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!