Sunday, 2 April 2017

Hello Autumn!

Finally, it's here! Autumn.

Autumn comes late in this part of the world. According to our Western calendar, it should have arrived on 1st March. And according to the equinoxes, it should have appeared on 21st March. The indigenous people of this region know better however -- Autumn doesn't show itself until the end of March, at the very earliest.

Lately I've been thinking more about the things that are important to me, how they tie together and how to appreciate them in my life. Honouring the seasons is important to me, but I don't follow the Wheel of the Year as many do. I've been thinking about how to do it in my own way. For the last few years, I've written a list of crafts and other activities to do each season, but after a while it started to feel like just another to-do list. This time I modified it to more of an inspirational concept, with a bit of calendar thrown in. I put it on my listography here. I'd like to find a way of presenting it so that I can add more photos, perhaps of finished projects, etc.

I've also decided to start doing a seasonal series of blog posts, as I love writing and taking photos, and my crafts, hobbies, lifestyle and spirituality are so intertwined that blogging about it feels like a spiritual practice to me. So here is the first one -- with all the things I'm looking forward to in Autumn!

I missed drinking tea so much! I suppose I could make iced tea in Summer, but it's just not the same. I think a yearly re-organisation of my tea cupboard is a good idea, as it certainly doesn't look as tidy as in this photo (taken a few years ago).

I love wearing layers and lots of accessories, whether it be for special co-ords or just every day. Finally, I can start wearing scarves again -- though only light ones! These are just my light scarves: I have another hanger for my woolly knitted and crocheted ones. Those are still sadly waiting for Winter to arrive, but for now at least I can content myself with all of these pretties.

Listening to the sound of rain on our steel roof is so soothing. Snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and just listening is a wonderful way to enjoy the little things. It's also nice to not have to water the garden every night: just visiting and enjoying it is so much more relaxing.

I'm looking forward to having baths again, and trying out all the bath bombs and fizzies that I've collected. I love reading in the bath, and any opportunity to read more is also welcome. I'm not sure I'd bathe in rose petals again like I did in this photo from last year, but you never know!

hot meals
Husband and I still eat hot meals in Summer most nights, as we're not really into salad, but in hot weather we don't use the oven and try to keep stovetop cooking as short as possible. As the weather cools down though, we're free to make meals that take longer to cook, and of course, baking. I can't wait to make scones, hot cross buns, banana bread and more.

Autumn treasure box
I chose a few Autumn-themed items from my stash to add to the experience -- a tea sample and 'tea snails' (which sit on the edge of your mug and stop your teabag string from disappearing into your tea). Some gingham scrunchies in appropriate colours, a bath fizzy from Daiso, and some stickers for my Hobonichi art diary.

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Perhaps I'm biased because my birthday is in April! I also love it because of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which happens in the first 3 weeks of April. There's such a jovial atmosphere in the city, and I always look forward to watching the Comedy Gala on TV (it's on tonight!). Then of course, there's the Eurovision Song Contest in May, a chance for cooking, eating and drinking, and exploring other cultures. Autumn is such a magical time!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Indian Curries Lunch Review

My local Indian grocery has a permanent sale on a brand of packaged curries called GITS: 3 packets for $6. There are about 15 flavours to choose from. All varieties are vegetarian, and most are vegan and gluten-free. I chose three packets to have for lunch during the week.

The first curry I had was Punjabi Khadi: described as "deep-fried chickpea dumplings immersed in a gravy of yoghurt and chickpea flour". Turmeric, fenugreek and mustard gives it a mild but complex flavour. The spiciness rating is Medium, but I thought it was quite mild. I hadn't tasted this variety of curry before, and I liked it very much. Unlike the other curries I tried, this had no vegetables in it. The dumplings were a little dry, but the sauce made up for it. The number of dumplings was the same as in the photo, which I thought was amusingly accurate.

Palak Paneer is a mild semi-soft cheese in a spinach sauce. I've had this type of curry many times before and enjoyed it again. The spiciness rating was Medium, but again, I found it very mild. The spinach lends a smooth, green flavour and the serving of cheese cubes was not as sparse as I've had in other brands of curry. (Or even in some restaurants I've been to!) This was the least similar to the photo on the box, but it tasted just as good.

The last curry I tried was Aloo Matar, described as "fresh green peas cooked with potatoes and spices in a tomato and onion curry". I don't normally like peas very much, but I liked this curry. The spiciness rating was Mild, but I found this curry to be much spicier than the others. It was also a little oilier: some can be seen floating on top in the photo.

All of the curries I tried were worth purchasing again; I don't think I could pick a favourite! They were easy to heat up in the microwave, and they can also be heated in the pouch on the stove. The size is suitable for a lunch or small meal. If rice, flatbreads, etc are added, it could be a larger meal or serve two.

I'm looking forward to trying more flavours!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Temperature Scarf : First Update

I started my temperature scarf on 1st March. Autumn proper doesn't really start until late March here, and it feels strange knitting in 30-degree heat! I didn't want to wait any longer to start though. Here is the rainbow of colours I chose. They are all from my stash. Perhaps some of the colours don't quite match exactly, but I'm quite proud of myself not having to purchase any yarn at all.

[I apologise for the bad quality photos in this post -- I'm having some trouble with my computer and I wasn't able to edit them properly.]

My temperature scale is this (in celsius):
40+ : purple
37-39 : marone
34-36 : red
30-33 : orange
27-29 : yellow
24-26 : mint green
20-23 : grass green
17-19 : pale blue
13-16 : medium blue
12- : grey

I know Melbourne's temperature range well enough to choose the upper and lower limits, and choose a range of colours that will (hopefully) produce an interesting and varied scarf. Here it is at Day 19:

As you can see, the variable but mainly hot days of late Summer are visualised in warm-toned colours beautifully (if I do say so myself!), and I'm very pleased with it so far. I'm using the tube knitting technique, and planning to pull the ends through to the centre with a crochet hook instead of having to weave them in. I hope it works out!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Lottie Doll Unboxing

Last Christmas I received a Lottie doll, which sparked my interest in dolls again, and led to some research on the best ways to photograph them. I tried it out with a simple background and using my daylight lamp, for the unboxing of my Lottie Autumn Leaves doll. Actually, I've had this doll for a while. I first saw it when I was looking up Lammily doll reviews, and saw a photo of them together. I immediately thought, "Emmy needs a little sister!" At the time, the only source I could find in Australia was an online shop called Gumnut Toys, though I believe they are available in department stores now.

The Autumn Leaves Lottie is one of the earliest produced. The later versions are more diverse and have more defined themes (such as the Fossil Collector Lottie I'll be reviewing in future). I chose Autumn Leaves mainly because of the clothes, but also because of the hair colour. As you can see, the Lottie doll is boxed in a carrier-style cardboard box with a handle. There are windows in the front and sides through which to view the doll. The box can be opened without damaging it, and can be re-used as a carrier for the doll and her accessories. On the back, there's a short but cute story about walking through the forest.

As I was lifting the doll out of the box, I suddenly knew her name would be Alice. Unboxing a doll and naming it is such a magical experience: I understand why people have such large collections! Alice was attached to the backing board with twist ties and plastic around her forehead, and her accessories came in little plastic bags attached to the backing board. Alice's coat was held closed with a stitch which I had to cut. I was worried I would damage her coat in the process as it was a delicate operation. A child certainly could not have unboxed the doll without help.

The Lottie doll stands 18cm (7 inches) tall. According to the manufacturer, the doll's body is modelled after that of a 9-year-old child. Aside from the head, her proportions are realistic. Her head and eyes are slightly large in proportion to her body, but not enough to be very noticeable. The head moves from side to side, the shoulders and hips have ball joints and the knees have click joints. She can sit with her legs straight out in front of her, unlike the Lammily doll. She can stand up with shoes on, but not very well barefoot. The overall shape of the body is very elegant.

Alice's hair is soft and silky and lovely to the touch. It's a little crinkled from the twist tie around her neck, but hopefully that will drop out over time. Alice's face is just darling, and I love looking at it. It reminded me of another doll I'd seen -- the Licca-Chan doll from Japan. I don't have one ... yet! It's on my wishlist.

Alice's clothes are just beautiful, with different textures and fine details like tiny buttons. The coat is lined with a blue polkadot fabric. All of the clothes are very well made. They fasten with velcro and are very easy to put on and take off. The adorable flocked boots have a split in the back so they are also easy to remove. Many of the clothes in the Lottie range have a cohesive style -- with leggings, mixed bright colours, stripes and cute motifs on the tops. The motif on Alice's jumper is attached with velcro, allowing it to be swapped with others in the range. I thought this was a clever and a really cute detail. In the later dolls in the range however, the motifs are printed on. It's a shame that they can't be swapped, but on the other hand I guess I could make my own motifs for Alice.

The only piece of clothing I don't like is the hat. The concept of the hat is very cute, with its animal ears. However, it's made of stiff felt and sits high up on Alice's head. The printed paw motif is set off to one side, and that irks me. At first I thought it was a mistake, but when I saw photos of other dolls online, they were all the same. I wish the motif had been in the centre of the front instead of offset like that. The colour is very similar to, but not quite the same as the coat, which looks rather strange. It's only a small niggle though, and overall I love my Lottie doll to bits. I can't wait to unbox her sister!

As I mentioned in the beginning, I ordered my Lottie from Gumnut Toys, which is a small, Australian family-run company selling educational and wholesome toys. I've placed several orders with them and my experiences have been 100% positive. They are my Lottie provider of choice!

You Might Also Like...
Traveller Lammily Doll Unboxing Lammily Rocking London Clothes Set Review

Monday, 6 March 2017

My February

Once again, February whizzed by, and it was well into March before I even had a chance to look back on the month that was. It became much warmer towards the end of the month -- real Summer weather! I decided this month to focus more on things I want to do, things I won't have a chance to do once I'm working again, and not worry about whether they're 'productive' activities or not. Aside from doing a lot of crafts, I did some drawing and decorating of my Hobonichi art diary. I also watched a lot of Youtube videos, played games and caught up with friends.

I finally got around to setting up my new (well, new-to-me, anyway) phone. I didn't have a smartphone before, so I had to carry my old phone for communications, my ipod for music and my ipad for taking photos and playing Pokemon Go. It's so much more convenient to be able to do all of that on one device! I'm looking forward to getting some cute covers for it.

What I've been making ...
I finished off a couple of smaller craft projects: a scarf and cushion for my dolls and a rabbit plushie trackable. The scarf was actually on my list of projects to rip, but when I looked at it, I saw that all it needed was the fringe on the ends, so I decided to finish it. The doll cushion, as I wrote about in this post, was on my Top 5 crafts list. The rabbit was very easy to make; I used the technique from this site.

I also started my Temperature Scarf on 1st March. There isn't much to see yet, so I'll post a photo in a few weeks. Perhaps I'll do a monthly update.

Where I visited ...
I went to the Melbourne Zine Fair early in the month. It has exploded in popularity over the last few years! There were over 200 tables and it was incredibly crowded all afternoon. I spent way more than I should have, but it's only once a year. If I'm organised enough, I might even set up my own table for next year.

What I've been working on ...
We had a huge harvest of plums this year! I didn't write a separate post about it as I wrote about making plum jam last year. It got to the point where I was despairing a little on what to do with all the plums! I made about 1/3 of them into jam, but ran out of jars. Then I made stewed plums, and even using the large pot I still had quite a lot left over. In the end I made plum puree by cooking them in the slowcooker all day. I was thoroughly sick of de-stoning them by that point, but with this technique they are put in the slowcooker whole. All I had to do was fish out the stones with a slotted spoon. The puree tasted very strong and caramelised. I put it into ziplock bags and froze it. Later I'd like to try making plum sauce or perhaps a marinade.

Selections from Instagram

Thursday, 23 February 2017

My Hobonichi Art Diary 2017

I have a big confession to make ... I didn't even open my daily art diary until the 20th of January! But it's okay. I'd been feeling quite meh about filling in my old Hobonichi throughout most of December last year, and I was mainly focussing on my work for the Flare Up exhibition. In fact, it was probably the first thing worth noting that happened to me for the year anyway. I also felt a sudden urge to keep a garden diary -- noting down the activities I do in the garden each day, and I thought I may as well do that in my Hobonichi.

Oh, and sorry for the quality of the photos. I'll try a different set-up next time.

This year I bought the double-size (A5 size diary), and ever since placing the order I'd been kicking myself. It seemed intimidatingly large -- how am I going to fill up so much space every single day? The moment I started working in it though, all that dropped away and I was glad of the extra space. As you can see, I usually write quite a lot, even when I didn't have a very eventful day. It's fun to record the little things that happened. In the spread above (left), I was feeling lethargic after working at the shop, so I just drew some of the products I'd unpacked that day.

I went to the Melbourne Zine Fair, which was incredible. Several of the subsequent pages record my thoughts about the zines as I was reading them. The next day, we went to a new cafe in our suburb and had gluten-free Lebanese style pizzas. They were amazing so I had to draw them!

Last weekend, we went and bought a new bed! It doesn't arrive for 2-4 weeks as the base is custom-made. We got to choose the colour; we chose a seafoam green to compliment the lavender-coloured wall in our bedroom. I can't wait until it arrives! The linen set is entirely from my imagination, by the way.

I had been thinking about how my art has changed since I've been working in different media. In my art journal I use a lot of collage, especially layering long narrow strips to create borders. I wasn't doing that at all in my art on canvas, and I must have missed it because I started doing it using washi tape and stickers in my Hobonichi.

A few days ago my friend had a baby! I printed out the photo she sent to me and pasted it into my diary. She is a genuinely cute baby.

A couple of times, I've printed out batches of photos from my Instragram to decorate my diary. I decided to do this after seeing one of the youtubers I watch who has one of those cameras that prints polaroids on sticker paper. I went the cheap route instead! It took a little fiddling to get the size settings right, but it's been worth it. The only downside is that if I want the photo to be on the page of the day it corresponds to, I have to break out the printer just to print one photo. It's much easier to print them in batches, but I have to stick them on a different day. It's still fun though.

My old Hobonichi from last year is still not finished. I skipped quite a few days when I was tired, etc. Plus there are a lot of pages at the beginning and end which have monthly and weekly calendars, etc and I would like them to be decorated to before I can declared it finished. So I have the two diaries side-by-side and work on both of them together most nights. I covered the old diary with some leftover wrapping paper, using this method from Sailor Mimzy (video). It doesn't require any cutting or glueing, and it's very easy.

To help me fill in my old diary, I've been doing this drawing challenge. I don't draw every day, just when I feel like it, and I don't worry too much about making the drawing very complicated if I don't feel up to it. I'm currently on Day 5 and it's been fun.

I've been watching a lot of youtube videos for inspiration. My favourites are Sailor Mimzy and RainbowholicTV. Rainbowholic has a new feature where if you post your Hobonichi on Instagram with her hashtag, she features a few at the end of her videos! If I can take some good photos, perhaps I'll enter.