Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Best of 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year, and I managed to write 69 blog posts in total (including this one). Not bad considering I only blogged 22 times in 2013! I thought I'd do a little round-up post, of some of my favourite and your favourite posts from the year, just in case you missed any, almost like an awards ceremony, but I'm going to win every category!

Most Viewed Post

This was my Sunday Confessional post about hating getting drunk, which got the most views of any blog post this year according to my Blogger stats (I know they're not the most reliable, but it was easiest for this post). I think it's mostly due to me commenting on Olivia's post about the same thing, and linking it to it. I'm pleased so many people read it, as being pressured to drink when I don't want to always makes me feel really awkward and uncomfortable, so if that post helped one person to stop drinking when they don't want to, or prevented them from pressuring others into it, I will be very happy.

Runner Up

My post which showed a day in my life was my second most viewed post of the year, and that confirms to me that you're all just as nosy as I am! I loved doing this post, and I am aiming to do one of these a month from now on (excluding December, as it was a bit of a busy month!).

Most Commented

The most comments I have ever received on a blog post was 12 on my post all about the Breakfast Club and the Tate Modern. The art was a bit weird, and the food a bit yummy, so it's understandable that you all wanted to comment on it! I loved that day, and I am still drooling over my breakfast that I had from there. My sister is moving to London in the new year, so she'll get to eat Breakfast Club breakfasts whenever she wants to the lucky thing.

Runner Up

I loved my day out at the BBC Good Food Cakes and Bakes Show with my sister in October, it was one of my favourite days out of the year, and blogging about it was so easy as there was so much to see and do! A lot of you liked drooling over the photos of cakes as much as I did, and this made it my second most commented on post of the year.

My Favourite Post

Even though it only got posted a few days ago, I think my favourite post of the year is my one about my family Christmas Traditions. Partly because I really enjoyed finding the old photos of myself and my sister as children for it, and partly because I know I will enjoy looking back on it in years to come to remember what Christmas was like before I was married, and myself and my sister had left home properly. It's also a nosy one, so go check it out if you're as nosy as I am!

Runner Up

My second favourite post of the year was the one about my visit to the Curious Tea Rooms in Oswestry. It was entirely unexpected to find such a gem, and I'm just thankful that I had my big camera with me. I am especially proud of my photography in this post, and loved finding the little treasure trove of old artefacts and things, especially the ration books and old toys.

So they're my best posts of 2014, I am very proud of my blog and how it's developed during this year, and I hope that I continue to develop and improve as a blogger in 2015. Thank-you for supporting me this year everyone, and leaving me such lovely comments, every single one puts a smile on my face, and I do actually reply to them all now!

Rachel xx

Friday, 26 December 2014

Top 5 Board Games

I hope you all had a brilliant Christmas Day yesterday and are suitably stuffed still! Boxing Day is a great time to get the board games out as it's one of the few times of year that your family are all together in one place with the free time to play a board game or two. I thought I'd write up a list of my top 5 board games, in the hope that you might remember an old classic or discover a new game to play.

5. Yahtzee

Amazon Link
This is an oldie but a goodie, and brilliant because of how portable it is, you only really need 5 dice and a scorecard. You want to get the most points out of all of the players (as long as there are at least 2 of you then you can play) in 13 rounds, but there are certain combinations that you want to aim for in order to get the most points. Complicated to explain, but easy to play.

4. Risk

Amazon Link
I used to play this a lot on the computer with my Dad, but I have recently discovered the board game version, and really enjoy playing it when we have enough players. Rich owns the two player version though for when it's just the two of us. The basic aim of the game is to take over the world. Sounds easy enough? But you are being attacked by the other players at the same time so you have to try and spread your armies thin so you can attack with all of your force, but still keep a strong front to fend off enemy attacks. It's great fun!

3. Rummikub

Amazon Link
Rummikub is the game which my family most like to play together, it is basically rummy, but with tiles instead of cards. You want to clear all of the tiles off your board, by making groups of the same number, or runs of the same colour. The fun part comes when you begin to rearrange the tiles to place down odd ones of yours, which can cause quite the headache when you forget what you've done!

