Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions 2017

Here are my goals for 2017!

Be Active, Get Fit

I totally sucked at this goal in 2016. If anything, I was less active and put on more weight than I did in 2015. Still, optimism is the key looking forward! I want to lose two or three stone this year, and generally eat more healthily.


Obviously the main focus this year has to be on winning the election in May. If I succeed, I can pour all my energy into being Mayor and then see how things go from there. If I don't succeed, well... I'll need to find a new job ASAP as Anthony is still out of work and we're totally reliant on my income. I'm hoping to grow the blog to the stage where it could sustain us as a stop gap, otherwise my parents will be welcoming long term guests to my old bedroom...


Following on from the work goals, this year will be all about working on getting out of my overdraft. In an ideal world I'll win the election and Anthony will find a job, but who knows. I'm going to be doing my best to save and side hustle wherever possible anyway - ebaying, upping my comping game, and trying to get out our shopping bill down as much as I can.


I'm hoping to blog every day in 2017 and, in the quest to make it a viable business venture, I'll be putting more emphasis on bread and butter parenting / lifestyle topics, alongside my usual eclectic mix of crime, reviews and random interests of the moment. Other aspects I'll be giving attention to include social media, linkies and the blogging community, and the all important 'branding'. Some specific goals are:
  • Grow Twitter following from 9k to 15k.
  • Get into the top 100 of Tots100. 
  • Look into social scheduling for Facebook and Instagram.
I'd love to get to a blogging conference too, but it really depends on what's happening with work and the state of our finances.


I've signed up to the Get Your Words Out challenge this year, in the 300k category. You have to check in every month with your word count, which should help me stay on track. A lot of my blog posts - reviews, tutorials, research, acafandom, etc - will be able to count towards my total, and I'm also planning on writing more fiction this year. Last year I managed 80k of fanfiction to about 500 words of original fiction, so that ratio is something to work on! I've got to try and work up the courage to enter a few writing competitions too. I won the one I did enter in 2016 - it was only a small flash fiction contest, but still. It bagged me a £10 Amazon voucher. :)

Family and Home Life

The big thing I need to work on this year is organisation and time management. Marianna is getting older now so I want to get out and about with her more, which will require way better planning than is our current norm. We will also be able to do more fun (and educational!) things like arts, crafts, and day trips. Around the house my goals are to get on top of the laundry schedule once and for all, and sort the front garden out. We made a start last year but it's still looking a total mess out there. The bane of my life (the hedge) is crying out for some TLC too, so I really need to get a decent hedge cutter this year.

Social Life

I don't really have one, but I would like to! Right now the goal is to go on (or stay in for, let's be realistic) for a date night once a month, and to catch up with friends more than once a year.

What are your goals for 2017?

Friday, 30 December 2016

Friday Frivolity: New Year's Resolutions

Friday Frivolity

It's the very last Friday Frivolity of 2016 and our host theme for this week is New Year's Resolutions. I'm posting my 'proper' resolutions post tomorrow, but here are a few slightly more frivolous goals for the coming year...

Take a Walk Every Day, or at least briefly consider it
Source - Realistic New Year's Resolutions at

New Year's Resolutions to steal from dogs

Very British Problems

Thursday, 29 December 2016

End of Year Fandom Meme

End of Year Fandom Meme

I saw this meme over on nrgburst's livejournal and, well, you know me and memes. :)

Which TV shows did you start watching in 2016? 

We invested in an Amazon firestick this year, and we've watched so much TV. Here's a quick A-Z:

Better Call Saul, Chasing Shadows, Designated Survivor, Dirk Gently, Doctor Thorne, Forever, Gotham, Happy Valley, Houdini & Doyle, iZombie, Marcella, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Murdoch Mysteries, Stella, Supergirl, That 70s Show, The Aliens, The O.C., Thirteen.

(The naff ones are shows Anthony made me watch...)

Which TV shows did you mean to get into but didn't in 2016? Why? 

