Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Accidents with Ebooks

Hopping through the Blogosphere one day, I came across a giveaway, David Powers King’s 500th follower giveaway. After reading his post, I knew I just had to enter. A one in ten chance of winning the book of your choice? Too good to miss.

So, I popped onto Amazon and found my book of choice within moments: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I soon had my entry comment typed up and published. Now to wait and see what happened. Not that I’d win. That would be too good to be true.

Less than a week later I found, much to my great surprise and joy that I had actually won my book. The link to my ebook arrived a day later. Now all I had to do was download the book and start reading. Or so I thought.

This title is not available to readers from Australia the automated Amazon message told me the moment I clicked on the ‘download’ button.

What? How could an ebook not be available around the world? However, there it was. I’d chosen a book I couldn’t read. Oh well, I’d have to change it for a gift card and pick something else instead.

That’s when I made an important discovery. You actually need to have an Amazon account attached to your email to get a gift card. Well, maybe I could get it sent to Mum’s account.

Many complex emails later, the Amazon customer service people finally told me I couldn’t change the order. Only the giver could. Which meant asking for David’s help.

Oh why had I entered the giveaway in the first place? Why hadn’t I asked for help when choosing my book? Maybe I could just forget the whole matter.

Instead of forgetting the matter however, I typed up an extremely apologetic email to David in which almost every second word was ‘sorry’, and asked for his help in the matter.

Instead of sounding annoyed, David was very helpful and exchanged the book at once. Oh how thankful I was when his email appeared in my inbox telling me that the deed was done.

Now, no thanks to me at all and many thanks to David Powers King, I have an Amazon gift card waiting for me to pick a different book. This time however, I think I’ll get someone to help me choose my book. I’m sure to make another mess on my own.

Many, many thanks to David for his patience and help!

Have you ever had my problems when entering a giveaway? And does anyone know how to tell if a book’s available in Australia on Amazon?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Running Shoes

After my adventures in my Barefoot Running post, I was looking forwards to getting back to the safety of shoes. No more cold, wet, dirty feet. No more getting poked with sticks and pricked by bindies. No more worrying about whether someone might break a beer bottle in the grass. Yes, getting back to shoes would be good.

I walked out to the soccer field. My feet safely encased in my grubby old running shoes. How fast and far I would go in my shoes, now that my feet were comfortable.

Four laps later, I was starting to rethink the 'comfortable'. My arches shrieked in pain, cramping up and solidly refusing to run any further. I stumbled to a halt and plopped down on the ground, massaging my feet with my hands. This was terrible! I couldn't run like this

Off came the shoes. Off came the sodden socks. I stretched my feet. Ah, much better. The cool, damp grass was soothing for my poor, sore feet. In moment I felt I could run again.

I flew off round the field, leaving my socks and shoes to sit in the grass, lonely and abandoned. I couldn't go back to wearing them. Not when they hurt my feet so.

For the next few days I ran barefoot again, staying firmly away from the uncomfortable shoes. But I knew it couldn't go on like this forever. What about when winter came? I couldn't run barefoot then. What if I stood on something?

Yes, something had to be done. And something was done. Dad took me up to a big shoe shop where we were sure they'd be able to find us a pair of shoe to suit my feet.

From the moment we stepped into the shop I never stopped doubting we'd find the right shoes. The sales assistant measured my feet. Nice and routine. But then she led me over to a computer with a pressure pad. What would we do here?

What we did was take picked of my feet from a pressure point of view. She pointed out interesting features of my feet to Dad and I. Dad appeared to understand what she was talking about, but at times I was reduced to smiling and nodding. Maybe Dad could explain it to me later.

The most important thing was, she knew what shoes I needed. And when I tried on the high tech, super dooper awesome shoes, I knew that this was what I needed. I didn't need to try on the ordinary shoes that she offered me to know that I wouldn't like them.

We left the shop, shoe box in hand. How could I possibly wait until tomorrow to try out my new shoes? It couldn't possibly be done! But somehow it was.

The next day I strode out to the soccer field, my bright, white, new shoes on my feet. And I set off running, feet comfortable, dry, warm, happy. A runner with her running shoes at last.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seven and Seven

Gemma-Rose and I were 7 and 7. Well, 7 and 17, but we dropped the 1. After all, you can have so much more fun together when you're the same age. And we have lots of fun together.

Every morning we tie our running shoes on together (I'm 17 when tying her laces). Then, hand in hand, we skip down to the soccer field together. Together we drop off our water bottles, and set off round the field, matching each other stride for stride. Then, having run a million laps (well, maybe 10) we trot off home for our matching sized breakfasts.

We cook together too. Gemma-Rose performs the important spoon and bowl licking operations, as well as mixing everything together. And taste testing, the best part. She helps me measure ingredients together. She hold the measuring cup, and I pour. We make a great team.

She even has a special name for me. I'm her Cinderella, her special twin. But now-horror of horrors- she's not 7 any more. She's 8! There is no more 7&7 for us now.

I guess we'll just have to resort to addition. 1+7 anyone?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

School Visit

Dad led me up the stairs and into the school where he works. I didn't know what to expect, never having been to school. My eyes darted from one side to another, looking at everything. Would I meet the teachers Dad told us about every night? What was his classroom like?

Down a long passage and up a few steps and we came to his classroom, a tiny cupboard of a room crammed full of desks and chairs.

"I've got to find some books," Dad said. "Let's go raid the library."

So off to the library we went. There we found huge shelves of books, all to do with teaching. We dived in, searching for the right books, most of which were missing. However we still managed to leave the library with our arms full of books.

"If the librarian notices half the library is missing, I bet she'll know to come to you," I laughed.

On returning to Dad's classroom, we found two of his fellow teachers had arrived. Dad introduced me to them. So these were some of the famous teachers.

One of the teachers, Mrs G, had something to show Dad.

"Look what I found in the shops." She pulled a pack of cups out of her bag. "Four cups for 99 cents...So I bought 56 of them. And they're green and red."

Soon we moved on from cups to classroom decorating. While I sharpened pencils, Dad put pictures and posters up round his little room. It didn't take long for most of the walls to disappear.

"Ok, now let's go do my other classroom, my maths room." The maths room being a shared classroom.

We hauled desks around the room, 'borrowed' chairs from other classrooms, and stuck up millions of pictures, times table sheets, and maths posters.

At the end of our work, we left the school, our arms full of books, leaving two classrooms almost fully set up behind us. I gave the school one last look as we stepped out through the doors. What an interesting and different place. Not a place I'd like to go to every day, but good for a visit. Maybe someday I'll go back and help Dad again. That would be fun.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"It's Not The Done Thing In Cranford"

After the success of "Little Dorrit", Mum, Charlotte, and I wanted to watch another period drama together. Last time had been so much fun, we just had to do it again. So, which period drama to choose?

Over the internet grapevine Mum had heard that "Cranford" was a good movie to watch. And so, hardly a week after "Little Dorrit", we sat down to start Cranford. Even Dad was persuaded to join in and trial this new mini series.

Never having read "Cranford", or even heard of it before then, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was what was written on the back of the case. And that sounded a little dubious. A series about old ladies running a village? Boring, right?

Wrong. It might have been a mini series about old ladies, but these old ladies had us in stitches before we were ten minutes into the first episode. Cats ate antique lace, cows wore flannel pyjamas, gossip flew around the village, and the characters embroiled themselves in more and more trouble every episode. We loved it.

One episode in, I went and looked up Elizabeth Gaskill's book "Cranford", which is one of three books the mini series is based upon. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be as good as the mini series? As funny? Were they anything alike at all?

The book was just as good as the mini series, and heightened my enjoyment of it. I anticipated good scenes, and was never disappointed.

When the last episode ended, we sat back and sighed. It feels so good to finish a wonderful mini series like "Cranford". However we didn't take long to plan our next movie. Only the next evening we sat down to watch "Return to Cranford", which reunites most of the principle characters of "Cranford."

And where to after this? What will our next period drama be? Well, on my shelf sits yet another mini series, "Bleak House". Both Charlotte and I have read the book. Now we can't wait to get started on the series!

Friday, January 20, 2012

How (Not) To Break Into A Car

The door lock in Dad's car was jammed tight. No amount of tugging and wiggling it could persuade it to budge. It just sat there, wedged tight and unyielding.

Dad, being very practical, grabbed his laptop and looked up a way to open the lock. It sounded so easy. All you needed was a long piece of wire with a hook on the end. You just stuck the wire down past the window, pulled up and voilĂ ! The door would open.

He pushed the wire down the side of the door and fished around for the actuator rod. I looked around the street. What would people think if they saw us? Would they think we were robbers? Certainly our method was like a robber's.

After twenty minutes of putting the wire down the door and pulling it up without success, Dad gave up. The door lock still sat there, as stuck as before. Maybe robbery wasn't the way to go with this door.

"Ok, let's try the manual," Dad suggested next.

So we examined the pages of the car manual, searching for a way to open that lock. There were pieces of electrical systems, instructions on how to take the window glass out. But nowhere could we find how to unlock the door.

Finally we gave up on that too. Obviously sense wasn't the way to get that door open either. It was time for some brute force.
"Let's take the door handle off," Dad said.

The moment the handle came off, we saw our lock's actuator rod, the very thing we'd been searching for.

We tried pulling at this rod with pliers. No luck. We tried pulling on the lock knob with pliers. No luck either.

"Ok, you pull on the actuator rod with these pliers, and I'll pull on the knob," Dad said.

Together we heaved on that lock. For a moment it looked like it would give up and pop open. Then it dropped down again. Still stuck. Again we heaved, and again. Still that stubborn lock would not give in.

On more time we heaved together, pulling harder and harder until...pop. The lock shot upwards, smooth as cream.

Dad wiped his face and gingerly took the door handle. Would the door open now? Yes! It opened. The lock was freed!

I now defy any robber to get into our car when it is locked. No mere piece of hooked wire and a bit of jiggling is going to get past out security system.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Barefoot Running

It started with a bee sting and a swollen heel, a heel that did not like shoes. The moment it touched a shoe, it itched and tingled in protest.

For every day life, this wasn’t too bad for me. I could manage without going out. But what about running? Maybe I could bear the itching and tingling for running. Well, I could start small and try walking.

After two laps of walking, it was clear this wasn’t going to work. My foot refused to behave, even for half an hour, even for walking. It seemed that I’d have to give up my beloved running until it healed.

I moped around sadly until Mum hit upon a bright idea. “Why don’t you run barefoot?” she suggested.

Barefoot? The idea had never occurred to me before. On thinking about it, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I could get something in my foot. The grass would be cold and wet. Besides, no one else in the family ran barefoot.

But then, if I didn’t run barefoot, I couldn’t run at all. And that would be too much to consider. No, I’d have to run barefoot, even if the grass was cold and wet, even if there were sticks. I’d rather run barefoot than miss running altogether.

On the way down to the field, my dreaded thongs flopping on my feet, I still wasn’t sure about this barefoot running thing. I might find it much harder than normal. But I’ll give it a go, just once.

Dropping my thongs off with the water bottles, I started my first lap. The wet grass bounced beneath my feet. I hardly felt the little sticks. I even avoided the snail, crawling slowly across my path.

I finished one lap, then another, and another. My feet didn’t care that they didn’t have any shoes to protect them. They just wanted to run and run. So run they did, lap after lap after lap. Bare feet weren’t a handicap, not when I ran as many laps as ever.

On the way home, thongs slapping against my cold, wet feet, I had to admit, running barefoot was something special. Just to feel the grass as you run, just to know that it’s only your feet hitting the ground, pushing you is amazing. Yes, I like running barefoot.

What will I do when my heel is better? Well, I think I'll go back to wearing shoes again. Nice as running with no shoes is, it's still cold and wet and dirty. But it can be done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Spider's Story

This is the true story of a spider in a car.

