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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

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For once I can read the label on the bottom of this quite tiny teddy.  He was bought in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, though exactly when I cannot tell.  I spent a weekend there in the early 1990s and then lived near there from 1994 - 1999.  I remember it very fondly indeed.

Vital statistics - he is nearly 3 cm tall and 2cm wide at the widest point (which includes the dog).  The dog must be meant to be a Scottie or a Westie or something, though proportionally he would be the size of a dalmatian I think!  Unless teddy is a toddler :)

Lots of nice places to walk a dog in Cirencester.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Decluttering by Numbers Week 2

So here goes again.  Remembering that my main goal was for the Outs to exceed the Ins.  I also thought it might be a way for me to curb my spending!

3 x underwear for Baby Bear
2 x trashy magazines
1 x DVD (Toy Story 3) for the kids
1 x craft knife to replace the many that I own but cannot find!
1 x lime green nail polish (yes, for me!)
1 x craft magazine (subscription - actually I thought the sub had lapsed, I think they are trying to encourage me to resubscribe but I can't afford it)
1 x magazine from my old University College (subscription - a life-time one)
3 x pairs cheap and cheerful shoes (all on sale)
1 x DS game (pre-owned) for Womat
4 x food magazines
1 x DVD set (Dragonball Z Series 9) for Angus - late spending of birthday money
3 x CDs (Baby Bear)
2 x DVDs (Baby Bear - all of these five using her pocket money)
1 x craft magazine
1 x cook book

TOTAL   26

11x knitting booklets OP SHOP
1 x plastic chopping board that looked as though it had a skin disease BIN
3 x trashy magazines RECYCLING
I did over another two laundry shelves and chucked 4 x empty bottles that had been there for several years RECYCLING
and 9 x ancient dead things BIN
4 x pairs boy's shorts, outgrown OP SHOP
1 x cooking magazine with recipes torn out RECYCLING
3 x outgrown girl's clothes OP SHOP
1 x food magazine (duplicate) OP SHOP 
2 x CWA magazines (I get them when my MIL has finished with them) OP SHOP
135 x my father's old books OP SHOP (Yes, that does say 135!)

TOTAL  174

174 - 26 = 148

I'm very pleased with the overall number of Outs, even though in a way getting rid of those books is relatively easy.  However there are so many boxes of them (loads have already gone before I started this) and they make up a very major part of the clutter that needs dealing with, both physically and mentally, it is important to have the incentive to work through them, and to record it.

I am spending way too much money.  And this isn't even including Christmas present spending, though I am reducing that this year.

Now on to next week!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Update

I finished the bead embroidery! It was perfect to work on during the last three hot days when I couldn't face sock wool.

When I say finished, it isn't really. It isn't backed or turned into anything. I made it the right dimensions to make a cuff (with the addition of a clasp of course) but I don't think I would wear it and it isn't good enough to sell.

But it definitely brought back to me how much I love bead embroidery, and thanks to Freebird I have been reminded of, and encouraged to rejoin, the Bead Journal Project for next year. I had attempted it twice before, but both during the time I was studying, and I never finished it. The first time I joined in, which I think was the first year it ran, I only did about four months worth, and the following year I dropped out almost immediately. But now I have a real incentive to do it properly!

So watch this space.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday


Right, now we've got that out of the way.

This is at once the oldest and the newest addition to my display tray. I've had him since I was quite young, about Grade 4 or Grade 5 I think. I loved him to death - he is made out of squishy rubbery plastic and used to live on my desk in my bedroom. Goodness knows where he came from, I think they were quite popular in those dim distant days (in the 1970s - for the historically minded!)

I found him when I was going through my father's place in June/July. He immediately came home with me and went into the display tray. Even though he reminds me of my father, which isn't necessarily a good thing, he reminds me of rare happy moments as a child, too. And look at that face - who couldn't love him!

Vital statistics - 4cm tall, nearly 6cm from elbow to elbow.

Next week will be a more conventional teddy bear, promise!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Decluttering by Numbers Week 1

So here goes.  Remembering that my main goal was for the Outs to exceed the Ins.  I also thought it might be a way for me to curb my spending!

1 DS game (pre-owned) for Wombat
1 PS2 game (on sale) for Wombat
3 trashy magazines
1 food magazine
2 craft magazines
1 DVD box set (Modern Family) for the children
1 dress worth of  dress fabric


1 pair boys dressy black pants, outgrown OP SHOP
Large piles of redundant paperwork, equivalent to approximately 5 magazines worth in volume RECYCLING
1 duplicate bead magazine included in Bead Expo entry OP SHOP
4 of my father's old books OP SHOP
Clean out of laundry shelf not touched for about six years yielded 4 empty bottles (would normally count as consumables and not in this list, but as they had been there for so long they were clutter!) RECYCLING
1 kids' party cake magazine supplement OP SHOP
Big magazine clearout and tidy up - 9 magazines OP SHOP (and many more shelved)
1 Australian Women's Weekly, recipes removed RECYCLING
1 trashy magazine RECYCLING
1 ugly stuffed frog from my father's things OP SHOP


28 - 10 = 18

Good, outs exceeded ins last week!  But that spending didn't go down much.  I need to work on that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Update

I went to the Bead Expo and a bead embroidery class last Saturday.  I had booked the class a couple of months ago when I was feeling very low, lacking in energy both physical and mental/creative, and thought it might help to kick start me a bit.  In the meantime I have recovered some of the lost energy but haven't really got any more creative than socks and hand towels, so this was still looking like a good idea.

And it was!  I was intrigued by the teacher's (scanty) information.  I couldn't find anything about her (Cheryl Hartwick) on the web other than her listing on the Bead Society of Victoria and I was interested in her style of bead embroidery, which looked similar to mine but was not identical.  She uses brightly coloured printed fabric as the jumping off point for her work and I wanted to see how that would work.  The class was advertised for Beginners, which I know I am not in terms of bead embroidery, but I hoped she would forgive me.

It was fun.  She did forgive me.  I snuck Harry along for the ride and once I had confessed about my complete lack of noviceness, I passed him around and felt quite chuffed at the responses.  I didn't exactly learn anything but it had the desired effect of making me put needle to bead and cloth once more, and I felt energised being around beady people.

She takes the aforementioned brightly coloured print cloth, backed with a substantial interfacing (she uses iron-on, I prefer to tack felt down to the back because I can;t abide doing hand-stitiching through anything sticky).  Something in the pattern or the colours, or both, starts her off (shapes, whatever) and then she lets her mind and hands run away with themselves.  With lovely, colourful results.

I am not too sure about this particular piece I am doing.  The beads are cheapies because I didn't want to waste good ones on an experiment.  I don't think I have done the best design I am capable of, by any means.  But I feel thoroughly back in the groove and feel lots of good projects will flow from this in one way or another.

I will finish this piece and I will blog about it.  I thought it was interesting to take day by day photos for this week, but I won't take any more until it is finished now.

Oh, and a couple of items came home with me from the Bead Expo.  And they were bought before Decluttering by Numbers was initiated, so they don't count!

This was the fabric I used.  The overview shows how I used the central leaf as a starting out point.
After outlining the leaf veins and doing two lots of shadowing around the shape of that, I added some extra, bigger beads and worked them into a design.  Wombat at this point said that it looked like someone who had just realised she had missed out on a shoe sale!  (He knows too well how addicted to shoes his mother is).

A day later and I had filled in various bits.

 And this was yesterday's finishing point.  I have marked out the dimensions of a cuff on the fabric and I will stick to that size and shape, though whether it turns into a finished cuff depends on how I feel about it when I have got that far.  I will blog about that when I have got to that stage.

 And these are the things that followed me home.  The only Robyn Atkins book I don't own.  A Bead Zapper thing that melts beading thread (when you want it to!)  Wombat asked if it was another Sonic Screwdriver.  I agreed that it could be,  And Silk Strings, very hard to get in Australia and absolutely luscious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

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Do any Australian readers remember Viva La Wombat?  Until I googled them I had assumed they had gone out of business years ago, but apparently not.  Though their website is a good way NOT to encourage business because I could not find a single stockist properly mentioned.  It sounds like they might have gone into selling stuff overseas more than here.  Maybe not.  The website isn't very helpful.  But it has some good pictures on it suggesting that they have moved with the times and kept on designing fun stuff.

In the late 1980s I loved their stuff and collected various bits and pieces.  I still have a T shirt, I think, and a coffee mug.  When my kids were little my mum bought them stuffed toys and sent them to England.  And I collected a few figurines like this one.

Vital statistics - 4cm tall, 3cm wide, bright and cheerful and not at all like a real koala!  He also appears to have dog fur on him.  No great surprise there!  I bought him in Melbourne , though I can't remember if it was before we went to England in 1990 or on a visit back here in 1994.  I have another couple of figurines that will show up eventually, though they won't be teddy bears - a kangaroo, a wombat and a crocodile, I think!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Decluttering by Numbers

Inspired by Taphophile I might try to do some decluttering of our hideously cluttered place of abode and hold myself to account for it.  Let's see long I can do this for!

