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Bear hats, that’s how!
I read these comics ages ago, and just recently, they’ve been echoing around the inside of my skull.
I feel like I’ve slipped accross the line between collecting and creating. I mean, I’ve always created. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. Crafting was something my family did – whether it was sewing, gardening, woodwork… and I feel like I transitioned from creative play into crafting. I remember making palm trees from toilet rolls like they did on playschool. The masking tape is still on our living room rug. And I remember, about the same time, knitting and sewing, dabbling in cooking and baking (with appropriate supervision, of course).
But it’s been something I do, not something I AM. Even when I realised I was a Knitter with a capital, not just someone who knits. And then I was a Crafter. But I feel a bit more like a someone who creates these days – getting closer, anyway. Thinking of a thing and then causing that thing to exist in the world.
Here are some things I had invented lately.
I saw some bedding somewhere and coveted it. When I move, I’m planning to paint the bedroom peacock blue, and I don’t want to repaint my bed. So in order to cut down on the colour chaos, I figured all white bedding was the go. With my overlocker, this was a breeze. I LOVE my overlocker. This project wasn’t hard, but it was large, and it took a surprising amount of thinking and planning. It pleases me to no end.
You saw the first version earlier. That one went to a work friend who was leaving. This one went to Sara. A third is on the way and will go in my etsy store, once I finish it and figure out how much it should cost. I’ve just made a blue one (sans eyes) to be part of a Grumpy Bear costume for myself for a TV themed party tomorrow. I’m trying to decide between sewing the tummy piece and just drawing it – drawing is winning at this stage!
When I was little – maybe about 8 – we went to spend the holidays with my cousins. They are a family of four… no, I must have been younger, because I was an only child. Maybe 5 or 6. The weeks before we went to visit, I made up a whole play involving care bears, and I carefully made facsimiles of the tummy pictures they have. We often put on performances, and made the adults endure them, and I planned ot unveil my master plan and have us put on my play.
I was too shy to bring it up and the paper tummies stayed in my bag all holiday.
My sister works in a bar, and for NYE they were required to wear hats. I suggested that I make her one. She LOVED this idea and said ‘it could be a top hat! You could KNIT it!’ Since I was thinking about just rigging some fabric over a plastic canvas frame, this took me a bit aback, but I said ‘sure’ and set to knitting. A few hours later I had a floppy top hat sitting on the table. My sister couldn’t believe that I’d just done that, in the time since she mentioned it.
I whacked it in the washing machine to felt, and blocked it over a jar. I left that bit a bit late, and it was still a bit damp and floppy. I ended up reinforcing it with plastic canvas anyway. Sewed it to a headband and whacked a ribbon around it, and we were set! I’d not felted anything before, and I didn’t quite compensate enough for the difference between vertical and horizontal shrinkage – to me it looks more like a bowler than a top hat. But still, a good effort. I’m thinking about selling these in the store, too, if I can find some more headbands, and get off my bum to make them!
Isn’t she pretty!
Farewell present for our boss. More explanation here.
None of these projects were anything I’d consider complicated or hard. They all involved only skills I already had, and took minimal time and effort. But they were things I thought of, and made real. And there’s something magical about that.
I opened a new tub of margarine this morning. That piece of paper that protects the top told me that I should be proud of myself – that 99% of the contents of that tub came from natural sources.
Guys, OIL comes from a natural source. As does coal, and CFCs and also George W. Bush. In fact, pretty much everything comes from a natural source, at some point. And is also made of chemicals, so please don’t put ‘chemical free!’ on the side – that would mean you are selling me a vacuum.
I get cranky about this whole ‘natural’ bandying about. I’m all for natural! But I’m not all for being told ‘buy this! It’s natural! And Good For You!’ I am reminded of the time that my Wretched Aunt told me that I should put some more butter on my roll. Because it’s Biodynamic. It’s good for me.
Yes, but IT’S STILL BUTTER.
99% fat free – because it’s 98% sugar. Made from real sugar! About 20 steps in the process ago, depending on what you define as ‘sugar’. All natural! Just like arsenic, wrinkles, and death.
