September 30th, 2016

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September 30th, 2016

It’s been a quiet week on our hill top as I have been submerged in illustration work and the kids are fully back into the swing of school. After a bit of a bumpy start where we missed appointments (dental), forgot homework (Math, English), forgot dinner (just one night – I swear it!) and missed a meet-the-teacher evening at the elementary school (it’s okay, we met have them already), we have created highly complex and brightly coloured google calendars for every member of the family to make sure we have everyone going in all the right directions.  Huh! It seems like those organised people are actually onto something. Other highlights from this week (though it is hard to beat a good google calendar) include rescuing a woodpecker from our wood-stove, seeing a band in a barn, the seasonal return of the great horned owls hooting in the night, making incredible soup (see Delighting, below), and then all this good stuff on the internet…


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Looking:

Floors:  My favourite instagram account this week is all about floors, but they are Parisian floors, so it’s all romantic and beautiful. Thank you to SBL subscriber @emage for alerting me to this gorgeous account. Escapism and tiny tiles!

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Inking:

October has been re-dubbed “Inktober” around here. Last year I picked up my paintbrush, cracked open a small pot of black ink, joined a bunch of other keeners around the world, and set about to paint a small something in ink every single day of the month. What I discovered after 31 days was a) I can actually finish an online project and b) I love ink. Crazy love it. Who knew? This was a surprise to me, a girl who has spent most of the last 20 years attempting to make digital art look hand-drawn – for fear of doing the work by actual hand. No command-z (undo) when it comes to ink. Starting October 1, I will be back with the Inktober hashtag, fingers stained and curses flying with every micro-mistake.  Follow my progress via my instagram – and why not join me and all the other happy, inky people?

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Reading

To brighten those dark moments: This is just what I need! Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa. My inner critic is such a big jerk, with a big, fat, loud voice, always up in my face being a jerky-jerk. It’s time to kick it to the curb. Danielle hosts one of my favourite weekly blog and podcast pitstops, The Jealous Curator. For years she has been directing her artistic envy into upbeat and thoughtful writings and interviews with diverse and interesting designers and artists. I have loved her other two books, Collage and Creative Block, and I am already loving this new one. It’s out in October.

“This book is duct tape for the mouth of every artist’s inner critic. In ten wise and encouraging chapters, Danielle Krysa offers readers ten truths to silence that jerky voice once and for all. Truths like: Everyone Is Creative; Excuses Are the Enemy; No One Can Wrestle the Pencil Out of Your Hand; Labels Are for Canned Peaches, Not People; Failure Leads to Genius; and more. ”

I see that Chronicle Books has a give-away (US residents only): The first 100 people to preorder the book, from any retailer, between now and October 10, will receive a mug with the cover illustration on it (so cute!). Follow the link here.

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Watching:

I’m planning on some more tree hugging: A friend recently sent me a piece of her writing about forests and trees and our relationships to both. It was such a good piece and I am hoping she puts it up somewhere soon where I can link to it. But at the bottom of the piece she included a link to this new documentary Intelligent Trees. I think it might be worth checking out. “Trees are so much more than rows of wood waiting  to be turned into furniture, buildings or firewood. They are more than organisms producing oxygen or cleaning the air for us. They are individual beings that have feelings, know friendship have a common language and look after each other. This documentary explores the various ways that trees communicate with each other – from a forester’s observations as well as through the microscope of a scientist.” What the what? Watch out, the Ent-filled Fangorn Forest might not just be a Tolkien thing of literature. Go hug some of those trees! (I really hope there is some truth in all of this, and this is not just like the epic paper I gave in first year Archaeology concerning the existence of Atlantis, based on a book by a complete quack. I had no idea!).

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Dreaming:

This week I am off to New York in my imaginary travel journal: I was chatting to a friend during the week about this incredible exhibition, Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS (above), by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring, on now at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. I was extremely excited to drop the words “hyperbolic geometry” into the conversation as she is a knitter but also a math teacher. We decided that a field trip was in order. She also wants to take in the Museum of Math and I thought finally seeing Matilda on Broadway would be great. (but ugh! Final performance on the 1st of January!).

My favourite author in the world (favourite because she is brilliant and also because I happen to illustrate some of her books), Jen Storer, just posted her first newsletter and linked to this wonderful video by the fabulous artist and illustrator Maira Kalman. It just makes me want to go to New York even more. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in New York, watch that video, because it is quite wonderful.

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Coveting:

Sweater Weather: London-based designer Donna Wilson always creates the quirkiest of goods, whether it’s textiles, stuffies, clothing or ceramics. This week, due to my need for sweaters generally, I am coveting her beautiful new knit range inspired by Iceland and Scotland. Also, added bonus: Sweater Weather. 

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Delighting:

1) Bon Iver’s 22, A MillionI have been loving all the tracks released so far and am pretty excited about today’s album release.

2) Guffawing at podcasts: My brother highly recommended the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno and now I am recommending it to you. When a young guy discovers a piece of pretty terrible erotic fiction written and self-published by his dad, and then reads and critiques it with a group of friends, it’s pretty enjoyable listening.

3) Hey, this looks good: 20th Century Women, I don’t know anything about it but I like that trailer. Set in 1979 – Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning all star in a new film by Mike Mills. I really liked his film Beginners.

4) Soup season: This! One hundred times this… River Cottage’s Curried Sweet Potato Soup. I made it with this stock which really makes the house smell incredibly good.

