Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Operation Clean-Up

"Our house looks a mess," Dad announced. "Look, we've got furniture all round the outside."
It was true, outside the garage stood a chest of drawers and round by the front door was a mini trampoline.
"We need to clean out the garage," he said firmly.

So, later that morning, I found myself alone in the garage faced with the herculean task of creating some sort of order out of all that chaos. There were mounds of bags, most of them never used but kept 'just in case.' Bike and scooters were strewn around the floor, waiting to trip you up. Papers lay in drifts and a sprinkling of toys, dumped on the floor rather than in boxes topped everything. In short, it was a disaster zone.

With a sigh I rolled up my sleeves, threw open the roller doors and started work. Fifteen minutes later I had managed to remove two armchairs, most of the bags and several of the bikes. My jumper now sat inside, the hard work being enough to keep me warm.

Then a little golden head peeped into the garage.
"Can I help?" Gemma-Rose asked.
"Of course you can, but it's hard work. Are you sure?" I asked.
"Oh yes!" she grabbed a broom and started sweeping dirt and leaves off the floor.

Next to arrive was Callum and his girlfriend Casey. "What can we do to help?" they asked. I set them to work at once. It was wonderful to see how much faster everything got done with four people working.

Someone else entered the garage. It was Duncan, ready to help too. Sophie joined us a few minutes later. It was like a big party. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun, especially the little girls, who darted here and there, sweeping, picking up rubbish, and generally enjoying themselves.

Now half the garage was neat and organised. I opened the other door and set everyone to work on the worst side. School books littered the floor. The little girls' toys lay everywhere. It was hard to know where to start.

We waded into the mess, garbage bags and plastic boxes at the ready.
"Duncan, can you put these soft toys in a box?" I directed. "Callum, these boxes have to go down the end of the garden. Sophie, that rubbish has to be picked up."

After a quick lunch we headed straight back outside. Now that the toys were away we could put everything back in the garage. An hour later Duncan and I lifted the last item, the chest of drawers, into the garage. We were done!

"Wow," Dad said that evening. "You've done a great job."
Just then Gemma-Rose came in, looking for a rake.
"There's one in here somewhere," Dad said uncertainly.
"Oh," I said. "It's in the corner with the other tools." I darted over to fetch it. "See, you can actually find things in here now."

Now we can walk through the garage without having to jump over boxes and squeeze past bikes. How long it will stay like this I don't know. Probably not long. But, when it does become messy again, we'll have all the fun of cleaning it up again.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Late, Later, Latest

Every second Saturday morning is singing lesson day. Mum and I might go out early and do some shopping first. But getting there has never been a hassle.

Today however was different. Today Duncan was taking me to singing, while dropping Dad in town on the way.
"What time do we need to go?" Dad asked me. I racked my brains, trying to remember what time Mum and I normally left.
"Umm, 10:30 I think," I said, hesitatingly.

10:30 rolled around and we headed out to the car. As we dropped Dad in town I took a look at the clock. Yikes! It was 10:45 already.
We're going to be late, I though anxiously. I've never been late.

We roared up the hills, heading for Mrs D's place. I kept one eyes constantly on the clock. Every minute we were getting closer, but not fast enough. As we got closer and closer I absolutely knew we were late. The clock showed 10:57, 10:58, 10:59...11:00 We were officially late.

Two minutes later (11:02) we drew up outside Mrs D's house. My heart sank. We were late! As I hurried along the brick path I thought, Mrs D would be waiting for me, wondering where I was. I'd missed some of my lesson. I was LATE. I was...

I entered the little brick courtyard outside the lesson room. Mrs D was sitll busy with the student before me. But I wasn't comforted. They were probably filling in time while waiting for me. As I sat down I expected any minute for them to come out, thankful that I had arrived at last.

The door swung open and Mrs D came out. I stood up, expecting to go straight in. But Mrs D was looking a little embarassed.
"Oh Imogen, I'm running very late today," she cried. "You wouldn't mind waiting another 15 mins would you?"

I assured her that of course I wouldn't mind. Then I trudged back up the brick path to tell Duncan that Mrs D was late. Halfway up the path I suddenly laughed to myself. I'd had all that worry for nothing. My being late hadn't mattered after all! How silly I'd been to worry so much. God had made everything work out. I might have been late but one of the pupils before me was later, and Mrs D was the latest of all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kitchen Catastrophies

I wrote this story for a creative writing exercise.

Cyril grabbed a chopping board and thumped it down on the bench top. He slid open a draw and pulled out a long, wicked knife. Carefully he placed it on the board. Then he went to the bookshelf and fetched a huge cooking book. He staggered back to the bench, his arms straining to hold it up. Thump. He dropped it thankfully onto the bench top.

