“Oh, my dear boy, we’…

“Oh, my dear boy, we’re not going to punish you for a little thing like that. It was an accident. We don’t send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts.”

– Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Yankee Candles

I love me a good smelly candle and have gone through quite a few with my little obsession (as you know I have many) but apart from the surprisingly fabulous quality of IKEA scented candles my firm favourites still remain Yankee.

My Mum first bought me a Vanilla Lime a couple of Christmases ago. Yankee say the fragrance is ‘Smooth and refreshing… the creamy richness of vanilla with sweet cane sugar and a zesty lime twist.’ And they are so right. You wouldn’t expect the mix of vanilla and lime to work but like the description says, the sweetness is the main focus with a nice sharp zing in there for good measure and to take sweet-and-sickly to a sweet-you-could-eat aroma.

I ADORE Autumn and Christmas smells. Cinnamon, apple and orange pomanders, gingerbread, cinnamon, caramel, cookies, peppermint, vanilla, spices, cranberry, cinnamon, so Yankee’s Christmas scents definitely make an appearance on my Christmas list.

Here are some of my favourites…
Apple Pumpkin- ‘Cultivated with care . . . home-grown apples and pumpkins blended with ginger and clove’
Caramel Pecan Pie- ‘A mouthwatering invitation . . . serve up a buttery slice of gooey goodness with this scrumptious recipe of walnuts, pecans and creamy caramel’
Apple Cider- ‘A welcoming aroma of hot cider spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg’
Christmas Cookie- ‘Buttery rich, vanilla scented, holiday sugar cookies’
Cinnamon Stick- ‘The fragrant mystery of imported cinnamon bundled with cloves’

Cranberry Chutney- ‘Fresh cranberries, orange zest, rosemary, raisins, and a touch of golden honey’
Kitchen Spice- ‘This modern blend of sweet orange, clove, ginger and cinnamon is a new take on pantry favourites’

And a few new for me to try…
Mountain Lodge- ‘A luxurious retreat in front of a cozy hearth, warm with the aroma of cedarwood and sage’

2×4- ‘The warm, unmistakable scent of freshly planed wood and sawdust evokes a sense of confidence and quality’
Autumn Leaves- ‘A vibrant medley of birch and maple leaves with pomegranate, juniper berry, and orange blossom’
Blueberry Scone- ‘The delicious aroma of English quickbread with sweet blueberries, rich cream and a hint of vanilla’
Green Grass- ‘Nothing says summer like the familiar, heady scent of a freshly cut lawn’
Hazelnut Coffee- ‘A full-bodied blend of java suffused with macademia nut, vanilla, and cocoa bean’
Home Sweet Home- ‘A heartwarming blend of cinnamon, baking spices, and a hint of freshly poured tea’
Cherries on Snow- ‘An enchanted, sparkling blend of bright, juicy cherries with sweet almonds and an icy freshness’
Christmas Eve- ‘Traditional holiday scents of a warm hearth, sugared plums, and candied fruits’
Christmas Tree- ‘Like going out in the snow to find that special tree… fresh, familiar pine with crisp eucalyptus’
Macintosh Spice- ‘Simply delicious… crisp, slightly tart apple slices sprinkled with freshly ground cinnamon’
Moon On Their Wings- ‘The warm glow of night air … a tranquil blend of bergamot, pepper, dray sage and a touch of cedar’

Orchard Pear- ‘Ripe, succulent pears, fresh from the tree, warmed with notes of jasmine and cognac’
Pink Dragon fruit- ‘Colourful and intriguing… there’s a lure of adventure in the sweet aroma of this tropical fruit’
Red Apple Wreath- ‘A happy holiday homecoming with the festive aroma of sweet apples, cinnamon, walnuts and maple’
Autumn Wreath- ‘There’s a cheerful fall welcome in the spicy warmth of autumn leaves and cinnamon apples’
Sparkling Snow- ‘The crisp, naturally fresh scent of gleaming, snow-covered pines with hints of patchouli and fruit’
White Christmas- ‘There’s a quiet holiday beauty in this blend of woodsy evergreens and cool, freshly fallen snow’
Winter Wonderland- ‘So real you can almost hear sleigh bells – the tingle of a frosty breeze blowing through icy pines’

With my FAVOURITE this year being the beautiful sweet aroma of Pink Sands- ‘It’s an exotic island escape in the beautiful mix of bright citrus, sweet florals and spicy vanilla’

So try these out, or at least, get to a store where you can smell them for yourself! In the UK there are many new independent merchants as well as Yankee being stocked in many of our bigger department and chain stores as well as card shops.

Gotta ❤ Yankee!

Spells… List I.

In my quest to know every inch of the Harry Potter world I have been thinking about the spells used in the books and the fact that even now, a made up word ‘Stupify’ can mean exactly the same thing to you (if you have ever read the books which I am sure many millions of people have; with at least 400 million copies of the whole series having been printed) as it does to me.

I found a wonderful quote many months ago that I printed out and stuck on my fridge-

‘Wishing you could just Accio something when you can’t find it…’

With that one made up word with it’s fictitious meaning, you can say quite a bit. I’m sure many millions of fantasy fans have their own versions of what I might call ‘The Shakespeare Effect’ and hopefully we may find these delightful new words (or old words with new meanings) working their way into our fabulous Oxford English Dictionary. This first grabbed my attention when Rick Stein (of all people) mentioned the Latin meaning for ‘baggage’- Impedimenta. What a wonderfully intelligent author to use old words and give them new light, life and meanings whilst still being tightly connected to their roots.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no idea of the complexities of our modern English language, let alone Latin or anything else but I just find the level of obsession, determination and the sheer amount of research and background in the Harry Potter world to be absolutely fascinating. Think also of the language Professor J.R.R. Tolkien (I do apologise if I am incorrect in any way) who went as far as to design/manufacture/craft a whole new set of languages both lingual and written. Now that is a whole new level of obsession I really admire…

So for this post I am trying to remember (with a little research) spells and their meanings although I will not list the Unforgivable Curses here.

Lumos- light much like a torch

Lumos Maxima- a huge amount of light

Lumos Solem- an imitation of sunlight

Nox- to extinguish the Lumos spell

Reparo- to repair inanimate objects

Impedimenta- to impede an opponent

Confringo- a blasting curse with explosive power (offensive spell)

Wingardium Leviosa (Levi-o-sa not Levio-sar ;p )- to levitate an inanimate object

Impervious- to make an inanimate object impervious to substances

Alohomora- an unlocking spell

Colloportus- a locking spell

Furnuculous- to cover an opponent with boils

Stupefy- to knock a person unconscious (offensive spell)

Rennervate- to wake an unconscious person

Duro- to solidify an inanimate object

Salvio Hexia- used to shield against minor hexes, can be used on dwellings

Finite Incantatem- to extinguish a spell

Priori Incantatem- to call forth a previous spell from a wand

Deletrius- to delete a previous spell from a wand

Repello Muggletum- to literally repel Muggles with gentle influence

Episkey- to heal minor injuries

Diffindo- a severing charm

Piortotum Locomotor- to animate normally inanimate objects to do casters bidding

Aguamenti- water jet

Obliviate- an extremely powerful charm to remove memory

Specialis Revelio- used to reveal any hidden spells on an inanimate object

Homenum Revelio- used to reveal the presence of living beings in an area

Incendio- to produce flames

Petrificus Totalus- the full body-bind curse

Liberacorpus- counter-curse to below, to drop levitated person

Levicorpus- to levitate a person by the ankles (offensive spell)

Protego- a personal shield charm to protect against minor jinxes

Protego Totalum- a larger more powerful shield charm for houses/dwellings

Expelliarmus- to disarm and opponent

Muffliato- to effectively ‘muffle’ and sound you might make in the immediate vicinity

Accio- to call an inanimate object to you

Incarcerous- to bind an opponent in ropes

Engorgio- to cause an object to grow in size

Reducio- counter-jinx to the above, to reduce any grown object

Oppugno- used to set conjured animals on another person (offensive spell)

Avis- to conjure canaries

Cave Inimicum- a spell to strengthen defenses on a building/set area

Descendo- causes inanimate objects to sink or lower

Priori Incantatem- to call forth previous spells from a wand

Finite Incantatem- to finish/cancel/void any spell and it’s effects

Locomotor Mortis- the leg-locker curse

Locomotor- to move any inanimate object to the casters will

Anapneo- to stop someone choking

Expulso- used to explode inanimate objects

Aparecium- reveals invisible ink

Geminio- used to replicate an inanimate object

Glisseo- used to turn stairs flat and glassy

Confundo- to confuse an opponent

Defodio- used to carve away heavy/thick/dangerous materials

Evanesco- to vanish something

Expecto Patronum- produces a life like representation of the caster’s innermost positive feelings, such as joy or hope

Unfortunately the only people I can use these wonderful words with in normal conversation would be my fabulously open minded parents who ‘get’ me, even when the rest of the world doesn’t. If anyone would like to add suggestions to this list I’d be very happy to hear them!

Camping.

Setting up a tent in the summer sun, listening to cows mooing contentedly in nearby fields, sitting under the stars with only the moonlight lighting the sky and fields beyond, waking up to the sound of birdsong and the smell of fresh air and green grass…

But it’s not really like that is it?

The summer sun is decidedly hot when you’ve driven for over and hour in a black car to your campsite only to then have to pitch your tent on the sun-baked lumpy ground that the bloody pegs will not be pushed into without bending and that you will also  regret having to sleep on that night. When you’ve completely burnt your face whilst trying to pitch the damn tent you’ll discover you haven’t remembered the mallet (for the tent pegs) or the after-sun (for your poor burnt self) and either-

A. Go off in a blind rage without words to describe the horror and desperation of your situation OR

B. Drop into camping-depression whereupon no words could describe your utter pain and sorrow.

The cows mooing in the nearby field turn out to be Alpacas. The Alpacas apparently are vicious and escape a lot. Apparently they also like chewing the corners of the brand new tent you bought specifically for this outing and as they are vicious, have many weepy and terrified families held captive in their tents until the farmer/owner strolls out at half eleven in the morning to feed the buggers.

Sitting under the moon and stars is uncomfortable when every mozzy in the whole county has found you and your sun burn in the dark and decided and it’s an easy chow-down, buffet style. Mosquitoes (or whatever our English counterpart) are proof there is no God in my opinion. Or proof he’s a masochist. Either way it’s sad news.

Birdsong and fresh air? If you’re lucky you might be far enough into the country to be woken by a tractor trundling past your temporary abode; no, we rarely get earthquakes big enough to feel in the UK. If you’re not so lucky the B road you’re pitched up against might turn out to be the locals version of an A road and they really like their horns. Fresh air smell may consist of possible morning dew mixed with Alpaca shit-scented winds (again if your lucky) or if you’re really unlucky you may find Mr-Tent-One-Over’s Jack Russell Bandit raided the bins last night and on the way to his own tent, vomited outside yours…

I wish I could imagine this rosy, wonderful weekend camping and it actually turn out exactly like that. I have wanted to try it for a while now, living where we do and now having a car. Unfortunately I was raised a realist/pessimist and can envision more Alpaca charging than re-charging in a campsite in the countryside…

Book Review- Jaz Parks Series Finale.

I’ve just finished the final book in the series and wanted to share thoughts…

Jasmine Parks is an assistant assassin for the CIA working alongside the CIA’s most highly coveted “national treasure” Vayl. Vayl is nearly three hundred years old. He’s also a vampire.

This last installment centers around Jasmine’s fight to rid herself of a Domytr by the name of King Brude who shacked up in her unconscious somehow, unbeknown to anyone reading the last book, on that last mission. Her head of department at the CIA was murdered and their dept shut down so her team are pretty much going rogue on this one.

Each and every book is a new mission and if you miss a book, you miss a little of what’s going on in the next as the author assumes you’ll read the lot.

The pace of storyline is good (good being okay-good and not exceptional-good) but a couple of books seem hurried and Jasmine’s inner dialogue is either choppy and confusing or just plain over the top and boring. Also, some character interaction in a couple of the earlier books is a little hurried and I don’t feel for these people. It feels a bit too forced and I genuinely don’t believe Jaz when she keeps telling the reader she loves her crew. I just don’t feel it.

Jasmine’s character is the main focus here I know but I just feel it’s too big for the proper development of any of the others. For someone who’s keeping her heart locked away due to past traumas (in this latest book Jaz mentions losing her last fiance Matt only 18 months before) she certainly jumps into new relationships quickly and whole heartedly.

She ‘gets’ things and figures situations out without that irritating inner monologue explaining it for the reader but explaining far less interesting/intriguing plot moments instead. She jumps from mission to mission with her crew having only a couple of days or weeks in between yet we are supposed to believe her people can just look at her and know exactly what she’s thinking even when they’ve only worked together a couple of months? Hmm.

Also, and this is probably one of the most awful things about this series; the strange and weird creatures the crew come up against. Knomes? With big blue noses and tails? Is that not just bloody ridiculous when trying to write an almost serious story? And the way Jasmine (therefore the CIA by extension) know the names and known whereabouts of the most bizarrely or poorly described bad guys yet have either A, no powers to do anything about said weird bad guys or B, knowing who they are and where they are have no idea who they are or where they are? Confusing no? The team has lots of information of absolutely no relevance and assume quite a bit or they have no information and manage to make decisions quickly and easily and get the assassinations done.

