Turned out that it was all a dream

I keep looking at The Jamjar's calendar (over there in the righthand column) and thinking how lovely it looks all clean and uncluttered by the grey squares that indicate published posts. Nice attitude, Michelle. That calendar would look ah-mazing if it was peppered with grey boxes showing lots of posts you dingbat!

Perspective: I haven’t it.

The Auckland Botanical Gardens have lots of signs and this one asked people not to cut the harakeke (flax) and I felt the same way.

The Auckland Botanical Gardens have lots of signs and this one asked people not to cut the harakeke (flax) and I felt the same way.

Welcome to the New Year people! and to the first of my Sunday Updates for the year.

When I wrote Resolve at the end of last year, I was all ready to write this update and let you know how far along I’d got with my moving and eating and reading etc.

Then I did nothing over my holiday break. I’m not even joking.

One Tuesday I spent the entire day in my PJs with the curtains closed, on YouTube watching varieties of “50 Things You Didn’t Know About Harry Potter” or similar. And no, I didn’t just restrict that kind of YouTubing to that Tuesday. Did you know that there are people out there who actually think that Snape is a vampire, or that the entire Harry Potter story is a figment of Harry’s imagination? An imaginary character’s imaginary universe. Elaborate theory but understandable for a boy who lived under the stairs in a house with abusive relatives.

Today I’ve been out for a walk at the Auckland Botanic Gardens and made some pikelets upon my return. One might think that sounds okay until I admit that I was planning on vacuuming and then making scones! Plans? I has them. Stick to them I don’t.

My sleeping habits were terrible over the break too. Drinking too much coffee, staying up late then sleeping in too long into the day just ruins a heck of a lot of feng shui. Best days really do start with an early wake-up call but when I’m on my own and without work for structure, I just turn into a couch potato with an internet connection.

So thank goodness THAT’S over!

Well not really. I do feel like Online Couch Potato is my calling; but instead of following my dreams I will haul myself from my slumber in the morning and go to work like all the other spuds who start back to work tomorrow.

Hope your Christmas break has refreshed and revived you for a bright New Year. 

Achievement unlocked: first grey calendar box.

Sunday update

As I look down at what I've shared about the last couple of weeks I realise why I feel like this is the first time I'm able to draw breath! I've had some amazing opportunities lately and lots of memorable family time. I feel valued and honoured and loved which is a pretty great way to be feeling at any time of the year, but super nice as the "holiday season" sleezes up on us with all its commercials and sales and tinsel nonsense.

To be able to remember the reason for the season with the sun pouring through the French doors and the kids all off to the Panmure Santa Parade - I am in fact, a very fortunate woman.

New Horizons Samoan History: Conference Artist

Associate Professor Damon Salesa asked me to sketchnote his New Horizons conference to help illustrate a new ebook he was writing to support the conference.

I was really worried that his expectations exceeded what I could do. We meet a week or so before the conference over coffee to discuss our plan for the conference. I tried to set the bar to where I am; explaining that my work was pretty naive and simple. That he should understand that I can't really draw or spell or understand a lot which is why I actually do the sketchnotes. He looked at me as I laid out each point to set the bar of my abilities in the right place. 

"Wow," he said "you really don't know what you do is awesome, do you?"

I explained how I was setting his expectations because if he'd looked on line he'd see how fantastic others were. He brushed my comments aside and continued with what the programme and day would look like. He explained about that there would be twenty speakers over two days. They would each speak for 20 minutes.

He had also asked another person who drew comics to do drawings as well. He explained that there would be a table for the artists and said "that's you by the way, you are the artist and if you start telling me you're not I'm going to have to hit you up the side of the head."

The other conference artist turned out to be Ali Cowley, the amazing animator from Bro' Town and a complete master of the pencil he used to do quick drawings of the attendees. His sketchbook is extraordinary and he's a terrific guy. He had the same trepidation I did so I think it might be a "creative thing". But as we got down to work we did just that: worked. 

The first few papers were very academic and I had trouble following them because they weren't really meant for muggles. They seemed to have their own language and structure and I found them hard to sketchnote - plus the subjects were quite sensitive - but I did the best I could and hope to have time in the next week to make sure their details are correct with the Samoan terms spelled correctly and used in the right context.

I had an amazing time. I learned so. much. about the Samoan culture. Their love of words and their depth of shared values. Their intense privacy and pride. Their friendliness and protocols. It was a real privilege and I completely botched my expression of gratitude when thanking Damon and while he wasn't rolling his eyes at me I think he may have been doing it on the inside :)

SciGlow Exhibition

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a microbiologist at the University of Auckland. She has a particular passion for bioluminescent microbes. She's also an amazing science communicator - we have a few really good ones from the University - and to that end she has held an exhibition of her glowing bugs as an annual event here and overseas.

I was beyond excited to wake up last Saturday to see a Tweet where she had asked for artists to participate in the exhibition and the gorgeous Sarah Wedde had suggested me. I love the internet! 

Finding time on a busy Agile project to disappear for a few hours wasn't easy but I managed to arrive around lunchtime on Friday to attempt to paint with microbes. I also knew the medium would be difficult because it's new and basically zero or one - you're either a brush stroke of microbes or you're not - there didn't seem to be any subtly of tone in the images I'd examined online.

Having never painted in this medium I decided to do something brave and drew a self portrait. Of course this medium of growing organisms works best with blocks of colour but I thought by cross-hatching the solution I might be able to achieve a more sketching look. I pinned my drawing to the table and took each square at a time. I had nine 24.5mm square petrie dishes filled with agar, a jelly-like substance that the microbes feed from.

Problem One: I couldn't see the surface of the agar. My eye could see the bottom some five millimetres below the surface, but not the actual surface so my brush marks weren't exactly where I thought they were; ever. It was like trying to paint on glass.

Problem Two: the microbe solution is invisible. Tilting the petrie dish and looking sideways *sometimes* showed where the solution was but man, it wasn't easy. 

Not that I'm making excuses.

I painted. And cross hatched. And slopped. And stippled. And just trusted in my little microbes to at least grow somewhere on their agar surface. By the time I decided that I had finished I'd been at it for a couple of hours. I couldn't see my painting to determine if it was done or not and hoped like crazy I hadn't missed one of the petrie dishes.

Crikey I had a good time. I've already asked Siouxsie if I can be part of the exhibition again next year.

NZ Post #secretSanta

It's that time of the year again and with all that's being on lately, I nearly stuffed this up! I had quickly read the email letting me know who my Secret Santa was this year and had it in my head I had until the 14th of December but I was wrong. Oh man so glad I looked at this yesterday and saw that I need to post the gift by today! 

Merry Christmas to all the Secret Santas who play along with NZ Post's annual gift giving. It's a lot of fun and I'd just like to thank mine here, today, if I don't find out who you are IRL. Thank you for taking the time in your busy, rich, complex life to send me something for Christmas.

Being French

I know you're wondering how this is going. I find my best days are when I remember that I am French now. As you can imagine if you're read this far, there's been a lot on in my life the last couple of weeks so there have been times I have forgotten.

To help me remember yesterday, on the way home from seeing my artwork in the SciGlow exhibition, I stopped in at L'OCCITANE en Provence in Britomart. I just love things that beautifully scented - they put things into irresistible (to me) boxes and tins - and they have a number of creams and potions I just can't live without. 

Lucky me too, I had a voucher that meant I got a whacking discount on the moisturiser I wanted to buy. I've decided, not just that I'm French, but as I grow into my dotage that I want to smell like roses. Maybe long after I've died my grand daughters will recalls stories of me screaming at them for not putting the right coloured lids back onto my felt-tipped pens and smelling of roses while I turned blue in the face.

End of year dance recitals

Mandy, Tandia, Dylan and Chloe

Mandy, Tandia, Dylan and Chloe

Chloe (7) and Dylan (4) dance. In the final months of their classes they concentrate on their end-of-year concert. This event took all last weekend and my hands are red-raw from clapping (it's my "thing", I use my loud clapping talent to keep make sure all the dancers know their appreciated)

It's fantastic to see them dancing and I'm so proud of them. But boy-oh-boy it takes *all* weekend. Picking up Great Grandparents, parking on the school field and making it into the school hall, then watching dance after dance after dance - >750 kids dance over the weekend and they all deserve our attention and praise.

And then there's the Dads' Dance. They work hard with getting their kids to dancing all year and then (secretly?) practice a routine they present at the end of the recital. This year they gave us a sample of music and dance through the years including Back Street Boys, Britney, and Sia - it was hilarious and glorious.

Associated links

And I didn't even get to tell you about Willo and Rob visiting and taking them out to dinner and Grangers giving me delicious Paella to take home or how work's going or the fact I walked over 20,000 steps yesterday or the letter of complaint I wrote to the people who are digging up our road *again* or show you my new planner layout or any of the other tons of things that are going on.

