Breakfasting with TED

Just this week I’ve started a resolution.

Every day at breakfast, I’m going to watch a new TED talk. The purpose of this is to give me a  time to think and learn new things and to give me a bit of inspiration to start the day. I first came across TED in 2011 when they held their TED:GLOBAL event here in Edinburgh. My husband was working their event and we had to take a day off to get married (Loooong story here).

So far I’ve watched:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story

A really eye opening talk about how one vision of an event or person can have dangerous repercussions – has taught me to continue to try to be more open minded. (NB Chimamanda mostly recently gifted words and vocals to Beyonce’s new album with the song ***Flawless.)

Carin Bondar – The Birds and the Bees are Just the Beginning

A funny and weird talk about how the natures sex acts are not as “simple” as we thought. Made me laugh!

Paul Rothemund – Playing with DNA that Self-Assembles

Brief (5 mins!) talk on how DNA can be manipulated – pretty inspiring!

I’m really enjoying so far and looking forward to picking out more talks to watch.

If you have a favourite TED talk to recommend, send along in the comments – would love to watch it!

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Reading List 2014

2013 was a great year for reading and since 2011 (I was sure it was longer!) I’ve been setting myself a challenge of reading books, some from a list of books I’ve been wanting to read for a while and others that I find as I go along.

Last year was one of my better years from reading from my list – just two outstanding – and so I’m sticking to 2 x 12 books. 1 x 12 from the list below and the rest as I go along. Although I read nearly 50 books last year, I’m keeping my total target at 24 books.

The list below is:

01. Elizabeth Jane Howard – The Light Years
02. Margaret Atwood – Oryx and Crake
03. Jeffrey Eugenides – The Virgin Suicides
04. Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowlands
05. Khalid Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed
06. Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding
07. Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible
08. Walter Isaacson – Einstein: His Life and Universe
09. Women’s Prize for Fiction Short List
10. Women’s Prize for Fiction Short List
11. Women’s Prize for Fiction Short List
12. Women’s Prize for Fiction Short List

Next post is resolutions…

By the way, if you have any recommendations on what to read. I’d love to hear them!

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List – 2013 Books

So this year has been pretty amazing for books!

I think, in fact, this is the highest amount I’ve ready in one year. I *did* think about aiming for 52 books in a year when I reached 47 but then got entrenched in (and fell in love with) The Luminaries which is some 700 pages long and a book I’m still reading.

My 2013 list is as follows (if the book is in bold it was part of my 2013 reading list):

1. Airs Above the Ground – Mary Stewart
2. Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
3. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
4. The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
5. The Island – Victoria Hislop
6. Run – Ann Patchett
7. If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late – Pseudonymous Bosch
8. This Book Is Not Good For You – Pseudonymous Bosch
9. This Isn’t What It Looks Like – Pseudonymous Bosch
10. You Have To Stop This – Pseudonymous Bosch
11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbostky
12. My Life in France – Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
13. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
14. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
15. The Thread – Victoria Hislop
16. The Red Book – Deborah Copaken Kogan
17. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
18. Let Not the Waves of the Sea – Simon Stephenson
19. How to be a Good Wife – Emma Chapman
20. Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil
21. Up Til Now – William Shatner
22. Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver
23. Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
24. May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes
25. Wonder – R.J. Palacio
26. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
27. Microserfs – Douglas Coupland
28. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
29. The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
30. Voyage of Innocence – Elizabeth Edmondsen
31. The Black House – Peter May
32. The Lewis Man – Peter May
33. The Chess Men – Peter May
34. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier
35. N-W – Zadie Smith
36. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
37. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
38. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
39. Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver
40. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
41. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris
42. When You Are Engulfed in Flames – Davis Sedaris
43. Santaland Diaries – David Sedaris
44. Time After Time – Kate Atkinson
45. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
46. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
47. Me Talk Pretty Some Day – David Sedaris
48. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeannette Winterston

Looking over the list there are so many books I loved reading this year! This is the year I fell in love with Margaret Atwood and David Sedaris (where have you been all my life?) but two highlights were Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and I heartily recommend them as they were recommended to me.

