Well, here we are then….

You know, I feel so overwhelmed by everything that I don’t know where to begin. Everything seems too huge to be able to get anything down on the page. And of course EVERYONE is feeling exactly the same. It is quite startling to realise that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN on the PLANET if facing the same threat AT THE SAME TIME, and needing to deal with the very basic emotions and fears AT THE SAME TIME. Has that ever happened before? That’s another quite mind blowing concept.

I decided a few days ago that I would give up trying to work out my opinion on many things, such as the debate about opening/closing schools. The bottom of the problem with schools seems to me (see, I do have an opinion!) to come from not really knowing whether children are asymptomatic carriers or not. Will they spread the virus into the community, and elderly relatives especially, or are they better off being slightly more quarantined at school, keeping the vital health workers at work rather than at home caring for their kids? The experts are divided about this, because NO ONE KNOWS THE ANSWER. They can only work from data from overseas, mathematical modelling and medical understandings of disease spread. Data from overseas can only be a guide because each country has very different health systems, testing regimes, and are at different points along the curve. How can I have an opinion?

I only know that

  1. It won’t be over until we have a vaccine
  2. Our world will be a very different place then (but what it will look like is dependent on all the actions that take place along the way, including what you and I do.)
  3. I am so grateful that I do not have to make these big decisions that impact on every aspect of our lives.

So, to cope, I am doing what I can to make my life as healthy ~ mentally and physically ~ as possible.

  • Physical distancing, of course; washing my hands as frequently as possible (I may stop wearing rings as a result!); changing my clothes when I come inside and hanging them in the sunshine
  • I say ‘physical’ distancing, because I am still keeping a social connection, just through other ways. In fact I am in touch with way more people than usual! Kate wrote a great post about sending letters. Australia Post is still operating, even overseas, although there are delays to just about every country. It’s a great way to connect to people who don’t use the internet. I have been reading blogs, and love the way we are keeping each other’s spirits up. Every blog has its own way of doing this, and I thank you.
  • Eating well. Supply chains have been disrupted, mainly because they are scrambling to keep up with the over-the-top demand for food. The Fella and I are okay, and we have enough toilet paper, thank you for asking!
  • Sleeping well. This one is a tricky one. I am sure you understand how the dark thoughts flourish at night. I have a routine of calming tea, nourishing reading (not on a screen) and deep breathing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t I watch rubbish on TV and try to remember that things will be easier to deal with in the daylight.
  • Walking. The fresh air is a great antidote to the darkness. I have added in a daily sketch, which I am posting on Instagram. When I can’t walk outside I will sketch something from the garden. The point is to help me remember that the flowers are still growing, the birds dashing around and the bees are still making honey. The world still turns.
  • Each day I am looking for little things that are beautiful or joyous or connect me. Like these hearts in the window of a local shop, that closed today.

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We have had supportive messages from our neighbours, so I put this sign on our letterbox today.

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  • I am being careful about where I get my news. I haven’t looked at Facebook. I am relying on the sensible coverage of the ABC, our public broadcaster, as well as some recommended sites. I want information and well informed opinions from experts, not hysteria nor ‘I’m no expert but….’.
  • And lastly, of course I am adding creativity into the mix. Although, the odd thing is that I haven’t had time for much sewing lately. Keeping in touch as well as making sure I have the various supplies I need uses up quite a bit of time!

So I hope your strategies for keeping healthy, especially mentally healthy, are working well. Now, I am going for a walk and a sketch.

Stay well.

Namaste 🙏🏽

PS forgive any typos; my brain is scattered and my fingers are following along!

A special gift

It is a busy time, but I just had to drop in…..

We know there are deep divisions in the world, and we despair over what we are doing to the world. We feel anxious. It is easy to succumb to the negativity.

But then along comes the postie, with a special gift made by a special person, to remind me that for all that is wrong with the world, there is an awful lot that is right.

The gift was from my friend Kate, who blogs at Tall Tales from Chiconia. I know that many of you follow, read and comment on her blog (and if you don’t, you should). You will know her as a very generous soul. I know her too as a dear friend, even though we have only met a couple of times ~ the distance between McKay, where she lives in tropical Queensland, and my home in Melbourne is huge.

These last six months for me have been full of medical matters for my partner and my Mum. Both are on the mend, but everything has been a distraction from my artistic work. Kate has picked up on this, and sent me a beautifully quilted brush roll. She hopes that it will help me get my creative mojo back, and I am sure it will.

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Kate has not only made something special for me, but her extra layer of thoughtfulness is that the pattern of the material is watercolour feathers. It was a special piece of material from her stash.  She knows that feathers are important  to me. How special is that!

I have often admired the brush rolls of other painters, but none compares to mine, because theirs have not been made by a thoughtful and insightful friend. Their’s don’t have feather fabric nor custom made pockets to hold a variety of things.

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So thank you Kate, for reminding me of all the good there is in this world. Enjoy your Christmas with those you love! 💕

Have a lovely festive time. I hope you spend it doing the things you love with the people you love. And that Father Christmas brings you an extra special something.

A quick update, and lots of good people

It’s a busy day today ~ shopping, tax time, the day to write my newsletter (in this one I will do the full reveal of the 3 trees I have sewn; don’t miss out, so sign up here), and time to work on my new WEBSITE 😄 ~ so it’s only a short post about things that have been playing around in my mind.

Yes, I have made lots of progress with the website, and am going with WordPress. Now there’s a surprise, especially to me! I will tell you a lot more about it soon, promise. Today I want to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post. But I want to give a big shout out and thank you to Catherine from Hillview Embroidery. She set up a WordPress.org site and her detailed emails have given me a thread to follow through the decision making. Hugs to you Catherine, 😘 Have a look at her sumptuous embroidery, including her gold koala!

Now, onto other good and generous people…..

The world has been mesmerised by the rescue of the lads from the cave in Thailand. I am sure you were like me, marvelling at how many people came together to achieve that miraculous rescue, donating equipment, time, expertise. Sadly Saman Guana even gave his life.

The rescue is a glorious example of compassion, generosity, selflessness and co-operation, traits that are as much a part of humanity as competition and greed. It shows what is possible. It shows that if we took out political interests and profit we could solve climate change and other problems that beset our world.

There were so many Good People in the story of the rescue of the boys and their coach. I urge you to have a read of Jill’s blog Filosofia’s Word “Good people doing good things ~ the rescue”. She tells of so many wonderful people, but my favourite is the rice farmer. To quote Jill:

Her name is Mae Bua Chaicheun and she is a small-scale rice farmer, owning about 5 acres of land in a small village near the mountain where the boys’ soccer team was trapped in the cave.  When news broke that an entire soccer team was trapped in a cave, Chaicheun dropped everything and headed to the mountainside to help.  Chaicheun spent a week at the cave, cooking meals for the rescue workers and pitching in wherever she was needed.  But when she returned home, she found her rice fields in ruin.  The water that was being continuously pumped out from the cave during the rescue mission, along with heavy rains, had flooded the area and her rice crop was gone.

But Ms. Chaicheun is not complaining.  “When I got home the water was two feet deep, and the young plants were flooded. Children are more important than rice. We can regrow rice but we can’t regrow the children. I feel people have shown more love towards each other. There’s such a strong community spirit, people all wanting to help each other.”  What a beautiful attitude – a beautiful woman, yes?  An addendum:  the Thai king has pledged to purchase all the ruined rice crops from Ms. Chaicheun and others whose crops fell victim to the pumped waters.

My other Good Person is on the other side of the world, on a bike.

You may or may not know that I am a Tour Tragic. Last night I was up to 1:30 in awe of the cyclists in the Tour de France as they pounded their way up the steep roads of the second Alpine stage. And then they sprinted at the end!

Cyclists expect to fall and be injured. Of course they want to stay upright and try to do everything they can to stay safe, including using their excellent bike handling skills. One cyclist, Lawson Craddock, fell on the first day. Ironically his number is 13. I don’t know how superstitious he is, but he has turned the number on his back upside down!

He fractured his scapula in the fall, but got back on the bike. I can not image the pain that a fractured shoulder blade would cause, especially to a cyclist who needs to be able to push and pull on the handle bars. Craddock was easy to pick out over the next few days. He was the rider in the bright pink and lime green jersey (his team’s colours) who was always at the back of the peloton and usually riding in a lopsided way to protect his injury.

But he continued on, and lately he has been harder to spot as he works his way into the middle of the peloton.

But the courage (although some may call it unwise) that Lawson Craddock shows is not why I am writing about him. Many cyclists ride with injuries, some much worse. i am mentioning him because after his fall Craddock said that he would donate $100 for every stage he managed, and asked others to contribute. The money is to repair the Houston velodrome, damaged in a recent hurricane, the velodrome where the Texan Craddock began his cycling.

So far donations have topped $100,000, and Craddock is still in the race! I hope he makes it to Paris. There will be many cheering him on.

And now on to my newsletter. (But maybe a cup of tea first.) Click here to find out more about my latest art creations.  

Naoshima, the Japanese Art Island

Lately I have swapped my little watercolour brushes for a big one, to paint our hallway. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t finished telling you about my adventures in Japan. I have also been doing a workshop to help develop my newsletter. Lots to learn, and lots to put into practice.

Meanwhile, back in Japan…..

Naoshima is a little island in the Seto Inland Sea.

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We (my mother, brother and I) needed to get there from Osaka and the shinkansen was the way to go. The JR office was so efficient. Once the clerk knew our destination she tapped on the computer and out came the tickets we needed to get there. So, armed with our trusty JR rail passes and the tickets we hopped onboard the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Okayama. There we changed to a middle-sized train to get to Chaymachi, where we changed to a small local train to Uno. Each connection worked smoothly.

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View from the train

I had debated about where we would stay. You can stay on Naoshima Island, but I thought the ferry ride and then getting to the accommodation might have been a couple of steps too many for Mum. It was the correct decision, especially as I made the right choice in Uno Port Inn.

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Its location couldn’t have been better ~ just around the corner from the station, and over the road from the ferry. But it was the Inn itself that made the stay. The staff were welcoming and spoke excellent English. They gave us so much information about the Inn, Naoshima, the ferries, the local area ~ and they made excellent coffee!!

The concept of the Inn is great. Each room had tatami mats but western beds ~ the Japanese vibe without the inconvenience, especially for my elderly Mum. Apparently the upstairs are all Japanese style. Instead of an ensuite each room had a small, private bathroom at the end of the hall. There was a lounge area and cafe for guests. You can see more detail on their website. And a delicious restaurant just around the corner that was still open when we rocked up for a late lunch.

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Naoshima is a small island that was, like country places the world over, languishing. This article explains what happened, 

Naoshima might have been headed for the same relentless decline.

Enter Benesse Holdings, an education and publishing conglomerate based in the nearby city of Okayama. Its best-known brand is Berlitz, the language school company. Benesse’s other claim to fame is its world-class modern art collection, including paintings by Claude Monet, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, as well as many Japanese artists less famous in the U.S.

The former head of Benesse Holdings, Soichiro Fukutake, wanted a special home for the collection, someplace where it would have a local impact and could also be shared with the wider world.

So, nearly 30 years ago, Benesse bought a big hunk of land on Naoshima’s south side. It hired world-famous architect Tadao Ando, and over the next two decades, he designed museums and adjacent luxury lodgings. The buildings follow the natural contours of the landscape. One museum is mostly underground, with open courtyards and skylights bringing in natural light.

It is not the only Art Island in the area, but is the most well-known.

The photos show that it was a rainy day when we went over, but still warm. And the clouds were spectacular! Unfortunately the rain stopped us from seeing everything, especially the art houses. Not really sure what they are, so I can’t tell you about them. But I will go back the see them….and then you can hear all about it! The article I linked to before details some of the benefits for the locals.

Sculpture is dotted around the island. You may know the images of the pumpkins.

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Spots are the theme of the island, with the bus painted with spots too. The town bus takes you over the island to where the big art galleries are. To get to them you hop on a free shuttle bus (the town bus costs Y100, about $1), which winds up the hill and drops you at the gallery you wish to see.

We went to the Chichu Art Museum. Photos aren’t allowed, but the website gives you a very good feel for the place. It is unlike anything I have been to before. And I loved the Monet paintings displayed there

There was a lot to absorb there, so we decided not to see the two other galleries, and headed to town for another late lunch. Lunch turned out to be one of my favourite moments of the trip.

We hopped off the bus in the drizzle, looked around and down a little alley we saw a doorway with an “Open” sign.

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By now we were quite used being surprised by these small restaurants….and this was no exception. It was larger than it looked from the outside. One room had the traditional tatami mats where you sat on the floor. My brother and I could have managed, but Mum may not have got up again! Fortunately the next room had tables and chairs.

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Can you see the menu? Assorted seafood bowl for Y1500 (roughly $15.00) or roast fish for Y1300 (roughly $13.00). Mum chose the roast fish and said it was the most delicious meal. Andrew and I chose the other. The photo shows my meal; succulent fresh, raw fish on a bed of rice, with miso soup and pickles. The green herb in the little bowl to the right was rather like basil (but it wasn’t), to be sprinkled over the fish. The marshmallow-looking things in the miso soup had normal flavour, but a squishy texture. The meal was delicious.

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At the bottom of the miso soup we found these….

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Mystified, Andrew cracked one open to find a morsel of flesh inside. We later learnt that they are barnacles. Well I never!

So we oohed and aahed our way through lunch, overseen by the two ladies (mother and daughter?) who owned it and cooked for us. Then we braced ourselves for the rain outside and scurried for the shuttle bus, due any minute. Just as we got to the stop one of the ladies ran after us, saying that she would take us over the island to the ferry on the other coast. Such a sweet, thoughtful thing to do.

The last thing to show you is the fish on the esplanade at Uno. I could see it from the Inn, and it looked like a large coloured fish. Imagine my delight when I got up close….

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to find out it was made from detritus, much of it from the sea. (Of course, not delighted by the fact that all that rubbish is in the sea.)

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According to the sign it is “Black Porgy in Uno” by Yodogawa Technique.

And next to it is a smaller fish, created as a children’s slide.

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Would I go back? Yes. I would love to wander the little villages on Naoshima, soaking it all up, finding the unexpected. And I would like to visit the other islands too.

Do you have any tales to tell of unexpected delights on your travels?

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#stitchingsanta reveal #2

The second parcel still hadn’t arrived when we left for Western Australia a few days before Christmas. Our neighbour was collecting our mail, so I knew it would be in safe hands if it arrived. We came home a week into January. When Melissa gave us the post I wondered about the lack of parcel. I even wondered whether I had muddled up things, and that there wan’t one. I was concerned that an unknown blogger had gone to a lot of trouble to make up a parcel for me and it was lost in the mail system. I felt quite rude.

Time to ponder what to do. Check with Melissa; email Sheila. Then I read a new blog post from Rita at Rita’s Design, who was telling her readers about the parcel she had put together for Anne. Oh dear….but at least I knew who to talk to.

And then a most amazing thing happened.

Not half an hour after I had read Rita’s post, the Fella called out “Anne, there’s a parcel here for you!” There was Rita’s box, but it wasn’t telling of its adventures from Germany to Australia!

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I happily ignored this instruction!

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Inside was a delightful hand made card, with this message

As I first scrolled down on your blog I immediately felt a connection to you because I respect and love nature just like you. Even though we have a different way of expressing that and our creativity I think we have a lot in common.

I think so too.

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Rita designed this tray especially for me, and the feather decoration was just perfect. (There are feathers on the sides of the box too.) It will be a fine box to put my feathers in. 🙂

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In the background you will see a white mug with a fine feather on it. Rita stencilled it herself, again with that feather motif.

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She lives on the border of the Netherlands and thought I would probably like one of their hot-choco-spoons. She is right 🙂

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This delightful little angel was crocheted by a very talented friend of hers.

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However, Rita made this key holder, again in the shape of a feather ~ a parrot feather methinks! ~ so I won’t be loosing my keys again.

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Or my luggage, because now I have a luggage label made of the cutest fabric.

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Speaking of fabric, as well as all these other goodies, there were two (not one but two!) pieces of material. Soft colours, and the top one has a feather pattern too.

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Again, I was overwhelmed by Rita’s generosity and thoughtfulness (and grateful that it is not languishing in the depths of of an Australia Post cavern.) I am humbled by the kindness shown to me by both Rita and Joey.

In Rita’s box there was one more little treasure, these festive coasters, on which will sit my new mug, on top of the protea placemats. A BIG THANK YOU to both of my #stitchingsantas, you have made my Christmas even more memorable.

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If you want to find out what I sent to one of my #stitchingsanta buddies you can read Lynn’s unveiling of one of my parcels. And in a lovely twist, Lynn is one of the Sisters of the Travelling Sketchbook!

If this has piqued your interest for Christmas this year, follow Sheila’s blog to watch out for her announcement.

#stitchingsanta reveal #1

You may remember me telling you about the #stitchingsanta swap organised by Sheila at  Sewchet. You could opt in to either a knitting/crocheting secret santa, a sewing secret santa or both. Then Sheila matched us all up. What a fabulous idea, and what an organisational nightmare it must have been! Thank you so much Sheila. 🙂

The idea was that the goodies wouldn’t be opened until Christmas Day. My first parcel arrived well before then, which was lucky as the trip to Western Australia was going to get in the way. It came from Joey who blogs at littlebackdogsa. You might also like to follow this link to see why she calls her blog Little Black Dog.

Imagine my delight to see this parcel arrive at the door, all the way from South Africa!

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Inside were lots of individually silver-paper wrapped presents. I am very easy to please, and anything wrapped in paper delights me!

Her card said

I am your Stitching Santa buddy, all the way from Johannesburg, S.A. I had so much fun putting these gifts together for you. I tried to keep it South African, but with your love for plants and birds as part of the theme. I hope you enjoy them

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Joey’s instructions were to open one present each day leading up to Christmas, which was good because (a) I wasn’t going to be in Melbourne for Christmas and (b) I am terrible at not opening presents!!

I can’t remember the order in which I opened them, but I do know which was first, because I was blown away by this spoon and knife set. Look at those beautiful patterns!

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There were a generous number of threads, chosen to suit my palette of colours! They will certainly be used over the year.

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There was some tape. I am going to use the lacy one on a project that my Mum is working on. I think she will love the extra zing it gives her work.

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Tapestry needles ~ Yay! I needed some with different sized eyes, and these have their own little house to be in. How did she know?!

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A very cute coin purse….

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and some South African chocolates and biscuits. These got eaten on the trip over to WA! Yum.

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A note pad and pencil, because Joey must know that lists are the backbone of my life.

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And there is more. Are you blown away by Joey’s generosity, because I certainly was, and still am. Here is a set of cards with a beautiful lacy pattern cut out of them, (I love writing letters), as well as a notebook (I love notebooks!). Of course the notebook has a Cape Town post mark, proteas and, I presume, South African birds.

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Finally, some more South African themed goodies….two placemats, again adorned with proteas, and a bag that will be perfect on my walks.

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Joey’s thoughtfulness and generosity is amazing. I can only hope that she had as much fun organising the gifts as I did opening them.  Many, many thanks Joey. xxx

Her card was a postcard of the Ponte Tower. The photo was part of a project that is dear to her heart, and you might like to take a look. iwasshotin joburg 🙂 is a project where former street kids are given disposable cameras and encouraged to photograph their world. You can see more at iwasshot

Now, I did say that there were two parcels coming my way. The second was also a delight to receive, but it is a story for tomorrow.

 

Dedicating the Little Free Library

I have been following Alys’s blog, Gardening Nirvana, for a while. In every post she comes through as a thoughtful woman, one who cares about the world in which she lives. Over the last few months she has been telling us about her Little Free Library — the one she built right on her nature strip. (To be truthful, Nick built it, but Alys was the driving force.) Her inspiration came from……well, read her post about the Dedication and find out for yourself. It is a wonderful idea that deserves to be shared, just like the joy of reading deserves to be shared too. Thank you Alys, and all the others who have Little Free Libraries.

Gardening Nirvana

Warm temperatures and a cool breeze were a welcome gift Saturday during  the Little Free Library dedication.

The idea for little libraries started in Wisconsin in 2009

Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it in his front yard.  His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS.

Little Free library.org is now a non-profit as well as a movement, spreading the love of reading around the world.

I dedicated The El Codo Way Little Free Library, to two of our local teachers, Debbie Hughes Judge and Carolyn Sullivan. Carolyn and Debbie (now retired) are highly regarded 2nd grade teachers at Bagby Elementary School. They were instrumental in supporting the Books at…

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