Friday, 31 December 2010

In The Kitchen - New Year's Eve!



This spread is what I made for the party-for-two that Boy and I are having for New Year's Eve. I tried to make sure the snacks were healthy, yet fun and interesting for us both to eat as well. Here we see:

Stuffed Celery Stalks
Celery filled with slivers of low-fat cheese slice and peanut butter. Decorated with 3 sultanas on each one.

Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Yoghurt Dip
Asparagus spears wrapped with light ham, with a Greek yoghurt dip containing lemon juice, fresh parsley and other flavourings.

Hommous Dip with Chips
Purchased hommous and caramelised onion dip (low-fat) which I decorated with a drizzle of olive oil and paprika (spilt the paprika and put way too much on, but it was still OK!). Served with purchased Snakata baked corn crackers.

Retro Mini Kebabs
Toothpicks threaded with the following: Low-fat vintage tasty cheese, kabana, kalamata olives, butter (lima) beans, pineapple, strawberry.

Served with margaritas and Grindhouse movies!

I hope your New Year's Eve celebration is as Ace as mine!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010 In Review

This is the bit where I review my 2010 New Year's Goals. Here they are, listed in my art journal:

Hoo-wee, that's a lot of stuff!
How did I go?:

2010 Resolutions / Goals
1. Publish 3 zines.
I filled up two journals with personal writing this year, but I didn't finish a zine. I felt withdrawn. I didn't have the motivation to work on anything for others, only for myself. I do have one zine that I started last year. I worked on it here and there, but I didn't finish it. Part of the problem is that there aren't many moments when I'm feeling both confident and mentally energetic enough to write lucidly. Maybe it would be better to concentrate on cultivating a state where I can create meaningfully.

2.Travel overseas.
I went to Europe! Check it!!

3. Do a 10km walk.
The most I managed was a 5km walk. I'll try harder next year .... ?! I remember being so excited and thinking this was one of the goals I would be most likely to achieve. I don't know what happened! I'm not even sure this goal is possible with the way I'm managing my life right now. I do think it's a very worthy thing to achieve, and as I wrote when I first decided on it, it furthers my longer-term goal to become healthier and fitter. So perhaps I'll roll it over to 2011.
[Later]
Boy has pointed out to me that we walked at least 10km in Paris, on that afternoon when we walked to the Eiffel Tower and back. Even though it wasn't all in one go, it was still a mammoth effort. So I'm ticking this one!
4. Organise my apartment.
I should have known that this would take longer than a year! =D I've definitely done some good work on it though, with my 30 Days of De-cluttering project. I also now have what I call my "Whole-of-Flat" plan, which is a floor plan of the flat and everything that needs working on. I have stuck it up on the wall, so if I feel like doing some housework, I can see at a glance what needs doing.

5. Take care of myself.
I did everything my doctor told me to. I was 'compliant', as they like to say. I took all of my vitamins (most of the time, heh!). I got the scans, x-rays and examinations done. I got the allergy injections and now I can breathe. And I'm no longer allergic to cats! woohoo! I tried to drink more water and manage chocolate cravings. I did everything I could to trick myself into exercising. I even asked my body what she wanted. I worked on accepting the fact that I'm not thin and beautiful and smooth and hairless.
Does all of that count? I think I achieved this goal.

6. Fill [my] art journal.
I knew from pretty early on that I wasn't going to achieve this one, and I really didn't care. That's not what art is about. It's about quality, not quantity. I enjoy working in my art journal, flipping through it and adding bits here and there. I don't think I'll set such silly goals anymore!

7. Submit a zine to Sticky Institute.
What can I say? The confidence with which I wrote that dissipated rapidly when 2010 hit and reality sank in. It's still a dream, but I don't see myself as having failed this goal. I think my priorities are different now. It's not important to me to sell things and receive money. It's not even important for people to read my writing. If I'm going to be brave enough to connect with people, I want to do it on a two-way street.

8. Learn an e-publishing program.
Again, a complete no. If only thinking made it so. I did think about this goal quite a few times, but never got organised to actually do it. I notice that Sister Diane of CraftyPod is offering a course on Publishing your Crafty eBook in the New Year. It would be a lot of fun to do, and I trust that she would be a good teacher. However, I wasn't planning on publishing a craft book. Dilemmas!


2010 Wrap Up
I'm cringing as I contemplate analysing what I'm tempted to call this roster of failures. No, it's Negative Nancy that wants to call it that. I achieved 3 - no, 4! - out of the 8 goals. (Bearing in mind that some of them were kinda vague.) I did learn a lot from this experience, though. Looking back, I think I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I tend to do that quite a bit. My weekly list of things-to-do isn't often completed. Also, I'm just not ready for some of these goals yet. I can see that I need to learn to work with what I'm capable of doing, not what I wish I was able to do. I think I also need more structure. I'm not good with things that are so big and vague. I need a list of things to do, that I can work on step-by-step and tick off as I go along.

Yes, I recently finished Getting Things Done. Does it show? Maybe I'll read a book on procrastination next!

I was a little surprised when I looked at the statistics (below). I had assumed that I'd spent a lot of time faffing around this year, just because I didn't achieve half my goals and I didn't finish any zines. In fact, I started and finished many more craft projects than in 2009, and learned some major new techniques. Some interests were related to my goals, e.g. cooking with fresh food. I wrote many more blog posts, and I think that's because my interests are shifting away from writing zines and towards more immediate forms of communication.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with what I've achieved this year. I'm hoping to build on this and learn more next year.


2010 Statistics [2009 statistic in brackets]
Books finished: 76 (133)
Items sold Etsy: 32 (42)
Items sold Artfire: 2 (3)
Opportunities: 1 (5)
Opportunities followed through: 0 (1)
Blog posts: 82 (54)
Craft items started: 23 (10)
Craft items finished: 14 (6)
Zines written: ½ (2)
Art journal pages completed: 3 (15)
5-Minute Obsessions: 6* (12)
Longer than 5-Minute Obsessions: 7** (6)
New techniques learned: 3*** (4)


* 5-Minute Obsessions: 1. poffertjes. 2. mandalas. 3. deco tape. 4. muffin tops. 5. Japanese knitting books. 6. filet crochet.

** Longer than 5-Minute Obsessions: 1.making a shrug. 2. last minute baby items. 3. baking. 4. oversharing. 5. fresh food. 6. crocheted blankets/afghans. 7. writing patterns (and thinking on).

*** New techniques learned: 1. Crohook. 2. Entrelac. 3. Illusion knitting.

Friday, 24 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 16 : Friendship ]

Day 16. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I didn't make any new friends this year, but I've become closer to someone I've known for a while. B has shown me many things. When she shaved her head for charity, she showed me that there are much more important things than what you look like or what other people think of you. Not only did she get used to the change, but she embraced it, declaring that she'd rather have short hair and wasn't going to grow it back.

When she was in a car accident which totalled her car, she showed such physical and emotional bravery that I was overwhelmed. She must have been feeling terrified and shaken up inside. Her words though, were so wise - "the car doesn't mater. All that matters is that I'm still here."

When her flat was flooded - twice - she was philosophical about it. It's happened, there's nothing we can do about it. The books can be re-bought. Lucky the Christmas presents were in a box. Her shining of light on negative situations reminded me how much happier life is when we have a positive attitude.

When she decided that she needed a new job, she went out and got one. And her new employers love her. To me - I choke completely in interviews - this seems miraculous. But if my friend can do it, then perhaps I can, too. B is a dear friend and she has shown me that a person can be happy and bouncy through adversity. A person can be successful despite setbacks. She has shown me that we can be bold and daring - and happy - through everything that life dishes out to us.

[ Reverb10 : Day 15 : 5 Minutes ]

Day 15. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

-- Firstly, you went to Europe for 3 weeks in Sept/Oct. It was a life-changing experience. You met your Dutch family and saw your roots.

-- You have a nephew!!!

-- You made a decision to love yourself - both mind and body. It's still a struggle to get there, but you're really trying very hard.

-- You decided to do things differently - combat the negativity and forgive yourself for not being the person you always dreamed of being - for not being perfect.

-- You stopped keeping the food diary because it wasn't helping - you realised that it wasn't actually changing your behaviour at all and was causing more guilt than anything else.

-- Later on in the year, the doctor told you that you no longer have fatty liver, so something must have worked.

-- C & D got married, and N & P got engaged.

-- You became more open to other people, both online and in real life. You didn't make a decision per se. It just happened.

-- Even though you're still on the journey, you're proud of yourself because you came a long away this year. You tried your hardest.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 14 : Appreciation ]

Day 14. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year?

I took a deep breath before starting to write this piece. And that deep breath lasted for 6 days. I knew what I was going to write about the moment I read the prompt, so that wasn't the problem. I couldn't figure out how I was going to do justice to the subject. When you read what it is, you'll understand why. I waited until such time as I was alone and quiet, had nothing else to do for half an hour, and could write in a relaxed and thoughtful way. Being so close to Christmas, that never happened, so I let go of the breath and decided to write anyway.

The thing I appreciate most - this year and all the time - is my boyfriend. I don't want to sound sappy, but he really is the best thing in my life. I can't imagine what I'd do without him. He's my life partner, Romeo, flatmate, helpmate, handyman, computer help desk, chef, anti-depressant, personal shopper, fashion and interior design consultant, expert photography consultant, social activities co-ordinator, domestic worker, and occasionally child-care attendant.

You know how when you're first dating someone, the thought of them makes you smile? It's been almost five years, and that still happens. We live together now, and I look forward to seeing him every night after work. I'm proud of him. I love him.

I want to thank him for every cup of tea that magically appears in front of me. For fixing my computer and deciphering those error messages I don't understand. For all the times he's done the laundry. For turning on the TV for me. For comforting me when wake up in the middle of the night, or freak out about misplacing a prescription. For making our lunch most mornings. For carrying the heavy shopping and the bottom end of anything we have to carry down the stairs. For putting up with annoying situations. For getting up early to go and visit my relatives. For not complaining about my snoring. For his patience. For being the best thing in my life.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 13 : Action ]

Day 13. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

When I thought about action, writing just didn't seem appropriate. So I decided to grab Boy's graphics tablet, which he's just installed on my computer, and use it to 'write' a photo essay.

When I thought about the word 'action', the first thing I wanted to do was this:

Then I wanted to do this:

Then I figured I'd better get down to some serious thinking. After considering the posts of the last few days, I decided I should do this:

Followed by this:

After that, hopefully I'll be like this:

[ Reverb10 : Day 12 : Body Integration ]

Day 12. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

I know I said I was going to take a couple of days off from writing, but once I read the prompt, my brain just started ticking away!


I mentioned in my last post that I've always struggled with acceptance of my body. When I think about that a little more, it starts to seem pretty crazy. My body and I are one. I am my body, in the most profound way possible. Aren't I? Some philosophers think so, others not. Hmmmm!

About 6 months ago, I wrote a piece called, "A Conversation with Body". I pretended that my mind and my body were two separate entities, and they could talk to each other. After a while, I even found that the creative side of my personality, the part I call Apartmentcat, was butting in as well! The two (three) participants in the conversation had different styles of speaking, but they managed to communicate successfully. It was a lot of fun to write, but it was also an important moment for me. Every time I read back through it, I laugh and then tears come to my eyes. The lessons I learned from it are ones I would do well to remember. Perhaps I will read it once a month from now on.

In that piece, I mentioned how I felt when I visited Japan. I felt the same way when I visited Europe earlier this year. Normally, being in my body is like dragging around an incalcitrant child. When I'm on holiday though, the excitement and wonder overtakes me and I forget all about it. I forget that I'm fat. I forget that I can't walk 5kms in one go. I forget that my legs rub together when I walk and my bra needs re-arranging and my tummy jiggles. I forget that I have stomach churning and reflux, and that my back hurts. The discomfort disappears. I'm too busy having experiences. All of a sudden I'm the child, running around, carefree.

I'm still of two minds about whether forgetting your body is there, is the same thing as feeling integrated with it. I suppose it is.

[Later]
Actually, I regret describing my body as a recalcitrant child. Poor thing! She/I deserve better than that. *self-hug*

[ Reverb10 : Day 11 : 11 Things ]

Day 11. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

11 things? That's quite a lot, isn't it? And I have to work on all of them next year?? Who says? Though, when I think about it, this exercise really forces you to delve deeper down inside, in order to fill the list. Tough stuff! When I ran out of inspiration after about no. 5, I found myself googling other people to see what they'd wrote. Not helpful! It's all about me, right? Not other people. So I clicked off and went inside my brain.

In no particular order (though the fact that this is the order I thought them up in may be significant?). And I must point out that I've been working on some of these things already this year, but I've listed them because they're things that really deserve to be pushed through:

1. Excuses. Whenever I don't do something I'd been meaning to do, there's always a reason. Sometimes they're legitimate; often they're just excuses: "I'm too tired" "it's too hot" "I'd like to make that craft and share it on my blog, but the photos would turn out crap because the light's not good" etc. etc. I'm basically a positive person, and I can look at most problems positively. It's just the ones where extra motivation is required where I have a problem, like exercising and anything that requires moving mounds of stuff before I can do it. (Like half of my art and craft projects at the moment. egh!)

2. Lesserness. This is what makes me buy cheap undies that fall apart after a few months, when I really deserve quality ones. This is why all my art supplies are still in a big cardboard box when I have space to set them up again. This is why my bedroom looks like a bomb hit it, why my dreams of a dressing table and a jewellery stand haven't materialised yet. This is what gives Negative Nancy such free reign. I want to start believing that I deserve the best. I want to start believing that the money/time/effort it takes to get the best is worth it.

3. Mindlessness/Short Term Thinking. Things like: "oh, I'll just eat this chocolate cos it's yummy and I'm a bit stressed and I deserve a treat." In reality, eating it will make it harder/longer for me to lose weight, and I really need to deal with my stress in a way that's better for my mind and body. Not to mention the fact that it's not healthy to view food as a treat. Another example: "I've got a bit of time, and I could try and meditate, but I'll just read my book instead cos that's less effort and I just want to relax." In reality, I know that if I could just get the hang of meditation, it would help me relax and add to my happiness.

4. (Unnecessary) Stress. I know that there's good stress, which helps you get things done. I'm talking about the bad stress, which makes my shoulders tighten up and my heart pound. For me, there's a lot of crossover between stress and anxiety. I need to take a step back and ask myself, is this an appropriate reaction to this situation? Or am I having an anxiety episode? What can I do to calm down? What strategies can I use when I'm caught up in the moment?

5. Dessert. Boy will probably cringe when he sees this one. It would certainly help my weight loss goal if I didn't sit there every night eating empty calories and then went to bed, letting them convert into pure fat overnight. Ew, when I put it that way, it makes the chocolate pudding seem so much less appealing! It's a huge habit that I've tried to break before, and it's so hard! As soon as I've finished dinner, I get an urge to put something sweet in my mouth. I want to search out some strategies to help me with this.

6. Avoidance/Procrastination. There are two major areas where I'm really bad with this - contacting people, and housework. I've written about the underlying causes of this in previous posts; it mainly seems to come down to lack of self-confidence and anxiety. If I work on these, then hopefully it'll take me less than a week (or never) to answer emails and phone calls, and I'll be able to tackle those messy corners without getting overwhelmed.

7. Body Fear. And body hate, too. I just don't trust my body. It doesn't do what I want. It reacts unpredictably. I'm scared because I could fall over and sprain my ankle again at any moment. It gets sick - I'm always pumping it full of tablets and hauling it off to the doctors for inspections. It doesn't look the way I want it to. I love to dance, but I'm too embarrassed. That makes me feel so sad. This issue is something I've been working on for a while - all my life, really. Sometimes I have a better relationship with my body, and at other times relations break down. I have to admit that it mostly depends on whether I'm getting what I want from my body or not at the time. I need to learn to love my body unconditionally.

8. Shoulds. I've been warned of the danger of Shoulds! I spend a lot of time doing things that I feel like doing, and thinking about the things I should be doing but I'm not. If I work on No. 6 Procrastination, hopefully I can smooth this out a bit.

9. Stuff. My recent De-Cluttering Project was a great first step to dealing with this problem. I just physically have too much stuff to be able to do the things I want to do with my apartment. It's frustrating and depressing. I don't want to live like that. I joked to people that I could probably do that project over again 3 or 4 times; it's actually true. So why not??

10. Comparisons. "Her house is nicer than mine." "Her blog is prettier than mine." "His photos come out amazing and mine are terrible." "Their car is newer than mine." "She's thinner than me, and her clothes are much cooler." "Their crafts come out looking so professional, I'm not even going to bother." etc. etc. I'm really starting to get bored with this crap! I'll take a deep breath and push it all away. I am me. Why should I try to be someone else and inevitably fail, when I can be me and a raging success?

11. Split Ends. I'm growing my hair at the moment, but one of these days I'm going to have to go to the hairdresser and get the ends trimmed, and perhaps even develop some kind of hair style. That would be cool.

Well! That was more effort than I thought it would be. My brain is really frazzled at the moment with having to write a piece every single day. I was hoping I could write two a day and catch up, but I'm still 4 days behind. I'm not giving the prompts the thought they deserve, so I'm going to abandon that plan. Perhaps I might even to take a day or two off and do simple stuff for a while.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

[ Reverb10: Day 10 : Wisdom ]

Day 10. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

I got a bit stuck on this prompt: I'm not wise and I don't make decisions, so how can I write about that? There's no one defining moment I can think of this year. Nothing really changed for me. The things that I have done, have come from slow realisations, not decisions.

