Tea in The Solarium

Tea in The SolariumMore tea, so forgive me.

In the sun-filled solarium, this time, surrounded by hothouse ferns of wild purple hue. Another tea-stained page taken from the fantastic, mostly fanciful, life of Mata Hari…and the golden walls are peppered with tiny mauve stitches…

Tea in The SolariumI scanned at higher resolutions, this time, and the file was big enough to put on throw pillows and other things, for once. Learning. It never ends.

These are available from—where else?— society6, as always, and their sales special—$5 off each item, plus free shipping worldwide—is still going. Makes me wonder if they ever turn it off. I’ve gotten so used to the great prices that I’ll probably become depressed when they finally do go back to regular pricing…

Wrapping the week up…

Langkawi sky

Selamat datang!

It has been a busy week. My day job boss (I do one day a week, as a kitchen hand and serving at the counter, for a vegetarian takeaway in the Smith Street mall) asked me to fill in for an absent co-worker.

I grabbed the chance to earn a bit more money because, last Wednesday night, I did a pretty crazy thing: my friend Jenni, who lives in Langkawi, sent me Air Asia’s latest Promo Flights e-mail, and as I was  clicking through the destinations and the prices I thought, “Why not?”

I’ve never been to Malaysia. I have a few friends there. I love the multicultural influences of their Indian, Nyonya, Malaysian, and Chinese cuisine. I’m comfortable and familiar with Southeast Asian culture. And the flights were thrillingly cheap…albeit travel dates were all the way in February 2012.

So I booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur, with plans of heading down to Langkawi, and over to Penang. In a daze, I told Kris that night “Um…I’m going to Langkawi and Penang…” His response was (and this is Kris, all over), “Great idea! When do you go? The food is Penang is fabulous…” Have I said how much I love this man? Well, I say it again. ❤

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Penang MalaysiaThen that same night I received a comment over on my other blog from pc, the warm and enthusiastic craft and family-life blogger of MeiJo’s Joy. She lives in Penang. It seemed like a sign that I had made the right move. I wrote to her, and she replied with a thrilled “Selamat datang!” We’ll be meeting up when I get there. I know it’s half a year away, yet, but I can’t help it, I’m excited!

 The Royal Darwin Show

The Royal Darwin Show

An annual event, The Royal Darwin Show is happening next weekend (from Thursday, the 21st to Saturday, the 23rd). This is its 60th year, and so there’s going to be a bigger celebration this time around. I must confess that I have not yet been to a show…these large agricultural & community shows are a facet of Australian culture that I haven’t been able to relate to, not having such a thing in the Philippines. Should I get a denim shirt and a slouch hat? ;D

Well, that’s all about to change…I’ve been asked to come to The Show as a judge of entries in the newly created Bookbinding section. I had to laugh when they asked me…I haven’t had a chance to enter my own work in the event, and here I’m going to be judging! I fret that I’m not qualified to judge other people’s bookbinding creations…it seems like a big responsibility to carry around. But I said yes, and will try to do the job as gracefully as I can.

I’ll let you know what the Show was like, after I’ve been. In between being all big-gestured and swaggery, seein’ as I’ll be Ms. Judge an’all, and everyone callin’ me “Yer Honor,” (You’re not that kind of Judge, Nat!) I’ll be firing my camera like mad. What should I be on the lookout for at The Royal Darwin Show? Can you give me some tips? I hope I spot cowboys…I really want to shoot some cowboys. *yee-haw!*

Heritage Collection Banjo Patterson lady's hat in fawn

The Homemade Gift Wrap


And a spot of color to end this post: I sold another wooden journal through my Madeit shop the other day, and the lady who bought it said it was a “gift to herself”, so I thought I’d wrap her purchase up…just a bit of ‘pretty’ to surprise her when she gets her parcel.

I know there are fancy cutters and dies that you can do this with, these days…as well as lovely printed papers and matching cutouts, decals, tags to be bought at shops. But I like to do things myself, using what I have, and putting a bit of playfulness and care into the job. Buy yet another machine, just to do this? Why? When my goal—half the time, anyway—is to be creative, see what I’m capable of, and make things intensely personal? (To spend less on ready-mades and mass-produced items being the other half). I don’t want to be dependent on companies, shops, specially-made niche-market products, and spending, just to make something pretty; and I don’t want to have to share my satisfaction, when it’s done, with a brand name.