I will post, on Mondays, what I have brought into and turfed out of the house.  I have set myself some rules.  As a lot of the current clutter is the crap from my father's place, that most definitely counts.  What does not count - consumables (food, drink, toiletries, cleaning products, medicines, and the sort of stationery that is bought to be used fairly promptly, like staples and printer paper).  (I am also excluding Christmas altogether from this list - both what I buy and then give as presents, and presents received.  That's just too hard). Also not counting stuff purchased by other family members off their own bat.  Or The Age, which we get home delivered, read and recycle (and the local paper, likewise). What does count - IN -clothing (for me, and also for other family members if I chose it and pay for it), books/magazines/other newspapers no matter how they arrive in the house (except for library books), stash items of any kind, any other STUFF that I acquire in any way. OUT - anything from the 'In' categories that goes out to (a) the rubbish/recycling if it cannot be used by someone else, (b) op shops or other charitable institutions if it can be used by someone else, (c) any gifts that I might make from stash items.

I am not setting myself a target, though I guess aiming to have OUT exceed IN would be good.  But it might help me to keep track of things.  So I am keeping count as of today, and will report weekly.

Repurposing may occur.  I will blog about it if it does, but it will not be included in the numbers.  Let's stick to a simple equation!

Oh, and when I list something as going to the op shop, what I actually mean is that it goes into a designated box or bag which, when full, goes to the op shop.  That's the way we have always done it, and the system works.

Wish me luck!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Update

A completed pair of socks for Baby Bear. Knitted in Miami, made in Italy and sold in Australia through Bendigo Woollen Mills, where I bought it in the Back Room on special some time back. 40% wool, 45% cotton, 15% nylon, and 100% satisfaction from the recipient!
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Grumpiest Bird in Creation

I've said it often enough, but I'm going to say it again. I can't draw. I drove one of my TAFE teachers to distraction by saying this, though it was difficult for him to contradict me; for everything he could point to that I had done OK on, I could point out two travesties of the word.

I can't remember exactly what I wanted this robin redbreast to look like, but I think the fact he turned out so obese and grumpy worked really well. It's meant to illustrate the William Blake verse

Robin Redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions
from his Auguries of Innocence.

I sponged the background with acrylic paint.  The 'drawing' was done separately, with conte crayon and watercolour pencils, and the lines from the poem done in Word (each line in a slightly different font), printed out and each line cut out separately.  They were all sprayed with Boyle Gloss Spray, (which I get from Riot Art), which I use to waterproof anything that comes out of my domestic printer or anything else that might need waterproofing, and stuck down with acrylic gel medium.  In doing this collage I discovered that full strength acrylic gel medium does not work as well as when it is slightly watered down.  It certainly sticks and seals, but it left the surface slightly tacky and I have to keep a piece of acrylic transparency stuff over it.

It's not the world's best looking bird, but I reckon that obese and grumpy is what would be likely to happen to a wild bird in captivity if it took the opposite approach to pining away and dying!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In November I am Reading...

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Owing to the seductiveness of the local library, I did not read the Millenium Trilogy last month.  I am still working my way through the huge bag of library books I borrowed!  Since the start of November I have read these three.  In case that looks like a lot, (a) I do read a lot and (b) the top one was short and I read it in two nights, the middle one is huge and I am only halfway through it, and the bottom one was mostly read in October but finished on November 1.

Can I strongly recommend Leanne Hall?  This is Shyness is a Young Adult book that gripped me totally and utterly.  It is quirky and funny and sinister and completely believeable.  One reviewer described it as an urban fairytale and it really is, in the genuine sense that fairytales aren't pretty in pink, but are much more sinister and visceral than that.  Rumour has it (I can't find the reference, but Baby Bear, who got me onto it in the first place, found it somewhere) that a sequel is in production, and I will be extremely happy to read it.  Such wonderful characters and such a great setting deserve more stories!

The Half Brother is the one I am halfway through at the moment.  It is by the apparently highly famous Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen.  I'm afraid I have never heard of him.  He's won all sorts of prizes.  He's a bit like a Nordic John Irving, I think.  It's the twisted tale of four generations of Norwegians, mostly unmarried mothers.  They live an unconventional life, there are episodes of muteness and circuses and alcohol, physical disabilities (the narrator is very short, his father is also very short and has a peculiarly crippled hand), death, love and mystery.  I am personally thinking that I have guessed a big twist in the tale, quite early on, but I will have to finish reading the book to see if I am right!  And if I am not, then I want to wring the author's neck for apparently planting an obvious clue and then doing nothing with it.  I think it is a bit overwritten, but on the whole it is quite engrossing.

The Life of Pi won the Booker Prize in 2002, plus other prizes, after inevitably having been rejected by several publishing houses.  I love a story like that!!   It's an odd little story about comparative religion, zookeeping and survival at sea.  I have read that various people have tried to make it into a film.  I'm not sure about that.  I wonder if a film would lose the spiritual aspect and make it all about animals?  Would it end up more Madagascar than the book deserves.  The author has a robust attitude to this - apparently he has said something like, if people don't like the film they should buy the book and read it instead, and if they do like the film, they should buy the book and read it to compare!!

My handbag book recently has been a Nevil Shute.  I  read masses of Nevil Shute when I was a teenager and young adult, and even experienced my own An Old Captivity-style  hallucination shortly after reading it when I had a raging temperature and a dose of flu and was reading a book about King Arthur.  Good old-fashioned thrillers.  I finished that the other day and have replaced it with another Victor Canning, but I haven't started that yet and can't remember the name.

For the rest of the month - well, I would still like to read the Millennium Trilogy, but I still have several (and a half) large library books to read through.  Plus as soon as they are read I am reading Towers of Midnight, Book 13 (!!) in the Wheel of Time series, which I started reading before even conceiving Baby Bear, who will be finishing school as the final book appears next year.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

Ok, so this is an actual BEAR!!! And a big one at that. He measures about 4cm tall and nearly 3cm wide at his widest part (well, a bear's got to sit on something!)

Unlikem ost of my other bears, this one is handcarved from wood. I bought him at the Gippsland Field Days either last year or the year before, I can't remember when I went there, near Warragul. There was a stall selling a whole variety of wooden things carved by the proprietor, who was busily engaged in carving as you watched, and he uses the offcuts of wood to make little animals. There were animals of all sorts of descriptions, but I particularly loved this bear (and a dingo, who will appear later in this series). Despite being much bigger than most of the collection, he is very light, being wood instead of ceramic as most of them are. He has a rustic charm and definite gravitas.
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Friday, November 05, 2010

A Car Dependent Society

We are constantly exhorted to use public transport to reduce greenhouse gases and the use of fossil fuels.  I am lucky enough to live in a suburb which is fairly safe to walk around in and is reasonably well served by trains and buses.  I have a short, if steep, walk to a bus stop, which (sort of) connects with a train service.  From my house I can get around all of Melbourne in one way or another, without the use of a car.

I am not trying to sound like a saint.  I don't have a driving licence.  When George is around I am only too happy to let him drive me where I want to go, or pick me up.  But I try to do weekday things without expecting him to ferry me hither and yon.

One of those things is the grocery shopping, which up until now I have tried to do in one big shop per week.  It;s a boring thing to subject the family to, so I prefer to do it on a Thursday or Friday, getting to the supermarket by bus and having the groceries delivered by their delivery service.  It costs me a few dollars, and I can't get barbeque chicken (which I never buy anyway) or icecream delivered, but it is otherwise very convenient.  (The icecream I get in monthly hits, with George's assistance).  For the elderly and disabled with no-one to drive them, it must be a lifeline.  For me, it is a necessary convenience for which I am prepared to pay.

Our household consists of two adults, two teenagers with hollow legs, and a dog.  Because of the delivery solution, I tend to buy everything at the supermarket.  We get through quite a lot of stuff every week.  I have just been informed in a letter from my supermarket that they will no longer, as of next week, be delivering any cold items.  Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of my weekly shop is perishables - dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables.  They will, of course, be charging the same amount as now to deliver half my shopping, if I continue to use this service.

The letter ends with the immortal line 'Just a couple more ways to make your shopping easier!'  The exclamation mark is theirs, not mine.

This will make my life harder.  I will either have to (a) rely on George more, (b) change supermarkets (unless the other one changes its policies to match), or (c) get a shopping trolley and change the way I shop.  I haven't decided yet.

Coles Supermarkets, I'm ashamed to still own shares in your parent company.  What are those people who really cannot change their ways going to do?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

The observant among you will notice that this is not a teddy bear. But I don't just keep teddies in my display case. It is, obviously, a frog. Bought many years ago somewhere in Australia, goodness knows where. He is made out of clay, by hand (not mine!) and Ilove the extremely goofy expression on his face. He is about 2.5cm long and nearly 2cm tall and always looks as though he is going to jump sideways off the display case into some froggy Nirvana.
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Monday, November 01, 2010

Hungry and Weird

The Hungry Ghosts, Anne Berry

I've been fortunate to have found some wonderful books at the library recently. Actually, I didn't find this one, Baby Bear got it from her school library, and I am impressed that they are buying new, good quality books like this in a state school these days.

It is a whimsical but quite hard-hitting mixture of family drama and magic realism, set mostly in Hong Kong from the late 1950s to the handover to China in the 1990s. Some of it moves to England and Paris, and it ends up in modern day Hong Kong. The author lived in Hong Kong and has drawn on her own childhood for a wonderful sense of place, but I sincerely hope that the actual narrative is made up!

It seamlessly blends the story of a dysfunctional, expat family with Chinese ideas of ghosts (you will find out quite a lot about the festival of Yue Lan, the 'ghost month'). Alice, the main character, dopes not fit in with the rest of her family. Her sisters ignore her, her mother positively hates her, only her brother and father love her at all. She is a 'problem' child - her mother 'needed' to produce a son, and Alice was the third girl in a row and deeply resented by her. In early adolescence she is 'possessed' by the ghost of Lin Shui, who was brutally raped and murdered by a Japanese soldier during the Occupation of Hong Kong in WW2, at about the same age that Alice is at the time the haunting begins. By taking up residence in Alice's body, Lin Shui can hang onto 'life', actually a halfway house between real life and real death, and keep herself amused. Unfortunately her idea of amusement seems to be behaving in a poltergeist way, And Alice is increasingly blamed for disruptive, out-of-control behaviour.

Alice's sisters are sent to boarding school in England where they behave appallingly and are ultimately expelled. Their life continues equally badly in Hong Kong, as they drink and sleep their way through the colony. No matter how badly they behave, however, it is always Alice and her 'problems' that the female members of her family carp over.

Alice inevitably turns to drink, gets pregnant, has an abortion, drinks more, the family functions less and less with every passing page. The critical turning point comes when she/Lin Shui behave badly at an official function, gets dragged home by her furious mother, and her much loved dog Bear is run over. The mother refuses to let her take the body home to bury it, instead hurling it over a cliff.

Alice leaves Hong Kong to live with her grandmother and uncle in London. The ghosts (oh yes, she has been joined by other ghosts - but I won't spoil that surprise, you need to read the book!) don't like it there and their behavious cause her to be kicked out. She is a hopeless drunk by this point, hardly surprisingly, and has a breakdown in the supermarket where she is working. She is rescued by a magical woman who takes her home and cares for her and performs some sort of magic, which I presume is meant to be, or at least reference, some sort of voodoo, and the ghosts lose a lot of their power. Alice, slightly healed, moves to Paris, makes a disasterous marriage, divorces, and ends up happily running and, finally, inheriting a restaurant. The ghosts have come back, of course, but seem to behave better when Alice has her life under more control - a symbiotic relationship? She writes to her parents three times but her mother always intercepts the letters and destroys them. This destroys her father emotionally, who loved Alice the most of his children and is devastated that she has vanished and made no attempt to contact him.

Eventually the inevitable happens, and the parents return to England to retire. Their horrible, grasping daughters 'deal' with them, one making sure she has somewhere to live free of charge while supposedly looking after them, the other ensuring that she need not actually do anything but that her share of the inheritence will be comfortable. The father dies. Alice's name is not put on the gravestone.

Alice eventually decides to make an attempt in person to contact her family after 30 years. She tracks them down quite easily. An appalling tea party happens at her brother's house, a scene that goes down in the annals of so good that you cringe but will remember it for ever. The ghosts play up BADLY. Alice is devastated at her father's death. She visits the grave and is further devastated to find that her name is not on it. She visits her mother, mouldering away into dementia in a nursing home, and finds out that the letters never reached her father and that he died believing she had abandoned him.

Alice tries to kill herself by walking into the sea, but the ghost of Lin Shui saves her, for her own selfish reasons. If Alice dies, she loses her own tentative grasp on life. Alice decides to return to Hong Kong.

The book finishes with Alice living a modest life in Hong Kong, nothing like the opulence of her expat days, but happy. Lin Shui finally lets go during a Yue Lan festival. But once a year she comes back as a Hungry Ghost for three days.

It was an amazing book, absolutely unputdownable. And beautifully written. I am going to seek out Anne Berry's second book and read it. Read it if you enjoy a bit of horror with your magic realism and your family dramas!