........

3<-------------------------------------------------------------------SNIP! [Later]
I wrote most of this post, and then I went for a walk, thinking I would finish it later. As I walked though, I realised that it just wouldn't do. What I wrote was hollow; it didn't feel right. I hadn't answered the question truthfully. And I realised why that is - I haven't been wise at all this year. I'm not able to answer the question. I've let my fears hold me back. I've listened to the negative voice. I've told myself that I can't do things, that I don't deserve things. I've made bad decisions that I regretted. I've procrastinated so much it's made it impossible for me to achieve my yearly goals. I let go all of the gains I'd made in 2009 and forgot all of the vows I'd made to myself at the end of that year.

In other words, I've been going backwards.

That's not very wise, is it?

I'm sorry that I can't write a more satisfying piece for this prompt. But there you have it. There's no point in regretting the past. You can only move forwards. So I make a decision now to do just that. I feels like it will be a wise decision - I just need to be resolute and don't waver and don't fall back into the old habits.

*sighs*

I feel like I've made this decision many times before, but it's vital to keep making it, as and when required. There may well be times when I'm stuck, not moving at all, but that's okay as long as I'm looking ahead, to 2011 and beyond.

Monday, 13 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 9 : Party ]

Day 9. Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Bearing in mind that this year's round of Christmas Parties isn't over yet, the best party of the year for me would have to be the Awesome People's Night In. It's a party with a story. My friend wanted to host an event for the Girls' Night In, an annual initiative to raise money for breast cancer. But she didn't want the boys to be left out. They wanted to help breasts as well! Which is fair enough; she modified the concept slightly so everyone could be included.

People were asked to bring as much money as they wanted to, in coin form. There was a raffle, and games to play - for a fee. There was also a Swear Jar - presided over by our 10-year-old guest. Apparently he made a lot of money in the Poker room.

Many of the lovely people brought delicious food. My favourite were the retro asparagus wraps. I ate and drank a little, but not too much. That's always a good sign that I'm enjoying a party, as I don't feel the need to fill in the time by eating, or working up my confidence by drinking.

There were four games - Jenga in the lounge, Twister in the hallway, Rock Band in the study and Poker in the spare room. I started out playing Jenga, and I won two games! That meant I got to choose two books from the huge stack in the corner. I was very excited.

I stopped playing Jenga after that as I thought it would only be fair to let others have a chance. Not that I'm a Jenga whiz or anything - it was mostly luck. I spent some time chatting with some people I don't see often enough. I felt really good about everything: everyone there I had met at least once before, and that helps me to feel comfortable.

When the chatting drifted away, I went to find some more adventure. I joined in the Rock Band in the study. I had never played before. I love playing the drums! I also sang a bit too. I had a most lovely time! Every now and then there were squeals of delight from the Twister players and uproar from the Poker players. Everyone in the house was having fun. The atmosphere was so uplifting!

By the end of the night, quite a few people still had some coins left, so we stood around the Swear Jar cursing and putting money in. I'm sure Mr. 10-year-old had heard them all before, really.

When the raffle was drawn, I won one of the prizes! It was as if the stars aligned this evening and I was meant to have the best time possible. The book stack was still high by the end of the evening and I was allowed to take as many as I wanted. I managed to restrain myself and only took 8. Gosh, I was excited, though!

I had the best night ever!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

[ Reverb10: Day 8: Beautifully Different ]

Day 8. Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

When I first read this prompt, I wasn't sure how to tackle it. I needed some time to think about it. Do I just list all of my weird quirks, or does it require something deeper? Are all of those weird quirks unique to me anyway, or are they actually quite common?

I read the prompt out to my boyfriend and he said, "well, you are crazy." He's right, of course. I think all creative people are, to one degree or another.

Viz:
* Last night I was making dried orange slices, and when I finished putting them in the dehydrator, I was so happy that I did a dance. I called it the 'I'm Happy that I'm Making Pot Pourri' dance. After so many years of sadness, I'm so lucky that when I'm happy, I can be very happy. This display seemed to make my boyfriend happy too, so it's a good situation all-around.

* I want to help people, but without having any contact with them because I'm so shy. I haven't yet figured out how that would work.

* Having spent a lot of time alone, especially when I was a young adult, I've had a chance to think about things a lot - life, relationships, spirituality, who I am. I'm not saying I've come to any conclusions or had any amazing epiphanies. But I wonder if my outlook on life is a little different to those people who haven't had that opportunity to reflect on the nature of things.

* Most people have quirks surrounding food. Mine is that I can't eat savoury after sweet. If I have a sweet taste in my mouth, then I can't eat a savoury food until the sweet taste has worn off. It's usually about 20 minutes, depending on how strongly flavoured the food was. The only exceptions to this are drinks, and possibly cheeses. When I'm at a party and there are savoury and sweet foods available at the same time, I have to make a conscious decision about when I'll switch from savoury to sweet. My friends tease me about it quite a bit, but I don't mind. At least I'm keeping them amused! There've been many times where I would have over-eaten if I didn't have this quirk, so sometimes it's actually quite helpful.

* I'm completely obsessed with lists. I have lists and lists of lists. I have Excel spreadsheets with summaries of my lists, with everything colour-coded. I have lists of books to read, movies to watch, things to do, places to visit, foods to try, gifts to buy, craft projects to make, blog posts to write. I look at them and work on them every day. Sometimes I spend hours creating and re-arranging them. I find it relaxing.