2. Pandemic

Amazon Link
I have only played this game once, so the fact that it's ranking so highly in my top 5 board games shows just how much I loved it! You are part of a team of people who are trying to stop the outbreak of deadly diseases from taking over the world. It's a little like the app Plague Inc. apart from the fact that you are working to treat and prevent the disease rather than be the disease. Another brilliant part is that you are all working together to try and combat the disease, rather than competing against each other to win. It's really chuffing difficult to win as well, which adds an element of challenge to the game which I love.

1. Monopoly

Amazon Link
Of course my number 1 board game has to be Monopoly. It's the ultimate classic, and one that I used to play a lot with my Dad and Sister when we were younger. I am always the top hat, and myself and my sister always used to team up to try and beat my Dad. It didn't often happen though! At the end of the game we always sell up and mortgage everything that the winner has, and write the total on a leaderboard we keep inside our family game (which is so old that the box is falling apart). It's brilliant looking back on the old scores from years and years ago. I will always be up for a game of Monopoly, and for those people who get too angry and refuse to play, you're missing out!

So they're my top 5 board games, am I missing any really good ones? I'm always up for new games to play!

Rachel x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Traditions

One of my favourite things about this time of year is talking about the different Christmas traditions people have, every family have their little things which they have to do every year, and it is fascinating to find out about them. So in the spirit of nosiness, I thought I would share my family traditions with you all as we are now only 2 more sleeps away from the big day! It is my little sisters birthday on Christmas day, which means that things aren't always the same as everyone else's, and it helps to make the day extra special.

Starting with the tree. This is my family Christmas tree, the one in my house is decorated in the same family style - nothing matches, and covered in the spangly stringy bits (does anyone actually know what they're called?). Although certain decorations have come and gone, the very 80s fairy on the top of the tree is always the constant, and the last thing to be placed on the tree. 

There are two doors in my parents' living room, and as children, Nat and I would have one each to blu-tack the Christmas cards we got from our school friends to, with cards to our parents being shared out between the doors. One of my favourite parts of this was having to try and fit as many on the door as possible, tetris style. 

We would always be very excited on Christmas eve, bouncing around the house, and wanting to go to bed early so it would be Christmas day sooner! Santa was always left a brandy and a mince pie, and Rudolph was left a bowl of water and a carrot. The carrot was always left with teeth marks in the end of it, and there were always crumbs in the mince pie tray, as proof that they had actually been in our bedroom.

Christmas Morning

On Christmas day itself, we would always wake up very early, and feel our stockings to see if Santa had been. Then there would always be a very loud whisper of "Are you awake?" followed by me whisper singing Happy Birthday to Nat. We would both sit on one of our beds and begin to open the stocking presents, all the while waiting for the knock on the wall between our parents bedroom and our bedroom. The knock would be the signal that they were awake and we would run in with our stockings to show Mum and Dad what we had been given.

Every year we always have had our photo taken in our pyjamas (but dressed now that we're older) stood next to the Christmas tree. My parents keep meaning to try and collate them all together, as it would be very cute to see us getting bigger and bigger until now when we're both as tall as the tree! It has always been a bit more difficult to actually get a picture of the two of us next to the tree in recent years because we aren't often both at home on Christmas day, but we still have one when we can! Can I just point out my very short pyjama bottoms on that picture. #tallgirlproblems.

We would begin to open our Christmas presents, they are always numbered, and set out in a mirrored way so that we open our equivalent presents at the same time as each other, with joint presents in the middle. We have to remind Mum every year now that I go on the left of the fireplace and Nat goes on the right. Wrapping paper gets chucked into one corner, and Nat always winds up being buried in it at the end of the opening!

Christmas Dinner

When we were very little we used to go to my Nanna Gollins' for Christmas dinner with my Aunt and Uncle, but then we all got a bit big, so my Mum has cooked us a dinner at home ever since. We always have a fishy starter, which is my responsibility to make. I have been adventurous in previous years, but last year as I was working right up until Christmas, I just reverted back to the traditional smoked salmon, prawn cocktail and a little bit of side salad. Crackers can't be pulled until the main course though!

