Magical Mornings

Gentle reader,

On mornings such as these – when the light has that very particular and indescribable quality and extends itself out in flat, deliberate sheets, rigid and brittle, broken in places by branches, power poles and twisting leaves and dispersed into silent, dappled shards – I think to myself that perhaps it would not be such a foolish thing to believe in magic after all and maybe I ought not go to work but instead search for an entrance to Oz, or Narnia or Wonderland or somewhere entirely new.

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Do you ever have mornings like that?

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I’m Legit Actual Super Attractive (Disclaimer: this statement is of questionable veracity)

Gentle reader,

Well, it has been a while, though not eons, but I’m ever so glad to see your lovely faces again (thought I guarantee you won’t be thinking the same thing towards me after this post!). And sure, I can’t actually see your faces, but I imagine them, and they are indeed extremely lovely.

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Of Make-Believe, Paper Boats, Dorothy and The Seasons.

Gentle reader,

Down here in the southern hemisphere, spring is upon us. Now, Melbourne notoriously hasn’t quite made her mind up about it and a few sunny days will quickly be ousted by blustery breezes and a mild nip in the air and vice versa. Which is perfectly fine by me because, as a ginger, my relationship with spring is a love and hate affair. I enjoy the crisp days and fresh breezes, and I completely adore the blossoming of gardens and the trees returning to green, resplendent in their leafery (heh). But, it also means that summer is next up to bat, and I HATE summer. It’s sweaty and icky and gross, and whenever I leave the house I can practically hear the sun saying “Good day, Raynie! How about some skin cancer today? No?” and my fair, freckle-tanned skin feels like it’s been slapped nastily all over. I hate, hate, HATE it! But, it’s only three months of the year, and I accept that while I delight in the chilly austerity of winter many are cussing the season under their billowy, misty breaths. It’s only fair.

I think perhaps I enjoyed spring a lot more as a wee bairn, because spring meant one thing to me: adventure. As soon as I could start smelling the jasmine begin to flower along the back fence, I knew follies were afoot. On the sunny days, I’d jump a few fences into Mrs. Gardner’s massive, forest-like property. She was a wonderful old lady with the most apropos name ever because she gardened like a BOSS. The beds and terraces around her house were the most beautiful, chaotic-yet-ordered gardens you’ve ever seen. But, at the back, it was all wild and wonderful, and my cousins and I were allowed to play in there to our hearts’ content.

In the overgrown foliage, we found an old, sealed well and leading along an embankment the bushes had grown into a tunnel. This just made the most perfect place to play! Can you imagine? We could hide and climb, and we could pretend it was anything we wanted. My cousins were more boisterous and exuberant and prone to real-world imaginings like army bunkers, forts and hideouts, while my more fanciful mind would turn it into a hidden world, a secret passage or a spaceship.

You could often find bits of pottery and small glass bottles upturned from the dirt around the well, and a neighborhood urban legend held that a whole house was buried in the embankment behind the well. This captivated me and I would often set up little “archaeological digs” and bring my kid-sized set of garden tools to see what I could dig up. I would turn each treasure over and over in my hands and wonder how old it was, and who may have used it when the fragments were still whole.

Spring also brought the rain in my hometown. I’ve always loved the rain. One of my earliest memories was of being completely obsessed with the movie, Return To Oz (I still am!). Well, in it, Dorothy escapes a mental hospital (!) during a storm and, floating on a broken chicken coop, she is washed away to Oz. I think I’ve always loved the rain, storms and miserable weather because my inner four year old hopes I’ll be washed away to Oz too.

Often when a storm would finish, I would make little origami paper boats and rush out to the gutters of my street which would be gushing with water. I would launch the boats into the stream at the top of the hill and follow them all the way to the bottom and watch them plunge over the edge of the cement and into the storm drain. Then, inside my head, I would imagine myself onto the decks of my little paper boats, navigating their way through subterranean wonders, both man-made and, of course, supernatural.

