Monday, 31 December 2012

Looking back on 2012

Well... This is my 84th post for 2012. Pretty good, I guess but my goal was to post every day. Didn't come anywhere near THAT - but it's an improvement over 2011 (49 posts) and like NINE TIMES what I did for 2010 (9.)

I'm gonna count that as a success rather than a failure.

Goal for next year?

Shall I say post every day?

(If I keep saying it, one year I'll actually do it, right?)

Have a happy and safe New Year, every one. Party your pants off!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Song for Sunday: Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

Welcome to the first installment of A Song for Sunday!

You know that music is my life so it's only logical that I have at least one post (I'll try to keep it to just one, promise!) dedicated to my favourite new song of the week. And here it is:

I know I've heard this song before - probably on some advert or on a soundtrack - but never in its entirety.

I had another song lined up for you, one suggested by @whatsherf8, but then I came across this gem. I was actually looking for something else on YouTube when I saw the name Imagine Dragons and - well, how do you resist a name like that?

Then my jaw dropped open. What a sound! That beat! And the video? When do cage fighting muppets not equal a big win?

I love everything about this song, including the theme. It's got that post-apocalyptic feel to it (you know I'm digging that right now) and brings movies like 28 Days Later to mind. It even got a nod of approval from my 80's-lovin'-modern-music-hatin'-emo-goth husband - which is saying something!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Kill Confirmed.

Can you guess what I've been doing today?

Playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2, of course!

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Vanian family holidays

For someone who claims to be an athiest, my husband spends a lot of time arguing with me about whether or not there should be a seperation of church and state. He says it's nothing to do with God, it's tradition, blah blah blah. (*facepalm*) This is the same reason he gives for celebrating the Christian holidays even though he claims not to believe in God himself and is married to a Wiccan.

(If I could do that one eyebrow raised look of disbelief, I would be doing it now.)

It's fine because you know we witches are pretty damned adaptable. You and your family want to celebrate Christmas? Just fine by me... I'll have a nice quiet Winter Solstice celebration AND open pressies on Christmas morning. Who am I to argue with your traditions? O:)

That pretty much sums up my feelings on being a non-Christian at Christmas time. (I'm not even going to get into all the ways that Christmas is un-Christian.) I don't need to make a fuss to be true to my beliefs.

(Also... If there's one thing that history has taught us, it's that the nail that sticks out gets hammered - or burned at the stake, as the case may be.)

Kind of a long, ranty intro for what was meant to be my holiday post, huh?


The Vanian family holidays!

We would never do anything the "normal" way so instead of a Christmas tree, we have a Nightmare Before Christmas Tree!

An angel at the top of the tree? Over my dead body!

When my mother-in-law was alive, she and I had EPIC arguments over that little vampire. She would rage that "You can't put a vampire on top of a Christmas tree!" and I would answer with "I can't put one on top of a fucking Yule tree, though!"

One year, she took our vampire down every morning and, every night, we would find it and put it back up. She's not around to fight with anymore but seeing him always makes us laugh about those old fights.

 There are a few other distinctly Vanian touches to the tree... Like MooMaMoo and Arkwright hiding in it!

It looked like we were set to have a pretty sorry holiday season, regardless of what we called it. The debt management plan we're on probably saved our lives but the budget is so strict that it doesn't leave much room for extras like pressies. :(

But a very good friend came to our aid and helped us to not only get through the holidays, but replace our fridge/freezer - which naturally packed it in right before the festive season.

The delivery of the fridge/freezer was a bit of a fiasco. We ordered it from Tesco Direct and I spoke the people delivering it in advance, warning them of the obstacles they would face. The woman said, "Okay, no problem."


When the guy came to deliver it, he asked me where I wanted it. I told him to just put it in the dining room and I would take it from there. He looked in the house, looked at me and said, "I don't think so, love." Then he dropped it in the porch and left.

So ALONE I had to drag the new fridge in and the old fridge out. Screwed my back up for A WEEK afterward. That "every little helps" bullshit? Bullshit. I will never have anything delivered from Tesco Direct again.

But I am in LOVE with my new fridge/freezer.

Every fridge I've ever had belonged to someone else first. This is the first fridge I can call "mine" (even though when we move it will stay with the house.)

That would have been enough to make my holidays but, of course, there were pressies yet to come!

Looking at my Facebook feed on Christmas morning, I was ashamed to see so many pictures of whole rooms filled with gifts. I mean... Come on! Worldwide recession, anyone? It's nice that you can treat the people you love but don't make the other 90% feel like shit that they can't. :(

We only had a handful of gifts each but it was more than enough for us. I have to say... Boy done good! :) I got the tarot deck I wanted (which - ahem - I would've gotten anyway... sorry, Bristol!) along with a big book on vampires, two Living Dead Dolls, an Oscar the Grouch shirt, House and Downton Abbey on dvd, and BEADS!

He bought me beads AND divided them by colour! Now that's thoughtful.

Even my in-laws did an excellent job this year. They got one of my favourite perfumes, a Yankee Candle, and Sailor Jerry. You can't go wrong there.

