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This Week: Tomi Ungerer, Notebooks and Orgnisation, and my special guest, Kim Thompson.
The Small Batch List

May 5th, 2017

Hello SBL folk! I am back - after a little break. Ottawa and the improv championships were incredible... and an update for those who kindly threw donation money their way: THEY WON! National champs! What an experience. Now we are back to a very busy last couple of months of the school year and I am back to planning and prototyping for my new little empire -- (I will keep calling it that so that I don't lose the dream, okay?).

The big news - both good and bad - is that I am moving the Small Batch List to a monthly edition. This is almost entirely a survival strategy as it really does take up so much of my work-allotted time, and then some. I can't think it's a bad thing for all of us, more time in the real world etc etc. But do keep an eye out for it on the first Friday of each month.

If you are interested in receiving updates, product releases, special offers, events and news about my new business (empire), Owl Hill - home of all things sweet and stuffy - you can sign up for this specifically here

Here's this month's list - short and sweet and easy to manage!
If you haven't had a chance to see the documentary Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story on Netflix yet, definitely add it to your queue. Children's book author and illustrator Ungerer is a fearless and fascinating person, who has lived a full and at times bizarre life. If you are a child of the 70s,  you will no doubt recognise his work from childhood favourites but do you know about his early political works and his later erotic illustrations?

Google calendar, an over-stuffed inbox, deadlines slipping by... In exasperation, I throw my hands up in the air, and toss my phone in to the toilet. Sometimes even accidentally in a parliamentary bathroom in Ottawa. At least it was a very clean bathroom. Top notch. But back to my point: organisation and planning don't work for me on my tiny little device. Perhaps (being a child of the 70s) I just have to accept that an analogue approach is the way to go. Luckily I am not the only one to think so, and I am looking at beautiful alternatives like the highly customisable Traveller's Notebook. I think I have a hankering. 

If you too hanker after such goodness you can also see lots of super cool customised approaches to the notebook... here, here and here... if you need more, there's a list here. Oh, man... this is kind of like scrap booking, isn't it?
Speaking of analogue organisation, has anyone tried the Bullet Journal system? It looks kind of cool.
We have been watching endless episodes of Mastechef Junior. It's high drama, of course, and it's guaranteed that I will weep at the end of each episode when some poor little blubbering tike is eliminated. Aside from that, it's fascinating that such little kids can get it together to fling out a soufflé or a crème brûlée or a filet mignon in 40 minutes. Obviously there is more than meets the eye to the production behind such a show, I'm imagining that each child has a team of people (or even just one full-grown expert assistant) helping them at their stations between takes. But it makes me think about kids in the kitchen... and how if given the chance, a love of food, nutrition and cooking can be fostered early. Here's an argument for bringing back Home Ec. on Bright
I've been listening to the informative Startup podcast... If you are at all interested in starting a business (empire), or even the business of podcasting, then this is worth listening to from the beginning. It's hard not to be intrigued by this candid exploration of what it's like to start a new business from scratch... 

Friday Five Favourites - guest-starring Kim Thompson

Author, filmmaker, tv writer, mother, web maven and friend. The books in her Eldritch Manor Series are must-haves. 

Most often found at and

I’m holding myself back from just putting up five photos of my daughter Lizzie, partly because Claire would roll her eyes but more because Lizzie herself would give me the cold adolescent stare she has just perfected (already, at age 11!) So here are five things besides Lizzie that I like a lot.

1. Knitting
I learned to knit from a youtube video about three years ago, and I’ve been obsessively click-clicking ever since. Knitting is a calming, meditative activity, and it’s guilt-free because it’s (potentially) productive! Knitting for me took the place of mindless games on my phone at the end of the day when I’m too tired to think. Sweaters-that-fit are still somehow beyond me, so I stick to things that are rectangular, like dishcloths and afghans. My heating bill this winter has led me to consider knitting a tea cozy that will fit over my entire house.

2. Welcome to Night Vale
My favourite thing to do while knitting is to listen to podcasts. We have a few educational favourites, like Stuff You Should Know, or the BBC science geekstravaganza Infinite Monkey Cage, but Welcome to Night Vale is our all-time favourite drama podcast. Night Vale is a desert town where every conspiracy theory is actually true. From the glow cloud that hangs over the town and rains dead animals when displeased, to the tiny underground city below the pin retrieval lane at the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, Night Vale is a town of dreamlike menace. The podcast allows you to listen in on Night Vale Public Radio, as its genial host Cecil cheerfully passes on official directives from the secret police, community gossip, existential traffic reports and cooking tips. Darkly humorous and creepy, this show has hooked both of us. We even attended a live show in Vancouver recently, nerdy podcast superfans that we are, and it was fantastic. All Hail the Glow Cloud!

3. My Brand New Ukulele
I’ve just begun to learn to play the ukulele, and recently splurged on this purdy Twisted Wood Concert Ukulele. Why the ukulele? First of all, a ‘strumming instrument’ is tremendously satisfying to play right away. You only need to know a couple or three chords to play oodles of songs. My daughter has just begun guitar lessons, and even though we are both absolute beginners, we can sit down together and happily mangle pop songs and tunes from Hamilton. So fun!

I’m a big proponent of learning something new at any age. I think it’s great for kids to see their parents struggling with a new skill. How can we cheerfully tell them to try new things and “try try again” when they fail, if we never do? No wonder they think we are full of it. So go out and do something badly today! Do it for the children!

4. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (book 1 of the Gormenghast Trilogy) 
I recently picked this up at a thrift store for 50 cents. It’s the size of a brick, and so enjoyable that I’m reading it very slowly so it will last as long as possible. (Thankfully there are two similarly bricksized sequels.) Picture a massive decaying castle, possibly the size of a small country, which houses the lordly Groan family and dozens of creaky servants, all trapped in meaningless tradition and ritual. Gothic horrorshow meets Kafkaesque futility. Published in 1946, this work is both baroque and surreal. It is impossible to describe adequately, but the character names alone are worth the price of admission: Lord Sepulchrave, Mr. Flay, Sourdust, Rottcodd, Swelter the Chef, Dr. Prunesquallor, and Steerpike, the malevolent teen who is currently (130 pages in) creeping across the castle rooftops like a diabolical spider…

5. The 1992 Volvo 240 station wagon, in black
“We’re going all the way, ’til the wheels fall off and burn.” - Bob Dylan, Brownsville Girl.

This isn’t something I enjoy right now, it’s something I’m missing. I bought aforesaid vehicle in Toronto in 2012 and drove it all the way to Salt Spring Island, and we bombed around BC in it it right up until March 10th of this year, at which time it quietly died in our driveway. Despite the things that did not work (radio, AC, 2 out of 4 doorhandles, defogger, back windshield wipers, interior lights, door locks…) we dearly loved that car. And despite all the things that work really well in our new car (all of the above), the thing looks like a big stumpy running shoe. I miss the square, Dudley Do-righteousness of my Volvo. It was made in 1992, the last year of the 240 model, and its design was pure 1970s, a decade when, just by walking out your front door you could suddenly be UNREACHABLE. Picture a hot summer day in Toronto with the windows rolled down, traffic moving slowly through busy streets, and this is the soundtrack: Wigwam.
Farewell, Volvo!

Thanks Kim for being my guest this month. 
See you in June!

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List

Person with a keyboard


p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line! Last time it was: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.
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