March 2013 Archives

Happy Easter

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It does not seem like spring with the cold weather, but Easter is finally here. I hope all of my visitors have a great spring and great Easter. Maybe the weather will finally warm up and it will begin to feel more spring-like. I've photographed some cupcakes and posted them below. Enjoy!

Easter cupcakes, from Fiona Cairns

S'mores cupcake from Selfridges

Millie's Cookies cupcakes

Fiona Cairns sheep, cow, and pig cupcakes

London's Big Egg Hunt Returns for Easter

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Earlier this year, I posted (Big Egg Hunt 2013 Begins in London) about the 2013 London Big Egg Hunt, which was also headed to a few other cities after making its first appearance in London. After a few weeks, the eggs are now back in Covent Garden in London, and they will remain until April 7. Hopefully this means that all of their fans can come to enjoy them and participate in the hunt to find all eggs. Maybe some visitors will visit this Easter weekend.

To celebrate the final weeks of the London Big Egg Hunt 2013, I have posted a few photographs of my favourite eggs. Of course, all of them are beautiful in their own way. 

For Grace, After a Party - Susie Hogarth (I love the silhouette-esque figures with minimal detail and a great colour combination.)

Lion Estate by Frank Laws. This is one of my top favourites. I love the rendering of the brickwork over this egg and the detail of the tiny window. I've always liked painting and drawing architecture, and this reminds me of something I would have created.

Winter Scene - Daisy Clarke, Beatles Bubble Gum by Vincent McEvoy. Breakfast with the Beatles by Team Beswick. Come on, who doesn't love the Beatles. I love the vintage style of the Fab Four by Team Beswick. The egg by Vincent McEvoy reminds me of one of my favourite eggs from last year with the retro font and 1960s music theme.

The Big Estate by Thibaud Herem

Hello Cheeky - Hattie Stewart. This is one of my favourites as I love the expression and the bold colours.

Eggs in the City by Lindsey Spinks is a black and white illustration, and you always see something different when you examine the illustration. 

Untitled by Cassie Howard. This egg is completely white, except for a crowd of people. They remind me of tourists.

What's that? How Long? Sit on... - by Maeve Rendle. I love this egg because of its simplicity and nice font. It reminds me of a book cover.

Last year, I posted the following articles about the Big Egg Hunt: London's Big Egg Hunt Grand Finale at Covent Garden and Hunting Eggs in London: Fabergé Big Egg Hunt. There was also a Big Egg Hunt in Ireland this year. It would have been amazing to see that. Did anyone visit it?

I hope that you enjoyed the egg hunt this year. Have you been to visit it? What are your favourite eggs?

Grid Layout and Responsive Tools

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Many designers (and web developers) are familiar with the term 'grid layout'. For those who do not know, a 'grid layout' is a visual organisation and structure of content into horizontal and vertical lines. Essentially, a 'grid layout' defines sets of columns and rows for a visual design. Grids have been used since the early days of printing to define visual structure. 

An example of the BBC Layout, which is broken into three main columns.

Developers and designers may ask why a grid layout it important. In short, it is important because it provides consistency of a layout and groups similar elements together. It also promotes readability.

In web design, developers normally create templates, which promotes usability and consistency of an overall layout. All pages inheriting the template will contain this consistent layout. The grid layout is traditionally set up in these templates.

Defining website grid layouts is extremely important for web design and development. In particular, websites should be readable on mobile and tablet devices since more and more people are browsing the web on non-desktop devices. Using a successful grid layout means that the website can adapt to the size of the device and be readable on every device by making the layout responsive.

There are many grid solutions available to developers that others have developed to be quickly reused and adapted to your website. Completing a quick Google search will bring up many grids that other developers have created, and I'd recommend using one of these and adapting it. When choosing a grid solution, bear in mind that your solution should be a responsive one. I've noted a brief review of some of the grid layout solutions below.

This seems like a powerful tool. The developer can change the number of columns, gutter, and the column padding to suit their needs. The CSS can then be downloaded. However, the drawbacks are that this is in Beta, and it uses some mark-up that isn't compatible with older browsers. I'd probably stray from using this for those reasons, but I like the ability to automatically configure the grid in the browser.

Responsive Grid System
This is easy to add to your websites because the math is already configured for the column widths, and the developer can choose how many columns they wish to display (up to twelve). It's also nicely-responsive, and it's being used by a few websites. However, the margins are fixed currently and the developer would need to adapt this; they would need to update the width percentages in order to use this. I'd really like to try this solution.

CSS Grid
This twelve column layout is responsive and caters to monitor sizes up to 1140 (for 1280). I cannot see anything wrong with this tool, and it's one of the solutions that has been around for a while. I'd really like to try this solution to see how I get on with it.

Skeleton is a boilerplate that includes several CSS files so that developers can plug in to quickly set up a responsive grid layout for their websites. I feel that this solution is a little too heavy, and it offers a lot more than a grid layout. This solution is essentially a boilerplate, but it may be a good solution for developers who are not focused on CSS and front end development and want to set up something quickly for a web project. I personally would not use it because I like to have a little more control over the solution and only add what I need.

Less Framework
This solution does not look as flexible as the others, and from what I have read on the website, the solution uses pixels and not percentages. (Though, it does say that it can work on mobile and tablet.) This solution seems to need much customisation to get it up and running to adapt to developer needs. Nothing has convinced me to use this solution over the others.

Fluid 960 Grid System
This is the grid system that I have adapted in the past for web projects, and it worked quite well, but it does need to be set up and configured for your needs, and there's some work to be done to adapt to your website design. While it works well enough, it's not really good enough for creating responsive forms for tablet devices, if you require responsive form layouts. While this solution did work, I was not happy with some of the extra work required to set up websites quickly, especially when responsive forms were required for a project. I would try my luck with one of the other solutions first, before deciding on whether or not I'd continue using this.

Fluid Baseline Grid
Using HTML5 and CSS3, this grid solution seems to tick all the boxes, and it is mobile first, meaning that it will use mobile rendering before desktop rendering and this is more efficient for downloading speed on mobile. It would be interested to see how this adapts on older browsers. There's no preview or examples, so I'd probably give this one a try to see how useful it is.

In conclusion, there are many responsive grid solutions in existence. The only way to find a good one is to use a few and pick the best ones with the fewest drawbacks - bearing in mind the website's objectives.

Street Art: Phlegm

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Street artist Phlegm (from Sheffield) graced the streets of London at the beginning of 2013, and a few gems can still be seen around Shoreditch and Old Street. His artwork is black and white and striking in contrast with long-legged surreal characters. His characters look like something out of a dream, posing in surreal situations and interacting with the surroundings; they encourage on-lookers to imagine.
A large mural in Shoreditch.
Near Old Street
Near Old Street
Old Street
Located on a street off of Brick Lane

Monthly Artists: Barbara Szepesi Szucs

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Barbara Szepesi Szucs is a Hungarian illustrator. She is inspired by children and nature and paints watercolours of birds, flowers, animal, and people. Her artwork varies in different style, but I prefer the whimsical illustrations instead of the more detailed and figurative ones. (A few of my favourite pieces from her are below.)


You can view and buy her work here:

Days Out: Snowy Peak District, Part 3

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I recently posted two entries (Peak District and Peak District Part 2) about visiting the Peak District in a snowstorm. This is the last entry with some more photographs, most of which are from driving around in the snow. I hope you appreciate these photographs. I am hoping to make a visit to the Peak District in the summer or autumn so that I can see what it looks like without the snow.

A snowy road in the Peak District.

A snow-covered village is quiet and the cars and piled with snow.

On our first day, we visited the cavern at Castleton, known Peak Cavern. It was also known as the Devil's Arse, probably because of the sound of the water escaping the cavern when the water level in the caverns changed. We were in a small group with five others and learned how to make rope and toured the caves. This cave was one of the wonders of the Peak District.

The entrance to Peak Cavern in the snow.

To get to the cavern, we walked down a narrow path following a river. We would have loved to see the castle, but it was closed due to the weather. We will have to go back a different day. The castle is located on top of the hill above the entrance of the caverns.

A nice riverside walk in the snow in Castleton.

Pathway up to the caverns in Castleton.

Castleton covered in the snow.

The next day, we visited Speedwell Cavern, which is just up the road. The entrance to the caves is near Winnat's Pass. This cavern is formed of water-filled tunnels, which were created during mining. The tunnels can be navigated via boat, and at the end of the tour, we visited "The Bottomless Pit", and we could see it from looking onto a platform. 

Winnats Pass in the snow.

After visiting that cavern, we walked up a snowy-covered path to Treak Cliff Caverns, and there was luckily someone around to give us a tour. This was my favourite cavern in the Peak District because it has a lot of nice features, fossils, and some very nice Blue John Stone. Blue John Stone can only be found in the Peak District, and it is a purple-blue colour laced with white, yellow, or reddish-coloured stone.

Treak Cliff Cavern stone, fossils

In a previous post, I showed photographs of the lovely cottage below. 

Lovely cottage in the snow

I hope you enjoyed these photographs of the Peak District in the snow.

Street Art: Alo Aristide Loria

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In the past couple of weeks, I've been noticing some artwork by Alo popping up throughout Shoreditch. The first one appeared on Sclater Street, and I've since seen them pop up on Hanbury Street and near Shoreditch High Street rail station. I'm sure that there's more to be discovered as I've not been out walking too much this week due to an accident.


Alo creates artwork that uses a lot of black lines around bright, bold (mainly primary) colours. The bright colours are instantly noticeable on the streets with so much grey around. The art with the red background, discovered near Shoreditch High Street station, contains a quote: "is she ready to know my frustration?"


I am not able to find out too much about Alo (also known as Aristide Loria) on the web or anywhere to learn a little more about this artist's work and background. However, a Facebook page for Alo with more artwork can be discovered here:
Recently, I have been inspired by stunning typography on websites. Choosing the right typography for the design of your website (or any design) makes a huge difference. Do not be afraid to use non-standard web fonts in your designs, as long as you have the license to use the font and a fallback option in place.

Read my blog entry Using CSS @Font-Face for Custom Web Fonts for information on how to add custom fonts to your website, or serve your fonts through Typekit (Web Font Loading Using Typekit). Instead of image icons, you can even serve your website's icons using an icon-based font (Use CSS3 For Embedded Icon Fonts, Not Images). 

I've added a few examples of websites that use visually-stunning typography to really enhance the design. I hope that this will inspire you to embrace non-standard web fonts.





















Like Cats? So Do I...

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I came across this paste-up in Shoreditch last summer. It reads: "Like cats? So do I...". I'm not sure who the artist is, but I thought that it was cute.


A few Sundays ago, we headed over to 140 Park Lane to have afternoon tea and cocktails. This restaurant is located in the Marriott Hotel on Park Lane, opposite Marble Arch and Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Our seat was beside the window where we had views over Marble Arch and the busy roundabout. We were grateful for the nice weather and to see the sun for the first time in what seemed like many weeks.

The afternoon tea and cocktails included a choice of tea, cocktail, and a selection of sandwiches and pastries. The cocktails were vodka-based with the Absolut vodka brand. We chose 'Mikitini', a fruity cocktail made with lemon juice, berry syrup, Absolut vodka, and cranberry juice. We were provided with a selection of sandwiches, pastries, two scones each, and a crumpet each.

Our plate of pastries on the top tier of the tea stand

The plate of pastries included two of each item: lemon drizzle cake, pistachio-chocolate layer dessert with edible gold foil on top, a lemony-custard pot topped with dried raspberry, mini cupcakes with strawberry icing, and mini fruit tarts with creme and a hint of chocolate. My favourite was the mini fruit tart because they had a nice blend of sweet and sour flavour.

A close-up of the mini fruit tarts

I find scones to be too filling, so one went home with me. We were given a fruit scone and a plain scone each. This included a small pot of strawberry jam and clotted cream. Oh, and we had a crumpet each as well.

A fruit scone 

The mini cupcakes with strawberry icing

The amount of cocktail that we received was poured into these fishbowl glasses. We had a little more left over in the teapot for half a glass each.

The vodka, cranberry, and berry cocktail

A chocolate cake layered with sponge and cream and chocolate. The flavour was a hint of pistachio.

Marching Figures - London Street Art

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Last summer, I captured a couple of images of street art featuring marching robotic figures. I discovered these in two places, and they are by the same artist (simply signed 'b.'), but I am not able to find out anything else about them.* One of the examples (with blue figures) was located just off Brick Lane, and the other (with orange figures) was located near Shoreditch High Street station. 

Unknown street art
*I think this work may be 'Boon'.

Days Out: Snowy Peak District, Part 2

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A few weeks ago, I visited the Peak District during a large snowfall. On the final day of my visit, the snow stopped and the sun came out. I managed to get some nice photographs that day. One particular place that I enjoyed visiting was Ashfor-in-the-Water. This village is not far from Bakewell and is picturesque with its old bridge (Sheepwash Bridge) on the riverside and a church.

In old times, the sheep were brought to this village and washed at the bridge before they were sheared.

Picturesque snow field and cottage by the river.

Red berries.

Snowy river

Picturesque snow field and river.

Picturesque snow field and cottage by the river.

Church in Ashford-on-the-Water.
I took some photographs on a recent visit to Cornwall. I stopped off at Land's End and Mevagissey and a few places on the way. Land's End marks the southwestern end of England, and John O'Groats in Scotland is on the opposite (northeast) edge. Land's End has touristy shops, a cinema, a hotel, restaurants, and walks. The famous sign at Land's End shows the number of miles to various other places. 

Tea and scones at Land's End over-looking the sea; Land's End's famous sign; Land's End coast

A blue Letter-box 

On the way from Land's End to St. Ives, I stopped off at the ancient post-Iron Age village of Carn Euny. (However, the village was inhabited in the Neolithic age. ) This is the most preserved ancient village in England, and stone bricks mark the foundations of the buildings. The buildings were round in shape, and visitors can walk into one and into a fogou (underground passage). I found this to be a fascinating place. After visiting, we continued toward St. Ives. 

On the way to St. Ives (and in other areas), I noted several abandoned buildings with chimneys. These buildings were for the tin mining.

Carn Euny ancient village; ruins of a tin mine

I arrived at St. Ives at dusk, and I got photographs from the top of the hill. (I also visited Carnglave Caverns, near Liskeard. I've included the photograph below. Carnglave Caverns was created by slate mining, and a large lake formed where the water has come through the cave. The cave is used to host events and concerts in the summer. I saw a hibernating bat in the cave.)

A view over St. Ives; Carnglave Cavern

After St. Ives, I stopped off at Mevagissey. The town was quiet off-season and most of the shops were shut as they cater to the tourism industry. The village boasts a picturesque harbour with many fishing boats. 

Details of boats at Mevagissey

Mevagissey boats

The harbour at Mevagissey

Fishing boats at the harbour at Mevagissey

Mevagissey and its picturesque harbour

Street Art: Lister

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Street art from Anthony Lister, an Australian who is now living in New York City, is located throughout Shoreditch in London. I first discovered the large pieces in Corbet Place in the instantly-recognisable style. These include a series of slightly out-of-focus eyes. Another large piece is located in a car park near Shoreditch's Box Park. As I mentioned, the style of painting is recognisable. Black is used to outline, and light shades of pale blue and red can be seen to add additional detail. The artwork mainly depicts human features, such as eyes and faces. The following pieces on a wall in Corbet Place look like they are watching all passing by.


Paste-ups, stickers, and other small drawings bearing the name of the artist can be discovered in all corners of Shoreditch. On two separate walls near some other street art, I discovered the same "moon face" doodle with the name of the artist and the year.


Similar doodles and paste-ups were discovered on this wall, at the corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road, which is plastered in street art. 

lister3.jpg lister5.jpg

lister7.jpg lister-7.jpg

For more information about this street artist, read the article below and see one of the works in progress. Sadly, this work no longer exists:

I made a visit to Cornwall recently, and one of the places that I stopped off at was St. Michael's Mount. This small island mount, with a castle on top, lies a few hundred meters off the main land on the coast near Penzance in Cornwall. The mount is associated with Christianity's St. Michael. Apparently, someone saw the saint on the mount top. A monastery and church was built on the spot, and these have slowly converted into a castle/fortress. The castle is lived in, and visitors can visit the mount and the buildings.

When the tide is out, visitors can walk across the causeway to the rocky island. If the tide is in, a boat operates between St. Michael's Mount and Marazion, the village on the main land, opposite the mount. When I visited, the tide was in but receding, and a boat-vehicle took me and several other visitors across for a tour. I was able to walk back as the tide was out after the tour finished.  

The stone path to St. Michael's Mount

A steep walk leads from the harbour on St. Michael's Mount to the castle on top. I discovered some snowdrops, blooming in early January, on the side of the mountain. In summer, the gardens are open for guests, and I imagine that they look beautiful. The guide told us about the legend of the giant on the mountain when we walked up, and he pointed out a heart-shaped stone that was apparently the giant's heart.

Snowdrops in bloom

We were then led to the top of the hill below the castle (near some old cannons) to admire the views. Stunning views can be seen from the top of the mount. We watched the causeway being repaired, and we could see the village of Marazion below. Many years ago, this area was wealthy and mined for its precious metals.

Marazion village from St. Michael's Mount

After seeing the various decorated and detailed rooms and items in the castle, we trekked back across the beach. I caught some nice views of the mount from below.
St. Michael's Mount


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