The Eden Project

As the weather has gotten nicer we've been exploring more of England. The Eden Project has been on my list of things to visit since I got here but oh, Cornwall. Why are you always so far away?! 

Zee surprised me with a weekend away (<3) which I adored. He'd booked a lovely little bnb for the long weekend. Oh la! So, off we went. The traffic was horrific, but that's only to expected on a long weekend. We stopped at little roadside stalls along the road from Stonehenge and ate warm strawberries while we listened to Serial (goodness! I'm undecided whether he's guilty or not...)

The Eden Project was AMAZING! It was massive, and filled with so many beautiful things. I love that they've taken what was essentially a quarry and made it fabulous. Very very impressed. 

The highlights included:

- A 3 metre tall marble maze
- The gorgeous biomes, and climbing to the 'canopy' of the Rainforest Biome
- The incredibly mechanical nut cracker
- The toddler who picked a flower and handed it to me with a 'for the pretty lady' 
- The delicious warmth (and the ice cream we ate because it was warm. Woo!)

Definitely worth an adventure. I was super pleased to have gone! 

Notgrove

Zee's Grandad turned a brilliant 90 a month ago - so the extended family went out to Gloucestershire for a long weekend to celebrate. It was pretty excellent - he's such a clever man. He was telling me how he used to be an electric engineer who made missile engines (!!) in his hey day because he was interested in rockets.  I'm constantly surprised by the lives people have lived, there are so many interesting things to be learnt. 

It was a pretty excellent weekend of walks and eating and funny quizzes. I'm not great at quizzes, but it was a great way to get to know everyone. Even better was playing Cards Against Humanity - usually I only play with peers but there has to be something said for playing it cross generation. It was hilarious! 

A pretty excellent long weekend, one of the highlights of the year so far.

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Visiting Wearne

It's always a delight to go down to Somerset. We're always spoilt with the company and deliciousness. There's something about all the SPACE. So different from living in London, the epic amounts of greenery, for a start. Watching foxes play in the fields, or looking over the garden to see what's finished for the season or if there is still some left to be harvested. So, so different to London. 

One of my favourite things is walking the dogs - this time we took them up to the woods, which I hadn't done before. SO PRETTY. It was going well, till we lost Duffy for maybe 10 minutes, she's so wiley and adventurous and has no problem exploring off wherever her nose takes her! Thankfully we found her (or rather, she came to our calls) shortly after.

Riding in Oakham

We spent a delightful weekend in Oakham for a friends wedding. Its was beautiful: lovely venue, heartwarming ceremony, dancing and cake and a whole wall of sweets. There's something amazing about watching friends declare their love so openly, I love it.

After the wedding we had a spare day to explore Rutland. A group of us hired bikes and we rode around Rutland Water. It's a big lake, bigger than I expected. We rode two hours from the bike hire place to a little Italian restaurant for lunch and then back again. 

It was a good ride, a bit nippy with the wind but otherwise fine. I was a bit disappointed with the company we were in - perhaps it's just me, but I was always taught that in group situations you travel as fast as the slowest person and you stick together. Basic trail safety, right? From everything to hiking, riding along trails or snowboarding. 

Also sticking together keeps morale up - no one likes being that person being left behind. Sadly not everyone felt the same as me, and so we were split along the trail. Considering we didn't have phone signal, if anything had happened, it would have been a disaster. Ah well, lucky nothing did happen and those of us at the back were in a good spirits - lots of catching up and gossiping and laughter.

I enjoyed the ride too, Rutland Water is a pretty pretty place. 

Portsmouth Docks

Having just got back from Portsmouth, NH we thought it would be hilarious to visit the UK alternative. Turns out Portsmouth is one of three naval bases in the UK, and one with loads of history. I was most keen to see the HMS Victory (Lord Neslon's flagship - Nelson being much more familiar after all that studying for the Indefinite leave to remain test!).

It was good, Portsmouth is a relatively easy drive from London, and the day while grey wasn't too cold (not like Boston had been). Well, talk about blown away by the dockyards. The HMS Victory, for a start was massive. It had 104 cannons (!), and you can see how they fit hundreds of men aboard (though I wonder at the conditions).

