Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Seventh Day of Christmas – Shall we go for a DIP?



Seven swans a swimming. I'd love to suggest we all pop down to Walberswick for a quick dip but despite the proximity of Sizewell I think most people would find it a tad bracing.

Swimming reminds me of swim lanes, beloved of those who do process mapping. The joy of the English language is that we have a tool with which we can communicate with people across whole swathes of the globe. We then put ourselves into a work context and promptly make everything we say unintelligible to anyone outside of the 'club'. Add to that a whole lexicon of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon; the subterfuge is complete.

Today a quick quest; what is your favourite cross over acronym, abbreviation or piece of jargon; something which in one world means one thing and in another means something else altogether? Mine is o/c in my podiatry life it meant onychocryptosis (ingrowing toenail) in medicine it means oral contraceptive, two things that are best not confused. As for DIP, in podiatry that would be distalinterphalangeal (end small toe or finger joint) for other meanings go here.

Your spotify list for today is here.

Please remember there is still time to enter any of the previous day's quests (and a prize draw). Effectively they start two days before Christmas with Santa's little helper.

If you are still in the leg challenge – two people have now cracked it and I am holding their responses to publish later what you need to know is that today 46 more legs were delivered; making 138 delivered so far.

I hope you are still enjoying the 12 Days of Christmas Party #12DCP

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Sixth Day of Christmas – Wither Shall I Wander, Up Tyley’s Bottom? – I would like a Dap Map






On the sixth day of Christmas we have six geese a laying. My thoughts went to goosy, goosy gander and wandering. One of my fascinations is anything to do with maps and walking, discovering, treasure hunting and map related puzzles. My present to you this sixth day is a collection of links to map related quests, so arm yourself with your post code, map co-ordinates or GPS info and see what you learn about your area: (Health warning, if you are easily distracted, make a cup of tea now and if you have Spotify click here for the playlist, you may be here some time)

MapZone – breaking you in gently, this is an interactive resource aimed at children from Ordnance Survey but so fabulous, map jigsaws to match county and country maps; the squirrel's nuts (takes me back to Day 1), crosswords and so much more.

Ordnance Survey select – create your own paper map with your home at its centre.









Geograph – The Geograph British Isles project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland and you can be part of it.  Take a photo, submit it and if they like it, your photo will become part of the database.  Beware their standards can be quite exacting.

Ordnance Survey Explore – find routes, create and share routes. Here is a special present from me, a walk for anyone with strong legs and time in the Cotswolds. Called 'Up Tyley's Bottom', which is funny enough, but for some who read this might be even funnier.

Bench - Marks – now if ever a geek award was to be offered for things map related this would have to be a suitable candidate. Small brackets attached to buildings such as schools and churches, find them, log them, their condition etc. At the time of writing The database contains13,000 non-pillar flush brackets, consisting of 2,947 2GL brackets5,143 S-series,4,893 G-series16 L-series, and 1 other

Geocaching – The hiding of small boxes, marking them with GPS co-ordinates, setting clues and tracking their contents as they move around the globe. I love this stuff, really anoraky, embarrasses the children; ticks all the boxes actually.

Land Registry – Not so much a game of hide and seek, unless of course you are interested in arguing about ownership, boundaries etc. It is amazing how much information is held and publically available at little or no price.

Then of course there are a host of others for example Weather maps,  Flood Maps,   Public Health 


For the iphone there are a huge range of map related Apps, my favourites so far are geocaching, MapMyRide GBLocate and PhotoOverlay.


Adding maps to blogs and websites – I have yet to perfect this but you can use Get-a-map and OSOpenspace – one of my New Year's Resolutions will be about mastering that lot.

By the way the most 'boring square' in the UK maps is at Ousefleet, in the 1:50 000 scale map, just below the word Ousefleet is a square with just a tiny bit of pylon line. Here it is:

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

All of this and I haven't even touched on Google Maps and mashables; if you've got the rest of your life to do nothing else, work your way through this lot….. http://mashable.com/2009/01/08/google-maps-mashups-tools/


And if you are stuck in 20 feet of snow and want a little something to read I recommend Map Addict by Mike Parker


 

My quest for you all, in the last 24 hours I have been much exercised by those little black or white shoes; with or without laces that were essential wear for PE at school. I would quite like to map what they are called in different parts of the country. I went to school in the South Cotswolds and called them daps. Where did you go and what were they called? I would like to create a Dap Map!

Oh and one other thing, would you like to add yourself to the visitors map on the right there? Thanks.

For those that are still following the legs quest another 32 arrived today; so far 92 have been delivered.



And....... drum roll......... here it is so far...The Dap Map at 18.44 

 





Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Fifth Day of Christmas – 5 Gold Rings, four on two planks, three legged race, two in a sack and an Inter Village Blood Bath




This is the Fifth day of Christmas, traditionally a line in the song that allows a break while you sing out Five G –old rings, take a deep breath and then run on with the rest of the words. In the UK of course 5 Gold Rings in 2010 and beyond will be focusing on the London 2012 Olympics. Where I used to work in the North Cotswolds there was a tradition of Robert Dover's Olimpick Games, at Dover's Hill near Chipping Campden; including shin kicking and other cider fuelled activities. If you are a regular follower of the blog you will know that in the past I have been very involved in village activities and one of those is the Inter Village Games.

