Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Paper Animations

A mouse hug
 
Agreeable Sheep

A couple of weeks ago while looking for something else completely I came across robives.com.  It looked interesting.  I looked further, I realised it is amazing!
Rob has designed and created loads of moving paper models, or paper animations as he calls them, and you can buy and download the designs to make for yourself.
I had been filling very uninspired on the creative front recently (as you may have noticed), but it is easy to be inspired when you’ve got such exciting projects to create.
Or Goat - one of 3 logic goats
Dog ate my homework
Wag the dog
Of course I then have the problem of what to do with them once they are made.  The easy answer – give them to my work colleagues for Christmas.  They are just the thing to make a work desk a happier place.  So on the last day in the office, the team came in to find some little friends on their desks.  They seemed to go down well.  I look forward to making more.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

This year we decided to make our own Christmas cards.  Last year I found a reindeer cutter in my local craft shop.  In April when our runner beans had just started to put forth their first leaves I came across one of the reindeer cutouts and couldn't resist sticking it to a leaf to see what would happen.  We were so chuffed with the resulting images we just has to use them.
Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year.  

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

An early Christmas present

I received an early Christmas present yesterday.
My Open University books arrived for the next course – AA312 Total war and social change, which starts in February.
In a way it is quite scary, this large box of heavy books, but it is also rather exciting.  It probably helps that we had a trip to the Imperial War Museum last week, which really got me thinking.  It is easier to remember that the two World Wars were very real when you have weapons and uniforms etc in front of you rather than just a text which takes about numbers of people dying which are just too large for me to understand.
It also had a very interesting section on conflicts since 1945 which helped give me a better understanding of why we are where we are right now.  This is something I am hoping will be expanded on by AA312.
I shall leave them in the box until after Christmas though.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Handmade gift tags

This weekend I finally got all my wrapping done.  To make sure everyone know's who their wonderful gifts are from I've made my own set of gift tags.  I found the star cutter and reindeer cutter in my local craft shop and with the right colours I think they look pretty cool.  This is the sort of project I love, where there is a proper end product.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas wreath

I love Christmas decorations, the ones with delicate lights that sparkle and push back the darkness that seems to be here forever at this time of year – it doesn’t help that the window of my office faces a brick wall and makes it feel dark all year round.
We don’t have anywhere for lights outside our flat, but a wreath will brighten any door.  I’ve always bought a wreath for the door, but this year decided that I would try making my own.  After all how hard can it be?
With this in mind we went for a walk into the woods near the flat on Saturday to collect suitable material for a wreath.  Holly, ivy and conifer of some kind were all on my list.
With a bag full of evergreen foliage we came home and I put together my wreath.  As you can see it is not the best looking wreath ever, but I collected the materials myself, put it together myself and tied the bow myself (with a little help from YouTube).  
Sometimes the joy is not in making something perfect, but in the satisfaction of creating something yourself.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Flower book

I found this lovely flower wall paper ages ago.  I knew it would be perfect to make into an A4 book, the design would just get lost on anything smaller, but I've been too busy, lazy and scared to start it.  Busy with all the things life normally throws at you, lazy 'cos its so much easier to sit and read or do something else, and scared because it has been so long since I last made a book I was starting to fear I had forgotten how.  And under all that is the nagging wonder of what I am going to do with all these books I've made.
But as you can see I haven't forgotten how to make them, and although I didn't think I had left enough room round the spine, it fitted perfectly.  Nothing to worry about after all. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

After four months

November hasn’t really been a writing month for me.  In total I managed to write 3614 words in November bringing my final total up to 29,733 Not great then when the aim was 50,000 words.  (my best month was October with 12,121 words)
But man have I learnt a lot.  Number one, writing a book (I won’t say novel – there is no way I can compare what I wrote with a real novel) is not as easy as reading one.  I already knew this, but the fact I can write a complete short story had led me to believe that maybe a full book wouldn’t be so bad.  I was wrong; it is.  My respect for authors, or anyone who has managed to keep going for the full 50,000 words or more, is immense.
Number two, planning really is the key.  I had a pretty good idea of how to start, and a very rough idea of the direction of the end, but no real idea of how to get there.  When writing a short story, this isn’t so much of a problem.  Being so short we are focusing on just one or two issues.  A book requires so much more.
Number three, I’m not very good at writing every day.  Its ok when I have an idea or know what should happen next, but just because it requires me to write 410 words today did not work for me.
Number four, there is no way I would have written even this much in one month.  Without the time to think about how my story was to move forward it would have stalled – this is where the planning comes in.

