things

I took advantage of a Monday off work to try and pull myself together.

I made baked eggs from this recipe, and it was easy and delicious. It has spices! I want to get better at using spices because without onions and garlic, food gets boring very fast.

Raw:
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Slightly overcooked (which is how I prefer them really):
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These unsexy badly-lit pictures of my wardrobe? The result of extensive organisation and purging of what is habitually referred to as the Floordrobe. I’m proud, thus they are going on the blog.

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Polly is rather keen on the hairdye scene, and we picked up some coloured hair chalks on the weekend. She experimented with blue and purple as usual, and for fun, I picked up the red, pink, orange and yellow to make a little Flame Princess makeover. I thought it would have washed out after Bikram this morning, but it turns out, I still have teensy reddish highlights (if you can spot them). I quite like them, although I trust none of my clients noticed today at work.

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Speaking of Bikram and work: my backpack at 5:30am… again, boring picture for everyone else, but it holds: breakfast, lunch, two towels, my Bikram costume, my work shoes and clothes, my toiletries, and my water bottle. I was quite impressed with my packing and organisational skills. Onto the blog it goes.

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I came out of a particularly draining call conference to find a parcel from mummy on my desk, with a fancy magical butter dish and a tapestry kit from Erhman Tapestry. I’m itching to get started but I must finish the sashiko first!! I’ve only got about an hour’s work left to do so I must knuckle down.

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Work today was a 9 in terms of loathing. I shut myself away and cried in the training room at 9:30am, although things slowly improved over the course of the day. It’s nearly always the first day back that is the worst, I suppose I should not have long weekends…

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sashiko monday

Polly woke me this morning by repeatedly lifting and dropping my arm onto the bed, as my alarm had been ringing for 3 minutes without effect. She explained that she didn’t want to scare me by shaking me the way normal people wake other normal people. I was very confused.

Additionally I was very grateful as this meant we got to go to 6am yoga (despite having gone to yoga the night before too). Double yoga was required to get through today… and I survived! I even left work at 5pm instead of staying there stewing over how much poop work I have. Score would probably be a 6 today actually!

This evening I didn’t want to waste my time on the internet so Polly and I watched 30 Rock and Mean Girls… and I finished the grid pattern of my sashiko! Unremarkable photo below, but proof nonetheless. Up close the stitches are quite wonky and irregular, especially when my attention was more on the TV, and all natural light was gone so I was pricking my fingers a fair bit. But from even just a small distance it’s charming, and more importantly, it’s done! Well the grid is done…

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I just realised that I never put my sashiko embroidery on my blog, only on Facebook! Scandal.

Here is the sashiko kit I ordered online back in February:

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And here is an action shot from when I first started, which shows the pre-printed pattern I am following on the back:

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Some time in March I lost interest and spent the winter staring at my iPhone. But these early morning yoga classes mean I have to limit evening screentime, so here we are… I seem to have lost the little leather thimble/needle guard (I had been using it to help me prick eggs with a pin before boiling them, to stop the shells from cracking. It’s very effective but it’s tough on my wussy fingers, and the leather needle-guard was perfect. But now I can’t find it) but I have a feeling the circular patterns are going to be a lot more challenging than the grid!

a good day

Today was a binge-study day. I have to write an essay and prepare a presentation on the manufacture of silk and I’m running out of time. So it was a long, long day of research and writing — I forgot to set an alarm and woke up at 9, threw on clothes and bolted out the door. I’m home again finally at 10PM and I am so weary… but I am really happy, not because I have done all my schoolwork (I haven’t! Argh! damn my stupid cold which knocked me out for most of the last 10 days!), but because during the course of the day I had two nice surprises.

One was an invitation to do this course:

I fell in love with Abby’s delicate, enchanting work when I visited her studio a few months ago. I was moaning just yesterday to some of my fellow students how I’m anxious about not getting enough hands-on experience with the materials I’m interested in — which are ceramics and bronzes. Everyone has messed around with clay and made basic pots in their childhood, but how often do you get an opportunity to sit down with an artist and learn more about porcelain? AND I will be taking home my own piece at the end of the month! I have a feeling it will be a pathetic copy of Abby’s own style as I adore her tiny porcelain pots and her prints… I hope she sees it as a case of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”! I don’t have much artistic creativity but I do get very inspired by other people. And if you’re in Melbourne you should check it out too! you can click the picture to read more about the course.

ANYWAY. The other nice thing today was getting to Skype (silently, from the library) with my superhero boyfriend. It’s not normally an option but he has trekked down to Kabul from the Bamiyan mountains and I got to see his ginger face for the first time since February. Not for long though, as it was mostly a blurry pixellated screen (hence why we rarely Skype anyway). I got a little over-excited and wished him happy birthday, but it turns out I got the date wrong. How do I still get the date wrong after writing it on a million forms when we were in France… too busy thinking about Bombyx Mori I guess. Fingers crossed my birthday parcel sent on the 16th of April reaches him by the end of the week!

Totally counts as studying: June 2011, James and me on the Lake Como — a major centre for silk in Italy! We were taking our motorcycle on the ferry and it was very hot and my biker pants were very uncomfortable… but it was still absolutely beautiful.
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basket weaving

One of the gazillion things that I love about my course is the huge variety of topics we cover. I tend to refer to it as “art restoration” when people ask me what I do, but really it’s a far broader spectrum that “repairing paintings” which is what tends to spring to mind.

For me, this topic is the ideal Renaissance Man subject. I am interested in so many things and every single hour we cover something different. Sometimes it’s chemistry — the composition of the myriad of plastics, understanding the components in paint, or identifying the best solvent for cleaning an object. Sometimes it’s IT — 3D scanning of objects for archives, using computer technology to analyse works, or understanding the conservation of digital media. Other days we wax theoretical about the social importance of cultural materials, or delve into art history (my first love…). All of this science and philosophy is fascinating, but just as enjoyable is getting our hands dirty to understand skills and materials by handling them ourselves.

We started the class with a smudge of botany, learning about the best species to work with for basket-weaving, how to store them, and how to prepare them for use.

(family joke)
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Ginger! lots of ginger! Here is a strand of dried ginger, accompanied by a damp one, ready for use.

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A lab full of Australian women, examining bits of dead grass. Real science.

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This is the inside of a tall spike rush (Eleocharis). It was highly therapeutic to make it snap by pinching one end of the stem and running your thumb and finger all the way down, “popping” the little casings. Then you split it open and display gorgeous yellows.

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My first attempt at making 2-ply cord. It’s actually quite simple and really fun — like crocheting or knitting, something very soothing to do. Mine looks kind of manky but once I got the hang of it, it evened out. The sap gets squeezed out as you go and stains your fingers, creating a sort of resin that helps keep the twisted grass in place. It smells heavenly too.

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Second round, this time trying to make a much finer cord with a different fibres from the Cabbage Tree. The uninitiated such as myself generally have quite intense hand cramps from pinching and twisting the strands into place, not to mention how gummed up you get from the sap. I would still love to do it again!

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Then we quickly made a few little fish out of fresher leaves (I really suck at taking proper notes. These were… green?).

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Then I combined my cords and my fish in a twee Etsy-type composition. Done! Time for the next class!

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inspiration

Today I met up with Fiona for breakfast in North Melbourne, before we cycled over to Kensington for the Open Studio day of a couple of her friends at Ink & Spindle.

Lara and Tegan design and hand-print gorgeous fabrics, and we arrived just as they were finishing up the screen printing demonstration. I loved their beautiful patterns and colours, and it made me wish I had an actual need for fabric in my life right now.

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But just as inspiring were the workspaces themselves — they share their studio with some talented jewellery-makers and illustrators, as well as the start-up Handmaker’s Factory.

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I have some space in my new home, to make up for the lack of actual bedroom space, and I have been thinking about how I want to set it up. I would like for it to be more like a studio space than a simple desk for studying — somewhere I can keep my embroidery, knitting, painting and modelling gear, as well as my school books and my “art restoration kit”.

Anyway, back to today. We came out of the studio, and by magic found ourselves on… the Capital City Trail. The weather is gorgeous this weekend, and riding Gary along the trail is like an injection of the happiest-making drug in the world. The smell in the air, that Australian heat smell, sort of spicy, the smell of the Bush, I don’t know what makes it so entrancing? I like this post on the particularities of the Australian bush, although of course riding the CCT through the inner north is not actually anything like the bush itself.

My emotional, passionate love for Australia is a secret to nobody, and the fact that I am incapable of hearing or singing I still call Australia home without breaking down in huge, body-wracking sobs causes endless entertainment to the more sadistic of my friends. In fact, just obtaining the below video — hideously cheesy and commercial though it may be — meant I spent a good ten minutes crying.

I can’t explain what it is that makes me, as someone who doesn’t have her own country or cultural identity, feel so at home here. I sometimes find it hard to believe I’m actually really here at last, after the last two years (not to name drop but I went through I think 14 different countries, some of them multiple times, before finally coming home to Melbourne). It’s like finally being given what I never thought I could have — as a permanent resident of Australia, I will never have to leave again if I don’t want to.

A lot of Australians don’t really get what it is that I love so much about this country, and even more non-Australians are surprised at how much I cling to a country that some of them describe in less than flattering tones (unsurprisingly, this only comes from people who haven’t actually ever BEEN here). And I am afraid I simply don’t have the words to tell them. But today, as I was riding Gary along the CCT, breathing the fragrant air and feeling the sun on my skin and with the biggest, bluest sky overhead, I realised that I never, ever have to stop doing this. I can go on riding my bike along this trail for the rest of my life. Not all day every day, I just mean… for the first time, there was a sense of permanency. I will be riding this bike trail when I turn 30 later this year, and I will be doing this when I’m 35, and 40, and 60. This is my home and I will always, always love Melbourne, no matter where I am in the world.

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ollie the owl

Another post written in advance but waiting for the right moment to go up! I am so proud of this piece. It’s a gift I made for my darling friend Bonnie, upon whose spare mattress I have been inhabiting since I got back to Melbourne. Bonnie loves owls, and this seemed the perfect gift to express my unending thanks to the dear girl. I didn’t expect it to take 27 hours (yes, twenty seven, T-W-E-N-T-Y S-E-V-E-N, my fingers were so sore by the end) to complete — which I had to rush as I only had 3 days to make him.

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Superhero James is also in town, and he made this gif for me so I could show Ollie off under every angle:

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I made Ollie from a kit, as I am not quite talented enough to design my own pieces, but there is still a lot of love and effort that went into him and hopefully Bonnie loves him too!

bananas

Today, because of some manky bananas, my day was extremely exciting.

Next time I open my fridge and see a couple of black bananas, I will just chuck them in the bin.

I looked at the bananas and thought how they were perfect for banana bread. I have an oven, and I have successfully made banana bread in the past. A light was persistently flickering in my brain and gradually grew brighter.

After spending a couple of hours writing a friend’s CV (why am I always writing other people’s CVs and essays and letters? I guess I just love the gratitude), I was in the mood to MAKE something. I decided I would head out to the Kotte Road Arpico (the Sri Lankan equivalent of Carrefour, R.P.Co, which is in easier to pronounce than Arpico, but never mind). It took me a couple of hours to crawl over the entire store and locate various things for baking and also for making. I came home, put on some dancing-singing-wiggling music, and cleaned my kitchen in my underwear, so as to start in a suitably responsible fashion.

I’m so glad I took a picture as something to remember it by…
Photobucket I got to work approximating a banana bread recipe. Actually I was trying to work off two different recipes simultaneously, and making conversions and substitutions. I call this patchwork baking. Frankenstein Baking. Then I dropped a half-cup of melted butter EVERYWHERE over my nice clean kitchen. I don’t think it will ever come out of the wooden doors. The Frankenstein baking equivalent of blood everywhere…

I paused to throw my half-ready batter in the fridge to protect it from the ants that swarm every crumb I drop, cleaned up as best I could, purchased more butter, melted it and without dropping it, added it to my batter, eventually reaching the stage of transferring it to the cupcake tins. It was more like cement than batter but I soldiered on, determined to make these bloody muffins.

It wasn’t until they were in the oven that I noticed I hadn’t put in the eggs or the vanilla essence, although some recipes didn’t seem to care. I certainly didn’t by now. They did eventually start to rise and to smell like bananas, and by the time they came out of the oven they were slightly appetising I suppose. I ate two. I guess that’s a success?

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Then I made this dramatic recreation of the scene, aka a plasti-scene (arf arf arf).
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Then I went for a 1-hour run (it would have been longer but the bloody treadmill screamed STOPPPPP!!! at 60 minutes and switched itself off, which always annoys the frick out of me). Now it’s evening and I guess I have achieved a fair amount for a Sunday.

It’s funny; I have been through this before (not the bananas and butter adventures; this burst of manic activity). I know that I use Yaz to treat what some people have foolishly diagnosed as bipolar disorder but I prefer to think of as a “quirky personality”. Every time I go off Yaz, I am subjected to a week or so of being absolutely raw and angry. Then I adjust and discover this new, happy, energetic (*cough cough* manic) me. I decide to stay off the pill and be ME MY REAL SELF. I prance around congratulating myself and my hippy friends tell me I’m right to stay away from those awful chemical hormones. But then it keeps building; I go through a couple of cycles and my endometriosis makes life misery for me, hormones cause me to live every minor event as an extreme, life-impacting experience. I reach a breaking point (generally involving screaming at my boss/boyfriend or smashing something) and realise I need to go back on the pill. And then it all quietens down again and I feel safe and protected from the world once more.

It’s always a difficult choice. Yaz has many benefits and I don’t plan to stop taking it… but I’m always torn when I get these glimpses of the “real me” and think how much fun she has. Of course, by the time I go back onto Yaz, I’m very much sick of the crazy “real me” and I am relieved to escape her…