Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy mail time

I wouldn't say the past week has been all horrid, but the cough that has filled a lot of it most certainly is.

One thing that perked up my Friday was opening the mailbox and seeing this padded envelope

containing these

hand-carved stamps in a matchbox! They were a blog giveaway from Riyo, whose stall at the Glebe markets was one of my favourites back when she lived in Sydney. I was so excited when I heard I'd won the giveaway because her stamps have been on my wish list for years. I inked them up to see what fun I could get up to with them, but didn't get further than a bunny with a moustache mullet and a bowler-hatted kitty before the cough-induced fatigue took over.

Can't wait till I'm better, when my stamps can come out to play for longer and when life will consist of more than coughing and surviving on warm liquids. But I didn't want to wait till I'm better to say this thank-you to Riyo for the uplifting gift.

(The giveaway had no strings attached; I have a distaste for those so-called giveaways that require you to tell all your Facebook friends about some website or spam your contacts with coupons they don't want. Linking to Riyo's blog -- which will take you to her Etsy shop, if you're interested -- was solely my choice, because I appreciate her work and am happy to promote it.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Learn to crochet": Check

I've wanted for years to know how to crochet. Despite having inherited, by default, my late mother's enormous stash of hooks, yarns, notions and patterns, I never had the time to pick up the skill while I was living at home.

Over two years ago, I bought a beginner's crochet book on the cheap. You'd think I believed that owning the book would itself give me the magical ability to crochet without ever picking up hook and yarn, because it took me so long to acquire both of the latter.

But it finally happened. Last weekend, I passed my time in the city by getting acquainted with its op shops. And there they were in the knitting-needle basket. Not just one but four crochet hooks, stuffed into the plastic case made for the largest. Shorter and skinnier than most knitting needles, they must have been passed over by other vintage-seeking types. Or it could be they were waiting for me.

Around the corner, a dollar shop (where nothing costs a dollar anymore, sigh) had 100% pure acrylic yarn on offer. I brushed off my misgivings about the acrylic. After all, I thought, I just want to learn the basics; I'll be choosy about yarn content when I know what I'm doing.

Less than an hour after I got home, I'd got the hang of it and seemed to have a scarf well underway. But as the scarf grew longer, I realised it wasn't going to be my scarf. It was working up into a scratchy, slightly shiny texture. That acrylic might do for some other purpose, say a pouch or bookmark; not something to keep in contact with sensitive neck skin for hours.

But what was I to do, I thought, now that I was already so far into my first project. I wasn't about to just donate it to landfill. Did I know anybody who could pull off a shorter scarf length, who wouldn't be bothered by the acrylic?

Did I?

Turns out I did.

Very good. On to the next project, then. And from now on, I think I'll stick to natural fibres.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No longer empty

Lake Joondalup.

When I first met you, you were dry as a writer's brain the morning after deadline. Nothing but pale grey sand, with the occasional few inches of water where a few ducks were illustrating the concept of either denial or faith.

It was nice to see you again, after the unexpectedly wet winter had made its debut.

If I could only speak Duck, I think I would have been hearing them say, "Told you so."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The importance of good web design: an illustrated account perhaps made ironic by my blog's lack thereof

If you hadn't created a website,

If you hadn't seen to it that its design is clean, photography well-lit and nicely composed, online menus and blog posts kept up to date,

If you hadn't stuck tidily to the one typeface that is, thankfully for you, not Comic Sans,

I might not have felt that I had to pay you a visit in person

and then I wouldn't have seen your pastry counter, with its typewritten signs and tempting petits fours (not pictured, thanks to my composition that needs a little more work than yours).

And a donkey would not have had a jar of brown sugar cubes upon which to be set (irrelevant aside: the donkey was named "Sugarcube" by the manufacturer. "Mo" comes from the experience which led to its becoming my donkey).

And I wouldn't have known that you make magnificently rich crepes, offset by the zingy rhubarb compote and pistachios, which made me want to go home and try making my own. (It's not you, it's me; I have this insatiable need to replicate tasty things other people have cooked for me.)

But whether I succeed or not, I hope to see you again soon. Those petits fours are calling me.