There is more I could say but those are the main points.  I probably could have written more if I was happy to flesh things out with more detail or conversation etc, but part of why I like writing short stories is that you get to the point quite quickly.
It’s been an interesting project but I think I’ll concentrate on short stories for now. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Minimalist

I’ve just started reading a very interesting blog on being a minimalist, called mnmlist.com.
It has inspired me so far to delete 8 pages of old emails that I really don’t need, and to finally empty a cardboard box which has sat there untouched since we moved into the flat more than 2 years ago.
But it is not just about not owning stuff, more about being aware of the things you do own, having less of things you just don’t need, and not just buying things for the sake of it.  Reading this blog has made me more aware of the things in my life that my grandparents would count as ‘luxury’ items, stuff I could live without, like the microwave, TV and dishwasher and more aware of items which I could live without but make my life easier like my car or hairdryer.  
In one post he tries to list his 10 essentials, but only gets to 8.  Over the last couple of days I have tried to come up with my own 10 essentials, but have found this near impossible without knowing what activity I would be faced with.  If I was making books I would need my knife, steal rule, pencil, needle, thread, etc, going to work, for a walk or run require their own essentials.  Basically I have bought into the consumer society and believed the advertisers when they tell me that I need all this stuff.

I think that I am on the beginning of a long journey to reassess my life and what is important in it.  The image above is of Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and when it says ‘I want to be like Hugh’, I mean it.  I like his ideas about life and food, that our food should be sustainable, we should grow our own (we do a bit) and that our work-life balance is important.  I want to take all these ideas and turn them into a life with more time to do the things I enjoy with the people I love.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Writers Group with a Difference

Today at the writers group, rather than sharing our work like normal we were visited by two members of University staff who are also published authors.
Both were published in May this year and both have gone down the self publish route but that is where the similarities end.
Mike Riley decided on a publish on demand approach with Pegasus MacKenzie for his crime novel Reading the Streets, while Phil James, who writes under the name Peter Jackel, used Amazon for his gothic thriller The Shadow of Death.
The hour flew as we chatted with them about all aspects of their journey from writer to published authors.  As the organiser I had been a little worried about the meeting.  What if no one turned up?  What if all they wanted to do was try and sell their book?  What if their books are rubbish?  Etc.
But it went really well, with both Mike and Phil coming across so well that I can’t wait to read their books.  
I will have to ask the group, but maybe this is something we should do again some time.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

After three months

So 3 months in how far have I got?
Well not as far as I had hoped but a lot further than I’ve ever been before, I’ve written just over 26,000 words now - over half way, which is amazing.   I was actually doing quite well at the beginning of the month until I ran out of story.  Its not that I had nothing else to say, rather I was not sure what happens next to get there.  It doesn’t help that I suddenly got rather busy too which cut into my time.  But I think I’ve worked out what happens next, at least for the next part so I’m off again.
I’ve one month until the deadline and I’m under no illusions that I will write 24,000 words in that time, but that’s ok.  I have learnt a hell of a lot from this exercise.  I can’t believe people can write 50,000 words in a month!  Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWrMo this month!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

That’s not writing

I would have gone to the Guildford book festival event – Dan Lepard with his short and sweet recipe book today, but not only was it at lunch time but it clashed with the writers group.

Although I’ve been working on my NaNoWrMo project, which is going quite well, I stopped long enough to work on a small idea what I had a good month ago for the writers group today.  It’s not a full story but another scene from a bigger story, but one that I don’t know yet.  I was surprised how well it turned out from the three sentences that I had as my initial idea.
The group seemed to like it, but thought that I’d put it too far in the future, apparently there are some schools in the USA who have stopped teaching handwriting already!

