Chalky poos

Stuff NJ writes: Awkward Moments of my Life – White Chalky Dog Crap

Talking of chalky poos: The Dog pooped a blue turd today.

That's how I knew she's been in The Kid's chalk stash.
And that's how I knew where that blue chalk had gone yesterday.


I feel like something's got to give. I don't know what exactly, but I'm waking up at 5:30 am with The Man's alarm, then at 6:15 am mine goes, and then I feel like it's mere minutes in the evening that I get to use for myself, and then it's sleep and 5:30 am again.

I know that, practically, there is more time. There's time I waste, every day. However! I also know that we, as a family unit here, carry a lot.

And at the moment I simply feel like I'm really, really out of puff.

Things I miss - food, mostly

It's the darnedest little things I miss.

What I miss the most, of course - along with any other Estonian living abroad - is black sour dough bread. (Just thinking of it now makes my mouth water so much I'm having to swallow.) Oh what I wouldn't give now just to have a slice of Fazer's wholemeal sour dough bread with some butter and sprat...

But then it's the other, weird things.

I miss sour cream in a plastic bag - every time I have to fiddle with a spoon and a plastic container, I am thinking, why not just have it in a bag? It's so much simpler...

I miss ice cream that comes in a waffle cone that's got a flat bottom so I can stand it on a table if I suddenly need both my hands for a moment. And besides, it's a much more comfortable way of eating it anyway...

I miss... proper, old school deli food. Potato salad. Beetroot salad. Sour, marinated cabbage.

I miss sprat. I really miss sprat!

I miss chocolate that isn't sickly sweet to a point of tasting mostly of sugar.

I miss sour milk drinks - I don't even know what an English word for "hapupiim" is. And if we're on a topic on sour milk, I miss "kama" - again, another substance I don't even know how to begin describing in English. I don't even know how to describe it in Estonian!

And I just, generally, miss Estonian food...

Ideas worth spreading

Kelly McGonigal on why thinking of stress as a bad thing is a difference between dying of stress-related heart disease at 50 - or living well into your 90's.

I definitely know which category I belong to at the moment.

On up and down

Life goes in cycles: a while ago I wrote about riding a high and now it's down time, a low point. Tired, frustrated and bored.

Heimo Korth and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Another documentary worth watching: Heimo Korth living in Brooks Range, Alaska, in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Brooks Range... another place a crazy friend has been to whilst I was in a centrally heated apartment wondering where he is. =)

Looking at this reminds me of how bored I am.

I'm not saying that 2006, 2007 and 2008 were pure party time, BUT! it was different. I was different.

PS. Gotta check if this guy - the interviewer - is the same that made that documentary about going out on a ship to that plastic gathering spot in the ocean... Familiar voice. Have definitely heard him before.

Woman on a mission

This staying-at-home-with-a-semi-ill-child business is starting to get to me: I've tidied, I've vacuumed, I've washed and now I've even googled "how to make a sponge cake".


This is going to be an exciting afternoon. Whether it's going to turn out edible... is anyone's guess, but at least it'll be fun. I can tell.

And on another note: it makes me wonder about my grandmother, the Estonian, came-from-Russia one.

She came from Siberia by what I understand on the back of a horse buggy, and by the time she was my age she had three children already. She was limited in what they had both in food and appliances - and continued on in this mindset even in the 90's when it wasn't necessary anymore - but boy was she a mean cook!

As I google around for recipes that work and gradually build my capacity to feed a person - or three - I think back on that little, yellow-paged book in my mother's kitchen somewhere where my grandmother had written down all her recipes and that she, I think, passed on to my mother. Or maybe my aunt?


It was much simpler, straightforward food - oven bakes that were full of veggies and meat, cakes that were baked in sugar, butter and cream, and just generally food that left people feeling full, if not to say nourished, and I remember the way her kitchen smelled, and the way she allowed me to lick clean the bowl where I'd beaten her cream and just, well... the food. Memories of my grandmother almost always come along with memories of her food.

My recipe book is only beginning now. It's only the stuff that really works that gets there - which is to say I've written down 5 recipes (1 omlet, 1 cookies, 1 banana bread, 1 coffee cake, 1 apple cake) - and as I look at it I wonder, what was my grandmother's recipe book like when she was my age?

