Procrastinators of the world, unite … tomorrow

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What do you do when you have a squillion and one things on your to-do list and deadlines breathing down your neck?

Why, you start crocheting a random shawl, of course. Despite the fact you’ve never worn a shawl in your life. And summer is approaching, and said shawl could not possibly be worn for another six months.

Hello, my name is Marina and I’m a terrible procrastinator. Well, actually I’m a darn good one. It’s my habit of procrastinating that’s terrible, and it seems the more urgent the tasks hanging over my head are, the more likely I am to skive off and do something else completely. It’s as if the weight of everything hanging over my head paralyses me and makes me incapable of doing anything.

I am enjoying crocheting again, though!

And the situation isn’t quite as dire as I’m painting it. I’ve written two scenes in Moonborn since my last post. Should have been more, of course, but two is better than none, and I only have five to go. I’ve finished the read-through of the first draft of Fairytale Curse 2, which is the first step in my revision process. I also finished up a beta read of a friend’s novel, so I haven’t spent all my time crocheting.

Funny thing about that, though. I realised some time ago that all my creative pursuits have fallen by the wayside since I got serious about this writing thing. No more quilting, crochet or scrapbooking. Each of those has been a huge part of my life at one time or another, and I miss the colour. I’m a very visual person. I love playing with fabric, and seeing a piece of art emerge under my hands. It still thrills me when I look over a piece of crochet forming and marvel that this object is taking shape from a single strand of yarn. I miss the tactile nature of practical crafts. Making up worlds and people in your head is a very different kind of creativity, and even though I love that, life has felt like it’s missing something since I started focusing so exclusively on it.

And sometimes, particularly when deadlines are looming, even the most creative enterprise can still feel like work. That’s when a hobby, something you do just for fun, no pressure, can be a wonderful release. Whether it’s baking, woodwork, gardening or crochet, there’s nothing like the feeling of creating something with your hands, and the quiet, contemplative nature of such creation makes a great stress release.

So maybe my shawl wasn’t so random. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of telling me to stop and smell the roses a little. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

What activities do you turn to when you need to chill out?

Giving a hoot for charity

Some hospitals have programs where quilters donate quilts for children with cancer. When a new patient is admitted they get to choose a quilt to keep, to have something personal to brighten up their often long and arduous hospital stays.

My quilting group decided to make such a quilt, and gave me the job of designing it and choosing fabrics. Knowing my weakness for owls, they cunningly suggested an owl theme to make the job more appealing.

How could I resist? I turned, of course, to the internet, and good old Google did not disappoint. There are so many generous quilters out there offering patterns and tutorials for free. I found the cutest little owl applique here. Originally intended for a bib, it made a perfect quilt block once it was enlarged.

Look at this little guy! Isn’t he gorgeous?

 

That’s the one I made. I found a great stripey fabric in bright bold colours to go between the owls. I gave everyone a plain background piece and asked them to make their owls in colours to go with the stripey fabric. Here are a few of the gorgeous little owls I got back:
 Putting it all together was nice and simple. Baby Duck and I had a lovely time rearranging owls to get the most pleasing design. (Taking a picture was tricky, though. Apologies for the less-than-stellar photography here. One of the lovely ladies in the group is quilting it at the moment. Hopefully I can get a better photo when it’s finished.)
 
 I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I hope that it’ll brighten some sick kid’s day. It certainly made me smile. Those owls are so adorable!

Creativity just for fun

Ever get that feeling that you have too many things you have to do? Too many responsible and grown-up tasks grinding you down? That feeling can be death to the creative urge.

That’s when you need to bust out and do something completely pointless, just for fun. I found just such a thing on Lynn Viehl’s blog recently: the instructions to make a cute little “journal” of eight tiny pages from a single sheet of A4 paper.

So for a couple of hours I gave the to-do list the flick and played with pen and watercolours instead, decorating some of my favourite quotes.

 

You can see how little it is.

 

 

 

This was the perfect-sized project for an underdeveloped attention span like mine – quick enough to finish before I got bored and chucked it in the pile with the fifty bajillion other unfinished projects I have.

 

And here’s a photo of the whole thing opened out again.

 

 

 

You could make copies of it this way if you wished. Pretty neat, huh? Or you could do the whole thing on the computer in the first place, and insert photos and/or text, as Lynn did in her example. Lots of possibilities for creative play!

