October prepping and returning from vacation


It’s October! We’re back from our holidays and went from 35C/95F temperatures to 8C/48F. It’s appropriately autumnal in Newcastle with the fog and the rain, as is expected. While we were away it only rained maybe a couple of times and we spent two glorious weeks in Disney, Universal, and Cocoa Beach.

What I took home from the trip were a couple of bags of flavored coffee, some Christmas ornaments (because this year will be quite special), some baby onesies, and a cold. So going back to work this week with jet lag, a tiredness that comes from being six months pregnant, and a stuffy nose has not been that pleasant. However, after sleeping a lot this weekend, I think I’ll be ready to take on the next 10 weeks of work before my maternity leave.

Ten. Weeks. That’s all I have left. I think that freaks me out more than labor and delivery at this point, as well as being off of work for a whole year. I keep being assured that I won’t care about the goings on at the library while I’m away, but I’m a control freak and have severe FOMO, so if Baby Pick supersedes all of that, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

What I noticed about holidaying in the Central Florida area is that Disney is just so much better than the other parks. I know I’m a Disney fan girl and all, but the amount of rude staff we came across during our one day at Volcano Bay water park and the severe lack of organization we encountered at Sea World just proves that Disney sets a higher bar for customer service.

For example: Preferred Parking at Sea World costs $35 and regular parking costs $25. Everyone was parking in the same rows in the same area so we wasted $10 on that. Plus, the queue to get in was miles long, including the self service kiosk, so it would have taken ages just to get into the park. I investigated buying the tickets online, but unlike Disney, it didn’t tell you up front before you paid, what dates the tickets were valid for. It’s not until you leave the tickets in your cart and you get an email later saying, “Don’t you want these tickets that let you go into the park three days after purchase?” If I had bought them and tried to go into the park the next day, as we intended, I would have been even more disappointed because we tried to go over on our last weekend in Florida.

Mister Pick was bummed out about this because he wanted to see the new Sesame Street land, the Halloween events, and experience the beer festival, but I think that was the reason so many people were trying to get into the park at the same time. Other people in our parking row did the same thing we did, got to the gate then realized it wasn’t worth it, and turned around and went home having wasted $25-$35 on parking. (We did sent an email to Sea World about this and we got a parking pass for next year.)

With Volcano Bay, Mister Pick went as far as to write an email of complaint about the rude staff. A lot of the time there was no please or thank you, there was no finesse or love for their job that you see at Disney. There was, “You need to move the line here!” or even having rafts for the rides thrown at customers. What irritated me the most was the couple of bits of wrong information we received. I specifically asked at one of the lunch cafeterias if the park unlimited drinks cups could be used at the adjacent hotel, Cabana Bay, where we were staying. We were told, “yes,” only to find out that was just wrong. Also, when we left the park, there was a staff member blowing bubbles (because that makes it seem fun to be there!) and she didn’t stop when I approached her, then gave me wrong directions to get back to the hotel.

It wasn’t anything major, and we did enjoy our time there. I loved the wave pool and Mister Pick had a fine time on all of the slides, especially the lazy river, but it was just that little attention to detail when it comes to customer service. As someone who works in customer service day in and day out, I can tell you full well how high expectations result in higher quality treatment of customers.

Aside from that, everything was good. We did experience the drunken nightmare that is EPCOT Food and Wine Festival on a Saturday and I can safely say I will never do that again. People just loud, shouty, and making a point to draw attention to themselves. I even saw two women cursing each other out in a line for the ladies’ toilets, children in tow, all because they were off their face at two o’clock in the afternoon. It was so busy and so hot and if you go there just to enjoy the park, a weekday is your best bet because, wow. Those Florida Passholders treat that like a bachelorette/bachelor party on a weekend. (Most importantly, not a time to bring children unless you want them to experience brawls and lack of security.)

Other than that, it was great. We saw a lot of my parents who are doing well (except my dad caught my cold, poor guy). We went to Galaxy’s Edge (!!!) and saw the new Toy Story Land. I didn’t go overboard with the eating because I had my glucose test when I came back home (still waiting to hear results of that), but I enjoyed cake and (low carb) ice cream on my birthday. I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of shopping either, but I managed to bring back the essential snacks, and souvenirs for my co-workers, as well as my own gifts mentioned above.

Oh, and I didn’t spend too much at Michaels. I was very proud of myself, considering that I was in Happy Planner Heaven and would only have that chance once.

So now that I have all of the planners, including my Academic Passion Planner that’s on the way, I’ll be prepped for some time with Baby and being at home for, hopefully, some creative time. I’d love to do even 25k words for Nanowrimo this year, but the more I don’t write, the more daunting it seems. I keep hearing about people on social media who are fast typers and they write a book in a month anyway. I used to do that but they weren’t good and it was the editing that was more frustrating than anything. That means I’d like to have a more organized approach to what I’m going to work on and at least have some sort of plot structure in place before I try to work through the story.

But October is here! Soon it will be Halloween, with Thanksgiving around the corner. I don’t look forward to the frost coming in because I’m terrified of slipping and falling as it is, let alone being ungraceful and pregnant, but I’ll take precautions and take it easy.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is choosing their costumes, reading spooky books, stockpiling their candy and having a fab month so far.

Posted in All About Me, Baby Pick, family, goals, home, Library, planner, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Author podcasts and finding Baby’s gender

Bee on flower

Well, we’re having a boy!

I’m sure it will thrill our son that I’ve already shared our pictures on Facebook, so to spare him the further humiliation, I’ve not posted the prize-winning scan photo on my blog.

It’s not long now until we head to Florida for our holiday. I am so ready for this. I’m sure it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I get so overwhelmed during the day with the running around, the people, and the being up for over 8 hours.

So, I have four months left until Baby arrives. I sort of seems like plenty of time and it also sort of seems like it’s coming up very shortly.

In order to prepare for my upcoming maternity leave, I’m working on being prepared for getting a book done (at least one) while I’m spending most of the time at home, not sleeping. The ways that I’ve done this are taking notes on my phone, setting up BookFunnel, and listening to my author/writer/creative podcasts.

Here’s a list of what podcasts I’ve been listening to:

  • Create If Writing
  • Stop Writing Alone
  • Don’t Keep Your Day Job
  • The Creative Penn
  • The Writer Files
  • Write Now
  • Write-Minded
  • Writing Excuses
  • Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
  • You’re Welcome with Hilary Rushford
  • You’re Booked

I commute a lot so having lots of options for motivation and inspiration is a big plus when the rest of the day is spent on the day job. What I find so helpful is that all of these podcasts have little gems of insight into how you want your author brand and writing to work. If one isn’t fitting your mood or your needs for the day, you can always go to something else and come back to the episode later.

I love music, but having a little bit of chatter in the background breaks the monotony. Plus, it keeps your brain interested in your creative endeavours even if you can’t sit and work on your current project.

We’ve also been in our house for over a year now. That flew by, but we’re still in love with the place.

Pick Manor is being slowly transformed into a place for a child to live. We have paint, we have nursery items, we have lampshades, and we have a new kitchen sideboard for bottles and baby feeding items. I still don’t know how we’ll be ready as I’m starting to feel like I’m training for a marathon.

Steve has been working overtime and I’m exhausted all the time, so it limits our daily excursions. Still, the nice September air has crept in this morning, so I feel autumn is upon us.

I hope everyone has a fantastic September. See you in October!

Posted in #Year42, All About Me, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

From the end spring new beginnings

Baby Pick is due 1st January 2020! ❤️

It is my pleasure to report that we’re expecting a Baby Pick on 1st January 2020! We’ve been wanting a baby for a while so the blessing of a child is all the more special for us.

Now, in preparation for the oncoming maternity leave I’m trying to decide at least how I’m going to use the time wisely in terms of writing.
It’s been ages since I’ve outlined or attempted to work on scenes that I’ve already written and rewritten, but I’m really eager to get back into it.

And, yes, the time will be up at all hours, tending to a newborn and I’ll probably be too tired to even consider writing. But in case it’s not as awful as all that and I do have some time to be productive, I want to be ready.
Of course I also want to get back to the gym and Weight Watchers and yeah, maybe I’m being way too ambitious on this one.

So my question is how? How do I get prepared for nine months to potentially a year of looking after baby and getting back into writing? So far, the only decent plan I have is, is to get an outline ready. Now, this is probably pretty standard for writing in any situation for most of you, but I am terrible at plots and outlines. I have good ideas for scenes, the beginning, and the end. What happens in the middle? What builds tension? How will the story be structured? Who knows?

I took it upon myself to order a Page One Writer’s Notebook to see if that helped with my characterization, plot, scenes, research, outline, etc. Of course there’s always Scrivener, but in the tradition of using my bullet journal (again), I thought something tactile would be a little refreshing.

I’ve heard on a couple of occasions that social media is our reason for being too impatient and too tired to read and write. I’ve struggled with this for ages now and I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. I haven’t read much in a long time but I never equated it to a patience issues, I just thought I was too tired from work. However, when I was commuting on the bus, I read a lot more, so putting the phone away for a while and focusing on a book is possible.

That means my next six months will be not only preparing for an infant, but also having a go-to plan so if I am able to steal some minutes in the day, I will have something to work from. Maybe I’ll even get into a routine of sorts? Is that too much to hope for?

First draft in 2020? Surely this is a possibility.

New Year, new member of the family, and a new outlook on life? Most definitely.

Posted in #Year42, All About Me, family, goals, home, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Picks in The Wirral, the beginning of summer, and blogging more often

Red Rocks

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post. We lost my mother-in-law, the head of the Pick family, last week.

We saw her over Easter and she wasn’t well, then soon after, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Luckily, we visited her one last time when she was feeling a bit like herself; this was before Mister Pick went down on his own to see her a final time.

Obviously, I won’t dwell on her illness or the details of the effect it’s had on the family because, unfortunately, most people can imagine from first-hand knowledge, what a tragedy it all is.

But when we were down to The Wirral together the last time, we had a good visit, and Daisy was the star of the show, as always. She had her cousin dog, Tilly, to run about with, and then found some friends at Queen’s Park. This was the first time we took her off the lead, and she didn’t disappoint us. (That dog loved to play with other dogs and is crazy about getting attention from other doggy parents.)

This photo was taken at Red Rocks right after Daisy rolled around in the sand before heading back to the hotel. She got to sleep in the bed with us and made sure that everyone who came and went through the hallways all evening knew of her presence.

Unfortunately, when we go back for the service, Daisy will be staying the night somewhere as we have siblings to help out and a wake to cater for. The Pick Kids were told to “expect a big turn out,” for their mother’s wake because she was a well-liked woman in her town. I expect nothing less.

Other than that, our drive down was filled with rain, as it does in England (why is it all the time?!) but it’s been glorious on the way back home. Here’s hoping that we get to embrace the summer, finally, and can get outside again.

While all of this family business was unfolding, I was still at work, finishing up my first unit for the management apprenticeship I’m doing. It was confusing at first to get the grasp of what evidence I needed to produce in my folder because we only go to workshops once every couple of months. However, the tutor was really good and helped us out, but she’s left the company so now we have a new tutor to meet with next month.

In the meantime, I’m working on an epub book for a story contest at the library. This is something I haven’t looked into for ages because, let’s be honest, I’m severely lacking in my self-publishing productivity anymore. So, it’s good practice for me and gets me thinking about writing, editing, formatting, and publishing again.

Finally, I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’m hoping to rekindle my blog posting updates more regularly, just to keep myself involved in something I enjoy doing. The 9-5ness and the school work sort of takes over most of my brain and I miss doing to me things that I enjoy. (And I’m so out of practice! Gah!)

And, unfortunately, I had to start my blog posts for the summer off on a sad note, but Mum Pick would want us to “get your head down and get on with it,” as she’d say, so that’s what we do.

