Making Hats and Making Pizzas

The lovely Natalie at The Yarn Yard started a bloggy thing called "Making Monday" a couple of weeks ago, to encourage folk to share what they make. I wanted to join in before, but various things have got in my way. This week, however, I actually managed to make stuff, despite the best attempts of my physiology to get in the way.

Yesterday, I finished making a hat that I started (for the first time) several weeks ago, and screwed up several times, before finally getting it near enough right. It's for the first of the babies born to our antenatal group, and it felt like a huge achievement to finally get it done.


The Pattern is Poppy by Justine Turner (Ravelry Link - requires login), and it charms me so much I have no problem with the idea of repeating it several times, in different colourways, for several babies.

Today, breaking from the (recent) norm, was a good day. Not brilliant, but better than I've had in a couple of weeks, and it was very welcome.

Today, I madefinished two things.

I made pizza, using a chunk more of the home-made pizza dough (Jamie Oliver's recipe) that I made a couple of weeks ago. It was really good.

More Home Made Pizza

I also managed to start and finish another hat. I'm now only one hat behind for the antenatal group. Hopefully, I should be able to finish the third before Saturday, when I'll hopefully get to see everyone (and the newest addition to the group) and hand them over.

Another Hat

Mostly, however, I've been working on something much bigger.

Mostly, today, I've been working on growing a person.

In other, happier news, baby is doing fine

Dear Dad,

62.365: Dad

I can't believe another year has passed. I don't know where the time goes. It rushes past so quickly I almost can't keep up.

This last year has been crazy. Work has been insane. More challenging than I could ever imagine, but for all the grey hairs (your estimates were a little off - I'm not totally grey yet but probably will be by the time I hit 40) and stress it's been an incredible year. As I write this I'm sitting in a hotel room in Denver, looking out to the Rocky Mountains and listening to John Denver (because you have to, really). It's a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining brightly and it's warm enough to be midsummer, but I can still see snow on the mountains. I'm here for a work conference and really enjoying it. I'm lucky to get such opportunities.

Karl and I getting married. Photo by Christine Tremoulet
Karl and I getting married. Photo by Christine Tremoulet

I've been married for almost five months now. It was an amazing day. The happiest in my life up to that point. We had a beautiful ceremony and an epic party afterwards and for all that it was wonderful, you were missed and never far from my mind.


Then, in January this year, when I thought that I couldn't be any luckier, I found out that I'm pregnant. We don't know whether it's a boy or a girl yet, but I'm looking forward to meeting this wee person currently growing inside me. I'm sad that you aren't here to share this experience with me, or to meet your second grandchild. You would have made a fantastic grandfather.

But, sad as I am that you won't be around to see them, your influence on me will filter down I'm sure. I can see many trips to museums (and by extension, cups of tea) and I'll try to remember to drop the newspaper before charging into the sea after a child chasing a beach ball.

I love you Dad, and I still miss you.


There In Spirit

Chairs in the Sunlight at Casino el Camino, Austin, Texas In March 2000 I finally got around to setting up a blog on Blogger and made my first couple of tentative posts. The next day, the entire blog community (or so it seemed) upped and left for Austin, Texas to attend SXSW 2000, and so began a multi-year cycle of envy and avid blog watching, wishing I could be there.

I made it there, finally, in 2007 and without exaggeration, it changed my life. My time there passed in a blur of learning and laughter. Something shifted in me that week and I didn't-couldn't-process at the time just exactly how much. I'm still not sure I can. I basked in the warmth of friends old and new and tried not to make too much of an arse of myself in front of people whose work I'd admired for many years.

From the woman who sat down next to me and started chatting when I grabbed a sandwich in the airport just as I arrived, to breakfast burritos and diet coke, to the yarn shop ladies who offered to take me to the airport if my friends couldn't because of family issues I was overwhelmed with the friendliness and positive of absolutely everyone I met.

I remember amazing salsas with handmade tortilla chips, pizzas the size of the moon and margaritas the size of my head. Chicken-fried Steak eaten outside in the balmy night air at the down-home restaurant with gingham tablecloths, trailers as restrooms and Sweet Home Alabama playing as we arrived. Chilli-fries that blew my mind (and cleared my sinuses) eaten while hiding in the patchy shade from the midday sun. The amazing steak I almost couldn't eat because I thought I might choke or spit it out because I was laughing so much.

I remember staggering back to my room every night, exhausted and overstimulated and almost too excited to sleep. Feeling like I was missing out because of my wimpish need to sleep. I remember having to obtain an additional suitcase to stow all the yarn related stuff I'd bought while there (and the comedy of the juxtaposition of said accoutrements and a US Army issue foam grenade in my suitcase).

When I read a tweet about breakfast on the balcony of the Hampton or frozen margaritas at the Iron Cactus, I'm there. If I close my eyes I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and hear the babble of conversation around me.

Eleven years after first following the yearly pilgrimage to SXSW, I'm yet again at home, wishing I was there. This year though, it's for a great reason. I'm pregnant, and pregnancy nausea is absolutely kicking my arse. Much as the part of my soul I left in Austin in 2007 is calling to me, I know it's better to be here at home, resting, putting all my energies into my growing child (and not throwing up).

So this year again, I watch and live SXSW vicariously through the tweets of others, there in spirit if not in body, but this year, I wouldn't have it any other way.


It's oh so quiet. Shh.


It's oh… so still…

The mud-coloured sea rolls ever inward.

Above the treeline the gulls swoop and wheel, dancing on the wind.

In the mist beyond the tree, a P&O Ferry appears, moving inexorably toward harbour.

It's cold here. The chill's cold fingers sneak between and beneath the layers intended to keep them at bay. I contemplate yet another trip up the stairs for yet another woolly item.

Instead, my eyes dart around, alighting on details like a hummingbird on an exotic flower.

Pause for a second.

Drink their nectar, then gone. On to the next thing.

The bright white of the kinked cable against the wood of the floor.

The rain-soaked picnic table and the tree reflected in its wetness.

The fake hydrangeas in their Delft-blue pots on the windowsill.

A discarded book, open on the rug.

The neon green and purple of my slippers, almost offensive against a landscape of muted neutrals.

The devil is in the details, they say.

There's something about being near water that makes me want to wax lyrical.

Travel too, especialy by train. There's a feeling of being apart from the world. In a kind of limbo - neither here nor there - that offers a freedom from the daily rhythmn of life. For a time, I march to a different beat.

The sound of the sea washes over me, and I am calm.

The words flow through my fingers and onto the page. I need them to. I want them to. They've been stuck in my head too long. Trapped there by a lack of time and space.

Life is busy. Sometimes too busy. Hours roll into days. Days roll into weeks. Weeks give way to weekends. A social life has appeared - fully-fledged - from nowhere obvious and is packed with occasions and/or obligations.

For the most part, I don't mind. It's nice to have things to do. People to see. To feel like a weekend has been had. But time alone is in short supply and I need it to recharge my batteries.

Not that I'm alone here. But with this company, this band of literary brothers and sisters, comes with the space to be in my alone in my head.

I came to write, and I do.

Sketching and Creativity: A Book List

Of all my bad habits, the worst (for my mental health and wellbeing, at least) has to be my endless ability to self-sabotage my creativity. The very instant that an idea starts to form, the massed bands of negativity and criticism start up with a rousing chorus of "Reasons Why It/You/Everything Will Fail" (second verse, same as the first) and within seconds, the spark dies before it's had a chance to become flame, never mind roaring fire.

Over the last couple of years I've been trying to counteract this behaviour, with varying degrees of success. I think I've become better at externalising my inner dialogue when collaborating with others and asking the questions that I usually answer in my head out loud. I've also become a bit better at sharing my personal work with a small circle of people I trust, but really feel that I need to work on making sure my inner critic doesn't monopolise the conversations I have with myself so I can be a bit braver in what I create.

In essence, I want to explore more creative, less safe solutions and push myself to go beyond the first safe thing or two I think of.

I often find it quite difficult to be creative for creativity's sake. I get the urge to be creative, but no specific need for something which require creativity. Knitting has often filled this gap, but isn't quite so instantly gratifying as I'd like, and even that isn't as brave as I could be. So to try and overcome this, I've been slowly building a collection of books relating to creativity.

