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Taken while near the summit.

Taken while near the summit.

There are three things that I have had drilled into me as incredibly important when facing a mountain climb, or even a long trek across countryside.

Prepare your equipment, prepare your body, prepare your mind.

I’m just gonna waffle about the equipment for now. ;)

I am totally new to this whole splashing through gills and clambering up peaks and fells so one day I walked into Mountain Warehouse in Freeport, extended a pointed finger at the splendidly bearded shop-hand and said “DECK ME OUT, MY GOOD MAN”.  He was more than happy to oblige (of course) but also really knew his stuff.  Isotherm this, taped seals that… despite focussing on as many of the deals and discounted items as possible it cost a fair amount.  I knew it would.  But when I was done, I felt ready.  Also, I was mostly black and red, a theme I rather like and yes, was aiming for ;)

At this point in time, I have already done hike up to the summits Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell, doing so with my very good and inspiringly spirited friend Denise.

  • Ventura 40 litre backpack.  This fantastic pack also has an air-back system (I think that’s what it’s called) which allows air to move between the bag and my back.  It’s got a hundred pockets and looks sweet.
  • Talus Thermal layers top and bottom.  I like the zip neck.  Very comfy and certainly transferred moisture off the skin as designed.
  • Walking trousers, or ‘Winter Trek Trousers’.  Waterproof, but layered to transfer moisture out.
  • Isocool trail socks!  Three pairs!  And I brought ALL OF THEM along!  Spares are a great idea in case you get water in your shoes because wet socks/feet on this kind of activity is a bad thing.
  • Hurricane Waterpoof IsoGrip Boots.  Very comfortable, super easy to get on.  I got no blisters at all.
  • Waterproof gloves.  Nice and warm when the wind really picked up with the chill.  Waterproof is totally an important word here.
  • Thinsulate Knitted Beanie.  Of course!
  • And a thin balaclava for added insulation and face protection in real cold weather!
  • Torrent Jacket.  In red.  I was advised that an item of clothing isn’t waterproof unless it has taped/sealed stitching.  This jacket does.
  • ‘Dry bags’… these guys are practically airtight sealed bags to contain whatever I want.  The weather was marvellous so rain was fortunately no problem, but it could be on any other adventure.  I put my camera in one, the other was unused!
  • Emergency Storm Shelter (2-3 person).  Honestly, I don’t see how 3 people can fit in this, but then I’ve not actually opened it out for fear I’d never get it back in the tiny squishy bag.  Each person bringing one of these in case of separation is, I think, a brilliant idea.
  • Folding sit mat! I bought this along in case one of us wanted to sit for a while without getting a sore rear.  Didn’t use it in the end, but easily could have xD
  • First Aid Kit.  With all the essentials, except for anti-bacterial disinfectant.  I bought that separately, along with some extra blister plasters.
  • Emergency foil blanket, in case of … well, emergency.  The foil blanket can apparently retain 98% body temperature. That’s a very steep claim to make, but I’m willing to bet such a thing can make a major difference in a situation that calls for it.  We both had one each.
  • Waterproof phone pouch.  These let you use them through the plastic covering!
  • Spare Boot Laces! Again, recommended, you don’t want your laces snapping and your boot to be all unsupporty, now.
  • Mills Map Compass… Get a proper one, with lines of orientation.  A ‘Baseplate Compass’.  And then learn how to orient, get your bearings, etc.  This proved vital during our first adventure out onto Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell.
  • Noosa Sunglasses.  Red and Black ;)
  • Head Torch with white and red LED.  White is to see where you’re going.  Red is to read things like maps without blinding yourself in the dark.  Again, proved absolutely essential.
  • Towel.  Actually proved handy.
  • Additional spare AAA batteries.
  • A mountain walking stick! Didn’t actually really use this though.
  • Prints of the walk and a laminated map of the whole route.  Crucial.
  • 8km Range Walkie Talkies.  Highly recommended.  I got these in case we got separated, but as we didn’t (good), we didn’t need to use them to talk to each other.  However, an added bonus which I didn’t expect was that I could clearly hear other people on the same channel I’d chosen both talkies to sit on.  That meant we could hear other people’s brief acknowledgements, and also knew that if we ran into trouble we had the means to communicate with someone.
  • After care… Boot Waterproofer and Outdoor wear ‘Wash ‘n’ Proof’… which means I can re-waterproof the boots if I noticed water doesn’t bead on them any more and I can wash stuff like my waterproof jacket and re-waterproof it at the same time in the machine.

