Christmas Creative

Is it too soon to say ‘Christmas’?

No, of course it isn’t.

Last year I collected some pinecones with the intention of making wreaths for Christmas. I finally got all inspired yesterday and began making them. While this is a VERY affordable project, it’s not a quick one!

YOU WILL NEED

  • PINECONES – I sourced mine from a public park which had different varieties of pine tree. Check with your local council to see if  you need permission to collect them. Make sure not to stray onto private property.
  • EYELETS – I used wire to form my eyelets which simply had to be a loop with a stem. I already had the wire, and as the eyelets didn’t need to be pretty, I was happy to make them myself. If you don’t have the tools to make them you can buy eyelets from a hardware store.
  • PLIERS – I used a combination of regular and round-nose pliers to form the eyelets.
  • DRILL
  • GLUE GUN – Or not. PVA glue would also do the job, and probably give a stronger bond but I was allured by the 60 second drying time.
  • STRING  – I used jute twine but you could even use fine wire.
  • WREATH

You didn’t read that incorrectly, I am making a wreath by using a wreath.

Shush.

[Aside: I actually have a craft book which features a project called ‘Making a decorative chair’ which requires you to have a chair. This is different, I swear]

I found my wicker wreath at a waste recycling shop for fifty cents. I removed the tatty tinsel and decorations which covered it but you can use anything circular. You could even thread your pinecones directly onto a loop of wire but you will need LOTS of pinecones as you can’t simply arrange them at the front.

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Top left: The 1/3 completed wreath showing the base wreath. Top right: Glue-gunning the eyelets on. Below L-R: Forming the wire, drilling the pine cone, glue around the eyelet, arty shot.

METHOD:

Get lots of pinecones and make lots of eyelets.

Drill a hole into end of each pinecone. Insert eyelet. Glue, making sure the glue gets into the drill-hole.

Using the string, tie two or three pinecones together, and then tie them to the base wreath. Always add the larger bunches or bigger pinecones to the wreath first. Fill the gaps with smaller pinecones.

Any questions?


nanopoblano1Day 12. Writing every day in the month of November.


Extra note: Yes, you could simply glue-gun the pinecones onto the base circle. You could, but I’m aiming for quality *ahem* Also, as my front door gets a fair bit of sun this time of year, I’m hoping the eyelets may add a little more strength which will prevent the pinecones from simply melting off their surface. Here’s hoping.

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An Award! Yay!

Thanks to Fairweatherpaddler at Home Grown Heaven, I’ve  been nominated for THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD!

*Releases party poppers*versatileblogger11

Before you read on though, go check out Home Grown Heaven. It’s delightful, insightful, inspiring and practical. Her family are living the good life, so it’s hard work!

Go on. I’ll wait.

Looking around the  blogs of other fellow nominees, I feel privileged to be among these awesome folk.  I’m personally a little bemused with the title ‘versatile’. I suddenly feel the need to construct this post from origami.

Okay. So to the rules…

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Now, I follow an extensive number of blogs, all of whom are worthy of a nomination.  To keep things simple, I’ll focus on new blogs I discovered during Nano Poblano (or NaBloPoMo). They not only wrote some amazing, honest, emotive, funny stuff, they also shared the love by visiting fellow Nano Poblano bloggers. And, they took to time to comment on my over-thought blog posts!

But. No strings attached. As awesome and as awards are, I know they can sometimes be a burden. Sometimes you don’t have time, sometimes you’ve been nominated for this award already (or something similar) . It doesn’t matter, the point is, if you don’t wish to participate. I don’t mind. Just know – in case you weren’t sure – I think you’re amazing.

I wish to nominate:

A Heart on the Matter
Behind the Willows
Breaking Moulds
EchoShadow
FlightScarlet
Judah First
Musings of an Eccentric Mind
Never Trust a Jellyfish
Part-Time Monster
Quixie’s Mind Palace
Sidereal Catalyst
Spoken Like a True Nut
Teleportingweena
The Tawny’s Blog
Vanessence

I seriously hope I haven’t left anyone off.

Seven things about me.

