Guest Post

Guest Post: Christmas Around The World

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Today’s post is from Christina at Chrikaru. Christina is a special friend. We are bookshelf-twins, and equally obsessed with getting our hands on every book available. Christina’s other interest is language-learning. Her blog is filled with fantastic multi-lingual flash-cards. She speaks four languages fluently, and is learning four others. Her talent has taken her to other countries, and she has spent Christmas around the world. She has shared her experiences of other customs and traditions. A HUGE thank-you Christina, and it is lovely to welcome you to my blog. birdVietnam

This was my first Christmas overseas and away from my family – I was pretty young and me and my roommate had to work as Christmas day is not a holiday in Vietnam. My roommate’s dad and my brother came out to visit us, bringing the essential supplies of crisps and chocolate. Christmas dinner was local crabs and noodle soup, eaten on a rush mat on the floor of our tiny room, followed by a sing-along with several hundred of our students at the university. Bizarre but unique experience!

Ireland.

Cpost1Christmas back home is a three day celebration. Christmas Eve is spent driving around visiting the extended family, drinking lots of tea, catching up and exchanging gifts. Most years we also went to our church for mince pies, carols and midnight service. Presents from friends and extended family go under the tree straight away, but presents for the immediate family are a bit different. Our family tradition is to conceal them in our rooms, then each member of the family has to sneak downstairs and put them under the tree…all without being caught of course! Christmas Day was always Mum, Dad, my brother and me. The day usually starts with getting stockings from the end of bed, then us all coming downstairs and having breakfast (parents are both diabetic so this is an essential!). My job has always been to sort the presents into piles for each person, then we start opening them. My dad usually likes to read the paper in the morning so I normally have to chivvy him to actually open his gifts! After that we all go for a long walk. When we were younger we used to go to a Christmas morning service too. Then a light lunch before the cooking of Christmas dinner begins in earnest. As a kid I always felt very grown up at Christmas because it was my job to get our special tablecloth out and set the table. The tablecloth started off as a plain white linen one, then my mum embroidered it over the years to commemorate special events e.g. when each child was born, trips overseas, etc. It’s lovely to reminisce about these every year at Christmas! Boxing Day is always spent with my sister and her family – usually we go to her house, exchange gifts and have a second Christmas dinner! On the 27th, most years, my family would host a party at our house when anyone was welcome – a chance for me to see my friends before the New Year and to catch up with people that we hadn’t managed to see before Christmas. Is this very different from your traditions?

Japan

cpost2I was an exchange student in Japan for a year and celebrated Christmas with a mixture of students from all over the world. It was weird having to go to class on Christmas morning! After that each student cooked a dish from their home country to bring to a party, then we shared Christmas traditions from around the world. This still ranks as one of the achievements I am most proud of – cooking a roast dinner in a portable oven about the size of a small toaster! Strangely for me, Christmas Eve is a much bigger deal than Christmas in Japan – it is seen as a romantic day so you often see couples out and about on Christmas Eve. The second Christmas I spent in Japan was with my boyfriend and we spent the day eating lots of amazing Japanese food and playing in the snow!

Italy

Despite being an exchange student in Italy for 5 months, unfortunately I wasn’t there for Christmas. I would really love to spend Christmas there one year, particularly as I love all the stories that surround the holiday there – Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) might bring some presents but the main gift-giving occurs on the Epiphany when La Befana ( a witch) brings presents to children.

China

I spent 4 Christmases in China. Christmas Eve is much more popular but Christmas Day is a normal working day for most people. In my first year I went to work, then to have burgers with a group of my work colleagues! In the second year, we clubbed together with a group of expat to cook a Christmas dinner in my favourite café, fittingly called the Bookworm (a lending library and restaurant completely walled with books!) In the third year and fourth year my work organised a Christmas party and Christmas Day was a quiet one at home with friends. It felt quite odd as most people in China didn’t even really seem to be aware that it is a special day for anyone. In the four years I spent there I did begin to see a change though; every year the number of shops or businesses with Christmas decorations up increased.

