Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Book Of The Month: May - Gathering Prey: John Sandford

John Sandford has long been one of my favourite authors and I'm completely in love with two of his main characters. 

Firstly, there's the tall, dark and exceptionally handsome, blue eyed, Lucas Davenport.   And, secondly, the tall, blonde cowboy with the fabulous sense of humour and a hatful of charm that is Virgil Flowers.

Davenport is the main man in the 'Prey' series, of which Gathering Prey is his 25th instalment.   I've been waiting patiently for the book to be released for a while and was thrilled to be able to download it from Audible as one of my 'this is bound to get me through my insomnia' collection of titles.

It didn't because it was too gripping.    Rather, it had me listening, night after night, and going to work the following morning looking like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards.    That is my normal look, right enough, so I doubt anyone noticed a change.

Anyway, less about my morning issues and more about the book!   

May's Book of the Month: Gathering Prey, John Sandford

Davenport's adopted daughter and intrepid wannabe journalist, Letty, befriends a traveller in San Francisco and gets a worried call from her while she's home from college with her parents in Minneapolis.    Her friend is missing a friend and she's a a touch concerned.   As Letty's quite the investigator and her old man's the Head of the Minneapolis Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; they simply must check it out together.

Together, they start to look into the disappearance and begin to find out that the missing friend isn't the only person within the travelling community that has been lost and never returned.   The deeper they delve, the more they uncover and this leads them, yep, you've guessed it...right into the path of danger.  I love it when that happens.  

As with all of Sandford's books; the story is expertly recounted and I'm a huge fan of the way Minneapolis always plays such a big role in his novels.   This time round, though, the Twin Cities play a much smaller part and we experience other states; such as North Dakota and California.

Overall, the book is a great read.   It's not my favourite of the Prey series, by any means, as I'm more drawn to individual serial killers murdering people in dark Saint Paul alleyways, but after 25 books featuring the same character, I guess there are only so many of these that can be written.

Have your read Gathering Prey yet?   Or do you have any other crime fiction favourite to share?

Suz x 

Monday, 30 May 2016

What's Occurrin': May Round Up

I'm a bit set in my ways sometimes, so I've been trying to branch out and do something; ANYTHING, different, no matter how small it might be. Often it's something tiny, such as trying a new cosmetic, buying a different product, or listening to a new album, but I figure it all counts, right?  This is what's been occurrin' in my life in May:

What's Occurrin: May

John Frieda Blonde Shampoo
As I have curly hair and am not a fan of too much hair product, I generally wash my hair, run some John Frieda fabulous curl conditioner through it and leave it to dry.   It makes my curls look natural and bouncy, with no frizz in sight.    Without it I look like Crystal Tips.

Given I'm a fan of the conditioner, and it was on special offer in Asda for 3 for £10, I decided I'd branch out and try the Blonde shampoo.    I haven't been impressed at all, so far.     I have quite greasy hair, so I can't use anything that mentions the word 'shine' on the bottle.  For me, shine = extra grease.    I've found my hair looking quite lank and greasy so much earlier in the day and can't say I've noticed that it's any blonder than usual.

I'm not quite as annoyed as I'd have been if I'd paid full price for this, but it does carry quite a hefty price tag for the results.    I won't be purchasing it again, but luckily their conditioner worth every penny.   

Spice up your salad
Salad will never be boring again with my new dressing.
Aldi Chili, Ginger and Soy Dressing:
I randomly picked this up during a lunch break on a day's training at work and had picked up a packaged salad and was looking for a bottled dressing.    I love anything spicy, so this immediately caught my eye.

It. Is. Fabulous.   It smells divine and it so hot that my mouth was on fire after my salad.   This might sound like a bad thing, but it's really not.    In 24 hours, I managed to polish off half a bottle and am now actually looking for other things I can pour it on.   Like crisps.   Or cereal.    

Silent Witness
Whatever he was laughing at probably doesn't seem quite as funny anymore... 
Silent Witness
So, I've gone all Old Skool this month by tuning into the very first season of Silent Witness starting Emilia Fox on Netlfix.  It's one of those shows that I've been aware of, but never really paid much attention to.  Why, I've no idea as, let's face it, it has everything I love;  murders, dismemberment, and the odd bit of detective work.   

