Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 In Review

How funny it is that everything seems to change, yet everything seems to stay the same. Looking back on my 2011 In Review post, it seems that I could write everything in it over again for 2012. This year the changes were fewer, but had more drastic results. And in the end they turned out to be positive ones.

The year started off with a bang. I got married! I got a new job! It was a ninja marriage and a surprise job! A lot to take in and a big change for me.

My self-made ring cushion.

I finished a big project: a Harry Potter scarf for a dear friend to give to her dear brother. I double-knitted the scarf, meaning it took twice as much work, but it was really important to me to create a quality product. I literally spent hundreds of hours on it. I took it on holiday with me to New Zealand. I'm so happy to see how the scarf has been loved and even used in costumes. It's the best a crafter can hope for!

The Harry Potter Scarf.

I learned when to quit, even if it's painful. I started working on this baby scarf using the same technique as the Harry Potter scarf. But it was the wrong technique. The scarf just didn't feel right. Yet still I continued on it, blindly hoping that it would somehow come good. It just got worse. Finally, when it was even longer than in the picture, I bit the bullet and ripped it. Another lesson in knowing when to admit defeat.

Rip-worthy scarf in progress.

I started a third blog. Because a girl can't have too many blogs, right? I had a sudden and uncontrollable urge to write reviews about beauty products and do all the other things that beauty bloggers do. I don't see myself as a "Beauty Blogger" (my photos are too bad for a start!) but it's a fun side-project. And it gives me an excuse to buy lots of beauty products. Ahem.

Click the picture to go there.

I discovered Hama Beads! (AKA Perler Beads or Fuse Beads) They're ones of those crafts I've vaguely known about for years, but suddenly one day became completely obsessed with them. I made a rainbow, an 80s style cassette tape and a mini perfume holder for my dressing table. I suppose my obsession intertwined with my interest in Japanese Fairy Kei fashion which I had for most of the year. Which was obviously a reaction to the formal corporate dress code at my work and my feelings of restriction and not being able to express myself. Normally I save that kind of morbid over-analysing for my Path blog, so let's move on.

Perfect for the job!

Then two of my friends had babies, so I was focussed on making baby things for a while. When I say 'focussed on', I really mean 'made one pair of booties and spent a lot of time trawling through Ravelry and saving patterns'. But still, the intention was there.

Booties in a stereotypical colour.

Then, half-way through an accidental hiatus, I had a sudden and brief urge to write haiku. Very sudden and very brief. However, it's interesting to note that, on my list 40 Things To Do Before Age 40 which I drew up in late 2011, one of the items is to write a haiku a day for a month.!

More recently, I felt a sudden hopefully more permanent need to reach out to people via penpalling. I discussed the pros and cons in my blog before finally compromising and joining PostCrossing. Baby steps!

Some postcards I sent out.

2012 Statistics [2011 statistic in brackets]
Books finished: 43 + 17 short stories (70)
Books currently reading as of today: 11

Blog posts...
I'm A Table: 27 (51)
ShyCat Beauty 79 (n/a)
My Path: 94 (n/a)

Cards sent*: 8
Cards received: 5
* This only includes cards which have been received at the other end and registered.

Craft items started: ? (~11)
Craft items finished: 5 (~8)

Some of those statistics are very sadly low. But they do reflect my 2012 accurately. When I got my new job, I threw myself into it and had no energy to do anything else. Then I found myself in a position where my fitness/energy level had dropped dramatically, and I wasn't being creative at all. I had no inspiration. I was depressed for a long time. All I felt like doing was coming home at night, flopping on the couch and staring at the TV. It's only in the last couple of months that I've managed to haul myself out of that couch-hole and take back some of my old self.

I'm not going to make any resolutions for 2013. No elaborate plans or lists of things to do or monthly check-ins. I'm just going to see how things go. I'm going to be kinder to myself. Let myself be. A few days ago when I was sitting on the tram in a moment of quiet, a phrase popped into my head. It's one that really resonated with me, so I'm going to share it:

You can be free, if you want it.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

More Sent Mail!

Well, I couldn't resist sending out another batch of postcards! I figured I may as well use up some of the Christmas stamps instead of buying extra postage in the New Year. I hope they arrive to the receivers by Christmas!

I really love reading the recipient's profiles, choosing a card that I hope will suit them, and writing a note on the back. It all adds to the fun, I think. I haven't received any more postcards since the two from my last update, but I know that things are slower this time of year - I'm trying to be patient!

I've done some other crafty stuff too, but haven't had a chance to take any photos yet. Maybe tomorrow!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

PostCrossing: mid-month update!

I was only going to have a once-monthly postcard post, but I was so excited, I just couldn't help myself! Two more of the postcards I sent have been received, which makes a total of 3. The one to J. in the Netherlands took 26 days to arrive, and the one to A. in Germany took only 5 days to arrive! I still have 3 postcards in transit at the moment.

Excitingly, I also received two postcards this week!:

The first card, from S. in the U.K., took 12 days to arrive, and the one from E. in Germany took 13 days. I was so thrilled when I found them amongst the bills and junk mail that Husband brought in from the mail box. I'm thinking of sending a second batch of postcards this month, reason being: the stamps I bought are special discounted Christmas stamps, and once Christmas is over, I'd have to buy additional postage to be able to use them. What can a girl do??

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Postcards of the Month

A few weeks ago, I was talking about how I've joined PostCrossing and started sending postcards all over the world. And of course, receiving postcards in return (though not yet, as you'll see below!). I signed on with vigour, and dreams of many brightly-coloured postcards flying back and forth across the seas. It put me in mind of the excitement I used to feel as a kid whenever I received some fun mail. The only catch is that sending an international postcard is a little more expensive than it used to be! The postage stamp cost is AU$1.65, which is more than a chocolate bar; 2 would be about the same as a coffee-shop coffee. The postcards themselves range between 40c to $2.00 or more, depending on the quality, but I'm not so fussed about that cost as they're so fun to buy and collect. With the capability of sending 5 postcards at a time (to begin with), up to 100 at a time (for seasoned PostCrossers), this could turn into a very expensive hobby! I knew I had to find some way to restrain my stamp-spending while still having fun.

In my searching I happened to come across a Japanese phenomenon called Fumi no hi. It means "Letter Day" and it was started by the Japanese government in 1979 to promote regular letter-writing and usage of the postal system. 'fumi' means the number 23 and also 'letter', so the 23rd of each month was chosen as the monthly letter day. I really like the idea of sending out a batch of mail once a month, but I decided to choose the first of each month because it's a rounded number and it's easier for me to remember.

So welcome to the first monthly Postcard Day!

This month I sent out postcards to D. in Finland (top right), A. in Germany (lower right), and the Grade Four class of an elementary school in the U.S. (left). Sorry about the slightly bodgy picture, but it was past my bedtime last night when I took this!

Of the 3 postcards I sent last month, the one to A. in Germany has been received/registered. The ones to L. in Russia and J. in the Netherlands have not been received yet. Technically I only sent them 3 weeks ago, so I suppose it's reasonable that they haven't arrived in Europe yet. With one postcard being received, this means I'm eligible to receive one postcard! .... Which I haven't received yet, but I'm trying to be patient.

This whole patience thing is one that's interesting for me. I've become such a child of the internet and the 21st century. It's all about instant gratification and constant stimulation. Often it's over-stimulation, with hundreds of blogs on my reader, thousands of pictures on Pinterest, the TV on and often noise from Husband's computer-gaming as well! I'm being bombarded from all sides, and everything seems to be speeding up until it seems like it'll go off the rails. The thought that I might have to wait 3 weeks or more for something is almost unbearable!

I think this will be good for me - an enforced patience, a slowing-down. Taking the time to choose a postcard that matches the recipient's profile, taking a deep breath and writing something meaningful on the card. Seeing my own handwriting on more than just a shopping list or a work report. Waiting for the pieces of coloured cardboard to find their way to the other side of the world. Waiting hopefully for some to find their way to me.

Stay tuned for next month's Postcards of the Month!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Christmas Baking, Part 1 : Pepernoten

It's December today, officially the start of the holiday season. I don't normally start doing Christmassy things this early, but in the last few years I've been getting back to my Dutch roots and doing a few things for Sinterklaas Eve, which is on 5th December. I won't leave out a shoe full of carrots and a glass of brandy for St. Nicholas and his horse as is the tradition in the Netherlands - I might end up receiving a shoe full of coal from Zwarte Piet instead of a present in the morning! But food is a deep part of culture and tradition, so I did some baking!

Today I made traditional Dutch biscuits Pepernoten. I've made Pepernoten before and posted the recipe here. Today I'm doing more of a photo-essay.

First I mixed together the flour, brown sugar
and spices. The spices all smelled so wonderful. Scent is so powerful and it
brought to life many memories of Christmases past.

Next I cracked 2 eggs, added some orange essence, and poured the beaten mix
into the flour. I always float the eggs in water to see if they're fresh
before I start working with them.

The dough is dry and crumbly at first, and I always get worried that it won't come together. Just at the last moment though, it amalgamates and actually becomes sticky. Naughty dough for worrying me like that!
The scent of the spices mixed with the orange fills the whole kitchen and makes me think of the clove-studded pomanders I made as a kid.

I started rolling the dough into small balls using damps hands so it didn't stick.
Husband suggested I try using one of our cutters to make heart-shaped pepernoten.
It was a stirling suggestion - they came out beautifully!

Rolling the dough balls with wet hands leaves them with a thin sheen of water
and a shiny appearance. Being slightly wet helps to make the pepernoten nice
and crunchy when they're cooked. I believe that artisan bakers spray their
bread with water before cooking to make a hard, chewy crust. Gastronomical convergences.

The pepernoten have turned out perfectly! The house smells spicy and festive,
and I have a box full of treats to share.
Time to put up the Christmas tree!

I hope you enjoyed my short cooking adventure. I'm already planning more, so stay tuned!