Sunday, 29 March 2015

Op-Shop Recon ... Part 1

For the last few months now, I've been pining to get back into op-shopping (or thrifting, as it's known in many circles). I guess it's partly envy of the exciting vintage hauls that I've been seeing other people sharing online, and partly a reaction to my drive to get rid of stuff recently. But I am trying to be mindful not to re-stock too much and keep a balance!

It's been many years since I've been op-shopping, and I don't know where the good ones are anymore, so I thought it would be fun to go to several places, do a bit of a Reconnaissance Mission and report back my findings. The first shop I went to was the Salvation Army Store in the CBD, at the top end of Bourke Street. It was very small and, I thought, a bit overpriced. It was mostly clothes, with a book section, and no homewares. I was particularly looking for some clear glass mugs or a teapot, so I was a bit disappointed. I didn't end up buying anything. (I know, my friends will be shocked!)

The second shop I went to was the Brotherhood Shop in the basement of the Royal Arcade. It was larger and had the full range of what you would expect from an op shop -- clothes, books, linens, homewares, toys, etc. They didn't have the exact items I was looking for, but I came away with a few things.

Here we see some cute vintage mugs, a shelf-stand, a vintage sewing pattern, a hand-knitted baby blanket, and a travel guide to New Zealand in Chinese:

I positively swooned when I saw this hand-knitted baby blanket in pastels. It's now draped over the back of my couch. I'll add the sewing pattern to my collection. And the travel guide ... well, I've been really interested in Asian writing systems lately and I'm sure it will have many good pictures that I can use in my art journalling.

And I'd been wanting to get some more shelf-stands from Ikea to help re-organise my tea cupboard. But Ikea is so far away from where we live now. So when I saw this shelf-stand, I figure my visit was meant to be!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cat Café Melbourne .... Again

Yes, we went back again ... And yes, this post is basically just more kitty photospam.

I do have some news though -- there are three new inhabitants at the Cat Café, and they're all adorable kittens! Chirp, Nod and Tillie all have distinct personalities: Chirp was one of the first cats we met on the stairs leading up to the play area, and he loved to annoy the other cats until they either batted him away or consented to play with him. Nod spent the whole time sleeping, curled up in one of the pods. Tillie was nowhere to be found at first, but eventually slipped out of her hidey-hole to check out what was going on.

We were there in the last timeslot of the day, right after which is feeding time. The cats all emerged from wherever they were and started loitering around the hallway, so we got some group shots as well this time.

A good, solid hour of petting, playing with, and admiring a cohort of kitties was exactly what Husband and I needed to make us happy after a tough couple of weeks.

Now on with the photospam!

↘ Nod in the sleeping pod.

↘ Braveheart eyeing off the birds with his one eye.

↘ Winter and Ruby get in some solid sleeping time.

↘ Tilly jumps on top of the napping house.

↘ Tilly is too dignified to play with toys!

↘ The cats just love sitting on this cardboard thing.

↘ Chirp being curious and coming up the tube towards the camera.

↘ Lottie can't resist the rope toy.

↘ Group shot.

↘ It's nearly dinner time!

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A Visit to Cat Café Melbourne Return to Cat Café Melbourne

Sunday, 15 March 2015

In the Kitchen: Long Weekend Foods

Last weekend was a long weekend. Husband and I had already decided to do some cooking; we just didn't know what. Before I knew it, he was whipping up a marble cake! The chocolate portion is chocolate-flavoured (uh huh) and the pink portion strawberry-flavoured. He divided the batter into two jugs.

We then had fun pouring the jugs into the tin at the same time, moving back and forth to create layers of strawberry and chocolate. We also added some chocolate-covered crystallised ginger that was left over from our Christmas hamper.

We baked the cake in a flexible silicone Ikea baking tin that allowed the cake to bulge outwards instead of up! I named it the Pregnant Cake. (I guess any silicone tin would do that, not just Ikea ones? Or perhaps it was the batter? Will have to experiment.)

No worries though, the cake was delicious! Husband made some chocolate buttercream icing, and I decorated it with sprinkles -- though most fell off! The marbled effect was very pleasing. The only thing we regretted was adding the ginger -- it overpowered the strawberry taste. I thought it would be much better in a spiced cake next time.

Then for lunch we made sushi! I have to admit that I'm a little proud to say we're the kind of household that can spontaneously make sushi from things we happen to have in the pantry. Tinned tuna, cucumber, carrot, rice, Kewpie mayonnaise, soy sauce, dashi, and nori sheets.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

I got a Free Plant

Going for daily walks at lunch time is a good thing in so many different ways. A few weeks ago, I took photos of the summer plant display in front of the Melbourne Town Hall. The following week, I went back the same way, and the scene was completely different. Staff were dismantling the display and only a few broken, forlorn-looking plants were left in the big water-filled metal pans. A little shocked at the sudden (to me!) change from the beautiful display I'd seen not long before, I asked one of the staff what was going to happen to the plants. She said I could have one.

It must like being at my house, because it's flowered already!
Thank you, City of Melbourne, for my free plant baby.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Reflections on 10 Years of Blogging

Looking back through some of my old blog posts recently, I realised something -- I started my blog in May 2004. By my calculations, that makes over 10 years of blogging! I find it hard to believe. It happened almost by accident.

