Saturday, 28 May 2016

Divination

I've always been interested in divination, as long as I can remember. I love reading about different types of divination from all over the world, and have tried several myself, though I wouldn't call myself an expert in any of them. I recently acquired a new treasure, so I thought I'd do an overview of the sets I have and methods I've tried.

AMETHYST RUNES
I've had this set of Norse runes since I was a teenager. I chose amethyst because it's said to be the crystal most associated with psychic and intuitive activities, but mostly because I love the colour purple. At some later stage, I embroidered the runic alphabet onto the bag. At one point about 6 years ago, I was using them fairly frequently and even did practice 'swap' readings for a couple of other people in online forums. This set was packed away for a long time after I moved house, and I only found them recently. I feel I would need to cleanse the crystals before using them again.



WOODEN RUNES
This runeset is made from Ash wood. I purchased it from Green Woman Crafts on Etsy about 6 months ago. They came in a hand-sewn pouch, which made them feel even more special. I daresay I like them even more than the crystal ones. They have a warmth to them, and on a practical level they also sit flat when I lay them out. I've been getting back into practice by drawing a rune most mornings for the past month or so, and I find that I often get insights from them.


GODDESS RUNES
These runes work on a system from a book of the same name by P. M. H. Atwater. I won't comment on the claims made in the book today. At the time I bought it (again, when I was a teenager) I didn't know any of that. It just looked like interesting to try, whether the method was an ancient one or not.
I made the runes from stones I found around my parents' garden. The method is to cast all of the runes plus a blank one which represents the querent. They are then interpreted on how close they are to the querent stone, moving outwards in a spiral. I haven't used these runes for a long time, but I can say the casting method appealed to me and seemed more intuitive than drawing them out of a bag.

I recently discovered that Norse runes can be cast as well, and I want to find out more about that and try it.

I CHING
I Ching (The Book of Changes) is a Chinese book of divination. As I learned it, three coins are tossed. The heads-or-tails outcome is either yin or yang. The coins are tossed again and the second outcome either stays yin/yang, or changes to the polar opposite. (Hence the Book of Changes). Together, the two results form a six-part hexagram which corresponds to one of 64 poems in the book.
It's been years since I've used this method, so forgive me if I remembered some of the details incorrectly! As you can see, I used some ordinary 10c coins, which I marked with texta for clarity. I do keep them in a nice box, though. Dice, sticks, marbles or various other tools can also be used.


I Ching is a little different to other methods, as instead of an individual interpreting the outcome, the book is consulted. The text is a Chinese classic and has remained unchanged for 2,500 years. The intuitive part is not so much in interpreting the results, but applying the advice in the poem to the querent's particular situation.

JIAOBEI
In English these are known as moon blocks or kidney blocks. The pair of wooden blocks are flat on one side and curved on the other. They're a quick way to determine the answer to a question. Often people will use them to determine whether it's an auspicious time to consult the I Ching as well. The blocks are held in the hand, then dropped to the floor, and the answer stems from whether they land both curved side up, flat side up, or one of each.
I bought the set from an Asian grocery more out of curiosity than anything else. I haven't used them very much so far. The method is so simple and the outcomes so few and clear, it almost seems like cheating!

LENORMAND CARDS
These are my newest treasure, and I haven't used them yet. Lenormand Cards are named after Madame Lenormand, a famous French fortune teller of the early 19th century. I only heard about this method a few months ago. There isn't a lot of information about them out there, and I haven't done a lot of research yet, but as I understand it, the method is this: the cards are shuffled and then all 36 cards are laid out in a grid. One card represents the querent, and the rest of the cards are interpreted depending on how close they are to the querent card.

The Lenormand Cards may seem similar to Tarot cards, but they have some important differences. I could never relate to Tarot, I don't know why. I was given a set as a teenager, but never used them very successfully, and ended up giving them away. The Lenormand method seems to use more intuition, almost like a card-based version of rune casting. As I don't know much about them so far, I'd love to hear opinions from anyone more knowledgeable than I am!

I wasn't thinking about purchasing a set, until I saw these Viking Lenormand cards, designed by BC Artworks. I couldn't resist. I also purchased the optional pouch to keep them in. I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Review: Death in Brunswick

Death In Brunswick is a classic Australian novel written by Boyd Oxlade and published in 1987. It is a dark comedy with shocking situations and odious characters which remind me of the stories of Chuck Palahniuk.


Carl is a deadbeat in his late 30s. He works as a cook at a pub; his brutish boss only tolerates him because the pub is required by law to serve food. After Carl's mother has a heart attack, Carl offers to have her stay with him for a couple of weeks, despite his better judgement. While there, Carl's mother badgers him on everything from changing his name, to getting back together with his ex-wife (who she doesn't realise is a lesbian). Carl only bears this because his mother has told him she has left him a large sum of money in her will.

