Friday, 27 November 2009

Chillaxin' with the Friday Top 5 before 5 #2

Please take a deep breath and make your self a cup of tea and come sit quietly with me as we run through today's Top 5.

This weeks theme is all about being happy - taking the time to relax, have a peaceful moment and move forward in a graceful, positive manner. Sound impossible? Feels like it sometimes. And I don't mean just putting on your "happy face" and repeating that "everything's wonderful" and shoving the bad nasty feelings aside, I want to be calm, cool, serene even. Cooler than a tropical island holiday - tropical islands have sticky sand that gets in places you don't want it to be, pestering flies, sunburn and hangovers. In fact, tropical island holidays are just the same as putting on your happy face, with a big credit card bill at the end of it all.

So I'm working towards a lifelong chillax. Yes I am. Will you join me?

Here's what inspired me this week to make a few changes in my life to increase the happy and relaxed me and decrease the emotional, stressed, fragile and self-sabotaging me.

(Well, baby steps people. I have not fully evolved into a goddess yet. Please do not expect such a startling transformation so soon. I also have a weekend of excessive drinking planned*, but I will try not to make this 'a diet starts tomorrow' sort of situation.)

1. Gwen Bell of Big Love in a Small World blog fame wrote an interesting article entitled "Are you your Biggest Competitor? 3 simple ways to relax right now".What she says about stress and learning to relax makes a lot of sense to me and it also makes for very reassuring reading. Feeling like you don't live up to expectations (whether they're placed on you by yourself, your friends/family or society) takes an awful toll on your emotional well being and ability to relax and be happy.

She also speaks about yoga. There is a yoga class at my gym which I have been thinking about taking for some time. (I do think a lot don't I?!) Do you practice yoga? Do you think it helps relax you? I guess I worry about being the fattest most uncoordinated person in the class, but then that's just self sabotaging thinking isn't it?

2. Whole & Happy is a new blog that my lovely friend Alex has just started. She's on a truly courageous journey practicing healthy, happy, harmonious habits for a healthy, happy, harmonious planet. Pretty inspirational. I certainly embrace the philosophy that making a better 'you' requires making a better planet too. I'm not as brave as her (sugar free?! ARGH!) but it's good food for thought, that's for sure.

3. Living without Money - is an article about another courageous women who has willingly lived without money for 13 years now. She gave away everything she owns. It's a scary but inspirational read which makes these 5 small decluttering projects seem like a piece of cake! I'm not planning to live without money or possessions but I would like to make living in my one bedroom apartment with a boy and a cat a little bit more roomy. I'll always have sentimental attachments to some items but I don't want to feel defined by my stuff, or worry about what I don't have.

I've made a start - I just donated 2 enormous bags full of clothes to Vinnies, which my groaning shelves have thanked me for. Next plan is to tackle the bookcase. But don't worry - I'll let you all know what's up for grabs before I donate them.

4. Remembering that there is a world outside of 'me' - take a look at some of these awesome images from the National Geographic 2009 International Photography contest and tell me the world isn't an amazing place! I should get out more. Out of my office.

5. Make something. And please note - I did not specify finishing said project, just to keep making. Keeping my hands busy seems to be the best way for my mind to relax sometimes. Thoughts about the day and things that are stressing me out all seem to melt away when I'm focusing on a nice crafty project.

I'm finding that mastering the crochet hook is ever so relaxing. I can't crochet and pay attention to the TV, so that cuts down on my mindless television watching, which is a plus. I'm also getting a kick out of making really tasty food from scratch. Extra satisfying to eat. And of course, folding paper cranes, the ultimate time out for me. My collection of security paper cranes is growing and growing thanks to lots of lovely people donating the envelopes their bills come in!

If you can finish your project then good for you. But don't beat yourself up if you haven't wielded instant results. Just keep at it. Next step - give it away, spread the love and start over. That's the happy part!

Well, that's my plan anyway. What do you think? Got any tips for relaxing and being happy? What works best for you?

* Decided to excessively drink ORGANIC wine and cider this weekend. That will alleviate all guilt, surely.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Do you stop to smell the roses?

I am not a morning person. Hence, I am late to work most days.

Today, as I raced out the door and up the road, already starting to fret about work (and also, whether to get fruit salad or turkish raisin toast for breakfast. Food is a very serious matter to me.) I was distracted by this rose bush out the front of someone's house.

 be honest the roses are about 2 metres in the air, drooping downwards from a fence/garage, so you'd be correct in thinking that it's hard to get distracted by something above your line of sight. You could say, I deliberately stopped to look at them. You could even say I was dawdling when already late for work.

One might even say that I was stopping to smell the roses, if you're that way inclined.

I am that way inclined. It's a nice inclination. They smelt damn sweet too.

These two fuzzy close ups remind me of a Cath Kidston print, don't you think?

Incidentally, her Rose & Carnation hand cream is one of my favs. It smells lovely and has sweet little silver gold stars on the tin.

I suggest you buy yourself some then if you don't have a rose bush to stop and admire, you can stop and admire your lovely smelling hands. (I found it stocked in Target for all you Australian readers!)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Good things come...

to those who...

1. Don't particularly deserve them
2. Were really in need of some cheering up nonetheless
3. Are immensely grateful for all the love

Today was tough. Tonight was just lovely.

On the way home we took the scenic route for fresh ocean treasure AND there was a lovely surprise parcel waiting for me when we got home. 


My stomach bulged with contentment, my heart burst with happiness.

Good things come. Yes they do. I will remember it.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday Top 5 before 5 #1

Yep folks, every Friday I'm going to post a Top 5 before 5pm. It's my new blogging goal. Hold me to it. (No-one does any work in the office on a Friday anyway, do they?!)

I'm going to kick off with 5 crafty projects which have been filling me from head to toe with excitement this week. I'm truly giddy with excitement!

1. Granny Stars
I bought this pattern from Sarah London and amazed myself by actually following said pattern and making something. This truly is a first for me, as I am a pattern-a-phobe. It drives my mother insane. I always tell her about my idea for some new bag/outfit/cushion etc and she'll say - "So where's the pattern?" and I just point to my head.

These granny stars crochet up so fast which is super satisfying. I'm going to turn them into a garland  - stay tuned for my finished product! Also thinking about decorating all my Christmas presents with one. Got any other bright ideas for these stars people?

2. The Great 2010 Tea Towel Swap
I did a screen printing course last year with my best friend Grant. We had grand plans to take over the world with our amazing screen printed designs. We bought loads of fabric and ink and got our screens made up and finished the course and then left the lot in the spare room.
Here's some shots of our 'grand designs...

I was tidying up my stash the other day when I came across a bunch of tea towels and linen ready to be screen printed on and thought to myself - "You really need to get this project finished."

Enter The Great 2010 Tea Towel Swap - the genius idea of Sooz and Kate. This is the kick up the bum I need - I get to finish what I started and receive tea towels from people all over the world in exchange!

I just hope they like Dolly Parton, Frida Kahlo, Poppies or Jarvis Cocker.

You should sign up too!

3. Ink & Spindle meet my Couch
I've been meaning to update the cushions on my couch for a while now. I love the old ones, but it's been 3 years and now it's time for a change. I'm fickle like that.

Then I remembered Ink & Spindle and how I've been lusting after Lara Cameron's work for years now. Stunning designs, hand screen printed in Melbourne (which after my course at CoFA I have a whole new appreciation for!) and they're carbon neutral. What's not to love?!
I think these Ink & Spindle fabrics are going to get on very well with my couch.

4. Stitch n Bitch this Sunday
I love every 3rd Sunday with all my heart. I get to see the ever so lovely Alfalky, drink my most favourite thickshake in the entire world at one of my favourite cafe's (the Caramello at Mickey's in Paddington. $7.50 but worth every delicious sip.) and crochet away the afternoon with other sweet and talented ladies.
Do you belong to a crafting group? They are the best fun.

5. Meet Me at Mikes - The Book!
So I finally got around to purchasing the ever so adorable Meet Me at Mikes craft book, as a belated birthday/early christmas present for myself. I knew it would be filled with super awesome of course, but I guess I didn't realise HOW MUCH awesome could be inside.

Trust me, it's a whole lot. I have been carrying it around with me all week, taking it out of my bag and hugging it, or flipping through the pages and longingly staring at the sweet images. But where to start? The begining? I don't know - I can't decide as it's all so enticing!

I was thinking of starting up a group (online of course!) where everyone makes the same project, working our way through the entire book of course, and then blogs about each project when they are done. Would be cool to see how everyones project turns out.

What do you think peeps? Anyone in? I was thinking we could have 2 weeks per project, as life gets busy and all, huh? Maybe we need more time? Let me know if you are interested and I will get a McLinky list happening or something.

Got a copy of Pip's book? If not, get one!

That's my first Top 5. Hope whatever you're making this weekend turns out just splendid!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Non! Je ne regrette rien!

You know how sometimes, at the hairdressers, things don't go exactly as you plan? You go in, you think you've explained what you want to the hairdresser, but you come away with something completely different, like 2 inches shorter or not enough layers around your face?

And you have a sinking feeling, as you sit there in the chair, checking out the progress, but you tell yourself, maybe it's just the way she's styling it, when I get home and style it my way I'm sure it'll be fine... You don't speak up there and then because you don't want to offend the hairdresser, you don't feel brave enough to explain again with conviction what you thought you already conveyed or you don't want to pester them with constant grumbles and be some annoying painful customer. So you hand over your hard earned cash and swallow your misery.