The girl arrives home a little earlier than she had expected.
She let herself in pressing her thumb against the scanning plate and walked though the house calling the lights on while she put her bag down, left her coat on the sofa and went into the kitchen to get some juice.  She finishes the juice and puts the empty carton in the recycling box before telling the fridge that yes this product had been finished and should be reordered from the shop.
The house sounds empty and she wonders what to do next.  Going up the stairs to her room she hears a noise from her brother’s room.  It is not the normal noise she would associate with him, the noise of loud music and gun battles.  This is a scratchy noise which makes her imagine small creatures, although she has been told that all rodents have been eradicated.
Pushing open his door she finds him sitting at his desk.  But the monitor of his computer is unlit and his keyboard is pushed to one side.  He is hunched over something on his desk, his face screwed up in concentration, his tongue between his lips and she wonders if he is hurt.
‘What you doing?’  He doesn’t look up.
‘Writing.’
‘That’s not writing – you’re not using your keyboard.’  He looks up now.
‘Shows what you know.’  And he shows her the page he has been working on.  This is what she could hear, the rustle of the paper as he marked it.  There are marks covering the page and when she looks closely she can see that some of them do look kind of like words but mostly it looks like a mess.
‘What’s wrong with typing?’
‘Nothing, but people didn’t used to always type you know.’
‘What did they do then?’
‘This, stupid.’ And he waves the paper at her again.
‘But look at it, it’s a mess.  How could anyone read that?’  He looks down at his piece of paper.
‘Well I imagine if you’d been doing it all your life you’d be a bit better than me.’  Now he picks up something from his desk.
‘Is that a book?  Where did you get that from?’
‘It’s fine, I’ll give it back when I’m done, but look,’ and he opened the pages to show her words she could actually read although they had not been typed.
‘But everyone knows that books were printed until they all went digital.’
‘Not this one.  It’s a journal.  People used to keep them in books like this instead of online.’
‘That’s ridiculous, you’d run out of space.’
‘I know, but they would just start another book.  There were loads where I got this one.’
‘And whose is that?’  He flicks to the front of the book and show her the name scribed in the front.
‘But that’s our name.  Who’s he?’
‘I think he was our great-great-great-grandfather, but I might be missing a great there.  He was born in 1967.’  They stand in silence contemplating this great fact.
‘So what does it say?’
‘I don’t know.  I haven’t read it. I’ve just been copying the shapes.’ 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Running a 10k

Now that I’m not studying I’ve been enjoying going for a run on a Sunday morning.  I’m still working on my distance so it’s quite a short run – about 2.7 miles and some of that walking.  But each time I go out I seem to walk less and I hope that some time in the near future I will run the whole thing, then I can start expanding it.
Yesterday was no different but as I ran past the park, full of chaps playing rugby, I saw lots of runners too and realised it was the day of the Downland Challenge 10k race.
I wasn’t sure what route they would be taking but as I ran I went past many signs warning drivers of runners in the road, and number signs counting down the kms.
This was a little worrying, the last thing I wanted was to get caught up in a race when I wasn’t racing and would need to stop and walk pretty soon.
Luckily I had reached my turning point and was on my way back before they arrived.  They looked like quite a formidable lot and I was glad to be on the other side of the road, but part of me wanted to be running with them and if I’d had more breathe I would have been cheering them on.  Further on I saw the junior runners and wanted to cheer them on even more.
The idea of running 10k at the moment is like trying to imagine what a million pounds looks like.  I can work out how long it would take me in theory, but the idea of running that far without having to stop is beyond me. 
But 8 months ago running 2.7 miles (even if I walk some of it) or even a full mile was also beyond me, so maybe 10k is possible after all.

Friday, 30 September 2011

After two months

I’ve not done so well with my writing this month.
Part of the point of NaNoWrMo is that as it covers only a month you don’t have time to loose interest and stop.
But here I am at the end of my second month with only 13,998 words written.  Now don’t get me wrong, that is the most I have ever written towards one story and I am pleased.  But I’m about 10,000 words behind.  Not an encouraging thought and not helped by the cold I’ve been struggling with this last week.  I find it very hard to think with my head filled with snot.
But I will keep going.  I am interested to find out what happens to Kate, my main character, and how many words I will manage in the time I’ve given myself.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sony Ericsson Fitness Experience Pack

Recently I ‘won’ the Sony Ericsson Fitness Experience Pack though the Running4women website where I log all my runs.  The only condition was that I write a review of the pack once I’d used it.  No problem there then.
It is quite exciting to be sent something to write a review about, it’s just a shame that it was so hard to get working.  I’m glad that I hadn’t spent money on it.
You can see my review on the running4women website.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Guildford Book Festival 2011

I hadn’t realised quite how far through the year we were until the Guildford Book Festival programme arrived on my door mat.  Held over the 13-22 October there is plenty to interest everyone whether a workshop on how to improve your writing or a talk by a favourite author.  I’m looking forward to having a proper look though the programme and deciding what to attend.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

AA312 Total War and Social Change: Europe 1914 – 1955


AA312 Total War and Social Change: Europe 1914 – 1955.  This is the title of the next Open University course I am going to take.  I am registered and the set books have just arrived from Amazon.
It doesn’t start until next February but I like to be prepared.  This will be my first history course and at level 3 to, so I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to have a read of the set texts before the course starts and get my head used to the idea of studying history instead of literature.  As always it’s a pretty scary idea - another 9 months of studying and a brand new subject this time, but the issues this module covers are just too interesting to ignore.  I hope I still feel like that this time next year when I’ll be getting ready for my first exam in a long time.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

