April 14th, 2017 #28

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April 7th, 2017

I have rabbits to sew! Lots of rabbits. While I stitch I am listening to entrepreneurial podcasts and dreaming about my empire. Yes, that’s right. I said empire. I like to aim high in my rabbit-sewing-fuelled daydreams. If you want to have a front-row seat for this next adventure of mine (and when isn’t there some adventure brewing?) please follow me on my new Instagram account: Owl Hill. Initially Owl Hill will be inhabited by my homemade soft animals but from there I hope it will unfold and lead to all sorts of exciting additions – whatever takes my fancy – and yours! I always appreciate your interest and support and this next step is an exciting one for me. It feels a little like everything I have been doing in the last five years or so has led up to this point.

Next week I head to Ottawa with the high  school improv team to cheer them on as they compete in the Canadian Improv Games. It’s exciting to see that such folk as Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen and even Alanis Morrisette got their start at the CIGs which celebrate their 40th year in 2017. Our hotels are booked, the kids’ agenda is set and the money has been raised! Hooray! Thank you so much to you if you helped out with a donation. I know some SBL readers did, and it is much appreciated.

So, life’s a bit busy… but here are a few interesting things to look at for this week:


1. After what I like to call EAT-FEST 2017, which was actually our trip to Australia, I have been contemplating the undeniable fact that as one gets older, gained weight likes to stick around a lot longer than it used to. I will make to you the terrible admission that when we got home I actually stuck a calorie counting app on my phone. It tracks everything… food consumed, water drunk, steps taken. I’m sure it even noted when I looked at the buttery jam tarts in Café Talia the other day. My favourite bit (because, technology!) is the bar-code scanner so you can quickly scan your banana or chocolate bar before bolting it down. I am quite facinated with what this bar-code scanning doozer-whizzy tells me. I will use the word “uneducated” rather than “idiot” to describe pre-app me.

After a week or so of scanning and entering everything carefully I know a few things. Firstly, I know that this calorie counting gig does not suit my personality at all. My short attention span and my tendency towards rebellious behaviour are not terribly compatible with curbing delicious food consumption according to numbers and guilt. But also at least now I know that eating a huge plate of roast potatoes is not as healthy as I thought it was (I said, “uneducated”, okay?). I had no idea that when people tell you potato chips are bad for you, they are really that bad for you. Awareness is the key, I guess. So now I am aware of not drinking too many bottles of delicious ginger ale, and I am aware of how boring a low calorie diet is, and I am now acutely aware of all those Australian chocolate bars I brought back, which are all sitting in the cupboard calling to me.

2. As a result of all this, I am enjoying reading things like How I went from 59kg to 77kg – and never looked back by Clem Ford where she shouts out that great piece of writing that did the rounds a few years ago –  Walk With Mike by Mike Moore.

3. More reasons to forget the calorie counting: Psychologists Explain The Benefits Of Baking For Other People. I fully support this theory. I know one small highly emotional person who gets her zen on by baking. We get a calm child and baked goods.

4. On my 60th birthday, this is what I wish I knew 30 years ago.  I love this article by writer Jenna Price in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Kind and encouraging advice for women in their mid-lives…”I’d like to give younger women a gift and that’s the gift of knowing that there is time, so much time and not everything needs to happen at once. We all need a longer game plan. Time is not running out. It is just running.”

5. R.I.P John Clarke, one of Australia’s funniest satirists. He will be so missed! Here are ten of his best bits from over the years in The Guardian.

6. The True Size is an interactive world map which allows you to drag countries around to make surprising size comparisons. Who knew!? (“uneducated” not “idiot”, remember). These screen shots on Bored Panda are totally illuminating. “Putting a 3D planet on a two-dimensional map was something of a challenge for early cartographers… In 1569 [cartographer Gerardus Mercator] designed a map that could be accurately used for navigation purposes, but the downside was that his system distorted the size of objects depending on their position relative to the equator. Because of this, landmasses like Antarctica and Greenland appeared much larger than they actually are.” I was amazed. (Again, I say “uneducated”, not “idiot”).

