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Friday Five: Creative Things That Inspire Me Right Now

It's the last day of February. For us Down Under, we think of this as the official last day of summer. We're getting more chilly mornings and evenings.

While I love the colours of Autumn, and generally enjoy the lovely days with mid to late 20'C weather, I must admit that it's not exactly my favourite time of the year. I love Spring and Summer best. But, seasons change and I'm sure my family, friends, and colleagues from the other side of the world who have been experiencing real deep freeze winter would just laugh at my definition of 'cold weather'.


It's now Day 6 of my week-long daily blogging challenge this month. So glad to have made it this far, especially when I didn't always feel like blogging this week.

Since I haven't done a Friday Five post in a while, I thought I'd give that a go today - and share with you things that I find inspiring at the moment. Stuff that make me want to DO things.


1. Sketching.

Especially sketching from life. That's why I really loved my January Daily Week-long Challenge of the Month. And, I really missed it when I stopped due to work and other life commitments over the last couple of weeks. Now, I'm slowly getting back to it. And, loving it again.


2. Watercolours.

I love using them in my sketches. And in my doodles. As well as my Documented Life Project pages.

It's funny because watercolours have been my first love when it comes to painting. But, somehow, they were relegated to something else. Now, they're back as my favourite painting medium.

3. Brush Script Lettering.

Actually, any kind of lettering or calligraphy, really. But, I was especially excited to try out brush script lettering. Love learning and experimenting with words + art.

Practicing brush script lettering. Words + Art = <3.   Haven't taken out my old bamboo brush in a long while. This is so addictive and therapeutic, I feel as though I can easily make a hundred of these. But, what would I do with a hundred (or more) brush

4. Music.

One of my regular daily rituals is putting on Spotify while I get ready for my day. I find that it helps to set up my day of work. As soon as I start my work at my desk, the music is off. I don't usually turn it back on until I'm doing something else - like chores or just having a 'down time'.

When I'm in the mood for finding new music, I put on one of my favourite songs of the moment then click on the 'Radio' function of Spotify. More often than not, it hits the spot. Occasionally, I have to change my default song for the radio station.

My current station is currently based on songs by South Jordan (a band I just discovered through listening on Spotify radio, but found out today that they disbanded a couple of months ago).

5. Fairy Tales.

I've always loved fairy tales. I love reading them. And really, I love writing them too. I would like to write more fairy tales. Truth is, I've started trying my hand at rewriting a couple recently. But, I have nothing finished yet that I can share.

I've also wanted to illustrate them for some time now, but somehow, I couldn't muster the guts to do so. But, last month, I've started doing just that. And, while I have yet to finish an illustration that I'm happy with, I'm glad I'm finally giving it a go. Maybe one of these days, I'll be able to share something.

What's your favourite fairy tale?   My obsession with fairy tales is taking on a grander scale as I joined a year-long online art class dedicated to "The Year of the Fairy Tale".

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5 Thoughts About New: #31Newness No. 18

5 Thoughts About NewAfter 17 days of doing this 31 Days of 31Newness project, I started thinking about a few things. And, since this is meant to be a Friday post, I wanted to share some things I've been thinking about when it comes to the concept of "new" in Friday Five style. Even though I am posting this a day late. I hope you don't mind...

1. Take time to appreciate the new things that we have in life.

One of the things that I've liked about doing this project is that it has given me the opportunity to enjoy the new things in my life.

You see, this year seems to have brought in a lot of new things one after another - new house, new car, new furniture, new obsessions, new Masters' degree - it was becoming easy to forget the idea of simply enjoying them.

That's why I'm grateful that over the last couple of weeks, I'm able to take some time to enjoy "newness". And, this thought brings me to...

2. There are a lot of new things in life to appreciate.

It's easy to be bored when we're too wrapped up in our day-to-day lives. When we think that life is just same ol', same ol'. But, when we take the time to see the different new things in our life, we begin to see that there are lot more newness in our life than we think. We just need to notice these new things sometimes.

3. It's great to find new things and to give ourselves new challenges regularly.

Trying new remedies. Visiting a new restaurant. Going someplace new.

There are so many things in the world to see, feel, and experience. But often, it's easier to stick to what we know.

My husband and I tend to become creatures of habit. When we find a restaurant we like, with dishes we enjoy, we often tend to go back again and again. Sometimes, we even order the same dishes and even sit at the same table. We laugh about it, but we've also acknowledged that idea. So, with that knowledge, we sometimes challenge ourselves into doing something new. For example, when we visit the same restaurant a few times, we tell ourselves to order 1 or 2 "anchor dish/es" (our favourites), but always make sure to order one new thing off the menu.

We're trying to apply that same concept into other things like choosing places to go to for holidays or when buying stuff from the supermarket.

4. Old things can be new again.

When we think of new, they don't always have to be new. Sometimes, we can see old things in a new way. Or, we can make something new out of the old stuff. We don't need to throw things out to make way for something new all the time.

5. It's okay not to want new things.

Newness can be quite exhausting, I find. That's why in some ways, I'm beginning to get burnt out with this topic. I don't want to think of new things all the time. I don't want to challenge myself to do something new.

There are days when I just want to be or to do 'same ol' same ol''. When I want the comfort of sameness and rhythm and habit.

And yes, that's okay.

New is great, but learning to enjoy what we already have can be quite wonderful too.

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5 Books of the Month

Books of the Month: Prodigy + Creative Books

The month is almost over and I realised that I haven't had the chance to share with you my latest reads since February. And, since I haven't done a Friday Five in a while as well, I thought I'd combine them in this post. Is that clever or just lazy? 😉

Anyway, here are the five books to cover my March and April 2013 reads:

1. Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy is Book Two of the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu. I've been meaning to write about the Legend series since I first came across it last year.

The basic premise: Legend/Prodigy is in the YA dystopian genre. It is similar to Hunger Games, but not quite; probably closer to the concept of Divergent - another series that I've been hoping to share with you. It is set in a future America, where the United States is torn in to different areas and is at war with its neighbours. The main character, June, lives in the western US called the Republic. She is considered to be a "star" citizen, with an affluent background. She is being groomed for a high rank with the Republic. But, when her brother's death led her to face the suspected killer - Day (Republic's Most Wanted Criminal) - and she finds out some things that she did not expect, her life was turned upside down.

Prodigy takes off where Legend ended. To avoid giving you any spoilers, I will not give you a summary. But, let me just say that as far as sequels go, Ms Marie Lu did not disappoint with Prodigy. In fact, while I liked Legend a lot, I probably fell in love with the series and its characters more in Prodigy. Its cliffhanger ending will definitely make you wish for Book Three to come quickly!

Rating: 4.5/5

2. Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin

This is the book that the lovely Christina gave me as a birthday present early this month. Loved it from the start! It's a great present because it's a book that I've been eyeing for some time now. And, it's a great book that supports my growing love for printmaking.

It's a beautiful book with a number of great ideas and projects. There's even a set of templates that you can use, should you wish to use the author's designs that were featured in the book. I'm not sure if I'll be using the templates, as I enjoy making my own. But, it's nice to know that they're there, should I choose to use them for some projects.

I haven't really done any of the projects yet, but they have inspired me to pursue my own projects. So, I'm sure I'll refer to this book when I need some printmaking inspiration.

Rating: 4/5

3. How to Decorate by Shannon Fricke

Interior decorating is something that I wish I can be good at, but instead, I end up feeling quite inadequate. For someone who loves beautiful and creative things, this seems to be quite a shocker. My husband does not understand why I keep claiming to be hopeless at decorating. I don't understand it myself. My only theory is that it's one of the things that I end up feeling too overwhelmed. Decorating a house, a room... just seems too big a job. That's why I often opt for the safer choices. Or just decorate on an "as needs basis".

However, this year, I decided that I'm going to give interior decorating a bit of a better go. Nothing dramatic. Just learn some basic concepts and figure out how I can enjoy the process of making my house prettier without feeling overwhelmed.

That's why I decided to buy this book.

Admittedly, I started feeling overwhelmed again as I began flipping through the pages. Talks of setting up my own studio space for decorating, developing mood boards, and different types of fabric just make me start thinking of how huge it all seems.

I don't want to be an interior decorator. I just want to learn how to decorate my home in a practical, cost-effective way. This book sort of didn't meet that need. Not the author's fault. There are all sorts of lovely inspiration and interesting resources shared in the book. The styles shared are beautiful. The photos by Prue Roscoe are gorgeous. I'll probably look at it and refer to bits and pieces of it every now and then for ideas and inspiration.

But, unfortunately, it isn't the book that could help me to get over my decorating issues. I probably need a "Decorating for Dummies" book instead.

By the way, Amazon says this isn't available with them just yet. Should be out in August 2013.

Rating: 3/5

4. Creative Doodling and Beyond by Stephanie Corfee

I've had this book for almost a year or so now. I enjoyed reading through it and copying some of Stephanie's doodles. They are lovely and whimsical! Stephanie is obviously a very talented artist.

I also think that it's great that the book offered "practice pages" - although it took me a while to get over my reservation on doodling/drawing directly on the book. I haven't practiced all the projects and ideas yet, but I have played with a couple of the concepts shared in this book. It is fun, especially if you're feeling a bit uninspired. I enjoy having it in my personal library.

Rating: 3.5/5

5. Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer by Chris Cozen and Julie Prichard

I bought this book as an ebook from the publisher's website a couple of weeks ago and just loved it. It offered a number of useful and interesting techniques that I'm slowly incorporating in my art. There are no real "step-by-step" tutorials here. In fact, some of the projects laid out in the book can be a bit confusing (an artwork will appear in one section, then re-appear in another section). But, I can overlook some of the book's points because the positive things I gained from this book outweigh the little niggly things.

The artwork in the book is worth looking at over and over (and I have), for inspiration and ideas. They are real examples of the beauty of working in layers with mixed media. Some of them exemplify the type of pieces that I would love to be able to do.

In any case, if you're in to painting/mixed media work, then this is definitely worth having in the collection of art references.

Rating: 4/5

Note: Book titles link to Amazon's affiliate programme, where I may earn some commissions if you purchase using my links.

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5 Things I Love Right Now

things I love

So, I've shared this month's theme that I am exploring. And, since this week's word is "love", I thought I'd take this opportunity to write one of my Friday Five lists. And yes, focussing on things that I love right now.

1. My Family - Yes, it's a boring way to start this list. After all, I always love my family. Nothing new there. But, I am appreciating them a bit more right now for a number of reasons. Including the fact that they're the ones that help to keep me together whenever I feel like falling apart. And, yes, there has been some rough moments lately.

2. Going back to art-making. Not only did I convert our laundry room in to an art studio/laundry room a few weeks ago, as well as started doing some more art, I also decided to go back to learning the basics of art-making.

And with that, I ended up signing up for a beginner's art class again at a local boutique art school / studio. Only been to lesson so far but I am loving it. In fact, I am slowly getting into the habit of doing some kind of creative pursuit daily.

Yes, at the minimum, I try to work on my daily photo + daily hand lettering projects. I don't feel like I'm getting far with my photography at this stage, but I am glad that my hand lettering seems to be developing. And, I am really loving it.

3. My work - And, not in an obsessive workaholic fashion (which I am prone to do)... More like: "I really appreciate my work right now where I feel like I am still developing and accomplishing things professionally, but at the same time, I get to enjoy life with family, art-making more." Yes. That's the kind of love I am feeling for my work at Vervely at the moment.

Work is not stress-free in any way, but it is not stressful either. And, the good thing about working for myself: I have the liberty of saying that I work for the best boss ever. After all, who else will let me skive off for most of Monday to go on a walk/picnic with my sister by the beach and then a mini shop + talking dreams and the future on a perfect sunny day - after a morning of art?

Since I put some things in to place and I know I can catch up on work later in the day, it was a moment that I can enjoy guilt-free. After aforementioned rough patches, I really needed that kind of day.

4. Work-from-a-Cafe Days - Studies seem to show that working from cafes or a cafe-like environment can help to boost productivity and well-being of workers. Since I primarily work from my home office, I have come to the conclusion that allocating at least one day a week to work in a cafe or cafe-like environment would be good for my system.

Ideally, coworking would have been a great solution. But, due to a few things that have come up from that exploration, I am now back to being primarily a work-from-home professional. Not that I'm complaining!

While I still miss some of the great things about being part of an office environment full time, I have come to love doing this solopreneur life again. I like the fact that I can work in bed if I want to. And adjust the cooling or heating system to my liking. Or to have the TV on in the background if I want.

And yes, to go out and spend a good part of my day working from cafes. That's why I'm out to come up with a list of good cafes to work from in Adelaide. So far, I only have one on the list. But, I have only started exploring, so I'll try to report back as soon as I find a few more.

5. Journaling - Really, I do. I think I have never journaled so much in a long time. I think it goes with the rough patches and the 'slowing down' moments. But yes, I am currently journaling in a number of places, on top of my daily blog. I have paper journals, sketchbooks (where I even do dream journal entries), digital journals, and art journals. And, I love it. I've missed doing this... Missed having time to do other things, not just work.

Oh, and yes, that digital journal page prompt? I'm making it available as a free download for subscribers of my e-newsletter, "Notes from Shai". Yes, it's currently experiencing publication delay due to unexpected circumstances. But, I am determined to publish the first issue before the end of this month.

How about you? What are you loving right now?

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Friday Five: Favourite Family TV Shows 2012

Favourite TV Shows by the Family

Every now and then, we clear out a lot of stuff at home. And somehow, the latest items that made it in the bags and boxes that are due to go to our local op shop sort of made me feel a bit wistful. Nostalgic.

You see, the kids have finally decided to let go of some toys, books and DVDs that they have loved for some time now. They include: Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer, The Wiggles, and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Both the 8-yr-old and the 5-yr-old claim that they no longer want them because they're "too babyish".

Babyish?! Don't they know that they will always be my babies?

Ah, but thankfully, even though there's remarkably more interest in things like Pokemon nowadays - and singing "Moves Like Jagger" - they're still holding on to a few things from their "baby years". Not much now, but still...

