Friday, 18 January 2019

Summer Reading List

I've suddenly become absolutely obsessed with reading again. For someone who's always been a confirmed Reader (with a capital R!) it seems a bit strange that I might go off reading for months at a time. There are so many other things that pull my attention though -- podcasts, Youtube, and even games, I have to admit! Plus, I think my attention span isn't as long as it used to be. So when I get the urge to sit down and spend half a day reading, I don't want to pass that by.

Sure, I've got a room full of books at home, but none of those seemed appealing. Unfortunately my local library isn't within walking distance like where I used to live, so I decided to check out their e-book collection. It's not a huge collection, but it has enough to pique my interest. There was also a link to Open Library, which has a huge collection of scanned copies of books of all kinds. Anyone can join for free. I signed up immediately, only to find that I was already a member! Open Library falls under the umbrella of, which I'd joined years ago. Seems I'm also a confirmed nerd!

My current wave of obsession began when I (re)read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Several years ago, I decided to read it every Christmas/New Year as a personal tradition. (I don't really celebrate Christmas, but I do have a few things I like to do every year.) This year I read the e-book edition from Project Gutenberg with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. It made me want to read more Dickens and other books relating to 19th century England.

I logged onto Open Library and started Dickens' first published book: Sketches by Boz. One thing I love about Open Library is that many older books and even first editions have been scanned in. I chose the oldest edition I could find, to make my reading experience more interesting. In a strange way, I feel like I'm a little closer in time to the original readers of the book -- even though I'm reading it on an iPad.

Sketches by Boz, Chapman & Hall 1850 ed.

I haven't read much Dickens so far (only Great Expectations), and my interest in the area in general has been piqued, so my first reading list looks a little like this:


✽ Finish Sketches by Boz
✽ The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens - his second book
✽ Dodger by Terry Pratchett - set in Dickens' London, and Pratchett is wonderful (a library find)
✽ The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series - a series of 4 children's books detailing the adventures of Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley as children (in reality they were born 30 years apart, but the books bring them together to solve a series of mysteries). It also has a fictionalised Dickens as a child in it. (another library find)

I didn't pay much attention to the audiobook side of my local library's selection, because initially I thought I wouldn't have much chance to listen to audiobooks, but last week I realised I can listen to them while I'm doing crafts. Silly me! That opened up a whole different set of options. I started with The Cottingley Secret, a fictionalised account of the two girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, whose photos of fairies in the 1910s took the world by storm.

The Cottingley Secret, as shown on the audiobook player.

It mentions more than once a book extant at the time: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. I decided to stop and read that book before continuing, to get a fuller experience. So my second list is:

Fairy Tales

✽ The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
✽ finish The Cottingley Secret
✽ The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay - an Australian classic (from Open Library)
✽ The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (from my shelves)
✽ Grimm Tales By Philip Pullman (a library find)

The Water Babies, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1916 ed.
Illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.

And, because I couldn't help myself, a third list:

Extras, If I Have Time

✽ Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
✽ Books 2 and 3 of the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the first book of which I reviewed here (I'll be borrowing these from the library, too)
✽ The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (from my shelves)
✽ Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson (I apparently own this book, according to LibraryThing, but I'll have to find it before I can read it!)

Also, I've re-discovered these resource websites, which may well prove to be handy:

Books Set In - choose a country, region or city to find books set in that location
Historical Novels - find historical novels set in your preferred time period. Some are also divided by location, genre and/or topic.
Which Book - use the sliders to choose variables such as Happy/Sad, Beautiful/Disgusting and Conventional/Unusual to decide what kind of book you want to read, and the Which Book tool generates a reading list based on your preferences.

Happy reading!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

My 2019 Planner

I really enjoyed having a proper planner last year, and I decided to continue the same. But which planner to get? I'm a bit fussy when it comes to the format -- no spiral bound, no ring bound -- which means none of the fancy planner 'systems' out there, like the Happy Planner, Erin Condren, etc. I decided that I may as well look at Smiggle again as my first option. Thankfully I was able to see images of the planners inside and out on their website, which saved me a trip to the shops, as the internal page layout has changed and I didn't like it. Which is a shame because the outer covers were glorious! This one being the most glorious of all:

The scenario was the same with Typo's planner and various other ones I looked at online. In fact, Erin Condren even has a hardback bookbound planner now, but it was a little expensive for me. (Australians pay 30% more for everything from overseas!) I was feeling desperate to secure my planner before the chance was gone (this was back in November, mind you!) so I decided to just go to my local shopping centre and look at the planners in person, hoping to find something that sparked joy.

Then the strangest thing happened. I bought a planner from the first shop I walked into, which happened to be Target. I wasn't even sure they'd be selling planners at all, but they had two Target-brand planners to choose from. I chose the sparkly pink one, of course:

I added the decal on the front; it's from Fox and Cactus, and the charm is from a stationery pack from Mockeri. And yes, I'm aware that the cover is almost the same as last year's:

I know that last year I questioned my choice of a planner that I can't whip out in job interviews, but my magpie-like attraction to shiny things kicked in and here we are! There was an insert with a sample page layout in the plastic wrapping, and it seemed fine, so I grabbed it. (More on that later!)

Fast forward a couple of months, and it was time to set up my planner for 2019! I'd been waiting for this day for a long time. When I opened the wrapping and had a good look at the inside, I was slightly perturbed. The page layout, while generally what I wanted, was a little perplexing. For some reason, Thursday has half the space of the rest of the days, while Saturday and Sunday -- which are often combined in the layout -- each have just as much space as the weekdays. Also, there's a monthly calendar for the current and next month on each page, which I really don't need. It's just taking up valuable space!

I'm a bit on the unicorn spectrum, so it took me quite a while to get my head around it. In fact, it took me nearly a whole day to set up my planner, I have to admit, what with the procrastinating and a couple of near meltdowns. But I did it:

The main layout change is the insert. I have an insert that I made up in Excel which lists my habit trackers, things I do every week etc. I glue this printout into each weekly page of my planner, to save me from having to write it all out fresh every week. Last week I stuck that in the top left corner, because nothing happens on Mondays anyway. For this year's planner, I thought I may as well stick it over the monthly calendars instead. It was hard to accept in my change-makes-me-freeze-up-and-freak-out brain, but logically it made the most sense. (Aside: I'm also currently re-designing the insert with some nice coloured icons and less stuff I don't do anymore, so future pages will look a little different.)

Suggested blog posts for the week are now in the top right corner instead of just under the insert where they were last year. (There's no room for anything under the insert now!) School tasks are moved to the left-hand side of Wednesdays (to remind me about Wizard Wednesdays!). To-dos are still on the right-hand side of each page -- boring stuff on the left side and more interesting/fun stuff on the right side. I've tried to represent more tasks visually with stickers and circles to colour in, because that's fun.

As for the rest of the planner, I went through and decorated some of the future pages with washi tapes and stickers, especially the significant dates (more decoration to follow, of course!):

I added some of the extra pages as I did last year, using some printables that I bought previously. These are pages where I can write down ideas, etc when I'm out-and-about:

Finally something a little new -- I added some information about different calendars that I'm interested in following:

If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with me until the end of this mega-detailed planner post! I've become a bit of a planner nerd in the last few years, and perhaps fellow planner nerds may find it interesting. More about my sticker obsession is coming up soon!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Hello 2019

2019 feels like a really different year for me. I have no idea what's going to happen. My job finished up at the end of last year and I don't know what the next one will be like. The agency I go through (a specialist records management and archiving agency) has a different representative, and I don't know what kind of jobs he's going to pass my way.

In my other world, too, things are new. I have my first solo art exhibition booked in, in May. Will I get my art project done on time? Will I pull it off? Will it lead to greater public recognition? I really have no idea, but there's only one way to find out!

Usually at this time of year I'm very focussed on making goals and setting resolutions, but I've started to find it a bit overwhelming. I had my Life Square, which I wrote about last year, and my 7 Subject system, which is 6-monthly and follows the seasons. Not to mention my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list! I decided to combine the first two and keep the seasonal format. This means that the cycle is halfway through when New Year hits (as it runs from Spring Equinox to Autumn Equinox), so there's nothing for me to do, resolution-wise.

It feels a bit strange though, not doing something I've done for so many years. I'm already immersed in the middle of my goals, rather than diving into something fresh. I keep catching myself thinking, "this year, I want to ..." And there's nothing wrong with that, of course. I just don't want to fall into the trap of piling up more and more goals onto my plate until they're impossible to achieve.

So, instead, I thought I might play a little game. I call it More and Less. It is a game, mind you, not something to stress over, or to 'win' or 'lose'. This year I want to:

✷ read more ; play games less
✷ create more ; watch less
✷ eat more vegetables ; eat less sugar
✷ do more ; worry less

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 in Review

Firstly, I'd like to make a small announcement. My blog used to be hosted on a different site (Live Journal), but over the course of this year I've been transferring all of the posts over to this site. You can now see my entire blog right from the beginning, in one spot! Just go to the 'Archives' section in the right-hand sidebar. There are over 700 posts going back to 2004, so it's quite an achievement. And yes, here is the obligatory link to the first post, though I doubt it will make any sense to anyone!

Now, on to my review of 2018!

There were a few firsts -- and seconds -- this year. I finished my first magazine-style zine, Intensely Introverted #1, and took it to the Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair.

I've written zines before, but this was the first one that I want to turn into a series, like a magazine. Work has started on Intensely Introverted #2, but you know what, I'm not sure that I'll return to the zine fair. The amount of anxiety and stress I experienced before and during the Fair wasn't really worth it. I just can't be in a room that full of people for that long. Or perhaps I'll skip a year and only do it every second year.

I went in three (!) art exhibitions, all at NOIR Darkroom: their first anniversary exhibition, Stay Safe, and A Very NOIR Christmas. I feel incredibly lucky to have had these opportunities, and I hope I'll have more in 2019!

(Mine is the one at the top.)
Also at NOIR Darkroom, I did two workshops: Painting with Bob Ross and Screenprinting. Both are highly recommended! Since then, Husband and I have started watching Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting on Netflix when we want to relax. Though we now know that creating those paintings isn't quite as easy as he makes it seem!

Early in the year, Husband and I became re-acquainted with a foodie friend, and we decided to have a monthly lunch date together. I've been to many places that I wouldn't have gone to otherwise, and had a chance to dress up (Or even just get dressed at all quite frankly. Leaving the house voluntarily isn't really my thing!)

In June, I finished my first 101 Things in 1,001 Days cycle and started my second one. I did NaNoWriMo, went to the Melbourne Planner Market, and spent much more time outside.

Last but not least, in April I got to wear the Birthday Hat:

Now for the customary stats (last year's stat in brackets):

Books finished:
full-length: 19 (19) . . . . It's not a typo, they're the same!
short & manga: 16 (13)
currently reading as of today: 10 (14)

Blog posts: 46 (57)
Instagram posts: 285 (284) . . . . There may be more this evening!

Craft items started: 2 (2) . . . . (It seems like I never do any craft, but I've been working on my blanket a lot!)
Craft items finished: 4 (4)
Craft projects in progress as of today: 42 (42)

Zines started: 0 (1)
Zines finished: 2 (1) . . . . (if mini zines count! harhar)
Zines in progress as of today: 1 (1)

I hope everyone had a good 2018 and will have an even better 2019! I'll be back soon with my plans for the coming year!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Instagram "Best Nine" for 2018 and What's Important

This is the second year that I've participated in the Instagram "Best Nine" phenomenon. By plugging your Instagram name into this website, you can retrieve the 9 photos with the most 'likes' for the year, packaged up into a handy mosaic. While it seems vacuous, I found last year's exercise to be thought-provoking and even a little inspiring.

Here is this year's result, with thoughts below:

I'm pleasantly surprised to see that my art features in my most-liked photos. Middle-left was an entry for Tara Leaver's 21 Days in My Art World challenge (which I'm pleased to see will be happening again in 2019), so that explains its popularity. Top-left was done for the Art Maker Circle challenge by Nicole Piar. Unfortunately I never finished that challenge.

I have to scratch my head as to why a barely-started painting (bottom-centre) was so popular, though.

I posted very few photos of myself this year, but two managed to make it into the top. I'd like to explore my style more in the future, so this result is encouraging.

And as for the food ... I really don't know! Perhaps there was something about the composition or the filtering that was appealing to people? I'll probably never know. Social media is, in the end, a mystery.

The thing that strikes me about this year's collage is that it's basically a summary of what I'd like to do more of in my life. What's good for my soul. Making art, having meals and spending time with friends, and expressing myself through fashion and (admittedly overly-filtered!) selfies. May there be more of the merry stuff in 2019!

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Happy Festive Season!

I hope you receive everything you wish for!

I didn't quite reach my goal of blogging twice a week this year, but I have lots of plans and hopefully now that I'm on holidays I can bring some of them to life. Here's a sneak peek of a few topics coming up soon:

❄️ My new art project
❄️ Growing potatoes in a bag
❄️ Sewing adventures
❄️ Podcasts I'm loving
❄️ My planner sticker collection
❄️ Cooking fun

Have a happy and safe holidays (if you're on holidays!).

Sunday, 2 December 2018

My November, including End of NaNoWriMo 2018

November this year seemed to have a bittersweet taste. As Spring moved into Summer, everything heated up. Yet there were also quite a few thunderstorms, which I always enjoy. I've been busier as the holiday season is getting nearer, but my job is finishing just before Christmas, so I have some quiet time to look forward to. It's been hard to motivate myself to do anything that doesn't have a deadline -- anything just for myself. Maybe that's something I need to rediscover.

What I've been writing ...
My NaNoWriMo story was mostly finished before the 30th November deadline. That's a nice way of saying that I didn't finish it! I won't say that I failed though, because I'm close enough to see the finish line, and I think I'm able to and want to get it made. So I'm setting myself a deadline of end of December to finish the story, edit it, create a cover image and publish it. I haven't decided where I'll publish it yet, but iBooks and Smashwords look most promising. I'll be sure to post links to it when I do!

What I've been painting ...
I created a painting for NOIR gallery's Kris Kringle party exhibition, but I forgot to take a photo of it at any point before I handed it in for the exhibition yesterday, oops! I'll be back there in 2 weeks for the closing party and artwork swap, so you'll have to wait until then to see it on the blog. Or, if you're in Melbourne, I hope you'll check out the exhibition at NOIR Darkroom in Coburg.

What I've been dreaming of ...
A few months ago I posted about how my garden is a mess. Well, we're getting that sorted out! Below is a 'Before and After' of the passageway behind the house. The 'After' looks very barren right now, I admit, but we're planning on building some raised garden beds and hopefully growing some nice, lush things.

What I've been playing ...
Happy World Ocarina Day! I've taken up my ocarina practice again this month. Seeing other people online becoming enthusiastic about learning and playing live instruments has been inspiring. Plus, I enjoy learning Christmas carols because the tunes are so familiar, and this is the time of year for it!