Okay, I’ve mentioned it a few times, YES we did the first ever mountain hike.  Denise and I are both mountain climbing virgins and we reached both Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell.  Which was just awesome.  The weather was mostly kind apart from about thirty minutes of gusts and near icy winds, and then the great blasted cloud that just silently crept in and over us for about 20 minutes… more importantly, the sights were gorgeous.  It was so quiet and still, it really did feel like an escape out into the real depths of nature.  Does good for the body and soul and I cannot wait till the next time I’m out there again.  The bug has definitely bit.  I got to use almost all the kit I took up with me.  Photos attached. :)

IMPORTANT: We’re doing this for a few reasons.  To satisfy the thirst for a bit of adventure while we still have the capability to do so.  And to practice and train for the challenge next July in 2015: The 24 Hours Three Peaks Challenge, raising money for two good causes – The Multiple Sclerosis Society and Special Effect.  Sophie at Special Effect has been of fantastic support, keeping in real good contact and supplying us with the wristbands and blue t-shirts. 

PLEASE give us your support and sponsor our efforts.  Every penny is a tiny bit more motivation to push on and prepare as fully as possible for the one day of the big three next year!  It’s gonna be tough but it is gonna be awesome.  

  1. Please give your support for our efforts and these two fantastic charities by visiting this page and finding out more:
  2. Go to the Facebook event page – whether you want to get your boots mucky on the mountains, keep an eye on our updates and/or motivate us with words:

Ta :3

Pausing to soak up the scenery minutes from the summit.

Festy at Little Ska FellSunset After Great SkaGreat Ska Fell CloudsLittle Ska Fell SummitCharleton Gill

I’ve repeated the first part of this story several times and eventually someone’s going to get sick of it… one more time for good measure!

Next year I’m doing the National Three Peaks challenge, in 24 hours.  The three peaks in question are the three highest mountains in each country of Great Britain, so that’s Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District, and Mount Snowdon in Wales.  This is mostly due to a water bottle.

I have been working at Cardinal Newman College now for two years, and each day I was bringing to work a 2 litre plastic bottle of water, refilled each day from the tap.  Not so long ago I found out about why bottled water companies suggest you don’t do this a lot, and it’s because plastic itself doesn’t hold together too well when left to its own devices.  In fact, certain types of plastics will intoxicate you if you refill and drink from them over and over again.

Next step was a glass or metal container and I found this cheap aluminium one on amazon.  It turned up, and I gazed upon its beautiful shimmery cherry-red exterior, a Mountain Warehouse logo discretely printed near its base.  And I honestly thought that this item was too splendid to just sit on a desk all day.  I need to get myself up a big mountain.  After that I thought about it for 10 minutes wondering where I’d go and do this and how, and remembered someone talking about some three peaks challenge thing.  And I decided to just go do that, whatever it is.

The three peaks that someone was talking about was the Yorkshire Three Peaks, but by the time I found this out I had already fully engaged my focus on the aforementioned National one.  As I’ve decided that’s what’s happening, there’s no going back now.  I figured the best motivation, apart from helping this new cherry red bottle find its true calling, is to do all this to raise awareness and money for a charity.

Once I started actually telling people this was happening, some made noises along the lines of “I’ve always wanted to do this!” and I wondered if anyone else would actually join me.  I created a Facebook event page just to keep us focussed for anyone who wanted in.  It’s July 11th next year I settled on, but I figured getting preparations underway now is a very good idea.

Eventually for reasons personal I settled on one charity, and then the marvellously spirited Denise (known by some as Dr. Festinger), who was absolutely enthusiastic about getting involved in this, suggested we also help another charity too.  Fantastic idea!  But I won’t go into details of who that is JUST yet (not that it would be hard for you to find out).  I really appreciate at least one other person being so clearly enthusiastic and serious about joining me on this.  Pre-challenge hiking in the Lakes for practice and experience is strongly recommended, and it wouldn’t be smart to do it alone.

