It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

Week 12. Resolution 12. Make A Terrarium. March 29, 2010

The 70s were responsible for many things that the world would rather forget.  If I were to begin listing some of these things I might never stop.  However, the era also brought popularity to a whole bunch of cool home-made crafts, before, just as quickly, sucking them back into anti-coolness.  But if you sift through the debris you can actually find some fads worthy of resurrection.

I believe terrariums are one of these things.

It looked nothing like this but you get the idea.

Terrariums, for those too young to remember or for those who’ve chosen to forget, are little glass (or plastic) plant-filled ecosystems, created to be lovingly viewed and nurtured, and sometimes even to house wildlife.

They stir in me childlike fantasies of fairy worlds, providing a miniature happy place I can escape to for a brief moment of peace.  They also add greenery to a desk or living space in a way that arid succulents or limp indoor plants can only dream of.  Sometimes they can even BE the desk as in the case of my parents who owned a glass table terrarium when I was young.

Wanting to make a terrarium of my own, I turned to the Internet and found that they are still flourishing on many craft and garden blogs and places like, where I discovered some great moss terrarium ideas like the mini Stonehenge care of  I was also reminded of an artist’s website I stumbled across a little while ago and instantly fell in love with. <- He doesn’t make terrariums but creates the most amazing “little universes” I’ve ever seen.

Using the multitude of ‘how-to’ websites on offer I started hunting and gathering supplies from around the house.  Mum, being the glorious hoarder she is, had a number of glass bottles to choose from to house my mini world.  I collected some rocks from the back garden and found some leftover pebbles from my fish tank to line the base with.  To give my terrarium an extra dimension I went rummaging through my toy collection and found this little guy and thought it would be hilarious to make a zombie terrarium but decided I’d save that one for another time.  Instead, I visited a couple of toy / hobby shops to find more suitable plastic figurines.

I was still missing some crucial pieces so I grabbed Mum and we went trawling through the local nurseries where we picked up some sphagnum moss and a few small plants.  Unfortunately I can’t name plants on sight like those perplexing types of people who inexplicably collect plant names like Simpson quotes, so I can’t tell you what plants they are.  But generally any small indoor plants you can find will be suitable, as long as they have the same water / light requirements.

Although it’s not necessary to add green moss to a terrarium, I really like how it looks, probably for the same reason that people lay down grass in their yard instead of leaving only soil.  But try as we might, we couldn’t find any for sale.  The Internet, a well-known liar, had given me the impression you could buy it in bags, but this turned out not to be the case.  No one was particularly helpful in suggesting where I could find any either – with advice such as “try an aquarium” (why?), “if you grow some bonsai, moss will eventually form on the bottom” (seems a little extreme) and “have a look on the Internet” (which we already know is a liar).

As I had already given the damper areas of our garden a once over and asked every nursery in the near vicinity if they stocked moss, I now had visions of traipsing through the local bush, ferreting at the bottom of trees, looking like a pig on a truffle mission.  Thankfully, on a much more thorough scope of the garden I found moss growing practically everywhere I hadn’t already looked.

The rest was easy.  I gave my chosen container a scrub and then lined it with rocks surrounded by small pebbles to allow for good water drainage.  On top of that I sprinkled some activated carbon, purchased from an aquarium, which filters the air and keeps your terrarium from developing nasty smells.  Next I put down a layer of sphagnum moss which stops your potting mix from falling down into the pebble / water collection area.  Then I put in enough potting mix to allow room for the plant’s roots.

In giving a theme to my terrarium I was inspired by the recent birth of a baby elephant at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, which was a complete surprise to everyone as he was originally thought to have died in the womb.  Australia has since fallen in love with “Mister Shuffles”, who even has his own Twitter and Facebook accounts which are written from the calf’s point of view as he gets to know the world.  Recently “he” commented about his desires to roam free through the rainforest he’d been dreaming about until he sadly learned that he’d have to stay in the zoo forever.  This tugged on my heart strings so I decided to devote my first terrarium to Mister Shuffles to give him a taste of the freedom he longed for.  I planted three tropical plants, added a plastic baby elephant and built a hill-like look-out for his meerkat friends.  I also popped in some plastic frogs and the shell of a long-dead snail.