In which I discover the importance of checking the camera battery


This year, for the first time, we went into the city to see Vivid, which is a light show where several public buildings are lit up with spectacular effects. The most notable of them is the iconic Sydney Opera House, but naturally my camera battery chose to die the very moment I raised my camera to start taking photos of it. If you’d like to see it, check out the gorgeous photos on Patty Jansen’s blog.
My goodness, you should have seen the crowds! I knew it was popular, but I didn’t expect the sheer number of people. Talk about bigger than Ben Hur!
This is Customs House, looking very different to its usual prim nineteenth century self. The kids had been unenthused about the prospect of going into town just to see some buildings lit up, but they were enthralled by the ever-changing displays.
You can hardly tell this is the same building.
This is the Museum of Contemporary Art:
It was really very clever. The Opera House was particularly beautiful. Those big white sails lend themselves very readily to this kind of thing. Shame I HAVE NO PHOTOS. Stupid battery.
I’m determined to go back next year. I might even take the good camera and tripod.
What the heck – I might even charge the #$!!@# battery.

Crochet beanie

One of the best things about being a parent is getting to embarrass your children. Think of it as payback for all the scenes they caused as toddlers, or the times they repeated something they shouldn’t have, or behaved more like small ferocious animals than human beings.
I felt the urge to crochet the other night, and finished off a beanie I started last winter.
I loved the subtle colour changes of the yarn, but felt it needed something more, so I dug through my bag of flower experiments and came up with this pink and blue one. Good match, huh?

So I sewed it on, then went prancing round the house modelling my new beanie for everyone. I may have gushed a little about my pretty flower.
Drama Duck rolled her eyes in loving scorn.
“Sometimes you act just like a five-year-old,” she said.
Note to self: Must wear beanie in front of all her friends.


Baby Duck’s art show

Every year Baby Duck’s school puts on an art show. It’s very low-key – no champagne opening  night or sales! Just a couple of afternoons after school when you can wander around the school hall and see what the kids have been up to. Each class has a display, but every year until now they’ve been pretty similar. Oh look, kindergarten’s been doing self-portraits. Year 4’s obviously been learning about collage. Display board after display board full of individual drawings/paintings, of little interest unless it’s your child’s work.

I don’t know what happened this year but wow! Somebody lit a bomb under the art show. So much imagination on display! Lots of 3D artworks, lots of different artistic influences, from giant African masks to modern sculpture. It was a real pleasure to walk around and see something new and interesting at every turn.

Baby Duck’s class presented a giant underwater scene.

I heard lots of complaints about the endless balls of crepe paper they put into making this but one proud little duckling couldn’t wait to show it off.

Of course he had to point out which fish he did himself.

Why am I not surprised that his fish is back to front? Always likes to stand out from the crowd, that child.

The brown paper turtle was clever.

And I loved the coral:

One of the year 6 classes made a gorgeous spray-painted tree and hung it with wire-and-bead birds. So pretty and creative:

One of the kindy classes had made monsters out of tissue boxes, where the opening for the tissues was the mouth, rimmed with suitably ferocious teeth. I didn’t take a photo, but they were adorable!

Year 1 also had a bird theme. Not as delicate as Year 6’s, but very cute:

 

And then there were these feathered beauties:

 

It was a great effort. The teachers and kids should be proud of themselves. I know Baby Duck is!

What’s on the wall?

Baby Duck says there are too many linktastic posts on my blog lately, and not enough about important things like him. He has kindly given me many helpful suggestions on what I might write about, from his grand scheme to earn Lego by watering the lawns to his marvellous artworks in the school art show.

Since he is one of my main readers, I guess I’ll have to pull my socks up – but not today. More on the art show anon, but today I’m going to show you the evolution of a quilting “artwork”, in the hopes that this will fire my enthusiasm to finish this one off. It’s been hanging on my design wall for about six months now, and though I still like it, I’m getting sick of looking at it! Time for a change.

This started life as a jelly roll, which is a fancy name for a set of forty 2½ inch strips rolled up into a pretty bundle like this:

I spent about three hours in December last year engaged in what is known as a jelly roll race, where you sew the forty strips end to end into one ginormous long strip, and then go through more sewing stages where the strip gets progressively shorter but wider, till you end up with a random-looking quilt top like this:

 

(Sorry if that explanation made no sense. If you’re interested you can see a video with a much more lucid explanation here.)

