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I'm A Table








Katie ❀ Melbourne, Australia

dreamer ✧ public servant ✧ crafter ✧ artist ✧ cook ✧ reader ✧ gardener ✧ collector ✧ list-maker ✧ Forest Girl
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GeoMushroom I


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Mixtro Monster


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August 30th, 2015



Today is Melbourne Day. I'm embarrassed to admit I only found out about this anniversary for the first time this year. Obviously if a Melbournophile such as me hasn't heard of it, then it needs promoting, so I thought I'd assist by writing this post.

My home town of Melbourne was founded on 30th August 1835. It was one of the wealthiest cities in the world during the 1850s gold rush, the capital of Australia from 1901 to 1927, and continues to be the capital of art, good coffee and the sophisticated wearing of black today. In honour of Melbourne Day, I'm going to look at the things I love best about my hometown Melbourne.

I've decided to split this post into two because it was getting so long! While I was compiling it, Museum Victoria also announced a new online image collection, so there are even more pictures than I had originally planned. Today I'll be looking at the history and physical features that make Melbourne stand out.

IT'S NERD CENTRAL
Melbourne was founded in 1835 by a group of settlers led by John Batman. Yes, you read that correctly ... my hometown was founded by Batman. Rationally, I know that it's a complete coincidence -- the surname Batman actually means friend of Bart (short for St. Bartholomew). Even though I'm not a huge superhero fan, it still makes me smile every time I think about it. Consequently, there are many roads, parks and even a train station named Batman.


A meme only a Melbournian history nerd would get.
I used this meme generator.



Picture source.



Picture source.


The layout of the city centre appeals to the maths nerd and orderliness nerd in me, too. The grid layout of the streets, designed by Robert Hoddle in 1837, is exactly 1 mile long and half a mile wide. Each city block is exactly 1 acre. Many of the streets, once they leave the CBD, travel in a dead-straight line for kilometres and kilometres. Others, just to be contrary, bend at a 45-degree angle and continue on from there.


1948 map of the Melbourne CBD (at the top) and surrounds,
as issued to new migrants. Picture source.



A view of the CBD from the north in 1948. Picture source.



Early Morning: Collins Street, looking east towards the top end.


And then there's the tram nerds....

THE TRAMS
Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, and it's the only commercial tram network still operating in Australia (all of the others have shut down, but a few were later converted to tourist attractions). Melbourne's first tram line, opened in 1884, was horse-driven, and the network has gone through cable and electric versions over the years.


Cable Tram. High Street, Northcote. c. 1890s. Picture source.


In the early 20th century, rapid expansion of the city led to entrepreneurs building private tram lines to entice land buyers, helping to ensure a widespread network. While many tram networks throughout the world were closed down in the 1970s, supporters of Melbourne's system won out and it remained open. Programmes to build line extensions and upgrade stops have been implemented recently, so it looks like Melbourne's trams will be around for a long time yet!


The E-class tram: your "Next Generation Tram".


I have loved trams ever since I saw the comedy caper film Malcolm when I was ten years old. The film's main character is a socially awkward kind of guy (he reminded me of myself) who is obsessed with trams.


Malcolm.


When I moved out of home to go to University in the city, I finally had a chance to ride on them, and I took every opportunity I could!

Aside from the fact that trams are an instantly recognisable symbol of Melbourne, there's just a different feeling to riding on a tram. It's hard to explain. Perhaps because there are less people than on a train, and everyone is on a single carriage, there's more of a sense of camaraderie. Because trams travel along roads, there's a chance to observe the people and life of the city as it goes past. This is vastly different to trains, where you mostly see people's graffiti-covered back fences by the side of the track. It's also fun to find out what sort of tram you'll be travelling on when it pulls up at the stop: an ultra-sleek modern model, or a 1920s Red Rattler.
(Well, technically, these days most lines have the same model of tram running on them consistently, and the Red Rattlers are only used in the CBD as a free service for tourists, but I still love seeing them!)


Early electric tram. Camberwell. 1930s. Picture Source.



W Class Tram, aka the Red Rattler. Picture source.



Old trams, new stop: this upgraded stop at the corner of
Collins and Elizabeth streets was only re-opened a few months ago.


THE WEATHER
According to the boffins at the Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne's notoriously changeable weather is due to its location at the head of Port Phillip Bay, where cool sea breezes mix with warm continental air. A common phrase to describe our climate is "four seasons in one day". Crowded House even wrote a song about it.


Think this is just another meme? This really does happen!
Picture source.


I can confirm that this is accurate. Actually, "four seasons in half an hour" is more accurate! I'm not kidding about this: the sky will be bright and clear, then suddenly dark clouds will move in and it will pour rain. Within 15 minutes, the clouds will have moved on and it's sunny again. It can pour rain all day in the middle of Summer, and there can be sunny short-sleeve weather in the middle of Winter. I feel sorry for those poor boffins! The head of the Bureau of Meteorology recently retired, and he wrote this cute article on Melbourne's weather as a parting gift.


Rain map showing a thunderstorm hitting Melbourne,
Summer 2003. Picture source.



Lightning hits 120 Collins Street, Spring 1994. Picture source.



You can't let the weather stop you from getting on with life.
Summer 2010. Picture source.



I couldn't resist adding this one, from
a reader-created series of fake movie posters. Picture source.


To quote the Crowded House song, "doesn't pay to make predictions", but living in Melbourne, I've learned that it pays to be prepared. I carry an umbrella and sunglasses in my bag every day of the year. I put on sunscreen every morning without fail, not just because beauty experts recommend it, but because the middle of Winter is just as likely to be sunny as rainy. Melbourne does have semi-predictable weather however, otherwise I suppose the Bureau would have given up years ago! Which brings me to my next section...


THE SEASONS
You might think from the above section that Melbourne's weather is crazily unpredictable all year round. Melbourne does have seasons though -- distinct enough to be noticeable, but not so extreme as to cause much inconvenience. Thunderstorms herald Spring. Summer is hot, but not humid, and the changeable weather means there are usually never more than a few 35oC (95oF) days in a row. Autumns are mild and hazy, and Winters, though quite cold, have nearly as many sunny days as rainy.


Swanston Street on a sunny Winter's day.


The indigenous Brambuk people of this area recognise six seasons. I found the Brambuk Calendar online a few years ago and, paying note to its cycle over the last couple of years, I do think this is true. It certainly seems to fit the Southern Australian climate better than the traditional 4 season model that we have inherited from Europe.


This version is from my personal calendar.


Our climate is warm enough to stimulate the double growing season that many in the Northern Hemisphere can only dream of. Some plants only flower in Winter when the rain is abundant, so we have colour nearly all year round. Southern Australia is quite a good place to be a gardener.


These geraniums in my garden just won't stop!


In my time I've seen heatwaves, torrential storms, flash floods, hail the size of tennis balls, the Great Dust Storm of 1983, a quadruple rainbow, many willy-willies, and a lenticular cloud. The only thing which I've never experienced living in Melbourne is snow.


The Great Dust Storm of 1983. Picture source.



Personally, Autumn is my favourite season. Picture source.



You don't have to go too far for snow, though.
Woodend, 70km from Melbourne, June 2007. Picture source.


Stay tuned next time for Part 2, in which I'll cover food, culture and more!

August 25th, 2015

The KonMari Bandwagon

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I'm sure almost everyone has heard of Kondo Marie and her innovative de-cluttering method by now. It's been all over the blogosphere for quite some time now. There are many, many, many articles out there which go into the method in more or less detail. In the last few days, it's captured my attention. As the second anniversary of buying our house approaches, it's been more on my mind that my house isn't the way I'd like it. In fact, much of my stuff isn't even unpacked yet! There's a story behind that, but I won't go onto it today.


Serene-looking Marie Kondo and her book.


When reading about Kondo Marie and her KonMari method, I have to admit that I was in two minds about it. I did go ahead and order the book, but in the meantime while I'm waiting for it to arrive, I thought I'd note my initial impressions of what I've read so far.


This could be you, too. Picture Source.


THINGS ABOUT THE METHOD THAT REPEL/MYSTIFY ME

* Minimalism. I've always had a lot of stuff. My family has always had a lot of stuff, and I grew up being used to that. We're not hoarders - we'll quite happily throw stuff away, and we like to have everything tidied away where possible. Admittedly though, that doesn't always work out in the bustle of everyday life.
* Working from items you're least attached to, to most. I think the concept is great, but Kondo suggests starting with clothes, then books, then other items. I'm very attached to my clothes and especially my books! I guess my concept of sentimentality is a little different to hers. If I haven't read a book, then I will not get rid of it.

THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THE METHOD

* The main title of the book uses the words 'tidying up' rather than 'de-cluttering' or 'organising'. I've always had a resistance to those two words, but my brain can cope with tidying up.
* Kondo's method involves working by category rather than by room or area. For example, you need to collect together all of your clothes, no matter what room they are in, before you start deciding what to get rid of. That makes a lot of sense to me and appeals to my sense of completism.
* It's a one-shot prospect. Kondo says that if you follow her method faithfully, then you should only ever have to do it once - ever. In fact, she even says that once finished, you should give her book away, as you will no longer need it. I love that detail, as it shows that she is genuinely dedicated to her method. It sounds exciting but, to be honest, I'm a bit sceptical. I tend to buy a lot of stuff on impulse, which I then need to find spots for in the house. But I'm open to the possibility that this might change once I have a nice, tidy house.
* She's against buying elaborate storage systems, but she's big on putting things in boxes and trays. I do this a lot too, so it makes sense to me.
* She folds her t-shirts and socks the same way I do! We're folding twins!
* She acknowledges that people have trouble getting rid of things because they have emotional attachments or feelings of guilt associated with them. Her method turns traditional de-cluttering ideas on their head and looks at why we should keep things, rather than why we should throw them away.
* She has a spiritual way of looking at physical space and belongings, which I can relate to.


The beauty of socks. Picture Source.


In the end, I decided to buy the book because I was intrigued by Kondo Marie as a person. She has been preoccupied with tidying and arranging physical space since the age of 5. She worked for many years in a Shinto shrine, where she became accustomed to thinking of physical space in a spiritual way. In some ways, she reminds me of myself. I've been known to spend an afternoon happily sorting hama beads into different colours, and can't wait for the day when I'll have time to get right into the compactus and get all those files properly sorted out.

Now ... when is that book going to arrive??

August 23rd, 2015



I accidentally deleted the first version of this post, and didn't realise it for about 3 weeks. Thankfully that doesn't happen to me very often, though I found myself thinking, why this post in particular??! It was difficult trying to remember that far back; and the second version never seems as good as the first, but I'm going to persist!

I do think this is an important topic to write about. Most people only show the best side of themselves on the internet -- and who can blame them? I like to stick to writing about my hobbies and fun things I do on my blog. I try to avoid anything negative, because this is my fun place, where I come to escape. It's easy to forget though, that blogs and instagrams are just one aspect of a person's life, a carefully edited version. I can't count the number of times I've started feeling 'blog envy', thinking that the person I'm reading about must have a perfect life. No-one's life is perfect. I have the same issues as everyone else. I work 6 days a week, and my job can often be very stressful. Most times, at the end of the day I'm tired, and I don't have as much time for art, craft and writing as I would like. This can often lead to depression. I also have anxiety which sometimes makes it difficult for me to go out and do/experience the things that I would like to.



Having said all of that, at heart I'm a very positive person, so I thought I'd make today's post about some of the tactics I use to cheer myself up when I'm feeling depressed. I hope that they might help anyone going through the same things I am.

DAYDREAM
When I'm at the dentist having my teeth drilled, I think about playing with puppies and kittens. Believe it or not, it actually makes the experience a lot more bearable. The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was the first one to suggest this idea: when his followers were in pain, he encouraged them to reminisce about past times enjoyed with friends. If I feel depression or anxiety getting the best of me, I imagine myself as a character in one of my favourite films (one with a happy ending!), or I think about being in a beautiful garden, or playing with baby animals. This has been a lifesaver many times when I've been in a crowded train feeling overwhelmed.
I can't remember where I read about this next trick unfortunately, but I read of a girl who relaxes by imagining herself painting with beautiful sparkly glowing paints, paints that don't exist in real life but her imagination makes them come to life. Sometimes I find it relaxing to imagine myself crocheting or knitting. I call it 'head crafting'.



REMEMBER MY BODY
Your body is an amazing and very complex organism. Sometimes there might be physical as well as mental and emotional factors at work. A few months ago, I went to my doctor to get a general check-up. I was surprised when he told me that my Iron levels were extremely low -- so low that the lab's instruments don't even measure such small amounts! I wasn't surprised to hear this, because I'd been feeling down for a long time. I thought it was just Winter that was making me feel so tired and sad and cold. I started taking Iron supplements the next day, and within a few days I felt much more myself. I had much more energy and felt like doing my hobbies again.
If I'm feeling depressed and grumpy for no apparent reason, I check where I am in my cycle. Yes, it's PMT time again! I tell myself that it'll only last for a few days, and that means I have permission to pamper myself in the meantime.



I HAVE A SHOWER
This one is for those weekends when I can't bring myself to get out of bed and the thought of doing anything is excruciating. Having a shower is such a simple, everyday thing that it doesn't feel like a luxury and so I don't have to feel guilty about it. Usually though, once I've done it, I have more energy -- I feel like getting dressed and doing something. Even if I end up getting straight back into bed, at least I'm clean and I smell nice.



I DO JUST ONE THING
This is what Barbara Sher calls the Complete Willingness Unit and Havi Brooks at The Fluent Self calls One Tiny Thing. I love One Tiny Thing myself, because the acronym OTT is the same as Over The Top, and that makes it sound outrageously fun! You might be thinking, but that's just another way of saying the old cliched phrase, "baby steps!". In some ways that's true, but you're only taking one step. And it's a step that you're absolutely willing and able to take. If you feel any resistance whatsoever, then don't do it!
For example, one of my biggest bugbears is putting away clean laundry. I have a huge pile of it in my bedroom, and just looking at it is depressing. My wardrobe is all disorganised and it's a complete nightmare. I say to myself, "I will put away one thing. One Thing. I can definitely cope with that." Once I've done that, if I feel like going on, I do. If I don't, it's perfectly fine.
Another time I was feeling depressed because I hadn't written anything in such a long time. I realised that my notebook and my pen tray were in different rooms. I retrieved the pen tray and put it together with the notebook. Even though I didn't actually do any writing, I felt better. I knew that it would be easier for me to find my materials if and when I felt like writing again.



The most vital part of this technique -- and yes, I admit, the hardest -- is giving yourself permission. Letting yourself take the credit for doing this one thing, acknowledging that it is enough, and not letting guilt in. Something that really helps me with this is a concept I heard of a few years ago from The Fluent Self called Fractal Flowers. The idea is that everything in your life is connected to every other thing in an infinite pattern, like a fractal. So, no matter what you're doing right now, it's having effects in other parts of your life.
I had to work on this for quite a while before it clicked in my head, but now it's one of my favourite techniques.

(Incidentally, while looking up the relevant links for this section, I also found this funny and inspiring post on brushing just one tooth.)

I LISTEN TO MUSIC
On my ipod, I have a playlist called 'Happy Songs'. It brings together all of the songs that make me happy from all genres, from Kpop to Disco. When I'm feeling down, I set it going, and I instantly feel better. Lately I've often been listening to it at other times, as well. Now that I think about it, when things are really bad, I could make listening to a song my One Tiny Thing.



I DO SOMETHING REALLY BADLY
I'm sure many people will be familiar with that voice in your head telling you not to bother writing that story or doing that drawing because it'll be the worst thing ever created in the history of man. I used to let that voice take over, but with a lot of work, I've learned to defy it. I do a bit of reverse psychology and try to prove the voice right! I'll deliberately do a really bad drawing, or just grab a bunch of textas in my fist and scribble all over the page. I'll choose some paints that clash horribly and just smoosh them around. Other times I might butcher the craft of writing by creating a story with no ending, or using horribly cliched words that I would never normally use. I turn making the worst possible creation into a game. Usually, I end up having fun and feeling a whole lot better.



I HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
No matter how small it is, I make sure I have something to look forward to. I find that this one is most helpful when I'm in situations where I can't just run off and sit in a corner or spend time daydreaming, etc. It's nice to have a holiday booked in, but of course I don't always have the money or opportunity to do that. Even small things can lift me out of depression though, like having a session booked at the Cat Cafe, or arranging lunch with a friend. Declaring Friday to be pizza night. Deciding to walk a different route at lunchtime. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, just something that will break up the everyday routine of work.



I DO NOTHING
That's right, sometimes I just do nothing. I would have been ashamed to admit that until recently. All my life, I've always felt like I have to be doing something, anything, but never nothing. This is another situation where the concept of Fractal Flowers is really helpful. For example, sometimes all I want to do is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for the rest of the afternoon. It sounds awful, but perhaps that's what I really need to do at those times. One time when I did that, I fell asleep and had an amazing dream that inspired a story. That story would never have come about if I'd gotten up and mechanically forced myself to do housework or cook dinner. I might even have gotten the extra rest that I needed to avoid coming down with the nasty cold that everyone else was getting. Who knows? Anything could happen.


If none of these wacky ideas work for you, there are plenty of others out there on the internet at your fingertips. If nothing seems to be working, please talk to someone in your life or online. It will get better. It's getting better for me, and it will for you, too.




August 16th, 2015

Pen Update / Review

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I didn't write about the arrival of my order from Jetpens straight away, but I can assure you, I was very excited! I've tested out a few of the pens so far.

I bought the Zebra Sarasa Gel Ink Pen in Grey, to compare it to the grey Pilot Juice pen that I have. Just as I suspected, I prefer the Zebra Sarasa. The colour is much more saturated and easy to read. I wrote some spontaneous bad haiku in my notebook to demonstrate:





I also purchased a Uni-ball Vision Elite BLX Roller Ball (0.5 mm) in Purple Black, mainly because I was curious about the colour. I don't normally like this sort of pen: I like a thicker line and I often find them a bit scratchy. It was beyond my expectations, though! The colour is lovely, it's comfortable to hold, and it's not scratchy at all.