It isn’t perfect. I made a little tear in the red paper when I was pulling the masking tape off. But I don’t mind, and I don’t think my buyer will, either. After all, it’s just something she’s going to remove when she gets her journal.

I took some pictures when I did this (really, you don’t need pictures, it was that easy, but anyway…) and will put a post up on From Hell to Breakfast soon, if you want to see how it’s done.


Moulin D’Or…in thread and paint


Part of the set that includes the green camera embroidery is this work-in-progress embroidery of the old Zassenhaus Mokka Kaffeemühlen that my Dad gave to me 11 years ago.  I love it, and the steady crunching sound that it makes as it grinds freshly roasted coffee beans into a fine, fine powder.  Still works perfectly, though it must be around 45 years since he bought it in Germany.

I don’t know how I feel about the embroidery, yet, though I suppose it will look okay when more of the ground has been worked. The colors and pattern were chosen with less confidence than those of the camera, I felt.

moulin d'or

I wanted to explore other treatments of the same subject, so I started a painting today, as well…this as far as I got, starting at around noon today. Happy so far, though that pink horizon line is too far up. Already I like this painting better than The Sulking Chair. Trying not to be so heavy-handed this time…keeping the touches, the colors, the movements light, light, light…dancing over, just kissing the canvas…here, there…moving around and not brooding over any one detail.

(And yes, that is a tree on our deck…it’s about 2.7 meters (9 feet) tall now: a Moringa olifeira…Filipinos eat the leaves, they’re fantastically loaded with vitamins and minerals. I never make a soup or curry without throwing handfuls of the small dark-green oval leaves in. Yum!)

moulin d'or

picture of a contemporary Zassenhaus coffeemill in beechwoodNote: Zassenhaus of Germany is still producing its wide range of fine and beautiful Kaffeemühlen for the discerning coffee connoisseur, and each mill’s metal components are guaranteed for 25 years. German craftsmanship, what a wonderful thing in this Made-in-China-today-throw-away-tomorrow world.

I still like my 50-year-old one better, though…the wood has darkened with use, and the knob is shaped like a little mushroom.

To have gold on your back deck and not know it…


To have gold in your back yard and not know it. . .

I woke this morning before your dream had shredded

And found a curious thing: flowers made of gold,

Six-sided—more than that—broken on flagstones,

Petals the color of a wedding band.

You are sleeping. The morning comes up gold.

Perhaps I made those flowers in my head,

For I have counted snowflakes in July

Blowing across my eyes like bits of calcium,

And I have stepped into your dream at night,

A stranger there, my body steeped in moonlight.

I watched you tremble, washed in all that silver.

Love, the stars have fallen into the garden

And turned to frost. They have opened like a hand.

It is the color that breaks out of the bedsheets.

This morning the garden is littered with dry petals

As yellow as the page of an old book.

I step among them. They are brittle as bone china.

—Thomas James, “Tom O’Bedlam Among the Sunflowers”

from Letters to a Stranger. Copyright © 2008 by Thomas James.


Crazy Circus Chair (Book 902, and already gone!)

Remember this?

I love old chairs, especially the leather ones with deep wings and curly legs…but instead of the standard upholstery, I like to dress my dream chairs up in glossy red leather and stripey gold and pink silk brocade—inspired by gypsy circus tents, Tim Burton, goth-queen ballgowns, and Angela Carter’s “The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman”! I made this painting a couple of months ago, but finally made up a journal with it, which was the plan all along, last Monday (or thereabouts).

I put the finished journal in my online shops the following day, and this morning woke up to find that it had sold to a long time Flickr contact of mine—the amazing photographer and artist salbug00! Yay!

I’m thrilled that she liked it enough to brave the steep postage and shipping fees (did you know that the U.S. Customs asks a US$ 9.00 surcharge for any parcel that is over 500 grams (1.10 lb.)…it’s bad enough Australia Post’s International Shipping fees are highway robbery, but with this U.S. tariff on top, salbug00 may be the last North American buyer I will ever see!

It went soooo quickly, but I thought I’d post pictures of it here, just to say “Hey, look what I made!” Yes, folks, the Crazy Circus Chair Journal was here, briefly.

May it bring joy and offer a quiet place of solace and refuge to its new owner.

Postcards from The Archipelago

Deep sea was the wandering,
deep brass the dripping loot,
deep crimson the bloodspill,
lyrics begotten on lush lips
and many a hawser they saw—
rotting rope and rusting chain
and anchors…many lost anchors.

