Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Busy busy...drowning in apricots...

I have promised myself that I will write a nice long post about a magic place that's very special to me, with lots of photos, but it will have to wait for a few days as I am rather busy at the moment, so this is just a quick update for now.  I spent this morning giving a 30 minute talk about art to my littlest one's pre-primary class.  They were so very good, and so very cute, and asked lots of wonderful questions...though one little boy was so very excited about the prospect of school swimming lessons this afternoon that he had to tell me about that, AND that he had new swimming goggles too!  And we did get off track a bit at one point when I mentioned that the Green Man was a bit like a special forest fairy who looked after all the forest creatures...which led to rather a long discussion about the tooth fairy and methods of extracting teeth.  But they were all so lovely, and told me my paintings were very nice.  Then it was off to work...as in my new REAL job, wearing my graphic designer hat, which so far has turned out to be very low stress and so much like my old job that it feels like deja vu!  Then home again this evening, to deal with this......!

I wish I could say that these are entirely organic, but I'm afraid after two years of trying organic methods of controlling Fruit Fly, and two years of seeing not only our entire crop of Apricots but also all our Nectarines turn to brown rotting mush, we gave up and used a spray.  So these need a good wash before eating.  But at least we know what they taste like now, and my oh my they are good!
They still have spots and blemishes, and we've lost a few to the dreaded fly, which makes my shudder to think what commercial growers use on their fruit trees.

So tonight was our first bottling night.  I bought all these jars about 3 years ago in anticipation of our first crop...and this is the first chance I've had to use them...gosh, I've come over all CWA (that's Country Women's Association...the only cookbook I've ever come across that has a recipe for MOCK TRIPE, AND a cure for Scaly Leg in chickens all in the same book!)

This is the first 15 bottles.  There will be lots more!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An old woman and a flighty muse...a story fragment needing a home...

I have been reading Rima Staines' wonderful post about the old and rather scary women who inhabit the dark forests of faerytales.  It's an odd thing, when something you've been thinking about lately suddenly pops up elsewhere.  But it reminded me of a story fragment I wrote a few years ago.  This is a typical example of the way my muse works, by the way.  She blithely drops the middle of a short story, or the first few lines of a poem, or a song melody with no words (or vise-versa) into my lap, then nicks off and never gets back to me with the rest of it.  It's incredibly annoying, and as a consequence I have notebooks filled with scribbles longing to be more than just a middle, or a first line...yearning in fact to be WHOLE.  She's better with paintings, I suppose I shouldn't complain too much, she might not bother to drop in at all if I'm too rude about her.  I don't know what class of muse she is, so I can't vouch for the quality of her snippets either...perhaps she gets the grab bag of factory floor sweepings, or drops off the bits she knows a better writer would throw in the compost.  Ah well, anyway, here is a middle that has no beginning and no end, and I have no idea what to do with it.  About an odd old woman in an old little house.  The painting is my Isis-Persephone.

She came stomping after him, like a reluctant child dragged along unwillingly for the ride.  He chose to ignore the over-heavy footsteps, because he knew that they were designed to make him look around, at which she would most likely pull a face of pain and indignation at being brought to this place.  She hadn't wanted to come, he couldn't deny that, and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge her anger was fuelled by guilt that he had talked her into it in the first place.  He had wanted her to be with him and convinced her it would be interesting, fun, a chance to get away from it all, all of which he had known was untrue at the time, with the possible exception of the last one, but he had argued nevertheless.
The sun was low in the sky when they reached a small outcrop of rocks that proved to be a dwelling.  The sole inhabitant was a woman so old she appeared to be part of her rough hewn home, rather than sheltered by it.  He spoke to her in the local language, and her voice cracked and skipped over syllables as if she had not spoken for a long time.  She was hard to understand, it was obviously not a dialect she commonly used.  She spoke of her daughter, who was not there, "away" somewhere, though whether gone for half an hour or half a century, it was not clear.  She heaved herself up and stirred the small cooking fire in the centre of the house, shuffling through the loose dirt on the floor.  She offered them hospitality in the formal manner, bade them drink with her and eat with her, and told them they were welcome to spend the night.  Miriam was tired, the trek from the broken down landrover had been long in the heat, and Matthew accepted the offer of a bed.
The old woman laughed and clapped her hands when they introduced themselves.  Her name was also Miriam, Miryam, Mariamme.  The stars burned brightly through the open doorway, as the night turned deep indigo around them, and Old Miryam made thick sweet coffee and offered them unleavened bread and honey, sprinkled with sesame seeds.  She hummed and chirped to herself as she worked over her fire, singing in a dialect that was entirely unfamiliar to Matthew.  He listened quietly, trying to penetrate the words and find some meaning, but though it had a familiar sound, like a nursery rhyme remembered, he could not understand it.  Miriam sat staring into the fire, hugging her knees, and saying nothing.  He watched the firelight play across her face, and between its flickering and the old woman's moving shadow Miriam grew old and young again, became a new person, different, alien.
After the simple meal, the old woman sat herself down across the fire from them and stared at them without speaking for what seemed like an hour but may have been five minutes.  Matthew felt embarrassed, as if she'd seen him naked, not only physically, but mentally too.  As if she'd looked through his facade and seen his true self.  Then she laughed again, and began to speak.  It was a few moments before Matthew realised that she was speaking English, the surprise of it completely confused him so he did not hear what she actually said but was only aware that he recognised it.  She was telling a story, and she introduced it with the words that are so familiar to every child.  "Once upon a time..." she had begun, waving her hands to indicate they should sit and listen.  "Once upon a time there was a mother.  And once upon a time this mother had a daughter.  A daughter young and strong and beautiful.  And the mother loved her daughter more than the stars in the sky, more than the earth at her feet, and more than the wind that blows three times round the world.  