7. Here’s the best of what’s being played in the car on the way to school this week. (That’s another way of saying “here’s what the kids are listening to”). For a little indie teen pop: Declan McKenna’s songs Brazil and Isombard (I can’t help but be reminded of that great 80s-nostalgia movie I mentioned a few months ago, Sing Street – still haven’t watched it? Watch it!).  And rapper Smino’s  Netflix & Dusse and Father Son Holy Smoke.

8. Tash Sultana’s tiny desk concert… forget calorie counting. I think a new workout should be playing loops and drum machines while singing into two microphones.

9. Crazy! Getting your baby to sleep. This is not a Portlandia sketch… though you could easily be fooled into thinking it is.


Friday Five Favourites – guest-starring Shauna Reid

Shauna is an Aussie copywriter, author and old school blogger living in Scotland.

Most often found at shaunareid.com and @shaunareid on Instagram.

1. Hashtag Gelato
When I’m feeling blue, I look at pictures of ice cream on Instagram. What could be cheerier than ice cream? All that colour and swirl and sunshine. I also admire people with the self control to pose artfully with their cone instead of scoffing it right away.Sometimes I just search #gelato but my favourite accounts include Edinburgh’s @marysmilkbar, London’s @blutopicecream for salted caramel goodness or @gelatomessina from Oz for OTT decadence.2. Call Your Girlfriend
Every Friday I eagerly download the latest episode of this podcast “for long-distance besties everywhere”. It’s hosted by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, actual besties, and two of the sharpest, brightest, funniest women whose conversation you could ever hope to overhear. It’s a perfect blend of politics and pop culture. They’re an oasis of real talk in a crazy world.

3. Cacao Mint Lip Stuff from Cook’s Organic
This lip balm smells exactly like an Arnott’s Mint Slice biscuit – darkest chocolate, sharpest mint. One whiff and I am back home in Oz, ripping open a fresh packet. Handmade by chef Cookie Glatzel Hebert, it’s also really effective lip balm!

4. Adventure Cats
I’m a newbie cat owner and in my quest to learn how to keep it entertained, I stumbled across Adventure Cats. These cats go road tripping, camping, hiking, sailing, skateboarding and canoeing down rivers. Also: cat in a life jacket is the cutest thing ever.

5. MumFace
I adore this YouTube channel run by beauty journalist Grace Timothy. She describes it as “TIPS, TRICKS AND INSIDER CHEATS FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE FACE AND ALSO A KID.”

I’m not a mum, but I do have a face, and I’m very lazy about putting makeup on said face. Grace’s tutorials are genuinely fast with minimal products. I love her witty repartee and no-faff approach to helping you look just a wee bit more awake for everyday or for a rare night out.
– Quick playlist.


See you the week after next!

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard

p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line! Last week was Anais Nin. “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”


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April 7th, 2017

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April 7th, 2017

Hi. Did you miss me? I have been away. Travelling abroad. I love the expression “travelling abroad”. It makes me think of standing on the bow of an ocean liner with the salty wind whipping through my hair as I spy foreign lands on the horizon. I visualise leather travelling trunks and steam whistles, promenades on the deck, discovering new cultures and drinking exotic cocktails. I don’t actually use the expression out loud, because even I can see that would extremely irritating, especially to a security officer: “And where are you travelling?” … “Abroad, good sir!”… “uh huh, step this way, we need to search you and your ostentatious leather travelling trunk.”

