Monday, 28 December 2015

New Year Resolutions

It's New Year Resolution time again!

My big thing for this year is that, now my foot is finally improving, I will go back to an exercise class. Probably pilates or yoga. It will be tough after nine months of very little exercise but I need to get fit again. I am also starting the year with a full body deep tissue massage, courtesy of my Secret Santa voucher. Cue one hour of pain, but in a good way. I will heal my body.

I will also continue to attend the Storytelling Group sessions and maybe aim to tell a story at one. I find it really enjoyable and have met loads of interesting people there.

My reading project is America; history, culture, art, food whatever seems interesting. 

This has been quite a gruelling year. 
Best thing: trip to USA to see my lovely bro and sis in law and her family and go to Boston, and a fantastic anniversary trip to Venice. Also, I feel my art is really coming on and my annual calendar was well received by all in spite of my trepidation. 
Worst thing: longterm foot injury and endless pain, physio, weight gain, work issues, demoralisation. Work has been very wearing with chronic staff shortages and absence and low morale. Next year looks more positive though. 

On a wry note, my stepmum tells me in order to avoid bad luck next year I should wear more red. A good excuse for some shopping perhaps?

What are your thoughts in the year past and the year to come, readers?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Bus

Another Seen from the Road, as I drove through Broughty Ferry the other day, I saw this wonderful bus , as if it had travelled from another time. This is the Dundee Christmas Bus, which plies route 73 during the holiday. Usually the 73 (which was my favourite bus route) went all the way to Arbroath, but this veteran bus stops at Monifieth. In the 1990s, Dundee Council ran old London buses, which were brilliant as you could jump on at traffic lights and even if the bus was going slowly enough. The romance of bus travel is all about sitting upstairs at the front of a noisy, tinny old bus for me.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Big Bunnies

Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen is currently home to these gigantic inflatable, illuminated bunny sculptures as part of the Christmas Market! Person shown to scale.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Storytelling in Stonehaven

I have recently joined GAS or the Grampian Association of Storytellers. I am not a storyteller, but I am a lover of stories, fairy tales and legends. And am hoping to learn some storytelling and communication skills. The picture is my friend Pauline, telling Arabian Nights stories at the John Briggs Carpet Shop in Stonehaven. There is an annual storytelling meeting in the shop, which is an exotic treasure trove of textiles, furniture and jewellery.   

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Beautiful Boston

One of the highlights of our time in Boston was The rather cringingly named  (as a British person) Freedom Trail. You follow a red brick trail in the pavement around the old city centre, visiting various sites associated with the Boston Tea Party and the struggle against British rule (sorry about that).This is the Old State House (complete with lion and unicorn) from the colonial days. The typical buildings of old Boston are classical style in red brick and there are many gracious neighbourhoods, old churches and atmospheric graveyards. It was really fun following the trail and I would recommend it and Boston very highly. The whole city was compact, friendly, attractive and quite European.

A Final Reading Project update for 2015

So, what news of my reading projects?

The Romans will roll over into next year, as I am hoping to get SPQR by the fantastic Mary Beard for Xmas. A chunky volume that should keep my brain busy over the holiday. Mary Beard is a wonderfully witty and acerbic Oxford don, classicist and feminist. She also has a blog which is a great read.

Romans-wise I'm enjoying FR Cowell's Everyday Life in Ancient Rome, a fusty volume from 1961, but a fun read and with great line illustrations and slightly odd photos of some kind of big model of Rome. Does exactly what it says on the tin, in a readable and informative way.

For next year, I will be getting to grips with another great nation of power and empire; the USA, inspired by my recent trip to St Louis and Boston. I Realised I knew very little about America and it's history. My first book lined up is Made in America by the always excellent Bill Bryson. Recommendations appreciated.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Lately, I've been experimenting with sauces. Here are four favourites: (proportions to taste)

For stir fry or noodles, soy sauce with garlic, fresh ginger squeeze of honey and watered down with a bit of instant chicken stock. Shake and keep in a jamjar in the fridge.

