Thursday, 30 December 2010

All Buttoned Up

Secret Santa games rock. You get to do detective work finding out about someone you may not know that well, and you get to give presents (Noodle likes to give presents) but don’t have to face the embarrassment of actually handing it over to the recipient. Hurrah.
I’ve had a pretty successful sly gift giving season this year, with a very well received workplace Secret Santa. I was particularly pleased with that since the recipient is one of my favourite colleagues, a really lovely bloke. I’ll say no more as (so far at least) he hasn’t worked out the pressie was from me. Score.
On top of that, for another (non-work) secret santa I managed to find an excuse to indulge my other fetish…
I don’t know what it is about buttons, but I just love them. I have jars of them on display, they’re shiny and colourful, every one different, such pleasing shapes and shades. Wooden, leather. Plastic, metal, - all so tactile and … well, just... nice, really.
Plus I get to indulge my inner OCD freak when I sort them. Hmm…. complex organisational systems.... tasty.

Anyway, the results of said fetish are evident in the Christmas pressies I made this year.
I wasn’t sure if the concept would work, but I’m actually really pleased with how these came out - they are just base frames, spray painted and covered in buttons. I actually used leather paint to colour the bases, purely on the basis that I had some left over from repainting  shoes. As with any spray paint the key here is many thin layers and plenty of drying time - if you do more than a little at a time it will run. The buttons I used were just picked out from my jars, allowing me hours of fun choosing nice ones in a variety of sizes and complementary hues.
My sister-in-law and Secret Santa recipients both seemed pleased with these, and, more importantly, there’s now a bit of room in my button jars for me to go haberdashery shopping…
The other frames I decorated are basically simplified versions of the above, made using Paperchase wooden frames, chosen for the interesting angles in the joins, which I accentuated with some wooden buttons I had picked up in Goa.
I started off using trusty superglue, but that started leaving white powdery residue over the polished areas around where it was (I dunno what that is, actually, will go off & research once I've written this), so created a lot of unnecessary clean up work. I swapped to UHUPower, which was a bit more time consuming as I had to hold or vice stuff whilst drying, but otherwise did a good job. To be fair, UHU goes tacky in a reasonable speed so I shouldn't complain, and it was actually quite useful to have a bit of time to tweak positioning. As always it's worth preparing the surfaces before you glue - a bit of light  localised sanding means you get better grip and need far less glue, so less dry time and less risk of splodgy bits.
You can see in the photo at the top that i also decorated a two-sided lucite frame (again from paperchase) with some left over rupees. Though of course taking rupees out of India is illegal, and I would never break such a vital law, so you will have to imagine them on there. 

While you're doing that, can you imagine me a beautiful curvy figure (rather than this dumpy post Christmas one I appear to have gotten instead) and a winning lottery ticket? ta muchly

Sunday, 5 December 2010


I feel weird about celebrating Christmas - hypercritical and slightly guilty. If I could get away with not - just ignoring it, or going away and missing the whole thing - I probably would. But I know that'd upset my family, so I try to make the best of it, and indulge in the good stuff that comes along with the religious dogma; making gifts, eating vast amounts of brandy custard and watching saccharine films.
Thus I settled down on a Sunday evening with Little Women (the June Allyson / Margaret O'Brien version), a bottle of red and a big pile of paper to make cards. This year's design is really simple - I just don't have the free time to do something elaborate (like the iris folded pieces I made last year - below)  - but I like it for it's clarity, and given the 8 inches of white cold stuff outside my front door, it's appropriate!
I've never really done stamping, but it's easy and the 'shabby chic' thing is very in at the mo - not something I give a rat's ass about, but mummy & the sisters in law like to have fashionable paperware to display, so it does have to be taken into account. The card I used was handmade stuff, with some blue petals, which worked with my colour scheme, as well as giving a nice texture to stamp onto. I'm using matching stamps on the evelopes
I'd recommend, if you want to take photos of your cards in the snow, making extra. They get wet and ruined, or lost... though that does afford a good excuse for another evening ignoring the algebra you should be doing and crafting instead.
I'm heading off to Nine Carols & Lessons For Godless People in a couple of weeks, which should help alleviate the seasonal guilt - along with The Atheist's Guide to Christmas of course. in the mean time... happy Winterval*, or whatever...
*you can't even tell that I have eyebrows, they are raised so far into my hairline.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


It seems my blogging has been rather slack recently. I have to admit that my coursework (I started a foundation year Science course) is cutting into my typing time, as well as my crafting time. Exacerbated by the fact that in the run up to christmas most of what I'm making is stuff intended as pressies so I can't post it til aftter it's been upwrapped anyway.
Plus, you know, jobs and boyfrineds and stalking Minchin all take there toll on my spare time.

But, hey, while I have a bit of a blog break, here's an interesting linkie for entertainment purposes. Maybe it will help any non-geeks to appreciate why I love my sciencey shiz ie, because of... well... Just..... This. 
(amazing slidey graphics thingummy* comparing sizes from tiny Planck to ... well, the universe. Done with excellent graphics, interesting science and dry humour. go play)

Toodles (I'm off to stick my head in a text book)

*sorry if you don't understand my technical terminology here. Dating a Graphic Designer, I am now down with the lingo.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Magic Moments

Bookcrossers take photos of road signs. We're that cool
Isn't it great when you have a nice weekend of geekery planned, then, out of the blue, Brian Cox announces he's gonna be doing a book signing. Boo yhea! So, on Friday afternoon I toddled off to Waterstone's with a  copy of the new Wonders book tucked under my arm (I felt mildly guilty pre-ordering from Amazon rather than buying in the shop, but it was half price. And I really don't like Waterstone's much at all... too much of a corporate atmosphere). I'd intended on hooking up with Emma, but our travel plans went a bit skew-whiff so we ended up queueing separately - and oh my what a queue it was. Britishness at it's very best - no one talking to each each other but exactly the right amount of head nodding and polite smiles to acknowledge mutual interests. Plus, as a bonus, it was so long that the shop staff commented on it! Which was great for Coxy (I can call him Coxy now, I've met him - I've *gulp* touched his hand - we're basically best friends) but forced Emma & I to cancel our post-perving coffee plans - a shame.
Absolutely worth it though - Coxy was charming and polite (if a little bewildered looking); happily signing books, not laughing at my request that he use the silver pen I'd brought (it's prettier than black Sharpie, OK? I'm allowed to be girlie sometimes)  and even letting me get a picture with him (for which neither of us were ready, so we both look like mongs. Hurrah).

