#30daywritingchallenge: Day 26: My Top 5 Favourite Foods.

As a foodie, a keen cook and baker of course all I think about is food. Whether I’m out shopping, making shopping lists or cooking the dinner, you are completely surrounded by it. I wish sometimes that I could have a personal chef that would do all my shopping for me and cook all the things I need, rather than the things I want or crave. Being a greedy guts it was hard to narrow this down to five things!

Lasagne

I first learned to make lasagne at school in Home Economics. I had never eaten it before. As I mentioned in a previous blog post about my horrible experiences of Home Economics lessons at school, it completely put me off cooking unless I had to. One of the lessons with the critical and nasty teacher we had involved making lasagne. We were asked to bring in a dish to make our lasagne in. My mum found a baking dish which she said was a lasagne dish. As I grew up I realised my mum was exactly right but the teacher said “You can’t use that, it’s too big!” It was rectangular but other people brought in circular ones. I didn’t have to break the lasagne up to fit in the dish but the others did, yet the teacher didn’t moan at them. She didn’t give me enough lasagne pieces to fit across the whole of the dish so that the sauce merged into one. When I brought the dish home we tasted it and despite it looking a mess it tasted ok. Mum said that we could try making it again another time at home. Ever since then I have made lasagne hundreds of times. Sometimes I’ve made awful ones, as my uni friends will tell me about when I tried to put broccoli in one and it came out rock hard! Lasagne was also what I cooked for Mr SmartCookieSam the first time he came round to my house for dinner. Trouble is my son doesn’t like it so I don’t make lasagne much at home any more. If I go out to eat at Little Italy in York for dinner, I always choose their lasagne as it is such a warm and comforting, authentic dish.

Pringles crisps

I can’t get enough of these. If someone buys some, that’s it once the tube is open, I can’t help myself. I don’t buy them myself, except at Christmas or if we’re having a cinema evening. If I did I’d eat the whole lot and more. What is it they put in Pringles, they’re so addictive? I’m the same with Kettle Chips and Seabrooks crisps.

Blueberries

I love blueberries and have them every day in one way or another. It might be on my porridge or with yoghurt or in a smoothie. I love them.

Wensleydale cheese

I never used to be a big cheese lover until I met Mr SmartCookieSam. He got me into eating cheese and crackers washed down with red wine. When I used to go over to his house he used to bring out his Danish Blue cheese with cream crackers. But I really started eating cheese when I got pregnant with my daughter twenty one years ago. Once the morning sickness stage went away and my appetite came back I found myself wanting to drink milk and eat cheese. I must have needed the calcium. I discovered Wensleydale cheese, which recently had been made popular by Wallace and Gromit. Now I still love it and it tastes fantastic with a slice of fruit cake in the true Yorkshire way.

Flapjacks

Homemade or shop bought, I can’t get enough of these. If I bake any I have to put them straight in the freezer or hide them. I haven’t eaten a whole plateful as that is just too much but I could be easily swayed. I don’t know what it is about flapjacks, is it the chewy toffee like texture?

What are your top five favourite foods?

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 25: What I’m Wearing Today.

I love my clothes and what a pity half the stuff in my wardrobe doesn’t fit me properly.  My fault for loving cakes and biscuits too much.  I love getting dressed up for a night out and wearing nice clothes.  I’ve always been a “girly girl” and like wearing skirts, dresses and heels just as much as slobbing around in jeans and a hoodie.

Today I’m not working.  This means that to begin with on a day at home I am in my old scruffy stuff to go out and walk the dog.  Usually this is a tatty old pair of faded jeans with a hoodie or a t-shirt which has seen better days.  On wet days it’s usually a pair of wellies or a pair of Ugg boots and in the summer I’m usually walking around in my Birkenstocks.   If I’m usually cleaning I stay in  my really scruffy jeans so that I don’t get bleach over my better clothes.

Today I am slobbing around at home in my old jeans and a hoodie.

When I get back in from the dog walking I usually put on some smarter jeans and a top.  My latest addiction is buying long sleeved Joules tops and I have several in different colourways.  In the summer depending on the weather I might wear a summer dress or a denim skirt with a vest top.  I daren’t wear shorts out in public as I look horrendous in them.  If I am going out, obviously that depends on the occasion.  Tonight I am going out to a quiz night in a local pub so I am staying in my jeans and Joules top.

