Monday, 29 December 2014

Resolutions 2015

Illustrating resolutions with a suitably uplifting pic of a crystal garden kit from Tim and Maria.

Resolutions are more personal things than Projects.

This year I will:

Do pilates regularly, ideally every two days, and go for a walk every day.
Fill my wardrobe with size 14 as I cannot starve myself back down to 12 any more. This is going well after my sales trip... Leen, some small garments may be in the post.
Stop looking at depressing things on the internet, including mopey blogs and health websites.
Go out for food on thursday evenings.
Go to the library or buy books from real bookshops, not all on amazon.
Deep clean the house over the xmas holiday.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Reading Projects 2015

This post is mainly to thank people for very generous xmas gifts towards my reading projects. And to mention some things I've enjoyed reading so far.

Thank you Leen for my january and february women's travel reads: 
Growing old outrageously by hilary linstead and elisabeth davies and
Travels in a single state, cycling across the usa by josie dew.

I will report on these once read.

Also thank you Alistair for Laughter in Ancient Rome, another one by the brilliant Mary Beard. I am currently enjoying her book on Pompeii which discusses many aspects of roman daily life, including why so much art depicts men with big dicks.  (Just funny, apparently). I also really liked 

On the Spartacus road by peter stothard, history, travelogue and personal memoir. I didn't know what happened to spartacus and the gladiators so that was pretty shocking.

I probably approach my reading in totally the wrong way in that it is not systematic but just a scattergun of things I find that look interesting, from the library, bookshops or on my kindle.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Seen from the Road

I often think how lucky I am. The fantastic scenery and gorgeous buildings I see just driving about each day are unbelievable. Aberdeenshire is just stunning.

This is the Tower Lodges at Dunecht House, by Lake of Skene, on my way to work. The lodges were built in 1922 by Marshall Mackenzie and are modelled after traditional scottish tower houses. They must be a lovely place to live, looking out over miles of woodland and a huge, silvery lake.

Dunecht House itself is nestled away in the woods, an enormous fairytale victorian mansion with a three storey 120ft library, colossal chapel and staircase painted with mythological scenes. I was very lucky to visit as it is very private. The history includes a reclusive book collector, an infamous bodysnatching case and a ruthless oil baron. One of my favourite places.

Picture in conte crayon, fixed with elnett hairspray, tweaked on ipad.

Monday, 22 December 2014

This year in review

Looking back this has been a strange year. Almost a year in stasis as everyone north of the border waited for the news. The referendum hung over us all like a sword of damocles. Everything could change or nothing. I'm not going to offer any political comment here due to the divisive nature of the issue, but I'm hoping normal service can resume in 2015.

Personally, there were some developments this year such as the birth of my nephew Archie. A happy moment. I reached the milestone of forty which is fine if you don't think about it. We went on some lovely holidays, especially Strasbourg where I travelled the channel tunnel for the first time ( recommended) and stayed in the St Pancras Hotel, a favourite building and where Alistair first proposed...

Project wise, I went to The Neos art festival for the first time and the Spring Fling dumfriesshire art festival. I did lots of painting and sewing and cooked lots of french food. Next year, women travel books, stone circles, middle eastern food and complex baking.

Work wise, a year of change in which we went through three managers, with varied degrees of success, worked like dogs and came out on top. Next year looks tough though.

Health wise, sadly my knee problem stopped my running but I am still experimenting with pilates and yoga. A regular massage is making progress on my dodgy shoulder and I'm relaxing more. A postive outlook.

Socially, a mixed year. I seem to have grown apart from some friends, but become closer to others. Some, sadly have moved away and some sad times. Lovely Alistair is the centre of things for me, as always.

On a lighter note, film of the year: Guardians of the Galaxy. Recipe of the year: Chocolate Spice cookies. Biography of the year: graphic novel Kiki de Montparnasse. Sight of the year: Chateau de Haut Koenigsberg, Alsace.

Art posts will resume shortly...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Winter Windows

One of the things I do love about winter and the dark mornings and nights is looking into the lit windows as you pass by. I love looking nosily at people's decor and rooms and ,at the moment, lovely christmas trees. This is a 'seen from the road' window as I drop Alistair off on my way to work. It looks a bit middle eastern here somehow, but is actually a lovely Victorian stair window with coloured glass.

