Tales from the Sick Bed

Here’s the thing about illness. There are cultural attitudes about it. Don’t believe me? Try getting sick abroad, whether it’s on holiday, or while you’re living in a foreign country. 

I grew up with very British ideas about being sick. Like so many other things, there is an element of keeping a stiff upper lip. Add to this a mother who’s a doctor, and thus the idea that only when I had a temperature and/or was throwing up was I ‘properly’ sick, and you have the concept that you have to drag yourself everywhere unless you’re really truly sick. All the advertising panders to that same idea, for example in this (badly dubbed into Geordie for some reason) advert for Lemsip:


In my case, this has included walking all over Rome feeling unwell only to end up delirious with food poisoning, and the time I went to school with a sore throat only to be sent home. I even had a boss in the UK who told me (while I was on a temporary contract) “I love temps, they come in to work on their hands and knees if they have to”.

It wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand that I realised that not everyone in the world is the same. The first time I came to work with a cold, people were astonished. Going home on my boss’ orders that time, it felt odd- I was at home with just a cold! But then an odd thing happened…I felt better. Much sooner than I would have in the UK. 

In England, being sick is, in some ways, a sign of weakness- as in the Lemsip advert above. The business rival has tried to capitalise on the main guy’s illness, and failed because of the magic medicine. Very dog-eat-dog. 

In New Zealand, though, illness- at least physical illness- is just something that happens. You stay home, so others don’t get sick, and you rest, and you get better. That’s just how it works. 

Mental illness, of course, is another matter entirely, and one that merits it’s own post- so more on that next week. 

What attitudes have you noticed people have to sickness where you are? I’d be interested to know.

A Wednesday roundup- plane plague, moving and other shenanigans

So first, I have to apologise for the interruption to the regular posting schedule. I woke up on Monday morning with a death plague which laid me out for two days. I’m now into the lemsip-and-convalescing phase, a step up from lemsip-and-napping-on-the-sofa-while-flatmate’s-girlfriend-plays-Mass-Effect phase. I’ll continue the tutorial series next Tuesday but in the meantime to catch up, time for some gratitude and some linky funtimes!

First and foremost, I’m grateful that I’m now in the final stages of getting ready to move. Starting the new job, living in the same city as the Best Beloved, starting to explore said city, there’s a lot to be excited about.  

Watching: Gilmore Girls

I can’t help it. When I’m sick I mainline TV, and this time it’s been Gilmore Girls. Luke/Lorelai <3 forever. I’ve also been knitting a few hexipuffs between naps- never underestimate the healing powers of brainless knitting and TV that doesn’t make you think too hard.

Reading: WordPress for Beginners by Reeta Krishna

That is before the sickness knocked me out, and between chunks of ‘The Four Agreements’. It’s all to do with building the shiny new website for A Small Aubergine. What can I say? I’ve got dreams, and I never cease being surprised and grateful at the way that the Universe sends me the tools I need to start making them happen. 

Funding: The Atomic Tarot

It got funded! I’m very excited, though of course I’ll have to wait a few months to get the deck itself. But still, something to look forward to. 


The ‘Men in Knitwear’ calendar by Stitch Seekers. Yes I know it’s July. But how did I not know this was a thing? “We don’t want to distract you from the knitwear so the models won’t be wearing loads of other clothes.”- LOVE. 

Convalescing has also led to some internet rambling. Veronica Varlow mentioned Faerie Magazine recently and I ended up downloading a digital back issue- some great writing and beautiful photography. I think I found a new treat! That in turn let me to Novel Atelier on Etsy, and this nautical tattoo silk cloth is now high up my wish list. 

Star Wars pancake moulds! I can’t buy them until after the move, but after the move…well, the Best Beloved loves Star Wars, and I love pancakes, seems like a match to me. And Offbeat Home suggests using them to shape watermelon pieces– bring on summer. 