In tandem, I've also been working on improving my visual communication, because an unfortunate and unwanted side-effect of my (perceived or actual - who knows) lack of technical ability when drawing has led to occasions where I cannot adequately communicate the concept in my head so I've also been slowly building a collection of books relating to sketching.

What prompted this post was an offhand tweet following one of those Amazon wormhole experiences where you start off buying one book and then follow a trail of recommendations and "other people bought this"es and before you know it you have ten books in your basket. @kelbyuk asked me to share the booklist, so here it is.

The following books I have already:

The Creative Habit - Twyla Tharp

I put this on my wishlist a couple of years ago and got it last Christmas. I'm a little bit ashamed to say that it came home and went up on the shelf where it has remained unread. I have no intention of getting to Christmas 2011 with it remaining unread.

The Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later - Pete Barry

I love how this is illustrated almost entirely in sketch and deconstructs various advertising campaigns. This was the book that really got me excited about the potential of good sketches to present work and ideas more quickly than an OmniGraffle session.

The Fundamentals of Drawing - Barrington Barber

Not just a fantastic name for an author, but a really great book taking you from the real basics through a number of exercises to full on proper drawings. I've read it but haven't, for reasons passing understanding, started doing any of the exercises yet. Must try harder.

The Back of the Napkin - Dan Roam

Bought because London UX Book Club were going to be discussing it. Didn't read it and didn't go to the Book Club. Shameful.

How to Draw Anything - Mark Linley

To go along with The Fundamentals of Drawing. Only arrived on Saturday.

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - Paul Arden

Really great book. Bought it a couple of years ago, read it in one gulp. Could probably do with reading it again.

And these are the books that flew into my Amazon Shopping Basket:

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers - Danny Gregory

Because I find looking at other people's sketches incredibly inspirational (as well as a little bit depressing in a "I'll never be as good as that" kind of way - hoping for more of the former and less of the latter). Now sold out. Curses.

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are - Danny Gregory

Because it looked interesting, got good reviews, and I feel like I could do with following a few exercises until I find my feet a bit more.

Sketchbook: Conceptual Drawings From The Worlds Most Influential Designers and Creatives

See above re: other people's sketchbooks.

How to Make a Journal of Your Life - Dan Price

Because I bought his book on Radical Simplicity on kindle and really liked the few short pages I managed to read before life intruded. Also because I've been enjoying sketchnoting and like the idea of sketchnoting my life.

A Picture's Worth 1000 Words: A Workbook for Visual Communications - Jean Westcott and Jennifer Hammond Landau

Not sure about this one (the cover is… uninspiring, to say the least), but this goes to the heart of what I'm trying to do more of at work - communicate visually for when words aren't enough.

Wreck This Journal: To Create is to Destroy - Keri Smith

Because I fetishise notebooks too much.

Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes - Keri Smith

Because the exercises seem like fun, and because I loved doing the teabag sketch at Eva-Lotta Lamm's London IA sketch workshop and this reminded me of that.

So there you go, a few books on sketching and creativity. Are there any others I should really know about? Comment or @pixeldiva on twitter and I'll add them to this list.

Venus, Reflected

Venus, Reflected One of the reasons I love Instagram so much is that it makes it super easy to upload photos that are closer to what I saw when I was inspired to take a photo than what the camera was able to capture in raw data.

Sure, the iPhone camera quality is pretty rubbish and it is in no way a substitute for my beautiful Lumix GF1, but it not only captures the moment and the mood, but makes it easy to share the moment, before the moment is lost.

I spent a couple of weeks in Crete at the end of August/Beginning of September last year. It involved rather more relaxing than I planned (I got flu on day 4 and was properly ill for the majority of the rest of my stay, including my birthday) and had rather less internets than I was expecting, which meant I took a bunch of pictures, downloaded them onto my laptop and then did nothing with them.

The above photo was taken one beautifully clear night and for once, the straight out of camera shot matched what I "saw" (for the most part) when I was moved to pick up the camera and spent the next few minutes being gently mocked by my in-laws as I lay on my stomach next to the pool snapping away.

Among the dark and gloom of January, it reminds me that there was sun and will be again.