Sunday, 23 October 2016

Treasured Worlds

Sunrise Over Seashore

This week, one of the prompts on Delightful Aberrations' photography & art challenge was gem, and you can bet your life I jumped on that one!

Layers of Sunshine
I've got tones of gemstones/crystals, and they have such interesting patterns in them, so I decided to make use of my macro lens conversion kit and take some closeups of some agate!

Black Hole in the Blue Planet
 The insides/patterns look like little worlds!

As for how I took these pictures (because I don't have a lightbox or anything fancy like that), I used that handy tool, blu-tack...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Refuge in Music

It's music time of the week again! This week, I'm looking at a couple of acts from Syria. The country has been in the news a lot over the months and pretty much everything we hear about it is to do with conflict, terrorism and refugees, so whilst all of those things are serious issues, I thought it would be nice to look at something good about a diverse country rich in culture and history.
So...onto the music!

Khebez Dawle
Started as Anas Maghrebi's a one-man project during the Syrian uprising in 2012. Following the death of Maghrebi's drummer at the start of the Syrian Civil War, Khebez Dawle (Arabic for 'Government Bread') came into being as a indie-rock band in Lebanon in 2013 after the members had fled their home country.
An album was recorded in 2014 and, after selling their instruments in order to pay smugglers to get them across the Mediterranean, it was this album that the band gave out to tourists upon their arrival in Europe. From that point on, they played gigs using borrowed instruments and have since played further concerts all over Europe using instruments paid for by crowdfunding. Their aim is to break down the barriers between Syrian and European people through sharing the stories of refugees.
Their music is a combination of typical rock and traditional Syrian folk music, and their songs are performed in Arabic (though their website is in English, and has a lyrics section where English translations can be found).
Even without understanding the lyrics, I really liked what I heard of this band. I love the way they've combined musical styles.
Couldn't find much in the way of music videos on YouTube (the one above is pretty much the only one; everything else is concert videos) but give them a listen!
Khebez Dawle Official Website

Kulna Sawa
Formed in the 90s, this rock/pop act, whose name means 'all together' feature both female and male vocals, which make for some great harmonies!
Sung in Arabic, some of their songs feature a combination of traditional rock/pop and traditional folk sounds. I really like finding artists who use sounds in their music that are native to their culture as it makes for some interesting music!
Some of their songs seeem to have quite an upbeat atmosphere to them, whilst others are more balladic.
Their music was interesting to listen to, and the video I found was fun to watch!
I can't seem to find any current information on this act, so I'm not sure if they're still active or not.
Check them out for Arab-Western rock fusion and nice vocal harmonies.
Kulna Sawa on Facebook

That's my two acts for this week's new-to-me listening. I can't believe there are only 10 weeks left of the year. That's 20 new-to-me acts I have to whittle down from a list of over 200...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Before going to Stylist Live last Thursday, my sister and I had time to kill, and ended up in the Angel branch of the bubble tea shop Bubbleology.

I've had bubble tea before so the drink itself wasn't a strange thing to me, though making a decision about which flavour I want is always what takes me so long.

Eventually I went for lychee flavour, which I hadn't tried before!
I probably won't try it again either, because it wasn't the best bubble tea flavour I've had. However, the drinks here have a lot more tapioca pearls in them than other places I've been to, and the service was fast and friendly.

Not sure if I'll go to Bubbleology again, though this is mainly because I don't live anywhere near their shops. Still, their decor is cool, and they have a good number of options on the menu, so who knows...

Visiting Bubbleology counts towards another of my goals on The List:
036. Eat/drink in 30 new places
I'm at 27 now--nearly there!

Monday, 17 October 2016

No Faces, No Names

No Faces, No Names

One of the themes for this week's challenge on Delightful Aberrations was censorship. I had ideas straight away, but some required Many People (I know many people, but many people that do not have time at the same time...)
So these ended up being my final images this week.

Censor Them All

I wanted to show censorship both as an act and as a person. People are the cause of censorship, and maybe Censorship itself is censored, in that we are not always fully aware when something has been censored--think of all those scenes left on the editing room floor, those paragraphs deleted, that we never know exist unless they're directly addressed.

