Facing my nemesis…or thinking about trying to…

So, Christmas happened and now it’s 2017. Time for resolutions and all that malarkey that I usually don’t have any time for. But I gotta get on it this year because there are a few positive changes that I need to make in my life.

The quick version: Move more, eat better.

The long version:

Exercise. I hate the idea of this so very much but I need to just suck it up and start moving. I’ve put some extra pounds on lately (Christmas definitely didn’t help) and it’s really starting to get to me. On a good day, I merely dislike my shape. On a bad day, I get angry at myself for putting the weight on in the first place. It all builds up and becomes a major catalyst for my anxiety issues. I’ve been saying for years that I need to start doing some exercise and now I finally need to do something about it.

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My nana’s fat little cat Tiger is the cutest thing when she waddles about on her pudgy little legs. It’s less cute when I do the same thing.

I should note here that I was determined to start my new regime tonight but got sidetracked because the cat came and fell asleep on me. I obviously couldn’t move her because I’m not a cold-hearted monster so I immediately abandoned my plans. Even when she leap off me ten minutes later. Nope, can’t exercise now. Not my fault.

I could of course be exercising right now. But instead I’m sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas and blogging about how I should be exercising right now.

So, yeah. I don’t have the greatest willpower in the world when it comes to this sort of thing. Exercise is deadly boring, it’s hard work, it generally requires a degree of physical coordination that I just don’t possess, and it’s time that could be better spent reading and drinking tea. BUT I need to get on with it. Maybe telling the internet my plans will somehow be the answer…

Or maybe I just need the right kind of motivation. I could try pretending that I’m preparing for the apocalypse or convince myself that the amount of exercise I do is somehow linked to the amount of Jago & Litefoot released by Big Finish.

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2017 me needs to eat less like Dean, more like Sam

The second part of this resolution is eat more healthy food and less crap food. I need to welcome vegetables back into my life. My diet of late has been atrocious and I’m hoping that being more mindful of what I’m eating will help me feel a bit better overall. I’m definitely not planning on being ultra-strict about it, mainly because I know that won’t work for me. I don’t play by anybody’s rules, damn it, but especially not my own! But, you know, the odd few carrots or bit of lettuce would be good.

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My future

Damnit, I’ve gotten distracted by Supernatural gifs. Now I’m not even blogging about how I should be exercising…

 

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I don’t want to do things, I want to not do things

Anxiety is a total fucker. It comes out of nowhere, refuses to listen to reason, and can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable.

Case in point: I finally went to the hairdresser yesterday after putting it off for months. I was a badly-needed visit. My fringe had grown past the end of my nose, the ends of my hair were starting to resemble rat tails, and the grey hairs I started to grow at 17 have been pushing their way through with a vengeance.

I’ve hated my hair lately and it’s made me feel terrible about myself everytime I’ve looked in the mirror or left the house. So why did it take me more than two months to just go and get it sorted?

Anxiety. That’s why.

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Certain things can trigger my anxiety and once that happens, everything makes me anxious and then I get trapped in endless cycles. For example, feel anxious and miserable because of physical appearance, fail at going to the hairdressers, feel even more anxious and miserable.

I put it off for so long because it’s something I find hard to face. I’m aware that probably sounds ridiculous but it’s true. First I have to actually pick up the phone and talk to someone to make an appointment. Get through that and the only reward is having to actually visit the salon.

I’m usually convinced that the stylists are judging me harshly for letting my hair get into such a terrible state in the first place. They’re always perfectly friendly and give no indication that they’re thinking any such thing but my brain insists that they’re just very good at acting and hiding their true disgust. I feel the need to apologise for my hair and have been known to invent reasons why I’ve left so much time pass between appointments.

And then they ask me what I want done with my hair. I usually mumble for a bit while internally I’m screaming “I don’t know, I have no idea, I’m not a proper person, please just make me look like a human woman”.  In the end, we just agree that I’ll have the same cut and colour as my previous visit.

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Now that all the logistics are sorted, it’s onto the small talk. It won’t come as a surprise that I struggle with this bit. I’m usually determined to try my best but I inevitably turn monosyllabic, like I’ve got a daily quota of words I can say and I’m scared I’ll reach my limit too soon. The stylist usually gives up after a while and we lapse into uncomfortable silence instead.