For middle eastern foods and mezze: tahini paste watered down with lemon juice, water and garlic. This does a weird textural thing where it goes all white and thick when shaken, keep adding more water.

Barbecue sauce for meat: equal amounts of ketchup, worcester sauce, lemon juice, tabasco, melted butter. This is the Lady Bird Johnson sauce from my new texas cookbook. It seems like all the presidents wives had to post out recipes to enquirers! Feminist rant. Actually it looked like Lady Bird was a lot smarter than Lyndon anyway.

And a classic bechamel cheese sauce which I tried on gnocchi instead of pasta for a change.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Gnomic Chic

Spotted this lady shopping in Sainsburys. Sporting a giant bobble hat and plaid cape with armholes. A wonderfully eccentic look.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Seen from the Road

Seen from the road as I drove to Dundee for the weekend. This little Arts and Crafts church, ringed by conifers, in the busy suburb of Monifieth. The church was built in 1909 and looks like it should be in the depths of the country somewhere. Perhaps in 1909, it was.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Late Flowers

It has been a very mild Autumn. Personally I am hoping for a nice, snowy Winter. Anyway, there are still lots of beautiful flowers to enjoy. These lace top hydrangeas are in the small garden behind our flats.
Science fact: hydrangeas change colour according to the acidity of the soil. Nature's PH meter.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Mini Me

Not a very good colour on this, but this is a building I love. It is the Rannes Public Hall, in Kennethmont. Built in 1909 it is an almost exact replica of Leith Hall, at the end of the village. There seems to have been an urge for local landowners to create public buildings in the form of their own homes...
This mini-me always gives me a smile as I drive to the Hall though. An interesting Feature is the horizontal plank fixed to the roof. This is to stop a sudden load of snow dropping on people going through the door. The weather is very bad as you head up into the Aberdeenshire hills.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Cookery course

A quick post with useful tips from that cookery course I took. It really opened my eyes to not bodging, and I have had better results since.

Useful equipment: 
A spatula or spoonula for stirring is really useful, more hygenic than a wooden spoon and can get into all the corners. 
A meat thermometer will let you know when meat is hot enough to be safe, without being dried to a crisp. No more food poisoning worries or fibrous chicken.

Useful tips: 
Lay out all your ingredients and equipment on the worktop first. This helps you to be organised and feels professional.
Always wear an apron to stay clean. I just need a protective screen for my glasses now.
Measure carefully and don't make too much or put in extra leftovers which will only spoil it.
Focus and take your time!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Women Still travelling

I was asked to update on my women's travel books project. Actually, I am finding it harder to find good books to read about this, which don't repeat locations or authors.
Some of the best from the last few months....
Indonesia etc by Elizabeth Pisani, a long book, providing a fascinating insight into this huge and complex country...many islands, nationalities and religions. Really enjoyed this.
The Slow Breath of Stone by Pamela Petro retraces the travels of two architectural historians photographing historic churches in France, and their difficult and doomed relationship. Gripping and reads more like a novel.
Bury me Standing by Isabel Fonseca explores the history and travels of the Romany or Gypsy people and their unique culture. A must read to understand these much maligned and misunderstood people and their tragic story. 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Have to Have It

Bit of a shopping spree today. Went to the Clarks sale and bought a pair of comfy orthopedic shoes for work....and these. Leopard print mary janes in cow hide, patent heels. They are called Chinaberry Pop (no idea why) and are also available in patent and a rather amazing metallic leather.
 I love leopard print, although it is perhaps a bit tasteless, and I did once read a fashion advice book advising Never to wear it. I say if you like it, wear it. Do you have any dress vices, readers....perhaps glitter, sequins, feathers, outrageous shoes?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

My Favourite Season

A quick painting to celebrate my love of Autumn. The cold, sunny days, the glory of the red and gold leaves everywhere. Berries and fruits on the trees. Crunchy leaves underfoot. It makes all the other seasons seem dull besides its wonderful technicolour. 
Do you have a favourite season, blog readers? Do tell.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Mind Training