5) Happiness. It’s as easy as this, apparently:  Ancient Wisdom Reveals 6 Rituals That Will Make You Happy. So yeah, just do that.

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If you ever have anything you’d love to share with me that I might like to include in this newsletter, don’t hesitate to drop me a line! I have been getting a few suggestions and I love seeing what inspires you.

I’ll be back next week with October business. Thanks again for the juicy feedback and be sure to whisper the words The Small Batch List in your friends’ ears.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
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xo

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September 16th, 2016 #3

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September 16th, 2016

This is an illustration of me finding some watermelons in the garden, not of me laying giant green eggs – as it might first appear. Sometimes I confuse the two. This week I am overwhelmed by garden produce again. This time it’s beans. Scarlet runner beans, ugly, lumpy, green climbing beans and some quite nice yellow bush beans.  The trouble with beans is that if you turn your back for even a moment, they get enormous, tough and stringy. Instead of doing anything constructive with them I am just letting them get freakishly large with the bright idea that I might dry the beans out to replant again next year. Yeah? Is that a thing? I might try. Every year around now I hit this point of garden fatigue where I am completely done with thinking about how to deal with the enthusiastic over-planting we did in the spring. I would prefer now to think about watching endless reruns of The Mindy Project or maybe write that YA book I always meant to write. And then there’s always the internet. I found some stuff – I hope you find something to enjoy in this lot:.


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Exclusively for you:

A subscriber exclusive: A goat-led tarot reading, especially for Small Batch List readers!  I am getting a little tarot guidance most days from a goat in Portland. Because, well, why not? One of Heather’s goats on Milk Barn Farm pulls a card from a pack to give you all the spiritual assistance you might need for the day, via Instagram. Kind Heather has provided a special reading by Marigold (above) for Small Batch List subscribers. Perfect internet perfection.

Photo by Heather Champ

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Reading:

Roald Dahl had remarkably bad (and quite entertaining) school reports for English Composition: Author of such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and the BFG, Roald Dahl was such an incredibly original author, and would have turned 100 last Tuesday. He died in 1990 leaving behind a great legacy – his books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. I have found some of his old school reports for English Composition and they are not what you would expect:

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Summer Term, 1930 (aged 14).
“I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper.”
Easter Term, 1931 (aged 15)
“A persistent muddler. Vocabulary negligible, sentences malconstructed. He reminds me of a camel.”
Summer Term, 1932 (aged 16)
“This boy is an indolent and illiterate member of the class.”

So there is hope for all of us! I also can’t help but think that there must have been much more leeway for teachers to have some creative fun with school reports in those days.

Illustration by Quentin Blake.

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Dreaming

Notes from my imaginary travel diary: This week I am not in imaginary Paris, but on a road trip down the coast of California with a stop at Glass Beach – just near Fort Bragg. This was once a local dump for all kinds of non-toxic garbage, dating between 1949 and 1967 — now all that remains is a beautiful beach of salt-water-buffed glass pebbles. I have a penchant for sea-glass, with a small pot of it on my kitchen window sill, but this is just lovely.
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Looking:

An exquisite collection of glass sea creatures: just the thing to go along with our beach of sea glass. The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY currently has an exhibition of these amazing glass models made meticulously by Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf, in the late 1800s. Thousands upon thousands of these marine invertebrates were created and distributed for scientific study around the world.

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The exhibition looks inspiring for sciencey-arty types: “Paired alongside the father and son’s drawings, archival material directly from the Blaschka studio, and videos of living invertebrates, these delicate models inspire us today as we continue to explore the intersections of art and science. The nearly 140 objects displayed in the exhibition are drawn primarily from the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass and Cornell University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with loans from a contemporary artist and select national and international museums.”

Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka
Corning Museum of Glass in Corning May 14, 2016 – January 8, 2017

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via Atlas Obscura 

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Coveting:

Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer: Our beautiful, precious, apple-green kitchen aid standing mixer packed it in this last week, dramatically. Something has gone horribly awry and now when you set it to mix, it does so for about 20 seconds before the whole metal bowl launches itself out of its supposedly snug bed. If you are not standing right there to catch it and quickly turn it off, the sound of crunching, slamming and then clanging metal is terrifying. As this is our Summer (approaching Fall) of Frugality, we are now just playing with this fun little online quiz to choose the perfectly coloured kitchen aid to match your personality. Mine is Buttercup.

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Delighting:

1) Gloria Steinem Doesn’t Drive: a short biographical video over at The New Yorker. I love the part where she explains that her childhood taught her to live with uncertainty, because her father’s philosophy was; “if you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, it could be wonderful”.

2) My favourite pigeon: New-York Historical Society is exhibiting The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems until September 25th. Original art, sketches and inspiration behind such great books as the Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!and the Elephant and Piggie stories. “[the exhibition]…displays the efforts behind the effortlessness, the seriousness behind the silliness… His ability to crisply weave together life lessons and humor creates artful volumes that speak to all, regardless of size.”

3) Michael Gondry shares my love of drawing in steam on glass shower screens: And also of this White Stripes song. “[the video] … beautifully captures the solitude of heartache and the drifting memories that surface during our most private moments, as well as the fleeting nature of life itself.”

4) There is a couple of wonderful bookshops on our island: The one I am most fond of is Salt Spring Books. We are very lucky that such a store can exist and thrive in our small community. Local author Kevin Patterson wrote some good things about it (amongst other good things) in last week’s Globe & Mail. Now I know you really want to come and visit.

