Monday, 25 July 2011

365 Day project

At the beginning of January, I decided to take the 365 Day Project challenge. The challenge involves taking a photograph every day for a year. I have missed a few days over the months-challenge is definitely the right word. Some days, when I am out exploring,  it is easy to find a photo, sometimes I really feel I am scraping the bottom of the barrel. I go straight to work, return home, cook dinner, get ready for work again and go to bed. Alas that is simply how things sometimes are in the middle of the week and then it is difficult to find anything inspiring to photograph. Still, it is a part of my daily routine now and I think there will be a little void in my life once the project is complete.

I had a little hiatus in uploading while my laptop was being repaired but I am happily uploading on a daily basis again. I do have photos for many of the 'blank' days which I am trying to fill in as and when I can. I am also worried about inundating my friends' walls with 40 photos in one go!

Not being able to stick at something is one of my weaknesses but I'm determined to see the project right through to the end. For those who thought I may have let this fall by the wayside...I'm still very much in the challenge :)

Here is the link to my page.

Friday, 22 July 2011

"She has an excellent sense of colour"

The immortal words said of me by an art teacher about my only artistic 'strength'.

People always seem slightly surprised that I cannot draw. I guess I look like the arty type. I have a disheveled air, I'm scatty and slightly eccentric. However I assure you that I cannot draw. (I had art classes at school until I was 14, after which time art was optional and I was freed from the weekly humiliation). I have always felt slightly shortchanged by this. There are many people in my family who are creative, who can draw and paint and have beautiful, elegant handwriting and yet for some reason the artistic genes never made it onto my branch of the family tree. It has always bothered me slightly but the current popular return to 'arts and crafts' has really exposed my complete dearth of artistic ability.

Today I had a conversation with a friend about talents. I asked her what talent she would choose to have if she had the choice and she answered singing. I told her that of all the talents to have, my chosen one would be drawing and painting. She suggested quite matter of factly that I could get an art techniques book, a children's one even, and teach myself from that. It never occurred to me that you could 'teach' yourself to draw. Certainly, you can practice and improve but I've always thought that you need a little smattering of this elusive artistic talent or ability to start with. Like a little seed that you could water and nourish. But what if you don't have the artistic seed to begin with?

At home this evening, I was looking through my memory box with my sister and I uncannily came across a little pile of simple portrait drawings which I think I did about 16-18 years ago. I had completely forgotten about the existence of the drawings and cannot recollect now what had inspired the sketching experiments. I can only assume that I had a similar 'I am artistically inadequate' tantrum in my early teens and decided to try to tackle it for once and all. Or perhaps I did them the day after the only positive thing my art teacher had to say was about my ability to successfully co-ordinate colours (which these days is more like OCD than anything artistic). I chuckled when I first saw them as they are dreadful but at a second glance I realised that, even though they are very poor, they somehow resemble people. And that's more than I think I could achieve now-a drawing that actually looks like what it's supposed to. Or is it? Afterall, it was the same hands which drew those lines and contours that now resist even holding a pencil. Could I train them to draw? Or is it a case of 'you either have it or you don't'? Should I go to WHSmith's tomorrow and purchase a sketch pad and pencil, and see what happens? Or should I save my time and energy to continue trying to discover a talent I already have but don't know about yet?

(I always like to include a photo or an illustration with a blog entry and it seems apt to include the drawings I discovered tonight. Yes, they're laughable but bear in mind that it took quite a lot of courage to post these on my blog so it might be nicer to keep any unkind comments or hysterics out of earshot, even if this blog is about how dreadful I am at art!)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Introducing...Miss Aniela, My Favourite Self-portrait Photographer

Perhaps she doesn't need an introduction, I don't know. I don't move in photography circles to know what is, and what isn't hot and pertinent. What I do know is that I love Miss Aniela. A self-taught photographer and based in Brighton (aren't all artists these days?), Miss Aniela (real name Natalie Dybisz) specialises in self-portraiture. In particular 'multiplicity', which is layering images of yourself onto one scene. She does do the most weird and wonderful manipulations but to be honest my favourites are the simpler images.

This beautiful dreamy image was created in an abandoned building

My favourite of her more well-known multiplicity images

As somebody who does not feel wholly comfortable in front of the camera, I find self-portraits quite challenging. Although it's not without joy, I must admit. Having to be both the photographer and the subject throws up quite a lot of interesting difficulties, which a landscape photo doesn't- tripod/furniture in lieu of a pair of hands, self timer, focus, your own perceived inadequacies and so forth. It is also an opportunity to be creative with yourself and as there is no one looking through the viewfinder, it's an excellent chance to cast aside any inhibitions and let yourself go.

I'm thinking of trying some Miss Aniela-style self portraits as portraiture is something I'm interested in experimenting with (alas most people I know seem reluctant to have their photo taken). If the results aren't too disastrous they may even end up here.
She has authored a book in which she shares the secrets behind some of her most famous images:

Her website:

Monday, 18 July 2011

Improved Straw Hat!

The Romantic in me has always loved straw hats. Much to my delight, their popularity in recent months has led to an influx of affordable hats in both high street shops as well as novelty seaside shops. I'm currently on my third straw hat and decided to customize this one to make it extra special. They're never accessorized exactly how I want them to be anyway.

I purchased this particular straw hat in Whitstable for a few pounds. I wanted to decorate it with blue and found a hair grip with a blue corsage which was sitting undeservedly forgotten and unloved in a box, so I dismantled that. The ribbon was a few pence from C&H Fabrics.

I can see myself wearing this hat even in the coldest depths of winter.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Rainy Sunday=White Chocolate and Mixed Nut Cookies

The BBC promised a day of light showers. The reality has been heavy, prolonged showers and weighty, overcast skies with only the occasional patch of blue to break up the cheerless nimbus clouds. There's only one thing to do on this type of rainy Sunday in my books: bake.

There is a great recipe for cranberry and white chocolate cookies in Nigella's Christmas which we adapted to mixed nuts and white chocolate cookies due to an absence of cranberries in the baking cupboard. We used a bag of mixed nuts (ours contained walnuts, peanuts-white-and red-skinned-almonds and hazelnuts). Satisfyingly crushed by my sister with a rolling pin.

The cookies are dead easy to make and take no time at all. They can also be enjoyed guilt-free for breakfast as they contain oats :D Recipe below.


Makes 30Ingredients
150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
75g rolled oats (not instant)
125g soft butter
75g dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g dried cranberries (we used a bag of mixed nuts in place of the cranberries and pecans.)
50g pecans, roughly chopped
150g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350°F/gas mark 4.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and rolled oats into a bowl.
Put the butter and sugars into another bowl and beat together until creamy — this is obviously easier with an electric mixer of some kind, but you just need to put some muscle into otherwise — then beat in the egg and vanilla.
Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and oat mixture and then fold in the cranberries, chopped pecans and chocolate chips.
Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball with your hands, and then place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and squish the dough balls down with a fork. You may need two baking sheets or be prepared to make these in two batches.
Cook for 15 minutes; when ready, the cookies will be tinged a pale gold, but be too soft to lift immediately off the tray, so leave the tray on a cool surface and let them harden for about 5 minutes. Remove with a spatula to cool fully on a wire rack.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Rant - Using a Thesaurus Does Not Make You a Good Writer

Browsing through some of the blogs on here, I've noticed that a large number of people wrongly believe that the greater number of long, obscure words you use, the better your writing. I've had to wade through much dull verbosity just to reach the centre of the meaning in a handful of particularly guilty blogs. Are there bloggers that really open a thesaurus and deliberately pick the longest, most esoteric word thinking it improves their writing? Do they really believe it makes them sound more clever? I'm certainly no writer but I do recognise that being able to convey your thoughts with light, concise prose is a far greater skill than dusting off uncommon or archaic words for use.

(I feel better now)

Monday, 11 July 2011

Underaged Lavender Water Fan

For me, few things are more evocative of summer than the rich, spicy scent of lavender. Lavender water sits side-by-side with toothpaste and conditioner on my toiletries list as a mandatory item for my dressing table.

Without a vast income I have always settled for Boots' own lavender water. That suited me fine. It is a pleasing purple colour, smells not too strongly of chemicals and resided in a reassuringly heavy glass bottle.  The price increased over the years and more often than not, I needed a note rather than a few coins to make my purchase. I willingly coughed up-lavender water is vital to my well being. Then one day I made a lunchtime trip to Boots armed with a small list, lavender water sitting proudly at the top. I bent down to pick it up from its usual place on the shelf (always the bottom one; I suspect the only other lavender water enthusiasts are ladies in their seventies) looked different...the bottle was more cylindrical, they must have changed the shape of the bottle. As I grasped the bottle, it left the shelf with an unfamiliar cheap, lightness. Plastic! They'd replaced the glass bottle with an inferior plastic one. I put the bottle back and refused to buy it. Sometimes you just have to make a stand, against all reason and rationality.

I know I am probably being stubborn for the sake of stubbornness but as far as I'm concerned something as refined and beautiful as lavender water should never, ever be sold in a cheap plastic bottle.

I switched to lavender essential oil but we didn't get along as well. I never mastered the art of scattering a restrained few drops, instead preferring to sprinkle it liberally like my old friend lavender water. No wonder I usually sleep so well, I was probably knocked out. I decided that buying the water in the plastic bottle and decanting it into a glass bottle wasn't cheating too much. In fact, I feel somehow as if I'm rescuing the water from a sordid life in plastic. After a few failed bids on eBay for perfume bottles, I visited a shop called Merchant Chandler in Maidstone, which sells an eclectic mix of home ware. Almost straight away I spied a little collection of glass decanters and a favourite was immediately apparent.

I've carefully poured 400ml of lavender water into my new glassware and gleefully added a sprig of my dad's homegrown lavender.

Sometimes paltry, unimportant things are just important.

The sprig floating romantically

My dad's lavender

Merchant Chandler's website