“Now, what shall I cook,” he wondered. There were so many recipes. There were soups and salads, pizza and pasta, dinners and desserts. Which one to choose? Cyril thought very hard for a moment, before closing his eyes. He’d just have to open the book at a random page. He grabbed at the book. Ouch! His eyes flew open. His had closed around the sharp knife.

He dropped the knife like a hot potato. It fell to the floor with a clatter. Cyril jumped from foot to foot, trying to keep away from that horrible knife. He looked down at his hand. Blood was pouring out of the long, deep cut. It dripped down onto the side, forming a large lake.

Quickly Cyril grabbed a tea towel and wrapped it round his hand. Then he hurried to the cupboard. What could he put on his hand to stop the bleeding? He reached up with his good hand and the blood soaked tea towel slipped to the floor. Blood dripped onto the tiles. Cyril groaned. More mess. He grabbed a box of bandaids and collapsed onto a stool.

Cyril poured all the bandaids out of the box and onto the bench top. He ripped one open and stuck it over the cut. That wasn’t any good. The bandaid was too small. He tore open another. Then another. Soon his hand was a ball of neon coloured bandaids. The cut was covered. No more blood seeped through.

Cyril went back to the cook book. He flipped it open. Spaghetti Bolognese. That didn’t look too hard to make. He went to the fridge to fetch the first ingredients: carrots and celery.

He dumped them on the chopping board and reached for the knife. Then he stopped. The knife was on the floor where he’d dropped it. Oh well, he wasn’t about to use it now. Cyril grabbed the food processor instead and chucked in the carrots and celery. Then he pressed the start button.

Whiz! The food processor jumped into life, shredding the vegetables in seconds. Cyril leaned over it, trying to see if the carrots were all cut up.

“Argh!” he yelled as the food processor sucked his tie up through the chute. It pulled his head closer and closer to the blade. Cyril felt around for the off button. His groping fingers hit something. At once the food processor blade spun faster and faster, getting closer and closer to his head as it sucked him in.

In a sudden burst of energy, Cyril wrenched himself free. The carrots and celery were flying out the top of the food processor. He hit the off switch and everything went very still and quiet. Cyril wiped the sweat off his forehead. That was a narrow escape. He looked down at his tie. It wasn’t there anymore. He peered cautiously down into the vegetables. If he looked very hard he was almost sure he could see shredded fabric in there.

“Wiggly Jigglys,” he said, very annoyed. “That was my favourite tie.”

He turned back to the cook book. Onions were next on the list. He hurried to the pantry and pulled out the onions. Then he looked at the book. It said to peel and dice them. So Cyril took a potato peeler and peeled the skin off. Tears poured down his cheeks as the onion juice stung his eyes.

He chucked the onion into a cooking pot. Then he stopped and thought. Wasn’t he supposed to dice them? But how did you dice something? He had some playing dice in his pocket. Would they do? He threw them into the pot as well.

Then Cyril found some tinned tomatoes. They had to be pureed. He plugged in the stick blender, poured the tomatoes into a jug, and turned it on. Splat! Tomato went everywhere. Cyril pulled the blending stick out of the jug. More tomato flew out. He turned it off and looked around. Everything was covered in red, even his nice white shirt.

“Oh Wiggly Jigglys!” Cyril cried. “This cooking is hard. He kicked the bench in his annoyance.
“OW!” he howled, hopping around on one foot.

He limped back to the book. Put in the meat, it said. He grabbed the frozen mince meat and dumped it in the pot. Add the tomatoes. He poured them in. And the vegetables. He threw those in too. He hobbled back to the cook book. What next?

Ring! Ring! It was the phone. Cyril snatched it up. It was Great Aunt Pauline. Cyril collapsed thankfully on the stool. He would just talk for a few minutes…

Some time later Cyril sniffed the air. And sniffed again. And then the smoke alarm went off, deafening him with its shriek. He dropped the phone back into its cradle without even saying goodbye to Aunt Pauline. He jumped up and flew to turn off the smoke alarm.

Cyril returned to the kitchen, his ears still ringing from the shrieking alarm. He took a look at the stove. Smoke was pouring out of the cooking pot. He turned off the ring and peeped fearfully into pan. All that was left of his dinner was a blackened lump sticking to the bottom of the pot.

At that very moment, the smoke alarm went off again. His cat ran up his leg and sat on his head, digging in her claws as she tried to escape from the noise. The phone ran again. And the ruined dinner smoked sullenly in the pot.

Cyril sat on the floor in the middle of the mess, his head in his hands. Everything was ruined. His kitchen was a mess, his dinner was ruined, the cat wouldn’t get off his head, and his hand still hurt badly.

His stomach rumbled. But there was nothing to eat. What could he have for dinner? He thought very hard for a moment with his worn out brain. Then he jumped to his feet and ran to the door, grabbing his car keys as he went.
“Mc Donalds!” he cried as the door slammed shut behind him.