Excuse the daft selfie of me drinking in Five Guys but it shows one of my favourite Joules tops.

For work days my clothes depend on what I am doing on that particular day.  I teach all the way through Primary school and also sometimes undertake shifts in day nurseries.  For my Nursery shifts for one of my agencies I work for I have a special uniform which I have to wear, consisting of a brightly coloured polo shirt and a fleece.  I have to wear these with black trousers and comfortable black shoes.  I tend to wear flat black ballerina pumps.  It’s more practical to dress like this when you are working with little ones, as your clothes can get messy and quite often you are sat on the floor of the setting when you are working with them.  If I’m in school I can afford to be a bit smarter.  I personally feel that being a teacher is a profession and you should dress smartly.  Obviously in a primary school it is difficult to wear a suit when you are cleaning up paints and tottering around in heels when you have playground duty but I do try to make an effort.

In work clothes, most probably on a day working in Upper Key Stage 2.
Two of my Joules work dresses.
Occasionally I might stop to grab a Costa Coffee on my way to work if it’s a long journey. 
Wearing one of my favourite Next dresses which is very practical for work.
My new winter coat, found in M&S, it’s a bit bright isn’t it?

I have a selection of loose, comfortable dresses which come from Next and Joules which are ideal for working in the classroom. I end up going to those shops, mainly for convienience as there is a big Next on the Vanguarde Retail Park in York which is really handy.  I’ve also ended up in Joules a lot more at the York Designer Outlet.  I can always find loads of nice things in there.  The winter dresses are usually teamed with opaque tights, boots or heels and in summer bare legs and smart sandals.  If I am working with the younger ones then the heels and sandals are usually replaced with ballerina flats or smart leather flip flops.   I also have some linen trousers in black, navy and white and they get used in the summer along with some summer skirts.  Unfortunately, the summer skirts haven’t had much wear.  I get them out every year and wear them maybe once if we have a bout of decent weather.  Here’s hoping for this year.

img_3598
I’d love to be able to wear heels like this all the time at work as they make me look taller.  I haven’t worn these to work as they’d get ruined but I have navy and black versions of these Clarks Kendra Dime shoes.  They are so comfortable.

I tend to look at what other teachers are wearing if I’m in the same school.  If another teacher is wearing Birkenstocks or Fit Flops then I wear mine.  After all, you still want to be comfortable and stay smart and professional at the same time.  In the winter sometimes working in a school you don’t always feel smart and professional, especially if you are working in EYFS and you have to be outside in all weathers.  Thick trousers, thermals, a warm coat, gloves and a cosy scarf are definitely not to be forgotten in these situations.

Update- this was meant to be two days ago! I forgot to publish the post.

Sam xx

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 24- Things That Make Me Cringe

This topic of today’s writing challenge got me thinking. I’m not a snob but I have standards and there are some things I turn my nose up at.

Crocs

I’m a bit of a hypocrite here as I actually have a pair! Bright pink ones at that. I bought them about 10 years ago when I was in York city centre shopping. It had rained non stop for about 3 days and I needed to go into town. No way was I wearing wellies to walk around town in June. I went in wearing some black ballerina flats but half an hour later I regretted my decision and wished I had got my wellies on! I went into Jones Bootmaker and came out with a bright pink pair of Crocs. I think it was when Crocs were everywhere. They kept my feet dry as I walked around town. What does make me cringe is when people wear them instead of wearing proper shoes or sandals. They should only be worn on the beach or in the garden. I have seen people turn up to parent’s evening wearing them. I’m sorry but it’s not a good look. My Crocs get worn in the garden and that is it! It doesn’t look so bad if children are wearing them but on adults? No way!

Really orange fake tan

I have never used fake tan. Mainly because it looks so fiddly to apply and I know that if I did put it on I would have streaks everywhere or I would look like a big fat orange. I know fake tan has come on a lot in recent years and there are some good ones out there but when you see pictures of really bad fake tans, it does make me cringe. Last year I was due to go to the races with Mr SmartCookieSam and considered getting a fake tan because all the other women going along were regular fake tan users. I was worried I was going to look pale and pasty in comparison to them. Mr SmartCookieSam said not to because he thinks fake tans smell disgusting. I was more worried about the bed clothes turning orange!

Tacky Verses in Greetings Cards

I love sending cards but I’m very careful about the ones I choose. If I see that it has a slushy or sentimental verse inside it, the card stays on the shelf. They might appeal to some people, but not to me. A simple greeting, such as Happy Birthday is enough. Then I might add something like “Enjoy your special day,” but nothing else is needed.

