Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Cherry Blossom Viewing Picnic for One

The cherry tree is blossoming at the moment, and I feel like marking the occasion somehow. Last year I was too busy and didn't even get a chance to take photos before the blossoms fell, which was a little sad. On a whim, I decided to turn my lunch into a picnic.

I accompanied my leftover chicken stiry fry with baby cucumbers, a boiled egg, some dried fruit and nuts, and some orange segments.

The weather is particularly changeable in Spring (even more than normal!) but thankfully it cleared a little by lunchtime. The tree is still too small to sit under, but sitting next to it was perfectly adequate.

In Japan, sakura are the essential symbol of the transience of beauty, and a reminder of the passing away of all things. However as I sat, I was thinking of the future and new growth. Of the cherries that will grow later in Summer, and what the tree will look like in coming years.

This is one of my favourite parts of gardening -- imagining, if all goes well, how the plants will grow, how they will experience the seasons and my part in keeping them well-maintained and happy.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Springtime Salad

Last weekend, I did one of the things on my Springtime Mori by making a Spring-themed salad for lunch. I didn't use a recipe, but was inspired by what I saw at the supermarket. The first thing I saw were some adorable button mushrooms, which I put in whole. What a shame it would be to cut them up!

I also added thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, ham, ricotta cheese and rocket. I very much wanted to add some fresh strawberries, but there has been some controversy around the price of berries in Australia lately (I'm not sure on the details) and some supermarkets have stopped selling them. So I settled for some dried cranberries. It really makes me think I should look into growing my own berries, though!

Husband whipped up a delicious dressing with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime juice and a few other things.

The salad was delicious and just perfect for the beginning of Spring. The only thing I would have changed was to perhaps soak the cranberries in juice for a while to plumpen them up. Next time I'd like to try something with asparagus, I think.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

My September

It's Spring here in the southern half of the world. The days are longer, the trees are waking up, and the cat spends his mornings lazing in the sun. It's taken a while for the weather to warm up -- even now there are just as many cold and rainy days as Spring-like ones. As inspiring as Spring is, I'm not one to love the Summer heat, so I'm enjoying the cooler days while I can. I've been working on lots of creative activities, though not being able to focus on any one thing on particular, so I feel like I haven't made much progress.

This coming month is Inktober, and also the next round of Creative Sprint. I know many people love Inktober and I'm looking forward to seeing their work, but I have decided to participate in Creative Sprint. Because of my dilemma above, and the ridiculously long list of WIPs I have at the moment, I have decided to focus on working on current projects of all types. I will try to post my progress on my Instagram every day, and also weekly updates here on the blog. But now, back to what I did in September...

What I've been painting ...
There are so many interesting e-courses out there, many free, that it could take me a lifetime to get through them all. I finished the Fluent Self Journalling course, and began Tara Leaver's 10 Days to Making Art You Love course. The first assignment is to do a very simple, quick landscape in any medium you like. I've been very inspired by dreams lately, so I did this dreamlike scape, like something from a primitive myth or an alien world.

What I've been visiting ...
During the month I was very busy with events. Well, one event per week is 'busy' for me, I have to admit! I went out of my anxiety comfort zone and went alone to the Bad Girls' Club exhibition, at a pub in the trendy part of town. There was so much amazing, feminist work there, and I met up with my new friend, one of the artists. I was very inspired and spent all my spare time in the next few weeks writing for my zine, designing plushies, etc.

Bad Girl Zine and bottle shrine work by @possumparcel

What I've been reading ...
I had a renewed interest in reading last month, mostly sticking to the older junior and young adult books that I found while unpacking. There's a library near my new work, and I've set myself a little challenge of reading and donating 12 books before I join. My favourite, which I remember from my childhood, was Helen Keller's Teacher, about the life of Annie Sullivan, who taught Helen Keller to communicate and was by her side most of her life.

Selections from Instagram
With clearer weather, I've had a chance to go for walks before work in the mornings. After rainy nights, the early morning sunlight has a soft, hazy feel to it, and even in the city there are some beautiful shots to be had -- especially when water is involved. It seems I've had a fascination with reflections lately.

The Native Mint plant in my garden. It smells divine, but I haven't yet been able to find out if it's edible:

Sunday, 25 September 2016

It's Re-potting Time

It's that time of year -- early Spring -- new growth is beginning to sprout, but it's not yet time for flowers or fruit. I had 3 fuchsia cuttings that I started a few months ago when I pruned the mother shrub. They grow so strongly in my garden and it's a satisfying experience to work with them.

Nice, strong roots have developed:

I also had a bamboo cutting that was ready to pot. The Daiso pots that I've been collecting for the last few years look strange with actual dirt in them!

This strange fellow is a fuchsia cutting I took last year. I didn't think a cutting with such a thick circumference would take, but it's done very well, even if it looks a little lopsided! I needed to wire it to keep it from falling out of the pot. Even though I don't work with bonsai much anymore, I learned some valuable techniques that I can use with normal plants. For some reason I forgot to take a photo of him in his new pot, but it looks basically the same, just larger! I also pruned off a few of the dead twigs in the hopes it will grow bushier. If I were Adam of Adam Ask Why, most of it would be lopped off, but I'm not that brave!

Even the Fuchsia can have beautiful bark. Well, I hope that's how it's supposed to look!

While I was working, I noticed some new growth in the offcuts from the rose bushes that I'd pruned a few months ago. It seems some of them had their bases in the water pooling in the bottom of the wheelbarrow and had started to grow.

They wanted to live, and who am I to argue? So I put them in the jars recently vacated by the fuchsias. One was so tall I had to work my wiring techniques on it to stop it from falling over. I have no idea whether you can successfully grow roses from cuttings, but it's always fun to experiment.

Lastly, I fertilised the fruit trees. I took a tip from last week's episode of Vasili's Garden for improving fruit trees. The larger trees are doing very well, but the two we planted ourselves -- a cherry and an olive -- were not quite growing as well as I'd hoped. Vasili advised to spread mulch around the base of the trees, as the roots are still quite shallow and the grass can compete with the roots for nutrients. I also spread the fertiliser further out from the base of the trees, to encourage the roots to grow further.

I'm excited to find out the results of my work!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

101 Things in 1,001 Days: The First Year

Today marks 1 year since I started my first 101 Things in 1,001 Days list. I've been really enjoying it so far, though there are a few things I have learned and things I will do differently next time. I think I prefer this format to other goal-list-type things I have done before: like yearly goals, yearly themes or "30 Before Age 30". Of course, they are not that different, but I think the longer time period makes me feel less pressured. Also, 101 items is a good amount to cover all of my diverse hobbies and other things I'd like to do over the course of a few years.

I haven't completed many things from the list yet, but some of them are quite significant milestones that I'm proud of. I finished my conscript, which I'd been working on for nearly 20 years (blog post to come). I got a cat, and he's quite a fantastic cat! I unpacked all of my books, and made jam. I organised a party for a milestone birthday.

So far I have re-assessed the items on the list at least twice. I'm the kind of person whose interests change over time, becoming curious about new things and putting aside old ones along the way. For this reason, it's been important for me to take a flexible attitude and be willing to make changes. Otherwise I'd never complete the list! Not long after starting, I made a conscious decision to re-assess the entire list at least once every 6 months. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of everything -- I just created a second tab to store these superceded ideas, as well as ideas for future lists.

For example, I'm no longer so interested in #50: Go Fruit Picking now that I have my own fruit trees to invest time and effort into. #93: Take my Mum to Womadelaide seems obsolete now, as I found out recently that she's no longer so enthusiastic about going. I originally put #44: Get A Massage Every Second Month as I wanted to take advantage of subsidised massages under my health insurance. It was going quite well until I found out that I can only have 3 per year, so I needed to re-think whether I was comfortable with that level of expenditure.

Aside from changing interests, there were a few things on the list that are probably no longer feasible for me to do. For example, #97: Visit the Open Gardens. The official Open Gardens scheme has closed down, though there are still private gardens to visit. #33: do NaNoWriMo was a dismal failure as November is an incredibly busy time of year for me. #53: Go Overseas -- might be more difficult to achieve now that I have a cat to care for.

⇒ Despite having the SMART Goals model hammered into me at work (Specific, Measurable, etc), I still put in several items that were vague and open to interpretation, such as #60 Have All The Basics Done In The Garden. At the time, I thought I'd go back in and list specific tasks that I wanted to do under that banner, but I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.
⇒ I wish I had put in more items that are one-offs and less that are "do such-and-such every month". While trying to develop regular habits is good, the 101 Things in 1,001 Days list is possibly not the best place for these. It's discouraging to look at the item on the list over and over, knowing you won't be able to tick it off until the very end of the 1,001 days.
⇒ Next time, I'd like to have more of a mix of big, small and medium-sized items. Having a good amount of small-sized items means that more items can be done satisfyingly sooner. One version of the Kanban workflow system from Japan classifies tasks into mouse, elephant and even blue whale sizes. It's a cute idea!

I've done several new things in the past year that aren't on the list, or things I've done before but never done them so well before. I saw a concert with music I love for the first time -- not just one, but two! I went to a fashion runway show. I changed my attitude to life and work which I think will serve me better in future. For the first time, I've started calling myself an Archivist. For the first time, I said to both friends and strangers, "I'm an artist." I've begun to realise more about my spirituality. And I've started a major new project which I'll talk about more in a future post -- when I'm ready! I think it's important to acknowledge these things which can't be conveniently written down in a list, or may have come along spontaneously but ended up being important milestones in my life.

Looking at my list and the items I've crossed off or are well into, gives me renewed motivation to continue. I'm looking forward to finishing it off and drawing up a new one, even though that's a long way off at the moment.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Madman Anime Festival

A few weeks ago, I went to the inaugural Madman Anime Festival. Melbourne has been a bit lacking in anime conventions since Manifest ended in 2013, so I was happy when I saw that MadFest was on. Madman are the biggest distributor of anime and manga, as well as other independent films, in Australia, so they are in a good position to run a festival.

The festival space was smaller than I expected, but there were plenty of things to see and buy. I didn't attend any of the activities, but there seemed to be plenty to keep fans busy all day. I've been meaning to learn more in the world of anime and manga for several years now, and the intense, vibrant atmosphere was a good way to learn what's popular and what makes fans excited.

The main point of this post is to show off my purchases, so here they are:

I'm very interested at the moment in collecting stickers for my Hobonichi art diary, so I spent a lot of time loitering in the Artist Alley area. I bought some Pokemon stickers from Elking Art, and Pusheen stickers and some prints from two girls whose card I unfortunately didn't get:

I've recently started watching Sailor Moon (the original series) for the first time, so I was excited to pick up these badges and a keyring. There are also a pair of Tuxedo Mask earrings and a Totoro pair from Curious Emporium.

I couldn't resist this Pikachu plush, and the Hello Kitty is a gift for my Mum. I named the Pikachu Pickles.

I purchased a hand-crocheted Totoro for an embarrassingly low price from a stall whose card I also didn't get. The detail on this plushie is lovely. The Domo-kun and Beemo come from a mystery box that Husband bought. I got the pick of everything in it that was pink!

Finally, some manga/manwha I purchased from the $5 stall -- Platina and Metamo Kiss. I was hesitant to buy any full-price sets as it's always a risk with something you're not familiar with. If I like them, then I'll buy the rest at a later stage.

While the festival was relatively small, I preferred it over the larger ones which can become overwhelming. I hope it will continue next year, and also hopefully that I will know more about anime by then.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

My August

August has been an incredibly busy month for me. I began my new job on the first of the month. I attended two events for the Melbourne Fashion Week Plus festival, going to a runway fashion show for the first time. There were birthdays, dinners and Pokemon catching days. I saw my two best friends more this month than I have in a long time, which was lovely. Work changed my roster and it's different every week, so I haven't been able to settle into much of a routine. Despite all this, I've been more inspired and had more of an urge to create than I have in a long time.

What I've been working on ...
I went through all of my crochet/knitting projects and re-arranged and re-prioritised them. I've been wanting to work on my monster plushies recently, and decided to start with this small yellow one. I haven't actually done much more progress on it, but at least it's easy for me to pick up when I have the time and inclination.

What I've been painting ...
One of my friends turned 40 years old, and I wanted to make her something special, so I painted her this painting. I had a 2-week deadline, and I had to work hard, but I finished it just in time. I'm quite proud of it -- it turned out exactly how I pictured it in my head. It refers to and event that happened over 15 years ago, and I hope it will convey how valuable her friendship is to me.

I was also spurred on to finish this painting which I began last year. It only needed a few finishing touches, but now I can add it to my finished works. (Of which, well, this is the first one that I haven't given away, so I have a sum total of one!)

What I've been making ...
I started a zine, my first in 7 years. It began as only a semi-serious thing, a reaction (or quiet rebellion, if you like?) to working full-time again. Then I met some amazing people at an event I went to, one of whom is also working on a zine right now, and I was incredibly inspired to commit to finishing it, as well as ideas for at least 2 more. I'm at the mock-up stage at the moment.

What I've been observing ...
Also, look at this! The fruit trees in my garden have started blossoming. This is a nectarine blossom, but flowers on the apricot and plum have also begun to burst open.

Selections from Instagram