This post is from my ipad so sorry for less than ideal picture photo (no scanner) and funny typesetting. On the plus side, so quick and easy! Brace for many posts over the Xmas period.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Winter Blues

One of the things I find most difficult about living in Aberdeen is the dark winters. At the moment it is only properly light for about six hours a day. After several weeks of feeling sleepy, gloomy and hungry all the time I am getting to grips with this. I bought a daylight lamp to use first thing in the morning, which is vaguely unpleasant, but does get you awake. I am trying to get outside as much as possible in the daylight, get fresh air and eat healthily.
I am trying to not hibernate, watch TV in the day or have the lights on. Actually, I am feeling a bit better even on day one of the regime. I don't know how people manage in northern countries, I would absolutely hate it.

I apologise for the lack of original pictures lately, as our computer seems to be on the blink and I can't scan.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Neolithic Enthusiasm

So, I started this project early...I really should have started it at Midwinter or Yule, which was important to preChristian  people and is around the 23rd of December. This early winter festival was an ancestor of Christmas, featuring lots of feasting and decorative evergreens.

So far I have really enjoyed The Modern Antiquarian by Julian Cope. Julian is a hugely charismatic rock singer, poet and stone circle enthusiast. His encyclopaedic book covers all the neolithic sites in the UK, he has personally visited over five hundred and photographed all of them. You can enjoy him on youtube too in his TV programme of the same name. (slight crush).

A rather more academic and less enjoyable book, but useful book covers the unique stone circles of Aberdeenshire ; Great Crowns of Stone by Adam Welfare. I also enjoyed Hengeworld by the  appropriately named Mike Pitts (lots of detailed archaeology dig stories on Avebury and Stonehenge).

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Resolutions/projects 2015

I do like to make a list of resolutions/projects at the end of each year. Just so my time does not pass in a blur and I have nothing to show for it. I try to make them fun and achievable though...

The picture of Dunnideer is to illustrate a new project I think of as 'the ancient world.' I plan to see and read up on prehistoric monuments (following my stone circle trip) and to discover more about the Greeks and Romans (following impulse buy of a fascinating book by historian Mary Beard) she points out that a knowledge of the classical world was vital for any civilised person until recently. And my knowledge is almost zero, so I'll work on that. I am currently enjoying The Modern Antiquarian by Julian Cope, about prehistoric monuments, faith and belief. It is delightfully esoteric and eccentric and I believe he is an ex rock star(he certainly looks like one).

I am also reading women's travel writing. Interestingly, most travel writing is by men. Do women have less opportunity to travel? Is it because of families? Are they less adventurous (surely not!) I want to discover intrepid women, daring journeys and fascinating cultures.

 Also, to progress my experiments in, variously, French and middle eastern cookery, finding the holy grail exercise class and massage treatment, dressmaking and creating art for this blog....

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Beautiful Balgorkar

Doesn't Balgorkar sound like something from Lord of the Rings?

I went on a research trip there today with my friend and colleague (and stone circle expert) Peter to measure it. We are doing an exhibition on stone circles at my work with a model of the circle. The weather was poor and I struggled along through mud for ages in a Barbour, wellies and waterproof trousers, but it was well worth it.

Balgorkar is the stone circle just over the road from the castle. An avenue of monoliths leads from it to the castle and beyond. It is a very dramatic and evocative site and attracts many Outlander readers due to it's proximity to Castle Fraser. The three big stones in the picture are the Recumbent and Flankers, a feature of Aberdeenshire circles and are aligned with sunset at midwinter, an important time for ancient people. The circles were erected around burial sites, but their exact purpose is unknown.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

People on the Street

After a long time, the return of interesting people seen in Aberdeen.
Maybe I just don't see enough interestingly dressed people.

This lady was walking past the art gallery, resplendent in a cerise pink velvet swing coat, khaki lace wool tights and olive high heeled sandals with gold heels.
In her hair, a matching velvet fascinator. I'm always inspired by those who have the guts to just wear what they love and are not afraid to stand out.

