Sunday update

As I look down at what I've shared about the last couple of weeks I realise why I feel like this is the first time I'm able to draw breath! I've had some amazing opportunities lately and lots of memorable family time. I feel valued and honoured and loved which is a pretty great way to be feeling at any time of the year, but super nice as the "holiday season" sleezes up on us with all its commercials and sales and tinsel nonsense.

To be able to remember the reason for the season with the sun pouring through the French doors and the kids all off to the Panmure Santa Parade - I am in fact, a very fortunate woman.

New Horizons Samoan History: Conference Artist

Associate Professor Damon Salesa asked me to sketchnote his New Horizons conference to help illustrate a new ebook he was writing to support the conference.

I was really worried that his expectations exceeded what I could do. We meet a week or so before the conference over coffee to discuss our plan for the conference. I tried to set the bar to where I am; explaining that my work was pretty naive and simple. That he should understand that I can't really draw or spell or understand a lot which is why I actually do the sketchnotes. He looked at me as I laid out each point to set the bar of my abilities in the right place. 

"Wow," he said "you really don't know what you do is awesome, do you?"

I explained how I was setting his expectations because if he'd looked on line he'd see how fantastic others were. He brushed my comments aside and continued with what the programme and day would look like. He explained about that there would be twenty speakers over two days. They would each speak for 20 minutes.

He had also asked another person who drew comics to do drawings as well. He explained that there would be a table for the artists and said "that's you by the way, you are the artist and if you start telling me you're not I'm going to have to hit you up the side of the head."

The other conference artist turned out to be Ali Cowley, the amazing animator from Bro' Town and a complete master of the pencil he used to do quick drawings of the attendees. His sketchbook is extraordinary and he's a terrific guy. He had the same trepidation I did so I think it might be a "creative thing". But as we got down to work we did just that: worked. 

The first few papers were very academic and I had trouble following them because they weren't really meant for muggles. They seemed to have their own language and structure and I found them hard to sketchnote - plus the subjects were quite sensitive - but I did the best I could and hope to have time in the next week to make sure their details are correct with the Samoan terms spelled correctly and used in the right context.

I had an amazing time. I learned so. much. about the Samoan culture. Their love of words and their depth of shared values. Their intense privacy and pride. Their friendliness and protocols. It was a real privilege and I completely botched my expression of gratitude when thanking Damon and while he wasn't rolling his eyes at me I think he may have been doing it on the inside :)

SciGlow Exhibition

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a microbiologist at the University of Auckland. She has a particular passion for bioluminescent microbes. She's also an amazing science communicator - we have a few really good ones from the University - and to that end she has held an exhibition of her glowing bugs as an annual event here and overseas.

I was beyond excited to wake up last Saturday to see a Tweet where she had asked for artists to participate in the exhibition and the gorgeous Sarah Wedde had suggested me. I love the internet! 

Finding time on a busy Agile project to disappear for a few hours wasn't easy but I managed to arrive around lunchtime on Friday to attempt to paint with microbes. I also knew the medium would be difficult because it's new and basically zero or one - you're either a brush stroke of microbes or you're not - there didn't seem to be any subtly of tone in the images I'd examined online.

Having never painted in this medium I decided to do something brave and drew a self portrait. Of course this medium of growing organisms works best with blocks of colour but I thought by cross-hatching the solution I might be able to achieve a more sketching look. I pinned my drawing to the table and took each square at a time. I had nine 24.5mm square petrie dishes filled with agar, a jelly-like substance that the microbes feed from.

Problem One: I couldn't see the surface of the agar. My eye could see the bottom some five millimetres below the surface, but not the actual surface so my brush marks weren't exactly where I thought they were; ever. It was like trying to paint on glass.

Problem Two: the microbe solution is invisible. Tilting the petrie dish and looking sideways *sometimes* showed where the solution was but man, it wasn't easy. 

Not that I'm making excuses.

I painted. And cross hatched. And slopped. And stippled. And just trusted in my little microbes to at least grow somewhere on their agar surface. By the time I decided that I had finished I'd been at it for a couple of hours. I couldn't see my painting to determine if it was done or not and hoped like crazy I hadn't missed one of the petrie dishes.

Crikey I had a good time. I've already asked Siouxsie if I can be part of the exhibition again next year.

NZ Post #secretSanta

It's that time of the year again and with all that's being on lately, I nearly stuffed this up! I had quickly read the email letting me know who my Secret Santa was this year and had it in my head I had until the 14th of December but I was wrong. Oh man so glad I looked at this yesterday and saw that I need to post the gift by today! 

Merry Christmas to all the Secret Santas who play along with NZ Post's annual gift giving. It's a lot of fun and I'd just like to thank mine here, today, if I don't find out who you are IRL. Thank you for taking the time in your busy, rich, complex life to send me something for Christmas.

Being French

I know you're wondering how this is going. I find my best days are when I remember that I am French now. As you can imagine if you're read this far, there's been a lot on in my life the last couple of weeks so there have been times I have forgotten.

To help me remember yesterday, on the way home from seeing my artwork in the SciGlow exhibition, I stopped in at L'OCCITANE en Provence in Britomart. I just love things that beautifully scented - they put things into irresistible (to me) boxes and tins - and they have a number of creams and potions I just can't live without. 

Lucky me too, I had a voucher that meant I got a whacking discount on the moisturiser I wanted to buy. I've decided, not just that I'm French, but as I grow into my dotage that I want to smell like roses. Maybe long after I've died my grand daughters will recalls stories of me screaming at them for not putting the right coloured lids back onto my felt-tipped pens and smelling of roses while I turned blue in the face.

End of year dance recitals

 Mandy, Tandia, Dylan and Chloe

Mandy, Tandia, Dylan and Chloe

Chloe (7) and Dylan (4) dance. In the final months of their classes they concentrate on their end-of-year concert. This event took all last weekend and my hands are red-raw from clapping (it's my "thing", I use my loud clapping talent to keep make sure all the dancers know their appreciated)

It's fantastic to see them dancing and I'm so proud of them. But boy-oh-boy it takes *all* weekend. Picking up Great Grandparents, parking on the school field and making it into the school hall, then watching dance after dance after dance - >750 kids dance over the weekend and they all deserve our attention and praise.

And then there's the Dads' Dance. They work hard with getting their kids to dancing all year and then (secretly?) practice a routine they present at the end of the recital. This year they gave us a sample of music and dance through the years including Back Street Boys, Britney, and Sia - it was hilarious and glorious.

Associated links

And I didn't even get to tell you about Willo and Rob visiting and taking them out to dinner and Grangers giving me delicious Paella to take home or how work's going or the fact I walked over 20,000 steps yesterday or the letter of complaint I wrote to the people who are digging up our road *again* or show you my new planner layout or any of the other tons of things that are going on.

How about you? is the year rounding and ramping up as Christmas comes closer? How're you feeling as we round the corner into December and can see 2017 in plain sight?