Thursday, 25 July 2013

National Flash Fiction Day Competition

Since I started writing this blog I have been keeping an eye on the viewing stats and by a long way the most popular posts have been the creative writing pieces. So with that in mind I am posting the story I entered into the National Flash Fiction Day Competition in May. I didn't win this competition but that was no big surprise as I didn't even know about it until 2 hours before the submission deadline so it really is flash fiction - written in a flash and therefore not the best entry I could have submitted. I haven't made any changes to it, in fact I haven't even read it since I wrote it so you are seeing it warts and all.

I wrote this on a day I heard a news story about a baby being found down a drain in China and it kept bouncing around in my head. It isn't the first story of this type I have heard and is unlikely to be the last but it still stuck with me all day until I wrote this little story and shook it out of my brain.

If you are interested in seeing the winning entries they can be found here special issue of Flash Frontier with the top stories from National Flash Fiction Day, worth a look if you have the time.


How Do You Fit A Baby Down The Toilet?

Baby won't stop crying so I turn the TV up to block out her sobs. A girl in China has flushed her newborn down the toilet, didn't even know she had given birth or so she says. I sure as hell knew I was giving birth. Is it possible to have your lifeblood slip out of your body unnoticed?

Laundry shuffles to and fro, meals are half started, the bawling doesn't falter. There are moments of calm when we settle on cushions and the sucking begins, feeding exhausts us and we nod off in blissful harmony making the nipple pop out. The unpugged gap fills with a bellow so we try repeatedly, in, out, in, out, until it sticks. Surely flushing a baby down the toilet would block it?

I carry her around until my arms go numb and finally we have a bit of peace. I put her down so the blood can circulate around my arms - she hitches in her breath, we are back on the merry-go-round. Wouldn't you notice the blood and wonder if you were dying?

We stutter through the chaotic routine, nappies, feeds, housework, catnaps. Constantly moving from one chore to the next yet never achieving anything memorable. Are the sewer pipes bigger over there, just right for stuffing with babies?

Daddy arrives home wrapped in the freshness of the outside world. My voice is hoarse through lack of use but his is well lubricated with the chatter of grown ups so he speaks first.

 "Hi honey, how was your day?"

" The usual, yours?"

" Nothing special, and how's our little princess?"

"Just nodded off, she's such a sweetie."

And just how do you do you fit a baby down the toilet anyway?

Friday, 5 July 2013

My Personal Ranking of The Novels of Stephen King

I have wanted to do a personal ranking of Stephen Kings novels for sometime now and have finally got around to doing it. This is not an original idea of course and if you look around on the internet you will find more, none of them the same as mine however.

I have not included the books written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman (despite not being able to rank 'Thinner', one of my very favourite Stephen King books), collections of novellas and short stories, ( I have counted 'Hearts In Atlantis' as a collection), any non fiction works, e-publications, collaborations and The Dark Tower Series - they are a world apart from the novels. I have also omitted 'From A Buick 8', 'Joyland' and 'Dr Sleep' (this has my name on it for Xmas) which I haven't yet read but plan on doing so and will then add them to the rankings.

Stephen King's writing isn't for everyone but a lot of people haven't even tried his books for various reasons, mostly the stories are all viewed as horrors (which they aren't, well not the blood and guts type you may be expecting) and put some readers off but by far the most popular reason for not giving one a go is snobbery - any popular author is viewed as rubbish by many and Stephen King is obviously incredibly popular and by the book snobs reasoning the books must therefore be incredibly badly written. Not so as Stephen Fry commented on his BBC programme 'Planet Word' so if that doesn't satisfy even the most discerning of book hounds I don't know what will.

With these preconceptions in mind I have underlined the books that I think are most likely to appeal to new King readers - why not give one a crack?

The Stand - because this is the undisputed masterpiece and almost wiping out the human race is my favourite type of story

Dolores Claiborne - the strongest characterisation in all King's works, that's just my opinion of course, I read this in one sitting the first time and nearly fried my eyes

The Green Mile (originally published in six parts: The Two Dead Girls, The Mouse on the Mile, Coffey's Hands, The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Night  Journey, and Coffey on the Mile) - anyone who has seen the film will know this is just a damn good story. I first read this story when it came out in monthly instalments and it just about killed me having to wait a month for the next book, now of course I have them all and can read it all in one go - heaven

Misery - this really could happen, something similar probably has, that makes this book very creepy

It - a glorious epic celebrating childhood

The Tommyknockers  - who doesn't love an alien invasion yarn? Don't let that put you off though - just like all these books it is really about people

Cell  - Zombies, a road trip, a race against time and a plethora of characters, you gotta love it

Firestarter - revenge is always a goodie

The Dead Zone - special powers, an evil baddie and a moral dilemma, a golden oldie

Carrie  - where it all began, Carrie will always have a special place on my bookshelf

Rose Madder - total girl power

Insomnia - grey power this time!

Bag of Bones - we all like a ghost story, especially with a Kingly spin on it

Pet Sematary - damn scary, I still have mental images but it's just too good not to read

The Shining  - a famous film but as usual there is so much more in the book, I can't wait to read 'Dr Sleep' which solves the 'what happened next' question

The Eyes of the Dragon - a beautiful book, an old time fairy tale

Christine - the first King film I ever saw but again the book has more depth and scared me big time

11/22/63 - intricate storytelling, very clever

Dreamcatcher - friendship, aliens, a race to save the world - what fun!

Needful Things - a reminder that we all have secrets, some of them very unsavoury

Duma Key - big, low key story - sorry about the pun but if the word fits....

Salem's Lot - the only book on this list I could only read once - it gave me serious nightmares - well played Mr King (of course I was a lot younger then, I'm sure I would be ok now)

Cujo - just plain good reading, this story doesn't hang about

Under the Dome - the implosion of an isolated town is always a joy

Cycle of the Werewolf  - another fairy tale with fabulous illustrations

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon - just go with it and see where it takes you, I think there are different ways to view this one

Gerald's Game  - mind games, they mess with your head, but I guess that's the idea

Lisey's Story -  the story of a marriage and yet more girl power - never a bad thing

Desperation  - I have to be in the mood for this one but when I am it really worms it's way into my brain

So there it is, my personal ranking for now, no doubt it will change over time but it has definitely inspired me to do some re reading of old favourites, I think I will leave Salem's Lot until last though, just to be on the safe side .

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Book Reviews - Just In Time To Be Too Late

I haven't added to my book reviews for a while so I thought it was time to catch up with them. I have been reading mostly non-fiction recently, I have tried a few fiction books lately that have been non-starters for me. I wouldn't say they have been duds but they have failed to hold my interest through to the end and I have had more than my fair share of 'did not finish' books lately.