Alistair and I are currently trying to do a daily meditation training. 
We use the ipad application Headspace which has a daily talk through. It starts with your eyes closed and you scan the body from head to toes, seeing how you feel physically and emotionally. Then you do a while where you count your breathing from 1-10, this is very helpful everyday if you feel tense. Then you just let your mind wander.
It is very helpful for relaxation and for noticing if you are doing obsessive thinking about things, so your mind can move on. The idea is that you can be aware of your moods and thoughts so you are not taken over by them. It is not easy, but I am already finding it very helpful.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Venice Interlude

Off to Venice! This is the Ca' de Mosto,  one of the oldest palaces and home to the Da Mosta family. May be familiar from Francesco de Mosto star of many programmes on Italy and a particular favourite of mine. The building dates from the 1200s and is in the Byzantine style. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Winter Wardrobe

Why the colour swatch? Well, as winter seems to be coming upon us (so cold in the castle!) thinking about winter clothes. This year, I have a two pronged attack of : wearing things from the back of the wardrobe and :trying new colours. Find something you love but don't wear much (purple velvet jacket from about 1996) and wear it lots, even if initially you feel uncomfortable in something bolder, more glamorous or unusual. 
Try a new colour in something, I had an urge for a coral lipstick, a colour I have never owned in my life. I loved it, very retro and just different looking. I feel the need to counteract the long, long, gloomy Aberdeen winter with colourful and luxurious things.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Fufu with Friends

Today we went round to see Alistair's colleague Nana and her husband Patrick. They made lunch for us, the traditional Ghanain dish of fufu with light soup. Fufu is a large dumpling made of pounded cassava and plantain and is served in a spicy tomato soup. It is very tasty and filling, a real comfort food and something very new to me. 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Ugly Animals

Today we went to a lecture as part of the Techfest Festival. It was a comedy/participatory talk by the Ugly Animal Society who promote the conservation of rare but less cute creatures 'We can't all be Pandas'. 
This is a giant river salamander from China. I like amphibians and fondly remember my primary teacher Miss Lewington, who kept axolotols in our classroom, some pink some black. They fascinated me.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Midcentury Mystery

This is the appealingly midcentury modern Rubislaw Church Centre in Aberdeen. It serves as a church hall for a gaunt, blackened gothic pile a few doors up. We passed it on the way to the bowls competition. I liked the simple shapes and the textured concrete on the block on the right. Apologies for the rather minimal art, I have a stinking cold today. This little building is a mystery because I cannot fnd any information on it at all, obviously it is not thought to be of note, and yet I rather like it.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Dark Vogue

We really enjoyed seeing some of the NEOS art today and meeting real artists! Inspired by the lady who had some fantastic monotone nudes in messy ink, this is a mono watercolour. Not nude, but in a fairly skimpy outfit from my Vogue magazine. Really pleased with the moody blodgy paint here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Rainy Riverside

After I dropped my car off at the garage (again!) I walked back along the River Dee. There is a lovely walk back from the industrial estate down the hill, with a panorama over the city, then along the river edge. It was a bit drizzly and misty. This is the medieval Bridge of Dee, curse of all Aberdeen motorists as it is quite narrow and there is always a big traffic jam around it. Beautiful though.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Bread Ninja

One of the main excitements of this year was me breaking my foot. The enforced resting and time off work meant I needed something to occupy my time. Something time consuming. The time had come for me to finally confront breadmaking. I am now getting quite good at bread. This is cinammon rolls from my lovely new book New York; Cult Recipes. I like bread that required twisting, spiralling and other arty assembly methods.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Aberfeldy Adventure

The weekend before last, we spent a week in Aberfeldy with Alistair's family. One of our trips was to the lovely village of Kenmore, which sits on the banks of the spectacular Loch Tay. Sadly, the gigantic gothic castle which dominates the valley is not open, but I was very taken with this little cottage on the High Street. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Autumnal wardrobe

A rare wardrobe post. Today, in a fit of gloom brought on by increased dress size and feelings of age I despaired of my wardrobe. So pepped myself up by doing a summer/autumn transition, which I think is justified in September. One of my prize new autumn items is this vintage tweed jacket by Caldene, from Armstrongs Vintage in Edinburgh. I like to go for a bit of a boho country look in Autumn. It's always cold in the castle so this could be just the thing. 
Also really enjoying this eccentric vintage blog, very inspiring...