Now I’m back living in the U.K.. This year I am spending Christmas with my partner’s family in Austria where they take Christmas very seriously – so excited to find out some new Christmas traditions! How are you planning to spend Christmas this year? Do your family have any traditions they follow? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Guest Post

Dating The IT Guy Blog Tour – Feel Good Books from Krysten Lindsay Hager

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           Book Cover     I’m one of those people who rereads books. It started when I was a kid and my parents would give me an allowance each month to buy books that I would basically speed read through. I truly didn’t understand how to pace myself and I’d be done with all my new books in a few days. My only option was to reread the books until the next month came along and I could get a few new books after doing my chores. This meant I read my favorite YA and middle grade books several times over and found new aspects to them each time. In rereading, I got a better handle on the book and I think it’s why I remember so many of my favorite books from my youth in such detail. I can recall what the characters wore and little details about their bedrooms or their makeup. For most people that’d be a useless skill, but now, as a YA writer, I can use those sensory details to help me write more vivid scenes for my readers. So here are some of my favorite books to read over and over again.

Good-bye, Glamour Girl by Erika Tamar. I read this for the first time the summer after 5th grade. It’s a coming of age story about a girl whose family escaped Europe during WWII and she is trying to fit in in America. Each time I read this one I feel like I’ve peeled back another layer to it as I might learn more about the experience of a girl in a new country or what it’s like to escape real world fears (WWII) by throwing yourself into the movie star culture of the time and thinking that glamour would erase the pain and fears. It’s a striking book and one that never fails to move me.

My Mother Was Never a Kid by Francine Pascal. I read this book as a preteen and it’s about a girl named Victoria who’s about to get grounded and she feels her mother doesn’t remember what it was like being a kid. On her way home on a train, she hits her head and when she wakes up, she’s gone back in time and meets a fun new girl, Cici, who’s wilder than she is and it turns out to be her mother as a teen. I love the book for it’s hilarious moments and because Victoria is a realistic teen with very genuine thoughts that weren’t always PG and perfect. She is flawed and fun and that was something different to see at the time.

Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I read this book for the first time on the first day of sixth grade. I was so anxious and this book was my escape. It’s about three very distinct characters who are also starting a new year of school and I loved reading about the insecurities they had. That book helped me escape from my own anxious preteen life into a safer place where my own worries could be put on the shelf.

Reading is an amazing way to get you out of your own world to a place of escape. I still find rereading my old favorites is a great way to relax.birdAbout Dating The IT Guy

 Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

 

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Thanks to Jenny from Jenny In Neverland for arranging this blog tour. Catch more content from KLH over the weekend.

Chat · Q & A

Christmas Cracker Q&A – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl

The first thing I remember thinking about Harry Potter? I wish Christmas crackers were like that. I was – by happy luck – nine and three-quarters years old when I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time. The plot had me hooked, but it was chocolate frogs and live mice in Christmas crackers which made me want to be part of JKR’s world. 

This Blogmas I will ask authors and book bloggers to design their dream Christmas Cracker. First up is Amy from GoldenBooksGirl. Amy is a new blogger this year. She has so much to say about children’s literature, and so much time for everyone that she’s taken to blogging like a … wizard to levitation. She’s also the blogger who makes me braver. From clicking request on Netgalley for the first time (oh yeah, but it was such a big deal back in June), to asking for real actual proof copies or emailing authors to ask if they will do an interview. Amy, without you the mouse button would still be hovering over ‘request’. 😀 

Anyways. Here’s Amy’s dream cracker:

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Would there be a joke inside? What would it be, or what would you have in place? 

I am not a big fan of cracker jokes, unlike my uncle who takes great glee in reading every single one. 
This is one of his favourites: What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker! It’s also one I can bear, so I’d put that in.
 

What sort of hat would you wear?

I generally try to swap paper crown with the person who has the purple or pale pink one.
 

What would you hope to see inside?

The best thing I have ever gotten out of a cracker (which was from Dog’s Trust) were some really gorgeous magnets with dogs on them. 
 

 Which fictional character would you pull it with?

I am incredibly competitive and pride myself on never losing a cracker pull. If they lose I don’t care who they are, but I’d probably let Ade from Boy in the Tower win as he’s so brave and inspirational and lovely. Or Sam from Ways to Live Forever for similar reasons.

