Monday, 30 December 2013

Pen and Ink Panorama

This is possibly my favourite view in Aberdeen. The Denburn valley, looking towards the rear of Belmont Street over Union Terrace Gardens.

Such a wonderful variety of buildings, reminds me of Edinburgh's Old Town. The Denburn valley used to be a river (the Den Burn or stream). C18th development created high level streets on bridges, so the top parts of the buildings are posh shops and the lower parts storage and warehousing. The burn was taken underground and replaced by the railway in the C19th and that was replaced by a road in the 1960s. Later, one side of the bridge on the right was built over with a shopping centre, destroying the view and reducing all underneath to stygian gloom. Aberdeen town planners, you did it again. I am hoping that the latest brainwave, to fill in the Victorian park and valley with a state of the art modern centre won't go ahead, as it would cut at two or three bottom floors off what you can see here, as well as destroying a lovely and much needed green space in the city centre. Anyway, we all know about that one.

I was struggling to get the buildings in the right order, with only fragmentary views to work from, so I had to do a bit of cut and paste here also. I don't think it detracts from it too much.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Blog Biog

My reading project for 2014 takes me out of my comfort zone. A biography/autobiography/book of letters/diary a month on famous or inspirational women.

I always associate biography with either huge, self aggrandising tomes, celebrity memoirs of people I have never heard of or gung-ho war stories. None of which I like. Also no agony memoirs. What kind of sick person reads those anyway?

I have sometimes tried to read books in this vein, but my last attempt was Churchill's autobiography which moved at a snails pace and has about a million volumes. I did, however, enjoy some of Antonia Fraser's biographies, especially the one on the six wives of Henry VIII.

I'm not sure what I am looking for though, which will make this an interesting experiment. I want things which are an entertaining read, but moving and worthwhile too.

Suggestions to start me off appreciated although I may be browsing my local library section too.

Friday, 20 December 2013

In Traffic Jams

I am often stuck in traffic on my way to work. Which can get me angry and frustrated. But then I try to relax and look around. (Put handbrake and neutral on first, I did once roll into someones bumper while looking at a winnebago...)

This week, I was mostly stuck outside this lovely building. Angusfield House was built in 1904 as a home, then became a school in the 1930s and then a residential home.

The house is unusual for Aberdeen in that its style is a very chunky and muscular Queen Anne, on a very grand scale. Most of Aberdeen is Classical or Gothic.

I also loved the Christmassy look of the lit windows which reminded me of an advent calender.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Book of the month December

Book of December is the novel A Thousand  Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

I won't go into too much detail here as this book is so widely known and admired. It is a story of women living in Afghanistan at the time of  the overthrow of the Soviet backed regime by the Mujjahadeen. Or however you spell it.

The book is very exciting, unbearably moving, enraging and fascinating in terms of understanding these thorny  political issues.

An interesting counterpoint to Homeland which I read earlier.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

This Year in Review

This year has been, or felt like, quite a full year.

Important things happened such as my brother Tim marrying the lovely Maria. We went to their wonderful wedding in St Louis, followed by a week in the fascinating city of Chicago. My Mum also got married to her partner, who is a terrific bloke and this is very happy news.

Personally, I had a year of some achievement. I ran a 10k for the first time, learned how to use a sewing machine (running up three skirts and a dress) and started selling prints of my watercolour paintings.

On the minus side, I came down with a horrible chest infection which re-started my asthma. However, this is improving and I hope to be doing some proper running again next year, with races.

Work-wise, one of the stately homes where I work was restored and re-opened to the public after many years of closure and deterioration, which was fantastic. It made the years of creeping round a dark, freezing building with a two-way radio worthwhile!

Projects... I am still blogging and painting and reading, as well as sewing and knitting. Book recommendations always appreciated.

I think next year will be a year of re-think. A re-boot maybe. It's also my Fortieth...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Familiarity breeds liking

This isn't the kind of building I usually paint, I know.

This 1960s housing tower is just across the road from my bedroom window. At first I hated it, especially in the winter when the bare trees didn't hide it.

But over time, looking out of the window, I started to like it. And then I thought I'd try to paint it. By drawing, you appreciate the intention of the architect. The lay-out of the windows, contrasts in textures and colours, the geometry of it.