Given the queue length (not a complaint. I love a good queue, and this one was in a bookshop. That's two of my favourite things. I read half of Shappi Khorsandi's biography - am planning on finishing it in WHSmith's this week while waiting for the train) I had to totter straight off to meet Martha for our trip to Swindon, dragging a quintillion books (approximately) because it was Uncon time. Oh yes.
Moment #1: a school playground, kicking out time, huge bags of books in tow, peering around to locate Martha. About a billion knee high things running around when I realise one of them is taking books out of my bag. When it's mum noticed, she explained that the girl had assumed that the stuff in my bag - a stranger's bag (and lets face it they don't come much stranger than me) - was a present for her. This clearly defies all reasoning, and confused the bobbin-pin out of me
Moment #2: after 2 hours on the south circular on a Friday evening, hitting the M4 Martha cheered about how we were 'nearly there.' Clearly my friend had been driven (boom boom. I'm on fire tonight...) mental by a combination of traffic, diversions and my incessant Wolf-is-God chatter.
Moment #3: Swindon. The Magic Roundabout. What the fuck is that all about then?
Martha & I had been nonplussed at all the pre-Swindon magic roundabout banter, assuming it to be some sort of decorated roundabout. Little did we know. It's so much more than that. Best part is, the town planners down at Swindon HQ, in their infinite wisdom, decided to give unsuspecting tourists about 100 yards notice that the thing is approaching, and even then the sign manages to simultaneously confuse, terrify, explain nothing and over-simplify everything. Congrats. Our recommendation, should you find yourself in the middle of this hell-vortex (and it will be the middle. You'll be in the middle before you know it's there. You can't back away and hope it won't suck you in) is to point the car in approximately the right direction, close your eyes and put your foot down.Good Luck.
Once we actually made it to the hotel, we headed off to the pub as arranged, for an 'Icebreaker Event'. A combination of words which strikes fear into my very heart, and it seemed rightly so, for immediately upon arrival at the pub we were attacked by one of the more deranged Bookcrossers wanting us to help her complete her 'Getting to Know You Quiz'...
*A Short break from the advertised programming*
Bookcrossers are all a little bit odd. It's a good thing, because who the hell wants normal? But some of us are a little further along the spectrum than others. the Uncon is basically a weekend long game: try to find as many of the relativity normal people, whilst avoiding the total nut-jobs (further complicated by two facts: the freaks sometimes go in disguise, so you don't know that's what you're dealing with til too late - you need to keep an 'oh no, my allergies are playing up, I'd better leave' excuse to hand at all times, and also the oodest ones are like the ghosts in Pacman - they will seek you out.) and all the while resisting the lure of the book buffet.
*we now return to our scheduled viewing*
... which we thought sounded about as much fun as ice fishing in our underwear, so we quite simply ran away. Back in the hotel bar we hooked up with a few fellow escapees who were already known to us, so we could safely sit down for a spot of rum. As events at the pub petered out and everyone returned our allergies started playing up, so we invited Becky up to our room for a couple of bottles, a catch-up  and to smoke out of the window. We're such rebels.
Despite out best attempts, none of us were hung over the next morning, so we headed off to breakfast.
Moment #4: Becky, eating sausage and bacon, without benefit of either cutlery or crockery...
I'd have liked to hear Joseph D'Lacey speak, but, as it was at 9.15 in the morning that was just a non-starter. By all accounts he was very nice despite the ungodly hour. 
So my first official activity of the day was The Ffordian Bus Tour around The Seven Wonders of Swindon - expertly guided by Geoff and utterly hilarious. Why is there a statue of Diana Doors outside the shopping centre? Who the hell is Diana Doors?
Moment #5: kneeling, in a kind of Muslim-at-prayer position alongside a B road in a provincial town, taking a photo of a dodo reading a book in front of a road sign
Moment #6: realising, having been reminded by car hoots, that stockings and a miniskirt is not an ideal outfit for this activity
Off the tour bus and on to lunch...
Moment #7: Being expected to believe that a toasted baguette is a panini. I'm never leaving London again.
Jasper was an excellent speaker, very funny, quick witted and informative. He built a good rapport with the audience and created a nice informal atmosphere (despite the woman who got so excited she nearly jumped up on her chair in attempts to answer a rhetorical question). After the speech, he kindly signed my spoons (red handled, Shades of Grey fans should notice).
We pottered off to the raffle draw, and predictably failed to win anything, and were then treated to a surprise poetry reading
Moment #8: a slightly overweight lady grabbing her own boobs in front of a room full of strangers
Our little posse of bookcrossing renegades had to whip off for an early dinner at this point as Rachel was driving home after we ate, and didn't want to be too late - so off to the local Indian we tripped (literally in my case - when wearing my beautiful-but-impractical Kurt Geiger's, tripping is the only method of foot-based transportation available). The food was tasty and the d├ęcor nice, but the waiter's were a bit rude
Moment #9: getting Bitchy looks for talking from a woman sat near us. It is not permissible to engage in conversation with your friends within the town borders of Swindon, apparently.
After our nosh we returned to the hotel bar where Ali taught us Shithead, a very silly but entertaining card game
Moment #10: Card games as a spectator sport. More people watching than playing. All the spectators maintaining complete silence (obviously they knew the rule about talking in Swindon).
The card game eventually fell apart and various elements headed off to bed, but not me, nocturnal badger that I am. I headed over to join a contingency of Irish BCers, who, aided by a Belgium and an Ex-Aussie, kept me entertained until the early hours of the morning. I'm definitely heading over to Dublin 2012 :D
Moment #11: Meeting a Belgian who was not weird. Well, not too weird. I didn't ask if he likes jazz...
Sunday morning got off to a good start as I thoroughly confused everyone by going to breakfast in my pyjamas. I really didn't think it was odd, but according to the various bamboozled faces it must be. ho hum.
Given the bleedin' English weather and my general intolerance to mornings, I opted out of the release walk, but buggered off back to the room to have a long hot bath and sink into one of my newly acquired books, before heading to lunch with my favourite South-West England based Kiwi
Moment #12: Swindon does not serve food on Sundays after 1pm. What did I say about never leaving London again?
I suspect that narrating the rest of our evening would mean giving away details of Alan's private life that he'd rather I didn't tell (bet that's piqued your curiosity) - needless to say I I used a combination of alcohol and physical torment to wheedle a few tasty titbits out of him.... about which my lips are sealed ;)
Noisy, Nosey Noodle xx