Last week I kept seeing fantastically dressed people and I realised, like me, they were converging on a vintage clothing fair in a local church. I love the way people dress up for these things, like a society. The fair was amazing, but sadly not many things in anything but tiny sizes and I was conflicted about buying a fur coat. Everything was so glamorous, even vintage hairdressing on a little stage and fantastic looking retro types everywhere in this amazing rambling, shabby old church.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

More Biog

I am getting a bit bogged down with Tamara de Lempicka. Another egomaniac forging a career in 1920s Paris. So started 'the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Scloot. Fascinating story of a woman whose cancer cells were taken for biological research. Lots of interesting stuff on science, ethics, race, social history. Enjoying very much.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Seen from the Road Again

This is the lovely Logie House, which I see from the road driving to Leith Hall. In fact, I see four stately homes on my journey; Logie House, Westhall Castle, Wardhouse and Harthill Castle (previously blogged). As well as Leith Hall itself! Maybe I should try and do Westhall and Wardhouse also to complete the set. Wardhouse, although a ruin, is the most beautiful, an elegant Georgian mansion looking down a wooded valley.

When I first moved up here, Logie was a gutted ruin, but is now beautifully restored and used as a wedding and functions venue. They also offer glamping (glamour camping) in Mongolian yurts, which I really fancy. The house dates from the late 1600s with later additions.

Find out more here: Logie Country House

Monday, 10 November 2014

December Biography in Waiting

Thanks to my friend Alison of the blog Beloved Eleanor I now have a December book too!

It is The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow and is a book I've wanted to read for ages! The book is about Sarah Losh, a genius architect from the C19th.

Needless to say, being a woman she has now been totally forgotten. Grrrrrr.

Anyway, thank you so much Alison, very excited by this lovely book!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Biog of the Month

November's biography is Tamara de Lempicka: a life of Deco and Decadence by Laura Claridge.

It's a bit of a tricky one as art deco artist Tamara was a fantasist and a self inventor. She feared her background as a wealthy Jewish Russian was not bohemian enough so created her own life stories.

It makes you think about to what extent we create our own stories from our lives and how you create your image and identity.

One more biography to go and then it's on to Women and Travel 2015.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Tea in the Garioch

This is Chapel of Garioch, a tiny, pretty village near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The village is just behind Bennachie ('Bennahie')the biggest hill in the area seen in the picture. You can make Tea and Garioch rhyme because it is pronounced 'Geery' for some reason.

Just by the very interesting church and historic graveyard is the tearoom, housed in an old Post Office. It is the yellow building on the right. Just visible is a telephone box under a cloak of ivy. I went there with the ladies from my work for their monthly Vintage Afternoon Tea. Not only is the tearoom like something from Miss Marple, but the staff wear vintage dresses and aprons and the tea is very traditional. Egg, salmon and cucumber and cheese and local pickle finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, lemon tarts, victoria sponge, meringues and macarons. Delightful. It really is like stepping back in time or into some kind of BBC drama!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Miscellaneous Update

The fennel bulb is to mark the beginning of my annual winter soup project. This is aimed at tastyness and health. The soups must be vegetarian and low fat. This week fennel and carrot with chestnuts (recipe from Bon Appetit magazine). Last week sweet potato and orange (from The Covent Garden Soup Book).

My next biography is Tamara de Lempicka, Russian artist and another one of that 1920s Paris crowd.

Click here to find out more about this fascinating woman.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Wardrobe Reboot

About every six months or so I like to do a wardrobe reboot. This responds mainly to the move into Spring or Autumn when seasonal items are brought to the fore.

This time I am being especially ruthless. Due to the end of running with my gammy knee I am not as thin as I was. Cue a purge of painfully tight dresses and muffin top creating jeans.

Conversely, the space created reveals rarely worn but much loved garments from many years. Step forward purple velvet jacket and glitter tweed skirt.

I have also discovered my style evolving again. I never thought I would say that a blouse can actually look great. Or that shell tops are more flattering than tshirts if you are built large round the torso. Or that tight jeans flatter no stomach region. Or that too many lurid colours make you look like someone from 80s breakfast TV. Bring on subtler colours and interesting fabrics.

But the biggest development was the gift of a fantastic new sewing machine, which has triggered a rash of  making, not buying. I've just done an a line tweed skirt (librarian chic) am onto a grey floral 30s style blouse and then a dark green twill skirt awaits. I may even attempt the home dressmaking kryptonite...a jacket.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Paris in the Autumntime

Back from our fantastic Paris trip! Thoroughly refreshed and rebooted.