5) And lastly… One more sea creature link. It’s this truly inspired giant isopod teabag.

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A minor correction from last week’s Small Batch List – The 23 Days At Sea residency that I mentioned in “Delighting” is not through the Vancouver Art Gallery at all, but through Access Gallery and The Burrard Artist Foundation and Contraste Agence d’art. Apologies!

I want to give a big shout out to my dad for doing all my proof reading. He is the best. He can spot a split infinitive from miles away. He has to really watch me. (That one was especially for you, Dad).

Have a good week and thanks for reading. Also, thanks for all the feedback. I love to hear what you think!

And yes – please tell your friends if you are enjoying The Small Batch List.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
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September 9th, 2016

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September 9th, 2016

School’s back (hear the collective sigh of bitter-sweet relief). While I miss the pots of cheesy pasta “soaking” in the sink, the clump clump clump of giant Doc Martens in the hallway, the piles of junk all over the house, the alarmingly violent nerf wars in the garden… Who am I kidding?…I am not complaining in the least. I’ve got things to illustrate! Newsletters to send! Silence to sit in! Despite knowing it will be a good ten months before we hit the languid lakeside days of summer again, I am particularly fond of this seasonal turn. A lovely PNW grey has settled in outside, bringing with it an urge to hunker down. There’s plenty of firewood stacked, soup’s back on the menu and of course; woolly socks/boots/bonfires/scotch/books/cheerful family board games (under duress)/netflix etc. Yep. Autumn – Bring it.


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Looking

Instagram favourite of the week:  This week I highly recommend experiencing NYC from an entirely different view point; pondlife_pondlife takes us down the microscope to peer at the “single cellular life of New York City, one pond at a time”… The tiny little creatures are quite beautiful in their translucency and the short videos capturing their wanderings and interactions are intriguing.

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This is “A grouping of Cyanobacteria with a diatom. These guys are magnified 1000x”.

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Watching:

#GBBO — Where have you been all my life? :  How have I not tuned in to the The Great British Bake Off before this season? Screening in the UK on Wednesday nights is season 7 of this Master Chef style reality-show. 12 amateur bakers gather in a marquee in the grounds of a beautiful Berkshire estate where they undertake 3 tricky baking tasks each week in hopes of winning the crystal cake-stand trophy. You might think it sounds naff*, but honestly it’s some of the most delightful tv I’ve watched in years because firstly – cakes and bread (duh) and secondly – the people are just so generous, unassuming and funny. It’s a long time since our entire family has sat down to watch the same show with equal amounts of glee. It’s not unusual for the cheering and shouting (pillow throwing, loud swearing) at the tv screen to get out of hand. There’s also a lot more shoving and clattering going on in our own kitchen as the limited bench space is in hot demand. Bread dough is being pounded, upside-down cakes are running riot and cookies are lining in up in terrifying misshapen forms. I can see it’s going to be an autumn of comfort eating.
*Because it’s a British reality show this was a deliberate use of the word “naff” but I also contemplated using “pants”, my other favourite Brit adjective.

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Reading

Well then, I’m reading a book… Right now it’s an old copy of Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers. The interesting fact about this (to me, anyway) is that I am reading again. Thanks to Pip’s Ten Pages a Day challenge.

What’s in your bookcase, huh? Lily and I have just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have moved on to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. You can tell a lot about a person from their bookcase, as the super cool Australian blog, Hello Bookcasewill agree. Lily’s is a good example. In her worn, blue-painted shelf there is a lot of Roald Dahl, hinting at her wicked sense of humour and her taste for sublimely warped characters.

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Hello Bookcase is such a inspiring and fascinating site…  “Each fortnight Hello Bookcase will introduce someone new and share with you their shelves.” — with interviews and beautiful photographs of such luminaries as Paul Capsis,  Anne Summers and, one of my favourites, Akira Isogawa (above, photo by Kathy Luu), there is much to explore and more to come.

“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.”  – Roald Dahl. (That’s all very well, but then how would I know what they are making in The Great British Bake Off?)

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Listening:

Gimme something new to listen to…  A Song a Day is a music recommendation service curated by real, alive and breathing people.  A thoughtfully handpicked song chosen by one of my favourite music-loving online friends, Laura Gluhanich, arrives in my inbox every weekday morning. Choose a curator whose music tastes match your own and expect to be delighted.

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Coveting:

So yes, this week it’s baking-inspired coveting…  I want to know all the secrets to perfect bread so I can whisper them to the rising flour and yeast.

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I feel Flour Water Salt Yeast is a book that will help me figure this out and now that I am reading so much, I can dedicate some of my ten pages a day to this delight. I am also now coveting a trip to Portland to visit Ken’s Artisan Bakerybecause – look at those croissants! I think I must be hungry.

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If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up, here are five:
1) I ignored this when it was all over my facebook stream this week but luckily I was finally talked into it; this musicless version of a Mick Jagger and David Bowie classic is stupid-funny. When you start imagining that they are two mates walking home from a big night out it gets even funnier.
2) And Famous Authors Reply to Your Unsolicited Dick Pic. – McSweeney’sgold.
3) Also, in case you were wondering, I am still dreaming about Paris and this time it’s the rooftops.
4) The Vintage Girls of New York City in Harper’s Bazaar (via Messy Nessy)
5) I have been closely following the unfolding tale of British artist Rebecca Moss who is on the Vancouver Art Gallery residency 23 Days at Sea. She is currently stranded aboard a vessel off the coast of Japan due to the financial receivership of her Korean shipping company — no harbour will take them! (via my Editor at Large, Carrie Cogan)

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Okay! That’s it for this week.