Jasmine also heads the missions when she’s only the assistant assassin? Rardin (the author) gives her all the power and decision making and then has her making ditzy mistakes and lovey eyes at Vayl the next second. In some instances Jaz switches from ‘Off’ mode to ‘Working’ so quickly I wonder if she’s not a robot. There’s talk of her being able to switch, keeping her mind on the job and nothing else, like an obsession and then she flies off the handle at the slightest annoyance.

There are silly side-plots (like saving Aaron’s Dad’s ghost) that I kinda didn’t understand what they were there for. Other than the only reason this man had to be included in the story was because he is the reincarnated soul of one of Vayl’s sons who he has been dying to meet again for two hundred years and should meet before the end of the series. Quickly. The character has about as much personality as a used plastic sandwich bag and serves no purpose in the plot.

We also find out Vayl the vampire assassin has been watching Jasmine’s family for many a generation and he somehow had never met Jasmine until she worked for the CIA. Yet as we just discovered he’d had an eye on the family and kept them safe for two hundred years… Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I read ALL the books in the series but it was a bit of a struggle at times. Maybe I just don’t like the main character Jasmine? But that’s really the whole point isn’t it? You have to care? Otherwise, SO WHAT?

So what? might best explain my reaction to these books. I read them because I was waiting on something good to come up and after I bought three books I just went and finished the series. Within these stories there is nothing but the mission and really nothing going on in the world apart from Jasmine Parks and the people who make her feel better/do things for her/marry her brother…

It passes time but I wouldn’t read any of these books more than once and that’s pretty much the seal of dis-approval from me.

If I won’t read it twice, it wasn’t worth the price.

 

Gardening for the enthusiastic.

I named this piece ‘Gardening for the enthusiastic’ and not Enthusiast/Green-fingered/Someone who has any affinity for plants at all because I am none of those things and I can only write from my own experience.

I am Enthusiastic.

I find something/anything to occupy my time and GO WITH IT with such an intensity and obsession it takes over my life. Last summer it was Grow-Your-Own produce. I read up on everything to do with back-yard growing (as you know this fulfills another of my obsessions) and then collected up seed packets for veg such as Peas and Radishes (nice and easy and QUICK) Turnip, Beetroot and Carrot of various colours and mixes (root veg are my favourites to eat) to some of the more exotic like Khol Rabi, Mooli, Asparagus and Globe Artichoke.

Oh yeah, I had my meals planned out for the next eight months.

The thing was, I didn’t have much money and I didn’t have all that much patience. I LOVE growing things. I germinated those seedlings and brought them on and hardened them off and planted them all out with the EXACT amount of precision. It was only once they were in the ground and big enough to fend off the caterpillars themselves that I got bored. The pea plants gave me four pea pods in all. I had FIVE pea plants. The beets were bitter and evil and spoiled my wonderful beet and sausage stew. The carrots were three and a half centimeters long after five months of being in the ground. The lettuces, now this was the craziest thing, were bloody prickly and couldn’t be eaten they were so sharp! I bought all my seeds from reputable gardening stores and did what the instructions told me to do. The only problem was my soil.

After years of weeds and rubbish and neighbour’s cats toileting in the border, the soil was in the worst possible shape to be growing veg in. It takes years of care and knowledge to build up a good soil and lots of hard-work keeping it that way as vegetables take away the goodness as fast as you can replace it. Hard work is fine. I enjoy it when I can SEE the fruits of my labours (so to speak) but I couldn’t afford a quick-fix for the soil and my compost bin was in it’s infancy.

So this year I pulled out all the weeds and the four foot high Kohl Rabi plant that didn’t turn into any type of edible veg and OH and I have sown normal everyday pretty plant seeds- Aubretia to give ground cover, Lavender for scent and for the bees and butterflies, same goes for globe thistles, poppies of 5 types, Red-Hot Pokers, My love lies bleeding (a very beautiful drooping velvety flowered plant that is actually very understated), Sage (I want a herb bed more than anything and given the conditions of my garden think the Mediterranean plants might do better here than anything else), Pansies for pops of velvet ‘Black-Jack’ black and many other to boot.

The Ornamental Corn germinated two plants. The caterpillars took one. The Pumpkin germinated three out of seven (higher mortality rate to last years but the seeds are older) and the caterpillars have just had the head off one. The Lavender looks to be doing well and the caterpillars don’t seem overly enticed by the tiny baby plants so here’s fingers crossed on that front, the pansies look okay but are a little sparse in the patch we gave over to them, the poppies may not take till next year but I’m okay with that and I’ve not seen anything of the globe thistles or artichokes, red hot pokers or aubretia. I will wait. I will be patient. I will go and buy grown plants to fill in the gaping holes in my garden.