 

Check out GoldenBooksGirl 

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Check back on the 10th of December when 2018 debut author Sophie Anderson will answer the same questions!

Chat

8 Novelty Presents Where The Novelty Wore Off

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There’s no need to buy Christmas presents this year. Not in our house. Between the garage, the loft and the cupboard under the stairs, we have a house full of presents-past, which have barely been touched. It would make a great sleepover, if I could be bothered to go through the packing boxes.

We moved two years ago. Plenty went to charity shops, but the move happened in a small time frame. You have to pity the removal company. They boxed it all up, and here it is. Still unsorted, thanks to the additional storage in the new house.

Here are some of the unloved Christmas presents I would find if I went through the boxes. Reader – buy wisely. You may want it for Christmas, but will you want it once the novelty wears off? bird1-1213888416aexzPopcorn Maker. And Ice-cream maker, and fondue set. We didn’t go so far as the chocolate fountain. The Ice-cream maker had a healthy run during my childhood, but the others were gimmiks all the way.

Scalextric.  Every birthday between the ages of eight and 13, Dad tried to persuade me I wanted a Scalextric. He nearly succeeded when I was ten. Eventually the truth came out. The only thing my daddy ever wanted. As a small boy, he had a car track, but not an actual Scalextric. A family decision was made to buy the one thing Dad had ever wanted. How many times has it been played with? I reckon twice.

Robin Felting Kit. Still knocking around in my bedroom from last Christmas. It’s your fault, Kirstie Allsopp. You made it look so easy. Stab the polystyrene and the felt attaches. Stabby, stab, stab, and you too have a claim to creativity. What happened when I stabbed the polystyrene? The felt fell on the floor, and I made a small hole.

Grabby Machine. Think Toy Story. Think the Clllllaaaawwww. Own your very own (mini) arcade machine, and enjoy infinite goes to get things out. Great fun, until you snorkelling_with_the_swollen_purple_headrealise if you ever want to play with it you’ll have to fill it yourself. Put stuff you might want in, and everybody falls out over the fiver. Put tat in and nobody can be bothered to play with it. We bought this for a get-together and it was definitely a one-hit wonder. 

Hair braiding. This goes back to when I was nine or ten, and was probably advertised in a pre-teen magazine. Hands up who remembers Girl Talk? Star Girl? 1990s Zoella. I have the kind of hair which grows outwards rather than down, and zilch interest in the methods required to tame it. 

71sv4w2iyul-_ac_us218_Adult Colouring Book. It’s mindful. It’s got pretty little bunny rabbits amid intricate designs. I might have finished half a page. 

Modern Monopoly. Like standard Mononpoly, except you get a pretend credit card, and even the brown ones are beyond the wildest dreams of Millenials. Instead of chance cards, some flipping machine can hit you with a ‘chance’ at any moment and rob you of your hard-earned cash. Enough to sour family relations. 

Wii Fit. Not a computer game, not exercise, and it is galling when a nine year-old beats wii_balance_board_transparentyou at hula hoops because you have no co-ordination. Go for a walk. There’s more to see. 

Clockwork Seal. If I had more display space, this would be out. It is an object of beauty. Wind it up and it flaps its flippers. Only … there’s not much more to do with it, and it gathers dust. 

 

rainbow_loom_multicolored_bandsOne I would Keep: Loom Bands. I bought the first packet for ‘research’. Could I teach my Rainbows how to make a simple bracelet? The sparkly blue, the grape-scented purple and the official Rainbow Loom? Those were all for me. This shouldn’t have been a hobby I clicked with. Aside from being 20 years older than the average weaver, I have no coordination. Guess what? I got into intricate designs, as demonstrated by tween vloggers. Great fun. 

 

 

Chat

Delayed NaNoWriMO: Week 1

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Week one? I had 6500 words when I went to London. A week’s delay, and guess what? I wanted to change everything about my introduction. So I cheated. I’m doing ‘delayed start’ NaNoWriMo. 

Let me tell you a secret. When I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t convinced. Word counters? Chat boards? Shouldn’t I be writing? Week One has persuaded me there is value to this exercise. The word counter and word sprints encourage forward momentum. Those words may not be perfect, but perfection is not the objective. This is draft zero. The rough draft. The point is to get something down.

