Saturday, 28 May 2016

A spot of pampering: Birchbox May subscription box

This week has been a week of being ill. I've had some sort of flu type virus and have spent my time napping, coughing, sneezing, drinking honey and lemon, steaming my face and nibbling toast. It's been pretty rubbish.  I had to cancel plans I'd made to visit the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design degree show and also a workshop I'd booked as part of the Dundee Design Festival to carve a ring out of wax.  Very bad timing to get ill. 

Thankfully a parcel arrived to cheer me up in the form of the May Birchbox! This is my first subscription to Birchbox so I was pretty excited for its arrival. The box itself is incredibly pretty, with a clever little scratch off panel included into the design. The panel shows if you've won a holiday which I unfortunately haven't but it did reveal a cute little rabbit design.

Inside the box I got a great welcome to the subscription along with a leaflet explaining the contents.  There's nothing quite like getting a box full of exciting treats through the post and the range of goodies was lovely. 

Everything was wrapped up in a lovely reusable draw string bag. I was quite shocked at the ample sizes of the samples which will last me a good little while.

I got Vasanti's 'Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face rejuvenator' which I've already tried and it was excellent at reviving my skin after this week of feeling rubbish. I also got some Kueshi Foot Care Cream which smells like a dream! Spectrum Collections 'Unicorn Tears Wonder Sponge' for makeup application has the best name. Philip Kingsley's 'PK Prep Polishing Balm' for hair will be handy for tackling my often frizzy bob. Sarah Chapman's 'Skinesis Spot SOS Stickers' are for popping on a blemish for some SOS spot fighting action.  An interesting idea that I'll keep aside for spot emergencies! Last but not least theBalm's 'Stainiac in Beauty Queen', a raspberry coloured lip and cheek stain, perfect for the warmer weather for a bit of colour.

 I'm no beauty reviewer but I do love a bit of pampering and when it's sent to your house in a surprise parcel it's even better. This is a great idea for a monthly pick me up or even as a gift for a friend.

If you're interested head over to

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A spot of reading: Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

This Sunday my spot of reading is 'Killing and Dying' by Adrian Tomine. A stunningly crisp collection of six interconnected tales which delve into the cracks and crevices of everyday live. It includes those glances, the unspoken emotions and the awkwardness that couldn't be conveyed through language but come across so clearly through the beautifully drawn panels of Tomine.

 The title story, Killing and Dying, focuses on the complexities of parenthood  intertwined with the dark cloud of terminal illness. The conversations we follow in these panels are fraught with an underlying depression, a sadness of what is to come, which transgresses into the frustration of dealing with a teenager focusing on wanting to become a comedian at what could be seen as an inappropriate time.

Out of the six small stories, 'Translated from the Japanese', is a personal favourite as Tomine's full colour sharp illustrations carry the thoughts of a passenger on a flight home.

'Go Owls' follows a young woman who meets an older gentleman at an A.A. meeting, falling  vulnerably into a relationship that swings from supportiveness to abusiveness from one panel to the next.

'Amber Sweet' follows the tragic story of the life of girl who has been mistaken for a popular porn star, which alters the way people look at her, how her relationships pan out, destroying her happiness.

These along with the other two stories carry us through a range of relatable emotions, the ebb and flow of relationships, humour, sadness, creativity and the need to succeed but also the acceptance of failure. Every drawing matches the story it tells, some are filled with more vibrant colour, others are muted, some are more minimalist than others. It all works and flows in such a stunning fashion.

You can find more of Adrian Tomine's work at his website here. His author page on Drawn and Quarterly can also be found here. I'll certainly be seeking out more of his work in the future.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Festival of Museums 2016 at The McManus - Dundee: A City of Innovation and Design 1920 - 1940

As some of you may or may not know, I work at The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum as a visitor assistant. I've worked there for around six years and have worked at quite a few events that the museum has held over the years. I was very excited to be asked to help out with the social media side of things for the Festival of Museums event that was being held on Saturday the 14th of May. I love social media. I love apps. I love Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat, Blogger and Facebook. I grew up with MySpace, DeviantArt, Livejournal and Bebo and I'm always on the look out for any new and interesting social media apps.

As well as social media being fun to take part in on a daily basis, it's also an incredibly helpful for helping connect with audiences far and wide. There are still people finding out about events through print but there is also a vast group of online users who tend to find out their info on the net. To help reach out to these people and involve them in events such as these, both those attending as well as those at home, a range of social media can be incredibly helpful bringing everyone together and getting everyone involved.

I helped film the event with Periscope, an app which lets you live stream, allowing people at home that couldn't make it to the event to join in an still be part of the amazing night. I also posted throughout the night to Instagram using the hashtag #FoM2016 If you're on Instagram or Twitter yourself, check out the hashtag to see images from the event as well as other venues taking part in this years Festival of Museums.

This year's McManus event was 'Dundee: A City of Innovation and Design 1920 - 1940'.  A great theme which encouraged some visitors to dress up in the style of this era. The night itself had such a buzz about it. The crowds gathered outside for the event to start at 7pm. The Dundee University swing dancers got everyone in the mood with their incredible dance moves before Oor Wullie himself greeted the crowd and welcomed them in to The McManus.

Upon entering the never ending crowd flowed through the building, being welcomed by staff either dressed in 1920 style clothing or in the very fetching Festival of Museums t-shirt I can be seen modelling above, complete with #FoM2016 on the back.  The cafe, where refreshments were available, was full of excited visitors, bloggers, and photographers and a group of dancers from Dundee Dance Studios entertained the crowds with some Can-Can dancing. The McManus 168 group were situated in the grand Gothic Hall, to answer any questions the visitors may have had and the Creative Learning Team entertained the families with fun activities such as making 1920s headbands and hats. Oor Wullie joined the crowds and made some new friends on the night.