The Inter Village Games involve 10 North Suffolk villages, some with no sports facilities of their own, competing in a range of events. They range from traditional sports day type activities to, four on two planks, two in a sack, slow bike, wheelbarrow race (with real wheelbarrows) and egg throwing. In 2010 Dennington will be the host village, in the past the games were known by our local St John's team as the Inter Village blood bath. If you want to see the calibre of the sportsmanship look here http://www.nearthecoast.com/laxfield/index.htm at the entry for ' su 17 ju 2007 ~ Final day of the Inter Village Games at Laxfield, Suffolk'.

Your challenge today: I am always on the lookout for new sports activities or fund raising ideas for fetes etc. What is the best sport or fund raiser you have ever taken part in; not necessarily for the amount it raised but for novelty and fun?

Forgot to add earlier - 5 gold rings = no legs therefore today only another 20 legs added.  We are now up to 60 legs delivered so far.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Fourth Day of Christmas – Onion Cats and Squinzano Dogs






Today is the Fourth Day of Christmas. In the song we meet the calling birds, or are they collie or even coaly birds? Several definitions abound. I have decided they are calling birds, calling out their tales, stories and other fine lines. I am in the process of writing up tales of the cats found at Casa Mare, Cipolla, Puglia. Cipolla means onion in Italian, hence 'The Onion Cats'. I have decided that the follow up tales are likely to be based on the dogs found in Squinzano a town in the same region of Italy. The name Squinzano sounds faintly threatening to my ears and I think the Squinzano Dogs may have a slightly 'edgy' set of personalities. Definitely gives me an excuse to keep going back for 'research' purposes. 


The long winter nights are a traditional period for the telling of tales, light hearted or ghostly so……

My challenge for you today is to tell a tale in one of the following formats or styles:

Twitter

Haiku

Nonsense verse

Children's Stories or Tales of the Unexpected


 

The Spotify play list for this post is here


By the way today 20 new legs arrived, which means 40 legs have been delivered already


Update 11.50 my Twitter story...
Squinzano Sam saw a fight.  Two dogs, paws drawn; a whirl of hair, fangs and dust.  A huge Mastiff, Panettone Pete, entered; saved the day.


Update 12.38 - Haiku
Calcanium deep
Hair dust murderous intent
Summer memory


Update 14.19 - Nonsense verse
Squinzano Sam a duplicitous mutt

With paws down
Fought tooth and claw
To ruin his town

Panettone Pete, massive mastiff
Called for Leone
With bag and net
To catch the phoney

Pete shouted ‘get ze bag Leone’

Update 19:10



Squinzano Dogs – A Children’s Story for Adults


If you look at a map of Italy, the country is shaped like a boot.  Way down in the heel of the boot, in a region called Puglia is the town of Squinzano.  Like most parts of Italy the local people like to think they are in charge, but in reality it is the animals that have the measure of the place.  In some parts of Puglia it is cats or geckos but in Squinzano it is the dogs that have the upper hand.  Our tale takes place one day last summer.


Squinzano Sam was a particularly moth eared mutt who seemed to leave a trail of dirt, dust and stray hairs wherever he went.  He had a nasty reputation for double crossing, dirty tricks and generally trying to control the town with acts of duplicity, daring and intimidation.  Squinzano Sam hung around the town square near to the town hall which doubled up as library and ‘Pronto Socorrso’ .  This was high summer; heat reflected off buildings and at mid-morning the streets were almost empty.  In common with most of their compatriots the Italian locals had left their winter houses and moved like some nomadic tribe to their castles in the sun; their beach villas.  During these times there was less food to be found by the Squinzano dogs; communal bins did not overflow, leaving poor pickings for the feral creatures.


A small right hand drive car pulled up outside the Pronto Socorrso and four Inglese climbed out.  They peered at the signs on the walls attempting to translate.


“Definitely an emergency department; but only part time.  It says someone should be in attendance from 11.00 onwards,” said a woman in shorts and a T-shirt.


As she spoke a pale girl in a flowery dress, stood looking miserable and dropped her bag to the ground.


“It’s OK I’m just hot and I hurt.  If I could marry a snowman right now I’d be happy” she said.


An old Italian cycled into view, ceremoniously parked his bike against the wall and started talking to the woman in shorts.  After much muttering about bleeding from the ears, temperatures and specialists he declared that the group should go immediately to the ‘Ospidale in Brindisi’.  The group climbed reluctantly back into the sweltering car and left.


Squinzano Sam shifted his head, flicked first one eye and then the other open, sniffed the air and started to raise his body from the shade of the tree in the square.  Then he saw movement; Mad Rex, a scrawny terrier whippet cross had seen and scented the same thing.  Then as if from nowhere, dropping down from a roof, the strangest of creatures, not a plain black and white cat; but a marmalade orange cat, known locally as the Tangerine Jellicle sprang onto the pavement.  All three had their eyes on the same trophy, the bag dropped by the girl with the flowery dress.  It smelt of foccacia. 


