Thursday, 30 December 2010

Highlights of 2010

I thought I'd post some of my favourite photos from the past year. It's been a good one! (Apart from writing off my car in February, that was a low point..eep.)

My highlights were: discovering the prettiest B&B at a farm in Derbyshire, recording a catchy song about old computer games with Tom, going on my first canal boating holiday in the bright April sun, playing pass the parcel with all my friends on my birthday, Dr Carouse's Shimmy in the Shire (an outdoor party organised by my lovely boyfriend and his friend), my first ever ATP, holidaying in Paris and Amsterdam and visiting Gerdien & Rene, meeting Jarvis, taking photos of 26 strangers, the list goes on... hope everyone enjoyed their year as well! (Sorry about the excessive photos, i had trouble narrowing them down, which is a good thing I think!)

Song writing on Valentine's Day

Adam Ant & Cyndi Lauper.. an 80s fancy dress party.

Canalboating fun

Big Ted before he went missing at ATP festival

Dancing round the Campfire at Dr Carouse's Shimmy in the Shire

Me looking a bit "special", with my housemate in Rough Trade, London


Me, Gerdien and a bemused stranger at the Museum of Dutch Life

A friendly tomcat in Amsterdam

Bank holiday in Norfolk

Sweet little Pip

End of the Road festival

Monday, 27 December 2010

Paper cutouts: Owen Gildersleeve

Recently came across the word of Owen Gildersleeve, there are a lot of artists working with paper now but Owen's work looks really fresh and original.

The recession for ID magazine

A piece for G2 for student freshers

Typographic piece, 'Back to School' for Fast Company Magazine

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas around the World - The UK part 2

The Queen giving her annual Christmas speech, complete with awfully bright clothing

Here's the 2nd part of Bee's post about Christmas here in the UK!

After dinner in a lot of families there is then some traditional Christmas television. The most notably being The Royal Christmas Message which is a broadcast made by our monarch to the Commonwealth of Nations each Christmas. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast by King George V and today, the message is read by Queen Elizabeth II and broadcast on the BBC or ITN (two major television channels accessible in all homes).

The speech generally covers all matters of interest from the year passed both in the UK and the royal family, and a reflection and a reminder to think of those who can’t be with their families on Christmas Day, such as the armed forces. Since 1993 Channel 4 has produced the Alternative Christmas Message as a rival broadcast offering. The long running British soap opera Eastenders always air a particularly dramatic and shocking storyline in their Christmas Day episode and in the past the Christmas edition of Top of The Pops was the most anticipated edition of the year, and since the show itself was cancelled, the Christmas edition has remained a Christmas Day TV institution.

Jimmy Saville presenting an old episode of Top of the Pops

My family however are not exactly TV fans and in fact, the TV is banned on Christmas Day as time to spend together is so precious that it doesn’t feel right to sit in silence watching other people talk! So instead we play board games or charades. Many long running family jokes emerge from these slightly-merry games sessions and they last late into the evening. Despite everyone announcing they are full to bursting after Christmas dinner, you can always find my family members in kitchen come 8pm filling plates with cold turkey and potatoes, or creating mountainous toasted sandwiches packed with dinner leftovers!

In the UK we also celebrate Boxing Day, the day directly after Christmas. It is a bank holiday, meaning an official day off work. There are lots of varying traditional occurrences on Boxing Day, such as attending the football, rugby or darts – all these sports hold matches on this day. There are also huge sales and offers at most shops, making it a popular day to go spending any money received as gifts over Christmas. Most however just use it as another day to spend with their family or visit friends/relatives. Or... to sleep off their hangover!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Film Friday: Jingle all the Way

I've decided to write about films on Friday as it rolls off the tongue better!

Last night I watched the "classic" Arnie film Jingle All the Way! The plot goes something like this: Arnie's son really wants the new Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, but as his dad has left it until Christmas Eve, everywhere has sold out. As Arnie tries to track down Turbo Man all hilarity ensues! Definitely worth more than the 5/10 it gets on IMDB (mainly for Arnie's amazing acting and Phil Hartman's part as his over friendly neighbour - his voice will forever be Troy Mclure to me.)


