blog loveliness

1. the unicorn diaries 2. the cherry blossom girl 3. treats & treasures
4. the tea drinking english rose 5. blaze danielle 6. wish wish wish
7. wild keikei 8. rose posie rosie 9. (inside) a black apple
10. monmartre's sketchbook 11. scout holiday 12. i'm not antisocial, just shortsighted

Today, for a final blast of 'December loveliness', I thought I would share these blogs - all relatively recent discoveries, which I like as much for their lovely images and overall aesthetic as for their written style.

I especially like the fact that all of these blogs make the most of the potential offered by online platforms without feeling scarily uber-digital or hi-tech: in fact, if anything, blogs like the tea drinking english rose, or the unicorn diaries more closely resemble an old-fashioned handwritten journal that you could imagine you might tie up with a ribbon or lock with a key.

Whether or not the particular aesthetic appeals to you, what really stands out about all these blogs is how defined their individual styles are - visuals, content and prose style all work together to create a particular identity. It’s perhaps for this reason that these blogs feel so personal - reading them is like taking a little peep through the keyhole into the space of the bloggers’ imaginations.

It's interesting to observe how blogs such as i’m not antisocial just shortsighted (a very recent find, which I discovered via jo’s blog) or the cherry blossom girl develop, becoming a broad creative space to experiment with a distinctive personal style, bringing together together many different interests and sources of inspiration - from fashion to design to writing to photography to fine art.

Blogs like these seem to be first and foremost spaces to play with and share ideas, becoming (quite literally in the case of blogs like treats & treasures) ongoing scrapbooks or collages which are always growing and developing. These blogs are little treasure-troves of inspiration.

'twas the night before christmas...

... wrapping last-minute gifts in red paper and silver string, with the sound of carol singers and laughter outside my window. In the distance, the ringing of Christmas bells.

favourite things: polaroids

I love old photographs, and polaroids in particular. I have recently become slightly obsessed with poladroid, a brilliant free-to-download image maker that allows you to transform any photograph into a polaroid in a mere matter of seconds. You can even watch the picture develop, just like a 'real' polaroid photograph.

I couldn't resist the temptation to capture in polaroid form a few more of my favourite things to add to the ever-increasing list:

blue skies and autumn leaves

felt-tip pens

typewriters: I am seriously coveting this one from three potato four

sitting in the oklahoma cafe with a hot spiced apple juice

a very old and special friend

blurry christmas tree (and cat)

OK, I've changed my mind... I do like Christmas after all. Especially when I'm on holiday, and there are mince pies, and Christmas songs, and sparkly trees with lots of twinkly lights. And most especially when I have nearly (at last!) finished my Christmas shopping.

However, I am a little disappointed that these photographs of our newly-decorated Christmas tree and our cat, Mim (doing her best cute-cat-on-a-Christmas-card impression) are such bad quality - I had to take them on my mobile phone because my camera decided today that the Christmas period would be the optimum time to break. I am especially disappointed about this, because one of my neighbours back in Manchester has amazing fairy lights in their window spelling out 'BAH HUMBUG' and I really wanted to take a picture.

If you are in Manchester this week, the special 'festive edition' of no point in not being friends tomorrow night looks like it will be a good one. Unfortunately I'm not there to go along, but there will be readings from Nicholas Royle, Socrates Adams-Florou (reading from his new chapbook) and the lovely Emily McPhillips amongst others, plus surprise presents AND Christmas cover songs.

I have another little something up over at a handful of stones today, which seems particularly appropriate for the winter solstice.

Right, now I'm off to eat another mince pie.


My plans for daily December loveliness haven't worked out so well this week. Perhaps that's just because it hasn't been a particularly lovely week: I seem to have spent most of it working, or sitting on the bus, or being tired, or walking round town on a fruitless quest for Christmas presents, getting periodically bashed by people with armfuls of Primark bags in remorseless pursuit of the nearest bargain bin, all set to the tune of hyped-up electro Christmas carols.

Bah humbug indeed.

I feel the need to catch up a bit on the 'loveliness' front. Today has been a lot lovelier so far, in spite of the greyness and the rain: it's Saturday, and I've just come back from a nice pub lunch, and now I'm sitting under two blankets because the house is cold, and am contemplating lighting the fire and making a cup of cocoa.

First though, here's some rapid-fire 'good things' to make up for some of the ground I've lost through general apathy this week:

I quite like this new blog. It's full of useful advice and eyeopening insights, mostly in capital letters.

The excellent artyarn will be launching their Shed Jumper project next week. Working with the local community, they have knitted a jumper for a shed! Check it out at the Pool Arts SHED Gallery, Tonbridge Road Allotments in Levenshulme from Thursday.

Academy:academy is a new blog and a very useful online resource, with links to 'free material of educational value' on the web. Go there to check out lectures, interviews, artists film and video and tons of other interesting stuff.

I like this new blog too. It doesn't have a lot of posts yet, but I have a good feeling about it.

The Manchester Craft Mafia Christmas market is taking place at the Whitworth today and tomorrow. Go there for everything from paper shoes to cuddly robots. Check out the information here.

A new exhibition at FACT opened this week called DING>>D0NG (very appropriately seasonal) which I'm looking forward to seeing when I'm next in Liverpool. The exhibition 'closes FACT's 2008 programme with bleeps, bangs and electronic noise' and features new work by Andy McCluskey, Peter Saville, Hambi Haralambous and The Fragmented Orchestra.

And just for a little variety:

I stumbled on this blog quite recently. It is called 'Sea of Shoes' (a good name) and it is penned by a young lady called Jane, who lives in Texas and is 16 years old. Although I can see that her taste might not be everyone's cup of tea (I thought these Martin Margiela 'sandal booties' were fabulous but my boyfriend thought they were horrendous) I can't help feeling deeply impressed that any 16-year old has such a strong sense of personal style, especially when I look back at the kind of things I was wearing at 16 (we won't go into details, but in retrospect, it was Not Good). To be fair to me though, Dries van Noten and Balenciaga were a little out of my price-range, and not really readily available in Lancaster town centre!

Right, that's enough for one day - now it's cocoa time...

or perhaps I'll move to paris...

... and live in this Miss Dior campaign produced by Sophia Coppola.

Balloons, cakes, vintage sunglasses and pink dresses. That's what it's all about. And no green taps to be seen!


Pink sky at four o'clock: last night's frost still glitters on the roofs of houses.

and now, in a change to our scheduled programme... house is falling to bits.

Since we moved in here about eighteen months ago,the boiler has broken (twice), the washing machine has leaked across the kitchen floor, the kitchen ceiling has leaked (numerous times), the shower has broken, there has been a wasp’s nest in the ceiling and the TV aerial has broken. Just the other week we discovered a new leak in the kitchen (a pipe this time) on the same day that the kitchen door fell off its hinges. Then the boiler broke (again). Then a whole lot of water came through the kitchen ceiling.

It is just that kind of house. It is disintegrating very slowly. It is the kind of house where doors regularly fall off their hinges, where pictures or mirrors or bookshelves or coat-hooks spontaneously leap off the walls as if possessed by some (otherwise relatively tranquil) poltergeist. It is the kind of house where everything is slightly rickety: the leg of the dining room table is liable to fall off, none of the cupboard doors will close properly, and a number of them always seem to be missing a handle. It is a dysfunctional house: the bathroom window won’t shut, the back door won’t open, the drains in the back yard are mysteriously designed in such a way as to prevent water from actually going down them, so that the back yard is a perpetual swamp. Everything is slightly crooked: it is a house devoid of straight lines or right angles. It is rife with health and safety hazards: my personal favourite is the plug extension crammed dangerously with plugs and various mysterious wires which sits, conveniently, adjacent to the kitchen sink.

I know these kinds of problems are not particularly unique - they may indeed be universal to people renting houses. Believe me, I have lived in some very special houses before. Shoebox-sized flats with dirty carpets and views of petrol station forecourts. Rambling student houses full of endless piles of mouldering washing up and supremely disgusting bathrooms. But there does seem to be something extra-special about this house. Nothing about it is ever quite how it should be. After all, showers are supposed to be a constant temperature, not alternately freezing cold or boiling hot, though mysteriously behaving quite normally whenever anyone comes round to fix them. Skirting boards are not supposed to be slopped with drips of various different colours of gloss paint. Flooring is generally supposed to cover the entire floor, and not to expose occasional areas of concrete, as if someone just got bored when laying it and wandered off halfway through to superintend some other DIY disaster. Bathroom taps should not be stubbornly green, regardless of the quantity of elbow grease applied when cleaning: it is also helpful if the bathroom door closes, particularly when you have visitors. Kitchen counters should not be covered in old speckly grey and white vinyl: whilst the principle of ‘not showing the dirt’ works well enough for say, hall carpets, it is not generally well applied to kitchen surfaces. Bathrooms should not be painted in four different shades of bright blue paint, as if someone got a bit carried away with their child’s poster paints. Piles of dust bunnies should not mysteriously accumulate in corners of the room apparently seconds after extensive dusting and hoovering has taken place.

It is a house behaving badly. Sometimes I feel like this house and I are locked in a battle of wills: my only weapons a succession of J-cloths, furniture polish, the slightly aged hoover, a scrubbing brush. I’m not sure that I am winning.

We keep trying. Today I have been trying to improve the house. I have done some washing and cleaned the kitchen. We have moved our giant rubber plant, which was looking a bit unhappy, to a new, sunnier location where hopefully it will stop trying to pretend it is deciduous.I have made a resolution to go out and buy picture frames for all the things which need framing. At some point, I may even go and cut the hedge, which has not been cut for weeks and is almost reaching Sleeping-Beauty-castle type proportions. But it isn't enough.

We have resolved to move out of our house soon, which in some ways is a shame. After all, it is quite a pretty house. It is on a very nice quiet street with views of trees. It has some good features, like big (draughty) windows, and an original fireplace in the sitting room. It has a jungly little garden at the front where I can watch birds and squirrels going about their business. When people come round they always say “ooh what a nice house”. Some of them even like the freakish blue bathroom.

But I have dreams of other houses. Cool, light, clean beautiful houses. Houses with lovely sash windows and polished floorboards and sunny kitchens and windows boxes full of red geraniums. Houses with perfect white bathrooms. Houses with black cats snoozing on the windowsill. Houses with clean white bed linen and fluffy fresh towels. Houses that smell delicious: of furniture polish and cut flowers and clean washing and something baking in the oven. Houses with proper cupboards and doors that close and ceilings that don’t leak...

Today, I'm looking at dream places to live. I love these pictures of fashion designer Betsey Johnson’s New York apartment (images from an old copy of Elle Decoration) though it’s perhaps a bit on the crazy maximalist side and might be hard to live with on a daily basis. And it definitely wouldn't go down well with my boyfriend who is a true minimalist and would happily furnish our entire house from Muji plus the odd design classic given that we had any money to spend.

But I would like to live in a place like this one, or this one... or perhaps in a treehouse, or maybe even this extremely cute 'chicken coop' house designed by artist J Morgan Puett - I'm not sure about the interior decor, but I love the outside though I suppose it might be a little small, and perhaps indeed chilly at this time of the year:

paraphernalia is good

I really like the word ‘paraphernalia’.

Perhaps coincidentally, I also really like Paraphernalia jewellery which I came across a few months ago via the magic that is These beautiful and highly distinctive designs caught my eye straight away: I love the tongue-in-cheek contemporary spin that Paraphernalia gives to traditional Victoriana.

Amongst my own favourites from the collection are the Fauna Blue Bird, Magpie and Goldfish necklaces, but having said that, who could resist the Sleuth collection or the Vetements collection or perhaps especially these most covetable brooches? It’s just so hard to choose...

Paraphernalia has recently launched her own shop where you can browse to your heart’s content, and also has a lovely blog here. It was through her blog that I learned that she is in fact based but a stone’s throw away from me here in Didsbury, Manchester - her blog even features some photographs of Fletcher Moss park, one of my favourite places for a weekend meander. How’s that for an unexpected coincidence?

Paraphernalia has just announced a competition for her newest collection, The Victoriana Collection, featuring a number of very elegant ladies who you can see here on flickr. You can enter by writing a short story (one or two paragraphs) for one, or indeed several of the ladies, and if yours is selected, it will be featured in the product description and press releases of the collection (with full credit and link) and you'll also win a $30 gift voucher. Check out the blog for more details.

I also really like the word ‘ephemera’. And ‘gherkin’ though that’s not got anything to do with the matter currently at hand.

put on your red shoes to dance the blues

I’m feeling a little bit jaded today. A little bit monosyllabic. Still, I think half the point of posting something every day is to write even on the jaded, monosyllabic days. I’m probably just feeling grumpy because the 8 inches of snow somehow turned into 8 inches (or more) of rain overnight.

Anyway, time for something lovely. Here we go.

Yep, it's a picture of a particularly pleasing shoe. Yes, it is red. Yes, it is glittery. Yes, it has peep toes. Yes, it looks like a dancing shoe, possibly a shoe that might be worn on Strictly Come Dancing by someone dancing the samba or the cha-cha in a sequinned 'number'. These are all good things. This shoe is from Topshop. You can see more pictures of it here. I also like it in grey. That's about all there is to say about it, really.

I wish I had had enough energy to have gone along to the launch of the Diary of a Bluestocking retrospective/end-of-residency exhibition at Apartment tonight. In actual fact, I'm on my sofa under two blankets (my house is freezing) but I’m there sipping sherry in spirit.

free encouragement

I found another interesting web-based project recently, which seems very appropriate for my daily post of goodness. Booooooom! and Design for Mankind have joined forces to create Free encouragement, a project which is absolutely all about positivity and nice things. The idea behind the project is to counteract the negativity that we find “all around us these days... infesting the internet... taking over the big screen... showing up on your bank statement”.

The first part of the project, led by Booooooom!, has been the creation of an online 'gallery of encouragement' - anyone can submit their own personal encouraging messages to the project: “You can use this gallery to encourage a close friend or someone you just happened to pass by on the street. You can encourage a relative who may be ill or the girl who handed you your coffee this morning. You could even use this place to encourage yourself!” You can see the gallery here, which makes very entertaining reading. The images here are some of my personal favourites from the gallery.

The second half of the project, led by Design for Mankind, has not yet been announced - it's veiled in mystery until it kicks off this Friday. I'm intrigued to see what will happen next, but there's no doubt that it will certainly be cheerful.

I went back to work today. It was quite challenging, but I survived the day and made it home, despite the freezing cold, and nearly falling over on the ice about a hundred times on the short walk from the train station back to my house. Here are some other cheerful and lovely things from my day:
  • Frosty hedgerows and sunshine in the morning
  • Steak and kidney pudding, chips, gravy and peas for lunch (which really should have been on my ‘100 favourite things list I think) - greedy but good
  • This monkey
  • A forecast for 8 inches of snow tonight!

of course one needed tea always

I can't really talk about lovely things without mentioning tea and nice teacups. I like this quote from Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, which I read over the weekend:
Perhaps there can be too much making of cups of tea, I thought as I watched Miss Statham filling the heavy tea-pot. We had all had our supper, or were supposed to have had it, and were met together to discuss the arrangements for the Christmas bazaar. Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look. “Do we need tea?” she ecohed. “But Miss Lathbury...” She sounded puzzled and distressed, and I began to realise that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind.

I mumbled something about making a joke and that of course one needed tea always, at every hour of the day and night.
This is my favourite cinnamon tea with cardamom, ginger, cloves and black peppercorns. I also like this one which comes in a pretty box. However, my favourite of all is weak earl grey (no milk of course) in a teacup, ideally with a slice of cake on the side. I think Barbara Pym would approve.

I came across Tea Blog, an interesting web-based project by artist Ellie Harrison, via Mark Robinson’s Arts Counselling blog, which is well worth a read - one of his definitions of ‘strategic’ as ‘really, really big and expensive’ nearly made me snort tea everywhere. Anyway, each time Ellie drinks a cup of tea (or any other hot drink) she records a snippet of what she is thinking about on the blog. Since 1 January 2006 when the project started, she has gathered over 1,500 thoughts online in a tribute to tea and thought. Tea Blog is due to end at midnight on 31 December 2008.

ladybird books

I absolutely love Ladybird Books... but then, is there anyone who doesn't? They whisk you back into your childhood in an instant - suddenly you're there all over again, fascinated by 'The Elves and the Shoemaker', or, my personal favourite, 'The Enormous Turnip' - and don't even get me started on 'Puddle Lane'. Though in fact, I think part of the magic is that actually, they have the power to take you back even further than that, into another, imaginary childhood, where things are priced in shillings, magnets are unaccountably fascinating, lawns are green, policemen are friendly and helpful, and Peter and Jane go Shopping with Mother or have a jolly time with Pat the Dog. All this and the opportunity to hone your skills at reading such essential words as 'dog', 'girl' and 'ball'. I think the other reason I love Ladybird Books is because they also remind me of the sheer, electric joy of learning to read, of devouring whole books by myself.

Someone has obviously caught onto the universal appeal of the Ladybird Book because you can now buy notebooks and mugs and fridge magnets and suchlike with vintage Ladybird illustrations (see here), as well as a book, Boys and Girls: A Ladybird Book of Childhood. I'm not usually a one for novelty mugs or indeed those just-for-the-sake-of-it gift books that people give each other for Christmas and then never look at again, but I have to admit that I can see the appeal of these. But what I really want for Christmas is a real-life Tiptoes the mischievous kitten.

december loveliness

I woke this morning, on the first day of December, to snowfall - a gentle flurry of featherlight flakes. There’s something so magical about snow.

Now it is December, I can start enjoying thinking about Christmas - because regardless of what the shops seem to think, Christmas does not start in mid-October. But now I can start planning presents, and thinking about cards, and contemplating mince pies with brandy butter, and (when I am better) trips to the Christmas market for mulled wine and other good festive things.

I have decided to give myself a small challenge for December. Writing about the things I like over the last week or so has been so cheering. Thinking about the things you love make you feel good (very medicinal), and also in some way reminds you who you are. It’s also made me realise how easy it is to forget about enjoying the small, lovely things in the face of all the negative stuff - the Big Important Worrying Things - when actually I can’t help thinking that it’s the nice things that really matter in the end.

I’m aware that writing about ‘nice’ things perhaps isn’t the most intellectual of pastimes, but it is extremely enjoyable, and to be quite honest I couldn’t care less about being intellectual at the moment. Anyway, lovely things give a fairy-light twinkle, a snowflake sparkle to grey winter days.

So... throughout December, I will be counting down the days until Christmas with my own advent of cheerful, interesting, inspiring or lovely things - festive or otherwise. There will be a little bitesize something that takes my fancy each and every day.