Entertainers who think they’re funny but they’re not

Sometimes with Mr SmartCookieSam I get invited to dinner dances or awards dos with his work connections. A few years back we were at a conference in Dublin. We were in a fantastic hotel and had just enjoyed a delicious meal. We were having a great time until the after dinner entertainment came on. It was a comedian who thought it was funny to pretend to be Pavarotti on the night after the singer himself had died. I thought that was in extremely bad taste and no one found it funny. Another time we were subjected to the most cringeworthy Neil Diamond tribute act. We couldn’t escape to the bar quick enough. He was that bad that lots of others had the same idea.

So there you have it, the things that make me cringe! What things make you cringe?

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 19- What Comes Up When I Put My Ipod On Shuffle?

I love music and always have my ipod on at home (or rather my phone on it’s ipod setting) It’s great having it on in the car. Though, depending on my mood I might have Radio 2 on in the car on the way to work. It’s always Chris Evans on in the morning and depending on how long I’ve stayed at work it’s usually Simon Mayo on the radio on my way home crawling along in the traffic. Those of you who know me will know that Wet Wet Wet are my favourite band of all time but I love lots of other music. This is what came up on my Ipod after work today when I was cooking the dinner. Mr SmartCookieSam bought a fantastic wall mounted radio which also has a USB slot. So I play my ipod or put on Spotify through the speakers while I’m in the kitchen. It does relax me and when I would rather be chilling out, it helps pass the time when I’m ironing, too!

Black Eyed Boy- Texas

I used to love this song and the album it came from.  It was in the charts when I was pregnant with my daughter in the summer of 1997. It has been in my Itunes Library ever since I first got an ipod years ago.  I can’t believe this song is nearly 21 years old.

Summer Of ’69- Bryan Adams

I used to listen to this song a lot when I was a teenager and a student. It brings back lots of happy memories.

Mr Blue Sky- ELO

I had downloaded an ELO Greatest Hits compilation after seeing Jeff Lynn’s ELO on TV playing at Glastonbury a year or two back.  My Dad had the album that this was on so I remember a lot of ELO’s songs.  They are classics and I love listening to them. Mr SmartCookieSam also has an ELO Greatest Hits CD which he plays in the car sometimes.  This song was very appropriate last week when we finally got to see Mr Blue Sky in the UK after all the horrible, cold winter we have had.  But  unfortunately Mr Blue Sky has disappeared again!

The Man- The Killers

I’ve got a couple of The Killers’s CDs and I love listening to them when I’m driving along in the car.  But I don’t know what it is about this song, but I just can’t stop playing it.  As soon as it comes on the radio, that’s it the volume is on full blast!

Dry Land- Graeme Clark

Graeme Clark is the bass guitarist with Wet Wet Wet but has released some fantastic solo material as well.  Dry Land is one of the songs from his latest album The Thought Collector which is a favourite of mine to play in the car and when I am baking.

Faith- George Michael

George Michael was my first teenage crush.  I grew up with Wham and his early solo music and was absolutely heartbroken when I heard the news that he had died.  I’m still devastated.  His music is just incredible and my biggest regret is that I never got to see him live.  I loved the Faith CD and listened to it a lot.  Takes me back to having the CD playing when I was meant to be revising for my A levels!

Forgiven, Not Forgotten-The Corrs.

When I first heard this track, I was mesmerized.  If I could sing and perform, it would be to this song.  I was lucky enough to see The Corrs play live at York Racecourse a couple of years back and they were fantastic.  They sang this too!

Somewhere, Somehow- Wet Wet Wet

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before Wet Wet Wet are my  favourite band of all time and I’ve loved them for 31 years now, since I was nearly 15.  I’ve seen them live loads of times and love their music, but to me Somewhere, Somehow is my favourite song of all time.  It was a single released from their Picture This Album back in 1995.  The song is very personal to me and when I left my last full time post the staff played a photo montage on the Interactive White Board with Somewhere Somehow playing in the background.

New York City- Lenny Kravitz

I’ve downloaded several of Lenny Kravitz’s tracks.  They are upbeat and have a great sound to them.  This song is reminiscent of INXS’ sound, another group I loved back in the day.