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Cantucci biscotti

Inspired by British Bake Off's biscuit week, I made Cantucci from Anna del Conte's Gastronomy of Italy. This is a gorgeous book which explores the simple local dishes of Italy, their origins and significance. These are a twice baked biscuit flavoured with the intriguing and exotic combo of saffron, fennel, almonds and pine nuts. They are also fat free so can be enjoyed any time. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Retro Gaming

Once a month, we meet up with friends to play Dungeons and Dragons. This is the original roleplaying adventure game, in a medieval fantasy setting. There are always far too many snacks. This time, our friend Tor suggested a retro 70s snacks theme (as medieval snacks are probably things like turnips and boar). She created this 'porcupine' of cheese and pineapple displayed on a half grapefruit. It was surprisingly nice.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Fasque Gothick

We visited the beautiful Fasque House today. Fasque is a fascinating early Gothick house of about 1809 which used to be lived in by Prime Minister Gladstone in the C19th. It is rarely open to the public so I was very excited to visit. What really caught my imagination though was the huge walled garden, tucked away in the woods. This little house at the centre of the walled garden was built as an apple store (!) and is now the most romantic teeny holiday cottage. Already fantasising about staying there...

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


Before and after pics of new bedroom carpet. See the horrible crushed faded pink carpet.
We had to move so much stuff, books and all those things you keep under the bed (spare pillows, duvets, luggage, inflatable mattress...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Weekend of Bread

This weekend I made the leap into sourdough bread. Sourdough is made with a starter of a flour and water mix which you leave to ferment and creates natural yeast. I keep mine in the fridge to minimise feeding. (It needs to be halved and topped up or fed about once a week). Sourdough takes a long time with two rises of several hours, or overnights in the fridge. 
I made half the dough into English muffins, which you fry in a pan and half into a flatbread topped with zaatar (Lebanese thyme herb mix). Both were lovely, I will be doing proper sourdough bread soon and experimenting with more breakfast foods...crumpets are my favourite.
I also made a sweet loaf with dried fruit which I make every week as a healthy cake alternative. Great with a mug of tea.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Rainy in Fittie

When my Mum, Leen, was visiting last weekend, she said she wanted to go to the seaside. This is fascinatingly varied in Aberdeen as you go through the industrial working docks, the fairground and cinema complex (and the Ladyboys of Bangkok marquee) and then arrive at the long, open beach overlooking the surging North Sea. If you continue down the beach it is amazing to then find the tiny, quirky village of Fittie. This was built in about 1820 as a planned community for fishing people. It is delightful, with little cottages, courtyards and tarry sheds for fishing gear (seen above). These days lots of arty people seem to live there and the sheds range from the decrepit to the pretentious to the kitsch (gnomes or kissing lip prints). A magical place.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Magical Moon Gate

This is the wonderful Moon Gate in the gardens of Leith Hall. The Hall has amazing gardens including a mountainous rockery, spiral maze, fruit and vegetable garden and woodlands with a lake. The Moon Gate was inspired by Japanese Gardens but also has a rather Hobbit like sensibility to it somehow.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Women Travel Books

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit. This is an exceptionally interesting book with an unpromising title. She covers how humans evolved to walk, famous walkers, the benefits of walking along with more philosophical considerations like the appreciation of landscape and nature, exploration, and politics. I was especially grabbed by feminist critiques of thoughts on human evolution, why walking puts you in touch with society, the development of the idea of the healthy outdoors and early social commentators walking the country in the C18th. Fascinating book to dip in and out of, full of thought provoking ideas.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Leibster Award a Quiz from Steff

A blogging questions challenge from my friend Steff. Here blog address is below and it is really worth reading. Also thank you for your kind words Steff. I am not very blogliterate so apologies if I missed out all the links and things.
Please feel free to comment or share your own thoughts...

