Friday, 30 January 2015

Didga the Skateboarding Cat

I first watched this video a few months ago. I think it was shared on Facebook or Twitter by some cat profile that I like/follow. I was wowed at the time and I was wowed once more when I watched it again tonight (I’d mentioned it to someone at work earlier today and so found it to share with them). And so, now I’m sharing it here because…

This cat is AWESOME!

Over 5 MILLION [views]!! World’s BEST Skateboarding CAT! Go Didga! The Action starts when Ollie, a skateboard, takes his friend Didga, a CAT, for a ride around the beautiful beach town of Coolangatta, Australia. On the way Didga ‘shows off’ by jumping on, off, up and even over obstacles. One of those obstacles happens to be a large Rottweiler dog. FYI – 18 months of teaching then practicing, 6 months of that for filming and editing, so please, don't try this at home.

I also follow Didga on Instagram – it’s an excellent profile with beautiful photos and video clips of this amazing feline – usually in some stunning Australian settings too. Plus there’s a few dogs there too, if you’re not such a cat-person as me.

Saturday, 17 January 2015


Not sure why I haven’t shared this on my blog already, as I set up my Pinterest account back in 2014 – well, it was the end of the year, but still 2014. I’m not an addicted Pinterest user, at least not yet, but I’ve been infrequently filling up my ‘boards’ and creating new ones for the last month or so. It is a great website and useful when working on a specific design project, to gather research.

The original reason that I set my account up was to create a Japan-themed board for my Love Japan Magazine research. It was useful not just for me to gather ideas, but also for Emily, the brains behind Love Japan, to see what I had in mind for the identity.

I’ve now got a few more pinboards than just the Japanese Influence board, but it’s definitely the one with the most ‘pins’. Some of my other boards include editorial design, typography & lettering, patterns and trees.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Goodreads and the Kindle Voyage

I love reading, although I could definitely love reading more. I don’t read as many books per year as I’d perhaps like to. I go through stages of rapidly reading book after book, but after that I could easily go for a month or two without reading another. Which I’m not happy about. I’d certainly like to make an effort to read more this year – that’s not a New Year’s Resolution, just a note to myself. At least, I’d like to try to be consistently reading books without big breaks in between.

Something that really does enable me to read more efficiently and quickly (and therefore gives me the potential to read more books overall!), however, is my Kindle. Now I know e-readers and e-books are a controversial subject among most readers, but although I do love physical books – particularly well designed books or books with especially nice covers – what I really love is the actual act of reading. Whether it’s on paper that gives of a nostalgic scent or on a well-lit e-reader screen, it’s the words and the content that count. And it just so happens that I have been using a Kindle e-reader for 4 years and I love it. That’s not to say in that time I haven’t read physical paper books as well, I certainly have, but I’ve probably read more on my Kindle than I have on paper.

Now, my Kindle Keyboard was starting to look a bit dated. So, although it functioned perfectly well, after Christmas this year (last year technically, but saying last year sounds like it was ages ago), I decided to treat myself to a new Kindle. The Kindle Voyage. It arrived in the post on Friday last week and, my god, I don’t regret splashing out a little on it because it is awesome.

That video sums it up pretty well. One feature the reviewer doesn’t mention there, which within less than a week, I absolutely love is…
  • Squeeze In that last Chapter – See at a glance how long it will take to finish a chapter or book. Time to Read is personalised based on your reading speed and is constantly updated as your speed and habits change. (Perfect when deciding if you can squeeze in another chapter before bedtime.)
My other favourite features, that weren’t applicable to my Kindle Keyboard are…
  • Read comfortably in one hand – Lighter than most paperback books, hold Kindle Voyage comfortably in one hand for long reading sessions. (Didn’t realise how much of a brick my Keyboard was until I held the Voyage!)
  • Adaptive light – When reading in the dark, the adaptive front light slowly lowers the display’s brightness over time to match the way the eye responds to darkness. (I haven’t done too much night-time reading yet but my old Kindle didn’t even have a light.)
  • Sleek yet durable design – With a magnesium back and a chemically-reinforced glass front, Kindle Voyage is both durable and sleek. (Good to know as I broke my KK by accidentally leaning on it, thankfully it was still within warranty at the time.)

Right, now we come to the other part mentioned in the title of this post. Goodreads. Goodreads is a ‘social cataloguing’ website for book readers all around the world. You create an account and list books that you’ve read, want to read and are currently reading. You can link with Facebook, Twitter etc. and add your friends to share book lists and see what others are reading. You can browse books by genre and receive recommendations for other books that you might enjoy, based on what you’ve already read and rated.

I signed up last night and stayed up well past my average bedtime inputting books that I’ve read. Obviously, there’s plenty of other books that I’ve read (a lot in childhood or my teenage-years) that haven’t made their way onto my account. They probably never will. BUT I will try to up date it as and when I read books from now on!

It’s a similar idea to Shelfari. Although Shelfari is at first glance more visually appealing, it is quite a clunky website and lacks in features. Goodreads, however, has far more useful features – recommendations, for example. Most importantly, it has a mobile app! I had a Shelfari account previously but I wasn’t very good at updating it as I finished a book. But with the mobile app version of Goodreads, this shouldn’t be a problem anymore. Now all I need is syncability with Kindle…

Emma’s bookshelf: read recently 

The Dragon Keeper
Ship of Destiny
The Mad Ship
Ship of Magic
The Good, The Bad and The Furry: Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat and Other Whiskery Friends
The Complete Maus
One Day
Pride and Prejudice
Golden Fool

Emma's favorite books »

Did anyone notice how I tried to make the title of this blog sounds like the title to a book? Liveship Traders, much? No? Okay…

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Takayama woodcuts

This afternoon I have been going through my box of ‘stuff collected in Japan’ and scanning various maps, leaflets, tickets and postcards.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time so that, when I started to design and lay out my physical book version of Five Thousand Miles (my Japan travel journal, web version is here), I would have lots of scanned resources as well as digital photos. However, I’m now well into designing the book – five out of seventeen days, plus introduction pages, are provisionally designed – and have only just scanned everything. Well, not literally everything I collected but everything that I think might be useful or nice to have included in the book.

I came across one of two sets of postcards that I bought for myself in Japan – the other being the Hiroshige postcards, half of which are now framed on my bedroom wall. This set of postcards I bought in Takayama and they feature images of the town printed from woodcuts. They caught my eye in the Japanese gift shop at the time and it was lovely to rediscover them again today.

Kokubunji temple
Takayama festival float
morning market
Gassho (traditional buildings)
the old streets

Now, I’ve no idea who the artist is although I have tried to find out. First, I attempted to translate some of the Japanese text on the back of each postcard but whatever I typed into Google just came up with the Japanese post service! So, that was a fail. Then I tried a ‘search by image’ tactic which worked, sort of. It only came up with this one website and it doesn’t actually name an artist. Although, I think that website is a place that runs workshops in printing in this style, so I imagine they were printed at one of those workshops. Maybe? Or maybe it’s just a shop. I don’t know!

I assume the little red graphic in the corner is the artist’s signature but I have no idea what it means. So it is, unfortunately, a mystery… unless someone who reads Japanese and/or has a very keen interest in Japanese art can help me out?

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Vegan for January

Veganuary. It's not the nicest sounding word or ‘portmanteau’ (a word formed by merging two words together). But the meaning is clear – being, or becoming, a vegan for January.

Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. There are so many reasons people decide to try vegan. For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year. Whatever your reason, we’re here to support you. Veganuary

I have honestly never seriously considered becoming a vegan until I saw a tweet about the Veganuary campaign. I love cheese and I love chocolate, although I dislike eggs and could easily swap normal milk for soya – I only have milk on cereal, not in any drinks. I am currently, and have been for a couple of years now, following a pescetarian diet which means I eat fish but not poultry or red meat (but I did eat a grasshopper in Japan last year). Prior to that I had been a vegetarian for a long time, probably more than 10 years. I could quite happily give up fish again, to be vegetarian – I don’t actually even eat fish very often anyway, mostly just when eating out. I think it would have been, and would be, more difficult being a vegetarian/vegan in Japan. Especially when not able to understand the language. They do love their fish!

So, what’s all this about Veganuary then? I saw a ‘promoted’ tweet from the @weareveganuary Twitter account at the end of December, I think it may have even been New Year’s Eve. I got reading about the idea on their website and decided, ‘I could do that. I could be vegan for January!’ I think part of the appeal is that it's a bit of a challenge. Obviously, it ought to be much harder for a complete meat-eater (tried to get my boyfriend onboard but he wasn't keen, although he will eat vegan meals I cook for him). But, as I said, I love cheese and chocolate – I haven't eaten all of my Christmas chocolate yet and I don't plan to until February – so to give them up is a bit of a challenge.

Obviously, there are more reasons than just the ‘challenge’ to become vegan. The Veganuary website expresses a number of reasons why you might consider becoming a vegan – health, animals, environment. I think for me it’s mostly about health, although I wouldn’t say I'm generally too unhealthy. But post-Christmas… Of course, I love animals too! That was the reason I originally became a vegetarian at 9 years old, but after a while it became much more about not liking the taste than simply protecting animals. After all, I still ate dairy products and then I started eating fish. Although, I should point out that it’s always a good idea to pick fish that has been responsibly sourced and choose free range eggs. I accidentally came across this 2011 article about being pescetarian at the weekend and I believe everything expressed in it reflects how I feel about my diet, and I don't doubt that I am healthier than a lot of meat-eaters.

But, vegan! Yes, I am currently following a vegan diet and have been since January 1st – making today Day 8. It may surprise a lot of people, meat-eaters, pescetarians and vegetarians alike, but so far the food has been great. It’s been far more varied than I expected and definitely more inventive – not forgetting tasty! Except for vegan ‘cheese’ which I only tried out of curiosity. It might have been the brand I tried or something but it was horrible!

Protein? The biggest myth about vegans is that they don’t get enough or any protein. Lies! All lies! If you’re not eating meat, fish or dairy, where do you get protein from? Lots of other tasty foods: a whole variety of beans, chick peas, lentils, tofu and other soya-based foods, nuts and seeds and green veggies too!

Take a look at some of the tasty food I’ve cooked up so far.

Vegan ‘meatballs’ made with kidney beans and peanut butter! (Boyfriend approved.)
Simple vegetable stir fry with peanut, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Plus sunflower seeds.
Butternut squash, carrot, kale and chickpea soup. Spiced up with harissa paste.
Also made houmous!

Other meals that I didn’t photograph include: a vegetable bake topped with breadcrumbs and mixed ground nuts, a warm mixed bean and stir fried veggie salad with bulgar wheat and a vegetable pasta dish that would have been lovely had it not been for the vegan ‘cheese’ I threw in. Yuck.

Am I planning on staying vegan after January? No, probably not. But I’m glad I am giving it ago and I will complete January without eating any cheese or chocolate! Maybe I’ll make Veganuary an annual thing, maybe I’ll eat an extra vegan meal a week too. Maybe I’ll even get my boyfriend or friends and family to join in next time! I’ll certainly be trying lots more new recipes throughout the month, and no doubt I’ll continue to cook some of those meals, and more, throughout the year.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep!

In Japan, people don’t really send Christmas cards. They do, however, send cards or postcards for the New Year.

The end of December and the beginning of January are the busiest times for the Japanese post offices. The Japanese have a custom of sending New Year’s Day postcards (年賀状 nengajō) to their friends and relatives, similar to the Western custom of sending Christmas cards. Their original purpose was to give your faraway friends and relatives tidings of yourself and your immediate family. In other words, this custom existed for people to tell others whom they did not often meet that they were alive and well. – via good ol’ Wikipedia

These cards often feature the Zodiac sign for that particular year, despite the Zodiac originating in China rather than Japan. And this year is the year of the sheep.

I came across this blog post this evening, which is a collection of some of this years nengajō – mostly created digitally. I wanted to share my single favourite postcard (although the postcard from Nintendo is pretty cool too).

Year of the Sheep by Eiko Tamura
This Year (2015) is called ‘Sheep Year 未年’.
so I made the shape of the S (use Futura) with a flock of sheep.

Some common nengajō greetings include:
  • kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu
    (I hope for your favour again in the coming year)
  • (shinnen) akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu
    (Happiness to you on the dawn [of a New Year])
  • kinga shinnen
    (Happy New Year)
  • shoshun/hatsuharu
    (‘early spring’ – in the traditional lunar calendar a year begins in early spring)
  • geishun
    (to welcome spring)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

If Japan was made of Lego…

If Japan was made of Lego, it would still be ridiculously cool.

Originally posted over on Tokyo Desu.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Love Japan magazine

I have been very much enjoying my almost-two-week-long Christmas break: relaxing, sleeping in, eating nice food, being at home with the parents and the cat, not driving around, not spending money and not working. Well, not my day job anyway. I have, however, been keeping creative both by making a start on the physical book version of my Japan (April, 2014) travel journal and with another Japan-themed project…

I have been working on the branding for Love Japan magazine, a new magazine for, you guessed it, fans of Japan.

I’ve been a bit magazine mad recently; writing for our college magazine, and researching fashion magazines for work I’ve been doing in and out of college, so I think this was the catalyst for Love Japan. I wanted this magazine to have the aesthetics of independent magazines that I’ve fallen in love with, whilst focusing on Japanese culture, travel, lifestyle, food and fashion. Issue #1 will be released in the Spring and I’ve got contributors from the UK, USA and Japan working on articles.
– via Emily, the brains behind Love Japan magazine (taken from her own blog post, here – which mentions me!)

The stand-alone logo graphic
A colour palette to be used throughout the magazine and website
Title typography for the front cover of the magazine

I also created a selection of patterns to be used within the magazine for backgrounds and/or borders, suggested how typography could be used and produced a sample design for the layout.

I can’t wait to see and read the first issue when it is released in the Spring!