I was only a simple spider . The most adventurous thing I’d ever done was scurry from one damp box to another. So it was quite a shock when my whole pile of boxes just upped and moved, taking me with them.

They jiggled around, nearly squishing me once or twice, but I’m strong. They couldn’t hurt me. I just held on tight and waited for things to quiet down. Which they did.

Box moving over, I decided to take a nap. All that jiggling and squishing takes it out of a spider. So I dozed off for a while.

A big, deep, and rumbling noise woke me. It shook me around. This was different. I uncurled and scuttled out from my hiding place to investigate. Wow! Where was I? This wasn’t home.

I stood on something hard and flat, different from my boxes. Two big things, humans I think, sat one on either side of me. A huge wall rose up in front of me, across a huge chasm. A big stick stuck up out of the ground, with a weird knob on top.

I scurried forwards to get a better look at these new things. Suddenly a high squealing sound hit my poor ears. One of the human things lurched away from me screaming, “Dad, a spider! It’s a spider!”

The other human thing lurched away too. I was highly annoyed. What did they have against us poor spiders? Maybe they’d like me better if they could see me properly, especially my stripy legs. I raced up the stick thing and sat onto of the knob.

“I can’t change gear!” the second human-thing cried.

“Pull over Dad,” Human-thing 1 squealed.

“I’m trying,” Human-thing 2 yelled.

I decided that this was no place for a spider, and hurried down the stick thing and down into the chasm. This only seemed to make things worse, for Human-thing 2 squirmed away from me even further, and its big clumpy things got quite close to squishing me. Things were getting quite dangerous.

Human-thing 1 suddenly shot away from me. Human-thing 2 did the same. Ah, that was better. I might just rest here for a minute and see what the human-things would do next.

“Give me something to squish it,” Human-thing 2 said. Ooh, that didn’t sound good.

“Here’s my shoe,” Human-thing 1 said.

What was happening now? Truly, these human-things were strange. What on earth was a shoe? And what would they do with…

Splat. Something big and hard whacked me in the middle of my back. I gasped for breath and curled up. Not nice. The hard thing dragged me along until I fell onto some dirt. I uncurled in a hurry and scurried away as fast as my legs could go. Human-things weren’t nice. Boxes were much better. Maybe if I was lucky I’d find some around here somewhere.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Welcomed Home

My eyes are glued to the GPS. Only 100km to go...50...10...Now we're looking out for our street, our house. Callum, Charlotte and I are coming home.

We've turned onto our street. My eyes drink in the familiar sights: the houses I've passed, day after day, the car, the people. Everything looks different after four days away.

There it is! Home, with our cars outside. Will anyone be expecting us? Will they be watching for us? Or will we take them by surprise? No! They're expecting us. Sophie and Gemma-Rose stand by the post box, waving and grinning.

They have our doors open before the engine stops. We're rushed inside the house, leaving our bags in the car. Cats gather under foot, their soft fur brushing against our legs. Mum and Dad come out and we have hugs all round.

"We did all the jobs while you were away," Gemma-Rose says proudly. "I wrote rosters every day."

"The cats missed you," Sophie chimes in. "They were so grumpy while you were gone."

"We missed you," is all Mum says.

I smile and hug everyone all over again. It feels so good to be home, to see everything that's familiar, to know that everything will be normal again. It's good to go away, see different things, meet different people, but nothing away can possibly beat the comforts of home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Little House and Young Readers

There's the sound of voices drifting along the hall. Sophie and Gemma-Rose are sitting in the living room, reading a book together. Sophie reads the words to Gemma-Rose. It's a familiar book to me, 'Little House in the Big Woods'. They're reading about Pa shooting some deer for winter meat.

I remember every word she reads. The Little House books have been my friends for many years. Our shelves are lined with books from the series, their brightly coloured spines calling to little hands to pull them off the shelves.

Mum used to read us the books when we were younger. Charlotte learnt to read using them. Sophie and Gemma-Rose spent hours sitting on the sofa listening to Laura and Mary's story. I read them from cover to cover many times.