West End Deli on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The road to New Norcia

It was the kind of road trip that begins with a prayer and a scenic detour to show off the river, in all its glimmering splendour, to the visitor from Singapore.

The kind with a food stop just shy of an hour in, because hunger comes at least every two waking hours for some of us. (Namely me.)

The kind where an observant eye allows you to spot a billboard advertising what looks like a promising purveyor of baked goods, and you pull into a service road a few kms down the pike when all you're thinking of is your hunger and you never even realise that you've managed to pull right in front of said bakery.

The kind where you order a pizza each from behind the glass and the lady asks if you'd like them heated up, you say yes, and later in the car you open the paper bag to see darkened grill marks. The disfigurement proves worth the taste: crunchy savour rather than chewy, soggy microwave stodge. The moist sweetness of fresh tomato and the taste of soft, yeasty white bread -- a rarity in a wholegrain life -- gives the carb boost needed to get to our destination, the monastery town a whole thirty minutes away.

The kind where we overshoot the destination but don't mind a whit, because the country is so pretty and there are horses -- no, wait, those are cows, she corrects herself time and again -- to look at along the way.

The kind where you begin with no expectations, and find yourself most richly rewarded because every moment is gold and you know we humans always sell ourselves short, so there's no way you could have expected highly enough.

The kind where laughter is free-flowing and conversation unreserved and silences, when they come, are not awkward.

The kind where you arrive at the monastery town and know it's not a place for the average point-and-gawk tourist; somehow that makes you feel more welcome.

The kind where you linger and gaze while, for a change, using your camera sparingly. There are other ways to take pictures.

The kind where you wish you could stay a little longer, but you don't regret having to leave because your life away from here is just as peaceful, just as rich, just as spiritual. Or it can be.

The kind where you agree on the return journey to go back to the same bakery for a "real" lunch, because the pizzas were that tasty. One of you grabs the rare opportunity to sit outdoors and not perspire while the other stays on the warm side of the glass, reading old newspapers and colouring word art in her journal, and there's contentment all around.

Altogether a nice kind of road trip.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

It's tomorrow!

Poster from Made On The Left

Looking forward to a creativity-feeding Sunday afternoon amongst others who make... on the left.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Repost: Orange Tree

I first wrote about the girl at Orange Tree just over three years ago -- look how I just said "three years", as if it barely meant anything. Three huge years have transpired since we last heard from the girl, and I never did say much about here about what became of her and the blossom she was tending.

Perhaps soon you'll hear an update, but it depends more on the girl. She's the one who lived the story, so she'll have to tell you herself.

Originally posted May 11, 2008

All my life, the girl thought, all my life, I have wanted to taste an orange.

Oranges, in this world that the girl lived in, were not easy to come by, and to taste one was a dream seldom to come true. A fortunate few experienced it once, and a very fortunate few, twice; some had even been to the legendary Orange Grove and made their living there.

But, this girl thought, I will not be greedy. I only want to taste an orange once, and then I will be happy.

She wrote to the elves at Orange Tree. "I would like to make a trip to the Tree and taste an orange," said she, "and, as it will be expensive and I must give up my present place on Flatbread Land in order to come, I will need you to tell me when the oranges are in season so that my trip will not be wasted."

She sent her letter by the swiftest of the swifts (and the swifts are birds that live up to their name), and soon a reply came:

"We thank you for your interest in oranges. We have exciting news for you: beginning with this upcoming season, we will no longer be growing plain, unexciting oranges on Orange Tree.

"We will instead be growing new, enhanced Vanilla Oranges, which are sweeter, more fragrant and tastier than the old oranges. It will be like tasting the orange you've dreamt of all your life, only better. As you know, our visitors were allowed to taste Oranges in exchange for one year's labour. Vanilla Oranges, being ever so much more of an experience, will require two years. We hope this is acceptable to you. If it is, please put your pine-cone seal on the dotted line below and return this letter by the waiting swift. We guarantee that you will be able to start work on your very own Vanilla Orange blossom as soon as you arrive."

And so the girl began to make plans. Her little room in the dear house on Flatbread Lane was closed up, and her little car was sold, for if one wants to follow a dream, one must be prepared to make sacrifices. Good-byes were said, and tears were shed, but if one wants to follow a dream... well, you know the rest of that saying. And oh, she had dreamt of tasting an orange, so now that she had a chance of tasting not only an orange, but an entirely new! improved! orange, go she must, whatever it cost her.

And the girl bravely stepped onto the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree.

Before very long, she had arrived, and been assigned her very own blossom to tend, to love and to keep alive for two years, that at the end of the two years, she might taste the long-awaited Orange. And not any orange would it be, but a Vanilla Orange.

It was not easy. There were days, and nights and afternoons too, when the girl wondered if the long hours of toil were worth it. There were times when she resorted to drinking the bitter juice of the Coo-Cow tree, named for its curious black-and-white trunk and the sound its leaves made when squeezed for their juice, just so that she could stay awake until the next turning of the blossom was to take place.

And yet, through it all, the girl told herself, you must work hard. You must stick to it. To taste an Orange! And not just any orange, but a Vanilla Orange! Are not two years of toil worth it?

Until the day came when she saw the Chief Elf, and she casually said hello, and he said hello in return;

and the Chief Elf asked, "How do?";

and she replied, "Fine, thanks, and you?";

and the Chief Elf said, "Fine, thanks, but are you really? You look so worn out.";

and she said, "Well, actually, Chief Elf, I am very tired, for I work day and night to tend my blossom, but it's all worth it, isn't it? I mean, with the new Vanilla Orange, I will..."

but she didn't get to finish, for the Chief Elf's eyebrows had shot right up to the top of his head, higher even, for elves don't have very large heads, and the Chief Elf had been surprised indeed at what the girl was saying.

"The Vanilla Orange!" he said. "Why, what's this about the Vanilla Orange?"

"What do you mean?" asked the girl. "Isn't that the new orange that is meant to surpass the ordinary old orange in every way, and then some?"

The Chief Elf's eyebrows returned, somewhat, to their normal post, and he said, "Why, yes, but we had decided not to grow it after all, because we were told that the Forest Office was letting us continue growing the old oranges."

The girl stood staring at the Chief Elf, speechless, for nobody had told her of this.

"What... what about the... Vanilla..." she sputtered.

"Oh, that was just an idea we thought of, when the Forest Office was thinking of not letting us grow the old oranges anymore. But now our Ordinary Orange Permit has been renewed, so we won't be growing Vanilla Oranges. In fact, I think that blossom you've been given-" and here, the Chief Elf took out a large ledger, on which were written the names of the pixie boys and girls tending the blossoms, "why, you are tending a Vanilla Orange blossom. Well, well. But I'm not sure it will bloom and grow into a Vanilla Orange, you know, for this isn't supposed to be a Vanilla Orange tree now, just an Orange one. In fact, I'm quite sure what you've got is an apple blossom, for Orange Tree produces apples, too."

The girl, well, she was dismayed beyond words. For she had shut up her little room in the dear little house on Flatbread Land, and said good-bye to all she had held dear, and bought a one-way ticket for the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree because, after all, who knows how much your life might change once you've tasted the orange, and you might never go back to the old one.

And now, to be told that her dream might be dust?

The girl was angry. She had had a dream. She had invested much into the dream. And nobody, not even the Chief Elf with his nearly detachable eyebrows, was going to take it from her.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Today in Fremantle

After a surprisingly energetic wind had battered my ears and sent my balance wonky, after I had survived a blackly comical circular dance with my wind-whipped umbrella, after coming close to being knocked out cold and turned monocular by said umbrella;

After a late lunch of fish 'n' chips under shelter where my ears could stop stinging and my vertical orientation return, after reading another few emails exchanged between Solrun and Steinn, after being given a bag of hemp fabric swatches by a friendly shopwoman, after I stumbled upon the felt shop I had so hoped I'd find despite not having its address;

I wandered from the bustling heart of town until I reached South Beach, and saw this,

and remembered:

The light is always worth whatever happens along the way. And a thousand times more.
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