Did my grandmother think of her grandmother as a great cook? 
Did she bring her recipe book with her when she arrived in Estonia, at 18? 
Did she even have one?

Women in my life have the beginnings of my grandmother. I don't know if it's simply something that happens to women when they get to that child-brearing and -rearing stage - personally, I think it's the women I tend to be with rather than a general rule of thumb for women my age, though to be honest, I really don't know - but I see a lot of my grandmother in women around me. They cook food and they make things - clothing even - and though modest by the standards of that age where women hauled water from outside wells and fired their stoves with wood, it is still beginnings of grandmothers I see in them, and it reminds me of mine.

If I'd been born earlier - or if she'd died later - I would've learned a great deal more from what she was doing because, frankly, at the time she was still around and with it, I simply wasn't interested. I loved the food - except the veggies, of course - but I wasn't intent on making some. Maybe if I wasn't made to participate in dishwashing and cleaning, I would've been more interested in that front end of cooking - the stuff that happens before dishes get on the table - but as it stands I simply reminisce and think of the smell of her cooking.

And fire up my electrical stove to have a go at a sponge cake.

Moments from the week gone past

I downloaded another batch of photos from the camera and smiled: I didn't remember taking most of these images, but when I saw them, I remembered. And smiled.

We're getting towards summer again - towards warm, green again.

Evening walks with The Dog: it's the moments my brain will
keep for much longer than we'll live in this house. I know it.

It's hard laying on grass when The Dog's around. Even harder taking pictures!

Antibiotics really are - miracle drugs. 24 hours later and the tabletop is building up
a collection of dinosaurs again. And he's sleeping!

And just because I really wanted to share this with you today: I've finally worked out a biscuit recipe that works, both for me and for ingredients we usually keep in this house.

And they turn out - simply turn out! I mix the ingredients, I roll the cookies, I put them in the oven, I take them out and... they taste good. Every week, they taste good.

And some of you might think, how difficult can it get being a mixture of sugar, butter, oats, flour and little else? But for months I'd been making cookies which in recipe collections promised me gardens of beauty and joy and in reality were rocky little outcrops of sand dunes, and now finally I've got it: I can bake cookies.

I can bake cookies!

400 ml wholegrain oats (approx 2 cups)
3 eggs
1/2 cup white flour
1 cup brown flour
120 g butter
200 ml brown sugar (approx 1 cup)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200 ml rolled oats (approx 1 cup)
100 ml shredded coconut
2 teaspoons soda

Melt butter, mix it with wholegrain oats, let sit for half an hour. Then add and mix everything else, make cookie shaped blobs, stick in the oven at 175 degrees for 15 minutes. (If your husband is a chocolate addict, add melted chocolate on top.)

And that's it.

It works!

PS. And to Miriam and Claudia, thank you for sharing your recipes! I didn't end up settling on yours, but it did give me a basis for testing out and trying, and now I've got these, and I'm so grateful. And The Man - even more grateful! =)

Def Con has a documentary!

This is so cool!

I don't know if you've heard of it, but there's a convention called Def Con, in Las Vegas - basically a gathering of hackers.

The sort of a gathering that even people who aren't, themselves, hackers have heard about. Me - even I've heard about it!

And it's got this no cameras policy, so whatever happens there stays there, visually... except now it's got a documentary! I hadn't realised, but on the last Def Con they brought in a camera crew and now this thing is for other people to see, too.

And Jesus this thing looks like fun!

Edited to add: seeing the amount of visuals from the years before I must've been wrong about them having a no camera policy, but heck, this is still such a great documentary!

How to switch off "auto-enhance" on Blogger's photos

I just wrote a long post about how disappointed I am in Google's and Apple's "progress" in the last three years, but to spare you the painful details... I would just like to share how it took me an hour today to figure out why photos I upload to Blogger do what they do.

And namely, recently I made and uploaded a footer for this blog, like this:

I'd just learned how to cut people out of backgrounds on Photoshop and was rather pleased with myself - until I happened to tilt the laptop today and noticed that a photo I had thought "blended" with my blog didn't actually... blend. Rather, it sat on top of the blog being just slightly more grey than the background and around every person there was, also, a muddled area of grey.

It's hard to explain, but when I changed the exposure of the screen to see it closer, it looked like this:

See that? How the "box" of the photo is different colour from the blog itself? And how around every person there's that halo?

