Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 Photo Challenge Week 8

This week's themes

47 - From where I stand - if not in the literal sense, from where I stand this jam was a huge success. First ever attempt worked well and has tasted great.

48 - Routine - or rou-tea-ne. A good cup of tea is an evening routine.

49 - Bedside - this'd fit into yesterday's theme just as well. I read a little every day before falling asleep. I've since finished one of these.

50 - Fresh - chilies from my garden. Determined to be red chillies too, the green chillies in this photo have since turned a vivid red.

51 - This is so me! - I found these theme a challenge, the phrase isn't really one I'd put to use. But I do love working with bright colours in my crafting... and dreaming up ideas from the leftovers. I guess this fits?

52 - Matching - I made a matching set of cards... I like the minimalist design but a sketch or interesting sticker/object would be easy to add too.

53 - Macro - macro photography is a form I've enjoyed in the past, though I haven't put significant focus into it in some time. It was nice to spend the day running around looking at things a different way. It's gumnut season, and there are many kinds around. I particularly like the caps on this enormous variety.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Photo Challenge Week 7

40 - Energy - I burnt some off in the evening along the river track. I'd like to make this a more frequent occurrence.

41 - This inspires me - I often find street art inspiring, this was done by local artist Jake Sanders for Gawler's Fringe events. I've got a card design sketched out that this inspired, now that the weather's cooled off I'll have to see about making it.

42 - On the wall - I helped a lady put up her exhibition in a library a few years ago - I told her this was my favourite of her works. After I helped her to take it down again, she presented it to me. Such a good memory every time I see it just inside my front door.

43 - Pointy - my most used craft tool, an x-acto knife with a lovely fresh blade in it. I feel more confident with it than I do with a pencil or pen. That said, the circle in the background was cut using an adjustable circle cutter, another most excellent tool.

44 - Temptation - on a very hot day, I felt a great deal of temptation to find a place to immerse myself in water, unfortunately there wasn't a suitable option available. These pigeons found one in the fountain in front of the museum on North Terrace though.

45 - Love - Once again the library in Gawler ran a Blind Date With A Book promotion for Valentine's Day/Library Lovers Day. I made time to sit down with coffee, roses from the garden and some of a favourite chocolate. As hoped, the book 'The Ladies' Paradise' by Emile Zola was one I'd not have picked up on my own. I do love a good chance to try something new and different.

46 - Spot - A lovely spot to spend a couple of evenings this weekend... the laneway event in Gawler in connection with the Fringe, 'The Place Next Door' was nice and relaxed, a pretty ordinary laneway transformed into an art-filled performance venue and hangout spot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Visiting/revisiting various youths (2015 books 11-15)

11 - Andy in Trouble - Freda M Hurt

Andy in Trouble was originally published in the fifties - consequently the language is interesting, styles have changed a lot over time. It is, like many children's books still are, centred around illustrations of a moral concept and consequences of failure to observe the concept, in this case, honesty. Elements of adventure and humour are present, and the story's well told.

When I read this I was spending an evening in the bedroom that had been mine before I left home - it now contains, amongst other things, a bookshelf of my parents' books. I wanted something to read so I picked the first book my hand landed on - this one, complete with original presentation plaque (not from the fifties) inside. I went to find it on Goodreads, and had to add it myself. The author seems to be long since forgotten, but while I won't be anxiously seeking more, it was interesting to see what a book my mother read as a child was like.

12 - Penny Pollard's Diary - Robin Klein and Ann James

Penny Pollard, whose rebellious behaviour drives both parents and teacher up the wall, finally meets a friend and co-conspirator in the last place she expects.

I revisited this after a conversation got me thinking. This is a book I loved when I was younger than Penny is...and was pleased to find Penny's rebelliousness not diminished by time. The original editions were nicer, in my opinion... but if kids since then have enjoyed the book as much as I have, those would have disintegrated years ago.

13 - The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - Ambelin Kwaymullina

In a world risen from the ashes of the one we know, Ashala Wolf, leader of The Tribe, a group of young people with strange abilities who do not wish to submit to society's restrictions, faces interrogation. The interrogation will make use of The Machine, which can pull memories from your head whether you wish to surrender them or not - how do you protect those you love and have responsibility for faced with that?