My complete refusal to tune into anything on 'normal' TV has pushed me deeper into Netflix and I found this on their recommendation scroll.  'Hi Suzanne! Because you watched 'unnamed programme filled with death and destruction', we thought you might like Silent Witness!   Yes, Netflix.   Yes, I do.

And so my love affair with Jack, the very cute but harsh pathologist, has begun.   

How can you resist a bulldog face?
Mr Bentley:
This fabulously chunky meat bag is an English Bulldog from Canada whose Dad flies helicopters.    Mr Bentley is his co-pilot.  No, I'm not kidding and, yes, it's every bit as fabulous as it sounds.   It might be the greatest thing I've ever seen.  

As with all new doggy discoveries, I found this gorgeous big guy on Buzzfeed and instantly flipped over to Instagram to see what I'd been missing.   As it happens, it was a LOT.    Mr Bentley's Dad posts the most beautiful videos of his dog, as well as the outstanding scenery that he flies through.   If you can take your eyes off the look of sheer joy on the Bully's face, you can also enjoy the incredible lakes and mountains of British Columbia.   If I was in their tourist board, I'd be stealing the footage as advertising - it's really sensational.

Les, as always when he hears dog noises coming from my iPad, knows that he's about to be forced to look at lots of pictures of slobbery chops and asked: 'Isn't he the CUTEST THING EVER?'.   To which his response is usually: 'hmmmmm', which is his way of saying no without me giving him some serious side eye in return.  

What's been occurrin' in your world in May??  

Suz x

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

How To Enjoy Camping When You Don't Enjoy Camping

Now, I won't lie: camping's not really my favourite activity.  I much prefer spending my weekend nights in the comfort of my own bed after spending the earlier portion of the evening parked on the sofa.  However, camping is LT's favourite past time, and I'm generally happy enough to go along as long as a few basic conditions are met.

These are:
  1. Must have wine;
  2. Weather must be OK;
  3. Must be somewhere fairly safe to cut down on the prospects of being murdered in the night by some crazy who's out combing the countryside for suitable victims.  It happens; I saw it on CSI.
We’ve lived in North Wales for a year now and I was kinda hoping, what with all the time we’ve spent settling in to a new life, a new home, and new jobs, LT might be too preoccupied to give it much thought.  

Turns out, I was completely wrong.  In the same way a small child wears down their parents when they MUSTHAVESOMETHINGNOW, I was convinced*, over a period of several days, that I would love nothing more than spending a night sleeping outside.

copyright @ sightseeingshoes
The view from Cae Clyd Campsite

After spending a fabulous day exploring Nant Gwrtheyrn and Plas Glyn on the Llyn Peninsula, we headed up the coast and checked ourselves in to Cae Clyd Campsite.   We were shown round the facilities and left to get on with the seemingly never ending process of unloading a full car’s worth of ‘essentials’ that we’d only loaded in a few hours previous.  One of the main reasons we have so many essentials is because some of the kit we’ve bought has been purchased with the sole intention of making me want to go camping in the first place.   If you, like me, are ‘just not that into it…’, you will absolutely, definitely, need the following:

Inflatable Camping Bed:
I can’t stress this enough: Sleeping on the ground, no matter where that ground may be, is just not fun.  Sleeping on the ground on a proper blow up mattress is much more, well…what you’re used to, no?

Automatic Pump:
No one wants to be put off the idea of sleeping on their shiny new inflatable camping bed by the prospect of blowing it up with a foot pump.  Splash out, get yourself an automatic, and sit back and watch as it works its magic.

Comfy Camping Chairs:
There are masses to choose from, but I like to have one with arms and a nice wine glass/bottle holder built in.  I also like one that’s easy to dismantle and pack away the following morning.  

Baby Wipes:
I use them at home all the time anyway, but these are an essential part of my pack – particularly if we’re wild camping and I have no access to showers and toilet blocks.  Not only are they great for cleaning humans, but also brilliant for cleaning equipment.  I hate feeling manky after camping, so these allow me to show my face in public the following day if we stop off for a coffee on the way home.   