The expression also does not really match the reality of being squashed into economy class for 14 hours with a huge number of slightly anxious, uncomfortable, farty strangers. Bad food, restless legs, crying babies… those tiny little bathrooms with their flushing systems that scare the bejeezus out of me. I am slowly mastering the art of sipping coffee in high turbulence. I close my eyes and try to imagine that in fact I am “travelling abroad”, sipping my coffee from a canteen on the back of a traversing camel in some beautiful sunset-riddled desert. If a small child beside me says “Mum! I’m going to puke!” I try to ignore it as long as possible and then, eyes still closed, I artfully hand her a paper vomit-bag, imagining I am handing a map to my handsome travelling companion.  But it’s all a means to an end, and for us the end was Sydney, Australia. Beautiful Sydney, it does not disappoint. Even when the locals are complaining about terrible weather – they seem to forget that “terrible” is still warm enough to be trundling around town in a t-shirt and a smile. “Tropical!” I kept saying, even when the wind blew my umbrella inside out and the rain drenched me right before I had to turn up looking slick for a meeting.

We stayed right in the middle of the city, surrounded by towering apartment buildings, office blocks and weekday coffee shops which serve long blacks and flat whites (home!). The streets were dense and busy, but even there, where the sounds of construction and traffic are 24-7, the sparkly calls of parakeets and currawongs remind us that, yes, “tropical!”

But now, home again… or I should say, “other home” again. It’s a little grey and grim here, but at least there are daffodils and owls, if not cocktails and kookaburras.  And I am back to send you a weekly dose of Small Batch. I think there is something for everyone here:


1. I love this list of travelling tips. I simply googled “how to travel well” and got this as a result. It makes me want to go out and feed my wanderlust a little more. And (omg) how to avoid bald spots when travelling with friends. Who knew? Angry-sleep hair-yanking? That’s a thing?? That sounds like enough to make me need to stay at home and watch Netflix for the next 40 years.

2. I am quite smitten with the work of Mark Hearld (above). He is a print-maker, textile designer, painter and illustrator. This video shows his work, his process, his inspiration and collections and his massive talent. Now I want to learn how to make lithographs.  Via Michael S. Wertz’s always good newsletter, Wertzeen

3. Oh hello Alt-J … I’ve been waiting for you, hoping you’d come back to visit soon. Here’s In Cold Blood and 3WW.

4. And there’s this: Gorillaz’ new track Saturnz Barz (Spirit House) is fun to listen to and the video is fun to watch. (via Laura Gluhanich on A Song a Day.)

5. This TED Talk is wonderful.
“To those who feel like they don’t belong: there is beauty in being a misfit.” Lidia Yuknavitch, author and teacher, shares her own story of creativity, loss, shame and self-acceptance. “Even at the moment of your failure, you are beautiful,” she says. “You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”
– thank you Carrie.

6. Matthew Weiner, Mad Men creator, also has some good, encouraging words about the creative struggle… he is one of my heroes. The two podcast interviews with him on Nerdist  (episode 561 and episode 673) are long but entertaining, especially for Mad Men fans.

7. Jet lag for an insomniac is always challenging. In some ways it’s liberating as, while awake in the dark at 4am in Australia, I could relax by thinking “Well at least it’s 10am on Salt Spring.” I have just discovered an album of adult lullabies called Sleep by Max Richter which sounds soporific on a first listen. I might give it a burl.

8. Max Richter was also on NPR this week talking about his influences. I didn’t know a single thing about Max Richter before listening to this, and it’s always interesting to dip into the world and process of a newly discovered musician.

9. And finally – something to BLOW YOUR MIND.

See? Something for everyone.


Friday Five Favourites – guest-starring Tara MacLean
Singer, songwriter, and award winning recording and touring artist. She is currently running a Pledge Music Campaign where you can pre-order her new album.

Most often found at TaraMacleanMusic.com, Facebook and currently at Pledge Music.


How exciting to make a list of my favourite things! I feel like Oprah!

1. Let me start with Moonshine Mama’s Turmeric Elixir.
This incredible tonic is one of the most amazing things in my life. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory powers. I used to take Ibuprofen when I had a headache or pain, but now I just do a shot of this magic potion and it fixes me up. Vitamin C, Iron, B6, and so many other benefits contribute to why it is my #1, but one of my favourite reasons is that it can be served on ice as a cold shot, or with hot water as a warm tea.  It’s an all season hit! It also makes a mean cocktail! It’s so delicious, you don’t even realise you’re drinking medicine. It’s a lovely gift, because everyone loves it, and a totally reasonable thing to bring to a party instead of wine. Mix it with soda water or sparkling wine and it’s the best mimosa you’ve ever had. I highly recommend always having this energizing tonic to start your day!  Have you seen me around? Am I not super perky? This is why.

