Since I was a little girl I've been making dens....and don't think I'll ever stop..........

Thursday 31 December 2009

In the spirit of my new years simplification process and attempt to sort myself out, I shall be using one of the Christmas presents from my lovely sister-in-law, who lives in Bavaria. It's a little bag of gems. Crystals......... Amethyst, Rosenquarz and Bergkristall. My German is non-existent, except for an old German song that my father taught me as a child about a three cornered hat .....I'm not sure how, or why he knew it. But I have gleaned that once steeped in water they percolate the essential minerals into it, that will provide me with inner peace and calm. Just what I need.

Bye, bye 'noughties'

Tomorrow's not only the beginning of a new year, but also a new decade...the end of the 'noughties.'

What will it bring? and what will we call it?
For me there was a lot going on some things amazing, others not so good.

Time for resolutions? Where do I begin.....

Carpe Diem......seize the moment....this is it..... did Sandra Bullock's screen mother reprimanded her in Hope Floats?.... "Do you think life goes on forever? That behind every chance is another and another. It's the worst kind of extravagance the way you spend your chances, Birdie..."

So I'm going to try not to waste any of mine,and enjoy every moment, and have a damn good try at attempting to help those around me enjoy it all too.....

I think that a little simplification may a spot of sorting out mentally and physically may be called for to free up the time to enable me to do just that....

Falling Cloudberries

At last I've got a little bit of time to play with some of my Christmas gifts. Everyone who really knows me, knows my passion for cooking and that I can't have enough recipe books. I was really pleased to get three this year. Last year one of my favourites was Tessa Kiros's beautiful book Apples for Jam. Even if you don't cook, it's just an amazing book that seems to evoke memories of a happy childhood, complete with childish drawings that you'd stick on the fridge door, family tales and musings. It's so colourful, that even the recipes are divided up that way.

I was really pleased to be given another of Tessa's books, Falling Cloudberries, this year. Once again it has that lovely wholesome family feeling. This time she emphasizes the diversity of her family and upbringing, introducing recipes and tales from her multicultural heritage. Reading her book has encouraged me to do the same and share some of the Persian recipes that I've learnt at the elbow of my husband's friends and relatives.
It's been an amazing Christmas with family and friends, good weather, great company and food. Not to mention some lovely gifts, including Tibetan Lanterns that we'll light and send up into the sky tonight. I'll be really sad to take the tree down on Sunday and see the last of our guests leave but excited to look forward to a New Year. I hope that everyone's year brings all that they are longing for, and when it does, that it lives up to their expectations.

Thursday 24 December 2009

The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.........

Wednesday 23 December 2009

I'm pleased with my new Christmas napkins, especially as they only cost 17p each! They are plain white cotton tea towels with a simple red stripe. I bought them from Ikea, so even though they were really cheap I'm sure that nobody has been exploited making them. I can now use my Pull the Plug mug without feeling a complete hypocrite having once again been seduced by the cool retro colours and graphics on paper napkins.........

Friday 18 December 2009

We've just found time to put up one of my A3 drawings. I think it works well with Ingunn Dybendal's drawing, that's the one on the bottom right hand side, behind the wooden shoe stretcher. I took her drawing out of the second issue of Doodlezine. I love her work, this is my favourite drawing out of all three issues of the zine.
I think that there are still copies of issues 2 and 3 of Doodlezine on etsy and one copy of issue 1 on ebay. Ingunn has a blog and website full of amazing illustrations that are really worth checking out too.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Vintage scarf and the Japanese art of Furoshiki

Lush produce handmade cosmetics from natural ingredients, such as organic fruits and vegetables. They don't use any animal products at all and have really green environmental policies. Currently they're offering to gift wrap them in retro scarves to imitate an old Japanese traditional art, named Furoshiki. It's a lovely idea as you get two gifts at once.
I'd got some Lush products for an extra Christmas gift, and bought a vintage scarf from Portobello Road Market last Saturday for a pound,and so decided that I'd have a go, too. I did a bit of research and found a pdf guide by the Japanese Government's Ministry of the Environment, with diagrams of fourteen methods of using cloth instead of paper for gift wrapping. It was produced in 2006, designed to cut down on wasted paper......even better.
I chose a style named Suika Tsutsumi or Watermelon Carry Wrap..........good job I was only wrapping cosmetics, my scarf wouldn't have been big enough for a watermelon!
I think I need a bit more practice!


I don't consider myself to be a collector. But if having three of anything that has no real relevant use today constitutes a collection, them I am one. I have three typewriters that I've acquired over the years. One was rescued from impending destruction. It's the oldest, is large and black with high keys that make a lovely clicking sound. I can just visualize the triplets in Belleville Rendez-Vous making music with it.
Another I bought from a carboot sale for a couple of pounds about three years ago. It's a small portable eighties one. The third a heavy grey Adler typewriter has the most sentimental value for me, as it was my fathers. The sound of it brings back many memories.

No wonder my chosen font for this blog is courier!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Changed packaging

Still on the chocolate theme. I like to think that I'm not overly influenced by marketing, but have to admit that I am drawn to packaging. I quite liked the look of the simple graphics and retro colours used on Waitrose's cocoa and hot chocolate, below. I use tons of both of them, and they looked quite good in my baking cupboard. I was really disappointed to notice that with the onset of the recession these ingredients have now been repackaged as part of a basic range. It does make them look cheaper even though they are still the same price!

Less is more unless it's chocolate.

In line with my motto that 'less is more unless it's chocolate' I've made twenty chocolate brownies, a box of rocky road and a chocolate truffle torte loaded with dark rum. I think it may be a bad case of procrastination as I'm putting off other things I should be doing, but it was fun..... and they taste amazing....

Holly wreath

I've kept the Holly wreath more simple

Christmas Tree Decoration

The concept of 'less is more' seems to have vanished when it comes to Christmas tree decorating in our house. Maybe we'll get back to simple elegance next year......But it must be the most delicious smelling tree in Oxford.
Coming down for breakfast this morning, the overwhelming aroma before the espresso machine got put into action, was that of gingerbread, thanks to the gingerbread hearts; closely followed by cinnamon, then pine..........yum

Sunday 13 December 2009

Tidying up my studio space

It always amazes me how tidy other peoples work spaces look when I see images of them on their blogs............. maybe they tidy them up for the photo.......think mine needs a good sort out.

Thursday 10 December 2009

I had to go into town, yesterday and was really disappointed to discover that Borders has gone into liquidation! I feel quite responsible, having regularly read through huge piles of magazines in there whilst having a coffee, and then maybe buying one of them, if that.......They stock such an amazing range of magazines. I don't know where I'll get to see them now.......The upside was that there was 30% off all the stock, and the art and cookery books had 40% off bought something for everyone, including a Pattern Palette Source book with an interactive CD-ROM for myself ...... I don't know why it attracted me so much, when there was so much to choose from !? ......think it's because I've got that colour thing going on..............
Also managed to get some stocking fillers in Oxford, like this cute cat by WAWAYA.COM ...check out the tail....

Sunday 6 December 2009

Jardins En Automne

I watched Jardins En Automne this weekend, it's a really surreal film with lots of unusual things going on, and some amazing scenes. Like one in a little bar where the customers doodle on the walls, whilst the owner plays with his collection of old wind-up toys.
It was made in France in 2006 and directed by Georgian director Otar Losseliani. I borrowed it from the library to play on the laptop whilst drawing. But it's subtitled and there's so much going on, that it was difficult to watch and draw at the same time, so ended up keeping it for two weeks. Really worth watching.

Sunday 29 November 2009


Been thinking about using colour in my work recently....mostly because I've had a commission for a drawing using a small amount of colour wash. I'm not averse to colour, in fact I love it.....but for some reason there is a lack of it in my work!!

The Cloth Shop

Whilst rooting around Portobello Market last Friday, I came across a really cool shop whose window display drew me across the road, whose open door with tantalising glimpses of fabric subsequently enticed me inside....even though there was obviously very little room to maneuver as it was so jam packed with interesting things!

It was full of beautiful linens and woolen blankets and fabric from Hungarian grain sacks, and Romanian Cart Covers, that brought on one of my Little House on the Prairie moments. I've just checked out their website and it looks as though their stock is really varied, from new and retro or antique sources.

Portobello Road

At last managed to get to Portobello Road...It's been an ambition since watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks! And reading articles in the Guardian, about models like Kate Moss who pick up little retro dresses for a song....
It's so easy to get to from Oxford...... I met Hannah outside Ladbroke Grove tube station just around the corner from Portobello Road, and we were soon in bric-a-brac heaven! There were stalls and shops selling all kinds of wonderful things...too much to take-in in a couple of hours....a great way to cheer up a dull winter afternoon.

I bought Hannah a lovely old fountain pen, we ate sushi and drank chrysanthemum tea, not joking, and couldn't leave without trying cupcakes in the Hummingbird Bakery. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the bakery, not the cakes, they were all they've been drummed up to be, ie.orgasmic; but we were given paper plates! I was expecting bone china at the very least.....

Then,as we were discussing a pen and ink drawing by one of the Brit artists (can't remember which one) in a tiny shop in Portobello Green, selling all kinds of lovely smelling herbs and soaps and skin potions; the owner offered to sell some of my drawings if I take them in....So I've got a really good excuse to go back....

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The Cosy Bag Company

Continuing the Bright Star theme, which opens with a closeup scene of Fanny handstitching......a little bit of of my sisters has just set up a company producing handmade bags and other odds and ends. She uses both new, and vintage fabrics and might like to check out her website it's at

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Bright Star

Last night to end a wonderful birthday, Ahmad took me to Freuds in Jericho for a cocktail and something to eat, then to the Pheonix to watch Jane Campion's, beautiful, gentle, sad new movie, Bright Star...........I'm still walking on air.

John Keats wrote the poem Bright Star for the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. The film tells their short story in a way that felt current, it isn't oversentimentalised.....and has amazing cinematorgraphy, including one of my favourite shots, showing row after row of white washing blowing in the wind, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and another where Fanny makes a butterfly garden in her bedroom.

The whole evening had a kind of juxtaposition of 19c interlaced with the 21st, as Frueds is located in an early 19c Greek Revival Church, with a stone portico supported by crumbling columns, and a voluminous shabby sheek interior, illuminated with candlelight. The film seemed to have the same mix.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving
waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth's human

snow upon the mountains and the moors

No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

John Keates

......on my way to get a copy of Keats poems.....I'm hooked now......

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Abi's, Seb, has an exhibition in Toulouse next Friday wish we could go....he does the most amazing watercolour illustrations and short films.........
you can check out his work on

......the naghali......................

I should find out shortly.....mid-November, whether or not I've been short listed for a travelling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial thought I'd better start doing some research........just in case I do actually get to put my case forward in January.

The topic came up a couple of weeks ago. Ahmad and I were having a coffee in East Oxford one Saturday morning, when I spotted a guy drawing small pen and ink cartoons at the next table. I couldn't resist asking him about them and the conversation soon evolved from Pentel Brush Pens, and whether or not I could ask Dom to send some from Japan, to the proposed trip to Iran.

It turned out that our new friend was not only well travelled and full of interesting anecdotes but also drew my attention to some colourful painted walls he'd seen on a monastery in Voronet, Romania, that have the same kind of storyboard feel to them that I'd explained the parda-dari has; and that probably there could be a thread leading across eastern Europe..........maybe the journey will have to be extended - a mini silk route........I'm fascinated by these early means of communication......a precursor to the PowerPoint presentation?

Monday 9 November 2009 my first commission at Appleton..........

A plethora of monobrows, even the sun has your heart out Frida Kahlo......