Things we did: Musee Zadkine (1920s sculpture) Chateau de Vincennes (medieval castle), Paris Motor Show, Musee Quai Branly (Mayans exhibition) Palais Galliera (see picture of Dior Bar Suit from New Look exhibition, fashion heaven), Musee de la Chasse et Nature ( taxidermy, guns, weird art installations,) Cathedral de Notre Dame.

We ate in lots of lovely places and discovered a great new restaurant/organic wine bar by the hotel. I bought lots of French cookery books in Shakespeare and Co to keep me projecting on through the winter. A bit sad to be home now it was so amazing.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Women's Biography Project

I must admit, I'm really enjoying this project, which I thought might be a bit worthy. I think 2014 might be travel books, or history or science?

Latest read was a book about Mina Loy, obscure artist, futurist and feminist poet. I enjoyed her freeform dadaist poetry more than I expected, which was a bonus. Like many of  the people I've read about she is an infuriating but inspiring character. Rebellious, creative, charismatic, beautiful and fun. On the minus side, selfish, self obsessed, moody and rootless. I think I would have liked Eleanor Marx but many of the other biography women were very difficult people. I get very involved and annoyed as the women lurch from disastrous relationship to disastrous relationship, ingratiate themselves with horrible, egomaniacal 'friends' struggle with creative block and suffer family breakdown. Just like normal people which is quite reassuring in a way.

I have been particularly enjoying biographies of  artistic, creative and free thinking women. Three of the subjects, Mina Loy, Lee Miller and Kiki de Montparnasse knew each other in 1920s Paris (none of them got along, unsurprisingly!)

More on my Paris holiday where I checked out some of their haunts in Montparnasse in the next post.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Seen from the Car

Seen from the car on the road by Stonehaven. This is a Beltie or Belted Galloway, a rare breed cattle from near where Alistair comes from.

They look lovely in the fields, like big furry mint humbugs.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Eating Out in Aberdeen

We have been trying to eat out somewhere once a week in Aberdeen. For anyone who might enjoy this a list of my favourite places:

I love Japanese food.
Yatai, fantastic authentic little restaurant.
Yorokubi by CJ, great food, horrible decor.
Yo sushi, conveyorbelt fun
Wagamama, tasty cafeteria style

I like Italian too.
Jamie's Italian, trendy and fun
Carluccios, relaxing decor, nice deli also

Mezze are a big thing for me:
The Nargile, delicious, atmospheric, huge portions.

American: Maggie's Grill, heavenly comfort food with friendly service.

French: Cafe Montmartre, delicious authentic bistro food.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday cookery projects

Sunday is my cookery project day. Lately I've been doing Italian, but as our Paris holiday is coming up this week it's French. Also greatly inspired by the FT eating in Paris supplement this week. So excited about the holiday, badly needed as we are both feeling pretty ground down.

French cookery features tricky things like sauces and desserts. Today Molleux au Chocolat (molten middle chocolate pudding) and chicken with sauce Robert (mustard and tomato paste flavour). I passed on some of the sauces including Blood Sauce (blood) Angry Sauce (chillies) and Crapaudine Sauce. A crapaud is a toad, but I don't think toads are harmed. The name refers to the squished shape of a spatchcocked chicken it is served with.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Women's Biography Project

Pleased to be back on my project with the excellent biography of Eleanor Marx. Eleanor is a really vibrant and interesting person. Also vivid descriptions of Victorian life and events,olitics a d people of the time. A really absorbing read. Also ordered a biography of Lee Miller, fashion model turned war photographer. I also loved My Family and other Animals, which I hadn't read since I was a kid. Wonderfully written and a happy place to be over the last few weeks.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Teaching Drawing

This week my work hosted a respite activity day for carers. I was drafted in at the last minute as their artist had let them down.

I gave a drop in drawing workshop with portrait drawing, using a bust of Jane Mackenzie Fraser and still life with a violin or teapot. I really enjoyed this, it is very rewarding to help people create something beautiful.

Left is a quick sketch of Jane I did while demonstrating. The plaster bust is from the C19th and is classically inspired and yes, her neck is that long on it!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Autumn Flowers

I like to buy flowers for the flat. As we are now in early autumn, I got these lovely sunflowers.They seem very autumnal to me and are so huge, scary and full of life.

Only van Gogh can really paint sunflowers but here is my attempt. Freehand watercolour without drawing which is fun but tricky. I think I need to change the water.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


I am really loving all the NEOs exhibitions. Pottering round lovely homes looking at art and craft helps me to relax, especially with all the Referendum horror we are constantly bombarded by. Stress.

