15 April 2014


I got a cocktail shaker and glasses for my birthday, and I've become addicted to mixing some tasty fruity cocktails!

The one in the first photo was my favourite, and it consisted of:
Grapefruit juice
Angostura bitters
Lime juice
Cucumber and mint (muddled in the drink and as a garnish)
Black pepper garnish (I also attempted to put salt round the rim of the glass, I think I need more practice at this!)

The next one was a Chambord cosmopolitan, with:
Cranberry juice
Lime juice

The final one was:
Pear juice

18 February 2014

Living Room

A few weeks ago I started watching a home decor programme on TV, and was seized with a sudden desire to make a few changes around my house! I decided to make a start on the living room.

I'd always fancied a feature wall, and I decided that this olive green colour would go well with the cream, black and red colours I already had in the room. I also wanted a bit of a retro feel to the room, and felt this colour went well with a retro look. The programme I'd been watching had emphasised working with the era your house was built in, so I supposed that the retro look might fit in well with my 1950s or 60s house. The colour gives a really warm feel to the room, and every time I walk in there it makes me smile.

I got some gorgeous fabric with a retro pattern of green, grey and black, and covered some of my cushions with this.

I also added a few yellow details around the room. I decided to make a feature of the retro lights, which I'd not been very keen on, by adding some yellow to them, and now they fit in well with the retro style. I also painted some dried seed pods yellow (I already had some painted red).

I bought a lovely tray from a charity shop, and the wooden blocks spelling "home" were from another charity shop. I displayed them with my mid-century modern wooden cats. I also converted one of the photos I took in Kyoto to a vintage look, and had it printed to go in a frame.

I spent a lot of time reorganising all my ornaments into different groupings. I put most of my vintage kokeshi dolls together on a wall shelf, and I love seeing them displayed in a group like this. Right in the middle is the little mirrored ornament, inherited from my gran, which was one of the things that got me interested in Japanese culture.

I finally found a retro coffee table, although it needs a little bit of work (I didn't have it when I took some of the photos!). It was only £10. In total the mini-makeover cost less than £100.

11 January 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My sister-in-law was giving her parents tickets to this show, so she asked me to design a holder for the tickets. I looked at various versions of the book cover, and I went with this one, but I decided to miss out the garden fork sticking into the dog - in my version it could just be sleeping instead :)

10 January 2014

Dala Horses

I'd made some felt Dala horses to sell as Christmas tree ornaments at the craft fair, and when I went to Japan and saw all the items in the shops related to the Year of the Horse, I decided I would design my Christmas cards for my family based on this idea.

09 January 2014

Japan souvenirs - various

Totoro items - a hand drying cloth, a towelling pouch, and rubber stamps. These were all from a shop on the way to Kiyomizu temple.

Food related items - a cheap little bento box, a little sake cup from one of the pottery stores on the way to Kiyomizu temple, a bird-shaped food cutter from the famous knife shop Aritsugu in Nishiki Market, a gorgeous chopstick rest in the shape of a tiny bowl, a bamboo fork, some citrus flavoured togarashi seasoning (next time I will buy all the different flavours, as they are so tasty and the tins are gorgeous!), and a natsume (tea caddy).

Wooden items - elephant shaped magnets, an ema (prayer plaque) from Heian Shrine, some tiny traditional style kokeshi dolls from a flea market, a doll-sized tea whisk, and a keyring.

Cute items - the little pink god was from a shop on the way to Kiyomizu, the other half of the same shop was the Studio Ghibli shop. The teeniest tiniest maneki neko (waving cat), and a Kewpie keyring. I did want a slightly larger Kewpie too, but the only other one I saw was an enormous one at a flea market.

08 January 2014

Japan souvenirs - paper and craft items

Here are some more of my souvenirs from Japan. Kyoto truly was my idea of shopping paradise, and the paper and craft items in particular were irresistible!

Postcards, tiny envelopes etc. I love the graphic style of these. Many of them were bought from a lovely shop in Shinkyogoku arcade that I remembered from my previous trip to Japan. The envelope with the horse was to celebrate the new year, which is the year of the horse. The shops had lots of cards, rubber stamps, ornaments, etc with horse designs.

A little rubber stamp shop in Shinkyogoku arcade was another shop I remembered from last time. That's where I got all the stamps in the middle. The circle and square stamps at the back are made up of tiny dots, and in the shop there were some good examples of these being used as backgrounds on cards. The green and blue blocks on the left are for carving my own stamps, and I couldn't resist the Totoro stamps which I bought on the way to Kiyomizu Temple.

 These were some lovely gifts that my friend Miki gave me - a notepad, calendar and gold paint.

These are Hanafuda cards, or flower cards, and are a type of playing card. I've always wanted a set, because of their beautiful designs, so I was looking out for them. I found these in the shop at the Museum of Traditional Crafts at the Miyako Messe Hall, and they are even more interesting than the standard hanafuda cards, as they show various Kyoto landmarks.

07 January 2014

Japan souvenirs - fabric items

Here are some of the souvenirs that I brought back from Japan.

Beautiful kanzashi from two shops on Shijo Street. The large one was from Jusanya, and was my most expensive purchase of the holiday, and the other two were from Ikuokaya.

Some kimono accessories that I bought at the flea markets. 

A second-hand kimono that I bought at a shop my friend Kaori showed me.

Some pieces of fabric, some of them from the flea markets, and some of them from Nomura Tailor. 

A pretty pair of tabi socks, and a lunch bag.

06 January 2014

Books read 2013

Here's what I read in 2013. I also managed to get hold of a couple of books from my childhood, which are shown in the photo. My favourite books of the year included the graphic novel Robot Dreams by Sara Vardon, which made me cry, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which had beautiful descriptive language and some great twists. I also hugely enjoyed reading the Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri during some lovely summer weather - I felt transported to Sicily.

1. The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
2. The Horologicon - Mark Forsyth
3. Hector and the Search for Happiness - Francois Lelord
4. Hector and the Secrets of Love - Francois Lelord
5. Paranormality - Richard Wiseman
6. The Grim Grotto - Lemony Snicket
7. The Penultimate Peril - Lemony Snicket
8. The End - Lemony Snicket
9. The Meaning of Tingo - Adam Jacot de Boinod
10. Madame Curie - Ladybird (not kindle)
11. The Girl in the Mask - Marie-Louise Jensen
12. Quantum - Manjit Kumar
13. Thank You For Arguing - Jay Heinrichs
14. The Moneyless Manifesto - Mark Boyle
15. Quiet - Susan Cain
16. Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart
17. Cold Earth - Sarah Moss
18. Going Clear - Lawrence Wright
19. Let The Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist
20. Feynman - Ottaviani & Myrick
21. The Ode Less Travelled - Stephen Fry
22. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
23. A Winter Book - Tove Jansson
24. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - Matthew Green
25. Clockwork - Philip Pullman
26. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
27. The Somnambulist - Essie Fox
28. Robot Dreams - Sara Varon (not kindle)
29. Why we broke up - Daniel Handler (not kindle)
30. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
31. Horseradish - Lemony Snicket
32. The Unauthorised Biography - Lemony Snicket
33. Ash - Mary Gentle
34. The Iron Jackal - Chris Wooding
35. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
36. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
37. The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt.
38. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
39. Clockwork Angels - Kevin J Anderson
40. The Voice of the Violin - Andrea Camilleri
41. Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri
42. The Scent of the Night - Andrea Camilleri
43. Rounding the Mark - Andrea Camilleri
44. The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
45. The Paper Moon - Andrea Camilleri
46. August Heat - Andrea Camilleri
47. The Wings of the Sphinx - Andrea Camilleri
48. The Track of Sand - Andrea Camilleri
49. The Potter's Field - Andrea Camilleri
50. The Age of Doubt - Andrea Camilleri
51. The Dance of the Seagull - Andrea Camilleri
52. The Year of the Gadfly - Jennifer Miller
53. The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
54. Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
55. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
56. Looking for Alaska - John Green
57. An Anthropologist on Mars - Oliver Sacks
58. The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling - Ted Chiang (short story)
59. Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
60. Oaxaca Journal - Oliver Sacks
61. The Mind's Eye - Oliver Sacks
62. Night Film - Marisha Pessl
63. The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
64. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
65. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
66. The Island of the Colourblind - Oliver Sacks

02 January 2014

Kyoto day 13

Wednesday 27th November

My last full day in Kyoto!

I caught a bus and made my way to Shoren-in temple. It has some very old and large camphor trees at the gates. The screens inside the building were beautifully painted with bright colours and a bold style. There was a veranda overlooking a lovely garden with a pond, and as I climbed up beside the bamboo grove I looked down and saw a couple having their wedding photos taken there.

I continued to Chion-in temple. There is a major restoration going on of the main hall, but it was still very impressive. I walked around one of the worship halls and heard monks chanting. Then I saw two blossoming trees, I don't know if they were cherry or plum, but this was most unexpected and beautiful to see in the autumn! I had a look at the big bell, and around the gardens, then continued to Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine which I'd visited on my first day in Kyoto.

From there I went on to Yasui Konpiragu shrine. This had a fascinating stone covered with papers on which were people's wishes for beginning or ending a relationship. There was a hole in the middle of the stone to crawl through while making your wish. The stone looked a bit like a woolly mammoth!

Also at Yasui Konpiragu was the tiny Ema Museum (ema are the wooden plaques on which people write their wishes at shrines). I was welcomed to the museum by a tiny hunched old lady, who spoke only Japanese. She showed me the first room, explained a bit about the ema there (not that I understood much), told me it was ok to take photos (that bit I did understand), then let me explore the ground floor on my own. The oldest of the ema were on this floor, and many of them were very large.

After that she showed me the stairs, and indicated that I would have to take my shoes off once I got upstairs. The upstairs had tatami mat floors, and I found the ema there more interesting. Some of them were quite modern in design, with manga style illustrations, and I even saw one with a character from Battle of the Planets!

I knew there was still a bit of the museum to come, after reading the leaflet, but then the little old lady began ushering me out the door, so I didn't really know what was going on, until I realised she was locking up the museum and beckoning me to follow her to another building. This was the glass museum, and she switched on lights that lit up all the glass pieces, then switched on lights under the glass floor, where there were pieces by the artist Dale Chihuly right under my feet!

When I left the hotel later to go to Gion, I noticed the pavements were slightly damp, so I rushed back to dig in my packed suitcase for my umbrella - just as well I did! By the time I got to Gion it was raining fairly heavily. I didn't see as many geishas, but those I did were carrying their beautiful red umbrellas, so it was a nice change.

When I got to Shijo Street, the rain had become torrential! Luckily the pavements there are under cover, and by the time I'd walked the length of the shopping street the rain had eased off a bit. But I needed to dry my shoes with a hairdryer so I could finish packing my case!