One of my resolutions for 2016 was to draw more, I’m not at all confident with my drawing but I know when I do it daily I do improve and I do get more confident. Creativebug’s #cbdrawaday with Lisa Congdon was a fantastic opportunity to practice and I could definitely see an improvement over the month, I was also getting a lot more adventurous. You can see in the slideshow below how my drawings (mainly) improved over the month, the first one was ‘tree’ and it’s a bit cringeworthy, I just drew the trees Lisa talked us through on the video but with subsequent videos, she encouraged us to draw our own designs. So with each drawing, the first four or five drawings under the title are drawings I’ve copied from Lisa and the rest are my own.

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I found that I particularly liked drawing natural things (most of the time), my favourite drawing from the month is the mushroom one above, which is from day 10 and I was experimenting with coloured pencils. I also tried watercolour but I am very much a novice with that and I got some of my colour mixing wrong, that succulent at the top is not meant to be that colour and it had been looking so good when I’d just painted the green bits too *pouts*.


For the rest of the time, if I wanted watercolour, I used watercolour pencils, I particularly had fun when it was the houseplant day.


#cbdrawaday has definitely encouraged me to do some more drawing and I have done some but it’s so cringingly embarrassing, they’re definitely not going to see the light of blog. I think I definitely draw better if I have someone talking me through some examples first to warm me up. But I will keep trying and I will keep taking more online art classes.

The new Europe 1600-1815 gallery at the V&A


The V&A have just reopened their Europe 1600-1815 gallery and it’s lovely. They’ve arranged a lot of the exhibits so that it looks like a snapshot of the interior of someone’s house, so it’s like stepping back into time. You could imagine everything having a story attached to it, the things those pieces must have seen.

The bottom photo is of my favourite room, a bedroom from north-west France built sometime between 1682-1694 but was already out of date, as it echoed styles from the 1630s. You can actually go and sit in this room, it is dark and very atmospheric.


As well as lots of nice, dark and atmospheric stuff, there were some absolutely gorgeous, colourful, intricately designed pieces.


There was also lots of great art, I love portraits sometimes, you’re literally looking into the face of someone from the past. This bust though was funny, it was part of a series from the sculptor Messerschmidt, illustrating different states of mind and sensory reactions, although apparently his interest in extreme expressions may have been due to the psychiatric and digestive disorders he suffered from, so not that funny then. This one is called ‘Strong smell’.


And an elephant, as I have a fondness for them due to work reasons.

I also saw two photography exhibitions at the V&A today as well; Richard Learoyd, which was brilliant, giant photos made with a camera obscura and developed using a technique that meant each photo was only one of a kind, no means of reproducing it. The photos were mainly models and I loved how Learoyd often focused on the hands, shown in glorious painterly detail, whereas everything else was in increasing soft focus. I also saw the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition, the photos from that were nice, again it was nice to see the faces of people from the past and Cameron often photographed her subjects in much more natural poses than what you would normally associate with photographs from that era but what was really interesting was the story behind the photos, how her career developed from relatively late in life and how she broke all these stuffy photography ‘rules’.

Shard / Borough Market / Tate Modern – December 2015

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I had an appointment today in a part of London which I used to live close to and therefore used to be very familiar with but I haven’t gone there for quite a while. So it was good to get back to my old stomping grounds but it’s changed, quite a bit. For example, when I used to live nearby, the Shard was but a twinkle in an architect’s eye, I came out of the ‘back’ entrance at London Bridge Station and wow, look at it! I’m so used to seeing it as a familiar part of the central London skyline now, yet I’ve never really got up close to it. It certainly wasn’t there last time I walked that way out of London Bridge!

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I’ve been having urges to go back to Borough Market for quite a while, I shockingly haven’t been there for about 13 years. Well, it was quite a bit gentrified last time I went but now, it’s been gentrified to the max, which is a little bit of shame really. It’s still nice though. When you walk through the passage to get to the market, after coming off the cold, grey, damp road outside, it’s like walking into the pages of a Neil Gaiman book, the lights and oh the smell, the smell is gorgeous.