Last week I took down my solo art show which was up at Auntie Pesto’s Cafehere on Salt Spring Island for the month of August. If you are interested you can have a look at the work here. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to purchase any of the remaining pieces.

Have a good week and thanks for reading. All feedback is welcome and do tell your friends if you are enjoying The Small Batch List.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
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xo

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September 2nd, 2016

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September 2nd, 2016

Welcome to the first edition of the The Small Batch List, my sparkly, brand new newsletter.

In a spur-of-the-moment, caffeine-fuelled decision, I am committing to bringing you some interest and joy every Friday. I hope you enjoy it.

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Eating and Drinking

Summer Harvest Overload – Got Plums? Our plum tree is exploding with ridiculous amounts of fruit. Ridiculous amounts. It seems to be an island-wide issue so next year I am going to suggest to the Chamber of Commerce that we have a plum pop-up shop called “Plum Outta Luck”, or “Plum Crazy” or “Plummer’s Crack” or something… with exclusively plum products. Until then there’s a whole lot of bubbling and hot sugar going on in our kitchen. We picked the last of our little purple ones last night in the twilight with a family of peevish raccoons looking on. Now I have another full box sitting on the counter and the question is Pie? Cake? Torte? More jam? Freeze them? Or leave them there in a massive pile until a squadron of fruit flies move on in and make it home-base? The best thing I have made is some plum cordial which was exceptionally easy and really delicious in cocktails.

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Speaking of cocktails…  As summer winds down, I am slowly but surely (considering) cutting down on my alcoholic beverage consumption. “What the what?” I hear you cry. Yes, really. The decision is fuelled by health and finances but this week I also read Giving Up Alcohol Opened My Eyes to the Infuriating Truth about Why Women Drink: Kristi Coulter writes about female drinking, feminism and sexism in Enjoli on Medium.  “That’s the summer I realise that everyone around me is tanked. But it also dawns on me that the women are super double tanked — that to be a modern, urbane woman means to be a serious drinker. …I see that booze is the oil in our motors, the thing that keeps us purring when we could be making other kinds of noise.”

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Dreaming

A Guide To Wes Anderson’s Paris:  “Did you know Wes Anderson lives in Paris? When he’s not off making one of his beautifully idiosyncratic films, the director keeps a low profile in his Parisian apartment and office, no doubt decorated as charmingly as his movie sets… I thought I’d take an educated guess as to what a day spent with Wes Anderson in Paris might be like…” . One of my very best friends is in Paris at the moment (oh envious me) and I just sent her this old article from Messy Nessy — lovely stuff. I’m booking my imaginary plane ticket immediately.

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Reading

Not reading, preordering: Former screen writer (including Arrested Development and Mad About You) and all ’round wonderful woman, Maria Semple has a new book Today Shall Be Different coming out and it’s now available for preorder (follow that link to sample the first chapter). I have been waiting for this book ever since I closed the back cover of her last book, Where’d You Go Bernadette.

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Her voice rings clear, funny and true. Its release date is October 4th. And speaking (previously) of Wes Anderson – his brother and illustrator Eric Chase Anderson has created artwork for the book – a 12 page graphic novel. If you preorder now you can register to receive a print signed by the author and artist.

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Living and Breathing:

Teen drama: Our teen kid has just been away at Improv Camp for seven days, on a distant PNW island which required her to travel there and back on two boats with three other equally nervous friends. It feels like a turning point for her as a young adult and us as parents.  What Teens Need Most from their Parents in the WSJ : “The new longitudinal research is changing scientists’ views on the role parents play in helping children navigate a volatile decade.

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Once seen as a time for parents to step back, adolescence is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to stay tuned in and emotionally connected.”  Perhaps we should have held her hand all the way. Uh, no.

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Coveting:

Pretty, practical, perfect: Hobo Wallets – My favourite wallets ever… and secretly, between you and me, I now have two and I’m coveting another. They are beautifully made and come in a rainbow of gorgeous colours. Mmm.

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Available from one of my favourite local haunts; Twang & Pearl.

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That’s it for this week.

 I’ll be back next Friday.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
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The Small Batch List
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Friday Five Favourites:

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Guest starring: ME
Here’s a new segment. First up, this is my own personal list of favourites, just to set the tone. Next week I will include the list of special guest star (friend)… stay tuned.

1) Roast chicken with gravy and veg on a Sunday night.
My favourite recipe is not dissimilar from this Jamie Oliver method. Boiling the lemon is the key!

2) Shabby old penguin classic copy of The Dud Avocado
I love this book. I recently bought a beautifully designed, re-release hardcover as my old paperback is falling apart. Despite the beauty of the fancy new edition, it is the shabby old one from 1960 that I love the best. “Basically, if you were to set Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady near the Sorbonne, untangle the sentences and add more slapstick, sex and champagne cocktails, you’re getting close.” – Rosecrans Baldwin discusses the book on NPR.

3) Corner of my dining room
Including a weird old 60s print that belonged to my grandmother (artist unknown), our painted cabinet from Tibet, SONOS speaker (which would be on my deserted island list), plants that I haven’t killed yet, wooden percussion instruments / ornaments that belonged to my other grandmother, a paper apple made by one of my kids and a bunch of geese bowls found at Anthropologie years ago.

