@ work, 3.46pm

- I have been hit in the face by stress balls far too many times today. And my return throws are totally pathetic. I need to learn to throw less like a girl.

- Yesterday I gave everyone in my office a small Easter chicken. This makes the hitting in the face thing even more annoying. (Maybe they are allergic to poultry.)

- I am getting a fair amount of use from the Official Festive iPod. Of course, it helps that I am listening to No Doubt right now at full roar and can barely hear my coworkers taking 3 metres away. Eh, they’re probably just talking about me anyway. About the best way to hit me in the face, no doubt. No Doubt! Jinx!

- It’s my birthday in a few weeks and up until yesterday I had given it completely no thought. Now I have given it about 5 minutes of thought, and still haven’t got any further.

- This daylight savings thing is getting really annoying. Half of Australia hasn’t changed over (because of the Commonwealth Games) but all the computer servers did, then they changed back, but my computer is evidently not listening to the server and is going on its own internal journey and/or spiritual quest. Consequently I spent a great deal of Monday one hour behind everyone else. Typical.

- I made a Wee Bunny but looking at the flickr pictures of other examples, my bunny has gobbled into his Easter eggs early. Why are all the other bunnies anorexic? Surely it can’t be that my bunny is … overweight. However I will concede it looks strikingly like a bowling bin.

craftastic

SEWING CADDY
or, how to justify the purchase of a 7-piece power tool set.

I’ve been looking for a sewing caddy-type thing to hold my ever-growing collection of spools of thread, but was running into problems because I wanted the dowel-bits long enough to hold both the thread AND the corresponding bobbin. Also, there seemed to be a lot of wasted space in a lot of the ones I saw, because my threads are mostly thin Guterman spools. Also, I am fussy. And don’t really like plastic. So I was telling this to Mr. T, as we were walking through a Bunnings, and within 10 minutes he had cleverly managed to convince me he could make one … IF he purchased a 7-piece power tool set he just happened to have his eye on. Read on.

So, you will need:

- A craft cutlery tray, bought at (in my case) Bunnings. You could also use a normal tray, and I imagine the lower sides would mean you could see more of your threads. But I wanted the cutlery style one with the handle, because I am picky.

- Screws. (Heh.) I bought a packet of 50 plasterboard screws, because they were long enough and also thin enough to fit the thread & bobbin. (Keep in mind I was doing all of this blind in Bunnings, because (of course) I hadn’t bought along a sample spool or a bobbin. Note to you: take a spool of thread and a bobbin with you when choosing your screws, to make sure the screws are thin enough and long enough.) The ones I chose were brass coated, so they had a nice shiny patina to them. You could use nails or pieces of dowel or thick wire; I just liked the screws. Did I take a photo of the screws? No I did not. They were about $12 for a packet of 50 screws.

- 7-piece power tool set. I am assured this is not optional, but I have my doubts.

OK, mark out (inside your tray) the places you want screws placed. You will need to measure your tray and figure out how many screws will fit. Make your screws at least 2cm away from the sides (so you can reach in and pick up the thread) and 4-5cm apart from each other. My tray had two compartments, each 10cm wide by 34cm long. I wanted three rows of screws. Conveniently, I had a metal ruler 3cm wide, so I marked lines 3cm in from either side of my tray, then a middle line equidistant between these two. I then measured in 2cm from the short sides to mark my first screwhole, then 5cm between each screw along the line from there. Due to the length of my tray, this gave me 7 screwholes centred nicely in the tray. For the middle line of screws, I marked in 7cm from the edge, then 5cm between each screwhole. This gives one less screwhole in the middle row, and these screwholes are offset to the holes on either side. (I feel like I’m writing porn over here. If you need to take a little break and compose yourself, feel free.) Also, if I have completely confused you (which I feel is likely, what with the disturbing talk of screwholes) I have mapped out a diagram which may make it clearer: click here to see it in a new window.

