Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring – not even a mouse! However, there was a youtube video playing on repeat, Jingle Bells so loudly I just couldn’t sleep. (My Dad had left his computer on – honestly, is there anything creepier than walking down a dark flight of stairs and hearing one line of some prog-rock version of Jingle Bells playing over and over and over? It was like a scene from a Christmas horror movie…)
I’m fortunate enough to have two weeks off work, so I intend to spend some of my post-Christmas downtime typing up a few of the recipes I cooked since the beginning of November, but before that – a roundup of all the exciting things that have been going on for me recently!
Let’s start with the obvious: NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 over the course of 30 days, otherwise known as ‘turn into a crazy person and give yourself terrible hand cramp’. It’s a great experience, especially if you’re as lucky as me and have a local group of people who are also doing it – we got together regularly for write-ins and had weekly pub meets where we would take a (much needed) night off from the writing.
Especially if you’re writing by hand, like I decided I would (muchas gracias to my friend Dave for the photograph).
1667 is not that many words to write by hand. I’m fairly sure I managed more than that in my exams at uni. 10,000 words in two days in order to hit the 50k goal, on the other hand, results in some fairly severe cramping… But it was worth it, because I won! And what did I win, you ask? Well, I became the proud owner of Sophie The Plot Goat (long story) and this fancy plastic winner medal:
My novel was called The Black and Bitter Night, involved an amnesiac spaceman who was suffering all manner of writer-inflicted horrors and I’m still traumatised enough by the experience that I think I’ve blocked most of the plot from my mind. I may go back and reread it at some point, but we’ll see… (It was the least fun NaNo I’ve ever participated in, because I did not enjoy writing my story very much. Next year I’ll write a sequel to my previous winning NaNo and that will be way more fun!)
In other excitements, I went to Brighton last weekend. It was very very windy. I was walking at a 45 degree angle at one point, which was funny for the first 5 minutes and quickly became exhausting! I did get to hang out by the sea at night at watch the waves crash into shore, which is one of my favourite things to do in the whole world:
But we weren’t in Brighton to look at the sea (although that was a lot of fun) or to have a pre-Christmas mini break (also fun and something I’m planning on doing next year – it was wonderful not to have to think about wrapping presents for 48 hours!), but to go to a show.
If you’ve not heard of Diversity, they are a dance group who won Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago – watch this video to see their winning performance (and crawl out from that rock you’ve been living under while you’re at it). It was awesome. I loved that I got to see the full routines, not just whatever the camera decided to show me. Also, now I want to learn street dance, which would be tricky given that I have the co-ordination and grace of a fish out of water (come to think of it, that describes my dancefloor stylings fairly well….) Still, another thing to add to my increasingly epic New Year Resolutions List!
The only thing that marred the experience for me was that around 15 minutes into the show, I started to have some pretty epic stomach cramps. The only position I could find that didn’t make me want to cry from the pain was to be horizontal, which was probably pretty funny to watch given that the seating arrangements didn’t really allow for lying down! Unfortunately, the stomach pain was a harbinger of Things To Come and I have spent much of the last week with a tummy bug. All I’ve eaten in the last few days is bio-yoghurt and canned spaghetti, with a few crackers thrown in for variety. My Dad has hilariously told me off for losing weight in the run up to Christmas *snorfle*
Unfortunately, the bug has meant I’ve had to cancel all my volunteering plans as well as any social arrangements, which is massively frustrating. No Bums on Seats End Of Year Review for me I also had to call NHS Direct to ask them if I was still infectious, because I didn’t want to see my family if there was a risk of me giving them whatever the hell this bug is. The guy I was talking to on the phone was tremendously entertained that my only concern was being able to spend Christmas with my family and not getting any kind of health advice at all. He said I’m OK to have a family Christmas (and that I should practice good hygiene, which I do anyhow) – woohoo! So at this precise moment in time, I’m sitting at my Dad’s kitchen table, cautiously sipping a fancy juice drink and waiting for NORAD to start tracking Santa’s progress around the planet. (Don’t worry, I’m going back to my own house this afternoon – please don’t think I’m advertising when is good to steal from me!)
So later today, I will be making my version of nutroast (which is better than my Dad’s, no matter what he thinks – unless I forget the onions again), listening to my favourite Christmas songs (top 3: Carol of the Bells, Feliz Navidad and It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas) and enjoying the enhanced Christmas decorations at home.
It’s no secret that Lizzie and I love Christmas decorations, we put them up shortly after we moved in together 2 1/2 years ago and haven’t taken them down since, despite moving twice in that time. When it came time to get the tree out of retirement this year (the one concession we make to the end of the festive season is putting it away sometime in February – it’s mostly a space issue), we realised that our house was already so Christmassy that we would need to get a load of extra decorations to boost the festive feelings:
Those decorations didn’t stay in those exact positions, as it turns out the gel leaks colour like woah. Which reminds me, I need to buy paint… Oh, and do you like my ‘pin the tentacle on the sharktopus‘ game? That was one of the highlights of my birthday party (told you we were bad at putting decorations away) The other highlight was the cake, or rather cakes, that were made for me by Lizzie and my sister – I’ll put them at the bottom of the post so keep scrolling!
These are our usual mantelpiece decorations, which have been banished to the windowsill for the duration of Christmas. From left to right, we have Motherfuck the Owl, Pimm the Penguin, Spook the Moustachioed Ghost, Humphrey the Piñata (he became a push-me-pull-you at our housewarming party) and a dalek that doesn’t have a name yet. Suggestions?
Instead, our mantelpiece features a nativity scene, complete with cotton wool snow (which makes balancing the ornaments somewhat tricky). You can also see our advent calendars – mine is the snowman, I’m pretty bad at remembering to open the windows as I’m sure you can tell!
And finally, Lizzie decided that our reward for winning NaNo should be putting up the Christmas tree, which put a lot of pressure on the situation as if either of us failed to meet the 50k target by 30th November then we would be treeless for December. Where would the presents go then?! Fortunately, we both succeeded in passing the target (me by 45 words, Lizzie by an overachieving 52 words) which meant tree – yay! Less fortunately, Lizzie fell over mere hours after hitting the word count goal on 30th November, hurting her wrist pretty badly, which in turn delayed the house-decorating by a week. Still though, we got the tree eventually!
Please note that the bottom branches are bare to try to stop my cat from ingesting any of the lametta or other decorations. The little wench just stands on the arm of my sofa and tries to eat them from there instead -_-
In the coming days, I promise to finally post that chickpea pancake recipe I’ve mentioned, as well as a few others I have up my sleeve. My kitchen is being redone in January so there might be a few freezer-friendly recipes as well. Oh, and the great big NaNo cookoff was a huge success – I had a lot more time to spend writing as I was hardly in the kitchen in November, which I think made a massive difference to my word count. It was tastygood as well! We still have some of the meals in the freezer, as I forgot to account for the days I was training for my latest volunteering project or the time that Lizzie went home. Oops?
Right, the sun is nearly over the yard arm – time to open that bottle of baileys and get cracking on the nutroast! Just kidding, my stomach is not nearly up to alcohol yet Oh, nearly forgot the cake! Check it out:
And Lizzie made me a coffee-flavoured owl! With candles and everything!!!! I had to be extra-careful this year not to wish for a duck. (That doesn’t really have an explanation – my brain is a curious place – but the backstory is here if you’re interested.)
Honestly, you could have knocked me over with a feather (heh!) when they both brought these out, I don’t know what I did to deserve such awesome and thoughtful presents from my friends and family but I consider myself to be a very lucky girl.
On that note, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Ho ho ho