Tangerine Jellicle and Rex raced to the bag; attempted to rip it open and then started to scratch at each other.  Sam hung back, watching, secretly he was very tired following a night out with his bitches the night before; but eventually could resist no more.  Hair and dust flying in all directions, a gnashing of teeth and whimpers of pain drew more dogs and cats into the area to see what was going on. Panettone Pete a huge mastiff came around the corner and waded in to try and sort out the argument..  Then Leone a small cat, with petite features moved carefully round the edge of the group.




Tangerine Jellicle cried out, “grab ze bag Leone.”


Eventually the animals had fought for and collected bits of the prize; Panettone could be credited with having crushed the fight.  Indeed Panettone had saved the day but the toll on all of the animals had been high.  In the street was a mess of fur, hair and bits of flesh from each of the creatures.  As the street cleaner swept up there were bits of Panettone, Tangerine Jellicle and bits of ze bag Leone had rescued.


“You are fantastic for clearing that lot up,” said the man with the bike.


“It’s nothing,” said the street cleaner, “a mere Zuppa Inglese, a triffle.”

                                                                Finito

With sincere thanks to……
Richard P-S also known as @tettig, @isemann and @josordoni for joining in the challenge, you will see I have threaded your ideas into mine.


NorfolkKitchen, The View from Cullingford , @Goodshoeday, @essexgourmet , @MartinCampbell2, @LivinginPulia and @downatheel for the various culinary and other references which I hope you will recognise


Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Third Day of Christmas – Postman’s Knock and a Pioneer




On the third day of Christmas, we have three French hens. So birds, French; somehow my mind went back 'several' years. Who can remember the game that was known as Postman's Knock, the anticipation mixed with dread, would you be chosen, did you even want to be; and as for the kissing…….French or otherwise? I don't think I would like to relive all of that angst (no disrespect to any of the individuals involved!). At this stage of the party I think we should start playing some games; how about Postman's knock? Just take a look at some of the pages in the blog. Pick a link to a topic, another blog or a tweeter and just go and pay them a virtual visit, leave a comment on their site or a reply in twitter, someone you haven't 'spoken' to before and if you are very brave sign the comment with a p.s. xx #12DCP. Come back here and leave a link in the comments so we can all see what you've been up to.

The Spotify Playlist for this blog post can be found here.

Today 12 more legs have been delivered. Some people have been working very hard on the legs question and one person has the answer right – well done to @easternsparkle – I am saving your comment to publish later to allow some others time to get to the right answer too.

The reference to Pioneer is the topic for Illustration Friday which this week is 'Pioneer' (if you have come here from Illustration Friday, you might like yesterday's post, create a Miximal). Here is a little story from me….


Saturday, 26 December 2009

The Second Day of Christmas - Miximals – Two Ostortoises?




I hope you are enjoying the party. There is some fantastic food on offer that some of the other guests brought. Tell me, did you receive any new crayons, felt tips, an etch-a-sketch, spirograph or other art making stuff? I've been thinking about those Turtle Doves, sound like crazy mixed up animals to me. I wonder what other mixed up animals we could create. I am going to work on the idea of an ostrich crossed with a tortoise a miximal called an ostortoise ….

Can you create a new animal cross and what will you call it?



Not sure how to put a link to your photo or blog page in a blog comment cut and paste this little snippet changing the http address to the location of your miximal.

<a href="http://grethic.blogspot.com/2009/11/something-completely-different-blue.html">Here</a>

Spotify playlist for today's post is here

By the way, today 6 legs arrived.

Not sure what any of this is about – go to the Christmas Eve post which covers the basics – there is a prize on offer.
Update - my Miximal an Ostortoise


Friday, 25 December 2009

The First Day of Christmas – A Squirrel in a Pear Tree?




Welcome, thank you for coming to my party. Mwah, Mwah. Here, wellies and coat? I'll take those. Take a glass of bucks fizz and come through into the lounge. The fire is crackling, sit yourself down. How was your lunch, what did you have? I do hope you enjoyed it, or if you haven't eaten yet I hope you will enjoy whatever you are having later. I was thinking about that partridge in a pear tree, it wouldn't make much of a meal and that made me think………. I've actually eaten squirrel in a Pear Tree, it was part of a game pie and the Pear Tree in question is a pub. So, by way of an ice breaker;

what is the strangest thing you have ever eaten and where?



Spotify playlist for today's post is here If you have an 'other half' who read Jackie magazine ask who they put on their wall; this list will suit some down to the ground

By the way, today 2 legs arrived.

Not sure what any of this is about – go to the Christmas Eve post which covers the basics – there is a prize on offer.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Not a creature is stirring not even a mouse – Welcome to the Eve of the 12 Days of Christmas Party #12DCP




Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature is stirring not even a mouse. However, over the next 12 days I am expecting a bunch of deliveries to go with my 12 Days of Christmas Party. You are very welcome by the way; do have a mince pie and a small glass of chilli sherry. Over the next 12 days there will be a post a day, hopefully you will find at least one that will make you stop and think, share a memory, create something new or do something different. For each day that you have a published comment I will turn it into a prize draw entry and on the 13th day of Christmas I will select a winner and put the answers into their rightful places. Please leave comments and links as appropriate. So by way of a warm up……………………………..