I'm making a conscious effort to add more Australian content, and more author diversity to my reading this year after noticing that it's been severely lacking. I found this book with that in mind, and I'm glad I did. Writing and story are both executed brilliantly and I'm really, really looking foward to reading the next book - the biggest problem being that the third is not out until August. It'll be tough.

14 - Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City - Guy Delisle

Guy Delisle spent a year living in Jerusalem with his family whilst his wife was working for Medicins Sans Frontieres. This (hefty) volume tells some of the stories and experiences he collected in that time.

After gaining a new perspective reading Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis' I thought it'd be a good idea to read more graphic novels examining parts of the world that I could stand to learn more about. There were some interesting stories here, but the book rambles, and at times it really drags. I would prefer something a bit more concise. Naturally, review opinions on Goodreads (as linked in the title) differ wildly, the highly divided opinions that surround this part of the world only inflame that.

15 - The Intern - Gabrielle Tozer

Josephine Browning longs to be a journalist in newspapers and other such serious publications, but lands an internship for a fashion magazine with a notoriously difficult editor...

If you think this is sounding familiar, you could be forgiven - but don't worry. Despite the similar premise, The Intern isn't a do-over of The Devil Wears Prada, instead it's a mix of believable characters, having to mature in a tough environment and moving away from the people and places that become familiar in school years. This is also, genre-wise, a very long way from my usual reading stomping grounds. Branching out can only be good, both personally and in a professional context as having wider knowledge to help others find the right book is invaluable.

Also, this adds another Australian author to this year's reading in keeping with my goals, the fourth excluding contributors to short story collections.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2015 photo challenge week 6

I decided to try out some of the lists of photo prompts, I chose Fat Mum Slim's list for this month, it's weekly so I started on the 2nd.

33 - Mail - Today's mail included a bunch of advertising junk and a letter for a previous occupant of my house. Instead, I made this card as a birthday/congratulations card. I like sending out mail, both the making of it and giving someone something that wasn't automated in their mailbox.

Using a few reference images for ideas I sketched some (well, many) foxes, eventually got one that I thought would work. I don't usually start from scratch like that, I've got no confidence in my drawing ability so used this as an opportunity to stretch myself. I'm more confident in my knife work and did modify the image slightly at that stage. I'm out of practice and can see minor flaws, but am learning to forgive myself those, especially working on the tiny scale here (nose is 2mm wide). Nobody else seems to notice them so perhaps I can allow myself a little leeway.

34 - Water - I had a few errands to run in the Adelaide CBD, once I was done I took the scenic route back to the railway station to enjoy the weather. This photo is from the Adelaide University footbridge.

35 - Reward - A morning of getting jobs around the house done, so ice cream and some time to read made a good reward. I've finished the book now, fifteenth of the year (!) so I'll be reviewing again soon.

36 - Something blue - detail of the pattern on my plates, bowls etc. Inherited from Nanna, so there are happy memories every day when I use them.

37 - Makes me smile - I took this photo on February 6, Grandpa would have been 100 that day. Grandma, Mum, Dad and I visited the cemetery where Grandpa's ashes are interred, took a new bunch of red silk roses to replace the faded ones, and some red roses we'd grown. This is the one I took. It's the memories that make me smile, and it's a big part of why I love growing roses.

38 - Stripes - Buttons are one of my favourite craft materials. The button necklaces I have made have a wonderful colourful stripy-ness. I pulled some buttons out of my jars to put this picture together. Mmm. Buttons.

39 - In my bag - something to read. Never know when I'll have a quiet moment or need a book-y retreat. I often have e-books for use on the go, but just now I'm slowly making my way through this book.

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 photo challenge week 5

26 - Barbecue in a park, playing cricket and kubb, listening to the hottest 100. Magic. Battery operated radio required so I located my CD/Cassette/Radio from the mid nineties and reacquainted myself with tuning in analogue. The party host tracked down the 6xD batteries needed (apparently a rare size now). Challenge increased as the display is apparently somewhat inaccurate - that photo has it tuned to play 105.5. I was too busy playing cricket and such on the day to take photos, so since the radio played an important part, here it is.

27 - A haircut does wonders for the way I feel about myself. I don't know why,exactly, but it's not something I'm going to complain about. I thought it was time that my photo appeared in my project too. (The one on day 24 wasn't originally intended to be part of it, bit of an afterthought)

28 - Calendars have become part of the Christmas tradition, Mum and Dad get me a different one each year. This one features Monet's work, January was 'The water-lily pond with the Japanese bridge' (1899). A whole month gone... dang.

29 - I'll never get tired of sunsets, you don't even need to go far to appreciate them. This was taken from the end of my driveway. The rest of this commentary's going to head into editing, self-critique and such so if you're not interested, skip ahead ;)
One thing I've been learning this year is how to use my photo editing tools better. If I want a quick edit and I'm on a computer that's cool with the idea, I'll use google's inbuilt stuff (or instagram's), but for better results I'm using GIMP 2.8, rather good set of tools, and free too - I'm mostly editing levels though I also twitched a bit using brightness, contrast, lightness and saturation. Many of my photos, prior to editing, have colours and contrasts that don't really represent what I saw. Learning to use my camera better will help a bit, but editing will always factor in. I'm trying to strike a balance between beautiful colours and pushing things beyond reality. I think this one's a touch overdone - I should have edited it to be more orange than purple as the sky was predominantly orange that evening. It's a nice image that I find visually pleasing, I think the composition's good if not stellar but while enhancing an image is often necessary I want to represent what I saw, which this isn't quite achieving. I'll keep trying...

30 - Movie night at Apex Park in Gawler. It was a lovely night though the turnout was apparently somewhat down from the previous week. While I waited for the sun to set I enjoyed one of the cupcakes... again I realised this photo was very fuzzy when I saw it on a larger screen but I can't retake this. So... here are some flowers I saw on the way too? I got two photos of these, the other is a shade clearer but I prefer the composition of this one.

31 - I bought the wrong kind of feta so rather than have it go to waste, I made spanakopita, a new recipe for me. I'd link you to the recipe but I was rather free with it, halving the quantity, substituting frozen spinach for baby spinach and adjusting a few other things as necessary. Thankfully it's a very forgiving recipe - some cooking is more an art, some cooking is more sciencey... this one seems more at the art end. I think next time I'll add a little grated lemon rind, several recipes included that but the one I used did not. I've not cooked with pastry much before, especially in a savoury context, so I was very pleased with the outcome.

32 - After a night in the fridge, the results were delicious. I'm very proud of the results. I've tried it both cool and warmed, I prefer it warmed in the oven as it causes the pastry to become super-crispy and delicious.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Humour and Humanity - 2015 in books, 6-10

6 - The Five of Us - Quentin Blake

A simple story of five children, told for children, in which each child has some kind of impairment or disability, but the focus is on their ability and how they work together to tackle a difficult situation with the help of these strengths.
Their disabilities are not hidden, nor are they explicitly pointed out. The children are not there as objects of curiosity, to check an inclusion box or act in a sympathetic role. They do not take a side role to 'normal' (whatever that is). Their disabilities do not define them, instead their abilities do. I had heard of this book and wanted to see it for myself - it's by no means perfect, I didn't find the story especially compelling, but there are some great things happening here all the same.

7 - Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

Maud's memory isn't what it used to be. She remembers the name of her daughter and her carer, but she forgets the tea she made, the reasons she went to the shops and many other things. She also writes many notes to herself, trying to hold on to memories that matter or things she must do. Frequently, these notes tell her that her friend Elizabeth is missing, but nobody takes her concerns seriously so whenever she remembers, she sets out to learn more. Meanwhile, the story of a disappearance in her teen years is retold, bit by bit.
This book is written well and the first-hand account of dementia is fascinating. Maud's gradual decline is handled very well. I didn't find the plot especially strong or the revelations (with a particular exception) all that surprising but the strength of writing and perspective more than made up for this.

8 - Brother Sebastian - Chon Day

As mentioned in my last photo post, Brother Sebastian has a strong sentimental value, I was very young when I first read it at Nanna's house. The single panel comics, featuring a light-hearted and mischievous monk are clever and always make me smile. The book isn't that easy to come by, and while looking for this picture I've learned that there were two more volumes published. If I can find them without parting with too many dollars I'd love to read them.

9 - The Hidden Kingdom (Fairest vol. 2) - Bill Willingham

This tells Rapunzel's tale, though not the one you know best. The character from the Fables series has rather more to her than you might recall from the fairy tale. She is drawn back to a past life, travelling to Japan to chase down the origin of a cryptic note about her missing children, backed up by a number of other characters from the Fables series.
Whilst this was not a perfect story by any means, for example, I don't understand why Jack is continually inflicted on more and more volumes in this series, he's consistently awful. Despite that it was a big improvement over the first volume. To sum up, the stories told in it were allegedly the stories of the women of Fables, but each was male viewpoint and centred around a male experience of that character. This story avoids a repetition of that (if you ignore the short story in the back, and I really recommend you do) and explores some interesting ideas. I hope that the series continues the trend, but I'll have to report back on that when I've read more.

10 - Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook - Terry Pratchett

Detailing tips for humans, trolls, dwarves and other species travelling on the newly established railway service on the Discworld, descriptions of stations and towns along the way with suggested itineraries, this travel guide ties in nicely to 'Raising Steam', the most recent Discworld novel.
Having read at least some of the Discworld books, including 'Raising Steam' is a prerequisite for the understanding and enjoyment of this book. I enjoyed it very much, especially the early sections. The itineraries varied in interest level, though I'm certain I missed plenty of humourous references I enjoyed those I did find very much.

2013 photo challenge week 4

Some memories, some gardening and some catching up with this project...

19 - A photo for the 19th didn't really work out, so instead I have this comic from Brother Sebastian by Chon Day. It was published in the 1950s, and one of the books on my Nanna's bookshelf in the alcove under the stairs. We grandkids could freely choose from this bookshelf whatever we wanted to read when visiting. There were few children's books, though I do recall one of those books that will put in custom names done with Nanna and her friends - a particularly gruesome Readers Digest book of dangerous animals was one of the favourites, as was this one. While the books from that shelf have now gone many different ways I still have this one and the memories.

20 - Chilis, growing in my garden. Back in November the bush was a tiny seedling in a jam-jar on the trading table at The Breakfast Rave. Now it's closing in on half a metre in height and covered in chilis, the longest of which has reached 12cm-ish in length. I have no idea what the variety, how firey they will be or how long they'll take to ripen so this will be a bit of an adventure. This isn't the photo I took on the 20th, when viewed on a better screen it proved to be horribly fuzzed. If you're desperate to see that it's on my Instagram account. Many of the photos for this project go up there on the day.

21 - Rose variety - Hannah Gordon (a floribunda variety). Before Christmas both of my rose bushes were in a bad way - signs of spider mites, black spot and general stress. They weren't flowering. This one was far worse than the other, and I was afraid I'd lose it - they are special to me as they remind me of several family members living and gone who have an amazing way with roses. Thankfully with treatment, movement to a different spot with less heat bouncing off the wall, pruning and fertiliser they both recovered and are now thriving. This one's covered with flowers, and such pretty flowers they are. I'll no doubt tell you about the other later.

22 - Most weeks I drop by the library to pick up holds, browse and say hello. It's usually the library in Gawler, as it was this week, but sometimes I go further afield. I particularly like the Adelaide City branch in Rundle Mall. I am so glad I have this opportunity. It brightens a day and I would not be able to read so much without libraries.

23 - I go walking in Dead Man's Pass quite often. I'm Fortunate to have such a wonderful park nearby. It's full of birds, peaceful and has plenty space for walking and cycling. Clicking on the photo should display it full size.


24 - Amazing day. I had my first ever ride in a limo and went to the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. The entire evening (a Christmas gift) was wonderful, great experiences throughout and immersion in wonderful live music (with added monsters). I couldn't stop smiling, the weeping angel told me off for it, but I'm not apologising for having a good time! The third photo (taken while people were still arriving) was the one I planned to use for the day but I just had to put the other two in... 

25 - A morning spending quality time with a kitten, but there were errands to run so despite the sleeping kitten in my lap I headed into town. The final stage of the Tour Down Under was on - I hadn't realised but managed to catch the first few laps and have my errands done in time to see the last few and the presentation. Another great day!

P.S. I'm a shade behind because of reasons. Catching up ASAP!