  1. My second toe is longer than my bigtoe, my third toe is the same length as my bigtoe. I’m a freak of nature.
  2. I have over 100 pictures hanging in my house, mostly saved from markets or junk yards. I haven’t counted them but I bought a packet of 100 hooks and ran out. Also, I’m fast running out of wall space.
  3. My birthday essentially starts with my first birthday card. Then I have my birthday. Then I’ll probably drag it out another week. Because, why not.
  4. Packing and organisation are my super powers. If you’re moving house, I’m your girl. If you need to fit a pile of stuff into the back of your car – move over.
  5. I suffer from this thing my family calls I-can-do-it-Kate Syndrome. If there’s something you can’t do (like taking a lid of a jar, for instance), I’ll be itching for a try.
  6. In my youth (in my youth! Crap, does that mean I’m no longer youthful!? Nooooooooo!) I could sit on my hair. People used to state, ‘Wow, your hair is really long’. It was profound.
  7. On that note, my favourite kind of humour is sarcasm.

 

 

Memory

It’s Day 25 of Nano Poblano (Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo) and I’ve drawn a blank. Fortunately Ra kindly left a prompt page for such occasions. Although they are list-prompts, I aimed to find one that inspired a non-list post.

“Things I have memorised”

I did drama at school and frequently joined school productions. I always felt safer playing someone else.

My school at one time, participated in a local drama competition. It was a big thing, and boy, did we rehearse. We rehearsed so much that one day, when one of the cast members was off sick, our drama teacher asked if anyone else could say the lines. We all raised our hands. We all knew the entire script. We recited it in unison, our teacher’s mouth dropped open before she said, ‘alright then!’

I wonder sometimes, if I’d still remember. If someone read me a line, I would remember the next?

I still remember some poetry. I gave up drama for more ‘sensible’ career choices but decided to memorise a few poems. The most impressive, was this one:

From Ulysses
Alfred Lord Tennyson
…Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

This is an excerpt, but I learnt the whole poem off by heart. Poetry played a huge part in my life at the time I decided to commit this to memory. The film, Dead Poets’ Society aided this – the main character reciting these very lines.

*Sigh*

O Captain! My Captain.

Also from my poetry days, and possibly from my badly rhymed poetry days, I became very adept with rhyme. If I had to rhyme ‘board’ for a poem, I could run through the alphabet (including nonsensical words) until I found something that might work. Aord, board, cord, dord, eord, ford, gord, hoard, iord, jord, kord, lord…

I studied piano as a child. It could not be said I was good, but I was diligent. Being as slow at reading sheet music as I was with the written word, I survived by memorising it. I called it hand-memory. Through dogged repetition, I remembered where my hands had to be to play the relevant notes. Of course, any mistakes would break the memory, I’d lose my place in the music and I’d panic beyond recovery. I still remember many of them, but I don’t practise much these day and my hands forget.

I’d describe the study of language here in Australia as lazy. My school experience isn’t perhaps the best example, but without commitment, the best you’ll come away with is the ability to count to ten in French, Japanese and German with ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘my name is …’ thrown into the equation. I still remember most of this.

What have you memorised?


nanopoblano2015darkDay 25 of Nano Poblano! That is, Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo.

We’re posting everyday in the month of November!

When I say ‘we’ I mean these awesome folk.

The Gift of Giving

In the early months of my parents’ relationship, my mum met my dad’s mother. She took her a gift. It was nothing fancy but a goodwill gesture that implied something along the lines of ‘I come in peace’. My grandmother received it awkwardly, unwrapped it, left the room and came back with a box of something she’d pulled from the cupboard wrapped in the very same paper.

Honestly. Families are weird.

Admittedly, there are more factors at play here than simply etiquette, Mum’s future mother-in-law had a general dislike for anyone who dated my father. So perhaps this is a bad example to begin with but it is a neat segue into gifting.

Finding the perfect item for someone is THE BEST THING EVER! I get so much joy from this it may even be one of my favourite things. Being in a position to give is a privilege I will never take for granted. With Christmas looming, I thought I’d share my gifting philosophy – at times it’s a little unconventional.

Working in retail for many years of my life, it fascinated me how people would like something more if it was the right price, or rather, the amount they’d mentally assigned to spend on the giftee. There’s obviously logic here and I’m also governed by what I can afford, but if my gift is cheaper than expected I try to resist the inclination to add to my present. Especially if it’s purely for the sake of matching my budget. Next year, I might find just what I want to a little more than budget and I reckon it all evens out. Social expectation has us in fear of appearing mean when it really is the thought that counts.

I switch on my gifting-radar and leave it on all year. Much like the police are tuned into suspicious behaviour and writers think about plotlines on the way to the store, I’m constantly on the lookout for gift ideas. I start thinking about Christmas in January and birthdays months in advance, this is especially important for people I consider difficult to buy for. It also takes the stress out of it financially because my gift-buying is more evenly distributed through the year and it removes that last minute panic because I buy it when I see it.

I have a present drawer. This sounds more organised than it actually is. I really should label stuff when I put it in because a few times a year I find myself rummaging through it, trying to remember who I bought what.

The gift of time. Offering to baby sit or making yourself available for an afternoon of room-painting can be welcome help for the right people. For those arty-crafty-creative types, taking the time to make gifts is rewarding and personal.

The common card. It’s the simplest way to let people know you’re thinking of them. A thoughtful, simple, beautiful, delightful or humorous card that appeals to the receiver’s sensibilities can be the perfect gift in itself.

The important thing is, give because you want to and expect nothing in return.

Gifts are unconditional.


nanopoblano2015darkClick on the link to visit the team of Tiny Peppers. It’s Rarasaur’s version of NaBloPoMo and it’s called Nano Poblano.  Or, as I’ve been calling it lately Nano Problano.

We’re blogging every day in the month of November! I think I’m actually getting the hang of this.

Colour Me Crazy

I fancy being the person who names paint colours.

bd3eeea807eaef94dd28cc1bfa6e330aIt would encourage me to see colour everywhere. Not simply notice the distinct colours we instantly imagine with words like dandelion and rose – I’d really see colour. I’d notice shades of dandelion and how a rose alters its colours as it reveals itself to the sun. Leaves aren’t green, they’re grey-green, bright green, yellow-green, golden-brown and crimson. My black cat isn’t black but has tones of chocolate and charcoal.

I’d notice colour where I once did not.

And if I had such a profession, what would my job title be? Colour Assignment Officer? Colour Tag Coordinator? Creative Colour Consultant?

Ooh, I might call myself a COLOUR IMAGINATOR

I’ve invented a few colour names (I say ‘invented’, they might exist for all I know) but  I won’t tell you what colours they represent to me – you decide for yourself.

Pokerwork

Shoji Screen

Vintage Kitchen

Summer Dress

Chainmail

Scrabble Box

And here are a few intangible colours:

Curiousity

Déjà vu

Avast!

Mozart’s Muse

Would you like a colour more if it had the right name? Would you be swayed towards Seasalt and Driftwood beause you lived near a beach? Or is the right colour, simply right?

Our connection with colour is a wonderful thing.

And there’s this. If you haven’t seen it already, it features Ethan who discovers the joy of NOT being colour blind. [A bit of warning, he does drop the F-bomb a few times]

Looking is one thing, but seeing is magical.

 

 

Finding Resolve

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I believe in resolutions, of course, but I simply don’t understand why they need to coincide with this human-made temporal construct.

I don’t like thinking about time in this fashion because sometimes people consolidate it, label a few bad events as a ‘bad year’. Some events are really bad and their effects can be all encompassing for weeks or months or, indeed, years, but even for that, I think it’s really important to try and take life day by day. Also, ‘resolve’ shouldn’t need a clock, it should feel free to occur at any time.

Having said that, I can see it’s sometimes nice to have a starting point, and well, New Year’s Day is as good as any. So, in that spirit, here are some of my aspirations for 2015.

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I’m going to make lots of mistakes.

Get back to blogging weekly. I have let this slide lately, though, you’ll note, I posted on Christmas day and with posting again today I’m already off to a great start and it’s not even next year yet!

I hope to write. I’d like to finish my long-running WIP and give myself permission to suck. It will suck, but that’s okay because it will also be finished (first draft, at least) and that would be an amazing personal achievement. I’ll try and participate in as many Friday! Flash challenges that I can and get into the habit of free-writing to encourage me to write and think less about it. All writing is practice.

I aim to read a book a month. ‘Only one a month?’ you ask. I know most of you wouldn’t view this as a challenge or a task that even requires resolve. As I’ve said before (apologies for my repetition), although I love books and have surrounded myself with bookish friends my entire life (and would even consider them to be my people), I am not a reader. Maybe I could be, I certainly want to be, especially knowing it will help my writing. You never know, maybe ‘a book a month’ will lead to two. Suggestions welcome.

Delete Candy Crush Saga from my phone as it feeds my procrastination. Can you have retroactive resolutions? I actually did this before Christmas knowing I’d be too busy to be distracted by it then. And now? Now, I have this list of resolutions to occupy my time, dammit.

Make mistakes. I’ve come to realise a little bit of mistake-making is a good thing but I always choose the safe road. My mother says, ‘we don’t bounce’, we don’t spring back from failure as easily as some people so we cling to caution like a raft in the middle of the ocean. I need to learn when it’s safe to let go.

See you next year, my friends.

Whatever you do in 2015, be your best.

Letting Go

On an overcast autumn day, my aunt introduced me to a family friend. He wore a scarf and thick gloves, his face bearded with grey. Perhaps he was fifty but he carried time on his shoulders as if he were a child. We visited his terrace house up a long flight of stairs. A mountain bike leant against the entrance hall wall, fine black venetian blinds cut the windows and bookshelves lined the living room.

His house was full, but not cluttered. Treasures from his travels were precisely and artistically displayed while books on music, poetry and art were ordered by subject matter (and probably alphabetically). He could have talked about the most random of things and put his hand to a book on the subject in a jiffy. He spoke of poetry like we were equals, as though I was wiser than my years and I left his house promising to send him some of my writing. He waved me goodbye, his gloves hiding his deformed hands.

20141016_154722

These are most certainly for keeps.

I made him cards and sent him my poetry as his health deteriorated. He gave up his mountain bike and moved to a house with handrails not stairs. He spoke frankly about the progression of his disease and how calculated his life had become.

A year after I met him, my aunt handed me a parcel. “Barry’s moving into care,” she said, “He’s cleared out his house and he wanted you to have these back.”

I smiled at his inspiring organisation. Every letter I’d ever sent him, returned to me, neatly bundled with string.
“I got some books back.” my aunt said to my bewildered expression, “These are for you too.”

She handed me a bag. It contained a two folders of poetry and newspaper articles collected from magazines over his lifetime. One poetry folder said, “For Kate, student and poet, from Barry” written in his hand when his writing was still beautiful. He gave me his box of soft pastels, knowing it was my favourite artists’ medium and a framed collection of pressed leaves from around the world.

I still have these things.

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A healthier part of the leaf collection

The leaf collection hasn’t aged well. The backing paper has yellowed and the leaves have become brittle and slipped within their frame. It still contains Barry’s memories though, a leaf from Notre Dame de Paris, heather from the Yorkshire Moors, wheat from Greece and more – all labelled and dated. It reminds me of his house and that autumn day we met in the park.

And I have those two folders of poetry and articles. At fifteen, I believed their contents would mean more to me as I grew older, but they didn’t. He’d collected the articles because he personally knew the people they referenced and while I came to better appreciate the poetry, their significance belonged to Barry. I kept them because they were his, because they were important to him and because he gifted them to me. He recognised something in me I had not even found myself.

It’s easy for me to find reasons to keep things. The spirit and thought in which something is given is one of the most powerful. So I shuffle these things around the hiding places of my home and inevitably decide to let them go next year. Maybe. There’s always a niggling anxiety to that thought, like it would be disrespectful, like I’d be throwing part of them away.

Except without these memories, I simply own a stack of folders full of random poetry and articles, a set of pastels and a collection of decomposing leaves behind glass. These things remind me of Barry, but I could have written this blog post without them. Even after reading this, you will never know the fragrance of his house, the picture that hung in his bathroom or his sister’s name. Even if he had written books or been famous enough to write a memoir or he’d composed a symphony to be heard 250 years from now – he would always be more than what he left behind because I knew him. I remember him.

This is all I need to keep.

*returns items to storage*

This is the poem I wrote after meeting Barry, in a park (a former graveyard) one autumn day. I share it because it goes some way to conveying his spirit, and the grace and humour with which he faced his mortality. He lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease a year after going into care.

Grave Dwellings

Often you visit.
The tall sandstone plaques crumble
Under your touch.

Many people sleep here;
Beneath the stones, worn but noble,
Circled with ardent autumn colours
And comforting shades of green.
There are no new tenants,
Only passers-by.

Often you visit.
Purposely crunching the leaves
Under your feet.

You’ll be sleeping
Sooner than most, as your heart recedes.
When walking by
You waved at one stone’s face,
And you laughed,
“See you soon,” you said.