This is Kemnay House, the nicest venue I have found so far. The house is approached from an exciting dark, tree overhung drive. The back part of the building (seen here) is from the 1600s and the exhibition was in an C18th wing with lovely panelled and muralled rooms. The house is very private and secluded, somewhere you rarely get to see.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


Two guest pictures from North East Open Studios. This is a week long event where you can see exhibitions of artists and designers work.

One of the great things about NEOS is the interesting venues for the displays. Yesterday we went to see Lynda Rennie's textiles and crafts. These are inspired by city and sea landscapes. She was showing them in the Ladies Clubroom at the Albury Sports Centre. A peaceful spot in a wooden pavilion with a croquet match going on outside!

Today we saw four nature artists exhibiting in the luxury garage of a beautiful Victorian house in Aberdeen. I particularly liked Jenny Musker's nature watercolours of birds, bugs and mushrooms. There were also quilted fabric landscapes and teensy landscape miniatures painted with a brush with two hairs!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Seen from the Road Again

My Seen from the Road series seems to be coming Most Unappealing Structure Seen from the Road. I try to see the beauty in ugly buildings. Many are really fun to draw because of unusual geometry or design.

This week, Northfield Radio Mast. An enormous and impressive construction. I see this a lot as I drive north to Leith Hall or the airport. Also this is inspired by a feature in an Alain de Botton book on the design of pylons. (Many different varieties of pylons if you have ever looked.)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Handsewing Wol

This week, I am doing a hand sewing project of an owl kit. These are available from the shop at my work so I thought I would give one a go.

I am also planning to try and crack embroidery stitches, something I have not attempted since appalling sewing lessons in school. The teacher was a very grumpy old lady who was a real tidyness Nazi.'The back should be the same as the front'. Except you don't see the back so I don't get that. Also, isn't sewing supposed to be creative?

Once I have dared to use my new sewing machine (inherited from my friend Tor) I am on two new and challenging projects:
Japanese style stretch striped top and corduroy jacket.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Biography of the Month

Ok, so I haven't made any progress with the mammoth biography of Eleanor Marx yet.

But I am gripped by 'Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking' by Anya von Bremzen. A very dark history/biography/ culinary memoir of Soviet Russia.

It occurs to me I seem to have an overwhelming interest in books about Soviet Russia and the Communist Bloc. Maybe because it is something I remember from my childhood.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Beautiful Battenburg

I made battenburg cake! Warning: there may be a lot of cake based posts for a bit because a) I like cake b) I am glued to British Bake Off and c) it helps me to relax in the face of the upcoming referendum horror (which I actually had a nightmare about last night, not good.)

Anyway, battenburg cake is an almond flavour cake with a constructional interest. In cross-section you can see the basic form of alternating strips of pink and yellow cake, glued together with apricot jam and clad in marzipan. It was delicious and sadly devoured almost in its entirety by Alistair's work colleagues.

For historians: here is a excerpt from Wikipedia on the origins of the cake: 'The origin of the cake is unknown, with early recipes also using the alternative names "Domino Cake" (recipe by Agnes Berthe Marshall, 1898), "Neapolitan Roll" (recipe by Robert Wells, 1898),or "Church Window Cake." The link to the town of Battenburg in central Germany (the seat of the aristocratic family known in Britain as Mountbatten), is purported to have come from the marriage in 1884 of Prince Louis of Battenburg to Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.' I thought that was quite interesting.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Lovely Leith Hall again

This is the beautiful Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire, where I work on Tuesdays.

The hall dates back to the 1600s and is home to wonderful art, fascinating collections and a really interesting military museum. There are also some of the loveliest gardens in the North-East. Don't miss the Celtic Wolf Stone and the ruined churchyard!

Find out more about the hall here: Leith Hall-National Trust for Scotland

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Biography Project

The latest biography I am attempting was recommended on Radio 4, a beacon of sanity in an often weird and disturbing world.

The programme is A Good Read presented by Harriet  Gilbert. She discusses favourite books with two different guests each week. Sometimes they are classics, sometimes new books. There are always some great recommendations.

