December 2011

Books read in December:

  1. The BFG. Roald Dahl.
  2. The Borrowers. Mary Norton.
  3. Three Hearts and Three Lions. Poul Anderson.
  4. The Faerie King (original). C. A. Cole.
  5. Kingdoms of Elfin. Sylvia Townsend Warner.
  6. Eger and Grime. James Ralston Caldwell, ed. *
  7. Northern Lights. Philip Pullman.
  8. The Subtle Knife. Philip Pullman.
  9. The Amber Spyglass. Philip Pullman.
  10. The Changeling Sea. Patricia A. McKillip
  11. Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins.

Best Faerie Novel: Three Hearts and Three Lions
Best New Read: The Changeling Sea
Best Trilogy: Mockingjay
Best Short Story Anthology: Kingdoms of Elfin

This was quite a month for reading! I both began and ended December with a few days off from the world, which means delving and soaring into realms of fiction. This last week I’ve read a book nearly every day. I read so many excellent books this month that it was difficult to choose bests.

You will find that I have added Books Read in 2011 to the Bibliophile menu. Eighty-six (86) books read in the last 365 days! That is eleven (11) more than the previous year. Maybe, just maybe, I might reach 100 in 2012?

And because charts are fun, I have pie charts showing the books I’ve read each year since 2009 divided by genre. Click below to see!
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Favourite things

The ducks and the Kinnessburn:

This photo was actually taken at the end of October, but it still captures a bit of what it’s like to walk down the Kinnessburn every day to go into town. There is a colony of ducks that people often feed, with ducklings in the summer, and that bridge is the fastest way into town from south of the burn (if you’re walking, that is).

Deck the halls

Cranberry and popcorn garlands. Candy canes hung on the tree. Christmas cards arranged on a card ‘tree’ and placed on the mantle. Books and stockings and nativity scenes.

How do you decorate for Christmas?

Personally, I like the colours red and gold, and lean towards such things when choosing to decorate my tree. Silver and white make their appearances, too: silver apples, white from the popcorn of homemade garlands and from American, red and white peppermint candy canes. I prefer wooden toys — a train set, a small rocking horse, and a nutcracker I just got this year — to lots of images of that jolly red giver of gifts. No Santas go on my tree, the figures have to be angels or small nativity scenes. I love bells, stars, apples.

So what sorts of things do you decorate your home with for the season?

Holidays, holidays

I’m still here! Tis the holiday season. I’m only dropping in to post a few photos of Christmas and then I’ll be back to curling up in my armchair with a cup of tea and a good book.

My mom and I saw my dad off early this morning. My mom will be staying for another week. Today we’ve been lazing around – no reason to leave the house, no guests coming over, just time to relax. My tea and book beckon…


Hi. I’m still alive. I’ve merely been working.

My chapter is trotting and stumbling along. I alternate between feeling good about life and that I’m writing complete rubbish, but that’s normal for PhD students. I’ve been walking around town making silly faces and talking to myself. I’m not sure how normal that is, but it’s normal for me, I guess. Experience tells me that everyone drawn to PhD work is slightly odd to begin with, but during the course of the PhD one frequently goes mad. To the point that my housemate and I can spend days discussing whether there is, and why there isn’t, a female equivalent to the word ‘esmasculate’, and immediately switch to making bad cheese jokes, such as:

Q: What did the cheese say when it saw itself in the mirror?
A: Haloumi!

But I digress.

I’ve been thinking about some of the advice given out during NaNoWriMo, and how some of it I don’t find very useful at all for creative writing but do for academic writing. One such piece of advice is that if you get stuck writing, skip ahead to something else. This has only occasionally worked for me with fiction writing, but it is excellent advice for academic writing. None of my thesis chapters have been written straight through from beginning to end. Instead, I write a fake introduction (it will be rewritten later), and skip around my outline as I have things to say. I leave notes to myself in bold brackets (the easier to see when one is scrolling thorugh a multi-page document), and fill them in as inspiration (or discipline) strikes.