It’s so easy to lose those silly childlike ways of approaching things. Spring doesn’t spell adventure to me as effortlessly as it used to, but there are still hints of it. Even now, when I smell jasmine, my step quickens and my stomach gets butterflies and Kate Bush starts singing in my head: “I just know that something good is going to happen!” (To be fair, when is Kate Bush not singing in my head?).

Perhaps we have to work at wonder when we’re a bit older, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to have some imaginary adventures or a bit of a play and make-believe. I want to approach this spring with some excitement and silliness, instead of disdainfully steeling myself for the oppressive blah-ness of summer. Next time it rains, perhaps I will make a paper boat and send it for its maiden voyage along my street’s gutter (but, I shall stop it before the drain. It didn’t occur to me then that it was kind of littering! What a silly-billy).

What fond memories do you have of spring? (Or fall, for you northern hemispherians!). Will you join me and try to have an extra spirit of playfulness this year? 

An Interlude: From Grizzle-Guts To Genuine Insanity (With A Bit of Kate Bush)

Gentle reader,

I’d like to think that, over the months or more that we’ve been engaged is this odd little exchange between blogger and reader, we’ve become friends of a sort. And friends share things, and sometimes these things maybe don’t show the sharer in the best light. Or perhaps it reveals just how silly they really are. Well, I’d like to tell you about the day I had on Friday. I think it’s a pretty good story; it has the lows of grumpiness and tantrums, and the highs of unadulterated silliness and delirium. Mostly, I hope you get a laugh, rather than thinking me a brat. It’s a long one, but I hope you’ll come with me on this little trip.

It all started on a high note, but little did I know that this was merely a starting off point. At my temp contract, I finished all the work they had for me ahead of time (cuz I’m, like, properly awesome! Kidding!), so I had an early mark and left at lunch time. It was then that I realized that my earphones – my favorite, fancy, green Skullcandy ones – were busted! I couldn’t get sound in both ears without fiddling with the the cord, and even then, I had to constantly move it around, I couldn’t just hold it in a certain direction. Well, hurrumph! Off I went to JB HiFi to purchase a new pair (working full-time is nice, because you can just go out and do that).

I found a super-fancy pair of new Skullcandy ones that had a microphone/volume/play-pause clicker on it so I could use it with my iPhone as well (which is bordering on unnecessary anyway because I’ll turn myself inside out to avoid speaking on the phone), but they were very pizzazzy and white, and even though they were expensive, I could justify it because they came with a little zip-up case to keep them safe. Perfection! So, I wandered towards the counter to pay for them when I saw a wireless keyboard with a trackpad where the number pad usually is. And I stopped.

You see, Joel has a wireless keyboard and mouse, and his computer is set up through the ginormous television and he sits on the couch to do his web trawling and game playing. But, the wireless keyboard is a bit old, and many a time recently I have found him cursing the thing and pounding keys with an accusatory finger while stamping closer and closer to the computer tower. As amusing as his little huffing fit is to behold, I knew he wouldn’t buy himself a new keyboard until it completely gave out, and honestly, it’s no way for a nerd to live. So, here was a wireless computer, with a built-in trackpad no less, for sale and staring me in my face. I spun on my heels and put my back earphones and chose a cheaper (but still seemingly good quality) earphones so I could afford the keyboard as well.

By the time I’d walked a few city blocks to the yarn shop I realized that the $30 earphones I’d bought were complete and utter rubbish. To be fair, my hearing is pretty atrocious to begin with, but the sound quality through these suckers was like listening to someone singing with their face firmly planted into their pillow. I sat at the table in the yarn store, feeling a little grumpy, but still buoyed by my early mark from work. All of my friends in the yarn store encouraged me to take them back. I was a little doubtful because they’re in-ear buds, and that would be aaaalmost like returning a pair of underpants that you’d warn, wouldn’t it? Which is rather unsavory. But, they reasoned that it couldn’t hurt to try. So, I walked back the three or four city blocks to try my luck.

As it turns out, returning earbuds IS JUST LIKE returning underpants you’ve already worn. The gentlemen was very apologetic (I suspect he was aware how garbage the earbuds really were) but it was store policy. I tried to think if we had spare pair at home, and Joel even texted to say I could use his (which would leave him without any, and I’m not that mean!) and I really didn’t want to spend more money, but I gave in. It’s a first world problem, but I really can’t live without my music. It’s as much a love of tunes as it is protection against sensory overload and social anxiety when out-and-about. So, I went back to the headphone section and bought the pair I’d chosen in the first place like a Little Stupid, and pushed the budget-panic to the back of my head.

Lessons Learned (Skullcandy image from Headphones.com)

Now, I could enjoy the train ride home in my musical bubble, which I did, along with some knitting. All was well until I started walking up my drive and realized that I didn’t have my keys. Joel and I usually meet up after work, so I never needed them and therefore never checked that I them. I’d left them in my other bag. Geesh! After a few choice cuss words, I took a few deep breaths and thought what I would do. Joel said he could come home if I had something to do to tide me over for a bit, but he had planned to go out for drinks with his bestie and I didn’t want to be a party-pooper. In the end, I decided that since the real estate agent was five or six blocks away, so I would go get a spare set of keys from them. We had never received keys to our back or side doors (I know, I know, we should have sorted that out long ago), so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.

I got to the real estate agents and they were happy to lend me their set of keys, with one catch: they had to be back in the office by the close of business, which by this time, was in about half an hour. Oy. Well, I had two options. I could not worry about getting the back and side keys and just go home, let myself in, get my keys, bring the agent’s keys back, and go home again. It’s not a long walk, but not a walk you want to do four times in a row, lugging all your stuff with you, so that was properly unappealing. Or I could go to the row of shops and get some keys cut. The downside to that was that the agent didn’t know which keys were which, there was just a whole bunch of keys on a ring. Even all the tops of the keys and colors were all the same, so the teeth were the only differences. I figured I’d try my luck.

Hey, dufus! These are important!

I called Joel and asked him to take pictures of the teeth of his keys and message them to me, so I could figure out which keys we didn’t have by a process of elimination. I was feeling very smug and clever with myself as I walked to the shops and waited for Joel’s message to come though. Only, it didn’t. Between my calling him and arriving outside the store, my phone’s battery had died! Well, that was perfect! I almost had a stampy-tantrum at this point, but managed to contain myself, though I did get a few sidelong glances; I must have looked particularly unhinged by now. I calmed myself and tried to reason. If I only got one key cut, and it was for either the wooden front door, or the front screen, then I wouldn’t be able to get in. If I got two keys cut, those two keys would either both be for the front doors, or one key would be a front door and the other would be for the back or side door, or both would be for the back or side door. So, no matter what I’d be able to get in. So I picked two keys at random and had them cut, returned the agent’s keys, and headed home.

I tried the screen door. Neither key worked. A feeling of satisfaction swelled within my chest. Even if one of these keys was for the wooden front door, the other was for one of the doors we didn’t have keys for, and maybe both keys were the ones we were missing! I made my way to the side door and tried the keys. Nope. That was odd. I circled round to the back door and tried both keys. Nope. Suddenly, it felt like that feeling of satisfaction shriveled up into a lump of coal, and my heart fell out of my butt. Seriously!? I was crazed now. The whole week and had been overcast and cool, but of course today was sunny and warm, and I’m a ginger! I was hot, sticky, exhausted and I could feel myself getting sunburned and I couldn’t get into my house! I began frantically going from side door to back door, trying the keys over and over again, just to make sure. No. Neither key did anything. One of them didn’t even fit the keyholes.

My rage turned to the real estate agents. Even if one of those keys fit the wooden door behind the screen door, at least one of these keys was completely useless. Why on earth would the agent have multiple keys that didn’t fit any of our locks? Did they collect useless keys? Was that a thing? Then my rage turned to myself. Why couldn’t I just be like every other functioning adult and make sure I have my keys with me every day. Then I just felt sorry for myself. “Aww, Little Stupid,” I thought, “you’re really not very good at life, are you?”.