Back home in front of the bathroom mirror you confirm that it's not fine. It's not what you wanted at all. But thankfully, hair grows back.

Unfortunately I didn't get a haircut on the weekend. I got tattooed instead.

This is a fuzzy shot, so that probably doesn't help.

 Be Honest. It looks like two pen drawings on my arms, doesn't it?

I wanted them to be simple and calm. I wanted them to be slightly higher on my wrists. I wanted them to have thicker lines. I didn't want them to be perfect (because I'm not and neither are any of the cranes I make) but I didn't want them to look like dodgy doodles.

But I didn't speak up. I could say it was because the guy who did them was a grump, and everytime I've seen him he's complaining about customers who didn't know what they wanted, or customers who were too clueless, or someone who didn't want want he wanted etc etc and I was too gutless to take him on.

But it wasn't his fault I didn't get exactly what I wanted was it?

It's okay though. I can get the lines made thicker once these heal. I can grow to like where they are on my arms. I can accept that they're not hardcore, because neither am I. Like Edith Piaff, I do not have regrets. I just need to grow.

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

If you are wondering why I got two paper cranes tattooed on my arms it's because paper cranes symbolise loyalty, honor and peace. Commendable virtues, wouldn't you say? I'm a very stubborn person, which is like a form of loyalty. I believe in peace, love and mungbeans even though sometimes I can be a bit of a shit stirrer. Folding paper cranes is a meditative action for me and more than anything I like to fold them for other people. Tiny and delicate, colourful yet calm, silent symbols of my love for others.

But these two paper cranes are for me. They're there to bring me strength, remind me to be honourable, to seek peace and to uphold my loyalty.

The crane is a majestic bird which mates for life and is extremely loyal to its partner. The bird is strong, graceful and beautiful. The Japanese believe that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you will be granted your greatest wish, which is why they're also a symbol of good luck.

I've made several thousand since I first learnt to make them 10 years ago. I'm not sure what my greatest wish is exactly. I'm not sure that I need good luck, but maybe that's because it's already taking effect. Karmic paper cranes? Not sure about that. But I'm going to keep folding these paper cranes nonetheless, storing up all this good luck for a rainy day. If you need some good luck, let me know, I'm happy to share my stockpile.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

how do you take your tea?

I love tea. Tea is my preferred tipple. This has been well established.
I believe you've already met my favourite tea cup.

If you can find a better song to drink tea to I will.... I will switch to coffee. Permanently.

"Now when I say OOOH you say LONG - OOH, LONG, OOH, LONG!"

I don't know who this Elemental fellow is but I like him.
Some say he's a quintessential English fellow, explorer, scientist, exotic dancer and some might say raving lunatic. Banned from 13 of the colonies for 'unspeakable scientific experiments', yet heralded as something of a deity in a great many more.
Is that so? 

I fancy a cup of tea right now. Do you? How do you take your tea?
Elemental - "I want milk in it. Strong though. I want to see that teaspoon stand up!"

Here's what I see when I finish my cup -

True that.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Wire, the dreams, the daisies and what Obama and I have in common.

The other night, after posting My Secret Weapon, I watched a few more episodes of The Wire and toddled off to bed.

That night I dreamt that Omar made me ThemeQueen of the My Place & Yours meme (he probably threatened poor Pip with his sawn off shotgun) and as a result, the theme for that week was "My Street Corner".

If you've seen The Wire, then you might be imagining some gruesome scenes. I did. There was a lot of blood, poverty and dead bodies.

Of course, in my dream the photos I posted were all beautifully shot in warm fuzzy tones, with some magical bokeh elements where the sunshine blurred in the background of the image. They were sad yet beautiful images.... Oh analyse that people, and tell me I'm not completed screwed in the head! Drugs and poverty could never be beautiful. I was a fool to dream.

Thankfully, that's not my street corner. I don't live in the projects or towers of westside Baltimore. I live in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and the only drug dealing in my suburb goes on in multimillion dollar mansions. Poolside, I imagine. Or maybe in a ginormous kitchen with Caesarstone benchtops and Miele appliances that never get used. I don't know. It's none of my business.

What I wanted to say was that I really like my street. I get a happy glow inside when I leave the house or when I'm walking home from the station in the evening. I look at the ocean and it smiles back at me, all sparkly and blue. I walk under a canopy of wisteria and jacarandah and arch my neck up so all I can see is purple and green. I breathe deeply when I pass the star jasmine that's completely blocking somebodies garage and wonder if they'll be able to get their car out. I look out for the overgrown vine and fondly stroke the lush green leaves. I smile at the hot pink bouganvillia. And then right at the street corner I turn back and look up someone's front steps.

