Friday, December 4, 2009

Lucy loves...

I've spent many hours in the last couple of months creating and updating gift guides on Felt, which basically amounts to extreme online window shopping (I love that the term "window shopping" works for browsers as well as shops in real life) for demographics, rather than specific people. There have been phases of discovery and delight, moments of merchandising madness, and bouts of serious shopping fatigue and brain failure.

I can now honestly say that I know Felt inside out - I have browsed nearly 10000 listings and I know most of 600 sellers by their username, if not their real name. I know whose listings have fabulous photos and who offers free shipping. If you're not sure where to go or what you're looking for, I'm your girl (my services as a personal shopper for handmade Christmas gifts are available for just $110 per hour).

Now, I could show you a selection of the lovely things I've picked out for my family and friends, but there are two good reasons not to do this. Firstly, I'm a Christmas traditionalist and I like my gifts to be a surprise - I have no idea whether anybody will even read this, but there's no point in taking unnecessary risks. Secondly, I'm also a Christmas procrastinator and I haven't picked out the lovely things for my family and friends yet. My gifts frequently remain a surprise even to me right up till the last possible moment to source or make them. If you're really interested, come back after Christmas and I'll write it up then.

However, in my armchair travels (or, more accurately, picnic table in the garden travels) around the handmade world of Felt, I have picked out a few things for my very own personal Christmas wishlist, so here they are. Aren't they pretty?

One of these things was even made with me in mind, to tempt me every time I look at Felt (now that's what I call crafty). If you can guess which one, win! There's no prize, but you can revel in the knowledge that you are smarter and cooler than everyone else.

Bloggers might also be interested to know that this list was created using a new feature on Felt - you can read all about it on the Felt forum.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hot chocolate with attitude

This made me smile today at the Coffee House...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy

Like many people, I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of the world and where things are going.

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to Kiwi Foo Camp, a technology-based "unconference" attended by diverse group of interesting people. The highlight of the weekend was a hugely entertaining debate on the proposition that "New Zealand is fucked". After an impressive showing by the two teams and much spirited audience participation and gleefully gratuitous use of the word "fuck" in its many and varied meanings and applications, the outcome was that New Zealand is not fucked. Whether this was a fact-based conclusion, bloody-minded optimism, testament to the amount of alcohol consumed by the participants or all of the above, it was food for thought.

Russell Brown chairs the debate

The conclusion I reached several years ago, when the impending crisis du jour was peak oil, is this: it's about time people started taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. Fair enough, we pay taxes and it's reasonable to expect our government to provide infrastructure, but it seems like people are a little too comfortable with having everything done for them. Not only that, but there's a sense of entitlement that seems unfounded and arrogant to me. Basically, I think Western society needs taking down a peg or two, and whatever global crisis it takes to do that, bring it on.

So my stance during the debate was that we're not fucked, because what we really need is a good kick in the pants – something to get us thinking proactively and responsibly and acting accordingly – and economic crisis might be just the thing. Think "spare the rod and spoil the child" on a grand scale – perhaps it's time we endured a few hardships and really earned the lifestyle we've come to see as our right. Take away a few of the luxuries that seem to have become necessities and we might make space for some of the casualties of modern society to make a comeback: community, personal and social responsibility, quality time, self-fulfilment, work ethic and meaningful, considered communication (yes I do see the irony of blogging that into the ether).

What we seem to lose with every innovative new technology and luxury is just a little bit more perspective. We want everything and more now, whether it's necessary or not, and if we can't afford it, there's always credit. Someone will always bail us out - that's what banks are there for, right?

I'm a big fan of Tom Hodgkinson, who paints a very appealing picture of returning to the simplicity of pre-Industrial Revolution life in his books How to be Idle and How to be Free, and Alain de Botton, who observes in his book Status Anxiety the increasing sense of deprivation we feel even "blessed with riches and possibilities far outstripping those imaginable by [our] ancestors tilling the unpredictable soil of medieval Europe".
"Our sense of an appropriate limit to anything – for example, to wealth and esteem – is never decided independently. It is decided by comparing our condition with that of a reference group, with that of people we consider to be our equals. We cannot appreciate what we have in isolation, nor judged against the lives of our medieval forbearers. We cannot be impressed by how prosperous we are in historical terms. We will only take ourselves to be fortunate when we have as much as, or more than, the people we grow up with, work alongside, have as friends and identify with in the public realm."
In other words, our self-esteem is based on our perception of how we compare to the next guy. We've designed a world for ourselves in which we can never reach the top rung of Maslow's ladder, because we're stuck in a perpetual cycle of keeping up with the Joneses. So perhaps it's time to re-assess, to simplify and learn to live with less stuff and more appreciation for what we do have, to slow down and make space for the important things in life.

