Posted on February 3, 2017February 3, 2017 February 3rd, 2017 Sign up for free! February 3rd, 2017 Secret islands! Two words that inspire a soaring fantasy world. Escape and idealism. I happen to live on one of these secret islands that Travel + Leisure recently listed in its top 27. It’s the one with “rocky shores, rolling pastures, and sky-high oak trees”. It is indeed very lovely. There are fairy trails and a farmer’s market, lakes to swim in and sea glass on every beach. The trees are thick and whisperish and the children are mostly shaggy-haired and happy. There is so much beautiful nature here that some days I simply stop seeing it. So here we live in one of these (secret) travel destinations, but I still look at the list of 27 places and dream. When I read “For white-sand beaches, salty breezes, freshly caught seafood, and no crowds, head to one of the world’s best secret islands” I am just as easily convinced as anyone else that the path to happiness and perpetual, vacation-style living is finding yet another one of these secret islands. I could escape to one of these and there I would find my bliss. Next I’d like a Greek island, please. Surely there is bliss to be found living above the sparkly Aegean. I think of My Family and Other Animals and Duran Duran’s “Rio” video. Oh, that was the Caribbean, but regardless, bliss. Ah yes, how foolish – how tricky our human brains can be! I know what we all know, that as soon as I got to Skopelos I would not spend my days traipsing about singing the soundtrack to Mama Mia, while eating olives, and perpetually covered in white sand. No, no, I would be hiding away in a little dark room and searching the internet for exciting things to put on the Small Batch List. But perhaps right after I hit the publish button, I would go for a swim and frolic with an octopus, and then maybe eat its friend deep fried for dinner. After an evening spent sipping ouzo I’d fall asleep… probably under a light sheet of romantically draped insect-netting… listening to the sounds of bouzoukis and touristy, tinkling laughter in the distance. And life would be really, really good. It’s true. I know it. Looking: Here are four of my favourite Aussie artist/designer babes whose Instagram accounts not only remind me of Summer days, but creatively inspire me and fill my feed with colourful goodness. Top-left: the formidable Beci Orpin. Top-right: sassy-pants Shannon Lamden. Bottom-left: the prolific and mind-blowing Bromley and Co. And Bottom-right: smokin’ Neryl Walker. Listening and looking: Maggie Rogers, whose song “Alaska” I raved about in the SBL in November, is back with another great song “On + Off”. What I really like about this is the new video. Reading: Mo Willems’s Funny Failures in The New Yorker This is such a great interview with children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems. On his Elephant and Piggie series: “I wanted every adventure to be them re-establishing their friendship, not just having fun, because that’s a different thing from friendship.” Willems recalled a formative creative partnership: “We’d be shouting at each other over decisions all morning, then go have a great time together at lunch. That was what I wanted.” Mo Willems makes me want to make kids’ books again. (Via Buster Benson.) Unscreening: That’s a new term I just made up. It’s the process of extracting your child (or self) from being totally reliant on a screen. This month is officially Screen Free Cold Turkey Month at Lily’s elementary school (read: Parental Agony Month). As I write this, on February 1st, she is lying on the couch moaning in withdrawal. Shortly I will distract her with a game of Blokus (the non-digital version, which is my current favourite, as I KILL at mental rotation). Wish us luck for February. Friday Five Favourites – guest-starring Chris Baty Author, UX writer, instructor at Stanford University’s Writer’s Studio and founder of the amazing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Most often found at ChrisBaty.com, on Twitter and lurking around NaNoWriMo.org A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Australia) I wrote a novel. In a month. It was terrible, and it shall never, ever see the light of day, but I wrote it. 50,000 words. This was wholly thanks to NaNoWriMo, a scheme that encourages writers and wannabe writers around the world to take time out in the month of November to write the first draft of a novel. It’s a kind of bootcamp and I have done it a couple of times since. Chris was the mastermind behind the scheme. It went from being something that he and 21 friends did together to a participating force of 300,000+ world wide. I am so buzzed to have Chris be the Small Batch List guest this week. Thanks for taking the time, Chris! 1) Trees in Paradise This is a history of California, told through four kinds of trees—redwoods, eucalypts, orange trees, and palm trees. If you just fell asleep reading that last sentence, I totally understand. But this book totally sucked me in. Did you know, for instance, that one of the reasons California is covered in eucalyptus trees is because doctors in the 1870s claimed blue gums prevented malaria? Or that one of the reasons that fire destroyed so much of San Francisco after the 1906 quake was because people wrongly thought the redwood used in most of the city’s buildings was fire-resistant? These factoids AND SO MUCH MORE await you in this fine book. 2) My Blue Sunglasses I was walking to work a couple months ago when I passed a guy promoting a new start-up by giving away sunglasses. I’d lost my sunglasses on BART the week before, so I grabbed a pair. My personal style can best be described as “tidy invisibility,” so there was something oddly exciting about sporting loud, candy-colored specs with a webinar company’s logo on the side. I’ve worn them every day since, and they bring a little bit of goofy summer to the rainy winter we’ve been having. 3) Atlanta I love the way this tale of a struggling rapper and his even-more-struggling manager mixes absurdity and sincerity. If Jim Jarmusch and Outkast had a baby, it would be Atlanta. 4) My Powell’s Books mug My wife and I went to Portland, and we made a pilgrimage to Powell’s Books. I got so overwhelmed by the majesty of the selection that I didn’t buy a single book. But I did get this great mug, and it’s become my mono-vessel. Can you really use the same mug for everything you drink? Yes, it turns out you can. 5) Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist You probably already know about this playlist—Spotify updates it with 30 new songs every week based on things you like. I’m not sure what genius robot DJs are working behind the scenes to tune the algorithm, but it’s almost too good. The playlist has introduced me to countless new songwriters I love (hello Frankie Cosmos and Stephen Steinbrink) AND old stuff that I’d completely missed (like Funkadelic’s “Biological Speculation” and Joan Armatrading’s “Woncha Come on Home”). – – – Previous Friday Five Archives – – – Just a quick note. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be stitching a couple of Marshmallow Bunny commissions for some people. While I have my sewing machine out and I am making these little guys, you might like one too. They are $170 USD + Shipping. Drop me a line if you want to be added to the list! See you next week! Claire Robertson, The Small Batch List Person with a keyboard xo p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line! Last week was from The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot. Sign up for free!