Reading Challenge 2016 Conclusion

So 2016 on the blog didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.   Attending a blogging conference completely killed my drive instead of inspiring me to achieve more, but I want to celebrate successes, and perhaps go on to achieve other things in 2017.

I last visited the Goodreads 2016 reading challenge in March when I’d read 4 books in 2 months.   Things slowed from then, and I reevaluated what I actually WANTED to read rather than what I felt I should.   One of the books took a long time as I didn’t really enjoy it (The House at the Edge of the World), but I managed to get 12 books read and I’m really happy.

  1. An unfinished book – Helen Fielding – Mad About the Boy
  2. A new author to me – Kate Thompson – Secrets of the Singer Girls
  3. A celebrity autobiography – Mary Portas – Shop Girl
  4. A book written by/about a historical figure – Lord Baden-Powell – The Wolf that Never Sleeps
  5. A children’s book – Jacqueline Wilson – Best Friends
  6. A book club read – Julia Rochester – The House at the Edge of the World
  7. Sophie Kinsella – The Undomesticated Goddess
  8. Amanda Egan – Kissing Frogs and Dogs
  9. Amanda Egan – Catnaps and Flapjacks
  10. Jenny Colgan – Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery
  11. Margaret Forster – My Life in Houses
  12. A book adapted into a film – Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’s Baby: The DiariesThe categories of books I didn’t read were a classic read, a book recommended by a librarian, an award winning book, a book I should have read at school, and a Goodreads recommendation.   I guess Chick Lit is my thing.   A bit of easy reading escapism from all the demands on my day.

    My favourite reads were My Life in Houses (my brother went to primary school with one of Margaret Forster’s children and I remember going to their house to pick him up after a birthday party), Bridget Jones’s Baby (I still haven’t seen the film), and Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery.   I also enjoyed The Wolf that Never Sleeps, although it wasn’t very well written.   The Guiding/Scouting history was very interesting, although I preferred Olave Baden-Powell’s autobiography, Window on my Heart.

    I will be doing the challenge again in 2017 as reading is something that gets me away from the TV and laptop.   Perhaps I’ll hoover up some of the categories I didn’t get around to in 2016, or perhaps I’ll just choose books I’ll enjoy.   Whatever happens, I’ll be reading and that’s the important thing.

The Big Plan

The Big PlanI need a plan.

Working from home is wonderful, but having all of my life based from home means that work, kids, the business, volunteering, housework and down time all merge into one.   If I switch the laptop on to update a record on the Guiding database, I end up also writing the agenda for the next WI meeting, seeing what is happening in Twitter, writing press releases to try and attract leaders for the local Brownie unit, checking another unit’s records to see if they managed to move Rainbow Maisy to the Brownie waiting list and looking up a random person on Wikipedia which leads to another person, and another and another.   I’ll go into the Craftyguidelets’ bedrooms to quickly collect their washing and I’ll put their library books back in their bags, arrange the teddies on the bed, sort through the wardrobes for hangers, dig out all the used tissues, empty their bins, which in turn leads to emptying all the bins, sorting the recycling and so on.

Right now I’m supposed to be tidying up the office, but going downstairs to fetch the stepladder, I also collected my diary and to do list, and brought my laptop upstairs to check on my planner which has led to me thinking of a couple of blog ideas to note down, and I’d better check my emails, and there are a couple of corrections to do on the WI newsletter and eldest will be a Guide after Christmas so I wonder if she’s done enough to be awarded her Music Group badge as soon as she joins…   See, I’m hopeless!

I’ve recently started investigating bullet lists and planners to try and get more focused, and with the extended Easter holidays ending next Tuesday, and therefore all my Guiding starting up again, a plan is needed.

Are there any methods that have worked for you?