Having been subjected to my verbose opinions on these matters, my friend Nic sent me a link to this rant by Louis CK, to which I owe the title of this post. He hits the nail on the head, I feel. I've been trying to work out whether it's funny to listen to, or just a relief to hear.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Folding flowers

Mel and I spent last weekend coming up with a window display for the Antique Print Gallery's entry into the Ellerslie International Flower Show window display competition (part of the Festival of Flowers). It was a great opportunity to combine design skills with our crafty tendencies – inspired by a growing collection of antique print offcuts, it didn't take long for an idea to present itself, and the scraps were transformed into the origami flowers pictured below.

We're quite proud of our effort, having learnt origami especially. The Press is running a People's Choice competition for the best window – you can vote for ours by texting "PRINT" to 3444 (be quick, voting closes on Friday), and you go into the draw to win two tickets to the Premiere Garden Party at Ellerslie on Tuesday.

Special thanks to the lovely people at Acquisitions in Cashel Mall, who loaned us the gorgeous vase and supporting foliage which really made the display come to life.

The Antique Print Gallery (owned by my mum and dad) is also holding an exhibition of Sarah Featon's Flowers from 7th till 18th March, so if you're down New Regent Street way, stop by and check it out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

29 things to do before I'm 30

I started this list in December, but it has proven to be a challenge and I'm now down to just 6 months to complete my 29 things. Maths is not a strength of mine, but I think that's over one a week till the end of August. I'm slightly daunted.

1. finish this list

2. return to life drawing

3. make myself some clothes, at the very least two pairs of lounge pants, but preferably something I can wear in public also

4. send a parcel of goodies to my favourite cousin, cousin-in-law and baby cousins

5. start making fresh pasta again (find a clamp for my pasta machine that fits the kitchen bench!) and perfect three new recipes

6. go blueberry picking and make blueberry muffins

7. learn a language...well start learning a language. or at the very least, polish up one I've already started on

8. restring my guitar and play it. I'd like to say once a week, but I'm trying to be realistic so I have half a chance of ticking this one off the list

9. go to a movie all by myself

10. watch "Chocolat"

11. plant out all my terracotta pots, the inhabitants of which perished during my last move, and give away or recycle the ones I don't want anymore

12. play a banjo, mandolin or ukelele

13. re-read Atlas Shrugged

14. start making this year's Christmas presents (enough of the sewing till the wee small hours of Christmas morning!)

15. (this is a big one which has been on my mind for a while) purge my belongings to conform to the words of William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

16. is related to 15, but big enough to have its own number – edit my wardrobe and give away, sell or donate all these clothes that I never wear to someone who might appreciate them more

17. start spinning

18. finish restoring the two styley dining chairs I got from the Supershed 3 years ago for 25 cents each

19. attempt to draw Punky

20. try yoga, and really give it a fair chance before deciding whether I like it

21. send Ava's finished cardy (my first real crocheted garment!) to Dilia

22. win a Scrabble game!

23. go to a play, a music gig, an exhibition and a Pecha Kucha night

24. make a cool cardboard box fort for the bunny (he likes boxes)





29. organise something really cool to celebrate my 30th birthday (suggestions welcome)

I'm clearly getting too old, because I got stuck at 25 things and I need some ideas for my last four, to be able to put a tick against number 1... So what are some exciting things I can do??

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Everything is illuminated

The annual Chinese Lantern Festival makes Christchurch feel quite exotic. Sunday night in Victoria Park was beautiful. This is Mel and a flamingo, on the banks of the Avon:

It's not often you catch a glimpse of the urban Christchurch hippopotami, especially not at full illumination. I have Mel to thank for her expert advice which resulted in all of these photos turning out, especially this one of my favourite lanterns:

For all its flaws, there are moments that I love this city to bits.

Monday, February 16, 2009

If I had an office door, I would like this sign on it

And Punky would like this one for his:

With the postscript "He will disapprove".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation

I've just become aware of some major proposed changes in NZ law that will have a huge impact on artists, businesses and general members of the public: basically anyone that uses the internet.

Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement. We should speak out against injustices like Guilt Upon Accusation being done in the name of artists and protecting creativity.

The countdown is on: we have until 28 February 2009 to influence government.

An organisation called the Creative Freedom Foundation has been set up to specifically represent artists' voices on these issues. Check out their website,, sign up and help our MPs make an informed decision about S92!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Peas and the rogue nasturtium

As part of my 29 things to do before I'm 30 list (as yet unfinished and unpublished... watch this space) during my summer break I finally got around to planting out my pots.

I'm quite attached to one pot in particular. In a square terracotta pot I sowed peas – a mixture of edible peas and sweet peas – and made them a nice bamboo tripod to climb up (I know, a tripod in a square pot, it makes no sense!), watered them and waited. Just over a week later little shoots popped up, and after a couple of days they looked like this:

Aren't they cute?

Several days later, I got my camera out to record their progress and discovered a rogue nasturtium lurking in the background, trying to pass itself off as a pea!

I didn't have the heart to remove the wee thing, despite my pea pot now feeling more like a cuckoo's nest.

Three weeks later, the peas are flourishing and starting to flower, the nasturtium is holding its own, and every time I walk past, One of These Things starts playing in my head.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Making pasta makes me happy

A few weeks back I was inspired to dig out my pasta machine and make some modifications so it would clamp adequately onto the bench in my parents' kitchen. It's been ages since I made fresh pasta, and it's a lovely way to pass the time. Like most crafts, it's hell frustrating when you're starting out and still getting a feel for it, but very rewarding when you finally learn how to get the right dough consistency and how not to get it all bunched up and stuck in the rollers.

The dough is just flour and eggs, and a little goes a long way. I made this batch for three people and used two eggs and a couple of cups of flour.

So this is my fettucini, which I made by rolling out long sheets of dough, a little thicker than you'd use for stuffed pasta, letting them dry for about ten minutes, and then rolling them through the cutter attachment. Letting the sheets dry a bit first helps prevent the strands from sticking together once they're cut.

My fabulous pasta drying rack was a birthday present from my flatmates at Selwyn Street, after Helen and I rigged up an inventive but slightly inefficient wooden spoon contraption to hang the pasta on.

It's very satisfying cooking fresh spaghetti or fettucini in the biggest pot you have. It also stops it sticking together, but as far as I'm concerned that's the secondary reason.

The sauce for this batch was very simple to make, but quite decadent in these days of expensive cheese and 99% fat free. For three people, it was made by heating 50g of butter in a pan over a low heat, then adding around 150mls of cream and three quarters of a cup of grated Parmesan. Once it's brought to the boil and seasoned with salt and pepper and a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, you add it to the pasta. It's very tasty.

Handmade fresh pasta is quite different to dried pasta – it's softer and has a smooth, silky texture and I think it holds the sauce more evenly. It's also surprisingly quick to make, once you get the hang of it – like bread, it's one of those things you make in phases and go off and do something else in between steps.

My next challenge is drying spaghetti in nests for future use. Done properly and stored in an air-tight container, it can apparently be kept indefinitely. Perhaps in a simple glass jar it would make a nice gift – what do you think?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Making crafty connections

The first ever session of Crafty Business kicks off at Churchills tomorrow evening at 7. Millie, Amy and I have been mulling this idea over for while. Following the success of Craft2.0 in Christchurch, we thought there might be a niche for a group for Christchurch crafters to get together and exchange ideas, make new contacts, collaborate and socialise with like-minded people.

It should be a lot of fun and hopefully a productive endeavour as well. If you're based in Christchurch and have crafty inclinations, come along. It's at 7pm, Monday 2 February, at Churchills Public House, 441 Colombo Street in Sydenham.

25 Random Things

1. I've seen my blood under a microscope.
2. I'd like to illustrate children's books.
3. I speak rabbit.
4. I'm hanging out for an occasion to wear my fascinator.
5. I once stayed in a convent in Venice.
6. My great grandfather was a professor of architecture at Cairo University.
7. I'm learning how to spin and I just got my very own spinning wheel.
8. If I could time travel I'd hang out at parties in the 1920s.
9. My brother was born on my 5th birthday.
10. I've made more than 300 pairs of armwarmers.
11. I took my sewing machine apart and when I put it back together I had two bits left over.
12. I like writing on whiteboards.
13. Nearly everything I own has been licked or nibbled by a rabbit.
14. I found consolation in Alain De Botton's Consolations of Philosophy.
15. I like green and everything it stands for.
16. Making pasta makes me happy.
17. I can make a passable flat white with a heart on the top.
18. Douglas Adams and Ayn Rand are my heroes.
19. I come up with a new business idea just about every other day.
20. A Rodin exhibition made me cry.
21. I take pride in a well written email.
22. I can't pronounce "patent" or "origins" without concentrating.
23. I was a Gap student at Chris Martin's old school.
24. Cocktails starting with "m" are my favourites: Mojitos, Moscow Mules and margueritas.
25. When I'm hanging out washing, I match the pegs because that's how my mum taught me my colours.