Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yarra Valley

Flying into Australia. The first sight of my homeland in 2 years. Its beautiful.

Headed straight to a wedding in the Yarra Valley, just outside Melbourne. Stunning place. The wedding was beautiful, the food was great and the dancing was enthusiastic and awkward as was promised on the wedding invite!

My trusty vintage Oroton handbag packs flat, is sturdy and can fit a camera, wallet, phone, lipstick and even a small snack if I need to! And it only cost me $4 at a Thrift store. Best handbag for special occasions - ever. My favourite dress too from Australian designer Alannah Hill.

It wouldn't be Australia without some wildlife hanging around somewhere. I think this is an Eastern Grey Kangaroo. Its definitely a male as he was so big and tall. Two smaller kangaroos were nearby - probably his wife and child.

After the wedding we went to visit the Chandon vineyard. It was so beautiful (and the wine is alright too).

 This little fellow was cleaning up all the little bugs and spiders in the wine-making shed at Chandon. You can see she has a mouthful of bugs. She was hopping around everywhere to collect them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spotted Dove (Spilopelia Chinensis)

I spotted this cutie wandering about in the grass near the carpark at my office. She was determined to evade me, though I carefully stalked her around a tree and past three parked cars. When I finally got the camera pointed at her she was not amused. If you look at her eyes you can see her alarm and general freaked-out-ness (oops!). You can also see by her posture that she is not a relaxed dove - she is on edge!

So she quickly high-tailed it out of there. First at a brisk walk, then a run and soon after flew off as quickly as her wings could take her. Poor thing, I only wanted to admire her!

Look what I made!

When I was in Canada, I took one lesson in hand-spinning with a drop spindle. I found my spindle and bags of 'Top' when I was unpacking my boxes last week. Happily reunited with my tools and with a sudden desperate desire to make something right now, I sat down to make some thread. 

My previous attempts at making yarn had been quite thick, in the realm of 'bulky' or 'chunky' weight. I had only made yarn usable with a 8-10mm hook/needle. So this time I tried to make my thread as thin as possible. I had trouble keeping the thread thin without breaking while I was spinning. In fact, the thread broke about 5 times while I was spinning, but I managed to spin it back together. 

Finally I made a long length of thread and plied it together to make a 2 ply yarn. I'm happy to report that this yarn is definitely in the 'sport' or 'light worsted' range. I can use it with a 3.5mm crochet hook quite easily. So I'm very pleased with myself. A list of standard yarn weights and all sorts of useful things can be found on the Craft Yarn Council's Website. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Swifts in the Rain

This is my first time trying to add a video. Sorry its a bit pixellated, but I didn't want it to be a huge file.

In the video you can hear some birds chirping quite loudly (I think the chirping is coming from some Asian Mynah's sheltering somewhere in my building!) and the sound of heavy rain in the background. The House Swifts are busy circling above the hill in the rain.

House Swifts (Apus Affinis)

A huge congregation of swifts was over my hill today.

These little fellows are fast. Real fast. There is a good reason why they are called swifts. They are the sprinters of the bird world. They never keep still. So I guess they would more accurately be the marathon sprinters of the bird world.

For some reason they love to fly in the rain! This is not the first time I've observed them flying in heavy rain.

Even the pro's have trouble photographing them because they are so small and fast! Photo from here.

They have a distinctive wing shape which makes them easy to identify, they are like little spear-heads. These little guys also have bits of white on their otherwise all black bodies - on their throat and the top of their backs. They are only 14-15cm long from beak to tail, so they are quite small. I worry about them flying about in lightening and thunder, but I guess they know what they are doing! (It's a mystery to me!). I suppose they are very tough and brave little birds as they are the only ones I see flying in lightening storms. Most birds take shelter long before the rain starts and are no where to be found when its pouring down.

Sometimes they fly close to my window, within 2 metres and I get a very quick close-up glimpse of them. Happiness!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Banded Woodpecker (Picus miniaceus)

This little fellow, the Banded Woodpecker, hopped around the tree outside my office window for several minutes, pecking away. (He's on the right fork of the tree on the right-hand side perched on a little bump in the branch, about 1/3 and 1/3 from the top right corner, if you can't see him!). He was stunning. Deep maroon red with a bright yellow crest on his head and neck. But I didn't have my camera with me, only my phone, so this is the best I could do. 