Did you keep track of what you read last year? What were your highlights? I’d love to hear as I’m always looking for ideas for the reading list!


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Feather & Black – customer service shambles

I do not recommend that you buy from Feather & Black.  I would also add that I don’t normally believe in moaning on the internet, but on this occasion I want to warn as many people as possible about the pitfalls of ordering from them.  This is my sorry saga from start to finish:

  • December 2012 – order bed from Morningside store. Despite they fact we offer to pay in full, manager insists we only pay a deposit.
  • 03 January 2013 – at least 10 working days after deposit paid, and after phone calls, bed order is emailed to us.
  • 09 January 2013 – when we ring to find out when our bed will be shipped, are told by the store that because we haven’t paid in full, the delivery will not be organised! Go into store and make further payment.
  • January 2013 – delivery day. Bed arrives. A structural bolt is missing. After phoning the store and customer services for help, are assured new ones are in the post.
  • 04 February – email to say fixing kit is on the way from customer services
  • 12 February – Request from customer services to send a picture of the bolts we require as completely wrong bolts have been sent.  Person from 04 Feb email no longer works for the company
  • 17 February – email with photos to customer services sent (we were on holiday on 12 February)
  • 08 March – person from 12 February no longer works for the company. Start the complaint from the beginning.
  • March – bolt arrives
  • March – May 2013 – continuing phone calls and emails to customer services about compensation – after protracted conversations, delivery fee is refunded in late May.
  • 29 July 2013 – bed fundamentally breaks. On investigation the bolts (not the same oes that were missing) used to secure the main joist are not the correct type. See pics below. Phone calls and emails to Customer Services – person from 08 March no longer works for the company.  Customer Services claim it is a known fault with the bed which has now been rectified.
Broken Bed

Broken Bed

Shoddy work

Shoddy work

Poor bed design

Poor bed design

  • 13 August 2013 – after many conversations of getting no-where about broken bed – write letter to both MD and HQ – sent by special delivery (incidentally the letter to MD was returned to us unopened).
  • 14 August 2013 – email from “Head of Customer Services” to say that she is surprised we have had problems with the bed, there are no known issues and it’s one of their bestsellers.  We can have new bed or a full refund. Request full refund.
  • 15 August – 23 August – Feather and Black confirm that they will not refund the money until they have collected broken bed. Despite the fact we paid for the bed before delivery.
  • 23 August – Purchase new bed and agree to accept refund on collection of broken bed. “Head of Customer Services” promises refund will be issued immediately and she will personally oversee.
  • 29 August – delivery date of new bed confirmed, Feather & Black confirm they will collect broken bed the day after. After confusion on method of refund, Feather & Black confirm this will be processed immediately.
  • 03 September – after phone call from deliver company who have gone to collect at the invoicing address (our old address before moving and address we were living at when ordering the bed) bed is collected. “Head of Customer Services” does not understand the mistake saying she only ever had one address on file. Promises that refund has been passed to finance for immediate payment.
  • 06 September – As refund has not hit the bank, phone customer services to find out what has happened. They find my customer details through the invoice address (the one “Head of Customer Services” claims they didn’t have) and say that although payments take 7-10 working days to arrive, our file has been marked urgent.
  • 06 September – Email from “Head of Customer Services” saying she had always told us the payment would take 7-10 working days.
  • 10 September – our “immediate” refund hits the bank.

Feather and Black – this is a catalogue of errors. As a customer I have been:

  • Given poor quality goods
  • Given the wrong information about said goods
  • Lied to about goods and timing of refund

For anyone thinking of ordering from them – don’t! For anyone having troubles, please leave me a comment and I will pass on email and direct dial of the “Head of Customer Services”.

I thank you for reading my rant.


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