I am a 'mostly' good fairy. My true love has said that he is sending me gifts, but for historical reasons I am much affeared of not knowing how many legs I might see, (those who know me will understand why).

At the end of the 12th day of Christmas, how many legs will there be in my house?

You may ask for one wish to be granted, I may or may not choose to answer the question; I definitely will not answer the question if the answer I would have to give is a number.

Want another puzzle? If you haven't already tried it yesterdays warm up is still available for comments.

The Spotify play list for this post is here

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

You are all invited to the 12 Days of Christmas Party – Be Careful What You Wish For



A change of avatar today; I am sending out the final batch of virtual invitations. Please come to my virtual 12 days of Christmas Party #12DCP. The first post, to set things up will be on Christmas Eve and then every day for the 12 days of Christmas. Each day you have a comment published will create a draw entry and at the end of the 13th day I will announce the winner. If you haven't already done so please let me know who your +1 will be, if you are bringing food or drink, or create a room design, invitation card, Christmas decoration; anything at all to set the party atmosphere. Oh and the party playlist on Spotify is here please feel free to contribute.

For now I am Santa's little helper …..

I will pass on messages to Father Christmas with requests for presents, but only if they pass a simple rule. What would you like to request that he brings you? Can you work out what the rule is? Put your request in a comment and I will let you know if your message can be passed on.



The Spotify Playlist for today's post is Be Careful What You Wish For

Monday, 21 December 2009

Shortest Day and Longest Night

A change of avatar and a last downbeat reflection before the fun and mayhem of the Christmas Holiday proper.

Last night the buyers of music 'rose up and fought back against the X factor phenomenon' by buying Killing in the Name by Rage against the Machine. I wonder did they all look at the lyrics, what did they interpret by them? I'm not saying the x-factor track would be preferable, but sometimes I wish we could go back to tracks with jingle bells, snowflakes and reindeer that we can share with the average 6 year old.

In the meantime, ever since hearing the name of the band and the title of the song, the words revolving in my head have been from Henry Reed's poem, 'Naming of Parts' – I think this is one of the most powerful war poems, follow this link and you will see the words in full and at the bottom of the page an audio of the poem. Today we have reflection, yesterday we had snow and to-morrow morning we shall go Christmas shopping. I am grateful that my life is simple and I am thinking of those who are separated from loved ones, for whatever reasons in the darkest days of winter.

The Spotify playlist to accompany this post is here.  I’d love to know what you think of this collection, in particular the Mathieu Ruhlmann.  Here is what his website says about it “In 1853 while in exile Victor Hugo began conducting séances, as a way to communicate with his daughter who had drowned in the Seine.  During these séances he claimed to have spoken to the Ocean, the Moon, Plato, Galileo, and Jesus. 
During one of these meetings he received a message 'from the otherside' that described the afterlife as a return to the Earth in four states depending on how you conducted your life. If you lived a terrible life you would come back as a stone/pebble and then next step plant then animal/insect and if you lived a good life you would come back as a human again. What interested me in this idea was that life would be involved in everything that rocks, plants, stones hold this history of life in them and by working with these objects you can extract this history sonically.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Something Completely Different – Butterfly tags


No time to write other than to say this is the SCD challenge post for this week. Tags and butterfly.

Illustration Friday - Undone


A quick drawing for Illustration Friday with the theme of 'Undone' – not sure if I was thinking 'Undone', as in the crab's situation, the pot lid or not cooked; probably covers all three. As a child we used to go to a village called Beer in Devon, where crabs were regularly caught in pots and brought back to be cooked by the fishermen's wives; with many tales of them escaping from the pan. How many of the tales were true and how many to alarm small children I don't know.

The Spotify playlist is one I created earlier in the year when we had been crabbing at Walberswick.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The North Wind Doth Blow – The World in the Middle of December – White Wine in the Sun anyone?



When I started my blog back in Mid May, I wasn't sure if I would a) keep it up and b) find a voice. In the meantime I have wittered on about all sorts of things, quite a lot of food, but all sorts of other stuff too, see the index of sorts on the right. The common theme tends to be the passing of the seasons. This time of year always finds me reflective, probably writing the Christmas letter has something to do with it. Certainly when I wrote the 2008 letter I did not expect to decide on a complete job change; a lot has happened this year. One of the pleasing sides of blogging is seeing that people choose to view the blog from around the globe. The map above is the analytics for the blog since it started. Not surprisingly mostly from English speaking countries and parts of Europe where I already have friends or family; but plenty of other places too. The one thing I haven't written much about is my love of all things map related, so one of my 12 days of Christmas blogs will redress that. In the meantime if you are keen on maps, mapping and cycling this is your official invite to join the 12 Days of Christmas Party #12DCP.

The wind is whistling around our house at the moment driving icy blasts from the North and we have had intermittent slow flurries today and yesterday with a severe weather warning for tonight and tomorrow. The complete opposite to the Tim Minchin White Wine in the Sun Christmas, he is attempting to challenge the x factor et al songs for the top spot – see what you think.