After a Month

At the beginning of August I said I was going to try writing 410 words every day for 4 months as my own personal NaNoWrMo, so at the end of August I thought I’d give an update on how I’m doing so far.
Before I began I worked out the word count for every day (the beauty of excel) and set up a spreadsheet with my expected word count, my actual word count, how many words I actually wrote and what my deficit is.
I’ve found this a great motivator for when I’m struggling.  I hate to see a 0 in the ‘what I wrote that day’ column.  It is also pretty horrible to see the deficit numbers climbing.
I’m not managing to write every day, but when I do it is quite often over 400 words which is good.  And by only having to write such a small number every day it gives me time to think about what comes next.  This really is an exercise in getting words down, rather than writing a best selling novel.  I can go back and make it good later, for now I’m just writing.  No editing allowed.  Which means anything in my head goes on the page.  I’ve even got my token Ninja in.  So now I just have to keep the momentum going to hit 50000 by end of November.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Running in the Rain

This morning I had my first real run in the rain.  I’ve run in light showers before but nothing like this.  And I found it refreshing.  To go out into the rain and not be bothered about getting wet was lovely.  My feet might have got a bit wet, but not much worse than they get with the dew in the park sometimes, and once I got going they soon warmed up so that I couldn’t feel it and could imagine that my shoes might steam once I took them off.
I can’t remember the last time I went out in the rain and wasn’t trying to hide from it – can you?  It might have been in the New Forest about 20 years ago, I look forward to making it a new habit.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Hooray, results

I have finally received my marks for EA300 Children’s Literature from the Open University.  Its taken them a while to get the results out and mine were a little later than everyone else’s, but I’ve worked in an Exams Office and know the effort that goes into getting marks ready.  The good news is that I’ve passed and although the mark was a little lower than I’d been hoping for; the pass is the important bit.  Now I really do need to decide what to do next.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

This Week’s Writers Group

This week’s writers group saw a good turn out considering it’s the middle of August.  We actually ran late discussing ways to help improve our editing skills, something we all lack.  The best suggestion – reading your work out loud so you can hear when things don’t work.
I read out a very short piece that I’ve been working on for the local libraries creative writing competition – ‘Holiday heaven or holiday hell’.  It’s quite hard to get to the heart of something in only 250 words but everyone seemed to think I did ok.

The homework this week – Imagine you are the mother or father of an infamous person (real or fictional).  Now write something (a monologue, story, poem) in the first person about what that person is (or was) like as a child, in a way that explains how s/he later turned out as an adult.  (borrowed from Mslexia)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Wild Creations stamp

I have two amazing men in my life, which I am very grateful for.
In Feb 2009 I wrote an entry about the fact that I, with a lot of help from my Dad, had created a stamp for marking my handmade books as mine.  As we played with it we came up with the idea of heating the stamp and using gold foil to make the stamp even clearer.  But then I had course work to do and started looking for a flat and dad had work to do and so the project got put to one side.  Dad was still working on it, but only when he had time.

So imagine my excitement when he told me it was done.  Created from scraps of shower units and other things from his shed, it is the ultimate recycled project.  Nothing has been bought; I even managed to scrounge the springs from the workshops at work.
He dropped it off with instructions on how to use it, then ‘im outdoors bolted it to the work bench for me and with a little fine tuning I now have the tool for marking my books and I guess anything else the foil will stick to.
Without the men in my life this project would never have even been dreamed of.  Thanks guys.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A New Addition

We both love tree ferns and now we have our very own.  Just have to make sure we protect him in the winter.  It adds a lovely touch of tropical to the garden.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Ever since I heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo) I’ve wanted to have a go.  What better incentive to write a full book than having a deadline to make.  But it runs in November and normally at this time I’m just starting an Open University course of some sort.
This year the course I’m looking at taking doesn’t start until Feb 2012, so I’d be ‘free’ in November, but looking in more detail at NaNoWrMo, even without the OU course I don’t think I can commit to it.  Over 30 days you need to write 50,000 words which would mean writing at least 1,667 words each day.  With a full time job, and a reluctance to turn my computer on after work 1,667 words or about 3 pages (typed) seems like quite a lot.  What happens if I take a day off, go Christmas shopping or something happens – I’d have to write 3334 the next day!
However if I start writing on 1 Aug but keep the 30th Nov deadline I will only have to write 410 words a day to hit the deadline.  Obviously I can’t enter NaNoWrMo as that would be cheating, but there is nothing to stop me making my own ‘Novel Writing in Four Months’ target (which doesn’t have the same ring to it, but does do as it says on the tin).
I’ve never writing anything of this size before so have no idea if I can do it or not, and I’ve no doubt that it won’t be very good, but if I don’t have a go I’ll never know. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Story About Lasers

Normally we stop the writers group for the summer, as the University gets very quiet and so many people are away.  But this year everyone agreed we should keep it going, so yesterday we met as normal.  With only 4 of us there it was a quiet meeting, but I did at least have something to read out this time.
Inspired by an article I’d read recently about capturing solar power in space and then using laser beams to bring the power to earth this is what I wrote:

As a race we have been in space all my life, but now we can’t even see the stars in the sky.
Today, and I’m only assuming it is day as it is light or as near as it gets these days, it is my turn to go to the power store.  We are all on the rota and although I dread coming up to this place, I also enjoy the escape from small rooms and spaces that always seem to be filled with people.
The landscape looks like it has snowed, although with this heat I know it can’t be snow, but I still pretend.  Kicking my feet, instead of spurts of frozen water, clouds of gray ash rise and soon my trousers are covered to the knee.  But with my face mask tight against my face I don’t care.  I can feel it sticking to my face as the sweat starts to roll, but there is no point in wiping it away as my hands are just as grubby.
I’m sure I can feel something watching me, but what could it be, there is nothing in the place except ash and angry clouds.  But I can’t help myself and keep checking behind me, the only thing to see a long messy string of foot prints leading into the gloom.
The laser when it comes makes me jump and I very nearly turn and run.  Imagine the sudden blinding glare of a laser dropping through the clouds only a mile away.  Not only the glare of the laser but the sudden reflection from the ash, so that it’s like snow on a sunny day.  But again I’m prepared and I pull down the ski goggles reducing the light to a pleasant blue summer glow.
I know I’ve still got a mile to go, and it will be finished before I am, but I still find it hard to walk towards it.  I must be so easy to see now, I have a large black shadow who stretches away behind me, using me as a shield.  And even through the blue of the goggles I can make out the red of my shirt.
I don’t know why the laser still works but we’d be dead without it.

It’s not a story but a description that may well lead to something although right now I don’t know what.  I imagine it might be the sort of thing that I will come across again in years to come and be inspired by, rather than just forgetting the image and loosing it forever.

The homework – to make personal dictionaries by timing yourself for 3 minutes and writing all the words you can think of beginning with a letter of your choice.  You can do this for as many letters as you want.

Once you have your list of words, choose your favourite 3 to inspire some writing.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Handmade Bread

My second attempt turned out much better.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Gait Analysis and Running Shoes


Finally after a long build up I’ve managed to run for 10 minutes on the treadmill.  Having completed that target I’ve also finally bought some proper running shoes, in celebration, and taken my running outside.
Everyone I’ve spoken to about running has said I should get a gait analysis done, so I visited our local sports shop to get one done.  Mistake – don’t go on a Saturday afternoon.  The shop, which is pretty small anyway, was very very full, so I tried again on a Wednesday morning and it was empty – perfect.
I’ve not had a gait analysis done before so I’ve nothing to compare it with, but I was impressed.  I don’t normally like sports shops.  I feel like they are looking down on me, wondering what business I could possible have with them.  But in this shop they were very friendly and explained exactly what we were going to be doing and why (basically they film you running to see what happens to your feet and legs as you run, then find shoes that support you).  The guy let me try on many pairs of trainers, and filmed me running in each, then showed me the video and pointed out what happened to my ankles etc each time.  Of course, as a typical woman, I ended up going with the first pair I tried on.  They also helped me with some socks too.
All in all I was happy with the experience, but the real test is in the use and I had my first run in them this morning.  First thing I’ve found is that running on a treadmill is very different from running outside on grass.  Places that I thought were flat suddenly grow huge hills, and early morning sun suddenly feels a lot warmer than I remember.  This morning I ran/walked a mile in 10 minutes.  I look forward to expanding on this.

On the subject of running I’ve just come across a running blog called My Mum Runs, which struck a cord, particularly the ‘Running Scared’ entry.  I totally agree – everything new is scary.  But I also love this sentence – “The trick is not letting your fear prevent you from trying something you may grow to love.”  Ok so Lindsay may be taking about running here, but I think it applies to many things in life.  I’ve tried to live my life so far by this rule, without it me and ‘im outdoors would not be enjoying curries on a regular basis and certainly wouldn’t have visited Egypt in January, but it is difficult at times. 
Next time you see me, maybe it will be running along the pavement with my arms out like wings…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

An Island Holiday

I love islands.  Maybe it’s because I live on one or because of my love of the sea?  Whatever it is, I recently realised that a lot of the places on my visiting wish list are islands.  Cuba, Isles of Scilly, Lundy, Jersey and Guernsey, Skye, Greek Islands, New Zealand etc etc.

With our holiday in Egypt little more than a distant memory now, we decided we needed a long weekend away.  But where to go?  We couldn’t afford anywhere over sea’s so decided to visit the Isle of Wight.  Close to home and gazed at from afar (well across the Solent) regularly it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get to know this island better.
And we had a great time even with wind and rain and fog and brilliant sunshine.  You can read all about it at my travel blog – Not all who wander are lost

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Amy Butler dress material problem


I bought a pattern for an Amy Butler dress about a year ago but have been finding it tricky to find a material to make it from.  We have a couple of material shops near by and I go in and see many things I like, but when I try to imagine them as a whole dress, rather than just a small flash of pattern I can’t do it.  Which is a shame because I think the dress pattern is really nice.

It reminds me of one of the Sweet Valley High books I read as a kid. (I preferred the Hardy Boys, but I guess the library must have been out that day) In the story the twins Elizabeth and Jessica are in a magical world where they can make whatever they want just by imagining.  This meant that Jessica who loved clothes had lovely soft beautiful things, while Elizabeth who was more practical was left with more cardboard cut out clothing.  I don’t remember much else about the story, just the knowledge that my clothing would be more like Elizabeth’s if I was ever in this situation.  I might not be imagining clothes out of nothing, but I think I’m in a similar situation.  I guess I will just have to keep looking.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Bread Making


After all the work I’ve put in to the last OU course I’ve been enjoying some time off.  I’ve had my car MOT, had the fridge break down and found a replacement, and caught up on my adult fiction, particularly Stephen Kings, Under the Dome, which I had been saving.  (definitely worth the wait!)
I’ve been finding it hard to get started on the creating again, so to kick start myself I thought I’d start with something fairly simple, bread making.
Making bread shouldn’t really be that hard should it?  All it is is flour, yeast and water.  But for my first attempt I think I used too much water and it was much much more sticky than I think it should have been.  But that didn’t stop me and I still stuck it in the oven even though it wasn’t a perfectly formed loaf but a big sticky mess. 
However, although what came out of the oven didn’t look much like a loaf of bread, it tasted like one and added to a bowl of homemade carrot soup (made from last years home grown carrots) it made the perfect lunch for a cold, wet and miserable Sunday.  Hopefully practice really does make perfect and the next one will be more traditionally shaped.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

EA300 Children’s Literature - Finished

Last night I handed in my last assignment for EA300 Children’s Literature with the Open University.  After 9 months of hard work (the worst of it seems to have been over the last 3 weeks) I’m glad it’s over and my weekends and evenings become my own again.
But I have enjoyed the course, hard work though it was.  I was a little worried that studying some of my old favourite books like Swallows and Amazons or Tom’s Midnight Garden might spoil them for me but if anything they have been enhanced by the academic essays and course materials.  And I’ve met some new books which will become old favourite like Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry.  I also took the opportunity to read as many children’s books as possible over the last 9 months including some I read as a child and I think this added to my understanding of some of the issues we studied.
As someone who writes fiction I’ve also found the insight into why writers have done something and how the history of children’s literature has influenced their writing over the years fascinating and I hope useful to my writing not just my essays.
I may never trust Disney again, and I remembered my hate of writing essays very quickly but the course materials were so interesting I have no regrets.

So now I await my results which should arrive sometime in the summer and try and decide if I should do another one.  With only two more courses needed (or 120 credits, 60 each) to be awarded a degree it is quite tempting.  It helps that I’ve seen a couple of course that interest me.  I wonder what ‘im outdoors would say…

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Running

I recently realised quite how much weight I’ve put on in the past few years, no doubt partly my own fault for making tasty cakes every week. It was a bit of a shock really, subconsciously I knew I’d been putting it on, but to see the numbers on the scales really bought it home to me.  I already attend the gym twice a week, but I decided it was time I raised my game, along with cutting down on the cake.  ‘im outdoors is happy with that – more for him. 
In February I started running as part of my gym routine.  To many people this won’t seem that big a deal but at that point even running for 1 minute on the treadmill had me feeling like I was going to die.  Over the past 4 months I’ve worked on this and can now run for 7 minutes, covering 1.14km.
This from the girl who HATED PE and running at school (probably partly because of how clumsy I was – you should see my knees, and partly due to the reluctance to shower in front of my school colleagues).
So as a reward for the last 9 months of studying and for (hopefully) hitting the 10 minute mark on the treadmill, I am going to buy myself a proper pair of running shoes.  I am going to walk into one of those scary specialist shops and ask them what they recommend.  Then feeling a bit more confident ‘cos I’ve already managed 10 minutes on the treadmill, and I’ve got some good comfy shoes, I’m going to venture outside.  Notice all the positive words I’ve used in this paragraph!
My new favourite website – Running4women
I know this isn’t about something I’ve created, but I’ve got a feeling that this is going to become a large part of my life, along with the writing, making, and studying.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Storycubes