There was some pretty clever engineering too - all the cannons were operated by gun powder, and the lighting solution at the time was flame. So, they stored all the gunpowder in a special room with massive, frosted windows. It was lined with copper, to stop rats from gnawing their way and trailing powder about the ship (which would have been a terrible, terrible thing, could you imagine?).  On the other side of the windows, was a lamp room. You couldn't walk from one room to the other, there was a rather roundabout way to make sure there was no need/chance for flame in the powder room. 

For a ship designed in 1759, that's pretty impressive. They also let us play with the flint mechanism on one of the canons. Holy crap! Part of the reason Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar was because of that little lighting/flint mechanism. That and apparently Nelson trained his men hard - six men to a canon. They could fire and reload in as little as 90 seconds (!) - much much faster than the Spanish/French opposition. 

It was chilling standing on the spot where Nelson was shot (there's a plaque, in theory it's pretty grim but it's now such a tourist-y thing, so many people were taking photos with their ipads). Another interesting tidbit was that while the men mostly slept in a hammock (being more comfortable on the rolling seas) Nelson slept in a cot. Apparently because of his pride - by the time the Battle of Trafalgar came about, he only had one arm and couldn't pull himself in or out of a hammock - so he had a cot. Isn't that interesting??

There as an old history buff, who sat just before the exit (right next to the gunpowder room) and woah buddy, he was full of facts and stories and tidbits like that. We didn't get the audio guide, instead we had a ten minute chat and got an intense but interesting stream of stories.

One which made me laugh (and grossed me out) was when he explained what a 'towrag' was. I've always heard it as an insult, 'stop being a towrag!' type thing, though in my head it was always 'toe rag'. Turns out a tow rag is a bit of cloth tied to a rope which is towed behind the boat. When a sailor needs to go the bathroom, he does his business and pulls in the rope to clean himself up, throwing the bit of cloth back into the ocean to clean itself ready for the next person. Grim, gross but also a pretty practical solution. 

We also watched a video on the Mary Rose - Henry the VIIIs ship, launched in 1510! She sank in the Solent, maybe 45 years later in a skirmish against the French. Well, in the 70s, hundreds of years later they found the wreckage, and hauled a whole bunch of it up. It's currently being preserved, as it's exposure to air would damage the remains further (or something, it didn't go into too much detail). Fairly interesting though, a little tudor time capsule! 

Pretty great trip, all in all. Definitely recommend it. 

Portsmouth NH + Walking to Maine

We drove up to Portsmouth from Boston, which was actually pretty fun. We stopped by one of the massive liquor barns (because you can only buy your booze from the local government in super size, apparently). 

Overall Portsmouth is quite pretty, it feels like a very American little town. The wonderful wedding aside (seriously - they had a unity volcano) the best bit was walking to Maine from North Hampshire ("live free or die!") for lobster.

Now, turns out we were there in the offseason which became super apparent when all the little best-in-town lobster places were closed. Instead we hit up Warrens, where I discovered the ridiculousness that is the all-you-can-eat salad bar. I was unprepared. It turns people like lobster, but they go crazy for a good salad bar. 

Still, it was a good few days of gentle adventure, lots of eating and some epic company.

Boston

While Iceland was lovely, it was a stopover. We had friends getting married in Portsmouth, so we met up with another couple in the adventure crew and had one delightful day in Boston.

Oh, man did we pack it in! We followed the freedom trail for a bit, we went down to see Paul Revere (the guys who famously said the red coats were coming), and where Franklin was buried. We ate at Regina's (the original one, apparently the best pizza in Boston) and I had an epic stawberry shortcake from a little Italian bakery... it was amazing. 

We walked our way criss cross the city, laughing at all the Dunkin Donuts (seriously, it was ridiculous) and generally enjoying the warmth after Iceland. It was SUCH a fabulous day, I was sad we didn't have longer. 

It was actually pretty surprising too... both Zee and I are playing Fallout 4 at the moment, which is set in Boston. I was surprised to recognise some of the landmarks! 

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Iceland

Right after Paris, we were off on our next trip. One of the great things about Iceland is that Air Iceland does cheap flights to the states via the UK, with a free stopover in Iceland. It's essentially a 2-for-1 holiday! So, when we had a wedding in Boston, Zee booked us in a week in Iceland. High five him!