I finally completed the Pilot Petit set and got the Petit3, the brush pen. I loaded it up with the clear blue cartridge that it came with and had a muck around with it. It's not like any other brush pen that I have experience with. The tip is only slightly more flexible than a sign pen. Perhaps I'm not enough of a pen afficionado, but it just seems like a thinner version of their Petit2 sign pen. Nevertheless it'll be fun to draw with, and I do love the way the writing ink looks in drawings.



The star of my haul though, was this fountain pen, the Jinhao X750.



I saw it when I checked out the New Products section of the website and couldn't resist. It looked amazing on the website, and even if it turned out to be no good, it was incredibly cheap at $8.00. For the price it also included a converter. There were 6 colours to choose from, and I chose the Ice Flower Red. It's compatible with the international standard short cartridge, which is produced by several brands in a large range of colours, so there's a lot of choice. I chose the more affordable Kaweco cartridges in Caramel Brown; they come in a pack of 6.



When I first unpacked the pen, I was instantly struck by how heavy it was. The barrel is metal and the whole pen seems to be of very good quality. Inserting the cartridge was easy, but unfortunately I had a lot of trouble with it after that. It took a little bit of effort to get the ink flowing, and then it would only write a few words or a sentence before the flow would stop again. I tried cleaning it and that still didn't fix the problem. Eventually I hit on the idea of storing it vertically, nib down. It seems to work fine this way so far. I can't store it in my pen tray with my other pens, but that's only a small inconvenience.

Now that I have it flowing well -- my gosh, this pen is a pleasure to write with! More bad haiku to demonstrate:



The line is lusciously thick, it moves over the paper smoothly, and the heaviness of the pen balances well in my hand. This pen is like a shy friend who is prickly at first and only shows her beautiful qualities after you persevere.

I haven't yet used the pen with the converter, but according to the reviews on JetPens, it works well. Now, where did I pack my bottled inks?

August 12th, 2015

A First...

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This .... is my first painting on canvas!



I've been thinking about taking this step for about 6 months. One day at work, a communique went around that a senior executive was looking for one or more artworks to decorate her office with. Did we paint? Or know anyone that paints? Well, I paint! But only in art journals, and that isn't the kind of thing you can hang on a wall. If I ever want to share my art with others, then it has to come out of the journal and onto something displayable. "What???" the voice in my head says, "share it with others? Are you crazy! The first time anyone criticises it, you'll be completely crushed and crawl back into your hole and never create again!"

Enough of that, voice!



In the end the painting came about because of the fortuitous convergence of my Mum's 60th birthday, and a 50% off sale on canvases at Riot Art & Craft stores. I wanted to make something special for my Mum, and seeing the sale in my email gave me the idea to do it. I tried to choose colours that she would like, and they're colours I like too, so the painting is actually very similar to what I create in my art journals (except I actually finished it!). There's luscious colour, patterns, mark-making and collage bits. And -- the bit that's been missing from my art journal pages -- there are a couple of my creatures. I dreamed of them once, they've been appearing in my sketches for a while, and now they appear here. This particular painting shows two, emerging from a hole in the ground. Are they mother and daughter? Probably. Are they me and my Mum? Possibly. Is the 'hole' a womb, or an emergence from the 'Stuff' we both struggle with in our lives? Who knows?



I made the two figures the same size because we are both adults now: sometimes she leads me, and other times I lead her. Or they might not be us at all. I deliberately made it ambiguous. The only sure thing is that they are moving up towards the rainbow-coloured light above the canopy of the forest.




When I gave Mum the painting she said, "Wow! You've come a long way!" Later, when we were saying good bye, she said, "thanks for my painting!" I did notice however, that she didn't actually say she liked it. I had a slight crisis of confidence, thinking that if even my own mum doesn't like my art, then who will??! Thankfully it passed fairly quickly with the help of some sketching in my journals, and I'm ready to try another one.



August 11th, 2015

Pruning the Roses

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It's that time of year again: time to prune the roses, so I dug out my gloves and secateurs yesterday and hacked away! Last year (my first year) I left it too late. By all accounts you're not supposed to prune when new growth has already started, so I wasn't able to do much except tidy off some old dead branches. That's why the roses still look so tangled and out-of-control this year! I used instructions from here with diagrams from here as my guide.

The roses in the side garden, before:



and after:



Before:




And after:



The rose at the front next to the garage, after:



I don't seem to have a before, oops, but I didn't chop much off this one. As you can see, it never died back over Winter, so I was worried about chopping too much off. It's interesting that each rose bush is different. Each one grew at different rates, started and finished flowering at different times, and died back to different degrees once the weather turned.

I didn't prune this poor fellow at all except for cutting off a few tiny dead twigs. It had a bad case of black spot over the Summer and didn't grow at all, so I let him be.