I sat back and thought to myself: am I formatting it wrong when I get the image out of Photoshop? Do I have to apply some sort of a filter? Am I not using the settings high enough?

And for over an hour I played with Photoshop, and googled, and uploaded, and played again, until I realised that... it's not me. It's Blogger doing it.

Turns out, sometime in the recent past Google has come up with this new feature called "auto-enhance" and "auto-awesome" which, in a nutshell, means that when I take a photo from my computer and upload it on my blog, it doesn't actually get there in the same quality.

It gets changed - the photo gets changed between my computer and my blog.

That was the reason why a photo that had an otherwise (clean) white background ended up uploaded as a mild grey, and why there was that "noise" around images everywhere.

The part I found frustrating was that I couldn't turn it off through Blogger. The only way for me to go and switch that "auto-enhancement" off was to make a new Google+ account: I had to go and create an account, get into settings, untick two boxes that said "auto-enhance" and "auto-awesome", and then delete the account again.

And I found it mystifying.

I mean... I know, Google, that you are pushing real hard to get me on your network. I can see you're getting desperate.

But really!?

I used to love these two companies, Apple and Google. I used to be aware of them making mistakes, but I could also see that the stuff that was really important, they were getting it right - and I used to wholeheartedly support what they were doing. I used to preach, insistently and annoyingly, and there are people out there with Apple computers now because of how effin' insistent I was back in the day.

And now I look at them both and think, are you serious?


PS. And to refer to the person who helped me figure out where the problem was, on Adobe Photoshop forums. Thanks, mate.

At home

Double-sided ear infection and a fever. Lots of cuddles, warmth and Pixar movies. We're taking it easy this week.

Ever wondered what an albino zebra looks like?

When Nature Runs Out Of Paint: 25 All-White Animals

Taking off borders from around Blogger images

Alright, Holly, this is for you.

Oh, sorry guys: if anyone else - besides Holly, I mean - is interested in how to take off borders from around blog images, here's a little tutorial, from me to you.

But! Before I go anywhere with this, a disclaimer: even though I can work/understand my way through basic CSS/HTML I am by no means a programmer and there's probably several other (and better) ways of doing what I'm doing, so if you screw something up on your blog because of what I've written here, then it's you that has a problem, not me, and I suggest you choose to listen to someone cooler/better next time.

But having said that, it's sort of worked for me, so chances are it'll sort of work for you, too.

Taking off borders from around Blogger images

By default Blogger has this thing where if you upload an image, it sticks a border around it, like this:

Now, I can very much understand why there are some very good reasons to having a border - photos with lots of white on them, for one, because without borders photos will merge with the background, especially if the background is white.

...but! I was also getting a bit tired of these borders, and I wanted them off.

So to take them off, I fiddled with some code. I went into my blog's admin section, chose "Template" and then "Edit HTML".

Clicking on that button there opened up a window that was full of code - I mean thousands, thousands of rows of code - but as long as I didn't freak out by thinking "How on earth am I going to find where they keep the borders!?" it was fine. Really.

(Which is totally true, if you disregard the fact that the first time around I deleted too much and ended up with a bunch of errors, so I had to go and reset the whole template - an action which is meant precisely for people like me, because it gets rid of any changes and puts in place a new, healthy code - and then I had another go at changing, which worked. I think.)

And specifically what I was after was at about row 330-ish (with my template, anyway) where it had words "item-thumbnail".

Now, you can look up a word "item-thumbnail" on your code by opening up a search box, and to open a search box you click Ctrl+F (Windows users) or Command+F (Apple users) (and heaven knows what you Linux users do, but being Linux users you probably don't struggle with code anyway, so I should just shut up, shouldn't I?) and then if you type "item-thumbnail" in the search box, it will take you to this place here.

And basically, if you look at the picture above then you will see that on my piece of code there is a bunch of zeros behind words such as "box-shadow". Zeros - a whole bunch of zeros. Zeros. Zeros. Zeros.

If you're not sure where these zeros are, then here, I've even dotted them all red:

And that's it, that's the trick: if your photos have borders around them then on your template you probably have numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 etc in those places - whereas all I have now is zeros. And if you want to have zeros on your code, too, then just type them in, like in a Word document: delete whatever number was there before and replace it with a zero.

And that, in a nutshell, tells your website not to have a border where at the moment borders are.