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Last time I was there I remember loads of fruit and veg stalls and florists and butchers and fishmongers and although you can still find a few fruit and veg stalls and quite a few butchers and fishmongers (couldn’t see any florists, but that may just be the time of year), everything is stylised to the max, to such an extent it may be a little too much style over substance. I remember a lovely fruit and veg seller, who was still there but back in the old days (yep, I’m old), they just seemed to have more stock and more choice, yet without having to resort to selling some really insipid looking out of season strawberries, that I saw them selling today. As for the butchers, well there were some but you better like Italian ham ….. One of the things though that has always been a constant is the excellent bakery stalls, there was even one there today where there was literally a crowd of people standing round the doughnuts Instagramming them! Also very tempting looking there were some lovely looking food stalls, which smelt so good, it must be lovely, if a little expensive, to work nearby and go there to get your lunch. Also lovely and extremely tempting were the sweet stalls, I went to the famous liquorice stall there and had to get some, their salted liquorice diamonds are divine!

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After Borough Market I walked over to Tate Modern, which is relatively close by because I wanted to pop in to see the new Turbine Hall installation (that is one of my top favourite things about being a Londoner, if I just want to pop into a gallery to see just one thing for 15 minutes, you can, whereas if you live further away, going to say the Tate Modern would be an all day affair).

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I’ve been intrigued by this installation since reading about it and had hoped to have seen it earlier than now but actually I don’t think I’ve missed much. Basically, the work, by Cruzvillegas, called Empty Lot, has taken soil from parks and gardens across London, put it into these containers, put it under grow lights, watered it regularly and now what ever is in the soil will grow (nothing has been planted into the soil deliberately). It certainly is interesting, it’s interesting to see the colour and texture variations of the soil across different containers and how some of them are now growing quite bountifully, whereas others are still quite bare. I spotted one container (one of the bountiful ones) that looked like it had exactly the sort of weeds my garden has! I wonder what they’ll do if any cannabis plants start appearing? Anyway, it was a little disappointing in that I had hoped that we’d be able to walk amongst the containers, but you can’t. Still, it will definitely be interesting to go back in the spring to see how much the growth has progressed.



I thought I’d practice my Illustrator a bit, so I’ve been following along with Brad Woodard‘s Skillshare class on Digital Illustration: Communicate with Color, Pattern and Texture. I have no formal art training, in fact I hated art at school (which probably had a lot to do with one absolutely awful art teacher and the rest of the department not being that inspiring either) and I always thought I was the scientific black sheep of a quite artistic family (my mum was a formally trained artist, my sister and my dad good too). But I guess I discovered my ‘artistic side’ through embroidery and it’s been slowly spreading out from there. Anyway, so the class was useful, as it covered some colour theory that I didn’t really know and also some technical stuff with Illustrator that I hadn’t really learnt before, unfortunately most of which I couldn’t really apply to this picture, as when I did, it looked worse! But that’s the style this picture has turned out to be, there was some very useful stuff on natural vector shapes which I will be using in the future.

Anyway, the topic of the picture was to be either quiet or loud. I chose quiet, inspired by this photo from Camp Brand Goods. I think I’ve more, through my use of colour, managed to convey ‘cold’ more effectively than ‘quiet’ but it’s not exactly going to be that noisy out there on a lake. When I look at this picture I can imagine I’m hearing the wind and the cry of distant birds and waves lapping against the shore.

I am not 100% happy with the result, the bank on the left hand side of the picture looks particularly iffy, but still, practice, practice, practice!



Some of the guys at work were doing Inktober, so I thought I’d play along too. Now most of these aforementioned guys at work happen to be professional illustrators and designers (needless to say, I work in a different department), so it was a bit like a minnow playing with the sharks but they’re very nice sharks and to be honest, not that shark like. Anyway, I’m really glad I did, I really enjoyed drawing every day and I think if you look over the month I have improved a bit, although there were still some extremely dodgy days towards the end of the month (say no more about that teapot).