There are a few shows I've been meaning to watch but just didn't get around to. Brief Encounters springs to mind, and the latest series of Scott & Bailey. Hopefully I'll get chance in 2017.

Which TV show impressed you least in 2016? 

Game of Thrones. It's just televised torture porn at this point.

Your favourite TV show of the year? 

Thirteen was amazing. It was a five part BBC series which aired in March and April of 2016, exploring what happens when 26-year-old Ivy Moxam escapes from the house where she has been held captive since being abducted at just 13. It was so dark and there were so many twists to keep you second guessing what was really happening, especially when Ivy's abductor snatched another girl to force her to make contact with him. The police were protrayed as hopelessly inept, but otherwise it was a very realistic look at the extremely complex relationships victims form with their abusers.


Your main fandom of the year? 

Gotham. It's the Batman prequel you never knew you needed and is very much my guilty pleasure - it's so over the top, like a modern version of the classic 60s series. Marianna is obsessed with the latter and I swear it's like you can see the Gotham characters getting stupider each season, like they're growing into a future where Jim Gordon will be all but surgically attached at the hip to Police Chief O'Hara, and the Penguin's plots slide down the scale of menace from 'consolidate mob rule with a river of blood' to 'steal folio of famous parasols from city library'.


Favourite male character of the year?

I totally loved Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent in Supergirl. He looks the part, and he plays Clark as such a nice guy, exactly the way Clark should be. I wish they would make a spin-off with him to erase the terrible memories of Man of Steel, and the even more horrific Batman v Superman which is currently jostling for position with I Spit On Your Grave for the title of worst film I have ever seen.


Favourite female character of the year? 

Phryne Fisher of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. It's an Australian crime drama set in the 1920s, following the exploits of glamorous lady private detective Phryne as she teams up with DI Jack Robinson of the Victoria Police to solve crime. I'd heard of it but only started watching the show this year, on Netflix, and was hooked instantly.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Your biggest squee moment of the year? 

There were lots of moments in iZombie which I watched from the beginning this year. Police procedurals featuring the brain eating undead have never been cuter.

The show is clearly wrong for not making Liv/Ravi endgame, but what can you do?

The fandom you haven't tried yet, but want to? 

My mother-in-law bought me the Sherlock boxset for Christmas so I'm going to have to give the fandom a go once I've seen it. I've only seen two episodes before, though I have read a few fics. And been majorly entertained by the neverending 'The Johnlock Conspiracy' outrage, of course.

Your biggest fan anticipations for the coming year? 

LEGO BATMAN!!! I'm going to the cinema to see it as soon as it's out, end of story.

Your favourite film you watched this year?

I've watched loads of good films, but I had the most emotional reaction to Florence Foster Jenkins, the comedy biopic based on the real life story of a woman who wanted to sing, talent be damned. For more on this year's cinematic triumphs, you can check out my film round up posts.

Your favourite book read this year? 

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale - historical true crime at its best. For my other top reads of 2016, take a look at my reading round up posts.

Your favourite album or song to listen to this year?

I've been really into Prides, Vertical Horizon, Rixton, and Melanie Martinez. At the moment the song I'm listening to most is Feel Invincible by Skillet.

Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Forever. Somebody recced it to me on FFA and I watched all 22 episodes in about four days. It's a crime drama based around one Henry Morgan, a medical examiner who got into a life or death situation in 1814 and ended up immortal. It sounds an incredibly silly premise but it works so well you don't really question it. The cast are awesome and the overarching story arc is pretty gripping, but it was still cancelled after just the one series. Sad times.

Ioan Gruffudd and Joel David Moore as Henry Morgan and Lucas Wahl, respectively. Moore is a dead ringer for Alex Walkinshaw (Smithy in The Bill, Fletch in Casualty and Holby), don't you think? The blue scrubs really don't help any!

Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

I was gutted when Channel 4 said they won't be picking The Aliens back up for a second series. It was a really cool six part comedy based around the premise that a ship full of alien refugees landed in Britain in the 1970s, and have since been forced into a walled ghetto area. Main character Lewis (Michael Socha) works as a border guard but is horrified to find out he is actually half alien. The real star of the show is Dominic (Jim Howick) though, an alien cleaner with a crush so big on Lewis you can see it from space.

The Aliens

Which TV shows did you start watching this year?
Which TV shows did you mean to get into but didn't this year? Why?
Which TV show impressed you least this year?
Your favourite TV show of the year?
Your main fandom of the year?
Your favourite book read this year?
Favourite male character of the year?
Favourite female character of the year?
Your biggest fan anticipations for the coming year?
Your favourite album or song to listen to this year?
The fandom you haven't tried yet, but want to?
Your biggest squee moment of the year?
Your best new fandom discovery of the year?
Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

December Book Reviews

What I've Read This Month

I've read a lot of Yuletide fanfiction this month - check out my recs list - but my other reading has been a little limited. Here are my goodreads reviews for December:

Christmas: Christmas: A Very Peculiar History by Fiona MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2010. If you've ever found yourself wondering about the background behind your favourite Christmas traditions, or simply wanted to wow those around you with your Christmas trivia, this is the book for you!
WildeWilde by Jonathan Fryer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2008. This biography is the perfect introduction to the life of Oscar Wilde - it utilises an easy to follow linear format, and doesn't get bogged down in too much detail while still managing to give a good sense of the era and Wilde's supporting cast of characters.
Where's Polar BearWhere's Polar Bear by Nico Hercules
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2016. Very cute little rhyming story about a polar bear who appears to have disappeared in the snow. Perfect for the winter season!

Gangs of New York CityGangs of New York City by Richard Willoughby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2011. Dense and detailed overviews of leading figures, but heavy going and a bit bewildering for a newcomer to the topic like myself.

Now it's time for my regular book giveaway! Just fill out the Gleam form below to get up to five chances to win The Killing Kind by Chris Holm.

Win The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

December Film Reviews


On the firestick there's a section with all the best picture oscar winning films - 90% of which Anthony has never even seen! I told him he had to start right at the beginning so we watched Wings the other night. I've seen it before but it's still good, if way too long as most silent films were, let's be honest.

It follows the trials and tribulations of Jack Powell (Buddy Rogers), the boy next door who goes off to war buoyed by the belief city girl Sylvia loves him. In reality she prefers the rich David Armstrong (Richard Arlen), who ends up becoming good mates with Jack when they serve together in the Air Corps. David eventually dies in Jack's arms in a scene which is often described as the first male / male kiss in cinema. Don't believe it - it was happening at least as early as 1912. Later on he returns David's medal to his mother, along with the little childhood teddy bear he took with him for luck. It's a real tear jerker.

Wings 1927

Meanwhile Mary Preston (Clara Bow) has channeled her unrequited love for Jack into action, and joined the war effort as an ambulance driver. When she encounters her beloved and very inebriated Jack she gets him back to a hotel room and puts him to bed. But when she's changing out of her civvies and back into uniform two military police officers turn up and, assuming the worst of her, force her to resign and return to America.

She gets her man in the end, of course, and you're left feeling suitably uplifted. It deserved the oscar, not least for the sheer range in the film. There are action scenes in the skies, combined live action and animation in Jack's drunken stupor, comedy, tragedy, drama, and just about everything inbetween. If you haven't seen it, it's worth the watch - even if just for the curiosity value.


Film Review

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Monday, 26 December 2016

Yuletide Recs

Yuletide Recs

Yuletide is the biggest multi-fandom exchange of the year. Participants write a story of at least 1,000 words to another user's specifications, and then receive the same in return. It has been an annual event since 2003 and grows bigger every year - back in the beginning there were around 300 participants, this year there were over 2,000. For more information on Yuletide past and present, take a look at the Fanlore page.

I didn't sign up this year, but I have had fun reading lots of awesome fics in the fandoms I know well enough. Here are ten of my favourites:

My first rec is for The Yellow Wallpaper (the spinning jennie remix) by lunabee34. I love the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and this fic uses an outsider POV - John's sister - to shed more light on what is actually happening. The last line is just as chilling as that in the original story, which if you've read it you will recognise as high praise indeed!