Erase/ Rewind- The Cardigans

Although this song came out in 1999, it wasn’t until a few years later that I heard this track for the first time and had to download it.  About 10 years ago Mr SmartCookieSam and I went away for a few days by ourselves to Boston.  When browsing Aer Lingus’ inflight entertainment I put some music on and this song came up.  It was so gentle and relaxing.  Every time I hear it, I think back to sitting on that plane looking out at the clouds somewhere over the Atlantic.

I Wanna Be Like You- Olly Murs and Robbie Williams

I love Robbie Williams and Olly Murs and have all Robbie’s albums except the last couple.  I play his music constantly.  Olly I have on Spotify sometimes.  I Wanna Be Like You ended up on my ipod left over from last summer when I was working in a long term supply teaching post.  Our class had to do a special assembly on a jungle theme.  For our final song we danced and sang I Wanna Be Like You complete with monkey actions, blow up guitars and masks.

Ziggy Stardust- David Bowie

I got into Bowie’s music through my mum and our family friend Paul.  I have a Bowie greatest hits compilation on my Ipod.  Another sad loss to the music world and I still can’t believe Bowie isn’t here any more.  He was one of a kind.

Counting Stars- New Republic

This song ended up being one I heard first in school in an assembly.  Every time I hear it I always want to get up and dance.  It’s the same as when you hear Uptown Funk or Happy!

Runaway Baby- Bruno Mars

About 5 years ago my daughter got the chance to be a dancer in the Harrogate Theatre Pantomime, which that year was Jack And The Beanstalk.  For her audition she had to learn the choreography for a One Direction song but the opening number was Runaway Baby which the baddie Fleshcreep had to sing.

Dancing With Tears In My Eyes- Ultravox

I was 12 when this song came out in the charts back in 1984 and I have loved it ever since.

Adventure Of A Lifetime- Coldplay

Adventure Of A Lifetime being played on the radio takes me back to  my first year as a full time supply teacher driving on a cold, dark December morning to a school in Selby.  I was stuck in roadworks and I remember this song coming on the radio as I willed the traffic to move quicker!

 

 

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 18- My Day.

For Day 18 in my #30daywritingchallenge I was asked to write about my day in the form of a bullet journal. To be honest I wasn’t sure what was meant by a bullet journal. I’ve heard of bullet points but a bullet journal is a notebook where you highlight things that you want to achieve. I googled bullet journals and saw some gorgeous examples of notebooks with beautiful art work. This is something I would love to explore more of and hopefully with some birthday money I am going to treat myself to some bullet journal stationery. In the meantime, though I thought I would outline a day in the life at SmartCookieSamville.

So here goes:

6.00am: The alarm goes off on my phone. It is a duck quacking on my phone. I must’ve been in a right deep sleep as I can’t understand why a duck is quacking in my bedroom. I come round and realise it’s the alarm. I hit snooze. Meanwhile Mr SmartCookieSam gets up and gets ready to go and muck out our daughter’s horse. He goes downstairs, lets the dog out and gives him his breakfast. I hear him swear! That must mean the cat has brought in something or has thrown up! It’s the latter, our cat has thrown up all over the dining room window! Nice one! I pretend that I’m still asleep!

6.30am: I admit defeat and get up. Into the shower to wake me up and I throw on one of my work dresses, some tights and my navy pair of ballerina flats. I’ve not looked out of the window, and it looks sunny. I run downstairs and eat some toast and have a coffee while making a fuss of the dog. He’s sat there looking up at me with his big brown eyes. Not because he loves me, he’s more interested in my toast.

7.00am: I take the dog out for a walk. It’s a quick walk to the end of the village and back. Before I set off I shout my son hoping that he gets out of bed or else he’ll miss the college bus. There’s no way I can take him to college today, I’m working in a school miles away in the opposite direction to his college. The dog is very excited when I say “Walkies” and he wags his tail when I get his lead out. He walks very fast and as soon as he sees another dog, that’s it he’s racing on ahead. The sunny weather is short lived. By the time I’m back from my dog walked, its pouring with rain. The saying April showers rings true!

7.30am: Dog walked, I’m back home. The dog isn’t interested in me any more now Mr SmartCookieSam is back eating his breakfast. I pick up my school bag and hand bag and get into the car. Today it will take me 45 minutes to the school I’m working in and I’ll be driving along twisty and winding country roads. I don’t want to be late. The journey is really pleasant in the morning sun and I listen to Radio 2 this morning as I drive along.