Christmas dinner consists of turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots and sprouts, all drowned in gravy of course. I love having the big discussion about what people have on their Christmas dinners, myself and Rich have discussed this this year, and we would definitely do a hybrid of both of our mothers dinners, as there are parts of both that we really enjoy!

At my Mum and Dad's house, we never make it to a dessert on Christmas day as we are far too full, so instead we just go back into the lounge and eat a few chocolates and wait until Christmas Tea.

Christmas Tea

Tea time on Christmas day is usually when we celebrate Nat's birthday, my Nanna and step Grandad come over, and we have a buffet, all finished off with birthday cake. Its proper yummy, and a really nice chilled out end of the day. 

So there we have my family traditional Christmas. It's beginning to get a bit more mixed up these days, as myself and Rich spend every other Christmas down south at Rich's Mum's house, which I really enjoy, even though it is very odd hearing seagulls on Christmas day! It is interesting to be a part of a different families traditions for Christmas, and there are some elements which I prefer and will be keeping when myself and Rich have our first Christmas on our own. 

If anyone wants to let me know about their traditions, and what they have on their Christmas dinner, I will be very interested to know, so leave me a comment!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Rachel x


Friday, 12 December 2014

Book Review: When Mr Dog Bites*

So, as I mentioned in my blog post a couple of weeks ago, I have been contacted by Waterstones to be a part of their Blogger Book Club. They sent me a book to read, which I was supposed to chat about with two other bloggers in a video. However, one of the bloggers dropped out last minute and didn't reschedule, so I was asked to write a book review instead.

The book is called When Mr Dog Bites, by Brian Conaghan, and you can buy it here. Waterstones sent me the book for free, but this review is entirely my own opinion and thoughts. When Mr Dog Bites is about a boy called Dylan who has Tourette's syndrome. He is sixteen, and is experiencing a pretty typical teenage life of fancying girls, being picked on by the school bully, and texting his best mate Amir. However, when he is at the doctors with his Mum, he overhears something which sets into motion a lot of life changes.

Initially when I began to read the book, I really noticed the amount of swearing and slang the author uses as a part of the voice of Dylan, but after a while that became a part of his character and I barely noticed it. In fact, I think it helped me to get into Dylan's head, making him seem far more real. The frequent talk about Who Wants To Be a Millionaire does date the book, even though it was only released earlier this year, which I think this is a shame, as the rest of the book is pretty timeless. 

As When Mr Dog Bites is classed as a teenage book, don't expect sharp twists and turns, right from near the beginning I could guess what the main twist was going to be; however I wanted to keep reading to see if I was right, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The characters are funny, realistic, and you genuinely care about what happens to them in the end.

Before reading this book, my entire knowledge of Tourette's came from watching The Undateables (a channel 4 documentary about people with disabilities going on dates), so it is safe to say that it was pretty limited. Brian Conaghan actually has Tourette's himself, so writes in a way which isn't preachy, clinical or inaccurate about the condition, allowing me to understand what the world is like for someone who may just blurt out the most inappropriate thing at the worst moment. This was fascinating insight, and added an interesting dimension to the book. My favourite way to learn about things is through fiction books, and raising awareness through teenage books is a brilliant way to spread knowledge about a condition in a non-traditional way.

I would recommend this book to adults and teenagers, especially to anyone who wants to learn more about Tourette's, or who just wants an interesting easy read. If you don't like swearing though, keep away!

Thank-you very much to Waterstones for sending me the book, and I hope you have enjoyed this review.

Rachel x

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Secret Santa Gift Ideas 2014

I don't know about you, but I love a secret Santa. The opportunity to buy someone something small and usually a bit funny or cheeky, without necessarily having to own up to it, is one that doesn't come along all that often. It's also a great way to save money buying everyone presents, and works fantastically in places like offices. It can be a bit hard to come up with new and unique gift ideas though, and that's where this gift guide comes in. All of the presents are between £5 and £10, the usual budget for a secret Santa gift, and all are something a bit different. They also work as stocking fillers, or just part of bigger presents for everyone else!

