Friday Links (Feeling Pretty Alright, Edition)

“Freelancing…is an on-spec life and it is full of what can only be described as insane serendipity (or serendipitous insanity).”
― Richard Morgan

This week I put to bed phase one of a major freelance project, a separate project has seen some setbacks due to travel and family concerns (theirs, not mine) but still progress, and life at the museum has gotten crazy as the Easter holiday descends and tourist season begins in earnest. I’m still recovering from my hedonistic lost weekend with Caitlin, but I also got to have a gorgeous tea with a longtime online friend who happened to be in London, meet up with Andrea from This New View to talk freelance writing, and had another spectacularly productive coworking day with Alanna.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this consistently scheduled in my life as I’ve been since the start of 2014. Sure I’ve had busy work, and stressful periods at my old office, but there is a massive difference between being busy and getting things done, I’ve discovered. And in spite of occasional sleep deprivation, or periods of crunch time, I don’t think I’ve every been this professionally content either. Life is simply very good.

Also, you may have noticed, there’s been a few changes in the Small Dog vicinity. Once again, I’ve learned new skills and am practicing away (heck, I’m even learning about branded images up in here, thanks to Alanna!). Let me know what you think and please do give me your feedback.

Here are your links, tell me what you’re up to this weekend, ducklings.
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A bit stretched, but vastly contented, kittens.

Privilege and perspective.

Interesting news in publishing summed up on the always brilliant brain pickings.

5 a day? Ha! Up your expectations and health plans accordingly.

Excellent! I am 100% done about people complaining about leggings (also known as the most comfy things ever invented that you will pull from my cold, dead hands, society). Oh! That would make an excellent Incendiary post! Quick minions, to the comments, and let’s have a vigorous debate on the merits of alternative types of leg wear!

I once was able to hear YA author Shannon Hale speak about rejection, she brought a scroll of every single one of her rejection letters, laminated together in a way that stretched across a conference room. Perspective.

You wanted to read an article about the art and history of tapestries, especially as relates to media culture, right? I knew it!

These bracelets are amazing, and I need them desperately to make these beauties in my postcode already!

As an accidental minimalist myself, I find these homes fascinating.

How charming are these photos! From a nature photographer with a touch for the miniature.

Henry VIII was a complete jerk, this is historically well established. His marital troubles reshaped Europe, led to the Civil War, heightened religious mania and persecution and resulted in an astonishing amount of historical fiction on the subject – some good, some bad. But how long was he actually married to each of the women in his life? Twitter to the rescue!

New project, visit and read in all of these spaces?

We’ve been trying to sort out what makes human beings substantially different from other animal species for centuries now, but one of the most interesting theories (debunked, by the way) was that it was primarily based on our capacity for language. Not only has that been disproved but some research is suggesting that not only do many animal species communicate, they do so with self-awareness. Some even seem to have names and the ability to identify and talk about themselves! 

Presented without further commentary, the headline of the week: These Backpacks For Cows Collect Their Fart Gas And Store It For Energy.

As if we ever really needed an excuse to look at a retrospective of gorgeous ball gowns.

Sunday In the Park With Katie Pt. 2

“London was so rich, and also so green, and somehow so detailed: full of stuff that had been made, and bought, and placed, and groomed, and shaped, and washed clean, and put on display as if the whole city was for sale.”
― John Lanchester, Capital

Regent’s Park is the brainchild of George the Prince Regent, later George IV, but the land on which it sits had been in royal hands since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and snapped up the property for himself. As he was wont to do.

George (who it must be said is being hilariously downplayed in the poster campaigns around the city as a number of exhibitions and events celebrate the 300th anniversary of the rise of the house of Hanover) was pretty useless as a regent and monarch. In fact he consistently ranks down among the worst king in British history in the sorts of polls that historians run. Corpulent, lazy, unimpressive, and obnoxious, we nevertheless still need to thank him since a number of his building projects helped create London as we know it today.
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That’s not snow on the ground, it’s a natural carpet of daisies. I know, right?!

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A flock of herons (which I’ve never seen associating in a group before) flirted with tourists and followed likely looking crumb droppers, looking for the world like a pack of spindly dinosaurs.

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This garden was cordoned off. But I saw enough people meandering through it anyway that I hopped the barrier and joined them for a close up of a fountain of a frog spitting at a child. Which clearly is a lot more charming than it sounds on paper.

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At some point you just get the feeling the park’s showing off.
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So, thanks George IV! We’re still iffy enough about you 200 years down the road to awkwardly disregard you on signage, but frankly you helped make London gorgeous. For that, we thank you.

You were still a terrible king, a bad father, and a truly hideous husband.

Sunday In the Park With Katie Pt. 1

“London is on the whole the most possible form of life.”
― Henry James, The Complete Notebooks of Henry James

Katie and Adam are about to jet off to the next stage of his business program in San Francisco, but luckily we get to keep them for a while longer now that they’re back from Paris. Since it had been a few weeks since our last gossip session, weekend Katie and I met up in Camden to explore the lock and markets.
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Which turned into food introductions (Katie met bubble teas for the first time, they clearly hit it off).

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Which turned into a wander along the canal.
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Which turned into a quick hike up Primrose Hill, for one of the best views in London.
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Which turned into a long ramble in Regent’s Park…which is going to get it’s own post because it was stunning.

Let me tell you, as far as weather goes, when London gets it right, London gets it right! Spring has officially arrived. Outdoor vendors are selling Pimms by the pitcher, the city denizens are hauling lawn chairs up and down slopes to replenish their Vitamin D stores, and puppies are everywhere.