Christmas is all about family, and so is my second rec for an Addams Family fic, The Widow Maker by Arithanas. When Wednesday learns that 'The Widow Maker' fairground ride is not as literal as its name suggests, it's up to Gomez and Morticia to comfort her. This is such a sweet little tale, with just the right helping of black comedy.

Anthony got me into Veep - it was basically created as a US version of The Thick of It, and the humour is just as close to the bone. In Third Party Negotiations by trick-please, Amy is horrified to walk in to find Dan and Jonah getting all kind of inappropriate on the Vice President's desk. Jonah, of course, only gets self-righteous: "And screw you, Amy," he spits, "I was going to invite you to a threesome, but now I don’t even want to anymore." xD

More family feels up next with The Secret Santa Exchange, a Hotel Transylvania fic by tannne. Jonathan introduces Christmas to the regular guests, and even manages to pick a gift which charms his future father-in-law. It's so cute! Everything Changes (Except the Cool Cape) by misura is really fun too - when Mavis and Jonathan fizzle out it takes Drac a long time to work out why the kid is still hanging around... Eventually Mavis spells it out for him, because eternity is a very long time to be all alone.

Vampires have nothing on the dysfunction of the next family... The Angel in the House by afewreelthoughts is a Jane Eyre fic exploring how things might have progressed differently had Jane met Mrs Rochester earlier. "So you live in fear of her madness, and she in fear of being locked away?" Jane asks at one point, setting the scene for another interpretation of what is going on up in that locked room.

Jeeves and Wooster

I'm reccing two Jeeves and Wooster fics because, well, it would be rude not to. The first is OMO Wooster and the Standing Stones at Midnight by Culumacilinte featuring spy!Jeeves and top secret shenanigans. The second is Jeeves and the Christmas Socks by Wotwotleigh, a brilliant Wodehausian pastiche with sartorial-nightmare-suffering Jeeves and way too many wonderful lines for me to start quoting.

Mary Poppins is an absolute must at Christmas time, and Winds of Change by sphinxvictorian is a gem of a story. It recounts Mary's very first position as nanny, and has all the magic, whimsy and charm of the original. Another Disney film I'm reccing for is Mulan. It's been my favourite animated Disney film ever since it came out, so I simply have to rec Unmasked by isabeau. Shang struggles to come to terms with the responsibility on his shoulders and his feelings for Ping - and how to reconcile them with what he could feel for Mulan. The story is really moving, and the ending is just perfect.

There were some amazing longer stories this year too, like the Grantchester fic A Glorious Thing by Lilliburlero. Geordie angsts over his thoughts about Grantchester's vicar, with lots and lots of lovely period detail. Finally, I don't know the fandom at all - it's a book, I think? - but I really enjoyed A Rabbit Hole of Edwardian Pornography by linndechir for Rivers of London. It's very much an adult story, but an excellent read. But if turn of the century guys in nothing but their socks is a bit too racy, I also loved this little drabble about hipster tea from the Yuletide Madness collection: Strong Tea by storiesfortravellers.

For more Yuletide fun, check out the 2016 fiction collection over on Archive of our Own.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Friday Frivolity - Christmas

Friday Frivolity

It's Christmas!!! Well, almost. Perfect time for some Slade anyway :D

Friday, 16 December 2016

Friday Frivolity - Childhood Christmas Memories

Friday Frivolity

Our host theme for this week is childhood Christmas memories. I've actually been writing about this a little already - some of my own memories for the Deck the Halls blogging challenge, and memories we might be making for Marianna in It's The Thought That Counts.

We have been digging out some old photos to go along with those memories too. Here's Rhys in his nursery nativity play - he's the one rocking the 80s bedsheet on his head!

Nativity Play

Other photos reveal some of my mum's interior decoration decisions...