I chose to use the exercise as a daily diary, recording something each day, in particular, that had made an impression on me, even if the thing that made an impression on me that day was the fact that I did some cleaning. And as I have enjoyed both the daily drawing and finding something diary like to draw, I will definitely be continuing into November.

London Design Week at the V&A

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It’s currently London Design Week, the event is being held at a number of locations across the capital, but there are a number of pieces on display at the V&A. I was in the area so I thought I’d pop in and of course explore some of the other areas of the V&A too.

In the photo above you can see Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel in the background, looking like a giant Christmas tree. Barford has cycled around London photographing shop fronts and he used those images to create miniature china shops. He then created a pyramid out of them, placing the most run down looking shops at the bottom and the most expensive shops at the top.

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Also at the front entrance was Zotem, a giant pillar with embedded crystals.

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The pillar was massive and I wanted to go and see the top of it, so I walked up to the ceramics section (an area I haven’t been too before) to find the top. The whole thing must have been a nightmare to install.

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Being up in the ceramics section, of course I had to go and have a look. I loved how the section felt like more of an active place of study, as you could see studios and ladders and boxes of stuff to be sorted. I’m not a massive ceramics fan but I did like these two pieces.

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Suspicious lady on a plate is looking at you suspiciously

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I loved the colours and design on this one

And being on the top floor the views out of the windows were amazing.

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I also liked how being in a part of the museum I hadn’t been in before, I came across some random surprises, like this piece (which had to be inexpertedlly videoed to get it’s full impact).

I really wanted to see Mise-en-abyme, which is part of London Design Week, installed on one of the walkways.

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And whilst looking for that I stopped by to check out some of the iron work.

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I didn’t get to see all of the London Design Week stuff, which is a shame, as it’s obviously not going to be there long. The festival runs until 27th September.

Taking Stock – May

Making : I’m currently doing @CraftingGeek‘s #30for30crafting again and again using it as an opportunity to work on some much neglected wips, so far I’ve just been working on some very ropey looking leg warmers, I started working on them in March, my first ever go at using dpns and ooh I am not a big fan. I am also still working on that house cross stitch from Modern Folk Embroidery, I’m quite enjoying that.



Cooking : I am currently attempting to do The Hormone Reset Diet, as I type I’m on day 5 and I’m not sure I agree with it, some of the figures don’t seem to add up right, like needing to eat less than 49g of carbohydrate a day and yet at the same time 450g of vegetables, the book does say to subtract fibre from your carbohydrate total but still, the maths doesn’t work out. Also I think just 49g of carbohydrate a day is not going to be particularly good for you and you’re meant to eat a ridiculous amount of protein that I just can’t afford. So I’m currently following the spirit of the diet but if you see me blogging about cake in the next two weeks and a bit I’ve fallen off the band wagon majorly. I still think restricting major food groups without good medical or ethical reasoning is not a good idea but I need to do something about shifting some weight so…. So to the answer the question what am I cooking? The answer is not much, just a lot of soup basically.

Drinking : T2 have opened a store in town, they’re Australian loose leaf tea peddlers and their shop is like walking into an Aladdin’s cave of tea. Now I’m not a traditional tea drinker but I do like my herb tea and I keep meaning to get myself into green tea. I now have a jar of their mint tea and a box of their lemongrass tea, although I haven’t opened the latter yet as I’m currently finishing off my current box of Teapigs Lemongrass tea (which comes in tea bags). Teapigs Lemongrass tea is lovely but hard to get hold of, it’s also quite expensive, so I’m glad T2 have arrived. A box of loose leave lemongrass tea from T2 does cost more but I think I’ll get more cups out of it. I love lemongrass tea, it’s a bit of an acquired taste but it’s so refreshing and it’s meant to be good for you to. It can be hard to find lemongrass tea on its own with any other added flavour, so Teapigs and T2 are godsends. I’m looking forward to trying more T2 tea but I think I’ll be steering clear of some of their herb tea blends as I noticed reading the back of the packets in their store that a lot of them have added sugar, you don’t need that in herb tea.


