Saturday, 31 January 2015

falling in love: 36 questions and four minutes

Did you come across this story when it was in the news a week or so ago? 

About an experiment involving a set of questions, and some awkward eye gazing, which can lead to participants falling in love.

To be fair I'm not sure why it was newsworthy this year. The experiment was conducted 20 years ago, but it's still interesting.

Earlier this month there were stories of people trying it out. Sometimes, because they were paid to, with embarrasing results. But there was also the lovely story of the woman who told a man about the questions, and he suggested they try it. Reader, the rest is history.

Basically, what the questions do is to accelerate the building of intimacy. And the eye gazing cements it.

It made me realise why it was I felt so incredibly awkward and embarrassed a few months ago, when I was chatting with a man who was interested in what I was saying, and I ended up saying more than I had intended. Nothing catastrophic, nothing I wouldn't say to a girlfriend without batting an eyelid, but with a man I hardly knew, well, I felt I had crossed a line, and I got out of dodge.

It also made me think of the incredibly late nights I spent with my husband before we were married, especially early on. Finding out all about him, and talking about myself, wrapped up in that wonderful couple bubble where you find yourself constantly telling other people what your new other half thinks on a subject. It's tedious to watch, but it's lovely to be in.

We don't do that anymore. Of course we don't. We've been together 14 years, we have children, we are tired, and we have heard all the stories.

Haven't we?

I thought I'd try to questions out on my husband. I didn't tell him what I was doing or anything, just tried to pass them off as regular chit chat.

Q1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Because that sort of question could pass as regular chit chat, right? I got a funny look, and then a suggestion: 'Genghis Khan, Ghandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Pol Pot.' 

'But they're all dead!' I argued (I shouldn't have argued, I had no idea who I'd want).

'Were you planning on inviting them?' He asked.

He then asked me to get my computer off the table as he was trying to put the tea out. Fair enough.

He wasn't curious as to who my dinner guests would be (to be fair, it's not very interesting), and I never remembered to ask him the next question.

Lucky we already love each other, eh?

Would you try the 36 questions? And if you've already been in love, how did you get there?

Me and my husband, with my brother and his wife (ROAD TRIP!)

grateful for a fabulous gift: my Windows 8 experience so far

My Dad was really generous this year for Christmas, and surprised me with a new computer. I'm not going to pop a picture of it here, because it's a computer, and you've probably seen one.

This computer though, is mine. Just mine. It is so good to have a computer that is mine, rather than having to share with everyone, and I am slowly getting the hang of Windows 8. I find that the annoying page of squares doesn't pop up all the time if I avoid the mousemat. And surely there must be a way to make it stop appearing randomly? Although, I am starting to use the page of squares now, a little bit.

I don't get much time at the moment for writing on the computer (or playing Sims 4), but that will change soon enough. My youngest is starting school this year!

Here's what I like about my new computer, and its Windows 8 OS so far:
  • I use Open Office, which I like much more than the Windows equivalents (Word/Excel/Powerpoint) and that seems to work much better on my new computer than the old one (which attempted to download Word whenever I tried to open a document). 
  • Photos are beautifully displayed, and are easy to edit. Here's one from last April which I rediscovered today.

  • I love that the computer starts up incredibly fast, and the battery lasts a long time too.
  • I'm getting the hang of Sims 4 too. It does do a lot less than Sims 3, which is a shame, but it runs so much better (since my husband fixed the glitches), and faster, and I'm enjoying the idea that Sims have to be in the mood to do things.
I am also very grateful to my husband, who helped me figure out the computer I wanted, who ordered it, with more memory, to make it more useful for me, and who set it up with the special programmes I wanted (Open Office and Scrivener), and with the Sims 4 because he knows I love to play the Sims, and Sims 4 wouldn't work on the last computer.

So thanks Dad, and thanks to my husband. You've made me feel appreciated and valued, and also very well cared for, and I really appreciate it.