Flint Lighter:
I’ve watched for many an amused hour while LT tries in vain to battle against the wind and light the fire pit.  I found him a flint lighter in a camping store in Glasgow, which lights regardless of the conditions (they must sell MILLIONS of these in Scotland).  Now, he points it in the general direction of some cotton wool balls, strikes it and watches it go up.    All very handy when you’re starving and can’t eat because you’ve got no fire to cook your sausages.

Sturdy Plastic Wine Glasses:
OK, so they’re not essential essential, and they’re also not made of glass, but they do make me a much happier camper.   I’ve been seriously impressed with the ranges on offer at my local supermarket, as well in many high street stores.   I’d have no problems using some of the ones I’ve found at home.  This is mainly because I’m not to be trusted with ‘real’ glasses.  

Note: always go for one that fits into the cup holder in your camping chair… also; get one that won’t be blown over in the wind.  There’s nothing more likely to harden my anti-camping stance than losing a glass of wine to lousy weather.   

copyright @ sightseeingshoes
Testing out how sturdy the wine glasses are.    Someone has to do it... 
copyright @ sightseeingshoes
OK, so I'd probably have missed this if I'd stayed at home.  
*bribed with wine

Do you have any camping essentials that you can't live without?

Suz x 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

8 Ways To Improve Your Mood

8 Ways To Improve Your Mood

I suffer from depression, which has been with me since my late teens and shows no signs of  abating.    Although it is controlled by medication, it still requires a great deal of effort on my part (or it sure feels like it), to get me through some days.     I can feel great in the morning, not too bad around lunch and, by the evening, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness that I can't explain or understand.    

After a while, you get used to it and begin to realise what makes it better and worse.    The biggest problem is actually having the motivation to do anything about it.   Sometimes I do; often I don't.      And I've stopped berating myself for that.  

With this in mind, I have a few little things that always, always brighten me up.   I'm not saying they're a fix, or even any kind of solution: they're not.   They're simply things I do for me that might help abate the sadness for even a few minutes.   For me, that can be a God send, particularly on my lowest days.

These are my go-to mood enhancers: 

I don't say much in person about my depression as it's something I find incredibly hard to clarify to myself, never mind someone else.   This is particularly difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced it themselves.  Therefore, I tend to write it down and hope that someone understands.   

I kept a journal for years and I tend to go back to it every now and then.    There are days when I can read it and days I can't bear to look over the words and think that I ever felt so bad and clearly had no idea how to cope with the situation.

You needn't publish your thoughts; you could always chat to someone.   I'm not big on that, so writing is the easiest medium for me to try making sense of my head.   It works really well.    

There's very little a bit of singing at the top of your lungs can't fix (for a few minutes)

I can't emphasise this one enough.    Singing is my life saver.   A 30 minute journey to work in the morning can be transformed by some serious country music sangin' in my car.    Not only does it stop you over thinking, which is my Achilles heel, but is also just a great stress reliever.   I think my love of concerts comes from knowing I can sing as loud (and out of tune) as I can and I'll always be drowned out.   

Find some tunes that you know all the words to and don't stop singing when you get to traffic lights or school crossings.    OK, so maybe stop at school crossings because, you know, these are impressionable kids wandering by and you don't want to scare them.    Traffic lights, road works and sheep crossing, though?  Go for it.    

As a country music lover, there's nothing better than channelling some bad ass independent women singing about cheating men and drinking whisky.   My personal favourites are Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies and you can't beat a bit of country Taylor Swift.   Also:  Shake it Off by TS is the ultimate depression sing along song if you've had a bad day.   I can dance to this while driving my car and it's very therapeutic.   

I'm not suggesting you get someone to buy them for you as this isn't about someone else making you feel better - it's about doing it for yourself.     I live in the middle of the countryside, so my garden is full of plants and flowers that I genuinely have no clue about. 

What I DO know is that some of them are very pretty and they tend to brighten up any room.   They don't need to be expensive - there are tons of flowers on sale at your local market that cost no more than a few pounds.   

I have developed a serious obsession with the beautiful daffodils in my garden, which I have now hacked to death and placed in little pots in various room in the cottage.    I'm not saying this will in any way make your day, but if I knew how to do that, this post would be called 8 Ways To Make Your Day...and it's not.    

I've even taken to growing plants and veggies and I have an odd feeling of achievement when something even starts sprouting tbh.   I look at my runner bean plants the way some people look at their kids.   True story.  

I don't grow Tulips and the only reason I have daffies is that they were there when I bought the house!

This can both stress me out and calm me down.   The main reason I like driving is for the music and the fact that I'm largely on my own in my car.     When I drove for hours every day for work, I began to detest unlocking the door but, now that it's just a means to get to work and back, I've rediscovered my love of whizzing around.  

The North Wales scenery plays a massive part in this new found love of driving as, even on the darkest winter days, it's beautiful.    On the brightest summer day, it's breathtaking and I have been known to break into a smile as I drive along the Cambrian coast, looking out across the sea.     

Anyway, this isn't so much about driving to work, it's about adventuring and not having anywhere in particular to go.    It can help to change your scenery and get yourself out of your head for a while.   If you have the backdrop like I do, that's a massive bonus.    If not, look closer and you'll soon find it.

Time Out:
I often survive a day by getting away from what I'm supposed to be doing.   I do this because I need a few minutes to myself and I've stopped apologising or feeling bad about it.  This can be as much as nipping to the ladies and taking a few deep breaths, or taking a walk at lunch time and changing your surroundings and your audience.   

I like the noises of the town I work in and the friendliness of the local people I pass on the streets, so walking at lunch time is a great booster for me.    I also have a major addiction to Dolgellau's charity shops, so that can be the difference between staying in the office and getting out to have a rake around.

Sometimes, I just wander aimlessly through little streets that I haven't been round before and bother anyone I see that has a dog and is unfortunate to cross my path.   I love a good dog snog. 

Take time out
Me taking time out to relax.   In my bed of hay. 

Now, stick with me here.    I both love and loathe exercising.   I have days filled with the kind of motivation I think Usain Bolt might have and the very next day I have the get up and go of a sloth.   I do as much as I can handle and largely try not to feel guilty on the day when I get home and can't face the thought of anything but Netflix and PJs.

What I DO know, however, is that it does improve my mood...when I can force myself into it.   Unfortunately for me, I have a huge appetite, so although I exercise most days and have done for years, it's never *quite* enough to improve my mood AND make any impact on my waistline.     

I love the idea of running along the Cambrian Coast; wind in my hair; singing along to my favourite tunes, but the stark reality of the situation usually ends up being me, on the exercise bike in the spare room trawling through facebook.    Still, it all counts, right?

Social Media:
I know this is the source of stress for a lot of people and when I feel very low I tend to avoid it all together.   This is mainly because I have nothing to say and I'm not interested in looking at yet another photo of someone's baby, who looks the exact same way they did in the countless photos they posted the day before.   But that's just me.

What I do like about it is that, when I feel a bit melancholy, I can always find a stupid quote or photo and send it to my Mum, sisters or friends and try to lift my spirits by having a giggle at something juvenile.  

If this should ever fail, I have never, ever been let down by Doug the Pug or The Blueboys.     I'm a self confessed crazy dog lady, anyway, so it's not a surprise that looking at dogs dancing in outfits makes me smile.    But that's the whole point.   Find something that you love, Google the Hell out of it and then take some time out to relax; oohing and aching, wondering how you could get your own dog in a flamenco outfit without losing any digits.   

Social Media
You have no idea how Doug The Pug's snapchat videos can improve you mental health.

It's maybe a bit of a cliche, but it works nonetheless.   It is particularly helpful on days when you're completely unamused by the world and everyone in it.   I can't always be cheered up by actual people, but I can usually find something funny to watch, read, or do that can help to brighten the skies, even just a touch.   

The things that make me laugh most are stupid videos (of dogs obviously), watching old episodes of Have I Got News For You? or Would I Lie To You?  and even when I feel like it least, I know they'll manage to break my resting bitch face into a smile.  

If these tips don't distract you from your problems, even just a *tiny* bit, I'm afraid you're in trouble (I'm kidding!)  You just gotta find what works for you*

Suz x 

*Wine is almost certainly not the answer.    I've tried.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Being Awkward...But Not On Purpose

I’m a pretty shy person.   In fact, I will actively avoid situations where I’m being introduced to new people because it makes me so anxious. I’m one of those people who would rather sit at the back of a room and hope that no one notices me rather than nervously introduce myself to people.   This is how I’ve been for as long as I can recall.   