I'm very pleased to see lots of new buds growing very strongly on it, though:



Just as I was packing up, it started pouring rain and this amazing double rainbow appeared! You can't see the second one very well in the photo, but it's coming up from behind the power pole.





The double effect had gone away by the time I took the second one, but it's so bright! I stayed outside for a little while under the porch, watching and listening to the rain falling onto the plants in the garden. At times like these, I can almost feel their joy at soaking in the rain, the heat of summer just a distant memory. Morning sun and afternoon rain -- it's perfect.

August 6th, 2015



During the last week, I've been continuing with the 7 Directions art-journalling workshop from Hali Karla. See my post on Lesson 1 here.

Lesson 2 was about colour and movement. This time we worked with paints. I was surprised and a little perturbed to read that we would be working with the same page again. After the first lesson, I considered the page to be, not exactly quite finished, but close. I came to terms with it fairly quickly though, when I realised that it would be a chance to re-work the parts I didn't like. I had a second chance!



Ironically, the part I didn't like the most took a lot of work to paint over, as the texta kept bleeding through and I had to add more and more layers of paint. Then I accidentally painted over a part I did like and the paint wouldn't wipe off enough to see it again (hence the irony). I was a little upset at that, but I tried to let it go and concentrate on what would come next. I started having fun, and even tried some of the same practice in my other art journals. I felt more confident that I could 'draw' with paint.



The Familiar: Combining different colours.
The New: Adding many layers of paint. 'Drawing' with paint. Putting paint on the page in a 'painterly' way. To me that means less controlled, working more in a flowing motion.



Lesson 3 was about letting go, which was interesting as I'd already started to do that in Lesson 2. It involved writing words on the page and adding collage elements. Adding new ideas, moving away from what was, towards what will be. I have to admit, writing words and using collage were techniques I'm already familiar with, but again, adding them in this order was new to me and took a bit of getting used to. I had to decide which parts I was happy to cover up -- to sacrifice, in a way. I must have found that difficult, because afterwards I realised that I'd only chosen small collage pieces, and stuck them around the edges. As I usually do! I wrote a long passage over the part that I'd accidentally covered in the previous lesson, and this felt really cathartic. Like I was making a statement that I was going to start afresh. The passage expresses something private, that I don't want anyone else to see, so in a way I was saying: I'm prepared to add even more layers, to go even further. I tried to choose words, images and colours that are symbolic, not just because they look pretty or relaxing to work with at the time. All of the collage pieces have a meaning.

I'm starting to become more confident that I can improve the parts that I don't like. I can go over them in layers without 'ruining' them. This lesson has also encouraged me to see art less as 'just' a hobby and more as an expression of myself, more the way an artist might. I'm looking forward to the next lesson.

The Familiar: Writing on the page; using collage.
The New: Choosing elements and their location for their symbolism; telling a story.



August 3rd, 2015



I have to admit, I didn't do much this month. When I get home from work, it's already dark and I'm instantly in hibernation mode as soon as I walk in the door. There's nothing more appealing than snuggling down into my blanky on the couch and watching TV. As I mentioned last month, it's been colder this Winter than it has been for years, and everyone seems to be having trouble adjusting to it. I try not to complain though, because I really do love the cold weather, though to people in Europe and the U.S. 12oC (54oF) probably doesn't seem cold at all. Whenever we hear on the news about heatwaves in Europe, I have to confess, many Australians tend to scoff. I listen out for the announcement of the top temperature, ready to mock the heat lightweights who start to keel over when it hits 28oC. However, the top temperature announced for last week's heatwave was 36, which I was quite impressed at. That is pretty hot! A week of that has many Australians grumbling, too.Well, Melbournians at least....

Anyway, I'm rambling now. I haven't been in the mood for writing much in the last couple of weeks, not even blog posts, which I normally enjoy. When I try to force myself to write, it feels stilted and mediocre to me. Like right now. Egh. Let's move on to some good news!

I have the next two weeks off work! I'll be staying home and doing whatever the gosh-darn-dang-oh-damn-I-needed-a-holiday-heck I feel like. Which may include: reading, painting, blogging, napping, making amigurumi, baking, writing, etc etc. Meanwhile though, here were my main activities from the month of July. I don't really have any craft or things I normally show on the blog, but at least it's honest!

What I've been playing ...
I've been really addicted to my iPod games lately, especially Grow Legends, Pocket Frogs and The Blockheads. It's just so good to snuggle down into a blanky with just my eyes and a couple of fingers sticking out, playing simple relaxing games.

▼ Some of my frog collection in Pocket Frogs.


▼ Buying decorations for their habitats is fun, too.


▼ I built a fish pond so that my Blockhead, Jonno, can go fishing.