This time it was the latest biography of Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx's daughter and biographer and a noted feminist and social campaigner.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Summer Seedlings

In summer, I like to grow plants on my kitchen windowsill. An indoor garden. Usually I do herbs, in these nice galvanised containers my mum Leen bought me. Basil is the most successful, grows well and great in pasta sauces. This year, she also got me some instant salad seeds which are doing well. I am also trying cress, grown on damp paper towel. Does anyone else remember growing mustard and cress in school? I like to look at the seeds several times a day as they grow fast!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Body Balance (or not)

I am deliberately saving everyone from an image of me in my new Body Balance class. Sounds serene, a combination of tai-chi, pilates and yoga. Actually agonising and sees me flailing and sweating like a nutter. Strangely, I look forward to this. The instructor is the buffest and most muscular woman I have ever seen, which is both motivational and depressing. This is part of my knee rehab which includes horizontal cycling on Sundays, pilates and now this also. My plan is to rebuild strength and flexibility in my core and legs to help the knee and try to trim off the flab I am suffering from since I stopped running. The exercise also makes me feel better about how my body looks and works.

I am trying to work up to Mondays: Body Balance 7.30pm, Thursdays: Pilates 9.30 am (day off)  Sundays: Horizontal Cycling in gym 11am.

Does anyone have any exercise routines or recommendations to share?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

More Seen from the Car

This interesting ship-like Brutalist building is the Best Western Summerhill Hotel, on Lang Stracht in Aberdeen.

The hotel was designed in 1968 by architects Baxter Clark and Paul. Again, I suspect this one looked better on the drawing board. The top is the hotel, beneath, a rather depressing arcade of shops.

The design is described as 'a response to vernacular fishing villages' but is more like a response to a giant oil service vessel, which is appropriate to Aberdeen. This one is a love/hate building and it's hard to say where I fall, perhaps impressed/appalled would be closest.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Atomic Fashion

This is a scan of the fabric in my latest sewing project. This amazing 50s atomic style print is part of the new John Lewis retro fabric range. It reminds me of the Festival of Britain, which I love.

Over optimistically I am making a summer skirt as I had got a bit tubby (ahem) for some of my old skirts. Given the weather in Aberdeen, I don't try my summer clothes often. The skirt is 50s style too, full with box pleats.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Half timberation

I love the half timbered, from Little Moreton Hall to Morris Travellers. So I loved Strasbourg with its medieval and renaissance houses.

To backtrack, we just got back from a holiday in Strasbourg, which is in France not Germany (many people get this wrong). It is important to get this right as it can cause offence.

Strasbourg is a lovely medieval city in Alsace. It has a Germanic flavour in the many gothic castles, predominance of sausage and saurkraut and excellent white wines. All of which we enjoyed.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Clock Towers Return!

Another drawing, as I am really busy at mo.

Back to the clock towers! I drive past this every day on my way to work, it is now part of Aberdeen Hospital but was built in 1857 as a Boys Reform School.

The hospital is a typically unfriendly looking Victorian institution; a huge, gothic building with a looming tower.
Find out more here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Biography Project

I must admit that my biography project is not progressing as well as my watching all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer project...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Science Wols

Really, this post should be devoted to:
What fantastic weather we are having/me being able to speak again/the gorgeous Hugh Jackman in X-Men Days of Future Past.

All of these are good, but hard to draw, so here is a picture of scientist owls I drew instead.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Spring Fling

This week features a guest artwork, a Rural Mural from the Spring Fling event.

Last weekend we visited Alistair's parents for Craig's 30th birthday. It was the weekend of Spring Fling, an arts event held across Dumfriesshire.

You can visit artists homes, workshops, potteries and galleries. All the artists are local and there are over a hundred places to see, many in the depths of lovely countryside. We took in art, illustration, ceramics, jewellery and furniture making.

This wonderful mural was on the wall of Dalton Pottery. You can see it being created here: Mural Youtube Film.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Refashioning Jewellery

I seem to have a lot of defunct jewellery I don't wear. Things that aren't my style or I only have one of or are the wrong size or have been passed on to me.

They lie in boxes making me feel sad and guilty. Until I got a great tip from Alistair's Mum that you can have them re-made by a friendly jeweller..

This is my first project, a lone pendant earring with a cool opal which will make a great necklace.