What disasters have you had in your kitchen?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blogs, Damper, and Authors

My Mum is a busy blogger. she writes for at least five different blogs. That's a lot of posts. Sometimes she doesn't always have time to write on them all. This happened this weekend.

Mum was a bit worried.She hadn't had time write anything for the Bush Boys blog for over a week. So I asked her, "Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"You could write a blog post for the Bush Boys blog," she said. "How about you write about damper?"
So I sat in the hot seat at the computer. What should I write? How should I write it? For a moment my mind went blank. Then all of a sudden an idea popped into my head. Then another. All of a sudden I was writing away, sharing my stories and my experiences. A while later I emerged from my blogging world to find a fully written blog post sitting on the screen.

I fetched Mum to read it.
"Is this what you wanted?" I asked her, worried that it wasn't right.
"It's fine," Mum said. "Let's find a picture for it."

Ten or fifteen minutes later my post was online, ready to meet the world. And me? I'm now an author on the Bush Boys blog. Please visit it by clicking on the picture further up. Comments and new followers are always welcome. I hope you enjoy the blog and my blog post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beautiful Buttons

After I posted my post about my blog button, one of my readers asked me how I had done it. So, in this post, I hope to show you how to make one, and to convince you that it's not really that hard. I mean, if a dingbat like me can do it, so can you.

This post details how to make a blog button with a drop down box containing a code for sharing to other blogs. The sites I used are: Picasa Web albums, Picnik, Morguefiles, and A Heart for Home. I've included links for all the sites where relevant to help you make your blog button easily.

First, find your picture. You can use a photo you've taken, or use one you've found. Remember to check the copyright on it. A good site to use is Morguefile. Their pictures are all free, and you can do anything you like with them.

This was my original picture from Morguefile.

Now go to a photo editing program. Picnik is a great free online photo editing program.

Upload your picture to your editing program. Now you can crop it, add text, frames, and touch up the colours.

This is what I did for Charlotte's blog button

Now you need to resize your button. In Picnik, if you're using it, click on resize in the edit tab. Then type your new size into the resizing boxes. Blog buttons are normally 125 1to 150 pixels square.

Once you've done this, save your picture to your computer. Then go to an online photo storage site such as Flickr or Picasa. If you're a blogger, you've got an account at Picasa. Upload your blog button to the storage site.

Now you need a code for your blog button. I got mine from A Heart for Home. Scroll down the page until you find the html coding. It will have six sections of words in three different colours. Add your blog addres for your home page and your blog name. There should be two coloured sections left. This is for your picture's url.

This is my final version of my own blog button.

Go to wherever you've saved your picture on the web. RIGHT click on the picture of your blog button. A commands box should appear. Click on the command that says "Copy image URL." then past the url into the last spaces.

Now go to your blog. Click on the design tab. Click on "add a gadget". Scroll down until you find the HTML/Java script gadget. Copy and past your completed blog button code into the gadget box. If you want to, add a title. Then click save.

Now position your blog button in your sidebar. Click save. Now go to your blog and admire your blog button.

I had the most trouble with the html coding. Check that you've kept everything but the coloured words, which you should have replaced with your blog address, blog title, and picture url. Check also that you haven't got two forward slashes after your blog address. Otherwise when people click on your button on other blogs, it won't be able to take them to your blog home page.

Another problem I've been asked about a few times is, if the command Copy Image URL doesn't appear when you right click on your picture, how do you get the url? Well, Right click on the picture. Click on the command Properties. Then look through the properties. You can find the url there.
Still having problems? Drop me a comment and I'll do my best to help you.

Happy Blog Button making! And thank you to JT for asking me how to make one. Pleas ecomment and tell me if you use this tutorial. Also, I would appreciate any advice on how to make it even better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blog Button

After seeing the amazing blog buttons everyone else in the blogosphere seem to have, I decided to make my own. So I got Mum to give me a crash course in blog button making.

Then I searched the web for a suitable picture of a dragonfly. An hour or so and many trips to various sites, I finally had a blog button designed.

Then I had to make the code. And that was where the trouble started. My code would not work. We fixed problem after problem, but still we couldn't get that wretched code to work. We changed links, checked forward slashes, and even spacing.

Finally, before dinner, we thought we had it sorted. So, after dinner, I went on to design a blog button for Charlotte. Then, disaster struck.
"Your button code doesn't work," Mum told me.

We spent the next half an hour frantically trying to fix it, and Charlotte's code. And finally, success. The buttons worked. So now there is a beautiful button for you to take. Please leave a comment and tell me if you take my button. Also, if there are any more problem, let me know.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Purple Princess

Sophie sat in the chair of honour, her eyes big and round as she stared at the huge pile of presents. A camera flashed as we sang 'Happy Birthday.' Then Gemma-Rose reached for a present, the biggest in the pile. Sophie tore the wrapping paper off, eager to find out what it was.