In the meantime, bring on the blanket and the nap. Hopefully my regularly scheduled programme will resume tomorrow.

Friday Five- Five tips for crafting while travelling

Inspired by regular trips up to Auckland and back, including one coming up in, oh, a few hours, I thought I’d share this. Reading books on a flight is all very well, and I still make sure I always have a book with me- owning a Kindle is very useful in that regard, it means I never have to suffer that awkward moment of getting delayed, finishing what you’re reading and not having anything else to read. But for the most part, I like to spend time on a plane and waiting to board crafting.

Of course, knitting on a plane isn’t always easy, as the Yarn Harlot can attest. But in New Zealand, at least, people seem to be all good with my on-plane crafting. Last time I flew, in fact, when I got out a mini-skein to wind it the woman sitting next to me got terribly excited about the colours, and we ended up talking about quilting for a good part of the flight. But here are a few things I recommend if you’re worried:

1: Pick your craft-and tools- carefully.

Crochet, cross stitch (with a lower-count Aida, say about 12-14 count and thus a less sharp needle), or embroidery are all good choices for on-plane crafting. If you, like me, have the overwhelming urge to knit, I recommend wooden or other non-metal needles if you can. They are much less likely to cause issues at security (though there are posts out there on how to get metal needles through).

2: Keep it simple

This is not the time for something complicated. You may be only half way through the row of stitches when suddenly it’s time to board, or to put things away because you’re landing. Think you’ll be able to remember where you were? Yeah.

3: Keep it small

It’s also not a good idea to make this the time you work on that giant blanket- UNLESS said blanket is made up of itty bitty squares (or in my case hexipuffs). Consider how much space you need to work on the project comfortably and then compare that with how much space you’ll actually have on the plane, especially if you’re on a full flight and have to keep your elbows tucked in. Small projects are best. They also don’t take up so much room in your bag, leaving more space for clothes or souvenirs or what-have-you.

If you’re in business or first class, of course, then this doesn’t apply. Work on a project any size you like! Though if I was in first class I’d be taking full advantage of those flat beds…

4: Photocopy your pattern if it’s in a book.

Do you really want the extra weight, or to have to deal with flipping around pages when you’re in mid-air? I thought not.

5: Be prepared to talk about your project.

Because people will ask you what you’re making. And tell you that they craft, or that someone in their family used to. At least 9 times out of 10. Mostly, these conversations will be pleasant and interested, especially if you’re working on something colourful (sock yarn, in particular, seems to draw in non-knitters just as much as it does knitters). But also be aware that it may not always be pleasant. A lot of non-crafters just don’t get why you would spend time on something like that. Well, let them think what they want, and don’t worry about what they think. Just be ready for the comments, and ready to ignore them. One of the great things about crafting is getting something tangible out of what might otherwise be time spent just zoning out in front of the TV (which does have benefits from time to time). And you’re not crafting for them, you’re crafting for you.

Happy flying! What are your tips for travel crafting? I’d love to see your project recommendations, or hear your stories about your experiences.

Things I Think About Thursday: FoMo and me- a work in progress

I started young with the FoMo.

There’s a story my family tell, often and to a lot of people, about a trip to the funfair on Southsea Pier when I was about 3. Apparently, I went on every possible ride. Some I even went on twice. Then when we were leaving the pier to go home, I looked crestfallen and my mother asked what was wrong. “We didn’t get any candy floss!” was my plaintive reply.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to do all the things. I made fun of my Mum at the time when, on holiday, we were in a wine region and she wanted to go to the mushroom museum. But now I think, ‘hey, I’m glad we went! Otherwise I’d always have wondered about it.’ (All I learned: growing mushrooms involves a lot of…um…compost. And for boys of any age, the ‘shiitake’ is the most hilarious fungus.)

My bucket list is lengthy, and I worry, more often than I probably should, that I won’t get to see every place I want to see. I miss parts of conversations and immediately want to know what’s been said. I take ages over menus because what if I never eat there again? I want to make sure I got something really good.