How about you? is the year rounding and ramping up as Christmas comes closer? How're you feeling as we round the corner into December and can see 2017 in plain sight?


Sunday update

Kicking the News habit

I can’t cope with the stories about violence, abuse and heartbreak that the news media beams into my life anymore.

The headlines on newspapers delivered to my house, the radio updates and the 6pm broadcasts aren’t adding any value for me. As a matter of fact, they detract from any contentment or happiness I might be experiencing. They focus on the sensational, the devastating, the worst of humanity. So I’ve given them all up.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on at all. Stuff still leaks in through Twitter and conversations and such and I choose what to focus on; but “news” is not a priority for me anymore. I mad this decision a month or so ago, and my heart and my head are better for it.

This week the United States voted and a new President has been elected. Everyone I’ve come in contact with has had an opinion on the US Election. There have been debates, breaking news, and locker-talk that has either solidified or swayed those opinions in work’s kitchen or after-work rants and while I’ve not been keeping up with the situation via traditional media outlets, I have an idea of what’s been going on and of the outcome.

Today I watched John Green’s video comment on the US Election, and I thought it was worth sharing with you if you hadn’t seen it already.

Being French

Things are going swimmingly in my journey to Frenchness. Stripes and red lipstick are increasingly part of my life, as is red wine and cafe conversations. The idea of buying a bike with a basket (for my sunflowers) and more frequent visits to museums and art galleries are on the horizon for Summer.

Listening more, talking less, and strolling are starting to make a difference to my inner-peace and contentment. It’s hard to explain; but it feels good.

Cinema: Dr Strange

I’ve only seen two movies in the last six months, and Dr Strange was the later. I was disappointed to find that I found the movie to be too talkie-talkie and too much emphasis on the special effects (which added very little to the story). Basically, it’s a set-up movie. Something that might have taken one issue in a comic book has been drawn out too long in the cinema. 

If I’d been in those production meetings I would have suggested that the first Dr Strange movie could have come right out of the box with the characters already formed, kicking arse and taking names. “But the audience wouldn’t know who or why or what was going on!” they would have countered across the board room table. “Exactly!” I would have countered. “Give the audience a slap in the face with action and astonishment and bring the back story in movie 2 or 3!” Radical, I know, but I had tons of time to think about what they *should* have done with Dr Strange during the slow-paced set-up of the movie. Even the trailer is too long/too talkie-talkie.

The other thing was the humour. Too many funny people in this movie. Dr Strange had a dry sense of humour. His girlfriend had a dryish/slapstick humour. The Clock of Levitation was pure slapstick. Wong the Librarian was funny too and I’m thinking hold on people. This isn’t a comedy, only one person gets to be funny not everyone. And by having so many funny people, it all became a bit dad-jokey.

So make the movie again: this time more action; stop showing off pointless special effects; let the Cape of Levitation be funny and Dr Strange be the straight guy.  Everyone else just stick to your knitting. BOOM!

Dream boating

My sister was up for The General Collective market this weekend at the ASB Showgrounds.

Jo makes spoons. 

I typed that last sentence for a long time because it sounds a bit weird - let’s see if I can do better. 

Jo works under the name “Etched” and stamps sayings onto vintage cutlery. Yeh, she makes spoons; and they’re charming and attractive and people love them.

She puts a lot of kilometres into markets, and thankfully there are two or three a year up here in Auckland so I get to see and hang out with her when she’s in town.

Jo was a stall-holder at The General Collective yesterday. It’s a massive market with really high quality arts and crafts. While wandering I developed a romantic idea of how much I’d love to do something like that: create lovely things then sell them to adoring customers. Spoiler alert: I wouldn’t really.

But I was walking around thinking how lovely it would be if I had an art studio, and a teardrop trailer my Mini could tow to markets to sell my wares. How satisfying it would be to develop the marketing and branding, grow the social media following, blog to support my creative thought-processes, share the contentment and satisfaction of making my own way in the world and supporting myself.

Doesn’t it all sound marvellous?

Except I would hate it. And I don’t have an interest or product that would suit that kind of lifestyle let alone the work ethic my sister displays on a daily basis not to mention the temperament to deal with customers.

Never-the-less the romantic dream boating is still lots of fun and my French-minds-eye is having a good time during all the time I'm spending not-talking.

Photo from  Thiftahappy  Facebook page

Photo from Thiftahappy Facebook page