This is my fifth week of the gratitude challenge, and I am noticing what Esther of Local Adventurer, noted. It's hard to do these gratitude posts. I'm familiar with the idea of counting blessings (quietly), but to talk about it out loud (or to post blog posts on the topic), is awkward. It feels boastful, and also mawkish, and I sometimes feel I just don't want to. But I'm glad I am doing. Oh we do... is pushing me to accentuate the positive, and that's always a good thing.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Enjoying Scottish Literacy Week

Every year across Scotland, all children get a poem to learn. A poem in Scots dialect. A lot of the poems are by Burns, but not all of them.

My Dad likes to see the kids doing their poems, so this post is for him. I've recorded them for you Dad.


The big girl did great with her poem about a conceited frog coming to a sticky end, but didn't get through to the Cronies (when the reciters are judged by a panel of expert judges).


The little girl did a great job reciting her poem in front of her class, but we don't know if she's gone through yet.


And last of all here's the boy reciting his poem (this one is by Burns), which is undoubtedly very difficult. He's only had a few days to learn it, so he's done amazingly so far, and with extra work since this was filmed (I filmed it while the light was good), he now knows verses one and two, has nearly got three, and is very ropey on four. Fingers crossed he does alright tomorrow, but even if he doesn't I reckon he's a star.


surviving the zombie apocalypse

As I write this, I am snuggled up, safe and warm on my sofa, watching the snow falling out of my living room window. One of the benefits of being a blogger is that this is as far as my commute goes, although I usually work at the kitchen table, which is slightly further. 

this morning's school run
I do still have the joy of driving and walking around Largs in the snow for the school run, shopping, our various clubs, and my love of taking lots of photos, of course. I was impressed this morning by the care drivers were taking on the snowy roads, although I didn't attempt to park near Brisbane Primary, not after the horribly slippy experience of the last snows (dodging sliding cars outside a primary school is not my idea of fun).

Snow is only one of the things which can cause massive travel disruption for Largs though; rain can cascade down the Haylie Brae, wind can make the coast roads impassible, and stop the ferry. It must be a nightmare for people who have to commute out of Largs, or arrange for things to be brought in.

For me though, whenever Largs gets cut off in one way or another, I think that this would be the ideal spot to survive a zombie apocalypse. You must have thought it too? I clearly think it a lot, because this is the second post I've written on the subject. You'll find the first one here.

Let's look at the facts. It's a common theme in zombie stories that the survivors must head out of their city, and into a more rural location, but somewhere where they'll still find tinned food and petrol. They usually head for Scotland. On the way, bad things happen on the road, particularly on motorways, where you get herds of zombies wandering about.
Well, Largs now has three shops full of tinned food, and no motorways. We still have the petrol station, and we could easily put check points on the few roads in and out of town. It's ideal. My husband has pointed out that zombies would probably just come over the tops, which is true, but I think we could spot them coming easily enough, and pick them off. Plus, the cherry on the cake is that if the town did get over-run for some reason, we could all hop on the ferry to Millport. Zombies cannot swim after all.

Perhaps I need to get out more. Bring on spring!

How is the weather with you today? And would your hometown be good for a zombie apocalypse?

Monday, 26 January 2015

doing winter checks on the car

Hi all, apologies for radio silence recently but I've been totally stressing with snow and ice on the roads and still having to drive the kids about (if anyone fancies getting me a chauffeur I'm up for it), and I've also been in and out of the garage after someone accidentally bumped my car. Happily I've seen lots of friends at the garage - seems it's the place to be at the moment! So I was very happy to hear from Ross Miller at Point S tyres who is providing a guest post today, all about winter safety checks on the car, to help make sure you're driving safely. Over to Ross

Winter Safety Checks

Hi Everyone! I’m Ross Miller, a car enthusiast! I love to drive and realize the risks involved in addition to all the fun and excitement! I hope this post will help everyone to stay out of trouble by performing these basic safety checks!

