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Around this time last year I did a post in which I stated that one of my new year’s resolutions was to give away 365 items throughout 2013.

At the time I had every intention of fulfilling this aim, indeed I felt utterly determined to achieve it.

However, as is the norm with resolutions, it started off well and then tailed off after a while.

I didn’t manage to record the expulsion of 365 items, but I did make it to 111, a mere 254 short of my target.

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Funky necklace with matching bracelet – two of the items I managed to put someone else’s way in 2013.

This year I am again contemplating resolutions, although I have no reason to believe that I’ll be any more successful with them than I’ve been in the past.

For a period of about three months in 2013 I made a concerted effort to note down the books I read in that time, including the title, author and a short review of each one. Despite only doing it for three months I found it quite an effort, which makes me seriously question the advisability of making a resolution along these lines.

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If books aren’t your thing, perhaps you could master a new skill in 2014 (you might need to click on the picture to read the quote on the bookshelf).

Despite already having more blogs than I can keep up with, I’ve created another new one, Lorna’s Books, where I hope to record every book I read in 2014. (You can get to it by clicking on the blog name, but there’s not much there yet.)

Although choice of reading material is a very personal thing and what I say about a book might be of no value to another reader, I quite enjoy reading other people’s book reviews and so I suppose there might be the odd blogger who would be prepared to read mine.

This project is mainly a test for myself, to see if I have the self-discipline to achieve something I’ve tried and failed to do on several occasions in the past. At the moment I wouldn’t bet on success, but you never know.

In order to avoid feeling depressed if my resolution fails, I should perhaps also set myself an easier challenge, such as eating a scone and drinking at least a pint of tea every day.

The only problem is it would lack any real challenge.

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A stollen scone: one of the delights of the festive season.

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I’ve started a new blog today, where I can jot down random thoughts and scribblings.

If you’re interested in having a look, it’s called Aided and Abetted by Tea, and you can get to it by clicking here.

I should warn you that there are no pictures, it’s just words, so I quite understand if it’s not to your liking.

To make up for that, here’s a picture of a nice sheep failing miserably to conceal itself behind a few blades of grass:

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At the end of June 2012 I self-published my first book, “Tearoom Delights”.

Since then I have come into possession of two more self-published books which I’d like to mention.

The first was spawned, like my own, from a blog.

The blog, which ran for a year, was written by fellow blogger, Noemi, and was entitled Desayunos Veganos 365 (365 days of vegan breakfasts). It documented Noemi’s breakfast every day, 365 different breakfasts for the whole of 2012, with beautiful photographs of her delicious looking food and drink.

As someone who rarely deviates from her pint of Darjeeling, toasted bagel and bit of fruit, I was utterly astonished by this feat.

At the end of the year a book was produced, and having enjoyed the blog so much I felt I had to have a copy to drool over. Here it is:

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The cover of a beautiful book full of inspiring breakfasts by Noemi Iza

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The back cover is as beautiful as the front.

A selection of pages from inside reveal some of Noemi’s wonderful fare:

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One of the photos even features my wee book (thank you, Noemi!), very fittingly sitting next to cinnamon spiced tea and cranberry scones:

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Noemi’s delightful book can be purchased, here, in both hardback and paperback format.

The second book comes from closer to home and was written by John Palfreyman, a cycling enthusiast who lives a few miles away from me in the town of Coupar Angus.

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John’s admirable little book with a lovely view of the Sidlaw Hills on the cover.

In a way, his book is similar to mine, in that he’s written about cycle routes in the same areas as I wrote about tearooms.

He’s passionate about cycling, and about the area in which he lives, and his book is a little treasure for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. I like the cartoons he uses to symbolise how hard each route is:

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I feel exhausted just looking at that chap on the far right.

The book is packed with lovely photographs, details 25 different routes of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, and includes a list of cafes, restaurants and inns in the areas covered (as well as mentioning my book for further reading – thank you, John!).

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You get lots of great little photographs along with the text, all beautifully reproduced throughout the book.

It also has an excellent map tucked into the back:

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The map is folded up and slotted into a plastic tab at the bottom right hand corner of the inside back cover and is double-sided showing two different scales.

At £5.99 for the book and map, I think “Adventures on Two Wheels” is an absolute bargain.

It can be purchased from Waterstones in Perth and Dundee, Stewart Tower Dairy, the Post Office in Stanley, the Joinery Coffee Shop in Meigle and the Beatrix Potter Centre in Birnham, as well as various places in Coupar Angus. It will also soon be available from Tourist Information Centres in Perth, Blairgowrie, Pitlochry and Dunkeld.

Considering the book was only published last month, I think John has done an amazing job getting it into retail establishments and I wish him all the very best with future sales.