And then click "Save template" and that's it. You're done.

And that's it. Hope it made sense to you. I'm not a technical writer, sorry.

How fast can *you* shake?

On crazy blog designs

To those of you that are reading this blog right from this URL (ie, address) and not through some sort of a reader that spares you the design choices - I apologise. It'll be some pretty random colors and fonts for a few days whilst I am getting this place sorted, so bear with me.

I've come down with some sort of an illness/bug today, so after spending hours and hours sleeping this afternoon I've now decided to keep myself awake until 9 pm - to help me sleep during the night - and whilst I do that I'm keeping myself amused with digging through this blog's HTML. Not the fanciest of occupations, but, hey!, it works.

I've figured out how to take off annoying links in the footer ("Powered by Blogger" and "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)" that have been bugging me for ages), and borders around my posts and images, and I'm not sure I'll even get to any prettyfying today, but for now clearing away trash will work just as well, so here I am, and I apologise, but we'll get there.

One day.

This has all the beginnings of being introduced as "Maria, our wacky next door neighbor"

My neighbor is getting married today. I'm about to leave our house to go to her wedding reception, but I was rummaging through my drawer only to realise I haven't got a single flesh-colored pair of pantyhose here - only black.

And then I went to put on my shoes and realised that I've left my nice shoes at work, so the choices I have left here are hiking boots, sneakers, flip-flops and sandals.

So, yeah, when you see me approach the reception building wearing a white dress coupled with black pantyhose and hiking boots, then it's because I'm organised like that. And! Before you ask me why don't I put something else on then - everything else is, after yesterday's moth infestation, in the freezer. Things I haven't put in the freezer are some t-shirts and jeans.

Clothes, moths and larvae

Oh... no.

Hundreds (!) of moth larvae in the wardrobe. Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk. Three weeks ago clothes were fine and now I got out a dress to find it covered (!) in larvae; and then realised that pretty much everything I haven't worn in the last two weeks is covered, too.

Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk. There is a bagful of clothes in the freezer now and tomorrow is going to be a major washing and vacuuming day.

Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk.

PS. And I did think there were quite a few "butterflies" around but somehow I didn't connect that to clothes-eating moths and now I've got this.

Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk.

Celebrate the house

I made an important decision this morning.

We were playing our usual game - I was folding the bed sheets, The Kid was trying to stand on them - and I looked at the pile of already folded sheets, every single one of them different from others and thought, boy, when our parents come for a visit over Christmas I hope they don't try buying us matching bed sheets, like "normal" people.

It's the picture I have in my head: normal people who aren't busy saving up money for their homes and living on single incomes whilst children are little, they have matching bed sheets.

And then I thought: you know what? F*ck this. Matching bed sheets aren't about being normal, it's about taste preferences. How many houses have I been to that are eclectic, meaning, there's lots of different "un-matching" stuff that somehow, in the overall picture, makes everything fit?

My pile of bed sheets doesn't have to be about circumstances - it can be about choice.

I've been looking at this house as a place to be for now whilst we are saving up money for our own place and so I've been limiting the work I do, if not to minimum then to basics at least.

Yes, we carpeted the place.
Yes, we insulated.
Yes, we fenced.

But I haven't renovated the kitchen, haven't wallpapered, haven't put in more effort than is necessary to make it homely.

Today when I was folding the sheets I suddenly thought: you know what? F*ck this. If I am living in this house and God knows how long I'll be living here, I might as well just live here as if it's mine and if I want that damn wallpaper to go up, well, so it should happen.

Yes, it costs. Yes, it's cheaper keeping it as is. But you know what? It's also frustrating to keep looking at this wall and thinking, if this was mine I would put a rainbow on this wall and bring some happiness in.

And then I thought: I'll start celebrating this house. Yes, it's old; yes, it's inefficient; yes, it's... old, but I am going to celebrate where I live and I am going to stop looking at it as a temporary place to be before we head to our own home - sometime in the future, whenever that is - and I will celebrate what it is, now.

And I am going to celebrate the pile of bed sheets, every single one of them different...

Thomas The Engine pillowcase, by the way, is mine. I like it.

...and the old flower pot where Hazel lives.

Hazel is a little hazelnut plant we picked up in Wanaka two years ago. The Man has been taking care of it meticulously, putting it out in the cold over winter so it can hibernate and then bringing it inside over summer again.

It did happen that here the goats decided Hazel was yummy and ate almost the entire plant, but she has risen from the dead again and continued growing.

The pot is old and battered, but if I look at it less as something I'm stuck with and more like what do I think of it?, I have to admit that I actually like it.

And I shall celebrate that.

On blogging

I don't know what's your take on blogging, but I get anxiety attacks every time this blog picks up new readers.

It goes in phases: for a while there is a rather constant number of visitors and pageviews, the same pattern through weekdays - high on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, low on a weekend -  and then suddenly the number hikes up, in a bunch.

I don't understand, really, how and why it jumps in phases, but it does: suddenly there's a jump in visitors' numbers and then it stays constant like that again until another hike.

I remember the time I first noticed it getting up into the 300-s and I looked at this screen, eyes wide, thinking, ugh...

I blog because I release: if something is written down and open to be viewed in public then it is done. Gone - I cannot take it back once it's out there. (God I sometimes wished I could though!) Can't stop it, can't delete it - if it's written down, it's out there.

And it doesn't make sense worrying about it either. It doesn't help. I've tried - it just doesn't - and so in a weird way making it public helps me feel less embarrassed about something because I've found that the more honest I am the more people voice out in agreement: yes, yes they too have felt like that.

And it helps me, it really does - not even the people who then tell me that they relate to it (though it sure is nice!), but just the fact that I've released it and I've let go. It's gone.

But my point isn't about reaching a growing number of people with the stuff I write; if anything, a growing number of readers makes it more difficult for me to stay candid. My mother starts commenting, other people who are opinionated start commenting, then it's down to advice givers and people who start off with "I don't want to criticize, but..." - and I'm, like, hell yeah you don't want to criticize! - and then I get all sarcastic and... pointy.

A few weeks ago Holly wrote on her blog that my blog is one of her favorites and I swear I had this whole existential discussion in my head that for a good few days went along the lines of, omg, omg, omg, omg...

Then another blogger I had NO IDEA would say this thing wrote out publicly that my blog is one of her favorites and I had this Holly-experience all over again - omg, omg, omg, omg...

It freaks me out. It really does! I mean, it's nice to hear it, sure, but straight away I feel this mountain of expectations descend on me.

Expectations. (God I hate this word!)

And none of them probably expect this blog to be anything other than what it is at the moment, and they're not implying anything - all they do is say they like it - but straight away I feel this... need of wanting to be liked and therefore needing to censor, somewhat, what I say and how I say it, and I fear losing my place of freedom and solitude.

When Harry, a persistent commenter appeared, I looked and thought: who the hell is this guy!? Or when I see people whom I do not know personally link to stuff I've written, I wonder: where'd they find me!?

And I mean, really, it's nice, but it's also effin' scary. I do not want this place to be anything other than what I want it to be. I want to be able to write about Catholics without fearing offending someone, because inadvertently I will anyway. I want to be able to write F*ck you! without having some sort of a blogging police descend on me with their ideas on appropriate-ness.

And I want to be able to be whatever the hell I want without feeling like I need to be liked by someone, because it's just plain crazy. I need to like me. I!

And so I don't know if you've noticed, but my recent ramblings have been a bit edgy to a point of swearing even more than I'd normally do. I've felt anxious about it, but I've been working on looking past the expectations that I, may I remind you, have put on myself, myself - and writing regardless.

And in some ways it's probably good that the readership jumps and then stays constant again for a while because it gives me time to get used to it. I think it's healthy for me to learn coping with it, coping with what other people say or think about me and just doing my thing regardless, and if someone gets peeved off, well, good riddance.

It's the parallel between my work and my blogging at the moment. Would sort of like to write about it longer, but I really do need to go to sleep now.

Good night.

Good morning!

On dreams and meltdowns

You know what? If the same frustration/thought/meltdown keeps coming back, over and over again, in increasing intensities - maybe it's a (f*cking) sign that I should (f*cking) listen to it (at last) and (f*cking) do something about it(, smartass)!

It's like The Kid: at first it is don't scratch your forehead, nicely, then it's don't scratch your forehead, a little louder, and eventually it'll be alright, we're putting builder-grade band-aid on and stop complaining, yeah?, because this is getting ridiculous, you've had this thing on your forehead for three months now.