Happy first week of summer to you all. I hope you take some time to enjoy it.


Posted in #Year42, All About Me, blogging, family, Library, Publishing, School, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An April visit to Fountains Abbey, Chirk Castle, and Lyme Park

Mr. Darcy was here! #pemberley #prideandprejudice

This is, hand’s down, my favourite photograph. I took it last week at Lyme Park, AKA Pemberley. The pond should look familiar to any of you who have swooned when Mr. Darcy emerged from it in the BBC mini series version of Pride and Prejudice.

We spent the last couple of days travelling to The Wirral (or, Liverpool if it’s easier although the Picks aren’t from Liverpool, proper). On our way, we had to leave Daisy at the kennels, which I hated to do because she didn’t know the place or the other dogs. However, it was a chance to have some together time that didn’t include avoiding cafes, museums, or other such establishments because of a giant dog in tow.

On our way from Newcastle, we stopped in Ripon because A. I believe I live at Downtown Abbey and B. There was a cool place to visit through our National Trust membership.

Fountains Abbey was the biggest abbey we had seen that was still intact. As an American, I just cannot get over how old things are and are still sitting about for people to see, touch, experience, etc. There were Water Gardens on the property too, but we only had time for a walk, a quick look at the abbey, lunch, then back on the road. However, this just means that I plan on us going back sometime soon because there was plenty to see there, especially if you have a dog to walk.

We caught up with the Picks later that day, and spent our second day down there travelling to Wales — a place I had never been and a place where Mister Pick went to school and worked for a collective of about 8 years. (Before I graced him with my presence, obviously.) Wales is beautiful and the only equivalent I can give it would be a kind of wandering Virginia countryside drive. It’s very green, the air is fresh, and it was suitably rainy that day. We took our time exploring Chirk Castle which is really impressive. The place has a dungeon, so now I know what that feels like. (Hint: it’s dark and they don’t even have proper windows, so it’s as dyer as you’d imagine.) The other parts of the castle were renovated into a proper estate house, so the rooms were lush and impressive — some of the ceilings had Greek gods and goddesses depicted in the plasterwork. There were portraits of royals and noblemen and women. There was huge fireplaces, and even big, comfy couches that, looked modern in a 1940s, post-war way. I loved the gardens though because you could walk through there and not even realize there was a giant castle behind the trees. It was so relaxing and nice to wander around there, listening to the birds, and looking at all of the flowers and trees that were planted there.

I absolutely loved it.

After our visit with The Picks, we took a little detour to Lyme Park as posted above. Unfortunately, the house was closed the day that we got there and instead of going to the less cool tea rooms. (The brochure showed women in Austen-esque dresses with bonnets, sipping tea. Of course, if that wasn’t an option, I wasn’t as interested.) I did also look through the house’s book sale books, and chose a 1933 edition of Dicken’s Our Mutual Friend.

Upon our return, in order to avoid traffic, we took a long drive through the countryside, which Mister Pick did because I detest driving in unknown places that include roundabouts, mountains, empty fields, steep declines, and anything remotely tricky. However, it was worth it, because we rescued poor Daisy Doodle from her confinement before 6PM. The lad who worked at the kennels was very nice, but he said Daisy was timid with him because she didn’t know any of the staff. Daisy is not timid, so I don’t know if she’ll settle in better on a longer stay. The place is highly recommended and people reuse them often, so it’s not like it’s a bad place to take her — I just hated her being in a cage.

But everyone is back home now and although I worked yesterday, I’m still enjoying the last bits of my holiday today with Mister Pick, Daisy, and the cats who keep staring at me as I type this.

Also, it’s Sunday, which means I’m keeping off social media as best I can. Old habits die hard and I have to stop myself from just picking up my phone and checking Twitter throughout the day. It’s just one of the little things I’m making a habit of just to clear my head, give my eyes a rest, and focus a little more about being at home.

And with that said, I hope everyone has had a nice Easter and a great April, so let’s get on to May 2019.

Posted in #Year42, All About Me, family, goals, home, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment