Wednesday, 28 February 2007


As I mentioned, this headscarf I knitted started off way too big. In an attempt to shrink it, I stuck it in the wash, and then in the dryer.... it shrunk a bit. Not nearly as much as I wanted, but enough to make it wearable. It's still a bit huge for my taste, and you can see it's still a bit gapey at the top/back, and there's a lot of crossover where the ends should just join, but then the pattern does suggest it's designed to be worn as a hat in the cold weather when you don't want hat hair, and I guess it will work quite well for that. I suspect it will be too hot for Womad though. I love the grey fabric covered button I found in my Auntie Stell's button box!

This week's handy hint: if you're trying to take a picture of the back of your head, it is better to hold your arm out to the side, visually judge if you are aiming well, and then turn your head, than to try to hold the camera behind you. I'm not saying how long how long it took me to figure this out. That would be embarassing.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


Okay, so I kind of cheated already. One of my New Year's resolutions was to this year only read books I hadn't read before. I'm a terrible re-reader. As much as I know that discovering a great new book or author is better than reading a book I already know, a lot of the time the risk that a new book is going to be rubbish kind of outweighs that balance, and I end up going for something I already know I'm going to enjoy. Also, I read every night before bed, and if I've finished the last book but haven't hunted out a new one, chances are I'll reach for something already in my bookshelf. And that's what happened this time. Although it wasn't such a bad slip, because I'd only read this one once before, rather than countless times like most of my other books. Also, after Nausea, I think I deserved something predictably enjoyable. Actually you can see that for yourself, based on how long Nausea took me to hack through compared to this one.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T.E. Carhart is just such a beautiful, elegant book. It's kind of novelised non-ish-fiction, and follows the author in his rediscovery of his love of the piano. It's partly about the history of piano making, partly about the personal meaning we imbue these big machines with, partly about the process of playing and enjoying music, and partly a story about Paris and the people the author meets as he rediscovers the piano.

Carhart's journey begins when he discovers a piano atelier near his home - an idiosyncratic workshop and salesroom where one needs an introduction to even get past the front door - and meets Luc, a piano repairer and the owner of the shop. Chapters of the author's experiences in the atelier, discovering all about different kinds of second hand pianos and about Luc's approach to his life and work, provide structure for the book, and are interspersed with chapters about various other matters: moving his new piano into his tiny first floor apartment, having his piano tuned, beginning piano lessons again after a 20 year hiatus, taking his daughter to her first lessons, travelling to a new piano factory, nostalgic reminiscences of his childhood.

In a sense, this book could've been about almost anything, because in a way the piano is just the focal point for the characters the author meets, the idosyncracies of Paris, the history of people and music. A similar book could be written about anything sufficiently old and widespread and revolutionary - books themselves, for example. But in another sense, the piano is completely inextricable from this book, as the author shows us how crucial the piano has been in the history of the last few hundred years, and how many different roles it plays. The piano is at once a piece of furniture, a sign of social status, a musical instrument, an invention made possible by the industrial revolution, a tool of entertainment, all made out of pieces of wood that could be up to half a millenium old.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is beautifully written. It's not really plot driven but it flows along gently and you will want to know what happens next. Carhart strikes a fine balance between the nostalgic and romantic aspects of these instruments, and the practicalities of the business. Although those who have played the piano or even music in general would identify more strongly with various aspects of the book, I think almost anyone would enjoy this book, because it's at once an insight into an aspect of our culture as well as a beautifully told story of people and Paris. It's just such a beautiful, elegant book, and one of my firm favourites.

I've been putting off seeing Finding Neverland for quite a while now. I kind of had the impression that it was some weird merging of story and storyteller and that Peter Pan would be totally ruined by it. I think I was also a little scared that Johnny Depp was going to do his usual slightly creepy thing and firmly burn his weird interpretation of a well-loved childhood classic onto my brain (the same reason I'm afraid to see the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Thankfully my fears were totally unfounded and I actually really enjoyed it: Finding Neverland is the (basically true but dramatised) story of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan - through his close friendship with the Llewelyn-Davies boys.

It's actually a pretty sweet story - Barrie's creative spark is rekindled when he teaches the boys to imagine, and in turn he becomes a kind of father figure and helps the boys deal with the loss of their father, and other traumas (I don't want to give away the ending). It's really just a nice story of kids and adults interacting and learning about both about the joys of childhood and the cold hard reality of life. It's well done, Johnny Depp seems pretty much like a normal person, and the kids are great. It's a wonderful little story, and, made me cry. I don't know if that says anything, because I seem to cry at lot in movies these days, but I guess it proves it wasn't complete rubbish. The one thing that did annoy me about this one though, was that afterwards I went and looked up the 'real' story, and of course there were a few details that Hollywood left out in its search for a sentimental happy ending. I don't think they necessarily apply to the timeframe described by this film, but if you enjoy it and don't want it ruined by reality, then don't go looking for it like I did. Der.

Monday, 26 February 2007

robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Ok, so I knitted my headscarf in just under 30 hours (yay me!) and what a total disaster it is. The difficulty I had getting the wool should've been a predictor. Actually when I got to about half way and it seemed about the size I wanted, that probably should've tipped me off. But no, I though, the pattern knows what it's doing. OH NO IT DOESN'T. I really started to wonder when I got to the last couple of rows and I didn't think I'd have enough wool to finish. And I didn't! And I'm a tight little knitter. I had to steal some of the multicoloured bits out of one of my other filatura balls of wool to finish casting off. And the conclusion? This thing is huge. It's like the designer tried to make the biggest randomly shaped thing she could from one ball of wool and then figured out what to use it for. The girl in the picture must have a watermelon up there or something, because I would need to blow up my head like a balloon, plus grow an afro or something for this thing to fit. Seriously. When the front is just above my eyebrows, there is still excess flopping around at the back, and I won't need to sew a button on to secure it, because at this point I can just tie a knot.