All of these are examples of things I’m trying to let go of because in the end, it all comes from fear. Maybe it wasn’t that way to start off with, when I was very little I just had the appetite for life- rides and slides and candyfloss, oh my! I’d like to get back to that. But to do that, I need to extract and deal with the creeping fear that has wrapped itself around that zest. It goes back at least 20 years, longer in face. Facing being bullied at school, which often took the form of deliberate exclusion, I started to associate missing out on things with being judged, and found wanting. Missing out on things meant people didn’t like me, and at the time I had precious little self-esteem to show that thought up for the lie it was. It was made worse by bullies who dispensed such nuggets of wisdom as, when I was invited to a party, “don’t go, she only invited you to be polite”.

But I’m not a teenager any more. I have friends who care about me as much as I care about them. I’m discovering, and trying my best to hold on to the idea, that the world is full of love and miracles. There are more than enough to go around. I don’t have to act from fear, especially from fear of missing out. It’s not healthy, and it stops me making decisions about how to use my time in the way that will be best for me.

I can’t do everything. But I can do some. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to explore, and adventure, and learn and see as much as I can. Getting rid of the fear of missing out means I can do that in a way that will bring more good into my life, a way that will mean that all that experience is something I can use to expand, to be a gift of love to the world, rather than clinging to my experiences and memories like a miser hoarding gold coins. I want to do enough to feel that I’ve put my own truth into an old saying:

“You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.”

Who’s with me?

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Links of Joy: Time for some majesty

I’m having a day where many things have annoyed me and I’ve let them get to me more than I should. To break the pattern, time for some majestic links of majesty.

Lets start with this frosted rainbow unicorn light (because when I think majesty, I automatically think unicorns. The internet has me well trained.).  

From the pages of myth gallops this majestic unicorn, carved in frosted splendor and glowing with an ever-changing rainbow of light.

Yes, that’s the actual description. The light itself reminds me of the kinds of gifts I used to get from students when I taught English as a second language. At the first place I taught ESOL, we had a row of ceramic oil-burners of varying degrees of majesty along the shelf above the resource library. Sadly I had to divest myself of my giant red glass swans forming a heart with their necks when I downsized after I left my now ex-husband. Yes, sadly.

If unicorns aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d prefer to channel Siegfried and Roy with this white tiger side table. But wait, it gets better- according to Amazon, customers who bought that table also bought this dramatic eagle side table. In fact, you can buy them as a set because, again according to Amazon, they are frequently bought together. That means, somewhere in the world (most likely somewhere in the States), it is possible, nay likely, that there is someone- in fact more than one someone- who has BOTH OF THOSE TABLES IN THEIR HOUSE. Lets just take a moment to ponder that. See? I’m feeling better already.

 I’m happy to see that the majesty of the Three Wolf Moon t-shirt is alive and well and available in New Zealand.

You could also get a black wolf t-shirt (because combining shipping is thrifty!). To me it looks kind of like the G’mork in ‘The Neverending Story’. And that’s pretty cool (though holy hell the G’mork scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid).

Sadly, Shiro Cosmetics have discontinued their Three Wolf Moon lipcolour, or I would have linked you to that as an alternative. But to my delight they now have a Red Wedding lipgloss and a new collection of Miyazaki-inspired tinted lip balms. Also, an eyeshadow named after one of my favourite moments in The Avengers (and is rainbow-glittery!). Things I’m adding to the list for a payday treat…

Some natural majesty here, courtesy of Buzzfeed- this majestic mountain trail is trying to kill you. While the photos terrify me (I’m scared of heights- I got freaked out on an escalator last time I was in Auckland, but that was because the Best Beloved insisted on leaning over the edge to look at the floor several stories below), I also really want to go there. Though maybe not on the Insane Plank Walk.

For your movie entertainment (if you own a VHS that is), perhaps you would enjoy this classic 80’s story of using music and bodyrock to stop a greedy land developer from taking over a neighborhood.  Ah, yes, I have many happy memories of the ‘using music and bodyrock to stop greedy land developers’ genre. Starring Mario Van Peebles! No, I don’t know who that is. But the Etsy seller seems to be excited about it, so darn it, I am too.

By the way, if you find things that make you happy on the internet I’d love to see them. I may even feature them in a future Links of Joy. Share the love!

Right! I’m off to put on my sexy dress and move on. Happy Wednesday everyone!  

I’ll leave you with some majestic Beyoncé quotes. Because Beyoncé.

How to get badass at almost anything, part 2: Practice makes perfect

Here’s the thing. I can give you all kinds of tips about learning styles, and tell you what I’ve learned from teaching. But the single best piece of advice I could give anyone wanting to get better at something is this: practice it. Keep practicing it, no matter how well or badly it goes.

But that’s often easier said than done. I know why I’m no good at playing piano- it’s because as a kid, I was more interested in watching TV than practicing. And it can be a deeply frustrating process. Any teacher who’s done the training will tell you that learners often spend time on a ‘plateau’- they’re carrying on at around the same level, not improving. Those stretches of time where you keep trying to get better but haven’t hit another climb can be demoralising, disheartening. But the only way to get past them is to keep going.

Luckily, there are a couple of hacks you can use to make sure you practice. The best way to practice something is every day. EVERY day. Not necessarily for a long time, even 20 minutes will do it.

Practice Hack number 1: The Chain

Jerry Seinfeld’s advice (originally from this Lifehacker post) is brilliant. You get a big wall calendar. Every day you practice, you mark a big X on that day…

After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.  Don’t break the chain.

Simple, no? And seeing that row of crossed-off days feels good. But maybe you need a bit more of a reward…

Practice Hack number 2: The Carrot

To encourage yourself to keep up the chain, you could promise yourself a reward if you keep it going for, say, 7 days. It can be anything, whatever feels like a reasonable, but enticing, reward for you. Maybe it’s a bubble bath. Maybe it’s going to a movie, or getting a takeaway from your favourite place, or a bar of your favourite chocolate (or in my case a tube of Pringles) allllll to yourself. Pick something that will motivate you to keep going.

You could also make a commitment to do something if you DON’T keep it up, like make a donation to charity.

In the (brilliant) Five Minute Journal, you have to do both these things when you start, to get you going- you write down a reward if you keep going, and something you’ll do if you don’t. It’s a way of turning the practice into a habit- the other reason to do something every day. You’ll get used to doing it, it’ll become part of the thought process when you’re planning things out. Having been doing the Five Minute Journal (admittedly more like 10 when I do it) every day, I now automatically factor it into my morning routine.

But maybe you need to go outside yourself to make sure you stick to the practicing. Which brings me on to…

Practice Hack number 3: The Buddy system

Veronica Varlow is doing this with a friend for learning guitar. It could be that you have a friend who also wants to learn what you’re learning. But that doesn’t have to be it.

Pick someone- a flatmate, your partner, or someone you talk to often. Tell them what you want to get better at, and tell them you want to practice every day. Make them remind you, or undertake to let them know when you’ve done the practice that day. And if they don’t hear from you by a certain time, they can prod you, and motivate you.

Ideally you want someone who’s going to be a good cheerleader, who’s going to make you feel inspired and excited to do what you’re doing. Guilt trips help no-one- you want someone who makes you feel good, not someone who makes you beat yourself up because you haven’t done something. You’ll know which of your friends and family would be positive influences, and which wouldn’t (don’t ask the people who fall into the second group!). If it’s not fun, you won’t do it, unless you have HELLA amounts of discipline.

Guilt leads to excuses, excuses lead to prolonging the period when you’re not doing it, and before you know it you’ve fallen out of the habit. So pick someone who’s going to be excited for you trying, excited for you making progress. Just like those people who stand along fun run routes and cheer you on- they did this at the Colour Run. I know some people find it silly, but I just loved being told ‘go on! You’re doing so well! Keep going!’.

Keep going.

It’s that simple.

So tell me, how do you motivate yourself to practice the things you want to get good at? And what are you practicing at the moment?

Monsterful Monday: It’s all happening


The author with ferocious plushie monster

My silly selfie (with Kaiju) from day 1 of #radicalselflovejuly

It really is all happening chez Aubergine at the moment. The big news is that chez Aubergine will be moving, in more ways than one.

First, I’ve now got a job offer in Auckland, and will be moving by the end of the month (good thing I got started on the decluttering when I did!). And as soon as I can sort out the WordPress install (ugh, manually installing anything is  a pain), this blog will be moving to a shiny new site! More on that as it progresses.

But apart from job offers and the exciting world of technology, there’s plenty to be thankful for this week.


Now that Instagram will finally work on my phone, I’ve signed up. I promise not to bombard you with photographs of food or no makeup selfies. To get started with it, I’m doing Gala Darling’s ‘radical self love July’ project.  I was a little late starting, but right now I’m working on my positive graffiti- an excellent excuse for a yarnbomb if you ask me. But if you want to see it…you’ll have to come on over to instagram. You can find me on there by searching for mannersmagpie. Come say hello, so I can follow you.

Costume excitement

I’ve now got my characters for a couple of the games I’m in at the Chimera LARP convention, and that means costuming! To my utter, squealing delight, I’ve been cast as Miss Piggy in Muppets: The LARP!, so I spent some time online researching the perfect glamourous outfit for her. I finally found a glorious pattern at the library in a book called ‘Sew Iconic‘. It’s based on a dress worn by Rita Hayworth in ‘Gilda’ (I do plan on flipping my fabulous curly hair and saying “Me?”), but I shall be making it in hot pink instead of black. Then add some opera gloves, glittery shoes (I have a pair of pink glitter heels with ice creams on them) and a metric tonne of sparkly jewellery, and I’m most of the way towards channeling my ultimate style and self-esteem heroine. And I’m seriously considering going blonde for the convention…as I’m sure Miss Piggy would agree, one should never do anything by halves! The Best Beloved is playing Sweetums…cue jokes about the deliciousness of frogs legs and bacon. Speaking of which…

Bacon Jam

I know what you’re thinking. “Bacon…jam?” I only discovered this is something that exists a few days ago, just in time for a friend’s birthday brunch. Of course, I had to try it, because, well, BACON JAM. Think of it as more like an onion relish with lots of bacon in it, if the idea of it being a jam freaks you out too much. There are many, many recipes out there for it. The one I used is The Kitchn’s sweet and savory bacon jam (though I substituted brown sugar for the maple syrup, then added a 1/4 of a cup of maple syrup once I got the lid off the darn bottle… this is not the kind of jam recipe requiring sugar thermometers or anything like that, just time and patience and a good saucepan). You do need to add plenty of salt, I think. But it was a big hit at the brunch. It’s especially good served on split English muffins (especially if you can get cheesy muffins as we can here in NZ), with a good sharp, strong cheddar. Or in a cheeseburger as a relish. Or on scones. Or with cheese straws for dunking. Yes, any party of geeks gets experimental that way. Oh, and refrigerating it overnight makes it thicken and become beautifully unctuous and jam-like.

And special mentions

Patient flatmates putting up with the to-go pile o’stuff in the lounge, giving myself crazy manicures with Minnie Mouse pink and Tiffany blue nail polish, conquering the clutter in the craft room, Mollie Makes, talking to a friend via text about canonical vajazzling (yes really- it’s a Dresden Files thing), playing with filters on Instagram, #kissykissy, mulled wine, tea, and the excitement of new beginnings.

How about you?

Friday 5: 5 things I know for sure about DIY and crafts

Making things yourself is highly satisfying

From playing with fabric combinations to putting the final stitch in a quilt, casting on to taking your dried, blocked piece of knitting and trying it on, admiring the completed scrapbook page or sewing that yarnbomb in place… it feels good to make something with your own hands.

You are more capable than you know

Everyone, even experienced crafters, have moments of “oh, I could never make *that*”, and yes, we have them about crafts we already know how to do.But that doesn’t mean you should let that sneaky fear voice stop you from trying.

Yes, your attempt at a lace shawl may end up a tangly jumble of yarn ramen…the first time. And maybe even the second time or third time. But if you keep trying- and most importantly look at where and how you went wrong and do it differently next time, you’ll get there. And when you do, the victory dance will be totally justified.

Just remember the wise advice of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot: Your significant other will not agree that a knitting achievement, however significant, is worth you waking them up.

Having good tools and materials makes a difference

Even if you’re just starting out. A lot of beginner knitters, for example, buy squeaky cheap acrylic and needles, but if you’re doing something for yourself, especially learning a skill that you hope will become a passion, why not start as you mean to go on? A beautiful chunky merino wool, and some good wood needles, will make the experience of learning and practicing that much more pleasurable- which means you’re more likely to keep going, and get good. Plus which would you rather have as your first finished item: a bright but plasticky scarf, or a squishy, soft one? Which do you think you’re more likely to wear and show off?

Whatever you want to learn, there’s someone out there who can show you.

Google the technique. If you want to learn in person, Google it with the name of your town. Enough said.

Never, ever go DIY when cutting your hair. Especially not your fringe.

Go ahead. Ask me how I know.

Unhappy hipsters are unhappy for a reason

I talk to my friend Anna pretty much every day via text. Today she told me she’s breaking up the day by getting out at lunchtime (terrible weather be damned, good for her!) and going to Starbucks. This gave rise to a conversation about whether that made her a hipster.

Here’s the thing I don’t get, and don’t really like, about the hipster phenomenon- it’s the idea of ‘liking things ironically’. I just don’t get it. Do you just not like it? Or do you like it, but are embarrassed to say that you like it?

Neither of these, to me, lead to a healthy outlook or pursuit of happiness.

If you actually don’t like something- don’t like going to that kitschy cafe, don’t like wearing that retro t-shirt, don’t like drinking that drink…then why are you doing it? Why would you choose to do something you don’t enjoy, just because you want to appear ‘ironic’.

And if you DO like it, why should you be afraid of owning that? Maybe you love eating at the kitschy cafe because you actually really enjoy the crazy umbrella drinks. Maybe those milkshakes with a big fluffy pile of whipped cream on top give you a sugary buzz and feel super-indulgent. Maybe you’re wearing your retro t-shirt because you remember that show or band and you loved it and had all their albums or watched every episode religiously when it came on TV. Maybe you love 70s cuisine classics because they’re what you grew up eating at parties, and to you they’re just darn tasty.  All of those things are fine- actually, they’re great.

It’s what you love, don’t let others tell you it’s not OK to like it, or that you have to be ‘ironic’ about liking it. If you say you like it ‘ironically’, the message it gives is that it’s not really cool. Well personally I don’t give a monkey’s about cool.

Love what you love, whether it’s My Little Pony, or cheesy fondue…(excuse me, I’ll just go ahead and wipe the drool off the keyboard)… or cheesy country music, or romance novels, whatever it is- if you love it, work it, and don’t be ashamed of it. It’s part of what makes you you, and what makes you happy. Who cares what others think of it? It comes down to not being ashamed of who you are. Being loud and proud about the things you love is part of that. Life’s too short to do things for the sake of irony.

So go on, what things are you unironically smitten with? What things give you a big burst of pleasure? Enquiring minds want to know! (Well, I do, anyway).