—Carl Sandburg

Finished painting the first of that small batch of journal cases (covers) I made recently. It’s called Postcards from The Archipelago, and this is the second time I’ve painted these designs on a cover; the first time was for a little journal that I gave to my Belovéd.

It’s a very special little pair of paintings I’ve put on here, full of significance, wonderful memories, and love, love, love…so now I don’t want to sell it! I won’t be in a  hurry to sell it, anyway…it must go to someone who really resonates with it…someone who has lived close to the sea, or has lain in the dark at night listening to the ‘bulge and nuzzle’ of the waves, has loved a pirate, has “sailed away for a year and a day”…or someone who has pulled up his/her anchors (or is about to) and is open to the adventure that life can become when you don’t know where you’re going, only that you’ve got to go…

*Is she serious?* Okay, I can hardly insist on these conditions…(can’t you just see me, though, interviewing prospective buyers? *crazy laugh*) I guess all I am trying to say is:     I love this one so much and I hope someone out there will love it, too. You’ll find it in my Etsy and Madeit shops very soon.

The story behind the covers…

There’s a golden compass on the spine, surrounded by curling tendrils of seaweed. The cover paintings both have landscape formats (to look like postcards), so that either side can be the ‘front’ of this journal (and I’ve put ‘headbands’ on both ends of the book, so you can decide which is front for you).

On one cover is my version of an old woodblock print showing a sea monster attacking a ship. I love the old accounts of monsters and terrors of the deep, love the fact that they were made in all seriousness, to illustrate real accounts made by sailors and travelers. When I met Kris he was in the process of compiling an old-fashioned bestiary of fantastic creatures from all over the world. He had stacks of research, and had painstakingly done a painting for every creature on his list. I loved that he would devote so much of his time and energy doing something purely personal, entirely for his own pleasure and of no immediate use to anyone else at all.

Beside the sea monster vignette is a tiny map of the Bacuit Archipelago, which is where Kris and I met, and where we lived in a fisherman’s hut on the beach for many years. That little boat with the Chinese junk rig is Kehaar, Kris’ sailboat. On the bit of land to the right, just under the name El Nido, hic sunt leonis (here there be lions) marks the spot where we lived, with our two fat cats (lions!) ruling that part of the jungle.

On the other cover are fragments of Carl Sandburg’s poem, and a painting of Kehaar on the sea at night. The little portholes glow with the light of candles inside, a fingerail-paring of moon hangs overhead, and the sky is salted with stars.

When Kris decided that he wanted to return to Australia after 13 years being away, we made the trip by sailboat. It took us five weeks to reach East Timor, and another 10 days from Timor to Darwin, Australia. Kris has a lot of respect for the men who crossed the world’s oceans in the days before the engine was invented, and he likes that kind of old-fashioned self-reliance. Hence, Kehaar is just a sailboat. There is no engine on board. There is no GPS, radio, EPIRB, toilet, lights or electricity on board, either, for that matter.

It was Real Sailing: perfectly silent, isolated, and oftentimes, slow. Time opened like origami…we had time…plenty of time. There was no need to hurry…what for? Three days without wind meant we sat on deck in patches of shade, talking or doing some small, intricate chore, just trying to stay busy until the wind picked up again. Kris wrote for his book or drew monsters and patterns in the borders of his sailing charts; I sat embroidering, or reading. We spent hours staring at the horizon, sometimes. At night, when it was my turn to steer, I had conversations with myself, sang every song I knew—a lot of Basia, isn’t that daggy?—wished on shooting stars (there were hundreds) and tried to learn the major constellations. Herds of whales would surface around us and blast smelly water into the air; pods of dolphins raced with us when we were going fast; sea birds—boobies, mainly—hung around for days, resting en route to god-knows-where. We saw turtles the size of picnic tables (before they saw us…another advantage to sailing without an engine!) and lots of sea snakes. Sharks trailed behind us in some seas. One night while I was steering in a strong wind, something big (the size of our boat) swam beside us for half an hour (the sea is pitch dark, but when the tiny bits of plankton are disturbed, they emit a bright glow or phosphoresence that will reveal the outline of larger fish, dolphins, anything moving fast enough to alarm the little guys) and it scared me a bit!

It was a big adventure, and a big move for me, but Kris had given (a somewhat trying) life in the Third World a go, for my sake, so I thought it was only fair that I spend some time in his country. It was difficult at first, took me a year to find my own place in the scheme of things. But I’ve fallen in love with Oz, and Darwin in particular, and there are no plans of sailing away again for a long while!