We had a Creative Writers meeting today.  Even with all the stress of trying to write my final assignment for the Children’s Literature course (due in next week and still missing 850 words) I managed to write a short one page story.
It seemed to go down well.  It took its inspiration from an article on nature deficit disorder which I recently read.

Then as an activity and as homework I bought out my storycubes.  These were recently given to me as a late birthday present from a friend (thank you!), and I’ve been dying to give them a go.
The set contains 9 cubes with an image on each side of each cube.  The idea is to roll the cubes and then use the images to create a story.  (apparently you should start with ‘Once upon a time…’)
See the above image to see a selection of images to use for this weeks homework.  The aim is to use all nine images in your story.  Its up to you what the image should mean – there are many different levels.  For instance the sheep could be a simple farm yard animal, or a sheep skin rug, or a black sheep of the family etc.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Garden Escapes website

It’s taken a while but I’m very pleased to say that the Garden Escapes website is now live.  Jen and Nick who run Garden Escapes are old friends from when I was at landscaping college, where I also met ‘im outdoors.  When they saw the Thrive Landscapes website I created a few years back, they asked me to design them one.

The process could have been a lot quicker but we are all very busy people and there always seemed to be months between meetings.  But it is live now and I’m very pleased with the end result.  It has meant learning how to use dreamweaver, but I’m all for learning new things.
Now back to the essay…

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Easter book


Easter seems so long ago now.  I was lucky enough to have 2 weeks away from work and spent the time enjoying the sunshine and working on a large ‘to do list’.  My Egyptian photos have now been printed off and put in an album, all the windows in the flat have been cleaned and my penultimate assignment has been written and set for marking, amongst other things.
I also finally had a chance to use the lovely wall paper what I found a while back.  Although I only made a small book I’m very happy with the outcome.  I just wish I could work out a way to photograph them that showed them at their best.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Star Stamp



Ever since I saw the stamp making tutorial on Geninne’s blog I’ve been wanting to have a go myself.  I bought all the stuff to do it then couldn’t think of a design to make.  But then we went to Egypt and I fell in love with their star designs.  Very simple but obviously stars.  So for my first stamp I’ve made a simple Egyptian style star.  I’d like to expand on this but that will take a little bit of practice, it’s not as easy as Geninne makes it look.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Writer’s Idea Book


We had the monthly creative writers group meeting today.  A week earlier than normal due to Easter, but I still had something to read out.  It’s a short piece which can stand alone but could also be worked on further and I’m pleased with it so far. 

What is more pleasing is the fact that I’ve been coming up with regular ideas in the last few months which I have been able to write down as short pieces even if I still need to go back and edit them.  A break at this point, before editing, normally improves things I’ve found.
But because I’ve been feeling inspired I’ve not had to use ‘The Writer’s Idea Book’ by Jack Heffron which was given to me as a birthday present at the beginning of the year.  I’ve had a flick through and it looks very interesting but with my time being filled with reading and essays for the Children’s Literature course it’ll have to wait a little longer before I give it a proper read.

I did however borrow one of his prompts for today’s group homework:
Put a character in a place where he doesn’t speak the native language.  Explore the problems this barrier creates.

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Tea Light Cover



Quite often when I come up with ideas for either stories or things that I will create, I’m not 100% sure where the idea came from.  But when I created a paper lantern to go round a tea light this weekend I knew exactly what had inspired me.
First I saw these beautiful porcelain pierced star tea light holders on Etsy.  I’d seen them before Christmas and fallen in love, but I don’t normally have candles in the house so didn’t buy one.
Then a couple of weeks ago I came across a tutorial on how to make a paper hurricane cover on A Little Hut.  I love this blog anyway and thought it looked like something I could make.
So I combined the two and added my own creative finger print to make my very own tea light cover.  I don't expect that its something I will use, but I wanted to know what the combination of these three things would look like.  And I think that's the important thing about being creative, its the having a go and playing.  It doesn't matter if I don't use this right now.  Maybe later it will feed into something else.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

March Writers Group

We had the March Writers Group on Tuesday.
I even had something to read out having both printed my work a couple of days ago and remembered my memory stick.
At it was a 3 page story about magic vs technology I won’t put it up, but I do love the cockney demon bunny who features.  It was nice to read something out and have people laugh at the right times.