Reading: I’m still binging my way through Stuart MacBride’s back catalogue, although I will admit the one I’m currently on, Dark Blood, isn’t quite as good as the others. I am currently listening to the audiobook of Child 44, having meant to read it for years, sigh if I’d realised it was by the same author as The Farm, which I did not like, I may have put off reading Child 44 indefinitely, ok it is better than The Farm but still, I’m not loving it.

Wanting: time to speed up and I know I shouldn’t be wishing my life away.

Looking: I was at the ‘What is Luxury?’ exhibition at the V&A recently, some beautiful exhibits.

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Playing: I’m still die hard Plants vs Zombies through and through but I’ve recently discovered Does Not Commute, a driving game with a difference. It’s very hard / I’m crap at it (take your pick) but that makes it an ideal game for me, as I’ll pick it up, play it for one round and then, most of the time, put it down again, so it’s not a time waster but by picking it up a few times a day I manage to get further and further through each round, as I slightly improve with practice. It’s been a nice reminder for the general principle in life that practice does make ‘perfect’, as now when I play the game I’m completing bits easily that I struggled with a few days previously.

Deciding: I’m due a number of operations, likely towards the end of this year and into the next and I’ve had to make a number of decisions, some of which are a bit “argh am I doing the right thing?”. Never before in my life have I quite had to be my own advocate as I’m having to be now.

Wishing: my time away (WHICH I SHOULD NOT BE DOING) as I just want these operations over and done with.

Enjoying: Stuart MacBride books (most of the time).

Waiting: (see wanting, deciding and wishing)

Liking: a part of my job where I’m working with wonderful clients for a brilliant cause, it makes all the difference.

Wondering: what the next 5 years is going to be like, not brilliant I suspect.

Loving: seeing my son really enjoy a recent residential trip, once again he’s doing and loving stuff I never imagined he’d grow up to do when he was younger.

Pondering: where my life is leading.

Considering: not much to be honest, planning ahead is not my forte at the moment.

Buying: nothing, I’m broke.

Watching: the alternative Channel 4 election coverage was pretty good in a spoonful of sugar to help the bitter pill go down sort of way. I’m still watching and loving Critical and I’m sad that they haven’t renewed Banished. And I am of course watching Game of Thrones.

Hoping: that one of my ops is going to be sooner rather than later.

Marvelling: at how brilliant the NHS is and if those toffee nosed gits hurt it even more …….

Cringing: at the election results last night.

Needing: the housework fairy, oh yes, sorry that’s me.

Questioning: some of my treatment plan but thanks to a nice GP hopefully it’s going to get changed.

Smelling: Boy Lacer’s apple tree, the blossom from it has been smelling really nice this year, it’s been a pleasure to go into that part of the garden.

Wearing: tshirts and knee length skirts, even if the weather has turned cold again and consequently meaning I’m cold again.

Following: @StuartMacBride (funnily enough), @abbeyglassenberg (as she has some fantastic creative business advice), @thecatreviewer (for cute and funny reviews of cats you meet in the street) and @Cassetteboy (because he’s a genius).

Noticing: that it’s the people who aren’t on social media (or ok, maybe they’re on Facebook) who are making the decisions on who runs this country.

Knowing: that the next 5 years aren’t going to be brilliant for this country.

Thinking: I need to get a move on and get ready to go to the dentist.

Admiring: Ed Miliband, I think he did a brilliant job in the face of rabid right wing, biased, non dom, tax avoiding owned press. I hope he picks himself up from this and continues to fight for what he believes in.

Sorting: not enough, I’ve let my paperwork pile up again.

Getting: nothing (see buying).

Bookmarking: various pages in the hormone diet book, so that I can go and double check the figures I’m not following.

Coveting: most of the contents of Cass Art.

Disliking: the new government.

Opening: soup.

Giggling: at Stuart MacBride books.

Feeling: disjointed.

Snacking: the kids YoYo rolls, which are healthy but still probably ‘way too much’ carbs (why am I on this diet?).

Helping: I’m still helping with the school leavers hoodies, it is taking a surprisingly long time.

Hearing: The Show Poniesstill.

**You can play along with Taking Stock over at Meet Me at Mikes**