In other news: today is the shortest day of the year. Living through several Scottish winters will make a pagan out of anyone. Happy Solstice! Tomorrow begins our slow ascent to summer and light. We are half-way through the darkness. If all my friends hadn’t left for the holidays already, I would have hosted a Feast of Sun Return tomorrow. I still might, for me.

But it’s back to work for now.

Favourite things

St Salvator’s Chapel:

St Salvator’s, or Sallies, is one of the University’s chapels, named after one of the University’s colleges. The main choir that I sing in, the Renaissance Singers, rehearses here every week.


As most of my readers already know, I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). For those of you who don’t know what RA is or need a reminder, RA is an autoimmune disease in which my immune system is malfunctioning and now thinks that my joints are the enemy. Essentially, my body has started to self-deconstruct. The only way to slow it down (for it isn’t possible to stop it entirely, or forever) is to take lots of heavy drugs which suppress the immune system.

I’m used to the drugs. I’m used to being extra vigilant not to get the flu or other illnesses. I’m even used to the aches and pains I get even though I’ve been in remission for over a year. I check the forecast frequently, can more or less predict when it’s going to be a bad week. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t get frustrated, even angry or disheartened when the bad weeks come.

This year isn’t nearly as bad as last year when we had the unexpected, sudden cold snap that dumped snow over all of Britain. I was home-bound for a week then. But we have had unpredictable weather this winter, too, in the form of sudden winter gales with high wind and sleet, followed by a beautiful clear day, only to swing back and forth again.

It’s difficult to do Work when one wakes up feeling like one’s hands are falling off, or when one’s body rebels and sleeps hours past one’s alarm, when it takes nearly a half hour to walk the one mile into town, or, when one finally gets to the office, one cannot focus for lack of energy or from distraction because one can feel one’s body aching even through the pain killers.

I don’t like to complain. But you see, I have a deadline: finish this chapter of my PhD thesis by Christmas. The days I have in my office are precious — there are only four of them, and this week has been eaten away by meetings, Christmas lunches, and the dictates of my arthritis. So I am frustrated, because I want to work, I have to work, I have ideas and thoughts I want to put into words on paper. Frustrated, and stressed, because I want to get this done.

The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. But because I am I, I will try to get it done regardless. One way or another.

Sticks and string

Despite my lack of blogging on the subject (which I am about to remedy), I have still been knitting and crocheting. I never did post photos of the baby blanket I made for wee Thomas. This is just a basic, giant granny square with scalloped edges. As simple as it was, it took forever because I used a tiny hook and very fine cotton yarn. Even so, I’m quite pleased with it.

One of my goals for 2011 has been to always have a knitted or crocheted project going. With the exception of November – for obvious reasons – this has been the case. On the evening of 1st December, not knowing what to do with myself now that NaNoWriMo was over, I pulled out my wool stash and found something to do with the yarn that I had. Within a week I had made for myself a crocheted lap blanket – also a granny square, but much quicker to make thanks to a large hook and chunky yarn.

And I have since begun work on a fun, Southwestern themed scarf and a Christmas surprise for a wee boy.

I’ve never knit with double-pointed needles before last night and it’s so much fun. Much easier than I thought it would be. I spent most of the day wanting to be home and knitting, and now that I finally am, that’s what I’m going to do.

Fun at work

Yesterday and today were busy days at the museum: Christmas cupcake decorating masterclasses yesterday and a pottery workshop today. I’m wiped out! But the good thing about organising and running these events is that even I get to take part in them!

For instance, here are my two cupcakes (which survived the trip home):

I’m not big into baking and decorating cakes, but having the different nozzles for icing cupcakes would be nice to have for those times that I do!

Today at the pottery workshop, I got to throw pots for the first time. It was marvellous! The morning had been rather stressful, and it was such a nice reprieve to immerse myself in something creative. I made two pots, which the potter has taken away to dry, glaze, and fire, so I don’t have any pictures of those. I really hope they don’t explode! Be sure that when I get them back in the new year I will be showing them off. I had so much fun that I want my own wheel now, and a kiln. Potters’ tools are now being added to my list of things to have at my imaginary country house, with the workshop for spinning and weaving, and the writing hut, and the library…