And voila!  My first terrarium was complete!  Getting a little carried away I also made a second, smaller, terrarium featuring a deer and toadstool combo.  These seem to be pretty standard features in today’s terrarium but as a fan of deers and toadstools, I wanted to have my own version.

All up the whole venture cost about $50, which mostly went towards the plastic figurines.  But once you’ve got the basics you can make terrariums to your heart’s content, even using a soft-drink bottle or pasta jar as the container.  It’s a surprisingly cheap hobby which just keeps on giving.

Long live the terrarium!

Attack of the Killer Dog!


Week 11. Resolution 11. Learn a Craft from Mum. March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 4:22 PM

Mum is a bit of a crafty lass—a talent which she inconsiderately did not pass onto me—so in an effort to coax my genes into realising that crafty pursuits are a worthwhile endeavour, this week’s resolution was to learn to make something at my mother’s instruction.

After discussing which of her many skills she would impart to her only daughter (quite the task, believe me, as she has a whole bedroom stuffed to the brim with craft-related paraphernalia) we decided on learning to sew.  Learning to sew pyjamas, to be exact.  This was just fine with me as I had a couple of ulterior motives at play.

I have GREAT trouble finding summer pyjamas I like.  I was always a fan of the boxers and T-shirt combo but it is close to impossible to find a decent pair of boxers these days.  The other options, such as short-shorts, end up riding up your legs, nighties ride up to your waist, and as someone who prefers to ease into the day while still wearing PJs it is preferable for my sleepwear to be acceptable to the tender eyes of others.

Thus, last December, Mum and I took a journey to Spotlight to pick out material and a pattern for the perfect pair of pyjamas.  As I am utterly addicted in disturbing proportions to the colour maroon I decided on plain burgundy for the shorts and a Middle-Eastern inspired burgundy and cream pattern for the top.  The idea was that come Christmas I would find a beautifully wrapped parcel of home-crafted sleep attire nestled under the tree.  But while my mother may be crafty, she, like many creative types, is not timely – often sending Christmas presents to family members around April, if they’re lucky.  So, on Christmas Day, I instead found a little card nestled under said tree with a “promise” to eventually deliver some hand-crafted sleep attire.

Roll on March and with winter beginning to breathe down our necks, I was wondering if I should give up hope until the following Christmas.  That is, until, the resolution challenge came to the rescue.

Like other young ladies of my generation, I first learned to sew at school.  My only memory of this was proudly holding up a pink pillowcase while my Home Economics teacher lavished me with praise.  Mum’s memory is of a distraught daughter holding up the very same pink pillowcase full of holes.  Obviously, my memory of the events is much more believable.

So … now that you’re all full of back story, let’s move right along.

The first part of Project Pyjamas was to pin the pattern to the pabric.  (Sorry, the alliteration there was just too good to ruin with an f-word.)  This took a ridiculously long time because we had to trace parts of the pattern to make it in ‘small’ and not ruin the ‘large’ template in case it is required for future use.  Next, I had to mark the fabric so it was clear which bits would match up later on and then cut the whole thing out.  This all took about 6 hours, which seems an awfully long time in retrospect.  But considering how largely our memories differ, Mum would probably say it only took 10 minutes.

My lovely mother.

Then we began to sew—straight lines to sew things together and zig- zags to the material’s edges to avoid fraying.  I was a bit shoddy on my first go, particularly at keeping my lines straight, but felt I got the hang of it relatively quickly.  Luckily Mum was there to interpret the pattern instructions because it was written in some craft-person language I don’t understand.  We finished the pants first, seamed, hemmed, and fed with elastic.  The crotch is rather long but I’m sure I’ll manage.

Next came the top.  Oh, the top.  Hoping the PJs would ultimately be wearable I had Mum do all the trickier stuff like collars and sleeves while I watched on.  Then I tried it on and with sinking heart found that the shoulder seams practically came down to my elbows.  The model for the pattern must have been a very large ‘small’ lady with football-player-sized shoulders.  Had we chosen to use the ‘large’ pattern I would most likely have been able to pyjamarise a small nation.  Anyway, Mum had a brilliant plan to unpick all our sewing and recut the shoulder area so the top would actually be wearable which she would do while I was at work.