1. Giant Microbes - £7.95

Herpes Giant Microbe

These are plush toy microbes, which come in a variety of ailments such as the flu, the common cold, ebola, chlamidya and herpes, as shown above (how cute!). Is it just me who would find it funny to give someone a common cold as their secret Santa gift? Perfect for the office germ-phobe, or someone who is always ill.

2. Penis Pokey - £5.59

Penis Pokey Book
Yep, that is a hole in the middle of the book, and yep, you do put it in there. This book has cardboard pages, all with a hole in the middle, and various images around the edge. My personal favourites are the bucking broncho, the fisherman's hook and the alien's face pages. It is a really funny gift, perfect for the office lad, or for someone with a very good sense of humour.

3. Listography - £8.39

Listography Book
I love lists, I make them for everything, shopping, to do, bucket lists, absolutely everything and anything can be made into a list. This book has list titles on each page which you can fill in at your leisure. I have the future version of this and it is amazing, and this is definitely one for the really organised person in your life.

4. Garlic Zoom - £9.99

Garlic Zoom
Rich bought me one of these the first Christmas we were together, and oh my, it is a life changer. You peel your garlic cloves and place them in the top of the zoom, close the lid, roll it along your worktop and it cuts the garlic super fine, with very little effort. Then open the lid and chuck your garlic into the pan. Much less fiddly than trying to chop yourself, and much less strength needed than using a garlic press. Get one for the chef of the office, or for the person who's only just moved out of their parents house. They will thank you.

5. Mince Pie Popcorn - £6.99

Joe & Seph's Mince Pie Popcorn
I love Joe & Seph's pocorn, which I discovered at BBC Good Food Cakes and Bakes Show this year. They do this mince pie version, and it really does taste like mince pies! This is a great quirky food gift idea for the person who likes to try new things. Joe & Seph's also do other flavours of popcorn, like strawberry cheesecake, caramel with lemon and poppyseed, and savoury ones such as curry flavour! 

I hope this little gift guide has given you some inspiration for what to buy for your secret Santa present this year, or for some other gift ideas. I'll be back on Friday with a book review, so I'll see you then!

Rachel x

Friday, 5 December 2014

How Has Blogging Changed Me?

Whilst I was driving home from work the other day I was thinking about this blog, and how much I enjoy writing it, and couldn't remember what I did with all of my time when I didn't write down all of my random thoughts on the internet. It lead me to ponder how blogging has changed me, because I definitely am a different person to who I was two years ago, but how much can I attribute to this internet culture, and how much to general growing up?

Most significantly, I am way more interested in make-up than I ever have been before. I wrote a post back in February about how I don't wear make-up, but since then I have begun to experiment more and more. I still don't wear much make-up on a regular basis - usually just mascara to work - and am perfectly comfortable going out without a stitch of make-up on, but it is interesting me more than ever. Before I got really into blogs (and YouTube) I was far too scared to even try and do most things with make-up for fear of looking silly, but by watching videos and reading posts, it has given me the confidence to try things out more, and I don't think it looks bad when I do? This is a positive change, as it has given me the confidence to try things that I have always wanted to, even if my bank balance doesn't always agree!

I take a lot more photos when I am out and about now. Owning my DSLR has helped with this as it is such a beautiful camera I always want to play with it, but when I go to events such as the BBC Good Food Cakes & Bakes Show I take far more photos than I ever have in the past, as it makes for a good blog post. I think my photography has definitely improved since starting The Inelegant Wench, and I think about things like lighting and composition now, which I never would have though of before.

The blogging community is a very supportive community, and although the bitching and the gossiping do exist, I have found that they only exist for the big bloggers, and us littlies are pretty much immune from it. This has meant that I have become much more honest about my life on the internet, posting such baldy honest posts such as life after deployment and about not having many friends. These posts have received no backlash, and it always feels good to get the feelings out of myself and onto paper (or screen). Considering most people only talk about and show the best bits of themselves on the internet, taking 10 selfies to post just one, I am glad that I can be honest that my life isn't always perfect, and everyone respects that.