4) Mixtape from 1990
Made for me by my friend Dom, who opened my eyes and ears to music. This was one of many mixed tapes for which I am forever grateful. I love some of the titles! Metallica? Black Sabbath? Rush??

5) Tiny little seed and the tiny little elephants carved from ivory that live inside
My childhood best friend travelled the world, and brought this back from India for me when I was 9. The seed is about the size of a cherry pip. Those elephants are about the size of a ladybug wing. I remember he brought himself back a medieval-style chainmail glove from Nottingham after he had visited Sherwood Forest. He was the coolest.

October 21 2016

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October 21st, 2016

Every other morning I go for a run on our treadmill. I look out the window into the trees, watch the occasional raccoon squeeze through a gap in the fence, listen to a woodpecker bang on the outside wall, and run like the bloody clappers, on the spot, for 20 minutes. This is so I can be the fittest, hottest hermit on our hilltop. And, oh yes, also to extend my healthy lifespan etc, blah blah blah. But I certainly don’t enjoy it. That would be ridiculous. There are things I do to distract myself from the pain, the mental and physical pain. The best and easiest thing to do is put on a funny podcast and just laugh a lot. I am always at risk of laughing so hard that I might topple to my certain death (I link to one culprit, the great Maria (heart!) Bamford – see below).

Apart from that, I will sometimes work on my stand-up comedy routine. Seriously. I am hilarious on the treadmill. I kill it. I am working on an excellent bit about a twitching thumb. I will, no doubt, tell it one day to a friend on Facebook Messenger. I also come up with great retorts for imagined hecklers. If not imagining myself on stage at Largo in Los Angeles, or if I am feeling slightly pensive, then I work on my 11 minute Ted Talk. It’s about creativity, and the hermit lifestyle, and maybe the health benefits of soup. I have noticed that around the 14 minute mark of my run, as the endorphins kick in, the brilliant ideas just start to fly into my head. This is the point where I compose excellent (but quickly forgotten) tweets, screenplays, emails to make my mum laugh (also quickly forgotten), travel plans to distant places, menu plans for the week and I think I probably even dreamed up this email newsletter one day in August at 14 mins, 1.123 miles. By this point I am untouchable and love everyone, everyone in my life (and probably yours). A keen sense of enthusiastic productivity lingers for about four hours afterwards, so the rewards are high. It’s such a good feeling and I wish the memory of it was enough to get me to feel less reluctant to do it again the day after tomorrow. Okay! Enough said. Here’s the list:

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Looking:

I am such a huge fan of Marlee Grace’s Instagram account, Personal Practice. Every day, for over a year now, Marlee takes a short video snippet of her daily dance practice and posts it to her public Instagram account for a growing audience. It’s a powerful body of work – a document of ritual and commitment. Each video is shot casually yet thoughtfully and with a definite emotional character – always changing in subtleties of body and movement.  It has been so interesting to witness this process. Marlee is also in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book about her first year of the project. With only a few days to go, you can find it here.

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Listening:

Agnes Obel, live, on the BBC’s 6 Music. Find the stuff around the 22 minute mark and then again at approx. 46 mins. Thanks for the heads-up @lauraglu! She’s the best. (Laura and Agnes). Agnes plays with a full ensemble – looping chellos, keyboards etc. I played her album Aventine over and over a couple of years ago until my studio mate asked me to please stop. (“Oh God, Claire. Please, please, no more”). Obel’s new album Citizen of Glass is out today. Here’s an interesting article about her and the album in The Guardian.

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Watching:

The 100 Years Show : The profile of prolific (and very old) Cuban-born American abstract-minimalist painter, Carmen Herrera, is now streaming on Netflix. Herrera has now reached the age of 101, and only started to find fame and fortune since her “discovery” by the art-world in 2004.  This doco is too short at around 30 minutes to cover such an interesting and full life, but it’s totally worth watching.

Looking it up just now led me to an article from The New York Timesfrom last year: Works in Progress. Find 11 profiles of “a very smallsampling of the female artists now in their 70s, 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.”

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Islanding:

I live on a little island. Sometimes it feels remote, but not this remote. These incredible photographs of the world’s most remote populated island make me truly appreciate all the mod-cons we do have, and how quickly we can get to the nearest city if we need to. Tristan da Cunha is a long way from anywhere else. “The islanders went 10 years without contact from the outside world until a ship stopped to inform them that World War I was over. After that, only six more ships passed by within 12 years.”

Speaking of islands, you can see a little snippet of our island in the trailer for this tv show coming out soon: Island Diaries. Our island’s particular episode will feature my editor-at-large. (I keep calling her that, in hopes that she will eventually writes something for me, as promised. But now, with her burgeoning tv career, fat chance).

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While looking through Instagram I found that the work of illustrator Katie Scott is now featured in a beautiful new book by Malachy TallackThe Un-Discovered Islands. “Gathered in this book are two dozen islands once believed to be real but no longer on the map. These are the products of imagination, deception and human error. They are phantoms and fakes: an archipelago of ex-isles and forgotten lands.” That sounds good. I should have put this book in my Covetingsection.

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Coveting:

Some weeks when trying to come up with something I am coveting I think “huh, I really don’t want anything this week. Maybe a hot bath?”. This week I was feeling a little that way, when I remembered I wanted to check out Forage Studios, from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Oh boy – now I want all the stuff. Bright, cheerful ceramics with off-beat decorative illustrations. I love the mugs most of all.