2. Davines Oi Oil for Hair
I am OBSESSED with this. Where I live, people hug a lot, but not everyone smells good. In fact, I’d venture to say that some of the smelliest people live here. And I love them, oh yes I do.  However, there is nothing like the feeling when someone hugs you, and then comes back for a little bit more because they can’t believe how AMAZING you smell. The sophisticated, yet intoxicating scent gets me daily compliments and cuddles. This hair oil not only keeps my hair shiny and healthy, but it gets me more love. And isn’t that what the world needs? Isn’t this what you need? This company is really eco-conscious as well, and the oil can only be purchased through a licensed dealer. I actually use a ton of their hair products, especially the Sea Salt Spray which gives you that beachy look. This is my number #1 beauty product recommendation. I can’t live without it.

3. Dried Mulberries
I always have a bag of these in my purse. I am “trying” to eat less sugar, and whenever I feel compelled to chomp into that chocolate bar, I grab a handful of these sweet little berries and it does the trick. Plus they are so incredibly good for you. They have protein and fibre, as well as a ton of Vitamin C and Calcium and antioxidant properties. I am always needing to eat something. I have a bit of an oral fixation and love to snack. Something about this berry makes me feel satiated and happy. I’m also told they help with blood circulation and, the older we get, the more we need that stuff to pump through us smoothly! Pick a bag of these up at your local grocery store. If you buy them in bulk, you can usually get at least $5 worth into your mouth before they catch you so that is a big cost savings right there.  Enjoy!

4. Acadie by Daniel Lanois
Some records are just perfect. Acadie found me when I was 19, and has accompanied me through my life since then. It’s production is flawless and timeless and the songs are masterfully written. Daniel Lanois is my favourite living musician on Earth, and has been known to produce little albums like U2’s Joshua Tree, Peter Gabriel’s SO, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball (another perfect album), Bob Dylan’s Time out of Mind, WIllie Nelson’s Teatro, and of course, Baby Beluga by Raffi. All this stuff is great, but to dive into his solo offerings is pure heaven. He has many records, but this one is haunting, beautiful and essential. I have met Daniel Lanois, and though my futile attempts to flirt with him did not lead to anything that would make this story more juicy, I can say he is a brilliant guy, and a bit too much of a gentleman.

5. My Record Player
Oh, Vinyl. They sat in storage for decades. Last Christmas, my incredibly thoughtful husband bought me a turntable. I lugged the dusty, heavy container up the stairs (he could have helped me with that, so maybe he isn’t THAT thoughtful), pulled out each record slowly, and savoured the memories that flooded over me with each one I held. It was like getting reacquainted with a part of myself that had been put into storage. My pre-baby, super cool and eclectic self who had time to sit and listen undistracted to the greatest albums ever made. How decadent! I saw my life go by, from The Muppet Movie Soundtrack, to Stevie Nicks, to Duran Duran, to Edith Piaf. From Miles Davis to Bowie, The Ramones to The Police….and there I was! I had spent all this time and energy searching for myself and all this time I had been hidden in a dusty container. I emerged. It was glorious. If you don’t have a record player, go find one and then order The Best of Edith Piaf on vinyl from some online source.  Pour yourself a hot bubble bath, drop the needle, and live La Vie En Rose.



Thanks for joining me again. And if you think someone you know might like this, please, please forward it on to them or send them to my sign-up page. The more the merrier.

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard

p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line… Did you guess that it was a Beastie Boys’ lyric last time? “I’ve got more rhymes than I’ve got grey hairs, and that’s a lot because I’ve got my share”


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