Using The Drill from the 7-piece power tool set, drill the holes. Despite this photo, the holes were not drilled straight into brick – we used a piece of polystyrene packing to support the tray while drilling. You know what makes an awful squealing noise? Drilling through polystyrene.

Then, using The Sander from the 7-piece power tool set, sand the tray. Don’t ask if this could have possibly be done without the purchase of 7 power tools, say with some sandpaper and a block, because you will receive a Withering Look combined with a Raised Eyebrow, along with the suggestion that perhaps you could do this part yourself. Instead, back away quickly.

Stain or paint your tray. We used Dark Mahogany stain, left over from a previous project. You can do whatever your heart desires, of course. Let the stain dry, then stain again if required (or if you notice there are a couple of corners not quite stained, shut up, it can happen to anyone.) Let the stain dry. (I stress this, because I can never resist the urge to continue on with the project even though it is OBVIOUS I should just LEAVE IT ALONE. I’m sure you’re far less impulsive, or at least have better impulse control.)

To curb your horrible impatience while the tray is drying, use The Grinder from the 7-piece power tool set, grind the tips off the screws to make them blunt. This part is, of course, entirely optional, unless you are like me and could see in graphic detail the possibility of tripping over the cat and plummeting eyeball first towards the sharp row of screws sticking up from your Caddy of Death on the floor. (Just me? …alrighty then.) Hold the screw with a pair of pliers, grind the end off (takes about 2 seconds), then when it cools down, rasp any remaining sharp bits off with a whetstone. (You could suggest doing this whole step with just the whetstone or a file, but the Withering Look and the Eyebrow will return. Best to back away quickly and take photos of the pretty sparks from the grinder.)

(But just whispering … you could definitely do this with a file. Hold about three screws at a time and draw across a coarse file to blunt the ends. Easy.)

Using The Drill from the 7-piece power tool set, insert the screws into your screwholes. Make sure they’re flat to the base, as the tray will be resting on these screw heads. The flat trays (as opposed to the cutlery tray I used) usually have a recessed lip, so this won’t be so important if you use one of those.

Tadah! You’re done. Fill your caddy with pretty threads and bobbins. Yes I can pick it up by the handle, but those with bigger hands may be in trouble. You may prefer the normal tray option. And as for the 7 Essential Power Tools … well, you definitely need a drill. Everything else is (in my opinion) optional. (But I never said that.)

swings and roundabouts

Good Things:

- I spent two solid days at the Commonwealth Games watching the rugby sevens. I’m not a huge sports person but this was absolutely awesome. I can honestly say I have never before been amongst 50,000 people all chanting U-GAN-DA! U-GAN-DA! and I sincerely doubt it will ever happen again. Highly, highly recommended.

- Went to the craft show at Caulfield last weekend and it DIDN’T SUCK AS MUCH AS I EXPECTED! Such a glowing recommendation. AND a nice lady gave me a free ticket as I was walking up to the gate. Sweet. So I found the matching goldfish fabric to my existing goldfish fabric (this one is blue with free-range goldfish, not in plastic bags) and was introduced to the intriguing notion of Liberty prints. Yes I had never before touched Liberty fabric. Hold me because my life will never be the same.

- My sister received her bag in the mail before she went on her Island Jaunt. (No I haven’t told her I put her picture on the Internets and you won’t either.) She is presently trying to think of the company name for the company where I make all the bags and she sells them and keeps the proceeds. I keep telling her that baboons don’t have any money but she won’t listen.

- I attempted to sew a sleeveless top while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, but was so bored I completely destroyed one armhole in the vain attempt to finish as soon as possible so I could get away from the TV. The top looks like rats have chewed it. In my defence, it was a mockup made of weird green pique cotton. But there is no defence for the pedestrian nature of the opening ceremony. I liked the duck and Leunig but I thought everything had been done before by every other opening ceremony for every other event ever. Apart from the rollerbladers with fireworks jetpacks. I don’t care how many times that’s been done before; that’s all good.