I would like to have a herb based bed with other plants adding to it. I think I’ll buy larger plants so the poor things don’t get eaten down by bugs or scratched up by the local cats (mine is a house cat so no probs there).

The only plants I’ve had any success with have been hand-me-downs. The Lemon Balm I found in a corner and split and replanted, it’s doing marvelously. The Shamrock that was grown out and is a close descendant of my Nana’s, both in red/purple leafed and green varieties, brought down from my Mam’s house and replanted here. The Loganberry bush which is thriving after my old neighbour gave it to me through the fence for me to tie in and get to take roots on as she doesn’t actually eat Loganberries. The Gooseberry bush which I bought last year and thought was dead due to the poor thing looking much like a dried twig until a few weeks ago, now I have the sneaking suspicion it was just using all it’s energies for root-formation. The variegated bamboo which I hacked to near-nothingness and has come back thicker and lusher than before as well as being a bit more compact. My powder pink Hydrangea that OH was bullied into buying me one day that as soon as it was placed outside turned shocking pink and then the caterpillars got it bad. I have since planted the thing and dead-headed it, giving it a chance to form stronger roots so next years flowers will be all the better.

I need to go to the garden center. Our border is empty and sitting outside in our hand-me-down gravel and concrete yard (the poor little thing couldn’t be called a garden yet) is just the slightest bit depressing…

Good luck fellow Enthusiastics. May the force be with you.

Blink 182.

I really don’t like London. Okay, scrap that. I didn’t like London until last weekend and our visit to Canary Wharf. It’s just so damn NICE isn’t it? Clean. Quiet. Nice. And it only helps you love a place more when you get to watch a cool band play and meet OPTIMUS PRIME. Hell yeah. Like I’ve said before, I. AM. A. ROCK. STAR.

“That’s Optimus Prime.” Complete shock in my voice.

“Really?” said in tone of utter doubt as we walked up to the setting up of the London MotorExpo.

“Um, yeah. I would NOT get that wrong.”

“Huh, cool.”

“Stuff cool, this is IMMENSE. Where’s Bumblebee… I love me some Camero…”

And that’s pretty much how that went.

I first started listening to Blink when I was in high school, probably about fourteen years old. They were easily accessible and completely out there. Well, they were for an average kid like me.

I paired this new found love of anything outrageous with a pared-down scarlet red almost-mohawk and screamo music in my ears any chance I got- Fightstar, Funeral for a Friend, The Used, Bullet for my Valentine, those other lads with long fringes… Well, it was years ago…

So when the chance floated past OH he jumped at it. We were set to relive our youth in the O2 Arena for one night. I doubt OH new my youth was actually spent IN the mosh-pits, not watching from safe distances…

I’ve got to say, for it to be so huge and so commercial (I remember watching Bullet before they were ‘big’ in Fibbers in York; a tiny basement-type s**t hole that could only hold 80 people and always seemed to be stretched at the seams with 200) I did get the goosebumps thing going on. I couldn’t help myself, this was Blink. To be frank, I can’t even remember the name of the first act although it sounded a lot like Flip Atlantic. I’m sure of the second word, not so much on the first. The second warm up act was even better as I knew a fair few words to get involved singing along with. All American Rejects. Come on, who doesn’t love ‘Swing swing’ and ‘Give you Hell’?

Anywho, after a surprisingly long toilet-break queue that took very little time to get to the front of we settled back in for Blink. I know I’m biased but they are just as good as they ever were if only ten years older and a little tired. The encore was just as good as the set and they played all the favourites throughout.

The scary part of the night was not only how bloody steep the seating is within the arena but after we left and were heading to the underground. Aw heck, I love a good end of the world film (it’s a new passion of mine, along with Zombies) but I don’t want to live one. The crowd control procedures at the underground station and the reaction of hyped-up, mostly wasted arse holes around us really made me think the world was ending. Big yellow signs with ‘CROWD CONTROL IN EFFECT’ and the crowd getting tighter and tighter was a little scary but we got through in the end and were back at our hotel in about 25 minutes.

The next day, we decided to walk from Canary Wharf (where we were staying) back to Waterloo Station; along walk but one filled with many many tourist type photo taking opportunities.

So we walked. The whole way. And it was the best walk  ever. I Have never seen London so calm and peaceful and even though there were thousands of tourists around I didn’t once feel claustrophobic or caged (I think in a previous life I was a wild animal, possibly something with speed and claws if my inner-panic in city locales gives any indication).

I am now looking forward to revisiting my Capital again some time and would definitely spend more time around Canary Wharf and actually visit some of the sights along South Bank that we didn’t have the time or money to this time.