Feeling very sheepish, and giving over to the exhaustion, I sat down on the back step in the shade. Then I remembered, my iPod was fully charged, and I was pretty sure I could get our house’s wifi signal from there! I switched on my iPod and sent Joel a few emails to let him know what had happened, and to see when I could expect him home. No replies. Siiiiiiighh. It was going to be a while. Luckily, me being me, I had some knitting in my bag. So, out it came and I knitted away at the back piece of a cardigan. I descended into that crafty bliss you feel when you’re doing nothing but working with your hands, no distraction, no clock-watching, just pure and thorough enjoyment. I was in my happy place. That is, until I ran out of yarn.

Noooooooo!

I packed my project up again, and pulled out a book and read for a little while. At this point, I had been sitting on the step like a bedraggled little orphan for almost three hours. After a while it became a bit too dark to read in the shadow of the house, and so I listened to music on my iPod. The warm, sunny day began to set and turn dark and the wind picked up. I’d gone from actually feeling myself burn to shivering in the gloom of evening. As if on queue, my iPod shuffled to Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, one of my favorite songs of all-time, and it seemed almost eerily fitting thematically. I decided to write a last ditch attempt email to Joel, which read as follows:

Subject: Let Me In Your Window

It’s starting to get cold and windy here. By the time you get home, it will be like Wuthering Heights. I shall be dead and my ghost shall be rapping at your window. “Joelcliff! Let me in your window! It’s so cold outside!”. After which I shall don a red dress and take to the moors, singing in my Kate Bush falsetto and interpretive dancing all over the hizzy. “Joelcliff! It’s me, your Raynie! I’ve come home! I’m so co-o-o-o-old! Let me in your wind-o-o-ow! Ooh, let me have it, let me gra-a-ab your soul! Who-o-ah, you know it’s me, your Raynie!”. And then I’ll disappear. And then reappear. And then disappear. 

 And then reappear. And then disappear.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the “red dress version” of the Wuthering Heights video, I’ve included a little montage for reference.

Out on the wiley, windy moors…! (Image credits from here)

At this point, I honestly can’t explain what my thought process was. I had well and truly lost my mind. I can’t truthfully say that I hadn’t set a precedent of Kate Bush impressions. They’re not entirely uncommon, per se. At any rate, I was cold, crazy, and possessed by the musical and poetic spirits of Kate Bush and Emily Bronte, and before I knew it, my email – at least in part – proved to be prophetic. I took to the back yard dancing like a dervish to the small, tinny strains of Wuthering Heights from my iPod. It didn’t take me long to realize that my iPod also had a camera. Why I felt like that was a good idea, I’ll never know but, there you have it. And, once one has done such a thing, I’ve found it’s best not to look back or get self-conscious about it because one’s friends usually will get a laugh or two out of it at the very least.

So naturally, I posted photographic proof of my delirious Bush-Bronte break-down to Facebook.

There may have also been a video, but unless you have me as a personal friend on Facebook, I shall refrain from sharing that with you in the interest of salvaging some dignity ^_~  but without further ado, I present you Wuthering Heights: The Shy Lion version.

(a friend pointed out that if you clicked through the photo gallery quickly it looks rather impressive, but in the absence of such things, I shall post them in single file so perhaps to can scroll down quickly for a similar effect)

I hope I haven’t frightened you all away, and you’ve at least gotten a giggle from this this malarky. Joel arrived home from drinks and was so happy with his gifty keyboard and so pitied the pathetic little fool dancing about the backyard that he didn’t raise an eyebrow at my spending splurge. He had switched of his cell phone email to conserve battery which is why he didn’t get my emails, which is really alright, because I feel closer to Kate Bush than ever. All’s well that ends well, I suppose! ^_^

Have you had any silly misadventures lately? I’d love hear them! 

December Travels – Chapter Three – Thrifting!