The books I have finished have been worth the effort although a departure from my normal reading material. I will be posting reviews for the latest batch and as usual they won't contain spoilers or discuss themes, you are all smart people and can analyse books all you like if you choose but I'm not going to write an English essay on each book - I don't want to write an essay and I'm sure you don't want to read one.

Just In Time To Be Too Late - Why Men Are Like Buses by Peta Mathias 

This is a small book, perfect handbag size which is great as this is not the sort of book I would read for hours at a stretch but am more likely to dip in and out of so it's ideal for reading when you have a half hour wait somewhere or in your lunch hour.

Peta Mathias may not be a familiar figure outside New Zealand but here she is well known for her cooking programmes, bright red hair and her love of travel and gastronomy. This book is all about men - a follow up to her book about women 'We Can't Help It If We Are Fabulous' which I hope to read in the next few weeks when a friend has finished with it. 'Just In Time To Be Too Late' is part memoir, part advice and several interviews with male friends (not your typical 'kiwi blokes' however) along with a mattering of science (not too much thankfully as while I found these snippets interesting too much science has a tendency to put me too sleep). I am not normally a fan of memoirs and interviews - I prefer stories that are made up but I did enjoy this book. The mix was just right - not too many trips down memory lane to make my life sound embarrassingly mundane but enough to understand that Peta has created an interesting life and surrounded herself with some unusual characters.

If you are looking for a light read that will entertain you when you aren't in the mood for a heavy novel I recommend you give this book a try - you may even learn something about men and what goes on behind the glazed look in their eyes when you are trying to tell them something fascinating.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Movie Night: Life of Pi and Django Unchained

Our movie nights are not at the cinema but at home and involve the whole family and usually 5 or 6 films (these are movie marathons and often continue the next day). Of course that means we don't get to see newly released films but have to wait until they come out on DVD and are often the last people to see recent releases but we can live with that. We don't go to the movies very often (the last one was The Hobbit) for several reasons -

1, cost - for all 5 of us to go to the movies and get popcorn and drinks we have to spend around $100, that just doesn't add up for a couple of hours entertainment.

2, we are big fans of films and food, preferably together and the theatre managers aren't too keen on patrons bringing their dinner in with them.

3, along with films and food we also like plenty of fizzy drinks and the cinemas don't pause the film for toilet breaks.

4, while we all tend to go for similar film genres (horror, gore, action, comedy) as a family we make sure there is something for everyone in our selections, finding one film at the pictures that suits all ages and tastes is rare.

5, we make a family event out of visiting the DVD store, deciding the viewing order, organising the snacks, arranging cushions and blankets and the seating plan (dad always gets his favourite spot) thereby providing hours of family fun, especially useful during long winter weekends.

6, we don't have to put up with the noise and mess of strangers - quite frankly we make quite enough on our own and don't need any more of either.

7, when the going rough, tough and inappropriate we have the option to stop the movie and put the offenders to bed.

8, when the more mature audience can't keep awake any longer we can head for bed and pick up where we left off the next day.

9, just the hint of a movie night works magic by increasing the obedience in children for several hours preceding the festivities.

10, you can stretch out on the couch and cuddle the cat while watching.

Our most recent movie night involved only four of us as the youngest was away for the night which was the perfect opportunity to watch a couple of movies that we had been itching to see but were too long and unsuitable for the little one (we don't mean inappropriate with regards content as pretty much anything goes in our house but inappropriate meaning the little one would get bored and start annoying everyone else then have to be put to bed early making it not much fun for anyone). There were only two movies as they were both longer than most films and it wasn't an official family movie night. If you have seen The Life of Pi and/or Django Unchained feel free to skip the opinions below but if you haven't then the following should let you know if you are keen to give them a go. I promise no spoilers and no detailed plot synopsis - I hate it when you read a review and feel like you have already seen the film so I won't do it to you.


The Life of Pi

Remember when this film was released at the cinemas? The hype was huge which always feels like setting yourself up for disappointment when you finally get to see it. I had no real idea what the film was about prior to watching it (I had been told but had to ditch the memory to make room for more pressing bits of information such as shopping lists and school events) so I had no preconceived notions before watching the film and was prepared to be either blown away by it's brilliance or bewildered that the film had generated so much hype - it could have gone either way.

The very brief plotline is an Indian family are travelling by ship with the remaining animals from their zoo when the ship goes down with a handful of survivors and results in an unusual tale of a fight for survival across the Pacific Ocean.

We all really enjoyed this film told in flashback style with a very small number of characters which is a bonus for some of our family members who get a little lost with a large cast. The film was long (120 minutes) but not unnecessarily so as the length was needed to tell the story and no one got restless.

If you haven't yet seen the film and want something different from the usual sex and violence (why that would be I can't think but sometimes a change is good for the soul) then this is a goodie, highly recommended.

Django Unchained

Praise be to the God of film making Quentin Tarantino - he has yet again created a cinematic masterpiece. An even longer film (180 minutes) about a challenging subject - slavery in America but the story goes far beyond that. At the heart of this film is a love story ( I'm not a fan of love stories, the cynic in me finds them on the whole completely unbelievable and trite, sad but true) which somehow manages to portray the deep love and commitment of a marriage with the two romantic leads in only a few scenes together which is an amazing feat. There is a lot more going on of course but I promised no spoilers and I will leave the plot description there so as to leave it for you to uncover the whole story if you decide to watch it.

What I can't leave out however is the awesome acting. Leonardo DiCaprio is as usual immaculate and still unbelievably attractive whilst playing a hideous character (when is this man not fantastic?). Jamie Foxx was new to me but I am now a lifelong fan, love him, love him, love him! Not everyone can pull off one of his costumes and still look ubercool. Likewise Christoph Waltz who I haven't seen before, sublime performance, hopefully we will see more of him but I can't imagine how he will top playing this dream role which won him an Oscar. Samuel L Jackson has long been a favourite of mine (isn't he everyone's?) and in Django he is alternately screamingly funny (literally we screamed with laughter) and intensely vile, amazing work yet again.

Django was a delight to watch although there were some scenes which were hard to take but that is the nature of the subject matter. I have never laughed so hard at the KKK, if you are going to take the piss out of a group of people then at least make it entirely guilt free and laugh away - it is a glorious episode of the film and well worth watching for that alone.

I could go on and on about the gems in Django but really you need to see it for yourself if you haven't already. This one is in my top 10 films of all time, just thinking about it makes me want to see it again. If you do decide to give it a whirl don't get all uptight about historical detail, as they say in the special features 'never let authenticity get in the way of a good story' - amen to that! 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Old School vs New School

I don't usually discuss my children's coming and goings in public - they aren't that keen and you very quickly become a 'child bore' but as this incident effected all of us (except the other 2 kids of course - it was barely noticed in their busy lives) I think I can safely write about this from my perspective and call it 'a parenting experience', also it makes the lad look pretty cool and he is all for spreading the news of  his awesomeness by whatever means available.

It had been a funny week, short work weeks always throw me out and not only can I never remember what day it is, I feel like I have lived them all more than once. So while suffering 'Public Holiday Disorientation' I received a phone call from the school's deputy head advising my boy had a cut knee and probably shouldn't bike home, no biggie. After school we asked the boy what had happened to his knee and the following is the situation as we understand it and two different ways in which to deal with it - one is how my old school would have handled it when I was at primary and the other is how todays school dealt with it.

The Situation

Lunchtime at school, the class are outside munching away when Boy A decides to undo the blade from someone else's pencil sharpener and remove the blade. In the interests of science he wants to know 1, Does the blade cut? - yes, it does,  2, Do the cuts hurt? -yes, just a little bit and 3, Do the cuts bleed? - again yes, but not a lot as several cuts on his arm testify. He then decides to take the  experiment one step further - Does the blade have the same result on skin other than his own? - the answer is again yes, yes indeed it does as Boy B's leg is most certainly cut and bleeding a little although Boy A can't be sure of the pain level as Boy B is staunch. That's what happens when you are 10, bored and being a douche (new school) or a dork (old school). Boy B decides a plaster is in order and walks into the classroom looking for one but he can't find any so heads back out to finish his lunch. It is at this point the adults see the blood and get involved.

Old School Resolution.

As this never happened at my school that I was aware of (something this minor wouldn't even have blipped on my radar) I am making this up or in grown up speak 'giving my best guess scenario'.

Teacher sees Boy B and asks what he thinks he is doing inside at lunchtime (ie interrupting his quiet time). Boy B explains Boy A cut him and he now requires a plaster. Teacher advises Boy B to go to the office and get one then goes to see Boy A to get the lowdown (very old school). When the teacher sees the little blade he removes it from Boy A, calls him an idiot and returns to the classroom to continue eating his own lunch in peace. End of story, nothing to see here folks.

New School Resolution.

Boys A & B are sent to the deputy head to explain what has happened - easy really, Boy A cut Boy B because he had disengaged his brain as it was lunch time and the experiment had seemed like a good idea at the time. Then both sets of parents are notified and it gets really new school.

I can't be sure about Boy A's parents but Boy B's mother received the news via mobile phone on a busy street, in the rain with a woolly hat on making the receiving of quality information impossible, all she knew was her boy had a cut that may or may not need medical treatment and he wasn't in trouble - that's a relief then - the news can be so much worse when the deputy head phones. There was also the request for 'input about how to proceed with boy A' which sounded like a potential minefield so mother B defers the decision until 'both parents of Boy B can have a discussion'. The parents of  Boy B never really have that discussion however. Father B dresses the wound as he is good at that and mother B aims a few relevant questions at Boy B to get more background on the incident as she is good at that. Parents' B then put the children to bed and watch the final of Masterchef as they are equally talented at watching cooking shows. All good there.

The next morning Boy B does is civic duty on road patrol before school while mother B pops into the classroom to ask the teacher to excuse Boy B from P.E until his cut has healed and is greeted by the class teacher and the deputy head who clear the classroom of pupils leaving mother B feeling - 1, like she is infectious and 2, totally unprepared for any kind of official school business as parents B had failed to come to any conclusion the previous night other than agreeing that this years Masterchef title went to a worthy winner. Mother B has to wing it, luckily she has a small talent for this as she is often unprepared and it is often due to her larger talent for watching cooking shows on TV. She begins by stating that Boy A's parents are lovely people (this is not made up, they really are lovely people and the truth is always a good place to start when winging it) and they are sure to impose a penalty on their boy so 'lets not punish him twice', or something like that anyway. Thinking that was the end of it mother B prepares to leave but is then asked if she consents to meeting with the parents of Boy A which was a total curveball but mother B gamely agrees so she can set their minds at rest that Boy B was still attached to his leg and is such a tough cookie he was, as they spoke, bravely protecting the innocent at the school crossing (Boy B is old school tough) while she kept an eye on the time so as not to be late for work.

Mother B received a major shock when family B arrived into the office for a private meeting, they had clearly not been watching Masterchef the night before but had instead been up all night emotionally wringing themselves out over the situation - their child had self harmed and cut another child which does sound bad when you say it like that but family B saw it more as a kind of normal thing for kids to mess about with pencil sharpeners, compasses and the like - stationery can provide hours of schoolroom entertainment when the maths gets just too hard as plenty of my old school generation will attest to.

With family A obviously giving the situation far more thought then family B mother B was a little panicked and unsteadied from her previous position - had family B under reacted and publically  exposed their slack parental care? Mother B proceeded with a couple of badly aimed light hearted comments which, considering the audience were never going to fly but it did buy her some time to think and wonder if she ought to ask for a suspension or something - what is new school discipline anyway? It was obvious Boy A showed genuine remorse and the parents were living in fear of their son being forever known as 'The Schoolyard Slasher' and mother B insisting that he should be used as the class dartboard so all the kids could join in the fun with a game of 'divider darts' (remember dividers? Two holes for the effort of one, brilliant). The emotionally charged room put mother B off her stride a little but alls well that ends well with an agreement to 'learn the lesson and move on' which brought on sighs of relief all round - school, family A and mother B who was in danger of missing her bus.

Boy B is now almost completely healed and managed to 1, Collect another scar to show off (he didn't even have to make any effort to get this one - it shouldn't really count), 2, Has proved once and for all that he is the toughest kid in class (possibly the school - we will have to wait until the end of the year to see if anyone overtakes him for the title of  'toughest cookie') 3, Proved himself to be the most clear headed and mature of all the characters in the story and all whilst heading further up the awesomeness scale - he is pure gold that kid.

As for Boy A -  his parents had a lot more 'family discussions' in store for him and that seems punishment enough. He did write two letters of apology - one to Boy B and one to parents B who read it together and were very pleased to hear that Boy A 'never intended to hurt Boy B that badly', hhhmmmm.