A year earlier in 2003, I'd started using a new blogging website, LiveJournal, to keep a private diary. It was the typical angst-ridden hand-wringing of an introverted single girl with an unstable job. Whether it was the cathartic effects of the diary or other factors, I don't know, but sometime later my life started to improve. Chatty posts about my hobbies started to appear, and I decided to make these public. These posts were aimed at a very specific group -- young women I worked with who had also just taken up knitting and/or had a LiveJournal -- and their tone reflects that. It wasn't until several months in that I discovered how to post photos. Other attributes considered essential now, like the banner and sidebar, came much later. Unfortunately, I've lost touch with all of those girls now, but my blog is still here.

Naturally, the blog has always reflected my varying interests. At first this was knitting, interspersed with some cooking and random filler when the weather was too hot to knit. As well as long periods of no posting at all! After a couple of years, I reached arguably the pinnacle of knitting -- sock-making. After this triumph, I wanted to do something new. I tried crocheting again and realised that I preferred it. Hungry for new crafts and techniques -- or the sentimental revival of old ones from when I was a kid -- I branched out in various directions. I tried latch hook, embroidery, applique, sewing, weaving, plushie making and art dolls. Tentatively, I branched into the arts with some drawing and artist cards. I wrote my first zine in October of 2007 and started my first art journal in January of 2008. My manic buzzing back and forth between various crafts got so hectic that I started a post series called "5-Minute Obsessions" to try and document it. Sometimes I would even order the materials for a new craft online, and by the time they arrived, I'd lost interest and moved on to something else.

In the midst of all this swirling disorganisation, I must have wanted some order, as around mid-2008, I started experimenting with releasing various series of weekly posts and and doing regular round-ups. What with working full-time however, and wanting to find time to actually do crafts, my planned posting schedules were never very long-lived. Things have continued in their slightly haphazard way until the present day. As my interests and circumstances have changed, so has the nature of my craft and naturally, the content of the blog. When I started working full-time and wanted to make sure I didn't forget my independent self, I started writing zines. I took up art journalling to challenge myself and improve my drawing. When I moved in with Husband and my nesting instinct started to kick in, I stopped making endless scarves and started making blankets and cushions. And when we bought a house together last year, posts on gardening suddenly began to appear.

I never kidded myself that many or any people would read my blog. Any changes that I've made, like the banner and sidebar, have been mostly for my own pleasure. At times I've contemplated making more of an effort -- giving it a more professional look or moving it to a platform with more options. But in the end, the blog is me. Sometimes frenetically excited, other times lethargic (it's lain dormant for up to three months at a time before). Self-deprecating. Obsessive. A little bit dorky.

I'd been knitting again for three years when I started blogging about it. In my second ever post back in June 2004, I berated myself that "I've jumped onto the bandwagon way too late with this knitting blog". I have a feeling that I've more than made up for that with longevity. 10 years is practically a millennium in internet-years. But I think there's still room in the world for a blog like mine.

Monday, 2 March 2015

My February …

The weather this year continues strange, with only a few days over 25oC this month. Earlier this week, I even noticed that mellow haze which starts to filter into the bright summer sunlight at the start of autumn. Normally I don't start seeing that until late March! I'd be tempted to jokingly call this the Year Without A Summer if I didn't know better. We've had years before where it's been relatively cool and wet in December and January, and then scorching hot in March and April. So, as much as I'd like to, I'm not breaking out my scarves quite yet!

Craft-wise, I've been having a lot of ideas, but not often able to follow up on them. Thoughts of starting a course of study seem even less appealing when I realise that I don't have the time or energy for activities that are enjoyable and relaxing, let alone ones that are good for my career. At other times, I get urges to work on old projects that are still packed. I have to stop myself from buying more materials and starting on a new version!

What I've been sorting ...
I've been getting urges to go op-shopping lately, specifically for some clear glass mugs to serve tea in. I'm acutely aware however, of how much stuff there already is in my house. If I'm not careful, it'll start looking like an episode of Hoarders! So I decided that before I can go op-shopping, I have to choose 20 items to donate in return. I actually managed 22 and Husband quite a few as well. We took them to the donation bin just today.

I couldn't help buying this adorable pen holder when I was at Typo the other day, though.

What I've been reading ...
Earlier in the month, I read Beautiful for ever : Madame Rachel of Bond Street - cosmetician, con-artist and blackmailer by Helen Rappaport. It's a salacious tale, all true, of a poor fishmonger who dragged herself out the slums of 19th-century London by becoming a beautician and promising to make her clients "beautiful for ever". Society ladies paid thousands of pounds for her lotions and treatments, plus extra to guarantee discretion. Victorian society put a huge value on natural beauty, and no respectable woman would admit to using anything other than soap and water. Society ladies were forced to hand over their jewels rather than have their husbands find out about their spending habits. Much dodgier things were also going on at her exotically-decorated bathhouse, and when it was found out, a scandal-hungry public couldn't get enough. A fair portion of the book deals with the court cases that were brought against Madame Rachel, but the author manages to keep this often-dry subject matter light and interesting. Darker subjects like poverty, anti-Semitism and misogyny are sensitively handled. Madame Rachel was a truly vile character, there's no denying it, but Rappaport steers a very neutral path, avoiding either censuring or idolising her subject. I enjoyed this book very much, and I'd like to seek out more from the same author.

What I've been seeing ...
I've really gotten into the Hipstamatic app on my ipod again. There are way too many lens and filter options to choose from, so I use the random function and it often works well. I've been taking every opportunity to take a few snaps -- while waiting in line to order lunch, walking back from meeting up with a friend, at a function centre with a beautiful garden and duck pond. I'm finding this very satisfying. I don't have to wait until I get home to create something; I can just whip out my ipod wherever I am and take a few photos. There's something soulful in taking the time to see things.