Man Says to Dog: Make Like a Tree and Bark

I know I’ve posted more than a few nature photos recently, but I’ve been lucky enough to get plenty of me-on-tree time (in a nondendrophiliac way – geez, nobody understands platonic friendship anymore…) over the last few months.

This time, instead of the cool and damp mountains of Tasmania, I’ve been up to dryer central Victoria.

There, amongst the orange dirt, grey boulders and slender muted gums, you can find the most amazing microscapes of moss, lichen and tiny plants

John and I were visiting his parents who, like my parents a whole state and strait away, have a large bush block also with (weirdly enough) a rusting car out over the ridge…

Nice spider web huh? Well, there are more of the webs everywhere, complete with big fat spiders.

There were other minibeasts too; ones without huge hairy legs and who refrained from jumping at my face when I got too close with the camera.

Back in the grey city, sometimes I think about moving to place where trees come in forests, not as lone straggly reminders that out there, somewhere, are places where you can’t hear your neighbours playing chopsticks on an electric piano.

But then where would I get a good coffee? Tree-hugger out.


Lolita – Recommended Read

I’ve been meaning to write about books a bit more. It may seem like a digression, but reading a good book inspires me the same way going to a gallery does; it’s a revitalising leisure activity where I can enjoy something beautiful and be inspired by the talent of amazing people.

One book in particular has reminded me of this recently: Lolita, the faux autobiographical account of Humbert Humbert (what a great name for a perv) and his erotic obsession with a twelve year old girl.

At first I was completely absorbed by the smoothly ironic and lyrically beautiful writing (not even Nabakov’s native tongue… damn smart people…). But then there’s a jolt: a sudden realisation that the object of this enthralling literary eroticism is a twelve year old girl. Twelve. Years. Old. All Nabakov’s considerable skill draws you into collusion with Humbert; is Lolita actually seducing Humbert or is it just his obsession clouding his sense of reality? Even if you take Humbert’s account as an accurate reflection of reality, it’s a uncomfortable experience being lead into identification with a morally suspect protagonist.

So, a book that is engrossing, skilfully crafted and thematically stimulating? A good excuse for Saturday on the couch if you ask me.

Oh, and if anyone asks, tell them you’re participating in cultural enbigenment – hey, you’re reading a literary classic, you can make up as many words you like.

The Eagle Has Landed

I promised sketches of something product related, and here it is…

Ta dah!

How is this going to be a product you say? Well, here’s some I prepared (a year) earlier…

  • Tools for Bush Robin Stencil
  • 3 pieces of A4 card
  • 1 piece good quality paper
  • Craft knife
  • Removable sticky tape
  • Metal ruler
  • Pencil
  • Black and white acrylic paint
  • Pallet
  • Make-up Sponge
  • Scissors

They’re fabric banners I made to go above the bed, paranoid I might end up sleeping permanently should a framed picture leap off the wall during the night.  They’re from photos I ‘shopped into block colours, printed, cut out then stencilled on to fabric. I added the silk ends to give them a better finish.

This time around I’m hand drawing my designs first so I can manipulate my material, creating a more graphic look from the outset. So the next step in transforming my wedge tailed eagle illustration into a non-killer wall hanging cum fabric banner is slaving over a print-out of said illustration with an X-Acto knife.

Seeing as I haven’t got that far yet, I thought I’d demonstrate how I stencil my designs in the meantime with a quick and relatively simple stencil of a Bush Robin* (and here is the promised present); you can download the files here to have a crack at the robin stencil too!

First print the stencil layers on to your pieces of card. Next is the fiddly bit; cutting out the details with a craft knife, including the right hand corner of the stencil from above the reference lines (the third picture down shows the paint-ready stencil).

Once I’ve cut along all the stencil lines from the front, I flip mine over to re-cut any incisions that haven’t come clear through the card, so that when I pull the negative out I don’t rip the bits with fine detail.

Erm, if you cut through the wrong bit at any stage, DO NOT PANIC. I was going fine with my craft-knifing until I vagued out imagining the choc-fest of upcoming Easter… Mm… chocolate… Anyhoo, I cut a really wonky line, so I just stuck regular sticky tape over the front and back of the affected area, then re-cut the line properly.

Next put reference lines corresponding to the ones on the stencil on to the right hand corner of the printing surface, then align the fist layer and tape it down with removable tape. So this is my paint-ready stencil:

For the painting stage, mix up a dark grey for the first layer, sponging on the paint with a make-up sponge (for the density of the foam) – pre-blotted to prevent the paint from splodging underneath the stencil. Mind you, I was too impatient to blot the example below properly and I think it still looks cute.

Carefully lift the stencil off as soon as you’ve finished painting so it doesn’t stick to the printing surface. Once the first layer has completely dried do the next (second/middle) layer, the black of the body. Once that’s dried, you can do the final layer; black for the branch on the bottom and white for the eye at the top. In the example above I refined the shape of the eye a little with some black paint  on a fine brush once the white had dried for a more realistic finish. Otherwise, the finished (patiently blotted) stencil turned out like this:

Happy stencilling!

* Thank you to Henrietta Norris for use of the original photo

Orange Cardamon* Loaf

I was going to post on a product-in-progress today, but decided at the last moment to add a present for you. Don’t get too excited, it’s not in the realm of a pony or pirate lego – it’s just a DIY demo model for the afore mentioned product. Anyhoo, the short of it is that I need a little more material for the post, so it will have to wait until next week. (See how I’m building… suspense?)

In the meantime, I thought it was time for more cake.

This is another oil cake. I love them; they’re pretty much fool proof, take seconds to mix up (no faffing about with creaming butter and sugar here) and result in a cake that is soft and moist yet still robust.

  • Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed
    orange juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 10 cardamon pods
  • Zest of 1 orange

The first bit is easy: pre-heat the oven to 180°c. Whoah, cordon bleu techniques I know. Next lightly whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in orange juice and oil.

Add sugar and almond meal, sift in flour; stir until all ingredients well combined.

Add the orange zest. Stir through.

This is the hardest bit – split open the cardamon pods (*also known as cardamom but I just can’t bring myself to say it like that – it’s my verbal equivalent of a mullet), separate out the little black seeds then crush or grind them – I used a mortar and pestle – into a rough powder. Stir through the batter.

I usually prep my tins at this point, but if you want to feel super organised you can do it before you make the mix. I used a loaf tin with a piece of baking paper covering the long sides and the base.

Pour mix into prepared tin then bake for 45-50 minutes – it’s cooked if you poke through it with a skewer that comes out clean. If there’s mix adhering to the skewer, leave it in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then turn on to a cooling rack.

Cut, then eat. Or I suppose you could pick the whole thing up and eat it like that… Not that I’m advocating gluttony.

Mmm… more cake…