Sunday, 31 May 2015

My May

The year just seems to be flying by so fast. Tomorrow it will be Winter!

What I've been painting ...
Dabbling a bit in art-journalling again. My attempts at drawing more a few months ago petered out very quickly. Every day turned into three times a week turned into once a week within a very short space of time. Resistance set in and I never achieved these resolutions. Perhaps I put too much pressure on myself in an area where I have little confidence. I seem to have unconsciously taken a step back for now, back into my comfort zone. Mixing paints together and spreading them out as backgrounds. Grabbing a texta and scribbling out a phrase that's been swirling through my mind. This makes me happy. This is not the time for uncomfortableness. Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Where I've been visiting ...
I went back to Cat Cafe Melbourne -- again! I didn't devote a whole blog post to it this time because the photos didn't turn out very well. ... And uh, I've already done three posts about my repeat visits! It's my blog and I can write what I like, but even still...
The Cat Cafe seems to be the perfect place for when I need something relaxing to do and something to look forward to.

What I've been working on ...
This is a page from my neographic workbook. I'm creating my own writing script. It's a project I've been working on (on and off) for about 20 years. The project stalled for over a year when I lost my notes, and again when I was going through a rough time, but now it's back on track. At the moment! I'll write a full post on what this is all about when it's nearer to completion.

What I've been writing ...
Still writing, little bits here and there. Some actual stories, though how to tell if they're any good is a completely different matter. No-one can read them because they might hurt my precious babies!!!. I mentioned to a friend the other day that I was doing a bit of writing, and she started to ask questions like, "Is it a novel? Do the stories have a theme? Do you do NaNoWriMo?" The answer to all of them was either "no' or "I don't know." My head started to spin and I thought, "I don't do any of that! I'm not a writer, I can't do that! Don't touch my beautiful babies!!!"
So, obviously, this is something that needs looking at before publishing can happen. I have a strong suspicion I'm not the only person that goes through this. Despite all of it though, I just can't seem to stop writing.

And finally ...
For the interested, here is my list of (in my opinion) iPod-worthy Eurovision Song Contest entries. Downloaded and being listened to as we speak! Though some I could probably bear to listen to more times than others. P.S. they're in random order of how iTunes schlurped them, not favourites or anything.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Souvenirs from my Seaside Trip

As promised, here's a rundown of the souvenirs I brought home from my trip to the seaside.

Bracelets and earrings from the Shell Museum:

I always have to get at least one fridge magnet wherever I go! I got these keyrings from a gashapon (egg dispenser) machine near the supermarket. Ever since my trip to Japan, I always check them out and occasionally they have interesting contents. These little dolls are made of rope and they seem to be very much hand-made. I love them! I imagine a little girl somewhere in the town industriously making them and putting them in the eggs to sell for $2 each. Or perhaps they're made in China. I don't know. I would have bought more, but we only had 2 of the right coins between us at the time.

Information book and gemstones from the Buchan Caves Reserve, and shell from the Shell Museum. I highly recommend going to both if you ever find yourself in Lakes Entrance.

These coathangers, soaps and chilli and zucchini chutney actually came from an indoor craft market in Orbost. Sounds incredibly exciting, yes! There were a large selection of items of all kinds to choose from, but I found most of them overpriced. So we came away with just these few items. I've only just realised that the soaps and the coathangers I chose were the same colours!

The best souvenir I by far though, is Frank! I'm not sure what type of dinosaur he's supposed to be exactly, but he's adorable! He lives on my couch now.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Fun and Food of Eurovision 2015!

N.B.: Photo credits for all of the photos in this post go to Husband,
who took them using his iPad.

The Eurovision Song Contest has been a source of excitement in my house every May as far back as I can remember. Husband loves it as much as I do, and every year our festivities have become more and more elaborate. As has the Contest itself, blowing out to a three-night affair with an opening ceremony. This year, the 60th anniversary year, the contestants even came out marching behind their national flags, just like the Olympics! I haven't blogged about our activities before, but I just couldn't let it pass by this year, as Australia was allowed to compete for the very first time! To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this. Normally only countries that broadcast the Eurovision TV station are eligible to compete, and we are about as far away from Europe as you can get. But on the other hand, I was incredibly excited! So let me share how we celebrated Eurovision 2015 -- with food and drink!

Husband decided to go all-out with the drinks this year, and he decided to purchase this tabletop Kegerator, which holds a 5-litre keg of drink, cools it and keeps it fizzy. So we were able to pour drinks quickly and easily without having to get bottles of soft drink out of the fridge, mix them and all that mucking around. I highly recommend it if you're having a big party.
(Sorry this photo is a little fuzzy.)

We broke out the Shot Glass Roulette drinking game this year, which is basically what it says on the box. I'm not a huge drinker, so we alternated the shot glasses with mini chocolate bars. There were bottles of water on hand too, though I have to admit I forgot to alternate with water in the frenzy of spinning and drinking!
The second night, we set up the board again, but just worked our way through it from left to right. I couldn't eat very many of the chocolates though!
After all that, on the third night we just decided to drink at our own pace from the Kegerator.

Oh, I should probably mention that every third shot glass had non-alcoholic iced tea in it. Gone are the days of my youth when I could drink .... well, let's just say: more than I can these days!

As for the foods, we went with an all-Austrian menu for the whole weekend. I think this is the part we both enjoy the most -- researching national dishes, planning the menu, sourcing the ingredients, and of course cooking and eating!

