Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in Review

Overall, 2017 was a pretty good year for me. The general mood seems to be that 2017 was even worse than 2016, but for me, it was about the same. At the start of the year I was jobless. It wasn't a bad thing though: it was intentional. (Isn't it interesting that there's not really a good word for not having a job?)

I participated in my first exhibition in January. This was a huge step for me: the first time that anyone other than Husband had seen my art. It was terrifying and exciting and surreal to watch people looking at my art, wondering what they thought of it. It was also lovely to spend an evening with other artists. Despite the anxieties of that evening, I wanted to do more. I also had to get a job though, and that took priority.

At the end of March I started working on an 18-month digitisation and archiving project with a small team. This took up most of my time and energy for the rest of the year, but I did manage to participate in a second exhibition, in November. This one was in a proper gallery space, and I learned a huge amount about what it takes to put on an exhibition. I didn't sell any work, and in the end I don't think it gave me that much exposure, but it was extremely valuable in terms of connecting with the gallery owners, and meeting a couple of interesting people. I feel I know enough now that I could put on a solo or small group show in the gallery -- though I don't have enough works yet to fill even a quarter of the space!

Other things I did:

went to a cyanotyping workshop
★ finished my conscript (the blog post about it is still in progress, though!)
★ wrote a zine about my chronic illness
started making a Temperature Scarf (due to be finished March 2018)
wrote this blog post comparing different online shops which has received 180 times more views than any of my other posts!
re-read the Harry Potter series
went to a herbal balm-making workshop
★ went to two concerts: G-Dragon and VIXX
started learning to play the ocarina
had my DNA analysis done by two different services

Now for the customary stats (last year's stat in brackets):

Books finished:
full-length: 19 (20)
short & manga: 13 (20)
currently reading as of today: 14 (9)

Blog posts: 57 (63)
Instagram posts: 284 (?) There will probably be more this evening!

Craft items started: 2 (6)
Craft items finished: 4 (6)
Craft projects in progress as of today: 42 (40)

Zines started: 1 (1)
Zines finished: 1 (0)
Zines in progress as of today: 1 (1)

I was a bit disappointed to find that I did less of everything this year than I did the year before. I learned new things in other ways than reading books though, and did things that can't be counted in stats, like spending time in the park and observing how the plants change over time. Those are important things too.

Have a happy and safe new year everyone!
See you next year! xx

Saturday, 30 December 2017

My Instagram "Best Nine" and Body Positivity

If you have an Instagram, there's a fun website that plucks your best nine photos of the year (well, the ones with the most likes, anyway!), and turns them into a collage. I'm fascinated by which of my photos was the most liked, not for vanity or marketing purposes, but more as an observer of social media.

It's most likely that the hashtags I choose for my posts have a huge influence on how many people see them and consequently 'like' them. I'm not interested in having more followers -- actually, the thought of having thousands of followers makes me quite anxious! It's nice to get 'likes' on my photos though, as it encourages me to keep on seeking out good photo opportunities and sharing them.

Before we get to my Best Nine, I want to say how surprised I was that the majority of my most-liked photos are of me. Only a couple of years ago, I would never EVER have posted a photo of myself anywhere on the internet! Instagram has really helped me become more confident and more positive about my body. It's often said that social media has a negative effect on people, and sometimes it does, but it can also provide inspiration and encouragement no matter how far apart people are physically.

I've always wanted to dress in style outfits but hardly ever feel motivated and confident enough to actually do it. Seeing that someone who looks like me can receive positive feedback online has been extremely encouraging. So next year, I want to learn techniques for taking better photos of myself, and less derpy poses!

Anyway, enough blathering! Here's my Best Nine collage for 2017, with notes below:

LEFT: I was just going to the shopping centre that day, nothing special. I thought I looked pretty cute, though. The layering is inspired by Mori Kei.
CENTRE: I had just finished a job interview and was on the way to the recruitment agency for the debrief when I came across this stunning Victorian architecture. (I got the job!)
RIGHT: A friend's birthday dinner. I was going for a sort-of librarian crossed with Mori Girl look. It was the just at the end of Winter.
LEFT: Some of my paintings. The two on the left were displayed in my first exhibition.
CENTRE: At a friend's birthday party / exhibition opening. This was my most outrageous outfit yet -- and the first time I'd ever pencilled my eyebrows! (Excuse the terrible case of fringe separation!)
RIGHT: Husband, friend and I, waiting for the G-Dragon concert to begin.
LEFT: Some of my merch from the PAX convention. I guess the #SailorMoon hashtag was what attracted people to this one?
CENTRE: My gluten-free bibimbap lunch. I remember this day because my Mum had to come to the city for an appointment and we had lunch beforehand. We very rarely get to spend time together so it was a lovely day.
RIGHT: My outfit for the G-Dragon concert. Not something I would normally wear, but I figured I may as well go for it. Concept: G-Dragon fan. I wanted to wear a beanie, and the most hardcore one I had was my Hufflepuff one!

Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 Goals - How Did I Do?

At the start of this year, I sat down to work out my goals for the year, as many people do. For the last two years, I've been categorising them by areas of my life, according to this grid:

I didn't share all of the goals I set myself, as most of them were quite boring ("review my health insurance") and a couple too private (though I think I'm more open now than I was a year ago). Looking back on my goals, I completed about a third of them to my satisfaction. Despite knowing better, once again, I set some that were vague and hard to measure (e.g. "plan a regular yoga practice"), so it's hard to say whether I achieved them or not.

Goals I felt I did well included:

spend more time outside -- the place where I'm working at the moment has a huge park right next door, so I spend every lunchtime outside for an hour. It's wonderful!
See if my sewing machine still works -- I did, and it does! I used it to finish one small project, but didn't have a chance to sew anything bigger.
Share more on the blog -- I didn't write as many posts, but I wrote more personal ones, and that was important to me.
Continue my rune studies and other spiritual pursuits -- I did a daily rune reading most days, longer readings once a month, and in July I also enrolled in the Grey School of Wizardry. While my studies are going very slowly, it's given me a chance to interact with teachers and other students in the forums, and expose myself to other points of view.

Goals I failed completely included:

Finish Kon-mari'ing my house -- it's a much bigger job than I anticipated, and working 6 days a week didn't give me much time or energy to dedicate to it. Plus, I slipped back into impulse shopping several times and acquired more stuff that I had to deal with. I will do better next year!
Re-open my online shop -- This just became less of a priority for me as the year went on.
Research herbalism -- My track record on growing herbs is extremely poor: they always die before I can harvest anything, and this was very discouraging. I would still like to work with herbs, but I might need to content myself with buying them instead of growing them myself.

In the end, I concentrated more consistently on the activities in my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list than on my yearly goals. I'm not sure if this was because they were things I'd rather do, or the new goals just added too much on top. Nevertheless, I'd still like to set goals for 2018 as it helps me to stay positive if I'm planning my life and have things to look forward to.

In a few days, I'll update you on how my year went in general.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Season's Greetings and Christmas Presents

It's hard to know what to say this time of year, so make sure all bases are covered. Merry Christmas! Happy Channukah! Blessed Yule and Litha!
It even seems a little strange to say Happy Holidays, as I know that many people are working, especially in the service industries. Whatever you did and will be doing, I hope you're happy and safe.

I didn't recieve as many presents this year as in the past: Husband and I just aren't as into it as we used to be. We still love giving each other presents, but it's hard to think of things that we haven't already bought for ourselves during the year. Likewise with other family: we've made a 'kids only' agreement.

First up are these Karel Čapek tea tins which I featured in my Rakuten Order post:

I asked for a "Build A Ladder" t-shirt and beanie. This idea comes from YouTubers Simon and Martina. Martina has a chronic pain condition which can lead to depression. Build A Ladder refers to the tiny things she can do each day to make her happy and improve her day. The motto has been inspiring many including myself.

I also got The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and The Pokémon Cookbook.

Husband and I traditionally always give each other a box of Anthon Berg liqueur chocolates, and he usually gives me a novelty tin. This years' is an unusual combi-van shaped one.

When I was getting a Curvy Barbie for my niece, I couldn't resist getting one for myself too. It was the first time I'd seen outfits for Barbies in the shops, so I bought all the (two!) different varieties that were in stock.

Here is a bottle of strawberry liqueur with a bonus glass, and the star gift: a crystal ball! I wasn't expecting to receive it at all, and I'm very much looking forward to trying it out.

Finally, we decided on impulse while at the bottle shop to have a cocktail-themed New Year's Eve celebration, so we bought each other some spirits and mixers.

I also received an amazing present from my best friend, but I forgot to take a photo of it, so I'll show it in a future post.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

101 Things in 1,001 Days Update

My first 101 Things in 1,001 Days cycle ends on 14th June 2018, which is in 183 days. (I'm calling it a cycle because I'm definitely sure I'll do it again!) So how am I going, as the finish line appears in the distance?


Since my last update, I finished a few of the points on the list. I re-read the Harry Potter series. It took quite a long time as I'm a slow reader and don't have much time to read anymore, either. It brought up quite a few memories and feelings in me, and I wrote a blog post to commemmorate it.

I fulfilled my goal of buying a photo printer, so I can use real photos in my diary and art. Husband gave me a Popo printer, and I reviewed it here.

