Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 in Review

2014 was another whirlwind year. If it weren't for my obsessive need fun hobby of making lists of everything I do, I probably wouldn't remember what happened at all. I also realised that I never did a wrap-up of 2013, but at least I can easily pull most of the statistics from that year to compare.

2014 Statistics (2013 statistic in brackets)
Books finished: full-length: 9 (22) ; short & manga: 11 (30)
Books currently reading as of today: 9

Craft items started: 9 (7)
Craft items finished: 4 (3)
Craft projects currently in progress as of today: 44

Blog posts: 17 (26)
Pinterest pins pinned (approx.): 15,000 (7,000)

When I think back on it, 2014 can be characterised by hiding: shrinking, withdrawing, going within to escape. I went out less, I posted less in my blog, I even read less books. The things going on inside my head were too distracting for me to concentrate on my beloved books. Though I'm pleased to see that I did a little more craft.

As for the blog, the majority of what I did post this past year has been about gardening. It's not surprising really, as my garden is my delight and my refuge. (Also a source of heartache, but worth it, as any gardener would agree!) With all of my art and craft supplies still packed from moving house, and most of the rooms filled with boxes (some literally!), gardening was just about the only creative outlet I had.

Eventually I got sick of waiting to be unpacked, and just went out and bought some more craft supplies! I started a new blanket using Bendigo Woollen Mills yarn. It's become my favourite brand as it comes in 200g balls, so it's great for larger projects.

I really hope it takes me less than 20 years to finish this one....

And, just because I feel like it, the first Annual Apartmentcat Favourites Award:

Favourite Book of the Year: Neil Patrick Harris : Choose Your Own Autobiography (I got it for Christmas, so it only just scraped in!)
......Runner Up: I also enjoyed the short story Head and Shoulders by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as read by B.J. Harrison

Favourite Movie of the Year: I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Favourite Blog of the Year: Stylebunny (It was a tough one to decide, but I have to love a family where a salami is a perfectly acceptable Christmas present!)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

My December; aka Started and Finished

For this month's summary, I think I'll just do a run-down of the craft projects I've been working on lately, as it's been a while.

Firstly, the finished --
I made a bubble cup carrier a few weeks ago. Having decided I needed more bubble cup in my life to make me happier, I located one a couple of blocks from my work. It's not far, but carrying the cup is awkward and, being a warm day, the ice half-melted before I could get it back to work. Solution: make a carrier with handles which hopefully will insulate the tea as well and keep it cold. It works pretty well!

Ever since my Lammily Doll arrived a few weeks ago, I've been a bit doll-oriented. I have a long list of clothes and other items to make for Emmy. I started out simple though -- a handbag:

Er ... the bag was supposed to be finished by now,
but it only needs the ends weaving in and perhaps a button deco,
so I'm calling it finished!

I adapted the pattern from a Barbie doll pattern on Ravelry. Lammily and Barbie are both 1:6 scale dolls, so though their clothes aren't interchangeable, any accessories, furniture, etc should do for both. The same goes for Blythe dolls, and I'm really coveting some of the adorable Blythe satchel bags on Etsy right now!

Now for the not-yet-finished --
Knitting has taken a bit of a back seat to crocheting for me in the last few years, but some items just look and feel better with a knitted texture. Plus I had a strange urge to do basketweave stitch. So I dug out a half-finished ball of fuzzy Caressa and started making a doll blanket for Emmy:

I started making it before she arrived, but if I'd been able to measure it against her, I would have made it a bit wider. Maybe I'll just add a border on each side.

I'm also crocheting a dress for Emmy as it's Summer here and I'd like to see her in something cool and feminine. It's slow going as I'm making it from scratch and writing everything down as I go, in case I want to make it into a pattern later on.

I've really been taxing my brain trying to remember and/or figure out how dolls' clothes are made, the fastenings used and best designs for getting them on and off easily. What have I gotten myself into?

What I Got For Christmas --
I've already packed away most of my goodies (very out of character for me!) before taking any photos of them. I did though, make a list on my listography, if you're curious enough to see a boring, photoless list.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Doll Things

Even before I received my Lammily doll, I was trawling through online places to source accessories for her. When Emmy arrived, I suddenly remembered that I'd bought this playset from Ikea about a year ago:

Okay, yes, I tend to make impulse purchases, but it always works out in the end! ... Well, in this particular case anyway. Most of my stuff is still packed from moving house, but by happy coincidence, I found the playset a couple of months ago. It was meant to be, I'm sure. So Emmy now has somewhere to sit and relax:

I am interested in making dioramas sometime in the future, and this colourful modern furniture set would look great, I think. Especially with the miniature books and potplants that I've been coveting on Etsy.