The Most Impressive Street Burger You Will Ever Meet

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

I mentioned that we took Caitlin to the Southbank Real Food Market, a delicious weekend affair that absolutely everyone should try. It’s not a large event, but it’s dang impressive.
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Don’t mind if I do. But we really should retire this particular meme, I feel.

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Why yes, that was a whole hog.

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Say wha?

We wandered through stalls looking for something to tempt each of us. Jeff, who lived in South Korea for a couple of years, gave  into his curiosity at Koritto and Caitlin was swayed by the aromatic siren call of fresh pasta, but something altogether more involved moved me.
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Maybe I was still on a Paris high, but this sign caught my eye…

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…before this one won my heart…

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…followed closely by this cheeky gentleman.

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Roasted duck meat, flavored with duck crackling, topped with blue cheese and truffle honey mixed together as they melted on the grill, on a bed of rocket, with a homemade horseradish spread. That picture above is purposefully floaty and vague to better imply the gourmand deliciousness of that concoction. All minions crashing at our flat in the near future will be summarily marched to the South Bank and obliged to ingest.

Our First Visitor

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
― Elbert Hubbard

Future bestselling YA author, friend of the blog, and buddy IRL Caitlin came into town Wednesday and frankly, it was a nonstop adventure. Caitlin is married to one of Jeff’s old college flatmates who now works for the NBA in China – we know such interesting people! Terry, the flatmate in question, was at a basketball conference in Monaco (his life is such a trial), so after spending some time in Paris, Caitlin took a train north to visit us. We probably went overboard in the entertaining, but she was our first visitor in London so we naturally had to put out all the stops. Which included:

Food (Holy mother of chocolate, so much food!)
An exhibit on the Cheapside Hoard – a staggering amount of Elizabethan jewelry that was buried and abandoned.
Sightseeing around London
Hitting up the West End for, count ‘em, two shows
The Tate Modern
Fantasy shopping
The Southbank Center’s Real Food Market (like I said, lots of food)
Waterloo Book Market
The National Gallery
Wandering in Soho
John Snow’s cholera pump (she was a public health major)
and a small taste of the London Marathon (mostly the crowds)

The gastronomic highlight was the hours we spent lingering over an afternoon tea at Liberty talking history, culture, tales of university days, exchanging expat life stories, and encouraging one another in our writing pursuits.
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I was delighted at her delight at the tea. Which was delightful!
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Could it be more delightful?

And after the multiple hours spent digesting this, we hopped straight over to Burger and Co. since the caressing taste of ground beef hadn’t crossed her lips in months and this was a situation that had to be rectified immediately. Then we dashed to the theatre. Which was frankly the tone of her entire visit.
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Clearly yes! Burgers can do that to a girl who hasn’t had one in months.

Sometimes it’s just so relaxing and wonderful to talk to a person who gets what’s going on in your life without a lot of context. She can grumble over issues with her flat (and I can commiserate), while I confess my troubles with some of my novel plots (and she can laugh and provide much needed perspective. She recommends books, I recommend theatre, we fit in both. She’s seriously the perfect guest and we were so lucky she came up to crash on our (newly purchased just for the occasion) air mattress to inaugurate our guest bedroom (read: living room minus the coffee table).

I’m hugely lucky to know so many interesting, marvelous people, scattered across the globe but still wonderfully accessible via email, Skype, and letters. And visits! Here’s hoping we can get to China in the next few years to return this stellar one.

Friday Links (Expat Buddy System)

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

Just a quick batch this week kittens. My future bestselling YA author buddy Caitlin is in town – from China, by way of Paris. We’ve been swapping stories of the expat and writing life, taking tea, and going to the theatre. And if you’ll excuse me, we’re off this evening for more of the same (you can follow along on our adventures here until the official recap in a couple days)! Here are your links and tell me what you’re up to this weekend!
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In honor of Caitlin, who for a time worked as Winnie-the-Pooh at Disney World, I’ll just leave this thing here. Oh bother!

Amanda Brooks is an author and former Barney’s fashion director who switched up her life and career plans to move to a farm in Britain with her family. She blogs about it here (and her instagram feed is beyond worth following), cataloging her rural life. I loved this recent post on the hunts she and her family participate in. Blood sport is controversial, and I’m not making an argument about it here, but I have to admit the tweedy, old fashioned, country elegance of the participants makes for some beautiful photography! Lady Mary, is that you?

Excellent advice for writers, #8 resonates with me particularly lately.

Remember, you have the same amount of hours each day as Beyonce. And Beethoven. And Balzac.

When we were in Paris we saw that a cottage industry had sprung up around “love locks,” but apparently they are quite literally putting some structures in danger.

Baby naming phenomenons are interesting to me. This time, let’s hear it for the boys. h/t Savvy.

Just saying.

Hilarious and awesome writer and friend of the blog Sunny from Sunny in London, put together a great post today on tips for aspiring bloggers and writers. I took notes.

NO. Not okay! Unbelievably not okay!

I often get slightly annoyed when I hear people rave about how much they “love a British accent,” because I want them to specify: which one? Because let me tell you know, not all regional dialects are equally sexy and what most people think of as a British accent is a clipped form of speech developed almost entirely in the upper class halls of learning to be used in the new medium of radio.

The internet is a strange place, the oddest things can be linked. Often weirdly successfully.

Game of Thrones is back!