In setting up pages on BT’s MyDonate system ready for when we get this ball rolling fast and furious down the mountainous hills, I needed a ‘team name’.  And it was Denise who put forth the title… “The League of Extraordinary Llamas”.  Love this. :D

That’s just some background behind the adventures coming up over the next few months until July.  I intend to post lots more detail about how we’re preparing, equipment I’ve got, what I’ve learned so far etc.  When practices are underway, you’ll likely see and read about that too xD

I really, really should start posting more about my work with Maya.  It can be your best friend or your most frustrating sidekick that you have to put up with because, while it enjoys booting you in the nose, it makes you pretty awesome sandwiches.  I’ve come across techniques and fantastic ideas/tutorials etc. that have helped me out a hundred times over, without exaggeration.

The problem I came up against most recently was in with a scene file that had many dynamic nCloth nodes and two nucleus nodes.  I’m not sure what caused this, but the scene was very unstable.  I managed to open it all but once or twice, managed to start rendering once, but after that day I couldn’t open it or render it from the command line.  Even when I was trying to render the same file that worked the previous day.  Aggravating isn’t the word.  If there were a word in the English language that encompassed the act of punching a PC through the wall, that would be a good word.  The Japanese must have a word like this, surely.  I’ve seen Dragonball Z.

Anyway, you want the answer.  The render command was referring to warnings from the cycleCheck process.  Quite a few warnings, before bombing out.  I’ve seen this many times, particularly on scenes where I’ve used the absolutely crucial RapidRig script.  Fortunately, I’d saved this particular scene as a Maya ASCII file after reading that the compression can cause probs with complex scenes, which meant that even though I couldn’t open it and fix the issue in Maya, I could open it in Notepad++.  I tried this, and figured I’d follow the suggestion from the render command:

“Use ‘cycleCheck -e off’ to disable this warning”

I found an appropriate place to enter this command, figuring it would go before defining scene content, after the string definition of versions, source OS, etc.  I threw the line in:

cycleCheck -e off;

Then saved the file, and ran the render from the command line again.


Now I suspected this cycleCheck may be protecting a PC from infinitely looping on custom scripts or something.  Checking this out, it seems this command is actually checking for plug cycles throughout the scene’s relationships.

This page actually says plainly:

“this command may incorrectly report a cycle on an instanced skeleton where some of the instances use IK”

Which I guess explains why it always comes up with warnings on scenes with RapidRig rigs.  Use this advice at your own peril.  All I care about is, at the time of writing, 50 frames have been rendered, which is 50 more than I had working yesterday evening.

Handy, this.  I tried using the GUI and all I got was ‘database in use, can’t do it’.  Yes, it’s in use.  By me.  Trying to restore.

Anyway, the advice on this page worked wonders.  This was the case for me anyway, but ensure there are no users in the system and change the context to a different database so none of your open SQL windows (if any are indeed open) are trying to reference the DB you’re restoring into.

Then you want the following SQL:

-- This helps prevent 'database is in use' errors
USE master;
-- The next command is the restore command as normal.  
-- I actually created this bit from the GUI using the 'overwrite' option 
-- and the additional options to specify the data and log files being restored into, 

-- then altering the command to look more like the following:
RESTORE DATABASE [your_new_database]
FROM DISK = N'D:\backup_dir\backup_file.bak'
MOVE N'DATA' TO N'D:\SQLData_dir\your_new_database.mdf',
MOVE N'DATA_log' TO N'D:\SQLData_dir\your_new_database_log.ldf'
-- Now setting the DB back to normal
ALTER DATABASE [your_new_database] SET MULTI_USER;

If you’re not confident, do it in a test area first!

Today, entered into the building to find out no one could log in to the system and we found out that one of the daily SQL jobs had locked everything up, refusing to budge over.

You can quickly work out the ID of the SQL process causing the issue with one command:


Only problem is, this gives you very little idea about what’s actually going on, and killing a transaction midway through its procedure could cause inconsistencies.  In a live system, that’s a bad thing.