This is to give you some idea of the woodpecker's lovely-ness. My woodpecker (yes mine!) though appeared to have a much bigger and much yellower crest than this one. Perhaps its a boy bird/girl bird thing., the boys tend to be prettier!

According to my bird book (New Holland Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia) these fellows like broad-leaved evergreen forests in lower altitudes and are quite common. Though my office hardly qualifies as a forest (though my files do get untidy sometimes!), the campus is quite green and has many large trees. Apparently both boys and girls have crests but the girls are more brown than red, so I think my woodpecker must have been a boy. I hope he returns when I have my proper camera with me!

A little more Christmas

I was about to throw away all these sticky notes. Then I realised that they were all the same size and colour (except two of them) and they were still sticky. They were all written on and not reusable for general reminders. Then I remembered last Christmas' Sticky-Note Christmas Tree. I thought to myself - who says you can't have an office Christmas tree? What would be more appropriate than a sticky-note tree for the office? So I got sticking...

I found a little spot on the column above my calendar next to my desk. The pink and yellow notes became the trunk and star. Of course Christmas Trees have pink trunks and purple leaves!

I even made a star by folding a long sticky-note flag into a 3D diamond shape. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Hopefully its not all fallen on the floor on Monday!

A Tale of 3 Vases

Today I bring to you the story of three very different vases from three very different times...

The first is a vase that belonged to my great grandmother. Its not an expensive vase. Its not particually well made or finished. The printed pattern is fuzzy and uneven. But it belonged to her. It used to have a lid, but that got broken. I think it was designed to store sweets or perhaps small trinkets. When I look at it I think of her. She died when I was 2 years old, but I have memories of her. Of her house and garden and of her goat... This is the memory vase. Its a vase of my past, threads that I carry around with me of where I come from. I keep it to remind me of where I come from, now that I've strayed so far from home.

The second vase was given to me by my sister when I first moved out of home and set up my own place with the Mr. The vase is uncompromisingly an 'architects' vase. The sort of vase you might put twigs and pieces of artfully laser-cut cardboard in rather than flowers. Its structural and angular. It is a vase of promise - of a stylish designer life with perfect everything. This too is a world I've left behind. Its been a decision. I'm not that type of designer. I'm not that rigorous with aesthetics. I care more about heart than form. Its a vase from an alternative life. I keep it to remind me of these things, to never put form before heart.

The third vase was given to me just yesterday. It was unearthed by one of the Mr's aunts during a clean up. Its turkish leaded crystal, still in its original box, dating from probably the 1980s. Its heavy and expensive. Its the vase of a sort of settled, rooted, permanent life I know I'll never have. Its a vase to go with fine china, silver spoons and afternoon teas. Its a vase from another age. Its a vase of another life I've decided to leave behind. I'm not that type of wife, nor home making extrodinaire. I have my silver spoons and forks, but I'm as likely to use them to eat cereal as to serve delicate petit fours. I believe in using precious things everyday. This vase I'll keep to use for my twigs and roses. Its a reminder to live fully, now.

And what vase would I reach for the most? Probably it would be an ordinary old bottle that I've pulled out of the recycling bin at the last minute because I've found an interesting branch or flower or paper leaf I've made. The recycled bottle reminds me not to be attached to things. That things are not important in the scheme of it all.

Selvedge Magazine project image from here

This I what I plan to make to put into one of these vases, fabric flowers (free tutorial here at Selvedge Magazine). I've finally started to get to the bottom of my boxes and unearth my fabric scraps and wire and felt pieces and things for making. I've missed making things so much these past few months!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Its starting to look a little like Christmas...

I put my Christmas tree up recently. 
She is a modest little fellow. 
Her name is Clementine, the Cypress Pine. 
She is just 45cm tall and I decorated her in gold and red. She has a little garland that I made from thin gold thread and white plastic snowflakes that I cut out of a Starbucks Christmas cup (a little recycling is always good!).
How did the year go by so fast? I'll never know...
It is just under 3 weeks until I go home for the first time in 2 years...can't wait!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bright Skies and Chocolate Cake

Project 'Unpack' is going slowly. The Mr. has been working 7 days a week and I've been working 6. Its a struggle to get anything done, let alone tackle the boxes. But we will get there. 

