Monday, May 27, 2013

Sydney Harbour, the MCA Zine Fair

I spent a long creative day with friends in Sydney yesterday. Here are some pics from my day. Hard to believe it is so close to the start of Winter. Many people turned out for a stunning day.

Marcelo and Rachael Baez. Marcelo is a great illustrator and Rachael a wonderful Polaroid photographer.

 Stallholders' view of the crowds.
Rachael selling her zine and postcards.

It was great to be surrounded by creativity and beauty.

Last week I promised I'd share how I am re-grouping and re-energising: I haven't delivered yet. I am still working on it and will soon :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Autumn Sunday

 Autumn. Sunday.

We have had the most stunning Autumn: clear with brisk mornings and warm sunny days.

We always say the Southern Highlands are their best in Autumn and Spring. Summers are usually disappointing but this season has not been. It has delighted.

Work has been, well crazy. Its dark when we leave work now so the evenings feel so short and unproductive. I should get up earlier - its constantly on my goal list but I'm not good at it. Weekends fly by so fast and suddenly its back to Monday.

We stopped to till the soil today, to prune and neaten and reconnect.

Re-connection will be my theme this week.  I'll share as I explore what that looks like.

Meanwhile here are some photos of my front verandah in glorious Autumn colour.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A little homespunbliss at work

For the first time ever I have my own space at work. Its technically a cubicle, but large with high walls.  I have plenty of storage: to the point where I have two shelves that don't need to store files or any work stuff.  I have cupboards where storage can be both organised and out of sight. I have a little conference table, with two chairs for guests. But how to make this space home?

Work-life balance is important to me. I don't always wear my heart on my sleeve and I don' want to impose myself on others. But making my space personal helps me concentrate, and keep going when my workload is tough.

Well, I have carved out this space to be mine, paired back, neat, but with personality. I have things that remind me of home and lets face it: me.  Our individualism can easily get lost in the big corporate world. So please step into my office and let me show you around.

These shelves sit above my desk and hold some special reminders of friends and good times: toy cars my husband gave me, gorgeous vintage cats that were a Christmas present a couple of years ago from Darling Fi. She knows I love cats and vintage. They have remained at work because a/ my cats would smash them 'cos they are good at that, and b/ cos I started to realise I needed to make space for special things at work. A plant of course: living things are so important. The paper hearts are from my good friend Very Marie. The photos on the left are from my recent trip to Huskisson, tea from a friend who went to Sri Lanka and my darling Howard.
 Its nice to have chairs for guests but in truth they are horribly uncomfortable and very grey. I have meetings here and sit to read reports and generally get away from my computer once in a while. My Mum sent me the bright and cheerful zodiac tea towel: I rummaged around my stash for backing fabric, trim and cut up an old pillow for the inserts. Recycling? Tick. The description of my star sign: strong and reliable. Hmm, would have preferred something more creative!

I'd like to swap this for a low coffee table and some chunky floor cushions. I know I'd make lots of people very uncomfortable but I'm not the only one who would love it. So, so tempted. What do you think?
At the front of my desk I have strung some Tibetan prayer flags my beautiful sister gave me. Colourful, peaceful and soulful. An important reminder.  And the little hanging plaque is a quilt from the incongruous village in Pennsylvania named Intercourse! We visited last October on our USA trip and met lots of lovely people. Howard and I bought a pair of mirror quilts to hang up at work. They have everything going for them: my favourite earthy colour scheme, leaf/floral motifs and a souvenir from our holiday.

So how do you make your work space your own?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Soap safely stored to cure for 6 weeks

This morning I quickly popped my soap out of its molds and into the meat safe Howard prepared for me. Its safely locked away but with plenty of air circulating around it. Ready to use in late June.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Trials and tribulations of a soap maker

I make soap. I like making soap. I can control what ingredients go in and its a lovely old, fashioned, home spun skill.

But I hit a snag with my last batch. You see soap is dangerous stuff until it fully cures: 4-6 weeks after you make it. I need to keep the soap where no animal (equally dangerous for children, but there aren't any in my house) will eat it, or even take a lick.  Soap is made from animal fat and caustic soda and it remains caustic until the saponification process finishes. When I make my soap I put it on an outside table and cover it will some old food covers. Today I went to check on the soap I made over Easter - 5 weeks ago. Every piece was covered in tiny claw marks. One piece had a massive hole in the centre and I yelled RAT.

Yuck! I have chosen to save you the horror of photos. I couldn't bear to throw it all out. What to do? I considered just washing it. Hmm, not sure that would be enough. Rodents aren't usually associated with health and hygiene after all. Some pieces simply went in the bin.  For the ones I could salvage I sliced off the contaminated parts. I used a fishing line wire like you do with pottery to slice through under the parts the rodent had been in contact with. I estimate I lost half the soap, or should I say saved half :)

Whether the rodent was mouse, rat or antechinus (marsupial Australian mouse = cute) I'll never know. We wonder if it is alive or not too.  Caustic soda in the belly can't be good.

I made another batch of soap today - goat's milk and olive oil. I don't use colour because I want my soap to be pure and I don't use essential oils because they evaporate during the curing weeks. The solution to that is re-milling - grating, melting and re-molding  - but you can't do that with goats milk, it separates.  Howard has turned my old meat safe into a soap safe.  The other rule with curing soap is that it can't touch metal so Howard has put a mesh covered timber frame into the shelves of my little meat safe. In a day or two when the soap can come out of its molds I will place the soap into the safe and leave it until late June.

Meanwhile we have a plentiful supply of homemade soap to keep us clean.  I will make the next batch when I have space to store it.  

I'd like to teach soap making - I have taught friends and family - but am thinking about classes. Let me know if you are interested!


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