'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Being Crafty

First find an old pullover. If it's wool you could give it a hot detergent wash and felt it. 
Cut off the sleeves or make a sausage from another part. I used an overlock type of stitch on my sewing machine. Zigzag plus straight stitching should hold it, but has a tendancy to stretch the seam. Give it a slightly smaller end. This will be the head. Don't forget to leave an opening to stuff. If you are clever you could unravel some wool and use it to invisibly sew up the hole, through the loops of the knitting.
You'll now need some felt*, a darning needle and assorted embroidery silks.
The design is up to you. It doesn't have to be symmetrical.  
I used the pullover's cuff for one of the beanies and hand-knitted the other with No. 2.5 needles and a scrap of very fine wool I had left over. 

* you could use regular fabrics and hem them all around. It would make a completely washable doll, but is more work than felt.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


I am putting together a proposal, that will also need to include a painting. I want to record the recent Katikati bioblitz in an outdoor mural. I feel it is important that it can be touched up or repaired, so the style of painting should perhaps be different from my usual. I'm thinking rather than graduations of colour, more patches of coulour. But I am worried it will end up looking like a colour-by-number.

Has anyone out there an opinion on this? Or been involved with or done a large-scale mural work? Cro? Tom? Am I concerned needlessly? Should I just go ahead in my usual style? I am feeling a bout of analysis paralysis coming on ...

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Undertrousers- W i P*

After another visit to the Indian clothes shops, I decided to go for lime green undertrousers. The colours are so deliciously bright! Nat couldn't decide on this outfit or another... so after a bit of bargining on the prices, she decided on both! 

*Work in Progress. An art term.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A Wedding

It's all very exciting!  My oldest son and his partner are getting married at the beginning of October.
My prospective daughter-in-law's parents are Punjabi Sikhs and so the ceremonies around this occasion are, to my eyes, wonderfully intriguing and protracted.  The occasion usually takes place over two weeks, but due to financial and time constraints, this wedding will be just over three days. On the first day 'Maiyan' will take place.  Thomas and Havinder will be, among other things, washed with turmeric, be-bangled, danced and hennaed
Here is some of the information we have been given.

The Punjabi wedding preparation ceremonies are known as Maiyan. We will be performing Vatna, Mehndi, Jaggo and Choora. Sangeet, Giddha and Bhangra will be present throughout the day - singing and dancing.
Everyone celebrates differently, some of these ceremonies are described in more detail on wikipedia.
Vatna the bride and groom are washed with turmeric, mustard oil and chick pea flour.
Mehndi, also known as Henna, is a paste used to draw designs on the skin.
Jaggo is celebration dancing and loud noises to invite the neighbours to the wedding (symbolically, not literally).
Choora are bangles worn by the bride.

The next day the ceremony takes place in the Temple. Apparently the groom's side (that includes me!) are meant to dance into the Temple. Eeek.

Anand Karaj literally translates as "Blissful Union" and is the Sikh marriage ceremony in which two individuals are joined in an equal partnership. A Sikh wedding involves greetings, breakfast, the ceremony, lunch and farewell.
Milni the bride’s side act as hosts and welcome the groom’s side to the temple and to the wedding. The bride herself remains in a back room of the temple until the beginning of the ceremony.
Breakfast is then served to the arriving guests.
During the ceremony men sit on one side of the temple hall and women on the other side. The groom takes his place in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text. The bride joins him.
The ceremony starts with Ardās, a Sikh prayer said before and after events. At various time during the ceremony everyone will be called to stand and sit.
The father of the bride then places one end of a scarf or sash worn by the groom over his shoulders in his daughters hand signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husbands.
The Lavan hymn of Guru Ram Das is then recited in four stanzas. At the end of each stanza the groom and bride walk clockwise around Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Lavan hymn describes the progression of love between a husband and wife which is comparable to that between the soul (bride) and God (the husband).
The Anand hymn by Guru Amar Das is then recited. During the start and the end of the ceremony Kirtan is practiced. This involves chanting with a musical accompaniment.
Hukamnama. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is opened to any page at random and the hymn is read out as the days order from the Guru for the occasion.
Karah Prashad the ceremonial sacramental pudding is given to everyone to mark the end of the ceremony.
The ceremony lasts for about two hours
Lunch is then served in Langar.
At around 1pm the Bride and Groom are sent off in Dholi.
  • The temple is a holy place
  • Decent knee length or full length dresses or pants for women
  • Men wear full length pants
  • Heads to be covered at all times in temple with either a scarf or a bandana
  • No smoking or drinking alcohol on temple premises
  • No tobacco in pockets, please leave in car
  • No drinking beforehand
In the evening we will all go out to the wedding reception location by the beach and have lots of food and talking and, if Havinder's family are in usual form, huge amounts of food, laughter and talk.  I can hardly wait!

Meantime, I am going to make my outfit!
I have a length of dark green bordered silk to make into a dress, a paler green silk scarf (to cover my head in the temple) and also a hand-embroidered phulkari that Havi's mum and dad gave me, that I hope to make into a jacket.  I will also need the baggy Punjabi pants under everything, probably in black.

The material:

The jacket pattern (I won't put on the pockets) :

The trousers:

The (very) general look I am going for:

Thursday, 13 August 2015

On Sleeping

It is a truth fairly recently discovered that as we began to light our streets and homes, our sleeping patterns changed.
In the old days, we would head to bed about 2 hours after sunset, and began our day around 11 - 12 hours later, having had a period of an hour or three of wakefulness in the middle.
After about four hours sleep, we would tend to wake for a while.

This bimodal pattern was so common that researchers have had trouble finding information about it, because, well, who bothers to write about something that is so universal?
So, what did people do in this time? Apparently people would do things like; get up and go to the toilet, lie in bed and chat to the bedmate, make love, or get up and read a little, maybe make a drink, stoke the fire, or just lie there, thinking about things. Some people went next door and visited the neighbours.
It has been proposed that this waking time gave people a chance to mentally or verbally sort through daytime stresses and concerns, and to develop strategies for dealing with stress, and solve problems.

This is a period of time that began to shrink and now that people tend to stay up or go out later at night, it has almost entirely disappeared, as people expect to be in bed for only about eight or nine hours at the most, and sleep in one stretch.

It has also been suggested that many common stress symptoms exhibited by people today might not exist if we still were 'abed' for the amount of time that is 'normal'.

 When I read this I thought I would try going to bed earlier, and it worked for a while.  I even lit candles when I got up at night, to reproduce the orangy-er colour of light (fire in some form) after sunset, that is supposed to stop you waking up too much.

However culturally our lives have changed.  I sometimes get phone calls at 10pm … I get invited to movies that begin at 8pm, and people have expressed concern that I have 'insomnia' when I told them I get up and read for a couple of hours every night. Like experiments in polyphasic sleep, that my son tried, you don't really fit in.

But I have found that there is a free Mac application that helps a bit. After sunset it changes the colour of your screen, gently 'warming it' to go a small way towards emulating the 'normal' light spectrum you are more likely to have entering your eye after dark.  You could say it's only a little thing, but it's great, and the interesting thing is, it feels quite natural.

Here it is.  Just get F.lux.

More info: BBC article

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Lemon Cake With a Story That I Wish Was Mine.

I have a craving for lemon. And sugar. And butter.
So rather than giving in to my first (probably-heading-for-diabetes) impluse and just throwing all those ingredients into my blender and making sweet fluffy lemon butter icing and eating it out of the bowl with a teaspoon while watching some equally soft fluffy movie, I looked up 'lemon cake' and came across a cooking blog and a really great story that sounds like it came directly from that aforementioned fluffy movie.

Thereby coming close to ticking both my boxes.

You have to visit are hereby invited to visit Sarah Secrett (what a cool name) and read her story.  And try the recipe, if you want.

Clickety here.

And here is 'her' cake, just out of my oven.  It smells divine.  It's one of those ones you pour lemon and sugar over the top the instant it comes out of the oven, so it has that lovely crisp, tart topping.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


There have been a rash of fun, smile-making 'machines' in the last few years.
In the really old days all we had was the bucket on the top of the door trick. And machines that reduced your swollen glands etc.

In the just old days, all we had were 'jacob's ladders' (click-clacks - originally from Japan) and domino lines - here's a really long one.  (Turn your sound off)

A Rude Goldberg contraption
I prefer the ones that could be better called 'contraptions' - like that cartoon professor's - that utilise lifters, flingers, rollers, fallers and hitters, to continue a movement, either cyclically or linearly.