Setting off on a journey in winter can mean hopping into the car and getting going as quickly as possible – after all who wants to hang around beforehand to make sure everything is in good working order? However, a few safety checks done at the weekend, during the day when the light is good, can mean that your car is in better condition for those cold, early morning starts. 

It might be tricky to carry out checks in this weather. Thanks to Ross for the picture.

Just a few minutes spent on winter safety checks can save you plenty of time should a problem develop when you are motoring about. Add to this the thousands of pounds you can save from dealing with problems early and the reasons for doing so stand up for themselves. But what checks should drivers be making? 

  • Always ensure the heating is working properly so that your windscreen clears quickly and efficiently, allowing you to see road obstacles more clearly. Check all of the electrical functions of your car, paying particular attention to the indicators, dipped and main beam as well as your fog light.
  • Top up the screen wash fluid regularly because in the winter months you are more likely to run out than in summer as more dirt is picked up from the road.
  • Keep a can of anti-freeze in the car to help you clear mirrors, windows and the windscreen from snow and ice on cold days. According to the RAC, engine anti-freeze helps with corrosion build up but the right product must always be selected.
  • Check your car's brake pads once in a while because during winter you are likely to brake that bit harder than in summer, when it is easier to see upcoming problems on the road ahead. There are many ways to do this, but one of the basic ways is to look for the brake pad through the wheel and once you've found it, you can check the thickness of the pad, if it has considerably thinned down, it's time for replacing the brake pads. 
  • Inspect the tread of your car's tyre and make sure you are street legal, especially in snowy conditions when additional traction is essential. Point-S Glasgow recommends winter tyres, which have a rubber compound designed for lower temperatures, for people who regularly drive in icy weather.
  • Never allow your battery to run down, which is a distinct possibility in cold weather when more demand is put on it from the heater and windscreen wipers, particularly if you only make short journeys. Run your car on a longer trip to charge it up.
  • According to the AA, door seals and locks can seal up in very low temperatures, so check yours are adequately polished or have a coat of petroleum jelly to stop them seizing when sub-zero conditions prevail.


Cara again... As I write, my car is in the garage, but when I get it back I am so doing these checks, and especially the Vaseline thing (hopefully it'll avoid snapping the door opening mechanism again). Thanks to Ross for all this.

What are your tips for winter driving? I always travel with wellies and a great big blanket in the car, just in case.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

celebrating historical heroes: Eleanor of Aquitaine

I mentioned in the last post that I'm a big fan of Game of Thrones on TV, and the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, which it's based on. I am also interested in history, as is Martin, who took lots of inspiration from European, and particularly, British history.

I think my favourite English royal dynasty (sorry Scotland - I don't know Scottish royal history*) is the Plantaganets, and my favourite Plantaganet Queen is Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was quite the force to be reckoned with.

This post forms part of my series of 50 things to blog about. You'll find the rest here.

Eleanor was born to the duchy of Aquitaine, a great and wealthy fief. When she was 15, in 1137, Eleanor's father died. She inherited the duchy, and also Poitiers.

All this wealth would have made Eleanor popular with European Kings in search of a Queen anyway, but Eleanor was also stylish and influential. 

That same year, Eleanor married Louis, the son of her guardian, King Louis VI, and soon to be King Louis VII of France. They had two daughters. Her court was the home of 'courtly love', where the more romantic aspects of being a knight were rehearsed and played out. Many knights professed their undying love for the beautiful Eleanor (but they were hardly going to call her a donkey, were they?). It was Eleanor's influence that led the men to wear long sleeves, pointed shoes, and to grow their hair long. Costume drama fans thank you Eleanor.

Sadly, Eleanor and Louis were not well suited, she had tried to get an anullment early on but had been refused by the pope, however, after she'd born Louis two girls and no boys in 15 years, Louis agreed to an annullment, which was granted in 1152, and Eleanor could move on. Eleanor left her daughters to be raised in the French court, and moved on to a new marriage (eight weeks after the last one was annulled), this one with Henry of Anjou, 9 years her junior, and well suited to her in temperament, intelligence, and in wealth. 