As for me, I don’t have any plans to self-publish another tearoom book any time soon, but I have written my first novel and am currently working on the second.

All I need now is a nice agent or publisher to take me on, but if that doesn’t happen then I might consider self-publishing the first novel as an e-book.

To everyone out there who’s already self-published (and I know there are one or two amongst my regular readers), I take my hat off to you. I know how much work it is and it’s great when you have something at the end to show for it.

To anyone thinking about self-publishing, I doff my hat to you, too, and encourage you to do it. It may not make you much money (initially, it might actually lose you money) but it is a satisfying thing to do, and can bring you a nice sense of achievement.

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Two of my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to bestow upon me the Blog of the Year Award 2012, which was jolly nice of them.

Both Meg Travels and All Things Boys saw fit to nominate my blog, and I would like to thank them for their good wishes and pass mine on to others.

(Incidentally, if you click on my links and they don’t open a new window, I don’t know why that is because I did tick the box asking it to do that – one of the peculiarities of WordPress, perhaps.)

Blog of the Year Award 2 star jpeg

As with all such awards there are various rules (which can be found here), one of which is that you can nominate as many or as few blogs as you like. I decided to choose three.

There are many blogs I subscribe to, more that I dip in and out of, and some that I’ve only read a post or two from over the year, and I’m grateful to all of them for supplying me with reading material. There truly is a treasure trove on offer in the blogosphere.

treasure chest

Image from Dorling Kindersley

I chose my three based on the education I feel I’ve received this year. Anyone who can teach me anything useful or interesting gets a big thumbs up from me, and these three have done just that.

teacher-tips

image from ministry-to-children.con

1. Cauldrons and Cupcakes – Nicole is the writer of this fine blog, and one of her outstanding attributes is her ability to communicate. You just need to look at the comments people leave on every post to see how she touches others and makes them feel she’s speaking directly to them. Before I began my blog I started writing a self-improvement book, which remains unfinished. When I began reading Cauldrons and Cupcakes I felt I was in the presence of a master, and where I had struggled to explain some concepts in my book, I found Nicole dealt with them with ease and grace. As if that weren’t enough she’s also a wonderful cook and baker and I’ve made some of her recipes with great success. All in all, the gal is a class act.

2. The Hazel Tree – Jo writes this blog, along with her other entertaining blog, Jo’s Journal. Writing one blog is a big enough job, but keeping two on the go at once is hugely impressive, and Jo does it beautifully, giving each its own flavour. With The Hazel Tree, Jo brings history to life for me. History was my worst subject at school, and since then I’ve struggled to embrace it. Things are changing now that I read Jo’s blog, because she has a real knack of presenting what I would previously have thought of as dull facts in an interesting and enlightening way. It’s not only history she writes about, but all sorts of other things (including her delightful cat, Purdey, and the amazing paintings of her husband, Colin), and I always look forward to settling down to read a new post on either of her blogs.

3. The Naturephile – Finn, who writes this blog, is the sort of scientist I can only dream about being. I toiled through a degree in Ecology and, although I enjoyed it, I did find it hard to get a good grasp on the business, and I still often feel all at sea with science. Finn’s enthusiasm, coupled with his fine attention to detail and academic nouse, is what makes The Naturephile one of my favourite blogs. Every time I read a post on his blog I learn something new and fascinating, something I probably always wanted to know, without knowing that I wanted to know it. He illustrates his posts with beautiful wildlife photography, which always leaves me feeling good about the world.

Thank you to all three blogs, and to all the many others I read and enjoy. I’m looking forward to blogging along with you in 2013.

14472145-new-year-2013-on-the-beach

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There’s nothing like a bit of comfort food on a cold day, and when I saw these on Alice’s delicious blog, girl in a food frenzy, I was keen to make them.

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They should, by rights, be sticky on top, but due to my impatience they didn’t get the icing they deserved and had to make do with melted butter sprinkled with brown sugar instead:

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I’ve been missing my blog a little lately, but have been attempting to concentrate on writing my novel (coming along nicely, thanks for asking).

This Christmas malarky is also taking up considerable time and effort, and I’m looking forward to the new year when everything’s settled down and we’re heading into spring again.

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers, I’ve noticed over the past day or two that when I try to comment on other blogs my comments aren’t showing up the way they used to. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how to fix it I’d be glad to hear them.

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It’s a while since I’ve written a post about tearooms, and that’s partly because I’ve hardly been at home recently to do it, but also because I was becoming a little tired of churning out the same sort of thing. I was beginning to think I was not only boring myself to death, but probably also my dear readers.

However, is this genuine boredom on my part, or laziness, or just my usual lack of dedication to something long-term?

Watching the Olympics, I’ve been struck by the dedication of the athletes involved. They spend years of their lives training for this one occasion. Although they attend other competitions as well, for most of them the Olympics is their main goal, the one thing they keep their eye on that inspires them to keep going when they’re getting bored, feeling lazy or just sick of dedicating their entire lives to exercise.

While writing a blog is by no means as arduous as training to become an Olympic athlete, many bloggers use it as a way of disciplining themselves to write regularly, practising a skill they would like to become better at. I don’t know what the percentage is, but a lot of bloggers, myself included, have a desire to become published authors, and even if we are writing other things at the same time, blogging can provide a useful bit of training that contributes to that goal.

I watched a documentary a while ago about Usain Bolt, currently the fastest man in the world (and tonight we’ll find out if he still is). He is obviously very talented at what he does, but he didn’t get where he is today without putting in considerable effort. What appeals to me about him, however, is that he’s not one of these athletes who genuinely enjoys all the training for its own sake, he struggles to discipline himself to do it when he’s not in the mood, and his coach has said that despite his success he’s not a natural when it comes to training.

Usain Bolt hanging off a London Bus – courtesy of The Guardian

In a recent newspaper interview, Bolt had this to say: “The key thing to remember is that hard work does pay off. If you put the work in, it will definitely pay off in the long run”. I’m sure this is something he has to repeatedly tell himself, to remind himself why he’s putting in all this work when he would rather be relaxing with his chums in the Caribbean sunshine and being the laid-back Jamaican that he naturally is.

A good friend of mine recently sent me a card, which arrived on the very day I needed it. I had been sitting at my desk thinking that I needed some sort of motivational text to inspire me, when this card popped through the letterbox. It’s now sitting next to my laptop and reads: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars…”

I’m sure I had seen the quote before and it hadn’t made a particular impact, but when I saw it that day it hit home and provided the encouragement I needed to keep going. It also relieved me of the pressure I had been putting myself under, the ridiculous notion that in order to be a successful author I needed to become the next J K Rowling. It’s good to be inspired by other people who’ve trodden the path before you, but important to remember that we are all individuals, with different talents and different routes to success, and – most importantly – different definitions of success.

I initially thought that success for me would mean publishing my own book, which I did a few weeks ago. It was a good achievement, but now it feels to me like a stepping stone to other things. I’m glad I did it, and prior to publication I did work quite hard to get it done, but almost as soon as I had it in my hands I wanted to forget about it and move onto the next thing. This is very typical of me, the constant desire to do something else and the inability to stick at one thing for long. I find this aspect of my character immensely irritating, but having had 40 years of getting to know myself, I realise that this is just the way I am.

We all have to make the best of what we’ve got and, as much as I admire Usain Bolt and all the other Olympic athletes competing in this year’s Games, I am never going to be among them in sporting terms. But I have already learned a lot from observing their dedication and will power, and can apply something of that spirit to my own situation.

I’ll be watching the result of tonight’s men’s 100m with great interest, as will many millions of other people. Whether or not Usain Bolt successfully defends his title, he has already inspired countless people, and I hope that makes him feel he’s still a winner, whatever the outcome.

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Some time ago, two fellow bloggers very kindly gave me awards that I have not yet thanked them for publicly.

Aparna from Midnight Hues Poetry gave me the Versatile Blogger Award and Ashley from Backyard Provence bestowed the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on me. Due to the generous nature of this blogging community, I had already received these awards, but I was most grateful to have them again from two bloggers who have provided me with some excellent reading material.

Today, I received another two awards from Meg at Meg Travels and these two are awards I’ve never had before.

The first one is the Illuminating Blogger Award:

The rules for accepting the award are:

  • to visit the award site Food Stories and leave a comment indicating that I’ve been nominated and by whom
  • to thank the person that nominated me by including a link to their blog
  • to share one random thing about myself
  • to select at least five other bloggers whose illuminating, informative posts I enjoy reading, and nominate them for the award

I’ve visited the Food Stories site and left my comment as instructed, and I heartily recommend a visit to Meg’s blog, which has lots of wonderful photos on it and little stories of her trips and travels around the world. Thank you Meg for this award.

One random fact is that garlic is the only vegetable I can think of that I don’t like.

I find illuminating, informative posts all over the place on the blogosphere and so this list is just a taster of wonderful things, but I’m inclulding these blogs particularly because I frequently feel illuminated, informed and inspired by all of them:

The Hazel Tree

The Naturephile

Writing From Scotland

Journeys to Scotland

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

 

The second award from Meg is the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award:

For this one I have to again pass the award on to 5 blogs and share 7 things about myself.

The blogs are:

Tea with Betty

Bringing Europe Home

Leanne Cooking For the Family

The Cosy Creative

Make and Bake with Bert 

Seven things about myself:

  • I eat cereal with fruit for my evening meal just about every night
  • I have a weakness for new shampoos
  • I got my first pay packet aged 15, working in a record shop on Saturdays
  • I have a weakness for stationery
  • Earlier this year I started a writing course that was meant to lead to me becoming a published author on completing the course; I’ve only done the first assignment so far, but I’ve published a book, so I’m doing it the wrong way round
  • I have a weakness for second-hand books
  • I would quite like to do a course in French polishing

Just as I was about to publish this post, I received another award from The Charmed Cupcake:

Thank you very much to Angela for that. Her blog has a wonderful subtitle: “Cupcakes are an important part of a balanced diet”. Angela lives in Austria, a country I once visited when I was about 7 years old on a family holiday, and I like the way she introduces herself on her blog; in her words: “People call me Angela, Ange or Angie – whatever suits their personality”. My instinct was to call her Angela, so I don’t know what that says about me, perhaps that I’m rather a formal sort of British person.

The rules for this one are to thank the person who nominated me, tell people 7 things about myself and pass it on to 7 other blogs. Since I’ve just mentioned 7 things for the previous award, I’ll borrow those for that bit of this award and nominate the following blogs:

Idun in Scotland

That Doodling Gal

Cocina de Nihacc

Backyard Provence

Tea Buddy

Ummanaal’s Musings

Midnight Hues Poetry

Thank you to everyone who’s given me these awards, and to all of the nominees for providing great blogs for me to read.

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After I published a post about my new book being available on ebay, Scott of Land-sea-sky suggested that I should write a post about how this made me feel.

Incidentally, if you like lovely photos I strongly recommend having a look at his blog, which has some cracking shots on it. He has some superb landscapes, architectural features and still life photos, and one of my favourite shots can be found here.

I published my ebay post last Friday and was intending to get the book to the printer two days ago, on Monday, but that hasn’t happened. The book itself is finished and the printer has it ready to go, but I’ve had a few problems with the cover photos. The file sizes are huge, and I can’t send them by email, so I’ll need to take them into the printer on a data stick (I was actually there today and could have handed them in, but I didn’t realise at the time that this was going to be a problem).

So, how am I feeling about all this?

Well, I feel happy that the text is all done and has been proofread many times, by various people (although I fully expect to find mistakes when it’s printed as perfection is very hard to achieve!)

– image courtesy of The Mark Blog

but I feel frustrated by the problems with the photos and the added days that this is taking.

– photo courtesy of EduGuide

My aim was to get it all finished by the end of May and available in mid-June, but alas I will have to exercise some patience and accept that it’s going to be a week or two later than I would like.

– image courtesy of Doug Savage

Like lots of people, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and in fact I have written the first half of a completely different book, which I was originally intending would be my first. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam on it, so I decided to write a guidebook to tearooms instead.

This tearoom guidebook has dominated the past 5 months of my life, but I’ve enjoyed becoming a writer, I like wearing that hat. However, as soon as the book is available I’ll need to get a couple of new hats, and become a salesperson and a marketing person as well.

– photo courtesy of The Straight North Blog

Thankfully, I have some very nice little helpers, one of whom is my sister, who has been doing a great job of plugging my book whenever she can. She also very kindly had some bumper stickers printed for me, and this is the one on my rear windscreen:

If you want to plug your blog while you’re stuck in traffic or parked somewhere, you might like to think about having a bumper sticker made up too, I think it’s a great idea.

On the subject of advertising, my dad gave me a little poem to encourage me:

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs;

the homely hen lays one.

The codfish never cackles,

to tell you what she’s done.

So, we despise the codfish,

the homely hen we prize -

which demonstrates to you and me

that it pays to advertise!

Sales and marketing are skills that I don’t think I naturally possess, but which I am trying to learn. I want to try and make the proposition of buying my book an attractive one, and I want people to feel that if they fork out £7 for the pleasure, they’ll get something they feel has been worth the expenditure.

As much as I wanted to do it, including photos in the book would have made it too expensive to produce, and so instead I’ve done some line drawings to illustrate it. I’m no great artist, but I have quite enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a few doodles and I hope that these make the book a little bit quirky and unusual. This is one of the drawings I didn’t use, showing a few chocolates for sale:

I plan to make photos available on my teacupspress blog, so that anyone wanting to visit a specific tearoom will be able to have a look at some pictures before they go.

Amazingly, several people have already ordered my book through ebay, for which I am most grateful because it’s given me an encouraging boost just when I was beginning to flag a bit.

I understand that not everyone wants to buy a book about tearooms in Perthshire, Angus and Dundee, but it’s nice to be sharing my writing journey on this blog with you, and I will be boring you with photos of the finished article when I have copies to show off.

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