could not find one of similar quality to buy so I was pleased with it's new lease of life.

Motivated by this we decided to clear out the garage and put in a little workshop/table for me to potter about with.  This would also help me with the kitchen garden I am planning for next year (but more about that in the future). 

So we built these shelves with a worktop and I am enjoying pottering around each day.  It is a bit messy as I have not got around to organising it properly yet and I just finished my ottoman on it.

I took this old Ottoman which had been given to my sister by my Mother and she had then painted it from the original pukey pink to this gaudy gold but leaving the pukey pink on the inside.  It also had a number of scratches and stains inside.

The upholstery was redone very badly in a cream material which I pulled off to find the original and very dirty pink material.  I pulled this off as well thinking it would be easy to just cover the seat with some new material but the actual padding was the original padding and was so disgusting that I threw it out immediately.  It was so old it probably contained asbestos or some other now banned substance.

I just took my time playing around with it.  Filling the many tack holes in with Elmers Wood filler and sanding down with a medium sanding block.  I removed all the hardware to decide what to do with later.

After careful filling and sanding I decided to spray paint the outside with Antique Bronze.  This was to darken the gaudy gold and make it complement our old brass bed that it was going to live beside.

I wanted a contrast on the inside so I painted it with a sandy/oatmeal colour.  This took some time as I had to mask off each section carefully between coats. 

So after painting, and I was pleased with how the colours turned out, I started on the seat.  It needed some new cushioning and new cover.  I just bought some simple foam padding for the cushion and cut it to shape.

  I then chose some material (from Jo-Ann's stores, great place for sewing enthusiasts and crafters).  I wanted to get an old fashioned material that had a similar pattern to the original material to give the ottoman an authentic aged feel. 

This was my first ever attempt at upholstery so I, again, took my time and just thought through each problem as I encountered it.  The main one was how to tack the material down and make it pretty.  The options I thought of were to get decorative tacks or to somehow hide the tacks.  I couldn't find decorative tacks that I liked and I was also nervous about getting them in line and to look good so I went with the option of regular tacking and then hiding the tack heads in some way.  Again, Jo-Ann's was an inspiration as I found some material braiding that complemented my colour scheme and the wonderful product of Liquid Stitch.

 I will be using liquid stitch a lot in the future I am sure.  It can be used for hems and will go through washing and dry cleaning!  Anyway, it seemed to work for me as I like the look of the final result.

Finally, I had to put the thing back together.  I was left with the problem of getting hinges that looked good and a new handle, as the old handle was cheap looking and flimsy.  The hinges were troublesome as I couldn't get anything suitable in my local DIY stores, so I just decided to spray paint the old hinges and see what they looked like.  I think they look great! 

The handle was quite easy as there was a great choice in my local Lowes diy store, although, of course, being old and European the required screw size to fit it all together was not US standard but I managed to get one that was very close and works for now.

So here is the final result sitting, for now, at the bottom of our brass bed stead. 

Roll on my next project.  It is a big one as I am going to try and refurbish the old wooden cabinets in my daughters bathroom.  My inspiration for this project came from the blog http://www.centsationalgirl.com, really worth a read as it has given me a lot of practical advice and confidence to give it a go.  So watch this space for the results.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Unexpected by JAJ

The Unexpected

When Hamilton's wealthy mother is suddenly killed in a plane crash, the initial theory of an accident doesn't sit well with him-in fact, he starts to believe his father and Mrs Davis, the woman who has been like a mother to him his whole life, had something to do with it.

As required by FTC, I received a complimentary copy of The Unexpected by JAJ as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

I chose this book to review as the synopsis sounded very interesting and I thought what a great idea for a story.  I was right, it was a great idea for a story and really had so much potential.  It had a few characters who were all necessary to move the story along, it had the intrigue of a secret, it had the unexpected twist and it had an unexpected ending(or so you thought) but somehow the author just did not do this justice.

To start, it was far to short.  At only 60 pages long it is more a short story than a novel but without the snappiness of a  short story.  Given the subject matter this had the meat for a significant sized novel and would have been great had the author added more suspense to it.

What he did was just tell the story as if it was just a story guide he had written and then meant to go back and add some meat to it later to make a proper novel.  To me it was more like a book of notes that the author had put together outlining the story he meant to write.

The tone used was also very formal.  The dialogue did not flow smoothly in a normal speech pattern but it was stiff and stinted in a way that one would write if they were desperately trying to get the grammar correct and write a conversation in full without taking account that people, even formal ones, tend to speak in a flowing almost informal way.  In short, the writing of the dialogue felt forced.

Another minor gripe was the cover (see picture above) it did not match the story in subject or era and it gave the book a very amateur feel about it.

Such a shame as this had so much potential but I can truly only give it a 2 out of 5.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid

Moth Smoke

When Daru Shezad is fired from his banking job in Lahore, he begins a decline that plummets the length of this sharply drawn, subversive tale. Before long, he can't pay his bills, and he loses his toehold among Pakistan's cell-phone-toting elite. Daru descends into drugs and dissolution, and, for good measure, he falls in love with the wife of his childhood friend and rival, Ozi—the beautiful, restless Mumtaz.

Desperate to reverse his fortunes, Daru embarks on a career in crime, taking as his partner Murad Badshah, the notorious rickshaw driver, populist, and pirate. When a long-planned heist goes awry, Daru finds himself on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. The uncertainty of his fate mirrors that of Pakistan itself, hyped on the prospect of becoming a nuclear player even as corruption drains its political will.

After reading the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist by this author, I loved that book so much that I wanted to read more of him.  This is his debut novel so I was expecting an interesting read.

Written in an entirely different way from The Reluctant Fundamentalist this book still reflects the authors similar underlying writing style.  It is a lot more meandering in it's story and does jump between time scales and even which person each chapter is written in and I mean by a different character as well as being in first, third person etc.  Because of the underlying style of the author I quite liked this book because I like his style but if you did not love The Reluctant Fundamentalist you would probably not like, or get, this novel.

The concept of the story is good and dramatic and the author starts the build up to where it is leading at an early stage.  I was keen to keep reading to see where he was taking us with the story.  I did begin to get a bit worried when I only had about 40 pages left to read while feeling that there was still a lot to be explained and resolved.  This is where it disappointed me.  I don't think the author gave it enough depth or explained a lot of things that, really, needed to be explained.  Now I know The Reluctant Fundamentalist (and I hate to keep harping back to this book) left a lot unexplained and that was part of the appeal of that novel, being able to decide your own ending and who was the bad guy and who was the good guy.  The same concept just did not work for this story.  To make it better the author should either have made it shorter and sharper or longer and with more explanation and resolution in the story.

A good debut novel but if you want to try this author for the first time then I would suggest you start with his book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and then read this one.  3 out of 5 from me.