Spotify link for the post (doesn't include the Minchin) here - list in words in first comment.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Serendipity is a Sparkling Cranberry



Not the name of my next novel, movie or album just one of those moments that made me smile. In the world of Twitter, posts arrive and like some strange manga book you tend to read them from the bottom up. Today the tweets above arrived next to each other I read the bottom one first and just had to giggle at the thought of the frosted cranberries lit up by torch light. I'm not one for starting Christmas early, preferring to emphasise the 12 days that start at Christmas day, but this was a little seasonal canapé for the season to follow. Thanks @williamcooks and @JoWaddell, you are definitely invited to my #12DCP 12 Days of Christmas Party. What nibbles will you bring and what tracks will you add to the Party music for the night; something to get you on the dance floor.

The spotify play list for this post is more abstract than usual click here to listen; as usual the track list will be in the first comment.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Don’t tell the children – fontcapture– invite to writers to join the #12DCP


I was looking for a way to add the people on my 'writerly' list to the twelve days of Christmas Party and struggling with what picture to use, in the past I've used wordles and was tempted to do the same again but then came information about fontcapture. This clever little website lets you scan your handwriting via a grid system and then provides you with a downloadable file to add to your windows fonts. Ironically to add it to my blog I've now had to paste the font back into a picture to include in this post.

So, don't tell the children; if this had been available 'n' years ago I could have avoided hours on Boxing Day handwriting my thank-you notes for the hankies, bath cubes and bubbles.

To all those on my 'writerly' list in twitter you are cordially invited to join my 12 days of Christmas party. Starting on Christmas day there will be a post a day, hopefully with something to amuse, distract or entertain; I wonder what stories you will tell.

For now please could you add to the playlist for the party which can be found on spotify; something to make you jiggle. Also, some opening lines, starters for ten to get the conversation flowing or if closing pieces are more up your strada how about the perfect line for leaving a twelve day long party.



The playlist for this post can be found on spotify here the list in words can be found in the first comment that follows.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Illustration Friday – Hatched – #12DCP invite to the dfaolbilts




You ARE beautiful in my eyes Marmite



The topic for illustration Friday this week is 'hatched'. You will see from some of my other posts that I am also touting for votes so that I can win one of a limited number of special edition jars of marmite, if you are willing please vote for me here; I have not entered this picture separately so the item in the marmite gallery is my adapted avatar.

I am also adding to my list of invitees to my virtual #12DCP; 12 days of Christmas party; the latest addition is my twitter list called dfaolbilts – it stands for 'don't fit any other lists but I like their style'. By definition these are bound to be some peoples marmites, love 'em or hate 'em; a mix of comedians, potty mouths, 'Indians' (some of who do live in India) people who send fab links or quotes, some bots like the Big Ben clock; basically all sorts of everything. The only thing they have in common is that I rate them highly.

So dear dfaolbilts, if by chance you come here visiting, what will you bring to the party and what song should I add to the playlist to get you up and dancing?

The playlist for this post is here and for those without Spotify the complete listing as it is so far will be in the first comment.

To any illustrators, designers, artists etc I would still love some designs for perfect party rooms.

Something Completely Different – Party Girl tags


The theme for this week's something completely different is 'Party Girl' in the form of tags. Strange how things come together sometimes; first, I've let myself get sidetracked by a campaign marmite are running with the lure of one of their limited edition marmites as a reward. I haven't entered this tag as a separate entry but you can vote for me here. Years ago in Norwich there used to be a clothes shop called 'Your Granny Wouldn't Like It'; I quite like the idea of a party where the invite is that your 'ma might not like it'; everyone knows that you either love or hate marmite. Actually stop there; people may come here who haven't come across the stuff before. When someone asked me what it was I described it as black goo that you spread on toast. They sent me this link for marmite and road kill sarnies, which made me laugh, as people often assume my foraging includes road kill.

Secondly, I need to invite some more of my twitter lists to my imaginary 12 days of Christmas party [#12DCP]. This time I have added all those on my A-Z list. They are all in the public eye to some extent, but many of them are also on my other lists because the write, cycle, love food or whatever. Most of them are also great twitterers, which makes following them amusing. But how to get the tag to the A-Z listers, now there is a problem. I happened to have been listening to @markglennmurphy on Radio Suffolk when he read out a message from a listener who shared a cat with her neighbour. The cat had arrived at the listeners house today with a tag around its neck saying happy birthday. I also spent part of today at the hairdressers reading that auspicious academic journal 'OK' in which Victoria Beckham had two small pigs in her handbag; apparently the latest designer accessory (I won't comment on the virtue of small pigs as pets other than to say the bacon rashers would be very small and don't ask me to clean her handbag).

Here is the plan; I will hire a small team of fluffy kittens, little dogs and handbag sized pigs; attach the tags to their collars and put them through my A-Z listers cat flaps. I wonder if anyone of them will come. If you are an A-Z lister (or someone masquerading as one), what would you have me add to the playlist for the #12DCP, a track that will make you get up and boogie; also what little treasure will you bring along to amuse the guests?