In more happy news today, I discovered a fun exercise I can do without hurting my knee. Recumbent cycling in the gym is gentle and relaxing (thanks to the video of landscapes on the TV screen in front of the cycle chair). Today I cycled (virtually) through Rheims in France.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sushi School

This is my second blog about sushi. In the first I was eating, in the second I was making! Me and Alistair went to the Yo Sushi workshop.

Firstly, a girl showed the Japanese way to cut up a side of salmon for sushi making. With a very big, sharp knife. Then we started rolling sushi on clingfilm covered bamboo rolling mats. There were bowls of sticky rice, dried seaweed (nori) sheets and ingredients including fish roe, cucumber, avocado and egg. The rolling is tricky, it has to be tight and the rice must be very sticky. The basic principle is that a piece or nori is placed on the mat, then covered in rice well squished on and then a row of filling. You roll it using the mat and squash it together once it is a tube. Then leave to settle before slicing up.We really enjoyed it and got lots of sushi to take home.

We made these sushi: Maki (as above) ISO or inside out sushi with the rice on the outside, California Hand Roll (a cone of nori containing the filling) Gunkan (an oval of rice wrapped in nori with a topping on the open end) and Nigiri (a block of rice with topping of fish).

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Poetry pleases

Poetry. Like opera, a bit of a puzzle to me.

A mini project, to learn to appreciate and familiarise myself with poetry. Every day I read aloud a poem to enjoy. So far, we are mostly on funny poems.

Liking AA Milne, Spike Milligan, Edward Lear, Hilaire Belloc and TS Eliot.

It seems to be quite therapeutic, reading poetry. It slows you down and helps you to focus.

Does anyone have any favourite funny poems?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Seen from the Road

Really must clean my scanner screen!

This lovely castle is seen from the road as I head north towards Leith Hall.

Harthill Castle was built in the 1600s by a branch of the Leith family and was burned down again by one of them in the late 1700s in an effort to escape his creditors.The family also boasts the 'Violent Laird' but I could find no more upon him, disappointingly.

The castle looms out of woodland on the slopes of the range of hills that includes Bennachie. It is a serious fortification for, despite being pink, it is seven storeys almost without windows. In the 1970 the castle was rebuilt from a gutted ruin and is now a home. It is spectacular inside, the height of luxury and buildings in the grounds include a winecellar with secret door to a gambling den and a dancefloor which parts to reveal a swimming pool.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

April Biography

April's biography is Risotto with Nettles by Anna del Conte. I started reading this because of my Italian cookery project. It has recipes, but is also a very honest and powerful read, especially regarding her experiences in Italy in the war. The recipes are fantastic too and have inspired me to try making my own pasta.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Marvellous Marvel

I love the Marvel Avengers Films. Characters you come to know and love embroiled in fiendishly complex and insanely exciting plots. Action, romance, humour and even 'personal journey' (if that is a big thing for you).

I went to see Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier at the weekend and really loved it.  I won't comment forther other than to say that it is edge of the seat thrilling and the Captain America/Black Widow team up is brilliant and touching.

For no prize, identify this Marvel motif.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Recipes for better living

These ate the two recipes I use most. They are both fresh and healthy and easy.

Pesto sauce: buzz together parsley or basil or rocket or a combo of these with pine nuts or walnuts, olive oil and lemon juice. It should be mostly leaves. Great with pasta or gnocchi.

Hummous: buzz a tin of chickpeas with a clove of garlic, half a lemon of lemon juice, two spoons tahini and water to thin to dip consistency. Tahini is a nutty sesame sauce.

Make lots of both, you can keep them in the fridge or freeze them. Not salty or oily like the ones you buy.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Unseen Revealed

Finally, that mythical creature revealed, the Washing Up Fairy. This is especially for the ladies in my work, who struggle with the believers of the washing up fairy.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sew and Sew

One of my friends is getting married. As she doesn't want a big fuss she said 'not to buy anything to wear specially'. So I made something instead.

As she is going for a retro theme, I made a 1950s style dress. I think I overengineered it a bit with many layers, intefacing ,boning etc, it is more like a girly armour. But my most complex sew to date.

My current project is a bit different, I am restoring a rather abused 1950s cocktail dress I brought at Armstrongs in Edinburgh, my favourite vintage shop. More on this later.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Biog of the Month

This month's biog is a book I got for my birthday.

Ava Gardner - Love is Nothing is a gripping and insightful account of this brilliant and feisty Hollywood star, who does not enjoy the fame she deserves.