Gentle reader,

This will probably be the last of my December Travels posts before I get back down to business. But, it’s also probably the post I’m most excited to share with you!

I don’t know about you, but I love, love, LOVE a good poke about a thrift store. Back when I used to do costume design, I would hit the thrift stores hard – I once costumed a cast of 30+ on $200 with change to spare – but I didn’t come to love it until I quit theater and started thrifting for myself. Some things just aren’t fun when it’s work!

Well, while I was up in Queensland, I managed to do a bit of crafty thrifting and I think I did pretty well! First up, while I was in Brisbane, Panda and I dropped into this crazy antique store that we happened upon. It was quite big, and was more of a serious antique/collectors store, and some of the treasures in there were mind-blowing (with prices to match, in a good way!), but they also had some small little lovelies with more thrifty prices. Naturally, I managed to sniff out the craft accoutrements and patterns in no time, and I picked up these babies with change out of a tenner.

Lower left! Totes adorbz, yes?

After my few days in Brisbane, I caught the bus to my home town. After Christmas, my fantastic friends, Alf and Robert, drove up from Brisbane to visit me and we went thrifting! Now, my home town has some amazing thrifting. Because it’s a smaller town, and perhaps a little bit conservative, it’s not yet caught on that thrift stores are a bit “cool” these days. Or at least, that’s what it was like last time I shopped there…

But now, they’d finally caught on! And prices reflected that. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind. Most of them are charity stores, remember! So more money in their pockets are a good thing. But, I still felt a small niggle of nostalgia for the days of filling a bag for two dollars. Ahhh!

We popped into a few stores (in spite of my nearly getting us horribly lost a few times – it’s been a long time since I’ve had to get around town, everything had changed!), but nothing struck my fancy. Until we got to the big Lifeline store, and I managed to find a taste of the old days with some ridiculously cheap gems!

It seems that while it’s caught on that thrifting is “cool”, it’s yet to catch on that knitting and crochet is now a bit “cool” too! I found two pattern books and… A DROP SPINDLE!

I love the aran sweater on the front, but there are some tragic beauties inside!
"Raynie! Take me home! I've been waiting for you!"

Now, none of their patterns were priced, and I don’t think anyone knew what the spindle was. I took them to the counter, and I was served by the most gorgeous elderly lady named Vera. She looked them over, and not seeing any prices, she ummed to herself for a bit.

“How does fifty cents sound?” she asked with a lovely big smile.

I was floored! “Really!?” I exclaimed. I rummaged in my wallet and found a two dollar coin. “Let’s make it two dollars, shall we?”

“One dollar!” countered Vera, bless her!

“Vera! Why are you trying to talk me down? Take the two dollars!” I said with a laugh. She looked at me for a second and then giggled as she took the coin and bagged up my purchases. Too adorable!

I think vintage patterns are becoming a compulsion for me. I don’t even really intend to make most of them. Definitely some of the mens patterns. But, even if I don’t plan on using them, I just adore them! And I feel like, what will happen to them if sympathetic crafters don’t take them home? I can see this becoming a hoarders-like situation. Oy.

Things will be back to normal after this one, I think! Be prepared, I have a finished object parade busting to be blogged, and I have lots of exciting news (classes, anyone?). So, stay tuned!

What are your favorite thrift store purchases? Share, share, share!

– R

December Travels – Chapter Two – Christmas Lights

Gentle reader,

One of my family’s traditions is to drive about town leading up to Christmas looking at all the Christmas light displays. There’s an especially large one held at Queen’s Park in my home town, and it was quite the show. Some of the pieces were a little random to me, but some were truly amazing.

A nice sentiment, yes?
Lights, lights, everywhere!

The lights were everywhere you could possibly imagine to put lights! And all varieties. Those candy canes were all made of some bizarre fuzzy stuff that was difficult to photograph, but looked really cute.

Christmas non sequiturs?