Three months!

So it's the same with me. At first I'll have a little meltdown, get over it, think, yeah, I can handle it. I can handle a little stress here and there.

Then I'll have a little bigger meltdown over the same thing. Get over it again. Think, yeah, I can still handle it.

Until eventually I'll have that mother of meltdowns when I'm going to finally pick my dreams off the floor and say, look, I understand this whole adult responsibilities concept and stuff, but life isn't meant to be lived regretting, so I'm going to go do what's important to me now.

And then some time later I'm probably going to look back and think, how come I didn't do that sooner? And what was all the fuss about, anyway?

Dreams, dreams, dreams Maria. Yes, there are dishes in the sink again and another load of washing needs to be hang up, but seriously: dreams. Dreams. Dreams!

Tuesday morning meltdown. A mild one.

On fear

The biggest fear of all, death. The second biggest: being average.

On donating blood

When I was at uni I used to donate blood.

Every 5 or so months I'd go, usually with friends, to the blood bank: chat with the friendly nurses, get my health checked, sit on a chair whilst this life-giving liquid poured down the narrow tube into the bag and then afterwards I'd sit and drink water. Chat some more.

It was fun.

The first time I went a friend got us there - five, six of us, all uni students. And second time, the same. The third time, I think, I went alone.

Four or five times I went altogether.

I used to have different cups in my cupboard, all "collected" from the blood bank - they used to say you can choose one each time you donate and so I kept collecting these cups. They were heavy, high-top, quality cups I loved drinking from and they reminded me of the importance of donating blood.

People all around the world need blood to get better. Car crashes, difficult childbirths, major surgeries - it is such a simple, important gesture without which a lot of lives would be different.

It is a gift.

It makes me sad to think that I cannot, any longer, donate my blood to other people who might need it. The medicine I take every day to keep my own levels stable makes it unsuitable for donating and so I watch other people donate and say a simple prayer so that the world knows that I'm here still and I'm thinking about it. I no longer reach out my arm in offer of this gift of life, but I'm proud of at least having done so when there was still time.

I don't know if it rules out any other forms of donation, but having thought of it today I might look it up, actually. What else is there even? Bone marrow?

A business idea for crafty people out there

Inspired by last week's pea coat success (and before you read any further, here's a forewarning for ya: it is going to be a whinging post), me and The Man sat on a sofa yesterday evening and discussed what sewing The Man's own pants would entail. Would it be hard? Would it be comfortable? Would it be... worth it?

I don't know about men in your lives, but when my man finds a pair of pants that fit him well, he wears them until they die on him.

Or, actually, he wears them beyond dying because when rips appear he asks me to patch them - and I, like a good wife, do. And then when patches rip, he asks me to patch the patches - and I, like a good wife, do. And then when he asks me to patch the patches of patches (really?) and I refuse to put on any more patches - because for how long can I be a good wife before he starts looking like a homeless person!? - and I send him to a store to buy a new pair of pants, that's when he finally gives up and finds a new pair, and the cycle begins anew.

So, yeah, he loves a well fitting pair of pants.

Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah: we were sitting on a sofa, discussing if we could maybe get a pants pattern for him so that I could make and re-make the same pair over and over again and he would be freed from the burden of shopping for pants ever again. (Which he, let's put it mildly, doesn't like doing.)

But then we tried finding some patterns. The operative word being tried.

Holy shit mother of goat. Have you ever tried finding a modern-looking pants pattern?!

At first I thought I am doing it wrong. I mean, seriously: the internet is full of women's clothing. Full! It is so full I reckoned there's bound to be a market for men's pants there. But I searched and I searched and then The Man searched but all we found was Jedediah Pants and a whole bunch of gay-looking suit pants from the 80's. (Or at least they looked like they belonged - and should belong! - to the 80's.)

And then I searched some more and found that, hey presto! - I'm not the only one with this problem. There's sewing forum upon a sewing forum complaining about the same thing, and that is: the lack of men's patterns.

I'll see how we go, but at the moment I think we're going to get The Man unpick his old pair so I can follow their shape and make a new pair with this same shape, and just out of pure stubbornness and spite I might convert it onto PDF and put it up in the internet somewhere - because this is just plain ridiculous.

Meanwhile, I suggest someone fills this market gap here. Really.