I’m private about my writing, but the second thing NaNo encourages is networking. I have shared a fragment with a couple of trusted people, and their feedback is encouraging. I haven’t investigated the chat boards yet, but it is great to know they are there. Maybe there will be a plot hole in my story which needs talking over, or a character others can help me develop. In the meanwhile, it is just great to have so many people in my Twitter network aiming for the same thing. It’s amazing how a few positive words can keep you going. 

So what about my project? It’s a Middle-Grade novel. I’ve been working on it for five or six weeks, but the ideas have shifted within that time. I’ve probably written nearly 50,000 words already, but that’s across a couple of starts, a couple of endings, and some key scenes. In other words, I’ve played with ideas, and I have a firm idea of some things which will happen. I’ll tell you more later on. There is nothing worse than sharing ideas too early. They come out like unset blancmange. If you’ve ever spoiled blancmange, you’ll know it makes you want to hang up your apron.  

I’m sold on the principal – a month’s hard work to get ideas out. Time limits often spur people on to work, and as of week one, it is having that effect on me. 

 

Chat

We’re all Big Kids. 8 things which have been remarketed for adulthood.

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I’m a big kid. There’s no doubt about it. From bubbles (MY BUBBLES) to bouncy castles to Freddo bars, my pleasure lies in the small things in life. Everything I was told to outgrow by society is making a come-back. Anything goes, I say, but I find it interesting how we hide our interests behind new words to make them feel acceptable. Cosplay or just plain old dressing up? It’s like Harry Potter books with special adult covers. We can hide it behind whatever image we like, but we’re following no-one. Kids might enjoy the same thing, and guess what? That’s fine.

 People are cashing in on our repressed desire to lighten up. Here are 8 things society told me I had outgrown, which have been remarketed to an adult audience.

 

61cpxlc0dcl-_sx423_bo1204203200_Picture books: I’ve heard parent after parent tell children they are too old for the ‘baby books’ and I always want to ask whether their child is too old for visual literacy. Too many people think pictures are only there to help new readers visualise the text. 

Rant aside, too many people ‘outgrew’ picture books. Graphic novels? Coffee table books? Those are acceptable, even trendy. *rolls eyes, and goes back to Anthony Browne’s latest offering. * 

 

Soft-play: By eleven, I got strange looks when I turned up for a go on the indoor slides. It was packed away in the trunk of fond memories, but I knew it would make a come-back. As I type, there is an oversized soft-play world touring the country. As well as family sessions, it opens to adults. There’s a special-needs play park in London which raises money by hosting an annual adult fun day, cos guess what? Adults will pay good money to have a go on  swings.

 

Bubbles: Yep, we’ve established I’m crazy about bubble mix, and yep we’ve done the 4124400890_415214559d_bfish-thing (MY BUBBLES!) Let me guess, you’re much too old for a little bottle of bubble mix, but a festival with a bubble machine? A giant bubble wand? Bubble art? That’s different, right? If we all outgrew bubbles, we wouldn’t keep reinventing them.

 

Stationery: Let’s face it. We’re too old for the back to school shop. But wait a sec, Paperchase sent a discount voucher, and there’s a cute new range. We’re all stationery addicts, and never more so than late summer/early autumn, when nostalgia and the high street marketing wizards prompt us to stock up.

 

Petting Zoos: Last time you went to a petting zoo? Unless you took children, (which may or may not be cheating. Depends on your motives, and how much you hogged the bag ofDSCN2064 feed,) I’m guessing you were about six-and-a-half. OK. Last time you went Alpaca trekking? Guinea Pig Fishing? To see the reindeer at Winter Wonderland? Oh, yeah. Hang on a sec. Same hobby, different price-tag.

 

 

Playground crazes: Not since Pokemon cards? So you’ve never stalked Primark for an impractically-cup-shaped-purse, because everyone else has one?

 

Which leads neatly into …

 

Character PJs: Remember when Disney PJs only came in sizes measurable by age? Heck to that.