Cut to 6 hours later and Mum tearily hands me the top which is now small enough to fit a ten-year-old child.  I am unclear on the details of how this happened.  But it suddenly becomes clear to me why I’ve never been a big fan of sew-your-own clothes.  Don’t get me wrong, the idea of being able to sew whatever your heart desires is fantastic, but the reality is costly, unpredictable and incredibly time-consuming and more often than not ends up in something embarrassingly unwearable, despite how lovely the picture on the pattern looks.

I am simply too practical and impatient.

That said, this morning I purchased a lovely length of fabric decorated with dandelions simply because it was pretty, and might make a nice pair of boxer shorts.  Needless to say, I didn’t buy enough material for a top.


Week 10. Resolution 10. Become a Fictional Character. March 14, 2010

No one has ever called me their muse.  I may have been the subject of a scrawled schoolboy love poem a thousand years ago and maybe one song which I’ve never heard (so I daresay doesn’t really count) but no one has ever started scribbling sonnets or painting masterpieces in my presence (although people DO tend to drink more whenever I’m around).

I am also not a ‘winner’.  I’ve never won a single prize I am proud of although I do try to enter as many interesting competitions as I can, provided they don’t require a 25 word answer (because really, who can be bothered?).  I did once win a colouring competition that landed me a spot in a time capsule back in the ‘80s (Is the earth now cluttered with time capsules?  Did anyone dig them up in the year 2000?  And had anything really changed?)  I also once won a ‘Power of One’ T-shirt and a meeting with Bryce Courtenay for having taken the most books out of my high school library that year – the world’s most embarrassing award ever.  But to date the overseas holidays and free cars have eluded me.

My ‘luck’ changed recently when I won a competition to become the namesake of a fictional character in a Nick Earls book.  Me, Hayley (Roberts) will be immortalised in print.  It may not have been on my original list of resolutions but if I could have anticipated such a thing it definitely would have been.

When I first moved to Brisbane, back in my formative years, I discovered my first Nick Earls novel, ‘Zig Zag Street’.  Not only was it a fantastic book, it also happened to be set in a street not very far from my house.  Although it was never the most direct route from my suburb to civilisation over in the next suburb, I would take every opportunity to walk down Zig Zag Street and wonder which of the houses inspired it.  His next novel, Bachelor Kisses, was even more unforgettable – so funny and poignant, perfectly capturing what living in Brisbane was like at the time.

So I was most excited when I saw the following post on Twitter:

@nickearls Planning to name chars in my next novel after Twitter/Facebook followers. Tweet to opt in.

Knowing that most of Brisbane follow Nick Earls I was very much aware that those of my Twitter ‘friends’ in the local area would see any reply I made, so in fear of appearing too eager (‘cos appearing too eager is like, totally frowned upon, ok?)  I didn’t want to respond straight away.  I also didn’t want to get lost amidst the other responses he would receive following such a post.

As it always inevitably does, a few days later reality set in and realising how little chance I had at winning because, as we’ve established, I am not a ‘winner’, I decided I’d reply with a fake name instead.  At first I was going to use ‘Alotta Warmheart’ which is one of the pseudonyms of Karen from ‘Will and Grace’ but after a quick web search I noticed this is also the name Britney Spears uses when checking into hotels.  SCRATCH THAT.

Then I remembered Willamena Backalackus.  Willamena is a creation of a dear friend of mine, Clare Treston.  I can’t remember how or why she came into being but I do remember that she was a lion tamer, and, if the Fox and Firkin still existed in Cairns, you’d find her hand-drawn business card stuck to the wall behind the bar.  I started thinking how much of a laugh Clare would get if Willamena were chosen and how apt it would be to win a competition to be a fictional character based on the name of another fictional character so I composed the following tweet to Nick Earls …

@nickearls Pick me PICK ME, my name is Willamena Backalackus.