There’s a brief reprieve when I’m left alone to read while waiting for the colour to take. Once that’s over and my hair has been rinsed, it’s time for the actual haircut and more questions about what I want. How long do I want my fringe? Where should my parting be? When is this going to end so I can go home and drink tea? There’s usually another failed attempt at small talk and then it’s done. I’ve got my glasses off during all this so, when asked if I’m happy with it at various stages, I just smile and nod at the head-shaped blur in the mirror.

And that’s pretty much it. That’s my usual trip to the hairdresser. Sometimes it goes ok, other times my anxiety kicks in and it goes like I’ve just described above. When it’s the latter, I get annoyed at myself for letting anxiety get to me so much and I berate myself for not being stronger, more sensible, more, well, normal.I channel all my feelings into anger at myself for not just getting on with things. And, next thing you know, we’re back in that endless cycle of anxiety again.

I’m going to try something new though. I’m not going to berate myself, I’m going to tell myself that I achieved something yesterday. I’m going to ignore the fact that mental processes made it the experience more difficult than it should have been and choose to focus instead on the fact that I went and did it and got through it.

If you’re reading this and have never suffered social anxiety, you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts and shouldn’t be spilling my crazy all over the internet. Tough. This is my tiny part of the internet and I’ll do what I want with it. That’s why there are so many Dean Winchester gifs and photos of my cat on here. Writing this has been pleasingly cathartic and is helping nudge me towards seeing yesterday as an achievement rather than evidence of inability to function.

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Screw anxiety. This level of chill is what I should be aiming for.

It’s like I said at the beginning of this, anxiety is a total fucker. It turns rationality on its head and makes simple activities and interactions feel like major challenges. I haven’t learned how to banish it yet but I think I’m making a good start by learning to occasionally acknowledge personal achievements rather than failures.

Jago and Litefoot visit the Doctor Who Experience

I’m more than happy to admit that I love Jago and Litefoot with all of my little geek heart. For the uninitiated, Mr Henry Gordon Jago, a theatre impresario, and Professor George Litefoot, a police pathologist, are the eponymous Victorian heroes of an audio drama series from Big Finish. They started life as characters in the Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Tom Baker Doctor Who story, and were revived by Big Finish 30 years later.

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“Mammy, why you taking photos of a dress when you could be feeding me my hams?”

I like to literally wear my fandoms but how are you supposed to do this when no appropriate merchandise exists? You just have to make your own, don’t you?

I spent some time mulling over the idea of getting some custom-printed Jago and Litefoot fabric but I couldn’t come up with an appropriate design. Mainly because I can’t actually draw or design. Luckily I came across some fantastic artwork on Instagram by Johanna Jetsonen, a talented artist and a fellow lover of those two intrepid investigators of infernal incidents.I got in touch with Johanna who kindly gave me permission to use one of her creations as the basis for my fabric.

I uploaded the image to Contrado, played with the settings and ordered my fabric. I didn’t find Contrado particularly user-friendly and ended up with less fabric than I’d intended. Next time I think I’ll try another company.

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Jago and Litefoot’s fabric counterparts meet the Ood!

One plus point for Contrado is the huge range of fabric options available. I ordered a bundle of swatches and they’re so much fun to paw through. The colour has faded slightly on the fabric but it has stood up pretty well to quite a few tumbles in the washing machine.

As the fabric was much more expensive than I would normally go for, I had to pair it with Simplicity 2444. I wasn’t going to trust an untried or awkward pattern with my precious! As I ended up with less than 2m of fabric, I also had to get creative. Which is my way of explaining why the back bodice, the binding on the armholes and the random band on the skirt are all in a plain blue fabric.

I think it matches fairly well. It was the best match I could find in my local fabric shop and I was far too impatient to look for something online.

My only complaints with this dress are that, even with the blue band, it’s shorter than I would like and the bodice is also a bit tight. Not sure how I managed that one but I suspect it may have shrunk a tiny bit when washed. I did prewash it but maybe I should have washed a couple of times before cutting.

I made the dress months ago and have wanted to blog about it for ages…I just had my usual problem of needing photographs of it. An opportunity arose last week when my baby brother visited and, as is our yearly tradition, we went to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay? Where better to get photographs of my Jago and Litefoot dress?

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Jago and Litefoot encounter the TARDIS, not for the first time

One of the excellent things about living in Cardiff is having the Doctor Who Experience practically on your doorstep. Well, not my doorstep. It’s more like a 30-minute walk and a 5-minute train journey from my doorstep. Still counts though. They ask you not to ruin the Experience part for others with spoilers so I won’t say much about it except to say that anything involving Peter Capaldi rocks.

As baby brother insists on going to the Doctor Who Experience when he visits every year, I like that they always update the exhibition part with props, costumes and monsters from the latest series. My favourites of these newest exhibits include the painted TARDIS tribute to Clara, Paternoster Gang costumes, and the Doctor’s punk rock outfit.

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Fabulous steampunk details on Jenny’s costume

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If only recreating this wasn’t completely beyond my skills

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Still swooning at this stunning River Song outfit

 

I’m still waiting for the day when a stranger recognises Jago and Litefoot on my dress. It didn’t happen at the Doctor Who Experience so it may never happen. Oh well. The important thing is that I can leave the house liberally covered in Victorian gentlemen and some Ood. And not many people can claim that. One day my brother will claim it though. He’s now demanded a Jago and Litefoot shirt and I can’t exactly refuse given that he’s the one who introduced me to the gentlemen in the first place.

Supreme sewist of stylish sartorial specimens, that’s me.

After all this time?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Harry Potter lately. There are several reasons for this including the release of the Cursed Child scripts, numerous Whatsapp discussions revolving around Oliver Wood, and re-watching most of the films ahead of a recent trip to the Warner Brothers Studio.

In a nutshell, I bloody love the Harry Potter universe and I will defend it to the death. What’s really struck me lately is how much of this is down to the memories associated with it. Sure, I love the stories and the characters, but I also love how much it’s been part of my life for more than a decade.

mcgonagallbiscuitI ignored the initial hype surrounding the first three books when I was still at secondary school, dismissing them as the sort of nonsense my little brother read. I was deep in a Yeats and Wilde phase at the time and thought kids books were far beneath me. And then, one Thursday evening, I met a man named Arthur Lemon. I know that doesn’t sound like a real name but it is and it perfectly suited this kind, gentle old man. I’d become interested in public speaking, mostly because I enjoyed the speech-writing element, and had joined a group which he was also a member of. In conversation one evening, the Harry Potter books came up and, appalled to learn that I hadn’t read them, Arthur insisted that I do so immediately. And I did, because I valued his opinion and dammit he was right. He died a year or two after I first met him but I’m glad I got to know him a little bit and he’s forever bound up with my memories of first discovering Harry Potter.

I’ve already written in a previous post about how the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was an important bonding moment for my friendship with the lovely Kate and Sile. It goes much deeper than just the Half-Blood Prince though. Harry Potter is one of the threads that binds our friendship together. It’s that wonderful feeling when you find someone else who loves a book series just as much as you do. In fact, the first time I met Kate was in a lecture at university when she recognised the Death of Rats necklace I was wearing. Book geeks for the win.

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Hermione reaction gifs are the best

I have extremely fond memories of seeing many of the films at the cinema because I saw them in Ireland with my mother and my brother. I don’t get to visit home as much as I’d like to so, when I am there, I always appreciate our ritual of going to the cinema even if my mother does spend half the time telling me off for talking or putting my feet up on the seat in front of me. Seeing Goblet of Fire stands out in particular because of the shame I apparently brought on our family by crying when Cedric Diggory was killed. Ten years on and they still won’t let me forget about it. In my defence, the tears were mostly hormonal – induced by PMS, not be Robert Pattinson. I cannot stress that enough.

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McGonagall is life goals

I also remember the anticipation of new book releases and the sense of community surrounding them. I’m a little sad that I never went to any midnight release parties but I still enjoyed feeling part of something so big and so important to so many other people. And as for reading the new books themselves, oh man. That was always so much fun and an excellent excuse to lock myself away with tea and chocolate and not be disturbed. Obviously that definition of ‘fun’ has to be strained somewhat to encompass the emotional trauma caused by deaths in the later books…

20160904_132607.jpgI visited the Warner Brothers Studio Tour outside London at the weekend and had an unbelievable time. I’d been looking forward to it and had been expecting to enjoy it but was just not prepared for how fantastic it would be to walk through the Great Hall, to stand in front of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, to peer at shelves in Dumbledore’s office, and to giggle far too much at a box labelled ‘John Hurt’s eyebrows’. The visit was made even more fun by the fact that I went with my brother. He’s as big a Harry Potter nerd as I am and he’s part of some of many memories I have associated with both the books and the films. Plus he talked me into buying an expensive but awesome Hufflepuff hoody.

I don’t think JK Rowling’s universe is something you grow out of. Once you’re part of it, that’s it, you’re there for life. And I’m ok with that. Hufflepuff pride!

Why are you keeping this curiosity-door locked?

I tried to go to bed at a sensible time tonight and I did indeed get there, I just didn’t stay for very long. I was falling asleep while getting ready for bed but, as soon as I switched the light off, my brain went into overdrive so I got up again after about ten minutes.

And that’s the story of why I’m now blogging on the sofa in my Hufflepuff pyjamas. I’ve had some ideas floating around this week that I’ve wanted to write about but it’s entirely possible that this is just going to be my usual mess of unstructured rambling. Plus, Crank is on ITV in the background so, be warned, I may start channelling Chev Chelios soon. If you’re offended by bad language, gratuitous violence and Jason Statham, now is the time to look away.

Anyway, best keep moving so I can keep my adrenaline levels up.

strangerthingsLike a lot of other people (judging by what I’ve seen online) I watched Stranger Things, Netflix’s new 8-part horror series, this week and loved it. This was for many reasons, one of which was obviously Dustin, the greatest kid character in anything. Ever.

I also liked that it seemed to pay tribute to a slew of 80s movies, directors and writers, whilst still being its own unique thing. That’s a difficult feat to pull off, creating something that feels fresh and exciting even when it constantly reminds its audience how much it owes to the past.

The series sees three young friends in small town USA become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy when the fourth member of their gang goes missing. It’s got everything: a scary monster straight off a Del Toro set, secret experiments, dodgy scientists, Christmas lights as an integral part of the plot, and the perfect illustration of why you shouldn’t ditch your best friend for some dodgy bloke.

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Even the titles make my 80s heart sing

The whole thing is a love letter to the 80s so, as an 80s baby, I’m probably the ideal audience for its blend of nostalgia, friendship, and supernatural horror. Now that I’ve finished watching it, I feel like I should continue this nostalgia high by revisiting some classics. The films that have been on my mind all week as a result of watching Stranger Things, namely Stand By Me, the Goonies, and ET.

Let’s throw Short Circuit and Flight of the Navigator in there too. Stranger Things didn’t remind of those two but, hey, if I’m going home again, I may as well do it in style.

Oh, alright then. I’ll add Gremlins, Gremlins 2 and War Games to the list.

And Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Obviously.

I’m going to wrap this up now because even the loud noises and bright colours of Crank aren’t enough to keep me awake at the moment. Turns out I don’t need to count sheep, I just need to count all the 80s movies I want to re-watch…

 

When Ollie met Dean

I’m lucky to have some excellent friends who, although it may have been months or even years since I’ve physically seen them, are still an important part of my life. The kind of friends who can have you laughing hysterically via Whatsapp until you struggle to breathe properly, all the while trying valiantly to hide your laughter because you know you’ll never be able to explain what’s so funny to anybody else.

Two excellent examples are my lovely friends, Kate and Sile. An important bonding moment in our relationship came on 16 July 2005, the day that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. I was in Limerick for this momentous occasion as I was spending the weekend at Kate’s and Sile’s. There was just one problem: Sile and I had copies of the book, Kate’s copy was delayed. Now obviously the moral thing for Sile and I do would have been to delay opening our books until Kate also had hers. It would not have been to sit down and immediately begin reading whilst poor Kate clattered in the background baking in anger.

That day was important in the annals of our friendship, not just because it revealed some of us to be the immoral monsters that we are, but also because it’s the origin story of N.E.W.T.S.

Yes, N.E.W.T.S. Or, to give it its full title, New Escapades in White Tiny Shorts. A spin-off created by me and Sile surrounding the adventures of former Gryffindor Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood and what he wears under his Quidditch robes.

2016-07-21_21.55.48.jpgThis is all in my head this week because a recent Instagram comment session re-ignited a fascination with this spin-off, except now it’s been extended to include the Supernatural universe. Oliver Wood returns to Hogwarts as new Quidditch Coach at the same time that Dean Winchester is appointed new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Essential structure is that the two will initially have a pretty boy showdown in the halls of the castle before becoming best friends and…I dunno, handsomely solving crimes together or just handsomely sitting around being handsome or something.