1. My favourite musician....I am not a knowledgeable music person but would have to go with Elvis or Kate Bush. I love a really distinctive voice.
2. I don't believe in love at first sight, it is the person's character that makes you love them. Lust at first sight maybe!
3. My happiest childhood memory is a long walk in West Bridgeford with my family, finding frogspawn along the old railway track in the summer. Generally I tend not to remember things though, I have a terrible memory.
4. Something I'm proud of is still getting a First in my degree, it took everything I had. (See below). 
5. My favourite ice cream flavour is salted caramel, especially from the restaurant Montparnasse 1900 in Paris.
6. And my fantasy place to live is a flat on the left bank in Paris, near an outdoor market.
7. My book for a desert island would be Alice in Wonderland. I always return to it, it is almost like a religious text for me. I like the weirdness, it is also obsessive which appeals to my aspergery tendencies.
8. But I don't believe in God.
9. I am an Aries and find astrology entertaining but am not a believer.
10. I started blogging in 2010. The paintings were a challenge from my husband Alistair as I had been in a massive creative block since I finished my design degree in 1996. I haven't done a big painting yet though, they are just little sketches.
11. I don't have any really unusual hobbies now but I can do Lancashire Clog Dancing which I learned at school. Sadly it is all ceilidh up here which I am very bad at. 

Fairy Tale

Yesterday I was at Craigievar Castle for the day. I used to work here a few years ago when the castle was being restored. Craigievar is a frankly unbelievable confection in sugar pink which looks like a giant marshmallow. Inside, it is a maze of tiny quirky rooms. The building dates from the early 1600s and was the home of the Forbes family. It was lived in into the C20th and yet has no lighting or heating. A time capsule. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Marvellous Mausoleum

A few weeks ago, I went with some friends from work to view the Fraser Mausoleum. This small classical gem graces a quiet, sunlit graveyard near the pretty church of Cluny. The mausoleum was built for Elyza Fraser of Castle Fraser by her lifelong friend James Byers, antiquary and little known architect. It is a very beautiful and moving site, the last resting place of the now extinct Frasers of Castle Fraser. A group is raising money to restore this rare and special building.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Fantastical Fruits

When I had broken (ok, ligament damaged) my foot, I went through a few weeks feeling really rubbish...feeble, pasty and bloated. Cue a serious healthy eating bender. Part of this involves replacing snacks with fruit, and buying as many weird fruits as possible. Stopping off in Tesco, I managed this haul of lychees, kiwis, flat peaches and granadillas. I can report that lychees are odd but delicious but that the granadilla is full of grey frogspawny stuff. My kiwi drawing resembles some enraged hairy potato...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Travel Reading

Just an update on my travel reading...I have gone through a few women travellers books since I last posted. 
My favourites were Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn. Martha is a famous American journalist and writes very sarcastically and entertainingly about the worst places she has ever been,mostly in the 40s and 50s. China during the Civil War in the 1940s was the worst. Worst companion prize went to her African safari driver who couldn't drive and hated the countryside.
Transwonderland by Noo Saro Wira was my other favourite, about her home country of Nigeria. Noo's father was the murdered democracy campaigner Ken Saro Wira. She writes very movingly about her love for her country, but her frustrations with it's corrupt politics and endemic poverty.
I like travel books that discuss the politics and history of places, looking beneath the surface rather than many which seem to be about 'aren't they funny here' or 'my dream cottage in Provence'. I am also annoyed by priveliged people going out to discover themselves or partake in a spiritual journey, grossly self indulgent.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Go for Baroque

On Saturday we had a lovely day in the local market town of Inverurie, buying model tanks, local strawberries and cheeses. The small country town is dominated by the spire of the town hall which is bizarre in the extreme. Looking like something from a wedding cake, or from the Taj Mahal, it was designed by J Russell Mackenzie in 1862, inspired by the baroque churches of Vanburgh and Hawksmoor in London.  
Also one for my clock towers series!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Comic Con