Friday, 31 May 2013


Over two weeks since my last entry! May is my busiest work month of the year so I'm really not too surprised that I didn't get to post much during the month. It also just happened that the BNZ Literary Award competition's deadline is today and I have been working on entries for that which can be viewed here
I got all settled in to write an entry last night but as I was flicking around the internet I discovered there was another national flash fiction competition I could enter so I thought I would give it a crack. Great idea, except the deadline was 31/5 at midnight and the time was already 9pm so it was a total rush job - real flash fiction, written in a flash! I have entered the story - maximum 300 words and as usual I used every one - but I am now afraid to go back and read it as I sent it away with 38 minutes to spare and my judgement is never at it's best at that time of night, I have a feeling I will hate the story if I re read it so I'm not going there right now. Once the judging is over I can share it with you and we can all have a cringe about my '2 hour flash fiction' but I did the best I could under the circumstances and I have pushed send so there is nothing I can do to change it now. At least the title will get noticed though as it was inspired by the recent news story about the baby found in the sewer in China so I called the story 'How Do You Fit A Baby Down The Toilet?' which sounds really crass but it does fit the story which you will have to take my word on until I can post it on here.

So, with another work related writing project and four competition entries completed this month, 3 in the last 2 weeks I haven't had a chance to do any creative writing exercises but I plan on setting aside regular time each week to continue with them which should be doable now that work has settled down again. Also those damn addictive cooking programmes are all finishing this week freeing up my evenings - I swear I won't start watching long winded competition TV again although I think I promised that last year and I was weak, succumbing to their guilty pleasures yet again. 

Anyway, the competition rush has finished although there is a regional competition I want to get an entry ready for but the deadline isn't until the end of September so I will be using the long winter nights to get something half decent written. I have to be very careful with this new entry - it has to be longer - not flash fiction but regular short story length which I haven't written for years and the entries cost money so I can't just enter loads willy-nilly as I did for the BNZ competition. I have to work on one story and make it the best I can, I have never liked putting all my eggs in one basket but I will have to on this occasion.

I would like to enter as many competitions as I can this year - I am not expecting to win any of them but I like the challenge of the deadline, as a well practised procrastinator I need a deadline. I normally play to win with everything I do (whether it appears that way or not) but I can't think that way with the writing competitions as fiction, especially, is way too subjective. It all depends on the judge and who knows what they are looking for. It is actually very liberating for me to enter a competition and then forget about it rather than waiting for the outcome and being crushed if I don't win (that damn competitive nature again). I learnt a long time ago that you just can't please everyone so I am working on pleasing myself. I can now focus on the exercises and the next entry which will be a long time in the making, I will let you know how it goes.



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Creative Writing 2

The next creative writing exercise is a simple, sraightforward account of a physical accident you have had. This is tricky for me as I was a very clumsy child and have plenty of accidents to choose from so I took a little time deciding on which one to write about. I chose this one mostly because I have strong memories of both the incident and the after effects.

When I was young our house was positioned on a sloping section which led to a small wooded area where I sometimes played. The day of the accident I was on my own, playing in the shrubby edges of the woods when I caught sight of movement from the corner of my eye, I wasn't sure what it was so I listened carefully to gauge it's postion. I heard noises, briefly saw what I assumed was a rabbit and sprinted after it.

Not long after I lost sight of the rabbit, stopped running and kept quiet trying to pick up the trail again but all I heard was my own harsh breathing so I sat down for a rest, I had given up on finding the rabbit. That's when I noticed a small hole in the ground nearby, most likely a rabbit hole but that didn't interested me however something shiny was embedded in the wall of the hole and that did interest me. The accident happened when I leaned forward to excavate the shiny thing from the earth  - a stick in the eye, it was half buried, poking out from the hole at an angle unnoticed as I was blinded by the potential treasure. When the stick stabbed me in the eye I rebounded and fell onto my backside with two thoughts running through my head - 1, my eye really, really, hurt and I needed to get to mum so she could fix me up because mums are good at that and 2, the unknown treasure was very attainable. Knowing I would never find the hole again this was my only chance to collect it so with one hand over my bad eye and the other frantically digging out the tresure with the offending stick I only took a couple of minutes to prise it free, take a quick peek and run home.

I landed myself in A&E for that little adventure, eye drops which stung badly for a couple of weeks and an eye patch which wasn't even cool - a thick white bandage over the eye for what seemed like the whole term but wasn't.

The upside was the treasure I found. When I got home from the hospital I could finally clean it up and examine it (with one eye). I was rewarded with a small decorative glass with sloping sides, a rose coloured strip around the base, a picture of a dog (an Alsatian I think) painted in black, white and grey on the body of the glass and a gold rim. I kept that little treasure for years on my bedroom shelf and it gave me pleasure far longer than the effects of the eye injury gave me bother so I guess I made on the deal.

This is the heavily edited version, I was surprised how much I remembered about this incident and I had to cut out a lot of irrelevant memories, probably should have cut more but couldn't quite manage to. Simple and straightforward is always hard for me as anyone who knows me can verify so I think I did an ok self editing job on this exercise.

This is a factual recount rather than creative writing but I can see the point of writing it - we all have a massive number of experiences, large and small, to draw on for inspiration. I don't know how inspiring this particular episode from my childhood is but this is the first memory I have about the thrill of finding treasure and that thrill is a wondrous thing, far better than a poke in the eye that's for sure.  

Friday, 10 May 2013

Creative Writing Exercise 1

I don't do anthing in a hurry, I call it research, covering my bases, exploring options but really we all know it is nothing more than procrastination. I don't think I am alone in this but I know I can be incredibly talented at putting things off so although I decided way back in October 2012 that 2013 would be my year to indulge in two activities that I used to enjoy before babies came along it has taken me nearly half a year to make a real start.

Now that the babies are old enough to amuse themselves for good chunks of time I thought this freed me up to regain some of my skills that have fallen foul of the intense child reaering of the last decade. I was very wrong, the big babies may not need me 24/7 but caring for them, the home, the husband, pets, garden and a part time job still suck the time and energy away from what I really want to get on with which is swimming and writing. I have made a dreadful start on both, so far this year I have managed a 15 minute swim and sauna and am (almost) happy with an entry for an upcoming short story competition which doesn't sound too bad until you know that the competition is for 150 words of creative fiction - a short short story which is a very new concept for me and not as easy as it sounds but I will have something to submit and that was the whole idea. Prizes and acclaim are far from my mind, for me entering will be quite an achievement and I hope to enter another couple of competitions this year to keep the ball rolling. Without a deadline or goal in mind (my self imposed deadlines end up being very flexible) I find I keep putting the writing to one side in favour of baking a cake, putting the laundry away and staring for ridiculous amounts of time at the chickens scratching around - at least they are being productive.