I came across a handy stored procedure to identify both the offending SQL ID and also, hopefully, return both the commands being issued and the messages coming back from execution.  Here it is!

OBJECT_NAME(p.OBJECT_ID) BlockedObjectName,
h1.TEXT AS RequestingText,
h2.TEXT AS BlockingTest,
FROM sys.dm_tran_locks AS tl
INNER JOIN sys.databases db ON db.database_id = tl.resource_database_id
INNER JOIN sys.dm_os_waiting_tasks AS wt ON tl.lock_owner_address =wt.resource_address
INNER JOIN sys.partitions AS p ON p.hobt_id =tl.resource_associated_entity_id
INNER JOIN sys.dm_exec_connections ec1 ON ec1.session_id =tl.request_session_id
INNER JOIN sys.dm_exec_connections ec2 ON ec2.session_id =wt.blocking_session_id
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(ec1.most_recent_sql_handle) AS h1
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(ec2.most_recent_sql_handle) AS h2

As the author says, this is a dirty way to solve an issue, but if it’s clear this is a safe transaction to snuff out, it may be best to do so and get the darn thing working again.  Kill off processes using another simple command… can you guess what it is?

KILL <pid>

Thank you


“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” (Dom Cobb, “Inception”… brill movie)

The simplest of ideas are the most infectious, the ones that carry themselves unseen on practically every line of thought, strengthening itself every time.  Every time you run with an idea, you give it exercise and strengthen it.  The very simplest idea is a single word.  For me, I know what this idea is in my head, because I’ve seen it in my dreams: Unworthy.  To let it take hold can let it shape one’s entire life pattern, one’s ambitions, one’s behaviour.  It attacks one’s confidence of what is deserved, what can be earned, what can be achieved.  Am I capable of meeting a challenge?  Can ‘they’ depend on me?  Am I good enough for the most important things?  Am I good enough for the one person I want to be good enough for?

If you think you’re not, one slight poke to your confidence, one threat to how valuable to someone else you think you are, the slightest tremor, one ounce of missing affirmation, can upset your confidence at a most basic level.  Our minds are like an ocean.  That upset causes ripples in your consciousness (on its surface) and subconsciousness (what lies beneath), like an earthquake under the water; it can even kick off a devastating emotional tsunami.  It won’t let go – this submerged ‘thing’, like some hungry octopus, grabs your feet and drags you to the ocean’s surface, to pull you under, and the feeling is like you’re about to drown.  You may desperately grab for something else strong enough to keep you above water, any root, any rock – another idea – so you bait for approval, seek the attention of someone who’s opinion is valued, say something or behave out of pure emotion, just to prop up your collapsing sense of contentment.  Worse case scenario, and to everyone’s surprise, you run from something or someone, robbing them of all you have to offer them, unable to cope with the pressure of feeling good enough, interesting enough, worth enough, lovable enough.

Don’t run – That’s a path full of regret.  Being so fearful of being worthy of your own dreams is usually a good sign you give a damn.  And that you are, in fact, still human.

I guess the turning point in trying to deal with this is how to react when its tentacles pull at your ankles, to replace the basic idea so deeply rooted, or at least try to starve it so it shrinks over time.  How?  Without Dom Cobb invading your dreams, I’m not entirely sure :) But I’m gonna make a stab at this… (a metaphorical pun right there… you’ll see!)

I guess it’s not the struggle that we need to despair about.  It’s the handling of it – or maybe the perception of what we need to survive it.  When that idea about yourself grabs your ankle and drags you to the water, to pull you under, you can scrabble for something else to keep you from drowning – the metaphorical rock or tree root – the idea that you think is strong enough to help you escape.  Could even be someone else’s hand.  But rather than get yourself pulled around, maybe the best action is to actually attack the thing that’s dragging you under water in the first place.  After all, this is YOUR ocean in which this monster lives.  If you grab something solid on ground while something is trying to pull you under water, you risk being torn in two! Stab that thing round your ankle, wrestle with it yourself and tear it off your foot; maybe you can escape in your own strength.