Met these lovely girls in the queue to go to Granite City Comic Convention. Can you recognise who they are dressed as? (I only recognise the one on the right). Sadly the queue was in fact so long we didn't get in, there were thousands of people all dressed up, really wonderful. Enjoyed seeing all the outfits...lots of Judge Dredds, Iron Men, Captains America, Batmen, Spidermen, characters from Avengers, Japanese Manga, Adventure Time, Sandman...
As we didn't get in we went for lunch in Bella Italia instead which was really nice.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Stonehaven Getaway

This weekend we had a night over in Stonehaven. Our hotel, the Ship Inn, is the white building on the harbour. We went for a fantastic seafood meal in the Tolbooth which is just round the harbour to the right. Wonderful weather and we struggled up a precipitous path to the hilltop on Sinday morning, to look over the village and the spectacular clifftop castle of Dunnotar.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bagel Bash

I made bagels! They are topped with nigella or black onion seeds for the look of the thing. Bagels are fun to make, the dough is like playdough which you handshape into rings and then boil. Nice arty food pic...

Monday, 18 May 2015

Local Colour

As I drove home, I was struck by the lovely colours of Spring. These are the colours of all places have their own colour scheme? Pink and Grey stone, yellow flowers, fresh green for deciduous trees new in leaf and dark green for pines.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Brilliant Bread

One of the few good things about my enforced time off with my foot was the opportunity to try breadmaking. I am using the book Brilliant Bread by James Morton. James was a finalist on British bake off and was robbed, in my opinion. Does it always have to be about cake?
So far, I have made a sweet fruited loaf, a bread with walnuts and today am on a rye with raisins. James favours a very wet sticky dough which is hard to knead as it goes everywhere and three resting periods. Takes about three hours from start to finish. It is very absorbing and relaxing. I have yet to move on to the world of sourdough although I am trying to get a starter.
I would be interested to know about how anyone else makes bread? Wet or dry dough? Rest before kneading? Sourdough starter cultivation...
Any tips...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


This is Mither Tap, the tallest of a range of hills known as Bennachie, which I drive past on my way to work. They are spectacular and exposed to shifting weather. I liked the colours with the gorse in flower and the rain coming.
Mither Tap means mother top and was a sacred hill in ancient times due to its breast shape. There is an iron age fort on the summit.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Summer Ball in the Spring

Mainly for Leen, who I couldn't email this too. The PWC Ball was this Friday at the Chester Hotel in Aberdeen. Cue dinner suits, glamour and in our friend Nana from Hana's case, national dress. Among the attractions was a giant photo booth and props. See Alistair's Blofeld and cat impression. Below, new dress, chosen to avoid visibility of comfy shoes. Love it so much. I always look really weird and tense in photos though.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Yummy Yorokubi

Finally went for a birthday/ 19th dating anniversary lunch at Yorokobi by CJ, a great Japanese/ Korean restaurant in Aberdeen. I love their bento boxes, a carefully arranged lunchbox of different foods.
A: rice, b: miso soup with seaweed and tofu bits, c: soy sauce d: salted edamame beans e: grapes f: varies, this is marinated beef, Alistair had sushi and chicken skewers.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


A quick update on the footy situation. I am delighted to say that today I could walk without pain. So I went into town with Alistair. Admittedly, I didn't get any further than the library because I seem to be a bit wobbly and tired on the leg still. But I was quite happy there, looking at books for my women's travel reading and browsing cookbooks. I still have four days off so I might try some breadbaking from The Fabulous Baking Boys, a nice bread and cookery book I borrowed. Aberdeen Central Library is a lovely building, grand Edwardian classicism outside and incongrously cosy 60s wood and funky lights within. I managed to drive out,which was very encouraging, but my foot was bit achey so Alistair drove me back. I am ashamed to say I am a terrible backseat driver, I could feel my foot doing the 'brake' the whole way!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Stardust Chateau

This fantastic house is not, in fact, a gorgeous French Chateau, it is another masterwork by Mr Henry Clutton (see previous post). And it appears in the film Stardust, from a few years ago. Minley Manor is a hugely overwrought Renaissance style Victorian house. I'm not sure I've done it justice here, I didn't even start on the polychromatic patterned brickwork.
This was quite a scary paint as I did a proper perspective drawing to get the left bit right and then started slathering wet on wet paint around. I almost chickened out and left it as just a drawing.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Indian Interlude

So, I am still sitting on the sofa with my foot up, getting better, but missing all the lovely weather and not being able to do much. You'd think all this enforced rest would be great, but actually it is quite frustrating.