Not bad, considering they don't even like me.

Looking back at my holidays, I have to say that I am blessed. So many others got by with so much less.

That's not to say that our holiday passed without incident. There was the matter of having to go to the hospital to see Dulcie, Jay's nan.

You'll know from my previous posts that my husband's nan is kind of my hero. (Yes, her and Genghis Khan.) Well, she took a bad tumble the week before and ended up in the hopsital. She's in a bad way. We went to see her and were shocked by how awful she looked. Hard to believe that, the last time we saw her, she was dancing and getting drunk!

Now, she looks old and frail. Battered and bruised. And she kept talking about wanting to die. It was hard - hard enough for me, I don't know how Jay managed to keep smiling.

And today we got a call from his brother saying that she's going in for emergency surgery. She has a 50/50 shot of making it through.

Life is all about balance, right? Yin and yang... Taking the good with the bad. Well, there it is: the good and the bad of our holidays.

There's been so much happening the last couple of weeks, for so many people. As happy as our holidays were, we never lost sight of the suffering of those around us. We weren't the only family to have loved ones in the hospital... And we're thinking of you.

To all of our friends who are going through hard times, who face losing loved ones or who have already lost them... Our thoughts are with you. Wishing you love and light in the weeks to come. X

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Handmade Holidays - Cardament Tutorial

I work in a call centre - which is basically a glorified office with too many phones. Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that there's a certain pressure to get the whole Christmas card thing right. Although I've avoided it the last five or six years, this year, I thought I'd give the holiday card exchange a go.

After Wondra-izing it a bit, of course!

Instead of giving cards, I gave cardaments:

 (Which is just a card that's also an ornament you can hang on your tree!)

These are SO easy to make! (Maybe I shouldn't say that?) Start with a card then open it up and cut it in half. Now glue the pieces together so you're looking at the front and the inside (with the message on it).

Round off the corners a little with a pair of scissors. Next, grab a hole punch and get to work. I put one hole in each corner, one on either side and one or two in between, depending on how large the card was.

Now for the tricky bit: Grab your crochet hook. (For this tutorial, I used a size 5.0mm with Red Heart Holiday yarn.)  Starting at the top, single crochet into one of the middle holes. Chain two, single crochet into the next hole. 

The only bits that are different are the corner holes. In each corner, single crochet, chain one, single crochet into the same hole.

When you get back to where you started, single crochet into that same hole and slip stitch into the first single crochet. Chain two. Single crochet into chain space x2, single crochet into single crochet. Rinse, repeat.

(The corners are different again. You just single crochet x2 into the chain space.)

When  you get back to the beginning, slip stitch into the chain space created by the chain 2. Chain 2. Single crochet into next single crochet.

Chain 2, single crochet into next single crochet. Repeat all the way around.

Somewhere around the middle you want to make a loop so it can hang on a tree so just chain 6, skip two spaces and carry on. Slip stitch into the first chain space and sew in the ends.

See? Simple. Shouldn't take you any longer than 15-20 minutes, start to finish. And it's fun! You can do it while watching your favourite holiday movies. (I did!)

Jay worked it out that I made about 40 in total... So 40 times 15 is... Wow. I spent about TEN hours making these for my work colleagues. It would have been easier, no doubt, just to keep a box of blank cards on my desk and quickly fill one out when someone gave me a card. (Don't laugh, people do this.) But I wanted to make it a bit more personal... To let people know that I was actually thinking about them, even if it was just for 15 minutes, during the holiday season.

The downside was that I didn't get around to making any for my friends and family back home. I figure next year I'll have to start before Samhain. Or, maybe find a new way of saying "Hey, you're special."

If that's the case, and I find something new to make next year, you can find Wondra's Cardaments in my etsy shop in time for the holidays, 2013! ;)

Blodwyn's Big Day Out

It's official: Blodwyn is old enough to go out and enjoy the Big Bad World. We had to wait a week after her last vaccines - and a few extra days for the rain - but it was finally time to take Blodwyn for her first walk.

She's limited to just the lane for awhile... At least until she's big enough for the smallest harness we  can find. It was great to see Dylan showing her the ropes.

And by "the ropes" I mean "how to ignore Mummy and Daddy completely and run amuck."

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Blog Swap

I'm sure you all remember Jessica from a Shimmering Star? (Of course you do!) She agreed to a little Post-Apocalyptic Blog Swap and here we have it:

In a Post-Apocalyptic World 
An explosion rumbles as debris and fire fly through the air. A deep voice booms “In a post-apocalyptic world, one person will save the Earth.” Another explosion and the screen goes blank.

Happy Post-Apocalypse. Again.

Hollywood has used the annihilation of mankind scenario countless times. Whether you call it Armageddon or the end of days, the Earth's destruction has fascinated people for centuries.

As you probably know, the Mayan calendar ended yesterday. People worried that the end was nigh. Yet no disaster hit and the Earth survives.