That inner strength is not necessarily matured enough to handle such demands alone, and I’ve considered for years that maturity has nothing to do with age, only experience.  Regardless, there’s no shame in calling for someone else’s help, but rather than grab for someone’s hand, or some other idea, believing your only hope is to be pulled up by something stronger, let them help you strike at the tentacle instead.  Again, being pulled might work temporarily, but you may injure yourself in the process and the ‘THING’ underwater, the idea in your psyche, is still alive, waiting to have another go.  So, instead, don’t panic at your savior to pull you against your deeply rooted doubts, instead ask them to help you attack it at its source and overcome it with you.  

You should still hold the knife, but someone you trust can guide your hand.

This process may not even be explicit (like, say, therapy would be).  I’ve read that for more of us than we’re willing to admit, maybe even for everyone (we’re all human), true love of self can grow out of a special relationship with someone who loves us. It’s how we’re made, it’s only natural.  When you aren’t just told, but FEEL, that you’re truly loved, that’s an idea that can overcome any other.  If you let it!

“The greatest thing you ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” (Nature Boy)

The other thing to consider is this: be aware of when hurtful ideas, whatever they are, are lodging themselves in your consciousness.  Ideas like… “What if I can’t handle this?”  “What if they deserve better than this?”  “What if they’re doing x, y or z behind my back?” If you notice an unpleasant seed is burying itself in to take root, burn it away – reason it out if you can, but talk it over with someone you trust, maybe someone who’s caused this idea in the first place, or someone you trust the most.  Else that tiny seed might not only destroy you, but destroy your most treasured relationships.

I like this metaphor of comparing one’s mind to a big gorgeous ocean full of amazing and beautiful sights, but prone to predators which turn dangerous if we don’t keep them tamed… One of the most dangerous things in the sea?  The JELLYFISH.  While sense of worth can shape a person’s whole course, sense of ambition, confidence, etc, Jealousy can change a person’s attitude and behaviour so drastically in a moment, it’s almost as powerful as love itself :o  (and isn’t entirely unrelated.)  Jellyfish stings can be painful, but they can also be fatal – Being totally honest, I’m no stranger to jellyfish myself – and all the above paragraphs apply to avoiding them altogether, or at least treating their attacks!

I guess the other thing is – we can easily fling these seeds at each other without even realising it, so try to be aware of it.  Not to the point of having to tread on eggshells around each other though!  We each individually have to handle criticism, or lack of attention, or some badly made joke, it’s up to us to recognise these things for what they are, and not to react to them as some broader attack on us as a whole.  Being open with someone and asking / talking about whatever is bothering us, to find out for sure, before it gets out of hand and planted in our heads, can only benefit us all.

Each of us carry our own ocean in our heads, full of ideas about ourself and our world around us, floating on its surface or preying on us underneath.  Fear, even resentment, can keep someone from jumping into the sea.  But in time as the monsters are extinguished, or reduced to tiny baby versions capable of no more than an irritating nip that a simple hug can cure, going for a swim around inside ourselves, reflecting on the good stuff about ourselves and the good stuff we’ve got (or got coming), can become something very relaxing and refreshing, something to look forward to.

It’s said we make our own luck… if you choose to walk under a ladder, you run the risk of getting a bucket dropped on your head.  If you choose to cross the road without checking all risks, you’re in danger of becoming a pancake-shaped version of you.  If you choose to ignore the warning signs with lightning shapes stapled to a metal fence, you run a high chance of turning crispy.

That said, not everything that happens to us is under our control, and that includes our impulses.  If a thirty foot hamster came running up the street at me with hunger in its eyes, I wouldn’t need to think about panicking and sprinting in the opposite direction, my body kinda makes that call for me.  If your head is held under a dripping tap for about five hours, I don’t think you could choose not to be driven half insane by it.

Things like anger, excitement, joy, frustration, you can’t control when they hit you.  I don’t think though that the emotion you feel in any circumstance, however strong, is the measure of you, I think its how you handle it.  You can in some measure choose your response – embrace it, hit back, ignore it, breath, count to 10, and deal with it, etc.  And a lot of it comes down to experience – maturity isn’t about age, it’s about exposure and experience.