Friday, 1 October 2010

Clone Your Own...

Snagsby has issues reaching the last of the Reese's
Brought to you by The Goliath Corporation 

(kind of a follow up to my dodo-for-Jasper-Fforde story)
Cloning your dodo should be fairly easy - there's a bit of sewing, but it's all quite simple. Each one takes me about 4 hours to make, but that will depend on how fast you sew. It's a good idea to read through the whole instructional before you start to sew to ensure you know what the end idea is, and understand the concept of how each bit fits together to prevent mistakes. Of course feel free to adapt at will - if you want a dodo with 18 wings and 5 feet, who am I to stop you? You can also leave comments or chuck me emails if you have questions

You will need:
* Socks - one pair of grey (or body colour of your choice), one pair yellow/orange (or whatever beak & feet colour you want). If you picked up one of my 'Clone Your Own Dodo' packs you'll have one yellow knee sock instead of a pair - they're bigger, so you only need one. A few notes on socks if you're buying your own: think about the texture - you can get all sorts of interesting knits but the woollier your sock the quicker the weave will unravel once you cut into it so the faster you'll need to sew; size matters too, baby socks will give you a cute baby dodo, but be fiddly to work with. I would recommend not buying really cheap socks, as the material tends to be thin (meaning once you stuff it, the stuffing shows through, particularly important here where you're using dark coloured grey socks), and quite often the toe structure will be wonky, which will mess up dodo's body shape.
* Stuffing. You can buy Toy stuffing in bags from most haberdashery stores (or here at Sew & So - the best price v's quality trade off I've found so far), or buy pillows/cushions and gut them. Don't use old pillows coz the stuffing will be lumpy.
* A Trick marker pen or Dress-makers chalk
* Scissors.  
* Pins - optional - for if you find it easier to pin before you sew, though I never bother.
* Buttons or googly eyes. A pair of 'em. Again a matter of taste as to size, colour etc...
* Needles (or a sewing machine) & thread. I sew my sockies by hand, as I like my craft projects to be portable, but there's no reason you couldn't use a machine if you prefer.
* Thick paper (or thin card. whatever) to make templates from -  I use bits of magazine cover. if you've got a 'Clone Your own' pack, you may find it easier to back the templates with thicker paper. If you don't have a pack, simply make your own templates, following the shapes on the templates image below.
Right... set and ready to go? good

Body & Tail
One of the best things about making a dodo is that you do the body & tail first, meaning you really quickly feel like you're making good progress - hurrah for morale boosting easy starts!

Lay one of your grey socks out on it's side, and cut through both layers along the red line shown in Fig 1. You're basically removing the ankle and cuff section from the heel, foot & toe. Then take your orange sock; cut off & discard the cuff section. Cut 4 or 5 strips about a centimetre thick (as shown by the blue lines in Fig 1. you're really appreciating my skills in Paint now, aren't you?), and put them to one side for a minute. The grey toe and foot section is going to form the body of your bird (the heel will be the tail, along with your orange strips) - and you're already good to stuff it. See what I mean about quick progress? You may want to experiment a little with density & shaping, the finished effect is basically dependant on what you do here here so play around until your happy. 
Once you're good to go, sew running stitch (fairly large) where the green line is in fig 1 (imagine that line going all the way around your sock) - don't tie it off yet, pull the thread tight to ruche up the fabric until you've NEARLY closed the tail section off - pop in the ends of the orange strips you cut earlier, so that most of the length sits outside as the tail, with a kind of grey hood formed from the heel of your body piece. Tighten the running stitch and tie it off, then further secure your tail feathers with ladder stitch. Cut the grey heel-hood into strips (be careful not to cut to far, stop just before the line of running stitch). Don't worry if the lengths look a bit odd right now, that's one of the details it's best to leave to finalise at the tail end (Boom boom) of the project.

Turn what remains of your orange sock inside out, lay it out neatly on a flat surface and draw around your beak template with trick-marker or chalk (use the rest of the ankle section if there's space, otherwise use the foot section). Sew through both layers of sock using backstitch - leaving the dotted line section unsewn for stuffing. Cut out your beak, leaving 3-4mm seam allowance all the way around, and turn right way out. Personally, I prefer to stuff the beak quite lightly, but that's a matter of taste, and the important thing is to create a distinct shape with a bobble at the end. once stuffed you should find that one lip has a slight overhang at the seam- that's the upper beak.