… and instantly received the following reply:

@Starlsy Sure, you’re ‘Willamena Backalackus’. And you’re going to tell me that’s, what, Estonian? Think I might call a character Hayley …

(He’d obviously looked up my Twitter account and got my real name.)  I actually thought he was joking but a few days later I was forwarded the following link announcing little ol’ me as one of the winners.  It appears Willamena Backalackus is a good luck charm.!/notes/nick-earls/and-the-winners-are-/362518028335

Talk about chuffed.

OK so the character obviously isn’t based on me (that book would never see the light of day) and if my character does make the final cut I doubt that anyone will ever believe that she was named after me.  And since Mr Earls has asked for no further personal details I’m sure there will be no book launch invites or special mentions or anything to prove otherwise but I WILL KNOW (and now you will too).  And that’s what matters right?

And, of course, I’ll definitely buy the book, and that’s what matters most.


Week 9. Resolution 9. Start A Trivia Team. March 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 6:19 PM
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Of a Monday, on a dreary London evening I could sometimes be found curled up in a booth of the King’s Head, nursing a pint or 20 and attempting to win an inadequate bottle of wine for my 10 or so associates.  If it wasn’t a Monday then it was just as likely I could be found in that same booth, however Monday’s were trivia night and so actually provided a valid reason to be there.

Three or so years later I had somehow forgotten that trivia is not a valid reason to be in a pub.  It was simply invented to get you in the door on a normally quiet night and keep you busy while you drink.  And so I innocently thought I could get a group of people together, have a couple of cold ones, and head off home, trivia prize underarm, before any real damage was done.

I wonder what my opinion on that would have been if you’d asked me as I dragged my drunken arse to bed at 4am the next morning.  No doubt it wouldn’t have contained anything resembling coherence.

Anyway, I digress.

I can’t speak for you, but deep down I’m pretty convinced that I have excellent general knowledge and with the popularity of pub trivia seemingly on the rise again I thought that trivia would be an excellent way to spend time with some of my closest.

And I was right on one account – it is a fantastic way to catch up with friends.  On the other hand, well, let’s just say my general knowledge skills are poor at best.  Or, as I’ve been encouraging myself, actually blindingly good, just not in the categories you’d find on pub quizzes catered to an all age audience.  Or, if only my mind didn’t go blank under pressure (or under beer), I’m sure all that wonderful knowledge would come gushing out so fast you’d be knocked off your barstool sideways.

Knowledge, I said.  Not beer.

Anyway, I digress.  Again.

And so it was that on a Tuesday, on a dreary Brisbane evening, a group of friends met at Kedron Park Hotel prepared to dazzle the world with their trivia skills.  A gold coin contribution later and five teams of mixed ages (although I’d say that those in their twenties and thirties were a little underrepresented) were rearing to go.  The presenter who, despite her mispronunciation of a number of questions, and much heckling from the feistier of the groups (ie, us) actually had a very professional little quiz going on.

In the first round our hastily named group ‘The Pixies’, consisted of only four members yet we scored top marks – plus we were the only team to get the geographical bonus question.  Over the next couple of hours and seven rounds we gained three more players and were getting 7-8 correct answers per round, convinced that we were the champions of Kedron Park Hotel.

But after the trivia masters collated final scores and read out the team rankings I was utterly shocked to hear we’d come fourth.  Fourth!  That’s second last!  I was too busy wondering how this could possibly have happened that I even missed the score count and the ordering of the rest of the teams.  I also forgot to take photos which might not have necessarily been the case had we had a proud moment to take a photo of, or a prize to display, although I still have no idea what that prize might have been.

After much griping over the answers we missed, or had but let someone else talk us into changing, we drowned our sorrows for a little longer than was appropriate (or, in my case, for a lot longer than would ever be appropriate under any circumstance).

But since I digressed earlier, you already know all about that.

To truly succeed at pub trivia you need a really tight team who can cover all of the different quiz categories – and I have to say, I think I did pretty well in assembling such a team (just in case any of them are reading this ;)).  Although, more than anything, I chose them because I enjoy their company (and hope they don’t go without me next time).

Anyway, it really was a lot of fun and a great success, and once I stop nursing this inappropriately long hangover I’ll think about planning the next one.  Who’s keen?