Category Archives: Fun Stuff

Diagon Alley available on Google Street View

My boyfriend the tech wizz just came into the living room and asked whether I have ever heard of Diagon Alley… because it is now available to view on Google Street View. Whatever you think of the whole evil/not evil debate, you have to admit that is pretty cool. I need to visit the Harry Potter Studios asap.

Reading Glasses

Reading GlassesI dream of having eyesight good enough to forget my glasses, but really liked this idea that I saw when we went for Sunday dinner in a local pub called The Greyhound recently. Patrons who forget their reading glasses can borrow a pair from the bowl to allow them to enjoy their book/paper while they enjoy their drink or wait for their meal. Perfect!

Shakespeare’s Birthday Playlist

Shakespeare's Birthday Playlist Happy 499th birthday, Mr Shakespeare! Following on from my post about my favourite Shakespeare Inspired Songs last year, I thought I would really liven the party up with a Shakespeare inspired playlist from my Spotify account. Let me know if there’s anything great that I’m missing and I’ll make sure I add it (Phantom Siren sent me some great suggestions last year).





So we have a mixture of songs about Shakespeare plays, songs inspired by Shakespeare lines and a few sonnets set to music… Now all we need is some Shakespeare style party food and we’ll have a good thing going.

New Alice in Wonderland Tea Set

In addition to my Christmas Book Haul, I was lucky enough to receive a Alice in Wonderland tea set from my boyfriend. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the little watch, cat and bird motifs. There are even little hearts and spades if you look closely.

Alice in Wonderland Tea Set

Alice in Wonderland Tea Set

The only problem is, I think it might be a little too beautiful to use! I’m scared I will break it.

Everything Oz Review and Book Giveaway

I know that when I went to see Wicked I mentioned that I had a slight obsession with The Wizard of Oz when I was growing up. This may have been something of an understatement.

As well as naming my rabbit and guinea pig Dorothy and Scarecrow, walking around quacking songs from the musical (I might even share footage of this one day) and watching the film on repeat until it wore out, I insisted upon having Wizard of Oz themed birthday parties and for a while would only wear red shoes. For Halloween I dressed up as a witch, every year. I wouldn’t let my little sister dress as anything else either. My grandfather taught in a secondary school that had a production of The Wizard of Oz when I was about two and I went along to watch and meet the cast. It may have been the best moment of my life ever, though I was terrified of the cowardly lion. It’s one thing to have a lion on the TV, but to meet one in person? Terrifying.


Though I have overcome my initial fear of people dressed up as lions, I haven’t really grown out of my Wizard of Oz obsession. I have a Wizard of Oz tray, glasses and mugs. When I had my operation in November, a friend from work bought me a sing-a-long Wizard of Oz DVD. I have been banned from watching this when my boyfriend is at home.

In light of this, you can probably imagine how excited I was when my favourite craft authors  Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey who wrote Everything Alice (and unwittingly led to my house being overrun with lavender-scented dormice…) brought out their new craft book Everything Oz: The Wizard Book of Makes & Bakes. I’ve been feeling rubbish all week with some kind of evil tonsil virus, but when my copy of Everything Oz landed on my doorstep it lit my little world up. It is better than I ever hoped for. I am so excited to start on some of the crafts in there- they will be perfect for making the house and garden very much me. And everything will go beautifully with the “There’s no place like home” print my boyfriend’s sister Laura got me.

This is an absolute must have for any fan of Dorothy and Oz. Since I want to make absolutely everything in the book, I’ve been trying to narrow down my favourites to decide which to start with (I will obviously end up making myself the ruby slippers, but I will need to build up to these). It hasn’t been easy, I’ve even roped my boyfriend in to help me make the final selection, but here goes:

Dress up Dorothy and Toto from Everything Oz, published by Quadrille Press

1. Dress-Up Dorothy and Toto

This doll is unbelievably cute, especially when dressed in her little lion mask on page 13 of the book. I would have loved a doll like this when I was little. As it is I’ve been looking for some nice book ends for my dining room bookshelf for a while now and haven’t been able to find any that I’ve really loved, so when I make this little lady I will fill her with rice or lentils to give her a bit of weight and let her do the job. I will let you see her when she’s done. I think she’ll do a great job.

2. Toto Cushion

Not only does this look incredibly snuggly and cute, but it is the perfect way to recycle the many, many jumpers and cardigans my boyfriend has shrunk recently. He’ll also make a great Christmas present for my mother who has a Scottie and is very slightly bats about them, and my older sister who will appreciate the Radley look (while my bank account appreciates the break).