I'm thinking I'm going to felt it. It's the only thing I can think of that might resurrect it. That or giving it to the hippie with the dreds down the street. If anyone vehemently objects, you'd better send me a 'hell no!' pretty soon, because at this point, it's going in the washing machine tomorrow after work.


Usually I don't watch Foreign Correspondent because it makes me angry. It's the same reason I don't watch the news - so many horrible things happen in the world, and it always seems to me that there are more people trying to profit from that, than there are people actually trying to make the world a better place. I. just. don't. get. it.

Anyway, I watched FC last week by chance, and there was this amazing short documentary made by an Iraqi doctor in his Baghdad hospital. It kind of made me angry, but mostly it just made me cry. A lot. It was an amazing thing to watch though. Not that I've really made an effort to keep up to date with the situtation in the Middle East, but it was the best thing I've seen. It really seemed to give a good insight of how terrible things are getting for ordinary people over there, and how really most people are just ordinary people, just trying to get by, trying to get along with everyone else, who have been caught in terrible indiscriminate violence perpetuated, not by ordinary people, but by small groups of extremists. Seeing doctors doing their best to drain a child's lungs with adult equipment and no anaesthetic kind of puts things into perspective. And it was good to see something made by an Iraqi person, not a foreign journalist, and something which did not appear to be influenced for or by the media. This doco was not about politics, but just about real people. Refreshing.

I wanted to post a link to the video here, FC usually makes their videos available on their website but this one hasn't popped up, but you can read the transcript here which I know is not as good, but it's still pretty powerful stuff. It seems like it's been shown around the world - in the US and Britain as far as I can tell, which I suppose is a good thing.

In searching for this video, I came across a couple of blogs written by Iraqis both still living in Iraq and those who've fled. Of course there are blogs. I didn't really think about that. You always hear about how blogging is providing an alternative to mainstream media, and giving a real insight into people's lives, but I never really thought about what that meant, until I read bits of these blogs where real people discuss what is happening in their neighbourboods in the middle of war-torn countries. Whew. Heavy. Anyway. Here are links to a couple of the blogs that I came across. These two are brothers - the former is student pharmacist living in Baghdad but soon leaving for New Zealand, and the latter is a dentist studying journalism in New York. Both of them have long lists of other Iraqi blogs that I haven't had a chance to look through.

FYI: this article from the NY Times estimates that current US spending in Iraq is 300million A DAY, and that total expenditure could top 1.2 TRILLION. Oh. My. God. How is it even possible to spend that much money and not be doing more good?

Friday, 23 February 2007


Today has been a funny old day. The bad bit is that I have a mega headache (although the cocktail of codeine, asprin and coca-cola seems to be slowly working its magic), but the good bits are these:

Ispent my last $13 on beads today. There's got to be a country song in that somewhere. I thought I would be tricky and make a necklace by stringing these teardrop shaped beads alternately up and down, and then put a crimp at each end to stop them moving. But it seems physics is not my strong point, and it didn't quite work as well in reality as in my imagination (that's a bit of a metahor for my life at the moment). So I lost the crimps and let them just do their thing. It turned out ok - they mostly point downwards, with some sitting more to the back and some sitting more to the front, with the odd one doing it's own thing and sticking out in a totally different direction. I think I will call them my Elaine-dance beads. In any case it's crazy colourful enough for diorganised beads to work. Excuse the non-matching cardie. I'm trying to break the internet with too many lary colours at once. Also, you can't see it here, but I've discovered that if you put crimp then little bead little bead little bead crimp next to the clasp, you can thread the little bit of excess wire in under the beads and then it's not scratchy. Jeez, didn't take me long enough to figure that out! I should probably go and fix all my other homemade necklaces,, I can't be bothered.

Also, here's a picture of the three balls of wool I bought on Wednesday:
the red colour isn't quite true to life (it's not so orange) but the others are quite good. You can see I like my magenta! I've cast on and knat the first row: waiting on instructions from my knitting guru as to how to proceed from there.

The other good thing that happened today is that my French teacher told me that I've covered in my 3 lessons what would normally take 10 weeks in class to do. And I thought we were still going a bit slow! This is good news because a. yay! and b. it probably means I'm getting my money's worth in a roundabout way, because a 10 week course probably costs more than 3 private lessons. I still doubt I'll be fluent enough for Geneva, but it's gee it is nice to be powering through it and using my brain again!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

honestly? A bit ooky. I think I have a funny tummy...

Not much is happening here today. The maintenance stuff on my floor seems to have halted, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective. There's not so much banging and crashing happening, or stinky painting, or coin-slots littering the hall way. This is the good part. The bad part is that everything's been left incomplete. There's still chunky white dust all over the floor, which is a bit of a worry for three reasons: 1. the builders are clearly not taking much pride in their work, and they're still a long way from finished; 2. the cleaners do not consider vacuuming within their sphere of responsibility; and last but not least, 3. my building is full of asbestos. If I develop respiratory problems in a few years, y'all will know why.

They've also replaced my office door. They decided to paint it after they installed it, but again, it's incomplete, so at the moment it's got undercoat and spackle all over it. It's also got a big hole in it, where the vent (to let the noise in when they start banging again I imagine) will presumably go once they've finished painting. The problem with this is that you can actually reach through from the outside and open the door, even if it's locked. Excellent!

The other problem with this door is that it's a glass filled admin office door. I am not admin. I do not like it when snotty teenagers come and demand their graded essays back. I guess the builders looked in, saw my beloved counter, and decided I was an office lady. That I would love an admin door, to reinforce the idea that anyone wandering by with a question should ask me. That I would tell them where to go. Even though there are now no numbers or names on the doors of my floor. After a few walk-ins today, I'm thinking of telling them exactly where to go. Answers on the back of a postcard.