▼ And a simple wharf for him to moor his boat at. He has big plans for it!


▼ I even got Jonno a girlfriend but she completely ignores him!



What I've been installing ...
Near the start of the month, Husband and I went on an epic trip to Ikea. It takes about an hour to get there, so that instantly makes it epic before you even start on the winding path through the store itself! We bought some lighting for the hobby room and our wardrobes, and a few smaller things. Installing lighting in my wardrobe has made such a difference. I'm very happy!









It even has a proximity sensor so it switches off automatically when I close the door. Now that I can see inside the cupboard, I really should get on with re-organising it and putting all of my clean clothes away....

What I've been watching ...
My favourite TV show at the moment is Drunk History. It's a very simple idea. Comedians get really drunk and tell stories from British history. Then they film the stories with live actors (or in some cases animated), with ums, aahs, swearing, rude nicknames and all. The results are hilarious! The show is on YouTube and Comedy Central.


Image Source.


What else I've been doing ...
A new feature that I started last month --

wrote 2 dream stories ~ wrote an essay ~ went to a new restaurant ~ walked twice as far as normal without even realising it ~ updated the compactus map ~ read 2 books ~ baked a treacle cake ~ had 3 painting sessions ~ wrote a book review ~ had brunch with friends ~ won a hot air balloon part in Pocket Planes ~ did yoga ~ ran an induction session using the projector for the first time ~ wrote 3 observations ~ voiced my ideas ~ wrote some haiku ~ went to the comic shop for the first time ~ bought some hobby room decorations ~ finished checking a list of 941 files ~ finished 1 pink granny square ~ started an amigurumi ~ got up-to-date with my podcast downloads ~ added Mori tags to all of my blog posts ~ thought of a possible pen name ~ started an art journalling course ~ baked biscuits ~ collected all of the Anura frogs in 9 colours (6 to go!) ~ watched 4 movies in 24 hours ~ went for a walk to the pond park ~ booked in to get another tattoo ~ thought of a possible name for my book ~ bought a new art journal ~ made a plan for the compactus clear out ~ bought supplies to make Mum's birthday present ~ made a gallery with columns in The Blockheads ~ wrote my first RM tip for the work newsletter




July 27th, 2015

Fun with Poetry

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I have to admit, I don't know much about poetry. Not Western poetry, anyway. I've enjoyed haiku and other Japanese forms for a long time, but poetry in the Western tradition always seemed very staid and overly formal to me. I never bothered to find out much about it. Until last week, when I found myself down a Wikipedia rabbit-hole, reading all about Romanticism, epic poetry and iambic pentameter. Yes, I finally know what iambic pentameter is! Though don't ask me to try and explain it to anyone else....



I realised something as well. I think the thing that bugs me about Western poetry is that it rhymes. To me, having grown up with Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl and limericks, poetry that rhymes is funny, or at least doesn't take itself too seriously. On the few occasions that I've tried to read serious classic poems, my brain seems to rebel in a way that it doesn't with non-rhyming Japanese haiku and tanka. I think my Gen-Y short attention span might something to do with it as well!

Incidentally, I heard recently that the reason we as a society don't have such a widespread interest in poetry anymore is that in the last few centuries, our brains have been re-trained to read words instead of hearing them, and rhyming poetry is much better appreciated when heard aloud. I wish I could remember where I heard that, sorry. But it does explain why music (especially rapping) is so popular.


Yes, the pictures are very random today.


Other views are that we just don't have time, it's perceived as too high-brow, and that people are turned off because 90% of it is quite simply rubbish. I can attest to this after having downloaded a range of free collections of haiku from iBooks. (I think there was only one author who's other works I wanted to seek out.) Then again, 90% of novels, films and music are rubbish, too. In fact, 90% of everything is crap, according to Sturgeon's Law. That explains why I hardly ever watch commercial TV.

Anyway, after reading about the different genres of poetry, I came to humorous poems -- limericks, satires, doggerel and Clerihews. I'd never heard of Clerihews before, but they immediately became my favourite and I can't stop writing them! Clerihews are four-line poems written about famous people, in a style that's a deliberately a little bit wonky. When I tried to think of who to write my first one about, our esteemed first Prime Minister popped into my head. Here it is:

Sir Edmund Barton
Passed his time a-fartin'
In parliament house he was a drunkard notorious
However, his looks weren't too injurious.



Our esteemed leader.


I wrote a second (double) one to help me remember the 'rules' of the form:

There was a Mr. Clerihew
Poetic lines: he paired a few --
Four, to be precise.
Sometimes, but not always concise.

He picked a person most famous
To whom to devote his poems most heinous --
And with rhymes most confusing
He made the subject's foibles amusing.