Maybe I should start a new series of urban watercolours?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Book of the Month: November

This month's book of the month is a bit unusual.

The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber is a historical adventure thriller about the playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe. He's on the run under the assumed name of William Shakespeare.

Now, I'm not one of those Shakespeare deniers, but this is a great book.

The unusual thing; it's written entirely in verse, like Marlowe and Shakespeare's plays.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Guest Post: Continental Feuilletons.

Today's guest post comes from an old book at one of the places I work. The volume of bound fashion periodicals is called 'World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons'.

Featured here the outrageously puffy, flouncy, big hair and enormous hatted fashions of 1830. This is 'New fashions for January 1830; Ball and Dinner Dresses'. I like the blue one best but feel that hat is going a bit far for dinner, really.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Book of October

Book of October is a short, fun novel about political thought. Sounds unlikely?

A History of Capitalism on the Jubilee Line by John o' Farrell has a group of people stranded on an underground train. The line will flood, but which way should they escape, down a tunnel built by public funding or one from private initiative?

It's very amusing and has a cast of famous political characters from times past.

The book is part of a series themed around various lines on the London Underground.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Moroccan not Afternoon

Following on from a previous post extolling the virtues of Afternoon Tea...a new discovery, Moroccan tea.

While in Paris (on annual anniversary holiday) we always go to one of my favourite restaurants; Chez Bebert on Rue Montparnasse. It's a slightly chaotic, crammed place that serves amazing Moroccan food.

Couscous, tagines, north African wines and to finish off, insanely sweet, strong mint tea in a glass with a selection of baklava (pastries) teeny marzipan fruits, marzipan shapes and dates stuffed with marzipan on an exotic cake stand.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Paris Rooftops

This picture of rooftops in Paris is dedicated to my friend Sarah Rooftops, who especially likes these things (rooftops).

This is the view to the extreme right, leaning off the tiny balcony of our hotel room on the 6th floor. A proper Paris attic with a slopey ceiling, lovely.

We go to Paris for our anniversary every year and it is my favourite city in the whole world. I am becoming a bit of a massive Francophile, actually, the food...the style...the architecture...

This time we went to many of our favourite haunts such as the comic shops, Notre Dame, Luxembourg Gardens and also to some new places: The Musee Nissim Camondo, Fontainebleau Palace and an exhibition about the history of underwear at the Musee Arts Decoratifs (I shouldn't have laughed at the codpieces, I know.)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Glimpsed while Driving

A few weeks ago we went on a holiday with the in-laws. This involved driving to Troon, through Ayrshire. Ayrshire features some fabulous existing castles, such as Culzean Castle, but also many ruins, especially of stately homes from the C18th and 19th. I don't know why so much is lost and abandoned in this county?

As it was a family holiday I didn't have any conspirators to trample through mud and over wire to reach derelict stately homes (next time Dalquaharran!), but I did stop to get petrol (cunningly) and photograph this one from the garage forecourt.

Loudon Castle is a ruined C19th house which was the centrepiece of a now abandoned amusement park. Find out more here: Loudon Castle.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Son of Begonia

Oooh must be on a high res here as I can see all the paper texture!

This begonia is the clone offspring (cutting) of one I got from my dad. Every so often I hack it all off so it can regrow healthy and the offcuts are distributed among various people. It is one of those great plants you can grow from putting a leafy twig in a jam jar.

I love plants in the house, especially over the long Aberdonian winter.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Make my day Steampunk.

Not Book of September, as that accolade is taken, but I'm greatly enjoying the steampunk adventure 'Glass Books of the Dream Eaters' by GW Dahlquist.

Steampunk (if you don't know it) is things set in a Victorian world but with more modern, weird technology.

Picture shows the three main characters: Celeste Temple; a jilted woman in search of revenge, Cardinal Chang; a professional assassin and Dr Svenson;...a doctor. I won't go into the plot here as it is fiendishly complex, but is riproaring fun. Even better, part of a series of three!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Think Ink

Another Lost Victorian Country House. Yes, I'm a bit morbid. This is Millearne in Perthshire.

Drawn in pen and ink. Proper pen with a nib and proper ink in a glass jar with a squeezy dropper. So much better than modern pens, old pens make a varied and chaotic line.