 

Claire’s Accessorises: We totally got over that when our acne broke out. Yeah. We moved three doors down to Accessorize, which is a different thing altogether.

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Lego: I’m betting you’ve done one of four things:

  • Invested heavily in Lego, and used the special adulthood tactic of MIAWA (Making it acceptable with acronyms.) You’re an AFOL (adult fan of Lego. That’s a thing.) You don’t play Lego, you construct MOCs (my own creations) using techniques like SNOT (studs not on top). Which is not remotely childish.

 

  • You outgrew Lego at a respectable age, but that Architecutre range? It’s made for adults.

 

  • Explored a treasured childhood collection ‘for nostalgia’.

 

  • Helped the kids. I saw a lot of this during my stint in the Lego store. ‘He really wants the Death Star.’ Yeah. He’s 18 months old, but hey. You’re there to help.

 

Can you think of anything which had been rebranded as fit for adulthood? Do let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Chat · Days Out

September Staycation #2 – Sweet-toothed Trail

You’ve heard of Grasmere Gingerbread and Kendal Mint Cake. Maybe you’ve heard of Cartmel sticky toffee pudding. I live in a region of sweet-toothed treats, which is apposite. I am Queen Sweet-Tooth. It’s a wonder they’re not rotten! Anyway, what you didn’t know is that Kendal Mint Cake is just the tip of the sugary ice-berg, and that actually, it’s not only the Lake District which produces famously fantastic treats. It’s not only Cumbria. It’s the entire border reigon. 

When we lived in London, me and my parents would spend a week’s holiday in a barn outside of Appleby. Our holidays were planned around food and walks – a convenient balance was achieved, and we ate everything from pub food to giant meringues and three-scoop ice-creams.

For our second staycation day, we chose to revisit some old holiday favourites. I was also on a mission to choose some treats for the top of my birthday cake next month. 

First stop was Appleby Bakery. You’ve seen Appleby-in-Westmoreland on the news. It’s that-place-with-the-horse-fair, except it is so much more. I love Appleby, and I especially love the Appleby bakery, with it’s pies and regional cheeses, and tray bakes. Most of all it’s tray bakes. Today I chose a picnic slice, which is basically a Hagrid-sized florentine. 

Ask nicely and I’ll share.

We moved from cake, into chocolate and ice-cream. Kennedy’s chocolate shop in Orton is a gem. Housed in an old school-house, you can see the chocolate being mixed and shaped in moulds behind the shop, and from windows in the cafe. 

The shop itself stocks every flavoured bar under the sun, all made on site. Selection IMG_2608boxes are family celebration staples – my favourite flavours are from the dessert range – butter fudge cream and Mississippi mud pie. You can get an idea of the selection here. Kennedy’s deliver through the post, and I can tell you from experience that the chocolates arrive safely. 

Savoury food as well as is sweet is available in the cafe, and there is a good range of food, including a menu of daily specials. It was nice to see local produce used, such as Lancashire cheese. 

Ice-Cream is also made on premises, and we enjoyed our ice-cream sundaes. I was particularly taken with the idea of serving in long, thin bowls. This enabled me to try different flavours together. As any serious sweet-tooth knows, ice-cream sundaes served in a cup tend to end up looking like poster paint mixed by a four year-old. 

Complimentary chocolate flowers came with the receipt; a cute touch, but if you haven’t come in for chocolate, I defy you to walk out without. One taste and I was sold. Peeking into the factory while lunch was being prepared was lovely. The opening to the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film? It’s not far off. They actually have sinks full of pure chocolate. Good job they keep the public separate. Full of sugar I might have been, but I would happily have stuck my head under and drunk it all up. 

IMG_2677The birthday cake mission was a success: great plans are afoot, and I’ll keep you updated. It’s not until October 13th, but one thing is certain. This year is going to be a very happy birthday. 

Chat

Days of Mystery and Myth. Six Reasons why I love autumn.

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(Quote from Wintersmith album by Steeleye Span. Based on work by Terry Pratchett.)

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Spring is over-hyped. It is more fun now we live in the countryside, and actually see the swallows arriving and the lambsies skipping around the fields. Growing up in London, Spring was a wash-out. Every year, we were promised blossom and wooly lambs and little Easter chicklets. What did we get? Some sad blossom which hung around for half-a-day, and a whole lot of rain which made the blossom stick to the pavement like treacherously slippy confetti.