* I have this thing where, if I hear certain words, I have to repeat them in an accent. For example, if I hear the word 'movie', I have to say 'moofee' in an exaggerated German accent. Same with 'guru', except it's an Indian accent. With some effort, I've managed to curb this urge so that, if the situation is inappropriate, now I only repeat the word in my head. One of the worst words is 'mental'. Every time I hear that, I have to repeat it in a Cockney accent. I'm sure I must drive my boyfriend absolutely nuts. Whenever there's an ad on TV for that show The Mentalist, it's like a free-for-all: "ee's mental, ee is! Dat's why dey call 'im da Men'alist! Cos ee's mental!" etc etc.
Um, does anyone else out there do this?

I leave it there or else I'll embarrass myself even more!

I imagine this childlike, playful nuttiness plays itself out in my art and craft, when I'm feeling free and relaxed. That thought is pleasing to me.

I thought writing this piece would be hard; I thought it would make me cry. Once I found the thread I was looking for, it turned out to be a lot of fun. It reflects me at my best.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

[ Reverb : Day 7 : Community ]

Day 7. Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

It's funny you should mention that, because community means people. And I'm terrified of people. I'm an extreme introvert. When I was a teenager, if I wanted to buy something from K-mart, I would make my brother come with me so he could exchange the pleasantries with the check-out attendant while I silently paid. I could quite happily spend whole days alone, and often did when I was single. Spending time with other people is draining to me. I'm very shy with new people and I have to get to know someone well before I can call them by name. I have to know they have good intentions before I can look them in the eye. To some extent I've been able to get past this at work, by telling myself that we're all professionals and they have to deal with me in a professional manner, but I still find it a struggle sometimes.

Only my boyfriend and a few close friends don't have that draining effect on me. I can be myself around them. This might sound terrible, but I tell myself that they don't count. I really don't mean that how it sounds. What I mean is - they won't judge me. I can screw up and it's OK. I know they'll forgive me. I only have friends because of the Internet - a lifeline for shy people! Every single one of my friends - I either met them on the Internet, or through other people that I met on there. It's a wonderful, miraculous place, where you can hide your face and let others judge you on your personality only. My confidence level always shoots up immensely as soon as I sit down behind the keyboard. There, I can pretend that they're not real and I'm not real and if I stuff up, none of it matters anyway. It makes me feel so much more relaxed. Real people are all too real.

I can understand the concept of community, why people want to live in a world that's basically friendly. They want to be surrounded by people they know, walk down the street and chat with their neighbours. They want to feel safe knowing that the people in their vicinity are supportive and familiar. And that's fine - for them. For me, that idea is strange.

I want to live in a world where people leave me alone. I like being anonymous in a big city. I like not having to chat with the person who sells me a loaf of bread. I want to have a choice regarding my interactions with other people. Self check-out at the supermarket is a godsend for introverts like me.

I want to reach out to other people. I want to make friends with people that have similar interests to me. I'm very pleased that I live in a place where the supermarket is a 5-minute walk away. It's like living in a village in the middle of a city. When I go down to the supermarket, I hope to run into that lady that always says "hi" to me. She seems really nice and I'd like to find out her name one day. Sometimes I like to say "hi" to complete strangers, just to see if I can make them smile or not.

In the last few months, I've started making comments on some of my favourite blogs. I want to let people know that I'm there, I'm reading and I'm enjoying. I try not to over-analyse what I've typed anymore - what's important is that I've said something, that I've made a connection. I don't know if any friendships will be possible, but how wonderful would that be? I get excited just thinking about it. I want to be part of a community of creative people. I could learn and experience so much, and perhaps even have something to contribute that others might be interested in. Next year, I'm looking forward, if circumstances allow, to expanding my connections, reaching out to more people. To building stronger and more meaningful threads in the world.

If it seems like two different people wrote that piece, it wasn't. It was all me. I started it yesterday and finished it today. What can I say - it's confusing, even to me. I think the two sections reflect the fact that I'm changing. As my confidence grows, I'm less likely to jump to the conclusion that people won't like me, that they'll judge me or dismiss me. It's a struggle and a daily task to like myself and allow the possibility that others might too. With each person that I reach out to, I can almost imagine the world that will open up ...

Friday, 10 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 6 : Make ]

Day 6. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

It's funny you should mention that. My blog is a craft (and art) blog - I position myself as someone who makes things. Making things is part of who I am. I need to create. It's a fire in my soul, a need that never goes away.

You'd think, then, that I'd be making things all the time. But I'm not. Oh, how I wish I was! It's a source of great concern for me, sometimes even distress. I have a great urge to make something, to paint something, to write something. But RIGHT NOW I have to go to work and work all day. But RIGHT NOW I'm dead tired and I have to sleep. But RIGHT NOW I have to exercise, because I do want to lose weight, don't I? RIGHT NOW I have to go and fulfill a social obligation or do housework or go grocery shopping, etc. etc. At times I can work myself into a frenzy of frustration and anxiety. I've felt this way ever since I started working full-time, a bit over 3 years ago. I have a lot more money now, but a lot less time. Having a lot more money is reassuring, but losing all of that time is something I'm having trouble coming to terms with. It's a small consolation to be able to buy handmade products and support people who are living the dream of making full-time. But after a week of working hard every day, then flopping onto the couch exhausted every night, not having made anything, that pressure starts to build up inside me and I start to get grumpy. Mega grumpy!, as my poor boyfriend can attest.

So if I whinge that I'm feeling too anxious to drive today, and I take my knitting in the car with me in the passenger seat, it's not because I was trying to get out of driving. The fact that I needed to knit was partly what was making me anxious in the first place.

If I flip through my personal journal and nearly every entry ends with "and I have to stop now because I have to f@!!king go to work, grrr!", it's because my need to write is so strong that it conflicts disastrously with my need to be a good girl and turn up to work on time.

If I don't hear what you're saying because I have my head in the cupboard hunting through my yarn stash, or a doodle is wending its way through my head as well as onto the paper, then I'm sorry. But it's who I am.