8.15am: I arrive at the school, check into the reception and collect my visitor lanyard. It’s a school I work at regularly and with a class I’ve taught a few times before. The school secretary hands me my lanyard and as she signs me in she asks if it’s possible if I can stay all day instead of just the morning I am originally booked for. This is fine to me and I head straight off to the staffroom to drop off home made carrot cake and Smartie cookies baked yesterday on my day off. One teacher spies them and says “They won’t be there when you come back at break time!” I agree with her, every time I drop off cakes in a school staff room they vanish like a plague of locusts falling from the sky.

9.00am: Register done and I set the EYFS children up for the day with the visual timetable and the weather chart. The children say it is Spring but it definitely feels colder today, despite the sun currently shining. I then teach the children’s literacy input for the day. It’s a quick session and they are really interested in the book about space that I show to them. There is lots of discussion which the class TA records on the ipad.

10.00am: It is snack time and the children sit with their milk and fruit. All I can think about is about that slice of carrot cake in the staff room but I should be eating fruit.

11.00am: Playtime over and full of carrot cake and coffee I’m feeling guilty for stuffing my face. We get on with our Maths input for the day and the children are talking about shapes and moon phases today. When we are talking about half moons one little girl says “It looks like a fat tummy!” and then later she says “My mummy has a fat tummy!” Poor mummy, but then out of the mouths of babes, eh? The children really enjoyed making moon shapes with playdough afterwards.

12.00noon: Lunchtime where I catch up with making assessment notes for the class teacher, eat my own lunch and get things ready for the afternoon session. The children end up having wet playtime which means they are high as kites.

1.15pm: Afternoon register done and I settle the children down with a phonics activity before we do some art and then have choosing time. The afternoon whizzes by but as the children have been in at lunchtime, they are hyper. Typical British weather.

3.00pm: The end of the day and it is story time. I love reading stories to children and they are enthralled by a book about a dragon which one of the children has chosen from the book corner. We then get ready for home time making sure no one has left their jumpers or anything behind. Or I think so as one little boy came back for his book bag 5 minutes after leaving school! He left it on the desk!

3.30pm: Everyone has gone home and I finish clearing up the classroom. Today has gone very quickly but I feel shattered. The class TA has already gone to pick her own children up from school so once I’ve finished I head to take my lanyard back to the office and to sign out. It is 4.00pm and I wearily drag myself to the car park. I check my phone and find about 5 messages and missed calls from teaching agencies and also a text from my son asking me to pick him up an hour earlier from town than originally planned.

4.30pm: I’m home and the first thing I do is to put the kettle on for a much needed cup of tea. I stand in the kitchen drinking it with one hand and empty the dishwasher with the other. Then I go and restack it. I notice that Mr SmartCookieSam has remembered to take the salmon fillets out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner. I completely forgot this morning. I feed the dog who is looking up at me again with his big brown dinner plate eyes and then the cat miaows for his food.

5.45pm: Mr SmartCookieSam is home and says he will go and pick our son up if I cook the dinner. I’m grateful, but I don’t feel like eating salmon tonight. I don’t like wasting food so we’ll have to have it. I choose to cook the salmon with stem ginger, soy sauce and lime juice and bake it in the oven wrapped in foil. We have new potatoes and broccoli with it. I get it ready for 7.30pm when he is back from town with our son.

8.00pm: I’ve cleared away the dinner things and now sat down in the lounge typing this on my laptop. I think it’ll be an early night tonight. Mr SmartCookieSam has some strange channel on TV full of old 1960s programmes. I’m not interested so if I wasn’t typing this I would probably be doing some cross stitch or some knitting. At the moment I am knitting a baby cardigan and matching hat.

10.00pm: As I type it is 8.45pm but usually on a school night I go to bed at 10.00pm. Whether I actually go to sleep at that time is another thing entirely. Sometimes since I started supply teaching my insomnia has really kicked in. Sometimes I fall asleep reading, other times I fall asleep and wake up an hour later. Other nights I toss and turn. One night a few months ago I finally got to sleep at 4am. I was in a long term post and we had OFSTED in the next day. Say no more! Whether I get a good night’s sleep tonight I’m not sure but I am back at the same school I was at today.

Hope you all have had a good day, whatever you have been up to. I know you might have had a more interesting day than me, but I was being honest!

UPDATE: This was meant to be posted yesterday but I completely forgot!