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Delighting:

1) Dinner Party Download Soundtracks: I like the Dinner Party Download podcast very much as the magazine format suits my very short attention span perfectly. Each show includes a “dinner party soundtrack” where a guest (usually musical) presents four songs which they would play at their own particular dinner party and talks about why. I have discovered some great gems listening to these.

2) Guffawing at podcasts: As promised, the most charming and so very funny Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite) was interviewed on the Nerdist podcast.

3) The Lost Boys soundtrack was once one of my favourites: (I am full of terrible admissions today). The A.V. Club gives us a rundownwith a little bit of history, a little bit of nostalgia and a little bit of sexy sax from the 1980s cult classic. (Both Coreys! Remember?)

4) Deep concentration: Deep work in practice: reimagining my workflow for radically less distractionsounds dry but, seriously, there are some good tips in here for getting the work done in this age of stimulation and distraction.

5) The Illustrated interviews – in the New York Times: These interviews seem to have been running for a while now, but I have never seen them before. I’m so pleased to have stumbled across them. Celebrities from the world of arts and entertainment answer simple questions with their own quick sketch illustrations, animated for our pleasure. Yoko Ono, Andy Samberg, Helmut Lang, Grimes, Richard Branson, Tavi Gevinson and Tim Burton, just to name a few.

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That’s it. Back to reality, until next week.
I have been receiving suggestions for posts from readers and I love it. If you have something you think is worth sharing or reviewing, do let me know.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard
xo

p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line!

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November 4 2016

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November 4th, 2016
During the night, around 2am (when I was looking like the above), I decided there would be no Small Batch this week due to the crush of life and deadlines. Just deciding that was enough to allow me to go back to sleep. But now it’s 3pm and I have changed my mind. Instead of no Small Batch List, it will be simply the Even Smaller Batch List. Join me again next week for a Slightly Bigger Batch List. Until then, enjoy!

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Looking:
The Instagram account of artist  Scorpion Dagger – James Kerr – was one of the reasons I decided I had better throw a list together today. I want to share this account so badly! Kerr collages and animates old Medieval and Renaissance paintings and sets them to perfectly bizarro music to make short Instagram and Tumblr friendly movies. The artistry and totally-bent stories remind me of Terry Gilliam’s old Monty Python clips. PLEASE make sure you look at this.

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Listening:

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions are releasing a new album today titled Until The Hunter. If you are in the US you can listen to a preview on NPR. Otherwise you can hear a smattering of tracks around the web, including Let Me Get There which she recorded with Kurt Vile. Noice. (that’s Australian for “nice’). Mazzy Star has a special place in my heart, so it’s nice to hear Hope’s lovely, lazy vocals.

You will like this track by Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis. And now I want to drive around in a Bentley with a big silver hat and some enormous earrings. The rest of the album, Let It Be You, is great too. (Thanks Dave C. You are awesome).

Making my day is this Danzig, Steely Dan mashup – check out Steely Danzig (thanks Rob!).

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Mad Men-ing:

Exciting news: Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner is making a new show.  He is such an interesting and creative person. I listened to this podcast interview with him last year, and then again this week and it’s still really fascinating.

Here’s an old but excellent Matt Weiner interview in the Paris Review:

“I am a controlling person. I’m at odds with the world, and like most people I don’t have any control over what’s going to happen—I only have wishes and dreams. But to be in this environment where you actually control how things are going to work out, and who’s going to win, and what they’re going to learn, and who kisses who…”

Also, while working through and beyond last week’s deadline in a kind of dead-brained panic, I listened to Pete Holmes chat to Mad Men writer/producer (and also for a huge array of other brilliant shows) Janet Leahy about writing, living, laughing and so much Mad Men. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m enjoying it.

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Delighting:

Five delights for a Friday:
1) Watching weird and wonderful, Glitch:  We started watching this Australian paranormal series last night. I have no idea where it’s going, and I’m not giving you any spoilers, but it’s hooked me in after one episode. Plus, Castlemaine – you look pretty!

2) The Benjamin Franklin Method: How to (Actually) Learn to Write: When surrounded by people embarking on NaNoWriMo, those who are bashing out 50,000 words without stopping in order to get out a first draft, here is a refreshing alternative on how to write, but it’s one that requires hard work.

3) Brilliant local, small batch elixir: from my island home comes Moonshine Mama’s Elixir which is a potent and delicious health-giving combo of ingredients such as ginger, lemon and turmeric. It’s tasty year round. Right now everyone in the house is fighting off a nasty cold so I am guzzling it with hot water, but we’ve been know to drink it in straight shots or in cocktails. Here is a lovely video of the creation of the elixir, and you can see my friend Mel pouring the good stuff into mason jars.

4) Old skool bloggers for the win: I love Andy’s new, simple redesign of Waxy.org and his words about independent blogging ring true. Loobylu.com turns 17 in December and is patchy these days, at best. I’m looking forward to hearing more of his thoughts about the direction of independent publishing in the future.

5) Are you watching WestworldHere’s a one theory about what’s happening. “The HBO series Westworld is tricking fans into thinking the story takes [place] in chronological order. However, a close look reveals that what we’re seeing is a nonlinear timeline. Two of the main storylines — the Man in Black in one, and William and Logan in the other — are actually separated by at least 30 years. Here is a breakdown of what’s sometimes called the “dual timelines theory” or the “multiple timelines theory.” That’s cool.

