10 Things I ♥ in October

October Favourites 2018
Rosa de Jong’s chocolate design, the Gentleman felter’s hares, Karolina Żebrowska
& The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell on Netflix
  1. Remember Rosa de Jong from my August favourites? I’m so smitten with her design for the B&B Chocolate Bars. If you know me you know I have a minor obsession with retro-ish hipster food packaging, and this totally falls into that category (I need to look out for those when I’m in Amsterdam next time).
  2. 竹田の子守唄 (Takeda no komoriuta – Takeda Lullaby) is so heartwrenchingly beautiful, especially in the Akai Tori recording from the late 60s. It’s strange how much it reminds me of Suo Gan, another lullably from a completely different place (Wales) in its overall vibe. Maybe I’m just easily moved by melancholic lullabies. That it’s a song with a history of protest and liberation and that it was banned on national broadcast makes it even more intriguing.
  3. I started – late to the party, but the hardware wouldn’t allow it earlier – to play Witcher III – The Wild Hunt, and I love it. While I’ not a huge fan of Medieval Fantasy Batman Geralt of Rivia himself I’m absolutely smitten by the scenery, the music and the fact that you get unlimited space for crafting material.
  4. The Gentleman Felter does such adorable, lovely and incredibly skilled work. It doesn’t help that one of his more frequent motifs is hares, and there’s this mouse (which isn’t even the main attraction of this piece) and this badger… it’s a wooly, cozy version of Wind in the Willows, Redwall and Brambly Hedge. So, right up my alley. Give him a follow on Instagram!
  5. The Dresden Files audio books. While I’m already at Proven Guilty (thats book, uhm… 8?) at the moment I’ve started listening to Storm Front, the first volume of the series about the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. This version had me the second I heard who was reading it – James Marsters, famous for playing Spike the vampire in Buffy. Not only is his voice fantastic for the material (and makes the first book far more bearable than my head-voices), it’s also hilarious because of Harry Dresden’s personal relationship with vampires over the course of the series. So, highly recommended.
  6. Karolina Żebrowska makes Vintage fashion videos on YouTube. She’s also pretty snarky doing it from time to time so of course I love her.
  7. Trollhunters. Ugh, I love it so much. Especially Toby, but as this is “knight-errant-in-training and lovely somewhat-folkloric creatures go on adventures” with the visuals of Hellboy (thanks to Guillermo del Toro being one of the main makers of this thing) it’s pretty much a given that I’m smitten. We’ve binged our way through the first season first half of the first season that has just as many episodes as the following full seasons and has a season-ish break to its second half and even though I wasn’t 100% happy with the transition to season 1.2, I can’t wait to watch more of this âventiure.
  8. How fantastic is this Quidditch Cat Tree from Epbot?
  9. Just in time for Spooky Season Netflix released The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. Although not really a cooking show the short series – only six episodes – makes fun of the format while allowing the viewer glimpses of the life of a burlesque goth Disney princess, her decadent creations and her enchanted undead critters.
  10. Autumn is finally here in all her I-can-see-my-breath-cold, rust-coloured, rainy, last-bits-of-October-sun glory. I can finally wear layers again. There are pumpkins. Oh, Autumn always makes me so happy.
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Dajana Pouch

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I feel like this pouch is a bit of a throwback to aesthetics longe gone for me. Five years ago or so I would have made this for a Mori Kei co-ord, and ten years ago I’d happily worn it to school. This time, however, I made this as an experiment and as a scrapbuster.

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I had been thinking about making some sort of hip pouch for work – something to catch my knife and gloves, a pen, tips and the odd onion or potato that’s still there when the cart is already gone, so this was a bit of a prototype. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make a follow-up version, but making this was fun, anyway.

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It’s far too light in colour for me, even though I like the sturdy woven texture of the main fabric, but the more I worked on it the clearer it became to me for whom this was intended. I had a very sweet colleague until a short while ago (she left us for greener pastures and a workplace where she doesn’t freeze her toes off in winter – she’s not good with the cold), and the pouch started calling her name to me.

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Her name is a derivate of Diana, Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, protectress of innocence. Especially the latter fits my Dajana very well, and the light colours – slightly warmer than pure white, as is the moon most nights, and with circles into the back fabric reminding me of our natural satellite – match her lithe figure and subtle frailty so well.

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I still had this button – a single one – in my stash and after a bit of a debate with myself if mother-of-pearl wouldn’t be more reminiscent of the moon I went for it, weaving in memories of the hunt with all the other tiny meanings in this piece.

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I gave it to her around Midsummer when I still didn’t know she would leave us, but now she’ll have a little reminder of our time with us as long as she chooses to hold on to it.

Oh, and she liked it, too, by the way.

Elderberry Dye Experiments

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A while ago I received a blessing of very ripe elderberries. I’d been wanting to get into botanical dyeing anyway and the berries had to go (they were a gift, so I wasn’t going to just throw them away), so head over heels this became my first dye project.

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I mordanted almost all things with alum, except for paper, one of the small doily cutout thingies and the doll apron that I threw in for good measure and because I wanted to know if it would make a nice gradient with something that had already been dyed in black tea. By the way, there’s one piece missing in this account of my elderberry adventure, a big silk scarf that came out beautifully but is nowhere to be found as of now. F*cking gremlins.