Reading Challenge – February Update

2016The end of month two of my reading challenge and I’ve finished 4 books out of the 12!
In February, I finished Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson.   I really enjoyed this book, despite it not being something I would normally pick up.   Having enjoyed Home Fires on ITV recently about a rural WI during the outbreak and early months of WWII, I think I saw this book as a recommended read so put it on my Kindle.   It’s the story of a young girl, sent into London from the countryside, and the women she meets at a garment factory in Bethnal Green.   Each woman had a story to tell, and some of the stories of what they had to endure during the war years were quite harrowing.   The Bethnal Green tube station disaster was also included in the story.   There were uplifting parts too, including the way the women looked out for each other in their community.
The other book I read was Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson.   This was a recommendation from my 9 year old daughter as it’s her favourite book of the many hundreds of books she gets through.   I’ve never read any Jacqueline Wilson books before so it was quite interesting to see what her books were like.   I did enjoy the story, but I think I read it as a mother rather than the BFF girls in the story.   I’m getting far too sensible in my old age!

My current read is A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.   Although it’s in my Award Winning Book category, it was recommended by my librarian twitter friend @HamertonSally.

  1. An unfinished book – Helen Fielding – Mad About the Boy – finished
  2. A new author to me – Kate Thompson – Secrets of the Singer Girls –finished
  3. A classic read – possibly a Brontë or a Jane Austen
  4. A book recommended by a librarian – Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  5. A book that’s been adapted into a film – possibly Room by Emma Donoghue.   I still haven’t seen the film so I can read the book before it hits the DVD rental market.
  6. A celebrity autobiography – Mary Portas – Shop Girl – finished
  7. A book written by/about a historical figure – Lord Baden-Powell – The Wolf that Never Sleeps
  8. An award winning book – Kate Atkinson – A God in Ruins – currently reading
  9. A children’s book – Jacqueline Wilson – Best Friends – finished
  10. A celebrity book club read.
  11. A book I should have read at school rather than just the York Notes – probably Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier, although in English this time rather than French.   It’s been too long since I got my languages degree!
  12. A Goodreads recommendation.

Getting Organised – Week Seven – Bedroom Closet

GOUNELLE (4)I am lucky that I have a large wardrobe all to myself.   As someone who rarely buys new clothes and can trace some of the items in her wardrobe back 20 years, you’d think that sorting it out would be a breeze.   All I can say is, oh help!Getting Organised Bedroom Closet BeforeThis is just MOST of the clutter that lives in my wardrobe.   What you can’t see in this photo are my clothes, shoes, spare sewing machine, guitar, and FIVE Really Useful Boxes of family memories.

With everything out of the wardrobe, it got a good clean and I enjoyed a brief look at the clutter free space *deep contented sigh*.

The easy part of the tidy was sorting through the clothes.   Out went everything that didn’t suit me or would never fit even with the best diet in the world and industrial strength Spanx.   The shoes have practical storage boxes so they were stacked up on the floor of the wardrobe, and all the other clothes were returned in a vague order to the hanging rails.   Clothing for camp plus anything that doesn’t get used often was stored under the bed, and my camp bedding plus my spare camp bedding were stored in zip up storage bags and put on the top shelf.

Next, two of the memory boxes containing school books were relocated to the Craftyguidelets’ bedrooms and the other three were put back into my wardrobe.   My Guide bag was allocated a shelf and everything else was put into piles – craft, bags, WI, Guides, sports stuff, books and other stuff.   Craft stuff was moved to my over-stuffed office/craft room to be fought over another day, WI stuff was allocated a shelf in the wardrobe, books moved back downstairs and everything to be kept was found a home.

I now have a tidy bedroom and a tidy wardrobe.   Mr CG managed to part with some shoes and a few clothes as well so another success.

This week on the A Bowl Full of Lemons blog the organisation challenge is Kid’s Closets.   Littlest Craftyguidelet has just had new bedroom furniture so her wardrobe is pristine.   Eldest needs her one sorted out though so that’s my challenge now, but not until she’s out of the way at school!

Are you still on track with your Spring cleaning?

Getting Organised Week Four – Launch Pad

GOUNELLE (1)It’s been a busy week with my volunteering, so although I did my tidy up this week, I haven’t had time to post about it.Getting Organised - Launch Pad Before‘Launch pad’ isn’t a term that I’d heard much about in the UK.   It seems to be something which originated on US organising websites describing where you have everything to get you out of the door in the morning so you aren’t searching for the second glove or trying to remember whether the kids needed their PE kit or their music bags on a Tuesday morning.

