Monsterful Monday- monkey cuddlepile

And other highlights of the Hamilton Zoo, where my Best Beloved and another friend went after the Medusa LARP convention on the weekend.

It was so nice to go to a small-but-perfectly-formed convention, play in two very good games (in one of which, as the Lovecraft scholar I got the ultimate fangirl ending- hooking up with HP Lovecraft himself and in the other of which, I forgave the man who murdered me and ended up a military tactician in the Army of Heaven- not bad for a waitress) and have a blast GMing a third, plus go exploring with three friends.

I’ve never been to Hamilton before, so it was fun to get out and about somewhere new, even if we couldn’t find any cafes open (just the comic book store- yay Christmas gifts!- and all the adult shops, weirdness). Also, much hilarity ensued when we were typical big city dwellers- “WHERE IS THE COFFEE?” and my friend’s GPS seemed to want to send us back to Auckland. I couldn’t help wondering at how quickly I’ve adapted.

The Art of Asking

Turns out, if you’re having trouble working out what to get someone for Christmas, just asking them what they’d like works really well. Thus my brother gets a new coffee maker, and I get to buy him something I know he really wants. Our relationship has been distant for a long time but we’re finally getting to know each other and I’m very very thankful for that.

Oh and Amanda Palmer’s book of the same name which I’m still reading is very good and you should totally go buy it.

The Adorables

Is apparently mine and the Best Beloved’s new nickname. I love it. It’s like the Incredibles, but involves more cuddles. The BB took very good care of me this weekend. Conventions always exhaust me, and having someone to look after me was really good.

Advent!

Time to visit Santa, start in on the advent calendar (no, I don’t have a chocolate one…I just get my own chocolate), and get excited about the Christmas break, which I’m so ready for. Yes, I said visit Santa. I never did it as a kid, because I was scared of Santa, but now with the weirdness of Christmas in summer, I love going and saying what I want for Christmas, and getting a photo. It makes me feel very festive. And yes, there will be photos.

The little things

Black pudding, snuggly naps, being productive, finishing projects, resisting the Black Friday sales (so proud of myself), mango chicken, the Bloggess, planning trips, crafting, exciting parcels, insane Christmas ornaments, and words of affirmation.

A Thanksgiving Day thought from someone who doesn’t celebrate it

If you are a regular reader (hello!), then you’ll know that I think gratitude is extremely important.

It’s also good business sense. I don’t often talk about business on here, not running one myself (at least not yet).

Last week, I sadly hit unsubscribe on every e-mail I had signed up for from a particular blogger. That’s not something that happens very often (the only other time I’ve unsubscribed from something I was reading regularly was the Modcloth e-mails, because they were making me want to spend all my money on shoes and dresses).

Thanksgiving was at the heart of it.

You see, it became clear to me that if they weren’t getting something from me, they weren’t interested in communicating. They had asked for applications for something, but hadn’t bothered to tell those who were unsuccessful (like myself) that someone else had been selected. There were a lot of applications (they’re submitted publicly), a lot of people putting time, effort and love into something. None of which was acknowledged, it seems, because the blogger wasn’t getting anything for it.

When I contacted them to ask about the application they were naff enough to tell me I could still purchase a spot in the course they were running- which I would have done instead of applying, if I had the money.

It smacked of lame, and I was deeply disappointed to find that this blogger simply wasn’t interested in people who couldn’t give her something for nothing- there was no gratitude there.

This same blogger has advised people to stay clear of toxic people in their lives. I’m heeding the advice. A person who can’t be graceful and acknowledge when work and love has been put into something, who doesn’t bother to say thank you- that is not a person who deserves my time.

Thanksgiving. It matters.

Wow this post got depressing. Happier one later today (to make up for my having not posted this week, sorry everyone)

Monsterful Monday: paying attention

 

I thought today, in lieu of the usual post, I would share a story with you.

Earlier this week, I was on my usual walk home, quite tired from work and wishing for the weekend (lots of time with friends, some Best Beloved snuggles, and a fantastic LARP in the local park, since you ask), when I happened upon this garden:

 

IMG1139

I stood for a few moments utterly dumbfounded. I walk along this street most days, usually twice. I couldn’t work out how I had never noticed it before when it was so lovely- so many colours! Someone in that house clearly worked very hard to grow their garden.

I looked across the road to see what was on the other side, which must have been distracting me and it dawned on me. On the other side of the road was the Dog House.

You see, on this street, at that particular point in the road, is a house where, on my first trip along it, a barking, growling dog came rocketing out of the house and pursued me, while its owner called it off and I tried to stay still. Whenever it sees me, it barks and growls. It does this to everyone.

I realised I’d started looking with apprehension at that gate to see if the dog was there waiting to bark at me and make me jump out of my skin.

All those weeks, and spring had sprung and I had completely ignored the gorgeous flowers across the street, because I was too busy looking at the gate where there might or might not be a dog.

That’s why I do these posts, each week, every week. To try and notice the beauty in my life instead of the fear and the barking trying to attract my attention.

There is a lot wrong with the world. Some of it we can help with. Some of it we can protest about (as I did at the weekend by attending the Bust Rape Culture protest at the High Court). A lot we can’t. But we can at least try and focus more on hopeful things and good things. Because that makes the world just a little bit better.

The little things:

Kisses, comforting touches, the expressions on peoples’ faces when I named a big boss monster Fluffy, the reactions when I was offered glitter, balloons, tea, sleep, talking to Anna, champagne saucers, this planter, learning a really useful method at the NZ Bloggers Network meetup, music, writing, crafting, old Jim Henson goodness, tasty food, catching up with lovely people, terrible ‘erotic’ Britney Spears dancing.

A story about me

I have been making stories for as long as I can remember. I started paraphrasing nursery rhymes at the age of about 2, started writing poems and stories at school. They frequently made no sense, because my mind would race ahead of my hand, and large chunks of the story in my head simply never made it to the paper.

All through my teens I studied hard with the intention of becoming a journalist. It was the only ‘proper’ job writers could have, as far as I could see. Sure, there were authors creating and getting published but I had grown up with the same question ringing in my head- how are you going to make money? I wasn’t encouraged to set my sights higher, to take the risks. How else are you going to make money?

I was excited by crafting, and making things. But that wasn’t a job, at least not in the minds of my parents. I tried other things but kept coming back to the ‘safe’ option of admin, which bored me rigid. But how else are you going to make money?

I tried teaching high-school aged kids. I was too young, too broken from my own high-school experience to separate the two. It didn’t work. It was back to admin after less than a year. But how else are you going to make money?

I started writing flash fiction. I was pretty damn good at it. 365 Tomorrows published every story I submitted. Eventually after a stretch of writing 200-word fictions from prompts from friends on my old Livejournal blog, I was invited to write for Elephant Words, and I did until my divorce meant I didn’t have the mental space for a weekly short story, even.

I finally quit admin when it became clear to me that I couldn’t do it well because I simply didn’t care about it. I spent nearly a year puzzling over what to do with my life. But how are you going to make money?

A friend introduced me to the manager of a web team who were looking for a writer. They thought I’d be a good fit. I was hired. And I was home. I had come back to my first love, writing. I was earning a living doing something I actually enjoyed, and wanted to be good at.

I still loved craft, wanted to find a way to express that and me to others, to change their worlds in some way. But I also wanted- still want- to be really good at what I do.

That’s where Webstock comes in. My first web job sent me and it was amazing. The following year I was working for a government department who would change entire sections of a website because “the minister pulled a face”. They didn’t spend money on their staff. No Webstock for me. This year, I’m at a place which would send me, if they could afford to. Which they can’t.

I still want to be better at what I do. I still want to go. But the question again, this time not the fear asking me, but a genuine puzzle. But how are you going to make the money…for a ticket?

That’s where crowdfunding comes in. Of course, this isn’t quite an ordinary campaign. There aren’t t-shirts, or posters. Just me, and my crafts. Writing, and making. The rewards are things I can make myself- cross-stitches, portable device cosies, thank-you letters, stories. The chance to make me wear a truly hideous jumper to the convention (it’ll be a talking point, I’m sure).

How are you going to make money?

I’m going to spread happiness. I’m going to give special things to the people who offer to help me. Unique things. Crafted with love and a punk rock attitude.

If you’ll help me, I’ll give you one of them.

But how are you going to make money?

By asking people. By placing faith in the generosity of others.

Click the link to go to the Pledgeme campaign. I hope you’ll consider pledging.

Awesome Christmas Gift Guide, part 4: Clutter-free Christmas gifts

Black and white vintage Christmas photo

Christmas Eve 1928 by Don O’Brien, via Flickr

We all know a few people like this. Maybe it’s your parents, who already have everything. Maybe it’s a friend who’s moving soon and you don’t want to weigh them down with more stuff they’ll have to shift. Maybe it’s that aggressive minimalist who you love but who is always on at you to have less stuff.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

First up, there’s always a voucher for an experience. Sites like GrabOne and TreatMe in New Zealand, or Groupon in America are full of restaurant deals, or admission to fun places to visit. And they’re usually at a significant discount, so you can give someone a much fancier treat but still stay within budget.

Or just organise the experience yourself! What about taking your Mum out for high tea, or going to a spa together?

Speaking from my long-distance relationship experience, one of the most thoughtful gifts I received for my birthday this year was money for a flight to Auckland to see my Best Beloved. Simple, clutter-free, but so deeply appreciated. If money seems a bit tacky to you (it doesn’t to me), then you can always get a flight voucher. Or actually just buy the flight/train ticket.

Then there are the gifts that are designed to be used up. Lush is, of course, wonderful at low-packaging gifts which (if your giftee is anything like me) will be all used up before the ball drops on New Years.

But what about something a bit more punk rock?

Well lets see…

How about a donation to your recipient’s favourite charity? Or backing a really cool Kickstarter you know your giftee would support like, for example, Kim Boekbinder’s Infinite Minute where you can get a song written just for them (or a Pledgeme campaign– yep, I went there. More about that tomorrow!). There are plenty of funding campaigns where the rewards aren’t physical. PDFs, digital music, access to cool stuff on the net. And you’re giving something unusual- the kind of thing your giftee doesn’t know they want until they see it.

You could support one of their favourite artists on a site like Loudr or Bandcamp.

Or what about the gift of learning something you know they want to learn? For budding crafters, Craftsy has a huge selection of classes, as does BurdaStyle. Finally, Be More With Less (full disclosure- this is an affiliate link, but for an awesome site) has courses in starting a blog, creating a capsule wardrobe and dressing with less (if you have a friend who’s trying to declutter their wardrobe, this could be perfect!), and creating a meaningful morning routine (which could be great for someone determined to get fit, or just take better care of themselves).

You know the other great thing about clutter-free Christmas gifts? MUCH LESS WRAPPING. Which gives you more time to work on the Christmas craft projects and get them finished. Or watch ‘Die Hard’ and listen to ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’, and avoid the insanity that is anywhere with shops around this time of year. Or start prepping your Christmas meal (there’s a running joke in the UK that we put our Brussels Sprouts in to boil around now, so they’re done just in time for Christmas).

Have you found any fantastic online classes you think would make a lovely Christmas gift? Are you trying for a clutter-free Christmas? Let me know in the comments!

Monsterful Monday: Small parties and big ideas

Fun nights in-and-out

Small groups are always easier for me. I get peopled-out quite quickly. This weekend was a case in point. I went to two social things. One was a party full of considerably younger people, where I was worn out by about half ten. The next night, a smaller gathering for some casual not-too-competitive (and in fact in the case of the main game, entirely collaborative) board/card games with the Best Beloved and a small group of very good friends and I didn’t even notice we were up way past midnight.

The Best Beloved and I also, as a result of the game night, acquired a new couples nickname. Did you know you can’t change your Facebook name for 60 days if you change it? Guess how I know. But I don’t mind.

I’m so grateful for energising social nights with good friends, tasty food, and lots of laughter. And I’m equally grateful for the quiet times with the BB, whether we’re snuggling, or sat across from each other working on craft projects.

Books

I just finished ‘Beyond the Pale Motel’ by Francesca Lia Block- an adult novel by one of my favourite YA novelists. I thought, when it became clear what the denouement would be, that I was going to hate it. But somehow- and I have no idea how she did it- the ending managed to actually be totally self-esteem and uplifting. I can’t explain it without spoilers, so I’ll just tell you you need to get yourself a copy and it’s a quick read.

I’ve also just started in on ‘The Art of Asking‘ by Amanda Palmer and it’s pretty much the perfect book for me to be writing right now- more on that in the next few days. All I’ll say is…I have an exciting project in the offing which is ALL about asking.

On which note- this TED talk by her is wonderful.

Tappity tap tap tap

I’ve been revisiting the Dare/Dream/Do course starting at the beginning, and this weekend got to the lesson about Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping. I used it on my dreadful habit of procrastinating this morning and have had a super-productive day! This is definitely something I’ll be exploring further, it’s so helpful.

The Little Things

Ingrid Michaelson (only discovered her music this week and it’s gorgeous), Joni Mitchell (if you listen to her old stuff and her new stuff next to each other you can *hear* how much younger her voice sounded in the 70s), Kim Boekbinder who has THE coolest Kickstarter on at the moment, a warm bed, decluttering, Offbeat Bride, Project Runway- #sorrynotsorry, I love that show- especially the every-season “This is not avant-garde!” “I think it’s TOTALLY avant-garde” argument, recommendations, cookies coming right to my desk, d&ms with the Best Beloved, watching people jump off the Sky Tower on a zipline.

How about you?

Never explain, never apologise- crafting, kindness and mistakes

A month ago, I got a big beautiful tattoo. And this week I heard that my Dad is still in shock over it. In the past, this would have led to an automatic, overwhelming urge on my part to apologise.

Not this time.

I can’t apologise for something I’m not sorry about.

Not any more.

My tattoos, like my craft projects, like my writing, are how I express myself. To apologise would be to suggest there’s something wrong with who I am.

The thing about crafting is, as I’ve said before and will say again, you are going to make mistakes. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are. By its very nature, crafting is imperfect. That doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Did you know that in the beautiful, intricate geometry of Islamic art, there is always a mistake? Always. Because to Muslim crafters and artists, only God is perfect. To be human is to be imperfect. It doesn’t make their art any less beautiful, their work any less meticulous.

I read a story once about a woman who was cutting out superhero fabric for some shorts for her son. To save fabric, she ignored the pattern cutting guide, and ended up with the print for the front of them upside down. She told her son it was so he could read the comics when he was sitting down. It’s not a mistake. It’s a design feature.

Most people, even other crafters, won’t notice a mistake if you don’t point it out. But of course, if it really does bother you (or it’s big enough that the finished item just won’t work), and yes I know I’ve said this before, but you can always unpick, unravel, start again.

It’s World Kindness Day today, so where I’m going with this is simple. Be kind to yourself. Don’t ever apologise for what you create. There’s no apology needed. You’re expressing something about yourself, in the choice of colours and fabrics and papers.

You don’t have to show off the mistakes- unless you accidentally invented something awesome, of course. Just don’t let them cloud your vision of the whole. Because it’s the whole that really matters.

Links of joy: Awesome Christmas gift guide part 3: Sewing

Sewing gifts. Not only is it a great excuse to buy fabric way to use up stash, it’s reasonably fast, and you can make things that fit your giftee exactly.

For example, how about a set of pretty knickers? Or maybe more than one (they don’t use a lot of fabric). Or if your recipient’s tastes are a little less frou frou, how about following this underwear tutorial?

Bags are always a fun and fairly unisex option. The Perfect Pattern Parcel (which you guys know I love) is all bags right now. But I must confess to being rather in love with this Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy messenger bag. I mean hey, I’ve seen ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Aliens that look like Kirk from ‘Gilmore Girls’ could turn up and beam me onto their spaceship at any moment- I want to make sure I know where my towel is.

You could also go smaller and make some reusable ziploc-type bagsO for someone who likes to bring their lunch from home.

For kids, how about a snuggly cape with an adorable hood? Actually I also totally want to size that pattern up and make an adult one. You know, for science.

Or if you happen to know a kid (or lets face it, an adult) who loves them some Disney princesses, why not make yourself the Hero of Christmas by making them a super floofy tulle skirt?

Finally, for the hipster/big reader/gadget junkie/Apple fangirl in your life, there’s this tutorial on making perfectly-sized digital cosies.

You could even use Disney Princess fabric for that too. Just saying.

You’re welcome.

Monsterful Monday: who invited Moon Moon?

The answer is: my Best Beloved’s nephew, since he invited me and the Best Beloved to a barbecue this weekend, and as of yesterday one of my nickhames is Moon Moon. This is due to to my total inability to throw anything except glitter in a way that makes the thrown thing land where it’s supposed to.

I won’t lie, the week just gone has been frustrating in the extreme in some ways. But are always two sides to a coin.

So while it’s sad that I’ve been seconded to another team at work, the fact that my manager was even more upset about it than I was, and that my colleagues were also sorry to see me have to go temporarily, means a lot to me.

While Wednesday was mostly a day that turned to custard, it ended with a hair appointment (head massages make EVERYTHING better), and a lovely Guy Fawkes party where we took advantage of a friend’s house being on a hill overlooking South Auckland to watch all their fireworks (and they didn’t disappoint).

And other things have been lovely. The weekend just gone saw lots of snuggles with the best beloved, and a trip to the zoo where I saw my first real live kiwis. As in the bird, not the people. I haven’t been walking around New Zealand with my eyes shut this whole entire time. We also saw a baby red panda hiding from its Mum because it was bath time, and its twin sibling who was less lucky getting thoroughly licked. The zoo’s resident elephant out for her walk (closest I’ve ever been to an elephant!). Meerkats keeping watch. SO many birds. And not eels because my best beloved led me past their tank with my eyes shut so I wouldn’t have to see them (eels, snakes, anything like that creep me out). So OK, I was walking around with my eyes shut for a small part of the day.

The Christmas cross-stitches are going well, Friday night saw me have a stitching-and-Charmed evening mostly to myself. I’ve realised that I tend to do best either alone or in small groups- definitely not a born extrovert- and time alone helps me recharge my batteries so it’s something I’m always grateful to get- though, again with two sides to the coin, I’m grateful not to be alone all the time.

The little things:
Fruju ice lollies, watching people jump off the Skytower on flywires, mayonnaise, barbecue, nice views, my Best Beloved’s lovely family, new old books, the library, glitter, compliments from people I respect, new recipes, surprise strawberries, and kisses.
How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Craft is a feminist issue

embroidered uterus

Set of Anatomical Uterus napkins by Hey Paul Studios (at Etsy)

 

This week. Oh, this week.

We’ve had the continued harassment of women in gaming. The news that the so-called ‘Roast Busters’ are being let off with absolutely no charges laid. A “pick-up artist” who grabs women in choke holds and forces their faces up against his crotch being allowed to come and speak in Australia (too close for comfort- but then even on the other side of the world someone that disgusting would be too close for comfort).

It’s all made me angry. But the straw that broke the feminist camel’s back? A comment on a photo on Facebook. A friend of mine had put up a picture of his wife (who is expecting their baby) baking. And a misogynist acquaintance congratulated him on “doing it right”.

That got me. The idea that of all the things a woman can be, wife and mother are the only ones with real value, is one of many elements of patriarchy that I find distasteful. The pregnant wife in question is an intelligent woman in a demanding job. She’s got a lot of other accomplishments, and yet the only ones that seem to matter to Mr Sogynist and others like him are the ring on her finger and the baby in her belly.

I struggle a lot with these ideas, because as a crafter I worry I’m perpetuating a stereotype.  Crafts- at least sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch and paper craft, are seen as ‘women’s stuff’ by a lot of people. I learned to do these things from the women in my family. I’ve met the odd guy who sews or knits etc, but they’re few and far between.

I love my textile crafts and scrapbooking. But I worry that I’m contributing to a tradition that both ring fences women and excludes men.

I can see how this same issue would put a lot of people- women AND men- off trying the kinds of crafts that I do. I wish it wouldn’t.

Because in the end, the only way we’re going to break these stereotypes down is by not letting them stop us doing what we love in a way that makes sense to us. Embroidered lady parts.  Knitted merkins. Making whatever the hell we want, because we want to, because it makes us happy and fuck anyone who doesn’t accept it. Molly Crabapple said in an article I saw today “I didn’t have a big break, I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more”- doing our crafts, our way, regardless of gender- I think that’s how we start chipping away at the preconceived ideas about women and craft, and eventually, I hope, we’ll find that those ideas are so out-of-date as to seem ridiculous to everyone.

I think that’s the kind of crafting I can get down with.