Happy New Year!

And so 2014 comes to a close and in a most civilised fashion in my little corner of the world. On Monday, a good friend came over with her little boy. Well, I say little. He’s 7 and almost the same size as my 11 year old son. She’s going travelling next year, so I won’t be able to see her much, especially since she lives down in Glastonbury. It’s an hour and a half drive to get there, so I’m quite happy to go down, especially since I can often pop in to see my brother there as well, but it was really lovely to have someone come to my home for a change, because it’s usually me that goes to visit people.

Since they’d had a long drive, we went exploring the surrounding fields so they could stretch their legs a bit. It’s funny, but I’ve lived here three years and never been in the fields around my house. We really do live in a very pretty area.

Yesterday, two more friends came over. They don’t have children, so for once, there was none of that stress of making sure that everyone was safe and nobody was getting up to mischief. Instead, we sat in the dining room drinking copious cups of tea and chatted. It was one of the most relaxed afternoons I can remember in a long time.

And thus we have arrived at the last day of 2014. I have to say that 2014’s been quite a tough year in a number of ways. There have been some major highs, like signing two book deals, but there have also been some major lows and the last few months in particular have been really hard.

So here’s to 2015. May it be better than 2014 was and may it bring you all your heart’s desires.

To finish, I treat you to a cute picture of my puppy. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Facebook shenanigans

A less welcome Christmas present  was that on Boxing Day, Facebook decided that I was using my personal profile as a page and since they want businesses to be using pages (ideally so you’ll pay to promote it, since they’re hiding page information these days), I need to convert my profile to a page before they’ll let me go back onto Facebook. My personal profile. The one with all my personal information on it.

They have a nifty archive function so you can download all your information before you can convert, which is great because there are photos there I’ve been meaning to download and haven’t had time to yet, but what’s not so great is that you then lose all that information in the conversion process and all your friends become ‘fans’ – and, of course, can’t see you any more because you’re a page and if you want to be seen you need to pay money.

I wouldn’t be so irked if it wasn’t for the fact that I do have a page. It’s www.facebook.com/sophiewritesalot if you want to go and have a look. I do update it regularly, or at least I did before I lost access to Facebook. And you can’t appeal Facebook’s decision until you’ve gone through the conversion process. Which leaves me with no profile at all, so how I’m meant to admin my page without one, I have no idea and to be honest, I don’t really want to find out.

The most frustrating part is discovering just how many people I was only in contact with on Facebook and have no means of contacting otherwise, including an old school friend I’d lost touch with for 20 years who had literally just replied to my friend request on Christmas Day. I hadn’t had a chance to message her before Facebook made its decision (I was going to message her on Boxing Day).

So let that be a lesson to anyone out there who uses Facebook to stay in touch with friends and don’t have other contact details. Get them. And have a backup plan, just in case, given how many of my friends recently lost accounts because Facebook didn’t like their names.

I’m on Tsu now if you want to say hi there – https://www.tsu.co/sophiechilds

I’m also on Ello as SophieWritesALot, but I find it harder to navigate there, so I haven’t been back there much.

I might be back on Facebook if I can sort out the mess, but this seems like a good opportunity to explore alternatives and see what else is out there, especially since I’ve never been a huge fan of how Facebook works.

Hopefully catch up with you somewhere soon!

Best. Christmas. Ever.

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Family traditions are a funny thing. They seem to creep up on you without your even realising it and suddenly you’ve been doing the same thing every year and it’s really important you keep it going. One of them is my annual virtual Christmas gifts. I don’t do cards, so instead I extend an offer to my friends to ask for anything I can deliver online that costs nothing but my time. Few people take me up on the offer (surprisingly – I’m always happy to do more!) but one of the requests this year was a photo of everyone with silly hats on, and this was one of the results.

All my children were struck down with a terrible case of Christmas Eve-itis, so there was lots of screaming and tantrums, but by the evening, they’d settled down and we all snuggled up together to watch The Snowman and The Snowdog in preparation for the Professor Branestawm movie my middle daughter was desperate to see.

As the familiar graphics came on screen, the children exclaimed “we’ve seen this! We see it every year! It’s really cool!” and all was right with the world.

My younger two were flagging half way through Professor Branestawm, which was hardly surprising, since it started after their usual bedtime, and didn’t seem to mind missing the end of the movie, but once it had finished, everyone has desperate to go to bed and sleep.

There’d been plenty of Christmas Eve excitement – Father Christmas rang my oldest boy from the sleigh. Ever analytical, he knew it was the real deal because he had the same voice as on the PNP video. I possibly have one of the few 11 year olds who fervently believe in Father Christmas, but as long as the magic is alive for him, I’m happy to keep feeding it. He then spent the day tracking his movements on NORAD and later, we went out to watch Santa (aka the space station) fly across the sky. I had to do some nifty explaining to square that with his NORAD location, but I think I covered my back.

I was stunned that they were all asleep when I went to collect stockings at 10.30. Last year, my youngest daughter was still awake, and this year, I had to remove the stocking from her face, where she was clinging onto it, but this time she didn’t stir and I was all done by 11. Pretty cool, especially given how tired was!

On Christmas Day itself, the children all got up much later than they usually did. Maybe it was the chocolate in their stockings that kept them in their rooms, but we didn’t get into present opening until around 9, which worked well for this really-not-a-morning-person mum.