Love is the most complex of emotions, I guess because it’s not really an emotion in itself, it’s a smorgasbord of the intense feelings – loss, excitement, contentment, anxiety, fear, joy, jealousy, true happiness.  It’s the toughest one to recognise because no one can tell you when you’re in love, you kinda have to figure it out for yourself.  All people can tell you is to make sure of your decisions that are based on love (or the absence of).  And it’s easy, tooooooo easy, to mistake an emotion for love.  Needing someone who wants you isn’t love, feeling alone when someone is gone isn’t love, and infatuation is one that is frequently mistaken for love.  I think love at first sight is impossible, because love is based on really knowing a person, strengths and weaknesses, and how you make each other feel in good times and bad.  It’s an attachment that makes you feel at a loss without them, definitely.  But love isn’t just about needing someone, it’s about needing to see them happy too.  Love is proved true when you’re able to rise above the harshest of trials for their sake, and still love who they are – when, no matter what emotion you feel, the strongest one out of them all is the anxiety of losing them.  When no sacrifice is too great.  When their flaws aren’t only permitted, but they are regarded with affection.  When, on a bad day, just a look or a touch can warm your heart.  You feel at your most content when you’re sharing the best of life’s experiences with them.  When you see a beautiful sight, or hear a powerful tune, or see something that makes you laugh your socks off, and wish they were there with you to share it, that’s a good indication of true love.  When the initial excitements, butterflies, extremely sentimental feelings start to fluttery away, that is not true love ‘fading’ – it’s maturing!  The intense mirth and joy of love’s first days/weeks/months mature to become deep friendship, deep affection, deep care.  Willingness to share all things and want to make the other’s day.  Wanting to see them smile should always be a priority.

Now, love can fade if you allow it, withdraw from it, pay no attention to it, whatever.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t ‘meant to be’.  Relationships do take effort, but you have to be careful with this one, because something may take so much effort that it drains you of a taste for life.  You have to consider what effort the other person is contributing, you have to consider what you’re making an effort for – where your heart lies, what your motives are, what their motives are.  For whose benefit you’re keep trying to make something work, and what the end result will be – if what you get at the end of it all is going to make you a contented person or not.  If at the end of it all, when you experience something as simple as the brightness of Venus one night, you still want to point it out to them and exclaim ‘ooooooh check it out!’

It turns out that sometimes the reality of a situation cannot be ignored forever.  Sometimes, regardless of how you feel and what sense is telling you, you have to make an effort because it’s still the best thing you’ll ever know and have, and you know this; that this period of hardship is only temporary, that in-between the lines you still feel the anxiety of needing them and needing to be the one to make them the happiest, that in due course you’ll still have the most amazing thing you’ve ever known.  Love doesn’t always obey the rules of logic, and men and women will perform extraordinary feats (sometimes seemingly utterly insane feats) for true love, because they feel at their core that it will be worth every sacrifice.

For some things, you can ignore what people are warning you of, because you know the truth that they don’t understand.  For other things, their warnings only substantiate your existing doubts – and that’s when you’re in danger and need to consider seriously what you’re doing, to make a move only when absolutely sure.  You can know how you really feel about something without really acknowledging it sensibly, you sense it in how you react to a person, an event, an occasion.  And this is what I’m getting at – your impulses can tell you about yourself, certainly how you really feel, sometimes more than you wish to recognise.  I repeat, the reality of a situation cannot be ignored forever.  Those decisions you make are crucial.  You have to think long-term, consider all outcomes, view this very moment as the pinwheel on which a vast number of parallel universes are being spawned based on the decisions you make, and try to peer into them to discern the alternative futures of all affected by your decisions – including you.

I dunno about you but whenever I select the contents of a bag of pick n’ mix sweeties, I don’t pick the ones I feel doubts about.  If I intend to share this bag of sugary goodness, I’d choose what I think is nommable to us both.  End result?  A bag of noms and no left overs.  And yet I can make bad decisions about far more important decisions in life because there are far more factors involved… but the criteria need not be THAT different!  If you don’t make choices that you’re sure leads to your happiness too, you may only stumble into a thorn bush of regrets, taking others with you.  To anyone who’s made such mistakes, bear in mind that no matter what, the mistakes we make often teach us the most valuable lessons.  Trying to find the best path afterwards can take considerable work and effort and sacrifice – but again, if that sacrifice is ultimately worth everything, for your sake as much as anyone else’s, you have to make it.

