Monday, 28 July 2014

On being all spontaneous and creative...

Creative inspiration at work.
Each morning I try to spend a few minutes with my journal and I also pick an oracle card from one of my packs to give me something to think about during the day.

Last week I got ‘Creative Project’ which I thought was quite apt as I have been trying to fit something creative into my life each week (and usually failing miserably as more important household chores take over)

But this card coincided with the call to the new AugustBreak project – a photo prompt a day for the whole month of August – and 30 Days of Writing, a new project for me which you can find out more about here.


It looks a bit like a Panda.

I had also ordered a new camera which duly arrived at the end of the week. Some of you may recall that I had been trying my hand at Polaroid photography with mixed results. Polaroid stopped making their iconic film some years ago and a company called The Impossible Project decided to bring out their version of instant film instead. It’s been a huge hit but as it’s still experimental there are mixed results. I have been using the film and loving it but the main issue is just the sheer cost of it.

I was delighted, then, to discover that Fuji make an Instax camera which creates credit card sized instant prints with Fuji film that seems to not be as temperamental as the IP stuff (it’s also a lot cheaper!) Cue lots of excuses to take pictures over the weekend.

Some of the better test shots

Some were ok, had a few under/over exposure practice shots too!

To round off a wonderful weekend, we decided to have an impromptu family BBQ. A good excuse for bunting and picnic mats! During the evening we were musing upon the artistic qualities of the ‘selfie’ and my brother wondered if anyone had ever taken a circle selfie where the background would show other people all taking selfies at the same time! We decided it was worth a try although the circle was more of a square with only four of us doing it! It took a few goes to ensure everyone clicked at the same moment but created some interesting results! Here are the best set of four.

DS#1 plays it cool.

My turn to look my best after a few glasses of bubbly....

Little bro chose a groovy effect on his picture.

DD and her BBQ hat.

Creativity and spontaneity – and Fun!!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Le Tour in London.

Apparently there was an 'Event' happening in London!

It’s been almost a week since we attended the greatest cycling show on Earth. Between then and now there have been thrills and spills, big names are out, places are being fought out and last Monday seems a bit like a distant dream!

So, Le Tour was always part of my childhood Summer family viewing – the only sporting event that we ever followed. I kind of lost touch a bit in the early 1990’s but regained the passion and have been faithfully following it each year from the armchair! Every year we would say ‘we MUST go and actually see it in real life!’

Free yellow caps? Check!

Well, you can hardly have failed to notice that this year the Grand Depart was in the UK, starting in Yorkshire and finishing Day Three in London. No excuse not to join in this time then! DS#1, DD and I decided we would do it.... cue lots of studying of the route, checking out tips and hints. Should we find a less busy place to view en route? Should we brave the very centre of London itself? Fan Park (with giant screen and added entertainment but not seeing the actual action itself) or roadside viewpoint in the capital (lots of waiting for 30 seconds of action)? In the end we decided to go with the flow – make our way to London on the morning and scope out the possibilities.

We left Oxford at a most unsociable hour but it meant we beat most of the rush hour traffic into the capital and managed to have time for a cooked breakfast to set us up for the day. We followed the route until we reached The Mall where the finish line was to be. I have never been so excited! All the lorries and TV equipment was there in place, the gantry over the finish line which they were busy painting onto the road (the actual TdF finish line!!) and the podium was set up.... people were beginning to bag spots and so we had decisions to make. The podium had TV screens which were to show the day’s action and it was placed just along from the finish line. We figured from this point we would see everything... so we settled in for the day. Hiring a couple of deckchairs from the Park Keeper was the best decision ever. Comfort and a way to keep the crowds from squishing us. There were even portaloos and stalls close by.
Yes, the actual finish line!
Any worries that 6 hours would drag by were soon dispelled. There was plenty to keep us entertained. Greg Lemond and Chris Boardman wandering past, freebies from the sponsors, cheers for the different vehicles and people going past. At last the famed Publicity Caravan rolled through. This is a colourful parade of floats and decorated cars from the sponsors. To be fair most of them looked pretty tired by this point but they gamely waved and grimaced at our excited cheers!

Not sure if the Skoda creature has a name - we cheered anyway.

Miffy! On a car! My favourite of the Caravan.

You can't quite see them - but the cyclists are coming!

Then – the TV announced there was 10km to go – the whole atmosphere changed. The deckchairs had to go and it all got a little bit close and squished. The excitement was building, the riders were getting closer, the squishing got more....squishy. Cameras were out, no one could see what they were photographing but it was all very thrilling.... the riders rounded the last corner and into the straight for the chase to the line..... it couldn’t have been more squished or exhilarating... who would win? It was all so fast I didn’t even hear! Then they flashed past us, close enough to touch, 30 seconds and it was over!
Being where we were meant we got to see everything after that flash too. Marcel Kittel (the stage winner) walked back past, as did the other jersey winners. Vincenzo Nibali in yellow, Peter Sagan in green got huge cheers, not least for his Wolverine hair. We stayed to see the jersey presentations, cheered the winners and watched in amazement as the stage was literally dismantled while the cyclists were just leaving it.
Then they zoomed through....

I was this close to Marcel Kittel :)

Vincenzo Nibali gets yellow

Peter Sagan in green. Hair hidden in cap!

We gently headed back to the bus stop, while all around us the barriers and roadblocks came down and the capital returned to normal life. The excitement was over....... Maybe next time we'll go and do it again but in France.... now that WOULD be a road trip!

And it's all over.....

Sunday, 6 July 2014

It's all about The Good Life (and raspberries)

Gooseberry and Mint Jam.

Well, so far so good with my ‘half hour allotmenting’ plan! I have been up there every night – I have even managed to drag a variety of family members up with the promise of “It’ll only be half an hour-tops”.

My useful book divides the half hour up into a list of jobs in descending order of importance. Picking, planting, weeding, watering then digging. In fairness I have struggled to get much beyond ‘picking’ as the raspberries and gooseberries have gone mad. Now, I like a raspberry or two but this is getting blooming ridiculous. I have made raspberry jam galore, raspberry jelly (that didn’t turn out so well), raspberry ice cream and raspberry crumble. Not to mention raspberry muffins and raspberry eton  mess. I am now scouring books for other interesting raspberry recipes to ring the changes a bit!

My raspberry collection device - proving most handy!

I tackled the gooseberries today. They aren’t my favourite fruit either to eat or to harvest (my poor arms) but I figured that as we had inherited a few bushes on the plot it was the least I could do to try and put some to good use. I have made a batch of gooseberry and mint jam and the rest we are turning into alcohol J I’m assured that gooseberry wine is very lovely indeed.....

DH wields the uncapping fork!

With all the picking and making it does all seem a little ‘Good Life’ round here but I am loving it! We managed to extract about 15lbs of honey from one of our hives which was an added bonus as we didn’t expect any. Fingers crossed there might even be a little more before the end of the season.  The garden is also producing well – broad beans are coming in and the ruby chard looks almost too beautiful to eat! Some things are struggling though – all the squashes are very behind and I don’t think we will see much from them this year. The courgettes are tiny (which isn’t a bad thing!) and the runner beans are only just making their way up the poles. I have even picked some sweet peas to enjoy in the house after I read somewhere that they produce far more flowers if you pick them regularly.

Well, off to create more exciting things with a raspberry – I’ve just seen something called a ‘miniature raspberry and basil financier’......I’m assuming it is for eating and not offering sound financial advice but I will let you know!