Friday, 23 December 2011

Photographic Fortune Cookies

Earlier this year I was at the National Photography Symposium at the Bluecoat in Liverpool as part of Look11 the photography festival and picked up a couple of fortune cookies that were pinned on washing lines around the Bluecoat courtyard. I admit this was in May but as it happened I found them this week as I was tidying up the dining room after Christmas. I suppose I could have waited another couple of months to write about these for Chinese New Year and I imagine everyone thinking 'how come you didn't notice these the last 8 months?'. I do not exactly live by the mantra "a dusted home is the sign of a wasted life" but things do get put in drawers and corners where I do not look every week.

The couple who put up these fortune cookies were Leila Romaya and Paul McCann. The project was called Hui Yi Lu (Notes from the past). "Hui Yi Lu" celebrates Liverpool's Chinese community and came together following a series of photographic workshops within this community. Twenty large scale photographs were displayed throughout the city centre but then there were these miniature images enclosed in delicious fortune cookies. I was debating whether to open them or not as it felt somehow barbaric to destroy these lovely parcels but it was the monkeys' persuasive skills that made me, not so much because they were curious about the story but they'd fancied the biscuits!

Inside them we found two miniature images one of a boy inscribed 'travelling by sea' and one of a girl inscribed 'Martha'. Boy monkey is very keen to keep his find, perhaps I should suggest to keep it in his special box and one day we might find out more about these children. I managed to get a small bite of the cookie and I must say they were the best ones I have ever tasted.

Leila and Paul also took part in Redeye's Lightbox project and for their group show "Excavating Utopia" they created the most fabulous wall paper from images they had taken of objects in interiors along "Park Road". This road is not so much fictional but a medley of many Park Roads that photographers in the group visited and is a wonderful imaginary picture of how they perceived life in Park Road.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Have a merry green Christmas 2

I am having a flashback as I am writing this. Christmas has come round a lot quicker than expected. Luckily nearly everything is wrapped up but there are still a few presents to get and a shopping list to be made.
I was hoping to make all my presents this year (the usual wishful thinking) but didn't get all that far. I did manage to decorate the house with natural and recycled materials. There are the recycled wreaths from the last few years and natural things collected by the little monkeys.

My friend Juliette Hamilton makes fabulous willow items and I bought this lovely willow heart from her at Christmas Craft Cafe. She does great workshops at Arley Hall for those wanting to try their hand at willow weaving.

I made this basket when she did a demonstration in Paupers Wood for Easter and had put eggs, chicks & feathers in it. It is now re-styled for Christmas with apples & pine cones collected by the monkeys and it looks just as pretty.

This year we have gone mad on trees in the house and they are totaling four!! This sounds more lush than it is. We've got a lovely smelling natural tree in the lounge, decorated with lovely bright baubles by the monkeys. Then there is the little fake one in the kitchen (like everywhere else in the house with red decorations) and both monkeys have got one in their rooms. Boy monkey a black tree with red and silver decorations (to fit in with the Manchester United and Flamengo team colours) and girl monkey has got a pink one with turquoise baubles. I'd never thought I'd give in to a pink plastic tree but I am trying to make her pre-Christmas time as special as I can as she will not be here with me at Christmas. Oh the joys of time sharing kids; she's not best pleased to have to go on a plane when all her friends are here. Anyway, for now she's enjoying the Christmas spirit at home.

As always at Christmas I am keen to bring to the fore the ways we can make this a greener time. There are many ways to reduce, reuse and recycle and I would love to hear from anyone how you'd make this a greener Christmas and any views on whether a real or a fake tree is better for the environment. Opinions seem to be divided but would love to hear your thoughts.

As a token of good will the lovely people at Ecover have got a Christmas Clean Aid kit to give away for one lucky reader. So please send us your tips either on the blog or 'Like' us on the Busy Betsy Facebook group and send us your tips there. Meanwhile enjoy the following tips from the Ecover team:
  • Wear and Care this Christmas and add some eco to your festive wardrobe. Why not rock the office Christmas party eco-style this festive season? Visit for a list of eco fashion labels or check out our favourite Ada Zanditon’s Autumn Winter collection
  • Buying a real tree? Visit the Forest Stewardship Council website to make sure your precious pine has been farmed sustainably –
  • Use last year’s Christmas cards to make this year’s gift tags – cut out the pictures and thread through some cotton – hey presto, recycling at its best. Don’t forget to save this year’s cards to use in 2012!
  • e-Christmas cards – why not try Facebook, Twitter or email rather than snail mail to send your seasons greetings?
  • Recycled wrapping paper is a really easy way to score ‘green’ points at Christmas and doesn’t cost the earth. Try the selection at
  • Turn off the fairy lights at times when you are out of the house or in bed – it’s both safe and energy efficient!
  • All of Ecover’s range is now made from Plant-astic – a sustainable plastic made from sugar cane. This means that if you choose Ecover this Christmas to deal with your dirty plates, wash your best table linen, and keep your home clean, not only will your home be free from chemical nasties but also the packaging you’re choosing is better for the world around you too! And it just got easier – Ecover’s online shop means that you don’t have to worry about heavy shopping bags either –
  • Travel together – try car sharing with friends and family or taking the bus to the shops to do your Christmas shopping
  • Once you’ve filled up on turkey, yorkshire puddings and brussel sprouts, wash the dishes with Ecover Washing Up Liquid (Busy Betsy thinks this really smells the very best, honestly I have tried them all!)– you can even use your grey water to feed the Christmas tree!

Friday, 2 December 2011

And the Dish ran away with the Spoon

Wednesday was a day of strike for many people but a day of rest in our household. Forced by school closure we had to stay home for the day. There are many things I can say about the strike but I won't considering the amount of abuse Jeremy Clarkson and others have had (and I am not saying I would have said the same thing, it's just an example!). Anyway I don't think I get any pension at all, jobs in the art & craft world aren't the biggest earners, but at least we are all trying to keep the economy going by turning up for work. Also I won't start on the government but the Teletories don't seem to make it any better. Enough said!

On the positive side we had a lovely time in West Didsbury, home of a lot of independent retailers and food establishments and of course the uber-cool. The monkeys were promised a trip to town but then I realised there were marches along the bus route so I took them to "And the dish ran away with the Spoon" instead.

I am not sure but think the shop had a make over recently, perhaps it was just the Tiffany blue ribbons that caught my eye. This is a lovely little place. In their own words small but perfectly formed, with a lovely selection of cakes, great interior (straight back to Grandmother's kitchen) and lots and lots of old fashioned sweeties.

Boy monkey decided he'd wanted two of each. I'd tried to persuade him that the nice man behind the counter had enough to do but I was given an ultimatum: tears or sweets. What's a mother to do? The lovely man behind the counter, who looked like he'd walked straight out of the "Notting Hill" bookshop was most obliged and served the little man monkey accordingly. This place is well worth a trip if you find yourself stranded in West Didsbury.

And if you are in need of cakes as beautiful as these just give them a call. Details on their website :