Another goal was to meditate 20 times. I honestly didn't think I was going to achieve this, until I had to meditate and write about my experiences for school. I struggled at first, but now I've become more open to it and am starting to feel the benefits. And yes, I did meditate 20 times ... for myself too, not just for class! I also achieved my goal of writing 20 reviews for the blog. (Or should I say 'blogs', now that I've started a second one.) This was pretty easy and quite fun, so I might add it to my next list and perhaps even increase the number.


I originally had a goal to read 10 biographies, amongst a few other reading-related goals. I'm pretty sure I won't get through all of them, but I'd like to read at least one biography over the end-of-year holidays. I was lucky enough to pick up some free books from the library I study in at lunchtimes, and one of them was a biography of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd. I started it yesterday and I'm enjoying it so far.

Another goal was: "do yoga 3 times a week until it becomes a habit". This is something I've failed miserably at so far. Perhaps it's because the "until it becomes a habit" bit was too vague? Or perhaps I have some kind of mental block like I did with meditation? I'm not even sure it should come under the 'In Progress' section at all, to be honest.

I also vowed to create 12 paintings on canvas. This one is coming along very well, I'm pleased to say -- I only have 2 to go. I have around 6 paintings that I'm working on at the moment, so I'm confident I'll finish this one over the holidays.


Number 14 on my list is "add a new holiday to my calendar every year and celebrate it". After searching for some time and not coming up with anything that seemed quite right, I finally found out about a new (to me!) holiday just a few days ago. It's called "Jólabókaflóð, it comes from Iceland and it's celebrated on Christmas Eve. I'm looking forward to celebrating it, and to writing a separate blog post about it. (If you're too curious to wait, you can follow the link and read about it on Wikipedia.)

There's also number 71: "take better/easier photos for the blog". Some of the things involved in this might be: having a range of fabric backdrops in different colours, a collection of interesting props, having more natural lighting instead of everything coming out yellow (you'll know what I mean if you've seen some of my recent posts!). I'd also really like to have a dedicated spot in the house which is permanently set up to take photos of small items, oracle cards, dolls, etc. It's especially difficult to take photos in Winter when the light is bad, and this hampers my blogging. Hopefully having a proper set-up will go a long way to solving this problem. In part, I'm motivated by the gorgeous shots I always see on Instagram, but it also comes from an aesthetic sense that I'd like to improve my photography skills.

Finally, over the end-of-year holidays I'd like to do some things with food. I have most of the equipment I need to make cheese, and to make mead. If it's not too hot to bake, I could experiment with making some gluten-free versions of Christmas favourites that I remember from my childhood. Or it might be the perfect time to have a movie and food marathon.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

My First Rakuten Order

A few weeks ago, I was browing Pinterest and came across some photos of Karel Capek tea tins. I'd seen them before, but I had a sudden urge to start collecting them. Aside from being whimsical and adorable, they come with tea. How could there be anything bad about that?

I soon found out that the tins aren't that easy to come by. The main seller online was Rakuten, which is a little like ebay but with only Japanese sellers. I'd heard before was only available outside Japan with a shopping service, and never bothered because it seemed quite complicated. However, I was pleased to find that Rakuten now sell worldwide! Or, I should say, individual sellers have the option of offering overseas postage. I found one seller who had a large range of tins to choose from: Tokyu Coco-Hico.

Creating an account was very easy as the website now has an English version. I did run into a hiccup when the ordering section would only accept a Japanese delivery address. I went back to the account section and entered in my address there, and that solved the problem. After that, checking out was very clear and easy.

I was not advised of the postage cost straight away, but the seller calculates the postage cost and sends an email advising of the cost and the buyer has the option of cancelling the order. I was worried that it would be very high, but the next day I received the seller's email. It was very reasonable, so I confirmed that I wanted to go ahead with the order.

The order was sent by courier and arrived from Japan to Australia in only two days. I was amazed at the speed of delivery! The order was well packed. The only drawback is that I thought I was purchasing four tins and one packet, but I received three tins and two packets. Perhaps I didn't read the description closely enough though -- I was mostly looking at the illustrations. The order came with 5 free rooibos vanilla packets, so I was pleased with that.

I haven't tasted any of the teas yet. As soon as I'd examined them and satisfied myself of their quality, I put them back in the box and gave them to Husband to give me for Christmas. I can't wait!

Of course, I'll have to clear out and re-arrange my tea cupboard so these beauties have pride of place, just like the photos I've seen on Pinterest. I'll have plenty of time to do that over the Christmas holidays. I just hope the weather doesn't get too hot so I can enjoy them properly.