As soon as I started playing with Emmy's clothes, taking them off to measure her for the dress I'm making, etc, I realised that I'd like somewhere safe to put them her clothes. A wardrobe or hanging rack. And somewhere for her to sleep as well. Oh, this could get elaborate!

Friday, 12 December 2014

First Edition Lammily Doll -- Unboxing

Here's a little Christmas present I bought for myself. Well ... if it didn't happen to be Christmas, I would have made up another excuse! The Lammily doll has been designed to be the most realistic-looking doll available. The artist who designed Lammily wanted an alternative to the increasingly skinny and unrealistic-looking fashion dolls on the market. Actual data on the average measurements of young women was used to shape every part of the body. I first heard about Lammily in the culture section of my preferred TV news and, thanks to the power of the internet, the purchase was made practically before the end of the next ad break. And now she has finally (i.e. 10 days later) arrived!

What a neat package! It's smaller than I thought it would be. The doll box fits inside the packaging with no room to spare. There's no waste of packing materials. I like that!

The front of the box has a beautiful illustration of Lammily with her suitcase. There's a lovely message to all the crowdfunding supporters on the back of the box. The door opens up to reveal a booklet slipped inside. The booklet tells a lovely story of Lammily's journey throughout the world, doing lots of interesting things, including eating croissants and fixing a bike. I can't imagine certain other dolls doing that!

The flap that the booklet was attached to opens up to finally reveal the Lammily doll. She's dressed in the same denim shorts and shirt from the booklet illustrations (and from all of the pictures I've seen of her online!). I like it much better than the bikini some dolls come in, and the ombre on the shirt gives it a trendy touch. The clothes fasten with velcro. As a kid, I always struggled with press studs, having to slip my fingernail in between them to pry them apart. The fabric they were attached to inevitably got ripped. Then again, I never liked doll clothes with velcro fastenings, either. Just call me fussy. The velcro on Lammily's clothes is softer and less stiff than I remember from my old Barbie dolls, though.

Lammily's shoulders, wrists and ankles are ball-jointed. Her knees and elbows have snap joints. Her hair is extremely soft, lovely to the touch. The expression on her face is friendly and quietly confident.

There's only one slight concern I have with the doll, and that's the feet. I had to be very careful taking the shoes off. The ankle joint moves at the slightest touch -- a couple of times when I was posing her, I suddenly found one of her feet had turned completely backwards, which was vaguely disturbing. A bit like the foot exorcist!

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Lammily doll, with comparisons between her and certain other dolls on the market. She surely looks different to the dolls I played with as a kid. Yet somehow, she looks familiar. It occurs to me -- she looks more like me. She has the same sturdy, strong legs as I do. Her waist looks more like a person's. Her hair (aside from not having a fringe) is a lot like mine. She doesn't wear crazy, bright blue 80s makeup. ... Well, I've been known to do that on occasion, but not every day! ...

It's hard to say what the effect of playing with unrealistic-looking fashion dolls had on me as a kid. I knew I didn't look like them. I never wanted to look like them. My main interest was making clothes and accessories for them, so I viewed their bodies more as shapes to be decorated, rather than human beings in miniature.

Having said that, when I viewed the video on YouTube showing why Lammily was created, I shed a few tears. So perhaps the effect goes deeper than I realised.

When I grew a little older, I became disillusioned with Barbies, but still remembered the fun I had making outfits for them. I always told myself that if a realistically-proportioned doll was ever produced, I would get one and take up the hobby again. And now here she is. I'm not sure yet what I'll call her though.

This YouTube video has an unboxing, review and some discussion on Lammily and body image.
This blog post has pictures of Lammily with no clothes on (for the easily embarrassed, don't worry, she has plastic undies embossed on), and shows her full range of movement, and comparisons with other dolls.

Monday, 1 December 2014

My November …

My November has just flown by. Several changes on different fronts will be happening in my life soon, and I've been preparing for them. Apologies for remaining annoyingly vague for now, but I want to see how things work out before talking about them.

What I've been growing ...
At this time of year, the garden changes every day. Ripe oranges are ready to pick from the tree, but right next to them are new baby oranges giving the promise of more later on.

This is the olive tree that Husbandy-One and I planted. Isn't it cute? It's even growing tiny, tiny little flowers. Hopefully that means there'll be tiny little olives. On our walks around the neighbourhood, we've noticed many vigorously-growing olive trees in peoples' front yards, so we figured it would be a fairly safe bet to plant an olive. I have to admit, I think I've become a little bit addicted to planting trees! It was so much fun.