Meanwhile, we had to listen to the same boring stories about life beginning and the bloke who rode into town on a donkey. Great.

Never mind the renewal of life. Autumn meant conkers. Autumn meant new pencil cases, and pencils which weren’t covered in cruddy pencil dust, (and might never be! You never know!). Most importantly, autumn meant my birthday, while spring meant my sister’s. Which was fun and all that, but mine was the most exciting.

I still love early autumn. The colours are more striking, the food more filling and there is a hint of magic in the air, which spring just fails to deliver. Spring is the sappy season, which vies for your attention with the obvious. Autumn is the wilder, bolder season who throws out all the surprises and still wins.

 

Six Reasons I love autumn:

 

Conkers: Holding a conker is like holding the season in your hand, all the glossy, firey colours bound tighty into one nut. There is also the satisfaction of opening a horse chestnut shell. How can something so spikey be so smooth and delicate? Conkers are collectable. Don’t be fooled by people who say conker collections are for children. Adults are at it too. They collect twice as many, then pass it off as natural decoration, or seasonal garlands.

 

All the colours of the season: Sounds like a sad cliché. You’ve got to be out in it to appreciate. Cumbria in the autumn may be the most beautiful place on earth. We live near the Solway. The local moss (peat bog – bear with me, it’s spectacular), looked as if it had been set on fire and left to simmer down to embers. I’m quite certain it is home to goblins, or maybe there are people waiting to rise from the murk. You don’t get that in spring.

Food: Homemade jam. Blackberry and apple crumble. Nuts and berries and root vegetables. On October 1st, Hommity Pie comes back to Cranstons ( regional food supplier, and purveyor of great-pies-which-make-a-quick-meal.) Hommity Pie is a great option for veggies, and goes beautifully with the nut and leek salad. Well. The extra fat will keep me insulated.

Pumpkin soup: I love carving pumpkins, and was gaining a reputation back in London. I’m not quite at work-of-art level, but I like to do something more than the standard eyes-DSC_0529and-a-mouth. Over the Atlantic, pumpkin carving is HUGE, and it is something the internet has gifted me.

Pumpkin carving means pumpkin soup. We have this once a year, usually because I’ve wrecked at least one pumpkin and it seems a crime to waste so  much fruit.  Creamy soup and crusty bread. Need I say more?

 

Snow Queen. Wintersmith. Samhain: The dark nights and seasonal splendour  have brought out the best in our imagination since the dawn of time. Winter was when warrior tribes huddled around the fire and told stories. The only story about spring with the same bite is the story of Persephone in the Underworld. Even then, it’s the months in the underworld which make the story magical.

 These boots were made for walking: and stomping, and jumping in puddles, and walking around lakes. Sandals are made for looking pretty in, and that is a boring pastime. Not that I don’t have sandals I love, but I’m always happier in a pair of walking books, and as for those fleecy-lined boots I wear into town … they are like a hug for my toesies, and I’m so glad to see them back in action.

 

What is your favourite season? Tell me why it is magical in the comments below.

Chat

Chat: September Plans

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September Staycation: What is this life, if full of care? Everyone, regardless of what the poem says, needs to take time to stand and stare. My family agreed we need to see more of the regional area – we live in Cumbria, but we want to see more of our broader area: think as wide as Yorkshire, Northumberland, the Scottish borders and Cumbria itself. (Nb. It’s not as wide as it sounds. Any one of these places can be seen within an hour’s drive.) As I didn’t go aborad this year, this had become known as our ‘staycation’. 

We have great plans. There are places I want to share with you – bookish places, and places which will capture your imagination as they capture mine. ‘The place where you crawl up a Giant’s nostrils, or something.’ You can imagine my Dad’s face when I put that request in, but guess what? I won. Not only becuase it’s nearly my birthday, and I’m a spoiled poppet. No. The Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire ACTUALLY looks like an epic day out. 