Anyway, upon recent survey in the family about our favourite family TV shows (the ones that make this list need to receive a "yes" from all four of us), we came up with this list:

1. Charlie and Lola - This is one of those TV shows that has been a family favourite for years now. It remains to be special, partly because both the boy and the girl have been somewhat brainwashed, er, inspired by the main characters in this show.

In fact, some of our day-to-day lingo is sometimes taken from Charlie and Lola. We still call tomatoes "moon squirters" sometimes. Or say things like, "honestly and promisely".

We also like talking to the kids about the beauty of brother-sister friendship/love through this show.

And yes, we love the books too.

Such clever and creative writing. Great stories. And gorgeous illustrations.

It will be a very sad day indeed, should we ever have to say goodbye to Charlie and Lola stuff.

2. Peppa Pig - Another remnant show from the "baby years", Peppa Pig stays as a family favourite. This show never fails to make us laugh. Nothing too deep or too clever here, but definitely lots of fun.

We love commenting on the characters, like how Daddy Pig is always "a little bit of an expert" and how he's always called "Silly Daddy” (but always do fun things with the kids). Or how bossy Peppa can be. And how many different jobs Miss Rabbit has.

And no, I don't think Peppa Pig made my kids naughty. We laugh at the antics, and we talk about what seems wrong or right. Sometimes, the kids are the ones who point out that the characters shouldn't have done what they did.

Maybe it's just in our house, we do talk about stuff a lot - the good stuff and the challenging stuff. And we laugh a lot too. We play jokes on each other. We tease and pull silly pranks. We know that Peppa Pig is just funny.

The same way we think Shaun the Sheep is hilarious. And Pingu (though, sadly, Pingu is also a goner now).

3. Horrible Histories - This is definitely a sign that the kids are growing up because they began enjoying shows like Horrible Histories. It's gross. It's strange. It's slightly a bit much sometimes. I was a bit shocked that the kids wanted to watch this to start with. I cringed at the idea. So, to make the decision on whether to let them watch or not, I started watching the show with them.

Yes, it's all sorts of icky and weird. Yes, some folks may find it not to their liking. But, for us, it can be very very funny. And full of interesting lessons in history.

Both kids talk about Romans, Egyptians, Vikings, Tudors, etc as if they're little history buffs. No, they don't retain all the information. But, they're definitely learning a lot about what it was like "in the old days."

So, they even know historical figures like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth. And, how very different medical practices were in the past. Among many other things.

4. Man vs Wild - Bear Grylls' show is technically not a family show. I don't think there's any strong language used, but the official rating for this is not G. Some are PG, but others are M.

However, after having watched several episodes of Man vs Wild, where I probably cringed more than my kids did, this show has definitely become a family favourite. For some reason, the kids love learning about survival. They enjoy learning about nature and the different ways people can live through difficult situations and harsh environment.

I think part of the fascination came from my son's and hubby's experience of going on a survival camp with one of our friends (my son's godfather, who organised the trip for them). They did it some time last year when the boy was only 7. And now, he just loves the whole concept of learning to survive in the wild. And, even my girl has become fascinated with the whole thing.

In fact, one of the kids' favourite games is the "Would you rather...?" Game. Basically, they like asking things like: "Would you rather eat a rattle snake or starve to death?" Or "Would you rather swim in a freezing lake or cross a rope between two buildings?"

Truth be told, I am sharing 'tame' questions here, compared to some of the questions that I've been asked by the 8 and 5 year old. If you've ever watched a Man vs Wild episode, you'd probably have an idea of how gross some scenarios can be. There are times when I just had to say, "Okay, guys, no more talks of starving to death or being eaten by wild animals. Please."

5. Mythbusters - Once upon a time, this space would have probably been reserved for Backyard Science. And, in some ways, I think it still is. Except the family has voted and they believe this fifth space should belong to Mythbusters. Yes, my two kids love science. And, they love learning about how things work (or can't work) using science.

And admittedly, me being me, and my hubby being my hubby, we can only enjoy their natural interest in these matters. The amount of time and energy we have to dedicate to doing science experiments at home - just for fun, mind you, not for homework or competitions - is quite something.

But, that's the thing. Instead of turning our kids into couch potatoes, these TV shows actually inspire them to DO stuff.

Like writing stories, making art and doing collage because of Charlie and Lola. Or learning about animals, puppetry, and animation because of Peppa Pig. Finding out about history and politics due to Horrible Histories. Exploring natural environments and survival skills because of Man vs Wild. And yes, doing experiments thanks to shows like Mythbusters.

I do realise, however, that this may not always be the case in all households. Different things work for different families.

Just thought I would share this post with you to let you know what our household enjoys watching - and why.

What about you? What kind of TV shows do your family enjoy watching together? Or, is TV banned from your home?

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