On the flipside to the previous statement, I am far more critical of my skills than I used to be, especially my writing and creativity. There are some amazingly talented bloggers out there, and I am constantly wishing I could write as well as them, or make my photographs look as good as they do. I am also now aware of my complete lack of skill at taking selfies. Some people can do them, my face really can't! These are all things which I was perfectly happy with before I started blogging, but being aware of the amazingness of most people has made my confidence in those areas drop. To put a positive spin on it though, I now work really hard at my writing and photography, and from reading the bloggers first posts, I can see that they weren't always such eloquent writers either. Selfies I've just given up on, as there is no hope!

That's 4 of the ways in which blogging has changed me. I'm sure there are more ways, but they're the biggies. I'm pleased that it has mostly improved me, and I hope it continues to do so for many years to come!

Rachel x

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Christmas Wishlist 2014

As it is now officially December, I can begin to mention the C word (not that one you naughty elf!) without people moaning at me. Christmas is but 3 and a bit weeks away and I cannot wait! I love Christmas, it's my favourite holiday, because all of my family and friends get to celebrate it meaning that everyone gets to feel as special as each other (except for my little sister whose birthday is on Christmas day, so she gets to be extra special).

As I finished my Christmas shopping at the weekend, I am finally feeling like I can start to think about what I would like to receive myself from Santa. Due to myself and Rich saving like mad for our wedding next year, I haven't spent much on myself at all for a few months, so this year coming up with ideas has been really easy!

So, clockwise from top left we have the Lady V London Tea Dress in Black Tea Cups & Cupcakes print. This dress is gorgeous, such a quirky print, but as it has a black base colour I know I would get a lot of wear out of it. Next up is a Yankee Candle, I have never owned one of these, and as I am obsessed with scented candles this year, it is inevitable that one of these iconic candles has wound up on my list. After receiving some ESPA goodies at the Leeds May Meet earlier this year, I have thoroughly been converted to expensive skincare. However my samples have nearly all ran out now, and at £22 for a full size cleanser, it isn't something I can justify buying for myself whilst we are trying to save for the wedding.

Christmas isn't Christmas without me eating an entire Chocolate Orange in one sitting, so I would love one of those in my stocking. One year Rich told his Dad that I liked orange chocolate, and that year I swear I received every type of orange flavoured chocolate from him as my present. It was awesome. Two years ago Rich got me a pair of Doc Martens with a fluffy inner, and they have barely left my feet since, they are the ones I'm wearing in this post if you're wondering. As my faithful pair are getting so battered, I think I am due another pair of DMs and the same style but in the gorgeous burgundy colour are the ones that have caught my eye. 

Whilst at the BBC Good Food Cakes and Bakes Show I got introduced to Joe & Sephs popcorn in Mince Pie flavour. Yes, yes, a million times yes. This stuff is fantastic and I would do my happy dance if I found some under my tree this year. If I'm not lucky enough to get some of this, pretty much any popcorn would suffice. I think popcorn has been my food of 2014, I've certainly eaten enough of it. Next up on my wishlist is The Sims 3 Seasons. I have recently rediscovered my love of the Sims, and I am loving the Sims 3. The seasons expansion pack was one of my favourites in the Sims 2, so I would love to own it for the Sims 3 and see what improvements they have made. The additions of seasons adds so much more realism to the game, and I like my sims realistic!

Last, but not least I have asked for some new fluffy boot slippers from my Mum. My slippers are falling apart so badly it's embarrassing. The rented house that Rich and I are in at the moment has very cold floors downstairs, particularly in the kitchen, so slippers are necessary if you like to feel your toes. As my feet are quite big (size 7/8) it can be a struggle to find slippers that fit. One size fits all, does definitely not fit all. These ones from Next come in a range of sizes, and are grey, which is my favourite colour at the moment.

So that's my Christmas wishlist for you all to nosy at. If you've done a Christmas wishlist post, link me below, so I can take a look and probably make my wishlist grow a fair bit! See you on Friday!

Rachel x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© The Inelegant Wench. All rights reserved.