There will be pictures. breakbirdReviews Coming Up: 

Sneak preview. From girls swapping images to prove or disprove feminist theory, to the end of chocolate and the best portrayal of mental health I have read in YA Fiction, September has it all. Plus there is that mile-high TBR pile to sift through, and those Autumn/Winter releases which are making their way on to bookshop shelves as you read. Check back on Friday to hear what’s high on my Autumn/Winter bookish wishlist. 

breakbirdNational Poetry Day: 

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I am super-excited to announce I have an interview with Michael Rosen lined up and ready to publish on National Poetry Day 2017 (Thursday 28th September.) Rosen’s epic poem Chocolate Cake has made its way into picture book form. Among other things, Rosen has spoken to me about the different formats the poem has manifested in. I can’t wait to share this with you. 

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So… here’s to blackberry jam, stories around the fire and all the colours autumn in Cumbria can throw at me. September. Make it a good one. 

 

Chat · Reflection

Six Months a Blogger. Thoughts and Thanks on Reaching 100 Followers

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Last week, I hit 100 followers on my blog. As well as saying a HUGE thank you to my first 100 followers, and a big WELCOME to everybody who has followed since, I wanted to reflect on my first months of blogging.

 

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Since I started blogging:

 

  • I read a wider range of kidlit. My comfort zone used to be MG fantasy. Since blogging I’ve especially gained an appreciation for contemporary settings.

 

  • Reading has become a sociable activity. I can’t wait to share my thoughts with my friends on social media, and in weekly book chats. I’m also on GoodReads, and I swear I’m up to date nearly more than half the time. 😉

 

  • My project management skills are developing. I finally invested in a mid-year diary, and have a system of green highlighting posts which are scheduled. It’s amazing how having a month’s plans on the page in front of you makes it more manageable.breakbirdMy goals:

 

It’s pointless to talk about goals in terms of stats. Either they will or they won’t. Generally, they’re moving upwards, which is good enough for me.I would like to widen the range of my blog to include early readers, picture books and children’s poetry. I would also like to widen reader participation. Think more guest posts, and some polls. (So, which of the above would YOU rather read about?)

 

Great moments:

  • Blogging is ¾ friendship, and the highlight of my YEAR has to be The Salem conversation. The Salem conversation began when I tried to convince Amy from GoldenBooks Girl that Salem the cat isn’t creepy. Cue an hour long discussion, with contributions from my favourite bloggers (including Sarah, Donna and Charlotte. Love you guys) about children’s television past and present. Past was unanimously better.

 

  • Change book tour. Not only is Change a fab book, it was a great opportunity, and such a pleasure to see YA poetry.

 

  • Every time an author has retweeted, ever. Especially if they say I totally got their book. Makes my day, and makes me proud of my degree.

breakbird

 My advice to anyone thinking of starting:

  •  Unless you’re a coding wizard, WordPress is easier than Blogger. I spent my first three months on Blogger, and found it a nightmare. It was simple to set up a basic webpage, but tweaking a small part of that page? The other advantage of WordPress is it links users together – if you are on WordPress, other WP users can follow you, and see your posts in their Reader.
  • Give time to the people who follow you, not the ones who don’t. It’s easy to get hung up on stats, but who would you rather talk to: the kid who thinks she’s queen of cool, or the people who like you for who you are? I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t connect with new people, but the ones who matter most are the ones who connect back.
  •  Don’t follow/unfollow/follow on social media. Might seem obvious, but if you were a technophobe in your previous life you might read about this ‘tactic’ for keeping your stats balanced at think it’s a good idea to cull followers. Well, balanced stats are one thing, but don’t unfollow people you like, or whose content you’ll want to read in future. (Cringe.)

breakbirdFinal message:

 Please be patient with newbies! I don’t need to ask most people, and I def. don’t want to rant.

 The things I have wanted to ask over the past 6 months have been the trivial and downright embarrassing (so, what do you mean, ‘schedule’?) stuff that most people have forgotten.  You think you’ve got something figured, then it turns out there is no hard and fast rule. 

As a new blogger, you haven’t figured what you want to write about, how often to write, how to manage that writing and how much you want to share about your life on social media. That’s all fine. Take it one post, one sentence at a time. Blogging’s an adventure, and I’m so pleased I started.