On nights one and two, we ate Gulasch with cheese and herb Semmelknödel. Here is the Gulasch in the slow cooker before cooking:

Here it is with the Semmelknödel (dumplings) cooking on top:

Here it is, served up with some leftover chips that we had. Not entirely Austrian, but we don't like to throw anything away, and potatoes are a traditional accompaniment. They came up very well reheated in the oven:

We kept on the Austrian theme during the day as well, with Danishes (which Wikipedia assures me are actually Viennese).
I have to say, it was very satisfying walking into my local bakery and saying to the lady behind the counter, "I'd like all the Danishes, please!" Happily, they were all different flavours, so we got to try a variety.

This is breakfast on Day 3 -- a selection of cold meats and cheeses, with savoury pancakes. The condiments are fruit chutney and redcurrant jam. Breakfasts like these keep you full for the whole day! Husband and I found we only wanted a small snack mid-afternoon and we were set until dinnertime.

For the final, we tried a different dish for dinner -- a variety of sausages with a crusty roll, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.

Obligatory glow stick wand:

Although eating a traditional Austrian diet for 3 days was fun, I certainly couldn't do it long term! I broke out in pimples for the first time in nearly a year, and the pickles and meats gave me recurring reflux. Though I admit, the alcohol probably had something to do with it...

Now, why were we doing all of this again? Oh yes, the Eurovision Song Contest! Well, Australia came 5th, which I think is an achievement to be proud of. I'm grateful that the people of Europe voted for our little song. Most of the other songs I like did well, so I'm happy with that. And next year we're off to Sweden again, for the second time in 4 years! Looks like a trip to the Ikea grocery store is in my future.

What to do now that the party is over? I think I might listen to all of the songs on YouTube again!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Review : Crayola Paint Brush Pens

I bought these Crayola Paint Brush Pens from the toy shop in the town where I spent my short holiday a few weeks ago. I was intrigued by them as I'd never seen anything quite like them before. As it turns out, they weren't quite what they seemed! So I decided to write a review.

There were five pens in the packet, coloured red, green, blue, yellow and purple. This product is obviously aimed at children (or parents of children!) with its emphasis on the no-drip properties and easy clean up. In fact, the words "no drip" and "no spill" are repeated several times on the front and back. This claim is true, and it's quite easy to make -- because these aren't actually brush pens, they're felt-tip pens! (Or textas, as we call them in Australia.)

I was disappointed with this obviously false advertising, and I may not have bought them (especially at such a high price of $13.95) if I had known. I already have plenty of textas of many different kinds in my art supplies stash. However, these ones have a flexible, brush-like tip, which I don't have any of, and they can create some interesting effects.
(Not the "great paint effects" promised on the packaging, but still....)

Writing with them gives a calligraphy-like effect, which I liked....

I can quickly and easily do some brush-style writing without having to break out the brush and ink. And yes, it's a lot less messy than mucking around with my inkstone!

Drawing symbols, patterns and random swirls with them also has some pleasing results...

And if you run out of other ideas, you can always use them on an oblique angle to add a layer of transparent colour over text, etc...

Although it's not good that this product is not what it says on the packaging, it's clearly aimed at parents who just want to give their kids something not-too-messy to muck around with, and don't care exactly what it is. I paid too much for this product, but I don't blame the independent, small-town toy store that needs to survive the tourist-unfriendly winter months. I can't comment on their longevity as I only bought them a few weeks ago. However, they have those annoying lids with air holes in them that prevent children from suffocating if they inhale them, so I don't expect them to last for years.

I would recommend the Crayola Paint Brush Pens if you are happy with what they are, not what they say they are.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

My Trip to the Seaside

A few weeks ago, Husband and I went on a trip to the seaside for four nights. I brought many things to do -- crochet, drawing paper, books, board games -- but in the end I didn't actually do much of any of that. Instead, there were a lot of unscheduled naps and spa baths. I guess I just needed to rest. Here are a few shots of the things we did do/see:

The view from the porch of our cottage -- nice and secluded...

Walks along the foreshore ...

Pirate-themed mini golf in the rain...

Noticing small details...

The ocean ... the actual ocean. We spent about 10 minutes there. Not really ocean-y people...

Breathtaking Buchan Caves...

Next update, I'll show you my souvenirs!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

My April…

April this year has been like the old Aprils that I remember as a kid -- the memories that have made it my favourite month. I love the cold that settles into your bones early in the morning, that gives way to cool, clear hazy afternoons. There's enough rain to rejuvenate the plants in the garden, but not enough yet to dampen the spirits. At the start of the month, I made sure to spend time outside in the garden while I could, but now it's dark when I get home, and I have to wait until the weekend to go outside.

What I've been working on ...
I've been feeling a strong urge to write recently. It's strange because it's been such a long time since I did any writing except blogging, and the urge came on very suddenly just after I got home from my holiday. I've written stories, reflective pieces, reviews on all sorts of things ... expect to see lots of reviews on the blog soon!
Photos of writing are probably quite boring, so here's one of some mushrooms I found in my garden a few weeks ago. They had completely disappeared the next day.

What I've been dreaming of ...
A craft room of my own. We're making progress, bit by little bit. I'm trying to do one thing every day. Even if it's just something tiny, like hanging up one cardigan, or choosing one thing to donate to the op-shop. It might seem like something insignificantly small, but at least I can tell myself it's better than nothing at all.
A photo from Pinterest that shouldn't be to hard to aspire to in the early stages....

What I've been taking pictures of ...
This seems to be turning into a regular feature of my monthly update! I'm not taking quite as many pictures as I was last month, but I still have quite a few in reserve, so I may as well share some.