The ice cream flop

‘I wish I had one of those.’

Well it was only a matter of time before the demands started. Now three years old, going on sixteen, my toddler is a Disney Junior Channel marketer’s dream. As the end of the ‘Let’s Cook Ice Cream Parlour’ advert flicked off the screen, I knew it was just a matter of time .

I lasted a few days to be fair. Normally I’d have more sense – I still remember my frequent childhood disappointments over similar ‘toys’. But my little one’s excited face, and my inner need to complete another challenge, led to the inevitable trip to Toys R Us.

I’m not too sure what I was thinking when  I decided it would be a good idea to set myself challenge 8 – make ice cream from scratch. But a woman true to her word, and an ice-cream obsessed toddler in tow – what the hell!

ice cream

So we are now the proud owner of a children’s ice-cream maker. Did you see the picture at the top of this post? Well, it’s fair to say – we didn’t make it.

It sounded so easy on the box. Doesn’t it always? A ton of double cream, whole milk and sugar later (mega healthy!), I had a runny mess and a disappointed boy! Round two was slightly more successful – a runny mess, with the odd frozen lump of slush in it.

So another ‘toy’ has been relegated to the depths of the garage! I did ‘toy’  with being cheeky and striking the challenge off the list, but as the attempts were less than successful I thought that would be a bit naughty of me.

I think next time I’ll resort to good old-fashioned manual means. Hopefully I might get something a bit more solid and frozen in return for my hard work. I can live in hope! 🙂

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Rollin, Rollin, Rollin ….

My new toy arrived in the post yesterday and it’s going to be my muscles’ new best friend. I’ve been eyeing up one of these for a while, finally giving into the urge to hit the ‘buy now’ button earlier this week. So ‘The Beast’ has arrived. That sounds like some dodgy sex toy doesn’t it? But it’s nothing quite so exciting – this is my new foam roller. Aptly named, as it’s going to beast my sore over-used muscles into submission.

20140516_112144I’m finally back in action, after a couple of months of muscle recuperation, and with a busy summer of races ahead the training is on! This time I’ve had a eureka moment and realise I need to change my philosophy. I now know, without good foundations, I’m going to set myself up for nothing but problems. I’m taking it slowly, easing my mileage up gently, whilst religiously stretching for at least ten minutes every day. Now I have my new muscle pounder to throw into my daily routine.

It’s one of those masochistically enjoyable past-times. It hurts like hell, but it feels good all at the same time. I paid about £15 for my one and that’s got to be a financially sound investment. At £40 a pop for a session with the sports massage therapist, I’m hoping this is going to keep the professionals at bay and save my bank balance at the same time.

20140516_111411There are a great range of exercises you can do with it, which work all those pesky muscles and I’m definitely feeling some relief from it already. Let’s hope long-term this helps me get back on form ready for the season ahead. And with three weeks in a row of races in June (Summer Wolf, Water Wipeout and Trailblazer) I’ll be needing all the help I can get!

I just need to get it back off my little boy, as he’s taken a bit of a shine to it. 🙂

Creative Writing Course – Week 3, Assignment 1

It’s week three and I am whizzing ahead for a change. 🙂 The assignment this week was to write a short story (350 words max) for peer review.

This was the story I submitted:

The smell of cooking wafted through the cafe, making Dave’s stomach rumble. As if on cue, a middle-aged waitress meandered over to the table, the hem of her a-line skirt hanging mid-calf. A name badge stood to attention on top of her left breast – “Chrissie”.

‘You ready to order?’ Chrissie asked, as she pulled the nibbled pencil from behind her ear and poised the lead against the order pad.

‘Hello Chrissie. I sure am!’ Dave said, eyes leering at her curves. Chrissie had seen that look before on other men’s faces and it made her stomach lurch. A forced smile crept onto her face, weary eyes poorly hiding her true feelings. She was fed up of sleazes, but she maintained pleasantries. ‘So what can I get you?’ she asked, in an attempt to hurry the conversation along.

‘I’ll take a cheeseburger with chips and a strawberry milkshake,’ Dave responded. His eyes soaked up her ample curves as she headed to the kitchen and she caught sight of him licking his lips. He made her skin crawl.

‘Be generous hunny,’ she said, turning her attentions to the chef. She slid the small vial of poison through the food hatch, a wicked grin creeping onto her face.

I then received some really helpful feedback from a fellow course student:

How was the central character portrayed and was this portrayal clear and interesting?

The portrayal of Chrissie is very strong, creating an instant image in my head, which is great. The wide range of emotions and descriptions (stomach lurch, weary eyes, fed up, then wicked grin!) leaves the reader puzzled as to her motivation (which I’m sure is the point at this stage).

What made you think this piece was a story and did you want to read on?

It’s very hard to make a story in 350 words, but this comes close, ending with plenty of cliffhanger questions: Is Dave a relevant central character or just unlucky picking that cafe today? Is Chrissie a killer with a vendetta against just Dave or all sleazes? Or all men? Or all patrons of the cafe? Is the cafe an establishment that kills people as a matter of course? I’d like to know what the chef thinks. I wanted to know what happens next.