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Short and sweet!
Pardon the spelling errors and the grammatical nightmares. I didn’t have time to send it to the my dad – proofreader extraordinaire – and I have to be drinking a martini with some lovely ladies in an hour, so I shall leave you with the words…

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard
xo

p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line! You will need to subscribe to the email version of The Small Batch List to play along each week. Just sayin’.

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October 29 2016

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October 28th, 2016
I call this the Deadline Edition. It has to be brief. I have 30 illustrations due this week and, because I know the author of the book series I’m illustrating reads this newsletter, I will whisper, “It’s taking me a little longer than expected”. What’s the hold up? Bikes! Kids on bikes. My bête noire. Bikes are so hard, with all their fiddly spokes and cogs and chains and struts of metal that connect wheels to handles to seats. Nightmare! I once had to draw a couple of cats riding their bikes, chasing fish in gym shoes, running down a hill. I have drawn a cow on a bike (worst job ever). I have drawn a dad losing control of his wonky bike as his kid, on another approximation of a bike, looks on. I included a girl on a bike in my last art show just to show myself that I can draw bikes, even when it’s not a client request. BIKES, ugh. It turns out that I am not the only one who struggles. Drawing a bike has been used as a psychological test – to demonstrate how sometimes we do not actually know what we think we know (they had to create a test for that?).

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Product designer, Gianluca Gimini, took this idea one step further and out of it came a celebration of accidental creativity. Gimini collected hundreds of drawings of bikes from friends and strangers, drawn from memory, and from these he created 3D renderings of what these bikes would actually look like in real space. They are all so quirky and whimsical – familiar and bizarre at the same time – a little like the uncanny valley of two-wheeled transport. My own drawn-from-memory bike is above. Fortunately, when working on Tan, I can use some source photos to make sure I figure out how the pedals connect to that back wheel. Fortunately, this time around I do not to need to find a source photo of a cow on a bike. So – here’s the list for the week:

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Looking:
Elsa Mora is a New York based, mixed-media artist and artistic director. Her Instagram is so joyful and creative. It’s full of cut paper, animations, family snaps, works in progress and artistic explorations. You will like it.

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Watching:
Black Mirror
; spooky tales about technology and dystopian futures:
 Streaming on Netflix is Season Three of Black Mirror, a character-driven, sci-fi meets psychological thriller series of six stand-alone stories. We started watching it this week, and maybe I’m a lightweight, but I am finding it so disturbing that I am NOT recommending it (yeah, yeah, even though it’s very good). I do, however, highly recommend watching Season Two. It is just the one, 72-minute episode starring Jon Hamm – also on Netflix. Also, Episode One of the third season is pretty interesting, especially if you happen to be concerned with the number of likes you get on any given social media platform. I do love that Black Mirror keeps us guessing, as it twists and turns like old episodes of The Twilight Zone, gradually peeling back layers of meaning and realisation. But it is so very bleak at times. Black Mirror creator Charlie Brookner wrote about his vision in The Dark Side of Gadget Addiction in The Guardian, after he finished the first season. Just this last Tuesday he was fielding questions in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit. And here is a really good list of books to read after binge watching Black Mirror – or even if you don’t.
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Letter Writing:
One of my dearest friends has moved house several times in the last few months and then, suddenly, just recently, she seemed to disappear altogether – somewhere in Cornwall. I feared faeries. I feared that she had disappeared into an ancient stone circle and was living in Jacobean times riding around on a horse tracking down handsome Scottish men in kilts while fleeing evil English overlords. No matter how many facebook messages, emails or skype pings I left, there was no reply. Eventually I got an urgent chat message “I have two minutes in an internet cafe, tell me everything!” I maxed out the two minutes without getting a jot of her news. A week later I got this chat message:
“ah! my two mins was up but i have two mins now sitting in the sewing cafe in Lostwithiel. My parents bought a converted barn with an acre and a half field of weeds, they are moving into it at the end of november as my grandmother died and they can move now. J- and I are going to move into a caravan on said acre of weeds, im currently pulling out eveything pink in it which was A LOT and trying to imagine ways to make our life practical and nice like having beautiful washbasins or something….. we have no internet and im losing hope of it ever being fixed. I think that if its not fixed by the 12th of this month i will start writing you letters. I’m currently eating lemon curd cake. I quit my job cheffing because I hated it and ive just got a job working in the village shop. Reprise. I miss your bright sparkle. xxxxxxxxxx”
I have printed her message verbatim, as that’s the kind of friend I am.

So now, I am contemplating writing letters. I don’t think I have done this since… 1999?

  • Catherine Field writes in the New York Times;
    “A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.”
  • ABC (Australia) Radio National is creating a potential new show called Expressive Post and the producer is seeking handwritten letters from around the world: “Have you always wanted to write a letter to a particular someone but haven’t, for whatever reason? Is there something you want to tell another person but it’s a delicate topic, and you’re not sure how they’ll react? A topic so delicate that only a letter will do? I’m testing a potential new show for ABC Radio National that needs letters like these…..As part of the test run, I’ll select the most compelling letters. Then I’ll track down the intended recipient for each letter and deliver it to them. They’ll read the letter for the first time on the show.” If you are interested, the deadline is next Tuesday, November 1st, so perhaps get in contact with the producers via email first if you are intending to send one
  • Love Letters for Strangers is an old Ted Talk given by Hannah Brencher: “Hannah Brencher’s mother always wrote her letters. So when she felt herself bottom into depression after college, she did what felt natural — she wrote love letters and left them for strangers to find. The act has become a global initiative, The World Needs More Love Letters, which rushes handwritten letters to those in need of a boost.”
  • Please take some time to look at the beautiful blog Naomi Loves, by Naomi Bulger, journalist, author, and mail-artist. Her work is so cheery and inspiring and her blog is full of creative wisdom and excellent discoveries. It’s my new favourite. Her debut novel, Airmail, sounds like my cup of tea:“Reclusive old Mr. G.L. Solomon’s favourite things are single malt whiskey, Steve McQueen movies, and gingersnap cookies. He hates processed cheese, washing detergent commercials, and the way the teacup rattles in the saucer when he picks it up. Solomon has become accustomed to his lonely routine in Sydney, Australia—until the day he begins receiving letters in his mailbox from a complete stranger.

    “On the other side of the world, Anouk is a mentally delicate young woman living in New York who insists she is being stalked by a fat woman in a pink tracksuit. When Anouk declares to Solomon that she is writing “from the Other Side,” the old man breaks away from his daily grind of watching soap operas and reading Fishing World and travels to New York to find her. As he is drawn into Anouk’s surreal world of stalkers and storytelling, marbles and cats, purgatory and Plato, Solomon has but one goal—to unravel the mystery before it is too late.”

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Listening:
30 Days, 30 Songs
:
  This independent website will release one song per day from October 10 until Election Day, so far featuring artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, EL VY, Aimee Mann, Franz Ferdinand, R.E.M and Sun Kil Moon. As the Washington Post says “A playlist of songs that Donald Trump will hate.”

On the other hand, you could listen to some very poppy new tunes from Lisa Mitchell. Warrior is about as far from US political commentary as a sunny, wide Australian beach. And she is as sweet as a button. Here’s her guide to writing songs in Frankie Mag.

If that’s too saccharine (probably), I’ve been listening to the new Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, this week. I like its loosey-goosey, jangly indie-rock sound very much.

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Coveting:
One of my favourite Australian visual artists is Del Kathryn Barton. She has won the Australian portrait prize, the Archibald, twice and is always exploring the outer realms of sexuality, spirit, mysticism and a deep personal psychology. Her work can now be found on a small range of products from Third Drawer Down. Personally, I am coveting this silk scarf.

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Delighting – Eight delights for a Friday:
1) 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brainpickings: This last week the formidable blog of brain-food, Brainpickings, celebrated its 10-year anniversary. This article summarises 10 things that publisher Maria Popova has learnt over her last ten years of extensive research, reading and writing. She is wise and interesting. Also, I want a name that I can say when wanting to invite people over. “Popova for a cup of tea!” – “Robertson for a cup of tea” doesn’t have the same ring. Congratulations Maria.

2) Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month is held every November so it starts Tuesday. 50,000 words in 30 days. Get your plot line ready and GO!

3) It was the last week of The Great British Bake Off: And an exciting episode, but time to say goodbye to my favourite people on television, hosts Mel and Sue. It’s old news that both they and judge Mary Berry will not be following the show to BBC 4 next year, so I fear the spirit will disappear from the almost perfect reality cooking show. Hopefully they lend their talents to something new and fun.  

4) If Women Wrote Men The Way Men Wrote Women: literary inversion by Meg Elison on the ever-fabulous McSweeney’s. Funny, of course.

5) Kitchen dance party track of the week: I know I linked to the official video a couple of weeks ago, but I am linking to this remix of Bomba Estéreo’s Soy Yo because I just dare you to put it on really loud through really big speakers and NOT dance your butt off to this. Prepare for a full cardio-workout.

6) Beautiful snaps: The Take A View Landscape Photographer of the year has been announced. I love a good murmuration – and this photograph by Matthew Cattell is stunning. The full gallery is worth a long linger.

7) Walking and creativity: Thanks Rob! Once a week we get to walk with Rob, and his fabulous dog Chaz. Some of the plans and ideas we hatch as we walk are inspired! Sometimes they bite. It swings between being a ‘think tank’ and a ‘stink tank’ but it’s always creative. So Rob sent me this link, which makes perfect sense.

8) Just don’t do this: 40 things you can stop doing right now (thanks Rob, again!) You may have seen this, because who doesn’t like a good list of things not to do? But as it is deadline week I am enjoying the idea that I don’t have to do any of those extra things.

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Thanks for reading.
It is strange what a deadline does to me. It seems that instead of the brevity that I intended, I have rambled and wandered. My internal editor has checked out while I am battling bikes and nap-less afternoons.

Feel free to drop me a line or to send this on to a friend who might be interested in disappearing down this rabbit hole full of discoveries every week.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard
xo

p.s. 100 points to those who guess the quote in the email subject line! I should supply a bingo-style card for this game.

p.p.s. There was what looked like a terrible spelling mistake in last week’s newsletter. A very kind and musical subscriber pointed it out to me. I had added an “h” to “cello”. Actually, it was no mistake at all. No, no. I was making a very subtle reference to one of my favourite and oft-quoted lines from School of Rock.  Jack Black says to a 12 year old cello prodigy, when starting his school rock band; “Ok. This is a bass guitar. And it’s the exact same thing [as a cello] but instead of playing it like this you tip it on the side and… chello, you got a bass.”… Really, I was. Ok, back to the bikes. xo

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