OK so that’s a good amount of semi-vague wafflejuice.  Emotions go a long way to making us our individual selves.  One thing to be thankful for, whatever mixed bag of emotional all-sorts we are, is that they help us understand who we are.  Don’t hate yourself for who you are nor the lessons you’ve learned!  Who we each are isn’t set in stone either – learn a strength, love yourself for it and use it.  Learning a weakness, you recognise it humbly, and work on it.  That’s maturing, and it’s a process that lasts a lifetime.

Finished product!  Please click the image to see its detail in full resolution.

Valley of the Dolls full view

Valley of the Dolls by Sarah Ainge

The challenge came from Alter It Monthly:
The theme this month over at the challenge blog “Alter It Monthly” was “valley of the dolls”, we had to alter a doll / a doll’s head / include dolls in our art in some way . I imagined what the valley of the dolls might look like, here is my vision of it on this canvas I’ve altered.  A gnarly  tree made of twisted copper wire (my hands did not thank me.), the idea is the dolls are growing on the tree. I’ve used the Tim Holtz ‘Frozen Charlotte’ dolls, using them along with the Tim Holtz “movers and shapers Butterfly” dies on the Vagabond die cutting machine to create the two blue doll butterflies. I used two butterfly shapes per doll butterfly to add dimension and interest and cut them out of a sheet of paper from the Tim Holtz “Shabby Vintage paperstash” I used perfect pearl mists and perfect pearls on the “frozen charlotte dolls” and the butterflies. I included slightly ominous words on the leaves of the tree to create a creepier atmosphere than a first glance would suggest. I made the leaves using Tim Holtz “adage tickets” and “journalling tickets” and Tim Holtz stickers and distress inks.

I added four paper dolls in the lower left corner, adding some Tim Holtz tissue tapes which I then coloured using distress inks. I used one of Time Holtz’s stamps to create the stylised clouds and another to create the grass effect.

The hanging dolls heads are made from large wooden beads which I first painted all over with Tim Holtz’s pearl dabber paint, then painted on their faces using pitch black and cranberry dabber paints. Hair was added using thread and glue.

I added those three flowers near the lower right corner.

The sky, grass and sun were created using Tim Holtz’s colour washes and perfect pearls mists.

Detail photos and some photos of the materials before I got busy and a couple of WIP images:


The grass is much greener so fresh and untouched
You glance at the memory when yours was as such
Considering landscapes around you are spent
You run to the Summer of your discontent

The grass becomes greener the longer you stare
A blossom much brighter than all in your care
They yearned for your nourishment; you gave despair
And thus without petals they cannot compare

The grass growing greener while your flowers thirst,
One for each time you have dived in headfirst,
For you they each promised a life more attained
But why save those souls when there’s more to be gained?

The grass is much greener the further you fall
While browning small plants through your memory crawl
When will you notice? When are you sure?
A flower, when cared for, will be the most pure.


My cousin asked for poetry on his wall for one day only from his friends and family.  I posted a silly one but have felt this theme swirling around my head a bit… lo and behold his invitation arrives and I have another reason to do something with it.  I started seriously thinking about it in the car on the way home and compiled it directly on Jason’s wall. :)

It is simple, I used deliberate clichés, there’s stuff in there if you want it.

And in case you’re curious, here’s my nonsense rhyme which I posted on his invitation first. :)

The average speed of an unladened swallow?
Answer it wrong, to the chasm you follow!
In the process you earn the face of George Gallo!
“Nothing can save you, except for my game show
You can win passage while driving a Renault!”
Covered in bear fur and filled up with gateau?
What a weird sight, you strange little fellow.


Cheers for the inspiration to do this again Jason, it’s been quite a while. host a brilliant thread entitled ‘Water Cooling Guide for Beginners’, posted up last month.  It goes from start to finish – how to plan a loop, what to look for, down to steps you can take when cleaning it out, replacing hoses etc.


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