Sam x

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 17- The Last 5 Books I’ve Read.

I love reading and always have a book on the go. I much prefer having a real book, rather than my Kindle. It’s the feel of the book in my hands, turning the pages and having a bookmark when I’ve finished reading. Reading relaxes me and I can’t go to sleep without reading first. Having said that, I love my Kindle as well, but I tend to keep that for when I’m on holiday.

I’ve been having a massive clear out of books that I’ve read over the years as we want to decorate our spare room and office where a lot of my books are kept. I would love others to have the enjoyment that I’ve had but I wanted to share with you the last five books which I’ve enjoyed reading.

The Fault In Our Stars- John Green

the fault in our stars book cover

Although this award winning book came out about five years ago I have had it on my bookshelf for ages. My daughter had read the book and said it was fantastic. I knew that the subject matter would make me need lots of tissues, I knew that it was a book I just had to read. The main character Hazel, who is seventeen has lung cancer. She has been encouraged to go along to a cancer support group, although she is not keen on going. But then she meets Gus, who is 18 at the group. Gus has lost part of his leg to cancer, but apparently is cured. They fall in love and share favourite books with one another. Hazel introduces her favourite book to Gus, which is written by an author called Peter Van Houten. He lives in Amsterdam. Hazel and Gus end up going to Amsterdam with Hazel’s mum so they can meet up with Van Houten. When they get there, Van Houten is rude to them. On their last day in Amsterdam, Gus confesses that the cancer has come back and has spread through his body.

When I first started reading the book, I didn’t realise that it would be Gus that dies but I thought it was going to be Hazel in the course of the book, as her cancer is also terminal. At the end of the book we read an eulogy which Gus had prepared for Hazel.

I have not seen the film but I have been told that the book is much better than the film and doesn’t do the book justice.

With A Kiss And A Prayer- Ellie Dean

with a kiss and a prayer book cover

I love historical sagas, especially ones that are set during World War 2. Ellie Dean’s series is set in the fictional south coast seaside town of Cliffehaven based around the life of Peggy Reilly who owns a boarding house in the town. With A Kiss And A Prayer is number 14 in the series and is set in 1944 about the time of the DDay Landings. It seems at this stage as if the war is never going to end and Peggy is trying to keep her family, her lodgers and her friends safe. She is also trying to keep her part of the war effort going by working in a uniform factory and keeping out of the way of her social climbing, snooty sister Doris. Not to mention trying to keep up with the antics of her father in law Ron and his dog, Harvey. I’m looking forward to the fifteenth and final book in the series which is due out in August.

The School At The Top Of The Dale- Gervase Phinn

the school at the top of the dale book cover

As a teacher, I love reading Gervase Phinn’s books. His books have been great material from his time as a teacher, adviser in Rotherham and finally an OFSTED inspector. They are hilarious and I can picture these events actually happening in a classroom. This book is the first in a new series set in the Yorkshire Dales which carries on from where the Little Village School series left off. His books are full of authentic characters and hilarious lines. New teacher Tom Dwyer who is an ex-professional footballer takes up a new post in a very secluded Risingdale Primary School. It is a very sleepy village where everyone knows everyone else’s business and at first he is not sure whether he will fit in. The other members of staff at the school are an eccentric bunch and the pupils are more interested in farming than the three “Rs”. After a while Tom becomes settled in Risingdale and ends up in the centre of a drama. I really loved reading The School At The Top Of The Dale.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine- Gail Honeyman

eleanor oliphant book cover

I was talking about books in the staff room with some other teachers one lunchtime and this book was mentioned. I’ve never belonged to a book club but I could imagine this would be a good choice to read one month. It is the first novel from Gail Honeyman. Eleanor Oliphant is the story of an office worker in Glasgow who is socially awkward and says exactly what she is thinking. Her life is well ordered: pizza at the weekend, vodka, meal deals every day at work. She is a loner but seems happy with her lot. But everything changes when she meetds Raymond who is the IT guy in her office. She and Raymond end up saving Sammy, an elderly gentleman who falls over in the street. The three of them become friends and help each other from their lonely lives. Eleanor has to confront her demons from her past. I really enjoyed the book and loved how the character of Eleanor developed through her friendshop with Raymond. Although there were some funny moments, the book was also tinged with sadness and dealt with issues of child abuse and neglect. This did make upsetting reading.