Make. I have a confession to make. The last thing I made was Corn Dogs. I'd never had them before, so I went to the supermarket, bought some mini frankfurts, and made corn dogs. I dipped the franks in the oozing yellow batter, getting it all over my fingers, and I fried them in oil. And then I dipped them in tomato sauce and I ate 'em! On the one hand, I'm a little ashamed of eating something so unhealthy, but on the other hand, I think it's a good sign. It was like a mini creative play-date, in food form. It means my sense of child-like adventure, while sometimes forced into a corner, is still alive and kicking.

I wasn't planning to blog about the corn dogs, so I didn't take a picture of them before I nommed them. Here's an artists' (e.g. my) impression:


Not very good at digital art yet!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 5 : Letting Go ]

Day 5. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

[Today I'm writing 'long-hand', by hand in my journal instead of typing out my post. I'm also in a public place, and I wonder how these two factors will affect my writing.]

Letting go - ouch! This seems like it must be inevitably painful - to write about as well as to do. Perhaps that's why I chose to go to a food court to write today. It would help to curb the tears that might otherwise flow. I wonder, am I sabotaging myself? Do I need to cry? I haven't cried in so long.

Letting go - wow. If I'd known there was going to be a test at the end of the year, I would have tried harder. I'm looping back on myself already. "Trying" was my word for Day 1. In many ways, today's piece is a variation on that theme. I tried to let go of many things this year, but whether I succeeded is another matter.

Vis:
* "Negative Nancy" - the voice in my head that tells me I'm bad, I'm wrong, I'm not good enough. I did an exercise earlier this year where I isolated this part of my psyche and named it. Had a conversation with it (more like a fight, truth be told). This seems to have helped my progress quite a bit.
Naming something, acknowledging it, is the first step towards getting rid of it. Then you can confront it: "Well, no, actually ... "
I'm letting go of low self-esteem. I know this is a process that will take years, perhaps the rest of my life, but I took a step this year.

* People. I stopped wondering, "why doesn't she call me?" "Did I do or say something wrong?" "Why did he/she bother to friend me on Facebook, and then never answer my emails?" Am I not good enough? Interesting enough? It occurred to me that other people are probably just as slack, busy or unsure of themselves as I am. And that's OK. Not everyone will like me, and that's fine.
I went through my mobile phone address book last month and deleted everyone that I hadn't heard from in over three years. I'd been putting off that task for that long. My address book was half-empty afterwards. I didn't have any regrets at all. In fact, I had to think hard to remember who some of them even were.

* Futility. In the last few years I stared to realise that I'll never be the kind of person I desperately wanted to be when I was younger. I let go of the notion that I would ever be that cool person who chatted easily with famous people and was invited to gallery openings. I'll never feel like I fit in at the bars down Brunswick Street or the cool kids' craft nights. I'll never be a University academic or an archaeologist or an historian or a National Park ranger like I wanted to be when I was a kid. Being an adult is all about giving up on your dreams. The braver of us create new dreams which are even better - because they're our dreams, and that's because we know who we are.

Letting go - clunk! Ouch, that hurt. But you have to put the baggage down before you can move forwards. When I first read today's prompt, two words came to mind: 'safe' and 'easy'. Being small and unobtrusive is easy. Staying in my cocoon is safe. Stepping out to take what I want - what I need, even - is hard and scary. The light blinds my eyes. But the pounding heart of determination is pushing me forwards.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 4 : Wonder ]



Wonder is the world. I'm here in it with all my senses.

I feel the tickle of the fan blowing air across my skin. I hear the constant whir and the papers it rustles. I feel my body. The back of my neck is just slightly too warm. My hair is piled on top of my head. I can feel its weight, but it doesn't weigh me down - curiously, it pulls my head up, reminding me to hold my head high. A tram rumbles by, unseen, and a door slams downstairs. Far from being disturbing, these noises slide barely noticed into my ears, accents in the soundtrack of my life.

Wonder is awareness, everything that's happening right now.

"Wow, that tree has SO many shades of green!"

I'm waiting for the tram. I stare at the sky. The clouds slide slowly past me. So fluffy - how did the Renaissance artists get it so right? I wonder. I stare for so long that transparent shapes begin to appear in front of my eyes. Science books tell me they're just red blood cells moving through the blood vessels in my eyes, and I believe it. But even with such a mundane explanation, it's really bloody amazing! I could stare at them for hours.

"I wandered lonely as a cloud..."
-- William Wordsworth.
I still wonder about things - why does water flowing through the pipes make a different sound when its hot to when its cold? I almost don't want to know - not yet anyway. I want to wonder for a little longer. How thrilling it must be to be a child, to still have so much to find out....

"Surely it must be possible to find that out."
-- Fritz Saxl.
Walking through the park, in the pouring rain. Grey and green blurs, so wet and clean. I notice a single leaf plastered onto the path, such a bright green against the grey concrete. My feet squelch wetly in my shoes. I smile.

I meditate. Back when I had fewer cares and I could meditate. I read a chapter of the Tao Te Ching as customary, but today I decide to bite off more than I can chew and meditate on the whole universe. After I don't know how long sitting in the centre, it's there. My mind can encompass it for just a few seconds. The universe. Tears pour down my face. It changes my life.



Wet Leaves After a Rainstorm: Ginger Leaf,
originally uploaded by Craig Jewell.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Cat Toys!

I've been making some toys for the cat shelter. Once I have enough to fill up a post satchel, I'll send them off. First, I crocheted some fish toys. The first two have embroidered faces, the third a ruffled tail:

I loved working up this pattern. I can see myself churning out many more of these!
Next is a pair of toys made from some samples of Cro-hook technique. It's a bit like Tunisian crochet, with the long hook, but the hook is double-ended and you push the work to the other end of the hook every second row. Interesting.


As you can see, the fabric is very stretchy and quite open. I stuffed these loosely with plastic bags. I cut them into short strips first so the cats can't get into too much trouble. They have a satisfying crinkly sound when they're squeezed.
Finally, there is a knitted ball. I normally find knitting small pieces with double-pointed needles to be incredibly annoying, and this was no exception. I didn't really understand the instructions for the first couple of rows, and kinda fudged it. It's pink and it has a nipple.