But maybe it's not enough to just survive. Remember the Y2K scare? As the millennium approached people hoarded enough food and water for a lifetime. When the ball dropped in Times Square, computers switched from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000. Happy New Year. The world is still here.

Life went on even as the next apocalypse was predicted.

Will the world end with a bang or whimper? Maybe we're not asking the right question. We fill our lives with meaningless moments, stumbling through the day to day like zombies. No one knows the day or hour that the Four Horsemen will ride. And if we did know the moment it still would be for naught. This world is beautiful. Why are we wasting the energy on worry when we could use it to create?

Why don't we spend more time with our family and friends? Why don't we take time to read a novel, paint a picture, write a song? Why are we obsessed with our stockpile of (fill in the blank)?

Some say the Mayan calender actually signified the end of an age. And the death of one age is the birth of a new one.

Maybe living in a post-apocalyptic world isn't so bad. We can choose to live a life of beginnings.


Monday, 17 December 2012

God Bless America?

Saw this on on my Facebook feed and thought it was appropriate to share following my last post:

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tragedy. Outrage. Annoyance. Shame.

I was in work last night when a friend came up to me and asked me this question: "You know when you lived in America... Did you have a gun?"

My response was: "Um... Do you mean did my family have a gun or did I have a gun?"


Well, you all know that I have never owned a gun. Ever. I wouldn't because I'm a crap shot and any weapon you're not an expert with becomes a weapon someone else can use against you. I've played enough CoD to know that getting shot with your own gun sucks. It's a practical decsion on my part, not moral.

But my family?

That's a different story.

When I was a child, my parents had a gun cabinet - which was never locked - loaded with all kinds of guns. (Not to mention some bullets that were, without a doubt, illegal to own.) But my dad hunted so I never really thought about it.

In addition to rifles, my dad kept a hand gun by the bed, my mom used to carry one (illegally) in her purse. I remember there being one in a kitchen cupboard at one point.

Gun-totting Republicans just about covers it.

Now... My mom will tell you that "We had loaded guns around the children all the time but we taught them to respect them," blah blah blah.


They never taught us anything of the sort. Luckily, we never shot ourselves our or friends - BUT WE COULD HAVE. Anytime.

Think about that one.

I know because one day, after an argument with my baby brother, he picked up a loaded gun and pointed it directly at my head. I was about 15. He was about 12. I could have died that day, at my brother's hands because my parents believed in the right to bear arms. 

That's the kind of house I was raised in: one that believed that every person on the face of the planet has a right to a gun and - GODDAMMIT we're gonna exercise that right! Even if it means a twelve-year-old boy shooting his sister in the face over a silly little argument.

Still think that everyone should have a gun?

Well, now. I didn't hear about the shooting in Connecticut until much later that night but I know that they must have been talking about it at work because why else would that kind of question come up? And then I realised, to them, I represent every stereotype they have about Americans. And I was ashamed.

I AM ashamed.

I'm ashamed because I know that, among a collage of photos on my desk, there is a photo of my husband posed in front of an American flag with an assault rifle. It's not there because I believe in "AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!" it's there because it reminds me of a great time we had together, shooting at pumpkins with my brother (yeah, the one who could have killed me) a few years ago.

But it won't be there on Monday.

Because I'm ashamed that I'm playing to that stereotypical image of American ignorance that every person I work with has garnered from the media. And that makes me sad because it kind of kills that memory for me. Don't get me wrong... It's nowhere near the level of grief that I know is sweeping the country right now in the aftermath of the shooting, but it's personal.

Somewhere, four thousand miles away, a family is trying to figure out how to go on. My biggest worry today? I don't know how I'm going to get my new fridge through the kitchen door. Makes me feel pretty lousy....

But someone once told me that you can't measure your pain against anyone else's because pain is personal, it belongs to you. Yours will always feel worse to you, no matter how small it is, and that's okay.

So it's okay for me to feel a little bit sad when I pull that photo down on Monday. A little sad and a little angry too - because some dickhead who never should have had access to a gun anyway took away one of my happiest memories from my marriage. It isn't as bad as having someone take away your own flesh and blood but it still fucking hurts.

The shame?

That's something else altogether.

I am ashamed, not of myself, but of my country. That THIS is the image of ourselves that we are spreading around the world. I'm just one little American girl, alone in a foreign country, but when people look at me, and talk to me, they see all the worst of American society. Even though I have never (and will never) own a gun myself, the people around me can only see the reason that shootings like yesterday's take place.

Thanks a fucking lot. As if being an American abroad wasn't hard enough.

A little angry? I take that back - I am fucking OUTRAGED. How could we, as a nation, continue to allow things like this to happen? Is our pride so great that we will continue to allow children to die - wether it be at the hands of a crazed adult or at the hands of their angry little brothers - because GODDAMMIT THEY'RE OUR GUNS AND YOU'RE NOT TAKING THEM AWAY!

America. Fuck yeah.

I ashamed on behalf of my country. Personally? I believe in gun control, in getting guns out of the hands of Joe Blow, in teaching gun awareness - and I refuse to be ashamed of that belief.