Any crafters who are up for a challenge, I would still love some party invitation designs for a virtual 12 Days of Christmas Party.

Your Spotify playlist for this post is here and for non Spotify users I will put the details, as the list currently stands in the first comment to this post.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Can I join the Marmarati ?- Please


My credentials?

I've changed my whole image. Regular followers will know I change my avatar and Spotify play list to fit what is going on around me. So, my avatar has had a marmite make-over. The Spotify playlist to go with explains my love of marmite. Oh and I've taken a name change just for the Marmarati – there I am known as Globus.

So that should be everything for a secret society – plastic surgery, name change and complete change of aural environment.

Not sure what this is all about? Go to http://marmarati.org./galleria/view/425

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Com Post – How Green are we at Christmas – Invite to the #12DCP & Harlequin invaders



Been at home today - always a mistake; too much time for reflection as the pile of tissues mounts at my side. Bit of a personal challenge this one, self audit looking at how green we are in the lead up to Christmas, as I've asked myself the questions I will be avoiding the difficult ones.


Reduce


Miles
Bit of a mix
I cycle lots but with family all over the country car and train essential
Waste
Trying
Try to buy loose rather than pre-packed so only buy what need

Do freeze and use leftovers
Fuel consumption
Trying very hard
Bought an Owl which has been interesting. However one of the towel rails is firmly back on as better than mouldy towels and using the tumble dryer [and I avoid ironing]

Buy a green tariff and awaiting quote for solar water heating
Chemicals
Gone very eco
Tend to use ecover/simple/method and co-op 'eco' ranges. Also use borax, bicarb and non chlorine bleaches and washable dusters and cloths
Water
Butts
3 water butts on the go but still not enough
ReUse


Waste
Compost crazy
Shred receipts and use as chicken bedding

Bokashi bin for non meat kitchen waste

Homemade Wormery – which you can hear working!

Wet and dry compost bins

Council compost (takes ages to fill)
Cards
Christmas cards
Recycle into the next years cards see my SCD posts
Recycle


Waste
Council bins and village hall bins
Glass, paper, tins – sad that we have to drive to get rid of tetra packs



Clearly I should start with fabric hankies and a copper to boil them in after use!

OK it's not perfect; it is a fairly solid start though. To everyone on my Green & Gardens Twitter list you are invited to the #12DCP and of course anyone else who would like to join in – Twelve days of Christmas party, a virtual party, open to everyone. Call back during the 12 days for all sorts of nonsense. If you are coming, what 'green' thing will you bring? Also choose some music for the #12DCP playlist on Spotify – I will see if I can also blip the tracks for non-spotify users.

Spotify playlist for this post is on a different note. – Audit of harlequin ladybirds on a window frame – Thanks to @flashmaggie who made me aware of this in her post.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

SCD – Marilyn Monroe – tags & invitations


The challenge for Something Completely Different this week is Marilyn Monroe and tags. My entry is above, anything but seasonal but then I'm always inclined to take the 'different' part of the challenge seriously.

For those who like details, the original colour picture was manipulated through my PC and then overlayed with text, finally I applied my reddest lipstick and kissed an acetate (and I liked it) and then rescanned the image.  I chose the black and white image of roses because I was making the tag all I could think of was the 'Goodbye English (or is it England's) Rose' version of candle in the wind.

In return though a challenge for the happy crafters who come here from SCD. If you look at some of my other posts with the #12DCP tag you will see I am planning a party for the 12 days of Christmas. Would you like to come up with an invite and leave a link in the comments section below?

Spotify playlist to accompany this post here.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Illustration Friday – Crunchy – Plus an invite if you would like to come to the #12DCP Party




Over on Illustration Friday the topic this week is 'crunchy'. I have been travelling so a hastily drawn cartoon contains my idea.

I am planning a 'virtual' party and need your help, if you are an illustrator, designer or otherwise creative see below:

Yesterday I launched the idea for my Twelve Days of Christmas Party and started by inviting my foodie list on twitter to come up with ideas ie what dish they would bring, who their +1 is and suggest some tracks. As well of those that posted comments below some ideas came via twitter; including:

  • @goodshoeday a selection of homemade flavoured voddy's and gins and some sourdough bread
  • @Adnams Alcoholic custard http://bit.ly/5nl64f& Broadside http://bit.ly/8QiUsX our +1 @sarahEgroves play http://bit.ly/Rzlgi
  • @welovelocalfood a selection of @purelypesto hummus dips and beer from @grainbrewery & Spectrum Brewery
  • @essexgourmet the V best of 'virtual' well Hung Game, a case of Margaux & a Karaoke machine
  • @ brockhallfarm  I'm bringing lots of dinky Brockette goats cheeses to your party; semi-hard, mold ripened and not too goaty. And a larger truckle too .  Also bringing some champers, to get the party off on the right, sparkling note.
So we have some food, but there is always space for more. We'll leave the foodies for now, sourcing ingredients, exploring recipes and comparing notes and trust them to come up with still more ideas. To help I have been in the West Country testing cider and although I tried Stowford, Bristol Port and Ashton, all good West Country Ciders – I think I like good old Aspall best.