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas, A Very Peculiar History

Christmas, A Very Peculiar History

Boolino sent us this awesome little read from the Salariya Book Company to review, and we've really enjoyed discovering lots of Christmas facts. If you've ever found yourself wondering about the background behind your favourite Christmas traditions, or simply wanted to wow those around you with your Christmas trivia, this is the book for you.

Just check out some of my favourite titbits:

Christmas Facts

Written by Fiona MacDonald, and recommended for ages nine and up, this pocket sized hardback would make a perfect stocking stuffer. It's available from Boolino for £7.99 - with free shipping until December 24th.

Alternatively, fill out the Gleam form below to get up to five chances to win a copy! (UK residents only, ends 28/12/2016)

Christmas, A Very Peculiar History Giveaway

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Torfaen Council Update - December 2016

Council Update

This is the third installment of this council update series - you can find my September and October updates HERE and HERE. There was no meeting in November because of the way the calendar rotation is set up, so I'll probably forget a bunch of stuff that happened longer than four weeks ago!


The big ticket item today was Cllr Bob Wellington's announcement that he was retiring as leader of the council after 13 years; he's actually been a councillor since 1982, 6 years before I was even born! He hasn't always been the most popular figure, but he's acheived some really outstanding stuff in that time - they did a little write up with some the key successes on Wales Online. In his place, Council elected the super competent Cllr Anthony Hunt as leader, and Cllr Richard Clark as deputy leader.

Other items of note were:

Item 4. City Deal Presentation - this was an update on the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal which encompasses Torfaen and nine other surrounding local authorities. This represents £1.2bn investment if it comes together, so it's a pretty big deal. (Geddit?)

Item 5. Presentation of CIPFA Awards - Nigel Aurelius, Assistant Chief Exec for Resources, and Dave Lilly, Head of Financial Services, received awards from CIPFA for long service and contribution to Welsh public finance, and for leading best practice across Wales respectively.

Item 10. Torfaen State of the Nation Report. Chief Exec Alison Ward presented Torfaen's annual overview update report - it's full of detail so I'll just link the whole thing up HERE.

Item 13. Motions - Cllr Hunt moved a motion calling for independent scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee of the arrangements regarding surpluses from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme. The motion was approved.

Item 14. Member Question Time - two questions on what the customarily disappointing Welsh PISA results mean for Torfaen from Cllrs Kemp and Rees, and a question about the Council's capital spend programme for the coming year from Cllr Rees.

You can watch the whole thing on webcast HERE. It begins with a staggeringly unattractive image of myself next to Pastor Jonny Raine of Pontrhydyrun Baptist Church - but, on the plus side, I did put some make-up on for once because it was the full council photo this morning, before the meeting!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Mini Mart Review - A Miniature Marvel

A Miniature Marvel

Supplier: A Miniature Marvel
You can also find them on Facebook.

Products: Based in Rochester, Kent, A Miniature Marvel stocks a huge range of 1:12 and 1:24 scale accessories. What really makes them stand out from their competitors is their selection of small jewellery findings which are perfect for all kinds of DIY miniature projects. I picked up a whole bunch of different items from this range, including tiny hearts, cupids, stars, and lots of handy beads.

A Miniature Marvel Review

The website is really easy to use, with products split into intuitive categories and a search engine to help you look for anything specific. I couldn't resist getting more ornaments - I mean, how 70s is that hand crafted crystal fish? The figure ornaments are by Falcon Miniatures and they are awesome. I have a few of them already, and can never help myself if I see them going for a good price.

A Miniature Marvel

Finally, I scouted out a few other miniatures which I thought would look good in the 1:12 scale house. I particularly like the glass paperweight (£3.25) and the tiny little Caramac bar (£1). I spent more than I usually do on the order, but this is combining my usual hobby spend and my Christmas present from Anthony - we agreed on an amount to spend on ourselves, rather than try to work out what the other wanted!

Post and Packing: UK standard delivery starts at £3 and is free for orders worth over £50, excluding doll houses.

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