Important note to self: work from left to right if right handed. It takes Ages to dry.

I remember leaning handwriting with cartridge pens when I was young, I always got huge blobs and smears everywhere. Now I embrace blobs and smears, perfect is boring.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Craft Tech

Sewing machine! It is pink, but only came in pink for the bargain price of £35. Off-putting for male sew-ers, although until recently, the colour pink was associated with boys, as girls wore blue like the Virgin Mary. Anyway.

Following a long train of circumstance involving an unsteady bookcase full of priceless china, a bargain ebay purchase, and an enjoyable visit to a friend, I bit the bullet.

I must say that threading the machine is the only challenging part, which is like the Krypton Factor with the added challenge of focusing upon the completely miniscule while needing new glasses.

I am very excited by the sewing possibilities now and am crazedly envisaging funky retro home furnishings and one-off outfits. As well as covers for giant pieces of antique furniture, which came out pretty well.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Book of August/ September

Either late for August or early for September, the delightful and hilarious The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.

The Queen wanders out of the back door of Buckingham Palace and discovers a library van parked outside. What will happen when she discovers her love of reading?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Patchwork Woodwork

The other place I work is the fabulous Leith Hall, by Huntly. Not as impressive as Fraser outside, it has gorgeous walled gardens, amazing views, stunning interiors and art and fascinating collections.

This year, the Hall re-opened after many years of closure. This fireplace was located in a store, restored and replaced, using old photographs of the interiors to find it's original home. It looks beautiful and, like much of the woodwork at Leith, is interesting in being 'upcycled' in the C19th from random old woodcarvings, sculptures, even church pews.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Classical Challenge

My friend Lola challenged me to do a Classical building, as I usually prefer the Gothic and Elizabethan. She actually wanted me to do the Edinburgh Art Gallery, but I did my favourite classical house instead, sorry.

This is Chiswick House in London (Leen, you will recognise this). It was built as a party house for Lord Burlington and modelled after an Italian villa. Inside it is all interconnecting rooms for eating, socialising and dancing. Originally, the larger house(for actually living in) stood alongside but sadly was demolished.

The house also has stunning landscape gardens. It is a great place to visit. The house belongs to English Heritage and there are details here.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Book of August

Where book of July was late, book of August is early.

It is the short, but powerful, engaging and darkly amusing Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. The story is of a student from Pakistan who finds himself torn between America and his own country, while struggling with his relationship with a damaged and sensitive girl. It is beautifully written and very gripping.

I believe it is about to be made into a film also, although it seems better as a book, being all in the first person.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Book of July

Sorry, I seem to be a bit late with book of July. And It's a weird one. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. It's a very surreal and poetically written thriller about a missing man, a mysterious organisation and a photograph of a sheep.

I also loved his fantasy thriller Hard Boiled Wonderland and his book What I think about when I think about Running. My brother Tim would  like that one. It's about running.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Jousting Tents

Every year my work (Castle Fraser) holds a Jousting Tournament and Medieval day.

I was very taken with these colourful historical tents, where Medieval Realm and The Rhynie Wifies were demonstrating medieval life and crafts.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Reading project 2: Viewing

Reading project 2 is a viewing project of viewing Austen. Would greatly appreciate any recommends. A big amazon parcel came today with Pride and Prejudice; Colin Firth version, Persuasion; Amanda Root Ciaran Hinds version and Lost in Austen. I already have Sense and Sensibility; Emma Thompson version.

Lost in Austen is slightly tangential, I have also seen Becoming Jane which is quite good.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Just a random Watercolour

This is Shadwell Park, in Norfolk. Another house from my beloved Victorian Country Houses book. (The Mark Girouard one, if you wanted it.) Shadwell is built in three parts. Many houses grew and grew over time, which I find interesting. There is a Georgian bit, clad in a mid-Victorian bit (on left) and a bonkers high Victorian bit on the left. The tower is actually the entrance to the stable block, it looks like a church because that is what the architect (Teulon) usually designed.
I often fantasise about hot summers spent in an overgrown garden of a sleepy stately home and this place looks perfect!
Incidentally, I discovered the artist John Piper was ahead of me on my Victorian Country House pictures. Check out his 'Victorian Dream Palaces' and other works here at the Tate. This one is also of Shadwell and is fantastic! I think I first saw paintings by John Piper on a trip to the then mothballed Dunecht House, stacked in an empty drawing room.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Reading Project

Call me a philistine, but I didn't use to like Jane Austen. As a teenager I felt they were boring compared to my beloved Brontes.