Take the grey ankle piece you cut off earlier, remove & discard the cuff. Cut about 2/3rd (that should be around 2 inches, maybe a little more. If in doubt, take more than you think you need as you can always trim down later) off, and turn that section inside out. Sew a line of running stitch around one end (leaving about 3mm seam allowance) and pull tight, in the same way as you did for the tail (but pull all the way closed this time) and tie off. 
Turn the whole thing right way in again, so that the seam allowance on the joint you just made is on the inside. Roll some of your stuffing into a head-sized ball (sorry. I can't think of anything the right size to compare it to... I have a cold and my head is full of fog so I'm not too hot on the ol' writing skills today. to be honest, I never am really. Why are you reading this? Bigger than a ping pong ball, smaller than a tennis ball. I don't know of any sport that entails appropriate sized equipment - I can think of a couple of other activities that might, though). Follow the same process again, sewing a line of running stitch around the open end of the head, but, like on the tail, don't pull all the way tight. Insert the open end of the beak into the opening and close up the gap as much as possible, then secure with an extra row of running stitch, this time going through both the grey & orange sock. The seam allowance of the grey sock should be allowed to sit outside the head, creating a kind of feathery, broken line effect where the joint to the beak sits. Your Dodo's head is finished, aside from attaching eyes, which I always leave til the end as it's so important for giving your sockie expression I prefer to do it once all the other pieces are in place, that way I can play with positioning and decide how they look best in full context. 

Take your remaining grey sock, and cut from the ankle section a rectangle about 1 1/2 inch by 2 1/4 inch. Fold in half along it's length, keeping the right side in. Sew the short edges to each other using over stitch, to create a short narrow cylinder of sock. Turn the right way out, and sit one of the open ends onto your dodo body (turning in a small seam allowance). You may want to pin or tack the neck on first to ensure an even circular shape, once your happy secure with ladder stitch. It's a good idea to stuff the neck quite firmly to ensure it doesn't bend under the weight of the head. Then simply repeat the process of pinning & ladder stitch to attach the neck to the head (consider what angle you want the head to sit at, and keep the head the orientated so the beak sits the right way up & faces forward).

Right. Grab your remaining orange sock (or sock bit) and turn inside out. Take your foot template and draw around it in (trick-marker or chalk) twice. Sew around them in backstitch (leaving the instep open as indicated by the dotted line, for turning out & stuffing), and cut out leaving 3-4 mm seam allowance (you may need to leave slightly less between the toes).  
Then simply turn right way out (here's where your pokey thing  comes into play, getting into the toes), stuff (play with how densely you want to stuff it - different amounts may alter the shape of your feet) and sew up the instep with slip stitch. Position them as required on the base of your dodo and attach with ladder stitch
Take what remain of your second grey sock, and cut off the heel/ankle section and the toe, basically leaving yourself a grey tube of foot section. Chop that in half to make two shorter tubes, and lay one half out flat, at an angle, on the dodo body, like in the picture (I'm struggling to describe this in words. Damn head cold!). Sew a line of backstitch through both layers of wing and onto the body, about 2/5ths of the way down the wing. 
Fold the top 2/5ths over the top of the bottom section, thus hiding your stitches and creating a two layer wing effect. Slice up into the wing to create 4 or 5 slices (don't go all the way to the top). This should leave you with a number of loops, which, if you tug on slightly (go easy here at first - you can always pull a little harder if you choose), will stand out from the body more.

Final Touches
You are basically done now - just a couple of details to attend to. First off, and entirely optional, you may want to trim the tail a little to shape it (if you leave them long & tug on each strand, they will curl. Purtty!). Then position & sew on the eyes (for people used to sewing buttons on clothes, it's best NOT to use the shank method here, as the eyes will flop around if you do, so just use normal button stitch).
Et voila! You're done!
I suggest you now move to Swindon & join SpecOps (division of your choice. personally I've opted for 24. I'm all about the art crime since someone stole WarHorse & sold it to Spielberg. Bastards.)
PS. totally not official or in anyway endorsed by Mr.Fforde. Though he did name check me in his blog (did I mention that already? oh)
PPS. Now totally endorsed by Fforde (see comments below) rock on mo-fo

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Plonk Plonk

Every geek needs a hideout - somewhere to go when they feel like they are the only person in the world who‘s bored of the indeterminable wait until L.J.Smith brings out the final instalment of her Nightworld series (cummon woman… it’s been 12 years), or when none of your friends are excited about this week's developments at CERN. In those moments you need a retreat, somewhere filled with Sci-fi books,  Star Wars toys and tee-shirts with mathematical “comedy” printed on ‘em. For me, that place is Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue - it’s conveniently close to work and I always get chatted up by some geek boy based purely on the fact that they didn’t previously realise that there are girls in the world, or that some of those girls read David Gemmell. So you can imagine my excitement when, this January, I discovered Jasper Fforde was doing a book signing there. I was like a kid who’d just been told Mickey Mouse was coming to visit their tree house.   