Some more details:

  • The start of their beautiful friendship is when one gets accidentally dosed with a love potion and the other one has to haplessly drag them around the castle in search of a cure without alerting fellow staff or students. It really doesn’t matter which one is drugged, it works gloriously either way.
  • Bewitching the Impala so that it can fly.
  • Rowdy nights in Hogsmeade with Hagrid.
  • Dean unwittingly becomes Headmaster of Hogwarts for a day.
  • Hilarious misunderstandings when Dean tries to gank the Hogwarts ghosts. Also, Dean’s ongoing inability to understand the British way of just leaving their ghosts floating around the place.
  • Peeves and Dean become arch enemies.
  • McGonagall telling Professor Wood and Professor Winchester off for setting a bad example for the students with their incessant hijinks in the corridors.
  • Lovestruck female students and staff arguing about which Professor is the most attractive.
  • Dean persuading house elves to bring him burgers and pie.
  • Smuggling in firewhiskey from the Three Broomsticks.

See, it basically writes itself?

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Not my picture, downloaded it onto my phone ages ago during one of those slightly hysterical WhatsApp sessions…

Now we come to an important question: Which Hogwarts house will Professor Winchester be assigned to? The obvious answer is that he should join Professor Wood in Gryffindor but actually he’s much more suited to Hufflepuff and I will legitimately fight anyone who says otherwise.

In fact, Dean’s not just suited to Hufflepuff…he’s practically the Hufflepuffiest Hufflepuff to have ever Hufflepuffed. Just think about it. He’s loyal to a fault, he always gets the job done, he steps up and fights like a badass when others are in danger but is secretly happiest with a couch and some beer, and man, does he ever love him some pie.

Not convinced? Just watch how Dean responds to moving into the bunker and then try and tell me he’s not a true Hufflepuff.


And Sammy? He’s a Ravenclaw. No question. So maybe he’s got some sort of research position at the Ministry of Magic and can drop into Hogwarts for the odd cameo appearance whenever he needs to consult something from the library. Or, you know, whatever. Let’s go back to Ollie and Dean now…

 

 

Idjits

I’m always so darn proud of myself whenever I manage to get a photograph of a completed sewing project. I know it’s hardly rocket science but it’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to writing about what I’ve been making. Well, that plus I get distracted far too easily by cats and shiny things.

Check it out though: I made a thing, wore the thing, posed for a photo in the thing, and am now writing about the thing. Totally winning at this sewing blog lark.

And as a bonus: it’s not a Simplicity 2444! The bodice is a princess seam bodice from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book and the skirt is just some gathered rectangles. This was my first time trying princess seams and I have to say I’m quite taken with them, especially how easy it is to make fitting adjustments. They work quite well with this floral print but I’m not convinced I’d like the seam lines breaking up a more structured print.

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Idjit dress. Yes, by the way. That is a cat on a leash.

This was also my first time trying a Gertie pattern. Partly because I’ve seen mixed reviews online about her drafting, partly because the patterns need to be traced and I’ve been far too lazy for that. I’ve got all her books but mostly just use them for flipping through and swooning.

Tracing patterns is something I’ve always assumed will be a horrendous task and one best avoided. Turns out it’s actually pretty quick and easy…although, to be fair, I was only tracing a handful of straightforward pieces. Once everything was traced and cut out, sewing up the dress didn’t take much time at all.

Overall I’m glad I’ve added Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book to my collection. I’m very taken with her aesthetic and I like the idea of mixing & matching the various bodice and skirt patterns provided. The princess seam bodice is still the only one I’ve tried out though so I can’t testify for any of the others, although I’ll hopefully try out some more in future.

Obviously I need to make several more of this one first though. I’m nothing if not obsessive.

Fabric? I bought the fabric during a John Lewis sale back in January and I have a feeling it’s an Amy Butler print. Whether it is or isn’t, I love the colours and it sewed up really nicely.

Why is there a cat on a leash? My cat is a precious, pampered little madam who isn’t allowed in the big, scary outside world by herself for fear she’ll get run over by a car or bullied by the gang of neighbourhood cats who seem to live in our garden.

giphy-2.gif.gifWhy the Idjits dress? Because I’m a damn idjit, that’s why. I’ve rarely bothered making muslins in the past but am trying to turn over a new leaf and do things properly at the moment. So I did actually make a muslin for this dress and marked up some changes on the pattern pieces once I’d got a fit I was reasonably happy with.

Yet when I came to make this version, it somehow turned out at least a size too big in the bodice. Now I know full well that I haven’t managed to drop a dress size in  the intervening weeks so god only knows what I did wrong. Hence idjit.

Also, I was watching Supernatural when I was making the dress and I love me some Bobby Singer.