Staying sane, for me, involves a set of ongoing small projects. 

Every day, I watch one of the excellent Yale University online lecture videos on Roman Architecture (still loving my Romans project).
Women Travel books features Around India in Eighty Trains by Monesha Rajesh. I am particularly enjoying this, as I am fascinated by India and still feel the romance of trains. This reached a strange conjunction with my enthusiasm for Wes Anderson films as I watched Darjeeling Limited, about three brothers travelling through India on a train.
Thoughts on travel: choice of travel companion is the most important thing, witness one author being in India with a militant atheist (awkward) and another being stuck on a yacht in South Asia with a guy who wanted to go out with her but who she wasn't interested in (even more awkward). I think it is the same with any holiday, some people would just drive you insane. I'm not sure I am a very easy travel companion, I am neurotically organised and a huge culture vulture with a very low boredom threshold. In Darjeeling Limited one brother has a P.A. who puts a laminated itenary under his door every morning. I thought that was ideal.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Clock at Cliveden

For my clocktower series. No, I've never been to Cliveden House, but I wanted to do an obsessive drawing as I am bored on the sofa with my dodgy foot. This is from the essential Victorian Country House by Mark Girouard, my favourite architecture book. 
This work of sheer deranged genius is by Henry Clutton, an unfamous architect. A colleague of the more famous Victorian architect William Burges, he converted to Catholicism and mainly designed churches, before retiring due to blindness. But this is a mindboggling building, dwarfing the rest of the house...look at that spiral staircase....this is what I love about Victorian architecture, where they throw the rulebook away and go big, bodging styles together, just getting crazy.
From an art point of view this isn't a big colourful one, it's about the drawing, but I am trying to improve my skies. I'm also using my grandad George's watercolour set, which is lovely to work with.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Working Around It

I have two parties coming up in the next month...a 40th birthday and Alistair's works do (which is always quite sophisticated and held in a boutique hotel). And I have a dodgy sprained foot which is lingering and needs to be in a very comfy shoe. So usually I would go for a retro knee length number, but I needed long to hide the shoes. 
Found this fantastic green supervillainess dress in john Lewis and it has converted me to maxi length.
I used to love the long and traily when I was an art student and I discover I still love the drama of a mass of fabric. 
Be brave! Try something you don't think you'd may love it.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Seen from the Tracks

This week, I have been mostly travelling on public transport, due to car breakdown. On the beautiful train journey from Aberdeen to Insch I spotted a wonderful local house; Keith Hall, looming pinkly from the trees and lawns of a country estate. The house dates from the 1600s and is unusual in being more of a renaissance mansion than a castle. It is now luxury flats and I long to live there. And here it is, in another first for me, a wet on wet watercolour in tubes technique.

Following my lack of rapport with Alwn Crawshaw, I am trying Jean Haines book Painting Colour and Light in Watercolour. She gets very messy with lots of abstract blobs and blodges, which I like. 
I can also say that travelling by train is lovely, if expensive, getting lifts off coworkers is brilliant, but the bus service is really awful. Also a lot of very early starts and freezing in the cold and wet. I am really hoping my car will be back on the road soon.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

How to Cook Perfectly with Electricity 1966

Fantastic cartoons in this retro book I borrowed from my dad. I've made all these cake problems. I have a challenge to cook the recipes from this book and there's some weird stuff in it. Liver souffle anyone?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Not painting like Alwyn Crawshaw