It was my first book signing, and I was a little nervous about etiquette, but, hell, if you can’t be socially inept in Nerd-Mecca, where can you be? So I thought, bugger it, I’m going, and I’m going with bells on. Or in my case, socks. Not on my feet, oh no, how boring would that be? - socks in my arms - socks refashioned into Dodo form (It’s a Ffordian thing. You won’t get it unless you’ve read The Eyre Affair… and if you haven’t, why not?)    
So I made Peggotty, to give to Jasper (Mr. Fforde? His Ffordy-ness? Lord Fforde? What’s the decorum when meeting one of your favourite authors?). Peggotty is a version 1.24 Dodo, as sanctioned by the Goliath Corporation, and Peggotty, like most Dodos, loves marshmallows.  
I toddled off to swap a flightless sock bird for an autograph, and even managed to drum up a couple of friends (they’d been trying to hide their inner geek, but I found them out) - arriving, in standard Noodle-fashion, ridiculously early, so having to wander around pretending to be interested in Trudi Canavan’s latest release - normally I can happily kill whole weeks browsing in Forbidden Planet, but I was kinda on edge, so thought I’d heighten that by going to consume caffeine. 
Upon my return I found I was still very near the front of the queue, but without having to face the embarrassing concept of actually being first, so I could observe the behaviour of other fans and tailor my own to match. Now, I have nothing to compare to, but Jasper seemed very charming (although it must be said a bit older than he is in publicity photos - I suppose vanity (or Photoshop) gets to even the best of us) and polite despite my rather awkward and star-struck attempts at interaction. He kindly signing my beloved copy of the Eyre Affair, as well as my shiny new hardback Shades of Grey (which I very highly recommend - it’s his best work to date by far). He admired Peggotty briefly before handing her over to his little girl Tabby (who was there alongside a lady I presumed to be her mummy). Tabby correctly identified Pegotty as ’Dodo,’ so I guessed I wasn’t the first to offer similar gifts -a fact Jasper confirmed, siting one particular life sized Dodo which they had difficulty transporting home. Oh, and (she says, nonchalanty) he then mentioned me - by name - in his blog, with a photo of Peggotty (Check out the 18th Jan entry).
Anyway… why am I posting about this now, when it happened 9 months ago? Well, because this weekend is the Bookcrossing UK Unconvention, and since it’s in Swindon (the real world setting of the Thursday Next novels) we’ve managed to persuade Mr Fforde to come along and do a signing for us - I think he’s just about the biggest ‘name’ author we’ve ever managed to get, and excitement amongst bookcrossers is pretty high so it has been suggested that I make up some instructions for making your own Dodo - I’ll be giving out packs of socks to craft with at the Uncon, but in the mean time a tutorial is going up here in the next couple of days. Oh, and (she says, nonchalanty) jasper mentioned me - by name - in his blog, with a Photo of Peggotty: Check out the 18th Jan entry.
Until then, I better get registering coz I’ve got a lot of books to set free…
Noodle x

how to make your own dodo instructions here

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Old, New, Borrowed n' Blue...

All my friends seem to be getting married, or having children, or buying houses. This is terrifying, given my complete refusal to grow up enough to even think about these things. Currently I have the excuse of working in theatre and being paid peanuts, so I can't afford to grow up... but someday I'm gonna have to face the fact that I'm a proper adult now. I mean, I turn 25 this year - that's officially mid-twenties, which is officially not early-twenties which officially means I can't pretend to be a teenager any more. I'm old. Old people do stuff, they make important life choices and plan for the future.
To be fair, Boy & I did just book a holiday together (Goa, in the beginning of November, if you're interested) - my first proper holiday with a partner... so I am getting there, albeit in teeny tiny baby steps.
Anyway... I'm waffling
All this talk of scary grown-up-ness stems from the fact that one of my buddies from the USA is getting hitched in a couple of weeks - unfortunately the Atlantic Ocean prevents me from attending, but I have sent a couple of sock rabbits as representatives. I'm quite pleased with how they came out, although the pictures don't do them justice. A little touch (suggested by Shiv, my cross-stitchin' partner in craft) I added was to include something borrowed, something blue, something old & something new on the bride doll (The Swarovski beads were 'borrowed' from the props store, her flowers are blue, the lace of her veil is from a vintage dress and the socks used to make her were new). I hope the beautiful bride is pleased with both her bunnies and her new Husband
I'm off to plaster myself in anti-aging cream - but in the mean time I will leave you with these - lyrics from The Last Five Years, one of my favourite musicals, and absolutely my kind of (slightly commitment-phobic) love poem:

Will you share your life with me for the next ten minutes?
For the next ten minutes, we can handle that
We could watch the waves, we could watch the sky
Or just sit and wait as the time ticks by
And if we make it till then
Can I ask you again for another ten?

And if you in turn agree to the next ten minutes

And the next ten minutes till the morning comes
Then just holding you
Might compel me to
Ask you for more


Down With This Sort of Thing!

