Monday, May 23, 2011

It arrived!

On a dully and drizzly day I headed out to buy more supplies for my summer project (yes, summer! so why is it drizzly and dull?!) . On the way out I went to check my letterbox and found this lovely letter from Hermine waiting for me. Not being able to wait, I opened it while waiting for the train. The other passengers must have wondered why I smiled so happily to myself. I guess no one sent them feathers, lace and lovely things. They are missing out:

A lovely lace doily. I love the dark blue.

There were also sequins, photos and pumpkin seeds.

I will have to keep Mrs Grey and Beaky away from those pumpkin seeds, or I think they will eat them! They are extra hungry these days as they have chicks to feed and eggs to lay.

A Weaving Sampler

I've started weaving lessons with Colette and wove up 3 yards of sampler on a 4 shaft table loom. At first my selvedges were wonky and my patterns uneven (I kept forgetting where I was in the sequence of lifting one up and pressing another down!). But by the end of the 3 yards I was feeling pretty good. I tried out a bunch of different things and experimented with some bits of wool I had around and my favourite bamboo viscose. The warp was a linen/cotton blend and I also used this for the first 1.5 or so yards of the weft.

My nice wonky beginnings.

Trying out some colours and diamond patterns. This is the wool left over from the Mr's warm winter hat.

This is with a bamboo viscose weft. It has a nice sheen and turns out really soft. I am really happy with this. It would make a lovely soft drapey shawl.

Zigzags - I love!

The whole 3 yards.


Sometimes things I make don't work out. Either they don't turn out how I imagine them to be or they just don't suit me when I finish them. The summer camisole is one of the latter. It turned out rather like the picture and fits me okay. But it just doesn't suit me. I hardly ever wear camisole tops anyway, so I don't know what I was thinking with this one. Actually I know exactly what I was thinking: it looks great in the picture on the model, therefore it will also look great on me. Well, turns out it doesn't. In addition, the acrylic stretched out something horrid and the side seams are far from straight. This would annoy me immensely if I were wearing it.

So I decided to cut my losses and remove the crochet trim and undo the top back to the armholes to make a square cushion cover. Can't go wrong with cushion covers. But I took some photos before I undid it so you can see how it turned out. The camisole would have been nicer in bamboo or linen, but I'm glad I didn't waste $50 on buying that only to turn it into a cushion cover!

The pattern has a very nice trim, but a little too frilly for me.

The scalloped hem is also nice, but once again, not for me.

I widened the shoulder straps and it worked out well. The thinner straps in the pattern probably wouldn't have held up with the heavier acrylic anyway.

The finished camisole. Here you can see how horridly the acrylic stretched out and how far the side seams are off!

So I'm now working on my cushion cover. I think I'll make it a button top one and maybe with a flap closure... Failure is just a new opportunity.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Freak Out.

I don't use a lot of beauty products or wear much makeup. In fact, on a daily basis I don't wear makeup and use just a couple of things. Ever since I read 'Slow Death by Rubber Duck' a year ago, I've been trying to reduce my chemical load. So no microwaving things in plastic, less takeaways, no polystyrene and when I have to buy a drink out I choose one in glass which I then recycle. Obviously this is not fool proof and I still consume large amounts of plastic encased products. The supermarkets wrap half their fresh produce in plastic too, so its hard to avoid. Tinned fish has a layer of plastic inside the tin. But I try.

Recently a friend was searching for more environmentally and health friendly shampoos. I suggested the shampoo I've been using for years, only to find that the nasty things in that shampoo (marketed as both organic and natural) made it one of the most dangerous things I own! In fact, I would have been better off washing my hair with dish detergent as that would have been safer! This started me thinking. If I've been buying 'natural' and 'organic' products for years (and at higher prices) but they are far from that then I've been cheated and its possibly been bad for my health. If you want to check out your own products you can type the name into this data base here and it will give your product a rating from 0 (safe) to 9 (run away!). My shampoo was rated 8 and my body wash was rated 9! And both had the (I now know meaningless) words 'natural' and 'organic' on the label.

I eventually came across this book in an effort to better inform myself as to what I'm sticking on my head, skin and lips:

This book is well written and understandable. It has lots of links and suggestions for safer alternatives. So I decided to try some new safer (hopefully) products.

Left to Right:
Olivia's Oasis Olive oil soap - this brand's other products don't look so safe, but the soap is a simple mix of salts, olive oil and water. It works too and isn't drying like liquid body wash can be. Smells a bit like old olive oil though the smell doesn't stay too long on your skin.

Tom's of Maine Deodorant - Not too bad. I still sweat (apparently sweating is normal!) and by 8-12 hours later I'm a little stinky. If I were to be going out in the evening, I'd re-apply it. In tropical Singapore, I'd reapply at lunch-time. I'm not majorly stinky, but we shall see, as it may change over time. I've been using this for 2 weeks only. I've tried natural rock crystal deodorants before but those really don't work for me. So I hope this works. I don't want to put aluminium under my arms anymore.

*EDIT* - tested the deodorant on a very hot day (30+ C) walking outdoors and was not stinky. This is good stuff.

Jason Aloe Vera Gel: So my previous aloe vera gel (labelled '100% pure aloe vera') contained formaldehyde in two different forms. Formaldehyde is used in laminate (yellow) glue and preserving laboritory specimens. I don't think it should go on your face. This aloe vera gel is a nice texture (not too sticky) and absorbs well. Good body moisturiser.

Green Beaver Green Tea and Aloe Face Moisturiser - My previous facial mositurisers are okay in terms of chemicals, but are not great for my skin, as they makes my face alternately oily and dry. This moisturiser is light and absorbs really easily. I've very sensitive skin and to have a moisturiser not burn my face is amazing. Plus this makes my skin soft and smooth. I'll be buying a few tubes of this to take back to Singapore.

Jason Sea Fresh Toothpaste - I love the taste of this toothpaste. I actually feel more motivated to brush my teeth because of it! It has a slightly bitter taste like chinese herbs that little kids may not like (the company makes apple flavour and mandarin or something for kids). My previous really famous brand toothpaste contains Triclosan which is a nasty anti-bacterial that has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. It is also bad for the environment. When you stick something in your mouth, you want to be sure its safe.

And shampoo you ask? I'm trying the bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar method. I'm slowly weaning my hair off shampoo entirely by alternating shampoo (don't worry, I switched brands to a less toxic one!) with the soda and vinegar. My hair seems to be responding okay, but by the second day of soda and vinegar washing it's looking a little greasy. My scalp though is loving the less severe conditions and is slowly regaining its moisture balance. The vinegar smells pretty strong though so I've been adding a few drops of lavender oil to mask the smell. If you want to try the soda and vinegar method there is lots of info here. I hope one day to be poo-free!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Greys

Sir Thomas: Oooh, can we eat it?
Lady Jane: Get out of the photo! I'm trying to pose here!

Lady Jane: I want to look slimmer than the last photo

Lady Jane: And taller. Slimmer and taller. That's it.
Sir Thomas: Nope, no food. (Walks off in disgust).

And I am pleased to report that her Ladyship and the good Sir have been coming individually to my balcony this week. Normally they are always together. There can only be one conclusion: they are nesting! Yes folks, somewhere nearby are a couple of eggs or chicks that the Greys are anxiously watching over. I think they are first time parents, cause they are much later than the McGraws, who already have teenage chicks this spring. I wonder what the Grey's chicks will look like? So exciting to wait and see. I think it should be about 4-6 weeks before they can fly enough to follow their parents to visit me :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beaks McGraw

After some negotiation the other day, Beaks and I came to an agreement about whether I could take a portrait of her to put on my blog. She was finally persuaded after I told her she would be famous. Turns out pigeons are as fond of the limelight as reality tv contestants. So we tried a few photos and she tested her best angle and a few poses. She was at first not too sure of the camera and eyed it nervously and considered whether she should slap the camera up a bit to teach it who is boss, but decided against it.

So how did Beaks end up with her name? Well, sometime before 7am on Tuesday the 19th of April, Beaks and another unknown pigeon had a fight. In pigeon fights they often go for the beak and hang on tight so as to swing the other pigeon around. I think what happened with Beaks as she somehow got swung so hard that her lower beak snapped off. So I woke up to find a shocked and bleeding pigeon, puddles of blood all over my balcony and a bunch of other pigeons wondering what happened and trying to look innocent. Before I could get a good look at Beaks, she shook off the blood and flew off. I saw her later that day when I took this photo:

Amazingly, she was still trying to eat despite not being able to pick up food. She stopped dripping blood a few hours later, but was spitting blood for a day or two later. I thought she would simply die from shock overnight. That night the temperatures dropped below zero and we had a hail storm. But next morning she was back with the rest of the flock looking for food. As she couldn't eat by herself I extended a hand of bread to her. At first she simply run away from me. But two days later she was hungry enough to try. Several hours of cold fingers later we managed to work out a system. So we have a routine now. Water soaked whole wheat bread in the morning (half a slice!) because she also can't drink properly (pigeons suck up water through thier beaks like a straw). Then I have a little container of seeds and lentils and peas for her in the afternoon. She's a messy eater though:

Seed carnage! And, not on any terms am I to take away the container before she is done or I get a slapping (she grunts and slaps me with her wing when she is not happy). Pigeons also slap lower rank pigeons away from food (I guess I'm a lower rank pigeon to her!). I've started to grunt back at her though :P

Regardless of weather, Beaks comes to visit for breakfast. I get very cold fingers.

If you look closely in this picture Beaks has her eyes shut and she is licking her chops. Pigeon tongues are long and thin and seem to be partly retractable. Beaks uses hers for grabbing hold of seeds now she has no lower beak. The injury seems to be healing nicely. She is also now able to eat a bit on her own. My aim is to ensure she can eat well enough to feed by herself by the time I have to leave Montreal, but I don't know how possible that is.

Beaks looking demure and kind.

Beaks trying the head to one side 'kawaii' look

Beaks brings the whole family to visit. Just before her injury she laid two eggs and hatched two chicks. Fortunately dad 'Chubbs' was able to step in with feeding the little ones after Beaks was injured. Chubbs is in the middle ground of the photo, Beaks in front and the chick's behind Chubbs. Apparently pigeons share parenting responsibilities and marry for life. Though, I must say that Chubbs has made more than a few passes at other females in the last few weeks and shortly after the injury was ignoring Beaks quite a lot. Though to his credit, he did bring her back to see me after the injury, perhaps knowing I could help. Since then he as stuck by her (and eaten by her without pushing...well, not pushing much) and has been very snuggly these last few days. Chubbs may have plans for another set of chicks before the summer is out...

Anyway, I've named the two chicks Ariel (after the little mermaid, as she has big eyes and is very cute) and Spotty (cause she has lots of white spots on her tummy). I've no idea of course if the chicks are male or female, so Ariel could be Arthur for all I know. The chicks have big eyes and big beaks like they haven't grown into them yet. They also have paler feet and legs than the parents. They are growing fast though and learning the ways of the pigeon world. Spotty is now pushing with the rest of the adults for food and even chased Lady Grey the other day! (Lady Grey fought back and pecked Spotty behind the ear, to make sure Spotty learned her lesson). The chicks still chirp though rather than coo. Which is very lovely.