123/2021


daily routine: local park

I can’t quite get my head around the idea that it’s winter.

It honestly feels like the beginning of the year – and I’m trying to settle on 2021 plans and intentions.

Don and I broke out of our Routine yesterday and had a day out – a morning walk in the bushland north of the harbour and then an amazing lunch by the beach. It was an utterly beautiful day, almost summer weather – Sydney was sparkling, though a little smoky from hazard reduction burning.

And that Routine? I’m left with a lot of thoughts and feelings.

We’re ridiculously fortunate that we’re arrived at a place that is very comfortable, very secure, very calm, very tranquil, very peaceful, very soothing, very ordered. And I think our outing made us realise that this is also kind of boring?

We seem to have unknowingly trapped ourselves in a bit of a rut – our days and weeks and months now fall along pretty predictable lines.

Being outside of it all gave me some much-needed perspective. Just what am I doing? Is spending every Saturday morning doing laundry (I’ll spare you the excruciating details of the other regular chores) really how I want to live my life? I’m fairly confident the answer is no, but that’s exactly how things are playing out.

I’ve missed a lot of glorious weather … and, well, a decent chunk of my non-work life … in my quest for clean laundry and an organised house.

Plans are afoot to change this.

115/2021

It feels like we’re living in an alternate reality here. While the pandemic rages across most of the world, we haven’t had a case of community transmission for ages. There are barely any restrictions left and life has pretty much returned to how it was pre-covid.

Vaccination is another story entirely and is massively behind schedule. Don’s very high blood-pressure actually had some benefit and meant he was able to be vaccinated a few weeks ago, with his second shot scheduled for June. Because of the clotting risk (such as it is), the Govt announced in the last week that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be restricted to over-50s. This means I’ll have the opportunity to be vaccinated from mid-May.

And of course while all sunshine and kittens here, there are still around 40k Australians trapped overseas who can’t get back into the country – including Joan. She’s still in Switzerland and has an extension to end June.

But still, I feel somewhat guilty posting cheerful (or otherwise) updates while most of the world is having a very rough time of it.

Day one of Back to the Office was slightly less stressful than anticipated, but this was likely because it was pretty social and involved a lovely leisurely lunch to farewell a colleague and an excellent and productive external meeting in fancy offices.

Day two was super over-stimulating – back to back video calls with large numbers of participants just don’t work effectively at all in an open-plan office setting. On the plus side I lunched with a colleague I’ve been mentoring for the last several months and had never met before In Real Life.

Day three was much more quiet and peaceful. I really struggled with lunch options and should have planned better. A small tub of Bircher muesli probably isn’t sufficient nourishment. This meant after resisting their siren song all week, I ate two almond biscuits in the afternoon which is probably more sugar than I’ve eaten all year. They were delicious, but I felt quite gross afterward and vowed to make concrete lunch plans for every day next week.

The kitties were not at all thrilled about my absence from ThePalace(OfLove) and have been unsettled.

I’m also very, very tired. So tired.

Going back definitely makes you aware how utterly stupid and time wasting commuting is. I’m fortunate to have I relatively short journey, though it’s a little too far to walk which would be my preference. I really do feel for those who must travel for an hour plus each way every day. Some at the very top of SML have a bit of a “let them eat cake” thing going on in regard to this.

We all expect to be commanded back to return 5 days a week in August. So typical that despite many successes with remote working, we’ve learned nothing organisationally from the past year.

The long and winding journey to discover the cause of my dodgy right leg hit another dead end yesterday after I met with a lymphedema specialist. SuperHappyFunGP referred me after my venous competency scan revealed that while I have varicose veins behind (!?) and around my kneecaps, they’re only minor and wouldn’t be causing my issues.

I’d not heard of lymphedema before, and after a visit to Dr Google was pretty convinced I didn’t have it, but what do I know?

The specialist, who was brilliant and very thorough, explained how my symptoms had some similarities with lymphedema, but it wasn’t at all likely because of X and Y. They could be lipedema, but not at all likely because of A and B. That she’d be concerned if I was experiencing this in my left leg because of D and E, but not so with the right leg. She thinks all signs point to it being musculoskeletal.

I’m very pleased to know I have none of those conditions! So after a somewhat expensive diversion, we’re back on the highway of discovery. I think I’ll pull over for a bit and have a reflect on next steps – all this is pretty mentally fatiguing.

My inclination is to revert to RelentlesslyCheerfulPhysio’s original diagnosis of the weak glute and core and tight ITB – which seems legit – and to embark on a programme of strengthening and foam rolling.

After the appointment I detoured via the shops. TheUniverse rewarded me by delivering a gorgeous Camilla and Marc skirt in the David Jones clearance section for $60 – reduced from $450. The pattern is so pleasing and reminds me of contour maps. The skirt had no price tag and I was madly in love with it and bargaining with myself about my no-go price because I knew it would be hella expensive. When it scanned at $60 the sales staff were astonished and had to confirm several times.

I do feel slightly guilty because I don’t actually need another skirt and have been trying to rationalise my wardrobe – and it broke my “no more skirts without pockets” rule. And I’ve been watching an awful lot of minimalist, conscious consumption, sustainability, zero-waste videos of late. But sometimes the heart wants what it wants and I’m giving myself a break with this one.

Sackcloth and ashes tomorrow.

108/2021

I’ve been a little (or more correctly, a whole lot) meh in recent weeks, so I’m planning on busting out Nice Things that I know cheer me.

Today I went for a walk and grabbed a pile of unfamiliar books at random from the local Library.

My reading has been underwhelming this year – way too much non-fiction teetering on self-improvement and very little fiction.

Hopefully there is a gem in this mystery stack!

And I’ll be away from devices while reading – also essential for mood improvement.

I collected the pieces from my first pottery class on Friday. Those six weeks passed insanely quickly.

These photos make them look infinitely better than they are. In Real Life they are … really not great. No really. I’m definitely not just saying that. No false modesty here.

I find the colour of the fired clay extremely unsettling – kind of like that salt playdough you make with toddlers which gets all discoloured from their grubby wee hands. To be fair the actual pots themselves could have been made by toddlers.

I clearly have a long way to go on this pottery journey. I’m hopeful the pots from the other class are somewhat less displeasing.

We’re back to the office this week. I am not filled with gladness about this – and indeed it is at least 97% of the cause of my meh.

095/2021: easter ruthless reckoning

As part of my current decluttering adventures I decided to use this long Easter weekend to take a small action on each of the tiny projects that have been bouncing about in my head for ages.

There’s often a lot going on in my brain – it’s really quite exhausting. Hopefully this will allow some space.

Small things:

+ Taking in the sleeves of an old t-shirt of Don’s that I’ve been wearing around the house – tacked them to size – looked ridiculous – abandoned – will keep wearing with floppy sleeves

+ Reconstructing Joe/Frank’s year 10 rugby-style jersey into a cropped jumper for me – looked ridiculous – abandoned – turned to rags

+ Putting small clear feet on those small glass plates I made in my first glass class which were very wobbly and pretty much unusable – completed – excellent! – makes a wonderful saucer for my teapot

+ Turning some pins and buttons into magnets – completed – satisfying!

I bought supplies for Kintsugi after my class in July 2019 – and they’ve been sitting various cupboards for almost 2 years.

Quite why I purchased another diamond file and chisels and work gloves when I already had each of these left from the class is something I cannot explain. I’d hazard a guess that it is because I very much enjoy buying things?

I did decide against smashing those wee plates I’d bought and they are now usefully employed as saucers under various gardening experiments.

But I did have two ceramic coasters which had smashed a while back and I’d thought to kintsugi them back together, but they’d been sitting there and sitting there and sitting there, guilting me and taking up space in my brain.

In my ruthless Easter reckoning I was all set to chuck them and buy replacements – but when I picked them up I thought why not just give it a little try?

So I sat on the upper balcony late on Friday afternoon and filed and glued and had a lot of fun.

Rather than racing to finish in a single evening, I decided to space it out over two days. This could have been dangerous, because day two could easily spin out to six months hence – but I was fairly motivated.

I also had an old broken yet adorable wee piggy bank of Bessie’s which I’d dropped when I was helping her pack to move in with Hansel around 18 months ago. Having this sitting about meant more occupied brain space.

I hadn’t touched piggy on day one – and when it came time to start filing, I reconsidered my approach, thinking he might look better simply glued back together, with a gold spot covering the chip. Spoiler – I should have gone with my original instinct. The glue line was not at all as invisible as I’d imagined – but it still looks pretty cute with the scar. And hey – a learning experience is never a bad thing.

I’m very pleased with the outcome of the coasters though!

I’ve been eating greek yoghurt and berries for breakfast for several months now and go through a litre tub of yoghurt each week. This creates quite a lot of plastic waste that guilts me every time I rinse a container out for the recycling, so I thought – why not make my own?

I planned to use this very simple recipe which uses a litre of milk and 1/4 cup of yoghurt and duly purchased the ingredients. Which then sat in the fridge for over a week while I stuck myself in a dithering pattern.

Of course when I eventually grabbed the milk and yoghurt from the fridge to make the yoghurt it occurred to me that this approach was creating just as much plastic waste (face-palm-emoji), nevertheless she persisted.

After some time in a very, very low, barely warm (40oC) oven and overnight in the fridge …

Not quite as tart as I’d like, but definitely yoghurt!

Will I repeat? Possibly not!

And to kick it all off, on Thursday I took a fading tourist map of Tokyo from it’s cheap ikea frame on our bedroom wall and had it scanned. I’d been planning to do this for months – yet another thing taking brain space.

Once I had it off the wall and in my hand the way to the scanning shop, I wondered why I was treating this ephemeral object as something amazingly precious that needed preservation forever.

I had it scanned it anyway (it cost $0.40 and I was at the office supplies store for other things), but will put something else ephemeral up on the wall and rotate with other ephemeral things.

So very strange how the brain works.

Also planning to take the next step on

+ pillow cases for Joe/Frank – I’m slightly daunted by the envelope closure – but I have cut out the bits.

+ cushion for the top of the small cabinet behind Don’s desk where NewKitty occasionally likes to hang out in the afternoons – no idea what the blocker is with this one – maybe finding something for stuffing?

Onward!

089/2021: adventures in gardening

A long overdue update on my experiments in growing seeds-harvested-from-food.

Some random gardening experts on the InformationSuperhighway say this sort of thing isn’t worth the trouble – that if you want to grow a tree, you should go out and buy a sapling.

I say pish to that! Because:

1. Saplings are expensive
2. Saplings are often not-easily obtainable where I am
3. Experiments!

Experiment 1: seeds from a Xmas lunch 2019 pomegranate


25cm

Quite the slow grower. I always think it is dead when it loses leaves in April. Living in the semi-tropics, I totally forget trees can do this.

Experiment 2: mangoes planted from summer feasting in 2019/20!


35cm

Growth has been pretty rapid despite the soil being pretty anaerobic. The soil came from the very under-performing “compost” bin which needs a Reckoning. Entirely my fault for not coddling it.

Could do with a repot and some better soil.

Experiment 3: Ginger planted mid-this-year from dried out bits. Nothing happened for ages and I’d pretty much given up hope. Then – boom!

Experiment 4: We use quite a lot of lemons in ThePalace(OfLove). We had several small delicious local lemons late last year which were simply jam-packed with seeds, so of course there was nothing for it but to chuck them in some soil.

Hopefully I have learned my over-watering lesson and these will grow a little better than my past efforts.

Experiment 5: I cold stratified some muscat grape seeds in the fridge at the end of last year – and to be honest, forgot about them.

I pulled the pot out of the depths of the fridge a couple of weeks ago and they sat on a shelf doing nothing for a good while.

I was contemplating tossing them, but a couple of days ago noticed growth!

This is exciting!

I haven’t seen a grape vine for sale anywhere in my travels to plant stores. I have no hope at all of getting any tasty grapes, but a vine would be amazing!

087/2021

I’ve been watching quite a bit of youtube lately and am currently trapped in a minimalism algorithm. Fortunately it is quite nice one – less of the white dude bros, more of the interesting, thoughtful women.

Emboldened by all this inspiration I decided to declutter my craft supplies. I’ve had desultory attempts at this in the past, but thanks to the excellent Celia I’m now aware of The Sewing Basket – a very worthwhile place to donate all manner of crafty things.

My life as it is now, or in the future, doesn’t need a ton of craft supplies for those impromptu costumes, outfits or last-minute projects – or “just in case”.

And there were many (many!) items sitting around silently guilting me for doing nothing with them. I don’t need that kind of judgement from inanimate objects.

So I cast off lots of fabric, boxes of pins, ribbons, way too many hotel sewing kits, bobbins from school sewing (that don’t fit my machine), Bessie’s old mostly empty sewing box, dressmaking patterns, packets of press-studs and tons of other stuff – and most of the contents of my button box!

I’ve had some of these buttons since I was 10 years old – having scored an awesome button jar when the Brownies’ craft cupboard was being cleared out – but it really was time.

In shocking news, I didn’t even count them before I set them free – but there were a lot.


hundreds and hundreds

All that remains:

Also shockingly, I didn’t take any photos of of the quite large box we delivered to the Balmain Sewing Basket today.

I asked Don to ensure that I adhered to the quick in-and-out – no possibility of browsing and bringing home more. I’m on a self-imposed buy no more supplies until you have finished or abandon current projects programme.

It was incredibly freeing!

I’m motivated to have a second crack – because surely there are more things I will never touch.

083/2021

I have no idea where the days are going or what I’ve been doing with my time over the last ten days, but here we are.

As expected, we have indeed been commanded (there’s no other word for it really) back to the SML office three days a week from mid-April. To say this has been a wildly unpopular announcement is an understatement.

I’m not sure whether that much antipodean news makes its way out into the world, but over the past week we’ve had yet another stint of once-in-a-century rains for the second year running. There has been quite a lot of flooding.

Long time readers might remember our indoor waterfall of last year’s once-in-a-century rain. We’ve since spent a not inconsiderable amount to improve our water-tightness. We stayed dry over the rainy summer and were quietly enjoying our good fortune in these rains, but eventually Joe/Frank’s window started to drip drip drip from the above (new) window pane – in pretty much the same location as last year. Fortunately the new windows meant we could catch the many (many!) litres of water more easily and there was little damage to ourselves.

We had our windows dude around on Monday and he’s pretty sure it’s not the window causing the issue. The cause is one of those mysterious mysteries – there is no drain nearby, no obvious gaps or holes anywhere and this only happens in very heavy rain blowing from the east. We’re likely to spend another small fortune uncovering the cause. This evening I made an application to the Council for copies of the original development application in case it sheds any light – though based on countless tradies exclaiming “I’ve never seen that before”, it’s unlikely that the developer actually adhered to the plans in any real way.

Don pointed out that he’d never experienced leaky houses at all when he lived in the US. Windows dude said that’s because Australian building regulations are … not great.

Also quite the understatement.

073/2021

This month’s flowering pot plant … dahlias**

AU$12 of sunshine! Hopefully the rest of the flowers will unfurl over the next little bit.

xxx

It rained and rained and rained heavily on Friday night and there was some nearby flash-flooding.

And in very excellent news, ThePalace(OfLove) remained water-tight! Hurrah!

It’s a very (very) expensive miracle!

xxx

I’m trying to get back into good mental health habits from today – they really do slip if you are not vigilant.

This primarily involves not looking at The Guardian, not scrolling on my phone, stepping away from the computer, picking up the cross stitch I’m making for Bessie (which has been languishing for more than a month) and watching soothing youtube videos.

And exercise. I really need exercise. I have no idea what my blocker is – except that I find the stationary bike terribly boring.

Maybe back to very gentle yoga videos.

xxx

Scuttlebutt is that we’ll be ordered back to the office next week.

If true it will be quite shit.

xxx

** All credit here to the label, I would have assumed they were chrysanthemum

066/2021


coffee heart

After that very rotten week, I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking inward, as one does.

I imagine this will continue for a bit, but I’ve acknowledged that I spend way, way too much of my life with my brain consumed by work and not nearly enough time with my brain occupied by things I enjoy. This really does need to change.

And so it was that I was searching for brain-delighting activities on class bento and stumbled upon typewriter art.

I’m slightly intrigued and it looks like a really fun class, but this definitely made me feel my age:

If you’ve never used a manual typewriter, you’re in for a treat!

xxx

And slightly related, if you’ve not come across this Wired article (Email and Slack Have Locked Us in a Productivity Paradox) in your travels, it’s a quite interesting read.

Back in ancient times when I first started working we had a mainframe and I think maybe 2 or 3 terminals in the entire workplace. I don’t think everyone actually had PCs in an office where I worked until maybe the very late 90s.

I really can’t remember (or even conceive of) what we did all day!

But imagine not being plugged into a machine for hours and hours and hours. I’m sure it was nothing at all resembling paradise, but from here it seems rather appealing.

065/2021

After the ghastliness of the last week, I was really keen to get to my porcelain hand-building class this morning.

As I mentioned here I’ve been eager to do some sort of ceramics for years and years and kept getting in my own way. No more!

The class was in a really wonderful studio space in a light industrial area relatively nearby. Also sharing the space were other creatives and a couple of bands. So our hand-building was accompanied by a Metal band rehearsing – they were both earnest and adorable.

The class was really small and the teacher an utter delight. It was such a nice vibe, I had a brilliant time.

We made three pieces with three different techniques. Of course, my technique was exceptionally rusty, having not touched clay for like 35 years, and I had to manage my own expectations a bit. But given all that, I was pretty pleased with my pieces.

xxx

First piece: Pinch pot

Second piece: coil pot
(full disclosure: this is really another pinch pot with a single coil around the rim)


spot the fingernail marks

Third piece: Slab platter thingy

I didn’t get a decent shot. But I rolled the clay out over crumpled muslin and got a kind of textured fabric effect – and just cut out a simple circle shape.

xxx

The pieces will be dried and fired and clear-glazed and fired again – and if they don’t explode in the kiln, I’ll get them back in about a month.

Next up – intro to Japanese ceramics in a couple of weeks! Different teacher, different location.

If I’m still super-keen after that one, I’ll definitely sign up for something more in-depth.