Wednesday, 30 March 2011

on fonts and fabrics

Today the new edition of delicious landed on our doorstep - the joy of monthly subscriptions. Anyway, as with most magazines, there is always a nice little pile of adverts inside the magazine. Normally, they make a speedy trip to the recycling bin. But today, one of the ads caught my eye - not because it looked like something I'd like to buy, but because it looked hand written, and lovingly crafted. Although I know that the font was probably a handwriting computer font, I like to think that someone, somewhere in a little stone house in Italy lovingly wrote this advert in their best cursive script before re-printing hundreds of copies to advertise their little business on an international scale...Then there's the tiny little illustrations, adding even more character to the already creative advertising concept, consisting of a postcard that looked like a party invite, and a self addressed return envelope. I love all of these little details.

Other things catching my eye at the moment are reams of fabrics, waiting to be cut & sewn into beautiful things. At the weekend I was visiting my parents & popped into town with my Mum. I love that about the small seaside town where I grew up - that it's so small that you can just take a little stroll down the road, and in 10 minutes you're in town. We paid a visit to the lovely little shop called Through the Loop, where I picked out some lovely colours & patterns. It was so hard to choose just a few, but here's the selection that came home with me.

I love fabric.

Monday, 28 March 2011

London : Comics Jam Workshop

This weekend has been lovely and long. John took the day off work on Friday so that we could drive to London on Thursday evening to have a full three days of fun. And oh, what fun we had. Our days were filled with family - both mine & his - food, and much chatting.

One of the highlights of the weekend was an illustration workshop we attended yesterday afternoon. Set in a cosy cafe called House in Camberwell, we spent an afternoon learning how to create our own character & comic strip, listening to the silence fall as everyone put pencil to paper & concentrated oh so hard in their creating. 

The workshop was run by the brilliant Sarah McIntyre, who istunningly illustrates children's books. This lady has talent. One of her recent creations is Morris the Mankiest Monstor:

Sarah showed us how simple it could be to create a character, starting with a basic shape, adding features creatively, and allowing your character to take on their own persona. 

Drawing is something that I have never found strength in, but there was something wonderful about Sarah's calm manner & confident teaching style that made the commitment of marks to paper surprisingly straightforward.

We created comic strips, sharing the process by starting our own using the character we had created, then passing it along to the next person to continue the story. Sharing the process of bringing our characters to life was quite liberating; there was no room for disappointment because there was only time to start a story of our own.  In my mind, I did not have the time to construct a complete story for my character, so he was free to develop in any which way the next artist chose. 

We folded paper and created mini books, inspired by some of Sarah's own wonderful creations. 

I wrote a story about a dandelion seed called The one that flew away. It's a very simple story and might not look particularly exciting, but I had a lot of fun making it.

I relished the opportunity to sit and listen and draw without restraint, learning from a truly brilliant artist who was so kind to share her skills & creations with us. It made me feel the need to make time to create more often.

Friday, 25 March 2011

birthday brownie stack

Having grown up in a family where my mother loved to bake, brithdays were synonymous with lovingly crafted cake, which we got to decided exactly how it would be. Nothing rivalled our Mother's cake, and she has succeeded in passing her love of baking on to all four of her children.

Now, as an adult, I relish in taking on this responsibility for providing loved ones with home made cake on birthdays. However, I have managed to marry a man who doesn't really like cake. (Although, I would like to add that our first encounters with each other invariably involved cake, baked by my own fair hands, and he never once complained...)

So, when it came to deciding what to bake for John's birthday this week, my options felt rather limited. He made the suggestion of brownies, so I granted his wish with a chocolate brownie stack. 

I have a few go-to brownie recipes, but my current favourite is the Divine Chocolate recipe. Once the brownies had cooled, I removed them from the tin and used a circular cutter to make 5 circles.

I then whipped up some chocolate frosting using the Hummingbird Bakery recipe to sandwich all the layers together and smother over the stack. Due to my elaborate method of slapping & smothering on the frosting to the sides of the brownie, the tower ended up a little wonky, but truly sturdy all the same!

John's verdict on his birthday brownies: wow, you really know what you're doing with brownies.

Divine Brownies
200g Divine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
100g unsalted butter, very soft
250g caster sugar
4 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
60g plain flour
60g cocoa

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas mark 4 & grease and line an 8" square tin.
Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt gently either over simmering water or in the microwave.
Remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool until needed.
Beat the butter and sugar until nice and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla essence.
Pour the cooled mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch but still fudgy.
Leave to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.

Monday, 21 March 2011

birthday boy

I love your concentrating face
I love that you 'only provide solutions' to all sorts of problems
I love that you love your job
I love that you work hard and enjoy it
I love that you are secretly brilliant at playing the guitar and I get to hear you play
I love that you are an amazing cook
I love that you encourage me in everything
I love that you love your friends
I love the way you eat food from the edge of my plate because you worry about it falling
I love the way you make me laugh
I love the way you can tell me all about the helicopters that fly over head
I love that you make me origami roses
I love that you get excited when we fly somewhere because of the type of aeroplane
I love that you are patient, calm, and strong
I love that you get excited about teaching me Maths
I love that you check the car tyres whenever we use the car
I love that you wear flip flops and board shorts as soon as the summer comes
I love that you are generous
I love that driving around London does not panic you in the slightest
I love that you take such good care of me
I love that you can speak Chinese
I love that you wore flip flops when you married me
I love that you can secretly dance like Michael Jackson
I love that when push comes to shove, you choose me over Match of the Day
I love that you cut your own hair
I love that you get excited when you get the latest copy of Professional Engineering 
I love that I get to be on your team

Happy 26th Birthday to you...
I love you for all these reasons and so many more

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Baby Rachel

Last October, my precious friend Hannah, became a mummy to Rachel. I have been so blessed to spend a lot of time with them over the last 5 months, seeing Rachel learn to smile, hold her head, and giggle. 

For the last two Mondays, we have had glorious sunshine in Bristol, so Hannah, Rachel and I have gone for a couple of walks to two of my favourite places in Bristol - The Downs and Blaise Castle (where John & I went on our first date, and where he proposed). The sunshine has provided the perfect opportunity to take photos, although last week, Rachel decided being in the outdoors provided the perfect opportunity for a nap, which was not so conducive to photo times.

One of Rachel's latest tricks has been to burst into tears when Hannah gives her to me for a cuddle. Right on cue, the tears came on Monday as arrived. Knowing that I'm the only person that she does this with makes me feel brilliant - maybe she's so overjoyed to see me she can't contain her emotion! Anyway, she quickly got over her tears, and once we'd had a great time reading a lovely story, we ventured out to Blaise, and Rach was all about the smiles. 

Ok, so although none of these photos does her smile justice, I've posted these because I like the subtle yet obvious changes in her expression - she goes from intrigue at the camera to slight bewilderment, to smiling as she remembers that the camera is fixed on her pretty little face. And all the while, she keeps her little fist firmly attached to her toy. Babies are brilliant, especially this one.

Monday, 14 March 2011

spring greens

On Saturday John & I took a trip to Portishead. It's a small town 12 miles outside of Bristol, south west of where we live, and I had the privilege of being placed at a school there from October to February. 

I wanted to introduce John to the Windmill Inn, a lovely pub / restaurant in an old converted windmill that looks out over the Severy Estuary, so we went there for lunch. We were in the company of many daffodils, making their early Spring appearance, as they do so faithfully every year.

We hung out with the swans on the Marina, admired the slightly unusual statue and marvelled at the green Spring flowers.

I love weekends wtih John.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

radiant with charm

ranunculus :: radiant with charm

I love the boldness of their colours. Bright & happy on a spring day, or muted tones on a calm, quiet morning

I love their delicate layers. Waif like, & paper thin, yet somehow they look strong. Even in their dying moments,  still beautiful & bold.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

dreaming in paragraphs

The recollection of the previous night's dream came to me as soon as my head touched the pillow last night. Dreaming in paragraphs. The images of my dreams had been screenshots of my personal statement. The words I write must fit onto two pieces of A4 paper, Arial size 12. No more, no less. As I dream, I'm fitting my words together in neat paragraph patterns in my unconscious, completing what I was unable to during the day before wake gave way to sleep, trying to articulate why I am suitable for this teaching position.

As I remember my dreams, a feint feeling of surprise comes over me. I had this feeling in another dream last night, after I had finished dreaming in paragraphs. What had happened that was surprising? ...Oh yes. The royal wedding. Except the focus wasn't on William & Kate. It was Harry & Chelsea. They had announced that they too would be wed on the same day as William & Kate. A surprise royal wedding. Wow. No-one saw that one coming, because it was only in my dream!

Sleep welcomes me with open arms & I wonder at what I might dream tonight. More job applications, or the sequel to the royal wedding announcement? 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

hello march

Here's a little insight into my productivity today & the treats that sustain me. Those tiny hearts you see are made out of a whole lot of strawberry juice and not a lot else. yum yum yum.

Hello March! I am taking a little break from essay writing to welcome you in. I feel like February has flown by in the blink of an eye. 

So, little March, here are some of the things that I know you will bring, and some of the things I hope you will bring.

1) a completed essay
2) a trip to Devon
3) a new camera lens {maybe, just maybe}
4) a birthday of my husband
5) a little bit more warmth
6) time with friends
7) a trip to China for my husband {time will tell.}
8) a little bit more fitness
9) at least one job application  {eek.}
10) an English test. {eek.}