Mad Diet- Suzanne Lockhart

Mad Diet book cover

Mad Diet is a book explaining that how our food is making us mad and fat. Reading it has shown me how our eating habits have changed in the last fifty years and how we can help to alleviate obesity and depression by simply altering what we eat. The book also shows how as a nation we are seriously deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. As a result, I have overhauled my diet and now buy locally produced meat and vegetables from a farm shop, I cook mainly from scratch and have now started to take vitamin and mineral supplements. I just wish it would stop me from baking and eating cakes and biscuits!

Now I am about a third of the way through reading Jenny Colgan’s book The Endless Beach.  It is the follow up to The Seaside Kitchen where the main character Flora returns to the remote Scottish island where she grew up.  She is living in London but ends up being sent back to work on the Island of Mure.  She ends up back living with her widowed father and brothers who are incapable of looking after themselves.  As she spends more time there she gets back into island life and opens up a cafe The Seaside Kitchen.  The Endless Beach continues the story of Flora running the cafe and her new relationship with her former boss, Joel who has come to the island to work for an American billionaire who is planning on developing hotel complex on the island.

the endless beach front cover

What are you currently reading and what can you recommend?

Sam xx

 

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 16- My phobias and things I am scared of.

Snakes

I’ve no idea why I don’t like snakes. I’ve only ever seen one in a tank or in a zoo. I think it stems from when I was in junior school and we did a project on animals. We learned about different snakes in our topic lesson once. At about this time I think I saw a TV programme with snakes on and that was it. I was scared of them. I have never been in a situation where I have seen one in its natural habitat apart from when I was in France. Thankfully we were in our car and the snake was slithering across the road. I cannot understand why people want them as pets. I told my family that if any of them chose to buy a snake as a pet, I would move out. So my cheeky son said, “Right, let’s go and buy one now, then!” I have visions of it escaping and it suddenly ending up in bed with you at night.

Thunderstorms

I’ve always been terrified of thunderstorms. I’m ok with them during the day now, but as a child I was petrified when I knew we were in for a storm. I still am frightened of them at night, especially when the lightning lights up the whole room. It all started when I was about 3 and we had a thunderstorm one night. I woke up to hear the thunder rumbling and was so scared by the way the lightening lit up my bedrooom. I ended up climbing into my mum and dad’s bed that night. A few months later our neighbours were babysitting me and I woke up crying to the sound of another storm. Our neighbour said “You don’t need to worry about that. It’s only the clouds having a fight and it’s the noise of them banging together when they’re cross,” It didn’t soothe me and I also felt frightened at my grandparent’s house when I was staying there. Granddad said it was “Only God doing the washing up!” Now as I’m in my mid forties thunderstorms during the day don’t frighten me but I still don’t like them at night. I always felt upset and apprehensive if Mr SmartCookieSam was away in the summer when it was thundery weather. I could just about cope on my own if I hid under the bedclothes but once the children came along I was worried that I would pass my phobia of thunderstorms on to them. I didn’t have to wait that long to test that out, when my daughter was six months old I had a frightening night. I had just put her to bed in her cot upstairs and went downstairs to clear up. Mr SmartCookieSam was working away in Aberdeen that night. The next thing I knew was there was a thunderstorm and the power went off. Although it wasn’t yet dark, I was very frightened. Not only that, but I needed to sterilise my daughter’s bottles in her steam steriliser which used electricity. Before the storm got too bad I had to risk it and get in the car and drive over to my dad and step mum’s house 10 miles away. I was petrified and ended up with us staying at their house overnight. They still had their power and I felt much safer not being on my own. I’m glad I did go over to see them as the power cut lasted until well after midnight.

Since then I have managed to cope ok with thunderstorms if I hide under the covers and cover my face with a pillow if the storm is in the middle of the night. But I have never ever felt so spooked and scared as by a thunderstorm when we were on holiday in France about 15 years ago. We were staying in an old cottage in Normandy which I thought was haunted. I felt on edge all week and couldn’t wait to go home. Does anyone know how I can get over my fear of thunderstorms? I would love to be one of those people who can stand and watch the lightning from the window but I can’t.

Fish

I don’t know why I don’t like fish. I can eat fish if they are presented to me completely filleted, deskinned and boned. If the fish fillet has it’s head, scales or tail on it then I totally freak out. Mr SmartCookieSam thinks I’m crazy and it’s not as if they’re going to stand up and bite me! But I don’t like them. If I go into our local supermarket and walk past the fish counter I have to go straight to the pre-packed part. I can’t stand at the fish counter and say can I have 4 salmon fillets with all the other fish looking up at me! My dad has always loved fish and as a child he kept tropical fish. We also had a tank in our front porch with two Oscars in it. They were giant grey, ugly fish with grumpy faces. I was scared of them and turned my head the other way when I walked past them going in through our front door. One night I had a dream that the Oscars escaped from their tank and chased me around the house. They grew wings and flew round after me. My Dad loves fishing and when we used to go to Scarborough on holiday he used to take my brother and cousin fishing off the pier. One day, when I was about 12 or 13 they went fishing and caught some plaice off the pier. Dad put them in the bath and I was frightened by them flapping about. Later on, they were in the fridge. My Mum asked me to make a cup of coffee and I refused because I’d see the plaice in the fridge. No one would eat them either. My brother threatened to put one in my bed- he was so kind to me!

Nowadays I can eat fish thanks to Mr SmartCookieSam encouraging me to cook them and also through his great cooking. But I still can’t bring myself to gut and skin a fish. On holiday in Italy a few years back I felt physically sick seeing him eating whitebait. The batter was so thin you could see the fish’s eyes through it. But if a fish fillet still has skin on it I have to turn it upside down so I can’t see the skin as I’m cutting the fish fillet. I then have to get a kitchen towel and grab the skin to put it in the bin quickly before I see it!

Flying (especially landing)

Lots of people are so scared of flying that they won’t even set foot on an aircraft. I must admit Mr SmartCookieSam didn’t like flying and he went on a Virgin Atlantic Fear Of Flying Course from Manchester Airport a few years back and since then he’s been absolutely fine. I didn’t go on an aeroplane until I was nearly 32. Mainly because my Dad worked for British Rail so we had cheap train fares and he got a discount on Sealink ferries (which I think is the Stena Line now) All our holidays were usually in the UK or France as we didn’t need to go by plane. My first ever flight was flying with BMI Baby from East Midlands to Paris when I took my children and my mum to Disneyland Par is. I really enjoyed the flight and although it was a strange feeling at first, I soon got used to it. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I started to feel nervous on planes. We had been on holiday to Spain one summer and had a fantastic time in a villa near Javea. We flew back from Valencia to Leeds Bradford airport. It was a smooth flight and I remember us beginning to descend. I could see the turquoise domes of Meadowhall Shopping Centre near Sheffield from the air and then the M62. After that the pilot announced that we were descending and that there was a strong westerly wind. The plane shuddered and lurched as it went down through the clouds. It was a very rocky approach over Leeds City Centre and I felt as if we were all going to die. I have never felt so frightened in all my life. When the plane touched down on the runway I was terrified it wasn’t going to brake enough and would overshoot the runway. Since then I have found out that Leeds Bradford is a difficult airport to land at because it has a short runway, it isn’t level and it suffers from cross winds. Trouble is as it’s our nearest airport we tend to use it for going on holiday. Every time I have been on a plane since I have been fine but when it comes to landing back at Leeds Bradford I feel as if I’m going to die. I’ve flown on my own to New York and to Edmonton in Canada but I never felt as scared then as I do when I land at Leeds Bradford.

One thing about being a parent is that you always worry about passing your fears onto your children. My son doesn’t like flying either, but he feels more scared about turbulence. One flight to Menorca a few years ago involved a little bit of turbulence as the pilot had to divert about twenty miles to the east of his planned flightpath to avoid a thunderstorm. My son was freaked out by the turbulence on that flight, though to me it didn’t seem as bad as the dodgy landing. Since then he has not liked flying but managed fine when he went on a school trip to Iceland a couple of years back. I know that on our summer holiday if I’m sat next to him I’ll be grabbing hold of his hand!

Clowns

I’m not scared of all clowns but I think back to some really freaky clown models that really scared me as a child. When I was about three we moved to a village near Nottingham. At a similar time the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre (which has now been knocked down I think) was built. Just before Christmas that year I remember my mum and I walking through the Centre. By all the shops there were some clown models which were absolutely enormous with huge heads and ugly faces. I was so scared and frightened of them that I didn’t like going into the Broadmarsh Centre. Why they were there I don’t know. Since then I have been fine with clowns but those clowns gave me nightmares for a long time. Whoever designed them has a lot to answer for!