Anyway, that's it photography-wise for this week. My brain is fuzzy with a cold, so hopefully this makes sense!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Macramé and Shopping at Stylist Live

Crafting and shopping: two of my favourite things.
So when I heard about Stylist Live, a four-day event in London filled with workshops, talks, catwalk shows, shopping, food and a free Chambord cocktail, I knew I had to go!

I dragged along my youngest sister, who isn't much of a craft-oriented person, but is totally into fashion and beauty and well up for a day out trying something new.

We opted to go on the Thursday, and since the ticket price included a workshop, we went to learn how to make macramé hanging planters!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Songs from Beyond the North Sea

After spending the last few weeks focusing on music from far-flung and exotic places such as Cambodia, Laos, Kazakhstan and South Africa, this week I'm looking just a hop over the North Sea away, with some new-to-me artists from Norway!

This electronic duo formed in 1998, and their name is apparently a stylised version of the Norwegian word for puffball mushroom: røyksopp, though the artists say it could also refer to the mushroom cloud of an atomic blast. (Cheerful!)
The band use a number of different vocalists on their recordings, both male and female, so without being familiar with any of them it was quite a surprise to hear what the vocals on each song were like!
Whilst some of the tracks I heard were more what I think of when I think 'electronic', others were much different to what I expected!
The videos I watched were pretty varied; some told stories whilst others seemed more artsy. I liked watching/listening to this act, and since the songs I heard are performed in English I could understand the content easily!
This is a good act with some great songs; I'm not generally a fan of the electronic genre but enjoyed this band's sound.
Röyksopp Official Website

A folk-rock band with a metal twist to their sound, Gåte (Norwegian for 'riddle') was formed in 2000 and active until 2005, then reformed for one more year between 2009-2010.
I really like the combination of rock/folk/metal sounds in music, and whilst a lot of similar female-fronted acts might opt for a more pseudo-operatic vocal, Gåte go more towards the folksy sound. (I'd go as far as to say there's a Celtic twang to be heard in this act's vocals!)
Their music videos feature lots of dark lighting and some fantasy elements, along with the band performing.
Gåte's songs are all in Norwegian, but the internet is a wonderful thing, so they are plenty of lyric translations to be found (here's one for the song above!) so the language isn't a problem.
I found their music engaging and energetic, and will probably go back at some point to listen to more!
No official website this time. Boo.

That's it for this week! My list of new-to-me acts is still huge, so who knows which country's music I'll be looking at next week...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Top 5 Best Chocolate Bars


At the beginning of the year, I completed a goal from The List:
064: Eat 50 different chocolates
It took a while, since I started it in May 2014 and finished in January of this year!

Since it all feels far away now, here are my Top Five Chocolate Bars of the fifty I tried.

5. Montezuma's Open Sesame
Slightly crunchy, with an easter egg chocolate kind of taste!

4. Rococo Chocolates Chilli Pepper 'Bee Bar'
Great quality chocolate and a subtle chilli taste that builds with each bite!

3. Kernow Chocolates Caramel Sea Salt
Soft, caramel flavoured chocolate with a saltiness that balances out the sweetness!

2. Waitrose Seriously Nutty Pistachio, Hazelnut & Almond Milk Chocolate 
Satisfying chocolate with tiny bits of nut for that extra crunch! 

1. Vanini Dark Chocolate with Rosemary 
A chocolate bar with a really surprising flavour; not only was it delicious but it evoked a feeling of a warm kitchen on a cold day, and home-cooked food fresh from the oven.
It's rare for a chocolate bar to cause a feeling like that, therefore it's my number one bar!

Vegan pick: 
Moo Free Mini Moos: Lily-Lu's Minty Moo
Tasty vegan chocolate with mint!

Sugar Free pick:
Klingele Chocolate: Balance Milk Praline
Smooth and flavoursome chocolate. Hard to believe it was sugar free!

Honorable Mention: (because 'top 5' wasn't enough)
Pana Chocolate Fig & Wild Orange
Soft and flavoursome raw 70% cocoa organic chocolate with no added sugar and amazing flavour.

