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.

Friday, 15 February 2013

And now for something completely Different...

It's not time for February's book of the month yet, but I thought I would tell you about a mini-project of mine.

In my pursuit of new things, I thought I would try a whole new book genre: Graphic Novels. I've read lots of comics, as Alistair is a big fan, but these are a bit different. So far I've tried four, all very varied.

Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot. Yes, it's a book about the history of Sunderland, seen through the prism of Alice in Wonderland. It's odd, very intense but a great one if you want to see history in a whole new exciting way.

Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure by Haruki Murakami. This one's Japanese and you read it starting from the back. I'm not sure which way you read the pages though which made it rather hard to follow. Plot-wise it does what it says on the tin. I found the British characters very weird and unconvincing but that's what happens with different cultures, I'm sure British authors Japanese characters seem equally strange.I wasn't particularly excited by this though.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. This is much more like a novel with pictures and I've enjoyed some of her other books too. TNB was serialised in the Guardian too, so fairly mainstream. An intriguing, touching and sad story which I enjoyed very much. Lovely illustrations.

Grandville by Bryan Talbot. Another by Bryan here as I enjoyed the first. This is a rip-roaring gorefest of a gothic steam punk adventure where the hero is a sentient badger. Disturbingly like Rupert the Bear. I liked this a lot, very gripping and atmospheric art.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Another obsessive country house drawing...

I really enjoyed drawing my last fiddly Victorian house so here is another favourite.

This is Tyntesfield, near Bristol. The Gibbs family, owners of the house, made their fortune selling guano from Peru (or bird droppings, for the rest of us). They expanded a small original house in the latest Gothic style and filled it with bespoke furniture and artefacts from their travels in South America.
By 2000, however, the last Gibbs was living in just three rooms of the house and the rest was locked up and left to rot. In 2001, he died and the house and its fabulous collections came on to the market. The National Trust held a massive fundraising appeal. Over £20M was raised to buy the house, save the contents from being sold and open to the public.

I haven't visited Tyntesfield yet, but it is definitely on the to-do list. Find out more about the house here.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Colourful Shipping

One of the great things about living in Aberdeen is being by the sea. While the 'Fun Beach' is a bit out of town, the busy harbour is right in the middle, by the shopping centre.

So as you totter off to M&S or whatever, you can admire the many colourful boats and ships. Most are connected with the oil industry and there are also ferries to Orkney and Shetland. Initially I quite fancied going to the islands, but apparently it is a very long, rough crossing.

The ships look great, rather like lego and are adorned with rolls of cable, cranes and helipads. I was attracted by their colours. This is also my first attempt at painting reflections in water.

New Internet Addiction

You may have noticed a little tag appear on my last blog post...

Follow Me on Pinterest

If you click this, it will take you to my Pinterest account. I just discovered pinterest (about a million years after everyone else). It is basically online scrapbooking. You can 'pin' pictures onto your 'boards' of things that interest you, great photos, places you would like to visit, things you would like to do, recipes, you name it. It beats that endless pritt-sticking of things into dog eared scrapbooks.

I'm currently hugely addicted to this. If you want to see things I like, click on the Pinterest link, and enjoy.