So, to get to the point (you can see why 150 words was a challenge for me) I took some creative writing books out of the library, looked up some exercises and decided to just get on with it. To make me feel that I was producing something for a (tiny) audience my next decision was to post them on my blog which is very brave for me - sharing fiction on any level makes me anxious. My next thought was maybe some other people are feeling the same way and would like to join in either publicly or privately, it would be nice if they did, kind of like a writing buddy but even if no one does I have finally made a commitment and I will plunge ahead.

So, before I start with the first exercise (short ones to start) I hope the various authors I have borrowed these tasks from - the first one is from Louise Doughty's 'A Novel In A Year' (which is not on my agenda but the exercises are in manageable chunks so I will do  a few before moving on to another set) are ok with me using the exercises in a public forum, I guess they will let me know if they ever find out what I am doing and don't like it. You can check out Louise on

The following is a baby step but at least I have made a start.

Exercise 1 - finish the sentence 'The day after my eighth birthday my father told me ......'

The day after my eighth birthday my father told me to clean up the blood, there was a lot of it and it was starting to turn to jelly. Gathering a cloth I began to mop up the scarlet puddles, the dry cloth smeared the blood around but didn't remove it so I wet the cloth with the hose.

'Don't bother with the cloth, that won't do the job, you need the hose', he said and showed me how to turn the nozzle so the water came out in a single stream, hard and fast, perfect for sluicing the blood from the little pits in the lino. The force of the water turned the blood into pink froth which slipped down over the wash house step leaving the bubbles to pop on the grass.

I am happy with that, I had originally written more which explained the blood but as I was in two minds myself as to where it came from so I deleted it. If I am not convinced nobody else will be either. The requirement was only one sentence anyway so I will leave it there. I like it though so who knows, I might pick it up again one day and find out why there was blood all over the wash house floor.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Alice in Wonderland

I haven't posted anything for a while, I have had plenty of distractions as well as the usual family and work commitments to keep me busy. One of the little side issues I looked at this week was a request from a friend planning a Rally of Hope event when our PM visits the area at the end of the month. She proposed an interesting exercise and while it didn't take a lot of time it did provide food for thought.

I was asked to list various Members of Parliament and then match them with a character from Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, a fun task which resulted in me choosing the Cheshire Cat for our PM, John Key - the character description said the cat spoke in riddles, was always grinning and could disappear at will - our PM is a natural at all three so I hope he appreciates the consideration behind the bestowing of this character upon him.

My daughter watched the Tim Burton film version of  'Alice in Wonderland' many times over recently so I was relatively familiar with the characters. It is one of those movies which captivates her and she watches over and over again until we can all recite the dialogue as well as the actors. She also has a picture book about the movie out from the library and as we returned home from checking the book out I noticed our local theatre group are currently performing 'The White Rabbit'. All these Alice references were beginning to add up and starting to feel a little eerie. Not least because I had recently begun a writing project with the working title 'Down The Rabbit Hole' before all these other Alice themed incidents occurred - my brain is starting feel like I have taken one of the funny pills in the story.

Of course it isn't just the tale of Alice and her adventures which has come to the fore again in recent years - many stories from our childhoods are making a modern comeback although some are so reworked as to be merely based on the originals rather than faithful retellings. Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk (I am sure there are more but this isn't a research project) in addition to Alice have all been given the Hollywood treatment in the last few years which left me wondering - have the moguls run out of new ideas? Are they playing it safe with a well known story? Trying to entice the parents by evoking memories of simpler times or it is because, as people of a certain age will tell you - classics improve with maturity?

I can't entirely blame this quick Alice detour for my lack of blog entries though as I have also got a larger writing project on the go - working title 'The Happiness Dial' which has stalled until I get some decent uninterrupted quiet time (ie indefinitely!). I have also been distracted by several ideas popping around in my brain all demanding I start work on them - knitting, sewing, baking, reading and spending time with loved ones but I am finding it impossible to settle on one and make some headway. Until I can cross something off my to do list I will feel jittery and unproductive so I am making a concerted effort to charge forward with 'Down the Rabbit Hole' tonight and hopefully that will at least get the whole Wonderland thing out of my head and I can move on - visions of that damn cat are starting to drive me mad!.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Power of Facebook

I am a haphazard Facebook user, more a voyeur really - I like to see what everyone else is up to but rarely post any comments as I can't think of anything going on that would interest my Facebook friends. This has changed recently, I have upped my Facebook visits from one or two a week to a daily check and have gone on a rampage of liking, sharing and even commenting! My online activity has increased by umpteen per cent  (I am good with many things, figures however are not one of them) and I am enjoying my renewed enthusiasm for taking a more active role in adding to the news feed here and there.

Several interesting and important things are happening on a local, regional, national and global level that I feel strongly about and this is pushing my desire to be more involved. Although I am still on the periphery of the action it feels like the right time to express more of my views about the events currently unfolding.

I have noticed changes to the content being shared by my FB friends - less of the kids photos and minor day to day commentary, more political statements and concerns for the future. I like this change and am proud to have friends who aren't afraid to speak up for what they believe is right and show their concern for what is happening in world. Of course most of us have similar values and therefore agree, on the whole, with each other which is no great surprise because as well as being FB friends we are actually real life friends too and friends are usually on the same wavelengths when it comes to the really important stuff. This results in many likes and the sharing of links to pass on information and play our part in the growing worldwide awareness of issues that need addressing to ensure the future is bright for the generations to follow.

I feel heartened by these largely middle class and middle aged (sorry guys, sad but true) rumblings and long may it continue. However while sifting through the many posts on FB today - a fairly typical day of environmental, political and thought provoking posts amongst the TGIF comments and I was pleased to see  plenty of likes  and shared links spreading the word for common sense and righteousness.

My favourite share today was Expanded Consciousness's link to a feel good environmental article shared by a friend (thanks Chris, I have a pet peeve of municipal inedible plantings and am very reassured to know I'm not the only one as that kind of weirdness can get lonely)  and I noticed it had over 7,000 likes! Excellent, I thought and then as I continued down I found a link that initially amused me (briefly) and then made me despair, My Kitchen Rules.