"A purple blanket," she cried. "My favourite colour!" She spread it over her lap at once. Other presents soon formed a pile at her feet: A new purple watch, a couple of movies, a sewing book. Every present was met with cries of joy.

Callum brought out the very last present from where it had been hiding behind a chair. It was flat and rectangular. She peeled the sticky tape off, and slid the present out from between the layers of wrapping paper.

"Tangled," she cried in excitement. "I've just been wanting that." We all smiled. Tangled is our favourite movie.
"I know what we're going to watch today," someone said.

"Put the kettle on," Mum said. "Let's have morning tea. Then we'll watch Tangled."

Everyone raced to the kitchen. Soon we were all sitting in the family room, huddle under blankets with our hands wrapped round hot drinks. I pressed PLAY. The movie was about to start.

Everyone enjoyed Tangled, even Mum, who's not really a movie person. All too soon it was over.
"We'll have to watch that again very soon," Charlotte said, a huge smile covering her face.

After lunch, Mum took the three younger girls to the shops to spend Sophie's birthday money. They had a great time choosing what she was going to buy. There were so many things Sophie could have bought, but finally she decided to get a cushion to match her fuzzy purple blanket.

Then, after shopping, it was time for afternoon tea. Donuts and milkshake, or hot chocolate if you were sensible. Then, off home again to make a special birthday dinner.

We all enjoyed dinner. Sophie told Dad all about the birthday he had missed. Then came the time for the main event: The birthday cake.

I covered the cake in candles, ten of them in all.
"Do you think you'll be able to blow them all out this year?" Mum asked Sophie.
"I don't think so," she laughs. "I never can."

The candles were lit. Sophie eyes glowed with happiness. After we sang Happy Birthday again, she attempted to blow out the candles. One blow, then another, then a third. finally the candles were out. As slices of cake were handed round, Mum asked.
"Has it been a good birthday?"
"Yes!" Sophie replied

Friday, May 6, 2011

With Magic Fingers

My love of writing.
I love my imagination, that wonderful tool. It touches words and thoughts with its magic fingers and parades them before me, each one with its own character and personality. It gently steers me, like a puff of wind in the sails of a ship, from one idea to the next, not one the same as another. I love how it paints a landscape for me with its skilful brushes, showing me, in my mind’s eye, a world outside of any I have known.

I love my notebook, small enough to tuck away in a carry bag, under a pillow, or in a drawer, waiting for inspiration to strike. Its frosted cover feels grainy under my fingertips, hiding the bright, cheerful spotty page underneath. I love the pages with their perforated edges, so easy to tear out if needs be, the blue lined sheets, fresh and clean, ready to receive the words that give them their meaning.

I love my pens, my thoughts, route to the outside word: my parker pens, with practical blue ink, my small coloured pens, their bright, vivid ink echoing the life and vitality of my dancing thoughts, the crazy, feathery pen that tickles my hand and races across the page like a demented duck.

I love my netbook, so small and light, so easy to carry anywhere, for writing whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. Its black lid, chequered with lines is so familiar to my fingertips; so many times they have slid across it as I lift the lid. I love the feel of the keys, so easy to push down, so much faster than writing with a pencil. I listen to them click and tap, as I type away, keeping pace with my flying thoughts.

I love my writing, so uniquely me. No matter how much someone wants to, they can never write the same as I do. I love the way that my writing is my thoughts on paper, that when I write, I breathe life into the world created in my imagination. When I have finished my writing, I know I can keep it forever, show it to people, and introduce them to the companions and landscapes of my inner world, which only sees light through my writing.

What do you love about writing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dreaming of Art

I have always wanted to be able to draw. Not just cartoony sketches, but realistic pictures. I wanted to draw my siblings, and have everyone know exactly who I had drawn, just by glancing at them.

When I was small, I used to draw all the time. Countless pieces of paper were covered in my scrawls. Cats, little more than a circle head, oval body, and five sticks for legs and tail, coated my pictures. I loved drawing these cats, and would make my pictures tell the story of their lives.

But scribbled cats were not enough. I wanted to draw better than that. and so I moved on to made up portraits. I loved my pictures and believed that I was drawing really well. Until I saw my aunt's drawing.

Aunty Vicky is a portrait drawer, and I only wish I could draw like her. She recently started her own blog, which tracks her works in progress, and explains everything she does.

I watch her blog axiously for a new post every day. It's exciting watching what a real artist does. I watched her first portrait take shape, and marvelled at how good she was. I know I can neve draw like that. That is one dream I have given up. But writing now, that's another matter.

If you are interesting in visiting my aunt's blog, please click THIS link. She'd be pleased to welcome new visitors. and it's a great time to visit. She's just starting a new project. Please take the time to stop and visit her.