Also, one of the members who works in the library has saved the 2009 Writers & Artists Yearbook for the group as it was about to be chucked out.  I would love to have a set of books as resources for the group.  It’s just a shame that we don’t have a physical present anywhere to keep them.

This months homework: Margaret wasn’t her real name.  It seemed safer and more sedate than the one she used in her professional life.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Wallpaper


If you’ve been reading this for a while you will know that I quite like wallpaper.  Mostly because it’s thick and great for covering my hand made books, but also because it comes in some really wicked designs.
Anyway I was in a pub about 6 months ago when I visited the loo only to find one wall covered in the most beautiful wallpaper.  After a brief moment of wondering how best to remove the paper from the wall, I did the next best thing and took its photo.  (Several people have been bored with this photo.  Sorry)
Imagine my delight then, when I found the very same wallpaper in a DIY store down the road from the flat this week.  I actually had to get my phone out and check it against the photo I had taken, and there is no doubt – it’s the same paper.  Look out for a hand made book covered in this design, coming soon (Easter?).

Friday, 4 March 2011

Scarab Beetle Necklace

While we were in Egypt I was lucky enough to win a scarab beetle bead for reading some hieroglyphics right.  There is nothing special about the bead, they are made by their thousand, scarab’s are after all thought to be good luck, but I love the colour and the circumstances make it special to me, not only were we in Egypt, but it was my birthday.
I’ve now had time to turn it into a necklace.  First I had to drill it – although it had ‘holes’ at each end, they didn’t meet.  No problem for me and my mini drill.  I then used a silver pin to hold the bead, but it was too loose and could have pulled through, so I made a tiny silver washer to hold it in place.  I then made a loop with the tail of the silver pin through which the chain would run, and finished it by knotting the excess round the top.
It’s not perfect, but then neither is the bead, so I think the whole sits well together.  I’m very pleased with it and it will be a grand reminder of a lovely holiday and my 30th birthday.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

My New Travel Blog


Well I finally decided what to do about my journal of our trip to Egypt.
Rather than wasting time trying to fix a problem uploading photos onto a site that doesn’t do what I want it to, I decided to move all my travels on to a self created blog.
When I travel, I normally stay away from technology, either because there isn’t any like during my trips to the Namibian desert or the Amazonian Rainforest, or because I’d rather experience the local culture and forget day to day life for a bit.
This means that I didn’t want a site that I am expected to update as I travel across a country, rather somewhere to write up what we did afterwards as a memory of the trip.  I think this gives you time to think about your trip and share the best bits with your friends and family, rather than feeling pressured to write something when all you’re really doing it chilling in a hammock.
I love travelling and love telling everyone all about my trip.  I’d love to be a travel writer, always off somewhere new to find great places for people to visit.  But at the same time I’m a home bod, and couldn’t leave ‘im outside behind and doubt he’d be able to leave the landscaping for long.
So I compromised, with our yearly? trips and my travel blog.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Christmas beads reused


You may remember that last year I received a very pretty beady necklace for Christmas but I found I wasn’t wearing it very much.
Then when I was looking round etsy a couple of weeks ago I happened to find another very pretty bead and a simple leather bracelet to put it on at Meesmerel’s shop.
So now I’ve got another way to wear my beads.  
These may not be beads or a bracelet that I’ve made, but they are all handmade and beautiful.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Missing: One Memory Stick (again)

We had my first writers group of the new year today.  As I was away in Egypt for the last meeting Martin chaired and it sounds like he did a fab job.
Today’s meeting was small, but it did mean that everyone got to read their work out in full which was great.  A radio comedy, a short story based on the homework, the beginnings of a novella (based in the war hammer world) and the 3rd part of a banker’s novel.  All great fun.

But annoying I’ve lost (meaning probably left it at home) my memory stick again.  This is more annoying than normal as I actually had worked on a short story which I could have read out at the meeting.
I know what I’ve done.  I was working hard on TMA04 last night and although I would swear I took it out of my machine at home and put it in my handbag, its probably still sitting in the USB port.  I really hope it is anyway.
Anyone got any bright ideas on how I can keep it with me?  
It’s easily the 3rd time in 3 months that I’ve done this.

This month’s homework – to continue from the following sentence:

There was no time to think as she felt the cold steel of the knife…