Brilliant Puzzle

I’ve read a few of JT Lawrence’s masterpieces:  Two of her Sticky Fingers short story anthologies, her debut novel, The Memory of Water, some of her urban fantasy works, The Highfire Crown, The Sigma Surrogate, Why You were Taken, Grey Magic and her pregnancy-journey-memoir, The Underachieving Ovary.  I’ve loved every one of them, for different reasons.

When I was younger, I would buy an array of magazines every month.  That was before I moved into my The Cave and realized that adulting costs money and that magazines, while made of paper, are not the kind of paper that pays bills or buy a loaf of bread.

I did buy Woman and Home this month.  Not because I am interested in bathing suits that would fit my pear-shaped, cross-between-an-hourglass-and-an-apple-shape, or the insert on Andrea McLean but because it contained a handbag-sized novel written by JTL.

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I read it from cover to cover in just over four hours, so it would make for a great poolside-, or airplane read.  An added bonus for me is that it is set in Johannesburg where I spent a portion of my life, making the story all the more real for me.

I do favour novels that read quickly like those of Jeffrey Deaver or James Patterson.  JTL’s Jigsaw captured me immediately because of this.  The short chapters build suspense in a staccato fashion and crescendo into a climax that has you wanting more.  It’s not easy to avoid spoiler alerts, so all I’m going to say is if you have a penchant for serial killers such as Deaver’s Bone Collector, or Patterson’s Mastermind, then Jigsaw will not disappoint.

Rating 5 out of 5

 

Friday Morning Thoughts

For those of you that have just started following my blog, there are two people I often refer to as The Bean and The Toppie – these are my parents, the former being Mom and the latter being Dad.

The Bean often told me growing up that Yours Truly is as transparent as a pane of glass.  Some days she’s wrong, because my condition has taught me how to be like the penguins of Madagascar.  Most days the smile and wave approach to life works, but then there are days like yesterday where I’m visibly not my sparkling, rainbow-farting-unicorn self.

I went to my favourite restaurant in town after work to sit in what has become known as my table, which is in the cosiest of corners, intent on blogging.  I read a few more chapters of my current novel, James Patterson’s 15th Affair instead.  I had zero inspiration to write and I almost always have a real book with me.  Failing that I have a selection of Kindle books on my phone, thanks to Charlie.

Some of the waitstaff who I’ve got to know over numerous cappuccinos and amazing meals came to ask if I was okay – not the standard implied question of are you satisfied with your meal and/or our service?  One even sat next to me for what might have been thirty seconds and asked how my day was (because clearly something was amiss).  They noticed me and that made a shitty’ish day a lot better.

The point that I’m trying to get across here, is that sometimes all that’s needed to life someone’s spirits is a kind word and a smile.  What’s even better about this is that it costs nothing.

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Thanks for reading this post 😊  Have a fantastic Friday!

The Adventure of a Lifetime Begins…

Now, I live in a tourist country, as many of you know. More so, I live in what is regarded as a tourist town, although out-of-season, the streets are rolled up at 5 PM. My favourite local destinations are Cape Town and closer to home, Wilderness and the Tsitsikamma. I’ve been to Durban and I spent the first nine years of my life in The City of Gold, and while it holds a nostalgic place in my heart, I’m not sure I would ever want to live there again. I’m a lover of small towns, with history or places that have trees. Cape Town has both characteristics, so that’s why it qualifies for me, despite being a city.

Carmen once told me “you either have a heart for Africa, or you don’t”. I thought it was a joke. Seriously! Yet, ever since I was 12, having learned about Cecil John Rhodes, David Livingstone, and Henry Morton Stanley in history, I’ve had a yearning to visit Victoria Falls. I finally realized, after a stint in hospital earlier this year following a major depressive episode, that it’s time to realize long-term dreams, and then dream some more, turning those dreams into goals, with a definable deadline.

I’m going to blog about the best experience of my life in parts, because a single post will not do it justice.

I had a lovely flight from George to Johannseburg on Mango, enjoying a Zulu Blonde, a beer brewed in Eshowe in Natal.