 Christina Cairns © 2005

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Alas, alack, I can no longer afford the luxury of being an artist who doesn't make any money (like most artists!)...so tomorrow I am back to work part-time, wearing my old, crumpled and sadly out-of-fashion hat of graphic designer.  This is good, because several years off to have a family have turned me into a semi-hermit and I've begun to doubt my ability to be a responsible adult and hold down a normal job...and of course, the getting paid part is definitely a bonus.  But it is also bad because there will be much less time for painting and stitching and other creative pursuits.  Ah well, such is life.  So things may be quieter in the attic, but I am not disappearing off into the sunset entirely.  And quality is better than quantity anyway, wouldn't you agree, so that's what I'll aim for!

As to other changes, I was rather horrified to be informed by the local Post office lady (as I posted off a small pile of parcels to giveaway winners, and Etsy customers), that as part of new security measures in the USA, any parcel going to the States that weighs more than 453g (yes, that last 3g is the killer!), will need to have a customs declaration on it AND it will cost $9AUD extra...even if it is just papers/documents.  Now the prints I posted today didn't weigh that much, so prints should be fine, but I imagine it will affect my original paintings.  So sadly I will have to increase some of my postage costs in my Etsy shop.  So if you wonder why, please remember, it's not my fault, really!

Well, first day back in the 9-5 daily grind tomorrow, so I'm off to bed early.  I'm nervous as all hell, but hopefully I won't do anything too disastrous or make too much of an idiot of myself (this from a woman who regularly falls UP stairs)!  'Night all...and here's Mr Bowie!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Summer is acumen in....phew, they're not wrong!!!

As the Mercury is bouncing off 39ÂșC (just over the old Century) at the moment, and Spring hasn't even finished yet, I'm sharing a favourite summer beverage.  I realise that most of you are descending into the long freezing nights and short cold days of winter now, but perhaps you might like to try it next July!  My other favourite summer beverage is a nice G&T with lots of ice, but this is more guilt free!
The two main ingredients...yep, it's essentially iced tea!

I was overjoyed to discover the Elderflower Cordial in my local supermarket a couple of years ago.  It might sound like an odd thing to get so excited about, but you have to understand that as an Aussie, I've never even seen an Elderflower, let along drunk Elderflower wine or cordial.  But it's something I've grown-up with all the same, because it's the sort of thing that gets mentioned in the kind of books I liked to read as a child, and still like to read.  So you have to understand that to me, the very words "Elderflower Wine" are magic.  It's the sort of thing that Faeries drink.  It's as if you popped into your local Bottle-O and found Hobbit Ale...made in the Shire by genuine Hobbits.  And what was even better, was that it tasted exactly as I imagined it would (there's always the chance of a terrible disappointment in that department)...light and sweet and flowery, like drinking nectar.  

Now, it's lovely on it's own, but it occurred to me that Lady Grey Tea (which I much prefer to the old Earl), being rather light and flowery itself, would marry beautifully.  So I gave it a whirl.  Mmmmmm!

The finished product.  A jug of this out under the apricot tree, this evening when it has cooled down a bit, would be perfect.

OK, so probably not perfect for a northern hemisphere winter, but there you have it anyway.  Magical winter drinks for me would be mulled wine, or a slightly warmed honey liqueur, like this one (scroll down to the bottom of the page).  Hubby and I discovered Bartholomew's on, appropriately enough, our honeymoon!  No I'm not getting a commission, but I'm happy to accept one if they're willing to pay me in Mead!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And the winner is....

Scroll down to the bottom for surprises!
Yes, I couldn't help myself, I decided to have a second draw for a little second prize.

I also decided to give a Special Merit Prize because WOL really deserved a prize for her wonderful poem.  If you haven't read it yet, it's here...and it gave me a very good laugh!