I would certainly order from Rakuten and from Tokyu Coco-Hico again. It was overall a very positive experience.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My November

This year, November just seemed to fly by. I've been sick with a stomach bug for the last couple of weeks, and haven't been up to doing much of my normal activities. I haven't been able to spend as much time outside as I'd like either.

The weather turned hot comparitively early this year, with nearly a week of days over 30oC. I wasn't quite ready to start watering my plants every day yet, especially with being sick, and I hope they've made it through unscathed. I need to be especially vigilant with my fruit trees if I want to have a harvest in a few months' time.

What I've been Playing.....
I mentioned last month that I'd been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camper. I'm afraid to say that my friends and I were a bit bored with it after a few weeks. We must have been 'early uptake' as the techies say, because a little while after that, many other people in my neck of the social media woods started sharing their player ID codes. I started playing again, but not quite as much. I've transferred my affections back to Stardew Valley.

What I've been Watching ....
Husband and I have been exploring everything that Netflix has to offer. As I understand it, there is slightly different or less content in different countries, but we're still very pleased with it. We've already watched all of Stranger Things, Victoria season 1 (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are the cutest celebrity couple) and Star Trek: Discovery. Last night we started American Horror Story. I don't always have the attention span to sit through a whole movie, but we've managed to watch a couple so far.

What I've been Drinking ....
After reading about the health benefits of Yerba Mate, I've decided to add drinking a cup of the tea to my daily routine. I already have a traditional Yerba Mate drinking gourd which I've shown on the blog before. I assumed I wouldn't be able to find that post but searched for it anyway and found it! Here it is (second photo). The gourd is obviously not very convenient to use every day, not to mention makes tea so incredibly strong in caffiene that I can't guarantee my behaviour, so I purchased a range of bagged teas in different flavours to drink at work every morning.

I've decided that I want to post three times a week between now and the end of the Summer Holidays. I figure if I declare the intention, I'll be more likely to stick to it.

Selections from Instagram

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Learning to Play the Ocarina

Happy World Ocarina Day!

If you follow my Instagram, you might already know that I'm learning to play the ocarina. It's very slow going: so far, I've only had time to practice once a week, if that. Currently I'm working through the lessons put out by David Erick Ramos on his YouTube channel. His tutorials are so helpful and he seems like a really nice guy too, so I decided to sign up to his Patreon.

I'd been wanting to get back into playing a musical instrument again for the last few years. When I finally got around to doing something about it, I decided on the ocarina for several reasons. I have a keyboard and was briefly learning to play it about 7 years ago, but it requires a lot of space and there's no room to set it up in the house at the moment. I also thought it would be really cool to learn tribal drumming, but didn't want to annoy my neighbours too much! I decided on the ocarina after I saw this video of a Mori girl (YouTube) playing one, which someone had posted in the Mori community on Facebook. I thought it was so sweet and it had such a lovely sound. It's not that dissimilar to the recorder, which I enjoyed learning when I was a kid. I like the kinds of music that the ocarina is suited for, and the instrument is also very small and portable.

I actually have two ocarinas, and there's a bit of a story behind it. I saw a replica of the ocarina from Zelda: Ocarina of Time on ebay for a reasonable price and bought it. I've never actually played the game, but I thought it would be cool to have it. Straight afterwards, I went to YouTube to find information about learning to play it, and came across David Erick Ramos's channel. In one of his intro videos, he says that if you have the Zelda replica (the cheaper one), it's probably no good. Nine times out of ten, they're not tuned properly. I was devastated!!

I was hoping against hope that my ocarina would be that tenth one that's properly made. But I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail to find out. It was an agonising 2-week wait. Meanwhile, I watched more videos and learned the history of the instrument, about the different types, etc. Eventually, I decided that if it hadn't arrived in two weeks, I would go to a music shop and buy a guaranteed proper one. I did some research and came across Melbourne Music Centre. They were the only shop in Melbourne that had more than one type to choose from. I went there after work the same day and had the most amazing experience. I highly recommend them.

The ocarina I purchased was a mid-range acrylic one: the Min (or Minin) Student Ocarina made in Korea. It's a 12-hole model tuned to C. (I'm very rusty with my musical terms, but that's what I was told!) Ironically, the Zelda ocarina arrived the very next day. It's also a 12-hole ocarina, made from ceramic. When I play a scale on it, it doesn't seem too wonky, but as far as I can tell, it's tuned a bit lower than C. I use my Min one for practice as at least I know for sure that it's tuned properly.

I'm thinking of making some videos if I can manage to get to a half-decent level -- or even if I don't, perhaps. It might be fun to share my learning process, and do a little bit to keep the internet real. Even the best musicians started somewhere!