LEGO is a great raw material:

But my favourites are these ones below, perhaps because they are so beautiful and only seem to be made of wire and wood.  Oh, there is a bit of clear perspex there too.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Valparaiso Cerro Abajo Race

I am cleaning out my email box.  Someone sent me this and I just want to pop it here so I don't lose it.
And perhaps, also for your enjoyment.  It's hard to watch all the way through.  Or maybe it's only me that stops breathing…!  Tell me your reaction.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Maps and Plans

Dad was a cartographer.  Perhaps then it's not surprising then that from an early age I have had a fascination for maps, plans and diagrams. I am told the first recognisable drawing I ever did was a map of our village roundabout, with all the roads coming off it.
I have quite a few books on the subjects of maps and plans, but there are at least two books I would like to own but don't yet:

1. Simon Winchester's book  The Map That Changed the World - about William 'Strata' Smith (23 March 1769 – 28 August 1839), his life, and his marvelous geological map that he painstakingly compiled from years of observation and data and fossil collection. (Darwin used it to help him formulate some of his evolutionary theory!)

2. Matteo Pericoli's (click) 26 foot long accordion book London Unfurled of drawings of the north bank of London from the Thames.
(Unfortunately it's unobtainable at the moment, but I've put my email address to be contacted.)

Here is a clip of him unrolling his sketch for us.  It was based on over 6,000 photos that he took.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Elderly Overweight Man in a Speedo

Here is a snippet of what appears to be a tutor's response to exam essays. It was sent to me by my son while I was in the middle of study, found from who knows where.
Too good not to share.  And, actually, quite useful.  The imagery certainly stays with me!


NB. If you ever want to re-post this, thinking 'Oh, what a fun idea it would be to add an image',  I do not recommend you do a google image search using the title words.  If you do, don't blame me, you have been warned. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Where Do Some Bloggers Go?

Arctic Fox (never mis-spell him 'Artic') was a great blogger.  I wonder what happened to him?
He described himself as: "I'm a 6 foot skinhead from Huddersfield. I'm old enough to know better, but too stupid to care."
This was one of his very many excellent posts.
Warning, it's about a run of mice he had in his kitchen, and shows an image of each of them in the 'Lucifer' trap that got each of them.

His last post was Tuesday September 18th 2012.

If you're out there reading this Foxy, I hope you are happy and well, and pleased to know we are still missing you.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Photographing Little Critters

The other day when tidying up my email boxes, I came across a survey I did, and in which you may have been kind enough to participate. I asked people to share their reactions to insects and spiders etc - those little 'critters' about which many seem to have such strong emotional responses.

I ended up with some great information from the survey and I adjusted my PG Dip subject matter in response, ending up with a focus on the honey bee, Apis melifera.

I am still creating work exploring our relationship with bees, and every now and then I put together a body of work that I feel is good enough for an exhibition.
I am moving towards another at the moment, and would like to ask you for help again, this time as stars of the show!  More about this soon, when I have worked out the details.

In the meantime, have a look at these little critters… if you dare.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Words in Māori I Should Know

Artist's idea of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Māori Language Week comes around only once a year.
But I am working on my te reo ('the words') steadily all the time.

The Treaty of Waitangi, complex document tho' it was, and made even more complex by having different versions in Māori and English, was signed in 1840 by a significant number of the then Māori and European officials living at that time in Aotearoa New Zealand.

One of the original Treaties of Waitangi
 (Tiriti O Waitangi)
If you are interested there is more information here about this document that is probably unique in the world, in that it (goes some considerable way to) recognising the rights of the indigenous people of a land at a fairly early stage during a European colonisation.

I think it should at the very least be interpreted as a document of respect for the Māori and this includes the spreading and knowing of the Māori language.

Here, as much for my benefit, so I know where to find it again, as for your interest, dear TLVD reader, is a super site that lists 100 useful Māori words, and includes their pronunciation.

I'm pleased to say there are many I already know.

Hei konā rā!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Smartbird and Spot

This robot bird was invented more than 4 years ago.
I can't believe how casual we are today about things that really are astonishing.  If this was the renaissance, even, there would be people on horseback galloping all over the place shouting it out.

And, here's 'Spot' from earlier on this year.  This is almost creepy.  Imagine being chased by one of these!  It recovers its balance after being kicked better than a real dog would.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Mild Winter Day.

Well, that was a pleasant day. The blackbirds are starting to chupchupchup at the neighbour's cat and do their territorial song to each other, so spring must not be too far away. 
Lucky, because I am just about out of firewood. 

Eye Candy Day 54