In 1154 Henry became King Henry II, the first Plantaganet King of England. Eleanor was again a Queen Consort. Eleanor bore Henry eight children, and also worked with him to create an impressive empire, travelling around their territiories as needed. She became known as a very able politician

However, theirs was a stormy marriage. Henry was repeatedly unfaithful, and Eleanor strongly disagreed with some of his political decisions, and hated sharing power. In 1173 Eleanor (then 50) led three of her sons, now of age, in a rebellion against the King. The rebellion was stopped, and Henry imprisoned Eleanor for the next 15 years.

She was freed when Henry died in 1189. Her favourite son, Richard, became King Richard I, and went off to fight in the Holy Land, leaving Eleanor at home as regent where she repeatedly intervened to defend his lands (even against his brother, John). She also helped to ransom him when he was captured on his way home. She continued to travel around Europe cementing marriage alliances for her children, and grandchildren, and working to maintain the loyalty of her family's subjects.

Richard died in 1199, and was succeeded by his younger brother, John, at which point Eleanor stepped out of the limelight. She died in 1204 at the Abbey of Fontevrault - a place where older aristocratic women would go to rest and recuperate when required. She had been there a few times, especially since Henry II had been buried there. She was buried there with him.

A little extra fact I love about Eleanor is that her grandmother was called Dangereuse. That is an awesome name.

We could do with more good historical fiction about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Cecelia Holland has written a good short story about the rebellion in the Dangerous Women collection, but her longer book looks ropey. You cannot however, go wrong with the marvellous Katharine Hepburn who plays her beautifully in The Lion in Winter.

Elizabeth Chadwick also published a book about Eleanor in 2013: The Summer Queen. Have you read it?
Information for this post came from:
*and it baffles me that my Scottish children, in Scottish schools are taught about English monarchs in history. I mean, the Tudors are great, but Scots royalty is interesting too.

Friday, 23 January 2015

watching TV: are you watching more than an hour a day?

Moving on from my wildly succesful attempt to get more sleep, inspired by this from Dr Samantha Rodman, detailing ten useful resolutions to make, we come to the second item on the list.

Dr Rodman suggests you get your TV viewing down to an hour a day. Apparently the average American watches four hours of TV a day! Where do they get the time?!

I've tracked my TV viewing over the last week, and I've only watched more than an hour on one occasion - when I wasn't feeling too well, and I have no desire to reduce the time I'm spending watching any of the programmes I'm watching, so I'm not going to do it.

I wonder if British people are wildly different to Americans or if I'm just a bit weird. To be honest, I can't find enough programmes that are worth watching to fill more than an hour.

How much TV are you watching? And what are you watching?

Here's what I've been watching this last week:

Wolf Hall - it's the new dramatisation of Hilary Mantel's books Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. I've read Wolf Hall. I can tell you that it's good, because it is, but it's hard work too. The dramatisation is beautifully done, and well worth watching, and Mantel even gives it her blessing (praise indeed!).

Scandal - it's mucky stuff, but I've been watching it for ages, and so I'm willing to accept all the nonsense which goes into this beautifully convoluted tale of love, lust, and power. And the things people will do to hide the ugly truth. I've picked this trailer because it's hilarious, but we've moved on from this now, in series 4. It's highly unlikely that any of it has ever actually happened, but Olivia Pope is based on a real person - Judy Smith.

The last thing I've been watching this week (and what I've been watching most) is Game of Thrones. I'm re-watching the whole thing so far, because I'd like to re-read a Song of Ice and Fire series but I don't have time at the moment. I also listen to podcasts about it, and I got The World of Ice and Fire for Christmas. Not that I'm obsessed or owt. You know nothing...

Here's the trailer for season one. You have time if you are diligent, before season five starts. Or check our the Honest Trailer.