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I spent Thursday night with Kayla, at her home close to OR Tambo International Airport and met another amazing soul, Caroline. For the first time since my hospital stint, I had a drink, and then another and then another and well, at the end of the evening, it was 4 ½ bottles of wine and a truckload of laughter later.

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Kayla made me swallow two paracetamols before bed, which thankfully warded off the worst part of an insane hangover. Caroline kindly dropped me at the airport, which was somewhat chaotic as the national airline, SAA is once again striking about wage increases. It irks me every time to hear about strikes, but even more so after my visit to Victoria Falls.

I went through passport control quite quickly because I was keen to browse around the duty-free area. So many shops, with so many wares, but nothing was bought because I didn’t want to have to lug anything all the way there, and then back again. Soon I was at the boarding area, where I sat reading my book, drinking coffee to properly wake up, and copious amounts of water to flush out the Wrath of the Grapes.

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The BA flight to Livingstone left on time, and while I unfortunately had an aisle seat, the flight was pleasant. As we approached for landing, the Mighty Zambezi was clearly visible through the opposite window and I began to cry. I was so overwhelmed. My dream was slowly becoming truer by the second. Exiting the plane on the tarmac (which I’m used to, because we do it at George as well) at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport, I was hit squarely in the face by stifling heat. I hate getting hot, but there is something magical about the rays of the real African sun kissing your skin.

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Declaration to enter in hand, Customs formalities were dealt with. Quickly and efficiently. Soon I was on the transfer bus, with another declaration form to complete to cross the border into Zimbabwe, which would be my home for three nights. The bus driver’s name was Stanley, a Livingstone local.

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He drove me and some other BA travellers to their respective hotels (if within Livingstone), and the rest of us to the Victoria Falls border post. Once again, Customs entry was painless. Stanley handed us over to another driver, Lungile, and we entered Zimbabwe. I was the last person to be dropped off, as my accommodation was in the Zambezi National Park itself – an incredible place called The Old Drift Lodge.

My next post will be about The Old Drift Lodge, in the form of a review, which I will post to other-travel related sites, such as Tripadvisor.

Weekend Wins; Healing’s (Slowly) Happening

I very seldom check emails on a weekend, so when I got into work today, I quickly scanned through my inbox, noticing that someone had commented on my previous post.  I haven’t had this person comment before, but I was deeply touched by his/her kind words, because it confirmed that my putting my feelings out there did help – maybe not someone else, I don’t know, but it helped me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

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It also inspired me to write about where I am vs where I was last week.

It’s been a week since I spoke up about my relapse.  In that time, as short as a week is, there has been improvement.  The only thing not going as well as I’d hoped is sleep restoration; whether the meds are not working as they should, or I’m going to bed too early I’m not sure, but most nights, before 21:00 I’m exhausted and so I sleep.  0300 I’m awake again and I try to force myself back to sleep, telling myself stop thinking about whatever you are.  It’s three in the morning!  Even if you could do something about it, now is not the time!  Sometimes it’s easy. Most times it’s not.

Yesterday was the first time since my relapse that I didn’t cry.  In my book, that’s a win.  I’m not discounting the cathartic properties of tears – I’m just tired of bawling my eyes out at a song on the radio, a mere sentence in a book or during my morning shower because the prospect of another day is simply too daunting.

This past weekend I ventured out of The Cave (which is what I affectionately call my flat, because it doesn’t get much light and when going into the back rooms, the lights must be switched on) and attempted to be part of social activities with group dynamics.

I was off on Friday, so made plans with Harriet for lunch.  In my half-awake state, I got the time wrong and ended up at the mall an hour early.  I walked through every single shop in the mall before I met up with her.  I was a bit nervous because of all the people milling about, but I didn’t do my nut, like I did in the pharmacy the day I was discharged from the hospital.  I had a healthy meal – admittedly I couldn’t finish it.  The meds suppress my appetite, so I took what I didn’t eat home and ate it later.

Chicken Salad

Warren and his wife, Lara, are visiting from their new home which is 1100 Km (683 miles) away.  As they’re only visiting a few days, and have many friends here, the plan was to meet at a local restaurant on Friday night and catch up.  There were quite a few people at the table when I arrived, but being the amazing people they are, they did the rounds to chat with everyone.  I had told Warren I wouldn’t stay long and sent him my previous post to outline why.  He understood.  I lasted a little more than ninety minutes before the noise and people got too much for me to handle and my hands started to shake.  I felt overwhelmed and anxious and made a beeline for the exit.  I’m not sorry I went; it was great to see them both, the view of the Bay at night was breathtaking and I pushed my limits a little.

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Saturday morning, I popped in at Carmen for a quick cup of tea.  It wasn’t a long visit because she and Ewan had plans, as did I with Harriet.  When Harriet arrived at The Cave, we took a walk to the local church fête, but by the time we got there (both of us were slow out of the blocks that morning) all that was left to buy was second-hand books.  Not a problem for either of us, because we are total book sluts.  And at R2 (US $0.15) a book, we went a little overboard.  Afterwards we stopped at the vetkoek (a South African food made from deep-fried dough and filled with anything from curried mince to cheese to jam to marmite to chicken-mayo and anything in between!) and went down to the beach where we sat on a bench watching the people taking in the summer sunshine.

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The rest of the day I spent in The Cave, on the couch with The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, which I’d started the afternoon before.  I read until my eyes felt like the entire beach had been blown into them.  The book is so funny in parts that I laughed out loud – for the first time in a long while.

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Yesterday I took my folks out for lunch to a place that’s been around for yonks, but that we’ve never been to.  Rustic, but with fabulous fare.  I got a little sunburnt too, because we sat outside, but the warmth on my skin did me well.  A little calcipherol never hurt anyone, now did it?  It also did them good to get out of their flat a bit, because they’re quite isolated where they live.  An old friend, Stan, also happened to be in town for the night on business, so I popped by one of the beach bars and we had a quick drink – well he did, I had club soda.  We haven’t seen each other in going-on four years, but both of us were knackered, so the visit was quick.  I finished the book last night, intent on finding another one in the series.  Laughter is good, cheap medicine.

Tonight I’m going to the gym, but not to train.  I am not in that frame of mind yet.  I’m just having a fat percentage test done because I’m a little concerned that I’m melting away.  I haven’t needed to wear a belt in ages to keep my jeans up, and now it’s on the furthest hole from the buckle…BUT I’d rather have that, than pick up a huge amount of weight like I did the last time.  My appetite will eventually come back.  I just have to keep eating, albeit like a bird.

I’m not sure when I’ll post again because I am trying to focus on me and my recovery.  All I can say at this stage is thank-you to each one of you that reads my ramblings.

Until next time…

2014 is Here…

Normally when the clock strikes twelve, hailing the end of a year, and the beginning of another one, I reflect on the year past, and more often than not my eyes are filled with tears about what I didn’t achieve.  Last night I didn’t.  Because I’d received a promise from God.  A friend shared this verse on Facebook and it took root in my heart:

Isaiah 43:18-19

New International Version (NIV)

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

I was quite tired.  If I’d had my way, I would have been in bed just before eleven, but Elizabeth forced me to push through. I spent the night at her place, simply visiting with her, her brother and her parents.  It was probably the quietest new year I’ve experienced in a decade.  This morning we had a proper New Year’s breakfast 😉

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My step-sister is here, spending the night, en-route to visit my other step-sister who stays further up the coast.  While I sit typing away, she and my mom are chatting up a storm in the lounge.  Dad is very happy to have her here.  He has gone to great effort, with smoked angel fish and snoek and oysters.  

I quickly had to pop out on an errand and the radio in the car was off and all I could think about was just how blessed I am.  I have amazing parents, family and friends.  I am moving in two weeks into the perfect place.  My sideline businesses are both doing well.  This is definitely a reflection of what lies ahead.

Anyhow, I am not really a resolution person, but I saw this photo shared by Herbalife, it got me thinking…

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So, here goes…

This year I will:

1.  Be a better listener.  After all, I have two ears and one mouth.  And if I must speak, to speak accurately. And to speak life:

Proverbs 18:21

New International Version (NIV)

21 T”he tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

2.  Make time every day to be quiet in God’s presence.  Caryn, a colleague bought me this book for Christmas:

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by Retah McPherson.  She has the most amazing story to tell.  If you’ve got time, read their story here.  