I love these steps.

Every so often the owners pull out all the "weeds" but those stubborn little daisies always grow back. They sure do make me happy. I'd like to sit with them and watch the world go by. But I can't, because they're not my steps. Do you think they'd mind?

If I was to sit on those steps, I think I'd print out some of the Wire illustrations by Blake Hicks. They're too cool. I'd make a whole colouring in book and while away the day colouring and drinking rose lemonade.

I sure do like that Omar Devone Little a LOT. Did you know that he's also President Barack Obama's favourite character on The Wire? Yep. I read that on wikipedia folks.

Anyway, I'm not about to take over anyone's meme or anything, that would be rude and mean. So that's all from my corner of the street for now.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Rainy days and soggy smiles

Our annual visit to Sculpture by the Sea was not as sunny as last year.

I’m not sure if I was influenced by the weather but I was rather underwhelmed by the sculptures on display this year. And even though my brother told me not to compare them to last years, but to compare them to the Bronte to Bondi cliff walk as it usually is, I still felt disappointed.

It seemed that our destiny was bleak, no matter which direction we took, it rained.

(Okay I liked this sculpture.)

So I focused on things that did make me smile.

Oh the pretty patterns raindrops make on glasses. Like translucent freckles.

I sure was glad I wasn't wearing a white t-shirt though. Have you been to see Sculpture by the Sea this year? What did you think? Should I go back on a sunnier day and give it another shot?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

My Place & Yours: My Secret Weapon

I missed a week or two of Pip's My Place & Yours meme because living in a one bedroom apartment with a boy and a cat means certain compromises have to be made regarding space. I do not have a 'blogging HQ', a 'creative space' or even a dining table. Maybe this is why I never get anything done?!

This week's theme, chosen by Deedrie of My Bricole fame, was 'My Secret Weapon'. It's a good challenge, no? Thought provoking, a little left of field and requires no dusting. Yay!

She wrote:
I’m asking everyone to share her/his “secret weapon”. No deep dark secrets here, just something you keep close to your creative heart...Whatever it is, it should something that you know you can go to in a pinch and it will never let you down.

So, keeping in mind this is a creative stimulus and not 'My Secret Vice', I am not going to share with you my favourite drop of whiskey, felafel restaurant, chocolate block, tv show or much used couch. They may never let me down but they're hardly stimulating.

My Secret Weapon has completely changed my outlook on life. Literally. It makes me look up, look down, focus, zoom in and stand still. Sometimes I have to crawl on the ground, get my feet wet or ask my boyfriend to stop the car, stop the car, please can you pull over!

The beauty of my secret weapon is that even when I don't have it on me, I'm still looking at and thinking about the world with a different point of view. It's enriched my every day - my walk to the bus stop is filled with stop and smell the roses moments. Every day becomes a holiday because my secret weapon is a Holga.

What's a Holga? It's a plastic toy camera. It's simple and it requires little technical knowledge about photography, which is good, because I have none. Sometimes it punishes me but if I'm patient and persistant I get rewarded with beautiful shots that fill me with warm fuzzy feelings. Best of all, I can even pretend I'm an artist. Now I just have to convince others that I'm an artist and all my dreams will have come true!

This is my second Holga. I stepped on my first one. Oops.

Sometimes (quite frequently) my photos don't turn out how I imagine, sometimes they don't turn out at all and at roughly $10 for a roll of 12 shots and $20 to get the film developed, it's not the cheapest of hobbies. I've been disappointed many a time after waiting in anticipation for my film to be developed, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. But even if my physical photos turn out to be failures, I still get to keep those beautiful images, those peaceful moments and creative surges in my mind.

Here's some of the good, the bad and the ugly that me and my holga have captured on film:

Do you have a holga? Got any tips for me now you've seen my photos?!
What inspires you creatively? What's your secret weapon? Join in here!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bob Dylan at the National Portrait Gallery

I was at the National Portrait Gallery in London in September and happened to stumble across a little exhibition of Bob Dylan portraits, taken by Barry Feinstein during Dylan's 1966 European tour. It's on until 29th November 2009 so if you're in the area you should pop in and check it out.

 Disclosure: I have no idea how these images happened to be on my camera when I left the gallery!

 I thought I'd share them with you, especially since I found this lovely youtube clip from the same year to accompany them, he looks so young and happy. Even though it was his transition year from folk to electric and everyone hated him and all...

In celebration of all things 1966 and Bob Dylan, I'm gonna dust off Blonde on Blonde this weekend and see if my record player still works. I shall also write to two special people who I just don't see enough of these days, and reminisce about the days when we used to listen to Dylan on our walkman, sharing an ear each and singing along. Good times.

Peace, love and rock n roll my friends!
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