Every time I think about chickens, I get C.J. Dennis’ ‘The Feast’ or ‘The Famine’ stuck in my head. Do you know them? They’re from his Book for Kids, which we had in a precious old illustrated hardback copy, and also an audio version narrated by Noni from Playschool. And also several recent hard hitting dramas, but shoosh. Noni was my second favourite (who could beat John? And now I’m grown up I love him even more). On the other side of the tape was ‘Meanie and the Min Min’ which is another excellent Aussie kids story. Magically creepy, too, in that way that kids love to be creeped out. (Ps the good guys win.)
Cackle and lay, cackle and lay! How many eggs did you get to-day? None in the manger, and none in the shed, None in the box where the chickens are fed, None in the tussocks and none in the tub, And only a little one out in the scrub. Oh, I say! Dumplings to-day. I fear that the hens must be laying away.
And then, on the next page;
Cackle and lay, cackle and lay! How many eggs did you get to-day? Two in the manger, and four in the shed, Siz in the box where the chickens are fed, Two in the tussocks and ten in the tub, And nearly two dozen right out in the scrub. Hip, hooray! Pudding to-day! I think that the hens are beginning to lay.
My favourite poem in the book was The Ant Explorer, although it’s hard to choose. The profession ones, like ‘the pie man’ or ‘the porter’ are lovely little snapshots of ordinary life, too. I haven’t thought about this book for a long time as such. Although phrases will stick in the mind. Whenever I hear the word ‘tannin’ my brain automatically runs “‘You’ve taken too much tannin!’ jeered the jug” from Tea Time, for example.
Anyone else got any lovely aussie kids books like this tucked away in their childhood? I might just see if I can get my hands on a copy. And I need to retrieve ‘Honey Sandwich’ from my mother’s house before it goes missing – another classic, although from a more recent era!
I rode my bike in today. I woke up several times in the night (Dear blackbird outside my window. 3AM is NOT a good time to be singing. What is wrong with you? Please die. Love, Kate) and in the back of my mind each time was the thought that I had been determined to ride in. And I felt very very whiney about it. And when my alarm went off, I felt even more whiney.
Then I enforced my new rule for days when I plan on riding in: get up, have a shower, get dressed, have breakfast. If you still feel too tired or sick to ride in, then you may change out of your riding clothes and go catch the bus that smells of pee. But only then. I find that the difference in the state of tiredness between being in a snuggly bed and being up and fed and bathed is enourmous. A lot of the reason I continue to bus instead of biking is inertia – if I bus, I have to do less, I have to think about less, I have to negotiate things in smaller chunks. But actually, biking is a lot easier, especially on the way home, when the bus is almost always late.
And what else exactly am I planning to do with my time and energy that it’s so important to conserve it by taking the bus? I have been reading the Extreme Frugality posts over at the now-defunct Gourmet magazine. I am fascinated by it. This one in particular hit on something that I have been trying to articulate. It’s not just about what you spend or how. It’s about why. That goes for energy as well as money. Why are you willing to pay extra for that item here, when you know you could get it cheaper elsewhere? Why are you willing to pay for a bought meal when you don’t have to? Because it’s less effort – in that case, how much less effort, and is it really worth the extra money right here and now? After all, money is completely imaginary. It’s not worth anything, except as it represents goods and services. And if those goods and services are worth, to you, swapping hours of sitting in front of a computer, or standing serving customers, or whatever it is you do to get that mulah, then go ahead and swap it if you want! But make sure it is worth it, first. I remember when I was working nightfill and at uni. I saw a top I wanted. I wanted it a lot. I wanted it bad. And then I calculated that it was worth two whole shifts at work. It was really easy to walk away from after that. These days, it’s too easy for me to dissociate what I do all day with getting paid. That means I am a worse worker, and a less thoughtful consumer.
On Monday I had boiled some eggs to take into work for snacks, but on Tuesday I forgot to take any with me. All day I craved eggs. I looked at smitten kitchen and the kithcn recipes, and made lists and printed out things to try with the good (and excited!) intention of eating better, shopping better, planning better. Having food that is delicious and easy, and putting the time into some slightly more fiddly meals, because it’s worth it. And ALL DAY I craved eggs. Then I went home and my sister had made mac and cheese – Jamie Oliver’s recipe from The Ministry of Food – and we ate that at the table together. (I shoved a boiled egg in beforehand.) This has happened about twice, the whole time we have been living together. Then we did the dishes together before going off to our seperate pursuits. It was lovely beyond words, as was waking up to a sparklingly bare kitchen. This never happens!
And now the fridge is filled with meals for the next two days, and I have planned two big shopping expeditions – one to the supermarket and one to the central markets for fruit and veg – to stock up on essentials and do a big haul of goodies. I’m feeling moderately pleased with myself. Not a bad start to the new year.
I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I never have. They seem a bit daft ‘I will be a better person…. later’. As someone who always pretends that things will be easier when…. (fill in blank) I smell the lie. If you can’t do it now, an arbitrary month passing will not change it for you. But I’ve always liked christmas and new year as a time of reflection. It’s a pause in the year, it’s a marking point. What was I doing this time last year? The year before that? What were my friends and family doing? How have I changed?
This year, reading the blogosphere, some things have been sparked off. People have been asking each other – what do you want this year to be? Who do you want to be in it? Where will you go, what will you do, if you could change things by just saying what they should be, what would you say?
And it’s made me think, and in thinking, a few responses have come up over and over. I’m not sure I’ll get them all down how I wanted, because I’m at work and distracted and sleepy. But if I don’t now, I wont ever.
Find my rythm. Find the small routines and relish them. This year I let a lot of that go, because it was just too hard to maintain. Emotionally, physically… also, living with my sister, who has pretty much the exact opposite schedule to me. And is 19 and doesn’t care about things like doing the dishes in a timely manner. I have been trying not to be too anal about that, to relax and not make my sister’s home unpleasant for her by fussing about whether she puts the butter back in the fridge, etc.
On the other hand, it means I can’t find that flow that you get sometimes, when your house sort of wraps around you and everything works. Everything has a place to be, and it is approximately there. Everything functions. Things get put away and there’s nothing to trip over. If I believed in it, I’d say something about Feng Shui here, or maybe ‘something something energy of your home.’
I love when it’s like that, and when I lived by myself, I used to really truly enjoy spending a morning on the weekend, listening to podcasts and puttering around, cleaning and tidying. Spending time with my home (seriously, I used to greet it when I walked in the door. I loved that flat, low ceilinged though it was). Now I find cleaning depressing – it’s just going to be dirty again in a minute, and I can’t clean properly because I’m cleaning around things, whether that’s a bag my sister has left in the middle of the floor, or the fact that she doesn’t get up until the afternoon (fair enough, she works until well after midnight) so I feel bad making loud noises too early. It’s a chore, and the benefits seem hard to see.
I realise how much of a luxury this thing I want is. But it’s also something that I can have. I want to live by myself – probably not until the middle of the year, which is when I estimate my sister will have saved up enough to go overseas. But by this time next year, I will be by myself. So much luxury! I will have things as I want them, and I will be able to put something down and have it freaking stay there. I will be able to settle down for an evening of crafting without feeling bad because I am cross when she bounces in and interrupts me. And I want to take full advantage of this luxury – to maintain the systems that keep a house ticking over, and to enjoy it.
Not having a rythm spills over from just doing the dishes to everything else. I don’t eat as well as I used to because it’s a pain to get anywhere to shop – shopping for essentials for two instead of one means that I can’t just nip in somewhere with a green bag. I have to lug several, or take a trolley. I don’t have a car, so my sister is supposed to buy milk and bread etc. She usually buys it before we run out completely. Then the fridge is full of half empty jars of whatever, so I either have to clean it out or just shove everything in so that nothing can be found. (Also, I hate my fridge. The light goes out and the bottom shelf gets wet.) And the dishes are all filthy. Then by the time I’ve done the dishes myself, even though it’s the third time I’ve done them when it’s not my turn and also reused the same glass and plate all day – how are there ten glasses from just one day? – I am cranky and lazy and end up just having a sandwich or whatever.
I don’t use my time as well as I could, because I spend a lot of it waiting for my sister to do something she has said she will do in a minute (take the bins out, do the dishes, take her clothes off of the line) before I can keep doing what I was doing. And then I spend more time doing things like frittering away hours on the internet because that way I do not have to go into the areas of the house which I am not cleaning because it is too much of a muck around to do. Because if I clear the table, I realise that more than half of the detritus is my sisters, and then I either have to put it back where it was, or put it passive aggressively somewhere where she will have to do something with it.
Now, admitedly, I could just fucking quit whingeing and DO THE DAMN DISHES MYSELF. Revolutionary notion. And most of the time, I do. But the whole point of finding and maintaining a rythm is to make it easy for you to do the things you want to do. You do the work when it’s not as much of an effort, so you don’t have to do it when you’re tired and whiney and too willing to make excuses. You take things with you when you leave the room so that by the end of the week there’s only one discarded jumper in the living room, not a whole wardrobe (and you’re swearing in your room looking for them) and there’s not five empty toilet rolls sitting on the toilet windowsill.
Wow. That wasn’t meant to be a rant. But I don’t feel that I can adequately explain what I mean by this without explaining some of the things that have made me cranky and uncomfortable this year. Things that, on the surface, are no big deal. But I want my house to be a home, a haven, a retreat, and I want to use it well. I’m an introvert. That means that while I love people, I find them exhausting. And if my home isn’t a place of rest and retreat, I find myself saying ‘no’ more and more often. I don’t like that, because friends are refreshing and revitalising and fun.
All of this will be easier with my sister gone. I love her but, frankly, I don’t love living with her. It’s not like we really spend much time together, what with opposite schedules. I don’t want to be an a-hole about it while she’s still living with me. But we will be moving into my house which, frankly, will be inconvenient while she’s there. I won’t have anywhere to put my sewing machine, and there’ll be way too much furniture for the space. So I feel ok about being a bit more insistent about this stuff. And I will make an effort not to let myself get derailed.
Spend more wisely. Time and money. I want to spend less time on the computer, and more time reading or doing. I want to evaluate my expenses and make actual decisions about what is worth giving up for what, instead of just reacting to what I want and can have right now. Is a new fridge worth not eating out for a month, two month, many months, and all the associated social consequences? (Did I mention that I hate my fridge?) Is a new fridge worth more than a skylight? Or getting the concrete torn up in the backyard? Or not having a spending capacity for those things on the borderline between want and need – new shoes, for example? I’m not sure about any of those answers, but I want to actually make those decisions rationally. Havign a rythm will make small things easier, too – better food so that I don’t feel like buying, saving money by beign organised and buying bulk and not losing the things I already bougth. You know the drill.
Be more active. I don’t mean get fit, or even exercise more, per se. This one is playing out immediately int hat I have vowed to ride my bike to and from work 1-2 times per week for January. With the idea that this will increase, but at least that much, for that time. I stopped riding in winter when I had a cold for months and months, and then I was horribly unfit and it seemed like such an effort…. I rode my bike several places on the holidays, and yesterday my sister and I went for a short ride (she on our grandfather’s old bike with two compltely flat tires. It was hilarious). Just getting off my bum felt good. Spending actual time with my sister felt good, too.
But this one also means being less sedentary in general. Get up and do something – housework, gardening, walking, anything. Move around.
Be more positive. I don’t mean be less negative. I see the crap, I call the crap. But maybe I could work on that not being my only response? I’m sure I would be happier, as well as others around me!
Well… that sounds simple enough, non?
I forgot about having to be super nice and make boring conversation with people I don’t like. Sigh.
What did I do on my holidays? Not much. It was excellent. I napped almost every day. I got sunburnt twice and drunk much more than that. I read and read and read – nothing erudite, but it was nice to realise that my brain has not completely atrophied… I knit and I finished up some things that had been hanging around, as well as a couple of mending and sewing project. You know, those things that only take ten minutes, but it’s ten minutes you never seem to have.
I didn’t do any of the things I thought I might, which included redoing my pattern blocks and maybe sewing something, sanding and priming that dratted wardrobe (remember that? It was too cold to paint it. Now it’s too hot…). And maybe doing some organising and cleaning. Well, I did manage some of that, I even packed some books into boxes – but not a significant amount.
Did I mention that I had a nap almost every day? Lovely.
Here is one of the things I made