Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Lacking motivation

At the moment, I'm in a bit of a slump and feeling rather sluggish. That's an attractive thought, I hope that I'm not looking sluggish too and giving off sluggish vibes. Although, if I'm honest, I haven't really got the energy or the inclination to care either way, so I don't suppose that it really matters. 

I'm not really sure what the reason for this feeling is, it's possibly just the time of year. Winter has been long and cold this year, at least for New Zealand it has, it's been much more like a UK winter. Although with a distinct lack of central heating and double glazing, it's slightly less tolerable than a UK winter. Everyone being sick hasn't really helped matters either, it's seemed to be one thing after another for the last month or so now, and, to be honest, I've had enough.

Half of the problem is that I've got so much to actually do, there's all the work that I need to get on top of, and then of course there's all the things that I'd like to do but don't have time for. I had such big plans for when A started going to daycare, so much that I was going to get done. But of course, it doesn't actually work like that. I think in the time since she started about two months ago, I've probably only had a handful of full days at home to get things done. 

I really would like to think that as summer comes, I might have a bit more energy and a bit more chance to get things done. The weather keeps teasing me at the minute, one day it will be warm and beautiful and then next cold, wet, grey, and miserable. Just the other week I went for a drive after dropping the kids off and took the photo below. It was stunning, the next day was a completely different story, wet, windy, and generally horrible. Still it at least gives me hope that there's something better on the way.

Lacking motivation

With any luck, I'll be out of the slump soon too, and any resemblance to a slug (be it mentally or physically) will be long gone.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Still life with murder - P.B.Ryan

Still life with murder P.B.Ryan
I think I've said before that as much as I love reading real books, I wouldn't be without my kindle. One of the many great things about it, is that it has allowed me to find books and authors that I would have never come across in a million years. The self-publishing phenomenon which has grown alongside the popularity of e-readers, has it's downsides, there are stories out there that probably should never have been published. On the other hand, there are some wonderful writers who are publishing their own books and reaching an audience that they would never have encountered before. 

One of my favourite books (and authors) to have discovered this way is Still Life With Murder by P.B.Ryan. Actually, I would go a lot further than that, the Nell Sweeney books are some of my favourite books anyway, not just from those I've discovered via my kindle. Reading some of P.B.Ryan's other novels (under the name Patricia Ryan) actually made me realise that I do actually like romance books. Or at least some romance books, there is still a lot of rubbish out there. Modern technology and social media have also helped me find quite a few other authors I enjoy, as self-publishers seem to be quite good at promoting one another. Enough about all of that though, this is supposed to be a review of Still Life with Murder, not some ramble about self-publishing and kindle books.

Still Life With Murder is set in the late 1860's in Boston, America. Our heroine is Nell Sweeney, an Irish girl who has survived a rough beginning to find herself as governess to a wealthy, Boston family. She has become close to her employer, Viola Hewett and when the black sheep of the family, Will Hewitt, who was presumed dead in Andersonville during the American civil war, turns up having been arrested for murder, it's to Nell that Viola turns.

We're taken into the dark underbelly of Boston where whores, drinking, and opium smoking are the order of the day. Nell is in a unique position, being a member of a respectable household, but also having grown up around the darker side of life herself, she is not as delicate and shockable as other members of more respectable society might be. She also has more freedom to visit some of these places and do some investigating. One of the huge draws to this book is Nell, her character is very likeable and well-drawn. I did wonder slightly about how plausible her becoming a governess was, the first time I read this, but it works so well for the story, and I really don't mind suspending belief slightly, it really is a small thing.

The other main character in Still Life With Murder as Will Hewitt. A broken man, dependent on opium and not really caring if he lives or dies. There is something about him that really draws you to him, despite all of his faults. Somewhere hidden under all of the emotional turmoil and mess, is really a good, decent, caring, person. 

I do love a good murder, or, as I should perhaps quickly clarify, a good fictional murder, then trying to find out who-done-it, ideally before the end of the book. This being the third time that I've read Still Life, I already knew who the guilty party was, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book all the same. The first time I read it, I was kept guessing until the end, but in the spirit of all good murder mysteries, the final reveal worked and didn't leave me thinking 'huh?' 

Even though I've now read this three times, I doubt it will be the last time I read it. I'm looking forward to moving onto the next in the series.

Friday, 4 September 2015

To snack or not to snack

To snack or not to snackI've never really been one for snacks between meals, I might very occasionally have a little treat, or if someone's offering me some chocolate, I'm never going to turn that down, but I don't tend to regularly eat between meals. I've also never been really one for offering my kids snacks outside of meal times. I don't know if it's a British thing, or a me thing, but since living in New Zealand, I've certainly noticed that most people here do tend to feed their kids between meals.

Most children, small children in particular, are grazers. Rather than eating three fairly substantial meals a day, they are happier with a lot of smaller meals, or opportunities to eat throughout the day. I have read that even adults might be better off eating like this, rather than the three main meals in the course of the day too. For some reason though, I struggle with the idea of eating between meals, and as a result, tend not to bother or offer the kids extra food.

When we first came over here, I was really quite surprised to find that most kiwi parents will take a stocked lunch box out and about with them for their children, even when it's only a couple of hours and not over a meal time. It's not something that has ever occurred to me, and I don't remember people doing it back home. 

For most New Zealand children and adults, morning and afternoon tea, a break time with food, is a part of every day. (Slight side issue here, morning tea? How can you have morning tea, tea is by definition in the afternoon, but that's a debate for another day.) A mid-morning snack was not something that I ever had at school and the idea of eating as soon as I got in from school would have immediately have been questioned by my Mum, as I'd probably not eat all of my tea that evening.

It's true that we do have a term for  mid-morning snack, elevenses, and that high tea is generally a small meal in the late afternoon in Britain, but I'd always dismiss these as something that maybe the rich do. I wonder if there's more to it than that though? 

Certainly historically speaking, the poorer end of society might not have been able to afford snacks between meals, but perhaps there's a bit more to it than that. I wonder if the impact of the second world war and rationing has had more of an impact on modern life than we realise. If you look at some pre-war books, the likes of Enid Blyton's famous five for example, they do nothing but snack and eat. 

When the war arrived, rationing meant that food was hard to come by, there wasn't this huge amount available anymore. Rationing lasted until nine years after the war, food rationing was lifted in 1954, which in the scheme of things isn't that long ago. I can't help but wonder if that has altered the way that we think about food in Britain? It would definitely have impacted on my parents experience, which they would have passed onto me. 

Maybe that's not the reason at all, maybe I just don't do snacks, I might try to embrace the idea of snacks, I doubt I'll find it too hard.