I was one of the 20000-odd (some very odd) people who turned up to protest against the Pope on Saturday - a fact which I'm quite proud of because, hey, it's good to stand up for what you believe is right. Or rather, to stand up against what you believe is wrong - and I think Pope Benedict is very, very wrong.
My reasons for this are multiple, but basically it's that I feel he kills hope;  to children abused by priests he kills any hope for justice by covering up the actions of paedophiles, to the people of Africa  he destroys any hope for sexual health by falsely claiming that condoms perpetuate aids, to homosexuals & women he kills any hope of equality by opposing their human rights at every turn, to families worldwide he kills hope for a truly integrated society by encouraging segregated schooling. Plus, as far as I can tell, his election to the primacy killed the hope of many practicing catholics for a pontiff who actually represents and reflects their belief in a modern catholic church. This has all been expressed far more eloquently (and in far greater detail) on numerous websites & blogs, but I'd recommend starting here if you're interested in some of the reason's why this particular Pope is so controversial. I just don't think it's appropriate for our country, with it's poor battered economy, to be spending 20 million pounds for him to visit. I appreciate that taxpayers are paying because it is a state visit - he was invited by the queen, rather than by members of a church. But, well, when I invite my friends to come to my house, I don't expect my housemates to pay for their expenses. It's the same thing.
Oh, and he called me a Nazi, which is clearly a ridiculous thing for anyone to accuse me of - but particularly someone with a background as shady as Ratzinger's. It's a lazy and nonsensical thing to say, in accordance with Godwin's Law. *blows raspberry*
Anyway, I got together with fellow Feet-ers Amy and Sarah, plus a few of their friends to go for a pre-protest lunch a Beetroot, which was a tasty way to fuel ourselves for the march. Then we pulled on our DM's and headed off to Hyde Park.
We were a little concerned upon emerging from the tube to see so many people carrying  little yellow pilgrim packs, but things were friendly enough between the various groups of catholics & protesters, and we made our way to the rallying point in high spirits. Waiting around for the march to begin could of been rather tedious, as the unexpectedly high turn-out meant we were running a little behind schedule - but we were jollied along by a particularly comedic man-with-megaphone, a few of Amy's yummy vegan brownies and a chatter with some delightful fellow-protesters whilst blowing up condom balloons (even giving one away to a small child - with it's Mother's permission of course. It felt quite appropriate to be arming the kid against any roaming priests, but equally odd to be handing a toddler a cock-sock. FYI - the lube makes it nigh on impossible to make condom-balloon-animals, which is clearly a real shame).
Sarah, Adrian, Josh, Amy & I
Once we got underway we had opportunity to appreciate some truly excellent banners and placards (Personal favourites being 'Absitence Makes The Church Grow Fondlers' and 'Kiss my Ring.' Which I fear indicates that i have a highly juvenile sense of humour.) as we strolled down Piccadilly waving at the stander-bys - who were all very supportive and frequently congratulated us. Our little group got a few compliments on the 'pope rosary beads' I'd knocked up, which made me smile - they were very simple as I just used this PDF, printed out + backed onto red card then stuck together with double sided tape to make the paper popes in the photo above, before being hung onto embroidery thread & decorated with beads from a kids art set to make the necklaces you can see us wearing. I was a little disappointed in the lack of en masse chanting (despite a lady near us who was determined to kick-start 'Get your rosaries off my ovaries,' at every opportunity, plus an LGBT group behind us trying to cram 6 extra syllables into 'one two three four... '). I wished I  were better with words so I could come up with some thing good n' quippy, but alas, it seems I am not destined for a career writing jingles.
Unfortunately, I had to abandon the rally half-way through because we had over-ran and I wanted to take the opportunity of a rare Saturday night off work and go on an actual date with my delicious boy - but I fully recommend to watch the videos of speakers, they really are all excellent.
Onwards and upwards - next weekend I'm facing the holy trinity in a Bananagrams Challenge - I reckon I'm a shoe-in to win, given that I'm the only non-fictional participant. Hurrah for me

Friday, 10 September 2010

Alphabet Bunnies & Bamboo Horses

Albert and Billy, the two Alphabet Bunnies, are named in honour of the two human leads in WarCrow WarHorse* - and because that rather handily matches the names of their two little twin boy owners: Aidan and Bryce. 
If only all children were so conveniently named, eh?
[blowingowntrumpet] I must say I'm rather pleased with my new Bunny making technique, it retains much more of a 'Sock' feel because it uses (well, appears to use) the ankle collar... all lies of course, they actually have to be transplanted on artificially, but it looks kinda nifty [/blowingowntrumpet]

*For those who don't know, that's the show I work on at the mo. I say 'human leads' because the real stars are our bamboo horses - here's a trailer, which explains much better than I could

Hot Fudge

One of the many joys of my teenage jaunts to the Edinburgh Fringe (and a more innocent joy than either Gaffa bras or amateur musical theatre) was the Fudge Kitchen. Ah, Fudge Kitchen...
They made (and still do make) the most delicious, delectable, creamy and beautiful fudge. The Edinburgh branch of their fine shop was just a couple of minutes from my theatre... on the route I had to take whilst doing show promotion. And they gave out free samples, making street theatre a much tastier experience (and making the fliers we were  handing out much stickier)

I am very late in discovering this, but they now sell their fudge online. This find is going to make me very fat, but very happy. I blame the Internet for my impending obesity.
While I wait for my first delivery of Strawberry n Cream,  I crafted this little Missy - Fondant.
nom nom nom...
nom nom noodle

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Wolf Worship Two...

(A follow up to this post...)
So, I wrapped my book of crypic nonsense around a bottle of  Green Island Spiced Gold (recommended by the delightful boys in Gerry's on Old Compton Street as being the nearest thing to original recipe Sailor Jerry. T'was pretty tasty, maybe a little bit sweet for me, but better than the 'improved' Jerry, and around the same price, so a temporary win while the search continues) and gave it to Wolf on Saturday night with his proper presents - and he seemed pretty intrigued with it - spotted it as Elian straight off, which I expected. I wouldn't let him decode it on Sunday, because I would've got all itchy watching him do it
He did it in his dinner hour, while eating his sandwiches - He's so ridiculously smart, I knew it wouldn't take him long. Apparently translating the Elian into text was the hardest bit, and he briefly thought I might of done something clever (I wish) referring back to words in the text of Alice in Wonderland, but quickly saw it was a Ceaser with shifts, and, well, that was that.
He said he liked that I'd used different ways to describe things as it made patterns harder to spot, and that my using lots of repetition was clever because it throws off the basic attacks (these two comments seem to be contradictory, but I didn't point that out. Let him think I'm smart)
I think he enjoyed it, and I know he appreciated the effort - I explained that it was such a simple code because my entire knowledge of cryptology comes from the little bits he's shown me, so he gave me a copy of Simon Singh's Code Book (which I've been wanting to read since finishing this project) - saying '"God help me at Christmas now I've armed you with this."  He clearly knows that the best way to my heart is via my bookshelf (Popco was bloody marvellous, btw, highly recommended)
He's bloody marvelous, my boy
*Soppy grin*
Noods xx

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Nerd Scarf

In the approach to The Boy's birthday, he dropped a couple of hints* that he'd like a Dr Who scarf, so despite my complete inability to knit** I decided to have a crack at it.