What I've been observing ...
This sunset was so beautiful, I couldn't help attempting to take a photo of it, power poles and all.

Another bad shot ... driving through the country, I saw some cool trees.

What I've been painting ...
Just a quick photo of my painting area. I was doing backgrounds in my art journals.

Since I started art journalling again, I've noticed the same patterns re-appearing that were present last time. I have a lot of fun mixing colours and laying down backgrounds (some so beautiful that I don't want to put anything over the top!). I've also had a lot of fun with glueing in collage elements. But I don't feel like a page is "complete" until there's some kind of drawing or other fine detail work on it. A few days ago, in search of inspiration, I went back over works by some of my favourite artists (this is why Pinterest is tops). By happenstance, I saw that one of my favourite artists, Tascha Parkinson does online drawing classes, but not only that, the first in the series is on sale! I'd like to say that I signed up immediately, but it was bedtime, so I slept on it. Happily, I was still just as enthusiastic the next morning. I'm currently waiting for the invitation to the course to arrive in my inbox.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Pop for Poetry

This is an impromptu post (hence the terrible photo taken on my ipod) about Pop for Poetry.

If you're on a Melbourne train and you see a balloon, take it! I found a poem inside mine. On this dreary Monday morning, it was exactly what I needed. Instead of worrying about what was in store for me this week at work, I started thinking about blog posts I'll write. Perhaps I'll even start writing zines again!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

My October

Unfortunately there's not much to account for in October. I was sick and I also had to work extra hours. I had a blog post written and all ready to release into the wild, but I had a setback with the project that went with it. Even though it was a small project, I lost the motivation to finish it. When I'm tired, the little voice that says it's all pointless is harder to ignore. On the bright side, being sick brings feverish dreams. Drawings and art journal pages of various designs floated through my head while I was asleep, and I managed to capture a couple of them, or at least make notes for when I have time.

What I've been sorting ...
At the start of the month, I started to become thoroughly annoyed with not having a hobby room. I decided to institute 30 Days of Unpacking, but soon after that, I came down sick. I told myself that the 30 days didn't have to be consecutive: it's still going to happen, just a little slower than planned. Here's a small peek into what I have to tackle to make it happen:

What I've been drawing ...
Late in the month, as I sat trapped on a train that didn't move for 90 minutes, with an ipod that was about to run out of battery, I thought to myself, "if this isn't the time to draw, then when is?" This is a little character that I first dreamed of a few months ago. His name is Yallo.

What I've been looking at ...
While I was inside recuperating, this happened:

And this:

And this:

While I was engaged in the mind-numbing cycle of work, train, eat, cough, sleep, amazing things were happening right on my doorstep. Now that I'm feeling better, I want to make sure to appreciate them more.

What I've been reading ...
I finished Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness: A modern-day interpretation of a self-help classic.

The concepts in Russell's 1930 book of philosophy are broken down into convenient bite-size pieces of a few pages each. Every chapter ends with tips on how to put his wisdom into practice in the 21st century. Russell's work is less in need of updating than many others - he writes on topics much thought of now, but hardly mentioned in his age, like love, sex and friendship. I found it food for thought and most of the tips were useful. I'm sure Russell would have laughed at the concept of 'self-help', though.

I found this book for free on iBooks, but I think it's on Smashwords, too.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Saikei Deconstruction // Wiring

Regular readers may remember that way back in the deep, dark past (i.e. New Year's Day of this year) I created my first saikei. This is what it looked like when I first put it together.

This is what it looks like now:

The pickle plant really took to its environment, and grew steadily until it took over most of the pot. Perhaps I should introduce it to Crazy Potato! The Japanese Box just sat there looking surly for many months. I don't blame it really. I did cut off half the root ball after all. I finally noticed some new growth on it a few weeks ago, so I thought it was time for it to graduate to its own pot.

Prising the plants out of the pot. I don't know what all this white stuff is. ...Anyone?...
I decided not to take my gloves off halfway through like I normally do.

It was hard to separate the two plants. The roots were very entangled, but I think most of them belonged to the pickle plant.

I put the Box into its new pot first. It only just fitted but unfortunately I had no bigger pots, so this one would have to do for now. The mossy stuff that I'd dug out of the garden didn't fit, so I pulled it off and stuck it back in the garden where I'd originally found it. It'll be interesting to see if it survives.