(Actually, I don't mind helping the multitude of people who come knocking on my door. I mind how rude 95% of them are about it).

Yesterday I went to the Yarn Barn and bought my beautiful Filatura di Crosa wool for my headband. Between comfort shopping, genuinely being indecisive, and not wanting to make a return trip anytime soon, I walked away with three different balls. I restrained myself from the fourth ball in the bargain bin. It's ok. I will use them up. Eventually. I bought the red and the brown that I was considering, and I also bought a beautiful magenta colour. My favourite. Although the internet tells me that there's a maroon colour out there. My favourite favourite. I'll get you one day, my pretty, one day! I'm quite excited about starting the project - I haven't knitted anything for a while, and I haven't had anything new to wear for a while. Two birds with one stone. Excitement city!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007


Yes, I am nauseous. The book is nauseous too. It's also nauseating. So actually, it's pretty appropriately named. Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Nausea' is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a scholar who throughout the book suffers the existential angst of Sartre's philosophy - ie. he flips out and realises that his life is meaningless, and eventually decides that he has full responsibility for giving his own life purpose. This takes the form of literal bouts of nausea and dizziness and intense focus on small objects or events. Other characters feature briefly, and form a comparison point for Roquentin's revelations - his ex-girlfiend Anny, the Autodidact who he bumps into frequently, among a few others.

This book I guess was meant to be a novellistic representation of Satre's existential philosophy, and I suppose it kind of does that quite well. It's pretty unpleasant way to learn about it though, and I think I would prefer to read the encyclopaedia account of it. If you really want to take the fiction approach though, you'll probably get the picture from a chapter or two of this book - if you find it as draining as I did, don't bother struggling to the end, because it doesn't really get better. This book felt to me like reading someone's first person experiences of repeated bad trips. It's just wah wah wah wah wah.

One thing I will say about this book, is that there are some quite beautiful passages of prose. If you can get past the fact that you're totally bored off your nut, and let the words wash over you, some of it is quite stunning. But if that's what you want, maybe go and read 'Lolita' instead.

Overall, this book just reinforced that idea that I never seem to be able to put into practice: if you hate the first couple of chapters of a book, you'll probably hate the rest. I can't seem to put a book down until I prove to myself that it doesn't get better. This one didn't. It probably also didn't help that I read this article from the New Yorker about Sartre's and de Beauvoir's relationship, which turns out to be way dodgier than I knew. They both used people pretty badly, and I ended up having a hard time respecting the thoughts of a man who I wouldn't've respected much had I met him in real life. Ick. Maybe that's a bit un-objective, but actually I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that Roquentin is not a very likeable character either (modelled on his author?), and it's pretty hard to enjoy a book whose main character is repelling.

The summary? If you want to know about existentialism, go and look it up. If you want an enjoyable book, try something else.

A couple of weeks ago, Tom and I went to see Stranger Than Fiction. I really loved this film. It's about Harold Crick, a dull accountant who (when a voice in his head starts narrating his every move) suddenly realises that he's the main character in a book, and he's about to get killed off. It's a great idea, and is executed really well - it's not shallow, but neither does it delve so deeply into the idea that it gets bogged down in inconsistencies.

Will Ferrell is excellent (and I never thought I'd say that), as are Maggie Gyllenhall (the anti-IRS love interest), Dustin Hoffmann (the psychologist) and Emma Thompson (the author). It's got some really clever, and funny moments, and I suspect there are enough subtle jokes that if I went to see it again I'd catch a few that I missed the first time around. The cinematography is nice too, with bright happy colours and some appropriate but subtle special effects, and the soundtrack's not bad either.

This movie is exactly the kind of movie I like to see - feel-good but still clever, with enough depth but without getting bogged down in it. As my boss said though, it unfortunatly won't do well, because it's not weird and 'deep' enough to appeal to the 'arty' crowd, but it's not mainstream enough to appeal to the Will Ferrell crowd. The sad thing is, I think it's a movie that almost anyone would enjoy. I liked it enough that I will totally be buying the DVD when it comes out. How would I describe this film in one word? Quirky. No wonder I liked it.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

squeaky clean.

St. Ives just keep doing this to me. I was very happy with their apricot foaming cleanser and then they deleted it. So then I switched to the 'new and improved' version (which was new but decidedly not improved) and lived with it. And now they've deleted that TOO! And I do NOT like the look of the new cream cleanser stuff they're hawking now. So I have embarked upon a mission to find a new and happy cleanser.

Before I start, I should point out that my skin is quite oily, and not overly sensitive or blemish prone, but will break out if mistreated. I do nothing but cleanse morning and night, and I wear sunscreen each day. I only moisturise if I find my skin is getting dry, which, with the right cleanser, doesn't happen, and I wear makeup very rarely and very sparsely.

I approached the task of finding a new cleanser, by first consulting the Paula's Choice reviews and compiling a list of all of the cleansers that she recommends. Paula is the 'cosmetics cop' and reviews lots of skin products. I've read mixed things about her on the internet (she only bases her reviews on the ingredients on the bottles, she's biased because she now has her own cosmetics company, she doesn't appear to be able to apply makeup well to herself, etc), but I figure that at least it's something and therefore as good a place to start as any, especially as I certainly don't trust the advertising schtik the companies themselves are feeding me. Paula's recommendations may not all suit me, but at least I feel confident that I'm not putting something on my face that's going to do damage. Once I made the list of cleansers I narrowed it down to 'supermarket brands' (I don't believe you get a better product for spending $50 in DJs - I think you get better marketing), and those which appeared to be available in Australia. This list is what you see pictured, minus the Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser, and the Dove Essential Nutrients Self-Foaming Cleanser, both of which I couldn't find in any shop.

