Monday, 22 February 2021

A Freezer Full of Plums

Welcome to my annual fruit tree harvest report! The title of this post pretty much says it all, but I'll add some more details, as much as for my own future reference as for anything else. This was the second year of doing my 'meshless' fruit growing method. I've decided it's actually a thing and not just laziness!

The first to ripen was the cherry tree, around mid-November. The tree has grown strongly in the last year and I'm very pleased with it. The harvest was bigger than ever before. I'm pretty sure I took a photo of the fruit but I can't find it now. When I say "bigger than ever before", it was about 3 handfuls. I picked them while still underripe and laid them on a tray for a few days to ripen. We ate them with dessert for two nights in a row and then they were all gone. We only lost a few to birds.

The next to ripen was the apricot tree, around mid-December. The harvest was smaller than last year, about twice what you see in the basket in the photo (below). I stewed them and it came out to slightly less than one takeaway container full. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Mum at Christmas, and gave her a small, precious containerful.

I should mention the nectarine tree. It was having an 'off year' (apparently that's a thing). It produced many blossoms, but only two fruit grew from them. Then they were ruined while still only half-grown by the storms we had in December. The weather bureau reported widespread Brown Rot alerts to fruit farmers at that time -- it never occurred to me before that they apply to backyard single-tree gardeners like myself, too!

Last but certainly not least were the plums. They were still too small and hard to be affected by the brown rot, and we had a bumper harvest! despite my severe pruning of the tree last year to prevent it from producing too much. It seems that backfired, hm.

Harvesting fruit is fun -- looking amongst the leaves and selecting the ripest ones, feeling them still warm from the sun, placing them in the basket.

Despite my best efforts, some were eaten by birds. This photo (below) represents probably half of what was lost, but rest assured, it was only a small portion of the total produce! Towards the end, some dropped naturally as well, as I ran out of energy and skipped a couple of days of harvesting and processing.

I made sure to pick up all the dropped and bird-ravaged plums, as if left they might sprout into baby plum saplings. As nice as that sounds, I've learned from experience that it's not such a good thing -- they grow too close to the parent tree, so they need to be dug up (not to mention it makes mowing very difficult) and I never had a single one transfer to a pot successfully. And besides, I already get more plums than I can handle, even with just one tree!

I decided to process all the plums by stewing, bagging and freezing them. I didn't have the energy to make jam, and besides it's too hot in Summer! I can always defrost some and turn them into jam later if I want. I picked enough each day to fill the slow cooker, washed them and cooked them on High for about 2 hours.

I let them cool for a bit, then used the highly sophisticated method of fishing through them with a spoon to remove the stones. Each batch yielded about 3 sandwich-bag-sized bags, and there were 9 batches so that makes.... a lot of plums! Once frozen, they filled up about half the freezer (it needs defrosting, I know!). Once I'm able to visit my family again, they'll be sharing in the bounty. Sometimes when I open the freezer door, I think: if anyone else looked in here, they'd think I was a prepping vampire!

I guess there will be a post on plum recipes coming up soon?

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Craft Goals for 2021 - My Make 9!

The Make 9 craft challenge has been around for a few years now, but with everything that happened last year, I had completely forgotten about it. Even when I was reminded by seeing other people's goals popping up here and there on the internet, I hesitated. It just seems strange to plan for the future these days. Finally though, last week I felt an urge to work on some craft projects again and thought, maybe I'd like to do a Make 9 anyway!

(The accompanying pictures aren't really relevant, they're just nice backgrounds from photos I found on my phone!)

I deliberately made the goals very vague. My interests tend to change rapidly and without warning, so I wanted goals that would accommodate anything I was interested in at any given time. I did take the chance and looked through my current and planned projects list to add some to the grid. I made sure to choose some smaller projects, with the awareness that I'm starting 6 weeks late. Here are my thoughts:

1. something I want - probably my next sewing project: a skirt from a blue/silver floral fabric I bought recently. Hopefully it will be more successful than my last sewing project!
2. something I need - a pair of shorts, because I need them. Not sure what fabric to use yet.
3. a gift - a secret project! Ideally I'd like to have it done by the end of March.
4. a long term project - Green Plushy Monster. It's not that long term, I guess, maybe 18 months. But he only needs some arms and maybe a fuzzy hairdo and he'll be done.
5. a small project - to finish off: Trollen Braid. Over Christmas I had a mini-obsession with making trollen braids (a new-to-me craft). I started 2 and I'd like to finish at least one.
6. for a festive time - future project: Christmas garland. I bought some supplies to make a Christmas garland a couple of years ago and haven't gotten around to putting them together yet. It can sit on the back burner until close to the end of the year.
7. spliced - Lace Gilet - an experimental work in progress at the moment. I bought two lace dresses and want to try to splice them together into a gilet (sleeveless cardigan thingy).
8. altered - pants enlargement. I bought some pants online and they were a bit small, so I'm planning a way to make them fit.
9. decorated - Tablet Weaving piece. As I talked about earlier in the year, I taught myself tablet weaving. My enthusiasm slowed down a bit on the third piece, but I'd like to finish it off and find something to use it for.

Of course, this may change at any time!

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Habitica : Gamified Motivation App

A few weeks ago I started using Habitica. In the creators' words, it's a "free habit and productivity app that treats your real life like a game". The app has been around for several years, and I have to admit, it's not new to me either. I tried using it a few years ago and found it too complicated and confusing. But for some reason I decided to give it another go, persisted in trying to understand it, and now use it daily.

Anyone familiar with roleplaying games will understand how the Habitica game works. You have a character with a certain amount experience points. Every time you complete a task, these increase slightly, and over time you level up. When you level up, you receive stat points that you can allocate to the character's four stats. You also earn coins that you can use to buy outfits, decorations and weapons. There are four different character classes to choose from, with different skillsets. (I'm a Rogue!) Players can join challenges or play in a party to defeat monsters. I haven't personally joined a party myself, but I am doing some challenges which are fun. You can also collect pets! Currently I have my favourite one with me -- my pink dragon!

The core of Habitica is the tasks, and there are 3 different kinds which work in different ways. As I mentioned earlier, I did find it a bit confusing at first, but I came to understand it fairly quickly. The 3 different kinds of tasks are:

* Dailies -- tasks that you repeat every day, week, month, year, etc. These might be 'do the dishes', 'take my tablets', 'clean the windows', 'buy a planner'. These tasks disappear once you tick them off, but reappear on the appropriate day.
* To-Dos -- one-off tasks. Once it's done, you get the kudos, and it disappears forever.
* Habits -- these are things that you'd like to get into the habit of doing. They are repeated but don't have regular intervals. You might do them several times a day, or only once or twice a week. Examples might be 'read for 1/2 hour', 'work on art', or 'weed the garden'.

The three kinds of tasks are in different sections, and you need to flick back and forth to access them. I would say that's the only drawback of Habitica that I've found, but once I understood the purpose of the different types of tasks, it was a lot easier to handle. I've been using Habitica daily for over almost a month, and have found advantages that the other organising systems I've used don't have. The tag system is invaluable: I've set up tags such as 'morning', 'evening', 'computer' and 'garden', so I can filter tasks according to my situation at any particular time. This is something I couldn't do with other systems I've used, and I've come to find it incredibly helpful. In fact, Habitica has completely replaced Trello and my whiteboard as my way of organising my day.

The game is quite forgiving in many ways. At the beginning of each day, all of the previous day's not-done tasks are displayed, giving you the chance to tick off any that you did but forgot to update in the app. It also has a built-in motivator: every day that a task isn't done, it turns a deeper red colour, and when you finally do those, you get extra experience and coins. Ones that you've diligently been doing daily turn green and then a beautiful turquoise colour. Of course, it's up to the player's sense of honesty to faithfully record what they did or neglected to do! I don't know about you, but I always feel like I didn't really earn something if I cheated to get it.

I could go on about Habitica's features (like the group challenges and supportive community) but I'll leave it for now! All that remains is to tick off the "Blog Post" task. :D

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

101 Things in 1,001 Days : Huge Overhaul

For the last few years, I've been on the 101 Things in 1,001 Days track. (Click that link or the tab above to see the full list.) My second cycle is due to finish this coming March. 1,001 days seems like a very long time -- two and three quarter years. Or, it used to seem like a very long time, anyway. Now, at the end of 2020 and all the things that happened (and didn't happen!), it seems like just a hop and a skip.

For most of last year, I forgot about my 101 Things goals. There were so many more important things to think about. I didn't feel like doing most of the things on the list, and some of them I wasn't even able to anyway.

Recently things started to look brighter, and I looked at my list again. It hit me that the end date of 13th March 2021 is only a few months away. And I'd only completed about 15 of the 101 items! That's a bit drastic!

Things I did do: played board games!

I've seen people online refer to 2020 as "the year that time forgot" or a "leap year" -- not in the sense that we had an extra day in February, but that it felt like we collectively skipped a year in our lives. So I've decided to do the same with my 101 Things list! I extended the due date one year, to 13th March 2022.

Remember when the seasons used to change?

Then it was time to look at the actual things I'd wanted to achieve. Soon after the first lockdown started, I'd already gone through the list and marked some items with the label 'Compromised'. This meant anything that I couldn't really do at home, like going to a drawing class, or getting a beauty treatment, or going overseas. (Yeah, that last one was a big one!) I had trouble thinking of a good word for the label, and I ended up choosing 'compromised' because it was halfway between things being fine and things being actually cancelled. I'm really glad I did that in the past, as it helped me to overhaul my list and not get too overwhelmed with all the things I have to let go of.

We had an indoor picnic!

There were also some new things I'd started that I wanted to be included in the list, so I replaced some old items with them. Here are some of the things I changed:

#8 - removed "make a gluten-free flour mix" and replaced with "keep a Morning Pages journal for 1 year"
I'm no longer eating bread at all (gluten-free or otherwise) so this goal is pretty pointless. I started writing daily Morning Pages last November and have been going steadily so far, so I thought I may as well make it a proper goal. A whole year seems like an intimidatingly long time, but I thought I may as well challenge myself.

#82 - removed "re-read the Harry Potter series" and replaced with "complete 6 challenges on The StoryGraph"
While I'll always like Harry Potter, I'm really over JKR's recent activities, and I just need a rest from her creations. I was in a bad reading slump throughout most of 2020 anyway, until I discovered The StoryGraph. Their challenges are a lot of fun, so I added this one in.

#56 - removed "go overseas" and replaced with "complete 3 writing challenges"
It was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our trip overseas. We postponed it for 2 years to October 2022, which is too late to add into the current 101 Things list. It will hopefully be in the second one, though. I've been much more into writing again, so I replaced it with a writing goal. I've talked myself into and out of writing (properly) so many times, and I just want to do it! Or not do it! But either way, just make up my mind, haha.

I had a green-themed tea party in my backyard.

There were some things that I decided to reduce and/or modify, rather than replace, including:
❖ #44 - art/craft classes reduced from 6 to 5; also online classes count too
❖ #33 - finish current craft projects reduced from 12 to 10
❖ #74 - read biographies reduced from 10 to 8
❖ #49 - computer-free days reduced from 20 to 15

Example of unfinished craft project.

And there were a few things I was pleasantly surprised to find that I've completed! These were:

#15 - "decide on something to collect and do it"
I decided a while back to collect tea pots and tea tins. I visited my Mum once I was allowed to again, and she let me have first pick of all the knickknacks she was getting rid of. I chose 4 teapots and lots of other teawares for my collection. Added to the 8 or so teapots I already have, I think that's probably enough ... for now!

#77 - "read A Christmas Carol every Christmas"
I actually managed to do it before Christmas this year, too! I watched Townsend's reading at The Nutmeg Tavern on Youtube, and it was delightful. Technically now though, seeing as there's another Christmas to go before the new ending date, does that mean I still have one to go before I can tick this off? No, I think I'll give it to myself. We all deserve some self-kindness.

I'm still feeling hesitant to make any firm plans, and I think I'll review my list again in a few months. But just having done this much feels like a real achievement. Now I can get back to reading and writing and making art and crafts! And hopefully writing about it here more regularly. See you soon!

I've been doing a lot bit of drawing too.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Holiday Greetings! (and Goodbye 2020!)

I hope you have a safe and happy festive season!
May 2020 be gone forever and never return!
And may 2021 bring you everything that you wish for and more.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

2021 Hobonichi Diary Unboxing

Normally I make this yearly post in September each year, when the Hobonichi diaries for the next year go on sale. The Hobonichi company have an order holding service, so this year, with the turbulence in the mail delivery system, I kept my order on hold for as long as I possibly could. After that, it arrived very fast, as it came by courier. 