3. The Decorated Dog House

If my enthusiasm for all things Oz hasn’t made you doubt my sanity, the next thing I’m about to say will. I have an imaginary corgi called Mr Whiffles. So far, so bonkers. But fear not dear readers, I remain in possession of most of my wits- I know that I don’t really have a corgi called Mr Whiffles. I just talk to my boyfriend as though I do in the hope that he will let me have a corgi in a desperate attempt to stop his friends thinking I’m madder than a hatter… a cunning plan I assure you. Anyway, when I have Mr Whiffles, you can rest assured that I will make him this absolutely gorgeous dog house to sleep in. If it transpires that I will not be allowed a Mr Whiffles any time soon, I’ll make one for my rabbit and train her as a dog. Creative solutions, that’s what we’re about here.

4. The Cowardly Lion Hand Puppet

He is so cool, and really makes me wonder how I could ever have been scared of the poor cowardly lion. I think he’d make a great toy for amusing a baby, and I’m pretty sure that my niece who is nearly four would have a great time with him. I have a soft spot for Wizard of Oz themed puppets. After I was run over I had to spend an entire summer in hospital, and my Dad (who is incredibly crafty and a great artist) made me a marionette wicked witch. She’s probably at home in Wales still. I’ll have to dig her out. In addition to the cowardly lion puppet, there are some really simple cut out and split pin puppets which would make a lovely rainy afternoon project for little crafters.

5. The Oz Apothecary

After all of this crafting I intend to do, I am going to have to make everything in the Everything Oz bath time section to chill me out that little bit more than I already am. There’s a great range of lovely looking things including Put a Brave Face on It Skin Tonic which will be good for my dry skin and allow me to make use of the glut of roses in my garden. I also fancy the delightfully named Sleepy-Time Salt Scrub with Lavender but the thing I’m really excited about is the Face Mask of Eternal Youth which looks like it will make something similar to an overpriced product I buy too often in Lush. The savings start here!

Quadrille have very kindly supplied me with a copy of this book to give away to a lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning it, send an email with the subject header Everything Oz Competition to bookandbiscuit(atsign) replacing the (atsign text) with an @ to outwit those pesky spammers by July 16th 2012.

Speed Reading Test

In work today, some of my colleagues sent around this reading test which allows you to compare your reading speed to the US national average. The first test I tried, I read at my comfortable pace and was 88% faster than the US average. When I tried the second test with a different text I decided to go for it, but it wouldn’t be enjoyable for a leisurely read. You can see my results below.

To try the test yourself visit Flavorwire here.

Top 5 Shakespeare Inspired Pop Songs

April 23rd was an important date in the life of Mr William Shakespeare- he died 396 years ago today, and is estimated to have been born 448 years ago today as a record of his baptism was dated April 26th 1564 though the actual date of his birth is unknown.

To celebrate this date in a slightly different way, I thought I would share with you a playlist of my Top 5 Shakespeare Inspired Songs. And yes, it’s a little dominated by Romeo and Juliet but that’s because it’s cool, okay?

1. Dire Straits- Romeo and Juliet

This is my absolute favourite Shakespeare inspired song, and with lines like “You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin. Now you just say, “Oh Romeo, yeah, y’know I used to have a scene with him,” how could I not? A bit of a bittersweet one for me because it reminds me of a good friend who is no longer in my life.

 MC Lars- Hey There Ophelia

If you haven’t experience MC Lars yet, you need to check him out of Spotify or Facebook then buy his albums. So many of his songs are funny, clever takes on classic literature, but this is one of my favourites. An emo retelling of Hamlet, this is brilliant example of textual transformation but with a damn catchy chorus. I just love the end:

“If you’re ever up in Denmark on a moonlit night
You’ll hear Ophelia’s sad song when the full moon’s bright
Baby I’m sorry I messed up, good night my sweet princess
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” –MC Lars

 Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, it depends whether I’m after a tragedy or comedy but I just can’t get enough of B+B’s love hate relationship. I also love Hey Nonny Nonny. I especially enjoy singing it to the tune I learned in the Kenneth Brannagh version. Quoting almost directly from the play in places, Mumford and Sons have created their own eerie take with this song which to me follows some of Claudio’s character progression.

 Taylor Swift- Love Story

Okay, so Taylor may have changed the story a little bit in this song? But who cares?! I studied this play through school and university, taught it to numerous classes when I was teaching and have seen it performed countless times. And I still hold out hope that fate will let the star-crossed lovers wriggle through her net.

 We The Kings – Check Yes Juliet

If Romeo had ever been in a power pop band… okay, it’s a little more tenuous than the others, but don’t let that bother you. Just turn it up, jump around the bedroom singing, “Forever we’ll beeeeeeeeeee, you and me.” Try it. You’ll like it.

What are your favourite Shakespeare inspired songs? I’ll add them to my playlist, cos I’m cool like that…

The Gruffalo Child

We received this picture of our niece the other day. We bought her the Gruffalo outfit for her third birthday in December (we’re a little bit obsessed with The Gruffalo books) but she was far too excited by her guests, cake and presents to keep still for photos at the time!

Her mother Laura, Jon’s sister, sent us the picture and blogs here.