Some seemed completely arbitrary and non-Christmassy. Kangaroos? Sailboats? Wombats? Demonic owls? Umm… okay… I guess they were going for an “Australian Christmas” thing, but I never really got that sort of thing (I never really understood the whole “Easter Bilby” thing either).

The Blue Tree

In the middle of the whole display grounds was a giant blue light christmas tree set in the center of a pond! It was quite spectacular in person, and the reflections in the pod were magical. (You can also see more random lights like the windmill and the Eiffel Tower).

Beautiful Lanterns

My favorite part though were all the orb lanterns. They were strung through many of the trees and were just beautiful. Some were solid orbs that changed colors and some were wire frame spheres wound with fairly lights. It made me feel like a gnome living in the trees or something.

Lions, doves, and arches! Oh my!

Even without the light displays, it’s a really lovely park in it’s own right, and a few little reminders of that could be found in quiet little corners.

Flora!

And lastly, Toowoomba’s not called the Garden City for nothing! There were some amazing flowers and foliage about the place too.

There’s at least another chapter of December Travels to come, and it’ll definitely be craft-related, never fear!

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and everyone traveled safely! Many happy wishes to you, and thank you for taking a bo-peep at The Shy Lion in 2011, and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2012!

– R

December Travels – Chapter One

Gentle reader,

As many of you may know, I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane about a year ago and these holidays I’m spending two weeks in my home state of Queensland. Week one is almost down, and here are a few highlights! (Please forgive the iffy picture quality; some of the shots and all of the editing were done on my iPod and iPad!)

First, the flight from Melbourne to Brisbane!

I LOVE flying, and I love flying even better when you take off before dark and are still in the air after dark. These pictures don’t do the amazing horizon justice. Also, I love photographing clouds. I think they’re totes amazing.

Clearly, she is a model and I am not.

My best friend Panda picked me up from the airport and I stayed at her place in Brisbane which she shares with Audra and Eden who are also amazing peeps and were so generous with their hospitality.

Over the few days I was there, we checked out some great stores, got a Totoro phone trinket, ate crazy amounts of Bread Top, went to visit our lovely friend Kath and her beautiful shop, Handmade High Street. We also went on a wild goose chase for yarn stores – one was shut and one didn’t exist anymore – before we finally made it to Tangled Yarns, which is AMAZEBALLS. They stock Berocco, Pierrot (my fave!), Cascade 220, madelainetosh, and Malabrigo. I’ll definitely be going back there. We also wandered through an antique/bric-a-brac store where I picked up some delightful old knitting patterns (more on that later!). I also got to catch up with my adorable friends, Alf and Robert.

Suzie, the lovely lady, and Larry, the resident water dragon.

On the Sunday, I visited Judy, one of my favorite people ever (you may remember her from my post about the crochet bolero I did a while back). Her and her husband Peter made the most delicious BBQ lunch, and we relaxed on their back veranda while Suzie and Larry kept us company.

Judy's hat, made from Noro Kochoran.

I also snapped Judy in the hat I knitted for her (and finished the night before). I made it using the Hurricane Hat pattern by Andrea Goutier with Noro Kochoran yarn. I’m not sure what color way, because it was just a left over ball from something with no label. I don’t know why, but all those shots came out blurry. Oy. But, Kate will be pleased that I’ve posted another FO. Happy, Kate!? Geesh. ^_~

"Sah-kurity!"

I also managed to get a bit done on my Bon Qui Qui cross stitch. The picture is terrible, but you get an idea. I drew Bon Qui Qui on some graph paper and then used colored pencils to figure out my color blocking, and then started stitching. I’ve got a looooong way to go, but it was nice to do something a bit different.

Pan-Pan! I miss you already! (Also, is my bottom lip really that big? Oy.)

Finally, on Monday, Panda dropped me off at the bus depot to catch a Greyhound to my home town. I was super sad to say buh-bye to Pan, and there were some friends I just didn’t have time to visit. But, I was so excited to see my folks, and we’ve been having a great time so far. More to come!

How is your holiday season going so far? ^_^

– R