This year, I decided to keep things simple. Fed up with messy rooms, unappreciated toys and games that have pieces lost before they’re even played with, everyone got two books, an item of clothing and two other small gifts, in most cases, not even toys. It was fantastic seeing how excited the children were about the books – my oldest boy has his third volume of Judge Dredd and is now discovering Rogue Trooper, while my oldest daughter had the latest two Maximum Ride books she craved. In fact, it was thanks to her that everyone got two books, because she desperately wanted the next two volumes and that, plus an Evanescence CD, is all she asked for. With such a small list, how could I refuse?

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My daughters got lots of loom bands, which are still popular, and that was my morning sorted, as I tried to make sense of using the board by following YouTube videos. It took three attempts, but I did eventually manage to recreate one we’d seen.

I got a lovely new dress set that my youngest daughter helped my husband choose. It’s nothing like I have, but I love it – it’s a kind of dusky pinky-purple, a really beautiful colour – and some perfume that, again, smells very different to anything I’d usually choose, but I adore.

The biggest surprise of the day was a family Hudl for everyone to share. I’ve found my tablet invaluable to entertain the children when we’re waiting for someone to have a class, so now they have their own and everyone’s happy.

My husband made lunch and while we ate, the children all agreed that they wanted to go on a walk together. My husband had been feeling a little under the weather recently, so he stayed home, while I followed the older ones on bikes with my younger two plus dog down a local bike path that takes you through fields. I love where we live: we have the best of both worlds, with the town in close proximity, but plenty of beautiful countryside to explore.

I’d promised myself that I’d stay off the computer all day, so I curled up with a glass of wine and my Kindle. My husband also gave me £10 worth of Amazon vouchers, so I went wild. He’d given me some vouchers last week, so I bought the series of Mrs Harris books for Kindle (if you haven’t read them, you must. Terribly, terribly sweet stories about a London charlady in the 50s). As a consequence, I was recommended The Provincial Lady by EM Delafield and at only 77p, I decided to get something I wouldn’t usually buy.

I then moved into suspense, my usual genre of choice these days, and picked up a couple of Nicci French books, before deciding to check out the fantasy section. I used to read nothing but fantasy, but then found there was little that grabbed me any more, but after a break, I’m starting to pick up some gems, so I’m hoping that The Woodcutter by Kate Danley is one of those treasures.

Finally, I remembered how much I’d enjoyed Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake, so I went to see if there was a subsequent book. There was, but this is where I get into a slight rant. I struggle to follow series if there are too many or the titles are too similar. I lose track of where I am, so I give up. I know that most people like to be able to buy multiple books by the same author and so do I, but from what I can make out, she was two series on the go, the similarly titled The Asylum Tales and The Final Asylum Tales. I bought Demon’s Fury, thinking it was the second book I wanted, but I eventually discovered that what I’d really should have bought was Dead Man’s Deal. I think. Maybe. Possibly. I’m so confuuuuuused! Anyway, to cut a long story short, I went a weensy bit over budget buying a few more Jocelynn Drake. If they’re anywhere near as good as Ink, it’s fine, but I really wish it had been easier to figure out which were the books I wanted, especially since I was using my tablet to buy them, thanks to my no-switching-on-the-computer rule yesterday, so really didn’t want to go searching around the net. I find it hard to type on a tablet screen.

Now that I’m on my PC, a quick Google informs me that the final book was split into three parts, which, given the length and how much I paid for them all, doubly annoys me. It’s a real shame, because I did love the first book, but I’m now unlikely to buy anything further by Drake going by this cynical money grab. It may well have been the decision of the publisher rather than Ms Drake herself, but I feel like I’ve been duped into paying over the odds. £4.48 for a couple of hundred pages, although at least the first book into the series was free. Compare that to £3,84 for the previous book, which is 384 pages long and I’m doubly annoyed. Still, lesson learned. Do your research, people!

However, I feel as though I have a mountain of books to read, a very good feeling, since I have a couple of other new purchases on my Kindle. I’ve found that ever since my husband bought me my Kindle a year or so ago, I’ve been reading more and now I have a Paperwhite, this year’s birthday present, I’ve started buying books for my Kindle rather than looking for freebies, so my reading repertoire is expanding into books I want to read, as opposed to what’s cheap at Tesco. Guess I better get on and finish The Girl who Played with Fire, which I am surprised by enjoying more than I did the first, given the hilarious one star review I read that pointed out how much coffee drinking went on. It is true. They do drink copious amounts of coffee, but I’m not finding that that detracts from my enjoyment, and to be honest, I’m finding the second book a better read than the first.

The day finished with Doctor Who, of course. It was the first time I’ve seen Peter Capaldi in action. I missed the last series, after missing the first episode, not wanting to watch the rest until I’d caught up and then never finding the time. It would appear that the Whovian in me can survive Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford but not Stephen Moffatt and this Christmas special was no different. The whole thing had the feel of some primary school essay. “And then it was all a dream…” Honestly, they should get me to write it. I’d be more creative and stick to canon 😛

And so to Boxing Day, when I was delighted to discover that The Book of Life was on for KidsAM. I hadn’t told the children, but I’d promised myself we’d see it when it came on at the reduced price and everyone was up and ready to be out of the door for 9.30, a minor miracle in itself.

I was even more delighted when we were the only family in the cinema, so everyone sat wherever they liked and there was no one to distract us from what was a truly fantastic film. Well worth the wait.

And so, with the time now just past 2, I’m going to go off and read some more before The Ladykillers comes on. Nothing like a bit of classic black and white comedy to truly make a Christmas.

I hope you all had as good a Christmas as we all did. In the words of my oldest, best Christmas ever!

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