Problem is, Boy doesn't exactly wear alot of colours... basically just black, grey, white and red - so a proper 'traditional' prismatic jobby wasn't really going to do the trick. I decided to keep it to just black & red - his favourite colour combo... which left me with a different problem, namely that a two colour stripe is seriously boring.
But fear not... Math-Nerd to the rescue! I'd been reading a spot of Ian Stewart, which set me to thinking it might be cool*** to base a scarf on the Fibonacci sequence - to take the numbers which create all the spirals and curves around us, and use them to make a object that is essentially a long straight line, which will then be made useful by forming it into loops and circles around a person. 

So, my basic pattern was formed - increasing Fibonacci numbers in one colour, alternated with decreasing Fibonacci numbers in the other colour (1 red, 233 black, 1 red, 144 black, 2 red, 89 black, 3 red, 55 black...), which also creates quite a nice pixelated sort of fade from one colour to the other.
I used garter stitch, that being the extent of my knitting ability, and was quite pleaded with how tidy it came out looking - fairly even tensioning. Although the wool I used - from the Big Softie range by Sidar - was disappointingly knotty, so annoyingly messed up some bits (though I suppose at about £3.00 a ball it is one of the cheaper super-chunky wools available, so I shouldn't really complain  - you get what you pay for...). I would also comment that it recommends 10mm needles for this wool - but I felt this gave too open a weave and, after a little experimentation settled on 7 1/2 needles to give a nice firm, dense structure. Using smaller needles meant I went through more wool than I expected - 12 balls in total (at 45meters a ball, there's 540 meters of wool in that there scarf!). The wool was nice and light too - important given the size of the bloody thing (4 meters 30 in lenght, not including the tassles!), and - bar the knots - very easy to knit with.

I was pretty pleased with the finished product and, more importantly, Wolf seemed pleased with it too (he cottoned onto my idea about natural spirals becoming a straight line, then looped artificially, without me even having to begin to explain it - which made me grin like a loon, and I think tells you alot about why he's so perfect).
Off to buy him a bag of Jelly Babies**** to complete the Tom Baker look...

*Well... ish. I was rather grasping at straws by this point
**Not entirely true... I can, strictly speaking, knit. But I can't purl, increase, decrease, or remember how to cast off.
***I may of redefined 'cool' for the purposes of this sentence...
****Random fact-oid: Jelly Babies were first created to mark the end of the First World War, and were called 'Peace Babies.' There's nothing like eating children to spread love and harmony around the globe.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Cryptic Crush

T'other half is really into cryptography, so for his birthday I'm doing him a message in a bottle that I've coded for him to break. At least that was the plan - in which I have rather failed by making it into something that doesn't actually fit into a bottle. I'm going to wrap it around a bottle instead - this method of presentation having the advantage that then the bottle can still contain rum (Which in itself has the advantage that it will necessitate a rum-tasting trip, since Sailor Jerry have 'improved' their recipe and now we don't have a favourite rum anymore.)

Coded Up
Right - the word I've coded is 'Mush' (it's one of those heinous relationship jokes that no one but the two of us gets. sorry.) chosen as it's short and simple (to begin with. It got longer, because of the way I treated it - in fact, it turned out it got alot longer - which is why my message no longer fits into a bottle!)

First stage is simple - put it into binary, which I then translate into written numbers. Then I put it through an alphabet substitution cypher (A Caesar cipher), which shifts between each letter of the original word. Which is translated into Morse code.

M = 01001101
o ten o eleven o one
t yjs t jqjajs t tsj (shifts by 5)
- / -.-- .--- ... / - / .--- --.- .--- .- .--- ... / - / - ... .---

U = 01010101
four bracket zero one bracket
pyeb lbkmuod joby yxo lbkmuod (shifts by 10)
.--. -.-- . -... / .-.. -... -.- -- ..- --- -.. / .--- --- -... -.-- / -.-- -..- --- / .-.. -... -.- -- ..- --- -..

S =  01010011
zero one zero one double zero double one
otgd dct otgd dct sdjqat otgd sdjqat dct (shifts by 15)
--- - --. -.. / -.. -.-. - / --- - --. -.. / -.. -.-. - / ... -.. .--- --.- .- - / --- - --. -.. / ... -.. .--- --.- .- - / -.. -.-. -

H = 01001000
nought one hundred one thousand
hioabn ihy bohxlyx ihy nbiomuhx (shifts by 20)
.... .. --- .- -... -. / .. .... -.-- / -... --- .... -..- .-.. -.-- -..- / .. .... -.-- / -. -... .. --- -- ..- .... -..-

So, to progress from here, the Morse code gets translated into text (dash dot long dash dit short dah dot....), and from there into Elian Script (which is basically a prettified pigpen cipher)
At which point I had to work out how to present this so that Wolf will know where each new letter begins, and each new word... so I threw in a colour element. Basically, each letter of the Morse Code is written in a different colour, and each word will be written in distinctly separate blocks.
And that is, essentially, the finished code! Hurrah.

At this point I have to give a massive shout-out thank you to Aimee & Dot for carefully checking over my work for mistakes - I really appreciate the time you took to help me out.
I confess I'm a little concerned that each step is very simple, and Wolf will break the back of it almost instantly. The only difficulty he may encounter being the  large amounts of repetition throwing off alot of standard key-finding methods (eg, frequency attacks are  unlikely to be very useful). Had I come up with this idea a little further in advance of his Birthday, I may of been able to do some research and create something a little more interesting - but I'm hoping he will appreciate that cryptography is his bag, not mine, and it's the gesture that counts and all that happy clappy what-not...
And it's just ironic that the day I completed the neat write up of the code I started reading Popco by Scarlett Thomas, (excellent read so far, fyi) which has inspired lots of much more interesting and challenging ideas inside my head... but I guess they'll have to wait for next year...