I'll just show the unboxing photos without too much commentary, as I didn't order very many interesting things this year. 

The Etsy shop I bought my covers from last year was no longer open, sadly, but thankfully Hobonichi were offering one cover I really loved (both outside and inside!). It's by Aki Kondo, the same artist who invented Rilakkuma! 


I also ordered these cute Astroboy pencil boards for myself and Husband. They have a holographic effect!

This year's fold-out has a guide to uses for the Hobonichi with lots of ideas! It's in English as well as Japanese for the first time, though now I have a translation app on my phone I could read it. It's amazing to think that didn't exist a few years ago!
Here is the page I did in this year's Hobonichi to celebrate the arrival of next years', and also the backlog of stationery packs from my Rainbowholic Patreon subscription. They were being held until the post could get through again, and I received 5 months' worth at once! I felt like a (stationery) queen!

Monday, 7 December 2020

What I've Been Doing Lately

I've never been one to apologise for not posting for a long time, but gosh, it's been ages, hasn't it? With everything that's been happening in 2020, I'm sure you can't blame me. Whether I post once a week or once a quarter, I'm always intending to keep on blogging.

I thought I'd kick things off with a little wrapup of what I've been doing these last few months:

An exhibition!
I was lucky enough to be chosen once again to hold an exhibition at NOIR Darkroom, called Before(During)After. It was originally supposed to be in April, but was postponed a couple of times due to the pandemic and the gallery not being able to open. The gallery allowed me to change the theme, which I did to something more current. It explores how my art has changed during the pandemic and my uncertainty about what the future holds (for my art, but in general, too). There's a digital gallery on NOIR Darkroom's website which has photos and also an artist talk I did. I managed to talk for quite a long time for someone so shy!

Art! and a Conscript!
More specifically art-wise, I've been working on a series I call my Codex Pages. They're inspired by the Voynich Manuscript, a medieval book written in a mystery language that no-one can decipher, with strange illustrations. I've been fascinated with it for years. I finally had the idea of trying to make my own version. I created my own constructed script (conscript) for it. I always find this a lot of fun. I say 'always' when I've only created one before, but you get the idea! I'm hoping to write a post on this in more detail in the future.

These ones aren't finished yet:

Building a City!
Not a real one -- I was furnished with a game called Cities Skylines. It's like SimCity if you've heard of that (but better, by all accounts). My city just hit 80,000 inhabitants, and is called Lavender Town. I know! But it's not named after the location in the Nintendo game, but the pre-made map I chose in the beginning, which was called Lavender Lake. It's just the kind of game I like, and I've been spending a lot of time playing it lately. Here are a couple of screenshots.

I was in a reading slump for several months, from about May to the start of December. I was given some ebooks to review, and of course whenever you're obligated to read something, it's no longer fun, so even though the books were good, I found it a little bit excruciating to get through them. (I still have 3 to go, oops!)

My friend Emilie started a Youtube channel a few months ago: Teacher Emilie in the Dining Room Library. She reads illustrated childrens books -- like an online storytime! It's kept me from having to admit that I read absolutely nothing in that time, if you believe that books usually for toddlers count! She often has wise comments to add as well. I recommend it.

I discovered The Story Graph a few weeks ago, and that's what really got me out of my reading slump. It's a reading community like Goodreads (but better, I daresay), with stats and graphs of books you've read. It aims to develop a really accurate and satisfying recommendations system. It's still in beta at the moment so you need to sign up to see everything, but for me it's definitely worth it so far. Reading challenges launched a few weeks ago, and members (including myself!) are enthusiastically creating and signing up for challenges.

Late last year I started a project to replicate my itunes library in Spotify. I ran into some hiccups at first which I won't go into (nothing to do with Spotify) but I've had lots of time to work on it while lurking in my cocoon this year. I'm working by artist and I've just finished the Gs, plus Eurovision working backwards from the present to 2004 so far. All the while I'm discovering new artists and songs. Who knew there was so much music in the world?
(The title of this playlist comes from a private joke of mine.)

Even through Winter there's usually something to do in the garden, but now that Spring (early Summer really) is here, it's all stations go! I'm barely keeping on top of the weeding, let alone planting new plants and re-potting old ones. But it's honest work and it makes me happy.

Well, that's about all I can think of for now. Hopefully I'll see you again soon!