Feeling inspired by this, I bought this book (the Afrikaans translation) for Steve for Christmas and the English one for myself…

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Steve told me that the author is a down to earth man, that really serves God, and that he ministers in a way that any person can understand.  I had heard about Angus Buchan before, but it wasn’t until I’d seen the movie, Faith like Potatoes that I really took an interest in his ministry. 

3.  Stay healthy – not only because it is good for me, but so that I can inspire others to be healthy too. 

4.  Read, and blog more.  After all, reading and writing are both passions of mine, and I should be pursuing them…

5.  Make a daily choice to choose life, because it is a choice:

Deuteronomy 30:19

New International Version (NIV)

19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”

6.  Make the most of every opportunity that comes my way and to help people where I can.

7.  To laugh more… 😀

I’m sure I could add more to the list, but for now I think that is enough…

Looking ahead, I am hopeful and happy, because of the promise above, and also because I know God has a plan for me!  And it is a good plan…

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So…here’s to 2014 – bring it on!  I am EXCITED and SO READY!

 

In 2013 I’m Going to…

Wake up and smell the roses…like this softly scented one I just picked out of our garden.  Isn’t it beautiful?

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How often aren’t we so rushed to do something, or be somewhere, or see to others’ needs that we simply miss the beauty of God’s creation around us?

Though I said in my previous post, I’m not a resolution-making-kinda-gal, I’m going to resolve to do these five things daily:

1.  Be thankful for everything I have, every day – because this is A Philosophy we all can Live by.  An online friend of mine has an awesome thing – it’s a gratitude jar, and every day she writes something down which she is thankful for and places it in the jar.  At the end of the year, she literally counts her blessings.

2.  Try to speak only positive things into my life, and into the lives of those around me – and if I stumble, to immediately ask God’s forgiveness immediately and restart the process.  I’ve bought Pastor Joel Osteen’s bestselling book I Declare and I’m going to be reading the 31 Promises this January and living them.

3.  Give my best at whatever I am asked to do.  I’m not saying that it will be perfect every time, but that I will give my best – and if I can’t do it on my own, that I will ask for help.

4.  To talk less, (be more patient), and listen more – to God’s Voice, and to those around me.

5.  Walk by Faith, and not by sight.

Right, that’s that…no wait!  There’s two more:

6.  To drink more water and green tea

7.  To not go to bed with my make-up on – no matter how tired I am!

Then, I have a bucket list of things I would like to do this year:

1.  Read more motivational books – I’ve just bought this book which Nianell signed, with a simple, yet effective message “Just Be…” on Sunday evening after her performance which I was privileged enough to attend.  She is an incredible local artist, blessed with an angel’s voice.  She is an amazing ambassador for God too – an inspiration and a true light.  In the 90 minutes she sang and brought her message, I was moved to tears a few times.  After the show, she patiently posed for a number of photos with fans and spoke to each one.  Here we are:

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2.  On the subject of reading, I want to also read all the books I bought in 2012 that I didn’t get around to reading.  I realize that this means I am going to be sleeping a lot less than I did last year…

3.  Go horse riding at Eight Bells – I’ve told Steve,  my trainer,  that I want to do this and he will ensure that there is enough lower-back strength training in my program for this to happen.   I’m thinking round about July / August – it’s cooler then, perfect weather for mountain outrides.  I can’t wait!

4.  To go hiking at least once every two months – the Garden Route has some beautiful trails, like the Giant Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness.  I think I shall start rallying the troops now already for a hike towards the end of the month.

5.  To save a few Rands every month, because I really do want to do the Advanced Novel Writing Course through the South African Writer’s College.  Having passed the first part of the course with merit, it is a step in the right direction.  I AM going to be published!  And my novel IS going to be a New York Bestseller – just you wait and see :-D!

6.  To swim in the sea more – I went with Carmen and Ewan to the beach on Thursday and swam in the sea for the first time in easily a decade (if not longer) and it was so refreshing.  The fact that I have a bikini ready body now helps too, I’ll admit 😉

7.  See more of my extended friendship circle – I am so blessed to have many true angels in my friendship circle, yet I don’t get to see them all as much as I’d like.

