Stress…… Relief

Last Friday morning WeBlow blew 45 cubic metres of mulch on the garden.


This means I can ignore the garden for six to seven months, apart from tackling weeds. There are still smaller jobs around the garden to do, but nothing on this scale.

What a absolute, profound relief.

After some work gigs on Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday sitting in a chair, aching with exhaustion after sleeping for 12-13 hours. Thinking back over the last three months, we’ve done a heck of a lot of physical work. We’ve done it on weekends around social occasions and on weekdays in the mornings, pushing my usual morning work and domestic tasks into the afternoon and shrinking the time I have to write and putting me behind schedule.

It’s been stressful, too. First waiting for a planning permit, then preparing the site for the landscaping, then preparing the site for the mulch. Plans were made then constantly altered. Each day I either pushed us both to get out and do the work, or if sickness or inclement weather prevented us I used that time planning and organising. So many times I felt a bit desperate as I realise each job is going to take two, three or four times as long as I’d estimated. We did 8 to 10 hours of raking and digging over the embankment, post-landscaping, about that much just sweeping the muck off the court surface, and at least double on other tasks all together. All the while I was only too aware that the only way anything could be done by each project deadline was by taking time away from important things, like visiting my parents and work.

We also had a housewarming, two birthday parties and two dinner parties in that time. I guess we didn’t have to, but the housewarming happened early on, it would have been a shame not to celebrate Paul’s 50th, and I’d arranged the dinner parties when I’d given up on getting the permit. Thankfully we have good friends who offered to help out during the 50th, which made it less exhausting. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like having people over again, I suspect. Not because I don’t want to see my friends, but just thinking about the hour and a half of dishwashing I did after the last party makes visiting friends them rather than inviting them here far more appealing.

Now the organising and stressing falls to Paul, as the garage build begins. The concreter is one of these “we’ll start some time next week” kinds of tradies, which would drive me nuts. But Paul doesn’t seem bothered.

I slept for 9 1/2 hours last night and I’m feeling more rested, though I haven’t a lot of energy. I’m off to Supanova at the end of the week, which I’m looking forward to. Two of those to get through and I’m done with publicity and can concentrate only on writing.

Though there’s Christmas to get through. Actually, I think this is the first time in decades that it feels like I’ll be less busy rather than more – and I might not mind working through the holiday season so much either. It’s going to feel like a holiday, compared to the last year and a half!

Dreaming Big, Thinking Small

What with the preparations for the landscaping and garage, and the post-landscaping pre-mulch tasks, birthday parties, coming book publicity, Paul’s half year assessment, and the looming end of year madness, we’ve had rather too much on our minds lately.

My creativity gave a couple of coughs and twitches, then died.

This worn out brain can’t contemplate the WIPs. They’re all too large and involved. The only one I’ve managed a little time on has been the olive handspun fabric, because it’s easy plain weave and isn’t demanding on the hands.

The jewellery twitch has passed. It was good for producing short term satisfaction – a quick fix of achievement. I think I need that right now, so I’m looking for something else to provide it.

The printing supplies box came out a week ago. I usually make wrapping paper, but what I really need is a stash of greeting cards. So I’ve been cutting up cardboard and brainstorming. An idea came to me. I have doubts but haven’t talked myself out of it.

100 cards by Christmas.

Each one unique – no repeats. Some themed (wedding, Christmas, etc.) but most just simple cards that I can then stamp “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations” or “Get Well Soon” inside as needed. Some using stamps, some not. Some that I can do while watching tv.

100 little achievements. I like the sound of that!

The Best Laid Plans

I took two weeks off recently, starting when the landscapers started work and 3000 title pages of my next book arrived to be signed. So not really a holiday, but a break from the writing routine. My mind needed it. My body… well, I don’t know.

Recently I asked my doc to investigate pain I’ve been getting in my hip and lower back, that my physio couldn’t explain or treat. An MRI later and it turns out I have a perineural cyst. The good news it isn’t life-threatening. The bad news – at least according to Doctor Google – is they don’t go away. I’ll be seeing a neurologist in a few weeks to get the official lowdown.

General advice out there is to avoid prolonged sitting or standing. I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable while being active. In fact, I’d noticed for a while now that I get very fidgetty when I try to sit and work. I want to be active, and I figured that was a good thing.

At the beginning of my break I injured my right hand while sweeping, so to ensure I’d get the title pages signed I had to avoid using my hands as much as possible. So no using hands, no sitting or standing for long periods… I nearly went out of my mind with boredom by the end of the first week.

I had to find something to occupy my mind. Once the landscapers were done I could leave the house, so I went to the Horticulture and Gardening Show on a very humid Friday. The next Sunday we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens to take portrait reference photos of another friend. I’d forgotten how fabulous the gardens are and now want to go back and wander around some more. The following, much cooler Friday I joined friends on an op shop crawl.

Trouble is, all that activity was also wearing me out. My body started begging for a rest.

By the end of the second week I’d figured out that I could occupy my mind with researching plants for the courtside garden. This involved sitting at the computer, but also lots of getting up to grab books or photograph things, and not a lot of typing.

First I took six photos of the courtside garden and got Paul to create a panorama. Then I went virtual plant shopping. Once I found a suitable plant that I liked, I’d find it on Google Images, take a screen grab, open the file in Photoshop and delete the background. That would be inserted into a layer of the panorama file at around the right size, with a label added. Then I was able to duplicate and move the plant around.

This is what I ended up with after a couple of days:

Courtside Plant Plan

It’s very roughly done, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to give me something to play with between now and next autumn, when planting can begin.

Turning a Corner or Three

Spring is definitely in the air, despite it still being technically winter. Plants are waking up. Weeds are sprouting everywhere. Two weekends ago we put in what I hope will be the first plant that doesn’t end up dug up again: a mandarin tree a friend gave us for our housewarming. We also transplanted some rhododendrums and, the weekend after, spread half of a huge pile of mulch.

Last week I decided that I was tired of waiting for the garage planning permit and would focus on getting the kitchen garden finished, so we felt like we were getting something done. It was last on my list of areas to landscape, though in my original plan now was when I’d planned to tackle it – I just expected to have had the rest of the garden sorted by now.

So I made a list of tasks to be done and began with sourcing raised garden beds. I did a whole lot of online searching and I tried to buy corrugated iron ones from two companies, but the website of one didn’t work and the other never rang me back. I wound up buying cheap pine beds from Bunnings and got Paul to cut down some drums he’d bought for a photography project a year or so ago.

Of course, the day after I wrote out my plan and bought seed potatoes, some herbs, soil, compost and pine garden beds, the permit came through. With some amendments, but we essentially have approval to build a garage.

So I cut the kitchen garden plan back to doing only what I bought materials and plants for. That is: potatoes and mint grown in the drums, and herbs in the pine beds. The paving and gravel will have to wait.

Then Paul checked a few details with the council yesterday, and it turns out that we can’t start on the garage – and the garden beside it – until the amendments have been stamped.

So I figure I’ll get to work in the kitchen garden and see how far I get. Today I filled the first of the potato drums, which I’m setting up as wicking beds. I didn’t have enough scoria for the base of the second one, so that’s top of the to-do list.


In the bases I planted two kinds of mint: spearmint and common. They can spread out and aren’t in danger of infesting garden beds.


I dug a big square hole to set the first of the three pine garden bed into, loosening up the soil and covering it with straw mulch for now.


Being inside the cat run, their main function is as cat toilets. We finally had a cat door put in a few weeks ago. Since then we’ve had the litter box sitting outside as the first step of training him to ‘do his business’ outside.


So far just getting him to go outside at all has been a bit of a battle of wills.


I’m not sure what to make of this winter. Normally I like winter. Yet while it was the warmest June on record, but it didn’t seem like it – perhaps because there were some very cold nights and frosty mornings either side of the unseasonably warm days, perhaps also because we’re discovering how hard it is to keep warm a house with no insulation. Thankfully, we have insulation installers booked to fix that this week, so the house may get more comfortable soon.

July has felt unbearably wintery. The head cold didn’t help. I was well enough to go on an interstate trip the weekend before last, but came home exhausted. It was followed by a week with two social outings I couldn’t really cancel, so I skipped art class in order to be rested enough for the first, and cancelled all plans for last weekend so I had time to get over the second.

I’m feeling a lot better for the rest, too. I read a while back that we’ve lost the art of convalescense. That we dive back into the demands of everyday life before we’ve truly got over an illness, instead of easing back into our full routine.

Though I feel like I need to hibernate for the rest of the year, I’m setting my sights on spending the weekends of August convalescing. I’ll be curling up in sunbeams like a cat, reading books, and doing a little weaving or stitching or sewing when I have the energy.

Until I can’t stand the sight of the weeds any more, that is.

Make It All

A video came up on my Facebook feed today that couldn’t be more timely, since I had this blog post written and waiting.

First, go watch Make it All

That video had me cackling and cringing in equal measure. A bit of googling has revealed to me that people are now having “Anti-Pinterest” parties (a party without Pinterest inspired themes, decorations, etc. not a party where you sit around and bitch about Pinterest). And it seems there is such thing as a Pintervention. Thankfully, my addiction never got that bad!