Now, don't misunderstand me here, I am a big fan of MKR, it used to be my guilty televisual pleasure until I couldn't be bothered feeling guilty any more and now I organise the family routine to accommodate yet another obsession and have got 2 thirds of the offspring on board so we can heckle the contestants together, great family fun, but it is just a TV cooking competition. For those of you not familiar with this Aussie reality cooking show there is a pair of female contestants who are very outspoken and are making themselves quite unpopular in some circles. This link is a call to have them be the next team eliminated from the show - all innocent fun as this will have absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the show as the audience doesn't get to choose who goes home. Nothing to get riled about you might think but this is the kicker - when I last checked a few minutes ago this link had over 62,000 likes!! How is it that this link which won't have any effect on the outcome of the competition or in fact anything at all receives so much attention when important, interesting links that could change the world get a handful of views, likes and shares??

I puzzled over this and will continue to do so until I can get my head around it but so far I can think of a few reasons why this may have happened so here's a little multiple choice question for you.

Did the 'get rid of Sophia and Ashlee off MKR' campaign get over 62,000 likes (and counting)because people -

A, find it easier to contribute to the FB community by clicking a vaguely amusing 2 line post than reading a whole article?

B, want to be entertained and not be reminded about challenging issues, especially on a Friday?

C,  will click 'like' if they think it will actually achieve something (not that it will in this case) rather than supporting a 'big issue' that feels impossible for ordinary people to influence

D, don't want to feel left out when such a large number of people have liked the link already?

D, everyone just really hates those 2 Asian chicks.

Whatever the reason it really bummed me out but was an amazing illustration of the power of FB, just think what we could achieve if the right people could harness the same power and influence as MKR and use it for the good of the planet?? Some would argue that getting rid of Sophia and Ashlee off MKR is for the good of the planet and they wouldn't be too far wrong - they are incredibly irritating girls but make for great TV.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Would You Eat Your Cat?

I recently read this book by Jeremy Strangroom which appears to be an odd choice for a devoted cat worshipper such as myself but becomes a little less mystifying when you know the sub title -Key ethical conundrums, and what they tell you about yourself.

This is not a book review although I do recommend it if you fancy a few mind benders before bedtime - the questions posed in this book can really mess with your head if you think about them hard enough. What I learnt about myself is that I am not the outright utilitarian I had always considered myself to be and as I get older some questions become a fuzzy grey colour whilst others stand out in stark and uncompromising black and white. This would be easy to deal with if there was a formula I was following but I seem to have different answers for very similar questions and many of them just don't have a yes/no answer. I found many of the questions very satisfying food for thought despite not finding any easy solutions to the problems presented.

The most disquieting section for me was Crime and Punishment where at first glance the questions appear very straight forward, even silly, such as 'Should we punish the innocent?' and 'Can worse ever be judged morally better?' but as I was encouraged to examine the various situations more deeply I found myself getting sucked into a way of thinking that was not normal for me and I lost myself in the twists and turns of ethics for the modern world which I smugly decided was stretching my intellect and making me a more informed person. It wasn't until I had finished the book that I realised there were, of course, alternatives to my clever clogs theory and it was entirely possible I was either very easily lead and with enough effort I could be persuaded to believe anything with a plausible sounding argument behind it or I was once again guilty of one of my persistent failings - overthinking everything. I still haven't made up my mind on most of the questions but I certainly know where I stand on 'Would you eat your cat'?

At first glance I assumed (I know I shouldn't but it was kind of hard not to) this was a eat your cat or starve to death scenario because, quite honestly I couldn't imagine any other reason for eating your cat although I doubt a common moggy would keep starvation at bay for long. The premise however turned out to be much odder than that and one I couldn't envision anyone I know considering. In this question a woman loved her cat unconditionally and was completely devoted to him, the relationship sounded almost like a lover to me but I guess if the cat was your lover the question 'Would you eat your cat?' would be a whole lot easier to answer. The woman had made a decision some time before that when the cat died she would eat him so that he would be a part of her forever (I told you it was weird). The answer to this question for me was a no brainer - no, I would not eat my cat under these circumstances, but that is too easy because the question really been asked was - do you approve of the woman eating her cat in these circumstances?

I think the knee jerk reaction for most people would be 'of course she shouldn't eat her cat - she is one sick kitty to even think about it' and I wholeheartedly agree but really the ethical dilemma is this - is this woman morally wrong to eat her cat so they can be joined as one forever and while I still hold onto the idea that we need some mental health professionals in this story I can't actually see any moral issues with the poor grief stricken woman with no friends eating her faithful companion so they may live together as one entity. It is certainly eccentric but I can't be convinced it is fundamentally immoral. Those of us who eat meat cannot really consider the eating of an animal as wrong without declaring our own actions morally corrupt. I concede most of us don't usually bring pets into the family with the intention of eating them but is it really any different to a farmer eating animals he has raised from birth for the table?

This lead my tired brain down another path which as a life long meat eater I am morally obliged to wander. When is it not ok to eat an animal? If I could cope with someone eating their pet where would I draw the line? Interesting question and while I am still exploring the answer I think the line in the sand is a long way off for me as the only circumstances I can think of that would prohibit me from eating an animal is the state of the animals population and future security. I would not, for instance, eat a tiger or a tuatara but if I was hungry enough any animal that isn't endangered is up for grabs providing they have been humanely dispatched. Having said that I know I have been guilty of eating meat that has not been slaughtered to the humane standards we have in this country but for my host country the method used to slaughter the beast was normal practice and they were very proud to offer the animal to us, their guests. In that situation I have already broken one of my own rules - does this make me flexible and culturally adaptable or do I have flimsy and brittle morals?

Our western culture is very narrow minded in the food resources it utilises compared with many other countries around the world and we have the luxury of turning our noses up at eating a dog or rat or guinea pig finding the notion unpalatable either due to the 'yuk factor' or the 'cute factor' depending on the species. Those Kiwis who have travelled in countries dominated by non western cultures are likely to respect the host's culture and tradition but only try the unfamiliar as a novelty rather than a viable long term menu option. How many travellers return from South America and set up a backyard guinea pig farm because they miss roast cavy - not a lot, although it is very easy to implement and could save money to help pay for the next overseas adventure.

All of this round about thinking has really led me to one conclusion which I have known all along so I could have saved myself an awful lot of bother - I will eat (almost) anything.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Caspule Wardrobe

I have a lot of kind and generous friends and family and they give me clothes, lots and lots of clothes which I am very grateful for. Some of these people are mere acquaintances and in some instances the connection between the kind hearted donor and me is very tenuous indeed. I never say no though - I am a junk whore and will accept almost any rejected item. I like to think of this as recycling but it is really just my inner treasure hunter looking for it's next fix.