8.  Watch more movies (at the cinema) than I did in 2012 – shouldn’t be too hard, considering I only saw two last year 😀

9.  Take more photos – and share them with those around me, be it through the various forms of social media at my disposal, or here, on my blog.

10.  With that said…I will definitely be blogging more than the meagre 33 posts I did last year!

A Few Shades of Misfit

Two weeks ago I bought the “Fifty Shades” Trilogy by EL James which has quite literally, taken the world by storm.

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I could not put them down!   Yes, yes, I’m Mid-Thirty Misfit and I’m an addict. Every free moment I had to read, I did.  It was like the world that existed for me was that of Ana Steele and Christian Grey.  I even read while on the treadmill at the gym, capturing the curiosity of some of the people there.  I’d get home at night, eat my dinner, bath and climb into my toasty bed and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

For those of you who haven’t yet read them, but still wish to, stop reading this post now, because there may be spoilers.

While the books have phrases that are constantly repeated, annoyingly so, the story is a solid one.  The first book is more sex than story, but an education nevertheless.  I had to laugh when Christian tells Ana that he’s never had Vanilla Sex before and I found myself thinking, so that’s what sex with a virgin is, only to find out later that it is not – it is sex without any toys or add-ons.  I’ve watched some things on TV (mostly crime fiction, like CSI, Castle  and the like) involving BDSM, and I always thought it to be creepy, but then again, each to his / own, not so?  Certain scenes in the books are rather explicit, but despite that, I found myself intrigued.  I still find it difficult to grasp that there are people in the world who get their kicks out of being trussed up, collared, beaten with canes, tickled with riding crops, or suspended from the ceiling, but from Ana’s point of view, it sounds like something everyone should try, at least once – with someone you trust.  Despite the deviant nature of such an arrangement / relationship, trust is obviously implicit between both parties.  

Certain occurrences in the books have had me blushing all shades of pink.  The other day I was chatting to Steve about the next flavour of shake I should get and he rattled off something in the lines of, “The chocolate is too close to the one you’ve had the past month, you have an aversion to strawberry and vanilla would be too boring.”  He has no idea what the books are about, but I felt my face heat when he’d finished talking.  I’m quite sure he noticed the blush, but gentleman that he is, he didn’t mention it.

But enough about the books for now – because if I carry on thinking about them, I may very well end up re-reading them… Don’t get me wrong, I plan on re-reading them in the future, preferably with a willing man, whom I trust, close by to help alleviate the tension.

On other things – Liza is getting married in September, (on my birthday!!!!), so Elizabeth arranged a hen night for her using Anita’s house as the venue.  We dressed her in bloomers, a bride-to-be-sash and a sexy belly-dancing bra.Image

The evening was a resounding success although Elizabeth keeps second guessing herself.  The food was great, the games were fun and the bride-to-be laughed and shed tears of joy.  As was the case with Anita’s hen party, there was an interesting cake for Liza too…

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One of the games, an old favourite at most hen parties, was to nominate a team member to be a bride and make her a dress out of (really cheap, scratchy, easily-torn, one ply) toilet paper.  I was the toilet paper bride at Anita’s hen night and again at Liza’s.  Don’t I look absolutely gorgeous?

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Her other friends decided to take her out pub-crawling – and to sell condoms (which are free from the State) – resulting in her going home with some extra cash.  She says that although her head felt a bit tender yesterday morning, she had a wonderfully memorable evening.  Her smile is all the gratitude I need.

I have been somewhat introspective lately, which can either be regarded as a good or a bad thing depending on what side of the fence you’re sitting on, but for me, for the most part, it is a good thing.  I am trying to live more in the present, taking each day as it comes, being grateful for the blessings that each day holds.  While yesterday and the yesterdays before it have an impact on who I am today, there is no way of going back to change the things I’m not proud of or unhappy about.  Tomorrow may not come for me, if it’s God’s will, so I try not to think about it.  After all, it will be a today soon enough…

I have a bit of poetry looming in my blood, which I’ll post soon.

Day Two: Nine Loves

Nine Loves…

I uhm’ed and ah’ed about this one quite a bit, but I realized I have more than nine – deciding on the top nine was the difficult bit. 

  1. My Parents

Yes, yes, it probably sounds so clichéd, but it’s the truth.  Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  They still chide me when I do something wrong, but are supportive of me in every way.  I sometimes think about what life will be like when they’re gone, and it breaks my heart – the time we have is so precious…

  1. My friends and Some of my Family…

 …Most of them anyway, although honestly, I love some a lot more than others. 

 I can count on a single hand the really awesome friends I have (and this is in no particular order) – there is Kerry in Jo’burg – no matter how much time goes by without us seeing each other, we are always able to pick up where we left off, and she is always there when I need to talk. 

Elisabeth is another top-notch friend – sure, there are days when she makes me so angry I’d like to throttle her, but I will never find another friend like her – she is loyal, caring, always willing to listen, and always around with a helping hand to help plan or clean up after a get-together.  I love the way she always brings me back to earth – even though the ride is sometime bumpy.  She said to me one day that I am her “honourary sister” and that made me feel so special. 

Geri & Dan in Durbs – who strangely enough are friends I met online (in a trivia chat room).  We met in person in November 2002 and just gelled so well.  They have two gorgeous kids and they are always willing to open their home to me.  They were Godsends in January when we had our car accident – the towing company wouldn’t come and get us out until we paid the money upfront – (really now, talk about unreasonable), but when I phoned Dan and Geri with the details, they didn’t hesitate to immediately transfer the cash and get us sorted.

Cousin Lara – while we live in the same town, and don’t see each other as often as we should, when we do, well, there are always tears – tears from laughing so much that our tummies ache. 

That’s not all of them, but if I have to list everyone – this will end up being a thesis-long post. 

  1. Books

I cannot function without books.  Sure, the Kindle is a great invention, but to me, there is nothing like the feel of turning a page to find out whodunit.  I have been gifted some old books over the years, and there is something magical about the smell of the yellowing pages that makes me wonder what those books had seen before they landed on my shelf.  My love of reading is something I inherited from Mom (another reason I love her… Dad on the other hand doesn’t understand why I spend a fortune on books that I am only going to read once…) 

  1. Cooking

While I am by no means a foodie like some of the blogger friends I have, I do love being in the kitchen rustling up something to eat.  Mom has a number of kitchen gadgets, which makes the exercise all the more entertaining.  I am totally in love with (her) Russell (Hobbs Bread Machine).  I have mastered a Cottage Cheese and Herb Bread and on Sunday I made a Trail Mix Wholewheat Loaf (it was almost perfect, except that all the raisins were on the outside of the loaf.  Generally I am not a bad cook (well, nobody has died from anything I’ve made), but heaven knows, I am definitely not a contender for Masterchef… 

  1. Writing

I have been blessed with a vivid imagination, a knack for telling a story, and a love of words – this combination has grown into a love of writing.  I enrolled for a novel-writing course with the South African Writers’ College.  I am loving every minute of it and I am so inspired because the feedback I have been getting from my tutor has been constructive, but always positive.  One of my dreams to be on the New York Bestseller’s List – who knows, maybe this is the beginning of realizing that dream. 

  1. Children and their Innocence

Even though I don’t have any of my own, I love children.  I love their innocence – like a friend of mine’s daughter telling the minister’s wife that she has big nose.  Her mom is cringing with embarrassment, yet the little one doesn’t realize that she has just committed a social faux pas. 

  1. A Good Red Wine

Elisabeth and I hadn’t been friends long, but she took it upon herself to turn me into a red wine drinker – and I love her for it!  There have been countless evenings when I have polished off a bottle with either her or another friend – and always felt better for it.  A spicy Shiraz on a frosty evening wards off the cold – and what’s better, the empty bottle doesn’t tell secrets… 

  1. Rainy Weekends

 Because then I don’t have to find an excuse to lay in bed all day watching DVD’s or reading a book or working on my novel.

  1. Chocolate

It doesn’t matter what shape, size, form or colour – if it is chocolate, I love it.