Here is a picture of the view from my kitchen window. This is a very rare sort of view in Singapore, a land of 4-5million people squished into 700square km of space. About 90% of people live in high-rise apartments, close together and all you see is into the next block of apartments. But the Mr. and I were very blessed, we got a view. Our hill is treed and lush, with lots of birds flying past. Unfortunately the birds are flying past so fast I can't catch them on camera! But they are there. I see Black Streaked Orioles, lots of Swifts, Pigeons and Doves, big seabirds and I'm sure once I saw an Eagle! Pictures will come eventually, once I get one of them to sit still somewhere!

The other reason I have been slow to unpack is that I'm still sick. My digestive system seems to have issues with the concept of eating. I've found out I'm allergic to eggs, wheat and am lactose intolerant. I'm also unable to eat any type of grain at the moment. Add to that the fact that I'm a vegetarian (or pescatarian really) and I'm struggling to find food to eat. I was so happy when I found this cake recipe which has no wheat, dairy or eggs. I baked the cake today and I love it. I'm so happy as I have a sweet tooth and was missing my cakes. Like my other creative projects, I made some changes to the instructions for the cake and substituted a whole bunch of different ingredients (partly to save cost, partly cause I don't like bananas!). It still turned out great. Its a really moist and juicy cake, like a brownie.

So I'm slowly learning how to cook without eggs, grains and milk. I've made veggie burgers, tofu scramble and eggplant stew. I'm taking it as another creative challenge. I cook like I crochet - experiment, swap things, change that, see how it turns out!

On the crochet front, I'm making a cushion cover for my couch. Its colourful and will have a tri-stripe back and a bobble stripe front. This is the back. I'm using really chunky wool, so its going quickly!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A little skeleton leaf I found on the pathway. 
This is one of the nicest ones I've found. 
Its been almost completely eaten up.
Its so delicate and beautiful.
Like fine lace.
Can we make anything as beautiful as even the half-munched left-overs of nature?
I'm inspired (and more than a little humbled)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Those little shrooms just grew there...

As I rushed hither and thither
I came across these shrooms
So tiny and so small
they almost didn't look like shrooms at all!

White and shell like
hidden amongst the leaves
minding neither hide nor hare
those little shrooms just grew there!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another project...

The Mr and I just moved into our own place. Right now its box-town and not quite ready to be shown to the world. But here is a picture of my floor. Its the original floor from the first owner who had it put in in 1984. Its a nice white and grey/beige terrazzo tile. Since this photo was taken 10 days ago we have had it polished and its nice and shiny and pretty. I'm tired from the moving and unpacking, but my mind is thinking of all the little projects that I want to do to make this place a nice comfortable home...but first I need to finish unpacking all those boxes...

It is so so so nice to sit at your own table in your own kitchen in your very own house.

The birds around here are nice too, some new types to share with you soon and some old friends fly past regularly. The Asian Koel sings all day and I heard night birds last night, but I don't know what they were... Once I unpack, I'll search my bird book to find out who it was.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Some October Birds

We have had some feathery visitors these past few days and I'd like to share some of them with you.

Today I saw a turquoise coloured Kingfisher, two Hawks and a elegant white Heron, but I didn't get a chance to take time...

Green Pigeon surveying the neighbourhood.

I spy with my little and white birdy tries to hide from me!

Next door's garden looks tasty...

New mystery bird! I think it might be an Oriental Magpie Robin - nice clear picture here. The site also has some lovely pictures of other Singapore birds (much nicer, clearer photos than mine!).

Zebra Dove getting stuck into the grass seeds..

A family of four came to graze in the garden...I was so happy I couldn't talk!

Four in one flowerpot - they were all tucking into the grass seeds. So much cuteness at once!

I'm spotted! But they didn't care, just kept on eating. (I was sneaking behind the curtain to take the photo, the four of them were just a metre away!).