1. Dove Fresh Touch Foaming Facial Cleanser with cucumber and green tea. Okay. I think I fell down here. I didn't actually read that Paula recommended this one, I read someone else on the internet saying that she recommends it. So I don't know. I think I was swayed by the pretty packaging, and cucumber! and green tea! Yup, I got suckered by the machine. Again. On trial, this one is actually totally gross. It comes out in a white shimmery paste, and I found that it was hard to rinse off, and left a slight feeling of waxy residue. I also found it drying. Also, it smells like baby vomit. I think it's baby vomit. Some kind of gross baby related smell that I can't quite pinpoint. Maybe the remaining smell of baby vomit once it's been wiped up incompletely by wet ones. Also, this smell lingered even after I rewashed my face with a nice smelling product. This one is going straight to the bin.

2. L'oreal Ideal Balance Foaming Gel Cleanser. Hmm. This one is okay. It seems to wash my face good, and isn't drying, and doesn't leave much (if any) residue. It's a little slimy, foams very poorly, and smells pretty much exactly like detergent, although the smell doesn't hang around. It's decent enough that I don't mind using it up though.

3. Clean and Clear Oxygenating Fizzing Cleanser. The winner! I will be buying this product heretofore until they delete it and I have to start again. Ok, so I should point out that there is no fizzing going on at all as far as I can tell, and if it's oxygenating anything, I don't know about it. This is probably predictable and a good thing. But this seems to wash my face very well, without drying it out or leaving residue, and it has a pleasant fresh smell (I think) that's not overwhelming and doesn't linger much. The consistency's a bit thick, but overall fine, and foams only slightly, but well enough for my liking. Overall I like the product very much. It's not as good as the original St Ives stuff, but I think it's actually better than the St Ives mark 2 stuff which I was quite happy with for a couple of years. The one thing that really irritates me about this one is the nozzle. It's basically a big version of those pop-up drink bottle tops, but in this case it's really annoying to try and squeeze the right amount out, and excess cleanser gets dried out over the top and ends up gunky and gross and I have to wipe it off every couple of days. A simple squeezy bottle with a fliptop lid would've been better, and I plan to try and find a pump top that will fit the bottle asap.

4. Nivea Visage Foaming Cleansing Gel. This one's okay too. Actually almost all the comments from the L'oreal above apply. It's a little too slimy for my liking, and the fragrance is nice although a little overpowering, but it doesn't stick around once you've washed it off. It does the job fine though, and I'm content to work my way through the bottle until it runs out.

5. Hamilton Everyday Face Sunscreen 30+. Okay, sneaky me, this is not a cleanser. But Molly introduced me to it a few weeks ago and I love it. I'm the original Mrs. Glow-In-The-Dark, and I find I absolutely have to wear sunscreen every day. This one is great, and the best I've found. It's 30+ (which is the highest labelling allowed in Australia), and broad spectrum, containing zinc oxide to keep out those nasty UVAs. It's a little greasy, but what sunscreen isn't, and I find it significantly less oily and with a more matt finish than any other sunscreen I've ever tried. It comes out 'skin coloured' which is a little weird at first, until you realise that it's colourless on your skin - and of course white sunscreen doesn't look white on, does it? It doesn't smell like sunscreen either, which is a big plus for me, and although it does smell a little like aquadhere out of the bottle, you can't smell it once it's on. Also, it's made right here in SA, and by a pharmaceutical company that specialises in skin products. I could be wrong, but I tend to think this means they're less likely to knowingly put damaging ingredients in my sunscreen than most cosmetics companies.

6. Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser. This one I thought actually quite nice, but just totally wrong for my skin. It's a cream cleanser, and unscented. It felt nice on, and quite bland, and I suspect this would be really great for someone with very dry or very sensitive skin. For my skin though, it was just too moisturising and didn't wash off enough of the gunk. What a nice note to end on!

Monday, 19 February 2007


To all my friends overseas who are whinging about the cold and pining for the Australian heat:

You have forgotten about the mosquitos.

You have forgotten what it is like to climb dead tired into bed and be so sticky and radiating heat that you cannot bear even a sheet on top of you. And just as you are dropping off, to hear the thin whine of a mosquito near your ear, knowing that your entire body is exposed and primed for the kill, and that the nasty vampire has locked on to your pulsating heartbeat and is coming ever closer to your feet or wrists or any of the other most unbearable places to get a mosquito bite. So you turn the light on, only to find there is no mosquito in sight, but within seconds of the light going out the familiar buzz begins again. You get up, and for the next ten minutes stalk the little rotter, until you finally have the satisfaction of squishing the parasite under your flat palm. And the relief is immeasurable because now you can go to sleep. Until it all starts again minutes later, and then you repeat this process again and again, until an hour has passed and you finally realise that it is not a just a few unconnected blood-suckers that you have in your room, but a whole swarm. Then, you may choose to continue this process indefinitely until you fall asleep from exhaustion and wake up with swolen punctures all over your soft skin, or you crawl under the covers and drowsily slip in and out of half-sleep in a bundle of sweaty cotton.

Do you really miss this?

Have I mentioned that I firmly believe that moquitos are getting smarter and faster? This is 21st century evolution - we're killing off all of the slow stupid ones, and are now left with the droning undead. Urgh.

You may have guessed by now that this is not just to make my travelling friends feel better - it is the story of my weekend. Along with the Yarn Barn exaggerating on their website about their opening hours, and Jamie Oliver exaggerating about how good his carrot cake was, and the cauliflower curry exaggerating about how far it was from burning on my stove. As you can see (apart from a very nice dinner and breakfast with the lovely Molly & co) my weekend was a bit of a flop.

Friday, 16 February 2007


And for my next trick...!

I'm thinking about knitting this headband for my next project. Maybe tomorrow I will go and buy some yarn: I found this beautiful wool on the Yarn Barn's website, which is conveniently what the pattern specifies! I'm not sure if I will get this colour, or more of a brown, but I'll go and see what my options are. Maybe brown will be too much with my brown hair? Hopefully I'll have it done quickly, and then I can wear it to Womad and be kewl with all the hippie kids!