Petting chart for your dog

via The Meta Picture

Ever wondered what a petting chart for your cat looks like?

Looks like a lot more work.

Wow, I've done it.

Oh. My. God - I've done it. I said I'd never do it again, but I've done it. I've made another pea coat.

Again, I'm not a seamstress and I doubt I'll ever be one, but heck this was easier to do than last time! And though far from perfect, it is much better-looking this time. I'm really proud of it. Really.

But in case anyone's wondering: the reason I usually have time to update my blog regularly is because I don't do things like this more often. Like, check this out: I've been working on this thing for two days now and for how many days have I not updated my blog?


(You see a pattern?)

Otherwise, Saturday here. Southerlies are coming through, so it's a bit chilly, but it's also very clear. Sunny.

A plane!

Another plane!

My song of backpacking

I was listening to Train's "Drops of Jupiter" this morning and thought of the many times I listened to this song when I first started backpacking - learned backpacking.

And then I remembered a song that followed me for that entire year: Jason Mraz's "I'm yours"

It's what I looked up to.

I'd seen in movies how people walked empty gravel roads, with their backpacks on, smiling; relaxed on patches of grass; drank water out of their old, battered, scratched-up bottles; lived each day on a measly budget but with loads of enthusiasm - were happy - but I'd never really done it. I didn't exactly know how to, except that I just had to go ahead and try to live the images in my mind's eye.

This song taught me how to. Of course, there were other people/things that taught me, too, but this song did a lot of it.

When I bought a copy of "Eat. Pray. Love" in a Queenstown bookshop (I'd never read it before, but I felt that somehow I needed to) I scribbled this song's lyrics onto the front page. Then, when an American couple pushed my campervan out of a mudpit I'd ended up in, I gave that book to that woman.

Somewhere in the world there is a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat. Pray. Love" with Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" lyrics scribbled in front.

Listen to the music of the moment, people dance and sing  
And it's our God-forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved 
So I won't hesitate no more, no more 
I guess what I be saying is there ain't no better reason 
To rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons 
It's what we aim to do, our name is our virtue 
Open up your mind and see like me 
Open up your plans and damn your free 
Look into your heart and you'll find the sky is yours 

It followed me from when I started in Queenstown, spent my days on the Kaikoura coast, when I travelled further north - Hanmer Springs, Blenheim, Bay of Plenty, 90 Mile Beach - when I learned to surf, when I learned to really, really let it go and sit on the verandah in the evening hours, under a blanket with Joe, and talk.

There's a whole generation of backpackers out there with this as their heart song. I know it.

And when I hear it, I smile.

On drug addiction

I don't know if you've been part of any drugs-are-bad-for-ya propaganda, but if you have then you probably remember someone telling you how rats, given the chance, will discard food and water in order to keep pressing levers that deliver them cocaine - and as a result, die.

(And then someone probably pointed out how important it is to not even try, ever, or you'll end up like those rats there.)

And maybe you've even been told how human body can produce its own, natural high. It differs from person to person, but some people get high by running, other by climbing mountains, others by painting, whatever - that feeling of satisfaction after doing something you love, technically speaking it's a high. It's what bodies do.

But I learned something new this morning. Turns out - you know those rats that were pressing cocaine levers and forgot to eat and drink, and then died? Well, those rats were kept in small, sensory-deprived cages where they didn't have anything else to do: it was either eat-this-food-and-drink-this-water or press-this-lever-and-you'll-at-least-feel-happy-about-something; small, empty, grey cages.

There was absolutely. Nothing. Else. To do.


But you know happens when rats live in big cages where there are running wheels and puzzles and colorful walls - basically, things to do - and other rats they can interact with? Do they still end up forgetting to drink and eat because they are busy getting cocaine?

The answer isn't really that surprising if I think about it, though it did come as a surprise when I read about it first.

To me it suggests there might be a wider picture behind drug addiction than simple I-tried-and-then-I-got-hooked.

There always is.

A pretty good description of what labour pain is like

An evening without electricity

Turns out, there's a very obvious advantage to living in the wop-wops next to a radio transmitter because, alongside said radio transmitter the house gets a priority in being reconnected to electricity.

However, I also have to admit that apart from the fridge and the freezer, I'm somewhat disappointed to have power back on again. It was special, being, all four of us, in this quiet house, candles on.