We don’t have one launch pad area in our house.   Our school timetable is on a noticeboard in the kitchen. Book bags are in the hallway and shoes and coats are by the back door.   I think I’d like to have a central place where everything goes, and I’ve seen some great ideas at other people’s houses with hooks and files for each child.   I haven’t found anything that suits our space yet though.Getting Organised - Launch Pad AfterI did a good tidy up and sort out.   We’ve acquired new umbrellas and hadn’t ditched the old ones, so they went out first.   I even found the parasol from the baby buggy (youngest is almost 7!) so that went out too.   Extra coats that aren’t being worn at the moment have gone into wardrobes, and everything got a good clean.   Admittedly this photo was taken when the rest of the family was out of the house, but it has remained tidy since.

The living room is next which is mainly my stuff.   Why is it that I can keep everyone else’s belongings organised, but when it comes to my own, it exists in piles?   I haven’t got much further with the dining room which I missed when I was ill.   Onwards and upwards!

Meal Planning Monday – 1st February

MealPlanning (1)Wow!   January is over already and my new challenge is beginning.

I’ve been an online Slimming World member for some time now.   I say ‘member’ in the loosest terms as I pay to weigh myself every week and only vaguely think about what I’m eating.   Not only is it a waste of money, I’m not getting any thinner!   Time to knuckle down and count those syns.   The rest of the family can carry on eating normally but I’m going to try and get my act together.

Monday: egg/chicken salad (which came first? tee hee!)
Tuesday: veg bolo/mac n cheese
Wednesday: veg curry/gammon
Thursday: veg chilli/slow cooker sausage pasta
Friday: salmon fish cakes
Saturday: veg goulash
Sunday: see what’s left in the fridge and invent something!

Linking with At Home with Mrs M’s Meal Planning Monday.   Pop by and see what everyone else is having this week to get some inspiration.

Reading Challenge – The Story So Far

2016So I’m one month into my Goodreads book challenge and my little widgety thing says I’m ahead of schedule!   I’m enjoying having this behind me to give me an incentive to pick up my tablet and read.

I really enjoyed reading Mary Portas’ autobiography, Shop Girl.   Her early life was definitely eventful.   So much has been chucked at her that she’s had to deal with, so you can see where the brazen, strong woman on today’s TV screens has come from.   I thought it ended far too quickly though, so hopefully she’s busy writing the next stage of her life story.

I’ve selected a few more books to fit my categories now.   Eldest Craftyguidelet selected my children’s book, and my twitter friend (and fellow Elf on the Shelf aficionado) @HamertonSally who just happens to be a librarian, gave me a few more choices.

  1. An unfinished book – Helen Fielding – Mad About the Boy – finished
  2. A new author to me – Kate Thompson – Secrets of the Singer Girls – currently reading
  3. A classic read – possibly a Brontë or a Jane Austen
  4. A book recommended by a librarian – Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  5. A book that’s been adapted into a film.
  6. A celebrity autobiography – Mary Portas – Shop Girl – finished
  7. A book written by/about a historical figure – Lord Baden-Powell – The Wolf that Never Sleeps
  8. An award winning book – Kate Atkinson – A God in Ruins
  9. A children’s book – Jacqueline Wilson – Best Friends
  10. A celebrity book club read.
  11. A book I should have read at school rather than just the York Notes – (loads of choice for this category unfortunately – might be one of my French A-level literature reads)
  12. A Goodreads recommendation.

If there are any recommendations to fill in any of my gaps, please feel free to leave a comment!

Getting Organised Week Three – Sofa

GOUNELLEYes, sofa.

I should be tidying the dining room this week.   It’s a huge job as it’s home to the dining room furniture, CDs, photos, Craftyguidelet craft stuff, table linen, catalogues and other bits and pieces.   Much of this stuff needs a good sort out and declutter, just like I’ve done with the kitchen and utility room so far.   I did a great job there, so the dining room shouldn’t be an issue, should it?

At the beginning of 2015 I wanted to avoid any challenges like the organisation challenge I’m doing now.   I wanted to avoid the pressure of following on at someone else’s pace.   I know how random my life is and how busy my volunteering is, so my pace isn’t the same as anyone else’s.   I don’t want to feel a failure just because I couldn’t crochet as fast as someone who does it for a living and doesn’t have two girls, three Guiding groups, a WI and a house to run in her spare time.

This week, past health problems have come back to get me, together with a stinking cold.   I’ve also had issues from my volunteering to deal with which takes up time and energy – both physical and emotional – so the combination has floored me.   The dining room has hardly been touched apart from relocating boxes of photos into the living room for sorting.   In the past, I’d be beating myself up for ‘failing’.   Today, I’m concentrating on what I’ve learnt in the past, realising I’m not superwoman – no matter how much other people want or expect me to be – and I’m taking things as easy as I can.

If you need me, I’m on the impeccably tidy sofa.Getting organised sofa

Getting Organised Week Two – Utility Room

Getting Organised week 2 Utility RoomI’m still following the A Bowl Full of Lemons #2016abfolchallenge to declutter and tidy my home.   Week 2 is the pantry, but as I live in a modern UK home, I don’t have one.   My utility room is a continuation of my kitchen, so I thought I’d attack that this week.Getting organised utility room beforeAgain, there is too much stuff cluttering up the place.   I did manage to free up one cupboard last week by moving things from here to the kitchen though which was a great starting place.getting organised utility room baking cupboard beforeI had some cleaning stuff in this cupboard and laundry bits in another which was also rammed full of other paraphernalia.getting organised utility room cleaning cupboard beforeA simple empty out of both cupboards meant that I could put all the cleaning bits together with the iron, and my baking tins could leave the surfaces and be put away behind closed doors with the batteries and screwdrivers.getting organised utility room cleaning cupboard aftergetting organised utility room baking cupboard afterThe other main cupboard had first aid, manuals, BBQ tools and the steamer and toaster which don’t get used very regularly.getting organised utility room cupboard beforeThe BBQ tools were relocated out of the way (don’t think I’ll be needing them in the next few months!), and Mr CG hauled out all the household paperwork from the many cubby holes in the house.   Out of date stuff was recycled or shredded and only the current paperwork was kept.getting organised utility room cupboard afterA good vacuum of the tumble drier, a hot wash with soda crystals for the washing machine and the job was done.Getting organised utility room afterThe ironing and washing were tackled the day after this photo and everything is now complete.   I just need to find a way of keeping my hangers untangled, so if you have any hints and tips…!

Week three is the dining room, which in our house is also the Craftyguidelets’ craft room.   I may need therapy after that!

Getting Organised Week One – Kitchen

getting organised before picturesI started #2016abfolchallenge on Saturday and the first room was the kitchen.   I took pictures around my kitchen and they perfectly illustrate my problem; clutter everywhere, nothing put away and too much stuff.Getting organised drawer 1 beforeThe first job was the cake tin drawer.   I thought this was a significant job to start with but one that could be completed successfully and therefore motivate me onwards.   10 loaf tins were reduced to 5, tins I’d bought replacements for or which had seen better days were shipped out.   The drawer was cleaned, the contents were put on my Sortly app so I know just how many tins of each size I have, and the contents were put back.getting organised drawer 1 afterSo pleased that I got everything back in, plus I added some tins from another cupboard so everything is now in one place.

And the cutlery drawer has gone from chaos to organised.getting organised cutlery drawer beforegetting organised cutlery drawer aftergetting organised baking cupboard afterThe baking cupboard looks lovely now.   I can see what I’ve got and it’s all stored nicely.getting organised spice drawergetting organised chocolate snack drawer

The surfaces have been cleared and I’ve re-zoned the areas.   The tea and coffee are now near the microwave and fridge and the mixers are closer to where I normally prepare food.Getting organised surfaces afterI am so pleased with how well I’ve done in week one.   Week 2 is the pantry which I don’t have, so I might move onto the utility room next.   The laundry room is week 13, but it comes after the playroom/toys which may need more than one week in this house!

Are you having a new year declutter?