I'm also thinking about trying this curried cauliflower recipe. It has a lot of vegetables, and lots of lovely spices, which is the way I like 'em.

I'd also like to start making some more jewellery, but I'm not sure how I'll proceed with that. I guess it will depend on whether I end up doing more classes or not.

This afternoon I'm going to my second French lesson. Bon courage Emily, bon chance!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

good, for three reasons.

1. There are Toobs in the vending machine downstairs now! I knew they'd brought them back, but vending machines? Excellent!

2. It seems the vegetarian place Mum and I went unsuccessfully looking for on Leigh St the other day hasn't opened yet. Which would explain it. But on the 19th it's going to be Sarah's Cafe @ Where Inn, a relative of Sarah's Cafe at Semaphore, which apparently has some of the best vegetarian food in SA. They're also focusing on local produce, and having live music every day of the week. Excellent!

3. I love Top Gear. And I really don't know why, because I'm not very interested in cars at all. But actually this video goes some way to explaining it. It's somewhat childish, but completely hilarious. Excellent!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Hopefully, this blog will help me record and remember the things I've made, especially those things I've given away. As a start, I'm posting pictures here of the things I've already made. Not all of them, but my favourites.

In the photo above, the top part is a selection of the beaded earrings I've made. These are basically just the ones I wear on a regular basis. The black ones are an authorised Margie ripoff, and that bright pink mess is actually a pair of paper crane earrings. As you can see, I'm a big fan of making Camper inspired twin earrings. I'm definitely a Small Earring Person; therefore, the larger and more interesting earrings I've made I've tended to give away. Especially since my brother realised that getting me to make earrings was cheaper than buying birthday presents...

Below this on the left are the earrings and pendant I made at my jewellery class. The pendant was made by sawing a tree shape out of silver and then soldering on copper leaves and riveting on the red acryllic leaf at the top. The earrings have holes drilled and lines sawed from them. Although you can't really see it in this dodgy photo.

The pendant on the right I made by covering a shell pendant with Japanese yuzen/chiyogami (what is the difference can anyone tell me?) paper and then lacquering it. People often think I've hand painted it myself. Sometimes I think I should just smile and nod.

The photo above shows the necklaces I've made recently. I'm not sure if I can really claim much credit for these, because I'm not sure how much skill there really is in just picking some pretty beads and tying them on to some string. I guess I could say that about most of my earrings too though. The top three necklaces came from beads I bought at the bead expo, which I found a bit daunting, because everything came in such large quantities. I'm particularly happy with the Venetian glass beads - they're so bright and colourful and can be dressed up and down.

The pink flower pendant and the Chinese lady were mega bargains. I saw pendants just like this being sold at Wish (?) for about $90 each. I found these ones at Lizards on the Fridge (I love that shop) as keyrings for $5. Nice one. Ok, I really can't claim credit for just hanging them on a bit of wire, but come on. Such an incredible bargain justifies inclusion.

At the bottom of this photo are my works-in-progress. On the left is a hollow-form silver ring that needs a lot of sanding (as you can see) to make the front and back level with the sides. And also to make it a little bit less deadly. At the moment it would be quite a good choice for exploring dark alleys with.

On the right is a tenor clef I cut from acryllic and plan to make into a brooch. I was in a very bad mood when I sawed it, and so it's actually quite dodgy. Hence I am spending a lot of time chasing my mistakes with the file. It might work out, or I might just have to start again.

The photo on the left is a big fruit bowl I made as a wedding gift for my friend Sasha and her husband Tim. The quote is from Mother Teresa, and I painted it at the Union Studio, which doesn't exist anymore, thankYOU very much voluntary student unionism. It actually wasn't meant to bloom pink like this - something weird happened in the kiln. But I kind of like it like this, so I guess it worked out ok.

These are my first knitted projects. The very first was the green scarf. I made this from some cheap Lincraft mohair using massive massive massive needles and a double strand of wool. About a month after I made it, I saw one just like it in a Melbourne shop, very expensive and with a label saying ' imported from Italy'. Heh. It was definitely a good (forgiving) beginner's project, although having recently taught a friend to knit, I might recommend making something (a scarf) that will be felted, because then you really can learn through your mistakes without them showing.

The hat is a Carla beret Margie helped me make - it was good for teaching me how to increase and decrease, and introduced me to double points and circular knitting needles. And convinced me that sometimes I am a hat-person after all.

The colourful scarf is a My So Called Scarf which I made (as directed) from beautiful (but expensive) Manos del Uruguay wool, made by women's collectives, in, you guessed it, Uruguay. It's a nice simple repetitive stitch, basically variations on purl and plain, but you end up with something a little more interesting. I also made one of these for Tom-ace in brown-tones, which I knit on a circular needle lengthwise. I would recommend doing it this way as the skein change is hidden much better, and you get built in tassels. Mine is curling a lot and I'm thinking about ironing it.

This is my Branching Out scarf. I made it from some rust coloured Bendigo wool, as a thankyou present for my Honours supervisor. And unfortunatly the 'sweater curse' well and truly came into play. Anyway. I'm planning to make another of these for my mum, when she chooses what colour she wants.

It was definitely hard work making this scarf, and took me a long time. Every time I made a mistake I had to frog it a long way to find a place I was sure about. I seem to remember it took me a fair while to get started because I was doing purl like knit into the back of the stitch. der.

It was definitely named well though, because it was a great way to move beyond purl and plain, and to get thoroughly familiar with a broader range of the more common stitches. It took a fair bit of patience, but I really learned a lot from this one, and felt proud of the results because it looks pretty fancy for a beginner knitter.

Finally, this is my felted bag. I made it with hand spun and dyed wool from the Spinner and Weavers guild - that's why there is variation in the colour and it's kind of lumpy. I'm really happy with the appliqued leaves, but you're lucky you can't see the underside, because I am not a good sewer. Sew-er. Uh oh. How on earth do you spell a person who sews? That just looks oh so wrong.

Sorry about all the average photos everyone - I thought I'd been doing pretty well until now, but these ones are a bit manky. Well, you get the idea anyway.

Congratulations to any boys who've made it to the end of this post (Sam, I'm looking at you). Feel free to post comments about socks, cars... whatever boys find interesting. =)

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

back home.

And another whirlwind tour of the big smoke is complete. It was a pretty fun weekend; I got to hang out with lots of my friends - Tom, Heidi, Molly, Lukey, Sam, Annalise, Josh, have I forgotten anyone? As usual, I mostly ate. And now I realise (yet again) where all my money went so quickly.

We went to a couple of repeats - Yu'u and Butterfly, which I've covered before here. The only thing I can really add is a little more detail about Butterfly - this weekend I tried their home-made baked beans, and their fruit salad with yoghurt and honey. Both were a little pricey, but absolutely superb. Their range of drinks, however, is minimal. I had not realised this before.

We also tried the Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy North, which was totally amazing. For $17.50 you get a mini-banquet of starter dips with pita bread, then vegetable based tagines and salads, and some tiny Moroccan sweets and coffee or mint tea. The place was completely packed, but it has to be said, a little eccentric. We ordered by explaining that none of our party had food allergies, and averaged our table's hungriness to a 7.5/10. Then the food came. I think the eccentricity possibly comes from the proprietress, who was lovely, but who seems like one not to mess with. Thus, make sure you book, and don't be surprised if you have to wait for your table, or get kicked out promptly when you're done. But don't worry - the food is completely worth it. Particularly the yoghurt chickpeas with paprika. Who knew it would taste that good? Well, actually...I did, which was why we went back. So good, so tasty. Oh, and by the way - it's unlicenced and cash only. These things are good to know.

On Saturday, Tom and I indulged in some take-away Plush pizza. On this occasion we had the 'potato swoon', and a small garlic side pizza. This delivery-happy vegetarian pizza is really good. Perhaps not quite as good as the Good Life, but certainly the best I've found in Melbourne, especially as a take-away joint rather than eat in. They have some interesting flavour combos (I recommend the Aztec and the Ben's Special), and it definitely falls into the category of 'gourmet' pizza, but is kind of at the middle price point. Our special which included one large pizza, one 'side order' pizza, a 1.25L drink and delivery was $25, and was about the right amount for two reasonably hungry people. Yum. Living in posh suburbs has its perks. Like better options than Pizza Planet.

On pizza, we also went to the Lucky Coq, on Chapel St in Windsor. It's kind of a funky (if a little crusty - think mood lighting for a reason) bar, with mismatching couches and tables and interesting bathrooms. The pizzas on weeknights are all $4 and I tried the peperonata (capsicum) one and had a little bite of the Caesar salad pizza. I must say they were both very good, especially for such a bargain price. Others on our table had the lamb pizza, and the pepperoni, both of which looked tasty too. I've been to the Lucky Coq's sister restaurant, Bimbo Deluxe on Brunswick St, before and had some bad experiences with oily oily pumpkin pizza, and overly strong and salty blue cheese. But this experience was very pleasant. Be warned though - the cheap pizza prices are balanced out by expensive drinks. This is called a loss leader. Stick with me kids, and you'll learn plenty. (Thanks Tom).

The other food-related adventure was a trip to organic superstore Macro Wholefoods. This is a big organic store on Bridge Rd, Richmond, about the size of a regular supermarket. I think there are other versions of it in Sydney too. This place was heaps of fun - they have a fresh fruit and veg section, a booze section, a take-home gourmet meals counter, a cafe and then just the regular supermarkety bit. Tom-ace and I managed to spend $50 whilst attempting to be very restrained. Well, I guess it's bound to be pricey when they give the chickens shiatsu massages and water the wheat with Moet. That's what they do to make it organic, right? Well, this place is definitely a money spinner, but they also have lots of great stuff. We bought some chilli flavoured linguine, some brown risotto rice (this by the way takes about three times as long to cook and doesn't taste much different), the Dagoba Xocolatl hot chocolate I'd been searching for, as well as some beer, and a few other drinks as per the rule. One beverage was a complete winner, but I'm saving it for another post. The other, straight raspberry juice (!!!) was actually surprisingly nasty, and I think it was what gave me Sunday's funny tummy - I realised too late it was past the use by date. And at $6 for about 200ml, that was really annoying. But actually I think it would've been kind of meh anyway. Some things are just better whole.

The only other newsworthy event, was that we went down to the St Kilda Fest (nasty, crowded, sandy, windy), and I bought a cute pair of ceramic stud earrings at one of the stalls from this man. We'll call him Mr Klei because I don't know what his really name was. Anyway. Mine are white with little green leaves and flowers. So! Cute!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

seriously underwhelmed.

Yesterday I devoted my break to a nice lunch with Mum. Or that was the plan, anyway. At first we couldn't decide where to go, and then Mum remembered she'd read a review of some vegetable-heavy place on Hindley St. So we went looking for that, but never actually found it. By this point I was ready to start chewing off my own fingers, so we made a snap decision and ended up at Burp Burritos. It was ok. The service was good and fast, and both Mum and I had the vegetarian (not vegan) burrito - it had one of those stupid names that you don't want to actually have to order out loud, but I don't remember what that was. The fillings seemed fresh and it was quite tasty, and on the whole I thought it wasn't bad. My main complaint was that apart from the beans, which were lukewarm, everything was cold. And not just cold, but refrigerator cold. Mum said she thought there was too much cheese and wouldn't hurry back. I wouldn't hurry back either I suppose, but I thought it was a reasonable feed for under $6.00.

As Mum was ordering the food, I went two doors down to get us some smoothies from the Organic Barn, Burp having nothing but carbonated drinks, which I wasn't in the mood for. I ordered a small watermelon smoothie for myself, and some kind of tropical concoction for Mum. I ordered smalls, which were $5, because usually smoothie serves are huge, and here there was only a choice between small and large. The girl who served me seemed seriously bored, and it took her literally over ten minutes to make me two smoothies. There were two other girls working and I was the only customer in the shop. I'm not sure how she possibly took that long to make two smoothies. It didn't appear that she ran to the shops to buy the ingredients. Or even went out the back to get something she'd run out of. Or even that she had to chop anything up. Although perhaps the fact that she washed out the blenders after she'd made my smoothies but before she served them to me had something to do with it. Or at least gives you an idea of how inefficient she was being. While I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) I had a look at their food menu. It was short and boring, consisting mainly of different sandwiches. The seriously underwhelming part is here though: the smoothies when they came were the smallest I have ever seen. The cups were less than 10cm high and I doubt they contained more than about 300ml of liquid. For $5 each. And it's not as if I ordered a straight mango juice. My watermelon smoothie had watermelon, apple, milk and frozen yoghurt in there. For $5 I could've bought a watermelon, an apple and some milk, and in the time it took her to make my smoothie I probably could've made frozen yoghurt myself out of the milk. Did I mention also that she made at least three times the amount that fit in my teeny tiny cup and (as I watched) poured the remainder down the drain? At least now I know where my $5 went. And it probably won't surprise you that on my way back to work from Burp I saw the same girl sitting outside her shop smoking. Not a great advertisement for a place that (presumably) trades on a wholesome healthy image. Anyway, this is once place to which I definitely won't be going back.

And with that I am off to Melbourne for a weekend of FUN. Hurrah!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007


Here's one for the girls. I (re)found this gorgeous shop Anthropologie - there are just so many cute clothes here I want! I especially love the myrtle silk dress. But be warned - this site is for looking only - they don't ship outside of the U.S.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

drinking (not that kind).

I've been trying to make this recipe since I found it in Gourmet Vegetarian, a magazine that I suspect no longer even exists. My magazine, Vol 2 No 3, was published in 1999, and it's taken me that long to find one of the ingredients: cherry syrup. Excitingly, I found it on Friday, at the Adelaide Lebanese Bakery. The recipe is for a drink called Poloudeh-sib, meaning 'shred of the apple'. It directs to peel and grate three apples, and add enough water to form one litre total of liquid. Add a dash of cherry syrup and chill for half an hour. Serve with a dash of rosewater or vanilla, and serve within three hours, before the liquid begins to ferment.

The verdict? Well, it's nice, but I'm not totally sure it was worth waiting 8 years for. Also, I really hate recipes that instruct a 'dash' of this, especially when they're referring to things like rosewater which can totally take over if the instruction is misinterpreted. So, I made a few different versions. Firstly, I put in about 4 tablespoons of cherry syrup to the litre. As it turns out, I don't think the syrup actually adds much flavour, it acts more as a general sweetner. In the light of this, I suspect some Bickford's blackcurrant cordial would work just as well. In my mind, a 'dash' equates to the smallest amount you can quickly pour straight from the bottle. In the case of the syrup then, I guess a 'dash' is fair enough, especially since you'd definitely want to adjust this for taste. In the case of rosewater or vanilla, a 'dash' is complete overkill though. I found the right amount for a (collins sized) glass of the drink to be about 4 drops of rosewater, or slightly more of vanilla (although I was using fake vanilla essence, less might be needed of proper vanilla). Actually, in the end I decided that a combination of rosewater and vanilla was the nicest - about two drops of each. I imagine it could work with a little Turkish tourist tea mixed in, or maybe with orange blossom water, but they're probably sacreligious suggestions, and you didn't hear them from me.

It pretty much tastes as you'd imagine - sweetened, liquidy grated apple. I think it would be lovely with some Persian food, but as a drink on it's own, I found it a little flat. I guess like most accompaniments, it would tend to taste better in conjunction with the appropriate meal. For a hot day like this though, it was quite refreshing, and certainly a more interesting way to try and get your apple-a-day down. Actually I suppose it's quite interesting as a drink in itself, because it's obviously got a lot more texture than your average apple juice. I thought it looked quite pretty - a mauvy-brown colour with bits suspended in it, but I can imagine it might not be very appetizing to some.

Anyway, not the amazing discovery I'd hoped for, but not half bad either. At least it's one to tick off the list.

Monday, 5 February 2007

listening to grrrzzzzzzz grrzzzzz grrrzzzzzzzz.

Today when I got into work, I found heaps of white stuff all over the floor. And my desk, and my computer. It turns out that over the weekend, some builders have changed our regular fluoros for energy efficient ones. And left a big old mess. The new light is making the room look all weird - although I must say that the blue-ish glow matches quite nicely with our reject furniture, especially the counter left by the last occupants. The other charming accompaniment to my new fluros is the sound effects from the installation in all the other offices. Right now, someone's drilling through the floor right above my head, and it sounds (and feels) just like a supercharged dentist's drill. I guess I really should be happy about any move towards environmental friendliness, but it's just so bloody frustrating trying to work. Especially since this weird blue light is going to severly inhibit my heroin habit. Which I really need right now to take the edge off all this annoying noise. Darn.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

satisfying her sweet tooth.

The pilgrimage to the Adelaide Lebanese Bakery was something Heidi and I had been planning for a while. I'd been once before after Heidi's friend Abdullah suggested I might find some cherry syrup there, something I'd been looking for for absolutely ages, for a Persian drink recipe I found called Pouloudeh Sib. I didn't find the cherry syrup that time, but I did notice that they had a huge open wood oven and made pizza, and so planned to go back to sample them at a later date.

It's a pretty interesting place, the ALB; it's on Ann St, kind of next to and behind the West Thebarton Hotel. It looks like (and basically is) a big shed, and the carparking out the front is completely chaotic. Inside it's quite dark, and blessedly cool, and functions as a mini-supermarket (about the same size as your average petrol station shop) as well as a bakery. Heidi and I went on Friday and spent our first few minutes inside looking at all the Middle Eastern 'supermarket' fare - big bags of herbs, exotic teas, huge bottles of rosewater, cheap home-grown looking veggies and much much more. I picked up a strange looking fruit to smell it, hoping that this way I might guess what it was. Usually I'm pretty good with my fruits and veggies, having worked for a fruit shop for 4 years. This time I had no idea. A few minutes later I realised I had glochids in my fingers. Upon talking to a friend later that day, and consulting the wikipedia, I found out that the strange fruit I had picked up was, in fact, a prickly pear. A sign to that effect probably would've prevented my itchy sore hands. But adventurers shouldn't complain.

After this, we moved on to the pizza counter and ordered a meat pizza and a herb pizza. They make the pizzas from the same dough they make the bread, and they bake the pizzas as long as they still have dough for the day. They're open til 7 most nights, but as it's anyone's guess when the dough will run out, lunch is a better bet. You can, however, ring and pre-order a pizza to collect when you like. There is a small range of flavours - meat, herb, and cheese are the only ones I remember, but I think there were 5 or 6 choices. One ordered, your pizza is slid into the gaping mouth of the oven, and then served to you a couple of minutes later in a paper bag. The value is absolutely astounding. The pizzas provide a good single serve, and one pizza will cost either $1 or $2.

While our pizzas were cooking we wandered over to the sweets counter. They had a range of different pastry sweets - about 6-8 different types. Kind of like baklava, these sweets were all a variation on the theme of layers of filo pastry baked with honey and different kinds of nuts. The men behind the counter were extremely friendly and fell over themselves to help. One of the things that I loved about the place was the friendliness of the staff. Often in non-western grocers I feel quite out of place and ignorant, but the people here were obviously really proud of their produce (quite rightly too) and took great pleasure in introducing us to it. Certainly there were people of all different cultures in the shop - during our visit, there were white, African and Asian as well as Middle Eastern shoppers. In the end, I chose the sweet that the man said was his favourite (I neglected to ask what it was called), and Heidi had a Bird's Nest, a pastry in a round nest shape. Again, these were a bargain at $1 each. They were small-ish single servings (each about the size of two matchboxes perhaps) but so sweet and delicious that one (or at most two) would satisfy.

We took our booty home and feasted. The pizzas were great, although the name 'pizza' is slightly misleading. If you went expecting the soft bases, tomato spread and plentiful toppings of Italian pizza, you would be disappointed, as the pizzas are thin with crisp crusts, and tasty but sparse toppings. The herb pizza was basically what it sounds like - a Lebanese bread base with lots of dried herbs on top, and the meat pizza looked like it had bolognese sauce on top, but tasted distinctly Middle Eastern rathern that Italian. The sweets were luscious and delectable; crispy and cruncy and sweet and nutty, but without being oily and soggy as these sweets sometimes can be.

All in all, it was a pretty successful excursion methinks. The place is full of interesting fare, and the staff are friendly and hospitable. And oh, the value. If only I worked within walking distance - it's pretty amazing to be able to have a lunch of pizza and sweets for between two and four dollars. Margit, I trust you will be going soon! But perhaps the best bit about this trip, was that I found the elusive cherry syrup! Hurrah!

Friday, 2 February 2007

in the kitchen.

Today I made these lemon biscuits. Although actually, these are lime biscuits, because I used the zest and juice of two limes rather than one lemon. I don't actually remember why it had to be lemon biscuits that I made, and not just a tried and true butter cookie recipe, but lemon biscuits it was, and this recipe worked well. I was just so excited to use my new teapot shaped cookie cutter!

I got a wee bit excited about icing them, as you can see. They would've been even more lary if I'd been able to find other colours in either my cupboard and the supermarket. But I learned a couple of valuable lessons. A little food colouring goes a long way, and orange essence is not the same as orange colouring. I learned that one when I tasted the very pale orange icing I'd made with half a bottle of the essence. My tongue felt like it was burning with the fire of a thousand suns. Won't make that mistake again!

I also made this today. It's chickpea chaat from the Traveller's Lunchbox. Recipe (and better picture) to be found here. It's basically spiced chickpeas with salad-y type ingredients - cucumber, spring onions, banana, pomegranite. I made it once before but it was during the banana winter, funnily enough a time when pomegranites were also thin on the ground. So I left out the banana and substituted ruby grapefruit. And, it kinda didn't work. It turns out, though, that when you follow the recipe, it's great! Although I'd have to say, I'm not sure the pomegranite seeds add anything but colour. Still, a great side dish for an Indian feast. Maybe even with the pistachio icecream!

Thursday, 1 February 2007


Oh man. Today I went to Fast Life Organic down Rundle St to get a takeaway veggie burger on wholewheat... and it wasn't there! Well, sort of. It's now called Fast Eats and it's all rebadged with pacman. The lady in the shop said it's the same owners taking a new direction with it, and some of the menu will change. My beautiful favourite yummy yummy veggie burger is still available, but it's a bit different. The pattie (the best bit) is still the same, but there's hommous instead of tomato salsa and the mayo seems suspiciously more like mayo than homemade aioli (but maybe that's just my imagination). Also it now has capsicum (blergh!) and a large amount of iceberg and some cheese that I just don't remember being there before. It's still good, but sadly not as amazing as before, and given that it's not organic anymore (I presume, although this doesn't actually bother me in itself) the $8.50 price tag seems a little steep. Poop. Poop poop poop. I wonder if they'd give me the recipe for the original...

On the upside, today on my way to work, I saw at least 30 sulphur crested cockatoos in one of the trees by the river. Kewl.