Christmas Around the World - the UK Part 1

And now for the final Christmas post - all about Christmas here in the UK. This was written by the lovely Bee whose blog Hello Bee is one of my favourites.

I can’t exactly say that my Christmas is representative of all UK Christmases, but I’ll do my best to include a few classically British traditions as I describe my day!

I adore Christmas because it is the only time of year I get to see my entire family together in one place, as we are quite large and sprawling so I usually see one or two family members at a time but organising and gathering en masse is a struggle! We all arrive usually the night before Christmas and generally have a chaotic evening, munching roast chestnuts and drinking mulled wine and doing the classic last minute racing around wrapping presents, collecting them under the tree, shaking items and trying to guess what everything is (it’s.... a book! being a very popular line in my family) and classic disagreements and pouting about who sleeps in which room/on which made-up bed and what time is reasonable to wake up in the morning. It’s incredible how my normally quiet family home can within minutes turn into a rabble of noise and suitcases and commotion!

We decorate the Christmas tree at this point too – a massive British tradition. I’m sure many families buy fancy new decorations each year and have some sort of theme or colour scheme. However for ours, it’s all about retrieving a hefty bin liner of weird and wonderful decorations from the attic, some of which pre-date me even being BORN! But that makes for hilarious stories and memories as we decorate the tree and try to figure where and how most of them came to exist. Although we stick to the traditional UK decorations of tinsel, baubles, fairy lights and a star on top; there are some other frights that make an annual appearance like this chap for example... scariest Christmas decoration ever?

We might watch a festive movie on Christmas Eve night that gets the seal approval from all family members so a Harry Potter or Home Alone or It’s A Wonderful Life. We have a big open fire in my family living room so a classic pre-Christmas evening is 8 humans and 3 cats laid out over the sofas and floor inching closer to the roaring fire, eating my mum’s amazing homemade mince pies and dozing.

On Christmas day when I was a child we wake up early to find a sock filled with presents on our beds. I think this is a nation-wide tradition, and is how you receive your presents from Father Christmas/Santa Claus; rather than the presents from your parents. My parents were fantastic at going to great lengths to convince us that Santa existed. On Christmas Eve night we would leave out some whisky and a mince pie for Santa, and some carrots for Rudolf (the reindeer who leads Santa’s present delivering sleigh).

When we woke up on Christmas day, the whisky, pie and carrots would be gone, with just crumbs remaining and there would be soot all around the fire place and a few sooty footprints across the floor for good measure (Santa traditionally delivers presents down the chimney which luckily we had – not sure what the poor kids who live in flat or apartments are meant to do!) we would also receive a letter from Santa on airmail paper. Why we never questioned that Santa shared the exact same handwriting as my dad... well I guess that’s all part of the Christmas magic!

There is then a huge cooked breakfast where everyone pitches in making bacon, eggs of all description and a production line of toast! We then open all our presents from the family, before the family is divided into two; half heading out for a huge walk in the woods close to my house and the lazier half (err, me) staying to read new shiny books or listen to new CDs etc.

I suppose the real centre of any UK Christmas day is two things. 1) DRINK. Booze of all kinds is readily available all day and it is certainly the only day of the year where it is encouraged... heck it’s expected... that you will be merry by 3pm. Then 2) FOOD. We have our meal late afternoon and it classically consists of turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, veg, sausages wrapped in bacon (called Pigs in Blankets!) bread sauce, gravy and sprouts; which are an acquired taste. I’m a huge roast dinner fan anyway, but Christmas dinner somehow tastes 100% more amazing.

With the food there are also Christmas Crackers. The tradition is to cross arms and pull a cracker with each person sitting next to you. When the crackers snaps in two; the person left with the larger half wins the toy inside, the point Christmas hat and the joke which they then have to read to the table. It is then compulsory to wear your pointy paper Christmas hat for the rest of the meal at least.

