Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rory's Story Cubes

Okay, everyone - I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with Rory's Story Cubes. I've only had them a few days, but I am addicted.

I've been aware of these for a long time, and always been tempted to get some. Then, I attended a workshop with the wonderful Liz Kessler back in May and she used them, and I was even more determined to get some because I thought they were awesome. Yet, I've only just actually purchased some, after seeing them once again in Waterstones, on a whim and a kind of well, I've finished all my studying now...

In case you don't know what they are, Story Cubes are a game designed to spark imagination and stories. There are nine dice in the original set, and each side of the dice contains a different image. The dice must be shaken and then a story constructed by connecting the images. There are no rules except for the story to begin with 'once upon a time...'. Of course, even this rule is flexible and the cubes can be used in all sorts of ways, not only to spark children's imaginations, but for writers and writing exercises.

I have found that using these really wakes up my brain and makes me think in a different way about things. I like being able to scribble down a little story about aliens, fairies and torches. There is hundreds of combinations of images and stories to create.

There is not only the original set, but expansions too - including actions and voyages, and smaller sets enchanted, pre-historic, and clues, all of which can be mixed in to any of the sets. I got enchanted with my original ones, thanks to a special deal. It's great to be able to mix the cubes up and get all sorts of quirky stories.

I can't recommend these highly enough - they're transportable, fun, can be used as a game with lots of people, by yourself, simply as a writing exercise, or to break a writer's block. They're great to get thoughts flowing and a way of just writing. 

You can buy these cubes on Amazon, in Waterstones and here, as well as lots of other places. Does anyone else use these?!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Return to the City

I am returning once again to the city. Thankfully not for good – just a few days, a brief trip to hand in my dissertation and see some old friends. But it feels odd. That back to school feeling remains, partly due I suppose to the prospect of handing in my dissertation and also the long journey. 

In many ways, it has been a blissful summer, pottering around, writing, enjoying the sunshine, reading, fresh fruit and veg, and all that. Even the dissertation has been enjoyable (most of the time). So it does very much feel like that has come to an end, not helped by the rainy, gloomy days, and the oncoming cold, which make it seem very autumnal and wintery. Despite that, I am still in shorts. 

It is strange to be in the city again. 

Everything moves much faster here, and there are lots of people, milling around. I like that I can walk to cages and shops, but it doesn’t feel right anymore somehow. It is time to say goodbye to five years in this place, time to start afresh, a new life, something different. 

It’s certainly time to return to the country. My dissertation is all handed in now, goodbyes have been said, and that part of my life is over. It's mad to think that it's been five years there. And now, the unknown waits...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A funny back to school feeling

Does anyone else get that? That funny back to school, end of the summer feeling, that just fills you with dread? I'm not even going back to school - university or anything this September, and yet that feeling is still there. There's just this feeling in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of dread that the summer is nearly over, and that once again there are so many things I never did, so much time that has passed and I don't feel like I have achieved anything at all. Which is absurd - but there are so many things I wish I'd done.

But the nights are already getting longer, the days are getting colder, and it feels like summer has once again slipped through my fingers.

So many dreams, so many ideas, plans.... that didn't happen.

Do you know the feeling?

I know that September is often nice weather wise, but I still feel like I've missed something. I don't know what.

But, I discovered today that the plum tree, just as the damson tree, is absolutely laden with plums, so that's nice - lots of yummy plums to eat! And our tomatoes are ripening, which is rather exciting. I do love this time of year, and all the wonderful things you can pick in the garden.

But I just want to hold onto summer a little longer.

Friday, 15 August 2014

That Autumn Feeling

Autumn seems to have already arrived, even though it's only the middle of August. I woke up this morning to a crisp chill in the air, which is suited more to October than August. It's already getting darker earlier, and it makes me sad to think that summer is over. I want to cling on and not let go. It was easy to believe in June, July, that the hot weather would go on and on forever. I feel like there are so many things I meant to do that I didn't, so many things I thought I'll leave that till later.

With the apparent early change in season, it means that the fruits and everything are early. I already picked some blackberries (!). And as I mentioned before, the plum tree this year is absolutely laden with plums - I don't think that I've ever seen so many on it before! Yesterday I made some jam and stewed fruit - the stewed fruit turned out okay, but I have yet to taste the jam. It seems to have set (major achievement), so I'm hoping that it tastes okay!

We are also inundated with courgettes, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers. After waiting for them to grow for months, there's always this momentary panic of what on earth do we do with all of this?! I am planning on making some courgette cakes, as well as some quiche (always yummy and something I have yet to do this summer, shock horror).

It is harvest time as well, and there is nothing nicer than walking through a field that has just been harvested, and smelling the straw and sitting on the straw bales. Plus, there are about ten deer that we keep seeing in one of the fields, which is lovely.

In other news, First Time Farmers has started again on Channel 4, which is always an entertaining watch.

I hope summer makes another brief appearance at some point.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Flower Show, Plums, and Moles

Another week has flown by, and I can't really believe that it's August already! There's lots of exciting things happening this month, including exciting book releases, weddings, and dissertation hand in! And of course, summer continues!

It was the flower show last week, which of course we dutifully attended - and even entered a few things! We won a third place for our cucumbers, which was exciting! Talking of which - we are entering into that time of the summer when we are faced with an abundance of fresh fruit and veg (which is super exciting. I love summer). At the moment, it's lots of cucumbers, courgettes, plums - and more.

I'll have to crack out some of my favourite courgette recipes soon, including soup, cake, and quiche!

The damson plums are thriving too - the tree is bending over with the weight of the plums:

So I guess it's nearly time for some jam making too!

Lots of sweetpeas still growing too.

Oh, and the moles. We don't often have moles, but they've taken over the lawn and there are huge holes everywhere!

Finally - here's a little dog who seems to think chairs/seats etc are for him and doesn't understand the concept of SPACE: