Sunday, 9 September 2018

Confession time : My Garden is a Mess!

Yes, it's true. My garden is a complete mess. Husband and I have just hit the 5-year anniversary of living in our house, and the garden isn't what I wanted it to be at all. Not that this is a 5-year celebration post. That would be a bit sad.

I wanted to explain though, why I haven't posted any garden updates for a long time. I've become less interested in looking after my garden in the last year or so, but a garden is something you can't just give up on -- there are consequences! Last Summer I didn't water the plants as much as I should have, and while some did okay, others didn't thrive. There were other times when I was more enthusiastic about working in the garden but life got in the way. I was busy, I was sick, I sprained my ankle (twice), I did my back, it was pouring rain all weekend. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses -- it's just life.

Anyway, let's look at the shame.

This is the view I see when I leave the house in the morning and come home. This stand was supposed to be a greenhouse, but I took the plastic off last Summer as it seemed to be just cooking the plants. Some of the plants are doing pretty well, others are expiring before my eyes:

Here is our backyard. (Technically it's off the side of the house, but it's where the space is and functions as a backyard.) The fruit trees are blossoming like they're supposed to, but the lawn hasn't been mowed in months and the orange tree really needs help.

Some of those oranges are ready to be picked and are just weighing down the tree, and those yellow leaves mean it needs to be fertilised. Mowing underneath it would help the fertiliser to penetrate and prevent the tree from competing with the grass for nutrients.

This rosemary bush grows incredibly well -- too well. It's become all tangled up in the long grass and a bit weighed down. It could do with a trim, too. On the other hand, the flowers are lovely and attract bees to the garden. The dead stump has been there ever since we moved in; we've yet to find a way to get rid of it.

This is technically the back yard. It's a narrow strip that runs along the back of the house. It's where I sprained my ankle when I was gardening a few months ago. It's the area I'd like to deal with first as not only is it an ugly view from my bedroom window, it's the only way to access the side yard and it's an actual safety hazard.

The lavender bush I planted last year is growing very well and I'm very happy with it. However, it's getting a bit crowded out with grass and that bush on the left is encroaching on its sunlight.

This is at the front of the house -- in full view of anyone walking past! The garden bed here is a strange mix of vigorously growing plants, and ones that have just dropped dead and been replaced by weedy grass. It really needs a good mulching and a few nice plants put in to replace the dead ones.

At least there are some dandelions among the grass. I've been deliberately leaving them alone wherever I see them. There aren't enough yet for me to feel comfortable harvesting them, but perhaps this Summer I can make some dandelion leaf salad and fritters from the flowers.

I hope this post goes some way to explaining why I haven't blogged about my garden in such a long time, despite my professed love of gardening, as well as motivation for me to start improving things this Spring season!

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Haul : New Harry Potter Shop in Melbourne!

This month, the Shop of Requirement opened here in Melbourne. It's actually within walking distance of my work, and it's been very hard to resist the temptation to go nearly every day at lunchtime! I waited until Husband and a friend were able to come too, for my (first!) visit.

I'd been told there were queues down the street in the first week of opening, but thankfully we were able to walk straight in. It was still very well patronised though, and I didn't manage to get many photos because of all the people! The shop was exquisitely decorated and set up, with a back room for relaxing and looking at the premium items in a quieter atmosphere. All of the Harry Potter merchandise that you can possibly imagine was there, from wands and robes to biscuit cutters and shot glasses. One wall had a bay dedicated to each house:

The atmosphere was so full of excitement it was a little overwhelming, and I only bought a few things. I snapped up the sticker book because ... stickers! Over 400 Harry Potter stickers to use in my art diary, in one handy book? Yes please! The keyring blind box contained a little Dobby and Hedwig keyring.

I of course had to purchase some Hufflepuff-themed items, as a proud ... well, I'm actually a Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw hatstall, but I went with my heart.

A pink Pygmy Puff keyring! The metal tag is thick and good quality. All of the official Harry Potter items that I saw were very good quality.

Whenever I see a pack of playing cards lately, I have to admit I'm always thinking about whether I can use them for divination. The diversity and depth of the characters in Harry Potter seems like it could work. I chose the cards from Order of the Phoenix as that seemed to have the largest cast of characters and action in different locations of all the movies. (I'm willing to admit I'm wrong -- I was trying to remember off the top of my head!)

If you're in Melbourne, the Shop of Requirement is at 6 Smith Street, Collingwood. If you're planning on going, check the website, as the opening times are a little unusual. I'm sure I'll be returning soon!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

App Game Review: Furistas Cat Cafe

Furistas Cat Cafe is a casual app game by Runaway Play Studio, which came out in July 2018. You are the owner of a cat cafe, and your mission is to match cats with customers and keep them happy, while earning currency with which to decorate the cafe and upgrade the cats.

Customers enter the cafe with a preferred type of cat they wish to spend time with -- friendly, playful, shy, etc. Once you match them with a cat, they wander around spending quality time together. Minigames frequently appear, in which you prepare drinks for customers, give otherwise unoccupied cats a pat, or clean up kitty pawprints. These minigames earn you tokens. The games aren't timed and you can't "get it wrong", so they don't feel stressful. Occasionally cats will give you random tokens as well. These tokens can be used to buy furniture and other decorations for your cafe.

Periodically, baskets arrive, which contain currency and treats. There are 2 guaranteed daily baskets, and timed baskets, arriving in increments between 20 minutes and 12 hours. The treats in these baskets can be used to upgrade the cats (called "nurture" in the game). Higher level cats can spend more time with customers, enabling you to serve them more drinks and earn more tokens. As you level up, you get access to more cats and decorations, and your cafe gets bigger.

Aside from the minigames, it's just fun to watch the cats and the customers playing and spending time together. According to Runaway Games, all of the cats are modelled after real-life cats belonging to staff and friends, and there's a description of each one's personality on the cat screen. This makes them so much more charming in my opinion.

The developers have certainly gone to a lot of effort to make the behaviours of the cats lifelike. Cats will play with different toys, be cuddled, or petted, and sleep in different positions. Sometimes they sleep with one paw stretched out in front of them, just like my cat! They also knead the cushions, or rub up against the customers' legs. They make various different noises, from meows to purring to chirps. If you find the sound of cats purring relaxing, I definitely recommend having the sound on.

The decor of the cafe has a natural feel with many wooden items and plants to choose from. Similarly, the cats and customers are cute with large eyes, but aren't too far from reality, with realistic colours and features. This is unlike many games which are much more colourful and over-the-top. While I don't mind that kind of aesthetic, this is much more calming and appeals to my Mori Girl side. The mellow jazz soundtrack matches this feel. The sound effects -- including the cats purring when you pet them! -- aren't too obtrusive. While playing most games, I have the sound turned off as it can become annoying, but the sound effects in Furistas aren't overwhelming.

It's relatively quick and easy to level up when playing Furistas Cat Cafe. In the beginning, I was issued with a fairly generous amount of tokens, treats and kittykash. I started with one cat (Bon-Chan) and have collected another one at most levels so far. This is what my cafe looked like after only playing for about 2 hours (and I still had tokens left over!):

Many casual games these days have a plethora of advertisements, often playing involuntarily in between rounds. Furistas has no involuntary advertising. When a daily basket arrives (which occurs twice a day), you can optionally play an ad to double the amount of goodies in the basket. This is the only advertising in the game. The developers have chosen to prioritise the gameplay experience over getting revenue from advertising, and I really have to applaud this. When I come across games like this, I always enjoy the game more. I feel more positively towards the game developers, and open to purchasing upgrade packs or other things on offer. It also increases my feelings of loyalty -- I will often play the game for longer, and come back to it after a break.

+ It's cats! And adorable ones, too! What more can I say?
+ The fact that they are based on real-life cats adds an extra dimension to the kitty goodness.
+ Made for cat lovers with realistic behaviour and sounds.
+ Generous supply of currency for upgrading cats and decorating cafe. Guaranteed daily baskets make you feel less pressured to return to the game and add to the relaxing feel.
+ Diverse customers (both in appearance and in names).
+ Natural and calming aesthetic appeals to me.
+ Minimal advertising makes for a really enjoyable gaming experience.

- There are 4 different types of currency (5 when there is an event on). Even though tapping on a currency brings up an explanation of how to earn it and what it's for, it was still quite confusing at first. Now that I've been playing for a while, it seems to make sense though.

It was too hard weeding out the screenshots I took of the game, so I'll leave you with some photospam of the adorable kitties:

Sunday, 5 August 2018

My July

July has again been very cold and windy. I've had to wear my Winter 'coat' (really just a slightly thicker and longer cardigan with a hood, if truth be told) every day for nearly two months now. I even had to buy a beanie! I don't normally get cold very easily, so this is a rarity!

I'm not sure if it's the weather or some other factors in my life right now, but I've been having some issues with depression this month. I feel like I haven't done very much, but I wanted to make this post anyway. I feel like posting what I've been doing will be a positive thing to look back on, and I also don't like it when I'm away from the blog for too long.

What I've been reading ...
As I mentioned in my Winter Reading List post, I tackled reading Ulysses by James Joyce. I honestly wouldn't have finished it (or even started it!) if it hadn't been for Conner Habib's reading course/club. I do have to admit that I skimmed the last 2 chapters, but only because I wanted to finish it in time for the online meet-up at the end. Any description I could give of the book wouldn't do it justice, so I will link the Wikipedia page for the interested. I do think I'd like to read it again, but perhaps in (Australian) Summer next time so I can get a better feel for the atmosphere.

What I've been making ...
I started a new series of artworks made out of hama beads. They will probably have other things glued to them, too. I've started two so far. Perhaps once they're further along, I'll do a separate blog post about them. One thing I know for sure already though -- I'm going to need a lot more hama beads!!

What I've been eating ...
I mentioned last month that Husband and I have begun having a monthly lunch with our foodie friend. This month we went to Pepper Lunch (despite the name, it's open all day!). The Japanese-style meals are served in hot stone bowl, and the food cooks as you eat it. Pouring my curry and listening to it sizzle as it hit the bowl was immensely satisfying! There are lots of toppings to choose from, which I like, though for some reason every meal comes with corn. It's a good thing that I like corn!

What I've been divining ...
Here is an image of a combined oracle and rune reading I did for myself during the month. It was on the theme of sharing my art and participating in another exhibition. Lately I find myself wanting to reach for several different sources to answer the same question. It's not that I don't trust my own readings -- I do. At the time I find the insights to be very valuable, but somehow they don't "stick". I think this is something I need to look into further.

Selections from Instagram

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Patreon Reward and Raffle Prize from Rainbowholic

For a few months now, I've been a patron of Kaila of Rainbowholic on Patreon, and I've loved it. I've been on the "Sakura" level, which entitles me to a cute postcard in the mail every month, as well as access to secret videos, printable sticker sheets and a few more things. But more than that, a community has developed of like-minded cute stationery and journalling fans.

This month, Kaila was offering a copy of The ABCs of Journalling by Abbey Sy at one of the higher levels. It was a book I'd been wanting for a while, so I decided to upgrade. A stash of cute stickers and stationery was included -- plus the prize I won in the raffle that Kaila holds on her monthly livestream! I'm a very lucky girl.

I was too excited to do a real unboxing, so there are no photos of the outer packaging, but I can assure you it was pink and cute!

The ABCs of Journalling is a gorgeous book, beautifully illustrated and with lots of ideas for creating a diary and decorating it.

The stationery that came with it included some Gudetama and Little Twin Stars themed items. I love them all! There was a cute postcard with a lovely personalised message from Kaila, too.

Here is the raffle prize -- a notebook hand-made and decorated by Kaila, and some sticker sheets. (er, I didn't seem to get any photos of the stickers, sorry!)

I just love the notebook, which she made as a demonstration during one of her Patron-only videos. It feels so strange and exciting to see something I've seen on the internet, now on my own desk!

I love these retro patterned papers, and the 'postage stamps' are actually washi tapes with a series of different stamp-like images on them. It's almost too cute to use! I will have to save it for something special.

I've had mixed experiences with Patreon, but I've been entirely happy with my Rainbowholic experience. Kaila's positivity is infectious and she inspires me to keep making things cute every day! Her YouTube channel RainbowholicTV has frequent doses of kawaii journalling, crafts, DIYs and other fun things.

This post is purely my opinion and I have not received anything in return!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Finished Craft Project -- Oracle Mat

I finished a craft project! It's a mat for oracle readings. I had a small one for rune readings, but needed a larger one to fit multiple cards on. I looked at the project and realised I only had one row to go. I didn't have an exact size in mind so I just crocheted until I ran out of wool ... and it was running low. I added a simple border in double-crochet (single-crochet if you're in the U.S.) to finish it off.

It was featured in my Unfinished Craft Projects last month, so perhaps the purpose of that blog post series is finally coming to fruition!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

My June

Winter has hit cold and early this year. It's been cold enough to affect the spirits, but not enough for anything interesting like snow. I haven't been able to spend as much time outside as I would like. I also had some mishaps which kept me indoors, spraining my ankle and just as I was recovering from that, injuring my back. Work was also very busy, which led to feeling a bit down and not getting to do everything I wanted to do ... or is that really true?

What I've been working on ...
I've had a sudden and unexpected resurgence of interest in my Hobonichi art diary. I've been using it for a slightly different purpose than just a daily record of my life. I got stuck in a rut thinking that my life is too routine and boring to make a record of. One of the YouTubers I subscribe to, Rainbowholic, has spoken about that in some of her videos recently, and suggested other ways of using the diary. In the last few weeks, I've started a practice on Sunday nights of listing everything I did that weekend. I've found it a really helpful and fun wellbeing practice. On Monday mornings (or anytime really) when I find that I'm beating myself up over not having "done enough", I look at the page and it makes me feel better.

What I've been watching ...
At the start of the month I saw the Star Wars movie Solo. I've heard a lot of criticism about it, but I really liked it. I found the story really engaging, and even wanted to know more about the characters at the end. I wish there would be a sequel, but unfortunately I doubt there will be.

What I've been eating ...
A few months ago, Husband and I were talking with a friend and we discovered a shared love of food -- more specifically, going out and eating food together. So we decided that the 3 of us would go out and eat together on a regular basis, each of us choosing the venue in turn. Last month was Husband's turn, and he chose the Mac and Cheese themed day at the Preston Food Truck Park. These are frozen cheesecakes on a stick. There are more pics of what we ate here on my Instagram!

What I've been painting ...
I went to one of the Crap Craft series of workshops at NOIR Darkroom on Painting with Bob Ross. I'd never seen a Bob Ross tutorial before, and it was a revelation! If you haven't seen his shows, I recommend checking them out on YouTube or Netflix. The 'tutorial' was a bizarre mixture of unexplained painting techniques, small adorable animals, and encouraging mottos, all overlaid with Bob's calming voice. (Apparently some people listen to the audio of his shows to help them get to sleep.) It was a bit stressful sometimes -- we'd finish painting one tree, look up and Bob had already painted a whole forest -- but I would definitely do it again!

Here's my painting:

Selections from Instagram