What were the most, and least, successful aspects of the writing?

Most: Depiction of Chrissie, with her clear inner struggles and action in the final sentence. Least: The POV switches between Dave and Chrissie throughout. Is it possible to achieve the same thing from purely Chrissie’s POV?

The feedback on point of view was particularly useful from my perspective, so I edited in light of this and this is the result:

The smell of burnt grill wafted through the cafe as the clatter of diners throbbed through Chrissie’s head. It was nearly the end of her double shift and her feet were sore and aching. She was getting too old for this job. She sighed as the bell signalled a new customer entering and she watched as the man took a seat in the corner booth. On cue, she meandered over to the table, the hem of her a-line skirting mid calf.

‘You ready to order?’ she asked, as she pulled the nibbled pencil from behind her ear and poised the lead against the order pad. The man peered at her name badge, which was stood to attention atop her left breast.

Hello Chrissie. I sure am,’ he responded, eyes leering at her ample curves. Chrissie had seen that look before on other men’s faces and it made her stomach lurch. She forced a smile to creep onto her face, but her weary eyes poorly hid her true feelings. She was fed up of sleazes, but she maintained pleasantries. ‘So what can I get you?’ she asked, in an attempt to hurry the conversation along.

‘I’ll take a cheeseburger with chips and a strawberry milkshake,’ Dave responded. She felt his gaze soak her up as she headed to the kitchen and caught sight of him licking his lips. He made her skin crawl.

‘Be generous hunny,’ she said, turning her attention to the chef. She slid the small vial of poison through the food hatch, a wicked grin creeping onto her face.

 

 

 

Creative Writing Course – Week 2 – Assignment 2

The second assignment this week was:

Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for a story of no more than 500 words. Imagine a character, someone who is central to what the story is about. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the character.

When I turned on the radio, I picked up a short news piece on lending money, so here is my short story ….

 

Tacky, enticing lights flashed like a larger than life Christmas tree. The ‘ding, ding, ding’ of fruit machines rang through Grant Zenner’s ears, disorienting him amidst the hot sweaty bodies. The tables were heaving, ambient with  the heady excitement and needy anticipation of gamblers. Sweat beads slid down his forehead – was it the closeness of the air or the sickness pooling in the pit of his stomach?

Grant wiped his pale forehead with the back of his trembling hand as more sweat dripped into his dark eyes, causing them to glisten like wells of tears. His confidence was flailing, peeks of trepidation poking their head up above the surface of his calm façade. Sleeking drenched hair back from his face, he eyed the dice and breathed a calming breath which did little for his mood.

‘All or nothing,’ the croupier shouted. His tinny voice reverberating through the recesses of Grant’s head. This was the last roll. Praying for a six, he swigged a slug of his iced whiskey and fingered the small gold crucifix around his neck. A gift from his mother before she passed, it was his good luck charm. He prayed right then that it’s luck hadn’t run out. Picking up the dice, he turned them over in his clammy hands. His eyes shut, head raised to the sky for divine intervention. A shake of his wrist and the dice clattered and bounced across the craps table. He opened his eyes in unison with the dice slowly circling to a stop. The faces landing to show a two and three on their top side.

His stomach dropped, sickness welling at the back of his throat as he stumbled away from the table. ‘Five. House wins,’ he heard the muffled, distorted voice of the croupier in the distance. I have to get out of here. His startled rabbit eyes flitted left and right, fear brimming to the surface. Where are they? He knew they would come for him. He’d lost everything and he owed them big.

The repetitive ‘ding, ding, ding’ rang through his ears, like the ticking of a clock. Counting down ….

Creative Writing Course – Week 2 – Assignment 1

So, it’s week two (well actually it’s week 3, but I’m running behind schedule) and the first assignment this week is ….

Imagine two different venues for writing – one that seems most suited to you, and one that you would find bizarre or too difficult. Write a paragraph describing two writers at work, one in each of the venues.

Here it is:

Sarah’s head was ready to burst, the words overflowing out of her already full brain and tumbling out, lost amongst her confused frustration. Trying to block out the constant distractions, she breathed deep, calm-inducing breaths, hoping to refocus on her writing. The sound of a wailing toddler joined the whines of the needy dog at her feet. The bangs and clashes of her husband cooking in the kitchen added to the foray of brain penetrating noises. Unable to think straight, she slammed her laptop down on the coffee table, angrily admitting defeat.

The sway of the train rocked the laptop on the small fold down table as Suzanne typed away, deep in thought. Just one of many passengers on the busy 8am service into London Kings Cross, she was surrounded by commuters all trying to get a bit of extra work in before arriving at the office – perfect muses for the story unfolding before her.The low sound of fingers tapping on laptops and muffled mobile phone conversations fuelling the creative ambience.

Creative Writing Course – Week 1 – Assignment 2

The second assignment for this week was to write about someone we recently encountered. This was meant to be an exercise in character development and we had a word limit of 200 words maximum. Here’s my character …..

 

The sound of the hacking cough was the first thing I noticed. It echoed round the village shop, filling the aisles with its deep brutality. In fact, I was surprised to see the sound emanated from a woman – her face as haggard as her throat sounded. Deep set wrinkles etched the contours of her face and her dark hair hung limp, highlighting signs of a harsh life. As I approached the counter, the edges of her lips lifted in a faint smile, deep entrenched smile lines hinting at happier youthful times. As she stood bent over, emitting another lungful of cough, I couldn’t help but think she looked the perfect poster girl for the cigarette display backdrop behind her.

Creative Writing Course – Week 1 – Assignment 1

So the first assignment for week one of my creative writing course was to write two short paragraphs – the first to contain three facts and 1 one piece of fiction. The second, three pieces of fiction and one fact. So here is my contribution …..

 

3 facts and 1 fiction Squashed up at a mini table at Pooh Corner, we savoured the taste of our sweet tea. Midges tickled my skin and annoyed, I swished them away with my spare hand. ‘Come on mama, let’s go and find the hermit’s cave,’ Jack shouted over the sloshing of the waterfall. The sun was beating down on our skin, which had cooled slightly after our refreshing lake swim. Drying ourselves off, we set off in search of the mystical cave, admiring the greenery of the forest surrounding us. Before long we approached the oversized rock cave. “The Hermitage” was etched elegantly on the side. Pleased at our find, we found a pleasant spot to roll out the blanket and tuck into our picnic.

3 fictions and 1 fact Strolling though the greenery of the forest, we soaked up the quiet serenity around us. Still wet from our lake swim, the feel of damp clothes against my skin was refreshing in the scorching heat. A beautiful blue butterfly swooshed past, its sparkling wings tickling the back of my hand as it went. When we arrived at the hermit cave, the hermit was home and he kindly invited us in for tea. Sipping tea and eating cake together, we laughed – knowing no one would believe our story when we returned home.

Challenge 24 underway

You may remember a few months back I had my eye on an Open University Creative Writing Course. I’ve been waiting in earnest for the registration date to approach (and the release of the fee information). Well the date arrived, and da, da, da – they wanted over £2,700 for the bloody thing! Needless to say I fell off my chair and quickly wrote it off as an option. I know studying is not cheap nowadays, but for a short course, only 8 months in length, studied remotely from home on a part-time basis – well this was way out of the realms of my expectations. Talk about making it hard for people to develop their skills and learning! And to add insult to injury – if I lived in either Scotland or N. Ireland it would only cost me £775. How does that work? Do they have some subsidised fees system in place? I think I need to move!

imageSo a bit peeved and disappointed, I was almost ready to write off challenge 24 completely. That was until the OH came to the rescue. Not only did he manage to find me a cheaper option – he found me a completely free option! Offered by the Open University too! Luckily enough they have just launched their Future Learn programme of free short courses, which includes creative writing as an 8 week option. There was no stopping me …. I am enrolled and under way.

I am planning to post my assignments up here as a record of my writing, as well as a chance to share and get feedback that anyone wants to give, so watch this space ……

Yo-Yo Dieter

I really do have the attention span of a gnat. Even as a child I drove my mum to insanity with my constant stream of five minute fads.

Along with my hobbies, my weight yo-yo’s around all over the place, usually in sync with my motivation. When I’m on form there’s no stopping me, but when the vroom goes the pounds tend to pile back on. Although I’m losing weight overall at the moment (with a few ups and downs along the way), it makes my progress very slow.

imageThe last few weeks have seen the tank completely run out of fuel and I’ve come to a complete standstill. Any dreams of becoming a streamlined lamboughini are fading further into the distance, as stretch-Hummer status is becoming more of a reality.

Since the start of the year I’ve already tried Weightwatchers and the 5:2 fasting diet. But four weeks seems to be the length of my attention span. And heaven forbid if I lapse into a diet break, as trying to get back on the wagon again verges on insurmountable. So after a few failed attempts to get back in line with 5:2, I well and truly admitted defeat.

imageAbout to throw in the towel until after my holiday, praying that my jeans still fit by then, I stumbled upon another diet of interest – the ‘8 hour diet’. 8 hours of eating what I want, followed by 16 hours of fasting, every day. How hard can that be? And anything has got to be an improvement on stuffing my face silly 24/7! So, new diet = new boost of motivation. So today, I picked 11am-7pm to be my eating times for the week and I’m off to a good start – I sticked with it for the day! 🙂

imageI have to admit I’m a bit sceptical about this diet, but if it works I could be well and truly sold (it just sounds a bit too good to be true!).

The reassuring thing is that there appear to be other fickle souls out there. I recently stumbled upon this great blog where the blogger is taking on 52 diets in 52 weeks – what a brilliant idea, I love it! Hey, if I get waylaid this time, maybe I might take a leaf out of her book.

 

Time for some goal setting ….. can I do all 101 challenges in 1001 days?

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