We spent the first two days exploring Reykjavik. We were hoping to see the Northern Lights, but alas, the sky has to be clear for that so no dice. Instead we did walking tours, enjoyed the little dinky stores and acclimatized to Iceland (read: cold, though mild by their standards). 

It was nice, though. Took me some time to understand the currency exchange (1k Krona is about £5) - I found I was anchoring on weird numbers which threw me off. I mistakenly bought a super cute watercolour print for £50 (in my head it was closer to £20!). After that I let Zee handle the money side of things.

Still, there was lots going on. There's a strong artist community in Reykjavik which I LOVED. We stopped by a little ceramic studio where the lady made and sold her own works. So great. 

The walking tour of Reykjavik today was especially enlightening.  It was blistering cold and gale force winds, but still good. I was impressed with the history (Vikings!) and the laidback vibe of the place (no security, not even in front of the presidents house which we stood in front of. Only at the American Embassy, apparently!)

I was in awe of their social focused policies (education, including tertiary is free. Healthcare is free. They have the lowest unemployment in Europe, the lowest crime rate, and the highest literacy rate. There's a high tax rate (gst is at 25.5%), but the socioeconomic payoff is huge).

I was impressed with their feminist attitudes (29/63 ministers in parliament are women!) and for such a sparsely place, I feel like they're doing so much right. They use mostly hydro/geothermic activity to power and heat everything, so there's a very low level of pollution (the water smells a bit like Rotorua though - a bit like bad eggs). It's such a lovely lovely place.

We hired a big four wheel drive and went exploring around the golden circle - it's essentially the geothermic area around Reykjavik that has a lot of beautiful beautiful things to see (geysers, waterfalls, frozen waterfalls, amazing stark vistas). It was ridiculous. Stark, but amazing. 

We were surprised at the tourist trade there... you could drive four hours and see no body on the roads, and then second you pull up to a waterfall or geyser there was a packed carpark and a hundred other people. How did they get around? It was the most bizarre thing.

The last stop of the trip was the Blue Lagoon. It's impossible to describe - it's massive for a start. And ridiculous colour, and the smell is something else. In saying that, once you're in it's delightful, with the poolside bars, payment by wristband, and in pool facials.... it's just the most ridiculous, delightful place. I'm glad we went. 

Paris!

Paris - what a delightful place. We treated Zee's Mum for her 60th birthday with a weekend visit to Paris, and it was excellent. We braved the Metro (not as nice as the London tube, I have to say) - I found a little pastry bakery within half an hour of being there and oh, their chocolate eclairs! Oh French pastries, there is nothing like it anywhere. It's always best in Paris.  I ate at least one chocolate eclair everyday I was there, and several pain au chocolat's or croissants at every opportunity. As always, breakfast was my favourite meal. Paris is all kinds of delicious.

Our hotel was a wonderful little boutique just down from the Eiffel Tower. We did much wandering, only lightly foiled by the weather. There was much amazing food (Pasco was especially delightful) and we did several fun stops - The Eiffel Tower, The Arc De Triomphe, Montmartre (where I got my portrait done in the artists square) and Musee d'Orsay. 

I especially loved that Musee d'Orsay.  It's FILLED with treasures. I was awed by Degas and his dancers, his Little dancer of 14 years in particular, and how he was pushing for realism in an era where art was more polished into a palatable view. (I read The Painted Girls last year which I think definitely influenced how these pieces resonated). I loved The dance studio where he showed the work, the pain and toil that goes into each glittery show (and how he tried to show the truth, his painting had a watering can used to wet the floors so the dancers wouldn't slip). He had all the dancers pose in his studio, so he could slot them in. It's a mix of art and realism that was apparently not shown at that time. 

I loved the little funny story between Manet and his extra broccoli (he was commissioned for a painting of white broccoli, and when he was paid there was an unexpected bonus, so he painted a one off of a forgotten broccoli, and sent it along). I was struck by The Gleaners by Millet, how it's truth (non stylised poverty) was scandalous in the French upper class - he was considered a social critic of his time and said so much with this painting, especially when compared to Jules Brentons, Calling in the Gleaners (which, because it portrayed the workers in a more idealised version was lauded, and bought by Napolean). I dallied by Monets waterlilies (I could spend hours in front of Monet's waterlilies).

One of my favourites was this one (pictured) of Van Gough, and his starry night over the Rhone. He wrote to his brother a rather epic description and it's lovely. He committed himself to a mental institution shortly after finishing it, which I found interesting. 
I was surprised at how interesting the context around each piece was - they're presented as stand alone pieces but no one creates in a vacuum. The more I discovered about each piece that resonated the more interested I became, often delving into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Loved it. I could spend days wandering the halls of Musee d'Orsay.

10 Bird Lasagne

I don't eat red meat or pork. Poultry, Fish and Vege are where I'm most comfortable - I recently discovered it's called 'poultritarian'. A friend of ours is super carnivore and once challenged himself to get as many different kind of meats into a lasagne as he could. We took that challenge on too, but a version I could eat. 

So, 10 bird lasagne! What a delicious mission. We included:

  1. Chicken
  2. Turkey
  3. Pheasant
  4. Partridge
  5. Guinea Fowl
  6. Ostritch?
  7. Duck
  8. Quail Eggs
  9. Wild Pigeon
  10. Goose

It was crazy good. It took a bit of organising and I wouldn't do again, but I definitely enjoyed the eating part. Nom! 

Getting Older?

A while ago I discovered that after work, I was getting headaches and couldn't read the train signs so well. I was fine in the morning, but oh man. I was fully aware that my eyesight going fuzzy after a long day was not ideal. I kind of ignored it, though. The idea of getting glasses scared me, it was a pretty clear sign that my body was ageing and I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't ready to be old.

Still, after a month of this it was getting pretty horrid. A friend of mine who I went to uni with recently got himself a pair of 'working' glasses, and his enthusiasm for it quelled some of my fear so I took myself off to an optometrist. I have to say, not as scary as I thought it would be. There is lots of looking through lenses and reading letters, but it's not painful.

Sure enough, because I spend my whole day looking at a screen (and often go home and look at more - side hustles got me hustling) my eyes were straining and had forgotten to relax. It means that my focal point was out, and my brain was working overtime to correct it (thus the headaches).

So now I have glasses for screentime and reading. I feel like I probably should have done this MUCH earlier - the difference was astounding. 

I'm getting used to them still, but they're not as bad as I thought they would be. 

Visiting Kew

Last weekend friends of Zee's came down and stayed. And oh, oh it was delightful. There's something about being around people who are in the same place as you. Good laughs, games and hilarity and fun times. We went out to Kew Gardens, and even made it into the greenhouses (something we missed last time we went out).

It was a brilliant weekend.


Happy New Year

This New Years we spent at a friends house, a low key something. Unfortunately for me I got all wound up and was super grumpy - womp! Not exactly what you want when welcoming in the New Year but it happens. I shall aim to practice more grace throughout the next year. 

 

 

Happy New Year, you guys! x

 

Exploring St Pauls

We had one day with Dad before he went back to Somerset, and Boxing Day was it. There isn't much open on Boxing Day, we were keen to show Dad some more of London as he's only been once before.

So we hit up St Pauls, what a good call! I hadn't been to visit St Pauls before, but the views from the dome were pretty spectacular. Not to mention the whispering gallery was amazing. We worked out that if you sat on the bench and put your ear to the wall and spoke, you could hear it clearly further around the room. This was all fun and games, where I moved further along the room away from Dad and Zee, till two tourists sat inbetween us. I heard Dad, clear as day, call them plonkers. I laughed so hard, realising that if I could hear them then the tourists between us could also hear him!

Afterwards we wandered down by the river. Walking past Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast and through Borough Market. We also stopped at all the pubs, enjoying a half pint at each before moving on. Such a good way to sample London! 

Showing Dad the city in which I live has been an absolute highlight. Love love love having him here!

Merry Christmas!

What a day! Dad came up from Wearne, and oh - it meant the world he was with us. Being an expat I've accepted that holidays are often spent alone or with friends rather than with family. But this year Dad was over this side of the world and I got to spend Christmas Day with him. LOVED it. 

We spent it with Zee's family, it was excellent. My favourite part of the day was the end though, after all the eating. Thee three of us, Dad, Zee and I spent a few hours hanging out and exchanging gifts as the evening wound down. It felt like Christmas, and I loved it.