Usually I really enjoy being the local drop off for the unwanted and past it - I love the sorting and finding but there comes a time when these new additions must be put somewhere. My catch all 'somewhere' is a pile of shopping bags plonked either in my bedroom on in the spare shower
(don't say anything, I know that's a little strange but strange is normal in our house and I bet the same goes for your place too). At some point the clothes migrate into my drawers and wardrobe and get used, all good so far.

This system came to a crashing halt recently with the delivery of a much appreciated small bag of sartorial goodies. As there were only a few items I decided to skip the store and wait step and put them straight into service whereupon I discovered a catastrophe - they wouldn't fit! The problem would not be solved with just a quick tidy and refold, I needed a hard core clothes cull - all you hoarders out there will know how that freaked me out. Sorting, categorising, folding, selecting and placing are all comforting activities, getting rid of stuff - any kind of stuff is not. Getting rid is incredibly satisfying after the event and you see rediscovered corners that can now be covered in new junk but the process itself is gruelling. You know that as soon as an item has left the property and is forever irretrievable the event, occasion or use it was specifically made for will become apparent and you no longer have it - this situation is a major stress inducer to be avoided at all costs.

So what to do about drawers breaking under the strain, wardrobes doors jammed open, hooking clothes hangers onto even more hangers and only being able to reach 3 outfits without pulling the whole house of clothes down on myself? There comes a point when rearranging and putting a pile of clean clothes into the wash to create more space won't work anymore so the teeth gritting moment had arrived - I had to face the fact I had too much stuff and some of it had to go.

I am no stranger to the clothes cull, I have done a great many of them and they all end up with the same result - less stuff to hand but not necessarily in an efficient way so I decided on a new approach. The capsule wardrobe, the small collection of clothes that always appears in the womens magazines around holiday time that will take you from a glittering dinner at the captains table to an impromptu tryst in the scented gardens with the porter (I have yet to find any outfit that has directly led to an impromptu tryst in any circumstances but I am aiming to include it my version of the capsule wardrobe). The idea behind the capsule wardrobe is everything must go with a least 3 other garments so you can pretty much look ok by choosing items at random which is my preferred method if getting dressed before 10am when my brain actually begins to function. The capsule wardrobe should also be small as it is designed to fit into expensive dainty luggage designed for 'the country retreat' or the 'winter sun break' and here is where I had the advantage over the holiday packers - I am very unlikely to be attending either destination and I can therefore add a few extras without straining my not so dainty clothing receptacles.

With the capsule wardrobe principles understood I set about making it so. Once all my clothing was laid out around the bedroom I really saw the scale of the issue for the first time and this lead to a panic attack - if I kept only a capsule wardrobe that would mean getting rid of so many items I would probably have to be hospitalised with the trauma and separation anxiety so did I need to abandon my brilliant idea in favour of something a little more obsession friendly? I really didn't want to give up on my new wardrobe makeover so with a little creative thinking my mentally healthy self came to a compromise with my mentally a-little-skewiff self and it was of course a complete epiphany. just because I had a capsule wardrobe didn't mean I had to get rid of the rest of my clothes; I just had to remove them from the bedroom! Viola, problem solved. This fantastic idea made the selection process of the capsule wardrobe so easy and not at all stressful because I knew this seasons rejects were just going away temporarily and could be retrieved at any time.

So anything that didn't fit and couldn't be a part of at least 3 outfits has been spirited away and I can now shut all doors and drawers and actually see all available options without getting the torch to see what has fallen down the back of the dresser. The whole process left me feeling empowered and floaty instead of the usual stressed self doubt, in fact I felt so good I even ironed some cotton and linen items (a rare occurrence) and mended 2 items (a never happened before occurrence).

So despite the crys of  'cheater'  from the back row (who listens to ther kids anyway?) I feel the capsule wardrobe idea was a complete success. No stress, maximum efficiency, virtous feelings and a very workable capsule wardrobe in my room while the rest of my clothes have a little r&r  - a capsule wardrobe break if you will. Of course knowing they are stashed in the kids playroom and can be picked through at a moments notice settles my often over taxed brain and the kids don't need all that space anyway - I just had a big clear out of their stuff.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Junk Whore

I am a junk whore - I accept all manner of discarded and exiled items from friends, family, friends of family, family of friends of friends, well anyone really. My house is a junk magnet as I am a junk lover (please note this does not mean I am rubbish in bed - I am in fact as fabulous between the sheets as everywhere else). My husband thinks I am a bag lady and it is true I have many, many bags full of what used to be other peoples stuff but I am slowly converting him and while he is not yet a bag lad he is certainly warming to his new role of repurposer extraordinaire and showing a real talent for scavenging or as our family calls it - treasure hunting.

Treasure hunting in it's various forms is one of our favourite family activities - beachcombing, second hand shops and friends homes. This of course works best with the friends who can afford new things and therefore want to get rid of excess items. Unfortunately this also severely limits the number of items we find at close friends homes as one of the reasons we are so close is our common bond of thriftiness which is just a trendy way of saying we are all poor and anything we might have to offer each other is likely to be broken (by the kids), worn out, obsolete or just plain ugly.

The kids also love collecting treasure from the gutters on the way to school, they find all manner of interesting and vital objects such as broken pens, junk food containers, empty lighters, wires and broken electronics which does raise questions about what goes on in our neighbourhood after dark. I am not so keen on this type of treasure hunting as I then have to keep said treasure in my handbag all day only to present them with a flourish after school with a smug indulgent motherliness only to be told - "oh yeah, I realised at school I can't use that stuff now so it is really just rubbish". On the upside we are slowly clearing the local streets but on the downside we are using up our rubbish bags at an embarrassing rate.

The recent trend for repurposing, upcycling, restyling, rehoming or what ever new fangled name you want to give it has spawned a new genre of reality tv. I am not a huge reality tv fan but mix together some treasure hunters, creative visionaries, practical sorts, design genii (I have always wanted to use that word) and I get very excited, sad but true. I do find it a little disconcerting though when the retrieved junk sometimes ends up as cutting edge furniture and fittings and are then sold on to the rich eco chic who believe they are saving the planet one purchase at a time. The good news is they are being totally ripped off so they must feel even more virtuous and us poor people who really are saving the planet because we can't afford to buy new things can get a good laugh at their expense. This slightly tarnishes my mother earth image but what the hell - I know you are thinking the same thing, well maybe you're not in which case you win the mother earth award.

While I embrace the current fashion for making new items from forgotten gems and hope the world discovers the joy of modern treasure hunting I know trends come and go. When the fashions slaves turn their heads to the next eco trend I will still be out there treasure hunting because I am a junk whore, always have been and always will be. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Linoleum Room by Katie Robinson.

