Friday, 25 July 2014

Film Friday: Boyhood

PlotBoyhood documents a boy's journey from the age of 5 to 19, and was shot using the same actors over a 12 year period, including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason Jr's divorced parents. As Mason Jr grows older we witness the music, clothes, haircuts and other items changing too, the film begins with Coldplay's Yellow (boy does that seem like a while ago!) and changes over the course of the film until we reach present day.
Guest appearances: Director Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei stars as Mason Jr's sister.
Watch this if you're a fan of.. coming of age stories, Linklater's 'Before..' series, snapshots into people's lives
Overall: I really enjoyed this film - one of the few films that actually needs to be longer than 90 mins! All the cast were very natural and convincing and you find yourself recognising parts of Mason's life as he leaves his childhood behind, moves house, finds new friends and eventually leaves home to start college. Go see!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Learning the art of Letterpress

Last weekend I hopped on a train to Leicester to meet Janet for a Letterpress Printing workshop held at the beautiful Botanic Gardens. After getting a wee bit lost finding the venue, we finally arrived and met the tutor Nick who showed us how to typeset using a traditional letterpress, and how to print from a linocut.

I chose a quote from It's a Wonderful Life (and from The Owl & the Pussycat), along with a picture of a happy moon. I have to admit my favourite part of the day was having access to the amazing collection of wooden and metal letters in a wide array of typefaces. Basically a graphic designer's dream! After I'd made a few copies of my moon print I chose some interesting letters to spell out my blog name.


Here's a quick video to show you briefly how a letterpress works, using Janet's lovely 'books' print. (You can see her final piece here). Lining up the composition takes longer than you'd think and it took a few tries to get an even print, but it was so much fun experimenting! It's hard to believe that books and newspapers used such a time consuming technique up until the middle of last century.

I'd definitely recommend trying a workshop of this kind, the time just flew by! After our class we visited some amazing vintage furniture shops, then met up with the very lovely B of Make Do and Spend and headed for some food. I had a great day out in Leicester and I'd forgotten just how easy it is to get there by train, so I'm looking forward to visiting again soon.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Film Friday: Chef

Plot: Jon Favreau (who also writes and directs) stars as a chef whose creativity in the kitchen is being stifled at the restaurant he works at. After receiving a less than enthusiastic review from a top restaurant critic he decides to get his own back by opening up his own food truck.
Guest appearances: Quite a few familiar faces pop up including Dustin Hoffman (who doesn't really seem to suit his role as the grumpy restaurant owner), Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Junior who plays Favreau's ex-wife's ex-husband.. if that makes sense.
Watch this if you're a fan of.. yummy food. The Cuban sandwiches will have you drooling. This is a film where nothing bad really happens, it's funny and sweet.. and has a heck of a lot of Twitter references.
Overall: I'd give this film a 7/10 - I enjoyed it but the ending fell a bit flat for me.. however watching all the food being prepared did inspire me to be a little more creative with meals! 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Photobooth - a Biography

Over the last few years, I've become more than a little obsessed with tracking down old fashioned black and white photobooths. It's so exciting to discover one of these booths as they are such a rare find these days and, in my mind, far superior to their digital counterparts! Each picture on the strip is different which means you can be so much more creative. Getting a group of friends squashed into a tiny photobooth always makes for some brilliant pictures, and waiting for the finished photostrip to pop out of the machine is part of the fun. (Black & white booths also seem a bit more flattering than new machines which tend to give me rather a ghostly appearance!)

So far I've located chemical photobooths in Brighton, London, Manchester, Chicago, Paris and (the capital of 'booths!) Berlin. A handy tip if you're ever searching for a chemical booth is to have a look on which has a handy worldwide locator. While browsing the site recently I came across my dream book - a graphic novel all about photobooths!

Photobooth - A Biography is written by artist Meags Fitzgerald who has grown up with a lifelong love and fascination with photobooths. She's traveled the world to photobooth exhibitions & conventions, connected with fellow fans and even learnt how to repair old booths. It was wonderful to read a book by somebody who shares my love for photobooths (to the point where they actually appear in your dreams!)

The book serves as a history of the invention of the machines, along with geeky tips on which models are still in service and snippets from Meags' journey to capture the beauty of analogue photobooths before they get replaced by digital. Sadly, one of the chemicals used to process the photos inside the booths is very harmful and may soon cease to be made, which means that as early as 2015 these beautiful old photobooths (as seen in many of my favourite films such as Amelie Buffalo 66) could be extinct. Track them down while you can!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Ideas on Paper (a magazine lover's dream)

One of the things I love about Nottingham is the number of new creative spaces that keep popping up here. When Janet visited a few months ago we discovered the lovely Cobden Chambers, in Nottingham's newly named Creative Quarter. Situated near the Bodega Social, it's a pretty space full of indie shops, including a brilliant magazine shop called Ideas on Paper. I popped in this weekend for a browse and decided to treat myself to one of the pretty magazines on sale there. Choosing which one proved to be difficult as there were so many beautiful publications on sale! Alex, the owner is a friendly chap who was on hand with recommendations aplenty (and fresh coffee!), and in the end I plumped for a copy of Lionheart. If you're a fan of independent magazines I'd definitely recommend a trip to the shop and a visit to Cobden Chambers which also plays hosts to regular gigs and vintage fairs. Right, I'm off to read my magazine with a cuppa. If you have any favourite magazines to recommend, I'd love to hear!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Just a minute: June

Reading Bossypants by Tina Fey (I'm a bit behind but just discovered it at the library, hooray!)
Planning more trips  to the seaside (you can never have too many holidays right?)
Finishing Orange is the New Black season 2. Really enjoyed it! But, (as Bee also pointed out recently) they need to trim down the theme tune a bit to stop it getting stuck in my head forever..
Starting Mad Men season 7 (has everyone else given up on it now?), Louie season 4
Buying a pretty summer dress in the Cath Kidston sale (couldn't resist!)
Looking forward to some good films coming out soon (Chinese Puzzle, Boyhood, Belle & Mood Indigo all look great)
Browsing the Rightmove app every day on my route into work..
Buying a flower press from the charity shop. Looking forward to playing with it soon!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Make: a Super Mario Pixel Cake

Last weekend Tom celebrated his 29th birthday party the only way he knew how - by organising a huge computer gaming party in the Chapel. (In case you're new to this blog, I live in a convent which handily includes a beautiful chapel which can be hired for social gatherings - thought I doubt anyone had filled it with old games consoles before!). As I'm not much of a gamer I decided to concentrate on making some appropriate food for the occasion and when some friends suggested we make a Mario pixel cake I couldn't say no!

It did prove a little trickier than we'd imagined. In our google image searches for similar projects we didn't quite realise how many cakes would be involved when it came to the baking (143 in case you're wondering!)  Thank goodness we decided to make really small cakes (made using petit fours cases) as if we'd made them full size Mario wouldn't have fit on to our table! We used coloured icing paste which worked out really well (although it can get a little messy, especially in a tiny kitchen such as mine.) We were chuffed with the final cakes anyway - in fact I still have a container full which need finishing... hooray! [Recipe below]

If you're crazy enough to try these too you will need:
- 143 tiny cake cases 
- blue, yellow, pink, red and brown icing (choc buttons for the feet optional!)
- Victoria Sponge ingredients:
300g caster sugar
300g self raising flour
300g softened butter
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

We used this recipe to make a Victoria sponge mixture, then spooned it out into the cases. We needed to bake them in three lots (with 3 cake trays full each time!) but it only took the cakes around 10mins to bake as they were so small, at around 180 degrees C.

While they are baking, prepare your coloured icing! We used paste colours like these which you mix with icing sugar and water. When the cakes are cool spoon on the icing, then meticulously arrange to create the final character, as above. Go go Mario!