Off work today with a sprained ankle, staying busy without moving. 
I thought I'd try an exercise from the watercolour book Learn to Paint with Alwyn Crawshaw. I picked up a second hand copy of this at a church booksale, as I remembered having the book many years ago. The painting started well, but then I felt it got bogged down in detail, his are quite precise and realistic. For me, that's not what I enjoy so I got in there with some scrawly pencil and runny paint and now I quite like it. 
I did try using some bolder colours though, which was fun as I am usually a bit fixated on grey, blue, olive green and reddish brown. Backgrounds are also a bugbear of mine, so maybe some progress there too.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Wolf Stone

This may count as a Seen from the Foot....this fantastic Celtic stone known as The Wolf Stone can be found in the grounds of Leith Hall. It was found nearby, buried in the ground. The stone depicts a ferocious wolf (possibly a tribal symbol?) a bronze mirror and comb and an unidentified rectangle of curvilinear ornament. 
The stone was formerly displayed in a small lean-to, but is now back in pride of place at the entrance to the beautiful gardens.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Travel Reading

I am currently reading and enjoying Travels without my Aunt by Julia Llewellyn Smith. 

The author revisits locations of Graham Greene stories. Some are horrific (Sierra Leone) some interesting ( Cuba) some less exotic (Brighton). She stays in the hotels he stayed in and visits locations from the novels. This all sounds pretty cosy except that Greene was very drawn to the seedy, dysfunctional and marginal places of the world, there siting his seedy, marginal and dysfunctional characters...So there are some very scary trips to places like Haiti. Even in the most awful places though, like Greene, she finds interesting people and unexpected moments of beauty. I was interested in the idea of visiting places from books and how it deepens your understanding of books and author.

 I have read Travels with my Aunt which I really loved, but feel I should read some more...maybe Our Man in Havana.... 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Seen from the Road: Horatio's House

Beautiful Wardhouse is on my drive out to Leith Hall near Insch. I get very upset passing this as it has been a ruin since 1953 when it was sold and gutted. But the sun always seems to shine off the lovely classical front as it dominates the valley from a wooded hillside. 

Why Horatio? Well, Admiral Gordon, who lived there, was the model for fictional seafaring hero Horatio Hornblower. The house also incorporates a reference to King Arthur who was supposed to have held court at the nearby sacred hill of Dunideer. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Blog Twin

  Alistair is back on his blog! Enjoy it by clicking on the link here:  Blog


Since I got back from my holiday, it feels like Spring has really arrived! Warm, sunny, and the crocuses and daffodils are out. I love the colours of spring flowers; yellow, pink and purple. These are so vibrant with the contrast of the purple petals and orange stamens. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

February Reading

I am just completing another Women's Travel book; Gladys Reunited by Sandi Toksvig. The book follows Sandi, the comedian and writer, as she travels America meeting up with childhood friends. Sometimes touching, sometimes dark, a great read. Sandi is funny and poignant on women's roles and life choices, sexual politics and ageing. Strongly recommended.

In my Romans Project I really enjoyed The Bbc iplayer programme Timewatch Guide Roman Britain. The programme is a compliation of bits of old history programmes, from Mortimer Wheeler and his pipe, through Marxists and Feminists to the present day. Presented by Dr Alice Roberts, it has interesting historical tidbits and also explores how the interpretation and presentation of the Romans mirrors our own politics and views. From parallels with the British and Roman Empires, through views of Boudicca, first as barbarian, then as British freedom fighter, Feminist Icon and who may not actually exist at all. Really interesting programme.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ancient Sites

This is Carlungie Earth House or Souterrain in Angus. I had a spare half hour on my way down to Dundee last week, so went to see it. Ardestie Earth House was also signposted, but I could not find it in the maze of country lanes. The earth house is a network of curved tunnels, now open to the air. The picture is an aerial view as I liked the contrast of their weird shapes with the square enclosure that surrounds it; old and modern cultures and their different designs and forms. Carlungie dates from the Roman period and an amphora and jewelled brooch were found there. It is thought that the tunnels were for storage and a round hut stood in the centre. It was a very quiet and mysterious site by an old, tumbledown farm.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Another sewing pattern picture

I really like these ones, my favourite is the black dress with jewelled straps.