Now I realise she's all about the witty dialogue and the tricky relationships and I can identify with that.

So, I set myself the project of reading all of her books. Sadly I haven't managed to do them chronologically, but I have done them all except Sense and Sensibility. So far, my favourites are Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. I didn't like Northanger Abbey though, apart from that I have loved them all.

Character I like to imagine I resemble: Lizzie from P&P. Character I probably resemble: Emma. Most hated character: Mrs Norris from MP. Most loved: Mr Darcy of course!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

And now for something Completely Different...

I wasn't sure this sounded like my kind of thing:

Topless Ukelele
Gothic Burlesque
Life Drawing

Well, the drawing bit did. I always try to give new things a go, so thanks to an invite from my friend Lola I found myself in the downstairs room of the Malt Mill pub. While everyone else in the world was watching Andy Murray I was enjoying performance and life modelling by burlesque perfomers at Dr Sketchys ...

I was a bit nervous about this as I thought it might be a bit seedy, but the ladies are talented dancers/singers and are never indecent. On the left, the lovely and funny Magenta Lust, who is like a rather gothic chorus girl. I also won a cake for 'Best Humorous Drawing'! If you enjoy something really different and like art with a bit more fun, come along to the next one which is in a month's time!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Artichokes. Why?

The artichoke has long been on my cooking challenges list. They look really amazing and I like them on pizza, in pasta etc.

To cook: tear off stem and boil for about 30mins or until you can pull a leaf off.

To eat: pull off leaves and dip in vinaigrette, scrape base of leaf between teeth. This is fun but there is pretty much zero to eat there. Then cut fibrous bits off base until a tiny edible bit remains. Eat it.

Well, it was fun to cook and made a lovely picture. Apparently the artichoke is actually a giant flower bud, related to the thistle, which makes sense when you look at it.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Books of June

Book of June is the brilliant and blackly funny 'Travels with my Aunt' by Graham Greene. I haven't finished it yet, so no spoilers please! A stodgily respectable bank manager meets his bohemian and disreputable Aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral and gets drawn into her crazy life.

Honorary mention for 'Mansfield Park' my favourite Jane Austen yet. The heroine, Fanny goes to live with dreadful relatives (Mrs Norris, we all know one of you!) Great characters, romance and soap-y plot twists kept me glued throughout the many, many chapters. It sustained me through the long, jet lagged suffering of our journey back from Chicago. I loved it so much I kept having to update Alistair continually on the characters doings, although he had no clue what I was on about!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Giant Vegetable Day

This was going to be a post about Pilates, but when I went to the supermarket I found this freakishly large pepper, which I wanted to paint.

It was so large, the checkout lady exclaimed over it and showed it to other people in the queue. I thought I'd better paint it before I had to eat it.

I also found an unfeasibly huge aubergine, hence Day of Giant Vegetables was born.

Quite pleased with the highlight effect on this.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Book of May

It's Book of the Month time again! I haven't been reading so much this month as I have been super busy with work and stuff. But I did find a book I really liked (and it's short).

May's book is 'A Month in the Country' by JL Carr. Not to be confused with the Russian play. A film was made of the book, with Colin Firth, but I haven't seen it.

The book is a gently paced story of a man who after fighting in WW1 comes to a small village to restore a medieval church mural. He meets an archaeologist who is searching for a lost grave and falls in love with a married woman. It's beautifully written, sometimes moving, sometimes funny, thoughtful and evocative.

Honorary mention (because I'm trying not to repeat authors) is Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, a black comedy about an obscure Welsh Boarding School. Evilly hilarious.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

That 10k

So, today we got up extra early ready for the long awaited (and dreaded) Baker Hughes 10k run. (Dreaded because I hadn't been running much since March and had buggered my knee a few weeks ago.)

This run is massive in Aberdeen, the whole beachfront was gridlocked and there were about 3000 runners massed in a rope pen.