The idea is that for the 12 days of Christmas ie Christmas day to the January 5th there will be a virtual party running here under the guise of #12DCP ie 12 Days of Christmas Party. A mid-winter excuse for fun, games, confessions and wotnot.

Now the invite to all artists, designers, illustrators and other creatives: This virtual party is taking place in a very large house with lots of rooms, but at the moment they are but blank canvases, could you please come up with some ideas for room designs, great party spaces to create atmosphere. Please leave a comment with a link to your design, also let me know who your +1 will be and any music you would like added to the play list.

The Spotify playlist for the party is growing and can be found here Party

p.s. I was asked about the dress code – please don't come as you are, but come as you would be; illustrations, links to costumes and outfits always welcome.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Party Planning – Please help


December seems like a great time for planning a party, I have set myself a little challenge, to have a virtual Party/Meme on the go for the 12 days of Christmas – of which more later. However, as usual the choices of guests, food, music and entertainment will take a little planning. So, let's start in the kitchen. It has been a good year on the food front, plenty of preserves and liquors have been prepared. The guest list will certainly include all those on my foodies twitter list. If you are on the list please let me know what you will bring to the virtual party, some food item, ideally some drink, which track should I add to the playlist to get you up and dancing and who your +1 will be?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Avatar – World AIDS Day


From time to time I adapt my avatar; sometimes in whimsy, sometimes to highlight something more serious. Currently the avatar is red in recognition of World AIDS Day. The word cloud above is the abstract of a research article titled "Comparative analysis of cell culture and prediction algorithms for phenotyping of genetically diverse HIV-1 strains from Cameroon".

Spotify Link to go with this post here

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Red, Green and Snowmen – Something Completely Different


Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is red, green and snowmen. This really was a challenge, only one snowman card left unmade and it was 'political'. I decided the only thing to do was take things down a slightly surreal direction. The background, a collage inspired by the works of John Brunsdon yet with a sun that looks like it has crept out of the Telly Tubbies and the snowman from the original card from a friend. I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity; this year's charity is wateraid.

Click here for a Spotify playlist to go with this climate warming theme.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Illustration Friday - Entangled


Only time for a very quick post; this N is wrapped in a Taranaki gate of wool. In an old comedy farming book from NZ there was a whole chapter on Taranaki gates and their propensity to wrap themselves around you when taking them down or putting them up. I wish I still had that book.

Friday, 27 November 2009

You too could look like Cheryl Cole – don a bobble hat



There are days when things just come together, a glorious juxtaposition that serendipitously creates a new idea. No sooner had I decided that my little avatar should take on a more wintery appearance, with a bobble hat; than a link from make it and mend it led me to believe that I could look like Cheryl Cole by donning a bobble hat. Time to get the knitting needles out; how do I look?

Spotify playlist for this post (you can always skip the Cheryl Cole bits, what comes later is an interesting mix)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bzz Agent



For those with Spotify – Here is a link to accompany this blog post.


It feels like a very long time ago that I signed up to be a Bzz Agent. The basic idea; you get free samples, vouchers etc for products. As you try the products you talk to people about them (good or bad) and then log the fact that you had a conversation on the Bzz Agent site ~ you always make people aware that you are a Bzz Agent. The more reports you complete, to their expected standard, the higher a level you attain and the better and earlier the campaigns you are offered. Months after I first registered I had some dried fruits, later a razor and then there has been nothing for months until today. Today I received information about Shell 'V'. I don't have a performance car so not the sort of thing I would normally think about. I live 11 miles from the nearest Shell station so it is not likely to be my first choice under normal circumstances. I tend to ride my bike more often than I drive, but when I do drive it is long distances. Today I happened to be near a Shell station and so I fuelled up. Watch this space I'll let you know if my life has been revolutionised.

The whole Bzz Agent thing always reminds me of a book I read called 'Soft' – If you like thrillers, where the interface between marketing and science can go bad, this could be the book for you; I still have a warped sense of the power of orange as a colour and an aversion to orange fizzy drinks as a result of reading Rupert Thomson's book.

For those who have not met it before, the shell in the picture above is 'Scallop' by Maggi Hambling, it has a Marmite effect, people either love it or hate it.

Something Completely Different – Blue, White and Snowflakes


Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is Blue, White and Snowflakes. As I have mentioned before I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity. This year's charity is wateraid. Thank you to my brother and his family, because their's was the only card with white and snowflakes on it, I used a baby blue card back, not something I would normally think of for Christmas and some wool from my Ispeak Melsh giveaway prize - thanks Mel.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Music – Illustration Friday


The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is music; currently my head is a jumble of music. I have been trying to learn the cornet, you should be very grateful at this point that I live in a field a long way from anyone. I have not played any instrument since recorders at primary school, so although I can read the basic notes that is my limit. Also I rediscovered the karaoke machine and we only have a couple of discs to go in it; not sure that Atomic Kitten or the cast of Les Misérables and Chicago would be flattered by my attempts; perhaps this would be more appropriate. I have also become a huge fan of Spotify I love running word searches based on a theme and seeing what tracks come together. Here is a link based on children and need for Children in Need, be aware though, not all tracks are radio edits and there may be some strong language.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Spiced Pickled Pears, or what to do with those fiddly little pears that are hard and never ripen


After my latest tweeted cooking session I had lots of requests for the recipe, so here it is. Basically the recipe is a slight adaptation of the one in Pam Corbin's excellent book Preserves in the River Cottage handbook series – this is a fabulous collection of books and handily fit into a Christmas stocking [hint, hint]. In our garden we planted two espalier pear trees to divide the garden. They both produce pretty flowers but one produces zero fruit, the other produces small, hard pears that never ripen. I have used them when cooking pheasant and then when they all blew off the trees in the gales I decided it was time to do some pickling. So my adapted version goes:

300ml of Sarson's pickling vinegar

150ml Aspall cyder vinegar

600g Billingtons caster sugar

About half a bottle of sushi ginger

1 hefty pinch of chilli flakes

A cinnamon stick

Handful of juniper berries

3 bay leaves

1.5kg small, hard, fiddly little pears

First put everything apart from the pears into a big pan and bring to a gentle heat that allows the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to infuse. Whilst that is happening peel, core and quarter the pears then pop them into the pan. Bring the pan back up to heat and then keep at just below simmering point, leave as long as it takes for the pears to become tender but definitely not mushy, you want them to keep their shape. Once they are cooked transfer to pre sterilised jars. Bring the liquid up to the boil and reduce down slightly ie about 5 minutes boiling; it should have a slightly syrupy quality. Then simply pour the liquid over the pears and seal. Ideally they should be kept for a month or so before eating with cheeses or meats.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Big Squat - Pink Christmas Trees – Something Completely Different


Over on something completely different – the challenge this week is pink with a Christmas tree. As I mentioned before I give people back part of the card they gave me the year before and donate to charity. This year's charity is water aid and they are currently promoting World Toilet Day; part of which is the Big Squat. Only one card had a Pink Christmas Tree on it, so I added a few more using my 1960's cookie cutter set Christmas tree as a template. The pink sparkly tree is from the original card; so Sue if you are reading this you'll know what's coming to you.

Unbalanced – Illustration Friday


The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is unbalanced, so here we have an ewe 'U' and a hen 'N' perfectly balanced (but they wouldn't be).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lemon Squash




A little recipe invented the other evening. First take one butternut squash, wash the exterior, cut into wedges and cut out the seeds but do not peel. Heat a roasting pan to moderately high approx 180c in my oven. Once hot, pour in some olive oil – I used lemon olive oil, toss the squash wedges well to ensure well coated add some ground black pepper. Rinse some preserved ie salted lemon in fresh water and cut into pieces, add to the dish and put into the oven to cook until the squash is nice and soft to the touch and slightly caramelised. If your lemon starts to catch or scorch add some water to the bottom of the dish for the remainder of the cooking time. Eat as an accompaniment to meats or as a main course vegetarian dish, any leftovers are great added to couscous for salad the next day with a little more oil if required.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Speaking Melsh or Something Completely Different - The History of the World according to Twitter


In a previous post called "What has Twitter ever done for you?" I had an opportunity for some thank-yous. Now it is time for some more. Many thanks to @MsClara who by way of a Twitter tipoff said that it was possible to win a copy of a book written by her other half @Mitch Benn and @Jon Holmes. Guess what – I won one; a signed copy of the book The History of the World through Twitter. You can safely add this to your Christmas stocking filler list if you like a quick read where you won't necessarily learn anything new but where you will occasionally laugh out loud. I am very grateful to @carltonbooks for sending the book so swiftly; by the way they currently have U2 books on give away if their follower numbers increase; tell them I sent you.


The second big prize recently was a fantastic collection of crafting stuff from the lovely Mel at I Speak Melsh, follow the link; I really did receive all of that and a bar of chocolate. I should add a thank-you to the hamster at this point. I am not quite sure how it happened but I seem to have crept into the world of arts, crafts and scrap booking. For the last few years I have been recycling Christmas cards by sending people back part of the card they sent me the year before and donating the difference in cost to a charity. This year my charity of choice is Water Aid. Above is the first of the cards, using some of the items in the giveaway. It is also my entry for Something Completely Different. This week they have moved away from inchies and on to Christmas Cards, with the colours Red, Green and Gold and the theme Holly and the Ivy. The little mouse has on his holly pjs. In the background is an attempt to print from an Ivy leaf, it didn't work that well. – Ohh well plenty more to tax me whilst I try to improve my skills.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance – Illustration Friday - Blur


The subject for this week's Illustration Friday is 'Blur' and here in the UK today is Remembrance Sunday, you can find out more about this at the Royal British Legion website. This small illustration is me taking a few minutes to remember all of those impacted by war, whether in the act of conflict or in the preparation and training or in the aftermath, the people themselves and their families and friends.  Created in Brushes on iphone

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Hallow’een




Over on something completely different the theme is Hallow'een. I set my self a challenge, could I carve a pumpkin from a pumpkin and take a print from it? Bearing in mind they are still on inchies (1 inch squares); this was the result.