It’s been four months since I extracted myself from Pinterest and I haven’t looked back. Well okay, maybe once or twice, but I was quickly repelled by all the things that bugged me about the new feed. I expected to miss my nightly browse and worry that I was missing all the latest crafty trends, but after a week or so all I felt was relief. I’ve realised that what I thought was a big time saver was a big time waster that was stunting my creativity. In particular…

1) Too Much Project Pressure!
I wound up with a to-do list so long I was constantly overwhelmed by it. I hadn’t realised how much until I stopped browsing Pinterest. At the time it felt like I had lots of options – and that is true to a point – but there were projects on my to-do list that were only there because I saw them on Pinterest. Just because something is cool and clever doesn’t mean I have to do it too.

2) Sheeplike Creativity
Too many of the projects on my to-so list were born from other people’s ideas, because Pinterest was my first and often only source of inspiration. Now whenever I have materials to use or something to modify or put to a new use I starting think of a solution myself, and when I find inspiration I find it in all kinds of places, not just one.

3) Bookmarking Fail
And when I do look for inspiration or solutions now, I use Google Images, and when I find something useful I bookmark it. No longer do I have to stuff around checking whether pins link to the info I need. When I want the info again the chances are it’s still there, not mysteriously changed or blocked because someone has incorrectly reported it as spam (yes, that happened to some of my pins).

There are plenty of other ways to wind up spending more time reading about craft on the internet than actually crafting. Blogging anyone? But Pinterest is like a big black hole for anyone with that weakness. I’m so glad I escaped before I got sucked in so far I was crushed by immense gravitational forces. Or something.

New Projects!

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I started a few new projects before declaring my WIP finishing drive finished. How was I to resist when the pin loom was sitting there beside my tv-watching armchair, all new and interesting?

I tried some cotton weaving yarn first, thinking I’d make some washcloths, but the weaving part was really tough on the hands and the yarn turned out to be too thin.

Then after dividing the stash up into fullable and machine-washable yarns I had a few no longer destined for their original intended projects. I decided to try the Bendigo Woollen Mills Neon on the pin loom, and it worked very well:


So I’ve been making one or two squares a night:


They come out a bit bumpy, but the frogged yarn has quite a kink in it and they settle down a bit with blocking.

The other project I started was also inspired by my yarn contemplation. Since scarves are the most likely to contact my skin, and don’t need to have stretch, one of the best fibres I can use for them is silk. I had a skein I’d bought back in 2008 as art yarn – that is, yarn with the primary purpose of being on display. It is by Ixchel Yarns and is 100% silk with a thread of silver through it.

I bought some fine undyed silk at the Bendy Show a few years ago thinking I’d try it on the knitting machine. Now I decided to match it with the Ixchel silk. So I warped up the rigid heddle:


I’ve found trying to use a ball winder on silk is an exercise in slippery frustration, so I just warped straight from the skein holder. All of the art silk went into the warp, mixed with the white. The weft is all white:


I hem stitched the beginning, staggering the stitch length, too. And I’m doubling up the picks every now and then to add a little more interest:


It feels lovely to work with, and hasn’t been any trouble. I doubt I’ll use up even half of the fine silk, which I have two skeins of, so I can see more silk woven scarves in the future.

Though I didn’t finish all the WIPs before starting new projects, tackling the list has not only cleared out a few stalled projects and helped me decided to abandon ones I wasn’t feeling much love for, but the anticipation had eager to get into something new.

Maybe hurrying to finish projects before I go away just means I’m confronted with an intimidating list of possible starting points when I get back. Having a couple of WIPs waiting for my return might help me get back into the craft groove when I do.

Poking Around the To-Do List

After returning from a long trip away I usually find myself in a creative funk, and this time is no exception. But it’s always a temporary thing. A week after getting home my interest is starting to revive. Through the week, rather than waiting for my mojo to return, I’ve been tidying up my craft room looking at WIPs, checking my to-do list, reading back through old blog posts and noting which projects make me go “ugh” or “I still want to make that”.

Photo albums
“Ugh” was my first thought, despite having found quicker and easier ways to make them. It’s the choosing of images that takes a long time. That, and captioning them. Still, Paul is working on the ones from this trip (I left it to him and didn’t even take a camera) so maybe that’s one album I won’t have to worry about.

My first thought on entering the craft room was that I could happily jump on the table loom and finish the collar. And that once I got over jet lag I would be ready to tackle the place mats. Sure enough, I had warped up the rigid heddle for another four before the week was up.

Yeah, well, most of the dyeing I want to do is to improve existing objects and that doesn’t make me leap to the pots. However, the idea of dyeing yarn for weaving a colour gamut blanket is attracting me.

Papercraft & Printing
Oddly enough, I’ve had a bit of an itch to do some printing for a while now. Even while I was on holidays. However, I think I’m officially over bookbinding now. I’ll happily do it in order to make something, but not for the sake of doing it.

Sewing & Refashioning
Cold weather usually dampens my enthusiasm for garment sewing. (All that getting changed to test the fit.) I’m a bit sad I didn’t get as much done last summer as I’d hoped, and there are a few winter weight and non-garment projects on the to-do list, so maybe I’ll whip out the machine soon.

Machine Knitting
I found a reference to thinking about selling the Passap knitting machine on my blog from last August. Hmm. I bought it in Feb 2012. I don’t think I used it after August 2012. Perhaps next August, if I still haven’t used it, or have used it and thought ‘meh’, I will sell it. The Bond doesn’t take up as much room, so I’ll hang onto that.

I’ve been enthusiastic about embroidery for pretty close to two years now, though I seem to have reached that point I get with a hobby where I start questioning what I’m doing and why. I’m still figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. And the cat. It has to be something I can stitch while the cat is on my lap.

I’ll always be interesting in making jewellery, but the kind of jewellery is what changes. I’m over beading and macrame. I’d like to try that metal clay kit Paul gave me for Christmas a few years back.

There are some whacky ideas on this list. I have an mini fan I bought some years back that barely makes a draft, for all that it buzzes around noisily. I’ve wanted to try making a paint spinner disc since seeing an artist playing with one on a doco. Entirely for the fun of it. I have no idea what I’d do with the resulting artwork! I also have an itch to make sand candles out of some leftover candle-making supplies I’ve got hanging about. That’s where you press an object into sand to make the mould, and the grains decorate the outer surface.

Yeah, the crafty brain cells are definitely waking up.

Turn at last to home afar

A long time away usually has me seeing my home life in a different way, on returning. I notice bad habits I’ve fallen into, or let go of things I don’t really want, or see a different way of doing things. Perhaps it was jet-lag, but I mostly wanted to get back to my old routine this time. (Not the routine I had before I left, where I didn’t get weekends.)

I did see all the small messes around the house that I’d got used to ignoring. The ones made up of possessions that haven’t yet found a home since the move. All the boxes are unpacked (if we ignore those waiting for the new garage to be built) but some of their contents are still sitting in piles, waiting for shelving and cabinetry to be built or picture hanging systems to be created.

The trouble is, at the end of last year I decided that this year I’d concentrate on finishing what we’d started and not begin new house projects. New shelving and picture hanging systems are new projects. Still, there are messes we simply haven’t got around to tackling.

Of the projects to finish, there a lot more outside than inside. No surprise, then, that these are the ones I’ve focussed on first. I’ve missed the ideal planting time, at least for natives, but I can see now that I would have been getting ahead of myself anyway. There’s a great deal of preparation to be done first before planting: weed removal, soil improvement and stabilisation, drainage and mulch.

A great deal of that has to wait until the planning permit comes through for the garage which, while a bit frustrating, at least shrinks the to-do list to something more manageable. The two main tasks left are weeding and drainage. The not-fun parts. But necessary.

So we’ve been spending an hour or so a day getting dirt under our fingernails. Nothing like a bit of sun to help reset the body clock, too.

Ball & Change

For the first two to three months of last year I had to stay off my feet thanks to a bout of plantar faciitis. Fortunately it settled down enough that I was able to move house in the second half of the year with no new flare up. However, the sprained ankle has stirred up the plantar facia again, because when I was limping more force went into the non-sprained side, which was the most prone to pf.

I’m off overseas again soon, and my old multi-purpose mary janes aren’t going to cut it. I needed shoes that were not just going be robust, able to be worn with a skirt, nice enough for an evening out and taken off quickly at airport security gates, but they had to be supportive and impact-absorbing. I went to Gilmores, a local shoe specialist for people with problem feet, and the only shoe that came close to filling my requirements were, well, not exactly pretty.


Paul calls them ‘old lady shoes’. I think they’re just boring.

This moccasin style of shoe usually has a few more features. A buckle or bow across the top. A thin leather cord tied at the middle. A bit of leather fringe. Heck, I’ve seen them in a street fashion photo with fur and a chain. Looking at the website of the shoes’ brand, there are plenty with these embellishments, but perhaps only this one had the extra-good-for-plantar-faciitis internal structure.

Still, this did mean I ought to be able to decorate my shoes without it looking odd.

What to do, though? I experimented with all of the above, cutting up bits of leather and experimenting with buckles and cord. I realised that if I could somehow attach some loops to either side of the shoe I might be able to switch around embellishments as I pleased.

So I got stitching. A bit of black leather and waxed thread later I had the loops on.


After applying a bit of boot polish to make sure they blended in with the rest of the shoe, I considered all my decorations and settled on the simplest: a chain.


I figure if I get the time between now and leaving, I’ll make some more embellishments. Maybe some black bows. And I rather fancy a strip of leather with studs in it. Hmm.