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Anyway, I love how the silk pochette came out – our local thrift shop had a surprising amount of blank silk scarves and handkerchives a while ago and craft supply hoarder that I am… you know where this is going.
I tied this one to a shelf above and let only one corner steep in the dye batch, and the somewhat patchy result is so lovely. I didn’t wash this one yet, without a pH-neutral detergent the risk of ruining the colour was too big, but it doesn’t rub off and I doubt it will ever need cleaning, so I might as well just leave it at that.

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As I’m approaching the whole thing in a very experimental manner I still have no idea what makes some pieces take the dye better than others – just look at the doilies above. All of them are cotton, all of them were mordanted the same way. I really like this surprise factor, to be honest.

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And I absolutely love to throw in other materials, as well. I happened to have these un-treated wood beads lying around anyway, so putting them in the bath was only the next logical step. When you’ve got a new hammer everything looks like a nail.
The darkest one is from the basic dye bath, the magenta one came from some of the original spiced up with (what feels like) litres of vinegar, and the greyish-blue bead is from a try with soda, to make it more alkaline.

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I’ve been known to throw dozens of printer pages into tea baths to make them look more ambience-proof for LARP, so taking the same step here wasn’t very far-fetched. I left the pieces in there for different lengths of time, and isn’t the darkest purple absolutely amazing? The tiny irregularities don’t bother me in the least, quite the contrary, for me the unpredictability is one of the greatest things about not doing this very scientifically.

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Okay, I lied about the not-so-scientific part. I never had decent chemistry lessons (half a year, and the teacher wasn’t only incredibly sleep-inducing but also very fixated on stuff so advanced that I never really learned what fun things you can do with acids and alkalines), so I was really fascinated by the effects the addition of vinegar and soda had. I made test strips for a dye journal, not with detailed measurements (“tiny bit”, “lots” and “heaps” are not quite that accurate), but it’s a start!

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These two last pieces were ones that were already dyed – the apron with tea for gradient purposes (see above), and the grapes with store-bought green Simplicol after I found the thing at the thrift shop and found it fitting for a LARP character of mine. She never got to use it because the green was very solid and clashed with the rest of her apperance, but I think I’ll give it another try now. I was surprised at how well the elderberry dye came through, and I don’t mind the gradient leading to the leaves.
The other gradient came out lovely, as well, very subtle and powdery. I might try that again sometime.

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What really surprised me was how little berries it took to get all this colour. The amount I had fit in my hands cupped together. I think them being so ripe was a big factor, but I still wonder if I could get a more permanent dark colour (like the darkest piece of paper, for example) with more berries, or if I could coax some other colours out of them (the collateral fabric above has hints of green that I really like).
The time for that might be over for this year but I’m already looking forward to next years harvest. And of course all the other dyestuff I’m going to try, because guess what, I’m totally hooked.

UFO Friday

UFO Friday is my (usually) bi-weekly series where I show you what projects I’ve been working on (UFO standing for UnFinished Objects). For more of these, look here and for every other week’s feature, Finished Things Saturday, look here.

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While it has been uncharacteristically warm for mid-October lately, Nature starts taking what it hers and the herbs on my balcony slowly start to get ready for winter. High time to start my tiny harvest and preserve what I can get, and the first one to get cut back was my lemon verbena.

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It’ll need a bigger pot next year either way so we’re considering re-potting before we take the plant in for winter – verbena doesn’t fare well in our climate during the cold months. I’m looking forward to brewing the first infusion from this harvest – it’s my first own beebrush, and I’ve always loved the smell of the leaves so much!

The next step is trying to make cuttings, just in case something goes wrong (and because more plants are always a good idea), and then I’ll go on to harvest my curry plant.

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And in the crafts department I’ve been struggling with a skirt – I think I had to re-make the lining three times before it worked out as it was supposed to be. I’m always a bit wary when it comes to projects like that, afraid that they will not have been worth all the trouble in the end, but I decided to see this one through. Do you have similar sentiments sometimes? I’d love to hear about that in the comments (please tell me I’m not alone!).

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Beasts of the Long-Gone Wilds

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When I was little and visited my Dad every other weekend we used to visit a museum almost every Saturday I was there. When I visited a few weeks ago and we happened to have the time we revived this tradition, with a visit to one of the two largest Natural History museums in Germany: Senckenberg Naturmuseum.

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Architectural drawing of the new Museum by F. von Hoven and L.Neher, 1908 (via)

Senckenberg is huge, and we didn’t even make it through the whole exhibition – we eventually got hungry and left before I could drag my father to the botanical parts.

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Some of the subterranean parts of the museum haven’t changed since I’ve been there for the first time as a child but the giant fossils and skeletons haven’t lost any of their fascination. The dinosaur exhibition has been updated, though, and now features spots specifically marked for social media pictures. Also, psittacosaurs are the cutest thing that was alive about 120 million years ago. I want one for a pet (they’re not even large!).

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I love how they’ve displayed this whale’s ribcage – no wonder people had the idea of folks travelling in there. Right next to it there’s a wet specimen of a whale’s heart, about as big as my torso, only wider. How curious and awesome is it that something so comparatively small is able to keep something so large alive?

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No matter how often I see it, the mummy exhibition will always be something special to me. Not only because ancient artifacts hold such fascination for me but also because I wasn’t allowed in when I was little. I don’t even know why anymore – was it my Dad who didn’t think it appropriate to have a child look at bodies of children, no matter how long they had been mummies? Did they have an age restriction back then? I remember a warning for pregnant women with the embryonic specimen (that I didn’t see anywhere this time but I clearly see them before me next to the stairs in my memory) so maybe they had one for the mummies, too? Anyway, getting into the dark cube that holds these exhibits will always be associated with the feeling of adventure.

It’s more about the painted ornaments on the sarcophagus and the reconstruction drawings of flower garlands around the wrapping nowadays, though.

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Senckenberg boasts a bird exhibition with over 1000 specimen. Some are as old as the museum itself, so over a century. One of my favourite games to play in there is to imagine them all coming to life and to try and make up the sheer amount of noise all these birds would make together (and the ensuing chaos).

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The taxidermy exhibitions are presented fairly traditionally, but I admit that I really like – how macabre it may be – to wander through rows and rows of cabinets full of dead, glass-eyed animals.

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The mineral collection is fittingly kept underground, under the sea fossils and empty crab shells. There is a whole wall of perfectly lit crystals in black shadow boxes, and they photograph so well. Ugh, that garnet. So pretty.

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I love natural history museums. I could spend hours just studying the features of animals I’ll never see alive. Marvel at the size of a lion’s paw. Admire the toll age and sunlight took on a panda specimen, how the black markings around its eyes have been bleached.

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I absolutely regret not bringing my sketchbook, although I wouldn’t have had time to do much, anyway. I’ll have to do that another time, then, maybe in Hanover, though, because I have a huge museum at hand here, too.

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Do you like natural history museums? Or do they creep you out? I’d love to read about it in the comments, and while you’re at it, do you have a favourite museum where you live?

Blogging is like a Horse

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All social media is kind of like a horse, now that I think about it.

If you fall off, you need to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. Every day you’re postponing your next try/ride/post makes it harder to get back on, and the fear of falling again will only increase.

I fell in spring, pretty much right after 28 Days of Blogging. I hit a pretty horrifying low with my mental health – no need to get into the details right now – and, to stay with the metaphor (that I’m sure I’ll break in a minute), the horse bucked. At first I managed to stay in the saddle, I kept posting, kept making videos, tried to stay on top of things. And at first it worked.

But then things started to unravel (see, metaphor gone). I lost hold of the reins, they just slipped out of my hands slowly, and there was nothing I could do about it (other than this metaphor. I’m bad at talking about this kind of serious stuff without making stupid jokes, okay?). When I fell, eventually, I had nothing to hold on to. No safety net, no soft ground to catch me. I fell in slow motion, cinematically speaking, and during the fall a mantra of sorts started playing in my head:

You need to get back on the horse. You need to get back on the horse. You need to get back on the horse.

If you don’t get back on the horse, you’ll be afraid to try again, probably forever.

I’ve been in situations like that, physically. Not on a horse, I don’t ride, I’ve been on a horse’s back once or twice (I didn’t fall, though. I’m good at holding on to bucking horses, at least the non-metaphoric kind) in my life. But I’ve been there with other injuries, stupid things like an ankle that was sprained to often so that it’s kind of loose by now and starts acting up sooner than I want it too. A knee injury that never quite healed. The ankle thing made me wary to jump heights taller than my shoulder. The knee thing made me afraid of ice-skating (ice was involved in the accident). Not getting back on the horse makes you afraid of riding. I’ve been there. I’m still there, sometimes.

So I kept telling myself to get back to blogging, to making videos, while I managed to still post my weekly vegetable pictures on instagram. But even that stopped when I hit the ground at the end of the metaphorical fall.

I have a hard time not telling myself that I need to be consistent, that I need to get back to all those things above. But in the end that wasn’t what I needed. I needed compassion from myself for myself. I needed to allow myself to take a break. I did. Fairly late, but I did.

Now you know where I’ve been during the last few months that were the darkest I’ve had in the last ten years. I’m better (promise), and I have a fantastic safety net of people around me to help me back to my feet in all the other aspects of my life that I need to get back together again. But this, social media, blogging, reading blogs, making videos, interacting with people who don’t have a key to my place – that’s something I’ve got to do on my own. I don’t plan to give up on it. It has given me so much joy, brought me such amazing ideas, people, friends, I don’t want to stop only because I fell.

And here I am. Back on the metaphorical horse.
And of course I have plans. I have a vague idea where I want this ride to go. Maybe I’ll write about it, mostly to clear my head, because that’s what I do in these long, rambly posts that aren’t precise, that are strange and that tug at my fingers to write them. Maybe not.

But I’m here, and I’m ready.

Also, you know, canter is a really pretty word.

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Picture by me. I don’t do horses much, but I like how this hippocamp turned out.