The route is very interesting, through the docks, along the seafront and back by the football stadium. It was a good day for running, dry but cool with a haar (Scottish fog) coming off the sea.

It is great running with all the other people, we kept pace with a man in a fluffy dolphin suit. Very friendly and all the passers by cheer you on which is lovely. Alistair kindly trailed along slowly with me and we jogged gently along and along. By the end we were overtaking people who started off more speedily, but were still with dolphin man. My legs and left hip were really sore, but no wheezing so I was good. We finished in good form having taken about 1hr 15mins. Feeling awesome now and about to celebrate with a pub lunch with running friends.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Highland Fling...

I admit it. I am a huge fan of that not-much-liked art form ballet. In fact I have been ever since I was a kid. I turned out to be podgy and uncoordinated but my love of dance continued.

Last night I went to the theatre to see Highland Fling with my friends Lola and Anna. Going to the theatre is always a great treat, as it is wonderfully ornate and gold encrusted inside, with brass rails and red velvet upholstery. There are also attendants with trays of ice-cream, wonderfully traditional. The whole thing is like stepping back in time.

Except for the ballet. Highland Fling has been described as Trainspotting the Ballet. It's brilliant, it's also adult, dark, sinister and weird. The story is a modern day take on La Sylphide, set in Glasgow. A man meets a strange, zombie-like fairy (pictured) at his stag do and, torn between his attraction for her and his new wife, things start to get very messed up. Not for the easily offended, the story features drink, drugs, sex and nudity. It's not your typical tutus and pointe shoes ballet, the dance is athletic, wild and barefoot.

If it comes to your city, go and see it. It will blow you away.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Bee for Lola

This is my first go at drawing on the computer. I find it quite difficult as the mouse is massive, like a huge crayon. So no good for my OCD drawings. Good for using bold colours though and a more graphic feel.

The first bees of the year are out I said I'd draw one for my friend Lola. I like bumblebees best.

Some facts:

Bumblebees are a harmless bee that hardly ever stings. The friendly bumblebee lives in a small underground colony of perhaps 100 bees. There are twenty five different kinds of bumblebee in the UK and over two hundred and fifty kinds in the world. The myth that says bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly was based on bad maths. They do fly, we've all seen them.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A Lost House

This is Eaton Hall in Cheshire. I passed the site of this once, as my grandparents lived nearby. There is a huge, beautiful parkland and garden where this house once stood. It was demolished in 1961. A more modern chateau was recently erected on the site, sadly echoing the original building.

Eaton Hall was built for the Duke of Westminster (Britain's richest man then, and maybe also now) and expanded in 1870. The architect was Alfred Waterhouse who designed the similar and equally outrageous Manchester Town Hall. It cost £600,000 a colossal sum in those days. The Duke was a great Victorian  millionare, philanthropist (but not playboy) and supported charities including the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association and the United Committee for the Preventing of Demoralizing of Native Races by the Liquor Traffic(!)

On a more homely note, bells in the giant clock tower played 'Home Sweet Home' whenever the Duke was in residence.

Find out more about Eaton in 'Victorian Country Houses' by Mark Girouard or here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

My Street Style

So, what would I be wearing if you saw me in the street?

Here is one of my favourite everyday outfits which I was wearing today:

Brown jumbo cord coat by Boden from charity shop in London.
With fabric brooch, gift from Alistair.

Cerise stretch jeans from Monsoon.

Black cardigan embroidered with whales (not seen, sadly) from Afflecks Palace, Manchester.

Black ballet pumps from Clarks.

Black handbag from M&S.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Effusive Fandom

Did anyone remember my Avengers Biscuits post? If so, you may have guessed I am a bit of a superhero film geek.

This weekend I went to see Iron Man 3, which I really loved. Iron Man (along with Hulk and Wolverine) are my favourite film superheroes. They're difficult, funny, charismatic. They struggle with disturbing pasts and worrying personality changes. In fact, Iron Man isn't really even a superhero, he has no special powers, only a high-tech suit. Also he is played by the amazing Robert Downey Junior, who I have a massive crush on...the film is highly recommended though, even if you don't.

I must admit, this isn't my own art, although I did colour it. Before the film, we popped into Hobbycraft where they offered Superhero colouring, balloons and cakes. I think it was for kids, but I paid 50p to charity for my colouring sheet and here it is.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Lovely Leith Hall

This is Leith Hall, where I have been working on the Big Project previously mentioned. Confusingly, it is not in Leith, it is near Huntly.

The house sits in a lovely parkland, with gorgeous gardens and resembles a small French Chateau.

The oldest parts date from the 1600s, but the side seen here is mostly C19th. The big windows light up the Music Room (formerly Billiard Room) the most beautiful room in the house.

Find out more at the National Trust for Scotland website.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Dearth of Blogging

I apologise for lack of blogging lately.

This is because I am on a massive collections care work project. Clearing out a cupboard on said project I discovered this old edition of the NT magazine with a fabulous housekeeping illustration by one of my watercolour heroes Quentin Blake.

So I thought I'd post it up as this is the kind of thing I've been doing.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Book of April

Book of April, although we have not finished the month yet, such a work of genius it has to be the one.
I chose Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
Yes, it's very famous, but I hadn't read it before. I always imagined it was depressingly worthy. In fact it is brilliant, poetic and very moving. The descriptions of Brideshead are magical, especially for anyone who loves old houses and the strange and driven characters are gripping and absorbing.
Sometimes it is funny, witty, sometimes unbearably emotional and insightful.
A love story, a ballad to a lost world of beauty, a cynical dissection of the upper class, a book that is hard to put down and hard to forget.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Remarkable Roth

Book of Easter is the truly genius The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. A long, poetic and moving story set in Austria before WW1, examining change, death, loyalty and the passing of empires and cultures. An amazing book with some of the most beautiful writing I have encountered for many years. Magical and sad. Roth himself was an Austrian jew and his novels are based on his own life.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Art Nouveau Oddity

This lovely Art Nouveau cast iron chimney stands at the junction of Holburn Street and Justice Mill Lane in Aberdeen. Apparently it is a 'gas ventilator'? And that's all I know.

I love it's slightly Arabian Nights incongruity though, painted in vibrant colours and sitting on a teeny traffic island.

Here is a fantastic blog with information about these obscure pieces of street furniture. I love street furniture, the things people rarely notice the lovely design and antiquity of like post boxes, bollards, gratings...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Beauty from the less trendy shelf....

There is so much label snobbery around beauty and toiletry products. As much as I love the various offerings of vogue et al, I wouldn't dream of spending hundreds of pounds on a jar of face cream.

In fact,  I like to scour the shelves of  Boots etc for the unfashionable, the cheap,and the obscure. The rose or lavender scented, the aged brands, the traditional formulations....cold cream, bath salts, powders. Ever noticed how there are trends in formulas and products...what happened to talcum powder? Why the rise and fall of the bath bead? My hairdresser tells me hair mousse has gone the way of the dodo also and now I should have styling spray....

Anyway, here are some favourites which are neither expensive or trendy....

Radox bath salts. So cheap, so fantastic when you are tired and achey.
Palmer's cocoa butter. Body butter at a fraction of the price and smells of chocolate.
Elnett hairspray. Smells like hairspray should, of nights out.
Pears soap. Looks great (goes red when held to the light), smells good.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Running Update

Ok, more of a jogging update. But I did jog 7K the other day, the furthest yet. Sadly, it was on the teadmill in the gym, where there are no views despite a stunning location by the river and where you can't hear your music because of some R'n'B they are tormenting you with. I like to run along the old railway line by my house, lined with pretty hedgerows. It's too cold right now though.

I was pleased though, although I was in agony after. Running is funny. In the first ten minutes you think you can't go on. The first thirty are ok. Then you go into a kind of euphoric superhero state. Then your legs start to go all numb from pounding up and down on them. I did discover though, that the treadmill turns onto 'cooldown' after an hour. When, because I am incredibly slow, (I think I walk faster) I was still jogging grimly away. I felt good though when the bloke next to me who was moving at lightning speed, dripping with sweat, stopped after only ten minutes. Ah Runners Schadenfreude...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

March Books

Yes, I'm a bit early with this, but my March and April are turning into a frenzy of work and busyness so I thought I'd score them off while I had the chance.