See what I mean? Cat toy that doesn't look like an intimate body part? - FAIL!
So I added some surface crochet and now it looks immensely better:

I'm having visions now of adapting the fish pattern to make a string of Christmas lights. Fun!

Monday, 6 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 3 : Moment ]

Day 3. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.

There's a strange sense of symmetry as I write this as, in many ways, I feel the same right now that I did on the day that I'm writing about. I say this because I only had two hours of sleep last night and still have a long day at work ahead of me. On that day I'd had no sleep at all and had even more challenges ahead. It's curious to think that I can be in the same physical state, yet the circumstances I'm in produce such a different feeling. So here I go....

I arrived in Paris - in Europe - for the first time at 7am on a Sunday morning. I was exhausted, hot, sweaty, grumpy, confused and probably delirious. I can't sleep at all on planes, so I'd been awake for the last 33 hours. Despite that (or possibly because of it) everything seemed like a marvel - the airport that looked like a particularly ugly football stadium, the posters advertising perfume and department stores (French department stores!), even the man who stamped my passport and waved me through rudely without looking at me. As my life partner / travelling companion and I rode the travelator through a dimly-lit, stuccoed tunnel, it seemed like a magical cave full of wonder. I stared at the grimy yellow walls and imagined what fairyland would be at the far end. We waited a long time at the dirty-smelling baggage carousel, but that was perfectly fine - because I was in Paris! Finally Georgina tumbled down the chute and onto the carousel. Twice now my suitcase had arrived overseas with me problem-free. It may be because I named and tagged it like a pet, or it may be merely because reputable airlines are actually quite competent. Regardless, I took possession and wheeled it out of Charles de Gaulle Airport in a daze.

We stood on the threshold - the beginning of our holiday, our adventure in Europe - in other words, the kerbside passenger pick-up area at the airport. After we made a quick call at a phone booth (a French one!), a man in a mini-bus came to pick us up and take us to our hotel. We thanked him in our limited French and he drove out into the early morning sunlight.

No longer clutching onto Georgina's handle, knowing it was safe on the bus, I gazed through the window, allowing myself to become mesmerised. We shot past fields bordered with fluffy trees, the same ones from the paintings I've studied. Slowly they gave way to industrial buildings, furniture stores and sports stadiums. In turn, these became quaint apartment buildings, exactly the same as the one Amelie had lived in. It didn't matter whether it was a tree or a billboard, a cow or a wrought-iron balcony. Everything was lit with that soft, golden sunlight, oozing lazily like honey, making everything seem so much more special. The streets were deserted as we glided through them; they passed in a blur of beauty and history, every tiny detail steeped in meaning. I gasped in delight at every corner we turned, every vignette that unfolded in front of me. How long did it take to get to the hotel? I don't remember and I don't care. This was the experience I'd always dreamed of.

This was a special moment that I'll always treasure - seeing the Paris I'd always imagined. I managed to grasp it in for few fleeting minutes, before the real Paris crashed into my senses - the city with the heat and the dust, the hawkers and the pickpockets, the crowds and the lack of public toilets. Because the most romantic city in the world is still a city, after all.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Dutch Christmas Biscuit Recipe : Pepernoten

I'm participating in a recipe swap on the Gingerbread Snowflakes blog, so welcome to everyone who's linked from there!
Today is St. Nicholas' Eve, also known as Sinte in the Netherlands, and it's the most important date in the Dutch Christmas calendar. Sinteklaas and his assistant Zwarte Piet arrive in a boat from Spain on this day. They visit all the houses and leave gifts for the children - but only ones who've left out a glass of brandy and some biscuits, and some hay or carrots for St. Nicholas' horse. Today I baked Pepernoten, from a recipe that my Oma told me when I was a kid. So here it is, straight from her brain to you!

Ingredients:
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon orange essence
2 tablespoons milk

What to Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together.

2. Add the sugar and stir.

3. Crack the eggs into a separate (small) bowl. Add the orange essence and beat lightly.

4. Add the eggs to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly. The dough will still be very dry and flaky. Gradually add the milk and keep stirring until a soft dough has formed.

5. With damp hands, roll the dough into balls about the size of golf balls. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper (greased paper). It's OK to put them close together because they won't spread.

6. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Wait until cool to eat. The biscuits will be slightly hard and crunchy on the exterior. This is why they're called "peppercorns"! Makes approximately 24.

Notes:
* If you smell the raw dough, the spicy, orangey smell is just amazing, I think. This is truly what Christmas smells like to me. I guess we made them a lot when I was a kid!
* The four spices in this recipe are very common in Dutch cooking. You can buy them already mixed in Dutch supermarkets, where they're known as 'Speculaas Spice'.
* The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of finely chopped candied orange rind instead of orange essence. I don't like bits in my pepernoten, but you can certainly give that a try.
* The original pepernoten are half the size of these ones, but I normally can't be bothered rolling that many. If you do make them the traditional size, this recipe should make about 60 and they should be about 2cm / 3/4inch across.
* Yum!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

[ Reverb10 : Day 2 : Writing ]

Day 2. Today's theme is:
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Well ... just about everything comes before writing, I'm sorry to say. 24 hours in a day is just not enough. By the time I've gone to work, worked all day, stood for 45 minutes on the tram home, exercised, done laundry, dishes etc, checked my email and read some blogs, fed the cat, fed myself ... phew, I'm tired! I can't possibly think about writing today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on the weekend. Maybe next weekend when I don't have so much planned. Writing rarely makes its way from the bottom of my priority list. It's down there with re-arranging my shoes and matching up all the plastic containers with their lids. Sometimes I wonder if it's any more satisfying than those sorts of tasks. I think one reason for that is the uncertainty of it. There's a slight chance I could write something really worthwhile. There's also a chance (much more likely!) that I could write something merely adequate, fill up a page or two with some words that may or may not be used in a more permanent context one day. Most likely I'll open up my personal journal and write some adolescent rubbish about how much my life sucks, with the delusion that perhaps I can use some of it in a fiction work one day. But its also quite likely that I'll stare out the window for a while and then give up, ending up with nothing. I will have wasted my time. And that's something I hate doing. If I spend my time tidying up the flat, at least the place will look neater. If I spend my time working on a scarf or a baby blanket, at least I'll have something to show for it. But if i spend my time sitting in front of paper with a pen, will anything be achieved? What are the chances? Negative Nancy says, don't even bother.

I knew I'd come to that sooner or later. The real reason why I procrastinate - self-doubt. I wrote quite a bit about that yesterday, so I don't want to dwell on it. I'd rather dwell on how to arrange my life and my mindset so that I do write more, even if at first it's just adolescent ramblings. At least its something. Every word is practice. Every blog post cobbled together during breaks at work is a link in the chain. I have a weekly exercise schedule, I eat at (approximately) the same time every day, so why not a writing schedule? I've heard it said so many times - don't wait for inspiration to come, don't wait for the right conditions - just write! I'm going to pick a time each week, take my journal and write.

[ Reverb10 : Day 1 : One Word ]

In a ridiculously impulsive mood, I decided to jump on board with a project called Reverb10, even though I'm 4 days late. Participants write a blog post each day in December on a prompt that is meant to make you reflect on 2010 and prepare for 2011. It's just the kind of hippy crap that I've become increasingly drawn to lately. I'll probably regret this - it's December ... Christmas is coming ... I'm so busy ... every single day?! ... am I completely nuts?! On the other hand, it will give me an impetus to write regularly, making writing a priority despite everything else that I've got going on in my life at the moment. So here we go.........

Today's theme is One Word.

The word that first came to mind when summing up 2010 so far for me is:



I baulked at first, because I've always hated that word. When I was in high school, a friend had a habit of saying, "there's no such word as 'try', you either do it or you don't do it". That used to drive me bonkers, because I've never been one for seeing things in black and white like that. You have to practice before you can be perfect, you have to start something before you can finish it. And you don't always succeed - the first time. (Or even the second or third time.)

This year I've really been trying hard. Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows that I have yearly goals that I try to achieve. I don't always achieve them, but I do try. Whether I succeed or (gasp!) fail, it's always a learning experience. I look back and reflect and try to do better next year. The last few years I've given myself some real whoppers - like selling my zines in a shop, for example. Even at the time I wrote them, I wondered how on earth I'd be brave enough to go through with them. But some part of me must have believed in myself enough, hoped enough, because I wrote them down anyway.

Even though I'm not succeeding yet with those big, life changing goals, I've really been trying hard this year. Trying in all senses of the word, actually. Every time that I thought about doing something brave, the voice popped up in my head: "you can't do that!" "it's/you're not good enough!" "no-one's going to like that!" "why can't I look like her?" "why can't my house look like hers?" And on, and on. It really gets quite trying after a while. I'm sure I've tested the patience of everyone around me at times. I get very exasperated with myself, too! It's a constant struggle to monitor and change that self-talk. I think of myself as basically a positive person. This stream of negativity that runs through my life - well, yes, it's part of me - a part that's deeply ingrained - but it's not all of me. It's like the skin on a custard that forms when you're not paying attention to stirring it properly. This is a very thin skin, yet it's very hard to get rid of! Enough of the metaphors and back to my original meaning for the word Trying.

I think that trying - real, true trying that spirals closer into succeeding every time it circles around - needs to be given the credit that all that struggle and persistence deserves. Because one day, trying transforms into succeeding, into completing, into satisfaction.

And I'm supposed to think of one word that I'd like to be able to use this time next year to sum up 2011. I've already used that word in this blog post. The word is:

Brave.

Grrrrr!

Friday, 3 December 2010

What I Wore - quite some time ago

Here is a drawing I did about two weeks ago, which I only got around to scanning today.


I used the new watercolour set that Boy bought me, with 36 lovely colours. The drawing is only half the size of the ones I've done previously, so there's less detail. I think I'll go back to using a whole page. Also, I had a bit of a problem with bleeding around the face. And I cheated and gave myself Barbie-doll-hands. I haven't drawn for a while, it's true. I'm trying to accept the wonky bits. Just like in real life, really!

I did look pretty cute that day, though!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Embarrassing Rambling/Ranting

Just a quick update to let you-all know that I've re-opened my Etsy shop. It's been closed since I went overseas. I've been back for almost two months now - that's just the kind of girl I am. I was hoping to have a spiffy re-opening with a new zine, but I haven't felt like working on writing lately. It might be done by the end of this year ... if I can find some motivation. When I first got back from Europe, I felt fantastic. I had a new perspective on things. I felt happier and more confident. Lately though, Negative Nancy has been sticking her big nose into things again. She stops me from writing, stops me from finishing anything. She tells me I'm too tired and it's not worth the bother, that no-one cares. Isn't that crazy? She's even the reason why I can be so slow to reply to the lovely comments that I've been receiving. I am truly sorry about that.

To be honest, the main reason why I re-opened my shop was not to reach out to people, to share my writing or to promote myself. It was to stop those annoying automated messages saying that it's closed. All the other stuff just doesn't bear thinking about. Also - I was under the impression that the fees I pay to list my items would be suspended during that time, but they weren't. I was rather disappointed. But it's OK. In the future I'm going to be more careful and business-like (gak!) about what I offer in the shop. I'm going to be more organised and finish the postage station I was setting up. I'm going to be brave and face any negative things that might come along. I'm going to be good to myself and accept any positive things that come along, too! I'm probably over-sharing, but I don't care.

I'm sick of being at 90% on everything, of being disappointed in myself and worried that other people are disappointed in me. I want to wear the top-knot and be fabulous!