I like this book, I did find it a little disorientating at times but I think that was the intention and I rolled with it. another reason I have a fondness for the book is because although the setting was never given a name I live in the same area and I knew the locations described - it felt like a little secret I shared with the author. Of course this won't apply to most readers but it made it special for me.

I was quite proud of myself reading through to the end (which was well worth the journey) as at times I found it disquieting and thought the story was going very wonky. If you want a story with a little bite and more than a little weirdness this is a winner - definitely not your average and I really like that.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling

Not often is a novel published with such fanfare and because of that I was determined to keep away from it until the rumpus had died down but it was lent to me and I felt the need to see what all the hoopla was about. I admit having a slight preconception about J.K Rowling as I attempted reading the first Harry Potter book and abandoned it after only a few pages as I found the writing style not to my taste but I was keen to give The Casual Vacancy a go. I found this to be a real page turner and had to keep the book out of the bedroom as I tended to stay awake all night reading, I'm not sure why I felt like that as there are a lot of things I don't like about this book.

I don't want to be negative but I'm afraid I have to be if I am going to give an honest appraisal. What I don't like about The Casual Vacancy - stereotypical characters (I think this was on purpose but it feels indolent to me), overuse of clever and pretty language (story always comes first and this one could be have been told in half the time) and the ending (rushed, unconvincing and loose ends all wrapped up quickly in direct contrast to the bulk of the book which felt - I don't know really - odd, strange, jarring?

What I do like about The Casual Vacancy - I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to the characters, in short it sucked me in. Would I recommend it? On balance no - this is a long book and I don't feel the satisfaction gained was enough to warrant the time spent on it.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Keeping On Top Of Things

I know the jobs I should 'keep on top of' but why do they have to be all the things I don't like doing? I am always advised (by the people who are not doing them) to 'keep on top of' the following -

Dusting, weeding, ironing, cleaning the oven, clearing the clutter, sorting out the pantry, clearing out the unmentionables at the back of the fridge, vacuuming, sweeping and various other annoying chores.

I am not a fastidious housekeeper, no one will ever put on my gravestone 'she kept a spotless home' and I don't care. Don't get me wrong, I love a clean and tidy home but I don't enjoy doing it. I love the results when I do get motivated however they last but a moment and then motivation deserts me.

There are plenty of enjoyable items on my to do list that I am good at 'keeping on top of' -

Reading, hugging my kids, catching up with friends, talking to my family, cuddling the cats, eating, watching the sun go down, feeling the wind in my face, swimming, listening to music and many more............I think I'll stick with 'keeping on top' of those instead. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Book Reviews For Busy People

I love books, I read quite a few of them and like discussing them, I also like reading book reviews. I have looked around a few blogs looking for ideas of books to read and I am stunned at how many people post book reviews on their blogs. This is a good thing of course, intelligent people offering their opinions about books they have read to other intelligent people looking for reading inspiration.
However I found for the most part the books are categorised by genre (logical I admit but sometimes logic isn't what's required) and often the book reviews themselves are dauntingly long, almost a book in themselves! No doubt these are well considered and have taken a lot of time and effort to produce but all I have is one question - is this book worth the time spent reading it?

Most people living in our modern world are busy - families, work, commitments, clubs, hobbies etc all take a piece out of days and often large irretrievable chunks. I am not looking for an essay covering plot, tone, character development, themes and the like no matter how learned and passionate they are.

With this mind I decided to review and rate books in a different way although there are only a few on the list as yet I will add to it as time goes by. There are two reasons for the limited list - I have never kept a reading log so have only just started it and also I start a lot of books which, for various reasons I don't finish and I therefore cannot give an accurate opinion of them.

My book listings differ from the norm in two ways - I don't categorise them by genre but by the feelings they provoke in me. I will not write literary essays or include spoilers but the review will be independent, honest and sometimes highly personal opinions from an experienced reader.

The books I read are also unlikely to be new releases, I buy very few books and most of my reading material is picked up from my local library. I also don't pay for reserving the latest offerings - I am what you might call a frugal reader, some may call it something less fashionable. Therefore you will find oldies but goodies mixed in with some newer fare and the odd non fiction.

I will be posting book reviews haphazardly as the mood strikes me but in the meantime you can find my reading log listed in my own category system under the books tab.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

(Cheats) Preserving Adventures

I like the thought of growing my own food to preserve for the family however the rosy of glow of imagining pretty jars lined up filled with yummy home grown goodness turns ice blue when I realise I have to actually do it before the picture of earth mother will be complete. My first foray into the preserving wilderness this year turned out to be very easy and satisfying.
First the tomatoes - Amish Paste grown specifically for sauces and cooking have come along late but are now producing well which means I now have to deal with them. I am exceptionally efficient (or lazy) at sorting these fat red babies out.

check out my Domestics Adventures tab for a fast, easy way to freeze tomatoes with no peeling, boiling or bottling.

When I need them later in the year I just plunge into just boiled water, wait, peel, drain for a bit and use like tinned tomatoes. I know I could bottle, make sauce and puree tomatoes now and have a ready to use product later but I don't fancy spending my hot summer days processing, sterilising and labelling.

Second the beetroot - Egyptian Flat chosen because they are as promised - flat and easy to slice. Thankfully only three were ready so I eased into it gently.

I have an easy way to process the beetroot too, details again on the Domestic Adventures page.

There you have it, the cheats way of storing beetroot and tomatoes for the winter - of course the kids won't eat either so I don't know why I bother!

Friday, 22 February 2013

What The Blog?

This is my first post on my blog, not too sure why I decided to create a page dedicated to my thoughts and musings on various topics - another haphazard decision to go along with the others I have made over the last few decades.

Of course I couldn't just 'start blogging' as I was invited to when I created this page but I had to do research (ie procrastinating) as I knew nothing about blogging or the parallel universe that is the blogosphere. I looked around some blogs, read some books and gained a little knowledge which we all know is indeed a dangerous thing.

One of the things I learnt is that you should focus on limited subject choices so people know what to expect when they read your blog and hopefully if they have similar interests and opinions they will come back to hear what you have to say. Simple to follow unless you have a scattered brain like mine which finds it impossible to keep on track - I have been aptly described (in the kindest possible way) as a 'meanderthal'.

So I will be breaking the first piece of advice I received about blogging and see what happens. I will air my haphazard views about life in general and see if I discover serendipity while releasing my musings out into the digital community. This is bound to lead to that (paraphrased) age old question - if a person blogs and no one reads it are they actually blogging at all?