Merry Christmas you guys! x

A Festive Week at Wearne

We spent a pre-christmas week at Wearne and oh. What a week! It was a house filled with people and there were politics and laughing and so much eating. We settled into a routine pretty quickly, of spending the days out and adventuring and the evenings together in games. 

It was so curious to see how different people affect the dynamic, how a comment can be layered with meaning and how it's often just best to hold your tongue.

Still, there were some epic highlights - walking the dogs was amazing. The dinners and eating and spending time with Dad + Jane. It's so lovely to have Dad around, I've missed him! 

Morf and I went out to the Fleet Air Arm Museum - essentially collection of military and civilian aircraft, aero engines, models of aircraft and Royal Navy ships. Pretty impressive! 

On the way back we stopped by the Mulberry store, which I won't lie - I loved. So many pretty things! I ended up taking the green one home, woop! 

We also played skittles at the back of the pub which I enjoyed. Such a novel thing to do. 

Going Grey

So I went all in and had my hair done in grey.

I've never gone light before, I wasn't sure how it was going to go or whether it would suit me. There was a lot of fear. While the in between steps had me worried (think: beige wigs and Barbie yellow) the final result works, I think. Enough that I didn't want to dye it dark immediately.

People keep telling me how brave it was, but it's not really. The worst that could have happened is that I hated it and changed it back. Changing something as temporary as hair isn't brave. Worrying what people might think shouldn't define your actions, not as much as trying new things that might make you happy should. 

Pixie cuts and extreme colour - it's a pretty fun phase to be in at the moment.

How to save mobile assets for multiple densities for iOS and Android

I know that I don't often post about 'work' stuff here, but I've just discovered Photoshop's Generate Image Asset tool and it's saved me a ridiculous amount of time. Designing for mobile used to be simple. I designed for iOS, which meant I'd design at retina sizes (@2x) and save everything out at 50% for non-retina (@1x).

But then came Android with their multi density devices (LDPI, MDPI, HDPI, XHDPI, XXHDIP, XXXHDPI) and iOS 6 and 6+ (@3x).

Suddenly saving out assets for 8 different versions was a massive time suck. Figuring out how things fit together, and updating several assets every time we made a change was painful.

Turns out some clever person at Adobe was also suffering, and they built this amazing tool into Photoshop CC.

Step 1 - Turn it on.

File > Generate > Image Assets

Step 2 - Figure out your file structure and sizes.

This is where you figure out your file structure, and how you want the asset sized in comparison to your psd.

First, you need to understand the relationship between all the different densities. If you're not familiar, this intro from Teeanlax might help.

The intro is awesome, but was published before 6+ and XXHDPI happened. No worries, we can slot them in in a similar way.

I typically design at @2x resolution as standard. It makes it easy to scale up or down, so my design scaled at 100% is good for @2x and XHDPI.

Here is the scales I use for each different density:

@1x - 50% @2x - 100% @3x - 150%

MDPI - 50% HDPI - 75% XHDIP - 100% XXHDPI - 150%

Now that I know the scales, onto the file structure.

With iOS, they can live in the same file, but each version must be saved out as @Nx on the end, depending on which density it's for.

For Android, they need to be in separate files with the same naming conventions.

Tricky.

Create a new, empty layer at the top, can call it:

default 100% ios/@2x, 50% ios/, 150% ios/@3x, 75% android/drawable-hdpi/, 50% android/drawable-mdpi/, 100% android/drawable-xhdpi/, 150% android/drawable-xxhdpi/

Here's how this works:

[scale] [foldername/][append],

Each version is separated by a comma. The scale is how big it will be, the folder name will define where it saves to, and the append (optional) will add an extra bit to the filename.

So, 150% ios/@3x will save an asset 150% of the scale of the original, in a file named ios, with @3x appended.

Handy, no?

Step 3 - Save Your Layer

To save out the asset into the file structure, simply add a file format on the end of the layer name.

searchicon > searchicon.png

I'm pretty sure you can use either .png or .jpg.

And just like that, all your assets are in the right place, as the right size.

Bonus

Generator is pretty clever. If you make a change to a layer, it will update the asset on the fly. So handy!