The story alternates between Carl and his best friend, Dave, who has to wrangle his overbearing wife and three children, while putting up with his racist, lazy colleagues at his job as a gravedigger. Despite all of these burdens, Dave is happy, a fact of which Carl is envious.

Meanwhile, Carl has fallen in 'lust' with Sophie, a waitress at the pub, who, despite being only 17 years old, has a past of her own. Carl makes plans to get a better job and rent a nicer house for Sophie and himself, but everything falls apart when there's an incident one night in the pub's kitchen.

Death In Brunswick delves into the seedier side of inner-suburban Melbourne in the 1980s. It has a uniquely Australian voice, and a witty dark humour that appealed to me. Not only that, but I lived in Brunswick for five years, so I know well the street names mentioned in the book. I even went to the cinema that Carl and Sophie went to, before it closed down. Having worked in the public service, I can also picture well the old-school public servants working resentfully under a highly-regulated Government system.

The novel is quite short and ends with only a hint of more in the plot, which leaves the reader to flesh out the ending for themselves. Far from finding this frustrating, I liked it, as it prevented the story from becoming too long and tediously obvious. I would read more by the same author, and I'd also like to see the movie based on the book, which came out in 1990.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Mocoro Robotic Mop Ball

After seeing it on an old episode of Eat Your Kimchi, I couldn't resist getting a Mocoro ball, which allegedly sweeps the lint from your floors. Our house has hardwood flooring throughout, so the Mocoro is perfect ... if it works!

It was almost obligatory for me to buy a pair of balls, so I could make the jokes that naturally stem from such a product. I purchased them from this ebay shop; the price was $25.20 for two, including postage. They came from Laos and arrived within 10 days. The parcel was a bit crushed on one side, but the products inside weren't affected.



The Mocoro balls come with a set of 4 different coloured microfibre covers. The covers zip off for easy cleaning.


Each needs 1 AA battery to work. Inserting the battery requires a screwdriver. According to the box, the battery should last for up to 5 hours. I hope this is true as replacing the battery is quite fiddly.


There is an on-off push button on the side of the ball. I was worried that this would get pressed accidentally while the balls are rolling, but this wasn't the case. The balls have a weight inside them, which causes them to jiggle and roll around in random directions. At first my balls didn't move around very much. I posted a short video here on my Instagram. (You can also hear the sound they make.) They seemed to serve more to distract the cat than anything else!


However, just as I was composing a lukewarm review in my head, one of the balls shot off down the hallway, all the way into the bedroom and collected a good amount of lint from under the bed!


Surprisingly, the Mocoro balls work!


However, you will still have to sweep your floor! Because they move around in such a random way, there's very little chance the whole floor will be covered. Plus, I haven't tried cleaning the covers yet. It may well be easier to just sweep. The Mocoro Robotic Mop Ball is more of a novelty than a useful cleaning product, but it's fun.

And, you know, balls. Teehee.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Eurovision Song Contest 2016 - Food & Drink Festival

This post is very behind the times, I apologise.
At this point, I'm mainly writing it for my future self as a reference.
Over the last few years our (that is, Husband's* and mine) celebrations for the Eurovision Song Contest have become increasingly elaborate. We both love cooking and trying new cuisines, plus the weather is just starting to cool down here in Australia, so it's the perfect time for cooking, eating and drinking.

This year, we decided to do something slightly different. Normally we cook several dishes from the host country, but for three out of the past five years, the contest has been held in Scandinavia. We both loved eating Scandinavian food, but felt we were familiar with it enough now, and wanted to try something else. I had the idea of trying dishes from one or more countries that have had the worst luck at Eurovision so far. After some research and a process of elimination, I ended up selecting Bulgaria, San Marino and Switzerland. (I was going to leave out San Marino as they haven't been in the competition very long, but Husband thought their cuisine sounded interesting.)

And of course, there was a lot of drink, both inspired by the selected countries, and just in general.


In Australia, the Contest is broadcast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights -- perfect for a three-day festival! (Though, as Australia is about 12 hours behind Europe, we have to have a complete media blackout all day Sunday if we don't want any spoilers on who won.)


On Friday night, we had Bulgarian Güveç, a meal cooked in a claypot. I got a little confused and thought the meal had to consist of pork and vegetables, but it turns out that it can have almost anything in it, as long as it's cooked in the claypot. Husband found a recipe with a tomato and mint sauce, and it was delicious. He also made blue cheese dumplings as we had some cheese that needed using up. They went very well with it. We drank mulled wine with almonds and raisins.


Saturday morning we had Swiss rösti with eggs for breakfast, and leftover stew for lunch.