And my March book is a cheat because I am rereading Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. I haven't read it for about ten years and I'd forgotten how brilliant it is. It's a rip-roaring, sexy, bizarre, gothic, feminist novel about a Victorian woman who happens to have wings. One of those books with a great story but so much else going on too. And beautifully written.

Honorary second place goes to 'Addition' by Tony Jordan, a comedy romance about a girl with an Aspergers style counting disorder. Slightly disturbing, but also really touching and funny. For graphic novel/comic enthusiasts I would also recommend 'Hawkeye; My Life as a Weapon' which is moving, exciting and a real work of art. As well as starring lovely Hawkeye from The Avengers, a film I love beyond reason.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Favourite Building

This is my favourite building in Aberdeen. I love it because it is Bonkers. Gothic Baronial Art Nouveau, put in a box and shaken up.

This is No 50 Queen's Road, by JB Pirie, 1886. I believe it is on the site of the earlier Old Rubislaw House belonging to the Skene family and dating from the 1600s. Sadly this was demolished, but at least it was replaced by something good.

Queen's Road ia a mass of eclectic mansions, from Olde English to French Rennaissance in style. I hope to paint more of these fascinating houses.

For interest picture is shown before and after inking, not sure which I prefer....somehow they capture different aspects of the architecture: mass or detailing.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Delightful Delgatie

Delgatie Castle, which I visited with my friend Alison a few years ago. It's lonely, shabby, meandering. No-one knows how old it is and, according to a fascinating lecture I recently attended, it has a hidden private chapel within a suspiciously thick wall. It also has an award winning tea-room. Inexplicably we didn't go to this but instead ate cheese sandwiches in the car in the pouring rain! Happy days.

Not sure how I feel about the pen drawing, I kind of prefer my wobbly pencil efforts...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ninja Ballerina

So I'm enjoying my Pilates with Darcey Bussell book. And I said to Alistair 'This will make me like a...I was going to say ballerina, but he got there first with ninja. So Ninja Ballerina was born.

I think Ninja Ballerina could be a more kick-ass role model for girly little girls.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

February's Books

February's book choices are:

Persuasion by Jane Austen. I thought Jane Austen was boring, but you have to read them when you're an adult. This is funny, touching, real. The heroine is regarded as 'left on the shelf' at 27, still in love with her ex and endlessly patronised by her vile, overbearing family. It's great.

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. OK, I know everyone's read this. I was put off by the title and rave Richard and Judy recommendation. It's not cosy, it's weird, disturbing, hugely emotional. Brilliant. The hero involuntarily time travels back and forward in his own life. Great characters. I cried at the end.

An honorary mention for The Yacoubain Building by Ala-al-Aswaany. A fascinating and moving story of the many people who live in an old apartment building in Cairo. Culturally an eye-opener.

Monday, 18 February 2013


I love ponies. I always wanted a pony when I was a little girl (like all little girls do).

Now I make do with spotting ponies and getting a warm fuzzy feeling. Not literally, I don't think I should stop the car and get into the field for a cuddle.

These two Shetland ponies live in a field near my work. They always stand together like this. They are very fat and furry. Shetlands are the UK's smallest native pony (from the Shetland Islands, unsurprisingly) and are popular for small children, despite often being very bad tempered. Apparently a lady once called the RSPCA to report a 'horse sunk up to it's knees in mud'. It was a Shetland, not sunk in mud but sporting very tiny legs.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Virtuous Cake

I love cake. Alistair loves cake. And we are both on a healthy eating bender.

So rather than continue forgoing cake, in a soul destroying manner, I got out the cookbooks and looked for healthy cake. Free from butter, cream cheese, cream, chocolate and other fats.

Here is what I have experimented with so far:

From 'Mary Berry's Baking Bible': Walnut Teabread and Bara Brith. Both delicious, the teabread has lots of syrup in and the bara brith has fruit soaked in tea. Both are moist and tasty. Do not serve spread with butter, as suggested. Both of these are dairy free.

This week's is Pain d'Epice or spice bread from 'Bread' by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno. This is a French teabread without yeast, but made with milk and honey. So not dairy free. I'll be baking this on Monday, my designated baking day (while Alistair does his online wargaming). Hoping it is as good as the first two. Any healthy cake suggestions gratefully received.