I decided to re-pot the pickle plant back into the same pot, as I didn't have any other suitable ones. I left the weed traveller plant with it, as it was so entwined with the pickle plant and I didn't want to damage it trying to separate them. Plenty of 'pickles' were already falling off as it was!

Then I attempted to wire the Box plant.
Ergh. Unfortunately the average noob bonsai enthusiast doesn't get much of a chance to wire trees, and I drew a blank as I was sitting there. I also only had one roll of wire -- a fairly thick one -- so I only did the thicker branches.

The next day I had a change of heart and re-styled the branch on the left until it was nearly vertical again. I figure, if tree survives, I'll have plenty of time to correct any regrets later.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

My September

In an effort to post more regularly, I've decided to start a, sort-of, monthly update. There's no official name for it yet.

What I've Been Making....
I don't think I've yet introduced my GrannyLand blanket. Or it could be called Granny Galore. I'm not sure yet. I probably should decide soon -- I started it back in March. Granny squares are just so easy to work on, and I deliberately sized them so that one ball of wool would make 4 without worrying about running out of a colour. Two reasons why it's the project I work on when I'm tired and it's hard to bring myself to do anything else.

What I've Been Drawing....
This is my Leftovers Journal. It's A5-size, half the size I normally work with. I bought it as a place to put all the 'leftovers' -- the smears of paint, bits of collage paper and images that don't fit anywhere else. I don't view it as a 'real' journal, and its come to play an important role. All the new techniques, colours and shapes that I want to experiment with seem to appear here first, before trickling their way down into my other journals.

The other thing I've started recently is 60 Things. It's inspired by Diced Imagery, which is in turn inspired by Rory's Story Cubes. I roll dice (a D6 and a D10 -- yes, I have some geeky tendencies!) to determine which of 60 pre-listed topics I will draw. This day I rolled the number for dinosaur, and just happened to have a figurine handy (more evidence of geeky tendencies). I'll show more drawings in my next update.
And yes, my dining room table is half art-journalling station and half plant-nursery at the moment!

What I've Been Growing....
Meet Crazy Potato. He's shy at first, but when he gets to know you, he shows his affection by suddenly attempting to take over your whole house. I swear, as soon as the daytime temperatures hit 18oC and above, this thing began to grow at a rate of about 20cm per day! I'll show you Son of Crazy Potato and more growing exploits soon.

What I've Been Reading....
I'm afraid my reading habits have been rather shameful lately. Blogs and Wikipedia articles have been my standard fare for most of this year. I blame the internet for my shrinking attention span! A few days ago I started reading a book -- an actual one, with paper and covers and all. It's been both challenging and refreshing to sit down and concentrate on one thing for up to an hour without the temptation to switch to another browser tab after every few sentences.
The book I'm reading is The Chinawoman by Ken Oldis. It's a true-crime/history piece about the murder of a high-class prostitute in Gold Rush Melbourne and the relationship between the police and the local Chinese community. I'm enjoying it so far.

Monday, 1 September 2014

In the Kitchen : Okonomiyaki

It was Saturday afternoon, it was a quiet, rainy day at home. Husband was industriously playing away on his Xbox, and we were getting a little peckish, so I decided to make Okonomiyaki. The great thing about Okonomiyaki is that you can add whatever you like to them. Even the name reflects this: okonomi means "what you like". So as long as you have flour, you can make them with whatever is to hand. This is what I managed to find in the fridge:

Fresh and frozen vegetables, herbs and some chorizo. Chorizo and other specialty sausages are very expensive here, but occasionally the supermarket has the 2-kilo bag half-price, so we always snap up a bag whenever we see it. We're into cooking, buying in bulk and preserving food, so we have a big freezer:

Doesn't look too dirty, phew! On the right-hand side of the crisper drawer, you can see the acorns I'm hibernating from my last post. Next, I cut up all the fresh vegetables and the chorizo. It turns out that I didn't need too much of the frozen veggies after all -- I just added a little for variety.

Mixing up the batter. I just used plain flour, milk and water for the batter. We were out of garlic, so I added some horseradish paste instead.

The first batch was a bit of a failure unfortunately. They stuck to the pan!

For the second batch, I turned the heat down and used rice bran oil instead of olive oil in the pan.

Much better!

And of course, what is Okonomiyaki without toppings! I collected together all the ones I thought would taste good: mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, Japanese barbeque sauce, parsley, squeezy sour cream (it's a new product meant for topping Mexican dishes, but who cares?), seaweed flakes and some leftover chutney from last week's Indian takeaway.

Well, the result might not look so appetising, but we both at it very fast!