We made rice-stuffed capsicums for dinner, accompanied with crumbed and fried feta cheese (called sirene pane). Both of these dishes are from Bulgaria. For dessert, we had a fruit crumble. We used stewed apricots, which came from our own tree and I froze last Summer. To accompany this, we had orange vodka which I made from this recipe from Kaninchenherz. I didn't take any photos of the procedure as I was too excited, and my hands were covered in juice! But it turned out looking exactly like the pictures in the recipe.



On Sunday, we slowed down a bit with the food and had some cold meats, dips and cheese for brunch, which lasted through until dinner. For dinner, we had Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, a Swiss dish, which consists of veal and mushrooms in a cream sauce. It was accompanied with gnocchi, which some sources say was invented in San Marino. It was our first time making it ourselves. It was a lot of fun and not as hard as I thought it would be. We had orange-infused vodka again with dinner, and leftover apricot crumble for dessert.


Here are some more photos which were taken by Husband:





* I asked Husband about a month ago if he'd like to me to refer to him by a nickname etc on the blog. He said 'Husband' was perfectly fine by him. So there you go.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

Teeny-Tiny Olive Harvest ... Part 2

A little while back I posted about the olives that I picked from my little tree and packed in salt to cure. I left them for a few weeks longer than recommended, mostly because Husband and I were too busy and could never quite find a time to give them the proper opening ceremony they deserved. Eventually we just decided to wait until Mother's Day. Husband's parents came over for lunch. Seeing as they have a new olive tree and used a different method to cure their olives which didn't work very well, we thought they'd like to see the jar being opened.


The salt in the jar was quite damp -- a good sign as its purpose is to draw out the liquid in the olives.


I was excited to look inside and see what happened to the olives in the last 6 weeks.


We dumped out the contents onto a tray and I scooped the olives out.


They were very wrinkly! I think they must have been in the salt too long and dehydrated too much. I rinsed the salt off and we each tasted one.


They tasted pretty good! But Husband's parents said, wow, there's not much meat on them! We showed them the tree and they said, no, it's still too small! You're supposed to pinch the buds off the tree as soon as they appear, for the first 2 to 5 years. If you don't let the tree grow any olives, then it will put all of its energy into growing bigger, then when you finally do grow the olives, they'll be bigger and meatier.

To be honest, I probably would have just let them grow anyway, as I'm too much of a softie. And too impatient to taste them!


I found a teeny-tiny jam jar to put the rest of the olives in, covered them with olive oil and put in a few sprigs from our rosemary bush (that was Husband's idea). We are planning on making an antipasto platter for our Eurovision Song Contest party, so we'll probably eat them then.

I nearly forgot to mention -- we dried out the salt that the olives were cured in. It didn't take very long in a slow oven, and now we have olive salt as well! We've used it in soups and stews and it's not bad. With the amount we have, it will definitely last longer than the olives themselves. Irony?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

My April

I spent most of the month at home, except for a few trips into the city to go to exhibitions or see friends. My focus has been on the home -- unpacking, sorting and setting everything up.


What I've been making ...
I haven't done a huge amount of craft, but at least a little more than last month. I made this small mat on impluse. Sometimes I get a random urge to knit something in a basketweave pattern for some reason. I'm slowly developing a small collection of little basketweave mats, doll blankets, etc.


I've also worked a bit on my Grannyland blanket. I have about 15 finished squares now, and the unfinished ones you see here. My aim is at least 25 before I even start thinking about joining them together. I'm having too much fun pairing up colours to stop yet!



What I've been playing ...
I've been on the lookout for new casual games to play. I found out recently that the style of game I like to play most is called 'god games' -- the ones where you control the little people/animals/etc and do things that affect their environment. I especially love the ones where you can name them. When I think about it, it's quite rare in life that you get to name things. Plush toys, pets, perhaps your car. Then there's the ultimate -- getting to name another person. In some of these games, you get to name a whole civilisation!

My favourite new game (despite the characters' names not being customisable) is Godus. In this game, you literally play a god, directing your followers to build a civilisation and sculpting the land to make it easier for them to do so. If you keep your followers happy, they generate belief (the pink bubbles) which you can collect and use for powers like Finger of God and Meteor.


As you can see, the game looks gorgeous. I love the contoured layers of land in different colours. Godus was designed by a team headed by Peter Molyneux, one of the greats of game development -- so great, even I've heard of him! Just to scare the rival tribe a little, I set one tree on fire, and ended up destroying their whole civilisation. Oops.



What I've been sorting ...
I unpacked enough that I was able to give the KonMari treatment to a couple more categories of my stuff: underwear, plush toys and knick-knacks. Well, some of the knick-knacks, anyway. I'm sure I have a lot more to unpack....



Selections from my Instagram ...
A new section, obviously, as I've only been on Instagram for a couple of weeks, this section features some of my favourite pictures from my feed for the month of April: