Monday, December 31, 2012

... on this year, next year.

It's new year's eve. That means today is probably the day I should take down our christmas tree and pack away all signs of noel. I always feel a little sad about doing this, as I just love the fairy lights and sparkles, the glitter falling off ageing decorations, the big old stick-o-bling standing over there in the corner. Putting them all away is going to make the house feel a little empty for a bit, and me, too.
This year I made a few tiny pompoms out of embroidery thread to add to the cacophony.
So carried-away was I by pompomming, they made an appearance on gifts. This year I used these lovely die-cut gift-tags from Polli, which come with a length of string so you can assemble them into a garland if you wish. 
I made bonbons - I started making them years ago when I was disappointed by all those plastic trinkets you generally get in bonbons. Even though they may rattle promisingly, the contents are usually a let-down, right? In these you get a scratchie, a Lindt ball, a party popper, a home-made hat and this year, instead of a joke, an 'interesting christmas fact'. For example, did you know that the first commercial christmas card was produced in the 1800s, and if you had one in decent condition these days it would be worth many thousands of dollars? Interesting!
This year, as I no longer have convenient access to a paddock containing a tree dripping with the real stuff, I made us a bunch of paper mistletoe. I had an old atlas that has maps in the most lovely blues and greens, so I tore out a page (which did indeed feel wrong!), cut and scored the leaf shapes (to give them twists and bends) and attached them individually to twigs using floral tape.
Time to put it all away! The boxes are ready, tissue paper awaits. Goodbye little pompoms. Goodbye twinkly lights, glitter, mirrors, sequins and stars. Goodbye little bunch of paper mistletoe. See you all again next year.

I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday, and a most happy new year to you!

Friday, December 28, 2012

... on a visit to Etsy.

Earlier this year I spent a few days in New York.
I've been before - twice - and so even though I knew what to expect I was still... what? Amazed. Incredulous. Horrified. Overwhelmed. Delighted! Me and my bro and Ma each booked single cabin-like rooms at The Jane in the West Village, which I can recommend on the proviso that you're happy walking down the hall to the bathroom and aren't surprised that the tiny rooms really are as small as they are described. It has a grand cafe and a fabulous bar, and is full of history. The survivors from The Titanic stayed there upon their arrival in New York. 
From The Jane, it's a short walk to one of my favourite New York places; The High Line, an old elevated railway that's been converted to a wildly-planted and beautiful public space. A gentle ramble from end-to-end early on a drizzly morning would take you about an hour, and you might run into an on-location filming of CSI: New York like I did.

This time, though, one day was a little different, because I'd Made An Appointment.

I don't really know why I wanted to go and visit Etsy HQ in Brooklyn. What was I expecting to see? An office from which a website is run? Does anyone visit eBay!? I'd emailed Etsy some weeks before, enquiring whether it might be possible, and was delighted to receive a reply; that yes, they welcome pre-arranged visits so long as the visit can coincide with a non-busy time for them. Someone would be available to show me around. I later found I'm not the only one... they get visits from Etsy sellers from all over the world who are curious about the home of this thing that has become a big part of their lives.

So, I rather nervously took the subway over to Brooklyn, where the Etsy offices occupy several floors of an old warehouse in Dumbo, next to the Manhattan Bridge. It was hard to find. I mean, I found the address okay, but when I entered the foyer of the building I was faced with the type of lift that you need a security pass to use, and what's more, there was no tenant directory to be seen. Thankfully an Etsy person came along and took me up - lucky, as you also needed a pass to get into the curiously-unsigned reception area. No drop-in visitors for them!

A lovely girl called Nicole had been teed up to show me around. I really wish I'd taken some photos but I didn't because I was too engrossed in trying to take everything in. The airconditioning ducts yarn-bombed with miles of knitting. The desks, each unique and handmade - some with drawers, some with nooks. The huge industrial felt room-divider that all the staff had helped make, which was being fiddled with by their 'in-house craftsman'. They have an in-house craftsman! No partitions and, get this! No phones on desks. If someone wants to make/take a call then they go into a quirkily-furnished booth at the edge of the open-plan spaces. There was a conference area hung with intricate quilts, and the walls were festooned with handmade things and artworks commissioned from Etsy sellers. Nicole told me that new employees are given $100 to spend on Etsy to furnish their desks. There was a large interesting-looking kitchen, and a plant-filled eating area looking out onto the Manhattan Bridge. All food scraps and compostable servingware are collected and every so often someone takes a load down to the local composting station using a purpose-built bicycle. They serve communal meals often which, Nicole said, were a great way to meet the other staff working in the building - I think she said there were over 300 of them now. In the IT section I was introduced to a fellow Australian, Marcus, who works as a programmer, I believe. There was a large bank of screens covered in realtime graphs; it reminded me of a stock exchange. Marcus said that any time Etsy 'breaks' it all goes red, "... but that doesn't happen very often!" he said. Almost every person who we passed looked up and gave me a smile or a comment. I was made to feel very welcome, and I came away from there clutching a little box full of Etsy goodies and feeling like I was part of something quite special indeed.

Afterwards I walked back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge - the steps up onto the walkway are just a couple of short blocks from Etsy HQ.
So. As far as 'good things to do on a visit to New York' are concerned, I've just about crossed everything off my list, at least for now. I guess that's the best thing about New York. There's always going to be something new or undiscovered!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

... on christmas cards, or possibly new year's cards.

Hold on, dear christmas card friends! They're coming! This year they're going to be late. Market preparation and all this Moving Things About has delayed my annual card make-a-thon. I know I said this last year, and possibly the years before, too, but I really love making christmas cards. I don't really care if people don't send me one in return, although it's always lovely to see an envelope without a window in the letterbox... it's just that it's such a great excuse to get out the paint and glitter and sit for a few hours being frivolously creative.

No paint and glitter this year, though. This year the theme is scissors and a gluestick, and boo-sucks to all those window envelopes!
Happy new year, dear christmas card friends!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

... on another incredible bloom.

About six weeks ago, a cactus that had hitherto been sitting doing absolutely nothing on the little metal table on our deck started to do... something. I wasn't sure what it was up to, so I took a photo.
Slowly slowly slowly, something emerged from one of the little pink spiky things. It took a very very very long time. A bud!
One morning the bud showed signs of imminent action. Over the course of the day it creaked itself open, and by late afternoon a lovely bunch of yellow stamen-y things were revealed.
Night fell. Very early the next morning I went outside to take a look. Far out!
What a beautiful monster! It was as big as my hands, cupped, and had the most lovely and subtle sweet scent. That little cactus worked on this beauty for six weeks!
... and it lasted for only one day.

Nonetheless, that cactus has leaped upwards in my estimation! Thankyou little cactus!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

... on a room less empty.

I can't say I've officially moved in yet, because all I've done is pick up everything from inside the house, walk across the deck, and deposit it somewhere in the new room. But, as I've got a market on Friday night to prepare for, all those things that I've put on the floor will just have to wait until the weekend.

However. My CD player (which had been unused since we moved in here at Easter) is now throatily blasting out some tunes that I hadn't heard for ages. I don't think I'll ever get around to digitising all my old music, so I feel like I'm going to be reunited with some very old friends in the next few days. Speaking of old friends, I've also been reunited with my big work table, and there's just enough space on it at one end to get some work done. The morning light pouring in the big window is just so lovely - it really feels like home already.

So, to market! I'm busily be-speckling a batch of my new small bird's eggs for some kind of christmas tree to bedeck my half-table on the night. Fairy lights may be involved. I do hope so!
Red. All red! These eggs are tiny tiny versions of my original cast plaster bird's eggs - just over half the size. They are wee and small and sweet and I am enjoying speckling them up very much.
I still haven't painted the bathroom door, though. Wicked girl!

Friday, December 7, 2012

... on an empty room.

I've been awaiting this day for what seems like ages. This day is momentous. This day means that situations like this will soon be a thing of the past. 
That's our dining table somewhere under there. One morning recently I had taken over the entire kitchen bench as well, and poor C stood there with his bowl of cereal in hand, forlornly looking about for somewhere to eat it, and had no joy.

No more, because today is The Day. Moving in day! or, depending on your perspective, moving 'out' day! From C's perspective I will be moving all my dust-creating clutter 'out' of our house. Now, I know it was waaaaay more than two weeks ago that I was predicting I'd be moved in here in two weeks. That was because I forgot to apply my Builder's Maxim. "Double the time you think it'll take and you'll be half way there." I hadn't reckoned on just how long it would take me to mask everything, fill every nail hole, sand them off and give all the architraves and skirting boards enough coats of semi-gloss enamel.
Okay, so I haven't yet painted the bathroom door, and the fan light fitting is yet to materialise, but pfft! Mere trifles!
Because I'm the sort of girl who needs Places To Put Things, C has indulged me and put a lovely old floorboard in the bottom sill of the big window. A Place To Put Things!
How wonderful is an empty cupboard to someone with a lot of stuff to organise? This one came out of my grandmother's garage, and I'd started to sand it back with a view to painting it some nice grey colour. Only, after I'd removed the pegboard from those top two cupboard doors to reveal the dusky pink interior, the Mission Brownness had grown on me to the point where I just stopped. Perhaps one day I'll continue with it but I'm liking it just like this for now.

I can't hold back any longer... I just have to put things in those drawers! Bye!

Monday, December 3, 2012

... on a day like this?

It's a stinker today, and I believe it's going to be much worse tomorrow: 41 degrees centigrade is predicted for where we live. It's a good day to stay inside in an air-conditioned sanctuary, which is how I'm feeling about our house at the moment. With all the blinds down to keep the sun out I can hardly tell that outside it's blowing a horrible hot wind that's travelled all the way across the baking heart of Australia to shrivel us here in Brisbane. I am so thankful we have air conditioning. This is the first summer I've ever had it, and for the first time I'm feeling like summer isn't only about survival. Previously, summer has been a sloth-time for me. I'm one of those people who just wilts in the heat, and when you add humidity to the mix I become a non-functioning Miss Irritable who lethargically counts down the days until the end of March. The end of March is the end of summer for me, as I reckon something that my grandmother Mard once said is pretty spot-on: "March can go out with a bang!"

Today, March seems quite some ways off, but that's okay! In here it's cool and peaceful and I'm feeling creatively energised and in the mood to get on with preparations for my next BrisStyle Indie Twilight Market, which is on Friday 14th December. I've got a batch of special red christmas-edition speckled egg brooches on the go.
I'm using 'Napthol Red' as the basecoat - isn't that the most poisonous-sounding pigment? (a quick Google... it IS poisonous!) A strange optical illusion came about as soon as I applied the white speckles. The basecoat alone is a warm red which might almost be described as a very very VERY dark orange in a certain light. Post-speckles it appears to be a dark musk pink. When I apply the polyurethane it'll change again. Exciting times!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

... on 'when things don't work.'

Chicken casualties abound around here. Despite three visits to the specialist avian vet, my two favourite Pekin bantam hens have had to be euthanised, for reasons unknown (without me parting with an even more astronomical amount of money for a probably-equally unfavourable outcome), and I'm left with a nitwit and a pecker. The flock has halved.

It's always the most likeable, beautiful and personable ones that die, isn't it?
So. The nitwit (on the right) is Marilla. In the mornings (starting at first light, about 4.00am) she'll make the loudest, most insistent noise she can. I think she wants food. There's plenty there! It goes 'raaaaaaaaaak Raaak Raaak Raaak Raaak. RAAAAAAAAAAK RAAAAK RAAAAK RAAAAK RAAAAK RAAAAK!', and it's on repeat, and thank goodness the neighbours haven't built on their block yet, because she's worse than a rooster.

Bent, on the left, is so-called because when I got her as a pullet I noticed that her whole face was... well, bent. She must have had an accident as a chick which caused her beak to swing off slightly to one side. It's straightened out now but she uses it with great force and accuracy to peck at any limb you may care to wave in her proximity. The Pecker.

Here's something else. You know that corn I was raving about a few weeks ago? How green and lush it looked in the vegie garden! How promisingly full the cobs! How succulent the kernels! How, one evening, carefully steamed and much anticipated (despite the large caterpillar I found munching away as I peeled it) BLOODY AWFUL it tasted!?

C was well involved with his cob beside me as I took the first bite. It should have been grand - it was cooked to perfection, glistening with butter, sprinkled with freshly-ground pepper and an appropriate scattering of Maldon sea salt flakes... and I got a mouthful of something that tasted and felt ever-so-much (and unsurprisingly, when I reflected upon it later!) like a spoonful of cornflour. Absolutely revolting, with no flavour whatsoever, and it stuck to my teeth in the most appalling fashion, too. I tried again... no. Glue. This stuff was unpalatable! I now know why some bright spark hybridised corn! That'll teach me to try growing a heritage breed, goddamnit!

I uttered an oath of disgust, and C looked at me, mid bite. "This is bloody awful!" I cried. "Why are you eating it!?" and C said  in a small voice "Because you gave it to me." Oh hell. Gardening AND cooking guilt wrapped into one!
At least someone will eat it. Good on you, Bent!