That's it! I'm done with chocolate!
Of course, I'll still eat chocolate, but this is probably the last you'll read of it on here. I'll be going back to naughty, more run of the mill treats like Double Deckers, Wispas, and Lidl's version of Twix ;)

Check my chocolate tag for all chocolate tried for this goal!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Ethnic Folk

Sticking with the 'pick a country, any country' formula for this week's new-to-me artists.
This time around, I've been listening to two acts from Armenia!

Inga & Anush Arshakyan
Also known as the Arshakyan Sisters, this folk duo have been active since 2000.
Compared to other folk acts I've heard, this one makes music that is, on the whole, a lot more upbeat! (The exception to this, as far as I saw, was one that looks like it's about the Armenian genocide, which obviously isn't something to be happy about).
Overall, their music videos are energetic, colourful and fun, filmed in interesting locations and filled with dancing and traditional themes.
I liked listening to this act, and loved the harmonies in their music. Worth giving them a listen!
Inga & Anush Arshakyan on Facebook

The Bambir
So, finding information on this act turned out to be a headache, because Wikipedia tells me The Bambir is an act formed in 1994, separate but connected to an act started in 1978 named simply Bambir...whilst their website claims it's all the same act, only The Bambir is made up of the sons of the original members of Bambir.
And if that isn't befuddling to the common observer, I don't know what is.
Band history aside, this four-piece progressive-ethnic-rock act have a really traditional edge to their music, which I liked hearing. It certainly makes them stand out!
Their videos depict the members playing together, usually in a circle, in various settings, which gives the recordings a more natural, intimate feel.
I liked many aspects of this band's music, though it isn't the kind of music I'd often listen to.
Still, if you're reading this, try them out--you might find you like it!
The Bambir Official Website

That's it for this week! These two acts bring my total of new-to-me acts listened to for this challenge to eighty!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Working With Hands

Men At Work

Usually, I try to take photos for the theme challenge on Delightful Aberrations.
But after skipping last week (no time) and having no ideas for photography this week, I decided to break with tradition and draw something this time around!

I used the prompts record and site, and practised drawing a hand in the process (because I still can't draw hands...)

Though I drew this in a different notebook, I may cut it out and stick it into the sketchbook I bought for Goal 01:
001. Fill a sketchbook with artwork/studies of only one subject
Though I haven't written about this goal much, it's one I started a while ago!

It's actually been an ashamedly long time since I attempted to draw any, but here are a few I've drawn using photos from Google image search as a reference:



I found that I like drawing with biro. If I make a mistake (which I have done in Every Single Picture) I can fix/hide it, rather than rub out part of my work and spend hours redrawing the same line over and over until I get it 'right'.

Of course, drawing from a reference picture is much easier than drawing in other styles. Am absolutely not sharing my halfassed hand-doodles today!

...this post was meant to be for the theme challenge, but ended up being more about goal 01. Oh well!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Charity Zipwire

If you squint, you'll see a tiny pink dot on the top corner of this building.

That's me.

About to ride that zipwire to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK, a charity that supports those who have served in the Armed Forces and are living with sight loss.

Now. You might remember that 'Ride a zipline' is one of the goals on The List...

However, it was an incredibly challenging goal, because I am not a huge fan of heights, and the thought of leaping off a building attached to some ropes seems utterly insane even now.

But when I saw an advert for the event, I thought it was a great opportunity, as it was for a very good cause. So not only was I able to do something I wanted to try, but I was able to raise funds for a charity at the same time!

Thanks to the wonderful people that sponsored me, I was able to raise £205 for this fantastic charity! 

This is my happy-but-questioning-my-sanity face.
Happy that so many people donated
Questioning my sanity over doing this!

Zipwiring is a memorable experience. 

Only once were we on the roof did I realise how high it was, and honestly, the most terrifying part of the whole thing is sitting down on the edge, hooked up to the ropes, and knowing a guy was seconds away from pushing me off the edge.

After the push, there was the rapid descent down the wire to the ground, which was pretty awesome--it made being pushed off the roof totally worth it! ;)

Though I was  nervous, I wasn't going to let it beat me, not when so many people had donated to such a good cause!
Not to mention, the lady who went down the line before me was in her eighties--if she could do it, so could I!

Overall it was a great experience. I was one of some 180 people who participated, and Blind Veterans UK hopes to raise over £10,000 through the running of the event. Am keeping an eye on their Facebook page to find out if they update with a total raised!