The crowds wound up the grand stairs and into the Dundee and the World Gallery where the haunting and beautiful notes of Mongolian throat singing flowed out into the corridor.  The visitors stood transfixed, listening to the incredible performer, some with heads bowed comtemplativly , some sitting peacefully in the atmospheric gallery surrounded by objects from around the world, all silent taking in this wonderful performance. One of the McManus curators was also on hand to answer any questions people may have had about the Mongolian objects on display. So many people were eager to see the second performance later on in the evening.and find out more.

Further along the corridor there was a theatre set up showing footage from 'Dundee in the 1930s' from The National Library of Scotland. A rare opportunity to see Dundee in a totally different form.

Artists from Dundee Comics Creative Space and Treehouse Comics had the incredible task of drawing a large scale comic of the event. These guys are amazing to watch and visitors were able to see the comic coming to life over the course of the evening.  It was also great to see the artists sketching around the building throughout the event, allowing visitors to see them at work and hopefully inspiring some to give it a go themselves.  If people did start feeling creative there were some great activities to join in with in the Creative Learning Studio and there was lots to learn from the talks given by the group about the history of comic book creation.

Heading along visitors could drop in to see Charting New Waters, the newest exhibition in The McManus which includes DP&L ship models as well as the incredible paintings of the Antarctic by artist, Frances Walker. I very much urge you to head along and see this new exhibition which also includes other new acquisitions that have entered the collection.

A range of stunning 1920s outfits were on display in the grand Victoria Gallery. A wonderful opportunity to see these beautifully preserved pieces up close. From here visitors were then able to head down to the Landscape and Lives gallery to meet Harold Plenderleith who discussed the methods of conservation used to save artefacts in Tutankhamen's tomb, along with our own conservator discussing methods of plaiting. The visitors were keen to ask lots of questions and the two conservators were giving out intriguing facts all evening.

Finally, The Onion Club put on a fabulous performance for the crowds with their cabaret act, dancing, singing and feather boa ruffling! The amazing act had the crowd transfixed and raving about it for the rest of the evening.

In amongst all the events it was so great to see bloggers who had travelled from far and wide to join us in The McManus for the event and share their experiences through their own social media outlets.
It was a brilliant to be part of such a great night with a really great atmosphere.

I haven't included the photos I took for The McManus on Instagram as I'd love you to go and check them out yourself.  I've included the links to the various social media sites of the museum below so please do add them to keep up to date with what's on.

The McManus instagram - @mcmanusdundee
The McManus twitter - @McManusDundee
The McManus Facebook -


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Trying to grow some plants

I can't say I've ever had much luck with growing plants since I usually forget I even have them.  It's a terrible thing to say but I really do sometimes forget and it can only take a matter of days without water for them to become shrivelled up brown things. Fingers crossed this isn't the first and also last time you'll see these plants.  I'm keeping my eyes on them daily and treating them like small green odd shaped babies.

The top picture is of sweet peas which I'm soon planning on replanting.  They soak up their water daily. Crazy thirsty little blighters. They're not dead yet so that at least shows you that I've been topping them up on a daily basis.

My other little plant children are cacti. If someone can tell me what the grassy stuff is, I'd love to know.  All I planted in there was a cacti and succulent mix so I'm not too sure what it is. It just looks like grass to me.  My tiny baby cacti are popping their little heads up all over the place. They're in a dome (photos taken with lid off) and the condensation that runs down inside it keeps it nicely moist and warm for them. I must be doing something right because again, they aren't dead yet.

If you're interested in trying any of these out yourself I got the sweet pea kit in Waterstones as part of the Julie Dodsworth range.  You can also pick them up on Amazon here. My cacti dome kit also came from Amazon which you can find here. I bought a separate pack of seeds as an Amazon add on as the reviews on the dome weren't great in terms of the seed growth.  Cacti seed packets are only a a few pounds so I thought it was better to buy them separately. The dome itself was really what I was after as I'm planning to grow them in this which creates perfect conditions and then move them into a nice terrarium when they're a bit bigger.
Do you know of any other great 'grow your own' kits? Have you had any plant successes or disasters? I'd love to know!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A spot of reading: The New Ghost by Robert Hunter

When I'm not drawing or at work, I read. My commute to work is also the perfect time to make my way through a few chapters. My bookshelves are lacking in free space and I always find my legs taking me to the nearest bookshop and before I realise it i'm trying to find some nonexistent room for these newbies. Book buying is incredibly addictive. It's even more addictive when they are stunning graphic novels and comics such as the one I'm featuring today, The New Ghost by Robert Hunter. 

Robert Hunter is a London based illustrator and this is his first comic printed by Nobrow Press. If this was my first comic I'd be more than chuffed because it is beautiful.

The story follows a brand new ghost on its first day and it's not too sure what it's actually meant to do.  We also meet Tom who works at an observatory, trying to work out the secrets of the stars when he spots the new ghost through his telescope. On encountering each other they learn the secrets they've been searching for in the most thought provoking and moving way which Hunter has managed to capture in a neat twenty four pages.

The colour scheme isn't the stereotypical spooky of black and white, but instead a stunning range of cool blues and greens with delicate use of more vibrant oranges and yellows expertly placed through out the pages. This also has the added pleasing aesthetic of being printed by Nobrow Press on quality matt paper. You cant beat great paper. Their 17x23 series is just the sort of thing that you'd want to start collecting if you like beautifully made comics by a wide range of talented artists, with intriguing stories to tell.

 If you want to see more of Robert Hunter's work head over to his website
To see what the guys at Nobrow Press are producing next head over to

If you liked this little book feature, let me know! I'm hoping to keep keep it a regular themed post.  Also, if you have any book recommendations, send them my way. There's always room for more books...