Yes, the Little House books are old friends to all of us. We've all shivered through the long winters with Laura, cried when her little brother died, and smiled when Christmas came. These are family favourites, and are made to share over and over again.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Elvis Running Gang

There's a ground mist rising from the damp grass of the soccer fields. Six pairs of running shoes pound the grass flat. Six sweat shirts lie abandoned in a heap, tangled among numerous drink bottles.

Who is out in the field at 6:20? It's the Elvis Running Gang, comprised of six determined, dedicated members.

Since my last post on running, our early morning running squad has increased by four members. Dad joined first, followed by Mum and the two little girls. Now the six of us pound round the track every morning, straining to beat our last records, to run one more lap.

Every morning I get up, feed the cats, and wake everyone up. Then we all head out to the field, our running gear on, drink bottles clutched in our hands. People coming down to the park would think we're crazy, the Elvis running gang.

Sometimes other people join us in our crazy, early morning endeavour. When there's two extra people and a dog, the field is quite busy. Positively a rush hour.

But we never worry about the rest of the early morning risers. They do their thing, we do ours. And we never miss a morning run. Even when one or two people take a break, the Elvis Running Gang is always out and about early.

Running with the Elvis Running Gang is the best way I've found yet of persevering with exercise. There's always amusement. Can I beat my own record? Can I catch and pass someone? How long can we run for? And there's always breakfast waiting at the end of running.

We're the Elvis Running Gang!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Photogenic Sisters

There are hundreds of photos on our computers. Some photos are beautiful, almost professional looking. Others...not so much. But there is one thing I have noticed about all the photos. In every photo, my two youngest sisters look perfect. Me? Not so much.

Of course, I expected as much, but what I didn't expect was my sisters to look perfect when I was playing with the photos.

A few days ago I discovered a new online photo editing program called BeFunky. It has all kinds of effects for photos, including effects that make the photo look like it's been painted. Of course not every effect looks good on every photo.

Taking a photo of my sister Sophie, I tried a few of the effects on her picture. Much to my puzzlement, every thing I tried looked pretty much great. For fun I decided to see if I could possibly make her look less than perfect. But it was so hard!

By contrast, I don't dare take a photo of myself there. I've tried a couple of BeFunky effects on myself, but I never look as good as Sophie. I guess she just got all my photogenic genes!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Son of Neptune

If there's one thing I love, it's a good book. And this holidays, I found one. It's Rick Riordan's newest book in his 'Heroes of Olympus' series, a series which brings mythology into modern times.

Charlotte and I had been waiting for this book for months. We've avidly read his other books, and followed every new instalment with great excitement. So, when we got this book, we were thrilled.

One at a time we devoured the book, 'Son of Neptune' in one day apiece. It held us lost in its hundreds of pages filled with monsters, heroes and gods for hours on end. We couldn't put it down until we finished the last words.

There's something wonderful about a book like that, a book you enjoy so much you want to read it all over again the moment you finish it.

I love all Rick Riordan's books. He's such a good writer. I want to be in his exciting worlds, talking to fauns and fighting with swords. Or at least I want to read his next instalment. Which means waiting for him to write the next book!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Artistic Notebook

Recently Mum started a new blog. It was to be a blog for pictures, not words. And on it, she posted photos of whatever was going on in our lives.

I loved the idea, and lived in jealousy of her wonderful blog and blog idea. Until a couple of days ago, when I decided to make my own pictures blog. A blog without words, a blog where the pictures are the most important thing in the post. In fact, the fewer words the better.

I like writing blog posts for this blog. But sometimes I want to do something with pictures, something that wouldn't fit with the rest of this blog. My new blog will do this for me. Already, in the couple of posts I have up, I've really started enjoying playing with the pictures, trying out new, free photo editing programs, thinking of new ways to spice up a picture.

My new blog Imogen's Notebook, is my online diary, a place where I can be artistic, without using my limited art abilities. I'm looking forwards to many posts of awesome pictures, and much fun with editing.

For those who'd like to see my new blog, here is the link: Imogen's Notebook