And the Pretty girlie stuff
So, now all that was left to do was write the bugger up. 
I managed to stumble upon a 'Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll' in a charity shop, which seemed an appropriate starting point given that  Carroll was also a math nerd and liked a bit of cryptanalysis himslf, plus Wolf has been known to call me 'his Alice' (More rom-com awful in-jokes. So sorry) . I brought the book and immediatly proceeded to rip apart. Being somewhat of a book-lover (slight understatement possibly?) this caused me actual physical pain, on the level that I felt each little tear like it was going into my own skin... 
To cure this, I decided that I should apply the restorative benefits of tea, not only to myself (in the form of mug), but also to the torn out pages (in the form of bath) - having the added effect of nicely aging the horrible cheap white paper that the book had been printed on. Because if there's one thing a degree in Stage Management teaches you, it's how to tea-stain stuff really nicely. Thanks Guildhall.

Having tea-stained enough pages, I ironed them (so they sit nicer together, And wrote up the code 'in neat.' I used ABT pens by Tombow, because they are available in a good colour range, but I found the brush end (They are duel ended, with a brush end and a thin-tip end) got knackered pretty quickly, even though I wasn't exactly hard-wearing on them - a bit disappointing given the fairly high individual cost of the pens.
Once it was written up and I'd checked over my work (again. Just to be sure...) it was time to bind the pages together. Now, i know exactly zero about bookbinding, and I basically made it up as i went along, but it seemed to come out pretty well. I used a ladder stitch to sew them pages together, then just glued (Brushable superglue again. I'm still in love with this stuff) a length of wide satin ribbon over the stitches. Then, purely for decorative effect and added Wolf-ness, I finished it off by popping a Skull-head rivet (the kind meant for leather working) through the spine. I decided to 'soften' the edges, the easiest way to do which being to carry it around in my handbag for a couple of days - just to slightly batter the pages and give the book as a whole more of a naturally aged look. And.... done.
I shall report back on boy's reaction (and the total number of minutes it takes him to decipher) post birthday celebrations
Post-birthday write up here 

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Penguin Pride

I have been feeling a little guilty recently, as I have been accused of making sock-based stuffed toys with underlying homophobic qualities. It has been pointed out that the only openly queer Sockie I've made is Mike, and he is hardly a brilliant ambassador for the gay community (apparently the more straight-laced sockies have trouble identifying with an ex-BNP drag queen. Can't think why).
Now, clearly I'm not homophobic (I know some gay people hate their sexuality, but I'm not one of them. I'm too egotistical) - and I can no more control the sexuality of my sockies than a parent can control the sexuality of their child. But maybe I've been putting out psychological signals to them inadvertently? Maybe my Socks don't feel free to express there true nature? That's a pretty horrifying thought.
In an attempt to rectify this situation, I have created Rolo. Now, I don't know if Rolo is gay - he's only just a baby yet and doesn't know himself - but he is purple. And a penguin. And I've named him after Roy & Silo (Ro-lo... geddit?), the poofter penguins at Central Park Zoo who adopted and hatched an egg*.

I'm hoping that Rolo will help counter-balance the penguin family of Burt, Patina and Mundy I made at the beginning of the year

*Yes-yes, I know Silo ended up having a fling with a girlie-penguin, but I like him all the more for his being Bi (again, I'm egotistical. What can i say?). And the whole thing is set off beautifully with Roy & Silo's little baby girl growing up all lezzer. Lovely.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Cake or Death?

Marmalade Tealoaf
I've made this one a few times, and it tends to be pretty well received.
This one was taken into work for consumption by us greedy sparkies - who didn't mind at all that it was really crumbly (you can't slice it thinly? I guess I'll have to have a massive slab of it then... terrible) which was, I think, because the nuts weren't chopped finely enough.
Top tip - use chunky cut marmalade (or in this case homemade, which is even better)
Anywho... Mix 2/3rds of a jar (normal size 454g jar) of marmalade, 175g butter, 175g brown sugar (a dark sticky one is best, like Muscovado), 3 eggs, 225g self raising flour, teaspoon baking powder, 2+1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Once that lot's all folded in together, whack in a handful each of chopped walnuts & pecans. 
Resist the temptation to eat the cake mix.
Stick the lot in a loaf tin and bake on gas mark 4 for 50mins, then cover with foil and continue to bake for another half hour or so, til it looks rite tasty.
Once it's cooled a little, melt the remaining 1/3rd of your jar of marmalade (in a bowl in the microwave is easiest, but do it on the hob if people are watching as it looks more impressive) and use that to glaze the top.
Eat sliced with a bit of butter, and a cup of tea.
Anzac Biccies
Made (Following this recipe) as a thankyou present for The Boy's mum (from Curdle - she keeps giving us cat food). A bit risky as I'd never made them before. I choose them because they were originally created for the Aussie/Kiwi Army, so I figured they're pretty hardwearing... and Mrs.Wolf doesn't eat alot so she needs a biscuit with staying power.
I think they came out OK - though I would chuck in a smidgen more coconut (or maybe a drop of vanilla extract?) and I'd use something tastier that Golden syrup - maybe a nice dark, rich honey instead. Oh, and chunkier oats. Again, eat with a cup of tea.
I'm off to brew up, got some serious munching to do... Toodle
Noodle xx

A Cat Called Curdle

Meet the latest addition to my household: Curdle the cat. She's a stray who has, over the last few weeks, adopted me as her own. Clearly she has excellent taste and refined sensibilities.
I've named her after the milk-carton that attaches its self to Deebra in Un Lun Dun, given that she has attached herself to me in much the same way.
She's a remarkably placid thing, who seems to have sleeping-in abilities which surpass even my own - and the last few days she has even displayed an interest in tea, so we're clearly a well suited pair. Although I do kind of resent the fact that it's my tea she's interested in...