Bad Things:

- My company got bought out by a bigger company. My first thought: Not again. My second thought: I could really use a nice redundancy package around about now. We are tallying on the whiteboard the number of phonecalls from those claiming to have known about it for days, as well as those who pretend to commiserate but their sole purpose is to sniff out gossip. The current Wanker Count is 7 and will only increase.

- I cracked a bit off the side of one of my molars, about the size of a raspberry seed. You know what I was eating? Fish. The softest food known to mankind. I keep forgetting and drinking cold water, and involuntarily rising from my seat like royalty is entering the room.

craftacular

So my sister was mucho impressed with her phone holder and zip purse thing, and asked for a bag. You realise, I said, if I make you a bag the strap will break and all your things will go everywhere. Bag! she said. I am not good enough for bags, I replied. Bag! she repeated. (We are short (in many ways) and to the point in my family.)

So, a bag. I went to craftster.org and perused the Jordy bag tutorial and wandered through the thread. Backwards, since it’s like ninety four hundred trillion pages long. And I saw a bag that used two of the fabrics I had: denim and reproduction-Japanese-oddity. Bingo! Two fat ladies, eighty eight!

First I made a pretend bag. I have a habit of making something slapdash as a mockup, then getting bored with the whole thing and just using the mockup and calling it good. To prevent this, I made the pretend bag using the bottom of the denim fabric, which sported horrifying flower embroidery. (I couldn’t buy plain dark blue denim, what is wrong with the world, and specifically Spotlight?) (not rhetorical, I really would like to know) The occasional embroidered flower sported a sequin and/or bead. I KNOW. You just died a little bit inside. Nevertheless, I channeled my inner six-year-old girl and made the bag. (Hey, you know what makes an awful graunching noise? A sequin going through a sewing machine. I’m just saying.) I lined it with some birdhouse print fabric that I disavow ever buying because birdhouses? Jesus Christ. Next thing I’ll be scrapbooking. (Odds of someone reading this who scrapbooks and now hates me: 3 to 1.) I forgot to take a photo of the pretend bag, but it’s on the lounge floor with two holes cut in it from where I rescued the magnetic snap. What, like I was going to throw it out? IT COST ME $1.99. And a piece of my soul, since I bought the tween-themed denim at the same time.

Behold: the bag. Denim, red felt (as I didn’t have any plain red fabric, who knew) and scowling Japanese balls. Heh. And the magnetic snap thing. This, I fear, is the Achilles heel of the bag, rather than the strap; I predict it will come ripping through 2 layers of denim + lining fabric, despite all my efforts. It is one HELL of a magnetic snap. I am pretty sure it was dragging the cast iron frypan towards me as I sewed.


Closeup of Japanese balls. (Hi, search engines! Nothing to see here. Move along.)

Plus matching phone holder. (That’s the red felt thing in the bag). I was feeling generous, since I found out my sister is going to some godforsaken island at the bottom of the country to rescue endangered birds or something. (She’s a zookeeper, I forget if I mentioned that. She doesn’t do that shit for FUN.) (Actually … she does.) So, yeah, endangered native birds weren’t QUITE the audience I was expecting, but hey. You take what you get. And at least they’re not keas, which are attracted to shiny things and would pounce on all her coins when the strap breaks and all her stuff falls all over the ground.


One of these things is a kea; the other is my sister.

chickens read book book book books

I like these recommended book lists, but the last one I remember seeing had, like 300 books on it including every single Wheel of Time book ever written. People, I have read the Wheel of Time. Or, at least, as much of the Wheel as I could stomach. I do believe it is still rolling on into mediocrity somewhere. (Mental note: sell Wheel of Time books 1 – 7 on eBay. Saps reading street cred to own them. Ditto with assorted slushy romance novels.)

Top 30 books – bold if I’ve read them.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the D’urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

My taste clearly leans towards the classics. Except I’ve read heaps of damn Russians, and which one shows up on this list? Bloody Solzhenitsyn, whom I’d never heard of. So what am I missing on this list that I should read? I’ve heard Life of Pi is pretty good.