So...Ren (from the wonderful Fairysteps) is the happy winner of my little pendant, and Valerianna (at Ravenwood Forest) and WOL (at The Owl Underground) can choose an A4 print from my Etsy shop!
So if my 3 winners can email me their addresses (and their print choices) I shall be sending their pressies out over the oceans to their new homes.

Thanks to everyone for entering!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Righto...now to put the names into a hat...

...and draw out a winner.  Don't worry if you were a bit late, I'll include everyone who has left a comment up till the writing of this post.  And I may just have to include some special consolation prizes too, as there were some wonderful poems!  Thanks to everyone who entered, it's lovely to be able to give something back to the people who've helped me along the way on this blog journey, and kept me motivated to keep going!

I shall be back in due course with a winner!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

12 hours left to enter my giveaway!

Quick, go get your skates on.
Don't worry too much about poems and such,
It was just an excuse for some fun!
So leave a comment today...
And tomorrow we'll find out who's won!

Off you go and leave your comment HERE to win this!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I wish, I wish upon a star...

I could go to this, but it's just too far.... :(

Vali Myers is one of my absolute favourite artists.  She had an amazing life, a wild, bohemian, gypsy soul who created the most incredibly detailed artwork.  Unfortunately she's barely known in her native Australia.  She lived most of her life overseas, but returned to Australia in the 1990s and died in Melbourne in 2003.  For a while her studio was kept open as a museum/gallery of her art and life.  Sadly, lack of funds forced it's closure...and even more sadly, I made a trip to Melbourne in 2006 to visit her studio...a month AFTER it had closed...sigh!  And I would so dearly love to be there tomorrow night for the opening of this exhibition, but there are several thousand kilometres between this side of OZ and the other side, and I simply haven't the funds for the plane fare.  So, if you happen to be in Melbourne, go and have a look, for me!

And don't forget to visit my Giveaway post HERE and leave a comment for a chance to win!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The mermaid turns ONE...and a gift for you...

Well, today it is my first birthday...well, the first birthday of A Mermaid in the Attic!  Yes, I have been rambling on about goodness-knows-what and playing show-and-tell with my little pictures for a whole year now.  And marvel of marvels, there are 191 people out there who find something worthwhile in my oft mad musings and ponderous ponderings.  So, that all seems like a good reason for a Give-Away, don't you agree?!  So, to thank all my readers and regular commenters for all your lovely support, I've decided to give this pendant away to one of my dedicated followers.

 So, what do you do to win this little OOAK hand-painted Olive Wood pendant?  Well, I'm sure most of you know how these things usually work, it's all very simple.  You need to be a follower, and leave a comment on THIS post.  Hmm, let's see, shall we make it a bit more interesting?  How about a 4 line poem (well, you can do more if you like, limericks are always fun) on the funniest (or weirdest) thing that happened to you this month?  I'll allow for a certain amount of 'poetic license' so don't get too worried about it, just have fun.  Don't forget to make sure I can contact you if you win.  Then I'll pick a bunch that make me laugh the most and put them into the top hat and draw out a winner.  Sound fair?  So, you've got...ummm...how about till midnight on Sunday?  That's midnight here, where the mermaid lives, which is GMT +8.  But I'll warn you when the deadline is approaching.  So, hop to it, off into your various garrets and summon up the poetic muse.  And if you really MUST use a goose quill pen to get the creative juices flowing, go ahead!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Off to the Art Gallery...

I spent a lovely afternoon at the Art Gallery of Western Australia with a couple of friends, seeing this exhibition.  I love seeing the work of other artists, it's one of the things that inspires me, and one of the reasons I love the internet, a veritable visual feast available at my fingertips, from all ages and all places.  But nothing can compare with seeing the REAL THING.  There's something wonderful about seeing up close a painting that you've only ever seen in books or on the small glowing screen that's in front of me right now. A small, flat reproduction can't really give you an idea of the texture and the size, the techniques and even the true colours of the original.  So this was a chance to see a favourite artwork 'in the flesh' so to speak, but also the opportunity for surprise, a new artist, a piece you're not familiar with that is arresting and exciting.  This painting, by Max Ernst, has long been a favourite, and I was surprised by its size, it was much larger than I imagined it to be.  And it was a welcome burst of colour in a selection that was largely subdued in darker or neutral tones.

Then we happened upon this one, by William Congdon, an artist I'm not familiar with.  It's a large piece, and all three of us liked this one, spending quite a lot of time looking at it from different angles.  What you can't really appreciate from this small picture is that the artist has laid colours down on the canvas, painted over it in thick black oil paint (and thick cream on the left), then scratched back into the paint to reveal the layer beneath.  What looks at first glance to be fine white detail painted over the black is in fact very loose scratching back.  It gives it a wonderful 3D effect.

On the whole, I was a little disappointed that there weren't more pieces, but I suppose that's the nature of a travelling exhibition of this calibre...you get a couple of famous 'signature' pieces and lots of less well known works.  But still, an enjoyable afternoon, I love seeing an exhibition with friends, it's always fascinating to discuss (or argue!) which ones we like and which ones we don't.  And I do like eavesdropping on other people's conversations as they look at art, it's fascinating hearing how other people are affected by different pieces, whether they liked them or not and why.  If you're interested, have a look at the official Peggy Guggenheim Collection website, they have lots of wonderful images of the large collection of abstract and surreal art.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wildberries and old pants...

Oddly enough, it's the pants in the cooking pot, not the Wildberries!  The inaugural issue of 'Wildberries: Journal of Mythic Fantasy' is out.  I have a poem ('Beauty Remembers') and two paintings in this issue.  You can view the issue online here, and also download the PDF if you prefer.  Please pop over and have a look, there is a great selection of poems and short stories, and don't forget to let Joel know what you think, it's a labour of love and he has put so much into it.

More of this happening now...an old holey pair of cotton 'bali' pants gifted by their owner.  Typically, I forgot to take a 'before' photo, so I dug out the discarded waistband to show the original colour.  I was hoping for more of a greenish hue, given that the onion skins were over-dyeing a blueish fabric.  But that is part of the mystery of natural dyes, you don't get a guaranteed result, you have to be patient and wait and see.  I rather like it, nonetheless, but I do want to incorporate more greens and reddish browns into this piece...well, I think I do, though it's very amorphous at the moment...so I may have to resort to commercial dyes.  I'm tempted to buy some of the gorgeous hand dyed fabrics on Etsy and the like, and I may do that, but I would like the majority of this piece to be old bits of fabric that have some meaning to me.  But it will be a long time in the making, so who knows what it will end up wearing!  It will have story incorporated into it too, but that is something that will develop in the weaving and stitching, not something that I can decide on now.  That's part of the journey, the story unfolds as the cloth unfolds.  Perhaps it will be a sad story...perhaps happy.  I won't know until I get there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween...when faeries turn into witches!

My little Autumn faery turned into a witch for a Halloween birthday party on Saturday.  She specifically wanted to be a 'kitchen witch' so I made her a little apron (with a pocket to keep her glowing eyeball in...eeek!), and a raggedy patched skirt.  Littlest faery wasn't going to a party but wanted the same, so that meant two of everything!

I'm in two minds about this whole Halloween thing.  While the IDEA of Halloween appeals to me immensely, it just ISN'T something Australians have ever celebrated, and as it's a seasonal holiday it's entirely illogical to be celebrating it in Spring anyway.  But commercialisation has taken over and where once we only encountered it in movies and books from the US, now every shop here has all manner of Halloween junk to sell (I managed to rein in the excitement of the small people and limit them to a hat, a broom, and a skull necklace each...oh, and the aforementioned glowing eyeball).  Most of it is really nothing more than instant landfill.  I've noticed the same thing happening with Easter and St Patrick's day.  Easter was once a time when you bought chocolate eggs...and that was about it.  Now you can go completely overboard and decorate your entire house with life size (or rather 'human size') Easter Bunnies, chickens, banners, easter egg 'trees' and ornaments and God knows what else.  And come St Pat's day, it's all green glitter bowler hats and leprechaun costumes.  No sooner is one holiday over, than they roll out all the stuff for the next one.  I don't have a problem with special, meaningful holidays...I love them, but these are being stripped of all true meaning.  I'm sure there must be someone somewhere as we speak, trying to come up with a new holiday that will require decorations and cards and gifts etc, for the middle of the year, it seems to be the only bit left that isn't already tied up.  Now that Halloween is out of the way, Christmas will take over...which usually means that by the time Christmas actually gets here I am thoroughly sick of it!  I have this dream to one day take my whole family away for Christmas, somewhere in the northern hemisphere where it will be cold and snowy, but somewhere that Christmas hasn't been entirely ruined by months of muzak carols in shopping centres, plastic Santa Claus' scaring me out of my wits by yelling Ho Ho Ho at me as I pass by them, impossible-to-avoid Christmas buy buy buy advertising, and people going nuts trying to buy the biggest, the best, the most expensive whatever-it-is and putting themselves into debt for the whole next year.  I don't suppose such a place actually exists, but I live in hope.  I love Christmas, but I hate what it's become...a 3 month retail orgy to convince as many people as possible to part with money they haven't got, to buy stuff they don't need.  I want a REAL Christmas!

Oh dear...I'm probably sounding rather like Scrooge by now...Bah Humbug!
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