Due to my complete social awkwardness, I do tend to worry about upcoming events and spend days concerning myself about what might go wrong and what I might do and say that will make everyone hate me.  It hasn’t happened yet.  Well, not that I know of, anyway.
As an example:  after my partner and I had been together for a year or so, we headed down south to meet his father, brother, sister in law, and newborn niece.  Seriously: FOUR new people.   AT ONCE.   That’s three people more than I have the mental capacity to deal with.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

5 Things You Realise About Scotland When You Move Away

5 Things You Realise About Scotland  When You Move Away

When I moved to North Wales in May 2015, I was excited about the future.   In equal measure, I was terrified I wouldn't find a job or settle down, and then have to return to Scotland, with my tail between my legs, and move in with my parents.    I suffer from anxiety, so this is a fairly normal thought process for me.    

I found a job within a couple of weeks, settled down really quickly and was in constant awe of the scenery and the little towns and villages that were now local to me.    I did, however, worry about being Scottish.    I realise how utterly stupid that sounds but, being from Scotland and living there my entire life, I hadn't so much as given a thought to suddenly becoming The Only Jock in the Village.     I'd always been in the majority and now I was very much, well...not.   

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Roadside Cockerel Chasing

I've been stuck in traffic many times in my life; mainly as a result of trying to get home from Edinburgh on a Friday night, or being stuck in a queue after an accident on the motorway.

Over the years, I've been stopped in my vehicle as I waited for flights to land at Sumburgh airport on Shetland (the runway's part of the road. No, I'm not kidding), caught behind countless logging trucks, bin men, caravans, and about a dozen sheep.

I have, however, never been travelling in a car that was forced to stop on the road because two grown men were trying to capture an escaped barnyard animal.  Until I moved to North Wales.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Plas Glyn Y Weddw

Situated on the coast near Pwllheli, in the town of LlanbedrogPlas Glyn y Weddw is a huge Gothic mansion which houses a gorgeous modern art gallery, woodland walks, a Cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, and a quite spectacular view of the Irish Sea.

Now, that's a view...
As we continue looking for places to explore in North Wales, we spotted Plas Glyn on a Trip Adviser list and decided we’d roll on by and take a look.   We arrived on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon and were immediately taken by the mansion house and beautifully manicured gardens.  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

How To Spend A Day in Dolgellau

I’d been working in Dolgellau for a month when my friend from Scotland asked me what it was like.   After thinking about it for a few seconds, I quickly realised I couldn’t really tell her anything about it.   

I drive through the town in the morning, park up at the leisure centre, wander to my office, stay there all day, and then reverse the process at 5pm.   Until this week, I could direct you to the Co-Op or the Job Centre, but if you asked me where anything else was, I’d stare at you blankly until you got really unnerved and slowly backed away.  

I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the town, so far, and I decided that it was time to rectify that with a series of lunch hour wanders.   Turns out, it’s a great little place and I’ve been missing out on it for weeks (not counting the other 30 odd years I lived in Scotland and didn’t even know there was a Dolgellau…) 

copyright @ sightseeingshoes
The local church

Monday, 2 May 2016

Help! I'm Obsessed With Charity Shopping

I've always been good with money.   I'm the kind of person who can't sleep at night if I think I don't have enough money set aside for several hundred rainy days.   I may not HAVE much but, what I do have is spent carefully...usually...unless there's a deal on wine in Dolgellau Co-op on a Friday.   If that happens, my budget goes right out the window.   

Anyway, I'm also a believer in value for money which tends to make a little tight sometimes.  In a good way, though.   I'm the first to grab a flight and swan off to the other side of the globe for a few weeks, given half a chance, or to occasionally splash out on some Louboutins, because I absolutely, definitely cannot live another day without them but, on the whole, I'm quite sensible.  

What I trying to say is that I'm happy to pay for the things I love, like travel and shoes, but clothing isn't high on that list.   I might be the only person in North Wales that teams up her Jimmy Choos with a skirt she bought for £2 in Freshfields Animal Rescue charity shop on Porthmadog high street.  And, to be honest, nothing makes me happier.  

Help! I'm Obsessed With Charity Shopping - Monsoon
My beautiful Monsoon cardigan