Today I saw a bird-catcher in the street. I hope he didn't get any of my little friends. These guys come around and put seeds out and a little wire trap and the birds leg gets caught in the trap while they eat. The guys then grab the birds and take them away to sell them in the market as pets. Poor birdies!

(Though when I looked, all the pigeons and doves in the neighbourhood were perched on my neighbour's roof watching the bird-catcher! I think they knew to keep well away!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pretty Pretty

I love this dress from Primozea so much. Its simple, but with enough nice little details to be interesting like the keyhole button closure at the back and the little ruffle sleeves. You can see the Primozea shop here (that's where the photos are from too). It comes in two colours (grey and oatmeal) both knit in alpaca yarn.. Oh, it would be so soft and lovely to wear. I love the way it is styled in the photos too- with the little striped or floral tshirt underneath. I'd love to buy this but its not a practical dress for the tropics...though I could just stay inside in the air-condioning the whole time I wear it...Its just so lovely...Is it wrong to suffer to wear a cute dress?!!

Bleh. (and some knitting)

So I'm still sick. I've been poked, prodded, x-ray-d, had my insides photographed and taken far more medicine than I would like to. But the good news is that I'm finally starting to feel a little better. I started September with a virus which turned into asthma/haze-induced breathing problems and ended in a stomach ulcer and some very irritated insides. I'm currently only able to eat baby food and am sleeping 10 hours a day and spending the rest of the day lying on the couch or sleeping. 

However, all this resting time has meant I've had time to read (in between my sneezing and coughing fits) and plenty of knitting (in between my naps!) has resulted in my enforced resting time. Cause, there's only so much Spongebob a girl can watch without going mad and I can't just sit on the couch all day and look at birds (well, I can for an hour or two!).

I finished my cardigan. Finally a prefect tropical-weight cardigan that is comfortable and weights only 100g. Its good for stuffing in my bag (as you never know when you need a cardigan). Though I've had to be careful with the bag-stuffing as I pulled a thread on a pencil in my bag! (I used a crochet hook to carefully persuade it back to its rightful place - cardigan rescue accomplished!)

The yarn is the softest silk-alpaca blend and is warm without being sticky-warm. The pattern is from KnitScene magazine but I modified it a bit by lengthening the sleeves to wrist-length and adding a second band of garter stitch trim. I also adjusted the pattern for my thinner yarn (the pattern calls for something much more medium-weight and I used lace-weight).

I had to go with red buttons - they remind me of sweets and my primary school uniform. I loved my first primary school uniform - it was red and white check cotton in summer with 4 big red buttons down the front.  I wore it with a red cardigan and red socks (though most of the other kids wore grey cardigans and socks). I like to think I was a trend-setter from way back, but in reality, it was just what my mum put me in.

I've been busy knitting baby vests. Lost of friends and family are having babies at the moment and this pattern from Interweave Knits from about 2-3 years ago is easy to make and I found it a  fun canvas to experiment with colours. I've knit this about 8 times now, so the pattern is in my head. Its good for when you are sick to have knitting patterns that you don't have to think about. I've just been enjoying watching the coloured stripes blossom.

The latest series of baby vests.

This one is a 'spare' vest. I'm stockpiling vests for when the Mr. and I finally have babies of our own. I dream of a whole week's worth of hand-knitted vest goodness with matching hand knitted nappy/diaper covers. 

This vest is knit with red raw silk and natural coloured soya fiber. I think my future babies will appreciate that when they are puking on it! Hahaha.

This one is for a friend. For a baby girl. This vest is knit with a bamboo/cotton blend so its soft but sturdy.

And so is this one. I don't think baby girls have to wear pink always. Blue and green are nice too (and so are red, orange, yellow and natural cotton). This one is a mix of bamboo/cotton and natural cotton.

I've also got plans for a third baby -girl vest (its baby girl season apparently). But that one will have to wait until I unpack my yarn box from Canada :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunbirds Again

I finally managed to get a picture of one of my friendly local Sunbirds. This is a boy - he has a glossy blue black bib. I snapped about 30 pictures but he is so small, that the camera had trouble focusing on him and most of the photos turned out blurry. These are the best photos but he's still a little fuzzy. Still you can see how small he is - about 2 inches from beak to tail!