Then I went for it with Chinese philosophers:

Confucius
Thought a man shouldn't be useless
He should be polite and loyal
Even when tilling the soil.

Lao Tzu
At court he wouldn't say boo.
He wandered off one day
But not before stopping to say all he wanted to say.


And more political figures:

When it comes to Boris Johnson
I'd rather rhyme Boris than Johnson
But at least I didn't have to hear
Recordings of his voice attempting to keep everyone calm on public transport during Olympic year.


I don't know what's going to happen next!

July 17th, 2015



Yesterday I started Hali Karla's 7 Directions Art Journalling Workshop. Hali Karla is one of the 'new' artists that I've discovered recently; much of her art-journal work really resonates with me.

The course is free and go-at-your-own-pace, which is perfect for me as I'm not normally able to set aside big chunks of time. I was home sick this week though, and looking for something to do in between coughing and sleeping, I remembered I'd saved the course to my links a few weeks ago.

Lesson 1 is beginnings. For this lesson, we used only mark-making tools, not paint. (e.g. pens, textas, pencils.) This is the page I created:



Some parts I really loved, and others I didn't like so much. But I suppose that's always the case when you're trying something new. I experimented with making all sorts of marks, both familiar and different to what I've done before.
The Familiar: borders; patterns and symbols; backgrounds.
The New: starting with markers rather than paint; larger elements; beginning to add creatures; going over the same spot several times; using whiteout as an accent.





In the reflection section at the end, I realised that when I'm art journalling (as with many other things in my life, I guess) I tend to skirt around the edges. I'll create a beautiful elaborate border with collage, patterns, etc., and then I'm not sure what to do next. Below are two unfinished pages that illustrate this. I have many! Aside from a coloured and lightly textured background, the centre is always left bare. With this new page though, I deliberately tried to fill in the centre with larger motifs and even some creature sketches. So for me, the beginning is to stop dwelling on the edges and begin moving into the centre.



July 12th, 2015



On Friday I visited All Star Comics here in Melbourne. I'd walked past it several times on my lunchtime walks, plus my best friend has his comic subscription there, so I thought I'd check it out.


I love the mixture of different architecture styles on Queen Street.

Now, I might lose some friends by admitting this, but I'm not into superheroes. I also don't like the thought of having to go in and buy new issues every week/fortnight: I'm impatient and I want the whole story now! I'm also a completist and couldn't stand to start reading a story part-way in. So you might be wondering why I'd be interested at all in going to a comic shop. Some of my friends read them, and also writers of several of the blogs I read, and I'm open-minded, so I guess I was curious. I've also really enjoyed reading some graphic novels in the past (e.g. Maus and Sandman) and I was hoping they might have some.

The place covered two levels, and it was enormous! I didn't take any photos of the inside, but I was impressed with the set-up. All of the current issues were on the ground level, as well as indie and local sections. I was very interested by the local section. Many of them reminded me of zines, but in the end I didn't select anything from there -- this time. I saw a couple of comics that seemed interesting (e.g. Lumberjanes) but I was too shy to ask about how the whole system worked. I ventured upstairs and found the graphic novel section. There was a large selection but, again, I didn't really know what to choose.

In the end I went with what I knew and chose these adaptations of classic novels:



Manga Jane Austen and Proust's In Search of Lost Time. The latter has been on my list of books to read for a long time, but its 3,000-page length and reputation as one of the best novels of the 20th century has always made me hesitate. Perhaps this will help ease me into it, though it only covers the first out of the seven volumes!

As for the Manga version of Pride and Prejudice, I felt a little guilty purchasing that, but I've already read the original, so it's not so bad. I figure, I'm a big fan of Manga Shakespeare, and it's only a little different. (In fact I think manga, being a visual form, is the best way of depicting plays in print, but that's a post for another time!).



The gentleman who served me was so lovely, and even gave me a discount for being a first-time customer. I felt so welcome that I definitely want to go back. After I do some more research....


July 8th, 2015



On the weekend I baked a recipe from my friend Emilie's blog: a Pear, Ginger and Treacle Cake. The version I made only had one small difference from the original -- I forgot to buy ginger so I used 2 tablespoons of minced ginger instead of the fresh. It was beautifully moist, and the pear balanced out the heat of the ginger nicely. This is definitely a repeater.

The ingredients...



Cutting up the pears.



The butter, sugar and treacle. And an opportunity to show off my cute new saucepan from Ikea. Isn't it adorable?



Adding the milk to the melted butter and treacle mixture.



Now adding the flour.



Layering the batter with pieces of pear.



Brown sugar on top and ready to be put in the oven.



The cake is done!



The pear sank a little, but that's probably quite normal.



Delicious!

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