The meal ends with a bang! In the UK we serve Christmas pudding which is an alcoholic, fruit pudding. The server of the pudding pours brandy over the pudding and then sets fire to it before eating. I have hunted high and low (well, Googled it) and I can’t seem to find a sensible reason for why this tradition started! So sorry for the lack of historical information, but it looks awfully pretty.

Thank you Bee! I'll be posting Part 2 up tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas around the World no. 7 - Puerto Rico

Our next Christmas Post comes from Mariella, all the way from Puerto Rico - thanks for sharing Mariella!

I always wonder when I will stop being considered a child and stop receiving presents on this day... not that I'm complaining because any present is a good present. :)

In Puerto Rico, you don't really see any drastic changes in the weather, such as snow (I wish, anyway). The weather remains sunny and tropical-like, which means you are able to go to the beach whenever. As other bloggers have already mentioned, Christmas is celebrated differently by everyone, of course.

All throughout the Christmas season, you may turn into the unsuspecting victim of a parranda. Parrandas are basically when a group of pople sneak up to their friends' houses in the late hours of the night (or you could just say the very early hours of the morning) armed with musical instruments, such as tambourines, guitars, bongoes, maracas, and whatever else. They sing and then are allowed in the house and they proceed to eat and drink before going on to another friend's house. They sing traditional Christmas songs that would go little something like this!

At my house, Mum always makes tarts, little Christmas treats. They are super delicious, and are made with brown sugar, cream cheese, pecans, some coffee, etc. Every time I see that Mum has bought insane amounts of brown sugar (she gifts the little treats to a lot of her friends and family), I know Christmas has really begun.

They seriously are the most delicious things ever. My dad, my brother, and I always look forward to stuffing ourselves with them every Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, which we call "Noche Buena," all the family is together and you basically hang out with them while anticipating the arrival of Santa. Then, on Christmas morning we basically do what everyone does that morning: go crazy opening presents under (or in the case seen in the picture... beside) the tree.

The rest of Christmas day is "family time."There is also another Christmas holiday Puerto Ricans celebrate: Three Kings' Day on January 6th. You know the Three Wise Men that gave gifts to Baby Jesus after his birth? Well, Three Kings' Day is celebrated in their honor. On this day, children wake up to find presents under their bed left by the Three Wise Men.

This is a pretty painting I found as I browsed the web of the Three Kings.

To prepare for this, the night before Janyary 6th, the children take a show box filled with grass and a little container with water for the Wise Men's camels. That is basically all you have to do to get the presents.

This is an old picture of my brother picking up some grass... We had to go outside and go to the small field next door to rip some grass.

So that is a brief summary of what Christmas is like for me in Puerto Rico. I hope you learned a bit about my culture, and that you have a great Christmas and a great New Year, of course.


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Around the World no. 6 - Austria


Next up is a Christmas post from Theodora in Austria - they really know how to do Christmas over there! Thank you Theodora!

Christmas is, without a doubt, my favourite time of the year, it's just as magical as it was when I was little. Vienna is beautiful in December, there are Christmas decorations and lights everywhere. Sometimes you walk through tiny forests of Christmas trees. Most children (and many adults) have an advent calendar and on each Sunday we light another candle of the Advent wreath.

There are many Christmas markets all over town where people gather to drink mulled wine or punch and buy random Christmassy stuff.


Christmas cookies are obviously very important, especially gingerbread men.
Austrian children believe in the Christkind, that's baby Jesus. When they go to bed on the 23rd, the Christkind starts its work: The tree is brought in and decorated with real candles and wooden decorations and stars made of straw. A nativity set is placed underneath the tree.

On the 24th, the living room is taboo and children mustn't go inside so as not to disturb the Christkind at its work. As soon as it gets dark, children can hear a tiny bell ring: That's the signal that the Christkind has finished its work and that they're allowed to go to the living room. The candles on the tree are lit, everyone sings "Stille Nacht " ("Silent Night") and other carols.
My family and I still celebrate Christmas like this because it's just so much more fun. We don't have a big dinner on the 24th because the evening is supposed to be as stress-free as possible. We play boardgames and read books and talk.

Frohe Weihnachten!


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