I decided to use this as the background for a garden of giant flowers. This was the first iteration:

 

Not quite enough flowers, I thought. My garden looked a little lost and spread out. Back to hacking printed flowers and black circles out of fabric, and a little rearrangement:

 

That looked better, so then I put all the stems in:

 

Mind you, none of this is sewn down yet, only glue-basted on (which is a technique I haven’t tried before: so far, so good. Nothing’s fallen off the wall yet!). The plan is to put the three layers of the quilt together and then attach everything as I quilt – save the step of sewing the quilt top first, then quilting later. Genius lazy plan, I hope. We’ll see if it works.

Then I started adding borders, and of course that was where I stopped – because the creative fun was all over. Adding borders and finishing things off is boring, at least for this attention span-challenged quilter.

But now it’s nearly December again (as Christmas-obsessed Baby Duck delights in pointing out) and way past time to get this down off the wall and into the finished pile. It’s so cheerful and fun. Hopefully soon I can show it to you in all its finished glory!

Happiness is …

Happiness is seeing the first signs of spring.

Of course, I should have posted this about a month ago. The blossoms have all gone now, and spring has well and truly sprung. In fact, it’s having an identity crisis and masquerading as summer, with a forecast high today of 38 (that’s just over 100˚ for all you Fahrenheiters). Ouch. That’s a sweltering summer day.

Nevertheless, we were talking about spring, weren’t we? I love it when the first flowers of spring start to appear.

When I was a kid I had a little ritual. Despite being completely uninterested in gardens any other time of the year, at the beginning of spring I always wandered around the yard looking for new flowers. It was a joy to find those freesias poking through, and to smell their beautiful scent. Some years Mum had jonquils too, or snowdrops, and I would carefully admire and sniff each one (even the ones that had no scent – wouldn’t want them to feel left out!).

 
Not being a gardener, the only pretty flowers in my garden these days are the ones that appear by themselves on trees and shrubs.

But I still like to walk around and admire them all.

Tell me I’m not the only one! Do you have any odd rituals to mark the turning of the seasons?

Poncho power!

I know I’m the queen of the unfinished project, but sometimes I actually do finish things, but forget to tell you about them.

Case in point: This time last year I made Drama Duck a poncho. No particular reason, just that I’d seen one on the internet and it looked like fun. And ponchos did seem to be making a comeback, so … In a lightning-fast three weeks, I whipped one up, and she wore it with joy.

But of course, I have two daughters, don’t I – and making something for one and not the other instantly qualifies you for World’s Worst Mother. Sadly for Demon Duck, I have the attention span of a gnat, and once I’ve made something once I want to move on and try something different, not make the same thing all over again.

I did try. I bought the wool of her choice, but there was no more lightning-fast left in the tank. Back at my usual speed-of-molasses I got it probably three-quarters done before spring arrived and it was too hot for ponchos any more.

This year, feeling a little guilty, I got it out again. It only took a couple of hours to finish it off. Fortunately for me she hadn’t moved on from the whole poncho idea in the intervening year. She even requested a matching beanie, as you can see in the photo. (And I wonder if you can guess what her favourite colour is?)

The beanie was fun, and so quick! I can feel a rush of beanie-making coming on …

Cheeky beggars!

On holidays recently, the Carnivore was cooking bacon for breakfast on the balcony when a whole host of interested parties turned up to supervise the process and loudly demand a share. Who could blame them? Nothing beats the smell of bacon cooking!

Naturally the Carnivore refused to part with any of his breakfast – this man takes meat seriously. That didn’t stop the raucous squawking. There must have been thirty of them. Believe me, thirty rainbow lorikeets make a lot of noise.

 
Pretty little beggars, aren’t they? We shooed them away repeatedly, but they kept coming back, at least till the bacon was gone. Clearly this was a regular gig for them.

 

Some people do encourage them, feeding them bread and other things that are bad for them. We were good and hardened our hearts, except for one member of our party, who offered a single piece of bread to see if he could get one of them to feed from his hand.

 

No problem! If he’d had a bigger hand, there would have been even more willing to oblige. They were fighting for landing space.

And the views from that balcony?

 Spectacular!

 Lucky rainbow lorikeets, that get to live there all the time!

And now I shall put on my English nerd hat: While writing this post it occurred to me how strange it is that “beggar” is spelled with an “ar”. The verb is to beg, and the person (or, in this case, bird) who does it is a beggar. But every other word constructed like this that I can think of ends in “er”: rider, runner, walker, keeper, scorer, chaser, drinker, shooter, killer, knitter, builder, etc, etc.

Damn, but the English language is a squirrelly beast. Can anyone think of any other words that use the “ar” construction?